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Mozilla Has Defeated Microsoft's Default Browser Protections in Windows

Mon, 2021-09-13 16:27
Mozilla has quietly made it easier to switch to Firefox on Windows recently. From a reporrt: While Microsoft offers a method to switch default browsers on Windows 10, it's more cumbersome than the simple one-click process to switch to Edge. This one-click process isn't officially available for anyone other than Microsoft, and Mozilla appears to have grown tired of the situation. In version 91 of Firefox, released on August 10th, Mozilla has reverse engineered the way Microsoft sets Edge as default in Windows 10, and enabled Firefox to quickly make itself the default. Before this change, Firefox users would be sent to the Settings part of Windows 10 to then have to select Firefox as a default browser and ignore Microsoft's plea to keep Edge. Mozilla's reverse engineering means you can now set Firefox as the default from within the browser, and it does all the work in the background with no additional prompts. This circumvents Microsoft's anti-hijacking protections that the company built into Windows 10 to ensure malware couldn't hijack default apps. Microsoft tells us this is not supported in Windows.

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Categories: Technology

Walmart Says Report That It Will Be Accepting Litecoin as Payment is False

Mon, 2021-09-13 15:39
Major cryptocurrencies gave back their advances after Walmart denied having an agreement to use Litecoin for purchases. From a report: Litecoin -- which rose as much as 33% at one point -- erased all its gains. Bitcoin, the largest digital asset, was down 2.9% as of 10:24 a.m. in New York after earlier having advance roughly 4% on the news. Other digital assets also retreated, with Bitcoin Cash, Ether and EOS all declining. A Walmart spokesperson said the statement on Litecoin was "inauthentic." Meanwhile, a verified Litecoin Twitter account deleted a tweet that linked to a press release announcing the partnership.

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Categories: Technology

As 'Buy Now, Pay Later' Surges, a Third of US Users Fall Behind on Payments

Mon, 2021-09-13 15:05
A third of U.S. consumers who used "buy now, pay later" services have fallen behind on one or more payments, and 72% of those said their credit score declined, a new study published by personal finance company Credit Karma showed. From a report: The study, conducted by software firm Qualtrics, surveyed 1,044 adult consumers in the United States last month to measure their interest in buy now pay later (BNPL) and found 44% had used these services before. The usage figure was slightly up from a similar survey conducted by Credit Karma for Reuters in December, while missed payments was down from 38%. The latest survey found younger consumers were more likely to miss payments. More than half of Gen Z or millennial respondents -- those born between the early 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s-- said they had missed at least one payment. That compares with 22% of Gen X, who were born in the early 1960s to early 1980s, and 10% of Baby Boomers, those born between the mid-1940s and 1980. There has been a surge in usage of BNPL services, which allow consumers to easily split payments for purchases into installments. The boom in volumes by providers such as Klarna, Affirm, AfterPay and PayPal, has been driven in part by online shopping growth during the coronavirus pandemic. The explosive growth has led to more dealmaking and competition. Earlier this week PayPal announced it would acquire Japanese buy now, pay later firm Paidy, while last month rival Square agreed to acquire AfterPay.

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Categories: Technology

El Salvador's Bitcoin Rollout Marred by Technical Glitches in Digital Wallets

Mon, 2021-09-13 11:34
Slashdot has been following El Salvador's pioneering adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender last week. But by Friday Reuters was reporting that "For a fourth day in a row technical glitches have beset the Salvadoran government's bitcoin digital wallet Chivo, a setback that could discourage residents from signing up to the app promoted by President Nayib Bukele. Problems accessing the wallet, withdrawing money from ATMs, and data verification, as well as the government not depositing the $30 (€25) bonus Bukele promised all Chivo users were the most frequent issues, according to interviews with at least 10 users and user complaints posted on Twitter and Facebook. Melvin Vasquez, a 30-year-old tattoo artist, downloaded Chivo on Tuesday, when the Bitcoin law went into effect, but has since been unable to use it... User complaints were also stacking up in Apple's App Store and Alphabet's Google Play... [M]any of the very people sending or receiving dollars to El Salvador are mistrustful of Bitcoin. Some expressed fears of losing money, given the high volatility of the cryptocurrency.

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Categories: Technology

Singapore Police Deploy Snitch Bots To Test Searching for 'Undesirable Social Behaviors'

Mon, 2021-09-13 07:34
"If you're wandering around Singapore anytime soon, take some time to wave hi to your friendly neighborhood snitch bot," writes Gizmodo: Singapore's Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) will be deploying two robots named "Xavier" that the agency says use cameras with a 360-degree field of vision and analytics software to detect "undesirable social behaviors" in real time. First reported by Business Insider, the robots are designed to detect activities such as public smoking, violation of pandemic restrictions (i.e., groups of more than five people), and illegally selling goods on the street. Other behaviors the agency said the robots can snitch on include the use of motorized vehicles or motorcycles on pedestrian walkways and "improperly parked bicycles." The Xavier robots roll around on a "patrol route pre-configured in advance by public officers," though they can deviate as necessary to avoid slamming into pedestrians or other obstacles. The plan is for the two robots to relay reports of such activity to a central police hub as well as confront violators directly with warning messages, with the first three weeks of deployment starting on Sept. 5 in Toa Payoh Central. The three weeks are a "trial period," reports ZDNet. But they also note that the program includes "an interactive dashboard where public officers can receive real-time information from and be able to monitor and control multiple robots simultaneously." One official said in a public statement that "The deployment of ground robots will help to augment our surveillance and enforcement resources." ZDNet offers some context: Seeing robots being used in Singapore is not uncommon. Last year, Singapore deployed Boston Dynamics' four-legged droids, dubbed Spot, to its parks, garden, and nature reserves to remind people about social distancing. A fleet of Lightstrike robots was then rolled out at one of Singapore's general hospitals in a bid to thoroughly disinfect hospital rooms of pathogens. More recently in May, the Singapore government launched a one-year trial of using autonomous robots to facilitate on-demand food and grocery deliveries.

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Perseverance's New Rock Samples Reveal Water Was Present on Mars For a Long Time

Mon, 2021-09-13 05:34
NASA's Mars rover Perseverance collected its second rock sample this week — and Friday Caltech's Ken Farley, a project scientist for the mission, announced that they've learned something. "It's a big deal that the water was there a long time." The Perseverance science team already knew a lake once filled the crater; for how long has been more uncertain. The scientists couldn't dismiss the possibility that Jezero's lake was a "flash in the pan": floodwaters could have rapidly filled the impact crater and dried up in the space of 50 years, for example. But the level of alteration that scientists see in the rock that provided the core samples — as well as in the rock the team targeted on their first sample-acquisition attempt — suggests that groundwater was present for a long time. This groundwater could have been related to the lake that was once in Jezero, or it could have traveled through the rocks long after the lake had dried up. Though scientists still can't say whether any of the water that altered these rocks was present for tens of thousands or for millions of years, they feel more certain that it was there for long enough to make the area more welcoming to microscopic life in the past. And they discovered something interesting in the rock samples: salts. These salts may have formed when groundwater flowed through and altered the original minerals in the rock, or more likely when liquid water evaporated, leaving the salts. The salt minerals in these first two rock cores may also have trapped tiny bubbles of ancient Martian water. If present, they could serve as microscopic time capsules, offering clues about the ancient climate and habitability of Mars. Salt minerals are also well-known on Earth for their ability to preserve signs of ancient life.

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Steve Wozniak Shares a Video About His New Space Startup

Mon, 2021-09-13 03:37
Tonight 71-year-old Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak tweeted ten words: "A Private space company is starting up, unlike the others." The tweet also included the URL for a new video just uploaded tonight to YouTube about a company called Privateer. "Together we'll go far," says the narrator, later offering these thoughts on the people of our planet. "We are explorers. We are dreamers, risk-takers, engineers, and star gazers. We are human. And it's up to us to work together to do what is right and what is good." The video's tagline? "The sky is no longer the limit. The same tagline appears at Privateer.com, followed by two short sentences. "We are in stealth mode. We'll see you at AMOS in September 2021 in Maui, Hawaii." (With AMOS apparently, being the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference running from this Tuesday through Friday.) There's very little information about the company — although last month a 3D printing site reported Wozniak's company appeared to be using a printer for high-strength titanium — and suggested the company might have something to do with cleaning up space junk.

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As More US Men Abandon Higher Education, Are Admissions Officers Discriminating Against Women?

Mon, 2021-09-13 02:35
The Wall Street Journal reports an interesting observation about America. "Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels." Slashdot reader Joe_Dragon shared their report: At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline. This education gap, which holds at both two- and four-year colleges, has been slowly widening for 40 years... In the next few years, two women will earn a college degree for every man, if the trend continues, said Douglas Shapiro, executive director of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse. But numbers can be misleading. New York Times reporter Kevin Carey points out that more American men are going to college now than they were decades ago — but the percentage of women now going to college has just increased even faster, "more than doubling over the last half-century." Because of the change in ratio, some selective colleges discriminate against women in admissions to maintain a gender balance, as The Journal reported... In a New York Times essay in 2006 titled "To All the Girls I've Rejected," the dean of admissions at Kenyon College at the time explained: "Beyond the availability of dance partners for the winter formal, gender balance matters in ways both large and small on a residential college campus. Once you become decidedly female in enrollment, fewer males and, as it turns out, fewer females find your campus attractive." The Journal even reported that a former admissions officer at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon "said this kind of tacit affirmative action for boys has become 'higher education's dirty little secret,' practiced but not publicly acknowledged by many private universities where the gender balance has gone off-kilter." But even with more women in college, the Times argues that "The raw numbers don't take into account the varying value of college degrees." (And not just because "The female-to-male gender ratio is highest in for-profit colleges, which often overcharge students for worthless degrees.") "Men still dominate in fields like technology and engineering, which offer some of the highest salaries for recent graduates..." Women surged into college because they were able to, but also because many had to. There are still some good-paying jobs available to men without college credentials. There are relatively few for such women. And despite the considerable cost in time and money of earning a degree, many female-dominated jobs don't pay well... The fact that the male-female wage gap remains large after more than four decades in which women outnumbered men in college strongly suggests that college alone offers a narrow view of opportunity. Women often seem stuck in place: As they overcome obstacles and use their degrees to move into male-dominated fields, the fields offer less pay in return.

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Categories: Technology

Was Theranos a Sign of Larger Problems in Silicon Valley's Startup Culture?

Mon, 2021-09-13 00:22
Were Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos symptomatic of something larger? The BBC's North America tech reporter writes that in Silicon Valley, many believe that the story, "far from being an aberration — speaks of systemic problems with start-up culture." In Silicon Valley, hyping up your product — over-promising — isn't unusual, and Ms Holmes was clearly very good at it... She projected an unfaltering confidence that the technology would change the world. "It's baked in to the culture" said Margaret O'Mara, author of The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America. "If you are a young start-up in development — with a barely existent product — a certain amount of swagger and hustle is expected and encouraged" she said. Particularly at an early stage, when a start-up is in its infancy, investors are often looking at people and ideas rather than substantive technology anyway. General wisdom holds that the technology will come with the right concept — and the right people to make it work. Ms Holmes was brilliant at selling that dream, exercising a very Silicon Valley practice: 'fake it until you make it'. Her problem was she couldn't make it work. Her lawyers have argued that Ms Holmes was merely a businesswoman who failed, but was not a fraudster. The problem in Silicon Valley is that the line between fraud and merely playing into the faking it culture is very thin. "Theranos was an early warning of a cultural shift in Silicon Valley that has allowed promoters and scoundrels to prosper," said tech venture capitalist Roger McNamee, who is critical of big tech and did not invest in Theranos. He believes that a culture of secrets and lies in Silicon Valley, a culture that allowed Theranos' tech to go un-analysed, is "absolutely endemic".... Secrecy is important for these companies to succeed — but that culture of secrecy can also be used as a smoke screen, particularly when even employees and investors don't understand or aren't given access to the technology itself. The reporter points out that like Theranos, "There are many Silicon Valley companies I've reported on that will not fully explain how their tech actually works. They claim to have 'proprietary' systems that cannot yet be revealed or peer-reviewed. "The system is based on trust, yet it is fundamentally at odds with a culture of 'faking it' and creates the perfect environment for Thernanos-type scandals, where claims that aren't true are left unchallenged."

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Apple Says Motorcycle Vibrations Can Damage IPhone Cameras

Sun, 2021-09-12 23:16
Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot quotes Engadget: Hold off on purchasing that iPhone mount for your motorbike. In a new Apple Support post first seen by MacRumors, the tech giant has warned that high amplitude vibrations, "specifically those generated by high-power motorcycle engines" transmitted through handlebars, can damage its phones' cameras. As the publication notes, that damage can be permanent. A simple Google search will surface posts over the past few years by users whose cameras were ruined after they mounted their iPhone on their bike, mostly so they can use it for navigation. MacRumors summarizes another Apple recommendation: for slower vehicles like mopeds and scooters "at least use a vibration-dampening mount to minimize the chances of any damage." Engadget's suggestion? "Just use another GPS device to make sure you don't ruin a device that costs hundreds to over a thousand dollars."

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'Every Message Was Copied to the Police': the Daring Sting Behind the An0m Phone

Sun, 2021-09-12 22:17
The Guardian tells the story of "a viral sensation in the global underworld," the high-security An0m phones, which launched with "a grassroots marketing campaign, identifying so-called influencers — 'well-known crime figures who wield significant power and influence over other criminal associates', according to a US indictment — within criminal subcultures." An0m could not be bought in a shop or on a website. You had to first know a guy. Then you had to be prepared to pay the astronomical cost: $1,700 for the handset, with a $1,250 annual subscription, an astonishing price for a phone that was unable to make phone calls or browse the internet. Almost 10,000 users around the world had agreed to pay, not for the phone so much as for a specific application installed on it. Opening the phone's calculator allowed users to enter a sum that functioned as a kind of numeric open sesame to launch a secret messaging application. The people selling the phone claimed that An0m was the most secure messaging service in the world. Not only was every message encrypted so that it could not be read by a digital eavesdropper, it could be received only by another An0m phone user, forming a closed loop system entirely separate from the information speedways along which most text messages travel. Moreover, An0m could not be downloaded from any of the usual app stores. The only way to access it was to buy a phone with the software preinstalled... [U]sers could set an option to wipe the phone's data if the device went offline for a specified amount of time. Users could also set especially sensitive messages to self-erase after opening, and could record and send voice memos in which the phone would automatically disguise the speaker's voice. An0m was marketed and sold not so much to the security conscious as the security paranoid... An0m was not, however, a secure phone app at all. Every single message sent on the app since its launch in 2018 — 19.37m of them — had been collected, and many of them read by the Australian federal police (AFP) who, together with the FBI, had conceived, built, marketed and sold the devices. On 7 June 2021, more than 800 arrests were made around the world.... Law enforcement agencies ultimately saw An0m as a creative workaround for unbreakable encryption, according to the Guardian. "Why debate tech companies on privacy issues through costly legal battles if you can simply trick criminals into using your own monitored network?" The Guradian's story was shared by jd (Slashdot user #1,658), who sees an ethical question. "As the article notes, what's to stop a tyrant doing the same against rivals or innocent protestors?"

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Scientists Probe Whether Uranium Cubes in US Lab Were Produced by Nazis

Sun, 2021-09-12 21:04
The New York Times reports: Scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland are working to determine whether three uranium cubes they have in their possession were produced by Germany's failed nuclear program during World War II. The answer could lead to more questions, such as whether the Nazis might have had enough uranium to create a critical reaction. And if the Nazis had been successful in building an atomic bomb, what would that have meant for the war...? The Nazis produced 1,000 to 1,200 cubes, about half of which were confiscated by the Allied forces, said Jon Schwantes, the project's principal investigator. "The whereabouts of most all of those cubes is unknown today," Schwantes said, adding that "most likely those cubes were folded into our weapons stockpile." Two history professors speculate in the article that the technology ultimately would not have changed outcome of the war. Kate Brown, who teaches environmental and Cold War history at MIT, argues that without planes that could fly long distances without being spotted, "the only target I can think of would be London." Brown said that while a Nazi bomb would not have had much of an impact on the war, the Nazis set the stage for the Cold War simply by trying to build one. The Soviets, who were then U.S. allies in defeating Germany, were aware that the Americans took this uranium out of the country "right out from under them," she said. "That becomes a real engine for suspicion that sets up the Cold War, almost immediately," Brown said. The project's principle investigator tells the Times they're planning to use a process called radiochronometry to date the cubes by measuring how much their uranium has decayed. "We do believe they are from Nazi Germany's nuclear program, but to have scientific evidence of that is really what we're attempting to do."

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Boeing's Directors Are Now Facing an Investor Lawsuit Over Fatal 737 Max Crashes

Sun, 2021-09-12 20:04
Alain Williams (Slashdot reader #2972) brings this report from the BBC: Boeing's board of directors must face a lawsuit from shareholders over two fatal crashes involving its 737 Max plane, a U.S. judge has ruled. Morgan Zurn said the first crash was a "red flag" about a key safety system on the aircraft "that the board should have heeded but instead ignored". She said the real victims were the dead and their families but investors had also lost billions of dollars... In her ruling the Delaware judge said: "While it may seem callous in the face of [the families'] losses, corporate law recognizes another set of victims: Boeing as an enterprise, and its stockholders...." The crashes have already cost Boeing about $20bn in fines, cancelled orders and other costs.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Is Firefox Losing Users?

Sun, 2021-09-12 19:04
This weekend finds some long-time Slashdot readers debating why research shows Firefox losing market share. Long-time Slashdot reader chiguy shares one theory: "Firefox keeps losing users, according to this rant, because it arrogantly refuses to listen to its users." Slashdot reader BAReFO0t countered that that can't be the reason, "because Google does that too." (They blame Chrome's "feature" addition treadmill, where "they keep adding stupid kitchen sinks for the sole and only purpose to make others unable to keep up.") Long-time Slashdot reader Z00L00K thinks that "All those totally unnecessary UI changes are what REALLY annoys users. Not only the immediately visible things in the header but also the renaming of items in the menus just bugs people." But long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo argues that "the most popular browser, Chrome, has all those things. In fact all the browsers that are more popular than Firefox do, so the idea that those are unpopular and driving people away doesn't really hold up... Firefox's decline is mostly due to Chrome just being really good, and [Firefox] not having a decent mobile version." I'm still a loyal Firefox user. (Although the thing that annoyed me was when Firefox suddenly changed the keyboard shortcut for copying a link from CNTRL-A to CNTRL-L.) The "rant" at ItsFoss argues that Firefox's original sin was in 2009 when it decided to move tabs to the top of the browser, and when favorite features could no longer be re-enabled in Firefox's about:config file. But that's what I like about Firefox -- at it's best, it's ultimately customizable, with any feature you want easily enabled in what's essentially an incredibly detailed "preferences" menu. Maybe other browsers are just better at attracting new users through purely mechanical advantages like default placement on popular systems? Long-time Slashdot reader zenlessyank is also a long-time Firefox user -- "Been using it since Netscape" -- and countered all the doubters with a comment headlined "Firefox rocks!" "Doesn't matter to me how many other users there are or aren't I will still use it as long as it stays updated." But what are your thoughts? Feel free to share your own opinions and experiences with Firefox in the comments.

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Personal Data About Millions of Children Stolen from Schools, Leaked onto the Darkweb

Sun, 2021-09-12 17:34
Long-time Slashdot reader phalse phace quotes NBC News: Most don't have bank passwords. Few have credit scores yet. And still, parts of the internet are awash in the personal information of millions of schoolchildren. The ongoing wave of ransomware attacks has cost companies and institutions billions of dollars and exposed personal information about everyone from hospital patients to police officers. It's also swept up school districts, meaning files from thousands of schools are currently visible on those hackers' sites. NBC News collected and analyzed school files from those sites and found they're littered with personal information of children. In 2021, ransomware gangs published data from more than 1,200 American K-12 schools, according to a tally provided to NBC News by Brett Callow, a ransomware analyst at the cybersecurity company Emsisoft. Some schools contacted about the leaks appeared unaware of the problem. And even after schools are able to resume operations following an attack, parents have little recourse when their children's information is leaked. Some of the data is personal, like medical conditions or family financial statuses. Other pieces of data, such as Social Security numbers or birthdays, are permanent indicators of who they are, and their theft can set up a child for a lifetime of potential identity theft.

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Can the US Create Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs With a Civilian Climate Corps?

Sun, 2021-09-12 16:34
ABC News reports: Inspired by the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats are pushing for a modern counterpart: a Civilian Climate Corps that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs building trails, restoring streams and helping prevent catastrophic wildfires. Building on Biden's oft-repeated comment that when he thinks of climate change, he thinks of jobs, the White House says the multibillion-dollar program would address both priorities as young adults find work installing solar panels, planting trees, digging irrigation ditches and boosting outdoor recreation... Colorado Public Radio reports that there's already a new Colorado Climate Corps, funded by a $1.7 million federal grant, that will place 240 members of America's federally-funded national service program "AmeriCorps" into 55 counties across Colorado "to protect public lands and help low-income communities brace for the climate crisis." And now supporters of the larger federal program "envision climate corps workers installing solar panels, weatherizing buildings and providing water and other supplies during heat waves and storms," reports the New York Times: A new climate corps would help address the growing threat of wildfires in Idaho, according to Jay Satz, senior director for partnerships and innovation at the Northwest Youth Corps and Idaho Conservation Corps. Mr. Satz said his group doesn't have the funding or the staff to meet that need, which includes thinning out dead trees, replanting new trees and rehabilitating land hit by fires.

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Amazon Renames Its Open Source Fork of ElasticSearch 'Amazon OpenSearch Service'

Sun, 2021-09-12 15:34
"Amazon Web Services on Thursday fulfilled its commitment to rename Amazon Elasticsearch Service with its expected new identity, Amazon OpenSearch Service," reports the Register in a new update on Amazon's ongoing battle over open source licensing: The name change was necessary because AWS and Elasticsearch BV fell out over the licensing of the Elasticsearch open source software and the eating of one another's lunch.... While AWS promises that OpenSearch Service APIs will be backward-compatible with the existing service APIs (open source Elasticsearch 7.10), meaning no backend or client app changes should be necessary, building against new OpenSearch Service features means there's no going back. AWS says that upgrading from existing Elasticsearch 6.x and 7.x managed clusters to OpenSearch is irreversible. [According to a blog post by Channy Yun, principal developer advocate for AWS], OpenSearch 1.0 (the AWS fork) supports three features unavailable in the legacy Elasticsearch versions still supported in Amazon OpenSearch Service: Transforms, Data Streams, and Notebooks in OpenSearch Dashboards... Amazon OpenSearch Service incorporates various other capabilities not present in the open-source Elasticsearch code, like security integrations (Active Directory, etc), reporting, alerting, and other such things. Cloud provider lock-in can become an issue even when there's compatibility between hosted open source services and the projects they're based upon. What started out as an exercise in copying, the most lucrative form of flattery, has become a race to differentiate, or — to use the words of former Microsoft VP Paul Martiz when telling Intel representatives in 1995 about how Microsoft would deal with Netscape — "Embrace, extend, extinguish."

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Linux For Apple Silicon Macs Gets Closer To Reality

Sun, 2021-09-12 14:04
"Asahi Linux for Apple M1 Macs is moving closer to reality," writes Slashdot reader TroysBucket. An Asahi developer posted a detailed status update on Twitter. Linux enthusiast Bryan Lunduke offers this succinct summary: - The Asahi Linux team has Linux (Debian, in this case) booting and usable with network support. - They now have (very early) display drivers which "take full advantage of the display hardware." - They have at least two base distributions — both Arch and Debian — working and functional (to some extent). They also have, according to their latest update, "boot picker" support so that you can manually select which OS / Drive to boot from on the M1 Macs... I, for one, can't wait to see the first public, functional release of Asahi Linux — and will be following it extremely closely.

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Torvalds Merges Support for Microsoft's NTFS File System, Complains GitHub 'Creates Absolutely Useless Garbage Merges'

Sun, 2021-09-12 12:34
"Linux creator Linus Torvalds has agreed to include Paragon Software's NTFS3 kernel driver, giving the Linux kernel 5.15 release improved support for Microsoft's NTFS file system..." reports ZDNet, adding that the driver "will make working with Windows' NTFS drives in Linux an easier task — ending decades of difficulties with Microsoft's proprietary file system that succeeded FAT...." "But he also had some process and security lessons to offer developers about how to code submissions to the kernel should be made." "I notice that you have a GitHub merge commit in there," wrote Torvalds. He continued: "That's another of those things that I *really* don't want to see — GitHub creates absolutely useless garbage merges, and you should never ever use the GitHub interfaces to merge anything...GitHub is a perfectly fine hosting site, and it does a number of other things well too, but merges are not one of those things." Torvalds' chief problem with it was that merges need "proper commit messages with information about [what] is being merged and *why* you merge something." He continued: "But it also means proper authorship and committer information etc. All of which GitHub entirely screws up." TechRadar supplies some more context: One of the shortcomings Torvalds highlighted are GitHub's concise, factually correct, but functionally useless, commit messages. For instance, GitHub's commit message for Paragon's merge read "Merge branch 'torvalds:master' into master", which didn't impress Torvalds one bit... Torvalds also had some pertinent security advice, perhaps useful in light of recent software supply chain cyberattacks that the Linux Foundation wants to address by improving supply chain integrity through tools that make it easier to sign software cryptographically. As Torvalds points out, this is particularly important for new contributors to the Linux kernel. "For GitHub accounts (or really, anything but kernel.org where I can just trust the account management), I really want the pull request to be a signed tag, not just a plain branch," Torvalds explains... Torvalds suggests Paragon do future merges from the command-line.

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Facebook Admits It Sent Misinformation Researchers Flawed Data

Sun, 2021-09-12 08:34
"Facebook provided a data set to a consortium of social scientists last year that had serious errors," reports the Washington Post, "affecting the findings in an unknown number of academic papers, the company acknowledged Friday." The company used a regular monthly call on Friday with roughly three dozen researchers affiliated with Social Science One, a consortium founded in 2018 that Facebook hails as a model for collaboration with academics, to admit the error and apologize for the impact on their work. The data concerns the effect of social media on elections and democracy and includes what web addresses Facebook users click on, along with other information. The error resulted from Facebook accidentally excluding data from U.S. users who had no detectable political leanings — a group that amounted to roughly half of all of Facebook's users in the United States. Data from users in other countries was not affected... Gary King, a Harvard professor who co-chairs Social Science One... said dozens of papers from researchers affiliated with Social Science One had relied on the data since Facebook shared the flawed set in February 2020, but he said the impact could be determined only after Facebook provided corrected data that could be reanalyzed. He said some of the errors may cause little or no problems, but others could be serious. Social Science One shared the flawed data with at least 110 researchers, King said. The group's former co-chairman, Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily, said of the incident: "This is a friggin' outrage and a fundamental breach of promises Facebook made to the research community. It also demonstrates why we need government regulation to force social media companies to develop secure data sharing programs with outside independent researchers." An Italian researcher, Fabio Giglietto, discovered data anomalies last month and brought them to Facebook's attention. The company contacted researchers in recent days with news that they had failed to include roughly half of its U.S. users — a group that likely is less politically polarized than Facebook's overall user base. The New York Times first reported Facebook's error... The anonymized data set is one of the largest in social science history, with 42 trillion numbers. One Social Science One researcher told the New York Times this discovery "undermines trust researchers may have in Facebook... "A lot of concern was initially voiced about whether we should trust that Facebook was giving Social Science One researchers good data. Now we know that we shouldn't have trusted Facebook so much and should have demanded more effort to show validity in the data."

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