posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Intel has addressed a vulnerability in the configuration of several CPU series that allow an attacker to alter the behavior of the chip's SPI Flash memory -- a mandatory component used during the boot-up process [1, 2, 3]. According to Lenovo, who recently deployed the Intel fixes, "the configuration of the system firmware device (SPI flash) could allow an attacker to block BIOS/UEFI updates, or to selectively erase or corrupt portions of the firmware." Lenovo engineers say "this would most likely result in a visible malfunction, but could in rare circumstances result in arbitrary code execution."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Belying its simplicity and ubiquity, the price tag is a surprisingly recent economic development, Aeon magazine writes. For centuries, haggling was the norm, ultimately developing into a system that required clerks and shopkeepers to train as negotiators. In the mid-19th century, however, Quakers in the US began to believe that charging people different amounts for the same item was immoral, so they started using price tags at their stores to counter the ills of haggling. And, as this short video from NPR's Planet Money explains, by taking a moral stand, the Quakers inadvertently revealed an inefficiency in the old economic system and became improbable pricing pioneers, changing commerce and history with one simple innovation.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: In his explosive new book, A Higher Loyalty, fired FBI director James Comey denounces President Trump as "untethered to the truth" and likens him to a "mob boss," but he also touches on other topics during his decades-long career in law enforcement -- including his strong objection to the tech industry's encryption efforts. When Apple and Google announced in 2014 that they would be moving their mobile devices to default encryption, by emphasizing that making them immune to judicial orders was good for society, "it drove me crazy," he writes. He goes on to lament the lack of "true listening" between tech and law enforcement, saying that "the leaders of the tech companies don't see the darkness the FBI sees," such as terrorism and organized crime. He writes, "I found it appalling that the tech types couldn't see this. I would frequently joke with the FBI 'Going Dark' team assigned to seek solutions, 'Of course the Silicon Valley types don't see the darkness -- they live where it's sunny all the time and everybody is rich and smart." But Comey understood it was an unbelievably difficult issue and that public safety had to be balanced with privacy concerns.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
BrianFagioli writes: For better or worse, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) initiative seems to be moving full steam ahead. There are some very respectable distributions available in the Microsoft Store, such as Debian, Ubuntu, and Kali to name a few. Not to mention, Microsoft is trying to encourage even more maintainers to submit their distros with a new tool. Apparently, some Windows 10 users have been clamoring for the ability to copy and paste both from and to WSL consoles -- a reasonable request. Well, as of Insider Build 17643, this is finally possible. 'As of Windows 10 Insider build #17643, you can copy/paste text from/to Linux/WSL Consoles!!! We know that this is a feature MANY of you have been waiting for -- our sincerest thanks for your patience and continued support while we untangled the Console's internals, allowing us to implement this feature. To ensure that we don't break any existing behaviors, you'll need to enable the 'Use Ctrl+Shift+C/V as Copy/Paste' option in the Console 'Options' properties page,' says Rich Turner, Microsoft.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft network engineer is facing federal charges in Florida for allegedly helping launder money obtained from victims of the Reventon ransomware. Florida investigators say that between October 2012 and March 2013, Uadiale worked with a UK citizen going online by the moniker K!NG. The latter would distribute and infect victims with the Reveton ransomware, while Uadiale would collect payments and send the money to K!NG, in the UK. Investigators tracked down Uadiale because this happened before Bitcoin became popular with ransomware authors and they used the now-defunct Liberty Reserve digital currency to move funds. Authorities from 18 countries seized and shut down Liberty Reserve servers in May 2013.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader shares a report: Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in Saturday's briefing that there has been a "2,000% increase in Russian trolls in the last 24 hours," following the coordinated strike against Syria on Friday night.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: This week, Motherboard showed that law enforcement agencies across the country, including a part of the State Department, have bought GrayKey, a relatively cheap technology that can unlock fully up-to-date iPhones. That revelation, cryptographers and technologists said, undermined the FBI's renewed push for backdoors in consumer encryption products. Citing Motherboard's work, on Friday US lawmakers sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, doubting the FBI's narrative around 'going dark', where law enforcement officials say they are increasingly unable to obtain evidence related to crimes due to encryption. Politico was first to report the letter. "According to your testimony and public statements, the FBI encountered 7,800 devices last year that it could not access due to encryption," the letter, signed by 5 Democrat and 5 Republican n House lawmakers, reads. "However, in light of the availability of unlocking tools developed by third-parties and the OIG report's findings that the Bureau was uninterested in seeking available third-party options, these statistics appear highly questionable," it adds, referring to a recent report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General. That report found the FBI barely explored its technical options for accessing the San Bernardino iPhone before trying to compel Apple to unlock the device. The lawmaker's letter points to Motherboard's report that the State Department spent around $15,000 on a GrayKey.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 quotes UPI: Scientists at an independent biomedical research institution have reported a monumental breakthrough: The cause of the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and a possible cure for the disease. Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco identified the primary genetic risk factor for the disease, a gene called apoE4... Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature Medicine... By treating human apoE4 neurons with a structure corrector, it eliminated the signs of Alzheimer's disease, restored normal function to the cells and improved cell survival. The study's senior investigator says he's already working with a San Francisco pharmaceutical startup to develop the approach and move towards clinical trials, adding that "we are working to accelerate the timeline as much as possible."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Slashdot reader Nicola Hahn writes: Bulk data collection isn't the work of a couple of bad apples. Corporate social media is largely predicated on stockpiling and mining user information. As Zuckerberg explained to lawmakers, it's their business model... While Zuckerberg has offered public apologias, spurring genuine regulation will probably be left to the public. Having said that, confronting an economic sector which makes up one of the country's largest political lobbying blocks might not be a tenable path in the short term. The best immediate option for netizens may be to opt out of social media entirely. The original submission links to this call-to-action from Counterpunch: Take personal responsibility for your own social life. Go back to engaging flesh and blood people without tech companies serving as an intermediary. Eschew the narcissistic impulse to broadcast the excruciating minutiae of your life to the world. Refuse to accept the mandate that you must participate in social media in order to participate in society. Reclaim your autonomy.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The 12th annual "State of Agile" report has just been released by CollabNet VersionOne, which calls it "the largest and longest-running Agile survey in the world." After surveying more than 1,400 software professionals in various roles and industries over the last four months of 2017, "Only 12% percent responded that their organizations have a high level of competency with agile practices across the organization, and only 4% report that agile practices are enabling greater adaptability to market conditions... The three most significant challenges to agile adoption and scaling are reported as organizational culture at odds with agile values (53%), general organizational resistance to change (46%), and Inadequate management support and sponsorship (42%)... "The encouraging news is that 59% recognize that they are still maturing, indicating that they do not intend to plateau where they are." And agile adoption does appear to be growing. "25% of the respondents say that all or almost all of their teams are agile, whereas only 8% reported that in 2016." The researchers also note "the recognized necessity of accelerating the speed of delivery of high-quality software, and the emphasis on customer satisfaction," with 71% of the survey respondents reporting that a DevOps initiative is underway or planned for the next 12 months.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: In what could only be a joke, a new ransomware has been discovered called "PUBG Ransomware" that will decrypt your files if you play the game called PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds... When the PUBG Ransomware is launched it will encrypt a user's files and folders on the user's desktop and append the .PUBG extension to them. When it has finished encrypting the files, it will display a screen giving you two methods that you can use to decrypt the encrypted files. Users can unlock it either by entering a secret unlock code displayed on the screen -- or by playing PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The ransomware checks to see if you played PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds by monitoring the running processes for one named "TslGame"... Once a user plays the game and the process is detected, the ransomware will automatically decrypt the victim's files. This ransomware is not too advanced as it only looks for the process name and does not check for other information to confirm that the game is actually being played. That means you can simply run any executable called TslGame.exe and it will decrypt the files.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In 2004, one of the world's most popular social networks, Orkut, was founded by a former Google employee named Orkut Buyukkokten... Orkut was shut down by Google in 2014, but in its heyday, the network had hit 300 million users around the world... "Hello.com is a spiritual successor of Orkut.com," Buyukkokten told BloombergQuint... "People have lost trust in social networks and the main reason is social media services today don't put the users first. They put advertisers, brands, third parties, shareholders before the users," Buyukkokten said. "They are also not transparent about practices. The privacy policy and terms of services are more like black boxes. How many users actually read them?" Buyukkokten said users need to be educated about these things and user consent is imperative in such situations when data is shared by such platforms. "On Hello, we do not share data with third parties. We have our own registration and login and so the data doesn't follow you anywhere," he said. "You don't need to sell user data in order to be profitable or make money."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
United Launch Alliance -- a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing -- is livestreaming tonight's launch of an Atlas V rocket. UPI reports: The rocket is set to blast-off at 7:13 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida... The primary payload is the Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM, or CBAS, a geostationary communications satellite... Behind the CBAS payload is EAGLE, a platform capable of releasing several secondary payloads into space. According to Gunter's Space Page, EAGLE is carrying five additional payloads, all experimental satellites. Here's a good overview of the mission: Saturday's mission will begin with ignition of the Atlas Common Core Booster's RD-180 engine, 2.7 seconds before the countdown reaches zero... Five Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-60A solid rocket motors will augment the CCB at liftoff, igniting about T+1.1 seconds as the rocket lifts off. Climbing away from Cape Canaveral, AV-079 will begin a series of pitch and yaw maneuvers 3.9 seconds into its mission, placing the rocket onto an 89.9-degree azimuth -- almost due East -- for the journey into orbit. Atlas will reach Mach 1, the speed of sound, 34.4 seconds after liftoff, passing through the area of maximum dynamic pressure -- Max-Q -- eleven-and-a-half seconds later. Long-time Slashdot reader Zorro also shares an interesting remark by the CEO of Boeing when asked if Boeing's cancelled Sonic Cruiser might be making a comeback. "'Something better,' teased the Boeing boss, promising point-to-point connectivity anywhere on Earth in a matter of hours." And when asked whether Boeing might launch a car into space, he replied instead that "We might pick up the one that's out there and bring it back."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader renuk007 is a retired Unix/Linux systems programmer with the ultimate question: After retiring I started a second career as a teacher -- and I'm loving it. My problem: I designed a (I feel) wonderful new language compiler, but implementing it will take me another ten years if I have to do it part-time. Linus Torvalds was able to leverage the enthusiasm of the Internet to make Linux exist, but 1990 was a more innocent time. How does it work today? Any thoughts? Or, to put it another way, how can you build a community to bring your ideas to light? Leave your best thoughts and suggestions in the comments. How can you make your own vaporware real?

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
"Those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created," argues a new article in New York Magazine titled "The Internet Apologizes". Today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being "weaponized." Even Sean Parker, Facebook's first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. "God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains," he lamented recently... The internet's original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model. To keep the internet free -- while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history -- the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving "engagement" -- which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country... What we're left with are increasingly divided populations of resentful users, now joined in their collective outrage by Silicon Valley visionaries no longer in control of the platforms they built. Lanier adds that "despite all the warnings, we just walked right into it and created mass behavior-modification regimes out of our digital networks." Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, is even quoted as saying that a social-validation feedback loop is "exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators -- it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people -- understood this consciously. And we did it anyway." The article includes quotes from Richard Stallman, arguing that data privacy isn't the problem. "The problem is that these companies are collecting data about you, period. We shouldn't let them do that. The data that is collected will be abused..." He later adds that "We need a law that requires every system to be designed in a way that achieves its basic goal with the least possible collection of data... No company is so important that its existence justifies setting up a police state." The article proposes hypothetical solutions. "Could a subscription model reorient the internet's incentives, valuing user experience over ad-driven outrage? Could smart regulations provide greater data security? Or should we break up these new monopolies entirely in the hope that fostering more competition would give consumers more options?" Some argue that the Communications Decency Act of 1996 shields internet companies from all consequences for bad actors -- de-incentivizing the need to address them -- and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, thinks the solution is new legislation. "The government is going to have to be involved. You do it exactly the same way you regulated the cigarette industry. Technology has addictive qualities that we have to address, and product designers are working to make those products more addictive. We need to rein that back."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Vox reports on the hot new "vertical farming" startup Plenty: The company's goal is to build an indoor farm outside of every city in the world of more than 1 million residents -- around 500 in all. It claims it can build a farm in 30 days and pay investors back in three to five years (versus 20 to 40 for traditional farms). With scale, it says, it can get costs down to competitive with traditional produce (for a presumably more desirable product that could command a price premium)... It has enormous expansion plans and a bank account full of fresh investor funding, but most excitingly, it is building a 100,000 square foot vertical-farming warehouse in Kent, Washington, just outside of Seattle... It recently got a huge round of funding ($200 million in July, the largest ag-tech investment in history), including some through Jeff Bezos's investment firm, so it has the capital to scale...; heck, it even lured away the director of battery technology at Tesla, Kurt Kelty, to be executive of operations and development... The plants receive no sunlight, just light from hanging LED lamps. There are thousands of infrared cameras and sensors covering everything, taking fine measurements of temperature, moisture, and plant growth; the data is used by agronomists and artificial intelligence nerds to fine-tune the system... There are virtually no pests in a controlled indoor environment, so Plenty doesn't have to use any pesticides or herbicides; it gets by with a few ladybugs... Relative to conventional agriculture, Plenty says that it can get as much as 350 times the produce out of a given acre of land, using 1 percent as much water. Though it may use less water and power, to be competitive with traditional farms companies like Plenty will also have to be "even better at reducing the need for human planters and harvesters," the article warns. "In other words, to compete, it's going to have to create as few jobs as possible."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
The newly-relaunched Linux Journal just interviewed the Open Source Initiative's president, Simon Phipps. An anonymous reader summarizes the highlights: Phipps collects no salary -- unlike the executive director of the Linux Foundation, who reportedly received over $300,000 in 2010. "We're a very small organization actually", Phipps said. "We have a board of directors of 11 people and we have one paid employee..." But he explains their importance by citing the controversy over Facebook's original licensing for React. "I think prior to that, people felt it was okay for there just to be a license and then for there to be arbitrary additional terms applied. I think that the consensus of the community has moved on from that." Phipps is proud of the OSI's independence from corporate sponsors. "If you want to join a trade association, that's what the Linux Foundation is there for. You can go pay your membership fees and buy a vote there, but OSI is a 501(c)(3). That's means it's a charity that's serving the public's interest and the public benefit. It would be wrong for us to allow OSI to be captured by corporate interests." The article notes that most issues are resolved publicly, adding that one big concern is "freeware" -- proprietary software offered at no cost but erroenously marketed as open source. "In those cases, OSI definitely will reach out and contact the offending companies, and as Phipps says, 'We do that quite often, and we have a good track record of helping people understand why it's to their business disadvantage to behave in that way.'" And he's also seeking warmer relations with the Free Software community. "As I've been giving keynotes about the first 20 years and the next ten years of open source, I've wanted to make very clear to people that open source is a progression of the pre-existing idea of free software, that there is no conflict between the idea of free software and the way it can be adopted for commercial or for more structured use under the term open source." He cites the OSI's collaboration with the Free Software Foundation Europe on amicus briefs in important lawsuits, which he says address "significant issues, including privacy and including software patents... "I hope in the future that we'll be able to continue cooperating and collaborating."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
"One of several proposals aiming to split California into multiple smaller states has reportedly reached an important new goal thanks in large part to the efforts of its billionaire champion," writes schwit1. SFGate reports: Venture capitalist Tim Draper, who previously pushed a proposal that would split California into six states, says that his three-state proposal has enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. On Thursday, Draper said in a statement that the "CAL 3" initiative has collected over 600,000 signatures from Californians who would like to see the state split into three. An initiative needs 366,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. "This is an unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity," Draper said. The U.S. Congress would still need to approve the change -- and it's probably useful to remember what happened when Draper tried splitting California into six states. He ultimately turned in 1.3 million signatures for a ballot measure in 2014, "only to see nearly half of them disqualified. "He ended up about 100,000 short of the valid signatures he needed."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: U.S. and British troops have completed a first-of-its-kind exercise using robots for breaching a complex anti-tank/anti-personnel obstacle as part of what was titled the "Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration" at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The exercise included a number of robotic systems, including remotely controlled British Army Terrier engineering vehicles (five cameras, including thermal imaging), UAVs for reconnaissance and chemical agent detection, and the M58 Wolf under remote control and used to provide smoke screens... British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp stated that breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, and that, "Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area... Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer." U.S. Army officer 1st Lt. Felix Derosin said, "As an engineer, this means a lot to me... The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers' lives." The engineer added later that "Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it's pretty good."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
"Yahoo is now part of Oath and there is a new Privacy and Terms contract..." warns long-time Slashdot reader DigitalLogic. CNET reports: Oath notes that it has the right to read your emails, instant messages, posts, photos and even look at your message attachments. And it might share that data with parent company Verizon, too... When you dig further into Oath's policy about what it might do with your words, photos, and attachments, the company clarifies that it's utilizing automated systems that help the company with security, research and providing targeted ads -- and that those automated systems should strip out personally identifying information before letting any humans look at your data. But there are no explicit guarantees on that. The update also warns that Oath is now "linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends." For example, Oath "may analyze user content around certain interactions with financial institutions," and "leverages information financial institutions are allowed to send over email." Oath does offer a "Privacy Controls" page which includes a "legacy" AOL link letting you opt-out of internet-based advertising that's been targeted "based on your online activities" -- but it appears to be functioning sporadically. CNET also reports that now Yahoo users are agreeing to a class-action waiver and mutual arbitration. "What it means is if you don't like what the company does with your data, you'll have a hard time suing."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes the Wichita Eagle: Tyler Barriss -- the man charged in a swatting hoax that led to the death of an innocent Wichita man -- apparently got access to the internet from jail for at least 28 minutes [last] Friday and threatened to swat again. "How am I on the Internet if I'm in jail? Oh, because I'm an eGod, that's how," a tweet posted at 9:05 a.m. said. Other developments in the case: Another tweet from the Barriss account 19 minutes later asked who was "talking shit," warning "your ass is about to get swatted." And nine minutes later his final tweet from jail bragged, "Y'all should see how much swag I got in here." The county sheriff's office blamed an outside vendor's improper software upgrade to an inmate kiosk, arguing that 14 inmates potentially had full internet access "for less than a few hours." 25-year-old Barris is still in jail facing an 11-year prison sentence, noted a Twitter user who responded to the tweets. "This will play well at sentencing when you're pretending to be remorseful and asking the judge for mercy." Meanwhile, the Wichita police officer who mistakenly fired the fatal shot that killed a 28-year-old father of two will not face charges. The district attorney concluded that several of the officers closest to victim Andrew Finch thought he reached down to pull up his pants, leaving his right arm hidden from the officers, the Wichita Eagle reports. "The officer who fired the shot, along with some others, thought Finch was reaching for a gun." "This shooting should not have happened," said the district attorney. "But this officer's decision was made in the context of the false call." Finch was shot 10 seconds after opening his front door, and his family's civil case against the police department is still going forward. Two other gamers involved in the shooting -- including one who allegedly hired Barriss over a $1.50 bet in the game Call of Duty -- have not been charged with a crime.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
On Tuesday Red Hat announced the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 7.5. An anonymous reader writes: Serving as a consistent foundation for hybrid cloud environments, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5 provides enhanced security and compliance controls, tools to reduce storage costs, and improved usability, as well as further integration with Microsoft Windows infrastructure both on-premise and in Microsoft Azure. New features include a large combination of Ansible Automation with OpenSCAP, and LUKS-encrypted removable storage devices can be now automatically unlocked using NBDE. The Gnome shell has been re-based to version 3.26, the Kernel version is 3.10.0-862, and the kernel-alt packages include kernel version 4.14 with support for 64-bit ARM, IBM POWER9 (little endian), and IBM z Systems, while KVM virtualization is now supported on IBM POWER8/POWER9 systems. See the detailed release notes here.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
The recently-released Apple HomePod smart speaker is not selling very well. According to Bloomberg, "By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec, one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple." From the report: At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike." During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA may make some big changes to the first couple flights of its future deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, after getting a recent funding boost from Congress to build a new launch platform. When humans fly on the rocket for the first time in the 2020s, they might ride on a less powerful version of the vehicle than NASA had expected. If the changes move forward, it could scale down the first crewed mission into deep space in more than 45 years. The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA's main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew -- a mission called EM-2. But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won't be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. "If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can't do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS]," Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday. NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. "The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS," a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Fast food giants, coffee shops and retailers are relabelling low-skilled jobs as apprenticeships and gaining subsidies for training, a report says. BBC: The study by centre-right think tank Reform says many firms have rebranded existing roles after being obliged to contribute cash to on-the-job training. It adds that 40% of government-approved apprenticeship standards do not meet a traditional definition of them. The government says "quality" is at the heart of its apprenticeship reforms. As part of the changes, it introduced an apprenticeship levy on organisations paying more than $4.3m in salaries a year. They have to pay 0.5% of their wages total into a "digital account" held by HMRC. They then "spend" these contributions on apprenticeship training delivered by registered providers. They can also get back up to 90% of the cost of training. But they are also entitled to pay apprentices lower than the standard minimum wage.

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