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AI

Microsoft Forms New AI Research Group Led By Harry Shum (techcrunch.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A day after announcing a new artificial intelligence partnership with IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon, Microsoft is upping the ante within its own walls. The tech giant announced that it is creating a new AI business unit, the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which will be led by Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum. Shum will oversee 5,000 computer scientists, engineers and others who will all be "focused on the company's AI product efforts," the company said in an announcement. The unit will be working on all aspects of AI and how it will be applied at the company, covering agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Shum has been involved in some of Microsoft's biggest product efforts at the ground level of research, including the development of its Bing search engine, as well as in its efforts in computer vision and graphics: that is a mark of where Microsoft is placing its own priority for AI in the years to come. Important to note that Microsoft Research unit will no longer be its on discrete unit -- it will be combined with this new AI effort. Research had 1,000 people in it also working on areas like quantum computing, and that will now be rolled into the bigger research and development efforts being announced today. Products that will fall under the new unit will include Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams led by David Ku, Derrick Connell and Vijay Mital, respectively. The Microsoft AI and Research Group will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT), Microsoft said.
Cellphones

FCC Votes To Upgrade Emergency Smartphone Alerts (cnn.com) 30

After recent bombings, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to update the four-year-old emergency smartphone alerts system, which is used by officials to ping smartphones to alert people of severe weather, missing children, terror attacks or other danger. Some of the new changes allow the system to send texts with links to pictures, maps and phone numbers. CNNMoney reports: The agency also voted to allow longer messages -- 360 characters, up from 90 -- and to require wireless providers to support Spanish-language alerts. Wireless carriers will be allowed to support embedded links later this year. They'll be required to next year. The system's limits were on display last week when millions of New Yorkers received a text alert seeking information on Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspected in bombings in New York and New Jersey. "See media for pic," the alert said. Emergency alerts still won't include embedded photos, but commissioners said they're open to the idea. "Vague directives in text about where to find information about a suspect, just as we saw in New York, are not good enough," said Jessica Rosenworcel, an FCC commissioner. "As we move into the 5G future, we need to ensure that multimedia is available in all of our alert messages." Not everyone was so sure. Michael O'Rielly, another commissioner, said adding links and multimedia could jam cell networks during emergencies.
The Courts

Four States Sue To Stop Internet Transition (thehill.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Republican attorneys general in four states are filing a lawsuit to block the transfer of internet domain systems oversight from the U.S. to an international governing body. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Nevada Attorney General Paul Laxalt filed a lawsuit on Wednesday night to stop the White House's proposed transition of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. The state officials cite constitutional concerns in their suit against the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. government and the Department of Commerce. "The Obama Administration's decision violates the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution by giving away government property without congressional authorization, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by chilling speech, and the Administrative Procedure Act by acting beyond statutory authority," a statement released by Paxton's office reads. The attorneys generals claim that the U.S. government is ceding government property, pointing to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review that "concluded that the transition does not involve a transfer of U.S. government property requiring Congressional approval." Paxton also echoed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's warnings that the transition could harm free speech on the internet by giving Russia, China and Iran a voice on the international governing body that would oversee internet domain systems. "Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy," Paxton said. "The president does not have the authority to simply give away America's pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish."
Google

Google Delays Release of Android Wear 2.0 To 2017 (techcrunch.com) 8

Google announced today the next generation of its smartwatch platform -- Android Wear 2.0 -- won't be seeing the light of day this year. The company says that it will release the final version of Android Wear 2.0 in early 2017. From a TechCrunch report: While Google never talked about a final release date for Wear 2.0, its original schedule called for about 30 weeks of alpha and beta testing, which would have put the release date somewhere around the middle of December. Google, however, now says that it has gotten "tons of great feedback from the developer community about Android Wear 2.0" and that it is "committed to improve and iterate based on them to ensure a great user experience." Because of this, the plan is to continue the preview program into early 2017 at which time the first watches will receive the new version.CNET reported recently that three of the top Android Wear smartwatches maker -- LG, Huawei and Motorola -- had confirmed that they won't be releasing new smartwatches until next year, at least.
Networking

Researcher Find D-Link DWR-932 Router Is 'Chock Full of Holes' (helpnetsecurity.com) 36

Reader JustAnotherOldGuy writes: Security researcher Pierre Kim has unearthed a bucketload of vulnerabilities in the LTE router/portable wireless hotspot D-Link DWR-932. Kim found the latest available firmware has these vulnerabilities: Two backdoor accounts with easy-to-guess passwords that can be used to bypass the HTTP authentication used to manage the router
-A default, hardcoded Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) PIN, as well as a weak WPS PIN generation algorithm
- Multiple vulnerabilities in the HTTP daemon
- Hardcoded remote Firmware Over The Air credentials
- Lowered security in Universal Plug and Play, and more.
"At best, the vulnerabilities are due to incompetence; at worst, it is a deliberate act of security sabotage from the vendor," says Kim, and advises users to stop using the device until adequate fixes are provided.

America Online

AOL's Innovative Card-Based Email Service, Alto, Comes To iOS And Android (fastcompany.com) 33

Remember AOL? The company best known for its email service? Three years ago, it released a Pinterest-like platform for desktop email called Alto. Today AOL announced the release of Alto for iOS and Android -- nearly a year after it began beta testing it. FastCompany writes: The app's design is based on the idea that email has shifted from a communication tool to more of a transactional system -- today's inboxes are filled with receipts, order confirmations, and reservations, rather than personal messages. To combat this flood of data, Alto automatically sorts email into stacks, such as "travel," "photos," "files," "shopping," and "personal."
Operating Systems

Raspberry Pi Foundation Unveils New LXDE-Based Desktop For Raspbian Called PIXEL (softpedia.com) 30

Raspberry Pi Foundation's Simon Long has unveiled a new desktop environment for the Debian-based Raspbian GNU/Linux operating system for Raspberry Pi devices. From a Softpedia report (submitted by an anonymous reader):Until today, Raspbian shipped with the well-known and lightweight LXDE desktop environment, which looks pretty much the same as on any other Linux-based distribution out there that is built around LXDE (Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment). But Simon Long, a UX engineer working for Raspberry Pi Foundation, was hired to make it better, transform it into something that's more appealing to users. So after two years of work, he managed to create a whole new desktop environment for Raspbian, the flagship operating system for Raspberry Pi single-board computers developed and distributed by Raspberry Pi Foundation. Called PIXEL, the new Raspbian desktop offers a more eye-candy design with the panel on top (not on the bottom like on a default LXDE setup), new icons, new Applications Menu, and new theme. "It's actually surprisingly easy to hack about with the LXDE desktop once you get your head around what all the bits do, and since then I've been slowly chipping away at the bits that I felt would most benefit from tweaking," reveals Simon Long. "Stuff has slowly been becoming more and more like my original concept for the desktop; with the latest changes, I think the desktop has reached the point where it's a complete product in its own right and should have its own name."
Facebook

WhatsApp Won't Comply With India's Order To Delete User Data (engadget.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: WhatsApp's decision to share user data with Facebook has provoked the ire of yet another foreign government. Last week, India's Delhi High Court ordered WhatsApp to delete any data collected from users who opted out of the company's new privacy policy before September 25th. According to Mashable, however, WhatsApp has no plan to comply with the court order and it will have "no impact on the planned policy and terms of service updates." In August, privacy groups in the US spoke out against the change, which allows WhatsApp to pass account information like mobile phone number, contacts, profile pictures and status messages to its parent company. Facebook claims that sharing information between the two will help it to improve the experience and fight abuse across both platforms, while WhatsApp defended the change by saying that all messages on the service will remain encrypted.
Communications

FCC Delays Cable TV Apps Vote, Needs Time To Work Out Licensing (arstechnica.com) 38

The FCC has delayed a vote on a plan that would require pay-TV operators to make free TV applications, so cable subscribers will have to wait longer for an alternative to renting set-top boxes from cable companies. ArsTechnica reports:The FCC was scheduled to vote on final rules at its monthly meeting today, but the item was removed from the agenda just before the meeting began. The commission's Democratic majority still seems determined to issue new rules, but there have been objections from the cable industry and disagreements among Democratic commissioners over some of the details. "We have made tremendous progress -- and we share the goal of creating a more innovative and inexpensive market for these consumer devices," Chairman Tom Wheeler and fellow Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel said today in a joint statement. "We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country." The vote could happen at next month's meeting, but the commissioners did not promise any specific timeline.
Facebook

Facebook at Work To Report For Duty Next Month (fortune.com) 74

The debut of the long-awaited business social network is nigh. Facebook at Work is about to report for duty. The social networking company's long-awaited foray into business applications will formally debut in London on October 10, according to tech site TechCrunch. From a report:The news site further noted this would be Facebook's first major product launch to take place outside the United States. Thus far, Facebook is seen as a fun-and-games site, not something corporate employees use to converse or track each other. But Facebook at Work, a business-minded operation, could help change that image. As has been reported, it will be a separate version of the network that can be accessed only from a company's internal IT systems, and in theory, subject to stricter corporate security and access rules. Personal accounts will be cordoned off.
Democrats

Comey Denies Clinton Email 'Reddit' Cover-Up (politico.com) 334

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: The FBI concluded that a computer technician working on Clinton's email was not engaged in an illicit cover-up when he asked on the Reddit website for a tool that could delete a "VIP" email address throughout a large file, FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday. Republican lawmakers have suggested that the July 2014 Reddit post from a user believed to be Platte River Networks specialist Paul Combetta showed an effort to hide Clinton's emails from investigators. However, at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Comey said FBI agents concluded that all the computer aide was trying to do was replace Clinton's email address so it wouldn't be revealed to the public. "Our team concluded that what he was trying to do was when they produced emails not have the actual address but have some name or placeholder instead of the actual dot-com address in the 'From:' line," Comey said. Comey said he wasn't sure whether the FBI knew about the Reddit posting when prosecutors granted Combetta immunity to get statements from him about what transpired. However, he added that such a deletion wouldn't automatically be considered an effort to destroy evidence. "Not necessarily ... It would depend what his intention was and why he wanted to do it," the FBI director said.
Software

The UK's Largest Sperm Bank Is Now An App (technologyreview.com) 63

Sperm bank? There's an app for that. The largest sperm bank in the United Kingdom -- the London Sperm Bank -- has released an official app that aims to "modernize the process of hooking prospective parents up with the biological material they need to make it happen," according to MIT Technology Review: The app is essentially just a mobile version of the filtered search function the London Sperm Bank offers on its website. But in doing something as simple as bringing its desktop services to mobile devices, the bank is making a play to further normalize reproductive technologies. The London Sperm Bank boasts that users will receive push notifications as soon as new donors are available, which could help speed things up for hopeful parents looking for a match. The road to conception can take years for people using reproductive technologies, so expediting any part of the process would be a welcome time-saver. But the bank has over 10,000 vials of sperm, so searching, even using filters, could still be a lengthy process. To combat this, the app also offers a wish list function that lets more focused users predetermine what they're looking for in a donor, and receive a notification when their criteria are met. The way the service works on mobile has been compared to Tinder, but there's actually no swiping involved. Its wish list function means it's more akin to apps like Anthology, which job seekers use to find their next career move. The report notes that, while there are other mobile sperm bank apps out there, the London Sperm Bank is the only one with several medical associations and the U.K. government's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority on board. Also, the app is free to download, but the cost of ordering sperm is about $1,200 per order, which is the same as if you order through the London Sperm Bank catalogue.
Communications

Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop (hothardware.com) 261

MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles. The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
Government

US Believes Hackers Are Shielded By Russia To Hide Its Role In Cyberintrusions: WSJ (newsmax.com) 107

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warining: may be paywalled), U.S. officials are all but certain that the hacker Guccifer 2.0, who hacked the Democratic National Committee in June, is connected to a network of individuals and groups who are being shielded by the Russian government to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions. Even though the hacker denies working for the Russian government, the hacker is thought to be working with the hacking groups Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, which have ties to the Russian government. The Wall Street Journal reports: Following successful breaches, the stolen data are apparently transferred to three different websites for publication, these people say. The websites -- WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and a blog run by Guccifer 2.0 -- have posted batches of stolen data at least 42 times from April to last week. Cybersecurity experts believe that DCLeaks.com and Guccifer 2.0 often work together and have direct ties to Russian hackers. Guccifer 2.0 said in a Twitter direct message sent to The Wall Street Journal that he wants to expose corruption in politics and shine light on how companies influence policy. The hacker said he also hopes to expose "global electronization." "I think I won't have a better opportunity to promote my ideas than this year," Guccifer 2.0 added in a long exchange with a Journal reporter. The Journal cannot verify the identity of the person sending messages on behalf of Guccifer 2.0, but the account is the same one that was used to publish personal information about Democrats. A posting on a blog run by Guccifer 2.0 says he is a man who was born in Eastern Europe, has been a hacker for years and fears for his safety. "I think u've never felt that feeling when u r crazy eager to shout: look everyone, this is me, this is me who'd done it," the hacker wrote to the Journal. "but u can't." WikiLeaks officials didn't respond to requests for comment on whether Russia fed them the stolen files published by WikiLeaks in July. A representative for DCLeaks.com asked the Journal to submit questions via email but hasn't responded to them. Last week, U.S. intelligence chielf James Clapper said it "shouldn't come as a big shock to people" that Russia is behind the hacking operation. While Russia has tried to interfere in U.S. elections since at least the 1960s by spying and funneling money to particular political groups, "I think it's more dramatic maybe because now they have the cyber tools," he said.
Earth

92% of the World's Population Exposed To Unsafe Levels of Air Pollution: WHO (sciencedaily.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: A new World Health Organization (WHO) air quality model confirms that 92% of the world's population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. "The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combatting it," says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO. It also represents the most detailed outdoor (or ambient) air pollution-related health data, by country, ever reported by WHO. The model is based on data derived from satellite measurements, air transport models and ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban. It was developed by WHO in collaboration with the University of Bath, United Kingdom. Some 3 million deaths a year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be just as deadly. In 2012, an estimated 6.5 million deaths (11.6% of all global deaths) were associated with indoor and outdoor air pollution together. Nearly 90% of air-pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, with nearly 2 out of 3 occurring in WHO's South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions. Ninety-four per cent are due to noncommunicable diseases -- notably cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Air pollution also increases the risks for acute respiratory infections. Major sources of air pollution include inefficient modes of transport, household fuel and waste burning, coal-fired power plants, and industrial activities. However, not all air pollution originates from human activity. For example, air quality can also be influenced by dust storms, particularly in regions close to deserts. The model has carefully calibrated data from satellite and ground stations to maximize reliability. National air pollution exposures were analyzed against population and air pollution levels at a grid resolution of about 10 km x 10 km. The interactive maps provide information on population-weighted exposure to particulate matter of an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) for all countries. The map also indicates data on monitoring stations for PM10 and PM2.5 values for about 3000 cities and towns. Quartz's report features a table that highlights the countries with the world's worst air pollution. The table "shows all the median levels of particulate matter in each country where the WHO collected data."
AI

Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Come Together To Create Historic Partnership On AI (techcrunch.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In an act of self-governance, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, and Microsoft came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It's important to remember that on a day to day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence. Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies who are members of the group, but in the future membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, non-profits, ethicists, and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies. As of today's launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals -- many of whom are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics including ethics, inclusivity, and privacy.
Businesses

Amazon Looking To Abandon UPS, FedEx In Favor of Its Own Delivery Service (arstechnica.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report by The Wall Street Journal claims that Amazon is building its own shipping service to replace FedEx and UPS, giving it more control over its packages and possibly allowing it to ship packages from other retailers. Amazon has said its own delivery services would be meant to increase its capacity during busier times of the year, like the upcoming holiday season. However, "current and former Amazon managers and business partners" claim that the company's plans are bigger than that. The initiative dubbed "Consume the City" will eventually let Amazon "haul and deliver" its own packages and those of other retailers and consumers. That delivery network would also directly compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx. It makes sense that Amazon would want to sell, ship, and deliver orders on its own. The report estimates that the company spent $11.5 billion on shipping just last year, amounting to 10.8 percent of sales. The shipping process is currently a bit convoluted: packages from Amazon warehouses get sent to one of two shipping routes, either FedEx or UPS, or to a sorting facility that lumps all packages with similar zip codes together. FedEx and UPS handle its shipments and deliver them to customers, while the packages at the sorting facilities either get delivered via USPS or by Amazon employees themselves. If Amazon were to have control over its shipments over longer distances, it's estimated that the company could save about $3 per package -- about $1.1 billion annually.
Businesses

D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation (tomshardware.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Cellphones

Verizon Technician Is Accused of Selling Customers' Call Records and Location Data To Private Investigator (ap.org) 49

A former Verizon technician who worked in Alabama is being accused of selling customers' private call records and location data to an unnamed private investigator. Authorities said the data was sold for more than four years, from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reports: [Daniel Eugene Traeger] logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement. He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show. "Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PL, an unauthorized third party," court records state. Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere. He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.

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