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Blockchain study finds 0.00% success rate and vendors don't call back when asked for evidence

Where is your distributed ledger technology now?


Though Blockchain has been touted as the answer to everything, a study of 43 solutions advanced in the international development sector has found exactly no evidence of success.

Three practitioners including erstwhile blockchain enthusiast John Burg, a Fellow at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), looked at instances of the distributed crypto ledger being used in a wide range of situations by NGOs, contractors and agencies. But they drew a complete blank.

"We found a proliferation of press releases, white papers, and persuasively written articles," Burg et al wrote on Thursday. "However, we found no documentation or evidence of the results blockchain was purported to have achieved in these claims. We also did not find lessons learned or practical insights, as are available for other technologies in development."

Blockchain vendors were keen to puff the merits of the technology, but when the three asked for proof of success in the field, it all went very quiet.

IBM struggles to sign up shipping carriers to blockchain supply chain platform – reports

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"We fared no better when we reached out directly to several blockchain firms, via email, phone, and in person. Not one was willing to share data on program results, MERL [monitoring, evaluation, research and learning] processes, or adaptive management for potential scale-up. Despite all the hype about how blockchain will bring unheralded transparency to processes and operations in low-trust environments, the industry is itself opaque."

Burg was an enthusiastic advocate for blockchain until recently – as he explained in this Medium post.

"Blockchain is like a loom that can weave together multiple strands of separate things... into an integrated fabric where you can see what the data means and adjust resources in response," he swooned.

Blockchain has been wildly mis-sold, but underneath it is a database with performance and scalability issues and a lot of baggage. Any claim made for blockchain could be made for databases, or simply publishing contractual or transactional data gathered in another form.

Its adoption by non-technical advocates is faith-based, with vendors' and consultants' claims being taken at face value, as Eddie Hughes MP (Con, Walsall North) cheerfully confessed to the FT recently.

"I'm just a Brummie bloke who kept hearing about blockchain, read a bit about it, and thought: this is interesting stuff. So I came up with this idea: blockchain for Bloxwich," said Hughes.

As with every bubble, whether it's Tulip Mania or the Californian Gold Rush, most investors lose their shirts while a fortune is being made by associated services – the advisors and marketeers can bank their cash, even if there's no gold in the river.

For example, Fujitsu offers fast-track consulting services starting at £9,900 to tell you if blockchain is appropriate for your project (that's something we can confidently tell you for nothing: no, it isn't).

And the magic B-word enabled doomed tech quango Digital Catapult to conduct a Houdini-like escape.

Now that's magic.

A modest proposal

Perhaps technology consultancy and marketing should be as tightly regulated as financial consultancy, where mis-selling can (in theory) lead to a lifetime ban from the industry, something the US Securities and Exchange Commission can do for people who violate securities law, like Michael Milken.

Surely if you hype "blockchain" or "artificial intelligence" (this report details a 95 per cent failure rate at Monsanto) and it was never going to work well, surely that's indistinguishable from fraud. A graduated series of penalties ranging from a five-year ban to a lifetime ban could then be imposed. ®

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Seeing a robot dog tagging along with NYPD officers after an arrest stuns New Yorkers

Plus: 'First civil lawsuit' against police for incorrect facial recognition match in wrongful collaring, and more

In brief Bystanders in New York City were stunned this week when cops left a public housing complex with a handcuffed man and a robot law enforcement dog trotting after them.

The four-legged machine – shown below – was built by Boston Dynamics, and has been dispatched to crime scenes across the American metropolis since October, according to Gothamist.

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Google's FLoC flies into headwinds as internet ad industry braces for instability

Reinventing web advertising tech at a time of heightened privacy concern proves difficult

Analysis With Google testing its FLoC ad technology in preparation for the planned elimination of third-party cookies next year, uncertainty about potential problems and growing legal support for privacy is shaking up the digital ad industry.

The move away from third-party cookies will have significant financial impact on the ad industry, and the internet ecosystem that depends on advertising – assuming you accept studies that credit third-party cookies with meaningful [PDF] rather than minimal [PDF] revenue.

"Our analysis suggests that the publishing industry will have to replace up to $10 billion in ad revenue with a combination of first-party data gathered through a combination of paywalls and required registrations, and updated contextual targeting and probabilistic audience modeling (analytics that incorporate an array of unknown elements)," said consultancy McKinsey in a recent report.

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Elon Musk's SpaceX bags $3bn NASA contract to, fingers crossed, land first woman on the Moon

And the 13th guy

NASA today announced the next US lunar mission will use SpaceX's HLS Starship to put American astronauts on the Moon's surface.

Elon Musk's rocketry biz thus scoops a $2.89bn contract to put the first woman and the 13th man on the Moon as part of the American space agency's Artemis program. NASA will use its own much-delayed SLS booster to launch four astronauts into orbit and make the trans-lunar injection burn – pointing them Moon-ward, basically – and then two of the 'nauts will transfer to SpaceX hardware to touch down.

“This is an exciting time for NASA and especially the Artemis team,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, program manager for HLS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Pentagon confirms footage of three strange craft taken by the Navy are UFOs (no, that doesn't mean they're aliens)

Unless by aliens you mean Russians

Photos and videos taken by US Navy officers of strange-shaped aircraft streaming across our skies a couple of years ago have been officially labelled as unidentified flying objects by Uncle Sam.

The first clip, filmed in night-vision, features a cone-shaped object blinking in the sky across an eerie green sky. In a second incident, pilots captured a device that rotated as it flew, and in the third image an object hovered in front, CNN reported.

Sue Gough, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, referred to those objects as being shaped like a “sphere,” or “acorn" and called the last one a "metallic blimp." All the footage was taken by the Navy, and Gough confirmed the content was being investigated by the US government's Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) Task Force, a special unit focused on probing UFOs, which is led by the Navy and was created in August.

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Ex IBM sales manager, fired after battling discrimination against subordinates, wins $11m lawsuit

Big Blue, insisting it doesn't condone retaliation or discrimination, may appeal

On Thursday, a federal jury in Seattle, Washington, found that former IBM sales manager Scott Kingston had been unlawfully fired by the company and denied sales commission after challenging the treatment of subordinates as racially biased. And it awarded him $11.1m.

The case dates back to 2017 when two IBM sales people within months of each other closed similarly large software sales deals that led to vastly different commission payments. Nick Donato, who is White, received more than $1m for a SAS Institute deal, while Jerome Beard, who is Black, was paid about $230,000 for closing a sale to HCL Technologies.

Beard was paid about 15 per cent of what he should have received under his agreement with IBM, despite a company policy not to cap sales commissions.

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Docker Desktop for Apple Silicon is here, but probe a little deeper and you'll find Rosetta 2 staring back

Prepare yourself for an onslaught of 'you're holding the container wrong'

Docker Desktop for Apple Silicon has been released, although it's not quite the seamless conversion some may expect.

Declaring that getting Docker Desktop working on Apple's M1 chip as "by far our most upvoted roadmap item ever," the company is naturally chuffed that container fans selecting Apple's latest hardware can now also crank out code using its tooling.

Rosetta 2, aimed at getting x64 apps up and running on Apple Silicon, only goes so far and to get the virtual machine that lurks beneath the hood of Docker Desktop, the company had to make the jump to Apple's new hypervisor framework as well as deal with all the associated plumbing.

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Age discrimination class-action against HP and HPE gets green light to proceed

Old people were let go while the CEO was talking about hiring a bunch of young people, says complaint

Former HP workers who allege they were dismissed in order to clear a path for younger employees have been granted certification [PDF] for their proposed collective action by a California district court.

In their original complaint, the plaintiffs accused HPE and spin-off HP of violating federal and California age discrimination laws during a period of corporate restructuring by pushing out older workers while aggressively hiring younger ones.

According to the filing, they claimed this demographic shake-up started in 2012, and continued in the years following the late 2015 separation of HP. More importantly, they claim it wasn't an accident, but rather driven by a conscious decision by then-CEO Meg Whitman, who was cited as expressing a desire to hire "a whole host of young people" and make the company "younger" during a securities analysts meeting in 2013.

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Russian infosec firm Positive Technologies trying to stay positive after US sanctions

Company insists it's a legit operator that's here to help

Positive Technologies has hit back at the US government's "groundless accusations" that it helped the Russian state carry out cyber attacks against the West – by highlighting how "government agencies of different countries" use its products.

Yesterday the US Treasury declared that Positive was selling weaponised infosec tech to the Russian government and ran recruiting events for state hacking agencies, which some Western news outlets have interpreted as meaning the company's flagship Positive Hack Days events.

Rejecting all this in a lengthy statement posted to its website this afternoon, Positive said: "Our global mission is to create products and technologies to improve cybersecurity around the world and to ensure conditions for the most efficient prevention of cyberattacks for the benefit of society, business, and government agencies."

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Fridges... in... Spaaaaaaace: Engineers book ride on the Vomit Comet to test astro-refrigerator

It's floaty floaty vom time as boffins plan prototype cooler spin on modded 727

Boffins are set to get a ride on the Zero Gravity Corporation's "weightless research lab" to test a refrigerator designed for jaunts to orbit, the Moon or even Mars.

The engineers from Purdue University, Air Squared and Whirlpool are working on a refrigerator that will function in different orientations as well as the one more suited to domestic kitchens on Earth. The idea is to give astronauts access to food not necessarily freeze-dried or squirted out of a packet (and liberally dosed with hot sauce.)

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Oh hello. Haven't heard much from you lately: Linux veteran Slackware rides again with a beta of version 15

It's time to move on from 2016

From the department of "I'm not dead yet" comes news of a Slackware 15 beta release, nearly five years after the distribution last saw a major update.

Created by Patrick Volkerding (who still lays claim to the title Benevolent Dictator For Life), the current release version arrived in the form of 2016's 14.2.

While there have been some rumblings over the years, the lengthy absence of a full new version hinted that all might not be well with one of the oldest Linux distributions and its band of contributors.

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Microsoft received almost 25,000 requests for consumer data from law enforcement over the past six months

25% were rejected, and it's less than 2013's figure... but be wary of what Redmond does with your information

Microsoft has had a busy six months if its latest biannual digital trust report is anything to go by as law enforcement agencies crept closer to making 25,000 legal requests.

Requests for consumer data reached 24,798 during the second half of 2020, up from 24,093 during the previous six-month period, and quite a jump from the 21,781 for the same period in 2019.

"Non-content data" requests, which require a subpoena (or local equivalent), accounted for just over half of disclosures and were slightly down on the same period in 2019. Microsoft rejected 25.81 per cent of requests in the last six months of 2020, up on the 20.14 per cent of the same period in 2019.

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