Category Archives: News

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Google will start assimilating Fitbit accounts next year

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Every now and then I investigate the personal health data gadget market looking for something that you can reliably use to collect basic metrics (and extract that data from) without going through some third party on the Internet for no good reason. There are some devices hacked by the GadgetBridge folks, but it seems like the entire market is built around sucking every user's data into the manufacturer's servers.
The word

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Google's acquisition of Fitbit closed in early 2021, but we haven't seen much in the way of changes yet. 9to5Google spotted a big upcoming change posted on Fitbit's help site: account migrations! A new Fitbit help page has outlined the plan for the coming Google account migration. If this goes anything like the Nest account migrations (done by the same Google Hardware division), Fitbit users are in for a wild ride.

Google's support page says, "We plan to enable use of Fitbit with a Google account sometime in 2023" and that at that point "some uses of Fitbit will require a Google account, including to sign up for Fitbit or activate newly released Fitbit devices and features." That means optional account migrations for existing users in 2023. Google also says, "Support of Fitbit accounts will continue until at least early 2025. After support of Fitbit accounts ends, a Google account will be required to use Fitbit. We'll be transparent with our customers about the timeline for ending Fitbit accounts through notices within the Fitbit app, by email, and in help articles."

The merging of accounts will, of course, mean that Google gets your health data. Google says that "you’ll need to consent to transfer your Fitbit user data from Fitbit to Google" and that "Google will then provide you with Fitbit under Google’s Terms of ServicePrivacy Policy, and binding commitments for Fitbit." Part of those EU commitments, which Google chose to apply to the whole world, is that "Google will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google Ads."

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Gray386Linux – Linux for 386 Machines

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Oh fun. Built on the Nix tooling. Looks like pretty narrow platform support right now, but doing the work to support a bunch of legacy parts.
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HP to pay EU printer customers $1.35 million for disabling third-party ink

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: That's not even a cost-of-doing-business fine, it's below the noise level on what they're making from their behavior. The first-party toner cartridges for my M254DW, which is still a better deal than any inkjet, are $70 for a 202A "standard capacity (read:half-full) or $100 for a 202x that is actually full. The third-party ones disabled by after-sale firmware update are like $20.
Packages of HP ink cartridges ares displayed at a Best Buy store

Enlarge (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

HP continues to pay for abruptly blocking third-party ink from its printers and has agreed to pay compensation to additional customers impacted by the company's use of DRM to prevent third-party ink and toner from working in its printers. The settlement pertaining to customers in Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Portugal comes after the company already agreed to a settlement in the US and was fined in Italy.

HP printer owners were annoyed, to say the least, in 2016, when HP introduced Dynamic Security, a firmware update that prevented ink and toner cartridges lacking an HP chip from working in HP printers. Customers who already owned these printers suddenly faced error messages preventing them from printing with cartridges that were fully functioning before. At the time, HP claimed that the move was about helping customers avoid counterfeit and subpar ink and protecting HP's IP. However, it largely felt like a business tactic aimed at protecting one of HP's biggest profit-drivers at the time, which was tied to a declining industry.

As reported by Bleeping Computer on Monday, Euroconsumers, a European consumer group, announced on September 7 a settlement with HP that would seek to financially compensate customers located in the aforementioned regions. HP agreed to set up a $1,350,000 (about 1,351,147 euro) for "compensation to certain HP printer owners for losses allegedly suffered as a consequence of being unaware that their printers were enabled with Dynamic Security," according to Euroconsumers' announcement. Individuals can receive 20–95 euro, depending on their printer model and consequences suffered.

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EA’s new anti-cheat tools dip into the dreaded “kernel mode”

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Better let a company with a long record of shipping broken garbage install a rootkit on the machine I do my work and banking on, to make it marginally harder for people to cheat at video games /s
Artist's conception of EA trying to fake out cheaters with its new tools.

Enlarge / Artist's conception of EA trying to fake out cheaters with its new tools.

EA announced its latest salvo in the endless cat-and-mouse battle of PC gaming cheat detection on Tuesday, and the effort prominently features one term sure to raise a red flag for some users: "kernel mode."

The new kernel-level EA Anti-Cheat (EAAC) tools will roll out with the PC version of FIFA 23 this month, EA announced, and will eventually be added to all of its multiplayer games (including those with ranked online leaderboards). But strictly single-player titles "may implement other anti-cheat technology, such as user-mode protections, or even forgo leveraging anti-cheat technology altogether," EA Senior Director of Game Security & Anti-Cheat Elise Murphy wrote in a Tuesday blog post.

Unlike anti-cheat methods operating in an OS's normal "user mode," kernel-level anti-cheat tools provide a low-level, system-wide view of how cheat tools might mess with a game's memory or code from the outside. That allows anti-cheat developers to detect a wider variety of cheating threats, as Murphy explained in an extensive FAQ:

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‘The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’ lands on Switch May 12th, 2023

Source: Engadget

Article note: Ooohhh. Gonna waste some time with this.

The sequel to The The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is called Tears of the Kingdom and it's due to hit Switch on May 12th, 2023. Nintendo revealed the release date, name and a short teaser for the game during today's Direct showcase.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild debuted in 2017, the same year the Switch came to market. It was a huge critical and commercial success, and the sequel has been hotly anticipated since. The new game was originally announced with a release window in 2022, but in March, Nintendo delayed it into spring 2023.

It wasn't the only major game to be pushed out of 2022. A handful of titles from big publishers, including Starfield, Redfall, Hogwarts Legacy and Forspoken, were delayed into 2023 this year.

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Let’s make WordPress officially support SQLite

Source: Hacker News

Article note: That would be _really_ nice.
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William Gibson’s novel comes to vivid life in first teaser for The Peripheral

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Oooh, Amazon lucre adapting _The Peripheral_? This will be fun.

Prime Video's new sci-fi series The Peripheral is based on William Gibson's novel.

A young woman struggling to hold it together in small-town America finds herself witness to what may or may not be a murder in the first teaser for The Peripheral, a new Prime Video series based on William Gibson's 2014 novel of the same name.

(Spoilers for the novel below.)

The novel is in many ways vintage Gibson: a bleak, dystopian future world chock-full of big thematic ideas, visionary technology, and its own slang terminology. The reader is plunged into this setting and must acclimate accordingly; Gibson isn't interested in presenting everything to us on a silver platter. But that initial effort pays off as the novel evolves into an action-packed cyberpunk thriller.

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Government cannot mandate HIV drug coverage, rules Texas judge

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: "private, religious corporations" is a _really_ revolting phrase.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has ruled that the Affordable Care Act's mandate for free coverage of HIV prevention drugs violates the religious freedom of a Christian-owned company, Bloomberg reports.

Braidwood Management Inc. had challenged the provision requiring it to cover Truvada and Descovy, a pair of widely-used pre-exposure prophylactic drugs more commonly known as PrEP. Thousands of Americans — especially gay and bisexual men — take PrEP daily as a preventative measure against HIV.

In their initial complaint, the plaintiffs argued that the ACA mandate "forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use." O'Connor ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, claiming the defendants did not show a "compelling interest in forcing private, religious corporations to cover PrEP drugs with no cost-sharing and no religious exemptions."

The suit was led by attorney Jonathan Mitchell, the former Republican solicitor general of Texas who is known for his efforts to restrict abortion access in the state. Mitchell believes that the entire preventive services mandate under the ACA is invalid because those who manage the list are too empowered to not have Senate confirmation, Bloomberg writes.

At this time, it's unclear whether O'Connor's ruling will be nationally endorsed; still, it could have a major impact on access to preventative care and important free health services for Americans. "It's a disappointing decision because it has broader implications for harm for folks that are just trying to work and live and access health care," attorney Shelley Skeen told NBC News.

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Ethersweep: An Easy-To-Deploy Ethernet Connected Stepper Controller

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Ooh, I've been thinking about a little board integrating an AMS5600 magnetic encoder and TMS220x driver to build cheap hybrid stepper servo things, apparently it's pretty achievable. I'm less interested in the Ethernet comms, though that part would also be more interesting if it spoke EtherCAT.

[Neumi] over on Hackaday.IO wanted a simple-to-use way to drive stepper motors, which could be quickly deployed in a wide variety of applications yet to be determined. The solution is named Ethersweep, and is a small PCB stack that sits on the rear of the common NEMA17-format stepper motor. The only physical connectivity, beside the motor, are ethernet and a power supply via the user friendly XT30 connector. The system can be closed loop, with both an end-stop input as well as an on-board AMS AS5600 magnetic rotary encoder (which senses the rotating magnetic field on the rear side of the motor assembly – clever!) giving the necessary feedback. Leveraging the Trinamic TMC2208 stepper motor driver gives Ethersweep silky smooth and quiet motor control, which could be very important for some applications. A rear-facing OLED display shows some useful debug information as well as the all important IP address that was assigned to the unit.

Control is performed with the ubiquitous ATMega328 microcontroller, with the Arduino software stack deployed, making uploading firmware a breeze. To that end, a USB port is also provided, hooked up to the uC with the cheap CP2102 USB bridge chip as per most Arduino-like designs. The thing that makes this build a little unusual is the ethernet port. The hardware side of things is taken care of with the Wiznet WS500 ethernet chip, which implements the MAC and PHY in a single device, needing only a few passives and a magjack to operate. The chip also handles the whole TCP/IP stack internally, so only needs an external SPI interface to talk to the host device.

Talking about firmware for a moment, to ease deployment, the network configuration is handled by DHCP, although some control over MAC address assignment is promised for the future. All control is via UDP over ethernet, and again the basic functionality is there, but some niceties such as motor synchronisation and state querying are again subject to further releases. Hardware design is implemented in KiCAD and FreeCAD, with Arduino covering the firmware and host control side in python. You can read all about it on the Ethersweep project GitHub, what is there not to like?

If you thought you’d seen this stepper-mounted driver setup before, you’d be correct, here’s a Hackaday Prize 2017 Entry for a CANBUS controlled driver. We also saw this on Dummy: the obscenely well made robot arm by [Zhihui Jun], which if you missed it, then do circle back and take a look, you won’t regret it!

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IRS to explore free electronic tax filing system

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: In any sane country, it would already exist, and would work by displaying an already-filled-out tax form with a prompt to submit any necessary adjustments before accepting. We need to shut down some lobbying by high level tax cheats and paid-tax-prep companies to make it happen, which at this point might be a bloody process because they have metastasized.

The Internal Revenue Service will be taking a step toward making electronic tax filing more straightforward and accessible by studying a free option for taxpayers, reports The Washington Post.

The government tax agency will use $15 million from the $80 billion allotted in the Inflation Reduction Act to explore a free tax filing system. This platform could provide American taxpayers with another option to file taxes beyond relying on expensive private tax preparation companies. While the IRS does provide free e-filing options, the service is barely used due to its restrictions on qualifying returns. 

Tax preparation services have been dominated by corporations for years, forcing Americans to spend money to file obligatory taxes yearly. Democrats sought to address that issue with the passing of this bill that requires the IRS to study an in-house free option for e-filing, the Post reports. Current and former IRS officials point to a lack of funding to explain why the government agency hasn't put a real effort into developing its e-filing system, writes the Post. This means taxpayers have relied on companies such as Intuit's TurboTax and H&R Block, often incurring multiple fees. 

Experts believe creating a government system will give Americans reliable free options while increasing the efficiency of the IRS.

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