Transportation

Norway Will Make All Short-Haul Flights Electric By 2040 (independent.co.uk) 78

Norway's public operator of air transport plans to make all short-haul flights in the country entirely electric by 2040. "State-owned Avinor, which operates most of Norway's civil airports, is aiming to be the 'first in the world' to switch to electric air transport," reports The Independent. From the report: "We think that all flights lasting up to 1.5 hours can be flown by aircraft that are entirely electric," chief executive Dag Falk-Petersen told AFP. The announcement confirms Norway's reputation as a leader in electric power. In a 2017 report, Avinor announced that in cooperation with the Norwegian Sports Aviation Association and major airlines, it had set up a development project for electric aircraft. Avinor said it had "called for Norway to be established as a test arena and innovation center for the development of electric aircraft." Avinor intends to reduce aircraft greenhouse gas emissions in the short term by phasing in biofuels in the coming years, and then build on these reductions by phasing in electric planes.
Security

Security Breaches Don't Affect Stock Price, Study Suggests (schneier.com) 22

Computer security professional Bruce Schneier highlights the key findings of a study that suggests security breaches don't affect stock price. The study has been published in the Journal of Information Privacy and Security. From the report: -While the difference in stock price between the sampled breached companies and their peers was negative (1.13%) in the first 3 days following announcement of a breach, by the 14th day the return difference had rebounded to + 0.05%, and on average remained positive through the period assessed.

-For the differences in the breached companies' betas and the beta of their peer sets, the differences in the means of 8 months pre-breach versus post-breach was not meaningful at 90, 180, and 360 day post-breach periods.

-For the differences in the breached companies' beta correlations against the peer indices pre- and post-breach, the difference in the means of the rolling 60 day correlation 8 months pre- breach versus post-breach was not meaningful at 90, 180, and 360 day post-breach periods.

-In regression analysis, use of the number of accessed records, date, data sensitivity, and malicious versus accidental leak as variables failed to yield an R2 greater than 16.15% for response variables of 3, 14, 60, and 90 day return differential, excess beta differential, and rolling beta correlation differential, indicating that the financial impact on breached companies was highly idiosyncratic.

-Based on returns, the most impacted industries at the 3 day post-breach date were U.S. Financial Services, Transportation, and Global Telecom. At the 90 day post-breach date, the three most impacted industries were U.S. Financial Services, U.S. Healthcare, and Global Telecom.

NASA

SpaceX and Boeing Slated For Manned Space Missions By Year's End (fortune.com) 79

schwit1 shares a report from Fortune, covering NASA's announcement last week that it expects SpaceX to conduct a crewed test flight by the end of the year: SpaceX's crewed test flight is slated for December, after an uncrewed flight in August. Boeing will also be demonstrating its CST-100 Starliner capsule, with a crewed flight in November following an uncrewed flight in August. NASA's goal is to launch crews to the ISS from U.S. soil, a task that has fallen to Russia's space program since the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in 2011. NASA began looking for private launch companies to take over starting in 2010, and contracted both SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to pursue crewed launches. The push to restore America's crewed spaceflight capacity has been delayed in part, according to a detailed survey by Ars Technica, by Congress redirecting funds in subsequent years. The test flights could determine whether Boeing or SpaceX conducts the first U.S. commercial space launch to the ISS. Whichever company gets that honor may also claim a symbolic U.S. flag stuck to a hatch on the space station. Sources speaking to Ars describe the race between the two companies as too close to call, and say that a push to early 2019 is entirely possible. But in an apparent vote of confidence, NASA has already begun naming astronauts to helm the flights.
The Almighty Buck

Cryptocurrency Exchange Kraken Suddenly Goes Dark For Two Days (sfchronicle.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes the San Francisco Chronicle: One of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges was down more than 40 hours this week, causing clients to freak out... San Francisco's Kraken went offline at 9 p.m. on Wednesday for maintenance that was initially scheduled to last two hours, plus an additional two to three hours for withdrawals, according to an announcement on the company's website. "We are still working to resolve the issues that we have identified and our team is working around the clock to ensure a smooth upgrade," according to a status update on Kraken's website posted early Friday. "This means it may still take several hours before we can relaunch." Shortly after noon, the company said it was "still working to track down an elusive bug which is holding up launch." It promised customers "a substantial amount of free trading" after the problem was resolved. In previous updates, Kraken mentioned it is working on "unexpected and delicate issues" and assured clients their funds were secure, adding that "Yes, this is our new record for downtime since we launched in 2013. No, we're not proud of it."
It's 53 hours after the downtime began, and their web page is still showing the same announcement.

"Kraken is presently offline for maintenance."
Businesses

Circuit City Is Coming Back (arstechnica.com) 84

Following a tease of a CES announcement, current Circuit City CEO Ronny Shmoel confirmed on Monday that something called Circuit City will arrive as "a new, more personalized online shopping experience" starting February 15. The announcement even included promises of AI-driven recommendations fueled by IBM's Watson platform, plus unexplained "augmented reality" and "search by photo" features. Ars Technica reports: Curiously, Shmoel also promised "real-time tech support via video chat," but it's unclear whether this feature will include two-way video feeds -- and, thus, whether Circuit City is prepared for a deluge of Chatroulette-caliber video surprises from trolls. This online Circuit City rebirth may very well actually come to exist, as Shmoel claims that the company has put together a fully fledged inventory and distribution system, with a mix of known electronics brand names and "tier-two and tier-three" names (Shamsung? Panafauxnoic?). The same cannot be said for its CES tease of eventual brick-and-mortar showrooms in the neighborhood of 8,000-10,000 square feet, however. Shmoel already backtracked on similar showroom promises in 2016, and his CES pronouncement of future shops included no hard confirmations of locations or dates. But for anybody who dares to dream, Circuit City's showroom design partner, Taylored Group, released a concept render of its store vision which looks like a Radio Shack as if rendered in a Taiwanese hot-take news video.
Cellphones

Future Samsung Phones Will Have a Working FM Radio Chip (androidpolice.com) 215

A few months ago, LG announced a partnership with NextRadio to unlock the FM chip in its smartphones. Now, Samsung is doing the same. Android Police reports: NextRadio made the announcement, rightly explaining that FM radio is essential in areas with low connectivity and in emergency and disaster situations where a connection might be difficult to obtain or maintain and where access to information could be a matter of life and death. With the chip unlocked, users will be able to listen to local radio on their phone using the NextRadio Android app. The press release mentions that "upcoming [Samsung] smartphone models in the U.S. and Canada" will have the FM chip unlocked, however I did find several existing Samsung devices with their FM chip enabled on NextRadio's site.
The Military

Pentagon Seeks Laser-Powered Bat Drones (defenseone.com) 44

Zorro quotes DefenseOne: A new contest seeks flight systems inspired by Mother Nature and powered by directed-energy beams. Tired: multi-rotor copters and fixed-wing drones. Wired: flying robots that move like living animals, are crafted of next-generation materials, and draw their power not from batteries but energy beamed from nearby aircraft...

"The biological study of agile organisms such as bats and flying insects has yielded new insights into complex flight kinematics of systems with a large number of degrees of freedom, and the use of multi-functional flight surface materials," the announcement reads. The Air Force believes that more and more naturalistic design -- coupled with more powerful and smaller sensors to form a better picture of the outside world -- should yield "significant improvements in maneuverability, survivability and stealth over traditional quadcopter or fixed wing designs."

The article includes a link to a CalTech video showing footage of an advanced robotic bat.
Programming

Rust 1.23.0 Released, Community Urged To Blog Ideas For 2018 Roadmap (rust-lang.org) 76

An anonymous reader quotes the official Rust blog: The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.23.0... New year, new Rust! For our first improvement today, we now avoid some unnecessary copies in certain situations. We've seen memory usage of using rustc to drop 5-10% with this change; it may be different with your programs... The documentation team has been on a long journey to move rustdoc to use CommonMark. Previously, rustdoc never guaranteed which markdown rendering engine it used, but we're finally committing to CommonMark. As part of this release, we render the documentation with our previous renderer, Hoedown, but also render it with a CommonMark compliant renderer, and warn if there are any differences.
A few new APIs were also stabilized in this release -- see the complete release notes here -- and you no longer need to import the trait AsciiExt to provide ASCII-related functionality on u8, char, [u8], and str.

The Rust blog made another announcement earlier this week. "As open source software becomes more and more ubiquitous and popular, the Rust team is interested in exploring new and innovative ways to solicit community feedback and participation." So while defining Rust's roadmap for 2018, "we'd like to try something new in addition to the RFC process: a call for community blog posts for ideas of what the goals should be."
Businesses

Apple Product Delays Have More Than Doubled Under Tim Cook's Watch, Says Report (wsj.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Of the three major new products since Mr. Cook became chief executive in 2011, both AirPods earbuds in 2016 and last year's HomePod speaker missed Apple's publicly projected shipping dates. The Apple Watch, promised for early 2015, arrived late that April with lengthy wait times for delivery. Apple also was delayed in supplying the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, two critical accessories for its iPad Pro. The delays have contributed to much longer waits between Apple announcing a product and shipping it: an average of 23 days for new and updated products over the past six years, compared with the 11-day average over the six years prior, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Apple public statements. Longer lead times between announcement and product release have the potential to hurt Apple on multiple fronts. Delays give rivals time to react, something the company tried to prevent in the past by keeping lead times short, analysts and former Apple employees said. They can stoke customer disappointment and have cost Apple sales.
AT&T

AT&T Sheds Thousands of Employees After Touting GOP Tax Plan, Giving Out Bonuses (appleinsider.com) 105

Prior to Christmas, AT&T and DirecTV gave layoff notices to a large number of landline, legacy service, and home installers spanning the country. "It is not clear if the firings relate to the pending AT&T and Time Warner acquisition, or how it specifically relates to the announcement that the company was giving $1,000 bonuses to 200,000 employees in commemoration of the tax overhaul signed just before Christmas," reports Apple Insider. Slashdot reader deadwill69 writes: Just more doublespeak after they announced their bonus program to justify the tax cuts. Seems they really didn't mean it after all. "Technology improvements are driving higher efficiencies, and there are some areas where demand for our legacy services continues to decline, and we're adjusting our workforce in some of those areas as we continue to align our workforce with the changing needs of the business," AT&T said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune. "Many of the affected employees have a job offer guarantee that ensures they'll be offered another job with the company, and we'll work to find other jobs for as many of them as possible." Let's hope they keep that promise. On a bright note: their service really couldn't get much worse?
Firefox

Firefox Is Now Available On Amazon's Fire TV, Bringing YouTube Access With It (techradar.com) 49

Mozilla has announced that its Firefox web browser is now available on all Fire TV devices. While navigating web browsers on televisions isn't the most user-friendly experience, it could be the only way users can access YouTube. Earlier this month, Google pulled YouTube off the Fire TV and Echo Show since Amazon stopped selling several Google products. TechRadar reports: Though there's no explicit 'hey, this is a convenient workaround' section in Mozilla's announcement of the news, there is a section of the blog post which states that users can "go to YouTube and other sites directly from the Firefox for Fire TV home screen" and another which promises access to videos from "YouTube and other popular sites." While the companies are currently in talks to resolve their disagreements, Google's threat to pull YouTube access from the Fire TV line on January 1, 2018, is still hanging over Amazon. This threat is, however, now carries slightly less menace if Firefox browser access remains a workaround.
Businesses

Ice Tea Company Rebrands as 'Long Blockchain' and Stock Price Triples (arstechnica.com) 144

The Long Island Ice Tea Corporation is exactly what it sounds like: a company that sells people bottled iced tea and lemonade. But today the company announced a significant change of strategy that would start with changing its name to "Long Blockchain Corporation." From a report: The company was "shifting its primary corporate focus towards the exploration of and investment in opportunities that leverage the benefits of blockchain technology," the company said in a Thursday morning press release. "Emerging blockchain technologies are creating a fundamental paradigm shift across the global marketplace," the company said. The stock market loved the announcement. Trading opened Thursday morning more than 200 percent higher than Wednesday night's closing price. The company isn't getting out of the iced tea business. "The Company will continue to operate Long Island Brand Beverages, LLC as a wholly-owned subsidiary," the company writes in its press release. The new blockchain efforts are only in their "preliminary stages," the press release says, and will likely involve investing or forming partnerships with other companies. One potential partner is providing "blockchain infrastructure for the financial services industry." Another is building a "new smart contract platform for building decentralized applications."
Bitcoin

Coinbase Adds Support For Bitcoin Cash [Update: Disabled] 111

Popular digital exchange Coinbase has announced support for Bitcoin Cash. "Bitcoin Cash was created by a fork on August 1st, 2017," a blog post reads. "All customers who held a Bitcoin balance on Coinbase at the time of the fork will now see an equal balance of Bitcoin Cash available in their Coinbase account. Your Bitcoin Cash balance will reflect your Bitcoin balance at the time of the Bitcoin Cash Fork, which occurred at 13:20 UTC, August 1, 2017."

The recent announcement has disrupted the markets. Bitcoin has dropped 12 percent, with the other two cryptocurrencies supported via Coinbase not faring too well either.

Update: Coinbase said Tuesday evening users wouldn't be able to buy and sell bitcoin cash four hours after it said trading of the cryptocurrency would be enabled on its platforms. Chief executive Brian Armstrong said the company is looking into whether employees tried to profit from advanced knowledge of the news.
Music

Plexamp, Plex's Spin on the Classic Winamp Player, Is the First Project From New Incubator Plex Labs (techcrunch.com) 209

Media software maker Plex today announced a new incubator and community resource called Plex Labs. "The idea here is to help the company's internal passion projects gain exposure, along with those from Plex community members," reports TechCrunch. "Plex Labs is also unveiling its first product: a music player called Plexamp," which is designed to replace the long-lost Winamp. From the report: The player was built by several Plex employees in their free time, and is meant for those who use Plex for music. As the company explains in its announcement, the goal was to build a small player that sits unobtrusively on the desktop and can handle any music format. The team limited itself to a single window, making Plexamp the smaller Plex player to date, in terms of pixel size. Under the hood, Plexamp uses the open source audio player Music Player Daemon (MPD), along with a combination of ES7, Electron, React, and MobX technologies. The end result is a player that runs on either macOS or Windows and works like a native app. That is, you can use media keys for skipping tracks or playing and pausing music, and receive notifications. The player can also handle any music format, and can play music offline when the Plex server runs on your laptop.

The player also supports gapless playback, soft transitions and visualizations to accompany your music. Plus, the visualizations' palette of colors is pulled from the album art, Plex notes. Additionally, Plexamp makes use of a few up-and-coming features that will be included in Plex's subscription, Plex Pass, in the future. These new features are powering functionality like loudness leveling (to normalize playback volume), smart transitions (to compute the optimal overlap times between tracks), soundprints (to represent tracks visually), waveform seeking (to present a graphical view of tracks), Library stations, and artist radio.

Businesses

Ajit Pai Offers No Data For Latest Claim That Net Neutrality Hurt Small ISPs (arstechnica.com) 211

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: With days to go before his repeal of net neutrality rules, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai issued a press release about five small ISPs that he says were harmed by the rules. Pai "held a series of telephone calls with small Internet service providers across the country -- from Oklahoma to Ohio, from Montana to Minnesota," his press release said. On these calls, "one constant theme I heard was how Title II had slowed investment," Pai said. But Pai's announcement offered no data to support this assertion. So advocacy group Free Press looked at the FCC's broadband deployment data for these companies and found that four of them had expanded into new territory. The fifth didn't expand into new areas but it did start offering gigabit Internet service. These expansions happened after the FCC imposed its Title II net neutrality rules. (Title II is the statute that the FCC uses to enforce net neutrality rules and regulate common carriers.)
Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Free Preview of Its Quantum Development Kit (zdnet.com) 31

Microsoft is releasing a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit. "The kit includes the Q# programming language and compiler and a local quantum computing simulator, and is fully integrated with Visual Studio," reports ZDNet. "There's also an Azure-based simulator that allows developers to simulate more than 40 logical qubits of computing power, plus documentation libraries, and sample programs, officials said in their December 11 announcement." From the report: Quantum computers are designed to process in parallel, thus enabling new types of applications across a variety of workloads. They are designed to harness the physics of subatomic particles to provide a different way to store data and solve problems compared to conventional computers, as my ZDNet colleague Tony Baer explains. The result is that quantum computers could solve certain high-performance-computing problems more efficiently. Microsoft officials have said applications that developers create for use with the quantum simulator ultimately will work on a quantum computer, which Microsoft is in the process of developing. Microsoft's goal is to build out a full quantum computing system, including both the quantum computing hardware and the related full software stack.
Businesses

FCC Explains How Net Neutrality Will Be Protected Without Net Neutrality Rules (arstechnica.com) 246

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is still on track to eliminate net neutrality rules this Thursday, but the commission said today that it has a new plan to protect consumers after the repeal. The FCC and Federal Trade Commission released a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) describing how the agencies will work together to make sure ISPs keep their net neutrality promises. After the repeal, there won't be any rules preventing ISPs from blocking or throttling Internet traffic. ISPs will also be allowed to charge websites and online services for faster and more reliable network access. In short, ISPs will be free to do whatever they want -- unless they make specific promises to avoid engaging in specific types of anti-competitive or anti-consumer behavior. When companies make promises and break them, the FTC can punish them for deceiving consumers. That's what FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and Acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen are counting on. "Instead of saddling the Internet with heavy-handed regulations, we will work together to take targeted action against bad actors," Pai said in a joint announcement with the FTC today.
NASA

Google's Machine Learning Is Analyzing Data From NASA's Kepler Space Telescope (nasa.gov) 27

NASA writes: NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data... When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn't know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler's treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.
Space.com adds: Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective. Kepler is the most accomplished planet hunter in history. It has found more than 2,500 confirmed alien worlds -- about 70 percent of all known exoplanets -- along with a roughly equal number of "candidates" that await confirmation by follow-up observations or analyses. The vast majority of these discoveries have come via observations that Kepler made during its original mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013. Study of these data sets is ongoing; over the past few years, researchers have used improved analysis techniques to spot many exoplanets in data that Kepler gathered a half-decade ago or more.
Space.com describes Thursday's announcement as an exoplanet discovery. (Earlier they reported on the discovery of "a possibly habitable alien world" about 2.2 times the size of earth orbiting a dwarf star "within the range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface".)

Slashdot reader schwit1 points out that other less-credible sites speculate NASA's announcement will be "a major discovery about life beyond earth."
Bitcoin

Feds Shut Down Allegedly Fraudulent Cryptocurrency Offering (arstechnica.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday announced that it was taking action against an initial coin offering (ICO) that the SEC alleges is fraudulent. The announcement represents the first enforcement action by the SEC's recently created cyber fraud unit. In July, the agency fired a warning shot. It announced that a 2016 fundraising campaign had run afoul of securities law, but that the SEC would decline to prosecute those responsible. The hope was to get the cryptocurrency world to take securities laws more seriously without doing anything drastic. Now the SEC is taking the next step by prosecuting what it considers to be one of the most egregious scams in the ICO world. The SEC's complaint, filed in federal court in New York, is against Dominic Lacroix, whom the SEC describes as a "recidivist securities law violator." The SEC considers Lacroix's cryptocurrency project, PlexCoin, to be a "fast-moving Initial Coin Offering (ICO) fraud that raised up to $15 million from thousands of investors since August by falsely promising a 13-fold profit in less than a month." The PlexCoin website has a hilariously vague description of this supposedly revolutionary cryptocurrency. "The PlexCoin's new revolutionary operating structure is safer and much easier to use than any other current cryptocurrency," the site proclaims. "One of the many features of PlexBank will be to secure your cryptocurrency from market variation, which is highly volatile, and invest your money in a place where you can get interesting guaranteed returns." According to Ars, "The SEC isn't impressed and is arguing that PlexCoin has 'all of the characteristics of a full-fledged cyber scam.' The agency is seeking to freeze the assets of the PlexCoin project in hopes of getting investors' funds back to them."
Facebook

Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids -- What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (gizmodo.com) 62

More than one billion people use Facebook's Messenger app to communicate every month. Now the social juggernaut is going after the younger audience. On Monday, it announced Messenger Kids, a standalone mobile app designed for children age 13 and under. From a report: The app, Messenger Kids, is a messaging service that gives parents authority over who their kids can chat with. Once a parent adds someone to their child's contact list through the main Facebook app, kids can video chat as well as send photos, videos, and texts, or pick something from "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and drawing tools," according to Facebook's announcement post. [...] A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids. We also have blocking and reporting mechanisms, and have a dedicated team of human reviewers that review all content that is reported."

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