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Government

After Healthcare Defeat, Can The Trump Administration Fix America's H-1B Visa Program? (bloomberg.com) 309

Friday the Trump administration suffered a political setback when divisions in the president's party halted a move to repeal healthcare policies passed in 2010. But if Trump hopes to turn his attention to how America's H-1B visa program is affecting technology workers, "time is running out," writes Slashdot reader pteddy. Bloomberg reports: [T]he application deadline for the most controversial visa program is the first week of April, which means new rules have to be in place for that batch of applicants or another year's worth of visas will be handed out under the existing guidelines... There probably isn't enough time to pass legislation on such a contentious issue. But Trump could sign an executive order with some changes. The article points out that under the current system, one outsourcing firm was granted 6.5 times as many U.S. visas as Amazon. There's also an interesting map showing which countries' workers received the most H-1B visas in 2015 -- 69.4% went to workers in India, with another 10.5% going to China -- and a chart showing which positions are most in demand, indicating that two-thirds of the visa applications are for tech workers.
Patents

Apple Explores Using An iPhone, iPad To Power a Laptop (appleinsider.com) 66

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has filed a patent for an "Electronic accessory device." It describes a "thin" accessory that contains traditional laptop hardware like a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and more -- all of which is powered by an iPhone or iPad. The device powering the hardware would fit into a slot built into the accessory. AppleInsider reports: While the accessory can take many forms, the document for the most part remains limited in scope to housings that mimic laptop form factors. In some embodiments, for example, the accessory includes a port shaped to accommodate a host iPhone or iPad. Located in the base portion, this slot might also incorporate a communications interface and a means of power transfer, perhaps Lightning or a Smart Connector. Alternatively, a host device might transfer data and commands to the accessory via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol. Onboard memory modules would further extend an iOS device's capabilities. Though the document fails to delve into details, accessory memory would presumably allow an iPhone or iPad to write and read app data. In other cases, a secondary operating system or firmware might be installed to imitate a laptop environment or store laptop-ready versions of iOS apps. In addition to crunching numbers, a host device might also double as a touch input. For example, an iPhone positioned below the accessory's keyboard can serve as the unit's multitouch touchpad, complete with Force Touch input and haptic feedback. Coincidentally, the surface area of a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very similar to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple's new MacBook Pro models. Some embodiments also allow for the accessory to carry an internal GPU, helping a host device power the larger display or facilitate graphics rendering not possible on iPhone or iPad alone. Since the accessory is technically powered by iOS, its built-in display is touch-capable, an oft-requested feature for Mac. Alternatively, certain embodiments have an iPad serving as the accessory's screen, with keyboard, memory, GPU and other operating guts located in the attached base portion. This latter design resembles a beefed up version of Apple's Smart Case for iPad.
Government

US Federal Budget Proposal Cuts Science Funding (washingtonpost.com) 648

hey! writes: The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has released a budget "blueprint" which outlines substantial cuts in both basic research and applied technology funding. The proposal includes a whopping 18% reduction in National Institutes of Health medical research. NIH does get a new $500 million fund to track emerging infectious agents like Zika in the U.S., but loses its funding to monitor those agents overseas. The Department of Energy's research programs also get an 18% cut in research, potentially affecting basic physics research, high energy physics, fusion research, and supercomputing. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) gets the ax, as does the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which enabled Tesla to manufacture its Model S sedan. EPA loses all climate research funding, and about half the research funding targeted at human health impacts of pollution. The Energy Star program is eliminated; Superfund funding is drastically reduced. The Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes cleanup programs are also eliminated, as is all screening of pesticides for endocrine disruption. In the Department of Commerce, Sea Grant is eliminated, along with all coastal zone research funding. Existing weather satellites GOES and JPSS continue funding, but JPSS-3 and -4 appear to be getting the ax. Support for transfer of federally funded research and technology to small and mid-sized manufacturers is eliminated. NASA gets a slight trim, and a new focus on deep space exploration paid for by an elimination of Earth Science programs. You can read more about this "blueprint" in Nature, Science, and the Washington Post, which broke the story. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and Agriculture Department took the hardest hits, while the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs have seen their budgets grow.
Operating Systems

NetBSD 7.1 Released (netbsd.org) 45

New submitter fisted writes: The NetBSD Project is pleased to announce NetBSD 7.1, the first feature update of the NetBSD 7 release branch. It represents a selected subset of fixes deemed important for security or stability reasons, as well as new features and enhancements. Some highlights of the 7.1 release are:

-Support for Raspberry Pi Zero.
-Initial DRM/KMS support for NVIDIA graphics cards via nouveau (Disabled by default. Uncomment nouveau and nouveaufb in your kernel config to test).
The addition of vioscsi, a driver for the Google Compute Engine disk.
-Linux compatibility improvements, allowing, e.g., the use of Adobe Flash Player 24.
-wm(4): C2000 KX and 2.5G support; Wake On Lan support; 82575 and newer SERDES based systems now work.
-ODROID-C1 Ethernet now works.
-Numerous bug fixes and stability improvements.

NetBSD is free. All of the code is under non-restrictive licenses, and may be used without paying royalties to anyone. Free support services are available via our mailing lists and website. Commercial support is available from a variety of sources. More extensive information on NetBSD is available from http://www.NetBSD.org.
You can download NetBSD 7.1 from one of these mirror sites.
Firefox

Will WebAssembly Replace JavaScript? (medium.com) 235

On Tuesday Firefox 52 became the first browser to support WebAssembly, a new standard "to enable near-native performance for web applications" without a plug-in by pre-compiling code into low-level, machine-ready instructions. Mozilla engineer Lin Clark sees this as an inflection point where the speed of browser-based applications increases dramatically. An anonymous reader quotes David Bryant, the head of platform engineering at Mozilla. This new standard will enable amazing video games and high-performance web apps for things like computer-aided design, video and image editing, and scientific visualization... Over time, many existing productivity apps (e.g. email, social networks, word processing) and JavaScript frameworks will likely use WebAssembly to significantly reduce load times while simultaneously improving performance while running... developers can integrate WebAssembly libraries for CPU-intensive calculations (e.g. compression, face detection, physics) into existing web apps that use JavaScript for less intensive work... In some ways, WebAssembly changes what it means to be a web developer, as well as the fundamental abilities of the web.
Mozilla celebrated with a demo video of the high-resolution graphics of Zen Garden, and while right now WebAssembly supports compilation from C and C++ (plus some preliminary support for Rust), "We expect that, as WebAssembly continues to evolve, you'll also be able to use it with programming languages often used for mobile apps, like Java, Swift, and C#."
Graphics

NVIDIA Lifts Veil On GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Performance Reviews, Which Show Faster Speeds Than Titan X (hothardware.com) 51

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA is officially launching its most powerful gaming graphics card today, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. It was announced last week at the Game Developers Conference and pre-orders began shortly thereafter. However, the cards will begin shipping today and NVIDIA has lifted the veil on performance reviews. Though its memory complement and a few blocks within the GPU are reduced versus NVIDIA's previous top-end card, the Titan X, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti makes up for its shortcomings with a combination of refinement and the brute force of higher memory clocks, based on new and improved Micron GDDR5X memory, faster core clocks and an improved cooler. For gamers, the good news is, the 1080 Ti retails for $699, versus $1200 for the Titan X, and it is in fact faster, for the most part. Throughout a battery of game tests and benchmarks, regardless of the resolution or settings used, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti performed on par with or slightly faster than the NVIDIA Titan X and roughly 30-35% better than the standard GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Versus AMD's current flagship GPU, the Radeon R9 Fury X, there is no competition; the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti was nearly 2x faster than the Fury X in some cases.
Operating Systems

Dell Doubles Down On High-End Ubuntu Linux Laptops (zdnet.com) 128

Dell became the first major OEM to offer a laptop with Linux pre-installed in it in 2007. Ten years later, the company says it is more committed than ever to offering Linux-powered machines to users. From a report on ZDNet: The best known of these is the Dell XPS 13 developer edition, but it's not the only Linux laptop Dell offers. In a blog post, Barton George, senior principal engineer at Dell's Office of the CTO, announced "the next generation of our Ubuntu-based Precision mobile workstation line." All of these systems boast Ubuntu 16.04 long-term support (LTS), 7th generation Intel Core or Intel Xeon processors, and Thunderbolt 3, AKA 40 Gigabit per second (Gbps) USB-C, ports. As the Xeon processor option shows, these are top-of-the-line laptops for professionals. It took longer than expected for Dell to get this new set of five Ubuntu-powered Precision mobile workstations out the door. The Precision 5520 and 3520 are now available. The 3520, the entry-level workstation, starts with an Intel Core 2.5GHz i5-7300HQ Quad Core processor with Intel HD Graphics 630. From there, you can upgrade it all the way to an Intel Core Xeon 3 GHz E3-1505M v6 processor with Nvidia Quadro M62 graphics.
Graphics

Ask Slashdot: Why Are There No Huge Leaps Forward In CPU/GPU Power? 474

dryriver writes: We all know that CPUs and GPUs and other electronic chips get a little faster with each generation produced. But one thing never seems to happen -- a CPU/GPU manufacturer suddenly announcing a next generation chip that is, say, 4-8 times faster than the fastest model they had 2 years ago. There are moderate leaps forward all the time, but seemingly never a HUGE leap forward due to, say, someone clever in R&D discovering a much faster way to process computing instructions. Is this because huge leaps forward in computing power are technically or physically impossible/improbable? Or is nobody in R&D looking for that huge leap forward, and rather focused on delivering a moderate leap forward every 2 years? Maybe striving for that "rare huge leap forward in computing power" is simply too expensive for chip manufacturers? Precisely what is the reason that there is never a next-gen CPU or GPU that is, say, advertised as being 16 times faster than the one that came 2 years before it due to some major breakthrough in chip engineering and manufacturing?
Graphics

NVIDIA Unveils Its $700 Top of the Line GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Graphics Card (hothardware.com) 151

MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA just lifted the veil on its latest monster graphics card for gamers -- the long-rumored GeForce GTX 1080 Ti -- at an event this evening in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference (GDC). The card will sit at the top of NVIDIA's GeForce offering with the Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080 in NVIDIA's Pascal-powered product stack, promising significant performance gains over the GTX 1080 and faster than Titan X performance, for a much lower price of $699. The 12 billion NVIDIA GP102 transistor on the card has 3,584 CUDA cores, which is actually the same as NVIDIA's Titan X. However, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will have fewer ROP units at 88, versus 96 in the Titan X. The 1080 Ti will also, however, come equipped with 11GB of premium GDDR5X memory from Micron clocked at 11,000 MHz for an effective 11Gbps data rate. Peak compute throughput of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is slightly higher than the Titan X due to the Ti's higher boost clock. Memory bandwidth over its narrower 352-bit GDDR5 memory interface is 484GB/s, which is also slightly higher than a Titan X as well. NVIDIA also noted that peak overclocks on the core should hit 2GHz or higher with minimal coaxing. As a result, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will be faster than the Titan X out of the box, faster still when overclocked.
Bug

Google Discloses Yet Another New Unpatched Microsoft Vulnerability In Edge/IE (bleepingcomputer.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Google has gone public with details of a second unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft products, this time in Edge and Internet Explorer, after last week they've published details about a bug in the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) component... The bug, discovered by Google Project Zero researcher Ivan Fratric, is tracked by the CVE-2017-0037 identifier and is a type confusion, a kind of security flaw that can allow an attacker to execute code on the affected machine, and take over a device.

Details about CVE-2017-0037 are available in Google's bug report, along with proof-of-concept code. The PoC code causes a crash of the exploited browser, but depending on the attacker's skill level, more dangerous exploits could be built... Besides the Edge and IE bug, Microsoft products are also plagued by two other severe security flaws, one affecting the Windows GDI component and one the SMB file sharing protocol shipped with all Windows OS versions...

Google's team notified Microsoft of the bug 90 days ago, only disclosing it publicly on Friday.
AMD

Samsung's First Exynos 9 Chip is Faster, Uses Less Power, and Supports Gigabit LTE 39

Samsung is taking a big step forward on both processing and LTE speeds with its next mobile system on a chip. From a report on The Verge: The chip, called the Exynos 9 Series 8895, is supposed to perform 27 percent faster than its predecessor and consume 40 percent less power. It's also Samsung's first to support gigabit LTE, offering much faster speeds on networks that support it. The big gains come from Samsung shifting over to a 10nm process for this chip series, allowing it to make a more efficient processor. That means Samsung is following right behind Qualcomm on the move from a 14nm process to a 10nm process. Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon SoC, the 835, also uses a 10nm process and supposed includes speed improvements and a 25 percent power reduction. The Exynos 8895 has an octa-core processor, and its GPU is supposed to include graphics improvements for 4K VR and gaming. Samsung says the processor supports video recording at 120FPS 4K and cameras with a resolution up to 28MP.
Graphics

Valve Releases SteamVR For Linux (gamingonlinux.com) 61

New submitter JustNiz quotes a report from GamingOnLinux: Valve has launched SteamVR for Linux officially in beta form and they are keen to stress that this is a development release. You will need to run the latest Steam Beta Client for it to work at all, so be sure to opt-in if you want to play around with it. VR on Linux will exclusively use Vulkan, so it's going to be a pretty good push for Vulkan if VR becomes more popular. Those who are interested can head over to GitHub for more information.
Linux

Linux Kernel 4.10 Officially Released With Virtual GPU Support (softpedia.com) 90

"Linus Torvalds announced today the general availability of the Linux 4.10 kernel series, which add a great number of improvements, new security features, and support for the newest hardware components," writes Softpedia. prisoninmate quotes their report: Linux kernel 4.10 has been in development for the past seven weeks, during which it received a total of seven Release Candidate snapshots that implemented all the changes that you'll soon be able to enjoy on your favorite Linux-based operating system... Prominent new features include virtual GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) support, new "perf c2c" tool that can be used for analysis of cacheline contention on NUMA systems, support for the L2/L3 caches of Intel processors (Intel Cache Allocation Technology), eBPF hooks for cgroups, hybrid block polling, and better writeback management. A new "perf sched timehist" feature has been added in Linux kernel 4.10 to provide detailed history of task scheduling, and there's experimental writeback cache and FAILFAST support for MD RAID5... Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus) could be the first stable OS to ship with Linux 4.10.
It required 13,000 commits, plus over 1,200 merges, Linus wrote in the announcement, adding "On the whole, 4.10 didn't end up as small as it initially looked."
Bug

Google Discloses An Unpatched Windows Bug (Again) (bleepingcomputer.com) 122

An anonymous reader writes: "For the second time in three months, Google engineers have disclosed a bug in the Windows OS without Microsoft having released a fix before Google's announcement," reports BleepingComputer. "The bug in question affects the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) (gdi32.dll)..." According to Google, the issue allows an attacker to read the content of the user's memory using malicious EMF files. The bad news is that the EMF file can be hidden in other documents, such as DOCX, and can be exploited via Office, IE, or Office Online, among many.

"According to a bug report filed by Google's Project Zero team, the bug was initially part of a larger collection of issues discovered in March 2016, and fixed in June 2016, via Microsoft's security bulletin MS16-074. Mateusz Jurczyk, the Google engineer who found the first bugs, says the MS16-074 patches were insufficient, and some of the issues he reported continued to remain vulnerable." He later resubmitted the bugs in November 2016. The 90-days deadline for fixing the bugs expired last week, and the Google researcher disclosed the bug to the public after Microsoft delayed February's security updates to next month's Patch Tuesday, for March 15.

Microsoft has described Google's announcements of unpatched Windows bugs as "disappointing".
AI

Japan Unveils Next-Generation, Pascal-Based AI Supercomputer (nextplatform.com) 121

The Tokyo Institute of Technology has announced plans to launch Japan's "fastest AI supercomputer" this summer. The supercomputer is called Tsubame 3.0 and will use Nvidia's latest Pascal-based Tesla P100 GPU accelerators to double its performance over its predecessor, the Tsubame 2.5. Slashdot reader kipperstem77 shares an excerpt from a report via The Next Platform: With all of those CPUs and GPUs, Tsubame 3.0 will have 12.15 petaflops of peak double precision performance, and is rated at 24.3 petaflops single precision and, importantly, is rated at 47.2 petaflops at the half precision that is important for neural networks employed in deep learning applications. When added to the existing Tsubame 2.5 machine and the experimental immersion-cooled Tsubame-KFC system, TiTech will have a total of 6,720 GPUs to bring to bear on workloads, adding up to a total of 64.3 aggregate petaflops at half precision. (This is interesting to us because that means Nvidia has worked with TiTech to get half precision working on Kepler GPUs, which did not formally support half precision.)
Intel

System76 Refreshes Ubuntu Linux Laptops With Intel Kaby Lake, NVIDIA GTX 10 Series, and 4K (betanews.com) 126

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: System76 is refreshing three of its laptops with some high-end parts. The Oryx Pro, Serval WS, and Bonobo WS are now all equipped with 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake processors. In addition, all three can be had with 4K displays and NVIDIA GTX 10 series graphics too. While the Oryx Pro already had the option of 4K and GTX 10, it is the 7th gen Intel chips that are new to it. In fact, all of the company's laptops now come with Kaby Lake standard. The computer seller throws some shade at Apple by saying, "The HiDPI displays that ship on the laptops have 3.1 million more pixels than Apple's 'Retina' displays, enabling sharper text, 4K video, and higher res gaming. Beyond that, the displays give video and photo professionals the ability to work more easily with higher resolution multimedia."
XBox (Games)

Microsoft's 'Forza' Video Game Francise Tops $1 Billion in Sales (xbox.com) 35

Here's another area where Microsoft, whose cloud services are doing very well, continues to make a lot of money: video games. Microsoft has minted its fifth billion-dollar video-game franchise. The "Forza" racing series in December topped $1 billion in lifetime sales since the first game's release 12 years ago, Microsoft said. From company's blogpost: As of December, more than 14 million unique players were involved in the Forza community on Xbox One and Windows 10, the award-winning Forza Horizon 3 sold through 2.5 million units, and Forza continued its run as the best-selling racing franchise of this console generation. Additionally, our online racing community expanded significantly: over three million players joined us online each month and we launched the Forza Racing Championship, an eSports league for players of all skill levels to compete for glory and real-world prizes. "Since the beginning, Forza has combined stunning graphics, racing's leading simulation engine, and an emphasis on fun and accessibility," said Phil Spencer, head of Xbox. "With the Forza series, Turn 10 Studios has built the world's largest racing community. We couldn't be more proud of their success." Other game franchises in Microsoft's billion-dollar club are "Halo," "Minecraft," "Gears of War", and "Age of Empires".
Displays

Nanorods Emit and Detect Light, Could Lead To Displays That Communicate Via Li-Fi (ieee.org) 33

schwit1 quotes a report from IEEE Spectrum: Ever since 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, quantum dots have been in a market struggle to displace light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a backlight source for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Now an advance by a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in South Korea and Dow Chemical may turn the display market on its head by eliminating the need for backlights in LCD devices. They have produced a LED pixel out of nanorods capable of both emitting and detecting light. In research described in the journal Science, the international team of researchers mixed three types of semiconductors to produce engineered nanorods. "The nanorods contain three different semiconductor materials," explains Shim. "The first semiconductor, which is attached at the tips of the nanorod, is the quantum dot that emits and absorbs visible light." The other two semiconductors are the main body of the rod and the shell around the quantum dot. These components facilitate and control the flow of electrons (negative charges) and holes (positive charges) to and from the quantum dot. The semiconductor materials in the rod and the shell each have a band gap in which no electron states can exist as well as band alignment. With these two semiconductors in contact with the quantum dot, the nanorods are extremely efficient at both emitting and detecting light.
The Internet

Apple Seeks To Position Metal as Part of New 3D Graphics Standard For Web (appleinsider.com) 170

Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider: Apple's WebKit team on Tuesday proposed a new Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that will focus on developing a new standard API, perhaps based on Metal, for accelerating GPU-based 3D graphics and general computation for the web. Announced through Apple's WebKit blog, the new 'GPU for the Web' Community Group will discuss a potential next-generation web graphics API that can better leverage modern GPUs. Along with 3D content, Apple proposes GPU architecture might also be used to accelerate general web computations. As noted by Dean Jackson from the WebKit team, advancements in the GPU hardware space has led to identical enhancements in software APIs. He cites platform technologies like Apple's Metal, Microsoft's Direct3D 12 and the Khronos Group's Vulkan as offering lower overhead, and thus better performance, than the OpenGL standard. Unfortunately, the new graphics APIs contain nuanced architectural differences and are not available across all platforms, making them unsuitable for wide implementation on the web.
Communications

LG Confirms 5K Mac Monitor Has Issue When Placed Near a Router, Says New Batch To Have Enhanced Shielding (recode.net) 67

Late last month, we learned that LG's UltraFine 5K Display, which was designed in part by Apple to work with the new MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, would flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers if placed within two meters of a router. The company has acknowledged the issue, and says it will add enhanced shielding to its 5K monitors to prevent interferences with nearby wireless routers in the upcoming batch. From a report: "LG apologizes for this inconvenience and is committed to delivering the best quality products possible, so all LG UltraFine 27-inch 5K displays manufactured after February 2017 will be fitted with enhanced shielding," the company said in an email. Existing models will be able to be retrofitted with the enhanced shielding, which will allow the monitor to be placed near a router.

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