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Mozilla

VM-Neutral Node.js API Unveiled, As NodeSource Collaborates With Microsoft, Mozilla, Intel and IBM (medium.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes: This week saw the first proof of concept for Node.js API (or NAPI for short), "making module maintainers' lives easier by defining a stable module API that is independent from changes in [Google's JavaScript engine] V8 and allowing modules to run against newer versions of Node.js without recompilation." Their announcement cites both the efforts of the Node.js API working group and of ChakraCore, the core part of the Chakra Javascript engine that powers Microsoft Edge.

And there was also a second announcement -- that the Node.js build system "will start producing nightly node-chakracore builds, enabling Node.js to be used with the ChakraCore JavaScript engine. "These initial efforts are stepping stones to make Node.js VM-neutral, which would allow more opportunities for Node.js in IoT and mobile use cases as well as a variety of different systems."

One IBM runtime developer called it "a concrete step toward the strategic end goal of VM neutrality," and the Node.js Foundation believes that the API will ultimately result in "more modules to choose from, and more stability with modules without the need to continually upgrade."
Republicans

Of 8 Tech Companies, Only Twitter Says It Would Refuse To Help Build Muslim Registry For Trump (theintercept.com) 587

On the campaign trail last year, President-elect Donald Trump said he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database. While he has back-stepped on a number of campaign promises after being elected president, Trump and his transition team have recently resurfaced the idea to create a national Muslim registry. In response, The Intercept contacted nine of the "most prominent" technology companies in the United States "to ask if they would sell their services to help create a national Muslim registry." Twitter was the only company that responded with "No." The Intercept reports: Even on a purely hypothetical basis, such a project would provide American technology companies an easy line to draw in the sand -- pushing back against any effort to track individuals purely (or essentially) on the basis of their religious beliefs doesn't take much in the way of courage or conviction, even by the thin standards of corporate America. We'd also be remiss in assuming no company would ever tie itself to such a nakedly evil undertaking: IBM famously helped Nazi Germany computerize the Holocaust. (IBM has downplayed its logistical role in the Holocaust, claiming in a 2001 statement that "most [relevant] documents were destroyed or lost during the war.") With all this in mind, we contacted nine different American firms in the business of technology, broadly defined, with the following question: "Would [name of company], if solicited by the Trump administration, sell any goods, services, information, or consulting of any kind to help facilitate the creation of a national Muslim registry, a project which has been floated tentatively by the president-elect's transition team?" After two weeks of calls and emails, only three companies provided an answer, and only one said it would not participate in such a project. A complete tally is below.

Facebook: No answer. Twitter: "No," and a link to this blog post, which states as company policy a prohibition against the use, by outside developers, of "Twitter data for surveillance purposes. Period." Microsoft: "We're not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point," and a link to a company blog post that states that "we're committed to promoting not just diversity among all the men and women who work here, but [...] inclusive culture" and that "it will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time." Google: No answer. Apple: No answer. IBM: No answer. Booz Allen Hamilton: Declined to comment. SRA International: No answer.

IBM

Erich Bloch, Who Helped Develop IBM Mainframe, Dies At 91 (google.com) 38

shadowknot writes: The New York Times is reporting (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source) that Erich Bloch who helped to develop the IBM Mainframe has died at the age of 91 as a result of complications from Alzheimer's disease. From the article: "In the 1950s, he developed the first ferrite-core memory storage units to be used in computers commercially and worked on the IBM 7030, known as Stretch, the first transistorized supercomputer. 'Asked what job each of us had, my answer was very simple and very direct,' Mr. Bloch said in 2002. 'Getting that sucker working.' Mr. Bloch's role was to oversee the development of Solid Logic Technology -- half-inch ceramic modules for the microelectronic circuitry that provided the System/360 with superior power, speed and memory, all of which would become fundamental to computing."
Stats

Julian Assange Could Be Time's 'Person Of The Year', And Is Also Still Not Dead (time.com) 145

Long-time Slashdot reader cstacy noticed Saturday that Julian Assange hadn't made any communications or public appearances in six weeks. But today an anonymous reader writes: Julian Assange is still not dead, reports The Inquisitr, noting "the WikiLeaks founder made his first appearance in weeks, speaking with an interviewer for a conference in Beirut" including comments about the recent death of Fidel Castro.

Assange is also in the running to be chosen as "Person of the Year" in Time magazine's annual online reader's poll, and last Monday even moved briefly into first place, inching past Donald Trump. "It's worth noting that the poll presents people alphabetically," Time reported, "so Assange is the first option participants consider and Trump comes near the end of the poll."

I think the poll's being hacked by state actors, since Vladimir Putin now leads with 38%, followed by Theresa May (16%) and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un (13%), and Donald Trump is locked in a tie for fourth place with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 9%. Time worked with Opentopic and IBM's Watson to assemble the initial list for reader's votes, which also included Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI director James Comey. Surprisingly, a few celebrities also turned up on the list too, including comedian Samantha Bee, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.
IBM

IBM To Pay More Than $30 Million in Compensation For Census Fail (abc.net.au) 60

IBM will pay more than $30 million in compensation for its role in the bungled census, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated. From a report: The Prime Minister described the four Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that caused a 40-hour outage inconveniencing millions of Australians as "utterly predictable, utterly foreseeable." "I have to say -- and I'm not trying to protect anyone here at all -- but overwhelmingly the failure was IBM's and they have acknowledged that, they have paid up and they should have," he said. "They were being paid big money to deliver a particular service and they failed."
Cloud

Google Cloud Will Add GPU Services in Early 2017 (geekwire.com) 19

Google Cloud will add GPUs as a service early next year, the company has said. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM's Bluemix all already offer GPU as a service. From a report on GeekWire: Google may be seeking to distinguish itself, however, with the variety of GPUs it's offering. They include the AMD FirePro S9300 x2 and two offerings from NVIDIA Tesla: the P100 and the K80. And Google will charge by the minute, not by the hour, making GPU usage more affordable for customers needing it only for short periods. CPU-based machines in the cloud are good for general-purpose computing, but certain tasks such as rendering or large-scale simulations are much faster on specialized processors, Google explained. GPUs contain hundreds of times as many computational cores as CPUs and excel at performing risk analysis, studying molecular binding or optimizing the shape of a turbine blade. Google's GPU services will be available in early 2017 through Google Compute Engine and Google Cloud Machine Learning.
AI

IBM's Project Intu brings Watson's Capabilities To Any Device (siliconangle.com) 17

IBM has launched a new system-agnostic platform called Project Intu with which it aims to bring "embodied cognition" to a range of devices. From a report on SiliconAngle: In IBM's parlance, "cognitive computing" refers to machine learning. The idea behind Project Intu is that developers will be able to use the platform to embed the various machine learning functions offered by IBM's Watson service into various applications and devices, and make them work across a wide spectrum of form factors. So, for example, developers will be able to use Project Intu's capabilities to embed machine learning capabilities into pretty much any kind of device, from avatars to drones to robots and just about any other kind of Internet of Things' device. As a result, these devices will be able to "interact more naturally" with users via a range of emotions and behaviors, leading to more meaningful and immersive experiences for users, IBM said. What's more, because Project Intu is system-agnostic, developers can use it to build cognitive experiences on a wide range of operating systems, be it Raspberry PI, MacOS, Windows or Linux. Project Intu is still an experimental platform, and it can be accessed via the Watson Developer Cloud, the Intu Gateway and also on GitHub.
Cloud

AWS Releases Amazon Linux Container Image For Use in On-Premises Data Centers (venturebeat.com) 33

Amazon Web Services, a division of Amazon that offers cloud computing and storage services, has released a container image of its Amazon Linux operating system -- which has, until now, only been accessible on AWS virtual machine instances -- that customers can now deploy on their own servers. From a report on VentureBeat: Of course, other Linux distributions are available for use in companies' on-premises data centers -- CentOS, CoreOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Canonical's Ubuntu, and so on. Now companies that are used to Amazon Linux in the cloud can work with it on-premises, too. It's available from AWS' EC2 Container Registry. Amazon Linux is not currently available for instant deployment on other public clouds, whether Oracle's, Google's, Microsoft's, or IBM's. "It is built from the same source code and packages as the AMI and will give you a smooth path to container adoption," AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in a blog post. "You can use it as-is or as the basis for your own images."
AI

Is Microsoft Mainstreaming Machine Learning? (networkworld.com) 51

Tuesday Microsoft updated their open source Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), adding support for both C++ and Python. "This announcement is more than a point release..." argues Network World. "It's the recognition of AI and machine learning as the next big platform after mobile." This announcement represents a shift in Microsoft's customer focus from research to implementation... The toolkit is a supervised machine learning system in the same category of other open-source projects such as Tensorflow, Caffe and Torch. Microsoft is one of the leading investors in and contributors to the open machine learning software and research community. A glance at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference reveals that there are just four major technology companies committed to moving the field of neural networks forward: Microsoft, Google, Facebook and IBM.
A Microsoft engineer described CNTK as "democratizing AI," according to Microsoft's announcement, which also notes that their toolkit "has been optimized to best take advantage of the NVIDIA hardware and Azure networking capabilities that are part of the Azure offering."
Windows

Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy (yahoo.com) 524

An anonymous reader shares a report on Yahoo (edited): Last year, Fletcher Previn became a cult figure of sorts in the world of enterprise IT. As IBM's VP of Workplace as a Service, Previn is the guy responsible for turning IBM (the company that invented the PC) into an Apple Mac house. Previn gave a great presentation at last year's Jamf tech conference where he said Macs were less expensive to support than Windows. Only 5% of IBM's Mac employees needed help desk support versus 40% of PC users. At that time, some 30,000 IBM employees were using Macs. Today 90,000 of them are, he said. And IBM ultimately plans to distribute 150,000 to 200,000 Macs to workers, meaning about half of IBM's approximately 370,000 employees will have Macs. Previn's team is responsible for all the company's PCs, not just the Macs. All told IBM's IT department supports about 604,000 laptops between employees and its 100,000+ contractors. Most of them are Windows machines -- 442,000 -- while 90,000 are Macs and 72,000 are Linux PCs. IBM is adding about 1,300 Macs a week, Previn said.
The Internet

Say Hello To Branded Internet Addresses (cnet.com) 146

On September 29, Google published a new blog which uses .google domain rather the standard .com. It seems the company may have inspired other companies to tout their brand names in the digital realm as well. According to a report on CNET, we have since seen requests for domain names such as .kindle, .apple, .ibm, .canon, and .samsung. And it's not just tech companies that are finding this very attractive, other domain requests include .ford, .delta, .hbo, .mcdonalds, and .nike. From the report: Approval, of course, is just a first step. It's not clear how enthusiastic most companies will be about the new names. So far, Google is the eager beaver. What's fun for Google is a daunting financial commitment to others. A $185,000 application fee and annual $30,000 operation fee will keep mom-and-pop shops away from their own domains. Still, plenty of businesses other than Google see the new domain names as a good investment. Branded domains can add distinction to an internet address, and renting out generic top-level domain (GTLD) names can potentially be a lucrative business. At a January auction, GMO Registry bid $41.5 million to win rights to sell .shop domain names. And in July, Nu Dot Co won .web with a bid of $135 million. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Hundreds of new top-level domain names are approved. The single most popular in use is .xyz. Where does all the money go? To a nonprofit organization called ICANN -- the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. The organization oversees internet plumbing on behalf of companies, governments and universities, as well as the general public.
Java

The Linux Foundation Helps Launch the JS Foundation (softpedia.com) 34

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Today, the Linux Foundation announced the creation of a new entity named the JS Foundation that will serve as an umbrella project and guiding force for various open-source utilities at the heart of the JavaScript ecosystem. The JS Foundation is actually the jQuery Foundation, which was expanded with the help of companies such as IBM and Samsung. With jQuery slowly bowing out to newer tools, the jQuery Foundation's members and their unmatched expertise will most likely be put to good use in managing the slew of new tools making up today's JavaScript landscape. The list of JS Foundation founding members includes Bocoup, IBM, Ripple, Samsung, Sauce Labs, Sense Tecnic Systems, SitePen, StackPath, University of Westminster and WebsiteSetup. In alphabetical order, the JS Foundation's initial projects are Appium, Chassis, Dojo Toolkit, ESLint, Esprima, Globalize, Grunt, Interledger.js, Intern, Jed, JerryScript, jQuery, jQuery Mobile, jQuery UI, Lodash, Mocha, Moment, Node-RED, PEP, QUnit, RequireJS, Sizzle, and webpack. "Using jQuery can constitute the use of a sledgehammer for putting small nails into an Ikea TV stand; however, as a piece of engineering, it really is a thing of beauty," says A. M. Douglas, British freelance web developer. "[T]he word 'jQuery' has become synonymous with 'JavaScript' for many. As of today, jQuery's days as a relevant tool are indeed numbered, but I think jQuery's source code will always have relevance, as it is a brilliant example to study for anybody seeking to learn and master JavaScript," Douglas also adds.
The Almighty Buck

2016 Has Been an Ugly Year For Tech Layoffs, and It's Going To Get Worse, Says Analyst (ieee.org) 272

IEEE Spectrum writer Tekla Perry writes: Early this year, analyst Trip Chowdhry from Global Equities Research predicted that the tech world was going to see big layoffs in 2016 -- some 330,000 in all at major tech companies. At the time, these numbers seemed way over the top. Then IBM started slashing jobs in March -- and continued to wield the ax over and over as the year progressed. Yahoo began layoffs of some 15 percent of its employees in February. Intel announced in April that it would lay off 12,000 this year. So, was Chowdhry right? "Yes," he told me when I asked him this week. "The layoffs I predicted have been occurring." And worse, he says, these laid-off workers are never again going to find tech jobs: "They will always remain unemployed," at least in tech, he said. "Their skills will be obsolete." Some of these layoffs are due to a sea change in the industry, as it transforms to the world of mobile and cloud. But some are signs of a bubble about to pop. It's all going to get worse in 2017, he predicts, because that's when the tech bubble will burst. Chowdhry, someone who has never been reluctant to go out on a limb, is predicting that'll happen in March.
Google

OpenCAPI: Google and IBM Lead Tech Consortium To Speed Data Centre Performance (thestack.com) 11

An anonymous reader writes: IBM is leading a prestigious consortium of tech players in the open development of a new framework that, the company says, can speed data centre performance by a factor of 10. Participants in the OpenCAPI group include IBM, Google, Nvidia, Mellanox, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Micron and Xilinx. Chris Johnson, a Principal Engineer at Google commented 'Google is committed to open standards and we are excited to contribute to the cross-industry use and development of OpenCAPI'. Google's collaboration with RackSpace on the Zaius server will include IBM's forthcoming POWER9 processor technology, which is built around OpenCAPI. Tom Eby, vice president of Micron's compute and networking business said:"While memory has always been an essential building block for computing, it is quickly becoming the critical technology to unlocking next-generation performance."
AI

Google Tells Home Audio Vendors To Ditch Competing Smart Assistants If They Want To Use Google Cast: Variety (variety.com) 60

Google is telling its home audio vendors that they won't be allowed to add support for smart assistants by rivals such as Amazon's Alexa if they want to continue to use Google Cast, according to Variety. The Mountain View-based company reportedly conducted a meeting in June with 50 of the biggest names of home audio to discuss the plan. The publication adds that Google's talks with OEMs were at least partially successful, with many of those companies planning to unveil their Google Cast-powered smart speakers as soon as next year. From the report:"Google Cast has become a Trojan horse," said one of the attendees, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record with Variety. Google's overtures to consumer electronics makers come at a time of upheaval for many home audio brands. Premium stereo equipment makers, in particular, have seen their sales diminished in recent years by both changing listening habits and a rapid evolution of technology. The move to streaming audio led music fans to massively embrace headphones and cheap Bluetooth speakers. Then Sonos came along and established itself as the market leader for premium Wifi-connected speakers. And finally, Amazon surprised everyone with the Echo, a device that redefined what a speaker does, thanks to smart voice control that can be used to request songs, news headlines, the weather, and even to order a pizza or an Uber.Weirdly enough, Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft announced a partnership this week to conduct research and promoting best practices on AI.
AI

Amazon Launches $2.5 Million Alexa Prize For College Students Building Bots (venturebeat.com) 16

Amazon has announced the Alexa Prize, a $2.5 million award for college students who develop technology to make it more natural to talk with company's Alexa virtual assistant. Amazon said it hopes to build a socialbot on Alexa which is capable of conversing with people about popular topics and news events. VentureBeat adds: Up to ten teams will be sponsored by Amazon and receive a $100,000 stipend, Alexa-enabled devices, free AWS services, and support from the Alexa team. [...] The first contest will be held at AWS re:invent in November 2017. Among other bot-building contests, the Watson Group at IBM has prizes and cash for anyone who can make bots that talk to each other.
Businesses

IBM Buys Promontory Financial Group (zdnet.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: IBM said Thursday it plans to acquire compliance consulting firm Promontory Financial Group to bring more financial regulatory expertise to Watson's cognitive computing platform. Promontory is a global consulting operation with an aim of helping banks manage the ever-increasing regulation and risk management requirements in the financial sector. With that in mind, IBM wants to use the industry expertise of Promontory's workforce -- which is made up of ex-regulators and banking executives -- to teach Watson all about regulation, risk and compliance. IBM is also using the deal to create a new subsidiary called Watson Financial Services, which will build cognitive tools for things things like tracking regulatory obligations, financial risk modeling, surveillance, anti-money laundering detection systems. "This is a workload ideally suited for Watson's cognitive capabilities intended to allow financial institutions to absorb the regulatory changes, understand their obligations, and close gaps in systems and practices to address compliance requirements more quickly and efficiently," IBM said in a press release.
AI

Microsoft Forms New AI Research Group Led By Harry Shum (techcrunch.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A day after announcing a new artificial intelligence partnership with IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon, Microsoft is upping the ante within its own walls. The tech giant announced that it is creating a new AI business unit, the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which will be led by Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum. Shum will oversee 5,000 computer scientists, engineers and others who will all be "focused on the company's AI product efforts," the company said in an announcement. The unit will be working on all aspects of AI and how it will be applied at the company, covering agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Shum has been involved in some of Microsoft's biggest product efforts at the ground level of research, including the development of its Bing search engine, as well as in its efforts in computer vision and graphics: that is a mark of where Microsoft is placing its own priority for AI in the years to come. Important to note that Microsoft Research unit will no longer be its on discrete unit -- it will be combined with this new AI effort. Research had 1,000 people in it also working on areas like quantum computing, and that will now be rolled into the bigger research and development efforts being announced today. Products that will fall under the new unit will include Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams led by David Ku, Derrick Connell and Vijay Mital, respectively. The Microsoft AI and Research Group will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT), Microsoft said.
AI

Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Come Together To Create Historic Partnership On AI (techcrunch.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In an act of self-governance, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, and Microsoft came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It's important to remember that on a day to day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence. Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies who are members of the group, but in the future membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, non-profits, ethicists, and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies. As of today's launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals -- many of whom are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics including ethics, inclusivity, and privacy.
IBM

Banks Adopting Blockchain 'Dramatically Faster' Than Expected (reuters.com) 62

Banks and other financial institutions are adopting blockchain technology "dramatically faster" than initially expected, with 15 percent of top global banks intending to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain products in 2017, IBM said on Wednesday. Reuters reports: The technology company said 65 percent of banks expected to have blockchain projects in production in three years' time, with larger banks -- those with more than 100,000 employees -- leading the charge. IBM, whose findings were based on a survey of 200 banks, said the areas most commonly identified by lenders as ripe for blockchain-based innovation were clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance and reference data. Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction-processing and record-keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification.

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