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Saturday, January 12, 2019



Raspberry Pi Foundation Announces RISC-V Foundation Membership

Posted: 12 Jan 2019 09:08 AM PST

Raspberry Pi Foundation Announces RISC-V Foundation Membership:

[The Raspberry Pi] Foundation has announced that it is joining the RISC-V Foundation, suggesting that a shift away from Arm could be on the cards. "We're excited to have joined the RISC-V Foundation as a silver member," the Raspberry Pi Foundation posted to its Twitter account. "[We're] hoping to contribute to maturing the Linux kernel and Debian port for the world's leading free and open instruction set architecture."

A shift from the proprietary Arm architecture to RISC-V would fit in nicely with the Foundation's goal of low-cost, highly-accessible computing for education and industry – but would put paid to its tradition of keeping backwards compatibility where possible, something it has already suggested might be the case when it moves away from the Broadcom BCM283x platform for the Raspberry Pi 4. Foundation co-founder Eben Upton, though, is clear: the Foundation is currently focusing on supporting the ISA in software, and not with a development board launch.

I'm curious how many Soylentils have a Raspberry Pi (or more than one) and which model(s). How has your experience been? What are the positives and shortcomings you've encountered? Do you think it would be a good move for them to move to RISC-V?

More background on RISC-V is available at Wikipedia.

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Engineers, Zoologists Reveal how Gulls 'Wing Morph' for Stable Soaring: Wind-Tunnel Testing of Gull

Posted: 12 Jan 2019 06:24 AM PST

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Aviation experts and zoologists have provided new insights into how gulls configure their wing shape -- known as wing morphing -- to stabilize their flight. The findings could be used to design more efficient flying vehicles, including soaring drones for farming or environmental monitoring.

[...] Although a gliding bird's ability to stabilize its flight path is as critical as its ability to produce lift, relatively few quantitative studies on avian flight stability have been completed. This is what brought UBC researchers Christina Harvey, Vikram Baliga and Professor Doug Altshuler to Lavoie's wind tunnel lab at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS).

The researchers measured the lift and drag on 12 different wing shapes, all with slightly different elbow and shoulder angles. They determined that with a simple adjustment of a gull's elbow joints -- either to expand its wings outwards or inwards -- gulls are able to transition across a broad range of wing shapes to stabilize glide. When soaring, the wings are fully extended and have a more rounded shape, which increases their stability. When taking off or landing they are tucked in more and have a flatter shape.

"If you can change the shape of the wings, you can create more stable configurations with lower drag when you want more endurance," says Lavoie. "Gulls can use updrafts to increase altitude so they don't have to flap their wings as much to conserve energy. But if they need to make quick maneuvers, like diving to catch fish, they can change the shape of the wing for that particular purpose."

Journal Reference:
C. Harvey, V. B. Baliga, P. Lavoie, D. L. Altshuler. Wing morphing allows gulls to modulate static pitch stability during gliding. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 2019; 16 (150): 20180641 DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2018.0641


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An EULA in FOSS clothing?

Posted: 12 Jan 2019 04:03 AM PST

Software developer Bryan Cantrill has a second, more detailed, blog post on EULA plus Copyright frankenlicenses. The combination of the two appears to bring in a lot of baggage from both proprietary licensing and EULAs while being dressed up as FOSS. He writes a blog post in response to a longer discussion on HN and blog post from the CEO of Confluent. He discusses the situation, raises quite a few questions (three are quoted below), and concludes with an assessment on the seriousness of the problem and a call to action.

This prompts the following questions, which I also asked Jay via Twitter:

1. If I git clone software covered under the Confluent Community License, who owns that copy of the software?

2. Do you consider the Confluent Community License to be a contract?

3. Do you consider the Confluent Community License to be a EULA?

[...] To foundations concerned with software liberties, including the Apache Foundation, the Linux Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, and the Software Freedom Conservancy: the open source community needs your legal review on this! I don't think I'm being too alarmist when I say that this is potentially a dangerous new precedent being set; it would be very helpful to have your lawyers offer their perspectives on this, even if they disagree with one another. We seem to be in some terrible new era of frankenlicenses, where the worst of proprietary licenses are bolted on to the goodwill created by open source licenses; we need your legal voices before these creatures destroy the village!

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Elon Musk: New Tesla Roadster will use Thrusters to Float Above the Ground

Posted: 12 Jan 2019 01:42 AM PST

Submitted via IRC for AndyTheAbsurd

Elon Musk has a knack for tweeting out some real eyebrow-raisers. On Wednesday afternoon, he delivered, once again:

The new Roadster will actually do something like this

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 9, 2019

So, is Musk just joking around?

"I'm not," Musk replied on Twitter TWTR, -0.66% to the delight of his fan base. "Will use SpaceX cold gas thruster system with ultrahigh pressure air in a composite over-wrapped pressure vessel in place of the 2 rear seats."

Can't help but think Musk is full of crap here - even with the "removal of the rear seats" idea, I doubt that a tank of that size using cold gas only could hover a car for more than a handful of seconds.


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"Alt-Right Twitter" Gab Spoke Too Soon: Square Account Now Deactivated

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 11:21 PM PST

Over at the CCN, Gab is having trouble even getting its bitcoin on.

The declaration by free speech social network Gab that the firm was still allowed on Square's bitcoin-friendly Cash App after being banned on other platforms may have been premature.

This emerged after the social media platform that is occasionally referred to as "alt-right Twitter," over its popularity with extremist right-wingers, disclosed that the personal Square Cash account of the firm's founder and CEO, Andrew Torba, had been deactivated.

Things like this are just bad for business.

Earlier this month as CCN reported, Gab had posted a tweet that gave the impression that Square's Cash App — which allows users to buy and sell bitcoin — had reactivated Gab's access. According to Breaker magazine, Square might have unknowingly reactivated an account belonging to Gab but will continue to "pro-actively delete any new accounts that it learned were connected with Gab."

[...] Besides Square, other platforms that have banned Gab in the recent past include cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, online payment processing firm Stripe, bitcoin payment service provider BitPay and online payments system PayPal.

Currently, bitcoin, as well as money orders and checks sent to its post office address, are the only ways for Gab to process payments for its premium service, GabPro. On January 8, Gab announced that it had integrated with open-source crypto payment processor BTCPay Server.

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Enforcing Political Orthodoxy in Scholarly Publishing

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 09:00 PM PST

Portland State University has initiated disciplinary proceedings against their philosophy professor Peter Boghossian for conspiring with colleagues to submit more than two dozen satirical papers to feminist theory and race-studies journals in an effort to prove those disciplines are academically fraudulent. The hoax papers, some of which were accepted by journals and which were revealed back in October, made Boghossian and his cohorts the international toast of "free thinkers" concerned that college campuses have become paralyzed by political orthodoxy.

After their ruse was revealed, the three authors described their project in an October article in the webzine Areo, which Pluckrose edits. Their goal, they wrote, was to "to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research." They contend that scholarship that tends to social grievances now dominates some fields, where students and others are bullied into adhering to scholars' worldviews, while lax publishing standards allow the publication of clearly ludicrous articles if the topic is politically fashionable.

The Chronicle of Higher Education : Proceedings Start Against 'Sokal Squared' Hoax Professor (archive)
Willamette Week : Professor Who Authored Hoax Papers Says Portland State University Has Launched Disciplinary Proceedings Against Him (archive)

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The Perils of Short-Termism: Civilisation's Greatest Threat

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 06:39 PM PST

The BBC has an interesting article on short-term thinking in humans, and attempts by various people to get society to think long-term instead:

For many of us currently in adulthood, how often can we truly say we are thinking about the well-being of these future generations? How often do we contemplate the impact of our decisions as they ripple into the decades and centuries ahead?

Part of the problem is that the 'now' commands so much more attention. We are saturated with knowledge and standards of living have mostly never been higher – but today it is difficult to look beyond the next news cycle. If time can be sliced, it is only getting finer, with ever-shorter periods now shaping our world. To paraphrase the investor Esther Dyson: in politics the dominant time frame is a term of office, in fashion and culture it's a season, for corporations it's a quarter, on the internet it's minutes, and on the financial markets mere milliseconds.

Modern society is suffering from "temporal exhaustion", the sociologist Elise Boulding once said. "If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future," she wrote in 1978. We can only guess her reaction to the relentless, Twitter-fuelled politics of 2019. No wonder wicked problems like climate change or inequality feel so hard to tackle right now.

[...] the longevity of civilisation depends on us extending our frame of reference in time – considering the world and our descendants through a much longer lens. What if we could be altruistic enough to care about people we might never live to see? And if so, what will it take to break out of our short-termist ways?

People tend to value rewards received in the future less than they value the rewards received now --- in the sense of "I'd rather have a hamburger today than 10 hamburgers three weeks from now". Coupled with improved technology, this has lead us to the 24-hour news-cycle life that society is in now: we are inundated with "breaking news items" that use up our stamina and we never take the time to think long-term. In practice, this means we tend to use up resources without making provisions for kids, grandkids, or descendants 1000 years into the future. We use various rationalizations of this behavior (when confronted with the accusation), but careful analysis shows that we are mostly wrong (as long as we value individual future humans as much as individual humans alive today).

While it's a fairly long read, I think it's worth the time: some ideas that I've heard before are placed in a wider context, and there are several references that I, at least, wasn't aware of.

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IBM Insists It's Not Deliberately Axing Older Staff. Internal Secret Docs State Otherwise...

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 04:18 PM PST

IBM is still refusing to turn over documents in a bombshell age-discrimination lawsuit that attorneys representing plaintiff Jonathan Langley believe will show Big Blue has deliberately and systematically shed older workers.

"IBM simply refuses to produce any of [the documents] in violation of the requirements of open and honest discovery," Langley's legal team said in a motion filed on Tuesday in a Texas court to compel IBM to cooperate.

The IT titan also sealed internal confidential files submitted by Langley to the court, though we were able to glimpse them before they were pulled from public view. More on that in a moment.

Langley, who joined Big Blue in 1993 and was worldwide program director and sales lead of IBM's Bluemix cloud service when he was laid off in 2017, claims the IT giant broke the US Age Discrimination in Employment Act when it let him go in pursuit of a multi-year campaign to de-age its workforce. For one thing, he was praised for his work and landed a $20,000 performance-linked bonus just two months before he was kicked out, leading him to accuse the biz of dropping him purely because he had turned 60.

Last month, IBM was accused by Langley's lawyers of attempting to derail the lawsuit by blocking discovery requests and narrowing its focus away from the claims of systematic discrimination.

In March 2018, ProPublica and Mother Jones reported that IBM for years has been implementing a layoff strategy that targeted older workers. According to the report, IBM is estimated to have rid itself of 20,000 workers age 40 or older between 2014 and 2018, representing about 60 per cent of job cuts since then.

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Internet Takeover in a "National Emergency". Got a Disaster Plan for it?

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 02:36 PM PST

Got a contingency plan for men with guns showing up at your cubicle and ordering you to re-route traffic to please the government?

Section 606 of the 1934 Communications Act provides for government takeover of wired and radio communication in the event of war or "other national emergency".

I'm not saying anything will happen in the next few days. Trump's state of emergency might be just talk. It might be limited to its stated purpose. It's rare for actual disasters to happen.

You've got a disaster recovery plan (DRP), though. If it's not in the next few days, a "national emergency" problem might show up sometime down the road. Does your DRP cover it?

It's hard to imagine a technical solution. This may require the company lawyer to prepare a [Layer 8] contingency plan in advance.

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Three Acquisitions In 2018 To Impact 2019's Tech Landscape

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 12:59 PM PST

"CLOUD COMPUTING: IBM acquiring Red Hat for $34 billion........Red Hat has held a steady leadership in cloud computing and open source Linux OS for many years. It is present in most financial and governmental institutions......

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: GSK bought a $300 million stake in 23andMe...........Why fall ill and shorten your lifespan if you can prevent an upcoming disease by opening your genetic coffins to a pharmaceutical giant like GSK?..................

INTERNET OF THINGS: Qualcomm's bid to purchase NXP Semiconductors for $44 billion............Qualcomm positions itself as a chip producer for the upcoming Internet of Things (IoT)......"

Hopefully, they meant Coffers. I think they meant Coffers. But, who knows? Who really knows!

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Guarded Warehouse near Malmi Airport and Mysterious Cargoes from Baghdad; US Embassy in Helsinki

Posted: 11 Jan 2019 11:22 AM PST

A dilapidated warehouse in Malmi is being used by the US Embassy for unknown operations after a Wikileaks release revealed its location.

The anonymous looking building on Takoraudantie is notable only for the new 427 meter perimeter fence that according to the Wikileaks' database was ordered by the US Embassy in April 2018.

Situated across the street from the main entrance of Malmi Airport, the warehouse with its 3 meter high security fence appears an unlikely location for official embassy business. Neighbouring companies include a car yard and a tyre warehouse.

Helsinki Times visited the perimeters this weekend. Security personnel, young Finns in uniforms with American flags on their arms, appeared nervous and suspicious when asked to comment on the warehouse and refused to even confirm the order of the new fence structure which now surrounds the compound. At one point a security guard appeared in a second floor window to carefully monitor this reporter's movements along Takoraudantie.


The database displaying US embassy procurements around the world shows that tons of cargo are being distributed to Helsinki and other US embassies via regular airfreight cargo deliveries from Baghdad.

Twelve consignments, each logged at 5000 kilograms are recorded as sent to Helsinki and 23 other West European US embassies – an average of 2500 kilograms per US embassy.

The reason for such a vast volume of embassy deliveries from Baghdad is as yet unknown but this latest disclosure follows Wikileaks news that the US Consulate in Frankfurt was a purchase and postal centre for distributing spy equipment to other US embassies worldwide. Concerns are now raised that the US Embassy in Baghdad is also being used as a main distribution centre for secret operations.

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