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Model Rocket Nails Vertical Landing After Three-Year Effort

Aryan Kapoor, a high schooler from JRD Propulsion, successfully developed a model rocket with SpaceX-style vertical landing capabilities. The three-year effort was made possible by a thrust-vector control and clever landing gear design. Hackaday reports: He started in 2021 with none of the basic skills needed to pull off something like this, but it seems like he quickly learned the ropes. His development program was comprehensive, with static test vehicles, a low-altitude hopper, and extensive testing of the key technology: thrust-vector control. His rocket uses two solid-propellant motors stacked on top of each other, one for ascent and one for descent and landing. They both live in a 3D printed gimbal mount with two servos that give the stack plus and minus seven degrees of thrust vectoring in two dimensions, which is controlled by a custom flight computer with a barometric altimeter and an inertial measurement unit. The landing gear is also clever, using rubber bands to absorb landing forces and syringes as dampers. You can watch the first successful test flight and landing on YouTube.

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China Building Two-Thirds of World's Wind and Solar Projects

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The amount of wind and solar power under construction in China is now nearly twice as much as the rest of the world combined, a report has found. Research published on Thursday by Global Energy Monitor (GEM), an NGO, found that China has 180 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar power under construction and 15GW of wind power. That brings the total of wind and solar power under construction to 339GW, well ahead of the 40GW under construction in the US. The researchers only looked at solar farms with a capacity of 20MW or more, which feed directly into the grid. That means that the total volume of solar power in China could be much higher, as small scale solar farms account for about 40% of China's solar capacity. Between March 2023 and March 2024, China installed more solar than it had in the previous three years combined, and more than the rest of the world combined for 2023, the GEM analysts found. China is on track to reach 1,200GW of installed wind and solar capacity by the end of 2024, six years ahead of the government's target. "The unabated wave of construction guarantees that China will continue leading in wind and solar installation in the near future, far ahead of the rest of the world," the report said. Earlier analysis suggests that China will need to install between 1,600GW and 1,800GW of wind and solar energy by 2030 to meet its target of producing 25% of all energy from non-fossil sources. Between 2020 and 2023, only 30% of the growth in energy consumption was met by renewable sources, compared with the target of 50%.

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Amazon Says It Now Runs On 100% Clean Power. Employees Say It's More Like 22%

Today, Amazon announced that it reached its 100% renewable energy goal seven years ahead of schedule. However, as Fast Company's Adele Peters reports, "a group of Amazon employees argues that the company's math is misleading." From the report: A report (PDF) from the group, Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, argues that only 22% of the company's data centers in the U.S. actually run on clean power. The employees looked at where each data center was located and the mix of power on the regional grids -- how much was coming from coal, gas, or oil versus solar or wind. Amazon, like many other companies, buys renewable energy credits (RECs) for a certain amount of clean power that's produced by a solar plant or wind farm. In theory, RECs are supposed to push new renewable energy to get built. In reality, that doesn't always happen. The employee research found that 68% of Amazon's RECs are unbundled, meaning that they didn't fund new renewable infrastructure, but gave credit for renewables that already existed or were already going to be built. As new data centers are built, they can mean that fossil-fuel-dependent grids end up building new fossil fuel power plants. "Dominion Energy, which is the utility in Virginia, is expanding because of demand, and Amazon is obviously one of their largest customers," says Eliza Pan, a representative from Amazon Employees for Climate Justice and a former Amazon employee. "Dominion's expansion is not renewable expansion. It's more fossil fuels." Amazon also doesn't buy credits that are specifically tied to the grids powering their data centers. The company might purchase RECs from Canada or Arizona, for example, to offset electricity used in Virginia. The credits also aren't tied to the time that the energy was used; data centers run all day and night, but most renewable energy is only available some of the time. The employee group argues that the company should follow the approach that Google takes. Google aims to use carbon-free energy, 24/7, on every grid where it operates.

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Arm Announces an Open-Source Graphics Upscaler For Mobile Phones

Arm is launching its Arm Accuracy Super Resolution (ASR) upscaler that "can make games look better, while lowering power consumption on your phone," according to The Verge. "It's also making the upscaling technology available to developers under an MIT open-source license." From the reprot: Arm based its technology on AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution 2 (FSR 2), which uses temporal upscaling to make PC games look better and boost frame rates. Unlike spatial upscaling, which upscales an image based on a single frame, temporal upscaling involves using multiple frames to generate a higher-quality image. You can see just how Arm ASR stacks up to AMD's FSR 2 and Qualcomm's GSR tech in [this chart] created by Arm. Arm claims ASR produced 53 percent higher frame rates than rendering at native resolution on a device with an Arm Immortalis-G720 GPU and 2800 x 1260 display, beating AMD FSR 2. It also tested ASR on a device using MediaTek's Dimensity 9300 chip and found that rendering at 540p and upscaling with ASR used much less power than running a game at native 1080p resolution.

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Palestinians Say Microsoft Unfairly Closing Their Accounts

Ancient Slashdot reader Alain Williams writes: Palestinians living abroad have accused Microsoft of closing their email accounts without warning -- cutting them off from crucial online services. They say it has left them unable to access bank accounts and job offers -- and stopped them using Skype, which Microsoft owns, to contact relatives in war-torn Gaza. Microsoft says they violated its terms of service -- a claim they dispute. He also said being cut off from Skype was a huge blow for his family. The internet is frequently disrupted or switched off there because of the Israeli military campaign - and standard international calls are very expensive. [...] With a paid Skype subscription, it is possible to call mobiles in Gaza cheaply -- and while the internet is down -- so it has become a lifeline to many Palestinians. Some of the people the BBC spoke to said they suspected they were wrongly thought to have ties to Hamas, which Israel is fighting, and is designated a terrorist organization by many countries. Microsoft did not respond directly when asked if suspected ties to Hamas were the reason for the accounts being shut. But a spokesperson said it did not block calls or ban users based on calling region or destination. "Blocking in Skype can occur in response to suspected fraudulent activity," they said, without elaborating.

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iLounge and the Unofficial Apple Weblog Are Back As Unethical AI Content Farms

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica, written by Samuel Axon: In one of the most egregiously unethical uses of AI we've seen, a web advertising company has re-created some defunct, classic tech blogs like The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) and iLounge by mimicking the bylines of the websites' former writers and publishing AI-generated content under their names. The Verge reported on the fiasco in detail, including speaking to Christina Warren, a former writer for TUAW who now works at GitHub. Warren took to the social media platform Threads yesterday to point out that someone had re-launched TUAW at its original domain and populated it with fake content allegedly written by her and other past TUAW staff. Some of the content simply reworded articles that originally appeared on TUAW, while other articles tied real writers' names to new, AI-generated articles about current events. TUAW was shut down in 2015, but its intellectual property and domain name continued to be owned by Yahoo. A Hong Kong-based web advertising firm named Web Orange Limited claims to have purchased the domain and brand name but not the content. The domain name still carries some value in terms of Google ranking, so Web Orange Limited seems to have relaunched the site and then used AI summarization tools to reword the original content and publish it under the original authors' names. (It did the same with another classic Apple blog, iLounge.) The site also includes author bios, which are generic and may have been generated, and they are accompanied by author photos that don't look anything like the real writers. The Verge found that some of these same photos have appeared in other places, like web display ads for iPhone cases and dating websites. They may have been AI-generated, though the company has also been caught reusing photos of real people without permission in other contexts. At first, some of Web Orange Limited's websites named Haider Ali Khan, an Australian currently residing in Dubai, as the owner of the company. Khan's own website identified him as "an independent cyber security analyst" and "long-time advocate for web security" who also runs a web hosting company, and who "started investing in several technology reporting websites" and "manages and runs several news blogs such as the well-known Apple tech-news blog iLounge." However, mentions of his name were removed from the websites today, and the details on his personal website have apparently been taken offline. Warren emailed the company, threatening legal action. After she did that, the byline was changed to what we can only assume is a made-up name -- "Mary Brown." The same goes for many of the other author names on Web Orange Limited's websites. The company likely tried to use the original authors' names as part of an SEO play; Google tracks the names of authors and gives them authority rankings on specific topics as another layer on top of a website's own authority. That way, Google can try to respond to user queries with results written by people who have built strong reputations in the users' areas of interest. It also helps Google surface authors who are experts on a topic but who write for multiple websites, which is common among freelance writers. The websites are still operational, even though the most arguably egregious breach of ethics -- the false use of real people's names -- has been addressed in many cases.

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Python GitHub Token Leak Shows Binary Files Can Burn Developers Too

snydeq shares a report from CSO Online, written by Lucian Constantin: A personal GitHub access token with administrative privileges to the official repositories for the Python programming language and the Python Package Index (PyPI) was exposed for over a year. The access token belonged to the Python Software Foundation's director of infrastructure and was accidentally included in a compiled binary file that was published as part of a container image on Docker Hub. [...] The incident shows that scrubbing access tokens from source code only, which some development tools do automatically, is not enough to prevent potential security breaches. Sensitive credentials can also be included in environment variables, configuration files and even binary artifacts as a result of automated build processes and developer mistakes. "Although we encounter many secrets that are leaked in the same manner, this case was exceptional because it is difficult to overestimate the potential consequences if it had fallen into the wrong hands -- one could supposedly inject malicious code into PyPI packages (imagine replacing all Python packages with malicious ones), and even to the Python language itself," researchers from security firm JFrog, who found and reported the token, wrote in a report.

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Apple Settles EU Case By Opening Its iPhone Payment System To Rivals

The European Commission has approved Apple's commitments to open its "tap to pay" iPhone payment system to rivals, avoiding a potentially hefty fine. The Guardian reports: Regulators had accused Apple in 2022 of abusing its dominant position by limiting access to its mobile payment technology. Apple responded by proposing in January to allow third-party mobile wallet and payment service providers access to the contactless payment function in its iOS operating system. After Apple tweaked its proposals following testing and feedback, the commission said those "final commitments" would address its competition concerns. "Today's commitments end our Apple Pay investigation," Margrethe Vestager, the commission's executive vice-president for competition policy, told a press briefing in Brussels. "The commitments bring important changes to how Apple operates in Europe to the benefit of competitors and customers." Apple said in a prepared statement that it is "providing developers in the European Economic Area with an option to enable NFC [near-field communication] contactless payments and contactless transactions" for uses like car keys, corporate badges, hotel keys and concert tickets. [...] Apple must open up its payment system in the EU's 27 countries plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein by July 25. "As of this date, developers will be able to offer a mobile wallet on the iPhone with the same 'tap-and-go' experience that so far has been reserved for Apple Pay," Vestager said. The changes will remain in force for a decade and will be monitored by a trustee. Breaches of EU competition law can draw fines worth up to 10% of a company's annual global revenue, which in Apple's case could have amounted to tens of billions of euros.

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Taiwan's TSMC Crosses $1 Trillion Market Cap Amid AI Frenzy

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Taiwan's TSMC scaled a record high on Thursday after posting strong second-quarter revenue on booming demand for AI applications, cementing its position as Asia's most valuable company. TSMC also topped a trillion dollar market value this week. The AI frenzy has sparked a rally in chipmaker stocks across the globe. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world's largest contract chipmaker, whose customers include AI poster child Nvidia, has especially benefited from the soaring demand for AI-capable chips. Foreign investors have poured $4.8 billion so far this year into Taiwan's stock market, which is dominated by TSMC. Asian funds, however, according to HSBC, still remain underweight on Taiwan, suggesting there could be room for further inflow. Shares of TSMC, whose customers also include Apple, have jumped nearly 80% this year, widely outperforming the benchmark Taiwan SE Weighted Index, which is up 35%. On Thursday, TSMC's Taipei-listed shares rose more than 2% to a record T$1,080, taking the company's market value to T$28 trillion ($861 billion) and making it Asia's most valuable publicly listed company.

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UK Digital Industry Job Growth Falls To Lowest in Decade

Job growth in the UK's digital industry hit its lowest in a decade, prompting the incoming Labour government to pledge to revive the sector as it seeks to stimulate growth. From a report: The number of jobs in the sector grew by just 0.3% last year -- the lowest since a decline of 0.1% in 2013, according to Office for National Statistics data released on Thursday. Wider employment across the whole UK economy grew more than twice as fast, the data showed. The figures may stoke concerns of a stagnation in the UK tech sector, as employment and earnings stalled in the sector. Digital sector employees -- including programmers and tech consultants -- saw their hourly pay rise by just over 1% between 2022 and 2023, equating to a pay fall in real terms, the data showed. Nevertheless, the UK's new Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Peter Kyle, promised to revitalize the sector.

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Renewables Growth Rate Insufficient To Reach 2030 Target, Says IRENA

The world risks missing a goal to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 as the current growth rate is inadequate, a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) showed on Thursday. From a report: A U.N. climate change conference in Dubai last year set a goal of tripling renewable energy capacity worldwide by 2030 to more than 11 terawatts (TW). Countries have to submit new or updated climate target commitments every five years after 2020 so next year they have to include revised ambitions for 2030. About 473 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added last year, representing a 14% increase from the year before and the largest annual growth since 2000, IRENA said in a report. To meet the target, the world will have to add renewables capacity at a minimum 16.4% rate annually to 2030. However, if last year's 14% increase rate continues, the 11 TW target will be 1.5 TW short. Further reading: World Will Miss Target of Tripling Renewable Electricity Generation By 2030, IEA Says.

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Microsoft's Xbox 360 Stores Will Close Up Shop on July 29

Speaking of Xbox, the Xbox 360 Store and Marketplace are coming to a close later this month. From a report: Microsoft announced this last year and put an official end date of July 29, according to its official FAQ page. In case you didn't notice, the end of July is fast approaching. All of the games, DLC and any gaming tidbits for Microsoft's second generation console won't be available to purchase or download on the Xbox 360 console. Your games and movie purchases are still safe, however, if you've got any throwback titles on your Xbox One or Series X/S console. You can also still watch your purchased movies and shows on Windows 10 and 11 devices.

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Apple's Vision Pro Won't Cross 500,000 Sales This Year, IDC Says

Apple's biggest new product in years is not expected to shake off its slow sales start until the release of a cheaper model next year. From a report: The $3,500 Vision Pro mixed-reality headset has yet to sell 100,000 units in a quarter since its launch in the US in February, and it faces a 75% drop in domestic sales in the current quarter, according to market tracker IDC. The gadget's international launch at the end of June will offset weakness in the US. A more affordable edition -- which IDC estimates would cost roughly half as much -- should rekindle interest in 2025, but sales may not rise meaningfully over the coming year, IDC said. "The Vision Pro's success, regardless of its price, will ultimately depend on the available content," said Francisco Jeronimo, vice president at IDC. "As Apple expands the product to international markets, it's crucial that local content is also made available."

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DVD Rental Kiosks Business Redbox is Shutting Down

DVD kiosk-rental business Redbox is all set to close the shutter. LowPass: The judge overseeing the bankruptcy case of Redbox's corporate parent Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment granted the debtors request to convert it from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, effectively paving the way for shutting down the company and liquidating its assets. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment's CEO Bart Schwartz, who had only joined the company two weeks ago, stepped down this morning for unrelated reasons, according to the attorney representing the debtors in the case. Companies use Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases to reorganize, allowing them to continue to operate while they rid themselves of debt, while a Chapter 7 bankruptcy generally results in a trustee selling off company assets to pay creditors, and winding down the company. "There is no means to continue to pay employees, pay any bills, otherwise finance this case. It is hopelessly insolvent," United States bankruptcy judge Thomas Horan determined during a hearing Wednesday, adding: "Given the fact that there may also be at least the possibility of misappropriation of funds that were held in trust for employees, there is more than ample reason why this case should be converted. So I am going to grant the motion." The firm operates a network of 24,000 DVD rental kiosks.

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Night Owls' Cognitive Function 'Superior' To Early Risers, Study Suggests

The idea that night owls who don't go to bed until the early hours struggle to get anything done during the day may have to be revised. From a report: It turns out that staying up late could be good for our brain power as research suggests that people who identify as night owls could be sharper than those who go to bed early. Researchers led by academics at Imperial College London studied data from the UK Biobank study on more than 26,000 people who had completed intelligence, reasoning, reaction time and memory tests. They then examined how participants' sleep duration, quality, and chronotype (which determines what time of day we feel most alert and productive) affected brain performance. They found that those who stay up late and those classed as "intermediate" had "superior cognitive function," while morning larks had the lowest scores. Going to bed late is strongly associated with creative types.

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