Facebook

Facebook Open Sources Its Network Routing Platform Open/R (techcrunch.com) 18

Facebook will open source its modular network routing software Open/R, currently used in its backbone and data center networks, which "provides a platform to disseminate state across the network and allows new applications to be built on top of it." An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Facebook obviously has unique scale needs when it comes to running a network. It has billions of users doing real-time messaging and streaming content at a constant clip. As with so many things, Facebook found that running the network traffic using traditional protocols had its limits and it needed a new way to route traffic that didn't rely on the protocols of the past, Omar Baldonado, Engineering Director at Facebook explained... While it was originally developed for Facebook's Terragraph wireless backhaul network, the company soon recognized it could work on other networks too including the Facebook network backbone, and even in the middle of Facebook network, he said. Given the company's extreme traffic requirements where the conditions were changing so rapidly and was at such scale, they needed a new way to route traffic on the network. "We wanted to find per application, the best path, taking into account dynamic traffic conditions throughout the network," Baldonado said.

But Facebook also recognized that it could only take this so far internally, and if they could work with partners and other network operators and hardware manufacturers, they could extend the capabilities of this tool. They are in fact working with other companies in this endeavor including Juniper and Arista networks, but by open sourcing the software, it allows developers to do things with it that Facebook might not have considered, and their engineering team finds that prospect both exciting and valuable.

"Most protocols were initially designed based on constrained hardware and software environment assumptions from decades ago," Facebook said in its announcement. "To continue delivering rich, real-time, and highly engaging user experiences over networks, it's important to accelerate innovation in the routing domain."
Microsoft

Microsoft and GitHub Team Up To Take Git Virtual File System To MacOS, Linux (arstechnica.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: One of the more surprising stories of the past year was Microsoft's announcement that it was going to use the Git version control system for Windows development. Microsoft had to modify Git to handle the demands of Windows development but said that it wanted to get these modifications accepted upstream and integrated into the standard Git client. That plan appears to be going well. Yesterday, the company announced that GitHub was adopting its modifications and that the two would be working together to bring suitable clients to macOS and Linux. Microsoft says that, so far, about half of its modifications have been accepted upstream, with upstream Git developers broadly approving of the approach the company has taken to improve the software's scaling. Redmond also says that it has been willing to make changes to its approach to satisfy the demands of upstream Git. The biggest complexity is that Git has a very conservative approach to compatibility, requiring that repositories remain compatible across versions.

Microsoft and GitHub are also working to bring similar capabilities to other platforms, with macOS coming first, and later Linux. The obvious way to do this on both systems is to use FUSE, an infrastructure for building file systems that run in user mode rather than kernel mode (desirable because user-mode development is easier and safer than kernel mode). However, the companies have discovered that FUSE isn't fast enough for this -- a lesson Dropbox also learned when developing a similar capability, Project Infinite. Currently, the companies believe that tapping into a macOS extensibility mechanism called Kauth (or KAuth) will be the best way forward.

IBM

IBM Raises the Bar with a 50-Qubit Quantum Computer (technologyreview.com) 69

IBM said on Friday it has created a prototype 50 qubit quantum computer as it further increases the pressure on Google in the battle to commercialize quantum computing technology. The company is also making a 20-qubit system available through its cloud computing platform, it said. From a report: The announcement does not mean quantum computing is ready for common use. The system IBM has developed is still extremely finicky and challenging to use, as are those being built by others. In both the 50- and the 20-qubit systems, the quantum state is preserved for 90 microseconds -- a record for the industry, but still an extremely short period of time. Nonetheless, 50 qubits is a significant landmark in progress toward practical quantum computers. Other systems built so far have had limited capabilities and could perform only calculations that could also be done on a conventional supercomputer. A 50-qubit machine can do things that are extremely difficult to simulate without quantum technology. Whereas normal computers store information as either a 1 or a 0, quantum computers exploit two phenomena -- entanglement and superposition -- to process information differently.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek: Discovery Will Return On January 7th, 2018 (theverge.com) 278

CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery will return for the second half of the split season on Sunday, November 12th. There will be roughly a two month gap between the last episode of the first half of the split season, which aires on Sunday, November 12th, and the first episode of the second half of the split season. The Verge reports: When the network announced the series's September release date, it revealed that the first season would be split into two "chapters." The second chapter begins with the show's 10th episode, "Despite Yourself." Chapter 2 will contain the season's remaining six episodes, and will run through February 11th. According to CBS, the show will apparently find the crew of the USS Discovery in "unfamiliar territory," and they'll have to get creative about ways to return home. In this week's episode, the crew came face-to-face with the Klingon Empire over the planet Pahvo, after the planet's native species summoned them, hoping to resolve their conflict. After that, it'll be a longer wait for the show to return: CBS recently announced that it renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season, but that announcement didn't come with further details about a second season release date, or the number of episodes or chapters planned for season 2.
Intel

Intel Recruits AMD RTG Exec Raja Koduri To Head New Visual Computing Group (hothardware.com) 57

MojoKid writes: Intel just announced that former AMD Radeon Technologies Group SVP, Raja Koduri, would be joining its team to head up a newly formed Core and Visual Computing Group, and as a general manager of a new initiative to drive edge and client visual computing solutions. With Koduri's help, Intel plans to unify and expand its IP across multiple segments including core computing, graphics, media, imaging and machine learning capabilities for the client and data center segments, artificial intelligence, and emerging opportunities. Intel also explicitly stated that it would also expand its strategy to develop and deliver high-end, discrete graphics solutions. This announcement also comes just after Intel revealed it would be employing AMD's Vega GPU architecture in a new mobile processor that will drive high-end graphics performance into smaller, slimmer, and sleeker mobile form factors. With AMD essentially spinning the Radeon Technologies Group into its own entity, Intel now leveraging AMD graphics technology, and a top-level executive like Koduri responsible for said graphics tech switching teams, we have to wonder how the relationship between Intel and AMD's RTG with evolve.
Twitter

Twitter Officially Expands Its Character Count To 280 Starting Today (techcrunch.com) 98

Twitter is rolling out an update around the world to allow users to post 280-character tweets. The company first announced the controversial plan to move beyond its traditional 140 characters back in September, noting at the time how a longer character count allowed users to express more of their thoughts without running out of room to tweet. TechCrunch reports: At the time of its original announcement, the company cited data backing up its decision that referenced how the character constraints impacted users differently, depending on their language. Twitter said that those who tweeted in languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese were able to express around double the amount of information in a single character, compared with users who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, for example. In today's blog post about the public launch of 280 characters, Twitter aims to assuage people's fears that their timelines will fill with expanded tweets. The company said that during the trial period, people continued to tweet below 140 characters most of the time -- after the novelty of being able to use more characters wore off. Specifically, Twitter found that only 5 percent of tweets were sent out with more than 140 characters and of those, only 2 percent were over 190 characters.
Earth

The US Is Now the Only Country In the World To Reject the Paris Climate Deal 718

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, Syria announced that it would sign the Paris climate agreement -- a landmark deal that commits almost 200 countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming. With Nicaragua also joining the deal last month, the United States is now the only country in the world that opposes it. In June, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, unless it is renegotiated to be "fair" to the United States. But other countries in the deal, such as France, Germany, and Italy, said that's not possible. The Trump administration is also taking steps to roll back regulations passed under former President Barack Obama to achieve the emissions reduction goals set under the Paris deal. The U.S. is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world after China. "With Syria's decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever," Paula Caballero, director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the Times. "The U.S.'s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change."
Transportation

Uber Commits $5 Million To Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Prevention (gizmodo.com) 78

Uber announced on Sunday that it's taking new steps toward preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, starting with a $5 million donation to its partners -- Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, No More, Women of Color Network, Casa de Esperanza, A Call to Men, and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs -- along with an employee training program and in-app messaging to educate riders and drivers. Gizmodo reports: "As a result of this ongoing collaboration we have begun to make important changes internally and will commit to use Uber's scope and visibility to help drive awareness, education, and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence to millions globally," said Uber's announcement. Uber wrote on its blog that its technology "enhances safety for riders and drivers in ways that weren't possible before such as GPS tracking, the ability to share a trip with family and friends, and 24/7 support through the app." But the company has failed to adopt measures like more rigorous driver background checks, despite urging by lawmakers. The ride-sharing service left Austin altogether last year (along with Lyft) because it refused to fingerprint its drivers. Uber has argued that mandated fingerprinting is too burdensome. Advocates for fingerprinting argue that it helps ensure rider safety.
Security

Equifax Investigation Clears Execs Who Dumped Stock Before Hack Announcement (gizmodo.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Equifax discovered on July 29th that it had been hacked, losing the Social Security numbers and other personal information of 143 million Americans -- and then just a few days later, several of its executives sold stock worth a total of nearly $1.8 million. When the hack was publicly announced in September, Equifax's stock promptly tanked, which made the trades look very, very sketchy. At the time, Equifax claimed that its executives had no idea about the massive data breach when they sold their stock. Today, the credit reporting company released further details about its internal investigation that cleared all four executives of any wrongdoing.

The report, prepared by a board-appointed special committee, concludes that "none of the four executives had knowledge of the incident when their trades were made, that preclearance for the four trades was appropriately obtained, that each of the four trades at issue comported with Company policy, and that none of the four executives engaged in insider trading." The committee says it reviewed 55,000 documents to reach its conclusions, including emails and text messages, and conducted 62 in-person interviews. "The review was designed to pinpoint the date on which each of the four senior officers first learned of the security investigation that uncovered the breach and to determine whether any of those officers was informed of or otherwise learned of the security investigation before his trades were executed," the report states.

Microsoft

Microsoft Quietly Announces End of Last Free Windows 10 Upgrade Offer (zdnet.com) 147

Ed Bott, writing for ZDNet: If you've been waiting to claim your free Windows 10 upgrade using the "assistive technologies" exception, you need to act soon. In a quiet change to an obscure web page, Microsoft announced this week that those exceptions will end on December 31, 2017. On July 29, 2016, Microsoft officially ended the Get Windows 10 program, which offered free Windows 10 upgrades to anyone currently running a supported earlier version of Windows. But the company left a giant loophole in a separate announcement at the same time. Under the terms of that announcement, individuals who use "assistive technologies" received an automatic extension of the free upgrade offer. Sometime in the past week, Microsoft quietly edited that page, to add "The accessibility upgrade offer expires on December 31, 2017."
United States

Trump Says Broadcom Is Moving Headquarters To US From Singapore (bloomberg.com) 122

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: President Donald Trump said semiconductor company Broadcom Ltd. is returning its headquarters to the U.S. from Singapore. Broadcom Chief Executive Officer Hock Tan joined Trump Thursday in the Oval Office for the announcement. Tan said the move to domicile the company in the U.S. would bring $20 billion in revenue into the country. The two men didn't specify the site of the new main location. Broadcom's website lists San Jose, California, as an existing corporate co-headquarters and has done so since the present company was created in 2016 in one of the semiconductor industry's largest acquisitions when Avago Technologies Ltd. acquired then-Broadcom Corp. The company's shares declined as much as 4 percent to $248.87 after the announcement. The stock had gained 47 percent this year through Wednesday's close.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Smashes Past $7,000 For the First Time (cnbc.com) 144

A reader shares a report: Bitcoin hit another all-time high Thursday morning, surpassing $7,000 for the first time. The cryptocurrency has had a bullish streak throughout the week following the CME's announcement that it will introduce bitcoin futures contracts. According to data from CoinDesk, the virtual currency reached an all-time high of $7,242.69 at about 7:08 a.m. ET. The jump in price saw the virtual coin rise by more than 7 percent on the day. A surge in the digital coin's value saw the total market value of all cryptocurrencies top $189 billion for the first time Thursday. The market cap of bitcoin alone is currently more than $121 billion, according to data from industry website Coinmarketcap.
Power

SLAC Uses Nobel Prize-Winning Technique To Investigate Battery Fires (stanford.edu) 17

An anonymous reader quotes an announcement from SLAC: Scientists from Stanford University and the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have captured the first atomic-level images of finger-like growths called dendrites that can pierce the barrier between battery compartments and trigger short circuits or fires... This is the first study to examine the inner lives of batteries with cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM, a technique whose ability to image delicate, flash-frozen proteins and other "biological machines" in atomic detail was honored with the 2017 Nobel Prize in chemistry... The ability to see this level of detail for the first time with cryo-EM will give scientists a powerful tool for understanding how batteries and their components work at the most fundamental level and for investigating why high-energy batteries used in laptops, cell phones, airplanes and electric cars sometimes fail, the researchers said...

In cryo-EM, samples are flash-frozen by dipping them into liquid nitrogen, then sliced for examination under the microscope. You can freeze a whole coin-cell battery at a particular point in its charge-discharge cycle, remove the component you're interested in and see what is happening inside that component at an atom-by-atom scale. You could even create a stop-action movie of battery activity by stringing together images made at different points in the cycle... Zooming in, they used a different technique to look at the way electrons bounced off the atoms in the dendrite, revealing the locations of individual atoms in both the crystal and its solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) coating. When they added a chemical commonly used to improve battery performance, the atomic structure of the SEI coating became more orderly, and they think this may help explain why the additive works.

Facebook

Facebook Ends 'Dark Posts' -- All Ads Will Be Visible To The Public (seattletimes.com) 68

"Under pressure in advance of hearings on Russian election interference, Facebook is moving to increase transparency for everyone who sees and buys political advertising on its site," reports the Associated Press. Here's the official announcement from Facebook's "VP of ads" : Starting next month, people will be able to click "View Ads" on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger -- whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad. All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process... We know how important it is to our community that we get this feature just right -- and so we're first rolling it out in only one country. Testing in one market allows us to learn the various ways an entire population uses the feature at a scale that allows us to learn and iterate... We will start this test in Canada and roll it out to the U.S. by this summer, ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November, as well as broadly to all other countries around the same time... During this initial test, we will only show active ads. However, when we expand to the U.S. we plan to begin building an archive of federal-election related ads so that we can show both current and historical federal-election related ads.
Facebook "will verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations," adds the Associated Press, noting that the effort is "likely meant to head off bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would require social media companies to keep public files of election ads and try to ensure they are not purchased by foreigners."

In addition, Facebook insists that "For political advertisers that do not proactively disclose themselves, we are building machine learning tools that will help us find them and require them to verify their identity."
Google

Google's Sentiment Analyzer Thinks Being Gay Is Bad (vice.com) 453

gooddogsgotoheaven shares a report from Motherboard: In July 2016, Google announced the public beta launch of a new machine learning application program interface (API), called the Cloud Natural Language API. It allows developers to incorporate Google's deep learning models into their own applications. As the company said in its announcement of the API, it lets you "easily reveal the structure and meaning of your text in a variety of languages." In addition to entity recognition (deciphering what's being talked about in a text) and syntax analysis (parsing the structure of that text), the API included a sentiment analyzer to allow programs to determine the degree to which sentences expressed a negative or positive sentiment, on a scale of -1 to 1. The problem is the API labels sentences about religious and ethnic minorities as negative -- indicating it's inherently biased. For example, it labels both being a Jew and being a homosexual as negative. A Google spokesperson issued the following statement in response to Motherboard's request for comment: "We dedicate a lot of efforts to making sure the NLP API avoids bias, but we don't always get it right. This is an example of one of those times, and we are sorry. We take this seriously and are working on improving our models. We will correct this specific case, and, more broadly, building more inclusive algorithms is crucial to bringing the benefits of machine learning to everyone."
Robotics

Sony Reportedly Announcing New Robot Dog Next Month (wsj.com) 45

Zorro shares a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Sony Corp. is planning next spring to roll out a dog-shaped pet robot similar to its discontinued Aibo with updated components that could allow it to control home appliances, people familiar with the matter said. Sony is preparing for a media event in November to show off the product, the people said. It is unclear whether the new product will use the Aibo name and how much it will cost. Sony Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai said last year at a strategy briefing that the company was developing "a robot capable of forming an emotional bond with customers, and able to grow to inspire love and affection." He told The Wall Street Journal at the time that the company might make an Aibo-like dog robot. The Nikkei newspaper reported earlier this month that Sony was targeting spring 2018 for the release of a home robot.
AI

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines (tumblr.com) 165

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Transportation

Tesla Plans Factory In China, Discounts Insurance For Self-Driving US Cars (electrek.co) 104

Business Insider reports: Tesla has created a customized insurance package, InsureMyTesla, that is cheaper than traditional plans because it factors in the vehicles' Autopilot safety features and maintenance costs. InsureMyTesla has been available in 20 countries, but Tesla just recently partnered with Liberty Mutual to make the plan available in the U.S. InsureMyTesla shows how the insurance industry is bound for disruption as cars get safer with self-driving tech.
Electrek reports: There have been several false alarms over the past few years about Tesla building a factory in China. Earlier this year, Tesla finally confirmed working with the Shanghai government to establish a manufacturing facility in the region and promised an announcement by the end of the year. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that they have come to an agreement with the local authorities on a "wholly owned" factory in the region... China is already the biggest market for electric vehicles, or any vehicles for that matter, and Tesla profited from the demand by tripling its sales to over $1 billion in the country in 2016. Tesla continues to have strong sales in the country this year, where it leads foreign electric car sales with no close second.
The Courts

Friendlier GPL-Enforcement Permission Proposed By Linux Kernel Developers (kroah.com) 94

The former Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation -- and Slashdot user #41121 -- contacted Slashdot with this announcement. bkuhn -- now president of the Software Freedom Conservancy -- writes: Software Freedom Conservancy, home of the GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, publicly applauded today the proposal of the Linux Kernel Enforcement Statement, which adds a per-copyright-holder-opt-in additional permission to the termination provisions of Linux's GPLv2-only license.
It apparently addresses a developer who "made claims based on ambiguities in the GPL-2.0 that no one in our community has ever considered part of compliance," according to a statement from some of the kernel developers who drafted the statement. While the kernel community has always supported enforcement efforts to bring companies into compliance, we have never even considered enforcement for the purpose of extracting monetary gain... [W]e are aware of activity that has resulted in payments of at least a few million Euros. We are also aware that these actions, which have continued for at least four years, have threatened the confidence in our ecosystem. Because of this, and to help clarify what the majority of Linux kernel community members feel is the correct way to enforce our license, the Technical Advisory Board of the Linux Foundation has worked together with lawyers in our community, individual developers, and many companies that participate in the development of, and rely on Linux, to draft a Kernel Enforcement Statement to help address both this specific issue we are facing today, and to help prevent any future issues like this from happening again. It adopts the same termination provisions we are all familiar with from GPL-3.0 as an Additional Permission giving companies confidence that they will have time to come into compliance if a failure is identified.

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