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Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Transparent Should Companies Be When Operational Technology Failures Happen? 87

New submitter supernova87a writes: Last week, Southwest Airlines had an epic crash of IT systems across their entire business when "a router failure caused the airlines' systems to crash [...] and all backups failed, causing flight delays and cancellations nationwide and costing the company probably $10 million in lost bookings alone." Huge numbers of passengers, crew, and airplanes were stranded as not only reservations systems, but scheduling, dispatch, and other critical operational systems had to be rebooted over the course of 12 hours. Passenger delays, which directly attributable to this incident, continued to trickle down all the way from Wednesday to Sunday as the airline recovered. Aside from the technical issues of what happened, what should a public-facing company's obligation be to discuss what happened in full detail? Would publicly talking about the sequence of events before and after failure help restore faith in their operations? Perhaps not aiming for Google's level of admirable disclosure (as in this 18-minute cloud computing outage where a full post-mortem was given), should companies aim to discuss more openly what happened and how they recovered from system failures?
Your Rights Online

Getty Sued For $1 Billion For Selling Publicly Donated Photos (thestack.com) 204

An anonymous reader writes: Online stock media library Getty Images is facing a $1 billion lawsuit from an American photographer for illegally selling copyright for thousands of photos. The Seattle-based company has been sued by documentary photographer Carol Highsmith for 'gross misuse', after it sold more than 18,000 of her photos despite having already donated them for public use. Highsmith's photos which were sold via Getty Images had been available for free via the Library of Congress. Getty has now been accused of selling unauthorized licenses of the images, not crediting the author, and for also sending threatening warnings and fines to those who had used the pictures without paying for the falsely imposed copyright.ArsTechnica has more details.
Cloud

Oracle To Buy Cloud-Software Provider NetSuite For $9.3 Billion (bloomberg.com) 32

Oracle announced Thursday that it has agreed to buy NetSuite for $9.3 billion, in a move to bolster its cloud-computing offerings as it races to catch up to rivals. Both companies provide applications for running a business called enterprise-resource-planning software. Bloomberg reports: Oracle, which sells software to big corporations, has been trying to shift more sales to cloud-based products increasingly demanded by its customers. New cloud services made up about 8 percent of the company's total sales during its fiscal fourth-quarter. Buying NetSuite -- whose products include customer relationship management software -- will help Oracle compete against the likes of Salesforce.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. "Oracle and NetSuite cloud applications are complementary, and will coexist in the marketplace forever," said Oracle co-Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd in a statement Thursday. "We intend to invest heavily in both products -- engineering and distribution."
Cloud

Office 365 Gets New Word, PowerPoint and Outlook Features (networkworld.com) 98

New submitter Miche67 writes: As part of the July 2016 update to Office 365, Microsoft is adding several features across the board to Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. Word, however, is getting the biggest new features -- Researcher and Editor -- to improve your writing. "As its name implies, Researcher is designed to help the user find reliable sources of information by using the Bing Knowledge Graph to search for sources, and it will properly cite them in the Word document," reports Network World. "[Editor] builds on the already-existing spellchecker and thesaurus to offer suggestions on how to improve your overall writing. In addition to the wavy red line under a misspelled word and the wavy blue line under bad grammar, there will be a gold line for writing style." The new features are expected to be available later this year. In addition to the two new features added to PowerPoint last year -- Designer and Morph, Microsoft is offering Zoom, a feature that lets you easily create "interactive, non-linear presentations." "Instead of the 1-2-3-4 linear method of presenting slides, forcing you to place them all in the order you wish to display, presenters will be able to show their slides in any order they want at any time," reports Network World. "This way you can change your presentation order as needed without having to stop PowerPoint or interrupt the display." As for Outlook, Focused Inbox is coming to Office 365. Focused Inbox separates your inbox into two tabs. The "Focused" tab is where all of your high-priority emails will be found, while everything else will be in the "Other" tab. Outlook will learn from your behavior over time and sort your mail accordingly. In addition, @mentions are coming to Outlook 365 and Outlook for PC and Mac, "making it easy to identify emails that need your attention, as well as flag actions for others."
Microsoft

You Can't Turn Off Cortana In the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (pcworld.com) 353

Microsoft will release Windows 10 Anniversary Update next week. Earlier this week we listed some of its best features. PCWorld is now reporting about a major change that may annoy some users: once you've installed the update, Cortana can no longer be disabled. From the article: Cortana, the personal digital assistant that replaced Windows 10's search function and taps into Bing's servers to answer your queries with contextual awareness, no longer has an off switch. The impact on you at home: Similar to how Microsoft blocked Google compatibility with Cortana, the company is now cutting off the plain vanilla search option. That actually makes a certain of amount of sense. Unless you turned off all the various cloud-connected bits of Windows 10, there's not a ton of difference between Cortana and the operating system's basic search capabilities.
Security

LastPass Accounts Can Be 'Completely Compromised' When Users Visit Sites (theregister.co.uk) 134

Reader mask.of.sanity writes: A dangerous zero-day vulnerability has been found in popular cloud password vault LastPass, which can completely compromise user accounts when users visit malicious websites. The flaw is today being reported to LastPass by established Google Project zero hacker Tavis Ormandy who says he has found other "obvious critical problems". Interestingly, Mathias Karlsson, a security researcher has also independently found flaws in LastPass. In a blog post, he wrote that he was able to trick LastPass into believing he was on the real Twiter website and cough up the users' credentials of a bug in the LastPass password manager's autofill functionality. LastPass has fixed the bug, but Karlsson advises users to disable autofill functionality and use multi-factor authentication. At this point, it's not clear whether Ormandy is also talking about the same vulnerability.
China

Chinese Giant LeEco Buys Vizio For $2 Billion, Gets Instant Foothold In US Market (phonedog.com) 56

Chinese electronics conglomerate LeEco is purchasing American TV manufacturer Vizio for $2 billion, the company announced at a press conference in China on Tuesday. The announcement effectively gives LeEco, formerly known as LeTV, an instant foothold in the U.S. television market. For a refresh, for those who haven't heard much about LeEco, it's one of China's biggest electronics companies. Founded in 2004, it offers a range of services including live-streaming, e-commerce, cloud, smartphones, TV set-top boxes, and smart TVs among many other products and services. One of the recent areas where it has invested its time on is an electric car, which we talked about here a few weeks ago. From a report: Vizio is primarily known for its televisions, like the P-Series sets that we recently unboxed, but they've also dipped their toes into Android. For example, Vizio released a 10-inch tablet a few years ago, and the aforementioned P-Series TV set ships with a 6-inch Android tablet that you use as a remote. Once Vizio is acquired by LeEco, it'll be operated as an independent subsidiary and the current management will remain in California. LeEco CEO Jia Yueting commented on the deal, saying, "We hope that we can use the ecosystem model and create a great integration between Vizio and LeEco and create new values for U.S. users."Having talked to the executives of LeEco in the past few months, I understand that the company intends to bring its products to the American market before its rival Xiaomi does. Xiaomi also intends to bring its smartphones and TVs to the U.S. and European market, but is currently dealing with different regulations.
Facebook

Facebook Messenger Hits 1B Monthly Active Users, Accounts For 10 Percent Of All VoIP Calls (techcrunch.com) 55

Speaking of instant messaging and VoIP call apps, Facebook announced on Wednesday that Facebook Messenger has hit the 1 billion monthly active users milestone. The company adds that Messenger is just more than a text messenger -- in addition to the ambitious bot gamble, a digital assistant, and the ability to send money to friends -- Messenger now accounts for 10 percent of all VoIP calls made globally. Messenger's tremendous growth also underscores Facebook's mammoth capture of the world. The social network is used by more than 1.6 billion people actively every month. WhatsApp, the chat client it owns, is also used by more than one billion people.

TechCrunch has a brilliant story on the growth of Messenger from the scratch.
Microsoft

Skype Finalizes Its Move To the Cloud; To Kill Older Clients -- Remains Tight Lipped About Privacy (arstechnica.com) 74

When it was first created, Skype network was built as a decentralized peer-to-peer system. PCs that had enough processing muscle and bandwidth acted as "supernodes," and coordinated connections between other machines on the network. This p2p system was generally perceived as being relatively private, a belief that has since been debunked. There were several technical challenges, which led Microsoft to move most of Skype's operations to the cloud. Ars Technica is reporting that the company has finalized the switch. From the article: Microsoft has developed a more conventional client-server network, with clients that act as pure clients and dedicated cloud servers. The company is starting to transition to this network exclusively. This transition means that old peer-to-peer Skype clients will cease to work. Clients for the new network will be available for Windows XP and up, OS X Yosemite and up, iOS 8 and up, and Android 4.03 and up. However, certain embedded clients -- in particular, those integrated into smart TVs and available for the PlayStation 3 -- are being deprecated, with no replacement. Microsoft says that since those clients are little used and since almost every user of those platforms has other Skype-capable devices available, it is no longer worth continuing to support them.The issue, as the report points out, is that Microsoft is strangely not talking about privacy and security concerns. The article adds: The Ed Snowden leaks raised substantial questions about the privacy of services such as Skype and have caused an increasing interest in platforms that offer end-to-end encryption. The ability to intercept or wiretap Skype came as a shock to many, especially given Skype's traditionally peer-to-peer infrastructure. Accordingly, we've seen similar services such as iMessage, WhatsApp, and even Facebook Messenger, start introducing end-to-end encryption. The abandonment of Skype's peer-to-peer system can only raise suspicions here.Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins, said: "The surprising thing here is not that Microsoft can intercept Skype calls (duh) but that they won't just admit it."
Cloud

Amazon Isn't Saying If Echo Has Been Wiretapped (zdnet.com) 86

An anonymous reader writes from a report via ZDNet: Since announcing how many government data requests and wiretap orders it receives, Amazon has so far issued two transparency reports. The two reports outline how many subpoenas, search warrants, and court orders the company received to cloud service, Amazon Web Services. The cloud makes up a large portion of all the data Amazon gathers, but the company does also collect vast amounts of data from its retail businesses, mobile services, book purchases, and requests made to Echo. The company's third report is due to be released in a few weeks but an Amazon spokesperson wouldn't comment on whether or not the company will expand its transparency report to include information regarding whether or not the Amazon Echo has been wiretapped. There are reportedly more than three million Amazon Echo speakers out in the wild. Gizmodo filed a freedom of information (FOIA) request with the FBI earlier this year to see if the agency had wiretapped an Echo as part of a criminal investigation. The FBI didn't confirm or deny wiretapping the Echo. Amazon was recently awarded a patent for drone docking and recharging stations that would be built on tall, existing structures like lampposts, cell towers, or church steeples.
Television

Star Trek CBS Series To Be Streamed Internationally On Netflix (variety.com) 161

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix has announced that it has secured a deal to stream every episode of the new Star Trek TV series within 24 hours of its original network broadcast. However, neither the U.S. nor Canadian subscribers are included in the deal, which otherwise covers every territory that Netflix operates in worldwide. Stateside viewers will be able to stream the new show via CBS's own All Access digital subscription video-on-demand and live streaming service, with Canadian streaming provisions yet to be announced. The deal represents a potential major step forward in the company's determination to bypass regional licensing, and at one stroke eliminates the typical years of delay that occur when a U.S. program seeks foreign audiences.
Businesses

Coursera Relaunches Classic Computer Science Courses (i-programmer.info) 17

"Many of the Computer Science courses that we feared had been assigned to the scrapheap have reappeared in Coursera's catalog," reports i-programmer.info. Slashdot reader mikejuk shares this update on his original story: Coursera has a list of 90 courses that have transitioned to the new platform since the old one shut on June 30th and it includes 25 Computer Science ones and the all important [Geoffrey] Hinton course on neural networks. Most of the courses are free but there are no certificates of completion or anything else. While they have specified start dates and cohorts of students will be encouraged to complete them within a set number of weeks, without graded assignments there may not be the same impetus as for the original courses or as for newer courses designed specifically for the new platform.
Coursera says "As has always been our intention, we are working diligently to relaunch the vast majority of the courses from our old platform on the new one." i-programmer.info has apparently removed their original article, and their reporter writes that "I am now willing to retract my accusation of 'cultural vandalism'... Why [Coursera] managed to convey the opposite impression for such a long time may just have been a failure of communication."
Communications

Elon Musk: Autopilot Feature Was Disabled In Pennsylvania Crash (latimes.com) 166

An anonymous reader writes: In response to the third reported Autopilot crash, which was the first of three where there were no fatalities, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that the Model X's Autopilot feature was turned off. He tweeted Thursday afternoon that the onboard vehicle logs show that the semi-autonomous driving feature was turned off in the crash. "Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on," he added. The driver of the Model X told police he was using the Autopilot feature, according to the Detroit Free Press. The vehicle flipped over after hitting a freeway guardrail. U.S. auto-safety regulators have been investigating a prior crash that occurred while Tesla's Autopilot mode was activated. Late Thursday afternoon and into early Friday, Musk made some comments on the improvements made to its radar technology used to achieve full driving autonomy. "Working on using existing Tesla radar by itself (decoupled from camera) w temporal smoothing to create a coarse point cloud, like lidar," he tweeted. "Good thing about radar is that, unlike lidar (which is visible wavelength), it can see through rain, snow, fog and dust." Musk has rejected Lidar technology in the past, saying it's unnecessary to achieve full driving autonomy. Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to "disable hands-free operation until its system can be made safer."
Microsoft

Microsoft To Begin Reducing Your Free OneDrive Cloud Storage Starting Today (betanews.com) 212

For those of you who forgot -- or didn't bother -- to keep the 15GB worth of OneDrive storage, starting today you will see a big change in your account. On Thursday, Microsoft will begin shrinking your 15GB OneDrive free storage to 5GB, and also cancel the 15GB storage it gave you as part of camera roll backup bonus. For its part, Microsoft did warn about the changes to people a couple of times over the past few months. It all started when Microsoft gave Office 365 subscribers unlimited OneDrive storage space. Many people abused this, uploading over 75TB worth of movies and other files in some cases. BetaNews reports: If you log into your OneDrive account and find that you still have the full storage quota available, don't be lulled into a false sense of security. The cuts are actually being spread out between July 13 and July 27. Unless you opted out of the change, you're out of luck.
Bitcoin

Ex-Google Engineer Launches Blockchain-Based System For Banks (reuters.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A former Google engineer, whose speech recognition software is used in more than a billion Android smartphones, has launched a company that uses blockchain technology to build a new operating system for banks. Paul Taylor, a Cambridge University academic with an expertise in artificial intelligence, speech synthesis and machine learning, started working on the system, called Vault OS, two years ago in a basement in London's Shoreditch district, known for being a tech start-up hub. The technology, which underpins the digital currency bitcoin, creates a shared database in which participants can trace every transaction ever made. The ledger is tamper-proof and transparent, meaning that transactions can be processed without the need for third-party verification. The system also negates the need for costly in-house data centers, as it uses cloud-based systems, which banks can use on a "pay-as-you-go" basis, which means that there is no single point of failure. Taylor said major high-street banks were spending around a billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year on computer technology, much of which he said was being used for propping up the current "legacy" systems rather than on any innovative technology. The start-up has been working with about ten banks, Taylor said, at least one of which would be starting a trial using the new system in August. He expects the system to be up-and-running within about a year. In banking-related news, a Congressional report shows that China's spies hacked into computers at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from 2010 until 2013 and American government officials tried to cover it up.

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