Facebook's Novi Set To Launch Pilot With Paxos's Stablecoin as Uncertainty Hangs Over Diem
Facebook's crypto wallet Novi is
inching forward with a "small pilot" in the U.S. and Guatemala, according to a tweet thread by David Marcus. From a report:
The wallet project, which gatecrashed the crypto world in 2019 alongside a digital token dubbed Libra (now Diem), represents one of Facebook's attempts to lean into the fast-growing crypto market as well as the market for payments and remittances. As uncertainty hangs over Diem, Novi moved ahead with Pax Dollar for the pilot. The Block first reported that the project was weighing such a deal in August. Still, Marcus said that Novi's "support for Diem hasn't changed and we intend to launch Novi with Diem once it receives regulatory approval and goes live. Beyond the pilot, our business model is clear," Marcus added.
Give Us Your Biometric Data To Get Your Lunch In 5 Seconds, UK Schools Tell Children
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register:
In North Ayrshire Council, a Scottish authority encompassing the Isle of Arran, nine schools are set to begin processing meal payments for school lunches using facial scanning technology. The authority and the company implementing the technology, CRB Cunninghams, claim the system will help reduce queues and is less likely to spread COVID-19 than card payments and fingerprint scanners, according to the Financial Times. Speaking to the publication, David Swanston, the MD of supplier CRB Cunninghams, said the cameras verify the child's identity against "encrypted faceprint templates," and will be held on servers on-site at the 65 schools that have so far signed up. He added: "In a secondary school you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale." He told the paper that with the system, the average transaction time was cut to five seconds per pupil. The system has already been piloted in 2020 at Kingsmeadow Community School in Gateshead, England. North Ayrshire council said 97 per cent of parents had given their consent for the new system, although some said they were unsure whether their children had been given enough information to make their decision. Seemingly unaware of the controversy surrounding facial recognition, education solutions provider CRB Cunninghams announced its introduction of the technology in schools in June as the "next step in cashless catering."
Fisher-Price Launches a Working Chatter Telephone For Adults
For its 60th anniversary, Fisher-Price announced a special edition Chatter telephone that
can make and receive real phone calls. Engadget reports:
Before you start planning on where to display it at your home, know that it doesn't work as a landline unit. It connects to your iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth instead and has to be within 15 feet of your mobile device to work. You'll get nine hours of talk time on the Chatter phone on a single charge, and it comes with a speakerphone button. Other than the features that make it a working device, this Chatter for grown-ups looks just like its toy counterpart with its rotary dial, red handset and wheels. [...] You can get the fully functional Chatter for $60 exclusively from Best Buy's website, starting today until supplies last.
SEC Says GameStop Stock Surge Due To Individual Investors, Doesn't Recommend Policy Change
Oscar Gonzalez writes via CNET:
In January, GameStop's stock price shot through the roof reaching a peak of $483. There were many questions about this sudden surge, especially from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which investigated the rise and fall of the so-called "meme stocks" at the start of the year. The SEC's probe found no wrongdoings when shares of GameStop, AMC and other companies began to skyrocket, according to a 45-page Staff Report on Equity and Options Market Structure Conditions in Early 2021 released (PDF) on Monday. Instead, it found the rise in stock prices was due to individual investors who shared information on social media platforms such as Reddit.
"January's events gave us an opportunity to consider how we can further our efforts to make the equity markets as fair, orderly, and efficient as possible," SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a press release. "Making markets work for everyday investors gets to the heart of the SEC's mission. I would like to thank the staff for bringing their expertise to this important report, and for their ongoing work on to address the issues that January's events raised." There were also questions about the practices of short sellers who bet on GameStop shares to drop in price, as well as Robinhood, the stock trading app that paused the trading of the video game retailers' shares when the market was in a frenzy. However, the SEC didn't recommend any policy changes or take any action against the firms. The agency did point out these issues at the end of the report. It said there should be improved reporting on short sales to allow for better tracking by regulators. The agency also questioned whether "game-like features and celebratory animations" found in investing apps like Robinhood led investors to trade more stock than they would have done otherwise.
Radiant Aims To Replace Diesel Generators With Small Nuclear Reactors
An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas:
California company Radiant has secured funding to develop a compact, portable, "low-cost" one-megawatt nuclear micro-reactor that fits in a shipping container, powers about 1,000 homes and uses a helium coolant instead of water. Founded by ex-SpaceX engineers, who decided the Mars colony power sources they were researching would make a bigger impact closer to home, Radiant has pulled in $1.2 million from angel investors to continue work on its reactors, which are specifically designed to be highly portable, quick to deploy and effective wherever they're deployed; remote communities and disaster areas are early targets.
The military is another key market here; a few of these could power an entire military base in a remote area for four to eight years before expending its "advanced particle fuel," eliminating not just the emissions of the current diesel generators, but also the need to constantly bring in trucks full of fuel for this purpose. Those trucks will still have to run -- up until the point where the military ditches diesel in all its vehicles -- but they'll be much less frequent, reducing a significant risk for transport personnel. Radiant says its fuel "does not melt down, and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels." Using helium as the coolant "greatly reduces corrosion, boiling and contamination risks," and the company says it's received provisional patents for ideas it's developed around refueling the reactors and efficiently transporting heat out of the reactor core.
MIT Researchers Create 'Robotic' Textiles To Make Breath-Regulating Garments
A new kind of fiber developed by researchers at MIT and in Sweden can be made into clothing that
senses how much it is being stretched or compressed, and then provides immediate tactile feedback in the form of pressure, lateral stretch, or vibration. Such fabrics, the team suggests, could be used in garments that help train singers or athletes to better control their breathing, or that help patients recovering from disease or surgery to recover their breathing patterns. From a report:
The multilayered fibers contain a fluid channel in the center, which can be activated by a fluidic system. This system controls the fibers' geometry by pressurizing and releasing a fluid medium, such as compressed air or water, into the channel, allowing the fiber to act as an artificial muscle. The fibers also contain stretchable sensors that can detect and measure the degree of stretching of the fibers. The resulting composite fibers are thin and flexible enough to be sewn, woven, or knitted using standard commercial machines. The fibers [are] dubbed OmniFibers [...].
The new fiber architecture has a number of key features. Its extremely narrow size and use of inexpensive material make it relatively easy to structure the fibers into a variety of fabric forms. It's also compatible with human skin, since its outer layer is based on a material similar to common polyester. And, its fast response time and the strength and variety of the forces it can impart allow for a rapid feedback system for training or remote communications using haptics (based on the sense of touch). As an initial test application of the material, the team made a type of undergarment that singers can wear to monitor and play back the movement of respiratory muscles, to later provide kinesthetic feedback through the same garment to encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns for the desired vocal performance. Though this initial testing is in the context of vocal pedagogy, the same approach could be used to help athletes to learn how best to control their breathing in a given situation, based on monitoring accomplished athletes as they carry out various activities and stimulating the muscle groups that are in action. Eventually, the hope is that such garments could also be used to help patients regain healthy breathing patterns after major surgery or a respiratory disease such as Covid-19, or even as an alternative treatment for sleep apnea.
PS5 Console Plate Makers Provoke Sony, Then Hit Legal Trouble
Earlier this year, device skin maker Dbrand
released a set of black PS5 faceplates and baited Sony to sue them (because that's their shtick -- to come across
sassy and harsh). Sony
is now obliging. Kotaku reports:
As The Verge reports, Dbrand's "Darkplates" have recently been removed from the company's store, and any purchasing links now redirect to a page that only lists all the news articles written about the plates, including [a Gizmodo story]. Why pull them now? Because the company received a cease & desist letter from Sony, part of which says: "It has come to SIE's attention that dbrand has been promoting and selling console accessories in a manner that is deeply concerning to our client. First, dbrand is selling faceplates for the PSS console (in both standard edition and digital edition configurations) that replicate SIE's protected product design. Any faceplates that take the form of our client's PSS product configuration, or any similar configuration, and are: produced and sold without permission from SIE violate our client's intellectual property rights in the distinctive console design. Second, dbrand is selling skins for SIE devices that feature the PlayStation Family Mark Your company may not sell products that bear unauthorized depictions of our client's PlayStation Marks. The below still from one of dbrand's instructional videos shows a dbrand skin bearing a design identical to the PlayStation Family Mark."
For their part, Dbrand have responded with a rambling corporate shitpost on Reddit, which opens with "much like your hopes and dreams, Darkplates are dead" before eventually settling into actual legal defenses of their position, saying the plates don't violate any existing trademarks. Dbrand suspects that Sony's actual motivation here is moving to shut down competitors before revealing its own, first-party replacement panels for the PS5.
Why a Bitcoin ETF On Futures Might Not Be Such a Good Idea
Tomorrow morning, the ProShare Bitcoin Strategy ETF is
scheduled to begin trading. "Before you rush headlong into this market, it's important to understand that there are crucial differences" between an exchange-traded fund that's backed by actual Bitcoin and an exchange-traded fund like ProShare's that is backed by futures tied to the cryptocurrency," says Jared Dillian via Bloomberg. Here's why he says "a Bitcoin ETF on futures
might not be such a good idea:
The vast majority of commodity-based mutual funds and ETFs and are also backed by futures, but that's because the actual physical storage of most commodities is impractical, like with oil. Also, with almost all commodities most of the trading action and liquidity tends to happen in the futures market, not the spot market. The United States Oil Fund LP is the classic example of a commodity fund that is backed by futures. The fund earned some notoriety in 2020 when it scrambled to roll its futures contracts out the curve (in violation of its prospectus) in order to prevent the fund's bankruptcy in the event that the price of oil went negative -- which it did.
The United States Oil Fund case is an example of why a Bitcoin ETF on futures might not be such a good idea; it's impossible to predict what will happen in the futures market. But the main reason that people oppose futures-based ETFs is the cost of carry. When commodity futures are in contango, or when the price of deferred month contracts trade above front-month contracts, there is a significant cost to roll futures contracts from one month to the next, and that underperformance is passed to the investor. This has been a major complaint about commodity ETFs for years.
While commodity futures frequently trade in contango, they can also trade in backwardation, which is when deferred month contracts trade below front month contracts. In this case, investors earn a positive roll yield. Many commodity futures are trading in backwardation at the moment, although Bitcoin is in contango. There is no reason to believe that it might not one day be in backwardation. Gold is an example of a commodity where the ETFs hold the actual metal and not futures, because the storage and accounting of physical gold is fairly straightforward. So why can't a Bitcoin ETF hold actual Bitcoin? The reason is because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's primary objection to physical Bitcoin funds is that the underlying market is unregulated. Well, the gold market is unregulated and we have physical gold ETFs, so what gives? The Bitcoin people are trying to figure this out. Dillian says there should be a physical Bitcoin ETF. "The Winkelvoss twins were the first to apply for one, back in 2013, when Bitcoin was trading below $1,000 (it's now around $62,000). If their fund had been approved, it would now likely be the largest, most liquid ETF in existence, and would have provided supercharged returns to a whole generation of investors."
Facebook Plans To Hire 10,000 In Europe To Build 'Metaverse'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press:
Facebook said it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform that promises to connect people virtually but could raise concerns about privacy and the social platform gaining more control over people's online lives. The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting online that uses augmented and virtual reality. Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet, though their track record is spotty on predicting future trends. "As we begin the journey of bringing the metaverse to life, the need for highly specialized engineers is one of Facebook's most pressing priorities," according to the blog post from Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs, and Javier Olivan, vice president of central products. Facebook's recruiters are targeting Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland for the hiring drive. The company as of June reported having more than 63,000 employees worldwide, up 21% from the same time last year.
The metaverse essentially is a massive virtual world that can be accessed in real time by millions of people using avatars, who can use it to hold virtual meetings or buy virtual land and clothing or other digital assets, often paying with cryptocurrencies. The social network isn't the only one working on the metaverse, and Facebook acknowledged that no single company will own and operate it. Other players include Fortnite maker Epic Games, which has raised $1 billion from investors to help with its long-term plans for building the metaverse. "There's not going to be specific metaverses to specific companies. There's only going to be one metaverse," said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst who tracks immersive technologies for research firm Gartner. But there are concerns Facebook and a handful of other Silicon Valley giants would end up monopolizing the metaverse and use it to collect and profit from personal data, mirroring the situation now with the internet.
macOS Monterey Is Finally Rolling Out On October 25th
new MacBook Pro models, Apple announced during its Mac event today that macOS Monterey
will be available on Monday, Oct. 25. Gizmodo reports:
As with macOS Big Sur before it, Monterey represents a renewed effort by Apple to streamline its operating systems, with new Focus profiles for limiting notifications and helping you be more productive just like in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Shortcuts, Apple's automation app, is now available on desktop for the first time. Monterey also represents the first time users will be able to AirPlay content from a Mac, a function that iPhone users have long enjoyed. If you've already downloaded iOS 15, updating to Monterey just makes sense -- these devices are so much more functional when they work seamlessly with each other.
But perhaps the most anticipated feature Monterey is supposed to bring us is Universal Control, which allows you to use a single mouse/trackpad and keyboard to control multiple Macs and iPads simultaneously. While the new feature wasn't initially included in the public beta rollout of Monterey, that omission has only allowed the hype to grow. It's unclear when Universal Control will come to macOS, only that it won't be available to use at launch. FaceTime's new SharePlay feature, which is also expected to arrive in iOS 15, will also not be ready to try at launch. That feature will allow you to share music or watch shows with folks over FaceTime. The devices that support macOS Monterey include: iMac (late 2015 and newer), iMac Pro (2017 and newer), Mac Pro (late 2013 and newer), Mac Mini (late 2014 and newer), MacBook Pro (early 2015 and newer), MacBook Air (early 2015 and newer), and MacBook (early 2016 and newer).
macOS Monterey Release Candidate Undoes Safari Changes, Reintroduces Old Tab Design
Credit Card PINs Can Be Guessed Even When Covering the ATM Pad
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer:
Researchers have proven it's possible to train a special-purpose deep-learning algorithm that can guess 4-digit card PINs 41% of the time, even if the victim is covering the pad with their hands. The attack requires the setting up of a replica of the target ATM because training the algorithm for the specific dimensions and key spacing of the different PIN pads is crucially important. Next, the machine-learning model is trained to recognize pad presses and assign specific probabilities on a set of guesses, using video of people typing PINs on the ATM pad.
For the experiment, the researchers collected 5,800 videos of 58 different people of diverse demographics, entering 4-digit and 5-digit PINs. The machine that ran the prediction model was a Xeon E5-2670 with 128 GB of RAM and three Tesla K20m with 5GB of RAM each. By using three tries, which is typically the maximum allowed number of attempts before the card is withheld, the researchers reconstructed the correct sequence for 5-digit PINs 30% of the time, and reached 41% for 4-digit PINs. The model can exclude keys based on the non-typing hand coverage, and deduces the pressed digits from the movements of the other hand by evaluating the topological distance between two keys. The placement of the camera which captures the tries plays a key role, especially if recording left or right-handed individuals. Concealing a pinhole camera at the top of the ATM was determined to be the best approach for the attacker. If the camera is capable of capturing audio too, the model could also use pressing sound feedback which is slightly different for each digit, thus making the predictions a lot more accurate.
Apple's 3rd-Generation AirPods Arrives Next Week With a New Design, Spatial Audio
At its Fall Mac event today, Apple
announced the new third-generation AirPods, featuring a slightly revamped design with shorter stems and touch-based "force sensor" and support for spatial audio. Ars Technica reports:
The new AirPods retain their usual hard plastic finish and do not have in-ear tips like the AirPods Pro, though Apple says they are now officially IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance. Apple says the earbuds have six hours of battery life and up to 30 hours when including the charging case. (That's compared to five and 24 hours, respectively, on the second-gen model.) The included case supports MagSafe and wireless charging, though the earbuds do not feature active noise cancellation or a transparency mode like their pricier siblings.
Though the second-gen AirPods were renowned more for their ease of use than their audio quality, Apple says it has updated them with a redesigned driver and an adaptive EQ feature that automatically tunes your music based on the AirPods' fit in your ear. The earbuds will also use Apple's spatial audio tech, which makes audio sound like it is coming from around the user's head. To help with that, the new AirPods support dynamic head tracking like the AirPods Pro and the over-ear AirPods Max. The third-gen AirPods cost $179 and are available to order online today, with in-store availability starting October 26. Notably, Apple will continue to sell the existing second-gen AirPods for $129 alongside the new pair.
New York AG Orders Two Unregistered Crypto Lenders To Shut Down
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday ordered two unregistered cryptocurrency lending platforms to
cease operating in the state within 10 days and requested three other platforms to send her office information about their activities and products. From a report:
Due in part to a lack of clear regulations, crypto companies have been making various moves -- and finding out that not all regulators agree with them. James' office argued that virtual currency lending products are considered securities under the state's Martin Act, which requires companies offering such financial services to register with the attorney general's office in order to do business with New Yorkers.
US Treasury Says It Tied $5.2 Billion in BTC Transactions To Ransomware Payments
The financial crimes investigation unit of the US Treasury Department, also known as FinCEN, said last week it identified approximately
$5.2 billion in outgoing Bitcoin transactions potentially tied to ransomware payments. From a report:
FinCEN officials said the figure was compiled by analyzing 2,184 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by US financial institutions over the last decade, between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2021. While the initial SAR reports highlighted $1.56 billion in suspicious activity, a subsequent FinCEN investigation of the Top 10 most common ransomware variants exposed additional transactions, amounting to around $5.2 billion just from these groups alone.
Apple Introduces M1 Pro and M1 Max
announced M1 Pro and M1 Max, its new chips for the Mac. Apple:
M1 Pro and M1 Max introduce a system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture to pro systems for the first time. The chips feature fast unified memory, industry-leading performance per watt, and incredible power efficiency, along with increased memory bandwidth and capacity. M1 Pro offers up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth with support for up to 32GB of unified memory. M1 Max delivers up to 400GB/s of memory bandwidth -- 2x that of M1 Pro and nearly 6x that of M1 -- and support for up to 64GB of unified memory. And while the latest PC laptops top out at 16GB of graphics memory, having this huge amount of memory enables graphics-intensive workflows previously unimaginable on a notebook. The efficient architecture of M1 Pro and M1 Max means they deliver the same level of performance whether MacBook Pro is plugged in or using the battery. M1 Pro and M1 Max also feature enhanced media engines with dedicated ProRes accelerators specifically for pro video processing. M1 Pro and M1 Max are by far the most powerful chips Apple has ever built.
Utilizing the industry-leading 5-nanometer process technology, M1 Pro packs in 33.7 billion transistors, more than 2x the amount in M1. A new 10-core CPU, including eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, is up to 70 percent faster than M1, resulting in unbelievable pro CPU performance. Compared with the latest 8-core PC laptop chip, M1 Pro delivers up to 1.7x more CPU performance at the same power level and achieves the PC chip's peak performance using up to 70 percent less power. Even the most demanding tasks, like high-resolution photo editing, are handled with ease by M1 Pro. M1 Pro has an up-to-16-core GPU that is up to 2x faster than M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.1 Compared to a powerful discrete GPU for PC notebooks, M1 Pro delivers more performance while using up to 70 percent less power. And M1 Pro can be configured with up to 32GB of fast unified memory, with up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, enabling creatives like 3D artists and game developers to do more on the go than ever before.
M1 Max features the same powerful 10-core CPU as M1 Pro and adds a massive 32-core GPU for up to 4x faster graphics performance than M1. With 57 billion transistors -- 70 percent more than M1 Pro and 3.5x more than M1 -- M1 Max is the largest chip Apple has ever built. In addition, the GPU delivers performance comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop while consuming up to 40 percent less power, and performance similar to that of the highest-end GPU in the largest PC laptops while using up to 100 watts less power.2 This means less heat is generated, fans run quietly and less often, and battery life is amazing in the new MacBook Pro. M1 Max transforms graphics-intensive workflows, including up to 13x faster complex timeline rendering in Final Cut Pro compared to the previous-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro. M1 Max also offers a higher-bandwidth on-chip fabric, and doubles the memory interface compared with M1 Pro for up to 400GB/s, or nearly 6x the memory bandwidth of M1. This allows M1 Max to be configured with up to 64GB of fast unified memory. With its unparalleled performance, M1 Max is the most powerful chip ever built for a pro notebook.