Oracle

Oracle Announces Java SE 9 and Java EE 8 (oracle.com) 3

rastos1 writes: Oracle has announced the general availability of Java SE 9 (JDK 9), Java Platform Enterprise Edition 8 (Java EE 8) and the Java EE 8 Software Development Kit (SDK). JDK 9 is a production-ready implementation of the Java SE 9 Platform Specification, which was recently approved together with Java EE 8 in the Java Community Process (JCP). Java SE 9 provides more than 150 new features, including a new module system and improvements that bring more scalability, improved security, better performance management and easier development to the world's most popular programming platform.
The Internet

Move Over Connected Cows, the Internet of Bees Is Here (cityam.com) 17

A new project is aiming to bring bees online by putting them in tiny "backpacks" so that scientists can track the threatened insect's behaviour and help its survival. From a report: Bees in Manchester initially will be connected to the internet using technology from Cisco to help researchers track their migration, pollination and movement, and eventually, across the UK. Sensors in hives located at a new 70,000 sq ft tech accelerator hub in the northern city called Mi-Idea, will measure the bee environment such as temperature, while the bees themselves will be tagged with RFID chips that look like tiny backpacks. All the information will be collected and made available to track online giving insight on their habitats, with the bees even providing "status updates" (albeit automated) on their whereabouts. Cisco is working on the project with the Manchester Science Partnership (MSP) and the hub is already home to six startups: Hark, an IoT data company, video platform Wattl, location data analytics startup PlaceDashboard, Steamaco, an energy technology company, IOT platform KMS and software firm Malinko.
Businesses

Nestle Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For (bloomberg.com) 156

Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage company, has been bottling water since 1843 and has grown into the largest seller of bottled water. But a detailed report on Bloomberg uncovers the company's operation in Michigan, revealing that Nestle has come to dominate in the industry in part by going into economically depressed areas with lax water laws. It makes billions selling a product for which it pays close to nothing. Find the Bloomberg Businessweek article here (it might be paywalled, here's an alternative source).
Security

Major Cyber-Attack Will Happen Soon, Warns UK's Security Boss (theguardian.com) 51

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian: A "category one" cyber-attack, the most serious tier possible, will happen "sometime in the next few years", a director of the National Cybersecurity Centre has warned. According to the agency, which reports to GCHQ and has responsibly for ensuring the UK's information security, a category one cybersecurity incident requires a national government response. Speaking at an event about the next decade of information security, Levy warned that "sometime in the next few years we're going to have our first category one cyber-incident." The only way to prevent such a breach, he said, was to change the way businesses and governments think about cybersecurity. Rather than obsessing about buying the right security products, Levy argued, organisations should instead focus on managing risk: understanding the data they hold, the value it has, and how much damage it could do if it was lost, for instance.
Businesses

Anatomy of a Moral Panic: Reports About Amazon Suggesting 'Bomb-Making Items' Were Highly Misleading (idlewords.com) 47

Maciej Ceglowski, a Polish-American web developer, has demolished a news story from earlier this week in which a British outlet Channel 4 suggested that Amazon's algorithm-driven suggestions were helping people find items that are required to make bombs. Multiple credible news outlets picked the story, including The New York Times, Reuters, BBC, and CNBC. We ran an excerpt from the New York Times' article, which included a newsworthy response from Amazon that it was reviewing its website, on Slashdot. In reality what was happening was, Ceglowski wrote, the items Amazon suggested would help high school chemistry students with their experiments. From his blog: The 'common chemical compound' in Channel 4's report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon's page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you'll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. [...] The Channel 4 piece goes on to reveal that people searching for 'another widely available chemical' are being offered the ingredients for thermite, a mixture of metal powders that when ignited "creates a hazardous reaction used in incendiary bombs and for cutting through steel." In this case, the 'widely available chemical' is magnesium ribbon. If you search for this ribbon on Amazon, the site will offer to sell you iron oxide (rust) and aluminum powder, which you can mix together to create a spectacular bit of fireworks called the thermite reaction. The thermite reaction is performed in every high school chemistry classroom, as a fun reward for students who have had to suffer through a baffling unit on redox reactions. [...] When I contacted the author of one of these pieces to express my concerns, they explained that the piece had been written on short deadline that morning, and they were already working on an unrelated article. The author cited coverage in other mainstream outlets (including the New York Times) as justification for republishing and not correcting the assertions made in the original Channel 4 report. The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism. By forcing reporters to optimize every story for clicks, not giving them time to check or contextualize their reporting, and requiring them to race to publish follow-on articles on every topic, the clickbait economics of online media encourage carelessness and drama. This is particularly true for technical topics outside the reporter's area of expertise. And reporters have no choice but to chase clicks.
Nintendo

This Guy Is Digitizing the VHS History of Video Games (vice.com) 54

An anonymous reader shares a report: UK-based gaming journalist and blogger Chris Scullion is on a mission to preserve his collection -- and maybe your collection, too -- of these old video game VHS tapes. In the 80s and 90s, video game companies and trade magazines made these tapes to accompany popular titles or new issues with bonus material or promotional footage, giving a glimpse into how marketing for games was done in the industry's early days. Scullion has 18 tapes to upload so far, and plans to provide accompanying commentary as well as the raw video as they go up on his YouTube channel. Scullion's first upload is a promotional tape for Super Mario All-Stars, given away by Nintendo UK in 1993. It's hosted by Craig Charles, who played Lister in the British sci-fi sitcom Red Dwarf. Digitizing his collection keeps that sweet nostalgia content safe from degradation of the magnetic tape, which starts to go downhill within 10 to 25 years. He's capturing them in HD using a 1080p upscaler, at a full 50fps frame rate by converting to HDMI before grabbing -- a higher frame rate than many standard commercial digitizing devices that capture at 30fps -- so that no frames are missed. Some of the tapes he's planning to digitize have already been converted and uploaded to YouTube by other people, he says, but most are either poor quality or captured with less-advanced grabbing devices.
Red Hat Software

Red Hat Pledges Patent Protection For 99 Percent of FOSS-ware (theregister.co.uk) 56

Red Hat says it has amassed over 2,000 patents and won't enforce them if the technologies they describe are used in properly-licensed open-source software. From a report: The company has made more or less the same offer since 2002, when it first made a "Patent Promise" in order to "discourage patent aggression in free and open source software." Back then the company didn't own many patents and claimed its non-enforcement promise covered 35 per cent of open-source software. The Promise was revised in order to reflect the company's growing patent trove and to spruce up the language it uses to make it more relevant. The revised promise "applies to all software meeting the free software or open source definitions of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) or the Open Source Initiative (OSI)." [...] It's not a blank cheque. Hardware isn't covered and Red Hat is at pains to point out that "Our Promise is not an assurance that Red Hat's patents are enforceable or that practicing Red Hat's patented inventions does not infringe others' patents or other intellectual property." But the company says 99 percent of FOSS software should be covered by the Promise.
Businesses

Apple's Latest Products Get Rare Mixed-Bag Reviews, Muted Reception (bloomberg.com) 158

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg: Despite the strength of its brand, Apple occasionally releases a product to mediocre reviews -- remember the original Apple TV or Apple Watch? But reviewers have rarely been as grumpy as this month, when Apple unveiled its collection of new gadgets for the holidays. "I can't think of a single compelling reason to upgrade [to iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus] from an iPhone 7 [which was launched last year]," wrote Nilay Patel of The Verge. Another potential sign of trouble: the iPhone 8 models didn't sell out during pre-orders, another rare occurrence for Apple phones. [...] Reviewing the new Apple Watch Series 3 model, The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern wrote "On the AT&T-connected models, the cellular connection dropped, calls were often choppy and Siri sometimes failed to connect. On the one that ran on T-Mobile, I experienced several dropped connections." The Verge's Lauren Goode noticed a serious connection issue as well, saying the device "would appear to pick up a single bar of some random Wi-Fi signal, and hang on that, rather than switching to LTE." [...] Reviewing the Apple TV 4K, The Verge's Patel noted the device's high price, a lack of 4K support in major apps including YouTube, and a lack of support for the Dolby Atmos audio standard. Reuters reported on Friday: Hundreds of people usually gather at Apple's Sydney city store with queues winding down the town's main street, George Street, when there is a new product release. But there were fewer than 30 people lining up before the store opened on Friday, according to a Reuters witness. While the number of people queuing up outside Apple stores have dropped over the years with many opting for online purchases, the weak turnout for the latest iPhone has partly been due to poor reviews. Over at Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw reports: "I think demand is down from last year, for no other reason than you have another flagship phone," said Neil Cybart, an Apple analyst at Above Avalon. "A portion of the iPhone launch demand is not materialising quite yet." That could leave this weekend's initial sales lower than at any point since the iPhone 6 first launched in 2014, Mr Cybart added. Apple's decision to increase prices for the iPhone 8 compared with last year's model and a less aggressive launch push by mobile carriers could also affect demand.
Businesses

The Problem, Really, is This Thing Called 'Disruption' (wired.com) 88

New submitter mirandakatz writes: The word "disruption" is everywhere in tech -- and it's getting founders in trouble. Just look at what happened with Bodega last week: Had the startup not professed to be disrupting the mom-and-pop shops on every corner, it might not have landed itself in such hot water. At Backchannel, veteran Silicon Valley communications whiz Karen Wickre makes the case against "disruption," pointing out that many of today's biggest companies got their starts without claiming to completely upend an existing industry. She writes: "What if Sergey and Larry had touted Google, in 1998, as 'an unprecedented platform for disrupting global advertising?' Do you think Jeff Bezos claimed that Amazon.com was upending global retail? Netflix? Within a few months of its 1997 launch, it did not foresee the actual paradigm shift of media streaming."
Communications

T-Mobile, Sprint Close To Agreeing Deal Terms (reuters.com) 67

From a report: T-Mobile US is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with peer Sprint Corp, people familiar with the matter said on Friday, a major breakthrough in efforts to merge the third and fourth largest U.S. wireless carriers. The development follows more than four months of on-and-off talks this year between T-Mobile and Sprint, and comes as the U.S. telecommunications sector seeks ways to tackle investments in 5G technology that will greatly enhance wireless data transfer speeds.
Businesses

London Has Decided To Ban Uber (recode.net) 162

Johana Bhuiyan, writing for Recode: Transport for London, the taxi regulating service in London, announced today that it would not be renewing Uber's license to operate because of concerns over the company's "lack of corporate responsibility" in relation to public safety issues. The ride-hail company, which launched in London in 2012, is appealing the TfL's decision and will be allowed to continue to operate until a court makes a decision on that appeal. That process could take months. London is a significant market for Uber: The company says there are 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million riders on its platform in London. And like New York City, it is one of the most regulated markets where Uber operates. Unlike most markets across the U.S., Uber drivers in London and New York City are required to participate in government administered background checks.
The Almighty Buck

Why You Shouldn't Imitate Bill Gates If You Want To Be Rich (bbc.com) 252

dryriver writes: BBC Capital has an article that debunks the idea of "simply doing what highly successful people have done to get rich," because many of those "outliers" got rich under special circumstances that are not possible to replicate. An excerpt: "Even if you could imitate everything Gates did, you would not be able to replicate his initial good fortune. For example, Gates's upper-class background and private education enabled him to gain extra programming experience when less than 0.01% of his generation then had access to computers. His mother's social connection with IBM's chairman enabled him to gain a contract from the then-leading PC company that was crucial for establishing his software empire. This is important because most customers who used IBM computers were forced to learn how to use Microsoft's software that came along with it. This created an inertia in Microsoft's favor. The next software these customers chose was more likely to be Microsoft's, not because their software was necessarily the best, but because most people were too busy to learn how to use anything else. Microsoft's success and marketshare may differ from the rest by several orders of magnitude but the difference was really enabled by Gate's early fortune, reinforced by a strong success-breeds-success dynamic."
AI

A New Zealand Company Built An AI Baby That Plays the Piano (bloomberg.com) 81

pacopico writes: A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. According to a Bloomberg story, the baby has learned to read books, play the piano and draw pictures. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company's CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function. The baby, for example, has virtual dopamine receptors that fire when it feels joy from playing the piano. What could go wrong?
Space

Most Powerful Cosmic Rays Come From Galaxies Far, Far Away (space.com) 86

A new study finds the highest-energy cosmic rays to bombard Earth come from galaxies far, far away. Space.com reports: The sun emits relatively low-energy cosmic rays. However, for more than 50 years, scientists have also detected ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, ones far beyond the capability of any particle accelerator on Earth to generate. One way to discover the origins of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays is to study their directions of travel. However, ultra-high-energy cosmic rays only rarely strike Earth's atmosphere, with one hitting any given area about the size of a soccer field about once per century, the researchers said. In order to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, scientists look for the spray of electrons, photons and other particles that result when ultra-high-energy cosmic rays hit the top of Earth's atmosphere. Each of these showers contains more than 10 billion particles, which fly downward in a disk shaped like a giant plate miles wide, according to the statement. Scientists examined the sprays from ultra-high-energy cosmic rays using the largest cosmic-ray observatory yet: the Pierre Auger Observatory built in the western plains of Argentina in 2001. It consists of an array of 1,600 particle detectors deployed in a hexagonal grid over 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers), an area comparable in size to Rhode Island. A connected set of telescopes is also used to see the dim fluorescent light the particles in the sprays emit at night.

The researchers analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2016. During these 12 years, the scientists detected more than 30,000 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. If ultra-high-energy cosmic rays came from the Milky Way, one might perhaps expect them to come from all across the sky, or perhaps mostly from the direction of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. However, the researchers saw that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays mostly came from a broad area of sky about 90 degrees away from the direction of the Milky Way's core.

Medicine

Fathers Pass On Four Times As Many New Genetic Mutations As Mothers, Says Study (theguardian.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Children inherit four times as many new mutations from their fathers than their mothers, according to research that suggests faults in the men's DNA are a driver for rare childhood diseases. Researchers studied 14,000 Icelanders and found that men passed on one new mutation for every eight months of age, compared with women who passed on a new mutation for every three years of age. The figures mean that a child born to 30-year-old parents would, on average, inherit 11 new mutations from the mother, but 45 from the father. Kari Stefansson, a researcher at the Icelandic genetics company, deCODE, which led the study, said that while new mutations led to variation in the human genome, which is necessary for evolution to happen, "they are also believed to be responsible for the majority of cases of rare diseases in childhood." In the study published in Nature, the researchers analyzed the DNA of 1,500 Icelanders and their parents and, for 225 people, at least one of their children. They found that new mutations from mothers increased by 0.37 per year of age, a quarter of the rate found in men. While the vast majority of new mutations are thought to be harmless, occasionally they can disrupt the workings of genes that are important for good health.

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