Audi helps you avoid red lights by suggesting speeds


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Audi’s cars already tell you how long a red light will last, but now they’ll help you avoid those red lights in the first place. It’s launching the first implementation of the Green Light Optimization Speed Advisory (GLOSA), a system that provides speed recommendations to reduce the amount of time you spend at red lights. The extension of Traffic Light Information technology combines your car’s position and traffic light data to calculate an ideal speed that shows up on your vehicle’s instrument cluster or heads-up display. In theory, you could save time by driving slightly slower and catching an uninterrupted string of green lights.

Speed suggestions and TLI are available as part of an Audi Connect Prime feature on 2017 and newer models outside of the A3 and TT. You’re still limited to using them in certain areas, however. TLI is currently available in 13 urban regions, including Dallas, Denver, Gainesville, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York (White Plains), Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area (Palo Alto and Walnut Creek) and Washington, DC.

The technology could become more useful in the future, though. Future TLI upgrades might use a car’s automatic stop/start system to restart the engine when a red light is turning green, and a navigation tie-in could plan routes that minimize stops. Think of this as another small step toward autonomous cars. You might still have to take the wheel, but computers are minimizing many of the little annoyances.

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Google is hiding behind shell companies to score tax breaks and land deals

In context: A report by the Washington Post sheds light on the controversial practice by Google and others of using shell companies to negotiate incentives and land purchases for expansion across the US. Google calls this a “common industry practice,” but others feel that the public in these communities is being kept in the dark until it’s too late to debate Google’s presence there.

According to a staggering report by The Washington Post, Google has used shell companies and fake brand names to obtain land and secure huge tax breaks for their expansion efforts across the US.

The report sheds light on how major tech companies, notably Amazon and Google, cut deals with local governments and secure both land and property without disclosing who they are. When the search giant approached the city of Midlothian, Texas, to build a data center there, it operated under a subsidiary called Sharka LLC. Other pseudonyms Google used for development projects included Jet Stream LLC and Questa LLC.

Often, Google forces both its development agencies and city officials to sign non-disclosure agreements that forbid them to announce who is actually behind the deal. This allows Google to secure potentially millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives without the public knowing who’s moving in. In the case of the Texas data center, Google won $10 million in tax savings over 10 years.

Travis Smith, the editor in chief of the Waxahachie Daily Light, the local paper in Midlothian, sums up the problem with this practice.

“I’m confident that had the community known this project was under the direction of Google, people would have spoken out, but we were never given the chance to speak. We didn’t know that it was Google until after it passed.”

In a statement to the Post, Google defended its methods, calling them “common industry practices.”

“We believe public dialogue is vital to the process of building new sites and offices, so we actively engage with community members and elected officials in the places we call home,” Google spokeswoman Katherine Williams said. “In a single year, our data centers created $1.3 billion in economic activity, $750 million in labor income, and 11,000 jobs throughout the United States. Of course, when we enter new communities we use common industry practices and work with municipalities to follow their required procedures.”

While the report focuses largely on the Texas data center, shell companies were also used to secure incentives and property in Iowa, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

In all of these cases, Google was revealed as the deal maker too late in the process for the public to debate their presence there.

While it’s true that these new sites will create jobs, at the center of the debate over this practice is whether or not the public should have more say in the process. If Google, and others, are operating under shell company names, the public is kept in the dark until it’s too late to do anything about it.

The Post report comes to light after the recent decision by Amazon to scrap plans for their new HQ in New York City. That project was subject to massive public outcry over tax breaks and incentives given to the company, prompting Amazon to pull the plug.

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Kali Linux 2019.1 Released — Operating System For Hackers

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Wohooo! Great news for hackers and penetration testers.

Offensive Security has just released Kali Linux 2019.1, the first 2019 version of its Swiss army knife for cybersecurity professionals.

The latest version of Kali Linux operating system includes kernel up to version 4.19.13 and patches for numerous bugs, along with many updated software, like Metasploit, theHarvester, DBeaver, and more.

Kali Linux 2019.1 comes with the latest version of Metasploit (version 5.0) penetration testing tool, which “includes database and automation APIs, new evasion capabilities, and usability improvements throughout,” making it more efficient platform for penetration testers.

Metasploit version 5.0 is the software’s first major release since version 4.0 which came out in 2011.

Talking about ARM images, Kali Linux 2019.1 has now once again added support for Banana Pi and Banana Pro that are on kernel version 4.19.

“Veyron has been moved to a 4.19 kernel, and the Raspberry Pi images have been simplified, so it is easier to figure out which one to use,” Kali Linux project maintainers says in their official release announcement.

“There are no longer separate Raspberry Pi images for users with TFT LCDs because we now include re4son’s kalipi-tft-config script on all of them, so if you want to set up a board with a TFT, run ‘kalipi-tft-config’ and follow the prompts.”

The Offensive Security virtual machine and ARM images have also been updated to the latest 2019.1 version.

You can download new Kali Linux ISOs directly from the official website or from the Torrent network, and if you are already using it, then you can simply upgrade it to the latest and greatest Kali release by running the command: apt update && apt -y full-upgrade.

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An auto-tuned cat convinced me to download an audio processing app

The first thing I saw on Twitter this morning was a video of a cat letting out sweet, little T-Pain yowls. Joaquin Baldwin, a Disney animation artist, had auto-tuned his cat Elton and then made a compilation video of his suddenly quite musical meows.

I sent it to everyone. Then, I decided I had to know what was used to auto-tune the cat: partially because I plan on auto-tuning my own cat, Crouton, but mostly because the auto-tune effect used in the video is actually quite good.

The app Baldwin used is called Voloco — a free iOS and Android app for pitch processing that has been around for a couple of years. I immediately fell down a Voloco Twitter hole that was a most enjoyable morning time suck.

Here is a dog’s auto-tuned howl:

Here is a man lamenting having to shovel snow with the dulcet tones of auto-tune:

This is definitely how Travis Scott sneezes:

You probably have some understanding of what auto-tuning is. Auto-Tune is actually a software brand, but the extreme use of it in all sorts of tracks from Kanye West’s “Heartless” to Imogen Heap’s “Hide And Seek” has made “auto-tune” morph into more of a catch-all phrase for overdone pitch correction. It’s usually used not as an overt effect, though, but instead as a tool to nudge stray notes into place, with the end result being that you don’t hear its presence at all. Its use is a lot more common than you might think.

Mix engineer Leslie Brathwaite recently told The Verge that he used both Auto-Tune and Melodyne, another pitch-correcting software, throughout Cardi B’s Grammy-winning album Invasion of Privacy. He used Auto-Tune on Kehlani’s vocals in “Ring,” and Melodyne on Cardi’s vocals on “Be Careful,” he says, “just to get her notes and the sound right.” You don’t hear a robotic-like auto-tune sound on either song, though, because the software was used to tweak, not overhaul.

I downloaded the Voloco app, and after poking around and watching some tutorials, I was shocked at both how easy it was to use and how robust the app is. Plug your headphones into your phone so you can monitor your voice, pick whether you’re recording audio or audio and video, choose an auto-tune effect and a key, and press record. Boom. Instant Migos.

The app comes with a starter pack of auto-tune effects, including a “natural tune” and “big chorus,” which adds harmonizing layers to your voice, but there are expansion packs that can be purchased like “P-Tain,” “Bon Hiver,” and “Duft Pank.” Once you choose the effect, you pick a scale, like major, minor, blues, or chromatic, and then a musical key. There’s also the ability to load a beat to record over. The app offers basic mixing parameters that allow you to select the effect’s strength or set an arpeggiator tempo. On top of that, it has mastering options like EQ presets, compression, and reverb. So, you could use this for subtle adjustments when recording, or go all out and “Duft Pank” your voice.

Voloco’s format as a free app with video recording means it’s perfect for creating wonderful meme-y moments. It also introduces more people to the power of auto-tune for audio processing, something that’s generally a professional tool. Look at this woman’s amazed face after singing a Kanye West hook:

Voloco is easy to use, but it’s in-depth enough that it verges into prosumer territory. The company even recently announced a free plug-in version of the software (VST3 for Windows and AU for Mac), so producers can use its auto-tuning in DAWs like Ableton or Logic. And, for those who want to learn the finer points of using the app, there’s a 14-part video series explaining everything from quick start tips to mic techniques.

I’ll be using the Voloco plug-in on some vocals in Ableton tonight, but in the meantime, here’s another auto-tuned cat.

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FTC complaint accuses Facebook of revealing sensitive health data in groups

A complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission is accusing Facebook of failing to protect sensitive health data in its groups.

The complaint, filed with the agency last month and released publicly today, argues that the company improperly disclosed information on members of closed groups. The issue first came into the public eye in July, when members of a group for women with a gene mutation called BRCA discovered sensitive information, like names and email addresses of members, could be downloaded in bulk, either manually or through a Chrome extension.

Around that time, Facebook made changes to Groups that ended the practice, but said the decision was not related to the BRCA group’s concerns. The company also said at the time that the ability to view the data was not a privacy flaw, and noted that there was also an option for “secret” groups, which are more difficult to join but also have more limited discoverability.

The complaint, which, among others. was filed by a security researcher and BRCA advocates, argues that Facebook has failed to make clear what personal information users might be giving up when they join a group. While the company might have also made changes to the ability to view personal information, the complaint argues that it is still too easy for a member to harvest information on others in a group.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company is already reportedly negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine with the FTC over privacy lapses.

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