Facebook

China's Tencent Breaks Through $500bn Stock Market Capitalisation (bbc.com) 77

An anonymous reader shares a report: The value of China's biggest social network company -- Tencent Holdings -- has overtaken that of Facebook. The company owns WeChat, an enormously popular messaging app in China, and hit gaming franchises such as League of Legends and Honour of Kings.It is the first Asian firm to surpass a market value of $500bn. Its chief executive, Ma Huateng, is now worth more than the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes. The magazine valued him at $48.3bn on Tuesday, making him the world's ninth richest man according to its ranking.
Microsoft

Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs (wsj.com) 255

Tatyana Shumsky, reporting for WSJ: Adobe's finance chief Mark Garrett says his team struggles keeping track of which jobs have been filled at the software company. The process can take days and requires finance staff to pull data from disparate systems that house financial and human-resources information into Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets. From there they can see which groups are hiring and how salary spending affects the budget. "I don't want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us," Mr. Garrett said. He is working on cutting Excel out of this process, he said. CFOs at companies including P.F. Chang's China Bistro, ABM Industries and Wintrust Financial are on a similar drive to reduce how much their finance teams use Excel for financial planning, analysis and reporting (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available). Finance chiefs say the ubiquitous spreadsheet software that revolutionized accounting in the 1980s hasn't kept up with the demands of contemporary corporate finance units. Errors can bloom because data in Excel is separated from other systems and isn't automatically updated.
Businesses

Apple's New iPhone Built With Illegal Overtime Teen Labor (bloomberg.com) 157

Apple's main supplier in Asia has been employing high-school students working illegal overtime to assemble the iPhone X in an effort to catch up with demand after facing production delays, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, citing several teenagers involved. From a report: A group of 3,000 students from the Zhengzhou Urban Rail Transit School were sent to work at the local facility run by Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry, known as Foxconn, as part of a three-month stint that was billed as "work experience," and required to graduate, the Financial Times reported. Six of the students told the FT they routinely worked 11-hour days assembling Apple's flagship smartphone, which constitutes illegal overtime for student interns under Chinese law. Apple said an audit did find instances of student interns working overtime, adding that they were employed voluntarily, were compensated and provided benefits, but that they shouldn't have been allowed to work overtime.
Censorship

Skype Vanishes From App Stores in China (nytimes.com) 37

Skype, Microsoft's Internet phone call and messaging service, has been unavailable for download from a number of app stores in China, including Apple's, for almost a month (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), The New York Times reported on Tuesday. From the report: "We have been notified by the Ministry of Public Security that a number of voice over internet protocol apps do not comply with local law. Therefore these apps have been removed from the app store in China," an Apple spokeswoman said Tuesday in an emailed statement responding to questions about Skype's disappearance from the app store. "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business." The removal led to a volley of complaints from Chinese users on internet message boards who were no longer able to pay for Skype's services through Apple. The users said that the disruption began in late October. Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, still functions in China, and its fate in the country is not yet clear. But its removal from the app stores is the most recent example of a decades-long push by China's government to control and monitor the flow of information online.
The Military

Massive US Military Social Media Spying Archive Left Wide Open In AWS S3 Buckets (theregister.co.uk) 84

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.

China

China Builds World's Fastest Hypersonic Wind Tunnel To Simulate Flight At 27,000 MPH (scmp.com) 63

schwit1 quotes a report from South China Morning Post: China is building the world's fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometers per second (~27,000 miles per hour). Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China's hypersonic weapon development program. "It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground," said Zhao. The world's most powerful wind tunnel at present is America's LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometers per second -- 30 times the speed of sound. Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel at speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above.

In the new tunnel there will be a test chamber with room for relatively large aircraft models with a wing span of almost three meters. To generate an airflow at extremely high speeds, the researchers will detonate several tubes containing a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen gases to create a series of explosions that can discharge one gigawatt of power within a split second, according to Zhao. The shock waves, channelled into the test chamber through a metallic tunnel, will envelope the prototype vehicle and increase the temperature over its body to 8,000 Kelvins, or 7,727 degrees Celsius, Zhao said. The new tunnel would also be used to test the scramjet, a new type of jet engine designed specifically for hypersonic flights. Traditional jet engines are not capable of handling air flows at such speeds.

Android

OnePlus 5T Featuring 6-inch AMOLED Display, 3.5mm Headphone Jack Launched (wired.com) 54

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, which has been lauded by consumers for offering phones with top-of-the-line specs at a reasonably affordable price range, on Thursday at an event in New York announced its newest flagship smartphone. Called the OnePlus 5T, the handset sports a 6.01-inch AMOLED screen (screen resolution 1080 x 2160) manufactured by Samsung in a body that is roughly of the same size as the 5.5-inch display-clad predecessor OnePlus 5. The secret sauce is, much like Samsung, LG and Apple, OnePlus has moved to a near bezel-less design. The company is not getting rid of the fingerprint scanner though, which it has pushed to the back side. The front-facing camera, additionally, OnePlus says, can be used to unlock the device. Other features include a 3,300mAh battery with the company's proprietary Dash Charge fast-charging tech (no wireless charging support -- the company says at present wireless charging doesn't really add much value to the device), top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with Adreno 540, 6GB of RAM with 64GB of storage (there is another variant of the phone which offers 8GB of RAM with 128GB of space). As for camera, we are looking at a dual 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel setup in the back. One more thing: the phone has a headphone jack and it runs Android 7.1 out of the box. The OnePlus 5T will go on sale in Europe, India, and the United States starting November 21st, with the base model priced at Euro 499, INR 32,999, and $499, respectively. The high-end variant is priced at Euro 559, INR 37,999, and $559. Wired has more details.
The Internet

China Cyber Watchdog Rejects Censorship Critics, Says Internet Must Be 'Orderly' (reuters.com) 78

China's top cyber authority on Thursday rejected a recent report ranking it last out of 65 countries for press freedom, saying the internet must be "orderly" and the international community should join it in addressing fake news and other cyber issues. From a report: Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said the rapid development of the country's internet over two decades is proof of its success and that it advocates for the free flow of information. "We should not just make the internet fully free, it also needs to be orderly... The United States and Europe also need to deal with these fake news and rumors," Ren told journalists without elaborating.
Android

UC Browser Mobile App Disappears From Google Play Store (medianama.com) 34

UC Browser, a popular mobile web browser owned by China's Alibaba Group, has mysteriously disappeared from the Google Play Store. The app was pulled from the Google Play Store on November 12, according to data from app analytics firm App Annie. Several users began inquiring about the app's whereabouts earlier this week on Reddit. It was not immediately clear why UC Browser had been pulled from Android's marquee app store. According to Twitter user Mike Ross, who claims to be a developer at Alibaba Group, Google pulled UC Browser from its store due to "misleading" and "unhealthy" promotional tactics used by the company to increase the install count of its app. UC Browser is still available to download on Apple's App Store, Amazon's Android store, and through company's official website. UC Browser Mini, a light version of the company's browser is notably still listed on Google Play. Though UC Browser is not a household name in the Western markets, the Alibaba's app is incredibly popular in markets such as India. It has been among the top six most downloaded apps from Google Play in India for the last two years, venture capitalist Mary Meeker noted in her yearly internet report in May this year. As of July, UC Browser had been installed more than 100 million times worldwide from Google Play Store.
China

All 500 of the World's Top 500 Supercomputers Are Running Linux (zdnet.com) 287

Freshly Exhumed shares a report from ZDnet: Linux rules supercomputing. This day has been coming since 1998, when Linux first appeared on the TOP500 Supercomputer list. Today, it finally happened: All 500 of the world's fastest supercomputers are running Linux. The last two non-Linux systems, a pair of Chinese IBM POWER computers running AIX, dropped off the November 2017 TOP500 Supercomputer list. When the first TOP500 supercomputer list was compiled in June 1993, Linux was barely more than a toy. It hadn't even adopted Tux as its mascot yet. It didn't take long for Linux to start its march on supercomputing.

From when it first appeared on the TOP500 in 1998, Linux was on its way to the top. Before Linux took the lead, Unix was supercomputing's top operating system. Since 2003, the TOP500 was on its way to Linux domination. By 2004, Linux had taken the lead for good. This happened for two reasons: First, since most of the world's top supercomputers are research machines built for specialized tasks, each machine is a standalone project with unique characteristics and optimization requirements. To save costs, no one wants to develop a custom operating system for each of these systems. With Linux, however, research teams can easily modify and optimize Linux's open-source code to their one-off designs.
The semiannual TOP500 Supercomputer List was released yesterday. It also shows that China now claims 202 systems within the TOP500, while the United States claims 143 systems.
Software

Apple Is Back To Being the World's Top Wearable Maker (techcrunch.com) 48

Apple is once again the biggest selling producer of wearables after its third-generation Apple Watch, released in September, helped it pip China's Xiaomi to the post. TechCrunch reports: The new device, Apple's first that connects to the internet without being tethered to a smartphone, took the U.S. mobile giant to 3.9 million shipments in the recent Q3 2017, according to new data from Canalys. The firm estimates that the gen-three version accounted for just 800,000 shipments, due to supply issues, which bodes well for Apple coming into the lucrative holiday season. That figure was a big jump on 2.8 million shipments one year previous. It also gave Apple 23 percent of the market, putting it fractionally ahead of the 21 percent for Xiaomi, the Chinese firm that was briefly top of the industry for the first time in the previous quarter. Apple's wearable division has enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, grabbing the top spot in Q1 for overall wearables the first time since Q3 2015. CEO Tim Cook said in Apple's most recent earnings report that Watch sales were up by 50 percent for the third consecutive quarter thanks to a focus on health services. As for the others: Fitbit took third in Q3 2017 for 20 percent, while phone makers Huawei (six percent) and Samsung (five percent) were some way behind in rounding out the top five. In proof of considerable fragmentation within the industry, "other brands" accounted for a dominant 25 percent, according to Canalys' figures.
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

Solar Companies Are Scrambling to Find a Critical Raw Material (bloomberg.com) 134

Solar manufacturers are being battered by higher costs and smaller margins, after an unexpected shortage of a critical raw material. From a report, shared by an anonymous reader: Prices of polysilicon, the main component of photovoltaic cells, spiked as much as 35 percent in the past four months after environmental regulators in China shut down several factories. That's driving up production costs as panel prices continue to decline, and dragging down earnings for manufacturers in China, the world's biggest supplier. "There's just not enough polysilicon in China," said Carter Driscoll, an analyst who covers solar companies for FBR & Co. "If prices don't come down, it will crush margins."
China

China Says Foreign Firms Won't Be Forced To Turn Over Technology (vice.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: A top Communist Party official said Friday that China won't force foreign companies to turn over technology secrets to gain market access, signaling attention to a key sticking point with U.S. President Donald Trump as he prepared to leave Beijing. The statement by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, the Communist Party's No. 4 official, was made in an article published in the People's Daily newspaper under his byline. While other Chinese officials have made similar pledges in the past about foreign technology, Wang's statement stands out for the seniority of the person making it and its timing. In his article, Wang also pledged to improve the foreign investment environment and treat all companies equally. China will also increase access to its services and manufacturing sectors, wrote Wang, who was last month promoted to the country's top-decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.
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.
China

China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home (nytimes.com) 103

Paul Mozur, reporting for the New York Times: China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion. As if to demonstrate the platform's effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). So much do China's government and companies value Facebook that the country is Facebook's biggest advertising market in Asia, even as it is the only major country in the region that blocks the social network. A look at the Facebook pages of China Central Television, the leading state-owned broadcast network better known as CCTV, and Xinhua, China's official news agency, reveals hundreds of English-language posts intended for an English-speaking audience. Each quarter China's government, through its state media agencies, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Facebook ads, according to a person with knowledge of those deals, who was unauthorized to talk publicly about the company's revenue streams. China's propaganda efforts are in the spotlight with President Trump visiting the country and American lawmakers investigating foreign powers's use of technology to sway voters in the United States.
Earth

New Technology Should Be Neither Feared Nor Trusted (bloomberg.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: How should we think about new and future technologies? The two main stances seem to be extreme optimism and extreme pessimism. A better approach would be careful planning and management. Optimists tend to overlook the fact that the technological successes of the past required a lot of social engineering before their benefits became widely shared. Countries like Maoist China and North Korea implemented perverse economic systems that withheld the bounty of modern technology from most of their citizens. And poor countries didn't really begin to beat poverty until decades after colonialism ended. Pessimists, meanwhile, often assume that new technologies can be stopped in their tracks by act of popular will. They probably can't. Even the most impoverished, repressive regimes of the 20th century adopted new technologies, and often suffered their worst consequences. Scientific research and invention, meanwhile, can be forbidden in one country or another, but probably not at the global level: Someone, somewhere, will study even the scariest ideas.

A better approach, then, is technology management. We should be as realistic as we can about each innovation's potential benefits and dangers. And instead of thinking about how to suppress new technologies, we should think about how to regulate them and channel them toward broad social benefit. Emerging technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are at our doorstep, and there is no putting the genie back in the bottle. But letting them develop haphazardly entails large risks. Instead, government and industry need to be funding proactive efforts to bring them into widespread, well-regulated use. In the end, technology is what we choose to make of it.

Earth

The US Is Now the Only Country In the World To Reject the Paris Climate Deal 719

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, Syria announced that it would sign the Paris climate agreement -- a landmark deal that commits almost 200 countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming. With Nicaragua also joining the deal last month, the United States is now the only country in the world that opposes it. In June, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, unless it is renegotiated to be "fair" to the United States. But other countries in the deal, such as France, Germany, and Italy, said that's not possible. The Trump administration is also taking steps to roll back regulations passed under former President Barack Obama to achieve the emissions reduction goals set under the Paris deal. The U.S. is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world after China. "With Syria's decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever," Paula Caballero, director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the Times. "The U.S.'s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change."
Businesses

China is Finally Going After Click Farms and Fake Online Sales (bloomberg.com) 20

China enacted sweeping changes to a business competition law to address fraud in the e-commerce industry, which is plagued by malfeasance ranging from fake positive reviews to merchants goosing sales numbers. From a report: The National People's Congress adopted revisions Saturday to the Anti-Unfair Competition Law intended to address online retailers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The changes take effect Jan. 1 but were announced days before Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.'s Nov. 11 Singles' Day bargain extravaganza, which dwarfs Black Friday in the U.S. in terms of revenue. The Chinese law initially took effect in 1993 as a way to protect consumers and businesses from unfair market practices. At that time, none of China's biggest online companies -- including Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd., Baidu Inc. and JD.com Inc. -- even existed. As e-commerce developed and prospered, attendant problems grew with it. These latest revisions stipulate that operators shouldn't deceive consumers by faking sales or employing "click farms" to rack up positive product reviews -- increasingly common practices that have drawn the ire of buyers. And the rules encompass the entire breadth of internet commerce, from online goods and movie ticketing to food delivery.
Earth

The US Has Destroyed A Critical Sea Ice-Measuring Satellite (scientificamerican.com) 283

"A key polar satellite used to measure the Arctic ice cap failed a few days ago, leaving the U.S. with only three others, and those have lived well beyond their shelf lives," writes long-time Slashdot reader edibobb. The Guardian reports that all three of the remaining satellites "are all beginning to drift out of their orbits over the poles" and will no longer be operational by 2023. This could put an end to nearly 40 years of uninterrupted data on polar ice, notes the original submission, adding "It seems like there would be a backup satellite, right?

"In fact, there was a backup satellite ready to go." The $58 million satellite was dismantled in 2016 when the Republican-controlled Congress cut its funding. (The Guardian reports that many scientists "say this decision was made for purely ideological reasons.") Now Nature reports: The U.S. military is developing another set of weather satellites...but the one carrying a microwave sensor will not launch before 2022. That means that when the current three aging satellites die, the United States will be without a reliable, long-term source of sea-ice data... For now, the the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center is preparing for those scenarios by incorporating data from Japan's AMSR2 microwave sensor into its sea-ice record. Another, more politically fraught option is to pull in data from the China Meteorological Administration's Fengyun satellite series... Since 2011 Congress has banned NASA scientists from working with Chinese scientists -- but not necessarily from using Chinese data. One final possibility is finding a way to launch the passive-microwave sensor that scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory salvaged from the dismantled DMSP satellite. The sensor currently sits at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, where researchers are trying to find a way to get it into orbit.

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