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Apple Opens App Design and Development Accelerator in China
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
Apple has opened a design and development accelerator in Shanghai -- its first for China -- to help local developers create better apps as the iPhone maker looks to scale its services business in one of its key overseas markets. From a report: At the accelerator, Apple has begun to hold regular lectures, seminars and networking sessions for developers, the company said this week. It is similar to an accelerator it opened in Bangalore about two years ago. In India, where Apple has about half a million app developers, the accelerator program has proven crucially useful, more than three dozen developers who have enrolled for the program have told TechCrunch over the years. Participation in the accelerator is free of cost. Apple said more than 2.5 million developers from greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, actively build apps for its platform. These developers have earned more than $29 billion through App Store sales. More than 15% of Apple's revenue comes from greater China, according to official figures.

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Climate Change: How Hot Cities Could Be in 2050
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
dryriver writes: A new study, published in the journal PLOS One, suggests summers and winters in Europe will get warmer, with average increases of 3.5C and 4.7C respectively. It's the equivalent to a city shifting 620 miles (1,000km) further south -- with those furthest away from the equator being most affected. London could feel as hot as Barcelona by 2050, with Edinburgh's climate more like Paris, Leeds feeling like Melbourne and Cardiff like Montevideo. That's from a study looking at how a 2C temperature increase could change the world's 520 major cities.

That temperature increase would result in the average UK temperature during summer's hottest month increasing by about six degrees to 27C. The University of Reading's Professor Mike Lockwood warned about the damage that could be done to infrastructure. 'Bringing Barcelona's climate to London sounds like it could be a good thing -- if you don't suffer from asthma or have a heart condition, that is -- except London clay shrinks and is brittle if it gets too dry and then swells and expands when very wet. As ever, there is destructive and unforeseen devil in the details of climate change.'

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Panasonic To Develop Green Home Appliances Made From Plants
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
AmiMoJo writes: Panasonic will adopt a plant-derived plastic for refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and other home appliances within a few years. The Japanese electronics maker has developed a plastic that is comprised of 55% cellulose fibers and is durable enough to be used for its products. Cellulose is an insoluble substance obtained from the bark, wood or leaves of plants, or from other plant-based material. Panasonic says resin material with more than 50% of plant content is rarely used for commercial purposes. Because plant fibers are soft, molding the material into appliance parts had been a challenge. Panasonic tapped its expertise in battery development to increase plant content without compromising its strength.

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Apple Disables Walkie Talkie App Due To Vulnerability That Could Allow iPhone Eavesdropping
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
Apple has disabled the Apple Watch Walkie Talkie app due to an unspecified vulnerability that could allow a person to listen to another customer's iPhone without consent. From a report: Apple has apologized for the bug and for the inconvenience of being unable to use the feature while a fix is made. The Walkie Talkie app on Apple Watch allows two users who have accepted an invite from each other to receive audio chats via a 'push to talk' interface reminiscent of the PTT buttons on older cell phones.

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Bankrupt Maker Faire Revives, Reduced To Make Community
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 05:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's everyone-deserves-a-second-chance department:
After being shut down last month with 22 employees losing their jobs, Maker Faire and Maker Media are coming back, but in a weakened capacity. Founder and CEO Dale Dougherty tells TechCrunch that "he's bought back the brands, domains, and content from creditors and rehired 15 of 22 laid off staffers with his own money." The report says that he will formally announce the relaunch of the company with the new name "Make Community." From the report: The company is already working on a new issue of Make Magazine that it will hope to publish quarterly (down from six times per year) and the online archives of its do-it-yourself project guides will remain available. It hopes to keep publishing books. And it will continue to license the Maker Faire name to event organizers who've thrown over 200 of the festivals full of science-art and workshops in 40 countries. But Dougherty doesn't have the funding to commit to producing the company-owned flagship Bay Area and New York Maker Faires any more.

For now, Dougherty is financing the revival himself "with the goal that we can get back up to speed as a business, and start generating revenue and a magazine again. This is where the community support needs to come in because I can't fund it for very long." The immediate plan is to announce a new membership model next week at Make.co where hobbyists and craft-lovers can pay a monthly or annual fee to become patrons of Make Community. Dougherty was cagey about what they'll get in return beyond a sense of keeping alive the organization that's held the maker community together since 2005. He does hope to get the next Make Magazine issue out by the end of summer or early fall, and existing subscribers should get it in the mail.

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The Most Clever 'Zip Bomb' Ever Made Explodes a 46MB File To 4.5 Petabytes
Posted by News Fetcher on July 11 '19 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's stuff-of-legend department:
Programmer and engineer David Fifield has unveiled a brand-new Zip bomb that explodes a 46-megabyte file to 4.5 petabytes of data. Fifield's new type of "Zip bomb" or "compression bomb" is particularly novel because he "figured out how to 'overlap' files inside of a Zip archive, allowing for compression rates far beyond those of a traditional archive," reports Motherboard. From the report: In an email interview, Fifield noted that, while 42.zip (which has a 106 billion-to-one compression ratio and has been hosted on the same single-serving website for at least 15 years) gets much of the attention, he finds later attempts more technically interesting. "eI find 42.zip inspiring on an aesthetic level -- not so much the file itself but the circumstances around it," Fifield said. "It's like folklore. There must have been many examples of the same basic idea, but for whatever reason 42.zip is the one that had staying power."

Fifield noted that part of what makes his process possible was by coming up with ways to handle cyclic redundancy checks, or CRCs, a basic error-correction functionality baked into Zip, PNG, Ethernet, and numerous other technical standards. Messing around with CRC -- 32 checksums, as they're called, was where Fifield said he learned the most. Fifield, who will present his findings at the USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT) conference next month, noted that while the work itself adds to a history of research and likely will be superseded in the future, its benefit from an awareness standpoint is important.

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Japan's Hayabusa2 Probe Makes Second Touchdown On Distant Asteroid
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 11:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's world-is-watching department:
Japan's Hayabusa2 probe touched down on a distant asteroid on Thursday, the space agency said, on a mission to collect samples that could shed light on the history of the solar system. The Japan Times reports: "The control room received Doppler data showing that the probe appears to have touched down successfully," Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency spokesman Takayuki Tomobe said. "But Doppler only shows the speed and altitude so we will need definitive confirmation," he added. Additional data readings are expected later in the day. The landing is the second time it has touched down on the desolate asteroid as part of a complex mission that has also involved sending rovers and robots. The mission hopes to collect pristine materials from beneath the surface of the asteroid that could provide insights into what the solar system was like at its birth, some 4.6 billion years ago.

To get at those crucial materials, in April an "impactor" was fired from Hayabusa2 toward Ryugu in a risky process that created a crater on the asteroid's surface and stirred up material that had not previously been exposed to the atmosphere. The second touchdown required special preparations because any problems could mean the probe loses the precious materials already gathered during its first landing. The probe had been expected to make a brief touchdown on an area some 20 meters away from the center of the crater to collect the unidentified materials believed to be "ejecta" from the blast.

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Apple Pushes a Silent Mac Update To Remove Hidden Zoom Web Server
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 10:30 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's silent-signature-updates department:
Apple has released a silent update for Mac users removing a vulnerable component in Zoom, the popular video conferencing app, which allowed websites to automatically add a user to a video call without their permission. TechCrunch reports: The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant told TechCrunch that the update -- now released -- removes the hidden web server, which Zoom quietly installed on users' Macs when they installed the app. Apple said the update does not require any user interaction and is deployed automatically. Although Zoom released a fixed app version on Tuesday, Apple said its actions will protect users both past and present from the undocumented web server vulnerability without affecting or hindering the functionality of the Zoom app itself. The update will now prompt users if they want to open the app, whereas before it would open automatically.

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Glacial Melting In Antarctica May Become Irreversible, NASA-Funded Study Suggests
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's point-of-no-return department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A Nasa-funded study found instability in the Thwaites glacier meant there would probably come a point when it was impossible to stop it flowing into the sea and triggering a 50cm sea level rise. Other Antarctic glaciers were likely to be similarly unstable. The Thwaites glacier, part of the West Antarctic ice sheet, is believed to pose the greatest risk for rapid future sea level rise. Research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal found it was likely to succumb to instability linked to the retreat of its grounding line on the seabed that would lead to it shedding ice faster than previously expected.

The researchers found a precise estimate of how much ice the glacier would shed in the next 50 to 800 years was not possible due to unpredictable climate fluctuations and data limitations. However, 500 simulations of different scenarios pointed to it losing stability. This increased uncertainty about future sea level rise but made the worst-case scenarios more likely. A complete loss of the West Antarctic ice sheet would be expected to increase global sea levels by about five meters (16ft), causing coastal cities around the world to become submerged.

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Chinese Air Pollution Dimmed Sunlight Enough To Impact Solar Panels
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's counterattacks-from-coal department:
Using a record of solar radiation measurements around China going back to the late 1950s, researchers from ETH Zurich found that China's coal-driven air pollution is significantly reducing the output of solar panels by dimming the Sun. Ars Technica reports: The researchers found that, over the entire record between about 1960 and 2015, the average potential solar generation declined by about 13%. Expressed in terms of capacity factor -- the fraction of a solar panel's maximum output that is actually produced on average -- the drop from the start to the lowest point in 2008 was 0.162 to 0.142. The change wasn't the same everywhere, though, as air pollution and local conditions varied. The five worst provinces actually saw potential generation drops of fully 20-28%. These included industrial centers in the east but also some clearer high-elevation areas in the west where a small amount of air pollution can have a big impact.

If China could go back to its 1950s air quality, its existing solar installations in 2016 would have produced an additional 14 terawatt-hours of electricity for free. As more solar panels are built, that number would only grow. By 2030, cleaner air could net an additional 70 terawatt-hours of electricity each year -- about 1% of total projected electricity generation at that point. To put some dollar signs on these numbers, the researchers used the current feed-in tariff of $0.14 per kilowatt-hour and a projected drop to $0.09 per kilowatt-hour in 2030. In 2016, this would mean cleaner air would have brought $1.9 billion worth of electricity. In 2030, the extra 13% or so of solar potential could be worth over $6 billion per year. The study has been published in the journal Nature Energy.

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Fed Chief Calls For Facebook To Halt Libra Project Until Concerns Addressed
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hold-your-horses department:
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday that Facebook's plan to build a digital currency called Libra "cannot go forward" until serious concerns are addressed. Reuters reports: "Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability," Powell said during his semi-annual testimony on monetary policy before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. "I don't think the project can go forward" without addressing those concerns, he added later. Powell said any regulatory review of the project should be "patient and careful." He noted that existing rules do not fit digital currencies. "It's something that doesn't fit neatly or easily within our regulatory scheme but it does have potentially systemic scale," he said. "It needs a careful look, so I strongly believe we all need to be taking our time with this." A Facebook spokesperson said in response: "We are very much aligned with the Chairman around the need for public discourse on this. This is why we along with the 27 other Founding Members of the Libra Association made this announcement so far in advance, so that we could engage in constructive discourse on this and get feedback."

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Google Contractors Are Secretly Listening To Your Assistant Recordings
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's invasion-of-privacy department:
A new report from Belgian broadcaster VRT News describes the process by which Google Home recordings end up being listened to by contractors -- and the scary part is that it apparently doesn't take much, if anything, to start a recording. While the recordings are not listened to live, audio clips are sent to subcontractors. The Next Web reports: VRT, with the help of a whistleblower, was able to listen to some of these clips and subsequently heard enough to discern the addresses of several Dutch and Belgian people using Google Home -- in spite of the fact some hadn't even uttered the words "Hey Google," which are supposed to be the device's listening trigger. The person who leaked the recordings was working as a subcontractor to Google, transcribing the audio files for subsequent use in improving its speech recognition. They got in touch with VRT after reading about Amazon Alexa keeping recordings indefinitely.

According to the whistleblower, the recordings presented to them are meant to be carefully annotated, with notes included about the speakers presumed identity and age. From the sound of the report, these transcribers have heard just about everything. Personal information? Bedroom activities? Domestic violence? Yes, yes, and yes. While VRT only listened to recordings from Dutch and Belgian users, the platform the whistleblower showed them had recordings from all over the world -- which means there are probably thousands of other contractors listening to Assistant recordings. The VRT report states that the Google Home Terms of Service don't mention that recordings might be listened to by other humans. The report says that the recordings are identified by numbers rather than user names, but VRT "was able to pick up enough data from the recordings to find the addresses of the users in question, and even confront some of the users in the recordings -- to their great dismay," reports The Next Web.

< article continued at Slashdot's invasion-of-privacy department >

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Banned Chinese Security Cameras Are Almost Impossible To Remove
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's tough-rules-to-follow department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: U.S. federal agencies have five weeks to rip out Chinese-made surveillance cameras in order to comply with a ban imposed by Congress last year in an effort to thwart the threat of spying from Beijing. But thousands of the devices are still in place and chances are most won't be removed before the Aug. 13 deadline. A complex web of supply chain logistics and licensing agreements make it almost impossible to know whether a security camera is actually made in China or contains components that would violate U.S. rules. The National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which outlines the budget and spending for the Defense Department each year, included an amendment for fiscal 2019 that would ensure federal agencies do not purchase Chinese-made surveillance cameras. The amendment singles out Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. and Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., both of which have raised security concerns with the U.S. government and surveillance industry.

< article continued at Slashdot's tough-rules-to-follow department >

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Microsoft Might Crush Slack Like Facebook Crushed Snapchat
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copy-and-paste department:
"Tech workers' favorite communications tool, Slack, is losing ground to its biggest rival, Microsoft Teams, which has copied its way into popularity," writes Rani Molla for Recode. "In other words, Slack has the same problem as Snapchat, which has suffered from its bigger rival Facebook's relentless appropriation." From the report: Slack's market share among the world's largest companies is mostly flat, adoption rates are declining, and a bigger portion of these companies indicate they plan on leaving the service, according to a new survey by market research firm ETR, which asks chief information officers and other leaders at the world's biggest organizations* where they plan to spend their company's tech budget. Meanwhile, Teams is seeing increased market share, relatively higher adoption rates, and low rates of defection, according to the data.

Slack, which is currently trading below its first-day opening price, has been beset both by smaller companies hoping to improve upon it and tech giants trying to copy and replace it. Microsoft, at one point, had even considered buying Slack. Instead, nearly four years after Slack's debut, Microsoft launched Teams, which has since adopted many of its competitor's functions, including the basic premise of creating an online office space for coworkers to collaborate and communicate. The situation was similar with Facebook, which after failing to buy Snapchat began to copy it, feature by feature. Facebook did this with impunity because it's not really possible to copyright what software does -- you can only copyright the code itself. Since products like Slack and Microsoft Teams or Facebook and Snapchat are built on different platforms, the code for each is likely distinct, so copying features is fair game.

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Samba 4.11 Removes SMB1 File-Sharing Protocol Version By Default
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's late-to-the-party department:
Samba says version 4.11.0 will switch off previously on-by-default support for the aging and easily subverted SMB1 protocol. Slashdot reader Jeremy Allison - Sam shares a report from The Register detailing the new changes: The open-source SMB toolkit's developers say the Samba 4.11 build, currently in preview, will by default set SMB2_02 as the earliest supported version of the Windows file-sharing protocol. Admins will still have the option to allow SMB1 on their servers if they so choose, but support will be turned off by default. The move by Samba to drop SMB1 can be seen as long overdue, given that Microsoft has been moving to get rid of the file-server protocol version from its operating systems for several years now, even before it was revealed to be one of the NSA's favorite weak points to exploit. You can read the 4.11 release notes here.

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FCC Kills Part of San Francisco's Broadband-Competition Law
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission today voted to preempt part of a San Francisco ordinance that promotes broadband competition in apartment buildings and other multi-tenant structures. But it's not clear exactly what effect the preemption will have, because San Francisco says the FCC's Republican majority has misinterpreted what the law does. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plan partially overturns San Francisco's Article 52, which lets Internet service providers use the existing wiring inside multi-unit buildings even if another ISP already serves the building. The FCC said it's preempting the law "to the extent it requires the sharing of in-use wiring." But Pai's proposal admits the FCC doesn't know whether the San Francisco law actually requires sharing of in-use wiring, which makes it difficult to understand whether the FCC preemption will change anything in practice. Today's FCC decision "stop[s] efforts in California designed to encourage competition in multi-tenant environments," FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said at today's meeting. "Specifically, we say to the city of San Francisco -- where more than half of the population rents their housing, often in multi-tenant units -- that they cannot encourage broadband competition. This is crazy."

An announcement from Pai's office argued that "[r]equired sharing of in-use wiring deters broadband deployment, undercuts the Commission's rules regarding control of cable wiring in residential MTEs [multi-tenant environments] and threatens the Commission's framework to protect the technical integrity of cable systems for the benefit of viewers."

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Hackers Breached Greece's Top-Level Domain Registrar
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
State-sponsored hackers have breached ICS-Forth, the organization that manages Greece's top-level domain country codes of .gr and .el. From a report: ICS-Forth, which stands for the Institute of Computer Science of the Foundation for Research and Technology, publicly admitted to the security incident in emails it sent to domain owners on April 19. The hackers behind the breach are the same group detailed in a Cisco Talos report from April, which the company named Sea Turtle. The group uses a relatively novel approach to hacking targets. Instead of targeting victims directly, they breach or gain access to accounts at domain registrars and managed DNS providers where they make modifications to a company's DNS settings. By modifying DNS records for internal servers, they redirect traffic meant for a company's legitimate apps or webmail services to clone servers where they carry out man-in-the-middle attacks and intercept login credentials.

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Academics Steal Data From Air-Gapped Systems Via a Keyboard's LEDs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department:
The Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock LEDs on a keyboard can be used to exfiltrate data from a secure air-gapped system, academics from an Israeli university have proved. From a report: The attack, which they named CTRL-ALT-LED, is nothing that regular users should worry about but is a danger for highly secure environments such as government networks that store top-secret documents or enterprise networks dedicated to storing non-public proprietary information. he attack requires some pre-requisites, such as the malicious actor finding a way to infect an air-gapped system with malware beforehand. CTRL-ALT-LED is only an exfiltration method. But once these prerequisites are met, the malware running on a system can make the LEDs of an USB-connected keyboard blink at rapid speeds, using a custom transmission protocol and modulation scheme to encode the transmitted data. A nearby attacker can record these tiny light flickers, which they can decode at a later point, using the same modulation scheme used to encode it.

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The Fish Is Boneless. (Fishless, Too.)
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 01:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
First, there was the meatless burger. Soon we may have fishless fish. From a report: Impossible Foods, the California company behind the meatless Impossible Whopper now available at Burger King, is joining a crowded field of food companies developing alternatives to traditional seafood with plant-based recipes or laboratory techniques that allow scientists to grow fish from cells. So far, much of Impossible's work has focused on the biochemistry of fish flavor, which can be reproduced using heme, the same protein undergirding its meat formula [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], according to Pat Brown, the company's chief executive. Last month, Impossible's 124-person research and development team, which the company plans to increase to around 200 by the end of next year, produced an anchovy-flavored broth made from plants, he said. "It was being used to make paella," Mr. Brown said. "But you could use it to make Caesar dressing or something like that."

The fishless-fish project is part of Impossible's grand ambitions to devise tasty replacements for every animal-based food on the market by 2035. Whether that aim is achievable, either scientifically or financially, remains to be seen. But for now, Mr. Brown said, he's confident Impossible's plant-based beef recipe can be reconfigured to simulate a new source of protein. It's unclear whether consumers -- even those who eat meatless burgers -- will embrace fish alternatives. Those faux-beef products owe their success partly to the enthusiasm of so-called flexitarians, people who want to reduce their meat consumption without fully converting to vegetarianism, but flexitarians are not necessarily motivated by a desire to save the planet.

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Linode Democratizes Cloud GPUs: Brings Powerful Nvidia GPUs To Its Linux Cloud
Posted by News Fetcher on July 10 '19 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
sfcrazy writes: Linode today launched new GPU-optimized cloud computing instances tailored specifically for developers and businesses requiring massive parallel computational power. The new instances are built on NVIDIA Quadro RTX 6000 GPU cards with all three major types of processing cores (CUDA, Tensor, and Real-Time Ray Tracing) available to users. Linode is one of the first cloud providers to deploy NVIDIA's latest GPU architecture. These new GPU instances give scientists, artists, and engineers working on artificial intelligence, graphic visualization, and complex modeling a cost-competitive alternative to hyperscale cloud providers.

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