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posted by martyb on Saturday January 05 2019, @11:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the discuss! dept.

February: Fiasco by Stanisław Lem
March: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) by Dennis Taylor

Discuss Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in the comments below.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein was published in 1966:

The book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL ("There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"), and helped popularize the constructed language Loglan, which is used in the story for precise human-computer interaction. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations credits this novel with the first printed appearance of the phrase "There's no free lunch", although the phrase and its abbreviation considerably predate the novel.

The virtual assistant Mycroft is named after a computer system from the novel.

Previously: Announcement postMars, Ho!FoundationThe Three-Body Problem

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday January 05 2019, @08:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the coinspiracy dept.

The Dark Overlord Decrypts More 9/11 Insurance Files

On New Year's Eve, Motherboard broke the news that a hacking group known as The Dark Overlord was threatening to release a cache of stolen insurance and legal documents related to the 9/11 attacks. After distributing a small preview set of files, the group has now publicly released a decryption key for more files, meaning anyone can download and read them.

[...] Twitter banned The Dark Overlord's account on Wednesday. Reddit followed suit shortly after. In response, The Dark Overlord is now publishing its announcements on Steemit, a blockchain-based and harder to moderate platform. The Shadow Brokers, a self-described hacking group that released a slew of NSA hacking tools, used the same platform for their communications.

The stolen data itself allegedly comes from a legal firm that advised Hiscox Group, a Hiscox spokesperson previously told Motherboard in a statement. The previously released documents included presentation slide decks, legal correspondence between law firms, and letters from a handful of government agencies. 9/11 conspiracy theorists have been particularly interested in the release of the documents, with internet commenters and several conspiracy-minded YouTubers making videos saying that they hope they will somehow reveal a vast conspiracy around the attacks.

[...] The group released the data after receiving 3 bitcoin, or around $11,000, as part of its self-announced crowdfunding effort.

Does anyone have a link to these documents yet?

Also at the Miami Herald.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday January 05 2019, @06:38PM   Printer-friendly
from the shaky-space dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

Tiny satellites could be 'guide stars' for huge next-generation telescopes: Researchers design CubeSats with lasers to provide steady reference light for telescopes investigating distant planets (MIT)

NASA engineers are now developing designs [for] next-generation space telescopes, including "segmented" telescopes with multiple small mirrors that could be assembled or unfurled to form one very large telescope once launched into space.

[...] One challenge for segmented space telescopes is how to keep the mirror segments stable and pointing collectively toward an exoplanetary system. Such telescopes would be equipped with coronagraphs -- instruments that are sensitive enough to discern between the light given off by a star and the considerably weaker light emitted by an orbiting planet. But the slightest shift in any of the telescope's parts could throw off a coronagraph's measurements and disrupt measurements of oxygen, water, or other planetary features.

Now MIT engineers propose that a second, shoebox-sized spacecraft equipped with a simple laser could fly at a distance from the large space telescope and act as a "guide star," providing a steady, bright light near the target system that the telescope could use as a reference point in space to keep itself stable.

In a paper published today in the Astronomical Journal, the researchers show that the design of such a laser guide star would be feasible with today's existing technology. The researchers say that using the laser light from the second spacecraft to stabilize the system relaxes the demand for precision in a large segmented telescope, saving time and money, and allowing for more flexible telescope designs.

"This paper suggests that in the future, we might be able to build a telescope that's a little floppier, a little less intrinsically stable, but could use a bright source as a reference to maintain its stability," says Ewan Douglas, a postdoc in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a lead author on the paper.

Laser Guide Star for Large Segmented-aperture Space Telescopes. I. Implications for Terrestrial Exoplanet Detection and Observatory Stability (DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aaf385) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday January 05 2019, @04:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the foreignicated-domestic-agents dept.

US Government Using Secretive FISA Rules to Spy on Journalists

Documents recently obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation reveal troubling facts about how the government is secretly using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on journalists. The documents were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Columbia University's Knights First Amendment Institute. These newly declassified memos confirm suspicions long held by civil liberties advocates that the government is using and abusing FISA court orders to conduct intrusive surveillance on reporters they deem as "foreign agents" and on those reporters' contacts.

By using FISA, the Department of Justice circumvents traditional court systems that have long protected journalists from invasive and illegal spying practices. [...] Memos made public through the FOIA request reveal that it is highly likely that both the Trump and Obama administrations have spied on journalists they considered "foreign agents" and anyone with whom they may have been in contact.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Saturday January 05 2019, @01:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the up-up-down-down-b-a-b-a-jail dept.

A revision to Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Act has reportedly introduced criminal penalties for reselling software product keys without permission, distributing save-game editors, and offering to edit save data as a service. Speculation is rampant as to how broadly the data-editing ban may apply.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Saturday January 05 2019, @10:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the inb4-takedown dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Roughly a year after Konami released P.T., a free "Silent Hills teaser" experience for the PlayStation 4, the Japanese game publisher removed its listing. Ever since, the only way to play through this eerie, atmospheric horror vignette has been to find a PS4 that had already downloaded the demo.

That changed on Friday with the release of a free, and largely authentic, replica of the experience. Unreal PT is now available for Windows PCs, and it offers a nearly identical playthrough of the PS4 original. Ars has played through the 1.6GB experience and confirmed that it delivers a remarkable version of the Hideo Kojima original.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday January 05 2019, @08:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-alive dept.

Submitted via IRC for Bytram

What does 'dead' mean?

These are among the wide-ranging questions explored in a new special report, ("Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death,") published with the current issue of the Hastings Center Report. The special report is a collaboration between The Hastings Center and the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School. Editors are (Robert D. Truog), the Frances Glessner Lee professor of medical ethics, anaesthesiology & pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School; (Nancy Berlinger), a research scholar at The Hastings Center; Rachel L. Zacharias, a student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a former project manager and research assistant at The Hastings Center; and (Mildred Z. Solomon), president of The Hastings Center.

Until the mid-twentieth century, the definition of death was straightforward: a person was pronounced dead when found to be unresponsive and without a pulse or spontaneous breathing. Two developments prompted the need for a new concept of death, culminating in the definition of brain death proposed in the Harvard report published in 1968.

The first development was the invention of mechanical ventilation supported by intensive care, which made it possible to maintain breathing and blood circulation in the body of a person who would otherwise have died quickly from a brain injury that caused loss of these vital functions. The second development was organ transplantation, which "usually requires the availability of 'living' organs from bodies deemed to be 'dead'," as the (introduction) to the special report explains. "Patients determined to be dead by neurologic criteria and who have consented to organ donation . . . are the ideal source of such organs, since death is declared while the organs are being kept alive by a ventilator and a beating heart."

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday January 05 2019, @06:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the data-in-german-is-____ dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

[...] The data was leaked from a Twitter account, since suspended, and included email addresses, phone numbers, photo IDs and other personal data on hundreds of senior political figures.

According to a government spokesperson, there was no “sensitive” data from the chancellor’s office, but other lawmakers had more personal data stolen. Other portions of the leaked data included Facebook and Twitter passwords. Some had their credit card information stolen, and chat logs and private letters published in the breach.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday January 05 2019, @03:32AM   Printer-friendly
from the Syntax-error dept.

'Chemputer' promises app-controlled revolution for drug production

In a new paper published online in the journal Science today (November 29), researchers from the University of Glasgow present for the first time how synthesis of important drug molecules can be achieved in an affordable and modular chemical-robot system they call a chemputer.

While recent advances in chemical production have allowed some chemical compounds to be produced at laboratory scale via automated systems, the chemputer is underpinned by a new universal and interoperable standard for writing and sharing chemical recipes, developed by the University of Glasgow team. The key was to develop a general abstraction for chemistry that can be made universal, practical, and driven by a computer program.

Those chemical recipes, run on a computer program the team calls the 'chempiler', instruct the chemputer how to produce molecules on-demand, more affordably and safely than ever possible before The researchers claim the ability to use a universal code will allow chemists all round the world to convert their recipe into digital code, allowing others to share and download recipes similar in a similar way[sic] to music is today on iTunes or Spotify.

[...] In the paper, the team of researchers from the University's School of Chemistry demonstrate the potential of the system by producing three different pharmaceuticals in one robot system, simply by changing the software and input chemicals. They created the sleeping drug Nytol, seizure medication Rufinamide, and erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra in yields comparable to those achieved in traditional human-controlled synthesis.

Organic synthesis in a modular robotic system driven by a chemical programming language (DOI: 10.1126/science.aav2211) (DX)

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Saturday January 05 2019, @01:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the weak-demand-for-high-prices dept.

Screeech... DRAM! Weak demand hits memory-makers as they slam on CAPEX brakes – analyst

The three DRAM suppliers are scaling back production growth as memory demand falters with no sign of recovery. The DRAMeXchange research outfit has said annual DRAM capital expenditure (CAPEX) growth has gone negative for 2019 as Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron respond to weak seasonal demand in the first quarter and beyond. DRAM prices had risen for nine consecutive quarters until the last 2018 quarter, when they fell 10 per cent compared to the third quarter.

The demand outlook for PCs, servers, smartphones, and other end-consumer products is weak and the threat of a China-US trade war is not helping things. DRAMeXchange expects first quarter DRAM prices to show a 15 per cent fall, and see 10 per cent in the next, and then 5 per cent in both the third and fourth quarters, unless something positive happens, like China and the USA becoming best buddies.

The three DRAM suppliers are locked into some production output growth this year but have scaled back their CAPEX plans and reduced growth expectations as a result of the price falls.

Related: Tsinghua to Build $30 Billion DRAM/NAND Fabrication Plant in Nanjing, China
IC Insights Predicts Additional 40% Increase in DRAM Prices
Samsung Preparing to Build Another Memory Fab Near Pyeongtaek for $27.8 Billion
U.S. Indicts Chinese DRAM Maker JHICC for Alleged Industrial Espionage

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Friday January 04 2019, @11:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the nah dept.

Should the US hand over Minnesota's Northwest Angle to Canada?

It's a geographic curiosity - a bit of US land at the top edge of Minnesota, disconnected from the rest of the state. The Northwest Angle is known to local residents, people who love to fish - the region is famous for its walleye - and geography buffs. It is accessible by land only through the Canadian province.

Now, someone has anonymously launched a petition urging the US to hand the land over to its northern neighbours. "Make America great by correcting this critical survey error," states the petition posted on 30 December on the White House "We the People" site, which allows citizens to petition Congress on issues that matter to them. The petition is titled "Give Canada back the Northwest Angle located in Manitoba".

The nub of Minnesota state is roughly 123 square miles (318 square km) and is farther north than any other part of the contiguous United States. Living above the 49th parallel, Angleites - as local residents are known - are the northernmost American citizens, barring Alaskans. It can be reached by driving through Canada or by boat across the Lake of the Woods.

Northwest Angle.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Friday January 04 2019, @09:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the One-of-these-days,-Alice...To-the-Moon!! dept.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Shows up at Pad 39A, Nearly 8 Years after the Last Shuttle Left:

SpaceX took another step toward sticking humans atop its Falcon 9 rocket as one of the units, equipped with a crew version of the Dragon spacecraft, was erected at pad 39A at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

The Falcon 9 went vertical at 2230 UTC last night [Thursday] to allow engineers to check all connections line up as expected. Once done, the vehicle will be rolled back to SpaceX's rocket shed nearby as the team works its way toward launch, planned for 17 January.

As promised: Proper photos of #SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 going vertical at Kennedy Space Center just before 1730 ET / 2230 UTC.

More + story:

— Emre Kelly (@EmreKelly) January 3, 2019

That launch date is, of course, highly likely to slip, and SpaceX will probably point a finger at the US government shutdown. The NASA resources needed to get the thing off the ground are most likely sat at home, twiddling thumbs, instead of signing off on mission reviews.

[...] The next flight for SpaceX's Crew Dragon will also be uncrewed, and will demonstrate the system's abort capability should something go south during ascent.

If all goes well, SpaceX's Demo-2 flight test will launch in June with actual humans onboard.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday January 04 2019, @08:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the uy788*++ç+´] dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

[...] When the Mozilla Foundation decided to turn the email client loose in May 2017, its future looked doubtful, but it's still here and, according to this post by community manager Ryan Sipes, donations are flowing freely enough for Thunderbird to expand its development team.

The current eight personnel are to be expanded to 14, and one of the roles to be resourced is an engineer who will focus on security and privacy.

"The UX/UI around encryption and settings will get an overhaul in the coming year," Sipes wrote.

While he couldn't guarantee that effort making it into the next release, "It is our hope to make encrypting Email and ensuring your private communication easier in upcoming releases."

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Friday January 04 2019, @06:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the bleak-outcome dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

[...] One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.

The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial purposes, like targeted marketing and analysis for hedge funds, according to the lawsuit.

The city’s lawsuit cited an article last month in The New York Times that detailed a sprawling industry of companies that profit from continuously snooping on users’ precise whereabouts. The companies collect location data from smartphone apps to cater to advertisers, stores and investors seeking insights into consumer behavior.

[...] “If the price of getting a weather report is going to be the sacrifice of your most personal information about where you spend your time day and night,” said Michael N. Feuer, the Los Angeles city attorney, “you sure as heck ought to be told clearly in advance.”

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Friday January 04 2019, @04:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the I^W-we-see-what-you-did-there dept.

In April this year drivers will be fined for using mobile phones if caught on the M4 mobile phone use detection system. Fair enough, we have some drongos, like the tool who was caught using both his hands to use his phone while his mate in the passenger seat held the wheel, but, seriously, is a camera system dedicated to detecting mobile use really needed? What's next, fun police?

Original Submission