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Përditësimi: 1 ditë 19 orë më parë

California Startup Sells 'Subscriptions' to Electric Vehicles

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 4:34md
In January a California startup named Autonomy began "stocking up on EVs from pretty much every company that makes them," reports Bloomberg (including Tesla, Ford, and Polestar). Their plan? Collect a $5,900 "start fee," then charge $490 to $690 a month for an electric vehicle subscription with up to 1,000 miles of driving (but with no maintenance or registration fees): The subscription model has some logic for consumers. In part because of fast-evolving technology, EVs have traditionally shed value much quicker than gas-powered cars. On a depreciation scale, consumers typically lump them in with cell phones.... But EV ownership is also looking better by the day. The depreciation curve is flattening thanks to longer-range machines, and car companies are getting more vocal about things like battery longevity. A three-year-old Chevrolet Bolt, for example, will recoup 84% of its value today, in line with the average resale of all three-year-old cars in North America, according to CarEdge.com, a consumer-facing market research platform. That could be why auto executives are pushing to round up that sweet, sweet software revenue in smaller chunks. BMW, to much outcry, is selling an $18-a-month subscription for heated seats in the UK, and General Motors turned its OnStar voice navigation into a $1,500 "mandatory" subscription on every new Buick, GMC and Cadillac Escalade. Even without a la carte add-ons, one of the major forces propping up prices for used EVs is, ironically, their ability to update remotely — the same technology carmakers are using to nickel-and-dime drivers with subscription services. A contemporary car is nothing if not a dense stack of software, which means subscriptions on wheels are not entirely bonkers. But a car is also an appliance, and consumers aren't accustomed to renting a refrigerator, let alone paying a monthly fee to use the ice-maker. Luckily for Autonomy, the simplest pitch may be the best one. If it can bigfoot individual EV orders by jumping to the head of the queue, the startup could find scads of subscribers — simply because it will have available cars.

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Parts of Europe's Largest Nuclear Plant 'Knocked Out' By Russia-Ukraine Fighting

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 1:34md
On Thursday the International Atomic Energy Agency's director "warned that parts of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant had been knocked out due to recent attacks, risking an 'unacceptable' potential radiation leak," according to CNN: "IAEA experts believe that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety," but "that could change at any moment," Grossi said.... Ukraine's nuclear agency Energoatom said 10 shells landed near the complex on Thursday, preventing a shift handover. "For the safety of nuclear workers, the buses with the personnel of the next shift were turned back to Enerhodar," the agency said. "Until the situation finally normalizes, the workers of the previous shift will continue to work." Energoatom said radiation levels at the site remained normal, despite renewed attacks. Several Western and Ukrainian officials believe that Russia is using the giant nuclear facility as a stronghold to shield their troops and mount attacks, because they assume Kyiv will not return fire and risk a crisis. Later CNN added: Ukraine and Russia again traded blame after more shelling around the plant overnight on Thursday, just hours after the United Nations called on both sides to cease military activities near the power station, warning of the worst if they didn't. "Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster," UN secretary general, António Guterres, said in a statement.... Energoatom, Ukraine's state-run nuclear power company, accused Russian forces on Thursday of targeting a storage area for "radiation sources," and shelling a fire department nearby the plant. A day later, the company said in a statement on its Telegram account that the plant was operating "with the risk of violating radiation and fire safety standards." Ukraine's Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, said Friday that there was "no adequate control" over the plant, and Ukrainian specialists who remained there were not allowed access to some areas where they should be.... Last weekend, shellfire damaged a dry storage facility — where casks of spent nuclear fuel are kept at the plant — as well as radiation monitoring detectors, making detection of any potential leak impossible, according to Energoatom. Attacks also damaged a high-voltage power line and forced one of the plant's reactors to stop operating. Tonight the BBC reported on a response from Ukraine's president. In his nightly address on Saturday, Volodymyr Zelensky said any soldier firing on or from the plant would become "a special target" for Ukraine. He also accused Moscow of turning the plant into a Russian army base and using it as "nuclear blackmail"... Zelenskiy added that "every day" of Russia's occupation of the plant "increases the radiation threat to Europe".... A BBC investigation revealed earlier this week that many of the Ukrainian workers at the site are being kept under armed guard amid harsh conditions.

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Why Alphabet's 'Smart City' in Toronto Failed

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 9:34pd
Alphabet's "urban innovation" arm Sidewalk Labs planned to build a model "smart city" along a 12-acre patch of Toronto waterfront known as Quayside. But they abandoned the project in 2020, points out MIT's Technology Review, "at the tail end of years of public controversy over its $900 million vision for a data-rich city within the city." Sidewalk's big idea was flashy new tech. This unassuming section of Toronto was going to become a hub for an optimized urban experience featuring robo-taxis, heated sidewalks, autonomous garbage collection, and an extensive digital layer to monitor everything from street crossings to park bench usage. Had it succeeded, Quayside could have been a proof of concept, establishing a new development model for cities everywhere. It could have demonstrated that the sensor-Âladen smart city model embraced in China and the Persian Gulf has a place in more democratic societies. Instead, Sidewalk Labs' two-and-a-half-year struggle to build a neighborhood "from the internet up" failed to make the case for why anyone might want to live in it.... The project's tech-first approach antagonized many; its seeming lack of seriousness about the privacy concerns of Torontonians was likely the main cause of its demise. There is far less tolerance in Canada than in the U.S. for private-sector control of public streets and transportation, or for companies' collecting data on the routine activities of people living their lives. "In the U.S. it's life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," says Alex Ryan, a senior vice president of partnership solutions for the MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto nonprofit founded by a consortium of public and private funders and billed as North America's largest urban innovation hub. "In Canada it's peace, order, and good government. Canadians don't expect the private sector to come in and save us from government, because we have high trust in government." With its very top-down approach, Sidewalk failed to comprehend Toronto's civic culture. Almost every person I spoke with about the project used the word "hubris" or "arrogance" to describe the company's attitude. Some people used both. In February Toronto announced new plans for the area, the article points out, with "800 affordable apartments, a two-acre forest, a rooftop farm, a new arts venue focused on indigenous culture, and a pledge to be zero-carbon.... Indeed, the philosophical shift signaled by the new plan, with its emphasis on wind and rain and birds and bees rather than data and more data, seems like a pragmatic response to the demands of the present moment and the near future." The article calls it "a conspicuous disavowal not only of the 2017 proposal but of the smart city concept itself."

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Are Things 'Looking Grim' For Movies Based on DC Superheroes?

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 5:49pd
"The fate of Warner Bros. DC Comics movies is looking grim," writes the Verge. Since April's merger between Warner Brothers and Discovery, they call it "fairly obvious" that "the new guard at Warner Bros. Discovery wants to jettison or at the very least put some distance between itself and the DC Extended Universe's current iteration (along with all the baggage associated with the endeavor.)" The DC Extended Universe was plagued by a number of issues long... like a general lack of cohesion, subpar storytelling, and an association with a toxic fandom whose obsession eventually devolved into harassment campaigns against studio executives. Looking back, Justice League as it was released in 2017 was a haphazard attempt to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that put far too much faith in the power of people's general familiarity with characters like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, and Aquaman who didn't really have presences in the DC Extended Universe at the time. Screen Rant calls Justice League "a movie that polarized audiences and was less successful than Man of Steel at the box office" — then explains what happened next: The DC Extended Universe had been struggling with highly divisive or critically panned movies, such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but it was not until Justice League that the franchise really took a significant financial hit. In addition, Justice League was also the start of a series of behind-the-scenes controversies, and at this point, it is difficult to picture the Justice League cast all returning for a sequel.... With Ben Affleck seemly done with Batman and the studio wanting to move away from everything Justice League-related, DC needed a way to combine what had been working, such as Jason Momoa's Aquaman and Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, with new strategies, such as Michael Keaton's [appearing in the upcoming Flash movie as] Batman. The answer seemed simple — the multiverse.... The fact that Batgirl, a movie that would have shown the aftermath of The Flash's multiverse journey, was canceled [last week] proves that the multiverse is no longer a priority for DC. Not only that but right before Batgirl's cancelation was announced, it was reported that Ben Affleck would replace Michael Keaton's rumored cameo in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.... During Warner Bros. Discovery's earning calls on August 5, CEO David Zaslav mentioned that the new management will make upcoming DC Extended Universe movies like Black Adam and The Flash "even better", suggesting that reshoots could be on the way.

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Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough Confirmed: California Team Achieved Ignition. Research Continues

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 3:34pd
"A major breakthrough in nuclear fusion has been confirmed a year after it was achieved at a laboratory in California," reports Newsweek: Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) recorded the first case of ignition on August 8, 2021, the results of which have now been published in three peer-reviewed papers.... Ignition during a fusion reaction essentially means that the reaction itself produced enough energy to be self-sustaining, which would be necessary in the use of fusion to generate electricity. If we could harness this reaction to generate electricity, it would be one of the most efficient and least polluting sources of energy possible. No fossil fuels would be required as the only fuel would be hydrogen, and the only by-product would be helium, which we use in industry and are actually in short supply of.... This landmark result comes after years of research and thousands of man hours dedicated to improving and perfecting the process: over 1,000 authors are included in the Physical Review Letters paper. This week the laboratory said that breakthrough now puts researchers "at the threshold of fusion gain and achieving scientific ignition," with the program's chief scientist calling it "a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at the National Ignition Facility." More news from this week's announcement by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: Since the experiment last August, the team has been executing a series of experiments to attempt to repeat the performance and to understand the experimental sensitivities in this new regime. "Many variables can impact each experiment," Kritcher said. "The 192 laser beams do not perform exactly the same from shot to shot, the quality of targets varies and the ice layer grows at differing roughness on each target...." While the repeat attempts have not reached the same level of fusion yield as the August 2021 experiment, all of them demonstrated capsule gain greater than unity with yields in the 430-700 kJ range, significantly higher than the previous highest yield of 170 kJ from February 2021. The data gained from these and other experiments are providing crucial clues as to what went right and what changes are needed in order to repeat that experiment and exceed its performance in the future. The team also is utilizing the experimental data to further understanding of the fundamental processes of fusion ignition and burn and to enhance simulation tools in support of stockpile stewardship. Looking ahead, the team is working to leverage the accumulated experimental data and simulations to move toward a more robust regime — further beyond the ignition cliff — where general trends found in this new experimental regime can be better separated from variability in targets and laser performance. Efforts to increase fusion performance and robustness are underway via improvements to the laser, improvements to the targets and modifications to the design that further improve energy delivery to the hotspot while maintaining or even increasing the hot-spot pressure. This includes improving the compression of the fusion fuel, increasing the amount of fuel and other avenues. "It is extremely exciting to have an 'existence proof' of ignition in the lab," said Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for the lab's inertial confinement fusion program. "We're operating in a regime that no researchers have accessed since the end of nuclear testing, and it's an incredible opportunity to expand our knowledge as we continue to make progress." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader hesdeadjim99 for sharing the news.

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Are Space Scientists Ready For Starship - the Biggest Rocket Ever?

Dje, 14/08/2022 - 1:10pd
Slashdot reader sciencehabit shared this thought-provoking anecdote from Science magazine: NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite mission was brutish and short. It began on 9 October 2009, when the hull of a spent Centaur rocket stage smashed into Cabeus crater, near the south pole of the Moon, with the force of about 2 tons of TNT. And it ended minutes later, when a trailing spacecraft flew through and analyzed the lofted plume of debris before it, too, crashed. About 6% of the plume was water, presumably from ice trapped in the shadowed depths of the crater, where the temperature never rises above -173ÂC. The Moon, it turned out, wasn't as bone dry as the Apollo astronauts believed. "That was our first ground truth that there is water ice," says Jennifer Heldmann, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center who worked on the mission. Today, Heldmann wants to send another rocket to probe lunar ice — but not on a one-way trip. She has her eye on Starship, a behemoth under development by private rocket company SpaceX that would be the largest flying object the world has ever seen. With Starship, Heldmann could send 100 tons to the Moon, more than twice the lunar payload of the Saturn V, the workhorse of the Apollo missions. She dreams of delivering robotic excavators and drills and retrieving ice in freezers onboard Starship, which could return to Earth with tens of tons of cargo. By analyzing characteristics such as the ice's isotopic composition and its depth, she could learn about its origin: how much of it came from a bombardment of comets and asteroids billions of years ago versus slow, steady implantation by the solar wind. She could also find out where the ice is abundant and pure enough to support human outposts. "It's high-priority science, and it's also critical for exploration," Heldmann says. When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk talks up Starship, it's mostly about human exploration: Set up bases on Mars and make humans a multiplanetary species! Save civilization from extinction! But Heldmann and many others believe the heavy lifter could also radically change the way space scientists work. They could fly bigger and heavier instruments more often — and much more cheaply, if SpaceX's projections of cargo launch costs as low as $10 per kilogram are to be believed. On Mars, they could deploy rovers not as one-offs, but in herds. Space telescopes could grow, and fleets of satellites in low-Earth orbit could become commonplace. Astronomy, planetary science, and Earth observation could all boldly go, better than they ever have before. Of course, Starship isn't real yet. All eyes will be on a first orbital launch test, expected sometime in the coming months. Starship would've made it easier to deploy the massive James Webb Space Telescope, the article points out, while in the future Starship's extra fuel capacity could make it easier to explore Mercury, earth's outermost planets, and even interstellar space. In fact, Heldmann and colleagues have now suggested that NASA create a dedicated funding line for missions relying on Starship. Heldmann argues that "We on the science side need to be ready to take advantage of those capabilities when they come online." The article notes that at an event in February, Elon Musk "explained how a single Starship, launching three times per week, would loft more than 15,000 tons to orbit in a year — about as much as all the cargo that has been lifted in the entire history of spaceflight."

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Ransomware Causes 'Major', Long-Lasting Outage for UK Health Service's Patient Notes

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 11:54md
The Independent reports that the UK's National Health System is experiencing a major outage "expected to last for more than three weeks" after a third-party supplying the NHS's "CareNotes" software was hit by ransomware. Unfortunately, this leaves doctors unable to see their notes on patients, and the mental health trusts that provide care "across the country will be left unable to access patient notes for weeks, and possibly months." Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has declared a critical incident over the outage, which is believed to affect dozens of trusts, and has told staff it is putting emergency plans in place. One NHS trust chief said the situation could possibly last for "months" with several mental health trusts, and there was concern among leaders that the problem is not being prioritised. In an email to staff, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Nick Broughton, said: "The cyberattack targeted systems used to refer patients for care, including ambulances being dispatched, out of hours appointment bookings, triage, out of hours care, emergency prescriptions and safety alerts. It also targeted the finance system used by the trust.... An NHS director said: "The whole thing is down. It's really alarming...we're carrying a lot of risk as a result of it because you can't get records and details of assessments, prescribing, key observations, medical mental health act observations. You can't see any of it...Staff are going to have to write everything down and input it later." They added: "There is increased risk to patients. We're finding it hard to discharge people, for example to housing providers, because we can't access records." "'Weeks' is an unreasonable period," argues Slashdot reader Bruce66423, wondering why it couldn't be resolved with a seemingly simple restore from backups? And Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at Surrey University, warns the Guardian that "Even if it was ransomware ... that doesn't mean data was not stolen."

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Researchers Pinpointed Covid-19's Origin to Within a Few Metres

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 10:40md
Australia's public broadcaster interviewed a virologist who "played a key role in mapping the evolution of COVID-19" (and was also "the first person to release the sequence of SARS-CoV-2 to the world.") But interestingly, this Australian virologist also visited the Wuhan market in 2014, "and recognised the risk of virus transmission between animals and humans and suggested taking some samples." "While I was there, I noticed there were these live wildlife for sale, particularly raccoon dogs and ... muskrats" he said. "I took the photographs because I thought to myself: 'God, that's, that's not quite right'." Raccoon dogs had been associated with the emergence of a different coronavirus outbreak, SARS-CoV-1, in 2002-04, which became known worldwide as the SARS virus. Even in 2014, Professor Holmes believed the market could become a site of virus transmission between animals and humans. The monitoring that Professor Holmes suggested never took place but, in the early days of COVID-19, he was still convinced that a market like the one in Wuhan was the logical origin of the virus. "They are the kind of engine room of [this sort] of disease emergence ... because what you're doing is you're putting humans and wildlife in close proximity to each other," he said. The professor also describes the theory that the virus some how leaked from a Chinese lab as "horrendous, blame-game finger-pointing," noting that the nearest lab is miles away. And he cites other reasons the market is where the virus originated: Aside from the geographic clustering, he also points to the fact that two different strands emerged almost simultaneously in humans, something that is much more likely if the virus had already been mutating in animals. "They're sufficiently far apart that they were probably independent jumps. "It means there was a pool of infected animals in the market and it's mutated amongst them before it jumped to humans." All of this has led Professor Holmes to conclude that the question of how COVID-19 emerged is settled. "I'm extremely confident that the virus is not from a laboratory. I think that's just a nonsensical theory," he said. Detailed mapping of where samples were detected inside the Huanan seafood wholesale market allowed Professor Holmes and his colleagues to even pinpoint to a few square metres where COVID-19 was likely to have jumped between humans and animals. "It's extraordinary," he said. "And I took a photo in 2014 of one of the stalls that was the most positively tested in the whole market."

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'Unstoppable' Python Remains More Popular than C and Java

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 9:34md
"Python seems to be unstoppable," argues the commentary on August's edition of the TIOBE index (which attempts to calculate programming-language popularity based on search results for courses, vendors, and "skilled engineers"). By that measure Python's "market share" rose another 2% in this month's index — to an all-time high of 15.42%. It is hard to find a field of programming in which Python is not used extensively nowadays. The only exception is (safety-critical) embedded systems because of Python being dynamically typed and too slow. That is why the performant languages C and C++ are gaining popularity as well at the moment. If we look at the rest of the TIOBE index, not that much happened last month. Swift and PHP swapped places again at position 10, Rust is getting close to the top 20, Kotlin is back in the top 30, and the new Google language Carbon enters the TIOBE index at position 192. InfoWorld notes it's been 10 months since Python first claimed the index's #1 spot last October, "becoming the only language besides Java and C to hold the No. 1 position." In the alternative Pypl Popularity of Programming Language index, which assesses language popularity based on Google searches of programming language tutorials, the top 10 rankings for August were: 1. Python, 28.11% share 2. Java, 17.35% 3. JavaScript, 9.48% 4. C#, 7.08% 5. C/C++, 6.19% 6. PHP, 5.47% 7. R, 4.35% 8. TypeScript, 2.79% 9. Swift, 2.09% 10. Objective-C, 2.03%

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Netflix Airs Episode on Kansas 'Swat' Perpetrator, While Victim's Family Sues Policeman

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 8:34md
In June Netflix launched Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet, a true-crime series. It began with an episode documenting the 2017 death of a 28-year-old Kansas man named Andrew Finch after California gamer Tyler Barriss faked an emergency call from Finch's home to the Wichita, Kansas police department. So where are they now? Barriss is now serving a 20-year prison sentence, Bustle reports. "Barriss, a resident of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to a total of 51 charges, all having to do with hoax emergency calls he'd made, including the call that resulted in Finch's murder." Barriss received as 12-and-a-half year sentence for the Kansas call, and then another 8-and-a-half-year sentence for all the other illegal calls placed between 2015 and 2017 to 17 different U.S. states. "He also received another five years of supervised release in Washington, D.C., for phoning in bomb threats to the FBI and Federal Communications Commission in 2017." And the 19-year-old who'd hired Barriss "received a 15-month prison sentence in 2019 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice." Meanwhile, Andrew Finch's surviving family members filed legal actions against the police department responsible for Finch's death. And while police officers normally receive "qualified immunity" protecting them from lawsuits over the performance of their duties, there was an update last month: An officer with the Wichita Police Department will face a civil trial in connection with the December 2017 swatting incident... Justin Rapp was the officer who shot the unarmed man. A U.S. appeals court sided with the Kansas district court in denying Officer Rapp qualified immunity in Finch's death. The court said a reasonable jury could believe Finch was unarmed and unthreatening when Rapp fired the shot that killed him. Finch's family brought the excessive force civil suit. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to prosecute Rapp for fatally shooting Finch. The Wichita Police Department conclude Rapp didn't violate department policy.... Along with its conclusion that the civil case against Rapp can move forward, the appellate court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on liability claims against the City of Wichita. This decision essentially maintained the city and the WPD as a whole weren't liable in Finch's death. The court of appeals dismissed arguments saying, in sum, "[the lawsuit from Finch's family] has failed to show any deliberately indifferent policies or customs that caused Rapp to use excessive lethal force."

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Google's New Bug Bounties Include Their Custom Linux Kernel's Experimental Security Mitigations

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 7:34md
Google uses Linux "in almost everything," according to the leader of Google's "product security response" team — including Chromebooks, Android smartphones, and even Google Cloud. "Because of this, we have heavily invested in Linux's security — and today, we're announcing how we're building on those investments and increasing our rewards." In 2020, we launched an open-source Kubernetes-based Capture-the-Flag (CTF) project called, kCTF. The kCTF Vulnerability Rewards Program lets researchers connect to our Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) instances, and if they can hack it, they get a flag, and are potentially rewarded. All of GKE and its dependencies are in scope, but every flag caught so far has been a container breakout through a Linux kernel vulnerability. We've learned that finding and exploiting heap memory corruption vulnerabilities in the Linux kernel could be made a lot harder. Unfortunately, security mitigations are often hard to quantify, however, we think we've found a way to do so concretely going forward.... First, we are indefinitely extending the increased reward amounts we announced earlier this year, meaning we'll continue to pay $20,000 — $91,337 USD for vulnerabilities on our lab kCTF deployment to reward the important work being done to understand and improve kernel security. This is in addition to our existing patch rewards for proactive security improvements. Second, we're launching new instances with additional rewards to evaluate the latest Linux kernel stable image as well as new experimental mitigations in a custom kernel we've built. Rather than simply learning about the current state of the stable kernels, the new instances will be used to ask the community to help us evaluate the value of both our latest and more experimental security mitigations. Today, we are starting with a set of mitigations we believe will make most of the vulnerabilities (9/10 vulns and 10/13 exploits) we received this past year more difficult to exploit. For new exploits of vulnerabilities submitted which also compromise the latest Linux kernel, we will pay an additional $21,000 USD. For those which compromise our custom Linux kernel with our experimental mitigations, the reward will be another $21,000 USD (if they are clearly bypassing the mitigations we are testing). This brings the total rewards up to a maximum of $133,337 USD. We hope this will allow us to learn more about how hard (or easy) it is to bypass our experimental mitigations..... With the kCTF VRP program, we are building a pipeline to analyze, experiment, measure and build security mitigations to make the Linux kernel as safe as we can with the help of the security community. We hope that, over time, we will be able to make security mitigations that make exploitation of Linux kernel vulnerabilities as hard as possible. "We don't care about vulnerabilities; we care about exploits," Vela told the Register. "We expect the vulnerabilities are there, they will get patched, and that's nice and all. But the whole idea is what do to beyond just patching a couple of vulnerabilities." In total, Google paid out $8.7 million in rewards to almost 700 researchers across its various VPRs last year. "We are just one actor in the whole community that happens to have economic resources, financial resources, but we need the community to help us make the Kernel better," Vela said. "If the community is engaged and helps us validate the mitigations that we have, then, we will continue growing on top of that. But the whole idea is that we need to see where the community wants us to go with this...." [I]t's not always about the cash payout, according to Vela, and different bug hunters have different motivations. Some want money, some want fame and some just want to solve an interesting problem, Vela said. "We are trying to find the right combination to captivate people."

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California's Governor Proposes Extending the Life of Its Last Nuclear Plant

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 6:34md
"California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proposed extending the life of the state's last operating nuclear power plant by five to 10 years," reports the Associated Press, "to maintain reliable power supplies in the climate change era." Newsom's draft proposal includes a potential forgivable loan for PG&E for up to $1.4 billion and would require state agencies to act quickly to clear the way for the reactors to continue running. The seaside plant located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco produces 9% of the state's electricity. The proposal says its continued operation beyond 2025 is "critical to ensure statewide energy system reliability" as climate change stresses the energy system.... Newsom clearly wants to avoid a repeat of August 2020, when a record heat wave caused a surge in power use for air conditioning that overtaxed California's electrical grid. That caused two consecutive nights of rolling blackouts for the state, affecting hundreds of thousands of residential and business customers. The Newsom administration is pushing to expand clean energy, as the state aims to cut emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Nuclear power doesn't produce carbon pollution like fossil fuels, but leaves behind waste that can remain dangerously radioactive for centuries. The California Legislature has less than three weeks to determine if it will endorse the plan and attempt to extend the life of the plant — a decision that would be made amid looming questions over the costs and earthquake safety risks.... The Democratic governor, who is seen as a possible future White House candidate, has urged PG&E for months to pursue a longer run beyond a scheduled closing by 2025, warning that the plant's power is needed as the state transitions to solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy. One concerned Democratic state Senator (from the district housing the plant) argued that another earthquake fault was discovered near the plant in 2008, and reminded the Associated Press that "seismic upgrades were never totally completed. Will they address that?"

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Gen Z Streaming Stars React to Classic Sci-Fi Movies of the '80s

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 5:34md
The New York Times tried an experiment with four classic science fiction films from exactly 40 years ago: If you were a moviegoer in the 1980s, you were constantly presented with imaginative questions that seemed cosmic and existential. Would humanity someday settle its differences here on earth and learn to travel the stars as a unified species? Or were we destined for a dystopian future with little more to look at than smoggy skies and gargantuan billboards? Did our advancing technology have the ability to literally absorb us or replace us entirely? Might we someday encounter alien life that was intelligent and benevolent? Surely some of these questions would be answered by the far-off future year 2000. "Blade Runner," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Tron" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," all released 40 years ago, in the summer of '82, have become foundational works, shaping the next several decades of fantasy franchises. But what if this wasn't the science-fiction cinema you grew up with? What if you came of age in a later generation, and knew these movies only as celebrated if somewhat distant influences? Would they still seem exciting, innovative and thought-provoking? Or — to confront another terrifying speculative scenario — would they just seem uncool? To find out for ourselves, we enlisted four stars of the current day — all born in the 21st century — and asked them each to watch one of those seminal science-fiction films. They shared their reactions and reflections, didn't judge the special effects too harshly and still shed tears when they thought E.T. died. They showed Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan to Celia Rose Gooding, who plays Uhura in the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Gooding's response was "the machoism of the men in charge has not changed in the future... these are still two guys trying to see whose ship is bigger." Meanwhile, the 22-year-old star of Netflix's Cobra Kai, Jacob Bertrand, was watching both Tron and its 2010 sequel Tron: Legacy. "I feel like the new one doesn't hold a candle to the old one.... I was trying to think of how they could have done this with the technology at the time, and everything that I could think of just sounds like so much work. I was like, dude, how are they pulling this off back then? Holy cow, these people were dedicated." 19-year-old Iman Vellani (star of Disney+ show Ms. Marvel) felt that Blade Runner "hit the mark... I feel like everyone of my generation is always searching for some higher purpose or trying to prove they're worthy enough or special enough for the spotlight, or just worthy of more life. I find myself sympathizing with the replicants a lot more, upon rewatch, in a way I did not expect." And the 19-year-old star of Netflix's Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard, described E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as "incredibly sweet."

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Facing Privacy Concerns, Facebook Begins Testing End-to-End Encrypted Chats, Secure Backups

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 4:34md
Thursday Meta published a blog post by their "product management director of Messenger Trust," who emphasized that they've begun at least testing end-to-end encryption by default for Messenger chats. But Meta also announced plans "to test a new secure storage feature for backups of your end-to-end encrypted chats on Messenger...." "As with end-to-end encrypted chats, secure storage means that we won't have access to your messages, unless you choose to report them to us." CNBC provides some context: The announcement comes after Facebook turned over Messenger chat histories to Nebraska police as part of an investigation into an alleged illegal abortion. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said the feature has been in the works for a while and is not related to the Nebraska case... The feature is rolling out on Android and iOS devices this week, but it isn't yet available on the Messenger website. The company has been discussing full-scale deployment of end-to-end encryption since 2016, but critics have said the security measure would make it much more difficult for law enforcement to catch child predators....Meta said in the release that it is making progress toward the global rollout of default end-to-end encryption for personal messages and calls in 2023. Other privacy enhancements announced Thursday by Meta: "We plan to bring end-to-end encrypted calls to the Calls Tab on Messenger." Meta announced that the deleting of messages will start syncing across your other devices "soon." Messenger will continue offering the option of "Disappearing" messages, in which viewed messages in an end-to-end encrypted chat automatically then disappear after a pre-specified period of time. And there's more, according to Meta's announcement:. "This week, we'll begin testing default end-to-end encrypted chats between some people. If you're in the test group, some of your most frequent chats may be automatically end-to-end encrypted, which means you won't have to opt in to the feature. You'll still have access to your message history, but any new messages or calls with that person will be end-to-end encrypted. You can still report messages to us if you think they violate our policies, and we'll review them and take action as necessary.... "Last year, we started a limited test of opt-in end-to-end encrypted messages and calls on Instagram, and in February we broadened the test to include adults in Ukraine and Russia. Soon, we'll expand the test even further to include people in more countries and add more features like group chats.... "We will continue to provide updates as we make progress toward the global rollout of default end-to-end encryption for personal messages and calls in 2023."

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The Hacking of Starlink Terminals Has Begun

Sht, 13/08/2022 - 3:00md
AmiMoJo shares a report from Wired: Since 2018, ELON Musk's Starlink has launched more than 3,000 small satellites into orbit. This satellite network beams internet connections to hard-to-reach locations on Earth and has been a vital source of connectivity during Russia's war in Ukraine. Thousands more satellites are planned for launch as the industry booms. Now, like any emerging technology, those satellite components are being hacked. Today, Lennert Wouters, a security researcher at the Belgian university KU Leuven, will reveal one of the first security breakdowns of Starlink's user terminals, the satellite dishes (dubbed Dishy McFlatface) that are positioned on people's homes and buildings. At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, Wouters will detail how a series of hardware vulnerabilities allow attackers to access the Starlink system and run custom code on the devices. To access the satellite dish's software, Wouters physically stripped down a dish he purchased and created a custom hacking tool that can be attached to the Starlink dish. The hacking tool, a custom circuit board known as a modchip, uses off-the-shelf parts that cost around $25. Once attached to the Starlink dish, the homemade printed circuit board (PCB) is able to launch a fault injection attack -- temporarily shorting the system -- to help bypass Starlink's security protections. This 'glitch' allows Wouters to get into previously locked parts of the Starlink system. The researcher notified Starlink of the flaws last year and the company paid Wouters through its bug bounty scheme for identifying the vulnerabilities. Wouters says that while SpaceX has issued an update to make the attack harder (he changed the modchip in response), the underlying issue can't be fixed unless the company creates a new version of the main chip. All existing user terminals are vulnerable, Wouters says. Wouters is making his hacking tool open source on GitHub. Following his presentation, Starlink says it plans to release a "public update" to address the issue but additional details were not shared.

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Ethereum Software Update Planned for September After Successful Test

Enj, 11/08/2022 - 6:44md
The most ambitious upgrade to the Ethereum blockchain should take place in September, possibly closer to the middle of the month, developers working on the project said during a conference call after what was billed as a final dress rehearsal. From a report: Developers have picked a number of so-called total terminal difficulty required of the final block mined in Ethereum before the network switches to new software. Figuring out the exact date range when the upgrade will occur will require complex calculations, and will be a moving target, depending on changes to the network's use and support, developers said on the call that was broadcast over YouTube on Thursday. The final date range is expected to be approved during another developer call next week, though the software engineers are currently looking at Sept. 16 to Sept. 20. Called the Merge, the software upgrade has been in the works for years, and it will change the way Ethereum orders transactions to become more energy efficient. Instead of using energy-guzzling computers called miners, the network will deploy so-called validators using staked Ether tokens -- a setup called proof of stake. Following years of delays, the time for the Merge is finally being set after Wednesday's completion of the Goerli merge test, which simulated the Merge on a smaller scale. A few problems popped up during the test, developers reported on the call. Goerli merge, which many celebrated with parties broadcast on YouTube, was the final test before the actual Merge was to take place.

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Email Marketing Firm Mailchimp Suspends Several Crypto-Related Accounts

Enj, 11/08/2022 - 6:17md
Mailchimp appears to have suspended the accounts of several crypto-related firms, according to the affected outlets. Crypto firms on the chopping board include intelligence platform Messari. From a report: Founder Ryan Selkis posted on Twitter revealing the suspension and expressing his disappointment. Crypto wallet provider Edge, NFT artist Ocarina, and Jesse Friedland -- the founder of NFT collection Cryptoon Goonz -- are among prominent names that appear to have had their accounts suspended in the last several weeks, according to the Decrypt report.

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FTC Launches Data-Privacy Proposal for 'Surveillance' Crackdown

Enj, 11/08/2022 - 5:29md
The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public feedback on a proposed rulemaking to limit what it's dubbed "commerical surveillance" by businesses that sell or share information collected about people. From a report: The advance notice, announced Thursday, would protect the personal data companies such as Alphabet Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. collect about consumers.

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Google To Stop Giving Answers To Silly Questions

Enj, 11/08/2022 - 4:41md
Google will stop giving snappy answers to stupid questions, the company has announced, as it seeks to improve its search engine's "featured snippets" service. From a report: That means users should see fewer answers to questions such as "When did Snoopy assassinate Abraham Lincoln?", to which the service would once merrily respond with "1865" -- the right date, but very much the wrong assassin. "This clearly isn't the most helpful way to display this result," said the company's head of search, Pandu Nayak, in a blogpost announcing the changes. "We've trained our systems to get better at detecting these sorts of false premises, which are not very common, but there are cases where it's not helpful to show a featured snippet. We've reduced the triggering of featured snippets in these cases by 40% with this update." Snippets, which sometimes show up as a featured response to direct questions asked of Google Search, have long been a cornerstone of the company's AI strategy. The same technology powers its smart speakers and voice assistants, and lets the search engine satisfy search queries without visitors clicking away to other websites. But the snippets, which are automatically generated from the contents of websites, have also been a thorn in Google's side for just as long. [...] In an effort to address the root cause of such mistakes, Google is also rolling out new warnings for times when a search term has hit a "data void" -- a question where a good answer might simply not exist.

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China Has Painted Itself Into a Semiconductor Corner

Enj, 11/08/2022 - 4:03md
Tim Culpan, writing at Bloomberg: As Washington embarks on a multi-billion dollar, decade-long semiconductor development campaign, Beijing is reckoning with its own 20-year effort that's largely failed to deliver. Both will need to grapple with wasted funds and misguided goals as they play catch-up to Taiwan and South Korea. Architects of China's ambitious efforts may be facing the music for having not produced world-beating technology, Bloomberg News reported this week. Multiple corruption probes announced by authorities stem from anger among the nation's top leaders over an inability to develop semiconductors that could replace American components, it reported. Two of the most scrutinized areas are the $9 billion bailout of Tsinghua Unigroup Co., and the National Integrated Circuit Industry Investment Fund -- known as the Big Fund. For all intents and purposes, China has failed to achieve its semiconductor goals, and those tasked with realizing them are being brought to account. Beijing won't be smarting at the loss of money -- it's been willing to burn cash -- but at the lack of progress such expenditure was supposed to buy. Those looking at China's achievements are mostly finding what they seek, and ignoring the rest. Semiconductor Manufacturing International, for example, got a lot of attention recently when industry analysts TechInsights wrote: "SMIC has been able to fabricate features that are small enough to be considered 7nm."

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