Mysteries of the Mind Facebook

Facebook last week released six videos to educate people about artificial intelligence.

AI will bring major changes to society, and will be the backbone of many of the most innovative apps and services of the future, but it remains mysterious, noted Yann LeCun, Facebook’s director of AI research, and Joaquin Candela, the company’s director of applied machine learning in an online post.

The videos are “simple and short introductions” that will “help everyone understand how this complex field of computer science works,” they said.

The announcement immediately sparked speculation that Facebook would use its AI technology to tackle the fake news items posted on its pages.

However, tackling fake news is more a question of ethics than technology, LeCun told reporters, with questions coming into play about the trade-off between filtering and censorship versus free expression and democracy.

 

Mysteries of the Mind

Understanding the videos, which LeCun created, does require a certain amount of grounding in science.

Still, they “set a baseline — help explain what an AI can do in the near term,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Watching the videos “likely makes the topic

Lets Talking About Foreign Election Control

A few years back, when it was one company, HP made a huge mistake that cost a number of people their jobs and forced the replacement of many of its board members. The company suffered through some nasty litigation and several top executives almost landed in jail.

The mistake was tied back to something the board authorized, which at the time was called “pretexting.” It also went by the more common term “identity theft.” It is my belief that the board wouldn’t have authorized the effort if it had been told that what the teams planned to do was steal the identities of reporters.

Given how risk-averse boards were, and still are, HP’s directors simply would not have been willing to take the risk, in my view, and much of HP’s pain in the last decade could have been avoided.

Given that Russia is the source for much of it, I now wonder if our use of the term “fake news” as a label — as opposed to the older and more relevant term — isn’t doing us a disservice, by not highlighting the inherently evil nature of the practice.

Fake News is intentionally designed to mislead, and it should be treated

Halts Malware Avalanche on Multinational Effort

The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday released new details about the multinational takedown of Avalanche, a multimillion-dollar malware and money-laundering network, following a four-year probe led by German police and prosecutors. Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song and Assistant Director Scott S. Smith of the FBI’s Cyber Division made the announcement in Pittsburgh.

Prosecutors and investigators in 40 countries were involved in the probe, led by the Public Prosecutor’s office in Verden, Germany, and police in Luneberg. They received assistance from the DoJ, Eurojust and Europol.

The investigation uncovered a multinational malware campaign that started in 2009, sending out more than a million infected emails with damaging links and attachments.

The cyberthieves managed to use the information to transfer funds from the accounts of unsuspecting victims after stealing their bank and email passwords. The stolen funds, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of euros, then were redirected to other criminals through a double fast flux infrastructure.

More than 20 families of malware were used, including goznym, marcher, matsnu, urizone, xswkit and pandabaker. Highly organized networks of “mules” bought

Welcome Devs With Open Arms

Two leaders in the field of artificial intelligence have announced that they’re open-sourcing their AI platforms.

After investing in building rich simulated environments to serve as laboratories for AI research, Google’s DeepMind Lab on Saturday said it would open the platform for the broader research community’s use.

DeepMind has been using its AI lab for some time, and it has “only barely scratched the surface of what is possible” in it, noted team members Charlie Beattie, Joel Leibo, Stig Petersen and Shane Legg in an online post.

By open-sourcing the platform, DeepMind Lab hopes to open new opportunities for developers to make significant contributions to AI.

Meanwhile, OpenAI, which is cochaired by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, on Monday invited developers to try on its Universe platform for size.

It’s hoping an influx of development talent will help it achieve its overarching mission: to create a single AI agent that can be flexible in applying its past experience within Universe to quickly master unfamiliar, difficult environments.

Now that it’s open source, the platform is available on GitHib, a home for many developers on the Web.

Developers will be able to add custom levels to its platform via GitHub, the DeepMind team explained. In addition, all DeepMind assets

Galaxy Note7 to Adequate Testing

Samsung’s desire to match the iPhone 7 Plus led it to implement an aggressive design and manufacturing approach that led to problems with its Galaxy Note7 — including some instances of the smartphones bursting into flames — and eventually its global recall, Instrumental reported last week.

Instrumental engineers tore down a Galaxy Note7, and found “evidence in the design of an intellectual tension between safety and pushing the boundaries,” CEO Anna Shedletsky revealed.

Samsung engineers “designed out all of the margin in the thickness of the battery,” she noted.

It “sits within a CNC-machined pocket — a costly choice likely made to protect it from being poked by other internal components,” Shedletsky speculated.

“For something that is innovative and new, you design the best tests that you can think of, and validate that the design is OK through that testing,” she said.

However, battery testing “takes a notoriously long time, and thousands of batteries need to be tested to get significant results,” Shedletsky pointed out. “It’s possible that Samsung’s innovative battery manufacturing process was changing throughout development, and that the newest versions of the batteries weren’t tested with he same rigor as the first samples.”

If the Note7 had not been recalled, “a few years

Qualcomm Tuck Windows 10

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the compatibility of Windows 10 and native Windows apps with ARM-based processors, including Qualcomm’s Snapdragon, which currently powers a large percentage of Android devices.

One of the highlights at this year’s Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event in Shenzhen, China, the new partnership will make it possible for Windows applications, peripherals and enterprise solutions to run on new mobile, power efficient and always-connected cellular PCs.

Through the collaboration, the companies aim to encourage hardware partners to develop Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Window 10 devices that run x86 Win32 and universal Windows apps. In addition to Microsoft’s own productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office, they could include third-party programs such as Adobe Photoshop, as well as Windows games, which are developed by numerous companies.

The applications would be the same as those meant to run on a desktop or laptop, but they would be fully compatible with cellular PCs — meaning that mobile users no longer would have to sacrifice functionality or features.

Microsoft largely was unsuccessful in its efforts to break into the smartphone space with its Windows Phone devices. Instead, it has pivoted toward cellular PCs, which will be built around the x86 code of Windows 10, utilizing the ARM

Fighters Get New Free Tool

Ransomware has become a gold mine for digital criminals. In the first three months of this year, electronic extortionists squeezed US$209 million from victims desperate to recover their data after it was scrambled by the malicious software, based on FBI estimates. At that rate, ransomware could funnel as much as $1 billion into criminal coffers this year.

Ransomware typically will encrypt most of the files on a computer, but some pernicious programs are selective about what they encrypt on a machine. One such form of ransomware attacks the boot sequence of a computer.

Petya ransomware overwrites the contents of a system’s Master Boot Record, forces a system reboot, and encrypts the operating system’s Master File Table.

With ransomware that’s limited to encrypting data, it’s still possible to use an infected machine. That only makes sense, since an extortionist expects the victim to use the computer to pay the ransom and receive the key unscrambling the data on the afflicted machine.

With an attack on the MBR, however, the extortionist “bricks” the system and makes it unusable until the ransom is paid.

 

Risky Ransomware

Bricking a computer that you’re holding for ransom is a risky way to do business.

“With ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record,

Social Media Minefield

Mainly because of the amount of money they bring in, many people expect celebrities and other prominent figures to have thicker skins than the average Jane or Joe. However — as evidenced by the numbers of celebrities who’ve forsaken social media, or who have handed the keys to their accounts to their PR teams — fame and fortune are not effective defenses against an all-out assault by faceless trolls.

Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones temporarily unplugged her Twitter account after being bombarded by racist and sexist attacks. Girls star Lena Dunham quit Twitter after being body shamed and verbally abused. Filmmaker Joss Whedon fled Twitter last year, after being targeted with verbal abuse for his portrayal of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Count the likes of Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Jennifer Lawrence among the celebs who simply don’t care to join social network, as least not using their given names. And Sia doesn’t even want the public to get a good look at her face.

Some of the prominent celebs to speak about social media’s potential for inflicting harm include Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Keira Knight, who has said that sharing with the public opens you

Project Evo Ups the PC Game

Microsoft and Intel on Wednesday announced Project Evo, their highly anticipated collaboration to create the next generation of personal computers. The project aims to expand on new advances in artificial intelligence, mixed reality, advanced security and gaming,

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, unveiled some of Project Evo’s ambitious plans at the Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event in Shenzhen, China.

Through the collaboration, the companies will push the boundaries of a personal computer’s capabilities in the near future, he said. Technologies under development include far-field speech and wake-on-voice enabled through Cortana, biometrics and voice authentication in Windows Hello, spacial audio, and HDR support for gaming.

Project Evo — particularly its expanded use of Cortana — invites comparisons to the digital assistant tools found in Amazon Echo and Google Home, standalone speakers that use Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Though their capabilities differ, each uses voice communications to interact with the automated home.

However, Project Evo seems geared toward making the personal computer into a much more sophisticated device — one that can be accessed and operated in ways never before seen.

 

Home Hub Connection?

Essentially, users will be able to wake up a PC, whether it’s

Team to Battle Terrorism Online

Facebook has teamed up with Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to fight the proliferation of terrorist content on the Web. The tech giants will create a shared industry database of hashes for violent terrorist imagery, terrorist recruitment videos, or images they have removed from their services.

They may use these shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on their platforms. Hashes to be shared will apply to content that’s most likely to violate all the companies’ content policies.

“Each one of the companies that is part of this agreement has its own specific definitions, practices and processes in place for governments to make requests to them for user data and to remove content,” YouTube explained in policy notes provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Stephanie Shih. “Any such requests for information will be routed through each company to handle as they normally do per its individual policies and procedures.”

No personally identifiable information will be shared. There will be no automated takedowns of terrorism-related content. Each company will retain its own process for dealing with appeals against its removal of content.

The four will apply their own transparency and review practices when responding to any government requests.

 

Magnitude of the Problem

ISIS, or ISIL, has

The new for smartwatch OS debuts

Can a new smartwatch operating system based on Linux breathe some new life into the smart wearables market? Florent Revest hopes so.

Revest, a French computer science student, on Wednesday announced the alpha release of AsteroidOS, an open source operating system that will run on several Android smartwatch models.

“Many users believe that the current proprietary platforms can not guarantee a satisfactory level of control over their privacy and hardware,” noted Revest, who has been working on his OS for two years. “Hence, I noticed a need for an open wearable platform and AsteroidOS is my attempt to address this issue.”

The alpha edition of AsteroidOS contains some basic apps: agenda, for scheduling events to remember; an alarm clock; a calcuator; music, for controlling the music player on a phone; a stopwatch; a timer and a weather app.

The OS will run, more or less, on the LG G Watch, LG G Urbane, Asus ZenWatch 2 and Sony Smartwatch 3, Revest noted. Bluetooth works only on the G Watch, though.

 

Uphill Battle

Launching an open source mobile operating system can be a daunting and seemingly futile task.

“This has been tried repeatedly in the past and has failed,” said Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold

Self Driving Fleet Takes On San Francisco

Uber on Wednesday rolled out a fleet of self-driving cars in San Francisco, the second U.S. city to participate in its pilot project. Pittsburgh was the first.

Riders who request an UberX — the lowest-priced Uber vehicle — will be matched with one of the self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs if one is available and if the customers are willing, according to Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s Advanced Technology Group. They can accommodate three passengers.

San Francisco “comes with its own nuances, including more bikes on the road, high traffic density and narrow lanes,” Levandowski noted.

San Francisco “is one of the most challenging cities for an autonomous car … because there are lots of obstacles, including cable cars, which are unique to the city,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Further, “the hills are particularly steep,” he pointed out.

“The buildings are close and high, blocking GPS signals and challenging GPS accuracy, and pedestrians generally don’t follow traffic signals or use crosswalks,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld. “There’s an argument that if you can handle San Francisco, you likely can handle any city in the United States.”

The self-driving Uber vehicles have drivers on board who can take control if need be.

 

Sensors and Such

Volvo

Machine Data Innovations That You Should Know About

CrateDB is an SQL database alternative to NOSQL machine data management solutions. It gives mainstream SQL developers access to machine data applications that previously were available only using NoSQL solutions.

“CrateDB is one of the few systems in the space that can enable JOIN to handle a large amount of machine data,” said Christian Lutz, CEO of Crate.io.

Founded in 2014, the company’s goal was to reinvent SQL for the machine data era, he told LinuxInsider. Today, 75 percent of its customers use CrateDB to manage machine and Internet of Things data because of its ease of use, performance and versatility.

CrateDB provides an alternative to existing analytic data stores, combining the familiarity of SQL with the versatility of search and the ease of scalability of containers.

“The growth of machine data and the opportunities that businesses have to capitalize on it are outstripping the ability of their data management infrastructure to act on it,” said Jason Stamper, an analyst for data platforms and analytics at 451 Research.

CrateDB’s power lies in its ability “to enable users to collect and analyze vast amounts of data in real time, using SQL commands they already know,” he said.

 

Driving Factors

Several factors recently have been driving interest in more

Magic Leaps Response

It turns out the awe-inspiring video Magic Leap unveiled last year is not a demo of its still-secretive mixed reality technology, but a bit of sleight of hand from special effects firm Weta Workshop, which is credited at the beginning and end of the clip.

Magic Leap’s post — titled “Just another day in the office at Magic Leap” — claims the video shows a game being played around the office.

The true nature of the video was exposed last week in a report published by The Information.

“Most of us thought that video was a demo of the technology — not a film created by a special effects company,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“I expect some of the folks that invested in the company likely thought so as well, and that could be considered fraud,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The ray guns shown in the video apparently are Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators, which exist in designer Greg Broadmore’s satirical parallel universe.

Weta CEO Richard Taylor, a founding director of Magic Leap, reportedly is collaborating with the firm on a mixed reality game set in the world of “Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders.”

AirPods good to use

Apple’s new wireless AirPods are finally available.

The company on Tuesday began taking orders for AirPods at its online store, and said it would start delivering the US$159 earphones to customers, Apple Stores, resellers and carriers next week.

At the iPhone 7 launch in September, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said the AirPods would be available in October, but the company missed that target time frame due to unexplained delays.

Missing the deadline for release of any hot product is bad news for a company, but what made the AirPods miss worse was that the they were supposed to offset some of the sting consumers felt over Apple’s decision to omit the traditional headphone jack in the iPhone 7.

“Someone clearly dropped the ball, because without something like this with the iPhone 7 the attached sales for the earbuds were stalled, and it made it harder to sell iPhone 7s,” noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Both products should have shown up at the same time,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 

Missed Opportunity

However, the absence of AirPods doesn’t seem to have affected iPhone 7 sales that much.

“Sales of the iPhone 7 seem to be doing well,” said Ross Rubin, principal

Clean tech effort to star power

One year after a powerhouse group of technology executives and venture capital icons met to form the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, the group, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, has launched a US$1 billion investment fund to support clean energy startups around the world.

The Breakthrough Energy Fund, chaired by Gates, is designed to jumpstart an entire new generation of entrepreneurs developing radical new approaches to providing reliable and low-cost energy, with zero carbon emissions as the end goal.

Institutional partners, including the University of California, will help generate research ideas. Strategic partners, including Southern Co. and others, will help the group with regulatory issues, and figure out which companies have the most promise.

In addition to Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition’s board members include John Arnold, co-chair of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation; John Doerr, chair of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers; and Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures.

 

Star Power

Other leading members includ Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group; Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries; Hasso Plattner, cofounder of SAP; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon; and Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently

Major Data Breach on Yahoo that Suffers

Yahoo on Wednesday revealed that Net bandits stole data associated with 1 billion of its user accounts — one of the largest data breaches in Internet history.

The theft, which occurred in August 2013, is distinct from the theft disclosed earlier this fall, in which 500 million accounts were compromised, Yahoo CISO Bob Lord explained.

Stolen information may include names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords using MD5 encryption — and in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers, according to Lord.

An unauthorized third party accessed the code Yahoo uses to create cookies, he noted. Access to that code allowed attackers to compromise accounts with forged cookies.

In response to this latest discovery, Yahoo is taking steps to secure the accounts of affected users and invalidate forged cookies, said Lord, as well as to harden its systems against similar attacks.

 

More Data Nicked

This latest breach at Yahoo appears worse than the previous one not only because is it bigger, but also because more-sensitive information was stolen.

“More information was released than just usernames and passwords,” explained Rami Essaid CEO of Distil Networks.

“The bad guys are getting a more holistic look at these users,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The weakly encrypted or

Stalking customers than claims suits

The controversy over Uber staff using the company’s tech to track people’s movements was reignited this week when information in a pending lawsuit began circulating in the tech press.

Uber employees can pull customer data at will, alleged Ward Spangenberg, the company’s former forensic investigator, in a court declaration filed earlier this fall as part of his bid to prevent the firm from forcing his case into arbitration.

Uber staffers have been able to track high-profile politicians, celebrities and ex-significant others, Spangenberg said.

His original complaint, filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, centers on his dismissal from the company.

Uber continues to allow broad access to users’ trip information, five security professionals formerly employed at the company told Reveal.

That has been going on, they said, in spite of Uber’s assertions two years ago that it had policies prohibiting such actions, following news that executives were taking advantage of its “God View” feature to track customers in real time without their permission.

 

Uber’s Side of the Story

“It’s absolutely untrue that ‘all’ or ‘nearly all’ employees have access to customer data, with or without approval,” maintained Uber spokesperson Sophie Schmidt.

“We have built entire systems to implement technical and administrative controls to limit

Air Force One That Trump do That

I’m starting to get the idea that for the next eight or so years, a lot of what many of us are going to write will have something to do with what Donald Trump tweeted. Granted, since that has been the case for much of the last year, we have gotten comfortable with it.

However, when Trump said he would kill the deal for an updated Air Force One — which would cost billions and still be based on the now-obsolete 747 — it hit me that we’ve completely lost track of what Air Force One should be. It should be a physical representation of the United States’ capability as it exists today — not a homage to the Ronald Reagan White House, which first introduced the 747 as the plane of presidents.

I’ll share my thoughts on why the next Air Force One should showcase innovation, agility and technology, rather than how the U.S. can’t spend taxpayer money wisely, and how incredibly long it takes the U.S. bureaucracy to get anything done. I’ll close with my product of the week, the Lenovo Book, which is likely the most innovative laptop in the world. It’s an innovation showcase itself and breaks

Open Source Community

Containerd will provide an open, stable and extensible base for building non-Docker products and container solutions, the company said.

Some of the top cloud providers, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM and Microsoft, have committed to making contributions to the project, according to Docker, giving it instant credibility within the community.

Containerd enables low-level local storage, container execution and supervision, and the transferring of container images and network interfaces across Linux and Windows. It fully leverages the Open Container Initiative’s runtime, image format specifications and OCI reference implementation, said the company, and it will pursue OCI certification.

Docker will donate containerd to an independent foundation, which will oversee its governance, trademark and trademark enforcement, by first quarter 2017.

 

Innovation Unleashed

Containerd will unlock a new phase of innovation and growth across the entire ecosystem, said Docker CTO Solomon Hykes.

The company has a history of making key components available to the open source community, starting in 2014 with libcontainer.

“If you look at Docker’s history of open sourcing key components over the last two years, containerd is a natural progression of that effort,” noted Patrick Chanezon, chief developer advocate at Docker.

“We have been working on containerd since Docker 1.11, and finally felt the project was