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US Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 17:28
The United States has claimed victory at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Chiang Mai, Thailand, marking its first win in over two decades. The competition, which pitted top-ranked high school math students from more than 100 countries against each other, saw the U.S. team emerge triumphant after two days of intense problem-solving. NPR adds: The U.S. team last won the Olympiad in 1994. Reports in recent years have raised concerns that American math students are falling behind those in the rest of the world. But, Po-Shen Loh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and head coach for Team USA, says, "At least in this case with the Olympiads, we've been able to prove that our top Americans are certainly at the level of the top people from the other countries."

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Here's What Happens When You Give People Free Money

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 16:42
OpenResearch, a lab funded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, has released initial findings from a comprehensive study on unconditional cash transfers. The experiment, conducted from 2020 to 2023, provided $1,000 monthly to 1,000 low-income Americans across Illinois and Texas. Results showed recipients primarily used the funds for basic needs and increased spending on healthcare and leisure activities. While the cash boost led to some positive outcomes, including increased business startups among Black recipients and women, it did not significantly improve long-term financial health or physical well-being. The study also noted a reduction in work hours among participants, with earnings dropping by at least 12 cents for every dollar received.

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Microsoft Reveals EU Deal Behind Windows Access After Global Outage

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 16:00
A Microsoft spokesman says that a 2009 European Commission agreement prevents the company from restricting third-party access to Windows' core functions, shedding light on factors contributing to Friday's widespread outage that affected millions of computers globally. The disruption, which caused the infamous "blue screen of death" on Windows machines across various industries, originated from a faulty update by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. The incident highlighted the vulnerability of Microsoft's open ecosystem, mandated by the EU agreement, which requires the tech giant to provide external security software developers the same level of system access as its own products. This policy stands in stark contrast to more closed systems like Apple's.

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Who Will Pay For the Costs of Crowdstrike's Outage?

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 13:34
8.5 million Windows devices were ultimately affected by the Crowdstrike outage, according to figures from Microsoft cited by CNN. And now an anonymous Slashdot reader shares CNN's report on the ramifications: What one cybersecurity expert said appears to be the "largest IT outage in history" led to the cancellation of more than 5,000 commercial airline flights worldwide and disrupted businesses from retail sales to package deliveries to procedures at hospitals, costing revenue and staff time and productivity... While CrowdStrike has apologized, it has not mentioned whether or not it intends to provide compensation to affected customers. And when asked by CNN about whether it plans to provide compensation, its response did not address that question. Experts say they expect that there will be demands for remuneration and very possibly lawsuits. "If you're a lawyer for CrowdStrike, you're probably not going to enjoy the rest of your summer," said Dan Ives, a tech analyst for Wedbush Securities.... But there could be legal protections for CrowdStrike in its customer contracts to shield it from liability, according to one expert. "I would guess that the contracts protect them," said James Lewis, researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies... It's also not clear how many customers CrowdStrike might lose because of Friday. Wedbush Securities' Ives estimates less than 5% of its customers might go elsewhere. "They're such an entrenched player, to move away from CrowdStrike would be a gamble," he said. It will be difficult, and not without additional costs, for many customers to switch from CrowdStrike to a competitor. But the real hit to CrowdStrike could be reputational damage that will make it difficult to win new customers... [E]ven if customers are understanding, it's likely that CrowdStrike's rivals will be seeking to use Friday's events to try to lure them away. One final note from CNN. Patrick Anderson, CEO of a Michigan research firm called the Anderson Economic Group, "added that the costs could be particularly significant for airlines, due to lost revenue from canceled flights and excess labor and fuel costs for the planes that did fly but faced significant delays." See also: Third Day of 1,000+ Cancelled Flights, Just in the US, After Crowdstrike Outage .

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Paramount+ Documentary: an Origin Story For Music Piracy - and Its Human Side

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 09:34
Re-visiting the Napster era, Stephen Witt's book How Music Got Free has been adapted into a two-part documentary on Paramount+. But the documentary's director believes "The real innovative minds here were a bunch of rogue teenagers and a guy working a blue-collar factory job in the tiny town of Shelby, North Carolina," according to this article in the Guardian: By day, [Glover] worked at Universal Music's CD manufacturing plant in North Carolina, from which he smuggled out hot albums by stars like Mary J Blige and 50 Cent before they were even released. For the documentary, Glover spoke openly, and largely without regret, as did others who worked at that plant who did their own share of stealing. Part of their incentive was class revenge: while they were paid piddling wages by the hour, the industry used the products they manufactured to mint millions. To maximize profits on his end, Glover set up a subscription service to let those in his circle know what CDs and movies were coming. "He was doing what Netflix would later do," Stapleton said... In the meantime, the record companies and their lobbying arm, the RIAA, focused their wrath on the most public face of file-sharing: Napster. In truth, all Fanning's company did was make more accessible the work the pirates innovated and first distributed... For its part, the music industry reacted in the worst way possible, PR-wise. They sued the kids who made up their strongest fanbase. "One of the key lessons we learned from this era is that you can't sue your way out of a situation like this," Witt said. "You have to build a new technology that supersedes what the pirates did." Eventually, that's what happened, though the first attempts in that direction made things worse than ever for the labels and stars. When Apple first created the iPod in 2001, there wasn't yet an Apple store where listeners could purchase music legally. "It was just a place to put your stolen MP3s," said Witt. Labels couldn't sue Apple because of a ruling dictating that the manufacturer of a device couldn't be held responsible for piracy enacted by its users. While Steve Jobs later modified his approach, creating a way for fans to buy individual songs for the iPod, "that did more damage to the industry than anything", Witt said. "Whereas, before they could sell a $15 CD to fans who really just wanted one song, now those fans could get that song for just a dollar...." Eventually, the collective efforts of the streaming companies returned the music industry to massive profitability, though often at the expense of its artists, who often receive a meager slice of the proceeds.... Things ended less favorably for the pirates, some of whom now have criminal records. Likewise, Glover served a short prison sentence though, today, he is chief maintenance technician at the Ryder Truck manufacturing plant in his home town. A Forbes senior contributor (and director Alexandria Stapleton) believe that for the younger generation it may be "their first introduction to why the music industry is the way that they're used to." And Stapleton says their sympathies are with those factory workers. Stapleton: They were completely underpaid. They were making literally nothing. It's important for people to understand that while the industry was charging $20 for a CD, it cost like 20 cents to make. That's a big profit margin. And to have a factory that was paying barely enough for people to put food on the table, I think there's something wrong with that... Witt: It's amazing to think about what they were really doing, which was essentially filling the technological vacuum that the record industry was refusing to fill, right? The record industry was not building out the successor technology to the compact disc because the compact disc was just too profitable for them. Instead, a bunch of random teenagers built the next generation of technology for them, and yeah, it caused a lot of damage. But I don't think that teenagers were necessarily trying to hurt anyone... They weren't malicious. They just were fascinated by how this stuff worked. And of course, they were also completely entranced by the celebrity of the musicians themselves. In the interview Witt adds that a lot of those teenagers "were really kind of traumatized by their experience with the FBI I would say, and they wanted to get that story out there." The documentary was produced by LeBron James and Eminem, "who rode the tail end of the CD boom to stratospheric heights," remembers a Fast Company opinion columnist. (And 25 years later, that columnist has gone back to listening to vinyl records, which "reignited for me a long-missing air of full engagement... Technology marches forward, except when it occasionally lurches backward...")

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Ransomware Attack Takes Down Computer System for America's Largest Trial Court

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 07:14
A ransomware attack has taken down the computer system of America's largest trial court, reports the Associated Press: The cybersecurity attack began early Friday and is not believed to be related to the faulty CrowdStrike software update that has disrupted airlines, hospitals and governments around the world, officials said in a statement Friday. The court disabled its computer network systems upon discovery of the attack, and it will remain down through at least the weekend. Friday's statement called it "a serious security event," adding that the court is receiving help from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. "At this time, the preliminary investigation shows no evidence of court users' data being compromised." Over the past few years, the Court has invested heavily in its cybersecurity operations, modernizing its cybersecurity infrastructure and making strategic staff investments in the Cybersecurity Division within Court Technology Services. As a result of this investment, the Court was able to quickly detect an intrusion and address it immediately. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, remediation, and recovery, the Court will not comment further until additional information is available for public release. Sunday the Court posted on X.com that they're "working diligently to get the Court's network systems back up and running... "When we have a better understanding of the extent to which the Court will be operational tomorrow, July 22, we will provide information and direction to court users and jurors, likely later this evening."

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One Nation Mostly Unaffected by the Crowdstrike Outage: China

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 04:54
The BBC reports that "while most of the world was grappling with the blue screen of death on Friday," there was one country that managed to escape largely unscathed: China. The reason is actually quite simple: CrowdStrike is hardly used there. Very few organisations will buy software from an American firm that, in the past, has been vocal about the cyber-security threat posed by Beijing. Additionally, China is not as reliant on Microsoft as the rest of the world. Domestic companies such as Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei are the dominant cloud providers. So reports of outages in China, when they did come, were mainly at foreign firms or organisations. On Chinese social media sites, for example, some users complained they were not able to check into international chain hotels such as Sheraton, Marriott and Hyatt in Chinese cities. Over recent years, government organisations, businesses and infrastructure operators have increasingly been replacing foreign IT systems with domestic ones. Some analysts like to call this parallel network the "splinternet". "It's a testament to China's strategic handling of foreign tech operations," says Josh Kennedy White, a cybersecurity expert based in Singapore. "Microsoft operates in China through a local partner, 21Vianet, which manages its services independently of its global infrastructure. This setup insulates China's essential services — like banking and aviation — from global disruptions." "Beijing sees avoiding reliance on foreign systems as a way of shoring up national security." Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader hackingbear for sharing the article.

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US Prepares Jamming Devices Targeting Russia, China Satellites

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 02:54
In April the U.S. Space Force began testing "a new ground-based satellite jamming weapon to help keep U.S. military personnel safe from potential 'space-enabled' attacks" (according to a report from Space.com). The weapon was "designed to deny, degrade, or disrupt communications with satellites overhead, typically through overloading specific portions of the electromagnetic spectrum with interference," according to the article, with the miitary describing it as a small form-factor system "designed to be fielded in large numbers at low-cost and operated remotely" and "provide counterspace electronic warfare capability to all of the new Space Force components globally." And now, Bloomberg reports that the U.S. is about to deploy them: The devices aren't meant to protect U.S. satellites from Chinese or Russian jamming but "to responsibly counter adversary satellite communications capabilities that enable attacks," the Space Force said in a statement to Bloomberg News. The Pentagon strives — on the rare occasions when it discusses such space capabilities — to distinguish its emerging satellite-jamming technology as purely defensive and narrowly focused. That's as opposed to a nuclear weapon the U.S. says Russia is developing that could create high-altitude electromagnetic pulses that would take out satellites and disrupt entire communications networks. The first 11 of 24 Remote Modular Terminal jammers will be deployed in several months, and all of them could be in place by Dec. 31 at undisclosed locations, according to the Space Force statement... The new terminals augment a much larger jamming weapon called the Counter Communications System that's already deployed and a mid-sized one called Meadowlands "by providing the ability to have a proliferated, remotely controlled and relatively relocatable capability," the Space Force said. The Meadowlands system has encountered technical challenges that have delayed its delivery until at least October, about two years later than planned. China has "hundreds and hundreds of satellites on orbit designed to find, fix, track, target and yes, potentially engage, US and allied forces across the Indo-Pacific," General Stephen Whiting, head of US Space Command, said Wednesday at the annual Aspen Security Forum. "So we've got to understand that and know what it means for our forces." Bloomberg also got this comment from the chief director of space security and stability at the Secure World Foundation (which produces reports on counterspace weapons). The new U.S. Space Force jamming weapons are "reversible, temporary, non-escalatory and allow for plausible deniability in terms of who the instigator is."

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Third Day of 1,000+ Cancelled Flights, Just in the US, After Crowdstrike Outage

Slashdot - Mon, 22/07/2024 - 00:30
For the third straight day, "More than 1,000 US flights have been," reports CNN, "as airlines struggle to recover from a global tech outage that left thousands of passengers stranded at airports." More than 1,200 flights into, within or out of the United States were canceled by early Sunday afternoon, while more than 5,000 U.S. flights were delayed, according to the tracking website FlightAware.com... On Saturday, 2,136 US flights were canceled, and more than 21,300 flights were delayed... USA Today notes that Friday several U.S. airlines issued ground stops (according to America's Federal Aviation Administration) "which caused a domino effect into Sunday." They note that "most of the cancellations and delays Sunday are likely to be caused by airline crews and equipment being out of place."

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Microsoft Releases Recovery Tool for Windows Machines Hit By Crowdstrike Issue

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 22:46
The Verge reports that for machines that aren't automatically receiving Crowdstrike's newly-released software fix, Microsoft has released a recovery tool that creates a bootable USB drive. Some IT admins have reported rebooting PCs multiple times will get the necessary update, but for others the only route is having to manually boot into Safe Mode and deleting the problematic CrowdStrike update file. Microsoft's recovery tool now makes this recovery process less manual, by booting into its Windows PE environment via USB, accessing the disk of the affected machine, and automatically deleting the problematic CrowdStrike file to allow the machine to boot properly. This avoids having to boot into Safe Mode or a requirement of admin rights on the machine, because the tool is simply accessing the disk without booting into the local copy of Windows. If a disk is protected by BitLocker encryption, the tool will prompt for the BitLocker recovery key and then continue to fix the CrowdStrike update.

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US President Biden Announces He Will Not Seek Reelection

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 20:49
"It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as your President," U.S. President Joe Biden announced today. "And while it has been my intention to seek reelection, I believe it is in the best interest of my party and the country for me to stand down and to focus solely on fulfilling my duties as President for the remainder of my term." In an announcement posted on X.com, Biden thanked the American people. ("Together, we overcame a once in a century pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.") The short statement also said he would "speak to the Nation later this week in more detail." The Associated Press reports that "His wife, first lady Jill Biden, responded by reposting the president's letter announcing his decision and adding red heart emojis." CNN reports that "most Biden campaign staff, including some senior staff, found out from the president's post on X." In a subsequent X post, Biden endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris to be the Democratic party's nominee for president.

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What Can We Learn from the Computers of 1966?

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 20:27
Harry R. Lewis has been a Harvard CS professor — teaching both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg — and the dean of Harvard college. Born in 1947, Lewis remembers flipping the 18 toggle switches on Harvard's PDP-4 back in 1966 — up ("click!") or down ("CLACK"). And he thinks there's a lesson for today from a time when "Computers were experienced as physical things." [T]he machine had a personality because it had a body you could feel and listen to. You could tell whether it was running smoothly by the way it sounded... Unlike the unreliable mechanical contraptions of yore, today's computers — uninteresting though they may be to look at if you can find them at all — mostly don't break down, so we have fewer reasons to remember their physicality. Does it matter that the line between humans and the machines we have created has so blurred? Of course it does. We have known for a long time that we would eventually lose the calculation game to our creations; it has happened. We are likely to lose Turing's "Imitation Game" too, in which a computer program, communicating with a human via typed text, tries to fool the user into confusing it with a human at another keyboard. (ChatGPT and its ilk are disturbingly convincing conversationalists already.) Our challenge, in the presence of ubiquitous, invisible, superior intelligent agents, will be to make sure that we, and our heirs and successors, remember what makes us human... All computers can do is pretend to be human. They can be, in the language of the late philosopher Daniel Dennett '63, counterfeit humans... The first error is suggesting that computers can be digitally trained to be superior versions of human intellects. And the second is inferring that human judgment will not be needed once computers get smart enough... [N]o AI system can be divorced from the judgments of the humans who created it... Only hubristic humans could think that their counterfeits might completely substitute for human companionship, wisdom, curiosity, and judgment.â Even back in 1966, Lewis says he learned two lessons that "have stood the test of time. Be careful what you ask them for. And it can be hard to tell what they are doing." One example? "In those pre-miniaturization days, the ordinary operation of the central processor generated so much radiation that you would put a transistor radio on the console and tune it in between AM stations. From the other side of the room, the tone of the static indicated whether the machine had crashed or not."

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'Are You Serious?' Hawaii Island Mayor in Disbelief after Third Vehicle Drives Straight Into Harbor

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 18:34
Last year two different tourists — following GPS directions — drove their cars straight into the same harbor in Hawaii. And then last weekend — at the same harbor — it happened again. "This time it was different," reports a local news station. "The driver was a local..." Multiple witnesses say the Prius was actually parked at the top of the ramp and that an enforcement officer with the Department of Land and Natural Resources told the owner she had to move it. Witnesses also said that the woman had an issue getting the car started. Eventually, she was able to start the vehicle and called out that the car was running. Then the car went down the ramp.... More from Hawaii News Now: This follows another viral incident, captured on video in May of last year, showing another SUV sinking in the water with its passengers inside. "The GPS led them into the water," said one witness. Then, a few weeks later, it happened again. Witnesses say the driver, also an out-of-state visitor, was following their GPS directions. "The first time I heard it, the thought in my head was, you got to be joking," said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth. "The third was — are you serious? This is just another form of people not paying attention to what they're doing." The news outlet reached out to the Department of Land and Natural Resources — and specifically to its Division of Boating & Ocean Recreation, to ask whether the harbor's boat ramp had adequate lighting and signage. They responded that a boat ramp descending into the waters of the Pacific ocean is "hard to miss" — and called the recent incidents "operator error." Meanwhile in Wyoming, SFGate reports that "an SUV with five people inside plunged about 9 feet deep into a 105-degree geyser at Yellowstone National Park after it 'inadvertently drove off the roadway' last Thursday, National Park Service officials said."

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After 12 Years, Mars Rover Curiosity Makes 'Most Unusual Find to Date'

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 17:34
12 years on Mars — and NASA's Curiosity rover "has made its most unusual find to date," reports CNN — rocks made of pure sulfur. "And it all began when the 1-ton rover happened to drive over a rock and crack it open, revealing yellowish-green crystals never spotted before on the red planet." "I think it's the strangest find of the whole mission and the most unexpected," said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "I have to say, there's a lot of luck involved here. Not every rock has something interesting inside...." White stones had been visible in the distance, and the mission scientists wanted a closer look. The rover drivers at JPL, who send instructions to Curiosity, did a 90-degree turn to put the robotic explorer in the right position for its cameras to capture a mosaic of the surrounding landscape. On the morning of May 30, Vasavada and his team looked at Curiosity's mosaic and saw a crushed rock lying amid the rover's wheel tracks. A closer picture of the rock made clear the "mind-blowing" find, he said... "No one had pure sulfur on their bingo card," Vasavada said... Members of the team were stunned twice — once when they saw the "gorgeous texture and color inside" the rock and then when they used Curiosity's instruments to analyze the rock and received data indicating it was pure sulfur, Vasavada said. Vasavada also was grateful for the original landing site where Curiosity began methodically exploring back in 2012. "I'm glad we chose something that was 12 years' worth of science."

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Who Wrote the Code for Windows' 'Blue Screen of Death'?

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 16:34
Who wrote the code for Windows' notorious "Blue Screen of Death? It's "been a source of some contention," writes SFGate: A Microsoft developer blog post from Raymond Chen in 2014 said that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote the text for the Ctrl+Alt+Del dialog in Windows 3.1. That very benign post led to countless stories from tech media claiming Ballmer was the inventor of the "Blue Screen of Death." That, in turn, prompted a follow-up developer blog post from Chen titled "Steve Ballmer did not write the text for the blue screen of death...." Chen then later tried to claim he was responsible for the "Blue Screen of Death," saying he coded it into Windows 95. Problem is, it already existed in previous iterations of Windows, and 95 simply removed it. Chen added it back in, which he sort of cops to, saying: "And I'm the one who wrote it. Or at least modified it last." No one challenged Chen's 2014 self-attribution, until 2021, when former Microsoft developer Dave Plummer stepped in. According to Plummer, the "Blue Screen of Death" was actually the work of Microsoft developer John Vert, whom logs revealed to be the father of the modern Windows blue screen way back in version 3.1. Plummer spoke directly with Vert, according to Vert, who'd remembered that he got the idea because there was already a blue screen with white text in both his machine at the time (a MIPS RISC box) and this text editor (SlickEdit)...

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Should Kids Still Learn to Code in the Age of AI?

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 13:34
This week the Computer Science Teachers Association conference kicked off Tuesday in Las Vegas, writes long-time Slashdot reader theodp. And the "TeachAI" education initiative teamed with the Computer Science Teachers Association to release three briefs "arguing that K-12 computer science education is more important than ever in an age of AI." From the press release: "As AI becomes increasingly present in the classroom, educators are understandably concerned about how it might disrupt the teaching of core CS skills like programming. With these briefs, TeachAI and CSTA hope to reinforce the idea that learning to program is the cornerstone of computational thinking and an important gateway to the problem-solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking skills necessary to thrive in today's digitally driven world. The rise of AI only makes CS education more important." To help drive home the point to educators, the 39-page Guidance on the Future of Computer Science Education in an Age of AI (penned by five authors from nonprofits CSTA and Code.org) includes a pretty grim comic entitled Learn to Program or Follow Commands. In the panel, two high school students who scoff at the idea of having to learn to code and instead use GenAI to create their Python apps wind up getting stuck in miserable warehouse jobs several years later as a result where they're ordered about by an AI robot. "The rise of AI only makes CS education more important," according to the group's press release, "with early research showing that people with a greater grasp of underlying computing concepts are able to use AI tools more effectively than those without." A survey by the group also found that 80% of teachers "agree that core concepts in CS education should be updated to emphasize topics that better support learning about AI." But I'd be curious to hear what Slashdot's readers think. Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments. Should children still be taught to code in the age of AI?

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China Is Installing Renewables Equivalent to Five Large Nuclear Plants Per Week

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 09:34
The pace of China's clean energy transition "is roughly the equivalent of installing five large-scale nuclear power plants worth of renewables every week," according to a report from Australia's national public broadcaster ABC (shared by long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo): A report by Sydney-based think tank Climate Energy Finance (CEF) said China was installing renewables so rapidly it would meet its end-of-2030 target by the end of this month — or 6.5 years early. It's installing at least 10 gigawatts of wind and solar generation capacity every fortnight... China accounts for about a third of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. A recent drop in emissions (the first since relaxing COVID-19 restrictions), combined with the decarbonisation of the power grid, may mean the country's emissions have peaked. "With the power sector going green, emissions are set to plateau and then progressively fall towards 2030 and beyond," CEF China energy policy analyst Xuyang Dong said... [In China] the world's largest solar and wind farms are being built on the western edge of the country and connected to the east via the world's longest high-voltage transmission lines... Somewhat counterintuitively, China has built dozens of coal-fired power stations alongside its renewable energy zones, to maintain the pace of its clean energy transition. China was responsible for 95 per cent of the world's new coal power construction activity last year. The new plants are partly needed to meet demand for electricity, which has gone up as more energy-hungry sectors of the economy, like transport, are electrified. The coal-fired plants are also being used, like the batteries and pumped hydro, to provide a stable supply of power down the transmission lines from renewable energy zones, balancing out the intermittent solar and wind. Despite these new coal plants, coal's share of total electricity generation in the country is falling. The China Energy Council estimated renewables generation would overtake coal by the end of this year. CEF director Tim Buckley tells the site that China installed just 1GW of nuclear power last year — compared to 300GW of solar and wind. "They had grand plans for nuclear to be massive but they're behind on nuclear by a decade and five years ahead of schedule on solar and wind." Last year China accounted for 16% of the world's nuclear-generated power — but also more than half the world's coal-fired power generation, according to this year's analysis from the long-running International Energy Agency. The IEA estimated that in 2023, China's electricity demand rose by 6.4%, and they're predicting that by 2026 the country will see an increase "more than half of the EU's current annual electricity consumption." And yet in China "the rapid expansion of renewable energy sources is expected to meet all additional electricity demand..." according to the IEA analysis. "Coal-fired generation in China is currently on course to experience a slow structural decline, driven by the strong expansion of renewables and growing nuclear generation, as well as moderating economic growth." There's also some interesting stats on the "CO2 intensity" of power generation around the world. "The EU is expected to record the highest rate of progress in reducing emissions intensity, averaging an improvement of 13% per year. This is followed by China, with annual improvements forecast at 6%, and the United States at 5%." Long-time Slashdot reader Uncle_Meataxe shares a related article from Electrek ...

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Former Anonymous Spokesperson's Memoir Called 'Deranged, Hyperbolic, and True'

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 05:34
Slashdot covered Barrett Brown back in 2011 and 2012. The New York Times calls him "an activist associated with the hacker group Anonymous, and a political prisoner recently denied asylum in Britain, all of which sounds a bit dreary until we hear tell of it through Brown's unhinged self-regard." They're reviewing Brown's "extraordinary" new memoir, My Glorious Defeats: Hacktivist, Narcissist, Anonymous," a book they call "deranged, hyperbolic, and true." A "machine" that focuses attention on little-known social issues, Anonymous has gone after the Church of Scientology, Koch Industries, websites hosting child pornography and the Westboro Baptist Church. The public tends to be confused by nebulous digital activities, so it was, in the collective's heyday, helpful to have Brown act as a translator between the hackers and mainstream journalists. "The year 2011 ended as it began," he writes, "with a sophisticated hack on a state-affiliated corporation that ostensibly dealt in straightforward security and analysis while secretly engaging in black ops campaigns against activists who'd proven troublesome to powerful clients." This particular corporation was Stratfor, a company that spied on activists for the government... Brown waited for the feds to come back and drag him to jail. He also says he tried to get off suboxone in order to avoid the painful possibility of prison withdrawal, and stopped taking Paxil, inducing a manic state, all of which is given as explanation for his regrettable next move, which was to set up a camera and start talking. The feds had threatened his mother, he told the internet, and in response he was threatening Robert Smith, the lead agent on his case. He found himself in custody the same night. Brown was then subjected to the kind of nonsense the Department of Justice is prone to inflicting on those involved in shadowy internet activities that, in fact, almost no one in the legal process understands. He was charged with participating in the hack of Stratfor, though he was not really involved and cannot code, and although the whole thing was organized by an F.B.I. informant. Brown had also retweeted a Fox News host's call to murder Julian Assange; the prosecution presented this as if he were himself calling for the murder of Assange. But generally, Brown's primary victim is himself. "My thirst for glory and hatred for the state," he writes, "were incompatible with an orthodox criminal defense, in which the limiting of one's sentence is the sole objective." In his cell, with an eraser-less pencil he needs a compliant guard to repeatedly sharpen, he writes "The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail." His mother types it up; The Intercept publishes. He develops the character he will play in his memoir: a self-aware narcissist and addict. He wins a National Magazine Award, and is especially pleased that his column "Please Stop Sending Me Jonathan Franzen Novels," wins while Franzen is in attendance. "The state is an afterthought here — a litany of absurdist horrors too stupid to appall..." the review concludes. "We're left with a man who refuses to look away from the deep structure of the world, an unstable position from which there is no sanctuary. My Glorious Defeats is deranged, hyperbolic and as true a work as I have read in a very long time."

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CNN Investigates 'Airbnb's Hidden Camera Problem'

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 03:34
2017 Slashdot headline: "People Keep Finding Hidden Cameras in Their Airbnbs." Nearly seven years later, CNN launched their own investigation of "Airbnb's hidden camera problem". CNN: "Across North America, police have seized thousands of images from hidden cameras at Airbnb rentals, including people's most intimate moments... It's more than just a few reported cases. And Airbnb knows it's a problem. In this deposition reviewed by CNN, an Airbnb rep said 35,000 customer support tickets about security cameras or recording devices had been documented over a decade. [The deposition estimates "about" 35,000 tickets "within the scope of the security camera and recording devices policy."] Airbnb told CNN a single complaint can involve multiple tickets. CNN actually obtained the audio recording of an Airbnb host in Maine admitting to police that he'd photographed a couple having sex using a camera hidden in a clock — and also photographed other couples. And one Airbnb guest told CNN he'd only learned he'd been recorded "because police called him, months later, after another guest found the camera" — with police discovering cameras in every single room in the house, concealed inside smoke detectors. "Part of the challenge is that the technology has gotten so advanced, with these cameras so small that you can't even see them," CNN says. But even though recording someone without consent is illegal in every state, CNN also found that in this case and others, Airbnb "does not contact law enforcement once hidden cameras are discovered — even if children are involved." Their reporter argues that Airbnb "not only fails to protect its guests — it works to keep complaints out of the courts and away from the public." They spoke to two Florida attorneys who said trying to sue Airbnb if something goes wrong is extremely difficult — since its Terms of Service require users to assume every risk themselves. "The person going to rent the property agrees that if something happens while they're staying at this accommodation, they're actually prohibited from suing Airbnb," says one of the attorneys. "They must go a different route, which is a binding arbitration." (When CNN asked if this was about controlling publicity, the two lawyers answered "absolutely" and "100%".) And when claims are settled, CNN adds, "Airbnb has required guests to sign confidentiality agreements — which CNN obtained — that keep some details of legal cases private." Responding to the story, Airbnb seemed to acknowledge guests have been secretly recorded by hosts, by calling such occurrences "exceptionally rare... When we do receive an allegation, we take appropriate, swift action, which can include removing hosts and listings that violate the policy. "Airbnb's trust and safety policies lead the vacation rental industry..."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff

Does the Crowdstrike Outage Prove the Dangers of a Cashless Society?

Slashdot - Sun, 21/07/2024 - 00:34
"If there is no alternative, then the whole thing can collapse around you," says Ron Delnevo. He's the chair of The Payment Choice Alliance, "which campaigns against the move towards a cashless society." He's part of those arguing "the chaos caused by the global IT outage last week underlines the risk of moving towards a cashless society," writes the Observer: Authorities in China and the US have fined businesses for not accepting cash. Delnevo said the U.K. should have a law requiring all businesses to take cash. Martin Quinn, campaign director for the PCA, said using cash allowed for anonymity. "I don't want my data sold on, and I don't want banks, credit card companies and even online retailers to know every facet of my life," he said. Budgeting by using cash is also easier for some, he added. The article includes some interesting statistics from a U.K. bank trade association. "The number of people who never use cash, or use it less than once a month, reached 23.1 million in 2021, but declined to 21.6m last year." The GMB [general trade] Union said the outage reinforced what it had been saying for years: that "cash is a vital part of how our communities operate". "When you take cash out of the system, people have nothing to fall back on, impacting on how they do the everyday basics."

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Categories: Geeky Stuff
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