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Great Britain's Electricity System Has Greenest Day Ever Over Easter

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Great Britain's electricity system recorded its greenest ever day over the Easter bank holiday as sunshine and windy weather led to a surge in renewable energy. The power plants generating electricity in England, Scotland and Wales produced only 39g of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour of electricity on Monday, according to National Grid's electricity system operator, the lowest carbon intensity recorded since National Grid records began in 1935. On Easter Monday, wind turbines and solar farms generated 60% of all electricity as households enjoyed a bank holiday lunch. At the same time the UK's nuclear reactors provided 16% of the electricity mix, meaning almost 80% of the grid was powered from low-carbon sources. The low-carbon power surge, combined with lower than average demand for electricity over the bank holiday, kept gas-fired power in Great Britain to 10% of the electricity mix and caused the "carbon intensity" of the electricity system to plummet to its lowest on record.

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Google AI Research Manager Quits After Two Ousted From Group

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 02:25
Google research manager Samy Bengio, who oversaw the company's AI ethics group until a controversy led to the ouster of two female leaders, resigned on Tuesday to pursue other opportunities. Bloomberg reports: Bengio, who managed hundreds of researchers in the Google Brain team, announced his departure in an email to staff that was obtained by Bloomberg. His last day will be April 28. An expert in a type of AI known as machine learning, Bengio joined Google in 2007. Ousted Ethical AI co-leads Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell had reported to Bengio and considered him an ally. In February, Google reorganized the research unit, placing the remaining Ethical AI group members under Marian Croak, cutting Bengio's responsibilities. "While I am looking forward to my next challenge, there's no doubt that leaving this wonderful team is really difficult," Bengio wrote in the email. "I learned so much with all of you, in terms of machine learning research of course, but also on how difficult yet important it is to organize a large team of researchers so as to promote long term ambitious research, exploration, rigor, diversity and inclusion," Bengio wrote in his email. He did not refer to Gebru, Mitchell or the disagreements that led to their departures. [...]

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Cyberware Attack Shuts Down Vehicle Emissions Testing In Georgia and Seven Other States

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 01:45
Georgia is waiving vehicle emissions checks because a cyberware attack has halted all emission testing across Georgia and seven other states. Slashdot reader McGruber shares a report from WSB-TV, an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Atlanta: The CEO of Applus Technologies, whose software runs the system, apologized during the emergency meeting Monday. The outages are delivering a huge blow to small business owners. "All of the sudden, we were doing emissions testing just like normal and the system just kind of shut down," said James Baxter, who owns BP Car Care Tire Pros. "We haven't been able to do emissions since." Baxter said before the cyberattack, his full service automobile shop conducted more than 100 vehicle emissions tests per day. "Emissions is $25. You can imagine the revenue loss. We have employees that are out of work because of this," he said. Last week, Georgia's Department of Revenue issued a press release that omitted mention of the attack. The Georgia Department of Revenue said its automated systems have been offline since March 31. According to the report, officials aren't sure when the system will go back online. It's also unclear if the hackers were able to access any personal information.

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GM Is Building An Electric Chevy Silverado With 400 Miles of Range

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 01:02
General Motors confirmed it's making an all-electric version of the Chevy Silverado pickup truck with around 400 miles of range on a full charge. The Verge reports: The company did not immediately say when the electric Silverado will go on sale, but GM president Mark Reuss said at an event on Tuesday that the company will also make commercial fleet-focused versions of the truck. The electric Silverado will be made at "Factory Zero," the recently rebranded Detroit-Hamtramck plant dedicated to EVs and AVs that GM is currently retooling at a cost of more than $2 billion. It's the same plant where GM will build the all-electric Hummer SUV and Hummer pickup. The Silverado EV will undoubtedly be a flagship vehicle of the custom electric vehicle platform GM announced last year, called Ultium. Designed to be modular, the Ultium platform is what will power most of GM's forthcoming electric vehicles. The company has promised the platform will be able to provide as much as 400 miles of range in the biggest configurations, and that the trucks built on Ultium will feature 800-volt architecture that allows for really fast charging.

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Congress Says Foreign Intel Services Could Abuse Ad Networks For Spying

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 00:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A group of bipartisan lawmakers, including the chairman of the intelligence committee, have asked ad networks such as Google and Twitter what foreign companies they provide user data to, over concerns that foreign intelligence agencies could be leveraging them to harvest sensitive information on U.S. users, including their location. "This information would be a goldmine for foreign intelligence services that could exploit it to inform and supercharge hacking, blackmail, and influence campaigns," a letter signed by Senators Ron Wyden, Mark Warner, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Cassidy, reads. The lawmakers sent the letter last week to AT&T, Verizon, Google, Twitter, and a number of other companies that maintain advertisement platforms. The concerns center around the process of so-called real-time bidding, and the flow of "bidstream" data. Before an advertisement is displayed inside of an app or a browsing session, different companies bid to get their ad into that slot. As part of that process, participating companies obtain sensitive data on the user, even if they don't win the ad placement. "Few Americans realize that some auction participants are siphoning off and storing 'bidstream' data to compile exhaustive dossiers about them. In turn, these dossiers are being openly sold to anyone with a credit card, including to hedge funds, political campaigns, and even to governments," the letter continued. [...] The letter asked the ad companies to name the foreign-headquartered or foreign-majority owned firms that they have provided bidstream data from users in the U.S. to in the past three years. The other companies the lawmakers sent the letter to were Index Exchange, Magnite, OpenX, and PubMatic. Mark Tallman, assistant professor at the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told Motherboard in an email that "It's difficult to imagine any policy solution or technical sorcery that can fully 'secure' consumers' private data such that applications and platforms can collect it, and the publishing and advertising industries can access it, while guaranteeing that cybercriminals and foreign intelligence agencies will never get it. Our adversaries already know that they can buy (or steal) data from our marketplace that they could only dream of collecting on such a broad swath of Americans twenty years ago."

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Bitcoin Mining Emissions In China Will Hit 130 Million Tons By 2024

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 23:40
According to researchers in Beijing, China, the total carbon footprint of bitcoin mining in the country will peak in 2024, releasing around 130 million metric tons of carbon. This figure exceeds the annual carbon emissions of countries including Italy and the Czech Republic. New Scientist reports: By 2024, bitcoin mining in China will require 297 terawatt-hours of energy and account for approximately 5.4 per cent of the carbon emissions from generating electricity in the country. The researchers predicted the emissions peak in China in 2024 based on calculations of when the overall cost of mining -- the investment in computing equipment and the electricity costs -- outweighs the financial rewards of selling mined bitcoin. They used both financial projections and carbon emissions analysis to model the emissions footprint in China, taking into account factors such as location. Bitcoin miners in Beijing or other parts of northern China are very likely to be using electricity from coal-powered plants. Mining in southern provinces -- especially Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan -- is in large part powered by hydroelectricity, says Guan. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Google Open-Sources Lyra In Beta To Reduce Voice Call Bandwidth Usage

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 23:02
Google today open-sourced Lyra in beta, an audio codec that uses machine learning to produce high-quality voice calls. VentureBeat reports: The code and demo, which are available on GitHub, compress raw audio down to 3 kilobits per second for "quality that compares favorably to other codecs," Google says. Lyra's architecture is separated into two pieces, an encoder and decoder. When someone talks into their phone, the encoder captures distinctive attributes, called features, from their speech. Lyra extracts these features in 40-millisecond chunks and then compresses and sends them over the network. It's the decoder's job to convert the features back into an audio waveform that can be played out over the listener's phone. According to Google, Lyra's architecture is similar to traditional audio codecs, which form the backbone of internet communication. But while these traditional codecs are based on digital signal processing techniques, the key advantage for Lyra comes from the ability of its decoder to reconstruct a high-quality signal. Google believes there are a number of applications Lyra might be uniquely suited to, from archiving large amounts of speech and saving battery to alleviating network congestion in emergency situations.

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Google Now Supports Rust for Underlying Android OS Development

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 22:25
For the past few years, Google has been encouraging developers to write Android apps with Kotlin. The underlying OS still uses C and C++, though Google today announced Android Open Source Project (AOSP) support for Rust. From a report: This is part of Google's work to address memory safety bugs in the operating system: "We invest a great deal of effort and resources into detecting, fixing, and mitigating this class of bugs, and these efforts are effective in preventing a large number of bugs from making it into Android releases. Yet in spite of these efforts, memory safety bugs continue to be a top contributor of stability issues, and consistently represent ~70% of Android's high severity security vulnerabilities." The company believes that memory-safe languages, like Rust, are the "most cost-effective means for preventing memory bugs" in the bootloader, fastboot, kernel, and other low-level parts of the OS. Unlike C and C++, where developers manage memory lifetime, Rust "provides memory safety guarantees by using a combination of compile-time checks to enforce object lifetime/ownership and runtime checks to ensure that memory accesses are valid." Google has been working to add this support to AOSP for the past 18 months. Performance is equivalent to the existing languages, while increasing the effectiveness of current sandboxing and reducing the overall need for it. This allows for "new features that are both safer and lighter on resources." Other improvements include data concurrency, a more expressive type system, and safer integer handling.

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DoorDash Drivers Game Algorithm To Increase Pay

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 21:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Dave Levy and Nikos Kanelopoulos are trying to beat the algorithm. The two DoorDash drivers -- Dashers, as the company calls them -- are trying to persuade their peers to turn down the lowest-paying deliveries so the automated system for matching jobs with drivers will respond by raising pay rates. "Every app-based on-demand company's objective is to constantly shift profits from the driver back to the company," Levy says. "Our objective is the reverse of that." Their main tool is #DeclineNow, a 40,000-person online forum that provides a view into a type of labor activism tailored for the gig economy. While there's no reliable way to quantify its impact, #DeclineNow's members say they've already increased pay for workers across the country, including in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, where Levy and Kanelopoulos live. But the effort raises difficult questions about the nature of collective action, and there are reasons to doubt whether using a company's own software systems against it is a strategy that can prove effective for a sustained period of time. In October 2019 they launched the #DeclineNow Facebook group. They urge members to reject any delivery that doesn't pay at least $7, more than double the current floor of $3. [...] On #DeclineNow, low acceptance rates are a badge of honor. Levy rejects about 99% of the jobs he's offered, rapidly declining low-paying jobs to find enough lucrative ones to keep him busy. #DeclineNow's strategy of selectively declining orders is well-known among DoorDash workers -- and not universally accepted. Some question the strict minimum fee rule, citing regional price differences. Others find #DeclineNow to be mean-spirited and toxic, a place where people try to ridicule and bully others into going along with their plan. [...] #DeclineNow has little patience for such naysayers. Users who question the $7 minimum rule are punished with suspension from the group or, as the group's moderators like to put it, "a trip to the dungeon." In a statement, DoorDash said drivers are always free to reject orders but added that coordinated declining slows down the delivery process. The company encourages workers to accept at least 70% of deliveries offered, which awards them with "Top Dasher" status.

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Cosmic Rays Causing 30,000 Network Malfunctions in Japan Each Year

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 21:03
Cosmic rays are causing an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 malfunctions in domestic network communication devices in Japan every year, a Japanese telecom giant found recently. From a report: Most so-called "soft errors," or temporary malfunctions, in the network hardware of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. are automatically corrected via safety devices, but experts said in some cases they may have led to disruptions. It is the first time the actual scale of soft errors in domestic information infrastructures has become evident. Soft errors occur when the data in an electronic device is corrupted after neutrons, produced when cosmic rays hit oxygen and nitrogen in the earth's atmosphere, collide with the semiconductors within the equipment. Cases of soft errors have increased as electronic devices with small and high-performance semiconductors have become more common. Temporary malfunctions have sometimes led to computers and phones freezing, and have been regarded as the cause of some plane accidents abroad. Masanori Hashimoto, professor at Osaka University's Graduate School of Information Science and Technology and an expert in soft errors, said the malfunctions have actually affected other network communication devices and electrical machineries at factories in and outside Japan.

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Intel Launches First 10nm 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable Processors For Data Centers

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 20:25
MojoKid writes: Intel just officially launched its first server products built on its advanced 10nm manufacturing process node, the 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable family of processors. 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors are based on the 10nm Ice Lake-SP microarchitecture, which incorporates a number of new features and enhancements. Core counts have been significantly increased with this generation, and now offer up to 40 cores / 80 threads per socket versus 28 cores / 56 threads in Intel's previous-gen offerings. The 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor platform also supports up to 8 channels of DDR4-3200 memory, up to 6 terabytes of total memory, and up to 64 lanes of PCIe Gen4 connectivity per socket, for more bandwidth, higher capacity, and copious IO. New AI, security and cryptographic capabilities arrive with the platform as well. Across Cloud, HPC, 5G, IoT, and AI workloads, new 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors are claimed to offer significant uplifts across the board versus their previous-gen counterparts. And versus rival AMD's EPYC platform, Intel is also claiming many victories, specifically when AVX-512, new crypto instructions, or DL Boost are added to the equation. Core counts in the line-up range from 8 — 40 cores per processor and TDPs vary depending on the maximum base and boost frequencies and core count / configuration (up to a 270W TDP). Intel is currently shipping 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable CPUs to key customers now, with over 200K chips in Q1 this year and a steady ramp-up to follow.

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Signal Tests Payments Feature To Let Users Send Cryptocurrency

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 19:44
Signal announced on Tuesday it's now testing a new peer-to-peer payments system in the beta version of its apps. From a report: Appropriately called Signal Payments, the new feature right now supports only one protocol: the MobileCoin wallet and its companion cryptocurrency MOB. MobileCoin has a close relationship with Signal co-founder and CEO Moxie Marlinspike, who advised the company prior to its most recent round of funding announced last month. "The first payments protocol we've added support for is a privacy focused payments network called MobileCoin, which has its own currency, MOB," wrote Jun Harada, Signal's head of growth and communication, in a blog post. "As always, our goal is to keep your data in your hands rather than ours; MobileCoin's design means Signal does not have access to your balance, full transaction history, or funds. You can also transfer your funds at any time if you want to switch to another app or service."

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Uber May Stop Letting Drivers See Destinations and Name Prices

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 19:05
An anonymous reader shares a report: A year ago, Uber let its California drivers see ride destinations before picking up passengers and let them set pricing in an effort to prove that the drivers were truly independent contractors. It was part of the company's strategy to block drivers from being reclassified as employees under AB5, California's gig-work law. Now, Uber is acknowledging that the move has hurt business and is considering axing its visible destinations and price-naming policies, The Chronicle has learned. The see-saw may disappoint drivers who appreciated that extra control over their work. Too many drivers cherry-pick lucrative rides and decline other requests, making the service unreliable, the San Francisco company said on Monday. Uber no longer has to worry about proving that drivers are independent contractors, because Prop 22 -- the November ballot measure that Uber and fellow gig companies spent $220 million to pass -- enshrines their non-employee status.

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European Institutions Were Targeted in a Cyber-Attack Last Week

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 18:25
A range of European Union institutions including the European Commission were hit by a significant cyber-attack last week. From a report: A spokesperson for the commission said that a number of EU bodies "experienced an IT security incident in their IT infrastructure." The spokesperson said forensic analysis of the incident is still in its initial phase and that it's too early to provide any conclusive information about the nature of the attack. "We are working closely with CERT-EU, the Computer Emergency Response Team for all EU institutions, bodies and agencies and the vendor of the affected IT solution," the spokesperson said. "Thus far, no major information breach was detected." The attack was serious enough for senior officials at the commission to be alerted, according to a person familiar with the matter. The same person said the incident was bigger than the usual attacks that regularly hit the EU. Another EU official said that staff had recently been warned about potential phishing attempts. Western institutions have uncovered at least two serious cyber-attacks recently.

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Microsoft is Now Submerging Servers Into Liquid Baths

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 17:55
Microsoft is starting to submerge its servers in liquid to improve their performance and energy efficiency. A rack of servers is now being used for production loads in what looks like a liquid bath. From a report: This immersion process has existed in the industry for a few years now, but Microsoft claims it's "the first cloud provider that is running two-phase immersion cooling in a production environment." The cooling works by completely submerging server racks in a specially designed non-conductive fluid. The fluorocarbon-based liquid works by removing heat as it directly hits components and the fluid reaches a lower boiling point (122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius) to condense and fall back into the bath as a raining liquid. This creates a closed-loop cooling system, reducing costs as no energy is needed to move the liquid around the tank, and no chiller is needed for the condenser either. "It's essentially a bath tub," explains Christian Belady, vice president of Microsoft's data center advanced development group, in an interview with The Verge. "The rack will lie down inside that bath tub, and what you'll see is boiling just like you'd see boiling in your pot. The boiling in your pot is at 100 degrees Celsius, and in this case it's at 50 degrees Celsius."

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China Creates Its Own Digital Currency, a First for Major Economy

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 17:05
A thousand years ago, when money meant coins, China invented paper currency. Now the Chinese government is minting cash digitally, in a re-imagination of money that could shake a pillar of American power. From a report: It might seem money is already virtual, as credit cards and payment apps such as Apple Pay in the U.S. and WeChat in China eliminate the need for bills or coins. But those are just ways to move money electronically. China is turning legal tender itself into computer code. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have foreshadowed a potential digital future for money, though they exist outside the traditional global financial system and aren't legal tender like cash issued by governments. China's version of a digital currency is controlled by its central bank, which will issue the new electronic money. It is expected to give China's government vast new tools to monitor both its economy and its people. By design, the digital yuan will negate one of bitcoin's major draws: anonymity for the user. Beijing is also positioning the digital yuan for international use and designing it to be untethered to the global financial system, where the U.S. dollar has been king since World War II. China is embracing digitization in many forms, including money, in a bid to gain more centralized control while getting a head start on technologies of the future that it regards as up for grabs. "In order to protect our currency sovereignty and legal currency status, we have to plan ahead," said Mu Changchun, who is shepherding the project at the People's Bank of China. Digitized money could reorder the fundamentals of finance the way Amazon.com disrupted retailing and Uber rattled taxi systems. That an authoritarian state and U.S. rival has taken the lead to introduce a national digital currency is propelling what was once a wonky topic for cryptocurrency theorists into a point of anxiety in Washington. Asked in recent weeks how digitized national currencies such as China's might affect the dollar, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have said the issue is being studied in earnest, including whether a digital dollar makes sense someday.

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Amazon Is the Target of Small-Business Antitrust Campaign

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 16:29
Merchant groups are forming a national coalition to campaign for stricter antitrust laws, including measures they hope could force Amazon.com to spin off some of its business lines. From a report: The effort is being launched Tuesday by trade groups that represent small hardware stores, office suppliers, booksellers, grocers and others, along with business groups from 12 cities, organizers say. Merchants plan to push their congressional representatives for stricter antitrust laws and tougher enforcement of existing ones. The groups, which collectively represent thousands of businesses, want federal legislation that would prevent the owner of a dominant online marketplace from selling its own products in competition with other sellers, a policy that could effectively separate Amazon's retail product business from its online marketplace. Members of the House Antitrust Subcommittee are considering legislation along those lines as they weigh changes to U.S. antitrust law, though no bill has yet been introduced. The merchant groups also want tougher enforcement of competition laws and legal changes that would make it easier for the government to win antitrust lawsuits against big companies.

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E3 2021 Announced as 'Reimagined, All-Virtual' Event Coming in June

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 15:45
E3 will return in 2021 as a "reimagined, all-virtual" event, organizers announced Tuesday. E3 2021 will take place June 12-15, and will feature content from Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games, and Koch Media, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said in a news release. From a report: Game developers and publishers will showcase their games at E3 2021 "directly to fans around the world," the ESA said. E3 2021 content will be free to access, thanks to unannounced global media partners. "We are evolving this year's E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games," said Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the ESA. While this year's E3 will be virtual, organizers say they are planning for an in-person E3 2022.

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Why Shortages of a $1 Chip Sparked Crisis in Global Economy

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 15:00
To understand why the $450 billion semiconductor industry has lurched into crisis, a helpful place to start is a one-dollar part called a display driver. From a report: Hundreds of different kinds of chips make up the global silicon industry, with the flashiest ones from Qualcomm and Intel going for $100 apiece to more than $1,000. Those run powerful computers or the shiny smartphone in your pocket. A display driver chip is mundane by contrast: Its sole purpose is to convey basic instructions for illuminating the screen on your phone, monitor or navigation system. The trouble for the chip industry -- and increasingly companies beyond tech, like automakers -- is that there aren't enough display drivers to go around. Firms that make them can't keep up with surging demand so prices are spiking. That's contributing to short supplies and increasing costs for liquid crystal display panels, essential components for making televisions and laptops, as well as cars, airplanes and high-end refrigerators. "It's not like you can just make do. If you have everything else, but you don't have a display driver, then you can't build your product," says Stacy Rasgon, who covers the semiconductor industry for Sanford C. Bernstein. Now the crunch in a handful of such seemingly insignificant parts -- power management chips are also in short supply, for example -- is cascading through the global economy. Automakers like Ford Motor, Nissan Motor and Volkswagen have already scaled back production, leading to estimates for more than $60 billion in lost revenue for the industry this year. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

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Results of Debian Vote On Stallman To Be Known By April 17

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 14:00
New submitter juul_advocate shares a report from iTWire: The outcome of a general resolution proposed by the Debian GNU/Linux project, to decide how to react to the return of Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman to the board, will be known on April 17, with voting now underway. The original proposal for a GR was made by Steve Langasek, who also works for Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, and calls for co-signing an existing letter which wants Stallman gone and the FSF board sacked. There has been a lot of discussion around the issue. Six alternatives have been proposed. The proposals are: - remove the entire FSF board as in an existing letter; - seek Stallman's resignation from all FSF bodies; - discourage collaboration with the FSF while Stallman remains in a leading position; - ask FSF to further its governance processes; - support Stallman's reinstatement; - denounce the witch hunt against Stallman and the FSF; and - issue no public statement on the issue. During the organization's LibrePlanet virtual event on March 19, Stallman announced that he was rejoining the board and does not intend to resign again. His return has drawn condemnation from many people in the free software community. Just days after his announcement, an open letter calling for Stallman to be removed again and for the FSF's entire board to resign was signed by hundreds of people. Linux giant Red Hat has decided to pull funding, while the 'Open Source Initiative' said that it "will not participate in any events that include Richard M. Stallman," adding that it "cannot collaborate with the Free Software Foundation until Stallman is removed from the organization's leadership."

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