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What should be the Book Club picks for April+?

  • Oryx and Crake - Book #1 of the MaddAddam trilogy - Margaret Atwood
  • Beggars in Spain - Book #1 of the Sleepless trilogy - Nancy Kress
  • Too Far - Rich Shapiro
  • Revolt in 2100 - (short stories collection) - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Morlock the Maker Short Stories - (pre-Blood of Ambrose?) - James Enge
  • Downbelow Station - C. J. Cherryh
  • Hammerfall - C. J. Cherryh
  • Sundiver - David Brin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:17 | Votes:51

posted by martyb on Sunday May 19, @07:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the edible-neighbors dept.

Previously Reported Black hole V404 is back in the news, last time it was for stripping and eating material from a companion star in its orbit. This time it is for being a bit tipsy while it was at it.

While munching on its neighbor, V404 shot out bright jets of plasma into space. This isn't unusual for a black hole, however it normally occurs in a particular fashion. Emanating from the poles in a consistent direction.

a closer look at these jets revealed that instead they appeared to be firing in a wobbling pattern known as procession[sic].

On Monday, in the journal Nature, James Miller-Jones, and his team of researchers from the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, published their observations on the 2015 event and offered an explanation for V404 Cygni's odd behaviour. The black hole is misaligned.

"We were gobsmacked by what we saw in this system — it was completely unexpected," said the University of Alberta's Gregory Sivakoff in a statement from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

V404 is surrounded by an accretion disk approximately six million miles (9.7 million kilometers) wide. Typically this disk spinning about a black hole does so on the same axis as the black hole itself. In V404's case it does not.

That misalignment was likely caused by the force of the supernova that created the created the Black Hole in the first place and combined with a phenomenon known as frame dragging it creates the spinning [top] like wobbling effect.

Frame Dragging happens when "the intense gravitational force of the black hole pulls space-time around it as it spins."

8,000 light years from Earth, V404 is the first black hole 'observed' behaving in this fashion.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 19, @04:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the cray-fish dept.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise to Acquire Cray for $1.3 Billion

This morning Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Cray are announcing that HPE will be buying out the supercomputer maker for roughly 1.3 billion dollars. Intending to use Cray's knowledge and technology to bolster their own supercomputing and high-performance computing technologies, when the deal closes, HPE will become the world leader for supercomputing technology.

Cray of course needs no introduction. The current leader in the supercomputing field and founder of supercomputing as we know it, Cray has been a part of the supercomputing landscape since the 1970s. Starting at the time with fully custom systems, in more recent years Cray has morphed into an integrator and scale-out specialist, combining processors from the likes of Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA into supercomputers, and applying their own software, I/O, and interconnect technologies.

The timing of the acquisition announcement closely follows other major news from Cray: the company just landed a $600 million US Department of Energy contract to supply the Frontier supercomputer to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2021. Frontier is one of two exascale supercomputers Cray is involved in – the other being a subcontractor for the 2021 Aurora system – and in fact Cray is involved in the only two exascale systems ordered by the US Government thus far. So in both a historical and modern context, Cray was and is one of the biggest players in the supercomputing market.

Related: Intel and Cray Will Build Aurora, U.S.'s First Exaflops Supercomputer, for $500 Million
Cray and AMD Will Build a 1.5 Exaflops Supercomputer by 2021

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday May 19, @02:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the hope-you-have-better-luck-than-Munich dept.

The government will switch the operating system of its computers from Windows to Linux, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said Thursday.

The Interior Ministry said the ministry will be test-running Linux on its PCs, and if no security issues arise, Linux systems will be introduced more widely within the government.

The decision comes amid concerns about the cost of continuing to maintain Windows, as Microsoft's free technical support for Windows 7 expires in January 2020.

The transition to Linux OS and the purchase of new PCs are expected to cost the government about 780 billion won ($655 million), the ministry said.

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posted by martyb on Sunday May 19, @12:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the who-needs-QA-when-we-can-test-it-on-production dept.

At around 9:15 UTC [17 May] Salesforce pushed a database script update that was intended to add modify all permissions to a specific internal profile used by their Pardot service. Due to a scripting error View and Modify All Objects Permission was granted to all user profiles for all organizations that ever had the Pardot product, including public facing community instances. This was of course a security nightmare for customers, especially those in the Financial and Health sectors, and an emergency change was pushed around 10:00 UTC to revoke all permissions to all profiles except for administrators. No announcement was made on their status sites due to the potential for bad actors to take advantage of the security issue that was introduced until the databases could be locked down. Further action was taken around 11:00 UTC to take down PODS completely, likely to further mitigate access risk which effectively expanded the outage to customers that never used Pardot but shared an instance with customers who did.

Salesforce is holding hourly calls, and recently admitted that the script had run both in their production PODS and also in the Passive Disaster Recovery Instances, complicating the ability to recover from the issue. There is currently no ETA for recovery, though it is still their hope that they will not have any data loss. They are beginning to bring back up instances, but only administrators will have access initially and it will require additional time before administrators will be able to modify permissions and rebuild profiles and there will be a longer wait yet before profile settings can be restored from backup.

Coverage at: Geekwire, The Register, and reddit

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @09:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the weighty-discussion dept.

From a modality perspective, writers and programmers do the same thing, day after day. Both careers involve spending the bulk of their work day using a computer, though the tools marketed to and preferred by either industry are often diametrically opposed. While MacBooks are often the system of choice for digital creatives, ThinkPads are often seen in the hands of IT professionals. Users of either system are among the most vocal and opinionated, among laptop brands.

While Apple users have been increasingly seen grousing about the butterfly-switch keyboard, ThinkPad users, likewise, have complained about changes that have come to newer models, bringing them more in-line with standard, consumer-focused systems. Some criticize Lenovo's stewardship of the ThinkPad brand-after acquiring IBM's PC OEM division in 2005-though the company has worked to balance ThinkPad's visual design with the changing PC market.

TechRepublic's James Sanders interviews Jerry Paradise, Lenovo's vice president of global commercial portfolio and product management about screen ratios, soldered components, engineering 5G WWAN support, the potential of Linux preinstalled from the factory, and the original butterfly keyboard.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @07:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-will-work-because-I-said-so dept.

Major outlets report on the passing of I. M. Pei, known for spectacular buildings around the world, The Guardian mentions some of his better known successes like the pyramid Louvre extension in Paris and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Old gray lady is similar,

Since I was in college in Boston in the 1970s, I'm more inclined to comment on his ego, which let him (and his firm) ignore their engineers and build the Hancock tower in downtown Copley Square. The first time the wind came up, large glass panes fell to the plaza below. For several years it was the "plywood tower" until multiple engineering fixes were applied. This Wiki article describes some of the work required: Pieces of fallen glass were kept as souvenirs by many Bostonians.

I believe that Pei's engineers knew in advance that the vertical "blade" shape of the tower was close enough to an airfoil shape that it was going to have large twisting forces in the wind, but the architect convinced the customer (John Hancock Insurance) to go ahead without a full study in advance. Some of your submitting AC's back story came from a detailed personal conversation with the lead engineer for the retro-fitted dynamic dampers added at the top of the building--just one part of the repair process. He recalled carrying lead bricks up the elevators (on low wind days) to fill the two 300 ton weight boxes of the damping mechanism.

This building is rumored to have gone well over double the original budget.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday May 18, @05:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the we-don't-need-no-stinking-disclosure dept.

"Make memories": That's the slogan on the website for the photo storage app Ever, accompanied by a cursive logo and an example album titled "Weekend with Grandpa."

Everything about Ever's branding is warm and fuzzy, about sharing your "best moments" while freeing up space on your phone.

What isn't obvious on Ever's website or app — except for a brief reference that was added to the privacy policy after NBC News reached out to the company in April — is that the photos people share are used to train the company's facial recognition system, and that Ever then offers to sell that technology to private companies, law enforcement and the military.

In other words, what began in 2013 as another cloud storage app has pivoted toward a far more lucrative business known as Ever AI — without telling the app's millions of users.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Saturday May 18, @02:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the what-about-stained-glass-windows? dept.

In the "broken windows theory," as it has come to be known, such characteristics convey the message that these places aren't monitored and crime will go unpunished. The theory has led police to crack down on minor crimes with the idea that this will prevent more serious crimes and inspired research on how disorder affects people's health.
However, the researchers did find a connection between disorder and mental health. They found that people who live in neighborhoods with more graffiti, abandoned buildings, and other such attributes experience more mental health problems and are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. But they say that this greater likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol is associated with mental health, and is not directly caused by disorder.

So...disorder causes mental health problems which causes crime?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @12:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the that's-what-you'd-call-a-hot-car dept.


Tesla has said it is updating the battery software in some of its models following two recent incidents where cars caught fire.
It follows reports that a parked car caught fire in Hong Kong, following a similar incident in Shanghai.
In a statement, the carmaker said: "As we continue our investigation of the root cause... we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity."

Spontaneous combustion, not just for Spinal Tap anymore.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @09:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the Hardware dept.

Security researchers have found a new class of vulnerabilities in Intel chips which, if exploited, can be used to steal sensitive information directly from the processor.,

The bugs are reminiscent of Meltdown and Spectre, which exploited a weakness in speculative execution, an important part of how modern processors work. Speculative execution helps processors predict to a certain degree what an application or operating system might need next and in the near-future, making the app run faster and more efficient. The processor will execute its predictions if they're needed, or discard them if they're not.

Both Meltdown and Spectre leaked sensitive data stored briefly in the processor, including secrets — such as passwords, secret keys and account tokens, and private messages.

Now some of the same researchers are back with an entirely new round of data-leaking bugs.

"ZombieLoad," as it's called, is a side-channel attack targeting Intel chips, allowing hackers to effectively exploit design flaws rather than injecting malicious code. Intel said ZombieLoad is made up of four bugs, which the researchers reported to the chip maker just a month ago.

Almost every computer with an Intel chips dating back to 2011 are affected by the vulnerabilities.

ZombieLoad takes its name from a "zombie load," an amount of data that the processor can't understand or properly process, forcing the processor to ask for help from the processor's microcode to prevent a crash. Apps are usually only able to see their own data, but this bug allows that data to bleed across those boundary walls. ZombieLoad will leak any data currently loaded by the processor's core, the researchers said. Intel said patches to the microcode will help clear the processor's buffers, preventing data from being read.

So far ARM and AMD are not known to be affected.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @07:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the Not-Me dept.

"agreeable individuals use Facebook to express their orientation to other people rather than to themselves," whereas "extroverts use Facebook as a relationship building mechanism". They add that neurotic people strive to bring out the best of themselves. Oddly, the personality traits of openness and conscientiousness do not seem to affect significantly Facebook use.

The bottom line is that extraversion is the main driver for Facebook use. Extroverts are heavy users and have more friends and interact with them and others at a higher rate. But, neurotic people also use it heavily to create a comprehensive and detailed profile of themselves to present to the public.

Betteridge says, "no."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @05:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the Jovienvironmentalism dept.

In a paper published April 16th researchers make the case that we should designate and protect 85% of the solar system as 'protected wilderness'

We make a general argument that, as a matter of fixed policy, development should be limited to one eighth, with the remainder set aside. We argue that adopting a "one-eighth principle" is far less restrictive, overall, than it might seem. One eighth of the iron in the asteroid belt is more than a million times greater than all of the Earth's currently estimated iron ore reserves, and it may well suffice for centuries.

The rational for the limitation is more to do with the nature of human expansion rather than just protecting the environment of the rest of the solar system.

A limit of some sort is necessary because of the problems associated with exponential growth. We note that humans are poor at estimating the pace of such growth and, as a result, the limitations of a resource are hard to recognize before the final three doubling times. These three doublings take utilization successively from an eighth to a quarter, then to a half, and then to the point of exhaustion. Population growth and climate change are instances of unchecked exponential growth. Each places strains upon our available resources, each is a recognized problem that we would like to control, but attempts to do so at this comparatively late stage in their development have not been encouraging.

There are challenges and the authors point out that inaccessible resources, like Jupiter, should be excluded from the calculation and that more research is needed to even determine the amount of resources accessible with accuracy.

Assessing how many tons of potentially extractable resources are awaiting us on those worlds will require a lot more space exploration

Additionally, this is not a limit we are going to hit anytime soon

"Worldwide, the present rate of planetary mission launches is 15 per decade," the authors wrote. "At this rate, even just the nearly 200 worlds of the solar system that gravity has made spherical would take 130 years to visit once."

As an aside, it is not a given that resources in Jupiter are inaccessible with numerous articles on atmospheric mining and extraction approaches and even colonization of Jupiter available.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @02:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-proton-and-a-neutron-walk-into-a-black-hole dept.

In a presentation given on April 15th at the American Physical Society in Denver, Researcher Ana Bonaca of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics presented evidence for a "dark impactor" tearing through our galaxy's longest stellar stream - GD-1.

Stellar streams are lines of stars moving together across galaxies, often originating in smaller blobs of stars that collided with the galaxy in question. The stars in GD-1, remnants of a "globular cluster" that plunged into the Milky Way a long time ago, are stretched out in a long line across our sky.

Under normal conditions, the stream should be more or less a single line, stretched out by our galaxy's gravity, she said in her presentation. Astronomers would expect a single gap in the stream, at the point where the original globular cluster was before its stars drifted away in two directions. But Bonaca showed that GD-1 has a second gap. And that gap has a ragged edge — a region Bonaca called GD-1's "spur" — as if something huge plunged through the stream not long ago, dragging stars in its wake with its enormous gravity. GD-1, it seems, was hit with that unseen bullet

The impactor doesn't match the path of any luminous object according to Bonica. Additionally it is far more massive than a star, approximately a million times more massive than the sun, and between 10 and 20 parsecs across.

That leaves limited possibilities - possibly a black hole, but this would be a black hole on-par with the supermassive black holes found at the center of galaxies. Additionally

we'd expect to see some sign of it, like flares or radiation from its accretion disk. And most large galaxies seem to have just a single supermassive black hole at their center.

This leaves an intriguing possibility. A dark matter object or structure.

With no giant, bright objects visible zipping away from GD-1, and no evidence for a hidden, second supermassive black hole in our galaxy, the only obvious option left is a big clump of dark matter. That doesn't mean the object is definitely, 100%, absolutely made of dark matter, Bonaca said.

The findings are based on data obtained from the ESA Gaia mission.

Bonica's results were well received but have not yet been published in a peer reviewed journal.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday May 18, @12:25AM   Printer-friendly
from the Putin-it-all-down-the-memory-hole dept.

From Eureka Alert

Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and their colleagues from Germany and the Netherlands have achieved material magnetization switching on the shortest timescales, at a minimal energy cost. They have thus developed a prototype of energy-efficient data storage devices. The paper was published in the journal Nature.

The rapid development of information technology calls for data storage devices controlled by quantum mechanisms without energy losses. Maintaining data centers consumes over 3% of the power generated worldwide, and this figure is growing. While writing and reading information is a bottleneck for IT development, the fundamental laws of nature actually do not prohibit the existence of fast and energy-efficient data storage.

The most reliable way of storing data is to encode it as binary zeros and ones, which correspond to the orientations of the microscopic magnets, known as spins, in magnetic materials. This is how a computer hard drive stores information. To switch a bit between its two basic states, it is remagnetized via a magnetic field pulse. However, this operation requires much time and energy.

[...] "The idea was to use the previously discovered spin switching mechanism as an instrument for efficiently driving spins out of equilibrium and studying the fundamental limitations on the speed and energy cost of writing information. Our research focused on the so-called fingerprints of the mechanism with the maximum possible speed and minimum energy dissipation," commented study co-author Professor Alexey Kimel of Radboud University Nijmegen and MIREA. Temporal and spectral fingerprints of ultrafast all-coherent spin switching (

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday May 17, @10:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the when-an-air-gap-is-NOT-your-friend dept.

Google is warning that the Bluetooth Low Energy version of the Titan security key it sells for two-factor authentication can be hijacked by nearby attackers, and the company is advising users to get a free replacement device that fixes the vulnerability.

A misconfiguration in the key's Bluetooth pairing protocols makes it possible for attackers within 30 feet to either communicate with the key or with the device it's paired with, Google Cloud Product Manager Christiaan Brand wrote in a post published on Wednesday.

[...] To tell if a Titan key is vulnerable, check the back of the device. If it has a "T1" or "T2," it's susceptible to the attack and is eligible for a free replacement. Brand said that security keys continued to represent one of the most meaningful ways to protect accounts and advised that people continue to use the keys while waiting for a new one. Titan security keys sell for $50 in the Google Store.

While people wait for a replacement, Brand recommended that users use keys in a private place that's not within 30 feet of a potential attacker. After signing in, users should immediately unpair the security key. An Android update scheduled for next month will automatically unpair Bluetooth security keys so users won't have to do it manually.

Source: ArsTechnica

[Note: Though it cautions about attackers within 30 feet (approximately 10 meters), the distance could be potentially much greater than that depending on the design of the antenna used by the attacker; cf an analogous technique described in How To Make a Wi-Fi Antenna Out Of a Pringles Can. --Ed.]

Original Submission