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Google Launches New Cloud Natural Language API

July 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google’s intelligent cloud developer tools added new features with the launch of a new Cloud Natural Language API. The service is aimed at helping developers create applications that understand human language.

It’s an important move for Google, as public cloud providers race to host new applications built with intelligent capabilities. Natural language processing allows developers to build apps that can tackle the challenging task of understanding how humans communicate. It is also key for building intelligent assistants and chat bots.

This API can provide information about a block of text back to an application, including the overall sentiment of a passage and an analysis of the structure of a sentence. The system can also identify entities mentioned, including people, organizations, locations, events and products.

The API is based on the same research that Google used to create Parsey McParseface, an open source parser for English text that the company released earlier this year.

The natural language API entered public beta alongside Google’s already announced Speech API, which lets applications take in recorded voice clips and get text back. By connecting the two APIs, it’s possible for developers to build an app that can listen to a user’s voice and then understand what that person is saying.

By launching these two services in beta, Google continues its competition against Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, which are also launching intelligent capabilities in their public cloud platforms.

 

 

Online Video Streaming Biting Into Dish Network Customer Base

July 22, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

U.S. satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp reported an unexpected loss in pay-TV subscribers as more consumers increasingly opt for online video-streaming services.

Dish said it lost 281,000 net pay-TV subscribers in the second quarter ended June 30, missing the average analyst estimate of a loss of 91,000 subscribers, according to market research firm FactSet StreetEstimate.

However, average revenue per user rose to $89.98 from $87.91, helped by price increases for its video service.

Dish raised its 2016 video service rates in January.

To offset losses in its core pay-TV business, the company last year launched a cheaper $20-per-month Sling TV online streaming service that offers a slim bundle of channels, including live programming from networks such as ESPN.

Net income attributable to Dish rose to $410 million, or 88 cents per share, in the three months ended June 30, from $324 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

Net revenue rose to $3.84 billion from $3.83 billion.

 

Does M$ Have A Strategy For Windows?

July 22, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

As we reported earlier today, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proclaimed the virtues of its cloud computing platform.

But he didn’t say very much about Windows at all.

And, according to Seeking Alpha financial analyst Mark Hibben in a note to his clients, it’s almost as if Nadella has given up the ghost on the now long in the tooth operating system.

He didn’t say much about smartphones either but admitted that Windows 10 won’t hit the one billion user mark.

But there are another billion and a bit people out there who are using previous versions of Windows and Hibben thinks that that’s Microsoft should really take advantage of that opportunity.

Hibben thinks that while Nadella is practically creaming himself about the cloud the same sort of urges don’t seem to apply to Windows.

Windows phone revenues have fallen 71 percent compared to the same period last year and Microsoft seems to lack a strategy for smartphones in the future.

So has Microsoft given up on Windows? That, surely, can’t be the case.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Google’s Transparency Reports Uptick In Governments Requesting User Data

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Government requests worldwide for user data related to search engine traffic on Google surged by 29% from 2014 to 2015, according to the search site’s most recent Transparency Report.

Google reports on the government requests every six months. In the second half of 2015, it said it received more than 40,000 requests for data related to more than 81,000 user accounts; That compares to the first half of the year when Google received about 35,000 requests related to about 69,000 accounts.

In the second half of 2014, Google received 31,140 requests from U.S. entities for user information related to more than 50,000 accounts.

“Usage of our services [has] increased every year, and so have the user data request numbers,” Google said.

By far, the U.S. leads the world in government requests for data: it submitted 27,157 requests related to 12,523 user accounts in the second half of last year. The next highest country was Ireland with 12,114 requests, followed by Germany with 11,562 reqeusts.

Google agreed to hand over “some” user data for 64% of the requests worldwide, but it handed over data for U.S. government requests 79% of the time.

Several search engines and social media sites voluntarily offer annual or semi-annual transparency reports related to state and federal law enforcement information requests about user data.

Google has been publishing its semi-annual Transparency Report since 2011; the latest statistics show that requests for user data is at an all-time high.

In 2014, Apple, Microsoft, and Google were among 10 top tech companies that signed  a letter backing passage of the USA Freedom Act, which would curtail bulk collection of Internet metadata by government agencies.

Passed in June 2015, the USA Freedom Act now requires transparency when the government demands user information from technology companies. Nevertheless, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said there still needs to be more transparency when it comes to government-mandated back doors, as well as what deleted data is kept around in case government agents seek it in the future.

 

 

 

GE Partners With Huawei Technologies To Develop Smart Machines

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

General Electric Co announced that it would partner with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd  to develop smart machines designed to boost productivity, part of a drive to promote its “industrial internet” business in China.

The U.S. industrial giant announced the partnership as it launched an $11 million digital space in Shanghai, where it plans to incubate start-ups and have developers work on new software applications to make machines more intelligent.

The move is part of GE’s ambitious plans to lead a productivity revolution in global industry by combining machinery with analytics, after selling off its financial assets and embarking on a major restructuring.

Chief Digital Officer Bill Ruh said the world’s biggest maker of jet engines and diesel locomotives had already made $500 million in productivity savings for itself this year by using smarter machines, and he expected this to grow to $1 billion in total by 2020.

“Once we got it right for ourselves we take it to our customers … We’re bringing this to China, we’re open for business in China today to be able to do this,” he said at a company event in Shanghai.

GE is investing $500 million annually in software as part of the digital drive, and Ruh said the company expected the products to bring in about $6 billion in revenue this year.

 

Microsoft Steps Up Pressure On Software Pirates, Files Lawsuits

July 21, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft last week stepped up its campaign to stop software pirates when it filed the fifth lawsuit in as many months accusing unidentified individuals with illegally activating more than 1,000 copies of Windows, including the newest Windows 10, and Office.

The suit was filed in a Seattle court last Thursday. It was almost identical to others submitted since February, when Microsoft started a string of cases targeting numerous “John Does.”

“Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified over one thousand activations of Microsoft software originating from IP address 69.92.99.109 (‘the IP Address’), which is presently assigned to Cable One, Inc.,” Microsoft’s complaint read.

Microsoft did not identify the culprits, but tagged them as “John Doe” 1 through 10.

“Defendants have activated and attempted to active [sic] copies of Microsoft Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Office 2013, Office 2010, and Windows Server 2008,” Microsoft charged.

As with the previous four John Doe cases of 2016, Microsoft asserted that it tracked the allegedly illegal activations to the IP address, and that the number and pattern of those activations “make it more likely than not” that they were using stolen product keys or abusing legitimate keys.

Microsoft has been given permission in two of the 2016 cases — both filed in early June — to serve subpoenas to internet service providers (ISPs) Comcast and EarthLink. Those subpoenas have demanded that the ISPs identify the alleged software pirates who have been assigned the IP addresses Microsoft had fingered.

 

 

 

Researchers Create Atomic Scale Drive

July 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Researchers have worked out how to create an atomic scale rewritable data-storage device capable of packing 500 terabits onto a single square inch.

That is enough to store most readers porn collections in just a couple of feet of data rather than the rooms it takes up now. Apparently you can stuff the entire contents of the US Library of Congress in a 0.1-mm wide cube — we guess that does not include the toilets and the cafe..

The atomic hard drive was developed by Delft University’s Sander Otte and his chums. It features a storage density that’s 500 times larger than state-of-the-art hard disk drives.

According to the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology, which we get for the impossible spot the proton competition, the technology is not exactly commercial yet.

Otte and the team placed chlorine atoms on a copper surface, resulting in a perfect square grid. A hole appears on this grid whenever an atom is missing. Using a sharp needle of a scanning tunneling microscope, the researchers were able to probe the atoms one by one, and even drag individual atoms towards a hole.

When a chlorine atom is in the top position, and there’s a hole beneath it, it’s a 1. Reversed, the bit is a 0. and it becomes a hard drive.

Each chlorine atom is surrounded by other chlorine atoms, which helps keep them in place, except near the holes. This method makes it much more stable than methods that use loose atoms. Using this technique, the researchers were able to perform write, read-out, and re-write operations in a one-kilobyte device comprising 8,000 atomic bits. It is by far the largest atomic structure ever constructed by humans.

During the experiment, the researchers preserved the positions of more than 8,000 chlorine “vacancies,” or missing atoms, for more than 40 hours at 77 kelvin. After developing a binary alphabet based on the positions of the holes, the researchers stored various texts, including physicist Richard Feynman’s seminal lecture, There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This data was stored atom by atom, bit by bit, on the surface of the copper sheet. The ensuing write/re-write speed was relatively slow—on the scale of minutes—but the demonstration showed that it’s possible to reliably write, store, and read data at the atomic scale.

The system cannot function in an everyday environment. In its current form, the atomic hard drive can only operate in clean vacuum conditions and at liquid nitrogen temperatures, which is -346°F (-321°C). Most readers porn collections are far too hot for it to handle.

Courtesy-Fud

 

CRYPTXXX Ransomware Is Being Sent Via Spam Email

July 21, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Ransomware threat CRYPTXXX is now airborne, according to researchers at security firm Proofpoint, and is being sent out via a spam campaign to some effect.

Proofpoint explained in a blog post that CryptXXX is usually included alongside malware packages such as the Neutrino and Angler exploit kits.

“CryptXXX has rapidly grown into one of the most prevalent ransomware variants in the wild with widespread distribution via exploit kits such as Neutrino and Angler. As exploit kit traffic has declined (a 96 per cent decrease between April and June), though, particularly in the wake of Angler’s disappearance, threat actors normally reliant on exploit kits are diversifying and looking to other vectors like email,” said the firm.

“For the first time, Proofpoint researchers have observed CryptXXX ransomware being distributed via malicious document attachments in email campaigns. On July 14, Proofpoint researchers detected an email campaign with document attachments containing malicious macros. If opened, these attachments download and install CryptXXX ransomware.”

The security firm has provided an example of the type of email. It purports to be from a bank and includes an attached document that the recipient is urged to read. The attachment opens a document that claims to need more macros to display properly. Go for that, and the trouble starts.

“CryptXXX ransomware has propagated rapidly since appearing earlier this year. The ransomware was initially linked to groups associated with Angler and was distributed almost exclusively via Angler,” added the firm.

“As Angler activity dried up over this quarter, many actors turned to instances of the Neutrino exploit kit for distribution. Not surprisingly, with the disruption in the exploit kit market, it appears that CryptXXX actors are turning to email as well. We will continue to monitor this trend and see if malicious document-based distribution of CryptXXX expands in the coming months.”

There is perhaps some good news to report about ransomware, although it does rather fly in the face of advice suggesting that people should not pay ransom demands.

A study by Finnish security company F-Secure looked at five separate ransomware gangs and found that they were friendly, amicable to deal with and amenable on terms and payments.

“Crypto-ransomware criminals’ business model is, of course, encrypting your files and making you pay to have them decrypted so you can access them again. To help victims understand what has happened, and then navigate the unfamiliar process of paying in bitcoin, some [gangs] offer a ‘customer journey’ that could rival that of a legitimate small business,” F-Secure said.

“Websites that support several languages. Helpful FAQs. Convenient customer support forms so the victim can ask questions. And responsive customer service agents that quickly get back with replies.

“We think this is a pretty interesting paradox. Criminal nastiness, but on the other hand willingness to help ‘for your convenience’, as one [gang] put it.”

Ultimately, F-Secure urged people to prevent this happening to them and put in protective and preventive measures that can eliminate the threat. We think that there might be some software firms that can help consumers and businesses with this. F-Secure may be one of them.

Courtesy-TheInq

 

Tesla Says ‘Significant’ Upgrades Coming To Its Autopilot Feature

July 20, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced that he had a “promising call” with Bosch, a German auto-technology supplier that makes the radar sensor for Tesla’s all-electric vehicles.

Musk’s tweet said that ‘significant’ upgrades might be possible for Autopilot, but did not specify what those might be. The improvements will eventually be added to vehicles with Autopilot capability via an over-the-air upgrade, Musk said.

Tesla is currently under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and possibly the Securities and Exchange Commission, over several accidents that may have involved its Autopilot advanced driver assistance system (ADAS).

The fatal accident, which took place on May 7 in Williston, Fla., resulted in the death of Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, when a tractor-trailer crossed both lanes of a divided highway in front of his Tesla sedan.

Two other, non-fatal accidents connected to Autopilot are also under investigation. On Friday, a U.S. Senate Committee asked Tesla to brief it on the circumstances leading to the fatal accident involving Brown. Tesla has conceded that Autopilot was on at the time of the collision.

For his part, Musk also thanked MobilEye for its help in “making Autopilot better.” Netherlands-based MobilEye makes computer chips with image processing algorithms responsible for collision warning and prevention in ADAS, such as Tesla’s Autopilot.

While Tesla has remained fuzzy about how much of a role MobilEye plays in its in-house Autopilot ADAS technology, after the first Model S fatal crash in May, both Tesla and Mobileye stock went down.

 

 

Intel’s NUC Gets Uncovered

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Intel’s NUC consumer roadmap has leaked online showing that Intel is seriously holding a torch for tiny PCs.

Fan-less Tech found some slides which shows Intel has some exciting new hardware planned for release over the next couple of years.

The roadmap shows that Intel will make its new Celeron processor available in the fourth quarter of 2016 with its Arches Canyon model. Its 7th-gen Core chip looks like it will be available at the beginning of 2017 within the Baby Canyon i7 model. Intel will continue to offer the recently launched Skull Canyon through 2017.

Based on the leaked information, Intel has plans to continue its NUC line at least through 2018, offering progressively faster hardware with more options to meet custom applications of the device.

Intel’s NUCs are doing rather well and have been getting good reviews. They are getting increasingly tied to Intel’s chip upgrades so they are remaining fairly cutting edge.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Is Arm Really A Good Fit For Softbank?

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Softbank, the naysayers were mostly on ARM’s side. But it seems that Softbank is having trouble selling the idea to its own shareholders.

Shares in Japan’s Softbank have fallen 10 per cent after it agreed a controversial $30 billion deal to buy UK chip designer ARM.

Part of the reason that shareholders greeted the idea with horror was that it would dump a pile of debt on the company, but the other reason was the value of the company was expected to plummet after Brexit causes the UK economy to collapse.

It was for this reason that the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond welcomed the deal saying that despite the vote to leave the EU, Britain “has lost none of its allure to international investors”. Of course sending profits overseas is just the sort of thing that is good for the British economy under Hammond’s new glorious economic plan.

Common sense, as expressed by ARM co-founder Hermann Hauser, said it represented a “sad day” for the UK’s technology sector. ARM was a golden child which emerged from the days when the UK used to actually make computers.

Analysts had been hoping that Softbank, which has raised nearly 19 billion in cash through sales of some of its assets, was going to use some of that cash to reduce its debt or reward shareholders.

Instead it has secured a $10 billion bridge loan to finance part of its ARM purchase.

SoftBank has pledged to preserve ARM’s existing management team, maintain its headquarters in Cambridge, at least double the number of employees in the UK over the next five years and increase its overseas workforce.

Courtesy-Fud

 

Does Pokemon Go Really Show The Possibilities Of VR?

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Pokemon GO hasn’t even finished its worldwide rollout, but it’s all anyone is talking about or reading about this week; it’s truly inescapable. I haven’t seen this level of mainstream attention for a gaming product since Nintendo’s original Wii, and that’s truly a good thing for Nintendo. The company could use a positive story after dealing with so much negativity from the Wii U’s failure.

As Rob Fahey pointed out today, it’s also hugely encouraging for the future of Nintendo on mobile. Whatever you think of Miitomo, what Pokemon GO has easily proved in only the span of a week, is that with the right approach Nintendo’s IP can do amazing things on a smartphone. I can’t wait to see how Nintendo brings its most cherished IP, like Mario and Zelda to the mobile space. And should the upcoming NX somehow fail, shareholders can rest easy knowing that the company can triumph on devices it didn’t manufacture.

After racing to the top of the charts in the US and Australia, and just recently in the UK as well according to App Annie, Pokemon GO has already helped add $9 billion to Nintendo’s market cap. The monetization potential for sponsored locations and real-world businesses is staggering to think about as well. App Annie says it could “easily envision” Pokemon GO generating $1 billion annually.

The big question surrounding Pokemon GO now, of course, is will it stand the test of time or burn out in just a couple months? The mobile market has been evolving and games can reach maturity much faster. Nicolas Beraudo, MD EMEA at App Annie, commented, “…the average time to maturity for new releases dropped over 60% from 2014 to 2015, a reduction from 50 weeks to 17. What this means is that there is a trend that publishers have to release more games than before to stay profitable.” Once Niantic and Nintendo finish the global rollout, however, ensure that server issues are fixed and possibly introduce more features, Pokemon GO may be able to stay successful for some time.

Another major lesson to be learned from this incredible Pokemon week is how easy it is for people to get into augmented reality. You don’t need an expensive PC or headset or to block out the world and ignore your wife and children to play AR games. People in the know have been telling me all-year long that AR is the technology with the truly mainstream potential. Former Epic Games executive Mike Capps tweeted, “Great, now I have to change my slides saying ‘AR overtakes VR usage by 2021′ and replace that with ’2016′ and hope nobody remembers.” Indeed, Pokemon GO has shown us all that the entire world can easily hop on the AR bandwagon, and with Magic Leap now saying it’s in “go mode” and CastAR still on track for a family-friendly AR system release in 2017, it won’t be long before everyone’s talking about how fun AR gaming is. VR, meanwhile, will no doubt get better and better and offer some incredibly compelling experiences of its own, but I have my doubts on whether its potential can ever match AR’s.

Elsewhere in news, a story that received a lot of play this week was how Warner Bros. settled with the FTC for paying online streamers to say positive things about its games. YouTube celebrity PewDiePie was mentioned – in hindsight probably unfairly – in almost everyone’s headlines. PewDiePie explained in a video response that not only were the videos in question labeled as sponsored by Warner Bros, but they were published at a time when YouTubers weren’t even legally required to disclose such arrangements. PewDiePie, to his credit, was disclosing the nature of those relationships before he even had to, and the media (GamesIndustry.biz included) completely failed to mention that not-so-small detail. Love him or hate him, I think it’s fair to say that PewDiePie’s been vindicated.

And in a story that we’ve been following since last week when the CS:GO Lotto site owners were called out for the unscrupulous people that they are, Valve finally came around and said to itself, “Oh hey, maybe it’s actually not so great that we’ve been sued and are being associated with online gambling.” Why it took the Steam platform holder so long to come out against the gambling sites and to deny any involvement is a mystery to me. It’s good that the company sent out requests to the gambling sites to cease operations through Steam, but as one GI.biz commenter already noted, Valve could be taking an even tougher stance and could very well be launching a lawsuit of their own. This story is far from over, and in the meantime, you should be aware that Twitch has taken notice and changed its terms of service to ban gambling-related broadcasts.

Courtesy-Gi.biz

 

Is Google Really Working On Augmented Reality Devices?

July 20, 2016 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

The rumor mill has manufactured a hell on earth yarn claiming that Google has abandoned its VR projects and is secretly working on a an augmented reality-style headset.

Engadget reported that the Californian technology giant is building the head-mounted computer that will work independently of smartphones and desktop PCs.

It claims that this secret project, which is quietly in development, is a replacement for an Oculus Rift style project that has been axed.

Actually the project sounds more like a hybrid VR-AR setup: “While it does have a screen, it will offer features more in line with augmented reality systems than existing VR headsets.”

Google is not saying anything and it does have a habit of working on things and then giving up on them. But the rumours are indicative of just how important AR and VR is becoming for the industry’s major players:

It is widely viewed as the next major platform, with similar possibilities to the early days of mobile. Facebook has the Oculus Rift, Microsoft has its AR Hololens headset, and there are rumours about Apple’s intentions to get into virtual reality after everyone else has done the legwork and then it will arrive and claim it has invented it.

Google was into mobile-powered VR game early with its DIY Cardboard headset, and earlier this year it announced Daydream — a virtual reality platform that, like Cardboard (but much more sophisticated), uses a smartphone as its hardware base.

Engadget claims that employees working on the secretive alternative headset have been told that Daydream is “not the company’s long-term plan for virtual and augmented reality.”

Courtesy-Fud

 

Ubuntu Forums Database Hacked

July 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Users of Ubuntu support forums should be on the lookout for suspicious emails after the website’s database of 2 million email addresses was stolen.

Canonical announced the security breach on Friday after being notified that someone claimed to have a copy of the UbuntuForums.org database. An investigation revealed that an attacker did get access to the website’s user records through a vulnerability.

The exploited SQL injection flaw was located in the Forum Runner add-on for vBulletin, commercial web forum software that powers over 100,000 community websites on the Internet and is especially popular with companies. The vulnerability was known, but the Canonical IT team had failed to apply the patch for it in a timely manner.

“The attacker had the ability to inject certain formatted SQL to the Forums database on the Forums database servers,” the team said in a blog post. “This gave them the ability to read from any table but we believe they only ever read from the ‘user’ table.”

The user table contained usernames, email addresses and Internet Protocol addresses for 2 million users. It did not contain valid user passwords, but hashed strings that were used for the Ubuntu Single Sign On service. These cannot be used as-is to access user accounts.

As a precautionary measure to ensure that no attacker code was left behind, Canonical temporarily took the website down, rebuilt its hosting servers from scratch, installed the most up-to-date version of vBulletin and reset all system and database passwords.

The company is certain that the attacker was not able to access any code repositories or update mechanisms, did not get write permissions to the Ubuntu Forums database, didn’t obtain shell access to any of the servers and was not able to mess around with any other Canonical or Ubuntu services.

 

 

SoftBank To Acquire ARM For $32 Billion

July 19, 2016 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japan’s SoftBank will acquire UK chip design company ARM Holdings to take advantage of growing demand for processors and other technologies for the internet of things and mobile markets.

SoftBank is paying £24.3 billion ($32 billion) in cash for the chip company that licenses its designs to a large number of chip suppliers to smartphone makers and to the emerging IoT market.

The Japanese company will retain ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge and plans to double the number of employees in the U.K. over the next five years, when it will also increase the company’s headcount outside the U.K.

ARM, with 4,064 employees,  will be an independent business within SoftBank, which will pay for the acquisition from existing cash resources and a loan. SoftBank said it intends to retain the current ARM organization including the existing senior management team, brand, and partnership-based business model and culture.

SoftBank has invested in a number of media and technology companies, including Internet retailer Snapdeal in India and ride-hailing app company Didi Chuxing in China. It also acquired Sprint Nextel in 2013.

The acquisition of ARM would place the company in a market where it would be an upstream supplier to some of the biggest names in the tech industry as licensees of ARM’s designs like Qualcomm gear up to supply chips to the connected devices market.

“ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the ‘Internet of Things,’” said SoftBank chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son in a statement Monday.