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Why Google hiring 200 security guards is a big deal

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about three weeks ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "I personally have worked for more than one tech giant without actually working for the company in question. And I know many contract tech workers who have toiled full time for years doing the same work as regular employees, making less money, getting few or no benefits (much less in the way of equity options, etc.) from the contract outsourcer, and enjoying zero job security. And that’s the upscale side of the practice. Things are much worse for folks doing service work at far lower pay grades. But Google’s recent decision to actually hire some 200 security guards at the Googleplex may shake up that cozy practice.

Google—like many other companies—had been getting its guards supplied by Security Industry Specialists, which has long been the target of union protests at Google headquarters, the San Francisco Apple Store, and other spots, claiming low pay and irregular hours—basically that SIS workers don’t share in the wealth created by the tech companies at which they’re working. By becoming Google employees, the security guards will be eligible for the same sweet benefit packages enjoyed by other Google workers. And that, according to the Wall Street Journal, is "a move that could reverberate around Silicon Valley." For instance, when Google released a report on the diversity of its workers earlier this year, other tech heavyweights in the Valley quickly followed suit."

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Will Windows 10 address the operating system's biggest weakness?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about three weeks ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The real question on my mind is whether Windows 10 will finally address a problem that has plagued pretty much every Windows OS since at least 95: the decay of the system over time. As you add and remove apps, as Windows writes more and more temporary and junk files, over time, a system just slows down.

I'm sure many of you have had the experience of taking a five-year-old PC, wiping it clean, putting the exact same OS on as it had before, and the PC is reborn, running several times faster than it did before the wipe. It's the same hardware, same OS, but yet it's so fast. This slow degeneration is caused by daily use, apps, device drive congestion (one of the tell-tale signs of a device driver problem is a PC that takes forever to shut down) and also hardware failure. If a disk develops bad sectors, it has to work around them. Even if you try aggressively to maintain your system, eventually it will slow, and very few people aggressively maintain their system.

So I wonder if Microsoft has found a solution to this. Windows 8 was supposed to have some good features for maintaining the OS and preventing slowdown. I wouldn't know; like most people, I avoided Windows 8 like the plague. It would be the most welcomed feature of Windows 10 if I never had to do another backup, disk wipe, and reinstall."

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Marines put Microsoft Kinect to work for 3D mapping

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about a month ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "A military contractor has come up with something that has the U.S. Marine Corps interested. The Augmented Reality Sand Table is currently being developed by the Army Research Laboratory and was on display at the Modern Day Marine Expo that recently took place on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia.

The set-up is simple: a table-sized sandbox is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor detects features in the sand and projects a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout, which can change in real time as observers move the sand around in the box. The setup can also project maps from Google Earth or other mapping and GPS systems, enabling units to visualize the exact terrain they'll be covering for exercises or operations. Eventually, they hope to add visual cues to help troops shape the sandbox to match the topography of a specified map.

Eventually, the designers of the sandbox hope to involve remote bases or even international partners in conducting joint training and operations exercises. Future possibilities include large-scale models that could project over a gymnasium floor for a battalion briefing, and a smartphone version that could use a pocket-sized projector to turn any patch of dirt into an operational 3-D map."

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Facebook blamed for driving up cellphone bills, but it's not alone

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 2 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Consumer site MoneySavingExpert.com reported today that it has seen “many complaints” from users who believe a recent increase in data-related charges on their cellphone bills are the result of Facebook's auto-play feature. The default setting for the auto-play feature launches and continues to play videos silently until the user either scrolls past it or clicks on it; if the user does the latter, the video then goes full-screen and activates audio. The silent auto-play occurs regardless of whether users are connected to Wi-Fi, LTE, or 3G.

However, it’s likely that Facebook isn't entirely to blame for this kind of trend, but rather, with the debut of its auto-play feature, threw gas on an already growing fire of video-sharing services. Auto-play for video is a default setting on Instagram’s app, although the company refers to it as “preload." Instagram only introduced video last summer, after the Vine app, a Twitter-backed app that auto-plays and loops six-second videos, started to see significant growth.

In the first half of 2014, Instagram saw a 25% increase in usage, while Vine usage grew by 27%, according to a study released by GlobalWebIndex in May. The mobile app that saw the most growth in usage over that period was Snapchat, which also allows users to send and view videos over 3G and 4G wireless connections; Snapchat usage grew 67% in that period, according to the study.

So while Facebook’s auto-play feature is likely to have a hand in an epidemic of cellphone data overages, it’s just one culprit among many new mobile apps that are embracing video, all of which happen to be popular among teenagers, who aren't likely to know or care about how auto-play video features might affect their parents’ wallets."

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Would Microsoft really cut its QA department?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 3 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Bloomberg reports that Nadella is making changes to the engineering organization and that QA testers may feel the ax. The publication attributes to him the notion that "it often makes sense to have the developers test and fix bugs instead of a separate team of testers."

This would be an incredible move if it's true, because it would fly in the face of more than 30 years of development processes. The whole premise of Agile development is based on building one small piece, test, test, test, add another feature, test, test, test, rinse, repeat. You don't let programmers debug their code for the same reason you don't let writers be their own editor; you need fresh eyes to see what the other person might not.

Microsoft does use a different technique for development. Rather than straight QA people, it uses what it called Software Developer Engineer Test, or SDET, who create software that identifies bugs and fixes them when possible. There is still a layer of human intervention for harder-to-find bugs, but the process does automate testing.

Might Microsoft be bold enough to cut QA for its software products and increase its automated testing processes? Or is this just a nightmare scenario that has cropped up amid Microsoft layoff rumors?"

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Police dog sniffs out hidden memory cards, flash drives to search for child porn

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "A Rhode Island state police task force’s hunt to track down “the worst of the worst” sex offenders and child pornographers now includes a golden Labrador named Thoreau that can sniff out hidden memory cards and storage drives, which will be used during the investigation of suspected child pornographers. The dog is trained to identify the scent of the components within the storage devices, and has already found as part of an investigation "a thumb drive containing child pornography hidden four layers deep in a tin box inside a metal cabinet," the Providence Journal reported.

Of course, the dog cannot discern between storage devices that contain illegal material and those that do not, but it will be used when investigating suspected child pornographers and could gather evidence that police officers may not be able to find."

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FAA's ruling on smartphones during takeoff has had little impact

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 4 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Airlines have seen almost no increase in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops among passengers since the Federal Aviation Administration ruled in October that they are now allowed to do so during takeoff and landing, a recent study found.

Over a four month period observed by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development this year, 35.9% of passengers used mobile devices at any point during the flight. In last year’s study, while flight attendants still patrolled the aisles for devices that hadn't been shut off, 35.3% of passengers used devices during flight. Chaddick Institute director Joseph Schwieterman said many people may not be interested in using their mobile devices in-flight, and are simply excited for an opportunity to "use the time to sleep and chill out."

Another contributing factor is the stipulation to the FAA’s rule that still bans the use of smartphones for making phone calls or send text messages, the report noted. That may change soon, however. The FAA recently received public comment on a proposal to lift its ban on in-flight cellphone communications service, which has been in place since 1991.""

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How MIT and Caltech's coding breakthrough could accelerate mobile network speeds

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "What if you could transmit data without link layer flow control bogging down throughput with retransmission requests, and also optimize the size of the transmission for network efficiency and application latency constraints? In a Network World post, blogger Steve Patterson breaks down a recent breakthrough in stateless transmission using Random Linear Network Coding, or RLNC, which led to a joint venture between researchers at MIT, Caltech, and the University of Aalborg in Denmark called Code On Technologies.

The RLNC-encoded transmission improved video quality because packet loss in the RLNC case did not require the retransmission of lost packets. The RLNC-encoded video was downloaded five times faster than the native video stream time, and the RLNC-encoded video streamed fast enough to be rendered without interruption.

In over-simplified terms, each RLNC encoded packet sent is encoded using the immediately earlier sequenced packet and randomly generated coefficients, using a linear algebra function. The combined packet length is no longer than either of the two packets from which it is composed. When a packet is lost, the missing packet can be mathematically derived from a later-sequenced packet that includes earlier-sequenced packets and the coefficients used to encode the packet."
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Driverless cars could cripple law enforcement budgets

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Google’s driverless cars have now combined to drive more than 700,000 miles on public roads without receiving one citation, The Atlantic reported this week. While this raises a lot of questions about who is responsible to pay for a ticket issued to a speeding autonomous car – current California law would have the person in the driver’s seat responsible, while Google has said the company that designed the car should pay the fine – it also hints at a future where local and state governments will have to operate without a substantial source of revenue.

Approximately 41 million people receive speeding tickets in the U.S. every year, paying out more than $6.2 billion per year, according to statistics from the U.S. Highway Patrol published at StatisticBrain.com. That translates to an estimate $300,000 in speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer every year.

State and local governments often lean on this source of income when they hit financial trouble. A study released in 2009 examined data over a 13-year period in North Carolina, finding a “statistically significant correlation between a drop in local government revenue one year, and more traffic tickets the next year,” Popular Science reported.

So, just as drug cops in Colorado and Washington are cutting budgets after losing revenue from asset and property seizures from marijuana arrests, state and local governments will need to account for a drastic reduction in fines from traffic violations as autonomous cars stick to the speed limit."

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Why should Red Hat support competitors' software?

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 5 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, based on documents it reviewed, Red Hat "has chosen not to provide support to its commercial Linux customers if they use rival versions of OpenStack." But the big question is: Why would customers have expected that in the first place? Gartner analyst Lydia Leong told Network World that Red Hat isn't really doing anything wrong here. Customers shouldn't have an expectation that Red Hat would support competitors' software. "The norm would be to expect that non-Red Hat software is treated like any other third-party software," Leong says.

If Red Hat has done anything wrong, it's that it has not clearly articulated its positioning and support for non-Red Hat OpenStack distros. Red Hat did not immediately respond to a question asking for a clarification on its support policy.

The complication in all this comes from the fact that OpenStack is an open source project and there are misconceived notions that all OpenStack clouds are interoperable with one another. But Leong says just because OpenStack is open source doesn't change the expectations around vendors supporting competitors' products.

Each vendor — HP, Red Hat, Rackspace, IBM — has its own commercial interests at play here. Of course Red Hat will integrate their OpenStack distro with RHEL — that's how it makes money. And HP will do the same with its hardware. There are no purely altruistic open source companies that offer free distributions that are interoperable across all vendors."

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Microsoft Research's gesture keyboard could kill the mouse

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The Type–Hover–Swipe keyboard is a slim keyboard with gesture control sensors embedded between its keys. When you want to do some basic mouse movements, like scrolling up and down, simply raise your hand from the keyboard and make a gentle motion. In a demo video showing it in action, switching between apps seemed as simple as hovering over the keyboard, More interesting is the racing game simulation, where you basically hold your hands over the keyboard in a driving position. That did look a little clumsy, but as Microsoft says, the sensors are only 64 pixels, so it's fairly low res. There are other methods to compensate for this and recognize proper input.

As always, this is a work in progress. The keyboard has no release date, and there's no promise it will be released, or even be released in the form demonstrated. But if it can spare users the waste of time of shifting to the keyboard, then that will be a benefit for all."

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Microsoft cheaper to use than open source software, UK CIO says

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Jos Creese, CIO of the Hampshire County Council, told Britain's "Computing" publication that part of the reason is that most staff are already familiar with Microsoft products and that Microsoft has been flexible and more helpful.

"Microsoft has been flexible and helpful in the way we apply their products to improve the operation of our frontline services, and this helps to de-risk ongoing cost," he told the publication. "The point is that the true cost is in the total cost of ownership and exploitation, not just the license cost."

Creese went on to say he didn't have a particular bias about open source over Microsoft, but proprietary solutions from Microsoft or any other commercial software vendor "need to justify themselves and to work doubly hard to have flexible business models to help us further our aims.""

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MIT students to receive $100 in Bitcoin

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The MIT Bitcoin Club is handing out $100 in the cryptocurrenty to MIT undergrads next September. The club’s co-founder Jeremy Rubin gave a pretty convincing reason for the giveaway:

"Giving students access to cryptocurrencies is analogous to providing them with internet access at the dawn of the internet era."

That gets at the main point, which is to encourage the students to test the technology and come up with applications for it. Even with the Mt. Gox debacle and the other issues surrounding Bitcoin's stability and value, its potential as a technological platform remains massive."

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ARIN runs out of IPv4 addresses

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "After IANA allocated the final IPv4 addresses to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) on February 3, 2011, the RIRs have been running out of IPv4 addresses over the past three years. APNIC ran out on April 15, 2011; RIPE NCC ran out on September 14, 2012; and now ARIN has run out on April 23, 2014.

After today’s announcement by ARIN, they have now entered Phase 4 of their IPv4 exhaustion plan. Their Number Resource Policy Manual (NRPM) defines the process that organizations can request IPv4 addresses. At this moment, IPv4 addresses will only be allocated on an emergency basis. This means that an ISP can make one final request for a /22, but after that they will not get any more address space.

This may be concerning for many organizations that intend to continue using IPv4 for decades to come. There are probably no organizations in the ARIN territories that are actively planning to stop using IPv4 at some point in the future. Organizations that are desperate for addresses can purchase them through the address transfer marketplace. ARIN permits address transfers to take place, but you must follow their rules as part of the address transfer process. Over time, the price of an IPv4 address will increase from $15 to $30 today to well over $100 in the not-so-distant future."

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Americans are scared about the future of drones, robots, and wearables

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Findings from a recent Pew study on Americans' opinions on future technology and science: 65% think it would be a change for the worse if lifelike robots become the primary caregivers for the elderly and people in poor health. 63% think it would be a change for the worse if personal and commercial drones are given permission to fly through most U.S. airspace. 53% of Americans think it would be a change for the worse if most people wear implants or other devices that constantly show them information about the world around them.

The drone concern is to be expected, from both a privacy and a safety perspective. Last year, a small Colorado town tried to issue permits for residents to shoot down airborne drones, and came pretty close to making it legal. And just last week, a drone fell out of the air at a triathlon in Australia; an ambulance crew had to pick pieces of the drone's propeller out of her head. Compare this problem with Amazon’s vision of constant drone deliveries and you have a recipe for a country full of concerned parents.

The wearable concern is just another sign of privacy concerns going mainstream. Google Glass has seen some serious backlash lately, with even physical violence and theft against those who wear them in public. The study just illustrates how widespread this contempt goes.

One issue I was surprised not to see was concern over the impact of robots and drones on jobs for humans. A 2013 Oxford study estimated that as many as 47% of human jobs in the U.S. can be automated, taken over by robots or drones that don’t require a wage (let alone a minimum wage) and can work round-the-clock."

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Windows XP holdouts explain why they haven't upgraded

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Since Microsoft announced the deadline for Windows XP support, Andy Patrizio has kept track of users he's encountered who didn't seem to have a plan to upgrade. Then, after the deadline passed, he returned and asked why they hadn't upgraded and if/when they planned to.

Few of the holdouts polled in this admittedly unscientific study declined to upgrade out of ignorance or laziness. Rather, it was mostly for business reasons. Multiple doctor's offices reported expensive upgrade costs, sometimes up to $10,000, with little return on the investment. Others had experienced serious downtime for their office during the upgrade process in the past, and are now hesitant to put themselves at risk of the loss of business again.

Perhaps most concerning was the third-party ATM at a gas station. Although most bank ATMs have been proven to run Windows 7, third-party ATMs remain a little bit of a mystery. When asked about whether his ATMs have been or will be upgraded, the owner of the gas station dismissed it all with a wave of his hand."

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Tesla fights back against "lemon law" lawsuit

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 6 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "The self-proclaimed "Lemon Law King" in Wisconsin has filed a lawsuit against Tesla that could net his client $200,000 in damages. The entire situation is a bit shady, though.

The suit claims that the vehicle experienced an array of serious and frustrating issues, including but not limited to malfunctioning door handles, poor battery performance, paint defects, trouble starting the car, and more. The suit also claims Tesla ignored the defendant's request for a buy-back for the Model S at hand.

Tesla, however, has fired back, pointing out that this same lawyer filed a lemon law suit on behalf of the exact same client against Volvo just a few months ago. Tesla's engineers also seem convinced that the car's owner had tampered with the fuses of the car, which they only discovered after trying, and failing, to recreate the problems the defendant had claimed he experienced."

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Emails reveal battle over employee poaching between Google and Facebook

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 7 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Apple, Google, and a slew of other high-tech firms are currently embroiled in a class-action lawsuit on allegations that they all adhered to tacit anti-poaching agreements. With that case currently ongoing, we've seen a number of interesting executive emails come to light, including emails showing that Steve Jobs threatened Palm CEO with a full-fledged legal assault if the company kept going after Apple engineers.

The emails include correspondences between Sergey Brin and Marissa Mayer and Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg and Google's Jonathan Rosenberg discussing the threat that Google saw in Facebook hiring its engineers.

The discussion elevates, with Sandberg pointing out the hypocrisy that Google grew to prominence by hiring engineers from major Silicon Valley firms. Rosenberg then hints at the potential for a "deeper relationship" that Google would be willing to reach as long as Facebook stops hiring its engineers, going so far as to tell Sandberg to "fix this problem.""

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Driverless vehicle already in use in Europe

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 7 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "A driverless golf cart-like vehicle has hit the market and is already in use on some college campuses in Europe, including Oxford University. The all-electric Navia looks like a golf cart and, with a maximum speed of 28 miles per hour but a recommended speed of about 12 mph, is typically used as a driverless shuttle service. For those at a location where the shuttles are available, a mobile app allows them to both order a shuttle to pick them up and provide a destination. The Navia reportedly costs $250,000 per unit, which is pretty expensive, especially considering that most organizations that might need it would need to order multiple units."
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MIT researchers bring Javascript to Google Glass

colinneagle colinneagle writes  |  about 7 months ago

colinneagle (2544914) writes "Earlier this week, Brandyn White, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, and Scott Greenberg, a PhD candidate at MIT, led a workshop at the MIT Media Lab to showcase an open source project called WearScript, a Javascript environment that runs on Google Glass. White demonstrated how Glass's UI extends beyond its touchpad, winks, and head movements by adding a homemade eye tracker to Glass as an input device. The camera and controller were dissected from a $25 PC video camera and attached to the Glass frame with a 3D-printed mount. A few modifications were made, such as replacing the obtrusively bright LEDs with infrared LEDs, and a cable was added with a little soldering. The whole process takes about 15 minutes for someone with component soldering skills. With this eye tracker and a few lines of Wearscript, the researchers demonstrated a new interface by playing Super Mario on Google Glass with just eye movements."
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