Effective: 2016-June to 2016-December
Updated by: NCommander
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A US judge overseeing an FBI "Playpen case" has told agents to reveal whether or not their investigative hacking was approved by the White House.
The case is one of several the Feds are pursuing against more than 100 alleged users of the child sex abuse material exchange network called the Playpen. The prosecutions have become test grounds over investigators' use of hacking tools to unmask Tor users – Playpen was hidden in the Tor network and agents injected tracking software into Playpen visitors' browsers to identify users.
In June, a judge hearing one of the Playpen cases in Virginia ruled that the FBI can hack any computer in any country, if it wants.
During its investigation, the FBI compromised Playpen's Tor-protected distribution servers, leaving them in operation to keep users visiting the service. The Feds then hacked the targets' computers to identify the owners.
It's not a crime if the President orders it.
A newly published analysis of Type Ia supernovae calls into question the accelerating expansion of the universe and the existence of dark energy:
Five years ago, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three astronomers for their discovery, in the late 1990s, that the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace. Their conclusions were based on analysis of Type Ia supernovae – the spectacular thermonuclear explosions of dying stars – picked up by the Hubble space telescope and large ground-based telescopes. It led to the widespread acceptance of the idea that the universe is dominated by a mysterious substance named 'dark energy' that drives this accelerating expansion.
Now, a team of scientists led by Professor Subir Sarkar of Oxford University's Department of Physics has cast doubt on this standard cosmological concept. Making use of a vastly increased data set – a catalogue of 740 Type Ia supernovae, more than ten times the original sample size – the researchers have found that the evidence for acceleration may be flimsier than previously thought, with the data being consistent with a constant rate of expansion.
Marginal evidence for cosmic acceleration from Type Ia supernovae (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep35596) (DX)
The International Energy Agency [IEA] says that the world's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources has now overtaken coal.
The IEA says in a new report that last year, renewables accounted for more than half of the increase in power capacity.
The report says half a million solar panels were installed every day last year around the world. In China, it says, there were two wind turbines set up every hour.
Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro are seen as a key element in international efforts to combat climate change. At this stage, it is the capacity to generate power that has overtaken coal, rather than the amount of electricity actually produced. Renewables are intermittent - they depend on the sun shining or the wind blowing, for example, unlike coal which can generate electricity 24 hours a day all year round. So renewable technologies inevitably generate a lot less than their capacity.
Even so it is striking development.
The IEA's Executive Director Fatih Birol said "We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables".
Link to original BBC story: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37767250
Volkswagen AG's $14.7 billion settlement with the U.S. government, State of California, and vehicle owners has been approved, and the company will begin buying back affected vehicles in mid-November:
It represented one of the biggest corporate settlements of any kind. The action by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco marked a pivotal moment for VW as it aims to move past a scandal that has engulfed the company since it admitted in September 2015 to installing secret software in diesel cars to cheat exhaust emissions tests and make them appear cleaner than they really were.
[...] Breyer turned away objections from car owners who thought the settlement did not provide enough money, saying it "adequately and fairly compensates" them. In addition to the pre-scandal "trade in" value of the vehicle, owners will receive $5,100 to $10,000 in additional compensation. "Given the risks of prolonged litigation, the immediate settlement of this matter is far preferable," Breyer wrote.
Apple is the captain of a sinking ship:
Maybe not everyone is convinced they need a smartwatch? According to a new industry report from IDC out this morning, smartwatch shipments experienced "significant" declines in the third quarter, as total shipments were down 51.6 percent from the same time last year. Just 2.7 million units were shipped in Q3 2016 versus 5.6 million in Q3 2015. While IDC offers several explanations as to why sales are dropping – including issues related to launch timings, Android Wear delays, and more – the numbers still indicate how smartwatches are having a hard time finding traction among a majority of consumers.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that Apple Watch is the market leader among smartwatches – its Series One device accounted for the majority of shipments in the quarter (1.1 million units shipped, a 72 percent year-over-year decline). That means its ups and downs will have an outsize impact on the industry's numbers at large.
Another factor mentioned: potential Apple Watch customers may have been waiting for second generation version.
Humans are said to have evolved from an ancestor that once swung through the trees to get about, free to move through the environment in almost any direction. But today, in our modern high-rise environment, if you simply want to go up or down, it's probably fair to say we've actually devolved. Stairs, elevators, and lifts all take up precious space within buildings, and they're expensive, complicated, or require endless maintenance. Now a new human-powered system prototype dubbed Vertical Walking has been developed that requires just ten percent of the effort needed to climb stairs, but can easily move a person up a vast number of floors.
[...] Designed by the Rombaut Frieling lab in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Vertical Walking uses a system of upright rails that incorporate pulleys and a clever gripping system to allow a user to incrementally move between floors in a building. Claimed to require less than 10 percent of the effort needed to climb stairs, and with no other external energy input needed, the creators assert that the prototype has been successfully proven by a wide range of people, including an amputee and an MS sufferer.
A novel way to move between floors.
As electronic devices become more compact and powerful, conventional methods for manufacturing electrical components simply won't do. The problem lies in the fact that current systems require a huge battery and their components are too bulky.
However, that all could change, as engineers from the University of Cambridge have created an ultra low power transistor that can run for a long time without a power source.
Basically, transistors are semiconductor devices that function like a faucet. Turn a transistor on and the electricity flows, turn it off and the flow stops. When a transistor is off however, some electric current could still flow through, just like a leaky faucet. This current, which is called a near-off-state, was exploited by the engineers to power the new transistors.
These new transistors are able to scavenge power from its surrounding environment allowing a battery to last longer. Dr Sungsik Lee, the paper's first author, also from the Department of Engineering says, "if we were to draw energy from a typical AA battery based on this design, it would last for a billion years." The new design could be produced in low temperatures and they are versatile enough to be printed on materials like glass, paper, and plastic.
S. Lee and A. Nathan, 'Subthreshold Schottky-barrier thin film transistors with ultralow power and high intrinsic gain'. Science (2016). DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5035
At last, the Age of Facebook on the Milk Carton is nearly here.
[Ed note: Story title is taken from linked article by the University of Cambridge.]
They know how you browse the internet, your favorite TV shows and where you shop and travel.
Data collected by internet and media companies is a powerful tool, and the big mergers planned by AT&T with Time Warner and Verizon with Yahoo offer those firms more data that can be used to target consumers with content and advertising.
Privacy advocates say the prospect of firms using all that online and offline data without safeguards could be alarming.
"Twenty-first century media is all about the ability to gather information on a single individual regardless of where they are—whether they are using mobile phone or watching TV or in a grocery store," said Jeffrey Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy rights group.
The $85 billion deal unveiled Saturday would combine AT&T, one of the largest mobile telecom and residential internet operators, with Time Warner, the media-entertainment giant with powerful brands including the Warner Bros. studio, HBO, CNN, Cartoon Network and a major online game studio.
[...] The tie-up comes as the Federal Communications Commission is set to consider privacy rules for internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon.
The rules would require consumers to "opt in" to allow companies to combine data from different sources to deliver ads and content.
"The FCC privacy rule is critical to ensuring there are safeguards," Chester said. "Right now there are no safeguards."
[...] John Verdi of the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington think tank, said that in both the AT&T-Time Warner and Verizon-Yahoo deals, "data is a key asset" but that the companies should respect promises made when the data was collected.
"Users are typically concerned when data is collected about them and used in unexpected ways," Verdi said.
"It's important for companies to keep the promises they made after the merged entity moves forward to maintain the trust of consumers."
Expect a raft of new tech job openings with "experience with Big Data" in the descriptions, to help the new mega companies mine it properly.
They have raised the Maud!
Article in Live Science here.
Along with the Fram, these ships were the extreme science platforms of their time. They were built of wooden hulls that could withstand being frozen into the Arctic ice cap, and traveling with it. Amundsen sailed the Maud through the Northeast Passage.
From 1918 to 1920, Amundsen and his crew sailed from Oslo, Norway, along the Russian Arctic coast to Nome, Alaska, traversing a Northeast Passage. Amundsen eventually abandoned the plan to go to the North Pole. Maud spent a total of seven years exploring the Arctic before the ship was seized by Amundsen's creditors and was sold to Canada's Hudson's Bay Co., according to Norway's Fram Museum.
Nice to see the old girl up and about again. They certainly don't make them like that anymore. Now they make Boaty McBoatfaces.
Even after the gravesite was discovered and McStay's DNA was found inside Merritt's vehicle, police were far from pinning the quadruple homicide on him.
Until they turned to Project Hemisphere.
Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.
"Merritt was in a position to access the cellular telephone tower northeast of the McStay family gravesite on February 6th, 2010, two days after the family disappeared," an affidavit for his girlfriend's call records reports Hemisphere finding (PDF). Merritt was arrested almost a year to the date after the McStay family's remains were discovered, and is awaiting trial for the murders.
In 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a "partnership" between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.
However, AT&T's own documentation—reported here by The Daily Beast for the first time—shows Hemisphere was used far beyond the war on drugs to include everything from investigations of homicide to Medicaid fraud.
Hemisphere isn't a "partnership" but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company's massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.
So, AT&T's one stipulation is a pinky swear with law enforcement that their program won't cause them public embarrassment.
Samsung this week announced its first LPDDR4 memory chips made using its 10nm-class DRAM fabrication technology. The new DRAM ICs feature the industry's highest density of 16 Gb, are rated to run at 4266 MT/s data rate, and open the door to more mobile devices with 8 GB of DRAM.
Earlier this year Samsung started to produce DDR4 memory using its 10nm-class DRAM manufacturing process (which is believed to be 18 nm) and recently the firm began to use it to make LPDDR4 memory devices, just as it planned. The thinner fabrication technology allowed Samsung to increase capacity of a single LPDDR4 DRAM IC to 16 Gb (up from 12 Gb at 20nm introduced in August, 2015) while retaining a 4266 MT/s transfer rate.
The first product to use the 16 Gb ICs is Samsung's 8 GB LPDDR4-4266 mobile DRAM package for smartphones, tablets, and other applications that can use LPDDR4. The device stacks four memory ICs and provides up to 34 GB/s of bandwidth when connected to an SoC using a 64-bit memory bus. The 8 GB DRAM package comes in a standard 15 mm x 15 mm x 1 mm form-factor, which is compatible with typical mobile devices, but Samsung can also make the package thinner than 1 mm to enable PoP stacking with a mobile application processor or a UFS NAND storage device.
The press release confirms the high data rate:
The new 8GB LPDDR4 operates at up to 4,266 megabits per second (Mbps), which is twice as fast as DDR4 DRAM for PCs working typically at 2,133 Mbps per pin. Assuming a 64 bit (x64) wide memory bus, this can be viewed as transmitting over 34GBs of data per second.
Tune in next year when I post about Samsung putting 12 GB of RAM in smartphones.
Seagate has launched the world's first 5 TB 2.5" hard disk drives (HDDs). However, they won't fit in most laptops:
The new Seagate BarraCuda 2.5" drives resemble the company's Mobile HDDs introduced earlier this year and use a similar set of technologies: motors with 5400 RPM spindle speed, platters based on [shingled magnetic recording (SMR)] technology with over 1300 Gb/in2 areal density, and multi-tier caching. The 3 TB, 4 TB and 5 TB BarraCuda 2.5" HDDs that come with a 15 mm z-height are designed for external storage solutions because virtually no laptop can accommodate drives of that thickness. Meanwhile, the 7 mm z-height drives (500 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB) are aimed at mainstream laptops and SFF desktops that need a lot of storage space.
Seagate has also launched a 2 TB shingled solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) with 8 GB of NAND cache and a 128 MB DRAM cache buffer. The 1 TB and 500 GB versions also have 8 GB of NAND and 128 MB of DRAM. These are the first hybrid drives to use shingled magnetic recording.
Seagate press release (for "mobile warriors" only).
LWN (formerly Linux Weekly News) reports
Canonical has announced the availability of a live kernel patch service for the 16.04 LTS release. "It's the best way to ensure that machines are safe at the kernel level, while guaranteeing uptime, especially for container hosts where a single machine may be running thousands of different workloads."
Up to three systems can be patched for free; the service requires a fee thereafter. There is a long FAQ about the service in this blog post; it appears to be based on the mainline live-patching functionality with some Canonical add-ons.
Another distro, not wanting to be left out of the recent abundance of limelight has made some noise of its own.
KernelCare Is Another Alternative To Canonical's Ubuntu Live Kernel Patching
The folks from CloudLinux wrote in to remind us of their kernel patching solution, which they've been offering since 2014 and believe is a superior solution to Canonical's service. KernelCare isn't limited to just Ubuntu 16.04 but also works with Ubuntu 14.04 and other distributions such as CentOS/RHEL, Debian, and other enterprise Linux distributions.
Another big difference to Canonical's Livepatch is that KernelCare does support rollback functionality while Canonical doesn't appear to support it at this time. KernelCare can also handle custom patches, 32-bit support, and they share they plan [sic] to soon begin offering livepatching support for glibc, OpenSSL, and QEMU.
The downside though is that KernelCare appears to rely upon some binary blobs as part of its service. Pricing on KernelCare ranges from $25 to $45 USD per year depending upon the number of licenses being purchased.
[Details at] CloudLinux.com.
A baby girl from Lewisville, Texas, has been "born" twice after she was taken out of her mother's womb for 20 minutes for life-saving surgery.
At 16 weeks pregnant, Margaret Hawkins Boemer discovered her daughter, Lynlee Hope, had a tumour on her spine.
The mass, known as a sacrococcygeal teratoma, was diverting blood from the foetus - raising the risk of fatal heart failure.
[...] Doctor Darrell Cass of Texas Children's Fetal Centre was one of the team who carried out the surgery. He said the tumour had been so large that a "huge" incision was required to reach it, leaving the baby "hanging out in the air".
Lynlee's heart virtually stopped during the procedure but a heart specialist kept her alive while most of the tumour was removed, he added. The team then placed her back in her mother's womb and sewed her uterus up.
"Baby Boemer is still an infant but is doing beautiful," said Cass, remarking that she is perfectly healthy. His one previous surgery of this kind was also a success. "I think she's about 7 now, and she sings karaoke to Taylor swift[sic] -- she's completely normal," said Cass.
Rockwell Collins is buying B/E Aerospace Inc, but investors are not impressed with visions of high-tech seats and toilets:
Aircraft electronics supplier Rockwell Collins said on Monday its $6.4 billion acquisition of interiors maker B/E Aerospace Inc will boost sales and spur new products, helping offset sluggish demand for equipment in new business and commercial jets. But investors and industry experts voiced skepticism about the deal, sending Rockwell's stock down 6.9 percent to $78.63, while B/E Aerospace shares rose 15.5 percent to $58.44, reflecting the bid premium.
Rockwell's acquisition, announced on Sunday, would triple its sales of equipment in new-generation widebody jetliners such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, and "nearly double our position in the narrowbodies," Chief Executive Officer Kelly Ortberg said on a conference call with analysts, referring to top-selling jets such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.
The companies have little product overlap, with Rockwell best known for avionics, flight controls and cabin connectivity, while B/E Aerospace is a major provider of aircraft seats, galleys, lighting and other systems. But Rockwell's plan to wire digital sensors and electronics into the galleys, lavatories and seats that B/E Aerospace drew some skepticism from industry experts. Lavatories and galleys are not items airlines typically use as selling points to customers. "If you're making a lavatory higher tech, it's got to improve customers experience or reduce cost," said Phil Toy, a managing director at aerospace consulting firm AlixPartners.
The purchase price is $8.3 billion when including debt.
Various news outlets report that Unit 2 of the Watts Bar nuclear power plant, owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), has begun operation. The reactor is rated at 1.15 GW and cost $4.7 billion ($4.09 per watt). Ground was broken on the project in 1973; construction work was suspended from 1985 to 2007.
Watts Bar Unit 1, which began operation in 1996, is one of three plants which manufacture tritium under contract to the U.S. government for use in hydrogen bombs.
Around the United States, 99 other commercial nuclear reactors are in operation and four others are under construction:
[...] Scana Corp./SCE&G's V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 in South Carolina and Southern Co.'s Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia.