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Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
IBM

IBM Is First Company To Get 8,000 US Patents In One Year, Breaking Record (silicon.co.uk) 94

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: For the 24th year in a row, IBM received the most patents of any company in the US. But for the first time it got more than 8,000 -- the first firm in any industry to do so. In total, its inventors were granted 8,088 patents in 2016, covering areas as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, cloud, health and cyber security.
That's equal to more than 22 patents a day generated by its researchers, engineers and designers, with more than a third of the patents relating to AI, cognitive computing and cloud computing alone. IBM is betting big on cloud and other services, having spun off its hardware units like servers and PCs to Lenovo. The other nine companies in the top ten list of 2016 US patent recipients consist of: Samsung electronics (with 5,518 patents), Canon (3,665), Qualcomm (2,897), Google (2,835), Intel (2,784), LG Electronics (2,428), Microsoft (2,398), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (2,288) and Sony (2,181).

Google

Android Was 2016's Most Vulnerable Product, Oracle the (bleepingcomputer.com) 147

An anonymous reader writes: According to CVE Details, a website that aggregates historical data on security bugs that have received a CVE identifier, during 2016, security researchers have discovered and reported 523 security bugs in Google's Android OS, winner by far of this "award." The rest of the top 10 is made up by Debian (319 bugs), Ubuntu (278 bugs), Adobe Flash Player (266 bugs), openSUSE Leap (259 bugs), openSUSE (228 bugs), Adobe Acrobat DC (227 bugs), Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (227 bugs), Adobe Acrobat (224 bugs), and the Linux Kernel (216 bugs).

When it comes to software vendors, the company for which the largest number of new CVE numbers have been assigned was Oracle, with a whopping 798 CVEs, who edged out Google (698 bugs), Adobe (548 bugs), Microsoft (492 bugs), Novell (394), IBM (382 bugs), Cisco (353 bugs), Apple (324 bugs), Debian Project (320 bugs), and Canonical (280 bugs).

AI

Japanese White-Collar Workers Are Already Being Replaced by Artificial Intelligence (qz.com) 370

Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work is also becoming increasingly competent. From a report on Quartz: One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with "IBM Watson Explorer," starting by this month. The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.
Science

Let's Raise A Glass To The Many Tech Pioneers Who Died In 2016 (slashdot.org) 64

In technology, you're always "standing on the shoulders" of those who came before you -- and together, each individual's contribution becomes part of a larger ongoing story. So as this year finally winds to a close, click through to see our list of some of the pioneers who left us in 2016. And feel free to share any memories and reflections of your own in the comments.
AI

World's Largest Hedge Fund To Replace Managers With Artificial Intelligence (theguardian.com) 209

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The world's largest hedge fund is building a piece of software to automate the day-to-day management of the firm, including hiring, firing and other strategic decision-making. Bridgewater Associates has a team of software engineers working on the project at the request of billionaire founder Ray Dalio, who wants to ensure the company can run according to his vision even when he's not there, the Wall Street Journal reported. The firm, which manages $160 billion, created the team of programmers specializing in analytics and artificial intelligence, dubbed the Systematized Intelligence Lab, in early 2015. The unit is headed up by David Ferrucci, who previously led IBM's development of Watson, the supercomputer that beat humans at Jeopardy! in 2011. The company is already highly data-driven, with meetings recorded and staff asked to grade each other throughout the day using a ratings system called "dots." The Systematized Intelligence Lab has built a tool that incorporates these ratings into "Baseball Cards" that show employees' strengths and weaknesses. Another app, dubbed The Contract, gets staff to set goals they want to achieve and then tracks how effectively they follow through. These tools are early applications of PriOS, the over-arching management software that Dalio wants to make three-quarters of all management decisions within five years. The kinds of decisions PriOS could make include finding the right staff for particular job openings and ranking opposing perspectives from multiple team members when there's a disagreement about how to proceed. The machine will make the decisions, according to a set of principles laid out by Dalio about the company vision.
IBM

IBM On Track To Get More Than 7,000 US Patents In 2016 (venturebeat.com) 34

IBM wants to put the patent war in perspective. Big Blue said that it is poised to get the most U.S. patents of any tech company for the 24th year in a row. From a report on VentureBeat: In 2015, IBM received more than 7,355 patents, down slightly from 7,534 in 2014. A spokesperson for IBM said the company is on track to receive well over 7,000 patents in 2016. In 2016, IBM is also hitting another interesting milestone, with more than 1,000 patents for artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. IBM has been at it for more than a century, and it is seeking patents in key strategic areas -- such as AI and cognitive computing. In fact, one-third of IBM's researchers are dedicated to cognitive computing. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said during the World of Watson conference in October that the company expects to reach more than 1 billion consumers via Watson by the end of 2017. (Watson is the supercomputer that beat the world's best Jeopardy player in 2011.)
IBM

IBM Employees Protest Cooperation With Donald Trump (theintercept.com) 600

Reader Presto Vivace shares a report on The Intercept: IBM employees are taking a public stand following a personal pitch to Donald Trump from CEO Ginni Rometty and the company's initial refusal to rule out participating in the creation of a national Muslim registry. In November, Rometty wrote Trump directly, congratulating him on his electoral victory and detailing various services the company could sell his administration. The letter was published on an internal IBM blog along with a personal note from Rometty to her enormous global staff. "As IBMers, we believe that innovation improves the human condition. ... We support, tolerance, diversity, the development of expertise, and the open exchange of ideas," she wrote in the context of lending material support to a man who won the election by rejecting all of those values. Employee comments were a mix of support and horror. Now, some of those who were horrified are going public, denouncing Rometty's letter and asserting "our right to refuse participation in any U.S. government contracts that violate constitutionally protected civil liberties." The IBMPetition.org effort has been spearheaded in part by IBM cybersecurity engineer Daniel Hanley, who told The Intercept he started organizing with his coworkers after reading Rometty's letter. "I was shocked, of course," Hanley said, "because IBM has purported to espouse diversity and inclusion, and yet here's Ginni Rometty in an unqualified way reaching out to an admin whose electoral success was based on racist programs."
United States

Donald Trump To Tech Leaders: 'No Formal Chain Of Command' Here (cnbc.com) 488

A confab of tech titans had a "productive" meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Wednesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told CNBC, as Trump moved to mend fences with Silicon Valley before taking office in January. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Intel, Oracle, IBM, Cisco and Tesla were among the C-suite executives in attendance, with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Tesla CEO Elon Musk expected to get private briefings, according to transition staff. From the report: "We want you to keep going with the incredible innovation," Trump said. "There's no one like you in the world. ... anything we can do to help this go along, we're going to be there for you. You can call my people, call me -- it makes no difference -- we have no formal chain of command around here." At the meeting, Trump introduced billionaire Wilbur Ross, his Commerce secretary pick, and Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn, his choice for director of the National Economic Council. "They're going to do fair trade deals," Trump said. "They're going to make it easier for you to trade across borders, because there are a lot of restrictions, a lot of problems. If you have any ideas on that, that would be great."
Businesses

Another One Bites the Dust: Cisco Discontinues Its $1B Cloud Initiative as AWS, Azure and Others Expand (geekwire.com) 34

Cisco will abandon its InterCloud cloud-computing offering on March 31 and will move any InterCloud workloads to other, unnamed cloud providers, including "in some cases, public cloud." From a report on GeekWire: Cisco's pull-back from the cloud scene marks the latest example of smaller participants -- many of them hardware-makers -- bailing in the face of huge growth by Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and to some extent by Google Cloud, IBM and other, smaller public-cloud services. Hewlett-Packard in 2015 abandoned its efforts to be a public-cloud company. Then, Hewlett-Packard Enterprises essentially shut down its much-ballyhooed Helion cloud offering earlier this year. VMware still offers its vCloud Air hybrid-cloud service, though it has agreed to partner with AWS, which it once viewed as its arch-rival for cloud workloads. "We do not expect any material customer issues as a result of this transition," Cisco said in response to a request for comment. "For the last several months, we have been evolving our cloud strategy and our service provider partners are aware of this."
IBM

Most Businesses Pay Ransomware Demands, IBM Finds (eweek.com) 69

According to an IBM Security report released on December 14, 70 percent of businesses impacted by ransomware end up paying the attackers. The amount varies but a majority of business respondents said they paid tens of thousands of dollars. eWeek reports: The 23-page IBM Security study surveyed 600 business leaders and 1,021 consumers in the U.S. 46 percent of business respondents reported that they had experienced ransomware in their organizations. Of the 46 percent that have been impacted by ransomware, 70 percent admitted that their organization paid the ransom. The amount paid to ransomware attackers varies, but of those business respondents that paid a ransom, 20 percent paid over $40,000, 25 percent paid between $20,000 and $40,000 and 11 percent paid between $10,00 to $20,000. On the consumer side, IBM's study found that the propensity to pay a ransom varies depending on whether or not the victim is a parent. 55 percent of consumers that identified themselves as being parents said they would pay a ransom to recover access to photos that had been encrypted, versus only 39 percent for consumers that don't have children. In an effort to help organizations respond quickly to ransomware threats, IBM's Resilient Incident Response Platform (IRP) is being enhanced with a new Dynamic Playbook for ransomware. Ted Julian, Vice President of Product Management and Co-Founder at Resilient, an IBM Company, explained that the basic idea behind the Dynamic Playbooks is to help provide organizations with an automated workflow or 'playbook' for how to deal with a particular security incident.
Government

Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Will Advise Trump On Business Issues (theverge.com) 244

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick have joined President-elect Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum, which will regularly meet with the soon-president to advise on business issues, the Trump transition team said in a statement. From a report on The Verge: The now 19-member council, established earlier this month, also includes Disney CEO Bob Iger and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. Members will "share their specific experience and knowledge as the President implements his economic agenda," according to the transition statement. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi also joins today. The announcement suggests a new link between the president-elect and Silicon Valley, which has been generally wary of the Trump presidency, with the notable exception of Facebook board member and Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who supported Trump despite controversy and has been working as an adviser for the transition team.
Businesses

IBM Promises To Hire 25,000 Americans As Tech Executives Set To Meet Trump (reuters.com) 244

IBM Chief Executive Ginni Rometty has pledged to "hire about 25,000 professionals in the next four years in the United States" as she and other technology executives prepared to meet with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday. Reuters reports: IBM had nearly 378,000 employees at the end of 2015, according to the company's annual report. While the firm does not break out staff numbers by country, a review of government filings suggests IBM's U.S. workforce declined in each of the five years through 2015. When asked why IBM planned to increase its U.S. workforce after those job cuts, company spokesman Ian Colley said in an email that Rometty had laid out the reasons in her USA Today piece. Her article did not acknowledge that IBM had cut its U.S. workforce, although it called on Congress to quickly update the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act that governs federal support for vocational education. "We are hiring because the nature of work is evolving," she said. "As industries from manufacturing to agriculture are reshaped by data science and cloud computing, jobs are being created that demand new skills -- which in turn requires new approaches to education, training and recruiting." She said IBM intended to invest $1 billion in the training and development of U.S. employees over the next four years. Pratt declined to say if that represented an increase over spending in the prior four years.
AI

IBM's Watson Used In Life-Saving Medical Diagnosis (businessinsider.co.id) 83

"Supercomputing has another use," writes Slashdot reader rmdingler, sharing a story that quotes David Kenny, the General Manager of IBM Watson: "There's a 60-year-old woman in Tokyo. She was at the University of Tokyo. She had been diagnosed with leukemia six years ago. She was living, but not healthy. So the University of Tokyo ran her genomic sequence through Watson and it was able to ascertain that they were off by one thing. Actually, she had two strains of leukemia. They did treat her and she is healthy."

"That's one example. Statistically, we're seeing that about one third of the time, Watson is proposing an additional diagnosis."

Mozilla

VM-Neutral Node.js API Unveiled, As NodeSource Collaborates With Microsoft, Mozilla, Intel and IBM (medium.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes: This week saw the first proof of concept for Node.js API (or NAPI for short), "making module maintainers' lives easier by defining a stable module API that is independent from changes in [Google's JavaScript engine] V8 and allowing modules to run against newer versions of Node.js without recompilation." Their announcement cites both the efforts of the Node.js API working group and of ChakraCore, the core part of the Chakra Javascript engine that powers Microsoft Edge.

And there was also a second announcement -- that the Node.js build system "will start producing nightly node-chakracore builds, enabling Node.js to be used with the ChakraCore JavaScript engine. "These initial efforts are stepping stones to make Node.js VM-neutral, which would allow more opportunities for Node.js in IoT and mobile use cases as well as a variety of different systems."

One IBM runtime developer called it "a concrete step toward the strategic end goal of VM neutrality," and the Node.js Foundation believes that the API will ultimately result in "more modules to choose from, and more stability with modules without the need to continually upgrade."
Republicans

Of 8 Tech Companies, Only Twitter Says It Would Refuse To Help Build Muslim Registry For Trump (theintercept.com) 588

On the campaign trail last year, President-elect Donald Trump said he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database. While he has back-stepped on a number of campaign promises after being elected president, Trump and his transition team have recently resurfaced the idea to create a national Muslim registry. In response, The Intercept contacted nine of the "most prominent" technology companies in the United States "to ask if they would sell their services to help create a national Muslim registry." Twitter was the only company that responded with "No." The Intercept reports: Even on a purely hypothetical basis, such a project would provide American technology companies an easy line to draw in the sand -- pushing back against any effort to track individuals purely (or essentially) on the basis of their religious beliefs doesn't take much in the way of courage or conviction, even by the thin standards of corporate America. We'd also be remiss in assuming no company would ever tie itself to such a nakedly evil undertaking: IBM famously helped Nazi Germany computerize the Holocaust. (IBM has downplayed its logistical role in the Holocaust, claiming in a 2001 statement that "most [relevant] documents were destroyed or lost during the war.") With all this in mind, we contacted nine different American firms in the business of technology, broadly defined, with the following question: "Would [name of company], if solicited by the Trump administration, sell any goods, services, information, or consulting of any kind to help facilitate the creation of a national Muslim registry, a project which has been floated tentatively by the president-elect's transition team?" After two weeks of calls and emails, only three companies provided an answer, and only one said it would not participate in such a project. A complete tally is below.

Facebook: No answer. Twitter: "No," and a link to this blog post, which states as company policy a prohibition against the use, by outside developers, of "Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period." Microsoft: "We're not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point," and a link to a company blog post that states that "we're committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but [...] inclusive culture" and that "it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time." Google: No answer. Apple: No answer. IBM: No answer. Booz Allen Hamilton: Declined to comment. SRA International: No answer.

IBM

Erich Bloch, Who Helped Develop IBM Mainframe, Dies At 91 (google.com) 40

shadowknot writes: The New York Times is reporting (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) that Erich Bloch who helped to develop the IBM Mainframe has died at the age of 91 as a result of complications from Alzheimer's disease. From the article: "In the 1950s, he developed the first ferrite-core memory storage units to be used in computers commercially and worked on the IBM 7030, known as Stretch, the first transistorized supercomputer. 'Asked what job each of us had, my answer was very simple and very direct,' Mr. Bloch said in 2002. 'Getting that sucker working.' Mr. Bloch's role was to oversee the development of Solid Logic Technology -- half-inch ceramic modules for the microelectronic circuitry that provided the System/360 with superior power, speed and memory, all of which would become fundamental to computing."
Stats

Julian Assange Could Be Time's 'Person Of The Year', And Is Also Still Not Dead (time.com) 145

Long-time Slashdot reader cstacy noticed Saturday that Julian Assange hadn't made any communications or public appearances in six weeks. But today an anonymous reader writes: Julian Assange is still not dead, reports The Inquisitr, noting "the WikiLeaks founder made his first appearance in weeks, speaking with an interviewer for a conference in Beirut" including comments about the recent death of Fidel Castro.

Assange is also in the running to be chosen as "Person of the Year" in Time magazine's annual online reader's poll, and last Monday even moved briefly into first place, inching past Donald Trump. "It's worth noting that the poll presents people alphabetically," Time reported, "so Assange is the first option participants consider and Trump comes near the end of the poll."

I think the poll's being hacked by state actors, since Vladimir Putin now leads with 38%, followed by Theresa May (16%) and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un (13%), and Donald Trump is locked in a tie for fourth place with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 9%. Time worked with Opentopic and IBM's Watson to assemble the initial list for reader's votes, which also included Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI director James Comey. Surprisingly, a few celebrities also turned up on the list too, including comedian Samantha Bee, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.
IBM

IBM To Pay More Than $30 Million in Compensation For Census Fail (abc.net.au) 60

IBM will pay more than $30 million in compensation for its role in the bungled census, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated. From a report: The Prime Minister described the four Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that caused a 40-hour outage inconveniencing millions of Australians as "utterly predictable, utterly foreseeable." "I have to say -- and I'm not trying to protect anyone here at all -- but overwhelmingly the failure was IBM's and they have acknowledged that, they have paid up and they should have," he said. "They were being paid big money to deliver a particular service and they failed."
Cloud

Google Cloud Will Add GPU Services in Early 2017 (geekwire.com) 19

Google Cloud will add GPUs as a service early next year, the company has said. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM's Bluemix all already offer GPU as a service. From a report on GeekWire: Google may be seeking to distinguish itself, however, with the variety of GPUs it's offering. They include the AMD FirePro S9300 x2 and two offerings from NVIDIA Tesla: the P100 and the K80. And Google will charge by the minute, not by the hour, making GPU usage more affordable for customers needing it only for short periods. CPU-based machines in the cloud are good for general-purpose computing, but certain tasks such as rendering or large-scale simulations are much faster on specialized processors, Google explained. GPUs contain hundreds of times as many computational cores as CPUs and excel at performing risk analysis, studying molecular binding or optimizing the shape of a turbine blade. Google's GPU services will be available in early 2017 through Google Compute Engine and Google Cloud Machine Learning.

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