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Версия 13:50, 9 февраля 2009

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The New York Times reports on surprising silver linings of the global chip shortage:

Even as a chip shortage is causing trouble for all sorts of industries, the semiconductor field is entering a surprising new era of creativity, from industry giants to innovative start-ups seeing a spike in funding from venture capitalists that traditionally avoided chip makers. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung Electronics, for example, have managed the increasingly difficult feat of packing more transistors on each slice of silicon. IBM on Thursday announced another leap in miniaturization, a sign of continued U.S. prowess in the technology race. Perhaps most striking, what was a trickle of new chip companies is now approaching a flood.

Equity investors for years viewed semiconductor companies as too costly to set up, but in 2020 plowed more than $12 billion into 407 chip-related companies, according to CB Insights. Though a tiny fraction of all venture capital investments, that was more than double what the industry received in 2019 and eight times the total for 2016. Synopsys, the biggest supplier of software that engineers use to design chip, is tracking more than 200 start-ups designing chips for artificial intelligence, the ultrahot technology powering everything from smart speakers to self-driving cars. Cerebras, a start-up that sells massive artificial-intelligence processors that span an entire silicon wafer, for example, has attracted more than $475 million. Groq, a start-up whose chief executive previously helped design an artificial-intelligence chip for Google, has raised $367 million.

"It's a bloody miracle," said Jim Keller, a veteran chip designer whose resume includes stints at Apple, Tesla and Intel and who now works at the A.I. chip start-up Tenstorrent. "Ten years ago you couldn't do a hardware start-up...."

More companies are concluding that software running on standard Intel-style microprocessors is not the best solution for all problems. For that reason, companies like Cisco Systems and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have long designed specialty chips for products such as networking gear. Giants like Apple, Amazon and Google more recently have gotten into the act. Google's YouTube unit recently disclosed its first internally developed chip to speed video encoding.

And Volkswagen even said last week that it would develop its own processor to manage autonomous driving.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

"Colonial Pipeline, which accounts for 45% of the East Coast's fuel, said it has shut down its operations due to a cyberattack," reports ZDNet. "The attack highlights how ransomware and other cyberattacks are increasingly a threat to real-world infrastructure.

"The company delivers refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, home heating oil, and fuel for the U.S. Military."

The Associated Press reports:

Colonial Pipeline said the attack took place Friday and also affected some of its information technology systems. The Alpharetta, Georgia-based company said it hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate the nature and scope of the attack and has also contacted law enforcement and federal agencies. "Colonial Pipeline is taking steps to understand and resolve this issue," the company said in a late Friday statement. "At this time, our primary focus is the safe and efficient restoration of our service and our efforts to return to normal operation. This process is already underway, and we are working diligently to address this matter and to minimize disruption to our customers and those who rely on Colonial Pipeline."

Oil analyst Andy Lipow said the impact of the attack on fuel supplies and prices depends on how long the pipeline is down. An outage of one or two days would be minimal, he said, but an outage of five or six days could causes shortages and price hikes, particularly in an area stretching from central Alabama to the Washington, D.C., area. Lipow said a key concern about a lengthy delay would be the supply of jet fuel needed to keep major airports operating, like those in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The precise nature of the attack was unclear, including who launched it and what the motives were. A Colonial Pipeline spokeswoman declined to say whether the company had received a ransom demand, as is common in attacks from cyber criminal syndicates...

Mike Chapple, teaching professor of IT, analytics and operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business and a former computer scientist with the National Security Agency, said systems that control pipelines should not be connected to the internet and vulnerable to cyber intrusions. "The attacks were extremely sophisticated and they were able to defeat some pretty sophisticated security controls, or the right degree of security controls weren't in place," Chapple said...

The article also points out the U.S. government says it's "undertaking a new effort to help electric utilities, water districts and other critical industries protect against potentially damaging cyberattacks....to ensure that control systems serving 50,000 or more Americans have the core technology to detect and block malicious cyber activity.

The White House has announced a 100-day initiative aimed at protecting the country's electricity system from cyberattacks by encouraging owners and operators of power plants and electric utilities to improve their capabilities for identifying cyber threats to their networks. It includes concrete milestones for them to put technologies into use so they can spot and respond to intrusions in real time. The Justice Department has also announced a new task force dedicated to countering ransomware attacks...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

CNN recently reported on "a batch" of new studies published Wednesday — with one quantifying how much immunity improves after the second dose, and others showing how well coronavirus vaccines work against new variants of the virus:

The first nationwide study of coronavirus vaccination, done in Israel, showed Pfizer/BioNtech's vaccine works far better after two doses. Two shots of the vaccine provided greater than 95% protection from infection, severe illness and death, Dr. Eric Haas of the Israel Ministry of Health and colleagues reported in the Lancet medical journal. "Two doses of BNT162b2 are highly effective across all age groups in preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections and COVID-19-related hospitalizations, severe disease, and death, including those caused by the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant," they wrote. The B.1.1.7 variant, first seen in Britain, has spread widely and is now the most common new variant seen in the US. It was also common in Israel when the study was done...

"By 14 days after vaccination, protections conferred by a second dose [of the Pfizer vaccine] increased to 96.5% protection against infection, 98% against hospitalization, and 98.1% against death," the team wrote. But people who got only one dose of the vaccine were far less protected. One dose alone gave just 57.7% protection against infection, 75.7% against hospitalization, and 77% against death....

Separately, a team in the Gulf state of Qatar looked at the efficacy of Pfizer's vaccine in the population there when B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 were both circulating. They found reassuring results. "The estimated effectiveness of the vaccine against any documented infection with the B.1.1.7 variant was 89.5% at 14 or more days after the second dose. The effectiveness against any documented infection with the B.1.351 variant was 75%," the researchers wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine...

Vaccine maker Moderna reported Wednesday that a booster shot delivering a half-dose of its current vaccine revs up the immune response against both B.1.351 and P.1. And a booster dose formulated specifically to match B.1.351 was even more effective, Moderna said in a statement...

In another study, vaccine maker Novavax confirmed earlier findings that showed its vaccine protects against B.1.351.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.