2020-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2020-04-04 05:49:45 UTC
2020-04-04 13:11:33 UTC
We always have a place for talented people, visit the Get Involved section on the wiki to see how you can make SoylentNews better.
Customers of Microsoft's Azure cloud are reporting capacity issues such as the inability to create resources and associated reliability issues.
Outage-tracking website Down Detector shows quite a few reports about UK Azure issues today, yet the official Azure Status page is all green ticks. The inability to provision resources does not count as an outage as such – though it is more than an annoyance since it is not always feasible to create the resource in an alternative Azure region. Some types of resource have to be same region in order to work correctly without a lot of reconfiguration.
Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), a handy solution for remote workers, is one example. One user complained on Twitter that "Azure seems to be full" when trying to allocate a VM for WVD, though it appears to be a test deployment (if the name WVD-TEST-0 is anything to go by). The error reads "Allocation failed. We do not have sufficient capacity for the requested VM size in this region." The region is UK South.
[...] Note that Azure is a huge service and it would be wrong to give disproportionate weight to a small number of reports. Most of Azure seems to be working fine. That said, capacity in the UK regions was showing signs of stress even before the current crisis, so it is not surprising that issues are occurring now.
How is the marriage between IBM and Red Hat going?
The view from the executive boardroom is good. IBM was recently able to report an uptick in income after five quarters of falling revenues, partly because of income produced by its new red-headed open source partner.
[ . . . . ] Further evidence that the suits at the top are happy came with the recent announcement that next month when Ginni Rometty steps down as IBM's president and CEO Jim Whitehurst will be taking a seat at the big kids' table as IBM's president while remaining as Red Hat's CEO.
From the start, IBM said it would leave Red Hat alone and that the new buy would operate as an independent company. [ . . . . ] "I don't have a $34 billion death wish," Rometty added. "I didn't buy them to destroy them."
[ . . . . ] "but IBM has also been a huge proponent of open source. [IBM] obviously has both open and proprietary-based solutions, but they've been a big sponsor of Linux and the Linux Foundation, and they've been involved in communities like Kubernetes. I think IBM doesn't get enough credit sometimes for what they've done for open source." [ . . . . ] it's doubtful Linux would be the dominant force in data centers it has become if it were not for IBM's $1 billion investment in the operating system's development in 2001. It's also true that over the years IBM has been a contributor to important open source projects [ . . . ]
[ . . . . ] It was Red Hat's cloud expertise that first prompted IBM to consider its $34 billion investment in Red Hat. According to IBM, many of its enterprise customers have yet to utilize public clouds and are reluctant to give up their own on-premises data centers, often because they're still dependent on large monolithic applications that weren't designed for cloud-native infrastructures. Others are in highly regulated businesses with requirements to keep customer data on-prem.
IBM has been advocating hybrid cloud as a way for companies to keep much of their compute on-prem while harnessing the advantages offered by public clouds for some workloads. As it happens, Red Hat practically wrote the book on hybrid cloud, and is responsible for much of the technology – like OpenStack and OpenShift – that makes it possible.
"Hybrid cloud is something that Red Hat's been a strong proponent of," said Fernandes.
How important is Red Hat perceived to be for non data center applications?
The Tokyo Summer Olympics will not begin in late July and instead will be held "by the summer of 2021," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday. The news follows growing calls for the games to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abe revealed the decision to journalists after speaking by phone with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Abe's office said via Twitter, "the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021."
Also at NYT.
Huge numbers of sporting events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now the granddaddy of global sporting events, the Olympic Games, originally set for this summer in Tokyo, will join them.
The office of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tweeted on Tuesday that following conversations with the International Olympic Committee, the Tokyo Olympics will now take place in 2021.
"After his telephone talks with IOC President Bach, PM Abe spoke to the press and explained that the two have agreed that the Tokyo Olympic Games would not be cancelled, and the games will be held by the summer of 2021," said the tweet.
In a statement on Tuesday, the IOC said the Games will be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but no later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of athletes and everyone involved in the Olympics. The sporting event will continue to be called Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
"The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present," the committee said in a statement. "Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan."
[...] Numerous teams had already said that they wouldn't compete if the 2020 Olympics took place as planned. Late Monday, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee called on the IOC to postpone the Tokyo Games, citing the results of a survey sent to 4,000 Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls.
"We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face," USOPC chair Susanne Lyons and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a joint statement. Even if global health conditions were to change by late summer, the group said that "the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can't be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it's more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising."
On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that their teams wouldn't head to Tokyo and urged that competition be postponed for one year. The Australian Olympic Committee's executive board also unanimously agreed not to send a team and encouraged athletes to instead prepare for a summer 2021 event.
And on Friday, USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, sent a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee urging the group to postpone the Summer Games to 2021.
[...] The next Olympics after Tokyo are the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, followed by the 2024 Paris Summer Games, and then the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy.
All they needed to do for the races was make sure each lane was 2 meters wide! But seriously, it would be impracticable — if not outright impossible — to keep a safe physical distance from all other athletes when practicing, too.
Bigelow Aerospace, the company founded more than two decades ago to develop commercial space habitats, laid off all its employees March 23 in a move caused at least in part by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to sources familiar with the company's activities, Bigelow Aerospace's 68 employees were informed that they were being laid off, effective immediately. An additional 20 employees were laid off the previous week.
Those sources said that the company, based in North Las Vegas, Nevada, was halting operations because of what one person described as a "perfect storm of problems" that included the coronavirus pandemic. On March 20, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an emergency directive ordering all "nonessential" businesses to close.
[...] Robert Bigelow said in a Jan. 28 interview that his company declined to submit a proposal [for an ISS commercial module] to NASA because of financing concerns. NASA, at the time of the competition, said it projected providing up to $561 million to support both a commercial ISS module as well as a separate solicitation for a free-flying facility. "That was asking just too much" of the company, Bigelow said. "So we told NASA we had to bow out."
Bigelow Expandable Activity Module to Continue Stay at the International Space Station
Bigelow and ULA to Put Inflatable Module in Orbit Around the Moon by 2022
Bigelow Aerospace Forms New Company to Manage Space Stations, Announces Gigantic Inflatable Module
Bigelow Aerospace Unveils B330 Inflatable Module Mock-Up
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
One of the big stories in F1 during the latter half of the 2019 season concerned exactly what Scuderia Ferrari was doing to get so much power out of its engine. Its cars were undoubtedly the fastest in a straight line for much of the year, although a "technical clarification" issued in November by the FIA—the sport's governing body—coincided with a drop off in the Italian team's speed.
Things got a little more interesting in February of this year, when the FIA announced that it had reached an agreement with Ferrari following an investigation into the matter. The announcement was more than a little cryptic, and part of the agreement with the team was a condition that while Ferrari wouldn't do it again, exactly what "it" was will remain a secret. The 2020 F1 season is on hold thanks to the coronavirus, but if the cars do get back on track this year, they'll do so with a new sensor that's designed to prevent a possible repeat of last year's shenanigans.
There were two main theories about what the Scuderia was up to. The less imaginative one involves the engine's intercooler, which reduces the temperature of the air after it has been compressed by the turbocharger. [...]
The other theory is far more ingenious. Perhaps Ferrari was somehow manipulating or interfering with the fuel flow sensor, an ultrasonic device that samples fuel flow at 2,200Hz. This theory was given some credence when in November, rival team Red Bull Racing asked the FIA, hypothetically, whether it would be allowed to use the fuel pump to vary the fuel rate, such that it was below the 100kg/hr limit during each sampling event but above it during the gaps in between. In F1, if you suspect another team is cheating, you often ask the FIA whether it would let you do whatever it is you think that other team is doing, hoping for a response in the form of a technical clarification that says "no, doing X is not allowed," and in this case, the FIA did exactly that.
A couple bits of evidence pointed to this indeed being Ferrari's advantage. For one, its cars definitely appeared to lose some straight line performance from this point in the season on. And for another, it would explain how one of its cars was found to be carrying too much fuel at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Not a lot—just 4.88kg—but enough to explain the roughly 5-percent power advantage that the Ferrari engine appeared to generate. (For an explanation on why you'd want to run with more fuel than you declare when that means a weight penalty, I recommend Mark Hughes' explanation over at MotorSport.)
-- submitted from IRC
Millions of idle computers the world over are put to good use for a number of scientific endeavors, but the use of Citizen Science (CS) goes back a long way in the field of ecological research. Volunteer data has long been used for monitoring populations or for keeping an eye on invasive species. In the age of tight research budgets and the availability of software to easily record and transmit data from the field has led to more and more projects dependent upon this data.
Proper analysis depends upon understanding the data, and one of the challenges in using CS-supplied data is understanding the reliability of the observations. The best consistency in the quality of the data depends upon consistency in setting up the experiment and training the observers, also known as appropriately designing a protocol. There is an active discussion in the ecological research community about how to maximize the reliability and utility of this kind of data. The open-access journal PLOS ONE will host a broad discussion on this topic for the CA community:
To foster discussion of these important issues, PLOS ONE (@plosone) will be moderating a Twitter chat on citizen science methodologies on Thursday 2nd April starting at 4pm BST (8am PDT, 11am EDT, 5pm CET) [1500 GMT]. This is a chance for the CS community to share perspectives, experiences and suggestions for best practice. We'll aim to cover the following questions (and more!):
- How far can methods in CS projects be standardized?
- What steps should be taken to maximize CS data quality?
- Is there a need for clearer guidelines for the design and execution of CS studies?
- How should credit for data collection be apportioned?
You can take part by using the hashtag #citscichat– we hope to see you there!
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
The current issue of “Nature Electronics” is reporting on the development of the smallest microelectronic robot in the world, which is driven and controlled by a twin-jet-engine (see Figure 1). The microelectronic robot is 0.8 mm long, 0.8 mm wide and 0.14 mm tall.
To compare: a one cent piece has a diameter of around 16mm. The micro-robot is extremely flexible, motile and equipped with various functionalities. In addition to Chemnitz University of Technology and IFW Dresden, both the Technical University of Dresden and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Changchun are involved in the project.
A special aspect of this project is the availability of an on-board energy system, which enables the highly flexible micro-robot to perform various tasks. The system is also maneuverable in a water solution and can be controlled remotely. In addition, the robot has a light source and a micro-arm, which is able to be powered wirelessly.
The use of this system in the areas of micro-robotics and medical technology could be envisioned for targeted administration of medication or directly diagnosing diseases within an organism.
The results of this research are crucial to the development of microrobotic systems and are therefore selected as cover story of the current issue of Nature Electronics.
[...] Since hydrogen peroxide is currently also a required part of the propulsion fuel, the system in its current configuration cannot be directly used in the human body. This will require further development, which represents the next steps taken by the research team.
A flexible microsystem capable of controlled motion and actuation by wireless power transfer by Oliver G. Schmidt et al.: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41928-020-0384-1
Rolled-up nanotech on polymers: from basic perception to self-propelled catalytic microengines by Oliver G. Schmidt et al. [Chem. Soc. Rev. 40, 2109 (2011)]: https://doi.org/10.1039/C0CS00078G
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Optical multiplexing and demultiplexing utilizing the intrinsic physical properties of light has played a crucial role in high-capacity data storage and high-speed communications.
[...] A research team led by Prof. Dr. Zhang Wenfu from Xi'an Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics (XIOPM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) proposed a method for AM multiplexing and demultiplexing based on a dielectric metasurface. Employing the off-axis technique and spin photonic Hall effect, the orbital angular momentum (OAM) and spin angular momentum (SAM) multiplexing and demultiplexing can be achieved. The result was published in Advanced Optical Materials.
The OAM multiplexing and demultiplexing is via the off-axis technique and the SAM multiplexing and demultiplexing is based on the based on photonic spin Hall Effect in the anisotropic medium, which are integrated on a single-layer metasurface.
Moreover, the function of focusing for the output light has been integrated on the demultiplexer directly, which effectively improves the compactness of the system.
The proposed metadevice for AM multiplexing and demultiplexing shows a great potential for high-efficiency and high-capacity optical communication and can be integrated with other miniature system.
More information: Siqi Li et al. Efficient Optical Angular Momentum Manipulation for Compact Multiplexing and Demultiplexing Using a Dielectric Metasurface, Advanced Optical Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1002/adom.201901666
For years, drug discovery chemists have struggled to streamline a process that can boost a drug's potency up to 2000-fold: "magic methylation." The reaction sweeps out single hydrogen atoms and replaces them with methyl groups—reshaping the drug molecule to more easily interact with its biological targets. But carrying out this sleight of hand is so difficult that few researchers even try. Now, a team of chemists reports it has created a new catalyst that performs this delicate exchange with ease on a wide variety of druglike molecules, an advance that could lead to novel treatments for everything from cancer to infectious diseases.
"This paper is just stunning," says Tim Cernak, an organic chemist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who was not involved in the research. The new catalyst manages the reaction in one easy step—a huge improvement on previous multistep methods that were expensive and time-consuming. "This is the wish [of] every drug hunter," Cernak says. "It really is a dream reaction."
[...] This could help "across the board" in drug discovery, says David Rees, chief scientific officer of Astex Pharmaceuticals. Where adding a methyl group does increase a drug's potency, doctors may be able to give their patients less of a drug. That could improve safety and reduce side effects. Among the drugmakers he knows, Rees says, "Everyone will jump on this."
Posted in: Chemistry DOI: 10.1126/science.abb7567.
Software developer Drew DeVault has written a post at his blog about the reckless, infinite scope of today's web browsers. His conclusion is that, given decades of feature creep, it is now impossible to build a new web browser due to the obscene complexity of the web.
I conclude that it is impossible to build a new web browser. The complexity of the web is obscene. The creation of a new web browser would be comparable in effort to the Apollo program or the Manhattan project.
It is impossible to:
- Implement the web correctly
- Implement the web securely
- Implement the web at all
Starting a bespoke browser engine with the intention of competing with Google or Mozilla is a fool's errand. The last serious attempt to make a new browser, Servo, has become one part incubator for Firefox refactoring, one part playground for bored Mozilla engineers to mess with technology no one wants, and zero parts viable modern web browser. But WebVR is cool, right? Right?
The consequences of this are obvious. Browsers are the most expensive piece of software a typical consumer computer runs. They're infamous for using all of your RAM, pinning CPU and I/O, draining your battery, etc. Web browsers are responsible for more than 8,000 CVEs.3
The browser duopoly of Firefox and Chrome/Chromium has clearly harmed the World-Wide Web. However, a closer look at the membership of the W3C committes also reveals representation by classic villains which, perhaps coincidentally, showed up around the time the problems noted by Drew began to grow.
An Open Letter to Web Developers (2020)
Google Now Bans Some Linux Web Browsers from their Services (2019)
HTML is the Web (2019)
The Future of Browsers (2019)
One Year Since the W3C Sold Out the Web with EME (2018)
Politicians won't admit it yet, but it's time to prepare—physically and psychologically—for a sudden stop to all life outside your home.
[...] Whether you are reading this in your living room in Vancouver, office in London, or on a subway in New York City, you need to think hard, and fast, about two crucial questions: Where, and with whom, do you want to spend the next six to 12 weeks of your life, hunkered down for the epidemic duration? And what can you do to make that place as safe as possible for yourself and those around you?
Your time to answer those questions is very short—a few days, at most. Airports will close, trains will shut down, gasoline supplies may dwindle, and roadblocks may be set up. Nations are closing their borders, and as the numbers of sick rise, towns, suburbs, even entire counties will try to shut the virus out by blocking travel. Wherever you decide to settle down this week is likely to be the place in which you will be stuck for the duration of your epidemic.
To appreciate what lies ahead for the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, pay heed to Italy, France, and Germany. The United States, for example, is currently tracking exactly where Italy was about 10 days ago. France and Germany, which track two to five days ahead of the United States, are now revving up measures akin to those taken by Italy, including lockdowns on movement and social activity. In a matter of days, the United States will follow suit.
[...] Once tough location decisions have been made, the household must be readied for a long siege. While panic-buying has led to stockpiles of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, getting through eight months of confinement with others will require a great deal more, both physically and psychologically. This is especially true for households that span generations.
Long-term confinement that includes children undergoing remote schooling and adults trying to work requires designated spaces for each individual, a powerful Internet signal and Wi-Fi router, and a great deal of shared patience. Everybody in the household must understand how the coronavirus is spread, and what steps each should follow to eliminate their personal risk of passing infection to others in the home.
The virus is transmitted by droplets and fomites[*]—it isn't like measles, capable of drifting about in the air for hours. It dehydrates quickly if not inside water, mucus, or fomite droplets. The size of the droplets may be far below what the human eye can see, but they are gravity-sensitive, and will fall from an individual's mouth down, eventually, to the nearest lower surface—table, desk, floor. You do not need to clean upward.
However, a newly published study, backed by the National Institutes of Health, found that the virus survives in "aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel." This means an uncleaned surface can pose a risk to members of the household for a very long time—a doorknob, tabletop, kitchen counter or stainless steel utensil.
[*] Wikipedia entry on fomites:
any inanimate object that, when contaminated with or exposed to infectious agents (such as pathogenic bacteria, viruses or fungi), can transfer disease to a new host.
[...] In addition to objects in hospital settings, other common fomites for humans are cups, spoons, pencils, bath faucet handles, toilet flush levers, door knobs, light switches, handrails, elevator buttons, television remote controls, pens, touch screens, common-use phones, keyboards, and computer mice, coffeepot handles, countertops, and any other items that may be frequently touched by different people and infrequently cleaned.
Researchers have discovered that smooth (non-porous) surfaces like door knobs transmit bacteria and viruses better than porous materials like paper money because porous, especially fibrous, materials absorb and trap the contagion, making it harder to contract through simple touch. Nonetheless, fomites may include soiled clothes, towels, linens, handkerchiefs, and surgical dressings
As the coronavirus has forced millions of families into lockdown, demand for Amazon's delivery service has surged.
To help the company deal with rising demand, Amazon has prioritized several categories of essential items, including baby products, health items, and pet supplies.
[...] An Amazon spokesperson confirmed to Recode that these delivery dates weren't a technology glitch—Amazon has chosen to de-prioritize these items in the face of surging demand for more time-sensitive items.
[...] At the same time, Amazon is taking steps to increase its shipping capacity. As we reported last week, the online retailer announced that it was seeking to hire 100,000 additional workers to help cope with rising demand and was raising its minimum pay from $15 to $17 per hour.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
Scientists previously discovered that a strain of naturally occurring bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) produces several compounds that kill mosquito larvae, yet are harmless to most other organisms. These compounds exist in crystal form inside the bacteria, and when the microbes are eaten by a larva, the high pH and digestive enzymes in their gut cause the crystals to dissolve and rearrange into molecules that perforate the larva's gut cell membranes, quickly killing the insect.
Now, new research led by Grenoble Alpes University and published in Nature Communications has revealed the atomic structure of the most potent Bti crystal and helped explain the mechanism by which the transformed toxin slices through mosquito cell membranes.
"These results help to explain differences in toxicity even by changing a single atom. This opens the door to the rational design of toxins that are safe and effective, for controlling specific mosquito species or disease targets," said Nicholas Sauter, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab's Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) Division and one of the paper's authors.
Sauter and two other MBIB co-authors used their computing expertise to process the structural data collected by the method of X-ray crystallography, which was performed at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory's Linear Coherent Light Source (LCLS). "X-ray laser light sources like the LCLS are the only technology capable of generating beams focused enough to probe the tiny Bti crystals," added Sauter. "Gathering and then interpreting this complex data involved researchers from 10 institutions—it is a great example of a 'big science' collaboration."
Journal Reference: Guillaume Tetreau et al., Serial femtosecond crystallography on in vivo-grown crystals drives elucidation of mosquitocidal Cyt1Aa bioactivation cascade, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14894-w
Those of you who follow my reporting may already be familiar with Pwn2Own, a series of hacking events that test some of the most talented hackers across the world. These elite security researchers have been trying to exploit popular software, hardware and services since 2007 in exchange for the kudos. And money. Lots of money. In November 2019, during the Pwn2Own Tokyo event, a total of $315,000 (£270,300), including one hacking group which earned $80,000 (£68,500) for hacking the Samsung Galaxy S10. Twice. That hacking group was Team Fluoroacetate, Amat Cama and Richard Zhu, who ended up earning a total of $195,000 (£167,000) and the coveted "Master of Pwn" title by the time the event was over. It looked like these master hackers wouldn't be able to defend that title as coronavirus travel restrictions, and fear of infection, threatened to cancel the Pwn2Own 2020 event taking place at the CanSecWest cybersecurity conference in Vancouver, Canada.
They need not have worried, as the event went virtual for the first time. This involved the various hackers submitting exploits in advance to the Pwn2Own organizers, who then ran that code during a Zoom live stream involving all the participants. The Zero Day Initiative that runs the Pwn2Own event said: "The world right now is a tumultuous place full of uncertainty. It is communities, such as the security research community and the incident response community, that we can rely on during these trying times. We are so appreciative of all those who helped the event come together and succeed."
The work from home hackers from Team Fluoroacetate certainly succeeded, winning the Master of Pwn title once again, along with that $130,000 bounty. While the full details of how they exploited Windows 10 and Adobe Reader will not be made public for 90 days to allow the vendors to produce security patches, I can tell you what they did in broad terms.
For the curious, here is Wikipedia's entry on sodium fluoroacetate, a poisonous substance with no known antidote.
Businesses are switching to cashless payment only during the pandemic as people enact social distancing to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This comes after stopping the use of non-disposable cups in cafes and the general reduction of the use of cash across society. This could well be the tipping point to make cashless payments the norm across the world. Some believe it could well be the start of killing off the use of cash for good.
It's not paranoia if you know they are out to get you.