Tesla building massive electricity storage unit for Los Angeles substation


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❝ Tesla has been chosen by the Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California to build an 80MWh battery plant that will be able to provide power to 2,500 homes for a full day. California Governor Jerry Brown indirectly initiated the action by mandating the California Public Utilities Commission to stabilize grid power following the gas leak at Aliso Canyon last October, when 100,000 tons of methane leaked into the atmosphere.

❝ Power storage is a fast-growing business, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. He says this market has a “super-exponential growth rate” that is “several times that of what the car business is per year.” Tesla did not reveal pricing and other details, but did say that the power storage facility would be ready by the end of the year.

The plan for storing power in batteries for peak time usage is actually years old, but has been accelerated since the Aliso Canyon incident, which forced more than 4,500 households to move into temporary quarters…

❝ Tesla and several of its competitors in the power storage industry will come together to create a system that will essentially “time shift” grid power from off-peak hours to peak hours, theoretically eliminating the need for conventional power stations to come online during high load times.

The base plan for the CPUC is to have 1,325 megawatts of power storage facilities by the year 2020. This will ideally be sufficient to power more than 41,000 homes for a day.

This is an example of how and why we’re changing the goal for solar electricity at our compound here in La Cieneguilla, New Mexico. Our confidence is way up about getting entirely off the grid. Not only are large economy-size grid backups like this becoming possible [and cheaper], firms like Tesla and their domestic and global competitors are doing the same for home-size solar panel systems.

You need to be concerned about “smart” sex toys and privacy – Huh? Wha?


WTF?

❝ With the internet of things, previously innocuous devices have been rigged up to collect all sorts of data about their users—including sex toys. According to a recently filed US lawsuit, at least some people are unhappy with the privacy risk this could pose.

In the complaint, an unnamed plaintiff claims one “smart” sex toy collected identifiable details on her use of the device without her knowledge, and she is now seeking punitive damages. That data allegedly included details such as when the device was used, and what intensity setting the user selected.

❝ Although this sort of data collection may come as a surprise to some, researchers have discovered that other similar devices are also pooling sensitive information, highlighting a looming privacy threat: What if the company is hacked, and those details are released? Even if the data is kept secure, some customers perhaps don’t want unknown employees to have access to a wealth of data on how they spend their most personal time…

❝ The lawsuit, first reported by the Courthouse News Service, centres around a device called the We-Vibe: a vibrator which can be remotely controlled with a smartphone app.

The complaint alleges that the app was designed to “secretly collect intimate details about its customers’ use of the We-Vibe, including the date and time of each use, the vibration intensity level selected by the user, the vibration mode or pattern selected by the user,” and the user’s email address.

According to the complaint, “Plaintiff would never have purchased a We-Vibe had she known that in order to use its full functionality, Defendant would monitor, collect, and transmit her Usage Information.”

❝ The lawsuit appears to be based on the work of security researchers known as g0ldfisk and followr, who told an audience at the Defcon hacking conference in August how they took apart the We-Vibe and discovered the sort of data it was sending back to the company. At the time, Standard Innovation, the Canadian company behind the We-Vibe, said it collected some of the data for market research purposes. The company gave the example that if lots of customers kept using the We-Vibe’s highest intensity setting, then perhaps the device was a bit too weak overall…

The We-Vibe is far from the only smart sex toy on the market collecting user data. In one case, Pentest Partners found an Android sex toy app that stored very personal temporary images…

“If you lose your phone, or someone pops your SD card, some highly private content could be exposed,” security researcher Ken Munro said.

The wonders of any technological advance pretty much can be guaranteed to provoke greed, profit, salacious abuse and criminal behavior – by human beings.

Indoors or outdoors – but especially indoors – the Pentagon’s newest scout is an autonomous drone

❝ There is little detail in the $1 million contract..The award, from the Army, but through the Pentagon’s brand-new tech-focused “Defense Innovation Unit Experimental” DIUx, is for a nine-month “prototype project in the area of Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones.” Two other salient features stand out in the little, obligatory blurb attached to the notice. The contract comes from the Naval Special Warfare Command, which mostly oversees Navy SEALs, and the contract was awarded to Shield AI.

❝ What, exactly, will the “Autonomous Tactical Airborne Drones” do? Judging by video from Shield AI, it looks like they’ll fly into unknown airspace, inside of buildings…

❝ The quadcopters, which appear to be modified commercial models with extra sensors attached, are exploring buildings, mapping the insides of spaces, and then transmitting that information back to humans who may soon need to go into that building. That’s useful for fighting in a building, which is a staple task of special warfare units.

And no one in the building, presumably, will notice this critter flying around, eh?

Your bank was offline for 10 hours and it was caused by what? WTF?

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❝ ING Bank’s main data center in Bucharest, Romania, was severely damaged over the weekend during a fire extinguishing test. In what is a very rare but known phenomenon, it was the loud sound of inert gas being released that destroyed dozens of hard drives. The site is currently offline and the bank relies solely on its backup data center, located within a couple of miles’ proximity.

“The drill went as designed, but we had collateral damage”, ING’s spokeswoman said…

❝ The purpose of the drill was to see how the data center’s fire suppression system worked. Data centers typically rely on inert gas to protect the equipment in the event of a fire, as the substance does not chemically damage electronics…The gas is stored in cylinders, and is released at high velocity out of nozzles uniformly spread across the data center.

According to people familiar with the system, the pressure at ING Bank’s data center was higher than expected, and produced a loud sound – think about the noise a steam engine releases – The bank monitored the sound and it was very loud, a source familiar with the system told us. It was as high as their equipment could monitor, over 130dB”.

❝ Sound means vibration, and this is what damaged the hard drives. The HDD cases started to vibrate, and the vibration was transmitted to the read/write heads, causing them to go off the data tracks.

In ING Bank’s case, it was “like putting a storage system next to a [running] jet engine,”

❝ The Bank said it required 10 hours to restart its operation due to the magnitude and the complexity of the damage…Over the next few weeks, every single piece of equipment will need to be assessed. ING Bank’s main data center is compromised “for the most part”

A catastrophic failover to the backup data center. Phew! That’s a helluva noise.

Pentagon research in artificial intelligence moves us closer to robot wars

Human-robot strike teams, autonomous land mines, and covert swarms of minuscule robotic spies: the US Department of Defense’s idea of the future of war seems like a sci-fi movie.

In a report that dreams of new ways to destroy adversaries and protect American assets in equal portions, the DOD’s science research division cements the idea that artificial intelligence and autonomous robotic systems will be a crucial part of the nation’s ongoing defense strategy.

US military already uses a host of robotic systems in the battlefield, from reconnaissance and attack drones to bomb disposal robots. However, these are all remotely-piloted systems, meaning a human has a high level of control over the machine’s actions at all times.

The new DOD report sees tactical advantages from humans and purely self-driven machines working together in the field. In one scenario, a swarm of autonomous drones would flock above a combat zone to jam enemy communications, provide real-time surveillance of the area, and autonomously fire against the enemy.

Might be satisfying to some to presume our robots are only killing their robots. Kind of like believing that hacker techniques are only used by the NSA, FBI, etc., to spy on other folks in other countries.

Wishful thinking.

Facebook now tags you by your politics — it’s how they sell you to advertisers, of course

Whether users are outspoken or not regarding their political views on their Facebook posts, the social network will still label them as either liberal, moderate or conservative.

Facebook has come up with a system to determine a user’s political leanings, based on his or her activity on the social network. The labels are not hidden from users, though, as they can be checked by accessing an account’s advertising preferences on Facebook.

On a browser, users should visit a specific Facebook page containing their ad preferences. They should then choose the Lifestyle and Culture tab under the Interests header and then look for a box labelled US Politics. If it is not there, clicking on the See More button should bring it up.

The label for a user’s political views will be shown in parentheses as liberal, moderate or conservative. Like all the other ad preferences on the page, it can be removed by clicking the X button in the top right corner, in case users are not comfortable with being tagged with such a label for their political leanings…

…The process is likely based on the user’s interests that somehow correlate with political views…but up to what extent and which interests exactly are unknown.

Facebook has been collecting information on its users for years, with all of what the social networks knows about each user accessible through the Ad Preferences page.

Little boxes, little boxes. Everyone making money off your cyberlife loves to put you into little boxes. Packaged all tidy, labeled to fit the crap definitions of a consumerist society – you’re crammed into a larger box of same-as-everyone-else they think you are.

Silly buggers.

Who hacked the NSA?

Last week, a group called the “Shadow Brokers” stole 234 megabytes of data from the National Security Agency. The leak included information about the cyberweapons the NSA uses to hack suspects and enemies, and a tracking code that reveals the fingerprints of the NSA’s malicious software.

But, before we can understand the significance of the leak, the mystery behind the identity of the Shadow Brokers, an eight-foot-tall alien, and the diplomatic chess game surrounding it all, we have to start with a report released in 2015.

Last year, the cybersecurity research organization Kaspersky Lab cataloged the most advanced and far-reaching hacking operation ever exposed. The perpetrators, known as the Equation Group, had established hundreds of backdoors in the governments of Russia, China, India, Iraq, and Iran, Britain, Mexico, and France. Forty-two countries in all had been penetrated. The Equation Group had had a penchant for physical attacks, too, intercepting shipments of hardware by IT companies like Fortinet, TopSec, Cisco, and Juniper, whose technologies form the backbone of much of the globe’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

By the time Kapersky pegged the Equation Group as a branch of the NSA’s preemptive hacking task force, TAO, the Equation Group had stealthily compiled an extensive network of backdoors into much of the world’s cyberinfrastructure over the course of 14 years. As an anonymous former TAO member put it for the Washington Post, their files are “the keys to the kingdom.”…

And it’s those files which are being leaked by the Shadow Brokers

Sensitive NSA information is usually stored on air-gapped networks — networks not connected to the Internet. Thanks to that and other security measures, they’re a pain to crack. Humans, however, are easy access points, and as Edward Snowden proved, someone with inside access and a flash drive can bypass such systems…

In retaliation to the proposal of sanctions, this leak embarrasses the NSA, exposes their backdoors into more Cisco and Fortinet infrastructure, and says, as Snowden puts it:

In other words, “back off, because we can show where your fingerprints have been.” And with many of the files dating back to 2013, the Shadow Brokers have been sitting on those fingerprints for some time.

We’re supposed to believe promises from the Liberal president and spineless Congress-critters approved by the NSA to publicly act like judges of the NSA. We’re supposed to believe the backdoors into allies and opponents alike – revealed by Edward Snowden – are all gone and sealed over with smiley faces. The same goes for domestic privacy blessed by our courageous FBI/DOJ squeakers.

Ed Snowden doesn’t believe that. Lots of geeks don’t believe that. I don’t believe that.

Eurofurence 22 in Berlin — Europe’s largest furry convention


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More than 2,500 people have gathered in Berlin for Eurofurence, a convention for “furries” – lovers of anthropomorphic cartoon animals. Many of those attending Europe’s largest “furry” convention wear life-sized fantasy animal costumes, while others are fans of those who wear fursuits.

Members of the furry fandom often create their own “fursona” – an animal character. This avatar allows them to express characteristics quite different from their own personalities. Although around 80% of furries are male, many of their avatars are of a different gender.

Hope the weather ain’t too hot for furry suits.