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News Source Slashdot:Hardware

Google is Finally Doing Something About Google Drive Spam
You can now block people in Google Drive. From a report: A notification pops up on your phone: "Click here for hot XXX action!" It's Google Drive again. Someone shared a document containing that title, and now your phone is begging you to look at it. Even if you ban Google Drive from generating phone notifications, you'll still get emails. If you block the emails, you'll have to see the spam when you click on the "shared" section of Google Drive. The problem is that Drive document sharing was built with no spam-management tools. Anyone who gets a hold of your email is considered to be an important sharer of valid documents, and there has been nothing you can do about it -- until now. Google officially acknowledged the problem back in 2019, and the company said it was making spam controls "a priority." Now, more than two years later, Google is finally rolling out the most basic of spam tools to Google Drive sharing -- you can block individual email addresses! The company announced this feature in May, but the tool is rolling out to users over the next 15 days. Soon, once the spam arrives in your Google Drive, you'll be able to click the menu button next to the item and choose "block user." Drive sharing works just like email spam. Anyone can share a drive file with you if they know your address. Documents that have been shared with you still automatically show up in your Drive collection without your consent. There's no way to turn off sharing, to limit sharing to approved users, or to limit it to existing contacts. It's a free-for-all.

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Startup Claims Breakthrough in Long-Duration Batteries
A four-year-old startup says it has built an inexpensive battery that can discharge power for days using one of the most common elements on Earth: iron. From a report: Form Energy's batteries are far too heavy for electric cars. But it says they will be capable of solving one of the most elusive problems facing renewable energy: cheaply storing large amounts of electricity to power grids when the sun isn't shining and wind isn't blowing. The work of the Somerville, Mass., company has long been shrouded in secrecy and nondisclosure agreements. It recently shared its progress with The Wall Street Journal, saying it wants to make regulators and utilities aware that if all continues to go according to plan, its iron-air batteries will be capable of affordable, long-duration power storage by 2025. Its backers include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a climate investment fund whose investors include Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Form recently initiated a $200 million funding round, led by a strategic investment from steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal one of the world's leading iron-ore producers. Form is preparing to soon be in production of the "kind of battery you need to fully retire thermal assets like coal and natural gas" power plants, said the company's chief executive, Mateo Jaramillo, who developed Tesla's Powerwall battery and worked on some of its earliest automotive powertrains. On a recent tour of Form's windowless laboratory, Mr. Jaramillo gestured to barrels filled with low-cost iron pellets as its key advantage in the rapidly evolving battery space. Its prototype battery, nicknamed Big Jim, is filled with 18,000 pebble-size gray pieces of iron, an abundant, nontoxic and nonflammable mineral. For a lithium-ion battery cell, the workhorse of electric vehicles and today's grid-scale batteries, the nickel, cobalt, lithium and manganese minerals used currently cost between $50 and $80 per kilowatt-hour of storage, according to analysts. Using iron, Form believes it will spend less than $6 per kilowatt-hour of storage on materials for each cell. Packaging the cells together into a full battery system will raise the price to less than $20 per kilowatt-hour, a level at which academics have said renewables plus storage could fully replace traditional fossil-fuel-burning power plants. A battery capable of cheaply discharging power for days has been a holy grail in the energy industry, due to the problem that it solves and the potential market it creates.

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China Plans To Build the World's First Waterless Nuclear Reactor
AltMachine shares a report from Interesting Engineering: Government researchers in China unveiled their design for a commercial molten salt nuclear reactor that is expected to be the first in the world to not utilize water for cooling. As the reactor won't need water it can be deployed in desert regions, allowing operators to utilize otherwise desolate spaces in order to provide energy for large populations. The molten salt reactor is powered by liquid thorium instead of uranium. Molten salt reactors are expected to be safer than traditional uranium nuclear reactors, as thorium cools and solidifies quickly in the open air, meaning that a leak would theoretically result in less radiation contamination for the surrounding environment. China expects to build its first commercial molten salt reactor by 2030, and the country's government has long-term plans to build several of the reactors in the deserts of central and western China. China's new system works by allowing thorium to flow through the reactor, enabling a nuclear chain reaction before transferring the heat to a steam generator outside. The thorium is then returned to the reactor, and the cycle repeats. The concept of a nuclear reactor powered by liquid salt instead of uranium was first devised in the 1940s. However, early experiments struggled to find a solution for problems including the corrosion and cracking of pipes used to transport the molten salts. The reactor "could generate up to 100MW" of energy and power about 100,000 homes, according to the report. "The reactor itself will only be 10 feet (3 meters) tall and 8 feet (2.5 meters) wide, though the power plant itself will be larger as it incorporates other equipment including steam turbines."

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Mercedes-Benz To Go All-Electric By 2030
Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler plans to invest more than 40 billion euros, or $47 billion, between 2022 and 2030 to develop battery-electric vehicles, and be ready for an all-electric car market by 2030. NBC News reports: Outlining its strategy for an electric future, the German luxury carmaker said on Thursday it would, with partners, build eight battery plants as it ramps up EV production, and that from 2025 all new vehicle platforms would only make electric cars. "We really want to go for it ... and be dominantly, if not all electric, by the end of the decade," Chief Executive Ola Kallenius told Reuters, adding that spending on traditional combustion-engine technology would be "close to zero" by 2025. However, Daimler stopped short of giving a hard deadline for ending sales of fossil-fuel cars. Daimler said that as of 2025, it expects electric and hybrid electric cars to make up 50 percent of sales, earlier than its previous forecast that this would happen by 2030. The carmaker will unveil three electric platforms -- one to cover its range of passenger cars and SUVs, one for vans and one for high-performance vehicles -- that will be launched in 2025. Four of its new battery plants will be in Europe and one in the United States. Daimler said it would announce new European partners for its battery production plans soon.

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Leaked Intel i9-12900K Benchmark Shows Gains Over the Ryzen 5950X
UnknowingFool writes: An engineering sample of Intel's next flagship processor, the i9-12900K, was shown to beat AMD's current flagship 5950X in Cinebench R20 by 18% in multi-core and 28% in single-core tests. The next generation of Intel processors is believed to use a hybrid big.LITTLE design where 8 of its 16 cores are for low power usage and 8 are for full power. The low power cores only run in single thread where the high power cores can run 2 threads. No official word on pricing or release date from Intel though but engineering samples and B600 motherboards are being sold in China for $1,250 and $1,150, respectively. According to leaker OneRaichu, the results for the 12900K were gathered using water-cooling and without overclocking, so it's possible the final score could be even higher. The rumors suggest the processor will come with 16 cores and 24 threads with a boost clock speed of up to 5.3GHz.

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16-Year-Old HP Printer-Driver Bug Impacts Millions of Windows Machines
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Threatpost: Researchers have released technical details on a high-severity privilege-escalation flaw in HP printer drivers (also used by Samsung and Xerox), which impacts hundreds of millions of Windows machines. If exploited, cyberattackers could bypass security products; install programs; view, change, encrypt or delete data; or create new accounts with more extensive user rights. The bug (CVE-2021-3438) has lurked in systems for 16 years, researchers at SentinelOne said, but was only uncovered this year. It carries an 8.8 out of 10 rating on the CVSS scale, making it high-severity. According to researchers, the vulnerability exists in a function inside the driver that accepts data sent from User Mode via Input/Output Control (IOCTL); it does so without validating the size parameter. As the name suggests, IOCTL is a system call for device-specific input/output operations. "This function copies a string from the user input using 'strncpy' with a size parameter that is controlled by the user," according to SentinelOne's analysis, released on Tuesday. "Essentially, this allows attackers to overrun the buffer used by the driver." Thus, unprivileged users can elevate themselves into a SYSTEM account, allowing them to run code in kernel mode, since the vulnerable driver is locally available to anyone, according to the firm. The printer-based attack vector is perfect for cybercriminals, according to SentinelOne, since printer drivers are essentially ubiquitous on Windows machines and are automatically loaded on every startup. "Thus, in effect, this driver gets installed and loaded without even asking or notifying the user," explained the researchers. "Whether you are configuring the printer to work wirelessly or via a USB cable, this driver gets loaded. In addition, it will be loaded by Windows on every boot. This makes the driver a perfect candidate to target since it will always be loaded on the machine even if there is no printer connected." Affected models and associated patches can be found here and here. "While HP is releasing a patch (a fixed driver), it should be noted that the certificate has not yet been revoked at the time of writing," according to SentinelOne. "This is not considered best practice since the vulnerable driver can still be used in bring-your-own-vulnerable-driver (BYOVD) attacks." Some Windows machines may already have the vulnerable driver without even running a dedicated installation file, since it comes with Microsoft Windows via Windows Update.

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Amazon Promises Most Echo Speakers Will Support the Matter Smart Home Platform
Today, Amaon said it will be upgrading almost every plug-in Echo smart speaker to support Matter, a cross-platform open-source standard coming later this year. This includes most Echo and Echo Dot speakers and every Echo Studio, Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Flex. "In fact, the only Echo smart speakers that won't get upgraded to Matter are the first-gen Echo, first-gen Echo Dot and Echo Tap," reports The Verge. From the report: While the company doesn't provide a timeline for those upgrades, the general idea is that Matter will launch by late 2021, so it shouldn't be long until Amazon's newest and / or more popular devices receive the capability. A bigger question is whether any of them will work as Matter hubs. Google announced in May that in addition to upgrading its Nest devices to Matter, it would allow its devices that support the Thread protocol (like the Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub Max, and second-gen Nest Hub) to double as connection hubs for Matter, too, not simply as a voice assistant to control Matter gadgets. But while Amazon's Eero routers were early to adopt Thread, Amazon's Echo smart speakers were not.

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FTC Formally Adopts Right To Repair Platform
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to pursue policies that will make it easier for people to repair their own things. In a vote of 5-0 during a Commission Meeting, the FTC agreed to adopt a policy paper outlining how it planned to enforce rules that keep manufacturers from restricting aftermarket repair. It plans to enforce existing warranty law, coordinate with state and local lawmakers to ensure open markets, and investigate the current repair monopolies for violations of antitrust law. The move comes just weeks after President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the commission to create right-to-repair rules. The FTC policy paper outlined a five-pronged approach to the problem. First, it's asking for comments and complaints from the public about bad experiences it's had with repair issues and violated warranty. It's long been illegal under federal law for companies to void warranties based on aftermarket repairs. The problem is that those laws often aren't enforced, though the FTC did take some action on manufacturers who put warranty-void-if-removed stickers on their devices after Motherboard reported on the problem several years ago. "While current law does not provide for civil penalties or redress, the Commission will consider filing suit against violators of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to seek appropriate injunctive relief," the policy paper said. Next, the FTC said it will look over current repair restrictions for violations of existing antitrust and anti-competition laws. "Finally, the Commission will bring an interdisciplinary approach to this issue, using resources and expertise from throughout the agency to combat unlawful repair restrictions," the policy paper said. "The FTC will also closely coordinate with state law enforcement and policymakers to ensure compliance and to update existing law and regulation to advance the goal of open repair markets." "Manufacturers, be warned: It's time to clean up your act and let people fix their stuff," Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Right to Repair Senior Campaign Director, told Motherboard in an email. "With unanimous support from commissioners, there's a new sheriff in town. The FTC is ready to act to stop many of the schemes used to undermine repair, while support is increasing for new legislation to further crack down."

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Tesla Plans To Open Its Charging Network To Other EVs Later This Year
Tesla plans to open its network of superchargers to other electric vehicles later this year, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said on Twitter. From a report: The electric-car maker's fast charging network, with over 25,000 superchargers globally, has given it a competitive edge. Meanwhile, other carmakers have formed alliances or invested in startups for networks as they rush new electric vehicle entrants to market. "We're making our Supercharger network open to other EVs later this year," Musk said on Tuesday, adding that over time Tesla's charging network will be opened to other electric vehicles in all countries.

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30 Million Solar Homes Would Create 1.77 Million Jobs and $69 Billion In Energy Savings, Report Finds
A new report (PDF) from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) finds that installing rooftop solar panels and community solar systems to serve the equivalent of 30 million American homes would create 1.77 millions jobs and $69 billion electricity bill savings over the next five years. CleanTechnica reports: In addition to creating 1.77 million new solar jobs and reducing energy bills by $69 billion, the report found that enacting the 30 Million Solar Homes policies would over five years: Eliminate global warming air pollution equivalent to closing 48 coal-burning power plants or taking 42 million cars off the road for a year; Increase new solar capacity nationally by 151 GW; and Power the equivalent of 20 million households in marginalized communities with local solar. In the report, these economic and environmental benefits are broken down by state and congressional district. An interactive map further illustrates the local impacts of the 30 Million Solar Homes proposal and gives viewers an opportunity to share the report with their elected officials.

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iFixit CEO Names and Shames Tech Giants For Right To Repair Obstruction
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: iFixit co-founder and CEO Kyle Wiens has exposed how companies including Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft manipulate the design of their products and the supply chain to prevent consumers and third-party repairers from accessing necessary tools and parts to repair products such as smartphones and laptops. Speaking during the Productivity Commission's virtual right to repair public hearing on Monday, Weins took the opportunity to draw on specific examples of how some of the largest tech companies are obstructing consumers from a right to repair. "We've seen manufacturers restrict our ability to buy parts. There's a German battery manufacturer named Varta that sells batteries to a wide variety of companies. Samsung happens to use these batteries in their Galaxy earbuds ... but when we go to Varta and say can we buy that part as a repair part, they'll say 'No, our contract with Samsung will not allow us to sell that.' We're seeing that increasingly," he said. "Apple is notorious for doing this with the chips in their computers. There's a particular charging chip on the MacBook Pro ... there is a standard version of the part and then there's the Apple version of the part that sits very slightly tweaked, but it's tweaked enough that it's only required to work in this computer, and that company again is under contractual requirement with Apple." He continued, highlighting that a California-based recycler was contracted by Apple to recycle spare parts that were still in new condition. "California Apple stops providing service after seven years, so this was at seven years and Apple have warehouses full of spare parts, and rather than selling that out in the marketplace -- so someone like me who eagerly would've bought them -- they were paying the recycler to destroy them," Wiens said. Weins also pointed to an example involving a Microsoft Surface laptop. "[iFixit] rated it on our repairability score, we normally rate products from one to 10; the Surface laptop got a zero. It had a glued-in battery ... we had to actually cut our way into the product and destroyed it in the process of trying to get inside," he said.

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New Hutter Prize Winner Achieves Milestone for Lossless Compression of Human Knowledge
Since 2006 Baldrson (Slashdot reader #78,598) has been part of the team verifying "The Hutter Prize for Lossless Compression of Human Knowledge," an ongoing challenge to compress a 100-MB excerpt of Wikipedia (approximately the amount a human can read in a lifetime). "The intention of this prize is to encourage development of intelligent compressors/programs as a path to Artificial General Intelligence," explains the project's web site.15 years ago, Baldrson wrote a Slashdot post explaining the logic (titled "Compress Wikipedia and Win AI Prize"):The basic theory, for which Hutter provides a proof, is that after any set of observations the optimal move by an AI is find the smallest program that predicts those observations and then assume its environment is controlled by that program. Think of it as Ockham's Razor on steroids. The amount of the prize also increases based on how much compression is achieved. (So if you compress the 1GB file x% better than the current record, you'll receive x% of the prize...) The first prize was awarded in 2006. And now Baldrson writes with the official news that this Spring another prize was claimed after reaching a brand new milestone: Artemiy Margaritov's STARLIT algorithm's 1.13% cleared the 1% improvement hurdle to beat the last benchmark, set by Alexander Rhatushnyak. He receives a bonus in proportion to the time since the last benchmark was set, raising his award by 60% to €9000. [$10,632 USD] Congratulations to Artemiy Margaritov for his winning submission!

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More Bitcoin Miners Head to America, Partly for Cheaper Energy
"Well before China decided to kick out all of its bitcoin miners, they were already leaving in droves, and new data from Cambridge University shows they were likely headed to the United States," reports CNBC:The U.S. has fast become the new darling of the bitcoin mining world. It is the second-biggest mining destination on the planet, accounting for nearly 17% of all the world's bitcoin miners as of April 2021. That's a 151% increase from September 2020. "For the last 18 months, we've had a serious growth of mining infrastructure in the U.S.," said Darin Feinstein, founder of Blockcap and Core Scientific. "We've noticed a massive uptick in mining operations looking to relocate to North America, mostly in the U.S." This dataset doesn't include the mass mining exodus out of China, which led to half the world's miners dropping offline, and experts tell CNBC that the U.S. share of the mining market is likely even bigger than the numbers indicate... "500,000 formerly Chinese miner rigs are looking for homes in the U.S," said Marathon Digital's Fred Thiel. "If they are deployed, it would mean North America would have closer to 40% of global hashrate by the end of 2022." America's rising dominance is a simple case of luck meeting preparation. The U.S. has quietly been building up its hosting capacity for years... It also helps that the U.S. is also home to some of the cheapest sources of energy on the planet, many of which tend to be renewable. Because miners at scale compete in a low-margin industry, where their only variable cost is typically energy, they are incentivized to migrate to the world's cheapest sources of power. Thiel expects most new miners relocating to North America to be powered by renewables, or gas that is offset by renewable energy credits. While Castle Island Ventures founding partner, Nic Carter, points out that U.S. mining isn't wholly renewable, he does say that miners here are much better about selecting renewables and buying offsets. "The migration is definitely a net positive overall," he said. "Hashrate moving to the U.S., Canada, and Russia will mean much lower carbon intensity."

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7 Years Later, Google Engineers Revise Their Pessimistic Predictions on Climate Change
Seven years ago two Google engineers concluded, after four years of study that "Renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach." (The authors proposed a R&D portfolio pursuing "disruptive" solutions in hydro, wind, solar photovoltaics, and nuclear power, with one Slashdot reader asking "is nuclear going to be acknowledged as the future of energy production?") But the two engineers — still at Google — recently announced "we're happy to say that we got a few things wrong. In particular, renewable energy systems have come down in price faster than we expected, and adoption has surged beyond the predictions we cited in 2014." One of them told IEEE Spectrum "It's stunning how rapidly things have been moving since the first article was published,"Experts now have a better understanding of how a variety of technologies could be combined to prevent catastrophic climate change, the coauthors say. Many renewable-energy systems, for example, are already mature and just need to be scaled up. Some innovations need significant development, including new processes to produce steel and concrete, and geoengineering techniques to sequester carbon and temporarily reduce solar radiation. The one commonality among all these promising technologies, they conclude, is that engineers can make a difference on a planetary scale... Concerned about the pessimistic tone of most climate coverage, the authors argue that wise policies, market pressure, and human creativity can get the job done. "When you put the right incentives in place, you capture the ingenuity of the masses," says Fork. "All of us are smarter than any of us." The Google engineers acknowledge we've already seen a plunge in battery prices to lows not predicted until 2050. (Along with cheap natural gas prices, this cut America's coal consumption in half, lowering emissions.) And fossil fuel consumption has been reduced thanks to cheaper electric heat pumps and electric cars. Other suggestions from their article include: Cleaner air travel (including clean hydrogen-powered planes) New forms of nuclear power Climate policy (including carbon pricing strategies like carbon taxes) "So, engineers, let's get to work."

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America Honors Its Atomic Veterans
America detonated the world's first nuclear device in Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. On its 76th anniversary, U.S. president Biden issued a proclamation: Many brave men and women have risked their lives in service to our Nation, but few know the story of our "Atomic Veterans" — American military service members who participated in nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with United States military forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki through mid-1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki. These veterans served at testing sites like the Bikini Atoll and witnessed the destructive power of nuclear weapons firsthand. On National Atomic Veterans Day, we recognize and honor the contributions of America's Atomic Veterans for their sacrifice and dedication to our Nation's security, and recommit to supporting our Atomic Veterans and educating ourselves on the role these patriots played in our national story. Atomic Veterans served our Nation with distinction, but their service came at a great cost. Many developed health conditions due to radiation exposure, yet because they were not able to discuss the nature of their service, they were unable to seek medical care or disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their illnesses. Decades later in 1996, the United States Congress repealed the Nuclear Radiation and Secrecy Agreements Act, allowing Atomic Veterans to tell their stories and file for benefits. By then, thousands of Atomic Veterans had died without their families knowing the true extent of their service. Our Nation has one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them into harm's way, and to care for them and their families when they return from service. As Commander in Chief, I am committed to fulfilling our obligation to the Atomic Veterans and their families, and ensuring that all of our Nation's veterans have timely access to needed services, medical care, and benefits. On this National Atomic Veterans Day, our country remembers the service and sacrifices of Atomic Veterans. Their heroism and patriotism will never be forgotten and we always honor their bravery and devotion to duty. July 16, 2021 was named "National Atomic Veterans Day." The proclamation ended with a call on all Americans "to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities that honor our Nation's Atomic Veterans whose brave service and sacrifice played an important role in the defense of our Nation."

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