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  • 'Nuclear Football' Safety Procedures To Be Reassessed (2446 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 22:02:00 -0400'Nuclear Football' Safety Procedures To Be ReassessedSlashdot

    quonset writes: Wherever the president goes, so goes the nuclear football, a 45 pound case which allows the president to to confirm his identity and authorize a nuclear strike. The Football also provides the commander in chief with a simplified menu of nuclear strike options -- allowing him to decide, for example, whether to destroy all of America's enemies in one fell swoop or to limit himself to obliterating only Moscow or Pyongyang or Beijing. During the attempted insurrection on January 6th, video from inside the capitol showed the mob coming within 100 feet of then-Vice President Mike Pence and his military aide who was carrying a second nuclear football. Had they lost control of the case, no nuclear weapons could have been launched, but the highly classified information within the case could have been leaked, or sold, to nation states. As a result, members of Congress asked the Pentagon to review procedures for handling and security of the nuclear football. The Department of Defense Inspector General will evaluate the policies and procedures around the Presidential Emergency Satchel, also known as the "nuclear football," in the event that it is "lost, stolen, or compromised," according to an announcement from the DoD IG's office. This would not be the first time procedures for the case have been reviewed. Jimmy Carter, who qualified as a nuclear sub commander, was aware that he would have only a few minutes to decide how to respond to a nuclear strike against the United States. Carter ordered that the war plans be drastically simplified. A former military aide to President Bill Clinton, Col. Buzz Patterson, would later describe the resulting pared-down set of choices as akin to a "Denny's breakfast menu." "It's like picking one out of Column A and two out of Column B," he told the History Channel. Following Carter, an incident during the Reagan administration led to another review. In the chaos after the attempted assassination, the aide carrying the case was separated from Reagan and did not accompany him to the hospital. When Reagan was stripped of his clothes prior to going into surgery, the biscuit, a card every president is given, which, if needed, can personally identify the president, was found abandoned in a hospital plastic bag. Bill Clinton had his review moment when it was discovered he had lost his biscuit for months, and never told anyone.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Clubhouse Is Now Out of Beta and Open To Everyone (1826 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 21:25:00 -0400Clubhouse Is Now Out of Beta and Open To EveryoneSlashdot

    Clubhouse announced Wednesday that it would end its waitlist and invite system, opening up to everyone. TechCrunch reports: Clubhouse is also introducing a real logo that will look familiar -- it's basically a slightly altered version of the waving emoji the company already used. Clubhouse will still hold onto its app portraits, introducing a new featured icon from the Atlanta music scene to ring in the changes. "The invite system has been an important part of our early history," Clubhouse founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth wrote in a blog announcement. They note that adding users in waves and integrating new users into the app's community through Town Halls and orientation sessions helped Clubhouse grow at a healthy rate without breaking, "but we've always wanted Clubhouse to be open." According to new data SensorTower provided to TechCrunch, Clubhouse hit its high point in February at 9.6 million global downloads, up from 2.4 million the month prior. After that, things settled down a bit before perking back up in May when TikTok went live on Android through the Google Play Store. Since May, new Android users have accounted for the lion's share of the app's downloads. In June, Clubhouse was installed 7.7 million times across both iOS and Android -- an impressive number that's definitely in conflict with the perception that the app might not have staying power. Clubhouse's success is a double-edged sword. The app's meteoric rise came as a surprise to the team, as meteoric rises often do. The social app is still a wild success by normal metrics in a landscape completely dominated by a handful of large, entrenched platforms, but it can be tricky to maintain healthy momentum after such high highs. Opening up the app to everybody should certainly help.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Steve Jobs' 1973 Job Application Once Again Up For Auction, In Physical and NFT Form (1151 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:45:00 -0400Steve Jobs' 1973 Job Application Once Again Up For Auction, In Physical and NFT FormSlashdot

    A London-based entrepreneur is putting a 1973 job application filled out by Steve Jobs up for auction. "The form Jobs apparently filled out for an unspecified position at an unspecified company will be available to buy either as a purportedly authenticated physical good or in digital form, as a nonfungible token, or NFT," reports CNET. From the report: The job application's gone up for auction several times before, selling in 2017 for $18,750, in 2018 for $174,757, and just this last March for a reported $222,400. The auction's organizer, Olly Joshi, is hoping to sweeten the pot by taking bids for the physical and a new NFT version side by side. Bidding starts July 21. "The Steve Jobs hand-written 1973 job application auction aims to highlight the modern shift in perceived value -- the physical or the digital," he said in a statement. The auction will run for seven days, during which people seeking the physical version can bid through Joshi's website, which is being run off an auctioneering app called Snoofa. People hoping to snag the digital version can go to popular NFT marketplace Rarible.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Audacity's New Owner Is In Another Fight With the Open Source Community (3272 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 20:02:00 -0400Audacity's New Owner Is In Another Fight With the Open Source CommunitySlashdot

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Muse Group -- owner of the popular audio-editing app Audacity -- is in hot water with the open source community again. This time, the controversy isn't over Audacity -- it's about MuseScore, an open source application that allows musicians to create, share, and download musical scores (especially, but not only, in the form of sheet music). The MuseScore app itself is licensed GPLv3, which gives developers the right to fork its source and modify it. One such developer, Wenzheng Tang ("Xmader" on GitHub) went considerably further than modifying the app -- he also created separate apps designed to bypass MuseScore Pro subscription fees. After thoroughly reviewing the public comments made by both sides at GitHub, Ars spoke at length with Muse Group Head of Strategy Daniel Ray -- known on GitHub by the moniker "workedintheory" -- to get to the bottom of the controversy. While Xmader did, in fact, fork MuseScore, that's not the root of the controversy. Xmader forked MuseScore in November 2020 and appears to have abandoned that fork entirely; it only has six commits total -- all trivial, and all made the same week that the fork was created. Xmader is also currently 21,710 commits behind the original MuseScore project repository. Muse Group's beef with Xmader comes from two other repositories, created specifically to bypass subscription fees. Those repositories are musescore-downloader (created November 2019) and musescore-dataset (created March 2020). Musescore-downloader describes itself succinctly: "download sheet music from musescore.com for free, no login or MuseScore Pro required." Musescore-dataset is nearly as straightforward: it declares itself "the unofficial dataset of all music sheets and users on musescore.com." In simpler terms: musescore-downloader lets you download things from musescore.com that you shouldn't be able to; musescore-dataset is those files themselves, already downloaded. For scores that are in the public domain or that users have uploaded under Creative Commons licenses, this isn't necessarily a problem. But many of the scores are only available by arrangement between the score owner and Muse Group itself -- and this has several important implications. Just because you can access the score via the app or website doesn't mean you're free to access it anywhere, anyhow, or redistribute that score yourself. The distribution agreement between Muse Group and the rightsholder allows legitimate downloads, but only when using the site or app as intended. Those agreements do not give users carte blanche to bypass controls imposed on those downloads. Further, those downloads can often cost the distributor real money -- a free download of a score licensed to Muse Group by a commercial rightsholder (e.g., Disney) is generally not "free" to Muse Group itself. The site has to pay for the right to distribute that score -- in many cases, based on the number of downloads made. Bypassing those controls leaves Muse Group on the hook either for costs it has no way to monetize (e.g., by ads for free users) or for violating its own distribution agreements with rightsholders (by failing to properly track downloads).

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Wakayama Taps Canadian Firm for Casino Project (2012 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:43:00 -0400Wakayama Taps Canadian Firm for Casino ProjectAkihabaraNews - Asia tech news source

    The Wakayama Prefectural Government has accepted a consortium led by Toronto-based investment firm Clairvest Group to develop a luxury Integrated Resort (casino resort) at the Marina City district within the jurisdiction of the Wakayama municipal government.

    Through the partnership between Wakayama and the Clairvest-led consortium, a licensing application will be made to the central government between October 2021 and April 2022. Currently, there are four local governments?Yokohama, Osaka, and Nagasaki aside from Wakayama?which are planning licensing applications, but under the law only a maximum of three can be permitted at this time.

    The Clairvest consortium, operated through its local subsidiary Clairvest Neem Ventures, also includes the French casino operator Groupe Partouche and AMSE Resorts Japan.

    Earlier, a number of alternative consortiums had planned to compete with Clairvest for the Wakayama partnership. Two firms, Bloomberry Resorts of the Philippines and Groupe Barriere of France, were forced to withdraw by circumstances related to the Covid pandemic, and a third company, Suncity Group of Macau, was reportedly informed that the Japanese central government would not approve its candidacy due to its suspected links to organized crime in China.

    The Clairvest consortium?s proposal is to construct a US$4.3 billion luxury casino resort at Marina City, featuring hotels, exhibition areas, a casino, and all of the other attributes required under the terms of the 2018 IR Implementation Act and subsequent Cabinet decisions.

    If it is licensed, the plans call for the Wakayama resort to be built on a 560,000 square meter plot of land, intended to host about 13 million visitors a year. It would potentially become the first casino resort to open its doors in Japan around autumn 2027.

    Recent Integrated Resorts Related Articles

    Osaka Receives Proposal for Casino Resort

    The post Wakayama Taps Canadian Firm for Casino Project appeared first on Akihabara News.

  • Amazon Promises Most Echo Speakers Will Support the Matter Smart Home Platform (1171 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:20:00 -0400Amazon Promises Most Echo Speakers Will Support the Matter Smart Home PlatformSlashdot

    Today, Amaon said it will be upgrading almost every plug-in Echo smart speaker to support Matter, a cross-platform open-source standard coming later this year. This includes most Echo and Echo Dot speakers and every Echo Studio, Echo Show, Echo Plus, and Echo Flex. "In fact, the only Echo smart speakers that won't get upgraded to Matter are the first-gen Echo, first-gen Echo Dot and Echo Tap," reports The Verge. From the report: While the company doesn't provide a timeline for those upgrades, the general idea is that Matter will launch by late 2021, so it shouldn't be long until Amazon's newest and / or more popular devices receive the capability. A bigger question is whether any of them will work as Matter hubs. Google announced in May that in addition to upgrading its Nest devices to Matter, it would allow its devices that support the Thread protocol (like the Nest Wi-Fi, Nest Hub Max, and second-gen Nest Hub) to double as connection hubs for Matter, too, not simply as a voice assistant to control Matter gadgets. But while Amazon's Eero routers were early to adopt Thread, Amazon's Echo smart speakers were not.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Living with Delta (2165 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 19:15:00 -0400Living with Deltakottke.org

    This piece by Susan Matthews is really helpful for those of us who are vaccinated and trying to figure out what their risks are regarding the much more transmissible delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. Covid-19 is endemic now — how do we live with that? What reasonable actions should we take to keep ourselves, our communities, and our loved ones safe?

    All of this is making people — yes, probably mostly vaccinated people — rethink the basic questions they thought their vaccine had answered for them: Can I go to restaurants and bars unmasked? Can I go back to the office? Can I see my grandma? Can I go on vacation? Can I unmask at my people-facing job? Can I have a wedding, or a party? The answer to those questions is not quite as easy as “yes, if you’re vaccinated.” It depends partly on how many in your group are vaccinated, but the actual answer is basically the same as it’s been all pandemic: It depends on your risk tolerance, it depends on what is happening with case counts locally (though, as more people travel, this might become a less reliable tool), and it depends on any unique risk factors in your group. Kass’ perspective felt novel to me: She said she suspects that in the end, a lot of people are going to end up boosting their immunity by suffering through a mild case of COVID. So no one should feel that bad about getting sick after they’re vaxxed. What matters is getting the order right: “If everyone who gets vaccinated still gets COVID but doesn’t die, that’s a success,” she said. The issue is that it doesn’t feel like a success for vaccinated people. Plus, “if you get infected after you’re vaxxed, it’s all you talk about,” she said. And right now, that’s understandably freaking out a lot of vaccinated people who thought they were in the clear.

    Long Covid isn’t mentioned anywhere in here though — surely that has to be part of the conversation here (although anecdotally it doesn’t seem like too much of a worry).

    Tags: Covid-19   medicine   science   Susan Matthews
  • Serial Swatter Who Caused Death Gets Five Years In Prison (2559 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 18:40:00 -0400Serial Swatter Who Caused Death Gets Five Years In PrisonSlashdot

    A 18-year-old Tennessee man who helped set in motion a fraudulent distress call to police that lead to the death of a 60-year-old grandfather in 2020 was sentenced to 60 months in prison today. Krebs on Security reports: Shane Sonderman, of Lauderdale County, Tenn. admitted to conspiring with a group of criminals that's been "swatting" and harassing people for months in a bid to coerce targets into giving up their valuable Twitter and Instagram usernames. At Sonderman's sentencing hearing today, prosecutors told the court the defendant and his co-conspirators would text and call targets and their families, posting their personal information online and sending them pizzas and other deliveries of food as a harassment technique. Other victims of the group told prosecutors their tormentors further harassed them by making false reports of child abuse to social services local to the target's area, and false reports in the target's name to local suicide prevention hotlines. Eventually, when subjects of their harassment refused to sell or give up their Twitter and Instagram usernames, Sonderman and others would swat their targets -- or make a false report to authorities in the target's name with the intention of sending a heavily armed police response to that person's address. [...] Sonderman might have been eligible to knock a few months off his sentence had he cooperated with investigators and refrained from committing further crimes while out on bond. But prosecutors said that shortly after his release, Sonderman went right back to doing what he was doing when he got caught. Investigators who subpoenaed his online communications found he'd logged into the Instagram account "FreeTheSoldiers," which was known to have been used by the group to harass people for their social media handles. Sonderman was promptly re-arrested for violating the terms of his release, and prosecutors played for the court today a recording of a phone call Sonderman made from jail in which he brags to a female acquaintance that he wiped his mobile phone two days before investigators served another search warrant on his home. "Although it may seem inadequate, the law is the law," said Judge Norris after giving Sonderman the maximum sentence allowed by law under the statute. "The harm it caused, the death and destruction... it's almost unspeakable. This is not like cases we frequently have that involve guns and carjacking and drugs. This is a whole different level of insidious criminal behavior here."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • FTC Formally Adopts Right To Repair Platform (2447 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 18:02:00 -0400FTC Formally Adopts Right To Repair PlatformSlashdot

    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: The Federal Trade Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to pursue policies that will make it easier for people to repair their own things. In a vote of 5-0 during a Commission Meeting, the FTC agreed to adopt a policy paper outlining how it planned to enforce rules that keep manufacturers from restricting aftermarket repair. It plans to enforce existing warranty law, coordinate with state and local lawmakers to ensure open markets, and investigate the current repair monopolies for violations of antitrust law. The move comes just weeks after President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the commission to create right-to-repair rules. The FTC policy paper outlined a five-pronged approach to the problem. First, it's asking for comments and complaints from the public about bad experiences it's had with repair issues and violated warranty. It's long been illegal under federal law for companies to void warranties based on aftermarket repairs. The problem is that those laws often aren't enforced, though the FTC did take some action on manufacturers who put warranty-void-if-removed stickers on their devices after Motherboard reported on the problem several years ago. "While current law does not provide for civil penalties or redress, the Commission will consider filing suit against violators of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act to seek appropriate injunctive relief," the policy paper said. Next, the FTC said it will look over current repair restrictions for violations of existing antitrust and anti-competition laws. "Finally, the Commission will bring an interdisciplinary approach to this issue, using resources and expertise from throughout the agency to combat unlawful repair restrictions," the policy paper said. "The FTC will also closely coordinate with state law enforcement and policymakers to ensure compliance and to update existing law and regulation to advance the goal of open repair markets." "Manufacturers, be warned: It's time to clean up your act and let people fix their stuff," Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Right to Repair Senior Campaign Director, told Motherboard in an email. "With unanimous support from commissioners, there's a new sheriff in town. The FTC is ready to act to stop many of the schemes used to undermine repair, while support is increasing for new legislation to further crack down."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

    Related
    FTC Approves ‘Right To Repair’ Policy in Huge Win for the Movement [PetaPixel]
    President Biden Will Order FTC to Create ‘Right to Repair’ Rules: Report [PetaPixel]
  • Three Quick Links for Wednesday Afternoon (772 characters)
  • ?It?s Too Late? (1487 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:28:00 -0400?It?s Too Late?kottke.org

    Dr. Brytney Cobia treats Covid-19 patients at the Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, a state that ranks last in the US in fully vaccinated adults. In a recent Facebook post, Cobia shares that people are willing to get vaccinated after having to watch an unvaccinated member of their family die from Covid.

    I’ve made a LOT of progress encouraging people to get vaccinated lately!!! Do you want to know how? I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections. One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late. A few days later when I call time of death, I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same. They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.

    Heartbreaking.

    Tags: Brytney Cobia   Covid-19   medicine   vaccines
  • China Rejects Hacking Charges, Accuses US of Cyberspying (1378 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:25:00 -0400China Rejects Hacking Charges, Accuses US of CyberspyingSlashdot

    China has rejected an accusation by Washington and its Western allies that Beijing is to blame for a hack of the Microsoft Exchange email system and complained Chinese entities are victims of damaging U.S. cyberattacks. From a report: A foreign ministry spokesman demanded Washington drop charges announced Monday against four Chinese nationals accused of working with the Ministry of State Security to try to steal U.S. trade secrets, technology and disease research. The announcement that the Biden administration and European allies formally blame Chinese government-linked hackers for ransomware attacks increased pressure over long-running complaints against Beijing but included no sanctions. "The United States ganged up with its allies to make unwarranted accusations against Chinese cybersecurity," said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian. "This was made up out of thin air and confused right and wrong. It is purely a smear and suppression with political motives. China will never accept this," Zhao said, though he gave no indication of possible retaliation. China is a leader in cyberwarfare research along with the United States and Russia, but Beijing denies accusations that Chinese hackers steal trade secrets and technology. Security experts say the military and security ministry also sponsor hackers outside the government.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • 4 things that stood out on United?s earnings call (6350 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:15:00 -04004 things that stood out on United?s earnings callThe Points Guy

    United Airlines held its second-quarter earnings call on Tuesday, part of a quarterly routine carried out by publicly traded companies. During the call, executives typically describe their company’s performance for the previous quarter before answering questions from financial analysts.

    As with Delta, which held its call last week, the tone of United’s calls have shifted since the pandemic began. Now, with travel rebounding, the airline’s leadership sounded almost jubilant while reporting what they expect to be their last quarter without a profit.

    Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

    A few interesting things stood out during United’s call. Here are four takeaways.

    United is taking a victory lap ? and it’s informing the airline’s positioning going forward

    For more than a year now, United executives have started virtually every briefing by bragging about its proactivity through the pandemic, whether reminding investors that it was the first airline to begin drawing down certain schedules in the early days, or the first to implement a new cleaning protocol.

    Today, as the airline industry appears set to emerge from the pandemic, executives appeared almost elated.

    “No airline has been more willing to candidly acknowledge the risk and challenges posed by COVID-19, and importantly, no airline has been quicker to aggressively confront them,” United CEO Scott Kirby said.

    “We’ve worked hard to protect that operational flexibility,” Kirby added. “In fact, it’s part of why we haven’t had the same mass crew cancellation challenges that our competitors have faced as we’ve ramped [up] our schedule over the last couple of months.”

    Now, Kirby thinks the airline industry is in full recovery mode.

    “We don’t just see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kirby said. “We’re exiting the tunnel.”

    Kirby said that as the recovery continues globally, United is in a good position to take advantage of returning demand ? particularly on the international front.

    “Our decision, which stands alone among large network carriers, not to retire wide-body aircraft means that we’re ready to capture the pent-up demand for long haul international travel.”

    The Delta variant has not directly affected the airline industry’s recovery ? yet

    The Delta variant is obviously one of the biggest concerns for the travel industry, so Kirby decided to address the elephant in the room by leading off the call with a quick briefing on it.

    “We haven’t seen any impact at all on bookings, which continue to get stronger week after week,” Kirby said. “We think the most likely outcome is that the continued recovery in demand continues unabated.”

    Kirby cited research showing that the vaccines are all largely effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death in the case of all known variants. He also pointed to surveys showing that 84% of the airline’s MileagePlus members are vaccinated.

    More: 6 things we learned about Delta this week during its earnings call

    “And so while we expect case counts to rise, given the vaccination rates, they will still remain well below the peak, and hospitalizations and deaths will not rise nearly as much,” he said. “That leads to the logical outcome that the reopening continues on track.”

    “It’s possible we have a temporary pullback in the reopening,” Kirby conceded. “But given the data [and] science around vaccines, that seems like a lower probability outcome.”

    United expects to be A bigger airline after the pandemic than it was before

    United is planning for a big 2022.

    By next year, the airline will be bigger than it was before the crisis, United executives predicted.

    ?We expect 2022 capacity to be higher than in 2019,? chief financial officer Gerry Laderman said during the call.

    Notably, a lot of that capacity will look different than it did in 2019.

    Asia was the first region to be impacted by COVID and continues to be the slowest to recover, with the largest number of border restrictions,” United chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella said. “It will likely be 2023, at least until we see a normal schedule to Asia.”

    That leaves the airline open to deploy its aircraft elsewhere, capitalizing on demand where it exists and where restrictions allow travelers to go.

    “Our global network already includes new service to India and Africa to compensate for reduced Asian flying,” Nocella added.

    Nocella also noted that the airline has already seen robust demand to European countries that have reopened, and expects demand to surge next year as the reopening continues.

    “We think the summer of 2022 across the Atlantic has the potential to be our best season ever.”

    Business travel continues to return ? and United expects that to speed up over the coming months.

    During Delta’s earnings call last week, CEO Ed Bastian told investors that business travel was returning faster than the airline expected it to.

    ?We are starting to see signs of a resurgence of business and international travel, both of which are supporting the next leg of the revenue recovery,? Bastian said, adding that 95% of Delta’s corporate accounts have booked travel in recent months. The airline saw corporate travel recover to 40% of 2019 levels in June.

    United has seen the same trend.

    “Business travel, which was down over 90% versus 2019 for most of Q2, has inflicted sharply in June and is currently down about 60% versus pre-pandemic levels,” Nocella said.

    Don’t miss: United?s big order reveals two major insights about the airline and the aviation industry as airlines look beyond the pandemic

    Nocella added that the airline expects to see two additional inflection points for business travel in future months: first, the end of summer and the return of children to school, and second, the start of the new budget cycle in January.

    Overall, United is forecasting that business travel will reach 55-60% of 2019 levels by the end of the third quarter.

    Featured image by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • U.S., Germany reach agreement on Russian gas pipeline, ending dispute between allies (260 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:12:00 -0400U.S., Germany reach agreement on Russian gas pipeline, ending dispute between alliesNational Security: National Security, Pentagon & Defense Department News - The Washington Post

    In exchange for an end to U.S. efforts to block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Germany will invest in Ukraine?s green technology infrastructure, and Berlin and Washington will work together on other initiatives to mitigate Russia?s energy dominance in Europe.

  • ON1 NoNoise AI Versus Topaz DeNoise AI: Noise Reduction Throwdown (11606 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:08:00 -0400ON1 NoNoise AI Versus Topaz DeNoise AI: Noise Reduction ThrowdownPetaPixel

    ON1, an established photography software company located in Oregon, recently released its new noise reduction application called NoNoise AI. As a longtime user of Topaz Labs DeNoise AI, it only made sense to pit these two machine-learning-based noise reduction programs against each other and see which one comes out on top.

    But First…

    Before diving into a comparison of ON1 NoNoise AI and Topaz Labs DeNoise AI, there are a couple of things to point out. First is a list of visible negative effects from photographing with high ISOs so that we may more closely examine the results below.

    • Noise
    • Less detail and less sharpness
    • Reduced dynamic range
    • Color shifting and color fading
    • Hot pixels
    • Blotchiness or smearing, usually from in-camera noise reduction

    While these two applications primarily target “digital grain” type noise, there are other degradations happening to an image simultaneously as the noise gets worse and, to an extent, I noticed both software applications attempting to fix a few of these as well, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

    Another thing to point out is what the ?AI? in NoNoise AI or DeNoise AI is doing. The programs are not simply finding hidden details already existing ?behind? the noise and enhancing them. Simplified, the software is reading your photo, comparing it to its massive data library complied from machine learning to recognize what something should look like, and then replaces the original artifacts with clean textures and details based on its photo-driven libraries.

    In practice, you don?t really think about this and to the end-user, it does just look like original details being cleaned up and brought out because it works so well (most of the time). However, organizations like the National Audubon Society, which just hosted the 2021 Photography Awards Contest, recognize the difference and specifically did not allow ?AI and machine-learning-based software used for upscaling, sharpening and significant noise reduction.? In a sense, it can be argued that the final edited images from AI noise reduction software are composites.

    Features and Functionality

    Moving into the comparison, I want to first discuss the similarities and differences as far as the layout, tools, and file handling workflow goes for each application.

    Layout

    Opening each program, both have a similar layout in default settings. The photo being processed is oriented on the lefthand side, the main toolbar panel is on the right, and there are more information and tools on the top and bottom.

    As far as looks go, ON1 NoNoise AI is by far superior with its minimal use of color. Topaz Denoise AI on the other hand tries its best to skew your color perception by maintaining a blue color palette throughout the program — a big no-no for the editing process.

    Both allow color changes to the preview background color but, for the most part, this is never seen unless your zoom is backed out all the way and it also doesn?t affect the panels surrounding the photo. ON1 goes a step further to provide a customizable accent color, but this makes a minimal difference to anything.

    Tool Panels

    Looking at the main tool panels, we see a general similarity in that there are tools for noise reduction and tools for sharpening.

    Topaz Labs has an additional AI Model section that has four options: Standard, Clear, Low Light, Severe Noise. Standard would be for your regular photos with low to moderate noise. Clear uses an older Topaz Labs noise reduction engine and does not rely on AI as much, and this mode is good for times when you see a lot of inconsistent noise reduction and artifacting introduced by the AI models. Low Light and Severe Noise kind of sound like they?d be targeting the same thing, however, if your final photo is meant to have a lot of dark spaces it might be best with Low Light.

    While Topaz Labs has one slider for noise reduction and one slider for sharpness at the heart of its program, ON1 has three sliders for both and allows for more refinement, which is greatly appreciated. It?s more hands-on, but also more time-consuming. Both have Auto toggles which are handy to get a suggestion on where to start with the sliders. From my long experience with Topaz Labs, I know that sometimes the Auto suggestion is completely off base, but it usually will speed up the process.

    One of the more interesting sliders that exists in ON1 NoNoise AI is the color tool (and to be sure, no, this doesn?t act like the Color Noise Reduction tool in Topaz Labs). I mentioned earlier in my list of negative effects of high ISO shooting that color-shifting becomes a problem. Color noise can give off a shift in the blacks and other colors get all faded and skewed. This nice tool works to take care of that by offsetting these issues. Sometimes in a lower ISO photo, the tool isn?t doing any favors when fully active, but for really noisy images it makes a huge difference.

    For example, below is a photo taken with the Sony Alpha 1 at ISO 25,600.

    Workflow

    The suggested workflow for each program differs in that ON1 NoNoise AI prefers to work off of original RAW files whereas Topaz Labs DeNoise AI is mostly set up to take processed files. Topaz Labs just released version 3.2 which supposedly includes improvements to the RAW color processing, however from what I could see comparing v3.1 and v3.2 was a lens profile correction and that?s all. As for ON1, when you try to import a non-RAW file, there?s a pop-up message that says, ?results from non-RAW photos are considered beta quality and will improve soon.?

    Topaz Labs easily wins here, as it is more flexible and leverages programs like Capture One to do a far better job at the RAW processing. ON1?s logic is that noise gets introduced during the demosaicing stage of RAW processing and therefore they can get to it at the source. What?s lost, though, is the incredible color processing and RAW-level adjustments from programs like Capture One that aren?t the same at all after ON1 outputs a converted DNG.

    One other thing to mention as it relates to workflow is that both of these applications have advanced masking abilities to control where the noise reduction is being applied, however, only ON1 can also do layering within the program. This can be a big advantage to those who need varying localized noise reduction and sharpening without having to deal with going in and out of Adobe Photoshop multiple times.

    One other thing to look at is how previews are handled. Fully processing the photos at the end of the process can take some time, so previews allow users to get a good but not perfect example of what the photo will look like. I find that ON1 previews are snappy and update in near real-time when dragging the sliders. The downside is that the preview accuracy compared to the outputted photo is only what I would call “decent.” On the other hand, Topaz Labs previews take longer to process and update, but the accuracy is close to the same as the outputted photo.

    Photo Comparisons

    Since I?m the one doing the processing, here?s my idealistic result to keep in mind: I believe noise reduction is a balancing act. Completely wiping the noise away until the photo is a smeary mess of zero detail is easy — any editing program can do that. What I aimed for in my testing was getting to the point where the noise was reduced as much as possible while also keeping or enhancing as much detail as possible in the image without getting “crunchy.”

    This generally means I like a little bit of noise left in the photo so it doesn?t look plasticky and doesn?t wipe away the fine details that benefit from a little grain-type noise. Noise present in the results below is not an indication that the programs cannot obliterate it, it?s a reflection of me trying to get the best-looking results while toeing the line of clean, yet detailed.

    In the example images below, I?m using ON1 NoNoise AI version 16.0.0.10785 and Topaz Labs DeNoise AI version 3.2.0.

    Example 1

    What I found here was that I was able to get more fine detail out of Topaz Labs with this comparison. However, ON1?s Color slider was able to do away with the high ISO color cast happening in the image.

    Example 2

    In this comparison, you can see that neither ON1 nor Topaz Labs have any good reason to be touching the RAW files. Both are looking sickly when editing off the RAW compared to Capture One. I say, let the RAW processing be handled by the professionals.

    Example 3

    While I think it?s easy for the eyes to go for Topaz Labs here because it?s more vibrant, when it comes to noise reduction I think ON1 was able to clear more color noise in the darkest areas. It?s just a shame about its RAW color processing.

    Example 4

    This one left me speechless at how amazing ON1 NoNoise AI can be. Look at all that fine detail brought into the deer?s fur while still removing the noise. Topaz Labs ended up getting muddy details that I wasn?t able to finesse into anything better. There are parts where NoNoise AI gets oversharpened in my opinion, but with masking and layers inside the application, it can be toned down on a local basis.

    Example 5

    Once again, ON1 is able to clear the color noise better than Topaz Labs. It also brings out details better, but it does teeter on being too sharp in some areas. It?s another impressive performance from the new ON1 NoNoise AI when Topaz Labs DeNoise AI has been around for a couple of years.

    It?s In the Details

    Today, my winner is Topaz Labs DeNoise AI for being more flexible in where I can use it in my workflow while getting good results much of the time. I find the RAW color processing side of ON1 NoNoise AI to be poor, and it gets worse when Capture One doesn?t play well with the converted DNGs once imported back in compared to the camera manufacturer?s proprietary RAW file.

    That said, other than some quirks of using ON1 NoNoise AI — like its insistence on always defaulting to the annoying split-screen slider and jumping zoom levels when I didn?t ask it to — I prefer its toolset and layout more. I feel like I?m really able to hone in on what I need to do to get the best results. I think that once ON1 learns to deal with already-processed RAWs from a superior processor (it?s unusably bad when you try it right now) then it will take over as my go-to noise reduction software.

  • Australia's Giant Carbon Capture Project Fails To Meet Key Targets (1431 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 16:43:00 -0400Australia's Giant Carbon Capture Project Fails To Meet Key TargetsSlashdot

    The world's largest carbon capture and storage project has failed to meet a crucial target of capturing and burying an average of 80% of the carbon dioxide produced from gas wells in Western Australia over five years. From a report: The energy giant Chevron agreed to the target with the West Australian government when developing its $54 billion Gorgon project to extract and export gas from fields off the WA coast. The five year milestone passed on Sunday. In a statement the energy giant Chevron announced that since operations began in August 2019 it had injected five million tonnes of greenhouse gases underground. According to the independent analyst Peter Milne, that leaves a shortfall of around 4.6 million tonnes, which he estimates would cost about $100 million to offset via carbon credits. The project has national and even international significance, with the oil and gas industry and the federal government declaring the success of carbon capture and storage to be crucial in tackling climate change while making use of fossil fuels. "It is essential we position Australia to succeed by investing now in the technologies that will support our industries into the future, with lower emissions energy that can support Australian jobs," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in April while announcing $263.7 million in funding to develop carbon capture and storage technology.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • FTC Approves ?Right To Repair? Policy in Huge Win for the Movement (3880 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 16:38:00 -0400FTC Approves ?Right To Repair? Policy in Huge Win for the MovementPetaPixel

    In a colossal win for the Right to Repair movement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published a statement where it unanimously approved the prioritization of aggressive action against manufacturers who impose unfair repair restrictions on individuals and independent repair shops.

    The statement follows an executive order from President Joe Biden that asked the FTC to review new regulations that would empower customers. For those unfamiliar, the short video below explains the concept of Right to Repair in less than 60 seconds.

    As noted in previous coverage, the Right to Repair movement has been championed by tech advocates, many media groups, and outlets like iFixit. In particular, iFixit has been one of the loudest voices in the movement and believes that everyone who owns a product has the right to repair it. The movement does not just encompass the right to repair owned products but expands to preventing companies from making access to equipment or resources proprietary. iFixit notes that the automobile industry tried to block the independent repair of vehicles, but that motion failed in 2012. Similarly, the idea of a ?locked? cell phone to a particular carrier was overturned and made legal in 2018.

    The FTC’s statement today notes that the government agency agrees with tech advocates and repair houses and says that the idea of restricting customers and businesses from choosing how they repair products can substantially increase the total cost of repairs, generate harmful electronic waste, and unnecessarily increase wait times for repairs.

    “In contrast, providing more choice in repairs can lead to lower costs, reduce e-waste by extending the useful lifespan of products, enable more timely repairs, and provide economic opportunities for entrepreneurs and local businesses,” the FTC writes.

    One of the major ways that manufacturers like Apple prevent independent repair of devices is by restricting access to the parts necessary to make those repairs. The FTC specifically has called out this action as one that it finds disagreeable.

    “The Commission uncovered evidence that manufacturers and sellers may, without reasonable justification, be restricting competition for repair services in numerous ways including: …asserting patent rights and enforcement of trademarks in an unlawful, overbroad manner; disparaging non-OEM parts and independent repair; using unjustified software locks, digital rights management, and technical protection measures; and imposing restrictive end user license agreements.”

    In a blog post summarizing the announcement, iFixit writes that the FTC’s statement should send a clear signal that the tide has turned against anti-repair manufacturers. Despite the considerable lobbying force of these billion-dollar corporations, the FTC has found the actions to be in violation of its policies.

    “If manufacturers continue to restrict independent repair, they could find themselves on the wrong end of an FTC enforcement action, and on the hook for sizable penalties,” iFixit writes.

    iFixit plans to continue to urge the FTC to take more action against anti-repair manufacturers and create new rules that prohibit unfair and deceptive repair restrictions that it says hurt device owners and stifle competition in the repair market.

    The FTC admits that in the past, focusing on unlawful repair restrictions has not been a priority for them, but that changes today.

    “The Commission has determined that it will devote more enforcement resources to combat these practices. Accordingly, the Commission will now prioritize investigations into unlawful repair restrictions under relevant statutes such as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and Section of the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

    Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.

    Related
    President Biden Will Order FTC to Create ‘Right to Repair’ Rules: Report [PetaPixel]
    FTC Formally Adopts Right To Repair Platform [Slashdot]
  • Hasselblad Explains the Detailed Testing Phases of X System Cameras (2902 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 16:07:00 -0400Hasselblad Explains the Detailed Testing Phases of X System CamerasPetaPixel

    Hasselblad has released the third episode in its “Hasselblad Home” series where the company provides an intimate look into the “core of Hasselblad” and the thoughts and processes involved in the development and manufacturing of its medium format cameras.

    Made at their headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, the X-system cameras are put through a precise production schedule in addition to rigorous testing and sensor calibration processes with each production technician following a specific training procedure that can vary from one hour to several days depending on the task in the assembly line. Many of these technicians have refined their skills working on these systems at Hasselblad for over 30 years.

    The company says that many of the minuscule components require the utmost concentration while assembling to ensure there are absolutely zero flaws, additionally, some parts require a “human touch” to achieve the results it looks for.

    The X-System production is divided into five stages. In the first stage, parts are checked for cosmetic issues before being registered with serial numbers in the system allowing the team to trace the parts as they move through every step of the process from assembly to final delivery. Next, the cameras are programmed and fully assembled and have the latest available firmware loaded into the system.

    The third step involves testing and calibrating each sensor unit, which is done separately from the camera body in a calibration station. Hasselblad says that over 700 images are taken with various settings where specialized software calculates compensation parameters and provides a calibration file specific to that individual sensor. Then the sensor is cleaned using a special wipe and mix of ethyl and isopropanol, and then the digital unit tests where the focus, noise, power, are tested and adjusted.

    The final step is the photo quality phase, where images are taken in a studio environment testing against color charts for tonal accuracy, issues with flare, and color accuracy.

    After the images are automatically analyzed, they are checked manually for any irregularities the previously run automated tests might have missed. These would be previously unknown issues the system hasn’t already been programmed to check for. Once all of this is complete and the cameras have passed their relevant tests, the country and wifi settings are programmed and final cleaning of the camera is done. Then these medium format cameras are packaged and shipped to vendors and creatives all around the globe.

    The video shows much of these processes in magnificent detail, and for those interested in similar videos from the company, be sure to check out the first and second episodes that go over other aspects of the company’s camera production.

    Image credits: Photos provided courtesy of Hasselblad.

  • Square To Create New Bitcoin Platform for Financial Services (749 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 16:05:00 -0400Square To Create New Bitcoin Platform for Financial ServicesSlashdot

    Payments services company Square will open a new business focused on creating an "open developer platform" to make it easier to provide non-custodial, decentralized financial services, CEO Jack Dorsey said Thursday in a series of tweets. From a report: The still to-be-named division's "primary focus" would be bitcoin, he added. The initiative, which will be led by Mike Brock, would feature "open roadmap, open development and open source," Dorsey tweeted. Brock heads the company's strategic development group. The new division will differ from Square Crypto in that Square will provide direction as well as funding for its work, Dorsey tweeted. Square Crypto is working on the Lightning Development Kit.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Canon is Debating if Bringing APS-C to the RF Mount is Worth it: Report (3710 characters)

    Wed, 21 Jul 2021 15:41:00 -0400Canon is Debating if Bringing APS-C to the RF Mount is Worth it: ReportPetaPixel

    According to a new report, Canon is in the midst of an internal debate on whether or not it should bring an APS-C camera to its RF line. Since moving to mirrorless, Canon has thus far separated its APS-C line (the EOS M series) from its full-frame offerings (R series).

    Canon Rumors reports that it was made aware that Canon has been performing market research with “select pros and others” to see if there is actual demand for an APS-C RF-mount camera. Additionally, the report alleges that Canon already plans to let the EOS M cameras go in favor of a focus on the EOS R cameras, whether or not APS-C comes to the mount.

    Canon also apparently has “zero plans” to produce any RF-S lenses.

    According to a second Canon Rumors report, Canon is looking at three possible APS-C camera designs with the names the R7, R8, and R9.

    While historically its flagship models like the 5D series and now the R5 steal most of the spotlight, most of Canon’s user base came from its lower-end interchangeable cameras. Canon continued to make and sell the Rebel SL series cameras — most recently the Canon SL3 which was released in 2019 — because the models were so affordable and, as a result, popular. But as DSLRs have fallen in popularity and have become less of a moneymaker for any camera brand, Canon has begun to focus on its higher-end models as it admits the market has become saturated.

    As reported by Petapixel’s David Crewe earlier this year, Canon was able to see some growth in its camera division due mainly to an increase in the average selling price per camera. These financial realities explain the company’s choice to move towards a focus on full-frame mirrorless systems instead of entry-level DSLRs. It could also explain why the EOS M series has not seen much innovation in recent years.

    The Canon EOS M50 Mark II, its most recent EOS M camera announced at the end of 2020, sells for the exact same $600 as Canon’s entry-level SL3 DSLR. Given that Canon has admitted that low-end cameras don’t contribute to its profitability as much as higher-end models do, Canon has plenty of reasons to abandon the platform. Meanwhile, Canon’s cheapest RF camera, the EOS RP, costs $1000 without a lens.

    Canon may see that unifying its APS-C and full-frame mounts makes a lot of sense. Not only is it a decision the company has made in the past with its EF-mount DSLRs, but it would also encourage newcomers to the brand to try higher-end glass that could be treated as an investment and would move with them to more expensive camera bodies when they were ready to upgrade.

    Another factor Canon may be considering is existing competition: both Sony and Fujifilm have done extremely well in the APS-C market, leaving little room for Canon to muscle its way in without significant additional investment — its tepid EOS M strategy hasn’t been enough to seriously challenge either Fujifilm or Sony. Nikon has tried its hand at a Z-mount APS-C camera, but it isn’t clear how well the Z50 is selling. That said, its retro-styled APS-C Z fc does seem quite popular ahead of its release. Canon may be looking at Nikon to see how it does in APS-C over the next year before determining its next move.

    Canon’s general lack of attention towards the EOS M line in recent years does seem to indicate that the company isn’t set on continuing to keep it up, and the number of advantages to moving its full line of cameras to one mount are numerous. It remains to be seen if Canon thinks developing an RF APS-C camera and attempting to migrate its EOS M user base to it is worth the cost and associated risks, however.

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