Geeky Stuff

Did A US Navy Scientist Just Invent A Room-Temperature Superconductor?

Slashdot - 13 min 15 sec ago
"A scientist working for the U.S. Navy has filed for a patent on a room-temperature superconductor, representing a potential paradigm shift in energy transmission and computer systems," reports Phys.org: Salvatore Cezar Pais is listed as the inventor on the Navy's patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. The application claims that a room-temperature superconductor can be built using a wire with an insulator core and an aluminum PZT (lead zirconate titanate) coating deposited by vacuum evaporation with a thickness of the London penetration depth and polarized after deposition. An electromagnetic coil is circumferentially positioned around the coating such that when the coil is activated with a pulsed current, a non-linear vibration is induced, enabling room temperature superconductivity. "This concept enables the transmission of electrical power without any losses and exhibits optimal thermal management (no heat dissipation)," according to the patent document, "which leads to the design and development of novel energy generation and harvesting devices with enormous benefits to civilization." Long-time Slashdot reader resistant writes: NextBigFuture says the same individual appears to have made other startling claims that arguably stretch the boundaries of belief, such as a "high-frequency gravitational wave generator" that could supposedly drive a spaceship without conventional propellants as well as an "inertial mass reduction device." Prudence would appear to dictate examining these and other claims by Mr. Salvatore Cezar Pais with great caution.

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NYT Reporter 'Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain'

Slashdot - 2 hours 18 min ago
"It's an unnerving sensation, being alone with your thoughts in the year 2019," writes New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose, in an article shared by DogDude. "I don't love referring to what we have as an 'addiction.' That seems too sterile and clinical to describe what's happening to our brains in the smartphone era." We might someday evolve the correct biological hardware to live in harmony with portable supercomputers that satisfy our every need and connect us to infinite amounts of stimulation. But for most of us, it hasn't happened yet... [S]ometime last year, I crossed the invisible line into problem territory. My symptoms were all the typical ones: I found myself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations. Social media made me angry and anxious, and even the digital spaces I once found soothing (group texts, podcasts, YouTube k-holes) weren't helping... Mostly, I became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I am with stillness. For years, I've used my phone every time I've had a spare moment in an elevator or a boring meeting. I listen to podcasts and write emails on the subway. I watch YouTube videos while folding laundry. I even use an app to pretend to meditate. If I was going to repair my brain, I needed to practice doing nothing. Another science journalist helped him through "phone rehab," and "now, the physical world excites me, too -- the one that has room for boredom, idle hands and space for thinking." After a final 48 hour digital detox, "I also felt twinges of anger -- at myself, for missing out on this feeling of restorative boredom for so many years; at the engineers in Silicon Valley who spend their days profitably exploiting our cognitive weaknesses; at the entire phone-industrial complex that has convinced us that a six-inch glass-and-steel rectangle is the ideal conduit for worldly experiences... "Steve Jobs wasn't exaggerating when he described the iPhone as a kind of magical object, and it's truly wild that in the span of a few years, we've managed to turn these amazing talismanic tools into stress-inducing albatrosses. It's as if scientists had invented a pill that gave us the ability to fly, only to find out that it also gave us dementia."

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Samsung's Newest Phones Read Your Fingerprints With Ultrasonic Sound Waves

Slashdot - 3 hours 12 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes CNET: The Galaxy S10's in-screen fingerprint scanner may look just like the one on the OnePlus 6T, but don't be fooled. Samsung's flagship Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus are the first phones to use Qualcomm's ultrasonic in-screen fingerprint technology, which uses sound waves to read your print. Related to ultrasound in a doctor's office, this "3D Sonic Sensor" technology works by bouncing sound waves off your skin. It'll capture your details through water, lotion and grease, at night or in bright daylight. Qualcomm also claims it's faster and much more secure than the optical fingerprint sensor you've seen in other phones before this. That's because the ultrasonic reader takes a 3D capture of all the ridges and valleys that make up your skin, compared to a 2D image -- basically a photo -- that an optical reader captures using light, not sound waves.

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Amazon Prime Air Cargo Plane Crashes in Texas, Three Dead

Slashdot - Sun, 24/02/2019 - 00:50
An anonymous reader quotes Weather.com: An Amazon Prime Air cargo plane crashed Saturday afternoon into Trinity Bay near Anahuac, Texas, as it approached Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Three crew members aboard the plane did not survive the crash, the Chamber County sheriff told WJTV. Air traffic controllers lost radar and radio contact with Atlas Air Flight 3591 shortly before 12:45 p.m. CST. The 767 jetliner was arriving from Miami when the crash occurred 30 miles southeast of the airport, according to a statement by the Federal Aviation Administration.

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New Material Can Soak Up Uranium From Seawater

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 23:39
A new adsorbent material "soaks up uranium from seawater, leaving interfering ions behind," reports the ACS's Chemical & Engineering News, in an article shared by webofslime: The world's oceans contain some 4 billion metric tons of dissolved uranium. That's roughly 1,000 times as much as all known terrestrial sources combined, and enough to fuel the global nuclear power industry for centuries. But the oceans are so vast, and uranium's concentration in seawater is so low -- roughly 3 ppb -- that extracting it remains a formidable challenge... Researchers have been looking for ways to extract uranium from seawater for more than 50 years... Nearly 20 years ago, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) confirmed that amidoxime-functionalized polymers could soak up uranium reliably even under harsh marine conditions. But that type of adsorbent has not been implemented on a large scale because it has a higher affinity for vanadium than uranium. Separating the two ions raises production costs. Alexander S. Ivanov of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, together with colleagues there and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and other institutions, may have come up with a solution. Using computational methods, the team identified a highly selective triazine chelator known as H2BHT that resembles iron-sequestering compounds found in bacteria and fungi.... H2BHT exhibits little attraction for vanadium but has roughly the same affinity for uranyl ions as amidoxime-based adsorbents do.

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Record-Breaking Jet Stream Accelerates Air Travel, Flight Clocks In At 801 MPH

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 22:44
pgmrdlm quotes CBS News: On Monday night, the river of air 35,000 feet above the New York City area, known as the jet stream, clocked in at a blazing 231 mph. This is the fastest jet stream on record since 1957 for the National Weather Service in Upton, New York — breaking the old record of 223 mph, according to NWS forecaster Carlie Buccola. This wind provided a turbo boost to commercial passenger planes along for the ride. With the help of this rapid tailwind, Virgin Atlantic Flight 8 from Los Angeles to London hit what could be a record high speed for a Boeing 787: 801 mph over Pennsylvania at 9:20 p.m. Monday night... "The typical cruising speed of the Dreamliner is 561 mph," CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave points out. "The past record for the 787 is 776 mph set in January 2017 by a Norwegian 787-9 flying from JFK to London Gatwick. That flight set a record for the fastest subsonic transatlantic commercial airline flight -- 5 hours and 13 minutes, thanks to a 202 mph tailwind." FlightAware, a global aviation data services company, reminds CBS that even a 100 mph increase in the jet stream can shorten a flight by an hour.

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What Happens When Police License Plate Readers Make Mistakes?

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 21:51
An anonymous reader writes: The Verge reports that San Francisco Bay Area police "pulled over a California privacy advocate and held him at gunpoint after a database error caused a license plate reader to flag a car as stolen, a lawsuit alleges." Brian Hofer, the chairman of Oakland's Privacy Advisory Commission, was handcuffed and surrounded by multiple police cars, and says a police deputy injured his brother by throwing him to the ground. They were finally released -- 40 minutes later. But ironically, Hofer has been a staunch critic of license plate readers, "which he points out have led to wrongful detentions, invasions of privacy and potentially costly lawsuits." (California bus driver Denise Green was detained at gunpoint when her own car was incorrectly identified as stolen -- leading to a lawsuit which she eventually settled for nearly $500,000.) And at least one thief simply swapped license plates with an innocent driver. The executive director of Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, a state government program, acknowledged that the accuracy rate of the license plate readers is about 90 percent, yet "added that in some cases, the technology has actually exonerated people, or given potential suspects alibis. But there is no way for the public to know just how effective the license plate reader technology is in capturing criminals" -- apparently because police departments aren't capturing that data. Only one of the region's police departments, in Piedmont, California, reported its "efficacy metrics" to the agency -- with 7,500 "hits" which over 11 months led to 28 arrests (and the recovery of 39 cars) after reading 21.3 million license plates. The license plate readers cost $20,000 per patrol car. In Hofer's case, he was driving a rental car which had previously been reported as stolen but then later recovered -- though for some reason the police or rental car agency failed to update their database. But he criticizes the fact that "somebody could pull a gun on your because of an alert that a computer system gave them." "They're just pulling guns and going cowboy on us," Hofer says. "It's a pretty terrifying position to be in.... "This is happening more frequently than it should be. They're not ensuring the accuracy of their data and people's lives are literally at risk."

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Virgin Galactic Reaches Space Again In Highest, Fastest Test Flight Yet

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 20:34
"If you're willing to spend $250,000 for a quick trip to space, that option is getting closer to reality," reports CNN. VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic's rocket-powered plane, climbed to a record altitude of nearly 56 miles during a test flight on Friday, marking the second time Richard Branson's startup has reached space. Two pilots, and for the first time, an additional crew member, were on board. Beth Moses, Galactic's chief astronaut trainer and an aerospace engineer, rode along with the pilots. The trip allowed her to run safety checks and get a first look at what Galactic's customers could one day experience. Moses has logged hundreds of hours on zero gravity aircrafts, and she described the G Forces aboard the supersonic plane as "mildly wild." Some moments were intense, she told CNN Business, but it was never uncomfortable. "I was riveted and I think our customers will be as well." Unity took off from a runway in California's Mojave Desert just after 8 am PT and cruised to about 45,000 feet attached to its mothership before it broke away and fired its rocket motor. The plane then swooped into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, 295,000 feet high, at supersonic speeds. It's top speed was Mach 3. At the peak of its flight path, Unity experienced a few minutes of weightlessness and looked out into the black skies of the cosmos. Moses said she was able to leave her seat and take in the view. "The Earth was beautiful -- super sharp, super clear," she said, "with a gorgeous view of the Pacific mountains." America's Federal Aviation Administration says they'll now award commercial astronaut wings to all three members of the crew, and CNN reports that this second successful test flight suggests Galactic "could be on track" to start flying tourists into space this year. "About 600 people have reserved tickets, priced between $200,000 and $250,000, to fly with Galactic. And the company says it wants to eventually lower prices to broaden its customer base."

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Microsoft's Cloud Evangelist Adds 'Clippy' To Their Business Card

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 19:34
An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider's update on Microsoft Clippy, the animated cartoon paperclip that was Office's virtual assistant until the early 2000s, that "everyone loved to hate." After 18 years, has it become retro chic? When Chloe Condon, a newly hired Microsoft cloud evangelist, ordered new business cards, she avoided the standard corporate look and instead went with Clippy-themed cards and tweeted them out... They've got a picture of Clippy on the front and on the back they say, "It looks like you are trying to get in touch with Chloe," with her contact info listed below... Naturally, the Clippy The Paperclip Twitter account loved these cards. He tweeted, "@chloecondon It looks like you're using my likeness on your new business cards. Would you like help with WAIT I'M ON BUSINESS CARDS NOW?!" And then former Microsoft exec Steven Sinofsky, the man credited for developing Microsoft Office into a massive hit, noticed the cards and tweeted, "I suppose if you live long enough, others will wear your failures as a badge of honor...." After four years of scorn, Clippy was officially retired in 2001. Sinofsky tells Business Insider that the company even issued a funny press release about it.... Microsoft even held an official retirement party for him in San Francisco, too. Sinfosky shared a photo from that party with us... If you look closely, you'll see unemployed Clippy is actually using the party thrown in his honor to collect charity for himself and beg for food.

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12-Year-Old Boy Reportedly Builds A Nuclear Fusion Reactor

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 18:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: An American 14-year-old has reportedly become the youngest known person in the world to create a successful nuclear reaction. The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, a hobbyist group, has recognised the achievement by Jackson Oswalt, from Memphis, Tennessee, when he was aged 12 in January 2018.... The enterprising teenager said he transformed an old playroom in his parents' house into a nuclear laboratory with $10,000 (£7,700) worth of equipment that uses 50,000 volts of electricity to heat deuterium gas and fuse the nuclei to release energy. "The start of the process was just learning about what other people had done with their fusion reactors," Jackson told Fox. "After that, I assembled a list of parts I needed. I got those parts off eBay primarily and then oftentimes the parts that I managed to scrounge off of eBay weren't exactly what I needed. So I'd have to modify them to be able to do what I needed to do for my project...." [S]cientists are likely to remain sceptical until Oswalt's workings are subject to verification from an official organisation and are published in an academic journal. Still, the teenager may now have usurped the previous record holder, Taylor Wilson, who works in nuclear energy research after achieving fusion aged 14.

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Redis Changes Its Open Source License -- Again

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 17:34
"Redis Labs is dropping its Commons Clause license in favor of its new 'available-source' license: Redis Source Available License (RSAL)," reports ZDNet -- adding "This is not an open-source license." Redis Labs had used Commons Clause on top of the open-source Apache License to protect its rights to modules added to its 3-Clause-BSD-licensed Redis, the popular open-source in-memory data structure store. But, as Manish Gupta, Redis Labs' CMO, explained, "It didn't work. Confusion reigned over whether or not the modules were open source. They're not open-source." So, although it hadn't wanted to create a new license, that's what Redis Labs ended up doing.... The RSAL grants, Gupta said, equivalent rights to permissive open-source licenses for the vast majority of users. With the RSAL, developers can: Use the software; modify the source code; integrate it with an application; and use, distribute, support, or sell their application. But -- and this is big -- the RSAL forbids you from using any application built with these modules in a database, a caching engine, a stream processing engine, a search engine, an indexing engine, or a machine learning/artificial intelligence serving engine. In short, all the ways that Redis Labs makes money from Redis. Gupta wants to make it perfectly clear: "We're not calling it open source. It's not." Earlier this month the Open Source Initiative had reaffirmed its commitment to open source's original definition, adding "There is no trust in a world where anyone can invent their own definition for open source, and without trust there is no community, no collaboration, and no innovation." And earlier this week on Twitter a Red Hat open-source evangelist said they wondered whether Redis was just "clueless. There are a lot of folks entering #opensource today who are unwilling to do the research and reading, and assume that these are all new problems."

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European Governments Approve Controversial New Copyright Law

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A controversial overhaul of Europe's copyright laws overcame a key hurdle on Wednesday as a majority of European governments signaled support for the deal. That sets the stage for a pivotal vote by the European Parliament that's expected to occur in March or April. Supporters of the legislation portray it as a benign overhaul of copyright that will strengthen anti-piracy efforts. Opponents, on the other hand, warn that its most controversial provision, known as Article 13, could force Internet platforms to adopt draconian filtering technologies. The cost to develop filtering technology could be particularly burdensome for smaller companies, critics say. Online service providers have struggled to balance free speech and piracy for close to two decades. Faced with this difficult tradeoff, the authors of Article 13 have taken a rainbows-and-unicorns approach, promising stricter copyright enforcement, no wrongful takedowns of legitimate content, and minimal burdens on smaller technology platforms. But it seems unlikely that any law can achieve all of these objectives simultaneously. And digital-rights groups suspect that users will wind up getting burned -- both due to wrongful takedowns of legitimate content and because the burdens of mandatory filtering will make it harder to start a new online hosting service.

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President Trump Wants US To Win 5G Through Real Competition

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 12:00
hackingbear writes: In a tweet, President Trump said he wanted "5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind." While he did not specifically mention China's Huawei, many interpreted the comments as Mr Trump taking a softer stance on the firm. The U.S. has been pressuring allies to block out the Chinese telecom giant from their future 5G mobile networks, but the tactic meets considerable resistance. "Mr. President. I cannot agree with you more. Our company is always ready to help build the real 5G network in the U.S., through competition," Huawei President Ken Hu replied in a tweet, mocking Trump's frequent usages of the word "real." Huawei is the second biggest holder of 5G patents after Samsung and the top contributor to the 5G standard, and is setting its sight on 6G.

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Japan's Hayabusa 2 Successfully Touches Down On Ryugu Asteroid, Fires Bullet Into Its Surface

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 09:00
Japan's Hayabusa 2 spacecraft has successfully touched down on the asteroid Ryugu at around 11:30 GMT on Thursday. "Data from the probe showed changes in speed and direction, indicating it had reached the asteroid's surface, according to officials from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)," reports The Guardian. From the report: The probe was due to fire a bullet at the Ryugu asteroid, to stir up surface matter, which it will then collect for analysis back on Earth. The asteroid is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from some 4.6 billion years ago when the solar system was born. The complicated procedure took less time than expected and appeared to go without a hitch, said Hayabusa 2 mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa. The spacecraft is seeking to gather 10g of the dislodged debris with an instrument named the Sampler Horn that hangs from its underbelly. Whatever material is collected by the spacecraft will be stored onboard until Hayabusa 2 reaches its landing site in Woomera, South Australia, in 2020 after a journey of more than three billion miles. UPDATE: JAXA says it successfully fired a "bullet" into Ryugu, collecting the disturbed material. "JAXA scientists had expected to find a powdery surface on Ryugu, but tests showed that the asteroid is covered in larger gravel," reports CNN. "As a result the team had to carry out a simulation to test whether the projectile would be capable of disturbing enough material to be collected by [the Sampler Horn]. The team is planning a total of three sampling events over the next few weeks."

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Researchers Make Coldest Quantum Gas of Molecules

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 05:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: JILA researchers have made a long-lived, record-cold gas of molecules that follow the wave patterns of quantum mechanics instead of the strictly particle nature of ordinary classical physics. The creation of this gas boosts the odds for advances in fields such as designer chemistry and quantum computing. As featured on the cover of the Feb. 22 issue of Science, the team produced a gas of potassium-rubidium (KRb) molecules at temperatures as low as 50 nanokelvin (nK). That's 50 billionths of a Kelvin, or just a smidge above absolute zero, the lowest theoretically possible temperature. The molecules are in the lowest-possible energy states, making up what is known as a degenerate Fermi gas. In a quantum gas, all of the molecules' properties are restricted to specific values, or quantized, like rungs on a ladder or notes on a musical scale. Chilling the gas to the lowest temperatures gives researchers maximum control over the molecules. The two atoms involved are in different classes: Potassium is a fermion (with an odd number of subatomic components called protons and neutrons) and rubidium is a boson (with an even number of subatomic components). The resulting molecules have a Fermi character. Before now, the coldest two-atom molecules were produced in maximum numbers of tens of thousands and at temperatures no lower than a few hundred nanoKelvin. JILA's latest gas temperature record is much lower than (about one-third of) the level where quantum effects start to take over from classical effects, and the molecules last for a few seconds -- remarkable longevity. These new ultra-low temperatures will enable researchers to compare chemical reactions in quantum versus classical environments and study how electric fields affect the polar interactions, since these newly created molecules have a positive electric charge at the rubidium atom and a negative charge at the potassium atom. Some practical benefits could include new chemical processes, new methods for quantum computing using charged molecules as quantum bits, and new precision measurement tools such as molecular clocks.

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Frontier Demands $4,300 Cancellation Fee Despite Horribly Slow Internet

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 04:30
Frontier Communications reportedly charged a cancellation fee of $4,302.17 to the operator of a one-person business in Wisconsin, even though she switched to a different Internet provider because Frontier's service was frequently unusable. From the report: Candace Lestina runs the Pardeeville Area Shopper, a weekly newspaper and family business that she took over when her mother retired. Before retiring, her mother had entered a three-year contract with Frontier to provide Internet service to the one-room office on North Main Street in Pardeeville. Six months into the contract, Candace Lestina decided to switch to the newly available Charter offering "for better service and a cheaper bill," according to a story yesterday by News 3 Now in Wisconsin. The Frontier Internet service "was dropping all the time," Lestina told the news station. This was a big problem for Lestina, who runs the paper on her own in Pardeeville, a town of about 2,000 people. "I actually am everything. I make the paper, I distribute the paper," she said. Because of Frontier's bad service, "I would have times where I need to send my paper -- I have very strict deadlines with my printer -- and my Internet's out." Lestina figured she'd have to pay a cancellation fee when she switched to Charter's faster cable Internet but nothing near the $4,300 that Frontier later sent her a bill for, the News 3 Now report said. Charter offered to pay $500 toward the early termination penalty, but the fee is still so large that it could "put her out of business," the news report said. [...] Lestina said the early termination fee wasn't fully spelled out in her contract. "Nothing is ever described of what those cancellation fees actually are, which is that you will pay your entire bill for the rest of the contract," she said. Lestina said she pleaded her case to Frontier representatives, without success, even though Frontier had failed to provide a consistent Internet connection. "They did not really care that I was having such severe problems with the service. That does not bother them," she said. Instead of waiving or reducing the cancellation fee, Frontier threatened to send the matter to a collections agency, Lestina said.

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NVIDIA Turing-Based GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Launched At $279

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 03:50
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA has launched yet another graphics card today based on the company's new Turing GPU. This latest GPU, however, doesn't support NVIDIA's RTX ray-tracing technology or its DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) image quality tech. The new GeForce GTX 1660 Ti does, however, bring with it all of the other GPU architecture improvements NVIDIA Turing offers. The new TU116 GPU on board the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti supports concurrent integer and floating point instructions (rather than serializing integer and FP instructions), and it also has a redesigned cache structure with double the amount of L2 cache versus their predecessors, while its L1 cache has been outfitted with a wider memory bus that ultimately doubles the bandwidth. NVIDIA's TU116 has 1,536 active CUDA cores, which is a decent uptick from the GTX 1060, but less than the current gen RTX 2060. Cards will also come equipped with 6GB of GDDR6 memory at 12 Gbps for 288GB/s of bandwidth. Performance-wise, the new GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is typically slightly faster than a previous gen GeFore GTX 1070, and much faster than a GTX 1060. Cards should be available at retail in the next few days, starting at $279.

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Microsoft Workers' Letter Demands Company Drop $479 Million HoloLens Military Contract

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 03:10
A group of Microsoft workers have addressed top executives in a letter demanding the company drop a controversial contract with the U.S. army. The Verge reports: The workers object to the company taking a $479 million contract last year to supply tech for the military's Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. Under the project, Microsoft, the maker of the HoloLens augmented reality headset, could eventually provide more than 100,000 headsets designed for combat and training in the military. The Army has described the project as a way to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy." "We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the US Military, helping one country's government 'increase lethality' using tools we built," the workers write in the letter, addressed to CEO Satya Nadella and president Brad Smith. "We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used." The letter, which organizers say included dozens of employee signatures at publication time, argues Microsoft has "crossed the line into weapons development" with the contract. "Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology," it reads. The workers are demanding the company cancel the contract, stop developing any weapons technology, create a public policy committing to not build weapons technology, and appoint an external ethics review board to enforce the policy. While the letter notes the company has an AI ethics review process called Aether, the workers say it is "not robust enough to prevent weapons development, as the IVAS contract demonstrates." "As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers," the letter sent today concludes. "To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army's ability to cause harm and violence."

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Instagram Code Reveals Public 'Collections' Feature To Take On Pinterest

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 02:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Instagram is threatening to attack Pinterest just as it files to go public the same way the Facebook-owned app did to Snapchat. Code buried in Instagram for Android shows the company has prototyped an option to create public "Collections" to which multiple users can contribute. Instagram launched private Collections two years ago to let you Save and organize your favorite feed posts. But by allowing users to make Collections public, Instagram would become a direct competitor to Pinterest. Instagram public Collections could spark a new medium of content curation. People could use the feature to bundle together their favorite memes, travel destinations, fashion items, or art. That could cut down on unconsented content stealing that's caused backlash against meme "curators" like F*ckJerry by giving an alternative to screenshotting and reposting other people's stuff. Instead of just representing yourself with your own content, you could express your identity through the things you love -- even if you didn't photograph them yourself. The "Make Collection Public" option was discovered by frequent TechCrunch tipster and reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong. It's not available to the public, but from the Instagram for Android code, she was able to generate a screenshot of the prototype. It shows the ability to toggle on public visibility for a Collection, and tag contributors who can also add to the Collection. Previously, Collections was always a private, solo feature for organizing your bookmarks gathered through the Instagaram Save feature Instagram launched in late 2016. Currently there's nothing in the Instagram code about users being able to follow each other's Collections, but that would seem like a logical and powerful next step.

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Once Hailed As Unhackable, Blockchains Are Now Getting Hacked

Slashdot - Sat, 23/02/2019 - 01:50
schwit1 shares a report from MIT Technology Review: Early last month, the security team at Coinbase noticed something strange going on in Ethereum Classic, one of the cryptocurrencies people can buy and sell using Coinbase's popular exchange platform. Its blockchain, the history of all its transactions, was under attack. An attacker had somehow gained control of more than half of the network's computing power and was using it to rewrite the transaction history. That made it possible to spend the same cryptocurrency more than once -- known as "double spends." The attacker was spotted pulling this off to the tune of $1.1 million. Coinbase claims that no currency was actually stolen from any of its accounts. But a second popular exchange, Gate.io, has admitted it wasn't so lucky, losing around $200,000 to the attacker (who, strangely, returned half of it days later). Just a year ago, this nightmare scenario was mostly theoretical. But the so-called 51% attack against Ethereum Classic was just the latest in a series of recent attacks on blockchains that have heightened the stakes for the nascent industry. [...] In short, while blockchain technology has been long touted for its security, under certain conditions it can be quite vulnerable. Sometimes shoddy execution can be blamed, or unintentional software bugs. Other times it's more of a gray area -- the complicated result of interactions between the code, the economics of the blockchain, and human greed. That's been known in theory since the technology's beginning. Now that so many blockchains are out in the world, we are learning what it actually means -- often the hard way.

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