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'I Want a Super-Smart Chair!'
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Long-time Slashdot reader shanen writes: Imagine you had a perfect chair for using your computer. Also a perfect chair for watching TV. And a chair for listening to music, a chair for reading, a chair for napping, a work chair that keeps you awake, and a perfect chair for dinner. Also a massage chair and a diagnostic chair that checks your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Is your house full of chairs yet? Wait! what about your spouse's perfect chairs? Need a bigger house? What if you had one chair that could be all nine of those chairs? What if you could teach the super-smart modular chair to be more chairs, too? That's what I want, plus the voodoo chair controller to manipulate and teach the slightly deformable triangular modules (in two or three sizes) that would form all of the virtual chairs for the current real chair. Anyway, this story ticks me off because I sent that idea to a couple of companies, including IKEA. I'm still waiting. Not holding my breath. That article shows Ikea promising a new "smart homes" unit -- but with no mention of investments in wondrous smart chair technologies. So the original submission ends by asking how we can bring about such a smart chair revolution?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Intel Patches Three High-Severity Vulnerabilities
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Intel's latest patches "stomped out three high-severity vulnerabilities and five medium-severity flaws," reports Threatpost: One of the more serious vulnerabilities exist in the Intel Processor Identification Utility for Windows, free software that users can install on their Windows machines to identify the actual specification of their processors. The flaw (CVE-2019-11163) has a score of 8.2 out of 10 on the CVSS scale, making it high severity. It stems from insufficient access control in a hardware abstraction driver for the software, versions earlier than 6.1.0731. This glitch "may allow an authenticated user to potentially enable escalation of privilege, denial of service or information disclosure via local access" according to Intel. Users are urged to update to version 6.1.0731. Intel stomped out another high-severity vulnerability in its Computing Improvement Program, which is program that Intel users can opt into that uses information about participants' computer performance to make product improvement and detect issues. However, the program contains a flaw (CVE-2019-11162) in the hardware abstraction of the SEMA driver that could allow escalation of privilege, denial of service or information disclosure... A final high-severity flaw was discovered in the system firmware of the Intel NUC (short for Next Unit of Computing), a mini-PC kit used for gaming, digital signage and more. The flaw (CVE-2019-11140) with a CVSS score of 7.5 out of 10, stems from insufficient session validation in system firmware of the NUC. This could enable a user to potentially enable escalation of privilege, denial of service and information disclosure. An exploit of the flaw would come with drawbacks -- a bad actor would need existing privileges and local access to the victim system. The article notes that the patches "come on the heels of a new type of side-channel attack revealed last week impacting millions of newer Intel microprocessors manufactured after 2012."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Three Years Later, France's Solar Road is a Flop
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

DigressivePoser and schwit1 both submitted the same story. That 1-km ( .62-mile) "solar road" paved with photovoltaic panels in France is "too noisy, falling apart, and doesn't even collect enough solar energy," reports Popular Mechanics: Le Monde describes the road as "pale with its ragged joints," with "solar panels that peel off the road and the many splinters [from] that enamel resin protecting photovoltaic cells." It's a poor sign for a project the French government invested in to the tune of €5 million, or $5,546,750. The noise and poor upkeep aren't the only problems facing the Wattway. Through shoddy engineering, the Wattway isn't even generating the electricity it promised to deliver... Normandy is not historically known as a sunny area. At the time, the region's capital city of Caen only got 44 days of strong sunshine a year, and not much has changed since. Storms have wrecked havoc with the systems, blowing circuits. But even if the weather was in order, it appears the panels weren't built to capture them efficiently... Solar panels are most efficient when pointed toward the sun. Because the project needed to be a road as well as a solar generator, however, all of its solar panels are flat. So even within the limited sun of the region, the Wattway was further limiting itself. The problem-plagued road is producing just half the solar energy expected -- although that's more energy than you'd get from an asphalt road. But Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), which promotes renewable energy, offered this suggestion in the Eurasia Times. "If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it." He later told Le Monde that the sorry state of the project "confirms the total absurdity of going all-out for innovation to the detriment of solutions that already exist and are more profitable, such as solar panels on roofs." But Futurism adds that the idea of having roadways generate solar power "is far from dead, according to Business Insider. In the Netherlands, a solar bike lane has fared much better, exceeding the expected energy production. A solar panel road is also being tested near Amsterdam's Schiphol airport."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

YouTube's Algorithms Blamed For Brazil's Dangerous Conspiracy Video-Sharing on WhatsApp
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

Sunday the New York Times reported that YouTube "radicalized" Brazil -- by "systematically" diverting users to conspiracy videos. Yet conventional wisdom in Brazil still puts the blame on WhatsApp, the Times reported in a follow-up story on Thursday shared by Slashdot reader AmiMoJo. "Everything began to click into place when we met Luciana Brito, a soft-spoken clinical psychologist who works with families affected by the Zika virus." Her work had put her on the front lines of the struggle against conspiracy theories, threats and hatred swirling on both platforms. And it allowed her to see what we -- like so many observers -- had missed: that WhatsApp and YouTube had come to form a powerful, and at times dangerous, feedback loop of extremism and misinformation. Either platform had plenty of weaknesses on its own. But, together, they had formed a pipeline of misinformation, spreading conspiracy theories, campaign material and political propaganda throughout Brazil. The first breakthrough came when we spoke to Yasodara Cordova, who at the time was a researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Illiteracy remains widespread in some parts of Brazil, she said, ruling out text-based social media or news sources for many people. And TV networks can be low-quality, which has helped drive YouTube's stunning growth in many parts of Brazil, particularly on mobile. But YouTube has had less success in poorer regions of Brazil for one simple reason: Users cannot afford the cellphone data. "The internet in Brazil is really expensive," Ms. Cordova said. "I think it's the fourth or fifth country in terms of internet prices." WhatsApp has become a workaround. The messaging app has a deal with some carriers to offer free data on the app, and poorer users found that this offered them a way around YouTube's unaffordability. They would share snippets of YouTube videos that they found on WhatsApp, where the videos can be watched and shared for free. Ms. Cordova suspected that the WhatsApp-spread misinformation had often come from videos that first went viral on YouTube, where they had been boosted by the extremism-favoring algorithms that we documented in our story earlier this week... It was like an infection jumping from one host to the next. Some of the videos blame the mosquito-bourne Zika virus on vaccines or suggest an international conspiracy, while some were "staged to resemble news reports or advice from health workers," the Times reports -- adding that as of Thursday the videos were still being recommended by YouTube's algorithm. (A spokesperson for YouTube "called the results unintended, and said the company would change how its search tool surfaced videos related to Zika.") Researchers say conspiracy videos were even shown to people who'd searched for reputable information on the virus, the Times reports. "The videos often spread in WhatsApp chat groups that had been set up to share information and news about coping with Zika, turning users' efforts to take control of their families' health against them." YouTube told the Times that their recommendation system now drives 70% of total time spent on YouTube -- and according to their article Thursday, Dr. Brito estimates that she now receives serious threats on her life about once a week.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Elon Musk Begins Selling $25 'Nuke Mars' T-Shirts
Posted on Thursday January 01, 1970

"Elon Musk tweeted on Thursday evening 'Nuke Mars.' A few hours later he followed it up with 'T-shirt soon'," writes Business Insider. BGR reports: Musk's tweet is a reference to the theory that by dropping one or more large bombs on Mars' poles, the CO2 locked away in the ice there would be released, giving the Martian atmosphere a much-needed boost... Making the planet's atmosphere denser could help it retain heat and bring it a small step closer to being habitable by human settlers. However, past research has suggested that bombing the planet's poles wouldn't release nearly enough CO2 to be worth the trouble. Elon Musk has publicly disagreed. It's unclear why the SpaceX boss decided to bring this all up again, but he does have a habit of saying whatever he thinks will get a big reaction on Twitter. Oh, and apparently he's hoping to sell some shirts as well. In any case, no space agency is ready to even begin preliminary planning for a crewed Mars mission, much less any long-term efforts to change the climate of the Red Planet. If that ever does happen, bombs may or may not play a role. The article adds that scientists "aren't fully on board" with Musk's line of thinking, but the t-shirts really are available in the online SpaceX store. Late Friday Musk began promoting them with an optimistic tweet. "Nuking Mars one T-shirt at a time."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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