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posted by martyb on Wednesday April 07, @09:48PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Now-that's-just-sick! dept.

Pandemic to cost NASA up to $3 billion

A NASA audit concluded that costs imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on the agency could reach $3 billion, with several major science and exploration programs accounting for much of that cost.

A March 31 report by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated that the agency expects that the pandemic's effects on the agency, ranging from closed facilities to disrupted supply chains, to be nearly $3 billion. Of that, about $1.6 billion came from 30 major programs and projects, defined by NASA as those with a total cost of at least $250 million.

[...] The project with the largest cost increase in the report is the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, formerly known as the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). It reported $3 million in costs because of the pandemic in fiscal year 2020, but estimates nearly $400 million in additional impacts in future years. The mission has a lifecycle cost of $3.9 billion.

[...] The Space Launch System had the second-highest cost increase in terms of overall dollars, at $363 million, of which $8 million was in fiscal year 2020 and $355 million in fiscal years 2021 through 2023. A three-month delay in the first SLS mission, Artemis 1, along with "rephrasing production" each accounted for about one-third of the costs. The rest came from "surge costs" to compress schedules as well as the costs of facility shutdowns.

The Orion spacecraft suffered $146 million in costs, including $5 million in fiscal year 2020 and $66 million in fiscal year 2021. Because the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 1 mission was nearly complete at the time the pandemic hit, the largest effects were on the Orion spacecraft for the Artemis 2 and 3 missions, both still in production. Those problems extended to Europe, with delays in the production of the European Service Module for the Artemis 2 Orion.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 07, @07:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the what-languages-does-it-work-best-and-worst-on? dept.

Google Posts Initial Code For Lyra Speech Codec

Back in February we covered Google's work on the Lyra voice/audio codec designed for fitting with very low bit-rate audio for speech compression in use-cases like WebRTC and video chatting even on the most limited Internet connections. Thanks to leveraging machine learning, Lyra can function at just 3kbps. The code to Lyra is now public.

[...] The Lyra high-quality, low-bitrate speech codec is open-source with an initial v0.0.1 beta commit made today. Building Lyra requires the Bazel build system as well as a particular revision of LLVM/Clang for ABI compatibility.

GitHub (Apache-2.0 License).

Also at VentureBeat and CNX Software.

Google Unveils Lyra Audio Codec with Better Speech Compression than Opus

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 07, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Colorado Denied Its Citizens the Right-to-Repair After Riveting Testimony:

Colorado’s proposed right-to-repair law was simple and clear. At 11 pages, the legislation spent most of its word count defining terms, but the gist was simple: It would let people fix their own stuff without needing to resort to the manufacturer and force said manufacturer to support people who want to fix stuff.

“For the purpose of providing services for digital electronic equipment sold or used in this state, an original equipment manufacturer shall, with fair and reasonable terms and cost, make available to an independent repair provider or owner of the manufacturer’s equipment any documentation, parts, embedded software, firmware, or tools that are intended for use with the digital electronic equipment, including updates to documentation, information, or embedded software,” the proposed bill said.

Right-to-repair is often spoken of in the context of broken phone screens, but it doesn’t just affect people’s personal devices. Agricultural and medical equipment are increasingly impossible to fix because manufacturers want to maintain a monopoly on repairing the product. These issues can make the right-to-repair literally life and death.

The Colorado House Business Affairs & Labor committee met to consider the law on March 25. Twelve legislators voted to indefinitely postpone considering the bill. Only one voted for it. “I still have a lot of questions. I still have a lot of concerns,” Rep. Monica Duran (D) said at the end of the committee hearing. She voted no on the bill.

[...] It was a stunning statement given just how many people testified on behalf of the right-to-repair legislation and how few questions the committee asked them.

Here's just the first of the many cases cited:

Kenny Maestas, who uses a wheelchair, drove this home in his testimony before the committee. Maestas spent a long time in the hospital and when he came home, his mobility was restricted. An electric wheelchair helped him get around, but it was broken. The right arm of the chair was broken and the battery would no longer hold a charge.

“Both my son and brothers were capable and ready to do whatever needed to get done...I called on the 14th of December,” he told the committee. “I was told the next time a tech would be in my area would be the 18th of January. As a rural resident of Colorado I’m used to a regional delay, but 35 days seemed excessive.”

Maestas said that the electric wheelchair company had the battery and spare parts on file to fix his chair, but the company’s procedure required a technician to first inspect the chair before making a repair. It was another 28 days after the tech first arrived before Maestas was mobile again. It was more than 60 days before his chair was working again.

“It’s never appropriate to make a human being with a critical care need wait over two months for a repair that could have been completed in two days,” he said. The committee asked Maestas no questions.

The story concludes:

[...] Bill sponsor Brianna Titone (D) told Motherboard she plans to keep fighting.

“I was particularly frustrated by a committee member who said they had ‘so many unanswered questions’ yet didn't ask any during the committee,” she said in an email.

[...] Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Washington are also considering right-to-repair laws. Colorado’s fight is a preview for what to expect as legislators prepare to consider those bills.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 07, @02:16PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Android sends 20x more data to Google than iOS sends to Apple, study says:

Whether you have an iPhone or an Android device, it's continuously sending data including your location, phone number, and local network details to Apple or Google. Now, a researcher has provided a side-by-side comparison that suggests that, while both iOS and Android collect handset data around the clock—even when devices are idle, just out of the box, or after users have opted out—the Google mobile OS collects about 20 times as much data than its Apple competitor.

Both iOS and Android, researcher Douglas Leith from Trinity College in Ireland said, transmit telemetry data to their motherships even when a user hasn't logged in or has explicitly configured privacy settings to opt out of such collection. Both OSes also send data to Apple and Google when a user does simple things such as inserting a SIM card or browsing the handset settings screen. Even when idle, each device connects to its back-end server on average every 4.5 minutes.

It wasn't just the OSes that sent data to Apple or Google. Preinstalled apps or services also made network connections, even when they hadn't been opened or used. Whereas iOS automatically sent Apple data from Siri, Safari, and iCloud, Android collected data from Chrome, YouTube, Google Docs, Safetyhub, Google Messenger, the device clock, and the Google search bar.

[...] Where Android stands out, Leith said, is in the amount of data it collects. At startup, an Android device sends Google about 1MB of data, compared with iOS sending Apple around 42KB. When idle, Android sends roughly 1MB of data to Google every 12 hours, compared with iOS sending Apple about 52KB over the same period. In the US alone, Android collectively gathers about 1.3TB of data every 12 hours. During the same period, iOS collects about 5.8GB.

Google has contested the findings, saying that they're based on faulty methods for measuring the data that's collected by each OS. The company also contended that data collection is a core function of any Internet-connected device.

[...] An Apple spokesperson also spoke on the condition it be background. The spokesperson said that Apple provides transparency and control for personal information it collects, that the report gets things wrong, that Apple offers privacy protections that prevent Apple from tracking user locations, and that Apple informs users about the collection of location-related data.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 07, @11:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Most loved programming language Rust sparks privacy concerns

Rust developers have repeatedly raised concerned about an unaddressed privacy issue over the last few years. [...] However, for the longest time developers have been bothered by their production builds leaking potentially sensitive debug information.

In early 2017, a Rust developer filed an issue on the Rust lang's GitHub asking, "How can I stop rustc [from] including system specific information such as absolute file paths of the source it's compiled from in the binaries it generates? [...] These absolute path names revealed the developer's system username and the overall structure of directories, including the home directory."

[...] On a first glance, this "leak" of usernames and absolute paths may seem trivial to a reader. However, over years, many more developers were left surprised to notice such information being included not just in debug builds but their production Rust builds as well [1, 2, 3, 4, ...] and pushed for a change.

[...] Interestingly, despite being a privacy risk, the inadvertent inclusion of metadata such as absolute paths may aid computer forensics experts and the law enforcement as the path could reveal system usernames. Of course, any developer who is aware of this issue can trivially build their Rust applications inside of a container, and use a pseudonymous username to minimize impact from the issue.

To understand if Rust considered this a vulnerability or planned on a bug fix, BleepingComputer reached out to the Rust core team for comment.

"We agree that this is a bug worth fixing and will be supporting our teams in solving it," Manish Goregaokar of the Rust team and a senior software engineer at Google told BleepingComputer.

Although at this time, it is not known how or when the Rust team plans on resolving this issue, the increased pressure from the developer community seems to be steering Rust maintainers into an actionable direction.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 07, @09:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the just-one-more dept.

We've had a lot to say about loot boxes in video games, and in the wake of our own reviews and rants about their growing prominence, regulation and public scrutiny have followed. Researchers have entered the loot box conversation in droves as well, but a new report published by researchers on Friday seeks to answer a key question that it claims has been left untouched by other academics: why do gamers buy loot boxes?

In trying to answer that question, the report, commissioned by gambling-protection advocacy group BeGambleAware, suggests that loot box purchasing motivations are directly correlated with "problem gambling" behaviors. That data drives the report's conclusion: regulators should apply the same rules to loot boxes that they do to other forms of gambling, because despite seeming differences, they have enough in common to merit stricter controls.

[...] Enforcing such rules wouldn't be an instant regulatory slam dunk, the report concedes. "At first glance, such observations suggest that regulating all loot boxes as gambling might be a viable solution to avoid the problem of conflicted policy. It would bring all loot boxes under the umbrella of existing gambling regulation—and it is the strategy favored by many, including over 40,000 signatories of a recent UK petition. Such an approach, however, would be a radical overhaul of gambling law—but once again, life is not so easy when it comes to legislative fine-print." Indeed, a 2019 call from UK Parliament to ban loot boxes has so far failed to bring about wide-spread action.

In spite of potential pitfalls, the report argues that such regulations would at least address specific "money's worth" statements by game makers and provide more formal provisions for public research and education on manipulative in-game economies. Better regulation could also remind game companies that "when left with few other options (when an industry does not effectively self-regulate), these types of predatory monetization strategies are not beyond the reaches of national powers."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 07, @06:40AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the enter-the-dragon dept.

Dragon Resilience performs port relocation to clear way for future vehicles

The SpaceX Crew-1 Dragon Resilience performed a relocation to a new docking port aboard the International Space Station on Monday in order to make way for future crew and cargo vehicles on the U.S. side (which includes Canada, Japan, and Europe) of the orbital complex.

This type of move from one docking port to another, whilst common for the Russian Soyuz vehicles, is a first for a U.S. crew vehicle — as the Space Shuttle previously has no need to relocate ports as it was the sole U.S. human and cargo vehicle requiring docking ports until the Crew Dragon system came online in 2019.

Dragon Resilience's relocation began at 06:30 EDT/10:30 UTC, whereupon the craft undocked from International Docking Adapter-2 (IDA-2) / Pressurised Mating Adapter-2 (PMA-2) on the forward port of the Harmony module. The 45-minute procedure saw Resilience back away from the Station to 60 meters before commanding its Draco thrusters to perform an automated flyaround, which involved maneuvering through a 90-degree arc to align with PMA-3/IDA-3 on the zenith (space-facing) side of Harmony. Dragon Resilience then initiated the final approach, using its rendezvous systems to guide itself and its four occupants back toward the Station for a re-docking at 07:15 EDT/11:15 UTC.

All four of Resilience's crewmembers – NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi – were onboard the spacecraft during the relocation to protect against the unlikely scenario of a failed redocking.

Also at Teslarati.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 07, @04:16AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-so-Lucky-any-more dept.


Stepping Away from Phone Manufacturing and Sales Enables Company
to Focus on Growth Sectors Including EVs, IoT and B2B Solutions

SEOUL, April 5, 2021 — LG Electronics Inc. (LG) announced that it is closing its mobile business unit. The decision was approved by its board of directors earlier today.

LG's strategic decision to exit the incredibly competitive mobile phone sector will enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services.

LG will provide service support and software updates for customers of existing mobile products for a period of time which will vary by region. LG will work collaboratively with suppliers and business partners throughout the closure of the mobile phone business. Details related to employment will be determined at the local level.

Moving forward, LG will continue to leverage its mobile expertise and develop mobility-related technologies such as 6G to help further strengthen competitiveness in other business areas. Core technologies developed during the two decades of LG's mobile business operations will also be retained and applied to existing and future products.

The wind down of the mobile phone business is expected to be completed by July 31 although inventory of some existing models may still be available after that.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 07, @01:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the solo-opinion dept.

Justice Clarence Thomas suggests US should regulate Twitter and Facebook:

Justice Clarence Thomas suggested on Monday that Congress should consider whether laws should be updated to better regulate social media platforms that, he said, have come to have "unbridled control" over "unprecedented" amounts of speech.

The provocative and controversial opinion comes as Twitter banned former President Donald Trump from its platform for violating its rules on incitement of violence and some conservatives have called on more regulations in the tech world to combat what they view as political bias on social media.

"If part of the problem is private, concentrated control over online content and platforms available to the public, then part of the solution may be found in doctrines that limit the right of a private company to exclude, " Thomas wrote in a 12-page concurring opinion Monday.

Thomas's stance will raise concerns from critics who point out that social media platforms have not historically been subject to such content regulation, but instead have been left to devise their policies on their own.

[...] Today's digital platforms, Thomas argued, "provide avenues for historically unprecedented amounts of speech," but he said it also concentrates control "of so much speech in the hands of a few private parties."

[...] "The extent to which that power matters for purposes of the First Amendment and the extent to which that power could lawfully be modified raise interesting and important questions," he added.

[...] The conservative justice said that the court will soon have "no choice" but to address how legal doctrines apply to "privately owned information infrastructure such as digital platforms."

Katie Fallow, a First Amendment expert at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University said that the group actually shares Thomas concern about the power over speech being concentrated in the hands of so few. "But we think that concentrating that same power in the hands of government regulators will not necessarily solve the problems associated with social media companies." Instead, she worried it might exacerbate the issue.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 06, @11:13PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the one-ring-to-rule-them-all dept.

From Russia with Rings

Soviet nostalgia. Their own version of Lord of the Rings from 1991 has been found in an old TV-archive, digitized and uploaded to YouTube. It looks just like what one could expect from a eastern European puppet show from decades ago -- even if it's live action. It only aired once before the collapse of the Soviet Union, not that they are related events. While it doesn't have the production value of the Jackson version, it does have things he chose to cut from the books.

Khraniteli1: The Soviet take on Lord of the Rings
Soviet TV version of Lord of the Rings rediscovered after 30 years
Keepers, Part 12
Keepers, Part 23

1 Keepers
2 Хранители | Часть 1 | Телеспектакль по мотивам повести Д.Р.Р.Толкиена - Keepers | Part 1 | Teleplay based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
3 Хранители | Часть 2 | Телеспектакль по мотивам повести Д.Р.Р.Толкиена - Keepers | Part 2 | Teleplay based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien

[Ed Note - Translations via Google Translate. Please provide any corrections in the comments.]

Soviet TV Version of Lord of the Rings Rediscovered After 30 Years

The Guardian reports that a Soviet television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings — thought to have been lost to time — was rediscovered and posted on YouTube last week, delighting Russian-language fans of JRR Tolkien.

The 1991 made-for-TV film, Khraniteli, based on Tolkien’s "The Fellowship of the Ring", is the only adaptation of his Lord of the Rings trilogy believed to have been made in the Soviet Union. Few knew about its existence until Leningrad Television’s successor, 5TV, abruptly posted the film to YouTube last week [part one | part two], where it has gained more than 800,000 views within several days.

Original Submission #1 Original Submission #2

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 06, @08:45PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the keep-what-works-and-pitch-the-rest dept.

A Developer's Inside Look At Where Slack Started -- And Where It's Headed:

In 2020, Slack nearly doubled its paying customer base over the previous year, thanks to the pandemic, and was recently acquired by Salesforce for over $27 billion. But according to Justin Hardin, senior software engineer at Slack, the product originally started as a gaming platform that failed to take off.

"They unfortunately ran out of money and had to lay people off, so they pivoted by asking, 'Which piece of our product works?' And that was the chat aspect," Hardin says on the latest episode of Decoded, OutSystems' podcast for the next generation of developers.

But the app's friendly human tone was inspired by its gaming roots.

"They kept the writer on who was creating the dialogues for the games, and instead had her do the dialogues for the product," he says. "That's how you have this enterprise chat platform with help messages and onboarding that's in a more conversational tone, which helped define the product experience."

[Ed Note - I'm not surprised by this. Slack always felt like a part of a gaming platform to me. - Fnord]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday April 06, @06:11PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Unopened Super Mario Bros. game from 1986 sells for $660,000:

DALLAS (AP) — An unopened copy of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. that was bought in 1986 and then forgotten about in a desk drawer has sold at auction for $660,000.

[...] The auction house said the video game was bought as a Christmas gift but ended up being placed in a desk drawer, where it remained sealed in plastic and with its hang tab intact until it was found earlier this year.

[...] Heritage said it is the finest copy known to have been professionally graded for auction. Its selling price far exceeded the $114,000 that another unopened copy that was produced in 1987 fetched in a Heritage auction last summer.

Ars Technica elaborates in Sealed Super Mario Bros. shatters record with $660,000 auction sale:

A pristine-condition sealed early copy of Super Mario Bros. sold for a record-shattering $660,000 in an online auction today.

That includes $550,000 to the seller and a $110,000 "Buyers' Premium" paid to Heritage Auctions. The final gavel came after 13 bidders placed 36 distinct bids, including heavy proxy bidding before the live auction commenced Friday afternoon.

The sale obliterates the $156,000 Heritage Auction record for a video game, set by a rare variant of Super Mario Bros. 3 sold last November. Crowdsourced collectibles platform Rally paid $140,000 for a sealed Super Mario Bros. last year, the previous record for that game.

The seller of this sealed copy, who asked to remain anonymous publicly, told Heritage that the game was purchased as a Christmas gift in 1985 and sat untouched at the bottom of a desk drawer for 35 years before being discovered [Update: A representative for Heritage Auctions tells Ars the 1985 date was "an error on our part" and that "The owner must have purchased this game in late 1986"]. "It stayed in the bottom of my office desk this whole time since the day I bought it," the seller told Heritage. "I never thought anything about it."

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 06, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the You've-got-questions?-We've-got-answers...-But-now-they're-hidden! dept.

According to a headline on the web page, Yahoo Answers is shutting down .

Yahoo Answers is shutting down on May 4th, 2021 (Eastern Time) and beginning April 20th, 2021 (Eastern Time) the Yahoo Answers website will be in read-only mode. There will be no changes to other Yahoo properties or services, or your Yahoo account. You can find more information about the Yahoo Answers shutdown and how to download your data on this help page.

Yahoo provided additional details at including:

What's the timeline for this process?

  • April 20th - You won't be able to post new Yahoo Answers questions or answer other users' questions.
  • May 4th - The website won't be accessible. If you try to access Yahoo Answers on May 4th you'll be redirected to the Yahoo homepage.

[Ed Note - Have any of my fellow soylentils used Yahoo Answers, and if so was it helpful?]

Additional Coverage:

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 06, @01:09PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Big-badda-boom dept.

Of all the stellar events in the universe, supernovae are the crucibles of the heavier elements, the ones on which life as we know it depends. They also leave stunningly beautiful remnants, like the Veil Nebula, of which there is a recently-enhanced image from the Hubble Space Telescope. Pic and story at C|Net.

The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed the cosmos in stunning detail over its three decades of service. The telescope's view of the Veil Nebula -- a remnant of a supernova -- has gotten a makeover that reveals previously unseen details of the structure.

The Veil is 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus, the Swan. It was the subject of a 2015 Hubble image release, but the new look highlights what the European Space Agency (ESA) described as "the nebula's delicate threads and filaments of ionized gas" in a statement this week.

The changes between the two image versions may seem subtle at first, but the delight is in the details. "The new post-processing methods have further enhanced details of emissions from doubly ionized oxygen (seen here in blues), ionized hydrogen, and ionized nitrogen (seen here in reds)," ESA said.

For those who dislike reading, a direct link to the picture.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday April 06, @10:35AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Baby-it's-cold-outside dept.

News at CNN:

(CNN) The Ingenuity helicopter survived its first night on the freezing-cold surface of Mars, a major milestone in the rotorcraft's journey ahead of its historic first flight.

Jezero Crater, an ancient lake bed on Mars and the current site of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter, can drop to temperatures of minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That's low enough to do significant damage to the helicopter's electrical and battery components.

The 4-pound helicopter finally separated on April 3 from the belly of the Perseverance rover, where it has been stashed since before the rover launched from Earth in July.

Ingenuity went through a series of movements to unfold from beneath the rover, which looked like the metamorphosis of a butterfly, before dropping the final 4 inches to the Martian surface.

[...] "This is the first time that Ingenuity has been on its own on the surface of Mars," said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement. "But we now have confirmation that we have the right insulation, the right heaters, and enough energy in its battery to survive the cold night, which is a big win for the team. We're excited to continue to prepare Ingenuity for its first flight test."

When Ingenuity does fly, which could happen as soon as April 11, it will be the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. In a nod to the first such feat conducted on Earth, Ingenuity carries a swatch of fabric from the Wright brothers' plane, Flyer 1.

Ingenuity, the first rotorcraft sent to Mars, presented a challenge to the engineers who designed it for several reasons. It needed to be small enough to tuck up under the rover without endangering Perseverance's mission, which is the first to search for evidence of ancient microbial life on Mars.

April 11, or 4-11! Or later.

Previously:>br> NASA’s Mars Rover Drops Off Ingenuity Helicopter Ahead of Historic Flight
First Flight on Mars? Ingenuity Helicopter Preps for Takeoff
NASA Lays Out Plans for its First Flights on Mars

Original Submission