Bill Gates Prefers 'More Open Nature' of Android, Regrets Microsoft's Missing Phone Market
Bill Gates "
prefers the more open nature of the Android ecosystem, as it's more 'flexible' about how software interfaces with the OS," reports
PC Magazine, citing remarks Gates
made on Clubhouse to CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin:
"I actually use an Android phone," Gates told Sorkin. "Because I want to keep track of everything, I'll often play around with iPhones, but the one I carry around happens to be Android. Some of the Android manufacturers pre-install Microsoft software in a way that makes it easy for me. They're more flexible about how the software connects up with the operating system. So that's what I ended up getting used to. You know, a lot of my friends have iPhone so there's no purity."
In 2019, Gates admitted the way he handled Microsoft's own mobile phone division was his "greatest mistake." Microsoft ended up letting Google transform Android into the only true rival for iPhone. Microsoft missed out on a $400 billion market at the time, something Gates deeply regrets. In 2017, however, he went ahead and adopted an Android phone.
During the interview, Davidson indicated that an Android version of Clubhouse could be on its way. He called it a "top feature," which could mean the iPhone Clubhouse could soon dissipate.
Credit Card Payment Systems Crashed Friday at Stores and Restaurants Across America
credit-card payment systems went down for major businesses scattered across the U.S.
Business Insider reports:
Fiserv, one of the leading payments providers in the US, told Insider, "A widespread internet service provider outage has impacted multiple businesses today." Ann Cave, a company spokesperson, added in an email: "Some Fiserv services that rely on internet connectivity were interrupted. The majority have been restored and we are fully focused on restoring the remainder...."
Customers on Twitter reported outages at Ikea, Forever 21, McDonald's, and Popeyes, as well as at local places like a car wash and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Representatives from the businesses weren't immediately available for comment on Friday.
A Chick-fil-A representative confirmed to the site that their systems were unable to process payments
for about one hour. "But for some customers, there was a silver lining. Many Chick-fil-A restaurants started
free meals during
the outage." Miami International Airport also announced warned customers
on Twitter about a county-wide outage with credit-card machines "in all taxis."
Long-time Slashdot reader
phalse phace sees
a lesson. "You know that cashless society that
payment network operators,
businesses want? It doesn't work when your payment processor can't process those digital payments."
Did 'Tens of Thousands' of Bot Accounts Hype GameStop's Stock and Dogecoin?
Bots on major social media platforms have been hyping up GameStop Corp and other "meme" stocks, according to an analysis by Massachusetts-based cyber security company PiiQ Media, suggesting organized economic or foreign actors may have played a role in the Reddit-driven trading frenzy... it is unclear how influential they were in the overall saga...
PiiQ said it identified very similar daily "start and stop patterns" in the GameStop-related posts, with activity starting at the beginning of the trading day, followed by a large spike at the end of the trading day. Such patterns are indicative of bots, said Aaron Barr, co-founder and chief technology officer of PiiQ. "We saw clear patterns of artificial behavior across the other four social media platforms. When you think of organic content, it's variable in the day, variable day-to-day. It doesn't have the exact same pattern every day for a month," he said... The company did not analyze Reddit data, but Barr said he would expect to see a similar pattern of activity on Reddit, indicating bot-like or coordinated management of conversations...
Based on its authenticity scoring system, PiiQ estimates there are tens of thousands of bot accounts hyping GameStop, the meme stocks, and Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency swept up in the frenzy. Thousands of fake accounts can be purchased for as little as $200, it said.
Reuters also reports that Friday America's Securities and Exchange Commission "suspended trading in 15 companies due to unusual trading activity and apparent attempts on social media to artificially inflate their stock prices. That is in addition to six stocks it recently suspended due to suspicious social media activity."
Exploring the Open Source That Really Goes Into a RISC-V Chip
"Maker Andreas Spiess talks about the Open Source that really goes into a RISC-V chip and the ESP32-C3," writes Slashdot reader
nickwinlund77 — sharing a link to this article from Hackaday:
It's an exciting time in the world of microprocessors, as the long-held promise of devices with open-source RISC-V cores is coming to fruition. Finally we might be about to see open-source from the silicon to the user interface, or so goes the optimistic promise. In fact the real story is considerably more complex than that, and it's a topic [Andreas Speiss] explores in a video that looks at the issue with a wide lens...
The YouTube video starts out with a good general history of competition between large businesses over architectures and embracing the standards for tech which many of us have depended on throughout the years. The video then gets into the technical specifics of the ESP32-C3.
His conclusion is that while a truly open-source RISC-V chip is entirely possible (as demonstrated with a cameo Superconference badge appearance), the importance of the RISC-V ISA is in its likely emergence as a heavyweight counterbalance to ARM's dominance in the sector.
The First AI-written Play Isn't Shakespeare - but It Has Its Moments
Science magazine describes
what happens when a robot writes a play:
The 60-minute production — AI: When a Robot Writes a Play — tells the journey of a character (this time a robot), who goes out into the world to learn about society, human emotions, and even death.
The script was created by a widely available artificial intelligence (AI) system called GPT-2. Created by Elon Musk's company OpenAI, this "robot" is a computer model designed to generate text by drawing from the enormous repository of information available on the internet. (You can test it here.) So far, the technology has been used to write fake news, short stories, and poems. The play is GPT-2's first theater production, the team behind it claims...
First, a human feeds the program with a prompt. In this case, the researchers — at Charles University in Prague — began with two sentences of dialogue, where one or two characters chat about human feelings and experiences... The software then takes things from there, generating up to 1000 words of additional text.
The result is far from William Shakespeare. After a few sentences, the program starts to write things that sometimes don't follow a logical storyline, or statements that contradict other passages of the text. For example, the AI sometimes forgot the main character was a robot, not a human. "Sometimes it would change a male to female in the middle of a dialogue," says Charles University computational linguist Rudolf Rosa, who started to work on the project 2 years ago... As it keeps going, there is more room for nonsense. To prevent that, the team didn't let GPT-2 write the entire play at once. Instead, the researchers broke the show down into eight scenes, each less than 5 minutes; each scene also only contained a dialogue between two characters at the same time. In addition, the scientists sometimes changed the text, for example altering the passages where the AI changed the character's gender from line to line or repeating their initial text prompt until the program spat out sensible prose.
Rosa estimates that 90% of the final script was left untouched, whereas 10% had human intervention.
It's a thought-provoking experience. (You can
watch the whole play online -- with English subtitles.) The play's first lines?
"We both know that I'm dying."
"How do you know that you're dying?"
"I will die very soon."
And within seconds, the protagonist has asked the question: "How can you love someone who dies?"
The Dream of Sending a Submarine Through the Methane Seas of Saturn's Moon Titan
"Mars, Shmars; this voyager is looking forward to
a submarine ride under the icebergs on Saturn's strange moon," says the New York Times, introducing a piece by cosmic affairs correspondent Dennis Overbye:
What could be more exciting than flying a helicopter over the deserts of Mars? How about playing Captain Nemo on Saturn's large, foggy moon Titan — plumbing the depths of a methane ocean, dodging hydrocarbon icebergs and exploring an ancient, frigid shoreline of organic goo a billion miles from the sun? Those are the visions that danced through my head recently...diverted to the farther reaches of the solar system by the news that Kraken Mare, an ocean of methane on Titan, had recently been gauged for depth and probably went at least 1,000 feet down. That is as deep as nuclear submarines will admit to going. The news rekindled my dreams of what I think would be the most romantic of space missions: a voyage on, and ultimately even under, the oceans of Titan...
NASA recently announced that it would launch a drone called Dragonfly to the Saturnian moon in 2026. Proposals have also circulated for an orbiter, a floating probe that could splash down in a lake, even a robotic submarine. "The Titan submarine is still going," said Dr. Valerio Poggiali, research associate at the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science, in an email — although it is unlikely to happen before Titan's next summer, around 2047. By then, he said, there will be more ambient light and the submarine conceivably could communicate on a direct line to Earth with no need of an orbiting radio relay.
Titan is the weirdest place in the solar system, in some regards, and also the world most like our own. Like Earth, it has a thick atmosphere of mostly nitrogen (the only moon that has much of an atmosphere at all), and like Earth, it has weather, rain, rivers and seas. But on this world, when it rains, it rains gasoline. Hydrocarbon material drifts down like snow and is shaped into dunes by nitrogen winds. Rivers have carved canyons through mountains of frozen soot, and layers of ice float on subsurface oceans of ammonia. The prevailing surface temperature is minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit. A chemical sludge that optimistic astronomers call "prebiotic" creeps along under an oppressive brown sky. Besides Earth, Titan is the only world in the universe that is known to harbor liquid on its surface — with everything that could imply.
Vast Energy Use of Bitcoin Criticized
The University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has calculated that Bitcoin's total energy consumption is somewhere between 40 and 445 terawatt hours (TWh) a year,
with a central estimate of about 130 terawatt hours, reports the BBC:
The UK's electricity consumption is a little over 300 TWh a year, while Argentina uses around the same amount of power as the CCAF's best guess for Bitcoin. And the electricity the Bitcoin miners use overwhelmingly comes from polluting sources. The CCAF team surveys the people who manage the Bitcoin network around the world on their energy use and found that about two-thirds of it is from fossil fuels....
We can track how much effort miners are making to create the currency. They are currently reckoned to be making 160 quintillion calculations every second — that's 160,000,000,000,000,000,000, in case you were wondering. And this vast computational effort is the cryptocurrency's Achilles heel, says Alex de Vries, the founder of the Digiconomist website and an expert on Bitcoin. All the millions of trillions of calculations it takes to keep the system running aren't really doing any useful work. "They're computations that serve no other purpose," says de Vries, "they're just immediately discarded again. Right now we're using a whole lot of energy to produce those calculations, but also the majority of that is sourced from fossil energy."
The vast effort it requires also makes Bitcoin inherently difficult to scale, he argues. "If Bitcoin were to be adopted as a global reserve currency," he speculates, "the Bitcoin price will probably be in the millions, and those miners will have more money than the entire [U.S.] Federal budget to spend on electricity."
"We'd have to double our global energy production," he says with a laugh. "For Bitcoin."
Ken Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard and a former chief economist at the IMF, tells the BBC that Bitcoin exists almost solely as a vehicle for speculation, rather than as a stable store of value that can be easily exchanged.
When asked if the Bitcoin bubble is about to burst, he answers, "That's my guess." Then pauses and adds, "But I really couldn't tell you when."
Flaws In Zoom's Keybase App Kept Chat Images From Being Deleted
The Security Ledger reports that a flaw in Zoom's Keybase secure chat application left copies of images contained in secure communications on Keybase users' computers after they were supposedly deleted, according to researchers from the security research group Sakura Samurai.
The flaw in the encrypted messaging application, CVE-2021-23827 does not expose Keybase users to remote compromise. However, it could put their security, privacy and safety at risk, especially for users living under authoritarian regimes in which apps like Keybase and Signal are increasingly relied on as a way to conduct conversations out of earshot of law enforcement or security services. It comes as millions of users have flocked to apps like Keybase, Signal and Telegram in recent months.
Sakura Samurai researchers Aubrey Cottle, Robert Willis, and Jackson Henry discovered an unencrypted directory, /Cache, associated with the Keybase client that contained a comprehensive record of images from encrypted chat sessions. The application used a custom extension to name the files, but they were easily viewable directly or simply by changing the custom file extension to the PNG image format, researcher John Jackson told Security Ledger.
In a statement, a Zoom spokesman said that the company appreciates the work of the researchers and takes privacy and security "very seriously."
"We addressed the issue identified by the Sakura Samurai researchers on our Keybase platform in version 5.6.0 for Windows and macOS and version 5.6.1 for Linux. Users can help keep themselves secure by applying current updates or downloading the latest Keybase software with all current security updates," the spokesman said.
In most cases, the failure to remove files from cache after they were deleted would count as a "low priority" security flaw. However, in the context of an end-to-end encrypted communications application like Keybase, the failure takes on added weight, Jackson wrote.
Introducing Crowdsec: a Modernized, Collaborative Massively Multiplayer Firewall
CrowdSec is a massively multiplayer firewall designed to protect Linux servers, services, containers, or virtual machines exposed on the Internet with a server-side agent. It was inspired by Fail2Ban and aims to be a modernized, collaborative version of that intrusion-prevention tool.
CrowdSec is free and open-source (under an MIT License), with the source code available on GitHub. It uses a behavior analysis system to qualify whether someone is trying to hack you, based on your logs. If your agent detects such aggression, the offending IP is then dealt with and sent for curation. If this signal passes the curation process, the IP is then redistributed to all users sharing a similar technological profile to 'immunize' them against this IP.
The goal is to leverage the power of the crowd to create a real-time IP reputation database. As for the IP that aggressed your machine, you can choose to remedy the threat in any manner you feel appropriate. Ultimately, CrowdSec leverages the power of the community to create an extremely accurate IP reputation system that benefits all its users.
It was clear to the founders that Open Source was going to be one of the main pillars of CrowdSec. The project's founders have been working on open-source projects for decades — they didn't just jump on the train. Rather, they are strong Open Source believers. They believe that the crowd is key to the mass hacking plague we are experiencing, and that Open Source is the best lever to create a community and have people contribute their knowledge to the project, ultimately make it better and more secure.
The solution recently turned 1.x, introducing a major architectural change: the introduction of a local REST API.
America Authorizes Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 Vaccine For Emergency Use
America's Food and Drug Administration
just authorized Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, according to CBS News. "The vaccine is the third to be approved for use in the United States, and the first that requires only one shot..."
Among people who got the vaccine in clinical trials, there were no COVID-related deaths. Phase 3 clinical trials also showed protection against multiple emerging virus variants, including a more contagious strain that was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in the U.S.
The vaccine can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures for up to three months.
More from the BBC:
The company has agreed to provide the U.S. with 100 million doses by the end of June. The first doses could be available to the US public as early as next week. The U.K., EU and Canada have also ordered doses, and 500 million doses have also been ordered through the Covax scheme to supply poorer nations.
How Facebook Silenced an Enemy of Turkey To Prevent a Hit To the Company's Business
Long-time Slashdot reader
schwit1 shares this report from ProPublica:
As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook's top executives faced a political dilemma. Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People's Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted.
Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments?
It wasn't a particularly close call for the company's leadership, newly disclosed emails show. "I am fine with this," wrote Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's No. 2 executive, in a one-sentence message to a team that reviewed the page. Three years later, YPG's photos and updates about the Turkish military's brutal attacks on the Kurdish minority in Syria still can't be viewed by Facebook users inside Turkey. The conversations, among other internal emails obtained by ProPublica, provide an unusually direct look into how tech giants like Facebook handle censorship requests made by governments that routinely limit what can be said publicly...
Publicly, Facebook has underscored that it cherishes free speech: "We believe freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and we work hard to protect and defend these values around the world," the company wrote in a blog post last month about a new Turkish law requiring that social media firms have a legal presence in the country. "More than half of the people in Turkey rely on Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family, to express their opinions and grow their businesses." But behind the scenes in 2018, amid Turkey's military campaign, Facebook ultimately sided with the government's demands. Deliberations, the emails show, were centered on keeping the platform operational, not on human rights. "The page caused us a few PR fires in the past," one Facebook manager warned of the YPG material...
"Facebook confirmed to ProPublica that it made the decision to restrict the page in Turkey following a legal order from the Turkish government — and after it became clear that failing to do so would have led to its services in the country being completely shut down."
Apple's Powerful M1 MacBooks are Lowering The Resale Value of Older MacBooks
"The impressive performance and battery life gains of the new M1 MacBooks have
created a historic discontinuity in the normally placid resale market," reports ZDNet:
Should you spend $800 for a one year old MacBook Air when for $200 more you could get a MacBook Air with several times the performance and 50 percent better battery life? That's a question savvy buyers are asking themselves. Not surprisingly, the most common answer seems to be "Nope...!"
Unless buyers check out a site like Everymac they won't know what they're missing. The bottom-of-the-line M1 MacBook Air has a Geekbench 5 multiprocessor score that is almost 2.5x that of the early 2020, top-of-the-line quad-core I7. For 80 percent of the price. And most users won't need to spend the extra cash for the 16GB version since the memory management and page swapping is so efficient. The contrast is even more striking when comparing MacBook Pros. Not only is the 13" MacBook Pro faster on the Geekbench 5 single and multiprocessor benchmarks than the top-of-the-line 16" MacBook Pro Intel I9, it's less than half the price. And it isn't just a single benchmark. Search on "M1 MacBook Pro vs 16 MacBook Pro" on YouTube to see multiple videos testing real world workloads on both machines.
The article also makes a prediction: "The best deals on Intel 'Books are yet to come, assuming Apple offers retailers price protection.
"There seems to be a large inventory of Intel based MacBooks, and they have to clear them out before the end of 2021."
Dropping Nearly 20%, Bitcoin Suffers Worst Weekly Drop in a Year
"Bitcoin's rally this year has hit a speed bump, putting it
on track for the worst weekly slide in almost a year amid wider losses in risk assets," reports Fortune:
The largest cryptocurrency slumped as much as 20% this week, the most since March, and was holding at about $46,925 as of 10:22 a.m. in Hong Kong. The wider Bloomberg Galaxy Crypto Index, tracking Bitcoin, Ether and three other cryptocurrencies, is down 22% this week...
Bitcoin's weakness in the face of market gyrations raises questions about its efficacy as a store of value and hedge against inflation, a key argument among proponents of its stunning fivefold rally over the past year. Detractors have maintained the digital asset's surge is a speculative bubble and it's destined for a repeat of the 2017 boom and bust.
While Bitcoin is often touted as the new "digital gold," the yellow metal is winning out at the moment with spot gold holding at $1,768 per ounce, down less than 1% for the week.
Can 'Ready' Crowdfund a Raspberry Pi Cyberdeck Enclosure for Cyberpunk Enthusiasts?
29 hours left in a Kickstarter campaign to fund "an open source, Linux-based, highly modular, customizable portable computer kit that accommodates anything from a Raspberry Pi to a Ryzen x86 4x4 single-board computer and more," writes
Reminiscent of 1980s executive portable computers, the READY! 100 is fully modern with 12 input output ports and 4 antenna ports. Perfect for hackers, ham radio operators, and audio/video folks, it can even be used with external graphics cards.
Engadget hailed it as
"a Raspberry Pi enclosure for cyberpunk enthusiasts."
Thanks to their diminutive size and low-power consumption, single-board computers like the Raspberry Pi can come in all shapes and sizes. We've seen DIY enthusiasts like Guy Dupont put a $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W into the shell of a 2004 iPod Classic to create a device that can access Spotify. But few are as cool as this recent Kickstarter project we spotted from a Toronto-based company called Ready! Computer Corporation.
The company's Ready! Model 100 is essentially a case for your single-board computer that includes a mechanical keyboard, stereo speakers, a touchscreen display and enough I/O ports to connect almost anything you need. The enclosure allows you to fit an SBC that's about the size of a 4x4 Intel NUC board. Oh, and you can carry it around with a guitar strap.
Basically, it allows you to build the cyberdeck of your dreams.
Brave Privacy Bug Exposed Tor Onion URLs To Your DNS Provider
Brave Browser had a privacy issue that
leaked the Tor onion URL addresses you visited to your locally configured DNS server, "exposing the dark web websites you visit...", writes
Long-time Slashdot reader
AmiMoJo quotes their report:
To access Tor onion URLs, Brave added a "Private Window with Tor" mode that acts as a proxy to the Tor network. When you attempt to connect to an onion URL, your request is proxied through volunteer-run Tor nodes who make the request for you and send back the returned HTML. Due to this proxy implementation, Brave's Tor mode does not directly provide the same level of privacy as using the Tor Browser.
When using Brave's Tor mode, it should forward all requests to the Tor proxies and not send any information to any non-Tor Internet devices to increase privacy. However, a bug in Brave's "Private window with Tor" mode is causing the onion URL for any Tor address you visit to also be sent as a standard DNS query to your machine's configured DNS server. This bug was first reported in a Reddit post and later confirmed by James Kettle, the Director of Research at PortSwigger. BleepingComputer has also verified the claims by using Wireshark to view DNS traffic while using Brave's Tor mode.
Brave has since
released an update which fixes the bug.