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[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:51 | Votes:40

posted by hubie on Sunday February 25, @08:35PM   Printer-friendly

Historians have discovered what may be the world's first decimal point, in an ancient manuscript written 150 years before its next known appearance. There have been many ways to split integers, but this little dot has proven uniquely powerful.

The mathematics we all learn at school seems so fundamental that it doesn't feel like individual concepts in it would need "inventing," but these pieces arose separately as scientists and mathematicians realized they were needed. For instance, scientists recently found the oldest written record of the numeral "0," dating back 500 years earlier than previously thought.

Now, it looks like the decimal point is also older than expected. Ever since we've realized we sometimes need to break numbers into smaller fragments, humans have denoted the difference using various symbols – dashes, vertical lines, arcs and underscores have filled the role, but none of those have survived into modern usage. Commas and periods are the most common now, so when did they start?

Previously, the earliest known use of a period as a decimal point was thought to be an astronomical table by the German mathematician Christopher Clavius in 1593. But according to modern scientists, that kind of test is a weird place to introduce such a massive concept to the world, and Clavius didn't really go on to use the idea much in his later writings. Basically, if he realized the need for the concept and invented a neat way to display and work with it, why didn't he brag about it?

The answer, it seems, is that Clavius was just borrowing an older idea that had essentially been lost to time, and wasn't the preferred method in his era. A new study has found that the decimal point dates back to the 1440s – about 150 years earlier – first appearing in the writings of Italian mathematician Giovanni Bianchini.

Bianchini was a professor of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Ferrara, but he also had a background in what we'd now call finance – he was a merchant, and managed assets and investments for a wealthy ruling family of the time. That real-world experience seems to have influenced his mathematical work, since Bianchini was known to have created his own system of dividing measurement units like feet into 10 equal parts to make them easier to work with. As fundamental as it feels to modern sensibilities, it didn't catch on with the 15th century crowd who were used to a base-60 system.

Now, Dr. Glen Van Brummelen, a professor at Trinity Western University in Canada, has discovered that Bianchini illustrated this system with a decimal point, the first ever. Van Brummelen found that in a manuscript called Tabulae primi mobilis B, Bianchini was using numbers with dots in the middle – the first one being 10.4 – and showing how to multiply them, something that was tricky in a base-60 system.

"I realized that he's using this just as we do, and he knows how to do calculations with it," Van Brummelen told Nature. "I remember running up and down the hallways of the dorm with my computer trying to find anybody who was awake, shouting 'look at this, this guy is doing decimal points in the 1440s!'"

Journal Reference:
Glen Van Brummelen, Decimal fractional numeration and the decimal point in 15th-century Italy, Historica Mathematica, In Press, 2024.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Sunday February 25, @03:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the life-imitating-art-imitating-life dept.

On Monday, Will Smith posted a video on his official Instagram feed that parodied an AI-generated video of the actor eating spaghetti that went viral last year. With the recent announcement of OpenAI's Sora video synthesis model, many people have noted the dramatic jump in AI-video quality over the past year compared to the infamous spaghetti video. Smith's new video plays on that comparison by showing the actual actor eating spaghetti in a comical fashion and claiming that it is AI-generated.
In the Instagram comments section, some people expressed confusion about the new (non-AI) video, saying, "I'm still in doubt if second video was also made by AI or not." In a reply, someone else wrote, "Boomers are gonna loose [sic] this one. Second one is clearly him making a joke but I wouldn't doubt it in a couple months time it will get like that."

We have not yet seen a model with the capability of Sora attempt to create a new Will-Smith-eating-spaghetti AI video, but the result would likely be far better than what we saw last year, even if it contained obvious glitches.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 25, @11:03AM   Printer-friendly

Cybercriminals Weaponizing Open-Source SSH-Snake Tool for Network Attacks:

A recently open-sourced network mapping tool called SSH-Snake has been repurposed by threat actors to conduct malicious activities.

"SSH-Snake is a self-modifying worm that leverages SSH credentials discovered on a compromised system to start spreading itself throughout the network," Sysdig researcher Miguel Hernández said. "The worm automatically searches through known credential locations and shell history files to determine its next move."

SSH-Snake was first released on GitHub in early January 2024, and is described by its developer as a "powerful tool" to carry out automatic network traversal using SSH private keys discovered on systems.

In doing so, it creates a comprehensive map of a network and its dependencies, helping determine the extent to which a network can be compromised using SSH and SSH private keys starting from a particular host. It also supports resolution of domains which have multiple IPv4 addresses. "It's completely self-replicating and self-propagating – and completely fileless," according to the project's description. "In many ways, SSH-Snake is actually a worm: It replicates itself and spreads itself from one system to another as far as it can."

Sysdig said the shell script not only facilitates lateral movement, but also provides additional stealth and flexibility than other typical SSH worms.

The cloud security company said it observed threat actors deploying SSH-Snake in real-world attacks to harvest credentials, the IP addresses of the targets, and the bash command history following the discovery of a command-and-control (C2) server hosting the data.

"The usage of SSH keys is a recommended practice that SSH-Snake tries to take advantage of in order to spread," Hernández said. "It is smarter and more reliable which will allow threat actors to reach farther into a network once they gain a foothold."

When reached for comment, Joshua Rogers, the developer of SSH-Snake, told The Hacker News that the tool offers legitimate system owners a way to identify weaknesses in their infrastructure before attackers do, urging companies to use SSH-Snake to "discover the attack paths that exist – and fix them." "It seems to be commonly believed that cyber terrorism 'just happens' all of a sudden to systems, which solely requires a reactive approach to security," Rogers said. "Instead, in my experience, systems should be designed and maintained with comprehensive security measures."

"If a cyber terrorist is able to run SSH-Snake on your infrastructure and access thousands of servers, focus should be put on the people that are in charge of the infrastructure, with a goal of revitalizing the infrastructure such that the compromise of a single host can't be replicated across thousands of others."

SSH-Snake: Automated SSH-Based Network Traversal:

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 25, @06:13AM   Printer-friendly
from the Can-it-core-a-apple? dept.

The Driven, an Australian car news site is reporting on a new EV offering from Chinese auto manufacturer BYD

From the article:

At $US15,000, BYD's new Qin EV is already being touted as a "Corolla killer" as the world's second largest EV maker continues to disrupt the global auto market.

Launched earlier this week in China, the all-electric Qin Plus has five models priced between 109,800 RMB to ($A23,300) to 139,800 RMB ($A29,700).

The Qin Plus comes with a 100 kW motor and the option of either a 48 kWh battery providing 420 km CLTC range or a 57.6 kW hour battery with 510 km range.

[...] Indeed, most legacy car makers, at least those that are bothering to make EVs at scale at all, are still focused on the top end of the market, selling premium and heavy and high cost EVs, largely to protect their ICE business. In the US, the major car makers are retreating rapidly on their EV plans.

BYD, which is challenging Tesla as the biggest EV maker in the world, says it's "officially opening a new era where electricity is lower than oil."

Additional reporting on the BYD Qin:

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Sunday February 25, @01:24AM   Printer-friendly
from the yeah,-no,-yeah dept.

"Cox did not profit from its subscribers' acts of infringement," judges rule:

A federal appeals court today overturned a $1 billion piracy verdict that a jury handed down against cable Internet service provider Cox Communications in 2019. Judges rejected Sony's claim that Cox profited directly from copyright infringement committed by users of Cox's cable broadband network.

Appeals court judges didn't let Cox off the hook entirely, but they vacated the damages award and ordered a new damages trial, which will presumably result in a significantly smaller amount to be paid to Sony and other copyright holders. Universal and Warner are also plaintiffs in the case.

"We affirm the jury's finding of willful contributory infringement," said a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. "But we reverse the vicarious liability verdict and remand for a new trial on damages because Cox did not profit from its subscribers' acts of infringement, a legal prerequisite for vicarious liability."

If the correct legal standard had been used in the district court, "no reasonable jury could find that Cox received a direct financial benefit from its subscribers' infringement of Plaintiffs' copyrights," judges wrote.

The case began when Sony and other music copyright holders sued Cox, claiming that it didn't adequately fight piracy on its network and failed to terminate repeat infringers. A US District Court jury in the Eastern District of Virginia found the ISP liable for infringement of 10,017 copyrighted works.

Cox's appeal was supported by advocacy groups concerned that the big-money judgment could force ISPs to disconnect more Internet users based merely on accusations of copyright infringement. Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation also called the ruling legally flawed.

"When these music companies sued Cox Communications, an ISP, the court got the law wrong," the EFF wrote in 2021. "It effectively decided that the only way for an ISP to avoid being liable for infringement by its users is to terminate a household or business's account after a small number of accusations—perhaps only two. The court also allowed a damages formula that can lead to nearly unlimited damages, with no relationship to any actual harm suffered. If not overturned, this decision will lead to an untold number of people losing vital Internet access as ISPs start to cut off more and more customers to avoid massive damages."

In today's 4th Circuit ruling, appeals court judges wrote that "Sony failed, as a matter of law, to prove that Cox profits directly from its subscribers' copyright infringement."

A defendant may be vicariously liable for a third party's copyright infringement if it profits directly from it and is in a position to supervise the infringer, the ruling said. Cox argued that it doesn't profit directly from infringement because it receives the same monthly fee from subscribers whether they illegally download copyrighted files or not, the ruling noted.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday February 24, @08:36PM   Printer-friendly

Cycles of a diet that mimics fasting can reduce signs of immune system aging, as well as insulin resistance and liver fat in humans, resulting in a lower biological age, according to a new USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology-led study.

The study, published in Nature Communications on Feb. 20, adds to the body of evidence supporting the beneficial effects of the fasting-mimicking diet (FMD).

The FMD is a five-day diet high in unsaturated fats and low in overall calories, protein, and carbohydrates and is designed to mimic the effects of a water-only fast while still providing necessary nutrients and making it much easier for people to complete the fast. The diet was developed by the laboratory of USC Leonard Davis School Professor Valter Longo, the senior author of the new study.

"This is the first study to show that a food-based intervention that does not require chronic dietary or other lifestyle changes can make people biologically younger, based on both changes in risk factors for aging and disease and on a validated method developed by the Levine group to assess biological age," Longo said.

Previous research led by Longo has indicated that brief, periodic FMD cycles are associated with a range of beneficial effects. They can:

  • Promote stem cell regeneration

  • Lessen chemotherapy side effects
  • Reduce the signs of dementia in mice

In addition, the FMD cycles can lower the risk factors for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases in humans.

The Longo lab also had previously shown that one or two cycles of the FMD for five days a month increased the healthspan and lifespan of mice on either a normal or Western diet, but the effects of the FMD on aging and biological age, liver fat, and immune system aging in humans were unknown until now.

More information:Fasting-mimicking diet causes hepatic and blood markers changes indicating reduced biological age and disease risk, Nature Communications (2024). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-024-45260-9

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Saturday February 24, @03:51PM   Printer-friendly

If you've posted on Reddit, you're likely feeding the future of AI:

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Reddit has signed a contract allowing an unnamed AI company to train its models on the site's content, according to people familiar with the matter. The move comes as the social media platform nears the introduction of its initial public offering (IPO), which could happen as soon as next month.

Reddit initially revealed the deal, which is reported to be worth $60 million a year, earlier in 2024 to potential investors of an anticipated IPO, Bloomberg said. The Bloomberg source speculates that the contract could serve as a model for future agreements with other AI companies.

After an era where AI companies utilized AI training data without expressly seeking any rightsholder permission, some tech firms have more recently begun entering deals where some content used for training AI models similar to GPT-4 (which runs the paid version of ChatGPT) comes under license. In December, for example, OpenAI signed an agreement with German publisher Axel Springer (publisher of Politico and Business Insider) for access to its articles. Previously, OpenAI has struck deals with other organizations, including the Associated Press. Reportedly, OpenAI is also in licensing talks with CNN, Fox, and Time, among others.

In April 2023, Reddit founder and CEO Steve Huffman told The New York Times that it planned to charge AI companies for access to its almost two decades' worth of human-generated content.

If the reported $60 million/year deal goes through, it's quite possible that if you've ever posted on Reddit, some of that material may be used to train the next generation of AI models that create text, still pictures, and video. Even without the deal, experts have discovered in the past that Reddit has been a key source of training data for large language models and AI image generators.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Saturday February 24, @11:08AM   Printer-friendly
from the who-could-have-known-monopolies-are-bad dept.

As reported by Tech Crunch, a cyber attack has crippled the systems used to process eScripts and Prescription billing for most of the Nation. Change Healthcare, a Subsidiary of Optum, which is in turn a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group. Few details have emerged on exactly what happened, but the company's status page states that "Once we became aware of the outside threat, in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, we took immediate action to disconnect our systems to prevent further impact."

As of 2020 there were several competing "switches" which are essentially APIs for processing claims between pharmacies and carriers and transferring prescription information from physicians to pharmacies, but McKesson, who acquired the competing RelayHealth solution in 2006, sold it to UnitedHealth in 2020 as they divested in their tech division. This was initially fought by the DOJ as anti-competitive since it gave potential access to competitor's trade secrets, but DOJ gave up on the case in March of last year, which in retrospect seems like the wrong decision.

Pharmacists across the country are reporting issues receiving and billing prescriptions, and some hospital workers even report having to turn away cancer patients due to an inability to bill for their medication.

Hopefully this incident will be resolved quickly, and subsequently result in regulators revisiting their decisions and the impact it has on citizens' health and safety.

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Saturday February 24, @06:19AM   Printer-friendly

AI will let us read 'lost' ancient works in the library at Herculaneum for the first time:

On 19 October 1752, a discovery was made 20 meters underneath the town of Resina, near Naples in Italy. Peasants digging wells in the area around Mount Vesuvius had struck marble statuary and mosaic pavements—and they also found lumps of carbon.

Initially, they were tossed aside—the lumps weren't considered valuable or pretty, so were of no interest. But thankfully, someone noticed they were all about the same size and shape, and investigated further. It was soon discovered the carbonized lumps they thought were rolled-up hunting or fishing nets, or bolts of cloth, in fact contained writing.

What these peasants had found turned out to be a huge building from the ancient Roman age, when the town was known as Herculaneum. Recent re-excavations suggest that nearly three square kilometers of it have never been explored. The carbonized lumps turned out to be papyrus scrolls belonging to a great library full of Roman writing that had been thought lost. For this reason, the building is now known as the Villa dei Papiri.

[...] This meant the scrolls were fused solid and to get at the writing inside, they had to be opened. This process has been ongoing since the 1750s and researchers have just entered a new stage, thanks to AI. The lumps of carbonized scroll have been digitally scanned and, using 3D mapping and AI, researchers have been unable to "virtually unroll" the papyri and detect letters. This process has, for example, allowed them to read a previously unknown philosophical work discussing the senses and pleasure by the Epicurean philosopher and poet, Philodemus.

[...] In 1753, Italian priest and scholar Antonio Piaggio, on loan from the Vatican library, invented a machine to unroll the papyri by slowly pulling the outer layer off. Hundreds of Herculaneum papyri were thus unrolled, though their harder outer bits were cut off to get at the better-preserved insides. Piaggio's machine was remarkably successful, and the papyri unrolled on it have fueled two-and-a-half centuries of scholarship so far.

But not every scroll could be unrolled this way—and up to 300 of these still rolled-up scrolls, out of the 800 or so found originally, have been set aside until now.

The Herculaneum library contains mostly works of Epicurean philosophy. This is a strand of philosophy founded around 307BC, based on the teachings of Epicurus—an ancient Greek philosopher who believed that a correct understanding of physics, backed up by rigorous argument, was necessary to achieve happiness, because it removed human fears about the gods (they don't care about us), natural phenomena (not signs of divine anger), and post-mortem punishment (our souls do not survive our deaths).

Philodemus of Gadara is the most common author in the library. One copy of his History of Plato's Academy was probably his own draft, so we can be confident the library is made up in part from his books. This is also why we think the owner of the villa was Julius Caesar's father-in-law, L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus: we know Philodemus was his personal philosopher, and only the highest Roman elite could afford a house that big.

Epicurus makes up a substantial proportion of the library too—especially On Nature, his magnum opus. Other Epicureans have been textually resurrected as well, including Metrodorus and Demetrius the Spartan.

There are also works by the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus, as well as papyri in Latin. Most legible of these is a poem about the Battle of Actium: the battle on September 2, 31 BC, in which Octavian defeated Mark Antony. Seneca the Elder's Histories have also recently been identified.

[...] The safest bet for what we will read now with the aid of AI in Herculaneum is more of what we already have. There will be more Philodemus and, as a scholar of his work, I am over the moon about this. Every new text is important—making our knowledge deeper, more textured and more accurate. I cannot really bring myself to hope for one specific text or another. As Epicurus himself put it, "One should not have vain desires that cannot be fulfilled."

Previously: Trio Wins $700K Vesuvius Challenge Grand Prize for Deciphering Ancient Scroll

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Saturday February 24, @01:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the daisy-daisy-give-me-your-answer-do dept.

Reddit user: "It's not just you, ChatGPT is having a stroke":

On Tuesday, ChatGPT users began reporting unexpected outputs from OpenAI's AI assistant, flooding the r/ChatGPT Reddit sub with reports of the AI assistant "having a stroke," "going insane," "rambling," and "losing it." OpenAI has acknowledged the problem and is working on a fix, but the experience serves as a high-profile example of how some people perceive malfunctioning large language models, which are designed to mimic humanlike output.

ChatGPT is not alive and does not have a mind to lose, but tugging on human metaphors (called "anthropomorphization") seems to be the easiest way for most people to describe the unexpected outputs they have been seeing from the AI model. They're forced to use those terms because OpenAI doesn't share exactly how ChatGPT works under the hood; the underlying large language models function like a black box.

[...] "The common experience over the last few hours seems to be that responses begin coherently, like normal, then devolve into nonsense, then sometimes Shakespearean nonsense," wrote one Reddit user, which seems to match the experience seen in the screenshots above.

[...] So far, we've seen experts speculating that the problem could stem from ChatGPT having its temperature set too high (temperature is a property in AI that determines how wildly the LLM deviates from the most probable output), suddenly losing past context (the history of the conversation), or perhaps OpenAI is testing a new version of GPT-4 Turbo (the AI model that powers the subscription version of ChatGPT) that includes unexpected bugs. It could also be a bug in a side feature, such as the recently introduced "memory" function.

[...] On social media, some have used the recent ChatGPT snafu as an opportunity to plug open-weights AI models, which allow anyone to run chatbots on their own hardware. "Black box APIs can break in production when one of their underlying components gets updated. This becomes an issue when you build tools on top of these APIs, and these break down, too," wrote Hugging Face AI researcher Dr. Sasha Luccioni on X. "That's where open-source has a major advantage, allowing you to pinpoint and fix the problem!"

[...] On Wednesday evening, OpenAI declared the ChatGPT writing nonsense issue (what they called "Unexpected responses from ChatGPT") as resolved, and the company's technical staff published a postmortem explanation on its official incidents page:

On February 20, 2024, an optimization to the user experience introduced a bug with how the model processes language. LLMs generate responses by randomly sampling words based in part on probabilities. Their "language" consists of numbers that map to tokens. In this case, the bug was in the step where the model chooses these numbers. Akin to being lost in translation, the model chose slightly wrong numbers, which produced word sequences that made no sense. More technically, inference kernels produced incorrect results when used in certain GPU configurations. Upon identifying the cause of this incident, we rolled out a fix and confirmed that the incident was resolved.

As ChatGPT says: "If there's a train or a fleer for whides more in the yinst of dall, givings, or gides, am I then to prate or aide."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday February 23, @08:46PM   Printer-friendly

Cops have alternative means to access encrypted messages, court says:

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that weakening end-to-end encryption disproportionately risks undermining human rights. The international court's decision could potentially disrupt the European Commission's proposed plans to require email and messaging service providers to create backdoors that would allow law enforcement to easily decrypt users' messages.

This ruling came after Russia's intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSS), began requiring Telegram to share users' encrypted messages to deter "terrorism-related activities" in 2017, ECHR's ruling said. A Russian Telegram user alleged that FSS's requirement violated his rights to a private life and private communications, as well as all Telegram users' rights.

The Telegram user was apparently disturbed, moving to block required disclosures after Telegram refused to comply with an FSS order to decrypt messages on six users suspected of terrorism. According to Telegram, "it was technically impossible to provide the authorities with encryption keys associated with specific users," and therefore, "any disclosure of encryption keys" would affect the "privacy of the correspondence of all Telegram users," the ECHR's ruling said.

For refusing to comply, Telegram was fined, and one court even ordered the app to be blocked in Russia, while dozens of Telegram users rallied to continue challenging the order to maintain Telegram services in Russia. Ultimately, users' multiple court challenges failed, sending the case before the ECHR while Telegram services seemingly tenuously remained available in Russia.

[...] Seemingly most critically, the government told the ECHR that any intrusion on private lives resulting from decrypting messages was "necessary" to combat terrorism in a democratic society. To back up this claim, the government pointed to a 2017 terrorist attack that was "coordinated from abroad through secret chats via Telegram." The government claimed that a second terrorist attack that year was prevented after the government discovered it was being coordinated through Telegram chats.

[...] In the end, the ECHR concluded that the Telegram user's rights had been violated, partly due to privacy advocates and international reports that corroborated Telegram's position that complying with the FSB's disclosure order would force changes impacting all its users.

Originally spotted on Schneier on Security.

Ruling: CASE OF PODCHASOV v. RUSSIA, (javascript required)

Related: There is No 'Going Dark:' Law Enforcement Spent Months Intercepting, Reading Encrypted Message

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Friday February 23, @06:11PM   Printer-friendly

It might seem that things are a bit quiet at the moment - but that belies the work going on behind the scenes. It has been a while since we have updated you on our progress and also I would also like to give you a flavour of what else is happening that you might not have noticed.

A New Site - Same As The Old Site

As I hope most of you are aware by now we are planning to create a new company that can assume responsibility for the this site's assets so that NCommander and Matt Angel can relinquish their current responsibilities. After 10 years they quite understandably wish to move on to other projects and activities. We are aiming to purchase the domain(s) that the site uses, the database and its accounts, and to keep the community intact. You should not see any immediate difference in the site - you will log in as you do today, all your comments will still be there and, with perhaps the exception of a few teething problems during the actual transfer from one set of servers to another, it will appear unchanged. However, there will be a new board structure made up of volunteers from the community, and you will all have a far greater say in how the site is managed and the topics that we will discuss in the future. Most of the staff have been involved in this process over the last 8 months or so.

I decided that one of my New Years resolutions was to get the new site back on track again. So I spent about a month sorting out the problems that we had identified with the structure that had been last discussed by the Governance Committee. The main problem was that it would require members of the Board and other posts to waive their anonymity and this was unpopular. There is no simple solution to maintaining anonymity of the Board members and something had to change. So I identified a different structure that would only require 3 people to have to give up their anonymity (Chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer). This subsequently required that the by-laws be rewritten to reflect the new structure. Various other members of staff were already busy with real-world issues so that really left it up to me. It is not a thing that I would recommend to anyone. These were presented to the community as Draft 8.

I finished that task but I was running out of steam (like another community member, I am facing possible non-trivial surgery). Fortunately, fliptop (who had been absent for a while in order to sit the electricians' examination) returned and he agreed to take on the next phase of the work, for which I am most grateful. Trying to create a business in the US while living in France is not an easy matter. Fliptop has created several businesses in the past and knows far more about it than I do. We also discovered that Delaware was not the best place to create a business of the type we wanted and we have opted to do so in West Virginia for several practical reasons. Perhaps not surprisingly, each US State has different requirements for creating a business and they use different terminology for certain aspects of the creation process. Combined with the requirements to change from my UK spelling (en-GB) to American spelling (en-US) this required yet more work on the by-laws. The subsequent work does not change the structure specified in Draft 8 or the rules that are declared in the by-laws, but they have required a continuing rolling process to get everything in compliance with the requirements of West Virginia. Thanks are due also to the volunteers for the initial Board and Community Representatives who have assisted in this task.

Fliptop has applied for IRS approval for the appropriate desired status and, when we have that reply, we can formally apply to create the new company. We are now waiting for the inevitable bureaucracy to do their stuff. How long this will take is unknown but we are optimistic that it will not be too long.

I have been able, as a result of fliptop's help, to assist with the daily preparation of stories to the front page and other tasks that I will come to in a moment.


Community members sometimes ask for details of our community size and the level of activity that they create. I have collected some statistics which might be of interest. It is important to note that these are a very small snapshot of our overall activity but they are typical of the last few weeks.

Each week there are around 250-300 unique UIDs logging on to the site with occasional peaks just above 300. These are people who actually log in using their username and so represent only a portion of those who read the stories that we produce. Interestingly perhaps, they use around 7500 different IP addresses indicating perhaps that VPN use is increasing from what it was a few years ago and, equally likely, that they are logging in using different devices and perhaps from different locations (work, home, laptop, smartphone etc). But this is only those logging in by name. Others prefer to use our RSS feeds and dedicated software so that they can see the output of several different sites in a single display. Finally, there is the group who never log in but who read our front page content without making comments or joining in by moderating. Nothing can be done to identify their numbers. Elsewhere on the site there are an unknown number of Anonymous Cowards who participate in the discussions in journals. The current statistics do not include journal discussions as far as I can tell.

The daily figures indicate that we receive somewhere between 60 and 180 comments per day. This varies considerably from day to day. Some only log in at weekends, others only log in during the working week, and of course it also depends on the actual stories themselves. Some stories can attract over 50 comments or more alone whereas others, which are there to inform but not necessarily require a response from anyone, might only gather a few comments. But a better picture can be gathered by looking at the page hits. The average number of article hits per day is over 2500. Each week we serve almost 250,000 pages but because we use a simple text format with virtually no graphics, adverts or anything else distracting it appears to only amount to single digit GBs. Again there is a significant daily variation. There is also a variation of course during the 24 hour period with the site receiving between 2 and 5 hits per second. This is not as clear to see as you might think it would be and it seems to suggest that either people keep very unusual hours or that our readership is spread far more evenly around the world.

As an aside, it was possible to see the breaks during the SuperBowl transmission as, on that particular day, the activity levels peaked significantly at those times.

We Are Not a Linux Only Site

Some comments have been critical that we are including stories about Microsoft Windows. Why shouldn't we? We always have done so. We are not limited to a single OS. We can discuss any OS, or indeed any software whatsoever. Some of our community have chosen Windows because it is what they like, others use it because it is necessary to have it to control a specific item of equipment or produce a specific data format, and for others it is forced upon them by work or contractual obligations. I realise that we have far more Linux users than any other OS but that is because our community includes many who have the technical ability to manage it and an interest in open source software. Like it or not, Windows is included in STEM. Just because we don't all choose to use it doesn't mean it no longer exists.

Remember, it is YOU who provide the submissions. The editors' job is to prepare them for publication while maintaining as much variety as possible in discussions. So let us hear your praise or gripes about BSD variants, Linux variants (e.g. including TAILS, recovery thumb-drives etc) or any other OS that you use today or have used in the past. If you are using it today then tell us why you chose that particular OS.


We have had a couple of dormant accounts suddenly spring into life and start spamming. They had been created weeks or months ago but had been inactive since being created. If you see any similar activity please let the staff know - there could be many more. It is easy to stop it but with over 30,000 fake accounts it is a monumental task to watch them all. The standard Spammers ban (for 10+ years) was applied to both accounts. As it was, they were spamming where they were unlikely to be seen by many people

Spamming continues to be a problem but it is being managed and that tends to keep it away from the main pages. We have our own local spammers of course. At the time of writing, one of them has posted the same message (beginning with "We don't hate you, my dear soft and fluffy khallow") a total of 97 times since 05 February. It had already been posted many times before that but now we have new software that makes spamming easier to identify and a method to remove it from view. However, there is a copy of every comment that is 'removed'. The same person has posted 258 spam comments in total in the same time period including a doxxing attempt. The site Policy document details the action that we can take against spammers. It refers to a graduated system. We have tried polite requests, (from 2021 onwards), followed by firmer requests, marking as Spam and recently we have increased that to the next level. The comments are removed from view. This is an exceptional measure and not one that is taken lightly. I do not expect that this will change anything but it does clean up a lot of the discussions in the poll and the journals and does take away the spammers 'voice' significantly. He is, of course, already permanently banned. That he is complaining many times a day makes me suspect it is also working as well as we could have expected.

There is another local spammer who seems to be confused as to the method to be employed when making complaints but I am hoping that we can remedy this. Which brings me on to the next topic...

Complaints About Staff or Policy

It is no good complaining about how staff are managing the site or your own particular views of any individual staff member by making comments in a journal as an Anonymous Coward. Firstly, we are not responsible for the contents of journals so there is no guarantee that we will actually look at them (but we are responsible to our community for ensuring that the site is not abused, and that individuals are not harassed in attempts to try to silence them).

Secondly, as an Anonymous Coward, you are welcome to participate on this site but you do not have much say in how it is run or managed. That privilege comes only with an account.

If you wish to complain about a member of staff there are several actions that you can take. Send an email to our usual Admin email address (with an email address life expectancy of more than a few minutes, but we will accept emails from secure email sites such as Proton or Tuta Mail) to our usual Admin address. It does not only go to a single admin but goes to every admin. It will get read and, if the complaint requires it, it will be investigated and the appropriate action taken. If we cannot contact you then your complaint may be ignored. More serious complaints can be sent by mail to the site's formal address which you can find by looking at the business records of the site. That will go directly to the Board which, as you know, has the ultimate power on this site.

If you wish to complain about the site's policy then the first action should again be to send an email (with an address life expectancy of more than a few minutes) to our usual Admin address with your reason for wanting a policy change and also submit a draft of what you would like the actual policy to be. It can then be presented to the community for further discussion and a vote. If we cannot contact you then it is unlikely that any action will be taken. If you do not provide at least a suggested solution then you cannot reasonably expect anyone to action your anonymous request.

There are a couple of community members who have been looking at policy issues for several years now. I think they will agree that we always give what they say serious consideration and implement what they suggest if it is possible. We learn a lot from each other. When the new site has been created then you will all be invited to make your suggestions as to future policy.

Finally, complaints like "I don't like what you are doing - close the site down now!" will be carefully studied before we all roll around laughing and throw it in the trash can. If you do not like this site then you are free to go elsewhere. We do not have to close the site down simply because you are unhappy.

Nobody on the staff has a problem with receiving a genuine complaint if it is intended to improve the site or the community's enjoyment of it. But that enjoyment has to be applicable to the majority of the site, not simply to one or two individuals or even a significant minority.

posted by hubie on Friday February 23, @03:59PM   Printer-friendly
from the leaf-on-the-wind dept.

Strong high-altitude winds over the Mid-Atlantic sped up sky traffic on Saturday night, getting passengers on at least two commercial planes to their destinations early, after both aircraft hit supersonic speeds topping 800 mph.
"Although its ground speed — a measure that combines the plane's actual speed and the additional push from the wind — was greater than the speed of sound, it was still moving through the surrounding air at its ordinary cruise speed. It just so happened that the surrounding air was moving unusually fast," the Post reported.

Another 787, a United Airlines flight from Newark, N.J., to Lisbon, Portugal, that took off at 8:35 p.m. on Saturday, reached a peak ground speed of 838 mph, shaving 20 minutes off the scheduled flight time.

Certainly not the first time as Wired's UK site reported on a similar event in 2019.
Wired UK article: The wild physics of the passenger plane that just hit 800 mph - 20190221

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday February 23, @01:00PM   Printer-friendly

After half-century absence, U.S. returns to moon as lunar lander Odysseus touches down:

America has returned to the moon after a 52-year absence. The unmanned Odysseus spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface shortly before 6:30 p.m. EST Thursday.

"We can confirm without a doubt that our equipment is on the surface and we are on the moon. Odysseus has found a new home," said Dr. Tim Crain, mission director of the IM-1, the first American private venture to send a module to the moon.

It's the first time the United States has had a new presence on the lunar surface since NASA's Apollo 11 in July 1969.

The Intuitive Machines Odysseus lunar lander, nicknamed "Odie" or "IM-1," settled on the moon's surface after a day's long trek but immediately began experiencing communication problems, preventing the transmission of data.

The general tone of this story here and elsewhere seems to be that this heralds a new era of a commercial space industry, but until one can show that there is any commercial value to being on the Moon besides directly supporting NASA/ESA/etc., is this a watershed moment, or is this just slightly expanding the potential NASA/ESA/etc. contractor pool? --hubie

Previously: Private US Moon Lander Successfully Launches 24 Hours After Flight Was Delayed

Original Submission

posted by hubie on Friday February 23, @11:12AM   Printer-friendly

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora []:

OpenAI has built a striking new generative video model called Sora that can take a short text description and turn it into a detailed, high-definition film clip up to a minute long.

Based on four sample videos that OpenAI shared with MIT Technology Review ahead of today's announcement, the San Francisco–based firm has pushed the envelope of what's possible with text-to-video generation (a hot new research direction that we flagged as a trend to watch in 2024).

"We think building models that can understand video, and understand all these very complex interactions of our world, is an important step for all future AI systems," says Tim Brooks, a scientist at OpenAI.

[...] Impressive as they are, the sample videos shown here were no doubt cherry-picked to show Sora at its best. Without more information, it is hard to know how representative they are of the model's typical output.

It may be some time before we find out. OpenAI's announcement of Sora today is a tech tease, and the company says it has no current plans to release it to the public. Instead, OpenAI will today begin sharing the model with third-party safety testers for the first time.

In particular, the firm is worried about the potential misuses [] of fake but photorealistic video []. "We're being careful about deployment here and making sure we have all our bases covered before we put this in the hands of the general public," says Aditya Ramesh, a scientist at OpenAI, who created the firm's text-to-image model DALL-E [].

But OpenAI is eyeing a product launch sometime in the future. As well as safety testers, the company is also sharing the model with a select group of video makers and artists to get feedback on how to make Sora as useful as possible to creative professionals. "The other goal is to show everyone what is on the horizon, to give a preview of what these models will be capable of," says Ramesh.

[...] OpenAI is well aware of the risks that come with a generative video model. We are already seeing the large-scale misuse of deepfake images []. Photorealistic video takes this to another level.

[...] The OpenAI team plans to draw on the safety testing it did last year for DALL-E 3. Sora already includes a filter that runs on all prompts sent to the model that will block requests for violent, sexual, or hateful images, as well as images of known people. Another filter will look at frames of generated videos and block material that violates OpenAI's safety policies.

OpenAI says it is also adapting a fake-image detector developed for DALL-E 3 to use with Sora. And the company will embed industry-standard C2PA tags, metadata that states how an image was generated, into all of Sora's output. But these steps are far from foolproof. Fake-image detectors are hit-or-miss. Metadata is easy to remove, and most social media sites strip it from uploaded images by default.

OpenAI Unveils A.I. That Instantly Generates Eye-Popping Videos:

In April, a New York start-up called Runway AI unveiled technology that let people generate videos, like a cow at a birthday party or a dog chatting on a smartphone, simply by typing a sentence into a box on a computer screen.

The four-second videos were blurry, choppy, distorted and disturbing. But they were a clear sign that artificial intelligence technologies would generate increasingly convincing videos in the months and years to come.

Just 10 months later, the San Francisco start-up OpenAI has unveiled a similar system that creates videos that look as if they were lifted from a Hollywood movie. A demonstration included short videos — created in minutes — of woolly mammoths trotting through a snowy meadow, a monster gazing at a melting candle and a Tokyo street scene seemingly shot by a camera swooping across the city.

OpenAI, the company behind the ChatGPT chatbot and the still-image generator DALL-E, is among the many companies racing to improve this kind of instant video generator, including start-ups like Runway and tech giants like Google and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram. The technology could speed the work of seasoned moviemakers, while replacing less experienced digital artists entirely.

VideoThis video's A.I. prompt: "Beautiful, snowy Tokyo city is bustling. The camera moves through the bustling city street, following several people enjoying the beautiful snowy weather and shopping at nearby stalls. Gorgeous sakura petals are flying through the wind along with snowflakes."CreditCredit...Video by OpenAI

It could also become a quick and inexpensive way of creating online disinformation, making it even harder to tell what's real on the internet.

OpenAI introduces Sora, its text-to-video AI model:

OpenAI is launching a new video-generation model, and it's called Sora. The AI company says Sora "can create realistic and imaginative scenes from text instructions." The text-to-video model allows users to create photorealistic videos up to a minute long — all based on prompts they've written.

Sora is capable of creating "complex scenes with multiple characters, specific types of motion, and accurate details of the subject and background," according to OpenAI's introductory blog post. The company also notes that the model can understand how objects "exist in the physical world," as well as "accurately interpret props and generate compelling characters that express vibrant emotions."

The model can also generate a video based on a still image, as well as fill in missing frames on an existing video or extend it. The Sora-generated demos included in OpenAI's blog post include an aerial scene of California during the gold rush, a video that looks as if it were shot from the inside of a Tokyo train, and others. Many have some telltale signs of AI — like a suspiciously moving floor in a video of a museum — and OpenAI says the model "may struggle with accurately simulating the physics of a complex scene," but the results are overall pretty impressive.

[...] Earlier this month, OpenAI announced it's adding watermarks to its text-to-image tool DALL-E 3, but notes that they can "easily be removed." Like its other AI products, OpenAI will have to contend with the consequences of fake, AI photorealistic videos being mistaken for the real thing.

Original Submission