Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for April 14th, 2017

The Great Japan Potato-Chip Crisis: Panic Buying, $12 Bags

Posted by kenmay on April - 14 - 2017

Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands. From a report: Calbee’s pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1, 250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.’s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen. Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter. The crunch came after Calbee warned on Monday that it will temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year. Calbee, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips. Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee’s potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10, 000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Shadow Brokers — the mysterious person or group that over the past eight months has leaked a gigabyte worth of the National Security Agency’s weaponized software exploits — just published its most significant release yet. Friday’s dump contains potent exploits and hacking tools that target most versions of Microsoft Windows and evidence of sophisticated hacks on the SWIFT banking system of several banks across the world. Friday’s release — which came as much of the computing world was planning a long weekend to observe the Easter holiday — contains close to 300 megabytes of materials the leakers said were stolen from the NSA. The contents (a convenient overview is here) included compiled binaries for exploits that targeted vulnerabilities in a long line of Windows operating systems, including Windows 8 and Windows 2012. It also included a framework dubbed Fuzzbunch, a tool that resembles the Metasploit hacking framework that loads the binaries into targeted networks. Independent security experts who reviewed the contents said it was without question the most damaging Shadow Brokers release to date. One of the Windows zero-days flagged by Hickey is dubbed Eternalblue. It exploits a remote code-execution bug in the latest version of Windows 2008 R2 using the server message block and NetBT protocols. Another hacking tool known as Eternalromance contains an easy-to-use interface and “slick” code. Hickey said it exploits Windows systems over TCP ports 445 and 139. The exact cause of the bug is still being identified. Friday’s release contains several tools with the word “eternal” in their name that exploit previously unknown flaws in Windows desktops and servers. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Blue horseshoe crab blood sells for up to $14,000 per quart

Posted by kenmay on April - 14 - 2017

Unfortunately for horseshoe crabs, their blue blood is so good at detecting harmful bacteria that the hapless critters are being scooped up by the hundreds to be attached to industrial horseshoe crab blood milking stations. Now the International Union for Conservation of Nature has categorized the American horseshoe crab is “vulnerable” to extinction. From Popular Mechanics : Their distinctive blue blood is used to detect dangerous Gram-negative bacteria such as E. coli in injectable drugs such as insulin, implantable medical devices such as knee replacements, and hospital instruments such as scalpels and IVs. Components of this crab blood have a unique and invaluable talent for finding infection, and that has driven up an insatiable demand. Every year the medical testing industry catches a half-million horseshoe crabs to sample their blood. But that demand cannot climb forever. There’s a growing concern among scientists that the biomedical industry’s bleeding of these crabs may be endangering a creature that’s been around since dinosaur days. There are currently no quotas on how many crabs one can bleed because biomedical laboratories drain only a third of the crab’s blood, then put them back into the water, alive. But no one really knows what happens to the crabs once they’re slipped back into the sea. Do they survive? Are they ever the same?

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Latest version of Denuvo’s DRM cracked yet again

Posted by kenmay on April - 14 - 2017

Enlarge / This art for 2Dark also serves as a handy artist’s conception of Denuvo trying to hold off crackers. In the endless back-and-forth war between DRM makers and crackers, it looked like Denuvo had established a temporary beachhead recently. A revamped version of the piracy protection (which the community is referring to as “v4”) had started appearing in a handful of games in recent months, and v4 seemed more resistant to the kind of quick cracks that had plagued titles like Resident Evil 7 and Mass Effect Andromeda , which each ran older Denuvo versions. But the Denuvo beachhead has now been breached, as cracking collective CPY has released a DRM-free version of 2Dark , an Alone in the Dark spiritual successor that launched with v4 Denuvo protection about a month ago. The vagaries of Denuvo mean other games with similar protection (including Dead Rising 4 , Nier: Automata ,   and the recently released Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition ) will still need to be cracked individually. Still, the 2Dark crack proves that the newly revamped version of the DRM is just as breakable as the old version (which was itself considered unbreakable for quite a while). That also means Mass Effect: Andromeda , which had Denuvo v4 patched in alongside other improvements after launch, may soon see a cracked version that includes the game’s post-launch updates. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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California governor Jerry Brown recently declared an end to the state of emergency brought on by his state’s historically terrible drought. It’s a mid-level miracle, assisted by record rainfall earlier this year. If you don’t believe me, just look at these before and after images. Read more…

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Researchers from MIT, UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley, and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology published a paper in Science describing a solar-powered device that uses a new type of metal organic framework (MOF) to extract up to three litres of water per day from even the most arid desert air. (more…)

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Fans don’t like to let their favorites go, but now they don’t have to. We live in a world desperate to remake, reboot, and flat-out return to beloved franchises, hunting the closest thing to a sure audience there is. But the more beloved these continuations are, they harder they are to get right. Fans want them to… Read more…

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Enlarge / LONG ISLAND SOLAR FARM (credit: Brookhaven National Lab ) In the year 2000, the entire world had roughly four Gigawatts of solar power capacity installed, and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW, and still barely register on the global energy markets. How things change. Over the 15 years that followed, solar energy capacity expanded by 5,700 percent, reaching 227GW. The International Energy Agency revised its solar estimates upwards three times over that span, but its most recent estimate—over 400GW of installed capacity by 2020—is already falling behind the curve of solar’s growth. In 2015, the most recent year that numbers are available, 57GW worth of solar panels were shipped. That’s enough to add 400GW of new capacity in seven years, under the completely unrealistic assumption that our manufacturing capacity won’t expand in the mean time. If most projections have been wrong, is there anything we can say about the future? An international team of energy experts makes an attempt to figure out where solar might be going out to the 2030s, when they expect we’ll have Terawatts worth of photovoltaics on our grids. Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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