Power

No Fossil Fuel-Based Generation Was Added To US Grid Last Month (arstechnica.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the U.S., two types of electricity generation are on the rise: natural gas and renewables. If one of those is set to make a bigger mark than the other this year, it's natural gas: in 2018, natural gas-burning capacity is expected to outpace renewable capacity for the first time in five years, according to data from the Energy Information Agency. Although natural gas additions are expected to overtake renewable energy additions in 2018, forecasts for renewable energy additions to the grid roughly match what we saw in 2017. Natural gas is overtaking renewables not because renewable energy adoption is slowing, but more because natural gas facilities are seeing a considerable boom.

In fact, barring any changes in the EIA numbers, natural gas, wind, and solar generation are the only electricity generation sources that will be added to the U.S. grid in any consequential manner in 2018. Battery, hydroelectric, and biomass facilities make up the small percentage of "other" sources that are expected to come online this year. Renewable energy also started off the year strong. According to the EIA, "in February 2018, for the first time in decades, all of the new generating capacity coming online within a month were non-fossil-fueled. Of the 475 MW of capacity that came online in February, 81 percent was wind, 16 percent was solar photovoltaic, and the remaining 3 percent was hydro and biomass."

The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Giant Battery In Australia Reduced Grid Service Cost By 90 Percent (electrek.co) 251

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Electrek: Tesla's giant Powerpack battery in Australia has been in operation for about 6 months now and we are just starting to discover the magnitude of its impact on the local energy market. A new report now shows that it reduced the cost of the grid service that it performs by 90% and it has already taken a majority share of the market. It is so efficient that it reportedly should have made around $1 million in just a few days in January, but Tesla complained last month that they are not being paid correctly because the system doesn't account for how fast Tesla's Powerpacks start discharging their power into the grid.

The system is basically a victim of its own efficiency, which the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed is much more rapid, accurate and valuable than a conventional steam turbine in a report published last month. Now McKinsey and Co partner Godart van Gendt presented new data at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne this week and claimed that Tesla's battery has now taken over 55% of the frequency control and ancillary services (FCAS) services and reduced cost by 90%.
"In the first four months of operations of the Hornsdale Power Reserve (the official name of the Tesla big battery, owned and operated by Neoen), the frequency ancillary services prices went down by 90 percent, so that's 9-0 per cent," said Gendt via Reneweconomy. "And the 100MW battery has achieved over 55 percent of the FCAS revenues in South Australia. So it's 2 percent of the capacity in South Australia achieving 55 percent of the revenues in South Australia."
United States

US Cities Lose Tree Cover Just When They Need It Most (scientificamerican.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientific evidence that trees and green spaces are crucial to the well-being of people in urban areas has multiplied in recent decades. Conveniently, these findings have emerged just as Americans, already among the most urbanized people in the world, are increasingly choosing to live in cities. The problem -- partly as a result of that choice -- is that urban tree cover is now steadily declining across the U.S.

A study in the May issue of Urban Forestry & Urban Greening reports metropolitan areas are experiencing a net loss of about 36 million trees nationwide every year. That amounts to about 175,000 acres of tree cover, most of it in central city and suburban areas but also on the exurban fringes. This reduction, says lead author David Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), translates into an annual loss of about $96 million in benefits -- based, he says, on "only a few of the benefits that we know about." The economic calculation involves several such benefits that are relatively easy to express in dollar terms -- the capacity of trees to remove air pollution, sequester carbon, conserve energy by shading buildings and reduce power plant emissions.

Operating Systems

Fedora 28 Featuring GNOME 3.28 Released (betanews.com) 76

Following an official beta release, Fedora 28 has been released today. From a report: Fedora 28 has many new features, but one in particular will surely excite desktop/workstation users -- GNOME 3.28, which introduces Thunderbolt 3 support and improved laptop battery life. Fedora has long used GNOME as the default desktop environment, and best of all, it is mostly a stock affair -- no silly tweaks enabled by default. In other words, you get a very pure GNOME experience, making Fedora Workstation the preferred OS for many hardcore fans of the DE. "GNOME 3.28 adds the capability to favorite files, folders, and contacts for easier organization and access. Additionally, the new application Usage is included to help users more easily diagnose and resolve performance and capacity issues," says The Fedora Project.
Power

Tesla Batteries Retain Over 90 Percent Charging Power After 160,000 Miles, Survey Finds (engadget.com) 188

According to a survey of over 350 Tesla owners, Tesla batteries retain over 90 percent of their charging power after 160,000 miles. The EVs dropped only 5 percent of their capacity after 50,000 miles, but lose it at a much slower rate after that. Most Tesla vehicles will have over 90 percent of their charging power after around 185,000 miles, and 80 percent capacity after 500,000. Engadget reports: Tesla has no battery degradation warranty on its Model S and X luxury EVs, but guarantees that the Model 3 will retain 70 percent battery capacity after 120,000 miles (long-range battery) and 100,000 miles (shorter-range battery). That's a bit more generous than the one Nissan offers on the Leaf (66 percent over 100,000 miles) for instance. According to the survey data, Tesla will easily be able to meet this mark.
Power

White House Reportedly Exploring Wartime Rule To Help Coal, Nuclear (arstechnica.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: According to reports from Bloomberg and E&E News, the Trump Administration has been exploring another way to help coal and nuclear generators: the Defense Production Act of 1950. The Act was passed under President Truman. Motivated by the Korean War, it allows the president broad authority to boost U.S. industries that are considered a priority for national security. On Thursday, E&E News cited sources that said "an interagency process is underway" at the White House to examine possible application of the act to the energy industry. The goal would be to give some form of preference to coal and nuclear plants that are struggling to compete with cheap natural gas.

If the DOE decides not to invoke Section 202(c), the president may turn to the Defense Production Act. According to a 2014 summary report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the act would allow the president to "demand priority for defense-related products," "provide incentives to develop, modernize, and expand defense productive capacity," and establish "a voluntary reserve of trained private sector executives available for emergency federal employment," among other powers. (Some even more permissive applications of the Act were terminated in 1957.) Using the Act to protect coal and nuclear facilities would almost certainly be more controversial, as the link between national defense and keeping uneconomic coal generators running is not well-established.
The Administration could apply the Act to "provide or guarantee loans to industry" for material-specific deliveries and production. "The president may also authorize the purchase of 'industrial items or technologies for installation in government or private industrial facilities,'" reports Ars.
The Internet

The 'Terms and Conditions' Reckoning Is Coming (bloomberg.com) 129

Everyone from Uber to PayPal is facing a backlash against their impenetrable legalese. From a report: Personal finance forums online are brimming with complaints from hundreds of PayPal customers who say they've been suspended because they signed up before age 18. PayPal declined to comment on any specific cases, but says it's appropriate to close accounts created by underage people "to ensure our customers have full legal capacity to accept our user agreement." While that may seem "heavy-handed," says Sarah Kenshall, a technology attorney with law firm Burges Salmon, the company is within its rights because the users clicked to agree to the rules -- however difficult the language might be to understand.

Websites have long required users to plow through pages of dense legalese to use their services, knowing that few ever give the documents more than a cursory glance. In 2005 security-software provider PC Pitstop LLC promised a $1,000 prize to the first user to spot the offer deep in its terms and conditions; it took four months before the reward was claimed. The incomprehensibility of user agreements is poised to change as tech giants such as Uber Technologies and Facebook confront pushback for mishandling user information, and the European Union prepares to implement new privacy rules called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The measure underscores "the requirement for clear and plain language when explaining consent," British Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote on her blog last year.

Businesses

Tech Giants Like Amazon and Facebook Should Be Regulated, Disrupted, or Broken Up: Mozilla Foundation (venturebeat.com) 187

The Mozilla Foundation has called for the regulation of tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. From a report: Though tech giants in the U.S. and companies like Alibaba and Tencent in China have "helped billions realize the benefits of the internet," the report calls for regulation of these players to mitagate monopolistic business practices that undermine "privacy, openness, and competition on the web." They box out competitors, restricting innovation in the process, Mozilla wrote today in its inaugural Internet Health Report, "As their capacity to make sense of massive amounts of data grows through advances in artificial intelligence and quantum computing, their powers are likely to advance into adjacent businesses through vertical integrations into hardware, software, infrastructure, automobiles, media, insurance, and more -- unless we find a way to disrupt them or break them up." Governments should enforce anti-competitive behavior laws and rethink outdated antitrust models when implementing regulation of tech giants, the report states.
Businesses

SpaceX Can't Broadcast Earth Images Because of a Murky License (cnet.com) 177

Last Friday, SpaceX wasn't able to give its fans a view of the 10 new Iridium satellites it released into orbit from its Falcon 9 upper stage. Here's why. From a report: Weirdly, company engineers staffing the launch webcast blamed National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration restrictions for the blackout from the stage, a staple of most SpaceX launches. Well, at least those that don't involve deploying spy satellites or top-secret space planes. The story behind the missing live feed is a muddy bureaucratic affair. It appears that NOAA has recently decided to start interpreting or enforcing a decades-old law in a new way. The agency says SpaceX and other commercial space companies must apply for a license to broadcast video from orbit.

"The National and Commercial Space Program Act requires a commercial remote sensing license for companies having the capacity to take an image of Earth while on orbit," NOAA said in a statement last week. "Now that launch companies are putting video cameras on stage 2 rockets that reach an on-orbit status, all such launches will be held to the requirements of the law and its conditions."

Education

Schools Won't Like How Difficult the New iPad Is To Repair (ifixit.com) 172

Last week, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. iFixit has published its teardown of the device this morning, and as The Verge points out, schools won't like how difficult it is to repair. From the report: The takeaway from all this is that the new iPad isn't going to be any easier to repair than prior generations, which were already borderline unrepairable. If an iPad breaks, there's almost no chance that a district will be able to repair it in-house; whereas on cheaper Chromebooks, there's a possibility an IT team could open them up to make some basic fixes. It's a weak point that it's hard to see Apple ever addressing. And since schools aren't exactly forgiving environments for a lent-out device, how well the iPad holds up to drops and dings, and how expensive it is to fix, are bound to be factors in a school's decision on which devices to adopt. Mac Rumors highlights the key findings from iFixit's teardown: The new iPad's lack of waterproofing, non-replaceable charging port, zero upgradeability, and use of glue throughout the internals added up to a "repair nightmare." iFixit then pointed towards the HP Elite x2 1012 G1 tablet, which got a perfect repairability score of 10 out of 10, summarizing that "Apple's 'education' iPad is still a case of won't -- not can't." One of the iPad's advantages in terms of repairability comes in the form of its digitizer panel easily separating from the display. iFixit pointed out that in the event that either component should break, repair will be easier for schools and educators. The sixth-gen iPad has the same battery as the previous model, with 32.9 Wh capacity. iFixit noted that while this allows Apple to reuse existing manufacturing lines to reduce waste, the battery is still locked behind a "repair-impeding adhesive" that greatly reduced the iPad's repairability score. Apple has provided easy battery removal before, in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but iFixit hasn't seen anything like it since. Ultimately, iFixit gave the 2018 iPad a repairability score of 2 out of 10, favoring the fairly easy repair options of its air-gapped, non-fused display and digitizer glass, but taking marks off for its heavy use of adhesive and sticky tape.
Bug

Half of European Flights Delayed Due To System Failure (bbc.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The organization responsible for co-ordinating European air traffic says it has fixed an earlier fault which led to widespread flight delays. Eurocontrol earlier said that delays could affect up to half of all flights in Europe -- about 15,000 trips. It said the faulty system was restarted at 19:00 GMT, and normal operations had resumed. Tuesday's fault was only the second failure in 20 years, Eurocontrol said -- the last happened in 2001. The unspecified problem was with the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System, which helps to manage air traffic by comparing demand and capacity of different air traffic control sectors. It manages up to 36,000 flights a day. Some 29,500 were scheduled on Tuesday when the fault occurred. When the system failed, Eurocontrol's contingency plan for a failure in the system deliberately reduced the capacity of the entire European network by 10%. It also added what it calls "predetermined departure intervals" at major airports.
Businesses

Comcast Supports Ban On Paid Prioritization, Except For 'Specialized Services' (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast would support a ban on paid prioritization as long as there is an exception for "specialized services" that benefit consumers, a company executive said this week. Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen, who is generally the public face in Comcast's dealings with government policymakers, spoke about paid prioritization at the Free State Foundation's Telecom Policy Conference on Tuesday. (Video available on C-SPAN's website; the segment begins at 2:20.) "How about if we agree to a prohibition on paid prioritization and we have a limited exception created in some way for this concept of specialized services," Cohen said.

Cohen's suggestion of a paid-prioritization ban with an exception for specialized services is similar to an early version of net neutrality rules that was passed in 2010 but thrown out in court in 2014. (The FCC was able to impose stricter net neutrality rules in 2015; that's the set of rules that is being thrown out by the current FCC.) The FCC in 2010 said that specialized services may share capacity with broadband networks but wouldn't be the same as regular broadband. There has never been a great definition of the term, but the 2010 FCC said that broadband providers' facilities-based VoIP and Internet Protocol-video offerings would be included. These services "differ from broadband Internet access service and may drive additional private investment in broadband networks and provide end users valued services, supplementing the benefits of the open Internet," the FCC said at the time. Under the 2010 rules, ISPs could have charged other companies for the right to offer specialized services over broadband networks. Cohen didn't say exactly what types of future services should be covered by an exemption for specialized services. But the services may come along soon enough, he said. "There is a recognition that something might come along that is not anti-competitive, that is pro-consumer, that is a specialized service available not to every user of the Internet, [and] that would be in consumers' interests and in the public interest," Cohen said.

AT&T

AT&T/Verizon Lobbyists To 'Aggressively' Sue States That Enact Net Neutrality (arstechnica.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A lobby group that represents AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos plans to sue states and cities that try to enforce net neutrality rules. USTelecom, the lobby group, made its intentions clear yesterday in a blog post titled, "All Americans Deserve Equal Rights Online." "Broadband providers have worked hard over the past 20 years to deploy ever more sophisticated, faster and higher-capacity networks, and uphold net neutrality protections for all," USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter wrote. "To continue this important work, there is no question we will aggressively challenge state or municipal attempts to fracture the federal regulatory structure that made all this progress possible." The USTelecom board of directors includes AT&T, Verizon, Frontier, CenturyLink, Windstream, and other telcos. The group's membership "ranges from the nation's largest telecom companies to small rural cooperatives."
Data Storage

Wind and Solar Can Power Most of the United States, Says Study (theguardian.com) 417

An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian reports of a recent paper, published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, that helps explain how wind and solar energy can power most of the United States: "The authors analyzed 36 years of hourly weather data (1980-2015) in the U.S. They calculated the available wind and solar power over this time period and also included the electrical demand in the U.S. and its variation throughout the year. With this information, the researchers considered two scenarios. In scenario 1, they imagined wind and solar installations that would be sufficient to supply 100% of the U.S. electrical needs. In the second scenario, the installations would be over-designed; capable of providing 150% of the total U.S. electrical need. But the authors recognize that just because a solar panel or a wind turbine can provide all our energy, it doesn't mean that will happen in reality. It goes back to the prior discussion that sometimes the wind just doesn't blow, and sometimes the sun isn't shining. With these two scenarios, the authors then considered different mixes of power, from all solar to all wind. They also included the effect of aggregation area, that is, what sized regions are used to generate power. Is your power coming from wind and solar in your neighborhood, your city, your state or your region?

The authors found that with 100% power capacity and no mechanism to store energy, a wind-heavy portfolio is best (about 75% wind, 25% solar) and using large aggregate regions is optimal. It is possible to supply about 75-80% of U.S. electrical needs. If the system were designed with excess capacity (the 150% case), the U.S. could meet about 90% of its needs with wind and solar power. The authors modified their study to allow up to 12 hours of US energy storage. They then found that the 100% capacity system fared even better (about 90% of the country's energy) and the optimal balance was now more solar (approximately 70% solar and 30% wind). For the over-capacity system, the authors found that virtually all the country's power needs could be met with wind, solar, and storage."

Transportation

Elon Musk Slows Tesla Deliveries On 'Dangerous' Trucks (electrek.co) 129

An anonymous reader quotes Electrek: Tesla is always very busy in Norway, its biggest market per capita, but it has recently been difficult for the automaker to deliver its vehicles as its shipments keep being taken off the road for using transporters with "dangerous" trucks that do not conform to the rules. The California-based automaker generally ships its vehicles to Norway through the port of Drammen, but it is experiencing capacity issues so they are instead going through Gothenburg port and having to use more trucks to move the cars to its stores and service centers.

According to several media reports in Norway, over half a dozen of those trucks have been stopped by the authorities for a variety of safety reasons during inspections and one of the trucks that wasn't stopped ended up in an accident. Two Model S vehicles were crushed on the trailer involved in the accident. Tesla says that it is having difficulties finding competent transporters that comply to Norway's road requirements. On top of the safety issues, Tesla is also using transporters operating Euro 3 class trucks, which are more polluting.

Elon Musk tweeted in response to the article that "I have just asked our team to slow down deliveries.

"It is clear that we are exceeding the local logistics capacity due to batch build and delivery. Customer happiness & safety matter more than a few extra cars this quarter."
AMD

Linux Mint Ditches AMD For Intel With New Mintbox Mini 2 (betanews.com) 46

An anonymous reader writes: Makers of Mint Box, a diminutive desktop which runs Linux Mint -- an Ubuntu-based OS, on Friday announced the Mintbox Mini 2. While the new model has several new aspects, the most significant is that the Linux Mint Team has switched from AMD to Intel (the original Mini used an A4-Micro 6400T). For $299, the Mintbox Mini 2 comes with a quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 60GB SSD. For $50 more you can opt for the "Pro" model which doubles the RAM to 8GB and increases the SSD capacity to 120GB. Graphics are fairly anemic, as it uses integrated Intel HD 500, but come on -- you shouldn't expect to game with this thing. For video connectivity, you get both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort. Both can push 4K, and while the mini DP port can do 60Hz, the HDMI is limited to 30.
Transportation

New York's Subway Is Slow Because They Slowed Down the Trains After A 1995 Accident 154

According to the Village Voice, New York City's subway trains are running slower because the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is deliberately running the trains slower. The Village Voice obtained MTA internal documents, discovering that the decision to run the trains slower was made following a fatal 1995 crash on the Williamsburg Bridge. From the report: The subway's performance has been steadily deteriorating for many years. The authority's own internal data shows that delays due to "incidents," such as broken signals and tracks or water damage, have only marginally increased since 2012. But there is one type of delay that's gotten exponentially worse during that time: a catchall category blandly titled "insufficient capacity, excess dwell, unknown," which captures every delay without an obvious cause. From January 2012 to December 2017, these delays increased by a whopping 1,190 percent -- from 105 per weekday to 1,355. In December, one out of every six trains run across the entire system experienced such a delay. The increase has been steady and uninterrupted over the past six years.
[...]
In 1995, a Manhattan-bound J train crossing the Williamsburg Bridge rear-ended an M train that was stopped on the bridge, killing the J train operator and injuring more than fifty passengers. The National Transportation and Safety Board investigation placed most of the blame on the J train operator, who the NTSB suspected had been asleep. But the NTSB also identified potential issues with the signal system that contributed to the accident, which it found didn't guarantee train operators enough time to apply the emergency brakes even when awake. "They slowed the trains down after the Williamsburg Bridge crash," a veteran train operator who asked not to be identified told the Village Voice. "The MTA said the train was going too fast for the signal system." As a result, the MTA, quite literally, slowed all the trains down, issuing a bulletin informing employees in April 1996 that their propulsion systems would be modified so they could achieve a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, down from the previous high of 50 to 55 miles per hour on a flat grade. But the MTA didn't stop there, internal documents show. One of the NTSB's safety recommendations was to set speed limits. As a result, the MTA began a still-ongoing process of changing the way many signals work to meet modern safety standards.
Intel

Intel Launches Mainstream Optane SSD 800P Series Based On 3D Xpoint Memory (hothardware.com) 36

MojoKid writes: Intel just launched a new family of consumer-targeted Optane solid state drives today, dubbed the Intel Optane SSD 800P. Unlike Intel Optane Memory sticks, which accelerate hybrid storage configurations with hard drives through intelligent data caching, or Intel's flagship Optane SSD 900P that's aimed squarely at hardcore enthusiasts with big budgets, these M.2 form factor Intel Optane 800P SSDs target the meat of the mobile and desktop markets, with higher capacities than Optane Memory but more affordable pricing than the 900P. In the benchmarks, the Optane SSD 800P series drives offered a mixed-bag of performance, with sequential transfers that top out at about 1.4GB/s, but with small file transfers, 4K random and mixed workloads, latency, and overall QoS looking strong. Intel will initially be offering two drives in the Optane SSD 800P series, with M.2 80mm 58GB and 118GB models. Suggested pricing for the drives is $129 for the 58GB capacity and $199 for the 118GB drive.
Security

GitHub Survived the Biggest DDoS Attack Ever Recorded (wired.com) 144

A 1.35 terabit-per-second DDoS attack hit GitHub all at once last Wednesday. "It was the most powerful distributed denial of service attack recorded to date -- and it used an increasingly popular DDoS method, no botnet required," reports Wired. From the report: GitHub briefly struggled with intermittent outages as a digital system assessed the situation. Within 10 minutes it had automatically called for help from its DDoS mitigation service, Akamai Prolexic. Prolexic took over as an intermediary, routing all the traffic coming into and out of GitHub, and sent the data through its scrubbing centers to weed out and block malicious packets. After eight minutes, attackers relented and the assault dropped off. "We modeled our capacity based on fives times the biggest attack that the internet has ever seen," Josh Shaul, vice president of web security at Akamai told WIRED hours after the GitHub attack ended. "So I would have been certain that we could handle 1.3 Tbps, but at the same time we never had a terabit and a half come in all at once. It's one thing to have the confidence. It's another thing to see it actually play out how you'd hope."

Akamai defended against the attack in a number of ways. In addition to Prolexic's general DDoS defense infrastructure, the firm had also recently implemented specific mitigations for a type of DDoS attack stemming from so-called memcached servers. These database caching systems work to speed networks and websites, but they aren't meant to be exposed on the public internet; anyone can query them, and they'll likewise respond to anyone. About 100,000 memcached servers, mostly owned by businesses and other institutions, currently sit exposed online with no authentication protection, meaning an attacker can access them, and send them a special command packet that the server will respond to with a much larger reply.

Communications

Signal, WhatsApp Co-Founder Launch 'Open Source Privacy Technology' Nonprofit (thenextweb.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes The Next Web:One of the first messaging services to offer end-to-end encryption for truly private conversations, Signal has largely been developed by a team that's never grown larger than three full-time developers over the years it's been around. Now, it's getting a shot in the arm from the co-founder of a rival app. Brian Acton, who built WhatsApp with Jan Koum into a $19 billion business and sold it to Facebook, is pouring $50 million into an initiative to support the ongoing development of Signal. Having left WhatsApp last fall, he's now free to explore projects whose ideals he agrees with, and that includes creating truly private online services.
"Starting with an initial $50,000,000 in funding, we can now increase the size of our team, our capacity, and our ambitions," wrote Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike (a former Twitter executive).

Acton will now also serve as the executive chairman of the newly-formed Signal Foundation, which according to its web site will "develop open source privacy technology that protects free expression and enables secure global communication."

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