Japan

The Factory Where Robots Build Robots (bloomberg.com) 4

turkeydance shared Bloomberg's profile of Fanuc, a secretive Japanese company with 40,000-square-foot factories "where robots made other robots in the dark...stopping only when no storage space remains." About 80% of the company's assembly work is automated, and its robots then go on to assemble and paint cars, build motors, and make electrical components. "King of them all is the Robodrill, which plays first violin in one of the great symphonies of modern production: machining the metal casing for Apple Inc.'s iPhones..." With 40% profit margins, the robot vendor has become a $50 billion company controlling most of the world's market for factory automation and industrial robotics, Bloomberg reports: In fact, Fanuc might just be the single most important manufacturing company in the world right now, because everything Fanuc does is designed to make it part of what every other manufacturing company is doing... The company even profits from its competitors' sales, because more than half of all industrial robots are directed by its numerical-control software. Between the almost 4 million CNC systems and half-million or so industrial robots it has installed around the world, Fanuc has captured about one-quarter of the global market, making it the industry leader over competitors such as Yaskawa Motoman and ABB Robotics in Germany, each of which has about 300,000 industrial robots installed globally. Fanuc's Robodrills now command an 80 percent share of the market for smartphone manufacturing robots.
Fanuc's clients include Amazon and Tesla, but U.S. orders "are dwarfed by those from China -- some 90,000 units, almost a third of the world's total industrial robot orders last year."
The Military

US Preparing to Put Nuclear Bombers On 24-Hour Alert (defenseone.com) 179

DefenseOne reports on new preparations at Barksdale Air Force Base: The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991. That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base's 11,000-foot runway -- dubbed the "Christmas tree" for their angular markings -- could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment's notice... Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come...

Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale -- home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service's nuclear forces -- to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building -- where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment's notice -- is being renovated. Inside, beds are being installed for more than 100 crew members, more than enough room for the crews that would man bombers positioned on the nine alert pads outside... Large paintings of the patches for each squadron at Barksdale adorn the walls of a large stairway. One painting -- a symbol of the Cold War -- depicts a silhouette of a B-52 with the words "Peace The Old Fashioned Way," written underneath.

General Goldfein, the Air Force's top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "is asking his force to think about new ways that nuclear weapons could be used for deterrence, or even combat... 'It's no longer a bipolar world where it's just us and the Soviet Union. We've got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It's never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.'"
Space

The Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility: Where Spacecraft Go To Die (bbc.com) 49

dryriver writes: Whether you launch a satellite into space or an entire space station like the Russian Mir, the Chinese Tiangong-1 or the International Space Station, what goes up must eventually come down -- re-enter earth's atmosphere. The greater the mass of what is in space -- Mir weighed 120 tons, the ISS weighs 450 tons and will be decommissioned in a decade -- the greater the likelihood that larger parts will not burn up completely during re-entry and crash to earth at high velocity. So there is a need for a place on earth where things falling back from space are least likely to cause damage or human casualties. The Oceanic Pole Of Inaccessibility is one of two such places.

The place furthest away from land -- it lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands -- somewhere in the no-man's land, or rather no-man's-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America, has become a favorite crash site for returning space equipment. "Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian," reports the BBC. "The wreckage of the Space Station Mir also lies there... Many times a year the supply module that goes to the International Space Station burns up in this region incinerating the station's waste." The International Space Station will also be carefully brought down in this region when its mission ends. No one is in any danger because of this controlled re-entry into our atmosphere. The region is not fished because oceanic currents avoid the area and do not bring nutrients to it, making marine life scarce.

Education

Bill Gates Tries A(nother) Billion-Dollar Plan To Reform Education (washingtonpost.com) 140

theodp shared this article from the Washington Post: Bill Gates has a(nother) plan for K-12 public education. The others didn't go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent. Gates announced Thursday that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in public education, with all but 15 percent of it going to traditional public school districts and the rest to charter schools... He said most of the new money -- about 60 percent -- will be used to develop new curriculums and "networks of schools" that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive "continuous improvement." He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn't describe exactly what they are...

Though there wasn't a lot of detail on exactly how the money would be spent, Gates, a believer in using big data to solve problems, repeatedly said foundation grants given to schools as part of this new effort would be driven by data. "Each [school] network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching and data collection and analysis," he said, an emphasis that is bound to worry critics already concerned about the amount of student data already collected and the way it is used for high-stakes decisions. In 2014, a $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates foundation collapsed amid criticism that it couldn't adequately protect information collected on children.

"In his speech, Gates said that education philanthropy was difficult, in part because it is easy to 'fool yourself' about what works and whether it can be easily scaled," according to the article. It also argues that big spending on education by Gates and others "has raised questions about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people pouring so much money into pet education projects -- regardless of whether they are grounded in research -- that public policy and funding follow."

By 2011 the Gates' foundation had already spent $5 billion on education projects -- and admitted that "it hasn't led to significant improvements."
Social Networks

Silicon Valley 'Divided Society and Made Everyone Raging Mad', Argues Newsweek (newsweek.com) 149

"Anyone who is pissed off can now automatically find other people that are similarly pissed off," argues author Jamie Bartlett, in a new essay shared by Slashdot reader schwit1 which calls the internet "a bottomless well of available grievance." Here's an excerpt from Newsweek: Silicon Valley's utopians genuinely but mistakenly believe that more information and connection makes us more analytical and informed. But when faced with quinzigabytes of data, the human tendency is to simplify things. Information overload forces us to rely on simple algorithms to make sense of the overwhelming noise. This is why, just like the advertising industry that increasingly drives it, the internet is fundamentally an emotional medium that plays to our base instinct to reduce problems and take sides, whether like or don't like, my guy/not my guy, or simply good versus evil. It is no longer enough to disagree with someone, they must also be evil or stupid...

Nothing holds a tribe together like a dangerous enemy. That is the essence of identity politics gone bad: a universe of unbridgeable opinion between opposing tribes, whose differences are always highlighted, exaggerated, retweeted and shared. In the end, this leads us to ever more distinct and fragmented identities, all of us armed with solid data, righteous anger, a gutful of anger and a digital network of likeminded people. This is not total connectivity; it is total division.

Google

Google Says It Hasn't Promised To Help News Sites By Sharing Money and User Data (cnet.com) 18

UPDATE (2:53 PST): Google say it hasn't lined up any deals to share revenue and user data with online news sites, calling Sunday news reports "totally wrong."

"We have not reached any conclusions on the revenue side," Google spokeswoman Maggie Shiels told CNET. "We haven't reached any conclusions [regarding] subscriptions and need to speak to publishers."

An anonymous reader shared the text of CNET's original report: The web giant is planning to share a chunk of its revenue with publishers, the Financial Times reported Sunday. Google's plan is to mate its treasure trove of personal data with machine learning algorithms to help news publications grow their subscriber base, the newspaper reported... The deal Google is offering to news publishers will reportedly be similar to the arrangement Google has with traditional advertisers through its AdSense business. "We want to have a healthy ecosystem where we'll benefit both as a society and with our business," Richard Gringas, Google's head of news, told the FT.
Financial Times claimed that Google had promised that the revenue sharing "will be very, very generous," while TechCrunch had reported that Google would also be claiming "a 30% finder's fee" for every new subscriber.
Open Source

30-Year-Old Operating System 'PC-MOS/386' Finally Open Sourced (github.com) 106

PC-MOS/386 "was a multi-user, computer multitasking operating system...announced at COMDEX in November 1986," remembers Wikipedia, saying it runs many MS-DOS titles (though it's optimized for the Intel 80386 processor).

Today Slashdot user Roeland Jansen writes: After some tracking, racing and other stuff...PC-MOS/386 v5.01 is open source under GPLv3. Back in May he'd posted to a virtualization site that "I still have the source tapes. I want(ed) to make it GPL and while I got an OK on it, I haven't had time nor managed to get it legalized. E.g. lift the NDA and be able to publish."

1987 magazine ads described it as "the gateway to the latest technology...and your networking future," and 30 years later its release on GitHub includes sources and executables. "In concert with Gary Robertson and Rod Roark it has been decided to place all under GPL v3."
Advertising

Could Cryptocurrency Mining Kill Online Advertising? (linkedin.com) 111

"Could it turn out users actually prefer to trade a little CPU time to website owners in favor of them not showing ads?" writes phonewebcam, a long-time Slashdot reader. Slashdot covered the downside [of in-browser cryptocurrency mining] recently, with even [Portuguese professional sportsballer] Cristiano Ronaldo's official site falling victim, but that may not be the full story. This could be an ideal win-win situation, except for one huge downside -- the current gang of online advertisers.
By "current gang of online advertisers," he means Google, according to a longer essay at LinkedIn: Naturally, the world's largest ad broker, which runs the world most popular browser (desktop and mobile) is keen to see how this plays out, and is also uniquely placed to be able to heavily influence it, too... As it happens, Chrome users can already do something about it via extensions, for example AntiMiner... If cryptocurrencies have a future - and that's a big if (look at China's Bitcoin ban) - it could well turn out that their role just took an unexpected turn.
Transportation

Tesla Plans Factory In China, Discounts Insurance For Self-Driving US Cars (electrek.co) 83

Business Insider reports: Tesla has created a customized insurance package, InsureMyTesla, that is cheaper than traditional plans because it factors in the vehicles' Autopilot safety features and maintenance costs. InsureMyTesla has been available in 20 countries, but Tesla just recently partnered with Liberty Mutual to make the plan available in the U.S. InsureMyTesla shows how the insurance industry is bound for disruption as cars get safer with self-driving tech.
Electrek reports: There have been several false alarms over the past few years about Tesla building a factory in China. Earlier this year, Tesla finally confirmed working with the Shanghai government to establish a manufacturing facility in the region and promised an announcement by the end of the year. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that they have come to an agreement with the local authorities on a "wholly owned" factory in the region... China is already the biggest market for electric vehicles, or any vehicles for that matter, and Tesla profited from the demand by tripling its sales to over $1 billion in the country in 2016. Tesla continues to have strong sales in the country this year, where it leads foreign electric car sales with no close second.
Security

Security Upgraded For NetBSD-amd64 with Kernel ASLR Support (netbsd.org) 44

24 years after its release, NetBSD is getting a security upgrade -- specifically, Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR). An anonymous reader writes: Support for Kernel ASLR was added on NetBSD-amd64 a few weeks ago. KASLR basically randomizes the address of the kernel, and makes it harder to exploit several classes of vulnerabilities [including privilege escalations and remote code execution]. It is still a work-in-progress, but it's already fully functional, and can be used following the instructions on this post from the NetBSD blog. It will be available starting from NetBSD 9, but may be backported to NetBSD 8 once it is stabilized.
NetBSD says they're the first BSD system to support ASLR.
Government

Canadian Government Teams With Facebook To Protect Election Integrity (vice.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: There are nearly as many Canadians who use Facebook daily as there are people in this country who are registered to vote -- which is why the federal government is working with Facebook to protect its next federal election... Facebook is now facing perhaps its biggest test as it looks to curb foreign electoral interference and the rampant disinformation on its platform, both of which undermine the nature of democracy. Facebook Canada's election integrity project includes a partnership with a local digital news media literacy organization MediaSmarts, as well as a "cyberhygiene guide" that highlights particular vulnerabilities such as phishing and page-admin authentication. Facebook also has a crisis email line to help politicians and parties with hacking concerns... Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada's head of public policy, said the social media company is working on preventing bad actors from interfering with the democratic process. "At Facebook we take our responsibilities seriously," Chan said. "We don't want anyone to use our tools to undermine democracy."
At the launch of "the Canadian Election Integrity Initiative," Canada's Minister of Democratic Institutions argued that social media sites "must begin to view themselves as actors in shaping the democratic discourse."

The article points out Facebook "has promised to hire thousands of workers globally to help review flagged and suspicious content, as well as use machine learning to identify suspicious patterns of behavior on its platform."
Security

With Rising Database Breaches, Two-Factor Authentication Also At Risk (hackaday.com) 74

Two-factor authentication "protects from an attacker listening in right now," writes Slashdot reader szczys, "but in many case a database breach will negate the protections of two-factor." Hackaday reports: To fake an app-based 2FA query, someone has to know your TOTP password. That's all, and that's relatively easy. And in the event that the TOTP-key database gets compromised, the bad hackers will know everyone's TOTP keys.

How did this come to pass? In the old days, there was a physical dongle made by RSA that generated pseudorandom numbers in hardware. The secret key was stored in the dongle's flash memory, and the device was shipped with it installed. This was pretty plausibly "something you had" even though it was based on a secret number embedded in silicon. (More like "something you don't know?") The app authenticators are doing something very similar, even though it's all on your computer and the secret is stored somewhere on your hard drive or in your cell phone. The ease of finding this secret pushes it across the plausibility border into "something I know", at least for me.
The original submission calls two-factor authentication "an enhancement to password security, but good password practices are far and away still the most important of security protocols." (Meaning complex and frequently-changed passwords.)
Privacy

A 14-Year-Old Asks: When Should I Get a VPN? 163

"One of my students sent me this letter," writes Slashdot reader Hasaf. "I have a good idea how I will answer, but I wanted to put it before the Slashdot community." The letter reads: Right now I am 14 years old, I was wondering when I should get a VPN... I was thinking about getting the yearly deal. But right now I really have no need for a VPN at the moment. I was thinking of getting a VPN when I'm in 11th grade or maybe in college. What do you think?
Of course, the larger question is what factors go into deciding whether your need to be using a VPN. So leave your best answers in the comments. When should you get your first VPN?
Chrome

Microsoft Chastises Google Over Chrome Security (pcmag.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes PCMag: In a Wednesday blog post, Redmond examined Google's browser security and took the opportunity to throw some shade at Chrome's security philosophy, while also touting the benefits of its own Edge browser. The post, written by Microsoft security team member Jordan Rabet, noted that Google's Chrome browser uses "sandboxing" and isolation techniques designed to contain any malicious code. Nevertheless, Microsoft still managed to find a security hole in Chrome that could be used to execute malicious code on the browser.

The bug involved a Javascript engine in Chrome. Microsoft notified Google about the problem, which was patched last month. The company even received a $7,500 reward for finding the flaw. However, Microsoft made sure to point out that its own Edge browser was protected from the same kind of security threat. It also criticized Google for the way it handled the patching process. Prior to the patch's official rollout, the source code for the fix was made public on GitHub, a software collaboration site that hosts computer code. That meant attentive hackers could have learned about the vulnerability before the patch was pushed out to customers, Microsoft claimed. "In this specific case, the stable channel of Chrome remained vulnerable for nearly a month," the blog post said. "That is more than enough time for an attacker to exploit it."

In the past Google has also disclosed vulnerabilities found in Microsoft products -- including Edge.
Advertising

For Under $1,000, Mobile Ads Can Track Your Location (mashable.com) 51

"Researchers were able to use GPS data from an ad network to track a user to their actual location, and trace movements through town," writes phantomfive. Mashable reports: The idea is straightforward: Associate a series of ads with a specific individual as well as predetermined GPS coordinates. When those ads are served to a smartphone app, you know where that individual has been... It's a surprisingly simple technique, and the researchers say you can pull it off for "$1,000 or less." The relatively low cost means that digitally tracking a target in this manner isn't just for corporations, governments, or criminal enterprises. Rather, the stalker next door can have a go at it as well... Refusing to click on the popups isn't enough, as the person being surveilled doesn't need to do so for this to work -- simply being served the advertisements is all it takes.
It's "an industry-wide issue," according to the researchers, while Mashable labels it "digital surveillance, made available to any and all with money on hand, brought to the masses by your friendly neighborhood Silicon Valley disrupters."

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