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US Online Grocery Sales Hit Record $7.2 Billion In June - An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Despite the slow reopening of the U.S. economy over the past several weeks, online grocery shopping is continuing to reach ever-higher numbers as Americans seem to be in no rush to return to the store. According to new research released today by Brick Meets Click and Mercatus, U.S. online grocery sales hit a record $7.2 billion in June, up 9% over May, as 45.6 million households turned to online grocery pickup and delivery services for a larger portion of their grocery needs. This figure is higher than the $4 billion seen in March 2020, when the U.S. first went under coronavirus lockdowns. Since then, online grocery sales have been growing quickly -- jumping to $5.3 billion in April, then $6.6 billion in May, as more consumers shifted their shopping to online services, grocery included. The customer base for online grocery also grew from 39.5 million monthly actives in March to now 45.6 million as of June, the report found. Remarkably, only 16.1 million customers were using online grocery as of August 2019, totaling then just $1.2 million in sales. The growth can be attributed to a large influx of new online grocery customers, as well as more frequent orders. "In addition, more retailers, including independents, have added capacity for online order fulfillment amid the coronavirus pandemic to meet consumers' changing needs," the report adds. "This has also resulted in an increase in sales as more customers are able to shop online and get a time slot for delivery or pickup."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T13:00:00+00:00)
Hackers Are Exploiting a 5-Alarm Bug In Networking Equipment - Andy Greenberg writes via Wired: Late last week, government agencies, including the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team and Cyber Command, sounded the alarm about a particularly nasty vulnerability in a line of BIG-IP products sold by F5. The agencies recommended security professionals immediately implement a patch to protect the devices from hacking techniques that could fully take control of the networking equipment, offering access to all the traffic they touch and a foothold for deeper exploitation of any corporate network that uses them. Now some security companies say they're already seeing the F5 vulnerability being exploited in the wildâ"and they caution that any organization that didn't patch its F5 equipment over the weekend is already too late. The F5 vulnerability, first discovered and disclosed to F5 by cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies, affects a series of so-called BIG-IP devices that act as load balancers within large enterprise networks, distributing traffic to different servers that host applications or websites. Positive Technologies found a so-called directory traversal bug in the web-based management interface for those BIG-IP devices, allowing anyone who can connect to them to access information they're not intended to. That vulnerability was exacerbated by another bug that allows an attacker to run a "shell" on the devices that essentially lets a hacker run any code on them that they choose. The result is that anyone who can find an internet-exposed, unpatched BIG-IP device can intercept and mess with any of the traffic it touches. Hackers could, for instance, intercept and redirect transactions made through a bank's website, or steal users' credentials. They could also use the hacked device as a hop point to try to compromise other devices on the network. Since BIG-IP devices have the ability to decrypt traffic bound for web servers, an attacker could even use the bug to steal the encryption keys that guarantee the security of an organization's HTTPS traffic with users, warns Kevin Gennuso, a cybersecurity practitioner for a major American retailer. While only a small minority of F5 BIG-IP devices are directly exploitable, Positive Technologies says that still includes 8,000 devices worldwide. "About 40 percent of those are in the U.S., along with 16 percent in China and single-digit percentages in other countries around the globe," reports Wired. "Owners of those devices have had since June 30, when F5 first revealed the bug along with its patch, to update," adds Wired. "But many may not have immediately realized the seriousness of the vulnerability. Others may have been hesitant to take their load balancing equipment offline to implement an untested patch, points out Gennuso, for fear that critical services might go down, which would further delay a fix."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T10:00:00+00:00)
Moon's Metal-Rich Craters Challenge Popular Theories About Its Origin - schwit1 shares a report from UPI: The most popular theory of the moon's origins contends the satellite was formed when a Mars-sized object collided with Earth, vaporizing large portions of Earth's upper crust. While Earth's upper crust is poor in metals, new research -- published Wednesday in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters -- suggests the moon's subsurface is surprisingly metal-rich, undermining the satellite's proposed origin story. Authors of the new study suggest planetary scientists consider alternative theories for the moon's formation. It's possible the collision that forged the moon was more violent than scientists thought, gouging out even deeper portions of Earth's crust and mantle. It's also possible the moon experienced an unusual cool-down process, post-collision -- a process that left the moon with large concentrations of metal.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T07:00:00+00:00)
Giant Flywheel Project In Scotland Could Prevent UK Blackouts - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A giant flywheel in north-east Scotland could soon help to prevent blackouts across Britain by mimicking the effect of a power station but without using fossil fuels. The trailblazing project near Keith in Moray, thought to cost about 25 million British pounds, will not generate electricity or produce carbon emissions -- but it could help keep the lights on by stabilizing the energy grid's electrical frequency. The Norwegian energy company Statkraft hopes that from next winter the new flywheel, designed by a division of General Electric, will be able to mimic the spinning turbines of a traditional power station, which have helped to balance the grid's frequency at about 50 hertz for decades. Currently, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) is forced to shut down windfarms and run gas power stations even when there is more than enough renewable energy to meet Britain's electricity demand, in order to keep the grid's frequency steady. By simulating the spinning metal mass of a power station turbine without producing emissions, Statkraft should be able to help ESO rely less on fossil fuels and use renewable energy more. This is the first time a project of this kind will be used anywhere in the world and ESO believes it could be a "huge step forward" in running a zero-carbon electricity grid.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T03:30:00+00:00)
Microsoft's Next Xbox Series X Game Showcase Coming July 23 - Microsoft will be holding its next Xbox Games Showcase on July 23, the company announced today. Ars Technica reports: Unlike Microsoft's May promotional event, which focused on third-party launch titles for the upcoming console, the July 23 event is expected to discuss first-party exclusives from Microsoft's own Xbox Game Studios. That likely includes new footage of Halo Infinite, which saw a new teaser trailer a few weeks ago. That lineup of first-party studios now includes Psychonauts 2 developer Double Fine, which Microsoft acquired in June, and The Outer Worlds developer Obsidian Entertainment, which Microsoft acquired last November.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T01:30:00+00:00)
New H.266 VCC Codec Up To 50% More Efficient Than Previous Standard - The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute on Tuesday announced the H.266 Versatile Video Coding codec, which will power more data-efficient video capture and transmission on future iPhones. AppleInsider reports: Apple adopted the predecessor to the new codec, H.265/HEVC, in iOS 11. The updated video codec, which was developed after years of research and standardization, will bring a number of tangible benefits to future iPhone users. In its announcement, the Fraunhofer HHI said that H.266 will reduce data requirements by around 50% thanks to improved compression. With the previous HEVC codec, it took about 10GB of data to transmit a 90-minute ultra-high definition (UHD) video. H.266 can do that with 5GB. The codec, as detailed in a 500-page specification, was designed from the ground up for use with 4K and 8K streaming. It'll allow users to store more high-definition video and reduce the amount of data on cellular networks.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T00:50:00+00:00)
Microsoft Is Interested In Acquiring Warner Bros. Gaming Unit - According to a new report from The Information, Microsoft is interested in bidding on Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, which is currently a division of AT&T. From a report: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, or WB Games, is known for publishing the "Batman: Arkham" series, "Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor," many "Lego" and "Harry Potter" games, "Mortal Kombat," and "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt." The unit consists of game-development studios in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. AT&T acquired the gaming business as part of the 2018 buyout of Time Warner assets. This deal and the 2014 acquisition of DirecTV increased AT&T's debt and the company has been looking to ways to cut costs and unload assets.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T00:30:00+00:00)
How Google Docs Became the Social Media of the Resistance - An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: In just the last week, Google Docs has emerged as a way to share everything from lists of books on racism to templates for letters to family members and representatives to lists of funds and resources that are accepting donations. Shared Google Docs that anyone can view and anyone can edit, anonymously, have become a valuable tool for grassroots organizing during both the coronavirus pandemic and the police brutality protests sweeping the US. It's not the first time. In fact, activists and campaigners have been using the word processing software for years as a more efficient and accessible protest tool than either Facebook or Twitter. It wasn't until the 2016 elections, when misinformation campaigns were rampant, that the software came into its own as a political tool. Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College, used it to create a 34-page document titled "False, Misleading, Clickbaity-y, and/or Satirical 'News' Sources.'" Zimdars inspired a slew of political Google Docs, written by academics as ad hoc ways of campaigning for Democrats for the 2018 midterm elections. By the time the election passed, Google Docs were also being used to protest immigration bans and advance the #MeToo movement. Now, in the wake of George Floyd's murder on Memorial Day weekend, communities are using the software to organize. One of the most popular Google Docs to emerge in the past week is "Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives," which features clear steps people can take to support victims of police brutality. It is organized by Carlisa Johnson, a 28-year-old graduate journalism student at Georgia State University.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-07T00:10:00+00:00)
Foreign Students Must Leave the US If Their Universities Transition To Online-Only Learning - ugen shares a report from Reuters: Foreign students must leave the United States if their school's classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday. It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many U.S. universities as they often pay full tuition. ICE said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement. The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency's data. The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student's instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T23:34:00+00:00)
PlayStation's Secret Weapon: A Nearly All-Automated Factory - According to Nikkei Asian Review, much of the PlayStation's success can be attributed to an unassuming factory in Japan that is almost entirely operated by robots. From the report: On the outskirts of Kisarazu, a large, white building towers over an otherwise suburban landscape. Once inside, visitors are greeted by the whirring of motors as dozens of robots seamlessly churn out PlayStation 4 consoles. Just a few humans were present to deal with a handful of tasks -- two to feed bare motherboards to the line, and two to package the finished consoles. But the actual assembly is done entirely by articulated robots, supplied by Mitsubishi Electric. The 31.4-meter line, completed in 2018, has the ability to churn out a new console every 30 seconds. The Kisarazu plant is operated by Sony Global Manufacturing & Operations, or SGMO, the group's manufacturing arm. The unit has worked with video game unit Sony Interactive Entertainment to bring cutting-edge technologies to the facility. One of the plant's crowning achievements is the use of robots to attach wires, tape and other flexible parts to the consoles. Twenty-six out of 32 robots at the Kisarazu plant are dedicated to the task, deftly handling materials most robots would find too finicky. "There's probably no other site that can manipulate robots in this manner," said an engineer. Every process -- all the way to final packaging -- is automated. The blend of robotic and human labor is painstakingly optimized with a priority on return on investment.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T22:50:00+00:00)
Fujitsu Announces Permanent Work-From-Home Plan - Technology firm Fujitsu announced a new "Work Life Shift" program that will offer unprecedented flexibility to its 80,000 workers in Japan. "Staff will be able to work flexible hours, and working from home will be standard wherever possible," reports the BBC. From the report: In a statement sent to the BBC, Fujitsu said it "will introduce a new way of working that promises a more empowering, productive, and creative experience for employees that will boost innovation and deliver new value to its customers and society." Under the plan employees will "begin to primarily work on a remote basis to achieve a working style that allows them to flexibly use their time according to the contents of their work, business roles, and lifestyle." The company also said the program would allow staff to choose where they worked, whether that was from home, a major corporate hub or a satellite office. Fujitsu believes that that the increased autonomy offered to its workers will help to improve the performance of teams and increase productivity.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T22:10:00+00:00)
Supreme Court Upholds Cellphone Robocall Ban - An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Associated Press: The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a 1991 law that bars robocalls to cellphones. The case, argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, only arose after Congress in 2015 created an exception in the law that allowed the automated calls for collection of government debt. Political consultants and pollsters were among those who asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire 1991 law that bars them from making robocalls to cellphones as a violation of their free speech rights under the Constitution. The issue was whether, by allowing one kind of speech but not others, the exception made the whole law unconstitutional. Six justices agreed that by allowing debt collection calls to cellphones Congress "impermissibly favored debt-collection speech over political and other speech, in violation of the First Amendment," Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote (PDF). And seven justices agreed that the 2015 exception should be stricken from the law. "Americans passionately disagree about many things. But they are largely united in their disdain for robocalls," Kavanaugh noted at the outset of his opinion.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T21:30:00+00:00)
Broadband's Underused Lifeline For Low-income Users - The federal government's main program to keep lower income people connected is only serving one-fifth of the people it could help, even during a pandemic that has forced school and work online. From a report: Millions of Americans still lack access to the high-speed internet service that's become vital as people remain stuck at home and reopenings reverse. The Lifeline program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission, provides a $9.25 monthly subsidy (more on tribal lands) to companies that provide phone or broadband service to low-income consumers, generally at no out-of-pocket cost to the customer. Less than a fifth of the 38 million households that qualify for the program are actually enrolled. And despite a recent uptick, enrollment remains down sharply from the Obama era. "It's very clear that the program is needed now more than ever," Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks told Axios. "It's a program that is severely underutilized, and it has got to really meet the moment here."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T20:50:00+00:00)
Facial-Recognition Firm Ends Operations in Canada, Watchdog Says - Canada's privacy watchdog said facial recognition software provider Clearview AI will no longer offer its services in the country, suspending a contract with its last remaining client, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. From a report: The move comes almost five months after privacy authorities at the federal level and in three provinces launched an investigation into the New York-based firm over allegations it collected personal information without consent and provided data to law enforcement. That probe is still ongoing, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said in a statement Monday. At the end of February, the national watchdog opened a separate investigation into the RCMP's use of Clearview AI's facial recognition technology and it also plans to complete that inquiry.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T20:21:00+00:00)
China Confirms Case of Bubonic Plague In Inner Mongolia - China has confirmed one case of bubonic plague in northern province Inner Mongolia, according to a statement on the local health authority's website. From a report: The patient is now under treatment at a hospital and is in a stable condition, the Bayannur health commission said in a late Sunday night statement. It also issued a level-three alert, warning of the risks of human-to-human infection and urging citizens to report dead animals, suspected plague cases and patients running a fever for unidentified reasons. Bubonic plague, also called the 'Black Death,' killed 50 million people in a 14th century outbreak in Europe and about 12 million globally in the 19th century. It's now the most common type of plague and can be treated with antibiotics. Inner Mongolia reported four cases in November while Madagascar sees some cases nearly every year between the months of September and April. Mongolia also confirmed two cases of bubonic plague earlier this month, triggering a quarantine in the province that borders China and Russia. While the ailment is treatable, unlike the novel pathogen which has caused the ongoing pandemic, Chinese health authorities are wary of any infectious disease spreading after a hard-fought containment of the coronavirus outbreak.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.(2020-07-06T20:12:00+00:00)