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Vertical Farms Grow Veggies On Site At Restaurants and Grocery Stores

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 05:00
New Atlas reports on ag-tech company Vertical Field's efforts to produce soil-based indoor vertical farms grown at the very location where food is consumed. From the report: The Vertical Field setup retains many of the advantages of hydroponic vertical farms, but instead of the plants growing in a nutrient-packed liquid medium, the container-based pods treat their crops to real soil, supplemented by a proprietary mix of minerals and nutrients. The company says that it opted for geoponic production "because we found that it has far richer flavor, color, and quality." The recycled and repurposed 20- or 40-ft (6/12-ft) shipping containers used to host the farms can be installed within reach of consumers, such as in the parking lot of a restaurant or out back at the grocery store. Growers can also scale up operations to more than one pod per site if needed, and the external surfaces could be covered in a living wall of decorative plants to make them more appealing. The vertical urban farms are claimed capable of supporting the production of a wide range of fruits and veggies -- from leafy greens and herbs to strawberries and mushrooms, and more. And it's reported to use up to 90 percent less water than a traditional farming setup. Unlike some high-tech farming solutions, staff won't need special training to work with the vertical farm as the automated growing process monitors, irrigates, and fertilizes the crops as they grow thanks to arrays of sensors that continually feed data on climate, soil condition, LED lighting and so on to management software. Each vertical farm unit has its own Wi-Fi comms technology installed to enable operators to tap into the system via a mobile app. The company told us that, by way of example, one container pilot farm offered a growing space of 400 sq ft (37 sq m) and yielded around 200 lb (90 kg) of produce per month, harvested daily. Lighting remained on for 16 hours per day. We assume that the pods are completely powered from the grid at their respective locations, though the company says that it is looking at ways to make use of solar panels as well as making more efficient use of water.

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Scientists Use Satellite Imagery To Count Elephants

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 02:00
Scientists from a trio of universities have combined satellite imagery with deep learning to detect elephants from space. The goal is to help protect these endangered species from poachers or habitat destruction. Their study was published in the journal Ecology and Conservation. Interesting Engineering reports: The team's method proved comparable to human detection accuracy and could help solve a number of existing challenges, such as cross-border limits, and cloud coverage, among others. The team used Maxar WorldView-3 satellite imagery, which is capable of collecting more than one million acres (5,000 km2) imagery in one go in just a few minutes. This allows for fast repeat imaging when necessary, and minimizes the risk of double counting as it's so rapid. Then the team leveraged deep learning to process the vast amount of imagery it collected from Maxar's WorldView-3 satellite. In a matter of hours, the team collected its relevant data. This process usually takes months when sorting out by hand. On top of speed, the deep learning algorithms also provided consistent results less prone to error, as well as false negatives and false positives. In order to develop this method, the team created a customized training dataset of over 1,000 elephants, and then fed it into a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN). After trials, the team concluded that its CNN can detect elephants in satellite imagery with as high an accuracy as human detection capabilities.

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Treasury Nominee Yellen Is Looking To Curtail Use of Cryptocurrency

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Cryptocurrencies could come under renewed regulatory scrutiny over the next four years if Janet Yellen, Joe Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, gets her way. During Yellen's Tuesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) asked Yellen about the use of cryptocurrency by terrorists and other criminals. "Cryptocurrencies are a particular concern," Yellen responded. "I think many are used -- at least in a transactions sense -- mainly for illicit financing." She said she wanted to "examine ways in which we can curtail their use and make sure that [money laundering] doesn't occur through those channels."

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China Plans Online Payment Rules That May Hit Ant, Tencent

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 20:00
hackingbear writes: People's Bank of China, the country's central bank, said on Wednesday that any non-bank payment company with half of the market in online transactions or two entities with a combined two-thirds share could be subject to antitrust probes, potentially dealing another blow to financial technology giant Ant Group Co. and its biggest rival Tencent Holdings Ltd. Ant's Alipay accounts of 55.6% of the Chinese online payment market, while Tencent's WeChat accounts for 38.8%, according to iResearch data. "If a monopoly is confirmed, the central bank can suggest the cabinet impose restrictive measures including breaking up the entity by its business type," reports Yahoo Finance. "Firms already with payment licenses would have a one-year grace period to comply with the new rules, the PBOC said." Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and Ant Groups, emerged in public as he spoke to 100 rural teachers through a video call on Wednesday for the first time since China began clamping down on his businesses, ending several months of speculation over his whereabouts. Ma last appeared publicly at a conference where he castigated China's (and that of the world's) financial regulatory systems in front of a room of high-ranked officials. His controversial remark, according to reports, prompted the Chinese regulator to abruptly halt Ant's initial public offering, which would have been the biggest public share sale of all time.

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Biden Rejoins Paris Climate Accord, Works To Overturn Trump's Climate Policies

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 19:20
During his first moments in the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Biden returned the United States to the Paris climate accord and directed federal agencies to begin unraveling Donald Trump's environmental policies. The Washington Post reports: Biden's executive order recommitting the United States to the international struggle to slow global warming fulfilled a campaign promise and represented a stark repudiation of the "America First" approach of Trump, who officially withdrew the nation from the Paris agreement Nov. 4 after years of disparaging it. Biden also ordered federal agencies to review scores of climate and environmental policies enacted during the Trump years and, if possible, to quickly reverse them. Nearly half of the regulations the new administration is targeting come from the Environmental Protection Agency, on issues as varied as drinking water, dangerous chemicals and gas-mileage standards. Biden is expected to take even more sweeping action next Wednesday, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post. He plans to sign an executive order elevating climate in domestic and national security policy; direct "science and evidence based decision-making" in federal agencies; reestablish the Presidential Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and announce that U.S. data that will help underpin the Climate Leadership Summit that Biden will host in Washington in late April. "While many of Biden's actions Wednesday will take effect over time -- the country will again formally become a party to the Paris agreement 30 days from now," the report adds. He's also planning to rescind the presidential permit Trump granted the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from Canada across the border into the United States, and is instructing the EPA and Transportation Department to strengthen fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, which Trump weakened. Furthermore, the report says Biden "plans to impose a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to caribou, polar bears and Indigenous people."

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Kia Will Lead Apple Car Project Work Under Hyundai Motor, Report Says

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 18:40
Hyundai Motor, the parent automaker of Hyundai and Kia, will task the Kia division with Apple Car work. The brand also said on Wednesday it's looking at cooperation with foreign firms surrounding self-driving and electric vehicles. CNET reports: Kia made no mention of Apple, though the comment follows the reported connections to the tech giant. Earlier this month, various reports pegged the Apple Car as alive and well inside the tech company and said we could see a final vehicle in 2024 at the earliest. A separate report said the company may show a prototype of the vehicle next year. Interestingly, one of the reports last month also named Kia's factory in Georgia as the rumored home for Apple Car production, which coincides with news of Kia's possible involvement in the latest round of rumors. Reportedly, Apple is hard at work on breakthrough EV battery technology and automated driving systems to help usher in a game changing car. Choosing an established automaker to handle final production seems simple, since Apple has zero history of building cars. If you need an example of how difficult it is to build cars, take a look at Tesla's relatively short history in the business.

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A Chinese Hacking Group Is Stealing Airline Passenger Details

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 18:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A suspected Chinese hacking group has been attacking the airline industry for the past few years with the goal of obtaining passenger data in order to track the movement of persons of interest. The intrusions have been linked to a threat actor that the cyber-security has been tracking under the name of Chimera. Believed to be operating in the interests of the Chinese state, the group's activities were first described in a report [PDF] and Black Hat presentation [PDF] from CyCraft in 2020. The initial report mentioned a series of coordinated attacks against the Taiwanese superconductor industry. But in a new report published last week by NCC Group and its subsidiary Fox-IT, the two companies said the group's intrusions are broader than initially thought, having also targeted the airline industry. These attacks targeted semiconductor and airline companies in different geographical areas, and not just Asia, NCC and Fox-IT said. In the case of some victims, the hackers stayed hidden inside networks for up to three years before being discovered. "The goal of targeting some victims appears to be to obtain Passenger Name Records (PNR)," the two companies said. While the NCC and Fox-IT report didn't speculate why the hackers targeted the airline industry and why they stole passenger data, this is pretty obvious. In fact, it is very common for state-sponsored hacking groups to target airline companies, hotel chains, and telcos to obtain data they could use to track the movements and communications of persons of interest.

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In Hidden Message on White House Website, Biden Calls For Coders

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 17:20
The recently updated website for President Joe Biden's White House carried an invitation for tech specialists savvy enough to find it. From a report: Hidden in the HTML code on www.whitehouse.gov was an invitation to join the U.S. Digital Service, a technology unit within the White House. "If you're reading this, we need your help building back better," the message said. Former President Barack Obama launched the service in 2014 to recruit technologists to help revamp government services -- for example by modernizing Medicare's payment system or reforming hiring practices across government agencies. Tech specialists join the Digital Service for typically one or two years.

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Opera Now Has a Game Engine To Go With Its Gamer-Focused Browser

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 16:40
Opera has acquired YoYo Games, a British game development platform best known for GameMaker Studio 2, and is launching its Opera Gaming division. Engadget reports: Opera has bought the company for a simple reason: Opera GX. The gamer-focused web browser was launched in early access back in June 2019. Its headline feature is a slide-out control panel that lets you limit the browser's bandwidth and see which tabs are demanding the most CPU and RAM resources. Opera says it will create a new division, sensibly called Opera Gaming, by combining the Opera GX and GameMaker teams. "We have always had big plans for improving GameMaker across all platforms, both from the perspective of improving accessibility and further developing the features available to commercial studios," Stuart Poole, General Manager of YoYo Games said. "And now we can't wait to see them arrive much sooner."

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LG Considers Exiting Smartphones In 2021

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 16:00
After losing around $4.5 billion over the past five years, LG is considering exiting the smartphone market in 2021. The Verge reports: The Korea Herald reports that [LG CEO Kwon Bong-seok] sent out an internal memo to staff on Wednesday, hinting at a change in direction for LG's phone business. "Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice," says an LG official in a statement to The Korea Herald. "The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business." LG confirmed the internal memo was genuine in a statement to The Verge, noting that nothing has been decided yet. "LG Electronics management is committed to making whatever decision is necessary to resolve its mobile business challenges in 2021," says an LG spokesperson. "As of today, nothing has been finalized."

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CentOS Is Gone -- But RHEL Is Now Free For Up To 16 Production Servers

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 15:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last month, Red Hat caused a lot of consternation in the enthusiast and small business Linux world when it announced the discontinuation of CentOS Linux. Long-standing tradition -- and ambiguity in Red Hat's posted terms -- led users to believe that CentOS 8 would be available until 2029, just like the RHEL 8 it was based on. Red Hat's early termination of CentOS 8 in 2021 cut eight of those 10 years away, leaving thousands of users stranded. Red Hat's December announcement of CentOS Stream -- which it initially billed as a "replacement" for CentOS Linux -- left many users confused about its role in the updated Red Hat ecosystem. As of February 1, 2021, Red Hat will make RHEL available at no cost for small-production workloads -- with "small" defined as 16 systems or fewer. This access to no-cost production RHEL is by way of the newly expanded Red Hat Developer Subscription program, and it comes with no strings -- in Red Hat's words, "this isn't a sales program, and no sales representative will follow up." Red Hat is also expanding the availability of developer subscriptions to teams, as well as individual users. Moving forward, subscribing RHEL customers can add entire dev teams to the developer subscription program at no cost. This allows the entire team to use Red Hat Cloud Access for simplified deployment and maintenance of RHEL on well-known cloud providers, including AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure.

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Ajit Pai is Officially Out of the FCC

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 14:10
Ajit Pai, the man who killed net neutrality, enacted a series of industry-friendly deregulatory moves for big telecom, and drank from a gigantic mug, is no longer around to terrorize the internet. The FCC confirmed to Motherboard that Pai is officially gone: "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today concluded his four years as Chairman, eight years as a Commissioner, and twelve years as an employee of the agency," the agency said. His official FCC Twitter account, where he antagonized people who criticized him, has been deleted.

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Boeing Curbed Rocket Test Over Hydraulics Issue, NASA Says

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 13:35
Boeing's test of the largest rocket in U.S. history ended earlier than expected on Jan. 16 because a hydraulic-system setting exceeded a preset limit, dealing another setback to the company's space ambitions. From a report: The first firing of all four RS-25 engines on the Space Launch System rocket ended just 67.2 seconds into the planned eight-minute test. The so-called hot fire exercise at the NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi was designed to simulate a full flight from Earth. Engineers from NASA, Boeing and the engines' maker, Aerojet-Rocketdyne Holdings, will assess data and determine whether a second test is needed or if the rocket is ready to ship to Florida's Kennedy Space Center to prepare for its maiden flight. The SLS can be loaded with its super-chilled propellants -- liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen -- only nine times, which will be a consideration in whether to stage a second test at Stennis, NASA said Tuesday. The shutdown "was triggered by test parameters that were intentionally conservative to ensure the safety of the core stage during the test," NASA said in a blog post Tuesday. Preliminary inspections and data reviews "show the rocket's hardware is in excellent condition," the agency said. The test was cut short just as the engines began to pivot and test their thrust capability while rotating on gimbals. The premature end, before engineers collected a full array of data, represented another hurdle for Boeing's space program. The SLS rocket has been plagued by years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. The program has broad support in Congress because of the federal contracts and jobs it offers across many states. Boeing also is attempting to correct glitches with its Starliner spacecraft, which would ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station under a NASA contract. Boeing said Monday it had completed qualification of Starliner's flight software following an extensive review. A second test of the vehicle to the ISS is slated for March, following a botched flight in December 2019. A crewed flight is expected later this year.

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Intel Outsources Core i3 To TSMC's 5nm Process

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 13:00
TSMC is to start making Intel's Core i3 on its 5nm process in 2H21 says TrendForce. From a report: Market analyst Trendforce reports that foundry TSMC is to start making Intel's Core i3 process later in the year on a 5nm process. This follows Intel's well documented problems with its leading edge process technology at 10nm and 7nm. The Core i3 move to a 5nm process is set to be followed by mid-range and high-end CPUs being produced for Intel by TSMC on a 3nm process in 2H22. TrendForce did not give a source for the information, simply referencing "investigations." Intel has long outsourced production significant amounts of its non-CPU chips to TSMC and UMC -- about 15 to 20 percent of its output, according to TrendForce. This is partly because it has often acquired fabless startups that had brought products to market using foundry. It was usually not worthwhile to re-engineer such products to Intel processes. It is also because Intel has wanted to focus on leading-edge specialist processes, although with less success in recent years. That 15 to 20 percent outsource was likely worth $10.5 billion to $14 billion in 2020, given Intel's annual revenue of $70bn.

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Valve and Five PC Games Publishers Fined $9.4M for Illegal Geo-Blocking

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 11:01
A four-year antitrust investigation into PC games geo-blocking in the European Union by distribution platform Valve and five games publishers has led to fines totalling $9.4 million after the Commission confirmed today that the bloc's rules had been breached. From a report: The geo-blocking practices investigated since 2017 concerned around 100 PC video games of different genres, including sports, simulation and action games. In addition to Valve --which has been fined just over $1.94 million -- the five sanctioned games publishers are: Bandai Namco (fined $412k), Capcom ($479k), Focus Home ($3.39 million), Koch Media ($1.2 million) and ZeniMax ($1.94 million). The Commission said the fines were reduced by between 10% and 15% owing to cooperation from the companies, with the exception of Valve who it said chose not to cooperate (a "prohibition Decision" rather than a fine reduction was applied in its case). The antitrust investigation begun in February 2017, with a formal statement of objections issued just over two years later when the Commission accused the companies of "entering into bilateral agreements to prevent consumers from purchasing and using PC video games acquired elsewhere than in their country of residence" in contravention of EU rules.

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Google Sidelines Second Artificial Intelligence Researcher

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 10:21
Google artificial intelligence researcher Margaret Mitchell has been locked out of corporate systems, making her the second outspoken critic at the company to be sidelined after colleague Timnit Gebru departed in acrimonious circumstances last month. From a report: The Alphabet unit has an Ethical AI team, led by Mitchell, and a set of principles for developing the technology in a socially responsible manner. Gebru tweeted on Tuesday that Mitchell's "corp access is now locked" and that the researcher had been told she would remain locked out "for at least a few days."

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China Builds Massive Covid-19 Quarantine Camp For 4,000 People as Outbreak Continues

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 09:41
China is rushing to build a massive quarantine camp that can house more than 4,000 people, after an outbreak of Covid-19 this month that has left tens of millions of people under strict lockdown. From a report: The quarantine camp is located on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital of Hebei province, which surrounds the country's capital, Beijing. China has largely contained the spread of the virus, with much of the country returning to normal. However, a sudden rise in cases has alarmed officials and raised concerns ahead of the Lunar New Year, the county's most important annual festival, during which hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel to visit family members. Officials in Shijiazhuang, where the outbreak is centered, have initiated mass testing and strict lockdowns, moving entire villages into centralized quarantine facilities in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. The new quarantine camp will house close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 patients, as authorities continue an extensive contact tracing and testing program. It was originally planned to house 3,000 people, but has since been expanded to a capacity of 4,160. More than 4,000 construction workers performed "six days' and nights' work" to complete the first phase, said Shijiazhuang Deputy Mayor Meng Xianghong on Tuesday. Authorities began construction on January 13 and the first section of the camp is now complete and ready for use, while construction continues on the second phase, according to state-owned broadcaster CCTV. Each prefabricated room is expected to measure 18 square meters (around 194 square feet), and will come with an en-suite bathroom and shower, desks, chairs, beds, Wi-Fi, and a television set, according to CCTV.

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Trump Seeks To Curb Foreign Cyber Meddling on Last Day in Office

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 09:00
Outgoing President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at thwarting foreign use of cloud computing products for malicious cyber operations against the United States, the White House said on Tuesday, Trump's last full day in office. From a report: The order, first reported by Reuters, gives the Commerce Department authority to write rules to bar transactions with foreigners in cloud computing products or services, if a foreigner uses them for cyber attacks. "What we have seen in this space is that...an individual will rent thousands of pieces of this infrastructure inside the United States and resell them to actors who then abuse them," a senior administration official told Reuters. "This provides the Secretary of Commerce the ability to say...' There is no reason for you to continue to have access to the nation's products,'" the person added, noting the restrictions could apply to jurisdictions as well as people and companies. The order also requires the agency to write rules in six months for U.S. providers of Infrastructure as a Service, a type of cloud computing, to verify the identity of foreigners with whom they do business and keep certain records.

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Walmart's E-Commerce Chief Is Leaving To Build 'a City of the Future'

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Marc Lore, a serial entrepreneur who sold his startup Jet.com to Walmart for $3 billion and then oversaw the transformation of the retail giant's e-commerce business over the last four years, is leaving his full-time role with the company at the end of the month, he told Recode. His next big entrepreneurial swing will be something far afield from his current expertise: a multi-decade project to build "a city of the future" supported by "a reformed version of capitalism." "It's a new model for society we'll be testing," he teased. Lore declined to offer more details, but said he would be prepared to reveal additional information in the coming months. Some who have heard of the project say one focus will be on giving everyday citizens direct economic upside in the city's growth. "Imagine a city with the vibrancy, diversity and culture of New York City combined with the efficiency, safety and innovation of Tokyo and the sustainability, governance, and social services of Sweden," reads the vision statement for the project. "This will be our New City." "This is going to be a lifelong project," he added. "It's the thing I'm most passionate about."

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Global Investments Into Clean-Energy Technology Reach Record High

Wed, 01/20/2021 - 06:30
Investments into clean-energy technologies totaled more than $500 billion for the first time ever, according to a BloombergNEF report released Tuesday. Axios reports: Technologies making energy and other material cleaner needs to expand rapidly if the world is to adequately address climate change in the coming decades. Global investment in the low-carbon energy transition was $501.3 billion in 2020, up 9% from 2019 despite the pandemic driving the world into a recession. This tally includes investments in renewables, energy storage, electric vehicle charging stations, hydrogen production, carbon capture projects and more. The largest areas of investment are renewable energy and electrified transportation. The report also reflects another broader trend, which is that investment often lags in technologies beyond renewable electricity and electric cars. This includes carbon capture and most industrial processes like cement, according to the International Energy Agency.

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