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Which war to fight first

  • vi vs emacs
  • tabs vs spaces
  • static vs dynamic typing
  • gui vs text
  • functional vs OOP
  • Light vs Dark theme
  • Other (please specify)

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:128 | Votes:164

posted by hubie on Wednesday May 11, @09:21PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Ministry-of-Information dept.

Can European regulation rein in ill-behaving algorithms?

Until recently, it wasn't possible to say that AI had a hand in forcing a government to resign. But that's precisely what happened in the Netherlands in January 2021, when the incumbent cabinet resigned over the so-called kinderopvangtoeslagaffaire: the childcare benefits affair.

When a family in the Netherlands sought to claim their government childcare allowance, they needed to file a claim with the Dutch tax authority. Those claims passed through the gauntlet of a self-learning algorithm, initially deployed in 2013. In the tax authority's workflow, the algorithm would first vet claims for signs of fraud, and humans would scrutinize those claims it flagged as high risk.

In reality, the algorithm developed a pattern of falsely labeling claims as fraudulent, and harried civil servants rubber-stamped the fraud labels. So, for years, the tax authority baselessly ordered thousands of families to pay back their claims, pushing many into onerous debt and destroying lives in the process.

[...] Postmortems of the affair showed evidence of bias. Many of the victims had lower incomes, and a disproportionate number had ethnic minority or immigrant backgrounds. The model saw not being a Dutch citizen as a risk factor.

[...] As the dust settles, it's clear that the affair will do little to halt the spread of AI in governments—60 countries already have national AI initiatives. Private-sector companies no doubt see opportunity in helping the public sector. For all of them, the tale of the Dutch algorithm—deployed in an E.U. country with strong regulations, rule of law, and relatively accountable institutions—serves as a warning.

The hope is the European Parliament's AI Act, which puts public-sector AI under tighter scrutiny, will ban some applications (like law enforcement's use of facial recognition) and flag something like the Dutch Tax's algorithm as high-risk. Nathalie Smuha, a technology legal scholar at KU Leuven, in Belgium, summed it up:

"It's not just about making sure the AI system is ethical, legal, and robust; it's also about making sure that the public service in which the AI system [operates] is organized in a way that allows for critical reflection."

Originally spotted on The Eponymous Pickle.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday May 11, @06:36PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the my-sights-adjusted-and-my-telescope-aimed dept.

Distant galaxies, dark matter, dark energy and the origin and evolution of the universe itself are some of the many scientific goals of China's newly announced space telescope. If all goes according to plan, the China Space Station Telescope (CSST) will blast off atop a Long March 5B rocket sometime in late 2023. Once in a safe orbit, CSST should begin observations in 2024. Judging by these research topics, it looks like the Chinese Academy of Sciences is throwing down an impressive scientific gauntlet for itself and its astronomers.

Given the potential scientific rewards, it's not surprising that China is joining the "big space telescope club." It's also a source of national pride, especially if they can "out-Hubble Hubble." For example, once CSST is operational, Chinese scientists hope to survey the sky and observe more than 1 billion galaxies. Their instruments should let them get highly precise measurements of galaxy shapes, positions and brightness. They'll use the telescope to go after exoplanets, star birth regions, and other distant objects, gathering incredible amounts of high-resolution data.

[Also Covered By]: Universe Today

[Source]: Chinese Academy of Sciences

[Presentation]: Chinese Survey Space Telescope Technical Presentation (2021) (PDF)

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday May 11, @03:49PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how-is-this-still-a-thing? dept.

Stealthy Raspberry Robin Worm Is Spreading Malware Via USB Drives:

[...] Threat intelligence group Red Canary is tracking a worm that it calls Raspberry Robin, and it's definitely malware, but the question of "why" is still, in fact, a big question. [...].

In the age of the Internet, most malware spreads through the web, and Raspberry Robin does indeed make use of the internet to download critical files, however, it actually seems to spread via infected USB drives. Using Windows' autoplay functionality, it executes a .LNK file, which is a link shortcut. From there, it starts the Windows command interpreter and uses the Microsoft Installer, msiexec.exe, to download a malicious DLL that it then installs to the system. The purpose of this isn't entirely clear yet, but it seems to be for persistence.

After that, the system makes numerous attempts to connect to remote hosts, usually TOR exit nodes. The thing is, it's not actually clear what it is doing or why, and furthermore, Red Canary doesn't don't know who is infecting the systems where Raspberry Robin is found. Said systems include machines inside the networks of various manufacturing and technology companies.

As described in the related Red Canary blog post, after a USB drive is inserted the UserAssist registry entry is updated and records execution of a ROT13-ciphered value referencing a LNK file on the USB drive with malicious code. As a somewhat ignorant Windows person I have to ask: wasn't this autorun-like feature "fixed" 20 years ago?

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 11, @01:05PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Uber CEO vows to be 'hardcore about costs,' slow down hiring in memo to employees:

Uber is going to slow down hiring and reduce its costs in response to "seismic shifts" in the financial markets, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a memo to employees.

[...] Uber is the latest company to commit to a hiring slowdown as the labor market tightens and tech stocks in particular have plunged sharply from their heights at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, also said it would slow down the pace of hiring for mid-level positions.

Uber will now focus on achieving profitability on a free cash flow basis rather than adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, Khosrowshahi said, noting that is what the company's investors now expect.

Uber has long been criticized based on the way it calculates its adjusted profits. The company's definition of EBITDA includes an unusually large list of exclusions and is widely seen as an inaccurate measure of the company's overall profitability. The company's stock price is down more than 40 percent year-to-date.

Uber to 'Treat Hiring as a Privilege' as a Way to Cut Costs:

In an email to staff, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi outlined some new and not-so-new cost saving measures.

[...] The rideshare giant is the latest in a string of other tech companies announcing hiring slow downs or cuts. At the end of April, investing app, Robinhood, laid off 9% of its staff. Then, Netflix laid off multiple recently hired writers for blog endeavor Tudum following a dismal quarterly earnings report. And, last week, Meta announced a hiring freeze for the rest of the year.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 11, @10:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Western Digital Announces 22TB CMR and 26TB SMR HDDs: 10 Platters plus ePMR

Western Digital is announcing the sampling of its new 22TB CMR and 26TB SMR hard drives today at its What's Next Western Digital Event. As usual, the hyperscale cloud customers will get first dibs on these drives. The key takeaway from today's presentation is that Western Digital doesn't yet feel the need to bring heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) into the picture. In fact, WD is doubling down on energy-assisted PMR (ePMR) technology and OptiNAND (introduced first in the 20TB CMR drives). WD is also continuing to use the triple-stage actuator that it started shipping in the first half of 2020 in the new drives. It goes without saying that the new high-capacity drives are helium-filled (HelioSeal technology). The main change common to both drives is the shift to a 10-stack design.

The SMR drives are getting an added capacity boost, thanks to WD's new UltraSMR technology. This involves adoption of a new advanced error correction algorithm to go along with encoding of larger blocks. This allows improvement in the tracks-per-inch (TPI) metric, resulting in 2.6TB per platter. The new Ultrastar DC HC670 uses ten platters to provide 26TB of host-managed SMR storage for cloud service providers.

PMR = Perpendicular Magnetic Recording
SMR = Shingled Magnetic Recording
OptiNAND = embedded flash drive included on the HDD for caching metadata

While the company did not quantify the amount of NAND in its OptiNAND drives, they are stressing the fact that it is not a hybrid drive (SSHD). Unlike SSHDs, the OptiNAND drives do not store any user data at all during normal operation. Instead, the NAND is being used to store metadata from HDD operation in order to improve capacity, performance, and reliability.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 11, @07:32AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the ice-skating-on-a-frozen-lake dept.

Newly Discovered Lake May Hold Secret to Antarctic Ice Sheet's Rise and Fall:

Scientists investigating the underside of the world's largest ice sheet in East Antarctica have discovered a city-size lake whose sediments might contain a history of the ice sheet since its earliest beginnings. That would answer questions about what Antarctica was like before it froze, how climate change has affected it over its history, and how the ice sheet might behave as the world warms.

[...] Because it lies relatively close to the coast, researchers think that Lake Snow Eagle might contain information about how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet first began and the part played by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, a ring of cold water circling the continent that scientists think is responsible for keeping it cool.

[...] Moving forward, the researchers said getting a sample of the lake's sediments by drilling into it would fill big gaps in scientists' understanding of Antarctica's glaciation and provide vital information about the ice sheet's possible demise from climate change.

[...] "This lake's been accumulating sediment over a very long time, potentially taking us through the period when Antarctica had no ice at all, to when it went into deep freeze," said co-author Martin Siegert, a glaciologist at Imperial College London. "We don't have a single record of all those events in one place, but the sediments at the bottom of this lake could be ideal."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 11, @04:46AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the about-face dept.

Facial recognition startup Clearview AI has agreed to restrict the use of its massive collection of face images to settle allegations that it collected people's photos without their consent:

The company in a legal filing Monday agreed to permanently stop selling access to its face database to private businesses or individuals around the U.S., putting a limit on what it can do with its ever-growing trove of billions of images pulled from social media and elsewhere on the internet.

The settlement — which must be approved by a county judge in Chicago — will end a 2-year-old lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups over alleged violations of an Illinois digital privacy law. The company still faces a separate privacy case before a federal judge in Illinois.

Clearview is also agreeing to stop making its database available to Illinois state government and local police departments for five years. The New York-based company will continue offering its services to federal agencies, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and to other law enforcement agencies and government contractors outside of Illinois.

[...] The settlement document says Clearview continues to deny and dispute the claims brought by the ACLU and other plaintiffs. But even before Monday's settlement, the case has been curtailing some of the company's controversial business practices.

Also at The Guardian, CNN, TechCrunch, ACLU.

Why Facial Recognition Technology Has an Uncertain Future with Small Business

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Wednesday May 11, @02:01AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the could-this-be-the-end-of-our-plucky-hero?-Tune-in-next-week! dept.

Mars is only going to get colder and darker for the next 10 weeks as winter deepens:

The Ingenuity helicopter has made 28 flights traveling about 7 km across the surface of Mars. Lately it has been accumulating dust on its solar panels making it hard to recharge its batteries. Recently they lost contact with the vehicle and they figured that its battery had run out, but after sunrise the batteries would charge enough that it would boot up and try to contact the rover, Perseverance.

So, the engineering team commanded Perseverance to halt all of its ongoing science activities for a full day to essentially sit there and listen intently for Ingenuity's call. The significance of this is that the helicopter was initially viewed as an add-on technology demonstration. Some of the rover's leadership team did not even want the added risk of bringing Ingenuity along. The helicopter was supposed to make five experimental flights in 30 days and then be set aside. Now, the entire Mars mission was being put on hold, nearly 13 months after Ingenuity's first flight, in the hopes of saving the small vehicle.

Well, happily, Ingenuity did call home after about 24 hours. According to NASA, the link was stable, and the solar array managed to charge its batteries to 41 percent. The engineers say they hope to resume Ingenuity's flight campaign within the next several days, after bringing the helicopter's batteries to a full charge.

This may be the beginning of the end, however. They've dropped the set point for the keep-alive heaters from -15C to -40C to conserve energy, and it isn't clear how long the commercial-off-the-shelf components in the system will last at these temperatures as it enters into the Martian winter.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 10, @11:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the that's-the-USA-and-Europe-stuffed dept.

COVID-19 Vaccines May Be Significantly Less Effective in People With Severe Obesity:

New research suggests that adults (aged 18 or older) with severe obesity generate a significantly weaker immune response to vaccination compared to those with normal weight. The study was conducted by Professor Volkan Demirhan Yumuk from Istanbul University in Turkey and colleagues and was presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Maastricht, Netherlands (May 4-7).

The study also found that people with severe obesity (BMI of more than 40kg/m2) vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine generated significantly more antibodies than those vaccinated with CoronaVac (inactivated SARSCoV2) vaccine, suggesting that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine might be a better choice for this vulnerable population.

Obesity is a disease complicating the course of COVID-19, and the vaccine antibody response in adults with obesity may be compromised. Vaccines against influenza, hepatitis B, and rabies, have shown reduced responses in people with obesity.

To find out more, researchers investigated antibody responses following Pfizer/BioNTech and CoronaVac vaccination in 124 adults (average age 42-63 years) with severe obesity who visited the Obesity Center at Istanbul University-Cerrahpasa, Cerrahpasa Medical Faculty Hospitals, between August and November 2021. They also recruited a control group of 166 normal weight adults (BMI less than 25kg/m2, average age 39-47 years) who were visiting the Cerrahpasa Hospitals Vaccination Unit.

Researchers measured antibody levels in blood samples taken from patients and normal weight controls who had received two doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or CoronaVac vaccine and had their second dose four weeks earlier. The participants were classified by infection history as either previously having COVID-19 or not (confirmed by their antibody profile).

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 10, @08:36PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the unwinable-battle dept.

Nvidia's anti-cryptomining GPUs have finally been 100% unlocked:

It took almost an entire year from their initial release, but the LHR (low hashrate) versions of Nvidia's RTX 30 series graphics cards have finally been completely unlocked by a mining software called Nicehash, restoring each card's respective mining capabilities.

Many of the best graphics cards were nearly impossible to find available to buy over the last two years because of the global chip shortage, a broader supply chain crisis at ports around the world and demand for consumer tech putting even more pressure on the availability of semiconductors needed by AMD and Nvidia for their products.

Part of this demand also included cryptominers who were buying up the available stock in bulk of popular GPUs during the height of the recent crypto currency boom. And while there are mixed opinions about how this affected overall availability for gamers and building hobbyists, there was certainly no love lost between the two groups which resulted in Team Green putting measures in place to make its consumer graphics cards less desirable to those hoping to use them to mine currencies such as Ethereum.

[...] As reported by WCCFTech, NiceHash has now announced that it can utilize 100% of available mining speeds using these previously restricted Ampere-series cards [...]

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 10, @05:43PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

A marker that could help identify babies at a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has been discovered by Sydney researchers.

The study conducted by The Children's Hospital Westmead confirmed what had long been suspected — that SIDS victims were unable to wake themselves up — but it went one step further by providing the why.

The enzyme butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) plays a major role in the "brain's arousal pathway" and was found at "significantly lower" levels in babies who die of SIDS.

[...] "Usually, if a baby is confronted with a life-threatening situation, such as difficulty breathing during sleep because they're on their tummies, they will arouse and cry out.

"What this research shows is that some babies don't have this same robust arousal response.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday May 10, @03:01PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the tuck-my-worries-underneath-my-ARM dept.

UK sanctions Russian microprocessor makers, banning them from ARM:

The UK government added 63 Russian entities to its sanction list on Wednesday [04 May]. Among them are Baikal Electronics and MCST (Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies), the two most important chip makers in Russia.

The two sanctioned entities will now be denied access to the ARM architecture since Arm Ltd., the licensee, is based in Cambridge, England, and will have to comply with the sanctions.

[...] The two firms are considered vital for Russia's technological independence efforts, as they are expected to step up and cover the shortages created by the lack of processors made by Western chip-makers such as Intel and AMD.

[...] While these processors [the most advanced processors Baikai and MCST currently supply], and the much worse mid-tier and low-tier chips that carry the Baikal and MCST sticker, don't feature impressive performance, they could keep some vital parts of the Russian IT section going during shortages.

Although Russia has eased licensing regulations on other sanctioned items, such as software, that will most likely not happen here.

[...] However, it is important to remember that Baikal and MCST processors are made in foreign foundries, like Samsung's and TSMC's, and those two wouldn't infringe Arm's licensing rules and international law to facilitate Russian interests.

Baikal, which holds a valid license to produce at 16nm, only has a design license for its upcoming models, not manufacturing, so the only solution is to take the production domestically and ignore the rules.

[...] The Russian government has already approved an investment of 3.19 trillion rubles (38.2 billion USD) to counteract this in April 2022, but boosting local production will take many years. In the most optimistic scenarios, Russian foundries will be able to produce 28nm chips by 2030.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday May 10, @12:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the nobody's-business-but-my-own dept.

An interesting article over at PCMag that is worth the read as this brief summary cannot do the topics justice. It discusses the issues with getting employees back into the office after two years of working remotely.

[...] The 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index reported that 50% of mid-level managers said their companies are making plans to return to in-person work five days a week in the year ahead, but 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or remote.

[...] While the pandemic has exposed the many challenges of working remotely, it has also made the benefits clear. People are unwilling to lose hours of their day to the things they find most frustrating about work, such as commuting and the drudgery of office life. [...]

[...] While offices are a collective place of work, they're experienced individually. And for some individuals, that experience is not as welcoming as it is for others. This is reflected in women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with disabilities being less inclined to want to return to the office than others.

[...] In-office employees have found themselves spending time commuting only to sit in an office and spend the day not interacting with anyone there and having a Zoom meeting or two. Meanwhile, those still working remote can feel ignored when they're logged on to a Zoom meeting and see their colleagues in a conference room having side conversations that they're not a part of.

[...] There have been some unpleasant new realities faced by those returning to the office. Lots of workplace perks have disappeared in the pandemic. Fully stocked kitchens are a lot barer since they have to feed a much smaller fraction of a workforce. Free gym memberships didn't make much sense when gyms were closed and the benefit at some companies didn't return when their doors reopened.

[...] But there are some perks that have evolved into ones more suited to remote work. Companies, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, set up stipends to outfit home offices. Childcare, which has always been a concern for working parents, became more of one. And benefits have expanded to include longer paid leave for parents, more flexible schedules, backup childcare services, and even tutoring stipends. [...]

[...] Companies would do well to set up an outreach system for employees of all levels to really check in on their individual needs and concerns. Forego formal surveys for a more human touch of a one-on-one chat by phone or Slack. Because no matter how remote we might be from one another in our workplaces at present, we've all lived through a trying time and could benefit from some connection.

Have your working environments changed, and if so, has it been for the better or worse (or neither)?

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Tuesday May 10, @09:33AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-always-knew-you-were-a-scientist-at-heart dept.

Unusual ridge networks on Mars may provide clues about the history of the Red Planet:

Scientists have uncovered strange ridge networks on using images from spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet over the previous two decades. How and why the ridges formed, as well as what clues they may reveal about the history of Mars have remained unknown.

[...] How the ridge networks were formed on Mars has remained a mystery ever since they were discovered in orbital imagery. Scientists have determined that there are three stages that were involved to create the ridges, including polygonal fracture formation, fracture filling, and finally erosion, which revealed the ridge networks.

[...] Ultimately, with the help of the citizen scientists, the team was able to map the distribution of 952 polygonal ridge networks in an area that measures about a fifth of Mars' total surface area.

"Citizen scientists played an integral role in this research because these features are essentially patterns at the surface, so almost anyone with a computer and internet can help identify these patterns using images of Mars," Khuller said.

[...] This discovery helps scientists "trace" the footprints of groundwater running through the ancient Martian surface and determine where it was suitable, during that time 4 billion years ago, for liquid water to be flowing near the surface.

"We hope to eventually map the entire planet with the help of citizen scientists," Khuller said. "If we are lucky, the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover might be able to confirm these findings, but the nearest set of ridges is a few kilometers away, so they might only be visited on a potential extended mission."

Journal Reference:
Aditya R. Khuller, Laura Kerber, Megan E. Schwam, et al., Irregular polygonal ridge networks in ancient Noachian terrain on Mars, Icarus, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114833

Keep an eye on the project page for when they continue their work. Does anyone volunteer in these kind of projects or have recommendations where else the budding citizen scientist can help out?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday May 10, @06:46AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the sweet-trip-to-a-candy-shop dept.

Colorful nonpareils can uniquely identify drug capsules and counterfeit fashions:

While most of us were baking sourdough bread and watching "Tiger King" to stay sane during the pandemic shutdown, UC Riverside bioengineering professor William Grover kept busy counting the colorful candy sprinkles perched on top of chocolate drops. In the process, he discovered a simple way to prevent pharmaceutical fraud.

The technique, which he calls CandyCode and uses tiny multicolored candy nonpareils or "hundreds and thousands" as a uniquely identifiable coating for pharmaceutical capsules and pills, is published in Scientific Reports.

[...] "The inspiration for this came from the little colorful chocolate candies. Each candy has an average of 92 nonpareils attached randomly, and the nonpareils have eight different colors. I started wondering how many different patterns of colored nonpareils were possible on these candies," said Grover. "It turns out that the odds of a randomly generated candy pattern ever repeating itself are basically zero, so each of these candies is unique and will never be duplicated by chance."

[...] To test this idea, Grover used edible cake decorating glue to coat Tylenol capsules with nonpareils and developed an algorithm that converts a photo of a CandyCoded pill into a set of text strings suitable for storing in a computer database and querying by consumers. He used this algorithm to analyze a set of CandyCode photos and found they function as universally unique identifiers, even after subjecting the CandyCoded pills to physical abuse that simulates the wear-and-tear of shipping.

"Using a computer simulation of even larger CandyCode libraries, I found that a company could produce 10^17 CandyCoded pills—enough for 41 million pills for each person on earth—and still be able to uniquely identify each CandyCoded pill," Grover said.

[...] "Anecdotally, I found that CandyCoded caplets were more pleasant to swallow than plain caplets, confirming Mary Poppins' classic observation about the relationship between sugar and medicine," said Grover.

Journal Reference:
Grover, W.H. CandyCodes: simple universally unique edible identifiers for confirming the authenticity of pharmaceuticals [open] Sci Rep 12, 7452 (2022).
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-11234-4

Original Submission

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