Google’s 1-character typo locked users out of their phones and more

Google says it has fixed a major Chrome OS bug that locked users out of their devices. Google’s bulletin says that Chrome OS version 91.0.4472.165, which was briefly available this week, renders users unable to log in to their devices, essentially bricking them.

Chrome OS automatically downloads updates and switches to the new version after a reboot, so users who reboot their devices are suddenly locked out them. The go-to advice while this broken update is out there is to not reboot.

ChromeOS is open source, so we can get a bit more detail about the fix thanks to Android Police hunting down a Reddit comment from user elitist_ferret. The problem apparently boils down to a single-character typo. Google flubbed a conditional statement in Chrome OS’s Cryptohome VaultKeyset, the part of the OS that holds user encryption keys. The line should read “if (key_data_.has_value() && !key_data_->label().empty()) {” but instead of “&&”—the C++ version of the “AND” operator—the bad update used a single ampersand, breaking the second half of the conditional statement.

I spent a fair piece of time as an English major. I practically have a major neurological breakdown every time I bump into a typo. Which means – on the InterWebiTubes – probably once or twice per hour. Or more.

This one wins the prize horse laugh.

Wildfire smoke stretches over the GOUSA, coast to coast

The massive Bootleg Fire in Oregon has scorched an area larger than Los Angeles, and it’s only 30% contained. The fire is so large and is burning so hot that it’s creating its own weather.

It’s just one of the many blazes raging in the West; the National Interagency Fire Center is watching 80 large fires across 13 states this week – a testament to just how destructive the US wildfire season has become…And the effects of the fires stretch all the way to the East Coast

In some areas, the smoke has reached the ground level, where it can be a health concern. Air quality alerts have been issued hundreds of miles from the flames, as far east as Pennsylvania and New York.

Never seen it this bad in New Mexico in all the years I’ve lived here.

mRNA technology promises to revolutionize future vaccines

More than 80 million Americans have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — using the game-changing possibilities of mRNA technology. And while some people worry that the technology has been “rushed,” for more than 25 years university labs have been exploring the use of RNA, rather than viruses, to build the body’s immunity against diseases…

Messenger RNA (mRNA) — the basis of the first two vaccines cleared for public use by the Food and Drug Administration — induces cells to set off an immune response against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Vaccine researchers believe the success of these inoculations will usher in the most radical change to vaccine development since Jenner tapped a cow virus two centuries ago.

mRNA emerged as an alternative to traditional vaccine development in the early 1990s, building on research involving RNA injections into mice at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. mRNA is a molecule that essentially delivers instructions to cells to build specific proteins. Proteins are key to the success of a viral infection, because they enable a virus to replicate after it attaches to a cell. The coronavirus, for example, attaches to a cell with a so-called “spike” protein, which triggers the viral replication that turns the infection into COVID-19.

The theory behind the vaccines is that mRNA will tell a cell to make a protein that’s used by a certain virus, which would set off an immune response that builds the body’s ability to fend off the actual virus.

“It’s essentially biological software,”…says John Cooke, MD, PhD, medical director of the RNA Therapeutics Program at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Yes, it really is that simple to explain. That simplicity is part and parcel of time saved, costs lowered, for the design of production-ready vaccines.

Chip shortage excuse is getting old

Whether sales are rising or falling, automakers from the U.S. to China have found a catchall explanation: the global chip shortage. For the laggards, the excuse is getting old.

In the U.S., a shortfall of semiconductors has forced manufacturers to shift from making more cars to better ones. These vehicles are selling at a swift pace and have boosted margins. Sales are rising, too, albeit showing signs of slowing as inventories run low. Volkswagen AG reported its best first-half performance in the U.S. in almost half a century, while at General Motors Co., the figure increased by almost 40% over the same period…

The divergence in performance shows that some companies were able to rise to the challenges of the pandemic by remaining nimble and managing production effectively — traits that will become even more critical amid the transition to electric vehicles. Their competitors, still blaming crimped performance on the shortage, should be worried…

It’s hard to say when the chip shortage will abate. One thing is clear: The companies further along in readjusting to post-Covid life are likely to be the ones that can navigate the twists and turns on the road to next-generation cars. Those still blaming chips will likely be doing so for a while.

RTFA. Interesting to see who’s nimble, quick at switching available chips to models in greatest demand – or the manufacturers want to grow in market share.

1972 MIT study on target for potential 21st century economic collapse


This Blue Marble in the Milky Way has finite resources

According to a new peer-reviewed scientific report, industrial civilisation is likely to deplete its low-cost mineral resources within the next century, with debilitating impacts for the global economy and key infrastructures within the coming decade.

The study, the 33rd report to the Club of Rome, is authored by Prof Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence’s Earth Sciences Department, and includes contributions from a wide range of senior scientists across relevant disciplines.

Its first report in 1972, The Limits to Growth, was conducted by a scientific team at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), and warned that limited availability of natural resources relative to rising costs would undermine continued economic growth by around the second decade of the 21st century…

Although widely ridiculed, recent scientific reviews confirm that the original report’s projections in its ‘base scenario’ remain robust. In 2008, Australia’s federal government scientific research agency CSIRO concluded that The Limits to Growth forecast of potential “global ecological and economic collapse coming up in the middle of the 21st Century” due to convergence of “peak oil, climate change, and food and water security”, is “on-track.” Actual current trends in these areas “resonate strongly with the overshoot and collapse displayed in the book’s ‘business-as-usual scenario.'”

RTFA for more depth to this confirmation. There are multiple sources, newer, more advanced methods available. Not exactly cheerful news from modern economics.

Thanks, Ray Koenig

Congress thinks “broadband” is a new style of cummerbund

The Federal Communications Commission broadband standard that was implemented under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015 and never updated by Ajit Pai is now “likely too slow,” according to a government report issued last week.

The Wheeler-led FCC in January 2015 updated the agency’s broadband standard from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to 25Mbps downloads/3Mbps uploads. The increase was opposed by broadband-industry lobbyists and Republicans, including Ajit Pai, who was then a commissioner and later served as FCC chairman throughout the Trump administration…

Consumer advocates have frequently called the 25Mbps/3Mbps outdated, and the nonpartisan US Government Accountability Office (GAO) agreed in a report based on a review of research and interviews with small businesses.

So much of this political incompetence and malingering is old hat. I’ve been online since 1983…simply because I took on a sales position that required uploading orders and info from my day’s travel and sales-work – direct to the computer system in the company’s main sales office. This so-called broadband standard was next to useless, then. It’s even worse, now.

Add together all the work and private needs in the article and, then – include what’s happening minute by minute throughout North America with the conversion of domestic television to include many more sources and channels. All being streamed over systems regulated by your hot dog Republican or Democrat in Congress.

Afghanistan can’t wait for the U.S. to get out of the way — to let in China and Pakistan

As the U.S. exits Afghanistan, Beijing is preparing to swoop into the war-torn country and fill the vacuum left by the departed U.S. and NATO troops.

China is poised to make an exclusive entry into post-U.S. Afghanistan with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to government officials in Afghanistan told The Daily Beast that Kabul authorities are growing more intensively engaged with China on an extension of the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — the flagship project of BRI, which involves the construction of highways, railways and energy pipelines between Pakistan and China — to Afghanistan…

In other words: The Afghan government, behind the scenes, is welcoming China immediately after saying goodbye to America.

Yup. All part of an obviously subversive plot. Here’s Uncle Sugar finishing decades of superb foreign policy – stationing tens of thousands of American troops in yet one more small nation to show off the benefits of American democracy [and military hardware]. We’re going out the door. Meanwhile, the “subversive” Chinese and their Pakistani allies in the Belt-and-Road Initiative are actually going to build highways, railways and energy pipelines – making the country a key link in East/West infrastructure. And profits.

How sly.

Cockroach copy

UC Berkeley video by Stephen McNally

If the sight of a skittering bug makes you squirm, you may want to look away — a new insect-sized robot created by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, can scurry across the floor at nearly the speed of a darting cockroach.

And it’s nearly as hardy as a cockroach, too. Try to squash this robot under your foot, and more than likely, it will just keep going.

“Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot,” said Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley and senior author of a new study that describes the robot. “We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still more or less functions.”

Small-scale robots like these could be advantageous in search and rescue missions, squeezing and squishing into places where dogs or humans can’t fit, or where it may be too dangerous for them to go, said Yichuan Wu, first author of the paper, who completed the work as a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley through the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute partnership.

Way cool…and way useful.

20,000 Years Ago, a Coronavirus Epidemic Left Its Mark in Our DNA

A crown of spike-shaped proteins make coronaviruses recognizable when viewed under a microscope. But modern genetic analysis offers another way to find evidence of coronaviruses: detecting the marks the virus leaves behind in the populations it infects.

In a study published on June 24 in the journal Current Biology, researchers analyzed the DNA of thousands of people from around the world from 26 populations to look for signs of ancient coronavirus epidemics. The researchers found that people living in China, Japan and Vietnam faced a coronavirus for about 20,000 years in an epidemic that ended 5,000 years ago…

When coronaviruses infect humans, they rely on the microscopic machinery made by human genes in order to make more virus particles. So the research team focused on a few hundred human genes that interact with coronaviruses—but not other microbes—during an infection…

In five groups of people, 42 of those genes had enough mutations to suggest they had evolved because of an epidemic. The genes may have become better at fighting off the viral infection, or less hospitable for the virus to use to copy itself. People with those mutations would have been more likely to survive an outbreak of the disease, and later, have children with the same genetic mutations.

Science like this makes me wonder about price and availability of a nice secondhand electron microscope. Probably would mess up retirement as much as a regular job. :-]