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posted by martyb on Monday February 11 2019, @11:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-grounded dept.

As climate change melts Greenland's glaciers and deposits more river sediment on its shores, an international group of researchers has identified one unforeseen economic opportunity for the Arctic nation: exporting excess sand and gravel abroad, where raw materials for infrastructure are in high demand.
"The melting Greenland Ice Sheet delivers an enormous amount of sediments to the coast," said Mette Bendixen, a researcher at CU Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and a Carlsberg Foundation research fellow. "Eight percent of the annual sediment contribution delivered to the global oceans comes from the Greenland Ice Sheet and with continued global warming, this number is expected to increase."
Simultaneously, global sand reserves have been rapidly depleted in recent decades while demand has only increased thanks to global urbanization and infrastructure investments. The study estimates that the amount of sand delivered to Greenland's coast each year has a market value equivalent to more than half of the Greenland gross domestic product ($2.22 billion in 2015) and this value is expected to double within the next 25 years if the global sand prices continue to increase.

Greenland's melting ice sheet might stall out the Gulf Stream, but the sand and sediment it's depositing at the coast could become a valuable export.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday February 11 2019, @09:53PM   Printer-friendly

Sixty-seven percent of smartphone users rely on Google Maps to help them get to where they are going quickly and efficiently.
A major of[sic] feature of Google Maps is its ability to predict how long different navigation routes will take. That's possible because the mobile phone of each person using Google Maps sends data about its location and speed back to Google's servers, where it is analyzed to generate new data about traffic conditions.

Information like this is useful for navigation. But the exact same data that is used to predict traffic patterns can also be used to predict other kinds of information – information people might not be comfortable with revealing.

For example, data about a mobile phone's past location and movement patterns can be used to predict where a person lives, who their employer is, where they attend religious services and the age range of their children based on where they drop them off for school.

Perhaps we can carefully craft our data patterns to tell advertisers, "Take a hike!"

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posted by cmn32480 on Monday February 11 2019, @08:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the in-soviet-russia dept.

Russia plans to 'unplug' from internet

Russia is planning to briefly disconnect from the internet as part of planning for a future cyber-war. The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally.

A law mandating technical changes needed to operate independently was introduced to Russia's parliament last year.

The test is due to happen before 1 April but no exact date has been set.

The draft law, called the Digital Economy National Program, requires Russia's ISPs to ensure that it can operate in the event of foreign powers acting to isolate the country online.

[...] The test is also expected to involve ISPs demonstrating that they can direct data to government-controlled routing points. These will filter traffic so that data sent between Russians reaches its destination, but any destined for foreign computers is discarded.

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posted by cmn32480 on Monday February 11 2019, @06:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the it's-not-you-its...actually-yes,-it's-you dept.

Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill is taking advantage of her position as a reporter to do something the rest of us only dream of. (If you get paid to write about it, why not?)

She is trying to break up with big tech.

For one week each, she attempted to completely eliminate Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple from her life

Fail. Except for Apple

After that she attempted to eliminate all of them simultaneously for one week.

This was an attempt to completely block the companies in their entireties. For example all AWS hosted websites when trying not to interact with Amazon. Without further ado, her are the results:


"And it was as though a vast tract of the web blinked out"


"meant she couldn't use Lyft or Uber, which rely on Google Maps."


"coffee shop[s] put her at risk of coming into contact with Microsoft, if the shop used Windows to operate its payment system."


"left her feeling strangely isolated, pining for connection even at the cost of pervasive data surveillance."


"when she gave up her iPhone and stepped out of Apple's "walled garden," she had no trouble staying away from the company"

even the one success of Apple presented challenges when the week of attempting to block all five came around.

"'Google and Apple have a duopoly on the smartphone market,' she said. 'So when I went out trying to find a smartphone that was not made or touched by either tech giant, it wasn't possible.'"

She had to use a 'dumb phone', a Nokia 3310, which left her...unsatisfied.

"I would grab my iPhone and just start scrolling," she admitted. "It's how I started the day, every day."

There was nothing worth scrolling through on the Nokia 3310, so she didn't bother.

While I suspect some things like Apple's Quicktime, iTunes, or 'Bonjour' didn't make her radar, and does she work on a Linux box? She still admits to 'slip ups' where contact happened despite her best efforts, for example.

[having a parcel] show up at her door in an instantly recognizable package. The seller had used Amazon to fulfill the order.

In short

"It's not possible to navigate the modern world without coming into contact with these companies," she said. "It made me certainly sympathetic to some of the critics who are saying these companies are too dominant in their spaces."

So what companies do people avoid?

I manage to mostly avoid Apple and Facebook myself. But Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are lost causes for me.

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posted by janrinok on Monday February 11 2019, @04:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the stop-squashing-me dept.

An evocative new image sequence from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft offers a departing view of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) nicknamed Ultima Thule – the target of its New Year's 2019 flyby and the most distant world ever explored.

These aren't the last Ultima Thule images New Horizons will send back to Earth – in fact, many more are to come -- but they are the final views New Horizons captured of the KBO (officially named 2014 MU69) as it raced away at over 31,000 miles per hour (50,000 kilometers per hour) on Jan. 1. The images were taken nearly 10 minutes after New Horizons crossed its closest approach point.

"This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world four billion miles away from Earth," said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute. "Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery."

The newly released images also contain important scientific information about the shape of Ultima Thule, which is turning out to be one of the major discoveries from the flyby.

The first close-up images of Ultima Thule – with its two distinct and, apparently, spherical segments – had observers calling it a "snowman." However, more analysis of approach images and these new departure images have changed that view, in part by revealing an outline of the portion of the KBO that was not illuminated by the Sun, but could be "traced out" as it blocked the view to background stars.

Stringing 14 of these images into a short departure movie, New Horizons scientists can confirm that the two sections (or "lobes") of Ultima Thule are not spherical. The larger lobe, nicknamed "Ultima," more closely resembles a giant pancake and the smaller lobe, nicknamed "Thule," is shaped like a dented walnut.

See also:

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posted by janrinok on Monday February 11 2019, @03:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the monkey-business dept.

Darwin Day is a celebration of Charles Darwin's birthday, the theory of evolution and science in general. This year marks his 210th birthday and 160 years since the publication of The Origin of Species. Those looking to celebrate or learn more about Darwin and evolution will find a wealth of events going on, or if you'd rather not leave the house, try a Darwin Day card with designs generated by simulated evolution.

Recently, an important finding in man's evolution was announced; the so-called Missing Link was confirmed. Australopithecus Sediba fossils were found in 2010 but it took a decade of research and debate for scientists to confirm that this was indeed the missing link that connects man's evolution in an unbroken chain back to primate ancestors.

Not everyone is down with Darwin. The Pew Research Center reports, "In spite of the fact that evolutionary theory is accepted by all but a small number of scientists, it continues to be rejected by many Americans. In fact, about one-in-five U.S. adults reject the basic idea that life on Earth has evolved at all." In Indiana, senator Dennis Kruse introduced a bill that would, among other things, "require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 11 2019, @01:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the had-to-step-outside dept.

In a series of articles at Gizmodo, Gizmodo Writer / editor Kashmir Hill blocks Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon for a week each, then she blocks all five simultaneously. The last article was just published on Feburary 8th.

This wasn't a casual experiment. She literally had an expert block every known IP address by said companies and banned technology from these different groups for that particular week. In the last week, she couldn't even use DuckDuckGo because it was run on AWS (found in the conclusion).

Selected paragraphs from the introduction:

The common retort to these concerns is that you should "just stop using their services." So I decided to try.

This is a story of how, over six weeks, I cut them out of my own life and tried to prevent them from knowing about me or monetizing me in any way—not just by putting my iPhone in a drawer for a week or only buying local, but by really, truly blocking these companies from accessing me and vice versa. I wanted to find out how hard it would be—or if I could even do it—given that these tech giants dominate the internet in so many invisible ways that it's hard to even know them all.

It's not just logging off of Facebook; it's logging off the countless websites that use Facebook to log in. It's not just using DuckDuckGo instead of Google search; it's abandoning my email, switching browsers, giving up a smartphone, and living life without mapping apps. It's not just refusing to buy toilet paper on; it's being blocked from reading giant swaths of the internet that are hosted on Amazon servers, giving up websites and apps that I didn't previously know were connected to the biggest internet giant of them all.


To keep my devices from talking to the big five's servers, and vice versa, Dhruv built a virtual private network, or VPN, for me, through which I sent all my internet traffic. He then used the VPN to block my devices from being able to use the IP addresses owned by Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and/or Apple, depending on the week.

On a normal day, as measured by the VPN, I tend to send two million data packets out onto the internet and more than half of them (60 percent) go to the tech giants. That meant that over half of my normal internet usage was going to grind to a halt—including virtually every way I communicate with my friends, family, and colleagues.


You have no idea how hard it is to find a phone that's not touched by Apple or Google.

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posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 11 2019, @12:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the who-watches-the-watchers dept.

Submitted via IRC for chromas

Trust but verify: Machine learning's magic masks hidden frailties

The idea sounded good in theory: Rather than giving away full-boat scholarships, colleges could optimize their use of scholarship money to attract students willing to pay most of the tuition costs.

So instead of offering a $20,000 scholarship to one needy student, they could divide the same amount into four scholarships of $5,000 each and dangle them in front to wealthier students who might otherwise choose a different school. Luring four paying students instead of one nonpayer would create $240,000 in additional tuition revenue over four years.

The widely used practice, called "financial aid leveraging," is a perfect application of machine learning, the form of predictive analytics that has taken the business world by storm. But it turned out that the long-term unintended consequence of this leveraging is an imbalance in the student population between economic classes, with wealthier applicants gaining admission at the expense of poorer but equally qualified peers.

[...] Financial aid leveraging is one of several examples of questionable machine-learning outcomes cited by Samir Passi of Princeton University and Solon Barocas of Cornell University in a recent paper about fairness in problem formulation. Misplaced assumptions, failure to agree on desired outcomes and unintentional biases introduced by incomplete training data are just some of the factors that can cause machine learning programs to go off the rails, yielding data that’s useless at best and misleading at worst.

"People often think that bad machine learning  systems are equated with bad actors, but I think the more common problem is unintended, undesirable side effects," Passi said in an interview with SiliconANGLE.

[...] Like most branches of artificial intelligence, machine learning has acquired a kind of black-box mystique that can easily mask some of its inherent frailties. Despite the impressive advances computers have made in tasks like playing chess and piloting driverless automobiles, their algorithms are only as good as the people who built them and the data they're given.

The upshot: Work on machine learning in coming years is likely to focus on cracking open that black box and devising more robust methods to make sure those algorithms do what they’re supposed to do and avoid collateral damage.

Any organization that's getting started with machine learning should be aware of the technology's limitations as well as its power.

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posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 11 2019, @10:49AM   Printer-friendly
from the built-from-scratch dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Apple's internal hardware team is working on modems now, likely to replace Intel

Apple will design its own modems in-house, according to sources that spoke with Reuters. In doing so, the company may hope to leave behind Intel modems in its mobile devices, which Apple has used since a recent falling out with Qualcomm.

Qualcomm forces Apple to stop selling iPhone 7 and 8 in Germany According to the sources, the team working on modem design now reports to Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies. Srouji joined Apple back in 2004 and led development of Apple's first in-house system-on-a-chip, the A4. He has overseen Apple silicon ever since, including the recent A12 and A12X in the new iPhone and iPad Pro models.

Before this move, Apple's modem work ultimately fell under Dan Riccio, who ran engineering for iPhones, iPads, and Macs. As Reuters noted, that division was heavily focused on managing the supply chain and working with externally made components. The fact that the team is moving into the group focused on developing in-house components is a strong signal that Apple will not be looking outside its own walls for modems in the future.

In recent years, Apple has been locked in a costly and complex series of legal battles with Qualcomm, the industry's foremost maker of mobile wireless chips. While Apple previously used Qualcomm's chips in its phones, the legal struggles led the tech giant to turn instead to Intel in recent iPhones.

Late last year, Apple announced that it would greatly expand hiring in San Diego, where Qualcomm is based. All of the areas where Apple announced plans to build out new campuses or launch major hiring initiatives appeared to be chosen because of their large pools of high-skilled workers in certain fields that Apple could potentially poach from competitors like Qualcomm.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday February 11 2019, @09:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the lyft-says-uber-says dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Lyft says it has more wheelchair accessible vehicles available in NYC

Lyft, which has faced at least one lawsuit pertaining to its alleged discrimination against people with physical abilities, announced today it has expanded its wheelchair-accessible vehicle (WAV) service in New York City. Details on the blog are very scarce (we’ve reached out to Lyft for more info) but Lyft now has more than 20 partners in New York City to help increase WAV access.

“With more accessible rides on the road, we'll be better able to help New Yorkers with physical disabilities get around the city,” Lyft wrote in a blog post.

But it’s not clear how many wheelchair-accessible vehicles are available now than before. Previously, Lyft had just a five percent success rate for finding wheelchair-accessible vehicles for riders, while Uber had a 55 percent success rate, according to a 2018 report from the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. For both of these companies, they were able to find for non-accessible rides 100 percent of the time.

The lack of WAVs on Lyft and Uber have resulted in lawsuits for both companies. Last March, Disability Rights Advocates filed a class-action lawsuit against Lyft, alleging the company discriminates against people who use wheelchairs by not making wheelchair-accessible cars available in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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posted by chromas on Monday February 11 2019, @07:42AM   Printer-friendly

Xbox Live to connect with Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch players:

"Microsoft is taking a step toward true 'cross-platform play' by opening the doors for Xbox Live users to chat with their friends on PC, Android, iOS, and the Nintendo Switch.

At GDC in March, the company is slated to discuss a new software developer's kit that'll enable the different platforms to connect on Xbox Live."

[...] "Now Xbox Live is about to get MUCH bigger," read a notice on the GDC. "Xbox Live is expanding from 400M gaming devices and a reach to over 68M active players to over 2B devices with the release of our new cross-platform XDK (Xbox Development Kit.)"

So far, Microsoft hasn't officially commented on the announcement, which was originally spotted by a Twitter user before it was taken down. But if true, the upcoming developer's kit may one day enable true cross-platform play across different gaming hardware.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Monday February 11 2019, @06:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the wings-and-prayers dept.

A380 Cancellations by Qantas Raise new Questions About the Superjumbo's Future:

Australia's Qantas (QABSY) said Thursday that it had scrapped longstanding plans to buy eight more of the double-decker planes

The A380 has been a major disappointmentfor Airbus ( EADSF) , racking up less than a quarter of the sales the European company forecast when it first introduced the giant jetliner more than a decade ago. The underwhelming demand has fueled questions about how long the manufacturer can justify continuing production of the iconic aircraft.

[...] Other airlines including Virgin Atlantic have ditched plans to buy the aircraft in the past year. Airbus now has only 79 firm orders for it, according to FlightGlobal data.

The program's future could hinge on Dubai-based Emirates, the largest A380 operator with more than 100 of the aircraft in service. The Gulf carrier last year ordered a further 20 of the superjumbo jets, with the option to buy an additional 16 on top of that.

But Airbus said last month that it was renegotiating the deal with Emirates following reports that the airline was looking to switch its orders to the smaller and newer A350.

According to Wikipedia, an A380 has seating for 575-853 depending on variant and configuration.

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posted by martyb on Monday February 11 2019, @04:37AM   Printer-friendly
from the pennies-from-heaven dept.

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is poised to sign a "rain tax" bill passed by the state legislature Jan. 31 — and Republicans and lots of taxpayers are howling with rage.

"Every time you think there's nothing left to tax, we come up with something else," Assemblyman Hal Wirths (R-Morris-Sussex) exploded during a debate on the measure.

"It's just never-ending down here."

The law allows each of the state's 565 municipalities to set up its own public stormwater utility. The new bureaucracies will build and manage sewer systems to treat pollutant-filled stormwater runoff.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday February 11 2019, @03:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the designer-egomania-vs-user-ergonomics dept.

In a not so recent (2015) study Flat Design vs Traditional Design: Comparative Experimental Study scientists measure the performance of current and past interface styles. They reference multiple past articles and studies (some freely avaliable like Ref 3 or Ref 11) so they are not walking new ground, just measuring some more.

Some interesting background:

The density of screen information [in flat design] is often extraordinarily low [10].
The main criticism was that flat design ignores the three-dimensional nature of the human brain, which is extremely sensitive to visual cues linking interfaces to the real world. The removal of affordances from interactive interface objects means that users regularly perceive interactive elements as non-interactive, and non-interactive elements as interactive.
Despite these limitations flat design is becoming more and more common, and criticism of experts in HCI [Human-Computer Interaction] and usability is generally ignored by the software industry and graphic designers.

They used different tests: finding a word in text, finding an icon among others and finding clickable objects in a webpage. The process included eye tracking and recording of mouse motions. Subjects were students below 30 years old and already using similar interfaces, so effects in older or disabled persons were not studied. Font tests showed similar times, but worse cognitive load (derived from eye motions) for flat style. Icon tests showed worse times and mental load for flat style, a more complex task pushing the brain out of semiautomatic mode. Webpage tests were also against flat style, with high miss and false alarms indicators.

The conclusions were clear:

Our experimental study supports the opinion expressed by many HCI and usability experts that flat design is a harmful tendency in area of user interfaces, and should be replaced by interfaces based on the design principles developed over decades of research and practice of HCI and usability engineering.

Now we have more proofs that "flat design is inferior to traditional design", we aren't just whiny users opposed to change that don't understand what is going on. Based in personal experiences, and those of older persons around me, my conclusion is that any "UI/UX expert" that keeps parroting the modern interfaces is just a fad-following graphic designer at best (I expect more from those too... but they keep on disappointing me), and in any case should not be allowed into the HCI field. There were other studies, and this one is around 4 years old, so maybe it's time to get back into saner styles. Not that I hope things will improve quickly, after realizing that — since this study — things have slid more and more into simpleton mode.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday February 11 2019, @01:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the we-all-know-you're-out-there dept.

If you look at the moon tonight about six degrees below and to the right of the moon you will see the red planet shining.

Mars is actually a great planet to see in the night sky all month, according to NASA.

"Look west in the first couple of hours after sunset all month long to spot reddish Mars," agency officials said.

An image showing the Feb 10th view

This isn't the only close encounter Mars will appear to share with another celestrial [sic] object. On Valentine's Day (Feb. 14), Mars can be found near the position of the asteroid Bennu, where NASA's OSIRIS-REx sample-return probe is currently in orbit. Bennu is too small to see without a telescope, but at least you'll know where it is, NASA said.

More on OSIRIS-REx here

At least you don't have to stay up until two in the morning for this :-)

Original Submission