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Biden Signs Executive Order To Address Chip Shortage Through a Review To Strengthen Supply Chains

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to address a global chip shortage impacting industries ranging from medical supplies to electric vehicles. From a report: The order includes a 100-day review of key products including semiconductors and advanced batteries used in electric vehicles, followed by a broader, long-term review of six sectors of the economy. The long-term review will allow for policy recommendations to strengthen supply chains, with the goal of quickly implementing the suggestions, Biden said at a press event Wednesday before he signed the order. The action follows calls from bipartisan members of Congress and industry leaders warning about the potential consequences of the shortage. Commonly known as chips, semiconductors are used to power electronics including phones, electric vehicles and even some medical supplies. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that "semiconductor manufacturing is a dangerous weak spot in our economy and in our national security." Press release from The White House.

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Verizon Leads 5G Airwave Bidding With Record $45 Billion Splurge

Verizon Communications committed $45 billion for 5G wireless airwaves in a government auction that attracted record bidding as the largest U.S. mobile carriers race to build faster networks. From a report: At $23 billion, AT&T was the second-highest bidder, according to the Federal Communications Commission, which ran the auction. Participants also included T-Mobile US Inc. and pay-TV providers such as Dish Network, Comcast and Charter Communications. Some have already tapped the debt market to help pay the tab. The auction started in December, and within days the tally exceeded analysts' estimates of $47 billion before settling at $81.2 billion. The budget-stretching bidding underscores how crucial these so-called midband frequencies are to companies trying to seize global leadership in emerging 5G technology. The airwaves are prized for their combined ability to travel far and carry lots of data. They are expected to drive years of growth when deployed for next-generation mobile devices, autonomous vehicles, health-care equipment and manufacturing facilities.

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Why Discord Is Switching From Go To Rust

RoccamOccam writes: The developers at Discord have seen success with Rust on their video encoding pipeline for Go Live and on their Elixir NIFs' server. Recently, they penned a post explaining how they have drastically improved the performance of a service by switching its implementation from Go to Rust. From the post, "Remarkably, we had only put very basic thought into optimization as the Rust version was written. Even with just basic optimization, Rust was able to outperform the hyper hand-tuned Go version. This is a huge testament to how easy it is to write efficient programs with Rust compared to the deep dive we had to do with Go."

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Google Sponsors 2 Full-Time Devs To Improve Linux Security

Worried about the security of Linux and open-source code, Google is sponsoring a pair of full-time developers to work on the kernel's security. From a report: The internet giant builds code from its own repositories rather than downloading outside binaries, though given the pace at which code is being added to Linux, this task is non-trivial. Google's open-source security team lead Dan Lorenc spoke to The Register about its approach, and why it will not use pre-built binaries despite their convenience. But first: the two individuals full-time sponsored by Google are Gustavo Silva, whose work includes eliminating some classes of buffer overflow risks and on kernel self-protection, and Nathan Chancellor, who fixes bugs in the Clang/LLVM compilers and improves compiler warnings. Both are already working at the Linux Foundation, so what is new? "Gustavo's been working on the Linux kernel at the Linux Foundation for several years now," Lorenc tells us. "We've actually been sponsoring it within the Foundation for a number of years. The main change is that we're trying to talk about it more, to encourage other companies to participate. It's a model that works, we're trying to expand it, find contributors that want to turn this into a full-time thing, and giving them the funding to do that." It is in the nature of open source that Google's funding benefits other Linux users, and it is also in the company's interests. How important is Linux to Google? "It's absolutely critical. Google started on Linux. We use it everywhere," says Lorenc. That being the case, why can Google only manage "Gold" membership of the Linux Foundation ($100,000 per annum), whereas others including Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, and Red Hat are "Platinum", which contributes $500,000 annually? "I'm not sure about that stuff. There are dozens of sub-foundations which we are also members of," he adds. Google is ahead of AWS, which is a mere "Silver" member ($20,000 a year).

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The Fed's System That Allows Banks To Send Money Back and Forth is Down

The Federal Reserve's system that allows financial institutions to send money back and forth electronically went down Wednesday morning. From a report: The "operational error," as the Fed described it, impacted multiple services, including its pivotal automated clearinghouse system, which connects depository and related institutions send electronic credit and debt transfers. There were no initial indications that foul play was suspected. Along with the Fed ACH service, other systems impacted included the Check 21, FedCash, Fedwire and the national settlement service. A statement from the central bank said it became aware of a problem around 11:15 a.m. ET. "Our technical teams have determined that the cause is a Federal Reserve operational error. We will provide updates via service status as more information becomes available," the Fed said. The statement further noted that the glitch impacted payment deadlines and said the Fed "will communicate remediation efforts to our customers when available."

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Apache Software Foundation Ousts TinkerPop Creator

Frosty P writes: The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) has removed Marko Rodriguez from the TinkerPop project he co-founded because his provocative Twitter posts were said to have violated the ASF Code of Conduct. "I was removed from the project I started 11 years ago for 'publishing offensive humor that borders on hate speech,'" Rodriguez explained in an email to The Register. "However, now that Big Tech has secured the ASF board, it is a way to 'shut me up' about the monopolistic practices of Big Tech." Rodriguez argues that "woke culture" is a creation of "Big Tech," and that it serves to protect the industry's economic monopoly "by monopolizing the ideology of the people." Asked whether he sees the problem in light of the content-moderation challenge faced by social media services, which police speech without clear, consistent rules or due process, he said not at all. "I like to tweet, so I tweet. If Apache likes to police tweets, then may they police tweets," Rodriguez replied. "The question becomes: do they really like to police tweets? Are they finding as much joy in policing tweets as I find in tweeting tweets? If so, then we are both happy and the world rejoices. If not, then how can we help Apache find joy ... For joyless people ultimately impede those that do find joy in what they do." In a subsequent message he noted he has received death threats demanding he apologize for his thoughts, and that those people always assume he's a Trump supporter. "I've never voted," he said. "I simply don't care."

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Amazon Prime Video Direct and the Dystopian Decision To Stop Accepting Documentaries

When Amazon made a unilateral decision in early February to stop accepting documentaries and short films via Prime Video Direct (a policy that also covers "slide shows, vlogs, podcasts, tutorials, filmed conferences, monologues, toy play, music videos, and voiceover gameplay"), the announcement also served as a quiet purge. Amazon also has been dropping long-running documentary titles from the service, with stakeholders receiving no warning or context for the decisions. From a report: Filmmakers and distributors are aghast, but Amazon Prime Video Direct seems to be egalitarian in how it treats its partners. Whether you're an individual filmmaker or an established specialty distributor, no one can ask an Amazon Prime Video Direct representative for more information; there's no one to ask. All inquiries are submitted via trouble tickets, and everyone receives the same boilerplate response via their Amazon Prime Video direct dashboards: "Unless otherwise indicated," the message says, "removed titles (or titles not selected for licensing) may not be resubmitted or appealed." "The selections are so random, it feels like a machine is doing this and not humans," said one executive working on films impacted by the decision. "The lack of any human response adds to the frustration. It reminds me of when politicians want to cut PBS funding." Despite Amazon's dystopian approach to customer service, Prime Video Direct has been in a process of evolution from the start. When it launched in May 2016, it was positioned to lure content creators away from YouTube with bonuses and a more premium experience. Anyone could upload content to Amazon either as titles included free with Prime subscriptions (and earn a royalty) or as digital purchases or rentals. Given Amazon's massive reach, and multiple ways to make money, it was positioned as a fierce competitor in the battle for video ad dollars.

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Starlink Will Hit 300Mbps and Expand To 'Most of Earth' This Year

Starlink broadband speeds will double to 300Mbps "later this year," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter this week. SpaceX has been telling users to expect speeds of 50Mbps to 150Mbps since the beta began a few months ago. From a report: Musk also wrote that "latency will drop to ~20ms later this year." This is no surprise, as SpaceX promised latency of 20ms to 40ms during the beta and had said months ago that "we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021." It sounds like the speed and latency improvements will roll out around the same time as when Starlink switches from beta to more widespread availability. Two weeks ago, Starlink opened preorders for service expected to be available in the second half of 2021, albeit with limited availability in each region. Reader xonen writes: Starlink has become available in my country, The Netherlands. I verified pricing -- it's the same prices in Euros as in the USA in dollars, which was to be expected due to sales taxes being about equal the difference in value between dollars and euro's, so 99 euro monthly, and 499 up front for the hardware. From the email: Starlink is now available for order to a limited number of users in your coverage area. Placing your order now will hold your place in line for future service. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis. During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s and latency from 20ms to 40ms in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all. As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically. The Starlink team will provide periodic updates on availability as we launch more satellites and expand our coverage area. Depending on your location, some orders may take 6 months or more to fulfill. To check availability for your location, visit Starlink.com and re-enter your service address. Thank you for your interest in Starlink and your continued support!

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Fry's Electronics Going Out of Business, Shutting Down All Stores

UnknowingFool and scores of other readers have shared this report: Fry's Electronics, the decades-old superstore chain with locations in nine American states, appears to have gone defunct. Bay Area TV station KRON-4 was the first press outlet to confirm the news late Tuesday, saying that Fry's will shut down all 30 of its American locations. The retailer will reportedly make an announcement at some time on Wednesday via the Fry's website. Rumors began flying on Tuesday in the form of anecdotes from alleged Fry's employees, who all reported that they'd been summarily fired earlier in the day with zero notice. One anonymous report posted at The Layoff alleged that every remaining Fry's store in the US was "permanently closing tomorrow," and that statement was repeated hours later at a Fry's-related Reddit community. The Reddit post included the allegation that one store's staffers were tasked with shipping any remaining merchandise back to suppliers during their final day at work. Sacramento freelance journalist Matthew Keys followed these posts by citing an unnamed source -- someone who had worked at Fry's up until "this week" -- who claimed that the electronics chain would make a formal announcement "this week" about closing all of its stores and liquidating any remaining assets. As the wave of rumors exploded, the official Fry's website began serving failure notices -- yet some of its subsite content, particularly years-old press releases, remained active through Frys.com subdomains. As Tuesday wore on, the Fry's retail site flickered in and out of normal service, even letting customers buy products after KRON-4's report went live.

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HP is Buying Gaming Accessory Brand HyperX for $425 Million

HP has announced that it is acquiring gaming peripheral company HyperX for $425 million. The purchase will give HP a major foothold in the gaming accessory market. From a report: This transaction will result in HP buying the HyperX brand from Kingston, the current owner, but HP notes in the announcement post that "Kingston will retain the DRAM, flash, and SSD products for gamers and enthusiasts." HP has been making strides to enter the gaming peripheral space for the last several years but has not gained much traction compared to other brands such as Corsair and Logitech. HyperX is one of the most notable brands in this space, with gaming accessories ranging from PC gaming peripherals to gaming microphones.

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A Digital Firewall in Myanmar, Built With Guns and Wire Cutters

The Myanmar soldiers descended before dawn on Feb. 1, bearing rifles and wire cutters. At gunpoint, they ordered technicians at telecom operators to switch off the internet. For good measure, the soldiers snipped wires without knowing what they were severing, according to an eyewitness and a person briefed on the events. The New York Times: The data center raids in Yangon and other cities in Myanmar were part of a coordinated strike in which the military seized power, locked up the country's elected leaders and took most of its internet users offline. Since the coup, the military has repeatedly shut off the internet and cut access to major social media sites, isolating a country that had only in the past few years linked to the outside world. The military regime has also floated legislation that could criminalize the mildest opinions expressed online. So far, the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, has depended on cruder forms of control to restrict the flow of information. But the army seems serious about setting up a digital fence to more aggressively filter what people see and do online. Developing such a system could take years and would likely require outside help from Beijing or Moscow, according to experts. Such a comprehensive firewall may also exact a heavy price: The internet outages since the coup have paralyzed a struggling economy. Longer disruptions will damage local business interests and foreign investor confidence as well as the military's own vast business interests. [...] If Myanmar's digital controls become permanent, they would add to the global walls that are increasingly dividing what was supposed to be an open, borderless internet. The blocks would also offer fresh evidence that more countries are looking to China's authoritarian model to tame the internet. Two weeks after the coup, Cambodia, which is under China's economic sway, also unveiled its own sweeping internet controls. Even policymakers in the United States and Europe are setting their own rules, although these are far less severe. Technologists worry such moves could ultimately break apart the internet, effectively undermining the online networks that link the world together.

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A New Browser Extension Blocks Any Websites that Use Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon

The Economic Security Project is trying to make a point about big tech monopolies by releasing a browser plugin that will block any sites that reach out to IP addresses owned by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or Amazon. From a report: The extension is called Big Tech Detective, and after using the internet with it for a day (or, more accurately, trying and failing to use), I'd say it drives home the point that it's almost impossible to avoid these companies on the modern web, even if you try. Currently, the app has to be side-loaded onto Chrome, and the Economic Security Project expects that will remain the case. It's also available to side-load onto Firefox. By default, it just keeps track of how many requests are sent, and to which companies. If you configure the extension to actually block websites, you'll see a big red popup if the website you're visiting sends a request to any of the four. That popup will also include a list of all the requests so you can get an idea of what's being asked for.

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Huawei Turns To Pig Farming as Smartphone Sales Fall

Huawei is turning to technology for pig farmers as it deals with tough sanctions on its smartphones. From a report: The Chinese telecoms giant was stopped from accessing vital components after the Trump administration labelled it a threat to US national security. In response to struggling smartphone sales, Huawei is looking at other sources of revenue for its technology. Along with Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech for pig farmers, Huawei is also working with the coal mining industry. Former US President Donald Trump claimed Huawei can share customer data with the Chinese government, allegations it has repeatedly denied. As a result, the world's largest telecoms equipment maker has been limited to making 4G models as it lacks US government permission to import components for 5G models. Huawei's smartphone sales plunged 42% in the last quarter of 2020 as it struggled with a limited supply of microchips due to the sanctions. Huawei has also been locked out of the development of 5G in a number of countries, including the UK, amid fears over national security. [...] China has the world's biggest pig farming industry and is home to half the world's live hogs. Technology is helping to modernise pig farms with AI being introduced to detect diseases and track pigs. Facial recognition technology can identify individual pigs, while other technology monitors their weight, diet and exercise. Huawei has already been developing facial recognition tech and faced criticism last month for a system that identifies people who appear to be of Uighur origin among images of pedestrians. Other Chinese tech giants, including JD.com and Alibaba, are already working with pig farmers in China to bring new technologies.

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Apple M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives. From a report: Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are said to be consuming as much as 10 to 13 percent of the maximum warrantable total bytes written (TBW) value of its SSD. Flash memory on solid-state drives, such as those used in Macs, can only be written to a certain number of times before they become unstable. Software ensures that load is spread evenly across the drive's memory cells, but there is a point when the drive has been written to so many times that it can no longer reliably hold data. So while SSD wear is normal, expected behavior, drives should not be exhausting their ability to hold data as quickly as some M1 Macs seem to be. One user showed that their M1 Mac had already consumed one percent of its SSD after just two months, while another M1 Mac with a 2TB SSD had already consumed three percent. The total data units written for these machines is running into many terabytes, when they would normally be expected to be considerably lower.

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Flash Version Distributed in China After EOL is Installing Adware

Although the Flash Player app formally reached its end of life on December 31, 2020, Adobe has allowed a local Chinese company to continue distributing Flash inside China, where the application still remains a large part of the local IT ecosystem and is broadly used across both the public and private sectors. From a report: Currently, this Chinese version of the old Flash Player app is available only via flash.cn, a website managed by a company named Zhong Cheng Network, the only entity authorized by Adobe to distribute Flash inside China. But in a report published earlier this month, security firm Minerva Labs said its security products picked up multiple security alerts linked to this Chinese Flash Player version. During subsequent analysis, researchers found that the app was indeed installing a valid version of Flash but also downloading and running additional payloads. More precisely, the app was downloading and running nt.dll, a file that was loaded inside the FlashHelperService.exe process and which proceed to open a new browser window at regular intervals, showing various ad- and popup-heavy sites.

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