Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.
The growth came even as tariffs on imported panels threatened to increase costs for developers. Giant fields of solar panels led the growth as community solar projects owned by homeowners and businesses took off. Total installations this year are expected to be 10.8 gigawatts, or about the same as last year, according to GTM. By 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.
Seattle Repeals Tax That Upset Amazon
Last month, the Seattle City Council
introduced a new tax that would charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing. This greatly upset Amazon, Seattle's biggest private sector employer, which threatened to move jobs out of the city. Today, The Associated Press reports that Seattle leaders
have repealed the tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after they fought the measure. From the report:
The City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to reverse a tax that it unanimously approved just a month ago to help provide services in the city. The Seattle region has one of the highest homelessness numbers in the U.S. Amazon, Starbucks and other businesses sharply criticized the tax as misguided. The online retailer, the city's largest employer, even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its Seattle headquarters in protest. Mayor Jenny Durkan and a majority of the council have said they scrapped the tax to avoid a costly political fight as a coalition of businesses moved to get a referendum overturning the tax on the November ballot.
Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations For 59 Languages To Its Translate App
rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Some of the supported languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Korean (TechCrunch has a full list of the languages in their report). From the report:
In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn't really an option since mobile phones didn't have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that's less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google's case, that's about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. Users will see the updated offline translations within the next few weeks.
Sony Is Blocking Fortnite Cross-Play Between PS4, Nintendo Switch Players
Earlier today, Nintendo announced during its E3 press conference that Epic Games' Fortnite would be
coming to the Switch console. Unfortunately, when Epic Games PR representative Nick Chester confirmed cross-play compatibility, the PS4 wasn't on the list. The Switch version of Fortnite
will only support cross-play with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile. The Verge reports:
That aligns with past cross-play implementations between Xbox One, PS4, PC, and mobile, with Sony blocking other console platforms from playing with its own. You can cross-play between PS4, mobile, and PC. Unfortunately, this also suggests that PS4 players of Fortnite won't be able to log in to their Epic accounts on the Switch, meaning you won't be able to have any weekly progress carry over or gain access to any of your skins or emotes. This is because your Epic account is tied up with your PSN username in most cases. For instance, you can't log in to an Epic account tied to PSN on the Xbox One version of Fortnite, and it sounds like the same will be true for the Switch.
UK Watchdog Issues $334K Fine For Yahoo's 2014 Data Breach
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register:
Yahoo's U.K. limb has finally been handed a $334,300 (250,000 GBP) fine for the 2014 cyber attack that exposed data of half a million Brit users. Today, the Information Commissioner's Office issued Yahoo U.K. Services Ltd a $334,300 (250,000 GBP) fine following an investigation that focused on the 515,121 U.K. accounts that the London-based branch of the firm had responsibility for. The ICO said "systemic failures" had put user data at risk as the U.K. arm of Yahoo did not take appropriate technical and organizational measures to prevent a data breach of this size.
In particular, the watchdog said there should have been proper monitoring systems in place to protect the credentials of Yahoo employees who could access customer's data, and to ensure that instructions to transfer very large quantities of personal data from Yahoo's servers would be flagged for investigation. It also noted that, as a data controller, Yahoo U.K. services Ltd had a responsibility to ensure its processors -- in this case Yahoo, whose U.S. servers held the data on U.K. users -- complied with data protection standards.
Apple Tries To Stop Developers Sharing Data On Users' Friends
Apple has updated its App Store guidelines to close a loophole that
let app makers store and share data without many people's consent. The practice has "been employed for years," reports Bloomberg. "Developers ask users for access to their phone contacts, then use it for marketing and sometimes share or sell the information -- without permission from the other people listed on those digital address books." From the report:
As Apple's annual developer conference got underway on June 4, the Cupertino, California-based company made many new pronouncements on stage, including new controls that limit tracking of web browsing. But the phone maker didn't publicly mention updated App Store Review Guidelines that now bar developers from making databases of address book information they gather from iPhone users. Sharing and selling that database with third parties is also now forbidden. And an app can't get a user's contact list, say it's being used for one thing, and then use it for something else -- unless the developer gets consent again. Anyone caught breaking the rules may be banned.
While Apple is acting now, the company can't go back and retrieve the data that may have been shared so far. After giving permission to a developer, an iPhone user can go into their settings and turn off apps' contacts permissions. That turns off the data faucet, but doesn't return information already gathered.
Giant African Baobab Trees Die Suddenly After Thousands of Years
Some of Africa's oldest and biggest baobab trees have abruptly died, wholly or in part, in the past decade, according to researchers. From a report:
The trees, aged between 1,100 and 2,500 years and in some cases as wide as a bus is long, may have fallen victim to climate change, the team speculated. "We report that nine of the 13 oldest ... individuals have died, or at least their oldest parts/stems have collapsed and died, over the past 12 years," they wrote in the scientific journal Nature Plants, describing "an event of an unprecedented magnitude." "It is definitely shocking and dramatic to experience during our lifetime the demise of so many trees with millennial ages," said the study's co-author Adrian Patrut of the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania. Among the nine were four of the largest African baobabs. While the cause of the die-off remains unclear, the researchers "suspect that the demise of monumental baobabs may be associated at least in part with significant modifications of climate conditions that affect southern Africa in particular." Further research is needed, said the team from Romania, South Africa and the United States, "to support or refute this supposition."
KDE unveils the final release of Plasma 5.13, the free and open-source desktop environment. Members of the Plasma team have focused on optimizing startup and minimizing memory usage. Plasma Browser Integration is a suite of new features which make Firefox, Chrome and Chromium-based browsers work with your desktop. For example, downloads are now displayed in the Plasma notification popup, and the Media Controls Plasmoid can mute and skip videos and music playing from within the browser. Browser tabs can be opened directly using KRunner via the Alt-Space keyboard shortcut. System Settings design has been improved further. Window manager gained much-improved effects for blur and desktop switching. Wayland work continued, with the return of window rules, and initial support for screencasts and desktop sharing. You can view the changelog
Senate Will Try To Reverse ZTE Deal Via a Must-Pass Defense Bill
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Senate leaders agreed Monday to include language in the annual defense spending bill that would reverse the Trump administration's decision to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE after it was caught violating the terms of a 2017 penalty agreement by making illegal sales to Iran and North Korea. The language will be part of an amendment in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a $716 billion defense policy bill, H.R. 5515 (115).
If the Senate amendment becomes law, it would automatically reinstate the seven-year prohibition until Trump has certified to Congress that ZTE has met certain conditions. It also would ban all U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment and/or services from ZTE, a second Chinese telecommunications firm, Huawei, or any subsidiaries or affiliates of those two companies. The amendment language "prohibits the federal government from doing business with ZTE or Huawei or other Chinese telecom companies" and puts the company back on the sanctions list and "holds ZTE accountable for violating their previous commitment," Cotton said. The senators supporting the amendment include Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer and two Republican Senators -- Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "I and obviously every other senator believes the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for their behavior," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told reporters after Ross briefed senators on the department's latest ZTE action. "They're a repeat bad actor that should be put out of business. For eight years, ZTE was able to run wild and be able to become the fourth-largest telecom company in the world." If the Senate amendment becomes law, "I would expect there wouldn't be a ZTE," Cotton added.
Judge Rules AT&T Can Acquire Time Warner
A federal judge said Tuesday that
AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal,
clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros. From a report:
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced his decision in a packed courtroom, ruling that antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department had not proven their case against the merger. The decision, in one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades, is a milestone victory for AT&T as it looks to reposition itself in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Its deal for Time Warner, valued at roughly $80 billion, has been pending since October 2016. The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation's top pay-TV distributor, through its ownership of DirecTV, as well as the owner of some of the country's most sought-after channels: Time Warner's Turner networks -- including CNN, TBS and TNT -- as well as HBO, the most popular U.S. premium network.
5% of All Monero Currently In Circulation Has Been Mined Using Malware
An anonymous reader writes:
According to a report released yesterday, criminal groups have mined an approximate total of 798,613.33 Monero coins (XMR) using malware on infected devices. That's over $108 million in US currency, just from coin-mining operations alone. This sum also represents around 5% of all the Monero currently in circulation -- 15,962,350 XMR. Furthermore, during the past year, infected devices were responsible for 19,503,823.54 hashes/second, which is roughly 2% of the entire hashing power of the Monero network. The total hashrate of roughly 19MH/s would result in approximately $30,443 per day based on today's current exchange rates and network difficulty," researchers said. "Similarly, the top three hash-rates will mine approximately $2,737, $2,022 and $1,596 per day, respectively."
Internet Luminaries Urge EU To Kill Off Automated Copyright Filter Proposal
A large group of Internet pioneers have sent an open letter to the European Union
urging it to scrap a proposal to introduce automated upload filters, arguing that it could damage the internet as we know it. The Register:
The European Parliament's Legal Affairs (Juri) Committee will vote on the proposal contained in Article 13 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive next week. The proposal would see all companies that "store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works" obliged to "prevent the availability... of works... identified by rightholders." Despite the inclusion of language that says such measures need to be "appropriate and proportionate," it has caused many to worry that the law will lead to a requirement for all platforms to introduce automated content filtering, and shift liability for any copyrighted material that appears online from the user that posts it to the platform itself.
"By inverting this liability model and essentially making platforms directly responsible for ensuring the legality of content in the first instance, the business models and investments of platforms large and small will be impacted," warns the letter [PDF] signed by "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, world world web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, as well a host of other internet luminaries including Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales, security expert Bruce Schneier and net neutrality namer Tim Wu.
Google Disables Inline Installation For Chrome Extensions
An anonymous reader writes:
Google today announced that Chrome will no longer support inline installation of extensions. New extensions lose inline installation starting today, existing extensions will lose the ability in three months, and in early December the inline install API will be removed from the browser with the release of Chrome 71. Critics have pointed out such moves make the Chrome Web Store a walled garden, while Google insists pushing users to the store ultimately protects them.
Spanish Football League Defends Phone 'Spying'
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Intel Says Its First Discrete Graphics Chips Will Be Available in 2020
Ryan Shrout, reporting for MarketWatch:
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich disclosed during an analyst event last week that it will have its first discrete graphics chips available in 2020. This will mark the beginning of the chip giant's journey toward a portfolio of high-performance graphics products for various markets including gaming, data center and artificial intelligence (AI). Some previous rumors suggested a launch at CES 2019 this coming January might be where Intel makes its graphics reveal, but that timeline was never adopted by the company. It would have been overly aggressive and in no way reasonable with the development process of a new silicon design. In November 2017 Intel brought on board Raja Koduri to lead the graphics and compute initiatives inside the company. Koduri was previously in charge of the graphics division at AMD helping to develop and grow the Radeon brand, and his departure to Intel was thought to have significant impact on the industry.
Microsoft's Next-Gen Xbox Will Arrive in 2020: Report
Brad Sams, writing for Thurrott blog:
This past week, I was tipped off that the next generation Xbox was codenamed Scarlett and in an effort to track down if this information was accurate, I was able to view content that highlighted several unannounced Microsoft products that are coming in the next two years. Microsoft is planning for the next Xbox console release to arrive in 2020. But what is more interesting, is that Microsoft describes 'Scarlett' as a family of devices; meaning we may see multiple pieces of hardware released that year.
Carmel, Libra, and Andromeda Are the Next Wave of Surface Devices: Report
Brad Sams, writing for Thurrott blog:
To help grow to the footprint of the brand, Microsoft is working on updates to its existing products as well as a couple new offerings. I was able to view a few pieces of internal documents that outlined some of the future plans of the Surface brand that identify previously unknown codenames for upcoming products. The Surface Pro 6 is internally known as Carmel, the upcoming low-cost Surface Tablet is going by the name of Libra, and then, of course, there is the Andromeda device that we have been talking about for many months. The Libra tablet is likely the device that Bloomberg reported about earlier this year; a low-cost Surface tablet slated for 2018. The Surface Pro 6 (Carmel) does not list a shipping date and considering that Microsoft only recently released the LTE variant of the Surface Pro 5, this product may not arrive as soon as many have hoped. That being said, a refresh of the product is in the pipeline and actively being developed. And then there is Andromeda; here is where this gets a bit more interesting. According to the documentation, the device is scheduled to be released in 2018. Microsoft thinks of this hardware as a pocketable device to create a truly personal and versatile computing experience.
To Hit Climate Goals, Bill Gates and His Billionaire Friends Are Betting on Energy Storage
Akshat Rathi, writing for Quartz:
The world needs radical new energy technologies to fight climate change. In 2016, Quartz reported that a group of billionaires -- including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and Richard Branson -- launched Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) to invest at least $1 billion in creating those technologies. Now, 18 months later, Quartz can reveal the first two startups that BEV will be investing in: Form Energy and Quidnet Energy. Both companies are developing new technologies to store energy, but taking completely different approaches to achieve that goal.
The way to reach the world's climate goals is straightforward: reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions to zero within the next few decades. But the energy technologies that can help us get there tend to need lots of money and long lead times to develop. That's why many conventional investors, who are looking for quicker returns, have burned their fingers investing in clean tech. The wealthy investors of BEV want to remedy that. Their $1 billion fund is "patient capital," to be invested in only companies working on technologies capable of cutting global carbon emissions by at least 500 million metric tons annually, even if they may not provide returns on investment for up to 20 years.
Vietnam Lawmakers Approve Cyber Law Clamping Down on Tech Firms, Dissent
Vietnamese legislators approved a cybersecurity law on Tuesday that tightens control of the internet and global tech companies operating in the Communist-led country,
raising fears of economic harm and a further crackdown on dissent. From a report:
The cyber law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, requires Facebook, Google and other global technology firms to store locally "important" personal data on users in Vietnam and open offices there. The vote in the National Assembly came a day after lawmakers delayed a decision on another controversial bill that had sparked violent protests in parts of the country on the weekend. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and provinces had denounced a plan to create new economic zones for foreign investment that has fueled anti-Chinese sentiment. Some protesters had also derided the cybersecurity bill, which experts and activists say could cause economic harm and stifle online dissent.
Bugs Allowed Hackers To Make Malware Look Like Apple Software
An anonymous reader shares a report:
For years, hackers could hide malware alongside legitimate Apple code and sneak it past several popular third-party security products for Mac computers, according to new research. This is not a flaw in MacOS but an issue in how third-party security tools implemented Apple's APIs. A researcher from security firm Okta found that several security products for Mac -- including Little Snitch, xFence, and Facebook's OSquery -- could be tricked into believing malware was Apple code, and let it past their defenses. "I can take malicious code and make it look like it's signed by Apple," Josh Pitts, the security researcher at Okta who discovered these bugs, told Motherboard. In a blog post published Tuesday, Pitts explained that the issue lies with how the third-party security tools implemented Apple's code-signing APIs when dealing with Mac's executable files known as Universal or Fat files.
Facebook Offers Nearly 500 Pages of Answers To Congress' Questions From Zuckerberg's Testimony
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post:
Facebook pledged to continue refining its privacy practices and investigating its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica in nearly 500 pages of new information supplied to Congress and published Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) -- though the social giant sidestepped some of lawmakers' most critical queries. Much as it did during the hearing, Facebook told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee that it is reviewing all apps available on its platform that had access to large queries of data, a process that already has resulted in 200 suspensions.
Facebook did acknowledge that its consultants embedded in 2016 presidential campaigns, including President Trump's team, "did not identify any issues involving the improper use of Facebook data in the course of their interactions with Cambridge Analytica." In another exchange, Facebook said it had provided "technical support and best practices guidance to advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, on using Facebook's advertising tools." Facebook also pointed to new tools meant to address its privacy practices, including a feature called Clear History, which "will enable people to see the websites and apps that send us information when they use them, delete this information from their accounts, and turn off our ability to store it associated with their accounts going forward," the company said. The social network did continue to sidestep many of the lawmakers' questions and concerns. The Washington Post provides a couple examples: "Delaware Sen. Christopher A. Coons (Del.), for example, probed whether Facebook had ever learned of any application developer 'transferring or selling user data without user consent' and in violation of Facebook's policies. In response, Facebook only committed in writing that it would 'investigate all apps that it had access to large amounts of data.'"
Facebook also didn't address Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy's concerns. He asked Facebook to detail if the Obama campaign in 2012 had violated "any of Facebook's policies, and thereby get banned from the platform." Facebook said: "Both the Obama and Romney campaigns had access to the same tools, and no campaign received any special treatment from Facebook."
You can view the nearly 500 pages of new information
Honeybees Seem To Understand the Notion of Zero, Study Finds
new study published in the journal Science finds honeybees are
able to understand the concept of zero numerosity, joining the ranks of dolphins, parrots, and primates. Sci-News.com reports:
The study authors set out to test the honeybee on its understanding, marking individual honeybees for easy identification and luring them to a specially-designed testing apparatus. The bees were trained to choose an image with the lowest number of elements in order to receive a reward of sugar solution. For example, the bees learned to choose three elements when presented with three vs. four; or two elements when presented with two vs. three. When the scientists periodically tested the bees with an image that contained no elements versus an image that had one or more, the bees understood that the set of zero was the lower number -- despite never having been exposed to an "empty set."
Mars Opportunity Rover Is In Danger of Dying From a Dust Storm
According to NASA, the Mars Opportunity rover is currently
trying to survive an intensifying dust storm on the red planet. "The storm's atmospheric opacity -- the veil of dust blowing around, which can blot out sunlight -- is now much worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity weathered,"
reports NASA. "The previous storm had an opacity level, or tau, somewhere above 5.5; this new storm had an estimated tau of 10.8 as of Sunday morning." Engadget reports:
The storm was first detected on Friday June 1st by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, at which point the rover's team was notified because of the weather event's proximity to Opportunity. The rover uses solar panels, so a dust storm could have an extremely negative impact on Opportunity's power levels and its batteries. By Wednesday June 6th, Opportunity was in minimal operations mode because of sharply decreasing power levels. The brave little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. It means there's still enough charge left in the batteries to communicate with home, despite the fact that the storm is continuing to worsen.