Microsoft

Bill Gates Says He's Sorry About Control-Alt-Delete (qz.com) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum today, Carlyle Group co-founder and CEO David Rubenstein asked Microsoft founder Bill Gates to account for one of the most baffling questions of the digital era: Why does it take three fingers to lock or log in to a PC, and why did Gates ever think that was a good idea? Grimacing slightly, Gates deflected responsibility for the crtl-alt-delete key command, saying, "clearly, the people involved should have put another key on to make that work." Rubenstein pressed him: does he regret the decision? "You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," Gates said. But: "Sure. If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation." Gates has made the confession before. In 2013, he blamed IBM for the issue, saying, "The guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn't want to give us our single button."
Java

IBM Open Sources Their Own JVM/JDK As Eclipse OpenJ9 (eclipse.org) 174

IBM has open sourced a "high performance, scalable virtual machine" with "a great pedigree... [it's] at the core of many IBM enterprise software products." Slashdot reader dxb1230 writes: IBM has open sourced their JDK/JVM implementation named J9 as OpenJ9. The community now has an alternative implementation of Java which has been well tested on enterprise workloads and hardware. This unlike, OpenJDK, has all the bells and whistles like jit.
Businesses

Union Power Is Putting Pressure on Silicon Valley's Tech Giants (bloomberg.com) 116

An anonymous reader writes: Organized labor doesn't rack up a lot of wins these days, and Silicon Valley isn't most people's idea of a union hotbed. Nonetheless, in the past three years unions have organized 5,000 people who work on Valley campuses. Among others, they've unionized shuttle drivers at Apple, Tesla, Twitter, LinkedIn, EBay, Salesforce.com, Yahoo!, Cisco, and Facebook; security guards at Adobe, IBM, Cisco, and Facebook; and cafeteria workers at Cisco, Intel, and, earlier this summer, Facebook. The workers aren't technically employed by any of those companies. Like many businesses, Valley giants hire contractors that typically offer much less in the way of pay and benefits than the tech companies' direct employees get. Among other things, such arrangements help companies distance themselves from the way their cafeteria workers and security guards are treated, because somebody else is cutting the checks. Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of unions and civil rights, community, and clergy groups heading the organizing campaign, says its successes have come largely from puncturing that veneer of plausible deniability. That means directing political pressure, media scrutiny, and protests toward the tech companies themselves. "Everybody knows that the contractors will do what the tech companies say, so we're focused on the big guys," says Ben Field, a co-founder of the coalition who heads the AFL-CIO's South Bay Labor Council. Labor leaders say their efforts have gotten some tech companies to cut ties with an anti-union contractor, intervene with others to ease unionization drives, and subsidize better pay for contract workers. "If you want to get people to buy your product, you don't want them to feel that buying your product is contributing to the evils of the world," says Silicon Valley Rising co-founder Derecka Mehrens, who directs Working Partnerships USA, a California nonprofit that advocates for workers. Tech companies have been image-conscious and closely watched of late, she says, and the coalition is "being opportunistic."
Java

Java EE Is Moving To the Eclipse Foundation (adtmag.com) 70

Oracle has chosen the Eclipse Foundation to be the new home of the Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE), the company announced this week. Oracle made the decision in collaboration with IBM and Red Hat, the two other largest contributors to the platform. From a report: "The Eclipse Foundation has strong experience and involvement with Java EE and related technologies," wrote Oracle software evangelist David Delabassee in a blog post. This will help us transition Java EE rapidly, create community-friendly processes for evolving the platform, and leverage complementary projects such as MicroProfile. We look forward to this collaboration." Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, is optimistic about this move, which he said is exactly what the enterprise Java needs and what the community has been hoping for.
Power

Tesla Temporarily Boosts Battery Capacity For Hurricane Irma (sfgate.com) 328

Slashdot reader mikeebbbd noticed this in the AP's Florida hurricane coverage: Electric car maker Tesla says it has temporarily increased the battery capacity of some of its cars to help drivers escaping Hurricane Irma. The electric car maker said the battery boost was applied to Model S and X cars in the Southeast. Some drivers only buy 60 or 70 kilowatt hours of battery capacity, but a software change will give them access to 75 kilowatt hours of battery life until Saturday. Depending on the model, that could let drivers travel about 40 more miles before they would need to recharge their cars.

Tesla said it made the change after a customer asked the company for help evacuating. The company said it's possible it will make similar changes in response to similar events in the future.

AI

IBM To Invest $240 Million To Develop AI Research Lab With MIT (bloomberg.com) 39

IBM will spend $240 million over 10 years to develop an artificial intelligence research lab with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pooling the organizations' resources as competition intensifies to produce breakthroughs in the field. Bloomberg reports: The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab will fund projects in four broad areas, including creating better hardware to handle complex computations and figuring out applications of AI in specific industries, the Armonk, New York-based company said Thursday in a statement. While IBM has always conducted long-term research internally, it decided AI was such a vast field that it needed to reach out for talent and ideas, said John Kelly, the head of International Business Machines Corp.'s research and cognitive solutions groups, which includes Watson products. While researchers will focus on long-term innovations in artificial intelligence, IBM will also be looking for developments -- a new medical imaging algorithm, say -- that it can immediately plug into its existing products. Big Blue expects to see results that boost its Watson-branded AI business in the next year or two, Kelly said. The plan is to change the focus and number of teams as needed to produce results, he said. The partnership underscores IBM's focus on building a business selling AI software, a strategy that requires clients to adopt such products and the company to develop offerings that add actual business value and are competitive with juggernauts in artificial intelligence, including Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet. IBM and MIT will jointly own the intellectual property that results from the projects conducted together. The company also has the option to buy out MIT for full ownership, Kelly said.
AI

IBM Pitched Its Watson Supercomputer as a Revolution in Cancer Care. It's Nowhere Close (statnews.com) 108

IBM began selling Watson to recommend the best cancer treatments to doctors around the world three years ago. But is it really doing its job? Not so much. An investigation by Stat found that the supercomputer isn't living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it. It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer. Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM's goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market. And at foreign hospitals, physicians complained its advice is biased toward American patients and methods of care. From the report: The interviews suggest that IBM, in its rush to bolster flagging revenue, unleashed a product without fully assessing the challenges of deploying it in hospitals globally. While it has emphatically marketed Watson for cancer care, IBM hasn't published any scientific papers demonstrating how the technology affects physicians and patients. As a result, its flaws are getting exposed on the front lines of care by doctors and researchers who say that the system, while promising in some respects, remains undeveloped. [...] Perhaps the most stunning overreach is in the company's claim that Watson for Oncology, through artificial intelligence, can sift through reams of data to generate new insights and identify, as an IBM sales rep put it, "even new approaches" to cancer care. STAT found that the system doesn't create new knowledge and is artificially intelligent only in the most rudimentary sense of the term.
IBM

Lenovo Looks To Commemorate 25th Anniversary of IBM's Notebook Brand With Thinkpad 25 (theregister.co.uk) 132

New submitter Provocateur writes: Lenovo will be marking the 25th anniversary of IBM's well known notebook with the Thinkpad 25. Andrew Orlowski writes via The Register: "The long-awaited 'retro' Thinkpad will be based on the guts of a contemporary T470 laptop, Lenovo's business workhorse, according to a German certification site. Lenovo inherited IBM's notebook brand 12 years ago, and with it a design classic. However, in 2012 Lenovo saw fit to 'modernize' the iconic keyboard, along with other unwelcome changes. This didn't meet with approval from some stalwarts, who clung to the superior X220 and T420 lines, the last that you could buy with the 7 row QWERTY. Two years ago Lenovo's design chief Dave Hill acknowledged that some people 'would stand in line' for the classic version. In June, Hill confirmed that for the Thinkpad's 25th anniversary this year a retro edition would indeed be produced, which Hill promised 'will embody many of the things people asked for.'

The German certification site has found the 'Thinkpad 25' variant described as a Thinkpad T470 here (hat-tip to NoteBook Check). A Chinese notebook forum has a picture purporting to be the Thinkpad 25."

Businesses

Oracle Staff Report Big Layoffs Across Solaris, SPARC Teams (theregister.co.uk) 239

Simon Sharwood, reporting for the Register: Soon-to-be-former Oracle staff report that the company made hundreds of layoffs last Friday, as predicted by El Reg, with workers on teams covering the Solaris operating system, SPARC silicon, tape libraries and storage products shown the door. Oracle's media relations agency told The Register: "We decline comment." However, Big Red's staffers are having their say online, in tweets such as the one below. "For real. Oracle RIF'd most of Solaris (and others) today," an employee said. A "RIF" is a "reduction in force", Oracle-speak for making people redundant (IBM's equivalent is an "RA", or "resource action"). Tech industry observer Simon Phipps claims "~all" Solaris staff were laid off. "For those unaware, Oracle laid off ~ all Solaris tech staff yesterday in a classic silent EOL of the product."
Programming

JavaScript Is Eating The World (dev.to) 349

An anonymous reader shares a report: In case you haven't heard the news, JavaScript and NodeJS are single handedly eating the world of software. NodeJS is an Open Source server-side JavaScript environment based on the V8 JS rendering engine found in Google Chrome. Once only thought of as a "hipster" framework, NodeJS is fastly becoming one of the most commonly used languages in building web applications and is beginning to find its way into the Enterprise. Netflix, Microsoft, PayPal, Uber, and IBM have adopted the popular "hipster" server-side JavaScript engine for use inside high traffic, high profile production projects. Java still powers the backend of Netflix, but all the stuff that the user sees comes from Node. In addition to Node, Netflix is also using ReactJS in their stack. PayPal too is moving away from Java and onto JavaScript and NodeJS for use in their web application platform. Uber has built its massive driver / rider matching system on Node.js Distributed Web Architecture. IBM has also embraced NodeJS as well. Even Microsoft has embraced NodeJS, offering direct integrations into their Azure Platform, releasing a wealth of tutorials targeted at Node and they have even announced plans to fork the project and build their own version of Node powered by their Edge Javascript engine instead of Chrome's V8.
IBM

IBM To Trace Food Contamination With Blockchain (cnbc.com) 47

Thelasko shares a report from CNBC: IBM has been joined by a group of global food giants including the likes of Nestle, Unilever and Walmart in an effort to reduce food contamination by using blockchain. The corporation announced Tuesday that it would enable global food businesses to use its blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. IBM said that the problem of consumer health suffering at the hands of toxic food could be solved using its distributed ledger technology, which maintains a digital record of transactions rather than a physical one. It would enable food suppliers to source information about the origin, condition and movement of food, and to trace contaminated produce in mere seconds.
Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 642

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
Bug

Deserialization Issues Also Affect .NET, Not Just Java (bleepingcomputer.com) 187

"The .NET ecosystem is affected by a similar flaw that has wreaked havoc among Java apps and developers in 2016," reports BleepingComputer. An anonymous reader writes: The issue at hand is in how some .NET libraries deserialize JSON or XML data, doing it in a total unsecured way, but also how developers handle deserialization operations when working with libraries that offer optional secure systems to prevent deserialized data from accessing and running certain methods automatically. The issue is similar to a flaw known as Mad Gadget (or Java Apocalypse) that came to light in 2015 and 2016. The flaw rocked the Java ecosystem in 2016, as it affected the Java Commons Collection and 70 other Java libraries, and was even used to compromise PayPal's servers.

Organizations such as Apache, Oracle, Cisco, Red Hat, Jenkins, VMWare, IBM, Intel, Adobe, HP, and SolarWinds , all issued security patches to fix their products. The Java deserialization flaw was so dangerous that Google engineers banded together in their free time to repair open-source Java libraries and limit the flaw's reach, patching over 2,600 projects. Now a similar issue was discovered in .NET. This research has been presented at the Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences. On page 5 [of this PDF], researchers included reviews for all the .NET and Java apps they analyzed, pointing out which ones are safe and how developers should use them to avoid deserialization attacks when working with JSON data.

AI

IBM Claims Big Breakthrough in Deep Learning (fortune.com) 81

The race to make computers smarter and more human-like continued this week with IBM claiming it has developed technology that dramatically cuts the time it takes to crunch massive amounts of data and then come up with useful insights. From a report: Deep learning, the technique used by IBM, is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) that mimics how the human brain works. IBM's stated goal is to reduce the time it takes for deep learning systems to digest data from days to hours. The improvements could help radiologists get faster, more accurate reads of anomalies and masses on medical images, according to Hillery Hunter, an IBM Fellow and director of systems acceleration and memory at IBM Research. Until now, deep learning has largely run on single server because of the complexity of moving huge amounts of data between different computers. The problem is in keeping data synchronized between lots of different servers and processors In it announcement early Tuesday, IBM says it has come up with software that can divvy those tasks among 64 servers running up to 256 processors total, and still reap huge benefits in speed. The company is making that technology available to customers using IBM Power System servers and to other techies who want to test it.
Businesses

It's the 40th Anniversary of Radio Shack's TRS-80 (smithsonianmag.com) 301

An anonymous reader quotes Smithsonsian: It was with minimal expectations that, on August 3, 1977, Tandy Corporation teamed up with Radio Shack to release the TRS-80, one of the first personal computers available to consumer markets. While Don French -- a buyer for the Tandy Radio Shack consumer electronic chain -- had convinced some Tandy executives of the need to release a personal computer, most felt it was unlikely to gross substantial profits. This bulky item with complex operating procedures would never sell, they thought, more than 1,000 units in its first month... As it turned out, the TRS-80 surpassed even the most cautious sales estimates by tenfold within its first month on the market; the burgeoning prospects of a new era in personal electronics and computing could no longer be denied.
It had no hard drive and four kilobytes of memory, according to the article. Radio Shack's $600 PC was preceded by the MITS Altair, as well as PCs from both Apple and IBM, but "the TRS-80 was one of the first products that came fully assembled and ready to use, bridging the gap in accessibility between hobbyists -- who took interest in the actual building of the computer -- and the average American consumer, who wanted to know what this new, cutting-edge technology had in store for them."

Does this bring back any memories for anyone?
Data Storage

IBM and Sony Cram Up To 330 Terabytes Into Tiny Tape Cartridge (arstechnica.co.uk) 71

IBM and Sony have developed a new magnetic tape system capable of storing 201 gigabits of data per square inch, for a max theoretical capacity of 330 terabytes in a single palm-sized cartridge. From a report: To achieve such a dramatic increase in areal density, Sony and IBM tackled different parts of the problem: Sony developed a new type of tape that has a higher density of magnetic recording sites, and IBM Research worked on new heads and signal processing tech to actually read and extract data from those nanometre-long patches of magnetism. Sony's new tape is underpinned by two novel technologies: an improved built-in lubricant layer, which keeps it running smoothly through the machine, and a new type of magnetic layer. Usually, a tape's magnetic layer is applied in liquid form, kind of like paint -- which is one of the reasons that magnetic tape is so cheap and easy to produce in huge quantities. In this case, Sony has instead used sputter deposition, a mature technique that has been used by the semiconductor and hard drive industries for decades to lay down thin films.
Privacy

Sweden Accidentally Leaks Personal Details of Nearly All Citizens (thehackernews.com) 241

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hacker News: Swedish media is reporting of a massive data breach in the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) after the agency mishandled an outsourcing deal with IBM, which led to the leak of the private data about every vehicle in the country, including those used by both police and military. The data breach exposed the names, photos and home addresses of millions of Swedish citizen, including fighter pilots of Swedish air force, members of the military's most secretive units, police suspects, people under the witness relocation program, the weight capacity of all roads and bridges, and much more. The incident is believed to be one of the worst government information security disasters ever.

In 2015, the Swedish Transport Agency hand over IBM an IT maintenance contract to manage its databases and networks. However, the Swedish Transport Agency uploaded IBM's entire database onto cloud servers, which covered details on every vehicle in the country, including police and military registrations, and individuals on witness protection programs. The transport agency then emailed the entire database in messages to marketers that subscribe to it. And what's terrible is that the messages were sent in clear text. When the error was discovered, the transport agency merely thought of sending a new list in another email, asking the subscribers to delete the old list themselves.

AI

IBM's AI Can Predict Schizophrenia With 74 Percent Accuracy By Looking at the Brain's Blood Flow (engadget.com) 93

Andrew Tarantola reports via Engadget: Schizophrenia is not a particularly common mental health disorder in America, affecting just 1.2 percent of the population or around 3.2 million people, but its effects can be debilitating. However, pioneering research conducted by IBM and the University of Alberta could soon help doctors diagnose the onset of the disease and the severity of its symptoms using a simple MRI scan and a neural network built to look at blood flow within the brain. The research team first trained its neural network on a 95-member dataset of anonymized fMRI images from the Function Biomedical Informatics Research Network which included scans of both patients with schizophrenia and a healthy control group. These images illustrated the flow of blood through various parts of the brain as the patients completed a simple audio-based exercise. From this data, the neural network cobbled together a predictive model of the likelihood that a patient suffered from schizophrenia based on the blood flow. It was able to accurately discern between the control group and those with schizophrenia 74 percent of the time. What's more, the model managed to also predict the severity of symptoms once they set in. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
NASA

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-Era NASA Computers In Dead Engineer's Basement (arstechnica.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Joe_NoOne quotes Ars Technica: A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled "NASA PROPERTY," so the dealer called NASA to report the find. "Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
"NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business," Ars Technica reports, adding "The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines." A NASA archivist concluded there's no evidence the tapes contained anything of historic significance.
IBM

Enthusiast Resurrects IBM's Legendary 'Model F' Keyboard (popularmechanics.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes Popular Mechanics: You may not know the Model F by name, but you know it by sound -- the musical thwacking of flippers slapping away. The sound of the '80s office. The IBM Model F greeting the world in 1981 with a good ten pounds of die-cast zinc and keys that crash down on buckling metal springs as they descend. It's a sensation today's clickiest keyboards chase, but will never catch. And now it's coming back. The second coming of the high-quality Model F (not to be confused with its more affordable plastic successor, the Model M) isn't a throwback attention grab from IBM, nor a nostalgia play from Big Keyboard. Instead, it's the longtime work of a historian in love with the retro keyboard's unparalleled sound and feel, but frustrated by the limitations of actual decades-old tech.

The Model F Keyboards project, now taking preorders for the new line of authentic retro-boards, was started by Joe Strandberg, a Cornell University grad who's taken up keyboard wizardry as a nights-and-weekends hobby. He started as a collector and restorer of genuine Model F keyboards -- originally produced from 1981 to 1994 -- a process that familiarized him with their virtues and their flaws... Working with a factory in China, Strandberg has carefully overseen the reproduction process one step at time, from the springs to the unique powder-coating on the keyboard's zinc case. Despite the expense (Strandberg estimates spending $100,000 to revive the tooling necessary for the production run), it was the only viable option given the kind of abuse your average keyboard takes on a daily basis. "With 3D printing," he says, "the keyboard wouldn't last a year."

The first prototypes have just left the assembly line, and he's already racked up over a quarter of a million dollars in pre-orders. Does anyone else fondly remember IBM's hefty and trusty old keyboards?

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