the unofficial Slashdot digest for 2018-Sep-14 today archive


  1. Study Suggests BPA-Free Plastics Are Just As Harmful To Health
  2. US Lawmakers Say AI Deepfakes 'Have the Potential To Disrupt Every Facet of Our Society'
  3. Drone Startup Airware Is Shutting Down After Raising $118 Million
  4. San Francisco Gets Its First Cashierless Store
  5. What Cardiologists Think About the Apple Watch's Heart-Tracking Feature
  6. Why Can't More Than Four People Have a Conversation at Once?
  7. Some Linux Gamers Using Wine/DXVK To Play Blizzard's Overwatch Banned
  8. Almost Half of US Cellphone Calls Will Be Scams By Next Year, Says Report
  9. Nintendo Switch Cloud Save Data Disappears If You Cancel Subscription
  10. Google Built a Prototype of a Censored Search Engine For China That Links Users' Searches To Their Personal Phone Numbers: The Intercept
  11. Road Makers Turn To Recycled Plastic For Tougher Surfaces
  12. The Man Behind the EU's Copyright Law is 'Surprised' By What's in the Proposal
  13. Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid
  14. 'Seven Dirty Words' Restriction Policy Lifted from .US Domain Name Registrations
  15. Native Support For Windows File Sharing Coming To Chrome OS
  16. Slashdot Asks: What Book(s) Are You Reading This Month?
  17. Google To Kill Its Developer Platform Fabric in Mid-2019, Pushes Developers To Firebase
  18. New iPhones, new Galaxies: Who's the Bigger Copycat?
  19. Apple Has Started Paying Hackers for iPhone Exploits
  20. How the Weather Channel Made That Insane Hurricane Florence Storm Surge Animation
  21. Python Joins Movement To Dump 'Offensive' Master, Slave Terms
  22. FCC Data Exaggerates Broadband Access On Tribal Lands
  23. OnePlus 6T Trades the Headphone Jack For Better Battery Life
  24. FBI Mysteriously Closes New Mexico Observatory

Alterslash picks the best 5 comments from each of the day’s Slashdot stories, and presents them on a single page for easy reading.

Study Suggests BPA-Free Plastics Are Just As Harmful To Health

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Plastic products that boast of being "BPA-free" aren't necessarily any safer for us, suggests a new mouse study published Thursday in Current Biology. The chemicals used to replace BPA in these plastics can still leak out and affect the sperm and eggs of both male and female mice, it found. And these same effects could be happening in people. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical commonly used to create polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These clear white plastics are themselves used in food and drink packaging, as well as consumer products and medical devices, while resins are used to coat metal products like canned foods. When these products degrade or are otherwise damaged (from being repeatedly heated in a microwave, for example), they can leach out BPA, exposing us to it. As a result, it's estimated that 93 percent of Americans have some level of BPA in their system.

While working on another project, the authors began seeing some but not all of their control mice, both male and female, develop reproductive problems. Though the mice had kept in cages made of polysulfone, not polycarbonate, the researchers noticed a whitish residue in some of the cages, indicating they had been damaged and were leaching chemicals. When Patricia Hunt, a researcher at the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University, and her team analyzed the chemical signature of the damaged cages, they found both BPA and BPS, a bisphenol that is widely replacing BPA. The cases were polysulfone plastic, which is partly made from BPA, but it's advertised to be more heat and chemical resistant than polycarbonate and thus less likely to break down. Polysulfone isn't thought to degrade into BPS, but Hunt's team found that if certain chemical bonds in the plastic were broken in the right way, BPS could form. Following in the vein of their original experiments with BPA, Hunt's team exposed more mice to low doses of BPS, and compared their reproductive health to mice exposed to BPA and mice raised in fresh new cages, presumably free of any BPA/BPS contamination. The BPS mice had more defects in their egg and sperm cells than did the control mice, but the level of damage was similar to that seen in mice they exposed to the same dose of BPA alone.
"Though manufacturers have shied away from making explicit claims about BPA replacements being safer, Hunt noted, customers have certainly assumed that they are safer," the report notes.

Re:Newsflash: plastic is toxic

By Megol • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

So use ceramics instead. Oh, the glazing often contains poisons. So wood should be good, right? Many woods are contains large amounts of toxins and/or poison, this as they are produced to protect the tree. The list goes on.

Many plastics are actually a much lower "danger" than the alternatives so you are wrong, always has been.

Re:Newsflash: plastic is toxic

By Megol • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

The right kind of glass is generally good, but why do you think plastics are used in some cases where the container have to be really inert (strong acids for instance)? Because some plastics aren't affected by things that make glass dissolve.

Plastic is a description of material property, plastics a description of a material class that are (generally) plastic and made of some sort of polymer often (but not always) man made. Plastics aren't inherently toxic and anyone thinking they are should be forced back to school.

Re:Newsflash: plastic is toxic

By Solandri • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

The real problem we have here is that companies have been allowed to use any old molecular structure in their products they wish without proving anything about the health impacts it may or may not impart.

Unfortunately, that's the only logical way you can do it. You cannot prove a negative - that's a fundamental tenet of the scientific method. If you push a hundred reindeer off a cliff and they fall to their deaths, you have not proven that reindeer cannot fly. All you've done is demonstrated that those hundred reindeer either could not or chose not to fly. OTOH, if you produce a single example of a flying reindeer, then you have unequivocally proven that reindeer can fly.

So you cannot prove that a newly developed chemical is not harmful. You can only prove if it is harmful. Consequently, the scientific way to handle newly developed chemicals is to assume they are safe until proven otherwise. You can run them through a preliminary gauntlet of tests designed to detect immediate or short-term toxicity. But long-term low-level toxicity as as appears to be the case with BPA requires years if not decades of data just to tease out a statistical probability that it might be harmful. If you required that all new chemicals be tested to root out that sort of low-level toxicity, nothing new would ever be developed because it'd be too expensive and take too long to approve for public release.

People want 100% safety, but practically that's an impossible goal to achieve. The best you can do is test for immediate toxicity, and recall chemicals which exhibit toxicity in the long-term after they've been in public circulation for a while.

How about the older plasticiser?

By Zorpheus • Score: 4 • Thread
I have seen 40 year old plastic from the Eastern Bloc, which is still completely fine. It is still as soft as new, not turning brittle after some years like today's plastic.
So the plasticiser isn't leaking out like today's. But it was banned because the substance is cancerous. Why should we care though if it doesn't leak out? And beside the probably less health effects we would get long lasting products. Maybe that's the actual reason why it is banned?
Anyone knows the name of the substance? Chinese plastics were also on the news years ago fora cancerous plasticiser, this could be the same.

Re:Newsflash: plastic is toxic

By Ol Olsoc • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Plastic is toxic. Always has been.

The problem with that statement is that what's considered a plastic is chemical diverse. We do know some plastics do not have the kind of negative heath effects that BPA has because they are far more chemically stable. If you read the actual study, you'll see this is only in relation to "structurally similar bisphenols", not plastics in general.

The real problem we have here is that companies have been allowed to use any old molecular structure in their products they wish without proving anything about the health impacts it may or may not impart.

Speaking of diverse, one of the early plastics was made of casein, from cow milk. https://www.scientificamerican... Milk and vinegar will do it.

US Lawmakers Say AI Deepfakes 'Have the Potential To Disrupt Every Facet of Our Society'

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
Yesterday, several lawmakers sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, asking him to assess the threat posed to national security by deepfakes -- a new type of AI-assisted video editing that creates realistic results with minimal effort. The Verge reports: The letter says "hyper-realistic digital forgeries" showing "convincing depictions of individuals doing or saying things they never did" could be used for blackmail and misinformation. "As deep fake technology becomes more advanced and more accessible, it could pose a threat to United States public discourse and national security," say the letter's signatories, House representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). The trio want the intelligence community to produce a report that includes descriptions of when "confirmed or suspected" deepfakes have been produced by foreign individuals (there are no current examples of this), and to suggest potential countermeasures. In a press statement, Curbelo said: "Deep fakes have the potential to disrupt every facet of our society and trigger dangerous international and domestic consequences [...] As with any threat, our Intelligence Community must be prepared to combat deep fakes, be vigilant against them, and stand ready to protect our nation and the American people."

when politicians panic...

By Kwirl • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
its usually because something has come out that they haven't figured out how to manipulate or abuse. when this technology has fallen out of the news, you will know that at least some political bodies are abusing it for their benefit.

No they don't.

By thegarbz • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

People will currently believe absolutely anything provided you get the narrative right and appeal to their emotions. There's no need to even doctor videos anymore. You just have to tell them.


By Artem Tashkinov • Score: 3 • Thread
The cat is out of the bag, now learn to live this way.

Re:No they don't.

By thegarbz • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Our mainstream media didn't flush anything. As said people will believe absolutely anything. One of those things they are told to believe is that the mainstream media has no credibility, and they are told this by the highest authority of one of the world's most powerful nations.

Re:What you can do and can't do

By drinkypoo • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

Trusted third parties are expensive and usually unworkable. Cameras signing things will not provide any security at all, as they are easily hacked.

So there will need to be some kind of hacking detection built into cameras. A write-only store which keeps track of changes to the internal flash, for example. In order to prove the validity of a video you'll have to produce both the video and the camera. This should be useful at least in keeping the police from tampering with body cam footage.

Drone Startup Airware Is Shutting Down After Raising $118 Million

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
Drone operating system startup Airware, which has appeared in a number of stories over the years, announced today that it will be shutting down immediately despite having raised $118 million from investors. " The startup ran out of money after trying to manufacture its own hardware that couldn't compete with drone giants like China's DJI," reports TechCrunch. "The company at one point had as many as 140 employees, all of which are now out of a job." From the report: Founded in 2011 by Jonathan Downey, the son of two pilots, Airware first built an autopilot system for programming drones to follow certain routes to collect data. It could help businesses check rooftops for damage, see how much of a raw material was coming out of a mine, or build constantly-updated maps of construction sites. Later it tried to build its own drones before pivoting to consult clients on how to most efficiently apply unmanned aerial vehicles. While flying high, Airware launched its own Commercial Drone Fund for investing in the market in 2015, and acquired 38-person drone analytics startup Redbird in 2016. In this pre-crypto, pre-AI boom, Airware scored a ton of hype from us and others as they tried to prove drones could be more than war machines. But over time, the software that shipped with commercial drone hardware from other manufacturers was good enough to make Airware irrelevant, and a downward spiral of layoffs began over the past two years, culminating in today's shutdown. Demonstrating how sudden the shut down is, Airware opened a Tokyo headquarters alongside an investment and partnership from Mitsubishi just four days ago. As for the employees, they "will get one week's severance, COBRA insurance until November, and payouts for unused paid time off," reports TechCrunch.

Re:140 employees

By ShanghaiBill • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

140 employees to build, market, and sell a drone.

Indeed. Their problem was that they couldn't decide what business they were in. Hardware? Software? Services? They tried to "do it all".

Apple can afford to "do it all" and make both hardware and software, but Apple has 70,000 employees and $247B in the bank.

If you have 140 employees you need to focus.

Re:And this...

By mikael • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

You'll need manufacturing to make the plastic/metal propellers, depending on size, purchase electric motors, build the frame/chassis with all the different options; landing legs, camera mounts, safety cages for propellers. All of those add weight, so that affects the size of the motors, propellers and battery. Then you are onto the control system to maintain stability, speed, monitor battery levels, motor speeds, stream audio and video by radio, handle remote control commands, do advanced features like follow targets and head-for-home if battery power gets too low.

The problem is that there are too many choices, and they would have had to pick one niche market; the smallest lightest drone, the fastest drone, the drone with the longest in-the-air time. Each would have required R&D to find the best combination of materials.

San Francisco Gets Its First Cashierless Store

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
Last Week, San Francisco got its first completely automated cashierless store, called Standard Market. The store requires users to download their app before they can enter the 1,900-square-foot building. Once they do that, they can enter the store, grab the items they need, and walk out -- all without ever interacting with a cashier. The 27 cameras positioned on the ceiling are supposedly able to identify which items shoppers walk out with. CNBC reports: The start-up behind this operation is Standard Cognition, which has raised $11.2 million in venture capital and formed partnerships with four retail chains around the world. This first market is a prototype to showcase the technology and work on the bugs. The ambitious goal is to add the tech in 100 stores a day (each day!) by 2020. Five of the seven founders came from the Securities and Exchange Commission, where they built artificial intelligence software to detect fraud and trade violations, before starting Standard Cognition in 2017. Now these fraud experts are working to discern something equally complicated: whether I am stealing a snack. The store is very similar to Amazon's cashierless Go market, but differs in that it relies exclusively on the ceiling cameras and AI software to figure out what you're buying. "The goal is to predict, and prevent, shoplifting, because unlike Amazon's Go stores, which have a subway turnstile-like gate for entry and exit, Standard Market has an open door, and the path is clear," reports CNBC. "Once the system decides it has detected potential theft behavior, a store attendant will get a text and walk over for 'a polite conversation,' Standard Cognition's co-founder and chief operating officer, Michael Suswal, said."

The problem...

By b0s0z0ku • Score: 3, Interesting • Thread

The problem isn't one shoplifter. It's a mob of 20 or 25 walking in behind a shopper, cleaning the place out, and running out.

Not that I consider this a problem -- anything that destroys the profit margins of cashless/anti-privacy businesses is a good thing in my book. Bring on the flashmobs!

Re:The problem...

By Lanthanide • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

People can already do this with regular stores. The fact that regular stores have cashiers is not what stops people doing this.

What Cardiologists Think About the Apple Watch's Heart-Tracking Feature

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader quotes a report from SFGate: The newest Apple Watch can now flag potential problems with your heartbeat -- a feature that's been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration and that Apple is marking as a major achievement. But some doctors said that including heart-monitoring tools in such a popular consumer product could prompt unnecessary anxiety and medical visits. Physicians say the watch could be good for patients who have irregular heart rhythms but may not realize it. Some people who have atrial fibrillation, the condition for which the watch is screening, don't always have noticeable symptoms. In an ideal situation, someone who doesn't know they have a problem could get a warning from their watch and take that data to their doctor.

But there is also concern that widespread use of electrocardiograms without an equally broad education initiative could burden an already taxed health-care system. Heart rhythms naturally vary, meaning that it's likely that Apple Watch or any heart monitor could signal a problem when there isn't one -- and send someone running to the doctor for no reason. "People are scared; their heart scares them," John Mandrola, a cardiologist at Baptist Health in Louisville, said. "That leads to more interaction with the health-care system." An extra visit to your doctor may not sound like a bad thing, but Mandrola said it would potentially lead to another round of tests or even unnecessary treatment if there are other signs that can be misinterpreted. And doctors might wind up facing a crowd of anxious Apple Watch users getting false signals -- something physicians have already had to deal with as fitness trackers that monitor heart rates have become popular.

Doctor visits maybe harmful?

By khchung • Score: 3, Insightful • Thread

it would potentially lead to another round of tests or even unnecessary treatment if there are other signs that can be misinterpreted.

The same could be said for any visit to any doctor for any reason, so that means any visit to the doctor may be harmful?

Sound like a problem with American doctors than with anything else.

Why Can't More Than Four People Have a Conversation at Once?

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Apparently, there exists something called the 'dinner party problem' which states that it is difficult to sustain a casual conversation that includes more than four speakers. If a fifth person were to join that conversation, so goes the theory, the conversation would quickly fission into smaller groups. Somebody looked into it, of course. From a story: The question bothered Jaimie Krems, an assistant professor of psychology at Oklahoma State University. Krems had previously studied under Robin Dunbar, the Oxford University evolutionary psychologist who theorized that cohesion in any human social group falls apart once the group reaches 150 -- a figure now known as Dunbar's number. But just as the dynamics of large groups start changing around 150, something also happens to the casual conversations of small groups once they surpass four members.

Social psychologists have noted the pattern in group conversations in research stretching back decades. There's evidence that this four-person limit on conversations has been in place for about as long as humans have been having chatting with one another. Shakespeare rarely allowed more than four speaking characters in any scene; ensemble films rarely have more than four actors interacting at once. But why do we max out at four? In a forthcoming paper in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, Krems and Jason Wilkes offer one theory rooted in evolutionary psychology. Pairs (or "dyads," in psychology research parlance) are the essential building blocks of a society. Let's imagine a conversation between four hypothetical humans: you, Chris, Pat, and Taylor. In a four-person conversation, there are six possible pairs of people who can be talking to one another at once. you and Chris, you and Pat, you and Taylor, Chris and Pat, Chris and Taylor, and Pat and Taylor. That's three pairs you're part of, and three pairs you're not. Essentially, you have a role in influencing half of the possible conversations that could be happening in that group. If there are three people in the conversation, there are three possible pairs, only one of which excludes you. If there are five people, there are 10 possible pairs, and the majority -- six -- don't include you, which makes it harder to get your point across.

Known in cinema sound editing

By Comrade Ogilvy • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

There might be limitation in our neural physiology, but this math model might explain while paying for "better hardware" is not worth much.

There is a rule of thumb in movie sound editing that there is a hard limit in the number of tracks of distinct sound that should be in the film at any point in time. IIRC, the number is four. (Maybe 5?) . If you go further, the sound is perceived as muddy.

So the limit is really 2

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

As the article sort of hints at, the real limit is two. Two people can have a conversation. Four people can have a couple of two person conversations that are somewhat related. More than that and it's just sets of two people having conversations. More than 4 and the number of conversations rapidly becomes unmanageable (unless you have a charismatic leader who can pontificate and entertain the rest).

After 4 I can't hear the far away folks

By Snotnose • Score: 3 • Thread
I can talk to my 2 neighbors, and maybe the person across the table, but after that I flat out can't make out what the 6th person is saying. If the other 5 would STFU I could hear, but they won't. There is also the problem of 2-3 threads going on at once, and I can only focus on 1 at a time.

Can You Hear Me....

By tquasar • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
It's the Julia Sweeney Effect. (It's Pat!). No mention of gender, Chris, Pat, and Taylor can be the name of a male or female and can there be a difference in how the situation is different between sexes? Also one person who wants attention will try to take over a conversation, A co-worker Jim did this many times. In casual conversations I usually just listen 'cause there's usually one who dominates or two who argue too much.

Amateur radio nets?

By infernalC • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

I have a friendly, very ordered conversation with about 30 people every Thursday night on WW4L repeater (147.360 MHz FM +). We seem to be able to do that just fine. Everyone waits their turn to speak.

That's nothing compared to the Saturday night "6600" net on N2GE up on Mount Mitchell. They might have 150 check in on a Saturday.

Hams overcome our conversational quantity limits by having clear customs for who should speak when.

Real nerds get FCC licenses.



Some Linux Gamers Using Wine/DXVK To Play Blizzard's Overwatch Banned

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
Longtime Slashdot reader DrYak writes: Phoronix is reporting that multiple users who all use Wine and DXVK compatibility layers have seen their Overwatch accounts banned by Blizzard. Previously, Blizzard has stated: "playing on Linux or even a Mac while on an emulated Windows environment is not bannable." But users report on Reddit getting banned simply after testing some rendering options. Tech support has answered that they are escalating the ticket and trying to take a closer look, hoping to avoid this from happening to other Linux users. According to Phoronix, the most common explanation for the bans "is a false-positive from Blizzard's anti-cheat technology having issue with DXVK."

Ban First, Think About Fixing it Later

By TechyImmigrant • Score: 3 • Thread

A bit bloody arrogant don't you think, Blizzard?

Re:Ban First, Think About Fixing it Later

By Tough Love • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Looks like a perfectly normal screwup to me, not a reason for indignation.

Sound's reasonable

By AlanBDee • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

According to Phoronix, the most common explanation for the bans "is a false-positive from Blizzard's anti-cheat technology having issue with DXVK."

I tell you what, I already had my cane in hand and ready to shake... but then paused long enough to actually read the explanation and this sounds very reasonable. It's obvious by their response that they have nothing against Linux or people using compatibility layers.

Almost Half of US Cellphone Calls Will Be Scams By Next Year, Says Report

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
According to a new report from First Orion, nearly half of the mobile phone calls received in the U.S. next year will be scams. "The percentage of scam calls in U.S. mobile traffic increased from 3.7 percent last year to 29.2 percent this year, and it's predicted to rise to 44.6 percent in 2019, First Orion said in a press release Wednesday," reports CNET. From the report: The most popular method scammers use to try to get people to pick up the phone is called "neighborhood spoofing," where they disguise their numbers with a local prefix so people presume the calls are safe to pick up, First Onion said. Third-party call blocking apps may help protect consumers from known scam numbers, but they can't tell if a scammer hijacks someone's number and uses it for scam calls. "Scammers relentlessly inundate mobile phones with increasingly convincing and scary calls," said Gavin Macomber, senior vice president of marketing at First Orion, in an email statement. "Solving a problem of this magnitude requires a comprehensive, in-network carrier solution that dives deeper than third-party applications ever could by detecting and eliminating unwanted and malicious calls before they reach your phone."


By Greyfox • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
I use Advanced Call Blocker. It has a number of handy options it can block on, including not accepting calls that aren't in your contacts. You can also blacklist entire area codes, calls without caller ID and bunches of other stuff. I set incoming calls to go to my voicemail unless they're in my contacts list. It's also easy to disable if you order out for pizza or something.


By Impy the Impiuos Imp • Score: 3 • Thread

Unless I am expecting a call from a mechanic or something, I haven't picked up a phone number that doesn't give caller ID in a year (to say nothing of "unknown" numbers.)

Fight Fire with Fire

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I used to get a lot of calls from India. At first I just told them to fuck off but the calls kept coming. Then I tried spending time winding them up but that always seemed like a waste of my own time. The thing is, I spent more than a decade studying psychology so it eventually occurred to me to use that. The question was not how to tell them to fuck off but how to get them to decide to fuck off for themselves. India is heavily honour and family oriented. This is a rough transcript of the last call that I answered, now many years ago:
Me: Hello?
Scammer: This is John from Microsoft, you computer has a virus.
Me: Have you told your parents that your job is trying to steal money from people like them in another country?
Scammer: [5 seconds of silence] ... [strangled voice] [line disconnects]

The number of scam calls dropped hugely. I like to hope that at least one Indian decided to move on to an honest job instead.

Simple fix for that

By erp_consultant • Score: 3 • Thread

I've got an App called Call Blocker on my phone (android). If anyone calls me and they are not in my address book it goes straight to voicemail. Most of the time, of course, there is no voicemail because the robocall hangs up. If it does happen to be something important the person can leave a message and I'll call them back. The beauty of it is that the phone doesn't even ring.

I gave up on trying to block numbers because it just seemed like a game of whack-a-mole. The scammers would call from a different number next time.

Works for me and it's free.

Re:All of 'em

By Attila Dimedici • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
The spammers count on that sort of behavior by people who are not likely to fall for their scam. When their robocall gets no answer, it moves on to the next and costs them essentially nothing. When I get those calls I spend as much time as I can spare (usually when I am doing something else that does not require verbal interaction from me) keeping a human on the line as long as I can. That costs the spammers money. It doesn't really cost me anything because they are following a script that does not actually require me to pay attention to what they say and just provide an affirmative noise at the appropriate points, right up until they ask for a credit card, at which point I tell them "No". At which point they usually put on another person who goes through the script again. And if I finish whatever I am working on before they are done, I hang up.

Nintendo Switch Cloud Save Data Disappears If You Cancel Subscription

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Nintendo Switch game save data stored in the cloud is only available "as long as you have an active Nintendo Switch Online membership." If you eventually cancel the $20/year subscription, Nintendo is "unable to guarantee that cloud save data will be retained after an extended period of time from when your membership is ended." That wrinkle in Nintendo's plan was not included in the details of yesterday's Nintendo Direct presentation, but it can be found digging through the FAQs and customer support pages on Nintendo's website this morning. On the plus side, Nintendo clarified that you will be able to transfer cloud-based saves between Switch systems just by signing in with your Nintendo account on as many consoles as you want. But Nintendo also said it will continue not allowing local backups of save data to an SD card or other outside storage. UPDATE: It's worth noting that cloud saves on PlayStation systems remain accessible for six months after you cancel a paid PlayStation Plus account, while cloud saves on Xbox Live are offered for free in perpetuity.

Yeah, and?

By Desler • Score: 3, Insightful • Thread

Why would any expect Nintendo (or any company) to continue to store your data when you stopped paying for the service?

So in other words..

By CptLoRes • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
They are holding your save data hostage for money.

Re:Yeah, and?

By Anonymous Coward • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

The rub here is that Nintendo disallows local storage, something that Sony and Microsoft both allow. This changes cloud storage from what it should be used for, i.e. one of multiple backup options that is handy when it is available, into "the basket in which all my eggs are stored." And you're renting the basket.

No local save, no thanks

By fox171171 • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

I find the thing people are ignoring, and yet is the most important thing, is:

But Nintendo also said it will continue not allowing local backups of save data to an SD card or other outside storage.

I see no reason to ever own such a device. After hearing that, I wouldn't use a Nintendo Switch if someone gave me one.

Google Built a Prototype of a Censored Search Engine For China That Links Users' Searches To Their Personal Phone Numbers: The Intercept

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept, which first published information about Google's efforts to build a censored search engine in China last month, reported Friday. From the report: The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. Previously undisclosed details about the plan, obtained by The Intercept on Friday, show that Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as "human rights," "student protest," and "Nobel Prize" in Mandarin. Leading human rights groups have criticized Dragonfly, saying that it could result in the company "directly contributing to, or [becoming] complicit in, human rights violations." A central concern expressed by the groups is that, beyond the censorship, user data stored by Google on the Chinese mainland could be accessible to Chinese authorities, who routinely target political activists and journalists. Sources familiar with the project said that prototypes of the search engine linked the search app on a user's Android smartphone with their phone number. This means individual people's searches could be easily tracked -- and any user seeking out information banned by the government could potentially be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain the search records from Google.

on the list?

By guygo • Score: 3 • Thread
Is the phrase "Do no harm" on the blacklist?

Re:What? Nobody cares?

By slyborg • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

>one of our competitors would make the cyanide for the gas chambers if we don't, so we might as well make a few bucks by doing it ourselves

You would be perfect for a management opportunity at I.G. Farben.

Re:Some Fascist regimes are easier to #Resist

By mi • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

If the video is so widely available, why link to Breitbart for it?

Because they broke this particular piece of news — all other sites carrying it call it "video obtained by Breitbart".

Look elsewhere for news.

Few other news-sources would go for this kind of guerilla reporting risking Google's displeasure.

Is it a culture thing?

By AndyKron • Score: 3 • Thread
Does the average Chinese person mind that the government does this? Is it a culture thing?

Re:What? Nobody cares?

By larryjoe • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

I don't care, because anything else that Google could have done would have made no difference, or would have made things worse.

I don't know what Google could do differently to help the cause of human rights in China. I don't see how staying out of the Chinese market could make things worse.

Corporations are required to obey the laws of the countries in which they do business. So Google's only alternative would have been to cutback services, and leave the market to competitors that would have been even more compliant.

Right. Staying out of the market was what they had been doing. They saw the loss of revenue as being more important than being complicit in human rights violations. This type of action is motivated by a need to increase revenue to boost stock prices/bonuses, despite already huge revenues and profits.

American corporations are not going to "fix" China, and it is silly to expect them to try. That is not their purpose, and they wouldn't make a difference even if they tried.

That's a dangerous way to look at morality. We're not talking about selling hamburgers or something else that doesn't directly abet human rights violations. It's not even so much the abetting of propaganda through the firewall that is so dangerous, it's the collection and transfer of information to identify people who entered illegal terms in their search queries. Given the willingness of the current Chinese regime to hand out life changing/ending punishments, collecting and handing over this information is tantamount to programming a drone to kill people. The main differences are that Dragonfly will likely earn Google much more than the paltry $10 millions from Maven and that Dragonfly will likely kill more people than Maven.

Road Makers Turn To Recycled Plastic For Tougher Surfaces

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Recycled plastic is already used to make some products, such as guttering and sewage pipes. Now attention is turning to roads. From a report: On September 11th in Zwolle, a town in the Netherlands, a 30-metre bicycle track made from 70% recycled plastic and the rest from polypropylene was opened [Warning: the link may be paywalled; alternative source]. It will be used to test a product called PlasticRoad, which is being developed by two Dutch firms -- KWS, a road builder, and Wavin, a firm that makes plastic piping -- in partnership with Total, a French oil-and-gas firm. PlasticRoad is prefabricated in a factory as modular sections. The sections are then transported to the site and laid end to end on a suitable foundation, such as sand. Because these sections are hollow, internal channels can be incorporated into them for drainage, along with conduits for services such as gas and electricity. For the Zwolle project, sections that were 2.4 metres long and 3 metres wide were used. These were fitted with sensors to measure things such as temperature, flexing and the flow of water through the drainage channels. A second pilot cycleway is being built in the nearby town of Giethoorn.

If all goes well, the inventors hope to develop the idea and make the sections entirely from recycled plastic. Paths, car parks and railway platforms could follow. Eventually, sections for use as actual roads are planned. These could contain sensors for traffic monitoring. In time, the circuits in the plastic roads might extend to assisting autonomous vehicles and recharging electric cars wirelessly. Prefabricated plastic roads should last two-to-three times longer than conventional roads and cost less, the companies claim, mainly because construction times would be reduced by almost two-thirds. Anti-slip surfaces could be incorporated, too, including crushed stones which are traditionally used to dress road surfaces. The sections, when replaced, can also be recycled. But engineers will be watching to see how the track stands up to wear and tear and if the hollow structure causes resonance, which would make such a road unduly noisy.

Re:This will DEFINITELY...

By PPH • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

Which is nothing but an oil product.

A lot of the volume of blacktop is gravel and sand. Which, when worn down becomes sand. When that gets into water ways, it just settles to the bottom with the other sand. The tar and other heavy petrochemical products do enter the environment, but at a pretty slow rate where they are broken down by biological activity*.

*We had a city park near me that was found to be an old (WWII era) fuel tank farm. With plumes of fuel soaking into the soil. The solution was to remove the sod, till up the dirt underneath and mix it with some specialized bacteria strains and let it sit for about a year. After that, all the petroleum waste was gone and it's now a park again.

Paywall and images

By forkfail • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

For those who can't see past the paywall, there are some pretty good images of the road sections here.

Re:Mulched rubber tires

By postbigbang • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Um, no. Just no.

You're talking about non-paved surfaces. This is about paved surfaces.

On paved surfaces, the data says that adding rubber/plastic recycled materials improves durability. Overweight trucks and plenty of them, will still erode them. High traffic volume, wide ambient environment, poor road beds, all will do their share to screw up paved surfaces. Bikes, by their nature, do not present the weight and lateral surface impact that heavy trucks present.


By JaredOfEuropa • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
First they get their data from the exact same spot. If the road stands up to normal use, doesn't wreck bicycle tires, doesn't turn incredibly slippery in rain or snow, isn't riddled with holes after a few frost / thaw cycles, doesn't kill a kitten an hour with microplastics produced by wear and tear... then it's time to build a longer stretch and see if the economics also work out.

Re:Mulched rubber tires

By postbigbang • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Still, no.

You're concerned over 200lbs distributed over two tires. I'm talking 80,000 pounds distributed over 18 wheels, sometimes more and less.

I, too, don't want to see plastics in the oceans. Roads aren't paved in the oceans. It's true that particles are leached into aquifers. We don't have good data on how much, what kind, deterioration, and more. If you were looking to stanch plastic pollution, talk to your local grocer, and encourage products made from paper, or better still, re-usable packaging that requires little cleaning before re-use.

More effective plastic stanching is possible. It's because plastics compressed as described are so strong, that they'll last much longer as paving products, although all the data isn't in yet.

There are experimental paving stretches across the US. Some involve plastics, tires, stone mill grinds, and many more. Let's see what works best before condemning them. I want to stanch plastics pollution as much as possible. First things first, please.

The Man Behind the EU's Copyright Law is 'Surprised' By What's in the Proposal

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Hours after the European Union Parliament voted to approve new controversial copyright laws that will transform how people in Europe and beyond use and profit from the internet, the man behind the legislation, Axel Voss, says he is unaware of what exactly he voted for. From a report: Emanuel Karlsten, a reporter for Sweden's Breakit news site, spoke with Voss, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the EU's copyright rapporteur, after the vote. Karlsten asked about a last-minute amendment that will bar the filming of sports events. The MEP replied in a recorded conversation, "This was kind of mistake I think by the JURI committee. Someone amended this. No one had been aware of this." European Parliament press officer John Schranz at that point broke in to explain that he was aware of the provision in question, calling it "amendment 76." Schranz said that the amendment doesn't bar individuals from filming sporting events. Rather, "the main target" is online betting companies enticing viewers to their sites with video that they have no right to film. He objected to the fact that the "Greens and others" interpret the provision as having a much wider application.

But the MEP Voss admitted, "I didn't know that this was in the proposal so far, so of course I have to deal with it now. I do not consider that the commission and council will have this inside the proposal." Voss added that "because of the time pressure" and general focus on other, more notable aspects of the law, it's possible that the measure was insufficiently scrutinized.

Re:Insufficiently scrutinized?

By ljw1004 • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Is he fucking serious? This is a world class governing body passing laws that affect people literally all over the globe... and their excuse was "we didn't have time to sufficiently scrutinize these before voting for them."? This is... fucking insane to be light about it.

Isn't this standard practice for governing bodies? Rand Paul in the US recently complained about a 700 page spending bill, complained that neither he nor his colleagues were given time to read it. I've heard the same from the UK parliament.

Re:Insufficiently scrutinized?

By AmiMoJo • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

They didn't pass a law, they passed an amendment to proposal.

This is a very long way from the end of the process.

Re:Sloppy job is OK

By Darinbob • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Legislators rarely write legislation anymore, instead they get pre-approved proposal legislation directly from lobbyists.
It's amazingly unlikely that the MEPs felt that there was a problem on the internet that needed these particular "fixes" on their own. Occam's Razor says it's more likely that the big content and IP owners wanted a change and started handing out money.

This is why the EU is useless & dangerous

By Chas • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Basically the people running things are professional busybodies and buttinskies.

They basically rubberstamp everything that comes through.
None of them actually read what they're pushing. They have aides do that and tell them yes/no. And all the aides are essentially "bought".

And the people actually making the decisions are unelected by the people and completely unaccoutable to ANYONE.

So these people are primarily there because they LIKE dicking around in other people's lives...oh and the big paycheck...

Controlling the flow of information

By Beeftopia • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

People who have a lot of power, people who own newspapers, politicians who rely on those people and other people at that level, are quite concerned about the Internet. The Internet is designed to facilitate the free flow of information. That means "curated" information, packaged with approved, "correct" messages (designed to make people more pliant and easier to govern) is harder to project onto the masses.

Expect this sort of thing to continue. "Mistakes" that continuously occur in favor of the "curators" of correct thought are not mistakes. This is a constant, continuous push, and will never end until the Internet is fully curated as well.

Google-Funded Study Finds Cash Beats Typical Development Aid

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Traditional international aid programs typically offer some combination of clean water, livestock, textbooks, and nutritional supplements. A new study funded by and the US Agency for International Development asks whether the poor would benefit more if they were given cash and free to spend the money as they see fit. Wired: Researchers had two goals: compare an established program to combat childhood malnutrition with giving people the equivalent value ($117 per month) in cash, and compare the cash equivalent to a much larger sum, $532 per month. After a year, results [PDF] released Thursday found that found that neither the established program nor its cash equivalent were able to improve child health, but the large cash transfers significantly improved people's health and financial standing. On the surface, that's not surprising. Of course giving people more than four times as much money gives them access to better nutrition. But the study's co-author Andrew Zeitlin, a professor from Georgetown, says the idea was to provide benchmarks for future programs; it's not unusual for nutritional aid programs to cost $500 or even $800 per month, he says.

The traditional malnutrition program, called Gikuriro, was funded by USAID and administered by Catholic Relief Services. It combined help with water, sanitation, and hygiene with training on nutrition, some small livestock and seeds, and guidance on financial habits like saving. The study focused on households with children under the age of 5 and women of reproductive age, with an emphasis on the first 1,000 days of the child's life. The results indicate that Gikuriro helped recipients increase their savings and increased overall health knowledge and vaccination rates in villages, two of the program's goals. However, neither the malnutrition program nor its cash equivalent led to a more diverse diet, or improved child health, as measured by height and weight. The larger cash transfer, on the other hand, led to improvements in food diversity, a drop in child mortality, an increase in household wealth, and improvements in child health measurements, as well as improvements in village vaccination rates.

Don't generalize this to welfare

By MobyDisk • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Be careful applying the results of this study to the welfare situation in Europe and America. This money was a one-time payment to very poor nations with limited infrastructure. The temptation to oversimplify this into "just give welfare recipients cash instead of assistance programs" ignores the reality of the situation on the ground in these nations.

I used to believe that just giving people money directly was better. I assumed that welfare recipients were mostly people who got stuck in a rut, and just need help getting out, and they can make better decisions about how to spend their money than some big a government organization. Then, I met actually poor and homeless people, talked to the councilors who work with them, and realized how naive I was. The situation is much more complex than the politically-charged stories of someone whose job was replaced by automation. Those are great for putting politicians in office but not for helping people on the street.

There are lots of people who, given a sum of money, have no idea what to do with it. They don't have sufficient math skills to budget, or sufficient literacy to read and understand and pay their bills. A significant portion of welfare recipients have poor education, mental health problems, or drug addiction. As such they are "reactive" with money. They throw it at the thing that has the most short term benefit. So, for example, they might pay their electric bill, then by a new TV, then some drugs, then fall behind on their rent. To help with this, lots of these programs pay the bill directly, or take the form of discounts by paying the bills partially. That way, the person can't choose to spend the money on a TV since the check went straight to the landlord. Or if the rent appears to be so much cheaper, so they are more likely to pay it. Some people take checks to check cashing locations that take 10% off the top. If you live on the poverty level, a 10% hit like that id destructive! So instead the programs give them bank accounts or ATM cards or specialty welfare cards. In Europe and the US much of the welfare state is aimed at these individuals with mental health problems who really can't manage the cash on their own. Giving them cash is disastrous.

An example of this that doesn't involve mental health problems is with young NFL players. The NFL realized that when someone comes straight out of college and gets a multi-million dollar salary, they tend to spend it on hookers and blow. So the NFL began a program of training players how to save and invest. If that seems obvious, consider the humor of walking into the local tax office with a 1040EZ form that shows income of $1 million, showing that you owe the government 20% of that. That's a holy !@#$ wake-up moment that most people don't think about. Similar problems happen with child actors or young musicians.

It's good that we are doing these studies, but I see a lot of responses say "See, we knew all along that giving people cash was better." BUI FTW! But that isn't really what this study is showing us, and we have lots of experience that got us to the system we have today.


By MobyDisk • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

The biggest opponents of this kind of thing are the puritanical folks who don't want a single charitable dollar to be used for any non-necessary (in their opinion) expenses.

The biggest opponents of this kind of thing are people who have worked with homeless, or mentally handicapped individuals who don't know how to handle money, or are taken advantage of. The modern welfare systems in the US and Europe do this because experience shows that if you want someone to have a roof over their head, the best way to do that is to put a roof over their head.

That said - this kind of thing does need to be implemented thoughtfully, because it's easy to imagine that organized-crime types will find ways to exploit this to enrich themselves off of charitable giving. As with most things, it all comes down to diligence in the implementation.

Well said. People need to realize that this study wasn't about the welfare system in the US. The situation on the ground in Rwanda is very different from the situation in New York City and the solutions will not be the same. We don't want a knee-jerk reaction that says "replace all welfare with cash" because we've been there before and that doesn't work.

Even RMS has a policy of not giving cash to pan...

By jedidiah • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

> Fortunately you'll never be awarded enough responsibility to have to put your money where your stupid mouth is.

That's just a lame way of saying that you don't have a useful counter argument. In real life, foreign aid gets funneled through multiple intermediaries. ANY of these can skim or steal the whole thing.

Having a fat wad of cash is dangerous in any poor area. You don't need to have gone to Africa to understand this. Some less than "privileged" life experience could have clued you in to this.

Beyond that, we have ample examples from lottery winners of what happens when you give people money when they aren't used to having it.

Again, even those extreme examples aren't even really necessary if you aren't hiding in the suburbs with your head up your ass.

I can point to personally observed examples of poor people being retarded with their money.

Even RMS has a policy of not giving cash to panhandlers.

Re:So you're telling me...

By Green Mountain Bot • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
No, they're telling you that giving cash directly to people in need improves their lives more than giving a similar amount of indirect charity.

Here's an evil idea

By presidenteloco • Score: 3 • Thread
Give them trackable stablecoins.

Recipient must click to agree to tracking of those funds through the economy.

(See corruption in action, or not as the case may be)



'Seven Dirty Words' Restriction Policy Lifted from .US Domain Name Registrations

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader shares a report: Neustar, the registry operator of the .US domain and NTIA have reversed course, allowing the inclusion of previously restricted "seven dirty words" from future .US domain name registrations. The decision came after EFF and the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School intervened in the cancelation of a domain name containing a restricted word. The domain name -- -- registered by Mr. Rubin was suspended by Neustar calling it a violation of an NTIA "seven dirty words" policy -- "a phrase with particular First Amendment significance," said EFF. Further reading: EFF: Yes, You Can Name A Website "".

For those unfamiliar...

By Sooner Boomer • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

or who have never seen the George Carlin routine:

As I say on all these stories ...

By cascadingstylesheet • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

As I say on all these stories ... all words are just arbitrary strings of characters that convey meaning.

And one of the meanings that offensive words carry is that of offense. The people using them are trying to give offense. These are units of communication, and that's literally what you are communicating with them.

The childish thing is not to recognize that, but to pretend that you don't recognize it.

Re:As I say on all these stories ...

By Thud457 • Score: 5, Funny • Thread


By ShanghaiBill • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

The words are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.

This list is dated and US-centric.

"Piss" is no longer considered impolite. Even my mom says "The cat pissed on the carpet."

Australians use "cunt" as a casual gender neutral pronoun.

In Britain, tits are birds, what an American would call a chickadee.

Thank goodness

By cascadingstylesheet • Score: 3 • Thread
Wouldn't want to hinder someone taking a brave stand against Nazis, some 73 years too late ...

Native Support For Windows File Sharing Coming To Chrome OS

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Chrome OS 70, which Google plans to release in the second half of next month, will include native support for SMB file shares, giving it built-in access to files stored on Windows servers. With this, Chrome OS users can add SMB file shares to the Files app and use them to store and load documents. From a report: Currently, using these network resources requires the use of an extension that adds a similar ability to add file shares to the Files app. Google has been working to make Files a more capable application. As well as integrating support for networked files, the company is also experimenting with giving it more access to Android files, something that will streamline the use of Android applications by exposing their data files to Chrome OS apps. The SMB support helps smooth a pain point when mixing Chromebooks with other systems: it makes it easier to use Chrome OS with corporate file servers, home networked storage devices, and of course, Windows PCs. Instead of needing the extra extension to be installed, these things will just work out of the box.

Re:I don't know why...

By JackieBrown • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

It's for ChromeOS not Chrome.


By fluffernutter • Score: 3 • Thread
I thought it was linux? Why not just allow users to install Samba?

Re: Lets get IE 5 and Active X again.

By c6gunner • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

But giving the browser more access to the file structure and networked files, reminds me of the ...

Chrome OS is not a browser. The "OS" part of the name kinda gives it away.

Re:Lets get IE 5 and Active X again.

By hunter44102 • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
This is Chrome OS not the browser. Please re read the article

Re:MS CAL licenses?

By Jeremy Allison - Sam • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

Don't wanna pay for Microsoft CALs ? Use Samba4-Active Directory.

Problem solved :-).

Slashdot Asks: What Book(s) Are You Reading This Month?

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
We have not run book recommendations and book discussion posts for some time. So here it goes: What's a book -- or books -- are you reading this month? Additionally, what's a book you finished recently that you found insightful, or funny, or both. (The latter request comes from a reader.) Leave your recommendation and any additional notes in the comments section below.

Bigfoot and the Bridesmaid

By jwhyche • Score: 3 • Thread

Not much of a plot.

Hundred Days

By CrimsonAvenger • Score: 3 • Thread

We're coming up on the centennial of the end of World War One in two months. So a book about the last 100 days of that war seemed appropriate.

And Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, just because I find that part of the Leyte Gulf battles in WW2 endlessly interesting.

Patrick O'Brian

By kalpol • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
I'm rereading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels after having first read them 10 or 15 years ago. They are every bit as excellent as I remember, and even more of their glory is revealed now through the lens of age. You may have seen the "Master and Commander" movie, but it's a pretty pale ghost of the characters and plots of the novels.

SF and Fantasy

By Daetrin • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
Within the last month i've been reading:

- Spinning Silver - Naomi Novik: A re-telling/twist on the Rumpelstiltskin story. A lot darker and more intense than "Uprooted", but still good.
- All Systems Red - Martha Wells: A story about "Murderbot", a security robot that's broken its conditioning but somehow never gets around to doing much murdering. Re-listening to with my SO because of the Hugos. Still good the second time around.
- The Fated Sky - Mary Robinette Kowal: Sequel to the very excellent "Calculating Stars" about an alternate history space program after a meteor impact in the 50s.
- Girl in the Green Silk Down - Seanan McGuire: Sequel to "Sparrow Hill Road", about a hitch-hiking ghost on the run from a phantom rider. Still in the middle of this one, but enjoying it so far, and i'm curious if it's going to turn into a long running series or not.

"Additionally, what's a book you finished recently that you found insightful, or funny, or both."

I'll pick "funny"


We Are Legion (We Are Bob) - Dennis E. Taylor: A guy gets dragooned into being a space probe. It's got geeky cultural references like Ready Player One (but much more toned down and well integrated with the story) in a near future (relatively speaking) space opera plot.


All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault - James Alan Gardner: About an alternate earth where "creatures of the night" are at war with superheroes. The author does humor well, but a lot of it is situational humor about the ridiculousness of the situation and some of it is dark.

Re:The Mythical Man Month

By Nidi62 • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

Everybody who engineers or manages engineers needs to read this book every few years.

"The Mythical Man Month" by Fred Brooks.

I was going to have all my subordinates read it but the book was too long, so I assigned them all a chapter to read so they would finish reading the book quicker.

Google To Kill Its Developer Platform Fabric in Mid-2019, Pushes Developers To Firebase

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
An anonymous reader writes: On Apple's iPhone day this week, Google announced it is killing Inbox by Gmail. But that's not the only service that day the company confirmed it is shutting down: The mobile app development tool Fabric is also going away. Firebase, Google's mobile and web application development platform, is swallowing Fabric and all its features. Incidentally, both Fabric and Firebase were once separate companies: Google acquired Fabric from Twitter in January 2017 and bought Firebase in October 2014. Now the company is merging the former into the latter, ending support for Fabric in mid-2019.

I once considered Firebase...

By fishscene • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread
I once considered firebase. But after looking in to it and discovering there was no way to remove mandatory Google-spying, I dropped it. If there's a way, feel free to reply with a link. :)

Google to Kill...

By VorpalRodent • Score: 3 • Thread

I'm hoping I'm not the only one who initially misread the headline as "Google to Kill Its Developers".

I realize that people have given up expecting "Do No Evil", but this is really doubling-down.

Re:I once considered Firebase...

By drinkypoo • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

I once considered firebase. But after looking in to it and discovering there was no way to remove mandatory Google-spying, I dropped it.

The bigger problem is that there's no way to remove Google-dropping. As soon as you get used to it, they'll kill it. Even if you had a use case where privacy was unimportant, it would still make no sense to use it.

Dyslexia in adults.

By Gravis Zero • Score: 3 • Thread

Google To Kill Its Developers On A Fabric Platform in Mid-2019, Pushes Developers To Firebase

This was almost a really exciting story.

Why anyone uses google tools is beyond me

By Crashmarik • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

They never seem to have the slightest compunction at pulling the rug out from under anyone that builds with their tools.

quick list

New iPhones, new Galaxies: Who's the Bigger Copycat?

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
David Pogue: Apparently, a lot of people hang their identities on what phones they carry. An iPhone person might feel personally affronted when a Samsung Galaxy gets a great review, and vice versa. Apple and Samsung just introduced their new fall 2018 smartphones, and it's clearer than ever: all smartphones have pretty much the same features. Therefore, it strikes many people as searingly important to remember which brand had those features first.
OS Features: Apple invented the touchscreen phone as we know it. The original 2007 iPhone brought us multitouch (pinch to zoom), an on-screen keyboard, auto-rotate, lists that scroll as though with momentum, and the apps-on-a-Home-page design that we all use to this day. Not surprisingly, then, Apple wins this category, having introduced 13 ideas, compared to Android's 10 (and Samsung's 1). The screen is the first thing you notice when you turn on a phone --how big, bright, and gorgeous it is.
You can read the full review here. The final verdict: Apple leads the invention category, with 44 innovations, according to our calculations. Google's Android comes in second, with 31. And Samsung brings up the rear with 12 innovations. Now, if you count the number of times each company is listed as a Follower in the spreadsheet, you discover that Apple also seems to have stolen the most ideas. In part, that's because I'm pitting Apple against Google/Samsung (its phones use Google's software). As a result, no feature ever lists Google and Samsung as innovator+follower, or vice versa; they're always a single team.

Why does it matter?

By registrations_suck • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

As long as a phone as the features you want, what difference does it make which phone had them first, or how they ended up on your phone?

People who care about this kind of stuff...I mean...honestly. It's just the technonerd version of "My dad can beat up your dad."

Vice versa?

By Black.Shuck • Score: 3 • Thread

"An iPhone person might feel personally affronted when a Samsung Galaxy gets a great review, and vice versa..."

Samsung Galaxy devices get personally affronted when iPhone users give them good reviews?


By WaffleMonster • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

List of impressive smartphone innovations:

- Skyrocketing prices for marginal incremental improvement
- Devices costing $500-$1000 dollars lacking user replaceable batteries
- Removal of widely used physical interfaces for self-enrichment / courage
- Artificially low amounts of internal persistent storage completely out of whack with current technology coupled with refusal to provide SD expansion
- Crummy battery life
- Phones so thin they snap like graham crackers in your pockets
- Lack of usability / physical buttons
- eSIMs
- Locked bootloaders, operating systems and carriers
- Preloaded to the hilt with malware

Keep up the good work.

Hang their identities...

By The Original CDR • Score: 3 • Thread
People who get hung up on what phone they are carrying are usually people who are least likely to afford an iPhone. I know several people working minimum wage jobs in Silicon Valley who are ordering the iPhone XS MAX 512GB for $350 down and $46 per month. They would be better off financially by buying a pre-owned iPhone 7 outright for $288.

Bullshit article

By darkain • Score: 3 • Thread

The entire article is bullshit. It is assuming absolute stock OS with absolutely nothing installed on it, if my assumption is correct from some of these dates I'm reading. Google didn't want to entire step on the toes of all of their vendors and carriers which were implementing a ton of these features long before they were standardized and pushed upstream into the main Android OS. For instance, they list Android as getting "Voicemail Transcription" only this year. I can't remember ever having a phone WITHOUT this feature in the past 5+ years now. Google Voice has supported this feature I believe since day 1. Carriers such as T-Mobile have had "Visual Voicemail" as part of their package for several years too.

They also have an entire section on keyboard features. This is the same issue all over again. Android for a very long time has supported custom keyboards, and I don't think I've ever seen a non-Nexus/Pixel phone use the stock keyboard. All of those additional features have been available for quite some time before they say they became available. On top of this, other features are not mentioned. Things like swype keyboard support are entire absent from this article as to give the appearance that Apple has the more innovative feature set. Yeah, its easy to pick them as the winner when you purposefully ignore things Android did years before Apple.

Apple Has Started Paying Hackers for iPhone Exploits

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard: In 2016, Apple's head of security surprised the attendees of one of the biggest security conference in the world by announcing a bug bounty program for Apple's mobile operating system iOS. At the beginning, Apple struggled to woo researchers and convince them to report high-value bugs. For the researchers, the main issue was that the bugs they discovered were too valuable to report to Apple, despite rewards as high as $200,000. Companies like GrayShift and Azimuth made an entire business out of exploiting vulnerabilities in Apple products, while other researchers didn't want to report bugs so they could keep doing research on iOS. But two years later, some researchers are finally reporting vulnerabilities to Apple, and the company has begun to award some researchers with bounties, Motherboard has learned.

[...] Adam Donefeld, a researcher at mobile security firm Zimperium said that he has submitted several bugs to Apple and received payments for the company. Donefeld was not part of the first batch of security researchers who were personally invited by Apple to visit its Cupertino campus and asked to join the program. But after submitting a few bugs, Donefeld told me, an Apple employee asked him if he wanted to be part of the bounty program in a phone call. "I know Apple pays people," Donefeld said in an online chat. "I'm certainly not the only payout." Another researcher, who asked to remain anonymous because they are worried about souring their relationship with Apple, said that they have submitted a few bugs and been awarded bounties, but has yet to be paid. [...] Two other researchers told Motherboard they also have concerns with or have had trouble with the program. One said they weren't paid for a bug they submitted (Motherboard could not independently confirm that the researcher did not get a payment), and another said they didn't want to participate in it at all, even after being invited.
Further reading: Google Bug Hunter Urges Apple To Change Its iOS Security Culture; Asks Tim Cook To Donate $2.45 Million To Amnesty For His Unpaid iPhone Bug Bounties.

So much for being innovative

By xxxJonBoyxxx • Score: 3 • Thread

I welcome this culture shift.

By jellomizer • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Thinking back 10-20 years ago. Where if people reported security flaws, the big tech companies other then thanking them for reporting the issues, would try to sue them, to put them in jail for hacking their systems. Not really understanding the hacking community and the fact that most of them are not out to do damage to other people or systems, but just the thrill of finding new ways to get in. Being able to get paid for your efforts helps instinctive the hackers to report their findings, it help the company fix there problems before it become out of hand, and makes sure people are not afraid to use technology beyond its intended purposes and innovate vs using just what is was meant for in fear of getting into trouble by Big Tech.

Apple should negotiate each exploit bounty amount

By JoeyRox • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread
Rather than capping the reward at an arbitrary value, which limits the chances of it being brought to them, Apple should have a policy that negotiates/bids the bounty amount based on the exploit's significance. The process can work by having the hacker demonstrate the exploit to Apple, without revealing how the exploit works, after which they can negotiate the bounty.

Re:Apple should negotiate each exploit bounty amou

By xxxJonBoyxxx • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread
>> having the hacker demonstrate the exploit to Apple, without revealing how the exploit works

I'm not sure if you're trolling, but in case you're not, I can tell you that just seeing someone exploit your code gives you a LOT of clues as to what the exploit actually is. As a software developer...I've been with >1 companies that get reporting researchers to show us the exploit (against heavily instrumented website/services/etc.) and then we've fixed it without paying/recognizing the researcher AT ALL. In these cases, having a standing reward system actually benefits the reporter, as in "I think I found some XSS vulnerabilities and I'd like to apply for the $1K XSS reward - can we agree to engage under this framework?"

Re:So much for being innovative

By guruevi • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

If you read the article, Apple has been offering for years but some sleazy companies and researchers found it more valuable to keep the information hidden.

How the Weather Channel Made That Insane Hurricane Florence Storm Surge Animation

Posted by msmashView on SlashDotShareable Link
The Weather Channel's 3-D, room-encompassing depiction of the Hurricane Florence storm surge took many by surprise on Friday ( Second video). It doesn't tell, it shows, more bracingly than you'd think would be possible on a meteorological update, writes Wired. Here's how they did it. CNET: In one video, meteorologist Erika Navarro demonstrates what a progressive storm surge would mean at a human level. (Storm surge is simply the "abnormal rise of water generated by a storm" that is "produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds," according to the National Hurricane Center.) "Storm surge is going to be potentially life-threatening for some areas along the US coastline," Navarro says. Then she demonstrates what's described as a "reasonable, worst-case scenario for areas along North Carolina." Here's where the video gets heart-in-throat scary. As Navarro stands and speaks, the weather maps behind her dissolve away, and she is shown standing in a computer-generated neighborhood. The CGI water rises behind her, setting a red car afloat and flooding homes.

[...] The Weather Channel has been using augmented reality since 2015. This year, it partnered with content and technology provider The Future Group and its impressive Immersive Mixed Reality technology, which uses Unreal Engine software. The tech debuted on TWC in June, when meteorologist Jim Cantore used it to walk viewers through what would happen if a tornado hit the channel's own studios. A demo showing the power of lightning followed in July. Reaction to the hurricane explainer has been overwhelmingly positive, said Michael Potts, Weather Channel's vice president of design. "It was created to evoke an automatic visceral reaction, to imagine that this could be real," Potts said. "And people are sharing it with friends and family as a warning tool. The amount of engagement across all of our platforms has been some of the highest we've ever seen." The neighborhood Navarro is standing in looks real, but it's all virtual graphics created in a new green-screen studio built at the channel's Atlanta headquarters. "All the graphics you see, from the cars, the street, the houses and the entire neighborhood are created using the Unreal Engine -- they are not real," Potts says. "The circle she is standing in is the presentation area, it's a 'safe' space that is not affected by the weather. ... The maps and data are all real-time and the atmospheric conditions are driven by the forecast."
More on this here.

Re:They've really taken fear-mongering to a new le

By elrous0 • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

"Donald Trump, Global Warming, or Hurricane Florence--Which Will Get To Your Kids and Kill Them First?" Stay tuned to find out!

Highly unnecessary

By GoJays • Score: 3 • Thread
"Oh I get it now! A 3 foot storm surge means there could be 3 feet of water on the road! Thank you weather network for explaining this with excessive graphical representation, because my mind could not possibly comprehend height of water."

Some people are idiots.

Re:Hype Hype Hype

By DerekLyons • Score: 5, Informative • Thread

Sitting here in Wilmimgton and this storm is a BIG nothing burger.

I have friends in New Bern whose houses have a foot of water in them. I have a friend in Jacksonville who has likely lost his business because the building lost it's roof. I have friends on Oak Island whose houses are almost certainly heavily damaged...

These idiot goverent officials and news sources really need to stop with the hype. CNN is now Cat Null News.

Fuck you. There's enormous damage and the storm is nowhere near over. You got lucky, but you have to be abysmally stupid and self centered to believe that you represent everyone across a hundred miles of coast and a hundred miles inland.

Re:They've really taken fear-mongering to a new le

By orgelspieler • Score: 4, Informative • Thread
As somebody who lived through Harvey, please fuck off. The more people who can be made to understand the effects of storm surge, the better. This is not hype. This is trying to educate people who might otherwise "hunker down" and end up dead, or spread emergency resources needlessly thin in an attempt to rescue their ass later.

Re:I'll tell you how they made it just be watching

By ortholattice • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
Here's how to make it even better. Make a slit in the greenscreen and put a bucket of water on a chair behind it. She plunges her arm into the slit, and her arm disappears into the wall of water video. When she pulls her arm out, her arm is dripping wet, and she's holding a rubber fish (flopping as she subtly shakes it) that was at the bottom of the bucket.

Python Joins Movement To Dump 'Offensive' Master, Slave Terms

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Python creator Guido van Rossum retired in July, but he's been pulled back in to resolve a debate about politically incorrect language. The Register reports: Like other open source communities, Python's minders have been asked whether they really want to continue using the terms "master" and "slave" to describe technical operations and relationships, given that the words remind some people of America's peculiar institution, a historical legacy that fires political passions to this day. Last week Victor Stinner, a Python developer who works for Red Hat, published four pull requests seeking to change "master" and "slave" in Python documentation and code to terms like "parent," "worker," or something similarly anodyne. "For diversity reasons, it would be nice to try to avoid 'master' and 'slave' terminology which can be associated to slavery," he explained in his bug report, noting that there have been complaints but they've been filed privately -- presumably to avoid being dragged into a fractious flame war. And when Python 3.8 is released, there will be fewer instances of these terms.

Re: Considering we still do slavery

By pollarda • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
Since everyone is offended nowadays, I'm offended by their statement that it is a peculiar institution in the USA. Someone needs to go back and read their history. The Romans practiced slavery. The Greeks practiced slavery. The Africans did too even before they sold their slaves to the Europeans. The European institution of serfdom wasn't too far off. The Hitites practiced slavery, the Babylonians too. The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Pretty much all of history had slaves. To single it out as a singularly American institution is a bit nieve.


By Antique Geekmeister • Score: 4, Funny • Thread

non-binary-non-racial-gender-queer-safe-space-resident and college president.


By sjames • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

That may actually be in favor of master/slave since that is vastly less likely to trigger an actual bad memory in a living person.

Re: Re

By arglebargle_xiv • Score: 5, Funny • Thread

After I posted this I realised what the real problem is, and how to fix it: Every term you want to use contains connotations of control over something, e.g. A controlling B (master/slave, whatever). No matter what terms you use, in some language or some culture it'll upset someone.

With one exception: There is a specific term for which the controlled not only don't mind, but actively seek it. That's "dom" and "sub". So I think Python should replace all occurrences of "master" and "slave" with "dom" and "sub". And then sit back while the SJWs come up with something else to be offended by, perhaps the blatantly pornographic nature of the letter "B" or the subtly suggestive "J".

Re: Considering we still do slavery

By Opportunist • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

You have to be found guilty of an actual crime.

Unfortunately that's not even true. What's required is you being accused of a crime and having a lazy court mandated lawyer who doesn't give a shit how the case ends and whose only motivation is to get out of it as fast as he possibly can, telling you straight up that you'll accept a crappy "deal" you're offered or he'll do his best that you regret it if you actually dare to go to court and waste his time.

You are, by the way, a minimum wage worker with zero money and no legal training. Good luck.

FCC Data Exaggerates Broadband Access On Tribal Lands

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband access in tribal areas is likely even worse than previously thought because Federal Communications Commission data overstates deployment, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). FCC data collection was already known to be suspect throughout the U.S., not just in tribal areas, which in turn makes it difficult for the FCC to target deployment funding to the areas that need it most. Tribal lands have less broadband access than most other parts of the U.S. and thus may be disproportionately affected by the FCC's data collection problems.

"Residents of tribal lands have lower levels of broadband Internet access relative to the U.S. as a whole, but the digital divide may be greater than currently thought," the GAO wrote. "FCC data overstated tribes' broadband availability and access to broadband service. These overstatements limit FCC and tribal users' ability to target broadband funding to tribal lands." Despite the well-known broadband access problems in tribal areas, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been trying to limit the Lifeline subsidies that help tribal residents purchase Internet access. A federal appeals court recently blocked Pai's attempt to take a broadband subsidy away from tribal areas.

Headline contains unnecessary words

By fibonacci8 • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
FCC Data Exaggerates Broadband Access

The lobbyists just forgot to do something about that particular group being allowed to complain.

It is usually very convenient

By bobstreo • Score: 3 • Thread

to support your position when you make up the data only to support your position.

I guess maybe someone hacked the FCC again to produce these outright lies. /s

Better Article at The Register

By Passman • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

The Register has a better article on this here.

They do a pretty good job of breaking down why the FCC data is so flawed and also why this report only deals with Tribal Lands.

Re:No surprise

By El Cubano • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

Like the rest of this administration, the FCC is a criminal enterprise now (emphasis added)

Nice job, Trump voters

I just knew that this sort of thing was going to crop up in this discussion. Let me share a few quotes from the report:

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as of December 2016, 35.4 percent of Americans residing on tribal lands lacked access to fixed broadband services, compared to 7.7 percent of all Americans.

owever, in 2016 we reported that tribal and federal officials had concerns that the federal map of broadband availability at the time (the National Broadband Map) did not accurately depict broadband availability on tribal lands.

The federal government has not updated the National Broadband Map since April 2015, with the last update containing data as of June 30, 2014.

To address both objectives, we analyzed FCCâ(TM)s December 2016â"the most recent data at the time of our review

In case it isn't obvious, all of those statements clearly indicate that the data and analysis are from prior to Trump taking office. Now, the Trump administration has done plenty that is worthy of criticism, but so did the Obama administration. Yet, I see plenty of Republicans willing to openly criticize Trump, but hardly any Democrats willing to criticize Obama, Hillary, etc.

If the strategy is to always blame the other side, even when your side was the source or a major part of the problem, then it is difficult to actually fix anything.

Unemployment numbers are a good example. Democrats continually complained that Bush wasn't using the "real" numbers since U3 (I think it is) does not accurately reflect labor participation, among other things. They same complaint is being made about Trump. Interestingly, the methodology remained unchanged under Obama, yet I cannot recall a single instance of a prominent Democrat or the media calling out Obama for fudging the unemployment numbers.

And lest you think that I am biased against Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans do the same thing. Listen to a Republican rant and rave about Obama racking up more debt then every previous president put together. Then ask what the majority party was in Congress that sent him spending bills for 6 of the 8 years of his presidency.

Seriously, own it when your own side is wrong and then get to work fixing it.

Tribal bribes

By DigiShaman • Score: 3, Interesting • Thread

It's my understanding that anyone that wishes to build cellular infrastructure on tribal land must go through the FCC. Then,by law, the FCC must send out notifications to every tribe in the US (regardless of being states away) and ask if they have a vested interest in that tiny plot of land to be used. If "Yes", the tribe must make an offer.

So what do you know, every tribe comes out of the woodwork and demands fee. That gets real expensive in a hurry!

OnePlus 6T Trades the Headphone Jack For Better Battery Life

Posted by BeauHDView on SlashDotShareable Link
OnePlus CEO Carl Pei confirmed to TechRadar that the OnePlus 6T won't have a headphone jack. Instead, it will feature a larger battery that will be "substantial enough for users to realize." From the report: Our first line of questioning was obvious. Why? Why ditch the jack? Why ditch it now? For Pei, it's about timing, and creating the best smartphone experience. "When we started OnePlus, we set out to make the best possible smartphone, but making a great phone doesn't mean putting every component available into the device," he said. "You've got to make decisions that optimize the user experience, and understand that at times things that provide user value can also add friction. "We also had to think about the negative side [of removing the headphone jack] for our users. We found 59% of our community already owned wireless headphones earlier this year - and that was before we launched our Bullets Wireless headphones. "If we were to do that [remove the jack] two years ago, the percentage [of wireless headphones owners] would have been much lower and it would have caused a lot of friction for our users."

Pei went on to explain that there are user benefits to the removal of the port, which should bring some comfort to OnePlus fans already pouring one out for the headphone jack. "By removing the jack we've freed up more space, allowing us to put more new technology into the product," he said. "One of the big things is something our users have asked us for, improved battery life." Pei wouldn't be drawn on what the "new technology" will be, but we already know the OnePlus 6T will feature an in-display fingerprint scanner, which will eat up some of the space left by the exiting jack.
Pei did mention they will include an adapter in the box to allow users to use wired headphone.

Re:Bad arguments

By fluffernutter • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread
Also, bluetooth sound quality is compromised because the bluetooth audio signal is compressed. Play a FLAC on your phone if you want, it won't get to the headphones.

Can't help but wonder...

By gchat • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread
that this whole jack removal thing is somehow industry forced. Maybe a requirement for 1+ to sell their device (for the first time) via a major US carrier? I can understand the reasons to remove the SD card slot and for non-removable batteries, even though I don't agree, but regarding the headphone jack there is literally no reason at all (more space, outdated tech is just... laughable) except one... DRM.
Also, 1+ plus knows the majority of their customers are power users which won't accept this change lightly. They also ridiculed themselves (just like Google did) because they followed this trend only a few months after mocking their competitors for doing so. So either Pei was somehow forced to it make this change or he is a complete idiot. I don't think the latter is true.
Doesn't excuse his action though...

More battery life

By gringer • Score: 3 • Thread

You know what else gives a better battery life?

A thicker battery. In other words, something that's thicker than the enclosure of a headphone jack.

Re:More than one perspective

By mjwx • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread

A headphone jack takes up a neglible amount of space compared to its use

Maybe for you but that's not universally true.

Nope, he's right, the space it takes up is negligible compared to its use. In fact I'd go as far to say it takes up no space what so ever in a device with a 4" screen. Here's a teardown of a Nexus 5x... the "massive" headphone jack is right next to the guy's thumb... and the guy isn't gigantrathor, that's a normal sized thumb. That big thing he's taking out it he battery (which still lasts a day or 2 on my 2 yr old Nexus 5x)

I'm flying LHR to LAX (11 hours) next week. LHR-SIN (14 hours) next month, LHR-BOG (12 hours) in November and I'm thinking about a jaunt to Boston over the Christmas break (LHR-BOS 7.5 hours). No set of bluetooth headphones could last the duration considering that they'd also end up getting an hour or so use at LHR because security there is so bleeding efficient and customer focused. Add to this that a set of normal plug-in headphones will work on any 3.5mm jack. No worrying about bluetooth versions, compatibility, setup or any other bollocks, they just plug in and work.

Plus when it comes to hands free, anyone on bluetooth sounds like their in a lavatory at best. Some are down right shocking.


By msauve • Score: 4, Insightful • Thread
Someone needs to come out with a new phone with a user replaceable battery, and market it as "wireless supercharging."

FBI Mysteriously Closes New Mexico Observatory

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Alien conspiracy theories are swirling after an observatory in New Mexico has been unexpectedly closed due to an unnamed "security issue," prompting evacuations and a visit from the FBI. "The Sunspot Observatory is now currently closed to both staff and the public, with no word on why or when it will be open again," reports Popular Mechanics. From the report: "We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure," said spokesperson Shari Lifson to the Alomogordo Daily News. "The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time." Lifson said that the facility was first evacuated on September 6 and has remained closed since then. According to Lifson, the observatory has no date for reopening yet.

As part of the investigation into the security issue, the observatory has contacted the FBI, which has been reported on the scene with multiple agents and a Blackhawk helicopter. According to local sheriff Benny House, the agency has been working with local law enforcement but refuses to share any details. The sheriff speculated that the evacuation could be due to some kind of threat made against the facility or its staff, but expressed confusion as to why local police would be left out of the loop. "If that's the case, why didn't they call us and let us deal with it?" he said. "I don't know why the FBI would get involved so quick and not tell us anything."

Re: Espionage ?

By muecksteiner • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Even if it had explosives, the helicopter wouldn't be much use.

Except to bring in a ordnance disposal team, in case that was the quickest way to get specialists there. Hazmat and bomb disposal people often need a lot of kit, so a larger helicopter like a Blackie can, depending on circumstances and the threat in question, actually be warranted.

Re:Espionage ?

By Smidge204 • Score: 4, Interesting • Thread

> The sane response to that would be to send a geek with a screwdriver to unmount it, and have it analysed in a lab. Not to lock everything down, and send a Blackhawk.

No, because tampering with evidence in what may become a serious federal investigation may get you into even more trouble.

If this hypothesis is correct, then it makes sense that government spooks would be all over it; They want to secure the device ASAP, keep everyone without adequate security clearance away, and keep the details as secret as possible for as long as possible. Nothing good can come from letting a potential enemy/spy learn about what you may or may not know.

Mercury - the metal, not the planet

By neilo_1701D • Score: 5, Interesting • Thread

I believe this has all been planned in advance:

NMSU - SSOC Transition Plan

There's probably less to this story than the conspiracy theorists would like to believe.

The telescope sits on a liquid mercury bearing. From the linked document (p8):

Further, the TCS contains significant risk in its older server motors, mercury float bearings, and control software. Regular inspection and
maintenance is key to the longevity of the TCS. Fully documenting maintenance and risk, and implementing upgrades greatly reduces the risk associated with the TCS. As such, the telescope will be less expensive to operate, and much less liable to catastrophic failure. At minimum, the SSOC will require one telescope control engineer ready to assume full control and maintenance of the TCS in Oct 2018.

So a mercury spill could be quite hazardous, and if you were of such a mind, that large amount of mercury could be an inviting target to steal.

Re: Espionage ?

By NormalVisual • Score: 5, Insightful • Thread

Or if you have to get men and equipment out there, and do it quickly enough so as to not give someone warning before your arrival.

Re:Mercury - the metal, not the planet

By ArchieBunker • Score: 4, Informative • Thread

When a train car full of chemicals spills does the FBI show up? No the DEP and EPA handle that. The FBI isn't trained to contain mercury spills and a facility that uses mercury should be able to handle it anyhow.