By EditorDavid from Slashdot's can't-see-the-forest department
"There are about 21 million acres of trees spread across California's 18 national forests, and the latest figures show 7.7 million of them -- more than one-third -- are dead." An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle:
California's lingering drought has pushed the number of dead trees across the state past 100 million, an ecological event experts are calling dangerous and unprecedented in underlining the heightened risk of wildfires fueled by bone-dry forests. In its latest aerial survey released Friday, the U.S. Forest Service said 62 million trees have died this year in California, bringing the six-year total to more than 102 million.
Scientists blame five-plus years of drought on the increasing tree deaths -- tree "fatalities" increased by 100 percent in 2016 -- but the rate of their demise has been much faster than expected, increasing the risk of ecologically damaging erosion and wildfires even bigger than the largest blazes the state's seen this year.
An ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey says that on the bright side, this gives scientists a good chance to study how trees die.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's noxious-notifications department
"A number of popular Twitter accounts suddenly wanted to help you add more followers," joked Engadget. An anonymous reader writes:
Early Saturday morning, due to a breach of the Twitter Counter analytics service, the compromised Twitter accounts started posting images touting services that sell Twitter followers. The affected accounts include @PlayStation, @Viacom, @XboxSupport, @TheNewYorker, @TheNextWeb, and @Money (Time's finance magazine) as well as @NTSB (the National Transportation Safety Board) and @ICRC (the Red Cross), and the Twitter accounts of famous individuals include astronaut Leland Melvin, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, and actor Charlie Sheen. "We can confirm that our service has been hacked; allowing posts on behalf of our user," Twitter Counter posted Saturday, announcing minutes later that "hackers CANNOT post on our users' behalf anymore."
"Apologies for the spam, everyone," tweeted the account for Xbox support, adding "We're cleaning things up now."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's doing-no-evil department
Hundreds of Google users just lost access to their emails, photos, documents, "and anything else linked to their Google identity," writes the Guardian, reporting on "hundreds of people who took advantage of a loophole in US sales tax to make a small profit on Pixel phones" -- and got all of the Google accounts suspended. Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes:
"The Google customers had all bought the phones from the company's Project Fi mobile carrier, and had them shipped directly to a reseller in New Hampshire, a US state with no sales tax. In return, the reseller split the profit with the customers," the Guardian adds.
People might ask, in a hurt tone of voice, "why are you doing this to me?" To which the obvious answer is "because we can, and you agreed to these (link to 3000 pages of text) terms and conditions, including our ability to do this"... The only question has been "When?", never "If?"
One webmaster described Google's move as a "digital death penalty".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's watch-out-for-eagles department
What weighs 2,400 pounds, flies 100 miles per hour, and doesn't haven't a pilot? An anonymous reader writes:
This week Popular Science remembers a 2007 article which discovered "an amazing machine of the future, almost like a flying car, that seemed plausible but just out of reach" -- and reports that it's now finally performed "a full, autonomous flight on a preplanned route." Designed to provide unmanned emergency evacuations, it's been described as "a hovercar-like aircraft" flown with a built-in AI-controlled flight system.
Tuesday's route was two minutes long, and "According to Urban Aeronautics, the vehicle's Flight Control System made the decision to land too early." But what's significant is there's no human pilot. "Decisions by the flight controls are checked by the craft's flight management system, like a pilot overseen by a captain...all informed by an array of sensors, including 'two laser altimeters, a radar altimeter, inertial sensors, and an electro-optic payload camera.'"
The test brings the giant unmanned vehicle one step closer to its ultimate goal of becoming "a robot that can fly inside cities, weaving between buildings and hovering above any dangers on the ground below."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's intensive-interviews department
An anonymous reader summarizes the highlights of Fortune's new interview with Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst:
A recruiter told Whitehurst the culture at Red Hat was "a little bit like that Blues Brothers movie, when Dan Aykroyd says, 'We're on a mission from God.'" But Whitehurst says geeky passion "makes it a great place to be a part of," and even argues that the success of Microsoft in the 1990s can be attributed to its Microsoft Developer Network, which led developers into Microsoft's platform and infrastructure. "Developers now are heavily using open-source tools and technology and, bluntly, I think that's why Microsoft had to open source .NET and why they're embracing more open source in general. Because open source is where innovation is coming from and is what developers are consuming, it forces vendors to participate."
Looking towards the future, Whitehurst says "A rough line would be almost to say most infrastructure is going to be open source and most business functionality above it is going to be proprietary." And he also warns open source companies, "if you don't have the unique business model that allows you to add value on top of the free functionality, in the end you're going to fail... a lot of open source companies have come and gone because they've been more focused on the functionality versus how they add value around the functionality."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's phoning-home department
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer:
Security researchers have discovered that third-party firmware included with over 2.8 million low-end Android smartphones allows attackers to compromise Over-the-Air (OTA) update operations and execute commands on the target's phone with root privileges.
This is the second issue of its kind that came to light this week after researchers from Kryptowire discovered a similar secret backdoor in the firmware of Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology Co. Ltd.. This time around, the problem affected Android firmware created by another Chinese company named Ragentek Group.
It apparently affects more than 55 low-end/burner phones from BLU, Infinix Mobility, DOOGEE, LEAGOO, IKU Mobile, Beeline, and XOLO. According to the article, the binary performing the insecure updates "also includes code to hide its presence from the Android OS, along with two other binaries and their processes... Without SSL protection, this OTA system is an open backdoor for anyone looking to take control of it."
Even worse, three domains were hard-coded into the binaries, two of which were unregistered, according to the researchers. "If an adversary had noticed this, and registered these two domains, they would've instantly had access to perform arbitrary attacks on almost 3,000,000 devices without the need to perform a Man-in-the-Middle attack."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cows-eating-kelp department
Dave Knott writes:
A Canadian farmer has "helped lead to a researcher's discovery of an unlikely weapon in the battle against global warming: a seaweed that nearly eliminates the destructive methane content of cow burps and farts," reports the CBC. "Joe Dorgan began feeding his cattle seaweed from nearby beaches more than a decade ago as a way to cut costs... Then researcher Rob Kinley of Dalhousie University caught wind of it." He tested Dorgan's seaweed mix, discovering that it reduced the methane in the cows' burps and farts by about 20 per cent. "Kinley knew he was on to something, so he did further testing with 30 to 40 other seaweeds. That led him to a red seaweed Asparagopsis taxiformis he says reduces methane in cows burps and farts to almost nothing."
"Ruminant animals are responsible for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, so it's not a small number," said Kinley, an agricultural research scientist now working at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Queensland, Australia. "We're talking numbers equivalent to hundreds of millions of cars."
The researcher predicts a seaweed-based cow feed could be on the market within three to five years, according to the article. "He says the biggest challenge will be growing enough seaweed."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's XX-chromosomes department
greg65535 writes: In order to reduce its gender imbalance, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam will hold special election rounds, one in 2017 and one in 2018, for which only women can be nominated.
The plan "does not come at men's expense," argues the academy's president, Jose van Dijck, because all the regular election rounds for membership will also still continue as planned. Currently 13% of the academy's 556 members are women, a slightly higher percentage than the 10% at Germany's national science academy and the 6% in the U.K. The plan was proposed by two male board members and approved by a 73% majority, though ironically, the first female president of the U.S. National Academy of Science says "I don't think we would do that. Other people might feel that women elected this way somehow did not meet the same standards as their male counterparts, or even other women elected through the regular process."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's email-address-in-the-dashboard department
The author of the popular cURL utility has been receiving requests for help from frustrated car owners having difficulty with their infotainment systems... [B]ecause his email address is listed on the "about" screen, as required by the cURL license, some desperate users are reaching out to him in the hopes of finding a solution.
It sounds annoying to receive complaints like "why there delay between audio and video when connect throw Bluetooth and how to fix it." But though he rarely answers them, Stenberg writes that "I actually find these emails interesting, sometimes charming and they help me connect to the reality many people experience out there."
In a post titled "I have toyota corola," Stenberg says "I suspect my email address is just about the only address listed. This occasionally makes desperate users who have tried everything to eventually reach out to me. They can't fix their problem but since my email exists in their car, surely I can!"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's infinitely-more-sizes department
The Stack reports on Google's "new research into upscaling low-resolution images using machine learning to 'fill in' the missing details," arguing this is "a questionable stance...continuing to propagate the idea that images contain some kind of abstract 'DNA', and that there might be some reliable photographic equivalent of polymerase chain reaction which could find deeper truth in low-res images than either the money spent on the equipment or the age of the equipment will allow."
An anonymous reader summarizes their report:
Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution (RAISR) uses low and high resolution versions of photos in a standard image set to establish templated paths for upward scaling... This effectively uses historical logic, instead of pixel interpolation, to infer what the image would look like if it had been taken at a higher resolution.
It's notable that neither their initial paper nor the supplementary examples feature human faces. It could be argued that using AI-driven techniques to reconstruct images raises some questions about whether upscaled, machine-driven digital enhancements are a legal risk, compared to the far greater expense of upgrading low-res CCTV networks with the necessary resolution, bandwidth and storage to obtain good quality video evidence.
The article points out that "faith in the fidelity of these 'enhanced' images routinely convicts defendants."Read Replies (0)