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A lot of natural language generation models have been developed recently; however, most of them are suitable for a few specific tasks and focus on a special kind of technique. A recent study on arXiv.org addresses this drawback by suggesting a unified text generation framework.

TextBox A Unified Modularized and Extensible Framework for Text Generation

Image: pxhere.com, CC0 Public Domain

It contains various text generation models, including variational auto-encoder, generative adversarial networks, recurrent neural network, Transformer based models, and pre-trained language models. Flexible mechanisms let to test and compare different algorithms. Separate modules and functionalities can be easily plugged in or swapped out.

Moreover, the suggested model can seamlessly integrate other user-customized modules and external components. It is suitable for unconditional and conditional text generation tasks, like text summarization and machine translation.

We release an open library, called TextBox, which provides a unified, modularized, and extensible text generation framework. TextBox aims to support a broad set of text generation tasks and models. In TextBox, we implements several text generation models on benchmark datasets, covering the categories of VAE, GAN, pre-trained language models, etc. Meanwhile, our library maintains sufficient modularity and extensibility by properly decomposing the model architecture, inference, learning process into highly reusable modules, which allows easily incorporating new models into our framework. It is specially suitable for researchers and practitioners to efficiently reproduce baseline models and develop new models. TextBox is implemented based on PyTorch, and released under Apache License 2.0 at this https URL.

Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2101.02046




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Studying Chaos with One of the World’s Fastest Cameras

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There are things in life that can be predicted reasonably well. The tides rise and fall. The moon waxes and wanes. A billiard ball bounces around a table according to orderly geometry.

And then there are things that defy easy prediction: The hurricane that changes direction without warning. The splashing of water in a fountain. The graceful disorder of branches growing from a tree.

Studying Chaos with One of the Worlds Fastest Cameras

A so-called chaotic optical cavity is designed in such a way that a beam of light reflecting off its interior surfaces will never follow the same path twice. Image credit: Caltech

These phenomena and others like them can be described as chaotic systems, and are notable for exhibiting behaviour that is predictable at first but grows increasingly random with time.

Because of the large role that chaotic systems play in the world around us, scientists and mathematicians have long sought to better understand them. Now, Caltech’s Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor in the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering, has developed a new tool that might help in this quest.

In the latest issue of Science Advances, Wang describes how he has used an ultrafast camera of his own design that recorded video at one billion frames per second to observe the movement of laser light in a chamber specially designed to induce chaotic reflections.

“Some cavities are non-chaotic, so the path the light takes is predictable,” Wang says. But in the current work, he and his colleagues have used that ultrafast camera as a tool to study a chaotic cavity, “in which the light takes a different path every time we repeat the experiment.”

The camera makes use of a technology called compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), which Wang has demonstrated in other research to be capable of speeds as fast as 70 trillion frames per second. The speed at which a CUP camera takes video makes it capable of seeing light—the fastest thing in the universe—as it travels.

But CUP cameras have another feature that makes them uniquely suited for studying chaotic systems. Unlike a traditional camera that shoots one frame of video at a time, a CUP camera essentially shoots all of its frames at once. This allows the camera to capture the entirety of a laser beam’s chaotic path through the chamber all in one go.

That matters because, in a chaotic system, the behaviour is different every time. If the camera only captured part of the action, the behaviour that was not recorded could never be studied, because it would never occur in exactly the same way again. It would be like trying to photograph a bird, but with a camera that can only capture one body part at a time; furthermore, every time the bird landed near you, it would be a different species. Although you could try to assemble all your photos into one composite bird image, that cobbled-together bird would have the beak of a crow, the neck of a stork, the wings of a duck, the tail of a hawk, and the legs of a chicken. Not exactly useful.

Wang says that the ability of his CUP camera to capture the chaotic movement of light may breathe new life into the study of optical chaos, which has applications in physics, communications, and cryptography.

“It was a really hot field some time ago, but it’s died down, maybe because we didn’t have the tools we needed,” he says. “The experimentalists lost interest because they couldn’t do the experiments, and the theoreticians lost interest because they couldn’t validate their theories experimentally. This was a fun demonstration to show people in that field that they finally have an experimental tool.”

Source: Caltech




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Does WhatsApp’s New Privacy Policy Spell the End for Your Privacy?

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On this episode of Orbital, we discuss WhatsApp’s new privacy policy and what it means for your data. Tech lawyer and legal director of SFLC.in (Software Freedom Law Center) Mishi Choudhary joins host Pranay Parab to talk about this. We begin this episode by discussing what the change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy means for you. WhatsApp’s been sharing data with Facebook for a long time, but what has changed now? Also, how is WhatsApp’s earlier data sharing agreement with Facebook different from what it’s offering now? Mishi answers all of these questions in detail.

Then we talk about why you should be really wary of WhatsApp’s privacy policy changes. We mention why you should worry about ad companies collecting huge volumes of information about your daily lives and tell you what you can do to avoid it. Next, we discuss whether this recent outrage over WhatsApp’s privacy policy will translate into a mass exodus or a return to status quo in a few days. This is where we suggest excellent alternatives to WhatsApp, which includes Signal — one of the best privacy focused messaging apps in the world right now. Finally, we talk about what steps you can take to make sure that you don’t get stuck on platforms that are bad for your privacy, and why this is very important.

That’s all for this week’s episode of Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

For the biggest CES 2021 stories and latest updates, visit our CES hub.

Does WhatsApps New Privacy Policy Spell the End for Your

Signal Is Down Globally, COO Confirms This Is Due Huge Influx of Users

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How to check if someone else accessed your Google account

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Review your recent Gmail access, browser sign-in history, and Google account activity to make sure no one other than you has used your account.

Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

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Whenever a computer is out of your direct view and control, there’s always a chance that someone other than you can gain access. A person who returns from a trip might wonder if their computer and accounts have been accessed during their absence. A person might notice odd activity in Gmail, not aware that their password has been made public (or “pwned“). Or, in some cases, a person might be surveilled by a partner, a family member, a colleague, or even an unknown party.

To secure an account, you might first change your password, enable two-factor authentication, or even enroll in Google’s Advanced Protection Program. Those steps will help you secure your account. However, in cases where people are unsafe because of domestic abuse, these steps will likely not be encouraged by an abuser–help is available.

The following steps can help you figure out if someone, other than you, is accessing your Gmail or Google account.

SEE: Google Sheets: Tips and tricks (TechRepublic download) 

Did someone access my Gmail account?

In a desktop web browser, Gmail allows you to review recent email access activity. Select Details in the lower-right area below displayed emails, below Last Account Activity (Figure A). 

Figure A

GIF showing selection of DETAILS (in lower right, below displayed emails), which then reveals recent Gmail account access activity (type of activity, IP address, and date/time)

If your Gmail account has been accessed in other locations or on other devices, you may display recent activity while signed in to Gmail from a desktop-class web browser.

The system will show you information about the most recent 10 times your Gmail account has been accessed, along with the access type (browser, POP, mobile, etc.), location (IP address), and the date and time of access. This can help you identify if any of this access is from an unexpected device, place, or time. 

Note: If you use a virtual private network or a hosted desktop, the location data may reflect information related to your service provider, instead of your physical address.

In a few cases, I’ve had clients concerned about access in an expected location, but at an unexpected time. Sometimes, this was simply because they’d left a computer on, with their browser or mail client open: The system could be configured to auto-check mail periodically. In one case, access occurred after a power outage. They’d configure the system to automatically power on after an outage, so it signed in and downloaded new mail shortly after power was restored.

Did someone access my browser?

In the Chrome browser–and on any Chromebook or Chrome OS device–press Ctrl+H to display browser history. Alternatively, type chrome://history in the omnibox, or select the three-vertical dot menu in the upper-right, then choose History | History. On macOS, press Command+Y. You may scroll through all available sites visited. Review these to see if any sites displayed are unexpected.

Additionally, you may enter search terms in the box displayed above the historical URLs listed. For example, search for “sign in,” or copy and paste this link into your browser omnibox: chrome://history/?q=sign%20in to display most site login pages (Figure B). Again, review the results for any sites you don’t expect. You might search for “gmail.com” as well.

Figure B

Screenshot of Chrome history, with search active to show only items with

Use Ctrl+H (or on macOS, Command+Y) to display your browser history. You also may search history for terms, such as “login” or “sign in,” as shown.

Did someone access my Google account?

Go to https://myactivity.google.com/ to access your Google account history across all devices and Google services, such as YouTube, Google Maps, Google Play, and more (Figure C). Depending on your security settings, you may need to re-authenticate when you attempt to access this information. Again, review any recorded data to make sure it corresponds with your usage.

Figure C

Screenshot of

The My Google Activity page displays any recorded access of web sites, apps, location, and YouTube.

Similarly, go to https://myaccount.google.com/device-activity to review a list of devices to which you’ve signed in with your Google account (Figure D). You may select the three-vertical dots in the upper-right of any displayed devices, then choose Sign Out to prevent any future access without re-authentication on a device. 

Figure D

Screenshot shows

You also may review the devices Where You’re Signed In to your Google account. Select the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner of the box for each device to Sign Out of any device.

Go through Google’s Security Checkup (https://myaccount.google.com/security-checkup) for a step-by-step review of every item Google’s system identifies as a potential security issue (Figure E).

Figure E

Screenshot of Security Checkup screen, with all items indicated as checked and green to indicated completion.

Google’s Security Checkup helps you review the security of your account, step-by-step.

Use Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)? Ask an administrator for help.

If you use Gmail and Google Workspace as part of an organization (e.g., work or school), an administrator may be able to do additional review of your account access data. To do this, the administrator will need to sign in to the admin console at https://admin.google.com. From the Admin console, they might go to https://admin.google.com/ac/, select your account, then review security settings as well as connected apps and devices. Next, they might review all login information by going to the login report at https://admin.google.com/ac/reporting/audit/login, then filtering for your account (Figure F). Since this information is centrally logged by the system, access records will remain, even if the person accessing your account attempts to cover their tracks (e.g., by locally deleting browser history).

Figure F

GIF that alternates between two images: one a list of account sign ins for the author's Google Workspace email account address, the other that indicates the security and connected apps linked to the author's account.

For organizational accounts, a Google Workspace administrator may review account settings (e.g., security, apps, and devices) and audit logs (e.g., account sign ins), as displayed in these two alternating screenshots.

What’s your experience?

If you’ve wondered whether someone else has accessed your Google account, what steps have you taken? What did you learn when you completed the above access review of your Google account? Let me know any additional steps you suggest, either in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).   

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