Government

Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes (siliconvalley.com) 99

A Silicon Valley Congressman "is pushing for a plan that has been described as a first step toward universal basic income...a long-shot $1 trillion expansion to the earned income tax credit that is already available to low-income families." An anonymous reader quotes the Mecury News: Stanford University also has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurer's office has said it's designing pilot tests -- though the department told this news organization it has no updates on the status of that project... The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year -- more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said... Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, is skeptical that basic income can do much lasting good in Oakland. What the city needs is more high-paying jobs and affordable housing, she said... The idea, [Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator] said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: "What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we're helping to create?"
This summer Y Combinator is expected to announce a larger Universal Basic Income program, though the article also describes "small pilot studies" in the 1960s and 1970s in Canada and in several U.S. states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana, where "Some studies showed improvements in participants' physical and mental health, and found children performed better in school or stayed in school longer. But some also showed that people receiving a basic income were inclined to spend fewer hours working."
Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 90

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."
Transportation

New Details On Sergey Brin's Plan For The World's Largest Aircraft (theguardian.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares The Guardian's report on plans for a new aircraft that's two-and-a-half times the size of a 747. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. "It's going to be massive on a grand scale," said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters [656 feet] long... Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental "air yacht" for Brin's friends and family.

One source put the project's price tag at $100m to $150m. Igor Pasternak, an airship designer who was involved in the early stages of the project, believes airships could be as revolutionary for the trillion-dollar global cargo market as the internet was for communications. "Sergey is pretty innovative and forward looking," he said. "Trucks are only as good as your roads, trains can only go where you have rails, and planes need airports. Airships can deliver from point A to point Z without stopping anywhere in between."

The Guardian quips that while Brin's plans may stay secret for a while, "the good news is that the first flight test of such an enormous aircraft will be impossible to hide."
Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
Data Storage

SSD Drives Vulnerable To Rowhammer-Like Attacks That Corrupt User Data (bleepingcomputer.com) 89

An anonymous reader writes: NAND flash memory chips, the building blocks of solid-state drives (SSDs), include what could be called "programming vulnerabilities" that can be exploited to alter stored data or shorten the SSD's lifespan. According to research published earlier this year, the programming logic powering of MLC NAND flash memory chips (the tech used for the latest generation of SSDs), is vulnerable to at least two types of attacks.

The first is called "program interference," and takes place when an attacker manages to write data with a certain pattern to a target's SSD. Writing this data repeatedly and at high speeds causes errors in the SSD, which then corrupts data stored on nearby cells. This attack is similar to the infamous Rowhammer attack on RAM chips.

The second attack is called "read disturb" and in this scenario, an attacker's exploit code causes the SSD to perform a large number of read operations in a very short time, which causes a phenomenon of "read disturb errors," that alters the SSD ability to read data from nearby cells, even long after the attack stops.

Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 56

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Space

New Zealand Joins Space Race With Successful Launch Of Lightweight 'Electron' Rocket (nzherald.co.nz) 45

"Rocket Lab: We have lift-off!" wrote long-time Slashdot reader ClarkMills on Wednesday. "History made as Electron launches successfully from Mahia." The New Zealand Herald reports: Rocket Lab engineers have started analyzing data from yesterday's historic launch from the Mahia Peninsula that took the company to space but not able to complete its orbital mission. Lift-off at 4.20 pm was the first orbital-class rocket launched from a private launch site in the world. New Zealand became the 11th country with potential to launch cargo into space, joining superpowers and tech heavyweights. The Government hailed the lift-off as a major milestone for the country's space industry...

"We didn't quite reach orbit and we'll be investigating why, however reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program," said founder and chief executive Peter Beck.

Beck added they'd developed their rocket "from scratch" in under four years, and the company's official Twitter feed is now proudly tweeting photos and videos from the launch.
Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Republicans

Hackers Have Targeted Both the Trump Organization And Democrat Election Data (arstechnica.com) 217

An anonymous reader writes: Two recent news stories give new prominence to politically-motivated data breaches. Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that last year Guccifer 2.0 sent 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee election data to a Republican operative in Florida, including their critical voter turnout projections. At the same time ABC News is reporting that the FBI is investigating "an attempted overseas cyberattack against the Trump Organization," adding that such an attack would make his network a high priority for government monitoring.

"In the course of its investigation," they add, "the FBI could get access to the Trump Organization's computer network, meaning FBI agents could possibly find records connected to other investigations." A senior FBI official (now retired) concedes to ABC that "There could be stuff in there that they [the Trump organization] do not want to become part of a separate criminal investigation."

It seems like everyone's talking about the privacy of their communications. Tonight the Washington Post writes that Trump's son-in-law/senior advisor Jared Kushner "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports." And Friday Hillary Clinton was even quoted as saying, "I would have won had I not been subjected to the unprecedented attacks by Comey and the Russians..."
Government

Major US Tech Firms Press Congress For Internet Surveillance Reforms (reuters.com) 37

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Facebook, Amazon and more than two dozen other U.S. technology companies pressed Congress on Friday to make changes to a broad internet surveillance law, saying they were necessary to improve privacy protections and increase government transparency. The request marks the first significant public effort by Silicon Valley to wade into what is expected to be a contentious debate later the year over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, parts of which will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Of particular concern to the technology industry and privacy advocates is Section 702, which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to vacuum up vast amounts of communications from foreigners but also incidentally collects some data belonging to Americans that can be searched by analysts without a warrant.
Mozilla

Former Mozilla CTO: 'Chrome Won' (andreasgal.com) 262

Responding to Firefox marketing head Eric Petitt's blog post from earlier this week, Andreas Gal, former chief technology officer of Mozilla (who spent seven years at the company) offers his insights. Citing latest market share figures, Gal says "it's safe to say that Chrome is eating the browser market, and everyone else except Safari is getting obliterated." From his blog post (edited and condensed for length): With a CEO transition about 3 years ago there was a major strategic shift at Mozilla to re-focus efforts on Firefox and thus the Desktop. Prior to 2014 Mozilla heavily invested in building a Mobile OS to compete with Android: Firefox OS. I started the Firefox OS project and brought it to scale. While we made quite a splash and sold several million devices, in the end we were a bit too late and we didn't manage to catch up with Android's explosive growth. Mozilla's strategic rationale for building Firefox OS was often misunderstood. Mozilla's founding mission was to build the Web by building a browser. [...] Browsers are a commodity product. They all pretty much look the same and feel the same. All browsers work pretty well, and being slightly faster or using slightly less memory is unlikely to sway users. If even Eric -- who heads Mozilla's marketing team -- uses Chrome every day as he mentioned in the first sentence, it's not surprising that almost 65% of desktop users are doing the same. [...] I don't think there will be a new browser war where Firefox or some other competitor re-captures market share from Chrome. It's like launching a new and improved horse in the year 2017. We all drive cars now. Some people still use horses, and there is value to horses, but technology has moved on when it comes to transportation. Does this mean Google owns the Web if they own Chrome? No. Absolutely not. Browsers are what the Web looked like in the first decades of the Internet. Mobile disrupted the Web, but the Web embraced mobile and at the heart of most apps beats a lot of JavaScript and HTTPS and REST these days. The future Web will look yet again completely different. Much will survive, and some parts of it will get disrupted.
Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech (fortune.com) 714

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.
Government

Proposed Active-Defense Bill Would Allow Destruction of Data, Use of Beacon Tech (onthewire.io) 68

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A bill that would allow victims of cybercrime to use active defense techniques to stop attacks and identify attackers has been amended to require victims to notify the FBI of their actions and also add an exemption to allow victims to destroy their data once they locate it on an attacker's machine. The Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act, drafted by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) in March, is designed to enable people who have been targets of cybercrime to employ certain specific techniques to trace the attack and identify the attacker. The bill defines active cyber defense as "any measure -- (I) undertaken by, or at the direction of, a victim"; and "(II) consisting of accessing without authorization the computer of the attacker to the victim" own network to gather information in order to establish attribution of criminal activity to share with law enforcement or to disrupt continued unauthorized activity against the victim's own network." After releasing an initial draft of the bill in March, Rep. Tom Graves held a public event in Georgia to collect feedback on the legislation. Based on that event and other feedback, Graves made several changes to the bill, including the addition of the notification of law enforcement and an exception in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for victims who use so-called beaconing technology to identify an attacker. "The provisions of this section shall not apply with respect to the use of attributional technology in regard to a defender who uses a program, code, or command for attributional purposes that beacons or returns locational or attributional data in response to a cyber intrusion in order to identify the source of the intrusion," the bill says.
Mozilla

Firefox Marketing Head Expresses Concerns Over Google's Apparent 'Only Be On Chrome' Push (medium.com) 187

Eric Petitt, head up Firefox marketing, writing in a blog: I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I'm OK with Chrome. I just don't like only being on Chrome. And that's what Chrome wants. It wants you to only use Chrome. Chrome is not evil, it's just too big for its britches. Its influence on the internet economy and individuals is out of balance. Chrome, with 4 times the market share of its nearest competitor (Firefox), is an eight-lane highway to the largest advertising company in the world. Google built it to maximize revenue from your searches and deliver display ads on millions of websites. To monetize every... single... click. And today, there exists no meaningful safety valve on its market dominance. Beyond Google, the web looks more and more like a feudal system, where the geography of the web has been partitioned off by the Frightful Five. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon are our lord and protectors, exacting a royal sum for our online behaviors. We're the serfs and tenants, providing homage inside their walled fortresses. Noble upstarts are erased or subsumed under their existing order. (Footnote: Petitt has made it clear that the aforementioned views are his own, and not those of Mozilla.)
Businesses

Apple's Jonathan Ive Says Immigration Vital For UK Firms (bbc.com) 123

The UK must keep its doors open to top talent from around the world if its technology firms are to thrive, Apple's chief designer has told the BBC. An anonymous reader shares the article: Sir Jonathan Ive, who has just been appointed Chancellor of the Royal College of Art, also said that technology hubs like Silicon Valley had a "tremendous cultural diversity". Some technology firms fear they may lose access to talent after Brexit. "That general principle [on access] is terribly important for creating a context for multiple companies to grow and in a healthy way explore and develop new products and new product types," Sir Jonathan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Sir Jonathan said the UK had a "fabulous tradition of design education", but that it needed to do more to become a technology hub on a par with Silicon Valley in California, where the likes of Apple, Facebook and Google are based. "I think Silicon Valley has infrastructures to support start-up companies... ranging from technological support through to funding," he said. "And there is the sense that failure isn't irreversible, so very often people will work on an idea, and there isn't the same sense of stigma when one idea and perhaps one company doesn't work out."

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