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Coming into the new year, I expect 2021 to be...

  • categorically better than 2020, as specified below.
  • generally better than 2020.
  • about the same as 2020.
  • generally worse than 2020.
  • categorically worse than 2020, as specified below.
  • I don't use the Gregorian calendar, you insensitive clod!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:60 | Votes:146

posted by martyb on Tuesday January 12, @10:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the censoring-the-censorship-to-stop-censorship dept.

Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship'...By Blocking Access To Them Entirely

A small Idaho ISP by the name of Your T1 WIFI has decided to punish Twitter and Facebook for perceived "censorship" censoring them. In an email to subscribers posted to Twitter, the company claims it will be blocking customer access to both websites by default moving forward. To access the websites, users apparently will need to contact the company to be added to a whitelist

A North Idaho internet provider sent this email out to costumers[sic], absolutely INSANE

        — Coping MAGA (@CopingMAGA) January 11, 2021

While the company doesn't specify what "censorship" its customers are complaining about, the complaints were likely driven by Twitter's decision to ban Trump after he violated the company's terms of services[sic] by inciting a fatal insurrection. Or perhaps they're complaining about the steady purging of QAnon conspiracy theorists for espousing bogus claims of election fraud. Either way, the ISP claims to ingeniously be combating what they claim is embracing the exact same thing:

"Our company does not believe a website or social networking site has the authority to censor what you see and post and hide information from you, stop you from seeing what your friends and family are posting," the email states. "This is why with the amount of concerns, we have made this decision to block these two websites from being accessed from our network."

I'm sure the irony is totally lost on them.

I reached out to contact Your T1 WIFI, but their 1-888 number resolved to a woman's voicemail box that didn't even mention the name of the company. However, company owner Brett Fink spoke to a local CBS affiliate and contradicted his own company's email by claiming they weren't blocking anybody:

"In a phone call with KREM, the owner of the company, Brett Fink, again said the websites would only be blocked for customers who asked.

        "We've had customers asked to be blocked by it. That is what the email was about, so no we are not blocking anybody, only the ones that have asked for it," Fink said."

I wonder if Starlink works in Idaho?

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @08:29PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

c|net: CES 2021: Autonomous racing is coming to Indianapolis with the Indy Autonomous Challenge:

We've seen a couple of attempts at getting an autonomous racing series off the ground in recent years from the likes of Roborace and others, but none have really found much traction. A new series called the Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) hopes to change that.

The series was announced on Monday during the 2021 CES show and features racecar chassis designed by the experts at Dallara -- you may know it as the firm that does all the chassis for the Indy Car series others. Interestingly, this is being run as a spec race, where the cars are all identical mechanically and it's each team's software that gives it a competitive edge.

Spectrum News 1 adds:

[T]he Indy Autonomous Challenge will pit 30 university teams against one another to remotely race full-size, and fully-powered, Indy cars for 20 laps. The first team to reach the finish line goes home with $1 million.

"If we can go 240 miles per hour without colliding, surely we can make highway traffic safer," said Mark Miles, president and chief executive of Penske Entertainment Corp., which owns the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — where the Indy Autonomous Challenge will take place.

[...] October's race was inspired by the DARPA autonomous challenge of 2005, which saw 196 teams competing to drive a car 140 miles without a person inside. Just five teams completed the race within the allotted time.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 12, @06:07PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-sorry-to-see-you-go dept.

That's it. It's over. It's really over. From today, Adobe Flash Player no longer works. We're free. We can just leave:

The Photoshop giant promised Flash would die on January 12, 2021. Thanks to the International Date Line, The Register's Asia-Pacific bureau, like other parts of the world, are already living in a sweet, sweet post-Flash future, and can report that if you try to access content in Adobe's Flash Player in this cyber-utopia, you'll see the following:

[...] Adobe's page also explains why you'll see the Flash Death Notice depicted above, rather than Flash content:

Since Adobe is no longer supporting Flash Player after the EOL Date, Adobe will block Flash content from running in Flash Player beginning January 12, 2021 to help secure users' systems. Flash Player may remain on the user's system unless the user uninstalls it.

More specifically, what's happened is that Adobe snuck a logic bomb into its Flash software some releases ago that activates on January 12, and causes the code to refuse to render any more content from that date. Adobe has also removed previous versions from its site, and "strongly recommends all users immediately uninstall Flash Player to help protect their systems."

[...] Thus ends Flash, which started life in 1993 as a vector drawing product named SmartSketch, from long-dead company FutureWave Software. FutureWave turned SmartSketch into an animation tool called FutureSplash Animator. FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia in 1996, occasioning a name change to Macromedia Flash 1.0.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday January 12, @03:39PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Crowdsourced-Government dept.

Taiwan has found a way to use a carefully designed social network constructively.
As stated in the Tyee,

Taiwan Is Crowdsourcing an Everybody-Wins Democracy

They had to do something. In 2014,

Opponents to the bill felt not just defeated, but invisible. The government had promised to listen to their concerns, but simply hadn't done so, rushing the bill onto the parliament floor. They had the votes; they could get it through. So that evening, protesters scaled the fence, kicked the door open and streamed onto the floor of Taiwan's parliament, the Legislative Yuan.

Sound familiar from recent history?

Well, the government found a way to listen.

They set up vTaiwan, a social network where prominence is given to posts that further concord instead of discord. And they're using it to craft proposals for legislation. Anyone can contribute.

The article doesn't state how the social network determines which posts promote consensus. I'd like to know.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @01:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

NASA selects potential small-scale astrophysics missions, Hubble measures exoplanet's odd orbit

NASA has selected four small astrophysics mission concepts for further study as part of the experimental Pioneers program, which seeks SmallSat or balloon missions with $20 million cost caps that will give early-to-mid-career scientists an opportunity to lead their own mission.

[...] The four proposed missions are Aspera, Pandora, and Starburst (all SmallSat missions), and PEUO, a balloon mission into Earth's upper atmosphere.

Aspera would study galactic evolution via ultraviolet observations to examine not the galaxies themselves, but the hot gases in the space between them (the intergalactic medium) and how those gases flow inward and outward from various galaxies.

Pandora, the exoplanet mission, would study a total of 20 stars and their accompanying 39 exoplanets in both the visible and infrared spectrums and would seek to better understand how starlight affects the measurement of exoplanet atmospheres, an outstanding issue in determining the potential habitability of worlds beyond our Sun's influence.

Starburst, on the other hand, would seek to study high-energy gamma rays created by the mergers of neutron stars, which has only ever been observed once before and from which heavier elements, like platinum and gold, are formed.

The one non-satellite mission is PUEO, a balloon flight that would lift off from Antarctica to detect signals from ultra high-energy neutrinos — particles that contain valuable information about the processes governing the creation of black holes and neutron star mergers.

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @10:54AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the strongly-worded-letters dept.

Dems to ISPs: You're not gonna hike broadband prices, slap restrictions on folks in a pandemic, are you?:

America's largest internet providers have been asked to provide details of any price hikes or broadband restrictions they have placed on captive internet users during the pandemic.

In a letter from House Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), as well as the chair of its technology subcommittee Mike Doyle (D-PA), the lawmakers cite the case of Comcast placing new data caps on internet users to ask the other ISPs what they have done to their customers.

Clearly Pallone and Doyle suspect broader restrictions and profit-seeking against millions of Americans stuck at and working from home. They make it plain they aren't happy about it.

"This is an egregious action at a time when households and small businesses across the country need high-speed, reliable broadband more than ever but are struggling to make ends meet," the letters to Altice, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Frontier, T-Mobile and Verizon note.

[...] There is nothing that lawmakers can do of course to force ISPs to lower prices, or remove caps, or waive fees - except ask embarrassing questions. And that's exactly what the letter does: "Did your company participate in the FCC's "Keep Americans Connected" pledge?" reads the first.

Then it asks: have you increased prices, do you plan on increasing prices? Did you have a data cap prior to March 2020? How about now? Have you disconnected any customers? Do you have a plan for low-income households? And so on.

How's your ISP been treating you recently? Any sign of the things mentioned here, good or bad?

Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @08:25AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Sci-Hub Founder Criticises Sudden Twitter Ban Over Over "Counterfeit" Content

Twitter has suspended the account of Sci-Hub, a site that offers a free gateway to paywalled research. The site is accused of violating the counterfeit policy of the social media platform. However, founder Alexandra Elbakyan believes that this is an effort to silence the growing support amidst a high profile court case in India.

[...] In recent weeks, Sci-Hub has become the focus of a high-profile lawsuit in India where Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society want the site blocked. The case isn't as straightforward as in other countries, in part because access to Sci-Hub is seen as vital by many local academics.

Earlier this week, the Indian High Court declared the case an "issue of public importance," inviting experts and scientists to testify on the matter. Meanwhile, however, the pressure on Sci-Hub grows.

Judge: Sci-Hub Blocking Case "Important" For Science, Community Representations Will Be Heard

A High Court judge says that nineteen scientists and three scientific and medical organizations will have their intervention applications heard before any decision is handed down in the ongoing Sci-Hub blocking case. Filed by several publishers, the lawsuit seeks ISP blocking of the platform in India. Justice JR Midha notes that the case addresses an "issue of public importance."

On December 21, 2020, academic publishers Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society filed a lawsuit demanding that Indian ISPs block access to Sci-Hub and Libgen.

[...] As reported this week, scientists, academics, teachers and students have been applying pressure to have their voices heard in the case. According to them, any blocking of Sci-Hub and Libgen would amount to a denial of access to information crucial to the wellbeing of not only the scientific and research communities but also of India as a whole.

During a hearing yesterday at the Delhi High Court, the publishers hoped to obtain an order to have the platforms and their many domains blocked. However, the presiding judge listened to the calls of the scientific community and agreed that a delay to allow more detailed consideration would be appropriate in this case.

"It is an issue of public importance. It's very important to the scientific community," said Justice JR Midha.


Original Submission

posted by requerdanos on Tuesday January 12, @06:05AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the rock-solid dept.

Do as the Romans: Power plant concrete strengthens with time:

A rare mineral that has allowed Roman concrete marine barriers to survive for more than 2,000 years has been found in the thick concrete walls of a decommissioned nuclear power plant in Japan. The formation of aluminous tobermorite increased the strength of the walls more than three times their design strength, Nagoya University researchers and colleagues report in the journal Materials and Design. The finding could help scientists develop stronger and more eco-friendly concrete.

"We found that cement hydrates and rock-forming minerals reacted in a way similar to what happens in Roman concrete, significantly increasing the strength of the nuclear plant walls," says Nagoya University environmental engineer Ippei Maruyama.

[...] The samples were taken from the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, which operated from 1976 to 2009.

[...] "Our understanding of concrete is based on short-term experiments conducted at lab time scales," says Maruyama. "But real concrete structures give us more insights for long-term use."

Maruyama and his colleagues are searching for ways to make concrete more durable and environmentally friendly. Cement used in concrete manufacturing produces nearly 10% of human-made carbon dioxide emissions, so the team is looking to produce more eco-friendly mixtures that still meet standardized requirements for strong concrete structures.

Journal Reference:
Ippei Maruyama, Jiří Rymeš, Abudushalamu Ailia, et al. Long-term use of modern Portland cement concrete: The impact of Al-tobermorite formation Materials & Design (DOI: 10.1016/j.matdes.2020.109297

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 12, @03:39AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ubiquitous-credentials dept.

Ubiquiti: Change Your Password, Enable 2FA:

Ubiquiti, a major vendor of cloud-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as routers, network video recorders, security cameras and access control systems, is urging customers to change their passwords and enable multi-factor authentication. The company says an incident at a third-party cloud provider may have exposed customer account information and credentials used to remotely manage Ubiquiti gear.

In an email sent to customers today, Ubiquiti Inc. said it recently became aware of "unauthorized access to certain of our information technology systems hosted by a third party cloud provider," although it declined to name that provider.

[...] Ubiquiti has not yet responded to requests for more information, but the notice was confirmed as official in a post on the company's user support forum.

Is anyone running Ubiquiti gear and if so, what do you think?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday January 12, @01:15AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the liberated-from-Boeing dept.

NASA's Europa Clipper has been liberated from the Space Launch System

Almost unnoticed, tucked into the 2021 fiscal NASA funding section of the recently passed omnibus spending bill, is a provision that would seem to liberate the upcoming Europa Clipper mission from the Space Launch System (SLS).

According to Space News, the mandate that the Europa Clipper mission be launched on an SLS remains in place only if the behind-schedule and overpriced heavy lift rocket is available and if concerns about hardware compatibility between the probe and the launcher are resolved. Otherwise, NASA is free to search for commercial alternatives to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter's ice-shrouded moon.

[....] The Europa Clipper being mandated to fly on an SLS to begin with was the result of an unseemly side of congressional budget politics. The space probe was championed by former Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who at the time was the chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. In order to get support for the Europa Clipper, Culberson added the SLS mandate, which garnered support from Sen. Richard Shelby ( R-Ala.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shelby's state contains a number of aerospace contractors involved in developing the SLS.

[....] As Ars Technica points out, launching the Europa Clipper on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy saves the mission $1.5 billion. An advantage of using the SLS has been that it allows for a direct path to Jupiter without the time-consuming planetary flyby maneuvers that previous missions to the outer planets have required. The Falcon Heavy alone would not be able to get the Europa Clipper to Jupiter space directly, though it might be able to if equipped with a powerful Centaur kick stage.

Both the economics and physics of getting to Europa change if SpaceX's Starship, currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas, becomes available to launch the Europa Clipper in the mid-2020s. The Starship is meant to fulfill SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk's dreams of settling Mars. But the massive reusable rocket would be available for other things, presumably including sending probes to the outer planets.

[....] The SLS has since been a lead weight on America's space ambitions. The SLS slated to launch the Artemis 1 uncrewed mission around the moon is currently stuck in a ground-based "green run" series of tests. The SLS is currently using up a great deal of the money allocated to NASA's Artemis program. The first flight is scheduled for November 2021 at the earliest.

Perhaps Boeing could rescue the SLS by introducing a new SLS-MAX product.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @10:51PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Is-that-a-phone-in-your-pocket-or-are-you-just-glad... dept.

LG's rollable phone is a tantalizing response to Samsung's foldables:

For the last two years, it's been an open secret that LG has been working on a smartphone with a rollable screen -- that is, a device with a display that starts out phone-sized and stretches out into a tiny tablet. It's still not quite done, but that didn't stop LG from offering our first real glimpse at the device in a lightning-fast teaser during its CES 2021 press conference.

[...] While details are scant, the LG Rollable is at least visually a tantalizing response to Samsung's slew of foldable phones. Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which pairs a tall and narrow external display with a spacious interior one, the Rollable's single screen is the same size as a traditional smartphone display -- at least, before it mechanically unfurls to the size of a small tablet. From what we've seen, that clever design means the Rollable's display won't feature the same telltale crease found in many existing foldables.

[...] Given the speed at which Oppo and TCL seem to be working through smartphone concepts, it's very possible we'll wind up with two or three rival rollables later in 2021. Needless to say, if you don't need to buy a new phone right now, it's definitely worth waiting to see what ambitious new hardware this year has in store.

Also at:
LG teases its Rollable phone again
LG Rollable finally shown off as a foldable phone alternative at CES 2021

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @08:27PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the lost-in-the-computer dept.

New York City proposes regulating algorithms used in hiring:

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act barred the humans who made hiring decisions from discriminating on the basis of sex or race. Now, software often contributes to those hiring decisions, helping managers screen résumés or interpret video interviews.

That worries some tech experts and civil rights groups, who cite evidence that algorithms can replicate or magnify biases shown by people. In 2018, Reuters reported that Amazon scrapped a tool that filtered résumés based on past hiring patterns because it discriminated against women.

Legislation proposed in the New York City Council seeks to update hiring discrimination rules for the age of algorithms. The bill would require companies to disclose to candidates when they have been assessed with the help of software.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the We-didn't-start-the-fire,-it-was-always-burning-since-the-world-was-turning dept.

Coronavirus China: Xingtai and Shijiazhuang cities plunged into lockdown amid outbreak.

Two more cities in China, Xingtai (population 7 million) and Shijiazhuang (population 11 million), are now in lockdown. Authorities are attempting to limit the latest wave of COVID-19. After a period of calm, Hebei has reported over 130 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past week. A potential outbreak of significant impact is now being thwarted in Xingtai and Shijiazhuang which is causing the citizens to panic buy and prepare for the worst. This recent activity comes at an unfortunate time with the start of the Chinese New Year looming; a time when many Chinese people travel to see family and friends. The World Health Organization is still excluded from China in its investigating of the origins of COVID-19.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday January 11, @03:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

It's been one heck of a week:

Against the backdrop of record-setting numbers of COVID-19 deaths and infections in the US and around the world, there was turmoil in Washington, DC. As court cases surrounding the presidential election were filed and dismissed, a close race in Georgia was coming down to the wire and with it control of the US Senate. While the US Congress was completing the Electoral College tally and certification, a mob formed outside — and eventually broke into — the US Capitol. This resulted in a 4-hour lock-down. Eventually, the intrusion was repelled, and the Electoral College count was completed: Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was confirmed as the 46th president of the United States of America.

Conspiracy theories have flourished. Propaganda has streamed forth across multiple platforms. Tempers have flared.

And SoylentNews has been there for you. And have you ever spoken up! Two of the most-commented stories in the site's nearly seven-year history were posted in just the past week!

Insomuch as the activities in the US Capitol were far from the US' most shining moments, neither were things all unicorns and rainbows on SoylentNews. Tempers flared. People were attacked and called names. I even accidentally deleted a story and the 17 comments attached to it! [NB: Problem addressed: the delete button no longer appears by default for our editors.]

IRC (Internet Relay Chat):

Even our IRC service was not free from controversy. We had a spate of nick (nickname) impersonations. Going forward, IRC users are free to use whatever nick they like with the following caveats:

  • Prefix / suffix of a nick is fine for practical purposes (e.g. ${nick}_laptop)
  • Impersonation or misrepresentation will not be tolerated
  • The use of another user's website nick or derivative thereof on IRC will be subject to sanctions up to and including perma ban.

Further, we understand conversations can easily ramble from subject to subject, but there are separate channels for different topics. (Use the /list comand to see what is available.) As #soylent is the default landing channel, we want to keep the discussions there civil. Name calling and personal attacks are grounds for a timeout. I have had discussions with deucalion (the site's CEO and also IRC-maintainer) about these activities.

NOTE: we are NOT going to sit there watching every discussion, poised to take action. But, if such activity is seen by staff on IRC, they are free to take such actions as they deem necessary.


As I approach posting my 10,000th story(!) to SoylentNews, I think back to when it all started. How a group of people got together. They shared freely of their expertise, of their free time, and of their hard-earned funds. They tried to create a place free from corporate overlords where people could engage in discussions that focused primarily on technology, but with a dabbling in other areas and current events.

SoylentNews provides a forum for discussion. It also provides tools so the community can express themselves in the comments and moderate those comments, as well.

This got me to thinking. What are our aspirations today? What are our guiding principles? I will list some of my guiding principles, and I encourage the community to share what guides them in the comments.

  • "Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong." --H. L. Mencken (cite)
  • "People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov (cite)
  • "If you speak when angry, you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." -- Groucho Marx (cite)
  • "Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don't say it mean."
  • "Don't get furious, get curious" -- Miley Cyrus (cite)
  • "Humiliation is when someone points out my shortcomings. Humility is when I confess them myself."
  • "I need not participate in every fight I am invited to."
  • The most difficult behaviors to observe in another person are the ones I dislike in my own.
  • "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." -- John, Lord Morley (cite)

How about you? What sayings guide your aspirations?

Thank You!

Lastly, I thank all of you for supporting me as Editor-in-Chief. I have no formal background in writing or management. I've made mistakes, but I've tried to own up to them as they happened. I strive to be fair, impartial, and open-minded. Under the watchful gaze of the community, I have grown. It is my hope that I may continue to earn your respect and continue in service for many years to come.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday January 11, @12:56PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the get-your-free-patches-while-they-last! dept.

Windows PsExec zero-day vulnerability gets a free micropatch:

A free micropatch fixing a local privilege escalation (LPE) vulnerability in Microsoft's Windows PsExec management tool is now available through the 0patch platform.

PsExec is a fully interactive telnet-replacement that allows system admins to execute programs on remote systems. PsExec tool is also integrated into and used by enterprise tools to remotely launch executables on other computers.

This PsExec zero-day is caused by a named pipe hijacking (also known as named pipe squatting) vulnerability which allows attackers to trick PsExec into re-opening a maliciously created named pipe and giving it Local System permissions.

After successfully exploiting the bug, threat actors will be able to execute arbitrary processes as Local System which effectively allows them to take over the machine.

[...] "This vulnerability allows an attacker who can already run code on your remote computer as a non-admin (e.g., by logging in as a regular Terminal Server user, or establishing an RDP session as a domain user, or breaking into a vulnerable unprivileged service running on the remote computer) to elevate their privileges to Local System and completely take over the machine as soon as anyone uses PsExec against that machine," Kolsek said.

"For home users and small businesses, this is probably not a high-priority threat, while for large organizations it may be."

Original Submission