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What should be the Book Club pick for December 2018?

  • Snow Crash - by Neal Stephenson
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) - by Dennis Taylor
  • Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) - by Octavia Butler
  • The Metropolitan Man (Fan Fiction) - by Alexander Wales
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (Non-Fiction) - by Daniel Kahneman
  • Superforecasting (Non-Fiction) - by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
  • Makers (Fiction) - by Cory Doctorow
  • Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet - by Harold L. Goodwin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:20 | Votes:34

posted by chromas on Wednesday September 19, @11:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the rights-for-me-but-not-for-þe dept.

The International Day Against DRM is twelve years old today. International Day Against DRM fights to raise awareness of the problem of digital restrictions management technology (DRM) and offers methods how to fight it. Specifically, one idea is to try to avoid any and all DRM for the day to be cognizant of where and how it is creeping into daily life. The other is to nudge others to eschew or at least become aware of DRM. The author Cory Doctorow has posted an editorial over at the Electronic Frontier Foundation about how and why to resist DRM.

The Free Software Foundation's Defective by Design campaign today celebrates its 12th annual International Day Against Digital Rights Management. DRM is the controversial practice of restricting what consumers can do with legitimately acquired digital media. Given its pervasive nature, is it possible for you to completely avoid DRM for the day?

[...] Content with DRM is restricted by default yet by its very nature only affects legitimate purchases. Those who pirate their software, for example, are unaffected since piracy groups remove the DRM from content before release. Bizarrely, however, some pirates have even protected their work with DRM, signalling that no one is immune. There are great alternatives, however.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Wednesday September 19, @09:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the MS-DoS dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

Microsoft released a security advisory about a denial-of-service vulnerability that could render multiple versions of Windows completely unresponsive and has no mitigation factors, the company says.

The vulnerability affects all versions of Windows 7 through 10 (including 8.1 RT), Server 2008, 2012, 2016, and Core Installations that don't have the latest set of security updates released as part of the September 2018 Patch Tuesday updates.

Tagged with the identification number CVE-2018-5391, the bug received the moniker FragmentSmack because it responds to IP fragmentation, a process that adjusts the packet size to fit the maximum transmission unit (MTU) at the receiving end.

IP fragmentation attacks are a known form of denial of service, where the victim computer receives multiple IP packets of a smaller size that are expected to be reassembled into their original form at the destination.

FragmentSmack is a TCP fragmentation type of attack, also known as a Teardrop attack, that prevents reassembling the packets on the recipient end. The vulnerability is as old as Windows 3.1 and 95, where it crashed the OS, but it was seen in the more recent Windows 7, too.

Why write all new bugs when you can just reboot old ones?


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 19, @08:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the logical-deduction dept.

An exoplanet with a minimum mass of 8.47±0.47 Earth masses has been discovered around 40 Eridani A:

"Star Trek's" planet Vulcan, ancestral home of Spock and his species, just became a little more real, thanks to a team of exoplanet scientists. Because "Star Trek" creators eventually associated planet Vulcan with a real star, called 40 Eridani A, scientists have wondered for years whether a factual equivalent of the beloved science fiction planet exists, with or without pointy-eared inhabitants. And now, a team of scientists has said that the star really does host at least one planet.

"This star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike the host stars of most of the known planets discovered to date," Bo Ma, lead author of the new research and an astronomer at the University of Florida, said in a statement. "Now, anyone can see 40 Eridani A on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock's home." That star, located about 16 light-years away from Earth, is also known as HD 26965. It's a bit orange, because it's a little smaller and cooler than our sun. But it also has some clear similarities to Earth's star: It's about the same age and sports a fairly similar sunspot pattern.

Also at Science Magazine.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 19, @06:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-could-really-get-into-that! dept.

Mozilla's Firefox Reality web browser is now available

Mozilla's vision of a VR-first web browser is ready for consumers to download and judge.

Firefox Reality is a browser built entirely for virtual reality. While you may have read about desktop Firefox or Chrome adding WebVR support, Firefox Reality is a web browser that you actually use entirely inside a VR headset. You can visit URLs, search things and otherwise browse the 2D and 3D internet within the new browser all without moving a mouse, just your VR hand controller.

Firefox Reality is available on the Oculus, Viveport and Daydream platforms and is optimized to run on the latest standalone mobile headsets like the Oculus Go and Lenovo Mirage Solo.

Also at Engadget, Road to VR, VRFocus, and VentureBeat.

Related: Hubs by Mozilla: A New Way to Get Together Online

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 19, @04:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the sauce-or-gravy? dept.

Weird 'Nuclear Pasta' Could Be The Strongest Material in The Universe

A really weird form of matter found in ultradense objects such as neutron stars is looking like a good candidate for the strongest material in the Universe. According to new calculations, it clocks in at a massive 10 billion times stronger than steel.

"This is a crazy-big figure," physicist Charles Horowitz of Indiana University Bloomington told Science News, "but the material is also very, very dense, so that helps make it stronger."

[...] This incredibly high density does something strange to the nuclei of the atoms in the star. As you move closer and closer in towards the centre, the density increases, squishing and squeezing together the nuclei until they deform and fuse together.

The resulting nuclear structures are thought to resemble pasta - hence the name - forming just inside the star's crust. Some structures are flattened into sheets like lasagna, some are bucatini tubes, some are spaghetti-like strands and others are gnocchi-esque clumps. Their density is immense, over 100 trillion times that of water.

Nuclear pasta:

In astrophysics and nuclear physics, nuclear pasta is a type of degenerate matter found within the crusts of neutron stars. Between the surface of a neutron star and the quark–gluon plasma at the core, at matter densities of 1014 g/cm3, nuclear attraction and Coulomb repulsion forces are of similar magnitude. The competition between the forces allows for the formation of a variety of complex structures assembled from neutrons and protons. Astrophysicists call these types of structures nuclear pasta because the geometry of the structures resembles various types of pasta.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 19, @03:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the Probe-able-cause? dept.

Tesla Is Facing U.S. Criminal Probe Over Elon Musk Statements

Tesla Inc. is under investigation by the Justice Department over public statements made by the company and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, according to two people familiar with the matter. The criminal probe is running alongside a previously reported civil inquiry by securities regulators.

Federal prosecutors opened a fraud investigation after Musk tweeted last month that he was contemplating taking Tesla private and had "funding secured" for the deal, said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss a confidential criminal probe. The tweet initially sent the company's shares higher.

[...] The criminal inquiry is in its early stages, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Justice Department probes, like the civil inquiries undertaken by the SEC, can take months. They sometimes end with prosecutors deciding against bringing any charges.

Also at MarketWatch.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Wednesday September 19, @01:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the just-a-reminder dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

In this day and age ownership of digital media is often an illusion. When you buy a book or movie there are severe restrictions on what you can do with these files. In some cases, purchased content can simply disappear overnight. These limitations keep copyright holders in control, but they breed pirates at the same time.

[...] Millions of people have now replaced their physical media collections for digital ones, often stored in the cloud. While that can be rather convenient, it comes with restrictions that are unheard of offline.

[...R]esearchers examined how the absence of the right to resell and lend affects people's choice to buy. They found that, among those who are familiar with BitTorrent, roughly a third would prefer The Pirate Bay over Apple or Amazon if they are faced with these limitations.

These rights restrictions apparently breed pirates.

"Based on our survey data, consumers are more likely to opt out of lawful markets for copyrighted works and download illegally if there is no lawful way to obtain the rights to lend, resell, and use those copies on their device of choice," the researchers concluded.

The paper in question is two years old by now, but still very relevant today. While we don't expect that anything will change soon, people should at least be aware that you don't always own what you buy.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday September 18, @11:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the Leaked-leaks? dept.

WikiLeaks founder sought Russian visa in 2010, per AP report

The Associated Press has published a cache of 10 documents that it says are part of a leaked "larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage, and other documents." AP reporter Raphael Satter declined to elaborate as to how much more material the AP had or why that material was not being released now.

Among those documents is a purported November 30, 2010 effort by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to seek a Russian visa via its London consulate. That's just a week before Assange surrendered to British authorities who sought him for questioning on behalf of Swedish prosecutors who wanted him on allegations of sexual misconduct. By June 2012, Assange had entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has remained since. Assange has denied any wrongdoing in the Swedish case.

[...] This cache adds intrigue to WikiLeaks' and Assange's ongoing saga. Numerous media outlets reported early last month that Assange's days in the embassy are numbered and that the Ecuadorian authorities could boot him soon. "The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange's budding relationship with Moscow," Satter wrote.

[...] For its part, WikiLeaks responded shortly after the Associated Press story went live on Monday morning by suggesting that, at a minimum, the visa application document was false, tweeting at numerous media outlets:

Mr. Assange did not apply for such a visa at any time or author the document. The source is document fabricator & paid FBI informant Sigurdur Thordarson who was sentenced to prison for fabricating docs impersonating Assange, multiple frauds & pedophilllia.

Related: Ecuador Reportedly Almost Ready to Hand Julian Assange Over to UK Authorities

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday September 18, @09:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the Big-oops-made-big-booms dept.

Pipe pressure before gas explosions was 12 times too high

The pressure in natural gas pipelines prior to a series of explosions and fires in Massachusetts last week was 12 times higher than it should have been, according to a letter from the state's U.S. senators to executives of the utility in charge of the pipelines.

Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent the letter Monday seeking answers about the explosions from the heads of Columbia Gas, the company that serves the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, and NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas.

"The federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has reported that the pressure in the Columbia Gas system should have been around 0.5 pounds per square inch (PSI), but readings in the area reached at least 6 PSI — twelve times higher than the system was intended to hold," the letter said.

The pressure spike registered in a Columbia Gas control room in Ohio, the senators said in the letter, which requests a reply by Wednesday.

See also: Columbia Gas pledges $10M toward relief efforts in Lawrence, Andover, North Andover

Previously: 60-80 Homes Burn; Gas Line "Incident" in Northern Massachusetts

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 18, @08:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the And-microwaves-that-turn-into-cameras,-et-cetera.-So-we-know-that-that-is-just-a-fact-of-modern-life dept.

Amazon plans to release at least 8 new Alexa-powered devices, including a microwave, an amplifier, and an in-car gadget

Amazon is doubling down on its Alexa-powered devices, with plans to release at least 8 new voice-controlled hardware devices before the end of the year, CNBC has learned.

The devices include, among others, a microwave oven, an amplifier, a receiver, a subwoofer, and an in-car gadget, people familiar with the matter said. All of the devices will be Alexa-enabled, meaning they can easily connect to the voice assistant. Some of the devices will also have Alexa built in.

Amazon is expected to reveal some of these devices at an event later this month, according to an internal document describing the plans.

The new devices reflect Amazon's ambition to make its Alexa voice technology ubiquitous by focusing on areas where people spend most of their time — at home and in the car. Alexa was initially considered a geeky experiment at Amazon. Now it is now one of the most popular voice assistants, leading the growth of the burgeoning smart speaker market, which is expected to be worth $30 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

Alexa-"powered" microwave ovens would be among the first consumer "AI" devices with the ability to harm small animals or babies.

Also at The Verge.

Original Submission

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday September 18, @06:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the circle-of-life dept.

But with the reintroduction of wolves, the elk population has gone down significantly — from almost 20,000 in 1995 to around 7,500 in the latest estimates — and during that time scientists have documented a Yellowstone aspen comeback. That’s part of a larger picture of restoring balance to the ecosystem. The aspen already face a variety of challenges from insects and the like.

A 2010 study did not find any impact on aspen with the reintroduction of wolves, but a new study, published in the journal Ecosphere, did. Here’s a synopsis of the study from Oregon State:

This is the first large-scale study to show that aspen is recovering in areas around the park, as well as inside the park boundary, said Luke Painter, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. Wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995. The study shows their predation on elk is a major reason for new growth of aspen, a tree that plays an important ecological role in the American West.

Wolves are culling the elk herd, adding to the effects of bears, cougars, and hunters outside the park, which means less elk are browsing on aspen and other woody species. The presence of wolves has also resulted in most of the elk herd spending winter outside of the park, Painter said. Before wolf restoration, even when elk numbers were similarly low, most of the elk stayed in the park.

"What we're seeing in Yellowstone is the emergence of an ecosystem that is more normal for the region and one that will support greater biodiversity," Painter said. "Restoring aspen in northern Yellowstone has been a goal of the National Park Service for decades. Now they've begun to achieve that passively, by having the animals do it for them. It's a restoration success story."….

The study answers the question of whether the return of wolves to Yellowstone could have a cascading effect on ecosystems outside the park, Painter said, where there is much more human activity such as hunting, livestock grazing, and predator control. There has also been skepticism surrounding the extent and significance of aspen recovery, he said.

[Editor's Note: Related - there has been a lot of interest generated in this topic from this TED talk]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday September 18, @05:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the show-me-a-sign dept.

C.J. Collier posted to the gnupg-users' list about working through the steps to get GNU Privacy Guard approved for Washington State electronic notary public endorsements:

[...] This all seemed to me to be something that GnuPG is designed to do and does quite well. So I sent an email on Friday night to the sender of the letter requesting specific issues that my provider did not comply with. This morning I received a call from the DoL[*], and was able to successfully argue for GnuPG's qualification as an electronic records notary public technology provider for the State of Washington.

In short, GnuPG can now be used to perform notarial acts <> in the State of Washington!

[*] DoL: WA State Licensing (DOL) Official Site: Home

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 18, @03:33PM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

From Engadget:

It could soon prove expensive for media makers to chase online pirates in Canada. The country's Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that internet providers are entitled to "reasonable" compensation when asked to link pirates' IP addresses to customer details.

Voltage Pictures (the production firm behind The Hurt Locker) intended to sue roughly 55,000 customers of telecom giant Rogers for allegedly bootlegging movies, but balked when Rogers wanted to charge $100 per hour to comply with the requests for information. Rogers won the initial Federal Court case, but had to defend itself at the Supreme Court when Voltage appealed the case.

From TorrentFreak:

In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Rogers' favor this week. The Internet provider is entitled to recover costs to link IP-addressed to customer details. Exactly how much will be determined in a future Federal Court hearing.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Tuesday September 18, @01:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the fun-is-underrated dept.

During a press conference at his company's Hawthorne, CA headquarters, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced the first planned private passenger to travel into deep space and around the Moon. Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire fashion entrepreneur and art collector, paid an undisclosed amount to become one of the first people to fly on a SpaceX Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), with a target date of 2023. If the launch happens, he won't be going alone. Maezawa (aka "MZ") plans to invite at least six to eight artists to accompany him on a journey around the Moon. The passengers chosen may be painters, sculptors, musicians, fashion designers, dancers, film directors, architects, etc. and are intended to represent the Earth and participate in an art exhibition after returning to Earth. Musk himself has also been invited. The project is called #dearMoon.

Yusaku Maezawa approached SpaceX and made a contribution that will pay for a "non-trivial" amount of the BFR's development costs. During the Q&A, Musk estimated that the entire development of BFR would cost around $5 billion, or no less than $2 billion and no more than $10 billion. Other potential sources of funding for BFR development include SpaceX's top priority, Crew Dragon flights to the International Space Station (ISS), as well as satellite launches and Starlink satellite broadband service.

Maezawa (along with a guest) was a previously announced anonymous customer for a Falcon Heavy ride around the Moon. SpaceX currently has no plans to human-rate the Falcon Heavy. The switch from Falcon Heavy to BFR will substantially increase the maximum number of passengers and comfort level attainable on a nearly week-long mission, since the Crew Dragon 2 has a pressurized volume of just 10 m3, about 1% of the volume of the BFS.

Some changes have been made to the BFR's design. The height of the full rocket (spaceship and booster) will now be around 118 meters, from 106. Incidentally, the Space Launch System Block 2 Cargo will be 111.25 meters tall. The pressurized volume of the spaceship (BFS) portion was estimated at around 1,000-1,100 m3, greater than that of the ISS, and up from a previous estimate of 825 m3. The booster now has 3 prominent fins, two of which can rotate. The third does not move and has no aerodynamic function whatsoever; it serves as the third landing leg. One major motivating factor behind the redesign? Aesthetics, according to Musk. This is supposed to be the final iteration of the design in terms of broad architectural decisions.

Early in the presentation, BFR's payload capacity to low-Earth orbit and other destinations (with in-orbit refueling) was listed as "over 100" metric tons with full reuse, down from the 150 metric tons that has been talked about since 2017. This appears to be due in part to the use of seven sea-level Raptor engines on the BFS. Two of the rear cargo sections around these engines could be removed and the engines can be switched out for vacuum Raptor engines in another iteration of BFS, which would presumably have a higher payload capacity. Two, and possibly as many as four, of the seven engines can fail without compromising the BFS's ability to land.

"Grasshopper"-style vertical takeoff and landing tests are still planned for 2019, at the company's South Texas Launch Site near Brownsville, TX. High velocity flights and tests of the booster are planned for 2020. The first orbital flights could happen around 2021, and may launch from a floating platform. Musk indicated that there would be several uncrewed tests of the BFR before any humans are sent on it, including an uncrewed flight around the Moon.

Due to the low amount of payload on a cislunar joyride, passengers may only have to experience 2.5-3 g during ascent, instead of around 5 g. Depending on how the BFS returns to Earth, passengers could experience 3 g or 6 g on re-entry. Although the exact mission profile has not yet been decided, the BFS will probably "skim" the surface of the Moon before returning to a higher altitude, so that the passengers can get a much closer look at the Moon's surface than what is portrayed in the current flight plan. The total flight time is estimated at just over 5 days and 23 hours, with around 31 hours spent in the vicinity of the Moon (the flyby).

SpaceX press conference (1h11m44s).

Also at Ars Technica, The Verge (alt), and Fox News.

Previously: SpaceX Plans to Fly a Passenger Around the Moon Using BFR

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by takyon on Tuesday September 18, @12:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the inject-this dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Open Insulin, 'DIY bio' and the future of pharma

The development, manufacture and sale of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States is a complex landscape involving intellectual property and strict federal regulations. But according to Colorado State University scientists, the status quo of the U.S. pharmaceutical market may soon be turned on its head. That's due in part to a growing community of do-it-yourself "biohackers" who are disrupting business-as-usual for pharmaceutical discovery, development and distribution. A Sept. 13 perspective piece in Trends in Biotechnology [DOI: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2018.07.009] [DX] frames these emerging issues, and predicts how the pharmaceutical industry, and the U.S. regulatory environment, will need to change in response.

[...] The authors use the California-based Open Insulin Project as a case study of how the DIY bio movement might shape the future of medicine. Founded in 2015, the project's creators are trying to increase competition in the insulin market by developing and releasing an open-source protocol for manufacturing off-patent insulin.

Why does the Open Insulin Project exist in the first place? Insulin is 100 years old, but it remains prohibitively expensive for many patients, with some uninsured patients paying up to $400 a month for this life-saving medicine. People are angry, and in some cases, people are dying, from lack of access to affordable insulin.

Original Submission