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TV Manufacturers Accused of Gaming Energy Usage Tests

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 5:00pm
The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a new report accusing Samsung, LG and Vizio of "misleading consumers and regulators about how much energy high-definition screens devour, alleging that the televisions were designed to perform more efficiently during government testing than in ordinary use." The report "estimates that the collective electricity bills during a decade of watching the high-definition TVs will be $1.2 billion higher than the energy ratings imply," and that "the higher energy usage generates an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution." CBS Local reports: The findings are based on an analysis of high-definition TVs with screens spanning at least 55 inches made in 2015 and 2016. The estimates on electricity costs are based on high definition TVs with screens 32 inches and larger. The study concluded that Samsung and LG have gamed the system during government testing in an effort to get better scores on the "Energy Star" yellow labels that appear on the sets in stores. Those scores often influence the buying decisions of consumers looking to save money on their utility bills. The report said Samsung and LG did not break any laws in their manipulation of the tests, but rather exploited weaknesses in the Department of Energy's system to measure electricity usage. The Samsung and LG sets have a dimming feature that turns off the screens' backlight during part of the 10-minute video clip used in government tests. But that does not typically happen when the sets are being used in homes to watch sports, comedies, dramas and news programming. The analysis also found that Samsung, LG and Vizio disable energy-saving features in their TVs when consumers change the factory setting on the picture, a common practice. The energy-saving feature is turned off, with little or no warning on the screen, sometimes doubling the amount of electricity consumed, according to the NRDC report.

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W3C Set To Publish HTML 5.1, Work Already Started On HTML 5.2

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 4:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Softpedia: Members of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are getting ready to launch the HTML 5.1 specification and have already started work on the upcoming HTML 5.2 version since mid-August. The HTML 5.1 standard has been promoted from a "Release Candidate" to a "Proposed Recommendation," the last step before it becomes a "W3C Recommendation," and officially replaces HTML 5 as the current HTML standard. As a Proposed Recommendation, HTML 5.1 is practically locked against major changes, and outside small tweaks here and there, we are currently looking at a 99.99 percent version of the upcoming HTML 5.1 standard. The vote to promote HTML 5.1 from RC to PR was approved in unanimity, a clear sign that major browser makers have reached a general consensus on what the standard should look like, and what they should be implementing in their browsers in upcoming versions. You can read more on HTML 5.1 here, the changes and support table here, and the HTML 5.2 specification draft here.

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Reddit Brings Down North Korea's Entire Internet

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 3:40pm
After a North Korean system administrator misconfigured its nameserver allowing anyone to query it and get the list of the domains that exist for .kp, it was revealed that the secretive country only has 28 websites. That's 28 websites for a country with nearly 25 million people. Naturally, the story was published all across the web, including on Reddit, which resulted in a high number of users visiting North Korea's websites. Mirror.co.uk reports: When a list of North Korea's available websites was posted on Reddit, the surge of visitors to the reclusive state's online offering overloaded the servers. North Korea runs a completely locked-down version of the internet that consists of only 28 "websites" that the population is allowed to view. However, a technical slip-up allowed a GitHub user to work their way into the country's computer network and view the websites from the outside. As the GitHub user puts it: "One of North Korea's top level name servers was accidentally configured to allow global [Domain Name System] transfers. This allows anyone who performs [a zone transfer request] to the country's ns2.kptc.kp name server to get a copy of the nation's top level DNS data." Pretty soon, links to all the websites were posted on Reddit, where thousands of visitors took the opportunity to see what the web looks like from Pyongyang. Reddit's surge of traffic isn't the first time North Korea's internet has been knocked out. In 2014, the country suffered a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that was believed to have originated from the U.S. Redditor BaconBakin points out that while North Korea has 28 websites, GTA V has 83 websites. They added, "I think it's safe to say that San Andreas is more technologically advanced than North Korea."

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With 3D Printer Gun Files, National Security Interest Trumps Free Speech, Court Rules

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 3:00pm
A federal appeals court ruled this week against Defense Distributed, the Texas organization that promotes 3D-printed guns, in a lawsuit that it brought last year against the State Department. In a 2-1 decision, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was not persuaded that Defense Distributed's right to free speech under the First Amendment outweighs national security concerns. From an ArsTechnica report: The majority concluded: 'Ordinarily, of course, the protection of constitutional rights would be the highest public interest at issue in a case. That is not necessarily true here, however, because the State Department has asserted a very strong public interest in national defense and national security. Indeed, the State Department's stated interest in preventing foreign nationals -- including all manner of enemies of this country -- from obtaining technical data on how to produce weapons and weapon parts is not merely tangentially related to national defense and national security; it lies squarely within that interest.'

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Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 2:22pm
An anonymous reader writes: Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.

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Blizzard Is Getting Rid of the Battle.net Name

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 2:00pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Battle.net name is no more. Today Blizzard announced that it's moving away from using the Battle.net moniker when referring to its online services. "Battle.net technology will continue to serve as the central nervous system for Blizzard games -- nothing is changing in that regard," the company wrote in a forum post. "We'll just be referring to it as Blizzard tech instead." Battle.net originally debuted way back in 1996 alongside the original Diablo, and since then has been used to power iconic games like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and more recent titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. According to the company, as online multiplayer has become an expected part of its games -- and as Blizzard expanded to new platforms like Facebook Live -- the name was no longer needed. "When we created Battle.net, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name," the company explained. "Over time, though, we've seen that there's been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls -- Blizzard and Battle.net."

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Nokia Says It Can Deliver Internet 1,000x Faster Than Google Fiber

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 1:40pm
An anonymous reader writes: Verizon Fios has topped Netflix's speed index for quite some time now with its 500 Mbps up and down internet speeds. When compared to dial-up speeds of about 56 Kbps, Fios is roughly 1000 times faster (since 500 Mbps is equivalent to 500,000 Kbps). Google Fiber on the other hand offers 1 Gbps speeds, but it's not as widely available as Fios as of yet. In a statement made to ZDNet last week, Nokia said it has figured out how to deliver internet that is 2,000 times faster than Verizon Fios, or 1,000 times faster than Google Fiber. Their technique is called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), which can deliver 1 Tbps speeds over a fiber connection. "The trial of the novel modulation approach, known as Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS), uses quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) formats to achieve higher transmission capacity over a given channel to significantly improve the spectral efficiency of optical communications," Nokia explains. "PCS modifies the probability with which constellation points, the alphabet of the transmission, are used. Traditionally, all constellation points are used with the same frequency. PCS cleverly uses constellation points with high amplitude less frequently than those with lesser amplitude to transmit signals that, on average, are more resilient to noise and other impairments. This allows the transmission rate to be tailored to ideally fit the transmission channel, delivering up to 30 percent greater reach." Nokia's demonstration is described as being achieved in "real-world conditions," though there is no timeframe as to when the technology will be deployed in real networks.

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YouTube Is Looking for Volunteers To Improve Its Site

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 1:00pm
The video-sharing site is looking for "heroes." YouTube is looking for a few good users who want to be "Heroes." Google's video-sharing site wants volunteers to help moderate its content by flagging inappropriate content, fielding questions in YouTube Help forums, and contributing video captions and subtitles, reports Reuters. From the report:Performing those types of tasks will help users earn points in the site's new crowdsourcing program, called "YouTube Heroes." YouTube announced the "Heroes" program in a post on the site's help channel on Wednesday that included a video showing prospective volunteers how they can participate and the perks they can earn. "You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and, like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home," YouTube says in the video.

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Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Announce $3 Billion Initiative To 'Cure All Diseases'

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 12:25pm
Yesterday, researchers on behalf of Microsoft said they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion initiative to "cure all diseases." VentureBeat reports: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company created by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to "unlock human potential and promote equality," today announced "Chan Zuckerberg Science," a $3 billion project that aims to cure, prevent, or manage "all diseases in our children's lifetime." "That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick," Mark Zuckerberg later said. But the program hopes to eventually make all diseases treatable -- or at least easily manageable -- by the end of the 21st century. "Our society spends 50x more treating people who are sick than on finding cures. We can do better than that," said Zuckerberg. A press release from the Initiative says Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will provide "at least $3 billion over the next decade to help jumpstart this work." "The plan," as Zuckerberg called it, is to "bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology, [and] grow the movement to fund science." That plan includes a program called Biohub, a partnership between Stanford University, Berkeley, and UCSF that "will focus on understanding underlying mechanisms of disease and developing new technologies which will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies." You can watch the full Chan Zuckerberg Science presentation here.

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'Corporate Troll' Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Apple For Ring-Silencing Patent

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 11:45am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.

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Lenovo Denies Claims It Plotted With Microsoft To Block Linux Installs

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:50am
Reader kruug writes: Several users noted certain new Lenovo machines' SSDs are locked in a RAID mode, with AHCI removed from the BIOS. Windows is able to see the SSD while in RAID mode due to a proprietary driver, but the SSD is hidden from Linux installations -- for which such a driver is unavailable. Speaking to The Register today, a Lenovo spokesperson claimed the Chinese giant "does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems on its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of products." Complaints on Lenovo's forums suggest that users have been unable to install GNU/Linux operating systems on models from the Yoga 900S to the Ideapad 710S, with one 19-page thread going into detail about the BIOS issue and users' attempts to work around it.

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Microsoft and Sony Are Debating Over Whose Console Really Offers 'True 4K'

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 10:10am
Sony's PlayStation 4, which will go on sales in two months, comes loaded with rendering pipeline and some proprietary upscaling techniques that can improve lower resolution base signals to take fuller advantage of a 4K display. Microsoft is seemingly upset with how Sony is marketing this, and it is not shying from telling people that no amount of upscaling can fill in those missing 4K pixels and the hardware inefficiency to produce native and "true 4K" images that the Project Scorpio, its gaming console that is coming next year can. Microsoft has also said that any game that it will launch during the Scorpio timeframe will "natively render at 4K." But the debate is anything from over because Microsoft keeps reminding everyone that the processor and GPU in its upcoming console is more powerful. As ArsTechnica explains: With Scorpio, Microsoft seems to be arguing that every first-party game at launch will be able to generate and render nearly 8.3 million pixels (four times as many as a 1080p game) at an acceptable frame rate (i.e., at least 30 times a second). That would be quite an achievement. As we noted back at E3, it currently takes pricey, high-end PC graphics cards like the Nvidia GTX 1080 or the AMD R9 Fury X -- cards that run $300 or much higher -- to "barely scrape by" with a native 4K, 30fps game. And those PC cards seem to have significantly more raw power than what is being claimed by Microsoft -- 9 and 8.4 teraflops, respectively, vs. a claimed 6 teraflops for Scorpio (and 4.2 teraflops for the PS4 Pro).Microsoft's head of Xbox planning, Albert Penello said, "I know that 4.2 teraflops is not enough to do true 4K." In an interview with Eurogamer, Penello adds:I think there are a lot of caveats they're giving customers right now around 4K. They're talking about checkerboard rendering and up-scaling and things like that. There are just a lot of asterisks in their marketing around 4K, which is interesting because when we thought about what spec we wanted for Scorpio, we were very clear we wanted developers to take their Xbox One engines and render them in native, true 4K. That was why we picked the number, that's why we have the memory bandwidth we have, that's why we have the teraflops we have, because it's what we heard from game developers was required to achieve native 4K.

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GNOME 3.22 Desktop Environment Officially Released

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 9:30am
Reader prisoninmate writes: Today, September 21, is a big day for Linux users, especially those who love the GNOME desktop environment, as the next major release is now officially available. Yes, that's right, we're talking about GNOME 3.22, dubbed Karlsruhe after the German host city of the annual GUADEC (GNOME Users And Developers European Conference) event, which took place last month between August 12-14, 2016. Prominent features of the GNOME 3.22 desktop environment include batch rename functionality and support for integration of compressed files built directly into the Nautilus file manager, a new Week View, support for alarms, and the ability to drag and drop events to the GNOME Calendar, as well as an updated GNOME Music app that supports handling of music libraries with thousands of tracks. There are lots of improvements for the GNOME Games app as well, as it now offers support for numerous retro gaming consoles. Among other improvements, we can mention Flatpak integration, photo sharing, revamped GNOME Software app with support for firmware updates, redesigned keyboard settings and a brand new GNOME Control Center panel, and a redesigned dconf Editor. A video overview of the new features of GNOME 3.22 is available on the official website.

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Samsung's 960 Pro and 960 Evo SSDs Marry Crazy-Fast Speeds With Roomy Capacity

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 8:55am
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is following up its NVMe successes from 2015 with some fresh blazing-fast M.2 SSDs for storage geeks. The company just announced the Samsung 960 Pro and 960 Evo during this year's Samsung SSD Global Summit. As with 2015's 950 Pro NVMe SSDs, the new 960 series marries stacked V-NAND density with the Non-Volatile Memory express (NVMe) specification. They also use a 4-lane PCIe 3.0 interface, just like the 950 Pro. The 960 Evo and Pro will roll out in October with prices starting at $130 and $330, respectively. The 960 Evo will be available in 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities, while the Pro offers 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB versions. The Evo utilizes cheaper and more tightly packed TLC (triple-level cell) NAND, while the Pro sports speedier MLC (multi-level cell) NAND. That 2TB maximum is double the top capacity Samsung offered with the 950 Pro in 2015, and in another age would've earned the moniker "jaw dropping" for packing that much storage into an M.2 SSD. But this is the age of the 1TB SDXC card, so maybe sheer capacity increases aren't as impressive as they used to be. Seagate also announced a 2TB M.2 storage option for enterprises in July.BetaNews has more details.

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Apple Approaches McLaren About A Potential Acquisition: FT

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 8:15am
Apple has approached British Formula One team owner McLaren for a strategic investment or a potential buyout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), the Financial Times reported, citing sources. The loss-making automotive group could be valued at around $1.4 billion. A deal with McLaren, which also makes high-performance sports cars, could give Apple key automotive technology amid reports that the company is working on a self-driving car. From the report:The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago. Update: 09/21 17:31 GMT by M :The New York Times, citing two people familiar with the matter, is now reporting the same. The publication additional says that Apple has also held talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition.

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Microsoft Signature PC Requirements Now Blocks Linux Installation: Reports

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 7:30am
Reader sombragris writes: According to a well-documented forum thread, the Signature PC program by Microsoft now requires to lock down PCs. This user found out that his Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK2 UltraBook has the SSD in a proprietary RAID mode which Linux does not understand and the BIOS is also locked down so it could not be turned off. When he complained that he was unable to install Linux, the answer he got was: "This system has a Signature Edition of Windows 10 Home installed. It is locked per our agreement with Microsoft."Even worse, as the original poster said, "[t]he Yoga 900 ISK2 at Best Buy is not labeled as a Signature Edition PC, but apparently it is one, and Lenovo's agreement with Microsoft includes making sure Linux can't be installed." As some commenter said: "If you buy a computer with this level of lockdown you should be told." There is also a report on ZDNet which looks very understanding towards Lenovo, but the fact remains: the SSD is locked down in a proprietary RAID mode that cannot be turned off.

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Google Backs Off On Previously Announced Allo Privacy Feature

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 6:51am
When Google first unveiled its Allo messaging app, the company said it would not keep a log of chats you have with people when in incognito mode. The company released Allo for iOS and Android users last night, and it seems it is reneging on some of those promises. The Verge reports:The version of Allo rolling out today will store all non-incognito messages by default -- a clear change from Google's earlier statements that the app would only store messages transiently and in non-identifiable form. The records will now persist until the user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the logging by using Alo's Incognito Mode, which is still fully end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement. Like Hangouts and Gmail, Allo messages will still be encrypted between the device and Google servers, and stored on servers using encryption that leaves the messages accessible to Google's algorithms. According to Google, the change was made to improve the Allo assistant's smart reply feature, which generates suggested responses to a given conversation. Like most machine learning systems, the smart replies work better with more data. As the Allo team tested those replies, they decided the performance boost from permanently stored messages was worth giving up privacy benefits of transient storage.

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Netflix Wants 50% Of Its Library To Be Original Content

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 6:10am
An anonymous reader writes: Netflix is looking to shift its content mix even further towards original TV and movies, with a goal of achieving a 50 percent mix between its own programming and stuff licensed for its use by outside studios. The 50-50 target was revealed by Netflix CFO David Wells at the Goldman Sach's Communacopia conference on Tuesday, and Wells added that they'd like to hit that mix sometime over the course of the next few years. As for its progress so far, Wells said Netflix is already about "one-third to halfway" to that ratio, having launched 2015 hours of original programming in 2015, and with the intend of achieving a further 600 hours by the end of 2016. The benefit for Netflix with a shift to self-generated content is that the licensing situation is much simpler, and the investment made represents a cost that continues to deliver value long after the initial spend. Licensing arrangements with outside TV and film distributors have a fixed term, and thus represent a recurring cost if you want to continue offering their content in your library.

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Tesla Fixes Security Bugs After Claims of Model S Hack

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 5:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla Motors Inc has rolled out a security patch for its electric cars after Chinese security researchers uncovered vulnerabilities they said allowed them to remotely attack a Tesla Model S sedan. The automaker said that it had patched the bugs in a statement to Reuters on Tuesday, a day after cybersecurity researchers with China'a Tencent Holdings Ltd disclosed their findings on their blog. Tesla said it was able to remedy the bugs uncovered by Tencent using an over-the-air fix to its vehicles, which saved customers the trouble of visiting dealers to obtain the update. Tencent's Keen Security Lab said on its blog that its researchers were able to remotely control some systems on the Tesla S in both driving and parking modes by exploiting the security bugs that were fixed by the automaker. The blog said that Tencent believed its researchers were the first to gain remote control of a Tesla vehicle by hacking into an onboard computer system known as a CAN bus. In a demonstration video, Tencent researchers remotely engaged the brake on a moving Tesla Model S, turned on its windshield wipers and opened the trunk. Tesla said it pushed out an over-the-air update to automatically update software on its vehicles within 10 days of learning about the bugs. It said the attack could only be triggered when a Tesla web browser was in use and the vehicle was close enough to a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot to connect to it. Slashdot reader weedjams adds some commentary: Does no one else think cars + computers + network connectivity = bad?

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Quantum Teleportation Achieved Over 7km of Cable

Wed, 09/21/2016 - 2:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: Quantum teleportation just moved out of the lab and into the real world, with two independent teams of scientists successfully sending quantum information across several kilometers of optical fiber networks in Calgary, Canada, and Hefei, China. Quantum teleportation relies on a strange phenomenon called quantum entanglement. Basically, quantum entanglement means that two particles are inextricably linked, so that measuring the state of one immediately affects the state of the other, no matter how far apart the two are -- which led Einstein to call entanglement "spooky action at a distance." In the latest experiments, both published in Nature Photonics (here and here), the teams had slightly different set-ups and results. But what they both had in common is the fact that they teleported their information across existing optical fiber networks -- which is important if we ever want to build useable quantum communication systems. To understand the experiments, Anil Ananthaswamy over at New Scientist nicely breaks it down like this: picture three people involved -- Alice, Bob, and Charlie. Alice and Bob want to share cryptographic keys, and to do that, they need Charlie's help. Alice sends a particle to Charlie, while Bob entangles two particles and sends just one of them to Charlie. Charlie then measures the two particles he's received from each of them, so that they can no longer be differentiated -- and that results in the quantum state of Alice's particle being transferred to Bob's entangled particle. So basically, the quantum state of Alice's particle eventually ends up in Bob's particle, via a way station in the form of Charlie. The Canadian experiment followed this same process, and was able to send quantum information over 6.2 km of Calgary's fiber optic network that's not regularly in use.

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