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Updated: 1 hour 20 min ago

EU fines Google $2.72 billion, orders changes in search results

June 27, 2017 - 11:57am

Google abused its dominant position in the search engine market to illegally promote its comparison shopping service, the European Union's top antitrust authority ruled Tuesday, slapping the company with a €2.42 billion (US$2.72 billion) fine.

The consequence could be still greater differences in the ways Google presents search results to users in the U.S. and to those in the EU.

The European Commission gave the the company 90 days to change its ways or face additional fines of up to 5 percent of average daily worldwide sales of parent company Alphabet for each day that the infringement continued.

The Commission's ruling targets the way Google uses its search service to promote another service, "Google Shopping", previously known as Google Product Search and Froogle.

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Categories: Opinion

Lenovo's new workstation is indeed 'Tiny' but packs a punch

June 21, 2017 - 10:45pm

Windows users who work in tight spaces and need a small form factor workstation with multiple display ports and solid processing power have a new contender to check out: the new ThinkStation P320 Tiny.

The workstation lives up to its name: At 1.4 x 7.1 by 7.2 inches, it's the smallest workstation on the market that is ISV (independent software vendor) certified, according to Rob Herman, the general manager of Lenovo's workstation business unit.

The ISV certification is important. "We don't consider a machine to be a workstation unless it has ISV certification," according to Lloyd Cohen, an analyst with IDC.

The U.S. government uses the same definition for workstations and for non-government users, software certifications mean that you can run CAD and CAM programs, for example, without worrying about crashing, Cohen noted. That's important if you're working on a complex design.

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Categories: Opinion

Uber CEO resigns, leaving company in search of a new strategy

June 21, 2017 - 11:54am

Uber is now a driverless vehicle, after CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday.

Kalanick had already decided to take an indefinite leave of absence from the company, but now he's leaving for good. The move came at the request of the board of directors, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The company has already lost Kalanick's right-hand man, Senior Vice President of Business Emil Michael, following a number of gaffes including his suggestion that the company target a journalist who had been investigating the company.

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Categories: Opinion

EU wants to ease commercial drone use with future flight rules

June 20, 2017 - 9:06pm

The European Commission wants to make it easier for lightweight drones to fly autonomously in European airspace -- with logistics, inspection services and agricultural businesses set to benefit.

Last Friday, the Commission unveiled a plan to improve the safety of drones flying at low altitude.

It wants to introduce a consistent set of rules across the EU for flying drones in "U-space," its name for regulated airspace under 150 meters in altitude.

Simpler regulations will be welcomed by multinational businesses such as gas giant Engie, which is developing drones for tasks such as pipeline or building inspection or for cleaning the insulators on high-voltage overhead power lines.

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Categories: Opinion

Mid-range models ring the changes in Top500 supercomputer ranking

June 19, 2017 - 12:53pm

With no change at the top of the latest Top500.org supercomputer list, you need to look further down the rankings to see the real story.

Top500.org published the 49th edition of its twice-yearly supercomputer league table on Monday, and once again the Chinese computers 93-petaflop Sunway TaihuLight and 33.9-petaflop Tianhe 2 lead the pack.

An upgrade has doubled the performance of Switzerland's GPU-based Piz Daint to 19.6 petaflops (19.6 quadrillion floating-point operations per second), boosting it from eighth to third place and nudging five other computers down a place. The top U.S. computer, Titan, is now in fourth.

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Categories: Opinion

Nokia rolls out its first 'petabit-class' router

June 14, 2017 - 7:06pm

With internet traffic set to triple over the next five years or so, according to recent estimates from Nokia and Cisco Systems, Nokia thinks the time is right for a new range of high-end routers that can boost core capacity by a factor of six -- and even help 10-year-old devices to double their capacity.

Nokia predicts that by 2022, total internet traffic will reach 330 exabytes per month. (That's 330 million terabytes). For its part, Cisco forecasts it will grow at 24 percent per year from a base of 96 exabytes per month in 2016 to 278 exabytes per month in 2021.

That traffic growth will be driven by three things, according to Nokia: cloud services, 5G mobile networks, and the internet of things.

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Categories: Opinion

Imagination adds safety, resilience to processor for IoT

June 14, 2017 - 5:51pm

Picture this: The networking stack on the main pump controller has crashed, and you need to reboot it -- but it's 20 meters underground, on another continent -- and there's no-one on site to hit 'reset'.

Or you're bowling along the highway and one of the processor cores in your self-driving car gets zapped by a cosmic ray (yes, this could actually happen). The software can't tell whether the resulting error is a transient glitch or a hardware fault, so limits you to 50 kilometers per hour for safety: No fun with a monster truck hurtling up behind you.

Chip designers such as ARM and Imagination Technologies are applying industrial safety design techniques to their processor cores so that they can get themselves out of situations like this. You could soon feel the benefit even if you don't run a subterranean pumping station in Azerbaijan, nor yet have a self-driving car in your garage.

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Categories: Opinion

SoftBank targets service industries with new robotics acquisition

June 9, 2017 - 1:24pm

SoftBank's latest robotics acquisition could allow it to open up a whole new market for service industries and home help.

Its customer service and companion robot, Pepper, is somewhat limited by the fact that it can't do much more than wave its arms and talk.

Now, though, SoftBank has its eyes on the fetching and carrying capabilities of BigDog and Spot, the dog-sized pack robots developed by Boston Robotics.

SoftBank, originally an ISP and mobile network operator, moved into robotics in 2014 when it bought Aldebaran, the French company behind the diminutive humanoid robots Pepper and Nao.

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Categories: Opinion

SoftBank targets service industries with Boston Robotics acquisition

June 9, 2017 - 1:24pm

SoftBank's latest robotics acquisition could allow it to open up a whole new market for service industries and home help.

Its customer service and companion robot, Pepper, is somewhat limited by the fact that it can't do much more than wave its arms and talk.

Now, though, SoftBank has its eyes on the fetching and carrying capabilities of BigDog and Spot, the dog-sized pack robots developed by Boston Robotics.

SoftBank, originally an ISP and mobile network operator, moved into robotics in 2014 when it bought Aldebaran, the French company behind the diminutive humanoid robots Pepper and Nao.

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Categories: Opinion

Don't be left behind by IPv6 deployment, ISOC warns enterprises

June 6, 2017 - 1:00pm

They have the resources, the expertise and, though they may not realize it, the need -- but it turns out that enterprises are often the ones that don't yet have IPv6.

That's the finding of the Internet Society its latest report on IPv6 deployment, published five years after the organization began a worldwide push to deploy the new addressing protocol and almost 20 years after the protocol was defined.

Around 13 percent of the top one million websites is inviting IPv6 traffic today, it said, citing a Hurricane Electric analysis of data provided by Amazon.com. That figure rises to around 22 percent for the top 1,000 websites.

In 37 countries, IPv6 is used for over 5 percent of internet traffic, according to Google, which bases its estimate on traffic hitting its load-balancers.

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Categories: Opinion

All-electric satellites are ushering in zippier in-flight internet access

June 1, 2017 - 2:48pm

All-electric satellites are changing the way airline passengers access the internet.

Like a Tesla in space, an all-electric satellite uses electric propulsion to climb from transfer orbit to geostationary orbit and to maintain its position on station, instead of the chemical rockets used by traditional satellites.

Such satellites still need a traditional launcher burning solid or liquid fuel for the brute-force task of getting them into space, but the delicate work of positioning the satellite is done electrically.

Without the need to carry vast quantities of chemical fuel, all-electric satellites can be up to 40 percent lighter at launch.

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Categories: Opinion

Power surge at British Airways data center causes flight chaos

May 29, 2017 - 4:01pm

A major British Airways crash has highlighted the importance for businesses of testing backup systems and disaster recovery procedures to ensure that they work as planned.

The airline experienced what CEO Alex Cruz described as "a major IT systems failure" that, he said, affected all check-in and operational systems.

The failure on Saturday, May 27, resulted in the delay or cancellation of hundreds of flights, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at London's Heathrow Airport on a holiday weekend. Things were still not back to normal two days later.

Cruz described the cause of the failure as "a power supply issue," without going into detail.

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Categories: Opinion

The AI fight is escalating: This is the IT giants' next move

May 24, 2017 - 10:07am

Artificial intelligence is where the competition is in IT, with Microsoft and Google both parading powerful, always-available AI tools for the enterprise at their respective developer conferences, Build and I/O, in May. 

It's not just about work: AI software can now play chess, go, and some retro video games better than any human -- and even drive a car better than many of us. These superhuman performances, albeit in narrow fields, are all possible thanks to the application of decades of AI research -- research that is increasingly, as at Build and I/O, making it out of the lab and into the real world.

Meanwhile, the AI-powered voice technologies behind virtual assistants like Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon.com's Alexa and Samsung Electronics' Bixby may offer less-than-superhuman performance, but they also require vastly less power than a supercomputer to run. Businesses can dabble on the edges of these, for example developing Alexa "skills" that allow Amazon Echo owners to interact with a company without having to dial its call center, or jump right in, using the various cloud-based speech recognition and text-to-speech "-as-a-service" offerings to develop full-fledged automated call centers of their own.

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Categories: Opinion

Amazon Web Services sets a lure for Java programmers

May 23, 2017 - 12:44pm

Amazon Web Services has long offered an SDK to make it easier to access its web services from Java. Now it has another lure for Java programmers: James Gosling, the father of Java.

Gosling revealed his new employer on his Facebook page with the words: "It's time for a change. I'm leaving Boeing Defense (nee Liquid Robotics), with many fond memories. Today I start a new Adventure at Amazon Web Services."

IDG News Service

On May 22, 2017, James Gosling announced on his Facebook page that he is joining Amazon Web Services.

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Categories: Opinion

SAP has designs on new government business

May 22, 2017 - 10:55pm

Steve Ballmer's latest hobby, USAfacts.org, cast a spotlight on the effectiveness of local, state and federal governments when it launched in April. Its easy-to-read dashboards allow ordinary citizens to compare government's performance of its core missions with spending at all levels.

In a roundabout way, that's made the former Microsoft CEO something of an evangelist for companies like SAP, which has released a new cloud service to help public sector organizations manage their spending.

USAfacts and OpenGov, a young company offering financial reporting, budgeting and publishing tools for the public sector, are stirring interest in ERP tools for government, and that's creating opportunities for SAP to get involved in the sales cycle, according to Darren Koch, SAP's chief product officer for small and medium-size businesses. 

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Categories: Opinion

Apple simplifies Windows 10 installs with support for Creators Update

May 18, 2017 - 5:22pm

Apple this week updated macOS Sierra to version 10.12.5 with more than three dozen security patches, and a change that lets users install Microsoft's latest version of Windows 10 on their Macs.

Sierra 10.12.5 "adds support for media-free installation of Windows 10 Creators Update using Boot Camp," the update's brief release notes read. Creators Update was the name Microsoft assigned to Windows 10 1703, the upgrade issued last month.

Boot Camp, which is baked into macOS, lets Mac owners run Windows on their machines. A Windows license is required. Boot Camp, while not virtualization software like VMware's Fusion or Parallels International's Parallels Desktop, serves the same purpose: Running Windows applications, including custom or mission-critical corporate software, on a Mac personal computer.

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Categories: Opinion

Facebook fined €110 million for misleading European Commission over merger

May 18, 2017 - 9:46am

Facebook must pay a €110 million (US$123 million) for misleading the European Commission during an investigation of its takeover of WhatsApp.

The fine is for telling the Commission it would not be possible to reliably match Facebook and WhatsApp accounts for the same user -- something that would allow the company to better target advertising across the two platforms.

The move shows that enterprises need to be up front with regulators about their ability to process users' personal information, and not try to play it down -- especially when making acquisitions.

"Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information," said European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

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Categories: Opinion

Here's how Google is preparing Android for the AI-laden future

May 18, 2017 - 1:26am

The future of Android will be a lot smarter, thanks to new programming tools that Google unveiled on Wednesday. The company announced TensorFlow Lite, a version of its machine learning framework that’s designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices, during the keynote address at its Google I/O developer conference.

“TensorFlow Lite will leverage a new neural network API to tap into silicon-specific accelerators, and over time we expect to see [digital signal processing chips] specifically designed for neural network inference and training,” said Dave Burke, Google's vice president of engineering for Android. “We think these new capabilities will help power a next generation of on-device speech processing, visual search, augmented reality, and more.”

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Categories: Opinion

Google adds smart reply to Gmail for iOS, Android

May 17, 2017 - 6:45pm

Google is making it easier for people to dash off a quick email reply from Gmail on their smartphones. The Smart Reply feature, which offers a handful of contextually-aware, computer-generated responses, is coming to Google’s flagship email app for iOS and Android, the company announced at its I/O developer conference Wednesday.

The feature provides users with three machine-generated responses, based on the content of whatever message the user is replying to. It’s built using machine learning, and is designed for use with smartphones, so that people on the go can dash off a reply to their correspondence partners without much effort.

Smart Reply began its life as part of Inbox, Google’s alternate email client for smartphones. Right now, 12 percent of all email replies sent through that app are Smart Replies.

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Categories: Opinion

Google's new TPUs are here to accelerate AI training

May 17, 2017 - 6:09pm

Google has made another leap forward in the realm of machine learning hardware. The tech giant has begun deploying the second version of its Tensor Processing Unit, a specialized chip meant to accelerate machine learning applications, company CEO Sundar Pichai announced on Wednesday.

The new Cloud TPU sports several improvements over its predecessor. Most notably, it supports training machine learning algorithms in addition to processing the results from existing models. Each chip can provide 180 teraflops of processing for those tasks. Google is also able to network the chips together in sets of what are called TPU Pods that allow even greater computational gains.

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Categories: Opinion

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