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Mars

Mars Rover Spots Clouds Shaped By Gravity Waves (sciencemag.org) 26

sciencehabit writes from a report via Science Magazine: NASA's Curiosity rover has shot more than 500 movies of the clouds above Mars, including the first ground-based view of martian clouds shaped by gravity waves, researchers reported this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. The shots are the best record made so far of a mysterious recurring belt of equatorial clouds known to influence the martian climate. Understanding these clouds will help inform estimates of ground ice depth and perhaps recurring slope lineae, potential flows of salty water on the surface, says John Moores, a planetary scientist at York University in Toronto, Canada, who led the study with his graduate student, Jake Kloos. "If we wish to understand the water story of Mars's past," Moores says, "we first need to [separate out] contributions from the present-day water cycle." Using Curiosity's navigation camera, Moores and Kloos recorded eight-frame movies of this wispy cloud belt for two martian years. They've used two angles to capture the clouds: one pointed directly up, to see wind direction and speed, and another that keeps the rover's horizon in the frame, allowing a view into the clouds' depth. Given the limited water vapor, solar energy, and atmosphere, the martian clouds lack the variety of shapes seen on Earth. But during one day of cloud gazing -- Curiosity's 1302th martian day, to be precise -- the team got lucky and saw something unusual. That day, when Curiosity looked to the horizon, it saw a sequence of straight, parallel rows of clouds flowing in the same direction: the first ground-based view of a gravity wave cloud. Similar to the waves that follow a pebble tossed into a pond, gravity waves are created when some unknown feature of the martian landscape causes a ripple in the atmosphere that is then seen in clouds. Such waves are common at the edge of the martian ice caps, but thought to be less frequent over its equator.
Microsoft

Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive Hit By Another Authentication Issue (zdnet.com) 48

Two weeks after a widespread authentication issue hit Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Xbox and other Microsoft services, it's happening again. From a report: On March 21, users across the world began reporting via Twitter that they couldn't sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, (and possibly more). I, myself, am unable to sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype at 2:30 pm ET today, but my Office 365 Mail account is working fine. (Knock wood.) I believe the issue started about an hour ago, or 1:30 p.m. ET or so. MSA is Microsoft's single sign-on service which authenticates users so they can log into their various Microsoft services. As happened two weeks ago, Skype Heartbeat site, has posted a message noting that users may be experiencing problems sending messages and signing in.
Android

Samsung Announces Bixby, Its New Digital Assistant Launching With the Galaxy S8 (phonedog.com) 71

Samsung has taken the wraps off its new digital assistant that will be launching with the upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus smartphones. Called "Bixby," the new assistant will use artificial intelligence to enable users to do everything that is possible to do by touch, but with voice. PhoneDog reports: Samsung is touting three main features of its new assistant. The first is "Completeness," which means that when an app is Bixby-enabled, the assistant will able to perform almost every task that the app normally supports using touch. The second Bixby property is "Context Awareness." This means that when Bixby is activated, it'l be able to understand the current context and the state of the app that you're in without interrupting the work that you're doing. Finally, there's "Cognitive Tolerance." Samsung says that Bixby is smart enough to understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning that you don't have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant. Bixby will also ask you for more information when performing a task and then execute it. A select number of apps on the Galaxy S8 will be Bixby-enabled at launch, and Samsung plans to add more over time. The company also intends to release an SDK so that third-party app developers can add Bixby support to their apps.
IBM

IBM Unveils Blockchain As a Service Based On Open Source Hyperledger Fabric Technology (techcrunch.com) 42

IBM has unveiled its "Blockchain as a Service," which is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric, version 1.0 from The Linux Foundation. "IBM Blockchain is a public cloud service that customers can use to build secure blockchain networks," TechCrunch reports, noting that it's "the first ready-for-primetime implementation built using that technology." From the report: Although the blockchain piece is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric project of which IBM is a participating member, it has added a set of security services to make it more palatable for enterprise customers, while offering it as a cloud service helps simplify a complex set of technologies, making it more accessible than trying to do this alone in a private datacenter. The Hyperledger Fabric project was born around the end of 2015 to facilitate this, and includes other industry heavyweights such as State Street Bank, Accenture, Fujitsu, Intel and others as members. While the work these companies have done to safeguard blockchain networks, including setting up a network, inviting members and offering encrypted credentials, was done under the guise of building extra safe networks, IBM believes it can make them even safer by offering an additional set of security services inside the IBM cloud. While Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technology at IBM, acknowledges that he can't guarantee that IBM's blockchain service is unbreachable, he says the company has taken some serious safeguards to protect it. This includes isolating the ledger from the general cloud computing environment, building a security container for the ledger to prevent unauthorized access, and offering tamper-responsive hardware, which can actually shut itself down if it detects someone trying to hack a ledger. What's more, IBM claims their blockchain product is built in a highly auditable way to track all of the activity that happens within a network, giving administrators an audit trail in the event something did go awry.
AI

The First Practical Use For Quantum Computers: Chemistry (technologyreview.com) 42

"The first quantum computer to start paying its way with useful work in the real world looks likely to do so by helping chemists," writes MIT Technology Review, "trying to do things like improve batteries or electronics." An anonymous reader quotes their report: So far, simulating molecules and reactions is the use case for early, small quantum computers sketched out in most detail by researchers developing the new kind of algorithms needed for such machines... "From the point of view of what is theoretically proven, chemistry is ahead," says Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for the IBM division that today sells hardware including supercomputers and hopes to add cloud-hosted quantum computers to its product line-up in the next few years...

Researchers have long used simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts. The tactic can reduce time spent on physical experiments and scientific dead ends, and it accounts for a significant proportion of the workload of the world's supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He's looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group's efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.

Microsoft is already focusing on chemistry and materials science in its quantum algorithm effort, saying a hybrid system combining conventional computers with a small quantum computer "has great promise for studying molecules." Meanwhile, the article argues that breaking encryption, "although a genuine threat, is one of the most distant applications of the technology, because the algorithms involved would require an extremely large quantum processor."
Botnet

Bruce Schneier Calls for IoT Legislation, Argues The Internet Is Becoming One Giant Robot (linux.com) 84

"We're building a world-size robot, and we don't even realize it," security expert Bruce Schneier warned the Open Source Leadership Summit. As mobile computing and always-on devices combine with the various network-connected sensors, actuators, and cloud-based AI processing, "We are building an internet that senses, thinks, and acts." An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com: You can think of it, he says, as an Internet that affects the world in a direct physical manner. This means Internet security becomes everything security. And, as the Internet physically affects our world, the threats become greater. "It's the same computers, it could be the same operating systems, the same apps, the same vulnerability, but there's a fundamental difference between when your spreadsheet crashes, and you lose your data, and when your car crashes and you lose your life," Schneier said...

"I have 20 IoT-security best-practices documents from various organizations. But the primary barriers here are economic; these low-cost devices just don't have the dedicated security teams and patching/upgrade paths that our phones and computers do. This is why we also need regulation to force IoT companies to take security seriously from the beginning. I know regulation is a dirty word in our industry, but when people start dying, governments will take action. I see it as a choice not between government regulation and no government regulation, but between smart government regulation and stupid government regulation."

Google

Google's New Campus Will Open Its Restaurants To The Public (recode.net) 76

Google's new 18-acre campus will feature a 595,000-square foot building for 2,400 employees, most of them engineers -- and its bottom floor will be open to the public. An anonymous reader quotes Recode: People will be able to walk through the middle of the building, where they can shop in retail stores and dine at cafes also frequented by Googlers... A summary of plans from Google also describes spaces for workshops and demonstrations of new technologies such as virtual reality. Visitors might encounter a pop-up store devoted to virtual reality or demonstrations of smart-home devices made by Alphabet subsidiary Nest, according to the spokesperson... This is the first time Google has built a campus from the ground up...

Generally speaking, Bay Area tech companies have tended to of cut their workplaces off from the communities surrounding them. Employees take private buses to their campuses, and stay on-site for non-work activities like meals in private cafeterias and exercise classes. Google offers similar amenities to its employees, but makes its open, grassy areas open to anyone.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Google's new building will be "shaped to resemble a puffy white cloud, with solar panels on the roof... The campus also will have a plaza where the public can soak in performances."
AI

Ray Kurzweil On How We'll End Up Merging With Our Technology (foxnews.com) 161

Mr.Intel quotes a report from Fox News: "By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," Kurzweil said in an interview at the SXSW Conference with Shira Lazar and Amy Kurzweil Comix. Known as the Singularity, the event is oft discussed by scientists, futurists, technology stalwarts and others as a time when artificial intelligence will cause machines to become smarter than human beings. The time frame is much sooner than what other stalwarts have said, including British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as previous predictions from Kurzweil, who said it may occur as soon as 2045. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who recently acquired ARM Holdings with the intent on being one of the driving forces in the Singularity, has previously said it could happen in the next 30 years. Kurzweil apparently ins't worried about the rise in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In regard to AI potentially enslaving humanity, Kurzweil said, "That's not realistic. We don't have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions." He shares a similar view with Elon Musk by saying that humans need to converge with machines, pointing out the work already being done in Parkinson's patients. "They're making us smarter," Kurzeil said during the SXSW interview. "They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud... We're going to be funnier, we're going to be better at music. We're going to be sexier. We're really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree." You can watch the full interview on Facebook.
Open Source

Linux Foundation Chief: Businesses 'Will Fail' If They Don't Use Open Source Code (techrepublic.com) 109

The luminaries speaking at the Google Cloud Next conference had some strong words about the importance of openness, innovation, and a rich developer community. An anonymous reader writes: First Vint Cert said there's a "thread of openness" that runs throughout the internet, adding that "the internet, itself, has open characteristics" and thrives on "permissionless innovation." And Eric Brewer, vice president of infrastructure at Google, touched on the same themes, according to Tech Republic. "Linux, Brewer said, won some of the early internet wars because it was open, but also because it was the most innovative of its time. He also said that companies should work with open source for the value of the ecosystem and community, not just the value of the code." Then Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin told the audience that business models were already changing to include open source, and ultimately made the argument that organizations that "don't harvest the shared innovation" of open source "will fail."
Businesses

Google's Compute Engine Now Offers Machines With Up To 64 CPU Cores, 416GB of RAM (techcrunch.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: Google is doubling the maximum number of CPU cores developers can use with a single virtual machine on its Compute Engine service from 32 to 64. These high-power machines are now available in beta across all of Google's standard configurations and as custom machine types, which allow you to select exactly how many cores and memory you want. If you opt to use 64 cores in Google's range of high-memory machine types, you'll also get access to 416GB of RAM. That's also twice as much memory as Compute Engine previously offered for a single machine and enough for running most memory-intensive applications, including high-end in-memory databases. Running your apps on this high-memory machine will set you back $3.7888 per hour (though you do get all of Google's usual sustained-use discounts if you run it for longer, too).
Google

Google Can Now Recognize Objects in Videos Using Machine Learning (theverge.com) 47

Google has found a new way to allow software to parse video. On Wednesday, the company announced "Video Intelligence API", which is able to identify objects in a video. From a report: By playing a short commercial, the API was able to identify the dachshund in the video, when it appeared in the video, and then understand that the whole thing was a commercial. In another demo, we saw a simple search for "beach" and was able to find videos which had scenes from beaches in them, complete with timestamps. That's similar to how Google Photos lets you search for "sunset" and pull up your best late-day snapshots. Before now, computers couldn't really understand the content of a video directly without manual tagging. "We are beginning to shine light on the dark matter of the digital universe," Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist of artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google Cloud, said. At least in Google's demo, it was genuinely impressive. And Google is making the API available to developers, just as it has with its other machine learning APIs.
Businesses

Tech's Ruling Class Casts a Big Shadow (theverge.com) 74

Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg believes that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, or Gang of Five -- as he likes to call them, are casting a big shadow over how today's startups foster, a phenomenon he believes will continue to happen over the years to come. From his column for The Verge: What we have now in consumer tech, in 2017, is an oligopoly, at least superficially similar to the old industrial-era American corporate groups that once dominated key industries. I think that their enduring and growing power casts a shadow over the Silicon Valley legend that there are lots of great new consumer tech innovations being incubated right now in garages or dorm rooms somewhere that will be taken all the way to becoming great companies, the way each of the Gang of Five was. What I fear is more likely to happen to any such startup is that, if they're good, they get acquired by a member of the Gang, or that their idea is turned into a feature for one of the Gang's products. And, even if that never happens and a startup thrives, too often it can only thrive by being successful on a platform controlled by one or more Gang members, with the big guy maybe taking a cut. For instance, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, which went public last week, famously spurned a $3 billion takeover offer from Gang member Facebook in 2013. But it depends for its very operation on the cloud services of Google and on the mobile app platforms of Apple and Google. And plenty of other companies which either presented threats or opportunities to the Gang have been snapped up by them. Each of the five companies actively scoops up numerous smaller companies every year, in many cases just for their talent and / or patents. In fact, I'd be amazed if there weren't plenty of startups whose main goal is to be purchased by the Gang.
Intel

Windows Server on ARM Is Finally Happening, And It Should Worry Intel (bloomberg.com) 193

Mary Jo Foley, writing for ZDNet: There have been rumors for the past several years that Windows Server would be coming to ARM. Today, March 8, that rumor became an acknowledged reality. Microsoft officials said that the company is committed to use ARM chips in machines running its cloud services. Microsoft will use the ARM chips in a cloud server design that its officials will detail at the the US Open Compute Project Summit today, March 8. Microsoft has been working with both Qualcomm and Cavium on the version of Windows Server for ARM, according to company officials. From a report on Bloomberg: Intel chips have remained one of the sole big-name products widely in use. Microsoft's work with ARM, in progress for several years, could pave the way for a real challenge to Intel, which controls more than 99 percent of the market for server chips. [...] Any challenge to Intel's dominance in server chips is a threat to its most profitable business and main revenue driver as demand for PC processors continues to shrink. The company's Data Center Group turned $17.2 billion of sales into $7.5 billion of operating profit in 2016, and Intel has been running ads that say, "98 percent of the cloud runs on Intel."
Businesses

IT Executives Believe Service Management Is Key To Digital Transformation (betanews.com) 83

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: A new survey reveals that a majority of IT executives believe investment in IT service management (ITSM) is important to gain the agility needed to compete in an era of global, cross-industry disruption and digital transformation. The study of more than 250 IT executives for enterprise management specialist BMC conducted with Forbes Insights reveals that 88 percent of respondents say ITSM is important to their digital transformation efforts. In addition 86 percent see ITSM as important to related initiatives around cloud computing, 83 percent to mobility and 83 percent to big data. Also 75 percent believe the time, money, and resources spent on ongoing maintenance and management is affecting the overall competitiveness of their organizations.
Open Source

VMware Affirms Open Source Commitment By Becoming Gold Linux Foundation Member (betanews.com) 32

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, VMware showed its commitment to the open source community by becoming a Linux Foundation Gold Member. The company joins many other successful companies at that level, such as Facebook, Toshiba, and Toyota, to name a few. "VMware has been involved in open source for years, by contributing to existing open source projects as well as open sourcing some of the company's own code. This includes significant participation in and contributions to Linux Foundation projects such as Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), Cloud Foundry and Open vSwitch, as well as other open source projects including OpenStack. Becoming a Gold member of The Linux Foundation will enable VMware to become even more active in the open source community by leveraging The Linux Foundation's experience and expertise in how to most effectively contribute to and utilize open source technology," says The Linux Foundation.
IBM

IBM Will Sell 50-Qubit Universal Quantum Computer In the Next Few Years (arstechnica.co.uk) 90

Months after laying the groundwork for offerings in emerging tech categories such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, IBM sees quantum computers as a big, if nascent, business opportunity. From a report on ArsTechnica: IBM will build and sell commercial 50-qubit universal quantum computers, dubbed IBM Q, "in the next few years." No word on pricing just yet, but I wouldn't expect much change from $15 million -- the cost of a non-universal D-Wave quantum computer. In other news, IBM has also opened up an API (sample code available on Github) that gives developers easier access to the five-qubit quantum computer currently connected to the IBM cloud. Later in the year, IBM will release a full SDK, further simplifying the process of building quantum software. You can't actually do much useful computation with five qubits, mind you, but fortunately IBM also has news there: the company's quantum simulator can now simulate up to 20 qubits. The idea is that developers should start thinking about potential 20-qubit quantum scenarios now, so they're ready to be deployed when IBM builds the actual hardware.
The Internet

An Incorrect Command Entered By Employee Triggered Disruptions To S3 Storage Service, Knocking Down Dozens of Websites, Amazon Says (amazon.com) 169

Amazon is apologizing for the disruptions to its S3 storage service that knocked down and -- in some cases affected -- dozens of websites earlier this week. The company also outlined what caused the issue -- the event was triggered by human error. The company said an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process. "Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended," the company said in a press statement Thursday. It adds: The servers that were inadvertently removed supported two other S3 subsystems. One of these subsystems, the index subsystem, manages the metadata and location information of all S3 objects in the region. This subsystem is necessary to serve all GET, LIST, PUT, and DELETE requests. The second subsystem, the placement subsystem, manages allocation of new storage and requires the index subsystem to be functioning properly to correctly operate. The placement subsystem is used during PUT requests to allocate storage for new objects. Removing a significant portion of the capacity caused each of these systems to require a full restart. While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests. Other AWS services in the US-EAST-1 Region that rely on S3 for storage, including the S3 console, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) new instance launches, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (when data was needed from a S3 snapshot), and AWS Lambda were also impacted while the S3 APIs were unavailable.
Government

Can Technology Prevent Cops From Forgetting To Turn On Their Body Cameras? (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes from a report via Fast Company: Axon, Taser's growing police camera division, has announced a new wireless sensor for gun and Taser holsters that can detect when a weapon is drawn and automatically activate all nearby cameras. The sensor, Signal Sidearm, is part of a suite of products aimed at reducing the possibility that officers will fail to switch on their cameras during encounters with the public. It happens more than it should: Last year in Chicago, for instance, an officer apparently forgot to turn on his camera before fatally shooting and killing an unarmed 18-year-old named Paul O'Neal. Taser isn't alone in trying to address this and other technical and procedural issues with cameras, but reformers emphasize that just as body cameras won't solve problems with policing, new sensors won't prevent officers from failing to record. Fast Company adds: "Automatically-activated cameras won't be completely effective at providing oversight of police encounters: As happened when Baton Rouge police shot Alton Sterling last year, cameras can fall off during physical encounters, a problem that Taser has worked to address. They can also malfunction, or videos can be deleted. And civil liberties advocates complain that cameras are only as effective as the rules that guide their use: [...] the ACLU has complained that current city policy allowing officers to switch cameras off for privacy reasons gives police too much discretion over when to record. Other issues with cameras being resolved at the local level include the heavy costs of cloud video storage, and the question of whether officers are allowed to view their footage immediately after violent encounters -- a privilege not extended to the public."
The Internet

Amazon's Cloud Service Has Outage, Disrupting Sites (usatoday.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares a report on USA Today: Portions of Amazon Web Services, the nation's largest cloud computing company, went offline Tuesday afternoon, affected multiple companies across the United States but especially on the east coast. The outage appeared to have begun around 12:45 pm ET. It was centered in AWS' S3 storage system on the east coast. Many of the services that firms use AWS are for back-end processes, and therefore not immediately visible to consumers, though the outage could disrupt customer-facing activities like logins and payments. At least some websites that appear to be affected are: Airbnb, Down Detector, Freshdesk, Pinterest, SendGrid, Snapchat's Bitmoji, Time, Buffer, Business Insider, Chef, Citrix, CNBC, Codecademy, Coursera, Cracked, Docker, Expedia, Expensify, Giphy, Heroku, Home Chef, iFixit, IFTTT, isitdownrightnow.com, Lonely Planet, Mailchimp, Medium, Microsoft's HockeyApp, News Corp, Quora, Razer, Slack, Sprout Social, Travis CI, Trello, Twilio, Unbounce, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Zendesk.

The dashboard of Amazon Web Services, which tracks the status of the service, is unable to change color, Amazon said. It is because the status dashboard also runs on the service that is down.
Databases

CloudPets IoT Toys Leaked and Ransomed, Exposing Kids' Voice Messages (androidpolice.com) 64

"According to security researcher Troy Hunt, a series of web-connected, app-enabled toys called CloudPets have been hacked," reports Android Police. "The manufacturer's central database was reportedly compromised over several months after stunningly poor security, despite the attempts of many researchers and journalists to inform the manufacturer of the potential danger. Several ransom notes were left, demanding Bitcoin payments for the implied deletion of stolen data." From the report: CloudPets allow parents to record a message for their children on their phones, which then arrives on the Bluetooth connected stuffed toy and is played back. Kids can squeeze the stuffed animal's paw to record a message of their own, which is sent back to the phone app. The Android app has been downloaded over 100,000 times, though user reviews are poor, citing a difficult interface, frequent bugs, and annoying advertising. Hunt and the researchers he collaborated with found that the central database for CloudPets' voice messages and user info was stored on a public-facing MongoDB server, with only basic hashes protecting user addresses and passwords. The same database apparently connected to the stored voice messages that could be retrieved by the apps and toys. Easy access and poor password requirements may have resulted in unauthorized access to a large number of accounts. The database was finally removed from the publicly accessible server in January, but not before demands for ransom were left.

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