The Military

The US And Australia Are Testing Hypersonic Missiles (engadget.com) 99

schwit1 quotes Engadget: Both the U.S. and Australia have confirmed that they recently completed a series of mysterious hypersonic missile tests. All the countries will say is that the flights were successful, and that they represented "significant milestones" in testing everything from the design assembly to the control mechanisms. They won't even say which vehicles were used or how quickly they traveled, although past tests have usually relied on Terrier Orion rockets and have reached speeds as high as Mach 8.

The tests are part of the long-running HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation) program, whose first launch took place way back in 2009. They should help bring hypersonic flight to a "range of applications," according to HIFiRE partner BAE. That could easily include ultra-fast aircraft, but it's widely believed the focus here is on missiles and similar unmanned weapons. A hypersonic missile would fulfill the US military's goal of building a conventional weapon that can strike anywhere within an hour, and it would be virtually impossible to stop using existing missile defenses. In theory, enemy nations wouldn't dare attack if they knew they'd face certain retaliation within minutes.

Originally NASA was involved in the project, which has been ongoing for more than eight years. But it's timeline may have shortened after reports that foreign powers including Russia and China are already building their own hypersonic missiles.
China

Beijing Wants AI To Be Made In China By 2030 (nytimes.com) 169

Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report on The New York Times (may be paywalled, alternative story here): "If Beijing has its way, the future of artificial intelligence will be made in China. The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion. Released by the State Council, the policy is a statement of intent from the top rungs of China's government: The world's second-largest economy will be investing heavily to ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing. The plan comes with China preparing a multibillion-dollar national investment initiative to support "moonshot" projects, start-ups and academic research in A.I., according to two professors who consulted with the government about the effort."
The Military

Navy Unveils First Active Laser Weapon In Persian Gulf (cnn.com) 368

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first -- active laser weapon. The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. It costs "about a dollar a shot" to fire, said Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves, by definition, at the speed of light. For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target -- a drone aircraft, a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries. In an instant, the drone's wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. "It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam, it doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does," said Hughes.
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 149

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
Businesses

iPhones Are Priced 'High in the Extreme' But They're Worth It, Says Apple Co-founder Wozniak (scmp.com) 291

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's iPhone has been losing ground to domestic competitors in China. That is because Chinese smartphone makers offer sophisticated functions at reasonable prices, according to Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and one of the pioneers of the personal computer industry. "Here is what I admire about Chinese phones: really good, intelligent decisions about how to lower the cost but keep enough of the functionality in, because I am into products that are good, well designed, nice looking, but at prices that the average person can afford," he said. Still, Wozniak believes the quality of Apple's product makes it worth the high price tag. "In life I don't believe in quantity as much as I do in quality. So you may not have the hugest share in the market or be the No 1, but you should have the best product you can possibly build and Apple qualifies for that," Wozniak, told reporters after he discussed artificial intelligence with Liu Zihong, chairman and chied executive of Royole, in a technology forum held at Tianan Cyber Park in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. Unlike Chinese smartphone brands that prioritise cost-effectiveness, Apple's popular and more expensive iPhone handsets are still the leader in innovation in certain features despite being more of a "safe product," he said. "Apple products are safe. And Apple's pricing is high in the extreme. It's a safe bet for a lot of people, and when you love Apple you are willing to pay for it," he said.
Security

Should We Ignore the South Carolina Election Hacking Story? (securityledger.com) 138

chicksdaddy provides five (or more) "good" reasons why we should ignore the South Carolina election hacking story that was reported yesterday. According to yesterday's reports, South Carolina's voter-registration system was hit with nearly 150,000 hack attempts on election day. Slashdot reader chicksdaddy writes from an opinion piece via The Security Ledger: What should we make of the latest reports from WSJ, The Hill, etc. that South Carolina's election systems were bombarded with 150,000 hacking attempts? Not much, argues Security Ledger in a news analysis that argues there are lots of good reasons to ignore this story, if not the very real problem of election hacking. The stories were based on this report from The South Carolina Election Commission. The key phrase in that report is "attempts to penetrate," Security Ledger notes. Information security professionals would refer to that by more mundane terms like "port scans" or probes. These are kind of the "dog bites man" stories of the cyber beat -- common (here's one from 2012 US News & World Report) but ill informed. "The kinds of undifferentiated scans that the report is talking about are the internet equivalent of people driving slowly past your house." While some of those 150,000 attempts may well be attempts to hack South Carolina's elections systems, many are undifferentiated, while some may be legitimate, if misdirected. Whatever the case, they're background noise on the internet and hardly unique to South Carolina's voter registration systems. They're certainly not evidence of sophisticated, nation-state efforts to crack the U.S. election system by Russia, China or anyone else, Security Ledger argues. "The problem with lumping all these 'hacking attempts' in the same breath as you talk about sophisticated and targeted attacks on the Clinton Campaign, the DCCC, and successful penetration of some state election boards is that it dramatically distorts the nature and scope of the threat to the U.S. election system which -- again -- is very real." The election story is one "that demands thoughtful and pointed reporting that can explore (and explode) efforts by foreign actors to subvert the U.S. vote and thus its democracy," the piece goes on to argue. "That's especially true in an environment in which regulators and elected officials seem strangely incurious about such incidents and disinclined to investigate them."
China

China's Censors Can Now Erase Images Mid-Transmission (wsj.com) 90

Eva Dou, reporting for WSJ: China's already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength -- the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them. The ability is part of a broader technology push by Beijing's censors to step up surveillance and get ahead of activists and others communicating online in China (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). Displays of this new image-filtering capability kicked into high gear last week as Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo lay dying from liver cancer and politically minded Chinese tried to pay tribute to him, according to activists and a new research report. Wu Yangwei, a friend of the long-jailed Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said he used popular messaging app WeChat to send friends a photo of a haggard Mr. Liu embracing his wife. Mr. Wu believed the transmissions were successful, but he said his friends never saw them. "Sometimes you can get around censors by rotating the photo," said Mr. Wu, a writer better known by his pen name, Ye Du. "But that doesn't always work." There were disruptions on Tuesday to another popular messaging app, Facebook's WhatsApp, with many China-based users saying they were unable to send photos and videos without the use of software that circumvents Chinese internet controls. Text messages appeared to be largely unaffected.
Businesses

Uber Backers Discuss Stock Sale to SoftBank, Others (bloomberg.com) 25

Eric Newcomer, Olivia Zaleski, Dinesh Nair, and Alex Sherman, reporting for Bloomberg: Uber shareholders and its board, led by early backer Benchmark, have discussed selling some of their shares to Japan's SoftBank and other potential investors, people familiar with the matter said. The talks represent a major turning point for the company. It has amassed more than 500 investors who fought to own a piece of the world's most-valuable startup. The fact that some of the earliest backers now want to reduce their stakes suggests the scandals and other troubles this year have taken a toll. The deal could include an injection of new money into the ride-hailing startup, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. It's unclear what valuation those shares would carry or how much may be sold. Any private share sale like this would need to be approved by San Francisco-based Uber's board. Uber's former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, who remains on the board, didn't learn about Benchmark's effort to sell early shares until recently, two people familiar with the matter said. Kalanick has often opposed allowing early shareholders to sell their stakes, though the board has allowed occasional exceptions. Even though Benchmark led an investor revolt against Kalanick, at least three major shareholders said they were unaware of Benchmark's effort to sell shares as of Friday morning, three people familiar with the matter said. SoftBank, which recently launched a $93 billion technology fund, has no plans to invest in Uber, a person close to the Japanese company said. SoftBank has backed Uber's primary rivals in India, Southeast Asia and China. Some of Uber's investors would like to see the startup cut deals with overseas competitors -- as it did with Didi Chuxing in China and Yandex NV in Russia. Grab, a leading ride-hailing startup in Asia, is raising as much as $2 billion from backers including SoftBank and Didi.
Businesses

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts (qz.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.
China

Automakers Are Asking China To Slow Down Electric Car Quotas (electrek.co) 304

New submitter Kant shares a report from Electrek: The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles. Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we previously reported, China, the world's biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020. Now Germany's WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

The "six recommended modifications" include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don't meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don't have to produce as many electric cars.

China

Apple Sets Up China Data Center To Meet New Cybersecurity Rules (cnbc.com) 61

Apple on Wednesday said it is setting up its first data center in China, in partnership with a local internet services company, to comply with tougher cybersecurity laws introduced last month. From a report: The U.S. technology company said it will build the center in the southern province of Guizhou with data management firm Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry. An Apple spokesman in Shanghai told Reuters the center is part of a planned $1 billion investment into the province. "The addition of this data center will allow us to improve the speed and reliability of our products and services while also complying with newly passed regulations," Apple said in a statement to Reuters.
Science

First Object Teleported From Earth To Orbit (technologyreview.com) 212

Researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. From a report: Last year, a Long March 2D rocket took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert carrying a satellite called Micius, named after an ancient Chinese philosopher who died in 391 B.C. The rocket placed Micius in a Sun-synchronous orbit so that it passes over the same point on Earth at the same time each day. Micius is a highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground. That's important because it should allow scientists to test the technological building blocks for various quantum feats such as entanglement, cryptography, and teleportation. Today, the Micius team announced the results of its first experiments. The team created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they've used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.
China

Ask Slashdot: Is There a Way To Experience the Chinese Internet From Outside? (fffff.at) 93

dryriver writes: In 2008, a bunch of crafty developers created a Firefox plugin called China Channel. It apparently allowed you to connect to a proxy server in China, and experience the -- heavily censored and filtered -- internet as Chinese citizens experienced it back then. The nearly decade old plugin doesn't seem to work anymore. My modern Firefox browser couldn't install it. So the question: is there a way to surf the internet as if you were inside China, and experience for yourself how much of the experience is censored or filtered? It would be interesting to experience firsthand what the Great Firewall of China lets you see of the free world and internet as we know it in 2017, and what it does not.
China

China Tells Carriers To Block Access to Personal VPNs By February (bloomberg.com) 173

China's government has told telecommunications carriers to block individuals' access to virtual private networks by Feb. 1, people familiar with the matter said, thereby shutting a major window to the global internet. From a report: Beijing has ordered state-run telecommunications firms, which include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to bar people from using VPNs, services that skirt censorship restrictions by routing web traffic abroad, the people said, asking not to be identified talking about private government directives. The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis. China has one of the world's most restrictive internet regimes, tightly policed by a coterie of government regulators intent on suppressing dissent to preserve social stability. In keeping with President Xi Jinping's "cyber sovereignty" campaign, the government now appears to be cracking down on loopholes around the Great Firewall, a system that blocks information sources from Twitter and Facebook to news websites such as the New York Times and others.
Businesses

Umbrella-sharing Startup Loses Nearly All of Its 300,000 Umbrellas In a Matter of Weeks (shanghaiist.com) 159

With bike-sharing companies like Mobike becoming incredibly successful in Chinese cities, a few startups have decided to mimic the concept with shareable umbrellas. The only problem: most of the umbrellas have gone missing, reports local media. From a report: Only a few weeks after starting up operations in 11 cities across China, Sharing E Umbrella announced that it had lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas. The Shenzhen-based company was launched with a 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) investment. The concept was similar to those that bike-sharing startups have used to (mostly) great success. Customers use an app on their smartphone to pay a 19 yuan deposit fee for an umbrella, which costs just 50 jiao for every half hour of use.
IBM

Enthusiast Resurrects IBM's Legendary 'Model F' Keyboard (popularmechanics.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics: You may not know the Model F by name, but you know it by sound -- the musical thwacking of flippers slapping away. The sound of the '80s office. The IBM Model F greeting the world in 1981 with a good ten pounds of die-cast zinc and keys that crash down on buckling metal springs as they descend. It's a sensation today's clickiest keyboards chase, but will never catch. And now it's coming back. The second coming of the high-quality Model F (not to be confused with its more affordable plastic successor, the Model M) isn't a throwback attention grab from IBM, nor a nostalgia play from Big Keyboard. Instead, it's the longtime work of a historian in love with the retro keyboard's unparalleled sound and feel, but frustrated by the limitations of actual decades-old tech.

The Model F Keyboards project, now taking preorders for the new line of authentic retro-boards, was started by Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad who's taken up keyboard wizardry as a nights-and-weekends hobby. He started as a collector and restorer of genuine Model F keyboards -- originally produced from 1981 to 1994 -- a process that familiarized him with their virtues and their flaws... Working with a factory in China, Strandberg has carefully overseen the reproduction process one step at time, from the springs to the unique powder-coating on the keyboard's zinc case. Despite the expense (Strandberg estimates spending $100,000 to revive the tooling necessary for the production run), it was the only viable option given the kind of abuse your average keyboard takes on a daily basis. "With 3D printing," he says, "the keyboard wouldn't last a year."

The first prototypes have just left the assembly line, and he's already racked up over a quarter of a million dollars in pre-orders. Does anyone else fondly remember IBM's hefty and trusty old keyboards?
Transportation

Ola, India's Largest Ride-Hailing Service, Plans International Expansion (ndtv.com) 42

Reader joshtops writes: Indian ride-hailing company Ola, which operates in over 100 cities in the local country, is eyeing international expansion, according to a report, which cites multiple sources. The company, which leads rival Uber in India's ride-hailing market, has been looking at international markets for some time, and it has identified India's neighbours Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh as the first international countries where it will offer its services, the report added. Rival Uber already operates in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Ola is also eyeing other countries in Asia and North Africa to continue this expansion in the future, another person requesting anonymity told Gadgets 360. [...] Ola is exploring international markets at a time when Uber is increasingly expanding its reach in India. The global ride-hailing service, which operates in over 500 cities, is presently available in 29 cities in the country. India has become the fastest growing market for Uber, especially in the wake of its exit from China. The report adds that an alliance by US' Lyft, South Asia's Grab, China's Didi, and India's Ola, which they formed to utilize each other's resources to better fight Uber, ended this year. Now the companies could become direct competitors.
China

Reality Bytes: A Highflying Tech Entrepreneur Crashes Back To Earth (wsj.com) 64

An anonymous reader shares a WSJ article: Entrepreneur Jia Yueting likes to say that Apple is outdated, China's big technology companies are innovation-killing monopolies and his company, LeEco, is the real industry disrupter. That swagger served Mr. Jia in building an empire that sprawled across seven industries, from online video content to smartphones to electric cars. By having the ambition to take on Apple, Tesla and Netflix all at once, Mr. Jia seemed to embody the boundless promise of the huge China market. And investors responded favorably. Deal makers like HNA Capital and Legend Holdings bought in, as did the city government of tech hub Shenzhen, as well as movie director Zhang Yimou and other celebrities. British sports car maker Aston Martin joined up to develop electric vehicles. The U.S. state of Nevada promised $200 million in incentives for Mr. Jia's electric car venture, Faraday Futures, to build a $1 billion plant there. And LeEco unveiled a $2 billion deal to buy U.S. TV-maker Vizio. Now, most of those deals are dead or struggling and Mr. Jia's dreams are fading away due to a cash crunch and worried creditors (could be paywalled). On Thursday he resigned as chairman of a listed unit of LeEco, Leshi Internet Information & Technology, though he will remain the chairman of the holding company. That move comes after a Shanghai court last week -- at the behest of China Merchants Bank -- froze $181 million worth of his assets and $2 billion in shares over a missed interest payment.
Businesses

Chinese Court Seizes Millions in Assets of LeEco Founder as Conglomerate's Troubles Grow (variety.com) 27

Chinese Internet tycoon and LeEco founder Jia Yueting's ambition to challenge the likes of Apple and Tesla looks even more in doubt after $182 million of his assets were frozen by a Shanghai court following unpaid loans. From a report: Jia and LeEco came in for stinging criticism from Chinese media Wednesday, which warned that the Internet streaming company and hardware manufacturer was set to fall into further trouble, with the asset freeze as only the beginning. LeEco's development "is too big, too quick and too reckless," Beijing Business Today wrote. "Developing TV [programs and TV sets], mobile phones, [electric] cars and sports programs all consume too much cash at the same time. Not only can the capital not sustain these developments; fractures are inevitable in areas ranging from human resources, technology and management." According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Shanghai High People's Court last week ruled in favor of China Merchants Bank's application to freeze $182 million in assets belonging to Jia, his wife and three LeEco affiliates. Further reading: LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce, LeEco's CEO Jia Yueting Says Company Overstretched, Now Running Out of Cash, and China's LeEco Calls Off Its $2 Billion Purchase of TV Maker Vizio.
China

China Suspects Its 'Car-Eating,' Traffic-Straddling Bus Is a Total Scam (qz.com) 59

China's "Transit Elevated Bus" or TEB-1 made headlines last year for its futuristic design that let it straddle two lanes of traffic, allowing cars to pass under it. Now, that very bus is the focus of an investigation. According to Quartz, "police in Beijing announced that it had started an investigation into the company behind the TEB for alleged illegal fundraising." From the report: More than 30 people associated with Huaying Kailai, an online financing platform that has been selling an investment product to raise money from individual investors to develop the bus, have been held, said Beijing's Dongcheng district police bureau in a statement (link in Chinese) on microblogging site Weibo. The statement added that the police is working to recover funds from the firm, and advised TEB investors to report their complaints to local police stations. Huaying Kailai couldn't be reached for comment. The number listed on its website is invalid and a message to the email provided bounced back. Bai Zhiming, who runs Huaying Kailai and is also chief executive of TEB Technology Development, a Beijing-based company that purchased the patent for the elevated bus, was among those detained, according to the police statement. Bai bills himself as "the father of the TEB" on Weibo. Days after the Qinghuangdao government announced the TEB track's demolition, Bai told Chinese media that the bus would be relocated to another Chinese city.

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