Security

Under Pressure, Western Tech Firms Including Cisco and IBM Bow To Russian Demands To Share Cyber Secrets (reuters.com) 100

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found. Russian authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting the products to be imported and sold in the country. The requests, which have increased since 2014, are ostensibly done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden any "backdoors" that would allow them to burrow into Russian systems. But those inspections also provide the Russians an opportunity to find vulnerabilities in the products' source code -- instructions that control the basic operations of computer equipment -- current and former U.S. officials and security experts said. [...] In addition to IBM, Cisco and Germany's SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and McAfee have also allowed Russia to conduct source code reviews of their products, according to people familiar with the companies' interactions with Moscow and Russian regulatory records.
AI

Garry Kasparov: The World Should Embrace Artificial Intelligence (bbc.com) 114

"Chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten at his game by a chess-playing AI," writes dryriver. "But he does not think that AI is a bad thing." From Kasparov's interview with the BBC: "We have to start recognizing the inevitability of machines taking over more and more tasks that we used to do in the past. It's called progress. Machines replaced farm animals and all forms of manual labor, and now machines are about to take over more menial parts of cognition. Big deal. It's happening. And we should not be alarmed about it. We should just take it as a fact and look into the future, trying to understand how can we adjust."
Kasparov has given the issue a lot of thought -- last month he released a new book called Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. But he also says that the IBM machine that beat him "was anything but intelligent. It was as intelligent as your alarm clock. A very expensive one, a $10 million alarm clock, but still an alarm clock. Very poweful -- brute force, with little chess knowledge. But chess proved to be vulnerable to the brute force. it could be crunched once hardware got fast enough and databases got big enough and algorithms got smart enough."
AMD

Six Companies Awarded $258 Million From US Government To Build Exascale Supercomputers (digitaltrends.com) 40

The U.S. Department of Energy will be investing $258 million to help six leading technology firms -- AMD, Cray Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia -- research and build exascale supercomputers. Digital Trends reports: The funding will be allocated to them over the course of a three-year period, with each company providing 40 percent of the overall project cost, contributing to an overall investment of $430 million in the project. "Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation," U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said. "These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing -- exascale-capable systems." The funding will finance research and development in three key areas; hardware technology, software technology, and application development. There are hopes that one of the companies involved in the initiative will be able to deliver an exascale-capable supercomputer by 2021.
Businesses

America's Five Biggest Tech Stocks Lost $97 Billion Friday (yahoo.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: The so-called "big five" -- Apple , Alphabet Class A shares, Microsoft , Facebook and Amazon -- lost more than $97.5 billion in market value between the close on Thursday and the close on Friday, according to FactSet, dragging the Nasdaq to its worst week of the year. Shares of Apple fell nearly 4 percent on Friday, while the other four companies fell more than 3 percent. For most of the day, only 3 stocks in the S&P 500 tech sector were in the green: IBM , Teradata and Western Union . Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet all traded more than 2 times their 30-day average volume... "They're just plain overbought," said David Bahnsen founder, managing director and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm. "They are extremely stretched from a valuation standpoint."
CNN notes the drop occurred "after a Goldman Sachs analyst questioned this year's run-up in the industry's five biggest names." They also added that "The top five techs today account for 13% of the market value weighting in the S&P 500, even though they are only 1% of the companies in the index."
Businesses

Intel: Steer Clear Of Our Patents (axios.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Intel posted a long blog post yesterday touting the success and evolution of its 40-year-old x86 microprocessor -- the one that powered the first IBM personal computer in 1978 and still powers the majority of PCs and laptops. But it wasn't just a stroll down memory lane. Intel ended the post with a reminder that it won't tolerate infringement on its portfolio of patents, including those surrounding x86. The company wrote, "Intel invests enormous resources to advance its dynamic x86 ISA, and therefore Intel must protect these investments with a strong patent portfolio and other intellectual property rights. [...] Intel carefully protects its x86 innovations, and we do not widely license others to use them. Over the past 30 years, Intel has vigilantly enforced its intellectual property rights against infringement by third-party microprocessors. [...] Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Also read: Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation.
Facebook

Facebook Is Planning To Move WhatsApp Off IBM's Public Cloud (cnbc.com) 59

Jordan Novet, reporting for CNBC: Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, which is used by 1.2 billion people across the globe, is planning to move off of IBM's cloud and into Facebook's own data centers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The WhatsApp move, which could begin later this year, would result in IBM losing one of its top five public cloud customers, the source said. IBM's public cloud business lags behind Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is on top with 33 percent of the market in April, as well as Microsoft's Azure cloud, according to Synergy Research.
IBM

IBM Research Alliance Has Figured Out How To Make 5nm Chips (cnet.com) 56

IBM, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung said Monday that they have found a way to make thinner transistors, which should enable them to pack 30 billion switches onto a microprocessor chip the size of a fingernail. The tech industry has been fueled for decades by the ability of chipmakers to shoehorn ever smaller, faster transistors into the chips that power laptops, servers, and mobile devices. But industry watchers have worried lately that technology was pushing the limits of Moore's Law -- a prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 that computing power would double every two years as chips got more densely packed. From a report: Today's chips are built with transistors whose dimensions measure 10 nanometers, which means about 1,000 fit end-to-end across the diameter of a human hair. The next generation will shrink that dimension to 7nm, and the IBM-Samsung development goes one generation beyond that to 5nm. That means transistors can be packed four times as densely on a chip compared with today's technology. "A nanosheet-based 5nm chip will deliver performance and power, together with density," said Huiming Bu, IBM's director of silicon integration and device research. Take all those numbers with a nanograin of salt, though, because chipmakers no longer agree on what exactly they're measuring about transistors. And there's also a long road between this research announcement and actual commercial manufacturing. IBM believes this new process won't cost any more than chips with today's transistor designs, but its approach requires an expensive shift that chipmakers have put off for years: the use of extreme ultraviolet light to etch chip features onto silicon wafers.
Programming

Jean Sammet, Co-Designer of COBOL, Dies at 89 (nytimes.com) 73

theodp writes: A NY Times obituary reports that early software engineer and co-designer of COBOL Jean Sammet died on May 20 in Maryland at age 89. "Sammet was a graduate student in math when she first encountered a computer in 1949 at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign," the Times reports. While Grace Hopper is often called the "mother of COBOL," Hopper "was not one of the six people, including Sammet, who designed the language -- a fact Sammet rarely failed to point out... 'I yield to no one in my admiration for Grace,' she said. 'But she was not the mother, creator or developer of COBOL.'"
By 1960 the Pentagon had announced it wouldn't buy computers unless they ran COBOL, inadvertently creating an industry standard. COBOL "really was very good at handling formatted data," Brian Kernighan, tells the Times, which reports that today "More than 200 billion lines of COBOL code are now in use and an estimated 2 billion lines are added or changed each year, according to IBM Research."

Sammet was entirely self-taught, and in an interview two months ago shared a story about how her supervisor in 1955 had asked if she wanted to become a computer programmer. "What's a programmer?" she asked. He replied, "I don't know, but I know we need one." Within five years she'd become the section head of MOBIDIC Programming at Sylvania Electric Products, and had helped design COBOL -- before moving on to IBM, where she worked for the next 27 years and created the FORTRAN-based computer algebra system FORMAC.
Java

Java 9 Delayed Due To Modularity Controversy (infoworld.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Java 9 won't be released on July 27 after all. Oracle has proposed that Java 9 Standard Edition be delayed until September 21 so the open source community that is finalizing Java 9 can address the ongoing controversy over a planned but later rejected approach to modularity, said Georges Saab, vice president of software development in the Java platform group at Oracle and chairman of the OpenJDK governing board...

The [Java Platform Module System] measure was sent back to the proposal's expert group for further discussion. Since then, the group has reached consensus on addressing the modularity concerns, Saab said. But they cannot rework Java 9 in time for the original July 27 release date... If the revised JSR 376 approved, as expected, work can proceed on implementing it in the official version of Java 9 SE. This setback for Java 9s upcoming upgrade, however, should just be temporary, with Oracle expecting a more rapid cadence of Java SE releases going forward, Saab said.

AI

IBM Says Watson Health's AI Is Getting Really Good at Diagnosing Cancer (fastcompany.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: In deciding on cancer treatment, doctors often get together in a "tumor board" to go over the options. IBM's Watson now sits in on those meetings in a few hospitals, such as in South Korea and India -- and it generally makes the same calls that a human expert would. So says IBM in a series of studies it's presenting this weekend at the ASCO cancer treatment conference in Chicago. "It's not making a diagnosis. That's not what we set out to do," says Andrew Norden of IBM's Watson Health division. "They will run Watson Oncology in a tumor board and sort of get another external opinion." Watson's "concordance rate" -- the degree to which it agrees with human doctors -- ranged from 73% to 96%, depending on the type of cancer (such as colon cancer) and the particular hospital where the study was done (in India, South Korea, and Thailand).
Businesses

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google Lobby Against Texas 'Bathroom' Bill (arstechnica.com) 587

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Executives from some of the globe's leading technology firms are demanding that Texas not adopt "discriminatory" bathroom legislation. On the table in Texas is a law similar to one enacted -- and later partially repealed -- in North Carolina. The tech companies have aligned themselves with critics of the bill who believe the legislation is unfair to the transgender community. "As large employers in the state, we are gravely concerned that any such legislation would deeply tarnish Texas' reputation as open and friendly to businesses and families," the companies wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. "Our ability to attract, recruit and retain top talent, encourage new business relocations, expansions and investment, and maintain our economic competitiveness would all be negatively affected." Pending Texas Senate legislation would prohibit transgender people in Texas from using restrooms matching their gender identities. The House on Sunday passed its own bill that would apply the bathroom limitations solely at schools. The tech companies, however, aren't threatening to pull out of Texas, like some did over the same issue in North Carolina. The letter sent to Gov. Abbott was signed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon chief Jeff Wilke, IBM head Ginni Rometty, Microsoft President Brad Smith, and Google's Sundar Pichai. There were 14 companies -- including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, Silicon Labs, Celanese Corp., GSD&M, Salesforce, and Gearbox Software -- signing on to the letter. "Discrimination is wrong and it has no place in Texas or anywhere in our country," the companies wrote.
Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 173

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership.

Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value.

In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."
Open Source

Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released (alpinelinux.org) 59

An anonymous reader quotes DistroWatch: Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 3.6.0. Alpine Linux is an independent, minimal operating system that is well suited to running servers, routers and firewalls. Version 3.6.0 introduces support for 64-bit POWER machines, 64-bit IBM z Systems computers and features many up to date packages, including PHP 7.1, LLVM 4.0 and version 6.3 of the GNU Compiler.
"Noteworthy new packages" include Rust 1.17.0 and Cargo 0.18.0, as well as Julia 0.5.2, as we ll as "significant updates" like Go 1.8, Python 3.6, and Ruby 2.4. And in addition, "MD5 and SHA-1 hashes have been removed from APKBUILDs, being obsoleted by SHA-512."
IBM

Ex-IBM Employee Guilty of Stealing Secrets For China (fortune.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune: A former developer for IBM pled guilty on Friday to economic espionage and to stealing trade secrets related to a type of software known as a clustered file system, which IBM sells to customers around the world. Xu Jiaqiang stole the secrets during his stint at IBM from 2010 to 2014 "to benefit the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China," according to the U.S. Justice Department. In a press release describing the criminal charges, the Justice Department also stated that Xu tried to sell secret IBM source code to undercover FBI agents posing as tech investors. (The agency does not explain if Xu's scheme to sell to tech investors was to benefit China or to line his own pockets).

Part of the sting involved Xu demonstrating the stolen software, which speeds computer performance by distributing works across multiple servers, on a sample network. The former employee acknowledged that others would know the software had been taken from IBM, but said he could create extra computer scripts to help mask its origins.

At one point 31-year-old Xu even showed undercover FBI agents the part of the source code that identified it as coming from IBM "as well as the date on which it had been copyrighted."
IBM

New OS/2 Warp Operating System 'ArcaOS' 5.0 Released (arcanoae.com) 145

The long-awaited modern OS/2 distribution from Arca Noae was released Monday. martiniturbide writes: ArcaOS 5.0 is an OEM distribution of IBM's discontinued OS/2 Warp operating system. ArcaOS offers a new set of drivers for ACPI, network, USB, video and mouse to run OS/2 in newer hardware. It also includes a new OS installer and open source software like Samba, Libc libraries, SDL, Qt, Firefox and OpenOffice... It's available in two editions, Personal ($129 with an introductory price of $99 for the first 90 days [and six months of support and maintenance updates]) and Commercial ($239 with one year of support and maintenance).

The OS/2 community has been called upon to report supported hardware, open source any OS/2 software, make public as much OS/2 documentation as possible and post the important platform links. OS2World insists that open source has helped OS/2 in the past years and it is time to look under the hood to try to clone internal components like Control Program, Presentation Manager, SOM and Workplace Shell.

By Tuesday Arca Noae was reporting "excessive traffic on the server which is impacting our ordering and delivery process," though the actual downloads of the OS were unaffected, the server load issues were soon mitigated, and they thanked OS/2 enthusiasts for a "truly overwhelming response."
IBM

IBM is Telling Remote Workers To Get Back in the Office Or Leave (wsj.com) 215

For the last few years, IBM has built up a remote work program for its 380,000 employees. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that IBM is "quietly dismantling" this option, and has told its employees this week that they either need to work in the office or leave the company (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). From the report: IBM is giving thousands of its remote workers in the U.S. a choice this week: Abandon your home workspaces and relocate to a regional office -- or leave the company. The 105-year-old technology giant is quietly dismantling its popular decades-old remote work program to bring employees back into offices, a move it says will improve collaboration and accelerate the pace of work. The changes comes as IBM copes with 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue and rising shareholder ire over Chief Executive Ginni Rometty's pay package. The company won't say how many of its 380,000 employees are affected by the policy change, which so far has been rolled out to its Watson division, software development, digital marketing, and design -- divisions that employ tens of thousands of workers. The shift is particularly surprising since the Armonk, N.Y., company has been among the business world's staunchest boosters of remote work, both for itself and its customers. IBM markets software and services for what it calls "the anytime, anywhere workforce," and its researchers have published numerous studies on the merits of remote work.
AI

Star Trek Bridge Crew Gets IBM Watson-Powered Voice Commands (theverge.com) 61

PolygamousRanchKid writes: Star Trek Bridge Crew -- the VR game that puts you in the slip-on space shoes of a Starfleet officer -- already emphasizes vocal communication when you're playing with real humans, but it will soon allow you to use your voice to issue orders to computer-controlled characters, too. The feature has been made possible using IBM's VR Speech Sandbox. The software combines IBM Watson's Speech to Text and Conversation services with the company's Unity SDK, using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM's Watson software to parse your barked commands, and allow AI-controlled characters to act on them. Players will be able to launch photon torpedoes, jump to warp speed, or lock S-foils in attack formation (maybe not that last one) by requesting that your crew members push the relevant blinking buttons on their own command consoles. The feature will go live in beta form this summer, soon after the game's release on May 30th, and will allow players to complete missions across VR platforms and with a mixture of human and AI teammates.

Slashdot reader PolygamousRanchKid adds: "Let's just skip all that stuff, and cut right to the part where Kirk gets the girl... How well it actually works in practice, we'll see this summer, aboard our own starships. "Scotty, beam up the IBM stock price!" -- Posterior Admiral Ginni Rometty

The Internet

NYU Accidentally Exposed Military Code-breaking Computer Project To Entire Internet (theintercept.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: A confidential computer project designed to break military codes was accidentally made public by New York University engineers. An anonymous digital security researcher identified files related to the project while hunting for things on the internet that shouldn't be, The Intercept reported. He used a program called Shodan, a search engine for internet-connected devices, to locate the project. It is the product of a joint initiative by NYU's Institute for Mathematics and Advanced Supercomputing, headed by the world-renowned Chudnovsky brothers, David and Gregory, the Department of Defense, and IBM. Information on an exposed backup drive described the supercomputer, called -- WindsorGreen -- as a system capable of cracking passwords.
IBM

IBM: Remote Working Is Great! (For Everyone Except Us) (theregister.co.uk) 109

An anonymous reader writes: IBM, the company that just weeks ago said it was doing away with its work-from-home policy, is now preaching the benefits of telecommuting to customers. Big Blue's Smarter Workforce Group says a recent panel it hosted at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) conference concluded that customers who work remotely are "more engaged, have stronger trust in leadership and much stronger intention to stay. These findings mirror what an IBM Smarter Workforce Institute study found," the group wrote. "Challenging the modern myths of remote working shares employee research revealing that remote workers are highly engaged, more likely to consider their workplaces as innovative, happier about their job prospects and less stressed than their more traditional, office-bound colleagues." This is posted without any apparent sense of irony, as IBM said just weeks ago that remote workers were not part of its "recipe for success" and could no longer be permitted to work anywhere other than its six regional offices in various techie hubs around the US.
Java

Red Hat And IBM Will Vote Against Java's Next Release (infoworld.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: The next edition of standard Java had been proceeding toward its planned July 27 release after earlier bumps in the road over modularity. But now Red Hat and IBM have opposed the module plan. "JDK 9 might be held up by this," Oracle's Georges Saab, vice president of development for the Java platform, said late Wednesday afternoon. "As is the case for all major Java SE releases, feedback from the Java Community Process may affect the timeline..."

Red Hat's Scott Stark, vice president of architecture for the company's JBoss group, expressed a number of concerns about how applications would work with the module system and its potential impact on the planned Java Enterprise Edition 9. Stark also said the module system, which is featured in Java Specification Request 376 and Project Jigsaw, could result in two worlds of Java: one for Jigsaw and one for everything else, including Java SE classloaders and OSGI. Stark's analysis received input from others in the Java community, including Sonatype.

"The result will be a weakened Java ecosystem at a time when rapid change is occurring in the server space with increasing use of languages like Go," Stark wrote, also predicting major challenges for applications dealing with services and reflection. His critique adds that "In some cases the implementation...contradicts years of modular application deployment best practices that are already commonly employed by the ecosystem as a whole." And he ultimately concludes that this effort to modularize Java has limitations which "almost certainly prevent the possibility of Java EE 9 from being based on Jigsaw, as to do so would require existing Java EE vendors to completely throw out compatibility, interoperability, and feature parity with past versions of the Java EE specification."

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