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(All amounts are estimated)
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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:14 | Votes:27

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 14, @09:57PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-is-my-shocked-face dept.

An investigation into nearly 1 million bills across all 50 US states showed a high proportion of proposed US laws being written by lobbyists. The investigation was based on computer analysis of the similarities in language used in the bills. Additionally, copycat legislation is a problem. That is where states copy-paste key parts of proposed legislation from each other, and often the original is can be traced back to lobbyists. Many tricks are used to increase acceptance of these bills such as use of deceptive titles, misleading endorsements, copied bills to override locally sourced bills, and more. The article includes several graphics showing the distribution of bad practices across the states.

A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation.

USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 14, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the big-issue dept.

family-finds-hidden-camera-in-airbnb-smoke-alarm

A New Zealand family was shocked to find a camera hidden in the smoke alarm of their Airbnb during a vacation in Ireland, which the father of the clan discovered as he was connecting his cell phone to the Wi-Fi.

[...] "He scanned that device's ports and found the live video feed. We were all watching ourselves on his mobile phone," Barker said of the horrifying find. The camera offered a view of the living room, dining and kitchen area.

Related:
How to Scan Your Airbnb for Hidden Cameras
Should we be searching for hidden spy cameras in Airbnbs and hotels?

[This seems to be an ongoing issue for Airbnb. Have other Soylentils used the platform, and if so have you found hidden monitoring devices? - Ed]


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 14, @05:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-won't-end-well dept.

The dwarf planet 2007 OR10 will get a proper name soon:

Astronomers have asked the public to help name a minor planet in our Solar System discovered in 2007.

The dwarf planet, which orbits the sun beyond Neptune, has since been referred to as (225088) 2007 OR10.

Now the scientists who discovered it are asking the public to help pick a catchier name. The options are Gonggong, Holle and Vili.

The winning name will be formally suggested to the International Astronomical Union.

Gonggong is a Chinese water god with red hair and a serpent-like tail. He is known for creating chaos, causing flooding, and tilting the Earth.

Holle is a European winter goddess of fertility, rebirth, and women, while Vili is a Nordic deity who defeated frost giant Ymir and used the body to create the universe.

Voting ends on May 10.

2007 OR10 has an estimated diameter of 1230 ± 50 km, and one known moon with a diameter less than 100 km.

Also at The Planetary Society and EarthSky.

Previously: Large Moon Confirmed Around Slowly Rotating Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 14, @02:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the conspiracies-everywhere dept.

Creepy Messages Will be Found in Facebook's Oculus Touch VR Controllers

Facebook has revealed that hidden messages were inadvertently printed inside VR controllers that will be shipped to customers soon:

Facebook said it accidentally hid bizarre and "inappropriate" messages inside "tens of thousands" of virtual-reality controllers, including "Big Brother is Watching" and "The Masons Were Here." Nate Mitchell, the cofounder of Oculus, the Facebook-owned VR company, said on Twitter on Friday that the company inadvertently printed some unusual messages in its Touch controllers, handheld devices for playing games and navigating VR environments.

These messages were intended only for prototypes, but a mistake meant they were included in regular production devices, he said. Some messages were included in developer kits for people building software for the product, while others made their way into consumer devices in significantly larger numbers. While there should have been no internal messages of any kind in any of the devices, a Facebook representative told Business Insider that the company would not recall them.

"Unfortunately, some 'easter egg' labels meant for prototypes accidentally made it onto the internal hardware for tens of thousands of Touch controllers," Mitchell wrote. "The messages on final production hardware say 'This Space For Rent' & 'The Masons Were Here.' A few dev kits shipped with 'Big Brother is Watching' and 'Hi iFixit! We See You!' but those were limited to non-consumer units," he said. iFixit is a tech repair company known for publicly deconstructing new gadgets and posting photos of their innards online.

Also at Road to VR.

Related: Facebook Announces a New Standalone VR Headset: Oculus Quest; HTC Releases Vive Wireless Adapter
(nobody made a submission about Rift S because it is boring)


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by Fnord666 on Sunday April 14, @12:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the good-luck,-I'm-behind-7-vpns dept.

CERT Vulnerability Note VU#192371 released this week describes a vulnerability due to insecure Cookie or Authentication Token storage (in memory or log files) of several common VPNs. The vulnerability allows attackers able to either access an endpoint, or exfiltrate data from it, to replay sessions bypassing other authentication methods, thus gaining access to any resources the user can access through the VPN session.

Vulnerable vendors include

    CISCO - "will incorporate this feedback into discussions for future design improvements of the Cisco AnyConnect VPN Solution"
    F5 Networks, Inc - fixed it in version 12.1.3 and 13.1.0 and onwards
    Palo Alto Networks - fixed in GlobalProtect Agent 4.1.1 and later for Windows, and GlobalProtect Agent 4.1.11 and later for macOS.
    Pulse Secure - no statement yet

Known unaffected VPN vendors

    Check Point Software Technologies
    LANCOM Systems GMBH
    pfSense

(Information is not yet available on an additional 230 vendors)


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 14, @10:12AM   Printer-friendly

The world's largest aircraft has made its first test flight:

The giant aircraft built by Stratolaunch to serve as an air-launch platform made its first flight April 13 amid questions about the future of the venture. The aircraft, the largest in the world by wingspan, took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 9:58 a.m. Eastern. The plane flew for two and a half hours before landing back in Mojave, reaching a top speed of 278 kilometers per hour and altitude of 4,570 meters.

[...] [Neither Zachary Krevor, vice president of engineering at Stratolaunch,] nor Jean Floyd, the chief executive of Stratolaunch, said anything about the test flight program, including when the plane will fly again and how long the overall test program will last. The company took no questions from reporters during the call, which lasted 10 minutes.

The flight comes after a turbulent six months for the company. Its founder and principal funder, billionaire Paul Allen, passed away last October. In January, Stratolaunch announced it was abandoning development of its own launch vehicles that would have been air-launched from the plane. A company spokesman said at the time that Stratolaunch was "streamlining operations" to focus on aircraft development.

The only vehicle Stratolaunch currently plans to launch from the aircraft is Northrop Grumman's Pegasus XL, a small launch vehicle that has struggled in the commercial marketplace in recent years despite the surge in interest in small satellites. The only recent customer for the Pegasus is NASA, and problems with the rocket have delayed for months its latest mission for the agency, the ICON space science satellite.

Also at CNN.

Previously: Stratolaunch: The World's Largest Plane Rolls Out
Paul Allen's Stratolaunch Completes Key Taxi Test Days After His Death


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Sunday April 14, @07:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the Welly,-welly,-welly,-welly,-welly,-welly,-well dept.

Devolver Digital is running into trouble with its game, Weedcraft, despite cannabis entering into an age of legalization. The game is about managing a cannabis business from startup to empire, but the videos have been demonetized on YouTube. Facebook is also causing trouble with the game which covers multiple scenarios from prohibition to full legalization. Treatment of the game on those, and other platforms, has been inconsistent.

"It's really hard to say how the game will be affected," Wilson told me. "A lot depends on how much [digital marketplaces] Steam and GOG continue to support its visibility and how many people share the story. All we can do is try to make a conversation happen around the industry and with gamers about this insanity and try to make changes. "

Wilson also pointed out that both YouTube and Facebook run ads for hyper-violent video games. Assault is illegal pretty much everywhere, whereas recreational weed use is legal in many states, such as California, Colorado, and all of Canada.

"We all know that violence/murder is A-OK, and that sex or drugs are not, even when presented in a thoughtful way to an audience with an average age of 40, but we've all known that for far too long," he said.

See also: YouTube, Facebook put up ad roadblocks for Weedcraft, Inc. business sim


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday April 14, @05:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the Not-Dead-Yet dept.

Strong corporate desktop sales limit the decline of the PC market

Gartner and IDC have both published their quarterly reports on the size of the PC market in the first quarter of 2019, and they've both agreed: about 58.5 million systems were shipped.

[...] Both Gartner and IDC say that there's continued influence from the shortage of Intel processors, caused by the company's long-delayed transition to 10nm manufacturing. That situation leaves Intel's 14nm manufacturing facilities overburdened. Gartner analysts said that these concerns disrupted the growth seen in the second quarter last year, as the delays prompted Intel to focus on higher margin products, with PC vendors following suit. IDC similarly cited the shortage of Intel chips at the low end as partly to blame for the market decline. To the extent that low-end chips were available, the PC companies seem to be favoring putting them in Chromebooks rather than Windows machines.

Both firms also say that smaller PC vendors were more affected than larger ones, suggesting that Intel is giving priority to its biggest customers.

Countering this effect somewhat was stronger than expected commercial desktop sales, as companies continue their Windows 10 refresh cycle. However, Gartner's analysts feel that this may have peaked. Going forward, greater adoption of AMD's processors is expected to reduce the impact of supply constraints.

Major OEMs "sourcing alternative CPUs from AMD" to counter Intel slump

"The supply constraints affected the vendor competitive landscape as leading vendors had better allocation of chips and also began sourcing alternative CPUs from AMD," Mikako Kitagawa, senior analyst at Gartner says. "The top three vendors worldwide were still able to increase shipments despite the supply constraint by focusing on their high-end products and taking share from small vendors that struggled to secure CPUs."

[...] China is reportedly sick and tired of PCs at this point, and Latin America experienced a huge 16.6% decline in PC shipments during the period reportedly due to political and economic instability. Only Japan is said to have experienced any growth in the market at all, with everyone else refusing to upgrade old systems.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday April 14, @03:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the so-lustig dept.

Submitted via IRC for FatPhil

BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen charged by EU regulators with emissions collusion

BRUSSELS -- BMW and Volkswagen face possible hefty fines after EU antitrust regulators on Friday charged the German carmakers and whistleblower Daimler with colluding to block the rollout of clean-emissions technology.

In the latest pollution scandal to hit the auto industry, the European Commission said it had sent so-called statements of objections to the companies setting out the charges, nearly two years after carrying out dawn raids at their premises.

It said the collusion occurred between 2006 to 2014 and took place during technical meetings held by the "circle of five", namely BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen Group's VW, Audi and Porsche.


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday April 14, @12:36AM   Printer-friendly
from the 好笑 dept.

It's only appropriate that the country with the $40 trillion ponzi financial system and where a broke pig farming company paid its creditors in bacon, only to run out of pigs, has created a pyramid scheme that involves literal pyramids.

Authorities in China’s capital are investigating two companies selling "energy pyramid" products using such illegal practices as fake advertising and multilevel marketing, The Beijing News reported Monday.

According to the outlet, police in Beijing’s Fengtai District launched an investigation with the national-level State Administration for Industry and Commerce on Monday to look into the products’ manufacturer, Weihai Ruihong Energy Technology Co. Ltd., and distributor, Beijing Hongzheng Technology Co. Ltd.

The companies allegedly advertised their pyramid-shaped wares — priced between 5,000 and 100,000 yuan ($740 and $14,900) — as having “healing” and “energy-absorbing” properties, and like any other pyramid scheme, attempted to recruit salespeople into a multilevel marketing operation.

Only In China: A Pyramid Scheme Involving Actual Pyramids


Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Saturday April 13, @10:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-God,-it's-full-of-ice-hockey-rinks dept.

Astronomers have spotted a potential second planet circling our nearest neighbor.

The red dwarf star Proxima Centauri is 'just' 4.2 light years away and is already known to have one roughly Earth sized planet dubbed Proxima b, which orbits within the habitable zone (where liquid water could exist on the surface.)

If confirmed, the new world would be Proxima c, however

"It is only a candidate," Mario Damasso, of the University of Turin in Italy, said during a presentation today (April 12) at the Breakthrough Discuss conference

Damasso['s], fellow presenter Fabio Del Sordo of the University of Crete and their colleagues analyzed observations of Proxima Centauri made by the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher instrument. HARPS, which is installed on a telescope at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile, notices the tiny stellar movements induced by the gravitational tugs of orbiting planets. The instrument's data helped lead to the discovery of Proxima b (and many other alien worlds as well).

The potential planet Proxima c is a minimum of six times the mass of Earth and 1.5 AUs from the dim star. As a result it is almost certainly too cold for life with an equilibrium temperature around -390 degrees Fahrenheit (-234 degrees Celsius).

Sadly Proxima b is likely not very hospitable either as it is almost certainly tidally locked to the star causing blistering heat on one side and extreme cold on the other, it is also not unlikely to have lost its atmosphere to solar flares long ago.

Things aren't looking too hospitable close to home so far.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @07:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds-??? dept.

SpaceX drops protest of NASA launch contract

SpaceX withdrew a protest April 4 that it had filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office Feb. 11 regarding a NASA launch procurement formally known as RLSP-35. That covered a contract NASA awarded Jan. 31 to ULA for the launch of Lucy, a mission slated for launch in October 2021 to visit several Trojan asteroids in the same orbit around the sun as Jupiter.

[...] SpaceX's decision to withdraw the protest comes to[sic] a relief to many familiar with development of Lucy. They were concerned about potential additional costs to the mission and threats to its schedule if GAO upheld the protest and forced NASA to recompete the contract for the launch. That additional work, such as planning to be compatible with two different launch vehicles while the contract was recompeted, threatened to negate any launch vehicle savings.

SpaceX will assist NASA's first-ever mission to redirect an asteroid

NASA has chosen SpaceX to help out on its first-ever attempt to deflect an asteroid. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will blast off on a Falcon 9 rocket in June 2021 from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Its mission: To smash a satellite into the Didymos asteroid's small moon in a bid to knock it off its orbit. What sounds like the plot of a Michael Bay movie could turn out to be NASA's first line of defense against Earth-bound asteroids.

[...] The total cost for the mission is expected at around $69 million including the launch service, which NASA's Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage. Fresh off the back of its successful Falcon Heavy launch and triple landing, SpaceX's involvement in DART sees its relationship with NASA evolving beyond its commercial payloads and resupply missions to the ISS. As usual, Elon Musk shared his reaction in a tweet: "Thanks on behalf of the SpaceX team. We ♥️♥️♥️ NASA!"

Coincidence? Maybe.

65803 Didymos.

Double Asteroid Redirection Test contract also at Space News.

Previously: NASA to Redirect an Asteroid's Moon With Kinetic Impact
ESA Plans "Hera" Follow-Up Mission to NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test
SpaceX Protests NASA's Award of "Lucy" Launch Contract to ULA


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday April 13, @07:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the with-friends-like-these dept.

Assange associate Ola Bini has been arrested in Ecuador for alleged involvement in hacking government computer systems. A large quantity of electronic equipment and credit cards were allegedly found in his suitcase and during a raid of his home.

Assange's arrest was designed to make sure he didn't press a mysterious panic button he said would bring dire consequences for Ecuador

Julian Assange's arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London was carried out in a specific way to prevent him from pressing a mysterious panic button he said could bring dire consequences for Ecuador, its foreign minister said.

[...] It is not clear exactly what form the "panic button" took: whether it was a physical device or a metaphor for some other easily activated insurance measure. It is also unclear what leverage Assange thought he had over Ecuador.

Assange's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on the nature of the button and whether it existed. According to Valencia, though, it was serious enough for Ecuador to warn British authorities and carry out the raid in such a way that Assange was not able to get back into his room after learning of his imminent arrest.

Julian Assange must face Swedish justice first - MPs and peers

More than 70 MPs and peers have signed a letter urging the home secretary to ensure Julian Assange faces authorities in Sweden if they want his extradition.

[...] In their letter to Sajid Javid, 70 parliamentarians - chiefly Labour MPs and peers - urged him to "stand with the victims of sexual violence" and ensure the rape claim against the Wikileaks founder could be "properly investigated". "We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done," the letter said. Labour's Stella Creasy tweeted a copy of the letter sent to Mr Javid. The same letter was also sent to shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

See also: The U.S. Government's Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom
Sweden Considers Request to Reopen Rape Investigation of Julian Assange
Four theories about Julian Assange's cat (also at NPR)

Previously: Wikileaks Co-Founder Julian Assange Arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @05:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the let's-talk-about-it dept.

Packt reports that Gab's Dissenter browser extension was removed from Mozilla's Firefox add-ons on April 10th (people already using it can continue to do so), and was booted from Google's Chrome browser the next day. Gab pitches itself as an anti-censorship social media platform that only prohibits speech that is illegal. Their Dissenter browser extension and associated website allow people to share comments about any webpage, giving users the ability to share comments on articles, videos, etc., regardless of whether or not the website hosting the content has a comments section. Mozilla's rationale for the ban was that Dissenter was being used to promote violence, hate speech, and discrimination, but they failed to show any examples to bolster that claim. Gab plans to develop their own browser in response.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday April 13, @03:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-landed-on-Boardwalk dept.

XDA Developers reports Google and Apple will be investigated by Netherlands authorities for their app store practices. From the XDA Developers article:

It is no secret that Google and Apple have monopolies on their respective platform's application marketplaces. Apple owns iOS' App Store and Google owns Android's Play Store. There are almost no other alternatives for third-party and indie developers to distribute their applications, which are sometimes their only source of income. That gives Apple and Google an edge to treat developers however they see fit, which may not be always for the best. The newest official report claims that The Netherlands Authority for Consumer and Markets (ACM) is going to investigate both of these marketplaces.

The important point to note is the investigation is not arguing it is wrong for Google or Apple to distribute their own apps on these market places but if they are manipulating the market place in a manner that gives them an unfair advantage against third party developers releasing similar apps on the same marketplace. As a reminder, both market places require a fee to join as a developer, a one time $25USD payment to Google and a yearly $99USD payment to Apple. Additionally, both stores then charge a 30% transaction fee on every purchase. This fee is assessed for both paid apps as well as in-app purchases. On top of that, Apple prevents apps in the App Store from linking to any websites where a transaction (one-time or subscription) could be processed outside of the app store. There are also rumors of Apple removing apps prior to or conjunction with a release of an Apple app that provides a similar function. Developers also note that Apple applications have access to the personal assistant API, allowing Siri to respond intelligently to owners requests with Apple apps. However, third party apps do not have access to the Siri API, they can't provide similar function with their apps, e.g. Siri can use iTunes to recognize a song or shop for music, while Spotify cannot because there is no API for Siri to pass information to their app.

The question is, with their ownership of the marketplace and platform, are they playing fairly with third party application developers releasing similar applications or are they using their dominance to purposefully disadvantage third party developers?

Fight between Apple and Spotify over 'fair play' on the App Store
ACM (Authority for Consumers & Markets) launches investigation into App Store abuse


Original Submission