Microsoft

Behind the Microsoft Write-Off of Nokia 76

UnknowingFool writes: Previously Microsoft had announced that they had written off the Nokia purchase for $7.6B in the last quarter. In doing so, Microsoft would create only the third unprofitable quarter in the company's history. Released on July 31, new financial documents detail some of the reasoning and financials behind this decision. At the core of the problem was that the Phone Hardware business was only worth $116M, after adjusting for costs and market factors. One of those factors was poor sales of Nokia handhelds in 2015. Financially it made more sense to write it all off.
Microsoft

Microsoft Creates a Quantum Computer-Proof Version of TLS Encryption Protocol 112

holy_calamity writes: When (or if) quantum computers become practical they will make existing forms of encryption useless. But now researchers at Microsoft say they have made a quantum-proof version of the TLS encryption protocol we could use to keep online data secure in the quantum computing era. It is based on a mathematical problem very difficult for both conventional and quantum computers to crack. That tougher math means data moved about 20 percent slower in comparisons with conventional TLS, but Microsoft says the design could be practical if properly tuned up for use in the real world.
Math

For the Love of the Analytics of the Game: Before Beane, There Was AVM Systems 16

theodp writes: Those of you slugging your way through EdX's (free) Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics MOOC course might want to take a break from your R and SQL coding to check out Grantland's Before Beane, in which Ben Lindbergh tells the story of AVM Systems, the little-known company that jump-started sabermetrics and made Moneyball possible. Ken Mauriello, whose love-for-the-analytics-of-the-game led him to ditch a trading career to co-found AVM in the mid-90's, said of the early days, "Back in the day we weren't doing presentations [to skeptical MLB teams] with laptops. We were carrying around two enormous boxes with an enormous monitor and an enormous tower. It was like Planes, Trains & Automobiles traveling around with that stuff. Watching a great big Gateway box with your monitor come tumbling out upside down, and you pick it up and it's rattling. ... So we're in the hotel, saying, 'Please lord, let this thing work.'"
AMD

AMD Forces a LibreOffice Speed Boost With GPU Acceleration 144

New submitter samtuke writes: AMD processors get rated and reviewed based on performance. It is in our self-interest to make things work really, really fast on AMD hardware. AMD engineers contribute to LibreOffice, for good reason. Think about what happens behind a spreadsheet calculation. There can be a huge amount of math. Writing software to take advantage of a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for general purpose computing is non-trivial. We know how to do it. AMD engineers wrote OpenCL kernels, and contributed them to the open source code base. Turning on the OpenCL option to enable GPU Compute resulted in a 500X+ speedup, about ¼ second vs. 2minutes, 21 seconds. Those measurements specifically come from the ground-water use sample from this set of Libre Office spreadsheets.
Education

US Wins Math Olympiad For First Time In 21 Years 280

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. won the International Mathematical Olympiad for the first time in 21 years. Gender diversity is brought up in this NPR article because the eight team members on the U.S. team were all male, but they made a point to mention that of the top 12 people participating in the U.S. Math Olympiad, 2 are female, which is better than last year when there were no females in the top 12. "I will say that it's not really a super-great spectator sport, in the sense that if you are watching them, it will look like they are thinking," Po-Shen Loh, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University and head coach for Team USA says. "Although I will assure you that inside their heads, if you could spectate, that would be quite a sport."
Stats

As Big Data Plateaus, Data Science Education Grows 41

gthuang88 writes: Even as the hype around big data has died down, opportunities for data scientists are expanding. Johns Hopkins, NYU, and MIT are among the schools offering courses in data science, and IBM and other big companies are investing heavily in training programs. Now a startup called DataCamp has raised $1 million to expand online courses in R programming, Apache Spark, and other topics. The deal speaks to the opportunity that venture capitalists see in training the next generation of data scientists and business analysts. It also shows online education is specializing beyond platforms like Codecademy, Coursera, and Udacity.
The Courts

Time Warner Cable Owes $229,500 To Woman It Would Not Stop Calling 215

HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that a Manhattan federal judge has ruled Time Warner Cable must pay Araceli King $229,500 for placing 153 automated calls meant for someone else to her cellphone in less than a year, even after she told them to stop. King accused Time Warner Cable of harassing her by leaving messages for Luiz Perez, who once held her cellphone number, even after she made clear who she was in a seven-minute discussion with a company representative. Time Warner Cable countered that it was not liable to King under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law meant to curb robocall and telemarketing abuses, because it believed it was calling Perez, who had consented to the calls. In awarding triple damages of $1,500 per call for willfully violating that law, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said "a responsible business" would have tried harder to find Perez and address the problem. While Time Warner argued that they were unaware King ever asked to be on the company's "do not call list," Hellerstein determined, "there is no doubt King made this revocation." He wrote that the company "could not be bothered" to update King's information, even after she filed suit against TWC in March of 2014. The judge said 74 of the calls had been placed after King sued and that it was "incredible" to believe Time Warner Cable when it said it still did not know she objected. "Companies are using computers to dial phone numbers," says King's lawyer Sergei Lemberg. "They benefit from efficiency, but there is a cost when they make people's lives miserable. This was one such case."
Education

Learn-to-Code Program For 10,000 Low-Income Girls 473

theodp writes: In a press release Tuesday, the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) announced it was teaming with Lifetime Partner Apple and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to engage 10,000 girls in learning computing concepts. "Currently, just 25 states and the District of Columbia allow computer science to count as a math or science graduation requirement," explained the press release. "Because boys get more informal opportunities for computing experience outside of school, this lack of formal computing education especially affects girls and many youth of color." HUD, the press release added, has joined the Commitment to Action to help extend the program's reach in partnership with public housing authorities nationwide and provide computing access to the 485,000 girls residing in public housing. "In this Information Age, opportunity is just a click on a keyboard away. HUD is proud to partner with NCWIT to provide talented girls with the skills and experiences they need to reach new heights and to achieve their dreams in the 21st century global economy," said HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who coincidentally is eyed as a potential running mate for Hillary Clinton, whose daughter Chelsea is the Clinton Foundation's point-person on computer science. Last year, Chelsea Clinton gave a keynote speech at the NCWIT Summit and appeared with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith to help launch Google's $50 million girls-only Made With Code initiative.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What's the Harm In a Default Setting For Div By Zero? 1067

New submitter CodeInspired writes: After 20 years of programming, I've decided I'm tired of checking for div by zero. Would there be any serious harm in allowing a system wide setting that said div by zero simply equals zero? Maybe it exists already, not sure. But I run into it all the time in every language I've worked with. Does anyone want their div by zero errors to result in anything other than zero?
Math

Turning a Nail Polish Disaster Into a Teachable Math Moment 126

theodp writes: In The Spiral of Splatter, SAS's Rick Wicklin writes that his daughter's nail polish spill may have created quite a mess, but at least it presented a teachable math moment: "'Daddy, help! Help me! Come quick!' I heard my daughter's screams from the upstairs bathroom and bounded up the stairs two at a time. Was she hurt? Bleeding? Was the toilet overflowing? When I arrived in the doorway, she pointed at the wall and at the floor. The wall was splattered with black nail polish. On the floor laid a broken bottle in an expanding pool of black ooze. 'It slipped,' she sobbed. As a parent, I know that there are times when I should not raise my voice. I knew intellectually that this was one of those times. But staring at that wall, seeing what I was seeing, I could not prevent myself from yelling. 'Oh my goodness!' I exclaimed. 'Is that a logarithmic spiral?'" So, got any memorable teachable math moments you've experienced either as a kid or adult? Yes, Cheerios Math counts!
Medicine

Rare 9-way Kidney Swap a Success 130

Okian Warrior sends news that a complex set of 18 surgeries has been successfully completed at California Pacific Medical Center and the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center that resulted in nine donors sending kidneys to recipients in need. This web of kidney swaps arose because many of the people with failing kidneys had donors willing to help them, but weren't a biological match. Rather than give up on the transplant altogether, doctors were able to arrange the willing donors in a way such that each patient who needed a kidney was able to get one. "Software matching programs have been driving the trend. The programs use blood type and other patient data from medical tests to connect people who are compatible."
Math

Quantum Gravity Will Be Just Fine Without String Theory 62

StartsWithABang writes: It's a difficult fact to accept: our two most fundamental theories that describe reality, General Relativity for gravitation and the Standard Model / Quantum Field Theory for the other three forces, are fundamentally incompatible with one another. When an electron moves through a double slit, for example, its gravitational field can't move through both slits, at least not without a quantum theory of gravity. String Theory is often touted as the only game in town as far as formulating a quantum theory of gravity is concerned, but in fact there are five viable options, each with different pros, cons, and approaches to the problem. Many of them, in fact, have undergone significant developments in the past 5-10 years, something String Theory cannot claim.
Education

Clinton Foundation: Kids' Lack of CS Savvy Threatens the US Economy 208

theodp writes: As the press digs for details on Clinton Foundation donations, including a reported $26+ million from Microsoft and Bill Gates, it's probably worth noting the interest the Clintons have developed in computer science and the role they have played — and continue to play — in the national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis that materialized after Microsoft proposed creating such a crisis to advance its 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy, which aims to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Next thing you know, Bill is the face of CS at the launch of Code.org. Then Hillary uses the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference to launch a Facebook, Microsoft, and Google initiative to boost the ranks of female and students of color in CS, and starts decrying woeful CS enrollment. Not to be left out, Chelsea keynotes the NCWIT Summit and launches Google's $50M girls-only Made With Code initiative with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith. And last December, the Clinton Foundation touted its initiatives to engage middle school girls in CS, revamp the nation's AP CS program, and retrain out-of-work Americans as coders. At next month's CGI America 2015, the conference will kick off with a Beer Bust that CGI says "will also provide an opportunity to learn about Tech Girls Rock, a CGI Commitment to Action launched by CA Technologies in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that helps girls discover an interest in tech-related educational opportunities and careers." On the following days, CGI sessions will discuss tech's need for a strong and diverse talent pipeline for computer and information technology jobs, which it says is threatened by "the persistent poor performance of American students in science, technology, engineering, and math," presenting "serious implications for the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. economy." So what's the long-term solution? Expanding CS education, of course!
Education

Google and Gates-Backed Khan Academy Introduces "Grit"-Based Classroom Funding 119

theodp writes: Their intentions are no doubt good, but some will be troubled by Google and Khan Academy's recently-concluded LearnStorm initiative, which pitted kids-against-kids, schools-against-schools, and cities-against-cities in a 3-month learning challenge for prizes based not only on students' mastery of math skills on Khan Academy, but also their perceived 'hustle' (aka 'grit'). "Points are earned by mastering math skills and also for taking on challenging new concepts and persevering," explained a Khan Academy FAQ. A blog entry further explained, "They've earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing 'hustle,' a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Google.org, DonorsChoose.org, and Comcast's Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy." Apparently funded by a $2 million Google grant, the Google, Khan Academy, and DonorsChoose grit-based classroom funding comes on the heels of the same organizations' gender-based classroom funding initiative. Supported by some of the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, Khan Academy's Board members include a Google Board member (Diane Green), spouse of a Google Board member (Ann Doerr), and the Managing Partner of Bill Gates' bgC3 (Larry Cohen); former Board members include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Math

A Beautiful Mind Mathematician John F. Nash Jr. Dies 176

Rick Zeman writes: John F. Nash Jr. revolutionized the mathematical field of game theory and was given a mind that was unique and deeply troubled. He became known to most people by the movie about his life, A Beautiful Mind. Dr. Nash died, along with his wife, May 24 in a two-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Washington Post reports: "In 1994, when Dr. Nash received the Nobel Prize in economics, the award marked not only an intellectual triumph but also a personal one. More than four decades earlier, as a Princeton University graduate student, he had produced a 27-page thesis on game theory — in essence, the applied mathematical study of decision-making in situations of conflict — that would become one of the most celebrated works in the field. Before the academic world could fully recognize his achievement, Dr. Nash descended into a condition eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. For the better part of 20 years, his once supremely rational mind was beset by delusions and hallucinations. By the time Dr. Nash emerged from his disturbed state, his ideas had influenced economics, foreign affairs, politics, biology — virtually every sphere of life fueled by competition. But he been absent from professional life for so long that some scholars assumed he was dead."
The Almighty Buck

Stock Market Valuation Exceeds Its Components' Actual Value 335

An anonymous reader writes: James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a concept called "Q-value" — it's the ratio between two numbers: 1) the sum of all publicly-traded companies' stock valuations and 2) the value of all these companies' actual assets, if they were sold. Bloomberg reports that the continued strength of the stock market has now caused that ratio to go over 1 — in other words, the market values companies about 10% higher than the sum of their actual assets. The Q value is now at its highest point since the Dot-com bubble. Similar peaks in the past hundred years have all been quickly followed by crashes.

Now, that's not to say a crash is imminent — experts disagree on the Q-value's reliability. One said, "the ratio's doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth." Others point out that as the digital economy grows, a greater portion of publicly traded companies lack the tangible assets that were the hallmark of the manufacturing boom.
Math

John Urschel: The 300 Pound Mathematician Who Hits People For a Living 170

HughPickens.com writes: Kate Murphy writes at NYT about mathematician John Urschel whose latest contribution to the mathematical realm was a paper for the Journal of Computational Mathematics with the impressively esoteric title, "A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians." "Believe me, I am aware that terms such as multigrid, Fiedler, and vector are not words that people use in their daily lives," says Urshel.

But as an offensive guard for the Baltimore Ravens, John Urschel regularly goes head to head with the top defensive players in the NFL and does his best to keep quarterback Joe Flacco out of harm's way. "I play because I love the game. I love hitting people," Urshel writes. "There's a rush you get when you go out on the field, lay everything on the line and physically dominate the player across from you. This is a feeling I'm (for lack of a better word) addicted to, and I'm hard-pressed to find anywhere else."

Urschel acknowledges that he has faced questions from NFL officials, journalists, fans and fellow mathematicians about why he runs the risk of potential brain injury from playing football when he has "a bright career ahead of me in mathematics" but doesn't feel able to quit. "When I go too long without physical contact I'm not a pleasant person to be around. This is why, every offseason, I train in kickboxing and wrestling in addition to my lifting, running and position-specific drill work."
Earth

Can Earthquakes Be Predicted Algorithmically? 94

An anonymous reader with this story about a practical application of big data analysis as applied to the trove of sensor readings taken by satellites and by ground-based senosrs. A company called Terra Seismic says that earthquakes can be predicted 20-30 days before they occur, by sifting data for thermal, ionic, and other abnormalities in areas where quakes are considered likely. Says the linked article: "The company claims to have successfully predicted a number of earthquakes. For example, on 5th of April 2013, the firm issued a forecast for Japan. On 12th April 2013, an earthquake hit the identified area and 33 people were injured. On 4th June 2013, the firm again made a prediction for an earthquake in North Italy. On 21st June, an earthquake hit the identified area. On 3rd March 2013, the firm issued a forecast for an earthquake in Iran. Again, after 35 days, an earthquake hit the identified area."
Stats

Poker Pros Win Against AI, But Experts Peg Match As Statistical Draw 65

hypnosec writes with some positive news for Skynet watchers, in that humans still have at least a slight lead against the AIs who might one day imprison us in energy-harvesting goo tanks, or at least beating us in Las Vegas. The two-day poker showdown involving four of the world's top (human) players and a Carnegie Mellon University AI program called Claudico saw the professionals win, after several days of heads-up no-limit Texas Hold'em. "Despite the win, the poker players' $732,713 collective lead over Claudico wasn't quite large enough to attain statistical significance, experts have said. This means that the results can't be accepted as scientifically reliable thereby indicating that the "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" competition effectively ended in a statistical tie." On the other hand, the computers sure got over what looked like a rout by the humans.