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Businesses

Comcast Launches New 24/7 Workplace Surveillance Service (philly.com) 24

America's largest ISP just rolled out a new service that allows small and medium-sized business owners "to oversee their organization" with continuous video surveillance footage that's stored in the cloud -- allowing them to "improve efficiency." An anonymous reader quotes the Philadelphia Inquirer: Inventory is disappearing. Workplace productivity is off. He said/she said office politics are driving people crazy. Who you gonna call...? Comcast Business hopes it will be the one, with the "SmartOffice" surveillance offering formally launched this week in Philadelphia and across "70 percent of our national [internet] service footprint," said Christian Nascimento, executive director of premise services for the Comcast division. Putting a "Smart Cities" (rather than "Big Brother is watching you") spin on "the growing trend for...connected devices across the private and public sectors," the SmartOffice solution "can provide video surveillance to organizations that want to monitor their locations more closely," Nascimento said...
The surveillance cameras are equipped with zoom lenses, night-vision, motion detection, and wide-angle lenses, while an app allows remote access to the footage from smartphones and tablets (though the footage can also be downloaded, or stored online for up to a month). Last year Comcast was heavily involved in an effort to provide Detroit's police department with real-time video feeds from over 120 local businesses, which the mayor said wouldn't have been successful "Without the complete video technology system Comcast provides."
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux 17.04 'Zesty Zapus' Final Beta Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 26

BrianFagioli writes: The final beta of Ubuntu 17.04 'Zesty Zapus' became available for download Thursday. While it is never a good idea to run pre-release software on production machines, Canonical is claiming that it should be largely bug free at this point. In other words, if you understand the risks, it should be a fairly safe. Home users aside, this is a good opportunity for administrators to conduct testing prior to the official release next month.

"The Ubuntu team is pleased to announce the final beta release of the Ubuntu 17.04 Desktop, Server, and Cloud products. Codenamed 'Zesty Zapus', 17.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution," says Adam Conrad, Canonical. "The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs."

Cloud

Apache Hadoop Has Failed Us, Tech Experts Say (datanami.com) 47

It was the first widely-adopted open source distributed computing platform. But some geeks running it are telling Datanami that Hadoop "is great if you're a data scientist who knows how to code in MapReduce or Pig...but as you go higher up the stack, the abstraction layers have mostly failed to deliver on the promise of enabling business analysts to get at the data." Slashdot reader atcclears shares their report: "I can't find a happy Hadoop customer. It's sort of as simple as that," says Bob Muglia, CEO of Snowflake Computing, which develops and runs a cloud-based relational data warehouse offering. "It's very clear to me, technologically, that it's not the technology base the world will be built on going forward"... [T]hanks to better mousetraps like S3 (for storage) and Spark (for processing), Hadoop will be relegated to niche and legacy statuses going forward, Muglia says. "The number of customers who have actually successfully tamed Hadoop is probably less than 20 and it might be less than 10..."

One of the companies that supposedly tamed Hadoop is Facebook...but according to Bobby Johnson, who helped run Facebook's Hadoop cluster before co-founding behavioral analytics company Interana, the fact that Hadoop is still around is a "historical glitch. That may be a little strong," Johnson says. "But there's a bunch of things that people have been trying to do with it for a long time that it's just not well suited for." Hadoop's strengths lie in serving as a cheap storage repository and for processing ETL batch workloads, Johnson says. But it's ill-suited for running interactive, user-facing applications... "After years of banging our heads against it at Facebook, it was never great at it," he says. "It's really hard to dig into and actually get real answers from... You really have to understand how this thing works to get what you want."

Johnson recommends Apache Kafka instead for big data applications, arguing "there's a pipe of data and anything that wants to do something useful with it can tap into that thing. That feels like a better unifying principal..." And the creator of Kafka -- who ran Hadoop clusters at LinkedIn -- calls Hadoop "just a very complicated stack to build on."
Privacy

'Why The US Senate's Vote To Throw Out ISP Privacy Laws Isn't All Bad' (technologyreview.com) 51

"Nobody wants their data spread far and wide," write two associate editors at MIT Technology Review, "but the FCC's rules were an inconsistent solution to a much larger problem." An anonymous reader writes: They point out the rules passed in October "weren't even yet in effect," but more importantly -- they only would've applied to ISPs. "[T]he reality is that the U.S. doesn't have a baseline law that governs online privacy," and the truth is, it never did. "The FCC's new privacy rules would have been dramatic, to be sure -- but they would only have addressed one piece of the problem, leaving companies like Facebook and Google free to continue doing much the same thing.
While the repeal still needs approval in the U.S. House of Representatives and the president's signature, their article argues that what's really needed is "a more consistent approach to privacy."
Transportation

Uber Halts Self-Driving Car Tests in Arizona After Friday Night Collision (businessinsider.com) 129

"Given that the Uber vehicle has flipped onto its side it looks to be a high speed crash," writes TechCrunch, though Business Insider reports that no one was seriously injured. An anonymous reader quotes their report: A self-driving Uber car was involved in an accident on Friday night in Tempe, Arizona, in one of the most serious incidents to date involving the growing fleet of autonomous vehicles being tested on U.S. roads... Uber has halted its self-driving-car pilot in Arizona and is investigating what caused the incident... A Tempe police spokesperson told Bloomberg that the Uber was not at fault in the accident and was hit by another car which failed to yield. Still, the collision will likely to turn up the temperature on the heated debate about the safety of self-driving cars.
Security

Anti-Virus Vendors Scramble To Patch Hijacking Exploit Involving Microsoft Tool (securityweek.com) 26

"A zero-day attack called Double Agent can take over antivirus software on Windows machines," Network World reported Wednesday. wiredmikey writes: The attack involves the Microsoft Application Verifier, a runtime verification tool for unmanaged code that helps developers find subtle programming errors in their applications... [The exploit] allows a piece of malware executed by a privileged user to register a malicious DLL for a process associated with an antivirus or other endpoint security product, and hijack its agent.
Patches were released by Malwarebytes, AVG, and Trend Micro, the security researchers told BleepingComputer earlier this week. Kaspersky Lab told ZDNet "that measures to detect and block the malicious scenario have now been added to all its products," while Norton downplayed the exploit, saying the attack "would require physical access to the machine and admin privileges to be successful," with their spokesperson "adding that it has deployed additional detection and blocking protections in the unlikely event users are targeted."

BetaNews reports that the researchers "say that it is very easy for antivirus producers to implement a method of protection against this zero-day, but it is simply not being done. 'Microsoft has provided a new design concept for antivirus vendors called Protected Processes...specially designed for antivirus services...the protected process infrastructure only allows trusted, signed code to load and has built-in defense against code injection attacks.'"
Government

After Healthcare Defeat, Can The Trump Administration Fix America's H-1B Visa Program? (bloomberg.com) 233

Friday the Trump administration suffered a political setback when divisions in the president's party halted a move to repeal healthcare policies passed in 2010. But if Trump hopes to turn his attention to how America's H-1B visa program is affecting technology workers, "time is running out," writes Slashdot reader pteddy. Bloomberg reports: [T]he application deadline for the most controversial visa program is the first week of April, which means new rules have to be in place for that batch of applicants or another year's worth of visas will be handed out under the existing guidelines... There probably isn't enough time to pass legislation on such a contentious issue. But Trump could sign an executive order with some changes. The article points out that under the current system, one outsourcing firm was granted 6.5 times as many U.S. visas as Amazon. There's also an interesting map showing which countries' workers received the most H-1B visas in 2015 -- 69.4% went to workers in India, with another 10.5% going to China -- and a chart showing which positions are most in demand, indicating that two-thirds of the visa applications are for tech workers.
Transportation

Researchers Teach Self-Driving Cars To 'See' Better At Night (sciencemag.org) 25

Researchers may have developed a way for self-driving cars to continue navigating at night (or on rainy days) by performing an AI analysis to identify traffic signs by their relative reflectiveness. Slashdot reader sciencehabit shares an article from Science: Their approach requires autonomous cars to continuously capture images of their surroundings. Each image is evaluated by a machine learning algorithm...looking for a section of the image that is likely to contain a sign. It's able to simultaneously evaluate multiple sections of the image -- a departure from previous systems that considered parts of an image one by one. At this stage, it's possible it will also detect irrelevant signs placed along roads. The section of the image flagged as a possible sign then passes through what's known as a convolutional neural network [which] picks up on specific features like shapes, symbols, and numbers in the image to decide which type of sign it most likely depicts... In the real world, this should mean that an autonomous car can drive down the street and accurately pinpoint and decipher every single sign it passes.
Stats

Stack Overflow Reveals Results From 'Largest Developer Survey Ever Conducted' (stackoverflow.com) 101

More than 64,000 developers from 213 countries participated in this year's annual survey by Stack Overflow -- the largest number ever -- giving a glimpse into the collective psyche of programmers around the world. An anonymous reader quotes their announcement: A majority of developers -- 56.5% -- said they were underpaid. Developers who work in government and non-profits feel the most underpaid, while those who work in finance feel the most overpaid... While only 13.1% of developers are actively looking for a job, 75.2% of developers are interested in hearing about new job opportunities...

When asked what they valued most when considering a new job, 53.3% of respondents said remote options were a top priority. 65% of developers reported working remotely at least one day a month, and 11.1% say they're full-time remote or almost all the time. Also, the highest job satisfaction ratings came from developers who work remotely full-time.

62.5% of the respondents reported using JavaScript, while 51.2% reported SQL, with 39.7% using Java and 34.1% using C# -- but for the #5 slot, "the use of Python [32.0%] overtook PHP [28.1%] for the first time in five years." Yet as far as which languages developers wanted to continue using, "For the second year in a row, Rust was the most loved programming language... Swift, last year's second most popular language, ranked as fourth. For the second year in a row, Visual Basic (for 2017, Visual Basic 6, specifically) ranked as the most dreaded language; 88.3% of developers currently using Visual Basic said they did not want to continue using it."
Cloud

Steve Wozniak Invests In Robot-Powered Paper-Digitizing Startup (businessinsider.com) 49

Steve Wozniak -- along with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer -- have invested in an automated paper-digitization company named Ripcord, which formally launched on Thursday. An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat: Based in Hayward, California, Ripcord has machines that can scan, index, and categorize paper records to make them searchable through companies' existing systems, via the cloud... Upon receipt, Ripcord unboxes the files and passes them to its machines, which scan, upload, and convert the content into searchable PDFs. Ripcord says that the conversion and classification process is around 80 percent automated and covers handling, the removal of fasteners (e.g. staples), and scanning.
"It sounds silly at first, but a really big part of the reason why this has never been done before are staples," explains Business Insider. "Existing scanner systems require humans to pull staples, separate three-ring binders, unclip paper clips, and occasionally even unstrip duct tape before they can go through the system -- otherwise they jam up the works."

"Our robots work their magic," explains Ripcord's web site. They're charging .004 cents per page -- for every month that it's stored in the cloud.
Crime

Indiana's Inmates Could Soon Have Access To Tablets (abc57.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC57 News in South Bend, Indiana: Indiana is looking to help offenders who are behind bars. Soon, each inmate in the Hoosier state could have their own tablet. The Indiana Department of Correction says the tablet will help inmates stay connected with their families and improve their education. Offenders will be able to use the tablets to access any classwork, self-help materials or entertainment. Officials expect to use entertainment, like music or movies, to reward good behavior. The proposal was first filed in January. Apple iPad's or kindles won't be used. Instead, a company that makes tablets specifically for prisons or jails will be hired. One San Francisco based-company they may consider, Telmate, has a device that is used in more than 20 states, including some jails in Marshall County. INDOC is hoping a vendor will front the costs of the entertainment apps so taxpayers won't have to. INDOC also says it wants to avoid charging inmate fees because charging fees that they can't afford would defeat the purpose of the system. If the company selected pays, the vendor would be reimbursed and still earn a profit.
Earth

Scientists Name 11 New Cloud Types (nationalgeographic.com) 28

The increased use of technology capable of photographing and sharing images has prompted the World Meteorological Organization to add 11 new cloud classifications to their International Cloud Atlas. "A far cry from simple white puffs, these 11 new cloud types roll, dip, and menace their way across the skies," reports National Geographic. From the report: These 11 additions are the first updates that the atlas has received in 30 years, and much of the change can be attributed to citizen scientists who can share and discuss clouds by uploading photos to the Atlas's site. 2017 is the first year that the renowned atlas will be published entirely online, but a hardbound version will follow later this year. Asperitas, Latin for roughness, is the cloud type that has citizen scientists most excited and has been a special victory for the UK-based Cloud Appreciation Society. This photo, first spotted in 2006, captured their attention for its inability to be described by existing cloud types. Marked by small divot-like features that create chaotic ripples across the sky, asperitas were championed by enthusiasts who noticed they did not accurately fall under existing categories. Other clouds that formerly went by more colloquial names, such as the wave-like Kelvin-Helmoltz cloud, and fallstreak holes, will now be recognized with the Latin names fluctus and cavum, respectively. You can watch a time-lapse of the newly classified asperitas here.
Space

Supermassive Black Hole Rocketing Out of Distant Galaxy At 5 Million MPH (blastr.com) 65

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have found a supermassive black hole barreling out of its home galaxy at 5 million miles per hour. The 3 billion solar mass behemoth formed from the merger of two slightly smaller black holes after two galaxies collided and themselves merged. The resulting blast of gravitational waves is thought to have been asymmetric, causing a rocket effect which launched the resulting black hole away. It's currently 40,000 light years from the galaxy's core. Source: ESA/Hubble
Printer

Why You Should Care About the Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges (consumerist.com) 201

rmdingler quotes a report from Consumerist: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn't sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase "patent exhaustion" is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it? The case in question is Impression Products, Inc v Lexmark International, Inc, came before the nation's highest court on Tuesday. Here's the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner. Then there's Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark's. Lexmark, however, doesn't want that; if you use third-party toner cartridges, that's money that Lexmark doesn't make. So it sued, which brings us to the legal chain that ended up at the Supreme Court. In an effort to keep others from getting a piece of that sweet toner revenue, Lexmark turned to its patents: The company began selling printer cartridges with a notice on the package forbidding reuse or transfer to third parties. Then, when a third-party -- like Impression -- came around reselling or recycling the cartridges, Lexmark could accuse them of patent infringement. So far the courts have sided with Lexmark, ruling that Impression was using Lexmark's patented technology in an unauthorized way. The Supreme Court is Impression's last avenue of appeal. The question before the Supreme Court isn't one of "can Lexmark patent this?" Because Lexmark can, and has. The question is, rather: Can patent exhaustion still be a thing, or does the original manufacturer get to keep having the final say in what you and others can do with the product? Kate Cox notes via Consumerist that the Supreme Court ruling is still likely months away. However, she has provided a link to the transcript of this week's oral arguments (PDF) in her report and has dissected it to see which way the justices are leaning on the issue.
Earth

'Moore's Law' For Carbon Would Defeat Global Warming (technologyreview.com) 229

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: A streamlined set of goals for reducing carbon emissions could simplify the way nations approach the quest to reduce human impact on the planet. A group of European researchers have a refreshingly straightforward solution that they call a carbon law -- or, as the Guardian has coined it, a "Moore's law for carbon." The overarching goal is simple: globally, we must halve carbon dioxide emissions every decade. That's essentially it. The rule would ideally be applied "to all sectors and countries at all scales," and would encourage "bold action in the short term." Dramatic changes would naturally have to occur as a result -- from quick wins like carbon taxes and energy efficiency regulations, to longer-term policies like phasing out combustion-engine cars and carbon-neutral building regulations. If policy makers followed the carbon law, adoption of renewables would continue its current pace of doubling energy production every 5.5 years, and carbon dioxide sequestration technologies would need to ramp up in order for the the planet to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century, say the researchers. Along the way, coal use would end as soon as 2030 and oil use by 2040. There are, clearly, issues with the idea, not least being the prospect of convincing every nation to commit to such a vision. The very simplicity that makes the idea compelling can also be used as a point of criticism: Can such a basic rule ever hope to define practical ideas as to how to change the world's energy production and consumption? The study has been published in the journal Science.

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