All posts in “Tech News”

Alexa has a new skill to help you throw away less food (and money)

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Those leftovers that get dumped uneaten, that tub of yogurt way past its expiration date, and the bunch of celery you ambitiously bought for a recipe that — let’s be real —wasn’t going to happen, all add up.

It might seem like clearing out the fridge doesn’t mean much, but Americans don’t eat 40 percent of their food. Consumers throwing out old bread and questionable milk cartons are throwing away an average of $1,500 every year. All this food waste adds up to $218 billion in uneaten food every year. 

To fight the growing waste, the Ad Council and Natural Resources Defense Council have launched the Save The Food campaign. This educational campaign targets consumers, who contribute up to 43 percent of all of America’s food waste. 

We can’t just blame big corporations and restaurants, though they aren’t off the hook. The NRDC reports that restaurants and food service providers make two to four times the waste of grocery stores, supercenters, and wholesale distributors combined. The nonprofit environmental advocacy group found U.S. restaurants generate 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste each year.

To make it easier to save food at home, Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa, can tell you how to store food, whether a vegetable should be deep-sixed, or how to revive a hopeless frozen steak situation. The Save The Food skill was added to Alexa’s repertoire earlier this year.

Image: ad council/nrdc

Alexa’s food saving skill comes with NRDC’s updated report on food waste. The report is a refresh on 2012 data about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of wasted resources.  JoAnne Berkenkamp, an NRDC senior advocate for food and agriculture, said, “Consumers should feel empowered to make a big difference on this issue.” 

Small things like smarter shopping with lists and peeking into our pantries and shelves to see what we already have, and following through on cooking plans can cut down on food waste. “Our eyes are bigger than our capacity to prepare foods at home,” Berkenkamp said.

Once we have food at home we need to better understand how to store it and how long something can last. Confusing food labels push people to throw away food unnecessarily — about 20 percent of food waste stems from labels that tell us more about peak freshness than food safety.

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A new video the Ad Council and NRDC released with chef Dan Barber from New York’s Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns shows how using food scraps can be part of the solution. Being resourceful and using cosmetically imperfect produce that may have some brown spots or an odd shape can contribute to slashing our food waste total. The video, embedded up top, shows how zucchini ends and cores usually thrown out after making a gourmet meal can be incorporated into a second, just as delicious meal. 

It’s not all bad news despite resources from thrown-out food adding up to the equivalent of 37 million cars’ worth of green house gas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have set national goals to cut food waste by 50 percent by 2030, similar to a UN goal. So progress is happening.

Berkenkamp said one example of many corporate improvements and efforts includes Walmart’s discount program, which launched in 2014 and lowered prices on items closing in on their sell-by dates, and saved more than 30 million food products from going to waste. 

Alexa, let’s waste not, want not.

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Behold, the LG V30 in all its glory

LG has been revealing key details about its upcoming V30 flagship ahead of the Aug. 31 launch, but one important piece of the puzzle is missing: An actual picture of the phone. 

Well, it’s not missing any more. The image of the phone from all sides comes courtesy of leaker Evan Blass, and even though it’s not an official photo (likely a press render), it looks exactly what we thought it would look based on previous leaks. Simply put, it’s very likely the real thing. 

On the front side, the LG V30 looks a lot like the G6 with even smaller bezels, especially on the bottom and on the sides. It’s the currently prevalent trend in smartphones and I like LG’s simple approach. The back shows a dual camera, a flash and a fingerprint sensor, and it looks a bit clunkier than the G6’s symmetrical design, but still better (in terms of usability) than Samsung S8’s awkwardly positioned fingerprint sensor

Though this is hard to judge from the photo, it also looks that the V30 will have a metallic back, instead of the glass back design on the G6. Also notable is the lack of secondary screen which was so far a staple of LG’s V series of phones. With the V30, it seems that LG’s consolidated its two flagship lines into a singular design philosophy, leaving the days of wild experimentation (both with G5’s modularity and the V20’s secondary screen) behind. 

So what else do we know about the LG V30? It’ll have a 6-inch, 18:9 OLED screen, a powerful camera with an f/1.6 aperture and face recognition. And yes, if there’s anything left for LG to reveal, we’ll be there Aug. 31 to tell you all about it. 

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Mark Zuckerberg slams neo-Nazis and ‘polarization’ after Charlottesville

Zuck has weighed in on Charlottesville.
Zuck has weighed in on Charlottesville.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

We can now add Mark Zuckerberg to the growing list of CEOs and public figures who have weighed in on the events of Charlottesville.

Writing in a Facebook post Wednesday, the CEO said white supremacists and neo-Nazis are a “disgrace,” while criticizing the “polarization in our culture.”

“With the potential for more rallies, we’re watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm,” Zuckerberg wrote. Facebook’s policies have long banned violent threats and hate speech, but the platform has sometimes struggled with enforcement. 

Zuckerberg also specifically called out neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, saying “it’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong — as if this is somehow not obvious.”

The carefully phrased 326-word post comes four days after violence first kicked off in Charlottesville, and made no reference to Trump or his comments defending some of the protesters.

Zuckerberg also took the opportunity to criticize the “polarization in our culture.” 

“There’s not enough balance, nuance, and depth in our public discourse, and I believe we can do something about that.”

His comments come after months of debate surrounding Facebook’s role in the presidential election and whether the social network contributes to the very polarization Zuckerberg referenced. 

On his part, Zuck — who also happens to be in the midst of a nationwide tour of the U.S that’s definitely not a precursor to a political campaign — has maintained that emphasizing community-focused groups is key to increasing empathy on the platform.

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This man might expose the Russian hacking operation

Image: Sergei Konkov/TASS via getty images

He’s Ukrainian. He goes by the name “Profexer.” And he’s allegedly behind the software that kicked off the Great DNC Hacking of 2016—you know, the one that may have swayed an entire American presidential election.

Other personal details about the reportedly young man are vanishingly scarce, according to The New York Times, but its his professional credentials that may illuminate key parts of how the Russian government runs its hacking operations. 

Profexer may not have been a Russian government operative himself, but he is the alleged author of the malware that helped Russian operatives hack the Democratic National Committee (and steal DNC emails) in an attempt to sway the 2016 United States presidential election in favor of President Donald Trump. 

So: If the man himself doesn’t work for Moscow, then who is he?

He built dangerous malware where few could find it

If you were one of the few who found themselves adept at uncovering malware code on the Russian-language dark web a few months ago, you might have come across Profexer’s work.

Per the Times, his malware, called P.A.S. web shell, was the only one mentioned in the Department of Homeland Security’s first report about Russian hacking in the U.S. election. And let’s say you were able to find it, by chance? The malware was free. Profexer made his money on the people who wanted customized versions of that free stuff. The man was reportedly respected enough to earn both awe and cash.

He was scared once officials found his malware 

Profexer dismantled his dark web site once his malware showed up in the DHS report. Six days later, he reassured fellow hackers that no one had killed him. In a brief debate with another hacker over the possibility of his capture, he said authorities would be able to find him without a problem, “it depends only on politics.”

He turned himself in after U.S. officials identified his malware

Rather than wait, Profexer walked out from behind his computer. Ukrainian law enforcement didn’t arrest him, reportedly because the man behind the malware built it without using it. Officials did, however, acquaint Profexer with the FBI, for whom he is now a witness.

He knows who used his creations…sort of

Profexer knows the people who used his malware, but only in the same way we know Profexer—by their screennames. 

If he can identify which users were likely Russian operatives, more questions might be answered, and officials might better understand how the Russian government runs cyberoperations. Do they, as The Times suggested, spend more time looking for useful malware, rather than developing it themselves? Are Russian cyber officials as much crowdsourcers as they are hackers, gathering the best tools they can find before aiming them at their own targets? And was this effective enough to count government subcontracting hacker-built software as the future of diplomatic warfare? 

Needless to say: More to come.

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We Are VR: How Vancouver became a hub for Virtual Reality engineers

Handman is sort of a VR evangelist in Vancouver, often acting as a liaison to communicate the goings-on of virtual reality companies with the public. She currently works with Hammer & Tusk — a VR company who “builds products, crafts bespoke experiences, and curates conversation in the immersive content space.” Wren, and the team at Hammer & Tusk, are obsessed with virtual reality and think it’s Vancouver’s diverse community and unique landscape that make the city such a perfect backdrop for filmmakers.

“We are perfectly poised here on the west coast,” starts Handman, “so we’re really close to Seattle — which is a huge VR hub — and of course we’re near Silicon Valley. Also, Los Angeles is a place where VR is being used in a huge way… they’ve been using it in the background of films longer than most of us have known what VR really is. So we have that geographic advantage.” Along with the geography, Handman says — like Graham Qually— that it’s the people who are adding fuel to the VR and AR (augmented reality) fire.

“The fact that we are in Canada means that we have some hiring benefits that people in the states are struggling with right now in terms of immigration policies, but Vancouver is a safe and friendly place to attract talent.” Handman further explains that a lot of the talent in VR and AR comes from Vancouver’s gaming industry. 

Naturally, Handman is also admittedly obsessed with Vancouver’s landscape and is consistently surprised by how often her beloved city shows up in television and movies.