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Macs End Up Costing 3 Times Less Than Windows PCs Because of Fewer Tech Support Expense, Says IBM's IT Guy ( 182

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.
Social Networks

Steve Ballmer Says Microsoft Tried To Buy Facebook For $24 Billion ( 39

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CNBC on Friday that his company tried to buy Facebook when it was "itsy-bitsy" for $24 billion. BusinessInsider adds: Facebook fielded a lot of offers in its early days. When CNBC on Friday asked Ballmer how much Microsoft offered back then, he said, "Oh I think $24 billion when the company was itsy-bitsy and he said no. And I respect that." Zuckerberg clearly made the right choice. He currently has a net worth of $57 billion and Facebook's market cap is $374 billion.

Microsoft Shares Hit All-Time High As Company Strengthens Its Cloud Grip ( 30

Marco della Cava, reporting for USA Today: Microsoft shares surged 5% in early trading Friday, and passed a high set in 1999, helped by enthusiasm for progress in its cloud business. The stock was at up at $60.11, breezing past the $58.72 mark set in December 1999. Friday's rally follows Microsoft's latest quarterly report, out late Thursday, that beat analyst expectations for adjusted sales and profit and showcased a doubling of growth in its Azure cloud business, while reflecting continued strain from consumers' pivot away from PCs and traditional software purchases.Microsoft reported its Q1 2017 earnings yesterday, noting a revenue of $20.5 billion, which was higher than Wall Street's expectations. Company's Intellgent Cloud revenue was up 8 percent, whereas Azure revenue observed 116 percent growth year-on-year.

Donald Trump Running Insecure Email Servers ( 407

Donald Trump has slammed Hillary Clinton for using private email servers numerous times, but it turns out his inboxes aren't that secure either. From a report on The Register: Security researcher Kevin Beaumont discovered the Trump organization uses a hopelessly outdated and insecure internet setup. Servers on the Trump Organization's domain,, are using outdated software, run Windows Server 2003 and the built-in Internet Information Server 6 web server. Microsoft cut off support for this technology in July 2015, leaving the systems unpatched for the last 15 months. In addition, Beaumont said he'd found that emails from the Trump Organization failed to support two-factor authentication. That's particularly bad because the Trump Organization's web-based email access page relies on an outdated March 2015 build of Microsoft Exchange 2007, he says. "Windows Server 2003, IIS 6 and Exchange 2003 went end of life years ago. There are no security fixes. They don't have basics down," the UK-based researcher concludes. Beaumont's findings are based simply on inspecting publicly available information rather than actively scanning for vulnerabilities or attempting to gain access to insecure systems, a point lost on Trump supporters who have reported him to the Feds.

LinkedIn Promises To Bring Order and Meaning To Your Useless Endorsements ( 48

Oliver Staley, reporting for Quartz: LinkedIn's endorsement feature has never felt like the most trustworthy of sources. Rather than a panel of star witnesses who can honestly vouch for you, it more often seems like a random assortment of friends, acquaintances, and opportunists hoping for an endorsement in return. LinkedIn has recognized the problem and is trying to address it by creating a hierarchy of endorsers. Instead of all your endorsements having equal weight, the site will highlight people who might actually have some claim on knowing you, such as former colleagues and classmates, or who have credibility in the field. The goal is to make the feature more like the real world, where you ask for recommendations from people you trust or are in a position to know, says Hari Srinivasan, head of the LinkedIn team developing the feature. "If you want to find a good designer, you ask other good designers," he said.

Why Your Devices Are Probably Eroding Your Productivity ( 97

University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and California State University, Dominguez Hills professor emeritus Larry Rosen explain in their book "The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High Tech World" why people have trouble multitasking, and specifically why one's productivity output is lowered when keeping up with emails, for example. Lesley McClurg writes via KQED Science: When you engage in one task at a time, the prefrontal cortex works in harmony with other parts of the brain, but when you toss in another task it forces the left and right sides of the brain to work independently. The process of splitting our attention usually leads to mistakes. In other words, each time our eyes glance away from our computer monitor to sneak a peak at a text message, the brain takes in new information, which reduces our primary focus. We think the mind can juggle two or three activities successfully at once, but Gazzaley says we woefully overestimate our ability to multitask. In regard to answering emails, McClurg writes: Gazzaley stresses that our tendency to respond immediately to emails and texts hinders high-level thinking. If you're working on a project and you stop to answer an email, the research shows, it will take you nearly a half-hour to get back on task. "When a focused stream of thought is interrupted it needs to be reset," explains Gazzaley. "You can't just press a button and switch back to it. You have to re-engage those thought processes, and recreate all the elements of what you were engaged in. That takes time, and frequently one interruption leads to another." In other words, repetitively switching tasks lowers performance and productivity because your brain can only fully and efficiently focus on one thing at a time. Plus, mounting evidence shows that multitasking could impair the brain's cognitive abilities. Stanford researchers studied the minds of people who regularly engage in several digital communication streams at once. They found that high-tech jugglers struggle to pay attention, recall information, or complete one task at a time. And the habit of multitasking could lower your score on an IQ test, according to researchers at the University of London. The saving grace is that we don't need to ditch technology as "there's a time and place for multitasking," according to Gazzaley. "If you're in the midst of a mundane task that just has to get done, it's probably not detrimental to have your phone nearby or a bunch of tabs open. The distractions may reduce boredom and help you stay engaged. But if you're finishing a business plan, or a high-level writing project, then it's a good idea to set yourself up to stay focused."

'Cultlike' Devotion: Apple Once Refused To Join Open Compute Project, So Their Entire Networking Team Quit ( 233

mattydread23 writes: Great story about the Open Compute Project from Business Insider's Julie Bort here, including this fun tidbit: "'OCP has a cultlike following,' one person with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider. 'The whole industry, internet companies, vendors, and enterprises are monitoring OCP.' OCP aims to do for computer hardware what the Linux operating system did for software: make it 'open source' so anyone can take the designs for free and modify them, with contract manufacturers standing by to build them. In its six years, OCP has grown into a global entity, with board members from Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Intel, and Microsoft. In fact, there's a well-known story among OCP insiders that demonstrates this cultlike phenom. It involves Apple's networking team. This team was responsible for building a network at Apple that was so reliable, it never goes down. Not rarely -- never. Building a 100% reliable network to meet Apple's exacting standards was no easy task. So, instead of going it alone under Apple's secrecy, the Apple networking team wanted to participate in the revolution, contributing and receiving help. But when the Apple team asked to join OCP, Apple said 'no.' 'The whole team quit the same week,' this person told us."

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick on Microsoft Surface: 'I Just Can't Take It Anymore' ( 185

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is not happy with the Surface tablet provided to him via a deal between Microsoft and the NFL. Not only has he physically thrown the tablets at things, but he has verbally expressed his negative opinions of them. TechCrunch reports: When asked about the Patriots' headsets malfunctioning during last weeks game, Belichick instead took the time to let everyone know he's "done with the tablets." While he didn't go into too much detail on the tablets, Belichick essentially said that Microsoft's surface tablets are too "undependable," and there "isn't enough consistency in their performance." In terms of the rest of the sideline technology like headsets, Belichick is essentially fed up with the fact that everything always malfunctions and is impossible to fix during games. So why is the sideline technology so hard to get right? The tablets (as well as the headphones and all other sideline technology) are owned and maintained by the NFL. That means it gets delivered to teams literally hours before the game and taken away when it ends. This makes it hard for teams to test for issues before a game and to troubleshoot when something goes wrong. Belichick's full rant can be read here, which reads in part: "As you probably noticed, I'm done with the tablets. They're just too undependable for me. I'm going to stick with (paper) pictures, which several of our other coaches do, as well, because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets. I just can't take it anymore..."

Microsoft Claims Its Speech Transcription AI is Now Better Than Human Professionals ( 97

Microsoft announced today a system that can transcribe the content of a phone call with "the same or fewer errors" than real actual human professionals trained in transcription -- even when the human transcript is double-checked by a second human for accuracy. As you can imagine, this is a huge milestone for speech recognition. From a Quartz report:The team doesn't attribute this achievement to any breakthrough in algorithm or data, but the careful tuning of existing AI architectures. To test how their algorithm stacked up against humans, first researchers had to get a baseline. Microsoft hired a third-party service to tackle a piece of audio for which they had a confirmed 100 percent accurate transcription. The service worked in two stages: one person types up the audio, and then a second person listens to the audio and corrects any errors on the transcript. Based on the correct transcript for the standardized tests, the professionals had 5.9 percent and 11.3 percent error rates. After learning from 2,000 hours of human speech, Microsoft's system went after the same audio file -- and scored 5.9 percent and 11.1 percent error rates. That minute difference ends up being about a dozen fewer errors. Microsoft's next challenge is making this level of speech recognition work in noisier environments, like in a car or at a party. This implementation is crucial for Microsoft, and goes well beyond just transcription.

Windows is the Most Open Platform There is, Says Satya Nadella ( 284

On Tuesday in a conversation with Gartner analysts, Satya Nadella talked about the future of AI, the cloud, Windows, and what his company plans to do with LinkedIn. But the most notable remark from Nadella was when he said this, "Windows is the most open platform there is." ZDNet adds: It came in the context of Nadella talking about Microsoft's mission to unite the three big constituencies in the technology world. "That's the approach we've always taken," said Nadella, "bringing users, IT, and developers together... When you bring them together, that's where the magic happens." He reminded the audience of several thousand technology leaders that Microsoft began by making tools, then it made apps, and now it makes platforms. Or, it buys them.

Apple and Other Tech Companies Have Registered Their IP in Jamaica, Tonga, and Elsewhere For Years ( 42

Apple's product launches are notoriously secretive, but the Cupertino, California tech giant is sure to do one thing ahead of a big reveal: file trademark paperwork in Jamaica. From a Quartz report: It did this for Siri, the Apple Watch, macOS, and dozens of its major products months before the equivalent paperwork was lodged in the United States. Likewise, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft routinely file trademarks for their most important products in locales far flung from Silicon Valley and Seattle. These include Jamaica, Tonga, Iceland, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago -- places where trademark authorities don't maintain easily searchable databases. The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

There's Bugs In The Windows 10 Implementation of Bash ( 163

First-time submitter Big O Notation shares "an honest review about the new Ubuntu Bash" that shipped with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. While it's still officially beta, most of the commands work as expected, and it includes popular programs like the Pico text editor. Here's some of the review's highlights: Pros: You can also manage and manipulate other files inside your entire Hard Disk, even those outside of your Linux home directory.
Cons: Even if you chmod something properly, when you use ls -l the Bash would not show the correct permissions. [And] if you try to create a Folder in your Linux Home Directory by using the Windows GUI, it would be impossible to read and manage it. Don't try this at home.

Microsoft says they've included the Windows Subsystem for Linux primarily as "a tool for developers -- especially web developers and those who work on or with open source projects." One Scandinavian developer has even tried running X on Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, reporting success running simpler programs like xcalc and xclock, as well as Gnome Control Center and xeditor and SciTE. "Things start to fall apart if you try to get more ambitious, though."

No One Wants To Buy Twitter ( 313

At one point, it seemed that many were interested in purchasing the micro-blogging social platform (which now calls itself a news service) Twitter, but its fate is quickly drying up. Salesforce (which couldn't buy LinkedIn) showed the most interest in Twitter, but this week its CEO Marc Benioff said his company has "walked away" from making a bid to buy it. The Verge sums up the situation: If you're keeping track, that's now... pretty much everyone who's said they're not interested in buying Twitter. Neither Google nor Disney plan to bid on Twitter, despite reports saying both were interested. Recode says that Apple is likely also out of the picture. And Verizon immediately dismissed speculation that it was considering a bid. Facebook is also said to be uninterested, according to CNBC. And while Microsoft's name has been tossed around, no one seems to think the acquisition would make any sense for an increasingly enterprise-focused company.The situation is so bad that as soon as the news of Salesforce withdrawing its name from the bidding race broke, its stock quickly went up by 6 percent, while Twitter's stock registered a 6 percent drop.

It's Time For Laptop Companies To Switch To Precision Touchpad ( 183

A new Windows 10 insider build (version 14946) comes with a new interface for configuring touchpad gestures. In the recent months, Microsoft has also improved the detection of two-finger gestures and clicking on Windows 10, and also added new four-finger gestures. These are welcome changes, and something that many would find useful. Except they won't because their computers likely don't comply with Precision Touchpad spec. ArsTechnica has an opinion piece today in which journalist Peter Bright is calling on all the OEMs to do the needful changes moving forward. From the article: Precision Touchpad made its debut with Windows 8. Co-developed between Microsoft and touchpad company Synaptics, the spec changed how Windows works with touchpads. Traditionally, touchpads masqueraded to Windows as essentially USB- or PS/2-connected mice -- simple two-dimension, single-input devices. Features such as multitouch and gestures were handled by a combination of the touchpad firmware and proprietary drivers. This meant that Windows itself had no ability to add new gestures or refine the finger-detection algorithms; it was all an opaque feature of the third-party drivers. With Precision Touchpad, the raw touchpad input is exposed to Windows itself, allowing the operating system to choose how it handles the complex multi-finger inputs. The gestures, the disambiguation of taps and swipes -- these are all now performed by Windows, not a third-party driver. Unfortunately, many PC OEMs haven't been equipping their laptops with Precision Touchpads. As such, they can't take advantage of the new Windows capabilities. As far as we can tell, it would normally be straightforward for an OEM to make the switch; touchpads from Synaptics, for example, can work as both Precision Touchpads and "legacy" mouse-emulating touchpads that use the Synaptics driver. It's just up to the OEM to pick one option or the other.
The Courts

Ford's Buggy Infotainment System Referred To By Engineers As 'Polished Turd' and 'Unsaleable' ( 291

Lucas123 writes: A class-action lawsuit against Ford and its MyFord Touch in-vehicle infotainment system -- originally based on a Microsoft platform -- has brought to light corporate documents that show engineers at the Dearborn carmaker referred to the problematic technology as a "polished turd" that they feared would be "unsaleable." The documents even reveal that Henry Ford's great grandson experienced significant problems with MyFord Touch. In one incident, Edsel Ford was forced to wait on a roadside for the system to reset and could not continue to drive because he was unable to use the IVI's navigation system. The lawsuit describes an IVI screen that would freeze or go blank; generate error messages that wouldn't go away; voice recognition and navigation systems that failed to work, problems wirelessly pairing with smartphones, and a generally slow system. Ford's CEO Mark Fields even described his own travails with the SYNC IVI, referring to it as having crashed on several occasions, and that he was so frustrated with the system he may have damaged his car's screen out of aggravation. The civil suit is expected to go to trial in 2017.

Google and Facebook Are Building the Fastest Trans-Pacific Cable Yet ( 42

Google and Facebook are working together to lay a nearly 8,000-mile fiber-optic cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The cable will have a bandwidth of 120 terabits per second, Google said, adding that this makes it the highest-capacity route between the United States and Asia. TechCrunch adds: Once the new 12,800 km cable is at full capacity, it'll be the highest-capacity trans-Pacific cable yet. Until now, that record was held by the FASTER cable, which Google also has a stake in. Google tells TechCrunch that all parties participating in building the cable will have their own portion of the cable and that the company will have its own fiber pair to keep its own traffic private. The new cable will become the sixth submarine cable that Google has a stake in (the others are Unity, SJC, FASTER, MONET and Tannat). While it may seem unusual for Google to partner with Facebook on this kind of project, submarine cables often feature these kind of partnerships. Facebook and Microsoft recently teamed up to build a trans-Atlantic cable, for example, which at 160 Tbps is even faster than the Pacific Light cable (but also only half as long). Amazon, too, is starting to invest in its own submarine cables, but so far, the company has not partner with other industry giants to do so.

Pokemon Go Could Add 2.83 Million Years To Users' Lives, Says Study ( 156

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: A new study from Microsoft Research found that the most interested Pokemon Go players took 26% more steps than before using the app. The largest behavior changes were seen among sedentary users. No matter their gender, age, weight or lifestyle, Pokemon Go users began to move more -- taking an extra 194 steps a day once they started using the app. (That's the equivalent of walking roughly one tenth of a mile.) The researchers estimate that Pokemon Go has added 144 billion steps to U.S. physical activity. That's 143 roundtrips to the moon. The study was published online this month in the Cornell Library University. Since activity reduces mortality risks, the researchers estimated that Pokemon Go could add 2.83 million years to the life expectancy of an assumed 25 million U.S. users. Based off research that showed walking reduces mortality, the researchers calculated that Pokemon Go users who continued to walk an extra 1,000 steps a day would enjoy 41.4 days of additional life expectancy. The Microsoft scientists examined data shared by 31,793 users of Microsoft Band, a wearable device, and Bing, the company's search engine. They compared the movement data from the wearables with users' web search queries. Pokemon Go players were identified by web searches that indicated they were playing the game. The Microsoft team also looked at four of the most popular health apps on Apple and Android devices. They found these apps had little impact on a person's behavior. The activity levels of Pokemon Go users changed far more.

PC Industry Is Now On a Two-Year Downslide ( 310

According to analyst firm Gartner, PC shipments have declined for eight consecutive quarters -- "the longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry." The company found that worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.9 million units in the third quart of 2016, a 5.7 percent decline from the third quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: The firm cites poor back-to-school sales and lowered demand in emerging markets. But the larger issue, as it has been for quite some time, is more existential than that. "The PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to," writes Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. "Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again." The threat, of course, comes from smartphones, which have more aggressive upgrade cycles than PCs and have over time grown powerful enough to compete with desktop and laptop computers at performing less intensive tasks. Tablets too have become more capable, with Apple pushing its iPad Pro line as a viable laptop replacement. PC makers are feeling the pressure. HP, Dell, and Asus each had low single-digit growth, but Acer, Apple, and Lenovo all experienced declines, with Apple and Lenovo each suffering double-digit drops. Meanwhile, the rest of the PC market, which collectively ships more units per quarter than any of the big-name brands, is down more than 16 percent. Some good news is that 2-in-1 devices have experienced year-over-year growth. Kitigawa also notes: "While our PC shipment report does not include Chromebooks, our early indicator shows that Chromebooks exceeded PC shipment growth."

Nokia Crawls Towards Comeback With New Phones Announcement ( 72

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: The "new Nokia" appears going for volume rather than margins as it makes a comeback into phones. A new venture called HMD Global has licensed the rights to the Nokia brand for use in phones, which will be made by Foxconn. Three or four new Nokia-branded devices will be launched, Nokia's China chief suggested in August, with the first to be announced before Christmas. Benchmarks for one device, named in the benchmarks as the "D1C" have been spotted, indicating a solid midrange device, with 3GB of RAM, and Android Nougat 7. The CPU is identified as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa core running at 1.4Ghz. In 2013, Microsoft bought the exclusive right to use the Nokia brand for phones, for a limited period. That exclusivity period expires at the end of this year.

Skype For Linux Adds 'Experimental' Video Calls, Disables Some Alpha Versions ( 42

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: This morning Skype released version 1.10 of Skype for Linux which includes an "experimental version" of video calls. "We are not quite there. The 1-on-1 video calls work only between Skype for Linux Alpha clients for now," warns an announcement on the Skype forum. "Despite the early phase, we'd like to ask you, the Linux community, to help us with testing. Please let us know how the video works for you."

They're also disabling some older versions of the Skype for Linux Alpha (versions 1.1 through 1.6), saying "Those users will be asked to update to [the] latest version." But after a 20-month lull between releases for the old app, it's refreshing to see a much faster pace for development for this new WebRTC version. It's been less than a month since the release of version 1.8, and two weeks since version 1.9 came out, offering support for system HTTPS proxy.

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