Space

Elon Musk Posts First Photo of SpaceX's New Spacesuit (arstechnica.com) 19

Early Wednesday morning, SpaceX founder Elon Musk posted a photo of the spacesuit that will be used by astronauts flying aboard the company's Dragon spacecraft, perhaps as early as next year. Ars Technica reports: In his Instagram post, Musk added that this suit was not a mock-up but rather a fully functional unit. "Already tested to double vacuum pressure," he wrote. "Was incredibly hard to balance aesthetics and function. Easy to do either separately." (Double vacuum pressure simply means the suit was probably inflated to twice the pressure of sea level and then put into a vacuum chamber.) Musk gave no other technical information about the suit. Most strikingly, it is white, in contrast to the very blue spacesuits unveiled by Boeing in January. These are not, strictly speaking, "space suits." Rather, they are more properly flight suits designed to be worn during the ride to space and again on the ride back down to Earth. They have a limited time in which they can operate in a full vacuum and are not intended for spacewalks.
Businesses

Bill Gates and Richard Branson Back Startup That Grows 'Clean Meat' (bloomberg.com) 83

A large global agricultural company has joined Bill Gates and Richard Branson to invest in a nascent technology to make meat from self-producing animal cells. "Memphis Meats, which produces beef, chicken and duck directly from animal cells without raising and slaughtering livestock or poultry, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill, Gates and billionaire Richard Branson, according to a statement Tuesday on the San Francisco-based startup's website," reports Bloomberg. From the report: This is the latest move by an agricultural giant to respond to consumers, especially Millennials, who are rapidly leaving their mark on the U.S. food world. That's happening through surging demand for organic products, increasing focus on food that's considered sustainable and greater attention on animal treatment. Big poultry and livestock processors have started to take up alternatives to traditional meat. To date, Memphis Meats has raised $22 million, signaling a commitment to the "clean-meat movement," the company said.
United States

Roku Is the Top Streaming Device In the US and Still Growing, Report Finds (techcrunch.com) 49

Roku is the top streaming media player device in the U.S., and its growth is only increasing. According to the latest industry report from market intelligence firm Parks Associates, 37 percent of streaming devices in U.S. households are Roku devices, as of the first quarter of this year. That's up from 30 percent in the same quarter last year, the report notes. TechCrunch reports: The growth is coming at the expense of Roku's top competitors, like Apple and Google, with only Amazon's Fire TV able to increase its install base during the same timeframe. Fire TV devices are in 24 percent of U.S. households, as of Q1 2017, up from 16 percent last year. That climb allowed Amazon to snag the second position from Google's Chromecast, which has an 18 percent share. Lagging behind, Apple TV's market share fell to 15 percent -- a drop that Parks Associates Senior Analyst Glenn Hower attributes to Apple TV's price point. Roku last fall overhauled its line of streaming players with the intention of plugging every hole in the market. That strategy is seemingly paying off. There's now a Roku device to meet any consumer's needs -- whether that's an entry-level, portable and affordable "stick," to rival the Fire TV Stick or the Chromecast dongle, or a high-end player with 4K and HDR support, lots of ports, voice search remote, and other premium bells and whistles.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Add Subscriptions For News Stories (mashable.com) 45

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: After years of simply forcing news organizations to heel to the almighty algorithm and craft their content for the News Feed, Facebook has added several features in the hopes of winning back the love of publishers. One of the biggest changes to come is subscriptions via Facebook. Here's how it works: Publishers using Instant Articles, Facebook's fast-loading article pages, will be able to have a paywall (certain number of articles per month) or have locked articles (freemium model). For either case, Facebook users will be prompted to subscribe to read more. All payments will be processed directly via publishers' websites, and Facebook will not take a cut -- at least not now. "If people subscribe after seeing news stories on Facebook, the money will go directly publishers who work hard to uncover the truth, and Facebook won't take a cut. We plan to start with a small group of U.S. and European publishers later this year and we'll listen to their feedback," Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post.
Government

FTC Approves Amazon's Acquisition of Whole Foods (cnbc.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Federal Trade Commission will allow Amazon to continue its $13.7 billion deal to acquire Whole Foods. The FTC conducted an investigation to gauge whether the merger would decrease competition under federal regulations, Bruce Hoffman, acting director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, said in a statement Wednesday. It ultimately decided not to pursue the matter further. Whole Foods shareholders approved Amazon's acquisition deal hours before the FTC's announcement.The two companies expect to finalize the agreement during the second half of the year. However, source familiar with the matter told CNBC the deal could happen sooner rather than later.
Bitcoin

Here's Why People Don't Buy Things With Bitcoin (vice.com) 234

An anonymous reader shares a report: One reason for this, if you live in Toronto like me (or anywhere else for that matter), is that there's basically nowhere to spend digital coins in the real world. Coinmap, a service that maps bitcoin-accepting locations all over the world, shows a few places that accept bitcoin in Toronto, but it's clearly out of date -- I called several businesses listed on the site and they had no idea what bitcoin even is. A bigger problem is perfectly illustrated in a Reddit post from Wednesday morning complaining that a bitcoin transaction worth just $9 still hasn't gone through the network after two days of waiting. Two. Days. The likely reason is that the fee attached to the transaction in order to incentivize faster confirmation -- 50 cents, which is about as much of a premium as I'd pay for a $9 transaction -- simply wasn't enough. "Should I have paid $3 on a $9 transfer to get it processed?" the person wrote.
Google

Google Unveils a New, Cheaper Networking Option For Cloud Customers: the Public Internet (geekwire.com) 18

Google Cloud Platform customers will have a new option when selecting the type of network used to deliver their traffic to their users: they can keep using Google's network, or they can save some money with the new option of using public transit networks. An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has long argued that one of the best reasons to use its public cloud service is the strength of its fiber network, developed and enhanced for more than a decade to support the global data centers powering its search engine. But there are some applications that don't require that level of performance, and so Google is now offering a cheaper networking service -- costing between 24 percent to 33 percent less -- that uses the transit networks that deliver the bulk of traffic to internet service providers, said Prajakta Joshi, product manager for cloud networking at Google. The new "Standard Tier" should offer performance comparable to what customers would experience through "other cloud providers," Joshi said, although both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure operate fiber networks outside of the public internet.
News

We Can't Stop Checking the News Either. Welcome to the New FOMO (wired.com) 96

An anonymous reader shares an article: Countless studies have shown that social-driven FOMO (fear of missing out) stems from a person's primitive desire to belong to a group, with each snap, tweet, or post a reminder of what separates you from them. This other type of FOMO, the all-news, all-the-time kind, is new enough that nobody has really studied it much, yet of the half-dozen experts in sociology, anthropology, economics, and neurology I spoke to, all quickly recognized what I was describing, and some even admitted to feeling it themselves. "We scroll through our Twitter feeds, not seeking anything specific, just monitoring them so we don't miss out on anything important," says Shyam Sundar, a communications researcher at Pennsylvania State University. This impulse could stem from the chemical hits our brains receive with each news hit, but it could also derive from a primitive behavioral instinct -- surveillance gratification-seeking, or the urge that drove our cave-dwelling ancestors to poke their heads out and check for predators. In times of perceived crisis, our brains cry out for information to help us survive. Maybe this alarm stems from steady hits of @realDonaldTrump. Maybe it's triggered by left-wing Resistance types. Or could it be #FakeNews, ISIS, guns, police violence, or street crime, all propagated through our social media bubbles with headlines that are written specifically to grab our attention? This feels like a processing problem. "One thing we learn about human beings: We're meaning-making machines," Kross says. And social mania may be ideal for mainlining breaking news, but it's not great at providing meaning and context.
Firefox

Mozilla Testing an Opt-Out System For Firefox Telemetry Collection (bleepingcomputer.com) 210

An anonymous reader writes: "Mozilla engineers are discussing plans to change the way Firefox collects usage data (telemetry), and the organization is currently preparing to test an opt-out clause so they could collect more data relevant to the browser's usage," reports Bleeping Computer. "In a Google Groups discussion that's been taking place since Monday, Mozilla engineers cite the lack of usable data the Foundation is currently receiving via its data collection program. The problem is that Firefox collects data from a very small fraction of its userbase, and this data may not be representative of the browser's real usage." Mozilla would like to fix this by flipping everyone's telemetry setting to enabled and adding an opt-out clause. Engineers also plan to embed Google's RAPPAR project [1, 2] for anonymous data collection.
The Almighty Buck

Medium Will Now Pay Writers Based On How Many 'Claps' They Get (theverge.com) 130

Medium is getting creative with how they're paying its writers. The San Francisco-based online publishing platform will determine how much an author is paid by how many claps a story receives. Claps are basically Medium's equivalent of a Like, and they recently replaced the "recommend" feature -- a little heart button at the end of each article. The Verge reports: The site wants people to send authors claps to show how much they enjoy reading each article. Now, those claps are actually going to mean something. Medium pays authors by dividing up every individual subscriber's fee between the different articles they've read that month. But rather than doing an even division between articles, Medium will weight payments toward whichever articles a subscriber gives the most claps to. It's not clear exactly how much each individual clap tips the scale, but you can be sure that writers will be asking readers to click that button. It's a pretty strange way to implement payments, since it relies on a really arbitrary metric that individual subscribers might use in really different and inconsistent ways. Time spent on page and whether someone shared an article probably would have been useful metrics by which to tell how much a reader enjoyed a piece, but maybe that makes too much sense for a startup in the middle of its second business model pivot. On the positive side, claps can help Medium surface content that people are enjoying and get it in front of more readers.
Crime

Iowa Computer Programmer Gets 25 Years For Lottery Scam (desmoinesregister.com) 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Des Moines Register: Eddie Tipton, the Iowa brainpower behind a case of multi-state lottery fraud, will spend up to 25 years in prison for rigging "random" drawing jackpots. It's unknown how many years Tipton will actually spend in prison. He could be paroled within three or four years, his attorneys noted. Tipton, 54, was a longtime computer programmer in the Iowa offices of the Multi-State Lottery Association who installed software that allowed him to pick winning numbers in some of the nation's most popular lottery drawings. His scam began to unravel following unsuccessful attempts to anonymously collect a $16.5 million Hot Lotto ticket that was purchased at a Des Moines convenience store in 2010. "I certainly regret," Tipton said. "It's difficult even saying that. With all the people I know behind me that I hurt and I regret it. I'm sorry."
The Courts

Justice Department Walks Back Demand For Information On Anti-Trump Website (theverge.com) 125

After issuing a warrant to DreamHost for "all files" related to an anti-trump website, the Justice Department says it's scaling back a demand for information from hosting service DreamHost. The Verge reports: In a legal filing today, the Justice Department argues that the warrant was proper, but also says DreamHost has since brought up information that was previously "unknown." In light of that, it has offered to carve out information demanded in the warrant, specifically pledging to not request information like HTTP logs tied to IP addresses. The department says it is only looking for information related to criminal activity on the site, and says that "the government is focused on the use of the Website to organize, to plan, and to effect a criminal act -- that is, a riot." Peaceful protestors, the government argues, are not the targets of the warrant. The filing asks the court to proceed with the new, less burdensome request, which, apart from the carved-out sections, still requests "all records or other information, pertaining to the Account, including all files, databases, and database records stored by DreamHost in relation to that Account." It's unclear if DreamHost will continue to fight the new demand.
IBM

IBM To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain (cnbc.com) 47

Thelasko shares a report from CNBC: IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart in an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain. The corporation announced Tuesday that it would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. IBM said that the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one. It would enable food suppliers to source information about the origin, condition and movement of food, and to trace contaminated produce in mere seconds.
Security

Fourth US Navy Collision This Year Raises Suspicion of Cyber-Attacks (thenextweb.com) 362

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Early Monday morning a U.S. Navy Destroyer collided with a merchant vessel off the coast of Singapore. The U.S. Navy initially reported that 10 sailors were missing, and today found "some of the remains" in flooded compartments. While Americans mourn the loss of our brave warriors, top brass is looking for answers. Monday's crash involving the USS John McCain is the fourth in the area, and possibly the most difficult to understand. So far this year 17 U.S. sailors have died in the Pacific southeast due to seemingly accidental collisions with civilian vessels.

Should four collisions in the same geographical area be chalked up to coincidence? Could a military vessel be hacked? In essence, what if GPS spoofing or administrative lockout caused personnel to be unaware of any imminent danger or unable to respond? The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) says there's no reason to think it was a cyber-attack, but they're looking into it: "2 clarify Re: possibility of cyber intrusion or sabotage, no indications right now...but review will consider all possibilities," tweeted Adm. John Richardson. The obvious suspects -- if a sovereign nation is behind any alleged attacks -- would be Russia, China, and North Korea, all of whom have reasonable access to the location of all four incidents. It may be chilling to imagine such a bold risk, but it's not outlandish to think a government might be testing cyber-attack capabilities in the field.

The Courts

Let Consumers Sue Companies (nytimes.com) 109

Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, writes: When a data breach at Home Depot in 2014 led to losses for banks nationwide, a group of banks filed a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation. Companies have the choice of taking legal action together. Yet consumers are frequently blocked from exercising the same legal right when they believe that companies have wronged them. That's because many contracts for products like credit cards and bank accounts have mandatory arbitration clauses that prevent consumers from joining group lawsuits, forcing them to go it alone. For example, a group lawsuit against Wells Fargo for secretly opening phony bank accounts was blocked by arbitration clauses that pushed individual consumers into closed-door proceedings. In 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was authorized to study mandatory arbitration and write rules consistent with the study. After five years of work, we recently finalized a rule to stop companies from denying groups of consumers the option of going to court when they are treated unfairly. Opponents have unleashed attacks to overturn the rule, and the House just passed legislation to that end. Before the Senate decides whether to protect companies or consumers, it's worth correcting the record. First, opponents claim that plaintiffs are better served by acting individually than by joining a group lawsuit. This claim is not supported by facts or common sense. Our study contained revealing data on the results of group lawsuits and individual actions. We found that group lawsuits get more money back to more people. In five years of group lawsuits, we tallied an average of $220 million paid to 6.8 million consumers per year. Yet in the arbitration cases we studied, on average, 16 people per year recovered less than $100,000 total. It is true that the average payouts are higher in individual suits. But that is because very few people go through arbitration, and they generally do so only when thousands of dollars are at stake, whereas the typical group lawsuit seeks to recover small amounts for many people. Almost nobody spends time or money fighting a small fee on their own. As one judge noted, "only a lunatic or a fanatic sues for $30."

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