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Government

DC Metro Closes For Emergency Safety Inspection (nbcwashington.com) 110

McGruber writes with NBC's report that Washington, DC's Metrorail system has been completely shut down for at least 29 hours, so crews can check 600 underground jumper cables: A problem with those jumper cables caused a fire at the McPherson Square station early Monday and was also the cause of a fatal smoke incident in January, 2015, that killed one person and injured others. The safety checks could have been delayed until the weekend or conducted at night over about six days, officials said. But if the system were kept open, a public announcement about the risk would have to be made. That would have put passengers, and Metro, in the awkward position of publicly acknowledging that it was operating despite being aware of a potentially deadly safety problem. Metro also would have been liable in the case of any crashes or calamities. The shutdown prompted the Washington Post to publish an editorial titled It's official: Metro is a national embarrassment."
Communications

Laser System Set To Revolutionize Future Aircraft, Satellite Data Links (thestack.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: A new laser system, dubbed HYPERION, promises to improve the transmission of data from aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and orbiting satellites to ground stations. The optical system, developed by a team of Innovate UK researchers, has been designed to send critical information more securely, rapidly and efficiently than traditional radio frequency (RF) methods. Suggested applications for HYPERION include helping UAVs involved in disaster monitoring and other humanitarian projects to quickly offload detailed data back to the ground for analysis. The system could also be applied in future airline systems to transmit vast amounts of technical data collected by on-board sensors to ground stations — a process which could help speed up maintenance procedures and significantly cut turnaround times.
Security

FTC Demands Info From PCI Auditors On Breached Companies' Compliance 101

Trailrunner7 writes: The Federal Trade Commission has sent an order to nine of the larger companies that do PCI DSS assessments, demanding that the organizations turn over detailed information on how they conduct those audits, how often they actually declare a company non-compliant, and many other details. The FTC on Monday said it has sent orders to nine of these companies, including Mandiant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Verizon Enterprise Solutions, requiring that they provide details of how they handle those assessments. Specifically, the FTC is very interested in how many companies were deemed PCI compliant in the year before they suffered a data breach. Many companies that have been victims of data breaches over the years have touted the fact that they were PCI compliant at the time of their breaches. This has not escaped the FTC's notice
Bitcoin

Incident Raises Concerns About a More Formal Spec For Bitcoin 80

An anonymous reader writes: Aberrant treatment of transactions by Bitcoin miners has renewed concerns that Bitcoin as a protocol may need a stronger specification. OpenBSD savior and Bitcoin entrepreneur Mircea Popescu raised this issue back in 2013 that the current attitude of "the code is the spec" was introducing fragility and harming Bitcoin's vital decentralization. While a lot of fuss has been made about the maximum blocksize, perhaps formalizing the protocol and breaking the current mining cartel is a more urgent and serious problem. The debate going on resurrects many of Datskovskiy's early concerns about Bitcoin's fragility including mining as a necessary bug, but a bug nonetheless.
Crime

Security Talent Shortage Hits Cybercrime Groups, Too (csoonline.com) 40

itwbennett writes: A report released today by Digital Shadows finds that cybercrime organizations "face many of the same hiring problems as defending security organizations, but with their own particular twists," writes Maria Korolov. In particular, the groups are finding a shortage of qualified candidates for jobs such as malware writers, exploit developers, bot net operators, and mules. But, unlike legitimate organizations, "cybercriminals are limited in their ability to properly vet new hires, to widely advertise for needed talent, and to find people who are both trustworthy and are willing to break the law," writes Korolov. One thing the criminals have in common with defending organizations: entry-level skills are the easiest to find. This is one reason why many attackers use simple tools and attack methods.
AI

Mercedes-Benz Swaps Robots For People On Assembly Lines (theguardian.com) 156

The usual narrative in the last few years is that robots relentlessly displace humans in today's highly mechanized workplaces (like factories and mines), but sometimes robots' speed and dexterity can't overcome their basic problem -- namely, they're robots. Reader jones_supa writes with this story from The Guardian about why robots aren't always the right tool, excerpting: Bucking modern manufacturing trends, carmaker Mercedes-Benz has been forced to trade in some of its assembly line robots for more flexible humans. The robots cannot handle the pace of change and the complexity of the key customization options available for the company's S-Class saloon at the 101-year-old Sindelfingen plant, which produces 400,000 vehicles a year from 1,500 tons of steel a day. The dizzying number of options for the cars – from heated or cooled cup holders, various wheels, carbon-fibre trims and decals, and even four types of caps for tire valves – demand adaptability, a quality that is still more easily fulfilled by humans than robots.
Businesses

How the Cloud Has Changed (Since Last You Looked) 86

snydeq writes: InfoWorld's Peter Wayner takes a look at the new services and pricing models that are making cloud computing more powerful, complex, and cheaper than it was a few short years ago. 'We get more, but using it isn't always as simple as it could be. Sure, you still end up on root on some box that's probably running Linux, but getting the right performance out of that machine is more complex,' Wayner writes. "But the real fun comes when you try to figure out how to pay for your planned cloud deployment because there are more options than ever. ... In some cases, the cost engineering can be more complex than the software engineering."
Build

Where Are the Raspberry Pi Zeros? (i-programmer.info) 111

mikejuk writes: The Pi Zero was supposed to be available from November 26, 2015. It is now the start of February and all of the stockists, including the Pi Swag Shop, are still showing out of stock. That's two whole months, and counting, of restricted supply which is more than an initial hiccup. Of course you would expect enough to be made available initially to meet the expected demand. The Pi sells something in the region of 200,000 per month so what do you think the initial run of the Pi Zero actually was? The answer is 20,000 units. Of which 10,000 were stuck to the cover of MagPi and "given away" leaving just 10,000 in the usual distribution channels. And yet Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, commented: "You'd think we'd be used to it by now, but we're always amazed by the level of interest in new Raspberry Pi products," Well yes, you really would think that they might be used to it by now and perhaps even prepared for it. At the time of writing the Pi Zero is still out of stock and when it is briefly in stock customers are limited to one unit.
A victim of its own success, yes, but the real victims are the Raspberry Pi's competitors.

Google

For Data Centers, Google Likes the Southeast (datacenterfrontier.com) 63

1sockchuck writes: With new construction projects underway in Alabama and Tennessee, Google will soon have 5 of its 8 company-built U.S. data center campuses located in the Southeast. The strategy is unique among major cloud players, who typically have server farms on each coast, plus one in the heartland. Is Google's focus on the Southeast a leading indicator of future data center development in the region? Or is it simply a case of a savvy player unearthing unique retrofit opportunities that may not work for other cloud builders?
Businesses

Uber Scaling Up Its Data Center Infrastructure (datacenterfrontier.com) 33

1sockchuck writes: Connected cars generate a lot of data. That's translating into big business for data center providers, as evidenced by a major data center expansion by Uber, which needs more storage and compute power to support its global data platform. Uber drivers' mobile phones send location updates every 4 seconds, which is why the design goal for Uber's geospatial index is to handle a million writes per second. It's a reminder that as our cars become mini data centers, the data isn't staying onboard, but will also be offloaded to the data centers of automakers and software companies.
AI

Experiment On Public Pre-reviewing and Discussion of Workshop Paper Submissions (reddit.com) 41

An anonymous reader writes: The ADAPT workshop (6th international workshop on adaptive, self-tuning computing systems) is trying a new publication model: all papers have been submitted via Arxiv, are now publicly discussed via Reddit, and will then be selected by a Program Committee for a presentation at the workshop. The idea is to speed up dissemination of novel ideas while making reviews more fair and letting the authors actively engage in discussions, defend their techniques, fix mistakes and eventually improve their open articles.
Books

Ask Slashdot: An 'Ex Libris' For My Books In a Digital Age? 149

New submitter smalgin writes: While I cannot boast an extensive library, it keeps growing every week. I share the books I like the most with my friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, some of them are sloppy and forget to return my books, so to speak. I would like to put some mark, sticker or a stamp (Ex Libris) on my books to make them recognizable later. However, living in a digital age (blah blah yada yada) I cannot help but wonder how I could improve the ex libris beyond an ink stamp on a title page or a glued-on postcard-sized monstrosity some libraries use. Has anyone tried using RFIDs to identify his books? Please share your experience.
Security

W3C Sets Up Web Payments Standards Group To Improve Check-Out Security 30

campuscodi writes to note that the World Wide Web Consortium has launched a Working Group to help streamline the online "check-out" process and make payment by internet easier and more secure. The proposed standards will support a wide array of existing and future payment methods, including debit, credit, mobile payment systems, escrow, and Bitcoin and other distributed ledger technologies. The group estimates that the new payments API will reach browsers by the end of 2017. For more details, you can consult the Web Payments Working Group Charter, and the group's wiki FAQ page.
Businesses

Walmart Plays Catch-Up With Amazon 203

HughPickens.com writes: According to James B. Stewart in the NY Times, for the past 16 years Walmart has often acted as though it hoped Amazon would just go away. When Walmart announced last week that it was significantly increasing its investment in e-commerce, it tacitly acknowledged that it had fallen far behind Amazon in the race for online customers. Now, the magnitude of the task it faces has grown exponentially as e-commerce growth continues to surge globally. "Walmart.com has been severely mismanaged," says Burt P. Flickinger III. "Walmart would go a few years and invest strategically and significantly in e-commerce, then other years it wouldn't.Meanwhile, Amazon is making moves in e-commerce that's put Walmart so far behind that it might not be able to catch up for 10 more years, if ever."

In 1999, Amazon was a fledgling company with annual revenue of $1.6 billion; Walmart's was about $138 billion. By last year, Amazon's revenue was about 54 times what it was in 1999, nearly $89 billion, almost all of it from online sales. Walmart's was about three times what it was 15 years before, almost $486 billion, and only a small fraction of that — 2.5 percent, or $12.2 billion — came from Walmart.com. Walmart's superefficient distribution system — a function of its enormous volume and geographic reach — was long the secret to Walmart's immense profitability. Ravi Jariwala, a Walmart spokesman, says that Walmart is building vast new fulfillment centers and is rapidly enhancing its delivery capabilities to take advantage of its extensive store network to provide convenient in-store pickup and adds that 70 percent of the American population lives within five miles of a Walmart store. "This is where e-commerce is headed," says Jariwala, which is to a hybrid online/in-store model. "Customers want the accessibility and immediacy of a physical store," along with the benefits of online shopping.
Data Storage

Not Just Paris: Community Activists Target Data Centers (datacenterfrontier.com) 151

1sockchuck writes: This week's case in which a Paris data center lost its license isn't an isolated incident, but the latest in a series of disputes in which community groups have fought data center projects, citing objections to generators or power lines. Data center site selection is often a secretive process, with cloud builders using codenames to cloak their identity. Community groups are using social media, blogs, research and media outreach to bring public attention to the process and voice their concerns. Protests from a Delaware group led to the cancellation of a data center project that planned to build a cogeneration plant. In Virginia, a coalition has organized to oppose a power line for an Amazon Web Services data center. Everyone wants their Internet, just not in their backyard.

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