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Updated: 17 min 18 sec ago

Air Force Budget Reveals How Much SpaceX Undercuts Launch Prices

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 10:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In 2014, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on cost estimates for the U.S. Air Force's program to launch national security payloads, which at the time consisted of a fleet of rockets maintained and flown entirely by United Launch Alliance (ULA). The report was critical of the non-transparent nature of ULA's launch prices and noted that the government "lacked sufficient knowledge to negotiate fair and reasonable launch prices" with the monopoly. At around the same time, the new space rocket company SpaceX began to aggressively pursue the opportunity to launch national security payloads for the government. SpaceX claimed to offer a substantially lower price for delivering satellites into various orbits around Earth. But because of the lack of transparency, comparing prices was difficult. The Air Force recently released budget estimates for fiscal year 2018, and these include a run out into the early 2020s. For these years, the budget combines the fixed price rocket and ELC contract costs into a single budget line. (See page 109 of this document). They are strikingly high. According to the Air Force estimate, the "unit cost" of a single rocket launch in fiscal year 2020 is $422 million, and $424 million for a year later. SpaceX sells basic commercial launches of its Falcon 9 rocket for about $65 million. But, for military launches, there are additional range costs and service contracts that add tens of millions of dollars to the total price. It therefore seems possible that SpaceX is taking a loss or launching at little or no profit to undercut its rival and gain market share in the high-volume military launch market. Elon Musk retweeted the article, adding "$300M cost diff between SpaceX and Boeing/Lockheed exceeds avg value of satellite, so flying with SpaceX means satellite is basically free."

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Chinese Satellite Breaks Distance Record For Quantum-Key Exchange

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 7:00am
slew writes: Science Magazine reports a team of physicists using the Chinese Micius satellite (launched back in August 2016) have sent quantum-entangled photons from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. Sending entangled photons through space instead of optical fiber networks with repeaters has long been the dream of those promoting quantum-key exchange for modern cryptography. Don't hold your breath yet, as this is only an experiment. They were only able to recover about 1000 photons out of about 6 billion sent and the two receiving stations were on Tibetan mountains to reduce the amount of air that needed to be traversed. Also the experiment was done at night to minimize interference from the sun. Still, baby steps... Next steps for the program: a bigger satellite for more power and moving to quantum teleportation instead of simple key exchange. The results of the experiment were published in the journal Science.

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Former CenturyLink Employee Accuses Company of Running a Wells Fargo-Like Scheme

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 3:30am
A former CenturyLink employee has filed a lawsuit this week claiming she was fired for "blowing the whistle on the telecommunications company's high-pressure sales culture that left customers paying millions of dollars for accounts they didn't request," reports Bloomberg. From the report: The plaintiff, Heidi Heiser, worked from her home for CenturyLink as a customer service and sales agent from August 2015 to October 2016. The suit claims she was fired days after notifying Chief Executive Officer Glen Post of the alleged scheme during a companywide question-and-answer session held on an internal message board. The complaint alleges CenturyLink "allowed persons who had a personal incentive to add services or lines to customer accounts to falsely indicate on the CenturyLink system the approval by a customer of new lines or services." This would sometimes result in charges that hadn't been authorized by customers, according to the complaint. Heiser's complaint alleges that she became increasingly concerned about what she observed at CenturyLink after news of Wells Fargo & Co.'s regulatory troubles broke in September. In that case, Wells Fargo employees opened deposit and credit card accounts without customers' consent to earn incentives and meet sales goals. Without admitting wrongdoing, Wells Fargo ended up firing more than 5,000 employees and agreeing to pay $185 million in fines, in addition to compensating customers for fees related to the unauthorized accounts. The complaint likens what Heiser said CenturyLink sales agents did to the Wells Fargo scandal and estimated the alleged unauthorized fees amounted to "many millions" of dollars. She says her concerns were bolstered by posts she had read on review websites.

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You Can Hack Some Mazda Cars With a USB Flash Drive

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 1:50am
An anonymous reader writes: "Mazda cars with next-gen Mazda MZD Connect infotainment systems can be hacked just by plugging in a USB flash drive into their dashboard, thanks to a series of bugs that have been known for at least three years," reports Bleeping Computer. "The issues have been discovered and explored by the users of the Mazda3Revolution forum back in May 2014. Since then, the Mazda car owner community has been using these 'hacks' to customize their cars' infotainment system to tweak settings and install new apps. One of the most well-designed tools is MZD-AIO-TI (MZD All In One Tweaks Installer)." Recently, a security researcher working for Bugcrowd has put together a GitHub repository that automates the exploitation of these bugs. The researcher says an attacker can copy the code of his GitHub repo on a USB flash drive, add malicious scripts and carry out attacks on Mazda cars. Mazda said the issues can't be exploited to break out of the infotainment system to other car components, but researchers disagreed with the company on Twitter. In the meantime, the car maker has finally plugged the bugs via a firmware update released two weeks ago.

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Watchdog Report Finds Alarming 20 Percent of Baby Food Tested Contains Lead

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 1:10am
According to an analysis released Thursday by the nonprofit advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Fund, twenty percent of 2,164 baby foods sampled between 2003 and 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration tested positive for lead. Ars Technica reports: Lead is a neurotoxin. Exposure at a young age can permanently affect a developing brain, causing lifelong behavioral problems and lower IQ. Though the levels in the baby food were generally below what the FDA considers unsafe, the agency's standards are decades old. The latest research suggests that there is no safe level of lead for children. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency this year has estimated that more than five percent of U.S. children (more than a million) get more than the FDA's recommended limit of lead from their diet. The products most often found to contain lead were fruit juices, root vegetable-based foods, and certain cookies, such as teething biscuits, the EDF reports. Oddly, the presence of lead was more common in baby foods than in the same foods marketed for adults. For instance, only 25 percent of regular apple juice tested positive for lead, while 55 percent of apple juices marketed for babies contained lead. Overall, only 14 percent of adult foods tested contained lead. The findings come from data collected in the FDA's annual survey of foods, called the Total Diet Survey, which the agency has run since the 1970s. Each year, the agency samples 280 types of foods from three different cities across the country, tracking nutrients, metals, pesticides, and other contaminants.

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Firm Responsible For Mirai-Infected Webcams Hires Software Firm To Make Its Products More Secure

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 12:30am
chicksdaddy writes from a report via The Security Ledger: After seeding the globe with hackable DVRs and webcams, Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co., Ltd. of Hangzhou, China will be working with the U.S. firm Synopsys to "enhance the security of its Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions." Dahua, based in Hangzhou, China said it will with Mountain View based Synopsys to "enhance the security of its Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions." In a joint statement, the companies said Dahua will be adopting secure "software development life cycle (SDLC) and supply chain" practices using Synopsys technologies in an effort to reduce the number of "vulnerabilities that can jeopardize our products," according to a statement attributed to Fu Liquan, Dahua's Chairman, The Security Ledger reports. Dahua's cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) figured prominently in the Mirai botnet, which launched massive denial of service attacks against websites in Europe and the U.S., including the French web hosting firm OVH, security news site Krebsonsecurity.com and the New Hampshire based managed DNS provider Dyn. Cybercriminals behind the botnet apparently exploited an overflow vulnerability in the web interface for cameras and DVRs to gain access to the underlying Linux operating system and install the Mirai software, according to research by the firm Level3. In March, Dahua was called out for another, serious vulnerability in eleven models of video recorders and IP cameras. Namely: a back door account that gave remote attackers full control of vulnerable devices without the need to authenticate to the device. The flaw was first disclosed on the Full Disclosure mailing list and described as "like a damn Hollywood hack, click on one button and you are in."

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Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers 'Voluntary Surrender' To the US

Sat, 17/06/2017 - 12:00am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States. The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal. Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the U.S. Government. While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can "resolve" the pending charges. This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.

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Coal Market Set To Collapse Worldwide By 2040 As Solar, Wind Dominate

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 11:30pm
Jess Shankleman reports via Bloomberg: Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast. That's the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India. The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency's central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come. The report also found that through 2040: -China and India represent the biggest markets for new power generation, drawing $4 trillion, or about 39 percent all investment in the industry. -The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation. -At least $239 billion will be invested in lithium-ion batteries, making energy storage devices a practical way to keep homes and power grids supplied efficiently and spreading the use of electric cars. -Natural gas will reap $804 billion, bringing 16 percent more generation capacity and making the fuel central to balancing a grid that's increasingly dependent on power flowing from intermittent sources, like wind and solar.

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T-Mobile Rolling Out 600 MHz Low-Band Wireless

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 10:50pm
s122604 quotes a report from Yahoo Finance: T-Mobile, the third largest U.S. national wireless operator, has decided to roll out 600 MHz wireless spectrum in its footprints by this summer. Low-band spectrum is essential for wireless operators as the signals can be transmitted over longer distances and through brick-and-mortar walls in cities. Smartphones for this radio frequency are likely to be made available by Samsung and other manufacturers this summer.

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Samsung's Bixby Voice Assistant Is Finally Coming to the US -- But Only As a Preview

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 10:10pm
When the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the North American market, it was missing one of its most touted features -- the Bixby smart assistant. Technically, it was available on launch day but its voice functionality was missing due to issues with the English language version, thus rendering the dedicated Bixby button on the side of the S8 and S8+ nearly useless. Today, Bixby Voice is finally making its stateside debut -- but only as a preview. TechCrunch reports: The company is positioning this is a "sneak peak" for the feature that was initially planned to debut on its new flagship phones. Starting this week, a select number of Galaxy S8 and S8+ can sign up to be among the first in the U.S. to test it out. From the sound of it, Samsung's still working on some tweaks here, using this limited launch to basically do some public beta testing. The company didn't have a lot to say about the closed launch, aside from reiterating some of its grandiose plans for making Bixby, "an integral part of our connected ecosystem," according to the company's CTO.

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You Can't Open the Microsoft Surface Laptop Without Literally Destroying It

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 9:30pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Microsoft's latest Surface Laptop may have earned glowing reviews from certain sections of the tech press, but don't tell that to iFixit. The company, which provides repair tools and manuals for popular gadgets like the iPhone and PlayStation, has handed the Surface Laptop a score of 0 out of 10 in terms of user repairability, stating definitively that the laptop "is not meant to be opened or repaired; you can't get inside without inflicting a lot of damage." iFixit's detailed teardown illustrates just how difficult it is to open the Surface. For starters, there are no screws, proprietary or otherwise, on the outside of the laptop. Instead, the laptop is literally welded together using a type of "plastic soldering" that is rare to see in consumer electronics. Anyone hoping to get inside the "beautifully designed and crafted" computer will have to pry it open with a knife or dedicated pick in order to defeat Microsoft's plastic welding. Whether or not it's actually worth going through the trouble of defeating said welding is another matter, given that the "glue-filled monstrosity," as iFixit dubs the laptop, has none of the user-upgradeable parts you'd want to see in a PC, like memory or storage. "It literally can't be opened without destroying it," the repair company concludes. "If we could give it a -1 out of 10, we would," iFixit said in an emailed statement on Friday. "It's a Russian nesting doll from hell with everything hidden under adhesive and plastic spot welds. It is physically impossible to nondestructively open this device."

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Google Adds Android App Support To Additional Chromebooks

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 8:50pm
An anonymous reader shares an article: The list of Chromebooks that can officially run Android apps has been a bit limited, but that's changing. Google on Thursday updated its list of Chromebooks that now have official support, and 16 new machines have been added. They include: Acer Chromebook 11 N7 (C731, C731T), Acer Chromebook 15 (CB3-532), Asus Chromebook C202SA, ASUS Chromebook C300SA/C301SA, CTL NL61 Chromebook, Dell Chromebook 11 (3180), Dell Chromebook 11 Convertible (3189), Dell Chromebook 13 (3380), HP Chromebook 11 G5 EE, HP Chromebook 13 G1, Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook, Lenovo N23 Yoga Chromebook, Lenovo N22 Chromebook, Lenovo N23 Chromebook, Samsung Chromebook 3, and Mercer Chromebook NL6D.

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Movie Piracy Cost Australian Network 'Hundreds of Millions of Dollars'

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 8:10pm
Film television piracy and illegal downloads are partly to blame for Australian broadcaster Ten Network's woes, according to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke. From a report: He said piracy had cost Ten "hundreds of millions of dollars" in potential advertising revenue because of lower ratings resulting from pirated versions of films supplied by 21st Century Fox under an onerous output deal with the Hollywood studio. He said copies of Fox's Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were stolen last year and shared illegally via a piracy website. "Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined. It is ripping off viewers from legitimate, taxpaying enterprises," Mr Burke said. "The product that Ten is buying from 21st Century Fox and is now arriving have been pirated out of sight."

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Atari CEO Confirms the Company Is Working On a New Game Console

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 7:30pm
Dean Takahashi, reporting for VentureBeat: Atari CEO Fred Chesnais told GamesBeat in an exclusive interview that his fabled video game company is working on a new game console. In doing so, the New York company might be cashing in on the popularity of retro games and Nintendo's NES Classic Edition, which turned out to be surprisingly popular for providing a method to easily play old games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda in HD on a TV. Last week, Atari began teasing a new product called the Ataribox. The video released on a non-Atari web site showed a picture of some kind of hardware product, but many people wondered if the teaser was fake. Others had no idea what the video was showing about a "brand new Atari product years in the making."

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Life On Mars: Elon Musk Reveals Details of His Colonisation Vision

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 6:50pm
Elon Musk has put his Mars-colonization vision to paper, and you can read it for free. SpaceX's billionaire founder and CEO published the plan, which he unveiled at a conference in Mexico in September 2016, in the journal New Space. From a report: The paper outlines early designs of the gigantic spacecraft, designed to carry 100 passengers, that he hopes to construct. "The thrust level is enormous," the paper states. "We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off." Creating a fully self-sustained civilisation of around one million people -- the ultimate goal -- would take 40-100 years according to the plans. Before full colonisation takes place, though, Musk needs to entice the first pioneers to pave the way.

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Facebook Exposes Employee Data To Terrorists

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 6:10pm
An anonymous reader writes: The Guardian is reporting that Facebook accidentally exposed the personal information of the moderators that remove terrorist content to the groups that posted that very content. From the article it looks like 6 of them actually had their profiles viewed. From the article, "The security lapse affected more than 1,000 workers across 22 departments at Facebook who used the company's moderation software to review and remove inappropriate content from the platform, including sexual material, hate speech and terrorist propaganda." What are Facebook's responsibilities here?

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Amazon Says It Won't Replace Whole Foods Cashiers With Computers... Yet

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 5:30pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain. It also isn't planning any layoffs, according to a spokesperson. There is some speculation, however, that Amazon may change its plans and use new technology inside of Whole Foods locations. Commenting on Amazon's announcement from earlier today, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said, "Only one company on earth can buy grocery chain, be rumored to buy enterprise software company & in both cases be lauded for strategic vision."

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The Size of iPhone's Top Apps Has Increased by 1,000% in Four Years

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 4:50pm
Research firm Sensor Tower shares an analysis: As the minimum storage capacity of iPhone continues to increase -- it sits at 32 GB today on the iPhone 7, double the the iPhone 5S's 16 GB circa 2013 -- it's not surprising that the size of apps themselves is getting larger. In fact, Apple raised the app size cap from 2 GB to 4 GB in early 2015. What's surprising is how much faster they're increasing in size compared to device storage itself. According to Sensor Tower's analysis of App Intelligence, the total space required by the top 10 most installed U.S. iPhone apps has grown from 164 MB in May 2013 to about 1.8 GB last month, an 11x or approximately 1,000 percent increase in just four years. [...] Of the top 10 most popular U.S. iPhone apps, the minimum growth we saw in app size since May 2013 was 6x for both Spotify and Facebook's Messenger. As the chart above shows, other apps, especially Snapchat, have grown considerably more. In fact, Snapchat is more than 50 times larger than it was four years ago, clocking in at 203 MB versus just 4 MB at the start of the period we looked at. It's not the largest app among the top 10, however. That distinction goes to Facebook, which, at 388 MB, is 12 times larger than it was in May 2013 when it occupied 32 MB. It grew by about 100 MB in one update during September of last year.

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Bat-Signal Shines In LA In Honour of Batman Star Adam West

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 4:30pm
From a BBC report: LA's skyline has been lit up with the Bat-Signal to honour Batman star Adam West, who died last week. Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA Police chief Charlie Beck were expected to be at the public event at City Hall, which started about 21:00 local time (05:00 BST). The signal originated in the DC Comics strip as a sign that the caped crusader was needed to save the day. Animated comedy Family Guy will also honour West this weekend.

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Putin Claims Russia Proposed a Cyber War Treaty In 2015 But the Obama Admin Ignored Them

Fri, 16/06/2017 - 4:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: Russian president Vladimir Putin (who denies any Russian part in the hacking) claims the Obama administration ignored a proposal in 2015 that might have avoided all of this. His administration suggested working out a cyber treaty with the US but was ignored by Obama officials, Putin told film director Oliver Stone in Showtime's four-part series broadcast this week. "A year and a half ago, in fall 2015, we made proposal to our American partners that we work through these issues and conclude a treaty on the rules of behavior in this sphere," he said in Stone's documentary The Putin Interviews. "The American side was silent, they didn't reply to us."

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