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IBM

IBM, Remote-Work Pioneer, is Calling Thousands Of Employees Back To the Office (qz.com) 294

An anonymous reader shares a report: Less than a year into her tenure as IBM's chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement that she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others. In a video message, Peluso explained the "only one recipe I know for success." Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: "really creative and inspiring locations." IBM had decided to "co-locate" the US marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant that all teams would now work together, "shoulder to shoulder," from one of six different locations -- Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job. Similar announcements had already been made in other departments, and more would be made in the future. At IBM, which has embraced remote work for decades, a relatively large proportion of employees work outside of central hubs. (By 2009, when remote work was still, for most, a novelty, 40% of IBM's 386,000 global employees already worked at home). [...] "When you're playing phone tag with someone is quite different than when you're sitting next to someone and can pop up behind them and ask them a question," Peluso says. Not all IBM employees see it that way.
IBM

IBM Unveils Blockchain As a Service Based On Open Source Hyperledger Fabric Technology (techcrunch.com) 42

IBM has unveiled its "Blockchain as a Service," which is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric, version 1.0 from The Linux Foundation. "IBM Blockchain is a public cloud service that customers can use to build secure blockchain networks," TechCrunch reports, noting that it's "the first ready-for-primetime implementation built using that technology." From the report: Although the blockchain piece is based on the open source Hyperledger Fabric project of which IBM is a participating member, it has added a set of security services to make it more palatable for enterprise customers, while offering it as a cloud service helps simplify a complex set of technologies, making it more accessible than trying to do this alone in a private datacenter. The Hyperledger Fabric project was born around the end of 2015 to facilitate this, and includes other industry heavyweights such as State Street Bank, Accenture, Fujitsu, Intel and others as members. While the work these companies have done to safeguard blockchain networks, including setting up a network, inviting members and offering encrypted credentials, was done under the guise of building extra safe networks, IBM believes it can make them even safer by offering an additional set of security services inside the IBM cloud. While Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technology at IBM, acknowledges that he can't guarantee that IBM's blockchain service is unbreachable, he says the company has taken some serious safeguards to protect it. This includes isolating the ledger from the general cloud computing environment, building a security container for the ledger to prevent unauthorized access, and offering tamper-responsive hardware, which can actually shut itself down if it detects someone trying to hack a ledger. What's more, IBM claims their blockchain product is built in a highly auditable way to track all of the activity that happens within a network, giving administrators an audit trail in the event something did go awry.
AI

The First Practical Use For Quantum Computers: Chemistry (technologyreview.com) 42

"The first quantum computer to start paying its way with useful work in the real world looks likely to do so by helping chemists," writes MIT Technology Review, "trying to do things like improve batteries or electronics." An anonymous reader quotes their report: So far, simulating molecules and reactions is the use case for early, small quantum computers sketched out in most detail by researchers developing the new kind of algorithms needed for such machines... "From the point of view of what is theoretically proven, chemistry is ahead," says Scott Crowder, chief technology officer for the IBM division that today sells hardware including supercomputers and hopes to add cloud-hosted quantum computers to its product line-up in the next few years...

Researchers have long used simulations of molecules and chemical reactions to aid research into things like new materials, drugs, or industrial catalysts. The tactic can reduce time spent on physical experiments and scientific dead ends, and it accounts for a significant proportion of the workload of the world's supercomputers. Yet the payoffs are limited because even the most powerful supercomputers cannot perfectly re-create all the complex quantum behaviors of atoms and electrons in even relatively small molecules, says Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry professor at Harvard. He's looking forward to the day simulations on quantum computers can accelerate his research group's efforts to find new light-emitting molecules for displays, for example, and batteries suitable for grid-scale energy storage.

Microsoft is already focusing on chemistry and materials science in its quantum algorithm effort, saying a hybrid system combining conventional computers with a small quantum computer "has great promise for studying molecules." Meanwhile, the article argues that breaking encryption, "although a genuine threat, is one of the most distant applications of the technology, because the algorithms involved would require an extremely large quantum processor."
IBM

IBM To Hire 2,000 More Veterans, Expand Tech Training Schools (axios.com) 32

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is among the tech leaders meeting Friday with President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Axios has learned. They'll discuss worker training. And IBM will announce plans to: Open 20 more of its P-TECH schools, which let students get a combined high school degree and associate degree in science and technology in as little as four and a half years. Hire 2,000 U.S. military veterans over the next four years and expand a program that trains and certifies veterans in the use of the type of IBM software often used by law enforcement, cybersecurity and national security agencies.
IBM

Lloyds To 'Offshore' 2,000 Jobs In IBM Data Center Outsourcing Deal (thestack.com) 63

In early January, IBM announced a roughly $1.6 billion outsourcing deal with Lloyds Banking Group. IBM would pay Lloyds for its data center assets and in return will charge the bank for ongoing management. Today, Lloyds plans to move almost 2,000 members of staff to U.S. tech giant IBM as part of the IT outsourcing deal. An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from The Stack: The seven-year deal hopes to save the bank close to $930 million in costs, streamline the business and make its IT services more agile. Lloyds Trade Union (LTU), which represents around 35,000 members of staff, now "derecognized" by the bank, claimed in a newsletter that once the deal is signed the jobs would be "offshored" over a four-year period. It added that most of the 1,961 positions would be cut. "1,961 staff will be transferred to IBM including permanent staff, contractors, 3rd parties and offshore suppliers. However after 4 years, only 193 of the staff transferred to IBM will still be working on the LBG contract," wrote LTU.
Businesses

Pennsylvania Sues IBM Over Jobless Claims System Upgrade (cnet.com) 60

Pennsylvania has sued IBM for $170 million, claiming the company failed to deliver a promised upgrade to its outdated system of processing unemployment claims. From a report: IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment but a company representative told the Associated Press the suit had no merit and the company would fight it. The suit stems from a 2006 fixed-price contract awarded to IBM for $109.9 million with a completion date of February 2010, the state said in a press release. As delays and costs mounted, the state let the contract lapse in 2013 when an independent assessment determined the project had a high risk of failure.
Data Storage

IBM Researchers Prove It Is Possible To Store Data In a Single Atom (techcrunch.com) 84

In an experiment published today in Nature, IBM researchers have managed to read and write data to a single atom. A previous atomic storage technique, as mentioned by TechCrunch, doesn't actually store data in the atom, but moves them around to form readable patterns. "This means that imbuing individual atoms with a 0 or 1 is the next major step forward and the next major barrier in storing data digitally, both increasing capacity by orders of magnitude and presenting a brand new challenge to engineers and physicists," reports TechCrunch. From the report: It works like this: A single Holmium atom (a large one with many unpaired electrons) is set on a bed of magnesium oxide. In this configuration, the atom has what's called magnetic bistability: It has two stable magnetic states with different spins (just go with it). The researchers use a scanning tunneling microscope (also invented at IBM, in the 1980s) to apply about 150 millivolts at 10 microamps to the atom -- it doesn't sound like a lot, but at that scale, it's like a lightning strike. This huge influx of electrons causes the Holmium atom to switch its magnetic spin state. Because the two states have different conductivity profiles, the STM tip can detect which state the atom is in by applying a lower voltage (about 75 millivolts) and sensing its resistance. In order to be absolutely sure the atom was changing its magnetic state and this wasn't just some interference or effect from the STM's electric storm, the researchers set an iron atom down nearby. This atom is affected by its magnetic neighborhood, and acted differently when probed while the Holmium atom was in its different states. This proves that the experiment truly creates a lasting, stored magnetic state in a single atom that can be detected indirectly. And there you have it: a single atom used to store what amounts to a 0 or a 1. The experimenters made two of them and zapped them independently to form the four binary combinations (00,01,10,11) that two such nodes can form.
IBM

IBM Will Sell 50-Qubit Universal Quantum Computer In the Next Few Years (arstechnica.co.uk) 90

Months after laying the groundwork for offerings in emerging tech categories such as artificial intelligence and blockchain, IBM sees quantum computers as a big, if nascent, business opportunity. From a report on ArsTechnica: IBM will build and sell commercial 50-qubit universal quantum computers, dubbed IBM Q, "in the next few years." No word on pricing just yet, but I wouldn't expect much change from $15 million -- the cost of a non-universal D-Wave quantum computer. In other news, IBM has also opened up an API (sample code available on Github) that gives developers easier access to the five-qubit quantum computer currently connected to the IBM cloud. Later in the year, IBM will release a full SDK, further simplifying the process of building quantum software. You can't actually do much useful computation with five qubits, mind you, but fortunately IBM also has news there: the company's quantum simulator can now simulate up to 20 qubits. The idea is that developers should start thinking about potential 20-qubit quantum scenarios now, so they're ready to be deployed when IBM builds the actual hardware.
Businesses

Fed Up Indian IT Professionals Want To Be Able To Leave Their Jobs Sooner (mashable.com) 114

An anonymous reader shares a report: India's major IT firms have long required their employees to give a three-month, "non-negotiable" notice before leaving the company, but they could be soon forced to change that. Fed-up IT professionals from across India have reached out to the government, complaining that it is "unrealistic" for anyone to plan that far ahead. Over 28,000 professionals have signed a petition, addressed to the ministry of labor, to take immediate action on the matter. Part of the problem is that many companies are unwilling to wait for three months to have a person join them, many cited in the report say. Some of India's top IT firms including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Tech Mahindra, HCL, Accenture and IBM impose the three-month notice period policy on their employees.
IBM

IBM Gets a Patent On 'Out-of-Office' Email Messages -- In 2017 (arstechnica.com) 65

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued IBM a -- what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls -- "stupefyingly mundane" patent on e-mail technology. U.S. Patent No. 9,547,842, "Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system" was filed in 2010 and granted about six weeks ago. Ars Technica reports: The "invention" represented in the '842 patent is starkly at odds with the real history of technology, accessible in this case via a basic Google search. EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, who wrote about the '842 patent in this month's "Stupid Patent of the Month" blog post, points to an article on a Microsoft publicity page that talks about quirky out-of-office e-mail culture dating back to the 1980s, when Microsoft marketed its Xenix e-mail system (the predecessor to today's Exchange.) IBM offers one feature that's even arguably not decades old: the ability to notify those writing to the out-of-office user some days before the set vacation dates begin. This feature, similar to "sending a postcard, not from a vacation, but to let someone know you will go on a vacation," is a "trivial change to existing systems," Nazer points out. Nazer goes on to identify some major mistakes made during the examination process. The examiner never considered whether the software claims were eligible after the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank decision, which came in 2014, and in Nazer's view, the office "did an abysmal job" of looking at the prior art. "[T]he examiner considered only patents and patent applications," notes Nazer. The office "never considered any of the many, many, existing real-world systems that pre-dated IBM's application."
Privacy

Used Cars Can Still Be Controlled By Their Previous Owners' Apps (wtkr.com) 102

An IBM security researcher recently discovered something interesting about smart cars. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Charles Henderson sold his car several years ago, but he still knows exactly where it is, and can control it from his phone... "The car is really smart, but it's not smart enough to know who its owner is, so it's not smart enough to know it's been resold," Henderson told CNNTech. "There's nothing on the dashboard that tells you 'the following people have access to the car.'" This isn't an isolated problem. Henderson tested four major auto manufacturers, and found they all have apps that allow previous owners to access them from a mobile device. At the RSA security conference in San Francisco on Friday, Henderson explained how people can still retain control of connected cars even after they resell them.

Manufacturers create apps to control smart cars -- you can use your phone to unlock the car, honk the horn and find out the exact location of your vehicle. Henderson removed his personal information from services in the car before selling it back to the dealership, but he was still able to control the car through a mobile app for years. That's because only the dealership that originally sold the car can see who has access and manually remove someone from the app.

It's also something to consider when buying used IoT devices -- or a smart home equipped with internet-enabled devices.
Classic Games (Games)

MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (mame.net) 47

After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari's unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history. Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net: Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he'd built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program.

But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.

A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME's 1,600 contributors -- more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary -- and also thanks MAME's uncredited contributors. "if you've filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it." I've seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?
Network

Now Get Weather Alerts Even When Your Mobile Networks Are Down, Thanks To IBM's Mesh Networking (cnet.com) 75

Communicating news of severe weather events or natural disasters is something mobile phones are well suited to, but if there's limited or disrupted network coverage the message may fail to get through. But not anymore. From a CNET report: A new Weather Channel app, though, can get the message through even during earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorist attacks when mobile networks can be overwhelmed and may not work. The Android app, geared specifically for developing countries, uses IBM-developed technology called mesh networking that sends messages directly from one phone to another. The result is that information can propagate even when centralized networks fail. Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, the app can send data from phone to phone across distances between 200 to 500 feet, IBM Research staff member Nirmit Desai said. It doesn't add any more battery burden than an ordinary app, and the mesh network can be used without having to reconfigure the phone's network settings.
Government

CS Professor Argues Silicon Valley Is Exploiting Both H-1B Visas And Workers (huffingtonpost.com) 318

schwit1 quotes Norm Matloff, a CS professor at the University of California at Davis, on H-1B visa programs: The Trump administration has drafted a new executive order that could actually mean higher wages for both foreign workers and Americans working in Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley companies, of course, will not be happy if it goes into effect... Their lobbyists claim there is a "talent shortage" among Americans and thus that the industry needs more of such work visas. This is patently false. The truth is that they want an expansion of the H-1B work visa program because they want to hire cheap, immobile labor -- i.e., foreign workers.

To see how this works, note that most Silicon Valley firms sponsor their H-1B workers, who hold a temporary visa, for U.S. permanent residency (green card) under the employment-based program in immigration law. EB sponsorship renders the workers de facto indentured servants; though they have the right to move to another employer, they do not dare do so, as it would mean starting the lengthy green card process all over again.

Computerworld also argues this year's annual H-1B visa lottery "may be different, because of President Donald Trump," reporting that the lottery has historically favored the largest firms heavily. "In the 2015 fiscal year, for instance, the top 10 firms received 38% of all the H-1B visas in computer occupations alone. All these firms, except for Amazon and to a partial extent IBM, are outsourcers."
Government

97 Tech Companies Including Apple, Google, Microsoft Call Travel Ban Unlawful In Rare Coordinated Legal Action (washingtonpost.com) 626

An anonymous reader shares a WashingtonPost report: Silicon Valley is stepping up its confrontation with the Trump administration. On Sunday night, technology giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and many others filed a legal brief opposing the administration's contentious entry ban. The move represents a rare coordinated action across a broad swath of the industry (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) -- 97 companies in total -- and demonstrates the depth of animosity toward the Trump ban. The amicus brief was filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is expected to rule within a few days on an appeal by the administration after a federal judge in Seattle issued late Friday a temporary restraining order putting the entry ban on hold. The brief comes at the end of a week of nationwide protests against the plan -- as well as a flurry of activity in Silicon Valley, a region that sees immigration as central to its identity as an innovation hub.From a TechCrunch report: Notably absent from the list of 97 companies are several who met with Trump prior to his inauguration: Amazon, Oracle, IBM, SpaceX and Tesla. Although Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was highly critical of Trump prior to his election, he has not spoken out against the immigration policy. Oracle CEO Safra Catz is serving as an advisor to the Trump transition team, while SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his decision to remain on an advisory council for Trump.
AI

Apple Set To Join Amazon, Google, Facebook in AI Research Group (bloomberg.com) 35

Apple will take a significant step toward disclosing more of its artificial intelligence research this week by becoming a member of a non-profit AI research consortium founded by five of the tech industry's biggest players, reports Bloomberg. Last September, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and IBM publicly announced The Partnership on AI, an organisation established "to study and formulate best practices, to advance the public's understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and its influences on people and society." Apple released its first AI paper to the public last year.
United States

IBM Promised Domestic Jobs, But is Firing Thousands of US Workers and Moving Some Jobs Overseas (siliconbeat.com) 194

As companies fall all over themselves to hype creation of U.S. jobs, IBM is catching flak for promising thousands of new ones while firing folks right and left. From a report: Company CEO Ginni Rometty said in a December USA Today op-ed that her firm would hire 25,000 people for U.S. positions in the next four years, 6,000 of them this year. "She didn't mention that International Business Machines Corp. was also firing workers and sending many of the jobs overseas," reports Bloomberg. Big Blue wrapped up its third round of 2016 firings -- or "resource actions" in IBM HR parlance -- in late November, and job losses for the year likely totaled in the thousands, current and former employees told Bloomberg. Many of the jobs were shipped to Asia and Eastern Europe, and the firings have continued into this year, employees said.
Businesses

Sonos CEO John MacFarlene Steps Down From the Company He Helped Found (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: After nearly a decade and a half as the chief executive officer of the hardware company he cofounded, John MacFarlane has announced his resignation as the head of Sonos. The move had reportedly been planned for some time, with the executive citing a number of personal reasons. That decision was delayed, however, due in part to increased and unexpected competition by Amazon's line of Echo speakers, which cut into Sonos' bottom line. "The pivot that Sonos started at this time last year to best address these changes is complete, now it's about acceleration and leading," MacFarlane wrote in an open letter published on the Sonos site. "I can look ahead and see the role of Sonos, with the right experiences, partners, and focus, with a healthy future. In short, the future of the home music experience, and the opportunity for Sonos has never been better." The role of CEO will be filled by Patrick Spence, who is currently serving as the company's President, after four years as COO and stints at RIM (BlackBerry) and IBM Canada. MacFarlane will be staying on at the Santa Barbara-based streaming hardware company in a consulting role, but will also be resigning his job on its board of directors, telling The New York Times, "I don't want to be that founder who's always second-guessing."
IBM

IBM Is First Company To Get 8,000 US Patents In One Year, Breaking Record (silicon.co.uk) 94

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: For the 24th year in a row, IBM received the most patents of any company in the US. But for the first time it got more than 8,000 -- the first firm in any industry to do so. In total, its inventors were granted 8,088 patents in 2016, covering areas as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, cloud, health and cyber security.
That's equal to more than 22 patents a day generated by its researchers, engineers and designers, with more than a third of the patents relating to AI, cognitive computing and cloud computing alone. IBM is betting big on cloud and other services, having spun off its hardware units like servers and PCs to Lenovo. The other nine companies in the top ten list of 2016 US patent recipients consist of: Samsung electronics (with 5,518 patents), Canon (3,665), Qualcomm (2,897), Google (2,835), Intel (2,784), LG Electronics (2,428), Microsoft (2,398), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (2,288) and Sony (2,181).

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