Officials In Australia's New South Wales Celebrate: 'All Fires Are Now Contained'
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR:
Fire officials in Australia are celebrating a landmark moment, saying that for the first time in what has been a horrendous wildfire season, every fire in hard-hit New South Wales is now under control. Bushfires have destroyed more than 2,400 homes and burned 5.4 million hectares of land -- or about 13.3 million acres -- in the country's most populous state. More than a week of heavy rain has helped fire crews extinguish or control dangerous fires. And while the deluge has created its own problems, such as flooding and mudslides, firefighters welcomed the news that they finally have the upper hand in combating fires and can focus on the recovery process. "After what's been a truly devastating fire season for both firefighters and residents who suffered through so much this season, all fires are now contained in New South Wales, which is great news," NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said in
a video update Thursday. "Not all fires are out," Rogers added, noting that some fires are burning in the state's far south. "But all fires are contained, so we can really focus on helping people rebuild."
Netflix Loses Bid To Dismiss $25 Million Lawsuit Over 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'
On Tuesday, Netflix
lost a bid to escape a lawsuit brought by the trademark owner of "Choose Your Own Adventure" over the 2018 immersive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The series' original publisher, Chooseco, sued the company early last year
for $25 million in damages, as the company says that Netflix's new movie benefits from association with the Choose Your Own Adventure series, without the company ever receiving the trademark. From Hollywood Reporter:
According to the plaintiff, it has been using the mark since the 1980s and has sold more than 265 million copies of its Choose Your Own Adventure books. 20th Century Fox holds options for movie versions, and Chooseco alleges that Netflix actively pursued a license. Instead of getting one, Netflix released Bandersnatch, which allows audiences to select the direction of the plot. Claiming $25 million in damages, Chooseco suggested that Bandersnatch viewers have been confused about association with its famous brand, particularly because of marketing around the movie as well as a scene where the main character -- a video game developer -- tells his father that the work he's developing is based on a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
In reaction to the lawsuit, Netflix raised a First Amendment defense, particularly the balancing test in Rogers v. Grimaldi, whereby unless a work has no artistic relevance, the use of a mark must be misleading for it to be actionable. U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions agrees that Bandersnatch is an artistic work even if Netflix derived profit from exploiting the Charlie Brooker film. And the judge says that use of the trademark has artistic relevance. Thus, the final question is whether Netflix's film is explicitly misleading. Judge Sessions doesn't believe it's appropriate to dismiss the case prematurely without exploring factual issues in discovery. Netflix also attempted to defend its use of "Choose Your Own Adventure" as descriptive fair use. Here, too, the judge believes that factual exploration is appropriate. You can read the full decision
500 Chrome Extensions Secretly Uploaded Private Data From Millions of Users
More than 500 browser extensions downloaded millions of times from Google's Chrome Web Store
surreptitiously uploaded private browsing data to attacker-controlled servers, researchers said on Thursday. Ars Technica reports:
The extensions were part of a long-running malvertising and ad-fraud scheme that was discovered by independent researcher Jamila Kaya. She and researchers from Cisco-owned Duo Security eventually identified 71 Chrome Web Store extensions that had more than 1.7 million installations. After the researchers privately reported their findings to Google, the company identified more than 430 additional extensions. Google has since removed all known extensions. "In the case reported here, the Chrome extension creators had specifically made extensions that obfuscated the underlying advertising functionality from users," Kaya and Duo Security Jacob Rickerd wrote in a report. "This was done in order to connect the browser clients to a command and control architecture, exfiltrate private browsing data without the users' knowledge, expose the user to risk of exploit through advertising streams, and attempt to evade the Chrome Web Store's fraud detection mechanisms."
The extensions were mostly presented as tools that provided various promotion- and advertising-as-a service utilities. In fact, they engaged in ad fraud and malvertising by shuffling infected browsers through a maze of sketchy domains. Each plugin first connected to a domain that used the same name as the plugin (e.g.: Mapstrek[.]com or ArcadeYum[.]com) to check for instructions on whether to uninstall themselves. The plugins then redirected browsers to one of a handful of hard-coded control servers to receive additional instructions, locations to upload data, advertisement feed lists, and domains for future redirects. Infected browsers then uploaded user data, updated plugin configurations, and flowed through a stream of site redirections. The researchers say the campaign dates back to at least January 2019, but it's possible that the operators were active "as early as 2017."
Apple Liable For Millions In Unpaid Wages After Court Rules Retail Worker Bag Checks Illegal
The California Supreme Court in
a decision (PDF) delivered on Thursday found Apple broke state law by not paying retail workers for the time they spent participating in mandatory bag and device searches,
leaving the company liable for millions in unpaid wages. AppleInsider reports:
In a unanimous ruling, the court holds employees were and are in Apple's control during mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, devices and other items. As such, Apple is required to compensate its employees for time spent on the anti-theft program, which in this case allegedly amounted to up to 20 minutes worth hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye notes courts should consider a number of factors when evaluating employer-controlled conduct, including location, degree of employer control, benefit to employees and disciplinary consequences. Applying the logic to the current case, "it is clear that plaintiffs are subject to Apple's control while awaiting, and during, Apple's exit searches. Apple's exit searches are required as a practical matter, occur at the workplace, involve a significant degree of control, are imposed primarily for Apple's benefit, and are enforced through threat of discipline," Cantil-Sakauye writes. Apple's policy demands hourly retail employees submit to a search of personal packages and bags at the end of each shift and when clocking out for meal breaks. The checks are performed off-the-clock, meaning workers do not get paid for the mandatory procedure.
Facebook Dating Launch Blocked In Europe After It Fails To Show Privacy Workings
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch:
Facebook has been left red-faced after being forced to call off the launch date of its dating service in Europe because it failed to give its lead EU data regulator enough advanced warning -- including failing to demonstrate it had performed a legally required assessment of privacy risks. Yesterday, Ireland's Independent.ie newspaper reported that the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) -- using inspection and document seizure powers set out in Section 130 of the country's Data Protection Act -- had sent agents to Facebook's Dublin office seeking documentation that Facebook had failed to provide.
In a statement on its website, the DPC said Facebook first contacted it about the rollout of the dating feature in the EU on February 3. "We were very concerned that this was the first that we'd heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out tomorrow, February 13," the regulator writes. "Our concerns were further compounded by the fact that no information/documentation was provided to us on February 3 in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment [DPIA] or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland." At the time of its U.S. launch, Facebook said dating would arrive in Europe by early 2020. It just didn't think to keep its lead EU privacy regulator in the loop, despite the DPC having multiple (ongoing) investigations into other Facebook-owned products at this stage. A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement: "It's really important that we get the launch of Facebook Dating right so we are taking a bit more time to make sure the product is ready for the European market. We worked carefully to create strong privacy safeguards, and complete the data processing impact assessment ahead of the proposed launch in Europe, which we shared with the IDPC when it was requested."
In a second statement, the Facebook spokesperson added: "We're under no legal obligation to notify the IDPC of product launches. However, as a courtesy to the Office of the Data Protection Commission, who is our lead regulator for data protection in Europe, we proactively informed them of this proposed launch two weeks in advance. We had completed the data processing impact assessment well in advance of the European launch, which we shared with the IDPC when they asked for it."
YouTube Censors Senate Floor Speech With Whistleblower's Name
SonicSpike shares a report from The Hill:
YouTube has removed a video from its platform that shows Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) stating on the Senate floor the name of a person who conservative media have suggested is the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The company, home to millions of hours of video content, said in a statement on Thursday that "videos, comments, and other forms of content that mention the leaked whistleblower's name" violate its community guidelines and will be removed from the site. "We've removed hundreds of videos and over ten thousand comments that contained the name. Video uploaders have the option to edit their videos to exclude the name and reupload," Ivy Choi, a spokesperson, said in the statement, which was first reported by Politico.
The video clip removed by YouTube comes from the Senate impeachment trial, when Paul mentioned a name that has circulated in conservative media as the whistleblower. Paul did so after Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declined to read a question he submitted including that person's name. Paul says he does not know if the name he said on the Senate floor is the whistleblower's or not, but he said it was wrong for his speech to be censored. "It is a chilling and disturbing day in America when giant web companies such as YouTube decide to censure speech," he said in a statement. "Now, even protected speech, such as that of a senator on the Senate floor, can be blocked from getting to the American people. This is dangerous and politically biased. Nowhere in my speech did I accuse anyone of being a whistleblower, nor do I know the whistleblower's identity." Important to note: Federal whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by the
Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). "This law protects federal employees who disclose illegal or improper government activities,"
notes Study.com. "Generally, this means the government can't fire, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or discriminate against a whistleblower."
Qualcomm Makes Case To Appeals Court That It Didn't Hurt Competition
Qualcomm is making the case for
why it didn't hurt competition in the smartphone chip business. "The company, represented by attorney Thomas Goldstein of the firm Goldstein & Russell, on Thursday appeared before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in downtown San Francisco," reports CNET. "Qualcomm is hoping the appeals court will overturn a ruling by a district court judge that
declared it to be a monopoly and ordered it to renegotiate its licensing contracts." From the report:
Qualcomm during the hearing didn't dispute that it has a monopoly in 3G and 4G LTE chips. But it maintains that it didn't wield that power to harm competition. "What has gone wrong in the competitive process?" Goldstein said. "The answer is nothing." He noted that Qualcomm's business practices could be an issue of contract violations but not an antitrust issue. The US Federal Trade Commission, meanwhile, tried to make it clear how Qualcomm's "no license, no chip" policy undercut rivals and caused handset makers to shift business to Qualcomm. Brian Fletcher, an attorney who teaches at Stanford University, spoke for the FTC. He said Qualcomm is making it harder for competitors not because its policies have meant lower chip prices but "because it's demanding customers pay Qualcomm even when they decide to buy from rival suppliers."
The hearing is the latest twist in a legal saga that began three years ago when the FTC accused Qualcomm of operating a monopoly and forcing Apple and other customers to work with it exclusively. The FTC also accused the company of charging excessive licensing fees for its technology. As part of the district court's ruling, Qualcomm must submit compliance and monitoring reports for the next seven years and report to the FTC annually. Thursday's hearing marks Qualcomm's attempt to have that ruling overturned. The three appeals court judges likely won't make a decision for three months to over a year as they weigh the evidence.
Car 'Splatometer' Tests Reveal Huge Decline In Number of Insects
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian:
Two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades. The survey of insects hitting car windscreens in rural Denmark used data collected every summer from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance. It also found a parallel decline in the number of swallows and martins, birds that live on insects.
The second survey, in the UK county of Kent in 2019, examined splats in a grid placed over car registration plates, known as a "splatometer." This revealed 50% fewer impacts than in 2004. The research included vintage cars up to 70 years old to see if their less aerodynamic shape meant they killed more bugs, but it found that modern cars actually hit slightly more insects. [...] The stream research, published in the journal Conservation Biology, analyzed weekly data from 1969 to 2010 on a stream in a German nature reserve, where the only major human impact is climate change. "Overall, water temperature increased by 1.88C and discharge patterns changed significantly. These changes were accompanied by an 81.6% decline in insect abundance," the scientists reported. "Our results indicate that climate change has already altered [wildlife] communities severely, even in protected areas."
Google's Area 120 Brings Quick Web Games To Slow Phones
Google is countering Facebook's Instant Games with its own bid to make web games more accessible. Its Area 120 experimental lab is introducing GameSnacks, HTML5-based casual games that are designed to
load quickly and play well even on poor connections and basic smartphones. From a report:
The combination of a lean initial web page, compressed media and just-in-time loading means you can start playing within just a few seconds, even on a phone with less than a 1Mbps connection (all too common in the world) and just 1GB of RAM. All titles work with both touch as well as a PC's mouse and keyboard, and are designed to run on virtually any platform and device. Like many casual games, they're designed to be playable with a minimum of instructions -- important when they're meant to reach people across many different languages. Some are not-so-subtle riffs on familiar titles like Puzzle Bobble and Tetris, but that's probably not a bad thing for gamers who otherwise couldn't play those games on their phones.
Robot Analysts Outwit Humans on Investment Picks, Study Shows
They beat us at chess and trivia, supplant jobs by the thousands, and are about to be let loose on highways and roads as chauffeurs and couriers. Now, fresh signs of robot supremacy are emerging on Wall Street in the
form of machine stock analysts that make more profitable investment choices than humans. From a report:
At least, that's the upshot of one of the first studies of the subject, whose preliminary results were released in January. Buy recommendations peddled by robo-analysts, which supposedly mimic what traditional equity research departments do but faster and at lower costs, outperform their flesh-and-blood counterparts over the long run, according to Indiana University professors.
"Using this type of technology to make investment recommendations or to conduct investment analyses is going to become increasingly important," Kenneth Merkley, an associate professor of accounting and one of the authors, said by phone. Whether getting stock calls right is a critical mission of human analysts is debatable. Wall Street research departments serve a variety of functions, among them connecting investors with company executives and gathering earnings and other corporate data. While their buy, sell and hold recommendations still garner attention and can move stocks, the number of clients premising investment decisions off them is probably limited. The study looked at a small and still largely experimental branch of fintech, firms founded on the premise that digital technology does a better job than humans in making equity recommendations. While all analysts use computers, a handful of start-ups has been seeing if programs can handle every aspect of the stock-picking process.
Why Poor People Make Poor Decisions
An anonymous reader
shares a report:
[...] The most significant improvement was in how the money helped parents, well, to parent. Before the casino opened its doors, parents worked hard through the summer but were often jobless and stressed in the winter. The new income enabled Cherokee families to put money aside and to pay bills in advance. Parents who were lifted out of poverty now reported having more time for their children. They weren't working any less though, Costello discovered. Mothers and fathers alike were putting in just as many hours as before the casino opened.
More than anything, said tribe member Vickie L Bradley, the money helped ease the pressure on families, so the energy they'd spent worrying about money was now freed up for their children. And as Bradley put it, that "helps parents be better parents." What, then, is the cause of mental health problems among poorer people? Nature or culture? Costello's conclusion was both: the stress of poverty puts people genetically predisposed to develop an illness or disorder at an elevated risk. But there's a more important takeaway from this study.
Judge Temporarily Blocks Microsoft Pentagon Cloud Contract After Amazon Suit
A judge ordered Thursday
a temporary block on the JEDI cloud contract in response to a suit filed by Amazon. From a report:
A court notice announcing the injunction was filed on Thursday, but wasn't public. It's unclear why the documents were sealed. In April, the Defense Department announced that Amazon and Microsoft were the two finalists to provide the contract, ruling out other contenders like IBM and Oracle. Then in July, President Donald Trump said he was looking into the contract after IBM and other companies protested the bidding process. Microsoft was awarded the contract on Oct. 25. Amazon has been protesting the move, saying that it was driven in part by President Trump's bias against the company. Trump often criticizes Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, claiming the newspaper unfairly covers his administration. Last month, Amazon's cloud-computing arm AWS filed a formal motion asking the court to pause Microsoft's work on the JEDI cloud contract, claiming the evaluation process included "clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias." The court granted that motion on Thursday.
The U.S. is Charging Huawei With Racketeering
Ratcheting up its pressure campaign against Huawei and its affiliates, the Department of Justice and the FBI announced today that it has
brought 16 charges against Huawei in a sprawling case with major geopolitical implications. From a report:
Huawei is being charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute. The DoJ alleges that Huawei and a number of its affiliates used confidential agreements with American companies to access those companies' intellectual property, only to then misappropriate that property and use it to fund Huawei's business. In addition to conspiracy, Huawei and the defendants are charged with lying to federal investigators and obstructing the investigation into the company's activity. According to the statement published by the Department of Justice, "As part of the scheme, Huawei allegedly launched a policy instituting a bonus program to reward employees who obtained confidential information from competitors. The policy made clear that employees who provided valuable information were to be financially rewarded."
An Old Android Virus is Reinstalling Itself Even After Factory Resets
A particularly persistent malware infection has been spreading amongst Android phones -- and
removing it only seems to bring it back with a vengeance. From a report:
The Trojan xHelper, which Malwarebytes first wrote about last year, is reportedly re-spawning on devices where it's already been removed. If virus-removal software doesn't take care of a nasty infection, a hard reset will usually do the trick. But users report that even a full factory reset of an infected device doesn't wipe xHelper out completely. Within an hour the malware is usually back and ready to wreak havoc. Here's
how to remove it.
A New Senate Bill Would Create a US Data Protection Agency
Europe's data protection laws are some of the strictest in the world, and have long been a thorn in the side of the data-guzzling Silicon Valley tech giants since they colonized vast swathes of the internet. Two decades later, one Democratic senator
wants to bring many of those concepts to the United States. From a report:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has published a bill which, if passed, would create a U.S. federal data protection agency designed to protect the privacy of Americans and with the authority to enforce data practices across the country. The bill, which Gillibrand calls the Data Protection Act, will address a "growing data privacy crisis" in the U.S., the senator said. The U.S. is one of only a few countries without a data protection law (along with Venezuela, Libya, Sudan and Syria). Gillibrand said the U.S. is "vastly behind" other countries on data protection. Gillibrand said a new data protection agency would "create and meaningfully enforce" data protection and privacy rights federally. "The data privacy space remains a complete and total Wild West, and that is a huge problem," the senator said.
MIT Researchers Disclose Vulnerabilities in Voatz Mobile Voting Election App
Academics from MIT's computer science laboratory have published a security audit today of Voatz, a mobile app used for online voting during the 2018 US midterm elections and scheduled to be used again in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. From a report:
MIT academics claim they identified bugs that could allow hackers to "alter, stop, or expose how an individual user has voted." "We additionally find that Voatz has a number of privacy issues stemming from their use of third party services for crucial app functionality," the research team said in a technical paper released today. "Our findings serve as a concrete illustration of the common wisdom against Internet voting, and of the importance of transparency to the legitimacy of elections," researchers added. MIT academics urge states to continue using paper ballots rather than mobile apps that transmit votes over the internet. They say the current paper ballot voting system is designed to be transparent, and allow citizens and political parties to observe the voting process. "Voatz's app and infrastructure were completely closed-source," said James Koppel, one of the MIT academics.
Analysis Shows Andrew Yang Was Snubbed By Mainstream Media in its Coverage
writing for Vocal:
Back in June of 2019, I tweeted about the latest egregious example of MSNBC excluding Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang from their ongoing coverage of the 2020 Presidential candidates. There had been previous examples, but that was the worst up to that point because they had photos of all 20 candidates who were going to be in the first debates, and instead of including Yang as one of them, they included someone who wasn't even going to be there. I then started to add each new example as a new reply, and that ongoing thread has now been covered over and over again with each new example as a source of entertaining absurdity. It's been covered by traditional media outlets like The Guardian, Vox, and The Hill. It's also been covered by new media like Ethan and Hila Klein of the H3 Podcast for their two million subscribers. I have gotten many requests to put the entire thread in one place outside of Twitter, so this article has been created to meet that request. Each time a new example occurs, I will update the thread on Twitter, and update this page on Vocal too. I have also made a point here of expanding on the thread in a way I can't on Twitter, by expanding the timeline with earlier examples that had occurred before I started my thread. So instead of starting in June, this timeline starts back in March.
Let's Get Real About How Important Our Phones Are
three flagship smartphones earlier this week. The phones pack the most powerful processor in any Android smartphone, boast an impressive set of camera sensors and offer a range of other features. Commenting on the new phones, a
Washington Post columnist
writes: "And with prices ranging from $1,000 to $1,400, either one is hard to justify as much more than a luxury." John Gruber of
This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple's phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that's outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is "hard to justify"? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary -- usually only -- camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600.
There are way more people on the planet who'd rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around. But you'll never see a tech reviewer claim that $1,000-1,400 is "hard to justify" for a laptop. It's ridiculously out of touch to argue otherwise. And, the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices.
Broadcom Announces BCM4389 Wi-Fi 6E Client Chipset
The Wi-Fi Alliance announced the new Wi-Fi 6E terminology for 802.11ax operation in the 6 GHz band last month. At CES 2020, Broadcom announced a number of Wi-Fi 6E access point solutions. Today, Broadcom is
announcing the BCM4389 client Wi-Fi 6E chipset. From a report:
Consumers can expect to see the chipset in the next generation of high-end smartphones. We have already covered the advantages of Wi-Fi 6E in terms of lower latency, higher throughput, and the availability of more number of 160 MHz channels in our coverage of the Wi-Fi Alliance announcement at CES. The BCM4389 builds upon Broadcom's success with the BCM4375, which happens to be the currently leading client Wi-Fi 6 chipset in the smartphone market. In addition to the new 6 GHz support with tri-band simultaneous operation and 160 MHz channel support, the BCM4389 also brings in additional power efficiency, thanks to its 16nm process technology and architectural improvements.
The BCM4375 is a 28nm chipset with 2x2 2.4 GHz and 2x2 5 GHz support, while the new BCM4389 adds 2x2 6 GHz to the mix. The scanning radio accounts for the additional radio chain. The Bluetooth 5.0 functionality has also received a boost with MIMO support. Broadcom claims that the new implementation can reduce pairing time by a factor of 2 and also alleviate glitching issues when connected to Wi-Fi at the same time (compared to the BCM4375). The icing on the cake is that the MIMO support works with implicit beamforming ensuring that legacy Bluetooth devices stand to benefit too.
Facebook Dating Launch Blocked in Europe After it Fails To Show Privacy Workings
Facebook has been left red-faced after being
forced to call off the launch date of its dating service in Europe because it failed to give its lead EU data regulator enough advanced warning -- including failing to demonstrate it had performed a legally required assessment of privacy risks. From a report:
Late yesterday Ireland's Independent.ie newspaper reported that the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) had sent agents to Facebook's Dublin office seeking documentation that Facebook had failed to provide -- using inspection and document seizure powers set out in Section 130 of the country's Data Protection Act. In a statement on its website the DPC said Facebook first contacted it about the rollout of the dating feature in the EU on February 3. "We were very concerned that this was the first that we'd heard from Facebook Ireland about this new feature, considering that it was their intention to roll it out tomorrow, 13 February," the regulator writes. "Our concerns were further compounded by the fact that no information/documentation was provided to us on 3 February in relation to the Data Protection Impact Assessment [DPIA] or the decision-making processes that were undertaken by Facebook Ireland." Facebook announced its plan to get into the dating game all the way back in May 2018, trailing its Tinder-encroaching idea to bake a dating feature for non-friends into its social network at its F8 developer conference.
Steam: Virtual Reality's Biggest-Ever Jump In Users Happened Last Month
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Valve's gaming marketplace Steam includes an opt-in hardware survey feature, and the results are published as percentages of surveyed users on a monthly basis. You'll find all kinds of data about Steam-connected computers every month, and this includes operating systems, video cards, VR systems, and more. In the latter case, that figure is counted out of all Steam users -- as opposed to a less-helpful stat like "70 percent of VR fans prefer Product A, 30 percent Product B." We were intrigued (but not surprised) to see a jump in connected VR devices for the reported month of December 2019. That's the holiday season, after all, and it's reasonable to expect Santa's deliveries of headsets to affect data.
What surprised us was the continued growth of that metric through the following month -- and a statistically significant one, at that. The latest survey, taken during January 2020, says that 1.31 percent of all surveyed Steam users own a VR system, up from 1.09 percent the month prior. By pure percentage points, this is the largest one-month jump in pure percentage since Valve began tracking VR use in 2016 -- by a long shot. (For perspective, the same survey indicated that 0.9 percent of Steam computers run on Linux, while 3.0 percent use MacOS or OSX.) Based on Valve's conservative January 2019 estimate of
90 million "monthly active users," Ars Technica estimates there are "1.17 million PC-VR users connecting to Steam."
"Drawing an exponential trend line of Steam's MAU between August 2017 and January 2019 would get us closer to a count of 1.6 million active VR hardware owners on Steam, and that doesn't include any estimate of Steam-ignorant Oculus users. However you slice it, the juiciest detail can't be argued: a 20.2% jump within a major PC-VR ecosystem in 30 days."
Apple's Mac Computers Now Outpace Windows In Malware
According to cybersecurity software company Malwarebytes' latest
State of Malware report, the amount of malware on Macs is
outpacing PCs for the first time ever. Recode reports:
Windows machines still dominate the market share and tend to have more security vulnerabilities, which has for years made them the bigger and easier target for hackers. But as Apple's computers have grown in popularity, hackers appear to be focusing more of their attention on the versions of macOS that power them. Malwarebytes said there was a 400 percent increase in threats on Mac devices from 2018 to 2019, and found an average of 11 threats per Mac devices, which about twice the 5.8 average on Windows.
Now, this isn't quite as bad as it may appear. First of all, as Malwarebytes notes, the increase in threats could be attributable to an increase in Mac devices running its software. That makes the per-device statistic a better barometer. In 2018, there were 4.8 threats per Mac device, which means the per-device number has more than doubled. That's not great, but it's not as bad as that 400 percent increase. Also, the report says, the types of threats differ between operating systems. While Windows devices were more prone to "traditional"; malware, the top 10 Mac threats were adware and what are known as "potentially unwanted programs."
Understanding the Impact of Satellite Constellations On Astronomy
In June 2019, the International Astronomical Union expressed concern about the negative impact that the planned mega-constellations of communication satellites may have on astronomical observations and on the pristine appearance of the night sky when observed from a dark region. Now IAU presents a summary of the current understanding of the impact of these satellite constellations, and considers the consequences of satellite constellations worrisome. They will have a negative impact on the progress of ground-based astronomy, radio, optical and infrared, and will require diverting human and financial resources from basic research to studying and implementing mitigating measures. The IAU notes that currently there are no internationally agreed rules or guidelines on the brightness of orbiting manmade objects.
Given the increasing relevancy of the topic, the IAU "will regularly present its findings at the meetings of the UN Committee for Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (
COPUOS), bringing the attention of the world Government representatives to the threats posed by any new space initiative on astronomy and science in general."