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'The Big Bang Theory' Is Finally Ending
Posted by News Fetcher on August 25 '18 at 09:31 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's big-bangs-versus-whimpers department:
"The Big Bang Theory is dead. If you need me, I'll be dancing on its grave," writes a TV columnist for the Guardian:
The inexplicably popular geek sitcom has announced that its 12th season will be its last. Its demise should come as a relief to everybody... Producers have promised an "epic creative close" when the series ends in May. After that, The Big Bang Theory will be dead, and nobody will be sad. Except, of course, they will. Because, inexplicably, The Big Bang Theory is still one of the most-watched shows on U.S. television. It regularly gets more than 15 million viewers an episode, and, statistically, not all of them can be incapacitated to the point of being unable to change channels whenever it comes on.
Nothing confuses me more than The Big Bang Theory's success. It has always been markedly less smart than it thought it was; the TV version of someone wearing a "GEEK" T-shirt because they liked a Facebook post about the moon once.... Watch any recent episode of The Big Bang Theory and you'll see that it is barely even a sitcom at this point. It has been going on for so long that the writing, presentation and performances are more or less autonomous. Everyone is just glumly going through the motions, stuck in the tracks they've carved out for themselves over the years. It's like watching a museum exhibit of a sitcom made with mannequins and miserable circus bears.
The actor who plays Sheldon will be 46 when the show ends, the columnist points out, adding that for 12 years he's been playing "a weirdly ageless man-boy trapped in a developmentally arrested closed-loop flatshare scenario more suited to somebody half his age." The Guardian titled their piece "Our Long Nightmare is Finally Over" -- but leave your own thoughts in the comments.
How do you feel about the ending of The Big Bang Theory?

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Russian Trolls Tried -- and Failed -- To Push Divisive Content On Vaccines
Posted by News Fetcher on August 25 '18 at 08:10 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's thinking-of-the-children department:
Russian trolls "seem to be using vaccination as a wedge issue, promoting discord in American society," according to a new study shared by long-time Slashdot reader skam240.
"The topic became another issue the Russian trolls seized upon to widen existing rifts in America and turn citizens against each other," reports NBC News.
But Fortune reports there's more to the story:
While the latest study highlights how Russian outfits have increasingly used social media to toy with people's emotions to influence their behavior, it's also notable for the fact that most Twitter users appeared to have ignored its anti-vaccine messages... Outside of the Russian trolls, virtually no real Twitter users actually responded to the messages, said the paper's author David Broniatowski, an assistant professor in at George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Science. Generally, Russian trolls try to exploit controversial topics like religion, and race and class division, but "sometimes they get it hilariously wrong," he said.
Broniatowski attributed the campaign's failure to the content of the tweets, which included: "VaccinateUS mandatory #vaccines infringe on constitutionally protected religious freedoms;" "Did you know there was a secret government database of #vaccine-damaged children? #VaccinateUS;" and "Dont get #vaccines. Iluminati are behind it. #VaccinateUS." The messages were so far-fetched that even people who believe in conspiracy theories chose to ignore them.

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America's Energy Department Works With Bill Gates To Test Mini Nuclear Reactors
Posted by News Fetcher on August 25 '18 at 06:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Clippy-not-included department:
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Examiner:
The Energy Department is participating in a major push with electric utility Southern and a company founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to develop small nuclear power reactors that are less expensive and more efficient than their much larger cousins. "Molten salt reactors are getting a reboot," the Energy Department tweeted late Wednesday, offering a schematic of a battery-like power plant module that "could power America's energy"... The Department of Energy linked to a detailed description of how its Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other federal labs are teaming up with Southern Company, a big coal utility with several nuclear plants, and Gates' TerraPower to test and develop a type of reactor that uses liquefied sodium "as both coolant and fuel."
These liquid-metal reactors are sometimes referred to as nuclear batteries because they are small, self-contained units, which theoretically can be deployed anywhere, although the version being tested at Oak Ridge appears to be one requiring a permanent structure and housing. TerraPower was awarded a $40 million award by the Energy Department in 2016 to pursue the project.
Currently it's in the "early design phase" to assess commercial viability, but testing will begin in 2019, "which will help validate the reactor's safety systems for license certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission."

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No, a Teen Did Not Hack a State Election
Posted by News Fetcher on August 25 '18 at 04:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Headlines from Def Con, a hacking conference held this month in Las Vegas, might have left some thinking that infiltrating state election websites and affecting the 2018 midterm results would be child's play. Articles reported that teenage hackers at the event were able to "crash the upcoming midterm elections" and that it had taken "an 11-year-old hacker just 10 minutes to change election results." A first-person account by a 17-year-old in Politico Magazine described how he shut down a website that would tally votes in November, "bringing the election to a screeching halt." But now, elections experts are raising concerns that misunderstandings about the event -- many of them stoked by its organizers -- have left people with a distorted sense of its implications. From a report: In a website published before r00tz Asylum, the youth section of Def Con, organizers indicated that students would attempt to hack exact duplicates of state election websites, referring to them as "replicas" or "exact clones." (The language was scaled back after the conference to simply say "clones.") Instead, students were working with look-alikes created for the event that had vulnerabilities they were coached to find. Organizers provided them with cheat sheets, and adults walked the students through the challenges they would encounter. Josh Franklin, an elections expert formerly at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and a speaker at Def Con, called the websites "fake." "When I learned that they were not using exact copies and pains hadn't been taken to more properly replicate the underlying infrastructure, I was definitely saddened," Franklin said. Franklin and David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, also pointed out that while state election websites report voting results, they do not actually tabulate votes. This information is kept separately and would not be affected if hackers got into sites that display vote totals.

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Teenaged YouTube 'Counter-Strike' Star Dies, Kills Two In Fiery Wrong-Way Highway Crash
Posted by News Fetcher on August 25 '18 at 02:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tragic department:
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports:
The 18-year-old who sped the wrong way down state Route 805 Thursday, crashing into a SUV and killing himself, a 12-year-old girl and her mother, was a YouTube star who had made a small fortune in video gaming gambling, according to authorities and hundreds of gaming fans on Twitter. The California Highway Patrol identified him Friday as Trevor Heitmann of San Diego. But the nearly 900,000 subscribers to his YouTube video channel and his Twitter followers knew him as "McSkillet"...
Kevin Hitt, editor in chief of VPesport.com online gaming news outlet, said Valve, under constraints from the state of Washington gambling commission, confiscated about $200,000 worth of McSkillet's skins and shut down his ability to acquire more.
VPEsports reports:
Heitmann was one of the biggest names in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) skin trading when in late 2017, Valve, developers of CSGO, banned all of Heitmann's Steam platform accounts, shutting down his entire skin trading and collecting empire... The ban by Valve precluded Heitmann from being able to unbox, gamble, or trade skins which directly affected his ability to monetize his YouTube videos which saw viewer counts anywhere between 250,000 to 4.3 million. He hasn't posted a video since....
Before the fatal crash, Heitmann purposely drove his vehicle into the Ashley Falls Elementary School front gate that had a sign on the front that had the word "STEAM" printed on it in reference to a magnet program which supports science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. After breaking a window, he then drove onto the soccer field, spinning his car in circles a couple of times before leaving.
< article continued at Slashdot's tragic department >

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Elon Musk Says Investors Convinced Him Tesla Should Stay Public
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 08:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-heart department:
Weeks after Tesla CEO Elon Musk expressed his intentions to take his company private, on late Friday, he said investors have convinced him that he shouldn't take the company private, so the firm will remain on the public stock markets. From a report: The eccentric and sometimes erratic CEO said in a statement late Friday that he made the decision based on feedback from shareholders, including institutional investors, who said they have internal rules limiting how much they can sink into a private company. Musk met with the electric car and solar panel company's board on Thursday to tell them he wanted to stay public and the board agreed, according to the statement. In a blog post, Mr. Musk shared the rationale behind his decision, to which he arrived after speaking with investors, both large and small, banks and others. He said: Given the feedback I've received, it's apparent that most of Tesla's existing shareholders believe we are better off as a public company. Additionally, a number of institutional shareholders have explained that they have internal compliance issues that limit how much they can invest in a private company. There is also no proven path for most retail investors to own shares if we were private. Although the majority of shareholders I spoke to said they would remain with Tesla if we went private, the sentiment, in a nutshell, was "please don't do this." I knew the process of going private would be challenging, but it's clear that it would be even more time-consuming and distracting than initially anticipated. This is a problem because we absolutely must stay focused on ramping Model 3 and becoming profitable. We will not achieve our mission of advancing sustainable energy unless we are also financially sustainable. That said, my belief that there is more than enough funding to take Tesla private was reinforced during this process.

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Epic's First Fortnite Installer Allowed Hackers To Covertly Download and Install Anything on Users' Android Phones, Google Researchers Say
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 06:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-is-the-experiment-going-buddy?-Love-Google. department:
Epic decided to ditch Google Play Store for its sleeper hit Fortnite. By doing so, while Epic may have saved some money that it would have had to split with Google, it also ran into an issue that it could have avoided had it not parted ways with Google. AndroidCentral reports: Google has just publicly disclosed that it discovered an extremely serious vulnerability in Epic's first Fortnite installer for Android that allowed any app on your phone to download and install anything in the background, including apps with full permissions granted, without the user's knowledge. Google's security team first disclosed the vulnerability privately to Epic Games on August 15, and has since released the information publicly following confirmation from Epic that the vulnerability was patched. [...] When you go to download "Fortnite" you don't actually download the whole game, you download the Fortnite Installer first. The Fortnite Installer is a simple app that you download and install, which then subsequently downloads the full Fortnite game directly from Epic. The problem, as Google's security team discovered, was that the Fortnite Installer was very easily exploitable to hijack the request to download Fortnite from Epic and instead download anything when you tap the button to download the game. It's what's known as a "man-in-the-disk" attack.

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Linux Turns 27
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 05:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's godspeed department:
It's been 27 years since Linus Torvalds let a group of people know about his "hobby" OS. OMGUbuntu blog writes: Did you know that Linux, like Queen Elizabeth II, actually has two birthdays? Some FOSS fans consider the first public release of (prototype) code, which dropped on October 5, 1991, as more worthy of being the kernel's true anniversary date. Others, ourselves included, take today, August 25, as the "birth" date of the project. And for good reason. This is the day on which, back in 1991, a young Finnish college student named Linus Torvalds sat at his desk to let the folks on comp.os.minix newsgroup know about the "hobby" OS he was working on. The "hobby OS" that wouldn't, he cautioned, be anything "big" or "professional." Even as Linux continues to have lion's share in the enterprise world, it has only managed to capture a tiny fraction of the consumer space. Further reading: Ask Slashdot: Whatever Happened To the 'Year of Linux on Desktop'? Which Linux-based distro do you use? What changes, if any, would you like to see in it in the next three years?

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Massive Recall of Homeopathic Kids' Products Spotlights Dubious Health Claims
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 05:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement that the homeopathic drug company King Bio is recalling 32 of its children's pain-relievers. According to the FDA, a "small percentage" of those products tested positive for bacterial contamination during regular, random testing by King Bio. From a report: The announcement does not provide any specifics about the contamination or potential risks. However, the North Carolina-based manufacturer behind the recall, King Bio, issued a similar announcement back in July. At that time, the company recalled three other products after an FDA inspection found batches contaminated with the bacteria Pseudomonas brenneri, Pseudomonas fluorescens, and Burkholderia multivorans. Pseudomonas brenneri is a bacterium recently found in natural mineral waters, and its clinical significance is murky. However, Pseudomonas fluorescens is known to be an opportunistic pathogen, causing blood infections, and Burkholderia multivorans can cause infections in people with compromised immune systems and cystic fibrosis. It was also recently found to be a rare but emerging cause of meningitis. King Bio did not respond to Ars' request for comment on the contamination, its potential source, or the company's actions to prevent further contamination. Homeopathic products, as Ars readers are likely familiar, are those based on a pseudoscientific belief that substances generating similar symptoms to an ailment can cure that ailment, aka the "law of similars." The potentially dangerous substances are generally safe to consume because homeopaths believe that "vigorous shaking" and excessive dilution -- often to the point where no atoms of the original substance remain -- make them more effective. As King Bio puts it, this preparation "potentizes" the substances. King Bio told the FDA that the items of concern were a group of various over-the-counter remedies produced between August 1, 2017 and April 2018.

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Airbnb Sues New York City To Block User-Data Bill Over Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 04:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
Airbnb has filed a lawsuit against the city of New York over a recent law the city passed, requiring the home-sharing site to hand over information about its hosts. From a report: The company is hoping to avoid millions in losses when the law, designed to police short-term home rentals, takes effect this winter. The New York City legislation, which passed with a 45-0 vote, would require Airbnb to share the names and addresses of its hosts with the city's Office of Special Enforcement. "The ordinance is an unlawful end-run around established restraints on governmental action and violates core constitutional rights," the company said in a claim filed in New York court on Friday. New York, which faces an affordable housing shortage, has struggled with how to enforce regulations to control Airbnb and other home-sharing services like Expedia's HomeAway. Regulators argue that short-term rentals, which can be more profitable than long-term leases, disrupt neighborhoods and drive up rents. The new legislation is designed to give officials enough information to catch Airbnb hosts who operate outside of strict home-sharing laws.

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Senators Demand Voting Machine Vendor Explain Why It Dismisses Researchers Prodding Its Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 02:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's holding-accountable department:
Four US senators, members of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter on Wednesday to Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the largest voting machine vendor in the US, asking for clarifications on why the vendor is trying to discourage independent security reviews of its products. From a report: The four senators who signed the letter are Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and James Lankford (R-OK). The senators sent the letter to ES&S following the conclusion of the Voting Village at the DEF CON 26 security conference held in Las Vegas at the start of the month, where security researchers found several security vulnerabilities in the company's products. "We are disheartened that ES&S chose to dismiss these demonstrations as unrealistic and that your company is not supportive of independent testing," the letter reads. "Many of the world's leading electronics and software companies have opened their arms to the research community, maintaining active presences at the largest security research conferences and inviting 'white hat' hackers to probe their products to identify how they can improve product security," the letter continued. At DEF CON, security researchers found vulnerabilities in the voting machines of other vendors. Only ES&S is mentioned in the senators' letter because of the company's dismissive approach to external security research.

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Google Might Be Hiding the Fact That Its Own Reviews Are Shoddy
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 02:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's my-way-or-highway department:
Google appears to have quietly purged its own user-generated review content from its search results. From a report: This is significant, critics of Google say, because it obscures the fact that Google's search engine judges the company's own reviews poorly. Google's search engine ranks content by relevance and quality, and Google's review content previously showed up deep into the search results, far from the first page of links that takes most of the clicks. A Google spokesperson disagreed that the review content was "de-indexed," simply noting that because Google reviews don't currently live on a web page, they are not displayed as web results. Given that reviews once showed up in regular Google search results and now do not, it follows that the reviews were moved from a web page to the Maps platform, whose code prevents search engines from crawling it. What was once searchable is now not searchable, something Google did not explain. As a result, Google reviews do not have to rank highly in search engines. Instead, the Google snippet -- the map and reviews box above the standard search result -- allows the company to capture clicks that would otherwise flow off the platform to whatever website had the best result in the algorithm made by the search team down the hall at Mountain View deemed as the best.

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China Shuts Down Blockchain News Accounts on WeChat App, Bans Hotels in Beijing From Hosting Cryptocurrency Events
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-crackdown department:
China has shut down numerous blockchain-related news accounts on the WeChat social app, and banned hotels in downtown Beijing from hosting events promoting cryptocurrencies, in a renewed crackdown on activities related to the digital money. From a report: At least eight blockchain and cryptocurrency-focused online media outlets -- some of which raised several million dollars in venture capital -- found their official public accounts on WeChat blocked on Tuesday evening, due to violations against new regulations from China's top internet watchdog. Tencent, operator of WeChat, said in a statement that it has shut down these accounts permanently as they are "suspected of publishing information related to ICOs [initial coin offerings] and speculations on cryptocurrency trading." It cited regulations enacted earlier this month by the Cyberspace Administration of China, which, among other things, demand content providers within chat apps comply with "national interests" and "public orders."

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Europe To Ban Halogen Lightbulbs
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 01:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's taking-a-stand department:
After nearly 60 years of brightening homes and streets, halogen lightbulbs will finally be banned across Europe on 1 September. From a report: The lights will dim gradually for halogen. Remaining stocks may still be sold, and capsules, linear and low voltage incandescents used in oven lights will be exempted. But a continent-wide switchover to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is underway that will slash emissions and energy bills, according to industry, campaigners and experts. LEDs consume one-fifth of the energy of halogen bulbs and their phase-out will prevent more than 15m tonnes of carbon emissions a year, an amount equal to Portugal's annual electricity usage. Philips, the lighting manufacturer estimates consumer savings of up to 112 pound ($144) a year from the switchover because LEDs last much longer than halogens and use far less power.

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Japan Wants To Bring Flying Cars To Its Skies
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's plain-and-simple department:
Japan is making a push to develop flying cars, enlisting companies including Uber and Boeing in a government-led group to bring airborne vehicles to the country in the next decade. From a report: The group will initially comprise 21 businesses and organizations, including Airbus, NEC, a Toyota Motor-backed startup called Cartivator, ANA, Japan Airlines, and Yamato, according to a statement Friday from the trade ministry in Tokyo. Delegates will gather Aug. 29 to help chart a road map this year, it said. "The Japanese government will provide appropriate support to help realize the concept of flying cars, such as creation of acceptable rules," the ministry said. Flying cars that can zoom over congested roads are closer to reality than many people think. Startups around the world are pursuing small aircraft, which were until recently only in the realm of science fiction. With Japanese companies already trailing their global peers in electric vehicles and self-driving cars, the government is showing urgency on the aircraft technology, stepping in to facilitate legislation and infrastructure to help gain leadership.

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Trump Accuses Social Media Firms of 'Silencing Millions'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
U.S. President Donald Trump accused social media companies on Friday of silencing "millions of people" in an act of censorship, but without offering evidence to support the claim. From a report: "Social Media Giants are silencing millions of people. Can't do this even if it means we must continue to hear Fake News like CNN, whose ratings have suffered gravely. People have to figure out what is real, and what is not, without censorship!" Trump wrote on Twitter, not mentioning any specific companies. Trump also criticized social media outlets last week, saying without providing proof that unidentified companies were "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices."

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Amazon Warehouse Envoys Rally To Tweet Upbeat Comments About Working Conditions
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's positive-PR department:
Amazon has been criticized for years by activists and labor unions for working conditions in its warehouses. So it caught the eye of a Seattle Times journalist when he saw several people, all of which created account recently, tweet positive things about their work experience at Amazon's warehouse. The report says: A group of more than a dozen Amazon Twitter users in the last two weeks started responding to critics of the company on the social media site, sharing upbeat tales of their working conditions and pay at Amazon's distribution network. Identified by first names and "Amazon FC Ambassador," they each opened a Twitter account this month, are unfailingly polite, and pepper emojis into conversations about the generosity of their benefits packages and job satisfaction at Amazon's fulfillment centers, the company's term for its sprawling warehouses. [...] Amazon's Twitter legion, though small, appears to represent a new front in the company's effort to portray itself as a generous employer. The company has been criticized for years by activists and labor unions for working conditions in its warehouses, with media reports finding the company failed to provide air conditioning at some facilities during the summer, and set work quotas that could exceed employees' ability to keep up.

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Woman Sues US Border Agents Over Seized iPhone
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-for-your-rights department:
An American woman who had her phone seized by border agents as she returned home to the United States is suing the country's border protection agency. Bob the Super Hamste shares a report: Rejhane Lazoja was stopped at Newark airport, New Jersey, after returning from a trip to Switzerland in February. Her iPhone was seized by agents after she refused to unlock it for them. The lawsuit alleges that border agents took a copy of the data on her smartphone and failed to say whether it had been deleted. According to legal documents, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) kept the phone for more than 120 days before returning it to Ms Lazoja, who is a Muslim woman and wears a hijab. [...] "Neither was there probable cause, nor a warrant [to search the phone]. Therefore, the search and seizure of Ms Lazoja's property violated her rights under the Fourth Amendment," the filing says.

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Scientists Deliver a Longer-Lasting Lithium-Oxygen Battery
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Packing more energy into batteries is the key to delivering electric cars with longer range, smartphones that can last days -- and cheaper electronic products all around. Lithium-oxygen batteries represent one of the more promising paths toward that end. From a report: They could boost energy density by an order of magnitude above conventional lithium-ion batteries -- in theory, at least. In a paper published this week in Science journal, researchers at the University of Waterloo identified ways of addressing some of the major hurdles to converting that potential into commercial reality. A critical problem has been that as a lithium-oxygen battery discharges, oxygen is converted into superoxide and then lithium peroxide, reactive compounds that corrode the battery's components over time. That, in turn, limits its recharging ability -- and any real-world utility. To get around the problem, researchers switched from a carbon cathode to one made of nickel oxide and supported by a stainless steel mesh. They also used molten salt for the electrolyte -- the part of the battery that allows positively charged ions to move between the electrodes -- and raised the battery's operating temperature to 150C. Those steps made it possible to achieve about three times the number of charging cycles as earlier lithium-oxygen efforts. The researchers also managed to increase the energy per unit of mass by more than 50 percent.

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Bitdefender Disables Anti-Exploit Monitoring in Chrome After Google Policy Change
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
secwatcher shares a report: Last week we reported that Chrome has started displaying alerts more often that suggest users remove programs that are considered incompatible applications with Chrome because they inject code into the browser's processes. These alerts are displayed by Chrome after the browser crashes and suggest the user remove the listed programs because "this application could prevent Chrome from working properly." One of the programs that a lot of users have seen listed in these alerts and is suggested to be removed is the Bitdefender antivirus program as shown above. Having a well known company like Google telling users to remove a security solution is a problem as these programs are important for many users to have installed on their computers in order to protect them from malware, unwanted programs, and malicious websites. Due to these alerts and their suggestion to remove the antivirus software, Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst for Bitdefender, has told Bleeping Computer that as of August 20th, Bitdefender is no longer monitoring Chrome 66 and later with their anti-exploit technology.

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