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Comments:42 | Votes:148

posted by janrinok on Monday October 14, @11:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-she-would-have-gotten-away-with-it-if-it-hadn't-been-for-.... dept.

Submitted via IRC for AnonymousCoward

This story about a billion dollar scam to build an undersea Arctic cable is wild

Last year, the CEO of Quintillion, an Alaskan company trying to build a trans-Arctic undersea cable, was charged with wire fraud after forging contracts to help raise more than $250 million from investors. This week, Bloomberg posted a captivating feature about how that CEO nearly pulled off the scam of a lifetime. It's a fascinating story of how someone tried to fake it 'til they almostmade it — but also a cautionary tale about big ambitions can push people to make disastrous decisions.

Elizabeth Pierce apparently had huge ambitions to build an undersea cable to give Alaskans (and eventually, parts of Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Greenland, Iceland, and London) better internet access. It was a noble cause. Internet for much of rural Alaska is slow and depends on expensive satellites, and an undersea cable could bring much faster speeds at cheaper prices for consumers. (Undersea cables are also being explored by big tech companies. Microsoft and Facebook jointly own a 4,000 mile transatlantic cable, and Google has invested in some as well.)

To get investors to back the project, Pierce needed to prove that she had completed contracts that would guarantee some revenue. So, to show investors that the business was solvent, she went right ahead and forged signatures on contracts that, if they'd been legit, would have been worth more than a billion dollars in total.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday October 14, @07:38PM   Printer-friendly
from the winging-it dept.

Submitted via IRC for AnonymousCoward

Stratolaunch, which built the world's largest plane, is changing ownership

Stratolaunch Systems — the aerospace company created by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen — is changing ownership. The company announced today that it is no longer owned by its original holding company, Vulcan Inc., and has been sold to a now undisclosed owner.

The news comes four months after reports started surfacing that Stratolaunch was on the brink of closing up shop, following the death of Allen in October of 2018. CNBC then reported in June that the company was up for sale, valued at $400 million. At the time, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was supposedly interested, as Stratolaunch uses similar launch technology to the billionaire's space companies, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. However, Branson reportedly pitched buying Stratolaunch for $1, according to CNBC.

[...] Stratolaunch, based in Seattle and Mojave, designed and built a massive carrier aircraft, made to hoist rockets into the air and launch them to orbit. With a wingspan of 385 feet, the dual-fuselage plane is considered the biggest in the world. Stratolaunch flew the vehicle for the first time in April on its one and only test flight. The company had an agreement to fly Northrop Grumman's Pegasus XL rockets from the plane, but those flights never took place.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 14, @05:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the interesting-approach dept.

Submitted via IRC for AnonymousCoward

Brydge sues Kickstarter for selling iPad keyboard it claims is a clone

iPad keyboard maker Brydge is suing over a very similar-looking competitor called Libra. The lawsuit targets an alleged creator of the device, but it also goes after Kickstarter for hosting a crowdfunding campaign in support of the Libra keyboard.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a federal court in New York, accuses the company it believes is Libra's creator, OGadget, of violating a patent owned by Brydge. That patent covers the key features that make a Brydge keyboard work: primarily, a U-shaped hinge that's able to rotate the keyboard open and closed like a laptop when it's attached to something like an iPad.

[...]"To see something as brazen as this launch on Kickstarter ... honestly, it's a bit of a kick in the face to our staff tirelessly building the reputation we've built," Nick Smith, CEO and co-founder of Brydge, tells The Verge.

Brydge wants the court to block all sales of the Libra keyboard, which would include removing the crowdfunding campaign from Kickstarter. It's seeking punitive damages for the alleged patent violation, too.

[...]In its lawsuit, Brydge includes a series of photos showing side-by-side similarities between the two devices, from their hinges to their overall design. While Smith says Brydge also has design patents protecting its keyboards, this lawsuit only focuses on the functional elements that make the keyboard attachments work, with a heavy focus on the hinge.

The Libra keyboard does have one major difference, though: it has a built-in trackpad, whereas Brydge doesn't include a trackpad on any of its iPad products. To make the two devices look more alike, the lawsuit includes photos of an unreleased prototype Brydge keyboard with a trackpad on it.

Smith says Brydge is weeks away from beginning to manufacture its own iPad keyboard with a built-in trackpad. Brydge hopes to start sales in January or February, though production will be limited to no more than 4,000 units at first. Smith says the initial launch will be branded as a "beta," in large part because he wants to make sure customers understand that the trackpad's features are limited because only basic mouse features are available in iPadOS.

"We don't want to be putting ourselves out there as great, but the iPad experience isn't amazing," Smith says of the mouse features that were added to iPadOS last month. The "beta" launch will let interested customers use the product "knowing iPadOS will improve."

[...]Kickstarter will remove projects over patent violations, according to a copyright help page that a spokesperson sent to The Verge. The company relies on court findings of infringement, though, and Brydge may not have that until long after the Libra campaign wraps up. Suing Kickstarter directly seems to be meant to make a takedown happen faster. Kickstarter's spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 14, @02:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the wages-vs-prices dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Billionaire Jack Ma, long an outspoken advocate for China's extreme work culture, says that people should be able to work just 12 hours a week with the benefits of artificial intelligence.

People could work as little as three days a week, four hours a day with the help of technology advances and a reform in education systems, the Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. co-founder said at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai Thursday. He spoke on-stage with Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. who is building manufacturing facilities in the city.

[...] Just this year, Ma endorsed the China tech sector's infamous 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week routine, so common it earned the moniker 996. In one blog post, China's richest man this year dismissed people who expect a typical eight-hour office lifestyle, defying a growing popular backlash.

"I don't worry about jobs," Ma said on Thursday, making an optimistic case that AI will help humans rather than just eliminate their work. "Computers only have chips, men have the heart. It's the heart where the wisdom comes from."

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 14, @12:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the taking-their-ball-and-leaving dept.

GitHub will keep selling software to ICE, leaked email says

Microsoft-owned GitHub will renew a $200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite concerns about the Trump administration's policies, according to a leaked email.

GitHub CEO Nat Friedman said in an internal email leaked to tech activist organization Fight for the Future that ICE purchased a license for a GitHub enterprise server in 2016, and that the purchase recently came up for renewal. In the email, Friedman said the company doesn't have an agreement to provide professional services to ICE, and it "has no visibility into how this software is being used, other than presumably for software development and version control."

[...] Friedman describes the $200,000 ICE contract as "not financially material" and says in the email that GitHub will donate $500,000 to nonprofits that support immigrant communities affected by Trump administration policies.

After the email was leaked, GitHub posted the full text in a blog post Wednesday morning. "At GitHub, we believe in empowering developers around the world," Friedman writes in a note. "We also believe in basic human rights and treating people with respect and dignity."

Providing software to ICE has become a flashpoint in the tech industry, as employees question how their work contributions will be used by the United States government. Hundreds of GitHub coders have signed on to a petition calling on Microsoft to stop providing services to ICE or they will "take our projects elsewhere."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 14, @10:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the if-there-is-too-much-shouting-on-the-internet,-REMOVE-THE-CAPS-LOCK-KEY dept.

50 Years After Internet Conception, Dark Side Stirs Fear:

On October 29, 1969, professor Leonard Kleinrock and a team at the University of California at Los Angeles got a computer to "talk" to a machine in what is now known as Silicon Valley.

The event gave birth to a network that later became known as the internet—hailed at first as a boon to equality and enlightenment, but with a dark side that has emerged as well.

As UCLA marks the anniversary, Kleinrock is opening a new lab devoted to all things related to the internet—particularly mitigating some of its unintended consequences on the internet which is now used by some four billion people worldwide.

"To some point it democratizes everyone," Kleinrock told AFP.

"But it is also a perfect formula for the dark side, as we have learned."

So much is shouted online that moderate voices are drowned out and extreme viewpoints are amplified, spewing hate, misinformation and abuse, he contended.

"As engineers, we were not thinking in terms of nasty behavior," said Kleinrock, 85.

"I totally missed the social networking side. I was thinking about people talking to computers or computers talking to computers, not people talking to people."

The new Connection Lab will welcome research on topics including machine learning, social networking, blockchain and the internet of things, with an eye toward thwarting online evils.

[...] While marking its 50th anniversary, the internet as we know it is a "rowdy teenager" in the eyes of Internet Society chief technology officer Olaf Kolkman.

"The internet has done more good than harm," Kolkman said.

"The biggest challenge we have in front of us is that while we cope with big problems enabled by global connectivity that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Monday October 14, @07:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the pedal-to-the-metal dept.

HOWTO make Linux run blazing fast (again) on Intel CPUs

It's just been one security disaster after another for Intel the last few years. Meltdown, Spectre variant after variant and this week the "Microarchitectural Data Sampling" aka Zombieload attack have all required performance-degrading fixes and workarounds. There is no way around turning hyperthreading off to be safe from MDS/Zombieload and this is a rather high performance-price to pay. So what if you don't want to?

[...] If you're not into currency trading or high finance or military contracting or anything of that nature and you'd just like to get maximum performance for your Steam games then adding this is simple switch to your kernel parameters will leave you wide open to all the security risks for maximum excitement and squeeze back every bit of performance you used to get from your Intel CPU:


If you are using a kernel older than 5.1.13 then you should use this rather long one-liner instead:

noibrs noibpb nopti nospectre_v2 nospectre_v1 l1tf=off nospec_store_bypass_disable no_stf_barrier mds=off mitigations=off

Add either mitigations=off or that long one-liner to your /etc/sysconfig/grub and re-generate grub's configuration file with grub2-mkconfig (your distributions procedure will vary) and you're all set. Do note that the latest stable branch kernels (4.14.x, 4.19.x) do have mitigations=off so that alone is enough on kernels newer than 5.1.13 and later versions of stable branch kernels such as 4.19.60+.

[...] Intel CPUs are not alone in having some security issues. There are problems with other CPUs too. The mitigations=off can be used on any CPU but what it does, if anything, will depend on what CPU you are using. It can be used to slightly increase performance on Intel, AMD, ARM and even PowerPC architectures.

[...] The performance gained by disabling workarounds for the mostly Intel CPU security flaws are not all that impressive in all workloads. The reason is that the most performance-hampering measure required to safely use a Intel CPU is to disable SMT (HyperThreading). Doing so crushes performance in a really noticeable way, so much so that the Linux kernel developers decided to leave SMT enabled by default (unlike some *BSD variants who do disable SMT). Newer Linux kernels will by default use mds=full and not the safer mds=full,nosmt parameter which banks and financial institutions should be using. There is a different between default performance and performance with mitigations=off but it is nowhere near as large as the difference between mitigations=off and mds=full,nosmt.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday October 14, @05:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-little-something-extra dept.

More than a year has passed since Bloomberg Businessweek grabbed the lapels of the cybersecurity world with a bombshell claim: that Supermicro motherboards in servers used by major tech firms, including Apple and Amazon, had been stealthily implanted with a chip the size of a rice grain that allowed Chinese hackers to spy deep into those networks. Apple, Amazon, and Supermicro all vehemently denied the report. The NSA dismissed it as a false alarm. The Defcon hacker conference awarded it two Pwnie Awards, for "most overhyped bug" and "most epic fail." And no follow-up reporting has yet affirmed its central premise.

But even as the facts of that story remain unconfirmed, the security community has warned that the possibility of the supply chain attacks it describes is all too real. The NSA, after all, has been doing something like it for years, according to the leaks of whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Now researchers have gone further, showing just how easily and cheaply a tiny, tough-to-detect spy chip could be planted in a company's hardware supply chain. And one of them has demonstrated that it doesn't even require a state-sponsored spy agency to pull it off—just a motivated hardware hacker with the right access and as little as $200 worth of equipment.

"It's not magical. It's not impossible. I could do this in my basement."

Monta Elkins, FoxGuard

At the CS3sthlm security conference later this month, security researcher Monta Elkins will show how he created a proof-of-concept version of that hardware hack in his basement. He intends to demonstrate just how easily spies, criminals, or saboteurs with even minimal skills, working on a shoestring budget, can plant a chip in enterprise IT equipment to offer themselves stealthy backdoor access. (Full disclosure: I'll be speaking at the same conference, which paid for my travel and is providing copies of my forthcoming book to attendees.) With only a $150 hot-air soldering tool, a $40 microscope, and some $2 chips ordered online, Elkins was able to alter a Cisco firewall in a way that he says most IT admins likely wouldn't notice, yet would give a remote attacker deep control.

"We think this stuff is so magical, but it's not really that hard," says Elkins, who works as "hacker in chief" for the industrial-control-system security firm FoxGuard. "By showing people the hardware, I wanted to make it much more real. It's not magical. It's not impossible. I could do this in my basement. And there are lots of people smarter than me, and they can do it for almost nothing."

Elkins used an ATtiny85 chip, about 5 millimeters square, that he found on a $2 Digispark Arduino board; not quite the size of a grain of rice, but smaller than a pinky fingernail. After writing his code to that chip, Elkins desoldered it from the Digispark board and soldered it to the motherboard of a Cisco ASA 5505 firewall. He used an inconspicuous spot that required no extra wiring and would give the chip access to the firewall's serial port.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 14, @03:00AM   Printer-friendly

I am inviting the editorial team to take a much-deserved "break" this weekend by using "weekend story spacing"[*] on Monday. This is a long holiday weekend in the United States in celebration of Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples' Day). As a result, sites tend to post fewer stories. And, of the stories that are posted, a larger fraction are "filler" stories or fluff pieces, if you will. This, in turn, makes it harder for the editorial staff to find stories of interest to post to SoylentNews.

One of our editors is still on leave and the remaining staff has been stretched thin with his absence. Further, several of the editorial staff are facing real-life challenges that conspire to reduce the amount of time and energy that can be given to posting stories on SoylentNews. Do recall that all staff here are volunteers and what you see here is freely given of their own spare time.

We generally try to post 14-15 stories per day on weekdays, and about 10 stories per day on weekends.

Also, a reminder that Linode has informed us of some server maintenance they will need to perform. Except for a short while on IRC (Internet Relay Chat), any downtime should not be visible to the community. Linode reserves up to a two-hour window for their maintenance, but past experience has show that most prior maintenance is completed in less than 30 minutes and often as little as 10-15 minutes. See our earlier story Linode to Perform Maintenance; Several SoylentNews Servers Selected for Servicing for details. The first of our servers to be affected is sodium whose maintenance window starts: 2019-10-18 05:00 AM.

We will keep you informed as things progress.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday October 14, @12:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the perhaps-appearing-in-RPi-5? dept.

Raspberry Pi 4 PCI Express: It actually works! USB3, SATA... GPUs?

Recently, Tomasz Mloduchowski posted a popular article on his blog detailing the steps he undertook to get access to the hidden PCIe interface of Raspberry Pi 4: the first Raspberry Pi to include PCIe in its design. After seeing his post, and realizing I was meaning to go buy a Raspberry Pi 4, it just seemed natural to try and replicate his results in the hope of taking it a bit further. I am known for Raspberry Pi Butchery, after all.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to how he made it work. Setting up for remote operation, Desoldering the USB3 chip, soldering ultra-fine wires to the exposed pads using a microscope, a few reboot attempts requiring "professional" wiggling of the PCIe slot, hacking the Linux device tree to extend the bus ID limits, and some linux driver hacking, too. The article is filled with pictures and screen caps. He closes out the article listing the devices that were made available (using lspci) and then mentioning:

I also have tried some other fairly hilarious setups, including the following with a Radeon HD 7990 GPU, and another with a GTX 1060.

Even if you are not a hardware or software hacker, the pictures of his efforts along the way, culminating with a huge GPU in a PCI slot attached to a wee little Raspberry Pi 4 are worth the read.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13, @10:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the perhaps-we-were-a-bit-hasty dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Adobe has reversed itself on a curious decision that would have denied refunds to customers in Venezuela whose accounts are being canceled through no fault of their own.

Adobe announced Monday that it is deactivating all user accounts in Venezuela in order to comply with an executive order issued by President Donald Trump. Adobe interpreted the executive order much more broadly than other companies, claiming that it was "unable to issue refunds" because the order required cessation of all business activity.

[...] Adobe reversed the no-refund part of its decision in an update to the support document yesterday. "If you purchased directly from Adobe, we will refund you by the end of the month for any paid, but unused services. We are working with our partners on the same," Adobe said in the update.

Adobe also reversed itself on one other portion of the mass account deletion. Adobe originally said it would have to stop providing both fee-based and free services to people in Venezuela. But now, Adobe says its free Behance social media platform will continue to be available in Venezuela after the cutoff date for other services.

"In order to remain compliant, Adobe will be deactivating all accounts in Venezuela, with the exception of Behance, on October 29, 2019," Adobe said.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13, @07:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the double-time dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

New compiler makes quantum computers two times faster

A new paper from researchers at the University of Chicago introduces a technique for compiling highly optimized quantum instructions that can be executed on near-term hardware. This technique is particularly well suited to a new class of variational quantum algorithms, which are promising candidates for demonstrating useful quantum speedups. The new work was enabled by uniting ideas across the stack, spanning quantum algorithms, machine learning, compilers, and device physics. The interdisciplinary research was carried out by members of the EPiQC (Enabling Practical-scale Quantum Computation) collaboration, an NSF Expedition in Computing.

[...] To match the constraints of current and near-term quantum computers, a new paradigm for variational quantum algorithms has recently emerged. These algorithms tackle similar computational challenges as the originally envisioned quantum algorithms, but build resilience to noise by leaving certain internal program parameters unspecified. Instead, these internal parameters are learned by variation over repeated trials, guided by an optimizer. With a robust optimizer, a variational algorithm can tolerate moderate levels of noise.

While the noise resilience of variational algorithms is appealing, it poses a challenge for compilation, the process of translating a mathematical algorithm into the physical instructions ultimately executed by hardware.

[...] The researchers address the issue of partially specified programs with a parallel technique called partial compilation. Pranav Gokhale, a UChicago PhD student explains, "Although we can't fully compile a variational algorithm before execution, we can at least pre-compile the parts that are specified." For typical variational algorithms, this simple heuristic alone is sufficient, delivering 2x speedups in quantum runtime relative to standard gate-based compilation techniques. Since qubits decay exponentially with time, this runtime speedup also leads to reductions in error rates.

For more complicated algorithms, the researchers apply a second layer of optimizations that numerically characterize variations due to the unspecified parameters, through a process called hyperparameter optimization. "Spending a few minutes on hyperparameter tuning and partial compilation leads to hours of savings in execution time", summarizes Gokhale. Professor Chong notes that this theme of realizing cost savings by shifting resources—whether between traditional and quantum computing or between compilation and execution—echoes in several other EPiQC projects.

The researchers' paper, "Partial Compilation of Variational Algorithms for Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum Machines" (arXiv link) will be presented at the MICRO computer architecture conference in Columbus, Ohio on October 14. Gokhale and Chong's co-authors include Yongshan Ding, Thomas Propson, Christopher Winkler, Nelson Leung, Yunong Shi, David I. Schuster, and Henry Hoffmann, all also from the University of Chicago.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13, @05:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the carrying-an-arson-device dept.

"Also, someone looking to start a fire who is carrying a can of petrol stands out. No one's going to look twice at someone with a bag of crisps, and the evidence destroys itself. This is especially helpful if someone is trying to make a deliberate fire look accidental. Criminals have presumably worked this out and told each other."

"Crisps encourage fire—they feed it—because they are hugely calorific and fatty. As the video shows, a packet of crisps—either the potato ones or the puffy, maize or corn-based ones—can set a car seat on fire within 200 seconds. Plenty of time for someone to get away."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday October 13, @03:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the last-throes-of-public-culture dept.

Mr. Schneier and friends have created a new website to promote a change to the socio-economic technical milieu we are currently facing.

He suggests we need to have "public interest technologists" to help the situation.

He writes:

"We need technologists who work in the public interest. We need public-interest technologists.

Defining this term is difficult. One Ford Foundation blog post described public-interest technologists as "technology practitioners who focus on social justice, the common good, and/or the public interest.""

Is he right? How can this be implemented without becoming as riddled with government agents, spies and mafias as the key positions of our corporations and institutions are right now?

Full disclosure: this writer has been a public interest technologist for a while now and I have actually alluded to the need for something like what is being suggested on multiple occasions, 'a different kind of organization' is the way I put it, way back a few months ago.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday October 13, @12:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the credit-union-'on-a-computer' dept.

Crowdsourcing consumer loans can bolster business growth and reduce crime

"It originally developed with households that are seeking unsecured loans being financed by other households. That's all it is: crowdsourcing consumer loans," said William Bazley, assistant professor of finance at the University of Kansas.

In his new article, "The Real and Social Effects of Online Lending," Bazley examines the fledgling industry, analyzing data that reveals why this modern method of borrowing is proliferating. He recently won the award for Best Paper on FinTech at the Northern Finance Association conference in Vancouver.

"When traditional credit becomes scarce, such as when banks merge or there's a natural disaster, having access to these markets and loan products moderates some of the decline in new business establishments," Bazley said.

He explains how these loans temper the effects of traditional credit scarcity by supporting small business growth. There are also social welfare implications. When conventional credit markets have frictions—something that prevents a trade from being executed smoothly—economic vitality suffers, and crime increases.

"In communities that can borrow in online peer-to-peer lending markets, the drop in economic growth is less severe. And the jump in crime is also moderated," Bazley said.

The first peer-to-peer lending in the U.S. appeared in 2006. The industry soared when banks refused to issue loans during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Currently, Lending Club and Prosper are the two most successful of these companies.

As of 2016, they've originated about $100 billion in personal loans. According to a Price Waterhouse Coopers study, it's expected by 2025 these markets will generate about $150 billion in volume per year.

[...]More information:
The Real and Social Effects of Online Lending:

Original Submission