Computers & Linux News

Google Cancels Its Infamous April Fools' Jokes This Year

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 21:05
Google won't be participating in April Fools' Day this year due to the serious threat of the coronavirus that continues to impact the entire world. The Verge reports: According to an internal email obtained by Business Insider, Google will "take the year off from that tradition out of respect for all those fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. Our highest goal right now is to be helpful to people, so let's save the jokes for next April, which will undoubtedly be a whole lot brighter than this one." "We've already stopped any centralized April Fool's efforts but realize there may be smaller projects within teams that we don't know about," the email from Google's head of marketing Lorraine Twohill continues. "Please suss out those efforts and make sure your teams pause on any jokes they may have planned -- internally or externally." Hopefully other companies will take note of Google's lead here and adjust their own April Fools' plans accordingly. There's a time and a place for a good joke -- but this probably isn't it.

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Scientists Identify Microbe That Could Help Degrade Polyurethane-Based Plastics

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 20:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: German researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology that they have identified and characterized a strain of bacteria capable of degrading some of the chemical building blocks of polyurethane. The team out of Germany managed to isolate a bacterium, Pseudomonas sp. TDA1, from a site rich in brittle plastic waste that shows promise in attacking some of the chemical bonds that make up polyurethane plastics. The researchers performed a genomic analysis to identify the degradation pathways at work. They made preliminary discoveries about the factors that help the microbe metabolize certain chemical compounds in plastic for energy. They also conducted other analyses and experiments to understand the bacterium's capabilities. This particular strain is part of a group of bacteria that are well-known for their tolerance of toxic organic compounds and other forms of stress, according to Dr. Christian Eberlein with the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ. He is a co-author on the paper who coordinated and supervised the work. "That trait is also named solvent-tolerance and is one form of extremophilic microorganisms," he said. In addition to polyurethane, the P4SB consortium, which includes the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, is also testing the efficacy of microbes to degrade plastics made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widely used in plastic water bottles.

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Some Recovered Coronavirus Patients In Wuhan Are Testing Positive Again

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 20:02
NPR is reporting that some Wuhan residents in China who had tested positive earlier and then recovered from the disease are testing positive for the virus a second time. It's raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases, as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. From the report: Based on data from several quarantine facilities in the city, which house patients for further observation after their discharge from hospitals, about 5%-10% of patients pronounced "recovered" have tested positive again. Some of those who retested positive appear to be asymptomatic carriers -- those who carry the virus and are possibly infectious but do not exhibit any of the illness's associated symptoms -- suggesting that the outbreak in Wuhan is not close to being over. NPR has spoken by phone or exchanged text messages with four individuals in Wuhan who are part of this group of individuals testing positive a second time in March. All four said they had been sickened with the virus and tested positive, then were released from medical care in recent weeks after their condition improved and they tested negative. One of the Wuhan residents who spoke to NPR exhibited severe symptoms during their first round of illness and was eventually hospitalized. The second resident displayed only mild symptoms at first and was quarantined in one of more than a dozen makeshift treatment centers erected in Wuhan during the peak of the outbreak. But when both were tested a second time for the coronavirus on Sunday, March 22, as a precondition for seeking medical care for unrelated health issues, they tested positive for the coronavirus even though they exhibited none of the typical symptoms, such as a fever or dry cough. The time from their recovery and release to the retest ranged from a few days to a few weeks. One theory is that they were first given a false negative test result. Another theory is that, because the test amplifies tiny bits of DNA, residual virus from the initial infection could have falsely resulted in that second positive reading.

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Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Is Making Its Software Open Source

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 19:20
gavron writes: While most politicians are pro copyright maximalism and patent exclusivity, Elizabeth Warren's campaign just open-sourced a bunch of software and are proud of having used open source to save money, and build upon the shoulders of other giants. Way to go! "Our tech team worked hard to make getting involved with @ewarren's campaign as easy as possible," reads a tweet from @TeamWarren. "We leaned heavily on open source technology, and we want to contribute back. So we're open-sourcing some of our most important projects for anyone to use." The Warren for President Tech Team is open-sourcing the following projects: -Spoke: Spoke is a peer-to-peer texting platform originally developed by MoveOn, with several forks under active development. -Pollaris, our polling location lookup tool: While the DNC provides a polling locator interface with, we wanted a polling place locator that integrated with our website and tools, so we built our own interface and API, using polling location data provided by the DNC and state democratic parties. -Caucus App: Going into the Iowa caucuses, we wanted to give our supporters and precinct captains a way to quickly calculate delegates and report results from each precinct. -Switchboard (FE and BE): [W]e built a piece of software that took new potential volunteers, or "hot leads," from our online channels and assigned them to state-based volunteer leads for personal follow up calls offering ways to get involved with the campaign. As it turned out, this also ended up being a great tool for event recruitment. -Automated organizing email: Our Mobilization and Tech teams worked together to scale email outreach to the widest possible audience and free our incredible organizers from tedious manual tasks. -Redhook: Campaigns run on data, and redhook is a tool that makes data happen. As a system, Redhook ingests web hook data and delivers it to Redshift/Civis in near real time. -I90: This tool was not deployed during the campaign, but there was a need to make short links out of long complicated links moving forward. I90 does that. You can read more about the projects and the team's efforts via this Medium post.

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Bosses Panic-Buy Spy Software To Keep Tabs On Remote Workers

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:40
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: With so many people working remotely because of the coronavirus, surveillance software is flying off the virtual shelves. "Companies have been scrambling," said Brad Miller, CEO of surveillance-software maker InterGuard. "They're trying to allow their employees to work from home but trying to maintain a level of security and productivity." Along with InterGuard, software makers include Time Doctor, Teramind, VeriClock, innerActiv, ActivTrak and Hubstaff. All provide a combination of screen monitoring and productivity metrics, such as number of emails sent, to reassure managers that their charges are doing their jobs. ActivTrak's inbound requests have tripled in recent weeks, according to CEO Rita Selvaggi. Teramind has seen a similar increase, said Eli Sutton, vice president of global operations. Jim Mazotas, innerActive's founder, said phones have been ringing off the hook. Managers using InterGuard's software can be notified if an employee does a combination of worrisome behaviors, such as printing both a confidential client list and a resume, an indication that someone is quitting and taking their book of business with them. "It's not because of lack of trust," Miller said, who compared the software to banks using security cameras. "It's because it's imprudent not to do it." The software can also be a way for employers to grant more flexibility to workers to fit their jobs around other parts of their lives. It may also let managers spot areas that are overstaffed or where they may need additional hands. Sutton from software maker Teramind says employers worried about workers' every moves might have a bigger issue to deal with. "It's not about spying on the user," Sutton said. "If you hired them, you should trust them. If you don't, they have no reason to be part of the organization." Have you been required to use surveillance software while working from home? If so, which software is your employer using?

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Get your free download of Monument Valley 2 and 10 other iOS games this weekend - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:38
Check out these free games in the App Store for a limited time.

Apple Launches COVID-19 Screening Website and App

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:20
Apple launched its own coronavirus screening site and iOS app developed alongside the White House, CDC and FEMA. From a report: The site is pretty simple with basic information about best practices and safety tips alongside a basic screening tool which should give you a fairly solid idea on whether or not you need to be tested for COVID-19. The site which is -- of course -- accessible on mobile and desktop also includes some quick tips on social distancing, isolation, hand-washing, surface disinfecting and symptom monitoring. The app, which contains identical information to the site, is US-only at the moment while the website is available worldwide. Depending on your symptoms, the site will push you to get in contact with your health provider, contact emergency services or it will inform you that you likely do not need to be tested. It will not route you to a testing center directly. Apple says that its app and website gather or collect zero personal information about anyone using it.

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Lyft partners with Amazon on package and grocery deliveries - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:19
With ridership plummeting, Lyft is looking to diversify its offerings.

Money Heist is what you should be watching right now -- here's why - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:02
The hit Netflix show will keep you hooked, make you laugh and even teach you some Spanish.

Help Needed To Rescue UK's Old Rainfall Records

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 18:01
At a loss to know what to do with your self-isolation time? Well, why not get on the computer and help with a giant weather digitisation effort? From a report: The UK has rainfall records dating back 200 years or so, but the vast majority of these are in handwritten form and can't easily be used to analyse past periods of flooding and drought. The Rainfall Rescue Project is seeking volunteers to transfer all the data into online spreadsheets. You're not required to rummage through old bound volumes; the Met Office has already scanned the necessary documents -- all 65,000 sheets. You simply have to visit a website, read the scribbled rainfall amounts and enter the numbers into a series of boxes. "If you do just a couple of minutes every now and then -- that's great," said Prof Ed Hawkins. "If you want to spend an hour doing 30 or 40 columns - then that'll be amazing. But any amount of time, it will all add up and be a tremendous help." If you want to take part, click here.

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Get the Arctis Pro Wireless premium gaming headphones for $220 - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 17:45
Anyone can save 33% on one of the best wireless headphones ever in the Steelseries annual member-only sale (because it's easy to become a member).

Trump Signs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 17:20
President Trump on Friday signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in modern American history, backing a $2 trillion measure that expands on a Republican proposal issue last week called the CARES Act -- the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The New York Times reports: Under the law, the government will deliver direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses battered by the crisis. Mr. Trump signed the measure in the Oval Office hours after the House approved it by voice vote and less than two days after the Senate unanimously passed it. The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers. The measure will also offer $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, including allowing the administration the ability to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It will also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic. You can read the bill yourself here.

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Astronauts could use their own pee to build future moon habitats - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:52
Scientists mix urea from urine with a moon soil substitute to make surprisingly sturdy 3D-printed structures.

Google pledges $800 million to coronavirus relief, mostly in free ads - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:47
The search giant will also help a supply chain partner ramp up production of 2 to 3 million face masks.

Phone Calls Are Back in Fashion

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:45
Data shows that people all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. Verizon says it has seen an average of 800 million wireless calls daily on recent weekdays, nearly twice the volume of Mother's Day. From a report: And we're not just calling people more often, we're talking on the phone for longer: AT&T says that wireless voice minutes on Monday were up 39% from the average Monday, and Wi-Fi calling minutes were 78% higher. Thanks to coronavirus, we're no longer in transit, unable to answer a call. We're not physically in the office so, sure, why not jump on the phone to catch up with a friend or colleague between work tasks? There's no stepping out for lunch, no "Let's just cover this in person next time we see one another," because we don't actually know when that will be. Pretty much the only reason you can't reach someone these days is because they're on another call. We're also feeling more isolated and increasingly concerned about the people we love. We want to check in with them more regularly. Texts can be cold and quick; a call is really one of the few ways others can hear the concern in your voice -- and you can hear the concern in theirs. And if you haven't yet changed out of your pajamas or washed your hair in a few days, phone calls beat video chats hands down.

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Coronavirus and motorsport: Every major event impacted by COVID-19 - Roadshow

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:37
From Formula One, NASCAR, IndyCar and more, we round up all the rescheduled dates and cancellations.

Pack your drone for adventure in this Lowepro backpack that's 83% off - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:32
Regularly $105, Adorama is selling this backpack for the DJI Phantom for just $18, which may prompt you to wonder what other drones will fit.

Disneyland and Disney World will remain closed indefinitely - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:20
The parks will be shut down until further notice during the coronavirus pandemic.

How the Pandemic Will End?

SlashDot - Fri, 2020-03-27 16:04
Ed Yong, writing for The Atlantic: The world is experienced at making flu vaccines and does so every year. But there are no existing vaccines for coronaviruses -- until now, these viruses seemed to cause diseases that were mild or rare -- so researchers must start from scratch. The first steps have been impressively quick. Last Monday, a possible vaccine created by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health went into early clinical testing. That marks a 63-day gap between scientists sequencing the virus's genes for the first time and doctors injecting a vaccine candidate into a person's arm. "It's overwhelmingly the world record," Fauci said. But it's also the fastest step among many subsequent slow ones. The initial trial will simply tell researchers if the vaccine seems safe, and if it can actually mobilize the immune system. Researchers will then need to check that it actually prevents infection from SARS-CoV-2. They'll need to do animal tests and large-scale trials to ensure that the vaccine doesn't cause severe side effects. They'll need to work out what dose is required, how many shots people need, if the vaccine works in elderly people, and if it requires other chemicals to boost its effectiveness. "Even if it works, they don't have an easy way to manufacture it at a massive scale," said Seth Berkley of Gavi. That's because Moderna is using a new approach to vaccination. Existing vaccines work by providing the body with inactivated or fragmented viruses, allowing the immune system to prep its defenses ahead of time. By contrast, Moderna's vaccine comprises a sliver of SARS-CoV-2's genetic material -- its RNA. The idea is that the body can use this sliver to build its own viral fragments, which would then form the basis of the immune system's preparations. This approach works in animals, but is unproven in humans. By contrast, French scientists are trying to modify the existing measles vaccine using fragments of the new coronavirus. "The advantage of that is that if we needed hundreds of doses tomorrow, a lot of plants in the world know how to do it," Berkley said. No matter which strategy is faster, Berkley and others estimate that it will take 12 to 18 months to develop a proven vaccine, and then longer still to make it, ship it, and inject it into people's arms.

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Coronavirus pandemic makes April Fools' a thorny internet tradition - CNET

CNET News - Fri, 2020-03-27 15:50
Google, whose April Fools' shenanigans are famous in the tech world, said it's canceling its pranks this year.