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Businesses

The Most Remote Island in the World is Home to Seals, Seabirds, and an Internet Top-Level Domain (ieee.org) 88

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bouvet Island has little to offer. The most remote island in the world is fewer than 20 square miles in size, and it's almost entirely covered by a glacier. Long ago, it was an active volcano, but those fiery days have long since passed. Now, it's home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds, a Norwegian research station, and its own top-level internet domain.

Top-level domains serve as part of the Internet's architecture. Aside from generic domains like .com and .edu, every country has a specific two-letter domain assigned to it. The United Kingdom, for example, uses .uk; Japan uses .jp. The United States has .us, though it's not widely used. The original idea was that each country could manage the websites registered by individuals and organizations within its borders by issuing them websites that use their country-specific domain.

But here's the weird thing about Bouvet Island having its own top-level domain: It's uninhabited. It's always been uninhabited. Located in the southern Atlantic, the closest land to Bouvet Island is the coast of Antarctica, 1,100 miles to the south. The closest inhabited land is the island Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory located 1,400 miles to the north (Interestingly enough, Tristan da Cunha does not have its own top-level domain).

Space

Majority of Americans Believe It Is Essential That the US Remain a Global Leader in Space (pewinternet.org) 286

Pew Research: Sixty years after the founding of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), most Americans believe the United States should be at the forefront of global leadership in space exploration. Majorities say the International Space Station has been a good investment for the country and that, on balance, NASA is still vital to the future of U.S. space exploration even as private space companies emerge as increasingly important players. Roughly seven-in-ten Americans (72%) say it is essential for the U.S. to continue to be a world leader in space exploration, and eight-in-ten (80%) say the space station has been a good investment for the country, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted March 27-April 9, 2018. These survey results come at a time when NASA finds itself in a much different world from the one that existed when the Apollo astronauts first set foot on the moon nearly half a century ago. The Cold War space race has receded into history, but other countries (including China, Japan and India) have emerged as significant international players in space exploration. Another finding in the report: Most Americans would like NASA to focus on Earth, instead of Mars.
The Internet

70 Long-Lost Japanese Video Games Discovered In a 67GB Folder of ROMs On a Private Forum (vice.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Until yesterday, rare Japanese PC game Labyrinthe, developed by Caravan Interactive, was long thought to be lost forever. That is until the almost mythical third game in the already obscure Horror Tour series was found on a 67GB folder of ROMs on a private forum. Other rare games from the folder are expected to become public soon. According to a YouTuber called Saint, who posted a video of him playing the game and a link to download it on Mega, Labyrinthe and as many as 70 other rare or never-before-released Japanese titles have been circulating in a file sharing directory on a private torrent site.

Labyrinthe, alongside other rare titles including Cookie's Bustle, Yellow Brick Road and Link Devicer 2074 were in a folder called "DO NOT UPLOAD." Members of the private forum hesitated to upload Labyrinthe in the fear that the private collector would take down the folder and leave the collection out of reach once again. This hesitation demonstrates the often tense relationship between game preservationists and private collectors. According to a screenshot uploaded by Saint, the private collector threatened to pull the entire folder of content from the directory and stop uploading games altogether if anyone leaked Labyrinthe. In uploading the game to Mega, it's possible the folder will be pulled from the internet. But in doing so, the person advanced the interests of game preservationists worldwide by leaking the this game and others.

Japan

Japan May Be First Country To Have Self-Driving Cars (theoutline.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Outline: The Olympic Games are an international muscle-flexing competition, where countries show off their technological, architectural, and (oh yeah) athletic prowess to the rest of the world. Now, according to Reuters, Japan is promising a public system of self-driving cars in time for the for the 2020 Olympics, which it's hosting in Tokyo. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that the investment company SoftBank Group is investing $2.25 billion in order to develop the Cruise, the self driving car acquired by General Motors back in 2016. The country's goal is to have a fully functioning self-driving car system in time for the 2020 Olympics, and a more developed, privatized commercial self-driving car system by 2022. The Cruise has been tested in the U.S. since 2017, but Abe said that it would also be tested on Japanese roads by the end of this fiscal year.
United States

5 Years on, US Government Still Counting Snowden Leak Costs (apnews.com) 172

National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out. From a report: That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to combat narcotics and money laundering. The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents, published stories on both subjects. The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, "so we don't see this issue ending anytime soon." "This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever," Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. "Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that's been leaked."
Medicine

China Overtakes US For Healthy Lifespan, WHO Data Finds (reuters.com) 286

According to World Health Organization data, China has overtaken the United States in healthy life expectancy at birth for the first time. The data from 2016 finds Chinese newborns can look forward to 68.7 years of healthy life ahead of them, compared with 68.5 years for American babies. "American newborns can still expect to live longer overall -- 78.5 years compared to China's 76.4 -- but the last 10 years of American lives are not expected to be healthy," reports Reuters. From the report: The United States was one of only five countries, along with Somalia, Afghanistan, Georgia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where healthy life expectancy at birth fell in 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of the WHO data, which was published without year-on-year comparisons in mid-May. The best outlook was for Singaporean babies, who can count on 76.2 years of health on average, followed by those in Japan, Spain and Switzerland. The United States came 40th in the global rankings, while China was 37th. In terms of overall life expectancy China is also catching up with the United States, which Reuters calculations suggest it is on course to overtake around 2027. Meanwhile U.S. life expectancy is falling, having peaked at 79 years in 2014, the first such reversal for many years.
Earth

Thailand is New Dumping Ground For World's High-Tech Trash, Police Say (trust.org) 60

Thailand is a new dumping ground for scrap electronics from around the world, say police and environmentalists, the latest country to feel the impact of China's crackdown on imports of high-tech trash. From a report: Police at Laem Chabang port, south of Bangkok, showed on Tuesday seven shipping containers each packed with about 22 tonnes of discarded electronics, including crushed game consoles, computer boards and bags of scrap materials. Electronic refuse, or e-waste, is turning up from Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, police said, some of it imported by companies without the required permits. "This ... shows that electronic waste from every corner of the world is flowing into Thailand," Deputy Police Chief Wirachai Songmetta said as he showed the containers to the media. While "e-waste" -- defined as any device with an electric cord or battery -- can be "mined" for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper, it can include hazardous material such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Police said they filed charges against three recycling and waste processing companies in Thailand. Anyone found guilty could be jailed for up to 10 years.
Earth

Birds Had To Relearn Flight After Meteor Wiped Out Dinosaurs, Fossil Records Suggest (theguardian.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Birds had to rediscover flight after the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs, scientists say. The cataclysm 66 million years ago not only wiped out Tyrannosaurus rex and ground-dwelling dinosaur species, but also flying birds, a detailed survey of the fossil record suggests. As forests burned around the world, the only birds to survive were flightless emu-like species that lived on the ground. The six to nine-mile-wide meteor struck the Earth off the coast of Mexico, releasing a million times more energy than the largest atomic bomb. Hot debris raining from the sky is thought to have triggered global wildfires immediately after the impact. It took hundreds or even thousands of years for the world's forests of palms and pines to recover. Fossil records from New Zealand, Japan, Europe and North America, all show evidence of mass deforestation. They also reveal that birds surviving the end of the Cretaceous period had long sturdy legs made for living on the ground. They resembled emus and kiwis, said the researchers whose findings are reported in the journal Current Biology.
Japan

Japan Moves To Ease Aging Drivers Out of Their Cars (nytimes.com) 135

As Japan's population ages, so do its drivers. Japan has the oldest population in the world, with nearly 28 percent of its residents above 65 years old. One in seven people are over 75. In the United States, by comparison, that figure is closer to one in 16. From a report: According to data compiled by Japan's national police agency, drivers between 16 and 24 are more likely to cause traffic accidents than any other age group. But last year, drivers over 75 caused twice as many fatal accidents per 100,000 drivers as those under that age. Among drivers over 80 years old, the rate was three times as high as for drivers under that age. The news media regularly features grisly reports of deaths caused by older drivers, some of whom are later discovered to have Alzheimer's disease.

Since 2009, all drivers 75 and older must submit to a test of their cognitive functioning when they renew their licenses [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled], typically once every three years. Under a new traffic law that took effect in March 2017, those who score poorly are sent to a doctor for examination, and if they are found to have dementia, the police can revoke their licenses. More than 33,000 drivers who took the cognitive test last year showed what the police deemed to be signs of cognitive impairment and were ordered to see a doctor. The police revoked just over 1,350 licenses after doctors diagnosed dementia.

Businesses

Glassdoor, the Iconic Job-Hunting and Reviews Website, Has Been Bought For $1.2 billion (recode.net) 48

Glassdoor, the popular job-hunting platform that gives people a window into conditions at hundreds of thousands of companies, has agreed to be acquired by Japan's Recruit Holdings for $1.2 billion cash. From a report: Recruit Holdings, a large Japanese human resources company that owns other job sites like Indeed, spent eight figures in cash to acquire the decade-old company. Glassdoor hadn't raised new money in about two years, when it was valued by investors at around $860 million, so it likely needed to decide whether to raise more money, sell or try to go public. The company reportedly was at least considering an IPO in the second half of 2018 and was interviewing banks that could take them there.
Bug

Eight New Meltdown-Like Flaws Found (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel Corp's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable... The magazine said Google Project Zero, one of the original collective that exposed Meltdown and Spectre in January, had found one of the flaws and that a 90-day embargo on going public with its findings would end on May 7...

"Considering what we have seen with Meltdown and Spectre, we should expect a long and painful cycle of updates, possibly even performance or stability issues," said Yuriy Bulygin, chief executive officer of hardware security firm Eclypsium and a former Intel security researcher. "Hopefully, Meltdown and Spectre led to improvements to the complicated process of patching hardware."

Neowin now reports that Intel "is expected to release microcode updates in two waves; one in May, and the other in August."
Intel

'Next Generation' Flaws Found on Computer Processors (reuters.com) 144

An anonymous reader shares a report: Researchers have found eight new flaws in computer central processing units that resemble the Meltdown and Spectre bugs revealed in January, a German computing magazine reported on Thursday. The magazine, called c't, said it was aware of Intel's plans to patch the flaws, adding that some chips designed by ARM Holdings, a unit of Japan's Softbank, might be affected, while work was continuing to establish whether Advanced Micro Devices chips were vulnerable. Meltdown and Spectre bugs could reveal the contents of a computer's central processing unit -- designed to be a secure inner sanctum -- either by bypassing hardware barriers or by tricking applications into giving up secret information.
Facebook

Facebook May Have Secret Plans To Build a Satellite-Based Internet (ieee.org) 75

Public filings suggest the social media giant is quietly developing orbital tech to rival efforts by SpaceX and OneWeb to deliver Internet by satellite. From a report: A filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week revealed details of a multi-million dollar experimental satellite from a stealthy company called PointView Tech LLC. The satellite, named Athena, will deliver data 10 times faster than SpaceX's Starlink Internet satellites, the first of which launched in February. However, PointView appears to exist only on paper. In fact, the tiny company seems to be a new subsidiary of Facebook, formed last year to keep secret the social media giant's plans to storm space.

Many technology companies believe the future of the Internet is orbital. Around half the people on the planet lack a broadband Internet connection, particularly those who live in rural areas and developing nations. SpaceX aims to put nearly 12,000 Starlinks into low Earth orbit (LEO), to deliver gigabit-speed Internet to most of the Earth's surface. Rival OneWeb, funded by Japan's SoftBank, chipmaker Qualcomm, and Richard Branson's Virgin Group, plans similar global coverage using perhaps 2,500 LEO satellites.
Further reading: Facebook's free walled-garden internet program ended quietly in Myanmar, several other places last year.
China

Mobile Gaming Cements Its Dominance, Takes Majority of Worldwide Sales (arstechnica.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Newzoo's 2018 Global Games Market Forecast now predicts that mobile games will make up a slim majority (51 percent) of all worldwide gaming revenue this year (including smartphones and tablets, but not dedicated gaming handhelds). That's up from 34 percent in 2015 and just 18 percent in 2012. Console and PC games will split the remainder of the pie relatively evenly in 2018, at 25 percent and 24 percent of worldwide spending, respectively. The growth of the mobile market doesn't show any signs of stopping, either: by 2021, Newzoo estimates that 59 percent of all gaming spending will go to mobile platforms, with console and PC games dividing up the scraps. The report finds that China is responsible for 28 percent of all gaming spending in the world, up from 24 percent in 2015. "Mobile gaming is overrepresented in the world's biggest gaming market, responsible for 61 percent of all Chinese gaming revenue and poised to grow to 70 percent by 2021," reports Ars. Japan's overall spending on mobile games is nearly on par with the United States, despite the country having one-third as many gamers overall.
Software

North Korean Antivirus Software Uses Decade Old Pirated Scan Engine (betanews.com) 68

With a name like 'SiliVaccine' you could be forgiven it's something your doctor would give you if you were worried about turning into a clown. But in fact this is North Korea's home grown antivirus product. From a report: Check Point Software has obtained and analyzed a rare copy of the software and discovered key components of its source code to be identical to a 10-year old copy of Trend Micro's AV software. Analysis has also uncovered that SiliVaccine is designed to allow a specific malware signature to pass undetected to users, and an update patch for the software contained JAKU malware, which has been used to target and track specific individuals in South Korea and Japan. Check Point believes this could have been used to target journalists who write about North Korean affairs.
Earth

Great Barrier Reef Gets $379 Million Boost After Coral Dies Off (bloomberg.com) 104

The Great Barrier Reef is being given a $379 million boost by Australia in the battle to save the world's largest living structure as it faces mounting challenges such as climate change, agricultural runoff and a coral-eating starfish. From a report: "Like reefs all over the world, the Great Barrier Reef is under pressure," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in a statement on Sunday, calling the funding the largest granted to the famous tourist icon. "A big challenge demands a big investment -- and this investment gives our reef the best chance." [...] The new funding comes after Deloitte Access Economics valued the reef last year at A$56 billion, based on an asset supporting tens of thousands of jobs and which contributes A$6.4 billion a year to the economy. Still, that was before a study released this month in Nature showed about 30 percent of the reef, which is bigger than Japan, died off in 2016 during an extended marine heatwave.
Businesses

Sprint, T-Mobile Aiming To Reach Merger Deal Next Week (reuters.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint have made progress in negotiating merger terms and are aiming to successfully complete deal talks as early as next week. The combined company would have more than 127 million customers and could create more formidable competition for the No.1 and No.2 wireless players, Verizon and AT&T, amid a race to expand offerings in 5G, the next generation of wireless technology. T-Mobile majority-owner Deutsche Telekom and Japan's SoftBank, which controls Sprint, are considering an agreement that would dictate how they exercise voting control over the combined company. This could allow Deutsche Telekom to consolidate the combined company on its books, even without owning a majority stake. Deutsche Telekom owns more than 63 percent of T-Mobile, while SoftBank owns 84.7 percent of Sprint. Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile are also in the process of finalizing the debt financing package they will use to fund the deal, the sources said. There is no certainty that a deal will be reached, the sources cautioned.
Television

8K TVs Are Coming, But Don't Buy the Hype (engadget.com) 299

If the 8,294,400 pixels of resolution on an Ultra High Definition television just don't seem to convey enough detail, fear not: The electronics industry has heard your cry. From a report: Even as UHD TVs, often called 4K TVs for their nearly 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution, approach half of display shipments in the U.S., set manufacturers have been stepping up their demos of 8K sets that, with their 7680-by-4320 resolution, pack in a full 33,177,600 pixels. And Sharp is now expanding its distribution of one such set, the 70-inch LV-70X500E. Following its October debut in China and subsequent arrivals in Japan and Taiwan, this 8K display will go on sale across Europe at the end of April for about $13,800 at current exchange rates. That, apparently, is supposed to be a reasonable price for a set that supports a video format that offers next to nothing to watch, that can't be streamed on most broadband connections or fit onto Blu-ray discs and which can't even be properly appreciated unless you get a set too big to fit in many living rooms.

[...] The highlights reel playing on a demo unit of Sharp's 8K set required 300 megabits per second of bandwidth to stream, said Adrian Wysocki, group product manager at UMC, the Sharp-owned firm that builds TVs in Poland for the company. He suggested in a conversation Friday that more efficient formats could cut that to 100 Mbps. Only 23.2% of U.S. fixed-broadband connections hit that speed at the end of 2016, according to to the Federal Communications Commission's latest report on internet access services.

News

The Last Known Person Born in the 19th Century Dies in Japan at 117 (kottke.org) 193

Jason Kottke: As of 2015, only two women born in the 1800s and two others born in 1900 (the last year of the 19th century) were still alive. In the next two years, three of those women passed away, including Jamaican Violet Brown, the last living subject of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the British Empire starting in 1837. Last week Nabi Tajima, the last known survivor of the 19th century, died in Japan at age 117.
Earth

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme That Eats Plastic Bottles (theguardian.com) 219

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles -- by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles. From a report: The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug. The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. "What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock," said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. "It's great and a real finding." The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic -- far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

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