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The Internet

Kickstarter Bets On 'Wired' Arduino-Compatible IoT Platform 107

L-One-L-One writes: Most IoT home projects today are based on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and friends. But this is not always the ideal solution: you end up swapping batteries frequently, which becomes annoying quite quickly. You also have to deal with signal strength issues and interferences. To address this problem, a new Kickstarter campaign called NoCAN is proposing an Arduino-compatible internet-of-things platform based on wired connections that combine networking and power in one cable. The platform uses a set of cheap Arduino-compatible nodes controlled through a Raspberry Pi. The network uses CAN-bus and offers a publish/subscribe mechanism like MQTT and over-the-network firmware updates. It can also be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. Even with such features, can it succeed in going against the all-wireless trend? We'll know in a few weeks.
The Courts

The Supreme Court Will Decide If Apple's App Store Is a Monopoly (wired.com) 205

The Supreme Court will review a 2011 class-action lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of operating an illegal monopoly by not allowing iPhone users to download mobile apps outside of its own App Store, reducing consumer choice. The case, being referred to as Apple Inc. v. Pepper., could have wide-reaching implications for consumers as well as other companies like Amazon. Wired reports: The dispute is over whether Apple, by charging app developers a 30 percent commission fee and only allowing iOS apps to be sold through its own store, has inflated the price of iPhone apps. Apple, supported by the Trump administration, argues that the plaintiffs in the case -- iPhone consumers -- don't have the right to sue under current antitrust laws in the U.S.

The case marks a rare instance in which the court has agreed not only to hear an antitrust case, but also one where no current disagreement exists in the circuit courts. The outcome could change decades of antitrust legal precedent -- either strengthening or weakening consumer protections against monopolistic power. The case also represents a huge source of revenue for Apple; the company raked in an estimated $11 billion last year in App Store commissions alone.
The lawsuit centers around another Supreme Court case from 1977, Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, "which established what is known as the Illinois Brick Doctrine," reports Wired. "That rule says you can't sue for antitrust damages if you're not the direct purchaser of a good or service."
Crime

Was the Stanford Prison Experiment a Sham? (nypost.com) 135

Frosty Piss writes: The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted in 1971 by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power by focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either "guards" or "prisoners" in a mock prison, with Zimbardo serving as the superintendent. The results seemed to show that the students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many of the prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers' request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. After Berkeley graduate Douglas Korpi appeared to have a nervous breakdown while playing the role of an inmate, the experiment was shut down. There's just one problem: Korpi's breakdown was a sham. Dr. Ben Blum took to Medium to publish his claims. "Blum's expose -- based on previously unpublished recordings of Zimbardo, a Stanford psychology professor, and interviews with the participants -- offers evidence that the 'guards' were coached to be cruel," reports New York Post. "One of the men who acted as an inmate told Blum he enjoyed the experiment because he knew the guards couldn't actually hurt him."

"There were no repercussions. We knew [the guards] couldn't hurt us, they couldn't hit us. They were white college kids just like us, so it was a very safe situation," said Douglas Korpi, who was 22-years-old when he acted as an inmate in the study. The Berkeley grad now admits the whole thing was fake. Zimbardo also "admitted that he was an active participant in the study, meaning he had influence over the results," reports New York Post. According to an audio recording from the Stanford archive, you can hear Zimbardo encouraging the guards to act "tough."
Power

America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts (fivethirtyeight.com) 445

Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....

[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.

A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.

The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."
Businesses

Samsung Plans To Use 100% Renewable Energy by 2020 (fortune.com) 60

Samsung said this week it plans to transition to entirely renewable energy in its offices, factories, and operational facilities in the United States, China, and Europe by 2020. From a report: The company has also joined the World Wildlife Fund's Renewable Energy Buyers' Principles and the Rocky Mountain Institute's Business Renewables Center. In its home in Korea, Samsung plans to install 42,000 meters of solar panels at its headquarters, and will continue to add approximately 21,000 meters of solar arrays and geothermal power generation facilities beginning in 2019 at its satellite campuses in Pyeongtaek and Hwaseong.
Microsoft

Windows 10 is Adding SwiftKey, Laying the Groundwork For Dual-Screen Tablets (cnet.com) 41

Sean Hollister, writing for CNET: Microsoft-owned SwiftKey was one of the first virtual keyboards to offer intelligent, predictive swipe-typing on Android and iOS phones, and now Microsoft has announced that it will become the default keyboard for touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 computers as well. "SwiftKey will now power the typing experience on Windows when using the touch keyboard to write in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), or Russian," reads a portion of Microsoft's blog post. Which could be pretty handy if the rumors are true: Microsoft is reportedly planning to ship several new Surface tablets this year, including a new low-cost Surface slate and the dual-screen "Andromeda." Dual screens were a theme among laptop manufacturers at Computex last week, too.
EU

Kaspersky Halts Europol Partnership After Controversial EU Parliament Vote (bleepingcomputer.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: Kaspersky Lab announced it was temporarily halting its cooperation with Europol following the voting of a controversial motion in the European Parliament. The Russian antivirus vendor will also stop working on the NoMoreRansom project that provided free ransomware decrypters for ransomware victims.

The company's decision comes after the EU Parliament voted a controversial motion that specifically mentions Kaspersky as a "confirmed as malicious" software and urges EU states to ban it as part of a joint EU cyber defense strategy. The EU did not present any evidence for its assessment that Kaspersky is malicious, but even answered user questions claiming it has no evidence. The motion is just a EU policy and has no legislative power, put it is still an official document. Kaspersky software has been previously banned from Government systems in the US, UK, Netherlands, and Lithuania.

Government

Cops Are Confident iPhone Hackers Have Found a Workaround to Apple's New Security Feature (vice.com) 128

Joseph Cox, and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard: Apple confirmed to The New York Times Wednesday it was going to introduce a new security feature, first reported by Motherboard. USB Restricted Mode, as the new feature is called, essentially turns the iPhone's lightning cable port into a charge-only interface if someone hasn't unlocked the device with its passcode within the last hour, meaning phone forensic tools shouldn't be able to unlock phones. Naturally, this feature has sent waves throughout the mobile phone forensics and law enforcement communities, as accessing iPhones may now be substantially harder, with investigators having to rush a seized phone to an unlocking device as quickly as possible.

That includes GrayKey, a relatively new and increasingly popular iPhone cracking tool. But forensics experts suggest that Grayshift, the company behind the tech, is not giving up yet. "Grayshift has gone to great lengths to future proof their technology and stated that they have already defeated this security feature in the beta build. Additionally, the GrayKey has built in future capabilities that will begin to be leveraged as time goes on,' a June email from a forensic expert who planned to meet with Grayshift, and seen by Motherboard, reads, although it is unclear from the email itself how much of this may be marketing bluff. "They seem very confident in their staying power for the future right now," the email adds. A second person, responding to the first email, said that Grayshift addressed USB Restricted Mode in a webinar several weeks ago.

Businesses

On The Sad State of Macintosh Hardware (rogueamoeba.com) 522

Quentin Carnicelli, the chief technology officer at Rogue Amoeba, a widely-reputed firm that produces several audio software for Apple's desktop operating system: With Apple recently releasing their first developer beta of MacOS 10.14 (Mojave), we've been installing it on various test machines to test our apps. The inevitable march of technology means Mojave won't install on all of our older hardware. There's no shock there, but the situation is rather distressing when it comes to spending money to purchase new equipment. Here is the situation, as reported by the wonderful MacRumor's Buyers Guide: At the time of the writing, with the exception of the $5,000 iMac Pro, no Macintosh has been updated at all in the past year. Here are the last updates to the entire line of Macs: iMac Pro: 182 days ago, iMac: 374 days ago, MacBook: 374 days ago, MacBook Air: 374 days ago, MacBook Pro: 374 days ago, Mac Pro: 436 days ago, and Mac Mini: 1337 days ago.

Worse, most of these counts are misleading, with the machines not seeing a true update in quite a bit longer. The Mac Mini hasn't seen an update of any kind in almost 4 years (nor, for that matter, a price drop). The once-solid Mac Pro was replaced by the dead-end cylindrical version all the way back in 2012, which was then left to stagnate. I don't even want to get started on the MacBook Pro's questionable keyboard, or the MacBook's sole port (USB-C which must also be used to provide power). It's very difficult to recommend much from the current crop of Macs to customers, and that's deeply worrisome to us, as a Mac-based software company.

Power

China's Ambitions To Power the World's Electric Cars Took a Huge Leap Forward This Week (reuters.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Future Mobility Corporation (FMC), the Chinese parent company behind electric car start-up Byton, has placed an order for a paint shop capable of handling 150,000 cars per year, German supplier Duerr said on Wednesday. China's Byton, a newcomer headed by the former head of BMW's i8 program, has already released plans for a premium electric SUV vehicle, the latest in a series of China-backed electric autonomous prototypes. Byton has financial backing from Chinese state-owned carmaker FAW Group and the country's dominant battery producer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. (CATL) This is just one of the stories this week relating to China and the electric car industry. MIT Technology Review adds: In a public offering on June 11 in Shenzhen, battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) raised nearly $1 billion to fund ambitious expansion plans, and its stock has been shooting up every day since. Thanks largely to the company's new plants, China will be making 70 percent of the world's electric-vehicle batteries by 2021, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

Just seven years later, CATL has built up the biggest lithium-ion manufacturing facilities in the world, according to BNEF. The company can crank out around 17 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion cells annually, placing it just ahead of Korea's LG Chem, the Tesla and Panasonic partnership, and China's electric-vehicle giant BYD. Flush with capital from its offering, CATL plans to build two new plants and expand existing facilities, pushing its capacity to nearly 90 gigawatt-hours by 2020. [...] Notably, it's the only Chinese battery company so far to line up deals to supply foreign automakers, including BMW, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen.

The Internet

'Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast' (techcrunch.com) 328

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome.

For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

Power

Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power (bloomberg.com) 364

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.

The growth came even as tariffs on imported panels threatened to increase costs for developers. Giant fields of solar panels led the growth as community solar projects owned by homeowners and businesses took off. Total installations this year are expected to be 10.8 gigawatts, or about the same as last year, according to GTM. By 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.

Security

5% of All Monero Currently In Circulation Has Been Mined Using Malware (bleepingcomputer.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes: According to a report released yesterday, criminal groups have mined an approximate total of 798,613.33 Monero coins (XMR) using malware on infected devices. That's over $108 million in US currency, just from coin-mining operations alone. This sum also represents around 5% of all the Monero currently in circulation -- 15,962,350 XMR. Furthermore, during the past year, infected devices were responsible for 19,503,823.54 hashes/second, which is roughly 2% of the entire hashing power of the Monero network. The total hashrate of roughly 19MH/s would result in approximately $30,443 per day based on today's current exchange rates and network difficulty," researchers said. "Similarly, the top three hash-rates will mine approximately $2,737, $2,022 and $1,596 per day, respectively."
Power

To Hit Climate Goals, Bill Gates and His Billionaire Friends Are Betting on Energy Storage (qz.com) 225

Akshat Rathi, writing for Quartz: The world needs radical new energy technologies to fight climate change. In 2016, Quartz reported that a group of billionaires -- including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and Richard Branson -- launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to invest at least $1 billion in creating those technologies. Now, 18 months later, Quartz can reveal the first two startups that BEV will be investing in: Form Energy and Quidnet Energy. Both companies are developing new technologies to store energy, but taking completely different approaches to achieve that goal.

The way to reach the world's climate goals is straightforward: reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions to zero within the next few decades. But the energy technologies that can help us get there tend to need lots of money and long lead times to develop. That's why many conventional investors, who are looking for quicker returns, have burned their fingers investing in clean tech. The wealthy investors of BEV want to remedy that. Their $1 billion fund is "patient capital," to be invested in only companies working on technologies capable of cutting global carbon emissions by at least 500 million metric tons annually, even if they may not provide returns on investment for up to 20 years.

Communications

Mars Opportunity Rover Is In Danger of Dying From a Dust Storm (engadget.com) 105

According to NASA, the Mars Opportunity rover is currently trying to survive an intensifying dust storm on the red planet. "The storm's atmospheric opacity -- the veil of dust blowing around, which can blot out sunlight -- is now much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered," reports NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8 as of Sunday morning." Engadget reports: The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries. By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.
Bitcoin

Apple's App Store Officially Bans Cryptocurrency Mining (venturebeat.com) 39

Apple has updated the App Store's Review Guidelines to explicitly ban on-device mining across any type of app, and all of Apple's platforms. The new section 3.1.5 (b), titled Cryptocurrencies, provides five clear rules for what will and won't be allowed in macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS apps going forward. VentureBeat reports: The upshot of the new rules is that while Apple will permit cryptocurrencies to exist on its platforms, it's adding requirements to stop scammers and individuals from exploiting App Store customers, while making explicit that it's blocking developers from eating Apple device processing power for mining activities. As AppleInsider notes, the Review Guidelines were previously less concerned with cryptocurrencies, allowing an app to facilitate crypto and ICO transactions if it complied with the laws in the app's distributed territories.

Since the App Store is virtually the only place to acquire software for iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches, Apple's decision will effectively end crypto mining on those devices. On macOS, however, users will continue to be able to acquire apps outside of the Mac App Store, enabling mining and other activities to continue without Apple's seal of approval.

IT

It's 2018 and USB Type-C Is Still a Mess (androidauthority.com) 330

An anonymous reader shares a column: USB Type-C was billed as the solution for all our future cable needs, unifying power and data delivery with display and audio connectivity, and ushering in an age of the one-size-fits-all cable. Unfortunately for those already invested in the USB Type-C ecosystem, which is anyone who has bought a flagship phone in the past couple of years, the standard has probably failed to live up to the promises. Even the seemingly most basic function of USB Type-C -- powering devices -- has become a mess of compatibility issues, conflicting proprietary standards, and a general lack of consumer information to guide purchasing decisions. The problem is that the features supported by different devices aren't clear, yet the defining principle of the USB Type-C standard makes consumers think everything should just work.

The charging example clearly demonstrates a very common frustration with the standard as it currently stands. Moving phones between different chargers, even of the same current and voltage ratings, often won't produce the same charging speeds. Furthermore, picking a third party USB Type-C cable to replace the typically too short included cable can result in losing fast charging capabilities.

Businesses

The World Isn't Prepared for Retirement (bloomberg.com) 319

An anonymous reader writes: Most online quizzes are relatively mindless, promising to reveal which vegetable, sandwich or rock band best represents your personality. That was not the case for a short online test given to 16,000 people in 15 countries this year. It revealed just how unprepared a good chunk of the world is for retirement. The three-question test, given as part of the Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2018, measured how well people understand basic financial concepts. Many of the participants failed the quiz, with big potential consequences for their future security.

Beyond the sobering lack of financial literacy, there were some rather curious data in Aegon's annual survey, published on Tuesday. For example, some 20 percent of workers surveyed in China envisioned spending retirement with a robot companion. But before we get to that, take a look at this question -- which only 45 percent of people around the world got right: Q. Do you think the following statement is true or false? "Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund."

The possible answers? True, false, do not know and refuse to answer. Sixteen percent of people got it wrong. "Do not know" was chosen by 38 percent. In the U.S., 46 percent of workers got it right. Good for you, America -- though Germany beat you handily. (The answer, in case you were wondering, is false.) It was an inflation question that had the highest percentage of wrong answers, however. More than 20 percent of workers didn't grasp how higher inflation hurts their buying power. Given that declining health was the most-cited retirement worry, at 49 percent, and health care is an area (in the U.S., especially) with high cost inflation, well, that makes the subject something older folks should have down cold.

Intel

'We've an Unexpected Manufacturing Advantage For the First Time Ever': Intel's Manufacturing Glitch Opens Door For AMD (theinformation.com) 136

Over at The Information (paywalled), reporter Aaron Tilley has a splendid interview of Forrest Norrod, a senior executive who joined AMD four years ago. Mr. Norrod describes the challenge AMD has faced over the years and how, for the first time ever, it sees a real shot at making a significant dent in the desktop market. From the report: Advanced Micro Devices' battle with chip giant Intel has often seemed like a gnat fighting an elephant, with AMD struggling in recent years to gain even a tenth of the market for the chips that power PCs and data center servers. Forrest Norrod, a senior executive who joined AMD four years ago, says the company suffered from "little brother syndrome" where it tried and failed to compete with Intel on lots of different chips. Now, though, AMD may have a shot at coming out with a faster, more powerful chip than Intel for the first time. Intel in April said it was delaying the release of a more advanced chip manufacturing process until sometime in 2019. AMD has its own new, advanced chip, which it will now be able to release earlier than Intel, potentially giving it an edge in the market for high-performance chips for PCs and data center computers.

It's a market opportunity worth around $50 billion. That's what Intel makes from selling chips for PCs and data center servers, and it dominates both markets. The data center market is particularly important because of the growth of new technologies like artificial intelligence-related applications, much of which is handled in the cloud. Companies that buy chips for data centers or PCs could gravitate to AMD chips as a result of Intel's delay. "I think we have a year lead now," said Mr. Norrod, who oversees AMD's data center business. AMD now has "an unexpected [manufacturing] advantage for the first time ever," he added.

Bitcoin

Blockchain's Once-Feared 51% Attack Is Now Becoming Regular (telegra.ph) 168

Monacoin, bitcoin gold, zencash, verge and now, litecoin cash. At least five cryptocurrencies have recently been hit with an attack that used to be more theoretical than actual, all in the last month. From a report: In each case, attackers have been able to amass enough computing power to compromise these smaller networks, rearrange their transactions and abscond with millions of dollars in an effort that's perhaps the crypto equivalent of a bank heist. More surprising, though, may be that so-called 51% attacks are a well-known and dangerous cryptocurrency attack vector. While there have been some instances of such attacks working successfully in the past, they haven't exactly been all that common. They've been so rare, some technologists have gone as far as to argue miners on certain larger blockchains would never fall victim to one.

The age-old (in crypto time) argument? It's too costly and they wouldn't get all that much money out of it. But that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. NYU computer science researcher Joseph Bonneau released research last year featuring estimates of how much money it would cost to execute these attacks on top blockchains by simply renting power, rather than buying all the equipment. One conclusion he drew? These attacks were likely to increase. And, it turns out he was right. "Generally, the community thought this was a distant threat. I thought it was much less distant and have been trying to warn of the risk," he told CoinDesk, adding: "Even I didn't think it would start happening this soon."

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