Airbus’ Solar-Powered Zephyr S Has Been Flying Non-Stop For More Than 17 Days

Airbus is conducting a very-high-altitude flight of its uncrewed Zephyr S solar-powered aircraft, a report from The Drive reveals. It is more than 17 days into the flight. Interesting Engineering reports: The Zephyr S aircraft, which has also been described as a drone and a pseudo-satellite, took off from the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in June. It was built to stay airborne for long stretches, allowing it to serve as a sensor platform for the military. The Zephyr S was spotted on online flight tracking software after it took off from an airstrip at Yuma Proving Ground on June 15. The aircraft has since flown several patterns over the Yuma Test Range and Kofa National Wildfire Refuge. Airbus has been running Zephyr S test flights over this area for some time, but according to the flight tracking data, the drone also started conducting runs to the southeast near Arizona's border and the southwest toward the Gulf of Mexico. On June 27, Zephyr S flew over the Gulf of Mexico before flying over the Caribbean Sea and then onto the airspace over the Central American country of Belize. Last week, the aircraft turned back towards the U.S. When the Zephyr S first flew in 2018, it remained in the skies for almost 26 days. Whether the latest flight will go on even longer than that world-record milestone is yet to be confirmed.

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World’s First Commercial Sand Battery Begins Energy Storage In Finland

Polar Night Energy says it's just opened its first commercial sand battery at the premises of "new energy" company Vatajankoski, a few hours out of Helsinki. New Atlas reports: This is a thermal energy storage system, effectively built around a big, insulated steel tank -- around 4 meters (13.1 ft) wide and 7 meters (23 ft) high -- full of plain old sand. When this sand is heated up, using a simple heat exchanger buried in the middle of it, this device is capable of storing an impressive 8 megawatt-hours of energy, at a nominal power rating of 100 kW, with the sand heated to somewhere around 500-600 degrees Celsius (932-1112F). When it's needed, the energy is extracted again as heat in the same way. Vatajankowski is using this stored heat, in conjunction with excess heat from its own data servers, to feed the local district heating system, which uses piped water to transmit heat around the area. It can then be used to heat buildings, or swimming pools, or in industrial processes, or in any other situation that requires heat. This helps make it extremely efficient, the company tells Disruptive Investing in a video interview. "It's really easy to convert electricity into heat," says Polar Night CTO Markku Ylonen. "But going back from heat to electricity, that's where you need turbines and more complex things. As long as we're just using the heat as heat, it stays really simple." The company claims an efficiency factor up to 99 percent, a capability to store heat with minimal loss for months on end, and a lifespan in the decades. There's nothing special about the sand -- the company says it just needs to be dry and free from combustible debris. [...] The company says it'll scale up, too, with installations around 20 gigawatt-hours of energy storage making hundreds of megawatts of nominal power, and the sand heated as far as 1,000C (1,832F) in certain designs. It's possible to create bulk underground storage facilities out of disused mine shafts, if they're the right shape. There are no high-pressure vessels needed, and the biggest cost involved is often the pipework.

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US Water Likely Contains More ‘Forever Chemicals’ Than EPA Tests Show

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Guardian: In May 2021, a celebration for Portsmouth, New Hampshire's new $17m water treatment facility drew local and national officials who declared the city's water free of toxic "forever chemicals." Firefighting foam from the nearby Pease air force base had polluted the water for decades with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and in recognition of the public health threat the US military funded the city's new filtration system. Officials said after implementing the upgraded filtration, testing no longer found detectable levels of PFAS chemicals in the water. They called the work in Portsmouth a "national model" for addressing PFAS water contamination. "We are here to celebrate clean water," Senator Maggie Hassan said at the time. But the water may not be clean after all. A Guardian analysis of water samples taken in Portsmouth and from eight other locations around the United States shows that the type of water testing relied on by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- and officials in towns such as Portsmouth -- is so limited in scope that it is probably missing significant levels of PFAS pollutants. The undercount leaves regulators with an incomplete picture of the extent of PFAS contamination and reveals how millions of people may be facing an unknown health risk in their drinking water. The analysis checked water samples from PFAS hot spots around the country with two types of tests: an EPA-developed method that detects 30 types of the approximately 9,000 PFAS compounds, and another that checks for a marker of all PFAS. The Guardian found that seven of the nine samples collected showed higher levels of PFAS in water using the test that identifies markers for PFAS, than levels found when the water was tested using the EPA method -- and at concentrations as much as 24 times greater. "The EPA is doing the bare minimum it can and that's putting people's health at risk," said Kyla Bennett, policy director at the advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "PFAS are a class of chemicals used since the 1950s to make thousands of products repel water, stains and heat," notes the Guardian. "They are often called 'forever chemicals' because they don't fully break down, accumulating in the environment, humans and animals. Some are toxic at very low levels and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease, liver problems, decreased immunity and other serious health issues." "[W]hen it comes to identifying PFAS-contaminated water, the limitations of the test used by state and federal regulators, which is called the EPA 537 method, virtually guarantees regulators will never have a full picture of contamination levels as industry churns out new compounds much faster than researchers can develop the science to measure them," adds the report. "That creates even more incentive for industry to shift away from older compounds: if chemical companies produce newer PFAS, regulators won't be able to find the pollution."

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UK Could Force E2E Encrypted Platforms To Do CSAM-Scanning

The U.K. government has tabled an amendment (PDF) to the Online Safety Bill that could put it on a collision course with end-to-end encryption. TechCrunch reports: It's proposing to give the incoming internet regulator, Ofcom, new powers to force messaging platforms and other types of online services to implement content-scanning technologies, even if their platform is strongly encrypted -- meaning the service/company itself does not hold keys to decrypt and access user-generated content in the clear. The home secretary, Priti Patel, said today that the governments wants the bill to have greater powers to tackle child sexual abuse. "Child sexual abuse is a sickening crime. We must all work to ensure criminals are not allowed to run rampant online and technology companies must play their part and take responsibility for keeping our children safe," she said in a statement -- which also offers the (unsubstantiated) claim that: "Privacy and security are not mutually exclusive -- we need both, and we can have both and that is what this amendment delivers." The proposed amendment is also being targeted at terrorism content -- with the tabled clause referring to: "Notices to deal with terrorism content or CSEA [child sexual exploitation & abuse] content (or both)." These notices would allow Ofcom to order a regulated service to use "accredited" technology to identify CSEA or terrorism content which is being publicly shared on their platform and "swiftly" remove it. But the proposed amendment goes further -- also allowing Ofcom to mandate that regulated services use accredited technical means to prevent users from encountering these types of (illegal) content -- whether it's being shared publicly or privately via the service, raising questions over what the power might mean for E2E encryption.

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Systemd Creator Lands At Microsoft

Yesterday, Phoronix reported that the lead developer of systemd, Lennart Poettering, left Red Hat. "It turns out he had joined Microsoft and [is] continuing his work on systemd," writes Phoronix's Michael Larabel in a new report. He continues: While some may not always align with his views or approaches to handling some things, there is no overstating his enormous contributions to the Linux/open-source world and his dedication to advancing the ecosystem over the years. This may take many by surprise but let's not forget Microsoft has over time employed a number of Linux developers and other prominent open-source developers... Microsoft currently employs Python creator Guido van Rossum, GNOME creator Miguel de Icaza had been employed by Microsoft from 2016 when they acquired Xamarin to earlier this year when he left, Nat Friedman as part of Xamarin-Microsoft served as GitHub CEO following Microsoft's acquisition, Gentoo Linux founder Daniel Robbins was previously employed by Microsoft, Steve French as the Linux CIFS/SMB2/SMB3 maintainer and Samba team member works for Microsoft, and Microsoft employs/previously-employed a large number of upstream Linux developers like Matteo Croce, Matthew Wilcox, Shyam Prasad N, Michael Kelley, and many others beyond just the usual immediately recognizable names to Linux enthusiasts/developers. It was also just earlier this year that Christian Brauner as another longtime Linux kernel developer joined Microsoft. Christian Brauner is Berlin-based like Lennart and moved on to Microsoft after the past half-decade at Canonical working on the Linux kernel, LXC, systemd, and more.

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Microsoft’s xCloud Game Streaming Looks Worse On Linux Than Windows

As noted by a Reddit user and confirmed by Ars Technica, Microsoft's xCloud game streaming looks noticeable worse when running on Linux than Windows. From the report: With the Linux User-Agent, edges are generally less sharp and colors are a little more washed out. The difference is even more apparent if you zoom in on the Forza logo and menu text, which shows a significant reduction in clarity. Interestingly, the dip in quality seems to go away if you enable "Clarity Boost, an Edge-exclusive feature that "provid[es] the optimal look and feel while playing Xbox games from the cloud," according to Microsoft. That's great for Linux users who switched over to Microsoft Edge when it launched on Linux last November. But Linux users who stick with Firefox, Chrome, or other browsers are currently stuck with apparently reduced streaming quality. That Linux quality dip has led some to speculate that Microsoft is trying to reserve the best xCloud streaming performance for Windows machines in an attempt to attract more users to its own operating system. But using a Macintosh User-Agent string provides streaming performance similar to that on Windows, which would seem to be a big omission if that theory were true. Microsoft also hasn't published any kind of "best on Windows"-style marketing in promoting xCloud streaming, which would seemingly be a key component of trying to attract new Windows users. (The quality difference could be a roundabout attempt to get Linux users to switch to the Edge browser, where Clarity Boost offers the best possible quality. But that still wouldn't fully explain why Windows users on other browsers, without Clarity Boost, also get better streaming quality than their Linux brethren.) Others have suggested that the downgrade could simply be a bug caused by Microsoft's naive parsing of the User-Agent strings. That's because the User-Agent strings for Android browsers generally identify themselves as some version of Linux ("Linux; Android 11; HD1905," for example). Microsoft's xCloud code might simply see the "Linux" in that string, assume the user is running Android, then automatically throttle the streaming quality to account for the (presumably) reduced screen size of an Android phone or tablet.

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MI5 and FBI Heads Issue Joint Warning On Chinese Spying

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: The heads of UK and US security services have made an unprecedented joint appearance to warn of the threat from China. FBI director Christopher Wray said China was the "biggest long-term threat to our economic and national security" and had interfered in politics, including recent elections. MI5 head Ken McCallum said his service had more than doubled its work against Chinese activity in the last three years and would be doubling it again. MI5 is now running seven times as many investigations related to activities of the Chinese Communist Party compared to 2018, he added. The FBI's Wray warned that if China was to forcibly take Taiwan it would "represent one of the most horrific business disruptions the world has ever seen." The first ever joint public appearance by the two directors came at MI5 headquarters in Thames House, London. McCallum also said the challenge posed by the Chinese Communist Party was "game-changing," while Wray called it "immense" and "breath-taking." Wray warned the audience -- which included chief executives of businesses and senior figures from universities -- that the Chinese government was "set on stealing your technology" using a range of tools. He said it posed "an even more serious threat to western businesses than even many sophisticated businesspeople realized." He cited cases in which people linked to Chinese companies out in rural America had been digging up genetically modified seeds which would have cost them billions of dollars and nearly a decade to develop themselves. He also said China deployed cyber espionage to "cheat and steal on a massive scale," with a hacking program larger than that of every other major country combined. The MI5 head said intelligence about cyber threats had been shared with 37 countries and that in May a sophisticated threat against aerospace had been disrupted. McCallum also pointed to a series of examples linked to China. [...] The MI5 head said new legislation would help to deal with the threat but the UK also needed to become a "harder target" by ensuring that all parts of society were more aware of the risks. He said that reform of the visa system had seen over 50 students linked to the Chinese military leaving the UK. "China has for far too long counted on being everybody's second-highest priority," Wray said, adding: "They are not flying under the radar anymore."

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Toyota Will Be the Third Automaker To Lose the EV Tax Credit In the US

Toyota sold its 200,000th plug-in electric vehicle in the US, triggering a slow phaseout of the federal EV tax credit over the next 15 months, according to Bloomberg. The automaker is the third manufacturer to pass this mark, following Tesla and General Motors. The Verge reports: The phaseout for Toyota is poorly timed, coming just weeks after the company's new electric SUV, the bZ4X, went on sale in the US. It's the latest bad piece of EV news to hit the automaker, coming just a few weeks after it was forced to recall the bZ4X over loose hub bolts that could cause the wheels to come off while driving. Toyota pledged to spend $17.6 billion to roll out 30 battery-electric models by 2030. The phaseout of the federal tax credits begins two quarters after an auto manufacturer sells 200,000 plug-in vehicles. Customers of Toyota cars that are eligible for the credit (like the bZ4X and the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime) will only be able to receive a maximum of $3,750 starting on October 1st. The maximum available credit will halve again on April 1st to $1,875, and it will completely phase out six months later in October 2023. A Toyota spokesperson confirmed the scheduled phase-out to The Verge.

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Storage Firm Drobo Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Longstanding Thunderbolt and network-attached storage company Drobo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late June, and will hold its first creditors meeting on July 17. AppleInsider reports: First formed as Data Robotics in 2005, Drobo manufactured solutions for remote and network storage. Parent company StarCentric filed bankrupcy papers with the California Northern Bankruptcy Court (San Jose) on June 20, 2022. According to official court documentation, the company is to hold its first creditors meeting on July 19. There is also a final deadline for filing claims against the company, which is October 17, 2022. The company has no commented publicly on the decision. However, the company appears to have been badly affected by the coronavirus. [...] Drobo's online US and European stores are currently both showing every product as sold out. The Chapter 11 filing implies that the company is trying to reorganize and return to full operations at some point. It isn't yet clear what the reorganization will look like, nor the magnitude of the creditors' demands.

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Baserow Challenges Airtable With an Open Source No-Code Database Platform

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The burgeoning low-code and no-code movement is showing little sign of waning, with numerous startups continuing to raise sizable sums to help the less-technical workforce develop and deploy software with ease. Arguably one of the most notable examples of this trend is Airtable, a 10-year-old business that recently attained a whopping $11 billion valuation for a no-code platform used by firms such as Netflix and Shopify to create relational databases. In tandem, we're also seeing a rise in "open source alternatives" to some of the big-name technology incumbents, from Google's backend-as-a-service platform Firebase to open source scheduling infrastructure that seeks to supplant the mighty Calendly. A young Dutch company called Baserow sits at the intersection of both these trends, pitching itself as an open source Airbase alternative that helps people build databases with minimal technical prowess. Today, Baserow announced that it has raised $5.2 million in seed funding to launch a suite of new premium and enterprise products in the coming months, transforming the platform from its current database-focused foundation into a "complete, open source no-code toolchain," co-founder and CEO Bram Wiepjes told TechCrunch. So what, exactly, does Baserow do in its current guise? Well, anyone with even the most rudimentary spreadsheet skills can use Baserow for use-cases spanning content marketing, such as managing brand assets collaboratively across teams; managing and organizing events; helping HR teams or startups manage and track applicants for a new role; and countless more, which Baserow provides pre-built templates for. [...] Baserow's open source credentials are arguably its core selling point, with the promise of greater extensibility and customizations (users can create their own plug-ins to enhance its functionality, similar to how WordPress works) -- this is a particularly alluring proposition for businesses with very specific or niche use cases that aren't well supported from an off-the-shelf SaaS solution. On top of that, some sectors require full control of their data and technology stack for security or compliance purposes. This is where open source really comes into its own, given that businesses can host the product themselves and circumvent vendor lock-in. With a fresh 5 million euros in the bank, Baserow is planning to double down on its commercial efforts, starting with a premium incarnation that's officially launching out of an early access program later this month. This offering will be available as a SaaS and self-hosted product and will include various features such as the ability to export in different formats; user management tools for admin; Kanban view; and more. An additional "advanced" product will also be made available purely for SaaS customers and will include a higher data storage limit and service level agreements (SLAs). Although Baserow has operated under the radar somewhat since its official foundation in Amsterdam last year, it claims to have 10,000 active users, 100 sponsors who donate to the project via GitHub and 800 users already on the waiting list for its premium version. Later this year, Baserow plans to introduce a paid enterprise version for self-hosting customers, with support for specific requirements such as audit logs, single sign-on (SSO), role-based access control and more.

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