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  • AWS CEO Andy Jassy Follows Apple In Calling For Retraction of Chinese Spy Chip Story
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services, followed Apple's lead in calling the for the retraction of Bloomberg's story about spy chips being embedded in servers. "They offered no proof, story kept changing, and showed no interest in our answers unless we could validate their theories," Jassy wrote in a tweet on Monday. "Reporters got played or took liberties. Bloomberg should retract." Apple CEO Tim Cook told Buzzfeed on Friday that the scenario Bloomberg reported never happened and that the October story in Bloomberg Businessweek should be retracted. Bloomberg alleged data center hardware used by Apple and AWS, and provided by server company Super Micro, was under surveillance by the Chinese government, even though almost all the companies named in the report denied Bloomberg's claim. Bloomberg published a denial from AWS alongside its own report, and AWS refuted the report in a more strongly worded six-paragraph blog post entitled "Setting the Record Straight on Bloomberg Businessweek's Erroneous Article." Further reading is available via The Washington Post. "Sources tell the Erik Wemple Blog that the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Post have each sunk resources into confirming the story, only to come up empty-handed," the Washington Post reports. "(The Post did run a story summarizing Bloomberg's findings, along with various denials and official skepticism.) It behooves such outlets to dispatch entire teams to search for corroboration: If, indeed, it's true that China has embarked on this sort of attack, there will be a long tail of implications. No self-respecting news organization will want to be left out of those stories. 'Unlike software, hardware leaves behind a good trail of evidence. If somebody decides to go down that path, it means that they don't care about the consequences,' Stathakopoulos says.'"

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  • SQLite Adopts 'Monastic' Code of Conduct
    An anonymous reader writes: Undoubtedly in response to this politically motivated sort of claptrap, SQLite has released their own Code of Conduct. From the preamble: Having been encouraged by clients to adopt a written code of conduct, the SQLite developers elected to govern their interactions with each other, with their clients, and with the larger SQLite user community in accordance with the "instruments of good works" from chapter 4 of The Rule of St. Benedict. This code of conduct has proven its mettle in thousands of diverse communities for over 1,500 years, and has served as a baseline for many civil law codes since the time of Charlemagne. Not everyone has found SQLite's attempt informative or funny (though many did). A developer wrote, for instance, "So is the SQLite CoC thing a joke or not? If it's not a joke, f*ck this. If it is a joke, that's even worse. Your CoC should be taken seriously." A security researcher, chimed in, "This sort of stunt will make actual code of conduct discussions harder. It's not funny, helpful, or wise."

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  • Oxygen-Rich Liquid Water May Exist on Mars
    Brines suffused with the life-giving gas could offer hope for past and even present microbes on the Red Planet, according to a new study. From a report: New research suggests our neighboring world could hide enough oxygen in briny liquid water near its surface to support microbial life, opening up a wealth of potentially habitable regions across the entire planet. Although the findings do not directly measure the oxygen content of brines known to exist on the Red Planet, they constitute an important step toward determining where life could exist there today. Aerobic respiration, which relies on oxygen, is a key component of present-day life on Earth. In this process, cells take in oxygen and break it down to produce energy to drive metabolism. Mars's very low levels of atmospheric oxygen have led many scientists to dismiss the possibility of aerobic respiration there today, but the new research brings this possibility back into play. The study appears in the October 22 edition of Nature Geoscience. "Our work is calling for a complete revision for how we think about the potential for life on Mars, and the work oxygen can do, implying that if life ever existed on Mars it might have been breathing oxygen," says lead study author Vlada Stamenkovic, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "We have the potential now to understand the current habitability." Although Mars is today a freeze-dried desert, it possesses abundant reserves of subsurface water ice, as well as some amount of liquid water in the form of brines. The brines' high salt content lowers the temperature at which they freeze, allowing them to remain liquid even on Mars's frigid surface. In their new study, Stamenkovic and his colleagues coupled a model of how oxygen dissolves in brines with a model of the Martian climate. Their results revealed that pools of salty liquid at or just beneath the surface could capture the meager amounts of oxygen from the Red Planet's atmosphere, creating a reservoir that microbes might metabolically utilize. According to the research, Martian brines today could hold higher concentrations of oxygen than were present even on the early Earth -- which prior to about 2.4 billion years ago harbored only trace amounts of the gas in its air.

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  • Now Apps Can Track You Even After You Uninstall Them
    If it seems as though the app you deleted last week is suddenly popping up everywhere, it may not be mere coincidence. From a report: Companies that cater to app makers have found ways to game both iOS and Android, enabling them to figure out which users have uninstalled a given piece of software lately -- and making it easy to pelt the departed with ads aimed at winning them back. Adjust, AppsFlyer, MoEngage, Localytics, and CleverTap are among the companies that offer uninstall trackers, usually as part of a broader set of developer tools. Their customers include T-Mobile US, Spotify Technology, and Yelp. Critics say they're a fresh reason to reassess online privacy rights and limit what companies can do with user data. "Most tech companies are not giving people nuanced privacy choices, if they give them choices at all," says Jeremy Gillula, tech policy director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate. Some providers say these tracking tools are meant to measure user reaction to app updates and other changes. Jude McColgan, chief executive officer of Boston's Localytics, says he hasn't seen clients use the technology to target former users with ads. Ehren Maedge, vice president for marketing and sales at MoEngage Inc. in San Francisco, says it's up to the app makers not to do so. "The dialogue is between our customers and their end users," he says. "If they violate users' trust, it's not going to go well for them." Adjust, AppsFlyer, and CleverTap didn't respond to requests for comment, nor did T-Mobile, Spotify, or Yelp. Uninstall tracking exploits a core element of Apple's and Google's mobile operating systems: push notifications. Developers have always been able to use so-called silent push notifications to ping installed apps at regular intervals without alerting the user -- to refresh an inbox or social media feed while the app is running in the background, for example. But if the app doesn't ping the developer back, the app is logged as uninstalled, and the uninstall tracking tools add those changes to the file associated with the given mobile device's unique advertising ID, details that make it easy to identify just who's holding the phone and advertise the app to them wherever they go.

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  • Chinese Company Oppo is the Latest To Be Caught Cheating on Phone Benchmarks
    An anonymous reader shares a report: You can add another big name to the list of phone makers found cheating on benchmarks. UL Benchmarks has delisted Oppo's Find X and F7 phones from its 3DMark charts after testing from itself and news outlet Tech2 revealed that both devices were artificially ramping up processor performance when they detected the test by name. Oppo acknowledged that it always stepped things up when it detected "games or 3D Benchmarks that required high performance," but claimed that any app would run full bore if you tapped on the screen every few seconds to signal your actions. UL, however, rejected the justifications. It was clear that Oppo was looking for the benchmark by name and not the extra processing load involved, according to the outfit. Moreover, tapping wouldn't be an effective solution if Oppo treated apps equally -- you couldn't get consistent results. Further reading: Huawei Caught Cheating Performance Test For New Phones.

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  • A Device That Can Pull Drinking Water From the Air Just Won the Latest XPrize
    Two years ago, XPrize, which creates challenges that pit the brightest minds against one another, announced that it would give any startup or company $1 million that can turn thin air into water. This month, it announced that the challenge has been concluded. From a report: A new device that sits inside a shipping container can use clean energy to almost instantly bring clean drinking water anywhere -- the rooftop of an apartment building in Nairobi, a disaster zone after a hurricane in Manila, a rural village in Zimbabwe -- by pulling water from the air. The design, from the Skysource/Skywater Alliance, just won $1.5 million in the Water Abundance XPrize. The competition, which launched in 2016, asked designers to build a device that could extract at least 2,000 liters of water a day from the atmosphere (enough for the daily needs of around 100 people), use clean energy, and cost no more than 2 cents a liter. "We do a lot of first principles thinking at XPrize when we start designing these challenges," says Zenia Tata, who helped launch the prize and serves as chief impact officer of XPrize. Nearly 800 million people face water scarcity; other solutions, like desalination, are expensive. Freshwater is limited and exists in a closed system. But the atmosphere, the team realized, could be tapped as a resource. "At any given time, it holds 12 quadrillion gallons -- the number 12 with 19 zeros after it -- a very, very, big number," she says. The household needs for all 7 billion people on earth add up to only around 350 or 400 billion gallons. A handful of air-to-water devices already existed, but were fairly expensive to use. The new system, called WEDEW ("wood-to-energy deployed water") was created by combining two existing systems. One is a device called Skywater, a large box that mimics the way clouds are formed: It takes in warm air, which hits cold air and forms droplets of condensation that can be used as pure drinking water. The water is stored in a tank inside the shipping container, which can then be connected to a bottle refill station or a tap.

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  • Microsoft's Problem Isn't How Often it Updates Windows -- It's How It Develops It
    Ever since Microsoft settled on a cadence of two feature updates a year -- one in April, one in October -- the quality of its operating system (taking into consideration the volume of bugs that emerge every few days) has deteriorated, writes Peter Bright of ArsTechnica. From the story: The problem with Windows as a Service is quality. Previous issues with the feature and security updates have already shaken confidence in Microsoft's updating policy for Windows 10. While data is notably lacking, there is at the very least a popular perception that the quality of the monthly security updates has taken a dive with Windows 10 and that installation of the twice-annual feature updates as soon as they're available is madness. These complaints are long-standing, too. The unreliable updates have been a cause for concern since shortly after Windows 10's release. The latest problem has brought this to a head, with commentators saying that two feature updates a year is too many and Redmond should cut back to one, and that Microsoft needs to stop developing new features and just fix bugs. Some worry that the company is dangerously close to a serious loss of trust over updates, and for some Windows users, that trust may already have been broken. These are not the first calls for Microsoft to slow down with its feature updates -- there have been concerns that there's too much churn for both IT and consumer audiences alike to handle -- but with the obvious problems of the latest update, the calls take on a new urgency.

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