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posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @09:58PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Better-ask-Betteridge dept.

Florida swamped by red tide – but is fertilizer plant spill making it worse?:

Piles of dead fish, dolphins, turtles and manatees are rotting on the shorelines of coastal Florida in a soup of reddish brown ocean water after a devastating so-called "red tide" algal bloom struck sea life in the region.

The city council in St Petersburg, Florida, called for a state of emergency last week saying that crews need help getting the dead sea creatures cleaned up from the beaches. In the Pinellas county area, more than 800 tons of dead fish and sea life have washed ashore – and the smell is already hitting the cities.

Red tides do happen in the area, but this year's incident is so serious that it is causing some experts to wonder if a pollution accident at a former fertilizer plant called Piney Point could be a reason it is so bad.

In March, a dam at a reservoir at the defunct plant that stored phosphate wastewater began to fail, prompting temporary evacuations of nearby residents on 1 April. Two days later, Florida's governor, Ron DeSantis, issued a state of emergency. The plant released 215m gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay in an effort to prevent the reservoir's collapse.

[...] Blooms usually start in the fall and go away by January, but summer blooms in the area have occurred a handful of times in more recent history: 1995, 2005 and, most recently, 2018. That year, a long-lasting red tide bloom killed sea life as large as manatees and dolphins, caused widespread health effects and drove tourists away from beaches.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @07:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the getting-there-before-you-leave dept.

World's first 600km/h high-speed maglev train to make public debut in Qingdao:

The world's first high-speed maglev transportation system running at a speed of 600 kilometers per hour [(372 mph)] will make its public debut in Qingdao, East China's Shandong Province, on Tuesday.

As the fastest ground vehicle available so far, the system, self-developed by China, is a cutting-edge scientific and technological achievement in the field of rail transit in the world, said China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) Qingdao Sifang Co., LTD., an industrialization base for manufacturing high-speed trains in China.

The high speed maglev train will be suspended, driven and guided without contact between the train and the track by means of electromagnetic force, with its resistance only coming from the air, said Liang Jianying, deputy general manager and chief engineer of CRRC Sifang.

As a new mode of high-speed traffic, the train is safe, reliable and has low noise pollution, small vibration, large passenger capacity and needs less maintenance, he said, saying that it can fill the speed gap between high-speed rail, whose maximum operating speed is 350 km/h [(217 mph)], and aircraft, whose cruising speed is 800 to 900 km/h [(500 to 560 mph)].

[...] Although the maglev prototype train is about to be rolled off the production line, there is no track line for the 600 km/h high speed maglev train in China yet.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @04:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Apple employees threaten to quit as company takes hard line stance on remote work:

Apple employees claim the company is not budging on plans to institute a hybrid work model for corporate workers and is in some cases denying work-from-home exceptions, including one accommodation covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In June, Apple announced a hybrid work schedule that will see employees return to the office for three days a week starting in September, a shift toward normal corporate operations after the pandemic forced a lengthy work-from-home period. Days later, participants of what is assumed to be the same remote work advocacy Slack channel cited by The Verge asked more flexibility, saying that working from home brings a number of benefits including greater diversity and inclusion in retention and hiring, tearing down previously existing communication barriers, better work life balance, better integration of existing remote / location-flexible workers, and reduced spread of pathogens.

That request was flatly denied. In a video to employees late last month, SVP of retail and people Deirdre O'Brien toed the company line on remote work policies, saying, "We believe that in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future. If we take a moment to reflect on our unbelievable product launches this past year, the products and the launch execution were built upon the base of years of work that we did when we were all together in-person."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @02:16PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]


Semiconductor Crystals Tweaked to Realize Superior Properties for Electronics:

Scientists from Skoltech, together with their collaborators in the United States and Singapore, have developed a neural network that enables the tweaking of semiconductor crystals in a controlled way to achieve excellent properties for electronics.

This facilitates a new way of developing next-generation solar cells and chips by leveraging a controllable deformation that could potentially alter the properties of a material on the go. The study was published in the npj Computational Materials journal.

At the nanoscale level, materials are capable of resisting major deformation. In the so-called strained state, they show significant electronic, thermal, optical and other characteristics as a result of variations in the interatomic distances. The inherent properties of a strained material may vary, with the semiconducting silicon, for example, changing into a material that freely conducts the electric current.

By altering the strain level, it is possible to change the properties as required. This concept has led to a whole field of inquiry: elastic strain engineering (ESE). For example, this method can also be utilized to alter the performance of semiconductors, thereby offering a potential workaround for the impending Moore's law limit, when other options for increasing chip performance are exhausted.

One more potential use is in the field of solar cell development. According to Alexander Shapeev, a study co-author from Skoltech, a solar cell can be designed with tunable properties that can be altered on demand to optimize performance and adapt to external circumstances.

In earlier research, Skoltech PhD graduate Evgenii Tsymbalov, Associate Professor Alexander Shapeev, and their collaborators exploited ESE to convert nanoscale diamond needles from insulating to highly conductive and metal-like substances. Thus, they offered insights into the range of prospective applications of this technology. Currently, the team has come up with a convolutional neural network architecture that can guide ESE measures for semiconductors.

Journal Reference:
Evgenii Tsymbalov, Zhe Shi, Ming Dao, et al. Machine learning for deep elastic strain engineering of semiconductor electronic band structure and effective mass [open], npj Computational Materials (DOI: 10.1038/s41524-021-00538-0)

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @11:41AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Dam-it! dept.

Drought Threatens to Close California Hydropower Plant for First Time:

A California power plant likely will shut down for the first time ever because of low water during a prolonged drought, squeezing the state's very tight electricity supplies, state officials said yesterday.

The Edward Hyatt power plant, an underground facility next to Oroville Dam in Butte County, is expected to close in August or September, said John Yarbrough, California Department of Water Resources assistant deputy director of the State Water Project. The plant has run continuously since opening in 1967. It receives water from Lake Oroville, and that reservoir has dropped because of the drought, as CNN previously reported.

[...] In addition, "high heat events in California and the rest of the West have begun earlier than usual and have exceeded historic temperature levels," the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission leaders said in a July 1 letter to the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the grid manager.

The state's power system expects to lose about 1,000 megawatts of power generation as a result. While that's a fraction of a system with daily peak demand of 44,000 MW, supplies already are tight, said Lindsay Buckley, a California Energy Commission spokesperson.

"Based on our May projections, we really didn't have 1,000 megawatts to lose," Buckley said in an interview.

[...] The loss of generation at the Hyatt plant would occur if the lake levels fall to around 630-640 feet of elevation, due to lack of water to turn the plant's hydropower turbines, said Yarbrough with the California DWR.

Lake Oroville is currently at 666 feet of elevation with 1.015 million acre-feet of water storage, which is 29% of its total capacity and 37% of its historical average. Over the last week, the reservoir has decreased from 673 to 666 feet, he said.

Hyatt is designed to produce up to 750 MW of power but typically produces between 100 and 400 MW, depending on lake levels, Buckley said. The state DWR expects the plant this year to generate about 20% of what it generated last year.

[...] Environmental laws restrict how much water can be released from the system into reservoirs. Water releases to the Feather River are required for water supply, environmental and fishery needs; for health and safety; and to prevent salinity intrusion, Yarbrough said.

Oroville–Thermalito_Complex entry on Wikipedia.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @09:09AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Glo-with-the-Flo dept.

Intel in talks to buy GlobalFoundries for about $30 billion:

July 15 (Reuters) - Intel Corp (INTC.O) is in talks to buy semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries Inc for about $30 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Any deal talks don't appear to include GlobalFoundries directly, as a spokesperson for the company told the Journal it was not in discussions with Intel, according to the report. (

Talks come as a semiconductor shortage is hobbling industries around the globe. A deal could help Intel ramp up production of chips at a time demand is at its peak and the company is looking to start producing chips for car makers that have struggled to keep operations running due to severe shortages.

Intel, one of the last companies in the semiconductor industry that both designs and manufactures its own chips, said earlier this year it would expand its advanced chip manufacturing capacity by spending as much as $20 billion to invest in factories in the U.S.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Tuesday July 20, @06:40AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the flight-has-it-ups-and-downs dept.

[2021-07-20 14:41:25 UTC] UPDATE: Flight had a short hold at (IIRC) T-15:00 then proceeded to have a safe ignition, liftoff, flight, and separation. Booster landed successfully under powered descent. A few minutes later the capsule coasted to apogee (maximum altitude), began its descent, deployed parachutes, and landed nominally. All crew disembarked safely. Congratulations to all involved!]

According to Wikipedia, the capsule reached apogee of 105.671 km (65.6612 mi). On board were the oldest (Wally Funk, 82) and youngest (Oliver Daemen, 18) people to ever reach space. Also on board were Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos.

Original story follows, unchanged.

Blue Origin set for historic first human flight of its New Shepard system:

Officials with the rocket company Blue Origin said they remain on track for their first human spaceflight on Tuesday, which will carry founder Jeff Bezos and three other passengers on a suborbital hop 100 km above West Texas.

Steve Lanias, the lead flight director for the mission, said during a call with reporters that engineers completed a "Flight Readiness Review" for the launch over the weekend and found the New Shepard rocket and capsule to be in perfect condition. Weather, too, looks reasonable with any early morning storms expected to pass before the anticipated liftoff time of 8 am CT (13:00 UTC).

Bezos and the other three passengers—his brother, Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk, and a paying customer from the Netherlands named Oliver Daemen—underwent about 14 hours of training this weekend across two days. Their flight will be entirely autonomous. After launch the capsule will separate from the rocket, and the passengers will have about three minutes of weightlessness before they must strap back into their seats for the return to Earth. Upon reentry to Earth's atmosphere the passengers will experience about 5 Gs as gravity exerts itself on the returning vehicle.

[...] For Tuesday's flight, the company will provide a webcast, which is expected to begin about 90 minutes before the anticipated liftoff time. So the webcast should go live at 6:30 am local time in Texas, or about 11:30 UTC.

The webcast is scheduled to be available on YouTube: New Shepard First Human Flight.

NB: Virgin Galactic's flight on 2021-05-11[*] reached an altitude of 50 miles (80 km) which is the altitude at which NASA issues pilot's wings. Many noted the flight failed to reach the Kármán line boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space which is defined to be 100 km (62 miles). New Shepard's flight is scheduled to reach the Kármán line.

[*] SoylentNews coverage of Virgin Galactic's flight.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @03:04AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the oh-wow-that-was-honest-work dept.

Ukraine warehouse packed with thousands of PS4s was actually a FIFA Ultimate Team bot farm:

A giant cryptocurrency farm in Ukraine that contained thousands of PlayStation 4 consoles was actually a FIFA bot farm.

Last week the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) announced it had shut down what was reported as a cryptocurrency mining farm that contained an incredible 3800 game consoles. Images showed racks of PS4 Slims (some claimed the photos showed PS4 Pros) - either way not the ideal hardware for a cryptocurrency farm.

It turns out the PS4s were being used to grind FIFA Ultimate Team.

According to an investigation by Ukraine business newspaper Delo, sparked by scepticism of the official claim about the farm being primarily about mining cryptocurrency, as well as the fact game discs can be seen protruding from PS4s in one of the pictures, what we're looking at in the photos is a bot farm that got stuck into the Ultimate Team grind, with the goal of selling accounts loaded up with in-game currency on the black market.

Delo said the Security Service of Ukraine has so far refused to comment on the revelation, citing the secrecy of the investigation. But the suggestion is these PS4 Slims, all controlled by PCs running bots, farmed Ultimate Team for profit.

Previously: Ukrainian Police Bust Cryptocurrency Mining Operation, Seize 3,800 PlayStation 4 Consoles.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday July 20, @12:36AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the NSO:-No-Such-Operation dept.

Israeli Spyware Maker Is in Spotlight Amid Reports of Wide Abuses

Data leaked to a consortium of news organizations suggests that several countries use Pegasus, a powerful cyberespionage tool, to spy on rights activists, dissidents and journalists.

A major Israeli cyber-surveillance company, NSO Group, came under heightened scrutiny Sunday after an international alliance of news outlets reported that governments used its software to target journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians.

The Israeli government also faced renewed international pressure for allowing the company to do business with authoritarian regimes that use the spyware for purposes that go far afield of the company's stated aim: targeting terrorists and criminals.

[...] The allegations may escalate concerns that the Israeli government has abetted government abuses by granting NSO an export license to sell software to countries that use it to suppress dissent.

The accounts, published by The Washington Post and an alliance of 16 other international news outlets, follow recent reporting by The [New York] Times that Israel permitted NSO to do business with Saudi Arabia, and encouraged it to keep doing so even after the Saudi government was implicated in the 2018 assassination of a Saudi journalist and dissident, Jamal Khashoggi.

Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists

Also at Business Insider, The Hill, The Verge, and Al Jazeera.

Related: Israeli Firm NSO Linked to WhatsApp Hack, Faces Lawsuit Backed by Amnesty International
Saudi Crown Prince's WhatsApp Account Reportedly Used to Hack Jeff Bezos
The Great iPwn -- Journalists Hacked with Suspected NSO Group iMessage 'Zero-Click' Exploit

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 19, @09:56PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Google redesigns its emoji to be more universal and authentic

Google is tweaking 992 of its emoji designs to make them more "universal, accessible, and authentic," the company announced today. The new designs will arrive this fall alongside Android 12, but Google says they'll also be available on older versions with apps that use its Appcompat compatibility layer. They're also coming to other Google platforms like Gmail, Chrome OS, Google Chat, and YouTube Live Chat this month.

[...] [The] bikini emoji no longer looks like it's being worn by an invisible person, and the face mask emoji now shows a face with its eyes open. Google says it made this change to reflect the fact that masks have become "a universal way of showing kindness to others" rather than a symbol of someone being sick.

[...] If you're wondering why we've seen such a flurry of emoji news over the past couple of days, it's because this year's World Emoji Day [landed] July 17th.

Related: Google CEO Drops Everything to Fix Cheeseburger Emoji
Microsoft Briefly Left Holding the Gun Emoji
Unicode Consortium Adding 230 New Emojis in Emoji 12.0

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday July 19, @07:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the refrigeration-in-hecking-blazes-tarnation dept.

Say hi to Microsoft's own Linux: CBL-Mariner

Microsoft has its own Linux distribution and, yes, you can download, install and run it. In fact, you may want to do just that.

Ok, so it's not named MS-Linux or Lindows, but Microsoft now has its very own, honest-to-goodness general-purpose Linux distribution: Common Base Linux, (CBL)-Mariner. And, just like any Linux distro, you can download it and run it yourself. Amazing isn't it? Why the next thing you know Microsoft will let you run Windows applications on Linux! Oh, wait it has!

[...] Microsoft didn't make a big fuss about releasing CBL-Mariner. It quietly released the code on GitHub and anyone can use it. Indeed, Juan Manuel Rey, a Microsoft Senior Program Manager for Azure VMware, recently published a guide on how to build an ISO CBL-Mariner image. Before this, if you were a Linux expert, with a spot of work you could run it, but now, thanks to Rey, anyone with a bit of Linux skill can do it.

CBL-Mariner is not a Linux desktop. Like Azure Sphere, Microsoft's first specialized Linux distro, which is used for securing edge computing services, it's a server-side Linux.

This Microsoft-branded Linux is an internal Linux distribution. It's meant for Microsoft's cloud infrastructure and edge products and services. Its main job is to provide a consistent Linux platform for these devices and services. Just like Fedora is to Red Hat, it keeps Microsoft on Linux's cutting edge.

Is this the year of the Linux desktop?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Monday July 19, @04:52PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the pwned dept.

For years, a backdoor in popular KiwiSDR product gave root to project developer:

KiwiSDR is hardware that uses a software-defined radio to monitor transmissions in a local area and stream them over the Internet. A largely hobbyist base of users does all kinds of cool things with the playing-card-sized devices. For instance, a user in Manhattan could connect one to the Internet so that people in Madrid, Spain, or Sydney, Australia, could listen to AM radio broadcasts, CB radio conversations, or even watch lightning storms in Manhattan.

On Wednesday, users learned that for years, their devices had been equipped with a backdoor that allowed the KiwiSDR creator—and possibly others—to log in to the devices with administrative system rights. The remote admin could then make configuration changes and access data not just for the KiwiSDR but in many cases to the Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, or other computing devices the SDR hardware is connected to.

Archived copy of the story.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 19, @02:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Gasping-for-air dept.

FAA orders checks on 9,300 Boeing 737 planes for possible switch failures:

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Reuters) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday issued a directive to operators of all Boeing Co (BA.N) 737 series airplanes to conduct inspections to address possible failures of cabin altitude pressure switches.

The directive requires operators to conduct repetitive tests of the switches and replace them if needed. The directive covers 2,502 U.S.-registered airplanes and 9,315 airplanes worldwide.

It was prompted after an operator reported in September that both pressure switches failed the on-wing functional test on three different 737 models.

The FAA said failure of the switches could result in the cabin altitude warning system not activating if the cabin altitude exceeds 10,000 feet (3,050 m), at which point oxygen levels could become dangerously low.

Airplane cabins are pressurized to the equivalent of not more than 8,000 feet (2438 m).

[...] Due to the importance of functions provided by the switch, the FAA in 2012 mandated all Boeing 737 airplanes utilize two switches to provide redundancy in case of one switch's failure.

The directive covers all versions of the 737 jetliners, including the MAX, but is unrelated to any issues related to the MAX's return to service last November.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 19, @11:48AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the thought-they-were-really-cleaning-up dept.

Feds crack down on brothers behind 45 million illegal robocalls:

Three New Jersey brothers will pay $1.6 million to settle charges of instigating more than 45 million illegal robocalls nationwide, including to tens of millions of Americans on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry, the agency announced on Friday.

The siblings also agreed to a permanent ban on telemarketing and will hand over a residential property to resolve the agency's allegations, made in a complaint filed by Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC.

According to the FTC's suit, Joseph, Sean and Raymond Carney initiated more than 45 million illegal telemarketing calls to people across the U.S. between January 2018 and March 2019 to pitch a line of septic tank cleaning products. Most of the calls, or 31 million, were placed to numbers on the FTC's registry of people who don't want to receive marketing calls.

[...] Telemarketers working on behalf of the brothers falsely told consumers they were calling from an environmental company to offer free information on their septic tank cleaning products, the complaint charges.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 19, @09:18AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ready-fire-aim dept.

Accuracy at Any Cost? Gamer Leaks British Military Secrets to Russia-born Company to Prove its Tank Model is Wrong

Accuracy at any cost? Gamer leaks British military secrets to Russia-born company to prove its tank model is wrong:

A funny and potentially criminal episode unfolded this week on the forums of 'War Thunder', a popular competitive video game in which players take control of various real-life military vehicles. Projects like this one attract the attention of accuracy nerds, who push designers to get every little detail right.

It seems one such person may have breached the UK Official Secrets Act, by leaking a portion of the still-classified manual for the Challenger 2 main battle tank. On Wednesday, the user posted on the forum a link to excerpts from a Challenger 2 AESP (Army Equipment Support Publication) as he argued his point to developers.

The alleged leak was reported by the UK Defence Journal on Friday. The military-focused website said the poster identifies as a Challenger 2 commander and may be stationed at the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth, England.

Forum moderators took issue with the link. The British MoD confirmed to them the classified status of the manual, prompting the link's removal and a warning that disseminating the excerpts "can carry up to a 14-year prison sentence if prosecuted." Some users said they hoped the in-game model of the vehicle would still be fixed, but others pointed out that the game's designers refuse to use reference materials that are not legally available to the public.

Classified Challenger Tank Specs Leaked Online for Videogame

Classified Challenger tank specs leaked online for videogame:

A user identifying as a Challenger 2 commander posted specific excerpts from a Challenger 2 AESP (Army Equipment Support Publication, sort of like a user manual) to show game developers that they "didn't model it correctly".

The user identifies as a make[sic] in Tidworth with a history of "Tanks & AFV's, CR2 Tank Commander, AFV Instr, D&M Instr, Gunnery Instr, Former ATDU". It should be noted that Tidworth is home to the Royal Tank Regiment who operate Challenger 2 tanks.

Anyway, it is understood that the excerpts from the document had their 'UK RESTRICTED' label crossed out and a stamp of 'UNCLASSIFIED' added, as well as having various parts fully blanked. One forum user remarked that "the cover for instance had basically everything except CHALLENGER 2 blacked out".

[Gamemaker] Gaijin refused to deal with the apparently still classified documents. Saying through through their community manager:

"Before any discussion, handling or bug reports are even made, proof of this documents[sic] declassification will be required as well as where it was sourced form[sic]. If it is declassified, it should be available to the public. Last time such a document was shared that was claimed to be "unclassified" it was in fact still classified and was confirmed that it should never have been shared. We make it very clear that we will not handle any source material unless it is publically[sic] available and fully declassified with the rights to prove that."

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2