2020-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-04-04 05:49:45 UTC
2020-04-04 13:11:33 UTC
We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.
Over the past few weeks, Zoom's use has exploded since it became the video conferencing platform of choice in today's COVID-19 world. (My own university, Harvard, uses it for all of its classes. Boris Johnson had a cabinet meeting over Zoom.) Over that same period, the company has been exposed for having both lousy privacy and lousy security. My goal here is to summarize all of the problems and talk about solutions and workarounds.
In general, Zoom's problems fall into three broad buckets: (1) bad privacy practices, (2) bad security practices, and (3) bad user configurations.
Privacy first: Zoom spies on its users for personal profit. It seems to have cleaned this up somewhat since everyone started paying attention, but it still does it.
Now security: Zoom's security is at best sloppy, and malicious at worst. Motherboard reported that Zoom's iPhone app was sending user data to Facebook, even if the user didn't have a Facebook account. Zoom removed the feature, but its response should worry you about its sloppy coding practices in general:
"We originally implemented the 'Login with Facebook' feature using the Facebook SDK in order to provide our users with another convenient way to access our platform. However, we were recently made aware that the Facebook SDK was collecting unnecessary device data," Zoom told Motherboard in a statement on Friday.
Finally, bad user configuration. Zoom has a lot of options. The defaults aren't great, and if you don't configure your meetings right you're leaving yourself open to all sort of mischief.
Zoom is a security and privacy disaster, but until now had managed to avoid public accountability because it was relatively obscure. Now that it's in the spotlight, it's all coming out. (Their 4/1 response to all of this is here.) On 4/2, the company said it would freeze all feature development and focus on security and privacy. Let's see if that's anything more than a PR move.
(2020-04-02) Elon Musk's SpaceX Bans Zoom over Privacy Concerns
(2020-03-28) Now That Everyone's Using Zoom, Here Are Some Privacy Risks You Need to Watch Out For
(2020-03-27) School Quits Video Calls After Naked Man â€˜Guessedâ€™ the Meeting Link
(2020-03-23) Work from Home Pwn2Own Hackers Make $130,000 in 48 Hours from Windows 10 Exploits
(2020-03-21) Homeschooling Resources
(2020-03-14) Student Privacy Laws Still Apply if Coronavirus Just Closed Your School
The Federal Communications Commission announced a potentially significant step for Wi-Fi today, with plans for an April 23 vote on a proposal to open the 6GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use. Doing so would free up more than 1,200MHz of additional bandwidth for next-gen Wi-Fi 6E devices with antennas and chipsets capable of tapping into the extra spectrum.
"To accommodate that increase in Wi-Fi demand, the FCC is aiming to increase the supply of Wi-Fi spectrum with our boldest initiative yet: making the entire 6GHz band available for unlicensed use," reads the FCC's announcement. "By doing this, we would effectively increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi almost by a factor of five. This would be a huge benefit to consumers and innovators across the nation. It would be another step toward increasing the capacity of our country's networks. And it would help advance even further our leadership in next generation wireless technologies, including 5G."
With more than twice as much bandwidth as the 5GHz band used by Wi-Fi devices today, the 6GHz band could accommodate up to seven 160MHz channels at once. Latency stands to be a lot lower on the 6GHz band too, because there aren't any existing, older-gen Wi-Fi devices operating in that spectrum to slow things down. That gives the 6GHz band the potential to serve as an exclusive, multilane expressway for Wi-Fi devices equipped to take advantage, all of them using Wi-Fi 6, the newest, fastest and most efficient version of Wi-Fi.
The announcement of a vote on opening the 6GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use comes months after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai signaled his support for the move.
"This band is currently populated by microwave services that are used to support utilities, public safety and wireless backhaul," Pai said in September of 2019. "But studies have shown that sharing this band with unlicensed operations is feasible, and can put massive amounts of new spectrum into the hands of consumers."
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
New microlensing parallax observations have been able to determine the masses of, and distances to, two small, isolated stars. One has a mass of about 0.6 solar-masses and is about 23,700 light-years away from us; modeling for the second is ambiguous, concluding that it is either 0.40 solar-masses at about 24,800 light-years or 0.38 solar-masses at 24,300 light-years distant. Both stars are red giants, and lie in the peanut-shaped bulge of old stars (about ten billion years old) in the Milky Way, about seven thousand light-years in radius in the central region of our galaxy. The new results, together with six earlier parallax microlensing measurements, lend strong support to current models of the Galaxy and its bulge formation.
Weicheng Zang et al. Spitzer Microlensing Parallax Reveals Two Isolated Stars in the Galactic Bulge, The Astrophysical Journal (2020). DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ab6ff8
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
A long-held mystery in the field of nuclear physics is why the universe is composed of the specific materials we see around us. In other words, why is it made of "this" stuff and not other stuff?
Specifically of interest are the physical processes responsible for producing heavy elements -- like gold, platinum and uranium -- that are thought to happen during neutron star mergers and explosive stellar events.
Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory led an international nuclear physics experiment conducted at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, that utilizes novel techniques developed at Argonne to study the nature and origin of heavy elements in the universe. The study may provide critical insights into the processes that work together to create the exotic nuclei, and it will inform models of stellar events and the early universe.
[...] The nuclear physicists in the collaboration are the first to observe the neutron-shell structure of a nucleus with fewer protons than lead and more than 126 neutrons -- "magic numbers" in the field of nuclear physics.
At these magic numbers, of which 8, 20, 28, 50 and 126 are canonical values, nuclei have enhanced stability, much as the noble gases do with closed electron shells. Nuclei with neutrons above the magic number of 126 are largely unexplored because they are difficult to produce. Knowledge of their behavior is crucial for understanding the rapid neutron-capture process, or r-process, that produces many of the heavy elements in the universe.
[...] This experiment focused on the mercury isotope 207Hg. The study of 207Hg could shed light on the properties of its close neighbors, nuclei directly involved in key aspects of the r-process.
"One of the biggest questions of this century has been how the elements formed at the beginning of the universe," said Argonne physicist Ben Kay, the lead scientist on the study. "It's difficult to research because we can't just go dig up a supernova out of the earth, so we have to create these extreme environments and study the reactions that occur in them."
[...] The first analyses of the data from the CERN experiment confirm the theoretical predictions of current nuclear models, and the team plans to study other nuclei in the region of 207Hg using these new capabilities, giving deeper insights into the unknown regions of nuclear physics and the r-process.
T. L. Tang, B. P. Kay, C. R. Hoffman, et al. First Exploration of Neutron Shell Structure below Lead and beyond N=126. Physical Review Letters, 2020; 124 (6) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.124.062502
-- submitted from IRC
Tesla produced 102,672 vehicles in the first quarter of 2020 and delivered 88,400 vehicles to customers, the company announced to investors on Thursday. While the delivery number is down from the previous quarter, the overall results were better than analysts had expected, sending Tesla's stock up more than 10 percent in after-hours trading.
"Our Shanghai factory continued to achieve record levels of production, despite significant setbacks," Tesla said in its Thursday release.
The results are particularly impressive in light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Ford, which also announced Q1 sales numbers today, blamed the coronavirus for a 12-percent year-over-year decline in sales. Presumably, economic uncertainty about the coronavirus discouraged some people from buying Tesla vehicles in March. Despite that, Tesla's deliveries for the quarter grew 40 percent from a year earlier.
An automated tool developed by security researchers is able to find around 100 Zoom meeting IDs in an hour and information for nearly 2,400 Zoom meetings in a single day of scans, according to a new report from security expert Brian Krebs.
Security professional Trent Lo and members of SecKC, a Kansas City-based security meetup group, made a program called zWarDial that can automatically guess Zoom meeting IDs, which are nine to 11 digits long, and glean information about those meetings, according to the report.
In addition to being able to find around 100 meetings per hour, one instance of zWarDial can successfully determine a legitimate meeting ID 14 percent of the time, Lo told Krebs on Security. And as part of the nearly 2,400 upcoming or recurring Zoom meetings zWarDial found in a single day of scanning, the program extracted a meeting's Zoom link, date and time, meeting organizer, and meeting topic, according to data Lo shared with Krebs on Security.
Automated Zoom conference meeting finder 'zWarDial' discovers ~100 meetings per hour that aren't protected by passwords. The tool also has prompted Zoom to investigate whether its password-by-default approach might be malfunctioning https://t.co/dXNq6KUYb3pic.twitter.com/h0vB1Cp9Tb
— briankrebs (@briankrebs) April 2, 2020
One of the primary drivers for the distinct lack of a Martian atmosphere is believed to be the loss of atmospheric molecules that are stripped away by the passing solar wind. A strong planetary magnetic field would divert the solar wind around the planet and protect the Martian atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft confirmed this is happening, and some interesting ideas have been floated to mitigate the effect.
A recent paper published in JGR: Space Physics used Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) models to investigate the magnitude of the effect on atmospheric retention that a magnetic field would have on Mars and found a very interesting result. Their models confirmed that the rate of atmospheric loss was six times higher for a planet with no magnetic field compared to a planet with a strong magnetic field; however, they found the highest rate of atmospheric loss was actually when there was a weak magnetic field.
But the highest rate of atmospheric ion loss was with a weak magnetic field—6 times faster than with no magnetic field at all. The team found the reason was the magnetic field lines, which guide the motion of charged particles, were easily blown back by the solar wind, creating a path for these ions to escape into space above Mars's nightside. This means that instead of providing a small measure of protection, Mars's remnant magnetic field could actually have sped the planet's transformation into the cold, barren world it is today.
Research Paper: Sakata, et al., Effects of an Intrinsic Magnetic Field on Ion Loss From Ancient Mars Based on Multispecies MHD Simulations, Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JA026945, 2020
Author's Plain Language Summary:
It has been suggested that ancient Mars had an atmosphere thick enough to sustain liquid water on its surface, while present Mars only has a thin atmosphere. Ion loss to space is one of the important processes for the removal of the atmosphere because a younger Mars would have been exposed to much stronger solar activity. Over 4 Ga, Mars had an intrinsic magnetic field like that of the Earth. The existence of an intrinsic magnetic field changes the electromagnetic environment around the planet and affects the ion loss. We investigate the ion loss from Mars at approximately 4.5 Ga, assuming both the strong solar conditions and the existence of an intrinsic magnetic field using numerical simulations. The results show that the existence of the weak dipole field increases the loss of molecular ions such as O2+ and CO2+. Contrary to the weak intrinsic magnetic field, however, a strong intrinsic magnetic field substantially decreases the loss of molecular ions. The ion loss processes are also affected by the intrinsic magnetic field. These effects of the intrinsic magnetic field are less pronounced for O+ loss because of the extended O+ corona.
Back in November last year, we reported that SK Hynix had developed and deployed its first DDR5 DRAM. Fast forward to the present, and we also know SK Hynix has recently been working on its DDR5-6400 DRAM, but today the company has showcased that it has plans to offer up to DDR5-8400, with on-die ECC, and an operating voltage of just 1.1 Volts.
WIth CPU core counts rising with the fierce battle ongoing between Intel and AMD in the desktop, professional, and now mobile markets, the demand to increase throughput performance is high on the agenda. Memory bandwidth by comparison has not been increasing as much, and at some level the beast needs to be fed. Announcing more technical details on its official website, SK Hynix has been working diligently on perfecting its DDR5 chips with capacity for up to 64 Gb per chip.
Micron will begin selling High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) this year, entering the market alongside Samsung and SK Hynix and potentially lowering prices:
Bundled in their latest earnings call, Micron has revealed that later this year the company will finally introduce its first HBM DRAM for bandwidth-hungry applications. The move will enable the company to address the market for high-bandwidth devices such as flagship GPUs and network processors, which in the last five years have turned to HBM to meet their ever-growing bandwidth needs. And as the third and final of the "big three" memory manufacturers to enter the HBM market, this means that HBM2 memory will finally be available from all three companies, introducing a new wrinkle of competition into that market.
Also at Wccftech.
This week, SpaceX workers in South Texas loaded the third full-scale Starship prototype—SN3—onto a test stand at the company's Boca Chica launch site. On Wednesday night, they pressure-tested the vehicle at ambient temperature with nitrogen, and SN3 performed fine.
On Thursday night SpaceX began cryo-testing the vehicle, which means it was loaded again with nitrogen, but this time it was chilled to flight-like temperatures and put under flight-like pressures. Unfortunately, a little after 2am local time, SN3 failed and began to collapse on top of itself. It appeared as if the vehicle may have lost pressurization and become top-heavy.
Shortly after the failure, SpaceX's founder and chief engineer, Elon Musk, said on Twitter, "We will see what data review says in the morning, but this may have been a test configuration mistake." A testing issue would be good in the sense that it means the vehicle itself performed well, and the problem can be more easily addressed.
A YouTube Video is included in the article at no extra cost.
Five years ago, we wrote about another such crazy demand -- a PRO in Sweden demanding that rental car companies pay a performance license because their cars had radios, and since "the public" could rent their cards[sic] and listen to the radio, that constituted "a communication to the public" that required a separate license. The case has bounced around the courts, and finally up to the Court of Justice for the EU which has now, finally, ruled that merely renting cars does not constitute "communication to the public."
See the CJEU's press release (.pdf) for details.
Basically, people aren't renting cars for the purpose of listening to music, and it's not like the rental car company is creating some special musical offering. They're just renting cars.
[...] But just the fact that this spent half a decade in court should give you an idea of just how greedy and messed up the copyright world is, with the various PROs/Collection Societies leading the way down the most ridiculous path.
As more people bake their blues away while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, yeast is reportedly becoming harder to find on grocery store shelves. There's no shame in turning to carbohydrates for comfort in times like these. But what's one to do when a key ingredient for satisfying that craving is becoming as elusive as a roll of toilet paper?
[...] There's a good chance you've already got what you need at home to get started. The Verge asked Stephen Jones, director of Washington State University's Bread Lab, for simple instructions. What you'll actually be doing is capturing wild yeast and bacteria that's already present in the air or in the flour to make a "sourdough starter." This is what bakers have relied on for generations before commercial yeast became available less than 100 years ago.
[...] "Sourdough" is often used to refer to bread that's made with a wild yeast starter rather than with store-bought yeast; following the instructions for this starter doesn't necessarily mean that the bread you make with it will taste sour. But since you're harvesting wild yeast and bacteria (the bacteria is what adds some sourness) that's naturally present in your kitchen, your bread will have a flavor that's unique to wherever you are in the world. That's why, Jones says, "There's a little more beauty in starting your own starter."
What you'll need: Jones says that although some recipes you'll find online call for things like fruit or juice, all you actually need are flour and water. White flour works fine, but whole wheat is best because it has more micronutrients like zinc and iron for the yeast and bacteria. You'll also need time; it'll take several days before your starter is ready, so it's best to plan ahead.
Step 1: Mix together equal parts flour and water in a small bowl. You can start with about a quarter cup of each. Stir well. Water activates the enzyme amylase, which breaks down starch into simple sugars that the yeast and bacteria can eat.
Step 2: Cover the bowl loosely with a lid or towel and leave the mixture on your counter at room temperature. Keeping it in a place that's a bit warm, but not too hot, will speed up the process of the yeast and bacteria colonizing your batter.
Step 3: Twice a day, in the morning and evening, add one to two tablespoons each of flour and water. By doing this, you're actually feeding the yeast. In about three to five days, your starter will begin to bubble. This is a good thing: the way yeast makes bread rise is by producing gas, like what you see in the bubbles. After day five, your starter should have at least doubled in volume and will be ready to use. As a rule of thumb, a bit of the starter should float in a glass of water when it's ready.
[I've been making bread for over a decade now, and sourdough is one of my favourites. If you have some time to spare give it a go. You will love the results. --Janrinok]
About 90 million years ago, West Antarctica was home to a thriving temperate rainforest, according to fossil roots, pollen and spores recently discovered there, a new study finds.
The rainforest's remains were discovered under the ice in a sediment core that a team of international researchers collected from a seabed near Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica in 2017.
As soon as the team saw the core, they knew they had something unusual. The layer that had formed about 90 million years ago was a different color. Back at the lab, the team put the core into a CT (computed tomography) scanner. The resulting digital image showed a dense network of roots throughout the entire soil layer. The dirt also revealed ancient pollen, spores and the remnants of flowering plants from the Cretaceous period.
The sediment core revealed that during the mid-Cretaceous, West Antarctica had a mild climate, with an annual mean air temperature of about 54 F (12 C), similar to that of Seattle. Summer temperatures were warmer, with an average of 66 F (19 C). In rivers and swamps, the water would have reached up to 68 F (20 C).
"Before our study, the general assumption was that the global carbon dioxide concentration in the Cretaceous was roughly 1,000 ppm [parts per million]," study co-researcher Gerrit Lohmann, a climate modeler at Alfred Wegener Institute, said in the statement. "But in our model-based experiments, it took concentration levels of 1,120 to 1,680 ppm to reach the average temperatures back then in the Antarctic."
California state regulators are trying to hold up the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, saying the companies don't yet have approval to combine their operations in the state.
T-Mobile and Sprint announced yesterday that the merger is a done deal and that the two companies are now one. But while the companies had almost all approvals from government authorities, they have not yet gotten the expected approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The CPUC is scheduled to vote on the merger approval and related conditions on April 16.
In response to yesterday's T-Mobile/Sprint announcement, the CPUC issued a ruling that says the companies "shall not begin merger of their California operations until after the CPUC issues a final decision on the pending applications."
We contacted T-Mobile today about yesterday's CPUC ruling and will update this article if we get a response.
The state Public Utilities Code prevents companies from merging their California operations without approval, the CPUC order said. "Both Joint Applicants, T-Mobile and Sprint, have California subsidiaries that are public utility telephone corporations under state law, and subject to the jurisdiction of this agency. The merger of the companies' operations in California is therefore subject to CPUC approval," the order said.
But T-Mobile and Sprint argue that the CPUC does not have jurisdiction over wireless transactions and that the merger can be completed without the agency's approval. T-Mobile and Sprint previously received approval from the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice, and they defeated a lawsuit filed by California and other states that were trying to block the deal.
Regardless of the outcome at CPUC, the merger is happening. But the dispute between the companies and the Golden State could result in litigation and affect whether the state is able to impose conditions on the deal. T-Mobile claimed that some of CPUC's planned conditions are "practically impossible" and "unfair and discriminatory to T-Mobile vs our competitors."
T-Mobile warned investors that there is a "risk of litigation or regulatory actions" arising "from T-Mobile's consummation of the business combination during the pendency of the California Public Utility Commission's review of the business combination."
In December 2019, popular document database MongoDB added a fairly radical new feature to the platform: field-level database encryption. At first glance, one might wonder whether this is a meaningful feature in a world that already has at-rest storage encryption and in-flight transport encryption—but after a little closer analysis, the answer is a resounding yes.
One of MongoDB's first customers to use the new technology is Apervita, a vendor that handles confidential data for well over 2,000 hospitals and nearly 2 million individual patients. Apervita worked side by side with MongoDB during development and refinement of the technology.
Since reaching general availability in December, the technology has also been adopted by several government agencies and Fortune 50 companies, including some of the largest pharmacies and insurance providers.
This is a good thing. Field Level Encryption (FLE) is a must for any DB these days.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
[Editor's note: SN3 is SpaceX parlance for "Serial Number 3"; Elon Musk is not just working on building rockets, he's building an assembly line and plans to build one Starship a week. This helps explain the use of serial numbers. --martyb]
For almost a year now, SpaceX has been building a series of Starship prototypes that will test how the system fares when launched to orbit.
[...] Musk recently shared images of the components for the SN3 prototype undergoing assembly.
Shortly after these images were shared, the assembled components were seen on their way to the company's test facility at Boca Chica, Texas, on the morning of March 29th. They were then seen being transferred to the launch pad by roll-lift and crane as of late afternoon. Footage of both these events was captured by the LabPadre and shared via Twitter.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
Like its predecessors, the next step for the SN3 will be cryogenic loading trials in which the spacecraft's methane and oxygen tanks will be filled with a cryogenic liquid (most likely liquid nitrogen).
[...] In a previous statement, Musk announced that the SN3 would be used for static fire tests and short flights, whereas longer test flights will wait for the SN4. [...] There is [...] documentation that indicates that SpaceX will be conducting tests as early as next week.
The documents, which were shared on NASASpaceFlight, reference a permit issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the "Starhopper" vehicle, which is valid until June 2020. They further suggest that a static fire of the SN3's engines could take place between April 1st and 3rd, followed by a 150-meter (500 ft) hop test between April 6th and 8th. This was the maximum height achieved by the Starship Hopper.
[...] Once the Starship is finished and integrated with the Super Heavy booster, Musk hopes to begin conducting payload runs to the moon by 2022, followed by crewed missions to the surface by 2024. In between, Musk also intends to conduct the first lunar tourism mission (#dearmoon), which will involve sending a crew of artists around the moon in 2023.
-- submitted from IRC
(2020-04-01) SpaceX Releases a Payload User's Guide for its Starship Rocket
(2020-03-10) Another Starship Prototype Explodes, but SpaceX Isn't Stopping
(2020-02-19) SpaceX Announces Partnership to Send Four Tourists Into Deep Orbit
(2020-01-18) Elon Musk Discloses Details for SpaceX Mars Mega-Colony