jfruh writes "You may find it mildly creepy that Microsoft has a private police force, but the Digital Crimes Unit has helped real law enforcement do things like disrupt huge botnets. According to Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel for the Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft is only able to do all this by relying on the company's existing infrastructure, including its Azure cloud service. The DCU can provision compute time from the cloud as necessary to combat complex threats, he said, and also uses cloud services to share information with law enforcement agencies quickly."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Tech publications and pundits alike have crowed about the benefits we're soon to collectively reap from healthcare analytics. In theory, sensors attached to our bodies (and appliances such as the fridge) will send a stream of health-related data — everything from calorie and footstep counts to blood pressure and sleep activity — to the cloud, which will analyze it for insight; doctors and other healthcare professionals will use that data to tailor treatments or advise changes in behavior and diet. But the sensors still leave a lot to be desired: 'smart bracelets' such as Nike's FuelBand and FitBit can prove poor judges of physical activity, and FitBit's associated app still requires you to manually input records of daily food intake (the FuelBand is also a poor judge of lower-body activity, such as running). FDA-approved ingestible sensors are still being researched, and it'd be hard to convince most people that swallowing one is in their best interests. Despite the hype about data's ability to improve peoples' health, we could be a long way from any sort of meaningful consumer technology that truly makes that happen."
itwbennett writes "Two reports out this week, one a new 'codex' released by 451 Research and the other an updated survey into cloud IaaS pricing from Redmonk, show just how insane cloud pricing has become. If your job requires you to read these reports, good luck. For the rest of us, Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady distilled the pricing trends down to this: 'HP offers the best compute value and instance sizes for the dollar. Google offers the best value for memory, but to get there it appears to have sacrificed compute. AWS is king in value for disk and it appears no one else is even trying to come close. Microsoft is taking the 'middle of the road,' never offering the best or worst pricing.'"
alphadogg writes "The ITU has taken a big step in the standardization of G.fast, a broadband technology capable of achieving download speeds of up to 1Gbps over copper telephone wire. The death of copper and the ascent of fiber has long been discussed. However, the cost of rolling out fiber is still too high for many operators that instead want to upgrade their existing copper networks. So there is still a need for technologies that can complement fiber, including VDSL2 and G.fast. Higher speeds are needed for applications such as 4K streaming, IPTV, cloud-based storage, and communication via HD video, ITU said." Meanwhile, I'm hoping Google Fiber, FIOS, and other fast optical options scare more ISPs into action along both price and speed axes.
An anonymous reader writes "There is a lot of advice about backing up data, but it seems to boil down to distributing it to several places (other local or network drives, off-site drives, in the cloud, etc.). We have hundreds of thousands of family pictures and videos we're trying to save using this advice. But in some sparse searching of our archives, we're seeing bitrot destroying our memories. With the quantity of data (~2 TB at present), it's not really practical for us to examine every one of these periodically so we can manually restore them from a different copy. We'd love it if the filesystem could detect this and try correcting first, and if it couldn't correct the problem, it could trigger the restoration. But that only seems to be an option for RAID type systems, where the drives are colocated. Is there a combination of tools that can automatically detect these failures and restore the data from other remote copies without us having to manually examine each image/video and restore them by hand? (It might also be reasonable to ask for the ability to detect a backup drive with enough errors that it needs replacing altogether.)"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Will Xbox One and PS4 emulators hit your favorite download Websites within the next few years? Emulators have long been popular among gamers looking to relive the classic titles they enjoyed in their youth. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console, one can go through the legally questionable yet widespread route of downloading a copy of the game and loading it with PC software that emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is typically limited to older games, as developing an emulator is hard work and must usually be run on hardware that's more powerful than the original console. Consoles from the NES and Super NES era have working emulators, as do newer systems such as Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, and the first two PlayStations. While emulator development hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which developers are already exploring as fertile ground for emulation. The Xbox 360 and PS4 feature x86 chips, for starters, and hardware-assisted virtualization can help solve some acceleration issues. But several significant obstacles stand in the way of developers already taking a crack at it, including console builders' absolute refusal to see emulation as even remotely legal."
dcblogs writes "IDC expects that anywhere from 25% to 30% of all the servers shipped next year will be delivered to cloud services providers. In three years, 2017, nearly 45% of all the servers leaving manufacturers will be bought by cloud providers. The shift is slowing the purchase of server sales to enterprise IT. The increased use of SaaS is a major reason for the market shift, but so is virtualization to increase server capacity. Data center consolidations are eliminating servers as well, along with the purchase of denser servers capable of handling larger loads. The increased use of cloud-based providers is roiling the server market, and is expected to help send server revenue down 3.5% this year, according to IDC."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Bank of America has issued a research report suggesting that the crypto-currency Bitcoin could become 'a major means of payment for e-commerce' on its way to emerging as 'a serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers.' The bank attaches a 'maximum market capitalization' of Bitcoin at roughly $1,300, based on its position as a 'major player in both e-commerce and money transfer' as well as 'a significant store of value with a reputation close to silver.' Bitcoin has come close to exceeding that theoretical ceiling in recent weeks, although its valuation dove today after the People's Bank of China decided to declare it a volatile 'currency' without real legal status; that financial institution is also concerned about its use in money laundering and black markets. Bank of America sees Bitcoins' advantages as low transaction costs, its finite supply (which will protect its value), and its increasing attractiveness as an alternative to 'traditional' cash. As with the People's Bank of China, however, the bank sees the currency's extreme volatility and lack of legal backing as a bad thing, and frowns at the possibility that regulators could step in and increase transaction costs. 'A 50 minute wait before payment receipt confirmation is received will prohibit wider use,' the report adds. 'This is less of an issue for two parties that know each other because they trust the other will not double spend, but when dealing with an anonymous counterparty this creates a high level of unhedgeable risk.' Without a 'central counterparty' to verify transactions and thus mitigate that risk, Bitcoin could fail to break into wider use."
Berin Szoka is president and founder of the tech policy think tank TechFreedom. The group promotes a wide variety of digital rights and privacy issues. Most recently, they have started a petition demanding reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) so that law enforcement will have to get a warrant before accessing emails stored in the cloud. With so much attention paid to the NSA snooping, Berin believes that the over 25-year-old ECPA has been overshadowed and is in dire need of changes. Mr. Szoka has agreed to answer your questions about privacy and government policy online. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft will encrypt consumer data and make its software code more transparent, in a bid to boost consumer confidence in its security. Microsoft claims that it will now encrypt data flowing through Outlook.com, Office 365, SkyDrive, and Windows Azure. That will include data moving between customers' devices and Microsoft servers, as well as data moving between Microsoft data-centers. The increased-transparency part of Microsoft's new initiative is perhaps the most interesting, considering the company's longstanding advocacy of proprietary software. But Microsoft actually isn't planning on throwing its code open for anyone to examine, as much as that might quell fears about government-designed backdoors and other nefarious programming. Instead, according to its general counsel Brad Smith, "transparency" means "building on our long-standing program that provides government customers with an appropriate ability to review our source code, reassure themselves of its integrity, and confirm there are no back doors." In addition, Microsoft plans on opening a network of "transparency centers" where customers can go to "assure themselves of the integrity of Microsoft's products." That's not exactly the equivalent of volunteers going through TrueCrypt to ensure a lack of NSA backdoors, and it seems questionable whether such moves (vague as they are at this point) on Microsoft's part will assure anyone that it hasn't been compromised by government sources. But with Google and other tech firms making a lot of noise about encrypting their respective services, Microsoft has little choice but to join them in introducing new privacy initiatives."
probain sent in this excerpt from Engadget "In case Valve's multi-tiered investment in Linux gaming weren't clear enough from SteamOS, the Steam Controller, and Steam Machines, the company's also joining the ranks of The Linux Foundation membership. Valve Linux head Mike Sartain calls the news, 'one of the many ways Valve is investing in the advancement of Linux gaming;' he sees the move as yet another step for Valve toward its bigger goal of popularizing accessible Linux-based gaming." Cloudius Systems and the HSA Foundation also joined the Linux Foundation today.
theodp writes "'The desktop or laptop is now in decline,' writes John Sall, 'squeezed from one side by mobile platforms and from the other side by the cloud. As a developer of desktop software [by choice not necessity], I believe it is time to address the challenges to our viability. Is software for the desktop PC now the living dead, or zombieware.' While conceding there's some truth to truisms about the death of the desktop, Sall believes there's still life in the old desktop dog, 'We live in a world of computing where dreams come true,' Sall concludes. 'The mainframe bows to the minicomputer. The minicomputer bows to the personal computer. The personal computer bows to the tablet and smart phone. It seems as if these will soon bow to the smart watch or smart glasses. But at each step along the way, some applications find their best home – and other applications as well as new applications find the more convenient and smaller home better...So let's keep our desktops and laptops, our PCs and Macs. They are amazingly good at what they do.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Spotify wants to change the perception that it's killing artists' ability to make a living off music. In a new posting on its Website, the streaming-music hub suggests that songs' rights-holders earn between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream, on average, and that a niche indie album on the service could earn an artist roughly $3,300 per month (a global hit album, on the other hand, would rack up $425,000 per month). 'We have succeeded in growing revenues for artists and labels in every country where we operate, and have now paid out over $1 billion USD in royalties to-date ($500 million of which we paid in 2013 alone),' the company wrote. 'We have proudly achieved these payouts despite having relatively few users compared to radio, iTunes or Pandora, and as we continue to grow we expect that we will generate many billions more in royalties.' But does that really counter all those artists (including Grizzly Bear and Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500) who are on the record as saying that Spotify streaming only earns them a handful of dollars for tens of thousands of streaming plays? Let's say an artist earns $0.0084 per stream; it would still take 400,000 'plays' per month in order to reach that indie-album threshold of approximately $3,300. (At $0.006 per stream, it would take 550,000 streams to reach that baseline.) If Spotify's 'specific payment figures' with regard to albums are correct, that means its subscribers are listening to a lot of music on repeat. And granted, those calculations are rough, but even if they're relatively ballpark, they end up supporting artists' grousing that streaming music doesn't pay them nearly enough. But squeezed between labels and publishers that demand lots of money for licensing rights, and in-house expenses such as salaries and infrastructure, companies such as Spotify may have little choice but to keep the current payment model for the time being."
Z80xxc! writes "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed during a CBS 60 Minutes interview that the company is working on a service called 'Prime Air' to deliver packages by autonomous octocopter drones within 30 minutes of hitting the 'buy' button. The plan still requires more testing and FAA approval, but Bezos predicts it'll be available to the public in the next 4-5 years. With a lot of backlash against drones, and some towns even offering bounties to shoot them down, will this technology ever take off, or is this just another one of Amazon's eccentric CEO's fantastical flight ideas?"