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UK loses out on lucrative EU satellite contracts because Brexit



Sentinel-1, the first in the family of Copernicus satellites, is used to monitor many aspects of our environment (ESA)

The UK has missed out on a potentially lucrative contract to build satellites for the EU’s Copernicus Earth programme.

The programme is one of two big space projects happening in Europe and aims to map all elements of planet Earth - from atmospheric conditions to ocean and land monitoring.

And now the European Space Agency’s industrial policy committee has given contracts for six new satellites to various firms in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

In total, the contracts are worth more than 2.5 billion euros and the UK space industry was very much hoping to get a piece of the pie. Especially considering the UK is the fourth largest contributor to the European Space Agency.

Airbus Defence and Space Germany will lead the development with a contract value of €300 million.

‘While UK organisations will play important roles in five out of the six Copernicus High Priority Candidate missions, we are disappointed overall with the contract proposals and abstained on the vote to approve them,’ a spokesperson for the UK Space Agency (UKSA) said.

‘We are committed to working closely with ESA to ensure our investments deliver industrial returns that align with our national ambitions for space.’

The reason for the snub? Part of it is due to Brexit.

Undated handout photo issued by the ESA of representatives from the agency's member states gathered for a ministerial council. The UK Space Agency has committed ??374 million a year to the European space programme. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday November 28, 2020. The funding will contribute towards international space initiatives to address climate change, deliver high-speed mobile technology and return the first samples from Mars. See PA story SCIENCE ESA. Photo credit should read: Stephane Corvaja/ESA/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Representatives from the ESA’s member states (Stephane Corvaja/ESA)

Although Britain is a member of the ESA and can contribute to the R&D elements of Sentinel (the missions that make up Copernicus) we can’t participate in the manufacturing because that’s funded by EU member states. Which the UK is no longer a part of.

The government is currently trying to negotiate ‘third country’ membership of Copernicus to try and become an industry partner of the missions - but the future is uncertain.

And Copernicus is only one of the EU’s big space projects - the other is called Galileo and is a navigation network of satellites that will rival the USA’s Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system.

The European Space Agency's ExoMars rover is being prepared to leave Airbus in Stevenage. The ExoMars 2020 rover Rosalind Franklin is Europe?s first planetary rover it will search for signs of past or present life on Mars. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday August 27, 2020. See PA story SCIENCE Mars. Photo credit should read: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover was built at Airbus in Stevenage. (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Speaking to the BBC, the ESA’s director of Earth observation, Josef Aschbacher, said there was no bias in awarding the contracts.

‘We can only evaluate what we get in terms of offers,’ he said.

‘If industry shies away from some work packages or activities located in the UK, there is nothing we can do on our side. We have to take what comes to our table.’

The UK space industry is no slouch, it helped build the ESA’s Solar Orbiter space probe which is tasked with getting ridiculously close to the sun in order to better understand our parent star.

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The EU is launching a market for personal data. Here’s what that means for privacy.



The European Union has long been a trendsetter in privacy regulation. Its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and stringent antitrust laws have inspired new legislation around the world. For decades, the EU has codified protections on personal data and fought against what it viewed as commercial exploitation of private information, proudly positioning its regulations in contrast to the light-touch privacy policies in the United States.

The new European data governance strategy (pdf) takes a fundamentally different approach. With it, the EU will become an active player in facilitating the use and monetization of its citizens’ personal data. Unveiled by the European Commission in February 2020, the strategy outlines policy measures and investments to be rolled out in the next five years.

This new strategy represents a radical shift in the EU’s focus, from protecting individual privacy to promoting data sharing as a civic duty. Specifically, it will create a pan-European market for personal data through a mechanism called a data trust. A data trust is a steward that manages people’s data on their behalf and has fiduciary duties toward its clients.

The EU’s new plan considers personal data to be a key asset for Europe. However, this approach raises some questions. First, the EU’s intent to profit from the personal data it collects puts European governments in a weak position to regulate the industry. Second, the improper use of data trusts can actually deprive citizens of their rights to their own data.

The Trusts Project, the first initiative put forth by the new EU policies, will be implemented by 2022. With a €7 million budget, it will set up a pan-European pool of personal and nonpersonal information that should become a one-stop shop for businesses and governments looking to access citizens’ information.

Global technology companies will not be allowed to store or move Europeans’ data. Instead, they will be required to access it via the trusts. Citizens will collect “data dividends,” which haven’t been clearly defined but could include monetary or nonmonetary payments from companies that use their personal data. With the EU’s roughly 500 million citizens poised to become data sources, the trusts will create the world’s largest data market.

For citizens, this means the data created by them and about them will be held in public servers and managed by data trusts. The European Commission envisions the trusts as a way to help European businesses and governments reuse and extract value from the massive amounts of data produced across the region, and to help European citizens benefit from their information. The project documentation, however, does not specify how individuals will be compensated.

Data trusts were first proposed by internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners Lee in 2018, and the concept has drawn considerable interest since then. Just like the trusts used to manage one’s property, data trusts may serve different purposes: they can be for-profit enterprises, or they can be set up for data storage and protection, or to work for a charitable cause.

IBM and Mastercard have built a data trust to manage the financial information of their European clients in Ireland; the UK and Canada have employed data trusts to stimulate the growth of the AI industries there; and recently, India announced plans to establish its own public data trust to spur the growth of technology companies.

The new EU project is modeled on Austria’s digital system, which keeps track of information produced by and about its citizens by assigning them unique identifiers and storing the data in public repositories.

Unfortunately, data trusts do not guarantee more transparency. The trust is governed by a charter created by the trust’s settlor, and its rules can be made to prioritize someone’s interests. The trust is run by a board of directors, which means a party that has more seats gains significant control.

The Trusts Project is bound to face some governance issues of its own. Public and private actors often do not see eye to eye when it comes to running critical infrastructure or managing valuable assets. Technology companies tend to favor policies that create opportunity for their own products and services. Caught in a conflict of interest, Europe may overlook the question of privacy.

And in some cases, data trusts have been used to strip individuals of their rights to control data collected about them. In October 2019, the government of Canada rejected a proposal by Alphabet/Sidewalk Labs to create a data trust for Toronto’s smart city project. Sidewalk Labs had designed the trust in a way that secured the company’s control over citizens’ data. And India’s data trust faced criticism for giving the government unrestricted access to personal information by defining authorities as “information fiduciaries.”

One possible solution could be to set up an ecosystem of data stewards, both public and private, that each serve different needs. Sylvie Delacroix and Neil Lawrence, the originators of this bottom-up approach, liken data trusts to pension funds, saying they should be tightly regulated and able to provide different services to designated groups.

When put into practice, the EU’s Trusts Project will likely change the privacy landscape on a global scale. Unfortunately, however, this new approach won’t necessarily give European citizens more privacy or control over their information. It is not yet clear what model of trusts the project will pursue, but the policies do not currently provide any way for citizens to opt out.

At a recent congressional antitrust hearing in the United States, four major platform companies publicly recognized the use of surveillance technologies, market manipulation, and forceful acquisitions to dominate the data economy. The single most important lesson from these revelations is that companies that trade in personal data cannot be trusted to store and manage it. Decoupling personal information from the platforms’ infrastructure would be a decisive step toward curbing their monopoly power. This can be done through data stewardship.

Ideally, the Trusts Project would show the world a more equitable way to capture and distribute the true value of personal data. There’s still time to deliver on that promise.

Anna Artyushina is a public policy scholar specializing in data governance and smart cities. She is a PhD candidate in science and technology studies at York University in Toronto.

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Linux Fu: Remote Execution Made Easy



If you have SSH and a few other tools set up, it is pretty easy to log into another machine and run a few programs. This could be handy when you are using a machine that might not have a lot of memory or processing power and you have access to a bigger machine somewhere on the network. For example, suppose you want to reencode some video on a box you use as a media server but it would go much faster on your giant server with a dozen cores and 32 GB of RAM.

Remote Execution

However, there are a few problems with that scenario. First, you might not have the software on the remote machine. Even if you do, it might not be the version you expect or have all the same configuration as your local copy. Then there’s the file problem. the input file should come from your local file system and you’d like the output to wind up there, too. These aren’t insurmountable, of course. You could install the program on the remote box and copy your files back and forth manually. Or you can use Outrun.

There are a few limitations, though. You do need Outrun on both machines and both machines have to have the same CPU architecture. Sadly, that means you can’t use this to easily run jobs on your x86-64 PC from a Raspberry Pi. You’ll need root access to the remote machine, too. The system also depends on having the FUSE file system libraries set up.

A Simple Idea

The idea is simple. You could do a video encoding like this:

outrun [email protected] ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vcodec libx265 -crf 28 output.mp4

This will work even if ffmpeg isn’t on the remote machine and the input and output files will be on your local box where you expect them. Here’s a screencast from the project’s GitHub page:

A Complex Implementation

How does this work? A FUSE file system mounts your local filesystem remotely using a lightweight RPC file system. Then a chroot makes the remote machine look just like your local machine but — presumably — faster. There are a few other things done, such as setting up the environment and current directory.

The chroot, by the way, is why you need root on the remote machine. As an ordinary user, you can’t pivot the root file system to make this trick work.

To improve performance, Outrun caches system directories and assumes they won’t change over the life of the command. It also aggressively prefetches using some heuristics to guess what files you’ll need in addition to the one that the system asked for.

The Future

We wish there was an option to assume the program will execute on the remote machine and only set up the input and output files. This would make it easier to do things like slice a 3D print on a remote PC from a Raspberry Pi running Octoprint, for example. Of course, this is all open source, so maybe we should go make that fix ourselves.

Then again, you could do something like this pretty easily with sshfs and some other tricks. If you want to run a program on a bunch of remote machines, there are ways to do that, too.

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Still Working From Home? Here Are 5 Ideas to Help You Thrive



Many workers have jobs that can be done from home, including consultants, marketing professionals, writers, and software engineers like those at BairesDev. But, if you’ve been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, you may have mixed feelings about it. 

Likely you’re grateful that you can continue to earn an income through a down economy. But if you have an inadequate workspace or kids needing to be supervised while you’re trying to concentrate, you might be wishing you were back at the office — long commute and all. 

Or maybe you initially enjoyed having your living room as an office space, but the novelty of it is wearing off as this arrangement continues, perhaps much longer than you expected. If your work from home situation feels less than ideal right now, no matter what the reason, try these suggestions to help you carry on. 

  1. See the Benefits

No matter how you feel about working from home, you can take comfort in the fact that it does offer a number of benefits. For one thing, working from home can make you more productive. If your kids, spouse, or other family members are home too, you get to spend more time with those you love. 

Plus, all those little things you hate about the office (terrible coffee, too-strong perfume) are no longer an issue, your commute time is eliminated, and you have more control over how you spend your time. 

  1. Optimize Technology

Your work from home experience will be much better if you have the right tools to help you stay productive. For starters, make sure your wired or Wi-Fi connection is robust and secure. Many employers will send an IT support person or pay for an outside tech professional to make sure your equipment is up to speed. If your Wi-Fi router is older than five years, you may need to replace it. 

You also need the right applications to support your work, including communications software like Zoom or Slack, a project management application like Trello or Basecamp, and a distraction blocker like Freedom to help you avoid the temptation to look at social media all day. 

  1. Stay Connected

When you work at home, it’s doubly important to communicate with your coworkers. But make time during breaks or off-hours to stay in touch with others as well, including family and friends. Set up virtual coffee or lunch dates or use fun apps like Netflix Party and Houseparty to play games or watch movies together. 

Additionally, stay abreast of what’s happening in the world, but be careful not to overdo it. Consuming too much news, especially about the pandemic, can lead to a sense of hopelessness, or even depression. If you’re a news junkie, at least seek out positive stories to balance out the negative ones. 

  1. Embrace Structure

If you’re uncomfortable working from home but aren’t sure why, it may be because you haven’t created a structure for yourself to mimic the one you had at the office. Use the following tips to incorporate more organization into your day:

  • Have a designated workspace. You don’t have to designate an entire room as an office if that’s not practical in your home. But you should have a place set aside where you do your work each day, even if it’s the kitchen table. If it is, put all your work equipment into a storage bin when you finish each workday so you can use the space for other purposes as well. 
  • Plan your day. With work and home lives overlapping, it’s more important than ever to plan your day. Consider the needs of others in your household, including school-aged children and other adults who might be working at home as well. Designate times for concentration, meetings, and breaks. 
  • Have a morning routine. Even though you no longer have to get ready to go somewhere, you should still have a morning routine to help you gradually transition to “work mode.” Eat a healthy breakfast, take a shower, and anything else that will help you feel productive as you start your day. 
  1. Remember Self-Care

Self-care is critical in these stressful times and everyone has their own version of it. The key is to do the things that keep you energized and healthy. Here are a few examples:

  • Sleep well. One of the best things you can do for your health is to get a good night’s sleep. Don’t take your work into the bedroom with you. Or, if you must work there during the day, be sure to stash your work equipment out of sight at night. 
  • Eat right. Just as you would while you’re working at the office, plan your meals while working from home. In particular, be sure to have healthy snacks on hand. 
  • Get outside. Working and living at home can make you feel like you never leave the house, which is why you should plan time to do so each day. 
  • Exercise. Make time in your schedule for movement, even if it’s just a few simple stretches. Better yet, use your outside time to walk, bike, hike, or do whatever helps you feel most refreshed. 
  • Mental health. Check-in with yourself each day to determine if you need anything from a mental health perspective: a therapy appointment, a day off, or maybe just a nice, long bath.

In Summary

Whether working at home is something you’ve been wanting to do for years or something you can’t wait to be done with, there are many things you can do to make it a better experience. Try the tips listed here to help you stay productive and happy in your alternative work environment. 

The post Still Working From Home? Here Are 5 Ideas to Help You Thrive appeared first on Fossbytes.

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