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Updated: 2 hours 26 min ago

A Volunteer Supercomputer Team is Hunting for Covid Clues

3 hours 17 min ago
The world's fastest computer is now part of "a vast supercomputer-powered search for new findings pertaining to the novel coronavirus' spread" and "how to effectively treat and mitigate it," according to an emerging tech journalist at Nextgov. It's part of a consortium currently facilitating over 65 active research projects, for which "Dozens of national and international members are volunteering free compute time...providing at least 485 petaflops of capacity and steadily growing, to more rapidly generate new solutions against COVID-19." "What started as a simple concept has grown to span three continents with over 40 supercomputer providers," Dario Gil, director of IBM Research and consortium co-chair, told Nextgov last week. "In the face of a global pandemic like COVID-19, hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, the speed at which researchers can drive discovery is a critical factor in the search for a cure and it is essential that we combine forces...." [I]ts resources have been used to sort through billions of molecules to identify promising compounds that can be manufactured quickly and tested for potency to target the novel coronavirus, produce large data sets to study variations in patient responses, perform airflow simulations on a new device that will allow doctors to use one ventilator to support multiple patients — and more. The complex systems are powering calculations, simulations and results in a matter of days that several scientists have noted would take a matter of months on traditional computers. The Undersecretary for Science at America's Energy Department said "What's really interesting about this from an organizational point of view is that it's basically a volunteer organization." The article identifies some of the notable participants: IBM was part of the joint launch with America's Office of Science and Technology Policy and its Energy Department.The chief of NASA's Advanced Supercomputing says they're "making the full reserve portion of NASA supercomputing resources available to researchers working on the COVID-19 response, along with providing our expertise and support to port and run their applications on NASA systems."Amazon Web Services "saw a clear opportunity to bring the benefits of cloud... to bear in the race for treatments and a vaccine," according to a company executive.Japan's Fugaku — "which surpassed leading U.S. machines on the Top 500 list of global supercomputers in late June" — also joined the consortium in June. Other consortium members: Google CloudMicrosoftMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyRensselaer Polytechnic InstituteThe National Science FoundationArgonne, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Sandia National laboratories.National Center for Atmospheric Research's Wyoming Supercomputing CenterAMDNVIDIADell Technologies. ("The company is now donating cycles from the Zenith supercomputer and other resources.")

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Can Tesla Build Cheaper Electric Cars With Advanced (and Cobalt-Free) Batteries?

6 hours 55 min ago
"One of the main reasons we're not all driving electric vehicles is the price," argues a transportation writer in Forbes — explaining how Tesla hopes to finally change that: The company is placing a huge bet on rechargeable battery technology that doesn't use cobalt. This is one of the main elements making lithium ion batteries so expensive. It's also fraught with political issues, since the mining can be in conflict areas like the Congo, and its production is considered quite polluting of the environment. But cobalt is used because it enables the energy density required in batteries intended to last for hundreds of miles per charge. A couple of months ago, it was revealed that Tesla was working with CATL on lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, and these could be the real gamechanger. LFP batteries don't use cobalt and have a roadmap to push well past the magical $100 per kWh (wholesale) that is considered the threshold for EVs being cheaper than Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles... Tesla has also recently patented technology for cathodes that significantly improves the number of charge cycles... The new Tesla technology, patented by the company's battery team led by Jeff Dahn, can increase charge cycles to nearly 4,000, which would be more like 75 years if charged once a week — hence the talk of million-mile batteries. More recently, the Tesla team headed by Jeff Dahn patented some new technology for lithium metal/anode free batteries, which could drastically improve energy density and thereby considerably reduce costs. These technologies, if they become commercially viable, could revolutionize battery durability and price, and there's another technology called all-polymer batteries on the horizon that is being developed by a former Nissan senior researcher, which he claims could cut 90% off the current price. But these are improvements for the future that may not happen, and cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate batteries are here now. Tesla will be using LFP for the batteries in its Chinese Model 3, after receiving government approval to do so. It is estimated that using LFP batteries will allow a 15-20% reduction in manufacturing cost. Taking calculations regarding how much of a car's cost is batteries into account, this could make EVs a mere 10% more expensive than ICE instead of 30%, which will be easy to regain in cheaper running costs over a year or two of ownership. It will also give EVs an even greater lead over fuel-cell technology, making it even less likely that hydrogen will be the future of electric cars. The time is fast approaching when EVs are not just more ecological and cheaper to run than ICE cars, but cheaper to buy too, and batteries free of cobalt are a key step in that direction. That's why Tesla's shift to LFP is so significant — it could be the final nail in the coffin for fossil fuel vehicles.

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Data Scientist Tries AI/Human Collaboration For Audio-Visual Art

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 20:34
"Swirls of color and images blend together as faces, scenery, objects, and architecture transform to music." That's how AI training company Lionbridge is describing Neural Synesthesia. Slashdot reader shirappu explains: Neural Synesthesia is an AI art project that creator Xander Steenbrugge calls a collaboration between man and machine. To create each piece, he feeds a generative network with curated image datasets and combines the ever-transforming results with music that is programmed to control the shifting visuals. Steenbrugge describes how the music controls the visuals in an interview with Lionbridge: I think coding for the first rendered video took over six months because I was doing it in my spare time. The biggest challenge was how to manipulate the generative adversarial network (GAN)'s latent input space using features extracted from the audio track. I wanted to create a satisfying match between visual and auditory perception for viewers. I apply a Fourier Transform to extract time varying frequency components from the audio. I also perform harmonic/percussive decomposition, which basically separates the melody from the rhythmic components of the track. These three signals (instantaneous frequency content, melodic energy, and beats) are then combined to manipulate the GANs latent space, resulting in visuals that are directly controlled by the audio... [Y]ou are not limited by your own imagination. There's an entirely alien system that is also influencing the same space of ideas, often in unexpected and interesting ways. This leads you as a creator into areas you never would have wandered by yourself.

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Cancer Patient Complains: My Facebook Feed Is Full of 'Alternative Care' Ads

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 17:44
The author of an opinion piece in the New York Times describes what happened after sharing their cancer diagnosis on Facebook: Since then, my Facebook feed has featured ads for "alternative cancer care." The ads, which were new to my timeline, promote everything from cumin seeds to colloidal silver as cancer treatments. Some ads promise luxury clinics — or even "nontoxic cancer therapies" on a beach in Mexico. There's a reason I'll never fall for these ads: I'm an advocate against pseudoscience. As a consultant for the watchdog group Bad Science Watch and the founder of the Campaign Against Phony Autism Cures, I've learned to recognize the hallmarks of pseudoscience marketing: unproven and sometimes dangerous treatments, promising simplistic solutions and support. Things like "bleach cures" that promise to treat everything from Covid-19 to autism. When I saw the ads, I knew that Facebook had probably tagged me to receive them. Interestingly, I haven't seen any legitimate cancer care ads in my newsfeed, just pseudoscience. This may be because pseudoscience companies rely on social media in a way that other forms of health care don't. Pseudoscience companies leverage Facebook's social and supportive environment to connect their products with identities and to build communities around their products. They use influencers and patient testimonials. Some companies also recruit members through Facebook "support groups" to sell their products in pyramid schemes... It was only last April that Facebook removed "pseudoscience" as a keyword from its categories for targeted advertising, and only after the tech publication The Markup reported that 78 million users were listed in Facebook's ad portal as having an "interest" in the category... Facebook pledged that it would add a warning label to Covid-19-related ads and would remove pseudoscience ads that were reported by its users. The problem, which even Facebook acknowledged, is that pseudoscience content can run for months before being flagged by readers. Facebook's main ad-screening system is automated. While we wait for its artificial intelligence system to catch up with the discernment abilities of human reviewers, a steady flow of pseudoscience advertising has already slipped through on a platform with billions of users. Could it be that Facebook has gotten too big to adequately regulate its content? The article also suggests one way that individuals can join a movement to pressure Facebook to change: "suspend, delete or even just spend less time on Facebook (and on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook)." "My retreat from Facebook may mean fewer online connections, perhaps at a time when I need them the most. But I'd rather leave than see what another friend with cancer calls the 'slap in the face' ads."

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WSJ: 'Quit Chrome. Safari and Edge Are Just Better Browsers'

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 16:43
The Wall Street Journal's senior personal tech columnist just published an article urging readers to "quit Chrome. Safari and Edge are just better browsers." It begins with the reporter pretending to break up with Chrome, adding "I'd say I'll remember the good times — your speed, your superb handling of Gmail — but your RAM hoovering, battery draining and privacy disregarding make it easy to not look back. "This is the year, people. It's the year I challenge you to pack up your bookmarks and wave bye-bye to Google's browser..." And the article is even accompanied by a video titled "Four ways to stop Chrome from slowing down your computer," where tip #1 is just: "Stop using Chrome..." "Sure, Chrome has far more browser market share [than Firefox, Safari, and Edge]. But all of them have actually gotten quite good over the last number of years. Heck, the new Microsoft Edge browser even uses Chromium, the same underlying technology as Chrome, and the performance is much improved, across Windows PCs, and Macs. Yes, Microsoft's browser is available for Mac, and it's good. "In my weeks of testing, Edge used 5% less resources than Chrome on Windows. Safari used up to 10% less in some of my tests on my Mac. That meant up to 2 extra hours of battery life in their respective operating systems. Firefox, unfortunately, took up just as much power as Chrome. Google says it's working on some resource-saving improvements that will come in the next few months. If you can switch to just one of those, go for it, even if just for their better privacy tools." The video opens with a cartoon depiction of "Chrome-y," who lives inside your computer and eats your RAM and other resouces. "But don't worry. You can put him on a diet and take back your computer with some of these tips." The other tips including uninstalling extensions, and using Chrome's Task Manager to "spot and kill the RAM gobblers." But throughout the video, "Chrome-y" continues chomping on your RAM...

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Should We Plan For a Future With Fewer Cars?

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 15:05
The New York Times ran a detailed piece (with some neat interactive graphics) arguing "cities need to plan for a future of fewer cars, a future in which owning an automobile, even an electric one, is neither the only way nor the best way to get around town..." It asks us to imagine a world where there's suddenly more room for two-way bike lanes, wider sidewalks, and car-free bus lanes. But it also looks at our current conundrum: Automobiles are not just dangerous and bad for the environment; they are also profoundly wasteful of the land around us, taking up way too much physical space to transport too few people... And cars take up space even while they're not in use. They need to be parked, which consumes yet more space on the sides of streets or in garages. Cars take up a lot of space even when they're just looking for parking... New York's drivers are essentially being given enormous tracts of land for their own pleasure and convenience. To add to the overall misery of the situation, though, even the drivers are not especially happy about the whole deal, because despite all the roadway they've been given, they're still stuck in gridlock... "The one thing we know for sure, because we understand geometry, is that if everyone drives, nobody moves," Brent Toderian, the former chief planner for the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, told me. Even if you're a committed daily driver, "it's in your best interest for walking, biking and public transit to be as attractive as possible for everyone else — because that means you're going to be able to drive easier..." Instead of fighting a war on cars, Toderian told me, urbanists should fight a war on car dependency — on cities that leave residents with few choices other than cars. Alleviating car dependency can improve commutes for everyone in a city... At the moment, many of the most intractable challenges faced by America's urban centers stem from the same cause — a lack of accessible physical space. We live in a time of epidemic homelessness. There's a national housing affordability crisis caused by an extreme shortage of places to live. And now there's a contagion that thrives on indoor overcrowding. Given these threats, how can American cities continue to justify wasting such enormous tracts of land on death machines?

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Microsoft Announces It Won't Be the Ones Building PHP 8.0 for Windows

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 13:34
Today I learned that Microsoft "has been providing support for the development and building of the PHP programming language on Windows," according to Bleeping Computer. "This support includes developing security patches for PHP and creating native Windows builds." But that's going to change: Microsoft has announced that it will not offer support in 'any capacity' for PHP for Windows 8.0 when it is released... To add some clarity to Microsoft PHP Windows Lead Dale Hirt's post, PHP Release Manager Sara Golemon posted to Reddit explaining that this does not mean PHP 8.0 will not be supported in Windows. It just means that Microsoft will not be the one building and supporting it. "For some possibly missing context, Microsoft runs https://windows.php.net and produces all the official builds of PHP for Windows... This message means Microsoft aren't going to produce official builds for PHP 8 onwards. This message does NOT mean that nobody will." Microsoft has not stated why they will no longer support PHP 8.0, but it could be due to the extensive PHP support already existing in the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Microsoft has been actively developing WSL, which allows users to install various Linux distributions that run directly in Windows 10. As these distributions already support PHP 7.4 and will support PHP 8.0 when released, Microsoft may see it as unnecessary to continue supporting a native PHP build in Windows.

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Linus Torvalds Hopes Intel's AVX-512 'Dies A Painful Death'

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 12:35
"Linux creator Linus Torvalds had some choice words today on Advanced Vector Extensions 512 (AVX-512) found on select Intel processors," reports Phoronix: In a mailing list discussion stemming from the Phoronix article this week on the compiler instructions Intel is enabling for Alder Lake (and Sapphire Rapids), Linus Torvalds chimed in. The Alder Lake instructions being flipped on in GCC right now make no mention of AVX-512 but only AVX2 and others, likely due to Intel pursuing the subset supported by both the small and large cores in this new hybrid design being pursued. The lack of seeing AVX512 for Alder Lake led Torvalds to comment: I hope AVX512 dies a painful death, and that Intel starts fixing real problems instead of trying to create magic instructions to then create benchmarks that they can look good on. I hope Intel gets back to basics: gets their process working again, and concentrate more on regular code that isn't HPC or some other pointless special case. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: in the heyday of x86, when Intel was laughing all the way to the bank and killing all their competition, absolutely everybody else did better than Intel on FP loads. Intel's FP performance sucked (relatively speaking), and it matter not one iota. Because absolutely nobody cares outside of benchmarks. The same is largely true of AVX512 now - and in the future... After several more paragraphs, Torvalds reaches his conclusion. "Stop with the special-case garbage, and make all the core common stuff that everybody cares about run as well as you humanly can." Phoronix notes that Torvalds' comments came "just weeks after he switched to AMD Ryzen Threadripper for his primary development rig."

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iPhone User Sues Microsoft's LinkedIn For Spying Through Apple's 'Clipboard'

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 11:34
"Microsoft's LinkedIn was sued by a New York-based iPhone user on Friday for allegedly reading and diverting users' sensitive content from Apple Inc's Universal Clipboard application," reports Reuters. According to Apple's website, Universal Clipboard allows users to copy text, images, photos, and videos on one Apple device and then paste the content onto another Apple device. According to the lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court by Adam Bauer, LinkedIn reads the Clipboard information without notifying the user. LinkedIn did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment. According to media reports from last week, 53 apps including TikTok and LinkedIn were reported to be reading users' Universal Clipboard content, after Apple's latest privacy feature started alerting users whenever the clipboard was accessed with a banner saying "pasted from Messages..." A LinkedIn executive had said on Twitter last week that the company released a new version of its app to end this practice... According to the complaint, LinkedIn has not only been spying on its users, it has been spying on their nearby computers and other devices, and it has been circumventing Apple's Universal Clipboard timeout.

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Delays Reported For Possible Covid-Inoculating Plasma Shot

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 10:34
"It might be the next best thing to a coronavirus vaccine," writes the Los Angeles Times. "Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of Covid-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months." Using technology that's been proven effective in preventing other diseases such as hepatitis A, the injections would be administered to high-risk health care workers, nursing home patients, or even at public drive-through sites — potentially protecting millions of lives, the doctors and other experts say. The two scientists who spearheaded the proposal — an 83-year-old shingles researcher and his counterpart, an HIV gene therapy expert — have garnered widespread support from leading blood and immunology specialists, including those at the center of the nation's Covid-19 plasma research. But the idea exists only on paper. Federal officials have twice rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies — even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan — have declined to design or manufacture the shots, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation... There is little disagreement that the idea holds promise; the dispute is over the timing. Federal health officials and industry groups say the development of plasma-based therapies should focus on treating people who are already sick, not on preventing infections in those who are still healthy... But scientists who question the delay argue that the immunity shots are easy to scale up and should enter clinical trials immediately. They say that until there's a vaccine, the shots offer the only plausible method for preventing potentially millions of infections at a critical moment in the pandemic. "Beyond being a lost opportunity, this is a real head-scratcher," said Dr. Michael Joyner, a Mayo Clinic researcher who leads a program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration to capitalize on coronavirus antibodies from COVID-19 survivors. "It seems obvious." The use of so-called convalescent plasma has already become widespread. More than 28,000 patients have already received the IV treatment, and preliminary data suggest that the method is safe.

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Wells Fargo Tells Employees: Delete TikTok from Company Phones

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 08:34
An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: Wells Fargo does not want TikTok on its employees' phones. According to The Information, the financial institution sent its employees a note, telling them to remove the app from corporate devices immediately... A Wells Fargo spokesperson confirmed the company's move to The Information, explaining that it came to the decision due to concerns about TikTok's privacy practices: "We have identified a small number of Wells Fargo employees with corporate-owned devices who had installed the TikTok application on their device. Due to concerns about TikTok's privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices."

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TIOBE's Surprisingly Popular Programming Languages: R, Go, Perl, Scratch, Rust, and Visual Basic 6

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 06:34
The R programming language is experiencing a surge in popularity "in the slipstream of Python," according to this month's TIOBE index, leaping into the top ten. "For historical context, we wrote of R's spot in TIOBE nearly two years ago, and it had just made the leap from #50 to #39," writes programming columnist Mike Melanson. ZDNet writes: In May, when R crashed out of the top 20 for the first time in three years, Tiobe speculated that the language could be a victim of consolidation in statistical programming, with more developers in the field gravitating towards Python. But there's been a lot of motion since then, Tech Republic reports: R rose one space to eighth place in July, but its comparison to 2019 is where the real surprise lies: It was in 20th place at the same time last year. TIOBE CEO Paul Jansen cites two reasons why R may be increasing in popularity: - Universities and research institutes have moved away from commercial statistical languages like SAS and Stata in favor of open source languages Python and R. - The increase in analytics being used to search for a COVID-19 vaccine.... The largest gainers in popularity between July 2019 and July 2020 are Go, which jumped from 16th to 12th place, Perl, jumping from No. 19 to No. 14, Scratch, jumping from No. 30 to No. 17, Rust, which moved from No. 33 to No. 18, and PL/SQL, which moved from No. 23 to No. 19. Ruby fell the most, moving from 11th place to 16th, while SQL, MATLAB, and Assembly Language also slipped down the list. ZDNet adds that "Besides R's upwards shift, Tiobe's July index doesn't show much movement in the popularity of the top languages. The top 10 in descending order are C, Java, Python, C++, C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript, R, PHP and Swift." Visual Studio magazine argues that the biggest surprise may be that the 29-year-old language classic Visual Basic is still in the top 20 — since its last stable release was 22 years ago, and by 2008 it was finally retired by Microsoft. "VB6 just refuses to go away, achieving cult-like status among a group of hard-core supporters."

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Newly-Discovered Comet Neowise: Now Visible at Dawn and Dusk

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 04:04
"A newly-discovered comet is giving skywatchers quite the show during the month of July," reports CBS News: Astronomers discovered the comet, known as Comet C2020 F3 NEOWISE, back in March. It was named for the NASA mission that spotted it, for the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer... But astronomers knew they found something unique when they spotted Neowise. On July 3, Neowise was closer to the sun than the orbit of Mercury, coming dangerously close to breaking apart. The sun heated up much of the comet's icy makeup, erupting in a large debris trail of gas and dust. Measuring about 3 miles across, Neowise is considered a fairly large comet — providing skywatchers with a spectacular view from Earth. The comet, which has a bright opulent tail, has been putting on a stunning show in the early hours before sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere... But late sleepers need not worry — the comet will start appearing in the evening, just after sunset, starting Saturday. To view it, people in the Northern Hemisphere can look to the northwestern sky, just below Ursa Major, commonly known as the Big Dipper constellation. Scientists say the comet will be visible across the Northern Hemisphere for about another month. The comet is made up of material dating back 4.6 billion years, to the origins of our solar system, according to the article. "The event is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience — the comet takes about 6,800 years to complete its path around the sun, according to NASA..." "NASA says it will be one of the brightest comets this century."

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Is Our Solar System's Ninth Planet Actually a Primordial Black Hole?

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 02:54
An anonymous reader quotes Forbes: Conventional theory has it that Planet 9 — our outer solar system's hypothetical 9th planet — is merely a heretofore undetected planet, likely captured by our solar system at some point over its 4.6 billion year history. But Harvard University astronomers now raise the possibility that orbital evidence for Planet 9 could possibly be the result of a missing link in the decades-long puzzle of dark matter. That is, a hypothetical primordial black hole with a horizon size no larger than a grapefruit, and with a mass 5 to 10 times that of Earth. In a paper accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the co-authors argue that observed clustering of extreme trans-Neptunian objects suggest some sort of massive super-earth type body lying on the outer fringes of our solar system. Perhaps as much as 800 astronomical units (Earth-Sun distances) out... If they exist, such primordial black holes would require new physics and go a long way towards solving the mystery of the universe's missing mass, or dark matter. Their argument also constitutes a "new method to search for black holes in the outer solar system based on flares that result from the disruption of intercepted comets," according to a statement from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The paper was co-authored by Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, who points out that "Because black holes are intrinsically dark, the radiation that matter emits on its way to the mouth of the black hole is our only way to illuminate this dark environment." And in an explanatory video, Mike Brown, a planetary astronomy professor at CalTech, suggests another way it could be significant. "All those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be thrilled to know that there is a real planet out there still to be found."

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Disney World Reopened Today in Florida, Joining Sea World and Universal

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 23:54
"Cinderella Castle has sat silent for 116 days..." reported CNN Business. But no more — at least, not at Disney World, which today began its grand reopening: "It's three times the size of Disneyland in terms of revenue," Michael Nathanson, a media analyst and founding partner at MoffettNathanson, told CNN Business. Nathanson estimates that Disney World alone generated $11.2 billion, or about 16% of the company's total revenue in 2019 and added that it's a massive driver of growth for the company. "It's probably their most important single asset," Nathanson said... The Florida Department of Health reported more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the state's total to more than 220,000. [Roughly 1% of the state's entire population.] The significant uptick in cases over the last couple of weeks has led to petitions from employees asking to delay the reopening and the head of the union representing Disney World's service workers to warn that Disney "has to get it right" in terms of the reopening... When reached for comment, a Disney spokesperson pointed out a blog post by Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Disney Parks. In the post, Hymel wrote that Disney remains "deeply committed" to focusing on the well-being of guests and employees... Disney World is not the only theme park open in Florida. Other popular theme parks like Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando have already had guests. And Disney has opened some of its other theme parks overseas including Shanghai Disneyland, which returned on May 11. Disneyland, Disney's resort in California, was set to reopen this month, but was postponed. [It did, however, re-open the neighboring "Downtown Disney" business district.] But Disney World is different. It's not just the most popular theme park in America; it's the most popular theme park in the world, which can set the tone for the entire tourism industry, according to Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com. "This is the future of the travel industry at this point," Niles said. "It's just wreckage throughout the entire industry at this stage... So somebody's got to figure out a way to make this work if this industry is going to survive, and Disney's got more resources than anyone else. This is an obvious leadership opportunity for Disney." CNN reports that Disney World is allowing fewer people in the park, spacing them out in lines, requiring everyone to wear a mask — and taking everyone's temperature when they arrive at the park. This week the "Disney Parks jobs" Twitter feed also shared a slick ad titled "Welcome Home" — but they've apparently since removed the tweet after facing criticism online. "Some people on Twitter found the ad more eerie than welcoming," reports Newsweek, noting that the ad "ends with a stormtrooper from Star Wars putting his own spin on the greeting. 'Welcome, citizens,' he says."

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Rust Programming Language To Use 'Allowlist' in Place of 'Whitelist'

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 23:24
"Other terms are more inclusive and precise," reads a merged Pull request for the Rust programming language titled "Avoid 'whitelist'." "This doesn't look like it affects any 'user visible' flags or anything like that," core developer Niko Matsakis had pointed out in a comment on the pull request, asking "It's purely internal...?" The pull request has since been merged.

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The Linux Team Approves New Neutral Terminology

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 20:34
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Linus Torvalds approved on Friday a new and more inclusive terminology for the Linux kernel code and documentation. Going forward, Linux developers have been asked to use new terms for the master/slave and blacklist/whitelist terminologies... The Linux team did not recommend any specific terms but asked developers to choose as appropriate. The new terms are to be used for new source code written for the Linux kernel and its associated documentation. The older terms, considered inadequate now, will only be allowed for maintaining older code and documentation, or "when updating code for an existing (as of 2020) hardware or protocol specification that mandates those terms." Proposed alternatives for master/slave include: primary/secondarymain/replica or subordinateinitiator/targetrequester/respondercontroller/devicehost/worker or proxyleader/followerdirector/performer Proposed alternatives for blacklist/whitelist include: denylist/allowlistblocklist/passlist

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Why Did a Tech Executive Install 1,000 Security Cameras Around San Francisco?

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 18:34
The New York Times explains why Chris Larsen installed over a thousand surveillance cameras around San Francisco to monitor 135 city blocks: It sounds sinister. A soft-spoken cryptocurrency mogul is paying for a private network of high-definition security cameras around the city. Zoom in and you can see the finest details: the sticker on a cellphone, the make of a backpack, the color of someone's eyes... While violent crime is not high in the city, property crime is a constant headache. Anyone who lives here knows you shouldn't leave anything — not a pile of change, not a scarf — in a parked car... locals are tired of the break-ins. So how do they reconcile "defund the police" with "stop the smash and grabs"? Mr. Larsen believes he has the answer: Put security cameras in the hands of neighborhood groups. Put them everywhere. He's happy to pay for it.... Here is what he is doing: Writing checks for nearly $4 million to buy cameras that record high-definition video of the streets and paying to have them maintained by a company called Applied Video Solutions. The rest is up to locals in neighborhood coalitions like Community Benefit Districts, nonprofits formed to provide services to the area. Here is how the project works: Neighbors band together and decide where to put the cameras. They are installed on private property at the discretion of the property owner, and in San Francisco many home and business owners want them. The footage is monitored by the neighborhood coalition. The cameras are always recording... As proponents of Mr. Larsen's network see things, they get the safety of a surveillance state without the state... It is arguably more compelling evidence in court because the video is monitored by a third-party intermediary who can testify that it is a continuous feed. It is time stamped. And because the network covers many blocks, the footage can tell a broader story than a single camera about an event that might be moving from block to block, in the case of, for example, a fight.... "This has underscored the importance of not just cameras but of communitywide camera coverage," Mr. Larsen said. "Body cams show some pretty core weaknesses because we don't have universal access to police body cam footage, and there's a fundamental conflict of interest if the video shows something bad for the department." The answer is more cameras, he said, and then keep that footage in the hands of citizens. He argued that trust will come in the form of full city camera coverage, so police can play a smaller, more subtle role. Individual vigilantism will not work, he argued, but strong neighborhoods with continuous video feeds on every corner will. "That's the winning formula," Mr. Larsen said. "Pure coverage." The locally-stored footage is erased after 30 days. Thought it's not covered by the city's newly-enacted ban on facial recognition software, Larsen says "We're strongly opposed to facial recognition technology. Facial recognition is too powerful given the lack of laws and protections to make it acceptable."

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Spintronics Researchers Demonstrate How to Process Magnetic Vortices for Data Storage

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 17:34
Research continues in a field which involves using the spin and magnetism of electrons in solid-state devices — spintronics. hackingbear shared this report from Nature: Electric control of magnetic vortex dynamics in a reproducible way on an ultrafast time scale is a key element in the quest for efficient spintronic devices with low-energy consumption. Researchers in China and Germany demonstrated a simple method for controlling magnetic patterns that are useful for data storage and information processing. Magnetic nanostructures are engineered as to host swirling magnetic vortices. The vortex intrinsic properties such as the vortex sense of rotations or polarity are well defined and thus are predestinate as digital information carriers. Furthermore, the magnetic nanostructures are readily integrated in existing computers. Chenglong Jia from Lanzhou University, Jamal Berakdar from Martin-Luther Universitat Halle-Wittenberg and their co-workers demonstrated how to process the so stored information swiftly by switching both the vortex's sense of rotation and the orientation of its magnetic field using at a simple sequence of ultra-short, low average-energy electric-field pulses. The team believe that their method is scalable, non-invasive, reliable and reversible, fullfing thus important prerequisites for practical implementation.

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TikTok Pulls Out of Hong Kong

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 16:34
AmiMoJo quotes TechCrunch: TikTok announced that it would pull out of Hong Kong, which is facing an unprecedented wave of control from the Beijing government after the promulgation of the national security law. "In light of recent events, we've decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong," said a TikTok spokesperson. The company declined further comment on the decision... ByteDance, founded by Chinese serial entrepreneur Zhang Yiming, has been working to disassociate TikTok from its Chinese ownership and Beijing censorship. Efforts have ranged from keeping an overseas data center for TikTok that's supposedly out of reach by the Chinese authority, giving outside experts a glimpse into its moderation process, through to hiringDisney's Kevin Mayer as the app's new global face.

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