Recycling cars’ lithium batteries is more complicated than you might think

Found on Ars Technica on Thursday, 07 November 2019
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The primary issue with lithium batteries is a loss of capacity over time. Eventually, this will lead to reduced range for any vehicles that rely on them.

Even now—long before there should be many at the end-of-life stage—the authors note that some lithium batteries have found their way into metal recycling facilities, where handling them inappropriately has set off fires.

The individual cells in the batteries are also different sizes and shapes, and the chemistries of the cathodes are distinct. All of this rules out a single process or automated system for handling electric vehicle batteries.

New car models are pushed onto the streets without thinking about the different problems they may cause. I would be really helpful to have some unbiased research about the environmental footprints of combustion based cars compared to electric cars which also takes into account various variables, like production costs, lifetime, maintenance costs, recycling costs and of course energy costs.

German government expands subsidies for electric cars

Found on DW on Wednesday, 06 November 2019
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The German government and car industry have agreed to increase joint subsidies for the purchase of electric cars on the same day automobile giant Volkswagen began production of a new all-electric vehicle.

Under the agreement, consumer subsidies for electric cars costing less than €40,000 ($44,500) will increase to €6,000 (about $6,700) from €4,000. Purchasers of plug-in hybrids in this price range would be given a subsidy of €4,500, up from €3,000.

You only need to throw money onto products which would not sell otherwise; and if they sell really bad, you throw even more money onto them.

Bloodhound goes faster still at 491mph

Found on BBC News on Tuesday, 05 November 2019
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At the moment, Bloodhound is operating on just the thrust of its Eurofighter EJ200 jet engine. But as Tuesday's outing showed, this vehicle has tremendous potential.

Bloodhound is festooned with sensors. It's their information which must verify all the computer modelling that went into the design of the car. The team has a good idea of how Bloodhound should behave as it approaches the sound barrier, but it's only by running the car that they'll find out for sure.

Really impressive, but nothing you will see soon on the roads.

Not just adhesive, but alcohol-resistant adhesive: Well done, Apple. Airpods Pro repairability is a zero

Found on The Register on Friday, 01 November 2019
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Just like its predecessors, Apple's latest designer buds are impossible to self-service, earning them a repairability score of zero. This is largely a consequence of Apple's liberal use of alcohol-resistant adhesives, which makes it almost impossible to separate components without causing serious damage.

It's still almost impossible to replace the battery without causing a catastrophic level of destruction. The cell sits buried under thick blobs of white glue, and, to add insult to injury, is firmly soldered to the device.

Everybody talks about how important it is to protect the environment, and here comes Apple (again), rolling out products which cannot be repaired, produced for landfills.

Lawmaker Kills Repair Bill Because 'Cellphones Are Throwaways'

Found on Vice on Saturday, 26 October 2019
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The New Hampshire State House rejected the Digital Fair Repair Act earlier this week in part thanks to a representative who seems to think that cell phones are literally garbage that no one should bother repairing.

“In the near future, cellphones are throwaways,” Potucek said, according to New Hampshire Business Review. “Everyone will just get a new one.”

Politicians should be throwaways too. Potucek is such a massive failure that New Hampshire should just get a new and better replacement.

Alexa and Google Home abused to eavesdrop and phish passwords

Found on Ars Technica on Tuesday, 22 October 2019
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The skills or actions posed as simple apps for checking horoscopes, with the exception of one, which masqueraded as a random-number generator. Behind the scenes, these "smart spies," as the researchers call them, surreptitiously eavesdropped on users and phished for their passwords.

The phishing apps follow a slightly different path by responding with an error message that claims the skill or action isn't available in that user's country. They then go silent to give the impression the app is no longer running. After about a minute, the apps use a voice that mimics the ones used by Alexa and Google home to falsely claim a device update is available and prompts the user for a password for it to be installed.

It was only a matter of time. If you think it's a smart idea to place a microphone in your house where random developers around the globe can write applications for, you might want to reconsider your stance.

Electronic devices 'need to use recycled plastic'

Found on BBC News on Tuesday, 15 October 2019
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Plastic accounts for about 20% of the 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced each year, which is expected to more than double to 110m tonnes by 2050.

"Firstly and foremost, we want to raise awareness among consumers on the benefits of recycled plastics in electronics," explained Violeta Nikolova from PolyCE (Post-Consumer High-tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy).

Or, just maybe, people would buy less if the (especially electronic) devices would not suffer from planned obsolescence; but that would lower consumerism and affect the economy, so better keep on buying more, but with some recycled plastic.

Facebook and Google have ad trackers on your streaming TV, studies find

Found on Ars Technica on Sunday, 22 September 2019
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Modern TV, coming to you over the Internet instead of through cable or over the air, has a modern problem: all of your Internet-connected streaming devices are watching you back and feeding your data to advertisers.

The most prevalent tracker, Google's doubleclick.net, showed up in 975 of the top 1,000 Roku channels, with Google analytics trackers showing up in 360, the researchers found. Over on the Amazon side of things, perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon trackers were the most prevalent, showing up in 687 of 1,000 channels. Doubleclick trackers were found on 307 channels, and Facebook trackers were on 196.

Tracking not only includes sending information about video titles, which you might expect, but also permanent device identifiers and wireless SSID information, the researchers found.

Theoretically, in your home network, you could control DNS requests and use something like Pi-hole to keep trackers dead. If it wouldn't be for Mozilla and Google who push hard to enforce DNS over HTTPS (DoH) instead of supporting the already existing DNS over TLS (DoT) to encrypt requests. The reason? Blocking HTTPS results in way more colateral damage than blocking DNS so it is supposed to be "safer" for the user; but in fact it's just about removing another level of control from the user.

600,000 GPS trackers left exposed online with a default password of '123456'

Found on ZDNet on Saturday, 07 September 2019
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Avast researchers said they found these issues in T8 Mini, a GPS tracker manufactured by Shenzhen i365-Tech, a Chinese IoT device maker.

Avast said the issues also impacted over 30 other models of GPS trackers, all manufactured by the same vendor, and some even sold as white-label products, bearing the logos of other companies.

A hacker can launch automated attacks against Shenzhen i365-Tech's cloud server by going through all user ID's one by one, and using the same 123456 password, and take over users' accounts.

Unfortunately for everyone, the issue persists to this day, as Shenzhen i365-Tech did not respond to Avast's emails when the company tried to warn the vendor. Similar contact attempts made by ZDNet's sister site CNET didn't succeed either.

It could be really simple: every device that comes with some sort of authentication has to have a unique random password that's printed onto a label on the device, and which has to be changed to something different when the device is first used. Companies which do not follow these guidelines will face hefty fines and already sold devices will be recalled.

White House to Relax Energy Efficiency Rules for Light Bulbs

Found on The New York Times on Thursday, 05 September 2019
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The proposed changes would eliminate requirements that effectively meant that most light bulbs sold in the United States — not only the familiar, pear-shaped ones, but several other styles as well — must be either LEDs or fluorescent to meet new efficiency standards.

Calling the move an “unforced error,” he said, “Wasting energy with inefficient light bulbs isn’t just costly for homes and businesses, it’s terrible for our climate.”

Because of their long life and energy efficiency, an LED bulb can save consumers an estimated $50 to $100 over its several-year lifetime.

It's not a matter of prohibiting classic light bulbs, but a matter of teaching people about the drawbacks.