Cloud

Trump Administration Calls For Government IT To Adopt Cloud Services (reuters.com) 206

According to Reuters, The White House said Wednesday the U.S. government needs a major overhaul of information technology systems and should take steps to better protect data and accelerate efforts to use cloud-based technology. The report outlined a timeline over the next year for IT reforms and a detailed implementation plan. One unnamed cloud-based email provider has agreed to assist in keeping track of government spending on cloud-based email migration. From the report: The report said the federal government must eliminate barriers to using commercial cloud-based technology. "Federal agencies must consolidate their IT investments and place more trust in services and infrastructure operated by others," the report found. Government agencies often pay dramatically different prices for the same IT item, the report said, sometimes three or four times as much. A 2016 U.S. Government Accountability Office report estimated the U.S. government spends more than $80 billion on IT annually but said spending has fallen by $7.3 billion since 2010. In 2015, there were at least 7,000 separate IT investments by the U.S. government. The $80 billion figure does not include Defense Department classified IT systems and 58 independent executive branch agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency. The GAO report found some agencies are using systems that have components that are at least 50 years old.
AI

Google To Open AI Center In China Despite Search Ban (bbc.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research center in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country. Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent. In a blog post on the company's website, Google said the new research center was an important part of its mission as an "AI first company." "Whether a breakthrough occurs in Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, [AI] has the potential to make everyone's life better for the entire world," said Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google Cloud AI and Machine Learning. The research center, which joins similar facilities in London, New York, Toronto and Zurich, will be run by a small team from its existing office in Beijing. The tech giant operates two offices in China, with roughly half of its 600 employees working on global products, company spokesperson Taj Meadows told the AFP news agency. But Google's search engine and a number of other services are banned in China. The country has imposed increasingly strict rules on foreign companies over the past year, including new censorship restrictions.
Science

The Environmental Cost of Internet Porn (theatlantic.com) 299

An anonymous reader shares a report (condensed for space): Online streaming is a win for the environment. Streaming music eliminates all that physical material -- CDs, jewel cases, cellophane, shipping boxes, fuel -- and can reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 40 percent or more. Scientists who analyze the environmental impact of the internet tout the benefits of this "dematerialization," observing that energy use and carbon-dioxide emissions will drop as media increasingly can be delivered over the internet. But this theory might have a major exception: porn. Since the turn of the century, the pornography industry has experienced two intense hikes in popularity. In the early 2000s, broadband enabled higher download speeds. Then, in 2008, the advent of so-called tube sites allowed users to watch clips for free, like people watch videos on YouTube. Adam Grayson, the chief financial officer of the adult company Evil Angel, calls the latter hike "the great mushroom-cloud porn explosion of 2008." Precise numbers don't exist to quantify specifics, but the impression across the industry is that viewership is way, way up. Pornhub, the world's most popular porn site, provides some of the only accessible data on its yearly web-traffic report. The first Year In Review post in 2013 tabulated that 14.7 billion people visited the site. By 2016, the number of visitors had almost doubled, to 23 billion, and those visitors watched more than 4.59 billion hours of porn. And Pornhub is just one site. Using a formula that Netflix published on its blog in 2015, Nathan Ensmenger, a professor at Indiana University who is writing a book about the environmental history of the computer, calculates that if Pornhub streams video as efficiently as Netflix (0.0013 kWh per streaming hour), it used 5.967 million kWh in 2016. For comparison, that's about the same amount of energy 11,000 light bulbs would use if left on for a year. And operating with Netflix's efficiency would be a best-case scenario for the porn site, Ensmenger believes.
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Biggest IT Management Mistakes? 338

snydeq writes: Sure, nobody's perfect. But for those in charge of enterprise technology, the fallout from a strategic gaffe, bad hire, or weak spine can be disastrous, writes Dan Tynan, in an article on the biggest management mistakes in IT. "Some of the most common IT gaffes include becoming trapped in a relationship with a vendor you can't shake loose, hiring or promoting the wrong people, and hiding problems from top management until it's too late to recover." What are some other career- and company-destroyers you've witnessed in your years in IT?
Networking

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Way to Retrain Old IT Workers? 343

A medium-sized company just hired a new IT manager who wants advice from the Slashdot community about their two remaining IT "gofers": These people have literally been here their entire "careers" and are now near retirement. Quite honestly, they do not have any experience other than reinstalling Windows, binding something to the domain and the occasional driver installation -- and are more than willing to admit this. Given many people are now using Macs and most servers/workstations are running Linux, they have literally lost complete control over the company, with most of these machines sitting around completely unmanaged.

Firing these people is nearly impossible. (They have a lot of goodwill within other departments, and they have quite literally worked there for more than 60 years combined.) So I've been tasked with attempting to retrain these people in the next six months. Given they still have to do work (imaging computers and fixing basic issues), what are the best ways of retraining them into basic network, Windows, Mac, Linux, and "cloud" first-level help desk support?

Monster_user had some suggestions -- for example, "Don't overtrain. Select and target areas where they will be able to provide a strong impact." Any other good advice?

Leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best way to retrain old IT workers?
Google

Inside Oracle's Cloak-and-dagger Political War With Google (recode.net) 86

schwit1 shares a Recode report: The story that appeared in Quartz this November seemed shocking enough on its own: Google had quietly tracked the location of its Android users, even those who had turned off such monitoring on their smartphones. But missing from the news site's report was another eyebrow-raising detail: Some of its evidence, while accurate, appears to have been furnished by one of Google's fiercest foes: Oracle. For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code. Since 2010, Oracle has accused Google of copying Java and using key portions of it in the making of Android. Google, for its part, has fought those claims vigorously. More recently, though, their standoff has intensified. And as a sign of the worsening rift between them, this summer Oracle tried to sell reporters on a story about the privacy pitfalls of Android, two sources confirmed to Recode.
Cloud

Is Open Source Innovation Now All About Vendor On-Ramps? (infoworld.com) 58

InfoWorld published an interesting essay from Matt Asay, former COO at Canonical (and an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative), about innovation from the big public cloud vendors, which "even when open-sourced, doesn't really help the community at large... All this innovation is available to buy; none of it is available to build. Not for mere mortals, anyway." Google in particular has figured out how to both open-source code in a useful way and make it pay. As Server Density CEO David Mytton has underlined, Google hopes to "standardize machine learning on a single framework and API," namely TensorFlow, then supplement it "with a service that can [manage] it all for you more efficiently and with less operational overhead," namely Google Cloud. By open-sourcing TensorFlow and backing it with machine-learning-heavy Google Cloud, Google has open-sourced a great on-ramp to future revenue.

My question: why not do this with the rest of its code? The simple answer is "Because it's a lot of work." That is, Google could open-source everything tomorrow without any damage to its revenue, but the code itself would provide other providers and enterprises only limited ability to increase their revenue unless Google did all the necessary prep work to make it useful to mere mortals not running superhuman Google infrastructure. This is the trick that AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all racing to figure out today. Not open source, per se, because that's the easy table stakes. No, the AWS/Microsoft Azure/Google Cloud trio are figuring out how to turn their innovations into open source on-ramps to their proprietary services. Companies used to lock up their code to sell it. Today, it's the opposite: They need to open it up to make their ability to operate the code at scale more valuable. For them.

Microsoft

Microsoft: We're Razing Our Redmond Campus To Build a Mini City (zdnet.com) 98

Armand Winter shares a report from ZDNet: Microsoft president Brad Smith said the company will spend $150 million in transport infrastructure, public spaces, sports fields and green space. It expects the project will create 2,500 construction and development jobs. Microsoft's renovation budget is modest compared with the $5 billion Apple spent on its new spaceship headquarters in Cupertino, while Microsoft's Washington neighbor and cloud rival, Amazon, will spend $5 billion on a second North American headquarters, which will offer space for 50,000 people. "We are not only creating a world-class work environment to help retain and attract the best and brightest global talent, but also building a campus that our neighbors can enjoy, and that we can build in a fiscally smart way with low environmental impact," said Smith in a blog post.
Google

Google Can Tell if Someone Is Looking at Your Phone Over Your Shoulder (qz.com) 75

Dave Gershgorn, writing for Quartz: At the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Long Beach, California, next week, Google researchers Hee Jung Ryu and Florian Schroff will present a project they're calling an electronic screen protector, where a Google Pixel phone uses its front-facing camera and eye-detecting artificial intelligence to detect whether more than one person is looking at the screen. An unlisted, but public video by Ryu shows the software interrupting a Google messaging app to display a camera view, with the peeking perpetrator identified and given a Snapchat-esque vomit rainbow. Ryu and Schroff claim the system works with different lighting conditions and poses, and can recognize a person's gaze in 2 milliseconds. Ostensibly, this AI software is able to work so quickly because it's being run on the phone, rather than sent for processing on the company's powerful cloud servers.
Earth

Russia Detects a Significant Radiation Spike In Mountains Close To Soviet-Era Nuclear Plant (nytimes.com) 125

According to a report via The New York Times, Russia said that it had detected a significant radiation spike in the Ural Mountains, close to a sprawling Soviet-era nuclear plant still remembered as the site of an accident 60 years ago. Russia did however reject suggestions that it was the source of a radioactive cloud that hovered over Europe. From the report: The location of the spike -- in the Chelyabinsk region near the border with Kazakhstan -- has been identified by French and German nuclear safety institutions as a potential source for a concentration of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium 106 detected in the air in late September above several European countries. But nuclear energy authorities in Moscow insisted Monday that still-higher levels of atmospheric contamination had been detected outside Russia, in southeastern Europe. Reports of the elevated radiation levels over Western Europe raised alarms, but nuclear safety authorities in France and Germany said there was no threat to human health or to the environment -- an assurance repeated on Tuesday by Moscow. The Russian state weather service Roshydromet said it had found what the Russian news media described as "extremely high pollution" at two monitoring facilities within a 62-mile radius of the Mayak nuclear reprocessing and isotope production plant. A weather station in the town of Argayash recorded ruthenium 106 levels that were 986 times higher than a month earlier, the state weather agency said. A second station at Novogorny detected levels 440 times higher. Ruthenium 106, which does not occur naturally and has a half-life of about a year, is used for medical purposes.

For weeks, Russian officials had denied the French and German accusations. Citing the results of its own air monitoring on European territory, Moscow pointed to high radiation levels over Romania, Italy and Ukraine, insisting that there had been only a negligible presence of ruthenium 106 on Russian territory. On Tuesday, even after the Russian agency acknowledged the radiation spike in the Urals, Maxim Yakovenko, the head of Roshydromet, said in a statement that higher levels of contamination had been detected in Romania than in Russia. "The published data is not sufficient to establish the location of the pollution source," he said. The authorities at Mayak denied in a news release on Tuesday that the plant had contributed to the increased levels of ruthenium 106 and insisted that there was no threat to human beings.

Graphics

Google Cloud Platform Cuts the Price of GPUs By Up To 36 Percent (techcrunch.com) 28

In a blog post, Google's Product Manager, Chris Kleban, announced that the company is cutting the price of using Nvidia's Tesla GPUs through its Compute Engine by up to 36 percent. The older K80 GPUs will now cost $0.45 per hour while the more powerful P100 machines will cost $1.46 per minute (all with per-second billing). TechCrunch reports: The company is also dropping the prices for preemptible local SSDs by almost 40 percent. "Preemptible local SSDs" refers to local SSDs attached to Google's preemptible VMs. You can't attach GPUs to preemptible instances, though, so this is a nice little bonus announcement -- but it isn't going to directly benefit GPU users. As for the new GPU pricing, it's clear that Google is aiming this feature at developers who want to run their own machine learning workloads on its cloud, though there also are a number of other applications -- including physical simulations and molecular modeling -- that greatly benefit from the hundreds of cores that are now available on these GPUs. The P100, which is officially still in beta on the Google Cloud Platform, features 3594 cores, for example. Developers can attach up to four P100 and eight K80 dies to each instance. Like regular VMs, GPU users will also receive sustained-use discounts, though most users probably don't keep their GPUs running for a full month.
Cloud

Amazon Launches a Cloud Service For US Intelligence Agencies (cnbc.com) 55

Amazon Web Services on Monday introduced cloud service for the CIA and other members of the U.S. intelligence community. From a report: The launch of the so-called AWS Secret Region comes six years after AWS introduced GovCloud, its first data center region for public sector customers. AWS has since announced plans to expand GovCloud. The new Secret Region signals interest in using AWS from specific parts of the U.S. government. In 2013 news outlets reported on a $600 million contract between AWS and the CIA. That event singlehandledly helped Amazon in its effort to sign up large companies to use its cloud, whose core services have been available since 2006.
Cloud

Cringely: Amazon Is Starting To Act Like 'Bad Microsoft' (cringely.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes Cringely.com: My last column was about the recent tipping point signifying that cloud computing is guaranteed to replace personal computing over the next three years. This column is about the slugfest to determine what company's public cloud is most likely to prevail. I reckon it is Amazon's and I'll go further to claim that Amazon will shortly be the new Microsoft. What I mean by The New Microsoft is that Amazon is starting to act a lot like the old Microsoft of the 1990s. You remember -- the Bad Microsoft...

Tech companies behave this way because most employees are young and haven't worked anywhere else and because the behavior reflects the character of the founder. If the boss tells you to beat up customers and partners and it's your first job out of college, then you beat up customers and partners because that's the only world you know. At Microsoft this approach was driven by Bill Gates's belief that dominance could be lost in a single product cycle leaving no room for playing nice. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos is a believer in moving fast, making quick decisions and never looking back. The market has long rewarded this audacity so Amazon will continue to play hard until -- like Microsoft in the 90s -- they are punished for it.

Cringely points out most startups are already usings AWS -- and so are all 17 US intelligence agencies ("taking 350,000 PCs out of places like the CIA.")

Bonus link: 17 years ago Cringely answered questions from Slashdot readers.
Transportation

DJI Threatens Researcher Who Reported Exposed Cert Key, Credentials, and Customer Data (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: DJI, the Chinese company that manufactures the popular Phantom brand of consumer quadcopter drones, was informed in September that developers had left the private keys for both the "wildcard" certificate for all the company's Web domains and the keys to cloud storage accounts on Amazon Web Services exposed publicly in code posted to GitHub. Using the data, researcher Kevin Finisterre was able to access flight log data and images uploaded by DJI customers, including photos of government IDs, drivers licenses, and passports. Some of the data included flight logs from accounts associated with government and military domains.

Finisterre found the security error after beginning to probe DJI's systems under DJI's bug bounty program, which was announced in August. But as Finisterre worked to document the bug with the company, he got increasing pushback -- including a threat of charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. DJI refused to offer any protection against legal action in the company's "final offer" for the data. So Finisterre dropped out of the program and published his findings publicly yesterday, along with a narrative entitled, "Why I walked away from $30,000 of DJI bounty money."

The company says they're now investigating "unauthorized access of one of DJI's servers containing personal information," adding that "the hacker in question" refused to agree to their terms and shared "confidential communications with DJI employees."
IBM

Tech Companies Try Apprenticeships To Fill The Tech Skills Gap (thehill.com) 123

Slashdot reader jonyen writes: For generations, apprenticeships have been the way of working life; master craftsmen taking apprentices under their wing, teaching them the tools of the trade. This declined during the Industrial Revolution as the advent of the assembly line enabled mass employment for unskilled laborers. The master-apprentice model went further out of focus as higher education and formal training became increasingly more valuable.

Fast forward to the 21st century, where employers are turning back the page to apprenticeships in an effort to fill a growing skills gap in the labor force in the digital age. Code.org estimates there will be a million unfulfilled tech jobs by 2020.

jonyen shared this article by IBM's Vice President of Talent:IBM is committed to addressing this shortage and recently launched an apprenticeship program registered with the US Department of Labor, with a plan to have 100 apprentices in 2018. ... Other firms have taken up the apprenticeship challenge as well. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, for example, has called for creating 5 million American apprentices in the next five years.

An apprenticeship offers the chance for Americans to get the formal education they need, whether through a traditional university, a community college or a trade school, while getting something else: On-the-job experience and an income... Right now, there are more than 6 million jobs in the U.S. that are going unfilled because employers can't find candidates with the right skills, according to the Labor Department.

IBM says their apprentices "are on their way to becoming software developers in our Cloud business and mainframe administrators for technologies like Blockchain, and we will add new apprenticeships in data analytics and cybersecurity as we replicate the program across the U.S."

"Ninety-one percent of apprentices in the U.S. find employment after completing their program, and their average starting wage is above $60,000."
The Military

Massive US Military Social Media Spying Archive Left Wide Open In AWS S3 Buckets (theregister.co.uk) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Three misconfigured AWS S3 buckets have been discovered wide open on the public internet containing "dozens of terabytes" of social media posts and similar pages -- all scraped from around the world by the U.S. military to identify and profile persons of interest. The archives were found by veteran security breach hunter UpGuard's Chris Vickery during a routine scan of open Amazon-hosted data silos, and these ones weren't exactly hidden. The buckets were named centcom-backup, centcom-archive, and pacom-archive. CENTCOM is the common abbreviation for the U.S. Central Command, which controls army operations in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. PACOM is the name for U.S. Pacific Command, covering the rest of southern Asia, China and Australasia.

"For the research I downloaded 400GB of samples but there were many terabytes of data up there," he said. "It's mainly compressed text files that can expand out by a factor of ten so there's dozens and dozens of terabytes out there and that's a conservative estimate." Just one of the buckets contained 1.8 billion social media posts automatically fetched over the past eight years up to today. It mainly contains postings made in central Asia, however Vickery noted that some of the material is taken from comments made by American citizens. The databases also reveal some interesting clues as to what this information is being used for. Documents make reference to the fact that the archive was collected as part of the U.S. government's Outpost program, which is a social media monitoring and influencing campaign designed to target overseas youths and steer them away from terrorism.

Security

Amazon Key Flaw Could Let Rogue Deliverymen Disable Your Camera (wired.com) 106

Security researchers claim to have discovered a flaw in Amazon's Key Service, which if exploited, could let a driver re-enter your house after dropping off a delivery. From a report: When Amazon launched its Amazon Key service last month, it also offered a remedy for anyone who might be creeped out that the service gives random strangers unfettered access to your home. That security antidote? An internet-enabled camera called Cloud Cam, designed to sit opposite your door and reassuringly record every Amazon Key delivery. Security researchers have demonstrated that with a simple program run from any computer in Wi-Fi range, that camera can be not only disabled, but frozen. A viewer watching its live or recorded stream sees only a closed door, even as their actual door is opened and someone slips inside. That attack would potentially enable rogue delivery people to stealthily steal from Amazon customers, or otherwise invade their inner sanctum. And while the threat of a camera-hacking courier seems an unlikely way for your house to be burgled, the researchers argue it potentially strips away a key safeguard in Amazon's security system. When WIRED brought the research to Amazon's attention, the company responded that it plans to send out an automatic software update to address the issue later this week.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: Which Software/Devices Are Unusable Without Connecting to the Internet? (techdirt.com) 201

New submitter AlejandroTejadaC writes: Currently, most commercial software and hardware manufactures rely on an internet connection for registering or activating their products and providing additional functionality. In an ideal world this works fine, but in our real world the buyer could lose access to internet for months -- such as in emergency situations like the aftermath of hurricane Maria -- and their products will refuse to work because they need an internet connection. Which companies are using their internet servers as replacements for hardware dongles? I want to see a complete list of software and devices that become completely unusable without a live internet connection. Just remember the infamous case of the Razer Synapse.
China

China Overtakes US In Latest Top 500 Supercomputer List (enterprisecloudnews.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Enterprise Cloud News: The release of the semiannual Top 500 Supercomputer List is a chance to gauge the who's who of countries that are pushing the boundaries of high-performance computing. The most recent list, released Monday, shows that China is now in a class by itself. China now claims 202 systems within the Top 500, while the United States -- once the dominant player -- tumbles to second place with 143 systems represented on the list. Only a few months ago, the U.S. had 169 systems within the Top 500 compared to China's 160. The growth of China and the decline of the United States within the Top 500 has prompted the U.S. Department of Energy to doll out $258 million in grants to several tech companies to develop exascale systems, the next great leap in HPC. These systems can handle a billion billion calculations a second, or 1 exaflop. However, even as these physical machines grow more and more powerful, a good portion of supercomputing power is moving to the cloud, where it can be accessed by more researchers and scientists, making the technology more democratic.
Businesses

Here Comes the World's Biggest Shopping Spree -- Again (bloomberg.com) 38

A reader shares a report: On Nov. 11, China celebrates Singles Day, a holiday dedicated to the nation's unattached. It's also the world's largest shopping festival -- and a bonanza for internet giant Alibaba Group. Up to 500 million consumers will visit sites run by the company searching for discounts on items including Bordeaux wine, UGG boots, SUVs, and high-end Japanese toilets. Citigroup estimates that Alibaba's sales during this year's event could reach 158 billion yuan ($23.8 billion). For Alibaba, Singles Day will also be a demonstration of how far its cloud business has come in eight years. At the peak of activity, Alibaba's servers may be tasked with processing 175,000 transactions a second from its own sites. "It's the day when the largest amount of computing power is needed in China," says He Yunfei, a senior product manager for Alibaba Cloud. [...] Alibaba dominates the Chinese cloud -- in part because local regulators won't issue data center operating licenses to foreign companies, curtailing the China ambitions of Amazon.com and Microsoft, the No. 1 and No. 2 cloud providers globally.

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