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Audio Tape Interface Revives Microcassettes As Storage Medium

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 11:00
Zack Nelson decided to go back in time and add a suitably classic storage medium to a retrocomputing project, in the form of a cassette interface. Hackaday reports: The cassette player he had available was a Pearlcorder L400, which uses the smaller microcassette instead of the familiar audio tapes used in your Walkman or boombox. [Zack] designed the entire thing from the ground up: first he decided to use differential Manchester encoding, which provides immunity against common disturbances like speed variations (which cause wow and flutter). The data is encoded in the frequency range from 1 kHz to 2 kHz, which suits the bandwidth of the cassette player. Next, he designed the interface between the computer and the tape recorder; built from an op-amp and a comparator with a handful of discrete components, it filters the incoming signal and clips it to provide a clean digital signal to be read out directly by the computer. The system is demonstrated by hooking it up to an Arduino Nano, which reads out the data stream at about 3000 baud. The noise it makes should bring back memories to anyone brought up with the "PRESS PLAY ON TAPE" message.

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Hear Sounds From Mars Captured By NASA's Perseverance Rover

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 08:00
NASA's Perseverance rover has recorded up to five hours of sounds on the Mars, giving engineers a sense of how the Red Planet sounds different from Earth. Space.com reports: NASA now has a Perseverance rover website filling up with Martian audio, ranging from wind gusts to the sounds of rover driving as it seeks spots to hunt for the signs of life on the Red Planet. In March, we even heard its laser "snapping" (sadly, no pew-pew noise was evident.) "It's like you're really standing there," Baptiste Chide, a planetary scientist who studies data from the Perseverance microphones, said in a statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "Martian sounds have strong bass vibrations, so when you put on headphones, you can really feel it. I think microphones will be an important asset to future Mars and solar system science," added Chide, who works at France's Institute of Research in Astrophysics and Planetology. The SuperCam mics have been especially helpful for JPL to learn more about the environment in Jezero Crater, where Perseverance has been roaming for about seven Earth months. In May, Perseverance was able to hear the sound of the Ingenuity drone's rotors buzzing from a distance of 262 feet away. "The audio has been useful for investigations ranging from how sound propagates on Mars, and keeping Perseverance well-maintained," the report adds.

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Japanese bloke collared after using AI software to uncensor smut and flogging it

The Register - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 04:30
Plus: Explore the limits of language models in bizarre research experiment, and more

In brief  A man was detained in Japan for selling uncensored pornographic content that he had, in a way, depixelated using machine-learning tools.…

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Intel's Future Now Depends On Making Everyone Else's Chips

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Tim De Chant: Over the last year and a half, as the pandemic has everyone turned to their screens, demand has surged for devices (phones and laptops) and cloud services (Netflix and Zoom), all powered by a range of advanced semiconductors. Manufacturers have raced to squeeze more chips out of their fabs, but many were running near their limits before the pandemic. Still, Intel and its competitors didn't rush to build new fabs -- fabs are startlingly expensive, and without continued demand, semiconductor firms are loath to build more. But now, as the global pandemic continues to disrupt supply chains, chipmakers have decided that the current spike in demand isn't going away. Intel's $20 billion investment [to build two new chip factories in Chandler, Arizona] is only one example. Samsung announced in May that it would spend $151 billion over the next decade to boost its semiconductor capacity. TSMC made a similar announcement in April, pledging to invest $100 billion in the next three years alone. The investments required to stay at the leading edge -- where the most advanced chips are made -- has whittled down the number of semiconductor competitors from more than 20 in 2001 to just two today. "There's really only so much room at the leading edge, just because of the huge capital costs involved," said Will Hunt, a research analyst at Georgetown University's Center for Security and Emerging Technology. That cost is driven by the price of the equipment that's required to etch ever-smaller features onto chips. A few years ago, the industry began to use extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) to shrink transistor sizes. EUV machines are marvels of physics and engineering, and one tool costs upwards of $120 million. To stay relevant, companies will need to buy a dozen or more annually for the next several years. For those sorts of investments to make sense, semiconductor manufacturers must produce and sell an enormous volume of chips. "When you have volume orders, then you can do yield experiments, you can improve your yield, and yield is everything because that's how you cover your costs," said Willy Shih, a professor of management at Harvard Business School. Which is why Intel, under [Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger], is doing something now that it historically has shunned. "We are now a foundry," Gelsinger said at the Arizona groundbreaking. In the coming years, he said, Intel will "open the doors of our fab wide for the community at large to serve the foundry needs of our customers -- many of them US companies that are dependent on solely having foreign supply sources today." But becoming a leading-edge foundry isn't just about building fabs and telling customers you've got space to make their chips. Gelsinger will have to change Intel's culture and, to some extent, its technology, both of which are deep-seated. "He has to turn a huge ship around," said Robert Maire, president of Semiconductor Advisors. In the coming years, Intel has several challenges to master at once. As the company rolls out a new business model, it also needs to redouble its R&D efforts while still being careful with cash flow. (Intel has fallen so far behind that it now plans to outsource production of its most advanced chips -- and a portion of the profits that accompany them -- to TSMC.) The transition will demand intense focus. "The foundry business could be a distraction," Shih said. At the same time, he added, Apple, Google, Amazon, and other companies are moving away from Intel's standardized chips toward their own customized designs. If Intel doesn't change with the times, it risks being left behind. "There will be many challenges, and there will be tests that will face them," Shih said. "It's going to be hard."

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NATO Launches AI Strategy and $1 Billion Fund As Defense Race Heats Up

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 03:02
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the military alliance of 30 countries that border the North Atlantic Ocean, this week announced that it would adopt its first AI strategy and launch a "future-proofing" fund with the goal of investing around $1 billion. VentureBeat reports: Military.com reports that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will join other NATO members in Brussels, Belgium, the alliance's headquarters, to formally approve the plans over two days of talks. Speaking at a news conference, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the effort was in response to "authoritarian regimes racing to develop new technologies." NATO's AI strategy will cover areas including data analysis, imagery, cyberdefense, he added. NATO's overtures come after a senior cybersecurity official at the Pentagon resigned in protest because of the slow pace of technological development at the department. Speaking to the press last week, Nicolas Chaillan, former chief software officer at the Air Force, said that the U.S. has "no competing fighting chance against China" in 15 to 20 years, characterizing the AI and cyber defenses in some government agencies as being at "kindergarten level."

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Apple Updates App Store Guidelines To Permit Devs To Contact Customers About Other Payment Methods

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 02:25
TechCrunch's Sarah Perez writes about the new set of App Store Guidelines that Apple introduced today: One of the changes is the result of a previously announced settlement agreement with a class of U.S. app developers. It clarifies that developers are allowed to communicate with their customers about other payment methods available outside their app. Related to this, another new guideline explains that apps may request customer information like name and email, but the request must be optional for the user and shouldn't prevent them from using the app. The third guideline is unrelated to legal action, and simply details how developers can use a new App Store feature, called in-app events, which rolls out next week. Specifically, Apple deleted a clause from guideline 3.1.3 which had previously said developers were not permitted to use information obtained within their app to target individual users outside of the app to use purchasing methods other than Apple's own in-app purchases. The old rule had also said this would include sending out emails to the address on file obtained when the customer signed up for the app. With this clause gone, developers are no longer barred from those sorts of communications. Apple also added a new section to guideline 5.1.1 (x) which explains further how developers may go about requesting user contact information. It says: "Apps may request basic contact information (such as name and email address) so long as the request is optional for the user, features and services are not conditional on providing the information, and it complies with all other provisions of these guidelines, including limitations on collecting information from kids."

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Huawei, SMIC Suppliers Received Billions Worth of Licenses For US Goods

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 01:45
Suppliers to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and China's top chipmaker SMIC got billions of dollars worth of licenses from November through April to sell them goods and technology despite their being on a U.S. trade blacklist, documents released by Congress showed on Thursday. Reuters reports: According to the documents, first obtained by Reuters, 113 export licenses worth $61 billion were approved for suppliers to ship products to Huawei while another 188 licenses valued at nearly $42 billion were greenlighted for Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC). The data also showed that more than 9 out of 10 license applications were granted to SMIC suppliers while 69% of requests to ship to Huawei were approved over the same period. [T]he Commerce Department said that the release of an "arbitrary snapshot" of license approvals "risks politicizing the licensing process and misrepresenting the national security determinations" made by the government. It also stressed that approved license applications do not represent actual shipments and around half of all licenses are used. It added that license applications involving Huawei and SMIC are processed under policies developed by the Trump administration and maintained by the Biden administration. A former senior Commerce Department official in the Trump administration who declined to be named echoed the agency's view. "This very small period of license activity is not an accurate window into the Huawei and SMIC license process," he said, noting that the goal of preventing the companies from obtaining leading edge technology without unnecessarily harming U.S. exports of other goods had been successful. "This [document release] seems designed to mislead people and generate headlines," he added.

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Florida man accused of breaking Mastodon's open-source license with botched social network launch

The Register - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 01:38
Golf enthusiast given 30 days to cough up code

A Florida man has been accused of breaking the copyleft license of Mastodon by running an online instance of the software without providing its source code as required.…

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Bitcoin's Price Crashed 87% On Binance.US Thanks To a Bug

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 01:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Bitcoin is on a tear, reaching an all time high price of $67,000 for 1 BTC on Wednesday, buoyed by a series of approvals for Bitcoin futures funds on the stock market. But on one major U.S. exchange, the price flash-crashed 87 percent to roughly $8,200 on Thursday due to a bug in a trading algorithm. The crash occurred during a massive sell-off on the Binance.US exchange that occurred around 7:42 a.m. ET, Bloomberg reported. Binance is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, and its Binance.US exchange is meant to be compliant with U.S. regulations, although it is still banned in several states. According to a Binance.US spokesperson, the crash was due to an issue with a trading algorithm being run by one "institutional trader," which may indicate an investment fund of some sort. "One of our institutional traders indicated to us that they had a bug in their trading algorithm, which appears to have caused the sell-off," Binance.US told Bloomberg. "We are continuing to look into the event, but understand from the trader that they have now fixed their bug and that the issue appears to have been resolved." It's entirely possible that some lucky traders were at the right place at the right time and managed to snap up some incredibly cheap BTC, but mostly it's yet another example of weirdness along the edges of the crypto ecosystem.

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Amazon's Alexa Collects More of Your Data Than Any Other Smart Assistant

Slashdot - Sat, 23/10/2021 - 00:20
According to a survey from Reviews.org, Amazon's Alexa collects more data from users than any of the other digital assistants analyzed, which included the Google Assistant, Siri, Bixby, and Cortana. PCMag reports: All five services collect your name, phone number, device location, and IP address; the names and numbers of your contacts; your interaction history; and the apps you use. If you don't like that information being stored, you probably shouldn't use a voice assistant. In the survey, 60% of respondents were concerned about someone listening to their voice recordings, which is a real fear, since Google and Apple have both been caught doing just that. While Google Assistant and Siri now need your permission to record your interactions, the other options record you by default. Which option is the most invasive? Analysis by Reviews.org found that Alexa collects 37 of the 48 possible data points, the most data out of any other. Samsung's Bixby collected 34 points of data, and Cortana collects 32 data points. Meanwhile, Siri collects just 30, and Google's smart assistant takes only 28, making them the least invasive. While 76% of Americans report that they use smart assistants, 61% are concerned that these programs and devices are always listening to them in the background. And people have had a hard time alleviating those fearsâ"only 45% of users have tried to disable their smart assistant, with 38% reporting they couldn't figure out how.

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Antitrust battle latest: Google, Facebook 'colluded' to smash Apple's privacy protections

The Register - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 23:51
Amended Texas complaint alleges backroom efforts to maintain ad dominance

Several years ago, to deal with the competitive threat of header bidding – a way for multiple ad exchanges to get a fair shot at winning an automated auction for ad space – Google allegedly hatched a plan called "Jedi" to ensure that its ad exchange always won.…

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Leaked Email Allegedly Shows That Google Did Ask Roku For Special Treatment For YouTube

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 23:40
Yesterday, Roku told customers that it's unable to strike a deal to bring YouTube and YouTube TV apps to its channel store, citing anti-competitive demands in carriage agreements. These included "asking Roku to create a dedicated search results row for YouTube within the Roku smart TV interface and demanding certain features on Roku that they don't insist on getting from other streaming platforms," reports Axios. Now, a leaked email has surfaced allegedly showing that Google did in fact ask Roku for special search treatment for YouTube, an allegation that Google had previously called "baseless." 9to5Google reports: CNBC reports that an email from a Google executive to Roku called a "dedicated shelf for [YouTube] search results" a "must." The email was sent in 2019, well before the current fight between the two companies went public. Prior to this report, Roku has said on multiple occasions that "Google continues to interfere with Roku's independent search results." Google, in response, has denied those allegations and called them "baseless" while also claiming that it was Roku who decided to renegotiate the contract between the two companies. A previous statement from Google reads: "To be clear, we have never, as they have alleged, made any requests to access user data or interfere with search results. This claim is baseless and false." This email puts the statements of both companies in a new light. It's possible Google did end up dropping this request between when the email was sent in 2019 and when the contract negotiations started, but it's also very possible the company is bending the truth around this request. Whatever the case, Google said that it "never" made such a request, but this email allegedly proves otherwise. ["The email from the Google executive to Roku reads: 'YouTube Position: A dedicated shelf for YT search results is a must,'" reports CNBC.]

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John Carmack Pushes Out Unlocked OS For Defunct Oculus Go Headset

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 23:02
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Oculus may have officially discontinued its low-end Oculus Go headset last year, but the company has one more "official" update to help future-proof the hardware. On Thursday, Oculus released an unlocked build of the Oculus Go operating system, allowing for "full root access" on more than 2 million existing units. Oculus "Consulting CTO" (and former id Software co-founder) John Carmack announced his plans for this update last month, saying it was something he had "been pushing on for years." In part, the unlocking is an attempt to guarantee that Go hardware will continue to be fully functional well into the future, allowing for "a randomly discovered shrink wrapped headset twenty years from now [to] be able to update to the final software version, long after over-the-air update servers have been shut down," Carmack wrote. Before that, though, the update will allow tinkerers to "repurpose the hardware for more things today," as Carmack puts it. Go hardware running the unlocked OS will no longer check for a Facebook signature at the kernel level, meaning developers can create new versions of low-level system software for the entire Android-based OS. That could allow for custom versions of low-level features like the app launcher and the removal of otherwise locked system apps. The update also allows for easy sideloading of apps outside of Go's store interface, though this was already possible on older OS versions.

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A Math Teacher is Putting Calculus Lessons on Pornhub

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 22:25
An anonymous reader shares a report: It's safe to assume that few Pornhub visitors are looking for hour-long calculus videos (by a fully-clothed instructor), but Taiwanese math teacher Changhsu puts them there anyway. His channel is filled with over 200 decidedly unsexy chalkboard lessons about topics like differential equations. The 34-year-old math tutor found the YouTube market for math explainers to be saturated, so he decided to expand his reach into Pornhub. He told Mel Magazine that he wants to reach a new market of mathematics learners.

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Microsoft under fire again from open-source .NET devs: Hot Reload feature pulled for sake of Visual Studio sales

The Register - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 21:58
Windows giant has a funny way of 'loving' Free software

Microsoft has enraged the open-source .NET community by removing functionality from open-source .NET to bolster the appeal of Visual Studio, not least against its cross-platform cousin Visual Studio Code.…

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Intel Open-sources AI-powered Tool To Spot Bugs in Code

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 21:44
Intel has open-sourced ControlFlag , a tool that uses machine learning to detect problems in computer code -- ideally to reduce the time required to debug apps and software. From a report: In tests, the company's machine programming research team says that ControlFlag has found hundreds of defects in proprietary, "production-quality" software, demonstrating its usefulness. "Last year, ControlFlag identified a code anomaly in Client URL (cURL), a computer software project transferring data using various network protocols over one billion times a day," Intel principal AI scientist Justin Gottschlich wrote in a blog post on LinkedIn. "Most recently, ControlFlag achieved state-of-the-art results by identifying hundreds of latent defects related to memory and potential system crash bugs in proprietary production-level software. In addition, ControlFlag found dozens of novel anomalies on several high-quality open-source software repositories." The demand for quality code draws an ever-growing number of aspiring programmers to the profession. After years of study, they learn to translate abstracts into concrete, executable programs -- but most spend the majority of their working hours not programming. A recent study found that the IT industry spent an estimated $2 trillion in 2020 in software development costs associated with debugging code, with an estimated 50% of IT budgets spent on debugging.

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Memes About COVID-19 Helped Us Cope With Life in a Pandemic, a New Study Finds

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 21:05
Does a meme a day keep the doctor away? Not quite, but it looks like it might help, according to one recent study. From a report: Researchers with Pennsylvania State University and the University of California Santa Barbara found that memes helped people cope with life during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published this week in the Psychology of Popular Media journal. Researchers found that those who viewed memes -- a type of humor they described as funny or cute pictures that reference pop culture -- reported "higher levels of humor" and more positive feelings, according to a news release from the American Psychological Association, which publishes the journal. They surveyed 748 people online last December: 72% of those who responded were white, 54% identified as women, 63% didn't hold a college degree, and their ages ranged from 18 to 88, the release states. They were shown a variety of meme types, with different kinds of photos and captions, and asked to rate the cuteness, humor and emotional responses prompted by the materials, as well as how much the memes in question made them think about COVID-19. Those who viewed memes that specifically referenced the pandemic felt less stress than those who viewed non-pandemic-related memes. They also felt more capable of coping with the COVID-19 crisis and were better at processing information, according to the study. And they were also less likely to be stressed about the pandemic than those who didn't view memes related to COVID-19 at all, researchers concluded.

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It's 'near-impossible to escape persistent surveillance' by American ISPs, says FTC

The Register - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 20:52
Watchdog finds dubious data gathering, illusory solicitations for consent

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said many internet service providers are sharing data about their customers, in defiance of expectations, and are failing to give subscribers adequate choices about whether or how their data is shared.…

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China Conducted Two Hypersonic Weapons Tests this Summer

Slashdot - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 20:25
The Chinese military conducted two hypersonic weapons tests over the summer, raising US concerns that Beijing is gaining ground in the race to develop a new generation of arms. Financial Times: On July 27 the Chinese military launched a rocket that used a "fractional orbital bombardment" system to propel a nuclear-capable "hypersonic glide vehicle" around the earth for the first time, according to four people familiar with US intelligence assessments. The Financial Times this week reported that the first test was in August, rather than at the end of July. China subsequently conducted a second hypersonic test on August 13, according to two people familiar with the matter. Three people familiar with the first test in July said it stunned the Pentagon and US intelligence because China managed to demonstrate a brand new weapons capability, although they declined to elaborate on the details. One person said government scientists were struggling to understand the capability, which the US does not currently possess, adding that China's achievement appeared "to defy the laws of physics." Space and missile experts have been debating the Chinese test since the FT revealed the event at the weekend. Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear weapons expert at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, said China appeared to have developed a new innovation, but stressed the need to maintain a degree of scepticism. "We should be open to the reality that China is also capable of technological innovation," he said.

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While the iPhone's repairability is in the toilet, at least the Apple Watch 7 is as fixable as the previous model

The Register - Fri, 22/10/2021 - 20:15
Component swaps still a thing – for now

Apple's seventh-gen Watch has managed to maintain its iFixit repairability rating on a par with the last model – unlike its smartphone sibling.…

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