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Chinese Astronauts Return To Earth After Spending Six Months in Space

Mon, 2022-04-18 14:00
Three Chinese astronauts, also known as taikonauts, safely returned to Earth yesterday after spending six months aboard China's unfinished Tiangong space station, according to a report from Space.com. This is China's second crewed mission to Tiangong and its longest so far. From a report: The Shenzhou 13 spacecraft landed in the Inner Mongolia desert at 9:56AM local time on Saturday morning after departing from the space station's core Tianhe module about nine hours prior. The crew took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert last October and spent a total of 183 days on the space station. This mission is China's longest. In addition, taikonaut Wang Yaping made history as the first Chinese woman to visit the Tianhe space station and also became the first Chinese woman to conduct a spacewalk. Wang was accompanied by crewmate Ye Guangfu and commander Zhai Zhigang. The trio carried out a total of two spacewalks, performed various tests around the station, and held two live lectures for students watching from Earth. Shenzhou 13 is part of 11 missions China has planned to finish constructing the Tiangong space station. China first launched the Tianhe module in April 2021 and later sent three taikonauts to bring the station online. As noted by Space.com, the Shenzhou 14 crew is set to depart for the space station sometime in June. China plans on having the station finished by the end of the year, which will include the launch of two additional modules.

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Thanks To Apple, Customer-Data Platforms Are Getting a Second Chance

Mon, 2022-04-18 13:25
In the wake of data privacy changes by mobile platforms last year, the enterprise tech world is suddenly very interested in customer-data platforms (CDPs). From a report: With Twilio's acquisition of Segment, Treasure Data's $234 million fundraise late last year and Salesforce's push into CDPs, the hot new buzzword is potentially a hot new market. "The way I think about [CDPs] is, it's trying to create a 360-degree view of each of your customers to help you more accurately identify what would most resonate with this customer," said Derek Zanutto, a general partner at CapitalG. The term first started appearing in mainstream conversations back in 2017. In short, CDPs are centralized places to store all the first-party data a company collects from its customers. "It's fundamentally a data platform that unifies the data, and processes it, and then activates the profiles across many channels," said Treasure Data CEO Kazuki Ohta. The key is not just collecting and storing that data, but making it available to use. The need for CDPs first arose as companies realized they had this data but didn't know what to do with it. "What we're seeing that a lot of brands do is effectively build a data lake or a master data management system, where there's a lot of data coming together potentially," said Ryan Fleisch, head of Product Marketing for Adobe's CDP. "But where a lot of brands are looking for further partnership is: How do I make sense of that data, activate it and make a decision off of it?" "The transformation of the data, the ability to personalize that customer information, I think is a key value prop of the customer data platform," said Twilio Segment Vice President Jodi Alperstein. "And really knowing that 360 view of the customer and really being able to identify them, and then be able to put it into action." It's also why CDPs are most commonly talked about in a marketing context, because it's the most natural extension of using data about customers. After Apple and Google restricted the use of third-party cookies in apps and on the web, marketers needed to find new sources of customer information.

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Xiaomi Battles To Reinvent Itself as China's Apple

Mon, 2022-04-18 12:40
Push into the premium smartphone market is a 'life or death' battle for budget brand. From a report: In February, Xiaomi founder and chief executive Lei Jun threw down the gauntlet to Apple and Samsung, vowing to make his company China's top-selling premium brand in three years. "[It's] a war of life and death," Lei said in a post on Chinese social media site Weibo. Xiaomi, the world's second-largest smartphone vendor, is a master of reinvention, making everything from rice cookers to e-scooters. If all goes to plan, the company will roll out its electric vehicle in 2024, ahead of arch-rival Apple. But as Beijing's tech crackdown takes hold, Lei is facing the potential for greater regulation at a time companies around the world are suffering from a global chip shortage. As China works to bring Big Tech to heel, Xiaomi's Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen more than 50 per cent from a year ago to about HK$12 (US$1.50). Its growth momentum also hinges on whether it can fend off its domestic and international rivals, said analysts. [...] According to former and current employees and industry analysts, Xiaomi's biggest hurdle to realising its goals of overtaking Apple and Samsung is convincing consumers of its high-end pedigree. Xiaomi, launched in 2010, made a name for itself building a loyal community of "mi fen," Xiaomi fans who bought products for the specifications, such as more advanced processors, at a cheaper price. While it ranks third in overall sales in China, it only holds five per cent of the global premium market, in which phones are priced at more than $400. "It will be difficult to defeat Samsung and Apple," said a former executive. "It does not play to Xiaomi's strengths, it doesn't have the brand power Apple and Samsung have, and they are not good at selling to people who don't care about specs." The company's phones have evolved. Xiaomi's 12 series phones, released in March and costing $749 for the most basic version, are designed to compete with Apple's $799 iPhone 13. As part of the launch, Xiaomi has pledged to open 20,000 more stores on top of the 10,000 they already have in China, and has changed the branding on its 12 series so they are no longer known by the "Mi" prefix that was the calling card of their previous hardware. But former company executives said the phones needed more than a name change. Xiaomi's previous attempts to break free of its budget image have ended in disappointment.

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British Encryption Startup Arqit Overstates Its Prospects, Former Staff and Others Say

Mon, 2022-04-18 12:00
Arqit says its encryption system can't be broken by quantum computers, but former employees and people outside the company question the relevance of its technology. The Wall Street Journal: A U.K. cybersecurity startup rocketed to a multibillion-dollar valuation when it listed publicly last fall on the promise of making encryption technology that would protect the defense industry, corporations and consumers alike from the prying eyes of next-generation computer systems. Founder and Chief Executive David Williams told investors at the time that his company, Arqit Quantum had an "impressive backlog" of revenue and was ready "for hyperscale growth." But Arqit has given investors an overly optimistic view of its future revenue and the readiness and workability of its signature encryption system, according to former employees and other people familiar with the company, and documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal. While the company says it has a solution to a quantum-computing security challenge that U.S. intelligence last year said "could be devastating to national security systems and the nation," government cybersecurity experts in the U.S. and the U.K. have cast doubt on the utility of Arqit's system. Arqit's stock price reached its highest level to date of $38.06 on Nov. 30 and has since fallen, to $15.06 on April 14, amid a broad pullback of young tech stocks. When the company secured its Nasdaq listing last autumn, its revenue consisted of a handful of government grants and small research contracts, and its signature product was an early-stage prototype unable to encrypt anything in practical use, according to the people. The encryption technology the company hinges on -- a system to protect against next-generation quantum computers -- might never apply beyond niche uses, numerous people inside and outside the company warned, unless there were a major overhaul of internet protocols. Arqit disputed that its encryption system was only a prototype at the company's market debut. "This was a live production software release and not a demonstration or trial," said a company representative. "It was being used by enterprise customers on that day and subsequently for testing and integration purposes, because they need to build Arqit's software into their products."

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Catalan Independence Leaders Targeted By Spyware, Rights Group Says

Mon, 2022-04-18 11:26
Catalonia's regional leader accused the Spanish government on Monday of spying on its citizens after a rights group said his phone and dozens more belonging to Catalan pro-independence figures had been infected with spyware used by sovereign states. From a report: The Citizen Lab digital rights group found more than 60 people linked to the Catalan separatist movement, including several members of the European Parliament, other politicians, lawyers and activists, had been targeted with "Pegasus" spyware made by Israel's NSO Group after a failed independence bid. NSO, which markets the software as a law-enforcement tool, said Citizen Lab and Amnesty International, which was not involved in this investigation but has published previous studies about Pegasus, had produced inaccurate and unsubstantiated reports to target the company.

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DeFi Project Beanstalk Loses $182 Million in Flash Loan Attack

Mon, 2022-04-18 10:40
Decentralized finance project Beanstalk Farms suffered one of the largest-ever flash-loan exploits on Sunday, sending its price tumbling. From a report: The credit-focused, Ethereum-based stablecoin protocol suffered a total loss of around $182 million and the attacker got away with around $80 million of crypto tokens, according to blockchain security firm PeckShield, which had flagged the incident on Twitter. The project's native token BEAN fell about 75% from its $1 peg against the dollar, pricing from CoinGecko showed. The protocol's creators disclosed their identities on Beanstalk's Discord server, and said that they were not involved in the attack. "We are not aware of the identity of the individuals who were involved. Like all other investors in Beanstalk, we lost all of our deposited assets in the Silo, which was substantial," the founders wrote. It isn't yet clear whether investors who lost funds will be reimbursed -- or if so, how and to what extent. Unlike traditional lending, which requires a loan to be secured with a collateral or credit checks, DeFi smart contracts allow users to borrow huge sums of stablecoins in what are known as flash loans, without any form of security. Flash loans, where the entire process of borrowing and returning the loan happens in a single transaction on the blockchain, are fairly popular among arbitrage traders.

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Intel Calls Its AI That Detects Student Emotions a Teaching Tool. Others Call It 'Morally Reprehensible'

Mon, 2022-04-18 10:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: When college instructor Angela Dancey wants to decipher whether her first-year English students comprehend what she's trying to get across in class, their facial expressions and body language don't reveal much. "Even in an in-person class, students can be difficult to read. Typically, undergraduates don't communicate much through their faces, especially a lack of understanding," said Dancey, a senior lecturer at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dancey uses tried-and-true methods such as asking students to identify their "muddiest point" -- a concept or idea she said students still struggle with -- following a lecture or discussion. "I ask them to write it down, share it and we address it as a class for everyone's benefit," she said. But Intel and Classroom Technologies, which sells virtual school software called Class, think there might be a better way. The companies have partnered to integrate an AI-based technology developed by Intel with Class, which runs on top of Zoom. Intel claims its system can detect whether students are bored, distracted or confused by assessing their facial expressions and how they're interacting with educational content. "We can give the teacher additional insights to allow them to better communicate," said Michael Chasen, co-founder and CEO of Classroom Technologies, who said teachers have had trouble engaging with students in virtual classroom environments throughout the pandemic. His company plans to test Intel's student engagement analytics technology, which captures images of students' faces with a computer camera and computer vision technology and combines it with contextual information about what a student is working on at that moment to assess a student's state of understanding. Intel hopes to transform the technology into a product it can distribute more broadly, said Sinem Aslan, a research scientist at Intel, who helped develop the technology. "We are trying to enable one-on-one tutoring at scale," said Aslan, adding that the system is intended to help teachers recognize when students need help and to inform how they might alter educational materials based on how students interact with the educational content. "High levels of boredom will lead [students to] completely zone out of educational content," said Aslan. But critics argue that it is not possible to accurately determine whether someone is feeling bored, confused, happy or sad based on their facial expressions or other external signals.

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Richard Stallman Speaks on Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, GNU Taler, and Encryption

Mon, 2022-04-18 07:34
During a 92-minute presentation Wednesday on the state of the free software movement, Richard Stallman spoke at length on a wide variety of topics, including the need for freedom-respecting package systems. But Stallman also shared his deepest thoughts on a topic dear to the hearts of Slashdot readers: privacy and currency: I won't order from online stores, because I can't pay them . For one thing, the payment services require running non-free JavaScript... [And] to pay remotely you've got to do it by credit card, and that's tracking people, and I want to resist tracking too.... This is a really serious problem for society, that you can't order things remotely anonymously. But GNU Taler is part of the path to fixing that. You'll be able to get a Taler token from your bank, or a whole bunch of Taler tokens, and then you'll be able to use those to pay anonymously. Then if the store can send the thing you bought to a delivery box in your neighborhood, the store doesn't ever have to know who you are. But there's another issue Stallman touched on earlier in his talk: There is a proposed U.S. law called KOSA which would require mandatory age-verification of users -- which means mandatory identification of users, which is likely to mean via face recognition. And it would be in every commercial software application or electronic service that connects to the internet.... [It's] supposedly for protecting children. That's one of the favorite excuses for surveillance and repression: to protect the children. Whether it would actually protect anyone is dubious, but they hope that won't actually be checked.... You can always propose a completely useless method that will repress everyone.... So instead, Stallman suggests that age verification could be handled by.... GNU Taler: Suppose there's some sort of service which charges money, or even a tiny amount of money, and is only for people over 16, or people over 18 or whatever it is. Well, you could get from your bank a Taler token that says the person using this token is over 16. This bank has verified that.... So then the site only needs to insist on a 16-or-over Taler token, and your age is verified, but the site has no idea who you are. Unfortunately that won't help if user-identifying age-tracking systems are legislated now. The code of Taler works, but it's still being integrated with a bank so that people could actually start to use it with real businesses. Read on for Slashdot's report on Stallman's remarks on cryptocurrencies and encryption, or jump ahead to... Can GNU Taler accounts be frozen? Why cryptocurrency shouldn't replace banking The problem with VPN apps - and how interoperable encryption could protect your freedom

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Applications Surged After Colleges Started Ignoring Standardized Test Scores

Mon, 2022-04-18 04:04
What happened when college admissions offices started ignoring the standardized test scores? NBC News asked college administrators like Jon Burdick, Cornell's vice provost for enrollment: When the health crisis closed testing sites in 2020, four of Cornell's undergraduate colleges decided to go test optional, meaning students could submit a test score if they thought it would help them, but didn't have to. Three of Cornell's colleges adopted test-blind policies, meaning admissions officers wouldn't look at any student's scores. The effects were immediate, Burdick said. Like many other colleges and universities, Cornell was inundated with applications — roughly 71,000 compared to 50,000 in a typical year. And the new applications — particularly those that arrived without test scores attached — were far more likely to come from "students that have felt historically excluded," Burdick said. The university had always looked at many factors in making admissions decisions, and low test scores were never singularly disqualifying, Burdick said. But it became clear that students had been self-rejecting, deciding not to apply to places like Cornell because they thought their lower SAT scores meant they couldn't get in, he said. Other colleges also saw a similar surge in applications.... At Cornell, managing the surge in applications wasn't easy, Burdick said. The university hired several admissions officers and about a dozen part-time application readers — paid for in part by the additional application fees.... In the end, Cornell enrolled a more diverse class, including a nearly 50 percent increase in the share of first-generation college students. "It showed me that these students, given the opportunity, can show really impressive competitive credentials and get admitted with the test barrier reduced or eliminated," Burdick said. Research on colleges that went test optional years ago shows that students admitted without test scores come from more diverse backgrounds and do about as well in their classes once they arrive as peers who did submit test scores.

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Ultra-Rare Black Hole Ancestor Detected at the Dawn of the Universe

Mon, 2022-04-18 01:05
"Astronomers have discovered a dusty, red object 13 billion light-years from Earth that may be the earliest known ancestor of a supermassive black hole," reports Live Science: The ancient object shows characteristics that fall between dusty, star-forming galaxies and brightly glowing black holes known as quasars, according to the authors of a new study, published April 13 in the journal Nature. Born just 750 million years after the Big Bang, during an epoch called the "cosmic dawn," the object appears to be the first direct evidence of an early galaxy weaving stardust into the foundations of a supermassive black hole. Objects like these, known as transitioning red quasars, have been theorized to exist in the early universe, but they have never been observed — until now.... Prior research has shown that quasars existed within the first 700 million years of the universe, the study authors wrote; however, it's unclear exactly how these supermassive objects formed so quickly after the Big Bang. Simulations suggest that some sort of fast-growing transition phase occurs in dusty, star-dense galaxies. "Theorists have predicted that these black holes undergo an early phase of rapid growth: a dust-reddened compact object emerges from a heavily dust-obscured starburst galaxy," study co-author Gabriel Brammer, an associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, said in the statement. In their new paper, the researchers claim to have detected one of these rare transitional objects — officially named GNz7q — while studying an ancient, star-forming galaxy with the Hubble Space Telescope. The team caught the early galaxy in the midst of a stellar baby boom, with the galaxy seemingly churning out new stars 1,600 times faster than the Milky Way does today. All those newborn stars produced an immense amount of heat, which warmed the galaxy's ambient gas and caused it to glow brightly in infrared wavelengths. The galaxy became so hot, in fact, that its dust shines brighter than any other known object from the cosmic dawn period, the researchers said. Amid that brightly glowing dust, the researchers detected a single red point of light — a large, compact object tinged by the enormous fog of dust around it. According to the researchers, this red dot's luminosity and color perfectly match the predicted characteristics of a transitioning red quasar.... [T]here are likely many, many others like it just waiting to be discovered by telescopes that can peer even further back, into the earliest eras of the universe. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which launched on Dec. 25, 2021, will be able to hunt for these elusive objects with much greater clarity than Hubble, the researchers wrote, hopefully shedding a bit more light onto the dusty cosmic dawn.

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Is GitHub Suspending the Accounts of Russian Developers at Sanctioned Companies?

Sun, 2022-04-17 21:39
"Russian software developers are reporting that their GitHub accounts are being suspended without warning if they work for or previously worked for companies under U.S. sanctions, writes Bleeping Computer: According to Russian media outlets, the ban wave began on April 13 and didn't discriminate between companies and individuals. For example, the GitHub accounts of Sberbank Technology, Sberbank AI Lab, and the Alfa Bank Laboratory had their code repositories initially disabled and are now removed from the platform.... Personal accounts suspended on GitHub have their content wiped while all repositories become immediately out of reach, and the same applies to issues and pull requests. Habr.com [a Russian collaborative blog about IT] reports that some Russian developers contacted GitHub about the suspension and received an email titled 'GitHub and Trade Controls' that explained their account was disabled due to US sanctions. This email contains a link to a GitHub page explaining the company's policies regarding sanctions and trade controls, which explains how a user can appeal their suspension. This appeal form requires the individual to certify that they do not use their GitHub account on behalf of a sanctioned entity. A developer posted to Twitter saying that he could remove the suspension after filling out the form and that it was due to his previous employer being sanctioned. A GitHub blog post in March had promised to ensure the availability of open source services "to all, including developers in Russia." So Bleeping Computer contacted a GitHub spokesperson, who explained this weekend that while GitHub may be required to restrict some users to comply with U.S. laws, "We examine government sanctions thoroughly to be certain that users and customers are not impacted beyond what is required by law." According to this, the suspended private accounts are either affiliated, collaborating, or working with/for sanctioned entities. However, even those who previously worked for a sanctioned company appear to be suspended by mistake. This means that Russian users, in general, can suddenly find their projects wiped and accounts suspended, even if those projects have nothing to do with the sanctioned entities.

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