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Java

Oracle Formally Proposes That Java Adopt Ahead-of-Time Compilation (infoworld.com) 48

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld: Java applications will get faster startup times thanks to a formal proposal to include ahead-of-time compilation in the platform. The draft Java Development Kit proposal, authored by Vladimir Kozlov, principal technical staff member at Oracle, is targeted for inclusion in Java 9, which is expected to be available next summer. "We would love to see this make it into JDK 9, but that will of course depend on the outcome of the OpenJDK process for this JDK Enhancement Proposal," said Georges Saab, vice president of software development in the Java platform group at Oracle, on Thursday. Ahead-of-time compilation has been a stated goal for Java 9 to address the issue of slow startup...

The proposal summary notes that Java classes would be compiled to native code prior to launching the virtual machine. The ultimate goal is to improve the startup time of small or large Java applications while having "at most" a limited impact on peak performance and minimizing changes to the user workflow.

Tests indicates some applications perform better while some actually perform worse, so it's being proposed as an opt-in feature where dissatisfied users "can just rebuild a new JDK without ahead-of-time libraries."
Government

New California Law Allows Test of Autonomous Shuttle With No Driver (fortune.com) 29

If you live in California, you may soon start to see self-driving cars on the road with no operators to be seen. California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on Thursday a bill that allows a self-driving vehicle with no operator inside to test on a public road. Currently, companies are legally able to test self-driving cars in California as long as the operators are located inside the vehicles when they are being tested. Fortune reports: The bill introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla allows testing in Contra Costa County northeast of San Francisco of the first full-autonomous vehicle without a steering wheel, brakes, accelerator or operator. New legislation was necessary because although driverless vehicles can be tested on private land like the office park, the shuttle will cross a public road on its loop through the campus. The new law means that two cube-like Easymile shuttles that travel no faster than 25 mph (40 kph) will be tested for a period of up to six months before being deployed and used by people. In an interview with Reuters in March, Bonilla said the "natural tension" between regulators concerned about safety and lawmakers trying to encourage innovation in their state necessitated a new bill. "They're risk averse and we're saying we need to open the door here and take steps (to innovate)," Bonilla said, calling the driverless shuttle project "a very wise first out-of-the-gate opportunity" to show how the technology could work safely.
Businesses

Salesforce Pushes Regulators To Block Microsoft's LinkedIn Deal (cnn.com) 29

Salesforce is urging the European Union to take a closer look at Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn as EU regulators ask questions on how the software giant could use AI to exploit data from LinkedIn's professionals. Chief Legal Officer Burke Norton said Salesforce plans to tell European and U.S. antitrust officials it has concerns about the acquisition. From a CNN report:"Microsoft's proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition," Burke Norton, chief legal officer at Salesforce, said in a statement. "By gaining ownership of LinkedIn's unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage. [...] We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive," he added. The European Commission is reaching out to multiple companies as part of a review of the pending acquisition. Salesforce's comments came in response to this, according to Chi Hea Cho, a spokeswoman for Salesforce.
Chrome

Chromification Continues: Firefox May Use Chrome's PDF and Flash Plugins (softpedia.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla announced today Project Mortar, an initiative to explore the possibility of deploying alternative technologies in Firefox to replace its internal implementations. The project's first two goals are to test two Chrome plugins within the Firefox codebase. These are PDFium, the Chrome plugin for viewing PDF files, and Pepper Flash, Google's custom implementation of Adobe Flash. The decision comes as Mozilla is trying to cut down development costs, after Firefox took a nose dive in market share this year. "In order to enable stronger focus on advancing the Web and to reduce the complexity and long term maintenance cost of Firefox, and as part of our strategy to remove generic plugin support, we are launching Project Mortar," said Johnny Stenback, Senior Director Of Engineering at Mozilla Corporation. "Project Mortar seeks to reduce the time Mozilla spends on technologies that are required to provide a complete web browsing experience, but are not a core piece of the Web platform," Stenback adds. "We will be looking for opportunities to replace such technologies with other existing alternatives, including implementations by other browser vendors."
Businesses

Avast Not Done With Deal-Making After AVG Buy, But No Rush (reuters.com) 15

Avast Software, maker of the world's most popular computer antivirus program, will need a year to absorb its $1.3 billion buy of rival AVG but may seek further acquisitions before an expected flotation, its chief executive said in an interview, according to Reuters. From a report: Prague-based Avast closed its purchase on Friday of AVG Technologies, another software firm with Czech roots specializing in consumer security. The combined company will have over 400 million users and 40 percent of the consumer computer market outside of China. While Avast will delist AVG shares, it has its own plans to eventually offer shares, maybe as soon as 2019. Before that, it must fully integrate AVG and will then look at mid-tier acquisitions for its push into mobile and, possibly, to expand its small- and medium-sized business offering. "We have to digest AVG first and that is going to take us pretty much all of 2017 to really integrate. Then we will look at expanding the business after that," Avast CEO Vincent Steckler said.
Businesses

IBM Buys Promontory Financial Group (zdnet.com) 20

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

AOL's Innovative Card-Based Email Service, Alto, Comes To iOS And Android (fastcompany.com) 42

Remember AOL? The company best known for its email service? Three years ago, it released a Pinterest-like platform for desktop email called Alto. Today AOL announced the release of Alto for iOS and Android -- nearly a year after it began beta testing it. FastCompany writes: The app's design is based on the idea that email has shifted from a communication tool to more of a transactional system -- today's inboxes are filled with receipts, order confirmations, and reservations, rather than personal messages. To combat this flood of data, Alto automatically sorts email into stacks, such as "travel," "photos," "files," "shopping," and "personal."
China

Chinese Media, Government Confirm Apple Research Center in Beijing Tech Corridor (appleinsider.com) 19

An anonymous reader writes:According to Chinese media, Apple is launching its first research and development center in the country, located in long-time technology incubation area Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing. While Apple has yet to comment on the matter, a statement issued by the Zhongguancun Park Management Committee to several Chinese media outlets has identified Apple's presence in the area. According to reports collated by Digitimes, the center has a budget of about $15 million, with a long-term expenditure goal of $45 million over the next few years. The center is allegedly seeking to hire around 500 workers, with no particular focus beyond Apple products and software. The move mirrors similar setups in Japan, and Israel.
Communications

Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop (hothardware.com) 288

MojoKid writes: One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles. The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
Blackberry

BlackBerry Says It's Done Designing and Building Its Own Phones (theverge.com) 90

BlackBerry today reported its fiscal second-quarter sales and said that it will stop making its iconic smartphones and focus on its software business. The Verge adds: BlackBerry has announced that it plans to stop making its own phones as the struggling company continues to focus on its software and security products. This is far from the end of BlackBerry devices, the production of which will be outsourced to third-party manufacturers -- as was the case with the company's recent DTEK 50, a clone of Alcatel's Idol 4 with BlackBerry branding. "The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners," said CEO John Chen in a statement. Elsewhere he stated: "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy. Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold." This isn't surprising news considering BlackBerry's ongoing struggle in the mobile market. According to estimates from Gartner, the company claimed just 0.1 percent of the market in the second quarter, equating to sales of some 400,400 units. The last BlackBerry phone manufactured by the company was the Priv, the company's first Android-powered device, released November last year.
Microsoft

Vladimir Putin Is Replacing Microsoft Programs With Domestic Software (bloomberg.com) 276

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Moscow city will replace Microsoft Corp. programs with domestic software on thousands of computers in answer to President Vladimir Putin's call for Russia's authorities to reduce dependence on foreign technology amid tensions with the U.S. and Europe. The city will initially replace Microsoft's Exchange Server and Outlook on 6,000 computers with an e-mail system installed by state-run carrier Rostelecom PJSC, Artem Yermolaev, head of information technology for Moscow, told reporters Tuesday. Moscow may expand deployment of the new software, developed by Russia's New Cloud Technologies, to as many as 600,000 computers and servers, and may also consider replacing Windows and Office, Yermolaev said. Putin is urging state entities and local companies to go domestic amid concerns over security and reliability after U.S. firms shut down paid services in Crimea following Russia's 2014 annexation. The plan poses a challenge to the likes of Microsoft, SAP SE and Oracle Corp. in the country's $3 billion software market. Adding to pressure, Putin's internet czar German Klimenko wants to raise taxes on U.S. technology companies to help Russian competitors such as Yandex NV and Mail.ru Group Ltd.
AI

Nissan Debuts 'ProPILOT' Self-Driving Chair (pcmag.com) 48

jasonbrown writes from a report via PC Magazine: The Japanese automaker Nissan this week debuted what it's calling the ProPILOT Chair -- an autonomous chair that automatically queues for you while you sit back and relax. With its built-in cameras, the high-tech chair "detects and automatically follows the chair ahead of it, maintaining a fixed distance and traveling along a set path." Standing (or sitting) in line has never been so much fun. "Nissan drew inspiration for this new chair from its ProPILOT autonomous driving technology, which has been available in the company's Serena minivan in Japan since August," the report adds. "The ProPILOT technology allows the vehicle to maintain a safe distance between the car ahead, and ensures that it stays in the center of its lane." While the product appears to be a marketing stunt, Nissan is actively looking for restaurant partners in Japan who want to offer this technology to their customers. Japanese restaurants can tweet their name and website along with the hashtags #NissanProPilotChair #Wanted in an effort to be outfitted with the technology. You can watch the joyful and jazzy launch video here.
Cellphones

DJI Unveils the Mavic Pro, a Foldable and Ultra-Portable Camera Drone (petapixel.com) 55

It didn't take long for DJI to respond to GoPro's voice-controlled Karma drone. Today, the company has unveiled the Mavic Pro, an ultra-portable drone that can fold up into roughly the "size of a standard water bottle," DJI says. Of course, it also features a high-resolution camera and several autonomous software tricks. PetaPixel reports: Despite its petite form factor, the drone packs a punch: there's a 4K camera on the front, a visual navigation system, a 4.3-mile (7km) range, and a 27-minute flight time. By comparison, the Karma has a range of 0.62 miles (1km) and a flight time of 20 minutes. The Mavic Pro can be operated with a remote controller for long-range uses, or simply with your smartphone if you're not planning to fly it far. For the latter, the drone can go from folded up to in flight in less than a minute. In the Mavic Pro is a new FlightAutonomy system, which uses 5 cameras, GPS and GLONASS navigation, 2 ultrasonic rangefinders, redundant sensors, and 24 computing cores to serve as the drone's "brain and nervous system." Using FlightAutonomy, the Mavic Pro can follow positions and routes while avoiding obstacles at 22mph (36kph), allowing you to create advanced flights with minimal input and flying skills. What's more, the drone can even be controlled with your physical gestures, making it easy to shoot an aerial selfie if you so desire. A new compact remote controller has been designed for the Mavic Pro, and it features an LCD screen with essential data, dedicated buttons (e.g. Return-to-Home, Intelligent Flight pause), and a OcuSync video link system that provides live view at 1080p resolution. DJI is also announcing DJI Goggles to go along with the Mavic Pro. Wearing the goggles allows you to fly the drone with an immersive 85-degree view in full 1080p, viewing the world through the eyes of the drone. The DJI Mavic Pro will be available starting October 15th, 2016, with a price tag of $749 for just the drone and $999 with a remote controller bundled in. The DJI Mavic introduction video can be viewed here.
AI

Google's New Translation Software Powered By Brainlike Artificial Intelligence (sciencemag.org) 87

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Today, Google rolled out a new translation system that uses massive amounts of data and increased processing power to build more accurate translations. The new system, a deep learning model known as neural machine translation, effectively trains itself -- and reduces translation errors by up to 87%. When compared with Google's previous system, the neural machine translation system scores well with human reviewers. It was 58% more accurate at translating English into Chinese, and 87% more accurate at translating English into Spanish. As a result, the company is planning to slowly replace the system underlying all of its translation work -- one language at a time. The report adds: "The new method, reported today on the preprint server arXiv, uses a total of 16 processors to first transform words into a value known as a vector. What is a vector? 'We don't know exactly,' [Quoc Le, a Google research scientist in Mountain View, California, says.] But it represents how related one word is to every other word in the vast dictionary of training materials (2.5 billion sentence pairs for English and French; 500 million for English and Chinese). For example, 'dog' is more closely related to 'cat' than 'car,' and the name 'Barack Obama' is more closely related to 'Hillary Clinton' than the name for the country 'Vietnam.' The system uses vectors from the input language to come up with a list of possible translations that are ranked based on their probability of occurrence. Other features include a system of cross-checks that further increases accuracy and a special set of computations that speeds up processing time."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Calls On HP To Disable Printer Ink Self-Destruct Sequence (arstechnica.com) 249

HP should apologize to customers and restore the ability of printers to use third-party ink cartridges, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a letter to the company's CEO yesterday. From an ArsTechnica report:HP has been sabotaging OfficeJet Pro printers with firmware that prevents use of non-HP ink cartridges and even HP cartridges that have been refilled, forcing customers to buy more expensive ink directly from HP. The self-destruct mechanism informs customers that their ink cartridges are "damaged" and must be replaced. "The software update that prevented the use of third-party ink was reportedly distributed in March, but this anti-feature itself wasn't activated until September," EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow wrote in a letter to HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler. "That means that HP knew, for at least six months, that some of its customers were buying your products because they believed they were compatible with any manufacturer's ink, while you had already planted a countdown timer in their property that would take this feature away. Your customers will have replaced their existing printers, or made purchasing recommendations to friends who trusted them on this basis. They are now left with a less useful printer -- and possibly a stockpile of useless third-party ink cartridges."
Math

Researcher Modifies Sieve of Eratosthenes To Work With Less Physical Memory Space (scientificamerican.com) 78

grcumb writes: Peruvian mathematician Harald Helfgott made his mark on the history of mathematics by solving Goldbach's weak conjecture, which states that every odd number greater than 7 can be expressed as the sum of three prime numbers. Now, according to Scientific American, he's found a better solution to the sieve of Eratosthenes: "In order to determine with this sieve all primes between 1 and 100, for example, one has to write down the list of numbers in numerical order and start crossing them out in a certain order: first, the multiples of 2 (except the 2); then, the multiples of 3, except the 3; and so on, starting by the next number that had not been crossed out. The numbers that survive this procedure will be the primes. The method can be formulated as an algorithm." But now, Helfgott has found a method to drastically reduce the amount of RAM required to run the algorithm: "Now, inspired by combined approaches to the analytical 100-year-old technique called the circle method, Helfgott was able to modify the sieve of Eratosthenes to work with less physical memory space. In mathematical terms: instead of needing a space N, now it is enough to have the cube root of N." So what will be the impact of this? Will we see cheaper, lower-power encryption devices? Or maybe quicker cracking times in brute force attacks? Mathematician Jean Carlos Cortissoz Iriarte of Cornell University and Los Andes University offers an analogy: "Let's pretend that you are a computer and that to store data in your memory you use sheets of paper. If to calculate the primes between 1 and 1,000,000, you need 200 reams of paper (10,000 sheets), and with the algorithm proposed by Helfgott you will only need one fifth of a ream (about 100 sheets)," he says.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents A User-Monitoring AI That Improves Search Results (hothardware.com) 68

Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes a HotHardware article about Microsoft's new patent filing for an OS "mediation component": This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all textual input within apps to intelligently decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the Mediator and processed. So when the user goes to, for example, the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query.

The search engine (e.g., Bing and Cortana) uses contextual rankers to adjust the ranking of the default suggested queries to produce more relevant [results]. The operating system...tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually).

The article argues this feels "creepy and big brother-esque," and while Microsoft talks of defining a "task continuum," suggests the patent's process "would in essence keep track of everything you type and interact with in the OS and stockpile it in real-time to data-dump into Bing."
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Who's Building The Open Source Version of Siri? (upon2020.com) 186

We're moving to a world of voice interactions processed by AI. Now Long-time Slashdot reader jernst asks, "Will we ever be able to do that without going through somebody's proprietary silo like Amazon's or Apple's?" A decade ago, we in the free and open-source community could build our own versions of pretty much any proprietary software system out there, and we did... But is this still true...? Where are the free and/or open-source versions of Siri, Alexa and so forth?

The trouble, of course, is not so much the code, but in the training. The best speech recognition code isn't going to be competitive unless it has been trained with about as many millions of hours of example speech as the closed engines from Apple, Google and so forth have been. How can we do that? The same problem exists with AI. There's plenty of open-source AI code, but how good is it unless it gets training and retraining with gigantic data sets?

And even with that data, Siri gets trained with a massive farm of GPUs running 24/7 -- but how can the open source community replicate that? "Who has a plan, and where can I sign up to it?" asks jernst. So leave your best answers in the comments. Who's building the open source version of Siri?
Censorship

Krebs Is Back Online Thanks To Google's Project Shield (krebsonsecurity.com) 149

"After the massive 600gbps DDOS attack on KrebsOnSecurity.com that forced Akamai to withdraw their (pro-bono) DDOS protection, krebsonsecurity.com is now back online, hosted by Google," reports Slashdot reader Gumbercules!!.

"I am happy to report that the site is back up -- this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship," Brian Krebs wrote today, adding "The economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists...anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor." [T]he Internet can't route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity. I call this rather unwelcome and hostile development the "The Democratization of Censorship...." [E]vents of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach...

Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company's paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple... In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack -- if sustained -- likely would have cost the company millions of dollars.

One site told Krebs that Akamai-style protection would cost him $150,000 a year. "Ask yourself how many independent journalists could possibly afford that kind of protection money?" He suspects the attack was a botnet of enslaved IoT devices -- mainly cameras, DVRs, and routers -- but says the situation is exacerbated by the failure of many ISPs to implement the BCP38 security standard to filter spoofed traffic, "allowing systems on their networks to be leveraged in large-scale DDoS attacks... the biggest offenders will continue to fly under the radar of public attention unless and until more pressure is applied by hardware and software makers, as well as ISPs that are doing the right thing... What appears to be missing is any sense of urgency to address the DDoS threat on a coordinated, global scale."

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