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Comments:41 | Votes:73

posted by hubie on Thursday February 29, @10:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the Where-have-you-been-recently? dept.

Sensitive location data could be sold off to the highest bidder:

In 2021, a company specializing in collecting and selling location data called Near bragged that it was "The World's Largest Dataset of People's Behavior in the Real-World," with data representing "1.6B people across 44 countries." Last year the company went public with a valuation of $1 billion (via a SPAC). Seven months later it filed for bankruptcy and has agreed to sell the company.

But for the "1.6B people" that Near said its data represents, the important question is: What happens to Near's mountain of location data? Any company could gain access to it through purchasing the company's assets.

The prospect of this data, including Near's collection of location data from sensitive locations such as abortion clinics, being sold off in bankruptcy has raised alarms in Congress. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to "protect consumers and investors from the outrageous conduct" of Near, citing his office's investigation into the India-based company.

Wyden's letter also urged the FTC "to intervene in Near's bankruptcy proceedings to ensure that all location and device data held by Near about Americans is promptly destroyed and is not sold off, including to another data broker." The FTC took such an action in 2010 to block the use of 11 years worth of subscriber personal data during the bankruptcy proceedings of the XY Magazine, which was oriented to young gay men. The agency requested that the data be destroyed to prevent its misuse.

Wyden's investigation was spurred by a May 2023 Wall Street Journal report that Near had licensed location data to the anti-abortion group Veritas Society so it could target ads to visitors of Planned Parenthood clinics and attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions. Wyden's investigation revealed that the group's geofencing campaign focused on 600 Planned Parenthood clinics in 48 states. The Journal also revealed that Near had been selling its location data to the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies.

[...] This week, a new bankruptcy court filing showed that Wyden's requests were granted. The order placed restrictions on the use, sale, licensing, or transfer of location data collected from sensitive locations in the US and requires any company that purchases the data to establish a "sensitive location data program" with detailed policies for such data and ensure ongoing monitoring and compliance, including the creation of a list of sensitive locations such as reproductive health care facilities, doctor's offices, houses of worship, mental health care providers, corrections facilities and shelters among others. The order demands that unless consumers have explicitly provided consent, the company must cease any collection, use, or transfer of location data.

[...] The bankruptcy order also provided a rare glimpse into how data brokers license data to one another. Near's list of contracts included agreements with several location brokers, ad platforms, universities, retailers, and city governments.

It is not clear from the filing if the agreements covered Near data being licensed, Near licensing the data from the companies, or both.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @05:35AM   Printer-friendly

Growing but unprofitable, Reddit could kick off 2024's IPO cycle:

Social media giant Reddit filed to go public today [22 Feb 2024]. Its long-awaited S-1 filing will see it approach the public markets potentially at the head of a long column of richly valued technology startups and private companies that need to find an exit this year.

[...] The company's got a long and tangled history. It was sold in its infancy, only to be later spun back out. Today Reddit approaches the public markets with more than $800 million worth of revenue in 2023, up from $666.7 million in 2022.

However, the company remains unprofitable on both a GAAP and adjusted basis, and continues to consume cash to fund its operations. Scale has not yet solved the profitability question for Reddit, which could limit its potential valuation when it does list its shares.

In 2022, Reddit generated a net loss of $158.6 million and had an adjusted EBITDA of negative $108.4 million. In 2023, those figures improved to a $90.8 million net loss and $69.3 million worth of negative adjusted EBITDA. The company's free cash flow improved from –$100.3 million to –$84.8 million over the same timeframe.

The company may be making progress toward stemming the red ink that is missed in its annual figures. In the final quarter of 2023, Reddit not only posted what was at least a local maximum in revenue terms — $249.8 million — but also a net profit of $18.5 million. While the GAAP profit is notable for the fourth quarter, the company's free cash flow was still negative in the period, ending the three-month period at –$22 million.

Reddit raised more than $1 billion while private, according to Crunchbase data. That figure includes a massive $410 million Series F raised in 2021 and a smaller $368 million Series E raised earlier the same year. The Series E pushed Reddit's valuation to $6.4 billion, while its Series F took it to a roughly $10 billion valuation.

Both of those bubble-era valuations will be tested in Reddit's now quickly forthcoming IPO. But the company's debut will be more than a test for certain private-market startup valuations. Reddit is reportedly trying something novel in its own flotation.

In what is broadly viewed as an unorthodox move, Reddit reportedly plans to reserve an undetermined number of shares for 75,000 of its users, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter. Those users will be given the chance to scoop up shares of Reddit at its IPO price before the stock even begins trading — something typically reserved only for large investors.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday February 29, @12:49AM   Printer-friendly

Researchers Adopt Innovative Method to Boost Speed and Accuracy of Traditional Computing:

Quantum computing has been hailed as a technology that can outperform classical computing in both speed and memory usage, potentially opening the way to making predictions of physical phenomena not previously possible.

Many see quantum computing's advent as marking a paradigm shift from classical, or conventional, computing. Conventional computers process information in the form of digital bits (0s and 1s), while quantum computers deploy quantum bits (qubits) to store quantum information in values between 0 and 1. Under certain conditions this ability to process and store information in qubits can be used to design quantum algorithms that drastically outperform their classical counterparts. Notably, quantum's ability to store information in values between 0 and 1 makes it difficult for classical computers to perfectly emulate quantum ones.

However, quantum computers are finicky and have a tendency to lose information. Moreover, even if information loss can be avoided, it is difficult to translate it into classical information—which is necessary to yield a useful computation.

[...] The scientists' results show that classical computing can be reconfigured to perform faster and more accurate calculations than state-of-the-art quantum computers.

This breakthrough was achieved with an algorithm that keeps only part of the information stored in the quantum state—and just enough to be able to accurately compute the final outcome.

"This work shows that there are many potential routes to improving computations, encompassing both classical and quantum approaches," explains Dries Sels, an assistant professor in New York University's Department of Physics and one of the paper's authors. "Moreover, our work highlights how difficult it is to achieve quantum advantage with an error-prone quantum computer."

[....] In seeking ways to optimize classical computing, Sels and his colleagues at the Simons Foundation focused on a type of tensor network that faithfully represents the interactions between the qubits. Those types of networks have been notoriously hard to deal with, but recent advances in the field now allow these networks to be optimized with tools borrowed from statistical inference.

The authors compare the work of the algorithm to the compression of an image into a JPEG file, which allows large images to be stored using less space by eliminating information with barely perceivable loss in the quality of the image.

Journal Reference:
Tindall, Joseph and Fishman, Matthew and Stoudenmire, E. Miles and Sels, Dries, Efficient Tensor Network Simulation of IBM's Eagle Kicked Ising Experiment, PRX Quantum, 5, 1, 010308, 2024 https://doi.org/10.1103/PRXQuantum.5.010308


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 28, @08:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the clink! dept.

https://www.psi.ch/en/science/scientific-highlights/altermagnetism-proves-its-place-on-the-magnetic-family-tree

There is now a new addition to the magnetic family: thanks to experiments at the Swiss Light Source SLS, researchers have proved the existence of altermagnetism:

Altermagnets have a special combination of the arrangement of spins and crystal symmetries. The spins alternate, as in antiferromagnets, resulting in no net magnetisation. Yet, rather than simply cancelling out, the symmetries give an electronic band structure with strong spin polarization that flips in direction as you pass through the material's energy bands -- hence the name altermagnets. This results in highly useful properties more resemblant of ferromagnets, as well as some completely new properties.

Spintronics has promised to revolutionise IT. Typically, ferromagnets have been used as they offer highly desirable, strong, spin-dependent physical phenomena. Yet the macroscopic net magnetisation that is useful in so many other applications poses practical limitations on the scalability of these devices as it causes crosstalk between bits. Instead, Antiferromagnets have been investigated for spintronics, as they have no net magnetisation and thus offer ultra-scalability and energy efficiency. However, the strong spin-dependent effects are lacking, again hindering their practical applicability.

Enter altermagnets with the best of both: zero net magnetisation together with the coveted strong spin-dependent phenomena typically found in ferromagnets -- merits that were regarded as principally incompatible.

The researchers believe that this new fundamental discovery in magnetism will enrich our understanding of condensed-matter physics, with impact across diverse areas of research and technology. As well as its advantages to the developing field of spintronics, it also offers a promising platform for exploring unconventional superconductivity, through new insights into superconducting states that can arise in different magnetic materials.

"Altermagnetism is actually not something hugely complicated. It is something entirely fundamental that was in front of our eyes for decades without noticing it," says Jungwirth. "And it is not something that exists only in a few obscure materials. It exists in many crystals that people simply had in their drawers. In that sense, now that we have brought it to light, many people around the world will be able to work on it, giving the potential for a broad impact."

Original Publications: Altermagnetic Lifting of Kramers spin degeneracy (J. Krempaský, L. Šmejkal, S. W. D'Souza, M. Hajlaoui, G. Springholz, K. Uhlířová, F. Alarab, P. C. Constantinou, V. Strokov, D. Usanov, W. R. Pudelko, R. González-Hernández, A. Birk Hellenes, Z. Jansa, H. Reichlová, Z. Šobáň, R. D. Gonzalez Betancourt, P. Wadley, J. Sinova, D. Kriegner, J. Minár, J. H. Dil, T. Jungwirth) Nature, 14 February 2024

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06907-7


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 28, @03:17PM   Printer-friendly

Quitting smoking at any age brings big health benefits, fast: study:

People who quit smoking see major gains in life expectancy after just a few years, according to a new study by University of Toronto researchers at Unity Health Toronto.

The study, published in NEJM Evidence, shows that smokers who quit smoking before age 40 can expect to live almost as long as those who never smoked. Those who quit at any age return close to never-smoker survival 10 years after quitting, and about half that benefit occurs within just three years.

[...] Former smokers lowered their risk of death to 1.3-fold (or 30 per cent higher) compared to never smokers. Stopping smoking at any age was associated with longer survival, and even those who quit for less than three years gained up to six years in life expectancy.

"Many people think it's too late to quit smoking, especially in middle age," said Jha. "But these results counter that line of thought. It's never too late, the impact is fast and you can reduce risk across major diseases, meaning a longer and better quality of life."

The researchers found that quitting smoking reduced the risk of dying from vascular disease and cancer, in particular. Former smokers also reduced their risk of death from respiratory disease, but slightly less so, likely due to residual lung damage.

Journal Reference:
Eo Rin Cho, Ilene K. Brill, Inger T. Gram, et al., Smoking Cessation and Short- and Longer-Term Mortality, NEJM Evidence, 2024. https://doi.org/10.1056/EVIDoa2300272


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @10:34AM   Printer-friendly

https://newatlas.com/energy/geologic-hydrogen-gold-rush/

There's enough natural hydrogen trapped underground to meet all projected demands for hundreds of years. An unpublished report by the US Geological Survey identifies it as a new primary resource, and fires the starter pistol on a new gold rush.

The "black gold" oil rush in the US started in 1859, when one Edwin Drake drove a stake into the Pennsylvania soil and oil started flowing out. The gold hydrogen rush may have a similar moment to point back to; in 1987, as one Mamadou Ngulo Konaré tells the story, well diggers gave up on a 108-m (354-ft) deep dry borehole, but he and other villagers in Bourakébougou, Mali, noticed that wind was blowing out of it. When one of the drillers looked in, smoking a cigarette, it blew up in his face, causing severe burns as well as a huge fire.

That fire, as Science quoted Konaré, burned "like blue sparking water, and did not have black smoke pollution. The color of the fire at night was like shining gold." It took weeks to put the fire out and plug the hole, but subsequent analysis showed the gas coming out was 98% pure hydrogen. Celebratory mangos were served. Some years later, a little 30 kW Ford generator was hooked up, and Bourakébougou became the first village in the world to enjoy the benefits of clean, naturally occuring hydrogen as a green energy source.
...
Either way, the situation has now changed, big time. Geoffrey Ellis, of the US Geological Survey, has been investigating the global potential of geo-locked "gold" hydrogen as a new primary resource. In a Denver meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he previewed the results of an as-yet unpublished study, according to the Financial Times.

In short, there are as many as 5.5 trillion tons of hydrogen in underground reservoirs worldwide. It may have been generated by the interaction of certain iron-rich minerals with subterranean water. In some cases, it may be mixed in with other gases such as methane, from which it would need to be separated. But it's there, in such extraordinary quantities that analysts are expecting a gold hydrogen rush at a global scale.

It may not be super easy to get to: "Most hydrogen is likely inaccessible," Ellis told the Financial Times. "But a few per cent recovery would still supply all projected demand – 500 million tonnes a year – for hundreds of years."

Gold hydrogen won't won't hog renewable energy like electrolyzers, or divert it away from other decarbonization opportunities. In that sense, you could argue it'll have the potential to be significantly greener than green hydrogen. On the other hand, if tapping it releases methane into the atmosphere, that's a serious issue; methane is around 85 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @05:49AM   Printer-friendly

Users are even more likely to stick with Google due to one change, says Yelp:

To comply with looming rules that ban tech giants from favoring their own services, Google has been testing new look search results for flights, trains, hotels, restaurants, and products in Europe. The EU's Digital Markets Act is supposed to help smaller companies get more traffic from Google, but reviews service Yelp says that when it tested Google's design tweaks with consumers it had the opposite effect—making people less likely to click through to Yelp or another Google competitor.

The results, which Yelp shared with European regulators in December and WIRED this month, put some numerical backing behind complaints from Google rivals in travel, shopping, and hospitality that its efforts to comply with the DMA are insufficient—and potentially more harmful than the status quo. Yelp and thousands of others have been demanding that the EU hold a firm line against the giant companies including Apple and Amazon that are subject to what's widely considered the world's strictest antitrust law, violations of which can draw fines of up to 10 percent of global annual sales.

"All the gatekeepers are trying to hold on as long as possible to the status quo and make the new world unattractive," says Richard Stables, CEO of shopping comparison site Kelkoo, which is unhappy with how Google has tweaked shopping results to comply with the DMA. "That's really the game plan."

Google spokesperson Rory O'Donoghue says the more than 20 changes made to search in response to the DMA are providing more opportunities for services such as Yelp to show up in results. "To suggest otherwise is plain wrong," he says. Overall, Google's tests of various DMA-inspired designs show clicks to review and comparison websites are up, O'Donoghue says—at the cost of users losing shortcuts to Google tools and individual businesses like airlines and restaurants facing a drop in visits from Google search. "We've been seeking feedback from a range of stakeholders over many months as we try to balance the needs of different types of websites while complying with the law," he says.

Google, which generates 30 percent of its sales from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, views the DMA as disrespecting its expertise in what users want. Critics such as Yelp argue that Google sometimes siphons users away from the more reliable content they offer. Yelp competes with Google for advertisers but generated less than 1 percent of its record sales of $1.3 billion last year from outside the US. An increase in European traffic could significantly boost its business.


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @01:02AM   Printer-friendly

Facial-recognition data is typically used to prompt more vending machine sales:

Canada-based University of Waterloo is racing to remove M&M-branded smart vending machines from campus after outraged students discovered the machines were covertly collecting facial-recognition data without their consent.

The scandal started when a student using the alias SquidKid47 posted an image on Reddit showing a campus vending machine error message, "Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognitionApp.exe," displayed after the machine failed to launch a facial recognition application that nobody expected to be part of the process of using a vending machine.

"Hey, so why do the stupid M&M machines have facial recognition?" SquidKid47 pondered.

The Reddit post sparked an investigation from a fourth-year student named River Stanley, who was writing for a university publication called MathNEWS.

Stanley sounded alarm after consulting Invenda sales brochures that promised "the machines are capable of sending estimated ages and genders" of every person who used the machines without ever requesting consent.

[...] A University of Waterloo spokesperson, Rebecca Elming, eventually responded, confirming to CTV News that the school had asked to disable the vending machine software until the machines could be removed.

[...] Adaria Vending Services told MathNEWS that "what's most important to understand is that the machines do not take or store any photos or images, and an individual person cannot be identified using the technology in the machines. The technology acts as a motion sensor that detects faces, so the machine knows when to activate the purchasing interface—never taking or storing images of customers."

According to Adaria and Invenda, students shouldn't worry about data privacy because the vending machines are "fully compliant" with the world's toughest data privacy law, the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"These machines are fully GDPR compliant and are in use in many facilities across North America," Adaria's statement said. "At the University of Waterloo, Adaria manages last mile fulfillment services—we handle restocking and logistics for the snack vending machines. Adaria does not collect any data about its users and does not have any access to identify users of these M&M vending machines."

Under the GDPR, face image data is considered among the most sensitive data that can be collected, typically requiring explicit consent to collect, so it's unclear how the machines may meet that high bar based on the Canadian students' experiences.

According to a press release from Invenda, the maker of M&M candies, Mars, was a key part of Invenda's expansion into North America. It was only after closing a $7 million funding round, including deals with Mars and other major clients like Coca-Cola, that Invenda could push for expansive global growth that seemingly vastly expands its smart vending machines' data collection and surveillance opportunities.

"The funding round indicates confidence among Invenda's core investors in both Invenda's corporate culture, with its commitment to transparency, and the drive to expand global growth," Invenda's press release said.

But University of Waterloo students like Stanley now question Invenda's "commitment to transparency" in North American markets, especially since the company is seemingly openly violating Canadian privacy law, Stanley told CTV News.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @08:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the money-money-money dept.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2024/02/i-just-dont-see-how-we-survive-tyler-perry-issues-hollywood-warning-over-ai-video-tech/

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published Thursday, filmmaker Tyler Perry spoke about his concerns related to the impact of AI video synthesis on entertainment industry jobs. In particular, he revealed that he has suspended a planned $800 million expansion of his production studio after seeing what OpenAI's recently announced AI video generator Sora can do.

"I have been watching AI very closely," Perry said in the interview. "I was in the middle of, and have been planning for the last four years... an $800 million expansion at the studio, which would've increased the backlot a tremendous size—we were adding 12 more soundstages. All of that is currently and indefinitely on hold because of Sora and what I'm seeing. I had gotten word over the last year or so that this was coming, but I had no idea until I saw recently the demonstrations of what it's able to do. It's shocking to me."

[...] "It makes me worry so much about all of the people in the business," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "Because as I was looking at it, I immediately started thinking of everyone in the industry who would be affected by this, including actors and grip and electric and transportation and sound and editors, and looking at this, I'm thinking this will touch every corner of our industry."

You can read the full interview at The Hollywood Reporter

[...] Perry also looks beyond Hollywood and says that it's not just filmmaking that needs to be on alert, and he calls for government action to help retain human employment in the age of AI. "If you look at it across the world, how it's changing so quickly, I'm hoping that there's a whole government approach to help everyone be able to sustain."

Previously on SoylentNews:
OpenAI Teases a New Generative Video Model Called Sora - 20240222

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AI Energy Demands Could Soon Match The Entire Electricity Consumption Of Ireland - 20231014
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Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @03:31PM   Printer-friendly

Twitter security staff kept firm in compliance by disobeying Musk, FTC says:

Twitter employees prevented Elon Musk from violating the company's privacy settlement with the US government, according to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan.

After Musk bought Twitter in late 2022, he gave Bari Weiss and other journalists access to company documents in the so-called "Twitter Files" incident. The access given to outside individuals raised concerns that Twitter (which is currently named X) violated a 2022 settlement with the FTC, which has requirements designed to prevent repeats of previous security failures.

Some of Twitter's top privacy and security executives also resigned shortly after Musk's purchase, citing concerns that Musk's rapid changes could cause violations of the settlement.

FTC staff deposed former Twitter employees and "learned that the access provided to the third-party individuals turned out to be more limited than the individuals' tweets and other public reporting had indicated," Khan wrote in a letter sent today to US Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Khan's letter said the access was limited because employees refused to comply with Musk's demands:

The deposition testimony revealed that in early December 2022, Elon Musk had reportedly directed staff to grant an outside third-party individual "full access to everything at Twitter... No limits at all." Consistent with Musk's direction, the individual was initially assigned a company laptop and internal account, with the intent that the third-party individual be given "elevated privileges" beyond what an average company employee might have.

However, based on a concern that such an arrangement would risk exposing nonpublic user information in potential violation of the FTC's Order, longtime information security employees at Twitter intervened and implemented safeguards to mitigate the risks. Ultimately the third-party individuals did not receive direct access to Twitter's systems, but instead worked with other company employees who accessed the systems on the individuals' behalf.

Jordan is chair of the House Judiciary Committee and has criticized the investigation, claiming that "the FTC harassed Twitter in the wake of Mr. Musk's acquisition." Khan's letter to Jordan today argues that the FTC investigation was justified.

"The FTC's investigation confirmed that staff was right to be concerned, given that Twitter's new CEO had directed employees to take actions that would have violated the FTC's Order," Khan wrote. "Once staff learned that the FTC's Order had worked to ensure that Twitter employees took appropriate measures to protect consumers' private information, compliance staff made no further inquiries to Twitter or anyone else concerning this issue."

Khan also wrote that deep staff cuts following the Musk acquisition, and resignations of Twitter's top privacy and compliance officials, meant that "there was no one left at the company responsible for interpreting and modifying data policies and practices to ensure Twitter was complying with the FTC's Order to safeguard Americans' personal data." The letter continued:


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @10:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the they-still-get-your-digits dept.

Signal now lets you keep your phone number private with the launch of usernames:

Signal is launching usernames, the company announced today. Up until now, you have had to give someone your phone number to chat with them on Signal. Now you can create a unique username that you can use instead. Usernames are currently launching in beta and will be rolling out to all users in the coming weeks. Signal still requires a phone number when registering for the app.

As end-to-end encrypted messaging apps go, Signal stands apart as one with the strongest security and privacy features. By allowing users to now keep their phone numbers private, Signal is closing one of the few loopholes that could allow hacker's access to a victim's messages — where hackers hijack the phone number at the phone carrier level used to register with Signal.

Usernames in Signal do not function like usernames on social media platforms, the company says. For example, Signal usernames are not logins or handles that you'll be known by in the app. Instead, they're just a quick way to connect with someone on the app without sharing your phone number.

If you create a username, your profile name will still display whatever you set it to, and won't show your username. People you message on the app also can't see or find your username unless you have shared it with them. If someone wants to talk to you on the app, they will need to know your exact username because Signal doesn't provide a searchable directory of usernames like X and Instagram do. Or, you have the option to generate a QR code or link that directs people to your username.

Once you create a username, your phone number will no longer be visible in Signal to anyone running the latest version of the app if they don't already have it saved in their contacts. When you message people either directly or in group chats, your phone number won't show up, as users will only see your profile name and image. However, if you still want people to see your phone number when you message them, you can change the default setting in your "Phone Number" settings.

To create a username, go into your "Profile" settings. From there, choose a unique username that has two or more numbers at the end of it. You can change your username as often as you want, and you also have the choice to delete your username altogether if you don't want one anymore. The company says it created usernames to be easily changeable so that you can choose to make a specific username for things like a conference or a group trip, and then change it once it's over.

To start chatting with someone via their username, you need to open the "New Chat" screen in the app and type in their username.

Signal is also introducing a new privacy setting that will let you control who can find you on the app with your phone number. Up until now, anyone who had your phone number, whether they got it on social media or a business card, has been able to find you on Signal. Now you can restrict this by going into your settings and navigating to the "Who can find me by my number" setting and selecting "Nobody."

If you select the "Everybody" option, this means that anyone who has your phone number can type it into Signal and send you a message request, which you can of course reject or block.

I don't trust Signal:

Occasionally when Signal is in the press and getting a lot of favorable discussion, I feel the need to step into various forums, IRC channels, and so on, and explain why I don't trust Signal. Let's do a blog post instead.

Off the bat, let me explain that I expect a tool which claims to be secure to actually be secure. I don't view "but that makes it harder for the average person" as an acceptable excuse. If Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier are going to spout the virtues of the app, I expect it to actually be secure when it matters - when vulnerable people using it to encrypt sensitive communications are targeted by smart and powerful adversaries.

Making promises about security without explaining the tradeoffs you made in order to appeal to the average user is unethical. Tradeoffs are necessary - but self-serving tradeoffs are not, and it's your responsibility to clearly explain the drawbacks and advantages of the tradeoffs you make. If you make broad and inaccurate statements about your communications product being "secure", then when the political prisoners who believed you are being tortured and hanged, it's on you. The stakes are serious. Let me explain why I don't think Signal takes them seriously.

It is worth a read, but remember that it is only his personal viewpoint.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @06:04AM   Printer-friendly

With skull parts that click together like puzzle pieces and a large central tooth, the real-life sandworm is stranger than fiction:

Amphisbaenians are strange creatures. Like worms with vertebrae, scales, a large central tooth and sometimes small forearms, these reptiles live underground, burrowing tunnels and preying on just about anything they encounter, not unlike a miniature version of the monstrous sandworms from "Dune."

Even though they're found around much of the world, little is known about how amphisbaenians behave in the wild because they cannot be observed while in their natural habitat under sand and soil. But thanks to two papers published in the March issue of The Anatomical Record, new light is being shed on these animals and their specialized anatomy.

[...] "You could fit three skulls of the Zygaspis quadrifrons on the nail of my pinky. We can now look at these really small vertebrate organisms in a measure of detail that we never had before," Bell said.

[...] "They wriggle around and try to escape and move in ways that worms just aren't able to. These are much more like little snakes in the way that they move and interact. It's just surprising for something that's so tiny. You just don't expect that behavior," Lewis said.

Some of the most striking imagery to come from these CT scans highlights sutures within the skull: deep, thin waves that "grab" on to each other, Lewis described. The images also render in exquisite details the amphisbaenians' strange singular central tooth, which interlocks with two bottom teeth.

"Combined with the powerful jaw muscles in amphisbaenians, it gives them a ferocious bite for an animal of their size. They can bite and tear out pieces of their prey," Bell said.

Journal References:
    Antonio Meza, Christopher J. Bell, Juan D. Daza, et al., Variation in the cranial osteology of the amphisbaenian genus Zygaspis based on high-resolution x-ray computed tomography, The Anatomical Record, First Published: 17 October 2023 https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.25321
    Christopher J. Bell, Cristhian Cadena, Antonio Meza, et al., Cranial anatomy of the "round-headed" Amphisbaenian Zygaspis quadrifrons (Squamata, Amphisbaenia) based on high-resolution x-ray computed tomography, The Anatomical Record, First Published: 17 October 2023 https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.25321


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @01:13AM   Printer-friendly
from the Windows-as-a-boot-sector-virus dept.

Ars has a story containing tips and tricks for making Microsoft leave you alone while you use your PC in Windows 11. To wit:

I've written before about my nostalgia for the Windows XP- or Windows 7-era "clean install," when you could substantially improve any given pre-made PC merely by taking an official direct-from-Microsoft Windows install disk and blowing away the factory install, ridding yourself of 60-day antivirus trials, WildTangent games, outdated drivers, and whatever other software your PC maker threw on it to help subsidize its cost.

You can still do that with Windows 11—in fact, it's considerably easier than it was in those '00s versions of Windows, with multiple official Microsoft-sanctioned ways to download and create an install disk, something you used to need to acquire on your own. But the resulting Windows installation is a lot less "clean" than it used to be, given the continual creep of new Microsoft apps and services into more and more parts of the core Windows experience. [...]

[T]his [article] is not a guide about creating a minimally stripped-down, telemetry-free version of Windows that removes anything other than what Microsoft allows you to remove ... but [one that demonstrates how to] remov[e] built-in Windows components can cause unexpected compatibility and security problems...."

I am a long-time macOS user, and willingly pay the hefty Apple "tax" to use it because macOS behaves itself, but I am forced to use Windows 11 at work and I hate it for many of the reasons outlined in this article. Windows, like DOS before it decades ago, has become a boot-sector virus. Windows delenda est!


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Monday February 26, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly

https://newatlas.com/science/adhd-evolutionary-benefits-foraging-explore-exploit/

While current diagnostic definitions of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are relatively new, the general condition has been identified by clinicians under a variety of names for centuries. Recent genetic studies have revealed the condition to be highly heritable, meaning the majority of those with the condition have genetically inherited it from their parents.

Depending on diagnostic criteria, anywhere from two to 16% of children can be classified as having ADHD. In fact, increasing rates of diagnosis over recent years have led to some clinicians arguing the condition is overdiagnosed.

What is relatively clear, however, is that the behavioural characteristics that underpin ADHD have been genetically present in human populations for potentially quite a long time. And that has led some researchers to wonder what the condition's evolutionary benefits could be.

Imagine you are part of a wandering tribe of early humans. Your group comes across a field full of one kind of fruit and everyone is faced with a big question. Do you settle in the field and exploit the fruit stocks until they are all gone, or do you quickly take what you can and continue to explore for more varied foods?

This exploit or explore trade-off is fundamental to the survival of all animals. At what point is the risk of staying in one place greater than the risk of moving on to find out what is over the next hill?

In the early 2000s a team of scientists set out to study the genetics of a unique tribe of people in Northern Kenya. Known as the Ariaal, this population has traditionally been incredibly nomadic. Some members of the Ariaal settled down in one place over the 20th century and adopted modern methods of agriculture while other tribe members continued to live as nomadic pastoralists.

The scientists compared the genetic and health differences between these two cohorts of Ariaal and discovered something incredibly interesting. Generally, all of the Ariaal people carried a unique genetic mutation, dubbed DRD4/7R. This genetic trait had previously been identified commonly in people with ADHD.

...
"The DRD4/7R allele has been linked to greater food and drug cravings, novelty-seeking, and ADHD symptoms," explained study leader Dan Eisenberg back in 2008. "It is possible that in the nomadic setting, a boy with this allele might be able to more effectively defend livestock against raiders or locate food and water sources, but that the same tendencies might not be as beneficial in settled pursuits such as focusing in school, farming or selling goods."

So a fascinating hypothesis emerged. Could the genetic traits of ADHD be somewhat beneficial to a tribe by pushing some people to be 'explorers'? What manifests in modern times as fidgety restlessness could actually have been useful to tribes foraging the countryside for food.
...
Around 450 people participated in the experiment, and all were simultaneously screened for ADHD symptoms. Unsurprisingly, the researchers found those with higher ADHD scores moved on to new bushes sooner than others but more importantly, those with ADHD also tended to collect higher volumes of berries overall.

Writing in the newly published study, Barack and colleagues noted that participants without ADHD characteristics tended to over-harvest single patches. Looking at what would be an optimal harvest strategy for the game it was discovered that players with high ADHD scores were more successful overall.

"In addition, we discovered that participants that screened positive for ADHD more readily abandoned patches and achieved higher reward rates than did participants who screened negative," the researchers concluded. "Given the over-staying displayed by participants overall, those with elevated ASRS scores made exploratory decisions that were more closely aligned with the predictions of optimal foraging theory, and, in this sense, behaved more optimally."

Journal Reference:
Barack David L., Ludwig Vera U., Parodi Felipe, et al., 2024, Attention deficits linked with proclivity to explore while foraging, Proc. R. Soc. B. 2912022258420222584 http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2022.2584


Original Submission

posted by hubie on Monday February 26, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the Rolling-Stones-and-computers-gather-no-moss dept.

OS/2 was a joint operating system project by IBM and Microsoft, which was intended for IBM's own Personal System/2 (PS/2) PCs. (If you've ever seen the old circular ports used by keyboards and mice on old PCs, those are also called PS/2 ports— because they're inherited from this.)

While OS/2 comes after the original IBM PC DOS and MS-DOS, we know today that the partnership between IBM and Microsoft would not last in that form. Microsoft eventually stopped working with IBM in 1992 when it dropped Windows 3.1, a direct competitor of the OS/2 software IBM paid it to make.

OS/2 was intended as a protected-mode successor of PC DOS targeting the Intel 80286 processor. Notably, basic system calls were modeled after MS-DOS calls; their names even started with "Dos" and it was possible to create "Family Mode" applications – text mode applications that could work on both systems. Because of this heritage, OS/2 shares similarities with Unix, Xenix, and Windows NT.

Up to $990 million per year was spent developing OS/2 and its replacement. OS/2 sales were largely concentrated in networked computing used by corporate professionals; however, by the early 1990s, it was overtaken by Microsoft Windows NT. While OS/2 was arguably technically superior to Microsoft Windows 95, OS/2 failed to develop much penetration in the mass market consumer and stand-alone desktop PC segments.

IBM discontinued its support for OS/2 on December 31, 2006. Since then, OS/2 has been developed, supported and sold by two different third-party vendors under license from IBM – first by Serenity Systems as eComStation since 2001, and later by Arca Noae LLC as ArcaOS since 2017.

If you're reading this before April 15, 2024, and wish to dig into OS/2 computing history, you're also advised to check out the Hobbes OS/2 Archive while it still exists. The Hobbes OS/2 Archive is the longest-lived host of OS/2 software, but the decades have finally caught up to it, and it's set to close in April.
      https://hobbes.nmsu.edu/

Submitter remembers buying OS/2 Warp ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS/2 ) (although, not really sure which version) : The box I bought (if memory serves... which it doesn't Batman...) came with a CD and like 10 diskettes. I didn't have a CD drive at the time, so had to install from the many diskettes, which didn't always install failure free. Finally got it installed and tried it out some, but, again if memory serves, had so little hard-drive space that i couldn't install much else to fool with to test compatibility.

Then Windows Whatever came along (remember "Start me up" from the Rolling Stones?) and then finally found Linux and never looked back.

If only IBM had had better marketers....


Original Submission