Boeing Wanted To Wait Three Years To Fix Safety Alert on 737 Max
An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:
Boeing Co. planned to wait three years to fix a non-working safety alert on its 737 Max aircraft and sped up the process only after the first of two deadly crashes involving the planes. The company acknowledged that it originally planned to fix a cockpit warning light in 2020 after two key U.S. lawmakers disclosed the company's timetable Friday...
The feature, called an angle of attack or AoA alert, warns pilots when sensors measuring the up-or-down pitch of the plane's nose relative to oncoming air might be wrong. The sensors malfunctioned during a Lion Air flight in Indonesia in October and an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa in March, causing anti-stall software to push the planes' noses down. Pilots were unable to regain control, and both planes crashed, killing everyone aboard -- 346 people in all. It is not clear whether either crash could have been prevented if the cockpit alert had been working... Boeing and the head of the FAA both say the alert is not critical for safety. Boeing says all its planes, including the Max, give pilots all the flight information -- including speed, altitude and engine performance -- that they need to fly safely.
The pilots' union at American Airlines expressed unhappiness about the matter, however, and said Boeing's assurance about the cockpit alert was a factor in the union standing behind Boeing after the first Max crash, in October. Jason Goldberg, an American Airlines pilot and union spokesman, said Boeing told pilots that the alert could pinpoint a faulty sensor even on the ground, before takeoff. "That is one of the things that made us confident initially to make the statement that we were happy to continue to fly the aircraft," he said. "It turned out later that that wasn't true."
Police Use of DNA Leads To Backlash, Policy Change For GEDmatch
Police investigators have used popular online DNA databases to solve at least 50 open murder and rape cases, reports the Associated Press. But now, "complaints about invasion of privacy have produced a backlash, leading the Florida-based database known as GEDmatch to change its policies."
The nonprofit website's previous practice was to permit police to use its database only to solve homicides and sexual assaults. But its operators granted a Utah police department an exception to find the assailant who choked unconscious a 71-year-old woman practicing the organ alone in church. The assailant's DNA profile led detectives to the great-uncle of a 17-year-old boy. The teen's DNA matched the attacker's, and he was arrested. GEDmatch soon updated its policy to establish that law enforcement only gets matches from the DNA profiles of users who have given permission.
That closed off more than a million profiles. More than 50,000 users agreed to share their information -- a figure that the company says is growing. The 95% reduction in GEDmatch profiles available to police will dramatically reduce the number of hits detectives get and make it more difficult to solve crimes, said David Foran, a forensics biology professor at Michigan State University...
The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics say granting law enforcement exceptions that violate a website's policies is a slippery slope. They also believe broad genetic searches violate suspects' constitutional rights. While many people instinctively support the technique if used to catch serial killers or rapists, they might feel differently about their DNA profiles being analyzed to pursue burglars and shoplifters.
The site's co-founder tells the AP they've now sent an email to users encouraging them to opt-in to police searches.
'Swift Finally Matches Objective-C in One Major Way'
The editor of Dice's "Insights" blog argues that Apple's Swift language "has begun to eclipse Objective-C in a key way."
Apple was never shy about prioritizing Swift. As one developer on Twitter pointed out, once Swift dropped, Objective-C documentation and tutorials quickly started vanishing. Since then, the company has iterated on Swift and continued to shy away from Objective-C (except when necessary, such as supporting libraries and frameworks). Swift 5 made an important step forward with ABI stability, which means Swift code worked directly with a binary interface. Before ABI stability, the only safeguard was code was compiled on the same compiler, a fingers-crossed approach Apple really had no option for avoiding...
Swift's performance has also improved. For some time, when compared to Objective-C, Swift compiled slower. Because of ABI stability, performance has improved, and compile-time differences have vanished... Apps written in version 5 are also roughly 10-15 percent smaller than Objective-C apps. Bridging performance also improved.
A lot has gone into Swift 5 to make it more stable, and those improvements have resulted in performance parity with Objective-C... It's time to seriously consider the move to Swift.
In 2017 the creator of Swift (and a self-described "long-time reader/fan of Slashdot") began a five-month stint running Tesla's Autopilot team -- and stopped by to
answer questions from Slashdot readers.
New Game Based On 'The Blair Witch Project' Demoed at Microsoft Xbox Event
"So that Blair Witch reboot wasn't very good. But
maybe a video game could change things up?" writes Engadget. Mashable has more details:
Remember The Blair Witch Project, that viral horror sensation that made waves before social media was even a thing? Well, it's back. And it's an Xbox game.
Microsoft debuted a first look trailer for Blair Witch during its annual E3 press conference, and it's coming from Layers of Fear developer Bloober. We don't know much. It returns you to the Black Hills Forest, the site of the movie. There's a camcorder. Also, a dog.
I fear for that dog.
Kotaku writes that "According to the description the game will be a 'first-person, story-driven
psychological horror game based on the cinematic lore of Blair Witch.'"
'Cyberpunk 2077' Game Starring Keanu Reeves Demoed at Microsoft Xbox Event
An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
CD Projekt Red showed off a new demo of Cyberpunk 2077 at Microsoft's Xbox press event at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the big game trade show in Los Angeles. And actor Keanu Reeves surprised everyone by coming out on stage to say that he would be in it. The trailer reveals one of the key characters of Cyberpunk 2077, Johnny Silverhand. The legendary rockerboy is played by Reeves (The Matrix trilogy, John Wick series, Johnny Mnemonic). In addition to his appearance and voice, Reeves is also providing full-body motion capture for the character. The game debuts on April 16, 2020...
We all know that CD Projekt Red has a hell of a game in Cyberpunk 2077, which the company revealed in a 48-minute gameplay video last year. The video showed an amazingly detailed open world, as the narrator said the ambition was to create "the most believable city in any open world to date." I interpreted that as a shot across the bow of Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption teams, as Cyberpunk 2077 was as incredibly hyper detailed as any Rockstar game I've ever seen. It's the only game I've seen with such density of interaction and the realism integrity of Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2....
Last year's demo of the upcoming game promised deeper the details of the open world, with fascinating futuristic touches such as cranial chip implants, robotic body modifications, hyperfast video communications, and surveillance drones. The dystopic city seemed like a living thing, and the choices for getting things done seemed like they had no limits. You could be as peaceful or violent as you wished... It's a mature game, aimed at adults who can deal with subjects like nudity, drugs, and murder.
A Wave of SIM Swapping Attacks Targets Cryptocurrency Users
"Numerous members of the cryptocurrency community have been hit by SIM swapping attacks over the past week," ZDNet reported Monday, "in what appears to be a coordinated wave of attacks."
SIM swapping, also known as SIM jacking, is a type of ATO (account take over) attack during which a malicious threat actor uses various techniques (usually social engineering) to transfers a victim's phone number to their own SIM card. The purpose of this attack is so that hackers can reset passwords or receive 2FA verification codes and access protected accounts....
[D]espite a period of calm in the first half of the year, a rash of SIM swapping attacks have been reported in the second half of May, and especially over the past week... Some candidly admitted to losing funds, while others said the SIM swapping attacks were unsuccessful because they switched to using hardware security tokens to protect accounts, instead of the classic SMS-based 2FA system.
Why Some Businesses Really Hate Yelp
An anonymous reader quotes Slate:
The overall argument of Billion Dollar Bully, the new documentary about Yelp released on Amazon and iTunes in May, is that Yelp extorts small business owners for advertising fees in return for helping to manage and improve reviews on their platform... Yelp has fought back against the allegations made in the film, arguing that "There has never been a connection between ratings and reviews on Yelp and buying advertising...." But the issue for small business owners has always been broader than advertising: Local businesses feel that Yelp offers no due process to resolve disputes and misunderstandings. That's because the company's standard position is to absolve itself of any responsibility to get involved....
Yelp is combating the claims made in the film by purchasing the domain BillionDollarBully.com and redirecting it to a Yelp page that explains that the company does not extort local businesses to manipulate ratings.
The Hustle argues that despite "legions" of anecdotal evidence from business owners, "the linkage between these two things ultimately can't be proven without transparency around Yelp's filtering algorithm." This is apparently leaving some restauranteurs feeling powerless and angry:
In isolated bids to circumvent the "oppression" of online reviews, business owners have plunked "NO YELPERS" signs in their windows, shamed rude reviewers on Instagram, and launched anti-Yelp websites. Dan Neves, a waiter at a fine dining establishment in Austin, Texas, created YELP BULLIES EXPOSED, a private Facebook group that tracks down rude Yelpers and sends them a one-pound bag of animal feces... "I've had friends get fired over bad Yelp reviews, even if the review was untrue," says Neves.
ReviewFraud.org investigated the people interviewed for the documentary, and suggested that in some cases the real victims may be Yelp's unsuspecting reviewers. "A few negative reviewers claimed that the owner harassed them or contacted their employer to have them fired."
Billion Dollar Bully raised money on Kickstarter. I was excited to see this film see the light of day. Sadly, I was disappointed... not all businesses are good, not all business owners are reputable, and not all pieces of investigative "journalism" are credible. Had the filmmakers taken a closer look at these business and other review platforms, I doubt that this movie would have been made. I've made that clear by looking at the reviews of those claiming extortion. For me, this was a massive failure and should be titled A Billion Dollar Scapegoat.
Are Amazon's 'Ring' Doorbells Creating A Massive Police Surveillance Network?
"Police departments are piggybacking on Ring's network to build out their surveillance networks..." reports CNET, adding that Ring "helps police avoid roadblocks for surveillance technology, whether a lack of funding or the public's concerns about privacy."
While residential neighborhoods aren't usually lined with security cameras, the smart doorbell's popularity has essentially created private surveillance networks powered by Amazon and promoted by police departments. Police departments across the country, from major cities like Houston to towns with fewer than 30,000 people, have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon's products.
While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested. Ring said Tuesday that it would start cracking down on those strings attached...
While more surveillance footage in neighborhoods could help police investigate crimes, the sheer number of cameras run by Amazon's Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants... More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don't have cameras -- on suburban doorsteps. But privacy advocates argue this partnership gives law enforcement an unprecedented amount of surveillance. "What we have here is a perfect marriage between law enforcement and one of the world's biggest companies creating conditions for a society that few people would want to be a part of," said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California...
Despite its benefits, the relationship between police departments and Ring raises concerns about surveillance and privacy, as Amazon is working with law enforcement to blanket communities with cameras.... "Essentially, we're creating a culture where everybody is the nosy neighbor looking out the window with their binoculars," said Dave Maass, a senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It is creating this giant pool of data that allows the government to analyze our every move, whether or not a crime is being committed." On a heat map of Bloomfield, there are hardly any spots in the New Jersey township out of sight of a Ring camera.
Tajsar says in some scenarios "they're basically commandeering people's homes as surveillance outposts for law enforcement," and the articles notes that when police departments partner with Ring, "they have access to a law enforcement dashboard, where they can geofence areas and request footage filmed at specific times."
While law enforcement "can only get footage from the app if residents choose to send it," if the residents refuse, police can still try to obtain the footage with a subpoena to Amazon's Ring.
Bizarre New Theories Emerge About Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto
"I am not saying that Neal Stephenson
is Satoshi Nakamoto," writes the features editor at
Reason. "What I am saying is:
Would it really be surprising if he were?"
This prompted a strong rebuke from
The article starts, "Consider the possibility that Neal Stephenson is Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin."
Let's not do that. That's like saying let's consider the possibility that anyone at all is Satoshi Nakamoto. In one respect, it doesn't matter. In another, it's exhausting the lengths people will go with this... if someone doesn't advance the idea that they are Satoshi Nakamoto themselves, there's no reason to put that sort of grief upon them. If someone is just brilliant, you can tell them that without insinuating that they invented the blockchain and Bitcoin.... You don't just off-handedly claim someone might be Satoshi Nakamoto. There needs to be a reason.
Reason had written that "For nearly three decades, Stephenson's novels have displayed an obsessive, technically astute fascination with cryptography, digital currency, the social and technological infrastructure of a post-government world, and Asian culture," and that the science fiction author "described the core concepts of cryptocurrency years before Bitcoin became a technical reality."
They also note later that "Satoshi Nakamoto's initials are SN; Neal Stephenson's are NS."
Coin Telegraph writes that the question "has seemingly come to a head over the last couple of months, as a number of people have gone a step further" -- not only publicly claiming to be the creator of bitcoin, but even filing copyright and trademark claims. Their
list of "Satoshi posers" includes Craig Wright, Wei Liu, and the brother of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. (And another new theory also
suggests "global criminal kingpin"
Paul Le Roux, the creator of encryption software E4M and TrueCrypt.
Why Pfizer Ignored Data Suggesting Their Drug Could Affect Alzheimer's
In a controversial pharmaceutical story, this week the Washington Post reported "that Pfizer had evidence that
[their drug] Enbrel could be useful in Alzheimer's disease,
and didn't do anything with it," according to a blog post from
This came from an analysis of insurance claim data: a set of about 127,000 patients with an Alzheimer's diagnosis and a set of 127,000 without. It turns out that more people in the second group had been treated with Enbrel (302 patients) versus the first (110 patients). The Post obtained internal Pfizer documents discussing this and whether it was worth further investigation, and the company had concluded it wasn't.
Why wouldn't they? Several reasons. The biggest, though, is that no one undertakes an Alzheimer's trial lightly. The clinical success rate for Alzheimer's trials is arguably zero per cent... The article does note that Pfizer was getting out of Alzheimer's in general at the time (2015), but it also explicitly makes clear that Enbrel was nearing the end of its patent lifetime and brings up the idea that Pfizer deliberately took a pass because they weren't going to reap as much profit. Well, you'll have to trust me on this, it's a little out there, but drug companies don't generally walk away from big profits if they can help it. I've had my problems with Pfizer over the years, but I have never called into question their ability to make money. If Pfizer really thought that this was a promising lead into an Alzheimer's therapy, they would have found a way to turn a profit off of it.
The blogger also argues that Pfizer's data represented "a noticeable-but-small signal, and by itself (I cannot state this strongly enough),
it would not be enough for anyone to launch an Alzheimer's trial."
'Java Web Start Is Dead. Long Live Java Web Start!'
An anonymous reader reminded us about the open source reimplementation of Java Web Start, a framework originally developed by Sun Microsystems that allowed users to more easily
run Java applications in an applet-like sandbox using a web browser.
Java Web Start (JWS) was deprecated in Java 9, and starting with Java 11, Oracle removed JWS from their JDK distributions. This means that clients that have the latest version of Java installed can no longer use JWS-based applications. And since public support of Java 8 has ended in Q2/2019, companies no longer get any updates and security fixes for Java Web Start.
This is why we decided to create OpenWebStart, an open source reimplementation of the Java Web Start technology. Our replacement will provide the most commonly used features of Java Web Start and the JNLP standard, so that your customers can continue using applications based on Java Web Start and JNLP without any change.
Red Hat is apparently involved in its parent project, IcedTea-Web, which it distributes
as part of their Windows OpenJDK distribution.
Next Month Uber Will Start Offering Helicopter Rides in New York City
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:
Uber Technologies Inc. is testing a helicopter service in New York City, according to documents outlining the program obtained by Bloomberg. Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter, the documents show. Tests flights took off from a Manhattan heliport near Wall Street to John F. Kennedy International Airport.
After Bloomberg asked Uber for comment Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about the program. It says customers will be able to book flights starting July 9 in New York City and that the average ride will cost $200 to $225 a person. Eric Allison, the head of Uber's flight business, told the Times that the company plans to eventually offer helicopter rides in other cities... Each helicopter can accommodate five passengers, and like Uber car rides, prices will fluctuate based on demand and other factors.
The Lost History of Sodium Wiring
Long-time Slashddot reader
On the face of it, sodium seems like about the worst thing you could make a wire out of — it oxidizes rapidly in air, releases hot hydrogen gas in water, melts at 97.8 degrees Centigrade, and has virtually no tensile strength. Yet, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Nacon Corporation did just that — producing thousands of kilometers of high-gauge sodium wiring for electrical utilities — and it worked surprisingly well.
While sodium has three times the (volumetric) resistivity of copper and nearly double that of alumium, its incredibly low density gives it a gravimetric resistivity less than a third of copper and half of alumium. Priced similar to alumium per unit resistivity (and much cheaper than copper), limitless, and with almost no environmental impact apart from its production energy consumption, sodium wiring proved to be much more flexible without the fatigue or installation damage risks of alumium. The polyethylene insulation proved to offer sufficient tensile strength on its own to safely pull the wire through conduits, while matching its thermal expansion coefficient. The wiring proved to have tamer responses to both over-current (no insulation burnoff) and over-voltage (high corona inception voltage) scenarios than alumium as well. Meanwhile, "accidental cutting" tests, such as with a backhoe, showed that such events posed no greater danger than cutting copper or alumium cabling. Reliability results in operation were mixed — while few reliability problems were reported with the cables themselves, the low-voltage variety of Nacon cables appeared to have unreliable end connectors, causing some of the cabling to need to be repaired during 13 years of utility-scale testing.
Ultimately, it was economics, not technical factors, that doomed sodium wiring. Lifecycle costs, at 1970s pricing, showed that using sodium wiring was similar to or slightly more expensive for utilities than using alumium. Without an unambiguous and significant economic case to justify taking on the risks of going larger scale, there was a lack of utility interest, and Nacon ceased production.
Why Doesn't the U.S. Build More Earthquake-Proof Buildings?
schwit1 shares a report from the
New York Times flagging America's surprising low usage of an engineering technique protecting buildings from earthquakes:
Chile, China, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Turkey and other countries vulnerable to earthquakes have adopted the technologies to varying degrees. But with notable exceptions, including Apple's new headquarters in Silicon Valley, the innovations have been used only sparingly in the United States. Seismic safety advocates describe this as a missed opportunity to save billions of dollars in reconstruction costs after the inevitable Big One strikes....
The debate over whether to build more resilient buildings in the United States has been held largely out of public view, among engineers and other specialists. But at stake is whether places like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Salt Lake City, San Francisco or Los Angeles might be forced to shut down after a direct hit -- and for how long. A federal study last year found that a quarter of the buildings in the Bay Area would be significantly damaged after a magnitude-7 earthquake, a disaster that would be compounded by the fact that 9 out of every 10 commercial buildings and 8 out of 10 homes in California are not insured for earthquakes. "Cities won't be usable for many months, if not years," said H. Kit Miyamoto, a member of the California Seismic Safety Commission, a government body that advises the state Legislature and the governor on earthquake issues. "Throwaway buildings equal a throwaway city."
In a severe earthquake, most American buildings are designed to crumple like a car in a head-on collision, dissipating the energy of the earthquake through damage. The goal is to preserve lives, but the building -- like a car after an accident -- may be useless. Ron Hamburger, an American structural engineer who is perhaps the leading authority on the building code, estimates that half of all buildings in San Francisco could be deemed unoccupiable immediately after a major earthquake.... Evan Reis, a co-founder of the U.S. Resiliency Council, a nonprofit organization, says the biggest impediment is that unlike in Japan, buildings change hands frequently in America and the developers who build them do not see the incentive in making them more robust. "Short-term thinking is absolutely the biggest villain," Reis said.
The article also points out that California's governor vetoed a bill last year that would've required buidings to be functional after an earthquake.
The Case Against Breaking Up Big Tech Companies
The Street ran a new article arguing that "Breaking Up Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook Is Not the Solution":
The Microsoft anti-trust case twenty years ago showed that judges are reluctant to break up companies even when there are definite signs of market abuse... Technology is a better solution to create competition. Things such as open-source software have made a difference in breaking through technology monopolies. And the third reason is that there are perverse incentives on Wall Street that will always reward winner-take-all scenarios such as that of Amazon, even if they mean massive financial losses for years. An attempt to break up companies or unwind mergers won't cure that impulse on Wall Street that pushes companies to "go big or go home."
Meanwhile, the associate technology editor at Barron's argues that breaking up companies like Google and Facebook "wonâ(TM)t solve the real issues facing tech," arguing that surveillance capitalism "is not an antitrust issue" and that "bigness alone is not a sin."
Microsoft is the reigning market-cap champ, and it has been left out of the discussion this time. By revenues, all four [Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon] pale next to Walmart , but no one wants to break it up. Exxon Mobil has more revenue than the tech giants -- should we break it up? Some of the big-is-bad sentiment reflects societal resistance to change (ah, the good old days) -- and a "revenge of the losers" response from those getting disrupted by digitization.
Will Car-Sharing Apps Revolutionize Transportation?
We're now living in a wrold where customers "can download smartphone apps and rent privately owned cars, usually parked a short walk away in urban areas or residential neighborhoods," reports the Orlando Sentinel, noting that the rates can be as cheap as $5 an hour -- or $400 a day if you want to spend a day driving a Ferrari, Aston Martin or Bentley:
Car-sharing companies say they offer benefits that young users find particularly appealing: Shared cars reduce congestion and parking shortages in cities. They reduce carbon emissions by making fewer cars necessary. They make it easier to live without owning cars. Car-sharing platforms are also easy to use: Your smartphone's GPS will navigate you to where the car is located, then you use the app to activate a remote entry system to get access to the key, or wait for the owner to bring it to you, and you're on the road.
Using a car-sharing app eliminates trips to the airport or in-town car rental agency office. "Skip the Rental Car Counter," beckons the website for Turo, the nation's largest car-sharing platform... Just as Airbnb allows private home owners to generate extra income from short-term rentals, the car-sharing platforms say their apps help car owners cover ownership costs by making their vehicles available for rent when they would otherwise be sitting in a driveway or parking spot.
The article cites two 10-year-old companies, Turo and Getaround, noting both companies "have raised hundreds of millions of dollars from venture capitalists in recent years to finance aggressive expansion efforts."