United States

More Than Half of US Workers Didn't Use Up Their Time Off Last Year (qz.com) 48

An anonymous reader shares an article: Americans, famously, take far less vacation time than their European counterparts: less than 17 days, on average, compared to 30 days in France, for example. But for many Americans, that's apparently all the time they need. More than half of all US employees (54%) didn't use all their days off last year, working a combined total of 662 million more days than required. Of those days, 206 million couldn't be rolled over or cashed out, meaning they were forfeited, costing the equivalent of $66 billion, according to a report (PDF) from Project: Time Off, a group funded by the travel industry. While it's a group with a strong interest in promoting more vacations, their findings are still revealing about America's unhealthy reluctance to take time off. Almost 60% of US workers who don't take their allotted vacation say they fear the amount of work they'll have to return to, according to the survey of 7,331 working Americans. Others (47%) say they stay put because they believe no one else can do their job, or because they want to impress their bosses with their dedication (36%).
Android

Android Creator Andy Rubin Launches Top-of-the-line Essential Phone (theverge.com) 80

The much-anticipated smartphone from Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, is here. It's called the Essential Phone, and it runs a custom version of Android. Priced at $699, the Essential Phone offers top-of-the-line specifications including "an edge-to-edge display that one-ups even the Samsung Galaxy S8 by bringing it all the way to the the top of the phone, wrapping around the front-facing selfie camera." From a report on The Verge: It's a unique take on a big screen that makes the phone stand out -- and it's smart too. Often, the status bar at the top of an Android phone doesn't fill that middle space with icons, so it's efficient. The screen does leave some bezel at the bottom of the phone, but nevertheless it's as close to the whole front of a phone being display as I've seen. Essential is launching the phone in the US to start, and it's filled the phone with radios that should make it work on all major carriers, alongside usual Android flagship internals like a Qualcomm 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. [...] Essential will ship a 360-degree camera that can click in to the top of the phone, and the company will also offer a charging dock. Both connect to the phone with small metal pogo pins. They won't entirely replace USB-C for most people, but Essential is clearly hoping that they could someday. Speaking of ports, there is no traditional 3.5mm headphone jack -- which is a bummer. We're told that it will ship with a headphone dongle in the box.
Microsoft

Get Real, Microsoft: If the New Surface Pro Is a Laptop, Bundle It With a Type Cover (pcworld.com) 78

An anonymous reader shares an article: If Microsoft sold cars like it's trying to sell its Surface Pro (2017), it would charge extra for wheels -- and would be laughed out of the market. But Microsoft's using this tactic to sell its new Windows tablet as a "laptop," and we're still trying to figure out why. Microsoft's Surface Pro is clearly a Windows tablet, just like its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4. Nevertheless, devices chief Panos Panay calls it a "laptop" no fewer than three times in his blog post, including the very first sentence. No "laptop" or notebook PC forgoes a keyboard, however, as the Surface Pro does. Long-time Surface fans may know that Microsoft charges $129 to $159 more for that accessory, but does the average buyer get it? That's where the confusion starts.
China

China To Implement Cyber Security Law From Thursday (reuters.com) 52

China, battling increased threats from cyber-terrorism and hacking, will adopt from Thursday a controversial law that mandates strict data surveillance and storage for firms working in the country, the official Xinhua news agency said. From a report: The law, passed in November by the country's largely rubber-stamp parliament, bans online service providers from collecting and selling users' personal information, and gives users the right to have their information deleted, in cases of abuse. "Those who violate the provisions and infringe on personal information will face hefty fines," the news agency said on Monday, without elaborating.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia's Switch To HTTPS Has Successfully Fought Government Censorship (vice.com) 114

Determining how to prevent acts of censorship has long been a priority for the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, and thanks to new research from the Harvard Center for Internet and Society, the foundation seems to have found a solution: encryption. From a report: HTTPS prevents governments and others from seeing the specific page users are visiting. For example, a government could tell that a user is browsing Wikipedia, but couldn't tell that the user is specifically reading the page about Tiananmen Square. Up until 2015, Wikipedia offered its service using both HTTP and HTTPS, which meant that when countries like Pakistan or Iran blocked the certain articles on the HTTP version of Wikipedia, the full version would still be available using HTTPS. But in June 2015, Wikipedia decided to axe HTTP access and only offer access to its site with HTTPS. [...] The Harvard researchers began by deploying an algorithm which detected unusual changes in Wikipedia's global server traffic for a year beginning in May 2015. This data was then combined with a historical analysis of the daily request histories for some 1.7 million articles in 286 different languages from 2011 to 2016 in order to determine possible censorship events. [...] After a painstakingly long process of manual analysis of potential censorship events, the researchers found that, globally, Wikipedia's switch to HTTPS had a positive effect on the number censorship events by comparing server traffic from before and after the switch in June of 2015.
Security

India's Ethical Hackers Rewarded Abroad, Ignored at Home (yahoo.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares an article: Kanishk Sajnani did not receive so much as a thank you from a major Indian airline when he contacted them with alarming news -- he had hacked their website and could book flights anywhere in the world for free. It was a familiar tale for India's army of "ethical hackers," who earn millions protecting foreign corporations and global tech giants from cyber attacks but are largely ignored at home, their skills and altruism misunderstood or distrusted. India produces more ethical hackers -- those who break into computer networks to expose, rather than exploit, weaknesses -- than anywhere else in the world. The latest data from BugCrowd, a global hacking network, showed Indians raked in the most "bug bounties" -- rewards for red-flagging security loopholes. Facebook, which has long tapped hacker talent, paid more to Indian researchers in the first half of 2016 than any other researchers. Indians outnumbered all other bug hunters on HackerOne, another registry of around 100,000 hackers. One anonymous Indian hacker -- "Geekboy" -- has found more than 700 vulnerabilities for companies like Yahoo, Uber and Rockstar Games. Most are young "techies" -- software engineers swelling the ranks of India's $154-billion IT outsourcing sector whose skill set makes them uniquely gifted at cracking cyber systems.
AI

Startup Uses AI To Create Programs From Simple Screenshots (siliconangle.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares an article: A new neural network being built by a Danish startup called UIzard Technologies IVS has created an application that can transform raw designs of graphical user interfaces into actual source code that can be used to build them. Company founder Tony Beltramelli has just published a research paper that reveals how it has achieved that. It uses cutting-edge machine learning technologies to create a neural network that can generate code automatically when it's fed with screenshots of a GUI. The Pix2Code model actually outperforms many human coders because it can create code for three separate platforms, including Android, iOS and "web-based technologies," whereas many programmers are only able to do so for one platform. Pix2Code can create GUIs from screenshots with an accuracy of 77 percent, but that will improve as the algorithm learns more, the founder said.
AI

Is China Outsmarting America in AI? (nytimes.com) 132

An anonymous reader shares an NYTimes article: Beijing is backing its artificial intelligence push with vast sums of money. Having already spent billions on research programs, China is readying a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund moonshot projects, start-ups and academic research (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), all with the aim of growing China's A.I. capabilities, according to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan. China's private companies are pushing deeply into the field as well, though the line between government and private in China sometimes blurs. Baidu -- often called the Google of China and a pioneer in artificial-intelligence-related fields, like speech recognition -- this year opened a joint company-government laboratory partly run by academics who once worked on research into Chinese military robots. China is spending more just as the United States cuts back. This past week, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that would slash funding for a variety of government agencies that have traditionally backed artificial intelligence research.
AI

ARM's New Processors Are Designed To Power the Machine-Learning Machines (theverge.com) 26

An anonymous reader shares an article: Official today, the ARM Cortex-A75 is the new flagship-tier mobile processor design, with a claimed 22 percent improvement in performance over the incumbent A73. It's joined by the new Cortex-A55, which has the highest power efficiency of any mid-range CPU ARM's ever designed, and the Mali-G72 graphics processor, which also comes with a 25 percent improvement in efficiency relative to its predecessor G71. The efficiency improvements are evolutionary and predictable, but the revolutionary aspects of this new lineup relate to artificial intelligence: this is the first set of processing components designed specifically to tackle the challenges of onboard AI and machine learning. Plus, last year's updates to improve performance in the power-hugry tasks of augmented and virtual reality are being extended and elaborated. [...] ARM won't just be powering machine learning with its new chips, it'll benefit from ML too. The new designs benefit from an improved branch predictor that uses neural network algorithms to improve data prefetching and overall performance.
Businesses

India Tech Giant Warns Trump's 'Radical Shift' to Hurt Industry (bloomberg.com) 234

The vice chairman at Tech Mahindra, one of India's largest technology services companies warned that U.S. President Donald Trump's visa policies will damage the industry as his company reported weak earnings and his stock fell the most in almost two years. From a report: Tech Mahindra said net income was 5.9 billion rupees ($91 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with the average analyst estimate of 7.8 billion, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. is tightening the criteria for visa programs that Tech Mahindra and other outsourcing companies use to bring skilled foreign workers into the country. Trump and other politicians have criticized the programs for hurting American workers and allowing companies to use cheaper employees from abroad. Tech services companies, including Cognizant Technology Solutions, have been cutting positions in India. Some workers have blamed Trump for prompting the job losses and exacerbating problems in the industry.
Businesses

Apple Co-founder Thinks Apple Is Now Too Big a Company To Come Up With the Next Big Thing (9to5mac.com) 189

When it comes to the next great tech breakthroughs, Steve Wozniak isn't betting on the company he founded. Instead, he believes Tesla is at the forefront of anticipating the world to come. From a report: Interviewed by Bloomberg on what are likely to be the biggest tech breakthroughs in the coming years, and which companies are likely to make them, Woz didn't list Apple as a contender. He said, "look at the companies like Google and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft that changed the world -- and Tesla included. They usually came from young people. They didn't spring out of big businesses." Small businesses, he argued, take bigger risks -- and their founders create the products they really want, without the dilution that occurs with multiple decision-makers. "I think Tesla is on the best direction right now. They've put an awful lot of effort into very risky things. I'm going to bet on Tesla," he added.
United Kingdom

UK Tech Visas Quadruple After Applications Soar (telegraph.co.uk) 78

James Timcomb, writing for The Telegraph: Technology industry demands for special measures to let companies hire foreign workers after Brexit have been boosted by a surge in demand for technology visas. Tech City UK, the government organisation that processes applications for the dedicated "Tier 1 Exceptional Talent" visa, said successful applications had more than quadrupled in the last 12 months, with 260 endorsed in the last fiscal year. It follows fears in the British tech community that access to skilled computer coders would be hit by restrictions to freedom of movement when the UK leaves the EU. David Cameron introduced the tech visa scheme in 2014 in a bid to make London the technology capital of Europe and rival Silicon Valley as a destination for start-ups, and amid fears of a shortage of skilled coders in the UK. The "Tech Nation" visa scheme allows Tech City UK to endorse applications from non-EU workers, and lets successful applicants stay in the country for five years, after which they can apply to settle. Just a handful of visas were granted in its first few months, due to what were seen as onerous requirements, and the rules were relaxed in 2015. Applications have soared since then, and rose again after the Brexit vote.
Businesses

Asus Goes Big On Slim Laptops at Computex (cnet.com) 50

At Computex, Asus announced a range of new laptops. From a report: The new ZenBook Pro takes center stage, featuring powerful hardware in a slim form factor -- an Intel Core i7-7700HQ as well as a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, while the world's thinnest convertible ZenBook Flip S lets you play around with its 4K display. But it's not all just flagship products, Asus also announced new VivoBooks meant for the mainstream market. The new VivoBook Pro packs Intel's seventh-generation processors and comes loaded with discrete graphics in the form of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1050. The VivoBook S15 features more modest specs but still packs Nvidia GeForce GTX 940 discrete graphics. You can real the full-specifications of aforementioned laptops here.
Transportation

British Airways CEO Won't Resign, Says Outsourcing Not To Blame For IT Failure (bbc.com) 248

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz insisted he would not resign on Monday as he sought to draw a line under three days of chaos at the UK flag carrier after IT problems left tens of thousands of passenger stranded. In an interview -- the first since a global computer outage all but shut the airline down -- Cruz said he doesn't think "it would make much of use for me to resign." Separately, he also denied an outsourcing deal was to blame for the IT problems that hit on Saturday, causing the airline to cancel almost all its services over the weekend. From a report: A leaked staff email revealed Mr Cruz had told staff not to comment on the system failure. When asked about the email he told the BBC the tone was clear: "Stop moaning and come and help us." The airline is now close to full operational capacity after the problems resulted in mass flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick over the bank holiday weekend. Questions remain about how a power problem could have had such impact, said the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. One theory was that returning systems were unusable as the data had become unsynchronised. [...] Cruz told the BBC a power surge, had "only lasted a few minutes," but the back-up system had not worked properly. He said the IT failure was not due to technical staff being outsourced from the UK to India.
Transportation

US Might Ban Laptops On All Flights Into And Out of the Country (reuters.com) 408

The United States might ban laptops from aircraft cabins on all flights into and out of the country as part of a ramped-up effort to protect against potential security threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Sunday. From a report:In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Kelly said the United States planned to "raise the bar" on airline security, including tightening screening of carry-on items. "That's the thing that they are obsessed with, the terrorists, the idea of knocking down an airplane in flight, particularly if it's a U.S. carrier, particularly if it's full of U.S. people." In March, the government imposed restrictions on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins on flights from 10 airports, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey. Kelly said the move would be part of a broader airline security effort to combat what he called "a real sophisticated threat." He said no decision had been made as to the timing of any ban. "We are still following the intelligence," he said, "and are in the process of defining this, but we're going to raise the bar generally speaking for aviation much higher than it is now."

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