[$] Developers split over split-lock detection A "split lock" is a low-level memory-bus lock taken by the processor for a memoryrange that crosses a cache line. Most processors disallow split locks, butx86 implements them, Split locking may be convenient for developers, butit comes at a cost: a single split-locked instruction can occupy the memorybus for around 1,000 clock cycles. It is thus understandable that interestin eliminating split-lock operations is high. What is perhaps lessunderstandable is that a patch set intended to detect split locks has beenpending since (at least) May 2018, and it still is not poised to enter themainline.
VPN hijacking on Linux (and beyond) systems William Tolley has disclosed a severe VPN-related problem in most currentsystems: "I am reporting a vulnerability that exists on most Linux distros, andother *nix operating systems which allows a network adjacent attackerto determine if another user is connected to a VPN, the virtual IPaddress they have been assigned by the VPN server, and whether or notthere is an active connection to a given website. Additionally, we areable to determine the exact seq and ack numbers by counting encryptedpackets and/or examining their size. This allows us to inject data intothe TCP stream and hijack connections." There are various partialmitigations available, but a full solution to the problem has not yet beenworked out. Most VPNs are vulnerable, but Tor evidently is not.
Security updates for Friday Security updates have been issued by Debian (libav), Fedora (kernel, libuv, and nodejs), Oracle (firefox), Red Hat (firefox and java-1.7.1-ibm), SUSE (clamav, cloud-init, dnsmasq, dpdk, ffmpeg, munge, opencv, and permissions), and Ubuntu (librabbitmq).
[$] Debian votes on init systems In November, the topic of init systems and, in particular, support forsystems other than systemd reappeared on theDebian mailing lists. After one month of sometimes fraught discussion,this issue has been brought to the project's developers to decide in theform of a general resolution (GR) — the first such since the project voted on the status ofdebian-private discussions in 2016. The issues under discussion arecomplex, so the result is one of the most complex ballots seen for sometime in Debian, with seven options to choose from.
Stable kernels 5.4.2, 5.3.15, and 4.19.88 Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced the release of the 5.4.2, 5.3.15,and 4.19.88 stable kernels. They contain arelatively large collection of important fixes throughout the tree; users of thosekernel series should upgrade. [Update: A bit later, the 4.14.158,4.9.206, and 4.4.206 stable kernels were also released.]
Security updates for Thursday Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (firefox), Fedora (cyrus-imapd, freeipa, haproxy, ImageMagick, python-pillow, rubygem-rmagick, sqlite, squid, and tnef), openSUSE (haproxy), Oracle (microcode_ctl), and Ubuntu (squid, squid3).
[$] A static-analysis framework for GCC One of the features of the Clang/LLVM compiler that has been rather lackingfor GCC may finally be getting filled in. In a mid-November postto the gcc-patches mailing list, David Malcolm described a newstatic-analysis framework for GCC that he wrote. It could be the starting point for awhole range of code analysis for the compiler.
[$] Creating Kubernetes distributions Making a comparison between Linux and Kubernetes is often one of apples tooranges. There are, however, some similarities and there is an effort within the Kubernetes community to make Kubernetes more like a Linuxdistribution. The idea was outlined in a session about Kubernetesrelease engineering at KubeCon+ CloudNativeCon North America 2019. "You might have heard thatKubernetes is the Linux of the cloud and that's like super easy to say, but what does it mean? Cloud is prettyfuzzy on its own," Tim Pepper, the Kubernetes release special interest group(SIG Release)co-chair said. He proceeded to provide some clarity on how the twoprojects are similar.
Security updates for Wednesday Security updates have been issued by CentOS (389-ds-base, ghostscript, kernel, and tcpdump), Debian (libonig), Fedora (clamav, firefox, and oniguruma), openSUSE (calamares, cloud-init, haproxy, libarchive, libidn2, libxml2, and ucode-intel), Scientific Linux (SDL and tcpdump), Slackware (mozilla), and Ubuntu (haproxy, intel-microcode, and postgresql-common).
Two malicious Python libraries caught stealing SSH and GPG keys (ZDNet) ZDNet reportsthat two more malicious modules have been removed from the Python PackageIndex. "The two libraries were created by the same developer and mimicked other more popular libraries -- using a technique called typosquatting to register similarly-looking names.The first is 'python3-dateutil,' which imitated the popular 'dateutil'library. The second is 'jeIlyfish' (the first L is an I), which mimickedthe 'jellyfish' library." The latter of the two had been in PyPIfor nearly a year.
Firefox 71 Firefox 71 is available. New features include improvements to the Lockwiseintegrated password manager and native MP3 decoding. The releasenotes have more details.
Security updates for Tuesday Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (intel-ucode and libtiff), Debian (exiv2), Oracle (SDL), Red Hat (kernel, patch, and python-jinja2), and Ubuntu (graphicsmagick, linux, linux-aws, linux-aws-5.0, linux-gcp, linux-gke-5.0, linux-hwe, linux-kvm, linux-oem-osp1, linux-oracle, linux-oracle-5.0, linux-raspi2, linux, linux-aws, linux-aws-hwe, linux-gcp, linux-gke-4.15, linux-hwe, linux-kvm, linux-oem, linux-oracle, linux-raspi2, linux-snapdragon, linux, linux-aws, linux-gcp, linux-gcp-5.3, linux-kvm, linux-oracle, linux, linux-aws, linux-kvm, linux-raspi2, linux-snapdragon, linux-lts-xenial, linux-aws, and sqlite3).
Wielaard: A public discussion about GNU Mark Wielaard has posted asummary of the discussion thus far on the governance of the GNUproject. "The mentoring and apprenticeship discussion focused on theGNU maintainers as being the core of the GNU project. But as was pointedout there are also webmasters, translators, infrastructure maintainers(partially paid FSF staff and volunteers), education and conferenceorganizers, etc. All these people are GNU stakeholders. And how we organizegovernance of the GNU project should also involve them."
[$] 5.5 Merge window, part 1 The 5.5 merge window got underway immediately after the release of the 5.4 kernel onNovember 24. The first week has been quite busy despite the USThanksgiving holiday landing in the middle of it. Read on for a summary ofwhat the first 6,300 changesets brought for the next major kernel release.
How to Improve Notebook Battery Life in Debian with TLP TLP is a free, open-source and feature rich utility for battery use optimization on laptops running Debian. In this article, we will explain how to enable TLP on your Debian machine in order to save battery power through command line interface and by using the TLP user interface utility.
How to Add Swap Space on CentOS 8 Swap is a space on a disk that is used when the amount of physical RAM memory is full. When a Linux system runs out of RAM, inactive pages are moved from the RAM to the swap space.
Low-cost, 802.11ac mesh router runs on OpenWrt FreeMesh Wireless has launched a “WE1326 LTE FreeMesh Router” that runs OpenWrt on a dual-core MediaTek MT7621AT with 802.11ac, 4x GbE, WAN, USB, and a SIM slot for 4G. It costs $150 with two FreeMesh nodes. FreeMesh Wireless has begun selling a $150, OpenWrt based mesh router designed for residential or SOHO environments, billed as […]
How to Install Prometheus Monitoring and node_exporter on CentOS 8 Prometheus is an open source monitoring system that allows you to collect metrics from any configured target system. Prometheus implements a multi-dimensional data-model with powerful queries, great visualization, precise alerting, and comes with many integrations.
Pekwm: A lightweight Linux desktop Let's say you want a lightweight desktop environment, with just enough to get graphics on the screen, move some windows around, and not much else. You find traditional desktops get in your way, with their notifications and taskbars and system trays. You want to live your life primarily from a terminal, but you also want the luxury of launching graphical applications. If that sounds like you, then Pekwm may be what you've been looking for all along.read more
Logname - Sometimes Less is More As we continue our GNU Core Utilities series we come to the logname command. This simple utility has no options and takes no arguments. It does one thing, it prints the name of the current user. Great for use in bash scripts and other scenarios where a simple output is needed.
Tiny USB bridge board helps tame I2C traffic Excamera has gone to Crowd Supply to launch a tiny, open source “I2CMini” USB-to-I2C bridge board for controlling and monitoring I2C traffic. The $17 device has a Qwiic connector, a 4-pin header, and a micro-USB port. A year ago, Excamera Labs launched a $29 I2CDriver I2C debugging board. Now the company has returned to Crowd […]
Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” Beta Available To Download Yesterday Linux Mint 19.3 codenamed “Tricia” was released. It is a big milestone for developers to reach since this release reflects what the team has been working for. After reading the release note and also using it, it looks like the team is on its way to deliver another user-friendly, stable, and feature-rich OS.
5 cool terminal pagers in Fedora Large files like logs or source code can run into the thousands of lines. That makes navigating them difficult, particularly from the terminal. Additionally, most terminal emulators have a scrollback buffer of only a few hundred lines. That can make it impossible to browse large files in the terminal using utilities which print to standard […]
How To Install Kali Undercover Mode On Any Xfce Linux Distribution Kali Undercover was added to the latest Kali Linux 2019.4 release as a way to instantly switch the look of Xfce to mimic "a Windows 10 desktop that will no longer draw attention to your activities". This article explains how to use Kali Undercover on any Linux distribution that uses the Xfce desktop (like Xubuntu, Debian with Xfce, Arch Linux / Manjaro Xfce, Linux Mint Xfce, Fedora Xfce and so on).
A beginner's guide to using Vagrant Vagrant describes itself as "a tool for building and managing virtual machine environments in a single workflow. With an easy-to-use workflow and focus on automation, Vagrant lowers development environment setup time, increases production parity, and makes the 'works on my machine' excuse a relic of the past."Vagrant works with a standard format for documenting an environment, called a Vagrantfile. According to Vagrant's website:read more
How to Install Xrdp Server (Remote Desktop) on Raspberry Pi With RDP, you can log in to a Raspberry Pi box from another computer running Windows, Linux or macOS, and create a real desktop session the same as if you had logged in to a local computer. The Pi and the client machine have to be connected to the same network or to the Internet.
Linux For All Shines on LXDE Desktop Linux For All very well could be a unifying Linux distribution that provides a common computing platform. LFA comes in just one flavor, the LXDE environment. However, LXDE is an inviting option that eliminates confusion and complexity in favor of a powerful desktop that is lightweight enough to run on low-powered aging hardware. A major advantage is better hardware support for Nvidia graphics.
OSGeoLive Distro Opens Doors to Geospatial Worlds If you ever have considered investigating or working with elements of the geospatial world, check out the latest edition of OSGeoLive, a Linux distribution that runs directly from a bootable DVD or USB thumb drive. You also can load a pre-made virtual machine disk file that runs in a VMware Workstation or VirtualBox environment. Or you can install it on a hard drive the old-fashioned way.
You've Come a Long Way, Linux-Baby When Linux first emerged from its cocoon in a frenzied Usenet thread, it is doubtful that almost anyone imagined the project would ascend to global prominence. Even more astonishingly, its dominance was driven as much, if not more, by its adoption by the private sector -- although it posed an antithesis to its business model -- as by any of its other notable traits.
How the Quantum Tech Race Puts the World's Data at Risk The technology one-upmanship between the United States and China is fast becoming the new space race. There's been a lot of talk in the press about the competition to reach 5G, but little traction outside of the tech community about something more momentous: the dangers of computing in a post-quantum world. The recent news from Google about its quantum capabilities is exciting.
Cleverly Reimagined Slax Distro Pushes Portable Linux's Limits Slax Linux is a handy portable operating system that can be a useful alternative to bulky, more complicated Linux options that install to a hard drive. However, it is far from a complete out-of-the-box solution. That is not a bad thing, though. Slax works. Copying just one folder from the downloaded ISO directly to a USB drive gives you a fully functional Linux OS.
GitHub Aims to Make Open Source Code Apocalypse-Proof in Arctic Vault GitHub wants to make sure its entire warehouse of open source code survives an apocalypse by burying it deep within an Arctic vault as one of several preservation strategies. Microsoft-owned GitHub is creating the Arctic Code Vault as a data repository for the existing Arctic World Archive. The AWA is a very-long-term archival facility about 0.16 miles deep in the permafrost of an Arctic mountain.
ALT Linux: Worthy Linux Alternatives, With a Catch ALT Linux offers a buffet of Linux distributions that meet a variety of specialized needs. Its inviting selections could be a good source of alternative Linux OS solutions if you take the time to sort out the menus. You might find navigating the poorly designed website a tedious chore. Still, persevering could get you a few tasty options to satisfy your computing appetite.
KaOS Linux Brings Order to the Desktop The KaOS distro is an up-and-coming Linux OS that provides one of the best integrations yet of a refreshed KDE-based computing platform. Two types of users gravitate to this solidly maintained distribution: those who are frustrated by poor user experiences with Linux distros that are bloated and cumbersome to use; and those who want a better and more controlled KDE desktop environment.
Microsoft's Chromium-Based Edge Browser Available as Release Candidate Along with unveiling its new Edge browser logo, Microsoft announced the official launch date of its nearly finished Chromium-based Edge browser and made its Release Candidate available for download immediately. The latest beta edition of the browser is stable enough for anyone to use, Microsoft said, and it will help IT admins prepare for the mid-Jan. 15 rollout.
Latest ExTix: Lots of Flexibility and a Few Flaws ExTiX 19.10, released with the LXQt desktop on Oct. 23, is a customized Linux distro that leaves you wanting more but settling for less. ExTix is a lightweight modular Linux operating system that is part of the Exton Linux/Live Systems family of distributions hosted by The Swedish Linux Society. The ExTix distro line is perhaps the best known of Exton's Linux platforms.
Linux Inside Azure Sphere on the Horizon Azure Sphere will be generally available in Feb 2020, Microsoft has announced. Its scheduled arrival highlights Microsoft's readiness to fulfill its promise for better IoT device security at scale. Microsoft first introduced Azure Sphere in 2018, opting to use its own version of a Linux operating system instead of Windows 10 to drive its new Azure Sphere OS to securely connect IoT devices.
Dragora Linux Is Anything But Simple Dragora is a fledgling Linux distribution that neither works out of the box nor is user-friendly. That said, if you have an adventurous interest in practically starting from scratch and somewhat building your own computing platform, Dragora could be an interesting side project to learn how a distribution works on the inside.
Samsung's Support for Linux on DeX Fizzles Samsung has called quits on its effort to provide a full Linux desktop platform for Android. In an email to beta testers last week, Samsung said it would not support its Linux on DeX beta program for future OS and device releases. Samsung's announcement coincides with Google's release of the Android 10 OS update and its rollout on Samsung phones. Neither company will provide Linux on DeX support.
Solus Brightens Computing Across the Linux User Spectrum The Solus Project is alive and well and continues to offer a fresh approach to uncomplicating the computer desktop. That says a lot, given the sometimes sordid developmental path of the almost 5-year-old Linux distribution. Solus 4.0 Linux "Fortitude" was updated earlier this month. The Solus team provided improvements to the distribution's supported desktop environments: Budgie, GNOME and MATE.
'Serious' Linux Sudo Bug's Damage Potential Actually May Be Small Developers have patched a vulnerability in Sudo, a core command utility for Linux, that could allow a user to execute commands as a root user even if that root access was specifically disallowed. The patch prevents potential serious consequences within Linux systems. However, the Sudo vulnerability posed a threat only to a narrow segment of the Linux user base, according to Todd Miller, a maintainer of the open source Sudo project.
Austrumi Linux Has Great Potential if You Speak Its Language Austrumi Linux is an unusual distribution. With a little more polish, it could be a good tool for running Linux on any computer you touch without changing anything on the hard drive. Last updated on Oct. 3 to version 4.08, Austrumi Linux is a bootable live Linux distribution based on Slackware Linux. It was created and is maintained by a group of programmers from the Latgale region of Latvia.
The U.S. Considers Ban on Exporting Surveillance Technology To China The South China Morning Post reports that the U.S. may be taking a stand against China. This week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new bill that would "tighten export controls on China-bound U.S. technology that could be used to 'suppress individual privacy, freedom of movement and other basic human rights' [and] ordering the U.S. president, within four months of the legislation's enactment, to submit to Congress a list of Chinese officials deemed responsible for, or complicit in, human rights abuses in Xinjiang... "The UIGHUR Act also demands that, on the same day, those individuals are subject to sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, seizing their U.S.-based assets and barring them from entry onto U.S. soil." Reuters notes that American government officials "have sounded the alarm on China's detention of at least a million Uighur Muslims, by U.N. estimates, in the northwestern region of Xinjiang as a grave abuse of human rights and religious freedom..." U.S. congressional sources and China experts say Beijing appears especially sensitive to provisions in the Uighur Act passed by the House of Representatives this week banning exports to China of items that can be used for surveillance of individuals, including facial and voice-recognition technology... A U.S. congressional source also said a Washington-based figure close to the Chinese government told him recently it disliked the Uighur bill more than the Hong Kong bill for "dollars and cents reasons," because the former measure contained serious export controls on money-spinning security technology, while also threatening asset freezes and visa bans on individual officials. Victor Shih, an associate professor of China and Pacific Relations at the University of California, San Diego, said mass surveillance was big business in China and a number of tech companies there could be hurt by the law if it passes. China spent roughly 1.24 trillion yuan ($176 billion) on domestic security in 2017 -- 6.1% of total government spending and more than was spent on the military. Budgets for internal security, of which surveillance technology is a part, have doubled in regions including Xinjiang and Beijing.
Remembering Star Trek Writer DC Fontana, 1939-2019 Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger brings the news that D. C. Fontana, an influential story editor and writer on the original 1960s TV series Star Trek, has died this week. People reports: The writer is credited with developing the Spock character's backstory and "expanding Vulcan culture," SyFy reported of her massive contribution to the beloved sci-fi series. Fontana was the one who came up with Spock's childhood history revealed in "Yesteryear," an episode in Star Trek: The Animated Series, on which she was both the story editor and associate producer. As the outlet pointed out, Fontana was also responsible for the characters of Spock's parents, the Vulcan Sarek and human Amanda, who were introduced in the notable episode "Journey to Babel." In fact, Fontana herself said that she hopes to be remembered for bringing Spock to life. "Primarily the development of Spock as a character and Vulcan as a history/background/culture from which he sprang," she said in a 2013 interview published on the Star Trek official site, when asked what she thought her contributions to the series were. With Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, she also penned the episode "Encounter at Farpoint," which launched The Next Generation in 1987. The episode introduced Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, and earned the writing pair a Hugo Award nomination. Fontana was one of four Star Trek writers who re-wrote Harlan Ellison's classic episode The City on the Edge of Forever , and her profile at IMDB.com credits her with the story or teleplay for 11 episodes of the original series. In the 1970s Fontana worked on other sci-fi television shows, including Land of the Lost, The Six Million Dollar Man, and the Logan's Run series. Fontana later also wrote an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, three episodes of Babylon 5, and even an episode of the fan-created science fiction webseries Star Trek: New Voyages.
Jury Sides With Elon Musk, Rejects $190M Defamation Claim Over Tweet Aighearach (Slashdot reader #97,333) shared this story from Reuters: Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk emerged victorious on Friday from a closely watched defamation trial as a federal court jury swiftly rejected the $190 million claim brought against him by a British cave explorer who Musk had branded a "pedo guy" on Twitter. The unanimous verdict by a panel of five women and three men was returned after roughly 45 minutes of deliberation on the fourth day of Musk's trial. Legal experts believe it was the first major defamation lawsuit brought by a private individual over remarks on Twitter to be decided by a jury... The jury's decision signals a higher legal threshold for challenging potentially libelous Twitter comments, said L. Lin Wood, the high-profile trial lawyer who led the legal team for the plaintiff, Vernon Unsworth... Other lawyers specializing in defamation agreed the verdict reflects how the freewheeling nature of social media has altered understandings of what distinguishes libel punishable in court from casual rhetoric and hyperbole protected as free speech. Musk, 48, who had testified during the first two days of the trial in his own defense and returned to court on Friday to hear closing arguments, exited the courtroom after the verdict and said: "My faith in humanity is restored."
Why Is Russia's Suspected Internet Cable Spy Ship In the Mid-Atlantic? "Russia's controversial intelligence ship Yantar has been operating in the Caribbean, or mid-Atlantic, since October," writes defense analyst H I Sutton this week in Forbes. He adds that the ship "is suspected by Western navies of being involved in operations on undersea communications cables." Significantly, she appears to be avoiding broadcasting her position via AIS (Automated Identification System). I suspect that going dark on AIS is a deliberate measure to frustrate efforts to analyse her mission. She has briefly used AIS while making port calls, where it would be expected by local authorities, for example while calling at Trinidad on November 8 and again on November 28. However in both cases she disappeared from AIS tracking sites almost as soon as she left port... Yantar has been observed conducting search patterns in the vicinity of internet cables, and there is circumstantial evidence that she has been responsible for internet outages, for example off the Syrian coast in 2016. Yantar is "allegedly an 'oceanographic research vessel'," notes Popular Mechanics, in a mid-November article headlined "Why is Russia's spy ship near American waters?" A study by British think tank Policy Exchange mentioned that the ship carried two submersibles capable of tapping undersea cables for information -- or outright cutting them, the Forbes article points out. "Whether Yantar's presence involves undersea cables, or some other target of interest to the Russians, it will be of particular interest to U.S. forces."
Apple Fails To Stop Class Action Lawsuit Over MacBook Butterfly Keyboards Mark Wilson quotes BetaNews: Apple has failed in an attempt to block a class action lawsuit being brought against it by a customer who claimed the company concealed the problematic nature of the butterfly keyboard design used in MacBooks. The proposed lawsuit not only alleges that Apple concealed the fact that MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air keyboards were prone to failure, but also that design defects left customers out of pocket because of Apple's failure to provide an effective fix. Engadget argues that Apple "might face an uphill battle in court. "While the company has never said the butterfly keyboard design was inherently flawed, it instituted repair programs for that keyboard design and even added the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro to the program the moment it became available. Also, the 16-inch MacBook Pro conspicuously reverted to scissor switches in what many see as a tacit acknowledgment that the earlier technology was too fragile."
Hospitals' New Issue: A 'Glut' of Machines Making Alarm Sounds "Tens of thousands of alarms shriek, beep and buzz every day in every U.S. hospital," reports Fierce Healthcare -- even though most of them aren't urgent, disturb the patients, and won't get immediate attention anyways: The glut of noise means that the medical staff is less likely to respond. Alarms have ranked as one of the top 10 health technological hazards every year since 2007, according to the research firm ECRI Institute. That could mean staffs were too swamped with alarms to notice a patient in distress or that the alarms were misconfigured. The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, warned the nation about the "frequent and persistent" problem of alarm safety in 2013. It now requires hospitals to create formal processes to tackle alarm system safety... The commission has estimated that of the thousands of alarms going off throughout a hospital every day, an estimated 85% to 99% do not require clinical intervention. Staff, facing widespread "alarm fatigue" can miss critical alerts, leading to patient deaths. Patients may get anxious about fluctuations in heart rate or blood pressure that are perfectly normal, the commission said.... In the past 30 years, the number of medical devices that generate alarms has risen from about 10 to nearly 40, said Priyanka Shah, a senior project engineer at ECRI Institute. A breathing ventilator alone can emit 30 to 40 different noises, she said... Maria Cvach, an alarm expert and director of policy management and integration for Johns Hopkins Health System, found that on one step-down unit (a level below intensive care) in the hospital in 2006, an average of 350 alarms went off per patient per day -- from the cardiac monitor alone.... By customizing alarm settings and converting some audible alerts to visual displays at nurses' stations, Cvach's team at Johns Hopkins reduced the average number of alarms from each patient's cardiac monitor from 350 to about 40 per day, she said. Hospitals are also installing sophisticated software to analyze and prioritize the constant stream of alerts before relaying the information to staff members.
How Fake News Is Still Fooling Facebook's Fact-Checking Systems Slashdot reader peterthegreat321 shared an article from Medium's technology blog OneZero revealing the "cracks, loopholes, and limitations in Facebook's systems that bad actors are busily exploiting." Facebook says it's proud of the progress it has made, though it acknowledges there's more to be done. "Multiple independent studies have found that we've cut the amount of fake news on Facebook by more than half since the 2016 election," the company said in a statement to OneZero. "That still means plenty of people see fake news, which is why we now have more visible warning labels flagging this type of content, and prominent notifications when someone tries to share it or already has...." The most glaring shortcoming in Facebook's systems might also be the one that's hardest to fix. Even when everything goes right with its fact-checking partners, their human editorial resources pale in comparison to the scope of misinformation on the platform, and they can only vet a fraction of it... In most cases, a story only rises to the top of fact-checkers' priority list once it has already gone viral. And it continues going viral during the fact-checking process. By the time it's marked as debunked on Facebook, its reach may have already peaked. The discouraging reality is that Facebook's fact-checking efforts, however sincere, appear to be overmatched by the dynamics of its platform. To make the News Feed a less misleading information source would require far more than belated debunkings and warning labels. It would require altering the basic structure of a network designed to rapidly disseminate the posts that generate the greatest quantity of quick-twitch reactions. It would require differentiating between more and less reliable information sources -- something Facebook has attempted in only the most halfhearted ways, and upon which Zuckerberg recently indicated he has little appetite to expand... [T]he progress the platform has made appears to be reaching its limits under a CEO who sees his platform as a bulwark of free speech more than of human rights, democracy, or truth. Last week, Facebook's only Dutch fact-checking partner quit the program in protest of the company's refusal to fact-check politicians.
Scientists Propose Using Mountains To Build a New Type of Battery For Long-Term Energy Storage An anonymous reader quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: One of the big challenges of making 100 percent renewable energy a reality is long-term storage," says Julian Hunt, an engineering scientist at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. Hunt and his collaborators have devised a novel system to complement lithium-ion battery use for energy storage over the long run: Mountain Gravity Energy Storage, or MGES for short. Similar to hydroelectric power, MGES involves storing material at elevation to produce gravitational energy. The energy is recovered when the stored material falls and turns turbines to generate electricity. The group describes its system in a paper published November 6 in Energy. "Instead of building a dam, we propose building a big sand or gravel reservoir," explains Hunt. The key to MGES lies in finding two mountaintop sites that have a suitable difference in elevation -- 1,000 meters is ideal. "The greater the height difference, the cheaper the technology," he says. The sites will look similar, with each comprised of a mine-like station to store the sand or gravel, and a filling station directly below it. Valves release the material into waiting vessels, which are then transported via cranes and motor-run cables to the upper site. There, the sand or gravel is stored -- for weeks, months, or even years -- until it's ready to be used. When the material is moved back down the mountain, that stored gravitational energy is released and converted into electrical energy. Not only is the system more environmentally friendly than pumped-storage hydropower and dams, but it's more flexible to meet varying energy demands. "Hunt estimates that the annual cost of storing energy via this system will vary between $50 to $100 per megawatt hour (MWh)," the report adds. "And he says that the energy expended to transport materials to the upper sits will be offset by the amount of gravitational energy the system produces."
Hour of Code Will Teach Kids How To Use AI To Judge Who Is 'Awesome' Or Not theodp writes: In 2003, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously faced expulsion from Harvard after launching FaceMash, a type of "hot or not" website for Harvard students that asked visitors to review pictures of female students and rate their attractiveness. So perhaps it's fitting that during next week's Hour of Code, Facebook-sponsored Code.org's signature tutorial will introduce schoolchildren aged 8 and up to Artificial Intelligence concepts by asking them to review pictures of fish and rate their "awesomeness." "A.I. is learning which fish are 'awesome' and then sorting them based on the data provided by the student," explains Code.org in a post describing AI for Oceans: a #CSforGood activity, in which students create training data by answering the question of "Is this fish awesome?" by clicking on an "awesome" or "not awesome" button. It's a well-intentioned cautionary lesson in AI: Training Data & Bias, and one that seems to presume today's 3rd graders will know the correct answer to "Is it fair to use artificial intelligence to judge a fish by its looks?" better than certain circa-2003 Harvard students might have!
Recordings Reveal That Plants Make Ultrasonic Squeals When Stressed Researchers have discovered that plants make airborne sounds when stressed, which they say "could open up a new field of precision agriculture where farmers listen for water-starved crops," reports New Scientist. From the report: Itzhak Khait and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that tomato and tobacco plants made sounds at frequencies humans cannot hear when stressed by a lack of water or when their stem is cut. Microphones placed 10 centimeters from the plants picked up sounds in the ultrasonic range of 20 to 100 kilohertz, which the team says insects and some mammals would be capable of hearing and responding to from as far as 5 meters away. A moth may decide against laying eggs on a plant that sounds water-stressed, the researchers suggest. Plants could even hear that other plants are short of water and react accordingly, they speculate. On average, drought-stressed tomato plants made 35 sounds an hour, while tobacco plants made 11. When plant stems were cut, tomato plants made an average of 25 sounds in the following hour, and tobacco plants 15. Unstressed plants produced fewer than one sound per hour, on average. It is even possible to distinguish between the sounds to know what the stress is. The researchers trained a machine-learning model to discriminate between the plants' sounds and the wind, rain and other noises of the greenhouse, correctly identifying in most cases whether the stress was caused by dryness or a cut, based on the sound's intensity and frequency. Water-hungry tobacco appears to make louder sounds than cut tobacco, for example. The study, which has not yet been published in a journal, can be found here.
Early Humans Domesticated Themselves, New Genetic Evidence Suggests An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: A new study -- citing genetic evidence from a disorder that in some ways mirrors elements of domestication -- suggests modern humans domesticated themselves after they split from their extinct relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, approximately 600,000 years ago. Domestication encompasses a whole suite of genetic changes that arise as a species is bred to be friendlier and less aggressive. In dogs and domesticated foxes, for example, many changes are physical: smaller teeth and skulls, floppy ears, and shorter, curlier tails. Those physical changes have all been linked to the fact that domesticated animals have fewer of a certain type of stem cell, called neural crest stem cells. Giuseppe Testa, a molecular biologist at University of Milan in Italy, and colleagues knew that one gene, BAZ1B, plays an important role in orchestrating the movements of neural crest cells. Most people have two copies of this gene. Curiously, one copy of BAZ1B, along with a handful of others, is missing in people with Williams-Beuren syndrome, a disorder linked to cognitive impairments, smaller skulls, elfinlike facial features, and extreme friendliness. To learn whether BAZ1B plays a role in those facial features, Testa and colleagues cultured 11 neural crest stem cell lines: four from people with Williams-Beuren syndrome, three from people with a different but related disorder in which they have duplicates instead of deletions of the disorder's key genes, and four from people without either disorder. Next, they used a variety of techniques to tweak BAZ1B's activity up or down in each of the stem cell lines. That tweaking, they learned, affected hundreds of other genes known to be involved in facial and cranial development. Overall, they found that a tamped-down BAZ1B gene led to the distinct facial features of people with Williams-Beuren syndrome, establishing the gene as an important driver of facial appearance. "When the researchers looked at those hundreds of BAZ1B-sensitive genes in modern humans, two Neanderthals, and one Denisovan, they found that in the modern humans, those genes had accumulated loads of regulatory mutations of their own," the report says. "This suggests natural selection was shaping them. And because many of these same genes have also been under selection in other domesticated animals, modern humans, too, underwent a recent process of domestication." The findings have been reported in the journal Science Advances.
Anti-Vaxxer Arrested As Samoa Executes Mass-Vaccination Campaign To Stop Measles Outbreak Koreantoast writes: The Samoan government arrested a prominent local anti-vaxxer who was attempting to disrupt a mass vaccination campaign to stop an ongoing measles epidemic. Edwin Tamasese was arrested and charged with incitement, facing up to two years in prison after attempting to dissuade people from participating in the mass vaccination campaign and encouraging unproven "alternative treatments" such as Vitamin C supplements and papaya leaf extract. The small island nation of Samoa is currently battling a measles epidemic with over 2,000 infected and at least 63 confirmed deaths, mostly young children. Immunization rates dropped below 30% in the prior year following a medical scandal in 2018 when two nurses administering the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination incorrectly mixed muscle relaxant with the doses instead of water, resulting in two infant deaths. The nurses attempted to cover up their mistake and blame the vaccine, but they were caught, charged with manslaughter, and sentenced to five years in prison. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and anti-vaxxers exploited the tragedy to scare parents away from immunizing their children, leading to the current crisis. Last month, the Pacific island nation declared a state of emergency while it finalized plans for a compulsory measles vaccination program. According to new data from the World Health Organization, measles infected nearly 10 million people in 2018 and killed 140,000, mostly children, as the number of cases around the world surged once again.
Qualcomm To Offer GPU Driver Updates On Google Play Store For Some Snapdragon Chips MojoKid writes: At its Snapdragon Summit in Maui, Hawaii this week, Qualcomm unveiled the new Snapdragon 865 Mobile Platform, which enable next year's flagship 5G Android phones with more performance, a stronger Tensor-based AI processor and a very interesting new forthcoming feature not yet offered for any smartphone platform to date. The company announced that it will eventually start delivering driver updates for its Adreno GPU engines on board the Snapdragon 865 as downloadable packages via the Google Play Store. This is big news for smartphones, as GPU drivers are rarely updated out of band, if ever, and typically have to wait for the next major Android release. And even then, many OEMs don't bother putting in the effort to ensure that mobile GPUs are running the most current graphics drivers from Qualcomm. The process, which would have to be pre-qualified by major OEMs as well, will be akin to what the PC GPU 3D graphics driver ecosystem has been benefiting from for a long time, for maximum performance and compatibility. Unfortunately, at least currently, GPU driver update support is limited to only the Adreno 650 core on board the new Snapdragon 865, which currently supports updating drivers in this fashion. Here's hoping this program is met with success and Qualcomm will begin to enable the feature for legacy and new midrange Snapdragon platforms as well.
Deepfake Porn Is Evolving To Give People Total Control Over Women's Bodies samleecole shares a report from Motherboard: A lineup of female celebrities stand in front of you. Their faces move, smile, and blink as you move around them. They're fully nude, hairless, waiting for you to decide what you'll do to them as you peruse a menu of sex positions. This isn't just another deepfake porn video, or the kind of interactive, 3D-generated porn Motherboard reported on last month, but a hybrid of both which gives people even more control of women's virtual bodies. This new type of nonconsensual porn uses custom 3D models that can be articulated and animated, which are then made to look exactly like specific celebrities with deepfaked faces. Until recently, deepfake porn consisted of taking the face of a person -- usually a celebrity, almost always a woman -- and swapping it on to the face of an adult performer in an existing porn video. With this method, a user can make a 3D avatar with a generic face, capture footage of it performing any kind of sexual act, then run that video through an algorithm that swaps the generic face with a real person's.
Social Media Platforms Leave 95 Percent of Reported Fake Accounts Up, Study Finds An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The report comes this week from researchers with the NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence (StratCom). Through the four-month period between May and August of this year, the research team conducted an experiment to see just how easy it is to buy your way into a network of fake accounts and how hard it is to get social media platforms to do anything about it. The research team spent about $332 to purchase engagement on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, the report (PDF) explains. That sum bought 3,520 comments, 25,750 likes, 20,000 views, and 5,100 followers. They then used those interactions to work backward to about 19,000 inauthentic accounts that were used for social media manipulation purposes. About a month after buying all that engagement, the research team looked at the status of all those fake accounts and found that about 80 percent were still active. So they reported a sample selection of those accounts to the platforms as fraudulent. Then came the most damning statistic: three weeks after being reported as fake, 95 percent of the fake accounts were still active. "Based on this experiment and several other studies we have conducted over the last two years, we assess that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are still failing to adequately counter inauthentic behavior on their platforms," the researchers concluded. "Self-regulation is not working."
WebAssembly gets nod from W3C and, most likely, an embrace from cryptojackers online Standardization of wasm for the web offers a new take on the same old problems The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) on Thursday published three WebAssembly specifications as W3C Recommendations, officially endorsing a technology touted for the past few years as a way to accelerate web code, to open the web to more programming languages, and to make code created for the web more portable and safe.…
Hey kids! Forget about Disney – who fancies a trip to DevOps World? Come with us through the gates of Jenkins Land to admire the Java dinosaurs within DevOps World Lisbon Love was in the air at the CloudBees-sponsored DevOps World in Lisbon this week as the 900 or so attendees were treated to public displays of affection with Google both on stage and behind the scenes.…
Doogee Wowser: The S40's a terrible smartphone, but a passable projectile How the worst mobe I ever used maimed an American teen Comment Earlier this year, I reviewed arguably the worst phone I've ever used in eight years of covering tech for a living: the Doogee S40. I've always prided myself on my fairness, but I genuinely couldn't find a silver lining to this appalling waste of rare-earth metals. It had a crap screen, a weak camera, and was frustratingly slow to use.…
Windows 10 Insiders: Begone, foul Store version of Notepad! You say 20H1, they say 2004, let's call the whole thing off Microsoft has emitted a fresh build of next year's Windows 10 to both the Slow and Fast rings of the Windows Insider programme and goodness, those guinea pigs weren't keen on Notepad-In-The-Store.…
Microsoft emits long-term support .NET Core 3.1, Visual Studio 16.4 Ready to go, but beware 'unfortunate breaking change' in Windows Forms Microsoft has released .NET Core 3.1 – a significant milestone as, unlike version 3.0, it is a long-term support (LTS) release, suggesting that the company believes it's fit for extended use. It is accompanied by Visual Studio 16.4, also an LTS release.…
Tune in and watch online today: How to build a content management platform fit for the future Advice based on feedback from Register readers and insights from Box Webcast Financial institutions across the board are wrestling with how to engage more closely with customers and work better across internal teams. Too often, the cause is ill-fitting content and document management systems, designed for another time. Meanwhile, cloud-based platforms can both help and hinder, delivering short-term benefit but adding complexity and fragmentation.…
CentOS 6 Through CentOS 8 Benchmarks On Intel Xeon Complementing the CentOS 8 benchmarks I did following the release of that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 rebuild in late September, here are tests going back further for showing the performance of CentOS 6, CentOS 7, and CentOS 8 all benchmarked from the same Intel Xeon Scalable server. These tests were done about a month ago albeit with all the hardware launches, new child, and other factors, only now getting to posting the data.
GRUB Now Supports Btrfs 3/4-Copy RAID1 Profiles (RAID1C3 / RAID1C4 On Linux 5.5+) When it comes to the storage/file-system changes with the in-development Linux 5.5 kernel one of the most prominent end-user-facing changes is more robust RAID1 for Btrfs with the ability to have three or four copies of the data rather than just two copies, should data safety be of utmost importance and concerned over the possibility of two disks in an array failing...
Debian Developers Take To Voting Over Init System Diversity It's been five years already since the vote to transition to systemd in Debian over Upstart while now there is the new vote that has just commenced for judging the interest in "init system diversity" and just how much Debian developers care (or not) in supporting alternatives to systemd...
Wine 5.0 Code Freeze To Begin Next Week As expected by Wine's annual release cadence, next week Wine 5.0 will enter its code freeze followed by release candidates until this next stable Wine release is ready to ship around early 2020...
Google Reaffirms Commitment To Kotlin Programming Language For Android The Kotlin programming language on Android has become very popular and Google announced today nearly 60% of the top 1,000 Android applications are using Kotlin code in some capacity. Beyond their announcement earlier this year of Android development being Kotlin-first, as they look forward to 2020 will be more Kotlin + Android action...
Systemd-homed Looks Like It Will Merged Soon For systemd 245 Announced back in September at the All Systems Go event in Berlin was systemd-homed as a new effort to improve home directory handling. Systemd-homed wants to make it easier to migrate home directories, ensure all user data is self-contained, unify user-password and encryption handling, and provide other modern takes on home/user directory functionality. That code is expected to soon land in systemd...
RadeonSI NIR Benchmarks Show Great Progress With Mesa 20.0 With AMD last week having enabled OpenGL 4.6 for their RadeonSI OpenGL Linux driver when enabling the NIR intermediate representation support, you may be wondering how using NIR is stacking up these days compared to the default TGSI route. Here are some benchmarks on Polaris, Vega, and Navi for comparing this driver option that ultimately allows OpenGL 4.6 to be flipped on.
A General Notification Queue Was Pushed Back From Linux 5.5 Introduction Red Hat has been working on a "general notification queue" that is built off the Linux kernel's pipe code and will notify the user-space of events like key/keyring changes, block layer events like disk errors, USB attach/remove events, and other notifications without user-space having to continually poll kernel interfaces. This general notification queue was proposed for Linux 5.5 but has been pushed back to at least 5.6...
GCC 10's C++20 "Spaceship Operator" Support Appears To Be In Good Shape One of the prominent additions coming with the C++20 programming language is the consistent comparison operator, or "spaceship operator" as it's commonly referred to. The support was merged for GCC 10 last month ahead of entering stage three development while this week some more improvements were made to the implementation...
Debian Installer Bullseye Alpha 1 Released Debian 11 "Bullseye" isn't expected to be released until well into 2021 but out today is the first alpha release of the Debian Installer that will ultimately power that next major Debian GNU/Linux release...
NVIDIA Looks To Have Some Sort Of Open-Source Driver Announcement For 2020 Start looking forward to March when NVIDIA looks to have some sort of open-source driver initiative to announce -- likely contributing more to Nouveau and we're crossing our fingers they will have sorted out the signed firmware situation to unblock those developers from delivering re-clocking support to yield better driver performance...
Purism Announces Librem 5 "USA" Model For $1999 USD Purism announced today a Librem 5 USA model of their smartphone that has the same specifications and features of their Librem 5 Linux smartphone but manufactured in the US. That pushes the 720x1440 display, i.MX8M, 3GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, 802.11n device from $699 USD to $1,199 USD. Update: Errr the price was raised now apparently to $1999 USD...
Intel Publishes oneAPI Level 0 Specification Back at SC19 Intel released a beta of their oneAPI Base Toolkit for software developers to work on performance-optimized, cross-device software. Complementing that initial software beta is now the oneAPI Level 0 Specification...
An Extensive Look At The AMD Naples vs. Rome Power Efficiency / Performance-Per-Watt Since the AMD EPYC 7002 "Rome" series launch in August we have continue to be captivated by the raw performance of AMD's Zen 2 server processors across many different workloads as covered now in countless articles. The performance-per-dollar / TCO is also extremely competitive against Intel's Xeon Scalable line-up, but how is the power efficiency of these 7nm EPYC processors? We waited to deliver those numbers until having a retail Rome board for carrying out those tests and now after that and then several weeks of benchmarking, here is an extensive exploration of the AMD EPYC 7002 series power efficiency as well as a look at the peak clock frequencies being achieved in various workloads to also provide some performance-per-clock metrics compared to Naples.
Mesa Developers Weigh Renaming Gallium "State Tracker" To "API" In addition to the discussion over potentially dropping non-Gallium3D drivers from Mesa or otherwise potentially forking a portion of the code, AMD's Marek Olšák made a separate proposal about renaming the Gallium3D "state tracker" concept to being "API" implementations...
Firefox 71 Linux Performance Isn't Looking All That Great With each new release of Firefox we set out to see how the performance is looking on the Linux desktop. One discovery we've made is that when using Intel's Clear Linux the Firefox performance is a lot more competitive to Google Chrome than we traditionally see on Ubuntu Linux. But with Firefox 71 we're seeing the performance trending lower compared to Firefox 69 and 70...
Tesla will start charging $10 per month for 'Premium' in-car data Tesla wasn't entirely accurate when it said it would start charging for some in-car data on July 1st of last year, but it looks like owners have finally been asked to cough up. The automaker is notifying customers who ordered on or after July 1st, 2018 that it's switching them to 30-day trials of Premium Connectivity (i.e. the full data services they're used to), and that they'll have to subscribe for $10 per month to keep using the functionality. Anyone who ordered before July 1st, 2018 still has access to all features for free.
It might not be quite as bad as it sounds. The only features you'll never have access to in the basic tier (Standard Connectivity) are satellite maps and live traffic visualizations. Media streaming, web browsing and Caraoke are still available -- you'll just need to be connected to WiFi to use them. You This suggests that you could reclaim most of the functionality by using your phone's data, although the typical caps on hotspot usage make it unlikely that you'll rely on your phone get through a Grand Tour episode.
We've asked Tesla if it can comment.
You could see this coming. Tesla sent word of the tier changes in June of last year, and it started displaying its own data caps in September. The company is clearly concerned about mounting data costs, and it wants drivers to shoulder some of that burden. This isn't a horrendous burden for many of Tesla's customers. If you bought a luxury EV, you can probably spare $120 per year to have music and satellite data during your commute. Still, this could be rough for some buyers. No-charge access to data features has been a mainstay of Tesla for years, and now customers will have to accept that some perks will sit behind a paywall.
Twitch streamer DrDisRespect is creating a TV show Guy Beahm IV, a popular Twitch streamer known for his alter ego DrDisRespect, is developing a narrative scripted series about the character he created. According to almost 4 million followers on Twitch and is known for playing video games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in his streams with over-the-top production values.
The series will focus on "how the doctor became the doctor" and will explore the character's backstory. Skybound co-founder and CEO David Alpert said in a statement: "There are lots of incredibly talented streamers, but there's something special about what Guy has done in creating this character. We really believe there's a unique world around the doctor."
The project is still in its very early stages, however, so it doesn't have a network yet. Its format also remains up in the air, though Beahm told THR that there were "some early discussions around animation." He's also hoping that the project will "have an effect that reverberates and legitimizes the world of streaming."
Beahm is far from the only high-profile Twitch streamer who's recently taken on something new. Unlike ZeRo or Disguised Toast who both switched platforms for potentially lucrative deals, though, he's still staying with Twitch. He said the Amazon-owned website has been "extremely flexible" in providing the chances for him to work on the series.
A year has passed since Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui presented work on editing the DNA of two girls while they were still embryos. Ethical issues with his actions abound, and even after all this time, there's still missing details on exactly what did/didn't happen. MIT Technology Review has several pieces on the story this week. Those include unpublished portions of the research manuscript and an explanation of why it hasn't been published by either of the two influential scientific journals He sent it to.
By now, you're likely tired of hearing the words "Mueller Report" -- and I don't blame you. The Washington Post transformed the findings, along with its own reporting and other Congressional testimony, into a six-part illustrated series that highlights events detailed in the report.
Ring's effort to cozy up with law enforcement agencies and launch a citizen-installed surveillance state is undoubtedly a danger to our civil liberties but the doorbell camera company is far from the first corporation willing to leverage its technology to the US government in the name of "fighting crime" -- really just a pseudonym for enforcing America's tradition of racial segregation.
As the excerpt from Black Software by Charlton D. McIlwain illustrates, law enforcement technology has long served as unofficial cover for local and federal officers in their efforts to protect White Americans from their single biggest existential threat: black neighbors.
If you thought Stop and Frisk was wrong, wait until you see how Civil Rights-era Kansas dealt with the prospect of a "suspicious" black person even existing in a predominantly white neighborhood. Because it sure sounds familiar.
The President's Crime Commission report in 1968 had recommended that the federal government invest massive amounts of resources into what were later dubbed Criminal Justice Information Systems. It invested millions of dollars to design and build them. The growing and persisting fear of crime was its underlying rationale. But the commission's long list of use cases for these systems ultimately proved most persuasive.
The computing industry, led by IBM, the federal government, national and local law enforcement agencies, and academics at elite science and engineering institutions had started developing these use cases beginning in 1965. That's when New York City police commissioner Harold Leary formed the Joint Study Group. This study group included representatives from the police department's planning and communications departments and four representatives from IBM. One was a sales manager. The other three were computer programmers.
In the end, the Joint Study Group outlined thirteen potential new law enforcement computer applications. The list included applications for computer-aided dispatch, crime analysis, fingerprint identification, resource allocation, and election returns. New York City began pursuing only one of these identified systems—a computer-aided dispatch system. They called it SPRINT—Specialty Police Radio Inquiry Network. The system was built from scratch. But builders based it on an existing IBM design model for a flight reservation system.
During the same time, Kansas City's chief of police Kelley had assembled a team of his own. It consisted of an in-house team of two: his assistant, Lt. Col. James Newman, the department's chief data systems director, and Melvin Bockelman. Both were dubbed "patrolmen programmers." They were policemen first, but they were armed with technical data processing training. Two IBM personnel, marketing representative Owen Craig and Roger Eggerling, an IBM systems engineer, rounded out Kelley's team.
IBM described its systems engineers as assisting our customers in defining their systems problems and determining the best combination of IBM equipment to solve them. Speaking more holistically about how IBM built its enterprise, the company had reported to its board and shareholders back in 1961 that this era demands a higher degree of professionalism than ever before among the sales representatives who initiate and develop customer interest, the systems engineers who help our customers study, define and develop solutions for their problems, and the customer engineers who install and maintain equipment at peak efficiency.
IBM systems engineers were also its link to the scientific and engineering academic community. They presented seventy papers in one year alone, for example. IBM systems engineers refined their computing knowledge within an academic field. They had also distributed their knowledge about systems building throughout both the scientific and industrial community. The plan?
Imbed the police beat algorithm within a geographical crime information system with graphical inputs and outputs, thus enabling us to bring the proper man-machine interaction to bear on this heuristic-analytic type of decision problem.
IBM systems engineer Saul Gass worked in IBM's government services division. Gass divided command and control systems into the two primary problem areas they confronted: police planning and police operations. Police planning had much to do with allocating human and material resources. How many police personnel should be dedicated to a given geographical area based on its population size and crime rate? How should you divide up a geographical area into efficient police patrol beats? How much equipment should be stored, and in what locations, in order to be ready to respond swiftly and effectively to a riot situation? These are examples of planning problems that police had to solve in order to maximize success.
Operational problems, on the other hand, involved different types of questions. How do you identify crime patterns? How do you both predict and apprehend suspects based on those patterns? Once apprehended, how do you associate suspects with other crimes they may have committed? And, when you know all this, how can you prevent crime from being committed in the first place?
These concerns were packaged into a command and control solution called computer-aided dispatch (CAD). Underlying the CAD system was software, powered by an algorithm that automated solutions to specific operational and planning problems. Its task was to answer the question of how to allocate a finite number of police patrol units to police beats (parsed geographical areas). And, how to allocate those resources to patrol beats so that police officers were positioned to be dispatched to and arrive at the scene of a crime. Gass's mathematical model could be used to determine this, given some known factors and data. He had already developed such a model. He also possessed "real-world" crime data, from New York City's SPRINT. The array of symbols, functions, and notations looks complicated to the non-mathematician, but the information and data the algorithm called for tell us everything we need to know.
First, US Census tracts parse geographic areas and develop uniform, structured data about those areas—primarily population size and racial demographics. These tracts enable strategic deployment of police officers by geography, population size, and racial composition.
Gass's model (and the police community) contended that all crimes were not created equal. Thus, Gass's algorithm required "weighted" crimes. Like census tracts data, a police department like Kansas City's could rely on an existing weighting system. In the mid-1960s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police had already produced such a ranking. A score of four represented the highest-priority crime. A score of one was the least threat, and therefore least priority. Criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and auto theft all received a score of four. These were also known as "index crimes." The FBI had developed this system for its Uniform Crime Reports.
In addition to weighted crimes, Gass's formula required weighted crime incidents. And it required weighted workloads. Then, the algorithm required that police correlate workloads with the geographical areas where the greatest numbers of the highest-weighted crimes took place.
Using census tract designations, and these crime weights, Gass's formula used five measures of the workload for a census tract: number of index crimes, population, area, level of crime multiplied by the population, and the level of crime multiplied by the area. This produced a geographical map of a city, parsed by patrol beats. They could be designated as high to low threat. These criteria could then be used to determine police resource allocations. One might, for example, assign twelve police officers to regularly patrol the high-threat area, and only three for the low.
It could also be used to determine whom and how many police officers to dispatch to a given area when a crime was reported. It would determine with what urgency and speed the officer(s) should respond. And it determined what precautions police should take in order to protect their safety. A call reporting a "suspicious" Negro loitering in a low-threat area, for instance, might lead a dispatcher to hail four squad cars. The Negro profiled as high threat; the neighborhood coded as low threat and white. Of course, one need only correlate these threat areas with their corresponding census tract demographics to begin to formulate not only geographically based threat profiles, but the corresponding racial profiles as well.
Producing and then systematizing such a profile in ways that could have measurable effects, however, required a much larger system. It would have to include more applications than just CAD. It would need to be networked; reach beyond a single city or local area; and be able to constantly ingest new data, process that data, and use them to model criminal profiles and affect future police decision-making. Such a system would be a massive undertaking. It would cost millions of dollars. Those who commanded it would be compelled to demonstrate that the system's outputs produced the desired outcome: to efficiently protect America's white citizens from its most feared criminal suspects.
Blackmagic’s ATEM Mini brings broadcast quality to your YouTube and Twitch streams If you livestream on Twitch or YouTube, you may have thought about getting a multi-camera switcher to boost your production values. The problem is devices that can handle that while doing picture-in-picture and other effects can cost up to a grand. However, Blackmagic Design's ATEM Mini is a four-input switcher that can handle transitions, picture-in-picture, pro-level audio control and more for just $295.
As a video editor, I was intrigued. Blackmagic Design sells other ATEM-branded video switchers that cost 10 times that price, yet it promises much of the same capability in a far tinier, cheaper package. It seemed too good to be true, so I decided to test it out by simulating a game stream with multiple cameras. Hardware The ATEM Mini is a console just 9.5 inches wide by 1.4 inches high by 4 inches deep, so it's small and discreet enough to stick on a desk. It seems solidly built, but it's probably not rugged enough to take on challenging outdoor locations. The buttons (all 59 of them) light up in different colors and have a nice feel, requiring just the right amount of pressure to activate.
On the back, there are four HDMI video inputs for sources like PCs and camcorders, along with two 3.5mm microphone inputs. An HDMI output lets you hook up a monitor, and you can control the ATEM Mini with a PC via a USB-C port. That USB-C port doubles as a webcam output, so you can directly stream video to OBS Studio or a similar livestreaming app. The ATEM Mini can output up to 1080p60 video, but not 4K, but that's not a deal-breaker for most livestreamers.
As a nod to its mission-critical streaming role, the power cable has a screw-lock connector so you can't pull it out by accident. It's also got an Ethernet port for customized remote control devices, so you can operate it from another location.
On the front, at the bottom left, there are four large buttons that let you select which video source to take live. Above those are buttons to toggle audio on and off or adjust the levels. At the top are controls to turn the microphones on/off and adjust the levels.
The effects controls, meanwhile, live on the right-hand part of the console. At the top, you can select various picture-in-picture effects along with chroma and other types of keying. Below that are the controls for transitions (wipes, push wipes, dissolves and dips). At the bottom right, you choose to cut, dissolve or fade to black.
With a pretty rich set of physical controls, it's possible to operate the ATEM Mini for most tasks without needing to dive into the software. That makes it particularly easy for one-man-band livestreamers to use. Since the console is also aimed at folks doing regular video productions (interviews, cooking shows, business presentations and training), the physical controls make it easy to grasp and use. Software
The hardware is pretty complete, but to really get the most out of the ATEM Mini, you'll need to install the ATEM Software Control. There, you can fine-tune certain things like picture-in-picture, keying and audio settings.
For instance, if you want to key yourself into a game and have behind you a greenscreen that's not particularly well lit, the software lets you fine-tune both the foreground and background. You can also do color correction, add shadows and outlines to graphics, crop shots and more.
The ATEM Software control also lets you add photos, lower-thirds graphics and titles. Those will key on top of your video output provided they have a transparency layer. In short, you can transform your rudimentary Twitch stream into something that looks a lot more professional.
Whatever you do on the physical console will also show up on the ATEM software and vice versa. Once you've set it up the way you want in software, though, you can run your show entirely using the board. During a game stream, for instance, that will make it far less distracting than a laptop screen or monitor. Setup One of the most impressive features on the ATEM Mini is the flexibility of the video inputs. You can hook up one camera at 1080p 30 fps, another one at 720p 50 fps, and a laptop at 1080p 60 fps. Since the ATEM Mini has on-board transcoders for each channel, it'll happily blend them all together. You can then output at the resolution of your highest quality input (1080p 60 fps, in this case). The ATEM Mini can even handle 10-bit video sources, if you need extra-high-quality output.
For my own livestream, I hooked up a Panasonic GH5s camera to channel one, a Sony RX100 IV to channel two, my gaming laptop to channel three and a control laptop to channel four. I then plugged the USB-C port to the control laptop, where I recorded the stream using OBS Studio. I could also have streamed live to YouTube or Twitch using that same software.
To record my voice, I connected both lapel and shotgun microphones to test the audio mixing capabilities. I was also able to mix in audio captured by both cameras and both laptops, for six stereo audio sources altogether. Finally, I loaded up a few graphics into the media player, both with and without transparency channels for keying. OperationSteve Dent/Engadget
I won't get into the nitty gritty of the operation (see the video above for that), but the ATEM Mini has a lot of features. Primarily, it acts as a switcher, letting you easily cut from one source to another. All you need to do is punch one of the inputs, and it'll instantly play that out live.
Basic transitions are just as easy -- you select the type of dissolve or wipe you want, hit Auto and switch to another source. It'll then dissolve from a camera to your game or other input. It's also a breeze to do a picture-in-picture, placing yourself in one of the corners of the screen while you talk about your gamecast.
You can do all this using the hardware only, but to get more advanced, you'll need to open the ATEM Software Control. From there, you can adjust the size of your picture-in-picture, set a chroma key and more. For example, I put myself in front of a crude bluescreen and was able to cleanly key myself in front of X-Plane 11.
Should you need to see the actual game screen, input one has a low-latency pass-though. That way, you can play a fast-twitch game like Overwatch without seeing a delayed image.
Considering the price, I was shocked by the advanced audio capabilities on the ATEM Mini. You can control the audio levels for all six inputs (the four HDMI and two microphone ports), either using the console or the software. That alone is incredibly handy if you're trying to mix some music, your voice and the sound from a game, to name a few sources.
If you dive into the software, though, you can go a lot further. It includes a built-in Fairlight audio mixer with six-band parametric EQ and a compressor, limiter, expander and noise gate. That way, you can EQ your own or a guest's voice, prevent clipping and smooth out audio.
On the downside, there's no headphone jack to monitor audio, so you'll need to connect to your output display, if possible. Another issue is the lack of a quad-view output, which would let you see all your video input sources before switching them live. This isn't a huge issue for gamers or other livestreamers, but it would be for someone doing, say, weddings or business presentations. Wrap-up
At $295, the Blackmagic ATEM Mini doesn't have a lot of competition. The closest thing might be Elgato's $250 Stream Deck XL, but it lacks the multiple inputs and advanced audio functions of the ATEM Mini. Roland's V-1HD has similar capabilities, but it costs $1,000. Overall, this device is the lowest cost four-input video mixer available, by far.
Considering that it can do all the keying and processing outside of your PC, it's good value even if you're not using multiple cameras. It can also function as a video format converter, audio mixer and HDMI-to-webcam adapter. If you want to look your best on a Skype call, just hook up your DSLR to the ATEM Mini, plug it into your laptop via USB-C and you're good to go.
The ATEM Mini isn't ideal as a production video mixer due to the lack of a quad preview. However, for Twitch and YouTube streamers looking to up their presentation, this device is an incredible value.
Ask Engadget: Which charities give gifts to those in need? The support shared among readers in the comments section is one of the things we love most about the Engadget community. Over the years, we've known you to offer sage advice on everything from Chromecasts and cameras to drones and smartphones. In fact, our community's knowledge and insights are a reason why many of you participate in the comments.
This week's question asks which are the best gift-giving charities. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to firstname.lastname@example.org!
What charities donate gifts to people in need?
Christopher Schodt Video Producer
If you're a gamer or gadget fan looking to spread some holiday cheer this season, one charity to think about is Child's Play. This non-profit org, founded by the duo behind the long-running web comic Penny Arcade, raises money to provide games and entertainment for kids in children's hospitals and shelters.
You can either donate funds that Child's Play will use to provide games and toys, or you can directly buy items from participating hospitals' Amazon wish lists. There's more than 100 recipient organizations in the network, so if you want to donate to a facility in your hometown or a hospital you have a special connection to, odds are that you can.
While Child's Play started with just games, they've expanded to toys, movies, legos, books, and anything that can help a kid in need forget about what's going on for a few hours and have a little fun. So if you're taking some time this holiday to relax play a new game or watch a favorite film, consider the kids out there, some of them living through what has to be some of the hardest moments a person can experience, and share the fun..
Amber Bouman Community Content Editor
There are several large, well-known charities that donate gifts, mostly to children. Among them: the Make-a-Wish Foundation, The Salvation Army and United Way, which has a Christmas Bureau that provides toys and gifts in addition to other holiday assistance.
USPS, meanwhile, participates in the Be an Elf program, wherein people volunteer to answer children's letter to Santa and send them gifts. Toys for Tots works with Alexa to donate gifts to needy children.
Other charities that give out gifts include Angel Tree (sponsored by the Salvation Army), which plays Santa for kids whose parents are incarcerated. There's also My Two Front Teeth, which connects donors to children who draw pictures of the gifts they want. Operation Homefront, meanwhile, gives gifts to the children of military families, and often accepts donations at local Dollar Tree locations.
If you're looking for more tech-focused charities, Chris' suggestion of Child's Play is the only one I know about that donates gifts specifically. However, there are a lot of other tech charities you can donate to or give to including Code.org, which promotes STEM learning; One Laptop Per Child, which provides rugged laptops to children all over the world; and Free Geek, which refurbishes donated electronics for students. There's also Annie Cannons, which trains trafficking survivors in coding, and Techie Youth, which teaches foster kids and at-risk youth IT skills.
Welcome to your weekend! While this week has included plenty of 2019 recaps (
Google is rolling out one more update for the Explorer Edition of Glass before
Unfortunately, if you want to get your hands
An update has rolled out to Google Assistant and Google-powered smart displays that finally lets them access list and notes in apps that you already use, instead of relying on a weird different list that's not linked to anything else.
The two outgoing execs explained this as a "natural time" to streamline management now that Alphabet is "well-established" and its various brands (including Google) are operating smoothly as independent companies. In a tweet, Pichai said, "We have a timeless mission, enduring values and a culture of collaboration & exploration."
Have a suggestion on how we can improve The Morning After? Send us a note.
Reddit bans 61 accounts linked to 'suspected campaign from Russia' Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn presented leaked documents to back claims that the British government put its NHS on the table as part of trade talks with the US. Earlier this week, network analysis firm Graphika Labs linked the leak of the documents and the posts on Reddit from a month before to techniques used by a Russian influence campaign on Facebook dubbed "Secondary Infektion" that had been uncovered in June. As DFR Labs described it "The operation's goal appears to have been to divide, discredit, and distract Western countries."
According to Reddit has announced that it went back to the original post and "along with indicators from law enforcement" linked it to a "pattern of coordinated behavior." As a result, it has banned the r/ukwhistleblower subreddit and 61 accounts from the platform, with their names published in a post so people can see which accounts are known to be involved.
Noir detective game 'Blacksad' will be out for consoles on December 10th Blacksad: Under the Skin has been available on Steam since mid-November, but don't worry about buying it if you'd rather play on a console -- you only have a few more days to wait. The noir detective game, based on a graphic novel series, will be out worldwide for the PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch on December 10th. Some European gamers report having early access.
Blacksad is a universe populated by anthropomorphic animal characters set in the 1950s. The main character is John Blacksad, a hardboiled black cat detective who's dressed aptly for the part. As you'd expect, you'll have to look for clues, interview people and complete action sequences to solve crimes. One interesting aspect of the game is Blacksad's ability to use his sharp feline senses like vision, smell and hearing to analyze situations and uncover details that were previously unaccessible.
You can watch the game's trailer below, but make sure to read our first impressions of the game from Gamescom to know what you can expect.
Google is ending support for the Explorer Edition of Glass Google is rolling out one more update for the Explorer Edition of Glass before cutting off support for its old wearable. The tech giant introduced Project Glass back in 2012, opening it up for preorders for $1,500 each. Despite people raising privacy concerns about its ability to record videos, the company quickly released an upgraded version of the device. It soon decided to change its approach and target businesses, though, releasing an Enterprise Edition of the device in 2017. The company will continue supporting the enterprise version, suggesting that it's doing better than its older sibling.
In a support page detailing the final update, Google says users will need to manually download, unzip and install the file. Doing so will allow them to pair Glass with their phone -- MyGlass will no longer work, but Bluetooth pairing will stay -- as well as take photos and videos, as usual. Those who don't update the device can continue using it, but mirror apps like Gmail, YouTube and Hangouts will no longer work.
After February 25th, 2020, though, they need install the update or they'll no longer be able to use Glass if they're not logged in or get logged out. They can wait until they get kicked out of the system to install the file, but they'll have to keep in mind that the update will only be available until February 25th, 2022.
Apple plans software fix for 16-inch MacBook Pro 'speaker popping' No, you're not crazy: you probably are hearing a popping or a cracking sound after audio stops playing on your new 16-inch MacBook Pro. A lot of other users have been reporting similar experiences online, and now Apple itself has admitted the issue, according to replicate the same issue with YouTube, SoundCloud, Safari and Chrome. As you can see, Apple didn't expound on what that software issue is, and it's unfortunately unclear when the fix will become available. You'll just have to wait for it to come out, though you can try some of the temporary fixes other users have been suggesting if the popping is bothering you too much.
Musk also called Unsworth a "child rapist" in emails to a Buzzfeed reporter, but the court case was not a judgement over that statement, or his decision to pay a private investigator $50,000 to investigate the man.
The diver became a target of the comments that Musk called a "common insult" after he disparaged Musk's unused plan to involve a miniature submarine in the rescue of 12 boys and a soccer coach trapped in a cave. Unsworth participated in the rescue effort and is credited with helping recruit divers who helped bring the boys to safety.
‘Reno 911!’ is coming back as a Quibi exclusive It looks like Punk'd isn't the only mid-aughts TV series that's coming back thanks to Quibi. Comedy Central says it's making a seventh season of Reno 911!, 10 years after the series came to an abrupt end, for the mobile-first streaming platform.
Series creators Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney-Silver will return to star in and write the reboot -- we use the term write loosely here since most of the dialogue in Reno 911! was famously improvised. As for the rest of the cast, they'll be announced at a later date. It's hard to say how many of the show's original stars will return; several characters passed away when the taco stand went up in flames in season five. The original six seasons aired between 2003 and 2009, and spawned a movie in 2007.
Lennon said, "Quibi's short format seems custom made for our show." Most episodes on Quibi, whether they come from Reno 911! or another series, will be about 10 minutes long. Lennon is also working on another series for Quibi called Winos where he'll star as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who moves to Napa Valley to try and turn around a struggling vineyard.
You'll be able to see if Quibi's experiment in short-form content works when the service launches on April 6th. A subscription will set you back either $5 or $8 per month depending on whether you go for the more expensive ad-free tier.
Facebook's plan to label state media is taking longer than expected Facebook's effort to label state-backed media has hit some snags. The social network was due to start labeling outlets in November, but CNN Business found that the company clearly missed the target, and didn't have a specific answer as to when the transparency move might be ready. A spokesperson would only say that Facebook will "begin [labelling] soon," and that there would be a gradual rollout as the firm worked with publishers and third-party advisors to ensure it "get[s] this right."
The challenge, you might imagine, is that different state-backed media organizations have different levels of control. Outlets like spread disinformation and skew votes.
Readers weigh in on what makes the OnePlus 7 Pro a worthy contender With the release of the 7 Pro, OnePlus showed it learned from the mistakes on the 6T: The company kept everything that users loved about the previous model while addressing its most glaring issues. Senior Editor Richard Lai was pleased to see that the dewdrop notch of the 6T had been replaced by a pop-up front camera; that the fussy fingerprint reader had become faster and more responsive; and that the 7 Pro maintained a sleek design with ambitious features. But was it enough to satisfy those who actually bought it? Here's what our user reviewers had to say about their experiences with the $549 device. Specs Richard was pleasantly surprised that the 7 Pro was one of the first non-Samsung smartphones to feature a Snapdragon 855 chip. Alain was also happy about the phone's performance. "It's FAST," he wrote (emphasis his). "I've thrown all the apps I can think of at it, and it just doesn't skip a beat." Ben found the 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage much more noteworthy, declaring the specs here "unbelievable for the price (in the US unlocked version)."
Build The phone's design also appealed to Richard, who said the 7 Pro featured the same excellent build quality as its predecessors. He was particularly enamored with the frosted glass back and weightier feel. Alain mostly agreed with him but added that it "is heavy and a very big phone." And while Alain was glad to see the dual SIM slot, he was let down by the lack of an SD card reader and headphone jack, but allowed that "you can't get everything, I guess."
The screen -- a 6.67-inch curved fluid AMOLED panel that Richard called a "selling point" -- also won praise from two of our user reviewers, Rad and Alain. Rad said they loved the notcheless screen and amazing display, while Alain called the screen "high, vibrant, smooth, bright ... the best screen on any phone, period." However, Ben said that when he compared it to his friend's Samsung Note 10+ "it feels pretty much the same" and that "all the 90Hz really does is drain battery life."
Fingerprint reader OnePlus claims to have improved on the fingerprint reader used in the 6T. Indeed, Richard noted the sensor on the 7 Pro was much faster than before, and speedy enough to beat out the one used in the Huawei P30 Pro. Here two users weighed in: Alain who said the upgraded reader was "blazing fast and very VERY accurate," and Twidget1995 who said the sensor is "the biggest issue I have with this phone. If your fingers are cold, wet or sweaty it won't read the print." Battery life Richard managed over 12 hours of battery life off the 7 Pro's 4,000mAh battery, and was particularly satisfied by the 30W Warp Charge adapter, which took only an hour to fully rejuice the phone. Alain had a similar experience, saying it "easily lasts me 1.5 to two days of regular to heavy use." Conversely, Ben felt the battery life "straight up just isn't as long-lasting as my previous OnePlus phones." He added: "The screen drains pretty quickly. I'm at about 20 percent after work, even when I feel like I haven't used it much." But he allowed that "Warp Charge is fast, which might make up for it. And the battery saver mode really, really extends time. I can hit 15 percent and last another eight hours through the night."
Camera Richard found that the 7 Pro "handles HDR shots much better than the 6T" and "produced a more accurate white balance while tightening highlights and shadows." Across the board, our user reviewers were excited about shots they took with the 7 Pro. Alain, a self-described professional photographer, said all the photos he's taken look amazing and "on occasion, look better than those of the P30." Ben, meanwhile, often has his iPhone-toting friends asking him to use his 7 Pro camera "because it's so clear." The only drawback for Ben was the pop-up camera feature, which he admitted can be "kind of annoying sometimes. You open Snapchat and it pops up, even if you aren't in camera mode." Software The 7 Pro runs on Oxygen OS, which is based off of Android 9 Pie. According to Richard, navigation was smooth and speedy. Ben said he liked it as well "because it is basically stock Android plus a few needed features (things I used to get from ROMs back in the day, but now I don't feel the need to do anything custom when it comes to the OS)." But Ben also admitted that there are "a fair amount of lags and frozen points that disappoint me. I'm looking forward to when the stable fix is sent OTA to me, so it will be updated an extra fast." And although Alain was happy with the software, calling it a "clean and useful software with NO bloatware and a few genuinely useful add-ons", Geo241 said they had experienced constant -- and frustrating -- issues connecting to their car, a Tesla Model 3, over Bluetooth.
Overall In the end, Richard said it was "hard to find major faults" with the 7 Pro and that the company had "packed in advanced components to help it stand among, if not stand out against, all the other flagship smartphones." He awarded the handset an impressive score of 91.
User reviewers sounded likewise contented with the smartphone: Ben said he would "recommend it to friends if they like stock Android, if they like big phones and if they want to spend less than a Samsung flagship costs. It's still a killer deal." Alain said he was "really satisfied with this phone" and that for him, "this is THE PHONE of 2019, especially because it's cheaper than all the other flagships." Nathan exclaimed: "I love my Oneplus 7 Pro! My OnePlus 6T is a good phone but the 7 Pro is great." And Rad said "thus far, this is my favorite phone I have ever owned." Despite the praise, the average score awarded to the 7 Pro by user reviewers was six points lower than ours: 85 out of 100.
While 6,000 is a modest sales figure by almost any metric, it's made worse by Magic Leap's initial targets. The Information writes CEO Rony Abovitz had told investors he hoped the company would sell "at least" 1 million units of the Magic Leap One in its first year of availability. Eventually, he was reportedly convinced that 100,000 was a more realistic goal. Sales of the headset, however, have been so poor that the company recently started giving employees free units.
Understandably, poor sales have strained Magic Leap, with The Information reporting that the company recently laid off "dozens" of employees across multiple departments. The company has instituted other cost-saving measures as well, such as freezing work travel for some departments and slowing the pace at which it hires new employees. Unsurprisingly, it also appears Magic Leap has a long road towards sustainability; the company apparently burned through between $40 and $50 million per month through much of 2018.
It also appears several notable executives have left the company's board of directors -- though it's not clear if any of shakeups are directly related to Magic Leap's fiscal troubles. Newly-minted Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly left the company's board sometime last year. The Information says it was told by a source Pichai vacated his position due to "the demands of his schedule," so the change may not have been a judgment of Magic Leap. It's also worth noting Google, which led a reported $542 million investment in the company in 2014, still has a voice on Magic Leap's board. Pichai's position was taken over by Google Maps vice-president Jennifer Fitzpatrick.
When asked to comment on the article, a spokesperson for Magic Leap told The Information its reporting was "littered with inaccuracies and misleading statements, and erroneously portrays Magic Leap's operations, internal plans and overall strategy." Engadget has reached out to Magic Leap for additional information and comment.
Before writing Magic Leap off, there are a couple of points to keep in mind. The first and most important is that The Information attributes its 6,000 unit figure to a single source. There are a lot of reasons why the publication may have been unable to verify the number -- one of which is that it seems Magic Leap hasn't talked sales numbers with its own rank-and-file employees. All the same, we just don't know how accurate that number is. However, what we do know for certain is that a lot of AR and VR companies, both big and small, have struggled recently. For example, Google recently discontinued Daydream View. Jaunt, another startup that had a lot of hype behind it, recently sold all its tech to Verizon (Engadget's parent company). Even if it sold more units, Magic Leap is likely feeling the same pressure that almost everyone else in the industry is.
AI-powered Lego sorter knows the shape of every brick For some people, rummaging through a bunch of Lego bricks is part of the fun. But if you've got an enormous collection or take on complicated builds, you probably have a system for sorting your pieces. Your solution probably doesn't involve AI, though. YouTube user Daniel West combined his love for Lego with his engineering skills to build a universal Lego sorter that uses a neural network to identify, classify and organize the plastic pieces more efficiently than a human could.
The universal Lego sorter -- which is made up of 10,000 Lego bricks -- took two years to design, build and perfect. Six Lego motors and nine servo motors power the conveyor belts and agitators that transport the pieces, brick-by-brick, to a video camera. A Raspberry Pi then processes the video feed and streams the data to a laptop which runs an application called a convolutional neural network. The AI-driven software compares each piece to a database containing 3D models of every Lego piece ever created. Once the neural network matches the piece to a part number, it sends the data back to the sorter, which at that point, knows which of the 18 sorting buckets to place it in. The machine processes about one brick every two seconds.
Creations like this highlight the flexibility of Lego as a building platform. Little kids can snap bricks together to create simple objects, while older kids and adults can engineer startlingly effective pieces of hardware when bringing technology into the equation. Amazon and Lego are currently running a contest that integrates Lego with technology, in fact. The two companies have tasked builders with integrating Alexa voice commands with Lego Mindstorm sets and will reward the best creations with a trip to Denmark and Amazon gift cards.
Researchers create bone-inspired 3D-printed building materials You may not think of your bones as buildings, but researchers do. A team from Cornell University, Purdue University and Case Western Reserve University believes that by studying the internal structure of bones, they may be able to 3D-print stronger construction materials for homes and buildings.
"Bone is a building," says Purdue University professor Pablo Zavattieri. "It has these columns that carry most of the load and beams connecting the columns. We can learn from these materials to create more robust 3D-printed materials for buildings and other structures."
The researchers discovered that the "beams" in bones provide more stiffness and strength than previously understood. Those beams, also known as trabeculae, form vertical plate-like struts and horizontal rod-like struts in bone. In a study published in 3D-printed homes and buildings.
'Death Stranding' update will fix tiny, hard-to-read text One of the more prevalent criticisms of Hideo Kojima's #DeathStranding update, coming in mid Dec. will include the following! - Odradek will be visible when blocked by cargo - able to dispose vehicles (except for the MULE vehicles) - increasing text size on the UI Thank you for all your thoughtful feedback!#TomorrowIsInYourHandshttps://t.co/YRwZ2EPDIEpic.twitter.com/wJygDjqYBQ — Kojima Productions (@KojiPro2015_EN) December 6, 2019 Once the latest patch drops, you can dispose of individual vehicles as well (but not MULE vehicles). In another quality-of-life change, you'll be able to see the Odradek terrain scanner through any cargo Sam's carrying on his back. It's a useful update, as the device signals the proximity and direction of the dangerous BT creatures, so being able to see it from more perspectives should help. It's not clear exactly when the update will rollout, but it'll be available in mid-December.
Bernie Sanders proposes $150 billion for public broadband improvements Bernie Sanders has unveiled his plan for US broadband if he wins the 2020 presidential election, and it won't surprise you to hear that his strategy would focus on making high-speed internet as widely accessible as possible. He intends to earmark $150 billion (as part of the Green New Deal) for infrastructure grants and technical help for "publicly owned and democratically controlled, co-operative or open access" broadband. He would also ensure free broadband in public housing and override state laws (frequently written by private ISPs) that block municipal internet.
The candidate also vows to "dramatically" lower the cost of service. He would require basic internet plans, up the FCC's minimum definition of broadband from 10Mbps to 100Mbps, regulate rates and fully subsidize entry-level plans for low-income households. This would involve protecting and expanding the Lifeline program. He would outright ban data caps and throttling, and would offer $500 million per year in grants to foster "digital literacy, adoption and inclusivity."
As you might imagine, Sanders would join Elizabeth Warren in planning to end internet monopolies. He would use existing antitrust regulations to break up cable and ISP monopolies, restore net neutrality, reinstate privacy protections and appoint FCC members who'd foster "competition, choice and affordability." He'd also mandate transparent prices, accurate speed claims and granular service info. He would not only call for more accurate broadband maps, but run a national census to help with that goal.
Other plans would focus on creating more resilient communications networks that could not only withstand and recover from disasters like hurricanes, but hold up to the effects of climate change and install fiber lines alongside road improvement projects. He would thwart providers who exploit disasters to profit from customers, and establish a "modern smart grid" that can deliver electricity reliably and efficiently while dealing with high levels of renewable energy.
Sanders isn't the only Democratic candidate making large commitments to broadband access. Warren is pledging $85 billion toward rural broadband, while Joe Biden would offer $20 billion. There's a clear desire to support internet access beyond cities -- it mainly comes down to which (if any) policy is best, and whether or not these strategies will influence voters in November 2020.
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and Engadget may earn affiliate commission. Read the full guide to christmas lights.
Christmas lights bring a unique glimmering warmth to your holiday season—or your backyard, your favorite dive bar, or really anywhere else, for that matter. After more than 100 hours of researching, interviewing experts, and testing more than 25 different string light sets since 2014, we believe GE's Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights (available in strands of 100 bulbs in multicolor or warm white) offer a combination of light quality, color accuracy, and wide availability that has been unmatched among competitors since we began recommending GE's Colorites five years ago.
Like all LED models, the GE Colorite lights are safer, more durable, and longer lasting than traditional incandescent lights, and they barely draw any electricity at all. Among the LEDs we looked at, we found that the GE Colorites' hues of warm white and especially multicolor closely matched those of traditional incandescents. They also have a tidy wire that doesn't curl or twist, simplifying the task of draping them through a tree or storing them in the off-season. The bulbs should last for at least 10 holiday seasons, and you can replace individual bulbs if they go out (or you can just leave those; the rest of the strand will stay lit). Although you can use the Colorites outdoors, we think they're best for indoor use, since the bulbs aren't completely watertight. Overall, these lights offer better benefits and have fewer drawbacks than any other indoor lights we tested.
The GE lights have sold out quickly the past few years, so if that happens again, we recommend the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights (available in warm white, multicolor, or solid color). In our tests the multicolor lights looked as good as the GEs, while the warm white lights had a cooler tone that was a little further from the coziness of an incandescent.
For outdoor use, we recommend the Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights, available in white, multicolor, or single color in a variety of lengths and bulb spacings. These lights offer all of the benefits of LEDs as well as a design that makes each bulb impervious to moisture for weeks in the snowy, sleety, rainy outdoors—we confirmed that by leaving a lit set submerged in a water-filled bucket all day. We liked the warmth of the color, the bright light output, and the manageable wires. Due to the unusual design of the wide-angle bulb, the brightness of each changes dramatically depending on where you're standing, giving the lights texture and depth when they're draped over a tree or twisting around a porch post. Because they're likely to be exposed to harsh exterior conditions, these lights have a shorter lifespan than indoor LEDs, but you can still expect six or seven seasons out of them. The only major drawback is that they're a bit too bright for indoor use. Pro lighting designers and other experts have consistently named this particular type of bulb as the ideal choice for outdoor holiday-lighting displays. If the Christmas Lights Etc lights aren't available, Christmas Designers makes a similar string light that's just as good but a little less bright.
Last, if you're not ready to give up the unique warm twinkle of incandescents for an indoor tree, Christmas Lights Etc's Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights are our favorites. These mini-light sets emit the warmest overall light, and like our other picks, they have an easy-handling wire. They also cost less than an LED strand, but they're not as durable, they're less efficient, and they won't last as long—you can expect 2,000 to 3,000 hours of use, versus an average life of 20,000 hours for our pick. That's just the bulb life, too, not even taking into account how fragile and easily breakable an incandescent filament is.
If you can't decide between white or multicolor lights, the GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs offer the best of both worlds. A small control box near the plug lets you choose white, multicolor, or both, in a variety of flashing and steady lighting options. The colors aren't as good as what you get with a dedicated white or multicolor string light set, though; the white in particular is more neutral and bland than warm, and the green is somewhat lime-like. But we think that's a fair trade-off for their flexible usage. One thing to keep in mind: Although the lights themselves are generally safe for outdoor use, the control box can malfunction in the wrong conditions, so try to plug it in somewhere that's safe and dry. Why you should trust us It wasn't easy to pick out these specific models from the seemingly infinite selection of Christmas lights in the world. But we reached our conclusions with the input of several people who live and breathe lights: Ben Orr, owner of Northern Seasonal Services, who has been professionally installing holiday lighting in the Chicago area since 2005; Jason Woodward, the director of ecommerce at Christmas Designers, a retailer specializing in holiday lighting; John Strainic, GE's general manager of North America consumer lighting; and Anthony Krize, vice president of Nicolas Holiday, the brand-management company for GE's Christmas lights.
We also enlisted the aid of professionals in our testing process to help us assess the color quality of each string light set. In previous years, we consulted Susan Moriarty, executive creative director and founder of the Boston-based creative agency The Soapbox Studio, who has 20 years of experience as an art director, designer, and photographer. For our 2019 testing, we relied on the eyes of Bridget Collins, the interim lighting and projections supervisor at the Tony Award–recognized Huntington Theatre Company, a Boston theater where guide co-author Thom Dunn was a writing fellow from 2015 to 2017. How we picked Many different kinds of Christmas string light bulbs are available, and many people already know what they like—even if they don't necessarily know that a type of light is called a C9 or an M5 or anything else. For this guide, however, we focused on the standard nonblinking miniature (or T5) lights. These are the small, traditional, candle-shaped Christmas lights that most people are used to. As this DIY Network article says, even though larger bulbs are growing in popularity, "mini lights have been by far the most popular during the past decade," and we confirmed this in our conversations with Jason Woodward of Christmas Designers and Anthony Krize of Nicolas Holiday/GE Brands. During our research, we also found that blinking lights represent a very small minority of the available lights, so we stayed with the type that remains lit at all times.
The earliest Christmas lights were incandescent—that is, they got their glow from a heated filament inside the glass bulb, like any other commercial light bulb. This component creates a nice, warm radiance in the room that many people associate with the holiday season. Since the early 2000s, however, LED Christmas lights have become increasingly popular, and they're often easier to find now than the traditional incandescent ones. LEDs tend to cost more than their incandescent counterparts, but they also last longer, use a lot less electricity, and thus produce less heat, which makes them safer overall. As Jason Woodward from Christmas Designers told us, "the benefits offered by LEDs are almost as significant as the benefits that incandescents provided over candles." Some people are understandably hesitant to use LEDs—older or poorly made LEDs can sometimes be too bright or cause a kind of nauseating strobe effect. But the technology has advanced enough in recent years that we feel confident recommending them. However, we still sought out some incandescent options for people who prefer that traditional warmth.
Many LED Christmas lights can work well indoors or outdoors. For outdoor lights, our experts directed us toward a specific style of LED: 5-millimeter wide-angle conicals. The bulbs on these lights are stubby and don't have the homespun look of the small glass candle found on other mini lights. They are much brighter than regular mini lights (both LED and incandescent), and the unique shape of the bulb adds depth and complexity to the lights' appearance. As lighting installer Ben Orr of Northern Seasonal Services told us, this shape allows the strand to "refract the light and create a cool look depending on the angle of view." Orr continued, "It appears that some are brighter than others and it adds contrast." He added that 5 mm wide-angle lights are generally his favorite light. And Christmas Designers, in a video dedicated to the bulbs, says these lights are "by far the most popular set we sell."
But as with regular LED bulbs, the color of the light is a concern. We figure that if you're reading this guide, you're probably interested in replacing an old set of incandescent lights—but even if you want something more efficient and durable, you probably don't want to give up the traditional lights' familiar warm glow. Unfortunately, that is an issue with LEDs.
Both Orr and Woodward warned us that LEDs simply do not look like incandescents. Due to improvements in technology, many companies manufacture a "warm white" color that, depending on the quality of the LED, can closely mimic but not fully achieve the pinpoint sparkle of an incandescent. Orr stressed that "LED technology varies throughout the industry, and a warm white from one supplier can vary in hues and color drastically from another." He even suggested buying strands from a few different manufacturers to compare them and see which hue you like best before making a large purchase—once you find something you like, he said, buy from only that manufacturer. Our testing confirmed that there is a tremendous variety in LED color hues, from the fantastic to the terrible.
In selecting the strands we wanted to test, we searched all of the larger online retailers (Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, Target, Walmart). Orr told us that he purchases his lights from a specialty retailer, so we also looked at lights from Christmas Designers, Christmas Lights Etc, and Christmas Light Source. These specialty retailers deal only in Christmas lights and focus on the needs of the professional, though they certainly have no problems with a regular shopper purchasing from them. Each store seems to have its own in-house brand of lights, so you won't see them selling Martha Stewart or GE lights. We've found that these companies are extremely knowledgeable about lighting, and in general their items are very nice.
We dismissed companies that had overall poor reviews (Holiday Time), strange or incomplete bulb selections (EcoSmart), or suspiciously low pricing (Home Accents Holiday). Other companies, such as Hometown Evolution, AGPtek, and Deneve, fall more into the general exterior-decor category and don't have a wide selection of Christmas lights. AGPtek, in particular, deals only in solar-powered or battery lights, which are more of a specialty item, and we wanted to concentrate on general tree and exterior lighting. How we tested Ready to begin testing. Photo: Doug Mahoney Since 2014, we've tested dozens of string light sets in both white and multicolor, including standard T5 LEDs, incandescents, and 5 mm wide-angle conical LEDs. For our most recent tests in 2019, we looked at 11 sets of white lights, eight sets of multicolor lights, and one set of color-changing lights. To evaluate all of the sets, we wound and unwound them and arranged them around a home, including wrapping them around poles and draping them over railings—basically, we tried to use the lights how they're intended to be used.
We then took them to a dedicated black-box theater space at the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, which has transferred numerous plays to Broadway and London's West End. We set up all the light sets in a pure black space and evaluated them for color temperature and accuracy with the help of the company's theatrical lighting supervisor, Bridget Collins. (In previous years we've relied on similar outside expertise from Susan Moriarty, executive creative director and founder of The Soapbox Studio, also in Boston.) Afterward, we tested the weather impermeability of each set by sinking the lights into a 5-gallon bucket of water and leaving it outside in the cold rain overnight (the temperature didn't drop below freezing). Although this test is a bit extreme, it's certainly possible that any set of exterior lights will end up in a puddle or draped in a gutter.
Overall, we found that the wire quality has a lot to do with the success of a strand of lights. Some of the tested lights had tidy, close-knit strands of wire, while others were loose and messy. Some wires needed untwisting before use, like an old phone cord, and still others continued to accordion back on themselves no matter how we tried to stretch them out and lay them flat. Our pick: GE Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights GE was the first company in America to sell Christmas string lights, and we think it still makes the best ones overall. GE's Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights are available in multicolor and warm white, and they offer all the benefits of LED lights, including high durability, zero heat output, and a long life expectancy. They also produce a warm radiance that closely resembles the classic glow of incandescent bulbs. There's no noticeable flicker as on some other LED lights we tested, which were either too dull or glaringly bright and gave us a headache when they moved. The GE Colorites are also well made and durable, with a tightly wound wire that maintains its memory while still being easy to drape on trees or railings (plus, it's harder to tangle). GE has relied on the same Christmas lights manufacturer for more than 40 years, and that pedigree—and quality—shows. It doesn't hurt that the lights are widely available online and in stores, too.
GE's incandescent (top) and LED (bottom) strands. Photo: Doug Mahoney When it came to color temperature, the Colorites were the clear winner in our tests. The warm white and multicolor strands both gave off a warm tone that was closer to the overall look of an incandescent strand than what we saw from any of the other LEDs we considered. It's not a 100 percent perfect match from up close, of course—the diode illuminates the entire colored bulb from certain angles, unlike in incandescents, which have a pinpoint filament that creates a twinkly, sparkly look. Note, however, that we made this distinction while specifically looking for differences between the bulbs: Once we were about 5 feet away, it became extremely difficult to tell these LEDs apart from the strand of incandescents, and we would be happy to light up our home with them.
From left: the Christmas Designers warm white incandescents, the GE Colorite warm white LEDs, and the Christmas Designers warm white T5 Smooth LEDs. Notice how the GE LEDs match the color of the incandescents but not their distinctive and even sparkle. The Christmas Designers LEDs have a cooler color and shine a little brighter. Photo: Doug Mahoney We also liked that the GE Colorite wire strands were easy to manage. In our tests, they were tidy and had a nice flex. Out of the box, the lights unraveled nicely. And unlike other brands we tried, they needed no twisting on our part to stretch and flatten them out. They're durable enough overall that they should be able to withstand the annual boxing and unboxing process without a hitch.
Instead of having a detachable bulb and a separate socket as an incandescent does, these bulbs encase a light-emitting diode in a block of molded plastic. The result still looks like a traditional Christmas light, but it's harder to knock a bulb out of commission. Although we don't suggest that you jump rope with your strands of LED lights, we do believe that they will be able to handle a drop.
From left: the Christmas Designers incandescents, the GE Colorite LEDs, and the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LEDs. Again, the incandescents have the most consistent sparkle. The GE LEDs match the color (other than the purple), and the Christmas Designers LEDs shine brighter than the others. Photo: Doug Mahoney We recommend the GE Colorites for indoor use, but they survived our outdoor durability tests, too. If you do end up breaking a bulb, the Colorites' Constant On feature means the other ones will stay lit until you replace it, which is also possible. When we asked Jason Woodward of Christmas Designers about the lifespan of indoor LEDs, he told us, "High-grade LEDs haven't been around long enough to really know how long they will last on an indoor application, but it should be at least 10 years." That longevity should be good news for anyone who has ever pulled out their incandescent lights from the previous year, found a bunch of them mysteriously half-working or suffering from too many blown bulbs, and ended up throwing several away.
Like other LEDs, the GE Colorites emit zero heat when lit, so you can sleep easy while they're lighting up your desiccated tree on New Year's Eve. Incandescents, on the other hand, produce heat and can get quite hot—although newer incandescents are highly unlikely to ever start a tree fire, they could give an unsuspecting toddler quite a jolt. The Colorites have such low energy use that you can string together up to 25 sets without a problem (and even that's pretty ambitious for most homes). The GE Colorite LEDs are also rectified (sometimes called "full wave"), which means they blink fast enough that they shouldn't have any of those nausea-inducing flicker problems that some other LEDs have. This means you can use them with a dimmer or a lighting controller, too.
The GE Colorites generally cost around 20¢ per light, which is right where most good-quality LEDs land. They're sometimes sold online under the name Nicolas Holiday, but don't worry, they're still the same lights. Either way, they're a great value for their durability and longevity; there are sets that we bought in 2014 that are still going strong, although the wire strands have loosened a bit.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Although the GE Energy Smart Colorite LED Miniature Lights impressed us more than the others in both quality and overall color, we did discover a few drawbacks to these lights.
First, they don't have stackable plugs, the kind of design where the male plug has a female outlet on the back side of it. With stackable plugs, you can piggyback multiple strands directly on the same outlet—a useful feature for outdoor displays where you might be lighting, for example, bushes in opposite directions on either side of a single outlet, but less of a necessity indoors. The lack of such a plug design on the Colorites could make for a crowded wall outlet, but a small power strip will solve the problem. You can still attach the Colorites end to end, just as you would any other set of Christmas lights.
The GE Colorites have a regular plug (left), whereas many competitors, including our runner-up pick, the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights (right), have a stackable plug. The stackable design allows you to have multiple strands on a single outlet. Photo: Doug Mahoney Christmas-light purists may be dismayed at the look of the purple GE Colorite bulb. In our tests, on the incandescent strands the purple bulb was a deep reddish-pink color, but on the Colorite strand it was a bright, vivid purple that was slightly lavender and almost a little "cartoony." Once the strands are wound around a tree, we don't think most people will pick up on this difference, but if you're color sensitive, it's something to be aware of. Our runner-up lights don't have a purple bulb, so they don't have the same issue.
Finally, we've discovered that Christmas lights are manufactured on a seasonal basis, so when they're gone, they're gone. For the past few years, these GE lights have sold out in early December and remained unavailable for the rest of the season. Runner-up: Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights If the GE Colorites are unavailable, we also like the Christmas Designers T5 Smooth LED Christmas Lights, which are available in warm white, multicolor, and solid color. In our tests, the Christmas Designers lights were very similar to the GE Colorites but slightly less bright and less warm.This was true for the white lights as well as the multicolor lights, particularly the yellow and orange (the Christmas Designers lights don't have a purple bulb). The wires that connect these lights are also tightly wound, which makes them just as easy to wrap up as they are to unravel and maneuver around a tree. On average, the Christmas Designers lights are more expensive than the GE ones, but they're well made and durable, and the company offers bulk discounts, which can start to even things up depending on the size of your order.
The most obvious way that the Christmas Designers lights stand out from GE's Colorites is that they have a stackable plug with both an input and output, which allows you to start multiple strands of lights from the same outlet. Unlike the GE Colorites, the Christmas Designers bulbs are made of a single piece of molded plastic. The upside is that this design makes it even harder for dirt and water to infiltrate the bulb and damage the circuitry; these bulbs are likely to be even more resilient outside than the GE bulbs. The downside is that, if a bulb does break, you won't be able to replace it (but the rest of the string will still work). Otherwise, the LEDs contained within that plastic bulb offer all the same benefits as the LEDs from GE—low energy use, no heat output, and a longer life overall.
Christmas Designers lights are also uniquely available in solid-color strands in addition to the standard warm white and multicolor. They may be a better option if you're looking to customize a display with green, red, blue, or pure white lights. This is because the company mainly sells to professional installers, although regular-shopper sales have increased significantly in recent years. As Jason Woodward, the company's director of sales and marketing, told us, "The quickest growing part of our business are the residential, what I call our 'Christmas enthusiasts'—people who are tired of the Big Box retail junk and are looking for a step up, something that will last longer and look good." If you're looking for that kind of sturdy construction—or if the GE Colorites are sold out, which tends to happen closer to the holidays—the Christmas Designers T5 lights are a great alternative. Also great: Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights The Christmas Lights Etc Kringle Traditions Wide-Angle 5mm Outdoor LED Christmas Tree Lights give off a bright, warm color that is particularly perfect for the outdoors, whether you're decorating a window box, a tree, a wreath, a railing, or a roofline. Christmas Lights Etc—not to be confused with Christmas Designers—also focuses largely on pro installations and thus offers a wide variety of lighting options including white, multicolor, and solid single colors, with different bulb quantities and spacings. Like other LEDs, these lights cost more than incandescents, but since they're specifically designed to withstand long-term exposure to moisture, your investment will be protected if they end up dropping into a puddle or a wet gutter while braving the elements in a cold, wet December. They also have a clean and tight wire, which in our tests made handling, hanging, and storing them easy. And because their electrical requirements are so low, you can connect a whopping 43 strands and run them on a single outlet before worrying about tripping a breaker; this design reduces the need for extension cords, which can be a big hidden cost with larger exterior displays. These Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights are slightly brighter than our previous pick from Christmas Designers, but the two are otherwise similar—if you find the Christmas Designers version available in a color you prefer or at a better price, go for it.
The odd, stubby shape of the 5 mm "wide-angle" bulbs gives these lights a distinctive appearance. In addition to the fact that they're already brighter than many regular LED mini lights, these wide-angle bulbs also emit a different level of brightness depending on the angle from which you view them. In the right situation, this design can almost replicate the "twinkly" look of incandescent lights that many people enjoy.
The Christmas Designers 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED (a former pick, top) and the GE Colorite LED (bottom). Notice the unusual shape of the wide-angle bulb and also how the bulb and socket are molded into a single piece, making such lights ideal for exterior use. Photo: Doug Mahoney The Christmas Lights Etc wide-angle lights have what are called molded bulbs—that is, each bulb is a completely sealed, one-piece unit. There is no separating the bulb from the wire, and thus no way for moisture or grime to work into the socket, which makes them even better suited for outdoor displays. We tested this design by submerging the lights in a bucket of water outdoors overnight, and at no point did the lights show any ill effects from the test. However, this molded design also means that you can't replace an individual light if any of them fail (although the rest of the string will keep working). Overall, we think this is a worthwhile trade-off for a bright set of lights that are likely to last even longer than other LED string lights. Just try not to step on the bulbs, and you should be fine.
The Christmas Designers wide-angle multicolored lights, at some point during hour six of being fully submerged in a bucket of water. We put the Christmas Lights Etc lights through the same test in 2019, and they survived just as well. Photo: Doug Mahoney Like the other lights from pro-installer brands, the Christmas Lights Etc wide-angle LEDs have a great wire. In our tests, they were easy to unravel and didn't get tangled up like other, lower-quality lights such as the ones from Home Accent Holiday; in fact, the Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights come in a balled-up clump when they arrive in the package. (We still suggest you wrap them up somewhat carefully when you're done with them, just to prolong their life.) The neat organization of the wires gave our test strands a high-quality feel, which also gave us confidence that they'd keep running for years regardless of the weather or (most) other abuse they might endure. These lights are also full-wave rectified, so you won't have any issues with flickering, and you can use them with dimmers if you'd like.
If you have great ambitions for your Christmas display, Christmas Lights Etc also offers a bulk discount for its outdoor lights—the more you buy, the less you pay for each individual set. Although you can use these as indoor lights, we personally found them a bit too bright, and both of the lighting professionals we consulted, in different years, agreed: Susan Moriarty from The Soapbox Studio said, "I don't want to have to wear sunglasses while I'm looking at my Christmas tree." If you like your tree to be especially bright, these Christmas Lights Etc lights are a great option, but we recommend that you purchase a single strand first and see for yourself before you take the plunge.
If by some chance the Christmas Lights Etc outdoor lights are unavailable, Christmas Designers sells nearly identical strands of 5 mm wide-angle bulbs in white, multicolor, or solid single colors that are a little dimmer but otherwise just as good. Also great: Christmas Lights Etc Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights (incandescent) LED Christmas lights are better for most people because they're more efficient and more durable, but if you can't lose the distinctive and traditional look of incandescents for indoor use, we recommend Christmas Lights Etc's Clear Christmas Tree Mini Lights. These lights offer a noticeable difference in color quality—they're not the brightest, but they have a certain warmth and radiance that even the best LEDs struggle to match. It's the kind of color temperature that immediately sparks memories of cold winter evenings by the fire (or the dive bar). The heated filament inside the bulb gives them that starry sparkle. However, it's also designed to wear out over time to the point of self-destruction.
In our tests, the wires on the Christmas Lights Etc incandescent lights were tight and organized, and once we stretched them out, they lay flat and straight with no issues. Incandescents will never last as long as LEDs, but the wiring and wrapping on these make them feel sturdy and resilient enough to last for several seasons. They even survived when we submerged them in a water bucket and left it outdoors overnight, although we still don't think they're the best choice for outdoor use—it's too easy for water and dirt to get caught in the sockets. If anything does go wrong and a bulb breaks or dies, incandescent lights are easy and affordable to replace: At this writing, they're about 10¢ a bulb, which is about half as much as a single LED bulb. Incandescent lights also use more energy, so you can connect only up to five strands of the Christmas Lights Etc incandescents as opposed to 20-plus strands of LED string lights. But if a bulb does go out, the rest of the strand remains lit.
Like most items from Christmas Lights Etc, the incandescent strands are available in a variety of bulb spacings and colors, including multicolor and solid single colors. (We tested only the standard clear white lights.) If they're unavailable, our previous pick from Christmas Designers is similar and still very good, although that company no longer sells a warm white incandescent option. Also great: GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs If you can't decide between white and multicolor string lights—or if you're just really into gaudy flashing light patterns—the GE Color Choice Multi or Warm White Multi Function LEDs will give you the best of both worlds. A small control box near the plug end lets you cycle through a variety of lighting options in white and multicolor, from constant-on to a gradual pulse to a blinking light pattern that changes color every time. While the individual colors aren't quite as rich and brilliant as on GE's Colorite lights, they still look good, and we think that's a fair trade-off for the versatility that the Color Choice lights provide. The Color Choice lights also work indoors or outdoors, although we recommend plugging in the control box someplace where it won't get wet.
Photo: Michael Hession The GE Color Choice lights come in two warm colors, red and yellow, and two cool colors, blue and green. They all produce bright, strong tones, although the green is slightly limey. In white mode, however, the lights alternate between warm and cool color temperatures—that is, the red and yellow bulbs turn into warm whites, while the blue and green bulbs turn into cool whites. This difference isn't too noticeable unless you're actively looking for it, but it does end up producing a radiant white that's more neutral than the traditional warmth associated with Christmas lights. These lights are still plenty bright, but if you're specifically looking for that classic rich incandescent tone, you might be disappointed.
These lights also come with eight different light settings that you can cycle through by pressing the button on the control box. Although it's nice to have the option to make your lights blink steadily or randomly, or to alternate between colors and white lights, we found that not all of the settings were as good as we had hoped. The pulsating lights in particular exhibited a stark and sudden jump in that moment between dim and all the way off, as if the designers couldn't quite program the lights to draw their energy down with enough subtlety or sensitivity. As with the light colors, this is largely a symptom of the GE Color Choice lights trying to do too much all at once, but if you're interested in these features, the Color Choice lights are by far the best option available.
You can remove the control box to expose a rounded dual-tip coaxial cable, which lets you combine multiple Color Choice string light sets and manage them all through a single control box so that all the lights remain in sync. Photo: Michael Hession The wires that connect the individual lights on the GE Color Choice strand are tightly wound and don't get too tangled, giving them a nice durability. Unlike other Christmas lights we tested, these have a standard two-prong input on one end and a rounded dual-tip coaxial cable on the other. You can actually unscrew the control box and two-prong plug and separate them, which leaves you with a coaxial connection on both ends. This is so that you can combine multiple Color Choice string light sets and manage them all through a single control box to ensure that the lights remain in sync. This also means that you can easily replace the control box if it stops working, as all you have to do is buy another set of Color Choice lights and string up to four sets together. This was a problem we encountered in our tests—the control box short-circuited after we submerged it in water, even though the lights themselves still worked. It's something to keep in mind if you want to hang your lights outside. As long as you plug them in somewhere so the control box stays dry, the lights themselves should have no problem weathering the elements. The competition The Christmas Designers 5mm Wide Angle Conical LED Christmas Lights were our previous pick for outdoor lights. The colors were slightly less brilliant than those of the 5 mm wide-angle lights from Christmas Lights Etc in our tests, and the wiring is thicker, but they're otherwise nearly identical. If the Christmas Lights Etc 5 mm wide-angle outdoor lights are unavailable, or you find the Christmas Designers lights at a better price, they're a great alternative.
We also used to recommend the Christmas Designers Incandescent Christmas Lights. However, the company no longer carries a warm white incandescent option. If you're looking for multicolor or solid-single-color incandescents, they're still a great choice.
Christmas Lights Etc also makes a "commercial" version of its outdoor 5 mm wide-angle lights. In our tests, these were somewhat dimmer—the yellow and orange lights were a bit dull, and Bridget Collins, the lighting supervisor at the Huntington Theatre Company, described the white lights as "wimpy"—but they were otherwise comparable.
We tested several white and multicolor sets from Home Accents Holiday, which Home Depot carries exclusively. The incandescent lights were fine but ultimately failed our durability test, leaving a large chunk of the string unlit after we submerged them in water overnight. The standard Home Accents Holiday Mini LED Lights relied on non-rectified lights that produced a nauseating flicker, especially when they moved. The Home Accents Holiday Smooth Mini Super Bright Constant On lights were indeed super bright, as their name suggests, but in a painfully glaring way; they also suffered from that LED blinkage problem. Overall, the construction and wiring on all of these lights was sloppy and shoddy, and they just looked bad.
Similarly, if you're interested in cluster lights, we generally recommend sticking with a trusted retailer like Christmas Designers or Christmas Lights Etc due to the variances we've seen in LED light quality. The ones we tested were from Christmas Designers, and those bulbs had the same warm incandescent-like look as the company's other LED lines. What to look forward to In recent years, some manufacturers have started selling Christmas-light systems that you can control via a smartphone. These typically offer a wide variety of pattern and color options, all remotely controlled. We can see the appeal—especially if you'd like to turn outdoor lights on and off remotely while you're traveling, or if disconnecting your decorations means stepping out into the cold. But between higher costs, app problems, and little long-term reliability, we haven't recommended any. Our advice, if you're interested in smart-home capability for your lights, is to invest in a smart plug-in outlet such as the Wemo Mini or the iClever IC-BS06 outdoor switch.
We're continuing the search, though, and we are currently testing the new Twinkly Wi-Fi–enabled LED string lights, which are distributed by Christmas Designers. "After three years of working with [Twinkly's manufacturers], we're finally ready to move into that product line, and we've been extremely excited about it," the company's Jason Woodward told us. "We've had tremendous feedback from customers, and we're really excited to see where it's going. The future of Christmas lighting will be, you no longer will buy a red set, a green set, a blue set, a multi set. You're going to buy one light set like a Twinkly set, and it's capable of 17 million different colors." Stay tuned for an update with some test results. Safety concerns Thanks to a reader, we discovered that nearly all Christmas lights have lead. We researched this topic, though, and discovered that the dangers are minimal. Still, you can take a few steps to limit any exposure.
According to a 2008 study from Cornell University, lead is a relatively common component in the PVC plastic sheathing that encases wires. Jason Woodward of Christmas Designers writes in an article that trace amounts of lead can also be found in things such as extension cords, computer cords, batteries, and even some cosmetics. All of this explanation isn't to justify lead's existence in Christmas lights, but rather to add some context regarding its prevalence in many common household items (and things that people handle far more often than Christmas lights).
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, lead is harmful only if inhaled or ingested. It is not absorbed through the skin, so merely touching or holding Christmas lights doesn't pose a risk. But as Woodward writes, trace amounts of lead can be transferred to the hands, so "the primary risk of absorbing lead after handling Christmas lights is through eating after handling the lights."
The solution is an easy one: Wash your hands after stringing up the lights, or wear gloves while putting them on. It's also important to minimize any exposure that young children might have with the lights; wee folk absorb lead at a higher rate than adults, and they're more likely to put their hands in their mouths, thus ingesting lead.
Still, if you feel the need to go fully lead-free with your lights, we found a Safe Baby Healthy Child article indicating that lead-free Christmas lights are sold at IKEA. How to light a tree You can find varying opinions on how many lights to use for your tree. In our interview, GE's John Strainic suggested 100 lights per vertical foot. But 100 lights per foot strikes us as a lot, and we imagine that the result would be a particularly festive tree.
The box that the tested Brite Star lights came in goes a little lower, giving a number of 600 lights for an 8-foot tree (or 75 per foot). And this lighting calculator from Christmas Light Source indicates that 250 to 400 mini lights will light an 8-foot tree.
You have a couple of different ways to apply lights, but one method in particular gets a lot of praise. It involves putting the lights on from bottom to top, doing so vertically, going in and out as you move up. This technique puts the lights deep in the tree and creates depth and a warm interior. You can find more information from Real Simple. (If that approach sounds too radical, you can just do it the traditional way by circling the tree, working from bottom to top.)
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Podcasts can now win Pulitzer Prizes Podcasts like S-Town, Serial and Believed aren't just enthralling, they're also great examples of hard-hitting, in-depth reporting. With that in mind, the Pulitzer Prize Board is adding a new journalism prize category for audio reporting.
"The renaissance of audio journalism in recent years has given rise to an extraordinary array of non-fiction storytelling. To recognize the best of that work, the Pulitzer Board is launching an experimental category to honor it," said Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy.
The award will go to work "characterized by revelatory reporting and illuminating storytelling." It's meant for reporting that does some digging to expose wrongdoing, as well as dynamic features and news coverage of major issues or events.
Boss wants to replace your practice amp with wireless headphones The Boss Katana 50 is one of Engadget's favorite guitar amps. Unlike tube-based amplifiers, digital units like the Katana series can be played at low volumes without losing much tone. But even low volume is too much volume in some cases. If you have a baby, sensitive neighbors or late-night urges to rip, the company's new Waza-Air -- which packs an amp into a set of headphones -- can help you keep noise to a minimum while theoretically still providing lively tones.
Sure, almost any modern amplifier will have a headphone jack, but the Waza-Air headphones do more than pipe a basic signal to your ears. A gyro sensor tracks your head movements, and the amp's circuitry adjusts the volume and tone to create a sense of space, rather than just having sound blasted directly into your ears. There are three room-modeling modes for a variety of tone-sculpting, and one mode simulates playing on-stage by making it sound like the amp is behind the player.
The Waza-Air uses the same amp technology as Boss' Katana series -- there are five amp types, over 50 effects types and plenty of setting to tweak in the Boss Tone Studio app. The headphones themselves have six buttons for amp and effects presets so you can quickly switch from a sparkling clean tone with reverb to a scorching lead tone with delay and a harmonizer.
While the tech behind the Waza-Air is impressive, it certainly isn't for everyone. Guitarists can be picky, so no matter what, there will be people who won't want to use headphones. At $400, the price could be another turn-off; you can get a great traditional practice amp for that amount of money. But if you need a way of playing quietly, the Waza-Air could be worth checking out.
How I switched to Plan 9 Seriously, what do you do with your computer? Over time 9front sanded off its rough edges. I can do just about everything I need to do from a bare metal install. Today, we even have vmx(1) for hosting OpenBSD or Linux virtual machines (just in case you need to interface with the U.S. government via the now-required modern web browser). A previous release of the 9front DASH1 manual was created entirely on a ThinkPad running 9front (and Gimp running inside OpenBSD running inside vmx(1)). 9front now even ships with a primitive Microsoft Paint clone, several native Sega and Nintendo emulators, and a full port of DOOM. I never would have dreamed anything like this was possible back in 2009. As time goes by, there is less and less reason to boot anything else. For what I do, I’m perfectly happy with it. Clearly not the most typical user, but that doesnt make their experiences any less interesting.
Haiku almost-monthly activity report: October and November 2019 Another month two months have passed, so time for another monthly Haiku update. The biggest improvement this time around: PulkoMandy revisited once again the intel_extreme driver to identify the remaining regressions introduced when adding sandy Bridge support. We believe all problems have been identified and solved, so, if you have an intel graphics card, please test a recent nightly and report on what happens. Theres also a ton of non-x86 commits this time around.
General Magics Magic Cap mobile platform Next in our series of people who left Apple and founded a revolutionary company that was ahead of its time and created amazing products but ultimately failed,! lets check out General Magic and their operating system called Magic Cap. The article contains a guide on how to set up a Magic Cap emulator inside a Mac OS 7.5.3 emulator. Some assembly definitely required.
Dougs Demo Sequel: 1969 Not long after Doug Engelbarts ground-breaking Mother of All Demos in December 1968, he and his team demonstrated their research at another conference in San Francisco – the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science (ASIS), in October 1969. This live demo presentation, titled Augmentation Systems and Information Science,! showcased the novel work coming out of Dougs Augmented Human Intellect Research Center (AHIRC) at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), now SRI International. Lucky for us, they filmed their 90-minute dress rehearsal in front a live audience. This footage is now available online, along with recently unearthed details and memorabilia. An important piece of history, saved.
Larry Page, Sergey Brin step down, Sundar Pichai will be CEO of both Google and Alphabet With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about! This seems more like an administrative confirmation of a changeover that happened years ago.
The rise and fall of the PlayStation supercomputers Dozens of PlayStation 3s sit in a refrigerated shipping container on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s campus, sucking up energy and investigating astrophysics. It’s a popular stop for tours trying to sell the school to prospective first-year students and their parents, and it’s one of the few living legacies of a weird science chapter in PlayStation’s history. Those squat boxes, hulking on entertainment systems or dust-covered in the back of a closet, were once coveted by researchers who used the consoles to build supercomputers. With the racks of machines, the scientists were suddenly capable of contemplating the physics of black holes, processing drone footage, or winning cryptography contests. It only lasted a few years before tech moved on, becoming smaller and more efficient. But for that short moment, some of the most powerful computers in the world could be hacked together with code, wire, and gaming consoles. The PlayStation 3 and its Linux compatibility were going to change everything. Back in those days, it was pretty much guaranteed that on every thread about some small, alternative operating system, someone would demand PS3 support, since the PS3 was going to be the saviour of every small operating system project. Good memories.
Apple’s Activation Lock will make it very difficult to refurbish Macs Every month, thousands of perfectly good iPhones are shredded instead of being put into the hands of people who could really use them. Why? Two words: Activation Lock. And Macs are its next victim. “We receive four to six thousand locked iPhones per month,” laments Peter Schindler, founder and owner of The Wireless Alliance, a Colorado-based electronics recycler and refurbisher. Those iPhones, which could easily be refurbished and put back into circulation, “have to get parted out or scrapped,” all because of this anti-theft feature. With the release of macOS Catalina earlier this fall, any Mac that’s equipped with Apple’s new T2 security chip now comes with Activation Lock—meaning we’re about to see a lot of otherwise usable Macs heading to shredders, too. While I understand the need for security features such as these who doesnt it should definitely be possible to save these devices from the shredder. Its such a waste of perfectly good hardware that could make a lot of less-privileged people around the world a whole lot happier.
The plain text project Do you need big, feature-packed, and sometimes complex tool for your work, to stay organized, or keep track of your tasks? Maybe not. Maybe all you need is plain text. Yes, simple, old fashioned, unadorned, boring text. It sounds scary or alien, but its not. I use plain text for my notes and keeping track of my work orders. Entering deadlines and related information in calendar applications is a fiddly, time-consuming nightmare, and I find it much easier to just jot down the date, time, and related information in plain text, ordered by date and time.
The Qt Marketplace has landed Qt Marketplace is an innovation platform for our community. It brings together Qt developers and designers looking for new ways to enhance their Qt design and development workflow, and developers and companies who have already implemented extensions to Qt and want to make them available for everyone in the whole Qt ecosystem. Either for free or for a price. In the initial release our theme is discoverability. To put this simple: We want the marketplace to become the #1 place for our community to find and share content for Qt. An app store for Qt developers, basically.
64 bits ought to be enough for anybody! How quickly can we use brute force to guess a 64-bit number? The short answer is, it all depends on what resources are available. So we’re going to examine this problem starting with the most naive approach and then expand to other techniques involving parallelization. We’ll discuss parallelization at the CPU level with SIMD instructions, then via multiple cores, GPUs, and cloud computing. Along the way we’ll touch on a variety of topics about microprocessors and some interesting discoveries, e.g., adding more cores isn’t always an improvement, and not all cloud vCPUs are equivalent.
Web apps to finally feel more native on Windows 10 Microsoft Edge (Chromium) has been updated with a new flag called ‘Web Apps Identity Proxy’ to enable deeper integration between PWAs and Windows shell. When this flag is enabled on Windows 10 20H1 machines, web apps will be treated as native apps and there are many advantages. For example, web apps would appear independently in Windows 10’s Task Manager, it will allow web apps to display notification badges, and it will also let you uninstall the apps from the Start menu or settings. PWAs are a major boon for smaller and alternative platforms too, since it gives comparatively easy access to popular applications like Twitter, WhatsApp, and others.
SMS replacement is exposing users to text, call interception thanks to sloppy telecos A standard used by phone carriers around the world can leave users open to all sorts of attacks, like text message and call interception, spoofed phone numbers, and leaking their coarse location, new research reveals. The Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard is essentially the replacement for SMS. The news shows how even as carriers move onto more modern protocols for communication, phone network security continues to be an exposed area with multiple avenues for attack in some implementations of RCS. Off to a great start for a technology nobody is waiting for. WhatsApp and WeChat have replaced SMS, and unencrypted, vulnerable nonsense like RCS is not going to change a single thing about that.
A look at PureDarwin: an OS based on the open source core of macOS Overall I am impressed with the PureDarwin project and have enjoyed conducting my research around it. They have achieved a lot, considering that the project is funded by community donations and run by volunteers. It definitely isnt a production-ready system, but for developers it has the potential to come in very useful. The PureDarwin team have been able to successfully install MacPorts in PureDarwin, allowing many software packages such as Apache HTTPd, Git and even XFCE to be installed. Unfortunately this is non-trivial to achieve without strong networking support, but it shows the potential use cases of PureDarwin. The problem with Darwin is that youre always confined to Apples whim; the company has a history of delaying Darwin code dumps after new macOS releases for a long time, not including any ARM/iOS code for almost a decade, and the releases themselves dont really have a commit history and comments theyre just big code dumps. I guess Darwin is interesting from an enthusiasts perspective, but as far as Apple goes, they dont really seem to care all that much about it, other than scoring the occasional good press.
Ubuntu 19.10: it’s fast, like “make old hardware feel new” fast Ubuntu 19.10 is unusual for an October Ubuntu release in that I would call it a must-have upgrade. While it retains some of the experimental elements Ubuntus fall releases have always been known for, the speed boosts to GNOME alone make this release well worth your time. If you prefer to stick with more stable releases, most of whats new in 19.10 will eventually be backported to 19.04 and possibly even the last LTS release, 18.04. Still, unless youre unflinchingly committed to the stability of LTS releases, I see no reason not to upgrade. As I said at the start, Ubuntu 19.10 is quite possibly the best release of Ubuntu Canonical has ever delivered. Its well worth upgrading if youre already an Ubuntu user, and its well worth trying even if youre not. The speed improvements to GNOME are incredibly enticing. Im a Mint/Cinnamon user, but this is definitely intriguing me.
RISC-V Foundation moving to Switzerland over trade curb fears A U.S.-based foundation overseeing promising semiconductor technology developed with Pentagon support will soon move to Switzerland after several of the group’s foreign members raised concerns about potential U.S. trade curbs. The nonprofit RISC-V Foundation wants to ensure that universities, governments and companies outside the United States can help develop its open-source technology, its Chief Executive Calista Redmond said in an interview with Reuters. Cant blame them.
Linux Journal Ceases Publication: An Awkward Goodbye by Kyle RankinIMPORTANT NOTICE FROM LINUX JOURNAL, LLC:On August 7, 2019, Linux Journal shut its doors for good. All staff were laid off and the company is left with no operating funds to continue in any capacity. The website will continue to stay up for the next few weeks, hopefully longer for archival purposes if we can make it happen. –Linux Journal, LLC
Final Letter from the Editor: The Awkward Goodbye
by Kyle Rankin
Have you ever met up with a friend at a restaurant for dinner, then after dinner you both step out to the street and say a proper goodbye, only when you leave, you find out that you both are walking in the same direction? So now, you get to walk together awkwardly until the true point where you part, and then you have another, second goodbye, that's much more awkward.
That's basically this post.
So, it was almost two years ago that I first said goodbye to Linux Journal and the Linux Journal community in my post "So Long and Thanks for All the Bash". That post was a proper goodbye. For starters, it had a catchy title with a pun. The post itself had all the elements of a proper goodbye: part retrospective, part "Thank You" to the Linux Journal team and the community, and OK, yes, it was also part rant. I recommend you read (or re-read) that post, because it captures my feelings about losing Linux Journal way better than I can muster here on our awkward second goodbye.
Of course, not long after I wrote that post, we found out that Linux Journal wasn't dead after all! We all actually had more time together and got to work fixing everything that had caused us to die in the first place. A lot of our analysis of what went wrong and what we intended to change was captured in my article Go to Full Article
Working in a Linux environment, how often have you seen a kernel panic? When it happens, your system is left in a crippled state until you reboot it completely. And, even after you get your system back into a functional state, you're still left with the question: why? You may have no idea what happened or why it happened. Those questions can be answered though, and the following guide will help you root out the cause of some of the conditions that led to the original crash.
Figure 1. A Typical Kernel Panic
Let's start by looking at a set of utilities known as kexec and kdump. kexec allows you to boot into another kernel from an existing (and running) kernel, and kdump is a kexec-based crash-dumping mechanism for Linux. Installing the Required Packages First and foremost, your kernel should have the following components statically built in to its image: CONFIG_RELOCATABLE=y CONFIG_KEXEC=y CONFIG_CRASH_DUMP=y CONFIG_DEBUG_INFO=y CONFIG_MAGIC_SYSRQ=y CONFIG_PROC_VMCORE=y You can find this in /boot/config-`uname -r`.
Make sure that your operating system is up to date with the latest-and-greatest package versions: $ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade Install the following packages (I'm currently using Debian, but the same should and will apply to Ubuntu): $ sudo apt install gcc make binutils linux-headers-`uname -r` ↪kdump-tools crash `uname -r`-dbg Note: Package names may vary across distributions.
During the installation, you will be prompted with questions to enable kexec to handle reboots (answer whatever you'd like, but I answered "no"; see Figure 2).
Figure 2. kexec Configuration Menu
And to enable kdump to run and load at system boot, answer "yes" (Figure 3).
Figure 3. kdump Configuration Menu Configuring kdump Open the /etc/default/kdump-tools file, and at the very top, you should see the following: Go to Full Article
Loadsharers: Funding the Load-Bearing Internet Person by Eric S. Raymond The internet has a sustainability problem. Many of its critical services depend on the dedication of unpaid volunteers, because they can't be monetized and thus don't have any revenue stream for the maintainers to live on. I'm talking about services like DNS, time synchronization, crypto libraries—software without which the net and the browser you're using couldn't function.
These volunteer maintainers are the Load-Bearing Internet People (LBIP). Underfunding them is a problem, because underfunded critical services tend to have gaps and holes that could have been fixed if there were more full-time attention on them. As our civilization becomes increasingly dependent on this software infrastructure, that attention shortfall could lead to disastrous outages.
I've been worrying about this problem since 2012, when I watched a hacker I know wreck his health while working on a critical infrastructure problem nobody else understood at the time. Billions of dollars in e-commerce hung on getting the particular software problem he had spotted solved, but because it masqueraded as network undercapacity, he had a lot of trouble getting even technically-savvy people to understand where the problem was. He solved it, but unable to afford medical insurance and literally living in a tent, he eventually went blind in one eye and is now prone to depressive spells.
More recently, I damaged my ankle and discovered that although there is such a thing as minor surgery on the medical level, there is no such thing as "minor surgery" on the financial level. I was looking—still am looking—at a serious prospect of either having my life savings wiped out or having to leave all 52 of the open-source projects I'm responsible for in the lurch as I scrambled for a full-time job. Projects at risk include the likes of GIFLIB, GPSD and NTPsec.
That refocused my mind on the LBIP problem. There aren't many Load-Bearing Internet People—probably on the close order of 1,000 worldwide—but they're a systemic vulnerability made inevitable by the existence of common software and internet services that can't be metered. And, burning them out is a serious problem. Even under the most cold-blooded assessment, civilization needs the mean service life of an LBIP to be long enough to train and acculturate a replacement.
(If that made you wonder—yes, in fact, I am training an apprentice. Different problem for a different article.)
Alas, traditional centralized funding models have failed the LBIPs. There are a few reasons for this: Go to Full Article
Documenting Proper Git Usage by Zack Brown Jonathan Corbet wrote a document for inclusion in the kernel tree, describing best practices for merging and rebasing git-based kernel repositories. As he put it, it represented workflows that were actually in current use, and it was a living document that hopefully would be added to and corrected over time.
The inspiration for the document came from noticing how frequently Linus Torvalds was unhappy with how other people—typically subsystem maintainers—handled their git trees.
It's interesting to note that before Linus wrote the git tool, branching and merging was virtually unheard of in the Open Source world. In CVS, it was a nightmare horror of leechcraft and broken magic. Other tools were not much better. One of the primary motivations behind git—aside from blazing speed—was, in fact, to make branching and merging trivial operations—and so they have become.
One of the offshoots of branching and merging, Jonathan wrote, was rebasing—altering the patch history of a local repository. The benefits of rebasing are fantastic. They can make a repository history cleaner and clearer, which in turn can make it easier to track down the patches that introduced a given bug. So rebasing has a direct value to the development process.
On the other hand, used poorly, rebasing can make a big mess. For example, suppose you rebase a repository that has already been merged with another, and then merge them again—insane soul death.
So Jonathan explained some good rules of thumb. Never rebase a repository that's already been shared. Never rebase patches that come from someone else's repository. And in general, simply never rebase—unless there's a genuine reason.
Since rebasing changes the history of patches, it relies on a new "base" version, from which the later patches diverge. Jonathan recommended choosing a base version that was generally thought to be more stable rather than less—a new version or a release candidate, for example, rather than just an arbitrary patch during regular development.
Jonathan also recommended, for any rebase, treating all the rebased patches as new code, and testing them thoroughly, even if they had been tested already prior to the rebase.
"If", he said, "rebasing is limited to private trees, commits are based on a well-known starting point, and they are well tested, the potential for trouble is low."
Moving on to merging, Jonathan pointed out that nearly 9% of all kernel commits were merges. There were more than 1,000 merge requests in the 5.1 development cycle alone. Go to Full Article
Earlier this year, I attended PyCon, the international Python conference. One topic, presented at numerous talks and discussed informally in the hallway, was the state of threading in Python—which is, in a nutshell, neither ideal nor as terrible as some critics would argue.
A related topic that came up repeatedly was that of "asyncio", a relatively new approach to concurrency in Python. Not only were there formal presentations and informal discussions about asyncio, but a number of people also asked me about courses on the subject.
I must admit, I was a bit surprised by all the interest. After all, asyncio isn't a new addition to Python; it's been around for a few years. And, it doesn't solve all of the problems associated with threads. Plus, it can be confusing for many people to get started with it.
And yet, there's no denying that after a number of years when people ignored asyncio, it's starting to gain steam. I'm sure part of the reason is that asyncio has matured and improved over time, thanks in no small part to much dedicated work by countless developers. But, it's also because asyncio is an increasingly good and useful choice for certain types of tasks—particularly tasks that work across networks.
So with this article, I'm kicking off a series on asyncio—what it is, how to use it, where it's appropriate, and how you can and should (and also can't and shouldn't) incorporate it into your own work. What Is asyncio? Everyone's grown used to computers being able to do more than one thing at a time—well, sort of. Although it might seem as though computers are doing more than one thing at a time, they're actually switching, very quickly, across different tasks. For example, when you ssh in to a Linux server, it might seem as though it's only executing your commands. But in actuality, you're getting a small "time slice" from the CPU, with the rest going to other tasks on the computer, such as the systems that handle networking, security and various protocols. Indeed, if you're using SSH to connect to such a server, some of those time slices are being used by sshd to handle your connection and even allow you to issue commands.
All of this is done, on modern operating systems, via "pre-emptive multitasking". In other words, running programs aren't given a choice of when they will give up control of the CPU. Rather, they're forced to give up control and then resume a little while later. Each process running on a computer is handled this way. Each process can, in turn, use threads, sub-processes that subdivide the time slice given to their parent process. Go to Full Article
Last year I wrote a feature-length article on the data backup system I set up for my RV (see Kyle's "DIY RV Offsite Backup and Media Server" from the June 2018 issue of LJ). If you haven't read that article yet, I recommend checking it out first so you can get details on the system. In summary, I set up a Raspberry Pi media center PC connected to a 12V television in the RV. I connected an 8TB hard drive to that system and synchronized all of my files and media so it acted as a kind of off-site backup. Finally, I set up a script that would attempt to sync over all of those files from my NAS whenever it detected that the RV was on the local network. So here, I provide an update on how that system is working and a few tweaks I've made to it since. What Works Overall, the media center has worked well. It's been great to have all of my media with me when I'm on a road trip, and my son appreciates having access to his favorite cartoons. Because the interface is identical to the media center we have at home, there's no learning curve—everything just works. Since the Raspberry Pi is powered off the TV in the RV, you just need to turn on the TV and everything fires up.
It's also been great knowing that I have a good backup of all of my files nearby. Should anything happen to my house or my main NAS, I know that I can just get backups from the RV. Having peace of mind about your important files is valuable, and it's nice knowing in the worst case when my NAS broke, I could just disconnect my USB drive from the RV, connect it to a local system, and be back up and running.
The WiFi booster I set up on the RV also has worked pretty well to increase the range of the Raspberry Pi (and the laptops inside the RV) when on the road. When we get to a campsite that happens to offer WiFi, I just reset the booster and set up a new access point that amplifies the campsite signal for inside the RV. On one trip, I even took it out of the RV and inside a hotel room to boost the weak signal. Go to Full Article
Why did David need to write this patch? Why weren't system calls already fairly easy to manage? When you make a system call, you add it to a master list, and then you add it to the system call "tables", which is where the running kernel looks up which kernel function corresponds to which system call number. Kernel developers need to make sure system calls are represented in all relevant spots in the source tree. Renaming, renumbering and making other changes to system calls involves a lot of fiddly little details. David's script simply would do everything right—end of story no problemo hasta la vista.
Arnd Bergmann remarked, "Ah, fun. You had already threatened to add that script in the past. The implementation of course looks fine, I was just hoping we could instead eliminate the need for it first." But, bowing to necessity, Arnd offered some technical suggestions for improvements to the patch.
However, Linus Torvalds swooped in at this particular moment, saying:
Ugh, I hate it.
I'm sure the script is all kinds of clever and useful, but I really think the solution is not this kind of helper script, but simply that we should work at not having each architecture add new system calls individually in the first place.
IOW, we should look at having just one unified table for new system call numbers, and aim for the per-architecture ones to be for "legacy numbering".
Maybe that won't happen, but in the _hope_ that it happens, I really would prefer that people not work at making scripts for the current nasty situation.
And the portcullis came crashing down.
It's interesting that, instead of accepting this relatively obvious improvement to the existing situation, Linus would rather leave it broken and ugly, so that someone someday somewhere might be motivated to do the harder-yet-better fix. And, it's all the more interesting given how extreme the current problem is. Without actually being broken, the situation requires developers to put in a tremendous amount of care and effort into something that David's script could make trivial and easy. Even for such an obviously "good" patch, Linus gives thought to the policy and cultural implications, and the future motivations of other people working in that region of code.
Note: if you're mentioned above and want to post a response above the comment section, send a message with your response text to email@example.com. Go to Full Article
Experts Attempt to Explain DevOps--and Almost Succeed by Bryan Lunduke What is DevOps? How does it relate to other ideas and methodologies within software development? Linux Journal Deputy Editor and longtime software developer, Bryan Lunduke isn't entirely sure, so he asks some experts to help him better understand the DevOps phenomenon.
The word DevOps confuses me.
I'm not even sure confuses me quite does justice to the pain I experience—right in the center of my brain—every time the word is uttered.
It's not that I dislike DevOps; it's that I genuinely don't understand what in tarnation it actually is. Let me demonstrate. What follows is the definition of DevOps on Wikipedia as of a few moments ago:
DevOps is a set of software development practices that combine software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops) to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.
I'm pretty sure I got three aneurysms just by copying and pasting that sentence, and I still have no clue what DevOps really is. Perhaps I should back up and give a little context on where I'm coming from.
My professional career began in the 1990s when I got my first job as a Software Test Engineer (the people that find bugs in software, hopefully before the software ships, and tell the programmers about them). During the years that followed, my title, and responsibilities, gradually evolved as I worked my way through as many software-industry job titles as I could: Automation Engineer: people that automate testing software. Software Development Engineer in Test: people that make tools for the testers to use. Software Development Engineer: aka "Coder", aka "Programmer". Dev Lead: "Hey, you're a good programmer! You should also manage a few other programmers but still code just as much as you did before, but, don't worry, we won't give you much of a raise! It'll be great!" Dev Manager: like a Dev Lead, with less programming, more managing. Director of Engineering: the manager of the managers of the programmers. Vice President of Technology/Engineering: aka "The big boss nerd man who gets to make decisions and gets in trouble first when deadlines are missed." During my various times with fancy-pants titles, I managed teams that included: Go to Full Article
DNA Geometry with cadnano by Joey Bernard This article introduces a tool you can use to work on three-dimensional DNA origami. The package is called cadnano, and it's currently being developed at the Wyss Institute. With this package, you'll be able to construct and manipulate the three-dimensional representations of DNA structures, as well as generate publication-quality graphics of your work.
Because this software is research-based, you won't likely find it in the package repository for your favourite distribution, in which case you'll need to install it from the GitHub repository.
Since cadnano is a Python program, written to use the Qt framework, you'll need to install some packages first. For example, in Debian-based distributions, you'll want to run the following commands: sudo apt-get install python3 python3-pip I found that installation was a bit tricky, so I created a virtual Python environment to manage module installations.
Changing directory into the source directory, you can build and install cadnano with: python setup.py install Now your cadnano should be available within the virtualenv.
You can start cadnano simply by executing the cadnano command from a terminal window. You'll see an essentially blank workspace, made up of several empty view panes and an empty inspector pane on the far right-hand side.
Figure 1. When you first start cadnano, you get a completely blank work space.
In order to walk through a few of the functions available in cadnano, let's create a six-strand nanotube. The first step is to create a background that you can use to build upon. At the top of the main window, you'll find three buttons in the toolbar that will let you create a "Freeform", "Honeycomb" or "Square" framework. For this example, click the honeycomb button.
Figure 2. Start your construction with one of the available geometric frameworks. Go to Full Article
Virtualization has always been a rich man's game, and more frugal enthusiasts—unable to afford fancy server-class components—often struggle to keep up. Linux provides free high-quality hypervisors, but when you start to throw real workloads at the host, its resources become saturated quickly. No amount of spare RAM shoved into an old Dell desktop is going to remedy this situation. If a properly decked-out host is out of your reach, you might want to consider containers instead.
Instead of virtualizing an entire computer, containers allow parts of the Linux kernel to be portioned into several pieces. This occurs without the overhead of emulating hardware or running several identical kernels. A full GUI environment, such as GNOME Shell can be launched inside a container, with a little gumption.
You can accomplish this through namespaces, a feature built in to the Linux kernel. An in-depth look at this feature is beyond the scope of this article, but a brief example sheds light on how these features can create containers. Each kind of namespace segments a different part of the kernel. The PID namespace, for example, prevents processes inside the namespace from seeing other processes running in the kernel. As a result, those processes believe that they are the only ones running on the computer. Each namespace does the same thing for other areas of the kernel as well. The mount namespace isolates the filesystem of the processes inside of it. The network namespace provides a unique network stack to processes running inside of them. The IPC, user, UTS and cgroup namespaces do the same for those areas of the kernel as well. When the seven namespaces are combined, the result is a container: an environment isolated enough to believe it is a freestanding Linux system.
Container frameworks will abstract the minutia of configuring namespaces away from the user, but each framework has a different emphasis. Docker is the most popular and is designed to run multiple copies of identical containers at scale. LXC/LXD is meant to create containers easily that mimic particular Linux distributions. In fact, earlier versions of LXC included a collection of scripts that created the filesystems of popular distributions. A third option is libvirt's lxc driver. Contrary to how it may sound, libvirt-lxc does not use LXC/LXD at all. Instead, the libvirt-lxc driver manipulates kernel namespaces directly. libvirt-lxc integrates into other tools within the libvirt suite as well, so the configuration of libvirt-lxc containers resembles those of virtual machines running in other libvirt drivers instead of a native LXC/LXD container. It is easy to learn as a result, even if the branding is confusing. Go to Full Article
Page last modified on October 08, 2013, at 07:08 PM