Covers the period:
2017-01-01 .. 2017-03-29
(SPIDs: [586..633]) --martyb
We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.
[Time sensitive but remove breaking news nexus]
An asteroid with the potential to harm thousands of Earthlings was detected just two days before it passed by Earth:
A smallish asteroid zoomed past Earth this morning (Jan. 9), just two days after scientists first spotted the space rock. The asteroid, known as 2017 AG13, flew by our planet at just half the distance from Earth to the moon today at 7:47 a.m. EST (1247 GMT). (On average, the moon lies about 239,000 miles, or 385,000 kilometers, from Earth.) You can learn more about today's flyby in this video of asteroid 2017 AG13 from Slooh.com, which includes details on the space rock from Slooh Community Observatory astronomer Eric Edelman.
2017 AG13 is thought to be between 36 and 111 feet (11 to 34 meters) wide, according to astronomers at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For perspective, the object that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, injuring more than 1,000 people, was thought to be about 65 feet (20 m) wide.
See also: NASA Formalizes Planetary Defense Coordination Office to Track Asteroids
NASA and FEMA Conduct Asteroid Threat Response Exercise
NASA Office to Coordinate Asteroid Detection, Hazard Mitigation
Quantum computing may be leaping out of the lab soon:
Quantum computing has long seemed like one of those technologies that are 20 years away, and always will be. But 2017 could be the year that the field sheds its research-only image. Computing giants Google and Microsoft recently hired a host of leading lights, and have set challenging goals for this year. Their ambition reflects a broader transition taking place at start-ups and academic research labs alike: to move from pure science towards engineering. "People are really building things," says Christopher Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park who co-founded the start-up IonQ in 2015. "I've never seen anything like that. It's no longer just research."
Google started working on a form of quantum computing that harnesses superconductivity in 2014. It hopes this year, or shortly after, to perform a computation that is beyond even the most powerful 'classical' supercomputers — an elusive milestone known as quantum supremacy. Its rival, Microsoft, is betting on an intriguing but unproven concept, topological quantum computing, and hopes to perform a first demonstration of the technology.
Separate article about IonQ.
The love of guns in the United States has been well documented, as have multiple mass shootings across the country such as those in Orlando, San Bernardino, Newtown, and Virginia. The ease of access to guns in American society comes at a shocking cost.
As of September 2016, almost 11,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence. Despite this high death toll, mass shootings in America show no sign of disappearing.
The Stateside obsession with guns can appear baffling to UK observers unfamiliar with its origins. So just how did this gun culture become so deep-rooted in the American psyche?
BBC source: Why Are Americans so Obsessed with Guns?
Wikipedia: Gun politics in the United States
WikiLeaks wants to start building a list of verified Twitter users that would include highly sensitive and personal information about their families, their finances and their housing situations.
"We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships," WikiLeaks tweeted Friday.
The disclosure organization, run by Julian Assange, says the information would be used for an artificial-intelligence program. But Twitter users immediately fired back, saying WikiLeaks would use the list to take political vengeance against those who criticize it.
Twitter "verifies" certain users, such as world leaders, nonprofit organizations and news outlets, with a blue check mark beside their names so that other users of the service can be confident about the posters' identities. WikiLeaks, which has a verified Twitter account, did not say whether it would subject itself to the scrutiny it was proposing. (It was also unclear whether, under its plan, WikiLeaks would seek to uncover information about the financial lives of Russian President Vladimir Putin or President-elect Donald Trump, both of whom are verified on Twitter.)
-- submitted from IRC
Some financial institutions are now offering so-called "cardless ATM" transactions that allow customers to withdraw cash using nothing more than their mobile phones. But as the following story illustrates, this new technology also creates an avenue for thieves to quickly and quietly convert stolen customer bank account usernames and passwords into cold hard cash. Worse still, fraudulent cardless ATM withdrawals may prove more difficult for customers to dispute because they place the victim at the scene of the crime.
San Francisco resident Kristina Markula told KrebsOnSecurity that it wasn't until shortly after a vacation in Cancun, Mexico in early November 2016 that she first learned that Chase Bank even offered cardless ATM access. Markula said that while she was still in Mexico she tried to view her bank balance using a Chase app on her smartphone, but that the app blocked her from accessing her account.
[...] Upon returning to the United States, Markula called the number on the back of her card and was told she needed to visit the nearest Chase bank branch and present two forms of identification. At a Chase branch in San Francisco, she handed the teller a California driver's license and her passport. The branch manager told her that someone had used her Chase online banking username and password to add a new mobile phone number to her account, and then move $2,900 from her savings to her checking account.
The manager told Markula that whoever made the change then requested that a new mobile device be added to the account, and changed the contact email address for the account. Very soon after, that same new mobile device was used to withdraw $2,900 in cash from her checking account at the Chase Bank ATM in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
-- submitted from IRC
A Federal Trade Commission attempt to rein in a poorly secured IoT device is raising questions over whether the U.S. regulator has the power to crack down on vendors suspected of shoddy practices.
On Thursday, the FTC filed a complaint against Taiwanese manufacturer D-Link Systems that charged the company's internet routers and web cameras can easily be hacked, putting consumers at risk.
But the FTC's complaint doesn't cite evidence that the products have been breached, only the potential for harm to consumers.
That's among the reasons D-Link is contesting the complaint. "Notably, the complaint does not allege any breach of a D-Link Systems device," it said in a statement.
"Instead, the FTC speculates that consumers were placed 'at risk' to be hacked, but fails to allege, as it must, that actual consumers suffered," the company said.
-- submitted from IRC
Ever wonder what happened to the Voyager spacecraft and where they are now? Scientists are using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe along Voyager's path to see where they might be going.
NASA's two Voyager spacecraft are hurtling through unexplored territory on their road trip beyond our solar system. Along the way, they are measuring the interstellar medium, the mysterious environment between stars. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is providing the road map — by measuring the material along the probes' trajectories as they move through space. Even after the Voyagers run out of electrical power and are unable to send back new data, which may happen in about a decade, astronomers can use Hubble observations to characterize the environment through which these silent ambassadors will glide.
A preliminary analysis of the Hubble observations reveals a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing multiple clouds of hydrogen laced with other elements. Hubble data, combined with the Voyagers, have also provided new insights into how our sun travels through interstellar space.
"This is a great opportunity to compare data from in situ measurements of the space environment by the Voyager spacecraft and telescopic measurements by Hubble," said study leader Seth Redfield of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. "The Voyagers are sampling tiny regions as they plow through space at roughly 38,000 miles per hour. But we have no idea if these small areas are typical or rare. The Hubble observations give us a broader view because the telescope is looking along a longer and wider path. So Hubble gives context to what each Voyager is passing through."
The astronomers hope that the Hubble observations will help them characterize the physical properties of the local interstellar medium. "Ideally, synthesizing these insights with in situ measurements from Voyager would provide an unprecedented overview of the local interstellar environment," said Hubble team member Julia Zachary of Wesleyan University.
[...] For the next 10 years, the Voyagers will be making measurements of interstellar material, magnetic fields, and cosmic rays along their trajectories. Hubble complements the Voyagers' observations by gazing at two sight lines along each spacecraft's path to map interstellar structure along their star-bound routes. Each sight line stretches several light-years to nearby stars. Sampling the light from those stars, Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph measured how interstellar material absorbed some of the starlight, leaving telltale spectral fingerprints.
Ever wonder why your wireless router has a bunch of antennas on it these days and what MIMO really stands for and what it does? Hackaday has a recent article about a group at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory who have come up with a way to visualize how phased array antennas work.
Phased array antenna systems are at the cusp of ubiquity. We now see Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna systems on WiFi routers. Soon phased array weather radar systems will help to predict the weather and keep air travel safe, and phased array base stations will be the backbone of 5G which is the next generation of wireless data communication. But what is a phased array antenna system? How do they work? With the help of 1024 LEDs we'll show you.
[...] How Do Phased Array Antenna Systems Work?
How do you create a 'beam of microwave energy' and direct your receiver onto just the right point in space?
An excellent tutorial is presented here, but the key take away is that if we feed an array of antenna elements with the same microwave signal then we can use these elements to direct (or steer as it is commonly referred to) a microwave beam anywhere in space. This beam steering is achieved by the use of a phase shifter (or its equivalent) in series with each and every antenna element.
To make the above explanation more interesting and understandable, friends of mine at MIT Lincoln Laboratory created this direct visualization of how antenna arrays work (shown recently at the 2016 IEEE International Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology). It is almost as if you were to put on a pair 'microwave goggles' and looked into the antenna array!
[...] With this visualization system, you can manually move the antenna beam around with a joystick and view the lighted pattern and beam plots changing in real-time, providing an instant and intuitive understanding of phased array beam steering and beam patterns. Absolutely amazing!
This attack model was brought to light towards the end of 2016 by a team of six researchers, who presented their findings at the Black Hat Europe 2016 security conference in November and the 33rd Chaos Communication Congress held last week.
Their research focuses on the science of ultrasound cross-device tracking (uXDT), a new technology that started being deployed in modern-day advertising platforms around 2014.
uXDT relies on advertisers hiding ultrasounds in their ads. When the ad plays on a TV or radio, or some ad code runs on a mobile or computer, it emits ultrasounds that get picked up by the microphone of nearby laptops, desktops, tablets or smartphones.
These second-stage devices, who silently listen in the background, will interpret these ultrasounds, which contain hidden instructions, telling them to ping back to the advertiser's server with details about that device.
-- submitted from IRC
Red Hat employee Daniel J. Walsh writes via OpenSource.com
When I was young, Paul Simon released his hit song, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. Inspired by this song, I've collected 50 ways sysadmins and laypeople can avoid getting hacked:
"Make a new plan, Stan"
6. Run applications in the SELinux Sandbox whenever possible--it was a container before containers were cool. Also follow the development of Flatpack, which soon should be developing sandboxing capabilities.
7. Don't install or use Flash. Firefox no longer supports it, and hopefully most web servers are moving away from it.
"Just get yourself free"
19. [...] I don't do online banking on my phone--only on my Linux computer.
"Hop on the bus, Gus"
21. Run Linux on your systems. When I first hooked my father up with a computer system, I barely got home before his system was infested with viruses. I returned and installed Linux on his system and he has been running it ever since.
"And get yourself free"
50. Set up a special guest network for all those Christmas IoT devices your kids receive. I love my Amazon Echo and automated lights and power switches ("Alexa, turn on the Christmas Lights"), but each one of these is a Linux operating system [whose manufacturer's configuration] has questionable security.
Do you take exception with anything he suggests. (Being a Red Hat guy, he is enthusiastic about systemd.) Can you think of something he missed?
A team of researchers at MIT has designed one of the strongest lightweight materials known, by compressing and fusing flakes of graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon. The new material, a sponge-like configuration with a density of just 5 percent, can have a strength 10 times that of steel.
In its two-dimensional form, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. But researchers until now have had a hard time translating that two-dimensional strength into useful three-dimensional materials.
The new findings show that the crucial aspect of the new 3-D forms has more to do with their unusual geometrical configuration than with the material itself, which suggests that similar strong, lightweight materials could be made from a variety of materials by creating similar geometric features.
The mechanics and design of a lightweight three-dimensional graphene assembly (open, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601536) (DX)
President-elect Donald Trump is clearly antagonistic toward the mainstream media. That attitude is unlikely to change after Inauguration Day. His disdain for journalists and reluctance to release details about his finances and business ventures may force journalists to rely increasingly on anonymous sources, a strategy that reputable news organizations have long frowned upon.
So in the age of Trump, how should a reader approach coverage that relies primarily on anonymous sources?
Apple CEO Tim Cook's total compensation took a dive for 2016, as the company missed its financial targets for the year. The company's earnings for the year to Sept. 24 dropped 14 percent compared to a year earlier. As a result, Cook's total compensation dropped 15 percent -- despite a 50 percent rise in base salary.
He certainly won't have to start eating ramen noodles -- he made $8,747,719, after all -- but he and fellow senior executives lost out on a few million each because of the poor performance.
Cook's compensation consists of a base salary and an annual cash incentive that can reach be worth four times base salary if the company's revenue and earnings exceed the maximum goals set, as they did in 2015 when Cook received $10.28 million, including $280,000 in "other" compensation.
In 2016, in contrast, the incentive was only 1.79 times base salary, according to documents Apple filed with the SEC on Friday. Luckily for Cook, that $1 million pay rise at the start of the year also receives the multiplier: Without that, he would have made less than $5 million in total.
Apple also provided compensation details for five other executives in its filing. They all made more than Cook.
-- submitted from IRC
The use of facial recognition software for commercial purposes is becoming more common, but, as Amazon scans faces in its physical shop and Facebook searches photos of users to add tags to, those concerned about their privacy are fighting back.
Berlin-based artist and technologist Adam Harvey aims to overwhelm and confuse these systems by presenting them with thousands of false hits so they can't tell which faces are real.
The Hyperface project involves printing patterns on to clothing or textiles, which then appear to have eyes, mouths and other features that a computer can interpret as a face.
Sometime around 2003 Scotts GMO grass crop in Idaho escaped its plot and blew across the Snake River into Oregon up to 30 miles away. The crop in question is a Roundup ready creeping bentgrass that is used for putting greens. Regulators and locals are in for a fight as Scotts is ready to abandon the ongoing approximately $250,000 per year effort to eradicate the grass in favor of running an informative website on Roundup ready bentgrass removal. Scotts canceled the development program because the golf industry is experiencing a decline, yet the company still wants the product deregulated.
Locals are left holding the bag as it threatens Oregon's international reputation as a "GMO-free" grass-grower and its seed industry. Regardless of whether direct genetic modification is bad in and of itself, grasses are an important crop for the state. Additionally, the grass has been found interbreeding with other feral grasses. Interestingly, the company has hired an attorney that specializes in bio-diversity to defend its interests.
The battle pits farmer against farmer, regulator against regulator, seller against buyer. Scotts spokesman Jim King insists the company has done its part and significantly reduced the modified grass's territory. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which for 14 years had refused to deregulate the controversial grass on environmental concerns, suddenly reversed course last fall and signaled it could grant the company's request as early as this week.
Many find the prospect alarming. The Oregon and Idaho departments of agriculture oppose deregulation, as does U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which predicted commercialization of the grass could drive endangered species to extinction.
In a surprising and worrying move, the FBI has dropped its case against a man accused of downloading child sex abuse images, rather than reveal details about how they caught him.
Jay Michaud, a middle school teacher in Vancouver, Washington, was arrested in July last year after visiting the Playpen, a dark web meeting place tens of thousands of perverts used to swap mountains of vile underage porn.
Unbeknown to him at the time, the FBI were, for about a fortnight, running the site after taking over its servers, and managed to install a network investigative technique (NIT) on his computer to get his real public IP address and MAC address. The Playpen was hidden in the Tor anonymizing network, and the spyware was needed to unmask suspects – about 1,300 public IP addresses were collected by agents during the operation.
According to the prosecution, a police raid on his home revealed a substantial hoard of pictures and video of child sex abuse on computer equipment. But now, guilty or not, he's now off the hook after the FBI filed a motion to dismiss its own case [PDF] late last month.
Why? Because Michaud's lawyer insisted that the FBI hand over a sample of the NIT code so it could be checked to ensure that it didn't breach the terms of the warrant the FBI obtained to install the malware, and to check that it wouldn't throw up any false positives.
US District Judge Robert Bryan agreed, saying that unless the prosecution turned over the code, he'd have to dismiss the charges. The FBI has since been arguing against that, but has now decided that it's better to drop the case than reveal its techniques.
-- submitted from IRC