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Sunday September 23, 2018

Who Needs the US? Alibaba Will Make Its Own Computer Chips

In an effort to minimize dependence on US technology, China e-commerce and tech giant Alibaba announced this week it would be developing its own artificial intelligence chips for powering cloud computing and internet-connected devices. Alibaba and most other Chinese companies were apparently spooked by what happened to ZTE, which was temporarily "brought to its knees" by the US Commerce Department’s ban this summer.

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"The market for chips is controlled by America ... and suddenly if they stop selling, what that means, you understand," Ma told university students in Tokyo in April. "That's why China, Japan and any country — you need core technologies." Ma's remarks came shortly after the US Commerce Department blocked American companies from selling parts to ZTE (ZTCOF), a Chinese tech company that relied on US suppliers, including chipmakers, to manufacture smartphones and telecommunications equipment.

Discussion

Linux Developers Threaten to Pull "Kill Switch"

All is not well in the Linux community: Linus Torvalds’s apology for "unprofessional behavior" and leave this week was accompanied by the adoption of a new Code of Conduct (CoC), which is being described by some as an insidious attempt by social justice warriors to wrestle power away from contributors they don’t agree with. The CoC appears to shift Linux’s long-standing culture based around meritocracy to a "safe space" that prioritizes inclusion rather than skill. Some developers believe this will destroy the foundations of Linux and are "threatening to withdraw the license to all of their code."

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Activists from the feminist and LGBTQIA+ communities have been trying to force the Linux project to join the Contributor Covenant since at least 2015. The Contributor Covenant is an agreement to implement a special Code of Conduct aimed at changing the predominantly white, straight, and male face of programming. CC’s Code of Conduct is controversial particularly because it allows anyone to be banned from contributing code for any reason, usually with no mechanism for oversight or accountability.

Discussion

Apple Says No to Sex and Violence for Its Streaming Service

"No Sex Please, We’re Apple." The WSJ is reporting that Apple’s upcoming streaming service will be strictly family-friendly, shying away from gratuitous sex, profanity, or violence. The programming will even try to stay away from political and religious subjects. Some employees say it’s just an expensive version of NBC.

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WSJ notes that Tim Cook said the company’s Vital Signs show -- based on Dr. Dre’s life -- was "too violent" after watching it a year ago. "Apple can’t show this," the report mentions. That’s not all. Bryan Fuller, the showrunner for Apple’s reboot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, left the firm earlier in the year after a major conflict over Apple’s focus on family-friendly content.

Discussion

Saturday September 22, 2018

Windows File May Be Secretly Hoarding Your Passwords and Emails

Stylus or touchscreen-capable Windows PC owners who use handwriting gestures should know that all text files on their machines are likely being harvested in an unencrypted file called "WaitList.dat." While worrisome, this is technically not a vulnerability, as the OS intentionally does this to improve handwriting recognition. "Once it is on, text from every document and email which is indexed by the Windows Search Indexer service is stored in WaitList.dat."

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"On my PC, and in my many test cases, WaitList.dat contained a text extract of every document or email file on the system, even if the source file had since been deleted," the researcher added. Furthermore, Skeggs says WaitList.dat can be used to recover text from deleted documents. "If the source file is deleted, the index remains in WaitList.dat, preserving a text index of the file," he says. This provides crucial forensic evidence for analysts like Skeggs that a file and its content had once existed on a PC.

Discussion

The Academy Is Quietly considering Streaming the Oscars

With less people watching both award shows and television in general, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is contemplating streaming the Oscars after their current deal with ABC expires. "TV is going nowhere. So why don’t we just get our money [from a streaming deal], not worry about ratings, and call it a day?" Netflix had approached the Academy last year, expressing interest in hosting the show.

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By 2022, 20% of U.S. adults will have ditched their cable or satellite TV subscriptions, according to eMarketer. By 2028, when the Academy’s deal with ABC expires, who knows where we’ll be? Netflix could own a sizable theater chain by then, and Amazon could be green-lighting shows based on what Alexa overheard Jordan Peele say at breakfast.

Discussion

Take-Two CEO: Game Streaming's Latency Problems Will Be Over in a Few Years

While the majority of gamers would prefer to stick with local copies, an increasing number of publishers have seemingly made up their minds already on streaming being the future standard. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick, for one, thinks the transition will occur "in one to three years," with large-scale companies rapidly developing their infrastructure and numbers of hyperscale data centers around the world, which will help limit latency issues.

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Zelnick's comments come a few months after Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot suggested that streaming games will completely replace consoles after one more generation. Guillemot suggested that changeover would cause a revolution in the gaming market, which will explode in size and accessibility thanks to cheap, streaming-capable boxes delivering big-budget hits. Zelnick agreed that streaming will increase the size of the high-end, big-budget gaming market -- because "you don't need to buy a box in order to play our games."

DIscussion

The Nintendo 64 Classic Could Be Arriving Soon

Nintendo’s rumored follow-up to the SNES Classic could be coming by the end of this year: a trademark application filed for a brand-new N64 controller graphic by the company last summer has finally been registered and published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The style of the graphic is consistent with what was on the boxes for the NES and SNES Classic, leading many to believe an N64 Classic is inevitable.

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It’s not 100 percent certain that Nintendo is producing an N64 Classic Edition, but plenty of signs suggest this is the case. The next question, then, is when we might see it launch. With the company’s previous devices arriving in late 2016 and September 2017, a release in time for the holidays seems plausible. Nintendo might also be looking to compete against Sony, which is releasing the PlayStation Classic on December 3.

Discussion

Researcher Discloses New Zero-Day Affecting All Versions of Windows

Microsoft’s lack of action has compelled Trend Micro’s security team to reveal details of a zero-day vulnerability applicable to all Windows versions. The vulnerability involves the Microsoft JET Database Engine, which is integrated in products such as Microsoft Access and Visual Basic.

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According to an advisory released by Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), the vulnerability is due to a problem with the management of indexes in the Jet database engine that, if exploited successfully, can cause an out-out-bounds memory write, leading to remote code execution. An attacker must convince a targeted user into opening a specially crafted JET database file in order to exploit this vulnerability and remotely execute malicious code on a targeted vulnerable Windows computer.

Discussion

Trade War with China Will Drive Up GPU Prices Again

Could NVIDIA’s RTX cards get even more expensive? That is certainly a possibility: ExtremeTech notes that a variety of PC components, including graphics cards, motherboards, storage devices (e.g., SSDs), and power supplies, will all be hit with a 10-percent tariff starting September 24. "If you could buy a new RTX2080 AIB today for $800 you should, and think of it as being discount from what it will cost in January -- $1,000. On Monday, the 24th of September, it will cost $880, plus tax and shipping."

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The increase in prices will be recognized by some smart, and wealthy people as an opportunity. They will buy as many of the new AIBs today as they can get and hold them. Then when the price goes up, they can sell them on eBay for only 15% more than today’s price, make a nice profit, legally, and make the slow-moving or slow-witted people who didn’t buy now, happy to get the apparent gray-market discount. None of that will help the GPU or AIB suppliers, who are already nervous about the last generation of AIBs bought for mining being dumped on eBay and killing new sales.

Discussion

IBM Is Being Sued for Age Discrimination

Spokesmen for the once-dominant tech giant say "skills, not age," are what determines who works at IBM, but a class-action lawsuit filed this week on behalf of three employees says otherwise. As outlined by ProPublica in March, the company has cut thousands of senior workers over the past few years in what appears to be a clear example of age discrimination: despite being much better qualified, older staff would regularly be the first ones out.

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Paul Henry, a 61-year-old IBM sales and technical specialist who loved being on the road, had just returned to his Columbus home from a business trip in August 2016 when he learned he’d been let go. When he asked why, he said an executive told him to "keep your mouth shut and go quietly." "If you’re over 55, forget about preparing for retirement," he said in an interview. "You have to prepare for losing your job and burning through every cent you’ve saved just to get to retirement."

Discussion

Rockstar: Red Dead Redemption 2 "Absolutely Not Coming to PC"

During a Twitch stream with Italian gaming website Multiplayer.it, a Rockstar representative allegedly claimed Red Dead Redemption 2 would never see the light of day on PC. Many say this is hard to believe, considering the recent success of GTA 5 and Online beyond consoles. Others insist it was just a mistranslation. In any case, Devolver Digital has volunteered to pick up the slack: "Hello, we’d like to publish your new cowboy game on PC."

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Now, to be fair, the original Red Dead Redemption also did not come to PC- but things now are different enough from then. For starters, the original game’s code was a total mess, thanks to a very protracted and fractured development cycle, which made a port implausible to begin with. Secondly, as noted already, the success of GTA Online on PC would be reason enough for Rockstar to look into a PC port eventually.

Discussion

Animated "Diablo" Series Coming to Netflix

Blizzard’s classic hack-and-slash dungeon crawler is coming to Netflix: BOOM! Studios founder and Hellboy-reboot screenwriter Andy Cosby announced this week he was in "final talks" to write and show-run an animated series based on Diablo. "It’s very exciting and I hope to the High Heavens it all works out."

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Cosby previously replied to a fan question that inquired as to whether he was involved with Netflix’s then-rumored "Diablo" show, who he had told to check back with him in the future. Unfortunately, the confirmatory tweet has since been deleted, hinting that this was news that likely will be announced in an official capacity at some point in the future.

Discussion

Ex-Google CEO: China Will Cause the Internet to Split in Two by 2028

Due to China’s growing wealth and influence, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt predicts the internet will be split into a Chinese-led internet and non-Chinese internet led by America in 10 to 15 years. Despite the country’s potential to show "fantastic leadership in products and services," Schmidt warns that China’s government, which is obsessed with censorship and control, will have a dangerous influence on the web.

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If you think of China as like 'Oh yeah, they're good with the Internet,' you're missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you're going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There's a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.

Discussion

Friday September 21, 2018

Telltale Games Studio Shutters Doors Due to Low Sales

The Telltale Games studio has shutdown and all that is left is a 25 man skeleton crew. The game studio was known for its ultra high quality Walking Dead series of adventure games. Some of their games have 97% approval ratings on Steam, but sales never matched the quality of the titles. All future product launches have been canceled.

CEO Pete Hawley issued the following statement: "It's been an incredibly difficult year for Telltale as we worked to set the company on a new course. Unfortunately, we ran out of time trying to get there. We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales. With a heavy heart, we watch our friends leave today to spread our brand of storytelling across the games industry."

Discussion

Blizzard Bans Third Party Data-Tracking Tools in Overwatch

Blizzard has lowered the banhammer on third party data-tracking tools in the esports game Overwatch. These tools supposedly only allowed users to see extra statistics, but Blizzard stated otherwise in a forum post. "To provide more clarity, any third-party application that impedes on the competitive integrity in Overwatch is not allowed. For example, a third-party application that offers users information such as enemy position, enemy health, enemy ability usage, or Ultimate readiness creates an uneven playing field for every other player in the map." According to a Twitter user, Blizzard sent out notices to the community to stop using the tools as users may receive a permanent ban in the future.

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Visor made claims to offer live feedback to players on enemy kills and other stats, while Pursuit sold itself as a post-game report program. Both pieces of software were named in the notice that Mastin posted. It's worth noting that Visor just raised $4.7 million to further develop its performance-tracking software. The company has not announced any new plans for Vision at this time.

Discussion

Android and Google Play Security Rewards Programs Surpass $3 Million in Payouts

For the past 3 years, Google has been paying top researchers for submitting vulnerability reports about flaws and bugs in the Android ecosystem. Recently the Android Security Rewards (ASR) just exceeded the $3 million mark in rewards to researchers. This year alone 470 qualifying vulnerability reports were filed and the average pay per researcher increased by 23%. The ASR average is $2,600 per reward and $12,500 per researcher. One researcher received $105,000 for a remote exploit chain submission.

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In October 2017, we rolled out the Google Play Security Reward Program to encourage security research into popular Android apps available on Google Play. So far, researchers have reported over 30 vulnerabilities through the program, earning a combined bounty amount of over $100K. If undetected, these vulnerabilities could have potentially led to elevation of privilege, access to sensitive data and remote code execution on devices.

Discussion

ESPN Streaming Service Attracts 1 Million Paid Subscribers

The $4.99 a month streaming video service from ESPN has attracted more than 1 million paid subscribers since its launch in April of this year. Disney, which owns ESPN has decided to pull its content from Netflix in favor of starting a branded streaming service dedicated to its movies and shows.

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ESPN+ will stream 10,000 live sporting events in its first year, in addition to on-demand content and past sporting events. It features games from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and global soccer events. It does not require its subscribers to buy a cable or satellite subscription, appealing to cord-cutters. The service costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 per year.

Discussion

Three Young Hackers Get Light Sentences After Assisting the FBI Fight Cybercrime

Three hackers aged 21, 22, and 22 all received 5 years of probation and 62 1/2 weeks of community service in the U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Josiah White, Paras Jha, and Dalton Norman all pleaded guilty to computer fraud charges in December. They were ordered to pay $127,000 in restitution and relinquish a large amount of cryptocurrency that the trio had accumulated. They also agreed to continue helping the FBI fight cybercrime and assist in cybersecurity as part of their sentencing.

They trio had created the Mirai botnet to distribute malware and a clickfraud campaign to artificially generate advertising revenue from online ads. The young men had named the botnet after an anime that they were all fond of.

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The men created a collection of hundreds of thousands of computers and internet-connected devices -- including routers, webcams and other devices -- infected with malware that they controlled, according to court documents. A broad "denial of service" attack waged using the Mirai botnet knocked platforms such as Twitter and Netflix offline in October 2016. Prosecutors said they don't believe the three men were responsible for that attack because Jha had already posted the code for Mirai to online criminal forums.

Discussion

Huawei Trolls iPhone Fans with Free Power Banks and "You'll Need It" Message

Huawei's marketing team was truly ingenious with a recent campaign targeting Apple fans camping outside of Apple Stores overnight in anticipation of the iPhone XS and XS Max product launches. They gave away Huawei power banks to 200 lucky Apple fans with the message 'Here's a power bank. You'll need it. Courtesy of Huawei.' This was done in reference to the new iPhone lineup only having a 2,685mAh battery while the Huawei flagship phone has a 4,000mAh battery. Well played Huawei! Well done!

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The iPhone XS comes with a 2,658mAh battery, while Huawei's flagship phone the P20 Pro comes with a 4,000mAh battery. Also, Huawei overtook Apple as the smartphone brand with the 2nd most sales worldwide during the Q2 2018.

Discussion

Spray-On Electronic Skin Will Allow Robots to Differentiate Strain and Pressure

South Korean researchers from the KAIST Research University have developed e-skin that allows a robot to differentiate strain and pressure like human skin can. The spray-on coating allows for wearable electronics to be added to surfaces such as on a prosthetic device due to properties that allow the e-skin to be uniformly deposited. It also allows the wearable electronics to "distinguish mechanical stimuli analogous to human skin."

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Professor Park said, "Our electronic skin can be mass produced at a low cost and can easily be coated onto complex 3-dimensional surfaces. It is a key technology that can bring us closer to the commercialization of electronic skin for various applications in the near future."

Discussion

Ig Nobel Prize Is a Tongue in Cheek Award Show for Eccentric Scientists

Eccentric scientists gathered in Tokyo to see which would take home the Ig Nobel Prize or "anti-Nobels" award for eccentric inventions which are designed to make people smile and think. One of the winners was for a Self-Colonoscopy study which was meant to promote better health in Japan as many people are too embarrassed to go to the doctor for a colonoscopy. Bowlinguals is an invention that translates dog barks into 6 different emotional categories. Finally there is the Babypod speaker which is designed to be inserted into the vagina to create a concert for the unborn child as playing music on the belly was deemed less effective by researchers.

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Japanese researchers have won Ig Nobel prizes for 12 years in a row. The winners include a team who developed Bowlingual and researchers who discovered female insects endowed with a penis.

Discussion

Japan Launched Two Rovers at an Asteroid

Today, Japan launched 2 small rovers at an asteroid from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. The original mission launched in 2014, and took some stunning fly-by shots of the Earth in 2015 on its way out. The 2 diminutive drones measure 18cm by 7cm, weigh 1.1kg each, and feature small motors to "hop" across the surface. Japan showed their enthusiasm in a tweet featuring the spacecraft's shadow on the asteroid's surface. The main craft will throw two more rovers at the asteroid next year. Check out a video of the mission below:

There are four cameras on Rover-1A and three cameras on Rover-1B. We are planning to use the cameras on each rover to create a stereo image of the surface of Ryugu. Some of the projections from the rover edge that looks like thorns are temperature sensors to measure the surface temperature of Ryugu. Additional instruments on the rovers include optical sensors, an accelerometer and a gyroscope.

Discussion

Fortune 500 Corporations Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Interview Job Candidates

The Wall Street Journal has an article from the Moving Upstream series where the use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the hiring process is discussed. Almost all Fortune 500 companies use some form of automation in the hiring process. By quantifying human behavior with software algorithms; cluster of words used, micro expressions and tone of voice are turned into data points for machine learning (ML) to analyze and pick the very best candidate for the job. These data points are used to generate a score as accumulated responses and facial movements are compared against a highly rated employee at the company. HireVue is one of the companies that creates the software and ML algorithms that companies such as Unilever and Hilton use to video interview job candidates.

HireVue CEO Kevin Parker stresses that some of the advantages of using A.I. include a lack of human bias as it creates a fair and level playing field in the hiring process. The model that HireVue uses captures all facial expressions as seen in top performers but only uses the data points that are relevant in predicting what matters to create the job candidate's score. Another company called DeepSense seeks to use a person's personality instead of job skill and resume to determine compatibility with a job opening. They use ML to analyze an applicant's LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media accounts to find their underlying personality traits.

When discussing the ramifications of using social media to analyze job candidates, Jason Bellini asks, "Is it legal?" Sociologist and law professor Ifeoma Ajunwa says, "That is all public information so yes, it is perfectly legal!" Mr. Bellini then asks, "Is it ethical?" Ifeoma Ajunwa responds, "So that's a second question. When you're posting on Twitter you're certainly not imagining for that information to be collected to be used against you. And it is important actually, that we really stop to ask, Is this working for society?"

Discussion


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