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Earth

Scientists Consider 'Cloud Brightening' To Preserve Australia's Great Barrier Reef (technologyreview.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes MIT Technology Review: A group of Australian marine scientists believe that altering clouds might offer one of the best hopes for saving the Great Barrier Reef. For the last six months, researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney School of Geosciences have been meeting regularly to explore the possibility of making low-lying clouds off the northeastern coast of Australia more reflective in order to cool the waters surrounding the world's biggest coral reef system...

Last year, as El Nino events cranked up ocean temperatures, at least 20% of the reef died and more than 90% of it was damaged. The Australian researchers took a hard look at a number of potential ways to preserve the reefs. But at this point, making clouds more reflective looks like the most feasible way to protect an ecosystem that stretches across more than 130,000 square miles, says Daniel Harrison, a postdoctoral research associate with the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney. Cloud brightening is the only thing we've identified that's scalable, sensible, and relatively environmentally benign," he says... Next month, he plans to start computer climate modeling to explore whether cloud brightening could make a big enough temperature difference to help.

They're collaborating with Silicon Valley's Marine Cloud Brightening Project, which has spent the last seven years "developing a nozzle that they believe can spray salt particles of just the right size and quantity to alter the clouds. They're attempting to raise several million dollars to build full-scale sprayers." The article describes them as "one of several research groups that have started to explore whether cloud brightening, generally discussed as a potential tool to alter the climate as a whole, could be applied in more targeted ways."
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Block Desktop 'Office' Apps From 'Office 365' Services In 2020 (techradar.com) 212

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is still encouraging businesses to rent their Office software, according to TechRadar. "In a bid to further persuade users of the standalone versions of Office to shift over to a cloud subscription (Office 365), Microsoft has announced that those who made a one-off purchase of an Office product will no longer get access to the business flavours of OneDrive and Skype come the end of the decade." PC World explains that in reality this affects very few users. "If you've been saving all of your Excel spreadsheets into your OneDrive for Business cloud, you'll need to download and move them over to a personal subscription -- or pony up for Office 365, as Microsoft really wants you to do."

Microsoft is claiming that when customers connect to Office 365 services using a legacy version of Office, "they're not enjoying all that the service has to offer. The IT security and reliability benefits and end user experiences in the apps is limited to the features shipped at a point in time. To ensure that customers are getting the most out of their Office 365 subscription, we are updating our system requirements." And in another blog post, they're almost daring people to switch to Linux. "Providing over three years advance notice for this change to Office 365 system requirements for client connectivity gives you time to review your long-term desktop strategy, budget and plan for any change to your environment."

In a follow-up comment, Microsoft's Alistair Speirs explained that "There is still an option to get monthly desktop updates, but we are changing the 3x a year update channel to be 2x a year to align closer to Windows 10 update model. We are trying to strike the right balance between agile, ship-when-ready updates and enterprise needs of predictability, reliability and advanced notice to validate and prepare."
Microsoft

Microsoft Improves Gmail Experience For Windows 10 Insiders, But There Are Privacy Concerns (betanews.com) 68

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, Microsoft announced a new Gmail experience for Windows 10. While only available for Windows Insiders as of today, it uses the same concept as the Outlook mobile app, but for the Mail and Calendar apps. Microsoft will provide you with an arguably improved experience as long as you are OK with storing all of your Gmail messages in Microsoft's cloud. What types of features will the new experience offer? Things such as tracking packages, getting updated on your favorite sports teams, and a focused inbox. "To power these new features, we'll ask your permission to sync a copy of your email, calendar and contacts to the Microsoft Cloud. This will allow new features to light up, and changes to update back and forth with Gmail -- such as creation, edit or deletion of emails, calendar events and contacts. But your experience in Gmail.com or apps from Google will not change in any way."
Cloud

Leaked Document Sheds Light On Microsoft's Chromebook Rival (windowscentral.com) 91

Microsoft has announced plans to host an event next month where it is expected to unveil Windows 10 Cloud operating system. Microsoft will be positioning the new OS as a competitor to Chrome OS, according to several reports. Windows Central has obtained an internal document which sheds light on the kind of devices that will be running Windows 10 Cloud. The hardware requirement that Microsoft has set for third-party OEMs is as follows: 1. Quad-core (Celeron or better) processor.
2. 4GB of RAM.
3. 32GB of storage (64GB for 64-bit). 4. A battery larger than 40 WHr.
5. Fast eMMC or solid state drive (SSD) for storage technology.
6. Pen and touch (optional).
The report adds that Microsoft wants these laptops to offer over 10-hour of battery life, and the "cold boot" should not take longer than 20 seconds.
Cloud

Amazon Cloud Chief Jabs Oracle: 'Customers Are Sick of It' (cnbc.com) 81

It's no secret that Amazon and Oracle don't see eye to eye. But things are far from improving, it appears. From a report: On Wednesday, two months after Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd called Amazon's cloud infrastructure "old" and claimed his company was gaining share, Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy slammed Oracle for locking customers into painfully long and expensive contracts. "People are very sensitive about being locked in given the experience they've had the last 10 to 15 years," Jassy said on Wednesday on stage at Amazon's AWS Summit in San Francisco. "When you look at cloud, it's nothing like being locked into Oracle." Jassy was addressing a cultural shift in the way technology is bought and sold. No longer does the process involve the purchase of heavy proprietary software with multi-year contracts that include annual maintenance fees. Now, Jassy says, it's about choice and ease of use, including letting clients turn things off if they're not working.
Businesses

Cylance Accused of Distributing Fake Malware Samples To Customers To Close Deals (arstechnica.com) 32

New submitter nyman19 writes: Ars Technica reports how security vendor Cylance has been distributing non-functioning malware samples to prospective customers in order to "close the sale[s] by providing files that other products wouldn't detect" According to the report: "A systems engineer at a large company was evaluating security software products when he discovered something suspicious. One of the vendors [Cylance] had provided a set of malware samples to test -- 48 files in an archive stored in the vendor's Box cloud storage account. The vendor providing those samples was Cylance, the information security company behind Protect, a 'next generation' endpoint protection system built on machine learning. In testing, Protect identified all 48 of the samples as malicious, while competing products flagged most but not all of them. Curious, the engineer took a closer look at the files in question -- and found that seven weren't malware at all."
Cloud

Microsoft's Rumored CloudBook Could Be Your Next Cheap Computer (venturebeat.com) 206

An anonymous reader shares a report: In a few weeks, at its education-oriented software and hardware event in New York, Microsoft could unveil a sub-premium laptop -- something more robust than a Surface but not as fancy as a Surface Book. And rather than run good old Windows 10, the new product could run something called Windows 10 Cloud, which reportedly will only be able to run apps that you can find in the Windows Store, unless you change a certain preference in Settings. The idea is that this will keep your device more secure. However, that does mean you won't be able to use certain apps that aren't in the Store -- like Steam -- on a Windows 10 Cloud device, such as the rumored CloudBook. Microsoft is going after Google's Chromebooks that are very popular in the education space -- so much so that they are playing an instrumental role in keeping the entire PC shipments up.
AI

Disruptive AI Bots Are Aleady Delivering Radical Leaps In Productivity (venturebeat.com) 56

The CTO of Textio is describing the "already happening" AI disruption that no one's noticed, arguing that voice-activated assistants are "just one small part of what AI is about -- and not the part that will matter the most for the enterprise companies that actually buy almost $4 trillion in software and services each year." An anonymous reader writes: Jensen Harris describes "the less-flashy flavor of AI that is changing the nature of work itself: headless AI...the application of artificial intelligence to vastly improve internal business processes. It is fully transforming the crucial machinery of business -- processes like hiring, lead generation, financial modeling, and information security. Legacy software has become a commodity in all of these areas, and purpose-built AI solutions will get a larger and larger wallet share of these huge enterprise cost centers."

Combining machine intelligence with learning loops, these constantly-evolving algorithms are "where the money is," since headless AI "doesn't try to replace people; it gives them superpowers" -- for example, predicting the future. Harris ultimately argues that headless AI are delivering "radical productivity leaps that they haven't seen from software in decades... In the near future, every core business function will have been transformed by AI -- hiring, sales, security, marketing, finance, manufacturing...everything... Legacy software will get squeezed down into a smaller portion of the IT wallet as the most valuable services become the native AI platforms -- just as form-based desktop software got squeezed out by the cloud in the last generation... the real enterprise revolution is happening in the companies that are using headless AI to transform their core businesses."

By comparison, he argues that many of today's bots "are kind of a hipster facade around the same basic command line interfaces consumers abandoned in the 1980," and suggests this focus on personality misses the larger significance of behind-the-scenes AI.
Oracle

Oracle Charged $293M In South Korean Back Taxes (thestack.com) 19

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: Multinational tech giant Oracle has been charged $293 million USD for corporate tax evasion in South Korea. The $293 million charge is made up of back taxes, as well as a punitive charge from the government tax agency. The company was originally notified of the tax debt in January of last year, when the National Tax Service charged Oracle with evasion of corporate tax payments on 2 trillion won in earnings from 2008-2014.

Oracle was accused of funneling revenues to Ireland to avoid paying taxes in South Korea. In an audit of the company's books, the tax authority found that Oracle had channeled profits generated in South Korea to an Irish subsidiary; however, it was found that those funds ultimately profited the company's headquarters in the United States. Because of this, the NTS determined that Oracle should have paid taxes on profits generated in South Korea to the South Korean government.

Google

How Google Book Search Got Lost (backchannel.com) 46

Google Books was the company's first moonshot. But 15 years later, the project is stuck in low-Earth orbit, argues an article on Backchannel. From the article: When Google Books started almost 15 years ago, it also seemed impossibly ambitious: An upstart tech company that had just tamed and organized the vast informational jungle of the web would now extend the reach of its search box into the offline world. By scanning millions of printed books from the libraries with which it partnered, it would import the entire body of pre-internet writing into its database. [...] Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google's right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed -- one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google's book-related ambitions. But in that time, another change had come over Google Books, one that's not all that unusual for institutions and people who get caught up in decade-long legal battles: It lost its drive and ambition. Google stopped updating Books blog in 2012, and folded it into the main Google Search blog. The author reports that Google still has people working on Book Search, and they are adding new books, but the pace is rather slower.
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Container Platform Deis From Engine Yard (techcrunch.com) 31

According to an announcement made earlier today, Microsoft has acquired Deis, "the company behind some of the most popular tools for building and managing applications on top of the Google-incubated Kubernetes container orchestration service," writes Frederic Lardinois via TechCrunch. From the report: "At Microsoft, we've seen explosive growth in both interest and deployment of containerized workloads on Azure, and we're committed to ensuring Azure is the best place to run them," Microsoft's executive VP for its cloud and enterprise group Scott Guthrie writes today. "To support this vision, we're pleased to announce that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Deis -- a company that has been at the center of the container transformation." Deis provides three core open-source tools for managing Kubernetes deployments: Workflow, a platform for developers and operations teams to easily deploy and manage containerized apps; the Kubernetes package manager Helm; and Steward, a Kubernetes-native service broker (which basically allows applications to talk to each other). Like similar companies, its business model relies on providing paid support and training for these applications. The team will continue to work on these open-source tools, which are currently in use by the likes of Mozilla, CloudMine and SocialRadar.
Advertising

A Huge Trove of Patient Data Leaks, Thanks To Telemarketers' Bad Security (zdnet.com) 44

"A trove of records containing personal and health information on close to a million people was exposed after a former developer working at a telemarketing company uploaded a backup of its database to the internet," writes ZDNet. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The data contained personal and health-related information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, and other data relating to the types of health problems the individuals have regarding the products they need, though many of the records were truncated or incomplete. An examination showed that the database was used to market products to thousands of customers by telemarketers at HealthNow -- no longer a registered business as of 2015. Several records we've seen included customized notes written by staff who were tasked with calling customers, such as when they are home and any other relevant information on the subject.
The database apparently lingered online for years in an AWS instance until it was discovered two weeks ago in search results from Shodan by a Twitter user calling himself Flash Gordon. Databreaches.net, which investigated the breach with ZDNet, believes this as a teachable moment. "Before you give your personal or health insurance information to telemarketers or firms that call to offer you supplies for diabetes or back pain or other conditions, think twice."
Ubuntu

Canonical Founder Talks About Ubuntu Desktop Switching From Unity To GNOME, And Focus On Cloud (google.com) 80

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth on Friday talked about the move to switch Ubuntu's desktop user interface from Unity to GNOME, and putting a stop to development of Ubuntu software for phones and tablet: I would like to thank all of you for your spirit and intellect and energy in the Unity8 adventure. [...] Many elements of the code in the Ubuntu Phone project continue -- snaps grew out of our desire to ship apps reliably and efficiently and securely, the unity8 code itself will continue to be useful for UBports and other projects. And the ideas that we have pushed for are now spreading too. Finally, I should celebrate that Ubuntu consists of so many overlapping visions of personal computing, that we have the ability to move quickly to support the Ubuntu GNOME community with all the resources of Canonical to focus on stability, upgrades, integration and experience. That's only possible because of the diversity of shells in the Ubuntu family, and I am proud of all of our work across that full range.
GNOME

GNOME Dev Schaller Assures Ubuntu Users the Move To Step Away From Unity Will Bring Consistency Across Linux Distros (gnome.org) 104

Earlier this week, Canonical announced that Ubuntu will be ditching Unity as the default user interface on desktops to go back to GNOME next year. The company also said that it will be ending development of Ubuntu software for phones and tablets, in what is a push to focus on cloud. In a blog post, Christian Schaller, a developer on Fedora and GNOME (and Senior Software Engineering Manager at Red Hat), offered some assurance to the community that this is the right move in the grand scheme of things. He writes on an official blog post: We look forward to keep working with great Canonical and Ubuntu people like Allison Lortie and Robert Ancell on projects of shared interest around GNOME, Wayland and hopefully Flatpak. It is worth mentioning that even as we [have] been competing with Unity and Ubuntu, we have also been collaborating with them, most recently on [the] integration of features they wanted from GNOME Software such as user reviews. Of course now sharing a bigger set of technologies collaboration will be even easier. I am personally happy to see this convergence of efforts happening because I have -- for a long time -- felt that the general level of investment in the Linux desktop has not been great enough to justify the plethora of Linux desktops out there. Now having reached a position where Canonical, Endless, Red Hat and Suse again share one desktop technology stack and along with consulting companies such as Centricular, CodeThink, Collabora and Igalia helping push parts of the stack forward, we are at least all pulling in the same direction. This change should also make life easier for ISV who now have a more clear target if they want to try to integrate their UI with the Linux desktop as 'the linux desktop' becomes a more meaningful term with this change.
Television

YouTube Launches 'YouTube TV' In Select Markets (phonedog.com) 62

In late February, YouTube unveiled its live TV service called YouTube TV, which offers live TV streaming over the internet for $35 per month with no long-term contract required. The company has officially launched the service today in five select markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Philadelphia. YouTube says that more markets are coming soon, however, details on when/where are scarce. PhoneDog reports: A membership to YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes live streaming of channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and others. Subscribers also get an unlimited cloud DVR for recording shows that'll last up to nine months, and six accounts that each get their own recommendations and cloud DVRs. YouTube is offering a free one-month trial of YouTube TV so that everyone can give it a try. After your first paid month, YouTube will give you a Google Chromecast to thank you for sticking with the service. Source: YouTube Official Blog
United States

Taser Offers Free Body Cameras To All US Police (arstechnica.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Taser, the company whose electronic stun guns have become a household name, is now offering a groundbreaking deal to all American law enforcement: free body cameras and a year's worth of access to the company's cloud storage service, Evidence.com. In addition, on Wednesday, the company also announced that it would be changing its name to "Axon" to reflect the company's flagship body camera product. Right now, Axon is the single largest vendor of body cameras in America. It vastly outsells smaller competitors, including VieVu and Digital Ally -- the company has profited $90 million from 2012 through 2016. If the move is successful, Axon could quickly crowd out its rivals entirely. In recent years, federal dollars went to police agencies both big (Los Angeles) and small (Village of Spring Valley, New York), encouraging the purchase of body-worn cameras. However, while cameras are rapidly spreading across America, they are still not ubiquitous yet. Axon wants to change that. "Only 20 percent [of cops] have a camera," Rick Smith, the company's CEO, told Ars. "Eighty percent are going out with a gun and no camera. We only need 20- to 30-percent conversion to make it profitable," he added. "We expect 80 percent to become customers." "Our belief is that a body camera is to a cop what a smartphone is to a civilian," Smith said. "Cops spend about two-thirds of their time doing paperwork. We believe, within 10 years, we can automate police reporting. We can effectively triple the world's police force." The offer is only available to American law enforcement, but Smith said the company would consider foreign agencies on a case-by-case basis.
Robotics

GM Hooking 30,000 Robots To Internet To Keep Factories Humming (bloomberg.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: General Motors has connected about a quarter of its 30,000 factory robots to the internet, and the largest U.S. automaker already is reaping the benefits of less down time. In the last two years, GM has avoided 100 potential failures of vehicle-assembling robots by analyzing data they sent to external servers in the cloud, Mark Franks, director of global automation, said at a conference in Chicago on Monday. Connectivity is preventing assembly line interruptions and robot replacements that can take as long as eight hours. Internet monitoring allows GM to order parts when it detects they're wearing out instead of having to store them at the factory. That reduces inventory and saves money, Franks said. Hooking robots to the internet for preventive maintenance is just the start of a spurt of new robotics technology, Franks said. GM is using robots that can work safely alongside humans in the factory that produces the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, he said.
Communications

IoT Garage Door Opener Maker Bricks Customer's Product After Bad Review (arstechnica.com) 421

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Denis Grisak, the man behind the Internet-connected garage opener Garadget, is having a very bad week. Grisak and his Colorado-based company SoftComplex launched Garadget, a device built using Wi-Fi-based cloud connectivity from Particle, on Indiegogo earlier this year, hitting 209 percent of his launch goal in February. But this week, his response to an unhappy customer has gotten Garadget a totally different sort of attention. On April 1, a customer who purchased Garadget on Amazon using the name R. Martin reported problems with the iPhone application that controls Garadget. He left an angry comment on the Garadget community board: "Just installed and attempting to register a door when the app started doing this. Have uninstalled and reinstalled iPhone app, powered phone off/on - wondering what kind of piece of shit I just purchased here..." Shortly afterward, not having gotten a response, Martin left a 1-star review of Garadget on Amazon: "Junk - DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY - iPhone app is a piece of junk, crashes constantly, start-up company that obviously has not performed proper quality assurance tests on their products." Grisak then responded by bricking Martin's product remotely, posting on the support forum: "Martin, The abusive language here and in your negative Amazon review, submitted minutes after experiencing a technical difficulty, only demonstrates your poor impulse control. I'm happy to provide the technical support to the customers on my Saturday night but I'm not going to tolerate any tantrums. At this time your only option is return Garadget to Amazon for refund. Your unit ID 2f0036... will be denied server connection."
Programming

Salary-Comparing Survey Identifies Top-Paid Developers, Discovers North America Pays Better (linux.com) 267

21,000 developers were surveyed for this year's annual survey by VisionMobile -- and for the first time, they were asked about their salaries. An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com: [S]killed cloud and backend developers, as well as those who work in emerging technologies including Internet of Things, machine learning and augmented/virtual reality can make more money than frontend web and mobile developers whose skills have become more commoditized... The top 10 percent of salary earners in AR who live in North America earn a median salary of $219,000, compared with $169,000 for the top earning 10 percent of backend developers, according to the report... New, unskilled developers interested in emerging tech will have a harder time finding work, and earn less than their counterparts in more commoditized areas, due both to their lack of experience and fewer companies hiring in the early market.

Along with skill level and software sector, developer salaries also vary widely by where they live in the world. A web developer in North America earns a median income of $73,600 USD per year, compared with the same developer in Western Europe whose median income is $35,400 USD. Web developers in South Asia earn $11,700 in South Asia while those in Eastern Europe earn $20,800 per year.

For developers who want to move up in the world, VisionMobile suggests "Invest in your skills. Do difficult work. Improve your English. Look for opportunities internationally. Go for it. You deserve it!"
Biotech

Y Combinator-Funded Startup To Do Quantum Computing -- Only Better (bizjournals.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: A "spaceshot" company that emerged from Y Combinator three summers ago and is targeting a revolutionary change in the way computers work has landed $64 million to help it in the race against much bigger tech giants. Rigetti Computing, which operates out of Berkeley and Fremont, is tackling quantum computing and going up against research being done by the likes of IBM, Intel, Microsoft and others... Rigetti is building a cloud quantum computing platform for artificial intelligence and computational chemistry. It recently opened up private beta testing of 'Forest', its API for quantum computing in the cloud. It integrates directly with existing cloud infrastructure and treats the quantum computer as an accelerator.
"The potential to make a positive impact on humanity is enormous," said Chad Rigetti, the startup's founder and CEO -- who declined to say whether the company is actually earning any revenue yet.

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