Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for February 12th, 2017

Several Pirate Bay users from ISPs all over the world have been unable to access their favorite torrent site for more than a week. Their requests are being stopped in the Internet backbone network of Cogent Communications, which has blackholed the CloudFlare IP-address of The Pirate Bay and many other torrent and streaming sites, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: When the average Internet user types in a domain name, a request is sent through a series of networks before it finally reaches the server of the website. This also applies to The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites such as Primewire, Movie4k, TorrentProject and TorrentButler. However, for more than a week now the US-based backbone provider Cogent has stopped passing on traffic to these sites. The sites in question all use CloudFlare, which assigned them the public IP-addresses 104.31.18.30 and 104.31.19.30. While this can be reached just fine by most people, users attempting to pass requests through Cogent’s network are unable to access them. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Some people probably already know this, but for those who don’t: UPS truck drivers don’t take left turns, and despite this usually resulting in longer route, they are saving millions of dollars in fuel costs. From a report: The company decided on eliminating left turns (or right turns in left-hand driving countries such as India) wherever possible after it found that drivers have to sit idly in the trucks while waiting to take the left turn to pass through traffic. So, it created an algorithm that eliminated left turns from drivers’ routes even if meant a longer journey. This meant that drivers do not have to wait in traffic to take a left turn and can take the right turn at junctions. Of course, the algorithm does not entirely eliminate left turns, but the number of left turns taken by UPS trucks is less than 10 percent of all turns made. Turns out that UPS was right — the idea really paid off. In 2005, a year after it announced that it will minimize left turns, the company said that the total distance covered by its 96, 000 trucks was reduced by 747, 000km, and 190, 000 litres of fuel had been saved. In 2011, Bob Stoffel, a UPS Senior Vice President, told Fortune that the company had reduced distance traveled by trucks by 20.4 million miles, and reduced CO2 emissions by 20, 000 metric tons, by not taking left turns. A recent report by The Independent says that the total reduction in distance traveled by UPS trucks now stands at 45.8 million miles, and there are 1, 100 fewer trucks in its fleet because of the algorithm. Even by conservative estimates, that’s tens of millions of dollar of savings in fuel costs. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Enlarge (credit: Wordfence ) Attacks on websites running an outdated version of WordPress are increasing at a viral rate. Almost 2 million pages have been defaced since a serious vulnerability in the content management system came to light nine days ago. The figure represents a 26 percent spike in the past 24 hours. A rogues’ gallery of sites have been hit by the defacements. They include conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s glennbeck.com, Linux distributor Suse’s news.opensuse.org, the US Department of Energy-supported jcesr.org, the Utah Office of Tourism’s travel.utah.gov, and many more. At least 19 separate campaigns are participating and, in many cases, competing against each other in the defacements. Virtually all of the vandalism is being carried out by exploiting a severe vulnerability WordPress fixed in WordPress version 4.7.2, which was released on January 26. In an attempt to curb attacks before automatic updates installed the patch, the severity of the bug—which resides in a programming interface known as REST—wasn’t disclosed until February 1. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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“The prestigious FOSS project replacing the entire city’s administration IT with FOSS based systems, is about to be cancelled and decommissioned, ” writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino. TechRepublic reports: Politicians at open-source champion Munich will next week vote on whether to abandon Linux and return to Windows by 2021. The city authority, which made headlines for ditching Windows, will discuss proposals to replace the Linux-based OS used across the council with a Windows 10-based client. If the city leaders back the proposition it would be a notable U-turn by the council, which spent years migrating about 15, 000 staff from Windows to LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS, and only completed the move in 2013… The use of the open-source Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite across the council would also be phased out, in favor of using “market standard products” that offer the “highest possible compatibility” with external and internal software… The full council will vote on whether to back the plan next Wednesday. If all SPD and CSU councillors back the proposal put forward by their party officials, then this new proposal will pass, because the two parties hold the majority. The leader of the Munich Green Party says the city will lose “many millions of euros” if the change is implemented. The article also reports that Microsoft moved its German headquarters to Munich last year. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Polaroids are great, but if you want to make your own weird version, Hackaday user Muth has a guide that links up a Raspberry Pi and camera to a thermal printer. Read more…

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Scientists make battery that runs on air and carbon dioxide

Posted by kenmay on February - 12 - 2017

Researchers at Penn State University have potentially come up with yet another way we could create energy from all that nasty carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere. They’ve developed an inexpensive flow cell battery that uses mostly water solutions containing either dissolved CO2 or dissolved normal air — the technical name for the dissolving process is called sparging, just FYI. Because the liquids contain different concentrations of CO2, they have different pH levels, and it’s this imbalance that generates electricity. In a flow cell battery, two liquids are separated by a membrane that doesn’t allow them to mix, but does permit the flow of ions. As ions are exchanged between the denser CO2 solution and normal air solution, the voltage changes at the manganese oxide electrodes in either tank. This stimulates the flow of electrons between the two connected electrodes and voilà : electricity. When the ion concentrations have normalized, you can effectively recharge the battery by refilling each tank with the opposite solution, reversing the flow of electrons. The Penn State scientists were able to do this over 50 times before seeing a drop in performance. Using CO2 in a flow cell battery isn’t an entirely new idea, but this version has an average power density of 0.82 W/m2 — nearly 200 times higher than anything developed previously, according to the researchers. Other CO2-based fuel cell systems are capable of much more, but they are also much more complicated, using other energy dense fuels and requiring high temperatures to operate. Penn State’s battery, on the other hand, works at room temperature and uses inexpensive materials and processes. Even so, the team admit it may not be economically viable to make use of their research on a large scale just yet. The dream, though, would be to integrate these batteries into fossil fuel power stations, repurposing their CO2 emissions to make even more energy. While more work needs to be done to improve performance and viability, anything that can make light of a bad (and worsening) situation can only be a good thing. Via: Phys.org Source: Environmental Science & Technology Letters

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When Disney got control of Star Wars , it announced that pretty much everything that wasn’t a TV show or movie was no longer canon. That swept away a long tradition of considering almost everything produced in this universe as connected and part of the same universe. But as the new canon has developed, not everything… Read more…

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Astronaut filmed elusive blue lightning aboard the ISS

Posted by kenmay on February - 12 - 2017

Some types of electrical discharge phenomena like blue jets and red sprites occur way above the altitudes where normal lightning occurs. That makes it tough to see them or even to confirm that they actually take place. There’s a group of people living in just the right place to witness them happen, though: astronauts aboard the International Space Station . ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen filmed thunderstorms from the ISS in September 2015 using the most sensitive camera in the orbiting lab. Now, Denmark’s National Space Institute has finally confirmed that Mogensen indeed caught 245 blue flashes on cam — you’ve really got to watch the video after the break. Apparently, satellites tried to capture upper-atmosphere lightning in the past, but their viewing angles aren’t ideal for filming them. ESA says Mogensen’s successful attempt proves the ISS is “a suitable base for observing these phenomena.” Back in 2012, the ISS crew also successfully captured an image of a red sprite by accident. Now that researchers know how to best observe these little-understood phenomena, they’ll be able to study them further and help us better understand how the atmosphere protects us from radiation. Source: ESA

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Intel’s 8th-gen Core processors won’t be revolutionary

Posted by kenmay on February - 12 - 2017

It’s clearer than ever that the days of tick-tock Intel chip upgrades (new process one generation, new architecture the next) are long gone . Intel has revealed that its 8th-generation Core processors, due in the second half of 2017 will once again be built on a 14-nanometer process — yes, for the fourth time in a row. The company is shy on what these new chips will entail, but it’s claiming that it’ll manage another 15 percent performance improvement (in SysMark tests, anyway) like it did with the 7th-generation Core designs you see now. AnandTech notes that the upcoming refresh might focus more on the low-voltage U- and Y-series chips you see in very thin and light laptops, just as you saw with the initial 7th-gen processors late last year . That has yet to be confirmed, however. One thing’s for sure: when Intel’s long-delayed 10nm processors finally do arrive, you won’t see a wholesale switch to the new technology. Intel says that future process uses will be “fluid” depending on the segment they’re targeting, and that data centers will get first crack at these upgrades. Don’t be surprised if the Xeon line gets first dibs on 10nm, then, or if only some mainstream chips make the leap at first. The decision might be necessary given the challenges of shrinking large CPUs down to a 10nm process, but it’s likely to leave Intel feeling nervous. After all, mobile giants like Qualcomm are releasing 10nm processors this year . While mobile tablets probably won’t outperform most laptops any time soon, this could narrow the gap enough that you might be tempted to skip buying a conventional Intel-based PC in the right circumstances. Via: AnandTech Source: Intel (PDF) , Intel Official News (Twitter)

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