ISS

NASA To Pay More For Less Cargo Delivery To the Space Station (arstechnica.com) 25

A new report from NASA's inspector general, Paul Martin, finds that NASA will pay significantly more for commercial cargo delivery to the ISS in the 2020s rather than enjoying cost savings from maturing systems. "NASA will likely pay $400 million more for its second round of delivery contracts from 2020 to 2024 even though the agency will be moving six fewer tons of cargo," reports Ars Technica. "On a cost per kilogram basis, this represents a 14-percent increase." From the report: One of the main reasons for this increase, the report says, is a 50-percent increase in prices from SpaceX, which has thus far flown the bulk of missions for NASA's commercial cargo program with its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. This is somewhat surprising because, during the first round of supply missions, which began in 2012, SpaceX had substantially lower costs than NASA's other partner, Orbital ATK. SpaceX and Orbital ATK are expected to fly 31 supply missions between 2012 and 2020, the first phase of the supply contract. Of those, the new report states, SpaceX is scheduled to complete 20 flights at an average cost of $152.1 million per mission. Orbital ATK is scheduled to complete 11 missions at an average cost of $262.6 million per mission.

But that cost differential will largely evaporate in the second round of cargo supply contracts. For flights from 2020 to 2024, SpaceX will increase its price while Orbital ATK cuts its own by 15 percent. The new report provides unprecedented public detail about the second phase of commercial resupply contracts, known as CRS-2, which NASA awarded in a competitively bid process in 2016. SpaceX and Orbital ATK again won contracts (for a minimum of six flights), along with a new provider, Sierra Nevada Corp. and its Dream Chaser vehicle. Bids by Boeing and Lockheed Martin were not accepted.

Crime

Genealogy Websites Were Key To Big Break In Golden State Killer Case (nytimes.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report from The New York Times: The Golden State Killer raped and murdered victims all across the state of California in an era before Google searches and social media, a time when the police relied on shoe leather, not cellphone records or big data. But it was technology that got him. The suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, was arrested by the police on Tuesday. Investigators accuse him of committing more than 50 rapes and 12 murders. Investigators used DNA from crime scenes and plugged that genetic profile into a commercial online genealogy database. They found distant relatives of Mr. DeAngelo's and traced their DNA to him.

"We found a person that was the right age and lived in this area -- and that was Mr. DeAngelo," said Steve Grippi, the assistant chief in the Sacramento district attorney's office. Investigators then obtained what Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento district attorney, called "abandoned" DNA samples from Mr. DeAngelo. "You leave your DNA in a place that is a public domain," she said. The test result confirmed the match to more than 10 murders in California. Ms. Schubert's office then obtained a second sample and came back with the same positive result, matching the full DNA profile. Representatives at 23andMe and other gene testing services denied on Thursday that they had been involved in identifying the killer.

Science

Einstein's 'Spooky Action' Has Been Demonstrated On a Massive Scale For the First Time (sciencealert.com) 111

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: For the first time, scientists have managed to show quantum entanglement -- which Einstein famously described as "spooky action at a distance" -- happening between macroscopic objects, a major step forward in our understanding of quantum physics. Quantum entanglement links particles in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. On the surface, this powerful bond defies classical physics and, generally, our understanding of reality, which is why Einstein found it so spooky. But the phenomenon has since become a cornerstone of modern technology. Still, up until now quantum entanglement has only been demonstrated to work at the smallest of scales, in systems based on light and atoms, for example. Any attempt to increase the sizes has caused problems with stability, with the slightest of environmental disturbances breaking the connection. But new research changes all of this, by demonstrating that this "spooky action" can indeed be a reality between massive objects. We're not talking massive in the black hole sense but in the macroscopic sense -- two 15-micrometer-wide vibrating drum heads. And the next step will be to test whether those vibrations are being teleported between the two objects. The research has been published in the journal Nature.
Youtube

Parents Can Now Limit YouTube Kids To Human-Reviewed Channels and Recommendations (techcrunch.com) 24

Google is announcing an expanded series of parental controls for its YouTube Kids application. "The new features will allow parents to lock down the YouTube Kids app so it only displays those channels that have been reviewed by humans, not just algorithms," reports TechCrunch. "And this includes both the content displayed within the app itself, as well as the recommended videos. A later update will allow parents to configure which videos and channels, specifically, can be viewed." From the report: The controls will be opt-in -- meaning parents will have to explicitly turn on the various settings within each child's profile in YouTube Kids' settings. [...] First, videos are uploaded to YouTube's main site. They're then filtered using machine learning techniques through a series of algorithms that determine if they should be added to YouTube Kids' catalog. But algorithms are not people, and they make mistakes. To fill in the gaps in this imperfect system, YouTube Kids relied on parents to flag suspect videos for review. YouTube employs a dedicated team of reviewers for YouTube Kids, but it doesn't say how many people are tasked with this job. This system, parents have felt for some time, just wasn't good enough. Now, parents will be able to toggle on a new setting for "Approved content only," which also disables search. A later version of YouTube Kids will go even further -- allowing parents to select individual videos or channels they approve of, for a truly handpicked selection. The new features in YouTube Kids will roll out over the course of the year, the company says, with everything but the explicit whitelisting option arriving this week.
Television

Cord Cutting Caused By 74 Percent TV Price Hikes Since 2000, Says Report (dslreports.com) 66

A new study by Kagan, S&P Global Market Intelligence finds that cord cutting is being caused primarily by a 74% increase in customer cable bills since 2000. From a report: That increase is even adjusted for inflation, and it should be noted that individual earnings have seen a modest decline during that same period, making soaring cable rates untenable for many. This affordability gap is "squeezing penetration rates, particularly among the more economically vulnerable households," the research company added. As their chart illustrates, prices for multichannel packages have steadily risen from just below $60 a month in 2000 to close to $100 in 2016. All while incomes remained largely stagnant. As customers grow increasingly angry at cable TV rate hikes and defect to streaming alternatives, most cable operators are simply raising the price of broadband (often via usage caps and overage fees) to try and make up for lost revenue. And because most parts of America still don't really see healthy broadband competition, they can consistently get away with it.
AI

Tesla Autopilot Crisis Deepens With Loss of Third Autopilot Boss In 18 Months (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: It is no secret that Tesla's Autopilot project is struggling. Last summer, we covered a report that Tesla was bleeding talent from its Autopilot division. Tesla Autopilot head Sterling Anderson quit Tesla at the end of 2016. His replacement was Chris Lattner, who had previously created the Swift programming language at Apple. But Lattner only lasted six months before departing last June. Now Lattner's replacement, Jim Keller, is leaving Tesla as well.

Keller was a well-known chip designer at AMD before he was recruited to lead Tesla's hardware engineering efforts for Autopilot in 2016. Keller has been working to develop custom silicon for Autopilot, potentially replacing the Nvidia chips being used in today's Tesla vehicles. When Lattner left Tesla last June, Keller was given broader authority over the Autopilot program as a whole. Keller's departure comes just weeks after the death of Walter Huang, a driver whose Model X vehicle slammed into a concrete lane divider in Mountain View, California. Tesla has said Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. Tesla has since gotten into public feuds with both Huang's family and the National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency investigating the crash.
"Today is Jim Keller's last day at Tesla, where he has overseen low-voltage hardware, Autopilot software and infotainment," Tesla said in a statement to Electrek. "Prior to joining Tesla, Jim's core passion was microprocessor engineering, and he's now joining a company where he'll be able to once again focus on this exclusively."
Wireless Networking

Apple Discontinues Its AirPort Router Line (9to5mac.com) 113

9to5Mac reports that Apple is officially exiting the wireless router business and selling off its remaining inventory of AirPort products. This includes the AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and both models of the AirPort Time Capsule. "We're discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products," Apple said in a statement to 9to5Mac. "They will be available through Apple.com, Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last." From the report: While the news is disappointing for fans of Apple's routers, the end of the AirPort line is no surprise either. Bloomberg reported back in November 2016 that Apple had disbanded the team responsible for developing Apple's routers, and in January 9to5Mac was first to report that Apple Stores started selling third-party. At the time, Apple told us that its AirPort line would remain -- with the mesh Wi-Fi routers adding a solution for larger homes: "People love our AirPort products and we continue to sell them. Connectivity is important in the home and we are giving customers yet another option that is well suited for larger homes."
Microsoft

iTunes Now Available From the Microsoft Store For Windows 10 (windowscentral.com) 17

iTunes is now available in the Microsoft Store, almost a year after Microsoft first revealed it was working with Apple to get iTunes listed in the Store. Windows Central reports: For a portion of Windows 10 users, iTunes' appearance on the Microsoft Store may not matter much because they can use the standard desktop app. Where it will have an impact, however, is for anyone using Windows 10 S, which is locked down and only allows installation of apps from the Microsoft Store. For those users, the full desktop iTunes experience should be available here, complete with access to Apple Music streaming and iPhone syncing.
Facebook

Facebook Inches Toward More Transparency and Accountability (eff.org) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Facebook took a step toward greater accountability this week, expanding the text of its community standards and announcing the rollout of a new system of appeals. Digital rights advocates have been pushing the company to be more transparent for nearly a decade, and many welcomed the announcements as a positive move for the social media giant. The changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Over the past year, following a series of controversial decisions about user expression, the company has begun to offer more transparency around its content policies and moderation practices, such as the "Hard Questions" series of blog posts offering insight into how the company makes decisions about different types of speech.

The expanded community standards released on Tuesday offer a much greater level of detail of what's verboten and why. Broken down into six overarching categories -- violence and criminal behavior, safety, objectionable content, integrity and authenticity, respecting intellectual property, and content-related requests -- each section comes with a "policy rationale" and bulleted lists of "do not post" items. Facebook's other announcement -- that of expanded appeals -- has received less media attention, but for many users, it's a vital development. In the platform's early days, content moderation decisions were final and could not be appealed. Then, in 2011, Facebook instituted a process through which users whose accounts had been suspended could apply to regain access. That process remained in place until this week.

Businesses

CEO Doesn't Know if MoviePass Will Offer a Movie Per Day Plan Again (engadget.com) 24

The subscription service famous for supplying a movie ticket per day for just $9.95 a month hasn't been offering that wildly popular package since April 13. From a report: The company's too-good-to-be-true offer of one movie per day for $10 subscription model brought it 500,000 subscribers in one month, but MoviePass' finances show that the startup is struggling while still being dogged by its CEO's comments around tracking his customers. Recently, the company downgraded its available new subscriber plans to a three-month, $30 "limited time" offer that includes four movies per month and a three-month trial of iHeartRadio premium. It seems as if this offer now has no limit; CEO Mitch Lowe told The Hollywood Reporter that he was unsure if the movie-per-day plan would even return as an option. "Do you think you will go back to a movie a day?" a THR reporter asked Lowe at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. "I don't know," he responded.
Security

Ski Lift In Austria Left Control Panel Open On the Internet (bleepingcomputer.com) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Officials from the city of Innsbruck in Austria have shut down a local ski lift after two security researchers found its control panel open wide on the Internet, and allowing anyone to take control of the ski lift's operational settings. There was no authentication in place, and anyone accessing the control panel could have modified the ski lift's speed, the distance between cable cars, and cable tension.

Coincidentally, researchers discovered the ski lift's control panel on the same day that NBC ran a report about a ski lift system suffering a mechanical malfunction, going at crazy speeds, and injuring 10 people. Both ski lifts were from the same vendor, but researchers say they weren't aware of the NBC report when they stumbled upon the one in Austria. Innsbruck officials shut down the ski lift for a security audit, and the ski lift is still nonoperational today.

Space

Jeff Bezos Says He Liquidates a $1 Billion of Amazon Stock Every Year To Pay For His Rocket Company Blue Origin (businessinsider.com) 76

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spends a tiny fraction of his net worth to fund Blue Origin, the aerospace company he started in 2000. From a report: For a man worth $127 billion, that tiny fraction amounts to $1 billion a year, which he gets by liquidating Amazon stock, Bezos said at an Axel Springer awards event in Berlin, Germany, hosted by Business Insider's US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell. "The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel," he said in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Dopfner. "Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune." Bezos said he planned to continue funding the company through that annual tradition long into the future. Bezos famously has numerous projects. He runs Amazon, owns The Washington Post, and is working on turning a mansion in Washington, DC, into a single-family home, to name a few. None of these, he said, are as relevant or as worthy of his money as Blue Origin, which he called "the most important work I'm doing."
Businesses

The Smartphone Sales Slowdown is Real (axios.com) 150

Earnings reports from Samsung and Qualcomm on Wednesday suggest a serious industrywide slowdown in smartphone sales. Samsung's report is especially telling, since it also makes displays and other components for Apple. From a report: The smartphone business is an incredibly crowded space, so a slowdown could lead to even steeper price competition. That's a potential short-term boon for consumers, but could put the hurt on a whole host of technology companies. Samsung's take: Its written outlook was terse and brief, but damning. Of its own phones, it said "[p]rofitability in the mobile business is expected to decline quarter-over-quarter due to stagnant sales of flagship models amid weak demand and an increase in marketing expenses to address the situation." Similarly, it cautioned of weak demand in its display and chip businesses, which supply components for both Samsung and its phone rivals, including Apple. Qualcomm's take: The phone chip giant also predicted a slowdown, cutting its forecast for 3G and 4G smartphones.
Facebook

Fake Mark Zuckerbergs Scam Facebook Users Out of Their Cash (nytimes.com) 54

Hundreds of Facebook and Instagram accounts have been parading as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, tricking vulnerable individuals into sending large amounts of money in order to collect bogus lottery winnings, the New York Times reports [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. From a report: An examination by The New York Times found 205 accounts impersonating Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg on Facebook and its photo-sharing site Instagram, not including fan pages or satire accounts, which are permitted under the company's rules. At least 51 of the impostor accounts, including 43 on Instagram, were lottery scams like the one that fooled Mr. Bernhardt.

The fake Zuckerbergs and faux Sandbergs have proliferated on Facebook and Instagram, despite the presence of Facebook groups that track the scams and complaints about the trick dating to at least 2010. A day after The Times informed Facebook of its findings, the company removed all 96 impostor Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg accounts on its Facebook site. It had left up all but one of the 109 fakes on Instagram, but removed them after this article was published.

Slashdot Top Deals