Mars

Curiosity Rover Decides, By Itself, What To Investigate On Mars (sciencemag.org) 53

sciencehabit writes: NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars in 2012, in part to analyze rocks to see whether the Red Planet was ever habitable (or inhabited). But now the robot has gone off script, picking out its own targets for analysis -- precisely as planned. Last year, NASA scientists uploaded a piece of software called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) adapted from the older Opportunity rover. Curiosity can now scan each new location and use artificial intelligence to find promising targets for its ChemCam. Compared with the estimated 24% success rate of random aiming at picking out outcrops -- a prime target for investigation -- the current version of AEGIS lets the rover find them 94% of the time, researchers report.
Microsoft

Microsoft Admits Disabling Anti-Virus Software For Windows 10 Users (bbc.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Microsoft has admitted that it does temporarily disable anti-virus software on Windows PCs, following an competition complaint to the European Commission by a security company. In early June, Kaspersky Lab filed the complaint against Microsoft. The security company claims the software giant is abusing its market dominance by steering users to its own anti-virus software. Microsoft says it implemented defenses to keep Windows 10 users secure. In an extensive blog post that does not directly address Kaspersky or its claims, Microsoft says it bundles the Windows Defender Antivirus with Windows 10 to ensure that every single device is protected from viruses and malware. To combat the 300,000 new malware samples being created and spread every day, Microsoft says that it works together with external anti-virus partners. The technology giant estimates that about 95% of Windows 10 PCs were using anti-virus software that was already compatible with the latest Windows 10 Creators Update. For the applications that were not compatible, Microsoft built a feature that lets users update their PCs and then reinstall a new version of the anti-virus software. "To do this, we first temporarily disabled some parts of the AV software when the update began. We did this work in partnership with the AV partner to specify which versions of their software are compatible and where to direct customers after updating," writes Rob Lefferts, a partner director of the Windows and Devices group in enterprise and security at Microsoft.
Software

NSA Opens GitHub Account, Lists 32 Projects Developed By the Agency (thehackernews.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hacker News: The National Security Agency (NSA) -- the United States intelligence agency which is known for its secrecy and working in the dark -- has finally joined GitHub and launched an official GitHub page. GitHub is an online service designed for sharing code amongst programmers and open source community, and so far, the NSA is sharing 32 different projects as part of the NSA Technology Transfer Program (TTP), while some of these are "coming soon." "The NSA Technology Transfer Program (TTP) works with agency innovators who wish to use this collaborative model for transferring their technology to the commercial marketplace," the agency wrote on the program's page. "OSS invites the cooperative development of technology, encouraging broad use and adoption. The public benefits by adopting, enhancing, adapting, or commercializing the software. The government benefits from the open source community's enhancements to the technology." Many of the projects the agency listed are years old that have been available on the Internet for some time. For example, SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) has been part of the Linux kernel for years.
Communications

Snapchat's New Snap Map Lets You Share Your Location With Friends (theverge.com) 26

Snapchat is expanding into the world of mapping. A new feature announced on Wednesday called Snap Maps will let the app's 166 million users share their locations with each other, according to a company blog post. From a report: From the default camera view, you pinch with two fingers to zoom out and see the map. Friends who have opted into sharing their location through Snap Map (it's off by default) will appear in Bitmoji form. You can share with select friends, all friends, or with no one if you pick "Ghost Mode." Snapchat is very quick to note that your location is only updated when you open the app -- so there shouldn't be any background tracking to worry about.
Apple

Chris Lattner, Poached From Apple To Become Tesla's Top Software Executive, Quits After 6 Months (bizjournals.com) 135

Tesla said last night Chris Lattner, the vice president of Autopilot software, has left the company about six months after the electric car-maker hired him away from Apple. From a report: Lattner had led the software development team in charge of Autopilot. Tesla executive Jim Keller is now in charge of Autopilot hardware and software. The company announced it had also hired OpenAI research scientist Andrej Karpathy, who will serve as Tesla's new director of artificial intelligence and Tesla Vision. "Chris just wasn't the right fit for Tesla, and we've decided to make a change," the company told reporters in a statement. "We wish him the best." Lattner tweeted last night, "Turns out that Tesla isn't a good fit for me after all. I'm interested to hear about interesting roles for a seasoned engineering leader!" Lattner is a widely respected figure in the industry. He is the main author of LLVM as well as Apple's Swift programming language. We interviewed him earlier this year.
Open Source

Opus 1.2 Released 22

jmv writes: The Opus audio codec, used in WebRTC and now included in all major web browsers, gets another major upgrade with the release of version 1.2. This release brings quality improvements to both speech and music, while remaining fully compatible with RFC 6716. There are also optimizations, new options, as well as many bug fixes. This Opus 1.2 demo describes a few of the upgrades that users and implementers will care about the most. It includes audio samples comparing to previous versions of the codec, as well as speed comparisons for x86 and ARM.
Software

Uber Finally Adds a Tipping Option To Its App (gizmodo.com) 84

After years of complaints, Uber is rolling out a tipping option for drivers. "Tipping is available in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston as of today. We're starting with only 3 cities so we can create the best tipping experience for you and your riders. We'll be adding more cities over the next few weeks, and will make tips available to all U.S. drivers, by the end of July 2017," Uber said in an email to drivers. Gizmodo reports: Uber will also roll out a full set of driver-friendly features. The cancellation window will narrow to two minutes (it was previously five) and drivers will get a per-minute fee if a rider makes them wait beyond two minutes. Drivers will also get a cut of Uber's "teen fare" which had previously gone exclusively to Uber. Now, drivers will get $2 of the fee. Uber will also offer drivers the option to enroll in injury-protection insurance. Uber has always argued that it offers a seamless experience and that adding a tip feature into its app would interfere with that. The company promises an up-front fare to the rider, with no fumbling around for cash or evaluation of a driver's performance beyond assigning a rating.
Google

Google Launches Its AI-Powered Jobs Search Engine (techcrunch.com) 38

Now you can search for jobs across virtually all of the major online job boards like LinkedIn, Monster, WayUp, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilders, Facebook and others -- directly from Google's search result pages. The company will also include job listings it finds on a company's homepage. TechCrunch reports: The idea here is to give job seekers an easy way to see which jobs are available without having to go to multiple sites only to find duplicate postings and lots of irrelevant jobs. With this new feature, which is now available in English on desktop and mobile, all you have to type in is a query like "jobs near me," "writing jobs" or something along those lines and the search result page will show you the new job search widget that lets you see a broad range of jobs. From there, you can further refine your query to only include full-time positions, for example. When you click through to get more information about a specific job, you also get to see Glassdoor and Indeed ratings for a company. You can also filter jobs by industry, location, when they were posted, and employer. Once you find a query that works, you can also turn on notifications so you get an immediate alert when a new job is posted that matches your personalized query.
Transportation

Driver Killed In a Tesla Crash Using Autopilot Ignored At Least 7 Safety Warnings (usatoday.com) 468

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: U.S. investigators said a driver who was killed while using Tesla's partially self-driving car ignored repeated warnings to put his hands on the wheel. In a 538-page report providing new details of the May 2016 crash that killed Ohio resident Joshua Brown in a highway crash in Florida, the National Transportation Safety Board described the scene of the grisly incident and the minutes leading up to it. The agency, which opened an investigation to explore the possibility that Tesla's Autopilot system was faulty, said it had drawn "no conclusions about how or why the crash occurred." The NTSB report appears to deliver no conflicting information. The agency said the driver was traveling at 74 miles per hour, above the 65 mph limit on the road, when he collided with the truck. The driver used the vehicle's self-driving system for 37.5 minutes of the 41 minutes of his trip, according to NTSB. During the time the self-driving system was activated, he had his hands on the wheel for a total of only about half a minute, investigators concluded. NTSB said the driver received seven visual warnings on the instrument panel, which blared "Hold Steering Wheel," followed by six audible warnings.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Quietly Forms a Mixed Reality Team, But What Is It Building? (geekwire.com) 40

Nat Levy, reporting for GeekWire: Amazon is building a new "two pizza team" within Amazon Web Services focused on mixed-reality technology, another sign that the cloud powerhouse is expanding its reach and branching out into new areas. AWS isn't talking publicly about the initiative, but a job posting for a software engineer sheds some light on the team's goals. The posting says the company is "building a set of services, and platform to bring AWS and Amazon into the world of Mixed Reality." The company wants engineers with experience in "Computer Vision, 3D objects, rendering and data storage by designing, developing and testing software solutions." The posting further states that "applications would include real-time 3D modeling, image and video stream processing all within a scalable distributed environment." The posting calls the group a "true start-up within AWS (a real two pizza team)." The two-pizza term goes back to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and his well-known rule that any team or meeting that can't be fed with two pizzas is too large.
OS X

The Behind-the-Scenes Changes Found In MacOS High Sierra (arstechnica.com) 204

Apple officially announced macOS High Sierra at WWDC 2017 earlier this month. While the new OS doesn't feature a ton of user-visible improvements and is ultimately shaping up to be a low-key release, it does feature several behind-the-scenes changes that could help make it the most stable macOS update in years. Andrew Cunningham from Ars Technica has "browsed the dev docs and talked with Apple to get some more details of the update's foundational changes." Here are some excerpts from three key areas of the report: APFS
Like iOS 10.3, High Sierra will convert your boot drive to APFS when you first install it -- this will be true for all Macs that run High Sierra, regardless of whether they're equipped with an SSD, a spinning HDD, or a Fusion Drive setup. In the current beta installer, you're given an option to uncheck the APFS box (checked by default) before you start the install process, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will survive in the final version. It's also not clear at this point if there are edge cases -- third-party SSDs, for instance -- that won't automatically be converted. But assuming that most people stick with the defaults and that most people don't crack their Macs open, most Mac users who do the upgrade are going to get the new filesystem.

HEVC and HEIF
All High Sierra Macs will pick up support for HEVC, but only very recent models will support any kind of hardware acceleration. This is important because playing HEVC streams, especially at high resolutions and bitrates, is a pretty hardware-intensive operation. HEVC playback can consume most of a CPU's processor cycles, and especially on slower dual-core laptop processors, smooth playback may be impossible altogether. Dedicated HEVC encode and decode blocks in CPUs and GPUs can handle the heavy lifting more efficiently, freeing up your CPU and greatly reducing power consumption, but HEVC's newness means that dedicated hardware isn't especially prevalent yet.

Metal 2
While both macOS and iOS still nominally support open, third-party APIs like OpenGL and OpenCL, it's clear that the company sees Metal as the way forward for graphics and GPU compute on its platforms. Apple's OpenGL support in macOS and iOS hasn't changed at all in years, and there are absolutely no signs that Apple plans to support Vulkan. But the API will enable some improvements for end users, too. People with newer GPUs should expect to benefit from some performance improvements, not just in games but in macOS itself; Apple says the entire WindowServer is now using Metal, which should improve the fluidity and consistency of transitions and animations within macOS; this can be a problem on Macs when you're pushing multiple monitors or using higher Retina scaling modes on, especially if you're using integrated graphics. Metal 2 is also the go-to API for supporting VR on macOS, something Apple is pushing in a big way with its newer iMacs and its native support for external Thunderbolt 3 GPU enclosures. Apple says that every device that supports Metal should support at least some of Metal 2's new features, but the implication there is that some older GPUs won't be able to do everything the newer ones can do.

Microsoft

Microsoft Now Lets Surface Laptop Owners Revert Back To Windows 10 S (mspoweruser.com) 81

Microsoft is kind enough to offer Surface Laptop users the option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free until later this year if they don't like Windows 10 S, which is installed by default and is only able to run apps or games that are in the Windows Store. The company is taking that generosity one step further by letting users revert back to Windows 10 S if they installed Windows 10 Pro and aren't happy with the performance and battery life. The option to revert back to the default OS wasn't available until now. MSPoweruser reports: Microsoft recently released the official recovery image for the Surface Laptop which will technically let you go back to Windows 10 S on your device but you'll be required to remove all of your files which is a bit frustrating. The recovery image wasn't available a few days after the Surface Laptop started shipping, but it is now available and you can download it to effectively reset your Surface Laptop. The recovery image is 9GB, so make sure you have a good internet connection before downloading the file. It is quite interesting how Microsoft isn't letting users go back to Windows 10 S from Windows 10 Pro without having to completely reset their devices, as the company would want more users to use its new version of Windows 10 for many reasons. Maybe this is something Microsoft will be adding in the future, but for now, we'll just have to do with the recovery image. If you own a Surface Laptop, you can find the recovery image here.
Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Government

Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families (nytimes.com) 54

Mexico's most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists, reports the New York Times. From the report: The targets include lawyers looking into the mass disappearance of 43 students (alternative source), a highly respected academic who helped write anti-corruption legislation, two of Mexico's most influential journalists and an American representing victims of sexual abuse by the police. The spying even swept up family members, including a teenage boy. Since 2011, at least three Mexican federal agencies have purchased about $80 million worth of spyware created by an Israeli cyberarms manufacturer. The software, known as Pegasus, infiltrates smartphones to monitor every detail of a person's cellular life -- calls, texts, email, contacts and calendars. It can even use the microphone and camera on phones for surveillance, turning a target's smartphone into a personal bug.
AI

As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups (siliconangle.com) 135

Investment in AI startups is on a tear as venture capitalists and corporate investors scramble to stake out a leadership position in what could be the driving trend in technology for decades to come. From a report: The financial interest in AI, machine learning and related technologies is hardly new. CB Insights has tracked some $18.4 billion invested in 2,541 AI-related startups since 2012. But the trend is only accelerating. In the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which showed otherwise mostly stagnant startup funding, AI and machine learning companies shined, reaching an eight-quarter high of $820 million invested in 90 companies. A flurry of significant investments in a number of AI-related companies this past week underscored the point. On Wednesday alone, for instance, AI-powered analytics software provider CognitiveScale raised a $15 million round, voice AI startup Snips raised $13 million and, to top it off, machine learning consultancy Element AI got an unusually large $102 million early-stage investment just eight months after the company was launched. Then on Thursday and Friday, two other AI-powered companies, Conviva and Codota, announced fundings too.
Programming

Community Ports 'Visual Studio Code' To Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi (infoworld.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: A community build project led by developer Jay Rodgers is making Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's lightweight source code editor, available for Chromebooks, Raspberry Pi boards, and other devices based on 32-bit or 64-bit ARM processors. Supporting Linux and Chrome OS as well as the DEB (Debian) and RPM package formats, the automated builds of Visual Studio Code are intended for less-common platforms that might not otherwise receive them. Obvious beneficiaries will be IoT developers focused on ARM devices -- and the Raspberry Pi in particular -- who will find it helpful to have the editor directly on the device they're programming against... Rodgers said the lure of Visual Studio Code for him was its user-friendly interface, making it approachable for new users.
Twitter

Tableau Software Drops Its 'Twitter Crowd Favorite' Data Viz Contests (tableau.com) 21

theodp writes: As part of its 'Iron Viz' data visualization contests that lead up to its annual conferences, Tableau Software ($4.8B market cap) has awarded $500 gift cards to 'Twitter Crowd Favorites', contestants whose data viz draw the most 'votes' (tagged Tweets) on Twitter. But no more. As it expanded Iron Viz eligibility to China, Tableau said it 'just didn't seem fair' to allow popular voting in its worldwide contests since the Chinese government blocks citizens' Twitter use. "As Chinese authors join the contest," the Tableau Public blog explained, "we have to say goodbye to the Twitter Crowd Favorite. Twitter is blocked in mainland China and it wouldn't be fair for our Chinese contestants." And the latest Iron Viz Contest FAQs confirm the change: "Q. I heard there won't be a Crowd Favorite prize, is that true? A. Absolutely true. China is among the new countries who can take part in the Iron Viz, and Twitter doesn't work in mainland China. The usual Twitter Popular Vote just didn't seem fair."
This XKCD comic still has my all-time favorite data visualizations.
Debian

Debian 9 (Stretch) Will Be Released Today (twitter.com) 192

The Debian Project has been liveblogging today's release of Debian 9 (Stretch) using the Twitter hashtag #releasingstretch. Some of the announcements:
  • The oldstable suite (wheezy) has now been renamed to oldoldstable
  • Debian jessie now been renamed to oldstable!
  • The Debian stretch suites have now been renamed to stable!
  • The draft debian-devel-announce post is ready, archive docs are being cleaned up

This release is named after that purple octopus in Toy Story 3, and more tantalizing tidbits of information keep appearing on Debian's micronews site:

  • At least 1436 people and 18 teams contributed to Debian in 2017
  • Stretch has 25,357 source packages with 9,808,465 source files
  • There were 13 different themes proposed to be the official Debian stretch theme
  • Debian Stretch ships with the free mathematical software SageMath, you can install it with apt
  • During the stretch development, 101 contributors became Debian Developers, and 94 more become Debian Maintainers
  • Debian Stretch will ship with the first release of the Debian Astro Pure Blend [for astronomers]
  • Debian Popularity Contest gathers anonymous statistics about Debian packages usage from about 195,000 reports

Security

What Happens When Software Companies Are Liable For Security Vulnerabilities? (techbeacon.com) 220

mikeatTB shares an article from TechRepublic: Software engineers have largely failed at security. Even with the move toward more agile development and DevOps, vulnerabilities continue to take off... Things have been this way for decades, but the status quo might soon be rocked as software takes an increasingly starring role in an expanding range of products whose failure could result in bodily harm and even death. Anything less than such a threat might not be able to budge software engineers into taking greater security precautions. While agile and DevOps are belatedly taking on the problems of creating secure software, the original Agile Manifesto did not acknowledge the threat of vulnerabilities as a problem, but focused on "working software [as] the primary measure of progress..."

"People are doing exactly what they are being incentivized to do," says Joshua Corman, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative for the Atlantic Council and a founder of the Rugged Manifesto, a riff on the original Agile Manifesto with a skew toward security. "There is no software liability and there is no standard of care or 'building code' for software, so as a result, there are security holes in your [products] that are allowing attackers to compromise you over and over." Instead, almost every software program comes with a disclaimer to dodge liability for issues caused by the software. End-User License Agreements (EULAs) have been the primary way that software makers have escaped liability for vulnerabilities for the past three decades. Experts see that changing, however.

The article suggests incentives for security should be built into the development process -- with one security professional warning that in the future, "legal precedent will likely result in companies absorbing the risk of open source code."
Software

Announcing 'build', Auto-Configuration In 1000 Lines Of Makefile (github.com) 103

Christophe de Dinechin created the XL programming language -- and as descubes he's also Slashdot reader #35,093. Today he shares his latest project, a simple makefile-based build system that he's split from ELFE/XL: Most open-source projects use tools such as autoconf and automake. For C and C++ projects, build is a make-based alternative that offers auto-configuration, build logs, colorization, testing and install targets, in about 1000 lines of makefile. A sample makefile looks like this:

BUILD=./
SOURCES=hello.cpp
PRODUCTS=hello.exe
CONFIG= <stdio.h> <iostream> clearenv libm
TESTS=product
include $(BUILD)rules.mk


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