US Surpasses 8 Million Coronavirus Cases
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET:
America surpassed 8 million cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone that puts the U.S. ahead of every other country in terms of total cases. Over 218,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported in the U.S. as well, again setting a record that represents about 20% of total deaths worldwide. COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the globe, infecting nearly 40 million and killing over 1.1 million. Beside the U.S., India has the highest number of cases, at almost 7.4 million, while some countries like New Zealand have all but eliminated COVID-19 with the number of active infections now at zero.
Xbox's Phil Spencer Hints At Exclusivity Potential For Bethesda Games
an interview with Kotaku, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that Microsoft
doesn't need to ship future Bethesda games on PlayStation in order to recoup the $7.5 billion it spent
acquiring Bethesda's parent company, Zenimax Media, last month. Spencer also explained that the deal wasn't specifically signed to take games away from the platform. Pure Xbox reports:
"This deal was not done to take games away from another player base like that. Nowhere in the documentation that we put together was: 'How do we keep other players from playing these games?' We want more people to be able to play games, not fewer people to be able to go play games. But I'll also say in the model -- I'm just answering directly the question that you had -- when I think about where people are going to be playing and the number of devices that we had, and we have xCloud and PC and Game Pass and our console base, I don't have to go ship those games on any other platform other than the platforms that we support in order to kind of make the deal work for us. Whatever that means."
Previously, Spencer noted to Yahoo Finance that the Xbox community should feel the Bethesda acquisition is a "huge investment in the experiences they are going to have in the Xbox ecosystem," and he wants that ecosystem to "absolutely be the best place to play, and we think game availability is absolutely part of that." However, the Xbox boss has also confirmed that decisions on whether games will be exclusive to Xbox will ultimately be made on a "case-by-case basis", so it might still be a while before we know more.
Billionaire CEO of Software Company Indicted For Alleged $2 Billion Tax Evasion Schemes
The billionaire chief executive of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co, Robert Brockman, has been
indicted on charges of tax evasion and wire fraud conducted over "decades." ZDNet reports:
The scheme, in which roughly $2 billion was hidden away in offshore accounts and through money laundering, took place between 1999 and 2019, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Thursday. According to the indictment (.PDF), the resident of both Houston, Texas, and Pitkin County, Colorado allegedly used a "web" of offshore organizations in Bermuda and Nevis to hide the profits he made from investments in private equity funds.
Brockman squirreled away his capital gains and also tampered with the evidence of his alleged activities, prosecutors say, by methods including backdating records and using "encrypted communications and code words" to communicate with co-conspirators, including the phrases "Permit," "King," and "Redfish." A ranch, luxury home, and yacht were among the purchases apparently made with non-taxed income. US prosecutors also say that between 2008 and 2010, Brockman used a third-party entity to purchase $67.8 million in debt securities from the software company. As CEO, the executive is not permitted to do so without full disclosure as it can have an impact on share prices and trading; however, Brockman allegedly did so without informing sellers.
As a result, approximately $2 billion in income was kept hidden from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In addition, US prosecutors allege that investors in the software firm's debt securities were also defrauded. A federal grand jury in San Francisco, California has issued a 39-count indictment, including seven counts of tax evasion, 20 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, evidence tampering, and destruction of evidence.
Google Is Beginning the Forced Migration From Hangouts To Chat Next Year
Google will officially
transition users from Google Hangouts to Google Chat starting next year. The Verge reports:
As part of the change, Chat, a messaging service previously only available to customers who pay for Google Workspace (the recent rebranding of G Suite), will become a free service that's available inside of Gmail and in a standalone app. And some Hangouts features will be going away ahead of its disappearance. The transition from Hangouts to Chat will begin sometime in the first half of 2021, when Google will offer tools to help automatically bring your Hangouts conversations, contacts, and chat history to Chat, according to a blog post. It's unclear what steps will be required for that migration, but Google says it will share guidance at some point.
The switch from Hangouts to Chat will take place gradually, and there will be a period of time when both messaging services are still available. Eventually, all free users and Workspace customers will be moved over to Chat. Once that's done, then Chat will fully replace Hangouts. As for why you'd want to upgrade from Hangouts to Chat before you're forced to, there are both carrots and sticks. On the plus side, Google says Chat not only offers features like direct and group conversations you might be familiar with from Hangouts, but it can also let you more easily plan and collaborate with others. Google also announced that it is planning to remove some specific Hangouts features, such as the ability to manage texts and phone calls from Hangouts. They're also planning to remove Google Voice support from Hangouts early next year, as well as no longer letting you call phone numbers from Hangouts.
Nikola Stock Falls 14 Percent After CEO Downplays Badger Truck Plans
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica:
Nikola CEO Mark Russell downplayed the company's Badger pickup truck in comments to the Financial Times on Thursday. "The Badger was an interesting and exciting project to some shareholders, but our institutional shareholders are mostly focused on the business plan," Russell said. "Our core business plan since before we became publicly listed always focused on heavy trucks and hydrogen infrastructure." Russell's comments were published after markets closed on Thursday. Nikola's stock price plunged on Friday morning and is currently down about 14 percent for the day.
Negotiations with General Motors to design and build the truck have dragged on weeks longer than expected. Nikola and GM announced a wide-ranging partnership on September 8. It envisioned GM not only building the Badger but also supplying the batteries and fuel cells that power the trucks. Under the deal, GM would also supply hydrogen fuel-cell technology for Nikola's semi trucks outside the European market. Nikola was supposed to give GM $2 billion worth of stock to license GM's technology, reimburse GM to build out a Badger factory, and then pay GM on a cost-plus basis to assemble the Badger. The value of Nikola's stock soared immediately after the September 8 announcement, but it then tanked after a short-selling firm revealed that Nikola CEO Trevor Milton had lied when he said Nikola's first truck, the Nikola One, was fully functional. Nikola has admitted that a promotional video showed the truck rolling down a hill, not traveling under its own power. The price decline has made GM's expected $2 billion stake in Nikola worth much less.
San Francisco Apartment Rents Crater Up To 31%, Most in US
San Francisco's sky-high apartment rents are falling fast. From a report:
The median monthly rate for a studio in the city tumbled 31% in September from a year earlier to $2,285, compared with a 0.5% decline nationally, according to data released Tuesday by Realtor.com. One-bedroom rents in San Francisco fell 24% and two-bedrooms were down 21%, to $2,873 and $3,931 a month, respectively. The figures underscore how the pandemic has roiled property markets and changed renter preferences. With companies allowing employees to work from home, people have fled cramped and costly urban areas in droves, seeking extra room in the suburbs or cheaper cities. Tech firms, in particular, have told staff they should expect to work remotely well into next year -- and may be able to do so permanently. "Renters are likely heading to more-affordable areas where they can get more space at a cheaper price," Danielle Hale, Realtor.com's chief economist, said in a statement. "The future of rents in many of these cities will depend on whether companies require employees to work from the office or continue to allow remote work."
Elon Musk's Las Vegas Loop Might Only Carry a Fraction of the Passengers It Promised
The Boring Company's Las Vegas Convention Center loop "
will not be able to move anywhere near the number of people LVCC wants, and that TBC agreed to," reports TechCrunch. The LVCC wanted transit that could move up to 4,400 people every hour between exhibition halls and parking lots on the Los Vegas Strip. According to planning files reviewed by TechCrunch, "the system might only be able to transport 1,200 people an hour -- around a quarter of its promised capacity." From the report:
Fire regulations peg the occupant capacity in the load and unload zones of one of the Loop's three stations at just 800 passengers an hour. If the other stations have similar limitations, the system might only be able to transport 1,200 people an hour -- around a quarter of its promised capacity. If TBC misses its performance target by such a margin, Musk's company will not receive more than $13 million of its construction budget -- and will face millions more in penalty charges once the system becomes operational.
So what is stopping TBC from transporting as many people as both it and the LVCC wants? There are national fire safety rules for underground transit systems that specify alarms, sprinklers, emergency exits and a maximum occupant load, to avoid overcrowding in the event of a fire. Building plans submitted by The Boring Company include a fire code analysis for one of the Loop's above-ground stations. The above screenshot from the plans notes that the area where passengers get into and out of the Tesla cars has a peak occupancy load of 100 people every 7.5 minutes, equivalent to 800 passengers an hour. Even if the other stations had higher limits, this would limit the system's hourly capacity to about 1,200 people.
The plans do not show any turnstiles or barriers to limit entry. Even without the safety restrictions, the Loop may struggle to hit its capacity goals. Each of the 10 bays at the Loop's stations must handle hundreds of passengers an hour, corresponding to perhaps 100 or more arrivals and departures, depending on how many people each car is carrying. That leaves little time to load and unload people and luggage, let alone make the 0.8-mile journey and occasionally recharge.
Boeing 737 Max Judged Safe To Fly By Europe's Aviation Regulator
schwit1 shares a report from Bloomberg:
Europe's top aviation regulator said he's satisfied that changes to Boeing Co.'s 737 Max have made the plane safe enough to return to the region's skies before 2020 is out, even as a further upgrade his agency demanded won't be ready for up to two years. After test flights conducted in September, EASA is performing final document reviews ahead of a draft airworthiness directive it expects to issue next month, said Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency. That will be followed by four weeks of public comment, while the development of a so-called synthetic sensor to add redundancy will take 20 to 24 months, he said. The software-based solution will be required on the larger 737 Max 10 variant before its debut targeted for 2022, and retrofitted onto other versions.
A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science
Apparently Twinkies aren't immortal. After
discovering that his 8-year-old Twinkies "tasted like old sock," biologist Colin Purrington sent them to a pair of scientists -- Brian Lovett and Matt Kasson from West Virginia University in Morgantown -- to study the kind of fungus growing on them. An anonymous reader shares the report from NPR:
The researchers immediately thought some kind of fungus was involved in attacking the 8-year-old Twinkies, because they've studied fungi that kill insects and dry them out in a similar way. Plus, the reddish blotch on one Twinkie seemed to have a growth pattern that's typical of fungi. [...] They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out.
"You end up with a vacuum," Lovett says. "And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus's ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now." A quick examination with a magnifying scope revealed fungal sporulation on both the marred and mummified Twinkies, again suggesting the involvement of fungi. The researchers used a bone marrow biopsy tool to sort of drill through the tough outer layer of the gray, mummified Twinkie. "We certainly hit the marrow of the Twinkie and quickly realized that there was still some cream filling on the inside," Kasson says.
From the Twinkie marked with just a dark circle of mold, they were able to grow up a species of Cladosporium. "Cladosporium is one of the most common, airborne, indoor molds worldwide," says Kasson, who cautions that they haven't done a DNA analysis to confirm the species. So far, however, no fungi have grown from the sample taken out of the mummified Twinkie. "It may be that we don't have any living spores despite this wonderful, rare event that we've witnessed," Lovett says. "Spores certainly die, and depending on the fungus, they can die very quickly." They're not giving up, though. They'll fill lab dishes with all kinds of sweet concoctions to try to coax something back to life from the mysterious Twinkie mummy.
Google Says it Mitigated a 2.54 Tbps DDoS Attack in 2017, Largest Known To Date
The Google Cloud team revealed today a previously undisclosed DDoS attack that targeted Google service back in September 2017 and which clocked at 2.54 Tbps,
making it the largest DDoS attack recorded to date. From a report:
In a separate report published at the same time, the Google Threat Threat Analysis Group (TAG), the Google security team that analyzes high-end threat groups, said the attack was carried out by a state-sponsored threat actor. TAG researchers said the attack came from China, having originated from within the network of four Chinese internet service providers (ASNs 4134, 4837, 58453, and 9394). Damian Menscher, a Security Reliability Engineer for Google Cloud, said the 2.54 Tbps peak was "the culmination of a six-month campaign" that utilized multiple methods of attacks to hammer Google's server infrastructure.
You Can Now Install Microsoft Windows Calculator on Linux
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Earlier, Microsoft released the source for Windows Calculator. And now, that calculator app has been ported to Linux by Uno Platform. Best of all, it's insanely easy to install as it is packaged in Snap format. "The good folks in the Uno Platform community have ported the open-source Windows Calculator to Linux. And they've done it quicker than Microsoft could bring their browser to Linux. The calculator is published in the snapstore and can be downloaded right away," explains Rhys Davies, Product Manager, Canonical.
Group Files 'Largest FOIA of All Time'
Reclaim the Records -- a group of activist genealogists, historians, journalists, teachers -- has filed what may be
the largest Freedom Of Information Act Request of all time. The group wants the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to release billions of digital images and their associated metadata to the public. From a report:
NARA is a government agency that preserves and archives the American government's historical records. It's also supposed to increase public access to those records. To accomplish that goal, NARA partnered with private companies such as genealogical website Ancestory.com to digitize and upload census records, immigration records, and other historical documents. Digitizing these records is a massive task, one NARA likely couldn't accomplish on its own. In exchange for its help, NARA granted the private companies limited exclusivity to the records. That means that billions of documents related to America's history are behind paywalls on sites like Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Fold3.
According to the agreements, the sites were supposed to open up their digitized archive to the public after an exclusivity period of 3 - 5 years. "In practice, this simply hasn't happened," Reclaim the Records said in a blog post announcing the FOIA. "NARA has never actually posted online the vast majority of these records that were digitized through their partnership program, not to their Catalog nor indeed anywhere else where the public might be able to freely access and download the now-digital records. This remains the case today, even when the embargo periods for many of these record sets have been expired for more than a decade, sometimes two decades." Most of these are stored behind Ancestry.com's paywall, in part because Ancestry purchased several of the other sites that NARA had made deals with when they were still independent.
British Airways Fined $26 Million Over Data Breach
British Airways has been
fined $26m by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for a data breach which
affected more than 400,000 customers. From a report:
The breach took place in 2018 and affected both personal and credit card data. The fine is considerably smaller than the $236m that the ICO originally said it intended to issue back in 2019. It said "the economic impact of Covid-19" had been taken into account. However, it is still the largest penalty issued by the ICO to date. The incident took place when BA's systems were compromised by its attackers, and then modified to harvest customers' details as they were input. It was two months before BA was made aware of it by a security researcher, and then notified the ICO.
France and the Netherlands Call For Tough EU Powers To Curb Big Tech
France and the Netherlands have proposed
stricter EU rules to oversee large technology firms, such as Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon. From a report:
In a joint document, seen by CNBC and due to be sent to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, the two countries suggested that an EU authority should be able to control the market position of these large tech platforms. "Our common ambition is to design a framework that will be efficient enough to address the economic footprint of such actors on the European economy and to be able to 'break them open,'" Cedric O, the secretary of state for digital transition in France, said in a statement. "Access to data, to services, interoperability ... these are efficient tools that we should be able to use, with a tailor-made approach, in order to tackle market foreclosure and ensure freedom of choice for consumers," he added. The EU, arguably at the forefront of regulation in this space, has intensified talks regarding Big Tech and the competitive landscape over the last 12 months. In addition to pursuing anti-trust investigations on some of the largest firms, the Commission is also working on data protection rules.
Uber on the Hunt For Strategic Alternatives for Uber Elevate
Uber is seeking strategic alternatives for its Uber Elevate business,
including strategic partnerships or a partial sale, Axios reported Friday, citing multiple sources. From the report:
This reflects Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's obsession with achieving profitability, as evidenced by partial sales of Uber's money-losing freight and self-driving units. Uber Elevate's goal is to develop a network of self-driving taxis, with its website suggesting a launch year of 2023.
Uber is Hiring Hundreds of Engineers in India To Cut Costs
Uber said it is
working to hire 225 engineers in India, strengthening its tech team in the key overseas market months after it
eliminated thousands of jobs globally. From a report:
The move comes as several high-profile engineers have left Uber India in recent months to join Google and Amazon, among other tech giants. A senior engineer who recently left Uber told TechCrunch that many of his peers had lost confidence in Uber's future prospects in the country. [...] In July, news outlet The Information described Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi's plan to move engineering roles to India as a cost-saving measure. The report said Khosrowshahi's plan had sparked internal debates. Thuan Pham, Uber's longtime chief technology officer, who left the company earlier this year, reportedly cautioned that hiring more engineers so quickly in India would "require accepting lower-quality candidates."
Nearly 70,000 Tech Startup Employees Have Lost Their Jobs Since March (July 2020).
Coinbase's New 'Direction' Is Censorship, Leaked Audio Reveals
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Brian Armstrong, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, revealed in a late September blog post that the company would prohibit employees from debating political or social issues, deeming this a "distraction" from the company's mission. Armstrong doubled down on his position during a virtual all-hands held on October 1, billed as an "AMA" (for "ask me anything"), from which Motherboard obtained audio. The AMA was meant to further explain the company's new "apolitical" direction for those who might consider accepting a severance package that was offered to any employee who felt "uncomfortable." Executives also explained when and where dissent would be appropriate, and explained why they required employees to delete specific political Slack messages. This, at a company that works with cryptocurrencies intended to replace government banking systems in order to create a more free world. During the meeting, Armstrong claimed there is a "silent majority" at Coinbase that agreed with his decision but feared reprisal from colleagues. Armstrong and Coinbase leadership, however, failed to soothe fears that this policy would police employees if they voiced opinions that did not align with Armstrong or this "silent majority."
One former Coinbase employee who left the company after the AMA and to whom Motherboard provided anonymity due to fear of industry reprisal said that these assurances were insufficient and workers feared surveillance and censorship. These fears are not unfounded. Emile Choi, Coinbase's chief operating officer, explained that at least two employees were asked to delete Slack posts, and that HR head L.J. Brock "proactively reached out to employees to explain why their posts would be taken down. He had a very productive conversation with both of them and they understood the context," she said. One employee asked if Coinbase leadership thought that this was "taking away employee power to start a discussion except with 300 character questions" in an AMA format. "It seems like Coinbase is stunting internal discussion." Choi said that the entire executive team was aligned on Armstrong's post and policy, and that the new "culture is focused on what unites us and what we face in the world, which is building toward our mission," Choi said. "The goal was not intended to be harsh, it wasn't intended to land in a way where people felt they were being policed."
Has Apple Abandoned CUPS, Linux's Widely Used Open-Source Printing System? Seems So
The official public repository for CUPS, an Apple open-source project widely used for printing on Linux, is
all-but dormant since the lead developer left Apple at the end of 2019. From a report:
Apple adopted CUPS for Mac OS X in 2002, and hired its author Michael Sweet in 2007, with Cupertino also acquiring the CUPS source code. Sweet continued to work on printing technology at Apple, including CUPS, until December 2019 when he left to start a new company. Asked at the time about the future of CUPS, he said: "CUPS is still owned and maintained by Apple. There are two other engineers still in the printing team that are responsible for CUPS development, and it will continue to have new bug fix releases (at least) for the foreseeable future." Despite this statement, Linux watcher Michael Larabel noted earlier this week that "the open-source CUPS code-base is now at a stand-still. There was just one commit to the CUPS Git repository for all of 2020." This contrasts with 355 commits in 2019, when Sweet still worked at Apple, and 348 the previous year. We asked Apple about its plans for CUPS and have yet to hear back.
Developer Says AWS Forked His Project and Launched It As Its Own Service
Tim Nolet, founder and chief technology officer of Checkly,
tweeted on Friday: Oh @awscloud I really do love you! But next time you fork
my OS project and present it as
your new service, give the maintainers a short "nice job, kids" or something. Not necessary as per the APLv2 license, but still, ya know?
Chilling Report Suggests 1 Out of 5 Countries Could Be Headed For Ecosystem Collapse
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ScienceAlert:
A new insurance index from the Swiss Re Institute has found just over half of all global GDP -- nearly 42 trillion US dollars -- is dependent on goods and services provided by the natural world. In many places around the world, however, that sturdy foundation is turning to sand. The report, referred to as the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Index, shows a fifth of the world's countries currently stand on fragile ecological ground, with more than a third of their land disrupted by human activity. That's 39 countries with ecosystems that could be at risk of collapse, largely due to widespread declines in biodiversity, whether that be from deforestation, farming, mining, run-off, invasive species, or a decline in pollinators.
The index was designed to give governments and businesses a benchmark for the state of local ecosystems important to their economies, in the hope that the data can help inform relevant insurance solutions for communities at risk. Developing nations in the index with large agricultural sectors -- like Kenya, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Nigeria -- are particularly at risk due to their GDP's reliance on natural resources, but "densely populated and economically important regions" such as Southeast Asia, Europe, and America are also exposed to risk despite their economic diversification. Among the top of the rankings sit Australia and South Africa, which are also among the world's largest economies, and are both also dealing with water scarcity, pollination, and coastal protection issues. "For all 195 nations, researchers assessed the state of 10 'ecosystem services,' such as intact habitat, air quality, water security, soil fertility, coastal protection, erosion, and timber provision," the report adds. "Nearly a third of the countries -- exactly 60 in total -- were found to have ecosystems in a fragile state on more than 20 percent of their land. Only 41 countries had intact ecosystems covering the same expanse of land."
"This index doesn't necessarily mean these ecosystems or the economies that rely on them are doomed, but if we keep tracking the way we are, human activity could very well lead to tipping points and abrupt ecosystem collapse."
NASA Funds Nokia Plan To Provide Cellular Service On Moon
schwit1 shares a report from UPI:
NASA will fund a project by Nokia to build a 4G cellular communication network on the moon with $14.1 million, the space agency announced. That project was part of $370 million in new contracts for lunar surface research missions NASA announced Wednesday. Most of the money went to large space companies like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance to perfect techniques to make and handle rocket propellant in space. The space agency must quickly develop new technologies for living and working on the moon if it wants to realize its goal to have astronauts working at a lunar base by 2028, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a live broadcast.
A Dead Soviet Satellite and An Old Rocket Booster Could Collide In Space Tonight
Space traffic experts are
tracking two pieces of orbital garbage that appear to be careening toward each other: A defunct Soviet satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket booster that are expected to nearly miss each other -- with a slight chance of colliding -- Thursday evening. CNN reports:
No one knows for sure if the objects will collide, and near-misses happen in space all the time. But LeoLabs, a California-based startup that uses ground-based radars to track spaceborne objects, is putting the odds of collision at 10% or more. That's high, but not uncommon LeoLabs CEO Daniel Ceperley told CNN Business on Thursday. "Multiple times a week we're seeing dead satellites come within 100 meters of each other, moving at tremendous speeds," Ceperley said. The company decided to raise public awareness about this particular event, he said, because the two objects are both large -- and likely to create an enormous debris field if they collide -- and because they're in an area of orbit that's still relatively clean compared to nearby orbits. The company is also trying to raise more general public awareness about the debris problem, he said.
The Soviet satellite, which launched to space in 1989 and was used for navigation, weighs nearly 2,000 pounds and is 55 feet long, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. And the rocket booster, part of a Chinese Long March launch vehicle that likely launched in 2009, is about 20 feet long. Neither of the objects is still in use. If the rocket and satellite do collide, it would be the first time in more than a decade that two objects spontaneously collided in space -- a situation space traffic experts have hoped desperately to avoid.