By BeauHD from Slashdot's flip-of-a-switch department
NASA has switched its Curiosity rover over to its backup computer system after the main system started experiencing errors last month. "Many NASA spacecraft and surface missions have redundant systems built-in," reports ExtremeTech. "Once they've launched from Earth, there's no way to repair damage to critical systems, so it makes sense to double-up on the vital components. That includes Curiosity's computers, which were designed specifically for the harsh environment on Mars." From the report: The rover has a pair of identical brains running a 5-watt RAD750 CPU. This chip is part of the PowerPC 750 family, but it has been custom designed to survive high-radiation environments as you'd find on Mars or in deep space. These radiation-hardened CPUs cost $200,000 each, and NASA equipped the rover with two of them. Each computer also has 256 kB of EEPROM, 256 MB of DRAM, and 2 GB of flash memory. They run identical VxWorks real-time operating systems. When Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, it used the "Side-A" computer. However, just a year later in 2013 (Sol 200), the computer failed due to corrupted memory. The rover got stuck in a bootloop, which prevented it from processing commands and drained the batteries. NASA executed a swap to Side-B so engineers could perform remote diagnostics on Side-A. In the following months, NASA confirmed that part of Side-A's memory was unusable and quarantined it. They kept Curiosity on Side-B, though. With Side-B experiencing problems preventing the rover from storing key science and engineering data, NASA switched Curiosity back to Side-A while it investigates the problem, which it can only do when the other computer is active. "NASA hasn't said how much of Side-A's RAM is bad, and it only had 256MB to start, but the team does intend to move Curiosity operations back to Side-B if possible," the report adds. "For now, the mission is functioning normally on Side-A."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's safety-first department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert: A new study argues that we have Neanderthals to thank for helping us cope with the viral tides we encountered as we marched around the globe. Stanford University researchers have identified DNA sequences that evolved in our ancient cousins can produce antivirus proteins, which more than likely gave some human populations the edge they needed to survive. Roughly 1 percent of our genome's coding was written in Neanderthal populations. But this is a broad average -- many families with African ancestry have zero, for instance, while other populations boast as much as 2 percent or more. So the question is how much of this difference comes down to the random drift of DNA being passed on around the globe, and how much is due to natural selection giving those with Neanderthal genes an advantage?
To build a case one way or another, the Stanford researchers put together a list of just over 4,500 virus-interacting proteins (VIP) made by our genome. These were all matched against a database of Neanderthal DNA that could be found in modern East Asian and European human populations, providing 152 VIP genes shared by both groups of human. Interestingly, all of these VIP genes were of a variety that interacted with RNA viruses -- pathogens that include influenza A, hepatitis C, and HIV. This isn't to say these viruses were problems for ancient humans, but rather that similar RNA viruses were more than likely prevalent enough to shape our evolution. The discovery supports a view of genetic exchange described as the 'poison-antidote' model.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's another-one-bites-the-dust department
South Korea's former president, Lee Myung-bak, was sentenced Friday to 15 years in prison for bribery and embezzlement. He will also have to pay $11.5 million in fines. NPR reports: Lee is the second South Korean leader convicted this year of charges of corruption and the fourth former president to be arrested for corruption since the 1990s. Prior to entering politics, Lee had been an executive at Hyundai and campaigned on a promise to help South Korea's economy grow. Lee served as president of South Korea from 2008 until 2013. A court ruled Friday that before and during his presidency Lee accepted $5.4 million in bribes from Samsung, South Korea's largest conglomerate.
In exchange, Lee had granted a presidential pardon to Lee Kun-hee, Samsung's chairman, who had been convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion. The conviction had forced Lee Kun-hee to resign from Samsung in 2008; he returned to work at the company shortly after receiving the presidential pardon. The court also found that former president Lee disguised his ownership of a lucrative auto-parts maker under the names of his relatives and embezzled 24 billion Korean won from the company, according to The New York Times. Samsung later offered to pay legal fees for a court case involving the auto-parts company. Lee, who did not appear in court on Friday, denied the charges. "During the hearings, he shifted the blame to his aides, accusing them of committing the crimes for their own profit and conspiring against him," Judge Chung Kae-seon said on Friday, according to The Times.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's deal-or-no-deal department
Honda has reportedly walked away from a deal with Alphabet's Waymo to jointly develop autonomous vehicles earlier this year. Instead, Honda bought into Cruise, the self-driving car startup whose majority shareholder is General Motors. Bloomberg reports on the possible reasons why the deal fell through: For one, Waymo wasn't willing to share the substantial technology it had already developed to run autonomous vehicles, and was seeking to cut a deal that would focus on Honda providing the cars, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because the talks were private. Essentially, Waymo wanted to be the brains and have Honda be the brawn in the relationship.
One person familiar with the talks said that Waymo wanted Honda to supply electric vehicles -- an area where the automaker is just beginning to establish itself. All of Waymo's existing partnerships supply EVs or plug-in hybrids because its autonomous driving system needs more power than the puny 12-volt batteries in conventional cars. After starting talks with Honda in late 2016, Honda told Waymo it was working on an EV for the partnership that would compete with Tesla Inc.'s Model 3. But by December of last year, Waymo was concerned about progress toward that goal and Honda went shopping for battery packs to power the vehicle, the person said.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spying-televisions department
After it was revealed that Vizio was tracking customers' viewing habits and sharing that data with advertisers, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the company. Now, Ars Technica is reporting that "lawyers representing Vizio TV owners have asked a federal judge in Orange County, California to sign off on [the settlement] with the company for $17 million, for an affected class of 16 million people, who must opt-in to get any money." The company "also agrees to delete all data that it collected." From the report: Notice of the lawsuit will be shown directly on the Vizio Smart TVs, three separate times, as well as through paper mailings. When it's all said and done, new court filings submitted on Thursday say each of those 16 million people will get a payout of somewhere between $13 and $31. By contrast, their lawyers will collectively earn a maximum payout of $5.6 million in fees.
Eventually, the company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission. However, this new settlement is related to an entirely separate lawsuit, one that was consolidated in federal court in southern California. This $17 million amount is more than Vizio made by licensing the data collected, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's era-of-fake-news department
TechCrunch's security editor, Zack Whittaker, analyzes Bloomberg's recent report that China infiltrated Apple, Amazon and others via a tiny microchip inserted into servers at the data centers associated with these companies. With Apple and Amazon refuting Bloomberg's claims, Whittaker talks about the "murky world of national security reporting" and the difficulties of reporting stories of this magnitude with anonymous sources. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from his report: Today's bombshell Bloomberg story has the internet split: either the story is right, and reporters have uncovered one of the largest and jarring breaches of the U.S. tech industry by a foreign adversary or it's not, and a lot of people screwed up. Welcome to the murky world of national security reporting. I've covered cybersecurity and national security for about five years, most recently at CBS, where I reported exclusively on several stories -- including the U.S. government's covert efforts to force tech companies to hand over their source code in an effort to find vulnerabilities and conduct surveillance. And last year I revealed that the National Security Agency had its fifth data breach in as many years, and classified documents showed that a government data collection program was far wider than first thought and was collecting data on U.S. citizens. Even with this story, my gut is mixed.
< article continued at Slashdot's era-of-fake-news department
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By msmash from Slashdot's fun-story-of-the-week department
An anonymous reader shares a report: When Anand Kalelkar started a new job at a large insurance company, colleagues flooded him with instant messages and emails and rushed to introduce themselves in the cafeteria. He soon learned his newfound popularity came with strings attached. Strings of code. Many of Mr. Kalelkar's co-workers had heard he was a wizard at Microsoft Excel and were seeking his help in taming unruly spreadsheets and pivot tables gone wrong. [...] Excel buffs are looking to lower their profiles. Since its introduction in 1985 by Microsoft Corp., the spreadsheet program has grown to hundreds of millions of users world-wide. It has simplified countless office tasks once done by hand or by rudimentary computer programs, streamlining the work of anyone needing to balance a budget, draw a graph or crunch company earnings. Advanced users can perform such feats as tracking the expenditures of thousands of employees. At the same time, it has complicated the lives of the office Excel Guy or Gal, the virtuosos whose superior skills at writing formula leave them fighting an endless battle against the circular references, merged cells and mangled macros left behind by their less savvy peers. "If someone tells you that they âjust have a few Excel sheets' that they want help with, run the other way," tweeted 32-year-old statistician Andrew Althouse. "Also, you may want to give them a fake phone number, possibly a fake name. It may be worth faking your own death, in extreme circumstances." The few Excel sheets in question, during one recent encounter, turned out to have 400 columns each, replete with mismatched terms and other coding no-nos, said Mr. Althouse, who works at the University of Pittsburgh. The project took weeks to straighten out.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's aggressive-expansion department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Arabella. Lark & Roe. Mae. NuPro. Small Parts. You might not know it from their names, but these brands all belong to Amazon. Amazon's private label business is booming, on pace to generate $7.5 billion this year and $25 billion by 2022, according to estimates from investment firm SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. To accelerate that growth, the company is inviting manufacturers to create products exclusively for its collection of private brands. The "Amazon Accelerator Program" is hiring a senior product manager for private brands, CNBC reported. The job listing invites applicants to "invent and Think Big to take an idea from concept to reality for Amazon customers." Duties include managing and planning inventory, identifying business opportunities, and working across a wide swath of Amazon divisions, including consumables, Prime Pantry, Prime Fresh, Prime Now, and Amazon Go. Another job listing spotted by CNBC, for a private brands program leader, notes that the "Private Brands team is rapidly expanding and is looking for an exceptional product leader to grow the business." Brands created through the accelerator will be exclusive to Amazon, but not owned by it, the company said. Further reading: Amazon is Stuffing Its Search Results Pages With Ads.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's other-shoe-drops department
Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a story on Thursday which claimed that data center equipments run by Amazon Web Services and Apple were subject to surveillance from the Chinese government via a tiny microchip inserted during the equipment manufacturing process. Both Amazon and Apple have vehemently refuted Bloomberg's reporting. Bloomberg's reporters, who have spent more than a year on the story and have cited 17 sources for the claims they make in it, have doubled down. In a new story, the news outlet reports that Supermicro was the target of at least two additional forms of attack. This report claims that Facebook was aware of these attacks, too, which has confirmed it. From the story: The first of the other two prongs involved a Supermicro online portal that customers used to get critical software updates, and that was breached by China-based attackers in 2015. The problem, which was never made public, was identified after at least two Supermicro customers downloaded firmware -- software installed in hardware components -- meant to update their motherboards' network cards, key components that control communications between servers running in a data center. The code had been altered, allowing the attackers to secretly take over a server's communications, according to samples passed around at the time among a small group of Supermicro customers. One of these customers was Facebook. "In 2015, we were made aware of malicious manipulation of software related to Supermicro hardware from industry partners through our threat intelligence industry sharing programs," Facebook said in an emailed statement. "While Facebook has purchased a limited number of Supermicro hardware for testing purposes confined to our labs, our investigations reveal that it has not been used in production, and we are in the process of removing them." The victims considered the faulty code a serious breach. Further reading: Bloomberg's spy chip story reveals the murky world of national security reporting.Read Replies (0)