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posted by martyb on Monday July 16, @03:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the a-life-draws-to-a-close dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

Reclusive artist walked away from Marvel in 1968, kept drawing for decades.

New York police confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday that one of Marvel Comics' legendary staffers, Steve Ditko, was found dead in his apartment this week. Ditko was 90.

The creator of Dr. Strange and the original artist (plus "co-creator," according to Stan Lee) for Spider-Man had been found days earlier, on June 29, and police told THR that they believed he had been dead for two days when he was found. Reports indicate Ditko left behind no family or survivors.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday July 16, @01:05AM   Printer-friendly
from the honesty:-the-absence-of-the-intent-to-deceive dept.

Glyn Moody writes a blog post at Private Internet Access about how users are steered into accepting terms and conditions which are against their own interests. Even after the advent of the GDPR, and even though users theoretically can change their privacy settings to optimize protection for their personal data, they usually don't. One of the reasons is because it requires effort and thus people mostly accept the defaults through inaction. However, it turns out there are other issues because of the use of user interfaces carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not otherwise do, a practice some label "dark patterns".

Brignull runs a site called Dark Patterns, which includes a “hall of shame” with real-life examples of dark patterns, and a list of common types. One of these is “Privacy Zuckering”, where “You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to. Named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.” A free report, “Deceived by Design“, funded by the Norwegian Consumer Council, reveals that top sites have recently been engaging in “Privacy Zuckering” to undermine the GDPR and its privacy protections. The report explores how Facebook, Google and Microsoft handled the process of updating their privacy settings to meet the GDPR’s more stringent requirements. Specifically, the researchers explored a “Review your data settings” pop-up from Facebook, “A privacy reminder” pop-up from Google, and a Windows 10 Settings page presented as part of a system update. Both Facebook and Google fare badly in terms of protecting privacy by default.

More details can be found in a report by the Norwegian Consumer Council, entitled Deceived by Design: How tech companies use dark patterns to discourage us from exercising our rights to privacy (warning for PDF).

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @10:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the whodunnit dept.

Law enforcement has been fielding several calls per month for a long time now from new victims of a team of scammers impersonating powerful women in the film industry. The scammers appear to be working out of Indonesia and fleece victims for large sums, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars each. In addition to the financial aspect, the main contact for the frauds appears to go an extra mile to engage, manipulate, and toy with the victims.

For more than a year, some of the most powerful women in entertainment — including Amy Pascal, Kathleen Kennedy, Stacey Snider and a 'Homeland' director — have been impersonated by a cunning thief who targets insiders with promises of work, then bilks them out of thousands of dollars. The Hollywood Reporter has obtained exclusive audio recordings of the savvy imposter as victims come forward and a global investigation heats up.

From The Holywood Reporter: Hunting the Con Queen of Hollywood: Who's the "Crazy Evil Genius" Behind a Global Racket?

[Ed note: I'll admit this is not in line with our usual tech-related fare. I was torn whether or not to run it. Then again, it is the weekend and the story has bearing on how can one really trust something as being what it appears to be (think along the lines of malware). I can spot spam e-mails from a mile away, but that's mostly because it's in my area of expertise. How well would I resist such a scam were it perpetrated on me is another matter. What do my fellow Soylentils think? Should I have just binned it? Was it worth running? Maybe only one per weekend? --martyb]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @08:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the syntax!=semantics dept.

In a surprise to no one, researchers find yet again that Internet content filters don’t prevent access to porn. Specifically a paper entitled Internet Filtering and Adolescent Exposure to Online Sexual Material from a pair of researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute in the United Kingdom finds that teens are not slowed down during their search for porn in any meaningful way by content filters. The study looked at around 20,000 subjects around the EU and UK, ages 11 through 16, and found no statistically or practically significant protective effects from filters.

This research follows the controversial news that the UK government was exploring a country-wide porn filter, a product that will most likely fail. The UK would join countries around the world who filter the public Internet for religious or political reasons.

The bottom line? Filters are expensive and they don’t work.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday July 15, @06:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the Pbbbbbbbbbt dept.

Dinosaurs are often depicted as fierce creatures, baring their teeth, with tongues wildly stretching from their mouths like giant, deranged lizards. But new research reveals a major problem with this classic image: Dinosaurs couldn't stick out their tongues like lizards. Instead, their tongues were probably rooted to the bottoms of their mouths in a manner akin to alligators.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and the Chinese Academy of Sciences made the discovery by comparing the hyoid bones — the bones that support and ground the tongue — of modern birds and crocodiles with those of their extinct dinosaur relatives. In addition to challenging depictions of dino tongues, the research proposes a connection on the origin of flight and an increase in tongue diversity and mobility.

The research was published June 20 in the journal PLOS ONE.

The comparison process involved taking high-resolution images of hyoid muscles and bones from 15 modern specimens, including three alligators and 13 bird species as diverse as ostriches and ducks, at the Jackson School’s High-Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography Facility (UTCT). The fossil specimens, most from northeastern China, were scrutinized for preservation of the delicate tongue bones and included small bird-like dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

The results indicate that hyoid bones of most dinosaurs were like those of alligators and crocodiles — short, simple and connected to a tongue that was not very mobile. Co-author and Jackson School Professor Julia Clarke said that these findings mean that dramatic reconstructions that show dinosaurs with tongues stretching out from between their jaws are wrong.

[...] The study was funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, the Smithsonian Institution and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Journal Reference:

  1. Zhiheng Li, Zhonghe Zhou, Julia A. Clarke. Convergent evolution of a mobile bony tongue in flighted dinosaurs and pterosaurs. PLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (6): e0198078 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198078

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @03:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the still-looking-for-secret-villain's-lair dept.

A new volcano on Io? Juno data indicate 'hot spot' on active moon

NASA's Juno spacecraft now orbiting Jupiter has spotted what may be a previously undiscovered volcano on the small moon Io, the most geologically active body in the solar system. The data were collected by Juno's Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper, or JIRAM, instrument on 16 December 2017 when the spacecraft was at a distance of 470,000 kilometres (290,000 miles).

"The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometres) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot," said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. "We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature."

Also at NASA.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @01:27PM   Printer-friendly
from the atherosclerosis++ dept.

Before He Died, Ötzi the Iceman Ate a Greasy, Fatty Meal

We know quite a bit about Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old individual whose remarkably well-preserved remains were found in the Italian Alps in 1991. We know that Ötzi was murdered; he was shot with an arrow that went through his armpit and into his subclavian artery. We know that he was covered in tattoos, that he had sharpened his tools shortly before he was killed, that he had a gravelly voice, that he was lactose intolerant. And now, as Laura Geggel reports for Live Science, researchers have pieced together a picture of what Ötzi ate just before he died: a hearty, fatty meal.

In a study published recently in Current Biology [open, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.067] [DX], researchers explain how they used microscopic techniques to analyze the contents of Ötzi's stomach; the team was comprised of experts in the studies of genetic material, fats, protein and metabolism.

[...] The team was able to identify 167 animal and plant proteins in Ötzi's stomach, and they also determined the components of his last meal: cereals made from einkorn wheat, along with red deer and ibex meat. Notably, Ötzi had also eaten a hefty serving of ibex fat; according to George Dvorsky of Gizmodo, 46 percent of his stomach contents was made up of animal fat residues.

Ötzi the Iceman.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Sunday July 15, @11:06AM   Printer-friendly
from the wolf-&-henhouse dept.

The United Nations has announced that it has launched a high-level panel on digital cooperation, co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma (executive chairman of China's very wealthy Alibaba Group). The press release includes the full list of members and their affiliations. The goal of the panel will be to identify policy, research and information gaps, and make proposals to strengthen international cooperation in the digital space. The first meeting will take place in September and the final report is expected within nine months after that. The panel members serve ostensibly in personal capacity and not as representatives of their respective institutions.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday July 15, @08:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the Cyber-Awareness-Challenge dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

In May, a hacker perusing vulnerable systems with the Shodan search engine found a Netgear router with a known vulnerability—and came away with the contents of a US Air Force captain's computer. The purloined files from the captain—the officer in charge (OIC) of the 432d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's MQ-9 Reaper Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU)at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada—included export-controlled information regarding Reaper drone maintenance.

The hacker took the documents to a Dark Web marketplace, where he planned on selling them for a few hundred dollars. And it's there that analysts from Recorded Future, an information security threat intelligence company, discovered them.

The vulnerability, which makes it possible for an attacker to remotely execute commands and gain access to the root directory of the router via FTP, was disclosed by Netgear over a year ago. Discoverable by searching Shodan for devices with Internet Protocol port 21 open and response text including "214-ADMIN_LOGIN," the vulnerability allowed attackers to compromise routers and then gain access to the local network. They could then either grab files passing over the network or gain access to devices on it.

[...] Analysts from Recorded Future's Insikt Group discovered the data for sale on the Dark Web on June 1. They engaged the individual selling the information and "confirmed the validity of the compromised documents," Recorded Future's Andrei Barysevich wrote in a report on the compromise. "Insikt Group identified the name and country of residence of an actor associated with a group we believe to be responsible. We continue to assist law enforcement in their investigation."

The individual selling the documents also later offered additional documents from an unknown source, including US Army documents describing tactics for defeating improvised explosive device attacks, M1 ABRAMS tank operation, tank crew training and survival, and tank platoon tactics. While Insikt's researchers speculated these might have been part of another breach, the documents themselves are not classified—and many of them are available through the Army's own publications website or other sources.


Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday July 15, @06:54AM   Printer-friendly
from the begun-the-clone-wars-have dept.

Chinese companies are manufacturing chips nearly identical to AMD's Epyc server CPUs, using two joint ventures with AMD. This move comes after the US blacklisted certain Chinese supercomputing centers in 2015 in an attempt to prevent them from using Intel Xeon chips, and more recently, Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE was banned from buying components from US companies. China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer (formerly #1 on the TOP500 list) also uses domestically designed Sunway SW26010 manycore chips.

AMD's Epyc "clone army" may end up hurting Intel's server chip market share even more than it already has:

China isn't eager to embrace another American chipmaker like AMD. In response, AMD established two joint ventures with Chinese holding company THATIC -- one with Chengdu Haiguang Microelectronics Technology (CHMT), and another with Haiguang IC Design, also known as Hygon.

AMD owns a majority stake in CHMT, which ensures that its IP isn't transferred to THATIC. THATIC owns a majority stake in Hygon, which licenses AMD's IP from CHMT. Hygon designs the chips, and CHMT produces the chips through a suitable foundry and then sends them back to Hygon for packaging, marketing, and sales.

This arrangement seemingly placates American and Chinese regulators -- AMD's IP isn't being passed to a Chinese company, and a Chinese chipmaker gains access to superior data center CPU designs. AMD generates less revenues through these JVs than it would through direct sales, but it still gains a foothold in China's massive data center market. But more importantly, this move could wound Intel.

Good luck maintaining control of your "IP". As for the pain?

Many big companies, including Microsoft and Baidu, started installing AMD's cheaper chips in their data centers. In a meeting with Nomura Instinet analyst Romit Shah in June, then-CEO Brian Krzanich admitted that AMD was gaining ground, and Intel was trying to prevent it from gaining a "15% to 20%" share of the data center market. That admission was stunning, since Intel traditionally controlled more than 99% of the data center market with its Xeon chips. Intel's data center group grew its revenues by 11% to $19.1 billion last year, and accounted for 30% of its top line. Epyc was already a thorn in Intel's side, but AMD's sponsorship of Chinese clones could throttle its sales in mainland China, which accounted for 24% of its sales last year. Its total sales in the region only rose 6% in 2017, compared to 20% growth in 2016.

Original Submission

posted by chromas on Sunday July 15, @04:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the right-to-block=right-to-talk dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

President Trump's Supreme Court nominee argued last year that net neutrality rules violate the First Amendment rights of Internet service providers by preventing them from "exercising editorial control" over Internet content.

Trump's pick is Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The DC Circuit twice upheld the net neutrality rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, despite Kavanaugh's dissent. (In another tech-related case, Kavanaugh ruled that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone metadata is legal.)

While current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai eliminated the net neutrality rules, Kavanaugh could help restrict the FCC's authority to regulate Internet providers as a member of the Supreme Court. Broadband industry lobby groups have continued to seek Supreme Court review of the legality of Wheeler's net neutrality rules even after Pai's repeal.

[...] Consumers generally expect ISPs to deliver Internet content in un-altered form. But Kavanaugh argued that ISPs are like cable TV operators—since cable TV companies can choose not to carry certain channels, Internet providers should be able to choose not to allow access to a certain website, he wrote.

"Internet service providers may not necessarily generate much content of their own, but they may decide what content they will transmit, just as cable operators decide what content they will transmit," Kavanaugh wrote. "Deciding whether and how to transmit ESPN and deciding whether and how to transmit are not meaningfully different for First Amendment purposes."

Kavanaugh's argument did not address the business differences between cable TV and Internet service.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @03:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the keep-your-friends-close-and-your-enemies-even-closer dept.

Original URL:

Against the constant warnings of a bipartisan group of senators, the U.S. has finalized its deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, lifting its April ban.

The Commerce Department announced the decision to lift the ban on the Chinese-linked company after it completed its side of the terms of the deal by placing $400 million in a U.S.-approved escrow account. ZTE paid a $1 billion fine and replaced its board of executives as well.

“While we lifted the ban on ZTE, the department will remain vigilant as we closely monitor ZTE’s actions to ensure compliance with all U.S. laws and regulations,” Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross wrote in a statement, Reuters reported.

A bipartisan group of senators led by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, are vocally opposing the White House’s deal. Other senators opposing the agreement include Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Republican Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia, and Republican Roy Blunt of Missouri.

The bipartisan group of senators wrote an open letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees asking them to make amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes provisions against ZTE.

“We strongly oppose the June 2018 deal with ZTE negotiated by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to lift the seven-year ban against the export of U.S. parts and components to ZTE,” the senators wrote.

Schumer was able to make an amendment to the Senate’s version of the NDAA that includes that keeps in place[sic] the provisions against ZTE.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday July 15, @12:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the your-money-or-your-life dept.

Drug to Treat Smallpox Approved by F.D.A., a Move Against Bioterrorism (archive)

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first drug intended to treat smallpox — a move that could halt a lethal pandemic if the virus were to be released as a terrorist bioweapon or through a laboratory accident.

The antiviral pill, tecovirimat, also known as Tpoxx, has never been tested in humans with smallpox because the disease was declared eradicated in 1980, three years after the last known case.

But it was very effective at protecting animals deliberately infected with monkeypox and rabbitpox, two related diseases that can be lethal. It also caused no severe side effects when safety-tested in 359 healthy human volunteers, the F.D.A. said.

"This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon," said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the F.D.A.'s commissioner.

Also at NBC.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday July 14, @10:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the shoulda-used-better-AI-to-test-the-AI dept.

A years-old, one-letter typo led to Aliens: Colonial Marines' weird AI

History may never be kind to Aliens: Colonial Marines, but the present tense isn't looking so good for the lawsuit- and complaint-ridden Gearbox game, either. This week brought to our attention one of the weirdest coding typos we've ever seen in a game—which has apparently been hidden inside of A:CM's PC version since its 2013 launch.

[...] Upon researching [the game's fan-made patch] patch, ResetERA readers noticed something in the notes that somehow escaped the gaming community at large in October 2017: the discovery of a one-letter typo in A:CM's INI files. As user jamesdickinson963 pointed out last year, the game's "PecanEngine.ini" file references a "tether" system in assigning AI commands to the series' infamous monsters (which I'll call "xenomorphs" for brevity's sake, even though that term isn't necessarily the right one). However, one of its two mentions of the term "tether" is misspelled as "teather."

Dickinson's post alleges that this command, when spelled correctly, "controls tactical position adjustment, patrolling, and target zoning. When a xeno is spawned, it is attached to a zone tether. This zone tells the xeno what area is its fighting space and where different exits are. In combat, a xeno will be forced to switch to a new tether (such as one behind you) so as to flank or disperse so they aren't so grouped up, etc." Thanks to how the engine parsed this typo, it never caused any crashes; instead, the engine ignored the unfamiliar term. Thus, the game's monsters never received the smarter, useful information that had been programmed from the get-go. Instead, they often ran around like in the below, infamous image. [Image]

From the comments:

I can kinda see QA missing it, since the AI is nondeterministic, it'd be hard get a bug created to say "the AI seems... bad"

Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday July 14, @08:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the reducing-overhead-costs dept.

Atlanta is a scorching heat island, but can green roofs help?

It's midsummer, which means that perennial, suffocating, climatological sauna has befallen Atlanta. Like most urban places, Atlanta's status as a heat island is hardly surprising, what with all the heat-capturing concrete and carbon emissions, which spell hotter summer temps intown (2.4 degrees in the daytime, about 4 degrees at night) than surrounding rural areas. What's more surprising: The ATL's heat-island problem is actually getting better.

That's the word from Bill Lomel, Sentry Roof Services president, whose company has worked with Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and other major clients to implement green-roof practices that include reflective roof materials and energy-effecient insulation. The result, per Lomel, is that Atlanta's heat island footprint has been dramatically reduced in the past decade, as buildings implementing "cool roofs" throughout town are saving up to 20 percent in energy costs. Meanwhile, the tops of such buildings are more than a third cooler than standard roofs, which can reach July temperatures of a blazing 150 degrees.

Original Submission