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Radiant Aims To Replace Diesel Generators With Small Nuclear Reactors

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: California company Radiant has secured funding to develop a compact, portable, "low-cost" one-megawatt nuclear micro-reactor that fits in a shipping container, powers about 1,000 homes and uses a helium coolant instead of water. Founded by ex-SpaceX engineers, who decided the Mars colony power sources they were researching would make a bigger impact closer to home, Radiant has pulled in $1.2 million from angel investors to continue work on its reactors, which are specifically designed to be highly portable, quick to deploy and effective wherever they're deployed; remote communities and disaster areas are early targets. The military is another key market here; a few of these could power an entire military base in a remote area for four to eight years before expending its "advanced particle fuel," eliminating not just the emissions of the current diesel generators, but also the need to constantly bring in trucks full of fuel for this purpose. Those trucks will still have to run -- up until the point where the military ditches diesel in all its vehicles -- but they'll be much less frequent, reducing a significant risk for transport personnel. Radiant says its fuel "does not melt down, and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels." Using helium as the coolant "greatly reduces corrosion, boiling and contamination risks," and the company says it's received provisional patents for ideas it's developed around refueling the reactors and efficiently transporting heat out of the reactor core.

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MIT Researchers Create 'Robotic' Textiles To Make Breath-Regulating Garments

A new kind of fiber developed by researchers at MIT and in Sweden can be made into clothing that senses how much it is being stretched or compressed, and then provides immediate tactile feedback in the form of pressure, lateral stretch, or vibration. Such fabrics, the team suggests, could be used in garments that help train singers or athletes to better control their breathing, or that help patients recovering from disease or surgery to recover their breathing patterns. From a report: The multilayered fibers contain a fluid channel in the center, which can be activated by a fluidic system. This system controls the fibers' geometry by pressurizing and releasing a fluid medium, such as compressed air or water, into the channel, allowing the fiber to act as an artificial muscle. The fibers also contain stretchable sensors that can detect and measure the degree of stretching of the fibers. The resulting composite fibers are thin and flexible enough to be sewn, woven, or knitted using standard commercial machines. The fibers [are] dubbed OmniFibers [...]. The new fiber architecture has a number of key features. Its extremely narrow size and use of inexpensive material make it relatively easy to structure the fibers into a variety of fabric forms. It's also compatible with human skin, since its outer layer is based on a material similar to common polyester. And, its fast response time and the strength and variety of the forces it can impart allow for a rapid feedback system for training or remote communications using haptics (based on the sense of touch). As an initial test application of the material, the team made a type of undergarment that singers can wear to monitor and play back the movement of respiratory muscles, to later provide kinesthetic feedback through the same garment to encourage optimal posture and breathing patterns for the desired vocal performance. Though this initial testing is in the context of vocal pedagogy, the same approach could be used to help athletes to learn how best to control their breathing in a given situation, based on monitoring accomplished athletes as they carry out various activities and stimulating the muscle groups that are in action. Eventually, the hope is that such garments could also be used to help patients regain healthy breathing patterns after major surgery or a respiratory disease such as Covid-19, or even as an alternative treatment for sleep apnea.

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PS5 Console Plate Makers Provoke Sony, Then Hit Legal Trouble

Earlier this year, device skin maker Dbrand released a set of black PS5 faceplates and baited Sony to sue them (because that's their shtick -- to come across sassy and harsh). Sony is now obliging. Kotaku reports: As The Verge reports, Dbrand's "Darkplates" have recently been removed from the company's store, and any purchasing links now redirect to a page that only lists all the news articles written about the plates, including [a Gizmodo story]. Why pull them now? Because the company received a cease & desist letter from Sony, part of which says: "It has come to SIE's attention that dbrand has been promoting and selling console accessories in a manner that is deeply concerning to our client. First, dbrand is selling faceplates for the PSS console (in both standard edition and digital edition configurations) that replicate SIE's protected product design. Any faceplates that take the form of our client's PSS product configuration, or any similar configuration, and are: produced and sold without permission from SIE violate our client's intellectual property rights in the distinctive console design. Second, dbrand is selling skins for SIE devices that feature the PlayStation Family Mark Your company may not sell products that bear unauthorized depictions of our client's PlayStation Marks. The below still from one of dbrand's instructional videos shows a dbrand skin bearing a design identical to the PlayStation Family Mark." For their part, Dbrand have responded with a rambling corporate shitpost on Reddit, which opens with "much like your hopes and dreams, Darkplates are dead" before eventually settling into actual legal defenses of their position, saying the plates don't violate any existing trademarks. Dbrand suspects that Sony's actual motivation here is moving to shut down competitors before revealing its own, first-party replacement panels for the PS5.

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Why a Bitcoin ETF On Futures Might Not Be Such a Good Idea

Tomorrow morning, the ProShare Bitcoin Strategy ETF is scheduled to begin trading. "Before you rush headlong into this market, it's important to understand that there are crucial differences" between an exchange-traded fund that's backed by actual Bitcoin and an exchange-traded fund like ProShare's that is backed by futures tied to the cryptocurrency," says Jared Dillian via Bloomberg. Here's why he says "a Bitcoin ETF on futures might not be such a good idea: The vast majority of commodity-based mutual funds and ETFs and are also backed by futures, but that's because the actual physical storage of most commodities is impractical, like with oil. Also, with almost all commodities most of the trading action and liquidity tends to happen in the futures market, not the spot market. The United States Oil Fund LP is the classic example of a commodity fund that is backed by futures. The fund earned some notoriety in 2020 when it scrambled to roll its futures contracts out the curve (in violation of its prospectus) in order to prevent the fund's bankruptcy in the event that the price of oil went negative -- which it did. The United States Oil Fund case is an example of why a Bitcoin ETF on futures might not be such a good idea; it's impossible to predict what will happen in the futures market. But the main reason that people oppose futures-based ETFs is the cost of carry. When commodity futures are in contango, or when the price of deferred month contracts trade above front-month contracts, there is a significant cost to roll futures contracts from one month to the next, and that underperformance is passed to the investor. This has been a major complaint about commodity ETFs for years. While commodity futures frequently trade in contango, they can also trade in backwardation, which is when deferred month contracts trade below front month contracts. In this case, investors earn a positive roll yield. Many commodity futures are trading in backwardation at the moment, although Bitcoin is in contango. There is no reason to believe that it might not one day be in backwardation. Gold is an example of a commodity where the ETFs hold the actual metal and not futures, because the storage and accounting of physical gold is fairly straightforward. So why can't a Bitcoin ETF hold actual Bitcoin? The reason is because the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's primary objection to physical Bitcoin funds is that the underlying market is unregulated. Well, the gold market is unregulated and we have physical gold ETFs, so what gives? The Bitcoin people are trying to figure this out. Dillian says there should be a physical Bitcoin ETF. "The Winkelvoss twins were the first to apply for one, back in 2013, when Bitcoin was trading below $1,000 (it's now around $62,000). If their fund had been approved, it would now likely be the largest, most liquid ETF in existence, and would have provided supercharged returns to a whole generation of investors."

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Facebook Plans To Hire 10,000 In Europe To Build 'Metaverse'

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: Facebook said it plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to work on a new computing platform that promises to connect people virtually but could raise concerns about privacy and the social platform gaining more control over people's online lives. The company said in a blog post Sunday that those high-skilled workers will help build "the metaverse," a futuristic notion for connecting online that uses augmented and virtual reality. Facebook executives have been touting the metaverse as the next big thing after the mobile internet, though their track record is spotty on predicting future trends. "As we begin the journey of bringing the metaverse to life, the need for highly specialized engineers is one of Facebook's most pressing priorities," according to the blog post from Nick Clegg, vice president of global affairs, and Javier Olivan, vice president of central products. Facebook's recruiters are targeting Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland for the hiring drive. The company as of June reported having more than 63,000 employees worldwide, up 21% from the same time last year. The metaverse essentially is a massive virtual world that can be accessed in real time by millions of people using avatars, who can use it to hold virtual meetings or buy virtual land and clothing or other digital assets, often paying with cryptocurrencies. The social network isn't the only one working on the metaverse, and Facebook acknowledged that no single company will own and operate it. Other players include Fortnite maker Epic Games, which has raised $1 billion from investors to help with its long-term plans for building the metaverse. "There's not going to be specific metaverses to specific companies. There's only going to be one metaverse," said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst who tracks immersive technologies for research firm Gartner. But there are concerns Facebook and a handful of other Silicon Valley giants would end up monopolizing the metaverse and use it to collect and profit from personal data, mirroring the situation now with the internet.

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macOS Monterey Is Finally Rolling Out On October 25th

Along with new MacBook Pro models, Apple announced during its Mac event today that macOS Monterey will be available on Monday, Oct. 25. Gizmodo reports: As with macOS Big Sur before it, Monterey represents a renewed effort by Apple to streamline its operating systems, with new Focus profiles for limiting notifications and helping you be more productive just like in iOS 15 and iPadOS 15. Shortcuts, Apple's automation app, is now available on desktop for the first time. Monterey also represents the first time users will be able to AirPlay content from a Mac, a function that iPhone users have long enjoyed. If you've already downloaded iOS 15, updating to Monterey just makes sense -- these devices are so much more functional when they work seamlessly with each other. But perhaps the most anticipated feature Monterey is supposed to bring us is Universal Control, which allows you to use a single mouse/trackpad and keyboard to control multiple Macs and iPads simultaneously. While the new feature wasn't initially included in the public beta rollout of Monterey, that omission has only allowed the hype to grow. It's unclear when Universal Control will come to macOS, only that it won't be available to use at launch. FaceTime's new SharePlay feature, which is also expected to arrive in iOS 15, will also not be ready to try at launch. That feature will allow you to share music or watch shows with folks over FaceTime. The devices that support macOS Monterey include: iMac (late 2015 and newer), iMac Pro (2017 and newer), Mac Pro (late 2013 and newer), Mac Mini (late 2014 and newer), MacBook Pro (early 2015 and newer), MacBook Air (early 2015 and newer), and MacBook (early 2016 and newer). Further reading: macOS Monterey Release Candidate Undoes Safari Changes, Reintroduces Old Tab Design

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Credit Card PINs Can Be Guessed Even When Covering the ATM Pad

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Researchers have proven it's possible to train a special-purpose deep-learning algorithm that can guess 4-digit card PINs 41% of the time, even if the victim is covering the pad with their hands. The attack requires the setting up of a replica of the target ATM because training the algorithm for the specific dimensions and key spacing of the different PIN pads is crucially important. Next, the machine-learning model is trained to recognize pad presses and assign specific probabilities on a set of guesses, using video of people typing PINs on the ATM pad. For the experiment, the researchers collected 5,800 videos of 58 different people of diverse demographics, entering 4-digit and 5-digit PINs. The machine that ran the prediction model was a Xeon E5-2670 with 128 GB of RAM and three Tesla K20m with 5GB of RAM each. By using three tries, which is typically the maximum allowed number of attempts before the card is withheld, the researchers reconstructed the correct sequence for 5-digit PINs 30% of the time, and reached 41% for 4-digit PINs. The model can exclude keys based on the non-typing hand coverage, and deduces the pressed digits from the movements of the other hand by evaluating the topological distance between two keys. The placement of the camera which captures the tries plays a key role, especially if recording left or right-handed individuals. Concealing a pinhole camera at the top of the ATM was determined to be the best approach for the attacker. If the camera is capable of capturing audio too, the model could also use pressing sound feedback which is slightly different for each digit, thus making the predictions a lot more accurate.

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Apple's 3rd-Generation AirPods Arrives Next Week With a New Design, Spatial Audio

At its Fall Mac event today, Apple announced the new third-generation AirPods, featuring a slightly revamped design with shorter stems and touch-based "force sensor" and support for spatial audio. Ars Technica reports: The new AirPods retain their usual hard plastic finish and do not have in-ear tips like the AirPods Pro, though Apple says they are now officially IPX4-rated for sweat and water resistance. Apple says the earbuds have six hours of battery life and up to 30 hours when including the charging case. (That's compared to five and 24 hours, respectively, on the second-gen model.) The included case supports MagSafe and wireless charging, though the earbuds do not feature active noise cancellation or a transparency mode like their pricier siblings. Though the second-gen AirPods were renowned more for their ease of use than their audio quality, Apple says it has updated them with a redesigned driver and an adaptive EQ feature that automatically tunes your music based on the AirPods' fit in your ear. The earbuds will also use Apple's spatial audio tech, which makes audio sound like it is coming from around the user's head. To help with that, the new AirPods support dynamic head tracking like the AirPods Pro and the over-ear AirPods Max. The third-gen AirPods cost $179 and are available to order online today, with in-store availability starting October 26. Notably, Apple will continue to sell the existing second-gen AirPods for $129 alongside the new pair.

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New York AG Orders Two Unregistered Crypto Lenders To Shut Down

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday ordered two unregistered cryptocurrency lending platforms to cease operating in the state within 10 days and requested three other platforms to send her office information about their activities and products. From a report: Due in part to a lack of clear regulations, crypto companies have been making various moves -- and finding out that not all regulators agree with them. James' office argued that virtual currency lending products are considered securities under the state's Martin Act, which requires companies offering such financial services to register with the attorney general's office in order to do business with New Yorkers.

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US Treasury Says It Tied $5.2 Billion in BTC Transactions To Ransomware Payments

The financial crimes investigation unit of the US Treasury Department, also known as FinCEN, said last week it identified approximately $5.2 billion in outgoing Bitcoin transactions potentially tied to ransomware payments. From a report: FinCEN officials said the figure was compiled by analyzing 2,184 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) filed by US financial institutions over the last decade, between January 1, 2011, and June 30, 2021. While the initial SAR reports highlighted $1.56 billion in suspicious activity, a subsequent FinCEN investigation of the Top 10 most common ransomware variants exposed additional transactions, amounting to around $5.2 billion just from these groups alone.

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Apple Introduces M1 Pro and M1 Max

Apple today announced M1 Pro and M1 Max, its new chips for the Mac. Apple: M1 Pro and M1 Max introduce a system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture to pro systems for the first time. The chips feature fast unified memory, industry-leading performance per watt, and incredible power efficiency, along with increased memory bandwidth and capacity. M1 Pro offers up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth with support for up to 32GB of unified memory. M1 Max delivers up to 400GB/s of memory bandwidth -- 2x that of M1 Pro and nearly 6x that of M1 -- and support for up to 64GB of unified memory. And while the latest PC laptops top out at 16GB of graphics memory, having this huge amount of memory enables graphics-intensive workflows previously unimaginable on a notebook. The efficient architecture of M1 Pro and M1 Max means they deliver the same level of performance whether MacBook Pro is plugged in or using the battery. M1 Pro and M1 Max also feature enhanced media engines with dedicated ProRes accelerators specifically for pro video processing. M1 Pro and M1 Max are by far the most powerful chips Apple has ever built. Utilizing the industry-leading 5-nanometer process technology, M1 Pro packs in 33.7 billion transistors, more than 2x the amount in M1. A new 10-core CPU, including eight high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores, is up to 70 percent faster than M1, resulting in unbelievable pro CPU performance. Compared with the latest 8-core PC laptop chip, M1 Pro delivers up to 1.7x more CPU performance at the same power level and achieves the PC chip's peak performance using up to 70 percent less power. Even the most demanding tasks, like high-resolution photo editing, are handled with ease by M1 Pro. M1 Pro has an up-to-16-core GPU that is up to 2x faster than M1 and up to 7x faster than the integrated graphics on the latest 8-core PC laptop chip.1 Compared to a powerful discrete GPU for PC notebooks, M1 Pro delivers more performance while using up to 70 percent less power. And M1 Pro can be configured with up to 32GB of fast unified memory, with up to 200GB/s of memory bandwidth, enabling creatives like 3D artists and game developers to do more on the go than ever before. M1 Max features the same powerful 10-core CPU as M1 Pro and adds a massive 32-core GPU for up to 4x faster graphics performance than M1. With 57 billion transistors -- 70 percent more than M1 Pro and 3.5x more than M1 -- M1 Max is the largest chip Apple has ever built. In addition, the GPU delivers performance comparable to a high-end GPU in a compact pro PC laptop while consuming up to 40 percent less power, and performance similar to that of the highest-end GPU in the largest PC laptops while using up to 100 watts less power.2 This means less heat is generated, fans run quietly and less often, and battery life is amazing in the new MacBook Pro. M1 Max transforms graphics-intensive workflows, including up to 13x faster complex timeline rendering in Final Cut Pro compared to the previous-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro. M1 Max also offers a higher-bandwidth on-chip fabric, and doubles the memory interface compared with M1 Pro for up to 400GB/s, or nearly 6x the memory bandwidth of M1. This allows M1 Max to be configured with up to 64GB of fast unified memory. With its unparalleled performance, M1 Max is the most powerful chip ever built for a pro notebook.

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Apple Introduces New Polishing Cloth For All Devices, Sold Separately for $19

Alongside the new MacBook Pros, Apple has added a new first party polishing cloth to the Apple Store. The new polishing cloth is a soft white with an embossed Apple logo. From a report: Apple does not specify what material it is made out of. It's priced at $19.00 and Apple says it's compatible with every single device they make.

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A New Credit Card Arrives -- With a Silicon Valley Twist

An anonymous reader shares a Wired report: When Deepak Rao founded his first startup, in 2011, he put all of his business expenses on two personal credit cards, with a combined credit limit of about $3,000. "They were totally maxed out all the time," he says. "To this date, my credit score has never recovered." Even after four years of working at Twitter with a product manager's salary, Rao still couldn't qualify for credit cards with the kinds of perks he wanted: ones that paid for vacations, or gave him points at the places he liked to shop. With his second startup, Rao is trying to solve that problem. The X1, a new credit card, is designed for people who want premium perks -- with or without premium credit scores. It uses a novel underwriting process, which links with a user's bank account to determine credit limits based on cash flow. The card promises up to five times higher credit limits than the average card. The card itself is made of stainless steel -- the kind of objet d'art that's advertised as making a pleasant clang when you drop it -- but it's meant to be used digitally, like the Apple Card. It has a sleek app that gives users the ability to create disposable "virtual" cards, cancel subscriptions with one click, and make anonymous transactions without giving out a real name or card number. Its points are redeemable at a list of merchants frequented by the stereotypical tech bro: Peloton, Patagonia, Allbirds, and Airbnb. Perhaps for that reason, the X1 has become something of a Silicon Valley darling, with a waitlist of more than 350,000 people, the startup says. Its investors include Affirm CEO Max Levchin, Box CEO Aaron Levie, and Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. "I think of it as Silicon Valley's answer to American Express, which is really for the old guard at this point," says David Sacks, the venture capitalist and PayPal alumnus, who sits on the X1's board and uses the card himself.

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Apple's MacBook Pro Models Get a Redesign, New Chips and MagSafe Charging

Apple just dropped a new version of the MacBook Pro that draws a much clearer line between the system and its perennial favorite thin-and-light sibling. From a report: The new system is powered by the new M1 Pro and Max, souped up versions of the chip the company unveiled at today's event. The company says the 10-core chip is capable of allowing up to 3x the memory bandwidth and up to of the M1, coupled with a 16 core GPU. The Max, meanwhile, bumps the GPU up to 32 cores. What's clear is that the company is targeting its bread and butter creative pro demographic in ways it didn't with last year's models. Unlike last year's model, the new models, which are available in 14- and 16-inch models offer entirely new redesigns. They also feature built-in fans for high-performance applications, though the company says it will rarely turn on. The system also marks the end of the middling-received Touchbar, with a full function key in its place. As one feature leaves, an old favorite returns. Magsafe is back. The third-gen charger sports a proprietary port, but users will be able to continue charging via the Thunderbolt/USB-C ports. And, yes, this thing has ports. Three thunderbolt 4, HDMI and an SDXC card slot, to be exact. The bezel has been reduced, instead opting for an iPhone-style notch at the top to house the webcam. The camera has -- thankfully -- been upgraded for these teleconferencing days at 1080p (no 4k, sadly, but an improvement over the long-standing model) with a larger sensor and wider aperture. The 14-inch starts at $1,999, while the 16-inch runs $2,499. The Max version of the M1 is available as an upgrade, adding an additional $200 for the 24-core GPU and $400 for the 36-core version.

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At Amazon, Some Brands Get More Protection From Fakes Than Others

There are two classes of merchant on Amazon.com: those who get special protection from counterfeiters and those who don't. From a report: The first category includes sellers of some big-name brands, such as Adidas, Apple and even Amazon itself. They benefit from digital fortifications that prevent unauthorized sellers from listing certain products -- an iPhone, say, or eero router -- for sale. Many lesser-known brands belong to the second group and have no such shield. Fred Ruckel, inventor of a popular cat toy called the Ripple Rug, is one of those sellers. A few months ago, knockoff artists began selling versions of his product, siphoning off tens of thousands of dollars in sales and forcing him to spend weeks trying have the interlopers booted off the site. Amazon's marketplace has long been plagued with fakes, a scourge that has made household names like Nike leery of putting their products there. While most items can be uploaded freely to the site, Amazon by 2016 had begun requiring would-be sellers of a select group of products to get permission to list them. The company doesn't publicize the program, but in the merchant community it has become known as "brand gating." Of the millions of products sold on Amazon, perhaps thousands are afforded this kind of protection, people who advise sellers say. Most merchants, many of them small businesses, rely on Amazon's algorithms to ferret out fakes before they appear -- an automated process that dedicated scammers have managed to evade.

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