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AI

Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba 266

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-for-one-don't-worry-about-our-new-robotic-overlords dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Writer and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, Alva Noe, isn't worried that we will soon be under the rule of shiny metal overlords. He says that currently we can't produce "...machines that exhibit the agency and awareness of an amoeba." He writes at NPR: "One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence. This really ought to be obvious. Clocks may keep time, but they don't know what time it is. And strictly speaking, it is we who use them to tell time. But the same is true of Watson, the IBM supercomputer that supposedly played Jeopardy! and dominated the human competition. Watson answered no questions. It participated in no competition. It didn't do anything. All the doing was on our side. We played Jeapordy! with Watson. We used 'it' the way we use clocks.""
Cloud

Microsoft Azure Outage Across the Globe 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-you-should-call-it-office364 dept.
hawkinspeter writes: The BBC reports that overnight an outage of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform took down many third-party sites that rely on it, in addition to disrupting Microsoft's own products. Office 365 and Xbox Live services were affected.

This happened at a particularly inopportune time, as Microsoft has recently been pushing its Azure services in an effort to catch up with other providers such as Amazon, IBM, and Google. Just a couple of hours previously, Microsoft had screened an Azure advert in the UK during the Scotland v. England soccer match."
(Most services are back online. As of this writing, Application Insights is still struggling, and Europe is having problems with hosted VMs.)
AI

Does Watson Have the Answer To Big Blue's Uncertain Future? 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-i-need-those-TPS-reports-right-now dept.
HughPickens.com writes: IBM has recently delivered a string of disappointing quarters, and announced recently that it would take a multibillion-dollar hit to offload its struggling chip business. But Will Knight writes at MIT Technology Review that Watson may have the answer to IBM's uncertain future. IBM's vast research department was recently reorganized to ramp up efforts related to cognitive computing. The push began with the development of the original Watson, but has expanded to include other areas of software and hardware research aimed at helping machines provide useful insights from huge quantities of often-messy data. "We're betting billions of dollars, and a third of this division now is working on it," says John Kelly, director of IBM Research, said of cognitive computing, a term the company uses to refer to artificial intelligence techniques related to Watson. The hope is that the Watson Business Group, a division aimed making its Jeopardy!-winning cognitive computing application more of a commercial success, will be able to answer more complicated questions in all sorts of industries, including health care, financial investment, and oil discovery; and that it will help IBM build a lucrative new computer-driven consulting business.

But Watson is still a work in progress. Some companies and researchers testing Watson systems have reported difficulties in adapting the technology to work with their data sets. "It's not taking off as quickly as they would like," says Robert Austin. "This is one of those areas where turning demos into real business value depends on the devils in the details. I think there's a bold new world coming, but not as fast as some people think." IBM needs software developers to embrace its vision and build services and apps that use its cognitive computing technology. In May of this year it announced that seven universities would offer computer science classes in cognitive computing and last month IBM revealed a list of partners that have developed applications by tapping into application programming interfaces that access versions of Watson running in the cloud. Big Blue said it will invest $1 billion into the Watson division including $100 million to fund startups developing cognitive apps. "I very much admire the end goal," says Boris Katz, adding that business pressures could encourage IBM's researchers to move more quickly than they would like. "If the management is patient, they will really go far."
IBM

Khrushchev's 1959 Visit To IBM 54

Posted by timothy
from the economic-coordination dept.
harrymcc (1641347) writes In September of 1959, Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, spent 12 days touring the U.S. One of his stops was IBM's facilities in San Jose, which helped to create the area later known as Silicon Valley. The premier got to see the first computer which came with a hard disk, which IBM programmed to answer history questions. But what he was most impressed by was IBM's modern cafeteria. Over at Fast Company, I've chronicled this fascinating and little-known moment in tech history, which will be covered in an upcoming PBS program on Khrushchev's U.S. trip.
Open Source

Slashdot Asks: Appropriate Place For Free / Open Source Software Artifacts? 46

Posted by timothy
from the you-haul dept.
A friend of mine who buys and sells used books, movies, etc. recently purchased a box full of software on CD, including quite a few old Linux distributions, and asked me if I'd like them. The truth is, I would like them, but I've already collected over the last two decades more than I should in the way of Linux distributions, on at least four kinds of media (starting with floppies made from a CD that accompanied a fat book on how to install some distribution or other -- very useful in the days of dialup). I've got some boxes (Debian Potato, and a few versions of Red Hat and Mandrake Linux), and an assortment of marketing knickknacks, T-shirts, posters, and books. I like these physical artifacts, and they're not dominating my life, but I'd prefer to actually give many of them to someplace where they'll be curated. (Or, if they should be tossed, tossed intelligently.) Can anyone point to a public collection of some kind that gathers physical objects associated with Free software and Open Source, and makes them available for others to examine? (I plan to give some hardware, like a pair of OLPC XO laptops, to the same Goodwill computer museum highlighted in this video, but they probably don't want an IBM-branded radio in the shape of a penguin.)
Supercomputing

16-Teraflops, £97m Cray To Replace IBM At UK Meteorological Office 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the crayzy-powerful dept.
Memetic writes: The UK weather forecasting service is replacing its IBM supercomputer with a Cray XC40 containing 17 petabytes of storage and capable of 16 TeraFLOPS. This is Cray's biggest contract outside the U.S. With 480,000 CPUs, it should be 13 times faster than the current system. It will weigh 140 tons. The aim is to enable more accurate modeling of the unstable UK climate, with UK-wide forecasts at a resolution of 1.5km run hourly, rather than every three hours, as currently happens. (Here's a similar system from the U.S.)
Businesses

Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business" 283

Posted by timothy
from the but-they-sure-have-a-good-catalog dept.
theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."
Government

Sale of IBM's Chip-Making Business To GlobalFoundries To Get US Security Review 95

Posted by timothy
from the asking-permission-is-the-new-liberty dept.
dcblogs writes IBM is an officially sanctioned trusted supplier to the U.S. Defense Dept., and the transfer of its semiconductor manufacturing to GlobalFoundries, a U.S.-based firm owned by investors in Abu Dhabi, will get U.S. scrutiny. Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. John Adams, who authored a report last year for an industry group about U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities and national security, said regulators will have to look closely. "I don't want cast aspersions unnecessarily on Abu Dubai — but they're not Canada," said Adams "I think that the news that we may be selling part of our supply chain for semiconductors to a foreign investor is actually bad news."
IBM

IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division 84

Posted by timothy
from the watson-told-them-to dept.
helix2301 writes with word that Big Blue has become slightly smaller: IBM will pay $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries in order to shed its costly chip division. IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it took a $4.7 billion charge for the third quarter when it reported earnings Monday. The company fell short of Wall Street profit expectations and revenue slid 4 percent, sending shares down 8 percent before the opening bell.
AI

Outsourced Tech Jobs Are Increasingly Being Automated 236

Posted by timothy
from the ban-farm-equipment dept.
Jason Koebler writes Yahoo announced [Tuesday] it would be laying off at least 400 workers in its Indian office, and back in February, IBM cut roughly 2,000 jobs there. Meanwhile, tech companies are beginning to see that many of the jobs it has outsourced can be automated, instead. Labor in India and China is still cheaper than it is in the United States, but it's not the obvious economic move that it was just a few years ago: "The labor costs are becoming significant enough in China and India that there are very real discussions about automating jobs there now," Mark Muro, an economist at Brookings, said. "Companies are seeing that automated replacements are getting to be 'good enough.'"
Input Devices

The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-to-irritate-coworkers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Adi Robertson argues that IBM's Model M keyboard, soon to turn 30 is still the only keyboard worth using for many people. Introduced in 1985 as part of the IBM 3161 terminal, the Model M was initially called the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard." A PC-compatible version appeared the following spring, and it officially became standard with the IBM Personal System / 2 in 1987. The layout of the Model M has been around so long that today it's simply taken for granted, but the keyboard's descendants have jettisoned one of the Model M's most iconic features — "buckling springs," designed to provide auditory and tactile feedback to the keyboard operator. "Model M owners sometimes ruefully post stories of spouses and coworkers who can't stand the incessant chatter. But fans say the springs' resistance and their audible "click" make it clear when a keypress is registered, reducing errors," writes Robertson. "Maybe more importantly, typing on the Model M is a special, tangible experience. Much like on a typewriter, the sharp click gives every letter a physical presence."

According to Robertson, the Model M is an artifact from a time when high-end computing was still the province of industry, not pleasure. But while today's manufacturers have long since abandoned the concept of durability and longevity, refurbished Model Ms are still available from aficionados like Brandon Ermita, a Princeton University IT manager who recovers them from supply depots and recycling centers and sells them through his site, ClickyKeyboards. "For the very few that still appreciate the tactile feel of a typewriter-based computer keyboard and can still appreciate the simplicity of black letters on white keys, one can still seek out and own an original IBM model M keyboard — a little piece of early computing history," says Ermita. As one Reddit user recently commented, "Those bastards are the ORIGINAL gaming keyboards. No matter how much you abuse it, you'll die before it does.""
Supercomputing

Supercomputing Upgrade Produces High-Resolution Storm Forecasts 77

Posted by samzenpus
from the clearer-pictures dept.
dcblogs writes A supercomputer upgrade is paying off for the U.S. National Weather Service, with new high-resolution models that will offer better insight into severe weather. This improvement in modeling detail is a result of a supercomputer upgrade. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which runs the weather service, put into production two new IBM supercomputers, each 213 teraflops, running Linux on Intel processors. These systems replaced 74-teraflop, four-year old systems. More computing power means systems can run more mathematics, and increase the resolution or detail on the maps from 8 miles to 2 miles.
Software

End of an Era: After a 30 Year Run, IBM Drops Support For Lotus 1-2-3 156

Posted by timothy
from the final-death-knell-is-the-best-one dept.
klubar writes Although it has been fading for years, the final death knell came recently for the iconic Lotus 1-2-3. In many ways, Lotus 1-2-3 launched the PC era (and ensured the Apple II success), and once was a serious competitor for Excel (and prior to that Multiplan and VisiCalc). Although I doubt if anyone is creating new Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets, I'm sure there are spreadsheets still being used who trace their origin to Lotus 1-2-3, and even Office 2013 still has some functions and key compatibility with Lotus 1-2-3. Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.
Bug

Xen Cloud Fix Shows the Right Way To Patch Open-Source Flaws 81

Posted by timothy
from the steady-as-she-goes dept.
darthcamaro writes Amazon, Rackspace and IBM have all patched their public clouds over the last several days due to a vulnerability in the Xen hypervisor. According to a new report, the Xen project was first advised of the issue two weeks ago, but instead of the knee jerk type reactions we've seen with Heartbleed and now Shellshock, the Xen project privately fixed the bug and waited until all the major Xen deployments were patched before any details were released. Isn't this the way that all open-source projects should fix security issues? And if it's not, what is?
IBM

Lenovo Set To Close $2.1 Billion Server Deal With IBM 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes Lenovo has announced that it will be closing the acquisition deal of IBM's x86 server business on October 1. The closing purchase price is lower than the $2.3 billion announced in January because of a change in the valuation of inventory and deferred revenue liability, Lenovo said. Roughly $1.8 billion will be paid in cash and the remainder in stock. Lenovo says it had "big plans" for the enterprise market. "We will compete vigorously across every sector, using our manufacturing scale, and operational excellence to repeat the success we have had with PCs," the company added.
IBM

IBM Solar Concentrator Can Produce12kW/day, Clean Water, and AC 268

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one dept.
Lucas123 writes IBM Research and Switzerland-based Airlight Energy today announced a parabolic dish that increases the sun's radiation by 2,000 times while also producing fresh water and air conditioning. The new Concentrator PhotoVoltaics (CPV) system uses a dense array of water-cooled solar chips that can convert 80% of the sun's radiation into useful energy. The CPV, which looks like a 33-foot-high sunflower, can generate 12 kilowatts of electrical power and 20 kilowatts of heat on a sunny day — enough to power several average homes, according to Bruno Michel, the project's lead scientists at IBM Research in Switzerland.
Cloud

IBM Opens Up Its Watson Supercomputer To Researchers 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-it-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes IBM has announced the "Watson Discovery Advisor" a cloud-based tool that will let researchers comb through massive troves of data, looking for insights and connections. The company says it's a major expansion in capabilities for the Watson Group, which IBM seeded with a $1 billion investment. "Scientific discovery takes us to a different level as a learning system," said Steve Gold, vice president of the Watson Group. "Watson can provide insights into the information independent of the question. The ability to connect the dots opens up a new world of possibilities."
Hardware

Slashdot Talks WIth IBM Power Systems GM Doug Balog (Video) 36

Posted by Roblimo
from the 1-u-2-u-more-u-than-u-bargained-4 dept.
Yesterday we had a story titled 'IBM Gearing Up Mega Power 8 Servers For October Launch.' In the intro Timothy wrote, '...watch for a video interview with Balog on how he's helping spend the billion dollars that IBM pledged last year on open source development.' This is that video, and in it Balog tells us how much IBM loves Linux and open source, and how they're partnering with multiple distros, recently including Ubuntu. So get ready for Power 8 servers in October. IBM is pushing them like mad -- especially in the Linux/FOSS realm. (Alternate Video Link)
IBM

IBM Gearing Up Mega Power 8 Servers For October Launch 113

Posted by timothy
from the more-power-to-'em dept.
darthcamaro (735685) writes "Now that IBM has sold off its x86 server business to Lenovo, it's full steam ahead for IBM's Power business. While Intel is ramping up its next generation of server silicon for a September launch, IBM has its next lineup of Power 8 servers set to be announced in October. "There is a larger than 4U, 2 socket system coming out," Doug Balog, General Manager of Power Systems within IBM's System and Technology Group said. Can IBM Power 8 actually take on x86? Or has that ship already sailed?" At last weekend's Linux Con in Chicago, IBM talked up the availability of the Power systems, and that they are working with several Linux vendors, including recently-added Ubuntu; watch for a video interview with Balog on how he's helping spend the billion dollars that IBM pledged last year on open source development.
Businesses

Tech Looks To Obama To Save Them From 'Just Sort of OK' US Workers 441

Posted by Soulskill
from the right-in-the-pride dept.
theodp writes Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best."

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