By EditorDavid from Slashdot's final-frontiers department
Would you pay $200,000 for a ride into space? I ask beause billionaire Richard Branson "really, really wants you to believe he's going to send people to space -- and soon," reports Gizmodo. "In a new interview with CNN, the Virgin Group founder now says he's "reasonably confident" his spaceflight company can beat out competitors like Blue Origin and SpaceX with crewed trips to space before Christmas."
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
"We have a brilliant group of astronauts who literally believe 100% in the project, and give it their everything," he said. The first few trips to space will be flown by test pilots without anyone else on board. Branson says he will be the first passenger. Eventually, paying tourists will also make the trip....
The design and flight control systems of SpaceShipTwo were overhauled following a 2014 test flight crash that killed a co-pilot. Branson has said the accident made him question whether to continue pursuing his riskiest business venture. But the company said it received an outpouring of support, including from customers who had reserved $200,000 to $250,000 tickets to one day ride in SpaceShipTwo. Hundreds of people are still lined up for a shot. The flight will offer tourists a few minutes of weightlessness and views of Earth's curved horizon....
Branson is known to set deadlines that aren't met. Virgin Galactic has been developing SpaceShipTwo since 2004, and Branson initially said commercial rides would begin in 2007. Eleven years later, the firm is still working on getting its 600 customers into space. "Space is difficult. Rocket science is rocket science," Branson said. "I obviously would love to prove our critics wrong, and I'm reasonably confident that before Christmas, we will do so."
"We'll see," writes Gizmodo.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's night-before-geek-mas department
An anonymous reader writes:
Saturday the Perl Advent Calendar entered its 19th year by describing how the Wise Old Elf used a Calendar::List module from CPAN to update his Elven Perl Monger website with all the dates for 2019. ("It is a well known fact that all of Santa's Elves are enthusiastic Perl Developers in their free time, contributing regularly to many of the amazing Perl projects we've come to know and love...")
But meanwhile, the Perl 6 Advent Calendar was describing how Santa gets data into the North Pole's CRM by defining a grammar unit which can be parsed using a built-in method (to trim out children's signatures) -- only to be chastised by his IT elf for failing to document his solution using Perl 6's built in markup language.
And 24Ways.org is also presenting its 14th annual "advent calendar for web geeks," a nicely-formatted offering that promises "a daily dose of web design and development goodness to bring you all a little Christmas cheer."
Meanwhile, the Go language site Gopher Academy launched their 6th annual advent calendar, describing how to split data with content-defined chunking.
Jose Valim, creator of the Elixir programming language, has also announced the fourth annual "Advent of Code," an ongoing story that presents "a series of small programming puzzles for a variety of skill sets and skill levels in any programming language you like." (The folks behind the Nim programming language are even organizing their own leaderboard at Nim-lang.org.)
And even QEMU, a free and open-source emulator performing hardware virtualization, is getting into the act with a QEMU advent calendar offering "an amazing QEMU disk image" each day through December 24th.
Feel free to leave a comment with your own reactions -- or with the URL for your own favorite online geek advent calendars...Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's middleground department
U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday to keep their trade war from escalating with a promise to temporarily halt the imposition of new tariffs [the link may be paywalled; alternative source], as the world's two largest economies negotiate a lasting agreement. China also agreed to further marketing opening, its foreign minister said. In a statement, White House said the U.S. had agreed not to increase tariffs on Chinese goods to 25% on Jan. 1. From a report: The truce between the U.S. and China emerged after a highly anticipated dinner Saturday between Trump and Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. The leaders agreed to stop the introduction of new tariffs and intensify their trade talks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters hours later in Buenos Aires. The White House called the meeting "highly successful," saying the U.S. will leave existing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods at 10 percent and refrain from raising that rate to 25 percent as planned on Jan. 1. In exchange, the U.S. wants an immediate start to talks on Trump's biggest complaints about Chinese trade practices: intellectual property theft, non-tariff barriers and cyber theft. After 90 days, if there's no progress on structural reform, the U.S. will raise those tariffs to 25 percent, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. China also agreed to boost its purchases of agricultural and industrial goods to reduce its trade imbalance with the U.S., she said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's drunken-self-driving department
"When a pair of California Highway Patrol officers pulled alongside a car cruising down Highway 101 in Redwood City before dawn Friday, they reported a shocking sight: a man fast asleep behind the wheel," reports the San Francisco Chronicle:
The car was a Tesla, the man was a Los Altos planning commissioner, and the ensuing freeway stop turned into a complex, seven-minute operation in which the officers had to outsmart the vehicle's autopilot system because the driver was unresponsive, according to the CHP...
Officers observed Samek's gray Tesla Model S around 3:30 a.m. as it sped south at 70 mph on Highway 101 near Whipple Avenue, said Art Montiel, a CHP spokesman. When officers pulled up next to the car, they allegedly saw Samek asleep, but the car was moving straight, leading them to believe it was in autopilot mode. The officers slowed the car down after running a traffic break, with an officer behind Samek turning on emergency lights before driving across all lanes of the highway, in an S-shaped path, to slow traffic down behind the Tesla, Montiel said. He said another officer drove a patrol car directly in front of Samek before gradually slowing down, prompting the Tesla to slow down as well and eventually come to a stop in the middle of the highway, north of the Embarcadero exit in Palo Alto -- about 7 miles from where the stop was initiated.
Tesla declined to comment on the incident, but John Simpson, privacy/technology project director for Consumer Watchdog, calls this proof that Tesla has wrongly convinced drivers their cars' "autopilot" function really could perform fully autonomous driving...
"They've really unconscionably led people to believe, I think, that the car is far more capable of self-driving than actually is the case. That's a huge problem."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's big-hugging-mistakes department
Seeking compliance with Linux's new Code of Conduct, Intel software engineer Jarkko Sakkinen recently requested comments on a set of changes to kernel code comments which Neowin described as "replacing the F-word with 'hug'. "
80 comments quickly followed on the Linux Kernel Maintainer's List:
Several contributors responded to the alterations calling them insane. One wondered if Sakkinen was just trying to make a joke, and another called it censorship and said he'd refuse to apply any sort of patches like this to the code he's in charge of...
Some of the post-change comments read "Some Athlon laptops have really hugged PST tables", "If you don't see why, please stay the hug away from my code", and "Only Sun can take such nice parts and hug up the programming interface".
Eventually LWN.net publisher Jonathan Corbet deflated most of the controversy by pointing out that Linux's new Code of Conduct applies to future comments but clearly indicates that it does not apply explicitly to past comments.
And Jarkko Sakkinen acknowledged that he had missed that part of the discussion.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's weakest-links department
"[O]n Nov. 26 it was publicly revealed that a widely deployed open-source Node.js programming language module known as event-stream had been injected with malicious code that looked to steal cryptocurrency wallets," reports eWeek, adding "The event-stream library has over two million downloads."
An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
The backdoor came to light [November 20th] with this report from Github user Ayrton Sparling. Officials with the NPM, the open source project manager that hosted event-stream, didn't issue an advisory until six days later.... "This compromise was not targeting module developers in general or really even developers," an NPM official told Ars in an email. "It targeted a select few developers at a company, Copay, that had a very specific development environment set up. Even then, the payload itself didn't run on those developers' computers; rather, it would be packaged into a consumer-facing app when the developers built a release. The goal was to steal Bitcoin from this application's end users...."
According to the Github discussion that exposed the backdoor, the longtime event-stream developer no longer had time to provide updates. So several months ago, he accepted the help of an unknown developer. The new developer took care to keep the backdoor from being discovered. Besides being gradually implemented in stages, it also narrowly targeted only the Copay wallet app. The malicious code was also hard to spot because the flatmap-stream module was encrypted. The attack is the latest to exploit weaknesses in a widely used supply chain to target downstream end users... The supply-chain attacks show one of the weaknesses of open source code. Because of its openness and the lack of funds of many of its hobbyist developers and users, open source code can be subject to malicious modifications that often escape notice.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's beyond-the-desktop department
"2019 just might be the Year of Linux -- the year in which Linux is fully recognized as the powerhouse it has become," writes Network World's "Unix dweeb."
The fact is that most people today are using Linux without ever knowing it -- whether on their phones, online when using Google, Facebook, Twitter, GPS devices, and maybe even in their cars, or when using cloud storage for personal or business use. While the presence of Linux on all of these systems may go largely unnoticed by consumers, the role that Linux plays in this market is a sign of how critical it has become. Most IoT and embedded devices -- those small, limited functionality devices that require good security and a small footprint and fill so many niches in our technology-driven lives -- run some variety of Linux, and this isn't likely to change. Instead, we'll just be seeing more devices and a continued reliance on open source to drive them.
According to the Cloud Industry Forum, for the first time, businesses are spending more on cloud than on internal infrastructure. The cloud is taking over the role that data centers used to play, and it's largely Linux that's making the transition so advantageous. Even on Microsoft's Azure, the most popular operating system is Linux. In its first Voice of the Enterprise survey, 451 Research predicted that 60 percent of nearly 1,000 IT leaders surveyed plan to run the majority of their IT off premises by 2019. That equates to a lot of IT efforts relying on Linux. Gartner states that 80 percent of internally developed software is now either cloud-enabled or cloud-native.
The article also cites Linux's use in AI, data lakes, and in the Sierra supercomputer that monitors America's nuclear stockpile, concluding that "In its domination of IoT, cloud technology, supercomputing and AI, Linux is heading into 2019 with a lot of momentum."
And there's even a long list of upcoming Linux conferences...Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's thus-broadcast-Zarathustra department
Japanese broadcaster NHK is launching the world's first 8K TV channel with a special edition of 2001: A Space Odyssey. NHK asked Warner Bros. to scan the original negatives at 8K specially for the channel.
8K offers 16 times the resolution of standard HD, 120 frames per second progressive scan, and 24 channels of sound. NHK is hoping to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the channel.
17 other channels also began broadcasting 4K programming today, according to Japan Times, even though, as Engadget points out, "almost no one has an 8K display, and most of the people who do need a special receiver and antenna just to pick up the signal... Also, HDMI 2.1 hasn't been implemented in any of these displays yet, so just getting the signal from box to TV requires plugging in four HDMI cables."
NHK's channel will broadcast for 12 hours a day, reports the BBC, adding that Samsung already sells an 8K TV for $15,000, and that LG has announced one too, while Engadget reports that Sharp sells one for $6,600.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's barristers-vs-bloatware department
Leonovo will add $7.3 million into a $1M fund settling a class action lawsuit over their undisclosed pre-installation of Superfish's targeting adware on 28 different laptop models in 2014.
Within one year the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had warned that the adware made laptops vulnerable to SSL spoofing, allowing the reading of encrypted web traffic and the redirecting of traffic from official websites to spoofs, while according to Bloomberg the original software itself also "could access customer Social Security numbers, financial data, and sensitive heath information, the court said." An anonymous reader quotes Softpedia:
According to a "SuperFish Vulnerability" advisory published by Lenovo on their support website following the discovery of the pre-installed software by consumers, the VisualDiscovery comparison search engine software was designed to work in the background, intercepting HTTP(S) traffic with the help of a self-signed root certificate that allowed it to decrypt and monitor all traffic, encrypted or not.... "VisualDiscovery was installed on nearly 800,000 Lenovo laptops sold in the United States between September 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015," also states the settlement agreement. "On January 18, 2015, in response to mounting complaints about the effects of VisualDiscovery, Lenovo instructed Superfish to turn it off at the server level...."
Out of the 800,000 who bought the laptops that came with VisualDiscovery pre-installed, the 500,000 ones who registered their devices with Lenovo or bought them from retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon will be contacted directly by the Chinese company and informed about the settlement agreement. The rest of the customers who cannot be reached straightaway will be targeted by Lenovo using multiple online advertising platforms, from Google to Twitter and Facebook.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's little-bang-theory department
Chris Reeve writes: Wired Magazine is reporting that astronomers have since 2014 witnessed up to 100 possible instances of quasars transforming into galaxies over very short timespans, but the article leaves no hint of the trouble this spells for the Big Bang cosmology. The article begins, "Stephanie Lamassa did a double take. She was staring at two images on her computer screen, both of the same object — except they looked nothing alike... The quasar seemed to have vanished, leaving just another galaxy. That had to be impossible, she thought. Although quasars turn off, transitioning into mere galaxies, the process should take 10,000 years or more. This quasar appeared to have shut down in less than 10 years — a cosmic eyeblink."
What the Wired article fails to mention is that the short timespans vindicate the quasar ejection model proposed by Edwin Hubble's assistant, Halton Arp, who insisted that these objects must be considerably closer than the extreme distances inferred by their redshifts:
"The conclusion was very, very strong just from looking at this picture that these objects had been ejected from the central galaxy, and that they were initially at high redshift, and the redshift decayed as time went on. And therefore, we were looking at a physics that was operating in the universe in which matter was born with low mass and very high redshift, and it matured and evolved into our present form, that we were seeing the birth and evolution of galaxies in the universe."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's RISC-y-business department
"The Linux Foundation and RISC-V Foundation announced yesterday a joint collaboration project to promote open source development and commercial adoption of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA)," reports TechRepublic:
Though some devices that integrate RISC-V will use real-time operating systems rather than Linux, the use of Linux in development will be instrumental as existing tools are being extended to support the RISC-V ISA when developing software on traditional computers. "This joint collaboration with the Linux Foundation will enable the RISC-V Foundation to offer more robust support and educational tools for the active RISC-V community, and enable operating systems, hardware implementations and development tools to scale faster," said Rick O'Connor, executive director of the RISC-V Foundation, in a press release.
In many ways, RISC-V is a hardware equivalent to the open source principles that guide the Linux project, as the ISA is open source, is not subject to patent encumbrances, and is available under the BSD license. [L]icensing fees for Arm or MIPS ISAs -- both of which are fundamentally RISC in principle -- can be avoided by using RISC-V.... As alternatives like Alpha, SuperH, MIPS, and even Intel's own Itanium processors have fallen by the wayside, organizations using those ISAs in their products have had difficult adjustment periods transitioning away, while patent encumbrances largely prevent third parties from continuing development or providing drop-in replacements for those technologies. RISC-V's open nature prevents these issues, as it is possible for any organization to extend or customize their own implementation, and any organization can produce their own RISC-V processors.
Manufacturers like how RISC-V CPUs aren't restricted to a single manufacturer, according to the article, which points out that NVIDIA and Western Digital have both announced plans to use RISC-V in some upcoming products.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's yours-and-miners department
"Bitcoin miners hit hard by the cryptocurrency's crash may be throwing in the towel," reports Bloomberg:
The Bitcoin network's hash rate, one way of gauging the computing power dedicated to mining the digital currency, dropped about 24 percent from an all-time high at the end of August through Nov. 24, according to Blockchain.com. While the decline may have partially resulted from miners switching to other cryptocurrencies, JPMorgan Chase & Co. says some in the industry are losing money after Bitcoin's price tumbled. "This suggests that prices have declined to a point where mining is becoming uneconomical for some," JPMorgan strategists led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou wrote in a Nov. 23 report, in reference to the falling hash rate...
The break-even cost to mine a single Bitcoin using Bitmain's Antminer S9 rig was estimated at $7,000 in a Nov. 16 report by Fundstrat Global Advisors, though the level is probably lower for some miners with access to cheap electricity and equipment... A big miner shakeout could be bad news for chipmakers including Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Nvidia Corp. who supply the industry, along with mining-rig designers like Bitmain Technologies Ltd. that are pursuing initial public offerings.
The price of bitcoin dropped 37.4% just in the month of November -- its worst monthly decline in seven years, since August 2011 when it fell from roughly $8 to $4.80. And the decline in bitcoin also dragged down 24 of the top 25 largest cryptocurrencies, reports CoinDesk. "What's more, the average performance of the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization was -30 percent, while the average performance of all 25 was -37 percent..."
"The total capitalization of the cryptocurrency market has now lost over $690 billion and 83 percent of its value since reaching its all time high north of $820 billion this past January, according to CoinMarketCap."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's that's-a-lot-of-photons department
Astronomers have measured all the light from all the stars that have ever existed. "In total, the astronomers estimate, stars have radiated 4x1084 photons (a photon being the smallest unit of light)," reports The Guardian. "Or put another way: 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons." From the report: The astronomers based their calculation on measurements of the extragalactic background light (EBL), a cosmic fog of radiation that has been accumulating since stars first illuminated the dark, vast expanse of space. More than 90% of starlight ends up surviving in this dim backdrop of radiation. The latest observations, collected over nine years by Nasa's Fermi space telescope, use the light from blazars -- super-massive black holes that emit powerful jets of gamma rays -- as beacons to illuminate the cosmic fog.
In total, the team captured signals from 739 blazars -- some relatively close and some extremely distant, whose light was emitted in the ancient universe and has taken billions of years to arrive at Earth. Gamma-ray photons travelling through a fog of starlight have a high chance of being absorbed. So by taking blazars at different distances from the Earth and working out how much of their radiation had been lost along the way, the total starlight at different time periods could be ascertained. The researchers used a computer model to factor in the cosmic fog, which "is simultaneously being diluted as the universe expands and space itself is stretched out," the report mentions. "The measurements suggest that star formation peaked about 11 billion years ago and has been on the wane ever since. About seven new stars are created in our Milky Way galaxy every year."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's life-saving-tech department
Researchers in the Australian state of Tasmania are using a "virtual fence" system, consisting of alarm units mounted on posts along the side of a three-mile stretch of road, to reduce the number animals that get struck and killed by cars on a particularly deadly stretch of road. "These alarm units, around 80 feet apart, emit sounds and flashing lights to warn animals when a car is approaching," reports Digital Trends. "These do not distract drivers because the sound and light are directed to the edge of the road. They are also only loud and bright enough to be noticeable to wildlife in the immediate vicinity." From the report: "The virtual fence technology involves small devices, approximately the size of a mobile phone, mounted on a pole on the side of the road which are triggered by car headlights when they hit a sensor in the device," Samantha Fox, the researcher who led the project, told Digital Trends. "This sets off blue and yellow flashing lights and a high pitched siren. These together warn local wildlife that a car is coming, and give the animal time to move away from the road." Over the course of a three-year trial, the technology has reduced roadkill on one particular road by a massive 50 percent. On this stretch of road alone, this has meant saving the lives of around 200 animals, ranging from wombats to possums.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rest-in-peace department
George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, has passed away tonight at the age of 94. As The Washington Post reports, he was "the last veteran of World War II to serve as president, he was a consummate public servant and a statesman who helped guide the nation and the world out of a four-decade Cold War that had carried the threat of nuclear annihilation." From the report: Although Mr. Bush served as president three decades ago, his values and ethic seem centuries removed from today's acrid political culture. His currency of personal connection was the handwritten letter -- not the social media blast. He had a competitive nature and considerable ambition that were not easy to discern under the sheen of his New England politesse and his earnest generosity. He was capable of running hard-edge political campaigns, and took the nation to war. But his principal achievements were produced at negotiating tables.
Despite his grace, Mr. Bush was an easy subject for caricature. He was an honors graduate of Yale University who was often at a loss for words in public, especially when it came to talking about himself. Though he was tested in combat when he was barely out of adolescence, he was branded "a wimp" by those who doubted whether he had essential convictions. This paradox in the public image of Mr. Bush dogged him, as did domestic events. His lack of sure-footedness in the face of a faltering economy produced a nosedive in the soaring popularity he enjoyed after the triumph of the Persian Gulf War. In 1992, he lost his bid for a second term as president. Bush's spokesman Jim McGrath announced his death on Twitter, but didn't provide the case of death. In 2012, he announced that he had vascular Parkinsonism, which may have played a role in his passing.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's losses-and-gains department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: It's no secret that humans -- noisy, messy creatures that we are -- are vastly altering Earth's environments. But it's one thing to know this in the abstract, and another to see global changes laid out in detail, as they are in comprehensive new maps published this month in the International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation. Developed by geoscientist Tomasz Stepinski and his team at the University of Cincinnati's Space Informatics Lab (SPI), the intricate visualizations reveal that 22 percent of Earth's total landmass was altered between 1992 and 2015, mostly by humans. The most common change was forest loss due to agricultural development, and the second most common was the reverse -- farms to forests. The swift urbanization of grasslands, forests, and farms was also reflected in the maps.
Stepinski and his colleagues used satellite data collected by the European Space Agency's Climate Change Initiative, which included geospatial maps of land cover designed to monitor climate change. The team broke these maps into 81-kilometer-squared tracts and created a legend of color-coded tiles based on nine broad types of transitions that occurred between 1992 and 2015 (agriculture gains in yellow, forest losses in maroon, etc). The tiles are shaded to reflect the degree of change, with the lightest shade corresponding to regions altered by less than 10 percent, and dark patches representing regions that shifted by 30 percent or more. On a broad scale, the maps emphasize the massive influence of human activity on the planet. But the project has also revealed granular details about specific locations.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's major-concessions department
According to a new report from The Associated Press, a number of China's government officials and entities have had access to the location data of "new energy vehicles" from many different manufacturers. "More than 200 manufacturers (both national and foreign) transmit the data to 'government-backed monitoring centers,' according to the report, including one called 'The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center' and another known as the 'National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles,'" reports The Verge. From the report: Chinese officials told the AP that this data -- which includes the real-time location of cars, plus "dozens of other data points" -- is collected to "improve public safety" and "facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning." The officials say the data is also used to "prevent fraud" in the government's subsidy program for new energy vehicles, which offers steep discounts on clean cars. The monitoring systems have been in place since the beginning of 2017, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation from last year. Staffers at the data monitoring centers are able to look at a map, click on a car, and see things like make and model, mileage, and battery charge, according to the AP report.Read Replies (0)