Earth

Ethiopia's Coffee Is the Latest Victim of Climate Change (theverge.com) 289

According to a study published today in Nature Plants, by the end of this century, increasing temperatures could make it impossible to grow coffee in about half of Ethiopia's coffee-growing regions. "That's because Arabica coffee trees (which are grown in Ethiopia) require pretty mild temperatures to survive, ideally between 59 to 75 degree Fahrenheit," reports The Verge. "Climate projections show that Ethiopia will generally become warmer and drier, and that means that 40 to 60 percent of areas where coffee is currently grown won't be suitable to grow the beans, the study says." From the report: In fact, climate change is already hurting Ethiopia's coffee growers: days and nights are already warmer, and the weather is more unpredictable and extreme. Hot days are hotter and rainy days are rainier. That leads to more unpredictable harvests and it hurts the local economy. Ethiopia is Africa's biggest coffee producer and the world's fifth largest coffee exporter, with 15 million Ethiopians living off coffee farming. Climate change risks disrupting the country's future. But there is a way Ethiopia can brace for its brewing troubles. The study found that rising temperatures will turn swaths of land at higher elevation into just the right places to grow coffee in the future. In fact, coffee farming could increase four fold if plantations are moved uphill, the study says. But to do that, the country needs to prepare: millions of farmers can't just take their crops and move to land they don't own. You need careful planning.
The Internet

Cable Lobby Tries To Stop State Investigations Into Slow Broadband (arstechnica.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions. The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. Another cable lobby group, the American Cable Association (ACA), asked the FCC to approve the petition in a filing on Friday. An FCC ruling in favor of the petition wouldn't completely prevent states from filing lawsuits, but such a ruling would make it far more difficult for the states to protect consumers from false speed claims.
United States

Swiss Supercomputer Edges US Out of Top Spot (bbc.com) 64

There have only been two times in the last 24 years where the U.S. has been edged out of the top spot of the world's most powerful supercomputers. Now is one of those times. "An upgrade to a Swiss supercomputer has bumped the U.S. Department of Energy's Cray XK7 to number four on the list rating these machines," reports the BBC. "The only other time the U.S. fell out of the top three was in 1996." The top two slots are occupied by Chinese supercomputers. From the report. The U.S. machine has been supplanted by Switzerland's Piz Daint system, which is installed at the country's national supercomputer center. The upgrade boosted its performance from 9.8 petaflops to 19.6. The machine is named after a peak in the Grison region of Switzerland. One petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion operations per second. A "flop" (floating point operation) can be thought of as a step in a calculation. The performance improvement meant it surpassed the 17.6 petaflop capacity of the DoE machine, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The U.S. is well represented lower down in the list, as currently half of all the machines in the top 10 of the list are based in North America. And the Oak Ridge National Laboratory looks set to return to the top three later this year, when its Summit supercomputer comes online. This is expected to have a peak performance of more than 100 petaflops.
Businesses

Fidget Spinners Are Over (fivethirtyeight.com) 175

Walt Hickey, writing for Five Thirty Eight: The toy craze that has swept the nation -- cheaply manufactured fidget spinners of dubious metallic constitution -- is probably on the way out, with the high-water mark of fidget obsession appearing to be about a month behind us and the interest in the glorified ball bearings plateauing or declining. [...] Even if there's a long tail on this trend, it's very likely that peak fidget spinner is behind us. The kind of content now doing well on YouTube is either fidget-adjacent stunt videos or videos that have taken a particularly weird turn. This doesn't mean the ball-bearing business is doomed, just maybe don't go long on the spinner industrial complex or quit your job to live off a fidget-related Kickstarter idea at this point.
Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Space

NASA Finds Evidence Of 10 New Earth-sized Planets (usatoday.com) 63

NASA said Monday it has found new evidence of 219 planets outside our Solar System. Ten of those exoplanets appear to be similar to the size of the Earth and orbit their stars in the habitable zone. From a report: The new planets' existence must still be double-checked. But Kepler's latest haul -- which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth -- is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80 percent of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun. Because of their potential for hosting life, the 10 Earth-size planets are the most glamorous of the newly announced planets from Kepler. But those 10 were joined by an additional 209 more garden-variety planets that are unlikely to be hospitable to life because they are too gassy, too hot, too cold or otherwise unlike the only known planet to host life: Earth.
Iphone

'The Unwillingness To Foresee The Future' (stratechery.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a few excerpts from Ben Thompson's analysis: Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumor, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone," he said. "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in." What if Steve Jobs' company did bring an iPod phone to market? Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorized." I was reminded of this quote after Amazon announced an agreement to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion; after all, it was only two years ago that Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey predicted that groceries would be Amazon's Waterloo. And while Colligan's prediction was far worse -- Apple simply left Palm in the dust, unable to compete -- it is Mackey who has to call Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the Napoleon of this little morality play, boss. The similarities go deeper, though: both Colligan and Mackey made the same analytical mistakes: they mis-understood their opponents' goals, strategies, and tactics.
The Courts

Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court (arstechnica.com) 253

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark. The court unanimously held that a law on the books holding that a trademark can't "disparage... or bring... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," violates the First Amendment. Tam headed to federal court years ago after he was unable to obtain a trademark. In 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Tam's favor, finding that the so-called "disparagement clause" of trademark law was unconstitutional.
Intel

Intel Quietly Discontinues Galileo, Joule, and Edison Development Boards (intel.com) 95

Intel is discontinuing its Galileo, Joule, and Edison lineups of development boards. The chip-maker quietly made the announcement last week. From company's announcement: Intel Corporation will discontinue manufacturing and selling all skus of the Intel Galileo development board. Shipment of all Intel Galileo product skus ordered before the last order date will continue to be available from Intel until December 16, 2017. [...] Intel will discontinue manufacturing and selling all skus of the Intel Joule Compute Modules and Developer Kits (known as Intel 500 Series compute modules in People's Republic of China). Shipment of all Intel Joule products skus ordered before the last order date will continue to be available from Intel until December 16, 2017. Last time orders (LTO) for any Intel Joule products must be placed with Intel by September 16, 2017. [...] Intel will discontinue manufacturing and selling all skus of the Intel Edison compute modules and developer kits. Shipment of all Intel Edison product skus ordered before the last order date will continue to be available from Intel until December 16, 2017. Last time orders (LTO) for any Intel Edison products must be placed with Intel by September 16, 2017. All orders placed with Intel for Intel Edison products are non-cancelable and non-returnable after September 16, 2017. The company hasn't shared any explanation for why it is discontinuing the aforementioned development boards. Intel launched the Galileo, an Arduino-compatible mini computer in 2013, the Edison in 2014, and the Joule last year. The company touted the Joule as its "most powerful dev kit." You can find the announcement posts here.
Encryption

Microsoft, Accenture Team Up On Blockchain-based Digital ID Network (reuters.com) 53

Accenture and Microsoft are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents. From a report: The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet. The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare. Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.
Government

198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak (zdnet.com) 119

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.
Businesses

Amazon Plans Cuts to Shed Whole Foods' Pricey Image (bloomberg.com) 311

When Amazon completes its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will try to keep the grocer's reputation for premium fresh foods while cutting prices to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image. From a report: Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. Amazon, known for its competitive prices, is trying to attract more low- and middle-income shoppers with its grocery push. The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients.
AI

As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups (siliconangle.com) 139

Investment in AI startups is on a tear as venture capitalists and corporate investors scramble to stake out a leadership position in what could be the driving trend in technology for decades to come. From a report: The financial interest in AI, machine learning and related technologies is hardly new. CB Insights has tracked some $18.4 billion invested in 2,541 AI-related startups since 2012. But the trend is only accelerating. In the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which showed otherwise mostly stagnant startup funding, AI and machine learning companies shined, reaching an eight-quarter high of $820 million invested in 90 companies. A flurry of significant investments in a number of AI-related companies this past week underscored the point. On Wednesday alone, for instance, AI-powered analytics software provider CognitiveScale raised a $15 million round, voice AI startup Snips raised $13 million and, to top it off, machine learning consultancy Element AI got an unusually large $102 million early-stage investment just eight months after the company was launched. Then on Thursday and Friday, two other AI-powered companies, Conviva and Codota, announced fundings too.
Businesses

E-Commerce's Biggest Obstacle May Be Slow Postal Services (thestreet.com) 237

Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison recently said that e-commerce companies' biggest challenge is that they are all expanding their businesses and pushing for faster delivery, but UPS, Fedex and especially the United States Postal Service aren't able to keep up, at least not at same cost that exists today, because they're not increasing their delivery capacity at the same rate e-commerce is growing, He said this will cause a supply and demand issue "that's going to be apparent here pretty soon."
The Almighty Buck

Is Coinbase Closing Accounts For Paying Ransoms With Bitcoins? (coindesk.com) 202

Even as some comparnies are stockpiling bitcoins so they can quickly pay ransom demands, security firms that try paying those ransoms may face losing their accounts on Coinbase. Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites quotes a report from CoinDesk: Less than a year ago, Vinny Troia, CEO and principal security consultant of Night Lion Security and a certified white hat hacker, was sent a compliance form by US bitcoin exchange Coinbase, where he had an account. Coinbase wanted to know how Troia was using bitcoin and his account. "I told them I run a security firm. I pay for ransoms and buy documents on the dark web when clients request it," Troia told CoinDesk. The ransoms Troia helps his clients pay are those stemming from ransomware attacks, which have surged in number over the past few years. Many, like the well-publicized WannaCry attack, are asking for bitcoin.

And the documents? Troia said, "We do breach investigations a lot of times. If a fraudster is saying they're selling my client's stolen documents, the only way to make sure they have what they say they have is to buy those documents." According to Troia, Coinbase "did not like that at all." Coinbase then asked the IT expert whether he had a letter from the Department of Justice giving him permission to do those things. No, Troia said. Upon further research, Troia has not found that any such permission exists. But, "I have my clients authorizing me to do this," he said. Coinbase sent Troia back an email explaining that those actions were against the exchange's rules and shut down his account... "My entire family is blocked from Coinbase," he said.

Cellphones

A Colorado Group Wants To Ban Smartphones For Kids (apnews.com) 389

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Colorado officials have cleared the language of a proposed ballot measure that would establish the nation's first legal limits on buying smartphones for children. Backers of the move to forbid the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13 would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the proposal to make the 2018 ballot. The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement. Retailers who sell a phone for use by a youngster could be fined $500, after a warning.
A Denver-area dad is leading the campaign -- a board certified anesthesiologist who says children change when they get a cellphone. "They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive. They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."

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