IBM

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

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

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 640

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

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

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

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

AI

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

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

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

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

Does this bring back any memories for anyone?
Data Storage

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

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

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

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

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

AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should Kaspersky Lab Show Its Source Code To The US Government? (gizmodo.com) 182

Today the CEO of Kaspersky Lab said he's willing to show the company's source code to the U.S. government, testify before Congress, and even move part of his research work to the U.S. to dispel suspicious about his company. The Associated Press reports: Kaspersky, a mathematical engineer who attended a KGB-sponsored school and once worked for Russia's Ministry of Defense, has long been eyed suspiciously by his competitors, particularly as his anti-virus products became popular in the U.S. market. Some speculate that Kaspersky, an engaging speaker and a fixture of the conference circuit, kept his Soviet-era intelligence connections. Others say it's unlikely that his company could operate independently in Russia, where the economy is dominated by state-owned companies and the power of spy agencies has expanded dramatically under President Vladimir Putin. No firm evidence has ever been produced to back up the claims...

Like many cybersecurity outfits in the U.S. and elsewhere, some Kaspersky employees are former spies. Kaspersky acknowledged having ex-Russian intelligence workers on his staff, mainly "in our sales department for their relationship with the government sector." But he added that his company's internal network was too segregated for a single rogue employee to abuse it. "It's almost not possible," he said. "Because to do that, you have to have not just one person in the company, but a group of people that have access to different parts of our technological processes. It's too complicated." And he insisted his company would never knowingly cooperate with any country's offensive cyber operations.

A key Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee has told ABC that "a consensus in Congress and among administration officials that Kaspersky Lab cannot be trusted to protect critical infrastructure." Meanwhile, Slashdot reader Kiralan shares this article from Gizmodo noting Kaspersky Lab "has worked with both Moscow and the FBI in the past, often serving as a go-between to help the two governments cooperate." But setting the precedent of gaining trust through source code access is dangerous, as is capitulating to those demands. Russia has been making the same requests of private companies recently. Major technology companies like Cisco, IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, McAfee, and SAP have agreed to give the Russian government access to "code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption," according to Reuters. Security firm Symantec pointedly refused to cooperate with Russian demands last week. "It poses a risk to the integrity of our products that we are not willing to accept," a Symantec spokesperson said in a statement.
Java

Modularity Finally Approved For Java 9 (infoworld.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld:With a new round of voting completed this week, the Java Community Process Executive Committee passed by a 24-0 vote the Java Platform Module System public review ballot, the subject of Java Specification Request 376. In May, the same group, citing concerns over the plan being disruptive and lacking consensus, voted the measure down, 13 to 10... Red Hat, which voted no on the previous ballot but abstained from the latest one, said there were still several items in the current proposal that it wanted further work on. "However, we do not want to delay the Java 9 release," Red Hat said. Getting "real world" feedback on the modularity system will be key to determine where further changes need to occur, Red Hat said. The Eclipse Foundation, Hazelcast, and Twitter, all of which voted no previously and yes this time around, cited sufficient progress with modularity.
Java 9 is still slated for release on September 21st.
Businesses

A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree (nytimes.com) 218

Steve Lohr, writing for the New York Times: A few years ago, Sean Bridges lived with his mother, Linda, in Wiley Ford, W.Va. Their only income was her monthly Social Security disability check. He applied for work at Walmart and Burger King, but they were not hiring. Yet while Mr. Bridges had no work history, he had certain skills. He had built and sold some stripped-down personal computers, and he had studied information technology at a community college. When Mr. Bridges heard IBM was hiring at a nearby operations center in 2013, he applied and demonstrated those skills. Now Mr. Bridges, 25, is a computer security analyst, making $45,000 a year. In a struggling Appalachian economy, that is enough to provide him with his own apartment, a car, spending money -- and career ambitions. "I got one big break," he said. "That's what I needed." Mr. Bridges represents a new but promising category in the American labor market: people working in so-called new-collar or middle-skill jobs. As the United States struggles with how to match good jobs to the two-thirds of adults who do not have a four-year college degree, his experience shows how a worker's skills can be emphasized over traditional hiring filters like college degrees, work history and personal references. [...] On Wednesday, the approach received a strong corporate endorsement from Microsoft, which announced a grant of more than $25 million to help Skillful, a program to foster skills-oriented hiring, training and education. The initiative, led by the Markle Foundation, began last year in Colorado, and Microsoft's grant will be used to expand it there and move it into other states. "We need new approaches, or we're going to leave more and more people behind in our economy," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.
Security

Under Pressure, Western Tech Firms Including Cisco and IBM Bow To Russian Demands To Share Cyber Secrets (reuters.com) 111

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Western technology companies, including Cisco, IBM and SAP, are acceding to demands by Moscow for access to closely guarded product security secrets, at a time when Russia has been accused of a growing number of cyber attacks on the West, a Reuters investigation has found. Russian authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting the products to be imported and sold in the country. The requests, which have increased since 2014, are ostensibly done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden any "backdoors" that would allow them to burrow into Russian systems. But those inspections also provide the Russians an opportunity to find vulnerabilities in the products' source code -- instructions that control the basic operations of computer equipment -- current and former U.S. officials and security experts said. [...] In addition to IBM, Cisco and Germany's SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co and McAfee have also allowed Russia to conduct source code reviews of their products, according to people familiar with the companies' interactions with Moscow and Russian regulatory records.
AI

Garry Kasparov: The World Should Embrace Artificial Intelligence (bbc.com) 114

"Chess champion Garry Kasparov was beaten at his game by a chess-playing AI," writes dryriver. "But he does not think that AI is a bad thing." From Kasparov's interview with the BBC: "We have to start recognizing the inevitability of machines taking over more and more tasks that we used to do in the past. It's called progress. Machines replaced farm animals and all forms of manual labor, and now machines are about to take over more menial parts of cognition. Big deal. It's happening. And we should not be alarmed about it. We should just take it as a fact and look into the future, trying to understand how can we adjust."
Kasparov has given the issue a lot of thought -- last month he released a new book called Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. But he also says that the IBM machine that beat him "was anything but intelligent. It was as intelligent as your alarm clock. A very expensive one, a $10 million alarm clock, but still an alarm clock. Very poweful -- brute force, with little chess knowledge. But chess proved to be vulnerable to the brute force. it could be crunched once hardware got fast enough and databases got big enough and algorithms got smart enough."
AMD

Six Companies Awarded $258 Million From US Government To Build Exascale Supercomputers (digitaltrends.com) 40

The U.S. Department of Energy will be investing $258 million to help six leading technology firms -- AMD, Cray Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia -- research and build exascale supercomputers. Digital Trends reports: The funding will be allocated to them over the course of a three-year period, with each company providing 40 percent of the overall project cost, contributing to an overall investment of $430 million in the project. "Continued U.S. leadership in high performance computing is essential to our security, prosperity, and economic competitiveness as a nation," U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said. "These awards will enable leading U.S. technology firms to marshal their formidable skills, expertise, and resources in the global race for the next stage in supercomputing -- exascale-capable systems." The funding will finance research and development in three key areas; hardware technology, software technology, and application development. There are hopes that one of the companies involved in the initiative will be able to deliver an exascale-capable supercomputer by 2021.
Businesses

America's Five Biggest Tech Stocks Lost $97 Billion Friday (yahoo.com) 98

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: The so-called "big five" -- Apple , Alphabet Class A shares, Microsoft , Facebook and Amazon -- lost more than $97.5 billion in market value between the close on Thursday and the close on Friday, according to FactSet, dragging the Nasdaq to its worst week of the year. Shares of Apple fell nearly 4 percent on Friday, while the other four companies fell more than 3 percent. For most of the day, only 3 stocks in the S&P 500 tech sector were in the green: IBM , Teradata and Western Union . Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet all traded more than 2 times their 30-day average volume... "They're just plain overbought," said David Bahnsen founder, managing director and chief investment officer of The Bahnsen Group, a private wealth management firm. "They are extremely stretched from a valuation standpoint."
CNN notes the drop occurred "after a Goldman Sachs analyst questioned this year's run-up in the industry's five biggest names." They also added that "The top five techs today account for 13% of the market value weighting in the S&P 500, even though they are only 1% of the companies in the index."
Businesses

Intel: Steer Clear Of Our Patents (axios.com) 87

An anonymous reader writes: Intel posted a long blog post yesterday touting the success and evolution of its 40-year-old x86 microprocessor -- the one that powered the first IBM personal computer in 1978 and still powers the majority of PCs and laptops. But it wasn't just a stroll down memory lane. Intel ended the post with a reminder that it won't tolerate infringement on its portfolio of patents, including those surrounding x86. The company wrote, "Intel invests enormous resources to advance its dynamic x86 ISA, and therefore Intel must protect these investments with a strong patent portfolio and other intellectual property rights. [...] Intel carefully protects its x86 innovations, and we do not widely license others to use them. Over the past 30 years, Intel has vigilantly enforced its intellectual property rights against infringement by third-party microprocessors. [...] Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Also read: Intel Fires Warning Shot At Qualcomm and Microsoft Over Windows 10 ARM Emulation.
Facebook

Facebook Is Planning To Move WhatsApp Off IBM's Public Cloud (cnbc.com) 59

Jordan Novet, reporting for CNBC: Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, which is used by 1.2 billion people across the globe, is planning to move off of IBM's cloud and into Facebook's own data centers, according to a person familiar with the matter. The WhatsApp move, which could begin later this year, would result in IBM losing one of its top five public cloud customers, the source said. IBM's public cloud business lags behind Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is on top with 33 percent of the market in April, as well as Microsoft's Azure cloud, according to Synergy Research.
IBM

IBM Research Alliance Has Figured Out How To Make 5nm Chips (cnet.com) 56

IBM, GlobalFoundries, and Samsung said Monday that they have found a way to make thinner transistors, which should enable them to pack 30 billion switches onto a microprocessor chip the size of a fingernail. The tech industry has been fueled for decades by the ability of chipmakers to shoehorn ever smaller, faster transistors into the chips that power laptops, servers, and mobile devices. But industry watchers have worried lately that technology was pushing the limits of Moore's Law -- a prediction made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965 that computing power would double every two years as chips got more densely packed. From a report: Today's chips are built with transistors whose dimensions measure 10 nanometers, which means about 1,000 fit end-to-end across the diameter of a human hair. The next generation will shrink that dimension to 7nm, and the IBM-Samsung development goes one generation beyond that to 5nm. That means transistors can be packed four times as densely on a chip compared with today's technology. "A nanosheet-based 5nm chip will deliver performance and power, together with density," said Huiming Bu, IBM's director of silicon integration and device research. Take all those numbers with a nanograin of salt, though, because chipmakers no longer agree on what exactly they're measuring about transistors. And there's also a long road between this research announcement and actual commercial manufacturing. IBM believes this new process won't cost any more than chips with today's transistor designs, but its approach requires an expensive shift that chipmakers have put off for years: the use of extreme ultraviolet light to etch chip features onto silicon wafers.

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