By EditorDavid from Slashdot's show-me-the-data department
Remember when America's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported Tesla's Autopilot reduced crashes by 40%? Two years later the small research and consulting firm Quality Control Systems (QCS) finally obtained the underlying data -- and found flaws in the methodology "serious enough to completely discredit the 40 percent figure," reports Ars Technica, "which Tesla has cited multiple times over the last two years."
The majority of the vehicles in the Tesla data set suffered from missing data or other problems that made it impossible to say whether the activation of Autosteer increased or decreased the crash rate. But when QCS focused on 5,714 vehicles whose data didn't suffer from these problems, it found that the activation of Autosteer actually increased crash rates by 59 percent...
NHTSA undertook its study of Autopilot safety in the wake of the fatal crash of Tesla owner Josh Brown in 2016. Autopilot -- more specifically Tesla's lane-keeping function called Autosteer -- was active at the time of the crash, and Brown ignored multiple warnings to put his hands back on the wheel. Critics questioned whether Autopilot actually made Tesla owners less safe by encouraging them to pay less attention to the road. NHTSA's 2017 finding that Autosteer reduced crash rates by 40 percent seemed to put that concern to rest. When another Tesla customer, Walter Huang, died in an Autosteer-related crash last March, Tesla cited NHTSA's 40 percent figure in a blog post defending the technology. A few weeks later, Tesla CEO Elon Musk berated reporters for focusing on stories about crashes instead of touting the safety benefits of Autopilot....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's 80-years-in-prison department
20-year-old Timothy Dalton Vaughn from Winston-Salem, N.C now faces 80 years in federal prison, reports KrebsOnSecurity.com:
Federal authorities this week arrested a North Carolina man who allegedly ran with a group of online hooligans that attacked Web sites (including this one), took requests on Twitter to call in bomb threats to thousands of schools, and tried to frame various online gaming sites as the culprits. In an ironic twist, the accused -- who had fairly well separated his real life identity from his online personas -- appears to have been caught after a gaming Web site he frequented got hacked...
[T]he real-life identity of HDGZero remained a mystery...as there was little publicly available information at the time connecting that moniker to anyone. That is, until early January 2019, when news broke that hackers had broken into the servers of computer game maker BlankMediaGames and made off with account details of some 7.6 million people who had signed up to play "Town of Salem," the company's browser-based role playing game. That stolen information has since been posted and resold in underground forums. A review of the leaked BlankMediaGames user database shows that in late 2018, someone who selected the username "hdgzero" signed up to play Town of Salem... The data also shows this person registered at the site using a Sprint mobile device with an Internet address that traced back to the Carolinas.
This week America's Justice Department released an indictment of Vaughn and co-conspirator George Duke-Cohan for spoofed bomb threat emails to more than 2,400 schools, according to Krebs, adding that the government also alleges the two reported a fake hijacking of an airline bound for the United States. "That flight, which had almost 300 passengers on board, was later quarantined for four hours in San Francisco pending a full security check."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's join-us-now-and-share-the-dating-apps department
"I've been making the argument that everything is a free software issue for a few months now," writes the campaigns manager for the Free Software Foundation, in a new essay sharing thoughts on "the issues proprietary technology poses in dating and maintaining romantic relationships":
The essay also warns about the proprietry software used for restaurant reservations, ride-sharing apps, and chat applications. (Not to mention the non-free software behind gift shopping on Amazon.) And even if you decide on a romantic evening at home, "you might find yourself tempted by freedom-disrespecting, DRM-supporting streaming services like Hulu and Netflix...."
"These are all proprietary tools, and the act of using them restricts our freedoms. When the ways we connect with one another are proprietary, we're trusting our secrets, intimacies, and relationships to technology we cannot trust."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fixer-uppers department
This weekend the BBC reports on the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion -- where "robotic cranes are dismantling 33-year-old, radioactive wreckage" -- investigating an area of more than 4,000 square kilometres [2,485 square miles] that's been abandoned since 1986. "That could be about to change..."
An anonymous reader summarizes their report:
"Every community within a 30km radius [18.9 miles] of the plant was evacuated and abandoned; no one was allowed to return here to live." Yet the BBC visits a tiny community of 15 who reclaimed their homes in 1986 -- part of a population of 200 "self-settlers" deep in the exclusion zone, "an ageing population cut off from the rest of the country.... Almost every family forced to leave here was given an apartment in a nearby town or city. For Maria and her [88-year-old] mother, though, this cottage, with the garden wrapped around it, was home. They refused to abandon it. 'We weren't allowed to come back, but I followed my mum.'"
Parts of the exclusion zone in Ukraine and Belarus have become "a post-human nature reserve", home to prowling wolves and dozens of wild horses. Yet Professor Jim Smith from the UK's University of Portsmouth explains that "Most of the area of the exclusion zone gives rise to lower radiation dose rates than many areas of natural radioactivity worldwide." In fact, the abandoned nuclear-worker city of Pripyat was recently deemed safe to visit for short periods, "and has now become one of Ukraine's most talked about tourist attractions. An estimated 60,000 people visited the exclusion zone last year, keen to witness the dramatic decay."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's planning-for-the-future department
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual has released a roadmap for transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035 and to an electric Chicago Transit Authority bus fleet by 2040. The move is especially noteworthy as there are 11 nuclear reactors in operation in Illinois. From a report: Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled the Resilient Chicago plan, which with action number 38 commits to "transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in buildings community-wide by 2035." The deadline for all city government buildings to be powered solely by renewables, first established in 2017, has been brought forward to 2025. The policy has been introduced as part of environmental group the Sierra Club's "Ready for 100" campaign, and Chicago is the largest city to join the effort to date. (Editor's note: While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced his city is on a path to 100% renewable energy, it is not clear if the formal goal is 100% renewable or 100% zero-carbon, and LA is not included in the Sierra Club's Ready for 100 list.)
The language of the Resilient Chicago text says "clean, renewable energy," and the Sierra Club does not include nuclear as part of its Ready to 100 campaign. The new policy is a particularly interesting move for Emanuel, once considered one of the more pro-nuclear politicians in the Democratic Party, and a man who brokered the deal that created Exelon. Were Chicago to include nuclear in a 2035 target, it would require either buying power from existing plants instead of investing in new generation, or starting new nuclear plants within six years. Given the high cost of nuclear compared to wind and solar, few decision makers are contemplating that option.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's lock-and-load department
The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities, residing in Washington and Louisiana, will be upgraded via grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council -- providing stronger, more frequent detections and decreasing noise. CNET reports: Over $34 million will be provided for the upgrade which makes LIGO sound like the latest iPhone. When it is complete, LIGO will go from its crusty old 2015 "Advanced LIGO" phase to the "Advanced LIGO Plus" phase. LIGO's twin facilities both contain two 4-kilometer long arms that use lasers to detect minute disturbances caused by extremely energetic cosmic events -- like black holes merging. The incredibly high-powered events are responsible for gravitational waves, rippling out through spacetime the same way water does when you drop a rock in a pond. By the time they reach Earth, the ripples are so small that only incredibly tiny disturbances in LIGO's lasers can detect them.
The proposed upgrades will greatly increase the number of events that LIGO will detect. With only 11 under its belt so far, [David Reitze, executive director of LIGO] even expects we might see "black hole mergers on a daily basis" and describes neutron star mergers becoming "much more frequent." All that extra power adds up, hopefully revealing some of the cosmos' deepest, darkest secrets. In September 2015, LIGO provided the first evidence for a black hole merger -- and in turn, the existence of gravitational waves -- just four days after a three-year long upgrade. Since then, LIGO has seen 10 black hole mergers and a single, huge collision between two incredibly dense stars, known as neutron stars.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's laughter-is-the-best-medicine department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: [R]esearchers have found that the success of a future mission to the red planet may depend on the ship having a class clown. "These are people that have the ability to pull everyone together, bridge gaps when tensions appear and really boost morale," said Jeffrey Johnson, an anthropologist at the University of Florida. "When you're living with others in a confined space for a long period of time, such as on a mission to Mars, tensions are likely to fray. It's vital you have somebody who can help everyone get along, so they can do their jobs and get there and back safely. It's mission critical." Johnson spent four years studying overwintering crews in Antarctica and identified the importance of clowns, leaders, buddies, storytellers, peacemakers and counsellors for bonding teams together and making them work smoothly. He found the same mixes worked in U.S., Russian, Polish, Chinese and Indian bases.
"These roles are informal, they emerge within the group. But the interesting thing is that if you have the right combination the group does very well. And if you don't, the group does very badly," he said. Johnson is now working with Nasa to explore whether clowns and other characters are crucial for the success of long space missions. So far he has monitored four groups of astronauts who spent 30 to 60 days in the agency's mock space habitat, the Human Exploration Research Analog, or Hera, in Houston, Texas. Johnson, who also studied isolated salmon fishers in Alaska, found that clowns were often willing to be the butt of jokes and pranks. In Antarctica, one clown he observed endured a mock funeral and burial in the tundra, but was crucial for building bridges between clusters of overwintering scientists and between contractors and researchers, or "beakers" as the contractors called them.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Tab S5e, its lightest and thinnest tablet ever made. "At $399, it's not only far more affordable than the flagship $649 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4, it's arguably surpassed it in some ways," reports The Verge. From the report: For starters, the Tab S5e has the thinnest and lightest metal unibody of any Galaxy Tab, measuring 5.5mm thin and weighing just 400 grams -- even compared to the 11-inch iPad Pro at 5.9mm thick and 468 grams, the Tab S5e is both lighter and thinner. The company also claims they've maximized space with the Tab S5e's massive 81.8 percent screen-to-body ratio, which on paper, is an improvement over the Tab S4's lower 79 percent ratio. It's also right on the heels of the 11-inch iPad Pro's ~82.9 percent screen-to-body ratio.
And unlike Samsung's previous attempt to make its 10.5-inch tablet more affordable, this slate doesn't skimp on the screen and not nearly as much on the processor. Samsung's Tab S5e is a 10.5-inch Super AMOLED device with a 16:10 aspect ratio and 2560 x 1600 resolution, while its octa-core Snapdragon 670 processor should provide solid mid-range performance. Samsung's also promising up to 14.5 hours of battery life. The Tab S5e is also the first tablet from the Korean tech giant to ship with Pie, the latest version of Android, along with the new Bixby 2.0 virtual assistant and information tool. Samsung is also carrying features like Dex, a desktop-style Android environment, over from other Galaxy devices, like the Note 9 and Tab S4. It allows users to interact with their device using the screen, a mouse, keyboard, or all three. Other features include AKG-tuned, quad surround sound speakers, 64GB of internal storage (microSD expandable to 512GB), with 4GB RAM (upgradable to 6GB RAM/128GB storage), and 13-megapixel back and 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Cellular models will follow the Wi-Fi versions later this year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's are-we-really-surprised department
18,000 Android apps with tens or hundreds of millions of installs on the Google Play Store have been found to violate Google's Play Store Advertising ID policy guidance by collecting persistent device identifiers such as serial numbers, IMEI, WiFi MAC addresses, SIM card serial numbers, and sending them to mobile advertising related domains alongside ad IDs. Bleeping Computer reports: AppCensus is an organization based in Berkeley, California, and created by researchers from all over the world with expertise in a wide range of fields, ranging from networking and privacy to security and usability. The project is supported by "grants from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Data Transparency Lab." By highlighting this behavior, AppCensus shows that while users are being offered the option to reset the advertising ID, doing so will not immediately translate into getting a new "identity" because app developers can also use a multitude of other identifiers to keep their tracking and targeting going.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's marked-for-deletion department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Twitter retains direct messages for years, including messages you and others have deleted, but also data sent to and from accounts that have been deactivated and suspended, according to security researcher Karan Saini. Saini found years-old messages in a file from an archive of his data obtained through the website from accounts that were no longer on Twitter. He also reported a similar bug, found a year earlier but not disclosed until now, that allowed him to use a since-deprecated API to retrieve direct messages even after a message was deleted from both the sender and the recipient -- though, the bug wasn't able to retrieve messages from suspended accounts.
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
A huge study at Indiana University, led by Elizabeth Canning, finds that the attitudes of instructors affect the grades their students earned in classes. The researchers conducted their study by sending out a simple survey to all the instructors of STEM courses at Indiana University, asking whether professors felt that a student's intelligence is fixed and unchanging or whether they thought it could be developed. Then, the researchers were given access to two years' worth of students' grades in those instructors' classes, covering a total of 15,000 students. Ars Technica reports: The results showed a surprising difference between the professors who agreed that intelligence is fixed and those who disagreed (referred to as "fixed mindset" and "growth mindset" professors). In classes taught by fixed mindset instructors, Latino, African-American, and Native American students averaged grades 0.19 grade points (out of four) lower than white and Asian-American students. But in classes taught by "growth mindset" instructors, the gap dropped to just 0.10 grade points. No other factor the researchers analyzed showed a statistically significant difference among classes -- not the instructors' experience, tenure status, gender, specific department, or even ethnicity. Yet their belief about whether a students' intelligence is fixed seems to have had a sizable effect.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's call-to-action department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gamasutra: In the wake of Activision Blizzard's massive layoff wave, a move that was announced in the same call as the company's record quarter, the union federation AFL-CIO has published an open letter to game developers urging members of the industry to organize. The AFL-CIO itself is the largest labor organization in the United States and counts 55 individual unions (and more than 12.5 million workers) among its affiliates. The letter, readable in full on Kotaku, calls out many of the issues that have prompted conversations about unionization in just recent years like excessive crunch, toxic work conditions, inadequate pay, and job instability. The industry, points out AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer Liz Shuler, boasted sales 3.6 times greater than those of the film industry in 2018, yet much of that financial success isn't felt by the developers working on the games that generate those billions. "Executives are always quick to brag about your work. It's the talk of every industry corner office and boardroom. They pay tribute to the games that capture our imaginations and seem to defy economic gravity. They talk up the latest innovations in virtual reality and celebrate record-smashing releases, as your creations reach unparalleled new heights," says Shuler.
"My question is this: what have you gotten in return? They get rich. They get notoriety. They get to be crowned visionaries and regarded as pioneers. What do you get? Outrageous hours and inadequate paychecks. Stressful, toxic work conditions that push you to your physical and mental limits. The fear that asking for better means risking your dream job. [...] Change will happen when you gain leverage by joining together in a strong union. And, it will happen when you use your collective voice to bargain for a fair share of the wealth you create every day. No matter where you work, bosses will only offer fair treatment when you stand together and demand it."Read Replies (0)