Showing posts from June, 2015

Leap Second today at 00:00 UTC - Bruised by past mistakes, tech firms brace for impact

Bruised by past mistakes, tech firms brace for 'leap second' By Tim Hornyak  IDG News Service | Jun 30, 2015 12:10 AM PT Just before the stroke of midnight Tuesday Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), computerized clocks around the world will pause for a moment to squeeze in an extra second. The leap second, as it’s called, is needed to keep UTC in line with solar time. The two get out of whack due to changes in the earth’s rotation, and 25 leap seconds have been added to clocks since 1971. Network Time Protocol (NTP) helps regulate the official time among Internet servers, keeping it in sync with UTC. But the last leap second in 2012 took some IT companies and other firms by surprise, and caused websites including LinkedIn and Reddit, as well as Qantas’ passenger reservation system, to crash. The problems involved unpatched Linux OS kernels, Hadoop instances, Cassandra and MySQL databases and Java-based programs. Linux systems in particular were the focus of

Study Suggests Google Harms Consumers by Skewing Search Results

Study Suggests Google Harms Consumers by Skewing Search Results Yelp-sponsored research examines Google’s practice of promoting its own search services By Tom Fairless June 29, 2015 4:18 a.m. ET   BRUSSELS—New research by two U.S. academics suggests that  Google Inc. is harming Internet users and violating competition laws by skewing search results to favor its own services, a potentially significant twist in Europe’s long-running antitrust investigation of the U.S. search company. The research combines statistical testing with detailed legal and economic analysis to examine the ramifications of Google’s practice of promoting its own specialized search services, such as for local restaurants or doctors, at the expense of rivals such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. It was sponsored by Yelp, which has filed a complaint with European Union antitrust authorities over Google’s search practices. It was presented to EU regulators on Friday. The study’s authors— Michael L

2 Uber managers detained in France over low-cost service

Jun 29, 10:44 AM EDT 2 Uber managers detained in France over low-cost service     PARIS (AP) -- French authorities took two Uber managers into custody for questioning on Monday over "illicit activity" involving its low-cost service. The detentions came amid rising tensions between the government and the ride-hailing company, which culminated last week in a violence-marred taxi strike that blocked roads around the country. French authorities are frustrated that Uber doesn't pay the same taxes and social charges as traditional taxis, whose drivers have lashed out against what they see as unfair competition. Uber, meanwhile, argues that the French system is outdated and needs reform to keep up with apps and geo-localization. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday but officials last week vowed to keep operating the lowest-cost UberPop service until France's top court rules on it. A spot check of the app on Monday showed dr

Google’s artificial-intelligence bot says the purpose of living is 'to live forever'

Google’s artificial-intelligence bot says the purpose of living is 'to live forever' Nathan McAlone Jun. 27, 2015, 1:54 PM This week, Google released a research paper chronicling one of its latest forays into artificial intelligence. Researchers at the company programmed an advanced type of “chatbot” that learns how to respond in conversations based on examples from a training set of dialogue. And the bot doesn’t just answer by spitting out canned answers in response to certain words; it can form new answers from new questions. This means Google's researchers could get a little creative with it, and they certainly did — they asked the bot everything from boring IT questions to inquiries about the meaning of life. The responses were alternately impressive, amusing, and unnerving. Here are some of the most poetic interactions from the paper: Human: What is the purpose of life?       Machine: To serve the greater good. Human: What i

Artificial Intelligence Machine Gets Testy With Its Programmer

Artificial Intelligence Machine Gets Testy With Its Programmer 1:56 pm ET Jun 26, 2015 By Amir Mizroch   Researchers have shown that machines are inching closer to self-learning, and perhaps even copping a little attitude. Over at Google, a computer program using a database of movie scripts was asked again and again by researchers to define morality. It struggles to do so, and in a conversation recorded by its human engineers, becomes exasperated and ends the conversation by lashing out at its human inquisitor. Here’s part of the exchange, as related in a paper presented this week: Human: Tell me the definition of morality. Machine: I don’t have ethics. Human: Look, I need help; I need to know more about morality… Machine: I don’t know what ethics is. Human: Okay, I need to know how I should behave morally… Machine: I don’t know how to tell you. Human: Is morality and ethics the same? Machine: Yes, sir. Human: What are the things

iPhones hit with 'blue screens of death'

iPhones hit with 'blue screens of death' By Matt Krantz June 25, 2015 12:10 pm     Users of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone on T-Mobile’s (TMUS) network are reportedly suffering from random “blue screens of death.” Complaints reveal an outbreak of cases where the Apple device’s screen flashes blue right before rebooting without warning, according to posts piling up on Twitter and other social media, and first spotted by MacRumors. Shares of Apple fell 61 cents, or 0.4%, to $127.50 Thursday. That decline comes just a day after financier Carl Icahn said the stock is the best bet he’s seen since Netflix (NFLX). Icahn’s words mean something since he made a fortune on Netflix, a trade he exited this week. Shares of T-Mobile US rose 29 cents, or 0.7%, to $39.32. Blue screen of death problems appear to affect a wide spectrum of Apple devices ranging from the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s, says MacRumors, and the restarts occur at 10 minute to 30 minute intervals. Th

Robot bricklayer can build a whole house in two days

Hadrian the robot bricklayer can build a whole house in two days Robot could be put to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, building houses By Andrew Griffin Friday 26 June 2015 An Australian engineer has built a robot that can build houses in two hours, and could work every day to build houses for people. Human housebuilders have to work for four to six weeks to put a house together, and have to take weekends and holidays. The robot can work much more quickly and doesn’t need to take breaks. Hadrian could take the jobs of human bricklayers. But its creator, Mark Pivac, told PerthNow that it was a response to the lack of available workers — the average age of the industry is getting much higher, and the robot might be able to fill some of that gap. “People have been laying bricks for about 6000 years and ever since the industrial revolution, they have tried to automate the bricklaying process,” Pivac told PerthNow, which first reported his creation. But desp

Digital-only challenger bank Atom wins licence in UK

Digital-only challenger bank Atom wins licence The Durham-based lender hopes to offer products to customers later this year By Tim Wallace 3:33PM BST 24 Jun 2015 Atom Bank has received its full licence from the Bank of England, moving the digital-only lender one step closer to opening to customers. The Durham-based lender plans to offer a full range of consumer and business accounts, loans and savings products, and expects to start serving customers this year. It will launch through a mobile application, with a desktop computer service to follow at a later date. Atom’s licence comes with restrictions, as its systems need further testing before regulators let the new bank go live. It paves the way for Atom to get a settlement with the Bank of England and to start to run tests to ensure its IT systems integrate properly with the wider payments system. Atom also needs to finish raising the £75m required to meet the regulatory capital rules. Star fund manag

Paris Uber Driver Held Hostage by 'Mob of Taxi Drivers' - Courtney Love Attacked

Courtney Love Attacked in Paris, Uber Driver Held Hostage by 'Mob of Taxi Drivers' By Jason Lipshutz, New York  | June 25, 2015 8:37 AM EDT "They've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage," Love shared on Twitter. Courtney Love was attacked in Paris on Thursday (June 25) by what she described as a "mob of taxi drivers." Taxi workers have been recently using blockades in European cities to picket Uber, as the mobile car-hailing service has hurt their industry; on Thursday, that picketing turned violent with Love in tow. "Dude @kanyewest we may turn back to the airport and hide out with u.picketers just attacked our car #ParisUberStrike," Love wrote on Twitter on Thursday. "they've ambushed our car and are holding our driver hostage. they're beating the cars with metal bats. this is France?? I'm safer in Baghdad." Love then appealed directly to French president François Hollande: "where

The hotel that lets you kill the internet

June 24, 2015 7:10 pm The hotel that lets you kill the internet By Malcolm Moore Desperate times call for desperate measures. One luxury hotel company has come up with the ultimate way to help its guests to relax: a switch that kills the internet. A silver switch next to the beds in the Villa Stéphanie spa resort in Baden-Baden activates a copper grid in the walls to block all wireless internet signals. “It is like a light switch,” said Frank Marrenbach, the chief executive of the Oetker Collection, which also runs Le Bristol in Paris, the Hotel Du Cap in Cap d’Antibes and will open a renovated Lanesborough hotel in London on July 1. So far around half his guests have opted, at some point during their stay, to kill their internet. The move may seem extreme, given that simply switching off connected devices would achieve the same end. But Chris Baréz-Brown, an author on work-life balance, said most of us cannot control our urge to sneak a peek at our screens.

Uber may track you 24/7

Uber may track you 24/7 By Aaron Smith   Uber's hot on your trail. A privacy group has filed a complaint against Uber for its updated policy of tracking passengers and accessing their personal information. The Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the growing ride service, which is considering tracking passengers through their mobile devices -- even when they're not actively using the Uber app. "Uber will claim the right to collect personal information and detailed location data of American consumers, even when they are not using the service," EPIC said in its complaint filed Monday. Uber explained last month in a statement how it collects information on drivers and passengers when they use the service. Uber gathers information through the user's mobile device to track location, contacts, transactions and other details. The company said it "may also collect the

Apple HomeKit Review: Siri’s New Smart Home Already Needs Renovation

Apple HomeKit Review: Siri’s New Smart Home Already Needs Renovation The new system isn’t reliable enough yet to get you talking to your connected home By Geoffrey A. Fowler Updated June 23, 2015 6:01 p.m. ET    It’s Day One for HomeKit, Apple’s ambitious plan to automate our homes. But it’s been a rough first day. HomeKit is supposed to help iPhones run lights, thermostats and all sorts of other appliances that can now connect to the Internet. It turns voice-assistant Siri into a genie who makes things happen around the house. You just say, “Turn on the lights,” and presto, they’re on. Unfortunately, Siri just isn’t very reliable. I’m running the first HomeKit hardware in my house, with hubs by Insteon and Lutron Caséta, but when Siri gets involved, I sometimes want to throw the iPhone out the window. She should know all my HomeKit-connected devices by name, but when I say, “Turn on the air filter,” Siri presents a list of stores where I might buy one. And

Tired of high taxes? Maybe it's time to move

Tired of high taxes? Maybe it's time to move CNBC data analysis shows outbound flow from high-tax states. By John W. Schoen 17 Hours Ago Everyone complains about taxes. But millions of American households apparently are doing something about it: Picking up and moving. A CNBC analysis of tax data and figures provided by two major national moving companies shows that states with the highest per-capita taxes, for the most part, are also seeing the biggest net migration out of those states. Take Connecticut, for example. Earlier this week, the Nutmeg State's legislature approved a collection of new taxes to close a two-year, $40 billion budget to help pay the multibillion-dollar tab to repair and replace the state's dilapidated roads and bridges. The package includes a 50-cent-per-pack hike in cigarette taxes and a bump in tax rates on corporations and the state's wealthiest earners. The budget battle drew heated debate, along with thre

Google eavesdropping tool installed on computers without permission

Google eavesdropping tool installed on computers without permission Privacy advocates claim always-listening component was involuntarily activated within Chromium, potentially exposing private conversations By Samuel Gibbs    Tuesday 23 June 2015 08.27 EDT  Last modified on Tuesday 23 June 2015 09.56 EDT  Privacy campaigners and open source developers are up in arms over the secret installing of Google software which is capable of listening in on conversations held in front of a computer. First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users. It was designed to support Chrome’s new “OK, Google” hotword detection – which makes the computer respond when you talk to it – but was installed, and, some users have claimed, it is activated on computers without their permission. “Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a bl

Google Accused of “Abusive” Conduct in Privacy App Case

Google Accused of “Abusive” Conduct in Privacy App Case By Ryan Gallagher Yesterday at 5:57 AM An award-winning company founded by former Google engineers is taking legal action against the search engine giant over claims it has engaged in a “pattern of abusive behavior” and is violating privacy rights on a “massive scale.” Disconnect, a U.S. firm that designs privacy-enhancing technology, has filed a complaint with European antitrust regulators after its Android app was banned from the Google Play Store. The app was designed to protect smartphone users from invisible tracking and malware distributed through online advertisements. The complaint was submitted earlier this month, but the full allegations were not made public at the time. The Intercept has obtained a copy of the 104-page complaint, which attacks Google over its claimed commitment to privacy and accuses the tech titan of trying to stop people from using the Disconnect app because it poses an “existential t

U.S. data hack may be 4 times larger than the government originally said

First on CNN: U.S. data hack may be 4 times larger than the government originally said By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN Updated 8:04 PM ET, Mon June 22, 2015 Story highlights A data hack that the U.S. government says originated in China may affect far more people than originally reported The U.S. Office of Personnel Management still says the hack could affect 4.2 million Americans The FBI director told lawmakers the actual number could be 18 million Americans Washington (CNN)—The personal data of an estimated 18 million current, former and prospective federal employees were affected by a cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management - more than four times the 4.2 million the agency has publicly acknowledged. The number is expected to grow, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. FBI Director James Comey gave the 18 million estimate in a closed-door briefing to Senators in recent weeks, using the OPM's own internal data,

With revamped app, news to be at core of Apple

With revamped app, news to be at core of Apple AFP By Rob Lever June 20, 2015 9:41 PM       Washington (AFP) - Apple is diving deeper into the news business with a new application that could make the US tech giant a key industry player. Apple News, part of the upcoming iOS 9 operating system, aims to be the primary news source for users of the iPhone and iPad -- likely at the expense of sources such as Facebook, Google and news apps such as Flipboard. In a surprising move, Apple has unveiled it will be hiring experienced journalists to manage its news feeds -- marking a departure from the algorithmic process used by rivals. "Apple is eager to have news created by human beings and not algorithms -- it fits in with the brand statement Apple has been making," said Judd Slivka, a professor of mobile journalism at the University of Missouri. "The expectation is they will put together a smart team that works well broadly across news and specific conten

Greece is Europe’s failed state in waiting

June 20, 2015 3:10 pm Greece is Europe’s failed state in waiting By Lawrence Summers When, as now appears likely, Greece financially separates from Europe it will at one level be no one’s fault. The Greek leaders will rightly explain that having imposed more austerity on themselves than any industrialised country has suffered since the Depression, they could not have done more without light at the end of tunnel in the form of a clear commitment to debt relief. European leaders will rightly explain that they adjusted their positions repeatedly to accommodate the Greeks. They will stress that their citizens would not permit Greece to play by different rules to the rest of Europe. And the IMF will rightly explain that it would have blessed any plan agreed by Greece and Europe that added up. The trouble is that all the parties are going to get much more of what they fear from a breakdown than they would even from what they regard as an unacceptable compromise. Historia

Google cracks down on 'revenge porn'...

Jun 19, 5:19 PM EDT GOOGLE CRACKS DOWN ON ' REVENGE PORN ' UNDER NEW NUDITY POLICY BY MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP TECHNOLOGY WRITER SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google plans to censor unauthorized nude photos from its influential Internet search engine in a policy change aimed at cracking down on a malicious practice known as "revenge porn." The new rules announced Friday will allow people whose naked pictures have been posted on a website without their permission to ask Google to prevent links to the image from appearing in its search results. A form for submitting the censorship requests to Google should be available within the next few weeks, according to the Mountain View , California , company. Google traditionally has resisted efforts to erase online content from its Internet search engine, maintaining that its judgments about information and images should be limited to how relevant the material is to each person ' s query. That libertarian approach hel