By msmash from Slashdot's funny-how-that-works department
This year's report contains many of the same findings cited in the previous National Climate Assessment, published in 2014. From a report: More and more of the predicted impacts of global warming are now becoming a reality. For instance, the 2014 assessment forecast that coastal cities would see more flooding in the coming years as sea levels rose. That's no longer theoretical: Scientists have now documented a record number of "nuisance flooding" events during high tides in cities like Miami and Charleston, S.C.
"High tide flooding is now posing daily risks to businesses, neighborhoods, infrastructure, transportation, and ecosystems in the Southeast," the report says. As the oceans have warmed, disruptions in United States fisheries, long predicted, are now underway. In 2012, record ocean temperatures caused lobster catches in Maine to peak a month earlier than usual, and the distribution chain was unprepared.Read Replies (0)
The Fax is Not Yet Obsolete
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '18 at 04:01 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stop-writing-its-obit department
Fax, once at the forefront of communications technologies but now in deep decline, has persisted in many industries. From a report: Law-enforcement agencies remain heavily reliant on fax for routine operations, such as bail postings and return of public-records requests. Health care, too, runs largely on fax. Despite attempts to replace it, a mix of regulatory confusion, digital-security concerns, and stubbornness has kept fax machines droning around the world.
An early facsimile message was sent over telegraph lines in London in 1847, based on a design by the Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. There is some dispute over whether it was the first fax: Competing inventors, including Bain in the United Kingdom and Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell across the Atlantic, sought to father facsimile technology, which was a kind of white whale for inventors. Telegraphs already allowed messages to be passed across distances, one letter at a time using Morse code. But the dream of transmitting copies of messages and images instantly over wires was very much alive.
Writing in 1863, Jules Verne imagined that the Paris of the 1960s would be replete with fax machines, or as he called them, "picture-telegraphs." The technology did eventually lead to a revolution in communication, though it didn't happen until years later. It first became known to many Americans after the 1939 New York World's Fair, where a fax machine transmitted newspaper images from around the world at a rate of 18 minutes per page -- lightning speed for the time. Further reading: 'You Had to Be There': As Technologies Change Ever Faster, the Knowledge of Obsolete Things Becomes Ever Sweeter.Read Replies (0)
Standing Desks Are Overrated
Posted by News Fetcher on November 24 '18 at 02:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's pendulum-swings-back department
Standing desks have become trendy in recent years -- so much so that they have been promoted by some health officials as well as some countries. Research, however, suggests that warnings about sitting at work are overblown, and that standing desks are overrated as a way to improve health. From a report: Dr. David Rempel, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who has written on this issue, said, "Well-meaning safety professionals and some office furniture manufacturers are pushing sit-stand workstations as a way of improving cardiovascular health -- but there is no scientific evidence to support this recommendation." Let's start with what we know about research on sitting, then explain why it can be misleading as it relates to work. A number of studies have found a significant association between prolonged sitting time over a 24-hour period and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. A 2015 study, for instance, followed more than 150,000 older adults -- all of whom were healthy at the start of the study -- for almost seven years on average. Researchers found that those who sat at least 12 hours a day had significantly higher mortality than those who sat for less than five hours per day.
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By msmash from Slashdot's exploring-options department
A diet supplemented with red algae could lessen the huge amounts of greenhouse gases emitted by cows and sheep, if we can just figure out how to grow enough. From a report: In a wooden barn on the edge of campus at the University of California, Davis, cattle line up at their assigned feed slots to snatch mouthfuls of alfalfa hay. This past spring, several of these Holstein dairy cows participated in a study to test a promising path to reducing methane emissions from livestock, a huge source of the greenhouse gases driving climate change. By adding a small amount of seaweed to the animals' feed, researchers found, they could cut the cows' methane production by nearly 60%. Each year, livestock production pumps out greenhouse gases with the equivalent warming effect of more than 7 gigatons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same global impact as the transportation industry. Nearly 40% of that is produced during digestion: cattle, goats, and sheep belch and pass methane, a highly potent, albeit relatively short-lived, greenhouse gas.
If the reductions achieved in the UC Davis study could be applied across the worldwide livestock industry, it would eliminate nearly 2 gigatons of those emissions annually -- about a quarter of United States' total climate pollution each year. Ermias Kebreab, an animal science professor at UC Davis who leads the work, is preparing to undertake a more ambitious study in the months ahead, evaluating whether smaller amounts of a more potent form of seaweed can cut methane emissions even further. Meanwhile, some businesses have begun to explore what could be the harder challenge: Growing it on a massive scale.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
If it feels like new technologies go from flights of fancy to billion-dollar businesses faster than ever, that's because they do. From a column (which may be paywalled): Consider that Uber, founded in 2009, started allowing drivers to sign up with their own cars in 2013. Five short years later, the company operates in more than 70 countries and competes with dozens of copycats. It's considering going public in 2019 at a potential valuation of $120 billion, which would make it the biggest IPO in U.S. history by far. When novel software can go from hackathon to app store overnight, and even complex hardware can hit manufacturing lines in months, the determining factor of success is us -- as consumers, workers, even regulators. If the pitch works and we bite, a technology can quickly transform our social norms.
At the WSJ Tech D. Live conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., this week, what became apparent across dozens of talks, classes and informal chats is that, when almost anything we can dream up is possible, the most important factors in the spread of technology are now cultural. Not every new development in technology leads to an Uber-scale industry, of course, but here are five trends that highlight this shift. China's success in addressing tech needs at home has made it a global leader. As Google struggles with walkouts and morale at Facebook craters, many workers at Chinese startups are so committed to their work that they've adopted a grueling schedule called 996 -- 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. In 2018, China will eclipse the U.S. in spending on R&D, projects the National Science Board.
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By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader writes: Forbes magazine has an in-depth piece on Joe Liemandt. As you may be aware, Liemandt was the founder of Trilogy, a startup which has been credited to help put Austin on the tech map. He is also founder of ESW Capital, a private equity firm that is scooping up software startups left and right. Forbes called him "one of the most mysterious and innovative figures in technology."
But the story explores the approach Liemandt and his team took to acquire enterprise software companies, install new leadership, lay off staff and hire significantly cheaper tech labor abroad. And the numbers are compelling -- $15 an hour C++ programmers. Those are Amazon warehouse wages -- and those $15 programming gigs don't come with much for benefits. Plus, they require you to install software to your computer that tracks surfing, keystrokes and even takes screen grabs and photos via your computer's camera -- and this is typically on a gig worker's personal computer, not an employers' machine.
The story opens with this: From an office suite on the 26th floor of the iconic Frost Bank Tower in Austin, Texas, a little-known recruiting firm called Crossover is searching the globe for software engineers. Crossover is looking for anyone who can commit to a 40- or 50-hour workweek, but it has no interest in full-time employees. It wants contract workers who are willing to toil from their homes or even in local cafes. "The best people in the world aren't in your Zip code," says Andy Tryba, chief executive of Crossover, in a promotional YouTube video. Which, Tryba emphasizes, also means you don't have to pay them like they are your neighbors. "The world is going to a cloud wage."
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By msmash from Slashdot's take-that-$1,000-iPhone department
Microsoft briefly overtook Apple as the world's most valuable listed company, fulfilling what it almost did eight years ago and adding a feather on the cap on CEO Satya Nadella. From a report: Redmond, Washington-headquartered Microsoft had a market cap of $753.34 billion, beating out the iPhone maker's $746.82 billion in intra-day trade on Friday at the Nasdaq in New York. Apple, however, regained control at the close. According to the Nasdaq website, Apple's market cap rose back up to $817.58 billion. Right behind it is Microsoft, which also increased to $791.19 billion. Tech companies have undergone some rough times recently. In particular, the so-called FAANG group -- Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (Alphabet) -- had, as at November 20, combined market cap losses of over $1.02 trillion from their recent highs.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
What kind of person racks up debts and doesn't pay them? Your credit score is an attempt to answer this question. A report elaborates: These important three-digit numbers summarize our statistical risk for lenders. The allure of the credit score is its clarity: It cuts through appearances and converts our messy lives into an easily readable metric. The difference between a score of 750 and 600 is obvious. One is an excellent bet for a lender to make; the other is not. On balance, credit scores have made borrowing more convenient, and fairer, for consumers. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to use credit scores for an entirely different purpose, one they were never built for and are not suited for.
The agency charged with safeguarding the nation would like to make immigrants submit their credit scores when applying for legal resident status. The new rule, contained in a proposal signed by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, is designed to help immigration officers identify applicants likely to become a "public charge" -- that is, a person primarily dependent on government assistance for food, housing, or medical care. According to the proposal, credit scores and other financial records (including credit reports, the comprehensive individual files from which credit scores are generated) would be reviewed to predict an applicant's chances of "self-sufficiency." The proposal is open for public comment until Dec. 10. Setting aside the proposal's moral abdication when it comes to the needy, we should be troubled by another injustice: its abuse of personal metrics.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's watch-out department
hackingbear writes: According to Chinese media, Qing Tao Energy Development Co, a startup out of the technical Tsinghua University, has deployed a solid-state battery production line in Kunshan, East China. Reports claim the line has a capacity of 100MWh per year -- which is planned to increase to 700MWh by 2020 -- and that the company has achieved an energy density of more than 400Wh/kg, compared to new generation lithium-ion batteries that boast a capacity of around 250-300Wh/kg. Details beyond this are sparse. The headline news here, if accurate, would be that the company has managed to put solid-state batteries into high volume production, but it's not clear how Qing Tao Energy Development has achieved this, nor what price points are involved. Furthermore, while a capacity of 100MWh is not to be sneezed at, it still only equates to fewer than 2,000 long-range EVs per year. Nonetheless, the news demonstrates that progress is happening in the solid-state battery arena. We might not feasibly yet be at high volume production, but we're on our way.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet: Academics from the Vrije University in Amsterdam, Holland, have published a research paper this week describing a new variation of the Rowhammer attack. For readers unfamiliar with the term, Rowhammer is the name of a class of exploits that takes advantage of a hardware design flaw in modern memory cards. By default, a memory card stores temporary data inside storage units named cells, which are arranged on the physical silicon chip in multiple rows, in the form of a grid. [...] In research [PDF] published today, named ECCploit, academics expanded the previous Rowhammer techniques with yet another variation. This one, they said, bypasses ECC memory, one of the memory protections that hardware makers said could detect and prevent Rowhammer attacks in the past.
ECC stands for Error-Correcting Code and is a type of memory storage included as a control mechanism with high-end RAM, typically deployed with expensive or mission-critical systems. ECC memory works by protecting against rogue bit flips, like the ones caused by Rowhammer attacks. Surprisingly, it wasn't developed to deal with Rowhammer. It was initially developed in the 90s to protect against bit flips caused by alpha particles, neutrons, or other cosmic rays, but when Rowhammer came out, it also proved to be effective against it, as well. But after spending months reverse engineering the designs of ECC memory, the Vrije University team discovered that this protection mechanism has its limits.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
Tobacco shops are a staple of daily life across France, selling cigarettes, newspapers, magazines, and lottery tickets. Come January, these most traditional of merchants will take a plunge into the future by adding cryptocurrencies to their wares. From a report: The French Federation of Tobacco Vendors (French Confederation Nationale des Buralistes), which represents the 27,000 tobacco shops in France, announced that it has approved plans for its members to sell Bitcoin and Ethereum to customers. The program is expected to start in 3,000 locations in January, eventually rolling out to all tobacco shops across the country. Of course, the timing is somewhat less than ideal, as prices of cryptocurrencies have been in free fall most of this year. Just this week, Bitcoin hit a new low for 2018. While the effort is seen as a new potential revenue source for these merchants, it remains far from clear how interested the general public is in owning cryptocurrencies.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's murky-world-of-influencing department
"Influencers" are being paid big sums to pitch products on Instagram and YouTube. If you're trying to grow a product on social media, you either fork over cash or pay in another way. This is the murky world of influencing, reports Wired. Brands will pay influencers to position products on their desks, behind them, or anywhere else they can subtly appear on screen. Payouts increase if an influencer tags a brand in a post or includes a link, but silent endorsements are often preferred. An excerpt from the report: The suggestions started early. Months before Lashify had officially launched, one of her investors, who had ties to the cosmetics industry, pulled her aside. He told her to prepare to pay influencers to speak positively about her lashes on YouTube and Instagram. She thought he was being dramatic. He wasn't. Lotti recalls the investor saying that if she wanted Lashify to succeed, quality didn't matter, nor did customer satisfaction -- only influencers. And they didn't come cheap. She was told to expect to shell out $50,000 to $70,000 per influencer just to make her company's name known, an insane amount for a new startup. There was no way around it; that's just how things worked.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moment-of-reckoning department
Climate change means the low-lying Marshall Islands must consider drastic measures, including building new artificial islands. National Geographic: The navigational prowess of Marshall Islanders is legendary. For thousands of years, Marshallese have embraced their watery environment, building a culture on more than 1,200 islands scattered across 750,000 square miles of ocean. But powerful tropical cyclones, damaged reefs and fisheries, worsening droughts, and sea-level rise threaten the coral reef atolls of this large ocean state, forcing the Marshallese to navigate a new reality.
In a moment of reckoning, Marshall Islanders face a stark choice: relocate or elevate. One idea being considered is the construction of a new island or raising an existing one. With 600 billion tons of melting ice flowing into oceans that are absorbing heat twice as fast as 18 years ago, the Marshallese will need to move fast. A report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October highlighted different projected outcomes from a temperature rise of 1.5C versus 2C.
In the report, small-island developing states are identified as being at disproportionately higher risk of adverse consequences of global warming. Among them, four atoll nations: Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Maldives, and the Marshall Islands, are at greatest risk. [...] In July, speaking at a climate change conference on Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands, University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher discussed possible adaptation measures. When Fletcher presented a map depicting Majuro flooded under three feet of water, there was an audible gasp in the room. For climate activists in the Pacific, "1.5 to stay alive," has been the mantra of survival. "We're going to miss 1.5C," Fletcher told his audience, but added, "there's something we can do about it."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's new-lows department
Nellie Bowles and Zach Wichter, reporting for The New York Times: Joining a long tradition of companies and campaigns that drop bad news on holidays, Facebook on Thanksgiving eve took responsibility for hiring a Washington-based lobbying company, Definers Public Affairs, that pushed negative stories about Facebook's critics, including the philanthropist George Soros. Facebook's communications and policy chief, Elliot Schrage, said in a memo posted Wednesday that he was responsible for hiring the group, and had done so to help protect the company's image and conduct research about high-profile individuals who spoke critically about the social media platform. Mr. Schrage will be leaving the company, a move planned before the memo was released.
Facebook fired Definers last week, after a New York Times investigation published on Nov. 14. "Did we ask them to do work on George Soros?" Mr. Schrage wrote in the memo, a draft of which had circulated online earlier in the week. "Yes." He added: "I'm sorry I let you all down. I regret my own failure here." This is a change from just a few days ago, when Facebook wrote on Nov. 15 that the Times report was full of "inaccuracies." The same day, Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, posted on her Facebook page that she had no idea the company had hired Definers.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Google and Mozilla are heading a group that is devising a way for users to save changes they make using web apps. From a report: The idea is to allow users to save changes they've made using web apps, without the hassle of having to download new files after each edit, as is necessary today. "Today, if a user wants to edit a local file in a web app, the web app needs to ask the user to open the file," said Google developer advocate Pete LePage. "Then, after editing the file, the only way to save changes is by downloading the file to the Downloads folder, or having to replace the original file by navigating the directory structure to find the original folder and file. This user experience leaves a lot to be desired, and makes it hard to build web apps that access user files."
To this end, the W3C Web Incubator Community Group (WICG), which is chaired by representatives from Chrome developer Google and Firefox developer Mozilla, is working on developing the new Writable Files API, which would allow web apps running in the browser to open a file, edit it, and save the changes back to the same file. However, the group says the biggest challenge will be guarding against malicious sites seeking to abuse persistent access to files on a user's system. "By far the hardest part for this API is of course going to be the security model to use," warns the WICG's explainer page for the API. "The API provides a lot of scary power to websites that could be abused in many terrible ways."Read Replies (0)