University of California Will Stop Using SAT, ACT
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal:
The University of California board of regents voted Thursday to stop using the SAT and ACT college admissions exams (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), reshaping college admissions in one of the largest and most prestigious university systems in the country and dealing a significant blow to the multibillion-dollar college admission testing industry. The unanimous 23-to-0 vote ratified a proposal put forward last month by UC President Janet Napolitano to phase out the exams over the next five years until the sprawling UC system can develop its own test.
The battle against standardized tests has raged for years because minority students score, on average, lower than their white classmates. Advocates argue that the exams are an unfair admission barrier to those students because they often cannot pay for pricey test preparation. [...] Ms. Napolitano's proposal allows four years for the UC system to develop a new exam. If it fails to create or adopt one, then it likely would cease to use any exam, said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, which has fought against standardized testing for 30 years. Mr. Schaeffer said he doesn't believe a new exam will be implemented. "It appears very unlikely that they will be able to design an instrument that is more accurate and fairer than relying on applicants' high school records," Mr. Schaeffer said. "And, if a new test somehow meets those goals promoters would face massive adoption barriers, including persuading UC and the rest of the admissions world that a third test is truly needed or useful."
A spokesman for the College Board, which oversees the SAT, said the organization's "mission remains the same: to give all students, and especially low-income and first-generation students, opportunities to show their strength. We must also address the disparities in coursework and classrooms that the evidence shows most drive inequity in California."
Tesla Drops Lawsuit Against Alameda County Over Freemont Factory Reopening
Tesla has officially
dismissed a lawsuit filed earlier this month against Alameda County that sought to force the reopening of its factory in Fremont, Calif. TechCrunch reports:
The dismissal, which was granted Wednesday, closes the loop on a battle between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and county health and law enforcement officials. The lawsuit, filed May 9 hours after Musk threatened to sue and move operations out of state, sought injunctive and declaratory relief against Alameda County. The lawsuit was filed after Tesla's plans to resume production at the Fremont factory were thwarted by the county's decision to extend a stay-at-home order issued to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. The lawsuit has been dismissed at
Tesla's request (PDF), and comes a week after Alameda County signaled that it wasn't going to try to stop the company from re-opening its Fremont factory despite their prolonged shelter-in-place order.
Students Are Failing AP Tests Because the College Boards Can't Handle HEIC Images
Many high school students around the country completed Advanced Placement tests online last week but were unable to submit them at the end
because the testing portal doesn't support HEIC images -- the default format on iOS devices and some newer Android phones. The Verge reports:
For the uninitiated: AP exams require longform answers. Students can either type their response or upload a photo of handwritten work. Students who choose the latter option can do so as a JPG, JPEG, or PNG format according to the College Board's coronavirus FAQ. But the testing portal doesn't support the default format on iOS devices and some newer Android phones, HEIC files. HEIC files are smaller than JPEGs and other formats, thus allowing you to store a lot more photos on an iPhone. Basically, only Apple (and, more recently, Samsung) use the HEIC format -- most other websites and platforms don't support it. Even popular Silicon Valley-based services, such as Slack, don't treat HEICs the same way as standard JPEGs.
[Nick Bryner, a high school senior in Los Angeles] says many of his classmates also tried to submit iPhone photos and experienced the same problem. The issue was so common that his school's AP program forwarded an email from the College Board to students on Sunday including tidbits of advice to prevent submission errors. "What's devastating is that thousands of students now have an additional three weeks of stressful studying for retakes," Bryner said. The email Bryner received doesn't mention the HEIC format, though it does link to the College Board's website, which instructs students with iPhones to change their camera settings so that photos save as JPEGs rather than HEICs. The company also linked to that information in a tweet early last week. In a statement emailed to The Verge, the College Board said that "the vast majority of students successfully completed their exams" in the first few days of online testing, "with less than 1 percent unable to submit their responses." The company also noted that "We share the deep disappointment of students who were unable to submit responses."
How Do Astronauts Escape When a Space Launch Goes Wrong?
On May 27, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are
expected to become the first humans to ride a Dragon. The two astronauts will catch a ride to the International Space Station in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule as part of the Demo-2 mission, the final test before NASA officially certifies the vehicle for human spaceflight. It will be the first time in nine years that NASA astronauts have launched to space from the US -- and the only time they've ever flown on a commercial rocket. Engineers have spent years planning for what happens if things go awry. Here's a look at
what happens if for some unfortunate reason, something goes wrong in space:
There are several events that might cause Behnken and Hurley to abort a mission once they're already in orbit. These range from depressurization to a cabin fire, both of which have occurred on previous crewed missions. In fact, depressurization was the cause of the only deaths known to have occurred in space. In 1971, three cosmonauts returning from a mission to the Salyut 1 space station were killed after a pressure valve in the capsule failed and the cabin turned into a vacuum within seconds. The Crew Dragon has multiple lines of defense against this kind of disaster. In the event of a small leak caused by a faulty component or impact from space debris, the capsule can pump more oxygen and nitrogen into the cabin to maintain pressure until the crew either returns to Earth or arrives at the space station. But if the breach is too large to plug with more gas, Behnken and Hurley's flight suits can be pressurized and fed oxygen, effectively turning the suits into single-occupant spacecraft. Depending on where they're at in the mission, it's possible they could continue on to the space station even if the cabin is a total vacuum.
"The suit is kind of like an escape system, and is designed to be used only if you're having a very bad day," says Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut who also spent several years as the director of SpaceX's crew operations. "It's nice to know it's there, but you hope you never have to use it for its intended purpose." If NASA decides to abort a mission once Behnken and Hurley are in space, they'll trigger the capsule to perform a deorbit burn that pushes it back into the atmosphere. At that point, drag will start to take effect and pull the spacecraft back toward terra firma. If it's a dire situation, NASA might choose to deorbit the capsule immediately, even if it means landing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Otherwise, mission control will take the time to evaluate the best emergency landing location based on weather and the location of rescue teams. Behnken and Hurley have enough food, water, and oxygen for four days on orbit, so there's no reason to rush unless the situation demands it. "More often than not, when you feel that you're rushed, you need to slow down to avoid making a mistake and driving yourself into a difficult situation," Scoville says.
Hackers Infect Multiple Game Developers With Advanced Malware
One of the world's most prolific hacking groups
recently infected several Massively Multiplayer Online game makers, a feat that made it possible for the attackers to push malware-tainted apps to one target's users and to steal in-game currencies of a second victim's players. Ars Technica reports:
Researchers from Slovakian security company ESET have tied the attacks to Winnti, a group that has been active since at least 2009 and is believed to have carried out hundreds of mostly advanced attacks. Targets have included Chinese journalists, Uyghur and Tibetan activists, the government of Thailand, and prominent technology organizations. Winnti has been tied to the 2010 hack that stole sensitive data from Google and 34 other companies. More recently, the group has been behind the compromise of the CCleaner distribution platform that pushed malicious updates to millions of people. Winnti carried out a separate supply-chain attack that installed a backdoor on 500,000 ASUS PCs.
The recent attack used a never-before-seen backdoor that ESET has dubbed PipeMon. To evade security defenses, PipeMon installers bore the imprimatur of a legitimate Windows signing certificate that was stolen from Nfinity Games during a 2018 hack of that gaming developer. The backdoor -- which gets its name for the multiple pipes used for one module to communicate with another and the project name of the Microsoft Visual Studio used by the developers -- used the location of Windows print processors so it could survive reboots. In a post published early Thursday morning, ESET revealed little about the infected companies except to say they included several South Korea- and Taiwan-based developers of MMO games that are available on popular gaming platforms and have thousands of simultaneous players.
Grandmother Ordered To Delete Facebook Photos Under GDPR
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC:
A woman must delete photographs of her grandchildren that she posted on Facebook and Pinterest without their parents' permission, a court in the Netherlands has ruled. It ended up in court after a falling-out between the woman and her daughter. The judge ruled the matter was within the scope of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). One expert said the ruling reflected the "position that the European Court has taken over many years." The case went to court after the woman refused to delete photographs of her grandchildren which she had posted on social media. The mother of the children had asked several times for the pictures to be deleted.
The GDPR does not apply to the "purely personal" or "household" processing of data. However, that exemption did not apply because posting photographs on social media made them available to a wider audience, the ruling said. "With Facebook, it cannot be ruled out that placed photos may be distributed and may end up in the hands of third parties," it said. The woman must remove the photos or pay a fine of 50 euros for every day that she fails to comply with the order, up to a maximum fine of 1,000 euros. If she posts more images of the children in the future, she will be fined an extra 50 euros a day.
AT&T To Drop Misleading '5G Evolution' Marketing For Non-5G Networks
AT&T says it
will stop advertising its wireless network as "5G Evolution" after a division of the Better Business Bureau determined that its language was misleading. The Associated Press reports:
While AT&T and other wireless carriers in the U.S. have now begun rolling true 5G wireless networks, AT&T in December 2018 began talking about a "5G Evolution" service that was already available in hundreds of markets, and placed a "5G E" icon on phones when they connected to the network. But it was not 5G. It was merely the existing 4G network with minor speed boosts, at least compared to the fastest type of 5G networks.
Now, a division of the Better Business Bureau that regulates the ad industry has recommended that AT&T stop using "5G Evolution" and "5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G" claims in its marketing. Rival T-Mobile had brought a complaint about AT&T's language. The panel found that this language "will mislead reasonable consumers into believing that AT&T is offering a 5G network." AT&T said it disagreed with the group's reasoning but will comply with the decision.
T-Mobile Connecting Heroes Now Live, First Responders Get Free 5G Service
T-Mobile has launched a new initiative called "
Connecting Heroes" that
gives free wireless service to first responders for 10 years, which T-Mobile estimates could save $7.7 billion if all first responder agencies sign up. PhoneDog reports:
Connecting Heroes will give unlimited talk, text, and smartphone data to first responders. That includes 5G access at no extra charge as well as 1GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot data plus 3G speeds after that. Streaming video at 480p is included, as is Mobile Without Borders which offers unlimited calling and texting between the US, Canada, and Mexico. First responders can choose to upgrade their plan for $15 per month and get 20GB of mobile hotspot usage, unlimited texting and up to 256Kbps data in 210+ countries and destinations, plus free texting and in-flight Wi-Fi through Gogo. T-Mobile's Connecting Heroes initiative is open to every public and non-profit, state and local police, fire, and EMS first responders. If you feel that you qualify, you can learn more and begin the signup process right here.
Check Point Releases Open-Source Fix For Common Linux Memory Corruption Security Hole
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
For years, there's been a known security vulnerability hiding in the GNU C Library (glibc). This library, which is critical for Linux and many other operating systems and programs, had a dynamic memory management security hole that could be used for denial of service (DoS) attacks. Now, the security company, Check Point, has issued an open-source patch, which will make it much more difficult to exploit this memory allocation (malloc) problem. Check Point re-encountered this known problem when it discovered that so-called smart light bulbs could be used to hack into networks by exploiting unprotected single-linked-lists. The double-linked-list version of this problem had been fixed back in 2005 with Safe-Unlinking. But, the single-linked-list version, which is present in the memory primitive functions Fast-Bins and Thread Cache (TCache), remained vulnerable.
Now, the fix is in for this problem. This new built-in security mechanism is called Safe-Linking. It protects malloc by signing its single-linked-list pointers with random numbers derived from Linux's Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) functionality. Combined with memory chunk alignment integrity checks, it protects the memory pointers from hijacking attempts and thus the system itself. The patch is now being integrated with the most common standard C library implementation, glibc. Safe-Linking will be released in glibc 2.32 in August 2020. It's already up and running in glibc's popular embedded counterpart: uClibc-NG.
Astronomers Spot Potential First Evidence of New Planet Being Born
Astronomers believe they may have found the
first direct evidence of a new planet being born. A dense disc of dust and gas has been spotted surrounding a young star called AB Aurigae, about 520 light years away from Earth. From a report:
Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), located in Chile, the researchers observed a spiral structure with a "twist" near the centre, which suggests a new world may be in the process of forming. The swirling disc was one of the telltale signs of the star system being born in the constellation of Auriga, the scientists said. Dr Anthony Boccaletti, who led the study from the Observatoire de Paris at the PSL University, in France, said: "Thousands of exoplanets have been identified so far, but little is known about how they form." He added: "We need to observe very young systems to really capture the moment when planets form." Until now astronomers had been unable to take clear images of young discs to see these twists.
'Apple Glass' Rumored To Start at $499, Support Prescription Lenses
Front Page Tech host Jon Prosser this week shared several details about Apple's rumored augmented reality glasses, including an "Apple Glass" marketing name, $499 starting price, prescription lens option, and more.The marketing name will be "Apple Glass" According to Prosser, who has established a reliable track record for Apple's product roadmap in recent months,
here are some other key details about the Apple Glass:
The glasses will start at $499 with the option for prescription lenses at an extra cost.
There will be displays in both lenses that can be interacted with using gestures.
The glasses will rely on a paired iPhone, similar to the original Apple Watch.
An early prototype featured LiDAR and wireless charging.
Apple originally planned to unveil the glasses as a "One More Thing" surprise at its iPhone event in the fall, but restrictions on in-person gatherings could push back the announcement to a March 2021 event.
Apple is targeting a late 2021 or early 2022 release.
Sabrent Unveils Record-Breaking 8TB Rocket Q NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD
Sabrent, an LA-headquartered computer vendor, has expanded its Rocket Q family of 500GB, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB drives with
a new model that offers 8 terabytes of super-fast storage in the same M.2 2280 form-factor by utilizing Micron's 3D QLC NAND technology. The company shares features of the drive below:
M.2 PCIe Gen3 x 4 Interface.
PCIe 3.1 Compliant / NVMe 1.3 Compliant.
Power Management Support for APST / ASPM / L1.2.
Supports SMART and TRIM commands.
Supports ONFi 2.3, ONFi 3.0, ONFi 3.2 and ONFi 4.0 interface.
Advanced Wear Leveling, Bad Block Management, and Over-Provision. No word on pricing.
Copyright Office: System For Pulling Content Offline Isn't Working
The process to get unlicensed versions of movies, music and other content taken off the internet
isn't working as intended and should be updated, the Copyright Office said in an expansive report Thursday. From a report:
Updating that system would require an act of Congress, which can now look to the Copyright Office's conclusions as it considers legislating on the matter. In its report, the office found the system for notice and takedown of infringing materials is unbalanced and out of sync with Congress' intent when it established the process in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA includes liability protection for online companies whose users illegally upload copyrighted material if the online companies take down the material when they are notified by the rights-holder. Copyright holders have complained that this process doesn't proactively protect their intellectual property against online infringement, and the report appears to agree, concluding "Congress' original intended balance has been tilted askew."
Jack Dorsey Is Giving Andrew Yang $5 Million To Build the Case for Universal Basic Income
Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter and mobile-payments firm Square, said today he is giving $5 million to Humanity Forward, a group launched by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang to build the case for a universal basic income. A
The donation is part of Dorsey's Start Small LLC, a $1 billion foundation he launched last month to support global COVID-19 relief efforts. "Not only will Jack's donation directly impact tens of thousands of people in need during the current economic downturn, it will help Humanity Forward and our movement continue to make a case for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the United States," Yang said in a statement. "We know UBI for every American is possible, and this $5 million from Start Small is going to help demonstrate what is possible for families across the country."
Facebook Says It Will Permanently Shift Tens of Thousands of Jobs To Remote Work
In a move that illustrates how swiftly the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the global economy, Facebook said today that it would begin allowing most of its employees to
request a permanent change in their jobs to let them work remotely. From a report:
The company will begin today by making most of its US job openings eligible for remote hires and begin taking applications for permanent remote work among its workforce later this year. "We're going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge. "We need to do this in a way that's thoughtful and responsible, so we're going to do this in a measured way. But I think that it's possible that over the next five to 10 years -- maybe closer to 10 than five, but somewhere in that range -- I think we could get to about half of the company working remotely permanently." Facebook, which has more than 48,000 employees working in 70 offices worldwide, is the largest company yet to move aggressively into remote work in the wake of the pandemic.
Shopify To Let Employees Work From Home Permanently
Canadian e-commerce firm Shopify would keep its offices closed till 2021 and
allow most employees to work remotely on a permanent basis after that, Chief Executive Officer Tobi Lutke said in a tweet on Thursday. "Office centricity is over," Lutke said here in the tweet. The company employs about 5,000 people.
Netflix To Start Cancelling Inactive Customers' Subscriptions
Netflix said Thursday it will ask customers who have not watched anything on the on-demand video streaming service in a year or more
if they wish to maintain their subscriptions -- and will cancel the subscription if it does not receive a confirmation. From a report:
The company said it has started to notify customers who have't watched anything on the service in 12 months since they became a subscriber to check if they wish to keep their membership. The company is also reaching out to those who haven't streamed anything in the past two years, it said. "You know that sinking feeling when you realize you signed up for something but haven't used it in ages? At Netflix, the last thing we want is people paying for something they're not using," the company said.
ScreenHits TV To Launch Streaming Aggregator To Combat 'Subscription Fatigue'
Technology company ScreenHits is launching ScreenHits TV, a streaming video aggregator app that
lets consumers bundle different services together in a single interface. From a report:
The service creates a one-stop electronic programming guide where users can search the libraries of both free and subscription streaming platforms, as well as live online TV without jumping from platform to platform and without having to repeatedly sign up for new services. Subscribers of SVOD platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, MUBI and other streaming services, including BBC iPlayer, can integrate their existing services within the app, which is set to go live across multiple territories, including the U.S. and the U.K., by the end of this month. Entry-level subscriptions to ScreenHits will start at $1.99 per month and will initially be available on Samsung Smart TVs, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple Store, Google Chrome, Android and for the desktop.
Your ZIP Code and Your Life Expectancy
moogmachine shares a report:
New data on electricity consumption has offered an insight into Americans' level of wariness in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic: Many appeared to be staying home to avoid the virus even before lockdown orders were issued in March. The data, on consumption in homes in 30 states, shows that energy use began to rise in many states about a week before stay-at-home orders were issued but after states of emergency were declared. The data comes from Sense, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., that sells a device to help homeowners track energy use through a smartphone app. The information comes with some caveats. For instance, the devices tend to be popular with tech-savvy early adopters, and the typical Sense home is larger than most. Overall data came from about 5,000 of the devices across 30 states that were geographically representative of the country, the company said.
Like a recent study of electricity use in New York City apartments, the Sense data shows a sharp rise in consumption, with most of the increase coming during the day, when in normal times many people would be at work or school. Across all 30 states, the company reported a 22 percent average increase in overall domestic consumption from March 10 to April 10 this year compared with 2019. The data was adjusted to account for weather differences. Broken down by date and state -- the company looked at data for California, New York and seven other states individually -- the results are even more intriguing. George Zavaliagkos, the company's vice president of technology, said that when he first started looking at the data, he expected to see a rise in energy use in a given state when that state's government issued a lockdown order. California was the first state to order a statewide lockdown, on March 19. New York and other states followed quickly.
Amazon Launches Food Delivery Service in India
Amazon is joining India's online food delivery market just as top local players Swiggy and Zomato reduce their workforce to steer through the coronavirus pandemic and months after Uber Eats' exit from the nation. From a report:
The e-commerce giant, which has invested more than $6.5 billion in India, today launched its food delivery service, called Amazon Food, in select parts of Bangalore. The company had originally planned to launch the service in India last year, which it then moved to March but pushed it further amid the nationwide stay-at-home order the Indian government issued in late March. In the run up to the launch, the e-commerce giant began testing the food delivery service with select restaurant partners in Bangalore with employees earlier this year, TechCrunch reported in late February. "Customers have been telling us for some time that they would like to order prepared meals on Amazon in addition to shopping for all other essentials. This is particularly relevant in present times as they stay home safe," an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch.
New Zealand PM Flags Four-Day Workweek To Boost Its Shuttered Economy After COVID-19
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News:
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a four-day workweek could help rebuild the nation's economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Ardern floated the idea during a Facebook Live earlier this week. Speaking Tuesday from Rotorua, a tourist hub in New Zealand, Ardern brought up a flurry of suggestions that could help jumpstart the country's vital tourism industry, including the shorter workweek, which could encourage citizens to travel more.
"I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week," Ardern said. "Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I've said there's just so much we've learnt about COVID and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that." "I'd really encourage people to think about that if you're an employer and in a position to do so to think about whether or not that is something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country," she added. Arden said domestic tourism makes up about 60% of the industry, but New Zealanders spend about $9 billion (NZD) on tourism internationally. "Think about exploring your backyard," she said. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft tried a
four-day workweek experiment with promising results. Not only were workers happier, but productivity went up 39.9% as fewer and shorter meetings were held, often virtually rather than in person.
Google Cloud Earns Defense Contract Win For Anthos Multi-Cloud Management Tool
announced a new seven-figure contract with DoD's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU). "While the company would not get specific about the number, the new contract involves using Anthos, the tool the company announced last year to secure DIU's multi-cloud environment," reports TechCrunch. From the report:
In spite of the JEDI contract involving a single vendor, the DoD has always used solutions from all three major cloud vendors -- Amazon, Microsoft and Google -- and this solution will provide a way to monitor security across all three environments, according to the company. "Multi-cloud is the future. The majority of commercial businesses run multi-cloud environments securely and seamlessly, and this is now coming to the federal government as well," Mike Daniels, VP of Global Public Sector at Google Cloud told TechCrunch.
The idea is to manage security across three environments with help from cloud security vendor Netskope, which is also part of the deal. "The multi-cloud solution will be built on Anthos, allowing DIU to run web services and applications across Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure -- while being centrally managed from the Google Cloud Console," the company wrote in a statement. Daniels says that while this is a deal with DIU, he could see it expanding to other parts of DoD. "This is a contract with the DIU, but our expectation is that the DoD will look at the project as a model for how to implement their own security posture."
Cold War Satellites Inadvertently Tracked Species Declines
sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine:
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into orbit in 1957, the United States responded with its own spy satellites. The espionage program, known as Corona, sought to locate Soviet missile sites, but its Google Earth-like photography captured something unintended: snapshots of animals and their habitats frozen in time. Now, by comparing these images with modern data, scientists have found a way to track the decline of biodiversity in regions that lack historic records.
The researchers tested the approach on bobak marmot (Marmota bobak) populations in the grassland region of northern Kazakhstan. There, Soviets converted millions of hectares of natural habitat into cropland in the 1960s. The scientists searched the satellites' black and white film images on a U.S. Geological Survey database for signs of the squirrel-like animal's burrows. They identified more than 5,000 historic marmot homes and compared them with contemporary digital images of the region, mapping more than 12,000 marmot burrows in all. About eight generations of marmots occupied the same burrows in the study area over more than 50 years, even when their habitats underwent major changes, the team reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Overall, the researchers estimate the number of marmot burrows dropped by 14% since the '60s. But the number of burrows in some of the oldest fields -- those persistently disturbed by humans plowing grassland to plant wheat -- plunged by much more -- about 60%.