Australia

Australia Finally Creates Its Own National Space Agency (yahoo.com) 114

50 years after Australia became the third country to launch a satellite into space, they had another big announcement. An anonymous reader quotes AFP: Australia on Monday committed to creating a national space agency as it looks to cash in on the lucrative and fast-evolving astronautical sector. The announcement came at a week-long Adelaide space conference attended by the world's top scientists and experts including SpaceX chief Elon Musk. It brings Canberra -- which already has significant involvement in national and international space activities -- into line with most other developed nations, which already have dedicated agencies to help coordinate the industry and shape development. "The global space industry is growing rapidly and it's crucial that Australia is part of this growth," acting science minister Michaelia Cash said in statement.
The Australian government estimates that the global space sector now drives $323 billion in revenue each year.
Government

Spain's Crackdown on Catalonia Includes Internet Censorship (internetsociety.org) 348

Spain's autonomous Catalonia region wants to hold a referendum on independence next weekend. Spain's Constitutional Court insists that that vote is illegal, and has taken control of Catalonia's police force to try to stop the vote. They're deploying thousands of additional police officers and have seized nearly 10 million ballots. And now the Internet Society has gotten involved, according to an announcement shared by Slashdot reader valinor89: Measures restricting free and open access to the Internet related to the independence referendum have been reported in Catalonia. There have been reports that major telecom operators have been asked to monitor and block traffic to political websites, and following a court order, law enforcement has raided the offices of the .cat registry in Barcelona, examining a computer and arresting staff.

We are concerned by reports that this court order would require a top-level domain (TLD) operator such as .cat to begin to block "all domains that may contain any kind of information about the referendum."

Cellphones

Super-Accurate GPS Chips Coming To Smartphones In 2018 (ieee.org) 112

schwit1 writes about a new mass-market Broadcom chip designed for the next generation of smartphones: It'll know where you are to within 30 centimeters (11.8 inches), rather than five meters. At least that's the claim chip maker Broadcom is making. It says that some of its next-generation smartphone chips will use new global positioning satellite signals to boost accuracy. In a detailed report on the announcement and how the new signals work, IEEE Spectrum says that the new chips, which are expected to appear in some phones as soon as next year, will also use half the power of today's chips and even work in cities where tower blocks often interfere with existing systems. All told, it sounds like a massive change for those who rely on their phones to find their way.
DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 248

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: Why Does Google Want To Purchase HTC? (bloomberg.com) 101

Rumor has it Google is planning to purchase HTC -- or at least a portion of it. The speculation of this has been doing rounds for weeks now, and it reached a new high today after HTC said its stock will stop trading from Thursday, as it prepares to make a "major announcement" tomorrow. Bloomberg reported today: Alphabet's Google is close to acquiring assets from Taiwan's HTC, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a bid to bolster the internet giant's nascent hardware business. HTC, once ranked among the world's top smartphone makers, is holding a town hall meeting Thursday, according to tech website Venture Beat, which cited a copy of an internal invitation. The shares will also be suspended from trading as of Sept. 21 due to a pending announcement, according to the Taiwan stock exchange. Of course Google has made similar moves in the past. It previously owned Motorola for a brief period of time, but that acquisition didn't materialize much. The company has however, since re-hired the Motorola chief it once had, Rick Osterloh, and founded a separate hardware team under his stewardship. Claude Zellweger, the one-time chief designer of HTC Vive, is also now at Google, working on that company's Daydream virtual reality system.

What reasons could Google have to purchase HTC? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Communications

T-Mobile To Increase Deprioritization Threshold To 50GB This Week (tmonews.com) 67

After raising its deprioritization threshold to 32GB in May, it looks like T-Mobile will bump it up to 50GB on September 20th, according to a TmoNews source. The move will widen the gap between T-Mobile and its competition. For comparison, Sprint's deprioritization threshold is currently 23GB, while AT&T and Verizon's are both 22GB. TmoNews reports: It's said that this 50GB threshold won't change every quarter and no longer involves a specific percentage of data users. As with the current 32GB threshold, customers that exceed this new 50GB deprioritization threshold in a single month may experience reduced speeds in areas where the network is congested. T-Mobile hasn't issued an announcement regarding this news, but the official @TMobileHelp account recently tweeted "Starting 9/20, the limit will be increased!" in response to a question about this news.
DRM

HTML5 DRM Standard Is a Go (arstechnica.com) 154

Artem Tashkinov writes: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the industry body that oversees development of HTML and related Web standards, has today published the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification as a Recommendation, marking its final blessing as an official Web standard. Final approval came after the W3C's members voted 58.4 percent to approve the spec, 30.8 percent to oppose, with 10.8 percent abstaining. EME provides a standard interface for DRM protection of media delivered through the browser. EME is not itself a DRM scheme; rather, it defines how Web content can work with third-party Content Decryption Modules (CDMs) that handle the proprietary decryption and rights-management portion. The principal groups favoring the development of EME have been streaming media companies such as Netflix and Microsoft, Google, and Apple, companies that both develop browsers and operate streaming media services. Following the announcement, EFF wrote a letter to W3C director, chief executive officer and team, in which it expressed its disappointment and said it was resignation from the W3C.
Privacy

Illinois Tests A Blockchain-Based Birth Registry/ID System (illinoisblockchain.tech) 151

An anonymous reader quotes Government Technology: The state of Illinois, which has six blockchain pilots underway, will partner with Utah-based Evernym for a birth registry pilot meant to individualize and secure identities... The endeavor, one of six distinct blockchain explorations Illinois began last summer with a working group, is expected to utilize the Sovrin Foundation's publicly available distributed identity ledger and expand upon accomplishments of the W3C Verifiable Claims Task Force, the state said... Recognizing that identity -- and, now, digital identity -- begin at birth, the state will explore using these technologies to create "a secure 'self-sovereign' identity for Illinois citizens during the birth registration process," it said in the announcement.
More from the Illinois Blockchain Initiative site: Self-sovereign identity refers to a digital identity that remains entirely under the individual's control. A self-sovereign identity can be efficiently and securely validated by entities who require it, free from reliance on a centralized repository. Jennifer O'Rourke, Blockchain Business Liaison for the Illinois Blockchain Initiative commented, "To structurally address the many issues surrounding digital identity, we felt it was important to develop a framework that examines identity from its inception at child birth... Identity is not only foundational to nearly every government service, but is the basis for trust and legitimacy in the public sector."

In the proposed framework, government agencies will verify birth registration information and then cryptographically sign identity attributes such as legal name, date of birth, sex or blood type, creating what are called "verifiable claims" or attributes. Permission to view or share each of these government-verified claims is stored on the tamper-proof distributed ledger protocol in the form of a decentralized identifier... This minimizes the need for entities to establish, maintain and rely upon their own proprietary databases of identity information.

Evernym's "Chief Trust Officer" sees the program as "a major contribution to the larger effort of solving the online identity problem."
Earth

There's a Logic To How Squirrels Bury Their Nuts (berkeley.edu) 93

sandbagger shares an announcement from the University of California: Like trick-or-treaters sorting their Halloween candy haul, fox squirrels apparently organize their stashes of nuts by variety, quality and possibly even preference, according to new UC Berkeley research... Fox squirrels stockpile at least 3,000 to 10,000 nuts a year and, under certain conditions, separate each cache into quasi "subfolders," one for each type of nut, researchers said... Over a two-year period, the research team tracked the caching patterns of 45 male and female fox squirrels as the reddish gray, bushy-tailed rodents buried almonds, pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts in various wooded locations on the UC Berkeley campus...

Using hand-held GPS navigators, researchers tracked the squirrels from their starting location to their caching location, then mapped the distribution of nut types and caching locations to detect patterns. They found that the squirrels who foraged at a single location frequently organized their caches by nut species, returning to, say, the almond area, if that was the type of nut they were gathering, and keeping each category of nut that they buried separate. Meanwhile, the squirrels foraging in multiple locations deliberately avoided caching in areas where they had already buried nuts, rather than organizing nuts by type.

Star Wars Prequels

J.J. Abrams To Direct Star Wars: Episode IX; Premiere Date Pushed To December 2019 (theverge.com) 221

A week after Jurassic World's Colin Trevorrow was ousted from the Star Wars: Episode IX director's chair, a familiar face has stepped in to replace him: J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for successfully rebooting the new trilogy in 2015 with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From a report: Disney just pushed back the release of Star Wars: Episode IX from May 2019 to December 2019, Deadline reports. The news comes after an announcement today that J.J. Abrams is taking over from Colin Trevorrow as director of the movie. Episode IX, originally slated to premiere on May 24th, 2019, was supposed to be a return to May release dates for the Star Wars franchise. Back in 2015, The Force Awakens was also originally supposed to be released in the summer, but was moved to a December release after Abrams took over screenwriting duties with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and needed more time.
Privacy

TechCrunch: Equifax Hack-Checking Web Site Is Returning Random Results (techcrunch.com) 176

An anonymous reader quotes security researcher Brian Krebs: The web site that Equifax advertised as the place where concerned Americans could go to find out whether they were impacted by this breach -- equifaxsecurity2017.com -- is completely broken at best, and little more than a stalling tactic or sham at worst. In the early hours after the breach announcement, the site was being flagged by various browsers as a phishing threat. In some cases, people visiting the site were told they were not affected, only to find they received a different answer when they checked the site with the same information on their mobile phones.
TechCrunch has concluded that "the checker site, hosted by Equifax product TrustID, seems to be telling people at random they may have been affected by the data breach." One user reports that entering the same information twice produced two different answers. And ZDNet's security editor reports that even if you just enter Test or 123456, "it says your data has been breached." TechCrunch writes: The assignment seems random. But, nevertheless, they were still asked to continue enrolling in TrustID. What this means is not only are none of the last names tied to your Social Security number, but there's no way to tell if you were really impacted. It's clear Equifax's goal isn't to protect the consumer or bring them vital information. It's to get you to sign up for its revenue-generating product TrustID.
Meanwhile, one web engineer claims the secret 10-digit "security freeze" PIN being issued by Equifax "is just a timestamp of when you made the freeze."
China

China Builds World's Largest EV Charging Network With 167,000 Stations (247wallst.com) 103

"It soon will become easier to charge a Chevy Bolt or Tesla in China," reports 24/7 Wall Street, citing reports from China's official newspaper that they've built the highest number of electric-car charging facilities in the world, offering "the broadest coverage, and the most advanced technology." AmiMoJo quotes their announcement: A total of 167,000 charging piles have now been connected to the telematics platform of the State Grid Corporation of China, making it the world's largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network. By cooperating with 17 charging station operators, the SGCC now offers more than 1 million kilowatt-hours of power each day.
24/7 Wall Street says the ambitious (and government-subsidized) plan "is bound to help electronic car adoption since most vehicles in the category have ranges well under 300 miles."
Star Wars Prequels

Disney Is Pulling Star Wars and Marvel Films From Netflix (arstechnica.com) 195

Disney CEO Bob Iger announced on Thursday that his company will pull the full catalog of films from the Star Wars franchise and Marvel universe from Netflix after 2019. Last month, Disney announced it would be pulling a number of Disney titles from the Netflix catalog, but left the door open to keeping the Star Wars franchise and Marvel films. That door has since been slammed shut, "choosing instead to use movies like Iron Man, Captain America, and the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX as a draw to a new Disney-owned streaming service," reports Ars Technica. From the report: It's not clear exactly which films are affected by Iger's announcement. A Netflix spokesperson told The Verge last month that "we continue to do business with the Walt Disney Company on many fronts, including our ongoing deal with Marvel TV." That refers to a collaboration between Disney and Netflix to produce several live-action television series based on lesser-known Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage. Some of those series are still being actively developed. It's a high-risk gamble for Disney. It makes sense for Disney to bring its best-known franchises back under its own roof to give the Disney streaming service the best possible chance of success. But Disney is leaving a lot of money on the table by not doing a deal with Netflix or one of its competitors. It could be an expensive mistake if the Disney streaming service doesn't get traction.
Microsoft

Microsoft Extends Free Windows 10 S-To-Pro Upgrade Deadline (betanews.com) 93

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Windows 10 S is a really great idea in theory. By limiting the operating system to applications from the Windows Store, it could make users safer. After all, it should limit the potential of malware since users can't download and install questionable things from the web. Of course, this will only be successful if there is a good library of apps, and I am sorry to say, the Windows Store is a failure in that regard. The biggest selling point for Windows is legacy program compatibility. Once you take that away, there isn't much left. Thankfully, the company is giving complimentary upgrades from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro until the end of 2017. This will allow a person or organization to easily recover from mistakenly buying into Windows 10 S if it doesn't meet their needs. Today, however, as a sign of weakness, Microsoft extends this deadline. Buried at the end of a blog post about Surface Laptop colors, Microsoft drops the following bombshell: "For those that find they need an application that isn't yet available in the Store and must be installed from another source, we're extending the ability to switch from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for free until March 31, 2018. We hope this provides increased flexibility for those people searching for the perfect back-to-school or holiday gift." Why do I say this is a sign of weakness? Well, if the Windows 10 S experiment was going well, Microsoft would have no need to extend the deadline. In other words, if users were truly buying into and enjoying the "S" experience, we wouldn't see such an announcement. The fact that the company seemingly tried to hide this news is quite telling too. Ultimately, it signals a lack of confidence in Windows 10 S.
Businesses

Power Company Kills Nuclear Plant, Plans $6 Billion In Solar, Battery Investment (arstechnica.com) 390

Socguy writes: After being unable to complete the Levy County Nuclear Plant a few years ago, Duke energy abandoned it, leaving rate payers on the hook. Duke is now in the process of settling legal action as a result. As part of the settlement Duke will construct or acquire 700MW of solar capacity over four years in the western Florida area, construct 50MW of battery storage, undertake grid modernizations and install 530 electric car charging stations. "The Levy nuclear plant was proposed in 2008 and ran into hurdles early on," reports Ars Technica. "With cheap natural gas in 2013, Duke Energy Florida became nervous that it might not recuperate costs spent on the nuclear plant, especially with regulatory delays. The company cancelled its engineering and construction agreements in 2013 but said that it was holding open the possibility of returning to Levy someday. Over nine years, about $800 million had been spent on preparatory work for the plant. With Tuesday's announcement, those costs are sunk costs now. But overall, the changes will save residential customers future nuclear-related rate increases. Those customers will see a cost reduction of $2.50 per megawatt-hour (MWh) 'through the removal of unrecovered Levy Nuclear Project costs,' the utility said. The 700MW of solar won't exactly cover the nameplate capacity of the Levy plant, which was supposed to deliver 2.2 gigawatts to the region. But the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Duke 'is effectively giving up its long-held belief that nuclear power is a key component to its Florida future and, instead, making a dramatic shift toward more solar power.'"
Open Source

Reddit's Main Code Is No Longer Open Source (reddit.com) 162

An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from Reddit's founding engineer: When we open sourced Reddit back in 2008, Reddit Inc was a ragtag organization and the future of the company was very uncertain. We wanted to make sure the community could keep the site alive should the company go under and making the code available was the logical thing to do. Nine years later and Reddit is a very different company and as anyone who has been paying attention will have noticed, we've been doing a bad job of keeping our open-source product repos up to date. This is for a variety of reasons, some intentional and some not so much:

Open-source makes it hard for us to develop some features "in the clear" (like our recent video launch) without leaking our plans too far in advance. As Reddit is now a larger player on the web, it is hard for us to be strategic in our planning when everyone can see what code we are committing. Because of the above, our internal development, production and "feature" branches have been moving further and further from the "canonical" state of the open source repository... We are actively moving away from the "monolithic" version of reddit that works using only the original repository... Because of these reasons, we are making the following changes to our open-source practice. We're going to archive reddit/reddit and reddit/reddit-mobile. These will still be accessible in their current state, but will no longer receive updates.

The announcement has been condensed slightly, but Reddit's founding engineer insists that "We believe in open source, and want to make sure that our contributions are both useful and meaningful. We will continue to open source tools that are of use to engineers everywhere." In addition, "Much of the core of Reddit is based on open source technologies (Postgres, python, memcached, Cassanda to name a few!) and we will continue to contribute to projects we use and modify..."

"Those who have been paying attention will realize that this isn't really a change to how we're doing anything but rather making explicit what's already been going on."
Programming

Solve a 'Simple' Chess Puzzle, Win $1 Million (st-andrews.ac.uk) 125

An anonymous reader brings an important announcement: Researchers at the University of St Andrews have thrown down the gauntlet to computer programmers to find a solution to a "simple" chess puzzle which could, in fact, take thousands of years to solve, and net a $1 million prize. Computer Scientist Professor Ian Gent and his colleagues, at the University of St Andrews, believe any program capable of solving the famous "Queens Puzzle" efficiently would be so powerful, it would be capable of solving tasks currently considered impossible, such as decrypting the toughest security on the internet. In a paper [PDF] published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research today, the team conclude the rewards to be reaped by such a program would be immense, not least in financial terms with firms rushing to use it to offer technological solutions, and also a $1 million prize offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.

Devised in 1850, the Queens Puzzle originally challenged a player to place eight queens on a standard chessboard so that no two queens could attack each other. This means putting one queen in each row, so that no two queens are in the same column, and no two queens in the same diagonal. Although the problem has been solved by human beings, once the chess board increases to a large size no computer program can solve it.

Businesses

Juicero, Maker of the Infamous $400 Juicer, Is Shutting Down (fortune.com) 200

Beth Kowitt, reporting for Fortune: Juicero has run out of juice. The San Francisco-based maker of counter-top cold-press juicers said today that it is shutting down operations and suspending the sale of its presses and produce packs immediately. The announcement on the company's website comes after the startup said in July that it was undergoing a "strategic shift" to more quickly lower the cost of its $399 juicers and $5-7 juice packs filled with raw fruits and vegetables. As part of the shift, the company said then that it would lay off about a quarter of its staff. At the time, Juicero CEO Jeff Dunn wrote in a letter to employees obtained by Fortune that the current prices were "not a realistic way for us to fulfill our mission at the scale to which we aspire." But Juicero realized it couldn't bring down the cost of its products as a standalone company. It was too small to achieve the required economies of scale on its own. The company will now focus on finding a buyer, it wrote in Friday's blog post. From an article in April: After the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands.
Iphone

The Next iPhone Is Going To Be Unveiled On Sept. 12, Report Says (cnbc.com) 77

According to CNBC, Apple will host its big iPhone 8 product launch event on September 12th. From the report: The tech giant is expected to announce a bevy of products, including two new iterative iPhone updates, possibly named the iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus, in addition to a high-end iPhone 8. Apple is also reportedly gearing up to announce a new 4K Apple TV that will support sharper content than current models, and a new Apple Watch. The iPhone 8 will reportedly feature a display that takes up almost the entire front of the device, using new OLED panels that are brighter and more colorful than previous screens. Rumor has it Apple has moved the fingerprint reader to the back of the phone but will also support facial recognition thanks to a new 3-D sensor on the front of the device. Rumors have suggested the most high-end iPhone 8 will start at $1,000. Apple typically sells its new phones within a week or so of the announcement.
Security

Lawsuit Filed Against Logitech For Delaying Warranty Claims, Hiding EOL (bleepingcomputer.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: A U.S. man has filed a lawsuit against Logitech, a Swiss-based manufacturer of electronic devices, on accusations that Logitech had intentionally delayed and tried to discourage warranty claims for defective products, falsely advertised products, and even hid an End-Of-Life (EOL) announcement from customers. The product at the heart of this lawsuit is a high-definition digital video home security systems named Logitech Alert Systems... The lawsuit alleges that Logitech's cameras had "a high-rate of failure" and the software running on the IP cameras "was rife with bugs and glitches that made the systems unreliable and inoperable"...

The cherry on top came when users complained to the company. "Logitech refused to honor its warranties to remedy the defects while customers' warranty periods lapsed, thereby escaping its legal obligations to provide non-defective replacements or refunds," the lawsuit reads. The lawsuit alleges that Logitech knew its product had a high rate of failure, but instead of issuing a callback, it "responded by designing and implementing a strategy to avoid its express warranty obligations... As a result, Logitech strategically left customers without operable security systems during the warranty period while it ran out the clock."

The proposed class-action lawsuit covers the IP cameras sold between 2010 and 2014, though it alleges Logitech decided to discontinue the products by 2012, and "claims the company wanted to sell current stocks of Alert Systems before making the announcement and allowed customers to buy a product it did not intend to support anymore."

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