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Mueller Investigation: Thirteen Russians Charged With Interfering in US Election

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 09:43 AM PST

A federal grand jury in Washington, DC has indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Kremlin-linked internet firm on charges that they had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

The US government said Russian entities began interfering in US political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014, according to a court document.

[...] The charges – which include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft – are the most direct allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.

Video -

Link to the Indictment:

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3Dfx History: The GPU’s Great Turning Point?

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 07:22 AM PST

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

Today's startup companies seem to have a certain arc to them—they get some seed funding, they launch, they draw some interest for their good idea, they keep growing, and maybe they become a part of the fabric of our lives ... or a part of the fabric of a significantly larger company. Strangely, 3Dfx didn't so much draw interest as blow the lid off of a trend that redefined how we think of video games. Its graphics processing units were just the right technology for their time. And, for that reason, the company was everywhere for a few years ... until it wasn't. So, what happened—why did 3Dfx turn into a cautionary tale? Today's Tedium sifts through all the polygons and the shaded textures. — Ernie @ Tedium


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Happy Birthday to SoylentNews -- Four Years Old!

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST

It is my great pleasure to announce that SoylentNews has just celebrated four years of service to the community! The very first story on the site appeared on 2014-02-12 and actually went live to everyone 2014-02-17.

It all started when a story on Slashdot made reference to its "audience" which ticked off quite a number of people. Soon after came a boycott of Slashdot — aka the "Slashcott". While this was in effect, an intrepid few people somehow managed to take a years-old, out-of-date, unsupported, open-sourced version of slashcode and somehow managed to get it up to speed to run on much more recent versions of Apache, MySql, etc. Recurring crashes and outages were the norm. (See last year's anniversary story for many more details!) Further, on July 4th, 2014 our application to become a Public Benefit Corporation was approved — this set the stage for us to be able to accept funding from the community.

By the time you read this, we will have posted 20,980 stories to the site to which over 639,907 comments have been made!

We could not have done this without all of you. You (the community) submit the stories for the site. You write the comments... and moderate them, too. You made recommendations for improvements to the site. You are SoylentNews.

It has been my privilege and honor to work with a great group of folks who have done the behind-the-scenes skunk-work which has kept this site running. It does bear mentioning that this site is entirely staffed by volunteers. Nobody here has received even a penny's worth of income from the site. Like you, we have home and work responsibilities, but in our spare time we still strive to provide an environment that is conducive to discussions of predominantly tech-related matters.

Having said all that, I must add that income to the site has dropped recently. Having let my subscription lapse in the past, I know how easy that can be. Take a moment to check your subscription status. We have on the order of 100 people who have subscribed in the past, have visited the site in the past month, and whose subscription has expired. If your subscription is up-to-date, please consider either extending it or making a gift subscription (default is to UID 6 - "mcasadevall" aka NCommander). NB the dollar amounts presented are the minimum payments required for that duration -- we'll happily accept larger amounts. =)

If financial contributions are infeasible for you, we always appreciate story submissions. Submit a link, a few paragraphs from the story, and ideally a sentence or two about what you found interesting and send it to us. Any questions, please take a look at the Submission Guidelines.

Of course, the comments are where it's at. Thoughtful, well-reasoned, well-supported comments seem to do best here. Inflammatory histrionics garner attention, and usually down-mods, too. Speaking of which, if you have good Karma, and have been registered with the site for at least a month, you are invited to participate in moderation. Unlike other sites that up-mod or down-mod to infinity, we have something more like olympic-scoring here. A comment score can vary from -1 to a +5. This is how I look at scores: -1 (total waste of your time), 0 (meh), +1 (okay), +2 (good), +3 (quite good), +4 (very good), +5 (don't miss this one!).

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Uber Sales Reach $7.5B In 2017

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 02:36 AM PST

Adjusted net revenue last quarter increased 61 percent to $2.22 billion from the same period in 2016. Meanwhile, the total value of fares grew to $11 billion that quarter. It was the first full quarter under Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over the troubled business in September.

Despite a turbulent year for the ride-hailing company, sales were $7.5 billion. But the company also posted a substantial loss of $4.5 billion. There are few historical precedents for the scale of its loss.

Uber isn't publicly traded but has chosen to release select financial information to investors and the public in recent quarters. Last month, SoftBank Group Corp. led a $9.3 billion investment deal to make itself largest shareholder in the San Francisco-based company. The Japanese firm is betting that more people will choose to book rides through an app instead of driving themselves and that the business will find a way to make up for losses today.

The latest financial report shows the company continues to increase its revenue while making progress on cutting its loss. Uber's loss is based on generally accepted accounting principles, which includes writedowns, as well as the company's enormous legal expenses, such as the cost of defending against a trade secrets lawsuit from Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo. Uber agreed to give Waymo stock valued at $245 million to settle the suit last week.

[...] Uber hasn't made it easy to compare last year's financials to years past. The company declined to disclose complete data for 2016 and over time has changed how it accounts for revenue. Uber lost billions in China before selling its business there in 2016 in exchange for a 17.5 percent stake in homegrown rival Didi Chuxing.

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‘E-Waste’ Recycling Innovator Faces Prison for Trying to Extend Life Span of PCs

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 12:15 AM PST

Electronics recycler Eric Lundgren was convicted of conspiracy and copyright infringement for his efforts regarding refurbishing old PCs. His sentence would have been 15 months in prison and a $50,000 fine except that he was granted an emergency stay of the sentence by a federal appeals court. Now his appeal is pending before the 11th Circuit though it has not yet been scheduled.

[...] McGloin also testified that Microsoft charges computer refurbishers about $25 for a new license and copy of the software but didn't differentiate that from what was done by Lundgren, who was not making a new copy of the software and intended his restore discs only for computers that were already licensed.

[...] Lundgren called his own expert witness, Glenn Weadock, an author of numerous software books who testified for the government in a major antitrust case against Microsoft that was resolved in 2001. Weadock was asked, "In your opinion, without a code, either product key or COA [Certificate of Authenticity], what is the value of these reinstallation discs?"

"Zero or near zero," Weadock said.

He should have listened to the experts like Ken Starks of Reglue. However, no mention was made by The Washington Post article about whether he or the court was aware that he could have improved the situation all the way around by simply upgrading the refurbished PCs to GNU/Linux instead of using a system that is always showing new ways to cause problems. The local LUG could well host an evening event with him as guest of honor to show how to improve the users' situation while staying out of jail.

Source : Eric Lundgren, 'e-waste' recycling innovator, faces prison for trying to extend life span of PCs

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SMTP Sender Verification - Incompetence is Sometimes Indistinguishable from Malice

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 09:54 PM PST

On his blog, Peter N. M. Hansteen sometimes writes about the problems with getting certain mail service providers to up their game. This time his post provides the details on how a particularly large service not only fails at SMTP sender verification but also at many other tasks necessary for professional mail hosting.

Whenever I encounter incredibly stupid and functionally destructive configuration errors like this I tend to believe they're down to simple incompetence and not malice.

But this one has me wondering. If you essentially require incoming mail to include the contents of (currently no less than 81 subnets) as valid senders for the domain, you are essentially saying that only customers are allowed to communicate.

If that restriction is a result of a deliberate choice rather than a simple configuration error, the problem moves out of the technical sphere and could conceivably become a legal matter, depending on what have specified in their contracts that they are selling to their customers.

One takeaway is that spam-fighting decisions from decades past have left us with technologies that have led to the centralization of mail on fewer and fewer providers. As such it is increasingly difficult for even skilled professionals to operate their own mail hosting smoothly.

Source : A Life Lesson in Mishandling SMTP Sender Verification

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Google Trial Provides 911 Operators With More Accurate Locations of Cellphone Users

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 07:33 PM PST

Google conducts test to help 911 accurately locate callers

Google has conducted a trial to test the efficiency of using its technology to help 911 operators more accurately figure out the location of cellphone callers. The test included tens of thousands of 911 calls over the span of two months in several states, and had encouraging results, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The test was done in conjunction with two companies that have connections into 911 centers, West Corp. and RapidSOS. Under the current 911 system, wireless carriers are normally responsible for providing location information, but it isn't very accurate. RapidSOS says that using Google's technology, about 80 percent of the 911 calls had more accurate location data within the first 30 seconds. Google's data also dramatically shrunk the estimated radius of a call's location, from 522 feet down to 121 feet and arrived faster than carrier data.

Also at Engadget.

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Washington, D.C. Granted Elon Musk's Boring Company an Excavation Permit for Possible Hyperloop

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 05:12 PM PST

In November, Washington, D.C.'s Department of Transportation granted the Boring Company a permit to excavate at a parking lot within the city:

Washington, D.C., has issued a permit allowing Elon Musk's Boring Company to do preparatory and excavation work in what is now a parking lot north of the National Mall. The company says the site could become a Hyperloop station.

The permit, reported Friday by the Washington Post, was issued way back on November 29th of 2017. The permit is part of an exploratory push by the city's Department of Transportation, which according to a spokesperson is examining the feasibility of digging a Hyperloop network under the city. The Hyperloop is an as-yet theoretical proposal to use depressurized tubes and magnet-levitated pods to move passengers at very high speeds.

From The Washington Post:

Asked about the permit, issued Nov. 29, a Boring Company spokesman said Friday that "a New York Avenue location, if constructed, could become a station" in a broad network of such stops across the new system.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) visited the Boring Company in California this month, walking in a tunnel to learn more about the technology the company says will make tunneling faster and cheaper.

The District's Department of Transportation is figuring out what other permits the Boring Company would need to cut under city roads and other public spaces, according to Bowser's chief of staff, John Falcicchio.

Previously: Elon Musk Claims to Have "Verbal Approval" to Build New York to Washington, D.C. Hyperloop
NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop: Not Vaporware?

Related: Hyperloop Pod Competition Winner Exceeds 200mph (324 km/h)
Sir Richard Branson Invests in Hyperloop
Elon Musk's Boring Tunnel Near Los Angeles
Elon Musk's Boring Company Sells Flamethrowers

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Hidden Layers of Picasso Painting Revealed by X-Ray Imaging

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 02:51 PM PST

Picasso painted over another artist's work—and then over his own, new imaging reveals

Hidden beneath the brush strokes of Pablo Picasso's 1902 oil painting La Miséreuse accroupie (The Crouching Beggar) lies the work of another Barcelona artist. And the underlying work seems to have inspired some of Picasso's artistry. Mountains in the original painting—a landscape scene—became the outline of the back of the subject in Picasso's work, which depicts a crouching, cloaked woman.

Experts have known about the hidden image since 1992, when the underlying layers of the painting were first probed using x-ray radiography. But new work, using modern imaging techniques, is revealing more detail—not only about the original painting, but also about Picasso's. Researchers discovered another hidden layer: Under the woman's cloak, Picasso painted an image of her hand clutching a piece of bread, the team announced here today at the annual meeting AAAS, which publishes Science.

The discovery allows us "to look inside Picasso's head and get a sense of how he was making decisions as he was painting the canvas," says Marc Walton, a cultural heritage scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and a lead researcher on the study. "He reworked, he labored on painting this individual element, but then chose to abandon it at the end."

Related: The Picture Under the "Mona Lisa"
Particle Accelerator Reveals Hidden Degas Painting

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Oxygen Ions Could Act as a Biomarker for Finding Life on Exoplanets

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 12:30 PM PST

The presence of large quantities of oxygen ions may be able to distinguish habitable exoplanets with life from barren exoplanets in the habitable zone (resembling Venus or Mars):

Like Earth, Venus and Mars are small rocky planets; they have permanent atmospheres like Earth, and their atmospheres are exposed to the same solar radiation as Earth's. Data from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and the Viking descent probe on Mars show that they have very similar ionospheres to each other—which don't contain a lot of atomic O+ ions. Know what else Venus and Mars are missing? Photosynthesis.

[Astronomy PhD candidate Paul] Dalba's contention is that photosynthesis on a planet's surface, which generates a surfeit of molecular oxygen, is the only thing that can account for these atomic O+ ions in a planet's ionosphere. The mere existence of life throws a planet's atmosphere out of chemical balance. O+ would be a neat biomarker because there isn't a numerical cutoff required—just the dominance of O+ among the ionic species in the upper atmosphere would indicate "thriving global biological activity" on the planet below.

Dalba claims that Venus and Mars act as negative controls, demonstrating that planets like Earth but lacking life don't have this O+ layer. Some may think that continuous volcanic activity on the surface could also generate enough oxygen, but Dalba doesn't. Chemistry involving water and UV light [open, DOI: 10.1038/srep13977] [DX] can also release oxygen. But the amount of water on Earth is insufficient to account for the requisite oxygen content, so he thinks that the presence of water on other planets wouldn't make enough oxygen there either.

Atomic oxygen ions as ionospheric biomarkers on exoplanets (DOI: 10.1038/s41550-017-0375-y) (DX)

Related: Nitrogen in Ancient Rocks a Sign of Early Life
Oxygen Ions From Earth Escape to the Moon
Researchers Suffocate Hopes of Life Support in Red Dwarf "Habitable Zones"
Seven Earth-Sized Exoplanets, Including Three Potentially Habitable, Identified Around TRAPPIST-1
Cosmic Methyl Chloride Detection Complicates the Search for Life on Exoplanets
Mars Colonists Could Produce Oxygen by Making a Plasma Out of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Analysis of Microfossils Finds that Microbial Life Existed at Least 3.5 Billion Years Ago
To Detect Life on Other Planets, Look for Methane, Carbon Dioxide, and an Absence of Carbon Monoxide

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Facebook Loses Belgian Privacy Case

Posted: 18 Feb 2018 10:09 AM PST

Facebook loses Belgian privacy case, faces fine of up to $125 million

A Belgian court threatened Facebook on Friday with a fine of up to 100 million euros ($125 million) if it continued to break privacy laws by tracking people on third-party websites.

In a case brought by Belgium's privacy watchdog, the court also ruled that Facebook had to delete all data it had gathered illegally on Belgian citizens, including people who were not Facebook users themselves.

Facebook, which will be fined 250,000 euros a day or up to 100 million euros if it does not comply with the court's judgment, said in a statement it would appeal the ruling.

Also at The Guardian.

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