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Businesses

Mobile Homes Are So Expensive Now, Hurricane Victims Can't Afford Them (bloomberg.com) 199

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hurricane victims emerging from ravaged trailer parks are discovering that the U.S. mobile-home market has left them behind. In Florida and Texas, dealerships are swarmed by buyers looking to rebuild their lives after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but many leave disappointed. The industry, led by Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes, is peddling such pricey interior-designer touches as breakfast bars and his-and-her bathroom sinks. These extras, plus manufacturers' increased costs for labor and materials, have pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach for many of the newly homeless.
Privacy

Uber Is Under Investigation By Multiple States Over a 2016 Data Breach (recode.net) 25

Yesterday, it was reported that Uber concealed a massive cyberattack that exposed 57 million people's data. Recode reports that at least five states -- Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York and Connecticut -- would investigate the matter. From the report: Meanwhile, Uber must contend with the possible threat of a new probe at the Federal Trade Commission. The agency, which acts as the U.S. government's top privacy and security watchdog, penalized Uber for its privacy and security practices just this August. But it may not have known that Uber had suffered a major security breach in 2016, even as they investigated the company at the same time for other, unrelated security missteps. For now, the agency merely said it's "closely evaluating the serious issues raised." And some affected customers are similarly taking action. On Wednesday -- hours after the breach became public -- an Uber user filed a lawsuit accusing the company of negligence and deceptive business practices. The plaintiff, Alejandro Flores, is seeking to represent a class of affected riders and drivers alike.

For one thing, 48 states maintain some version of a law that requires companies that suffer a data breach to communicate what happened to consumers. In most cases, companies must disclose a security incident if hackers steal very sensitive customer data -- such as driver's license numbers, which happened with Uber in late 2016. To that end, the attorneys general in Illinois, Connecticut and New York have said they are probing the breach at Uber -- perhaps with an eye on whether the company skirted state laws. The top prosecutors in other major states, like Pennsylvania and Florida, did not immediately respond to emails on Wednesday seeking comment. California's AG declined to comment.

Earth

Florida Attempts the Largest Hydraulic Restoration Project In the World To Save the Everglades (vice.com) 98

New submitter ar2286 shares a report from Motherboard: Florida is defined by its water -- the water flowing around it, through it, increasingly over it. But throughout the twentieth century, its major arteries of fresh water, which flowed from the Kissimmee River south of Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and down to the swampy Everglades, were permanently rerouted by the federal government and landowners to stop flooding, and make room for agriculture and housing in the southern part of the state. Now the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers -- the government agency partly responsible for rerouting and draining water to begin with -- and the South Florida Water Management District to attempt the largest hydraulic restoration project in the world. And while some say the effort has turned Florida into a battleground, pitting sugar farmers against legislators and environmentalists, others are hoping this will finally right certain man-made wrongs and restore some balance to the state. If the government is able to fully fund the plan, and should dozens of contractors and state forces successfully carry it out, it could permanently change Florida. And set a precedent for inevitable restoration projects around the world, which are becoming increasingly crucial as climate change manifests in stronger storms and sea level rise. The state is embarking on such a massive restoration project because the aging levees and control gates surrounding Lake Okeechobee are at risk of failing during large storms and/or heavy rainfall. "The more rainwater that increases in Lake Okeechobee, the more pressure is on the lake, and that pressure can continue to build up and build up and build up and one day the levee can go," said Tammy Jackson-Moore, a Belle Glade resident who co-founded Guardians of the Glades, a nonprofit focused on community advocacy. "And we're talking about wiping out entire communities here." The rerouting has allowed for bursts of economic growth, but it does have its consequences. "The Everglades, the largest swath of subtropical wilderness in the country, is now half of its size circa 1920, and the ecosystem has deteriorated, losing wildlife and native flora," reports Motherboard. "Without a natural place to flow, stagnant water pushes toxic algae blooms into the rivers, and turns pristine ocean into sludgy waste."
Space

SpaceX Lands the 13th Falcon 9 Rocket of the Year In Flames (theverge.com) 106

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida this afternoon and, while the rocket successfully delivered the Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, it managed to catch fire after landing on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. The Verge reports: That rocket's mission [was] to send a satellite known as Koreasat-5A into space, where it will hang above Earth for 15 years while providing communications bandwidth for Korea and Southern Asia. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered Koreasat-5A to its designated orbit, marking the the company's 16th successful mission of the year -- twice the number of successful missions in 2016. Shortly after liftoff, the first stage of the rocket returned to Earth and landed (flamboyantly) in the Atlantic Ocean on one of SpaceX's autonomous barges. (The fires eventually went out.) It was the 13th successful landing of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 15th in a row, and the 19th overall.
Security

Researchers Devise 2FA System That Relies On Taking Photos of Ordinary Objects (bleepingcomputer.com) 138

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Scientists from Florida International University and Bloomberg have created a custom two-factor authentication (2FA) system that relies on users taking a photo of a personal object. The act of taking the photo comes to replace the cumbersome process of using crypto-based hardware security keys (e.g., YubiKey devices) or entering verification codes received via SMS or voice call. The new system is named Pixie, and researchers argue it is more secure than the aforementioned solutions.

Pixie works by requiring users to choose an object as their 2FA key. When they set up the Pixie 2FA protection, they take an initial photo of the object that will be used for reference. Every time users try to log into their account again, they re-take a photo of the same object, and an app installed on their phone compares the two photos... In automated tests, Pixie achieved a false accept rate below 0.09% in a brute force attack with 14.3 million authentication attempts. An Android app is available for testing here.

Facebook

Tech Firms Seek Washington's Prized Asset: Top-Secret Clearances (bloomberg.com) 147

Major tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are interested in hiring workers with top-secret security clearances as they deal with foreign meddling on their platforms and come under increased risk of hacks, reports Bloomberg. From the article: In doing so, companies such as Facebook are competing with defense contractors, financial firms and the U.S. government itself. Security clearances are a rare and valued commodity, whether at a bank trying to prevent hackers from stealing credit-card data and emptying accounts or at a manufacturer building parts for a stealth fighter or missile-defense radar system. Bringing former government cyber warriors on board at companies can facilitate interactions with U.S. agencies like the NSA or CIA as well as help the firms understand how to build stronger systems on their own. "They have the tradecraft," said Ronald Sanders, a former associate director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and now director of the school of public affairs at the University of South Florida. "And the trade craft is some of the best in the world."
Space

Blue Origin Successfully Test Fires Game-Changing BE-4 Rocket Engine (geekwire.com) 95

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture has successfully test-fired its BE-4 rocket engine, marking a key step in the development of its own New Glenn rocket as well as United Launch Alliance's next-generation rocket. GeekWire reports: ULA has been waiting for months to get good news about the BE-4 tests in West Texas. The company wanted to see a successful full-scale test before going ahead with plans to use the BE-4 engine on its Vulcan rocket, which is due to have its first flight in 2019. A Blue Origin competitor, Aerojet Rocketdyne, has been waiting in the wings with its AR1 engine, which ULA saw as a "Plan B" for the Vulcan in case the BE-4 faltered. Wednesday's initial hot-firing didn't reach full power or full duration, but the test's success nevertheless reduces the likelihood that ULA would turn to the AR1. The BE-4 engine, which uses liquefied natural gas as fuel, is built at Blue Origin's production facility in Kent, Wash., and shipped down to Texas for testing. Assuming that it's accepted for ULA's use, engine production will eventually shift to a factory in Huntsville, Ala. Engines for the orbital-class New Glenn rocket will go to Blue Origin's rocket factory in Florida, which is due to be completed by the end of this year.
Google

Alphabet's Waymo Demanded $1 Billion In Settlement Talks With Uber (reuters.com) 11

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Alphabet's Waymo sought at least $1 billion in damages and a public apology from Uber as conditions for settling its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride-services company, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters. The Waymo self-driving car unit also asked that an independent monitor be appointed to ensure Uber does not use Waymo technology in the future, the sources said. Uber rejected those terms as non-starters, said the sources, who were not authorized to publicly discuss settlement talks. The precise dollar amount requested by Waymo and the exact time the offer was made could not be learned.

Waymo's tough negotiating stance, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company's confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories in a case which may help to determine who emerges in the forefront of the fast-growing field of self-driving cars. The aggressive settlement demands also suggest that Waymo is not in a hurry to resolve the lawsuit, in part because of its value as a distraction for Uber leadership, said Elizabeth Rowe, a trade secret expert at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Space

SpaceX Successfully Landed the 12th Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017 (theverge.com) 118

Shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on one of the company's drone ships in the ocean. "It marks the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 18th overall, and the second this week," reports The Verge. "It was also the third time that the company has successfully launched and landed a rocket that had already flown." From the report: The vehicle for this mission has flown before: once back in February, when it lofted cargo to the International Space Station and then landed at SpaceX's ground-based Landing Zone 1. Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the U.S. and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company's SES-10 satellite went up on the first "re-flight" in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.
Businesses

Microsoft Teams is Replacing Skype for Business To Put More Pressure on Slack (theverge.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft Teams isn't even a year old, but it's about to replace Skype for Business. At Microsoft's Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida today, the software giant is revealing that it plans to kill off Skype for Business in favor of Microsoft Teams. Skype for Business took over from Lync, Microsoft's previous business chat app, back in 2015. Microsoft's original Teams launch made it look obvious that Skype for Business would eventually disappear, given the fact that Teams integrates most of Skype's functionality already. Microsoft says it has been building a new Skype infrastructure that has been "evolving rapidly," and it will serve as the enterprise-grade service for voice, video, and meetings in Microsoft Teams. A new Skype for Business server will be available in the second half of 2018 for customers not ready to move to Teams, but Microsoft is pushing Office 365 users will to move over to Teams as the key communications client instead of relying on Skype for Business.
Power

Tesla Temporarily Boosts Battery Capacity For Hurricane Irma (sfgate.com) 328

Slashdot reader mikeebbbd noticed this in the AP's Florida hurricane coverage: Electric car maker Tesla says it has temporarily increased the battery capacity of some of its cars to help drivers escaping Hurricane Irma. The electric car maker said the battery boost was applied to Model S and X cars in the Southeast. Some drivers only buy 60 or 70 kilowatt hours of battery capacity, but a software change will give them access to 75 kilowatt hours of battery life until Saturday. Depending on the model, that could let drivers travel about 40 more miles before they would need to recharge their cars.

Tesla said it made the change after a customer asked the company for help evacuating. The company said it's possible it will make similar changes in response to similar events in the future.

Earth

Uber Gives Free Rides to Shelters During Hurricane Irma (bloomberg.com) 38

One million households lost power in Florida, and at least three people died, after Hurricane Irma made landfall Sunday morning. Bloomberg reports how Uber tried to help: Uber Technologies Inc. is offering free rides to shelters near Tampa as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Florida mainland. The City of Tampa's Office of Emergency Management publicized the free rides on its Twitter feed, @AlertTampa, and mobile news alert service. Uber's offer helps serve a vital need for transportation, as Tampa Bay area residents got late notice that the monster storm that changed track on Saturday and was heading their way. It also provided a chance for the company to burnish an image... Uber has also been criticized for using its so-called surge pricing in times of crisis.
Earth

What's Causing The Hurricanes? (yahoo.com) 442

An anonymous reader quotes AFP: Hurricane Irma, now taking aim at Florida, has stunned experts with its sheer size and strength, churning across the ocean with sustained Category 5 winds of 183 miles per hour (295 kilometers per hour) for more than 33 hours, making it the longest-lasting, top-intensity cyclone ever recorded. Meanwhile Jose, a Category 4 on the Saffir Simpson scale of 1 to 5, is fast on the heels of Irma, pummeling the Caribbean for the second time in the span of a few days. Many have wondered what is contributing to the power and frequency of these extreme storms. "Atlantic hurricane seasons over the years have been shaped by many complex factors," said Jim Kossin, a NOAA hurricane scientist at the University of Wisconsin. "Those include large scale ocean currents, air pollution -- which tends to cool the ocean down -- and climate change"...

Some think a surge in industrial pollution after World War II may have produced more pollutant particles that blocked the Sun's energy and exerted a cooling effect on the oceans. "The pollution reduced a lot of hurricane activity," said Gabriel Vecchi, professor of geosciences at Princeton University's Environmental Institute. Pollution began to wane in the 1980s due to regulations such as the Clean Air Act, allowing more of the Sun's rays to penetrate the ocean and provide warming fuel for storms. Vecchi said the "big debate" among scientists is over which plays a larger role -- variations in ocean currents or pollution cuts. There is evidence for both, but there isn't enough data to answer a key question...

The burning of fossil fuels, which spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and warm the Earth, can also be linked to a rise in extreme storms in recent years. Warmer ocean temperatures yield more moisture, more rainfall, and greater intensity storms. "It is not a coincidence that we're seeing more devastating hurricanes," climatologist Michael Mann of Penn State University told AFP in an email. "Over the past few years, as global sea surface temperatures have been the warmest on record, we've seen the strongest hurricanes -- as measured by peak sustained winds -- globally, in both Southern and Northern Hemisphere, in both Pacific and now, with Irma, the open Atlantic," he added. "The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We're seeing them play out in real time, and the past two weeks have been a sadly vivid example."

Hardware

Can We Surpass Moore's Law With Reversible Computing? (ieee.org) 118

"It's not about an undo button," writes Slashdot reader marcle, sharing an article by a senior member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories who's studying advanced technologies for computation. "Just reading this story bends my mind." From IEEE Spectrum: [F]or several decades now, we have known that it's possible in principle to carry out any desired computation without losing information -- that is, in such a way that the computation could always be reversed to recover its earlier state. This idea of reversible computing goes to the very heart of thermodynamics and information theory, and indeed it is the only possible way within the laws of physics that we might be able to keep improving the cost and energy efficiency of general-purpose computing far into the future... Today's computers rely on erasing information all the time -- so much so that every single active logic gate in conventional designs destructively overwrites its previous output on every clock cycle, wasting the associated energy. A conventional computer is, essentially, an expensive electric heater that happens to perform a small amount of computation as a side effect...

[I]t's really hard to engineer a system that does something computationally interesting without inadvertently incurring a significant amount of entropy increase with each operation. But technology has improved, and the need to minimize energy use is now acute... In 2004 Krishna Natarajan (a student I was advising at the University of Florida) and I showed in detailed simulations that a new and simplified family of circuits for reversible computing called two-level adiabatic logic, or 2LAL, could dissipate as little as 1 eV of energy per transistor per cycle -- about 0.001 percent of the energy normally used by logic signals in that generation of CMOS. Still, a practical reversible computer has yet to be built using this or other approaches.

The article predicts "if we decide to blaze this new trail of reversible computing, we may continue to find ways to keep improving computation far into the future. Physics knows no upper limit on the amount of reversible computation that can be performed using a fixed amount of energy."

But it also predicts that "conventional semiconductor technology could grind to a halt soon. And if it does, the industry could stagnate... Even a quantum-computing breakthrough would only help to significantly speed up a few highly specialized classes of computations, not computing in general."
Earth

El Nino's Absence Is Causing An Active Hurricane Season (mercurynews.com) 148

Dan Drollette writes: Contrary to some items making the rounds of the Twitterverse, El Nino's are "Kryptonite for hurricanes." The Mercury News reports: "Irma has ripped a path of misery through the Caribbean and is aiming at Florida, but the first seed for its monster size and force was planted on the other side of the world more than six months ago. It happened innocently enough, when a widely anticipated El Nino failed to materialize over the Pacific Ocean. In time, that cleared a path for a hurricane to form in the Atlantic that grew to the size of the state of New York with winds topping 185 miles per hour. El Nino occurs when the Pacific heats up and flusters the atmosphere, setting off a chain reaction that causes wind shear across the Atlantic. Shear is wind blowing in different directions or speeds at various altitudes, and it can be Kryptonite for hurricanes. As powerful as they are, tropical cyclones have delicate structures. Shear can tear them apart. A budding storm can't get started and an established storm can't get strong."
Space

SpaceX Rocket Launches X-37B Space Plane On Secret Mission, Aces Landing (space.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The fifth mystery mission of the U.S. Air Force's X-37B space plane is now underway. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the robotic X-37B lifted off today (Sept. 7) at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. About 2.5 minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9's two stages separated. While the second stage continued hauling the X-37B to orbit, the first stage maneuvered its way back to Earth, eventually pulling off a vertical touchdown at Landing Zone 1, a SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is next door to KSC. The Air Force is known to possess two X-37Bs, both of which were built by Boeing. The uncrewed vehicles look like NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiters, but are much smaller; each X-37B is 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a payload bay the size of a pickup truck bed. For comparison, the space shuttles were 122 feet (37 m) long, with 78-foot (24 m) wingspans. Like the space shuttle, the X-37B launches vertically and comes to back to Earth horizontally, in a runway landing. Together, the two X-37Bs have completed four space missions, each of which has set a new duration standard for the program. Exactly what the X-37B did during those four missions, or what it will do during the newly launched OTV-5, is a mystery; most X-37B payloads and activities are classified.
Earth

Hurricane Irma Reaches 185 MPH, Trailing Only Allen As Strongest Atlantic Storm On Record (arstechnica.com) 318

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We are quickly running out of adjectives to describe the destructive potential of Hurricane Irma. As of 2pm ET on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm's sustained winds to 185mph. This is near-record speed for a storm in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Such high, sustained winds tie Irma for the second-strongest storm on record in the Atlantic, along with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Hurricane Gilbert (1998), and the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane. Only Hurricane Allen, which reached 190 mph in 1980 before striking a relatively unpopulated area of Texas, reached a higher wind speed. Globally, the all-time record for hurricanes is held by Patricia, which reached a staggering 215 mph in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Although sustained winds capture the most public attention, meteorologists generally measure the intensity of a storm based upon central pressures, which are considerably lower than sea-level pressure on Earth, 1,013 millibars. Typhoon Tip, in 1979, holds this record at 870 millibars. For now, at least, Irma has a relatively high central pressure of 927 millibars. Why the storm has such an odd wind-speed-pressure relationship isn't entirely clear. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to bring catastrophic winds and potential storm surges to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the UK territory of Turks and Caicos this week. The Florida Keys could get hit by late Saturday night or Sunday.
Businesses

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion In Solar, Battery Investment (arstechnica.com) 390

Socguy writes: After being unable to complete the Levy County Nuclear Plant a few years ago, Duke energy abandoned it, leaving rate payers on the hook. Duke is now in the process of settling legal action as a result. As part of the settlement Duke will construct or acquire 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area, construct 50MW of battery storage, undertake grid modernizations and install 530 electric car charging stations. "The Levy nuclear plant was proposed in 2008 and ran into hurdles early on," reports Ars Technica. "With cheap natural gas in 2013, Duke Energy Florida became nervous that it might not recuperate costs spent on the nuclear plant, especially with regulatory delays. The company cancelled its engineering and construction agreements in 2013 but said that it was holding open the possibility of returning to Levy someday. Over nine years, about $800 million had been spent on preparatory work for the plant. With Tuesday's announcement, those costs are sunk costs now. But overall, the changes will save residential customers future nuclear-related rate increases. Those customers will see a cost reduction of $2.50 per megawatt-hour (MWh) 'through the removal of unrecovered Levy Nuclear Project costs,' the utility said. The 700MW of solar won't exactly cover the nameplate capacity of the Levy plant, which was supposed to deliver 2.2 gigawatts to the region. But the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Duke 'is effectively giving up its long-held belief that nuclear power is a key component to its Florida future and, instead, making a dramatic shift toward more solar power.'"
Space

Converted Missile Launches Military Satellite to Track Spacecraft (space.com) 39

schwit1 was the first to share the news about Saturday's successful launch from Cape Canaveral: A satellite designed to help the U.S. military keep tabs on the ever-growing population of orbiting objects took to the skies atop a converted missile early Saturday morning. The Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) satellite lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 2:04 a.m. EDT (0604 GMT) atop an Orbital ATK Minotaur IV rocket, which carved a fiery orange arc into the sky as it rose... The first three stages of the Minotaur IV rocket are derived from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles... This morning's launch was the sixth for the Minotaur IV and the 26th overall for the Minotaur rocket family, which also includes the flight-proven Minotaur I, II and V vehicles.
The Orlando Sentinel notes it took place on "a long-dormant launch pad on the Space Coast...Launch Complex 46, which last hosted a rocket launch in 1999..."
Social Networks

Facebook Figured Out My Family Secrets, And It Won't Tell Me How (gizmodo.com) 281

Kashmir Hill, reporting for Gizmodo: Rebecca Porter and I were strangers, as far as I knew. Facebook, however, thought we might be connected. Her name popped up this summer on my list of "People You May Know," the social network's roster of potential new online friends for me. [...] She showed up on the list after about a month: an older woman, living in Ohio, with whom I had no Facebook friends in common. I did not recognize her, but her last name was familiar. My biological grandfather is a man I've never met, with the last name Porter, who abandoned my father when he was a baby. My father was adopted by a man whose last name was Hill, and he didn't find out about his biological father until adulthood. The Porter family lived in Ohio. Growing up half a country away, in Florida, I'd known these blood relatives were out there, but there was no reason to think I would ever meet them. A few years ago, my father eventually did meet his biological father, along with two uncles and an aunt, when they sought him out during a trip back to Ohio for his mother's funeral. None of them use Facebook. I sent the woman a Facebook message explaining the situation and asking if she was related to my biological grandfather. "Yes," she wrote back. Rebecca Porter, we discovered, is my great aunt, by marriage. She is married to my biological grandfather's brother; she met him 35 years ago, the year after I was born. Facebook knew my family tree better than I did "I didn't know about you," she told me, when we talked by phone. "I don't understand how Facebook made the connection." How Facebook had linked us remained hard to fathom. My father had met her husband in person that one time, after my grandmother's funeral. They exchanged emails, and my father had his number in his phone. But neither of them uses Facebook. Nor do the other people between me and Rebecca Porter on the family tree.

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