2 Billion Phones Cannot Use Google and Apple Contact-Tracing Tech
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
As many as a billion mobile phone owners around the world will be unable to use the smartphone-based system proposed by Apple and Google to track whether they have come into contact with people infected with the coronavirus, industry researchers estimate. The figure includes many poorer and older people -- who are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 -- demonstrating a "digital divide" within a system that the two tech firms have designed to reach the largest possible number of people while also protecting individuals' privacy.
The particular kind of Bluetooth "low energy" chips that are used to detect proximity between devices without running down the phone's battery are absent from a quarter of smartphones in active use globally today, according to analysts at Counterpoint Research. A further 1.5 billion people still use basic or "feature" phones that do not run iOS or Android at all. "In all, close to 2 billion [mobile users] will not be benefiting from this initiative globally," said Neil Shah, analyst at Counterpoint. "And most of these users with the incompatible devices hail from the lower-income segment or from the senior segment which actually are more vulnerable to the virus." Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, estimates that only around two-thirds of adults would have a compatible phone. "And that's the UK, which is an extremely advanced smartphone market," he said. "In India, you could have 60-70 percent of the population that is ruled out immediately."
The report adds: "Counterpoint Research is more optimistic, estimating that 88 percent compatibility in developed markets such as the US, UK, and Japan, while about half of people in India would own the necessary handset."
Whole Foods Is Reportedly Using a Heat Map To Track Stores At Risk of Unionization
According to Business Insider, Amazon-owned Whole Foods is
tracking and scoring stores it deems at risk of unionizing through an interactive heat map. From the report:
The heat map is powered by an elaborate scoring system, which assigns a rating to each of Whole Foods' 510 stores based on the likelihood that their employees might form or join a union. The stores' individual risk scores are calculated from more than two dozen metrics, including employee "loyalty," turnover, and racial diversity; "tipline" calls to human resources; proximity to a union office; and violations recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The map also tracks local economic and demographic factors such as the unemployment rate in a store's location and the percentage of families in the area living below the poverty line.
The stores' scores on each metric are fed into the heat map, which is a geographic illustration of the United States peppered with red spots to indicate high-risk Whole Foods stores. The heat map reveals how Whole Foods is using technology and data to help manage its vast workforce of more than 95,000 employees. It also provides a rare look into corporate labor-tracking activities, a common practice among large companies but one rarely discussed publicly. In a statement provided to Business Insider, the company said an "overwhelming majority" of its employees prefer a "direct relationship" with the company over union representation. "Whole Foods Market recognizes the rights of our Team Members to decide whether union representation is right for them," the company said. "We agree with the overwhelming majority of our Team Members that a direct relationship with Whole Foods Market and its leadership, where Team Members have open lines of communication and every individual is empowered to share feedback directly with their team leaders, is best."
"Our open-door communication policy allows us to understand and quickly respond to the needs of our workforce, while recognizing, rewarding, and supporting the goals of every member of our team," the statement continued. "At Whole Foods Market, we're committed to treating all of our Team Members fairly, creating a safe, inclusive, and empowering working environment, and providing our Team Members with career advancement opportunities, great benefits, and competitive compensation, including an industry-leading starting minimum wage of $15/hour."
Alibaba To Invest $28 Billion In Cloud Services After Coronavirus Boosted Demand
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba said it
will invest $28 billion in its cloud infrastructure over three years -- "a plan that follows a boom in demand for business software as the coronavirus outbreak peaked in China," reports Reuters. From the report:
The company said in a statement it will spend the funds on semiconductor and operating system development as well as building out its data centre infrastructure. While most of China's white collar employees were working from home throughout February, the country's dominant cloud player saw usage surge for its software, most notably DingTalk, a workplace chat app used by both businesses and schools. At one point, users complained of lags on the app due to the high volume of activity. The company acknowledged the issues on Weibo, the Chinese social networking site. Alibaba Cloud Intelligence president Jeff Zhang said in the statement that the COVID-19 pandemic "has posed additional stress on the overall economy across sectors" and the company hoped the investment would help businesses "speed up the recovery process."
Facebook's New Gaming App Launches on Android, With iOS Version Coming Soon
dedicated Gaming app is now live on Android, months before its planned June release. From a report:
The social media giant pushed the app out two months prior to its scheduled unveiling amid a global pandemic that's left people all over the world isolated at home, rapidly burning through entertainment options. The New York Times announced the upcoming release in an exclusive over the weekend, noting that Facebook's massive gaming investment has culminated in more 700 million of the sites's 2.5 billion users actively playing games through the platform monthly. The launch of a devoted app is a clear next step for content that has, until now, been the domain of the site's Gaming tab. Social engagement is the focus for the app (naturally), which will be getting an iOS version at some point in the near future (pending Apple approval).
Huawei Caught Passing Off DSLR Photos As Being Taken With Smartphones
Huawei was recently
caught passing off photos taken with a DSLR as ones shot with one of its phones. PhoneDog reports:
Earlier this month, Huawei kicked off a contest for its Next Image community, and a video on Weibo included several high-quality photos and at the end said they were "taken with Huawei smartphones." As South China Morning Post notes, though, Weibo user Jamie-hua found that some of those photos were actually taken with a $3,500 Nikon D850 DSLR camera. The photos were found on 500px, an online photography site, and were taken by photographer Su Tie.
Huawei has since apologized and said that the photos were incorrectly marked due to "an oversight by the editor." The company has also updated its original promo video for the contest to remove the claim that the images were taken with Huawei phones. This isn't the first time something like this has happened to Huawei. In 2018, an ad appeared to show that a selfie was taken with the Huawei Nova 3, but it
was actually snapped with a DSLR.
A North Dakota Utility Wants To Build the World's Largest Carbon Capture Facility At a Power Plant
An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum:
The Milton R. Young Station, close to the town of Center in North Dakota, is as unremarkable as coal-fired power plants come. But if its owner Minnkota Power Cooperative has its way, the plant could soon be famous the world over. The Grand Forks-based electric cooperative has launched Project Tundra, an initiative to build the largest power plant-based carbon capture facility in the world, with construction commencing as early as 2022. If Minnkota Power raises the US $1 billion the project requires, it plans to retrofit the station with technology the cooperative claims will capture more than 90 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the plant's larger generator, a 455-megawatt unit. The effect will be the equivalent of taking 600,000 gasoline-fueled cars off the road.
To sequester CO2 from the Young station, Project Tundra will make use of technology similar to that employed at the only two other existing carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities operating at power plants in the world -- Petra Nova in Texas and Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan, Canada. The CO2-removal process begins by passing the flue gas through a scrubber to remove impurities and lower its temperature. The gas then enters an absorber, which contains a liquid-based amine solution that binds to CO2. Heat is applied to release the gas from the amines and the extracted CO2 is then compressed. Project Tundra plans to pump the liquid CO2 into sandstone rocks that lie just over a mile beneath the nearby lignite coal mine, where it will be stored permanently.
Executive Order Allows Couples in New York To Get Married via Video Conference
New Yorkers looking to tie the knot while the state is under lockdown now have the
option of getting married via video conference. From a report:
During his daily coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday he is issuing an executive order that will allow clerks to perform marriage services over video conferencing software. Cuomo also stated couples in the state will now be able to obtain marriage licenses remotely. As CBS New York reports, the executive order temporarily suspends a provision of the law that requires in-person visits. The announcement was met with considerable push back, however. "The action that has caused me the most amount of grief is what I said about marriages," Cuomo said during his Sunday presser. "I said yesterday no one has any excuses anymore."
Devs Might Be Able To Write Software On iPad, iPhone With Xcode For iOS
macOS and iOS software developers
will soon be able to code on an iPad or even iPhone, if an unconfirmed report is correct. iPadOS 14 and the iPhone equivalent will reportedly include support for Xcode, Apple's software development environment. Cult of Mac reports:
This report comes from Jon Prosser, founder of YouTube channel Front Page Tech, who recently correctly predicted the launch date of the 2020 iPhone SE. On Monday, Prosser said via Twitter "XCode is present on iOS / iPad OS 14. The implications there are HUGE." Whenever anyone suggests that iPads have become as powerful as MacBooks, someone always asks, "Does it do Xcode?" The implication is that iPads are just toys -- only Macs are real computers. But if Prosser is correct, then devs will be able to use iPad or Mac, whichever they prefer. This is part of Apple steadily upgrading the capabilities of its tablets over years, especially the iPad Pro line. These now have USB-C ports, support for accessing external media, mouse support, etc. And top-tier iPad processors as powerful as Apple laptops.
China Rolls Out Pilot Test of Digital Currency
China's central bank has
introduced a homegrown digital currency across four cities as part of a pilot program, marking a milestone on the path toward the first electronic payment system by a major central bank. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Internal tests of the digital currency are being conducted in four large cities around China -- Shenzhen, Suzhou, Chengdu and Xiong'an, a satellite city of Beijing -- to improve the currency's functionality, the digital currency research institute under the People's Bank of China confirmed Monday, in response to a request for comment. Chinese domestic and state-run media outlets reported on the trials over the weekend. The trials followed years of research by the central bank dating back to 2014.
The new currency, which doesn't have an official name but is known by its internal shorthand "DC/EP," or "digital currency/electronic payment," will share some features with cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and Facebook Inc.'s Libra, PBOC officials have said. While it won't boast the anonymity that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies tout, China's central bankers have vowed to protect users' privacy. The intention, China's central bankers have said, is to replace some of China's monetary base, or cash in circulation. It won't replace other parts of the country's money supply, such as bank deposits and balances held by privately-run payment platforms, Yi Gang, the governor of China's central bank, said last year.
In Xiangcheng, a district in the eastern city of Suzhou, the government will start paying civil servants half of their transport subsidy in the digital currency next month as part of the city's test run, according to a government worker with direct knowledge of the matter. Government workers were told to begin installing an app on their smartphones this month into which the digital currency would be transferred, the worker said. Civil servants were told that the new currency could be transferred into their existing bank accounts, or used directly for transactions at some designated merchants, the person said.
Facebook Will Ban Protests That Defy Government 'Guidance' On Distancing
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
A Facebook spokesperson told Motherboard over the weekend that the social network would allow protest events as long as they do not fall afoul of government guidance on social distancing, but will ban ones that do. "Unless the government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook," the spokesperson wrote in an email. "For this same reason, events that defy government's guidance on social distance aren't allowed on Facebook. "
According to a Facebook statement to the Washington Post, the company has removed protest events both in New Jersey and California. Facebook typically follows the law in whatever jurisdiction it happens to be operating within, which has led to numerous problems with moderating a global platform, but this has always been subject to change based on the social network's whims and priorities. For example, when the company was found to have violated the law in Canada, it simply said that it did not agree, and nothing happened. Now that Facebook appears to be deferring to government "guidance" during an unparalleled crisis with many fractured viewpoints, coronavirus is becoming yet another quagmire for the company.
Surface Go 2, Featuring Larger 10.5-inch Display and Thinner Bezels, To Launch Next Month
Microsoft's Surface Go 2 is right around the corner. While nothing is set in stone,
Windows Central reported Monday that the
product could be announced sometime in May. From a report:
Thanks to leaked benchmarks, which I've been able to confirm via my own sources, we already know everything about the CPU, RAM, and storage options inside the Surface Go 2. But what about any external hardware changes? According to sources familiar with the matter, I'm told that Surface Go 2 will feature a larger 10.5-inch display without increasing the overall size of the device. Its exterior chassis will be identical to the original Surface Go, including dimensions and placement of the ports. That means keyboards and accessories designed for the 2018 Surface Go will work just fine on the Surface Go 2 as well.
Will Comic Books Survive Coronavirus?
As Marvel cuts staff and publishers stop selling new titles, artists,
shop owners and writers worry for the future of an industry worth billions. From a report:
There are no new comic books. Steve Geppi, head of Diamond Comic Distributors, which distributes nearly every comic sold in the anglophone world (or used to), announced this on 23 March, though senior industry figures already knew what was coming. The coronavirus pandemic had sunk retailers deep into the red. They couldn't pay their bills to Diamond or rent to their landlords, because they hadn't made any sales. "Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of 1 April or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice," Geppi wrote. If shops can't pay Diamond, Diamond can't pay the industry's constellation of comics publishers, who then can't pay artists, writers, editors and printers, who now can't pay their rent or credit card bills -- or buy comics.
Sales of comics, graphic novels and collectibles distributed by Diamond were $529.7m in 2019 -- a huge number which suggests that a months-long gap between issues of Batman, Captain America and Spawn will stretch into tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. (Though Diamond plans to start shipping comics to shops again on 17 May, many around the world will still be in lockdown then.) The unprecedented situation has encouraged many acts of kindness, by individuals and companies. In solidarity with the shops relying on physical sales, most publishers are not currently selling new comics digitally. And dozens of artists and writers are auctioning off books and art to benefit others; DC artist Jim Lee is sketching a superhero pinup every day for two months, selling them for thousands on eBay to benefit comics shops.
Walmart is Selling Its On-demand Video Service Vudu To Fandango
Movie ticketing company Fandango has
agreed to buy Walmart's on-demand video streaming service, Vudu, for an undisclosed sum. From a report:
The video service today reaches over 100 million living room devices across the U.S. including smart TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, and other over-the-top streaming devices, as well as Windows 10 and Mac computers, and iOS and Android mobile devices. To date, the Vudu app on mobile has been installed over 14.5 million times. As a part of the agreement, Vudu will continue to power Walmart's digital movie and TV store on Walmart.com. In addition, Walmart says Vudu customers will have uninterrupted access to their Vudu library. They'll also continue to be able to use their Walmart login as well as their Walmart wallet to make purchases on Vudu, the retailer notes.
Oil Plunges Below Zero for First Time With May Contract Ending
Oil futures collapsed to
below zero for the first time ever as the deepening economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus crisis left traders desperate to avoid taking delivery of physical crude. From a report:
In an unprecedented day of trading, the price for the May contracts wiped out all value, breaking every low for oil prices since 1946. The exchange where WTI futures trade said the contract would be allowed to price below zero. The extreme move showed just how oversupplied the U.S. oil market has become with industrial and economic activity grinding to a halt as governments around the globe extend shutdowns due to the swift spread of the coronavirus. An unprecedented output deal by OPEC and allied members a week ago to curb supply is proving too little too late in the face a one-third collapse in global demand. On Monday, a technical oddity exacerbated the price plunge as traders fled the May futures contract ahead of its expiration tomorrow. The following month's contract fell 12% to $22.05 a barrel, making the spread between the two months blow out more than $20.
There's Nowhere to Put the Oil.
267 Million Facebook Profiles Being Sold For $600 On Dark Web
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Threat actors are selling over 267 million Facebook profiles for $623 on dark web sites and hacker forums. While none of these records include passwords, they do contain information that could allow attackers to perform spear phishing or SMS attacks to steal credentials. Last month, security researcher Bob Diachenko discovered an open Elasticsearch database that contained a little over 267 million Facebook records, with most being users from the United States. For many of these records, they contained a user's full name, their phone number, and a unique Facebook ID. The ISP hosting the database eventually took the server offline after being contacted by Diachenko.
You Can Now Check If Your ISP Uses Basic Security Measures
"Is BGP Safe Yet" is a new site that names and shames internet service providers that don't tend to their routing. From a report:
For more than an hour at the beginning of April, major sites like Google and Facebook sputtered for large swaths of people. The culprit wasn't a hack or a bug. It was problems with the internet data routing standard known as the Border Gateway Protocol, which had allowed significant amounts of web traffic to take an unexpected detour through a Russian telecom. For Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, it was the last straw. BGP disruptions happen frequently, generally by accident. But BGP can also be hijacked for large-scale spying, data interception, or as a sort of denial of service attack.
[...] On Friday, the company launched Is BGP Safe Yetâ, a site that makes it easier for anyone to check whether their internet service provider has added the security protections and filters that can make BGP more stable. Those improvements are most effective with wide adoption from ISPs, content delivery networks like Cloudflare, and other cloud providers. Cloudflare estimates that so far about half of the internet is more protected thanks to heavy hitters like AT&T, the Swedish telecom Telia, and the Japanese telecom NTT adopting BGP improvements. And while Cloudflare says it doesn't seem like the Rostelecom incident was intentional or malicious, Russian telecoms do have a history of suspicious BGP meddling, and similar problems will keep cropping up until the whole industry is on board.
Cognizant Confirms Maze Ransomware Attack, Says Customers Face Disruption
Cognizant, one of the largest tech and consulting companies in the Fortune 500, has confirmed it
was hit by a ransomware attack. From a report:
Details remain slim besides a brief statement on its site, confirming the incident. "Cognizant can confirm that a security incident involving our internal systems, and causing service disruptions for some of our clients, is the result of a Maze ransomware attack," the statement read. "Our internal security teams, supplemented by leading cyber defense firms, are actively taking steps to contain this incident." The New Jersey-headquartered IT giant said it was engaging with the law enforcement.
The company, which offers a range of services including IT consultation to clients in more than 80 countries, posted $16.8 billion in revenue last year. The decades-old firm also maintains a business agreement with Facebook to help the social giant moderate content on its platform. Cognizant employs about 290,000 people, most of whom live in India. Maze is not like typical data-encrypting ransomware. Maze not only spreads across a network, infecting and encrypting every computer in its path, it also exfiltrates the data to the attackers' servers where it is held for ransom.
Rich Americans Activate Pandemic Escape Plans
As coronavirus infections tore across the U.S. in early March, a Silicon Valley executive called the survival shelter manufacturer Rising S Co. He wanted to know how to
open the secret door to his multimillion-dollar bunker 11 feet underground in New Zealand. From a report:
The tech chief had never used the bunker and couldn't remember how to unlock it, said Gary Lynch, general manager of Texas-based Rising S Co. "He wanted to verify the combination for the door and was asking questions about the power and the hot water heater and whether he needed to take extra water or air filters," Lynch said. The businessman runs a company in the Bay Area but lives in New York, which was fast becoming the world's coronavirus epicenter. "He went out to New Zealand to escape everything that's happening," Lynch said, declining to identify the bunker owner because he keeps his client lists private. "And as far as I know, he's still there."
For years, New Zealand has featured prominently in the doomsday survival plans of wealthy Americans worried that, say, a killer germ might paralyze the world. Isolated at the edge of the earth, more than 1,000 miles off the southern coast of Australia, New Zealand is home to about 4.9 million people, about a fifth as many as the New York metro area. The clean, green, island nation is known for its natural beauty, laid-back politicians and premier health facilities. In recent weeks, the country has been lauded for its response to the pandemic. It enforced a four-week lockdown early, and today has more recoveries than cases. Only 12 people have died from the disease. The U.S. death toll stands at more than 39,000, meaning that country's death rate per capita is about 50 times higher.
The underground global shelter network Vivos already has installed a 300-person bunker in the South Island, north of Christchurch, said Robert Vicino, the founder of the California-based company. He's fielded two calls in the past week from prospective clients eager to build additional shelters on the island. In the U.S., two dozen families have moved into a 5,000-person Vivos shelter in South Dakota, he said, where they're occupying a bunker on a former military base that's about three-quarters the size of Manhattan. Vivos has also built an 80-person bunker in Indiana, and is developing a 1000-person shelter in Germany. Rising S Co. has planted about 10 private bunkers in New Zealand over the past several years. The average cost is $3 million for a shelter weighing about 150 tons, but it can easily go as high as $8 million with additional features like luxury bathrooms, game rooms, shooting ranges, gyms, theaters and surgical beds.
Zoom's Security Woes Were No Secret to Business Partners Like Dropbox
Dropbox privately paid top hackers to find bugs in software by the videoconferencing company Zoom,
then pressed it to fix them. From a report:
One year ago, two Australian hackers found themselves on an eight-hour flight to Singapore to attend a live hacking competition sponsored by Dropbox. At 30,000 feet, with nothing but a slow internet connection, they decided to get a head start by hacking Zoom, a videoconferencing service that they knew was used by many Dropbox employees. The hackers soon uncovered a major security vulnerability in Zoom's software that could have allowed attackers to covertly control certain users' Mac computers. It was precisely the type of bug that security engineers at Dropbox had come to dread from Zoom, according to three former Dropbox engineers.
Now Zoom's videoconferencing service has become the preferred communications platform for hundreds of millions of people sheltering at home, and reports of its privacy and security troubles have proliferated. Zoom's defenders, including big-name Silicon Valley venture capitalists, say the onslaught of criticism is unfair. They argue that Zoom, originally designed for businesses, could not have anticipated a pandemic that would send legions of consumers flocking to its service in the span of a few weeks and using it for purposes -- like elementary school classes and family celebrations -- for which it was never intended.
[...] The former Dropbox engineers, however, say Zoom's current woes can be traced back two years or more, and they argue that the company's failure to overhaul its security practices back then put its business clients at risk. Dropbox grew so concerned that vulnerabilities in the videoconferencing system might compromise its own corporate security that the file-hosting giant took on the unusual step of policing Zoom's security practices itself, according to the former engineers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss their work. As part of a novel security assessment program for its vendors and partners, Dropbox in 2018 began privately offering rewards to top hackers to find holes in Zoom's software code and that of a few other companies. The former Dropbox engineers said they were stunned by the volume and severity of the security flaws that hackers discovered in Zoom's code -- and troubled by Zoom's slowness in fixing them.
Hackers Steal $25 Million Worth of Cryptocurrency From Uniswap and LendfMe
stolen more than $25 million in cryptocurrency from the Uniswap exchange and the Lendf.me lending platform. From a report:
The attacks took place over the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Although an investigation is currently underway, the two attacks are believed to be related, and most likely carried out by the same group or individual. According to investigators, hackers appear to have chained together bugs and legitimate features from different blockchain technologies to orchestrate a sophisticated "reentrancy attack." Reentrancy attacks allow hackers to withdraw funds repeatedly, in a loop, before the original transaction is approved or declined.
Google is Blocking 18 Million Coronavirus Scam Emails Every Day
1.5 billion people use Gmail, according to a recent article in the BBC. And every day millions of them receive an email about a coronavirus scam:
Scammers are sending 18 million hoax emails about Covid-19 to Gmail users every day, according to Google... The company said it was blocking more than 100 million phishing emails a day. Over the past week, almost a fifth were scam emails related to coronavirus. The virus may now be the biggest phishing topic ever, tech firms say...
The growth in coronavirus-themed phishing is being recorded by several cyber-security companies. Barracuda Networks said it had seen a 667% increase in malicious phishing emails during the pandemic...
Google claims that its machine-learning tools are able to block more than 99.9% of [scam] emails from reaching its users.
Hacking the Pandemic: Global Research Community Gathers Online Against COVID-19
Long-time Slashdot reader
Over 500 scientists, software developers and clinicians joined forces in the COVID-19 virtual Biohackathon to develop new tools for working with the COVID-19 data. The outcomes of the event improved the accessibility of data, protocols, analysis pipelines and provided dedicated compute resources to execute demanding data analysis tasks.
The COVID-19 Biohackathon was an online event from 5 to 11 April, initiated by Pjotr Prins (USA), Tazro Ohta (Japan) and Leyla Garcia (Germany). It had similar objectives and structure as the face-to-face BioHackathons spearheaded in Japan and recently adopted in Europe by ELIXIR. Participants were working in separate groups and presented their activities in a series of plenary webinar sessions. More than 20 different projects joined the event, many of which were led by members from ELIXIR Nodes.
The results from this biohackathon will get mini publications on the preprints server BioHackrXiv
ELIXIR (the European life-sciences Infrastructure for biological Information) is an initiative that allows life science laboratories across Europe to share and store their research data as part of an organised network.
Disclaimer: our group developed one of the deep sequencing analysis bioinformatics pipelines presented there.
I, for one, welcome our new Linux-running, Beowulf-clustered bioinformatics overlords.
Ask Slashdot: What Are You Doing To Help?
Long-time Slashdot reader
With all the news stories about how the pandemic is impacting our world, some of us have been just plain lucky. As an information worker, I was already working from home, so I still have my full-time job — and my full-time income. So my question is, if we really are all "in this together," then what can I be doing to help the others who need it?
Here's what I've done so far. First just by staying at home, I'm keeping myself healthy, while not adding to the burdens of medical workers, or spreading the virus to anyone else. But I'm also at least trying to place some food orders at local restaurants, having it delivered to my home (and also adding a big tip.) The post office will be sending me two sheets of "Forever" stamps that I bought to help pre-fund future postal services. And though I haven't bought any gift cards yet, I've ordered $40 worth of books to support my local bookstore, and placed a second order for a bunch of graphic novels from my favorite local comic book shop.
Bookstores do need our support. You can also try buying your books through BookShop.org, a new e-commerce site whose profits go to local independent bookstores while giving book-buyers an alternative to Amazon. But some stores are just turning to crowdfunding campaigns. When people heard that San Francisco's iconic City Lights Bookstore might be forced to close after 60 years, they contributed over $484,000 to its GoFundMe campaign to keep it alive.
In fact, there's now at least 30,000 coronavirus-related GoFundMe pages to choose from. If you want to do something more organized, the New York Times has launched its own fundraising page for "four nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to those facing economic hardship." The nonprofit-evaluating site Charity Navigator has also created a list of trustworthy organizations seeking donations to support communities affected by the pandemic.
Everyone's got their own ideas about how to help — so what are the rest of you doing? If you've been lucky, what ways have you found to give back, to pitch in, or just feel like you're connecting to the community beyond your door?
Leave your answers in the comments.
What are you doing to help?
For the First Time, a Robot Repaired a Satellite in Orbit
Space.com calls it "the first commercial satellite servicing mission." But more specifically, it's being called "the first in-orbit rendezvous and docking of two commercial satellites" in a statement from Northrop Grumman Space Systems, which also notes their "subsequent repositioning of the two-spacecraft stack." And it was all done using robotics floating 36,000km (22,369 miles) above the Earth.
Space.com describes the historic servicing of Intelsat 901 communications satellite (also known IS-901):
The satellite, which launched in 2001, had been running low on fuel needed to maintain its correct orbit. But rather than launch a replacement internet satellite, its owner, Intelsat, hired Northrop Grumman to conduct a first-of-its-kind mission. That project sent another satellite, called Mission Extension Vehicle 1 (MEV-1) to connect to IS-901 in February and take responsibility for keeping the internet satellite in the proper location to do its job...
MEV-1 will now spend five years attached to IS-901 to extend that satellite's tenure. After the contract ends, MEV-1 will steer the old satellite to a safe orbit, detach, and join up with a different satellite to provide the same services. MEV-1 should be able to partner with satellites for a total of 15 years, according to a previous Northrop Grumman statement.
Northrop Grumman is planning to launch a second mission-extension vehicle later this year, which will also aid an Intelsat satellite.
Long-time Slashdot reader
mi tipped us off to the story, which included a number of firsts. "Prior to this, no two commercial spacecraft had ever docked in orbit before,"
Ars Technica writes.
CNBC notes it also resulted in "
one-of-a-kind images", since a geosynchronous satellite had never even been photographed before by another spacecraft.