Archive for the ‘Biz & IT’ Category

Data cap analysis found almost 200 ISPs imposing data limits in the US

August 7th, 2017

Data cap cash. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

A company that tracks ISPs and data caps in the US has identified 196 home Internet providers that impose monthly caps on Internet users. Not all of them are enforced, but customers of many ISPs must pay overage fees when they use too much data.

BroadbandNow, a broadband provider search site that gets referral fees from some ISPs, has more than 2,500 home Internet providers in its database. This list includes telecommunications providers that are registered to provide service under the government’s Lifeline program, which subsidizes access for poor people. BroadbandNow’s team looked through the ISPs’ websites to generate a list of those with data caps.

The data cap information was “pulled directly from ISP websites,” BroadbandNow Director of Content Jameson Zimmer told Ars. “For those that have multiple caps, we include the lowest one and an asterisk to show that they have regional variation.”

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Vogtle, Summer nuclear plants face bleak outlook after Westinghouse bankruptcy

August 4th, 2017

Enlarge / In 2013, atomic plant Vogtle was a 2-unit nuclear power plant located in Burke County, near Waynesboro, Georgia, in USA. Each unit has a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor (PWR), with a General Electric turbine and electric generator, producing approximately 2,400 MW of electricity. The cost overruns incurred in making Westinghouse’s AP 1000 reactors led to the Toshiba subsidiary’s bankruptcy. (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images) (credit: Pallava Bagla / Getty Images)

The Summer nuclear reactor expansion in South Carolina and the Vogtle nuclear plant expansion in Georgia may never come to fruition after the plants’ original contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March.

Last week, power company Santee Cooper and energy company SCANA Corp announced that they would walk away (PDF) from the Summer plant. They made the announcement after calculating that the plant could cost an additional $11.4 billion to finish, which would bring the final bill to more than $25 billion.

Santee Cooper owns 45 percent of the Summer plant and SCANA owns 55 percent. Westinghouse parent company Toshiba offered the two companies $2.2 billion toward the completion of the plant, but the two companies found that sum insufficient to continue construction.

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Tesla lost $401 million from revenues of $2.7 billion in Q2 2017

August 2nd, 2017

Enlarge / The Tesla Model 3. (credit: Tesla)

On Wednesday afternoon, Tesla released its Q2 2017 financial results: a loss of $401 million from total revenues of $2.7 billion over the three months up until June 30th. That’s more or less the same performance as the company reported for Q1 2017, but it does show a 49 percent jump in revenue and 53 percent jump in vehicle deliveries compared to the same period in 2016. Depending upon whether Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (GAAP) were used, the net loss to shareholders was $2.04 per share (GAAP), or $1.33 per share (non-GAAP). It ended the period with $3 billion in cash.

During the quarter, Tesla produced 25,708 Model S and Model X electric vehicles and delivered 22,026 of them to customers. Sales of zero-emissions tax credits brought in another $100 million, and the company’s energy generation and storage activities saw a big increase, bringing in $287 million (compared to $214 million for Q1 2017 and just $3.9 million for Q2 2016). The company’s operating expenses actually decreased compared to Q1 2017, despite spending almost $48 million more on research and development.

In its earnings statement, Tesla revealed that it has been averaging 1,800 Model 3 reservations a day since the handover of the first production cars on July 28th. First deliveries to non-Tesla employees will begin in Q4 this year. Tesla says that production of the Model 3 will be limited by the slowest part of its supply chain and manufacturing process, but the company is confident it can build “just over 1,500 vehicles in Q3.” Output of the new EV is predicted to rise to 5,000 per week by the end of 2017. CEO Elon Musk told an earnings call that “what we have ahead of us is an incredibly difficult production ramp. But I’m very confident we can reach a rate of 10,000 vehicles per week by the end of next year.”

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Hyperloop One says it sent a demo pod down its test track

August 2nd, 2017

Hyperloop One

Today Hyperloop One claimed that its demo pod reached 192mph (310 kph) on the 500m (1/3 mile) test track that the startup built outside of Las Vegas. Hyperloop One showed off that demo pod last month—it’s basically an 8.7m (28.5 ft) carbon-fiber shell on a magnetically levitating chassis.

This test run follows on a “Phase 1” test that sent a bare-bones sled down the test track at 70mph. At the time, Hyperloop One had said Phase 2 would involve getting to 250mph, but in a recent press release, the startup said that the 192mph test run this month satisfied Phase 2 development goals. Ars has reached out to Hyperloop One for clarification, and we’ll update when we receive a response.

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The complete history of the IBM PC, part two: The DOS empire strikes

July 31st, 2017

Nota bene: This is the concluding part of the surprisingly interesting history of the IBM PC. You should probably read part one of the story if you haven’t already.

In November 1979, Microsoft’s frequent partner Seattle Computer Products released a standalone Intel 8086 motherboard for hardcore hobbyists and computer manufacturers looking to experiment with this new and very powerful CPU. The 8086 was closely related to the 8088 that IBM chose for the PC; the latter was a cost-reduced version of the former, an 8-bit/16-bit hybrid chip rather than a pure 16-bit like the 8086.

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Broadcom chip bug opened 1 billion phones to a Wi-Fi-hopping worm attack

July 28th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Cheon Fong Liew)

LAS VEGAS—It’s not often that a security researcher devises an attack that can unleash a self-replicating attack that, with no user interaction, threatens 1 billion smartphones. But that’s just what Nitay Artenstein of Exodus Intelligence did in a feat that affected both iOS and Android devices.

At the Black Hat security conference, Artenstein demonstrated proof-of-concept attack code that exploited a vulnerability in Wi-Fi chips manufactured by Broadcom. It fills the airwaves with probes that request connections to nearby computing devices. When the specially devised requests reach a device using the BCM43xx family of Wi-Fi chipsets, the attack rewrites the firmware that controls the chip. The compromised chip then sends the same malicious packets to other vulnerable devices, setting off a potential chain reaction. Until early July and last week—when Google and Apple issued patches respectively—an estimated 1 billion devices were vulnerable to the attack. Artenstein has dubbed the worm Broadpwn.

Although the flaw is now closed, the hack has important lessons as engineers continue their quest to secure mobile phones and other computing devices. Security protections such as address space layout randomization and data execution prevention have now become standard parts of the operating systems and apps. As a result, attackers have to work hard to exploit buffer overflows and other types of software vulnerabilities. That extra work largely makes self-replicating worms impossible. Artenstein’s exploit, however, suggests that such worms are by no means impossible.

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Dating site OkCupid removes decade-old workaround for its paid version

July 28th, 2017

Enlarge / OkCupid put blinders on a longtime site feature on Friday. (credit: OkCupid)

On Friday, online dating service OkCupid introduced its biggest change since its 2009 paid “A-List” add-on package. Starting today, the site’s users no longer see a major data point that has been standard for nearly a decade: the “visitors” tab.

“What’s the value of a visitor?” the company wrote in an e-mail to users. “Short answer: zero.” However, that valuation is shaken up by a follow-up sentence, and it may explain why the company made the change. “A person who visits your profile and chooses not to follow up with a ‘like’ or a message probably (read: definitely) isn’t worth your time.”

To understand this “visitor” tab’s potential value, here’s a brief explainer. OkCupid works differently than GPS-fueled dating apps like Tinder, since it’s a product of an older dating-service generation. Its users can sort through potential matches with a variety of metrics, particularly a “match percentage” determined by the site’s questionnaires. The service’s reliance on questions, data, and match metrics (broken down into categories like sex, ethics, and religion) differentiated the service from its ’00s peers (and gives it less of a “hook-up” reputation than the photo- and location-focused Tinder).

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Amazon made a package delivery locker specifically for apartments

July 28th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Amazon)

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you know how difficult it can be to receive packages. They get lost, misplaced, or dropped in front of the wrong door all the time. Amazon wants to change this with what is, essentially, a big digital storage unit for your apartment building. Amazon Hub is a new system that’s similar to the online retailer’s locker units that safely stores packages inside locked boxes so you can retrieve your items whenever is most convenient for you by using a special unlock code.

According to the Hub webpage, it’s built for use by residents of apartment buildings and housing complexes. Indoor and outdoor “hubs” are available, depending on the layout of the apartment structure, and the physical unit starts at 6 feet wide and includes over 20 compartments. When a package is delivered, it is safely stored in a locked box. Residents use the touchscreen keypad to enter a unique code that unlocks the individual unit that contains their package. Residents can pick up packages at any time since the hub doesn’t require personnel to operate. Amazon is billing it as “self-service delivery” and a system that can benefit apartment owners by “freeing you and your staff from daily package management.”

Hubs are not exclusively for Amazon packages either. The company says any delivery service can use hubs, meaning residents could get packages from USPS, FedEx, UPS, and others delivered to the locked boxes. It’s unclear how those companies would deliver unlock codes to residents, though. Amazon would likely send residents their unlock code via e-mail or through the Amazon mobile app.

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