What If the Government Ran a Social Network?
A publicly-funded social network run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation "
has been proposed as one possible response if Facebook and Google limit services in Australia when the mandatory news code becomes law this year," reports the Guardian:
Facebook has warned it will block Australians from sharing news if the landmark plan to make digital platforms pay for news content becomes law. Google has been running a public campaign against the code and launched an international campaign targeting YouTube users when the government announced it would force the company to pay news publishers for content... The proposal for a platform hosted by the ABC is among a raft of risk mitigation proposals in a report commissioned by the Centre for Responsible Technology, "Tech-Xit: Can Australia survive without Google and Facebook?"
The proposed platform would connect the community without harvesting data in the way Google and Facebook do, and could rely on the wide reach of the ABC across local, regional and national communities, as well as the trust the invested in the institution by the public. "An ABC platform which engages the community, allows for a genuine exchange and influence on decision making, and applying principles of independent journalism and storytelling would provide real value to local communities starved of civic engagement," the report says. "[We should] develop viable alternatives to Google and Facebook, such as national online social platform hosted through the ABC..."
The report argues the arrival of the mandatory news code is a chance to push back against the profit or surveillance imperative of the tech giants and look for alternatives. "Google and Facebook's response to the ACCC mandatory news code has placed in stark relief our national over-reliance on them," the director of the Australia Institute's Centre for Responsible Technology, Peter Lewis, said. "This analysis shows that two global corporations that play a dominant role in our civic and commercial institutions are prepared to threaten to withdraw those services to protect their own commercial self-interest."
Another California City Launches a Two-Year Guaranteed Income Program
The Los Angeles Times reports a new guaranteed income pilot program which within a few months "
will begin giving 800 Compton residents free cash for a two-year period," according to mayor Aja Brown:
So far, private donors have contributed $2.5 million to the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a charity headed by Nika Soon-Shiong, daughter of Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong... Each selected family will receive at least a few hundred dollars on a recurring basis, as well as tools that will help them access financial guidance, Brown said. Parents or other residents caring for dependents may receive more. Anonymous researchers will track the participants' spending and well-being.
Brown said she had been aware of the concept of universal guaranteed income for years, but got to see it in action in February 2019 when Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, which gave 125 residents $500 a month for 18 months... The concept of giving citizens free money with no strings attached was once a radical idea that has begun gaining traction, partly as a result of the pandemic. Opponents of guaranteed income have argued that extra cash with no strings attached would lead to higher levels of unemployment and that recipients might spend the money on drugs or alcohol or other "temptation goods."
But decades of research has indicated that very few people work less after receiving cash transfers, and those who do use usually spend more with their families, said Halah Ahmad, head of public relations and policy communications for the Jain Family Institute, a nonprofit research firm that helps design guaranteed income pilot programs. In a review of 19 studies on cash transfers between 1997 and 2014 by the World Bank, authors found that "Almost without exception, studies find either no significant impact or a significant negative impact of transfers on temptation goods."
Three npm Packages Opened Remote-Access Shells on Linux and Windows Systems
opened shells on the computers of developers who imported the packages into their projects."
The shells, a technical term used by cyber-security researchers, allowed threat actors to connect remotely to the infected computer and execute malicious operations. The npm security team said the shells could work on both Windows and *nix operating systems, such as Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and others.
All three packages were uploaded on the npm portal in May (first) and September 2018 (last two). Each package had hundreds of downloads since being uploaded on the npm portal. The packages names were:
"Any computer that has this package installed or running should be considered fully compromised. All secrets and keys stored on that computer should be rotated immediately from a different computer," the npm security team said.
Stupid Russian Disinformation Campaign Targets Oxford Vaccine
The Times of London reports that "a Russian disinformation campaign
designed to undermine and spread fear about the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine has been exposed by a Times investigation."
Pictures, memes and video clips depicting the British-made vaccine as dangerous have been devised in Russia and middlemen are now seeking to "seed" the images on social media networks around the world. The crude theme of the distorted images is that the vaccine, millions of doses of which will be manufactured by the pharmaceutical giant Astrazeneca, could turn people into monkeys because it uses a chimpanzee virus as a vector. The campaign is being targeted at countries where Russia wants to sell its own Sputnik V vaccine, as well as western nations.
CNN points out that this "monkey vaccine" narrative "
has been voiced by Russian officials and the state media before."
China Bans Internet Services Which 'Induce Addiction' In Children
implementing stricture measures in its bid to keep kids away from addictive digital content," reports Engadget:
The state-backed news agency Xinhua reported (via Reuters) that China has voted for a revamped law that will ban internet products and services which "induce addiction" in kids. Game creators, livestream services and social networks also have to set up time and consumption limits. The revised measures also give kids and their parents the right to ask internet providers to take "necessary measures" to thwart cyberbullying, including blocking and deleting content. The updated law will take effect on June 1st, 2021.
Is QAnon an 8Chan Game Gone Wrong?
This week London's prestigious
Financial Times published a 15-minute video investigating the question: "
Is QAnon a game gone wrong?"
In 2017, the Q team, whoever they may be, made use of the modern equivalent of the Playboy's letters page. It's a message board called 4Chan... A YouTuber called defango has since claimed the work was his. He says he created Q as an alternative reality game, mostly for the LOLs, but also to smoke out bad journalists in the alternative media space. But he also says that in 2018, a man called Thomas Schoenberger wrested control of the game from him... Nobody knows if what he says is really true. What is becoming clear is that the whole thing has run away with itself...
Anyone who plays live action role playing games, known as LARPs, will recognise the gaming elements of QAnon [according to alternate-reality game pioneer Jim Stewartson.] "In 2015, 2016, and 2017, there were a lot of what are called LARPs, live action role playing is what the term means. And it really just means that there is a person pretending to be somebody else. The players knew they weren't real, but it was fun for them to interact with. But what happened on 4Chan and 8Chan is that individual people would go and LARP all by themselves, and create basically a single point of contact for an entire alternate reality game. In 2016, there was FBI Anon, and CIA Anon, Meganon, and all of these different LARPs that were basically practicing, they were prototyping what QAnon is... So it turns out there's a guy named Thomas Schoenberger. He saw this Cicada game as an opportunity to radicalise smart people, and he ended up creating puzzles and calling it Cicada, even though he was not the creator of it."
To this day, no one seems quite sure who the creator of Cicada was. We haven't been able to confirm Thomas Schoenberger's involvement in either Cicada or QAnon... [But Jim Stewartson tells them] "There's a woman named Lisa Clapier who runs an account called SnowWhite7IAM. And her job was to bring people from Cicada to QAnon. So there was a whole theme about follow the White Rabbit. A whole theme around Snow White and Disney characters. And that theme was used specifically to pull people from Cicada into QAnon."
A similar origin story appears in
a new article at Heavy.com:
Between 2014 and 2016, Schoenberger "stole" Cicada, Heavy's source said, and he started manipulating the puzzle. Later on, while working with Chavez, "breadcrumbs" — vague top secret information hidden in clues, were presented through the Cicada game.
In October 2017 QAnon posts premiered on 4chan, a site Schoenberger was prominent on before moving to 8chan in December, a site run out of the Philippines by pornography mogul and pig farmer, Jim Watkins, Heavy's source said.
3 TB of Private Webcam/Home Security Video Leaked on Porn Sites
A hacking group that has yet to identify itself found and stole more than 3 TB of private video from around the world — mainly collected from Singapore — and shared it on porn sites, according to reports from local media like The New Paper. While some of the footage was indeed pornographic in nature, other videos are more mundane.
More than 50,000 private IP-based cameras were accessed by hackers to amass the collection. Some were explicitly tagged with locations in Singapore, The New Paper reports, while others revealed their location as Singapore based on context clues such as book titles and home layout. Many show people (sometimes with their faces censored) in "various stages of undress or compromising positions...."
It's looking like poor security is the culprit. Clement Lee, a solutions architect for multinational software company Check Point Software Technologies, told The New Paper that the hacking of IP cameras is often due to "poor password management." IP cameras make it easy to access your video feeds from anywhere — which means it's also easy for hackers to access them from anywhere, once they've figured out your password...
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that internet-connected devices are inherently susceptible to hacking. Add lax encryption and lazy users to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.
Zeptoseconds! Scientists Measure the Shortest Unit of Time Ever
Scientists have measured the shortest unit of time ever: the time it takes a light particle to cross a hydrogen molecule.
That time, for the record, is 247 zeptoseconds. A zeptosecond is a trillionth of a billionth of a second, or a decimal point followed by 20 zeroes and a 1. Previously, researchers had dipped into the realm of zeptoseconds; in 2016, researchers reporting in the journal Nature Physics used lasers to measure time in increments down to 850 zeptoseconds. This accuracy is a huge leap from the 1999 Nobel Prize-winning work that first measured time in femtoseconds, which are millionths of a billionths of seconds.
It takes femtoseconds for chemical bonds to break and form, but it takes zeptoseconds for light to travel across a single hydrogen molecule (H2). To measure this very short trip, physicist Reinhard Dörner of Goethe University in Germany and his colleagues shot X-rays from the PETRA III at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY), a particle accelerator in Hamburg. The researchers set the energy of the X-rays so that a single photon, or particle of light, knocked the two electrons out of the hydrogen molecule. (A hydrogen molecule consists of two protons and two electrons.) The photon bounced one electron out of the molecule, and then the other, a bit like a pebble skipping over the top of a pond. These interactions created a wave pattern called an interference pattern, which Dörner and his colleagues could measure with a tool called a Cold Target Recoil Ion Momentum Spectroscopy (COLTRIMS) reaction microscope.
Fitness Influencer Who'd Believed Covid-19 'Didn't Exist' Dies of Covid-19
"Fitness influencer Dmitriy Stuzhuk has
passed away at the age of 33 after suffering from complications related to COVID-19," reports
The Daily Dot points out that Stuzhuk
believed COVID-19 "didn't exist" — until he caught it himself after travelling in Turkey:
Stuzhuk, who boasted more than 1 million followers on Instagram, tested positive after returning home and immediately went to the hospital. In his final post on Instagram, Stuzhuk, who said that the hospital was "completely filled with people," admitted that he was wrong about the disease and urged his followers to stay vigilant.
"I want to share how I got sick and to strongly warn everyone," he wrote. "I was one who thought that Covid does not exist... Until I got sick..."
Although Stuzhuk was eventually discharged from the hospital after being treated with oxygen, he was rushed back just hours later after his situation began to worsen...Stuzhuk's ex-wife Sofia stated on Instagram that her former husband began having heart-complications linked to "problems with his cardiovascular system..." The couple had three children together, the youngest of whom was just 9 months old.
"Only warm memories remain, three beautiful kids and valuable experience," Sofia said.
Cloudflare Offers 'Isolated' Cloud-Based Browser, Plus a Network-as-a-Service Solution
Cloudflare has released the beta of its new
"browser isolation" service, which runs a web browser in the cloud, reports TechRadar.
As more and more computing is done inside a browser as opposed to on a system itself, many enterprise organizations have begun to deploy browser isolation services where the browser doesn't actually run on a user's computer. Instead the browser runs on a virtual machine inside a cloud provider's data center. This means that any threats from the browser will stay in that virtual machine and won't be able to infect a corporate laptop or move laterally across an organization's network...
Cloudflare Browser Isolation does thing a bit differently by sending the final output of a browser's web page rendering. As a result, the only thing every sent to a user's device is a package of draw commands to render the webpage and this also means that the company's new service will be compatible with any HTML5 compliant browser including Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox.
As Cloudflare has data centers in 200 cities around the world, its browser isolation service should be able to deliver a responsive web browsing experience regardless of where a user is located.
It's part of a larger push, since this week Cloudflare also
released their network-as-a-service solution "Cloudflare One," which according to Cloudflare "protects and accelerates the performance of devices, applications, and entire networks to keep workforces secure."
"After decades of building legacy corporate networks, organizations are left with clunky systems designed to protect their now empty offices. The only way to secure today's work-from-anywhere economy is to secure each individual employee, protecting their individual networks, devices, and access to business-critical applications," said Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare... Companies have traditionally used a castle-and-moat approach to security, creating a barrier between the enterprise network and external threats. Now that applications have moved to the cloud, and more employees have moved outside of the office, that model is broken.
Employees are frustrated with the speed and experience of VPNs, and organizations want an alternative to the expensive patchwork of legacy solutions required to secure and connect corporate offices to each other and the internet. Today's new landscape requires a zero trust approach, where organizations do not automatically trust any requests to corporate data or resources, and instead, verify every attempt to connect to corporate systems before allowing them access... This unified solution enables fast and safe connections to workplace applications, allows teams to use an app without exposing it to the public internet, makes personal devices safe for business use, and works in any environment with any cloud provider.
Tesla Drops Its 7-Day Return Policy
has removed its ballsy 'no questions asked' 7-day return policy that Elon Musk has been pushing as a show of confidence for the automaker," reports Electrek:
CEO Elon Musk often used the policy in marketing Tesla vehicles to potential buyers... Tesla literally wrote in its support page for the policy, "This return policy is intended to give you confidence in your purchase of a Tesla vehicle, and so is in addition to any other rights you may have under applicable law." As long as there was no damage to the vehicle and less than 1,000 miles on the odometer, buyers were able to return the vehicle to Tesla for a full refund.
Now sources familiar with the matter told Electrek that Tesla has discontinued the policy Thursday night. The support page for the policy now redirects to Tesla's general support page without any replacement policy. Sources familiar with the matter told Electrek that dissatisfied buyers will now be referred to Tesla's service department if they express wanting to return a vehicle for whatever reason...
"Normally, we would ask Tesla's PR department about it, but as we recently reported, it has been disbanded."
"Tesla does, however, have dealerships," reports Mashable:
So I tried calling one and the salesperson who answered readily confirmed that yes, the seven-day return policy is no more. They told me the policy used to make sense because Tesla didn't have a major presence in many states, and so showrooms and test drives weren't widely available.
That's no longer the case, however. With more than 100 Tesla showrooms in the U.S. alone, it's much easier for a prospective buyer to check out one of the cars before they buy it.
The Motley Fool notes that "In midafternoon trading on Friday, Tesla's shares
were down by 1.2%, in contrast to the gains of the broader stock market."
Linux 5.10 Solves the Year 2038 Problem Until 2486
The Linux 5.10 kernel's XFS file-system will have two new on-disk meta-data capabilities, reports Phoronix:
1. The size of inode btrees in the allocation group is now recorded. This is for increasing redundancy checks and also allowing faster mount times.
2. Support for timestamps now until the year 2486.
This "big timestamps" feature is the refactoring of their timestamp and inode encoding functions to handle timestamps as a 64-bit nanosecond counter and bit shifting to increase the effective size. This now allows XFS to run well past the Year 2038 problem (where storing the time since 1970 in seconds will no longer fit in a signed 32-bit integer and thus wraparound) to now the Year 2486. Making a new XFS file-system with bigtime enabled allows a timestamp range from December 1901 to July 2486 rather than December 1901 to January 2038. For preserving backwards compatibility, the big timestamps feature is not currently enabled by default.
Bill Gates Asked Microsoft's 'Junior Engineer' Job Interview Question
Let's say you're interviewing for a junior engineering position at Microsoft," Bill Gates was asked. "Why should we hire you?"
"I like to be on a team," Gates replies. "I like ambitious goals. I like thinking through how we can anticipate the future. Software is cool, and I want to be involved."
The question was asked by top basketball player Steph Curry, in a new YouTube series CNN says will focus on ideas for positive change. In its first 20-minute episode Gates also spoke about the toll of the pandemic on workers in difficult low-paying jobs that can't be done remotely. "We didn't prepare well for this pandemic. I was one of the voices that warned that something like this could happen, but even I didn't appreciate how inequitable this would be...
"Hopefully, although the whole thing's a tragedy and a huge setback, some of those areas of innovation like online learning, telemedicine, get accelerated so that three years from now we can say 'Wow, we made over 10 years of progress. This stuff really works."
Google's Internal Data Suggests Employees Feel Less Productive At Home
The Information reports:
Google's engineering directors are grappling with a worrisome trend: internal data that indicate productivity during the coronavirus shutdowns deteriorated among engineers, particularly newly hired ones.
One internal survey viewed by The Information found that in the three months ended in June, only 31% of the company's engineers polled felt they had been highly productive, down 8 percentage points from a record high in the March quarter. That decline and more recent data on engineers' coding output from the third quarter caused its head of engineering productivity, Michael Bachman, last week to email senior Google managers and executives, drawing attention to the data. He said the findings are "still relevant for all teams across the company," not just engineers.
Inside.com's developer newsletter
supplies some context:
The news comes as reports reveal Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella is tired of working from home, while Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom adds he believes remote work is, for many, a "productivity disaster" that he fears will hurt innovation.
However, these statements contradict a recent report unveiled during the September DevOpsWorld 2020 conference examining the impact of Covid-19 on software development, where many reported an increase in productivity.
NASA Asks: What Would You Pack For a Trip to the Moon?
AmiMoJo quotes SlashGear:
We're still many years away from casual consumer trips to the Moon, but it's easy to fantasize about such trips. NASA is getting in on the fun with a new campaign presenting the public with a simple question: what would you pack if you were taking your own lunar trip? NASA is encouraging anyone interested to share a picture of what's in their bag (for this imagined Moon trip) using its new #NASAMoonKit social campaign...
NASA is encouraging the public to get a container that meets this volume limitation, pack it with the precious few items they'd bring along on the trip, then take a picture and share it on social media — either Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter — using the #NASAMoonKit hashtag. NASA says that it may share your post on its own social accounts if it likes what it sees.
"What can't you leave the planet without?" asks
the campaign's official web page. "Is it your camera? Your drawing pad? Or maybe your musical instrument?
"How would you organize everything you need for your next giant leap?"