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06.28.19

Links 28/6/2019: Kodi “Leia” 18.3 Release and Krita 4.2.2 Release

Posted in News Roundup at 4:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNU/Linux

  • 11 Reasons You Should Learn to Use Linux

    The degree of “telemetry” – a euphemism for financially-motivated spying on your user base – in modern operating systems can be disquieting. Linux contains none of that unless you install it. And considering the size of the Linux user base, very few profit-motivated entities bother to build tracking applications for Linux. Outside of your standardized browser environment, there are no system-level tracking tools installed by default. You can’t say the same about Windows or macOS.

  • Desktop

    • Xfway Aims To Provide A Wayland Compositor Inspired By Xfce’s Xfwm4

      While it doesn’t appear to be an official part of Xfce at least at this time, Xfway is a Wayland compositor inspired by Xfce’s Xfwm4 window manager.

      Xfway was pointed out on the Wayland mailing list for this Xfce window manager inspired compositor.

      The code appears to have started out from the Weston code-base but adding support for Sway’s WLROOTS among other changes inspired from Xfwm4.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Your Questions, My Answers: Viewer Feedback #3
    • LHS Episode #291: The Weekender XXX

      It’s time once again for The Weekender. This is our bi-weekly departure into the world of amateur radio contests, open source conventions, special events, listener challenges, hedonism and just plain fun. Thanks for listening and, if you happen to get a chance, feel free to call us or e-mail and send us some feedback. Tell us how we’re doing. We’d love to hear from you.

  • Kernel Space

    • Huawei Adding New LZ4 Inplace Decompression To EROFS File-System

      Huawei’s EROFS Linux read-only file-system continues to be improved upon and with the upcoming Linux 5.3 kernel cycle will see yet more improvements.

      EROFS has already supported native file-system compression for help conserving space with this read-only file-system Huawei has been working on for use particularly by mobile devices but other use-cases as well. Queued up into staging-next ahead of the Linux 5.3 merge window is a new decompression framework.

    • EXT4 Getting Faster Case-Insensitive Performance

      The Linux 5.2 kernel brings optional per-directory case-insensitive filenames/folders while with the Linux 5.3 kernel that new EXT4 feature will see better performance.

      The EXT4 case-insensitive support relies upon Unicode case handling and preserves the actual case of the directory/files on-disk. It’s the look-up process for checking for case-insensitive matches that is being made faster in the latest EXT4 code ahead of Linux 5.3.

    • Linux Foundation

      • GSMA and Linux Foundation join forces on aligning NFVi

        The Linux Foundation’s LF Networking and GSMA announced on Thursday that they are creating a common industry framework for network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVi).

        While LF Networking and GSMA made the creation of the Common NFVi Telco Taskforce (CNTT) official today, it was initially discussed in April during a panel session at the Open Networking Summit (ONS) in San Jose, California. Prior to today’s announcement, GSMA worked with Orange and Vodafone on writing standards around common definitions for NFVi.

      • Linux Foundation Announces A New 5G Professional Certification

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced enrollment is now open for a new Business Implications and Strategy for 5G Professional Certificate program. Offered through the edX, the trusted platform for learning, this program will teach business managers what 5G is, what are the tools driving its evolution and how to implement a network architecture modernization strategy that enables business-wide digital transformation.

        The transition to 5G will require a massive modernization of business networks that includes open source software and standards. This program will put business professionals ahead of the curve on emerging technology and business trends, enabling them to anticipate the needs of their employers.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Intel Sends Out Initial Open-Source Linux Graphics Driver Support For Tiger Lake

        Intel’s tradition of delivering punctual open-source graphics driver support for their hardware continues. While Icelake hardware isn’t even hitting the masses yet, Intel developers this week began sending out their initial driver patches for bringing up the graphics on Tiger Lake.

        In recent weeks we have seen Intel Linux developers beginning to volley their initial Tiger Lake enablement code across different kernel subsystems and compiler support. This week though are the bits that excite us the most: the Intel graphics support.

      • RadeonSI Getting Fixed Up To Expose 10-bit VP9 Decode

        Newer AMD GPUs are capable of offering hardware accelerated decoding for 10-bit VP9 content, but that wasn’t the case with the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver. Fortunately, a simple patch is pending to expose this support.

      • Red Hat Expecting X.Org To “Go Into Hard Maintenance Mode Fairly Quickly”

        With the Fedora Workstation 31 feature outlook covered earlier this week, there was an interesting comment in that article by Red Hat’s Christian Schaller that deserves special coverage.

  • Applications

    • Kodi “Leia” 18.3 Release

      Two months have passed since our last bugfix release and already we have a new one ready…

    • Kodi 18.3 Adds DTS-HD Audio Track Support To Its Music Player, Various Fixes

      For fans of the Kodi project for providing the flagship open-source HTPC experience, Kodi 18.3 is out today as the newest maintenance update.

    • abcde – CD ripping software for the command line

      CD audio grabbers are designed to extract (“rip”) the raw digital audio (in a format commonly called CDDA) from a compact disc to a file or other output. This type of software enables a user to encode the digital audio into a variety of formats, and download and upload disc info from freedb, an internet compact disc database.

      Is copying CDs legal? Under US copyright law, converting an original CD to digital files for personal use has been cited as qualifying as ‘fair use’. However, US copyright law does not explicitly allow or forbid making copies of a personally-owned audio CD, and case law has not yet established what specific scenarios are permitted as fair use. The copyright position is much clearer in the UK, as it’s illegal to make a private copy of a copyrighted CD. Whereas it’s legal for an owner to make a copy of a legally purchased CD in Australia and New Zealand. Life is never simple!

    • Undo releases Live Recorder 5.0 for Linux debugging

      Linux debugging has taken a giant step forward with the release of Live Recorder 5.0 from Undo. Just released on Wednesday, this product makes debugging on multi-process systems significantly easier. Based on flight recorder technology, it delves more deeply into processes to provide insight into what’s going on within each process. This includes memory, threads, program flow, service calls and more.

    • Latte bug fix release v0.8.9

      Welcome Latte Dock v0.8.9 the LAST stable release for v0.8 branch!

    • HPLIP 3.19.6 Released with More HP Printers/Scanners Support

      HPLIP, HP developed printer and scanner drivers for Linux, released version 3.19.6 with a lot of new devices support.

    • Proprietary

      • Daimler ordered to recall thousands of Mercedes in Germany over emissions cheating — report

        Germany’s auto industry regulator, KBA, has ordered carmaker Daimler to expand its recall program to retrofit vehicles illegally fitted with emissions-cheating software, Germany’s Bild newspaper reported on Saturday.

      • Daimler to recall 60,000 Mercedes diesels in Germany over emissions

        Daimler must recall 60,000 Mercedes diesel cars in Germany after regulators found that they were fitted with software aimed at distorting emissions tests, the Transportation Ministry said on Saturday.

        The model affected is the Mercedes-Benz GLK 220 produced between 2012 and 2015.

      • Daimler Must Recall 60,000 Mercedes Cars for Emissions Breach

        Daimler has already recalled 3 million vehicles that are producing excess emissions from their diesel engines. The German news outlet, Bild am Sonntag, first reported the recall on Saturday and noted that the German regulatory authorities were expanding their investigation.

        Suspicions were raised when Mercedes-Benz GLK 220 CDI cars produced between 2012 and 2015, only met emission limits when certain functions within the car’s software were activated. The emissions scandal has tarnished many major automakers.

      • Jony Ive Is Leaving Apple

        Ive has been an indispensable leader at Apple and the chief guide of the company’s aesthetic vision. His role took on even greater importance after Apple cofounder Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in 2011. Apple will not immediately appoint a new chief design officer. Instead, Alan Dye, who leads Apple’s user interface team, and Evans Hankey, head of industrial design, will report directly to Apple’s chief operating officer, Jeff Williams, according to the Financial Times.

      • Jony Ive is leaving Apple — here are his most iconic creations, which helped lead Apple from almost certain doom to total dominance

        It can’t be overstated just how influential Ive was, and is, at Apple: “He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me,” Steve Jobs once said of Ive.

      • Jony Ive is leaving Apple after 27 years

        Ive won’t be cutting ties with Apple altogether, mind, and the company even headed its press release with the news that it’d be a client of LoveFrom. Which basically means Ive can charge what he likes, now they’ve committed: ker-ching.

      • Jony Ive leaving Apple after nearly 30 years to start new design firm

        Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive will depart the company later this year, bringing an end to a tenure spent crafting some of technology’s most influential products, including the iPhone. Ive, who has led Apple’s design team since 1996, is leaving “to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients.” The company is called LoveFrom, and Ive will be joined by famed designer Marc Newson on the new venture. Despite stepping down from his executive position, Ive and Apple both claim he will still work “on a range of projects with Apple.”

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Ada: Tainted Soil, a story-driven single-player 2D action-RPG coming to Linux looks really good

        Here’s a crowdfunding campaign that’s ending really soon: Ada: Tainted Soil, a story-driver single-player action-RPG and it looks really good.

        The Kickstarter campaign, which ends in around 27 hours has just managed to scrape past the goal of £10K. So unless there’s a sudden campaign-end upset, it’s another game funded and on the way to Linux. They’re very clear on Linux support too “Ada will get initially released on PC, Mac and Linux. Both steam and DRM-free.” which is great.

      • Steam’s top releases of May show why Steam Play is needed for Linux

        Valve have put out a news post to highlight some of the top games put onto Steam in May and it’s another reminder of why Steam Play is needed.

        In this blog post they start by listing 20 games that had the top revenue earned in the first two weeks following their release. Without looking, take a guess at the number of games in that list that actually support Linux.

        Did you take a guess? The answer is a rather sobering two: Rise of Industry and Total War: THREE KINGDOMS. What happens to that number if we include those that can be run with Steam Play, with a “Platinum” rating from user reports on ProtonDB? That brings it right up to nine, which is far more impressive. It would be even higher, if Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye worked with Steam Play and since both said they’re working on it (Sources: EAC – BattlEye), things can only get better.

        They also went over the top five free games, measured by peak player count within the first two weeks following release: Conqueror’s Blade, Splitgate: Arena Warfare, Minion Masters, Eden Rising and Never Split the Party. Of those, only one supports Linux which is Never Split the Party. If we take “Platinum” Steam Play games again, that only rises to two.

      • The pretty good action-platformer ‘Super Rad Raygun’ is leaving Steam with a big sale

        TRU FUN Entertainment are closing their doors, so their action-platformer Super Rad Raygun is having a big sale on Steam. However, it will still be up on itch.io when it leaves Steam.

        After being released back in 2016, TRU FUN Entertainment parted ways with their publisher Rooster Teeth Games to become properly indie. When I took a look at the game in 2016, I recommended it as it was quite good overall so it’s sad to see another developer fade away. According to the press release, it’s leaving Steam due to “prior publishing agreements”.

      • Monster Prom gains a new ending, mod tools and more in the latest update

        In the latest free update for the comedy dating sim Monster Prom, the “Startkicker Update”, developer Beautiful Glitch has given it a new ending. See Also: Some previous thoughts on Monster Prom, it’s actually really funny.

        This new ending is secret though and they’re not wanting to spoil it but they did mention the “joys of entrepreneurship alongside Spooky High’s more money-savvy students” which might give you a clue. There’s also a bunch of summer outfits included to match the season.

      • Programming puzzle game ‘Robo Instructus’ to release July 16th

        Fancy a bit of programming to solve some puzzles? Robo Instructus is exactly what you want then and it’s releasing next month on July 16th with Linux support.

        The idea of the game is quite simple, with you manoeuvring a robot by issues instructions through the reasonably simple programming language. As you progress, you unlock the ability to use more functions, with multiple ways to solve each puzzle opening up depending on your skill and understanding.

      • With the Valve Index about to launch and be delivered, Valve held a little private launch party with speeches

        Valve’s first in-house virtual reality hardware should be dropping at your door soon, if you were one of the lucky ones to order it quickly in the first batch. Additionally, Gabe Newell and others held speeches at a little launch party.

      • You might be hearing voices in the latest Dota Underlords update and it continues to capture my interest

        With the latest update to Dota Underlords now out, Valve continue moving quickly to make it a highly polished gameplay experience.

        Firstly, some characters actually got their voices back including: Doom, Drow, Enchantress, Lina, Luna, Mirana, Shadow Fiend, Phantom Assassin, Queen of Pain, Templar Assassin and Windranger. That actually makes it feel a little more polished and less lonely in a way, just one of those nice touches.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Krita 4.2.2 Released! How to Install it in Ubuntu 18.04

        Free open-source painting software Krita released its second monthly bug-fix release for the 4.2 series a day ago.

      • Week 4, Titler Tool and MLT – GSoC ’19

        It’s already been a month now, and this week – it hasn’t been the most exciting one. Mostly meddling with MLT, going through pages of documentation, compiling MLT and getting used to the MLT codebase.

        With the last week, I concluded with the rendering library part and now this week, I began writing a new producer in MLT for QML which will be rendered using the renderering library. So I went through a lot of MLT documentation, and it being a relatively new field for me, here is what I’ve gathered so far:

        At its core, MLT employs the basic producer-consumer concept. A producer produces data (here, frame objects) and a consumer consumes frames – as simple as that.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GSoC with GNOME – Weeks 1 & 2

        The meson port for libgdata has been long due, and it was direly needed this time since Autotools 1.16.1 breaks an older API in such a way that at configure time, you get this issue. Moreover, even though you configure with –disable-dependency-tracking, at compile time you’re gifted with yet another error – Makefile:4517: *** missing separator. Stop.

        The issue stems from the fact that AX_CODE_COVERAGE recently changed the way it embeds code coverage rules in its outputted Makefile, i.e. the older @CODE_COVERAGE_RULES has been removed completely in support of including aminclude_static.am in Makefile.am. This all finally paved the way for libgdata’s meson port.

        Now, libgdata uses the namespace GData instead of Gdata and this raises quite a lot of issues when trying to create the enum header and source files using gnome.mkenums in meson. In autotools, we were using sed passes to edit out the generated enum files at compile time, and those files were being placed in their respective source directories. These files are further being included by other sources, and we can’t generate anything in the source directory because that’s the whole philosophy of meson, i.e. never clutter source directory for anything pertaining to build.

      • GNOME’s Wonderful Year

        The GNOME Project was started in 1997 by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena Quintero who were university students at the time and has become one of the largest open source projects. It is best known for its desktop, which is a key part of the most popular GNU/Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Debian, SuSE and Fedora and also has a long history of producing critical pieces of software infrastructure. In addition GNOME has is a key player in the social evolution of the free software community and founded the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) to help make its community more gender diverse.

      • [Older] The Journey Begins | Google Summer of Code

        Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program focused on bringing more student developers into open source software development. Students work with an open source organization on a 3 month programming project during their break from school.

      • Making the ‘httpsrc’ plugin asynchronous | GSoC 2019

        GStreamer plugins are the building units of any GStreamer application. The plugins can be linked and arranged in a pipeline. This pipeline defines the flow of the data. ‘souphttpsrc’, aka HTTP source is a plugin which reads data from a remote location specified by a URI and the supported protocols are ‘http’, ‘https’. This plugin is written in C. ‘rshttpsrc’ is the Rust version of the above said plugin.

      • Michael Catanzaro: On Version Numbers

        I’m afraid 3.33.4 will arrive long before we make it to 3.33.3-333, so this is probably the last cool version number Epiphany will ever have.

        I might be guilty of using an empty commit to claim the -33 commit.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Escuelas Linux Is Much More Than an Enlightened Linux Retread

        Escuelas Linux is a surprisingly good all-purpose distro despite its emphasis on education-specific software. However, its universal appeal is critically hampered by its Spanish- and English-only editions. You can always uninstall educational packages not to your liking or need.

        Expect to take some time getting familiar with the Moksha desktop. That is my primary concern for younger students and others not familiar with any computer system.

        I spent many years as an educator pushing computer technology in the classroom. Students’ computing skills (with the exception of gaming) were often greatly lacking.

        Moksha is not difficult to master. Yet I cringe at the thought of students and other users getting up to speed on the Moksha UI for hands-on productivity in the classroom and at home. Many of the specialty features built into Escuelas Linux will help teachers and system admins reduce the UI distractions.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP1 for WSL Now Available for Download [Ed: To longtime Microsoft booster like Bogdan Popa GNU/Linux only counts or exists when Microsoft totally controls it]x

        The number of Linux distributions available on Windows 10 as part of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) keeps growing, and the latest addition is none other than SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP1.
        WSL is a built-in Windows 10 feature that allows users to run Linux distributions on top of Microsoft’s operating system, basically bringing the two together for more consistency and easier development work.

        The list of Linux distros that Windows 10 users can install in WSL already includes several top names, including Ubuntu, Kali Linux, and Arch, and beginning today, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP1 available as well.

      • SUSE Manager 4 – Manage Thousands Of Linux Machines

        SUSE has some of the best-of-the-breed gems for DevOps teams. SUSE Manager is one of them.

        SUSE, a provider of open source infrastructure solutions, has released SUSE Manager 4, a comprehensive environment for lifecycle management of hundreds and thousands of Linux systems.

        It can manage hypervisors, containers, bare metal systems, IoT devices, and third-party cloud platforms. It also provides automated software management, asset management, and system provisioning to keep these systems up to date.

      • openSUSE.Asia Summit 2020: Call for Host

        The openSUSE.Asia Summit is the largest annual openSUSE conference in Asia, attended by contributors and enthusiasts from all over Asia. The event focuses primarily on the openSUSE distribution, its applications for personal and enterprise use, and open source culture. It brings together the openSUSE community in Asia, providing a forum for users, developers, foundation leaders, governments and businesses to discuss the present technology and future developments.

        The Summit’s preference is to find new locations each year as we spread openSUSE throughout Asia, and we are looking for local organizers to rise to the challenge of organizing an excellent openSUSE event in 2020. We need individuals and communities to get together and organize a successful openSUSE.Asia Summit. The openSUSE.Asia organization committee assists throughout the process.

    • Fedora

      • Upcoming features in Fedora 31 Workstation

        The Fedora Workstation edition is a fabulous operating system that includes everything a developer needs. But it’s also a perfect solution for anyone who wants to be productive online with their desktop or laptop computer. It features a sleek interface and an enormous catalog of ready-to-install software. Recently, Christian Schaller shared information about what’s coming in the Workstation for Fedora 31.

        Fedora 31 is currently scheduled for release in late October 2019. With it, as usual, will come an assortment of new and refreshed free and open source software. This includes the GNOME desktop which is planned to be updated to the latest 3.34.

        Under the hood of the desktop, many intrepid open source developers have been toiling away.

      • Fedora 31 to drop 32-bit kernel, retain support for 32-bit programs

        Proposed changes to a future version of the popular Linux distribution will decrease maintenance overhead while retaining support for 32-bit programs.

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Backtracks On Pulling Of 32-bit Packages in Ubuntu Linux

            Last weekend, there was a huge uproar in the Linux community aimed towards Canonical and its decision to pull support for 32-bit libraries, after Ubuntu announced it would end support for 32-bit applications, starting with its next release.

            The decision was not well-received, especially by the gaming community, and Valve announced plans to drop support for Ubuntu in Steam.

            However, Canonical confirmed on Monday that following feedback from the community, it was clear that there is still a demand, and indeed a need for 32-bit binaries, and as such, it will provide “selected” builds for both Ubuntu 19.10 and the forthcoming Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • FreeDOS turns 25 years old: An origin story

    June 29 marks the 25th anniversary of FreeDOS. That’s a major milestone for any open source software project, and I’m proud of the work that we’ve done on it over the past quarter century. I’m also proud of how we built FreeDOS because it is a great example of how the open source software model works.

    For its time, MS-DOS was a powerful operating system. I’d used DOS for years, ever since my parents replaced our aging Apple II computer with a newer IBM machine. MS-DOS provided a flexible command line, which I quite liked and that came in handy to manipulate my files. Over the years, I learned how to write my own utilities in C to expand its command-line capabilities even further.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibOCon Almeria Call for Papers New Deadline

      Call for Papers deadline for LibOCon Almeria, in Spain, has been extended to July 15, 2019. The event is scheduled for early September, from Wednesday 11 to Friday 13.

      Whether you are a seasoned presenter or have never spoken in public before, we want to hear from you! So, if you have not yet submitted your talk proposal and have something interesting to share about LibreOffice or the Document Liberation Project, you still have time to act!

  • Programming/Development

    • Qt Creator 4.10 Beta2 released

      We are happy to announce the release of Qt Creator 4.10 Beta2 !

      Most notably we fixed a regression in the signing options for iOS devices, and that the “Build Android APK” step from existing Android projects was not restored.
      As always you find more details in our change log.

    • Shenandoah GC in JDK 13, Part 2: Eliminating the forward pointer word

      To give you an idea of the throughput improvements, note that all the GC sensitive benchmarks that I have tried showed gains between 10% and 15%. Others benefited less or not at all, but that is not surprising for benchmarks that don’t do any GC at all.

      It is, however, important to note that the extra decoding cost does not actually show up anywhere; it is basically negligible. It probably would show up on heavily evacuating workloads, but most applications don’t evacuate that much, and most of the work is done by GC threads anyway, making mid-path decoding cheap enough.

      The implementation of this has recently been pushed to the Shenandoah/JDK repository. We are currently shaking out one last known bug, and then it will be ready to go upstream into JDK 13 repository. The plan is to eventually backport it to Shenandoah’s JDK 11 and JDK 8 backports repositories, and from there into RPMs. If you don’t want to wait, you can already have it: check out the Shenandoah GC Wiki.

    • Count the pair of duplicate number with Python

      In this example, we will create a function in Python which will return the total number of duplicate pair of numbers within a list. For example, if we enter [0,0,0,0] into that function it will return 2 because there are two pairs of duplicate number within that list.

    • Kiwi TCMS: Mid-year roadmap status report

      Hello everyone, in this article I will outline the progress that the Kiwi TCMS team has made towards achieving the goals on our 2019 mission and roadmap. TL,DR: Kiwi TCMS has made progress since January, it’s been tough and may not have been very visible. I feel like we’ve been behind schedule till now! The greatest positive thing has been community and team development!

    • Python Matplotlib Tutorial – Learn Plotting in 3 hours

      This tutorial outlines how to perform plotting and data visualization in python using Matplotlib library. The objective of this post is to get you familiar with the basics and advanced plotting functions of the library. It contains several examples which will give you hands-on experience in generating plots in python.

    • Webinar Recording: “Build-a-GitHub-Bot” with Mariatta Wijaya
    • Extending Wing with Python (Part Three)

      In this issue of Wing Tips we continue to look at how to extend Wing’s functionality, by taking a look at extension scripts that collect arguments from the user.

      This article assumes you already know how to add and try out extension scripts in Wing. If you haven’t read the previous installments of this series, you may want to take a look at Part One where we introduced Wing’s scripting framework and set up auto-completion for the scripting API, and Part Two where we used Wing to debug itself for easier extension script development.

    • EuroPython 2019: Keynotes

      Most of us work too much and play too little. When was the last time you smiled at something you made? Playing with fun datasets, especially big data sets, opens up weird new forms of technical recreation. Why not train an amusing model in a browser tab while you’re waiting for that day-job Spark query to finish? I’ll show you some data toys I’ve built using AI and interesting data sets: Most of them involve both backend data science and front-end visualization tricks. They range from poetry-composition helpers to game log analysis to image deconstruction and reconstruction. All of them taught me something, often about myself and what I like artistically, and sometimes about what “big data” actually means.

    • EuroPython 2019: Introducing MongoDB

      We are very pleased to have MongoDB as Keystone Sponsor for EuroPython 2019. You can visit them at the most central booth in our exhibit area on the second floor in the Congress Center Basel (CCB), and take the opportunity to chat with their staff and learn more about the MongoDB eco-system.

    • EuroPython: EuroPython 2019: Call for On-site Volunteers

      Ever wanted to help out during Europython ? Do you want to *really* take part in EuroPython, meet new people and help them at the same time ?

      We have just the right thing for you: apply as EuroPython Volunteer and be part of the great team that is making EuroPython 2019 a reality this year.

    • Stack Abuse: Python for NLP: Creating a Rule-Based Chatbot

      This is the 12th article in my series of articles on Python for NLP. In the previous article, I briefly explained the different functionalities of the Python’s Gensim library. Until now, in this series, we have covered almost all of the most commonly used NLP libraries such as NLTK, SpaCy, Gensim, StanfordCoreNLP, Pattern, TextBlob, etc.

      In this article, we are not going to explore any NLP library. Rather, we will develop a very simple rule-based chatbot capable of answering user queries regarding the sport of Tennis. But before we begin actual coding, let’s first briefly discuss what chatbots are and how they are used.

    • Leading and trailing whitespace

      Googling the phrase “trailing whitespace” is like googling “coffee stains”: you mainly get “how to remove” recipes.

      There are procedures for deleting trailing whitespace in C, Python, Vim, PHP, Java, Visual Studio, R, C++, JavaScript, etc etc. Nobody wants trailing whitespace in their code, and in a Coding Horror blog post ten years ago, Jeff Atwood called it — a bit melodramatically — “The Silent Killer”.

    • ListenData: Python Matplotlib Tutorial – Learn Plotting in 3 hours

      This tutorial outlines how to perform plotting in python using Matplotlib library. The objective of this post is to get you familiar with the basics and advanced plotting functions of the library. It contains several examples which will give you hands-on experience in generating plots in python.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • [Old] Beware Engineering Media

      The most common mistake you’ll make is to see these sources as a mirror of what’s going on in our industry. Instead, it’s more akin to a bazaar.

    • ‘Deeply Concerning’: 5G Mobile Networks May Jam Weather Satellite Signals, Meteorologists Say

      A Federal Communications Commission proposal to share a radio spectrum band relied on by weather forecasting services with mobile companies has been firmly opposed by a slew of forecasters. They argue doing so may result in a delay of life-saving data.

      Experts warned sharing the 1675-1680 MHz band could impact their ability to warn the public of severe weather warnings via alerts to smartphones and mobile-connected devices.

      A letter recently sent to the FCC by the American Meteorological Society, National Weather Association and the American Geophysical Union called the proposal “deeply concerning.”

    • NASA plans drone mission to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon

      US space agency NASA said Thursday its new mission would explore Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, using a drone lander called Dragonfly.
      The crewless craft with four propellers is slated to launch in 2026 and reach its destination in 2034.

      “What really excites me about this mission is that Titan has all the ingredients needed for life,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Glenmark Pharma gains after USFDA approval for generic

      Glenmark Pharmaceuticals rose 1.29% to Rs 454.15 at 9:25 IST on BSE after the company said it received ANDA approval for ezetimibe and simvastatin tablets.

      The announcement was made during the market hours today, 28 June 2019.

      Meanwhile, S&P BSE Sensex was up 54.30 points or 0.14% at 39,640.71.

      On BSE, 9,521 shares were traded in Glenmark Pharmaceuticals counter, compared to a 2-week average of 87,000 shares. The share price hit an intraday high of Rs 455 and an intraday low of Rs 451. It hit a 52-week high of Rs 711.55 on 10 September 2018 and a 52-week low of Rs 446.80 on 27 June 2019.

      Shares of Glenmark Pharmaceuticals fell 13.4% in the past five trading sessions to settle at Rs 448.35 yesterday, 27 June 2019, from its close of Rs 517.70 on 20 June 2019.

    • San Francisco Becomes First Major U.S. City to Ban E-Cigarette Sales

      This week, following a preliminary vote, the supervisors approved an ordinance barring the sale of e-cigarettes that have not been subject to a review by the Food and Drug Administration, NBC News reported. To date, the FDA has not ruled on any currently available e-cigarettes before they went to market, according to the The Washington Post.

      The measure is expected to go into effect 30 days after being signed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed — who has publicly expressed support for the ban — and full implementation of the ordinance will take place six months after, CBS Sacramento reported. Retailers who violate the ordinance could face fines and jail time.

    • San Francisco set to become first major U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes

      San Francisco is set to become the first major U.S. city to ban e-cigarettes after city supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance on Tuesday. A final vote to pass the measure is expected next week.

      San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance amending the health code to prohibit the sale, manufacture, and distribution of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on city property. The measure specifically singled out the use of electronic cigarettes, blaming the devices for a “growing health epidemic of youth vaping.”

    • San Francisco becomes first U.S. city to ban sales of e-cigs

      The city of San Francisco on Tuesday voted to impose a blanket ban on e-cigarettes — making it the first American city to outlaw the sale, distribution and manufacturing of vaping products.
      The sweeping restriction also puts San Francisco at odds with one of its most prominent hometown startups, Juul Labs, which last Tuesday said it bought an office building in San Francisco — the same day the city board unanimously backed the e-cigarette ordinance in a preliminary vote. The city’s board of supervisors ratified the e-cig sales ban Tuesday.
      Juul claims the ordinance will “drive former adult smokers who successfully switched to vapor products back to deadly cigarettes.” It will also “deny the opportunity to switch for current adult smokers, and create a thriving black market instead of addressing the actual causes of underage access and use,” the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

    • San Francisco, home of e-cig giant Juul, just banned e-cigs

      The days of e-cigarettes are limited for San Franciscans. In a first for the U.S., the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday in favor of an ordinance that states that “no person shall sell or distribute an electronic cigarette to a person in San Francisco.”

      The only exception, according to the ordinance, is if a product has undergone premarket review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The catch is that none have to date. Ironically, Juul Labs, the country’s biggest producer of e-cigarettes (and whose products have greatly helped teenage nicotine addiction rise again after years of decline), is based in San Francisco.

  • Security

    • To defeat ransomware, we must first diagnose it correctly: Today’s Talker [iophk: "Windows TCO. Ransomware is a symptom of the cancer of Windows deployment."]

      Before the attack on Stuart, there were rapid-fire attacks through eight weeks. The enemy targeted the city of Baltimore, Maryland; Howard County, Indiana; Imperial County, California; Potter County, Texas; city of Albany, New York; the city of Greenville, North Carolina; Genesee County, Michigan; Orange County, North Carolina; Jackson County, Georgia; and the Cleveland airport.

    • Artificial Intelligence and Counterterrorism: Possibilities and Limitations

      Prepared Written Testimony and Statement for the Record of Alexander Stamos, Director, Stanford Internet Observatory before The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism on June 25, 2019.

    • Premature Cyber Escalation

      This framing of the attack as a calculated atttack to cause damage to Iranian missile C&C assets that’ll be time consuming and costly to repair, is very literally crazy talk. An analogy: a threat actor hacks a company, and on Friday, bust before the end of the work day, they delete MS Office from every computer. The cost to the company is minimal as no one would be working over the weekend. No one except the poor IT staff who have to clean up the mess anyway. For the company the cost they pay is “unpleasant weekend for IT staff, and overtime money.” On the other hand, the company learns a great deal about their vulnerabilities, their risk exposure, and how to deal with a similar attack in future.

      At the cost of some inconvenience for some people, and a bit of money, the company learned a lot of valuable information about their weaknesses. They can now take remedial action to prevent it from happening again, and create processes and procedures to reduce the burden of recovering from such an attack. From any perspective, it’s a great bargain.

      The US used a cyber attack that gained them nothing, and the Iranians pay a small price to learn how to mitigate and respond to such a cyber attack. The US taught Iran a lesson alright, but I very much doubt it was: “if you like your military toys, then leave the US alone.”

    • NASA, Homeland Security receive D- grades on IT issues [iophk: "Windows TCO"]

      The House Oversight government operations subcommittee released version 8.0 of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) scorecard in a hearing on Wednesday.

      The scorecard gave IT scores to two dozen agencies, as well as individual scores for each agency in areas such as cybersecurity, the modernization of technology and transparency and risk management.

    • Silexbot Bricks Nearly 4,000 IoT Devices [Ed: The problem is the password, not the system]

      Cashdollar explained: “Silexbot is using known default credentials for IoT devices to login and kill the system. The bot does this by writing random data from /dev/random to any mounted storage it finds. Examining binary samples collected from my honeypot, I see Silexbot calling fdisk -l which will list all disk partitions. Using that list, Silexbot then writes random data from /dev/random to any of the partitions it discovers.”

    • package hardening asymptote

      In the long-term view the measurements have a distinctly asymptotic appearance and the graphs are maybe only good for their historical curves now. But then I wonder, what’s next? What new compiler feature adoption could be measured? I think there are still a few good candidates…

    • New Exploit for Microsoft Excel Power Query

      Proof-of-concept, which allows remote code execution, is latest to exploit Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) and is another reminder why organizations must ensure Office settings are secure.

    • OpenPGP Certificate Flooding

      My public cryptographic identity has been spammed to the point where it is unusable in standard workflows. This blogpost talks about what happened, what I’m doing about it, and what it means for the broader ecosystem.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • New Silex malware is bricking IoT devices across the globe [Ed: Those are devices with default passwords set; the OS is irrelevant to it, but proprietar ysoftware vendors connected would have us believe otherwise]
    • Silex bricks 2,000 plus IoT devices, 14-year-old author has bigger plans for botnet [Ed: It all boils down to bad passwords]

      A new malware dubbed Silex has bricked at least 2,000 IoT devices in an ongoing campaign that is expected to intensify in the coming days.

    • The History of Cellular Network Security Doesn’t Bode Well for 5G

      There’s been quite a bit of media hype about the improvements 5G is set to supposedly bring to users, many of which are no more than telecom talking points. One aspect of the conversation that’s especially important to get right is whether or not 5G will bring much-needed security fixes to cell networks. Unfortunately, we will still need to be concerned about these issues—and more—in 5G.

      Past security flaws in the design of cell network infrastructure are being used for everything from large scale SMS spamming to enabling dragnet surveillance by law enforcement and spying in DC via cell site simulators (a.k.a. Stingrays, IMSI-catchers). Longtime cell network security researcher Roger Piqueras Jover has recently published a short but comprehensive reflection on the history of the cell security research that uncovered much of those flaws, and with it, his view of the security outlook for 5G.

      Jover draws attention to how rapidly the field of cell network security research has been accelerating. It took researchers over 10 years after GSM was first standardized and deployed to find the first security flaws in the GSM (2G) protocol. For LTE (4G), it took approximately 7 years. Fast forward to the 5G standard, which was finalized in March 2018. While there are currently no commercial implementations of 5G widely in use yet, researchers have already discovered over 6 critical security flaws in this new protocol.

    • Are Wi-Fi Cameras Secure in 2019?

      It seemed to happen without anyone noticing, but Wi-Fi cameras are popping up everywhere. In many cases, this includes our homes. Outdoor security cameras are common, but in some homes you’ll find them inside as well. They can be handy, but how secure are they?

      It’s handy being able to see inside your home when you’re not there, but what if someone else can see what’s going on inside your home? It may not be pleasant to think about, but it’s something worth considering if you’re shopping for wireless cameras.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Huawei staff accused of working with Chinese military on AI research

      The studies, which were uncovered through a trawling of Chinese academic paper database CNKI.net, include a joint effort with the investigative branch of the Central Military Commission to extract and classify emotions in online video comments, and an initiative with the elite National University of Defence Technology to explore ways of collecting and analysing satellite images and geographical coordinates.

    • Huawei Personnel Worked With China’s Military on Research Projects

      Several Huawei Technologies Co. employees have collaborated on research projects with Chinese armed forces personnel, indicating closer ties to the country’s military than previously acknowledged by the smartphone and networking powerhouse.

    • China hopes to beat America’s armed forces by copying them

      Mr Xi’s principal aim is to increase “jointness”. This term, borrowed from Western military jargon, refers to the ability of different services—army, navy and air force—to co-operate on the battlefield quickly and seamlessly. Jointness is especially important for fighting wars that break out abroad. It can be difficult for commanders at national headquarters to choreograph soldiers, sailors and pilots from a great distance. The different services must be able to work together without instruction from on high.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Thursday’s papers: Finland’s EU presidency climate goal, increase in shoplifting, and white-tailed deer sighting

      Finland wants the EU to take concrete steps towards a sustainable future, with the EU taking the role of a global climate change leader. One of Finland’s main objectives is the EU’s carbon neutrality by 2050, a target which is supported by the majority of EU members.

    • Finland’s EU presidency to place emphasis on climate action, says Rinne

      “You often hear people say when it comes to controversial issues that such and such decision was made by the European Union. In difficult times, the people say the EU must act quickly. We want to remind everyone who talks like this is that you’re talking about yourself. The EU isn’t out there somewhere. The EU is here. The EU isn’t the people there. The EU is us,” he declared.

      Finland will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union on Monday, 1 July.

    • Air pollution in Malaysia forces 400 school closures, sickens more than 100 children

      More than 400 schools in Malaysia have closed this week after air pollution caused vomiting in dozens of students, authorities said.

      Since Monday, 104 children have fallen ill in the southern state of Johor because of the pollution, according to local officials. Most cases were in the state’s Pasir Gudang district.

    • Dumping Oil Stocks Proving Hard to Explain for Crude-Rich Norway

      The Finance Ministry, which oversees the fund, has even been challenged from within the Conservative-led and mostly pro-oil government. Climate Minister Ola Elvestuen, who represents the more environment-friendly Liberal Party, called the divestment the “most important climate decision” the coalition has agreed on.

    • After Republican Protest, Oregon’s Climate Plan Dies [iophk: “apparent act of sedition from R”

      The announcement, made before Democrats had even met for a caucus meeting Tuesday, appears to mark an end to the state’s plan to institute a cap-and-trade bill. Whether it will succeed in getting the Republicans back to the building is unclear.

    • Blazing Heatwave Forces Germany to Lower Autobahn Speed Limit

      State authorities took action because of fears that the unusually high temperatures could create potentially deadly cracks on the surface of the autobahn network, a highways agency spokesman said. Temperatures in Germany on Wednesday could surpass a June high of 38.2 degrees Celsius (101 Fahrenheit), according to the country’s DWD weather service. The all-time record of 40.3 degrees, set in July 2015, could also fall.

    • For First Time Ever, Renewables Surpass Coal in U.S. Power Mix

      Hydropower dams, solar panels and wind turbines generated almost 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power in April, eclipsing the 60 million that coal produced that month, Energy Information Administration data released late Tuesday show. That’s the most clean power the U.S. has ever made — and the least coal it has burned for power in years.

  • Why I’m Climate Striking Against Fox News on Friday

    But is even The New York Times truly conveying the climate emergency now facing humanity? And what about the many other news outlets that don’t do a fraction of the climate reporting the Times does? The media as a whole lets us down every day by either treating the climate crisis as a non-story or, worse, by propagating misinformation designed to confuse people and thwart action. Recently I learned ABC’s World News Tonight devoted more broadcast time to the new royal baby in a week than it spent on climate change during the entire year of 2018, according to data analyzed by the watchdog group Media Matters. ABC, CBS, and NBC did not mention the words “climate change” or “global warming” once during the combined 28 news stories they ran about catastrophic flooding in the Midwestern United States in March.

    Which is why I and countless other young people around the world will be climate-striking against the news media this coming Friday—protesting outside of TV, radio, and newspaper and other news outlets to demand that they start covering climate change like the emergency that it is.

  • A Leader of America’s Fracking Boom Has Second Thoughts

    Over the past 10 years, 40 of the largest independent oil and gas producers collectively spent roughly $200 billion more than they took in from operations, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from financial-information firm FactSet. During that time, a broad index of U.S. oil-and-gas companies fell roughly 10%, while the S&P 500 index nearly tripled.

  • No Drips, No Drops: A City Of 10 Million Is Running Out Of Water

    A 2018 government think tank report projected that 21 major Indian cities, including the capital, New Delhi, and India’s IT hub, Bengaluru, will “run out of groundwater as soon as 2020.” Approximately 100 million people would be affected, the report predicts.

  • U.S. Military Produces More Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than up to 140 Countries

    Our study is based on data retrieved from multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, the massive bureaucratic agency tasked with managing the U.S. military’s supply chains, including its hydrocarbon fuel purchases and distribution.

    The U.S. military has long understood that it isn’t immune from the potential consequences of climate change—recognising it as a “threat multiplier” that can exacerbate other risks. Many, though not all, military bases have been preparing for climate change impacts like sea level rise. Nor has the military ignored its own contribution to the problem. As we have previously shown, the military has invested in developing alternative energy sources like biofuels, but these comprise only a tiny fraction of spending on fuels.

  • A Research Review of Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs

    Coral reef declines have been recorded for all major tropical ocean basins since the 1980s, averaging approximately 30-50% reductions in reef cover globally. These losses are a result of numerous problems, including habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing, disease, and climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions and the associated increases in ocean temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have been implicated in increased reports of coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, and ocean acidification (OA). For the hundreds of millions of people who depend on reefs for food or livelihoods, the thousands of communities that depend on reefs for wave protection, the people whose cultural practices are tied to reef resources, and the many economies that depend on reefs for fisheries or tourism, the health and maintenance of this major global ecosystem is crucial.

    A growing body of research on coral physiology, ecology, molecular biology, and responses to stress has revealed potential tools to increase coral resilience. Some of this knowledge is poised to provide practical interventions in the short-term, whereas other discoveries are poised to facilitate research that may later open the doors to additional interventions. A Research Review of Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs reviews the state of science on genetic, ecological, and environmental interventions meant to enhance the persistence and resilience of coral reefs. The complex nature of corals and their associated microbiome lends itself to a wide range of possible approaches. This first report provides a summary of currently available information on the range of interventions present in the scientific literature and provides a basis for the forthcoming final report.

  • Biodiversity helps coral reefs thrive – and could be part of strategies to save them

    Coral reefs are home to so many species that they often are called “the rainforests of the seas.” Today they face a daunting range of threats, including ocean warming and acidification, overfishing and pollution. Worldwide, more than one-third of all coral species are at risk of extinction.

    I am one of many scientists who are studying corals to find ways of helping them survive and recover. As a recent report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine shows, researchers are exploring many different strategies. Some, such as managed breeding to make corals more tolerant of stresses, are already being developed at small scales. Others, such as moving corals to colonize new areas, have not been tested yet.

    My own work examines whether greater diversity of coral species on reefs can help corals survive and thrive. In a study published earlier this year, my colleague Mark Hay and I found evidence that the answer is yes. This finding could help to inform broader strategies for making coral reefs more resilient in altered oceans.

  • Microbes hold the balance in climate crisis

    Thirty scientists from nine nations have issued a challenge to the rest of climate science: don’t forget the microbes.

    They argue that research is ignoring the silent, unseen majority that makes up the microbial world. Lifeforms that add up to a huge proportion of living matter on the planet are being largely left out of climate calculations.

    Microbes have been around for 3.8 billion years, manipulating sunlight and turning carbon dioxide into carbon-based living tissue, and the mass of all the microbes on the planet probably contains 70 billion tonnes of carbon alone.

    They are biodiversity’s bottom line. They are the arbiters of the planet’s resources. They were the first living things on the planet, and will almost certainly be the last survivors.

  • Climate Crisis Only Gets 7 Minutes of Airtime at First Dem Debate

    The small amount of time spent on climate change, and the fact that the first climate-centered questions came an hour and 22 minutes into the debate itself, as the Huffington Post reported, emphasized the need for a debate exclusively dedicated to the issue, something the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has so far refused.

    “It’s absurd to host a debate in Miami — a city where millions of people could lose their homes due to sea level rise that’s also only 20 miles from the Everglades where massive fires are out of control — and spend only a few minutes on the climate crisis,” Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a post-debate statement. “Only four candidates had the opportunity to discuss it at all. This is downright irresponsible and shameful.”

  • Democrats Spent Less Than 10 Minutes Talking About Climate Change At First 2020 Debate

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now is at higher levels than at any other point in human existence. The United States is ramping up oil and gas production. Historic wildfires, floods and storms killed thousands of Americans in just the last two years, and it’s forecast to get much, much worse.

    Yet Democrats spent less than 10 minutes on Wednesday talking about climate change at the first presidential primary debate.

    At an event in Miami ― a city already facing disastrous sea level rise and where a wildfire is raging just 30 miles northwest ― a handful of candidates raised the issue unsolicited. But NBC’s moderators waited an hour and 22 minutes to ask any questions about climate change. Only five of the 10 candidates onstage had a chance to respond to four questions on the issue directed at individual contenders, making it impossible to compare everyone’s stances. Discussion of a topic that only first came up 10:22 p.m. local time ended abruptly at 10:29 p.m.

    “Spending only seven minutes on climate questions was absurd,” Kassie Siegel, climate director of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, said in a statement.

  • Climate got more time in the Democrats’ first 2020 debate than in all 2016 debates combined

    Climate change barely received seven minutes of airtime during the first Democratic presidential debate Wednesday. That’s more than it received in all of the 2016 presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

    But that’s still surprisingly little for an issue that is near or at the top of the list for Democratic primary voters, that has such massive implications for the United States, and that provides an easy opening for the candidates to sell their climate plans.

  • A Gray Whale Washed Ashore in Alaska May Hold Clues to This Year’s Deadly Migration

    Most years the annual gray whale migration along North America’s West Coast is a sure sign of spring. But this year something has gone wrong. Since January at least 167 dead whales have washed ashore from Mexico to Alaska. Scientists expect more in the weeks ahead.

    One of the dead whales came to rest at the mouth of a river near my home. This was in May, in south-central Alaska. On a sunny evening my wife and I and our four-year-old daughter went out to see it.

  • Household tissue is a climate issue

    The household tissue you use to blow your nose could be adding to the problems of climate change.

    A substantial portion of the tissue products we buy – toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissues – comes from boreal forests, the dense ring of trees which encircles much of the globe just below the Arctic Circle.

    These forests – and the soils they stand in – contain vast amounts of carbon; when trees are felled and the land they are growing in is disturbed, carbon is released into the atmosphere, adding to the already dangerously high levels of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

    A new report looking at tissue use in the US says Americans are voracious consumers of tissue products; they make up only 4% of the world’s population yet account for more than 20% of global tissue consumption.

  • Investors With Over $34 Trillion Demand Climate Crisis Action

    In an open letter to the leaders of the G20 countries, groups representing 477 investors stressed urgent action to reach the Paris climate agreement targets of limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Yet, current policies put the world on track for at least a 3 degrees Celsius rise by the end of the century.

    To limit global temperature rises, the group of investors demanded that nations accelerate their carbon reduction targets, gradually eliminate coal as an energy source, stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and set a global price on carbon by the end of 2020, according to Reuters.

  • Exclusive: Investors with $34 trillion demand urgent climate change action

    Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week.

    In an open letter to the “governments of the world” seen by Reuters, groups representing 477 investors stressed “the urgency of decisive action” on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement target.

  • Solar’s Past, and Future

    Thomas Edison once said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!”

    Over the last ten years, solar power has become ubiquitous in conversations about renewable energy. As the cost to produce solar photovoltaic cells has plummeted in recent years, more and more homes, businesses and communities have invested in solar.

    Solar has become a foundational renewable energy source, with major investments driving new project development all over the country. As the technology continues to develop, the future of solar is an even more exciting place to look.

  • Solar future shines ever more brightly

    The world’s solar future continues to brighten, further and faster than seemed possible only a few years ago.

    As the price of all types of solar technology goes on falling, it is becoming possible for large parts of the world to replace fossil fuels with cleaner and cheaper solar alternatives. A UN-backed report says much of Asia could meet all its electricity needs and ditch coal completely, by adopting solar power on a large scale.

    After an initial drop of 2% in installations of solar equipment in the United States when President Donald Trump put a 30% tariff on overseas-manufactured solar panels, the market has picked up again and there are forecasts of a rapid growth rate this year.

  • Oil Leak Update: 1000x Worse Than Rig Owner Claimed, Still Going After 14 Years

    The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico received little public attention when it happened in September 2004, but it has been steadily leaking as much as 4,500 gallons a day, not three or four gallons per day as Taylor Energy Company, the rig owner, claimed, according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And that’s a conservative estimate, the report said.

    Oil and gas have been seeping out of the leak that started 12 miles off the Louisiana coast when an underwater mudslide caused pipes to rupture and a production platform to sink during Hurricane Ivan. Taylor successfully capped nine wells, but said it couldn’t cap 16.

  • New Estimate for an Oil Leak: A Thousand Times Worse Than Rig Owner Says

    A new federal study has found that an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico that began 14 years ago has been releasing as much as 4,500 gallons a day, not three or four gallons a day as the rig owner has claimed.

    The leak, about 12 miles off the Louisiana coast, began in 2004 when a Taylor Energy Company oil platform sank during Hurricane Ivan and a bundle of undersea pipes ruptured. Oil and gas have been seeping from the site ever since.

    Taylor Energy, which sold its assets in 2008, is fighting a federal order to stop the leak. The company asserts that the leaking has been slight — between 2.4 and four gallons per day. Oil plumes from the seafloor, Taylor executives have said, are from oil-soaked sediment that has formed around the platform, and any gas rising from the bottom is the natural product of living organisms.

    “The results of this study contradict these conclusions,” the report, issued on Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Florida State University, concluded.
    Using sonar technology and a newly developed method of analyzing oil and gas bubbles rising through the water, scientists determined that the plumes are the result of oil and gas released from multiple wells. They also found that as many as 108 barrels of oil, or just over 4,500 gallons, have spilled into the Gulf each day as a result of the episode.

  • Climate Bill Oregon Republicans Fled to Avoid Is Dead, Senate President Says

    “What I’m about to say I say of my own free will. No one has told me to say this,” Senate President Peter Courtney said Tuesday, as NPR reported. “HB 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor. That will not change.”

    His announcement earned instant condemnation from supporters of the cap-and-trade bill, which would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. Those inside the gallery stood up and turned their backs on Courtney as he spoke, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

  • Intense heat wave hits northern Europe

    Climate researcher Andreas Marx has said that the lack of rain in much of the country, particularly in the north and east, the site of much of Germany’s agriculture, could have disastrous consequences.
    Forest fires are of particular concern for authorities in Germany, especially in the northeast. Local residents were asked to keep windows and doors closed in Lieberoser Heide — southeast of Berlin — while emergency services deal with a fire that broke out on Monday and spread to an area of about 10 hectares (25 acres), the size of 140 soccer pitches. It is expected to take a few days to put out.

  • UN Expert Warns of ‘Climate Apartheid’

    A UN expert painted a bleak picture Tuesday of how the climate crisis could impact global inequality and human rights, leading to a “climate apartheid” in which the rich pay to flee the consequences while the rest are left behind.

    The warning came in the form of a report by UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston, which found that climate change could push a further 120 million people into poverty within the next 10 years, CNN reported.

  • ‘Climate apartheid’ to push 120 million into poverty by 2030, UN says

    The world is facing a “climate apartheid” between the rich who can protect themselves and the poor who are left behind, the UN has warned.

    A new report published on Tuesday estimated that more than 120 million people could slip into poverty within the next decade because of climate change.

  • EPA Air Quality Chief Resigns Over Ethics Investigation

    So little time, so much damage done. That’s the legacy left by Bill Wehrum who spent only one and a half years as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) top air quality official before announcing that he will step down this weekend under the cloud of a federal ethics investigation over possible conflicts of interest. His resignation follows conflicting statement he made to Congress about his industry connections, according to Politico.

  • EPA’s air pollution chief steps down after ethics probe raises new questions

    … Wehrum has “accomplished a majority of his goals” but simply had enough of the flak.

  • Bill Wehrum, an Author of Trump Administration’s Pro-Coal Rules, to Leave E.P.A.

    William L. Wehrum, who played a central role in Trump administration efforts to weaken climate change protections and roll back regulations on the fossil fuel industry, will resign as head of the Environmental Protection Agency air quality office at the end of this month, the agency announced Wednesday.

    Last week the E.P.A. moved to replace an Obama-era regulation that aimed to shutter coal-fired power plants with a new regulation that could help more coal plants open. Mr. Wehrum was the main architect of the new measure, the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

    He was also a player in efforts to relax tailpipe pollution standards to change the way the agency measures the health consequences of air pollution.

    “Mr. Wehrum oversaw the most relentless rollback of clean air, climate and health safeguards in E.P.A.’s history,” said John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “E.P.A. strengthened not a single meaningful air quality or climate safeguard during his tenure.”
    Mr. Wehrum — who worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for the oil, gas and coal industries before joining the Trump administration — was also accused of ethics violations at the agency.

  • Millions of Songbirds Do Not Need to Suffer Gruesome Deaths So the Olive Industry Can Save a Buck

    Imagine you’re a redwing, a small, speckled bird in the thrush family. You weigh as little as two light bulbs, and yet each year you make a 2,300-mile journey from your summering grounds in Iceland to a winter refuge in Morocco. One night, you decide to stop off in an olive grove in Portugal to rest your weary wings.

    Little do you know, night is when the machines come.

    Mechanical harvesters taller than the trees themselves rumble through the olive groves, each equipped with floodlights and rows of vibrating teeth. Like a slow-moving beast, the harvesters straddle the trees and throttle them, shaking loose their olives and directing the fruits to powerful vacuums for collection.

  • Killing as a Government Service

    Every year a little-known program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, known as Wildlife Services, kills an astonishing number of animals. Last year it slaughtered 1.5 million native wild creatures and 1.1 million invasive animals — everything from armadillos to hawks to wolves. This follows 2.3 million animals killed in 2017, 2.7 million in 2016, and tens of millions more in the years prior.

  • Climate Crisis Gets 15 Minutes Total in First Two Nights of Dem Debates

    While 14 candidates have thrown their support behind the idea, according to 350 Action’s 2020 Climate Test, California Senator Kamala Harris was the first to endorse it on the debate stage, The Atlantic reported.

    When asked about her climate change plans, Harris corrected moderator Chuck Todd, saying the proper term was “climate crisis” because “it’s an existential threat to us as a species.”

    “That’s why I support a Green New Deal,” she said. “It’s why on day one as president, I will reenter us into the Paris agreement.”

  • The Green New Deal Finally Makes a Debate Appearance

    A number of Democratic primary candidates have proclaimed their support for the Green New Deal or something like it. But the first person to actually endorse it on the debate stage either Wednesday or Thursday night was Senator Kamala Harris of California. (Former Governor John Hickenlooper was the first to mention the idea, saying that he “admired the sense of urgency” but that “we can’t promise every American a government job.”) Asked by Chuck Todd to describe her climate-change plan, Harris replied briskly and corrected his terms: The rapid warming of the planet should be called the “climate crisis” because “it’s an existential threat to us as a species.” She mentioned visiting the site of last year’s wildfires in California “while the embers were smoldering.”

    “That’s why I support a Green New Deal,” she said. “It’s why on day one as president, I will reenter us into the Paris Agreement.”

  • Spain Battles Largest Wildfire in 20 Years as Europe Sizzles in Deadly Heat Wave

    More than 500 firefighters and soldiers are battling Spain’s largest wildfire in two decades as Europe continues to wither under an extreme heat wave, The Guardian reported Thursday.

    The fire has burned 12,355 acres in the Catalan province of Tarragona, killed hundreds of sheep and forced 53 people to evacuate their homes.

  • European heatwave sets new June temperature records

    A heatwave affecting much of Europe is expected to intensify further with countries – including France, Spain and Switzerland – expecting temperatures above 40C (104F) later on Thursday.

    On Wednesday, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic recorded their highest temperatures for June.
    Meteorologists say hot air drawn in from northern Africa is responsible.

    [...]

    Temperatures are expected to top 40C in Italy too, particularly in central and northern regions. Several cities, including Rome, have issued the highest heat warnings.
    On Thursday morning the body of a 72-year-old homeless Romanian man was found near Milan’s central train station. Officials say the heat may have been a factor in his death.
    Philip Trackfield, a British tourist in Rome, told the BBC: “Last night at the Spanish steps it was 41C. It’s exhausting when you’re trying to do all the sights.”
    Meanwhile the whole of France – where a heatwave in 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths – is now on orange alert, the second-highest warning level.

  • Manure pile spontaneously combusts to spark 13,000-acre wildfire, Spanish authorities say

    Spontaneous combustion of a manure pile on a farm likely sparked a 13,000-acre wildfire now burning out of control in northeastern Spain, authorities say.

    Television reports showed horses incinerated in the blaze that rolled across the rural terrain, forcing the evacuation of at least 53 residents in Spain’s Catalonia region. Hundreds of sheep also died in the fire and smoke that drew more than 500 firefighters and soldiers to battle the flames, The Guardian reported.

    The flames threatened nearly 50,000 acres in the area, said Miquel Buch, the regional interior minister, calling it the area’s worst wildfire in 20 years.

    “Let us be very aware that any irresponsibility can end up being a catastrophe,” Buch said in a tweet. “Maximum precaution.”

  • It’s so hot in Europe, the temperature map is screaming

    Wednesday marked the start of a major heat wave across Western Europe, with hot air moving north from the Sahara prompting record-setting high temperatures in France, Germany, and Poland.

  • Finance

    • Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites

      Dark patterns are user interface design choices that benefit an online service by coercing, steering, or deceiving users into making unintended and potentially harmful decisions. We conducted a large-scale study, analyzing ~53K product pages from ~11K shopping websites to characterize and quantify the prevalence of dark patterns.

    • How E-Commerce Sites Manipulate You Into Buying Things You May Not Want

      The report coincides with discussions among lawmakers about regulating technology companies, including through a bill proposed in April by Senators Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, that is meant to limit the use of dark patterns by making some of the techniques illegal and giving the Federal Trade Commission more authority to police the practice.

    • How 9 People Built an Illegal $5M Airbnb Empire in New York

      The host is part of a sprawling network that city officials say illegally converted residential units in 36 buildings—many of which were low-cost or rent-stabilized—in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan into full-time short-term rentals, available primarily through Airbnb. From 2015 to 2019, the alleged scheme earned more than $5 million in revenue through Airbnb for booking 24,330 rooms and housing 63,873 guests in what the city describes as dangerous and unsanitary conditions.

    • Winklevoss Twins’ Fortune Doubles as Bitcoin Rallies

      Bitcoin surpassed $13,000 Wednesday for the first time since January of last year after Facebook Inc. announced last week it planned to issue its own cryptocurrency in conjunction with partners including Uber Technologies Inc. and Visa Inc. Bitcoin has more than tripled since December, prompting many investors to ignore the 74% drop last year that followed the 1,400% surge in 2017.

    • Bitcoin’s Blowout Surge Keeps Boosting Crypto-Linked Stocks

      Some have suggested Bitcoin is benefiting from fresh optimism as Facebook Inc. has decided to push into cryptocurrencies with its new coin, Libra. Geopolitical tension, and dropping bond yields, may also be drawing investors into alternative assets, like gold.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Partisan Gerrymandering Upheld by Supreme Court

      By a 5 to 4 vote, in a decision by Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court today said it cannot decide the question of partisan gerrymandering in federal courts.

      SCOTUS will not strike down the gerrymandering in North Carolina and Maryland.

    • Trump just went on an epic, unintelligible rant about Twitter censorship
    • Twitter Will Start Flagging Tweets From Political Figures Like Donald Trump That Violate Its Rules

      Now, Twitter said, it is going to display a new notice in front of tweets it keeps on the service under the “public interest” standard that will require users to click through to view the post. Twitter also will not show such tweets in certain areas, including in the Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, in the Notifications tab or Explore section.

    • Twitter will now hide — but not remove — harmful tweets from public figures

      This notice will only apply to tweets from accounts belonging to political figures, verified users, and accounts with more than 100,000 followers. If a tweet is flagged as violating platform rules, a team of people from across the company will decide whether it is a “matter of public interest.” If so, a light gray box will appear before the tweet notifying users that it’s in violation, but it will remain available to users who click through the box. In theory, this could preserve the tweet as part of the public record without allowing it to be promoted to new audiences through the Twitter platform.

    • Pompeo Meets Saudi King, Crown Prince on Iran

      Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA that the Saudi reception for Pompeo appeared to be a sign of displeasure that President Trump had backed off on retaliating for Iran’s downing of a U.S. drone in the Gulf of Hormuz, last week.

    • FedEx refuses to deliver a Huawei phone to the US

      In any case, there is no law against shipping Huawei phones to the United States – as long as they’re not directly to the company. The question is why anybody would want to: Huawei phones have already been blacklisted by US carriers. Even if they weren’t, shipping a batch of handsets one at a time is the kind of wasteful packaging that even Amazon might raise an eyebrow at.

    • Friends: Trump accuser told us of attack in the ’90s

      Two women have confirmed that the writer E. Jean Carroll told them in the 1990s that she’d been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump….

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Assange legal advisor: Pentagon spearheaded pursuit of WikiLeaks founder

      Geoffrey Robertson, a senior legal advisor to Assange, revealed in a radio interview that he was told by senior figures in the previous US administration of Barack Obama that the Pentagon was spearheading the campaign to secure the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US.

      Robertson made the comments in an interview last Thursday with Phillip Adams on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Late Night Live” program.

    • Exclusive: In a world first, Facebook to give data on hate speech suspects to French courts

      The decision by the world’s biggest social media network comes after successive meetings between Zuckerberg and Macron, who wants to take a leading role globally on the regulation of hate speech and the spread of false information online.

      So far, Facebook has cooperated with French justice on matters related to terrorist attacks and violent acts by transferring the IP addresses and other identification data of suspected individuals to French judges who formally demanded it.

      Following a meeting between Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, and O last week, the social media company has extended this cooperation to hate speech.

    • How Free Speech Dies Online [iophk: "how does that change when these platforms are misused for official government communications?"]

      However, since then, while free speech has remained a controversial topic, the focus of the debate has moved away from restrictions on speech by state actors, and toward the question of how corporate entities that privately control the platforms which host a great deal of our speech and debate should regulate and moderate their users.

      These platforms are not bound by the US Constitution or by other legal regimes that protect private speech from state coercion, but their rule-making processes should be guided by the same principles that led all Western democracies to implement strong protections for speech—even speech that others may find offensive.

    • Pamela Anderson opens up about Julian Assange, veganism and #MeToo

      You have been working to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of jail. What will that take?

      A lot of public support. We really have to get him out of jail. He can’t be extradited to America. They are doing everything they can to destroy his reputation, so people don’t support him. If you see people throughout history, that’s what they do.

      Keeping him in the public eye is really important, so he doesn’t get killed. But being alive and in prison — Belmarsh prison is not an easy life — he’s never committed a violent act in his life. He’s very calm, very centered. I really encourage people to look at some of his speeches and the things he talks about. He’s very, very smart and very passionate about justice.

      And he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing. He knew he was going to be in danger. Julian told me everything that happened and what was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. So now he needs public outcry — and especially from journalists. It’s crazy the brainwashing that’s gone on and the egos involved. We have to get him out of there for sure.

    • Ravelry, a Popular Knitting Site, Bans Pro-Trump Content [iophk: "will they ban other supremacist movements?"]

      “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy,” the site said in a statement explaining the decision. “Support of the Trump administration is undeniably support for white supremacy.”

      The policy applies to content on the site, including knitting patterns and forum posts, but not to people, according to Ravelry, which said it still welcomed Republicans and those with conservative political views. “You can still participate if you do in fact support the administration, you just can’t talk about it here,” the statement said, adding that “hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.”

    • Prosecutors and federal judges collaborate with corporations to seal evidence of public safety risks, sentencing hundreds of thousands of Americans to death

      Reuters has published a must-read report on the widespread practice of sealing court documents relevant to public safety and health in product liability cases, finding that about half of the largest cases heard in the past 20 years had their evidence sealed, in cases involving “drugs, cars, medical devices and other products.” This is just the tip of the iceberg, only tracking federal cases — the problem is likely even worse at the state level.

    • YouTube Is Giving You More Control Over Video Recommendations

      Starting Wednesday, you can block specific channels from appearing in your YouTube recommendations, the company announced in a blog post. The feature is available in both the Android and iOS YouTube apps, and will come to desktop soon. A similar option already exists on Spotify, where users can block artists they don’t want appearing in algorithmically generated playlists or elsewhere. YouTube will also start disclosing to iOS users the reason a video was recommended to them, like how Facebook tells you why you saw a specific advertisement or post in your News Feed. The feature will come to both Android and desktop in the future.

    • Reddit quarantines Trump subreddit r/The_Donald for violent comments

      Reddit has placed the controversial Donald Trump-focused subreddit r/The_Donald behind a quarantine screen after “repeated” misbehavior that includes inciting violence. A moderator posted an explanatory message from Reddit, which has asked moderators to make it clear that “violent content is unacceptable” on the forum. The move comes two days after Media Matters for America noted that r/The_Donald members were supporting violent attacks on Oregon police and other public officials.

    • Something Awful’s founder thinks YouTube sucks at moderation

      Large internet platforms are only just starting to confront user-generated content at scale, because it’s only recently that advertisers have made it unprofitable for platforms to let their worst actors flaunt widely accepted social codes of conduct. But moderation is complex: for every Alex Jones YouTube bans, there are hundreds of others toeing the line of acceptable content according to the platform’s own rules. There’s just so much that’s borderline or open to interpretation because moderation, as a practice and art, is fundamentally subjective. Even posts that are within the letter of the rules can be grounds for a ban, for example, because of a user’s previous behavior.

    • Facebook CEO: Company Was Too Slow to Respond to Pelosi Deepfake

      Zuckerberg said Facebook is considering a new policy on deepfake videos, and suggested the content might be held to a different standard than other types of fake news.

    • Facebook To Start Handing User Info To French Government So It Can Start Punishing People For Being Stupid

      France has criminalized hate speech, building on legislation that worked out oh so well in Germany. Facebook has already allowed French government censors to embed with the company’s moderation teams. Facebook.gov is no one’s idea of a better world, but there was always a chance French regulators might actually learn something from the experience: namely, that moderating content at scale isn’t easy and tends to cause collateral damage if performed the way multiple governments would prefer.

      It appears little has been learned. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent meeting with France’s president may have little to with this, but Facebook has been historically cooperative with other demands from the French government. However, previous cooperation generally concerned terrorism investigations, not people engaging in criminalized ignorance.

      The French government naturally seems pleased with Facebook’s decision to deliver hateful users into the hands of authorities.

      [...]

      What the actual fuck. Ignorant people saying ignorant things is not even close to equivalent of violent acts that kill and maim people just because they don’t agree with the terrorists or, worse, just because they’re there. While I understand that France’s protections for speech are not on par with the First Amendment, equating hate speech with terrorism is stupid and will end up costing stupid people their freedom, even if they’ve done nothing more than let everyone else know how stupid they are.

    • Trump Thinks That The Government Can And Should Sue Internet Companies Because He Doesn’t Like The People Who Work There

      The “rig the election” is one that’s been making the rounds this week after a group of people deliberately misrepresented Google’s ongoing (and very public) efforts to prevent foreign intervention in the US election. If you think that blocking foreign intervention is “rigging the election,” well, then you’ve got much bigger issues.

      As for the claim that Twitter has made it “very hard” for users to find and follow him, he currently has 61.4 million followers — which appears to make him the twelfth most followed account on the platform. He has more followers than Kim Kardashian. I don’t think anyone is making it hard to find or follow him. Or, if Twitter is doing that, please, Twitter, make it just as hard for people to find and follow me on the platform.

      Look, I get that Trump and his fans don’t like the fact that tech company employees overwhelmingly didn’t vote for him. But, that’s not any basis for making up lies about them and sending the DOJ after them. There may well be legal and regulatory issues that deserve scrutiny regarding these legal companies, but making up fantasy stories only makes it that much harder to sort out what’s legitimate from what’s utter nonsense.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Alexa called man a ‘S**THEAD’ after he cancelled his Amazon Prime subscription

      VIRTUAL ASSISTANT Alexa told a customer he was a “s**thead” after he asked it to play some music. Michael Slade, 29 was shocking to hear his Amazon Echo Dot call him the rude name…

    • Alexa Calls Guy “Shithead” After He Cancelled Prime Subscription

      Upon such an encounter, Slade simply could not believe it and talked to the technical team about the indecent incident. Following this, all Michael got was a £5 worth gift voucher as compensation.

      To clear things out, Amazon devices come with the ability to customize many settings, even the playlist names. While Michael swears he did nothing to his Echo Dot settings, there is a possibility someone else must have altered it, maybe, for fun.

    • California: Stop Face Surveillance on Police Body-Worn Cameras

      Communities called for police officers to wear cameras with the hope that doing so would improve police accountability, not further mass surveillance. But today, we stand at a crossroads. Face recognition technology is now capable of being interfaced with body-worn cameras in real-time—a development that has grave implications for privacy, free speech, and racial justice.

    • Another Report Shows The GDPR Benefited Google And Facebook, And Hurt Everyone Else

      We warned folks that these big attempts to “regulate” the internet as a way to “punish” Google and Facebook would only help those companies. Last fall, about six months into the GDPR, we noted that there appeared to be one big winner from the law: Google. And now, the Wall Street Journal notes that it’s increasingly looking like Facebook and Google have grown thanks to the GDPR, while the competition has been wiped out.

    • Victory: California Orders State Audit of Automated License Plate Readers

      A California legislative committee today voted to direct the State Auditor to launch a probe into the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs) by law enforcement agencies. The audit will include the first comprehensive statewide survey of which agencies use this surveillance technology and what vendors they use. It will also include a deeper audit into four specific jurisdictions across the state.

      ALPRs are camera systems that scan the license plates of vehicles in order to track people in real-time and create search databases of drivers’ historical travel patterns. As a mass surveillance technology, ALPR captures information on every driver, regardless of whether their vehicle is under suspicion.

      In 2015, EFF supported legislation—S.B. 34—to require agencies to implement policies that protect civil liberties and privacy, and to maintain a detailed log of every time someone accesses ALPR data. In the years since, EFF has filed hundreds of public records requests and analyzed scores of policies only to discover that many agencies are either ignoring the law altogether or failing to follow some of its provisions. Often EFF’s research faces hurdles because agencies signed non-disclosure agreements with the primary vendor of the technology, Vigilant Solutions.

    • Global Average of 40% of Homes Have at Least One IoT Device
    • Creating my own web analytics system from scratch

      I mentioned in passing a few weeks back that I’ve removed Google Analytics from Ctrl blog, and that I’d built a replacement web analytics collection and analysis system from scratch. Here are some more details on that endeavor.

      I’ve never been comfortable handing information about my visitors over to Google, or been happy about the performance impact, and unsatisfied with how it doesn’t properly track how much time visitors spend on pages. (A key metric in my book.)

    • WhatsApp tests feature that shares your status to Facebook and other apps

      Although there’s a direct link to share your status to Facebook, WhatsApp tells me that it’s not doing anything to link your accounts on the two services. Instead, it’s making use of the same iOS and Android data-sharing APIs as every other app, meaning data is transferred between the apps on-device. Even if you share data to another Facebook-owned service like Instagram, WhatsApp says the two posts will be separate events in Facebook’s systems, and they will not be linked. There is also no option to have your WhatsApp status automatically shared to another service; WhatsApp tells me it wants the feature to be an active decision on the part of the user.

    • Libra, explained

      It’s shady as hell, though. You remember Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss? The twins from whom Mark Zuckerberg ripped the initial idea for Facebook? Yeah, so they have a cryptocurrency exchange called Gemini. As any astrology buff will tell you, both Libra and Gemini are air signs, and Geminis are stereotypically scarier than Libras. Gemini is the sign of twins and is associated with two-faced-ness. Plus, it’s a mutable air sign, which makes it somewhat unstable. Libra, as a cardinal sign, is somewhat more stable. Libra sees both sides; Gemini tries to be both sides.

    • Amazon is watching, listening and tracking you. Here’s how to stop it

      Meanwhile, Amazon monitors your music, book and TV/movie selections via the Music, Kindle, Audible and Prime Video apps to make better recommendations, says the company.

    • Operation Soft Cell: A Worldwide Campaign Against Telecommunications Providers

      In 2018, the Cybereason Nocturnus team identified an advanced, persistent attack targeting global telecommunications providers carried out by a threat actor using tools and techniques commonly associated with the Chinese-affiliated threat actor APT10. This multi-wave attacks focused on obtaining data of specific, high-value targets and resulted in a complete takeover of the network.

      [...]

      Based on the data available to us, Operation Soft Cell has been active since at least 2012, though some evidence suggests even earlier activity by the threat actor against telecommunications providers.

    • Report: [Attackers] using telecoms like ‘global spy system’

      An ambitious group of suspected state-backed [attackers] has been burrowing into telecommunications companies in order to spy on high-profile targets across the world, a U.S. cybersecurity firm said in a report published Tuesday.

      Boston-based Cybereason said the tactic gave [attackers] sweeping access to VIPs’ call records, location data and device information — effectively turning the targets’ cellular providers against them.

      Cybereason Chief Executive Lior Div said because customers weren’t directly targeted, they might never discover that their every movement was being monitored by a hostile power.

    • Thailand orders phone users in Muslim-majority south to submit photos

      The tit-for-tat violence has claimed around 7,000 lives, mostly civilians of both faiths, and security forces have detained individuals suspected of being separatist rebels without warrants in the past.

      Now telecoms companies are requiring all users of the region’s 1.5 million mobile numbers to submit a photo of themselves for facial recognition purposes following orders from the army – a move that is drawing anger from rights groups as the deadline to register photos nears.

    • Politicians Don’t Trust Facebook—Unless They’re Campaigning

      Brown and Hawley are hardly alone in sharing their website visitors’ data with Facebook in this manner. Over the past two months, I surveyed the official campaign websites of 535 US politicians. As of June 14, 81 sitting US senators, including Brown and Hawley, have Facebook tracking pixels embedded somewhere on their campaign websites; 31 of them send exact donation amounts. As of last Friday, at least 176 members of the House of Representatives also have the Facebook pixel on their campaign homepages. And almost every 2020 presidential candidate uses this kind of tracker, too, including President Donald Trump.

      And this should be underlined: Facebook’s pixel technology, which is meant to help target Facebook ads to visitors, must be approved by websites on which it operates. These politicians—or at least their campaigns—have actively signed up to allow Facebook to track their visitors.

    • Lord Of The Flies: An Open-Source Investigation Into Saud Al-Qahtani

      Before tuning in via Skype to oversee the murder and dismemberment of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saud al-Qahtani, a high-level adviser to the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was best known for running social media operations for the royal court and serving as MBS’s chief propagandist and enforcer. His portfolio also included hacking and monitoring critics of the Kingdom and MBS.

      What follows below is a summary of this investigation’s findings into al-Qahtani’s activities. [...]

    • I Shouldn’t Have to Publish This in The New York Times

      Our first mistake was giving the platforms the right to decide who could speak and what they could say. Our second mistake was giving them the duty to make that call, a billion times a day.

    • House panel to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency project

      The Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on Facebook’s Project Libra on July 17, Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) announced Monday afternoon. The Senate Banking Committee will hold its own hearing on the social media giant’s crypto project the previous day.

    • Alphabet’s Plan for Toronto Depends on Huge Amounts of Data

      The letter motions toward a difficult reality for the Alphabet company: Underpinning its fantastic vision for the 12-acre slice of Toronto is a similarly fantastic one for partnership between a big, global city and a big multinational corporation. It will need land to be transferred at a reasonable price; it will need public infrastructure commitments, including a light rail extension; it asks for “performance payments” when the company reaches agreed-upon benchmarks and milestones.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Liberals add far-right extremist groups to list of outlawed terror networks

      According to the government’s website, Blood & Honour is an international neo-Nazi network whose ideology is derived from the National Socialist doctrine of Nazi Germany; it was founded in the U.K. in 1987. The organization and its armed wing, Combat 18, have spread across Europe and North America.

      [...]

      Other groups on the list include al Qaida, ISIS and Boko Haram.

    • Trump admin’s ‘tent cities’ cost more than keeping migrant kids with parents

      The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services — far higher than the cost of keeping children with their parents in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.

    • Protesters in Hong Kong may have almost won this battle — but the fight for freedom and identity is far from over

      While it would seem activists should hail this small victory, many have been left frustrated and unimpressed, which is only fueling further efforts. On Friday, thousands of protesters swarmed the police headquarters and nearby buildings. And more demonstrations have already been planned in the lead up to the G20 summit in Osaka next weekend. “Before this important event on the international stage, we should rally again to deal another blow to Carrie Lam!” organizers wrote in a call to action on Facebook.

      Though protesters may have won a small victory in the battle over this legislation, the fight against China’s creeping influence on the fragmented city is far from over.

    • Bank of America says it will stop lending to private-prison companies

      Before making the decision, the bank conducted a review through its environmental, social and governance (ESG) committee, which included meeting and consulting with clients, criminal justice experts and civil rights leaders, as well as internal black and Hispanic leaders, according to Bloomberg.

    • Bank of America Will Stop Lending to Private-Prison Firms

      Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. bank, will stop lending to companies that run private prisons and detention centers.

      “We have decided to exit the relationship’’ with companies that provide prison and immigration-detention services, Vice Chairman Anne Finucane said Wednesday in an interview. “We’ve done our due diligence that we said we would do at the annual meeting, and this is the decision we’ve made.’’

    • Protest on July 14: Free Julian Assange!

      The Socialist Equality Group (New Zealand) will hold a rally in Wellington, as part of the global campaign of the International Committee of the Fourth International and the World Socialist Web Site to demand freedom for Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder has been relentlessly persecuted for publishing evidence of war crimes by US imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan and revealing the anti-democratic machinations of Washington and its allies throughout the world.

    • Confirmed: Supremacy Kodi Repo Was Indeed Targeted By Police

      Following the surprise shutdown of the Supremacy kodi add-on repository on June 13, TorrentFreak can today confirm that its operator was indeed targeted by UK police. The decision to report the case to law enforcement was taken by the Federation Against Copyright Theft in association with the Premier League, Sky, BT Sport, and Virgin Media.

    • Data From Court Documents Shows Texas Law Enforcement Playing Small-Ball Forfeiture, Not Doing Much To Stop Drug Trafficking

      Journalists digging into the numbers behind vague forfeiture reports have uncovered more unsurprising details about the practice. Since the state of Texas doesn’t require reporting of anything more than overall profits from forfeitures, reporters at the Texas Tribune did it the hard way. Reading through thousands of pages of court filings, the paper was able to tease out the granular detail law enforcement agencies don’t like the public seeing.

      What the Texas Tribune uncovered is exactly the reasons asset forfeiture is both problematic and incredibly popular with law enforcement agencies. Cop shop PR officers may hold press conferences to announce things like the $1.2 million in cash seized from a traffic stop, they’re very quiet about the day-to-day work of forfeiture. The reality is the $50 million a year taken through forfeiture in the state of Texas is composed of hundreds of very small cash seizures.

  • DRM

    • ‘The Books Will Stop Working’: How The Microsoft Store Is Retiring Its Books Category

      The process of deleting swathes of ebooks from Microsoft Edges everywhere comes with another hidden cost, the deletion of any highlighting or annotations made by the ebooks’ readers over the years. Microsoft addresses this, offering an additional credit for each annotated book deleted. “Mark-ups and annotations made in books acquired from Microsoft Store will be available until early July 2019 when your books are removed from Microsoft Edge,” their site FAQ explains. “If you have made mark-ups or annotations in any of your acquired books prior to April 2, 2019, you’ll receive an additional $25 credit to your Microsoft account at the same time refunds are processed.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Game Over: Multiplayer Gaming Patent Found to be an Abstract Idea

      Judge Maryellen Noreika (D. Delaware) has been very active since receiving her judicial commission less than a year ago, including already issuing a handful of Section 101 opinions. In Sandbox Software v. 18Birdies, she holds that Sandbox’s patent claims are directed to the abstract idea of playing a multiplayer game and keeping track of its progress.

      Sandbox attempts to save the claims, arguing that the claims are directed to “a tailored and narrowly focused method or device that requires a multistep verification process for moves relating to a game” and combines gaming with geolocation to “solve the problem of social isolationism.”

      The court did not buy it. Judge Noreika, citing to the patent, stated that the “only technology recited in the claims are generic mobile devices, a mobile device game application, verification and a central server,” all of which are generic computer components functioning in conventional ways in their logical order. Similarly, the geolocation elements only refer to generic GPS, which is not an improvement in technology.

    • The Challenges of Patenting Autonomous Vehicle AI and Software [Ed: These jokers who bully companies in court (a large litigation firm, Foley & Lardner LLP) use AI/"hey hi" hype to push fake patents on software]

      Can patents still be obtained for new functionality or improvements that are provided by AI and software?

      [...]

      Since these changes to the patent law make it challenging to obtain patent protection for certain software implemented inventions related to artificial intelligence (“AI”) or internet of vehicles (“IoV”) technologies, companies may be discouraged from pursuing patent protection for such inventions. For example, since the 2014 Alice case, the number of patent applications filed annually for AI inventions in Digital Marketing, FinTech, Education, and Entertainment actually declined significantly (Industry-Focused Patenting Trends, page 16.)

    • Still No Shortage of Viewpoints as Eligibility Debate Moves to the Hill [Ed: A blog that promotes software patents propping up staged, stacked, bogus ‘debates’ set up by bribed (by law firms) politicians]

      Back in March, I reported on the breadth of comments the USPTO received in response to its new Guidance on patent subject matter eligibility. Now, Congress has taken up the issue with a proposed draft of a new bipartisan, bicameral bill, and the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property (under the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary) recently completed three days of hearings. Sen. Thom Tillis has already stated that based on the testimony, he realizes revisions will need to be crafted to address issues with the new definition of “utility,” to reconsider the proposed amendment to § 112(f), to consider an appropriate enhancement of exemptions for experimental use and research, and to clarify that the legislation is not intended to promote patenting of human genes.

    • “Patent Remedies and Complex Products” Is Now Available [Ed: Events about patents always full of patent maximalists who profit from litigation and almost nobody else]

      As I have mentioned before on this blog (see, e.g., here), the book is the work of the International Patent Remedies for Complex Products project, of which I was fortunate to be a part. (INPRECOMP began as a joint venture between the Center for Law, Science and Innovation (CLSI) at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College London, and is primarily funded by a gift to CLSI from Intel.) It was a terrific experience working with the editors and other scholars involved in this project, and I hope that the book will achieve a wide readership not only among academics but also among lawyers, judges, and other professionals involved in the global patent system. Reviews would be most welcome!

    • Roche shields itself from a UK Arrow: Pfizer v Roche

      The UK courts have discretion to grant a declaration that any future patent granted covering a product, would necessarily, be invalid (an “Arrow declaration”, Arrow v Merck). In a High Court decision published last week, Mr Justice Birss considered whether an Arrow declaration may be granted even where there was no possibility of a UK patent right ever coming into existence: Pfizer v Roche [2019] EWHC 1520 (Pat).

      The case concerned two giants of the bio-pharmaceuticals world, Roche and Pfizer, and Roche’s blockbuster biologic, Avastin. Roche markets the monoclonal antibody drug bevacizumab for the treatment of cancer, under the brand name Avastin. Roche’s European sales for Avastin in 2018 were over £1 billion.

    • If you’re going to appeal your application to the Board twice, res judicata should make you think twice [Ed: Anticipat is ranting about PTAB again; the whole existence of it is to bash judges and examiners, shaming them into patent maximalism]

      Thus, the rejection was also affirmed based on res judicata.
      A good law student should be able to tell you about the doctrine of res judicata. This is a doctrine of judicial efficiency and fairness, which is that an issue that has been decided once need not be decided again. What that good law student may not know is how res judicata applies to administrative bodies, such as the USPTO. At least from the patent prosecution perspective, the PTAB seems open to using this doctrine if the claims are not patentably distinct from claims that were previously affirmed as rejected.
      How often does res judicata get applied by the board? In short, extremely rarely. For one, it is rare that an application gets appealed twice. It’s even more rare for res judicata. Of over 100,000 decisions, the Anticipat database showed 45 such decisions with the key word match.

      Interestingly, both decisions were penned by Gregg I. Anderson. Given the small cohort of PTAB judges for tech centers, having the same PTAB judge write the opinion for two decisions is not out of the ordinary. Here, Judge Anderson may have recognized familiar argumentation and was not convinced the second time. As a former litigator, he was also familiar with res judicata. The two panels had two overlapping judges: the second panel consisted of administrative patent judges Carolyn D. Thomas, Jeremy J. Curcuri, and Gregg I. Anderson while the first panel included Jeremy J. Curcuri, Gregg I. Anderson and Eric B. Chen.

      Keep in mind res judicata when pursuing a second appeal. It might save you a lot of effort and time.

    • SPCs based on a second marketing authorisation – the fight continues (Novartis C-354/19)

      The purpose of the SPC Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 469/2009) is to compensate a patentee for the lengthy process of achieving marketing authorisation. SPCs are national rights that provide an additional period of patent protection (max 5 years) for an active pharmaceutical ingredient. The active ingredient must be subject to a valid marketing authorisation and be protected by a patent (Regulation (EC) No 469/2009, Article 3(a)). In Europe, patent protection may be obtained for a second medical use of a known product (Article 54(5) EPC). These further medical uses of a known product also require a further marketing authorisation. Previous referrals to the CJEU have sought clarity over whether SPCs may be granted for the same active ingredient based on such a second marketing authorisation.

      In Neurim (C-130/11) the CJEU found that an earlier marketing authorisation obtained for a veterinary medicinal product did not prevent the grant of an SPC for a different application of the same product for which a different marketing authorisation had been granted. In Abraxis (C-443/17) Mr Justice Arnold asked whether, following Neurim (C-130/11), Article 3(d) of the SPC Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 469/2009) permitted grant of an SPC if the active ingredient has previously received marketing authorisation, but the new marketing authorisation is for a product in the form of a new formulation of the active ingredient. The CJEU answered to the negative (IPKat posts here and here).

    • Trademarks

      • Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on “Immoral and Scandalous” Trademarks

        On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Iancu v. Brunetti, No. 18-302, finding that the Lanham Act prohibition against registration of scandalous or immoral trademarks violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Brunetti decision follows closely behind the Court’s 2017 opinion in Matal v. Tam, which struck down the Lanham Act’s prohibition of disparaging marks under similar First Amendment grounds.

      • Charity lawyers face descriptive trademarks headache

        In-house counsel at charities including Cancer Research UK tell Managing IP that getting trademark protection can be hard because of restrictions on what is registrable and warn of the difficulties around introducing a ‘charitable exemption’

        In-house counsel at charities have spoken of the difficulties of protecting their brands, telling Managing IP that they are sometimes forced into thinking creatively about other ways of being granted protection because of restrictions on purely descriptive marks.

    • Copyrights

      • ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer Appeals 14 Year Prison Sentence

        Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys behind the controversial Prenda law firm, is appealing his conviction as well as the 14-year prison sentence. The former attorney will await the result of his appeal in prison. The court further ruled that a $75,000 settlement Hansmeier recently received, will be reserved for the victims of the copyright-trolling scheme.

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