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Posts in ‘Technology’

Australia Finally Creates Its Own National Space Agency

Sep 25

50 years after Australia became the third country to launch a satellite into space, they had another big announcement. An anonymous reader quotes AFP:
Australia on Monday committed to creating a national space agency as it looks to cash in on the lucrative and fast-evolving astronautical sector. The announcement came at a week-long Adelaide space conference attended by the world’s top scientists and experts including SpaceX chief Elon Musk. It brings Canberra — which already has significant involvement in national and international space activities — into line with most other developed nations, which already have dedicated agencies to help coordinate the industry and shape development. “The global space industry is growing rapidly and it’s crucial that Australia is part of this growth,” acting science minister Michaelia Cash said in statement.
The Australian government estimates that the global space sector now drives $323 billion in revenue each year.


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‘Banned Books Week’ Recognizes 2016’s Most-Censored Books (and Comic Books)

Sep 25

An anonymous reader quotes Newsweek:
The American Library Association’s yearly Banned Books Week, held this year between Sunday September 24 and Saturday September 30, is both a celebration of freedom and a warning against censorship. Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, the event spotlights the risk of censorship still present… “While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read,” the ALA stated.
“This Banned Books Week, we’re asking people of all political persuasions to come together and celebrate Our Right to Read,” says a coalition supporting the event.
The ALA reports that

half of the most frequently challenged books were in fact actually banned last year, according to the library group’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which calculates there were 17% more attempts to censor books in America in 2016. The five most-challenged books all contained LGBT characters, and the most common phrase used to complain about books is “sexually explicit,” the OIF told Publisher’s Weekly — perhaps reflecting a change in targets.

He believes one reason is that most challenges now are reported not for books in the library but against books in the advanced English curricula of some schools. This change also represents a shift upward in the age of the readers of the most challenged books. “We’ve moved from helicopter parenting, where people were hovering over their kids, to Velcro parenting,” LaRue says. “There’s no space at all between the hand of the parent and the head of the child. These are kids who are 16, 17; in one year they’re going to be old enough to sign up for the military, get married, or vote, and their parents are still trying to protect them from content that is sexually explicit. I think that’s a shift from overprotectiveness to almost suffocating.”

Three of the 10 most-challenged books were graphic novels, so the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is sharing their own list of banned and challenged comics.
Their list includes two Neil Gaiman titles, Sandman and The Graveyard Book , as well two popular Batman titles — Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Again and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke — plus Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen, Maus by Art Spiegelman, and even Amazing Spider-Man: Revelations by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr.


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Chicago School Official: US IT Jobs Offshored Because ‘We Weren’t Making Our Own’ Coders

Sep 25

theodp writes: In a slick new video, segments of which were apparently filmed looking out from Google’s Chicago headquarters giving it a nice high-tech vibe, Chicago Public Schools’ CS4ALL staffers not-too-surprisingly argue that creating technology is “a power that everyone needs to have.” In the video, the Director of Computer Science and IT Education for the nation’s third largest school district offers a take on why U.S. IT jobs were offshored that jibes nicely with the city’s new computer science high school graduation requirement. From the transcript: “People still talk about it’s all offshored, it’s all in India and you know, there are some things that are there but they don’t even realize some of the reasons that they went there in the first place is because we weren’t making our own.”


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Richard Stallman vs. Canonical’s CEO: ‘Will Microsoft Love Linux to Death?’

Sep 25

TechRepublic got different answers about Microsoft’s new enthusiasm for Linux from Canonical’s founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, and from Richard Stallman. Stallman “believes that Microsoft’s decision to build a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) amounts to an attempt to extinguish software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve.”
“It certainly looks that way. But it won’t be so easy to extinguish us, because our reasons for using and advancing free software are not limited to practical convenience,” he said. “We want freedom. As a way to use computers in freedom, Windows is a non-starter…” Stallman remains adamant that the WSL can only help entrench the dominance of proprietary software like Windows, and undermine the use of free software. “That doesn’t advance the cause of free software, not one bit,” he says… “The aim of the free software movement is to free users from freedom-denying proprietary programs and systems, such as Windows. Making a non-free system, such Windows or MacOS or iOS or ChromeOS or Android, more convenient is a step backward in the campaign for freedom…”
For Shuttleworth, Windows’ embrace of GNU/Linux is a net positive for open-source software as a whole. “It’s not like Microsoft is stealing our toys, it’s more that we’re sharing them with Microsoft in order to give everyone the best possible experience,” he says. “WSL provides users who are well versed in the Windows environment with greater choice and flexibility, while also opening up a whole new potential user base for the open source platform…” Today Shuttleworth takes Microsoft’s newfound enthusiasm for GNU/Linux at face value, and says the company has a different ethos to that of the 1990s, a fresh perspective that benefits Microsoft as much as it does open-source software. “Microsoft is a different company now, with a much more balanced view of open and competitive platforms on multiple fronts,” he says. “They do a tremendous amount of engineering specifically to accommodate open platforms like Ubuntu on Azure and Hyper-V, and this work is being done in that spirit.”
The article also points out that Microsoft “does seem to be laying the groundwork for WSL to extend what’s possible using a single GNU/Linux distro today, for instance, letting the user chain together commands from different GNU/Linux distros with those from Windows.”


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Google AMP Flaw Exploited By Russian Hackers Targeting Journalists

Sep 25

An anonymous reader writes:
Russian hacktivist group Fancy Bear (also referred to as APT28, Sofacy, and Strontium) has been using a flaw in Google’s caching of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to phish targets, Salon reports. To make matters worse, Google has been aware of the bug for almost a year but has refused to fix it… The vulnerability involves how Google delivers google.com URLs for AMP pages to its search users in an effort to speed up mobile browsing. This makes Google products more vulnerable to phishing attacks.

Conservative blogger Matthew Sheffield writes in the article that most of the known targets “appear to have been journalists who were investigating allegations of corruption or other wrongdoing by people affiliated with the Russian government.”

One such target was Aric Toler, a researcher and writer for the website Bellingcat who specializes in analyzing Russian media and the country’s relationship with far-right groups within Europe and America… another journalist who writes frequently about Russia, David Satter, was taken in by a similar AMP phishing message… Shortly after Satter was tricked into visiting the fake website and entering his password, a program that was hosting the site logged into his Gmail account and downloaded its entire contents. Within three weeks, as the Canadian website Citizen Lab reported, the perpetrators of the hack began posting Satter’s documents online, and even altering them to make opponents and critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin look bad.
Google told Salon they’ve “made a number of changes” to AMP — without saying what they were. (After contacting Google for a comment, AMP’s creator and tech lead blocked public comments on a Github bug report about Google’s AMP implementation.) “More things … will come on Google’s side in the future and we are working with browser vendors to eventually get the origin right,” AMP’s tech lead wrote last February.

Jason Kint, CEO of a major web publishing trade association, told Salon that “This report of an ongoing security issue is troubling and exactly why consolidation of power and closed standards are problematic. The sooner AMP migrates to the open web and becomes less tied to the interests of Google, in every way the better.”


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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Premieres Tonight

Sep 25

An anonymous reader quotes EW.com:
Tonight CBS will premiere the first new Star Trek TV series in 12 years at 8:30 p.m. on the company’s regular broadcast network. Immediately afterward, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery will stream exclusively on CBS All Access — the company’s $6 per month streaming service… CBS saw an opportunity to leverage the built-in popularity of Star Trek to help fuel its fledgling All Access streaming service. The service currently has about 1 million subscribers and the company’s goal is to grow it to 4 million by 2020…
But once fans watch Discovery, they’ll notice the show’s production values aren’t like a typical broadcast show, but more reminiscent of a premium cable or streaming show. CBS was able to justify spending a bit more money on Discovery since it’s going onto the paid tier. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for.
The Los Angeles Times reports each episode costs $8 million — though Netflix is paying $6 million for each episode’s international broadcast rights. The show’s main title sequence has been released, and the Verge reports that the show is set before the original 1966 series (but after Star Trek: Enterprise) along with some other possible spoilers.
Space.com asked one of the show’s actors who his favorite Star Trek captain was. “I mean, Kirk,” answered James Frain, who plays the Vulcan Sarek in Discovery. “That’s like, ‘Who’s your favorite James Bond?’, and if you don’t say ‘Sean Connery,’ really? Come on.”


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Civilian Drone Crashes Into a US Army Helicopter

Sep 25

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post:
It was nearly Black Hawk down over Staten Island — when an Army chopper was struck by an illegally flying drone over a residential neighborhood, authorities said Friday. The UA60 helicopter was flying 500 feet over Midland Beach alongside another Black Hawk, when the drone struck the chopper at around 8:15 p.m. Thursday, causing damage to its rotor blades. The uninjured pilot was able to land safely at nearby Linden Airport in New Jersey… “Our aircraft was not targeted, this was a civilian drone,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, the spokesman for the 82nd Airborne… “One blade was damaged [and] dented in two spots and requires replacement and there is a dented window”… The NYPD and the military are investigating — but no arrests have been made.
The same day a federal judge struck down an ordinance banning drone flights over private property that had been passed by the city of Newton, Massachusetts. But local law enforcement warned that “an out of control helicopter could have crashed into residential homes causing numerous injuries and even fatalities,” while the Post reports that drones have also crashed into a power plant and into the 40th floor of the Empire State Building. “In February, a GoPro drone crashed through a Manhattan woman’s 27th floor window and landed just feet away from her as she sat in her living room.”


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Equifax Hit With ‘Dozens’ of Lawsuits from Shareholders and Consumers — Plus a Possible Class Action

Sep 25

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post:
Since it announced a massive data breach earlier this month, Equifax has been hit with dozens of lawsuits from shareholders, consumers and now one filed by a small Wisconsin credit union that represents what could be the first by a financial institution attempting to preemptively recoup losses caused by alleged fraud the hack could cause… In the lawsuit, which seeks class action status, Madison-based Summit Credit Union says that financial institutions will have to bear the cost of canceling and reissuing credit cards as well as absorbing the cost of any fraudulent charges. They will also lose “profits because their members or customers were unwilling or unable to use their credit cards following the breach,” according to the lawsuit…
“For financial institutions it is important: They bear the financial responsibility for identity theft,” said Summit’s attorney Stacey Slaughter of the law firm Robins Kaplan. “All of the components that would allow someone to create a new identity” were exposed in the Equifax hack.

Equifax responded that they can’t comment on pending litigation, according to the article, though “Equifax has said it did its best to respond to the breach and alerted consumers as quickly as it could…”
“The company’s stock price has fallen 27 percent since it announced the hack September 7.”


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Can We Reduce Cow Methane Emissions By Breeding Low-Emission Cattle?

Sep 25

An anonymous reader quotes Popular Science:
Raising cattle contributes to global warming in a big way. The animals expel large amounts of methane when they burp and fart, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. U.S. beef production, in fact, roughly equals the annual emissions of 24 million cars, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. That’s a lot of methane… Researchers think there may be a better way. Rather than ask people to give up beef, they are trying to design more climate-friendly cattle.

The goal is to breed animals with digestive systems that can create less methane. One approach is to tinker with the microbes that live in the rumen, the main organ in the animals’ digestive tract… Scientists in the United Kingdom last year found that a cow’s genes influence the makeup of these microbial communities, which include bacteria and also Archaea, the primary producers of methane. This discovery means cattle farmers potentially could selectively breed animals that end up with a lower ratio of Archaea-to-bacteria, thus leading to less methane… “The selection to reduce methane emissions would be permanent, cumulative and sustainable over generations as with any other trait, such as growth rate, milk yield, etc. used in animal breeding.” This, over time, “would have a substantial impact on methane emissions from livestock,” Roehe said.

Breeding low-emission cattle would also make it cheaper to raise cattle — and improve the quality of meat.


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Amazon Starts Charging For Cloud Computing Resources By the Second

Sep 25

AmiMoJo writes:

“Back in the old days, you needed to buy or lease a server if you needed access to compute power,” remembers Amazon’s AWS blog. “When Amazon launched EC2 back in 2006, the ability to use an instance for an hour, and to pay only for that hour, was big news. The pay-as-you-go model inspired our customers to think about new ways to develop, test, and run applications of all types.”
But now from the 2nd of October, Amazon will start billing Linux virtual machines by the second, with a one minute minimum.


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