Mobile Internet Goes Free, National For a Day In Cuba
More than 5 million cellphone users in Cuba
received free internet on Tuesday, in an eight-hour test before the government launches sales of the service. The test marks the first time internet services were available nationwide. Reuters reports:
Cuba is one of the Western Hemisphere's least connected countries. There are hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuba but virtually no home penetration. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, considered the country's social media pioneer, raved that she had directly sent a tweet from her mobile. In another tweet, she called the test a "citizen's victory." On the streets of Havana, mobile users said they were happy about the day of free internet, even as some complained that connectivity was notably slower than usual.
Hotspots currently charge about $1 an hour although monthly wages in Cuba average just $30. The government has not yet said how much most Cubans would pay for mobile internet, or when exactly sales of the service will begin. But [the state-run telecommunications monopoly ETECSA] is already charging companies and embassies $45 a month for four gigabytes. Analysts have said broader Web access will ultimately weaken government control over what information reaches people in a country where the state has a monopoly on the media.
SpaceX Reveals the Controls of Its Dragon Spacecraft For the First Time
On Monday, SpaceX
let reporters take a look inside its Crew Dragon capsule for the first time, as well as hear from the four astronauts: Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins. Ars Technica writes about several pieces of hardware observed at the event in Hawthorne, California:
During the event at SpaceX, engineers guided reporters through various displays. Outside, under a resplendent blue sky with the rolling hills of Palos Verdes in the distance, media was invited to crawl into a low-fidelity mockup of the crew Dragon spacecraft. This was a roomy vehicle, especially in comparison to NASA's current ride to the space station, a cramped Soyuz with a capacity of three. The Dragon will comfortably carry a normal complement of four for NASA, but seven seats can fit inside. On the second floor of its main factory, where astronauts have trained in recent years, SpaceX also showed off two simulators publicly for the first time. This marked the first time SpaceX has revealed details about the controls and the interior of its crewed spacecraft. The cockpit simulator demonstrated the controls that Dragon astronauts will have at their command. In comparison to the space shuttle and its more than 1,000 buttons, switches, and controls, the Dragon capsule has a modest array of three flat screens and two rows of buttons below.
These touch screens selectively display the necessary controls during flight and are the primary interface astronauts have with the vehicle. Below are two rows of manual buttons, 38 in total, that provide back-up control of the spacecraft. Many of the buttons are situated beneath clear panels, intended to never be used, because they are often the third option after the touch screens and ground control of the Dragon. One control stood out -- a large black and red handle in the middle of the console with "EJECT" printed in clear white letters above it. This initiates the launch escape system, which rapidly pulls the spacecraft away from the rocket in the case of an emergency during the ascent into space. It must be pulled, then twisted. Normally the flight computers would initiate such a maneuver, but the prominence of the escape system handle underlines its importance. Notably, after the vehicle reaches orbit, this control becomes "deadened," such that accidentally pulling it in space would do nothing. CNBC has included
several pictures of the Crew Dragon capsule mock-up in their report. CNN also has
a first look video with text and quotes from the astronauts.
Scientists Calculate the Speed of Death In Cells And It's 30 Micrometers Per Minute
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Live Science:
Scientists found that death travels in unremitting waves through a cell, moving at a rate of 30 micrometers (one-thousandth of an inch) every minute, they report in a new study published Aug. 10 in the journal Science. That means, for instance, that a nerve cell, whose body can reach a size of 100 micrometers, could take as long as 3 minutes and 20 seconds to die. Apoptosis -- or programmed cell death -- is necessary for clearing our bodies of unnecessary or harmful cells, such as those that are infected by viruses. It also helps shape organs and other features in a developing fetus.
To figure this out, Ferrell and his team observed the process in one of the larger cells present in nature: egg cells of Xenopus laevis, or African clawed frogs. They filled test tubes with fluid from the eggs and triggered apoptosis, which they watched unfold by tagging involved proteins with fluorescent light. If they saw fluorescent light, it meant apoptosis was taking place. They found that the fluorescent light traveled through the test tubes at a constant speed. If apoptosis had carried on due to simple diffusion (the spreading of substances from an area of high concentration to one of low concentration), the process would have slowed down toward the end, according to the study. Since it didn't, the researchers concluded that the process they observed must be "trigger waves," which they likened to "the spread of a fire through a field." The caspases that are first activated, activate other molecules of caspases, which activate yet others, until the entire cell is destroyed.
Verizon Nears 5G Launch Deals With Apple and Google: Bloomberg
In a statement Tuesday, Verizon announced deals
making Apple and Google its first video providers for a 5G wireless service its planning to launch in four cities later this year. From the report:
The home broadband service will debut in Los Angeles, Houston and Sacramento, California, as well as the newly announced fourth city of Indianapolis, Verizon said Tuesday in a statement. With the introduction, Verizon will provide 5G customers either a free Apple TV box or free subscription to Google's YouTube TV app for live television service, according to people familiar with the plan. After shelving its own online TV effort, New York-based Verizon decided to partner with the two technology giants for video content, a first step toward eventually competing nationally against internet and pay TV providers such as AT&T and Comcast Using fifth-generation wireless technology, Verizon plans to beam online services to home receivers, delivering speeds that match or exceed landline connections.
WWV Shortwave Time Broadcasts May Be Slashed In 2019
A forum thread on QRZ.com indicates that the shortwave time broadcasts by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) from stations WWV (Colorado) and WWVH (Hawaii) may be slashed in budget year 2019. [One of the proposed reductions includes "$6.3 million supporting fundamental measurement dissemination, including the shutdown of NIST radio stations in Colorado and Hawaii."] While the WWV broadcasts may seem like an anachronism to some Slashdotters, they remain a crucial component in many unexpected services, from over-the-air broadcasters and traffic signals, to medical devices, wall clocks, and wrist watches. The signals serve as standard beacons for radio propagation, and as a frequency reference for alignment of a broad range of communications equipment. It's easy to imagine that not even the NIST knows every service and device that could be impacted by this decision.
LA To Become First In US To Install Subway Body Scanners
Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday that the city's subway
will become the first mass transit system in the U.S. to install body scanners that screen passengers for weapons and explosives. "The deployment of the portable scanners, which project waves to do full-body screenings of passengers walking through a station without slowing them down, will happen in the coming months, said Alex Wiggins, who runs the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's law enforcement division," reports the Associated Press reports:
The machines scan for metallic and non-metallic objects on a person's body, can detect suspicious items from 30 feet (9 meters) away and have the capability of scanning more than 2,000 passengers per hour. On Tuesday, Pekoske and other officials demonstrated the new machines, which are being purchased from Thruvision, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom. In addition to the Thruvision scanners, the agency is also planning to purchase other body scanners -- which resemble white television cameras on tripods -- that have the ability to move around and hone in on specific people and angles, Wiggins said. Signs will be posted at stations warning passengers they are subject to body scanner screening. The screening process is voluntary, Wiggins said, but customers who choose not be screened won't be able to ride on the subway.
A Community-Run ISP Is the Highest Rated Broadband Company In America
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
A new survey by Consumer Reports once again highlights how consumers are responding positively to [community-run broadband networks]. The organization surveyed 176,000 Consumer Reports readers on their experience with their pay TV and broadband providers, and found that the lion's share of Americans remain completely disgusted with most large, incumbent operators. The full ratings are paywalled but available here to those with a Consumer Reports subscription. All the usual suspects including Comcast, Charter (Spectrum), AT&T, Verizon, and Optimum once again fell toward the bottom of the barrel in terms of overall satisfaction, reliability, and value, largely mirroring similar studies from the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
One of the lone bright spots for broadband providers was Chattanooga's EPB, a city-owned and utility operated broadband provider we profiled several years back as an example of community broadband done well. The outfit, which Comcast attempted unsuccessfully to sue into oblivion, was the only ISP included in the study that received positive ratings for value. "EPB was the top internet service provider in our telecom ratings two times in the past three years," Christopher Raymond, electronics editor at Consumer Reports told Motherboard. "Consumer Reports members have given it high marks for not only reliability and speed, but also overall value -- and that's a rare distinction in an arena dominated by the major cable companies," he said.
California Officials Admit To Using License Plate Readers To Monitor Welfare Recipients
a report from the Sacramento Bee, officials in Sacramento County have been
accessing license plate reader data to track welfare recipients suspected of fraud. The practice dates back to 2016. Gizmodo reports:
Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance Director Ann Edwards confirmed to the paper that welfare fraud investigators working under the DHA have used the data for two years on a "case-by-case" basis. Edwards said the DHA pays about $5,000 annually for access to the database. Abbreviated LPR, license plate readers are essentially cameras that upload photographs to a searchable database of images of license plates. If a driver passed by an LPR four times throughout a city, an officer with access would know where and at what time of day. Anyone with access to that data could use it track where someone drove and when, provided they were scanned by the LPR.
Slashdot Asks: Did You Have a Shared Family Computer Growing Up?
"Long before phone addiction panic gripped the masses and before screen time became a facet of our wellness and digital detoxes," begins Katie Reid's article, How the Shared Family Computer Protected Us from Our Worst Selves, "there was one good and wise piece of technology that served our families. Maybe it was in the family room or in the kitchen. It could have been a Mac or PC. Chances are it had a totally mesmerizing screensaver. It was the shared family desktop." She continues: "I can still see the Dell I grew up using as clear as day, like I just connected to NetZero yesterday. It sat in my eldest sister's room, which was just off the kitchen. Depending on when you peeked into the room, you might have found my dad playing Solitaire, my sister downloading songs from Napster, or me playing Wheel of Fortune or writing my name in Microsoft Paint. The rules for using the family desktop were pretty simple: homework trumped games; Dad trumped all. Like the other shared equipment in our house, its usefulness was focused and direct: it was a tool that the whole family used, and it was our portal to the wild, weird, wonderful internet. As such, we adored it." Did you have a shared family computer growing up? Can you relate to any of the experiences Katie mentioned in her article? Please share your thoughts in a comment below.
Tinder Founders Sue Dating App's Owners For At Least $2 Billion
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
A group of Tinder founders and executives has filed a lawsuit against parent company Match Group and its controlling shareholder IAC. The plaintiffs in the suit include Tinder co-founders Sean Rad, Justin Mateen and Jonathan Badeen -- Badeen still works at Tinder, as do plaintiffs James Kim (the company's vice president of finance) and Rosette Pambakian (its vice president of marketing and communications). The suit alleges that IAC and Match Group manipulated financial data in order to create "a fake lowball valuation" (to quote the plaintiffs' press release), then stripped Rad, Mateen, Badeen and others of their stock options. It points to the removal of Rad as CEO, as well as other management changes, as moves designed "to allow Defendants to control the valuation of Tinder and deprive Tinder optionholders of their right to participate in the company's future success."
The lawsuit also alleges that Greg Blatt, the Match CEO who became CEO of Tinder, groped and sexually harassed Pambakian at the company's 2016 holiday party, supposedly leading the company to "whitewash" his actions long enough for him to complete the valuation of Tinder and its merger with Match Group, and then to announce his departure. In response, the plaintiffs are asking for "compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial, but not less than $2,000,000,000." IAC and Match Group issued a statement denying the allegations: "...Match Group and the plaintiffs went through a rigorous, contractually-defined valuation process involving two independent global investment banks, and Mr. Rad and his merry band of plaintiffs did not like the outcome. Mr. Rad (who was dismissed from the Company a year ago) and Mr. Mateen (who has not been with the Company in years) may not like the fact that Tinder has experienced enormous success following their respective departures, but sour grapes alone do not a lawsuit make. Mr. Rad has a rich history of outlandish public statements, and this lawsuit contains just another series of them. We look forward to defending our position in court."
Vaping Can Damage Vital Immune System Cells, Researchers Find
Vaping can damage vital immune system cells and may be more harmful than previously thought, a study suggests. Researchers found e-cigarette vapour
disabled important immune cells in the lung and boosted inflammation. From a report:
The researchers "caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe." However, Public Health England advises they are much less harmful than smoking and people should not hesitate to use them as an aid to giving up cigarettes. The small experimental study, led by Prof David Thickett, at the University of Birmingham, is published online in the journal Thorax. Previous studies have focused on the chemical composition of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped. In this study, the researchers devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping in the laboratory, using lung tissue samples provided by eight non-smokers. They found vapour caused inflammation and impaired the activity of alveolar macrophages, cells that remove potentially damaging dust particles, bacteria and allergens.
Mathematicians Solve Age-Old Spaghetti Mystery
If you happen to have a box of spaghetti in your pantry, try this experiment: Pull out a single spaghetti stick and hold it at both ends. Now bend it until it breaks. How many fragments did you make? If the answer is three or more, pull out another stick and try again.
Can you break the noodle in two? If not, you're in very good company. From a report:
The spaghetti challenge has flummoxed even the likes of famed physicist Richard Feynman '39, who once spent a good portion of an evening breaking pasta and looking for a theoretical explanation for why the sticks refused to snap in two. Feynman's kitchen experiment remained unresolved until 2005, when physicists from France pieced together a theory to describe the forces at work when spaghetti -- and any long, thin rod -- is bent. They found that when a stick is bent evenly from both ends, it will break near the center, where it is most curved. This initial break triggers a "snap-back" effect and a bending wave, or vibration, that further fractures the stick. Their theory, which won the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize, seemed to solve Feynman's puzzle. But a question remained: Could spaghetti ever be coerced to break in two?
The answer, according to a new MIT study, is yes -- with a twist. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that they have found a way to break spaghetti in two, by both bending and twisting the dry noodles. They carried out experiments with hundreds of spaghetti sticks, bending and twisting them with an apparatus they built specifically for the task. The team found that if a stick is twisted past a certain critical degree, then slowly bent in half, it will, against all odds, break in two. The researchers say the results may have applications beyond culinary curiosities, such as enhancing the understanding of crack formation and how to control fractures in other rod-like materials such as multifiber structures, engineered nanotubes, or even microtubules in cells.
Intel Discloses Three More Chip Flaws
Intel on Tuesday disclosed three more possible flaws in some of its microprocessors that
can be exploited to gain access to certain data from computer memory. From a report:
Its commonly used Core and Xeon processors were among the products that were affected, the company said. "We are not aware of reports that any of these methods have been used in real-world exploits, but this further underscores the need for everyone to adhere to security best practices," the company said in a blog post. Intel also released updates to address the issue and said new updates coupled those released earlier in the year will reduce the risk for users, including personal computer clients and data centres. In January, the company came under scrutiny after security researchers disclosed flaws that they said could let hackers steal sensitive information from nearly every modern computing device containing chips from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and ARM.
Putting Stickers On Your Laptop is Probably a Bad Security Idea
From border crossings to hacking conferences, that Bitcoin or political sticker may be worth leaving on a case at home. From a report:
Plenty of hackers, journalists, and technologists love to cover their laptop in all manner of stickers. Maybe one shows off their employer, another flaunts that local cryptoparty they attended, or others may display the laptop owner's interest in Bitcoin. That's all well and good, but a laptop lid full of stickers also arguably provides something of a red flag to authorities or hackers who may want to access sensitive information stored on that computer, or otherwise cause the owner hassle.
"Conferences, border crossing[s], airports, public places -- stickers will/can get you targeted for opposition research, industrial espionage, legal or investigative scrutiny," Matt Mitchell, director of digital safety and privacy for technology and activism group Tactical Tech, told Motherboard in an online chat. Mitchell said political stickers, for instance, can land you in secondary search or result in being detained while crossing a border. In one case, Mitchell said a hacker friend ended up missing a flight over stickers.
Hackers Can Falsify Patient Vitals
Hackers can falsify patients' vitals by emulating data sent from medical equipment clients to central monitoring systems, a McAfee security researcher revealed over the weekend at the DEF CON 26 security conference. BleepingComputer:
The research, available here, takes advantage of a weak communications protocol used by some patient monitoring equipment to send data to a central monitoring station. McAfee security researcher Douglas McKee says he was able to reverse engineer this protocol, create a device that emulates patients vitals, and send incorrect information to a central monitoring station. This attack required physical access to the patient, as the attacker needed to disconnect the patient monitoring client and replace it with his own device that feeds incorrect patient vitals to the central station monitored by medical professionals. But McKee also devised another method of feeding central monitoring stations without needing to disconnect the patient monitoring client.