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文章 #1  未閱讀文章News Express[FIND] » 2021-05-18 11:30

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US Lawmakers Could Restrict the Use of Non-Compete Agreements

Politico's technology site Protocol reports that some U.S. lawmakers are getting angry about an unpopular but widespread corporate policy -- the non-compete agreement:

Non-compete agreements prohibit employees who leave their jobs from taking similar positions with potential competitors for a certain period of time. In the U.S., somewhere between 27.8% and 46.5% of private-sector workers are subject to non-compete agreements, according to a 2019 Economic Policy Institute study.

Such agreements are unenforceable in California and limited in nearby Washington, but they can still have adverse effects on employees nationwide. That's why a current piece of legislation, the Workforce Mobility Act, seeks at the federal level to restrict the use of non-compete agreements in most situations. Sens. Chris Murphy and Todd Young introduced the bill, which would only allow non-competes in certain "necessary" situations... Non-compete legislation also has the support of President Joe Biden, who said during his campaign he would support such a bill. John Lettieri, president and CEO of the Economic Innovation Group, is a proponent of the Workforce Mobility Act and suggested the bill should enjoy broad support. "We believe we're in a position where it's possible for this to become law," Lettieri told Protocol.

"Whether you're a free market conservative or whether you're a pro-worker progressive, you can come from either of those ends of the spectrum and end up in the same place. And this is a special issue for that reason... Competition is generally good and for workers, competition among businesses for your labor is the most fundamental bargaining power you've got," he said. But if companies hinder that with non-compete agreements, they create "a downstream series of consequences that really are bad for the worker, they're bad for the broader labor market and it's increasingly clear they're bad for the broader economy as well...."

Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft — both headquartered in Seattle, Washington — and New York-headquartered IBM have all sued employees for breaking the terms of their non-compete agreements.

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Microsoft Funds a Team with Guido van Rossum to Double the Speed of Python

ZDNet reports:
Guido van Rossum, who created popular programming language Python 30 years ago, has outlined his ambitions to make it twice as fast — addressing a key weakness of Python compared to faster languages like C++.

Speed in Core Python (CPython) is one of the reasons why other implementations have emerged, such as Pyston.... In a contribution to the U.S. PyCon Language Summit this week, van Rossum posted a document on Microsoft-owned GitHub, first spotted by The Register, detailing some of his ambitions to make Python a faster language, promising to double its speed in Python 3.11 — one of three Python branches that will emerge next year in a pre-alpha release... van Rossum was "given freedom to pick a project" at Microsoft and adds that he "chose to go back to my roots".

"This is Microsoft's way of giving back to Python," writes van Rossum... According to van Rossum, Microsoft has funded a small Python team to "take charge of performance improvements" in the interpreted language...

He says that the main beneficiaries of upcoming changes to Python will be those running "CPU-intensive pure Python code" and users of websites with built-in Python.

The Register notes that the faster CPython project "has a GitHub repository which includes a fork of CPython as well as an issue tracker for ideas and tools for analysing performance."

"According to Van Rossum, there will be 'no long-lived forks/branches, no surprise 6,000 line pull requests,' and everything will be open source."

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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

"How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person's life?" asks the BBC.

"A new app is offering you the chance to do just that."

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn't decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old's dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought...

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its "beta" or pre-full release stage, describes itself as "a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome". For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls "creators" — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection...

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew's undisclosed commission... In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these "bids", and if they do so then the follower doesn't have to part with the money...

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Alexa/Echo Owners Become Part of Amazon's Massive 'Sidewalk' Mesh Network By Default

A tech columnist for Inc. noticed that on June 8th Amazon will finally power up its massive "Sidewalk" mesh network (which uses Bluetooth and 900MHz radio signals to communicate between devices). And millions and millions of Amazon customers are all already "opted in" by default:

The idea behind it is actually really smart — make it possible for smart home devices to serve as a sort of bridge between your WiFi connection and one another. That way, if your Ring doorbell, for example, isn't located close to your WiFi router, but it happens to be near an Echo Dot, it can use Sidewalk to stay connected.

The same is true if your internet connection is down. Your smart devices can connect to other smart devices, even if they aren't in your home. The big news on this front is that Tile is joining the Sidewalk network on June 14. That means that if you lose a Tile tracker, it can connect to any of the millions of Echo or Ring devices in your neighborhood and send its location back to you.

That's definitely a nice benefit, but it's also where things get a little murky from a privacy standpoint. That's because other people's devices, like your neighbor's, can also connect to your network. Amazon is pretty clear that Sidewalk uses three layers of encryption so that no data is shared between say, someone's Tile tracker and your network. The signal from the Tile is encrypted all the way back to the Tile app on your iPhone or Android smartphone... [But] whether or not you want your device connecting to other devices, or want your neighbors connecting to your WiFi, Amazon went ahead and made Sidewalk opt-out.

Opt out (for all your devices) using Alexa app's More tab (at the bottom): Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Enabled.

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AT&T Merges Media Assets With Discovery in Blockbuster Deal

AT&T has agreed to spin off its media operations in a deal with Discovery that will create a new entertainment company, merging assets ranging from CNN and HBO to HGTV and the Food Network. From a report: AT&T will receive $43 billion in cash, debt securities and debt retention, with AT&T shareholders getting stock representing 71% of the new company, the companies said in a statement Monday. The deal is structured as a tax-advantaged Reverse Morris Trust. Discovery Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav is to lead the new entity. WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar's future is to be determined, AT&T CEO John Stankey said on a conference call discussing the deal. The plan, first reported by Bloomberg News, would combine Discovery's reality-TV empire with AT&T's vast media holdings, creating a formidable competitor to Netflix and Walt Disney. It marks a retreat for AT&T's entertainment-industry ambitions after years of working to assemble telecom and media assets under one roof. AT&T, now the world's most heavily indebted nonfinancial company, gained some of the biggest brands in entertainment through its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, completed in 2018. Further reading: Jason Kilar, the WarnerMedia chief, is said to be negotiating his exit.

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Microsoft's LinkedIn Accused by Noted China Critic of Censorship

A prominent critic of China based in the U.K. said Microsoft's LinkedIn froze his account and removed content criticizing the country's government, the latest in a series of allegations that the networking website had censored users -- even outside of the Asian nation -- to appease authorities in Beijing. From a report: Peter Humphrey, a British corporate investigator and former journalist who accesses LinkedIn from his home in Surrey, England, said he received notification from LinkedIn last month that comments he had published on the platform had been removed. The comments, seen by Bloomberg News, called the Chinese government a "repressive dictatorship" and criticized the country's state media organizations as "propaganda mouthpieces."

In late April, Humphrey said LinkedIn sent him several notifications that critical comments he posted about China's government and state-controlled broadcaster China Global Television Network, or CGTN, had been removed, on the grounds that the comments constituted "bullying and harassment" or "spam and scams." On April 26, Humphrey said he couldn't access his LinkedIn profile. When Humphrey tried to log in, he said he was met with a message stating his profile had been "restricted" due to "behavior that appears to violate our Terms of Service." After Bloomberg News contacted LinkedIn for comment last week, the company reinstated Humphrey's account and restored some of his comments. Others were not. "Our team has reviewed the action, based on our appeals process, and found it was an error," said Leonna Spilman, a spokeswoman for LinkedIn. Spilman declined to comment further regarding Humphrey's account.

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Microsoft Teams Launches For Friends and Family With Free All-Day Video Calling

Microsoft is launching the personal version of Microsoft Teams today. After previewing the service nearly a year ago, Microsoft Teams is now available for free personal use amongst friends and families. From a report: The service itself is almost identical to the Microsoft Teams that businesses use, and it will allow people to chat, video call, and share calendars, locations, and files easily. Microsoft is also continuing to offer everyone free 24-hour video calls that it introduced in the preview version in November. You'll be able to meet up with up to 300 people in video calls that can last for 24 hours. Microsoft will eventually enforce limits of 60 minutes for group calls of up to 100 people after the pandemic, but keep 24 hours for 1:1 calls. While the preview initially launched on iOS and Android, Microsoft Teams for personal use now works across the web, mobile, and desktop apps. Microsoft is also allowing Teams personal users to enable its Together mode -- a feature that uses AI to segment your face and shoulders and place you together with other people in a virtual space. Skype got this same feature back in December.

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Apple Music is Getting Lossless and Spatial Audio Support

Apple Music subscribers will find a big chunk of the catalog sounds better next month: The service is adding support for high-quality, lossless and spatial audio through Dolby Atmos at no additional cost, it said Monday. It'll have 20 million lossless audio songs to start, with 75 million available by the end of 2021. From a report: To try out lossless audio, you should make sure you have the latest version of Apple Music and go to Settings, Music, then Audio Quality. You can choose different resolutions for cellular and Wi-Fi connections, or just download the track. The lossless tier starts at CD quality, which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz, and goes up to 24 bit at 48 kHz and is playable natively on Apple devices. If you use external audio equipment, you can crank the quality up to 24 bit at 192 kHz. Further reading: AirPods Max, priced at $549, don't support Apple Music's lossless songs, Apple says.

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Apple and Microsoft's Rivalry Had Cooled. Now It's Back and Getting Testier

After collaborating on various projects for several years, the relationship between Microsoft and Apple is getting testier again. From a report: [...] Around the time the PC character reappeared, Microsoft began bad-mouthing Apple to regulators, saying the company's App Store was anti-competitive. The Redmond, Washington, software giant had thrown in its lot with Epic Games, which was suing Apple for booting its Fortnite title from the App Store and accusing the iPhone maker of monopolistic behavior. A Microsoft executive has since testified against Apple at the trial, now in its second week, telling the court that Apple's tight control of its App Store had hurt Microsoft's own gaming efforts. The tensions are unlikely to ease once a verdict comes down because Apple and Microsoft are both looking to dominate the next big things in tech -- from artificial intelligence and cloud computing to gaming, tablets, custom processors and mixed-reality headsets.

The renewed antipathy between Apple and Microsoft started about a year ago. Microsoft had developed a cloud gaming service for iPhones and iPads called xCloud. One app would let users pay a monthly fee to Microsoft and stream dozens of different gaming titles from the cloud. The service was supposed to do for gaming what Netflix did for video, appease gamers and turn Apple devices into a more powerful gaming platform backed by Xbox, one of the hottest names in the industry. But Microsoft never launched the service in its intended form, having failed to persuade Apple to loosen App Store rules forbidding all-in-one gaming services. Originally, Microsoft was barred from launching any cloud-based games at all. But a few months after concerns over the ban on streaming apps went public, Apple tweaked the rules.

Microsoft can now launch a cloud gaming service, but each game must be downloaded separately, defeating the purpose of an all-in-one solution. Now Microsoft is rolling out the service on Apple devices via the web, a much less optimal experience than a real app. Around the same time, Microsoft President Brad Smith began urging U.S. and European antitrust regulators to examine Apple's practices.

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Amid Public Pressure Audacity Says It Will Not Collect Telemetry Data From Users

After its recent announcement about plans to add telemetry collection prompted backlash, popular audio editor Audacity has announced it won't go ahead with the plan to collect its users' data. BetaNews reports: Audacity's new owner, Muse Group, has bowed to pressure from users and privacy advocates, announcing that the planned telemetry collection will no longer be going ahead. The company is blaming "communication mistakes" and public "misunderstanding" for the negative response to its previous data collection announcement.

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Parler Returns To Apple's App Store

Parler, a social media app popular with U.S. conservatives, returned to Apple's App Store on Monday, after the iPhone maker dropped it following the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. From a report: Parler also named George Farmer, the company's chief operating officer since March, as its new chief executive and said interim CEO Mark Meckler would be leaving. Apple said last month it would readmit Parler into its iOS App Store, after Parler proposed updates to its app and content moderation policies. read more "The entire Parler team has worked hard to address Apple's concerns without compromising our core mission," said Meckler in an emailed statement.

"Anything allowed on the Parler network but not in the iOS app will remain accessible through our web-based and Android versions. This is a win-win for Parler, its users, and free speech." The Washington Post said Parler's Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff likened the iOS version of the app to a "Parler Lite or Parler PG." Parler is still pushing Apple to allow users to see hate speech behind a warning label, the newspaper reported. Several tech companies cut ties with Parler after the Capitol riot, accusing the app backed by prominent Republican Party donor Rebekah Mercer of failing to police violent content on its service.

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Censorship, Surveillance and Profits: A Hard Bargain for Apple in China

Apple has compromised on data security to placate Chinese authorities, the New York Times reported Monday, citing internal company documents and interviews with current and former Apple employees and security experts. An excerpt from the story: At the data center in Guiyang, which Apple hoped would be completed by next month, and another in the Inner Mongolia region, Apple has largely ceded control to the Chinese government. Chinese state employees physically manage the computers. Apple abandoned the encryption technology it used elsewhere after China would not allow it. And the digital keys that unlock information on those computers are stored in the data centers they're meant to secure.

[...] In China, Apple has ceded legal ownership of its customers' data to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, or GCBD, a company owned by the government of Guizhou Province, whose capital is Guiyang. Apple recently required its Chinese customers to accept new iCloud terms and conditions that list GCBD as the service provider and Apple as "an additional party." Apple told customers the change was to "improve iCloud services in China mainland and comply with Chinese regulations."

The terms and conditions included a new provision that does not appear in other countries: "Apple and GCBD will have access to all data that you store on this service" and can share that data "between each other under applicable law." Under the new setup, Chinese authorities ask GCBD -- not Apple -- for Apple customers' data, Apple said. Apple believes that gives it a legal shield from American law, according to a person who helped create the arrangement. GCBD declined to answer questions about its Apple partnership. Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, commented on Times' story: "Apple asked a lot of people to back them against the FBI in 2015. They used every tool in the legal arsenal to prevent the US from gaining access to their phones. Do they think anyone is going to give them the benefit of the doubt now?"

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Nuclear Reactions at Chernobyl Are Spiking in an Inaccessible Chamber

Scientists monitoring the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine have seen a surge in fission reactions in an inaccessible chamber within the complex. They are now investigating whether the problem will stabilise or require a dangerous and difficult intervention to prevent a runaway nuclear reaction. From a report: The explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 brought down walls and sealed off many rooms and corridors. Tonnes of fissile material from the interior of a reactor were strewn throughout the facility and the heat it generated melted sand from the reactor walls with concrete and steel to form lava-like and intensely radioactive substances that oozed into lower floors. One chamber, known as subreactor room 305/2, is thought to contain large amounts of this material, but it is inaccessible and hasn't been seen by human or robotic eyes since the disaster.

Now, researchers have seen a spike in neutron emissions from the room, with levels increasing around 40 per cent since the start of 2016. This points to a growing nuclear fission reaction, so researchers are trying to determine if this surge will fizzle out, as previous spikes in other parts of the ruins have done, or whether they will need to find a way to access the room and intervene. Neil Hyatt at the University of Sheffield, UK, who studies nuclear waste disposal, likens the situation to "embers in a barbecue pit" and says "it's a reminder to us that it's not a problem solved, it's a problem stabilised."

One suggestion for why this is happening is that a new structure placed over the ruined reactor in 2016 is causing the plant to dry out. When uranium or plutonium fuel decay radioactively, they emit neutrons, which can promote a fission reaction if the neutrons are captured by another radioactive nuclei. However, large amounts of water slow these neutrons down, preventing them from being captured. The original shelter, which was hurriedly constructed over the reactor in the months following the accident, was riddled with holes that allowed rainwater and birds inside. If the rainwater was helping to suppress reactions in room 305/2, its absence due to the new structure could mean there is no longer enough water in the room to sufficiently slow neutrons down.

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Rotten Tomatoes Is Launching a Linear Streaming Channel

Rotten Tomatoes is continuing on its quest to grow into something substantially bigger than its Tomatometer movie and TV rating scores. From a report: The website -- owned by NBCUniversal's Fandango -- expands its entertainment footprint with the launch of The Rotten Tomatoes Channel, a new over-the-top streaming service that will initially debut on on The Roku Channel. The OTT service will then come to NBCU's Peacock platform and Comcast-owned Xumo, with other distribution deals in the works including with internet pay-TV providers, according to Fandango. The first 24-hour linear video channel from Rotten Tomatoes will loop about 100 hours of premium programming around the clock on the channel, culled from RT's stable or original shows.

With the launch of The Rotten Tomatoes Channel, Fandango wants to expand its audience reach and provide new entry-points into the entire Fandango ecosystem (i.e., to push movie tickets and digital sales or rentals). Some of the shows on The Rotten Tomatoes Channel will include "Countdown," a show discussing the best upcoming movies and shows according to the Tomatometer and panelists; "The Vault," a nostalgic look back at star interviews, red carpet chats, games and more from the Rotten Tomatoes archives; "Trailers Reloaded," recapping the biggest movies and shows with an extensive collection of trailers; and "Rotten Tomatoes Essentials," a look back at movies, shows, stars and directors that defined genres and eras.

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Apple Wants You To Know It Chose Not To Take a Cut of $400 Billion in Physical Goods

Apple is trying to convince a judge that it's not milking the App Store for all it's worth, and today the company dropped some big numbers to help make its case. From a report: Apple claims that its App Store drove $400 billion worth of physical purchases in a single year in 2019, and that -- unlike digital purchases and subscriptions -- Apple doesn't take a cent of that money. That's according to App Store boss and longtime Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller, who also testified that the company spends a staggering $50 million a year to throw its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) event. The company's also building a new developer center at its Apple Loop headquarters in Cupertino, he says, though I didn't catch how much the company's investing in that. None of these are included in the App Store's budget, Schiller testified. Why isn't Apple trying to take a cut of physical purchases? During his testimony, Schiller explained that Apple couldn't guarantee they would actually arrive.

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