posted less than an hour ago on slashdot
This week finally saw the federal sentencing of a former Yahoo software engineer who "admitted to using his access through his work at the company to hack into about 6,000 Yahoo accounts" back in 2018, according to America's Department of Justice: Ruiz admitted to targeting accounts belonging to younger women, including his personal friends and work colleagues. He made copies of images and videos that he found in the personal accounts without permission, and stored the data at his home. Once he had access to the Yahoo accounts, Ruiz admitted to compromising the iCloud, Facebook, Gmail, DropBox, and other online accounts of the Yahoo users in search of more private images and videos. After his employer observed the suspicious account activity, Ruiz admitted to destroying the computer and hard drive on which he stored the images. He stopped working at Yahoo in July of 2018. The next month the FBI visited his home. He was indicted in April of 2019 and pleaded guilty in September — facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But it was not until this week that a federal court finally handed down its sentence for the "former Yahoo! engineer who hacked 6,000 accounts on a hunt for private sexual videos and pictures," according to one Bay Area newspaper. The sentence? Five years of probation, with a home confinement condition: Reyes Daniel Ruiz, 35, of Tracy, is allowed to leave his home for "verified employment, medical needs and religious services," according to the sentencing terms. He has also been ordered to pay nearly $125,000 in fines and restitution, court records show... He also accessed financial information, but his main goal was to steal pornographic files, prosecutors said. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Kaleba asked for Ruiz to be sentenced to "a period of incarceration," arguing he'd violated not only the trust of his employee but the privacy of thousands of people. "By his estimation, he downloaded approximately two terabytes of data, and possessed between 1,000 and 4,000 private images and videos," Kaleba wrote in a sentencing memo. The defense argued that Ruiz, who has no criminal history, deserved leniency because he accepted responsibility quickly. He admitted to destroying the hard drive where he stored the ill-gotten files when the FBI visited his home in August 2018. Ruiz told federal investigators that he acquired the pictures and videos for his own personal "self-gratification" and that he didn't share them online, a pre-sentence report says. In October Gizmodo reported that Ruiz was now working for a Silicon Valley company specializing in SSO (single sign-on) solutions.

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posted about 2 hours ago on slashdot
"A new study found low to moderate drinking may improve cognitive function for White middle-aged or older adults," reports CNN: The findings support prior research which found that, generally, one standard drink a day for women and two a day for men -- which is the US guidance -- appears to offer some cognitive benefits... "There is now a lot of observational evidence showing that light to moderate alcohol drinking is associated with better cognitive function and a lower risk of dementia compared with alcohol abstaining," said senior principal research scientist Kaarin Anstey, a director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration in Australia, who was not involved in the study... The new study, published Monday in JAMA Network Open, analyzed data on nearly 20,000 participants from the University of Michigan's Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a representative sample of Americans on a variety of health issues. Study participants, who were predominately white, female and a mean age of 62, were given cognitive tests starting in 1996 through 2008, and were surveyed every other year for approximately nine years. When compared with those who said they never drank, low to moderate drinking was associated with significantly higher cognition scores for mental status, word recall and vocabulary over time, as well as with lower rates of decline in each of those areas. But before you get too excited, CNN has a "However..." paragraph: However, a major global study released last year found that no amount of liquor, wine or beer is safe for your overall health. It found that alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide in 2016, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths... "What we know for sure is that drinking too much alcohol definitely harms the brain in a major way. What is less clear is whether or not low to moderate intake may be protective in certain people, or if total abstinence is the most sound advice," said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, founder of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center. "Based on conflicting studies, I don't think at this time we can know for sure whether none versus low to moderate consumption is best in each individual person..."

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posted about 3 hours ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In 2019's The Two Codes Your Kids Need to Know, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman reported that of all the skills and knowledge the College Board tested young people for, it determined that mastering "two codes" — computer science and the U.S. Constitution — were the most correlated to success in college and in life. On Wednesday, Rhode Island announced it's teaming with the College Board to ensure schoolkids study the "Two Codes"... The press release says they're "launching a partnership to advance two key educational goals: understanding how the U.S. Constitution works and how technology can power solutions to problems facing our world... Each school will identify two teacher leads, a Computer Science teacher and a Government and Politics teacher, who will coordinate their school's participation in the program. The leads will receive a stipend of $1,500 per year, and the College Board will provide a broad range of support for the training of teachers and implementation of the effort." The College Board's Chief of Global Policy and External Relations says in the announcement that "It's not enough to be users of technology; this generation of students needs to guide it and make it work for democracy."

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posted about 4 hours ago on slashdot
"American consumers pay significantly more for cellphone service than people in many other countries," reports the New York Times. It's in an article headlined "The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why." Although executives' salaries have risen in most countries, relative to those of workers, in recent decades, the trend is more extreme in the U.S... The minimum wage is higher in other countries than it is in much of the United States... In addition to minimum wage, the United States has done less to combat rising corporate concentration. Large U.S. companies are better able to hold down the wages of workers, who don't always have good employment options, and are also able to charge higher prices because of less competition... Arguably the biggest outlier is the American health care system. Prices for drugs, medical procedures and doctors' visits are all substantially higher in the United States than in other countries... In all, Americans pay almost twice as much on average for medical care as citizens of other rich countries. And as you may remember from the opening chart in this article, Americans are far from the world's healthiest people... The middle class and poor receive a smaller share of national income in the U.S. than in much of Europe, while the rich receive a greater share. If anything, these statistics understate American exceptionalism on inequality, because Americans also work longer hours for their pay than workers in many other places.

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posted about 5 hours ago on slashdot
U.S. technology titans face a looming test of their free-speech credentials in Hong Kong as China's new national-security law for the city demands local authorities take measures to supervise and regulate its uncensored internet. From a report: Facebook and its Instagram service, Twitter and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet's Google, operate freely in the city even as they have been shut out or opted out of the mainland's tightly controlled internet, which uses the "Great Firewall" to censor information. In Hong Kong many citizens have grown accustomed to freely using their accounts to speak out on political matters, voice support for antigovernment protests, and register their anger at China's increasing sway over the city. Now the U.S. tech companies face a high-wire act, analysts say, if authorities here ask them to delete user accounts or their content. Refusal could invite Beijing's scrutiny and potentially put them at risk of legal action under the new national-security law. Complying would alienate longtime users in the city, some of whom continue to speak out on their platforms, and leave the companies open to criticism from politicians in the U.S. or U.K. Among the tech giants, Twitter said in a statement it "has grave concerns" about the law and is "committed to protecting the people using our service and their freedom of expression." Twitter said it is reviewing the new rules, "particularly as some of the terms of the law are vague and without clear definition." Measures to better supervise the internet and foreign media were provisions tucked into China's national-security law for the city. The law criminalizes activities in four vaguely defined areas covering secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. "Tech companies will absolutely receive more requests to remove information that is allegedly harmful to natural security from the relevant authorities," said Haochen Sun, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. He said companies will face difficulties especially with borderline cases, such as potential requests to remove songs, for instance, that protesters have used in antigovernment demonstrations.

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posted about 6 hours ago on slashdot
A week after launching investigations into many claims of harassment and misconduct, Ubisoft's CEO gave an update on what the company is doing to change things. From a report: In a letter posted on its website and emailed to employees, Yves Guillemot said "the types of inappropriate behavior we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated." That's sharply in contrast to reports from employees and statements posted internally, citing complaints made to HR in the past that they said have been ignored. Even today, Chelsea O'Hara, touted as a success story of the company's mentorship program, wrote extensively about the reality of her experience at Ubisoft where she felt marginalized and exploited. Beyond the ongoing investigations, Ubisoft says it has set up an online confidential alert platform where people can report harrasment or other inappropriate behavior, that's run by a third party. Guillemot also said they will shake up the Editorial Group that oversees creative decisions, which Kotaku notes has a roster made up exclusively of white males.

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posted about 8 hours ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: The first Android version to support 64-bit architecture was Android 5.0 Lollipop, introduced back in November 2014. Since then, more and more 64-bit processors shipped, and today, virtually all Android devices are capable of running 64-bit software (excluding one or two or more oddballs). However, Google Chrome has never made the jump and is only available in a 32-bit flavor, potentially leading to some unnecessary security and performance degradations. That's finally changing: Starting with Chrome 85, phones running Android 10 and higher will automatically receive a 64-bit version. A look at chrome://version confirms as much: The current stable and beta builds, version 83 and 84, note that they're still 32-bit applications. Chrome Dev and Chrome Canary (release 85 and 86) are proper 64-bit apps. Google confirms as much on its Chromium Bugs tracker. When compared in a number of Octane 2.0 benchmarks, the 64-bit version got consistently better results than the 32-bit version. It's possible that there have been other optimizations that make Chrome 85 faster than 83 -- the architecture is not necessarily all there is to it. Still, the benchmark results suggest that there are some enhancements, even if these tests aren't easy to translate to real-world usage.

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posted about 10 hours ago on slashdot
German lawmakers have finalized the country's long-awaited phase-out of coal as an energy source, backing a plan that environmental groups say isn't ambitious enough and free marketeers criticize as a waste of taxpayers' money. From a report: Bills approved by both houses of parliament Friday envision shutting down the last coal-fired power plant by 2038 and spending some $45 billion to help affected regions cope with the transition. The plan is part of Germany's 'energy transition' -- an effort to wean Europe's biggest economy off planet-warming fossil fuels and generate all of the country's considerable energy needs from renewable sources. Achieving that goal is made harder than in comparable countries such as France and Britain because of Germany's existing commitment to also phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022. "The days of coal are numbered in Germany," Environment Minister Svenja Schulze said. "Germany is the first industrialized country that leaves behind both nuclear energy and coal." Greenpeace and other environmental groups have staged vocal protests against the plan, including by dropping a banner down the front of the Reichstag building Friday. They argue that the government's road map won't reduce Germany's greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to meet the targets set out in the Paris climate accord.

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posted about 12 hours ago on slashdot
A day after formally completing the sale of Boost, Virgin and other Sprint prepaid networks to Dish, T-Mobile is pulling the plug on Sprint 5G. From a report: The move is one in a long list of issues that need sorting out in the wake of April's $26.5 billion merger. And like a number of other moves, it's set to leave some customers in the lurch. The end of Sprint's 2.5 GHz 5G comes as T-Mobile opts to focus on its own network. T-Mobile already started the process in New York City, a few weeks after the merger and has since completed it in a handful of other cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. While most of the Sprint 5G handsets won't be able to make the transition, Samsung Galaxy S20 5G users are in the clear here. For everyone else, T-Mobile is offering up credits on leases for new 5G handsets.

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posted about 14 hours ago on slashdot
One of America's largest internet advocacy groups has published a six-point wish list for a future UK-US trade deal, including calls for no unilateral digital taxes. From a report: The Internet Association's new white paper calls for a future trade deal to include provisions to ensure the free flow of information between the two countries, a guarantee to not unilaterally impose taxes on digital services companies and a guarantee that "measures do not undermine the intermediary liability protections." The new paper suggests that any potential new taxation on digital services should be set up in "an internationally coordinated manner." The Internet Association, which was set up by companies such as Facebook and Amazon, said in its white paper that the UK now exports $34.8bn to the U.S., an increase of 56 percent from 2006 to 2017. Meanwhile, $48.8bn is exported from the US to the UK. Internet Association director of trade policy Jordan Haas said: "The US and the UK lead the world in digital technology and this agreement should include policies that will bolster that success."

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posted about 15 hours ago on slashdot
The World Health Organization (WHO) should soon get results from clinical trials it is conducting of drugs that might be effective in treating COVID-19 patients, its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday. From a report: "Nearly 5,500 patients in 39 countries have so far been recruited into the Solidarity trial," he told a news briefing, referring to clinical studies the U.N. agency is conducting. "We expect interim results within the next two weeks." The Solidarity Trial started out in five parts looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19: standard care; remdesivir; the anti-malaria drug touted by U.S. President Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine; the HIV drugs lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon. Earlier this month, it stopped the arm testing hydroxychloroquine, after studies indicated it showed no benefit in those who have the disease, but more work is still needed to see whether it may be effective as a preventative medicine. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies programme, said it would be unwise to predict when a vaccine could be ready against COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than half a million people. Earlier this week, the WHO also warned the some countries may have to reinstate lockdowns as coronavirus pandemic accelerates.

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posted about 16 hours ago on slashdot
Walmart said this week that it was converting some of its parking lots into drive-in theaters for the summer as the movie industry struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic. From a report: The retail behemoth is converting 160 of its parking lots across the US into drive-ins. These theaters will open in early August and remain open through October. The Walmart Drive-In will feature movies programmed by Tribeca Enterprises, the company behind the Tribeca Film Festival, which recently launched a summer movie drive-in series bringing films, music, and sporting events to as many US drive-ins as possible.

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posted about 17 hours ago on slashdot
With macOS 11, also known as Big Sur, Apple has removed the ability to install macOS profile configurations from the command-line. ZDNet reports: This ability was previously a core feature of macOS' enterprise package, which allows system administrators to deploy new configurations company-wide via automated scripts. However, the ability to deploy a new profile config via the command-line has also been abused by malware gangs or adware strains, who used it because it was silent and didn't require any type of user interaction. Hackers or malware authors who gained access to Mac Deployment servers or who infected just one Mac, abused the command-line to deploy their own malicious configurations to hijack proxy settings, change default apps, and more.

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posted about 18 hours ago on slashdot
For Regynald Augustin, a Black programmer at Twitter, the impetus for change arrived in an email last year with the phrase "automatic slave rekick." The words were just part of an engineering discussion about restarting a secondary process, but they prompted Augustin to start trying to change Twitter's use of words with racist connections. Augustin was used to seeing the term "slave" in technical contexts. "But with 'rekick' -- I was madder than I ever thought I'd be in the workplace," he said. From a report: First on his own and then joining forces with another engineer, Kevin Oliver, he helped spearhead an effort to replace terms like "master," "slave," "whitelist" and "blacklist" with words that didn't hearken back to oppressive parts of United States history and culture. He recounted his thoughts at the time: "This has to stop. This isn't cool. We have to change this now." No one expects that changing technical terms will end centuries of racial injustice. But some people at technology companies, including Oliver and Augustin at Twitter, are pressing for the changes that are within their reach. That includes the effort to replace racially fraught technology terms like "master" and "slave" that describe things like databases, software projects, camera flashes and hard drives. Managers at the social network formalized the two engineers' effort in January, endorsing work to address the issue systematically across the engineering division and expanding it to terms linked to discrimination on the basis of sex, age and disabilities -- replacing "man hours" and "sanity check," for example. Oliver and Augustin detailed the effort in an exclusive interview with CNET. Twitter is the latest company to make these changes. In recent weeks, scores of firms including JPMorgan GitHub, and developers of Python, Go, and Android have adopted similar measures.

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posted about 20 hours ago on slashdot
The Linux Foundation recently uploaded its video from the Open Source Summit and Embedded Linux Conference: Europe. And there was a poignant moment when Linus Torvalds did his traditional keynote conversation with Dirk Hohndel, VMware's vice president and chief open source officer. Honndel had asked Linus — his hair now uncharacteristically long — what he spends his time on as a kernel maintainer. What's his workflow? "What do you do?" Linus Torvalds: Um, I read email. [Hohndel laughs] I read email, I write email, I do no coding at all any more. Most of the code I write, I actually write inside my mail reader. So somebody sends me a patch, or more commonly they send me a pull request or there's a discussion about the next pull request, and there's something I react to and say, 'No, this is fine, but...' And I send out pseudocode, or — I'm so used to sending out patches that I sometimes edit patches and send out the patch without having ever compiled it, ever tested it, because I literally wrote it in the mail reader, and saying 'I think this is how it should be done.' But this is what I do. I'm not a programmer any more. I read a lot more email than I write, because what my job really is — in the end, my job is to say no. Somebody has to be able to say no to people. Because other developers know that if they do something bad, I will say no. They hopefully, in turn, are more careful. But in order to be able to say no, I have to know the background. Because otherwise I can't do my job. So I spend all my time, basically, reading email about what people are working on... It is an interesting job, but you do end up spending most of your time reading email. On the developer side, what I hope people are doing is trying to make, not just good code, but these days we've been very good about having explanations for the code. So commit messages to me are almost as important as the code change itself. Sometimes the code change is so obvious that no message is really required, but that is very very rare. And so one of the things I hope developers are thinking about, the people who are actually writing code, is not just the code itself, but explaining why the code does something, and why some change was needed. Because that then in turn helps the managerial side of the equation, where if you can explain your code to me, I will trust the code... A lot of open source in general is about communication. And part of it is the commit messages, part of it is just the email going back and forth. Communicating what you're trying to do or communicating why something doesn't work for you is really important.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
A fire ripped through a building at Iran's main nuclear-fuel production site early Thursday, causing extensive damage to what appeared to be a factory where the country has boasted of producing a new generation of centrifuges. The United States has repeatedly warned that such machinery could speed Tehran's path to building nuclear weapons. schwit1 shares a report: The Atomic Energy Agency of Iran acknowledged an "incident" at the desert site, but did not term it sabotage. It released a photograph showing what seemed to be destruction from a major explosion that ripped doors from their hinges and caused the roof to collapse. Parts of the building, which was recently inaugurated, were blackened by fire. But it was not clear how much damage was done underground, where video released by the Iranian government last year suggested most of the assembly work is conducted on next-generation centrifuges -- the machines that purify uranium. A Middle Eastern intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closely held information, said the blast was caused by an explosive device planted inside the facility. The explosion, he said, destroyed much of the aboveground parts of the facility where new centrifuges -- delicate devices that spin at supersonic speeds -- are balanced before they are put into operation.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
A Google crawler has been adding products to e-commerce site shopping carts, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. From a write-up: Sellers have been complaining about a serial cart abandoner named, John Smith. Turns out John is a Google bot. A Google spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that it built systems to ensure the pricing seen on the product pages is reflected when a user adds a product to the cart. GoogleBot shopping. Google told Search Engine Land in a statement, "We use automated systems to ensure consumers are getting accurate pricing information from our merchants." Sellers that upload their product feeds to Google Merchant Center may not realize it, but they agree to having Google's bots crawl their sites for price verifications when they agree to the Terms of Service. The bot is designed to ensure the price in the feed matches the price on the product page and when the product is added to the cart. The automated system will disapprove items that don't pass pricing verifications. Google is aware that this may cause issues for merchants and owners of e-commerce sites. Google told the WSJ, "This sometimes leads to merchants seeing abandoned carts as a result of our system testing the price displayed matches the price at checkout." That data can mess with e-commerce site owners' abandoned cart metrics, making them look artificially higher than they really are.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
A group of European digital advertising associations on Friday criticized Apple's plans to require apps to seek additional permission from users before tracking them across other apps and websites. From a report: Apple last week disclosed features in its forthcoming operating system for iPhones and iPads that will require apps to show a pop-up screen before they enable a form of tracking commonly needed to show personalized ads. Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook and Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued. Facebook and Google are the largest among thousands of companies that track online consumers to pick up on their habits and interests and serve them relevant ads. Apple said the new feature was aimed at giving users greater transparency over how their information is being used. In training sessions at a developer conference last week, Apple showed that developers can present any number of additional screens beforehand to explain why permission is needed before triggering its pop-up.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
A LinkedIn spokesperson told ZDNet this week that a bug in the company's iOS app was responsible for a seemingly privacy-intrusive behavior spotted by one of its users on Thursday. From a report: The issue was discovered using the new beta version of iOS 14. For iOS 14, set to be officially released in the fall, Apple has added a new privacy feature that shows a quick popup that lets users know when an app has read content from their clipboard. Using this new mechanism, users spotted last week how Chinese mobile app TikTok was reading content from their clipboard at regular short intervals. TikTok said the feature was part of a fraud detection mechanism and that the company never stole the clipboard content, but promised to remove the behavior anyway, to put users' minds at ease. This week, users continued experimenting with this new iOS 14 clipboard access detection system. Yesterday, a developer from the portfolio-building portal Urspace.io discovered a similar mechanism in the LinkedIn iOS app. In a video shared on Twitter, the Urspace developer showed how LinkedIn's app was reading the clipboard content after every user key press, even accessing the shared clipboard feature that allows iOS apps to read content from a user's macOS clipboard.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Mozilla today released the latest version of Common Voice, its open source collection of transcribed voice data for startups, researchers, and hobbyists to build voice-enabled apps, services, and devices. Common Voice now contains over 7,226 total hours of contributed voice data in 54 different languages, up from 1,400 hours across 18 languages in February 2019. From a report: Common Voice consists not only of voice snippets, but of voluntarily contributed metadata useful for training speech engines, like speakers' ages, sex, and accents. It's designed to be integrated with DeepSpeech, a suite of open source speech-to-text, text-to-speech engines, and trained models maintained by Mozilla's Machine Learning Group. Collecting the over 5.5 million clips in Common Voice required a lot of legwork, namely because the prompts on the Common Voice website had to be translated into each language. Still, 5,591 of the 7,226 hours have been confirmed valid by the project's contributors so far. And according to Mozilla, five languages in Common Voice -- English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish -- now have over 5,000 unique speakers, while seven languages -- English, German, French, Kabyle, Catalan, Spanish, and Kinyarwandan -- have over 500 recorded hours.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: A new generation of reactors coming online in the next few years aims to make nuclear meltdowns a thing of the past. Not only will these reactors be smaller and more efficient than current nuclear power plants, but their designers claim they'll be virtually meltdown-proof. Their secret? Millions of submillimeter-size grains of uranium individually wrapped in protective shells. It's called triso fuel, and it's like a radioactive gobstopper. Triso -- short for "tristructural isotropic" -- fuel is made from a mixture of low enriched uranium and oxygen, and it is surrounded by three alternating layers of graphite and a ceramic called silicon carbide. Each particle is smaller than a poppy seed, but its layered shell can protect the uranium inside from melting under even the most extreme conditions that could occur in a reactor. Paul Demkowicz is the director of the Advanced Gas Reactor Field Development and Qualification Program at Idaho National Laboratory, and a large part of his job is simulating worst-case scenarios for next-generation nuclear reactors. For the past few years, Demkowicz and his colleagues have been running qualification tests on triso fuel that involve putting them in a reactor and cranking the temperature. Most nuclear reactors today operate well below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and even the next generation high-temperature reactors will top out at about 2,000 degrees. But during the INL tests, Demkowicz demonstrated that triso could withstand reactor temperatures over 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Out of 300,000 particles, not a single triso coating failed during the two-week long test. "In the new reactor designs, it's basically impossible to exceed these temperatures, because the reactor kind of shuts down as it reaches these high temperatures," says Demkowicz. "So if you take these reactor designs and combine them with a fuel that can handle the heat, you essentially have an accident-proof reactor."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Microsoft is testing a number of Windows 10 upgrades to a small number of testers, including changes to the Alt-Tab function and a new Start menu design. The Verge reports: "We are freshening up the Start menu with a more streamlined design that removes the solid color backplates behind the logos in the apps list and applies a uniform, partially transparent background to the tiles," explains Microsoft in a blog post. Essentially, the reduction in the color of the blocky tiled interface on the Start menu will simplify it slightly and make it easier to scan for the apps you use on a daily basis. It's a subtle change, but it certainly makes the Start menu look a little less chaotic and avoids many tiles sharing a similar blue color. Alongside an updated Start menu, the latest Windows 10 build includes some big changes to Alt-Tab. "Beginning with today's build, all tabs open in Microsoft Edge will start appearing in Alt-Tab, not just the active one in each browser window," explains Microsoft. This seems like a change that might be a little confusing for veteran Windows users, but Microsoft is thankfully allowing you to switch back to the classic Alt-Tab experience. Microsoft is also making some smaller changes with this new Windows 10 build. The default taskbar appearance will also now be more personalized with the Xbox app pinned for Xbox Live users or Your Phone pinned for Android users. This will be limited to new account creation on a PC or first login, so existing taskbar layouts will remain unchanged. Notifications now include an X in the top right corner to allow you to quickly dismiss them, and Microsoft is also improving its Settings app in Windows 10. Links that would typically push you toward the system part of the legacy Control Panel system page will now direct you to the About page in Settings. This will now house the more advanced controls typically found in that system section of the Control Panel, and Microsoft is promising "there will be more improvements coming that will further bring Settings closer to Control Panel."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
A team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that's missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature. The BBC reports: Its radius is about three-and-a-half times larger than Earth's but the planet is around 39 times more massive. In this size range, the planet would be expected to have a significant component that's gas. Yet it has a density similar to Earth, appearing to be mostly rocky. The object, called TOI 849 b, was found circling a star much like the Sun that's located 730 light-years away. The core orbits so close to its parent star that a year is a mere 18 hours and its surface temperature is around 1,527C. Researchers aren't sure whether the core lost its atmosphere in a collision or just never developed one. If it was once similar to Jupiter, there are several ways it could have lost its gaseous envelope. These could include tidal disruption, where the planet is ripped apart from orbiting too close to its star, or even a collision with another planet late in its formation. If it's a "failed" gas giant, this could have occurred if there was a gap in the disc of gas and dust that it emerged from, or if it formed late, after the disc ran out of material.

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from VICE News: [The Open Technology Fund is a U.S. government-funded nonprofit, which is part of the umbrella group called the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), which also controls Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.] OTF's goal is to help oppressed communities across the globe by building the digital tools they need and offering training and support to use those tools. Its work has saved countless lives, and every single day millions of people use OTF-assisted tools to communicate and speak out without fear of arrest, retribution, or even death. The fund has helped dissidents raise their voices beyond China's advanced censorship network, known as the Great Firewall; helped citizens in Cuba to access news from sources other than the state-sanctioned media; and supported independent journalists in Russia so they could work without fear of a backlash from the Kremlin. Closer to home, the tools that OTF has funded, including the encrypted messaging app Signal, have allowed Black Lives Matter protesters to organize demonstrations across the country more securely. But now all of that is under threat, after Michael Pack, a Trump appointee and close ally of Steve Bannon, took control of USAGM in June. Pack has ousted the OTF's leadership, removed its bipartisan board, and replaced it with Trump loyalists, including Bethany Kozma, an anti-transgender activist. One reason the OTF managed to gain the trust of technologists and activists around the world is because, as its name suggests, it invested largely in open-source technology. By definition, open-source software's source code is publicly available, meaning it can be studied, vetted, and in many cases contributed to by anyone in the world. This transparency makes it possible for experts to study code to see if it has, for example, backdoors or vulnerabilities that would allow for governments to compromise the software's security, potentially putting users at risk of being surveilled or identified. Now, groups linked to Pack and Bannon have been pressing for the funding of closed-source technology, which is antithetical to the OTF's work over the last eight years. Pack is being pressed to fund Freegate and Ultrasurf, "two little-known apps that allow users to circumvent internet censorship in repressive regimes but currently have very small user bases inside China," reports Vice. "These apps are not widely trusted by internet freedom experts and activists, according to six experts who spoke to VICE News. That the OTF would pivot its funding from trusted, open-source tech to more obscure, closed-source tech has alarmed activists around the world and has resulted in open revolt among OTF's former leadership." More than half a dozen experts who spoke to VICE News "said the apps' code is out of date, dangerously vulnerable to compromise, and lacks the user base to allow it to effectively scale even if they secured government funding."

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posted 1 day ago on slashdot
Facebook confirmed that it's shutting down two of its little-known social media apps shortly after their launch. TikTok rival Lasso and Pinterest rival Hobbi will both be terminated on July 10. CNBC reports: Lasso, the more popular of the two, allowed people to record videos up to 15 seconds long and overlay music on top. It was launched a year-and-a-half ago. Lasso issued a push alert to users on Wednesday telling them that it will be shutting down. In order to try to compete with ByteDance's TikTok, which has been downloaded over 2 billion times, Facebook-owned Instagram has developed its own video-music mix feature called "Reels." Pinterest-rival Hobbi, which only went live on the Apple App Store in the U.S. in February, also issued a push alert to users on Wednesday letting them know that it was closing down. The app, designed by Facebook's New Product Experimentation team, allows people to document, share and organize their hobbies. It has received just 7,000 downloads, according to Sensor Tower.

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