Businesses

Android Creator Puts Essential Up For Sale, Cancels Next Phone (bloomberg.com) 51

Bloomberg reports that Andy Rubin's Essential Products business is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone. The news comes several months after numerous reports suggested that the Essential Phone's sales were tepid. From the report: The startup has hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale and has received interest from at least one suitor, the people said. Essential is now actively shopping itself to potential suitors, one of the people said. The startup, part of Rubin's incubator Playground Global, has raised about $300 million from several investors, including Amazon, Tencent, and Redpoint Ventures. It was valued at $900 million to $1 billion about a year ago, according to an analysis by Equidate, which runs a market for private company stock.

The startup has spent more than $100 million on developing its first products, about a third of the money it raised to build the company, the people said. Current discussions are focused on a sale of the entire company, including its patent portfolio, hardware products like the original smartphone, an upcoming smart home device and a camera attachment for the phone. Essential's engineering talent, which includes those hired from Apple and Alphabet's Google, would likely be part of a deal. The company hasn't yet made a final decision on a sale, the people said.

United States

Homeland Security Unveils New Cyber Security Strategy Amid Threats (reuters.com) 75

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday unveiled a new national strategy for addressing the growing number of cyber security risks as it works to assess them and reduce vulnerabilities. From a report: "The cyber threat landscape is shifting in real-time, and we have reached a historic turning point," DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement. "It is clear that our cyber adversaries can now threaten the very fabric of our republic itself." The announcement comes amid concerns about the security of the 2018 U.S. midterm congressional elections and numerous high-profile hacking of U.S. companies.
Businesses

Man Sues Nation For Allegedly Seizing France.com, a Domain He Has Owned For Over 20 Years (arstechnica.com) 214

A French-born American has now sued his home country because, he claims, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has illegally seized a domain that he's owned since 1994: France.com. From a report: In the mid-1990s, Jean-Noel Frydman bought France.com from Web.com and set up a website to serve as a "digital kiosk" for Francophiles and Francophones in the United States. For over 20 years, Frydman built up a business (also known as France.com), often collaborating with numerous official French agencies, including the Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, sometime around 2015, that very same ministry initiated a lawsuit in France in an attempt to wrest control of the France.com domain away from Frydman.

Web.com locked the domain, and Frydman even roped in the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene on his behalf. By September 2017, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that France.com was violating French trademark law. Armed with this ruling, lawyers representing the French state wrote to Web.com demanding that the domain be handed over. Finally, on March 12, 2018, Web.com abruptly transferred ownership of the domain to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company did so without any formal notification to Frydman and no compensation. "I'm probably [one of Web.com's] oldest customers," Frydman told ArsTechnica. "I've been with them for 24 years... There's never been any cases against France.com, and they just did that without any notice. I've never been treated like that by any company anywhere in the world. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone."

Space

Jeff Bezos Says He Liquidates a $1 Billion of Amazon Stock Every Year To Pay For His Rocket Company Blue Origin (businessinsider.com) 96

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos spends a tiny fraction of his net worth to fund Blue Origin, the aerospace company he started in 2000. From a report: For a man worth $127 billion, that tiny fraction amounts to $1 billion a year, which he gets by liquidating Amazon stock, Bezos said at an Axel Springer awards event in Berlin, Germany, hosted by Business Insider's US editor-in-chief, Alyson Shontell. "The only way I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel," he said in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Dopfner. "Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune." Bezos said he planned to continue funding the company through that annual tradition long into the future. Bezos famously has numerous projects. He runs Amazon, owns The Washington Post, and is working on turning a mansion in Washington, DC, into a single-family home, to name a few. None of these, he said, are as relevant or as worthy of his money as Blue Origin, which he called "the most important work I'm doing."
Government

US Government Weighing Sanctions Against Kaspersky Lab (cyberscoop.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CyberScoop: The U.S. government is considering sanctions against Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab as part of a wider round of action carried out against the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter. The sanctions would be a considerable expansion and escalation of the U.S. government's actions against the company. Kaspersky, which has two ongoing lawsuits against the U.S. government, has been called "an unacceptable threat to national security" by numerous U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Officials told CyberScoop any additional action against Kaspersky would occur at the lawsuits' conclusion, which Kaspersky filed in response to a stipulation in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that bans its products from federal government networks. If the sanctions came to fruition, the company would be barred from operating in the U.S. and potentially even in U.S. allied countries.

Windows

Microsoft Developers Hid a Secret Puzzle in Windows Backgrounds as They Knew Images Would Leak (betanews.com) 44

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft developers working on Windows 8 created a puzzle and embedded it in the wallpapers used for internal builds of the operating system. The team knew that the images would leak out to the public -- and probably the internal builds of Windows -- so they decided to have some fun with it. Over the course of numerous builds, the puzzle was developed -- but only one person ever solved it! Over the weekend, Jensen Harris -- a former group program manager of Microsoft Office and Microsoft director leading the team working on the redesign of Windows 8 -- took to Twitter to come clean about the secret puzzle. He explained that it was common for internal test builds of Windows to have wallpapers that were not intended for public release, but said that messages tended to be included to discourage leaking: "Traditionally, these wallpapers included text embedded in them threatening to throw people in jail if they leaked the build, blah blah, substantial penalty for early withdrawal, not all coins go up in value (some go down!), etc. etc. We wanted to try a more elegant tact. So early in Windows 8, we created a wallpaper that was a combination of the text the lawyers wanted us to use with an attempt to appeal to people's better nature...thus the "shhh... let's not leak our hard work" series of wallpapers was born."
Desktops (Apple)

Users Complain About Installation Issues With macOS 10.13.4 (theregister.co.uk) 90

An anonymous reader shares a report: The 10.13.4 update for macOS High Sierra is recommended for all users, and was emitted at the end of March promising to "improve stability, performance, and security of your Mac." But geek support sites have started filling up with people complaining that it had the opposite effect: killing their computer with messages that "the macOS installation couldn't be completed."

The initial install appears to be working fine, but when users go to shutdown or reboot an upgraded system, it goes into recovery mode. According to numerous reports, there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with users' Macs -- internal drives report that they're fine. And the issue is affecting a range of different Apple-branded computers from different years. Some have been successful in getting 10.13.4 to install by launching from Safe Mode, but others haven't and are deciding to roll back and stick with 10.13.3 until Apple puts out a new update that will fix whatever the issue is while claiming it has nothing to do with it.

Businesses

Pasta Is Good For You, Say Scientists Funded By Big Pasta (buzzfeed.com) 220

Earlier this month, numerous news outlets reported on a study which concludes that eating pasta is good for health. In fact, the reports claimed, eating pasta could help you lose weight. Except, there is more to the story. BuzzFeed News reports: What those and many other stories failed to note, however, was that three of the scientists behind the study in question had financial conflicts as tangled as a bowl of spaghetti, including ties to the world's largest pasta company, the Barilla Group. Over the last decade or so, with the rise of the Atkins, South Beach, paleo, and ketogenic diets, Big Pasta has battled a societal shift against carbohydrates -- and funded and promoted research suggesting that noodles are good for you.

At least 10 peer-reviewed studies about pasta published since 2008 were either funded directly by Barilla or, like the one published this month, were carried out by scientists who have had financial ties to the company, which reported sales of 3.4 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in 2016. For two years, Barilla has publicized some of these studies, plus others favorable to its product, on its website with taglines like "Eat Smart Be Smart...With Pasta" and "More Evidence Pasta Is Good For You." And the company hired the large public relations firm Edelman to push the latest study's findings to journalists.

Transportation

Tesla Temporarily Stops Model 3 Production Line (theverge.com) 145

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Tesla is temporarily stopping production of its Model 3 electric car, amid a long waiting list and several missed targets. The company, however, says the shutdown is intended to resolve some of the problems that have contributed to the numerous delays in getting the cars to hundreds of thousands of reservation holders. The automaker said Monday it would halt production of the Model 3 sedan for 4-5 days at its Fremont, California assembly plant, BuzzFeed reported. Tesla, however, says this is part of a planned period of downtime that was similar to another shutdown in February, and it isn't intended to have an affect on the company's current production targets for the car. "Our Model 3 production plan includes periods of planned downtime in both Fremont and Gigafactory 1," a Tesla spokesperson told The Verge. "These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates. This is not unusual and is in fact common in production ramps like this."
Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

Power

All Apple Operations Now Run Off 100 Percent Renewable Energy (9to5mac.com) 116

According to a recently-shared press release, Apple has finally hit its goal of running its own operations off 100% renewable energy. "All Apple facilities, from Apple Park to its data centers to worldwide fleet of Apple retail stores, are now solely powered by green energy," reports 9to5Mac. From the report: This figure does not include Apple's third-party suppliers or manufacturers, although the company is convincing many of those to switch to 100% renewable sources too. Apple's environment VP Lisa Jackson discussed the news in an interview with Fast Company. Jackson highlights how Apple has not only focused on reducing emissions but also contributed to the availability of green energy on the grid. Apple has gone from 16% renewable energy to 100% in eight years, with CO2 emissions falling by 58%. The company has built numerous wind and solar farms in cooperation with local institutions, as well as intense focus on environmental sustainability during development of its new buildings like Apple Park. Its data centers are flanked by fields of solar panels. Filling out the last 4% required Apple to find renewable energy sources in some of its more remote retail stores and offices. It has signed power purchase agreements in Brazil, India, Israel, Mexico and Turkey.
United States

Tech Group Urges US To Recruit Allies To Take on China, Not Tariffs (venturebeat.com) 186

A trade group representing top technology companies on Monday told U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that it opposes the Trump administration's focus on tariffs to try to change China's unfair trade practices. From a report: The Information Technology Industry Council said in a letter to Mnuchin that it supports the Trump administration's "Section 301" investigation into China's abuses of intellectual property, but instead of tariffs, it advocates a U.S.-led international coalition to put pressure on Beijing. "Our opposition to tariffs is pragmatic. Tariffs do not work," wrote ITIC President and CEO Dean Garfield. "Instead of tariffs, we strongly encourage the administration to build an international coalition that can challenge China at the World Trade Organization and beyond," Garfield added. "Numerous countries share the United States' concerns about China and its unfair trade practices. The United States is uniquely well-situated to lead that coalition."
Ruby

Can Ruby Survive Another 25 Years? (techradar.com) 195

TechRadar marked the 25th anniversary of the Ruby programming language by writing "there are still questions over whether it can survive another 25 years." The popularity of the Ruby language has been bolstered for many years by the success of the Ruby on Rails (RoR) web application framework which dominated the web scene, particularly among startups who wanted something that deal with much of the heavy lifting... But RoR, although popular, isn't the superstar that it was and It has faced fierce competition as issues such as scaling have become a greater concern for web companies. The JavaScript framework Node.js, for instance, has become popular as it requires less memory to deal with numerous connections because of its callback functions...

To improve performance further Ruby is introducing JIT (Just-In-Time) technology, which is already used by JVM and other languages. "We've created a prototype of this JIT compiler so that this year, probably on Christmas Day, Ruby 2.6 will be released," Matz confirmed. You can try the initial implementation of the MJIT compiler in the 2.6 preview1... Probably the clearest overview explanation of how MJIT works is supplied by Shannon Skipper: "With MJIT, certain Ruby YARV instructions are converted to C code and put into a .c file, which is compiled by GCC or Clang into a .so dynamic library file. The RubyVM can then use that cached, precompiled native code from the dynamic library the next time the RubyVM sees that same YARV instruction.

Ruby creator Yukihiro Matsumoto says Ruby 3.0 "has a goal of being three times faster than Ruby 2.0," and TechRadar reports that it's obvious that Matsumoto "will do anything he can to enable Ruby to survive and thrive..."

And in addition, "he's thoroughly enjoying himself doing what he does... and his outlook is quite simple: Programming is fun, he's had fun for the last 25 years making Ruby, and at the age of 52 now, he hopes that he'll get to spend the next 25 years having as much fun working on the language he dreamt up and wrote down in -- a now lost -- notebook, at the age of 17."

"We want Ruby to be the language that is around for a long time and people still use," Matsumoto tells another interviewer, "not the one people used to use."
Canada

Canada Has Pulled Off a Brain Heist (axios.com) 351

An anonymous reader writes: Seoul-born Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor at Brown University known for her work on fake news, is moving to Canada. So is Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a Harvard chemistry professor working on quantum computing and artificial intelligence. They are among 24 top academic minds around the world wooed to Canada by an aggressive recruitment effort offering ultra-attractive sinecures, seven-year funding arrangements -- and, Chun and Aspuru-Guzik said in separate interviews with Axios, a different political environment from the U.S. The "Canada 150 Research Chairs Program" is spending $117 million on seven-year grants of either $350,000 a year or $1 million a year. It's part of a campaign by numerous countries to attract scholars unhappy with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and other political trends, sweetened with unusually generous research conditions.
Bug

Facebook Blames a 'Bug' For Not Deleting Your Seemingly Deleted Videos (gizmodo.com) 66

Last week, The New York Magazine found that Facebook was archiving videos users thought were deleted. The social media company is now apologizing for failing to delete the videos, blaming it on a "bug." It adds that it's in the process of deleting the content now. Gizmodo reports: Last week, New York's Select All broke the story that social network was keeping the seemingly deleted old videos. The continued existence of the draft videos was discovered when several users downloaded their personal Facebook archives -- and found numerous videos they never published. Today, Select All got a statement from Facebook blaming the whole thing on a "bug." From Facebook via New York: "We investigated a report that some people were seeing their old draft videos when they accessed their information from our Download Your Information tool. We discovered a bug that prevented draft videos from being deleted. We are deleting them and apologize for the inconvenience. We appreciate New York Magazine for bringing the issue to our attention."
Cloud

Dropbox IPOs. Its Founders Are Now Billionaires (cnbc.com) 69

Yesterday Dropbox finally launched its stock on NASDAQ. Reuters reports: Dropbox Inc's shares closed at $28.42, up more than 35 percent in their first day of trading on Friday, as investors rushed to buy into the biggest technology initial public offering in more than a year even as the wider sector languished... At the stock's opening price, Dropbox had a market valuation of $12.67 billion, well above the $10 billion valuation it had in its last private funding round... It has yet to turn a profit, which is common for startups that invest heavily in growth. As a public company Dropbox will be under pressure to quickly trim its losses. The 11-year old company reported revenue of $1.11 billion in 2017, up from $844.8 million a year earlier. Its net loss nearly halved from $210.2 million in 2016.
CNBC reports that Y Combinator almost passed on a chance to invest in Dropbox -- which became its first IPO ever -- "because it had misgivings about bringing on a solo entrepreneur." After Drew Houston, the creator of Dropbox, scrambled to find a co-founder in time for his in-person interview, the company was admitted into YC in 2007. Four years later, venture capitalists poured money into Dropbox at a $4 billion valuation. YC has since become a power player in Silicon Valley, helping spawn numerous companies valued at over $1 billion today including Stripe, Airbnb, Instacart and Coinbase. It also backed Twitch, which Amazon acquired in 2014 for about $970 million, and the self-driving tech start-up Cruise, which GM bought in 2016 for over $1 billion. But in its 13-year history, YC had yet to see any of its companies go public until Dropbox's stock market debut on Friday...

Houston is now worth over $3 billion and co-founder Arash Ferdowsi owns shares valued at more than $1 billion.

Dropbox's Twitter feed posted a video from their NASDAQ debut, adding "We're so thankful for the 500 million registered users who helped us get here."
Twitter

Twitter Suspends Numerous Popular Accounts That Are Known For Stealing Tweets (buzzfeed.com) 52

An anonymous reader shares a report: Continuing its battle against the "tweetdeckers," Twitter suspended on Friday several popular accounts known for stealing tweets or mass-retweeting tweets into manufactured virality. @Dory, @GirlPosts, @SoDamnTrue, Girl Code/@reiatabie, Common White Girl/@commonwhitegiri, @teenagernotes, @finah, @holyfag, and @memeprovider were among the accounts that got swept up in the purge. Many of these accounts were hugely popular, with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. In addition to stealing people's tweets without credit, some of these accounts are known as "tweetdeckers" due to their practice of teaming up in exclusive Tweetdeck groups and mass-retweeting one another's -- and paying customers' -- tweets into forced virality. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on individual accounts, but BuzzFeed News understands the accounts were suspended for violating Twitter's spam policy.
Open Source

Linux Developer McHardy Drops GPLv2 'Shake Down' Case (zdnet.com) 53

Former Linux developer Patrick McHardy dropped his Gnu General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) violation case against Geniatech in a German court this week. ZDNet explains why some consider this a big "win": People who find violations typically turn to organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), and the Software Freedom Law Center to approach violators. These organizations then try to convince violating companies to mend their ways and honor their GPLv2 legal requirements. Only as a last resort do they take companies to court to force them into compliance with the GPLv2. Patrick McHardy, however, after talking with SFC, dropped out from this diplomatic approach and has gone on his own way. Specifically, McHardy has been accused of seeking his own financial gain by approaching numerous companies in German courts. Geniatech claimed McHardy has sued companies for Linux GPLv2 violations in over 38 cases. In one, he'd requested a contractual penalty of €1.8 million. The company also claimed McHardy had already received over €2 million from his actions...

In July 2016, the Netfilter developers suspended him from the core team. They received numerous allegations that he had been shaking down companies. McHardy refused to discuss these issues with them, and he refused to sign off on the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. In October 2017, Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch, summed up the Linux kernel developers' position. Kroah-Hartman wrote: "McHardy has sought to enforce his copyright claims in secret and for large sums of money by threatening or engaging in litigation...."

Had McHardy continued on his way, companies would have been more reluctant to use Linux code in their products for fear that a single, unprincipled developer could sue them and demand payment for his copyrighted contributions... McHardy now has to bear all legal costs for both sides of the case. In other words, when McHardy was faced with serious and costly opposition for the first time, he waved a white flag rather than face near certain defeat in the courts.

Businesses

Uber Booked Half the Theater For the Opening Night of a Play Inspired By the Scandals that Took Down Former CEO Travis Kalanick (businessinsider.com) 33

Uber booked more than half of the seats available for the London premiere of "Brilliant Jerks," a satirical play inspired by the car-ride startup's numerous scandals, and featuring a character similar to former CEO Travis Kalanick. From a report: The company purchased 50 of 90 available seats for the show's opening night at London's Vault theater, as originally reported by the Financial Times. The Financial Times reports that the play was inspired in part by the now-infamous blog post by Susan J. Fowler on Uber's toxic and sexist work culture, setting off a chain of events that ultimately led Kalanick to resign as chief executive of the company he cofounded. According to the Vault's website, "Brilliant Jerks tells the story of three people -- a driver, a coder, and a CEO -- working for one tech monolith, but living worlds apart."
The Internet

Google Fiber Is a Faint Echo of the Disruption We Were Promised (vice.com) 173

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Some eight years on and Google Fiber's ambitions are just a pale echo of the disruptive potential originally proclaimed by the company. While Google Fiber did make some impressive early headway in cities like Austin, the company ran into numerous deployment headaches. Fearing competition, incumbent ISPs like AT&T and Comcast began a concerted effort to block the company's access to essential utility poles, even going so far as to file lawsuits against cities like Nashville that tried to expedite the process. Even in launched markets, customer uptake wasn't quite what executives were expecting. Estimates peg Google Fiber TV subscribers at fewer than 100,000, thanks in large part to the cord cutting mindset embraced by early adopters. Broadband subscriber tallies (estimated as at least 500,000) were notably better, but still off from early company projections. Even without anti-competitive roadblocks, progress was slow. Digging up city streets and burying fiber was already a time-consuming and expensive process. And while Google has tried to accelerate these deployments via something called "microtrenching" (machines that bury fiber an inch below roadways), broadband deployment remains a rough business. It's a business made all the rougher by state and local regulators and lawmakers who've been in the pockets of entrenched providers like Comcast for the better part of a generation.

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