Earth

25 Years of Satellite Data Shows Global Warming Is Accelerating Sea Level Rise (usnews.com) 340

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are speeding up the already fast pace of sea level rise, new satellite research shows. At the current rate, the world's oceans on average will be at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) higher by the end of the century compared to today, according to researchers who published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Sea level rise is caused by warming of the ocean and melting from glaciers and ice sheets. The research, based on 25 years of satellite data, shows that pace has quickened, mainly from the melting of massive ice sheets. It confirms scientists' computer simulations and is in line with predictions from the United Nations, which releases regular climate change reports. Of the 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) of sea level rise in the past quarter century, about 55 percent is from warmer water expanding, and the rest is from melting ice. But the process is accelerating, and more than three-quarters of that acceleration since 1993 is due to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the study shows.
Bug

Skype Can't Fix a Nasty Security Bug Without a Massive Code Rewrite (zdnet.com) 151

ZDNet reports of a security flaw in Skype's updater process that "can allow an attacker to gain system-level privileges to a vulnerable computer." If the bug is exploited, it "can escalate a local unprivileged user to the full 'system' level rights -- granting them access to every corner of the operating system." What's worse is that Microsoft, which owns Skype, won't fix the flaw because it would require the updater to go through "a large code revision." Instead, Microsoft is putting all its resources on building an altogether new client. From the report: Security researcher Stefan Kanthak found that the Skype update installer could be exploited with a DLL hijacking technique, which allows an attacker to trick an application into drawing malicious code instead of the correct library. An attacker can download a malicious DLL into a user-accessible temporary folder and rename it to an existing DLL that can be modified by an unprivileged user, like UXTheme.dll. The bug works because the malicious DLL is found first when the app searches for the DLL it needs. Once installed, Skype uses its own built-in updater to keep the software up to date. When that updater runs, it uses another executable file to run the update, which is vulnerable to the hijacking. The attack reads on the clunky side, but Kanthak told ZDNet in an email that the attack could be easily weaponized. He explained, providing two command line examples, how a script or malware could remotely transfer a malicious DLL into that temporary folder.
Facebook

Facebook Lost Around 2.8 Million US Users Under 25 Last Year (recode.net) 145

According to new estimates by eMarketer, Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic declined by 9.9 percent in 2017, or about 1.4 million total users. That's almost three times more than the digital measurement firm expected. There were roughly 12.1 million U.S. Facebook users in the 12- to 17-year-old demographic by the end of the year. Recode reports: There are likely multiple reasons for the decline. Facebook has been losing its "cool" factor for years, and young people have more options than ever for staying in touch with friends and family. Facebook also serves as a digital record keeper -- but many young people don't seem to care about saving their life online, at least not publicly. That explains why Snapchat and Instagram, which offer features for sharing photos and videos that disappear, are growing in popularity among this demographic. Overall, eMarketer found Facebook lost about 2.8 million U.S. users under 25 last year. The research firm released Facebook usage estimates for 2018 on Monday, and expects that Facebook will lose about 2.1 million users in the U.S. under the age of 25 this year.
Android

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Benchmarks Show An Incredible GPU, Faster CPU (hothardware.com) 52

MojoKid writes: Though the company has been evangelizing its new Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform for a while now, Qualcomm is lifting the veil today on the new chip's benchmark performance profile. At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the new Kyro 385 CPU, which features four high-performance cores operating at 2.8GHz and four efficiency cores that are dialed back to 1.7GHz, all of which should culminate in a claimed 25 percent uplift over the previous generation Snapdragon 835, along with improved power efficiency. In addition, the Snapdragon 845's new Adreno 630 integrated GPU core should deliver a boost in performance over its predecessor as well, with up to a 30 percent increase in graphics throughput, allowing it to become the first mobile platform to enable room-scale VR/AR experiences. Armed with prototype reference devices, members of the press put the Snapdragon 845 through its paces and the chip proved to be anywhere from 15 to 35 percent faster, depending on workloads and benchmarks, with graphics showing especially strong. Next-generation Android smartphones and other devices based on the Snapdragon 845 are expected to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of this month.
Space

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Center Booster Lacked Ignition Fluid To Light Engines and Land On Platform (latimes.com) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: The center core booster of SpaceX's Falcon Heavy didn't land on a floating sea platform as intended during last week's first test flight because it ran out of ignition fluid, company Chief Executive Elon Musk said Monday. Musk took to Twitter on Monday morning to give a few more updates on the Falcon Heavy's first flight. After liftoff, the rocket's two side boosters touched down simultaneously on land, eliciting cheers and applause from the crowd of SpaceX employees gathered in the company's Hawthorne headquarters, as seen on the launch livestream. Those two boosters, which were used in previous launches of SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, will not be reused again, Musk said in a post-launch news conference last week. But the center core booster ended up hitting the Atlantic Ocean at 300 mph and about 328 feet from the floating platform where it was supposed to land. Musk said Monday that there wasn't enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines of the booster "after several three engine relights."
Government

Trump's New Infrastructure Plan Calls For Selling Off Two Airports (politico.com) 405

The Trump administration has released an infrastructure plan on Monday that proposes that the federal government considers selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. According to Trump's blueprint, the administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets." It also includes the George Washington and Baltimore Washington parkways, the Washington Aqueduct and the transmission assets of the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration on the list for "potential divesture." Politico reports: State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent." Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture." Though technically owned by the federal government, both airports are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority under a long-term lease agreement. The 53-page infrastructure plan lays out a vision to turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America's infrastructure by leveraging local and state dollars and private investment. "The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America's infrastructure," reports CNNMoney. "Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio. States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend."

As for how the money would be split up, the plan says that half of the new federal money, $100 billion, "would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities," reports CNNMoney. "An additional $20 billion would go toward 'projects of national significance' that can 'lift the American spirit,'" while another $50 billion will be designated "for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have," reports CNNMoney. "The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings..."
Businesses

Amazon Is Cutting Hundreds of Corporate Jobs (techcrunch.com) 61

According to a Seattle Times report, Amazon is laying off hundreds of corporate workers in its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere. "The corporate cuts come after an eight-year hiring spree, taking the company from 5,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in its Seattle headquarters and gobbling up several retail businesses throughout the country," reports TechCrunch. From the report: However, according to the report, Amazon's rising employee numbers over the last two years left some departments over budget and with too many staff on hand. In the last few months, the company implemented hiring freezes to stem the flow of new workers, cutting the number of open positions in half from the 3,500 listed last Summer. The layoffs will mainly focus on Amazon's Seattle office, but there have already been cuts in some of its retail subsidiaries in other parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas-based online footwear retailer Zappos, which had to lay off 30 people recently. And the company behind Diapers.com, Quidsi, had to cut more than 250 jobs a year ago. The moves suggest Amazon may be trying to rein in spending and consolidate some of its retail businesses.
Music

Reddit Audiophiles Test HomePod, Say It Sounds Better Than $1,000 Speaker (arstechnica.com) 327

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple released its much-hyped HomePod speaker to the masses last week, and the general consensus among early reviews is that it sounds superb for a relatively small device. But most of those reviews seem to have avoided making precise measurements of the HomePod's audio output, instead relying on personal experience to give generalized impressions. That's not a total disaster: a general rule for speaker testing is that while it's good to stamp out any outside factor that may cause a skewed result, making definitive, "objective" claims is difficult. But having some proper measurements is important. Reddit user WinterCharm, whose real name is Fouzan Alam, has made just that in a truly massive review for the site's "r/audiophile" sub. And if his results are to be believed, those early reviews may be underselling the HomePod's sonic abilities. After a series of tests with a calibrated microphone in an untreated room, Alam found the HomePod to sound better than the KEF X300A, a generally well-regarded bookshelf speaker that retails for $999. What's more, Alam's measurements found the HomePod to provide a "near-perfectly flat frequency response," meaning it stays accurate to a given track without pushing the treble, mids, or bass to an unnatural degree. He concludes that the digital signal processing tech the HomePod uses to "self-calibrate" its sound to its surroundings allows it to impress at all volumes and in tricky environments. "The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker," he writes.
Security

Consumers Prefer Security Over Convenience For the First Time Ever, IBM Security Report Finds (techrepublic.com) 50

A new study by IBM Security surveying 4,000 adults from a few different regions of the world found that consumers are now ranking security over convenience. For the first time ever, business users and consumers are now preferring security over convenience. From a report: TechRepublic spoke with executive security advisor at IBM Security Limor Kessem to discuss this new trend. "We always talk about the ease of use, and not impacting user experience, etc, but it turns out that when it comes to their financial accounts...people actually would go the extra mile and will use extra security," Kessem said. Whether it's using two factor authentication, an SMS message on top of their password, or any other additional step for extra protection, people still want to use it. Some 74% of respondents said that they would use extra security when it comes to those accounts, she said.
Education

Unknown Language Discovered in Malaysia (smithsonianmag.com) 55

Researchers have cataloged close to 7,000 distinct human languages on Earth, per Linguistic Society of America's latest count. That may seem like a pretty exhaustive list, but it hasn't stopped anthropologists and linguists from continuing to encounter new languages, like one recently discovered in a village in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. From a report: According to a press release, researchers from Lund University in Sweden discovered the language during a project called Tongues of the Semang. The documentation effort in villages of the ethnic Semang people was intended to collect data on their languages, which belong to an Austoasiatic language family called Aslian. While researchers were studying a language called Jahai in one village, they came to understand that not everyone there was speaking it. "We realized that a large part of the village spoke a different language. They used words, phonemes and grammatical structures that are not used in Jahai," says Joanne Yager, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Linguist Typology. "Some of these words suggested a link with other Aslian languages spoken far away in other parts of the Malay Peninsula."
Programming

The Quest To Find the Longest-Serving Programmer (tnmoc.org) 114

In 2014, the National Museum of Computing published a blog post in which it tried to find the person who has been programming the longest. At the time, it declared Bill Williams, a 70-year old to be one of the world's most durable programmers, who claimed to have started coding for a living in 1969 and was still doing so at the time of publication. The post has been updated several times over the years, and over the weekend, the TNMC updated it once again. The newest contender is Terry Froggatt of Hampshire, who writes: I can beat claim of your 71-year-old by a couple of years, (although I can't compete with the likes of David Hartley). I wrote my first program for the Elliott 903 in September 1966. Now at the age of 73 I am still writing programs for the Elliott 903! I've just written a 903 program to calculate the Fibonacci numbers. And I've written quite a lot of programs in the years in between, some for the 903 but also a good many in Ada.
Medicine

The Flu and Airports (fastcompany.com) 180

An anonymous reader writes: The CDC says this year's flu season is on track to either rival or dethrone 2009's swine flu. 3,000 people across the U.S. have died as a result of the flu in the first 20 days of 2018, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and that number has likely risen. If you want to avoid the flu (and of course you do) the National Institute of Health says orange juice won't cut it. Instead, the best flu prevention is a vaccine, and it's not too late to get one. Pair a flu shot with frequent hand washing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth so you don't transfer any virus from your hands, and you just might manage to avoid the flu.
Google

Google Autocomplete Still Makes Vile Suggestions (wired.com) 237

An anonymous reader shares a report: In December of 2016, Google announced it had fixed a troubling quirk of its autocomplete feature: When users typed in the phrase, "are jews," Google automatically suggested the question, "are jews evil?" Almost a year after removing the "are jews evil?" prompt, Google search still drags up a range of awful autocomplete suggestions for queries related to gender, race, religion, and Adolf Hitler. Google appears still unable to effectively police results that are offensive, and potentially dangerous -- especially on a platform that two billion people rely on for information. Like journalist Carol Cadwalladr, who broke the news about the "are jews evil" suggestion in 2016, I too felt a certain kind of queasiness experimenting with search terms like, "Islamists are," "blacks are," "Hitler is," and "feminists are." The results were even worse. For the term "Islamists are," Google suggested I might in fact want to search, "Islamists are not our friends," or "Islamists are evil." For the term, "blacks are," Google prompted me to search, "blacks are not oppressed." The term "Hitler is," autocompleted to, among other things, "Hitler is my hero."
ISS

The Trump Administration is Moving To Privatize the International Space Station: Report (techcrunch.com) 235

The Trump administration is planning to privatize the international space station instead of simply decommissioning the orbiting international experiment in 2024, The Washington Post reports. From a report: According to a document obtained by the Post, the current administration is mulling handing the International Space Station off to private industry instead of de-orbiting it as NASA "will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit." The Post also reported that the administration was looking to request $150 million in fiscal year 2019 "to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS -- potentially including elements of the ISS -- are operational when they are needed." The U.S. government has already spent roughly $100 billion to build and operate the space station as part of an international coalition that also includes the European Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and the Russian Space Agency.
Privacy

German Court Rules Facebook Use of Personal Data Illegal (reuters.com) 79

A German consumer rights group said on Monday that a court had found Facebook's use of personal data to be illegal because the U.S. social media platform did not adequately secure the informed consent of its users. From a report: The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook's default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid. "Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register," said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the vzvb. "This does not meet the requirement for informed consent."
Verizon

Verizon is Locking Its Phones Down To Combat Theft (cnet.com) 130

Verizon is taking an extra step to protect its phones. CNET: The nation's largest wireless carrier said Monday that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry. Verizon said it is doing this to deter criminals from stealing phones, often on route to retail stores or from the stores themselves.
Facebook

A Facebook Employee Asked a Reporter To Turn Off His Phone So Facebook Couldn't Track Its Location (businessinsider.com) 304

Steve Kovach, writing for BusinessInsider: To corporate giants like Facebook, leaks to rivals or the media are a cardinal sin. That notion was clear in a new Wired story about Facebook's rocky time over the last two years. The story talks about how Facebook was able to find two leakers who told a Gizmodo reporter about its news operations. But one source for the Wired story highlighted just how concerned employees are about how their company goes after leakers. According to the story, the source, a current Facebook employee, asked a Wired reporter to turn off his phone so Facebook wouldn't be able to use location tracking and see that the two were close to each other for the meeting. The Wired's 11,000-word wide-ranging piece, for which it spoke with more than 50 current and former Facebook employees, gives us an inside look at how the company has been struggling to curb spread of fake news; battling internal discrimination among employees; and becoming furious when anything leaks to the media. Another excerpt from the story: The day after Fearnow (a contractor who leaked information to a Gizmodo reporter) took that second screenshot was a Friday. When he woke up after sleeping in, he noticed that he had about 30 meeting notifications from Facebook on his phone. When he replied to say it was his day off, he recalls, he was nonetheless asked to be available in 10 minutes. Soon he was on a video-conference with three Facebook employees, including Sonya Ahuja, the company's head of investigations. According to his recounting of the meeting, she asked him if he had been in touch with Nunez (the Gizmodo reporter, who eventually published this and this). He denied that he had been. Then she told him that she had their messages on Gchat, which Fearnow had assumed weren't accessible to Facebook. He was fired. "Please shut your laptop and don't reopen it," she instructed him.
Google

The Insane Amount of Backward Compatibility in Google Maps (tnhh.net) 73

Huan Truong, a software developer, writes in a blog post: There is always an unlikely app that consistently works on all of my devices, regardless of their OS and how old they are: Google Maps. Google Maps still works today on Android 1.0, the earliest version available (Maps actually still works with some of the beta versions before that). I believe Maps was only a prototype app in Android 1.0. If I recall correctly, Google didn't have any official real device to run Android 1.0. That was back all the way in 2007. But then, you say, Android is Google's OS for Pete's sake. How about iOS? Google Maps for iOS, version 1.0, released late 2012, still works just fine. That was the first version of Google Maps ever released as a standalone app after Apple ditched Google's map solution on iOS. But wait... there is more. There is native iOS Maps on iOS 6, which was released in early 2012, and it still works. But that's only 6 years ago. Let's go hardcore. How about Google Maps on Java phones (the dumb bricks that run Java "midlets" or whatever the ancient Greeks call it)? It works too. [...] The Palm OS didn't even have screenshot functionality. But lo and behold, Google Maps worked.
IT

Why Paper Jams Persist (newyorker.com) 122

A trivial problem reveals the limits of technology. Fascinating story from The New Yorker: Unsurprisingly, the engineers who specialize in paper jams see them differently. Engineers tend to work in narrow subspecialties, but solving a jam requires knowledge of physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, computer programming, and interface design. "It's the ultimate challenge," Ruiz said.

"I wouldn't characterize it as annoying," Vicki Warner, who leads a team of printer engineers at Xerox, said of discovering a new kind of paper jam. "I would characterize it as almost exciting." When she graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology, in 2006, her friends took jobs in trendy fields, such as automotive design. During her interview at Xerox, however, another engineer showed her the inside of a printing press. All Xerox printers look basically the same: a million-dollar printing press is like an office copier, but twenty-four feet long and eight feet high. Warner watched as the heavy, pale-gray double doors swung open to reveal a steampunk wonderland of gears, wheels, conveyor belts, and circuit boards. As in an office copier, green plastic handles offer access to the "paper path" -- the winding route, from "feeder" to "stacker," along which sheets of paper are shocked and soaked, curled and decurled, vacuumed and superheated. "Printers are essentially paper torture chambers," Warner said, smiling behind her glasses. "I thought, This is the coolest thing I've ever seen."

Google

Google's Next Android Overhaul Will Embrace iPhone's 'Notch' (bloomberg.com) 179

Google is working on a "dramatic redesign" of its Android operating system, Bloomberg reported on Monday. The company has stuck with a single look for its mobile operating system (OS) for quite some time now, but it's now reportedly looking at Apple for inspiration. The new version of Android -- which Bloomberg says is called "Pistachio Ice Cream" internally -- will apparently be designed with the space for a cutout at the top, much like the iPhone X and its so-called "notch." From the report: The operating system refresh, Android P, will emphasize Google's Assistant, a digital helper that competes with Apple's Siri and Amazon.com's Alexa. Developers will be able to integrate Google's voice-based technology inside of their apps. The company has also weighed integrating the search bar on the Android home screen with its assistant, although neither of these changes are finalized for introduction this year, according to one of the people familiar with the situation.
Bitcoin

Energy Riches Fuel Bitcoin Craze For Speculation-shy Iceland (apnews.com) 99

Iceland is expected to use more energy "mining" bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes. From a report: With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, large virtual currency companies have established a base in the North Atlantic island nation blessed with an abundance of renewable energy. The new industry's relatively sudden growth prompted lawmaker Smari McCarthy of Iceland's Pirate Party to suggest taxing the profits of bitcoin mines. The initiative is likely to be well received by Icelanders, who are skeptical of speculative financial ventures after the country's catastrophic 2008 banking crash. "Under normal circumstances, companies that are creating value in Iceland pay a certain amount of tax to the government," McCarthy told The Associated Press. "These companies are not doing that, and we might want to ask ourselves whether they should."
Software

'Razer Doesn't Care About Linux' (gnome.org) 375

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Razer is a vendor that makes high-end gaming hardware, including laptops, keyboards and mice. I opened a ticket with Razor a few days ago asking them if they wanted to support the LVFS project by uploading firmware and sharing the firmware update protocol used. I offered to upstream any example code they could share under a free license, or to write the code from scratch given enough specifications to do so. This is something I've done for other vendors, and doesn't take long as most vendor firmware updaters all do the same kind of thing; there are only so many ways to send a few kb of data to USB devices. The fwupd project provides high-level code for accessing USB devices, so yet-another-update-protocol is no big deal. I explained all about the LVFS, and the benefits it provided to a userbase that is normally happy to vote using their wallet to get hardware that's supported on the OS of their choice. I just received this note on the ticket, which was escalated appropriately: "I have discussed your offer with the dedicated team and we are thankful for your enthusiasm and for your good idea. I am afraid I have also to let you know that at this moment in time our support for software is only focused on Windows and Mac." The post, written by Richard -- who has long been a maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, points out that Razer executive Min-Liang Tan last year invited Linux enthusiasts to suggest ideas to help the company make the best notebook that supports Linux.

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