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  • Influencers Were Paid By Google To Promote a Pixel Phone They Never Used
    by BeauHD on Nov 29, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google and iHeartMedia — the US’s biggest radio station operator — are being hit with a false advertising lawsuit for ads they ran about the Pixel 4 […]. The FTC and four states say the companies aired “nearly 29,000 deceptive endorsements by radio personalities” during 2019 and 2020, with Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine saying that “Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules.” The two companies have settled the lawsuit and will be required to pay $9.4 million in penalties. Google’s ads had on-air personalities give first-hand accounts of how much they liked the Pixel 4, but, to quote the FTC’s press release, “the on-air personalities were not provided with Pixel 4s before recording and airing the majority of the ads and therefore did not own or regularly use the phones.” Therefore the first-person claims made in the ads, like, “It’s my favorite phone camera out there, especially in low light, thanks to Night Sight Mode,” “I’ve been taking studio-like photos of everything,” and “It’s also great at helping me get stuff done, thanks to the new voice-activated Google Assistant that can handle multiple tasks at once,” can’t be true. […] As part of the settlement, Google and iHeartMedia are barred from “misrepresenting that an endorser has owned or used, or about their experience with, certain products.” The agreement is subject to a public comment period of 30 days, after which the commission will vote on whether to make the proposed consent orders final. A Google spokesperson commented to TechCrunch, saying, “We are pleased to resolve this issue. We take compliance with advertising laws seriously and have processes in place designed to help ensure we follow relevant regulations and industry standards.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Windows 11 Insider Previews: What’s in the latest build?
    on Nov 29, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    The Windows 11 2022 Update has been released, but behind the scenes, Microsoft is constantly working to improve the newest version of Windows. The company frequently rolls out public preview builds to members of its Windows Insider Program, allowing them to test out — and even help shape — upcoming features.The Windows Insider program is divided into three channels: The Dev Channel is where new features are introduced for initial testing, regardless of which Windows release they’ll eventually end up in. This channel is best for technical users and developers and builds in it may be unstable and buggy. In the Beta Channel, you’ll get more polished features that will be deployed in the next major Windows release. This channel is best for early adopters, and Microsoft says your feedback in this channel will have the most impact. The Release Preview Channel typically doesn’t see action until shortly before a new feature update is rolled out. It’s meant for final testing of an upcoming release and is best for those who want the most stable builds. The Beta and Release Preview Channels also receive bug-fix builds for the currently shipping version of Windows 11.To read this article in full, please click here

  • Amazon’s New Chip Moves AWS Into High-Performance Computing
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    Amazon’s cloud-computing unit is rolling out new chips designed to power the highest-end of computing, supporting tasks such as weather forecasting and gene sequencing. From a report: Amazon Web Services, the largest provider of over-the-internet computing, on Monday said it would let customers rent computing power that relies on a new version of its Graviton chips. Peter DeSantis, a senior vice president who oversees most of AWS’s engineering teams, said in an interview that the product is a springboard for making what the industry calls high-performance computing more readily available. The newest chip is the latest piece of Amazon’s effort to build more of the hardware that fills the massive data centers that power AWS. Amazon says making its own chips will give customers more cost-effective computing power than they could get by renting time on processors built by the likes of Intel Corp., Nvidia Corp. or Advanced Micro Devices. The move has put AWS in direct competition with those companies, which are also among its biggest suppliers. DeSantis said the chipmakers remain “great partners,” and that AWS plans to continue to offer high-performance computing services based on chips made by other companies. On Tuesday, AWS Chief Executive Officer Adam Selipsky announced a new version of the Inferentia chip, which is designed to draw inferences from vast amounts of data. Inferentia2 is built to handle bigger sets of data than its predecessor, enabling things like software-generated images or detecting and interpreting human speech, Amazon said. […] The latest version of AWS’s line of Graviton processors, the Graviton3E, will have twice the ability of current versions in one type of calculations needed by high-performance computers, DeSantis said. When combined with other AWS technology, the new offering will be 20% better than the previous one. Amazon didn’t say when services based on the new chip would be available. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • 203 Cyber Monday Deals Still Going Strong Right Now
    by Scott Gilbertson, Gear Team on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    The sale bonanzas may be over, but many of the same discounts are alive, including on phones, office chairs, and kitchenware.

  • China Launches Astronauts To Newly Completed Space Station
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    Tall as a 20-story building, a rocket carrying the Shenzhou 15 mission roared into the night sky of the Gobi Desert on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts toward a rendezvous with China’s just-completed space station. From a report: The rocket launch was a split-screen event for China, the latest in a long series of technological achievements for the country, even as many of its citizens have been angrily lashing out in the streets against stringent pandemic controls.The air shook as the huge white rocket leaped into a starry, bitterly cold night sky shortly before the setting of a waxing crescent moon. The expedition to the new space station is a milestone for China’s rapidly advancing space program. It is the first time a team of three astronauts already aboard the Tiangong outpost will be met by a crew arriving from Earth. The Chinese space station will now be continuously occupied, like the International Space Station, another marker laid down by China in its race to catch up with the United States and surpass it as the dominant power in space. With a sustained presence in low-Earth orbit aboard Tiangong, Chinese space officials are preparing to put astronauts on the moon, which NASA also intends to revisit before the end of the decade as part of its Artemis program. “It will not take a long time; we can achieve the goal of manned moon landing,” Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s crewed space program, said in an interview at the launch center. China has been developing a lunar lander, he added, without giving a date when it might be used. The launch of Shenzhou 15 comes less than two weeks after NASA finally launched its Artemis I mission following many delays. That flight has put its uncrewed Orion capsule into orbit around the moon. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The Future of the Transistor Is Our Future
    by Chenming Hu on Nov 29, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    This is a guest post in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor. It is adapted from an essay in the July 2022 IEEE Electron Device Society Newsletter. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent positions of IEEE Spectrum or the IEEE.On the 75th anniversary of the invention of the transistor, a device to which I have devoted my entire career, I’d like to answer two questions: Does the world need better transistors? And if so, what will they be like?I would argue, that yes, we are going to need new transistors, and I think we have some hints today of what they will be like. Whether we’ll have the will and economic ability to make them is the question.I believe the transistor is and will remain key to grappling with the impacts of global warming. With its potential for societal, economic, and personal upheaval, climate change calls for tools that give us humans orders-of-magnitude more capability.Semiconductors can raise the abilities of humanity like no other technology. Almost by definition, all technologies increase human abilities. But for most of them, natural resources and energy constrains make orders-of magnitude improvements questionable. Transistor-enabled technology is a unique exception for the following reasons.As transistors improve, they enable new abilities such as computing and high-speed communication, the Internet, smartphones, memory and storage, robotics, artificial intelligence, and other things no one has thought of yet.These abilities have wide applications, and they transform all technologies, industries, and sciences. a. Semiconductor technology is not nearly as limited in growth by its material and energy usages as other technologies. ICs use relatively small amounts of materials. As a result, they’re being made smaller, and the less materials they use, the faster, more energy efficient, and capable they become.Theoretically, the energy required for information processing can still be reduced to less than one-thousandth of what is required today . Although we do not yet know exactly how to approach such theoretical efficiency, we know that increasing energy efficiency a thousandfold would not violate physical laws. In contrast, the energy efficiencies of most other technologies, such as motors and lighting, are already at 30 to 80 percent of their theoretical limits.Transistors: past, present, and futureHow we’ll continue to improve transistor technology is relatively clear in the short term, but it gets murkier the farther out you go from today. In the near term, you can glimpse the transistor’s future by looking at its recent past.The basic planar (2D) MOSFET structure remained unchanged from 1960 until around 2010, when it became impossible to further increase transistor density and decrease the device’s power consumption. My lab at the University of California, Berkeley, saw that point coming more than a decade earlier. We reported the invention of the FinFET, the planar transistor’s successor, in 1999. FinFET, the first 3D MOSFET, changed the flat and wide transistor structure to a tall and narrow one. The benefit is better performance in a smaller footprint, much like the benefit of multistory buildings over single-story ones in a crowded city.The FinFET is also what’s called a thin-body MOSFET, a concept that continues to guide the development of new devices. It arose from the insight that current will not leak through a transistor within several nanometers of the silicon surface because the surface potential there is well controlled by the gate voltage. FinFETs take this thin-body concept to heart. The device’s body is the vertical silicon fin, which is covered by oxide insulator and gate metal, leaving no silicon outside the range of strong gate control. FinFETs reduced leakage current by orders of magnitude and lowered transistor operating voltage. It also pointed toward the path for further improvement: reducing the body thickness even more.The fin of the FinFET has become thinner and taller with each new technology node. But this progress has now become too difficult to maintain. So industry is adopting a new 3D thin-body CMOS structure, called gate-all-around (GAA). Here, a stack of ribbons of semiconductor make up the thin body. Each evolution of the MOSFET structure has been aimed at producing better control over charge in the silicon by the gate [pink]. Dielectric [yellow] prevents charge from moving from the gate into the silicon body [blue].The 3D thin-body trend will continue from these 3D transistors to 3D-stacked transistors, 3D monolithic circuits, and multichip packaging. In some cases, this 3D trend has already reached great heights. For instance, the regularity of the charge-trap memory-transistor array allowed NAND flash memory to be the first IC to transition from 2D circuits to 3D circuits. Since the first report of 3D NAND by Toshiba in 2007, the number of stacked layers has grown from 4 to beyond 200.Monolithic 3D logic ICs will likely start modestly, with stacking the two transistors of a CMOS inverter to reduce all logic gates’ footprints [see “3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights”]. But the number of stacks may grow. Other paths to 3D ICs may employ the transfer or deposition of additional layers of semiconductor films, such as silicon, silicon germanium, or indium gallium arsenide onto a silicon wafer.The thin-body trend might meet its ultimate endpoint in 2D semiconductors, whose thickness is measured in atoms. Molybdenum disulfide molecules, for example, are both naturally thin and relatively large, forming a 2D semiconductor that may be no more than three atoms wide yet have very good semiconductor properties. In 2016, engineers in California and Texas used a film of the 2D-semiconductor molecule molybdenum disulfide and a carbon nanotube to demonstrate a MOSFET with a critical dimension: a gate length just 1 nanometer across. Even with a gate as short as 1 nm, the transistor leakage current was only 10 nanoamperes per millimeter, comparable with today’s best production transistor. “The progress of transistor technology has not been even or smooth.”One can imagine that in the distant future, the entire transistor may be prefabricated as a single molecule. These prefabricated building blocks might be brought to their precise locations in an IC through a process called directed-self-assembly (DSA). To understand DSA, it may be helpful to recall that a COVID virus uses its spikes to find and chemically dock itself onto an exact spot at the surface of particular human cells. In DSA, the docking spots, the “spikes,” and the transistor cargo are all carefully designed and manufactured. The initial docking spots may be created with lithography on a substrate, but additional docking spots may be brought in as cargo in subsequent steps. Some of the cargo may be removed by heat or other means if they are needed only during the fabrication process but not in the final product.Besides making transistors smaller, we’ll have to keep reducing their power consumption. Here we could see an order-of-magnitude reduction through the use of what are called negative-capacitance field-effect transistors (NCFET). These require the insertion of a nanometer-thin layer of ferroelectric material, such as hafnium zirconium oxide, in the MOSFET’s gate stack. Because the ferroelectric contains its own internal electric field, it takes less energy to switch the device on or off. An additional advantage of the thin ferroelectric is the possible use of the ferroelectric’s capacity to store a bit as the state of its electric field, thereby integrating memory and computing in the same device. The author [left] received the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Barack Obama [right] in 2016. Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Alamy To some degree the devices I’ve described arose out of existing trends. But future transistors may have very different materials, structures, and operating mechanisms from those of today’s transistor. For example, the nanoelectromechanical switch is a return to the mechanical relays of decades past rather than an extension of the transistor. Rather than relying on the physics of semiconductors, it uses only metals, dielectrics, and the force between closely spaced conductors with different voltages applied to them.All these examples have been demonstrated with experiments years ago. However, bringing them to production will require much more time and effort than previous breakthroughs in semiconductor technology.Getting to the futureWill we be able to achieve these feats? Some lessons from the past indicate that we could.The first lesson is that the progress of transistor technology has not been even or smooth. Around 1980, the rising power consumption per chip reached a painful level. The adoption of CMOS, replacing NMOS and bipolar technologies—and later, the gradual reduction of operation voltage from 5 volts to 1—gave the industry 30 years of more or less straightforward progress. But again, power became an issue. Between 2000 and 2010, the heat generated per square centimeter of IC was projected by thoughtful researchers to soon reach that of the nuclear-reactor core. The adoption of 3D thin-body FinFET and multicore processor architectures averted the crisis and ushered in another period of relatively smooth progress.The history of transistor technology may be described as climbing one mountain after another. Only when we got to the top of one were we able see the vista beyond and map a route to climb the next taller and steeper mountain.The second lesson is that the core strength of the semiconductor industry—nanofabrication—is formidable. History proves that, given sufficient time and economic incentives, the industry has been able to turn any idea into reality, as long as that idea does not violate scientific laws.But will the industry have sufficient time and economic incentives to continue climbing taller and steeper mountains and keep raising humanity’s abilities?It’s a fair question. Even as the fab industry’s resources grow, the mountains of technology development grow even faster. A time may come when no one fab company can reach the top of the mountain to see the path ahead. What happens then?The revenue of all semiconductor fabs (both independent and those, like Intel, that are integrated companies) is about one-third of the semiconductor industry revenue. But fabs make up just 2 percent of the combined revenues of the IT, telecommunications, and consumer-electronics industries that semiconductor technology enables. Yet the fab industry bears most of the growing burden of discovering, producing, and marketing new transistors and nanofabrication technologies. That needs to change.For the industry to survive, the relatively meager resources of the fab industry must be prioritized in favor of fab building and shareholder needs over scientific exploration. While the fab industry is lengthening its research time horizon, it needs others to take on the burden too. Humanity’s long-term problem-solving abilities deserve targeted public support. The industry needs the help of very-long-term exploratory research, publicly funded, in a Bell Labs–like setting or by university researchers with career-long timelines and wider and deeper knowledge in physics, chemistry, biology, and algorithms than corporate research currently allows. This way, humanity will continue to find new transistors and gain the abilities it will need to face the challenges in the centuries ahead.About the AuthorChenming Hu is the recipient of the 2020 IEEE Medal of Honor, the 2014 U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and other honors. An IEEE Life Fellow, Hu led the development of the FinFET, the device used by most advanced computer processors today. He has been a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, since 1976.

  • FTX-backed DEX Serum Calls Itself ‘Defunct,’ Promotes Community Fork
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    Serum, a decentralized crypto exchange backed by FTX, notified its 215,000 Twitter followers the project is “defunct” after the crypto exchange giant’s sudden collapse — while pointing users towards a community-led fork of the project. From a report: “The Serum program on mainnet became defunct” following FTX’s implosion, Serum tweeted. “As upgrade authority is held by FTX, security is in jeopardy, leading to protocols like Jupiter and Radium moving away,” it added, referring to two DeFi projects on the Solana blockchain. Earlier this month, the now-bankrupt FTX exchange was hacked for more than $400 million, which is said to have compromised the security of Serum’s code. This is because the “update authority” for its code was held solely in the hands of insiders at the FTX exchange, Serum explained. The team also commented on its native Serum (SRM) token, stating its future was “uncertain” and that developers have proposed to scrap its use due to exposure to FTX and its sister trading firm Alameda Research. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • UK Waters Down Internet Rules Plan After Free Speech Outcry
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    The British government has abandoned a plan to force tech firms to remove internet content that is harmful but legal, after the proposal drew strong criticism from lawmakers and civil liberties groups. From a report: The U.K. on Tuesday defended its decision to water down the Online Safety Bill, an ambitious but controversial attempt to crack down on online racism, sexual abuse, bullying, fraud and other harmful material. Similar efforts are underway in the European Union and the United States, but the U.K.’s was one of the most sweeping. In its original form, the bill gave regulators wide-ranging powers to sanction digital and social media companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. Critics had expressed concern that a requirement for the biggest platforms to remove “legal but harmful” content could lead to censorship and undermine free speech. The Conservative government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who took office last month, has now dropped that part of the bill, saying it could “over-criminalize” online content. The government hopes the change will be enough to get the bill through Parliament, where it has languished for 18 months, by mid-2023. Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan said the change removed the risk that “tech firms or future governments could use the laws as a license to censor legitimate views.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • When fees are ‘taxes’ and free speech costs $8 a month
    on Nov 29, 2022 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks to the Twitter CEO Elon Musk, Apple faces renewed criticism over its App Store fees and whether its insistence on content moderation somehow suppresses free speech. Neither is quite true.App Store fees: A negotiation in progress Let’s begin with App Store fees. At present, some developers must pay Apple 30% of from sales of their software or from subscription income. Not all developers do so — in the second year, subscription fees drop to 15% of the take, while developers shifting under a million dollars in value also pay just 15%. (Developers who do not charge for their apps pay no fee at all.)To read this article in full, please click here

  • Dropbox Acquires Boxcryptor Assets To Bring Zero-Knowledge Encryption To File Storage
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    Dropbox has announced plans to bring end-to-end encryption to its business users, and it’s doing so through acquiring “key assets” from Germany-based cloud security company Boxcryptor. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. From a report: Dropbox is well-known for its cloud-based file back-up and sharing services, and while it does offer encryption for files moving between its servers and the destination, Dropbox itself has access to the keys and can technically view any content passing through. What Boxcryptor brings to the table is an extra layer of security via so-called “zero knowledge” encryption on the client side, giving the user full control over who is allowed to decrypt their data. For many people, such as consumers storing family photos or music files, this level of privacy might not be a major priority. But for SMEs and enterprises, end-to-end encryption is a big deal as it ensures that no intermediary can access their confidential documents stored in the cloud — it’s encrypted before it even arrives. Moving forward, Dropbox said that it plans to bake Boxcryptor’s features natively into Dropbox for business users. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Volvo EX90: The Biggest Problem for the New EV Flagship is Polestar
    by Alex Goy on Nov 29, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    The EX90 ushers in a new era of lidar-driven safety tech for Volvo. But if it’s nearly the same as the Polestar 3 underneath, how can the brand stand out?

  • Waiting for Superbatteries
    by Vaclav Smil on Nov 29, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    If grain must be dragged to market on an oxcart, how far can it go before the oxen eat up all the cargo? This, in brief, is the problem faced by any transportation system in which the vehicle must carry its own fuel. The key value is the density of energy, expressed with respect to either mass or volume. The era of large steam-powered ocean liners began during the latter half of the 19th century, when wood was still the world’s dominant fuel. But no liners fired their boilers with wood: There would have been too little space left for passengers and cargo. Soft wood, such as spruce or pine, packs less than 10 megajoules per liter, whereas bituminous coal has 2.5 times as much energy by volume and at least twice as much by mass. By comparison, gasoline has 34 MJ/L and diesel about 38 MJ/L. But in a world that aspires to leave behind all fuels (except hydrogen or maybe ammonia) and to electrify everything, the preferred measure of stored energy density is watt-hours per liter. By this metric, air-dried wood contains about 3,500 Wh/L, good steam coal around 6,500, gasoline 9,600, aviation kerosene 10,300, and natural gas (methane) merely 9.7—less than 1/1,000 the density of kerosene. How do batteries compare with the fuels they are to displace? The first practical battery, Gaston Planté’s lead-acid cell introduced in 1859, has gradually improved from less than 60 Wh/L to about 90 Wh/L. The nickel-cadmium battery, invented by Waldemar Jungner in 1899, now frequently stores more than 150 Wh/L, and today’s best mass-manufactured performers are lithium-ion batteries, the first commercial versions of which came out in 1991. The best energy density now commercially available in very large quantities for lithium-ion batteries is at 750 Wh/L, which is widely seen in electric cars. In 2020 Panasonic promised it would reach about 850 Wh/L by 2025 (and do so without the expensive cobalt). Eventually, the company aims to reach a 1,000-Wh/L product. Over the past 50 years, the highest energy density of mass-produced batteries has roughly quintupled Claims of new energy-density records for lithium-ion batteries appear regularly. In March 2021, Sion Power announced an 810-Wh/L pouch cell; three months later NanoGraf announced a cylindrical cell with 800 Wh/L. Earlier claims spoke of even loftier energy densities—QuantumScape mentioned a 1,000-Wh/L cell in a December 2020 claim, and Sion Power of a 1,400-Wh/L cell as far back as 2018. But Sion’s cells came from a pilot production line, not from a routine mass-scale operation, and QuantumScape’s claim was based on laboratory tests of single-layer cells, not on any commercially available multilayer products. The real-world leader seems to be Amprius Technologies of Fremont, Calif.: In February 2022, the company announced the first delivery of batteries rated as high as 1,150 Wh/L, to a maker of a new generation of high-altitude uncrewed aircraft, to be used to relay signals. This is obviously a niche market, orders of magnitude smaller than the potential market for electric vehicles, but it is a welcome confirmation of continuous density gains. There is a long way to go before batteries rival the energy density of liquid fuels. Over the past 50 years, the highest energy density of mass-produced batteries has roughly quintupled, from less than 150 to more than 700 Wh/L. But even if that trend continues for the next 50 years, we would still see top densities of about 3,500 Wh/L, no more than a third that of kerosene. The wait for superbatteries ready to power intercontinental flight may not be over by even 2070. This article appears in the December 2022 print issue.

  • AWS Announces Digital Sovereignty Pledge
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 3:55 pm

    AWS has announced its “AWS Digital Sovereignty Pledge.” From a report: As nations across the globe introduce legislation that governs how and where businesses can keep data on their local users, the large clouds either have to offer attractive solutions or run the risk of having their customers move to local clouds. Microsoft, with Purview, and Google, with Dataplex, also offer data governance tools, but none of them have gone quite as far as AWS in making digital sovereignty a core pillar of their cloud strategy. Matt Garman, AWS’s senior vice president of Sales, Marketing and Global Services, notes that giving customers control over their data has always been a priority for AWS, but with constantly shifting and evolving legal requirements, managing all of this has become increasingly complex. “In many places around the world, like in Europe, digital sovereignty policies are evolving rapidly. Customers are facing an incredible amount of complexity, and over the last 18 months, many have told us they are concerned that they will have to choose between the full power of AWS and a feature-limited sovereign cloud solution that could hamper their ability to innovate, transform, and grow. We firmly believe that customers shouldn’t have to make this choice,” he writes. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • India To Start Pilot of Retail Digital Currency on Dec 1
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    The Reserve Bank of India’s first pilot for a retail e-rupee, its version of the central bank digital currency (CBDC), will be launched on Dec. 1, it said in a statement on Tuesday. From a report: The pilot will cover select locations in a closed user group comprising participating customers and merchants, the central bank said. “It would be issued in the same denominations that paper currency and coins are currently issued,” the statement added. “It would be distributed through intermediaries such as banks.” The RBI has been running a pilot of the wholesale e-rupee since Nov. 1, with nine banks transacting in government securities using the e-rupee. Users will be able to transact with the e-rupee through a digital wallet offered by participating banks and stored on mobile phones or devices, it said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Netflix Nights Still Come Wrapped in Red-and-White Envelopes
    by msmash on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:00 pm

    Netflix’s trailblazing DVD-by-mail rental service has been relegated as a relic in the age of video streaming, but there is still a steady — albeit shrinking — audience of diehards who are happily paying to receive those discs in the iconic red-and-white envelopes. From a report: Netflix declined to comment for this story but during a 2018 media event, co-founder and co-CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings suggested the DVD-by-mail service might close around 2023. When — not if — it happens, Netflix will shut down a service that has shipped more than 5 billion discs across the U.S. since its inception nearly a quarter century ago. And it will echo the downfall of the thousands of Blockbuster video rental stores that closed because they couldn’t counter the threat posed by Netflix’s DVD-by-mail alternative. Shortly before breakup from video streaming, the DVD-by-mail service boasted more than 16 million subscribers, a number that has now dwindled to an estimated 1.5 million subscribers, all in the U.S., based on calculations drawn from Netflix’s limited disclosures of the service in its quarterly reports. Netflix’s video streaming service now boasts 223 million worldwide subscribers, including 74 million in the U.S. and Canada. “The DVD-by-mail business has bequeathed the Netflix that everyone now knows and watches today,” Marc Randolph, Netflix’s original CEO, said during an interview at a coffee shop located across the street from the post office in Santa Cruz, California. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Scientists Reexamine Why Zebra Stripes Mysteriously Repel Flies
    by Max G. Levy on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    While biologists still aren’t exactly sure how it works, a new study closes in on why the insects that pester Savannah animals zig when anything zags.

  • The Transistor at 75
    by Samuel K. Moore on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future. In “The First Transistor and How it Worked,” Glenn Zorpette dives deep into how the point-contact transistor came to be. Then, in “The Ultimate Transistor Timeline,” Stephen Cass lays out the device’s evolution, from the flurry of successors to the point-contact transistor to the complex devices in today’s laboratories that might one day go commercial. The transistor would never have become so useful and so ubiquitous if the semiconductor industry had not succeeded in making it small and cheap. We try to give you a sense of that scale in “The State of the Transistor.”So what’s next in transistor technology? In less than 10 years’ time, transistors could take to the third dimension, stacked atop each other, write Marko Radosavljevic and Jack Kavalieros in “Taking Moore’s Law to New Heights.” And we asked experts what the transistor will be like on the 100th anniversary of its invention in “The Transistor of 2047.”Meanwhile, IEEE’s celebration of the transistor’s 75th anniversary continues. The Electron Devices Society has been at it all year, writes Joanna Goodrich in The Institute, and has events planned into 2023 that you can get involved in. So go out and celebrate the device that made the modern world possible.

  • Nvidia AI Plays Minecraft, Wins AI Conference Award
    by BeauHD on Nov 29, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    A paper describing MineDojo, Nvidia’s generalist AI agent that can perform actions from written prompts in Minecraft, won an Outstanding Datasets and Benchmarks Paper Award at the 2022 NeurIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) conference, Nvidia revealed on Monday. Ars Technica reports: To train the MineDojo framework to play Minecraft, researchers fed it 730,000 Minecraft YouTube videos (with more than 2.2 billion words transcribed), 7,000 scraped webpages from the Minecraft wiki, and 340,000 Reddit posts and 6.6 million Reddit comments describing Minecraft gameplay. From this data, the researchers created a custom transformer model called MineCLIP that associates video clips with specific in-game Minecraft activities. As a result, someone can tell a MineDojo agent what to do in the game using high-level natural language, such as “find a desert pyramid” or “build a nether portal and enter it,” and MineDojo will execute the series of steps necessary to make it happen in the game. MineDojo aims to create a flexible agent that can generalize learned actions and apply them to different behaviors in the game. As Nvidia writes, “While researchers have long trained autonomous AI agents in video-game environments such as StarCraft, Dota, and Go, these agents are usually specialists in only a few tasks. So Nvidia researchers turned to Minecraft, the worldâ(TM)s most popular game, to develop a scalable training framework for a generalist agentâ”one that can successfully execute a wide variety of open-ended tasks.” The award-winning paper debuted in June. You can see examples of MineDojo in action on its official website, and the code for MineDojo and MineCLIP is available on GitHub. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The Planet Desperately Needs That UN Plastics Treaty
    by Matt Simon on Nov 29, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    An agreement can’t magically end the catastrophe of plastic pollution. But it could be a step in the right direction.

  • The Hunt for the Kingpin Behind AlphaBay, Part 6: Endgame
    by Andy Greenberg on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

    With AlphaBay shuttered, Operation Bayonet enters its final phase: driving the site’s refugees into a giant trap. But one refugee hatched his own plan.

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