Judge Releases Redacted Lunar Lander Lawsuit From Bezos' Blue Origin Against NASA-SpaceX Contract
As reported by CNBC, the US Court of Federal Claims has released a redacted version of the lawsuit, filed by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, in a complaint against NASA. Earlier this year, the agency had awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX for the design and development of a lunar lander.
Although NASA has a long history of awarding contracts to promote innovation and competition, the Blue Origin suit seemed a little unusual given the company's current lack of launch experience (they have completed numerous successful tests, including a high-altitude "edge of space" flight for Bezos, his brother and guests, but have yet to place any vehicle in orbit, let alone establish a credible, commercial space flight presence).
As was also reported by CNBC, the Government Accountability Office conducted an investigation in to the initial Blue Origin complaint, after NASA suspended the process, but found no evidence that NASA awarded the contract incorrectly and denied the initial Blue Origin complaint.
'We Need Software Updates Forever'
The creator of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) and founder of the first virtual reality startup, Mark Pesce, opines an IEEE Spectrum piece that
we need software updates forever. Slashdot reader
joshuark shares an excerpt from the article:
Device makers are apt to drop support for old gadgets faster than the gadgets themselves wear out. Consumers have relied on the good graces of device makers to keep our gadget firmware and software secure and up-to-date. Doing so costs the manufacturer some of its profits. As a result, many of them are apt to drop support for old gadgets faster than the gadgets themselves wear out. This corporate stinginess consigns far too many of our devices to the trash heap before they have exhausted their usability. That's bad for consumers and bad for the planet. It needs to stop.
We have seen a global right-to-repair movement emerge from maker communities and start to influence public policy around such things as the availability of spare parts. I'd argue that there should be a parallel right-to-maintain movement. We should mandate that device manufacturers set aside a portion of the purchase price of a gadget to support ongoing software maintenance, forcing them to budget for a future they'd rather ignore. Or maybe they aren't ignoring the future so much as trying to manage it by speeding up product obsolescence, because it typically sparks another purchase.
Does this mean Sony and others should still be supporting products nearly two decades old, like my PSP? If that keeps them out of the landfill, I'd say yes: The benefits easily outweigh the costs. The devilish details come in decisions about who should bear those costs. But even if they fell wholly on the purchaser, consumers would, I suspect, be willing to pay a few dollars more for a gadget if that meant reliable access to software for it -- indefinitely. Yes, we all want shiny new toys -- and we'll have plenty of them -- but we shouldn't build that future atop the prematurely discarded remains of our electronic past.
'Jumping Gene' May Have Erased Tails In Humans and Other Apes
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine:
Mammals from mice to monkeys have tails. But humans and our cousins the great apes lack them. Now, researchers may have unearthed a simple genetic change that led to our abbreviated back end: an itinerant piece of DNA -- in a gene known as TBTX -- that leapt into a new chromosomal home and changed how great apes make a key developmental protein. The finding also suggests the genetic shift came with a less visible and more dangerous effect: a higher risk of birth defects involving the developing spinal cord.
Mice carrying both copies of the shortened gene didn't survive, but those with one long and one short version were born with a variety of tail lengths -- from none at all to nearly normal. That suggests the shorter version of the gene interferes with tail development. Because the genetically altered mice had a mix of tail lengths, other genes must be working together to eliminate all tail development in apes and humans, but the ape-specific change "was likely a critical event" about 25 million years ago as great apes diverged from other simians.
The genetically modified mice also had unusually high levels of neural tube problems, defects in the developing spinal cord. Such birth defects, which produce spina bifida, where the spinal cord doesn't close, and anencephaly, where parts of the brain and skull are missing, are fairly common in humans, affecting as many as one in 1,000 newborns. "We apparently paid a cost for the loss of the tail, and we still feel the echoes," says one author. "We must have had a clear benefit for losing the tail, whether it was improved locomotion or something else." The researchers reported their findings in a preprint posted last week
TikTokers Are Trading Stocks By Copying What Members of Congress Do
TikTok users are
watching financial disclosures of sitting members of Congress to help them determine which stocks to invest in. NPR reports:
Among a certain community of individual investors on TikTok, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stock trading disclosures are a treasure trove. "Shouts out to Nancy Pelosi, the stock market's biggest whale," said user 'ceowatchlist.' Another said, "I've come to the conclusion that Nancy Pelosi is a psychic," while adding that she is the "queen of investing." "She knew," declared Chris Josephs, analyzing a particular trade in Pelosi's financial disclosures. "And you would have known if you had followed her portfolio." Last year, Josephs noticed that the trades, actually made by Pelosi's investor husband and merely disclosed by the speaker, were performing well.
Josephs is the co-founder of a company called Iris, which shows other people's stock trades. In the past year and a half, he has been taking advantage of a law called the Stock Act, which requires lawmakers to disclose stock trades and those of their spouses within 45 days. Now on Josephs' social investing platform, you can get a push notification every time Pelosi's stock trading disclosures are released. He is personally investing when he sees which stocks are picked: "I'm at the point where if you can't beat them, join them," Josephs told NPR, adding that if he sees trades on her disclosures, "I typically do buy... the next one she does, I'm going to buy." The report notes that Senate and House members have already filed more than 4,000 financial trading disclosures this year, with at least $315 million of stocks and bonds bought or sold. "That's according to Tim Carambat, who in 2020 created and now maintains two public databases of lawmaker financial transactions --
House Stock Watcher and
Senate Stock Watcher," reports NPR. "He says there is a significant following for his work," reports NPR.
FDA Authorizes Pfizer Booster Shots For Older and At-Risk Americans
After weeks of internal strife at the Food and Drug Administration, the agency on Wednesday
authorized people over 65 who had received Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine to
get a booster shot at least six months after their second injection. The New York Times reports:
The F.D.A. also authorized booster shots for adult Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who are at high risk of becoming severely ill with Covid-19 or are at risk of serious complications from the disease due to frequent exposure to the coronavirus at their jobs. The authorization sets up what is likely to be a staggered campaign to deliver the shots, starting with the most vulnerable Americans. It opens the way for possibly tens of millions of vaccinated people to receive boosters at pharmacies, health clinics, doctors' offices and elsewhere. Roughly 22 million Americans are at least six months past their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of them are 65 and older. Millions of Americans who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are still waiting to learn whether they, too, can get boosters.
The F.D.A.'s decision will be followed as soon as Thursday by a recommendation from the C.D.C., which issues guidance on vaccine policy for clinicians and public health officials throughout the United States. An advisory committee of the C.D.C. is now in the midst of a two-day meeting on the issue. But even if the C.D.C. takes a different stance, health care providers are now authorized to offer third shots to Pfizer-BioNTech recipients who meet the F.D.A.'s eligibility criteria. The ruling followed weeks of internal disagreement at the F.D.A., where some vaccine regulators openly challenged the idea of offering booster shots to the general population. Public health experts and state officials have criticized what they said were confusing public messages from the Biden administration about who should be eligible for a booster shot and when.
First RISC-V Computer Chip Lands At the European Processor Initiative
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register:
The European Processor Initiative (EPI) has run the successful first test of its RISC-V-based European Processor Accelerator (EPAC), touting it as the initial step towards homegrown supercomputing hardware. EPI, launched back in 2018, aims to increase the independence of Europe's supercomputing industry from foreign technology companies. At its heart is the adoption of the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture for the development and production of high-performance chips within Europe's borders. The project's latest milestone is the delivery of 143 samples of EPAC chips, accelerators designed for high-performance computing applications and built around the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture. Designed to prove the processor's design, the 22nm test chips -- fabbed at GlobalFoundries, the not-terribly-European semiconductor manufacturer spun out of AMD back in 2009 -- have passed initial testing, running a bare-metal "hello, world" program as proof of life.
It's a rapid turnaround. The EPAC design was proven on FPGA in March and the project announced silicon tape-out for the test chips in June -- hitting a 26.97mm2 area with 14 million placeable instances, equivalent to 93 million gates, including 991 memory instances. While the FPGA variant, which implemented a subset of the functions of the full EPAC design, was shown booting a Linux operating system, the physical test chips have so far only been tested with basic bare-metal workloads -- leaving plenty of work to be done. Earlier today, the UK government released its 10-year plan to
make the country a global "artificial intelligence superpower," seeking to rival the likes of the U.S. and China. "The so-called 'National Artificial Intelligence Strategy' is designed to boost the use of AI among the nation's businesses, attract international investment into British AI companies and develop the next generation of homegrown tech talent," reports CNBC.
Robinhood Will Start Testing Crypto Wallets Next Month
plans to start a cryptocurrency wallet next month, the company
announced on Wednesday. Engadget reports:
The tool will allow you to send and receive digital currencies, as well as trade them and move them off the app. If you want to take part in the test, you'll need to join a waitlist. Robinhood plans to trial the feature with a small number of users first before expanding availability to more people gradually.
The company told The Verge it expects everyone will have access to their own wallet sometime in 2022. In the meantime, you can see progress on the wallet by following Robinhood's Twitter account and blog. The company promised to share whatever feedback early users provide on the product with the community. Initially, the wallet will support Bitcoin, Ethereum and even Dogecoin. The wallet will use a custodial system, which means Robinhood will manage the keys you need to unlock it. That said, you'll have the option to move your cryptocurrencies to other platforms should you so choose.
The Fed Is Evaluating Whether To Launch a Digital Currency and In What Form
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC:
The Federal Reserve is pushing ahead with its study into whether to implement its own digital currency and will be releasing a paper on the issue shortly, Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday. No decision has been made on the matter yet, he added, and said the Fed does not feel pressured to do something quickly as other nations move forward with their own projects. "I think it's important that we get to a place where we can make an informed decision about this and do so expeditiously," Powell said at his post-meeting news conference. "I don't think we're behind. I think it's more important to do this right than to do it fast." Powell added that the Fed is "working proactively to evaluate whether to issue a CBDC, and if so in what form."
The Boston Fed has taken point on the project, joining with MIT in an initiative on whether the central bank should establish its own digital coin targeted at making the payments system more effective. Fed Governor Lael Brainard has been a strong advocate of the effort, though several other officials, including Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles, have cast doubts. Advocates such as Brainard say a central bank digital currency's benefits include getting payments quickly to people in times of crisis and also providing services to the unbanked. "We think it's really important that the central bank maintain a stable currency and payments system for the public's benefit. That's one of our jobs," he said. He noted the "transformational innovation" in the area of digital payments and said the Fed is continuing to do work on the matter, including its own FedNow system expected to go online in 2023. The test for a CBDC, he said, is "are there clear and tangible benefits that outweigh any costs and risks."
Some concerns even have been raised that if the Fed does not act more aggressively, the dollar's position as the global reserve currency could be challenged. Powell noted the dollar's position in the world and said the Fed is "in a good place" to make a decision on whether to implement its own digital currency. He expressed some concern about the regulatory landscape and said the Fed likely will need congressional permission should it decide to proceed. "Where the public's money is concerned, we need to make sure that appropriate regulatory protections are in place, and today there really are not in some cases," Powell said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in Leaked Memo: 'We Are Doing Everything in Our Power' To Identify Leakers
Apple CEO Tim Cook has warned employees
about leaking company information. Cook's memo:
It was great to connect with you at the global employee meeting on Friday. There was much to celebrate, from our remarkable new product line-up to our values driven work around climate change, racial equity, and privacy. It was a good opportunity to reflect on our many accomplishments and to have a discussion about what's been on your mind.
I'm writing today because I've heard from so many of you were incredibly frustrated to see the contents of the meeting leak to reporters. This comes after a product launch in which most of the details of our announcements were also leaked to the press.
I want you to know that I share your frustration. These opportunities to connect as a team are really important. But they only work if we can trust that the content will stay within Apple. I want to reassure you that we are doing everything in our power to identify those who leaked. As you know, we do not tolerate disclosures of confidential information, whether it's product IP or the details of a confidential meeting. We know that the leakers constitute a small number of people. We also know that people who leak confidential information do not belong here.
As we look forward, I want to thank you for all you've done to make our products a reality and all you will do to get them into customers' hands. Yesterday we released iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and watchOS 8, and Friday marks the moment when we share some of our incredible new products with the world. There's nothing better than that. We'll continue to measure our contributions in the lives we change, the connections we foster, and the work we do to leave the world a better place.
Microsoft Debuts Surface Duo 2 Dual-Screen Android Phone With Larger Displays and 5G
At Microsoft's Surface event today, the company
announced its Surface Duo 2 dual-screen Android smartphone, featuring a trio of new cameras, a faster processor, larger displays, and support for 5G. The company also unveiled a successor to the Surface Book line of laptops, the
Surface Laptop Studio, as well as the
Surface Pro 8. From a report:
The first-generation of the Duo made a splash thanks to its unique design. While the original Duo had no exterior screen at all, the Duo 2 now has a sliver of screen called the Glance Bar that peeks out from where its displays come together and provides you with the time and notifications when the Duo is closed. Microsoft has seemingly addressed a number of the original Duo's shortcomings with its Duo 2. One of the biggest issues with the first-generation version was its lack of any truly capable camera. [...] This time around, Microsoft has outfitted the Surface Duo 2 with a trio of external cameras. Like Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones, the Duo 2 gets a wide-angle camera, an ultra-wide angle camera, and a telephoto camera. There's also a dedicated night photography mode, 2x optical zoom with the telephoto lens, and the ability to record 4K video at 60 frames per second.
As for the occasionally sluggish performance, the Duo 2 should have that sorted out. This time around, Microsoft has dropped Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 888 processor into the Duo 2, which means the phone should run as smoothly and quickly as any of the leading smartphones on the market. What's more, the Duo 2 gets 8GB of RAM and 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage. On top of that, the Surface Duo 2 gets 5G connectivity, something that was conspicuously absent from the first-generation Duo.
The Duo 2 also gets two larger displays this time around. Rather than two 5.1-inch panels, the Duo 2 gets two 5.3-inch screens that open up to an 8.3-inch display that you can use to move your apps across or as a single canvas for more expansive apps. [...] The gist of the Surface Duo 2 is that two screens are better than one. To that end, Microsoft has combined two panels with a hinge to make an Android-powered device that lets you not only use both displays at the same time, but also seamlessly move apps and content between them. That capability will cost you a pricey $1,499 when the Duo 2 hits store shelves. It's available for pre-order today.
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer To Step Down
Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer, a 13-year veteran who oversees the social network's work in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the blockchain,
will step down next year. From a report:
Another longtime Facebook executive, Andrew Bosworth, will take over as CTO, according to an internal message on Wednesday from Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. Schroepfer's move marks the most significant departure from the company in years and follows the recent exits of several other top executives. Known as "Schrep," Schroepfer joined Facebook in 2008 and has been CTO since 2013, reporting to Zuckerberg. He sits atop many of Facebook's most ambitious organizations -- including groups that the social network is depending on for future growth -- such as engineering, infrastructure, augmented reality and VR, and the blockchain and finance unit. His desk sits next to Zuckerberg's and operating chief Sheryl Sandberg's at Facebook headquarters.
YouTube Tests Video Downloads for Your Desktop Browser
YouTube is testing an official way to
download videos on your desktop web browser. From a report:
If you want to see if you're eligible for the test, which runs through October 19th, check out YouTube's experimental features page, which lists tests available for Premium subscribers. If you're opted-in and on a supported browser ("the latest versions of Chrome, Edge, or Opera," according to Google), when you're watching a video, you should see an option to download the video under the player. When you click it, YouTube will download the video, which you can then watch from the Downloads section that's accessible from the hamburger menu on the left side of the screen.
Google Finally Shifting To 'Upstream First' Linux Kernel Approach For Android Features
Google's Android had been notorious for all of its downstream patches carried by the mobile operating system as well as various vendor/device kernel trees while in recent years more of that code has been upstreamed. Google has also been shifting to the Android Generic Kernel Image (GKI) as the basis for all their product kernels to further reduce the fragmentation. Looking ahead, Google is now talking of an "upstream first" approach for pushing new kernel features into mainline Linux before deploying them on Android. Google's Todd Kjos talked today during Linux Plumbers Conference (LPC2021) around their Generic Kernel Image initiative. With Android 12 and their Linux 5.10 based GKI image they have further cut down the fragmentation to the extent that it's "nearly eliminated."
With the Android 12 GKI, most of the vendor/OEM kernel features have now either been upstreamed into the Linux kernel, isolated to vendor modules/hooks, or merged into the Android Common Kernel. They are making good progress on the GKI front and also ensuring vendors adapt to the new approach to cut down on the kernel mess. But perhaps most exciting is their outlook for 2023 to 2024 for further reducing technical debt. They are going to pursue an "upstream first development model for new features" in making sure new code first lands into the mainline Linux kernel rather than aiming straight for lodging within the Android source tree.
UK Publishes 10-Year Plan To Become 'AI Superpower,' Seeking To Rival US and China
The U.K. government on Wednesday released its 10-year plan to make the country a global "artificial intelligence superpower," seeking to rival the likes of the U.S. and China. The so-called "National Artificial Intelligence Strategy" is designed to boost the use of AI among the nation's businesses, attract international investment into British AI companies and develop the next generation of homegrown tech talent. "Today we're laying the foundations for the next ten years' growth with a strategy to help us seize the potential of artificial intelligence and play a leading role in shaping the way the world governs it," Chris Philp, a minister of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said in a statement. The National AI Strategy includes a number of programs, reports and initiatives. Among them, a new National AI Research and Innovation program will be launched as part of an effort to improve coordination and collaboration between the country's researchers. Elsewhere, another program will specifically aim to support AI development outside London and Southeast England, where much of the nation's AI efforts are currently concentrated.
Let's Encrypt's Root Certificate is About To Expire, and It Might Break Your Devices
One of the largest providers of HTTPS certificates, Let's Encrypt, will
stop using an older root certificate next week -- meaning you might need to upgrade your devices to prevent them from breaking. From a report:
Let's Encrypt, a free-to-use nonprofit, issues certificates that encrypt the connections between your devices and the wider internet, ensuring that nobody can intercept and steal your data in transit. Millions of websites alone rely on Let's Encrypt.
But, as warned by security researcher Scott Helme, the root certificate that Let's Encrypt currently uses -- the IdentTrust DST Root CA X3 -- will expire on September 30. After this, computers, devices and web clients -- such as browsers -- will no longer trust certificates that have been issued by this certificate authority. For the overwhelming majority of website users, there is nothing to worry about and September 30 will be business as usual. Older devices, however, could run into some trouble, much like they did when the AddTrust External CA Root expired back in May. Stripe, Red Hat and Roku all suffered outages as a result.