The Almighty Buck

US Banks Launching Answer To Peer-To-Peer Payment App Venmo (reuters.com) 43

The U.S. banking industry is about to launch its answer to the popular mobile payments app Venmo. "Over the next week, five of the largest U.S. banks will light up their segments of a new payments network called Zelle, executives said in interviews," reports Reuters. "They plan to announce details of the launch on Monday, and expect another two dozen banks and credit unions to join over the next year." From the report: The long-awaited network will allow tens of millions of bank customers to send money to each other instantly - known as person-to-person payments - with a few taps on their smartphones. That is an improvement over Venmo, which immediately alerts users that a money transfer is in progress, but takes time to shift funds between bank accounts. Customers who use existing bank payment apps may not notice much of a change beyond marketing. Transfers will simply happen faster because the banks are finally linking to each other, executives said. JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, U.S. Bancorp and Capital One Financial Corp will be the first to plug into Zelle.
Power

Researchers Reveal Malware Designed To 'Power Down' Electric Grid (securityledger.com) 42

chicksdaddy writes: A sample of malicious software discovered at the site of a December, 2016 cyber attack on Ukraine's electrical grid is a previously unknown program that could be capable of causing physical damage to the electrical grid, according to reports by two security firms. The Security Ledger reports: "Experts at the firm ESET and Dragos Security said on Monday that the malicious software, dubbed CrashOverride (Dragos) or Industroyer (ESET) affected a 'single transmission level substation' in the Ukraine attack on December 17th, 2016 in what appears to have been a test run. Still, experts said that features in the malware show that adversaries are automating and standardizing what were previously manual attacks against critical infrastructure, while also adding features that could be used to physically disable or damage critical systems -- the first evidence of such activity since the identification of the Stuxnet malware in 2010. The Crash Override malware 'took an approach to understand and codify the knowledge of the industrial process to disrupt operations as STUXNET (sp) did,' wrote Dragos Security in a report. The malware improves on features seen in other malicious software that it knows to target industrial control systems. Specifically, the malware makes use of and manipulates industrial control system-specific communications protocols. That's similar to features in ICS malware known as Havex that targeted grid operators in Europe and the United States in 2014. The Crash Override malware also targeted the libraries and configuration files of so-called 'Human Machine Interfaces' (or HMIs) to understand the environment they have infected. It can use HMIs, which provide a graphical interface for managing industrial control system equipment, to connect spread to other Internet connected equipment and systems, Dragos said."
Wireless Networking

Logitech Reveals Mouse Mat That Is a Giant Wireless Charging Pad (theverge.com) 62

Logitech has just revealed a new Powerplay technology that builds wireless charging directly into its mouse pad, allowing compatible wireless mice to charge constantly while on the pad. The Verge reports: The wireless charging tech built inside the Powerplay mouse mat is proprietary to Logitech, and the company claims it took more than four years of research and development to make it a reality. I asked Logitech why it didn't go with something more ubiquitous like the Qi standard, and the answer I received was that it wouldn't have been possible to cover the whole surface (275mm x 320mm) of the pad with Qi. Alongside the Logitech G Powerplay, which is to be priced at $99.99 and released in August, Logitech has also announced the first two mice officially compatible with it: the G903 and G703. The G903 is a very modest upgrade from the G900 while the G703 is practically identical to the well liked G403; both of the two new models use the PMW3366 optical sensor and just add improved switches rated to last longer. The G903 will cost $149.99 and the G703 will be $99.99 when they go on sale later this month.
Toys

How Lego Clicked: The Super Brand That Reinvented Itself (theguardian.com) 191

managerialslime shared an article about how Lego executed "the greatest turnaround in corporate history." The Guardian reports: By 2003 Lego was in big trouble. Sales were down 30% year-on-year and it was $800m in debt. An internal report revealed it hadn't added anything of value to its portfolio for a decade... In 2015, the still privately owned, family controlled Lego Group overtook Ferrari to become the world's most powerful brand. It announced profits of £660m, making it the number one toy company in Europe and Asia, and number three in North America, where sales topped $1bn for the first time. From 2008 to 2010 its profits quadrupled, outstripping Apple's. Indeed, it has been called the Apple of toys: a profit-generating, design-driven miracle built around premium, intuitive, covetable hardware that fans can't get enough of. Last year Lego sold 75bn bricks. Lego people -- "Minifigures" -- the 4cm-tall yellow characters with dotty eyes, permanent grins, hooks for hands and pegs for legs -- outnumber humans. The British Toy Retailers Association voted Lego the toy of the century.
It's a good read. The article describes how CEO Vig Knudstorp curtailed the company's over-expansion -- at one point, Lego had "built its own video games company from scratch, the largest installation of Silicon Graphics supercomputers in northern Europe, despite having no experience in the field." And he also encouraged the company to interact with its fans on the internet -- for example, the crowdsourcing of Ninjago content -- while the company enjoyed new popularity with Mindstorms kits for building programmable Lego robots.
Programming

Developer Accidentally Deletes Production Database On Their First Day On The Job (qz.com) 418

An anonymous reader quotes Quartz: "How screwed am I?" asked a recent user on Reddit, before sharing a mortifying story. On the first day as a junior software developer at a first salaried job out of college, his or her copy-and-paste error inadvertently erased all data from the company's production database. Posting under the heartbreaking handle cscareerthrowaway567, the user wrote, "The CTO told me to leave and never come back. He also informed me that apparently legal would need to get involved due to severity of the data loss. I basically offered and pleaded to let me help in someway to redeem my self and i was told that I 'completely fucked everything up.'"
The company's backups weren't working, according to the post, so the company is in big trouble now. Though Qz adds that "the court of public opinion is on the new guy's side. In a poll on the tech site the Register, less than 1% of 5,400 respondents thought the new developer should be fired. Forty-five percent thought the CTO should go."
Printer

Researcher Wants To Protect Whistleblowers Against Hidden Printer Dots (bleepingcomputer.com) 218

An anonymous reader writes: "Gabor Szathmari, a security researcher for CryptoAUSTRALIA, is working on a method of improving the security of leaked documents by removing hidden dots left behind by laser printers, which are usually used to watermark documents and track down leakers," reports Bleeping Computer. "Szathmari's work was inspired by the case of a 25-year-old woman, Reality Leigh Winner, who was recently charged with leaking top-secret NSA documents to a news outlet." According to several researchers, Winner might have been caught after The Intercept had shared some of the leaked documents with the NSA. These documents had the invisible markings left behind by laser printers, which included the printer's serial number and the date and time when the document was printed. This allowed the NSA to track down Winner and arrest her even before she was able to publish the leaked documents. Now, Szatmari has submitted a pull request to the PDF Redact Tools, a project for securely redacting and stripping metadata from documents before publishing. Szathmari's pull request adds a code routine to the PDF Redact Tools project that would allow app operators to convert documents to black and white before publishing. "The black and white conversion will convert colors like the faded yellow dots to white," Szathmari said in an interview. Ironically, the project is managed by First Look Media, the parent company behind The Intercept news outlet.
Power

Tesla Plans To Disconnect 'Almost All' Superchargers From the Grid In Favor of Solar and Battery Power (electrek.co) 230

Only half a dozen Supercharger stations or so out of the over 800 stations have solar arrays and batteries, but that may be about to change. Elon Musk said Tesla plans to deploy more battery and solar systems with the upcoming "Version 3" of the Supercharger, adding that "almost all Superchargers will disconnect from the electricity grid." Electrek reports: Previously, Musk said that Tesla's new Powerpack and solar arrays will power some Supercharger stations in sunny regions to go off-grid -- adding that "the grid won't be needed for moderate use Superchargers in non-snowy regions." While it makes sense to add solar arrays and battery packs, it's not clear why there would be a need to completely disconnect from the grid, which is often still useful -- especially if net metering is available. Even in regions where coal dominates electricity generation, electric cars are still more efficient than some of the most efficient gas-powered cars. Therefore, the argument could have ended here, but Musk apparently wants to take Tesla's Supercharger network off-grid as part of the company's mission to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy. Depending on the size and popularity of a Supercharger station, which generally varies from 6 partly used stalls to 20 stalls in almost constant use, Tesla would need some significantly large solar arrays at some stations -- almost football field in size. Unless there are some impressive advancements in efficiency, it's not clear how they would make it happen.
The Military

DARPA Funds Development of New Type of Processor (eetimes.com) 84

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is funding a completely new kind of non-von-Neumann processor called a HIVE -- Hierarchical Identify Verify Exploit. According to EE Times, the funding is to the tune of $80 million over four-and-a-half years, and Intel and Qualcomm are participating in the project, along with a national laboratory, a university and defense contractor North Grumman. From the report: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Washington) and Georgia Tech are involved in creating software tools for the processor while Northrup Grumman will build a Baltimore center that uncovers and transfers the Defense Departments graph analytic needs for the what is being called the world's first graph analytic processor (GAP). Graph analytic processors do not exist today, but they theoretically differ from CPUs and GPUs in key ways. First of all, they are optimized for processing sparse graph primitives. Because the items they process are sparsely located in global memory, they also involve a new memory architecture that can access randomly placed memory locations at ultra-high speeds (up to terabytes per second). Together, the new arithmetic-processing-unit (APU) optimized for graph analytics plus the new memory architecture chips are specified by DARPA to use 1,000-times less power than using today's supercomputers. The participants, especially Intel and Qualcomm, will also have the rights to commercialize the processor and memory architectures they invent to create a HIVE. The graph analytics processor is needed, according to DARPA, for Big Data problems, which typically involve many-to-many rather than many-to-one or one-to-one relationships for which today's processors are optimized. A military example, according to DARPA, might be the the first digital missives of a cyberattack.
AI

Japan To Launch Self-Navigating Cargo Ships 'By 2025' (bbc.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japanese shipping companies are working with shipbuilders to develop self-piloting cargo ships. The "smart ships" will use artificial intelligence to plot the safest, shortest, most fuel-efficient routes, and could be in service by 2025. The AI will also be used to predict malfunctions and other problems, which could help reduce the number of maritime incidents. The companies plan to build about 250 self-navigating ships. Shipping firms Mitsui OSK Lines and Nippon Yusen are working with shipbuilders including Japan Marine United to share both costs and expertise, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. The first ships will retain a small crew to oversee certain operations, but there are plans to develop completely autonomous vessels in the future.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Shut Down Its Docs.com File-Sharing Site December 15 (zdnet.com) 37

Microsoft will close its file storage and sharing service Docs.com Dec. 15, it said today. As a result of its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, Microsoft also got SlideShare, a more popular place for sharing presentations infographics and other materials with an audience of 70 million. SlideShare represents a better platform for storing and publishing Microsoft documents, the company said. From a report: Microsoft is advising users to migrate and/or delete content they shared on Docs.com as soon as possible. As of today, June 9, creating new Docs.com accounts is no longer supported. Those with existing accounts can still view, edit, publish, download, and delete their existing content. As of August 1, publishing and editing content on Docs.com will no longer be supported.
Medicine

Home Blood Pressure Monitors Are Wrong 70 Percent of the Time, Says Study (arstechnica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a study out this week, about 70 percent of home blood-pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies. The findings, published in The American Journal of Hypertension, suggest that consumers should be cautious about picking out and using such devices -- and device manufacturers need to step up their game. Lead author Raj Padwal and his colleagues set out to test the accuracy of the devices themselves. Funded by the University of Alberta Hospital Foundation, they compared the home blood-pressure monitors of 85 patients with a gold-standard blood-pressure measurement technique. The patients' monitors varied by type, age, and validation-status. But they all used an automated oscillometric method, which measures oscillations in the brachial artery and uses an algorithm to calculate blood pressure. The gold-standard method was the old-school auscultatory method, which involves the arm-squeezing sphygmomanometer and a clinician listening for thumps with a stethoscope. Of the 85 home devices, 59 were inaccurate by 5 mmHg or more in either their systolic (the top number that's the maximum pressure of a heart beat) or diastolic (the bottom number that's the minimum between-beat pressure). That's 69 percent inaccurate. Of those, 25 (or 29 percent) were off by 10 mmHg or more. And six devices (seven percent) were off by 15 mmHg or more.
Data Storage

Why Does Microsoft Still Offer a 32-bit OS? (backblaze.com) 367

Brian Wilson, a founder of cloud storage service BackBlaze, writes in a blog post: Moving over to a 64-bit OS allows your laptop to run BOTH the old compatible 32-bit processes and also the new 64-bit processes. In other words, there is zero downside (and there are gigantic upsides). Because there is zero downside, the first time it could, Apple shipped with 64-bit OS support. Apple did not give customers the option of "turning off all 64-bit programs." Apple first shipped 64-bit support in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009. This was so successful that Apple shipped all future Operating Systems configured to support both 64-bit and 32-bit processes. All of them. But let's contrast the Apple approach with that of Microsoft. Microsoft offers a 64-bit OS in Windows 10 that runs all 64-bit and all 32-bit programs. This is a valid choice of an Operating System. The problem is Microsoft ALSO gives customers the option to install 32-bit Windows 10 which will not run 64-bit programs. That's crazy. Another advantage of the 64-bit version of Windows is security. There are a variety of security features such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) that work best in 64-bits. The 32-bit version is inherently less secure. By choosing 32-bit Windows 10 a customer is literally choosing a lower performance, LOWER SECURITY, Operating System that is artificially hobbled to not run all software. My problem is this: Backblaze, like any good technology vendor, wants to be easy to use and friendly. In this case, that means we need to quietly, invisibly, continue to support BOTH the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of every Microsoft OS they release. And we'll probably need to do this for at least 5 years AFTER Microsoft officially retires the 32-bit only version of their operating system.
Google

Google Has Finally Found a Buyer For Its Scary Robot Companies Boston Dynamics and Schaft: SoftBank (recode.net) 50

Japan's SoftBank is buying robotics group Boston Dynamics -- the makers of the bipedal Atlas, the jumping Sand Flea and the animal-like BigDog, Spot and Wildcat robots -- from Alphabet, more than a year after Google's parent put the unit up for sale. From a report: Google acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013 under the leadership of Andy Rubin, the co-inventor of Android, who was leading a wave of acquisitions of robotics companies under the search giant. Boston Dynamics' robots routinely make headlines, including a high-profile demo at this year's TED conference. The company, led by CEO Marc Raibert, has made a robotic cheetah that can run 28 miles per hour, a robotic dog that it recently used to deliver packages to doorsteps in Boston, and most recently a massive legged and wheeled robot that can clear hurdles and walk down stairs. The firm has been hailed by other roboticists for its ability to blend hardware and artificial intelligence to make machines capable of dynamic, agile movements. Its most recent wheeled robot, Handle, can manipulate objects that are comparable to its own weight, and its four-legged, animal-like robots can maneuver over different types of terrain.
Emulation (Games)

Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation (hothardware.com) 197

MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Qualcomm and Microsoft are on the verge of ushering in a new class of always-connected mobile devices that run full-blown Windows 10. The two are enabling ARM-based Snapdragon 835 processors to run Windows 10 with full x86 emulation, meaning that devices will be capable of not only running Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Windows Store, but legacy win32 apps as well. There is little question, Intel is likely none too pleased with it and PC OEM heavyweights Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and ASUS have also signed-on to deliver Windows 10 notebooks and 2-in-1 convertibles powered by Qualcomm. Until now, Intel sat by quietly while all of this unfolded, but the company today took the opportunity to get a bit passive-aggressive while announcing the fast-approaching 40th anniversary of the world's first x86 microprocessor. The majority of the press release reads like a trip down memory lane. However, Intel shifts into serious mama bear mode, with significant legal posturing, touting its willingness to protect its "x86 innovations." Intel goes on to say that Transmeta tried and ultimately failed in the marketplace, and has been dead and buried for a decade. The company then pivots, almost daring Microsoft and Qualcomm to challenge it by making Windows on ARM devices commercially available. "Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition... However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights."
Desktops (Apple)

Teardown of New iMac Reveals Upgradable Processors, RAM (macrumors.com) 205

According to an iFixit teardown, Apple's new 4K 21.5-inch iMac has both removable RAM and a Kaby Lake processor that's not soldered onto the logic board. Whereas the previous models had soldered memory modules, the new iMac's memory sit in two removable SO-DIMM slots. MacRumors reports: iFixit made the discovery by disassembling Apple's $1,299 mid-range 3.0GHz stock option, which includes 8GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory, a Radeon Pro 555 graphics card with 2GB of VRAM, and a 1TB 5400-RPM hard drive. After slicing through the adhesive that secures the 4K display to the iMac's housing and removing the power supply, hard drive, and fan, iFixit discovered that the memory modules aren't soldered onto the logic board like previous models, but instead sit in two removable SO-DIMM slots. Similarly, after detaching the heatsink and removing the warranty voiding stickers on the backside of the logic board, iFixit found that the Intel SR32W Core i5-7400 Kaby Lake processor sits in a standard LGA 1151 CPU socket, making it possible to replace or upgrade the CPU without a reflow station.
AI

Boeing Studies Planes Without Pilots, Plans Experiments Next Year (seattletimes.com) 128

"Boeing has begun researching the possibility of commercial-passenger jets that will fly without pilots, using artificial intelligence guiding automated controls to make decisions in flight," reports Seattle Times. The company is planning experimental flights, without passengers, for next year. From the report: "The basic building blocks of the technology are clearly available," said Mike Sinnett, former chief systems engineer on the 787 Dreamliner and now vice president at Boeing responsible for innovative future technologies, at a briefing before the Paris Air Show. "There's going to be a transition from the requirement to have a skilled aviator operate the airplane to having a system that operates the vehicle autonomously, if we can do that with the same level of safety," Sinnett said. Sinnett said Boeing's research is driven by the pilot shortage worldwide that is only going to become more acute. In the next two decades, Boeing forecasts a demand for about 40,000 new commercial jets, roughly doubling the world fleet.
Cloud

Amazon Kills Off Unlimited Cloud Storage Option For Amazon Drive (usatoday.com) 76

Coldeagle writes: It looks like Amazaon is killing off it's unlimited storage plan and replacing it with a 1 TB plan for the same monthly cost. USA Today reports: "Amazon had the best deal in online storage -- unlimited backup for $59.99 -- but now unlimited is out. It has been replaced with tiered pricing, the system used by Amazon's rivals. The new rate, announced to customers Wednesday night, is now $59.99 yearly for 1 terabyte of online backup, with each additional terabyte (TB) costing an additional $59.99 annually. Additionally, Amazon is introducing a lower-priced tier set at 100 GBs of storage for $11.99 yearly."
Businesses

It's Been So Windy in Europe That Electricity Prices Have Turned Negative (vice.com) 217

An anonymous reader writes: It's been very windy across Europe this week. So much so, in fact, that the high wind load on onshore and offshore wind turbines across much of the continent has helped set new wind power records. For starters, renewables generated more than half of Britain's energy demand on Wednesday -- for the first time ever. In fact, with offshore wind supplying 10 percent of the total demand, energy prices were knocked into the negative for the longest period on record. The UK is home to the world's biggest wind farm, and the largest wind turbines, so it's no surprise that this was an important factor in the country's energy mix. "Negative prices aren't frequently observed," Joel Meggelaars, who works at renewable energy trade body WindEurope, told Motherboard over the phone. "It means a high supply and low demand."
Power

Electric Vehicles Have Another Record Year, Reaching 2 Million Cars In 2016 (iea.org) 332

An anonymous reader shares a report from the International Energy Agency: The number of electric cars on the roads around the world rose to 2 million in 2016, following a year of strong growth in 2015, according to the latest edition of the International Energy Agency's Global EV Outlook. China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40% of the electric cars sold in the world. With more than 200 million electric two-wheelers and more than 300,000 electric buses, China is by far the global leader in the electrification of transport. China, the US and Europe made up the three main markets, totaling over 90% of all EVs sold around the world. Electric car deployment in some markets is swift. In Norway, electric cars had a 29% market share last year, the highest globally, followed by the Netherlands with 6.4%, and Sweden with 3.4%. The electric car market is set to transition from early deployment to mass market adoption over the next decade or so. Between 9 and 20 million electric car could be deployed by 2020, and between 40 and 70 million by 2025, according to estimates based on recent statement from carmakers.
Transportation

TSA May Recommend Stowing Laptops In Cargo For US Domestic Flights (cbslocal.com) 456

Matt.Battey writes: According to WJZ in Baltimore, the TSA may force passengers to check laptops on domestic U.S. flights. Based on the common fear, uncertainty and doubt that supports the TSA's security theater, the terror attacks in Great Britain could result in laptop bans in the U.S. TSA officer Camille Morris is quoted as saying, "A AA battery is fine. A AAA. A 9-volt battery is a huge power charge. The size of the battery that can take down a plane when attached to an explosive." Backed up by comments from Ben Yelin of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, his statement confirms the problem: "Airplanes have been the common threat that we've seen over the past several years." Personally, I'm just glad we have the TSA to recommend we "arrive two hours before a domestic flight, and three hours before an international trip."

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