By EditorDavid from Slashdot's starting-with-Seattle department
Vox reports on the hot new "vertical farming" startup Plenty:
The company's goal is to build an indoor farm outside of every city in the world of more than 1 million residents -- around 500 in all. It claims it can build a farm in 30 days and pay investors back in three to five years (versus 20 to 40 for traditional farms). With scale, it says, it can get costs down to competitive with traditional produce (for a presumably more desirable product that could command a price premium)... It has enormous expansion plans and a bank account full of fresh investor funding, but most excitingly, it is building a 100,000 square foot vertical-farming warehouse in Kent, Washington, just outside of Seattle... It recently got a huge round of funding ($200 million in July, the largest ag-tech investment in history), including some through Jeff Bezos's investment firm, so it has the capital to scale...; heck, it even lured away the director of battery technology at Tesla, Kurt Kelty, to be executive of operations and development...
The plants receive no sunlight, just light from hanging LED lamps. There are thousands of infrared cameras and sensors covering everything, taking fine measurements of temperature, moisture, and plant growth; the data is used by agronomists and artificial intelligence nerds to fine-tune the system... There are virtually no pests in a controlled indoor environment, so Plenty doesn't have to use any pesticides or herbicides; it gets by with a few ladybugs... Relative to conventional agriculture, Plenty says that it can get as much as 350 times the produce out of a given acre of land, using 1 percent as much water.
Though it may use less water and power, to be competitive with traditional farms companies like Plenty will also have to be "even better at reducing the need for human planters and harvesters," the article warns.
"In other words, to compete, it's going to have to create as few jobs as possible."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Simon-says department
The newly-relaunched Linux Journal just interviewed the Open Source Initiative's president, Simon Phipps. An anonymous reader summarizes the highlights:
Phipps collects no salary -- unlike the executive director of the Linux Foundation, who reportedly received over $300,000 in 2010. "We're a very small organization actually", Phipps said. "We have a board of directors of 11 people and we have one paid employee..." But he explains their importance by citing the controversy over Facebook's original licensing for React. "I think prior to that, people felt it was okay for there just to be a license and then for there to be arbitrary additional terms applied. I think that the consensus of the community has moved on from that."
Phipps is proud of the OSI's independence from corporate sponsors. "If you want to join a trade association, that's what the Linux Foundation is there for. You can go pay your membership fees and buy a vote there, but OSI is a 501(c)(3). That's means it's a charity that's serving the public's interest and the public benefit. It would be wrong for us to allow OSI to be captured by corporate interests." The article notes that most issues are resolved publicly, adding that one big concern is "freeware" -- proprietary software offered at no cost but erroenously marketed as open source. "In those cases, OSI definitely will reach out and contact the offending companies, and as Phipps says, 'We do that quite often, and we have a good track record of helping people understand why it's to their business disadvantage to behave in that way.'"
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's north-versus-south department
"One of several proposals aiming to split California into multiple smaller states has reportedly reached an important new goal thanks in large part to the efforts of its billionaire champion," writes schwit1. SFGate reports:
Venture capitalist Tim Draper, who previously pushed a proposal that would split California into six states, says that his three-state proposal has enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. On Thursday, Draper said in a statement that the "CAL 3" initiative has collected over 600,000 signatures from Californians who would like to see the state split into three. An initiative needs 366,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. "This is an unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity," Draper said.
The U.S. Congress would still need to approve the change -- and it's probably useful to remember what happened when Draper tried splitting California into six states. He ultimately turned in 1.3 million signatures for a ballot measure in 2014, "only to see nearly half of them disqualified.
"He ended up about 100,000 short of the valid signatures he needed."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mechanical-marches department
Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: U.S. and British troops have completed a first-of-its-kind exercise using robots for breaching a complex anti-tank/anti-personnel obstacle as part of what was titled the "Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration" at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The exercise included a number of robotic systems, including remotely controlled British Army Terrier engineering vehicles (five cameras, including thermal imaging), UAVs for reconnaissance and chemical agent detection, and the M58 Wolf under remote control and used to provide smoke screens...
British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp stated that breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, and that, "Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area... Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer." U.S. Army officer 1st Lt. Felix Derosin said, "As an engineer, this means a lot to me... The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers' lives."
The engineer added later that "Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it's pretty good."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's did-you-Yahoo? department
"Yahoo is now part of Oath and there is a new Privacy and Terms contract..." warns long-time Slashdot reader DigitalLogic. CNET reports:
Oath notes that it has the right to read your emails, instant messages, posts, photos and even look at your message attachments. And it might share that data with parent company Verizon, too... When you dig further into Oath's policy about what it might do with your words, photos, and attachments, the company clarifies that it's utilizing automated systems that help the company with security, research and providing targeted ads -- and that those automated systems should strip out personally identifying information before letting any humans look at your data. But there are no explicit guarantees on that.
The update also warns that Oath is now "linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends." For example, Oath "may analyze user content around certain interactions with financial institutions," and "leverages information financial institutions are allowed to send over email."
Oath does offer a "Privacy Controls" page which includes a "legacy" AOL link letting you opt-out of internet-based advertising that's been targeted "based on your online activities" -- but it appears to be functioning sporadically.
CNET also reports that now Yahoo users are agreeing to a class-action waiver and mutual arbitration. "What it means is if you don't like what the company does with your data, you'll have a hard time suing."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's one-phone-call-wasn't-enough department
An anonymous reader quotes the Wichita Eagle:
Tyler Barriss -- the man charged in a swatting hoax that led to the death of an innocent Wichita man -- apparently got access to the internet from jail for at least 28 minutes [last] Friday and threatened to swat again. "How am I on the Internet if I'm in jail? Oh, because I'm an eGod, that's how," a tweet posted at 9:05 a.m. said.
Other developments in the case:
Another tweet from the Barriss account 19 minutes later asked who was "talking shit," warning "your ass is about to get swatted." And nine minutes later his final tweet from jail bragged, "Y'all should see how much swag I got in here." The county sheriff's office blamed an outside vendor's improper software upgrade to an inmate kiosk, arguing that 14 inmates potentially had full internet access "for less than a few hours."
25-year-old Barris is still in jail facing an 11-year prison sentence, noted a Twitter user who responded to the tweets. "This will play well at sentencing when you're pretending to be remorseful and asking the judge for mercy."
Meanwhile, the Wichita police officer who mistakenly fired the fatal shot that killed a 28-year-old father of two will not face charges. The district attorney concluded that several of the officers closest to victim Andrew Finch thought he reached down to pull up his pants, leaving his right arm hidden from the officers, the Wichita Eagle reports. "The officer who fired the shot, along with some others, thought Finch was reaching for a gun."
"This shooting should not have happened," said the district attorney. "But this officer's decision was made in the context of the false call." Finch was shot 10 seconds after opening his front door, and his family's civil case against the police department is still going forward.
Two other gamers involved in the shooting -- including one who allegedly hired Barriss over a $1.50 bet in the game Call of Duty -- have not been charged with a crime.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Red-Hat-from-Raleigh department
On Tuesday Red Hat announced the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 7.5.
An anonymous reader writes: Serving as a consistent foundation for hybrid cloud environments, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5 provides enhanced security and compliance controls, tools to reduce storage costs, and improved usability, as well as further integration with Microsoft Windows infrastructure both on-premise and in Microsoft Azure. New features include a large combination of Ansible Automation with OpenSCAP, and LUKS-encrypted removable storage devices can be now automatically unlocked using NBDE. The Gnome shell has been re-based to version 3.26, the Kernel version is 3.10.0-862, and the kernel-alt packages include kernel version
4.14 with support for 64-bit ARM, IBM POWER9 (little endian), and IBM z Systems, while KVM virtualization is now supported on IBM POWER8/POWER9 systems.
See the detailed release notes here.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slice-and-dice department
The recently-released Apple HomePod smart speaker is not selling very well. According to Bloomberg, "By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec, one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple." From the report: At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike." During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's all-about-the-money department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA may make some big changes to the first couple flights of its future deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, after getting a recent funding boost from Congress to build a new launch platform. When humans fly on the rocket for the first time in the 2020s, they might ride on a less powerful version of the vehicle than NASA had expected. If the changes move forward, it could scale down the first crewed mission into deep space in more than 45 years. The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew -- a mission called EM-2.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's diminishing-returns department
In an April 10 report for biotech clients, Goldman Sachs analysts noted that one-shot cures for diseases are not great for business as they're bad for longterm profits. The investment banks' report, titled "The Genome Revolution," asks clients: "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" The answer may be "no," according to follow-up information provided. Slashdot reader tomhath shares the report from Ars Technica: Analyst Salveen Richter and colleagues laid it out: "The potential to deliver 'one shot cures' is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow."
For a real-world example, they pointed to Gilead Sciences, which markets treatments for hepatitis C that have cure rates exceeding 90 percent. In 2015, the company's hepatitis C treatment sales peaked at $12.5 billion. But as more people were cured and there were fewer infected individuals to spread the disease, sales began to languish. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the treatments will bring in less than $4 billion this year. [Gilead]'s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients," the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers -- where the "incident pool remains stable" -- are less risky for business.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's automated-plagiarism department
A report via Hacker Noon sheds some light on the practice of using bots to mass-produce videos for YouTube. The YouTube channel Breaking News Today, for example, constantly generates new videos from recent news sources, and posts as often as every few minutes. You can tell the videos are bot-produced because they always start off with a cringe-worthy 80's style intro, followed by a robotic voiceover and floating low quality images. From the report: Someone has effectively created a fully automated process running 24/7 that is taking and stripping recent articles, converting them into video format, and posting it on Youtube as their own. And while doing so, they take credit for it and reap all the rewardsâS -- such as revenue and influenceâS -- âSthat come with it. Some videos, especially the ones that gain momentum and get popular, even feature a large juicy ad on the bottom, in which Google displays and shares profits with. Sure, one video with a few thousand views isn't really that significant, but when you have hundreds of videos being pumped out week after week, you can see how quickly things can add up. And while many new videos are still awaiting their first dozen views, others are in the tens of thousands. One even amassed almost 50k views in just two days. In total, the channel's videos have been viewed more than 225,000 times just in the past month, with an average of around 8,000 views per day. Did I mention that there are more than just this one channel? There's also this one, and this one, both following the same concept. There's actually many, MANY more. There are few solutions to deal with this new type of fully automated plagiarism. While you can certainly down vote the videos and report them to YouTube if the uploader is infringing on your copyright, they will likely stay online for days racking up views and revenue before any action is taken. There's also no reason why the videos couldn't be uploaded to separate channels to fly under YouTube's radar.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's antiquated-practices department
Last year, all four major U.S. payment providers -- Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover -- announced plans to remove the requirement that merchants collect signatures for card transactions. Those plans officially go into effect today, or Saturday in the case of Visa. CNET reports: [D]on't despair if you actually like writing your signature at retail stores, because their ultimate demise will likely take a while. The change is only optional, with merchants, not customers, given the new power to decide whether to get rid of signatures. So, if asked to sign, please don't insist to your next cashier that you no longer need to -- it won't work. Also, plenty of retailers will likely want to keep signatures, particularly if their workers are paid based on a lot of tips, or they sell pricey items. Still, the change marks a clear awareness from payment providers that the signature doesn't really work as a strong protector against fraud. The change is being handled a little differently by each payment provider. For instance, Mastercard, Discover and American Express said they'll let retailers make every kind of card payment optional for a signature, regardless of whether you've got a new chip card or you still swipe. Visa, meanwhile, isn't changing its requirements for payments using a swipe card, but it did relax its policy for chip card and contactless payments like Apple Pay. Visa noted that over 75 percent of face-to-face transactions using its cards in North America already don't require a signature, thanks to lower-value transactions.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cocktail-party-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google researchers have developed a deep-learning system designed to help computers better identify and isolate individual voices within a noisy environment. As noted in a post on the company's Google Research Blog this week, a team within the tech giant attempted to replicate the cocktail party effect, or the human brain's ability to focus on one source of audio while filtering out others -- just as you would while talking to a friend at a party. Google's method uses an audio-visual model, so it is primarily focused on isolating voices in videos. The company posted a number of YouTube videos showing the tech in action.
The company says this tech works on videos with a single audio track and can isolate voices in a video algorithmically, depending on who's talking, or by having a user manually select the face of the person whose voice they want to hear. Google says the visual component here is key, as the tech watches for when a person's mouth is moving to better identify which voices to focus on at a given point and to create more accurate individual speech tracks for the length of a video. According to the blog post, the researchers developed this model by gathering 100,000 videos of "lectures and talks" on YouTube, extracting nearly 2,000 hours worth of segments from those videos featuring unobstructed speech, then mixing that audio to create a "synthetic cocktail party" with artificial background noise added. Google then trained the tech to split that mixed audio by reading the "face thumbnails" of people speaking in each video frame and a spectrogram of that video's soundtrack. The system is able to sort out which audio source belongs to which face at a given time and create separate speech tracks for each speaker. Whew.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's incoming-arthritis department
A new screenshot that Google recently shared (and since deleted) is stirring up theories about a possible iPhone X-like gesture navigation interface for Android P. Android Police reports: What we see is a decidedly odd navigation layout, with this short little bar in place of the expected home button, a back arrow that's now hollowed-out, and an app-switcher that seems utterly absent. So how would Google's presumably screen-only implementation work? Well, not only does that home bar look like a narrower version of the bar you'll find on the iPhone X, but we hear that the Android version may function in a quite similar way, with users swiping up to access their home screens. While we still haven't heard any details about how app switching might work with this new regime, the back button will reportedly only appear when needed, disappearing on the home screen, for example. As to other controls we can only speculate, like how you would gesture to conjure up the Google Assistant.Read Replies (0)