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The Almighty Buck

Samsung Hit With Class Action Lawsuit Over Exploding Galaxy Note 7 ( 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 troubles are continuing -- the company was just hit with a class action lawsuit in New Jersey focused on recovering cell phone contract fees for customers who were left with an unusable phone for several weeks. The suit has three initial plaintiffs, who say that they were left without a phone for the several weeks between when Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission originally issued a recall and told consumers to "power down" their devices (September 9), and when the company began offering replacement devices (September 21). It also notes that Samsung didn't make enough replacement devices immediately available -- which is probably a good thing considering that the company ultimately had to recall those as well. "Samsung informed consumers they would have to wait several days, and even weeks in many cases, before receiving a replacement smartphone," the suit alleges. "During this time, and as a result of Defendant failing to provide consumers with an adequate replacement, consumers continued to incur monthly device and plan charges from their cellular carriers for phones they could not safely use." The total recall and destruction of Galaxy Note 7 phones is unprecedented for a modern smartphone, so there isn't much to look at in order to project whether the case will succeed. "Samsung has agreed to recall and reimburse the cost of the device, but their customers have had to continue to pay on their data and voice plans during the time they had to make their device inoperative until they received their replacement device," Richard McCune, one of the lawyers representing the class, told me. "That is the loss that the case is focused on."

CO2 To Ethanol In One Step With Cheap Catalyst ( 227

Reader networkBoy writes: Boffins at ORNL (Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory) have discovered a simple and cheap catalyst that can take CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) dissolved in solution with water and at room temperature convert it to ethanol with 60%+ yields. They envision it as a way to store surplus power from green energy plants and then burning it to fill in lulls in supply.From the report:The team used a catalyst made of carbon, copper and nitrogen and applied voltage to trigger a complicated chemical reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process. With the help of the nanotechnology-based catalyst which contains multiple reaction sites, the solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water turned into ethanol with a yield of 63 percent. Typically, this type of electrochemical reaction results in a mix of several different products in small amounts. "We're taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we're pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel," Rondinone said. "Ethanol was a surprise -- it's extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst."

Project Include Drops Y Combinator As Peter Thiel Pledges $1.25 Million To Trump ( 607

Peter Thiel's support for U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has given Silicon Valley a headache. This past weekend, Thiel donated $1.25 million to his campaign, which is driving away partners from Thiel's Silicon Valley accelerator, Y Combinator. Today, Project Include, a community for building meaningful, enduring diversity and inclusion into tech companies, said that it would no longer work with Y Combinator startups. "Thiel's actions are in direct conflict with our values at Project Include," the group's co-founder, Ellen Pao, wrote in a Medium post. "Because of this continued connection to YC, we are compelled to break off our relationship with YC." The Verge reports: Founded in 2005, Y Combinator has incubated some of the biggest tech companies of the past decade, including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. It faced a barrage of criticism over the weekend for refusing to dissociate itself from Thiel, who took an advisory role with the organization in 2015. In a series of tweets, YC's president stood by Thiel. "Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want," Sam Altman wrote. "Diversity of opinion is painful but critical to the health of a democratic society. We can't start purging people for political support." In her post, Pao rejected the idea that Thiel's donation could be dismissed as political speech. "We agree that people shouldn't be fired for their political views, but this isn't a disagreement on tax policy, this is advocating hatred and violence," she wrote. "Giving more power to someone whose ascension and behavior strike fear into so many people is unacceptable. His attacks on black, Mexican, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish people, on women, and on others are more than just political speech; fueled by hate and encouraging violence, they make each of us feel unsafe."

Samsung Announces 10nm SoC In Mass-Production ( 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today Samsung announced mass production of a SoC built on its third-generation 10nm "10LPE" manufacturing node. It was only this January that Samsung announced mass production of its 14LPP process that ended up being used in the Exynos 8890 and the Snapdragon 820 powering up a large amount of flagship devices this year. There wasn't any specification as to what kind of SoC the mass production announcement is referring to, but it's very likely we're talking about S.LSI's next generation Exynos -- or maybe even Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 successor, both of which we'll hopefully hear official announcements from in the coming months. The process promises some significant speed and power efficiency advantages over current generation designs so it's likely the next generation of devices will see a large boost, similarly to how the first 14/16 SoCs had large improvements over previous generation 20/28nm designs. Interestingly the new SoCs will have an edge on recent and upcoming designs still being released on 16nm manufacturing processes, such as Apple's A10 or other TSMC customers who have to wait till next year for 10FF. Samsung writes in its press release: "Samsung's new 10nm FinFET process (10LPE) adopts an advanced 3D transistor structure with additional enhancements in both process technology and design enablement compared to its 14nm predecessor, allowing up to 30-percent increase in area efficiency with 27-percent higher performance or 40-percent lower power consumption. In order to overcome scaling limitations, cutting edge techniques such as triple-patterning to allow bi-directional routing are also used to retain design and routing flexibility from prior nodes."

Cyber Attackers Have Successfully Hit A Nuclear Power Plant And A Lab ( 55

Slashdot reader zootsewt1 quotes a rundown by Security Taco of two unrelated breaches at nuclear-related facilities that were recently disclosed -- one "disruptive" and the other involving the remote theft of documents: Director Yukiya Amano from the IAEA disclosed that a nuclear power generation facility came under cyber attack within the last few years. He declined to state which specific nuclear facility was involved. Mr. Amano advised that "This issue of cyber attacks on nuclear-related facilities or activities should be taken very seriously. We never know if we know everything or if it's the tip of the iceberg."

In a separate incident, a nuclear lab in the University of Toyama in Japan conducting research on tritium (used in nuclear power plants), also came under cyber attack earlier this year. The attacker appears to have been able to exfiltrate large large amounts of data, some of which was related to the Fukushima clean-up.

The Reuters article lists other data breaches and malware infections at nuclear sites over the years, and notes that the IAEA director "also cited a case in which an individual tried to smuggle a small amount of highly enriched uranium about four years ago that could have been used to build a so-called 'dirty bomb'." At the isotope research center at the University of Toyama, the attacker reportedly compressed more than 1,000 files to make them easier to transmit.

More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted ( 99

While "the vast majority" of lithium-ion batteries will never malfunction, lithium itself "is highly combustible and batteries made with it are subject to 'thermal runaway'," which can be triggered by damage -- or by bad design. An anonymous reader quotes the San Jose Mercury News: Battery and electronics manufacturers take numerous steps to try to mitigate such dangers... But while the industry has tried to make lithium-ion batteries safer, 'the technology itself isn't foolproof,' said Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage research at GTM Research... And there's reason to think that the problem could get worse before it gets better. Consumer demand for devices that are ever more powerful and longer lasting has encouraged manufacturers to make batteries that can hold even more charge. To do that, they typically pack the battery cells closer and closer together...

Since June of this year, educational toy company Roylco recalled 1,400 light tables designed for kids... Razor, Swagway and some eight other manufacturers recalled a total of 500,000 hoverboards. And HP and Sony between them recalled more than 42,000 notebook computers. All for similar reasons -- lithium-ion batteries that either had caught fire or which have posed a fire hazard... Other notorious examples include the several different Tesla Model S's that have caught fire, typically after crashes compromised their battery packs, and Sony's wide-scale recall a decade ago of the batteries that powered its Vaio and other laptop computers.

In a related story, Samsung's recall of their Note 7 is now expected to cost $5.3 billion.

Proud Cyborg Athletes Compete In The World's First Cybathlon ( 19

IEEE Spectrum reports: Last Saturday, in a sold-out stadium in Zurich, Switzerland, the world's first cyborg Olympics showed the world a new science-fiction version of sports. At the Cybathlon, people with disabilities used robotic technology to turn themselves into cyborg athletes. They competed for gold and glory in six different events... [B]y skillfully controlling advanced technologies, amputees navigated race courses using powered prosthetic legs and arms. Paraplegics raced in robotic exoskeletons, bikes, and motorized wheelchairs, and even used their brain waves to race in the virtual world...
the_newsbeagle writes: While the competitors struggled with mundane tasks like climbing stairs, those exertions underlined the point: "Like the XPrize Foundation, the Cybathlon's organizers wanted to harness the motivating power of competition to spur technology development...they hoped to encourage inventors to make devices that can eventually provide winning moves beyond the arena."

President Obama Orders Government To Plan For 'Space Weather' ( 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: President Barack Obama today issued an Executive Order that defines what the nation's response should be to a catastrophic space weather event that takes out large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. The Executive Order ideally will coordinate the responses across government agencies such as NASA, the Departments of Homeland Security, Energy and others to help minimize economic loss and save lives by enhancing national security, identifying successful mitigation technologies, and ordering the creation of nationwide response and recovery plans and procedures, the White House stated. Further, the Executive Order will enhance the scientific and technical capabilities of the United States, including improved prediction of space-weather events and their effects on infrastructure systems and services. By this action, the Federal Government will lead by example and help motivate State and local governments, and other nations, to create communities that are more resilient to the hazards of space weather. The Executive Order reinforces the formal National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan which were announced last year. It also bolsters other work such as the replacement of aging satellites that monitor and help forecast space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, development of regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers, the White House wrote.

Samsung Will Credit You $100 If You Exchange Your Note 7 For Another Samsung Phone ( 123

In an effort to presumably stop customers from jumping ship to the iPhone 7 or other non-Samsung device, Samsung is offering up to $100 in credit to every customer who exchanges their Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone. Mashable reports: The company said so in its updated Note 7 recall page which plainly states that the recall has now been expanded to "all Galaxy Note 7 devices," and asks consumers with a Note 7 to power it down and return it to the place of purchase. Bear in mind that the new offer, which goes live on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. ET, is only for U.S. customers, as users in other parts of the world have different recall programs in place. Furthermore, if you've already exchanged your Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, you "will receive up to a $75 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets in addition to the $25 you previously received." Even if you exchange your Note 7 for another brand or ask for a refund, you will still receive a $25 bill credit from select carriers and retailers -- again, less any incentive credits you've already received. "As a sign of our appreciation for your patience and loyalty, we are offering up to a $100 bill credit from select carrier or retail outlets if you exchange your Galaxy Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone, less any incentive credits already received," Samsung wrote.

Most Drivers Who Own Cars With Built-in GPS Systems Use Phones For Directions - Mostly Out of Frustration ( 310

According to a new survey, many new car owners use their phones for directions despite their cars coming with built-in navigation systems. These users do it out of frustration, the survey added. CNN adds: The market research firm J.D. Power and Associates surveyed owners of new vehicles after the first 90 days of ownership. They were asked about all kinds of new in-vehicle technology including navigation, entertainment and safety technologies like lane-keeping assistance and automatic braking. For the most part, the survey found, people are relatively satisfied with the technology in their cars. On a 1,000 point scale, the average satisfaction score was 730. Navigation systems rated the worst with an average score of 687. Almost two-thirds of new vehicle owners with a built-in navigation reported using their smartphone or a portable navigation device to find their way at least some of the time. Nearly a third of those with built-in navigation used it for less than two weeks before giving up on it and using their phone or another portable device, according to J.D. Power. And more than half of people with built-in navigation systems never used them at all, according to the survey.

Samsung Orders the Global Shutdown of Both Sales and Exchanges of Galaxy Note 7 ( 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BetaNews: Sigh. The Galaxy Note 7. What should have been a wildly popular and successful smartphone has become a synonymous with failure, and fodder for jokes. As everyone knows, the phone has been exploding and catching fire, creating serious risk for consumers. The phone was eventually recalled and replaced, although that process was bungled by Samsung -- there was much confusion. Not to mention, there was criticism that the recall was not initially an official one. With the issues seemingly in the rear view mirror, the scandal was over, right? Wrong. Now, the replacement models are reportedly exploding too. Enough is apparently enough. Following rumors that production of the phone was being ceased, today, Samsung orders the global shutdown of both sales and exchanges of Galaxy Note 7. Samsung has formally issued the following statement: "We are working with relevant regulatory bodies to investigate the recently reported cases involving the Galaxy Note 7. Because consumers' safety remains our top priority, Samsung will ask all carrier and retail partners globally to stop sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 while the investigation is taking place. We remain committed to working diligently with appropriate regulatory authorities to take all necessary steps to resolve the situation. Consumers with either an original Galaxy Note 7 or replacement Galaxy Note 7 device should power down and stop using the device and take advantage of the remedies available."

Cyanogen Gets a New CEO, Shifts Away From Selling a Full Mobile Operating System ( 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Cyanogen, a startup behind its own, alternative version of the Android operating system, now has a new CEO. In the wake of reports that the company exaggerated its success in terms of active users, layoffs, and difficulties scaling, Cyanogen's co-founder and CEO Kirt McMaster will be transitioning into an "Executive Chairman" role, while Lior Tal, previously COO, will now assume the CEO position. In addition, Steve Kondik, Cyanogen's co-founder and CTO, will be taking on a new role as Chief Science Officer, the company announced. He will report Stephen Lawler, the company's SVP of Engineering. Today's blog post from new CEO Tal also somewhat acknowledged the company's struggles, and announced plans to shift in its business model with the launch of a new Cyanogen Modular OS program. "in recent years, Android and the mobile ecosystem changed," wrote Tal. "Android has become extremely fragmented causing serious security vulnerabilities and few or no incentives to device manufacturers to deliver software upgrades and/or security patches," he said. "Increased demand for lower-priced smartphones, coupled with the specifications arms race, has left manufacturers focused on scale and efficiency while compromising investment in software and services. Innovation cannot happen in a vacuum, which is what we have today," Tal added. The company will be moving away from its former model which involved it shipping the full-stack of the operating system, the company says. Its new program will instead allows manufacturers to introduce their own, customizable smartphones that use different parts of the Cyanogen OS via dynamic modules and MODs, while still using the ROM of their choice. That means they could still run stock Android on their devices, then pick and choose the pieces of Cyanogen's technology they want to also add. The full Cyanogen OS is still available and being sold, but is no longer the main focus. In July, Cyanogen Inc. laid off 20 percent of its workforce and sent a letter from McMaster to employees admitting that, despite shipping millions of devices with its OS, was "not scaling fast enough nor in an efficient manner."

Tesla's Sales Increase - But Next Will We Need Smart Roads? ( 168

Elon Musk says Tesla's autopilot has now driven over 222 million miles, and the company is now selling twice as many electric cars as it did in 2015. (Despite complaints from a coal-mining CEO that Tesla "is a fraud" because it receives tax-payer subsidies.)

But Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes, "It's not enough to build self-driving cars: we have to build the roads to accompany them. Roadside sensors might have once seemed a pipe dream, but with the advent of 5G internet infrastructure, they're not out of reach at all. And their implications span far beyond road safety, GMU researcher Brent Skorup explains at Backchannel: Cities could use sensor data for conducting traffic studies, pushing out real-time public bus alerts, increasing parking space occupancy, metering commercial loading times to prevent congestion, and enhancing pedestrian safety. There are also commercial applications for sensor data: How many cars drive by a billboard? How many people walk by a storefront per day? How many of those people have dogs? These are all questions we could easily answer with roadside sensors.
United Kingdom

Is Britain Secretly Funding Its Nuclear Submarine Program? ( 108

Why is the U.K. funding a risky $22 billion joint project with China to produce electricity at twice the cost? mdsolar quotes a nuclear specialist from the University of Oxford: only makes sense if one considers its connection to Britain's military projects -- especially Trident, a roving fleet of armed nuclear submarines, which is outdated and needs upgrading. Hawks and conservatives, in particular, see the Trident program as vital to preserving Britain's international clout...the government and some of its partners in the defense industry, like Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, think a robust civilian nuclear industry is essential to revamping Britain's nuclear submarine program...

Merging programs like research and development or skills training across civilian and military sectors helps cut back on military spending. It also helps maintain the talent pool for nuclear specialists. And given the long lead times and life spans of most nuclear projects, connections between civilian and military programs give companies more incentives to make the major investments required. One might say that with the Hinkley Point project, the British government is using billions of Chinese money to build stealth submarines designed to deter China.

The Op-Ed -- published in The New York Times -- calls for more openness about military spending, arguing "If Britain's energy policy were solely about energy, rather than also about defense, the nuclear sector would be forced to stand on its own two feet."
United States

Clinton Responds To WikiLeaks During Debate, And Blames Russian Hackers ( 689

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:During Sunday night's debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, moderators asked a question based on WikiLeaks documents released Friday -- to which both candidates responded. The leaked emails had included excerpts from Hillary's paid speeches to Wall Street in which she reportedly said "You need both a public and a private position on certain issues."

Clinton said she had been describing the 2012 movie Lincoln, and that Lincoln's use of different arguments for different groups of people was "a great display of presidential leadership." Then, citing intelligence reports, she said "Putin and the Russian government are directing the attacks -- the hacking on American accounts to influence our election...for Donald Trump."

Click through for a complete transcript of Clinton's remarks -- and Trump's response.

Germany Calls For a Ban On Combustion Engine Cars By 2030 ( 296

Germany gave the world the internal combustion engine, and now it is prepping to ban the amazing invention in the country. The country's federal council has passed a resolution to ban the ICE starting in 2030. From an Engadget report:The country's Bundesrat (federal council) has passed a resolution calling for a ban on new internal combustion engine cars by 2030. From then on, you'd have to buy a zero-emissions vehicle, whether it's electric or running on a hydrogen fuel cell. This isn't legally binding, but the Bundesrat is asking the European Commission to implement the ban across the European Union... and when German regulations tend to shape EU policy, there's a chance that might happen. The council also wants the European Commission to review its taxation policies and their effect on the "stimulation of emission-free mobility." Just what that means isn't clear. It could involve stronger tax incentives for buying zero-emissions cars, but it could also involve eliminating tax breaks for diesel cars in EU states. Automakers are already worried that tougher emission standards could kill diesels -- remove the low cost of ownership and it'd only hasten their demise.

Emacs and Vim Combined In New 'Spacemacs' Distro ( 130

Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino brings news of a new text editor offering what he calls "a modern, hipster-compliant makeover" of both Emacs and Vim: As a classic, perhaps the classic GNU project, Emacs has been marred by abysmal branding and marketing...that has improved slightly but might still leave some people unsatisfied [and] has also been engulfed in an eternal war with Vim, the editor of the beast. Mope no further, salvation is nigh! Spacemacs is a new Emacs distribution that aims to combine all the goodies of Emacs and Vim and then some...
Version .2 of Spacemacs was released this week "with more than 1700 commits since the last major version released in January 2016." With nearly 500 contributors on GItHub, Spacemacs plans to be "crowd-configured" with "curated packages tuned by power users," and is offering features like a real-time display of available key bindings, a simple query system for layers and packages, and of course, a clearly defined set of conventions.

WikiLeaks Releases Paid Clinton Speech Excerpts, And Threatens To Expose Google ( 756

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Independent: Wikileaks has dumped thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, which includes apparent excerpts from Ms Clinton's paid, closed-door speeches to Wall Street executives after leaving her position as Secretary of State. In the excerpts, flagged in a 25 January email, Ms Clinton apparently suggested that Wall Street insiders were best qualified to regulate the banking industry and also included her apparent admission of the need for money from banking executives for political fundraising...

"Earlier today, the US government removed any reasonable doubt that the Kremlin has weaponized WikiLeaks to meddle in our election and benefit Donald Trump's candidacy," said Clinton campaign spokesperson Glen Caplin. "We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton."
Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the Daily Mail's article about what's coming up next: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised to release information on subjects including the U.S. election and Google [and] warned that the so called 'October Surprise' will expose Google. Assange did not reveal what type of information would be leaked about the tech giant, but his 2014 book could provide a clue. In it, he wrote: "(Eric) Schmidt's tenure as CEO saw Google integrate with the shadiest of U.S. power structures..."

Machine Logic: Our Lives Are Ruled By Big Tech's 'Decisions By Data' ( 64

With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are increasingly moving to a world where many decisions around us are shaped by calculations rather than traditional human judgement. The Guardian, citing many industry experts, reminds us that these technologies filter who and what counts, including "who is released from jail, and what kind of treatment you will get in hospital." A digital media professor said, these digital companies allow us to act, but in a very fine-grained, datafied, algorithm-ready way. "They put life to work, by rendering life in Taylorist data points that can be counted and measured" From the report (edited and condensed): Jose van Dijck, president of the Dutch Royal Academy and the conference's keynote speaker, expands further. Datification is the core logic of what she calls "the platform society," in which companies bypass traditional institutions, norms and codes by promising something better and more efficient -- appealing deceptively to public values, while obscuring private gain. Van Dijck and peers have nascent, urgent ideas. They commence with a pressing agenda for strong interdisciplinary research -- something Kate Crawford is spearheading at Microsoft Research, as are many other institutions, including the new Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. There's the old theory to confront, that this is a conscious move on the part of consumers and, if so, there's always a theoretical opt-out. Yet even digital activists plot by Gmail, concedes Fieke Jansen of the Berlin-based advocacy organisation Tactical Tech. The Big Five tech companies, as well as the extremely concentrated sources of finance behind them, are at the vanguard of "a society of centralized power and wealth. "How did we let it get this far?" she asks. Crawford says there are very practical reasons why tech companies have become so powerful. "We're trying to put so much responsibility on to individuals to step away from the 'evil platforms,' whereas in reality, there are so many reasons why people can't. The opportunity costs to employment, to their friends, to their families, are so high" she says.

Can We Really Stop Climate Change By 'Capturing' Carbon? ( 274

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The recently-ratified Paris Climate Accord calls on countries to keep the rise in average global temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius (a threshold which would bring extreme weather, water shortages and reduced agricultural production). But a recent article on Vox warns that "the world has to zero out net carbon emissions...for a good chance of avoiding 2 degrees, by around 2065. After that, emissions have to go negative... We are betting our species' future on our ability to bury carbon."

That's why everyone's watching the W.A. Parish Generating Station in Texas, which came online this week -- on schedule, and under budget. "The plant will use a newly installed system to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide created during combustion."

Alas, Slashdot reader Dan Drollette brings bad news from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: To fight climate change with carbon capture and storage technology, we'd have to complete one new carbon capture facility every working day for the next 70 years. It's better to switch to a diet of energy conservation, efficiency, and renewables, rather than rely on this technology as a kind of emergency planetary liposuction.

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