Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for August 10th, 2017

An anonymous reader shares a report: Despite being relatively easy, Apple keeps ignoring requests to enable a feature called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS. Enabling AML would give emergency services extremely accurate locations of emergency calls made from iPhones, dramatically decreasing response time. As we have covered before, Google’s successful implementation of AML for Android is already saving lives. But where Android users have become safer, iPhone owners have been left behind. The European Emergency Number Association (EENA), the organization behind implementing AML for emergency services, released a statement today that pleads Apple to consider the safety of its customers and participate in the program: “As AML is being deployed in more and more countries, iPhone users are put at a disadvantage compared to Android users in the scenario that matters most: An emergency. EENA calls on Apple to integrate Advanced Mobile Location in their smartphones for the safety of their customers.” Why is AML so important? Majority of emergency calls today are made from cellphones, which has made location pinging increasingly more important for emergency services. There are many emergency apps and features in development, but AML’s strength is that it doesn’t require anything from the user — no downloads and no forethought: The process is completely automated. With AML, smartphones running supporting operating systems will recognize when emergency calls are being made and turn on GNSS (global navigation satellite system) and Wi-Fi. The phone then automatically sends an SMS to emergency services, detailing the location of the caller. AML is up to 4, 000 times more accurate than the current systems — pinpointing phones down from an entire city to a room in an apartment. “In the past months, EENA has been travelling around Europe to raise awareness of AML in as many countries as possible. All these meetings brought up a recurring question that EENA had to reply to: ‘So, what about Apple?'” reads EENA’s statement. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Salesforce Fires Red Team Staffers Who Gave Defcon Talk

Posted by kenmay on August - 10 - 2017

Josh Schwartz, Salesforce’s director of offensive security, and John Cramb, a senior offensive security engineer, have been fired by the company after they gave talk at the Defcon security conference talk in Las Vegas last month, reports ZDNet. Schwartz and Cramb were presenting the details of their tool, called Meatpistol, a “modular malware implant framework (PDF)” similar in intent to the Metasploit toolkit used by many penetration testers. The tool, “pitched as taking ‘the boring work’ out of pen-testing to make red teams, including at Salesforce, more efficient and effective”, was anticipated to be released as open source at the time of the presentation, but Salesforce has held back the code. From the report: The two were fired “as soon as they got off stage” by a senior Salesforce executive, according to one of several people who witnessed the firing and offered their accounts. The unnamed Salesforce executive is said to have sent a text message to the duo half an hour before they were expected on stage to not to give the talk, but the message wasn’t seen until after the talk had ended. The talk had been months in the making. Salesforce executives were first made aware of the project in a February meeting, and they had signed off on the project, according to one person with knowledge of the meeting. The tool was expected to be released later as an open-source project, allowing other red teams to use the project in their own companies. But in another text message seen by Schwartz and Cramb an hour before their talk, the same Salesforce executive told the speakers that they should not announce the public release of the code, despite a publicized and widely anticipated release. Later, on stage, Schwartz told attendees that he would fight to get the tool published. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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A nearby Sun-like star hosts four Earth-sized planets

Posted by kenmay on August - 10 - 2017

Exoplanet discoveries are getting pretty common , so it takes something special to catch our attention. A star called Tau Ceti fits the bill, as it’s just 12 light years away and unlike the Trappist-1 red dwarf, is very similar to our own yellow dwarf (G-type) sun. Researchers have determined that it probably hosts planets like Earth that sit in its habitable zone. The only hitch is that the star is known to have a massive debris disk that probably bombards its worlds with asteroids, so living there would be a pretty big challenge. Four rocky worlds were found, with two in the habitable zone, about 0.5 and 1.25 times as far from their star as the Earth is from the Sun. That works out well, as Tau Ceti is a bit smaller (78 percent) than the Sun, and is correspondingly less intense. The smallest of the worlds is about 1.7 times the size of Earth, but the habitable zone planets are much larger “super Earths” that could potentially support life. However, Tau Ceti is known to have a big debris disk that probably produces far more impact events via comets and asteroids than we have on Earth. While that makes life improbable, the discovery is still important because of the techniques used. On smaller stars, planets can be detected by the “transit method, ” observing the dimming of light as planets pass in front. That doesn’t work as well for bigger stars like Tau Ceti though, as the light levels drown out any dimming. The W.M. Keck HIRES-MAGIQ detector Instead, the team observed wobbles in the star’s movement as small as 30 centimeters (one foot) per second. That has only become possible recently by combining multiple observations from different instruments and sophisticated modeling. In this case, the team obtained observations from the HARPS spectrograph on the European Southern Observatory in Chile, and Keck HIRES (above) on the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. “We can [now] disentangle the noise due to stellar surface activity from the very tiny signals generated by the gravitational tugs from Earth-sized orbiting planets, ” said UC Santa Cruz Professor and co-author Steven Vogt. “Our detection of such weak wobbles is a milestone in the search for Earth analogs.” Using the new techniques, the same team actually ruled out two planets they previously identified in 2013 as planets. “But no matter how we look at the star, there seem to be at least four rocky planets orbiting it, ” said coauthor Mikko Tuomi. We can disentangle the noise due to stellar surface activity from the very tiny signals generated by the gravitational tugs from Earth-sized orbiting planets. Our detection of such weak wobbles is a milestone in the search for Earth analogs. The team hopes to refine the techniques to find wobbles as small as 10 cm (4 inches) per second, small enough to detect Earth-sized planets. That could be crucial, because while its easier to spot exoplanets around dim red dwarf stars like Trappist-1 using the transit method, astronomers are beginning to wonder if such stars can actually support life. Planets tend to get tidally locked to red dwarf stars early in their life because their years are so short — often a week or less. As a result, much like our moon is to the Earth, one side is constantly exposed to radiation and the other is in the dark. “Because of the onslaught by the star’s radiation, our results suggest the atmosphere on planets in the Trappist-1 system would largely be destroyed, ” said researcher Avi Loeb . That makes the likelihood of life just one percent compared to Earth. Since life has enough challenges already, it’s probably got a much better shot on a planet around a type-G, main sequence star. We know for a fact that those can support life, as here we are. Via: CNET Source: UC Santa Cruz

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Reader MojoKid writes: AMD continues its attack on the desktop CPU market versus Intel today, with the official launch of the company’s Ryzen Threadripper processors. Threadripper is AMD’s high-end, many-core desktop processor, that leverages the same Zen microarchitecture that debuted with Ryzen 7. The top-end Ryzen Threadripper 1950X is a multi-chip module featuring 16 processor cores (two discrete die), with support for 32 threads. The base frequency for the 1950X is 3.4GHz, with all-core boost clocks of up to 3.7GHz. Four of the cores will regularly boost up to 4GHz, however, and power and temperature permitting, those four cores will reach 4.2GHz when XFR kicks in. The 12-core Threadripper 1920X has very similar clocks and its boost and XFR frequencies are exactly the same. The Threadripper 1920X’s base-clock, however, is 100MHz higher than its big brother, at 3.5GHz. In a litany of benchmarks with multi-threaded workloads, Threadripper 1950X and 1920X high core-counts, in addition to strong SMT scaling, result in the best multi-threaded scores seen from any single CPU to date. Threadripper also offers massive amounts of memory bandwidth and more IO than other Intel processors. Though absolute power consumption is somewhat high, Threadrippers are significantly more efficient than AMD’s previous-generation processors. In lightly-threaded workloads, Threadripper trails Intel’s latest Skylake-X CPUs, however, which translates to lower performance in applications and games that can’t leverage all of Threadripper’s additional compute resources. Threadripper 1950X and 1920X processors are available starting today at $999 and $799, respectively. On a per-core basis, they’re less expensive than Intel Skylake-X and very competitively priced. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Rick “Tinyworlds” Hoppmann has released all of his wonderful forest photos under a non-commercial Creative Commons license. You can use it, remix it and share it yourself so long as you credit him and so long as you don’t profit from it. If you want to use my photos for commercial use (e.g. album covers), please send me an email: rick.kelgar(at)web.de https://twitter.com/Mezaka_/status/739439204883697664

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Enlarge / With 200 kW of solar power, the VASIMR engine could be used as a lunar tug. (credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company) Almost everyone recognizes that if humans are truly to go deeper into the Solar System, we need faster and more efficient propulsion systems than conventional chemical rockets. Rocket engines powered by chemical propellants are great for breaking the chains of Earth’s gravity, but they consume way too much fuel when used in space and don’t offer optimal control of a spacecraft’s thrust. NASA recognizes this, too. So in 2015, the space agency awarded three different contracts for development of advanced propulsion systems. Of these, perhaps the most intriguing is a plasma-based rocket—which runs on Argon fuel, generates a plasma, excites it, and then pushes it out a nozzle at high speed. This solution has the potential to shorten the travel time between Earth and Mars to weeks, rather than months. But to realize that potential, Houston-based Ad Astra Rocket Company must first demonstrate that its plasma rocket, VASIMR, can fire continuously for a long period of time. The three year, $9 million contract from NASA required the company to fire its plasma rocket for 100 hours, at a power level of 100 kilowatts, by 2018. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Vinyl-lovers know and play LPs and 45s, but few have the more obscure, earlier-generation 78 r.p.m. records. A lot of that is down to materials choices; while vinyl is reasonably durable, 78s were made from more brittle shellac and tend to shatter over time. For that reason, The Great 78 Project has been furiously digitizing 78s before the music disappears forever. The Great 78 Project is a community project for the preservation , research and discovery of 78rpm records. From about 1898 to the 1950s, an estimated 3 million sides (~3 minute recordings) have been made on 78rpm discs. While the commercially viable recordings will have been restored or remastered onto LP’s or CD, there is still research value in the artifacts and usage evidence in the often rare 78rpm discs and recordings. There are three places where you can download these tracks, but the first two have crappy interfaces where it’s difficult to browse. The best link to click on is this one provided by archiving service George Blood L.P. , which has checkbox filters and thumbnails that make it pretty easy to browse and sift through. To date, the George Blood link provides access to some 26, 000 tracks. And there are more on the way: The Great 78 Project currently has around 200, 000 78s in total. Via Kottke

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 In a mind-boggling world first, a team of biologists and security researchers have successfully infected a computer with a into a strand of DNA. It sounds like science fiction, but it’s very real — although you probably don’t have to worry about this particular threat vector any time soon. That said, the possibilities suggested by this project are equally fascinating and… Read More

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Intel plans a test fleet of 100 self-driving cars

Posted by kenmay on August - 10 - 2017

Intel isn’t wasting any time now that it officially owns Mobileye . The Mobileye team has unveiled plans to build a fleet of 100 or more self-driving vehicles to conduct tests in both its native Israel as well as the US and Europe. They’ll meld Mobileye’s sensor, mapping and driving technology with Intel’s computing platforms, data center tech and 5G wireless to make Level 4 autonomous cars (they can do all the driving themselves but may ask for intervention) that talk to the cloud. They won’t be tied to any one brand — sorry, BMW . As Intel explains, it’s as much about selling the concept as actual experimentation. The fleet will show would-be customers how self-driving cars behave in real-world circumstances, including mapping and safety features, and will give Intel a better way to talk to regulators . Intel wants to prove that its self-driving tech can work around the world, and that it can tweak its formula to suit what companies want It’ll take a while before you see the fruits of this effort. The first vehicles don’t deploy until later in 2017, and the magic 100 mark is coming “eventually.” And of course, any customers sold on the tech will take a while after that to make use of it. Still, it’s an important step toward a widely available platform for self-driving cars. Source: Intel

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Intel will unveil 8th-gen Core processors on August 21st

Posted by kenmay on August - 10 - 2017

Intel’s 7th-generation Core processors still feel relatively young, but the company is already poised to talk about their successors. The chip designer has announced that it will premiere its 8th-generation Core CPUs on August 21st, complete with a livestream on Intel’s Facebook page . The company is unsurprisingly shy on technical details, but it promises previews of PCs built on 8th-gen chips as well as a demo from a VR creator. As it stands, there’s already some idea of what to expect. On the record, Intel has already acknowledged that the 8th-gen (aka Coffee Lake) won’t be a radical redesign: it’s still built on a 14-nanometer manufacturing process and shares a lot in common with its predecessors. However, both Intel’s early benchmarking tease and various leaks suggest there may be reasons to get excited. More than anything, the focus is on cramming in more cores at similar power levels. Both the Core i5 and Core i7 would move to six cores on the desktop, while you’d see four cores in the Core i3, Pentium and some low-power laptop chips. In essence, it should be a continuation of what Intel is doing with the Core i9 and X-series Core i7: it’s adding extra cores both a foil to AMD’s Ryzen processors (where core count is an advantage) and as an acknowledgment that there are diminishing returns from tweaking familiar architectures and processes. This gives it a big boost to performance in multitasking and highly multithreaded apps without having to reinvent the wheel. The real breakthrough should come with Cannonlake, which should move to a far more efficient (and likely faster) 10nm process. Via: AnandTech Source: Intel

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