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Space

Japan's Space Agency Loses Contact With New X-Ray Telescope Satellite "Hitomi" 77

As carried here by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press reports that Japanese space agency JAXA reports that it has lost contact with its new satellite "Hitomi," deployed last month and designed to explore deep space with X-ray telescopes. The AP story linked quotes Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who surmises that an "energetic event" has sent the craft into a tumble. The agency's release on the failure is terse, but leaves some room for hope: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) found that communication with the X-ray Astronomy Satellite âoeHitomiâ (ASTRO-H), launched on February 17, 2016 (JST), failed from the start of its operation originally scheduled at 16:40, Saturday March 26 (JST). Up to now, JAXA has not been able to figure out the state of health of the satellite. While the cause of communication failure is under investigation, JAXA received short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery.
Data Storage

Google-Backed SSD Endurance Research Shows MLC Flash As Reliable As SLC (hothardware.com) 62

MojoKid writes: Even for mainstream users, it's easy to feel the differences between using a PC that has an OS installed on a solid state drive versus a mechanical hard drive. Also, with SSD pricing where it is right now, it's also easy to justify including one in a new configuration for the speed boost. And there's obvious benefit in the enterprise and data center for both performance and durability. As you might expect, Google has chewed through a healthy pile of SSDs in its data centers over the years and the company appears to have been one of the first to deploy SSDs in production at scale. New research results Google is sharing via a joint research project now encompasses SSD use over a six year span at one of Google's data centers. Looking over the results led to some expected and unexpected findings. One of the biggest discoveries is that SLC-based SSDs are not necessarily more reliable than MLC-based drives. This is surprising, as SLC SSDs carry a price premium with the promise of higher durability (specifically in write operations) as one of their selling points. It will come as no surprise that there are trade-offs of both SSDs and mechanical drives, but ultimately, the benefits SSDs offer often far outweigh the benefits of mechanical HDDs.
Data Storage

Backblaze Dishes On Drive Reliability In their 50k+ Disk Data Center 145

Online backup provider Backblaze runs hard drives from several manufacturers in its data center (56,224, they say, by the end of 2015), and as you'd expect, the company keeps its eye on how well they work. Yesterday they published a stats-heavy look at the performance, and especially the reliability, of all those drives, which makes fun reading, even if you're only running a drive or ten at home. One upshot: they buy a lot of Seagate drives. Why? A relevant observation from our Operations team on the Seagate drives is that they generally signal their impending failure via their SMART stats. Since we monitor several SMART stats, we are often warned of trouble before a pending failure and can take appropriate action. Drive failures from the other manufacturers appear to be less predictable via SMART stats.
The Military

North Korea's Satellite Tumbling In Orbit 257

schwit1 writes: U.S. Defense officials stated Tuesday that the satellite that North Korea launched on Sunday is now tumbling in orbit and is useless. Do not take comfort from this failure. North Korea has demonstrated that it can put payloads in orbit. From this achievement it is a very short leap to aiming those payloads to impact any continent on Earth. They might not be able to aim that impact very accurately, but if you want to ignite an atomic bomb somewhere, you don't have to be very accurate.
Bug

Have Your iPhone 6 Repaired, Only To Get It Bricked By Apple (theguardian.com) 410

New submitter Nemosoft Unv. writes: In case you had a problem with the fingerprint sensor or some other small defect on your iPhone 6 and had it repaired by a non-official (read: cheaper) shop, you may be in for a nasty surprise: error 53. What happens is that during an OS update or re-install the software checks the internal hardware and if it detects a non-Apple component, it will display an error 53 and brick your phone. Any photos or other data held on the handset is lost – and irretrievable. Thousands of people have flocked to forums to express their dismay at this. What's more insiduous is that the error may only appear weeks or months after the repair. Incredibly, Apple says this cannot be fixed by any hard- or software update, while it is clearly their software that causes the problem in the first place. And then you thought FTDI was being nasty ...
Bug

IRS Computer Problems Shut Down Tax Return E-file System (foxnews.com) 176

Mr.Intel writes: The IRS stopped accepting electronically filed tax returns Wednesday because of problems with some of its computer systems. The outage could affect refunds, but the agency said it doesn't anticipate "major disruptions." A "hardware failure" forced the shutdown of several tax processing systems, including the e-file system, the IRS said in a statement. The IRS.gov website remains available, but "where's my refund" and other services are not working. Some systems will be out of service at least until Thursday, the agency said. "The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible," the IRS said.
Government

Satellite Failure Behind GPS Timing Anomaly (itnews.com.au) 62

Bismillah writes: The recent 13-microsecond timing anomaly was caused by a satellite failure triggering a "software issue", the USAF 50th Space Wing has confirmed. Such an error is large enough to cause navigation errors of up to 4 km. Luckily, no issues with GPS guided munition were reported. Reader donaggie03 adds a link to the official explanation from Rick Hamilton, Executive Secretariat of the Civil Global Positioning System Service Interface Committee. From Hamilton's email: Further investigation revealed an issue in the Global Positioning System ground software which only affected the time on legacy L-band signals. This change occurred when the oldest vehicle, SVN 23, was removed from the constellation. While the core navigation systems were working normally, the coordinated universal time timing signal was off by 13 microseconds which exceeded the design specifications. The issue was resolved at 6:10 a.m. MST, however global users may have experienced GPS timing issues for several hours.
NASA

30 Years Since The Challenger Disaster: Where Were You? (space.com) 320

Martin S. writes: Thirty years ago today, NASA suffered a spaceflight tragedy that stunned the world and changed the agency forever. When I mentioned this at work most of my colleagues are too young to remember this first hand. When I heard the news, I was in a middle-school science class; our teacher walked us solemnly over to the school library, where we watched the television news. It hit especially hard because one of our other teachers had pursued the slot that was eventually filled by Christa McAuliffe.
Open Source

GitHub Service Outage (github.com) 117

New submitter thebigjeff writes: Beginning at around 7:30pm EST on 1/27/2016, GitHub's core services have been offline. Most repositories and other functionality is inaccessible. The status page is calling it a "significant network disruption." More from The Register: GitHub falls offline, devs worldwide declare today a snow day.
Bug

Search Suggestions Causing Apple's Safari Browser To Crash on Many Devices (theverge.com) 83

An anonymous reader writes: According to the Verge (and my wife) Apple Safari browsers are crashing left, right, and center due to Safari's search suggestions feature. "Simply disabling this feature will stop Safari crashing, or using the private mode option in the browser as a temporary workaround. Not everyone is affected, and this could be because some have the search suggestions cached locally or they're still able to reach Apple's servers thanks to a DNS cache."
The Military

US Navy's $700 Million Mine-drone Won't Hunt (cnn.com) 92

New submitter ripvlan writes: CNN reports that a $700 million mine hunting system created by Lockheed Martin doesn't perform as expected. From the article: "The Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for the Navy's new littoral combat ship. But the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014. ... In theory, the drone is deployed from the LCS towing sonar detection into suspected underwater minefields. The drone should then identify mines and communicate information about their whereabouts to the ship in real time so the explosives can be avoided or destroyed. But the program has come under fire from lawmakers after a series of testing failures, including continued performance issues and "RMS mission package integration challenges," according to the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation's 2014 annual report."
Facebook

Facebook Shuts Down Creative Labs (cnet.com) 62

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook has shut down Creative Labs and has pulled several apps developed there, namely Slingshot, Riff, and Rooms, from the app store. Creative labs was launched two years ago but few of the apps produced caught on with consumers. CNET reports: "Facebook is famous for its mantra 'Move fast and break things.' The company decided some of these initiatives had, in fact, failed to gain traction and is shutting them down. The move marks a turning point for Facebook's app ambitions as it focuses on other areas of innovation. It's still building artificial-intelligence technology, drones to beam Internet signals to far-flung parts of the world and virtual-reality goggles. The company has also been steadily adding features to its primary social-networking service, such as live streaming and 360-degree videos."
Transportation

Parts of Falcon 9 Launcher Wash Ashore In England (bbc.co.uk) 20

RockDoctor writes with news as reported by the BBC that parts of a Falcon 9 launcher have washed ashore on the Isles of Scilly off the SW coast of Britain. Early impressions are that the pieces are from the failed Falcon 9 ISS launch which exploded after take-off in June. That's not the only possibility, though; according to the article, However Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said many experts believed, due to the size and markings which have now been revealed, it was from a different mission. "All the geeks have been getting together and looking at fine details, and we're pretty sure it's a launch from September 2014 that successfully sent a cargo mission to the space station. "It didn't look like an exploded rocket to me, it looked like a fairly normal piece of space junk when the lower stage of a rocket falls from a hundred miles up and hits the ocean. Large sections can remain in tact and it's really quite normal," he said.
Microsoft

Microsoft Kills Off Zune Music Service (networkworld.com) 66

alphadogg writes: It's one of those "You mean it was still alive?" moments: Microsoft today officially has killed off its Zune music streaming and download service. The company notified users in September that Zune services would be retired on Nov. 15. Microsoft has been phasing out its Zune brand for some time now, with Zune music service being morphed into Xbox music and then Groove music. Devices were discontinued in 2011.
United States

US Spends $1bn Over a Decade Trying To Digitize Immigration Forms, Just 1 Is Online (washingtonpost.com) 305

Bruce66423 writes: A government project to digitize immigration forms succeeded in enabling exactly one application to be completed and submitted after 10 years of work because of the botched software and implementation. The Washington Post reports: "This project, run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, was originally supposed to cost a half-billion dollars and be finished in 2013. Instead, it’s now projected to reach up to $3.1 billion and be done nearly four years from now, putting in jeopardy efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies, handle immigrants already seeking citizenship and detect national security threats, according to documents and interviews with former and current federal officials."

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