Wikipedia

Wikipedia's Switch To HTTPS Has Successfully Fought Government Censorship (vice.com) 40

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) 41

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) 46

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) 94

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) 23

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) 189

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) 152

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) 63

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) 46

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) 185

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) 354

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."
Stats

Are There More Developers Than We Think? (redmonk.com) 157

JavaScript's npm package manager reports 4 million users, doubling every year, leading to an interesting question from tech industry analyst James Governor: Just how many developers are there out there? GitHub is very well placed to know, given it's where (so much) of that development happens today. It has telemetry-based numbers, with their own skew of course, but based on usage rather than surveys or estimates. According to GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath, "We see 20 million professional devs in the world as an estimate, from research companies. Well we have 21 million [active] users -- we can't have more users than the entire industry"...

If Github has 21 million active users, Wanstrath is right that current estimates of the size of the developer population must be far too low... Are we under-counting China, for example, given its firewalls? India continues to crank out developers at an astonishing rate. Meanwhile Africa is set for crazy growth too... You certainly can't just count computer science graduates or software industry employees anymore. These days you can't even be an astronomer without learning code, and that's going to be true of all scientific disciplines.

The analyst attributes the increasing number of developers to "the availability, accessibility and affordability of tools and learning," adding "It's pretty amazing to think that GitHub hit 5 million users in 2012, and is now at 20 million." As for the total number of all developers, he offers his own estimate at the end of the essay. "My wild assed guess would be more like 35 million."
Classic Games (Games)

ESR Announces The Open Sourcing Of The World's First Text Adventure (ibiblio.org) 97

An anonymous reader writes: Open source guru Eric S. Raymond added something special to his GitHub page: an open source version of the world's first text adventure. "Colossal Cave Adventure" was first written in 1977, and Raymond remembers it as "the origin of many things; the text adventure game, the dungeon-crawling D&D (computer) game, the MOO, the roguelike genre. Computer gaming as we know it would not exist without ADVENT (as it was known in its original PDP-10 incarnation...because PDP-10 filenames were limited to six characters of uppercase)...

"Though there's a C port of the original 1977 game in the BSD game package, and the original FORTRAN sources could be found if you knew where to dig, Crowther & Woods's final version -- Adventure 2.5 from 1995 -- has never been packaged for modern systems and distributed under an open-source license. Until now, that is. With the approval of its authors, I bring you Open Adventure."

Calling it one of the great artifacts of hacker history, ESR writes about "what it means to be respectful of an important historical artifact when it happens to be software," ultimately concluding version control lets you preserve the original and continue improving it "as a living and functional artifact. We respect our history and the hackers of the past best by carrying on their work and their playfulness."

"Despite all the energy Crowther and Woods had to spend fighting ancient constraints, ADVENT was a tremendous imaginative leap; there had been nothing like it before, and no text adventure that followed it would be innovative to quite the same degree."
Government

US Senators Propose Bug Bounties For Hacking Homeland Security (cnn.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: U.S. senators want people to hack the Department of Homeland Security. On Thursday, Senators Maggie Hassan, a Democrat and Republican Rob Portman introduced the Hack DHS Act to establish a federal bug bounty program in the DHS... It would be modeled off the Department of Defense efforts, including Hack the Pentagon, the first program of its kind in the federal government. Launched a year ago, Hack the Pentagon paved the way for more recent bug bounty events including Hack the Army and Hack the Air Force...

The Hack the DHS Act establishes a framework for bug bounties, including establishing "mission-critical" systems that aren't allowed to be hacked, and making sure researchers who find bugs in DHS don't get prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. "It's better to find vulnerabilities through someone you have engaged with and vetted," said Jeff Greene, the director of government affairs and policy at security firm Symantec. "In an era of constrained budgets, it's a cost-effective way of identifying vulnerabilities"... If passed, it would be among the first non-military bug bounty programs in the public sector.

The Media

Walt Mossberg's Last Column Calls For Privacy and Security Laws (recode.net) 89

70-year-old Walt Mossberg wrote his last weekly column Thursday, looking back on how "we've all had a hell of a ride for the last few decades" and revisiting his famous 1991 pronouncement that "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault." Not only were the interfaces confusing, but most tech products demanded frequent tweaking and fixing of a type that required more technical skill than most people had, or cared to acquire. The whole field was new, and engineers weren't designing products for normal people who had other talents and interests. But, over time, the products have gotten more reliable and easier to use, and the users more sophisticated... So, now, I'd say: "Personal technology is usually pretty easy to use, and, if it's not, it's not your fault." The devices we've come to rely on, like PCs and phones, aren't new anymore. They're refined, built with regular users in mind, and they get better each year. Anything really new is still too close to the engineers to be simple or reliable.
He argues we're now in a strange lull before entering an unrecognizable world where major new breakthroughs in areas like A.I., robotics, smart homes, and augmented reality lead to "ambient computing", where technology itself fades into the background. And he uses his final weekly column to warn that "if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it's time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws."

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