Businesses

Can Elon Musk Be Weaned Off Government Support? (thehill.com) 269

mi shares an opinion piece written by Jenny Beth Martin via The Hill: A study published in 2015 by The Los Angeles Times revealed that just three of Musk's ventures -- SolarCity Corp. (which manufactured and installed solar energy systems before its 2016 merger with Tesla Motors Inc.), Tesla Motors Inc. (which manufactures electric vehicles), and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX (which builds rocket ships) -- had received $4.9 billion in government subsidies to that point in time. By now, Musk's various ventures have sucked well over $5 billion from government coffers. Worse: in order to induce car buyers to spend their money on electric vehicles, the federal government offers a $7,500 rebate on the purchase price. Some states enhance that rebate with rebates of their own. In California, for instance, purchasers of electric vehicles get a state-funded rebate of $2,500 more.

Slashdot reader mi asks: "Why are you and I subsidizing Elon Musk's products and when will his businesses be able to compete on their own?"

Intel

Intel Releases Final Core i9 Specs and Release Dates -- And Threadripper Is Faster (Sometimes) (pcworld.com) 91

On Monday, Intel took the wraps of final details of its Core i9 microprocessors. From a report: Remember that Intel's Core X-series family (also called the Core i9) was announced with several key omissions: namely the clock speeds of the 12-core Core i9-7920X and above, as well as the thermal design power, or TDP. On Monday, Intel filled those in. The 12-core Core i9-7920X launches Aug. 28 while the 14-, 16-, and 18-core Core i9 chips ship on Sept. 25. Perhaps most important, though, is that we now know how fast Intel's Core i9s will run. When Intel inadvertently revealed that its 12-core Core i9-7920X was 2.9-GHz -- slower than the comparable AMD Threadripper -- a subset of the internet had a small freakout. We now know that that will be true for the remaining Core i9s as well, but with a big caveat. Here are the remaining speeds and feeds for the high-end Core i9 chips:
Core i9-7980XE (18 cores, 36 threads): 2.6GHz; Boost, 4.2GHz to 4.4 GHz.
Core i9-7960X (16 cores, 32 threads): 2.8GHz; Boost, 4.2GHz to 4.4 GHz.
Core i9-7940X 14 cores, 28 threads: 3.1GHz; Boost: 4.3GHz to 4.4GHz.
Core i9-7920X (12 cores, 24 threads): 2.9-GHz; Boost: 4.3-GHz to 4.4GHz.

Note that the boost speeds refer to both Intel's Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 and 3.0. [...] Essentially, both Intel and AMD can claim the title of fastest processor. Threadripper's base clock speeds are faster, but Intel's boost speeds climb higher than Threadripper can. It's also important to note that while Threadripper consumes 180 watts, even the fastest Core i9 chips Intel has announced have a lower TDP of 165 watts.

Businesses

Amazon Owns a Whole Collection of Secret Brands (qz.com) 110

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz: After decades of selling products -- and knowing exactly what people are buying, and when they are buying it -- Amazon has started cutting out the middle-man by selling self-produced items. Through its AmazonBasics house brand, it sells all sorts of small items, from iPhone chargers, to batteries, power strips -- even foam rollers, backpacks and washcloths. It's the sort of stuff that you might not be too brand loyal over -- who really minds whether it's a Duracell or a Panasonic battery? Amazon sees that a product is selling well, and may decide to work with manufacturers to make the product itself -- it's a tactic that is already worrying vendors, and can't bode well for partnerships in the long run. But those are the obvious instances. Now, Amazon is selling products across a wide array of categories, using a host of brands that do not exist outside the confines of amazon.com and do not make it clear that they are Amazon-made products. Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com: Arabella, for lingerie products; Beauty Bar for cosmetics; Denali for tools; Franklin & Freeman for men's shoes; Happy Belly for fresh food; James & Erin for women's clothing; Lark & Ro for women's clothing; Mae for underwear; Mama Bear for baby products; Myhabit for consumer goods; North Eleven for women's clothing; NuPro for tech accessories; Pike Street for linen; Pinzon (by Amazon) for linen; Scout + Ro for kid's clothing; Single Cow Burger for frozen food; Small Parts for spare parts; Smart is Beautiful for clothing; and Strathwood for furniture.
Power

New Catalyst Is Better At Splitting Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen (phys.org) 133

schwit1 shared an article from Phys.org: Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to produce clean energy can be simplified with a single catalyst developed by scientists at Rice University and the University of Houston. The electrolytic film produced at Rice and tested at Houston is a three-layer structure of nickel, graphene and a compound of iron, manganese and phosphorus. The foamy nickel gives the film a large surface, the conductive graphene protects the nickel from degrading and the metal phosphide carries out the reaction... Rice chemist Kenton Whitmire and Houston electrical and computer engineer Jiming Bao and their labs developed the film to overcome barriers that usually make a catalyst good for producing either oxygen or hydrogen, but not both simultaneously... Whitmire said the material is scalable and should find use in industries that produce hydrogen and oxygen or by solar- and wind-powered facilities that can use electrocatalysis to store off-peak energy.
In a comment on the original submission, Slashdot reader Martin S. opines, "If we can crack H20 and C02 we could make fuel to run existing vehicles with existing infrastructure and that fuel could be carbon neutral by using off peak renewable energy from wind farms and solar."
Businesses

It's the 40th Anniversary of Radio Shack's TRS-80 (smithsonianmag.com) 301

An anonymous reader quotes Smithsonsian: It was with minimal expectations that, on August 3, 1977, Tandy Corporation teamed up with Radio Shack to release the TRS-80, one of the first personal computers available to consumer markets. While Don French -- a buyer for the Tandy Radio Shack consumer electronic chain -- had convinced some Tandy executives of the need to release a personal computer, most felt it was unlikely to gross substantial profits. This bulky item with complex operating procedures would never sell, they thought, more than 1,000 units in its first month... As it turned out, the TRS-80 surpassed even the most cautious sales estimates by tenfold within its first month on the market; the burgeoning prospects of a new era in personal electronics and computing could no longer be denied.
It had no hard drive and four kilobytes of memory, according to the article. Radio Shack's $600 PC was preceded by the MITS Altair, as well as PCs from both Apple and IBM, but "the TRS-80 was one of the first products that came fully assembled and ready to use, bridging the gap in accessibility between hobbyists -- who took interest in the actual building of the computer -- and the average American consumer, who wanted to know what this new, cutting-edge technology had in store for them."

Does this bring back any memories for anyone?
Power

Startup Unveils Revolutionary New Rechargeable Alkaline Batteries (nytimes.com) 137

Slashdot reader cdreimer quotes the New York Times: Alkaline batteries can be made far more cheaply and safely than today's lithium-ion batteries, but they are not rechargeable... Ionic Materials could change that equation with an alkaline battery the company said could be recharged hundreds of times. One additional benefit of the company's breakthrough: An alkaline battery would not be as prone to the combustion issues that have plagued lithium-ion batteries in a range of products, most notably some Samsung smartphones. Cheaper and more powerful batteries are also considered by many to be the driver needed to make the cost of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar competitive with the coal, gas and nuclear power that support the national energy grid.
The company "has demonstrated up to 400 recharge cycles for its prototypes," and it's now even investigating aluminum-based alkaline batteries which would also be lighter than lithium-ion batteries. The company is backed by Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy, who also envisions the batteries being used in electric cars.
Open Source

Linux Kernel Hardeners Grsecurity Sue Open Source's Bruce Perens (theregister.co.uk) 306

An anonymous reader shares a report from The Register: In late June, noted open-source programmer Bruce Perens [a longtime Slashdot reader] warned that using Grsecurity's Linux kernel security could invite legal trouble. "As a customer, it's my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity," Perens wrote on his blog. The following month, Perens was invited to court. Grsecurity sued the open-source doyen, his web host, and as-yet-unidentified defendants who may have helped him draft that post, for defamation and business interference. Grsecurity offers Linux kernel security patches on a paid-for subscription basis. The software hardens kernel defenses through checks for common errors like memory overflows. Perens, meanwhile, is known for using the Debian Free Software Guidelines to draft the Open Source Definition, with the help of others.

Grsecurity used to allow others to redistribute its patches, but the biz ended that practice for stable releases two years ago and for test patches in April this year. It offers its GPLv2 licensed software through a subscription agreement. The agreement says that customers who redistribute the code -- a right under the GPLv2 license -- will no longer be customers and will lose the right to distribute subsequent versions of the software. According to Perens, "GPL version 2 section 6 explicitly prohibits the addition of terms such as this redistribution prohibition." A legal complaint (PDF) filed on behalf of Grsecurity in San Francisco, California, insists the company's software complies with the GPLv2. Grsecurity's agreement, the lawsuit states, only applies to future patches, which have yet to be developed. Perens isn't arguing that the GPLv2 applies to unreleased software. Rather, he asserts the GPLv2, under section 6, specifically forbids the addition of contractual terms.

Robotics

MegaBots Is Finally Going To Take On Japan In the World's First Giant Robot Duel (qz.com) 38

A company called MegaBots released a video two years ago challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed. Now, according to MegaBots co-founderes, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, the battle is set to take place in September. Quartz reports: The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been "logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue," according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action -- presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life -- the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams' ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves "figure out how to not die.") Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots' Facebook and YouTube sites, but it's not clear whether the fight will be live.
Android

BLU Claims Innocence, Gets Phones Reinstated On Amazon (slashgear.com) 43

Earlier this week, Amazon suspended budget phone maker BLU from selling its phones on the site, citing a "potential security issue." A few days have passed and BLU has made its defense. SlashGear reports: AdUps, the Chinese company that provides affordable firmware update software to countless budget Android phones, is not spyware and not even Kryptowire, the security firm that broke the news last year, called it that, insists BLU. To be fair, Kryptowire really didn't. In its 2016 report, it simply described AdUps' OTA software as "FIRMWARE THAT TRANSMITTED PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) WITHOUT USER CONSENT OR DISCLOSURE." Curiously, that is more or less how the FTC defines spyware (PDF). In its 2017 follow-up, it did drop the second part of that phrase and simply reported on "mobile devices for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collection and transmission to third parties." While BLU, and a few other OEMs, was caught unaware by the first report, it's insisting on its innocence in this second instance. Its defense stems from the argument that it is doing nothing that violates its Privacy Policy and, therefore, doesn't constitute any wrongdoing. Yes, that privacy policy that barely anyone reads, which can't legally be blamed on manufacturers anyway.

In other words, when you agreed to use BLU's devices, you basically agreed that such PII could possibly be transmitted to a third party outside the US. In this particular case, that does apply to the situation with AdUps. Interestingly, the policy's copyright dates back to 2016, when the AdUps issue first came up. The Internet Archives doesn't seem to have any version of that page before April this year. And so we come to BLU's second arguments: everybody's doing it. The data that AdUps collects is the same or even just a fraction of what other OEMs are collecting. Google is hardly the bastion of privacy and other OEMs are also collecting such data and sending it to servers in China, as is the case with Huawei and ZTE. Finally, BLU says that Kryptowire's new report really only identifies the Cubot X16S, from a Chinese OEM, as the only smartphone really spying on its users.
UPDATE: BLU has confirmed that its devices "are now back up for sale on Amazon."
Network

Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties (bloomberg.com) 92

According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.
Android

Lenovo Switches To Stock Android For All Future Smartphones (ndtv.com) 80

Lenovo is canning its Vibe Pure UI Android skin in favor of the stock version of Google's mobile OS for its future smartphones, starting with the upcoming K8 Note, according to an interview from Gadgets 360 with Anuj Sharma, Lenovo India's head of marketing. From a report: Lenovo has confirmed that going forward, it will be abandoning its Vibe Pure UI Android customisation which ran on top of its recent Android smartphones in almost all markets. "What we have done in last 11 months is we looked at what we had in terms of software perspective. We have been close to the consumers and we saw what they were asking for. There was a certain trend and we have now decided to cut the Vibe Pure UI off from our phones. So you will now get the stock Android which consumers have been asking for," Sharma told Gadgets 360.
Intel

Intel's Upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs Won't Work With Today's Motherboards (pcworld.com) 239

Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs won't work with existing 200-series motherboards that support Kaby Lake, a manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday. In a Twitter post by Asrock last Saturday, the company confirmed the news when asked if "the Z270 Supercarrier [will] get support for the upcoming @intel Coffee Lake CPUs." Their response: "No, Coffee Lake CPU is not compatible with 200-series motherboards." PCWorld reports: According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told. The source added that there are hopes in the industry that Intel will change its mind on compatibility. Tomshardware.com said it had independently confirmed the news with Asrock officials as well.

Why this matters: The vast majority of new CPU sales are in new systems, and they likely won't be impacted by the incompatibility. However, there's also a very large and very vocal crowd of builders and upgraders who still swap out older, slower CPUs for newer, faster CPUs to maximize their investment. An upgrade-in-place doesn't sell an Intel chipset, but it at least keeps them on the Intel platform. If consumers are forced to dump an existing Z270 motherboard for a newer Z370 to get a six-core Coffee Lake CPU, Intel risks driving them into the arms of AMD and its Ryzen CPUs.

Businesses

Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars To Drivers, Says Report (usatoday.com) 35

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Uber knowingly rented recalled Honda sports utility vehicles to its drivers in Singapore, where at least one of which caught fire. USA Today reports: The paper reported Uber's Singapore office bought more than 1,000 Honda Vezel sports utility vehicles to rent to its drivers there. The cars contained a faulty electrical part that could catch on fire and Honda had recalled in Japan and elsewhere. There had been at least six reports of fires in the Vezel. In a statement Uber said that as soon as it learned of a Honda Vezel catching fire, it took swift action to fix the problem, coordinating with Singapore's Land Transport Authority as well as technical experts. However it acknowledged that it could have done more. The company said it has since introduced robust protocols and hired three dedicated experts in Singapore to ensure that it is fully responsive to safety recalls.
Power

Tests Show Workers At Hanford Nuclear Facility Inhaled Radioactive Plutonium (king5.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from King 5, a local news station for Seattle, Washington: On June 8 approximately 350 Hanford workers were ordered to "take cover" after alarms designed to detect elevated levels of airborne radioactive contamination went off. It was quickly determined that radioactive particles had been swept out of a containment zone at the plutonium finishing plant (PFP) demolition site. The work is considered the most hazardous demolition project on the entire nuclear reservation. At the time Hanford officials called the safety measure "precautionary." Officials from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, which owns Hanford, and the contractor in charge of the demolition, CH2M Hill, downplayed the seriousness of the event with statements including, it appeared "workers were not at risk", "(the alarm went off) in an area where contamination is expected" and there was "no evidence radioactive particles had been inhaled" by anyone.

The KING 5 Investigators have discovered those statements are incorrect. An internal CH2M Hill email sent to their employees on July 21 was obtained by KING. It states that 301 (test kits) have been issued to employees and of the first 65 workers tested, a "small number of employees" showed positive results for "internal exposures" (by radioactive plutonium). Sources tell KING the "small number of employees" is twelve. Twelve people out of 65 is 20 percent. Still outstanding are 236 tests. A communication specialist with CH2M Hill sent a statement that more positive results are expected. "We expect additional positive results because analytical tests like a bioassay can detect radiological contamination at levels far lower than what field monitoring can detect," said Destry Henderson of CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company.

Security

WikiLeaks Reveals CIA Tool For Hacking Webcams, Microphones (thestack.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: WikiLeaks has released a new set of documents in the CIA Vault 7 leak, outlining the "Dumbo" hacking tool which allows control of webcams and microphones. The release explains that the tool is capable of completely suspending processes on webcams and corrupting video recordings. Dumbo's is tasked specifically with gaining and exploiting physical access to target computers used in CIA field operations, the release notes. According to WikiLeaks, the tool allows for the identification, control and manipulation of monitoring and detection systems, such as webcams and microphones, running the Microsoft Windows operating system. The technology first identifies all installed devices, whether they are connected locally, wirelessly, or across wired networks. Once Dumbo has detected all of these devices, it identifies all the related processes, which may include recording, monitoring or detection of video, audio and network streams. These operations can then be suspended by the operator. "By deleting or manipulating recordings the operator is aided in creating fake or destroying actual evidence of the intrusion operation," the release added. Dumbo does require direct access to the target computer and is run from a USB stick. The release states that it supports 32bit Windows XP, Windows Vista, and newer versions of Windows operating system. However, 64bit Windows XP and Windows versions prior to XP are not supported.

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