bmearns writes: Amazon has announced a new library called "s2n," an open source implementation of SSL/TLS, the cryptographic security protocols behind HTTPS, SSH, SFTP, secure SMTP, and many others. Weighing in at about 6k lines of code, it's just a little more than 1% the size of OpenSSL, which is really good news in terms of security auditing and testing. OpenSSL isn't going away, and Amazon has made clear that they will continue to support it. Notably, s2n does not provide all the additional cryptographic functions that OpenSSL provides in libcrypto, it only provides the SSL/TLS functions. Further more, it implements a relatively small subset of SSL/TLS features compared to OpenSSL.
An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 today that Apple indeed conspired with publishers to increase ebook prices. The ruling puts Apple on the hook for the $450 million settlement reached in 2014 with lawyers and attorneys general from 33 states. The Justice Dept. contended that the price-fixing conspiracy raised the price of some e-books from the $10 standard set by Amazon to $13-$15. The one dissenting judge argued that Apple's efforts weren't anti-competitive because Amazon held 90% of the market at the time. Apple is unhappy with the ruling, but they haven't announced plans to take the case further. They said, "While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps."
mikejuk writes: Amazon announced Echo, a wireless speaker with a built-in, voice-controlled, personal assistant called Alexa last year. Now it appears Alexa will no longer be tied exclusively to Echo. Amazon has announced that the Alexa Voice Service (AVS), the cloud-based service behind Echo, is being made available for free to third party hardware makers who want to integrate Alexa into their devices. To propel developers and hardware manufacturers interest in voice technology and their adoption of Alexa, Amazon has also announced a $100 Million Alexa Fund, open to anyone, startups to established brands, with an innovative idea for using voice technology.
davek writes with news that Google is removing results related to the Confederate Flag from Google Shopping, the company's online marketplace. They're also blocking advertisements involving the flag. They say, "We have determined that the Confederate flag violates our Ads policies, which don't allow content that's generally perceived as expressing hate toward a particular group." At the same time, Apple is removing from the App Store any games or other software featuring the Confederate Flag. This, of course, follows the recent shooting in South Carolina, which triggered a nationwide debate over whether the flag should be flown at government buildings (or anywhere). Major online merchant websites like eBay and Amazon have already taken the step of banning merchandise relating to the flag.
An anonymous reader writes: Monday saw the announcement of the Open Container Project in San Francisco. It is a Linux Foundation project that will hold the specification and basic run-time software for using software containers. The list of folks signing up to support the effort contains the usual suspects, and this too is a good thing: Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, CoreOS, Docker, EMC, Fujitsu Limited, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, the Linux Foundation, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat, and VMware. In this article Stephen R. Walli takes a look at what the project means for open source.
pacopico writes: In a new biography on him, Elon Musk goes into gory details on his plans for colonizing Mars. The author of the book subsequently decided to run those plans by Andy Weir, the author of The Martian. Weir's book is famous for its technical acumen around getting to and from The Red Planet. His conclusion is that Musk's technology, which includes the biggest rocket ever built, is feasible — but that Musk will not be the first man on Mars. The interview also hits on the future of NASA and what we need to get to Mars. Good stuff. Weir says, "My estimate is that this will happen in 2050. NASA is saying more like 2035, but I don't have faith in Congress to fund them."
darthcamaro writes: The great schism in the container world is now at an end. Today, Docker and CoreOS, announced along with Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, EMC, Fujitsu, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, the Linux Foundation, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat and VMware the Open Container Project, as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project. The new effort will focus specifically on libcontainer — providing a baseline for a container runtime. "By participating with Docker and all the other folks in the OCP, we're getting the best of all worlds," Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS told eWEEK. "We're getting the contributions from Docker with the format and runtime that underpin container usage, and then we're also getting the shared standard and vendor neutrality aspects that we've designed with app container."
theodp writes: As one works his or her way through EdX's free The Analytics Edge, one finds oneself going back-and-forth between videos and R to complete the programming exercises associated with the lectures. While this can certainly be done on a cheap-o 13" laptop with a 6mbps connection by jumping around from the web-based videos to the client-based programming environment and to the web for help (god bless Stack Overflow), have you found (or do you dream of) a better setup for the MOOC programming courses offered by the likes of EdX, Udacity, and Coursera? Are you using multiple screens, split screens, touch screens, laptops/desktops/tablets, speakers, headphones, higher-speed connections? Anything else? Do you rely solely on the class materials and web-based resources, or do you purchase complementary books? Any thoughts on how to make the experience work best for those learning at home, in a classroom setting, on the road for business/travel, or during lengthy train commutes? Do you playback videos at faster speeds (e.g., 1.5x)? Any other tips?
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon says it's making some big changes to its product review system, one of the most heavily used on the internet and a vital part of Amazon's business. A machine-learning platform will endeavor to select helpful reviews with an emphasis on more recent ones. The average score will change as well: new reviews will be weighted higher than old reviews. Reviews from verified purchasers will have more influence as well, and also reviews voted up by other customers. "For example, sometimes a company will make small tweaks to a product or address some customer complaints, though this product isn't officially updated or renamed. With the new system, [Amazon] said, these small modifications should become more noticeable when shoppers are buying products." Because the review system is so important to customers, Amazon will be rolling out changes slowly, and watching for anything that breaks or gets skewed in unexpected ways.
An anonymous reader writes: A New York Times story delves into the conundrum faced by Europeans: Why are there few, if any, technology companies from Europe with the size and reach of American tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple? The article hypothesizes that, though employment regulations and other business and legal factors play a role, it's actually deeply embedded cultural differences that are the primary cause, citing less aversion to risk-taking, less stigma from business failures such as bankruptcies, little or no stigma from leaving and rejoining a company (seen as disloyal in European cultures), more acceptance of disruptive innovation, and a less rigid educational system that allows individuals to find their own form of success.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has a new plan to keep self-published authors honest: they're only going to pay them when someone actually reads a page. Peter Wayner at the Atlantic explores how this is going to change the lives of the authors — and the readers. Fat, impressive coffee table books are out if no one reads them. Thin, concise authors will be bereft. Page turners are in.
An anonymous reader writes with news that the Kodi media player (formerly XBMC) has had its app pulled from the Amazon app store after Amazon decided that it facilitates piracy. Amazon said, "Any facilitation of piracy or illegal downloads is not allowed in our program," and directed the development team not to resubmit the app. The team was surprised to hear this, since Kodi itself does not download or link to any infringing content. It does support addons, and some users have created addons to support pirated content, but the Kodi developers are fighting that behavior. XBMC Foundation board member Nathan Betzen said it's absurd that "Amazon won’t let us into their appstore, but they have no problem selling the boxes that are pushing the reason they won’t let us into their app store."
theodp writes: In his new book Will College Pay Off?, Wharton professor Peter Cappelli argues that banking on a specialized degree's usefulness is risky, especially since one reason some jobs are in high demand is that no one predicted that they would be. "A few generations ago," notes Cappelli, "the employers used to look for smart or adaptable kids on college campuses with general skills. They would convert them to what they wanted inside the company and they would retrain them and they'd get different skills. They're not doing that now. They're just expecting that the kids will show up with the skills that the employer needs when the employer needs them. That's a pretty difficult thing to expect, because of these kinds of problems. So the employers now are always complaining that they can't get the people they need, but it's pretty obvious why that's not happening." On CS-as-a-major, Cappelli says, "If you look at most of the people who are in computer programming, for example, they have no IT degree-they just learned how to program. Maybe they had a couple of courses in it, maybe they were self-taught. In Silicon Valley, the industry was built with only 10 percent of the workforce having IT degrees. You can do most of these jobs with a variety of different skills. I think what's happening now is that people have come to think that you need these degrees in order to do the jobs, which is not really true. Maybe what these degrees do for you is they shorten the job training by a bit, but that's about it. And you lose a bunch of other things along the way." One wonders what Cappelli might think of San Francisco's recent decision to pick a preschool curriculum based on where today's tech jobs are, echoing President Obama's tech industry-nurtured belief that "what you want to do is introduce this [coding] with the ABCs and the colors."
Mark Wilson writes: Post-Snowden there is great interest in just what involvement the government has with technology firms. There are frequent requests from government agencies for information about users and the likes of Google, Snapchat and even the NSA itself have all released transparency reports that reveal, in broad strokes, the number of requests for data they have received. Amazon is the latest company to release a transparency report — although the term really should be used in the loosest possible sense. The report includes scant details about the number of subpoenas, search warrants, court orders, and national security requests received in the first five months of 2015. The report is so vague as to be virtually meaningless.
An anonymous reader writes: Several outlets are reporting that Amazon is preparing to dip its toes in yet another market: PC video games. They're specifically hiring for this purpose now, though they seem to have had plans for some time: "In addition to acquiring Killer Instinct developer Double Helix last year, Amazon has also hired notable developers like Kim Swift, designer of Portal, as well as Clint Hocking, who previously worked on franchises like Far Cry and Splinter Cell. Meanwhile, according to a report from Kotaku, Amazon has spent a lot of cash licensing the CryEngine, the same one used to make high-end PC games like Crysis 3. Outside of development, Amazon also acquired game streaming service Twitch last August for $970 million, and made gaming a big focus for its Fire TV media box."
theodp writes: Among the books recommended by Bill Gates for beach reading this summer is How to Lie With Statistics, the published-in-1954-but-timely-as-ever introduction to the (mis)use of statistics. So, how can one lie with statistics? "Sometimes it is percentages that are given and raw figures that are missing," explains the book, "and this can be deceptive too." So, does this explain Google's just-released Diversity Report and the accompanying chock-full-o-percentages narrative (find-all-%-image), which boasts "the Black community in grew [sic] by 38 percent", while the less-impressive raw figures — e.g., the number of Google employees increased by 5,928, but the ranks of Black females only increased by 35 (less than 0.6% of the net increase) — are relegated to a PDF of its EEO-1 Report that's linked to in the fine-print footnotes? To be fair to Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Apple and Amazon didn't want people to see their EEO-1 numbers, either.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Amazon relies quite a bit on human labor, most notably in its warehouses. The company wants to change that via machine learning and robotics, which is why earlier this year it invited 30 teams to a "Picking Contest." In order to win the contest, a team needed to build a robot that can outpace other robots in detecting and identifying an object on a shelf, gripping said object without breaking it, and delivering it into a waiting receptacle. Team RBO, composed of researchers from the Technical University of Berlin, won last month's competition by a healthy margin. Their winning design combined a WAM arm (complete with a suction cup for lifting objects) and an XR4000 mobile base into a single unit capable of picking up 12 objects in 20 minutes—not exactly blinding speed, but enough to demonstrate significant promise. If Amazon's contest demonstrated anything, it's that it could be quite a long time before robots are capable of identifying and sorting through objects at speeds even remotely approaching human (and thus taking over those jobs). Chances seem good that Amazon will ask future teams to build machines that are even smarter and faster.
angry tapir writes with news of a report presented Friday at Hack In The Box which outlines a counterintuitive fact about Tor: Identifying users who access Tor hidden services — websites that are only accessible inside the Tor anonymity network — is easier than de-anonymizing users who use Tor to access regular Internet websites. That's because the addresses of the Hidden Service Directories (HSDirs) used to index those Tor-network-only sites, though shuffled daily, can be predicted (and hijacked) with cheap brute-force techniques. "The researchers managed to place their own nodes as the 6 HSDirs for facebookcorewwwi.onion, Facebook's official site on the Tor network, for the whole day on Thursday. They still held 4 of the 6 spots on Friday. Brute-forcing the key for each node took only 15 minutes on a MacBook Pro and running the Tor relays themselves cost US$62 on Amazon's EC2 service.
An anonymous reader writes: Google's I/O 2015 conference opened with a surprise announcement: that Chromecast, Android TV, and other Android devices will soon be able to offer HBO Now. "The announcement marks the end of a 7-week exclusive that Apple had on HBO's stand-alone streaming and on-demand video service," reports Digital Trends, and it also further weakens the exclusivity of cable TV packages. "Traditional TV subscriptions are slowly starting to slip," one newspaper reports, "as more people watch online video." Other online streaming sites are already confronting the popularity of HBO's "Game of Thrones" series, with Netflix already experiencing a 33% dip in their online traffic during the new season's online premiere and Amazon rushing to discount their "Game of Thrones" graphic novels, and the turmoil seems to be continuing in the online video space. "Shortly after the premier of the new season, HBO Now seems to have taken the top spot when it comes to internet traffic," reports one technology site, "causing a huge dent in Netflix's attempt to make it to the top."