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IT

Amazon To Experiment With Part-Time Tech Teams (usatoday.com) 109

Elizabeth Weise, reporting from USATODAY: In an effort to lure hard-to-hire tech workers and possibly recast its reputation as a harsh workplace, Amazon plans to pilot a program of part-time teams composed entirely of employees putting in 30-hour weeks. The Seattle company will test using entire teams of engineers and tech staff who will all work 30 hours a week, thus side-stepping many of the problems faced by part-time workers in a full-time environment. The pilot teams' core hours would be Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 2 pm, with flexible hours throughout the week. The 30-hour groups would receive the same benefits as 40-hour-a-week employees but less pay, Amazon said. The plan is smart from a recruiting standpoint and a unique strategy in the highly competitive tech world, said Kate Kennedy with the Society for Human Resource Management.
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.
Businesses

Twitch Acquires Curse, Its Sites, Tools For Gamers, and Databases (venturebeat.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes from a report via VentureBeat: The Amazon-owned, game-streaming site Twitch has announced today that it has acquired Curse, a company that creates programs like voice clients, databases, and mod managers for PC games for some 30 million users. Twitch did not disclose how much they paid for Curse. VentureBeat reports: "Twitch has more than 100 million users a month, and it has helped to popularize new trends gaming like esports and the rise of influencers and personalities who create fanbases that watch them (and donate money to them) while they play. Curse has over 30 million users a month across its website, social media channels, and desktop applications. The company hosts popular websites for hit PC games like Hearthpwn for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and MMO Champion for World of Warcraft. Outside of its site, Twitch hasn't made many services for gamers. It could use this acquisition to extend a reach into that field."
Mozilla

Firefox 49 For Linux Will Ship With Plug-in Free Netflix, Amazon Prime Video Support (mozilla.org) 134

Reader LichtSpektren writes: Widevine, the media protocol that allows users to watch videos on Netflix, is supported in Firefox for Windows and macOS. But until now, its users on Linux were required to use a plug-in. That changes with v49, which offers out-of-the-box support for Netflix.Mozilla plans to offer plug-in streaming for Netflix as well as Amazon Prime Video and other similar services. The v49 will be available on Linux in September. Mozilla adds that it will be removing support for NPAPI plugins from its browser in the near future, plugins that some video streaming sites rely on for playback. "Mozilla plan to support the Widevine CDM on Linux, letting users watch Netflix without plugins," the company said.
Businesses

Tech Giants Sign Pledge With World Wildlife Fund To Prevent Wildlife Trading (mashable.com) 27

Kerry Flynn, writing for Mashable: Looking to buy an elephant tusk on eBay? Might not be so easy. The e-commerce giant, along with Etsy, Gumtree, Microsoft, Pinterest, Tencent and Yahoo, have signed on to a new commitment to prevent the sale of illegal wildlife products on their services. The initiative is in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and TRAFFIC, and was announced Friday to coincide with World Elephant Day. Under the new policy, companies are seeking to prohibit the sale of wild live animals and animal body parts that are sourced illegally, species that are threatened by extinction and other protected animals. That includes rhino horns, pangolin parts and turtle meat. It's the first time that conservation organizations have partnered with multiple tech companies. Prior, the WWF, for example, has worked with other organizations individually.Recently, the Indian government had accused several tech companies including Amazon of "selling" rare animals and their parts.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Bill Gates Is Richest Tech Billionaire With $78 Billion Fortune (gulfnews.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from GulfNews: The "100 Richest Tech Billionaires In The World 2016" list has been topped by Microsoft founder Bill Gates with an estimated fortune of $78 billion. The titans on Forbes' second annual list of the world's richest in technology are worth a combined $892 billion, six percent more than a year ago. Just over half of the 100 richest in tech are from the U.S., including eight of the top 10 richest on the list. Forbes said the second richest person in tech Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is also the biggest gainer on the list this year and has an estimated $66.2 billion fortune, an increase of $18.4 billion since this list was released last year. That puts him ahead of Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, who comes in on the fourth spot. Ellison was also beaten by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who climbed from fourth to third place thanks to a 30 percent jump in the value of Facebook's stock; he is now also California's richest person, another title that previously belonged to Ellison.
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Beam Game Streaming Service, Embracing Alternative To Amazon's Twitch (geekwire.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a GeekWire report: Microsoft's Xbox group announced Thursday that it has acquired Seattle-based interactive game streaming service Beam, bringing the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant into an arena dominated by Amazon's Twitch. Microsoft said in a blog post the deal will help make Xbox more social and interactive. Beam launched in January, with a goal of giving people watching gamers the ability to participate in the experience. Viewers can affect gameplay by presenting new challenges and quests using visual controls.
Books

Nicholas Carr Says Tech 'Utopia Is Creepy' (cio.com) 213

itwbennett writes: It probably won't come as a big surprise that Mr. 'IT Doesn't Matter' isn't a big fan of Silicon Valley's vision for the future, a future defined by autonomous cars and the inevitable rise of robots. In his new book, 'Utopia is Creepy: And Other Provocations,' Carr takes aim at the irrational exuberance of Silicon Valley, where tech is the answer to every problem. One of the exuberances that Carr takes particular exception to is the notion that social media is a better, freer form of media than 'old' media, which maybe makes sense coming from a former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, but he does have a point. "The old gatekeepers, to the extent they were gatekeepers, have been replaced by companies like Facebook and Google and companies that really now have become the new media companies and are very much controlling the flow of information," Carr told CIO.com's Clint Boulton.
Businesses

Walmart Buys Jet For $3 Billion, Hopes To Turbo Charge Ecommerce (venturebeat.com) 98

Walmart says it has agreed to acquire online retailer Jet.com for $3 billion in cash. As a promise, Jet.com says it will deliver cheaper prices on a range of goods by encouraging users to buy more items at the same time or to purchase products located in the same distribution center -- thereby cutting collection and shipping costs. ZDNet reports:Overall, it's clear that Wal-Mart has Amazon envy and needs to scale its e-commerce operations. The Jet management team has had experience battling Amazon through Quidsi and its brands such as Diapers.com. As for the deal, Wal-Mart said some of the $3 billion for Jet will be paid over time and $300 million of Wal-Mart shares will also be part of the transaction over time.
Cloud

Amazon and Microsoft Are Running One and Two in Two-Cloud Race (fortune.com) 75

When it comes to computing capacity for public cloud services, Amazon and Microsoft are dominating the pack. According to research firm Gartner, Google is the third in this cloud race. The conclusion comes as Gartner looks into Magic Quadrant's annual report surveys, which estimates the amount and type of cloud computing services offered for rent by big companies. Fortune reports: Amazon's continued strength will not surprise many considering the resources it has poured into this now-$10-plus billion a year business. AWS "has the largest share of compute capacity in use by paying customers -- many times the aggregate size of all other providers in the market," according to the report. Last year, Gartner's take was that AWS ran more than 10 times the cloud compute capacity as the next 14 cloud players combined. Asked whether that means Amazon's dominance has held steady, grown, or decreased year over year, Gartner managing vice president Rakesh Kumar told Fortune the research firm does not have the exact comparable figure, but that it is "reasonable to assume" that AWS has maintained the same lead this year. The odd man out here appears to be Google, which has been trying hard to win market share from the other two powers and to prove that it is serious about the public cloud market. Google remains the third largest player by Gartner's measures, but it has slipped a bit relative to the top two.
Businesses

US Judge Dismisses Part of Alibaba Counterfeit Goods Lawsuit (reuters.com) 39

Reuters reports: A U.S. judge on Thursday dismissed part of a lawsuit filed last year by Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and other luxury brands accusing Alibaba Group Holding Ltd of promoting the sale of counterfeit goods. U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan dismissed racketeering claims asserted by brands owned by Paris-based Kering SA, saying their complaint failed to allege facts that could sustain those claims.Alibaba is not the only company which has been subjected to such accusations. Amazon has been treading the same path, with some sellers even leaving the platform.
Google

Alphabet Will Begin Testing Project Wing Delivery Drones In the US (theguardian.com) 12

An anonymous reader writes: Google's parent company, Alphabet, has been granted permission by the White House on Tuesday to start testing its Project Wing delivery drones in the U.S. The Guardian reports: "The drones will be tested in one of six designated Federal Aviation Authority areas within the U.S. as part of the government's initiative to promote research into unmanned flight and safety legislation. The announcement was made alongside a pledge from the U.S. National Science Foundation to spend $35m (26 million British Pound) over the next five years on drone research, and comes a month after the U.S. government green-lit commercial drone flights, but with restrictions around line-of-sight control that made automated drone delivery infeasible. The tests will help shape U.S. legislation around the types of automated flying systems that Amazon and Alphabet hope to use to delivery goods and services via air, and establish requirements for unmanned pilot licenses."
Patents

Amazon Patents Noise-Canceling Headphones That Could Automatically Turn Off When It Detects Certain Sound Patterns (thenextweb.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a report via The Next Web: Noise-canceling headphones are great for tuning out the din around you when you just want to focus on listening to music or enjoy some peace and quiet. Unfortunately, they also mute sounds that you might need to hear -- like someone calling your name. Amazon has a pretty cool idea for solving that problem. It was recently granted a patent for headphones that not only cancel out noise, but also listen to specific sounds or phrases (like 'Hey Ben') and respond by automatically turning off the feature so the user can hear sound from their surroundings. That should make it safer for use in noisy environments where you might actually need to pay attention to the occasional alert, such as a construction site or an industrial facility. In addition, the headphones can also listen for phrases to turn noise canceling back on again, so the user can resume their listening experience hands-free.
Operating Systems

Xen Vulnerability Allows Hackers To Escape Qubes OS VM And Own the Host (itnews.com.au) 73

Slashdot reader Noryungi writes: Qubes OS certainly has an intriguing approach to security, but a newly discovered Xen vulnerability allows a hacker to escape a VM and own the host. If you are running Qubes, make sure you update the dom0 operating system to the latest version.
"A malicious, paravirtualized guest administrator can raise their system privileges to that of the host on unpatched installations," according to an article in IT News, which quotes Xen as saying "The bits considered safe were too broad, and not actually safe." IT News is also reporting that Qubes will move to full hardware memory virtualization in its next 4.0 release. Xen's hypervisor "is used by cloud giants Amazon Web Services, IBM and Rackspace," according to the article, which quotes a Qubes security researcher who asks the age-old question. "Has Xen been written by competent developers? How many more bugs of this caliber are we going to witness in the future?"
Businesses

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Becomes World's Third Richest Person (bbc.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Strong earnings from Amazon and a boost to the company's stock have made its founder, Jeff Bezos, the world's third richest person, according to Forbes. Mr Bezos owns 18% of Amazon's shares, which rose 2% in trading on Thursday. Forbes estimated his fortune to be $65.3 billion (49.5 billion British Pound). Amazon's revenue beat analysts' expectations, climbing 31% from last year to $30.4 billion in the second quarter. Profit for the e-commerce giant was $857 million, compared with $92 million in 2015. According to Forbes estimates, Mr Bezos's fortune is only surpassed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, worth $78 billion (59 billion British Pound), and the $73.1 billion (55 billion British Pound) fortune of Zara founder Amancio Ortega. Amazon had developed a reputation for announcing little or no profit each quarter, but appeared to hit a turning point last year and has seen improving earnings since. Amazon shares have spiked 50% since February. BBC's report includes some bullet points about Bezos. He was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1964. He studied at Princeton University and worked on Wall Street. In 1994, he launched Amazon as an online book retailer. A lifelong Star Trek fan, Bezos launched Blue Origin spaceflight and aerospace firm in 2000, and more than a decade later, he purchased The Washington Post newspaper in 2013.
Businesses

Amazon Reaches New High Of 268,900 Employees -- Skyrocketing 47% In Just One Year (geekwire.com) 44

Amazon remains one of the biggest attractors of talent worldwide. During its quarterly earnings, the company said it hired 23,700 employees in the second quarter -- making the total employee headcount at the company 268,900. GeekWire reports: Amazon's headcount has grown by a staggering amount over the last few years. Its employment numbers increased close to 10 percent in the last three months and 47 percent over a year ago, when its employee count stood at a paltry-by-comparison 183,100 people. That's an increase of 85,800 employees in one year -- more than the entire city of Bellingham, Wash.Related: The New York Times report on work challenges at Amazon.
The Almighty Buck

Dark Patterns Across the Web Are Designed To Trick You 128

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Harry Brignell has posted a 30-minute video documenting dark patterns, deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces (not exclusive to the internet) that trick users into setting up recurring payments, purchasing items added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through pre-checked forms on Facebook games for example. Basically, they're tactics used by online services to get users to do things they wouldn't normally do. Yael Grauer has written an in-depth report on Ars Technica about dark patterns, where he discusses Brignull's work with UX designers and business executives: "Klein [Principal at Users Known and author of UX for Lean Startups] believes many of the worst dark patterns are pushed by businesses, not by designers. 'It's often pro-business at the expense of the users, and the designers often see themselves as the defender or advocate of the user,' she explained. And although Brignull has never been explicitly asked to design dark patterns himself, he said he has been in situations where using them would be an easy solution -- like when a client or boss says they really need a large list of people who have opted in to marketing e-mails. 'The first and easiest trick to have an opt-in is to have a pre-ticked checkbox, but then you can just get rid of that entirely and hide it in the terms of conditions and say that by registering you're going to be opted in to our e-mails,' Brignull said. 'Then you have a 100-percent sign-up rate and you've exceeded your goals. I kind of understand why people do it. If you're only thinking about the numbers and you're just trying to juice the stats, then it's not surprising in the slightest.' 'There's this logical positivist mindset that the only things that have value are those things that can be measured and can empirically be shown to be true, and while that has its merits it also takes us down a pretty dark place,' said digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, who is researching ethical design. 'We start to look at ethics as pure utilitarianism, whatever benefits the most people. Yikes, it has problems.'" Brignull's website has a number of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces.
Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 118

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Debuts a Dedicated Shop For Kickstarter Products (techcrunch.com) 18

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Today, Amazon announced it's teaming up with Kickstarter to offer those successful Kickstarter products a way to reach more customers through a dedicated section on Amazon's website. Via www.amazon.com/launchpad/kickstarter, the online retailer is now featuring a group of over 300 Kickstarter products across a variety of categories, like electronics, books, home and kitchen, movies and tv, and more. The products can also be browsed by theme, like STEM products, "Always be Learning," "Exquisite Objects," "Inventing the Future," and "Public Benefit," for example. The new Kickstarter section is actually an expansion on Amazon's Launchpad platform, launched a year ago. In July 2015, the retailer debuted a dedicated portal that offered both marketing and sales for hardware and physical goods from younger tech companies. Today, Amazon says it has now worked with over 100 VCs, accelerators and crowdfunders and has helped more than 1,000 launch products across the U.S., the U.K., China, Germany, and France. All startups who participate in Launchpad receive custom product pages, a comprehensive marketing package, and access to Amazon's global fulfillment network, the retailer notes.
Security

Vine's Source Code Was Accidentally Made Public For Five Minutes (theregister.co.uk) 43

An anonymous reader writes from The Register: Vine, the six-second-video-loop app acquired by Twitter in 2012, had its source code made publicly available by a bounty-hunter for everyone to see. The Register reports: "According to this post by @avicoder (Vjex at GitHub), Vine's source code was for a while available on what was supposed to be a private Docker registry. While docker.vineapp.com, hosted at Amazon, wasn't meant to be available, @avicoder found he was able to download images with a simple pull request. After that it's all too easy: the docker pull https://docker.vineapp.com:443/library/vinewww request loaded the code, and he could then open the Docker image and run it. 'I was able to see the entire source code of Vine, its API keys and third party keys and secrets. Even running the image without any parameter, [it] was letting me host a replica of Vine locally.' The code included 'API keys, third party keys and secrets,' he writes. Twitter's bounty program paid out -- $10,080 -- and the problem was fixed in March (within five minutes of him demonstrating the issue)."

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