N e w s - F e e d s

[ Reuters | Slashdot | BBC News ]
[ Image Archive ]

Slashdot

    - Could Granite Solve the Hard Problem of Nuclear Waste Storage?
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study published in Scientific Reports reveals that crystalline rocks, such as granite, have a natural self-sealing mechanism, capable of keeping fluids locked away for millions of years. Careful analysis of the chemistry and structure of granites from Japan and the UK revealed that when fluid did enter the rock (via fractures), it travelled a few centimeters at most. The scientists believe that calcium in the rock reacted with carbonate in the fluid to create tiny crystals of calcite that plugged all the gaps and prevented further flow. "This amount of calcite would never be expected in a granite, and the distribution of it indicates it almost certainly formed from small quantities of fluid trying to move through the rock," says Roy Wogelius from the University of Manchester. Greater understanding is needed before we finalize our radioactive waste disposal strategies, but this is a promising step forward.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - UK Willing To Admit Nearly 3 Million From Hong Kong If China Adopts Security Law
    schwit1 shares news that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would be willing to allow more than 2.8 million people from Hong Kong to live and work in the country if China implements a controversial proposed national security law on the former British colony. The law could take effect as soon as this month, and would expand mainland China's control over Hong Kong. NPR reports: Johnson wrote in a column that appeared in The Times of London that the law would infringe on the "one country, two systems" agreement China reached with Britain in 1997 when Britain ceded control of the territory. He added that the law "would curtail [Hong Kong's] freedoms and dramatically erode its autonomy." If China were to implement the law, Johnson wrote, Britain is prepared to take in around 350,000 people from Hong Kong who already have British National (Overseas) passports and 2.5 million who would be eligible to apply for them. He also noted that the U.K. would be making "one of the biggest changes in our visa system in history." It would allow Hong Kongers with these passports to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of a year. The current system allows them to come without a visa for up to six months. The potential new system would include a right to work and, potentially, a path to citizenship. Johnson did not elaborate in the column about how the 2.5 million people eligible for a British passport would be able to attain one, or how arrivals from Hong Kong would attain citizenship. "Many people in Hong Kong fear that their way of life -- which China pledged to uphold -- is under threat," Johnson wrote. "If China proceeds to justify their fears, then Britain could not in good conscience shrug our shoulders and walk away... I still hope that China will remember that responsibilities go hand in glove with strength and leadership." The law would authorize mainland China to prevent "secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference" in the semi-autonomous city. "One part that has got people worried is the suggestion that China could set up its own institutions in Hong Kong responsible for security," reports the BBC. "Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement -- a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called 'one country, two systems' principle," the report adds. "They are supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights -- freedoms that no other part of mainland China has." People in Hong Kong believe the law will result in a loss of these freedoms and could see Beijing punish people for criticizing the country, as happens in mainland China.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Germany Bans Digital Doppelganger Passport Photos
    Germany will outlaw the morphing of passport photos, in which pictures of two people are digitally combined, making it possible to assign multiple identities to a single document. Reuters reports: Morphing can trick artificial intelligence used at passport control into recognizing different individuals. The government on Wednesday backed a law requiring people to either have their photo taken at a passport office or, if they use a photographer, have it submitted in digital form over a secure connection, spokesman Steffen Seibert said. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics have found that it is possible to morph photos of the faces of different people who are not even related. A certain degree of similarity is sufficient, such as the eyes being aligned. Such manipulation of photos is typically invisible to the human eye, the researchers found.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Dyson Shares New Photos and Videos of Its Canceled Electric SUV
    Dyson has revealed new photos and information about their failed electric SUV, which the company canceled last October due to high costs. The Verge reports: In a new blog post on his company's website, Dyson shows off some of the first images and videos of the real prototype it made before the project was killed last October, as well as a few more computer renderings. He describes the SUV as "a radical car which was loaded with technology," and says his company "solved lots of problems that are traditionally associated with electric vehicles," though the project was ultimately abandoned for not being "commercially viable." Missing from the post is any substantive explanation of what those problems were, though, or how the company was going to solve them. Dyson touts a "spoke, integrated and highly efficient Electric Drive Unit (EDU) comprising Dyson digital electric motor, single speed transmission and state of the art power inverter," though there's no explanation about what sets those technologies apart from the ones developed by other companies in the electric vehicle space. Other listed design benefits (like a flexible battery pack design, improved interior space, longer wheelbase) and features (like a heads-up display or handle-free doors) are also far from unique. And while Autocar reports that the SUV was supposed to offer somewhere around 600 miles of range using a 150kWh battery, Dyson never got close enough to put that claim to the test. One of the few standout parts of the SUV is the steering wheel, which looks more like a video game controller than anything.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Frontier Users Must Pay 'Rental' Fee For Equipment They Own Until December
    An anonymous reader writes: Broadband and TV providers can keep charging "rental" fees for equipment that customers own themselves until December 2020, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission ruling that delays implementation of a new law. A law approved by Congress and signed by President Trump in December 2019 prohibits providers from charging device-rental fees when customers use their own equipment, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on June 20. As we've written, this law will help Frontier customers who have been forced to pay $10 monthly fees for equipment they don't use and, in some cases, have never even received. But the law gave the FCC discretion to extend the deadline by six months if the commission "finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension," and the FCC has done just that. The FCC ruling on April 3 (PDF), which we didn't notice at the time, extends the deadline to December 20 and says that providers need more time to comply because of the coronavirus pandemic: "As the nation tackles the COVID-19 pandemic, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service are among the entities that are integral to the Commission's ongoing, nationwide effort to keep Americans informed and connected during this national emergency. So that these service providers may focus their resources on this critical effort, we provide appropriate flexibility for MVPDs and providers of fixed broadband Internet access service to fulfill their obligations under the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA)... we find that good cause exists for granting a blanket extension of section 642's effective date until December 20, 2020."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Canadian Major Telcos Effectively Lock Huawei Out of 5G Build
    Canadian carriers Bell and Telus announced on Tuesday that each of them would not be continuing the use of Huawei equipment in their respective 5G networks, having signed deals with the Chinese giant's rivals instead. ZDNet reports: For Bell, it announced Ericsson would be supplying its radio access network. It added that it was looking to launch 5G services as the Canadian economy exited lockdown. Bell, which in Febraury announced it had signed an agreement with Nokia, said it was maintaining the use of multiple vendors in its upcoming network, as it had for 4G. "Ericsson plays an important role in enabling Bell's award-winning LTE network and we're pleased to grow our partnership into 5G mobile and fixed wireless technology," said Bell chief technology officer Stephen Howe. Meanwhile, the British Columbia-based Telus also chose to go with a combination of Ericsson and Nokia. The company said it had spent CA$200 billion on its network since the turn of the century, and would part with a further CA$40 billion over the next three years to deploy its 5G network. Both Bell and Telus had previously used Huawei equipment in their networks. In February, Telus told the Financial Post it would be using Huawei in its 5G network. The third member of the Canadian major telco triumvirate -- Rogers -- said in January it would be using Ericsson equipment for its 5G rollout. The decisions from Canada's three major carriers now mean Huawei is increasingly isolated from 5G builds within the Five Eyes nations.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Governments and WHO Changed COVID-19 Policy Based On Suspect Data From Tiny US Company
    AmiMoJo shares a report from The Guardian The World Health Organization and a number of national governments have changed their Covid-19 policies and treatments on the basis of flawed data from a little-known U.S. healthcare analytics company, also calling into question the integrity of key studies published in some of the world's most prestigious medical journals. Surgisphere, whose employees appear to include a sci-fi writer and adult content model, provided the database behind Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine hydroxychloroquine studies. Data it claims to have legitimately obtained from more than a thousand hospitals worldwide formed the basis of scientific articles that have led to changes in Covid-19 treatment policies in Latin American counties. It was also behind a decision by the WHO and research institutes around the world to halt trials of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. Late on Tuesday, the Lancet released an "expression of concern" about its published study. The New England Journal of Medicine has also issued a similar notice. According to an independent audit by authors not affiliated with Surgisphere, the article includes a list of "concerns that have been raised about the reliability of the database." Some of the main points include: Surgisphere's employees have little or no data or scientific background; While Surgisphere claims to run one of the largest and fastest growing hospital databases in the world, it has almost no online presence; and The firm's chief executive, Sapan Desai, has been named in three medical malpractice suits.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - $350M 'Quant Fund' Played the Stock Market Using Real-Time Data -- Then 2020 Happened
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Coatue's $350 million data-driven 'quant fund' made a swift exit from the market in early April -- having realized the coronavirus pandemic had rendered its algorithm unreliable, Business Insider reports. The tech-focused fund, launched by billionaire Philippe Laffont just over one year ago, joins a growing list of "quant funds" to have failed to turn a profit due to 2020's unpredictable nature. Quant funds use complex algorithms to find hidden trade signals in a hyperconnected web of data. While Coatue's quant fund mixes old-school stock picking with quantitative analysis (a method dubbed "quantamental"), execs were reportedly concerned that data farmed in the midst of COVID-19 would confuse its in-house trading program. One example cited by Business Insider's sources highlighted the way Coatue's program interpreted ecommerce data. It reportedly showed surges in website traffic for certain retailers as COVID-19 lockdowns spread across the world -- usually a positive sign for stock -- but failed to consider their dwindling revenues and closed physical stores. But Coatue's quant fund had underperformed long before COVID-19 hit. In February, reports surfaced showing it had posted only 2% returns since its launch in May 2019, and had actually lost money (1.2%) in last year's fourth quarter. On the other hand, Laffont's human-led fund bested the industry average to return 10% profit last year. Bloomberg has since noted that those profits have taken a hit, bringing its losses the year to roughly 6%. While quant funds as a whole have had a really tough year, there were at least two that are doing just fine. "Toronto's Castle Ridge Asset Management, which trades some $100 million in assets, made 2.6% in March with its 'self-evolving' AI system that works with large-cap stocks," reports The Next Web. "Over in Sweden, Volt Capital Management AB (in charge of roughly $30 million in assets) has returned a loin-tickling 24% to investors this year. Volt's fund was also reportedly prepared for those plunging oil prices."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Global Smartphone Shipments To Fall 12% this Year on Virus Woes
    Global smartphone shipments will fall nearly 12% to 1.2 billion units in 2020, market research firm IDC said on Wednesday, citing lower consumer spending due to the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. From a report: The COVID-19 pandemic has not only disrupted business supply chains, with major smartphone makers such as Apple and Samsung Electronics flagging financial hits, but also squeezed consumer spending worldwide. "Nationwide lockdowns and rising unemployment have reduced consumer confidence and reprioritized spending towards essential goods, directly impacting the uptake of smartphones in the short term," said Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst with IDC.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Game Publisher Cancels Contract With Developer, Then Tries To Poach Its Entire Team
    Three months after losing a deal with Take-Two, Star Theory Games was out of business. From a report: One Friday evening last December, employees of game designer Star Theory Games each received the same unusual recruitment message over LinkedIn. It struck them as bizarre for two reasons. One, it came from an executive producer at the publishing company funding their next video game. Two, it said the game -- in the works for the previous two years -- was being pulled from their studio. "This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, but it became necessary when we felt business circumstances might compromise the development, execution and integrity of the game," Michael Cook, an executive producer at Private Division, a publishing label within Take-Two Interactive Software, wrote in the message, which was reviewed by Bloomberg. "To that end, we encourage you to apply for a position with us." It was strange and disconcerting news to Star Theory's employees. Normally, an announcement like this would be delivered in a companywide meeting or an email from Star Theory's leadership team. The contract with Take-Two was the studio's only source of revenue at the time. Without it, the independent studio was in serious trouble. The LinkedIn message went on to say Take-Two was setting up a new studio to keep working on the same game Star Theory had been developing, a sequel to the cult classic Kerbal Space Program. Take-Two was looking to hire all of Star Theory's development staff to make that happen. "We are offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits," Cook wrote. When employees returned to the office on Monday, Star Theory founders Bob Berry and Jonathan Mavor convened an all-hands meeting. The two men had been in discussions about selling their company to Take-Two but were dissatisfied with the terms, they explained. The game's cancellation was a shock, but the founders assured staff that Star Theory still had money in the bank and could try to sign other deals, according to five people who attended the meeting and asked not to be identified, citing the risk of litigation. Berry and Mavor encouraged employees to stick together and stay at the company. The next few weeks were chaos, employees said. Take-Two hired more than a third of Star Theory's staff, including the studio head and creative director. By March, as the coronavirus pandemic choked the global economy, any hope of saving the business appeared to be lost, and Star Theory closed its doors.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - From RealPlayer To Toshiba, Tech Companies Cash in on the Facial Recognition Gold Rush
    At least 45 companies now advertise real-time facial recognition. From a report: More than a decade before Spotify, and years before iTunes, there was RealPlayer, the first mainstream solution to playing and streaming media to a PC. Launched in 1995, within five years RealPlayer claimed a staggering 95 million users. [...] RealPlayer is still very much alive. Now called RealNetworks, a vast majority of its revenue still comes from licensing media software. But the company has also begun dabbling in an industry that's suddenly attracting hundreds of firms, most of which operate outside public scrutiny: facial recognition. Through a startup subsidiary called SAFR, RealNetworks now offers facial recognition for everything from K-12 schools to military drones. The company even claims to have launched a surveillance project in Sao Paulo, Brazil that analyzes video from 2,500 cameras. SAFR has also licensed its technology to Wolfcom, a body camera company that is currently building real-time facial recognition into its products. As first reported by OneZero, Wolfcom's push to bring live facial recognition to hundreds of police departments represents the first such effort within the United States. Though RealNetworks' earnings reports say SAFR doesn't generate significant revenue yet, RealPlayer's evolution is part of a trend of both large global tech companies and small upstart firms becoming key players in the sprawling facial recognition industrial complex. Over the last decade, Japanese tech firm NEC grew a burgeoning division focused on biometrics, alongside its 100-year-old hardware business. Toshiba, best known for making PCs, claims to be running more than 1,000 facial recognition projects around the world, including identity verification systems at security checkpoints in Russia and for law enforcement in Southeast Asia. Even software contractor Microfocus, one of a handful of companies keeping the aging COBOL language alive, is working on making facial recognition that can scale to thousands of CCTV cameras. While many of these companies sell facial recognition technology to verify people's identities in an app, an increasing number are investing in a burgeoning subset of the industry: real-time surveillance, or the ability to recognize individuals in live video footage. Such systems are being sold for law enforcement, military, and security purposes. Many of these companies operate in obscurity, and have never been profiled or scrutinized before.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Snapchat To Stop Promoting Trump's Content
    Snapchat said Wednesday it would no longer promote President Donald Trump's content in its Discover section, a move that brings the messaging company closer to Twitter's approach in the ongoing debate over political speech. From a report: The company said in a statement that it would not "amplify voices who incite racial violence." Snapchat's Discover section typically features content from news organizations, brands, celebrities and sometimes politicians. The president's account remains visible on the platform, and anyone can follow the account for updates. Snapchat's change will remove Trump from the Discover section. "We are not currently promoting the president's content on Snapchat's Discover platform," the company said. "We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - New Cold Boot Attack Affects Seven Years of LG Android Smartphones
    South Korean phone manufacturer LG has released a security update last month to fix a vulnerability that impacts its Android smartphones sold over the past seven years. From a report: The vulnerability, tracked under the identifier of CVE-2020-12753, impacts the bootloader component that ships with LG smartphones. In March this year, US software engineer Max Thomas discovered a vulnerability in the bootloader component that had been added to LG smartphones starting with the LG Nexus 5 series. In a technical breakdown of the vulnerability published on Tuesday, Thomas says the bootloader component's graphics package contains a bug that lets attackers sneak in their own code to run alongside the bootloader's graphics under certain conditions, such as when the battery dies out and when the device is in the bootloader's Download Mode. Thomas says that threat actors who perfectly time an attack can gain the ability to run their own custom code, which could allow them to take over the bootloader, and inherently the entire device.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Stanford Lab Envisions Delivery Drones that Save Energy by Taking the Bus
    Researchers from Stanford University have devised a way for hundreds of drones to use the bus or trams in an effort to redesign how packages are distributed in cities. Should such a solution ever scale, it could reduce delivery van congestion and energy usage while extending the distance a drone can travel to deliver a package. From a report: There's a reason most delivery drones we've seen thus far are dropping packages off in the suburbs. Urban centers can be dynamic environments, full of unexpected obstacles, and drones are still not permitted to fly freely through cities. But researchers say using public transportation can increase a drone's range up to 360% beyond travel with flight alone. "Our approach strives to minimize the maximum time to complete any delivery," the team writes in a paper published this week at the online 2020 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). "By combining the strengths of both, we can achieve significant commercial benefits and social impact." This approach, which involves the drones hitching a ride on the outside of buses and trams, could help overcome the limited travel capacity of drones today. The popular DJI Mavic 2, for example, is able to fly a maximum distance of 18 kilometers, or about 11 miles round trip.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



    - Google Removes Viral Chinese-App Scanner From the Play Store
    Remove China Apps, the viral Android app for flagging software made in China, has been removed from Google's Play Store. From a report: Before its demise, the app had reached the coveted number-one free download spot on the Play Store. The app was removed for violating Google's "Deceptive Behavior Policy," which states that apps cannot incentivize users to disable or remove other applications. Though Remove China Apps did not remove apps automatically, it did prompt users to do so. It had been downloaded more than 5 million times before its removal. Google is notoriously bad at policing its own Play Store, so the swift removal here is something of an outlier. The app's quick rise to fame made waves, especially in its home market of India, which likely led to a faster-than-usual investigation on Google's part.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.





Old Board