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posted by Fnord666 on Thursday February 25, @02:07AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the sudden-outbreak-of-common-sense dept.

California can enforce net neutrality law, judge rules in loss for ISPs:

California can start enforcing the net neutrality law it enacted over two years ago, a federal judge ruled yesterday in a loss for Internet service providers.

Broadband-industry lobby groups' motion for a preliminary injunction was denied by Judge John Mendez of US District Court for the Eastern District of California. Mendez did not issue a written order but announced his ruling at a hearing, and his denial of the ISPs' motion was noted in the docket.

Mendez reportedly was not swayed by ISPs' claims that a net neutrality law isn't necessary because they haven't been blocking or throttling Internet traffic.

"I have heard that argument and I don't find it persuasive," Mendez said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "It's going to fall on deaf ears. Everyone has been on their best behavior since 2018, waiting for whatever happened in the DC Circuit [court case over the FCC's repeal of net neutrality]. I don't place weight on the argument that everything is fine and we don't need to worry."

Mendez, who was nominated by President Bush in 2008, also said, "This decision today is a legal decision and shouldn't be viewed in the political lens. I'm not expressing anything on the soundness of the policy. That might better be resolved by Congress than by federal courts."

The industry lobby groups' lawsuit against California will continue, but the state can enforce its law while the case is still pending. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra praised the ruling, saying it means that "California can soon begin enforcement of SB 822," the net neutrality law.

"The ability of an Internet service provider to block, slow down, or speed up content based on a user's ability to pay for service degrades the very idea of a competitive marketplace and the open transfer of information at the core of our increasingly digital and connected world," Becerra said.

Also at The New York Times, The Verge, and The Hill, among others.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Wednesday February 24, @11:39PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the good-news-for-cows dept.

New method converts methane in natural gas to methanol at room temperature:

"Researchers have been interested in ways to convert methane to methanol at ambient temperatures to sidestep all the heat and pressure that is currently required in industrial processes to perform this conversion," said Meenesh Singh, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the [University of Illinois Chicago (UIC)] College of Engineering and corresponding author of the paper.

[...] "Besides being a cleaner-burning fuel, methane can also be stored safely in regular containers, unlike natural gas, which has to be stored under pressure and which is much more expensive," Singh said.

High amounts of heat and pressure are required to break the hydrocarbon bonds in methane gas, the first step in producing methanol. But Singh and UIC graduate student Aditya Prajapati have identified a catalyst material that helps bring down the energy needed to break these bonds so that the reaction can take place at room temperature.

[...] Their catalyst is composed of titanium and copper. The catalyst, together with a small amount of electricity, facilitates the breaking of the hydrocarbon bonds of methane and the formation of methanol. The process uses much less energy than traditional methods, and because it doesn't require machinery to produce high pressure and heat, it can be set up quickly and inexpensively.

Journal Reference:
Aditya Prajapati, Brianna A. Collins, Jason D. Goodpaster, et al. Fundamental insight into electrochemical oxidation of methane towards methanol on transition metal oxides [$], Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2023233118)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 24, @09:09PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the consigned-to-oblivion dept.

Report: Fry's Electronics going out of business, shutting down all stores

Fry's Electronics, the decades-old superstore chain with locations in nine American states, appears to have gone defunct. Bay Area TV station KRON-4 was the first press outlet to confirm the news late Tuesday, saying that Fry's will shut down all 30 of its American locations. The retailer will reportedly make an announcement at some time on Wednesday via the Fry's website.

Rumors began flying on Tuesday in the form of anecdotes from alleged Fry's employees, who all reported that they'd been summarily fired earlier in the day with zero notice. One anonymous report posted at The Layoff alleged that every remaining Fry's store in the US was "permanently closing tomorrow," and that sentiment was echoed hours later at a Fry's-related Reddit community. The Reddit post included the allegation that one store's staffers were tasked with shipping any remaining merchandise back to suppliers during their final day at work.

From the Fry's web site:

After nearly 36 years in business as the one-stop-shop and online resource for high-tech professionals across nine states and 31 stores, Fry's Electronics, Inc. ("Fry's" or "Company"), has made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently as a result of changes in the retail industry and the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Company will implement the shut down through an orderly wind down process that it believes will be in the best interests of the Company, its creditors, and other stakeholders.

See the site for contact details.

Also at The Verge and Newsweek.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 24, @06:35PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the like-cooking-a-steak? dept.

New metalens shifts focus without tilting or moving: The design may enable miniature zoom lenses for drones, cellphones, or night-vision goggles.:

Polished glass has been at the center of imaging systems for centuries. Their precise curvature enables lenses to focus light and produce sharp images, whether the object in view is a single cell, the page of a book, or a far-off galaxy.

Changing focus to see clearly at all these scales typically requires physically moving a lens, by tilting, sliding, or otherwise shifting the lens, usually with the help of mechanical parts that add to the bulk of microscopes and telescopes.

Now MIT engineers have fabricated a tunable "metalens" that can focus on objects at multiple depths, without changes to its physical position or shape. The lens is made not of solid glass but of a transparent "phase-changing" material that, after heating, can rearrange its atomic structure and thereby change the way the material interacts with light.

[...] The new lens is made of a phase-changing material that the team fabricated by tweaking a material commonly used in rewritable CDs and DVDs. Called GST, it comprises germanium, antimony, and tellurium, and its internal structure changes when heated with laser pulses. This allows the material to switch between transparent and opaque states -- the mechanism that enables data stored in CDs to be written, wiped away, and rewritten.

[...] "In general when one makes an optical device, it's very challenging to tune its characteristics postfabrication," Shalaginov says. "That's why having this kind of platform is like a holy grail for optical engineers, that allows [the metalens] to switch focus efficiently and over a large range."

[...] The experiments show that a metalens can actively change focus without any mechanical motions. The researchers say that a metalens could be potentially fabricated with integrated microheaters to quickly heat the material with short millisecond pulses. By varying the heating conditions, they can also tune to other material's intermediate states, enabling continuous focal tuning.

Additional coverage on Interesting Engineering.

Journal Reference:
Mikhail Y. Shalaginov, Sensong An, Yifei Zhang, et al. Reconfigurable all-dielectric metalens with diffraction-limited performance [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21440-9)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 24, @04:06PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Microsoft slashes Windows 10 long-term support by half:

In a Feb. 18 post to a Microsoft blog, Joe Lurie, senior product marketing manager, announced that the next iteration of Windows 10 LTSC, aka "Long-term Support Channel," will be released in the second half of this year. That timetable means the next LTSC will be pegged as either Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021 or Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2022.

That was expected: Almost two years ago, Microsoft said it would deliver another LTSC "toward the end of 2021."

What wasn't anticipated: The massive reduction in support. "Windows 10 Client LTSC will change to a 5-year lifecycle, aligning with the changes to the next perpetual version of Office," Lurie wrote.

Past editions of LTSC will be unaffected. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2015, 2016 and 2019 will get  support until Oct. 14, 2025, Oct. 13, 2026, and Jan. 9, 2029, respectively. (Before 2019, Microsoft labeled this version of Windows LTSB, for Long-term Service Branch. Whether Branch or Channel, they all got at least a decade of support.)

[...] Although the first rationale for the support change that Lurie mentioned last week was to align its lifecycle with that of "the next perpetual version of Office," it wasn't the only reason.

[...] Microsoft has a tendency to leave the obvious unsaid when it alters policies, as it has here. LTSB/LTSC was always anathema to a foundational tenet of Windows 10, that the OS was a constantly changing software-as-a-service, and best licensed through subscription — not through outright purchase. It's no coincidence that LTSC doesn't fit a subscription-based worldview.

Windows 10 LTSC's support reduction is simply a part of Microsoft's continued deprecation of on-premises, perpetually-licensed software. (LTSC is not a licensed product; it is simply a release mode of Windows 10 Enterprise, which can be licensed via subscription, say, within Microsoft 365, or via traditional perpetual licensing.) The reduction, then, can best be seen as a warning of Microsoft's plan to eventually discard the option for client-side devices. A five-year support loss today will almost certainly be followed by another, matching reduction that will excise the option.

When that happens, Microsoft will probably assert that LTSC served its purpose — a bridge between a former release model and the current one — and so can be dropped, even if there are customers still keen for such an option.

What is LTSC?

Microsoft Announcement:
The next Windows 10 Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 24, @01:37PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the maybe-they'll-be-less-surly dept.

USPS picks Oshkosh Defense for future electric mail trucks:

The United States Postal Service has made a selection for its future mail trucks -- and they're going electric. On Tuesday, Oshkosh Defense announced the USPS has selected the Wisconsin-based military vehicle manufacturer to build the Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, or NGDV. The USPS awarded the company a 10-year, $482 million contract to make the new mail trucks.

Not only will Oshkosh help the USPS go electric with battery-electric mail carrier trucks, but it also plans to include "fuel-efficient low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles" as part of the contract. It's unclear what purpose these will serve, however, especially noting President Joe Biden's pledge to move the federal fleet to 100% electric vehicles. Oshkosh did not immediately return a request for comment.

The AP stated that

The postal service last updated its mail-delivery trucks 30 years ago, and there have been major changes in the service's operations since then. Traditional mail volumes have declined, while the service now delivers millions of packages from online retailers like Amazon that did not exist when the previous mail vehicle was introduced.

and that an all-electric proposal lost out:

The choice of Wisconsin-based Oshkosh is a big miss for Ohio-based electric vehicle startup Workhorse Group, which put in an all-electric bid for the vehicles. Shares of Workhorse fell more than 47% Tuesday.

On the plus side, according to Car and Driver

They will also have air conditioning and airbags—both of which the current trucks lack—as well as heat, a 360-degree camera, a front and rear collision avoidance system, and automated emergency braking.

On the other hand, Morgan Sung's article at Mashable is titled "The multi-billion dollar USPS modernization looks like...a duck", so there's that I guess

Additional coverage at vice,

Press Release:
U.S. Postal Service Awards Contract to Launch Multi-Billion-Dollar Modernization of Postal Delivery Vehicle Fleet

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday February 24, @11:08AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Bzzzzzzzz-Bzzzzz-Bzzzzzzzzzzzz dept.

Flapping Wings And The Science Of How Bees Can Fly:

Regular planes have fixed wings that are, for all intents and purposes, relatively rigid. There is some structural flexibility, but from an aerodynamic standpoint, it doesn't have a significant effect. These wings generate lift when moving through the air at speed, thanks to their airfoil shape. Increase the angle of the wing relative to the airflow, for example, by pitching up the aircraft, and the wing will generate more lift. This angle is called the angle of attack. Increase it too far, and the flow will separate from the wing, and it will stop producing lift entirely. This is called a stall. Without lift, planes fall out of the sky.

Bees, like birds, and many insects, don't have fixed wings – instead, they flap their wings to generate both propulsion and lift. The wings are flapped in an incredibly complex motion, with the wing rotating throughout the downstroke and upstroke in order to maximise efficiency. The key to creating high lift with a flapping wing is down to a variety of complex fluid mechanisms.

Journal Reference:
Diana D. Chin, David Lentink. Flapping wing aerodynamics: from insects to vertebrates [$], Journal of Experimental Biology (DOI: 10.1242/jeb.042317)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday February 24, @08:39AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the crumby-protection dept.

Firefox 86 Introduces Total Cookie Protection:

Today we are pleased to announce Total Cookie Protection, a major privacy advance in Firefox built into ETP Strict Mode. Total Cookie Protection confines cookies to the site where they were created, which prevents tracking companies from using these cookies to track your browsing from site to site.

[...] In 2019, Firefox introduced Enhanced Tracking Protection by default, blocking cookies from companies that have been identified as trackers by our partners at Disconnect. But we wanted to take protections to the next level and create even more comprehensive protections against cookie-based tracking to ensure that no cookies can be used to track you from site to site as you browse the web.

In addition, Total Cookie Protection makes a limited exception for cross-site cookies when they are needed for non-tracking purposes, such as those used by popular third-party login providers. Only when Total Cookie Protection detects that you intend to use a provider, will it give that provider permission to use a cross-site cookie specifically for the site you're currently visiting. Such momentary exceptions allow for strong privacy protection without affecting your browsing experience.

In combination with the Supercookie Protections we announced last month, Total Cookie Protection provides comprehensive partitioning of cookies and other site data between websites in Firefox. Together these features prevent websites from being able to "tag" your browser, thereby eliminating the most pervasive cross-site tracking technique.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday February 24, @06:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Unexpected Life Lurking in Subglacial Lakes Isolated Deep Beneath Antarctic Ice:

Lakes underneath the Antarctic ice sheet could be more hospitable than previously thought, allowing them to host more microbial life.

This is the finding of a new study that could help researchers determine the best spots to search for microbes that could be unique to the region, having been isolated and evolving alone for millions of years. The work could even provide insights into similar lakes beneath the surfaces of icy moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, and the southern ice cap on Mars.

Lakes can form beneath the thick ice sheet of Antarctica where the weight of ice causes immense pressure at the base, lowering the melting point of ice. This, coupled with gentle heating from rocks below and the insulation provided by the ice from the cold air above, allows pools of liquid water to accumulate.

[...] Now, in a study published today in Science Advances, researchers from Imperial College London, the University of Lyon and the British Antarctic Survey have shown subglacial lakes may be more hospitable than they first appear.

As they have no access to sunlight, microbes in these environments do not gain energy through photosynthesis, but by processing chemicals. These are concentrated in sediments on the lake beds, where life is thought to be most likely.

Journal Reference:
Louis-Alexandre Couston, Martin Siegert. Dynamic flows create potentially habitable conditions in Antarctic subglacial lakes [open], Science Advances (DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc3972)

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday February 24, @03:33AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the oink dept.

Huawei turns to pig farming as smartphone sales fall:

The Chinese telecoms giant was stopped from accessing vital components after the Trump administration labelled it a threat to US national security.

[...] And so, Huawei appears to be looking for other sources of revenue - moving into cloud computing services, smart vehicles and wearable devices. It even has plans for a smart car.

But it also has its eye on a few more traditional industries.

China has the world's biggest pig farming industry and is home to half the world's live hogs.

Technology is helping to modernise pig farms with AI being introduced to detect diseases and track pigs.

Facial recognition technology can identify individual pigs, while other technology monitors their weight, diet and exercise.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday February 24, @01:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the it's-1-utc-go-to-sleep dept.

Sleep is vital to associating emotion with memory, study finds:

U-M [(University of Michigan)] researchers have been studying how memories associated with a specific sensory event are formed and stored in mice. In a study conducted prior to the coronavirus pandemic and recently published in Nature Communications, the researchers examined how a fearful memory formed in relation to a specific visual stimulus.

They found that not only did the neurons activated by the visual stimulus keep more active during subsequent sleep, sleep is vital to their ability to connect the fear memory to the sensory event.

Previous research has shown that regions of the brain that are highly active during intensive learning tend to show more activity during subsequent sleep. But what was unclear was whether this "reactivation" of memories during sleep needs to occur in order to fully store the memory of newly learned material.

"Part of what we wanted to understand was whether there is communication between parts of the brain that are mediating the fear memory and the specific neurons mediating the sensory memory that the fear is being tied to. How do they talk together, and must they do so during sleep? We would really like to know what's facilitating that process of making a new association, like a particular set of neurons, or a particular stage of sleep," said Sara Aton, senior author of the study and a professor in the U-M Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. "But for the longest time, there was really no way to test this experimentally."

Journal Reference:
Brittany C. Clawson, Emily J. Pickup, Amy Ensing, et al. Causal role for sleep-dependent reactivation of learning-activated sensory ensembles for fear memory consolidation [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-21471-2)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 23, @10:29PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Onions-have-layers dept.

After a ridiculously long sixteen months (or roughly ten years in pandemic time) I'm excited to announce that OnionShare 2.3 is out! Download it from

This version includes loads of new and exciting features which you can read about in much more detail on the brand new OnionShare documentation website, For now though I'm just going to go over the major ones: tabs, anonymous chat, and better command line support.

In the olden days, OnionShare only did one thing: let you securely and anonymously share files over the Tor network. With time we added new features. You could use it as an anonymous dropbox, and then later to host an onion site.

But what if you wanted to, for example, run your own anonymous dropbox as well as share files with someone? If your OnionShare was busy running a service, you couldn't run a second service without stopping the first service. This is all fixed now thanks to tabs.

[...] Another major new feature is chat. You start a chat service, it gives you an OnionShare address, and then you send this address to everyone who is invited to the chat room (using an encrypted messaging app like Signal, for example). Then everyone loads this address in a Tor Browser, makes up a name to go by, and can have a completely private conversation.

[...] OnionShare 2.3 finally de-couples the command line and the graphical versions. You can install onionshare-cli on any platform, including headless Linux servers, using pip:

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 23, @08:02PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Makers-India dept.

Background on the Roboticist that guided Perserverance to Mars,

In yet another proud moment, NASA has successfully landed its Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars on February 18, 2021. Adding to the excitement was the way in which the rover landed on the planet as expected and the high-resolution image was taken during its landing. With an ever-transforming image of NASA from being the white man's club to a more gender-inclusive workplace, the Mars 2020 mission is historic in more ways than one with quite a few women scientists and engineers on board. While Indian-origin Dr. Swati Mohan took the internet by storm for narrating the landing events from inside mission control as the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, another Indian gem from the team is space roboticist Vandana or 'Vandi' Verma.

The Chief Engineer for Robotic Operations for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, Verma was responsible for driving the Mars rovers – Curiosity and Perseverance – using software including PLEXIL – an open-source programming language now used in many automation technologies of NASA – that she co-wrote and developed.

Open-source? Hooray!

Born and raised in Punjab's Halwara, Verma grew up as an army kid as her father was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force. Unarguably for a person who grew up in Punjab, she had once told the media that the first motorized vehicle she ever operated was a tractor. "I must've been 11 years old at the time," she says. Now she drives rovers on the Red Planet – Curiosity which landed on Mars in 2012 and now Perseverance.

An electrical engineering graduate from Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh, Verma went to gain a master's degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the United States, followed by a Ph.D. in 2005. Her thesis was entitled 'Tractable Particle Filters for Robot Fault Diagnosis'.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 23, @05:31PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Concept for a new storage medium:

Using nanoscale quantum sensors, an international research team has succeeded in exploring certain previously uncharted physical properties of an antiferromagnetic material. Based on their results, the researchers developed a concept for a new storage medium published in the journal Nature Physics. The project was coordinated by researchers from the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel.

Antiferromagnets make up 90 percent of all magnetically ordered materials. Unlike ferromagnets such as iron, in which the magnetic moments of the atoms are oriented parallel to each other, the orientation of the magnetic moments in antiferromagnets alternates between neighboring atoms. As a result of the cancelation[sic] of the alternating magnetic moments, antiferromagnetic materials appear non-magnetic and do not generate an external magnetic field.

Antiferromagnets hold great promise for exciting applications in data processing, as the orientation of their magnetic moment -- in contrast to the ferromagnets used in conventional storage media -- cannot be accidentally overwritten by magnetic fields. In recent years, this potential has given rise to the budding research field of antiferromagnetic spintronics, which is the focus of numerous research groups around the world.

[...] "Next, we plan to look at whether the domain walls can also be moved by means of electrical fields," Maletinsky explains. "This would make antiferromagnets suitable as a storage medium that is faster than conventional ferromagnetic systems, while consuming substantially less energy."

Related YouTube video.

Journal Reference:
Natascha Hedrich, Kai Wagner, Oleksandr V. Pylypovskyi, et al. Nanoscale mechanics of antiferromagnetic domain walls, Nature Physics (DOI: 10.1038/s41567-020-01157-0)

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday February 23, @03:02PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Humans had never seen a spacecraft land on another planet:

Never before, in all of our millions of years, have humans directly observed a spacecraft landing on another planet. Until now.

On Monday, NASA released a video (embedded below) that included several viewpoints from the descent of Mars Perseverance to the surface of the red planet last week. A camera on the back shell captured a view of the parachute deploying, and cameras on the descent stage and rover itself captured the final seconds of the landing.

"I can, and have, watched those videos for hours," said NASA's Al Chen, the lead for the entry, descent, and landing for Perseverance. "I find new stuff every time. I invite you to do so as well."

[...] Capturing this visceral footage was not mission critical, but it was a bonus. The space agency used ruggedized, off-the-shelf hardware to take this imagery. All told, about 30GB of data was captured during the descent, totaling 23,000 images. Now that NASA has this information, it will be used to sharpen knowledge about future entry, descent, and landing technology on Mars and other worlds in the Solar System.

One landing issue brought into sharp focus in the new footage is the dust kicked up by the descent stage as it nears the surface of Mars and drops off the lander. It entirely shrouds Perseverance in a thick cloud. This will be an important issue as NASA contemplates landing larger spacecraft, and eventually human missions, on the red planet.

Descending into a rocket-induced dust and sand storm. And look at the large flying rock in the last frame!

— Dr. Phil Metzger (@DrPhiltill) February 22, 2021

[...] There were more than just visual treats released on Monday during the Perseverance news conference. For the first time, a rover recorded audio and transmitted it back to Earth, capturing what sounded like a wind gust. "Who is going to compose the first piece of music with actual Mars sound?" asked Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's chief of science. Who, indeed.

Original Submission