Google

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails For Gmail Ads (bloomberg.com) 65

Google will soon stop scanning emails received by some Gmail users, a practice that has allowed it to show them targeted advertising but which stirred privacy worries. From a report: The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers. Alphabet's Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google's senior vice president of cloud. "What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," she said. Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user's email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 170

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.
Privacy

If It Uses Electricity, It Will Connect To the Internet: F-Secure's CRO (theregister.co.uk) 297

New submitter evolutionary writes: According to F-Secure's Chief Research Officer "IoT is unavoidable. If it uses electricity, it will become a computer. If it uses electricity, it will be online. In future, you will only buy IoT appliances, whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not." F-Secure's new product to help mitigate data leakage, "Sense", is a IoT Firewall, combining a traditional firewall with a cloud service and uses concepts including behaviour-based blocking and device reputation to figure out whether you have insecure devices.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Quietly Forms a Mixed Reality Team, But What Is It Building? (geekwire.com) 41

Nat Levy, reporting for GeekWire: Amazon is building a new "two pizza team" within Amazon Web Services focused on mixed-reality technology, another sign that the cloud powerhouse is expanding its reach and branching out into new areas. AWS isn't talking publicly about the initiative, but a job posting for a software engineer sheds some light on the team's goals. The posting says the company is "building a set of services, and platform to bring AWS and Amazon into the world of Mixed Reality." The company wants engineers with experience in "Computer Vision, 3D objects, rendering and data storage by designing, developing and testing software solutions." The posting further states that "applications would include real-time 3D modeling, image and video stream processing all within a scalable distributed environment." The posting calls the group a "true start-up within AWS (a real two pizza team)." The two-pizza term goes back to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and his well-known rule that any team or meeting that can't be fed with two pizzas is too large.
Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Space

New Evidence That All Stars Are Born In Pairs (phys.org) 90

InfiniteZero shares a report from Phys.Org: Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin. And so did every other sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. "We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative populations of young single stars and binaries of all separations in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide (more than 500 astronomical units) binaries," said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer. "These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years." The study has been published in April on the arXiv server.
Businesses

Team Collaboration App Slack, Valued at $9 Billion, Draws Attention of Amazon (bloomberg.com) 79

Amazon is in the running among a handful of companies looking to acquire the popular chatroom startup, reports Bloomberg. From the article: San Francisco-based Slack could be valued at at least $9 billion in a sale, the people said. An agreement isn't assured and discussions may not go further, said the people. Buying Slack would help Seattle-based Amazon bolster its enterprise services as it seeks to compete with rivals like Microsoft and Alphabet's Google. The company's cloud-hosting unit, Amazon Web Services, in February unveiled a paid-for video and audio conferencing service -- Amazon Chime -- that lets users chat and share content. Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Slack, the popular business communications company, is in the midst of raising $500 million at a $5 billion post-money valuation, an effort that has attracted several potential buyers interested in taking out the company ahead of the funding. Those include Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, several of which have previously shown interest in acquiring Slack. Bloomberg reported the interest by Amazon today, with a $9 billion sales price.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some 'Best Practices' IT Should Avoid At All Costs? (cio.com) 348

snydeq writes: From telling everyone they're your customer to establishing a cloud strategy, Bob Lewis outlines 12 "industry best practices" that are sure to sink your company's chances of IT success: "What makes IT organizations fail? Often, it's the adoption of what's described as 'industry best practices' by people who ought to know better but don't, probably because they've never had to do the job. From establishing internal customers to instituting charge-backs to insisting on ROI, a lot of this advice looks plausible when viewed from 50,000 feet or more. Scratch the surface, however, and you begin to find these surefire recipes for IT success are often formulas for failure." What "best practices" would you add?
Businesses

Amazon Sues Former AWS VP Over Non-Compete Deal (geekwire.com) 76

Reader joshtops shares a report: Amazon.com is alleging that one of its former high-ranking executives violated a non-compete agreement when he accepted a job at Bellevue-based Smartsheet, GeekWire has learned. In a lawsuit filed Friday in King County Superior Court, Amazon alleges that Gene Farrell, who served as Vice President of the AWS Enterprise Applications -- EC2 Windows team, violated a non-compete agreement when he took the new job as head of product June 1 at the heavily-funded Bellevue online workplace collaboration platform. "This move is unthinkable," Amazon wrote in a motion for a temporary restraining order that would bar Farrell from working at Smartsheet. "he cannot possibly forget everything he knows about AWS's products and plans while he is working to develop products for its competitor." The suit also notes: "Farrell's role as "Head of Product" at Smartsheet will necessarily involve development of and strategy regarding competing cloud-based productivity products, including but not limited to those for project management, collaboration, and/or automation, and will therefore breach the Noncompetition Agreement and threaten the disclosure of Amazon's highly confidential information," Amazon wrote in its lawsuit.
Space

Has the 40-year Old Mystery of the 'Wow!' Signal Been Solved? (newatlas.com) 83

"Astronomers have confirmed that the Wow! signal, thought to be the most promising detection by SETI of alien life, was actually caused by a comet," writes schwit1. New Atlas reports: Last year, a group of researchers from the Center of Planetary Science proposed a new hypothesis that argued a comet might be the culprit. The frequency could be caused by the hydrogen cloud they carry, and the fact that they move accounts for why it seemingly disappeared. Two comets, named 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs), happened to be transiting through that region of space when the Wow! signal was detected, but they weren't discovered until after 2006. To test the hypothesis, the team made 200 radio spectrum observations between November 2016 and February 2017. Sure enough, 266/P Christensen was found to emit radio waves at a frequency of 1,420 MHz, and to double check, the researchers moved their radio telescope by one degree. As expected, the signal vanished, and only returned when the telescope was trained back on the comet.
Data Storage

Why Does Microsoft Still Offer a 32-bit OS? (backblaze.com) 367

Brian Wilson, a founder of cloud storage service BackBlaze, writes in a blog post: Moving over to a 64-bit OS allows your laptop to run BOTH the old compatible 32-bit processes and also the new 64-bit processes. In other words, there is zero downside (and there are gigantic upsides). Because there is zero downside, the first time it could, Apple shipped with 64-bit OS support. Apple did not give customers the option of "turning off all 64-bit programs." Apple first shipped 64-bit support in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in 2009. This was so successful that Apple shipped all future Operating Systems configured to support both 64-bit and 32-bit processes. All of them. But let's contrast the Apple approach with that of Microsoft. Microsoft offers a 64-bit OS in Windows 10 that runs all 64-bit and all 32-bit programs. This is a valid choice of an Operating System. The problem is Microsoft ALSO gives customers the option to install 32-bit Windows 10 which will not run 64-bit programs. That's crazy. Another advantage of the 64-bit version of Windows is security. There are a variety of security features such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) that work best in 64-bits. The 32-bit version is inherently less secure. By choosing 32-bit Windows 10 a customer is literally choosing a lower performance, LOWER SECURITY, Operating System that is artificially hobbled to not run all software. My problem is this: Backblaze, like any good technology vendor, wants to be easy to use and friendly. In this case, that means we need to quietly, invisibly, continue to support BOTH the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of every Microsoft OS they release. And we'll probably need to do this for at least 5 years AFTER Microsoft officially retires the 32-bit only version of their operating system.
Cloud

Amazon Kills Off Unlimited Cloud Storage Option For Amazon Drive (usatoday.com) 76

Coldeagle writes: It looks like Amazaon is killing off it's unlimited storage plan and replacing it with a 1 TB plan for the same monthly cost. USA Today reports: "Amazon had the best deal in online storage -- unlimited backup for $59.99 -- but now unlimited is out. It has been replaced with tiered pricing, the system used by Amazon's rivals. The new rate, announced to customers Wednesday night, is now $59.99 yearly for 1 terabyte of online backup, with each additional terabyte (TB) costing an additional $59.99 annually. Additionally, Amazon is introducing a lower-priced tier set at 100 GBs of storage for $11.99 yearly."
EU

EU Seeks New Powers To Obtain Data 'Directly' From Tech Firms (zdnet.com) 40

Zack Whittaker reports via ZDNet: European authorities are seeking new powers to allow police and intelligence agencies to directly obtain user data stored on the continent by U.S. tech companies. The move comes in the wake of an uptick in terrorist attacks, including several attacks in Britain and France, among others across the bloc. Tech companies have been asked to do more to help law enforcement, while police have long argued the process for gathering data overseas is slow and cumbersome. The bloc's justice commissioner, Vera Jourova, presented several plans to a meeting of justice ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday to speed up access for EU police forces to obtain evidence -- including one proposal to allow police to obtain data "directly" from the cloud servers of U.S. tech companies in urgent cases. "Commissioner Jourova presented at the Justice Council three legislative options to improve access to e-evidence," said Christian Wiga, an EU spokesperson, in an email. "Based on the discussion between justice ministers, the Commission will now prepare a legislative proposal," he added. Discussions are thought to have included what kind of data could be made available, ranging from geolocation data to the contents of private messages. Such powers would only be used in "emergency" situations, said Jourova, adding that safeguards would require police to ensure that each request is "necessary" and "proportionate." Further reading: Reuters
Facebook

Facebook Is Planning To Move WhatsApp Off IBM's Public Cloud (cnbc.com) 59

Jordan Novet, reporting for CNBC: Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, which is used by 1.2 billion people across the globe, is planning to move off of IBM's cloud and into Facebook's own data centers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The WhatsApp move, which could begin later this year, would result in IBM losing one of its top five public cloud customers, the source said. IBM's public cloud business lags behind Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is on top with 33 percent of the market in April, as well as Microsoft's Azure cloud, according to Synergy Research.
Cloud

Apple's New iOS File Manager Coming This Fall As Part of iOS 11 (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple announced the new file manager today. A demo showed that the application will provide access to local files and files in cloud storage services such as Dropbox, iCloud Drive, and Box. It will support nested folders, favorites, search, tags, and a list view in which files can be sorted by size and date. You'll also be able to drag and drop with other applications, for example by dragging an attachment from e-mail into the file manager. The new manager will be part of iOS 11, shipping this fall.
Transportation

What To Do If the Laptop Ban Goes Global (backchannel.com) 344

"The U.S. is reportedly seriously considering a greatly expanded ban on laptops in airplane cabins," writes Slashdot reader mirandakatz -- sharing some advice from Dan Gillmor. If the government still allows laptops to be checked in with luggage, "the priority will be to discourage tampering and mitigate the risks associated with theft," he writes, envisioning that "If I have to check mine, I'll pack it in bubble wrap and tape, and do some other things to make it evident if someone has tampered with the machine." But of course there's other precautions: [W]e can travel with bare-bones operating system setups, with as little personal or business data as possible (preferably none at all) on the laptop's internal disk drive. When we arrive and get back online, we can work mostly in browsers and retrieve what we need from cloud storage for the specific applications that have to run "locally" on the PC... You might also get a Chromebook for international travel. Chromebooks run Google's Chrome operating system and keep pretty much all data in Google's cloud. So you could carry a bare Chromebook through a border, go online, and retrieve the information you need. You have to completely trust Google with this method...

[The article also suggests encrypting the hard disk -- along with your phone -- or carrying an external drive.] I use the Ubuntu operating system, and this simplifies creating a special travel setup. In preparation for international hassles, I've put a copy of my OS and essential data files on an encrypted USB thumb drive, which holds 256 gigabytes of data... If I've forgotten to load some specific files, and I have them backed up in the cloud, I can always go there.

Because of all the additional security procedures, he utlimately predicts higher ticket prices, fewer business travellers, and, according to Bruce Schneier, "a new category of 'trusted travelers' who are allowed to carry their electronics onto planes."
NASA

NASA Will Create Fake Red And Green Clouds Near Virginia (cnn.com) 83

"We have scrubbed today, June 4, due to clouds," NASA tweeted hours before sunrise on Sunday, adding later that "The next launch attempt for the Terrier-Improved Malemute is no earlier than June 11 pending range availability." So they're still waiting for the right weather to launch a very unique experiment. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: The early morning hours on the U.S. East Coast might be unusually colorful as NASA plans to produce artificial blue-green and red clouds that may be visible from New York to North Carolina... It's a test of a new system that helps scientists study the auroras and ionosphere. A NASA sounding rocket (a small, sub-orbital rocket often used in research) will launch from Wallops Flight Facility off the coast of Virginia and release several soda-sized canisters of vapor tracers in the upper atmosphere that may appear as colorful clouds. The tracers use vapors made up of lithium, barium and tri-methyl aluminum that react with other elements in the atmosphere to glow, letting researchers visually track the flows of ionized and neutral particles. It's a bit like being able to dye the wind or ocean currents to be able to get a visual picture.
When NASA does perform its launch, CNN adds that "If you're near the eastern U.S. coast, look toward the eastern horizon. The farther you are from the launch location, the lower the clouds will appear on the horizon." Basically, try to adjust your gaze towards Virginia's eastern shore -- and if you're not on the east coast, NASA will be livestreaming the launch and posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Updated to reflect new mission status.
The Media

Walt Mossberg's Last Column Calls For Privacy and Security Laws (recode.net) 96

70-year-old Walt Mossberg wrote his last weekly column Thursday, looking back on how "we've all had a hell of a ride for the last few decades" and revisiting his famous 1991 pronouncement that "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault." Not only were the interfaces confusing, but most tech products demanded frequent tweaking and fixing of a type that required more technical skill than most people had, or cared to acquire. The whole field was new, and engineers weren't designing products for normal people who had other talents and interests. But, over time, the products have gotten more reliable and easier to use, and the users more sophisticated... So, now, I'd say: "Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it's not, it's not your fault." The devices we've come to rely on, like PCs and phones, aren't new anymore. They're refined, built with regular users in mind, and they get better each year. Anything really new is still too close to the engineers to be simple or reliable.
He argues we're now in a strange lull before entering an unrecognizable world where major new breakthroughs in areas like A.I., robotics, smart homes, and augmented reality lead to "ambient computing", where technology itself fades into the background. And he uses his final weekly column to warn that "if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it's time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws."
Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 173

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership.

Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value.

In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."
Space

Juno Spacecraft Reveals Spectacular Cyclones At Jupiter's Poles (arstechnica.com) 22

Joe Palca reports via NPR: NASA's Juno spacecraft has spotted giant cyclones swirling at Jupiter's north and south poles. That's just one of the unexpected and puzzling findings being reported by the Juno science team. Juno arrived at Jupiter last summer. It's the first spacecraft to get a close-up look at the planet's poles. It's in an orbit that takes it skimming close to the cloud tops of the gas giant once every 53 days. After each close pass, the spacecraft sends a trove of data back to Earth. Ultimately, scientists will want to understand how these cyclones change over time and whether they form differently in the north and south poles. Another puzzle that Juno is supposed to help solve is whether Jupiter, a gas giant, has a solid core. Another surprise from Juno is the concentration of ammonia in Jupiter's atmosphere. Scientists thought ammonia was most likely distributed evenly throughout the atmosphere. The data show there's more ammonia near the equator than there is at other latitudes.

Slashdot Top Deals