Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 103

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."
Microsoft

Security Analyst Concludes Windows 10 Enterprise 'Tracks Too Much' (xato.net) 251

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) 33

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."
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) 45

"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.
The Almighty Buck

With Nothing Left To Sell, RadioShack Is Selling Itself To People (theverge.com) 218

RadioShack, an almost 100-year-old American chain of wireless and electronics stores, had a hell of ride at retail. The cradle of building your own electronics at home, and an early participant in the PC revolution, is finally facing the end after a long, slow death at the hands of consumer disinterest, a dysfunctional marriage with Sprint. From a report: Tons of electronics stores have shuttered over the past decade, but few are as tragic as RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015, appeared to be rescued by Sprint in agreement to co-share the stores, then got kicked to the curb and had to file for a second bankruptcy this past March. The new agreement means hundreds of RadioShack shops will officially close down and be replaced by Sprint stores, fizzling out dreams of the Maker movement. So while this is an end to another chapter of our American electronics retail culture, we do have to wonder: how are the folks at RadioShack doing? They have been selling the leftover stocks of electronics for a while, with only mostly store fixtures, ladders, and carpet tiles seemingly left on offer. This is what RadioShack posted earlier this month. The company has since been tweeting about the leftover stuff it has up on sale, though.
AI

Google AI AlphaGo Wins Again, Leaves Humans In the Dust (cnet.com) 134

Google's AlphaGo has defeated the world's best Go player in the second out of three games, scoring an overall win for the artificial intelligence algorithm in the fiendishly complex board game. CNET adds: The human gave it his all. "Incredible," wrote DeepMind founder and CEO Demis Hassabis on Twitter while the match was underway. "According to AlphaGo evaluations Ke Jie is playing perfectly at the moment." The match took place over a year after AlphaGo bested Lee Sedol, one of the world's top Go players, in four out of five matches in March 2016. It also beat European champion Fan Hui 5-0 in October 2015. The match was being played in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. The government, however, isn't a big fan of letting its citizens know about the battle and has censored all the livestreams in the country.
The Courts

PayPal Sues Pandora Over 'Patently Unlawful' Logo (billboard.com) 136

PayPal has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Pandora, arguing that the company's minimalist logo "dilutes the distinctiveness" of its own branding. "Element by element and in overall impression, the similarities between the logos are striking, obvious, and patently unlawful," the lawsuit alleges. Billboard reports: In October 2016, Pandora announced it was redesigning its logo from a thin, serifed "P" into the chunky, sans serifed "P" that it is today. The color scheme was also changed from midnight blue to a softer shade of blue. By comparison, PayPal's logo, active since 2014, also features a minimalist-looking "P" in a sans serif font and sporting a blue color palette. PayPal's mark actually consists of two overlapping and slanted "Ps," whereas Pandora keeps it to one. Both P's lack a hole. It is because of these similarities that PayPal believes customers of both companies are unable to distinguish the two, and that many are complaining about inadvertently opening Pandora instead of PayPal on their smartphones. The lawsuit includes various screen grabs, primarily from Twitter, of people noting the similarities. PayPal's lawsuit also points out Pandora's current struggles as a brand, saying that since it is primarily an ad-supported service, it "has no obvious path to profitability," especially given "overwhelming competition" from the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. The suit alleges that Pandora purposely "latched itself on to the increasingly popular" PayPal logo look-and-feel as part of its efforts to reverse its fortunes.
AI

How AI Can Infer Human Emotions (oreilly.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion...

Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed.

They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.
United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 469

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
Windows

Almost All WannaCry Victims Were Running Windows 7 (theverge.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: According to data released today by Kaspersky Lab, roughly 98 percent of the computers affected by the ransomware were running some version of Windows 7, with less than one in a thousand running Windows XP. 2008 R2 Server clients were also hit hard, making up just over 1 percent of infections. Windows 7 is still by far the most common version of Windows, running on roughly four times as many computers as Windows 10 worldwide. Since more recent versions of Windows aren't vulnerable to WannaCry, it makes sense that most of the infections would hit computers running 7. Still, the stark disparity emphasizes how small of a role Windows XP seems to have played in spreading the infection, despite early concerns about the outdated operating system. The new figures also bear on the debate over Microsoft's patching practices, which generated significant criticism in the wake of the attack. Microsoft had released a public patch for Windows 7 months before the attack, but the patch for Windows XP was only released as an emergency measure after the worst of the damage had been done. The patch was available earlier to paying Custom Support customers, but most XP users were left vulnerable, each unpatched computer a potential vector to spread the ransomware further. Still, Kaspersky's figures suggest that unpatched XP devices played a relatively small role in the spread of the ransomware.
Twitter

A Bug in Twitter's Old Vine App May Have Exposed Your Email (cnet.com) 6

An anonymous reader shares a report: If you had a Vine account, there's an alert you may want to know about. The video app, which Twitter bought in 2012 and shut down last year after its six-second videos failed to take off, sent out emails to some users Friday alerting them to a vulnerability in its service. Yeah, that's right, Vine is dead, but your account may have been compromised anyway. Apparently, the "bug" potentially exposed email addresses to hackers or other "third parties under certain circumstances." The vulnerability apparently existed for less than 24 hours, or 14,400 Vine videos. "We take these incidents very seriously, and we're sorry this occurred," Vine wrote in its email. It also said the information exposed could not be used to access accounts, and there were no indications any of the data had been misused.
Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (theguardian.com) 120

Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
Government

Justice Department Appoints Former FBI Director Robert Mueller As Special Counsel For Russia Investigation (thehill.com) 606

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: The Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russia's involvement in the U.S. election. Mueller, a former prosecutor who served a 12-year term at the helm of the bureau, has accepted the position, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "In my capacity as acting attorney general I determined that it is in the public interest for me to exercise my authority and appoint a special counsel to assume responsibility for the matter," Rosenstein said in a statement. "My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination. What I have determined is that based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command." UPDATE: President Trump has released a statement: "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know -- there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."
Android

Android Now Supports the Kotlin Programming Language (venturebeat.com) 91

In addition to Java and C++, Google announced at its I/O 2017 conference today that Android is gaining official support for the Kotlin programming language. VentureBeat reports: Kotlin is developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ. Google describes Kotlin, which is an open sourced project under the Apache 2.0 license, as "a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun." The company notes that some have already adopted the programming language for their production apps, including Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Square. There are already many enthusiastic Kotlin developers for Android, and the company says it is simply listening to what the community wants. But Google's choice didn't just come down to the team believing Kotlin will make writing Android apps easier. Developers will be happy to know that Kotlin's compiler emits Java byte-code. Kotlin can call Java, and Java can call Kotlin. Indeed, "the effortless interoperation between the two languages" was a large part of Kotlin's appeal to the Android team. This means you can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want, mixing the two languages freely within the same project. Calling out to Kotlin code from Java code should just work, while calling to Java code requires some automatically applied translation conventions.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Twitter

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Is Returning to the Company (techcrunch.com) 35

After leaving Twitter in 2011 to pursue new projects, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has announced that he's returning to the company to "guide company culture." Stone said in a statement: "It's important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story. I'll shape the experience internally so it's also felt outside the company." TechCrunch reports: About a month ago Stone sold his most recent startup, Jelly, to Pinterest. He said at the time that he wasn't required to stay on with Pinterest, so was available for new opportunities. Stone said he was recently back at Twitter as a "special guest" for an event open to employees, where current CEO and fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey -- another founder who left and then returned -- asked him onstage if he wanted to come back and work at Twitter. After some employee cheers, and a private clarification that Jack was in fact being serious, he accepted. Twitter diehards are reacting positively to the news -- many think that Twitter needs to get back to its roots, and what better way to do it than bringing back a co-founder? The market also seems to be happy. TWTR stock immediately jumped 2 percent on the news, reaching a three-month high of $19.62.
Security

WannaCry Ransomware Shares Code With North Korean Malware, Says Researchers (cyberscoop.com) 106

New submitter unarmed8 quotes a report from CyberScoop: The ransomware known as WannaCry that spread rapidly to 300,000 machines in 150 countries over the past few days shares code with malware written by a group of North Korean hackers known as the Lazarus Group. While the shared code is important, experts warned that it's far from proof about who created and launched the ransomware attacks. Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Google, first pointed out the shared code on Monday on Twitter. The link was quickly echoed by numerous other experts. "From a technical point of view those two functions and their references are identical," said Matt Suiche, founder of United Arab Emirates-based cybersecurity firm Comaeio. "From an attribution point of view a ransomware would subscribe to the narrative of Lazarus Group, which is stealing money like we saw with multiple financial institutions with fraudulent SWIFT transactions -- having a nation-state powered ransomware leveraging crypto currency would be a first."
Communications

FCC Suspends Net Neutrality Comments, As Chairman Pai Mocks 'Mean Tweets' (gizmodo.com) 184

An anonymous reader writes:Thursday the FCC stopped accepting comments as part of long-standing rules "to provide FCC decision-makers with a period of repose during which they can reflect on the upcoming items" before their May 18th meeting. Techdirt wondered if this time to reflect would mean less lobbying from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, but on Friday Pai recorded a Jimmy Kimmel-style video mocking mean tweets, with responses Gizmodo called "appalling" and implying "that anyone who opposes his cash grab for corporations is a moron."

Meanwhile, Wednesday The Consumerist reported the FCC's sole Democrat "is deploying some scorched-earth Microsoft Word table-making to use FCC Chair Ajit Pai's own words against him." (In 2014 Pai wrote "A dispute this fundamental is not for us five, unelected individuals to decide... We should also engage computer scientists, technologists, and other technical experts to tell us how they see the Internet's infrastructure and consumers' online experience evolving.") But Pai seemed to be mostly sticking to friendlier audiences, appearing with conservative podcasters from the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, the AEI think tank and The Daily Beast.

The Verge reports the flood of fake comments opposing Net Neutrality may have used names and addresses from a breach of 1.4 billion personal information records from marketing company River City Media. Reached on Facebook Messenger, one woman whose named was used "said she hadn't submitted any comments, didn't live at that address anymore and didn't even know what net neutrality is, let alone oppose it."

Techdirt adds "If you do still feel the need to comment, the EFF is doing what the FCC itself should do and has set up its own page at DearFCC.org to hold any comments."

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