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NBN Replaces 10,000 Modems After Lightning 'Fries' Devices Across Blue Mountains

An anonymous reader writes: NBN Co has been forced to replace 10,000 faulty broadband devices in homes across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney after residents reported the technology was frequently struck by lightning and in one instance led to blue sparks flying out of a modem in a family's home. About 20,000 of the more than 32,000 homes in the Blue Mountains and Emu Plains have been connected to the national broadband network via fibre-to-the-curb (FttC) technology, which was set up under the Coalition government's multi-technology mixed model. That means fibre runs all the way to the edge of the property and connects to the home via the existing copper wire lead-ins from the curb. Electrical storms in the Blue Mountains have wreaked havoc on the boxes that link the fibre to the copper. When lightning strikes the distribution boxes outside the house, sparks are sent flying up the copper lines, in turn frying the modems in people's homes. Guardian Australia understands the company has replaced 10,000 -- or half -- of devices inside the home that the company has identified as being prone to be affected by lightning. A spokesman for NBN Co confirmed that the company had found issues with the devices in areas of hard ground like sandstone. Sandstone is more resistant to electrical conduction than other soft earths. He said the devices fail in a safe way but the company nevertheless is issuing replacement devices people can install themselves. "We are now deploying a strengthened [device] that is much less likely to fail in these conditions.

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Biden Test Drives Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Pickup

During a visit to Ford's Rouge factory in Dearborn, Michigan on Tuesday, President Joe Biden got a chance to test drive Ford's all-electric new Lightning pickup truck. CNET reports: What was the presidential verdict after taking the Lightning for a spin? "This sucker's quick!" he exclaimed, adding that he'd buy one. A reporter asked how quick it was, and Biden said it did 0-60 mph in 4.3 or 4.4 seconds, looking to a Ford employee for clarification, who quickly declined to comment. The president then did a hard launch from a stop right in front of the press pool, accelerating to 80 mph. The Ford F-150 Lightning is officially set to debut on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. ET).

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Google Shows Off Android 12's Huge UI Overhaul

At Google I/O 2021 today, Google confirmed that Android 12 is getting a huge new design. Ars Technica reports: Google calls the new design "Material You," and just like in the leaks, it's a UI that changes colors like a chameleon. For now, this design will only show up in Google Pixels, but Google says it will roll out across the ecosystem to the web, Chrome OS, smart displays, cars, watches, tablets, and every other Google form factor. The new interface is powered by a "color extraction" API that can pull the colors out of your wallpaper and apply them to the UI. This sounds exactly like the Palette API that was introduced in Android 5.0 (along with the original introduction of Material Design), but it's apparently a second swing at the color extraction idea, and Google is heavily using it in the UI now. The demo interfaces featured customized highlight colors, clock faces, widget backgrounds, and more, all matching the color of your wallpaper. Besides new colors, there are also tons of layout changes to the quick settings and notification panel. The first public beta of Android is now available. Google Pixel smartphones as far back as the Pixel 3 are eligible, as well as several devices from device-maker partners, including ASUS and OnePlus.

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Hackers Behind Colonial Pipeline Attack Reportedly Received $90 Million In Bitcoin Before Shutting Down

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: DarkSide, the hacker group behind the recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, received a total of $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments before shutting down last week, according to new research. Colonial Pipeline was hit with a devastating cyberattack earlier this month that forced the company to shut down approximately 5,500 miles of pipeline in the United States, crippling gas delivery systems in Southeastern states. The FBI blamed the attack on DarkSide, a cybercriminal gang believed to be based in Eastern Europe, and Colonial reportedly paid a $5 million ransom to the group. On Friday, London-based blockchain analytics firm Elliptic said it had identified the bitcoin wallet used by DarkSide to collect ransom payments from its victims. The same day, security researchers Intel 471 said DarkSide had closed down after losing access to its servers and as its cryptocurrency wallets were emptied. DarkSide also blamed "pressure from the U.S.," according to a note obtained by Intel 471. In a blog post Tuesday, Elliptic said DarkSide and its affiliates bagged at least $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments over the past nine months from 47 victims. The average payment from organizations was likely $1.9 million, Elliptic said. "To our knowledge, this analysis includes all payments made to DarkSide, however further transactions may yet be uncovered, and the figures here should be considered a lower bound," said Tom Robinson Elliptic's co-founder and chief scientist. According to Elliptic, $15.5 million of the $90 million total haul went to DarkSide's developer while $74.7 million went to its affiliates. The majority of the funds are being sent to crypto exchanges, where they can be converted into fiat money, Elliptic added.

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Google Adds Feature To Zap Recent Search History in Privacy Push

Ever wish you could delete the last thing you searched for on Google? Now Google will let you. From a report: Google announced the new feature Tuesday during its I/O software conference, part of a package of privacy controls the Alphabet company is pushing out to appease consumers and regulators. Users now can tap on a tab inside their Google accounts to remove the last fifteen minutes of search history. The company has offered a feature to clear search histories, but people have found that data useful for tools like Maps or been unaware of the ability to delete it. The new ways to give people more privacy controls come after years of scrutiny on the search giant's behavior. "We never sell your personal information to anyone," Jen Fitzpatrick, a Google senior vice president, said at the virtual event. "It's simply off limits."

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Highest Ever Energy Light Captured By Chinese Mountain Observatory

sciencehabit writes: Using an observatory on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, astronomers have spotted the highest energy light ever, gamma ray photons up to 1.4 petaelectronvolts (PeV). They have traced these extreme photons back to a dozen of their likely sources: powerful factories in the Milky Way Galaxy that accelerate charged particles called cosmic rays. The results are challenging theorists' understanding of what these factories are and how they generate such high-energy light. "The findings are extremely important and impressive," says Petra Huentemeyer, an astrophysicist at Michigan Technological University and spokesperson for a rival gamma ray telescope, the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC) in Mexico. "It's a giant leap toward finally understanding the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays." Discovered more than 100 years ago, cosmic rays are charged particles, including protons and other atomic nuclei, that have been accelerated nearly to the speed of light. Their sources are poorly understood because interstellar magnetic fields bend them on their path to Earth. However, as cosmic rays rocket away from their sources, they also emit photons, usually about one-tenth as energetic as the cosmic rays themselves, that follow a straight path to Earth. Although Earth's atmosphere blocks this gamma ray light, when the photons slam into air molecules, they create showers of secondary particles and faint blue Cherenkov light that astronomers can look for. China's Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) aims to catch the air showers associated with the highest energy gamma rays, which in turn correspond to the highest energy cosmic rays.

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Microsoft Says Windows 10X Isn't Happening

Microsoft today acknowledged that the company isn't going to release its Windows 10X operating system variant, as reported more than a week ago. Mary Jo Foley, writing at ZDNet: Don't be surprised if you missed the acknowledgement, as Microsoft buried it in its blog post about the rollout of the Windows 10 21H1 feature update -- which it published at the start of the Google I/O keynote. Toward the end of the post, under the "Our customer first focus" subheading, officials said Windows 10X wouldn't be coming to market in 2021, after all. Instead, Microsoft will be integrating some of the 10X "foundational" technologies into other parts of Windows and other products. Windows 10X was supposed to be Microsoft's answer to Chrome OS -- a simpler Windows 10 variant that was slated to debut first on PCs for education and the first line-worker market.

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Google's Project Starline Videoconference Tech Wants To Turn You Into a Hologram

Google on Tuesday unveiled a prototype machine for face-to-face meetings named Project Starline. From a report: The phrase "video booth" really is the simplest way to describe Starline in its current form: It's a large booth, like the kind you'd find in a diner, just way more technologically complex. I had the chance to test-drive it in early May. After an initial conversation with Bavor outside of Google's campus in Mountain View, California, I was led inside the almost empty building and escorted to a private office. There was the Starline booth, part wood-paneled and partly encased in gray fabric, with a built-in bench on one side and a 65-inch display on the other. I was instructed to sit opposite the display. There were lights, cameras, and not a whole lot of action until a product manager sat down across from me. From a very specific angle, he looked as though he was sitting across from me. But he was on a different floor of the building, piping into our meeting through Starline. This is Google's idea for the future of videoconferencing, a giddy vision that only a small group of Googlers have had access to, and one that has apparently gotten a thumbs-up from chief executive Sundar Pichai. You couldn't be blamed for thinking that Starline must have been developed during the pandemic, while desk workers were umm-ing and muting and unmuting their way through an endless stream of Meets and Zooms. But Clay Bavor, Googler who heads up the company's augmented- and virtual-reality efforts, says there wasn't really any aha moment that led to Project Starline. In fact, it's been in the works for over five years. [...] The imagery is remarkable, and the visuals are complemented by spatial audio. What I'm actually looking at is a 65-inch light field display. The Project Starline booths are equipped with more than a dozen different depth sensors and cameras. (Google is cagey when I ask for specifics on the equipment.) These sensors capture photorealistic, three-dimensional imagery; the system then compresses and transmits the data to each light field display, on both ends of the video conversation, with seemingly little latency. Google applies some of its own special effects, adjusting lighting and shadows. The result is hyper-real representations of your colleagues on video calls.

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There Are Over 3 Billion Active Android Devices

There are over 3 billion active Android devices in the wild now. Sameer Samat, VP of product management at Google, announced the news at Google I/O 2021 today. From a report: Google added over 500 million active Android devices since its last developer's conference in 2019 and 1 billion devices since 2017. (That was when it hit the 2 billion mark.) The number is taken from the Google Play Store, which doesn't take into account devices based on Android but that use alternative stores, including Amazon Fire devices and the myriad of Chinese Android-based devices that avoid using Google's apps altogether. That means the number of active Android devices is likely much higher than what Samat announced on the live stream.

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Chrome Now Uses Duplex To Fix Your Stolen Passwords

Google announced a new feature for its Chrome browser today that alerts you when one of your passwords has been compromised and then helps you automatically change your password with the help of... wait for it ... Google's Duplex technology. From a report: This new feature will start to roll out slowly to Chrome users on Android in the U.S. soon (with other countries following later), assuming they use Chrome's password-syncing feature. It's worth noting that this won't work for every site just yet. As a Google spokesperson told us, "the feature will initially work on a small number of apps and websites, including Twitter, but will expand to additional sites in the future." Now you may remember Duplex as the somewhat controversial service that can call businesses for you to make hairdresser appointments or check opening times. Google introduced Duplex at its 2018 I/O developer conference and launched it to a wider audience in 2019. Since then, the team has chipped away at bringing Duplex to more tasks and brought it the web, too. Now it's coming to Chrome to change your compromised passwords for you.

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Huawei's Cloud Services Find Government Buyers

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is finding plenty of government buyers for its cloud services despite growing suspicion of the company, according to new data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Reconnecting Asia Project. From a report: Middle-income countries without strong civil freedoms are the most common customers for Huawei's cloud and e-government services. By the numbers: CSIS researchers found 70 agreements in 41 countries between governments (or state-owned enterprises) and Huawei. 77% of those agreements occurred in countries that Freedom House has ranked as either "not free" or "partly free," such as Saudi Arabia and Zambia.

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Nvidia is Nerfing New RTX 3080 and 3070 Cards for Ethereum Cryptocurrency Mining

Nvidia is extending its cryptocurrency mining limits to newly manufactured GeForce RTX 3080, RTX 3070, and RTX 3060 Ti graphics cards. From a report: After nerfing the hash rates of the RTX 3060 for its launch in February, Nvidia is now starting to label new cards with a "Lite Hash Rate" or "LHR" identifier to let potential customers know the cards will be restricted for mining. "This reduced hash rate only applies to newly manufactured cards with the LHR identifier and not to cards already purchased," says Matt Wuebbling, Nvidia's head GeForce marketing. "We believe this additional step will get more GeForce cards at better prices into the hands of gamers everywhere." These new RTX 3060 Ti, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 cards will start shipping later this month, and the LHR identifier will be displayed in retail product listings and on the box. Nvidia originally started hash limiting with the RTX 3060, and the company has already committed to not limiting the performance of GPUs already sold.

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China Bans Financial, Payment Institutions From Cryptocurrency Business

China has banned financial institutions and payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions, and warned investors against speculative crypto trading. From a report: Under the ban, such institutions, including banks and online payments channels, must not offer clients any service involving cryptocurrency, such as registration, trading, clearing and settlement, three industry bodies said in a joint statement on Tuesday. "Recently, crypto currency prices have skyrocketed and plummeted, and speculative trading of cryptocurrency has rebounded, seriously infringing on the safety of people's property and disrupting the normal economic and financial order," they said in the statement. China has banned crypto exchanges and initial coin offerings but has not barred individuals from holding cryptocurrencies.

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'The Monopolist Worm in Apple'

Horacio Gutierrez, head of global affairs and chief legal officer at Spotify, writes in an opinion piece: I am heartened by the growing global consensus, but time is on Apple's side. While Spotify has been successful despite Apple's behavior, for many app developers the threat of irreparable harm is immediate. The process for putting together regulatory changes is long and laborious. This gives Apple the ability to wait it out and continue stifling innovators, many of whom will fail before they even have a chance to compete. That is why Spotify is asking Congress to pursue urgent, narrowly tailored updates to American antitrust law to end such egregious abuses. It is also why my company has supported the proposed Digital Markets Act in Europe, a legislative proposal that seeks to address unfair and anticompetitive practices of powerful digital platforms. Apple's ability to strangle its competitors is unprecedented. Even Microsoft in the heyday of the Windows operating system didn't demand a 30% cut of new subscription revenues from competing browsers or media players. And it didn't dictate how or when Microsoft's competitors could communicate with customers. What's more, unless legislative and enforcement action is taken, other platforms will follow Apple's example. The result? Further concentration of power in the hands of a small number of unaccountable digital sovereigns who create and enforce rules that favor their services. The good news is that Spotify is no longer alone in saying this. At long last, those in a position to do something have seen past Apple's facade and are beginning to act in the interests of innovators and consumers around the world.

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Try This One Weird Trick Russian Hackers Hate

Brian Krebs: In a Twitter discussion last week on ransomware attacks, KrebsOnSecurity noted that virtually all ransomware strains have a built-in failsafe designed to cover the backsides of the malware purveyors: They simply will not install on a Microsoft Windows computer that already has one of many types of virtual keyboards installed -- such as Russian or Ukrainian. So many readers had questions in response to the tweet that I thought it was worth a blog post exploring this one weird cyber defense trick. The Twitter thread came up in a discussion on the ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline, which earlier this month shut down 5,500 miles of fuel pipe for nearly a week, causing fuel station supply shortages throughout the country and driving up prices. The FBI said the attack was the work of DarkSide, a new-ish ransomware-as-a-service offering that says it targets only large corporations. DarkSide and other Russian-language affiliate moneymaking programs have long barred their criminal associates from installing malicious software on computers in a host of Eastern European countries, including Ukraine and Russia. This prohibition dates back to the earliest days of organized cybercrime, and it is intended to minimize scrutiny and interference from local authorities. In Russia, for example, authorities there generally will not initiate a cybercrime investigation against one of their own unless a company or individual within the country's borders files an official complaint as a victim. Ensuring that no affiliates can produce victims in their own countries is the easiest way for these criminals to stay off the radar of domestic law enforcement agencies. [...] Here's the thing: Digital extortion gangs like DarkSide take great care to make their entire platforms geopolitical, because their malware is engineered to work only in certain parts of the world.

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