AI

Is China Outsmarting America in AI? (nytimes.com) 3

An anonymous reader shares an NYTimes article: Beijing is backing its artificial intelligence push with vast sums of money. Having already spent billions on research programs, China is readying a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund moonshot projects, start-ups and academic research, all with the aim of growing China's A.I. capabilities, according to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan. China's private companies are pushing deeply into the field as well, though the line between government and private in China sometimes blurs. Baidu -- often called the Google of China and a pioneer in artificial-intelligence-related fields, like speech recognition -- this year opened a joint company-government laboratory partly run by academics who once worked on research into Chinese military robots. China is spending more just as the United States cuts back. This past week, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that would slash funding for a variety of government agencies that have traditionally backed artificial intelligence research.
AI

ARM's New Processors Are Designed To Power the Machine-Learning Machines (theverge.com) 3

An anonymous reader shares an article: Official today, the ARM Cortex-A75 is the new flagship-tier mobile processor design, with a claimed 22 percent improvement in performance over the incumbent A73. It's joined by the new Cortex-A55, which has the highest power efficiency of any mid-range CPU ARM's ever designed, and the Mali-G72 graphics processor, which also comes with a 25 percent improvement in efficiency relative to its predecessor G71. The efficiency improvements are evolutionary and predictable, but the revolutionary aspects of this new lineup relate to artificial intelligence: this is the first set of processing components designed specifically to tackle the challenges of onboard AI and machine learning. Plus, last year's updates to improve performance in the power-hugry tasks of augmented and virtual reality are being extended and elaborated. [...] ARM won't just be powering machine learning with its new chips, it'll benefit from ML too. The new designs benefit from an improved branch predictor that uses neural network algorithms to improve data prefetching and overall performance.
Businesses

India Tech Giant Warns Trump's 'Radical Shift' to Hurt Industry (bloomberg.com) 106

The vice chairman at Tech Mahindra, one of India's largest technology services companies warned that U.S. President Donald Trump's visa policies will damage the industry as his company reported weak earnings and his stock fell the most in almost two years. From a report: Tech Mahindra said net income was 5.9 billion rupees ($91 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with the average analyst estimate of 7.8 billion, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. is tightening the criteria for visa programs that Tech Mahindra and other outsourcing companies use to bring skilled foreign workers into the country. Trump and other politicians have criticized the programs for hurting American workers and allowing companies to use cheaper employees from abroad. Tech services companies, including Cognizant Technology Solutions, have been cutting positions in India. Some workers have blamed Trump for prompting the job losses and exacerbating problems in the industry.
Businesses

Apple Co-founder Thinks Apple Is Now Too Big a Company To Come Up With the Next Big Thing (9to5mac.com) 91

When it comes to the next great tech breakthroughs, Steve Wozniak isn't betting on the company he founded. Instead, he believes Tesla is at the forefront of anticipating the world to come. From a report: Interviewed by Bloomberg on what are likely to be the biggest tech breakthroughs in the coming years, and which companies are likely to make them, Woz didn't list Apple as a contender. He said, "look at the companies like Google and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft that changed the world -- and Tesla included. They usually came from young people. They didn't spring out of big businesses." Small businesses, he argued, take bigger risks -- and their founders create the products they really want, without the dilution that occurs with multiple decision-makers. "I think Tesla is on the best direction right now. They've put an awful lot of effort into very risky things. I'm going to bet on Tesla," he added.
United Kingdom

UK Tech Visas Quadruple After Applications Soar (telegraph.co.uk) 48

James Timcomb, writing for The Telegraph: Technology industry demands for special measures to let companies hire foreign workers after Brexit have been boosted by a surge in demand for technology visas. Tech City UK, the government organisation that processes applications for the dedicated "Tier 1 Exceptional Talent" visa, said successful applications had more than quadrupled in the last 12 months, with 260 endorsed in the last fiscal year. It follows fears in the British tech community that access to skilled computer coders would be hit by restrictions to freedom of movement when the UK leaves the EU. David Cameron introduced the tech visa scheme in 2014 in a bid to make London the technology capital of Europe and rival Silicon Valley as a destination for start-ups, and amid fears of a shortage of skilled coders in the UK. The "Tech Nation" visa scheme allows Tech City UK to endorse applications from non-EU workers, and lets successful applicants stay in the country for five years, after which they can apply to settle. Just a handful of visas were granted in its first few months, due to what were seen as onerous requirements, and the rules were relaxed in 2015. Applications have soared since then, and rose again after the Brexit vote.
Businesses

Asus Goes Big On Slim Laptops at Computex (cnet.com) 30

At Computex, Asus announced a range of new laptops. From a report: The new ZenBook Pro takes center stage, featuring powerful hardware in a slim form factor -- an Intel Core i7-7700HQ as well as a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, while the world's thinnest convertible ZenBook Flip S lets you play around with its 4K display. But it's not all just flagship products, Asus also announced new VivoBooks meant for the mainstream market. The new VivoBook Pro packs Intel's seventh-generation processors and comes loaded with discrete graphics in the form of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050. The VivoBook S15 features more modest specs but still packs Nvidia GeForce GTX 940 discrete graphics. You can real the full-specifications of aforementioned laptops here.
Transportation

British Airways CEO Won't Resign, Says Outsourcing Not To Blame For IT Failure (bbc.com) 126

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz insisted he would not resign on Monday as he sought to draw a line under three days of chaos at the UK flag carrier after IT problems left tens of thousands of passenger stranded. In an interview -- the first since a global computer outage all but shut the airline down -- Cruz said he doesn't think "it would make much of use for me to resign." Separately, he also denied an outsourcing deal was to blame for the IT problems that hit on Saturday, causing the airline to cancel almost all its services over the weekend. From a report: A leaked staff email revealed Mr Cruz had told staff not to comment on the system failure. When asked about the email he told the BBC the tone was clear: "Stop moaning and come and help us." The airline is now close to full operational capacity after the problems resulted in mass flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick over the bank holiday weekend. Questions remain about how a power problem could have had such impact, said the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. One theory was that returning systems were unusable as the data had become unsynchronised. [...] Cruz told the BBC a power surge, had "only lasted a few minutes," but the back-up system had not worked properly. He said the IT failure was not due to technical staff being outsourced from the UK to India.
Transportation

US Might Ban Laptops On All Flights Into And Out of the Country (reuters.com) 310

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday. From a report:In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Kelly said the United States planned to "raise the bar" on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items. "That's the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of U.S. people." In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey. Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called "a real sophisticated threat." He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban. "We are still following the intelligence," he said, "and are in the process of defining this, but we're going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now."
Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 143

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership.

Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value.

In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."
Transportation

New Details On Sergey Brin's Plan For The World's Largest Aircraft (theguardian.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares The Guardian's report on plans for a new aircraft that's two-and-a-half times the size of a 747. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. "It's going to be massive on a grand scale," said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters [656 feet] long... Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental "air yacht" for Brin's friends and family.

One source put the project's price tag at $100m to $150m. Igor Pasternak, an airship designer who was involved in the early stages of the project, believes airships could be as revolutionary for the trillion-dollar global cargo market as the internet was for communications. "Sergey is pretty innovative and forward looking," he said. "Trucks are only as good as your roads, trains can only go where you have rails, and planes need airports. Airships can deliver from point A to point Z without stopping anywhere in between."

The Guardian quips that while Brin's plans may stay secret for a while, "the good news is that the first flight test of such an enormous aircraft will be impossible to hide."
Books

Creative Commons Staff Members Release New Free eBook (creativecommons.org) 30

ChristianVillum writes: Creative Commons staff-members Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have now published Made With Creative Commons, the awaited book they successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2015. "Made With Creative Commons is a book about sharing," explains the book's description. "It is about sharing textbooks, music, data, art, and more. People, organizations, and businesses all over the world are sharing their work using Creative Commons licenses because they want to encourage the public to reuse their works, to copy them, to modify them... But if they are giving their work away to the public for free, how do they make money?

"This is the question this book sets out to answer. There are 24 in-depth examples of different ways to sustain what you do when you share your work. And there are lessons, about how to make money but also about what sharing really looks like -- why we do it and what it can bring to the economy and the world. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share."

There's free versions in PDF, ePub, and MOBI formats for downloading from the Creative Commons site, and there's also an edit-able version on Google Docs. A small Danish non-profit publisher named Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books is also publishing print copies of the book under a Creative Commons license "to ensure easy sharing," and is making the book available on Amazon or through the publisher's own web site.
Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 59

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Space

New Zealand Joins Space Race With Successful Launch Of Lightweight 'Electron' Rocket (nzherald.co.nz) 47

"Rocket Lab: We have lift-off!" wrote long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills on Wednesday. "History made as Electron launches successfully from Mahia." The New Zealand Herald reports: Rocket Lab engineers have started analyzing data from yesterday's historic launch from the Mahia Peninsula that took the company to space but not able to complete its orbital mission. Lift-off at 4.20 pm was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world. New Zealand became the 11th country with potential to launch cargo into space, joining superpowers and tech heavyweights. The Government hailed the lift-off as a major milestone for the country's space industry...

"We didn't quite reach orbit and we'll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program," said founder and chief executive Peter Beck.

Beck added they'd developed their rocket "from scratch" in under four years, and the company's official Twitter feed is now proudly tweeting photos and videos from the launch.
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 400

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Businesses

Comcast Customer Satisfaction Drops 6% After TV Price Hikes, ACSI Says (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 139

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
Businesses

Music Streaming Service Tidal Loses Third CEO In Two Years (cnet.com) 19

An anonymous reader shares an article: The music-streaming service Tidal is saying goodbye to yet another CEO. Jefffrey Toig, who became the company's CEO in December 2015, is leaving the company. This would make him the third CEO leaving Tidal after two years, following the departure of Andy Chen and Peter Tonstad. In a statement to CNET, Tidal said that it will announce a new CEO in the coming weeks. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but its bet doesn't seem to be making any splashes. On top of that, the company was accused in January of lying about its 3-million subscriber-base. They were accused of creating fake accounts.
Businesses

80% of Millennials Say They Want To Buy a Home -- But Most Have Less Than $1,000 (cnbc.com) 573

An anonymous reader writes: Millennials aren't buying homes in the same numbers as previous and older generations, but it's not because they don't want to. The vast majority of millennials do indeed aim to buy someday, or would even like to now if they could. Unfortunately, the numbers don't look good. New data from Apartment List shows that, although 80 percent of millennials would like to purchase real estate, very few are in a good position to buy, largely because they have nothing saved. According to the report, '68 percent of millennials said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. Almost half, or 44 percent, of millennials said they have not saved anything for a down payment.'
Businesses

The Gig Economy Workforce Will Double In Four Years (recode.net) 64

The number of workers in the so-called gig economy will grow substantially in the coming years, according to a study by Intuit and Emergent Research. By 2021, the study finds, 9.2 million people are going to be working the frontline jobs at companies like Uber and Lyft. That number is projected to be 4.8 million this year. From a report: The rise in on-demand workers has been fueled largely by startups like Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb. It has also helped companies like Intuit, which makes tax software QuickBooks and TurboTax. The company's stock surged to an all-time high yesterday thanks to the gig economy. For context, there are currently more gig workers than people employed in the entire information sector (which includes publishing, telecommunication and data processing jobs) and IT services combined, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also read: A recent piece on The New Yorker which talks about the lengths to which people are willing to go to survive in such jobs -- a horrifying culture that is often celebrated in those companies.

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