US Announces Plans To Withdraw From 144-Year-Old Postal Treaty

JoeyRox writes: The Trump Administration announced today that it’s intending to withdraw from the Universal Postal Union, an international postage rate system overseen by the United Nations. “The decision was borne out of frustration with discounts imposed by the Universal Postal Union (UPU) that allow China and some other nations to ship products into the U.S. at cheaper rates than American companies receive to ship domestically,” reports The Hill. “The administration argues the system undercuts U.S. manufacturers and allows China to flood the market with cheap goods.” The U.S. is hoping to renegotiate the rates, known as terminal dues, but was frustrated with opposition from other nations in the UPU. According to the report, “The withdrawal would not take effect for one year, allowing the U.S. some time to broker a new deal.” “The 144-year-old UPU sets fees that postal services charge to deliver mail and packages from foreign carriers,” reports The Hill. “For decades, developing nations have been allowed to pay lower rates than wealthier nations. China has fallen under the developing nation category, a designation the U.S. says it no longer deserves because of its booming economy.” The Trump administration wants to move to a system of “self-declared rates” that would allow the U.S. Postal Service to set its own prices for shipping international packages of all sizes. As it stands, the P.O. is only allowed to use self-declared rates on packages exceeding 4.4 pounds.

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Source: Slashdot – US Announces Plans To Withdraw From 144-Year-Old Postal Treaty

Scientists Discover Weird Sounds In Antarctic Ice Shelf

pgmrdlm shares a report from USA Today: Using special instruments, scientists have discovered weird sounds at the bottom of the world. The noise is actually vibrating ice, caused by the wind blowing across snow dunes, according to a new study. It’s kind of like you’re blowing a flute, constantly, on the ice shelf,” study lead author Julien Chaput, a geophysicist and mathematician at Colorado State University, said in a statement. Another scientist, glaciologist Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago, likened the sounds to the buzz of thousands of cicadas. The sounds are too low in frequency to be heard by human ears unless sped up by the monitoring equipment. The scientists originally buried 34 seismic sensors under the snow on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf to study the continent’s ice shelves — not to record the sounds they heard. “Studying the vibrations of an ice shelf’s insulating snow jacket could give scientists a sense of how it is responding to changing climate conditions,” reports USA Today. “Changes to the ice shelf’s ‘seismic hum’ could also indicate whether cracks in the ice are forming that might indicate whether the ice shelf is susceptible to breaking up.”

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Source: Slashdot – Scientists Discover Weird Sounds In Antarctic Ice Shelf

NASA Astronaut Details Fall To Earth After Failed Soyuz Launch

After surviving an aborted launch to the ISS, NASA astronaut Nick Hague details his fall to Earth and shares what it was like inside the capsule. CNET reports: In his first interviews since surviving the largely uncontrolled “ballistic descent” back to Earth that followed, Hague told reporters on Tuesday that the launch felt normal for the first two minutes but that it became clear “something was wrong pretty quick.” “Your training really takes over,” Hague said, adding that he and [Russian Cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin] had practiced what to do in case of just such a launch-abort scenario. Hague also credited years of flight training, going back to his days as a U.S. Air Force pilot.

The escape procedure has been compared to being launched sideways out of a shotgun — but while the shotgun is rocketing upward. Hague described the side-to-side shaking inside the capsule as “fairly aggressive but fleeting.” “I expected my first trip to space to be memorable,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to be quite this memorable.” Because of the combination of rocket-fueled ascent and the sudden sideways escape maneuver, the crew experienced a higher level of g-forces than during a normal flight. Once the Soyuz reached the top of its arc and began to descend, Hague said, what followed was really the same as a normal Soyuz landing, but with one major difference: The pair couldn’t be certain where they were. “My eyes were looking out the window trying to gauge where we were going to land.” Luckily, the capsule deployed its parachutes and landed on smooth, flat terrain where Hague and Ovchinin were met by rescue helicopters and whisked off for medical evaluations.

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Source: Slashdot – NASA Astronaut Details Fall To Earth After Failed Soyuz Launch

The Future of the Cloud Depends On Magnetic Tape

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Although the century-old technology has disappeared from most people’s daily view, magnetic tape lives on as the preferred medium for safely archiving critical cloud data in case, say, a software bug deletes thousands of Gmail messages, or a natural disaster wipes out some hard drives. The world’s electronic financial, health, and scientific records, collected on state-of-the-art cloud servers belonging to, Microsoft, Google, and others, are also typically recorded on tape around the same time they are created. Usually the companies keep one copy of each tape on-site, in a massive vault, and send a second copy to somebody like Iron Mountain. Unfortunately for the big tech companies, the number of tape manufacturers has shrunk over the past three years from six to just two — Sony and Fujifilm — and each seems to think that’s still one too many.

The Japanese companies have said the tape business is a mere rounding error as far as they’re concerned, but each has spent millions of dollars arguing before the U.S. International Trade Commission to try to ban the other from importing tapes to America. […] The tech industry worries that if Sony or Fujifilm knocks the other out of the U.S., the winner will hike prices, meaning higher costs for the big cloud providers; for old-line storage makers, including IBM, HPE, and Quantum; and, ultimately, for all those companies’ customers. […] Although Sony and Fujifilm have each assured the trade commission that they could fill the gap if their rival’s products were shut out of the U.S., the need for storage continues to grow well beyond old conceptions. Construction is slated to begin as soon as next year on the Square Kilometer Array, a radio telescope with thousands of antennas in South Africa and Australia meant to detect signals emitted more than 13 billion years ago. It’s been estimated the project could generate an exabyte (1 billion gigabytes) of raw data every day, the equivalent of 300 times the material in the U.S. Library of Congress and a huge storage headache all by itself.

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Source: Slashdot – The Future of the Cloud Depends On Magnetic Tape

Chinese City 'Plans To Launch Artificial Moon To Replace Streetlights'

The south-western Chinese city of Chengdu is planning to launch an illumination satellite in 2020 that is “designed to complement the moon at night,” though it would be eight times as bright. “The ‘dusk-like glow’ of the satellite would be able to light an area with a diameter of 10-80km, while the precise illumination range could be controlled within tens of meters — enabling it to replace streetlights,” reports The Guardian. From the report: The vision was shared by Wu Chunfeng, the chairman of the private space contractor Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co (Casc), at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship event held in Chengdu last week. Wu reportedly said testing had begun on the satellite years ago and the technology had now evolved enough to allow for launch in 2020. It is not clear whether the plan has the backing of the city of Chengdu or the Chinese government, though Casc is the main contractor for the Chinese space program. The People’s Daily was quick to reassure those concerned about the fake moon’s impact on night-time wildlife. It cited Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, Harbin Institute of Technology, who “explained that the light of the satellite is similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not affect animals’ routines.”

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Source: Slashdot – Chinese City ‘Plans To Launch Artificial Moon To Replace Streetlights’

Essential Products, Startup From Android Creator Andy Rubin, Lays Off 30 Percent of Staff

Essential Products, a startup founded in 2015 by Android creator Andy Rubin, was started to create a smartphone with high-end design features that wasn’t associated with a particular operating-system maker. Unfortunately, reaching that goal has been harder than anticipated as the company has laid off about 30 percent of its staff. Fortune reports: Cuts were particularly deep in hardware and marketing. The company’s website indicates it has about 120 employees. A company spokesperson didn’t confirm the extent of layoffs, but said that the decision was difficult for the firm to make and, “We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product.” The firm was Rubin’s first startup after leaving Google in 2014, which had acquired his co-founded firm, Android, in 2005.

Essential’s first phone came out in August 2017, a few weeks later than initially promised. It received mixed reviews, with most critics citing its lower quality and missing features relative to competing smartphones, such as a lack of waterproofing and poor resiliency to damage. The company dropped the price from an initial $699 within weeks to $499, and offered it on Black Monday in November 2017 for $399.

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Source: Slashdot – Essential Products, Startup From Android Creator Andy Rubin, Lays Off 30 Percent of Staff

Trivial Authentication Bypass In Libssh Leaves Servers Wide Open

Ars Technica reports of “a four-year-old bug in the Secure Shell implementation known as libssh that makes it trivial for just about anyone to gain unfettered administrative control of a vulnerable server.” It’s not clear how many sites or devices may be vulnerable since neither the widely used OpenSSH nor Github’s implementation of libssh was affected. From the report: The vulnerability, which was introduced in libssh version 0.6 released in 2014, makes it possible to log in by presenting a server with a SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_SUCCESS message rather than the SSH2_MSG_USERAUTH_REQUEST message the server was expecting, according to an advisory published Tuesday. Exploits are the hacking equivalent of a Jedi mind trick, in which an adversary uses the Force to influence or confuse weaker-minded opponents. The last time the world saw an authentication-bypass bug with such serious consequences and requiring so little effort was 11 months ago, when Apple’s macOS let people log in as admin without entering a password.

On the brighter side, there were no immediate signs of any big-name sites being bitten by the bug, which is indexed as CVE-2018-10933. While Github uses libssh, the site officials said on Twitter that “ and GitHub Enterprise are unaffected by CVE-2018-10933 due to how we use the library.” In a follow-up tweet, GitHub security officials said they use a customized version of libssh that implements an authentication mechanism separate from the one provided by the library. Out of an abundance of caution, GitHub has installed a patch released with Tuesday’s advisory. Another limitation: only vulnerable versions of libssh running in server mode are vulnerable, while the client mode is unaffected. Peter Winter-Smith, a researcher at security firm NCC who discovered the bug and privately reported it to libssh developers, told Ars the vulnerability is the result of libssh using the same machine state to authenticate clients and servers. Because exploits involve behavior that’s safe in the client but unsafe in the server context, only servers are affected.

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Source: Slashdot – Trivial Authentication Bypass In Libssh Leaves Servers Wide Open

Researchers 3D Print Custom-Sized Lithium-Ion Batteries

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: [N]ew research published in ACS Applied Energy Materials shows that it’s possible to 3D-print lithium-ion batteries into whatever shape you need. The problem that has stood in the way of 3D-printed lithium-ion batteries (at least, until now) is that the polymers traditionally used in this kind of printing aren’t ionic conductors. The goal was to find a way to print custom-sized lithium-ion batteries in a cost-effective way using a regular, widely available 3D printer. In order to make the batteries conductive, the team led by Christopher Reyes and Benjamin Wiley infused the polylactic acid (PLA) usually used in 3D printing with an electrolyte solution. The researchers also incorporated graphene and carbon nanotubes into the design of the case to help increase conductivity. After these design modifications, the team was able to 3D print an LED bracelet, complete with a custom-sized lithium-ion battery. The battery was only able to power the bracelet for about 60 seconds, but the researchers have ideas for how to improve the capacity. For those interested, Engadget has a short video on the subject.

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Source: Slashdot – Researchers 3D Print Custom-Sized Lithium-Ion Batteries

Ask Slashdot: Should Open-Source Developer Teams Hire Professional UI/UX Designers?

OpenSourceAllTheWay writes: There are many fantastic open-source tools out there for everything from scanning documents to making interactive music to creating 3D assets for games. Many of these tools have an Achilles heel though — while the code quality is great and the tool is fully functional, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are typically significantly inferior to what you get in competing commercial tools. In an nutshell, with open source, the code is great, the tool is free, there is no DRM/activation/telemetry bullshit involved in using the tool, but you very often get a weak UI/UX with the tool that — unfortunately — ultimately makes the tool far less of a joy to use daily than should be the case. A prime example would be the FOSS 3D tool Blender, which is great technically, but ultimately flops on its face because of a poorly designed UI that is a decade behind commercial 3D software. So here is the question: should open-source developer teams for larger FOSS projects include a professional UI/UX designer who does the UI for the project? There are many FOSS tools that would greatly benefit from a UI re-designed by a professional UI/UX designer.

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Source: Slashdot – Ask Slashdot: Should Open-Source Developer Teams Hire Professional UI/UX Designers?

Facebook Lured Advertisers By Inflating Ad-watch Times Up To 900 Percent

Zorro shares a report from The Mercury News: Not only did Facebook inflate ad-watching metrics by up to 900 percent (Warning: source may be paywalled, alternative source), it knew for more than a year that its average-viewership estimates were wrong and kept quiet about it, a new legal filing claims. A group of small advertisers suing the Menlo Park social media titan alleged in the filing that Facebook “induced” advertisers to buy video ads on its platform because advertisers believed Facebook users were watching video ads for longer than they actually were. That “unethical, unscrupulous” behavior by Facebook constituted fraud because it was “likely to deceive” advertisers, the filing alleged. The latest allegations arose out of a lawsuit that the advertisers filed against Mark Zuckerberg-led Facebook in federal court in 2016 over alleged inflation of ad-watching metrics. “Suggestions that we in any way tried to hide this issue from our partners are false,” the company told The Wall Street Journal. “We told our customers about the error when we discovered it — and updated our help center to explain the issue.” “The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status to bring other advertisers into the legal action, plus unspecified damages,” reports The Mercury News. “They also want the court to order a third-party audit of Facebook’s video-ad metrics.”

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook Lured Advertisers By Inflating Ad-watch Times Up To 900 Percent

Amazon Doles Out Freebies To Juice Sales of Its Own Brands

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon cracked down on fake reviews two years ago by prohibiting shoppers from getting free products directly from merchants in exchange for writing reviews. It was a major turning point for the world’s largest online retailer, which had previously seen “incentivized reviews” as a key way for consumers to discover new products. Amazon changed course because it realized some merchants were using such reviews to game its search algorithm, undermining faith in the customer feedback that helps drive e-commerce. Amazon instead used its “Vine” program, in which Amazon serves as a middleman between prolific Amazon reviewers and vendors eager for exposure. Amazon would still allow freebies in exchange for feedback so long as there was no direct contact between its retail partners and reviewers, theoretically lessening the chance of quid-pro-quo. Amazon would select shoppers eligible for the program, and Amazon vendors would pay a fee and provide free products to participate. But there was an important group excluded from the Vine program: independent merchants who supply about half the goods sold on the site. Now those excluded merchants and review watchdogs are alleging Amazon is guilty of the review manipulation the company said it was trying to prevent. Amazon uses Vine extensively to promote a fast-growing assortment of its own private-label products, distributing free samples to quickly accumulate the reviews needed to rise in search results and boost shopper faith in making a purchase. It gives Amazon a big advantage when introducing its own brands over third-party merchants who are more vulnerable to Amazon’s private-label competition than prominent brands already in stores.

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Source: Slashdot – Amazon Doles Out Freebies To Juice Sales of Its Own Brands

Apple Launches Portal For US Users To Download Their Data

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple on Wednesday began allowing users in the U.S. to download a copy of all of the data that they have stored with the company from a single online portal. U.S. users will be able to download data such as all of their address book contacts, calendar appointments, music streaming preferences and details about past Apple product repairs. Previously, customers could get their data by contacting Apple directly. In May, when Apple first launched the online privacy portal, it only allowed U.S. users to either correct their data or delete their Apple accounts.

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Source: Slashdot – Apple Launches Portal For US Users To Download Their Data

Facebook Posts May Point To Depression, Study Finds

People’s Facebook posts might predict whether they are suffering from depression, researchers reported this week. From a report: The researchers found that the words people used seemed to indicate whether they would later be diagnosed with depression. The findings offer a way to flag people who may be in need of help, but they also raise important questions about people’s health privacy, the team reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. People who were later clinically diagnosed with depression used more “I” language, according to Johannes Eichstaedt of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues. They also used more words reflecting loneliness, sadness and hostility. “We observed that users who ultimately had a diagnosis of depression used more first-person singular pronouns, suggesting a preoccupation with the self,” they wrote. That is an indicator of depression in some people. The team recruited 683 people who visited an emergency room for their study and asked to see their Facebook pages. Most were not depressed, but 114 had a depression diagnosis in their medical records.

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Source: Slashdot – Facebook Posts May Point To Depression, Study Finds

Former Top Waymo Engineer Altered Code To Go on 'Forbidden Routes', Report Says

In the early days of what ultimately became Waymo, Google’s self-driving car division (known at the time as “Project Chauffeur”), there were “more than a dozen accidents, at least three of which were serious,” according to a new article in The New Yorker . From a report: The magazine profiled Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer who was at the center of the Waymo v. Uber trade secrets lawsuit. According to the article, back in 2011, Levandowski also modified the autonomous software to take the prototype Priuses on “otherwise forbidden routes.” Citing an anonymous source, The New Yorker reports that Levandowski sat behind the wheel as the safety driver, along with Isaac Taylor, a Google executive. But while they were in the car, the Prius “accidentally boxed in another vehicle,” a Camry. As The New Yorker wrote: “A human driver could easily have handled the situation by slowing down and letting the Camry merge into traffic, but Google’s software wasn’t prepared for this scenario. The cars continued speeding down the freeway side by side. The Camry’s driver jerked his car onto the right shoulder. Then, apparently trying to avoid a guard rail, he veered to the left; the Camry pinwheeled across the freeway and into the median. Levandowski, who was acting as the safety driver, swerved hard to avoid colliding with the Camry, causing Taylor to injure his spine so severely that he eventually required multiple surgeries.” This was apparently just one of several accidents in Project Chauffeur’s early days.

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Source: Slashdot – Former Top Waymo Engineer Altered Code To Go on ‘Forbidden Routes’, Report Says

Driverless Car Hype Gives Way To E-Scooter Mania Among Technorati

Millions of dollars in funding and billions of dollars in valuations have made scooters the next big thing since the last big thing. From a report: When Michael Ramsey, an analyst for technology research firm Gartner, started in February to put together his 2018 “hype cycle” report for the future of transportation, he had plenty of topics to choose from: electric vehicles, flying cars, 5G, blockchain, and, of course, autonomous vehicles. But one type of transportation is conspicuously absent from the results of the report: electric scooters. “At the time, outside of California, these scooters were really not that common,” Ramsey said. “That’s how much has happened.” As for autonomous vehicles, which have enjoyed years of hype as the next big thing, Ramsey labeled them sliding into “the trough of disillusionment,” which Ramsey described as “when expectations don’t meet the truth.” In a matter of months, electric scooter startups have gone from tech oddity to global phenomenon. In some cities, hundreds of scooters suddenly showed up on streets from companies including Bird and Lime, leaving municipalities to figure out how to handle the sudden influx of two-wheeled travelers. The concept behind the scooters is simple: A user can grab any available scooter, unlock it with an app, ride to their destination, and leave the scooter there for someone else to use. Even by the hyper-growth expectations of Silicon Valley, the rise of scooter companies has been dizzying. Scooters can be found in more than 125 cities in the U.S. and more than 10 across the globe. In the year after their launch, both Lime and Bird said their scooters had been used for more than 10 million rides.

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Source: Slashdot – Driverless Car Hype Gives Way To E-Scooter Mania Among Technorati

Researcher Finds Simple Way of Backdooring Windows PCs and Nobody Notices for Ten Months

A security researcher from Colombia has found a way of gaining admin rights and boot persistence on Windows PCs that’s simple to execute and hard to stop — all the features that hackers and malware authors are looking for from an exploitation technique. From a report: What’s more surprising, is that the technique was first detailed way back in December 2017, but despite its numerous benefits and ease of exploitation, it has not received either media coverage nor has it been seen employed in malware campaigns. Discovered by Sebastian Castro, a security researcher for CSL, the technique targets one of the parameters of Windows user accounts known as the Relative Identifier (RID). The RID is a code added at the end of account security identifiers (SIDs) that describes that user’s permissions group. There are several RIDs available, but the most common ones are 501 for the standard guest account, and 500 for admin accounts. Castro, with help from CSL CEO Pedro Garcia, discovered that by tinkering with registry keys that store information about each Windows account, he could modify the RID associated with a specific account and grant it a different RID, for another account group. The technique does not allow a hacker to remotely infect a computer unless that computer has been foolishly left exposed on the Internet without a password. But in cases where a hacker has a foothold on a system — via either malware or by brute-forcing an account with a weak password — the hacker can give admin permissions to a compromised low-level account, and gain a permanent backdoor with full SYSTEM access on a Windows PC.

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Source: Slashdot – Researcher Finds Simple Way of Backdooring Windows PCs and Nobody Notices for Ten Months

Someone Used a Deep Learning AI To Perfectly Insert Harrison Ford Into "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

Andrew Liszewski, writing for io9: Casting anyone other than Harrison Ford in the role of Han Solo just feels like sacrilege, but since Ford is now 76 years old, playing a younger version of himself would be all but impossible. Or at least impossible if you rely on the standard Hollywood de-aging tricks like makeup and CG. Artificial intelligence, it turns out, does a pretty amazing job at putting Ford back into the role of Solo. The YouTube channel “derpfakes” has been posting videos that demonstrate the impressive, and at times frightening, capabilities of image processing using artificial intelligence. Using a process called deep learning, an AI analyzes a large collection of photos of a given person, creating a comprehensive database of them in any almost any position and pose. It then uses that database to intelligently perform an automatic face replacement on a source clip, in this case replacing actor Alden Ehrenreich’s face with Harrison Ford’s.

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Source: Slashdot – Someone Used a Deep Learning AI To Perfectly Insert Harrison Ford Into “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

GPU-Z Can Now Detect Fake NVIDIA Graphics Cards

An anonymous reader shares a report: Sellers have been modifying lower end NVIDIA graphics cards and selling them more powerful cards online. In a recent version of the GPU-Z graphics card information utility, TechPowerUp has added the ability to now detect these fake NVIDIA cards. This new feature allows buyers of cards to detect if the card is actually a relabled NVIDIA G84, G86, G92, G94, G96, GT215, GT216, GT218, GF108, GF106, GF114, GF116, GF119, or GK106 GPU by displaying an exclamation point where the NVIDIA logo would normally appear and also prepends the string “[FAKE]” before the card’s name.

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Source: Slashdot – GPU-Z Can Now Detect Fake NVIDIA Graphics Cards

Seattle Startup Vets Takes on Google with Helm, a New $499 Personal Email Server

A Seattle-area startup is aiming to take on giants such as Google and change the way we do email with a new physical personal email server. From a report: Helm today unveiled its $499 device that lets consumers send and receive email from their own domain, in addition to saving contacts and calendar events. It’s a bold bet that aims to provide comfort at a time when privacy and security issues related to personal data hosted by big tech companies in the cloud are top of mind. The idea comes from Giri Sreenivas and Dirk Sigurdson, two entrepreneurs who already sold a security startup and raised a $4 million seed round from top venture capital firms last year. The device is about the size of a router and looks like an upside-down book placed on a table. It connects to a home network and pairs with a mobile app that lets users create their own domain name, passwords, and recovery keys. Helm support standard protocols and works with regular email clients such as Outlook or the Mail app, with encryption protecting connection between the device and the apps.

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Source: Slashdot – Seattle Startup Vets Takes on Google with Helm, a New 9 Personal Email Server

The Results of Your Genetic Test Are Reassuring. But That Can Change.

Laboratories frequently “reclassify” genetic mutations. But there is no reliable system for telling patients or doctors that the results of their genetic tests are no longer valid. From a report: The results of a genetic test may seem final — after all, a gene mutation is present or it is not. That mutation increases the risk of a disease, or it does not. In fact, those findings are not as straightforward as they might seem, and the consequences may have grave implications for patients. While a person’s genome doesn’t change, the research linking particular bits of DNA to disease is very much in flux. Geneticists and testing labs constantly receive new information that leads them to reassess genetic mutations. As a result, a mutation seen as benign today may be found dangerous tomorrow. And vice versa. But there is no good way to get the new information to doctors and patients. The result: The gene test you had a few years ago might yield a startlingly different result now. The problem affects a minority of patients, mostly people with unusual mutations. The more common disease-causing mutations — like those that predispose you to breast or colon cancer — are so well studied that their meaning is not in doubt. In a recent study, researchers at Myriad Genetics, a diagnostic company, reviewed data on 1.45 million patients who had genetic tests from 2006 to 2016 to see if the results originally reported still held true. The lab issued new reports for nearly 60,000 of them, meaning the old results had been superseded by new data. But many patients who carry mutations that have been reclassified remain in the dark.

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Source: Slashdot – The Results of Your Genetic Test Are Reassuring. But That Can Change.