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.
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."
The Media

Walt Mossberg's Last Column Calls For Privacy and Security Laws (recode.net) 86

70-year-old Walt Mossberg wrote his last weekly column Thursday, looking back on how "we've all had a hell of a ride for the last few decades" and revisiting his famous 1991 pronouncement that "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault." Not only were the interfaces confusing, but most tech products demanded frequent tweaking and fixing of a type that required more technical skill than most people had, or cared to acquire. The whole field was new, and engineers weren't designing products for normal people who had other talents and interests. But, over time, the products have gotten more reliable and easier to use, and the users more sophisticated... So, now, I'd say: "Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it's not, it's not your fault." The devices we've come to rely on, like PCs and phones, aren't new anymore. They're refined, built with regular users in mind, and they get better each year. Anything really new is still too close to the engineers to be simple or reliable.
He argues we're now in a strange lull before entering an unrecognizable world where major new breakthroughs in areas like A.I., robotics, smart homes, and augmented reality lead to "ambient computing", where technology itself fades into the background. And he uses his final weekly column to warn that "if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it's time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws."
United States

Leaked 'Standing Rock' Documents Reveal Invasive Counterterrorism Measures (theintercept.com) 236

An anonymous reader writes: "A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures," reports The Intercept, decrying "the fusion of public and private intelligence operations." Saying the private firm started as a war-on-terror contractor for the U.S. military and State Department, the site details "sweeping and invasive" surveillance of protesters, citing over 100 documents leaked by one of the firm's contractors.

The documents show TigerSwan even havested information about the protesters from social media, and "provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles... The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan's militaristic approach to protecting its client's interests but also the company's profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures... Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as 'an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component' and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters."

The Intercept reports that recently "the company's role has expanded to include the surveillance of activist networks marginally related to the pipeline, with TigerSwan agents monitoring 'anti-Trump' protests from Chicago to Washington, D.C., as well as warning its client of growing dissent around other pipelines across the country." They also report that TigerSwan "has operated without a license in North Dakota for the entirety of the pipeline security operation."
Android

Malicious Apps Brought Ad-Clicking 'Judy' Malware To Millions Of Android Phones (fortune.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: The security firm Checkpoint on Thursday uncovered dozens of Android applications that infected users' devices with malicious ad-click software. In at least one case, an app bearing the malware was available through the Google Play app store for more than a year. While the actual extent of the malicious code's spread is unknown, Checkpoint says it may have reached as many as 36.5 million users, making it potentially the most widely-spread malware yet found on Google Play... The nefarious nature of the programs went unnoticed in large part, according to Checkpoint, because its malware payload was downloaded from a non-Google server after the programs were installed. The code would then use the infected phone to click on Google ads, generating fraudulent revenue for the attacker.
Networking

New Privacy Vulnerability In IOT Devices: Traffic Rate Metadata (helpnetsecurity.com) 21

Orome1 quotes Help Net Security: Even though many IoT devices for smart homes encrypt their traffic, a passive network observer -- e.g. an ISP, or a neighborhood WiFi eavesdropper -- can infer consumer behavior and sensitive details about users from IoT device-associated traffic rate metadata. A group of researchers from the Computer Science Department of Princeton University have proven this fact by setting up smart home laboratory with a passive network tap, and examining the traffic rates of four IoT smart home devices: a Sense sleep monitor, a Nest Cam Indoor security camera, a WeMo smart outlet, and an Amazon Echo smart speaker... "Once an adversary identifies packet streams for a particular device, one or more of the streams are likely to encode device state. Simply plotting send/receive rates of the streams revealed potentially private user interactions for each device we tested," the researchers noted. [PDF]
In addition, the article notes, "Separating recorded network traffic into packet streams and associating each stream with an IoT device is not that hard."
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."
Chrome

Even For Businesses, Chrome Is The Top Browser (computerworld.com) 94

An anonymous reader shares Computerworld's interview with David Michael Smith of Gartner. "Most enterprises still have a 'standard' browser, and most of the time, that's something from Microsoft. These days it's IE11. But we've found that people actually use Chrome more than IE... It's the most-used browser in enterprise," he said... IE retains a sizable share -- Smith called it "a significant presence" -- largely because it's still required in most companies. "There are a lot of [enterprise] applications that only work in IE, because [those apps] use plug-ins," Smith said, ticking off examples like Adobe Flash, Java and Microsoft's own Silverlight. "Anything that requires an ActiveX control needs IE."

Many businesses have adopted the two-prong strategy that Gartner and others began recommending years ago: Keep a "legacy" browser to handle older sites, services and web apps, but offer another for everything else... Chrome, said Smith, is now the "overwhelming choice" as the modern enterprise browser... Smith wasn't optimistic that Edge would supplant Chrome, even when Windows 10 is widely deployed on corporate computers in the next few years. "Edge certainly will have opportunities" once Windows 10 is the enterprise-standard OS, "but I would say that Chrome has a lot of momentum, largely for the fact that it is so popular on the internet."

While a year ago Chrome and Microsoft's browsers both held 41% of the browser market share, now Chrome holds 59% to just 24% for both IE and Edge combined.
Iphone

Working Theory In Jet Crash: IPhone In Cockpit Is To Blame (appleinsider.com) 145

Apple Insider reports: Apple on Friday said that it's open to cooperation with French authorities, who are exploring the possibility that two of the company's devices were linked to the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 in 2016. The flight's first officer may have plugged an iPhone 6s and an iPad mini 4 into the wrong socket in the jet's cockpit, French officials told Le Parisien. That may have triggered runaway heat, in turn sparking a fire.

At the moment, the investigation is being helped by an engineer from the French National Center for Scientific Research, as well as two people fron the French defense ministry, including a physics professor and an engineer specializing in batteries. Results from the investigation should be submitted by Sept. 30. Apple told the Parisien that it wasn't aware of evidence linking its devices to the EgyptAir disaster.

AI

Google Go-Playing A.I. Retires To Focus On Energy Conservation And Medicine (engadget.com) 122

After "narrowly" beating the world's top Go player, what's left for Google's AlphaGo AI? Engadget reports: Now that it has nothing left to prove, the AI is hanging up its boots and leaving the world of competitive Go behind. AlphaGo's developers from Google-owned DeepMind will now focus on creating advanced general algorithms to help scientists find elusive cures for diseases, conjure up a way to dramatically reduce energy consumption and invent new revolutionary materials. Before they leave Go behind completely, though, they plan to publish one more paper later this year to reveal how they tweaked the AI to prepare it for the matches against Ke Jie. They're also developing a tool that would show how AlphaGo would respond to a particular situation on the Go board with help from the world's number one player. While you'll have to wait a while for those two, you'll soon be able to watch 50 games AlphaGo played against itself when it was training
The first ten games that AlphaGo played against itself are already online. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, described them as "Like nothing I've ever seen before -- they're how I imagine games from far in the future." Google announced that this week's competition "has been the highest possible pinnacle for AlphaGo as a competitive program. For that reason, the Future of Go Summit is our final match event with AlphaGo... We hope that the story of AlphaGo is just the beginning."
Microsoft

Security Analyst Concludes Windows 10 Enterprise 'Tracks Too Much' (xato.net) 267

A viral Twitter rant about Windows 10 Enterprise supposedly ignoring users' privacy settings has since been clarified. "I made mistakes on my original testing and therefore saw more connections than I should have," writes IT security analyst Mark Burnett, "including some to Google ads." But his qualified results -- quoted below -- are still critical of Microsoft:
  • You can cut back even more using the Windows Restricted Traffic Limited Functionality Baseline but break many things.
  • Settings can be set wrong if you aren't paying attention. Also, settings are not consistent and can be confusing to beginners.
  • You are opted-in to just about everything by default and have to set hundreds of settings to opt out, even on an Enterprise Windows system. Sometimes multiple settings for the same feature. Most Microsoft documentation discourages opting out and warns of a less optimal experience... But you can't completely opt-out. Windows still tracks too much.
  • Home and Professional users are much worse off due to limitations of some settings and lack of an IT staff... I'm not saying ditch Windows. I'm saying let's fix this. If we can't fix it, then we ditch Windows.

Opera

Opera Says Their iOS Updates Are Still Coming - Just Slowly (twitter.com) 36

Slashdot reader BrianFagioli has posted an update about his communication with Opera over their plans for iOS. They'd originally tweeted Thursday that "at this moment we don't have a team working on IOS which is why we haven't released any updates." But Friday they clarified that "It does not mean we give up development on iOS. It's just that now our resources are on Android." They reiterated that point in an email. We would like to clarify that Opera does not abandon iOS... We plan to keep developing it as Opera Min[i] provides unique features that other browsers do not have, such as data saving for both webpages and video, ad-blocking, built-in newsfeed etc. And people love using it. As most of the engineering resources are now on Android, our update on iOS is slow at this moment. Please bear with us and do stay tune for our next updates.
The tweet Friday also emphasized that "We will update iOS for sure."
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.
Transportation

IT Crash Causes British Airways To Cancel All Flights (cnbc.com) 209

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend. The airline said it was suffering a "major IT systems failure" around the world. Chief executive Alex Cruz said "we believe the root cause was a power-supply issue and we have no evidence of any cyberattack." He said the crash had affected "all of our check-in and operational systems." BA operates hundreds of flights from the two London airports on a typical day -- and both are major hubs for worldwide travel. Several hours after problems began cropping up Saturday morning, BA suspended flights up to 6 p.m. because the two airports had become severely congested. The airline later scrapped flights from Heathrow and Gatwick for the rest of the day.
Open Source

Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released (alpinelinux.org) 59

An anonymous reader quotes DistroWatch: Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 3.6.0. Alpine Linux is an independent, minimal operating system that is well suited to running servers, routers and firewalls. Version 3.6.0 introduces support for 64-bit POWER machines, 64-bit IBM z Systems computers and features many up to date packages, including PHP 7.1, LLVM 4.0 and version 6.3 of the GNU Compiler.
"Noteworthy new packages" include Rust 1.17.0 and Cargo 0.18.0, as well as Julia 0.5.2, as we ll as "significant updates" like Go 1.8, Python 3.6, and Ruby 2.4. And in addition, "MD5 and SHA-1 hashes have been removed from APKBUILDs, being obsoleted by SHA-512."

Slashdot Top Deals