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posted by martyb on Monday April 12, @11:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Chinese government fines Alibaba $3.7 billion for anti-competitive behaviour - ABC News:

Chinese regulators have fined Alibaba Group, the world's biggest e-commerce company, 18.3 billion yuan ($3.7 billion) for anti-competitive tactics.

The State Administration for Market Regulation on Saturday announced Alibaba was fined for "abusing its dominant position" to limit competition by retailers that use its platforms and hindering "free circulation" of goods.

It said the fine was equal to 4 per cent of Alibaba's total 2019 revenue.

It promised to "operate in accordance with the law with utmost diligence".

China's ruling Communist Party is concerned about the dominance of the country's biggest internet companies, which are expanding into finance, health services and other sensitive areas.

The party says anti-monopoly enforcement, especially in tech, is a priority this year.

[...] Mr Ma, one of China's richest and most prominent entrepreneurs, disappeared temporarily from public view after criticising regulators in a November speech.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday April 12, @09:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the digital-darwinism dept.

Google starts rolling out "Heads Up" in Digital Wellbeing to stop distracted walking

In November last year, XDA's Mishaal Rahman spotted an upcoming feature, called Heads Up, in a teardown of the Digital Wellbeing app. At the time, we'd learned that the feature would alert users to keep their heads up while walking to avoid any accidents. The feature has now started rolling out to Google Pixel users with the latest Digital Wellbeing beta update.

[...] The setup screen shows the same description: "Watch your step with Heads Up...If you're walking while using your phone, get a reminder to focus on what's around you. Use with caution. Heads Up doesn't replace paying attention." Tapping on the 'Next' button at the bottom of this screen begins the setup process, after which the feature shows a pushes a reminder every time you use your phone while walking.

Also at 9to5Google, Android Police, and The Verge.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday April 12, @07:01PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-can-haz-pwnie? dept.

Critical Zoom Vulnerability Triggers Remote Code Execution Without User Input:

A zero-day vulnerability in Zoom which can be used to launch remote code execution (RCE) attacks has been disclosed by researchers.

Pwn2Own, organized by the Zero Day Initiative, is a contest for white-hat cybersecurity professionals and teams to compete in the discovery of bugs in popular software and services.

[...] For successful entrants, the financial rewards can be high -- and in this case, Daan Keuper and Thijs Alkemade earned themselves $200,000 for their Zoom discovery.

The researchers from Computest demonstrated a three-bug attack chain that caused an RCE on a target machine, and all without any form of user interaction.

[...] As noted by Malwarebytes, the attack works on both Windows and Mac versions of Zoom, but it has not -- yet -- been tested on iOS or Android. The browser version of the videoconferencing software is not impacted.

In a statement to Tom's Guide, Zoom thanked the Computest researchers and said the company was "working to mitigate this issue with respect to Zoom Chat." In-session Zoom Meetings and Zoom Video Webinars are not affected.

"The attack must also originate from an accepted external contact or be a part of the target's same organizational account," Zoom added. "As a best practice, Zoom recommends that all users only accept contact requests from individuals they know and trust."

[...] End-users just need to wait for a patch to be issued -- but if worried, they can use the browser version in the meantime.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @04:26PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Amazon's Twitch will punish users for certain harmful offline behavior like engaging in deadly violence:

Twitch, the Amazon-owned video streaming platform primarily used by gamers to livestream their games, announced a new policy Wednesday empowering the company to take action against users who display certain harmful behaviors entirely offline.

The policy represents a unique approach among social media peers at a time when the industry has been under escalating pressure to institute strong and consistent content-moderation policies. As lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have threatened to strip online platforms of their liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, many platforms have taken steps to place stronger guardrails on what users can post.

Under the new policy, Twitch can suspend users for up to an indefinite period of time after a third-party investigator determines there is strong evidence the person has engaged in certain offline behaviors. These actions include engaging in deadly violence, terrorist activities, grooming children for sexual exploitation, committing sexual assault or even "acting as an accomplice to non-consensual sexual activities." It will also continue to consider offline harassment in cases where a user alleges abuse online.

Twitch said it will work with "an experienced investigations law firm" to determine the validity of claims, which will rely at times on accessing evidence from law enforcement. The company said it would not take action on a user's account until it concludes its investigation and confirms evidence of wrongdoing.

The harmful offline behaviors do not need to involve another Twitch user to be considered a violation, a spokesperson confirmed. That's based on the notion that people who engage in these types of behaviors are more likely to create safety risks for the Twitch community, the spokesperson added.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @01:54PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-harder-to-reverse-engineer-someone-else's-work-than-the-new-stuff-we-just-came-up-with dept.

Here's Why Our Brains Solve Problems by Adding Things, Not Removing:

Have you ever noticed how we usually try and solve problems by adding more, rather than taking away? More meetings, more forms, more buttons, more shelves, more systems, more code, and so on. Now scientists think they might know the reason why.

A study of 1,585 people across 8 different experiments showed that our brains tend to default to addition rather than subtraction when it comes to finding solutions – in many cases, it seems we just don't consider the strategy of taking something away at all.

The researchers found that this preference for adding was noticeable in three scenarios in particular: when people were under higher cognitive load, when there was less time to consider the other options, and when volunteers didn't get a specific reminder that subtracting was an option.

"It happens in engineering design, which is my main interest," says engineer Leidy Klotz, from the University of Virginia. "But it also happens in writing, cooking, and everything else – just think about your own work and you will see it."

"The first thing that comes to our minds is, what can we add to make it better? Our paper shows we do this to our detriment, even when the only right answer is to subtract. Even with financial incentive, we still don't think to take away."

[...] "The more often people rely on additive strategies, the more cognitively accessible they become," says psychologist Gabrielle Adams, from the University of Virginia.

"Over time, the habit of looking for additive ideas may get stronger and stronger, and in the long run, we end up missing out on many opportunities to improve the world by subtraction."

The research has been published in Nature.

Journal Reference:
Gabrielle S. Adams, Benjamin A. Converse, Andrew H. Hales, et al. People systematically overlook subtractive changes, Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03380-y)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @11:23AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

US colleges will require students to be vaccinated, despite state policies:

A growing number of US colleges have said all students must be fully vaccinated before returning to campus, in a move likely to anger some state governors. At least 14 colleges have said vaccination will be required so far, according to a CNN tally, and that number is expected to grow.

In late March Rutgers University became one of the first institutions to declare that having all students vaccinated will allow for an "expedited return to pre-pandemic normal."

Cornell, Brown, Notre Dame, Northeastern, Syracuse, Ithaca and Fort Lewis have made similar announcements, though all will make exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Cornell has also created an online registration tool so students and staff can register their vaccination status.

Two colleges, St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas, and Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Broward, Florida, have gone a step further, requiring students and all campus employees to be vaccinated.

NSU's policy puts it on a collision course with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. After NSU's announcement on April 1 DeSantis signed an executive order stating that vaccines are available but not mandated. Crucially the order prohibits any government entity or business from requiring a vaccine passport. NSU said Thursday that it is reviewing the executive order.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @08:52AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the because-when-they-mess-up-they-only-have-a-golden-parachute...wait-a-minute dept.

Why are CEOs of U.S. firms paid 320 times as much as their workers?:

Last August, Jamelle Brown, a technician at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, contracted Covid-19 while on the job sanitizing and sterilizing rooms in the facility's emergency department. Luckily, his case wasn't severe, and after having quarantined, he was back at work.

Upon his return, Brown was named Employee of the Month in his unit and given a gift voucher for use in the hospital cafeteria. The amount: $6.

"That stung me to the bone," said Brown, who makes $13.77 an hour and has worked for almost four years at the hospital, owned by the corporate giant HCA Healthcare. "It made me sit back and say, 'This place doesn't care for me.'"

Research Medical's owner, HCA Healthcare Inc., is a profitable, publicly traded network of 185 hospitals and 121 freestanding surgery centers in 20 states and England. Even in the year of Covid-19, 2020, the company generated $51.5 billion in revenue and increased its pretax earnings by 3.6 percent. Its shares are up by 14 percent this year, versus 10 percent on the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

That performance helped boost the total compensation HCA's chief executive, Samuel N. Hazen, received last year to $30.4 million, a 13 percent rise from 2019, documents show. Although Hazen's salary was 5.8 percent lower in 2020, the total worth of his compensation package equaled 556 times the compensation received by the median employee at HCA — $54,651.

The figures highlight the growing CEO pay gap, a problem among many public companies according to some investors and workers and even a few CEOs. In 2019, for example, the average pay ratio among 350 large American companies was 320-to-1, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C. In 1989, the average was 61-to-1.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday April 12, @06:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Could Mario Kart Teach Us How to Reduce World Poverty and Improve Sustainability?:

Many Mario Kart enthusiasts are familiar with the rush of racing down Rainbow Road, barely squeaking around a corner, and catching a power-up from one of the floating square icons on the screen—or less ideally, slipping on a banana peel laid by another racer and flying off the side of the road into oblivion. This heated competition between multiple players, who use a variety of game tokens and tools to speed ahead or thwart their competitors, is part of what makes the classic Nintendo racing game that has been around since the early 1990s so appealing.

[...] In a recent paper, Bell argues that the principles of Mario Kart—especially the parts of it that make it so addictive and fun for players—can serve as a helpful guide to create more equitable social and economic programs that would better serve farmers in low-resource, rural regions of the developing world. That's because, even when you're doing horribly in Mario Kart—flying off the side of Rainbow Road, for example—the game is designed to keep you in the race.

[...] In his new paper, Bell argues that policies that directly provide assistance to farmers in the world's poorest developing regions could help reduce poverty overall, while increasing sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Bell says the idea is a lot like the way that Mario Kart gives players falling behind in the race the best power-ups, designed to bump them towards the front of the pack and keep them in the race. Meanwhile, faster players in the front don't get these same boosts, and instead typically get weaker powers, such as banana peels to trip up a racer behind them or an ink splat to disrupt the other players' screens. This boosting principle is called "rubber banding," and it's what keeps the game fun and interesting, Bell says, since there is always a chance for you to get ahead.

[...] Bell says the ability to reach people in the lowest-resource areas has improved in the last decade or so, largely thanks to the adoption of mobile phones. (In another recent paper, Bell and his collaborators found that smartphones can also play a role in understanding and addressing food insecurity.) Now, mobile devices help local governments and organizations identify people searching for more prosperous livelihoods beyond the challenging practice of agriculture and reach out to those people with economic opportunities.

Bell says further expanding access to mobile devices in poor regions of the world would also allow the gap between the richest and poorest families to be better calculated and could also help measure the success of newly implemented policies and programs.

Journal Reference:
Andrew Reid Bell. From Mario Kart to pro-poor environmental governance, Nature Sustainability (DOI: 10.1038/s41893-021-00685-8)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @03:49AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Blobs-are-friends dept.

Live Science has an article on large balls of mucus, a subject of much interest to Soylentils:

Several years ago, divers exploring the western coast of Norway encountered an object they couldn't explain: An enormous, jelly-like orb, more than 3 feet (1 meter) wide, was hovering in place partway between the seafloor and the surface. A dark streak cut through the center of the orb, but the object was otherwise translucent and totally featureless.

It was, simply put, a perfectly inscrutable blob.

Nearly 100 similar blob sightings have been reported around Norway and the Mediterranean Sea since 1985, but the mysterious gelatinous masses have always evaded classification. Now, thanks to a year-long citizen science campaign and a new DNA analysis, researchers have finally identified the blobs as the rarely-seen egg sacs of a common squid called Illex coindetii.

Yes, classification evasion, that is what it is all about.

According to a new study, published March 30 in the journal Scientific Reports, each blob may contain hundreds of thousands of teensy squid eggs, encased in a bubble of slowly disintegrating mucus. Remarkably, while scientists have known about I. coindetii for more than 180 years and have observed the species widely around the Mediterranean and both sides of the Atlantic, this is the first time they have identified the squid's egg sacs in the wild, the researchers wrote.

"We also got to see what's inside the actual sphere, showing squid embryos at four different stages," lead study author Halldis Ringvold, manager of the marine zoology organization Sea Snack Norway, told Live Science. "In addition, we could follow how the sphere actually changes consistency — from firm and transparent to rupturing and opaque — as the embryos develop."

Calamari, or Kraken, you decide!

Journal Reference:
Halldis Ringvold, Morag Taite, A. Louise Allcock, et al. In situ recordings of large gelatinous spheres from NE Atlantic, and the first genetic confirmation of egg mass of Illex coindetii (Vérany, 1839) (Cephalopoda, Mollusca) [open], Scientific Reports (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-86164-8)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday April 12, @01:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Vostok 1: 60th anniversary of historic first human spaceflight:

Sixty years ago on Monday, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome atop a variation of a rocket originally designed to launch nuclear weapons to become the first person to orbit the Earth. Though his flight lasted only one hour and 48 minutes, it was an historic event that ranks right up there with when the first fish decided to take a step on dry land.

In the early morning of April 12, 1961, a Vostok-K 8K72K rocket sat on the launch pad waiting for its pilot. In a bus some distance away, 27-year-old senior lieutenant Yuri Gagarin sat nervously in his bulky orange spacesuit with the freshly painted acronym CCCP glistening in still-wet red letters. Behind him sat backup cosmonaut Gherman Titov in a similar suit, and second backup Grigori Nelyubov.

[...] On the way to the launch pad, Gagarin asked for the bus to stop, so he could relieve himself on one of the tires, starting what became a tradition that cosmonauts follow to this day.

Gagarin had a lot to be nervous about. He'd only been chosen for the mission over Titov four days earlier and, though he'd trained hard for the mission, he hadn't seen the actual spacecraft until he arrived at Baikonur. Even more worrying, it was less than a year since the American U2 pilot Gary Powers had been shot down over Soviet territory. Would the Americans return the favor to Vostok 1?

[...] The most dramatic part of the flight occurred at 07:55 GMT. There wasn't time to equip Vostok with a soft landing system, and even with the capsule's parachute Gagarin wouldn't have survived the touchdown, so at an altitude of 4.3 miles (7 km) the hatch was blasted away by explosives and rockets in Gagarin's ejector seat shot him clear. Out of his seat, his own parachute opened and he descended to Earth in Kazakhstan, where he was greeted by a bewildered farmer and his daughter.

"When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear," Gagarin later said. "I told them, don't be afraid, I am a Soviet citizen like you, who has descended from space, and I must find a telephone to call Moscow."

Wikipedia entry for Vostok-1


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 11, @10:50PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the good-things-come-to-those-who-wait dept.

Straight from NASA we have word of a delay in the first flight of Ingenuity on Mars.

Mars Helicopter Flight Delayed To No Earlier Than April 14 - Nasa Mars:

Based on data from the Ingenuity Mars helicopter that arrived late Friday night, NASA has chosen to reschedule the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter's first experimental flight to no earlier than April 14.

During a high-speed spin test of the rotors on Friday, the command sequence controlling the test ended early due to a "watchdog" timer expiration. This occurred as it was trying to transition the flight computer from 'Pre-Flight' to 'Flight' mode. The helicopter is safe and healthy and communicated its full telemetry set to Earth.

The watchdog timer oversees the command sequence and alerts the system to any potential issues. It helps the system stay safe by not proceeding if an issue is observed and worked as planned.

The helicopter team is reviewing telemetry to diagnose and understand the issue. Following that, they will reschedule the full-speed test.

NASA has a web site devoted to Ingenuity.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 11, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the blue-goo dept.

Natural brilliant blue food coloring wrung out of red cabbage:

For decades, concerns have been raised about the safety of synthetic food dyes, and while the evidence against them is still unclear, natural colorings are generally preferred. Most of these pigments are sourced from plants, although a few come from crushed insects. But frustratingly, not all colors are easy to find in these places.

"Blue colors are really quite rare in nature – a lot of them are really reds and purples," says Pamela Denish, an author of the new study.

[...] As you might expect, most of the anthocyanins in red cabbage are red or purple, but there are tiny amounts of blue in there too. After about a decade of trying, a team of scientists from a range of institutions and food companies has now managed to extract useful amounts of blue by converting other anthocyanins.

Doing so required exactly the right enzyme, so the team screened a library of millions of them, and used computational simulations to explore about 100 quintillion potential protein sequences. Eventually, they were able to design the perfect enzyme for the job of converting the red and purple anthocyanins into blue ones.

The end result, the team says, is a natural cyan dye equivalent to the widely used synthetic FD&C Blue No. 1.

Journal Reference:
Pamela R. Denish, Julie-Anne Fenger, Randall Powers, et al. Discovery of a natural cyan blue: A unique food-sourced anthocyanin could replace synthetic brilliant blue [open], Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe7871)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 11, @01:17PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the First-step-towards-dominance? dept.

SpaceX COO says Starlink is just five launches away from "full global connectivity":

The day before SpaceX aced its eighth Starlink launch in three months, President and COO Gwynne Shotwell implied that the company’s constellation of satellites could achieve “full [global] connectivity” just a handful of months from now.

Speaking at Satellite 2021’s “LEO Digital Forum” on April 6th, Shotwell revealed that SpaceX hopes to cross that milestone a few months after a total of 28 operational Starlink launches have been completed. Around 25 hours after her panel appearance, SpaceX launched its 490th Starlink satellite of the year, more or less wrapping up the first quarter of 2021.

[...] SpaceX’s April 7th Starlink launch and booster landing was the 23rd successful launch of operational ‘v1.0’ satellites since they began flying in November 2019. All told, of the 1383 operational satellites launched by SpaceX in those 17 months, some 1369 are still in orbit, at least 1356 are functioning as expected, and more than 900 have reached their final orbits and are operational. Another 400 appear to be in long-term parking orbits dozens to hundreds of kilometers below their operational 550 km (~340 mi) ceiling, the purpose of which is unclear.

Once the 400-500 satellites now in low parking orbits reach whatever orbital parameters they’re waiting on, it’s unlikely to take more than two or three months for them to boost up to an operational altitude. Starlink-23 added another 60 around 250 km (155 mi).

[...] Given Shotwell’s 28-launch comment and a general idea of SpaceX’s 2021 launch cadence targets, it’s possible to extrapolate to a reasonably accurate timeline for the constellation to reach a point of “full connectivity globally” – albeit with a few caveats.

[...] In other words, barring unprecedented numbers of early satellite failures or unusually long orbit-raising periods, it’s likely that SpaceX will have enough operational satellites – around 1700 – for near-total, uninterrupted Starlink coverage of the inhabited world by the end of Q3 (September) 2021.

That works out to just less than two years from Starlink's very first launch to total world coverage. Granted, this would be the minimum coverage required. Each satellite can only support so many users at one time, so SpaceX will continue launching Starlinks for quite some time to come.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 11, @08:34AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the this-ain't-no-monkey-business dept.

Watch a monkey equipped with Elon Musk’s Neuralink device play Pong with its brain – TechCrunch:

The last we saw of Neuralink, Musk himself was demonstrating the Link tech live[*] in August 2020, using pigs[**] to show how it was able to read signals from the brain depending on different stimuli. This new demo with Pager[***] more clearly outlines the direction that the tech is headed in terms of human applications, since, as the company shared on its blog, the same technology could be used to help patients with paralysis manipulate a cursor on a computer, for instance. That could be applied to other paradigms as well, including touch controls on an iPhone, and even typing using a virtual keyboard, according to the company.

[...] Musk separately tweeted that in fact, he expects the initial version of Neuralink’s product to be able to allow someone with paralysis that prevents standard modes of phone interaction to use one faster than people using their thumbs for input. He also added that future iterations of the product would be able to enable communication between Neuralinks in different parts of a patient’s body, transmitting between an in-brain node and neural pathways in legs, for instance, making it possible for “paraplegics to walk again.”

Videos:
[*] Watch Elon Musk's ENTIRE live Neuralink demonstration (1h12m46s)
[**] Snout Boops (1m28s)
[***] Monkey MindPong (3m29s)


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 11, @03:43AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the home-is-where-the-heart^W-office-is? dept.

34% of WFH (work from home) workers say they'd rather quit than return to full-time office work:

A new survey of WFH (work-from-home) employees suggests that many are not yet ready to return to the office. In fact, they may never be ready.

The survey found that 34% of WFH respondents say they would rather quit than return to a full-time office job.

The survey was published by staffing firm Robert Half. It involved more than 1,000 adult employees of US companies, all of whom are currently working from home due to the pandemic.

As mentioned above, more than 1 in 3 said they would look for a new job if they had to again work in the office full time.


Original Submission