Google

Google's AlphaGo AI Defeats the World's Best Human Go Player (engadget.com) 70

It isn't looking good for humanity. Google's AI AlphaGo on Tuesday defeated Ke Jie, the world's number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. The new win comes a year after AlphaGo beat Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of AI to date. Adding insult to the injury, AlphaGo scored the victory over humanity's best candidate in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. Engadget adds: After the match, Google's DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis explained that this was how AlphaGo was programmed: to maximise its winning chances, rather than the winning margin. This latest iteration of the AI player, nicknamed Master, apparently uses 10 times less computational power than its predecessor that beat Lee Sedol, working from a single PC connected to Google's cloud server. [...] The AI player picked up a 10-15 point lead early on, which limited the possibilities for Jie to respond. Jie was occasionally winning during the flow of the match, but AlphaGo would soon reclaim the lead, ensuring that his human opponent had limited options to win as the game progressed.
Programming

Java Creator James Gosling Joins Amazon Web Services (geekwire.com) 81

The legendary computer scientist and founder of Java, James Gosling, is joining forces with Amazon Web Services. Gosling made the announcement today on Facebook saying that he's "starting a new Adventure" with the cloud computing juggernaut as a Distinguished Engineer. GeekWire reports: Gosling wrote Java, one of the most widely used programming languages in the history of computing, while at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. He likely ruffled a few feathers in Seattle last year after speaking out about fears of cloud vendor lock-in. "You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: 'Take your applications and move them to the cloud.' But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud," he said at IP Expo according to The Inquirer, echoing the sentiment of some skeptical IT organizations burned by enterprise vendors in the past.
Android

Hackers Hit Russian Bank Customers, Planned International Cyber Raids (reuters.com) 19

Russian cyber criminals used malware planted on Android mobile devices to steal from domestic bank customers and were planning to target European lenders before their arrest, investigators and sources with knowledge of the case told Reuters. From the report: Their campaign raised a relatively small sum by cyber-crime standards -- more than 50 million roubles ($892,000) -- but they had also obtained more sophisticated malicious software for a modest monthly fee to go after the clients of banks in France and possibly a range of other western nations. Russia's relationship to cyber crime is under intense scrutiny after U.S. intelligence officials alleged that Russian hackers had tried to help Republican Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency by hacking Democratic Party servers. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegation. The gang members tricked the Russian banks' customers into downloading malware via fake mobile banking applications, as well as via pornography and e-commerce programs, according to a report compiled by cyber security firm Group-IB which investigated the attack with the Russian Interior Ministry.
AI

How AI Can Infer Human Emotions (oreilly.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion...

Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed.

They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.
The Internet

Vint Cerf Reflects On The Last 60 Years (computerworld.com) 64

Computerworld celebrated its 50th anniversary by interviewing Vinton Cerf. The 73-year-old "father of the internet" remembers reading the early issues of the magazine, and reflects on how much things have changed since he gained access to computers at UCLA in 1960, "the beginning of my love affair with computing." I worry 100 years from now our descendants may not know much about us or be able to read our emails or tweets or documents because nobody saved them or the software you need to read them won't exist anymore. It's a huge issue. I have files of text that were written 20 years ago in WordPerfect, except I don't have WordPerfect running anywhere...

Q: Do you think [creating the internet] was your greatest accomplishment?

No. Getting it turned on was a big deal. Keeping it running for the last some odd years was an even bigger deal. Protecting it from hostile governments that want to shut it down and supporting new applications at a higher capacity are all evolutions. The evolution continues... I don't know if I can point to anything and say that's the biggest accomplishment. It's one big climb up the mountain.

Looking ahead to a future filled with AI, Cerf says "I worry about turning over too much autonomous authority to a piece of software," though he's not overly concerned, "not like Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk, who are alarmists about artificial intelligence. Every time you use Google search or self-driving cars, you're using A.I. These are all assistive technologies and I suspect this is how it will be used."

He also acknowledges that "I probably don't have another 50 years left, unless Ray Kurzweil's predictions come true, and I can upload my consciousness into a computer."
Security

Stealing Windows Credentials Using Google Chrome (helpnetsecurity.com) 53

Orome1 writes: A default setting in Google Chrome, which allows it to download files that it deems safe without prompting the user for a download location, can be exploited by attackers to mount a Windows credential theft attack using specially-crafted SCF shortcut files, DefenseCode researchers have found. What's more, for the attack to work, the victim does not even have to run the automatically downloaded file. Simply opening the download directory in Windows File Explorer will trigger the code icon file location inserted in the file to run, and it will send the victim's username, domain and NTLMv2 password hash to a remote SMB server operated by the attackers.
Businesses

Uber Threatens To Fire Engineer Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets From Waymo (gizmodo.com) 39

Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo has warned Anthony Levandowski that if he doesn't return the files he's accused of stealing from Google's self-driving car unit and using them to develop similar technology at Uber, or open deny taking them, he could be fired. Gizmodo reports: Uber's general counsel Salle Yoo warned Levandowski in a letter sent Monday and made public last night that, if he didn't return the stolen files or openly deny taking them, he could be fired. The letter is a result of a court order issued Monday, and Levandowski has until the end of the month to comply. "We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have," Yoo wrote. "While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court's Order requires us to make these demands of you." Despite the allegations against him, Levandowski's job at Uber has been protected so far by his reputation as a rising star in the self-driving industry and his close friendship with CEO Travis Kalanick, who called Levandowski his brother from another mother. However, Yoo's letter hints that the tide at Uber may be turning against Levandowsk -- in addition to demanding he return Waymo's documents, Yoo also asks Levandowski to return any Uber files he may have and to only use Uber-issued devices for work, where his actions will be monitored. "If you have not fully complied with our prior request to return all Uber-owned documents in your possession, custody, or control, you must immediately return all such documents to us," Yoo wrote.
Google

2B Pages On Web Now Use Google's AMP, Pages Now Load Twice As Fast (venturebeat.com) 60

At its developer conference I/O 2017 this week, Google also shared an update on its fast-loading Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). The company says that over 900,000 domains on the web have enabled AMP, and over two billion pages now load faster because of it. Taking things forward, Google says AMP access from Google Search is now twice as fast. From a report: Google first unveiled the open source AMP Project in October 2015. Since then, the company has been working hard to add new features and push AMP across not just its own products, but the larger web. Google Search only launched AMP support out of developer preview in September 2016. Eight months later, Google has already cut the time it takes to render content in half. The company explains that this is possible due to several key optimizations made to the Google AMP Cache. These include server-side rendering of AMP components and reducing bandwidth usage from images by 50 percent without affecting the perceived quality. Also helpful was the Brotli compression algorithm, which made it possible to reduce document size by an additional 10 percent in supported browsers (even Edge uses it). Google open-sourced Brotli in September 2015 and considers it a successor to the Zopfli algorithm.
Firefox

Firefox 55: Flash Will Become 'Ask To Activate' For Everyone (bleepingcomputer.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Starting with the release of Firefox 55, the Adobe Flash plugin for Firefox will be set to "Ask to Activate" by default for all users. This move was announced in August 2016, as part of Mozilla's plan to move away from plugins built around the NPAPI technology. Flash is currently the only NPAPI plugin still supported in Firefox, and moving its default setting from "Always Activate" to "Ask to Activate" is just another step towards the final step of stop supporting Flash altogether. This new Flash default setting is already live in Firefox's Nightly Edition and will move through the Alpha and Beta versions as Firefox nears its v55 Stable release. By moving Flash to a click-to-play setting, Firefox will indirectly start to favor HTML5 content over Flash for all multimedia content. Other browsers like Google Chrome, Brave, or Opera already run Flash on a click-to-play setting, or disabled by default. Firefox is scheduled to be released on August 8, 2017.
Google

Google To Launch a Jobs Search Engine In the US (techcrunch.com) 27

At its I/O 2017 conference, Google announced that it's launching a jobs search engine in the U.S. that will focus on a wide variety of jobs -- from entry-level and service industry positions to high-end professional jobs. The service will also use machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand how jobs are classified and related, among other things. TechCrunch reports: In a few weeks, Google will begin to recognize when U.S. users are typing job search queries into Google Search, and will then highlight jobs that match the query. However, Google is not necessarily taking on traditional job search service providers with this launch -- instead, it's partnering with them. The company said that Google for Jobs will initially partner with LinkedIn, Facebook, Careerbuilder Monster, Glassdoor, and other services. The search engine will have a number of tools that will help you find the right jobs for you. For example, you'll be able to filter jobs by location, title, category or type, date posted or whether it's full or part-time, among other things. The service will also show applicants things like commute time, to help them figure out if the job is too far away to consider. What makes the service interesting is that it's leveraging Google's machine learning smarts to understand how job titles are related and cluster them together.
Google

Google Launches Google Assistant On the iPhone (venturebeat.com) 6

At its I/O 2017 developer conference, Google announced the Google Assistant is coming to iOS as a standalone app. Previously, the only way for iOS users to get access to the Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses. For those interested, you can download the Google Assistant on your iOS device here, but keep in mind that your device needs to be running iOS 9.1 or higher. VentureBeat reports: Google Assistant for iPhone won't ship on Apple's mobile devices by default, and naturally won't be as tightly integrated into the OS. But it is addressable by voice and does work with other Google apps on Apple's platform. Apple has API restrictions on iOS, so Google Assistant can't set alarms like Siri can. It can, however, send iMessages for you or start playing music in third-party apps like Spotify. You also won't be able to use the Home button to trigger Google Assistant, so you'll need to use the app icon or a widget.
China

Drone Pilots In China Have to Register With the Government (engadget.com) 58

China's Civil Aviation Authority has announced that drone pilots will be required to register any unmanned aerial vehicle heavier than 0.55 pounds with the government starting on June 1st. "Online registration will open up on May 18th, and the government will start publishing no-fly zone data for civilian airports on the same day," reports Engadget. From the report: The initiative will also see regulators working with local government and police to curb drone interference, and will eventually standardize commercial drone use with four main categories: aerial photography, agricultural use, aviation photography and license training. The country already recognizes over 200 training outlets that have issued over 14,000 certificates so far, so some of this standardization would really just expand on what's already happening. It's hard to escape concerns that this will help the government crack down on drone pilots for spurious reasons, such as when they record protests or questionable government activities. However, the registration officially comes as a response to a mounting number of safety incidents involving drones at airports. Authorities note that Chengdu alone saw eight examples of drone interference since April, six of which grounded 138 flights. If those sorts of figures are applicable elsewhere, that's a lot hassle and potential danger.
Google

Google Home Gets Notifications, Hands-Free Calling, a TV Interface and More (theverge.com) 37

Google has announced several news features for Google Home to help it better compete against the Amazon Echo. The six new features coming to Google Home include: notifications, free calling to phones in the U.S. and Canada, calendar and reminders, more streaming services, a TV interface, and new locations. The Verge details each feature in its report: Notifications: Google calls this feature "proactive assistance." Essentially, Google Home will do its best to alert owners to things they need to know, like reminders, traffic alerts, or flight delays.
Free Calling To Phones In U.S. and Canada: Google is one-upping Amazon by letting the Home dial out to actual landline and mobile phones. Whenever this feature rolls out, you'll be able to ask the Home to call anyone on your contacts list, and it'll dial out to them on a private number.
Calendar and Reminders: You can finally set reminders and calendar entries. Finally.
More Streaming Services: Google Home has already been able to control a handful of music and video services, but it's about to get a bunch of major missing names. For music, that includes Spotify's free tier, Deezer, and SoundCloud. For video, it includes HBO Now and Hulu. On top of that, Home is also getting the ability to stream anything over Bluetooth.
A TV Interface: Sometimes you actually want to see what's going on, so Google's making a TV interface for the Google Home. You'll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it's looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.
New Locations: The Home is going to expand to five new countries this summer: Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Japan.

Wireless Networking

Comcast's New Wireless Service Goes Live For Current Xfinity Subscribers (digitaltrends.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Comcast already pipes internet into millions of homes, and now it wants to take its service to the airwaves. In April, the media giant announced the details of a new service, Xfinity Mobile, that will compete toe-to-toe with Google Fi, US Cellular, and incumbents like AT&T and T-Mobile. Now it appears the company is in the initial stages of launching the service nationwide. If you're already an Xfinity subscriber, you can head to the company's new mobile website now to get started. The service is available in all markets in which Comcast already operates. Xfinity Mobile features an unlimited data, talk, and text plan starting at $65 a month for up to five lines ($45 per line for customers with Comcast's top X1 TV packages), or $12 per GB a month a la carte. The unlimited option has been reduced to $45 a month through July 31 for the network's first customers. A combination of Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hot spots and Verizon's network will supply coverage, and, as with Google's Fi technology, phones will automatically switch between Wi-Fi and cellular depending on network conditions. Xfinity Mobile customers have their choice of the iPhone, 7, 6S, and SE series, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S7 series, and the LG X Power.
Android

Android Now Supports the Kotlin Programming Language (venturebeat.com) 90

In addition to Java and C++, Google announced at its I/O 2017 conference today that Android is gaining official support for the Kotlin programming language. VentureBeat reports: Kotlin is developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ. Google describes Kotlin, which is an open sourced project under the Apache 2.0 license, as "a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun." The company notes that some have already adopted the programming language for their production apps, including Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Square. There are already many enthusiastic Kotlin developers for Android, and the company says it is simply listening to what the community wants. But Google's choice didn't just come down to the team believing Kotlin will make writing Android apps easier. Developers will be happy to know that Kotlin's compiler emits Java byte-code. Kotlin can call Java, and Java can call Kotlin. Indeed, "the effortless interoperation between the two languages" was a large part of Kotlin's appeal to the Android team. This means you can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want, mixing the two languages freely within the same project. Calling out to Kotlin code from Java code should just work, while calling to Java code requires some automatically applied translation conventions.
Android

Google Takes Another Shot At Making Android Great On Low-Budget Smartphones (phonedog.com) 55

At its developer conference, Google unveiled Android Go, a project wherein Google will offer a version of Android that runs swiftly on budget, low-specced smartphones. With the new strategy, Google hopes to further improve the low-budget smartphone ecosystem in developing markets. Android Go will be focused around building a version of Android for phones with less memory, with the System UI and kernel able to run with as little as 512MB of memory. Apps will be optimized for low bandwidth and memory, with a version of Play Store designed for those markets that will highlight these apps. From a report: Another feature of Android Go will be data management. Android Go will let you easily see your data usage, and thanks to carrier integration, it'll also let you top-up with more data right on your device.
Communications

Google's Balloons Connect Flood-hit Peru (bbc.com) 16

An anonymous reader writes: "Tens of thousands" of Peruvians have been getting online using Project Loon, the ambitious connectivity project from Google's parent company, Alphabet. Project Loon uses tennis court-sized balloons carrying a small box of equipment to beam internet access to a wide area below. The team told the BBC they had been testing the system in Peru when serious floods hit in January, and so the technology was opened up to people living in three badly-hit cities. Until now, only small-scale tests of the technology had taken place. Project Loon is in competition with other attempts to provide internet from the skies, including Facebook's Aquila project which is being worked on in the UK. Project Loon recently announced it had figured out how to use artificial intelligence (AI) to "steer" the balloons by raising or lowering them to piggy-back weather streams. It was this discovery that enabled the company to use just a "handful" of balloons to connect people in Lima, Chimbote, and Piura. The balloons were launched from the US territory of Puerto Rico before being guided south.
Google

Google Will Soon Add Job Listings To Search Results (usatoday.com) 83

Google's mission is to steer people to the information they need in their daily lives. One crucial area the Internet giant says could use some work: Jobs. USA Today adds: So Google is launching a new feature, Google for Jobs, that collects and organizes millions of job postings from all over the web to make them easier for job seekers to find. In coming weeks, a Google search for a cashier job in Des Moines or a software engineering gig in Boise will pop up job openings at the top of search results. With Google for Jobs, job hunters will be able to explore the listings across experience and wage levels by industry, category and location, refining these searches to find full or part-time roles or accessibility to public transportation. Google is determined to crack the code on matching available jobs with the right candidates, CEO Sundar Pichai said during his keynote address Wednesday at Google's annual I/O conference for software developers here. "The challenge of connecting job seekers to better information on job availability is like many search challenges we've solved in the past," he said.
Google

Google's Android Now Powers More Than 2 Billion Devices (cnet.com) 30

At Google's developer conference IO 2017, CEO Sundar Pichai said Android is now running on more than two billion active devices. The milestone, Pichai said, Google achieved this month. CNET adds: It took three years for Android to double its user base, having disclosed that it had 1 billion active devices at its developer conference in 2014. In 2015, Google said that it had 1.4 billion active users on Android. While phones make up a bulk of its devices, it's starting to see a proliferation of other gadgets running on the software.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.

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