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Twitter Held Discussions To Buy Clubhouse For $4 Billion

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 10:40md
Twitter held talks in recent months to acquire Clubhouse, the buzzy audio-based social network, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report: The companies discussed a potential valuation of roughly $4 billion for Clubhouse, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. Discussions are no longer ongoing, and it's unclear why they stalled, the people added. [...] Clubhouse is barely a year old but has drawn appearances from some of the biggest names in business and Hollywood. Established social media companies have quickly gone to work on their own versions of Clubhouse, including Twitter. Facebook is exploring one, too, and Microsoft's LinkedIn and Slack have also said they're working on similar features for their networks.

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With Virus Origins Still Obscure, WHO and Critics Look To Next Steps

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 10:05md
The joint international and Chinese mission organized by the World Health Organization on the origins of Covid released its report last week suggesting that for almost every topic it covered, more study was needed. What kind of study and who will do it is the question. From a report: The report suggested pursuing multiple lines of inquiry, focused on the likely origin of the coronavirus in bats. It concluded that the most likely route to humans was through an intermediate animal, perhaps at a wildlife farm. Among future efforts could be surveys of blood banks to look for cases that could have appeared before December 2019 and tracking down potential animal sources of the virus in wildlife farms, the team proposed. Critics of the report have sought more consideration of the possibility that a laboratory incident in Wuhan could have led to the first human infection. A loosely organized group of scientists and others who have been meeting virtually to discuss the possibility of a lab leak released an open letter this week, detailing several ways to conduct a thorough investigation. It called for further action, arguing that "critical records and biological samples that could provide essential insights into pandemic origins remain inaccessible." Much of the letter echoes an earlier release from the same group detailing what it saw as the failures of the W.H.O. mission. This second letter is more specific in the kind of future investigations it proposes. The group is seeking a new inquiry that would include biosecurity and biosafety experts, one that could involve the W.H.O. or a separate multination effort to set up a different process to explore the beginnings of the pandemic and its origins in China. Jamie Metzl, an author, senior fellow of the Atlantic Council, an international policy think tank and signer of the scientists' letter, said the renewed calls for a more thorough investigation reflected the need for greater monitoring of and restrictions on what viruses can be studied in labs around the world. "This is not about ganging up on China," Mr. Metzl said. Mr. Metzl's group was among those disappointed by the report issued last week, as it dismissed out of hand the possibility of a leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, calling it extremely unlikely. Further reading: Data Withheld From WHO Team Probing COVID-19 Origins in China: Tedros.

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Gazelle Brings Back Its Phone Trade-in Program Two Months After Discontinuing It

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 9:21md
Trade-in provider Gazelle exited the online trade-in business back in February, and now the company says it's changing its mind. From a report: Gazelle is back to accepting online trade-ins of iPhones, Samsung phones, Google Pixel devices, and iPads and other tablets on its website, the company confirms to The Verge. The program resumed accepting new offers on April 5th, a Gazelle representative clarified. "Earlier this year, we announced that we will no longer be offering our trade-in option on Gazelle. After careful consideration, including feedback from customers like you, we have decided to keep Gazelle Trade-In going. Today, we are happy to say, 'We're back, baby!'" reads an email Gazelle sent to prospective customers. "Gazelle Trade-In is a pioneer of the electronics trade-in space and we are happy to continue building on our legacy by offering a simple process and immediate payouts for those unwanted devices." Gazelle emerged as one of the leading trade-in providers of the smartphone era. But its business model didn't fare as well when the US mobile phone business underwent major shifts away from two-year contracts and outright device purchases and toward phone leasing and carrier and device maker trade-in programs like Apple's.

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YouTube Kids 'a Vapid Wasteland', Say US Lawmakers

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 8:46md
A US government committee has described YouTube Kids as a "wasteland of vapid, consumerist content." From a report: In a letter to YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, the US sub-committee on economic and consumer policy said the platform was full of "inappropriate... highly commercial content". Google launched YouTube Kids in 2015 as a safe place for children to view appropriate content. YouTube said it had worked hard to provide "enriching content for kids."

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Microsoft Previews Its Open Source Java Distribution, Microsoft Build of OpenJDK

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 8:01md
Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft has launched a preview version of its own distribution of Java, making it available for Windows, macOS and Linux. The company has named the release Microsoft Build of OpenJDK, and describes it as its "new way to collaborate and contribute to the Java ecosystem". The company has made available Microsoft Build of OpenJDK binaries for Java 11, which are based on OpenJDK source code. Microsoft says it is looking to broaden and deepen its support for Java, "one of the most important programming languages used today".

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Congress Says Foreign Intel Services Could Abuse Ad Networks For Spying

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 1:20pd
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A group of bipartisan lawmakers, including the chairman of the intelligence committee, have asked ad networks such as Google and Twitter what foreign companies they provide user data to, over concerns that foreign intelligence agencies could be leveraging them to harvest sensitive information on U.S. users, including their location. "This information would be a goldmine for foreign intelligence services that could exploit it to inform and supercharge hacking, blackmail, and influence campaigns," a letter signed by Senators Ron Wyden, Mark Warner, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Cassidy, reads. The lawmakers sent the letter last week to AT&T, Verizon, Google, Twitter, and a number of other companies that maintain advertisement platforms. The concerns center around the process of so-called real-time bidding, and the flow of "bidstream" data. Before an advertisement is displayed inside of an app or a browsing session, different companies bid to get their ad into that slot. As part of that process, participating companies obtain sensitive data on the user, even if they don't win the ad placement. "Few Americans realize that some auction participants are siphoning off and storing 'bidstream' data to compile exhaustive dossiers about them. In turn, these dossiers are being openly sold to anyone with a credit card, including to hedge funds, political campaigns, and even to governments," the letter continued. [...] The letter asked the ad companies to name the foreign-headquartered or foreign-majority owned firms that they have provided bidstream data from users in the U.S. to in the past three years. The other companies the lawmakers sent the letter to were Index Exchange, Magnite, OpenX, and PubMatic. Mark Tallman, assistant professor at the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, told Motherboard in an email that "It's difficult to imagine any policy solution or technical sorcery that can fully 'secure' consumers' private data such that applications and platforms can collect it, and the publishing and advertising industries can access it, while guaranteeing that cybercriminals and foreign intelligence agencies will never get it. Our adversaries already know that they can buy (or steal) data from our marketplace that they could only dream of collecting on such a broad swath of Americans twenty years ago."

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Bitcoin Mining Emissions In China Will Hit 130 Million Tons By 2024

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 12:40pd
According to researchers in Beijing, China, the total carbon footprint of bitcoin mining in the country will peak in 2024, releasing around 130 million metric tons of carbon. This figure exceeds the annual carbon emissions of countries including Italy and the Czech Republic. New Scientist reports: By 2024, bitcoin mining in China will require 297 terawatt-hours of energy and account for approximately 5.4 per cent of the carbon emissions from generating electricity in the country. The researchers predicted the emissions peak in China in 2024 based on calculations of when the overall cost of mining -- the investment in computing equipment and the electricity costs -- outweighs the financial rewards of selling mined bitcoin. They used both financial projections and carbon emissions analysis to model the emissions footprint in China, taking into account factors such as location. Bitcoin miners in Beijing or other parts of northern China are very likely to be using electricity from coal-powered plants. Mining in southern provinces -- especially Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan -- is in large part powered by hydroelectricity, says Guan. The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Google Open-Sources Lyra In Beta To Reduce Voice Call Bandwidth Usage

Slashdot - Mër, 07/04/2021 - 12:02pd
Google today open-sourced Lyra in beta, an audio codec that uses machine learning to produce high-quality voice calls. VentureBeat reports: The code and demo, which are available on GitHub, compress raw audio down to 3 kilobits per second for "quality that compares favorably to other codecs," Google says. Lyra's architecture is separated into two pieces, an encoder and decoder. When someone talks into their phone, the encoder captures distinctive attributes, called features, from their speech. Lyra extracts these features in 40-millisecond chunks and then compresses and sends them over the network. It's the decoder's job to convert the features back into an audio waveform that can be played out over the listener's phone. According to Google, Lyra's architecture is similar to traditional audio codecs, which form the backbone of internet communication. But while these traditional codecs are based on digital signal processing techniques, the key advantage for Lyra comes from the ability of its decoder to reconstruct a high-quality signal. Google believes there are a number of applications Lyra might be uniquely suited to, from archiving large amounts of speech and saving battery to alleviating network congestion in emergency situations.

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Google Now Supports Rust for Underlying Android OS Development

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 11:25md
For the past few years, Google has been encouraging developers to write Android apps with Kotlin. The underlying OS still uses C and C++, though Google today announced Android Open Source Project (AOSP) support for Rust. From a report: This is part of Google's work to address memory safety bugs in the operating system: "We invest a great deal of effort and resources into detecting, fixing, and mitigating this class of bugs, and these efforts are effective in preventing a large number of bugs from making it into Android releases. Yet in spite of these efforts, memory safety bugs continue to be a top contributor of stability issues, and consistently represent ~70% of Android's high severity security vulnerabilities." The company believes that memory-safe languages, like Rust, are the "most cost-effective means for preventing memory bugs" in the bootloader, fastboot, kernel, and other low-level parts of the OS. Unlike C and C++, where developers manage memory lifetime, Rust "provides memory safety guarantees by using a combination of compile-time checks to enforce object lifetime/ownership and runtime checks to ensure that memory accesses are valid." Google has been working to add this support to AOSP for the past 18 months. Performance is equivalent to the existing languages, while increasing the effectiveness of current sandboxing and reducing the overall need for it. This allows for "new features that are both safer and lighter on resources." Other improvements include data concurrency, a more expressive type system, and safer integer handling.

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DoorDash Drivers Game Algorithm To Increase Pay

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 10:45md
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Dave Levy and Nikos Kanelopoulos are trying to beat the algorithm. The two DoorDash drivers -- Dashers, as the company calls them -- are trying to persuade their peers to turn down the lowest-paying deliveries so the automated system for matching jobs with drivers will respond by raising pay rates. "Every app-based on-demand company's objective is to constantly shift profits from the driver back to the company," Levy says. "Our objective is the reverse of that." Their main tool is #DeclineNow, a 40,000-person online forum that provides a view into a type of labor activism tailored for the gig economy. While there's no reliable way to quantify its impact, #DeclineNow's members say they've already increased pay for workers across the country, including in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, where Levy and Kanelopoulos live. But the effort raises difficult questions about the nature of collective action, and there are reasons to doubt whether using a company's own software systems against it is a strategy that can prove effective for a sustained period of time. In October 2019 they launched the #DeclineNow Facebook group. They urge members to reject any delivery that doesn't pay at least $7, more than double the current floor of $3. [...] On #DeclineNow, low acceptance rates are a badge of honor. Levy rejects about 99% of the jobs he's offered, rapidly declining low-paying jobs to find enough lucrative ones to keep him busy. #DeclineNow's strategy of selectively declining orders is well-known among DoorDash workers -- and not universally accepted. Some question the strict minimum fee rule, citing regional price differences. Others find #DeclineNow to be mean-spirited and toxic, a place where people try to ridicule and bully others into going along with their plan. [...] #DeclineNow has little patience for such naysayers. Users who question the $7 minimum rule are punished with suspension from the group or, as the group's moderators like to put it, "a trip to the dungeon." In a statement, DoorDash said drivers are always free to reject orders but added that coordinated declining slows down the delivery process. The company encourages workers to accept at least 70% of deliveries offered, which awards them with "Top Dasher" status.

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Cosmic Rays Causing 30,000 Network Malfunctions in Japan Each Year

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 10:03md
Cosmic rays are causing an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 malfunctions in domestic network communication devices in Japan every year, a Japanese telecom giant found recently. From a report: Most so-called "soft errors," or temporary malfunctions, in the network hardware of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. are automatically corrected via safety devices, but experts said in some cases they may have led to disruptions. It is the first time the actual scale of soft errors in domestic information infrastructures has become evident. Soft errors occur when the data in an electronic device is corrupted after neutrons, produced when cosmic rays hit oxygen and nitrogen in the earth's atmosphere, collide with the semiconductors within the equipment. Cases of soft errors have increased as electronic devices with small and high-performance semiconductors have become more common. Temporary malfunctions have sometimes led to computers and phones freezing, and have been regarded as the cause of some plane accidents abroad. Masanori Hashimoto, professor at Osaka University's Graduate School of Information Science and Technology and an expert in soft errors, said the malfunctions have actually affected other network communication devices and electrical machineries at factories in and outside Japan.

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Intel Launches First 10nm 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable Processors For Data Centers

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 9:25md
MojoKid writes: Intel just officially launched its first server products built on its advanced 10nm manufacturing process node, the 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable family of processors. 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors are based on the 10nm Ice Lake-SP microarchitecture, which incorporates a number of new features and enhancements. Core counts have been significantly increased with this generation, and now offer up to 40 cores / 80 threads per socket versus 28 cores / 56 threads in Intel's previous-gen offerings. The 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor platform also supports up to 8 channels of DDR4-3200 memory, up to 6 terabytes of total memory, and up to 64 lanes of PCIe Gen4 connectivity per socket, for more bandwidth, higher capacity, and copious IO. New AI, security and cryptographic capabilities arrive with the platform as well. Across Cloud, HPC, 5G, IoT, and AI workloads, new 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable processors are claimed to offer significant uplifts across the board versus their previous-gen counterparts. And versus rival AMD's EPYC platform, Intel is also claiming many victories, specifically when AVX-512, new crypto instructions, or DL Boost are added to the equation. Core counts in the line-up range from 8 — 40 cores per processor and TDPs vary depending on the maximum base and boost frequencies and core count / configuration (up to a 270W TDP). Intel is currently shipping 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable CPUs to key customers now, with over 200K chips in Q1 this year and a steady ramp-up to follow.

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Signal Tests Payments Feature To Let Users Send Cryptocurrency

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 8:44md
Signal announced on Tuesday it's now testing a new peer-to-peer payments system in the beta version of its apps. From a report: Appropriately called Signal Payments, the new feature right now supports only one protocol: the MobileCoin wallet and its companion cryptocurrency MOB. MobileCoin has a close relationship with Signal co-founder and CEO Moxie Marlinspike, who advised the company prior to its most recent round of funding announced last month. "The first payments protocol we've added support for is a privacy focused payments network called MobileCoin, which has its own currency, MOB," wrote Jun Harada, Signal's head of growth and communication, in a blog post. "As always, our goal is to keep your data in your hands rather than ours; MobileCoin's design means Signal does not have access to your balance, full transaction history, or funds. You can also transfer your funds at any time if you want to switch to another app or service."

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Uber May Stop Letting Drivers See Destinations and Name Prices

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 8:05md
An anonymous reader shares a report: A year ago, Uber let its California drivers see ride destinations before picking up passengers and let them set pricing in an effort to prove that the drivers were truly independent contractors. It was part of the company's strategy to block drivers from being reclassified as employees under AB5, California's gig-work law. Now, Uber is acknowledging that the move has hurt business and is considering axing its visible destinations and price-naming policies, The Chronicle has learned. The see-saw may disappoint drivers who appreciated that extra control over their work. Too many drivers cherry-pick lucrative rides and decline other requests, making the service unreliable, the San Francisco company said on Monday. Uber no longer has to worry about proving that drivers are independent contractors, because Prop 22 -- the November ballot measure that Uber and fellow gig companies spent $220 million to pass -- enshrines their non-employee status.

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European Institutions Were Targeted in a Cyber-Attack Last Week

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 7:25md
A range of European Union institutions including the European Commission were hit by a significant cyber-attack last week. From a report: A spokesperson for the commission said that a number of EU bodies "experienced an IT security incident in their IT infrastructure." The spokesperson said forensic analysis of the incident is still in its initial phase and that it's too early to provide any conclusive information about the nature of the attack. "We are working closely with CERT-EU, the Computer Emergency Response Team for all EU institutions, bodies and agencies and the vendor of the affected IT solution," the spokesperson said. "Thus far, no major information breach was detected." The attack was serious enough for senior officials at the commission to be alerted, according to a person familiar with the matter. The same person said the incident was bigger than the usual attacks that regularly hit the EU. Another EU official said that staff had recently been warned about potential phishing attempts. Western institutions have uncovered at least two serious cyber-attacks recently.

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Microsoft is Now Submerging Servers Into Liquid Baths

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 6:55md
Microsoft is starting to submerge its servers in liquid to improve their performance and energy efficiency. A rack of servers is now being used for production loads in what looks like a liquid bath. From a report: This immersion process has existed in the industry for a few years now, but Microsoft claims it's "the first cloud provider that is running two-phase immersion cooling in a production environment." The cooling works by completely submerging server racks in a specially designed non-conductive fluid. The fluorocarbon-based liquid works by removing heat as it directly hits components and the fluid reaches a lower boiling point (122 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 degrees Celsius) to condense and fall back into the bath as a raining liquid. This creates a closed-loop cooling system, reducing costs as no energy is needed to move the liquid around the tank, and no chiller is needed for the condenser either. "It's essentially a bath tub," explains Christian Belady, vice president of Microsoft's data center advanced development group, in an interview with The Verge. "The rack will lie down inside that bath tub, and what you'll see is boiling just like you'd see boiling in your pot. The boiling in your pot is at 100 degrees Celsius, and in this case it's at 50 degrees Celsius."

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China Creates Its Own Digital Currency, a First for Major Economy

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 6:05md
A thousand years ago, when money meant coins, China invented paper currency. Now the Chinese government is minting cash digitally, in a re-imagination of money that could shake a pillar of American power. From a report: It might seem money is already virtual, as credit cards and payment apps such as Apple Pay in the U.S. and WeChat in China eliminate the need for bills or coins. But those are just ways to move money electronically. China is turning legal tender itself into computer code. Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have foreshadowed a potential digital future for money, though they exist outside the traditional global financial system and aren't legal tender like cash issued by governments. China's version of a digital currency is controlled by its central bank, which will issue the new electronic money. It is expected to give China's government vast new tools to monitor both its economy and its people. By design, the digital yuan will negate one of bitcoin's major draws: anonymity for the user. Beijing is also positioning the digital yuan for international use and designing it to be untethered to the global financial system, where the U.S. dollar has been king since World War II. China is embracing digitization in many forms, including money, in a bid to gain more centralized control while getting a head start on technologies of the future that it regards as up for grabs. "In order to protect our currency sovereignty and legal currency status, we have to plan ahead," said Mu Changchun, who is shepherding the project at the People's Bank of China. Digitized money could reorder the fundamentals of finance the way Amazon.com disrupted retailing and Uber rattled taxi systems. That an authoritarian state and U.S. rival has taken the lead to introduce a national digital currency is propelling what was once a wonky topic for cryptocurrency theorists into a point of anxiety in Washington. Asked in recent weeks how digitized national currencies such as China's might affect the dollar, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have said the issue is being studied in earnest, including whether a digital dollar makes sense someday.

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Amazon Is the Target of Small-Business Antitrust Campaign

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 5:29md
Merchant groups are forming a national coalition to campaign for stricter antitrust laws, including measures they hope could force Amazon.com to spin off some of its business lines. From a report: The effort is being launched Tuesday by trade groups that represent small hardware stores, office suppliers, booksellers, grocers and others, along with business groups from 12 cities, organizers say. Merchants plan to push their congressional representatives for stricter antitrust laws and tougher enforcement of existing ones. The groups, which collectively represent thousands of businesses, want federal legislation that would prevent the owner of a dominant online marketplace from selling its own products in competition with other sellers, a policy that could effectively separate Amazon's retail product business from its online marketplace. Members of the House Antitrust Subcommittee are considering legislation along those lines as they weigh changes to U.S. antitrust law, though no bill has yet been introduced. The merchant groups also want tougher enforcement of competition laws and legal changes that would make it easier for the government to win antitrust lawsuits against big companies.

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E3 2021 Announced as 'Reimagined, All-Virtual' Event Coming in June

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 4:45md
E3 will return in 2021 as a "reimagined, all-virtual" event, organizers announced Tuesday. E3 2021 will take place June 12-15, and will feature content from Nintendo, Xbox, Capcom, Konami, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Games, and Koch Media, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said in a news release. From a report: Game developers and publishers will showcase their games at E3 2021 "directly to fans around the world," the ESA said. E3 2021 content will be free to access, thanks to unannounced global media partners. "We are evolving this year's E3 into a more inclusive event, but will still look to excite the fans with major reveals and insider opportunities that make this event the indispensable center stage for video games," said Stanley Pierre-Louis, president and CEO of the ESA. While this year's E3 will be virtual, organizers say they are planning for an in-person E3 2022.

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Why Shortages of a $1 Chip Sparked Crisis in Global Economy

Slashdot - Mar, 06/04/2021 - 4:00md
To understand why the $450 billion semiconductor industry has lurched into crisis, a helpful place to start is a one-dollar part called a display driver. From a report: Hundreds of different kinds of chips make up the global silicon industry, with the flashiest ones from Qualcomm and Intel going for $100 apiece to more than $1,000. Those run powerful computers or the shiny smartphone in your pocket. A display driver chip is mundane by contrast: Its sole purpose is to convey basic instructions for illuminating the screen on your phone, monitor or navigation system. The trouble for the chip industry -- and increasingly companies beyond tech, like automakers -- is that there aren't enough display drivers to go around. Firms that make them can't keep up with surging demand so prices are spiking. That's contributing to short supplies and increasing costs for liquid crystal display panels, essential components for making televisions and laptops, as well as cars, airplanes and high-end refrigerators. "It's not like you can just make do. If you have everything else, but you don't have a display driver, then you can't build your product," says Stacy Rasgon, who covers the semiconductor industry for Sanford C. Bernstein. Now the crunch in a handful of such seemingly insignificant parts -- power management chips are also in short supply, for example -- is cascading through the global economy. Automakers like Ford Motor, Nissan Motor and Volkswagen have already scaled back production, leading to estimates for more than $60 billion in lost revenue for the industry this year. The situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.

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