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Microsoft

Microsoft Allowed To Sue US Government Over Email Surveillance (bloomberg.com) 56

A judge has ruled that Microsoft is allowed to sue the U.S. government over a policy that prevents the tech company from telling its users when their emails are being intercepted. From a report on Bloomberg: The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case. "The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity," U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday's ruling. "Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers."
Education

Pioneering Data Genius Hans Rosling Passes Away At Age 68 (bbc.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes: On Tuesday, Sweden's prime minister tweeted that Hans Rosling "made human progress across our world come alive for millions," and the public educator will probably best be remembered as the man who could condense 200 years of global history into four minutes. He was a geek's geek, a former professor of global health who "dropped out" because he wanted to help start a nonprofit about data. Specifically, it urged data-based decisions for global development policy, and the Gapminder foundation created the massive Trendalyzer tool which let users build their own data visualizations. Eventually they handed off the tool to Google who used it with open-source scientific datasets. The BBC describes Rosling as a "public educator" with a belief that facts "could correct 'global ignorance' about the reality of the world, which 'has never been less bad.'" Rosling's TED talks include "The Best Data You've Never Seen" and "How Not To Be Ignorant About The World," and in 2015 he also gave a talk titled "How to Beat Ebola." Hans Rosling died Tuesday at age 68.
Businesses

Western Digital Unveils First-Ever 512Gb 64-Layer 3D NAND Chip (betanews.com) 78

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: As great as these solid state drives are now, they are only getting better. For example, SATA-based SSDs were once viewed as miraculous, but they are now looked at as slow -- PCIe-based NVMe drives are all the rage. To highlight the steady evolution of flash storage, Western Digital today unveiled the first-ever 512 gigabit 64-layer 3D NAND chip. "The launch of the industry's first 512Gb 64-layer 3D NAND chip is another important stride forward in the advancement of our 3D NAND technology, doubling the density from when we introduced the world's first 64-layer architecture in July 2016. This is a great addition to our rapidly broadening 3D NAND technology portfolio. It positions us well to continue addressing the increasing demand for storage due to rapid data growth across a wide range of customer retail, mobile and data center applications," says Dr. Siva Sivaram, executive vice president, memory technology, Western Digital. Western Digital further explains that it did not develop this new technology on its own. The company shares, "The 512Gb 64-layer chip was developed jointly with the company's technology and manufacturing partner Toshiba. Western Digital first introduced initial capacities of the world's first 64-layer 3D NAND technology in July 2016 and the world's first 48-layer 3D NAND technology in 2015; product shipments with both technologies continue to retail and OEM customers."
Sony

Sony PlayStation 4 Is Finally Adding Support For External Hard Drive (playstation.com) 45

The Sony PlayStation 4's next system update, out now for beta testers, will allow users to connect an external USB hard drive. From company's blog post: It's easy to upgrade the HDD that came with your PS4, but if you're still looking for more storage space on the console, we've got you covered. With this update, you have the option to store content to an external HDD. Just plug a USB 3.0 HDD into your PS4, and voila, you now have more space on the console.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Developing Custom ARM-Based Mac Chip That Would Lessen Intel Role (bloomberg.com) 267

According to Bloomberg, Apple is designing a new chip for future Mac laptops that would take on more of the functionality currently handled by Intel processors. The chip is a variant of the T1 SoC Apple used in the latest MacBook Pro to power the keyboard's Touch Bar feature. The updated part, internally codenamed T310, is built using ARM technology and would reportedly handle some of the computer's low-power mode functionality. From the report: The development of a more advanced Apple-designed chipset for use within Mac laptops is another step in the company's long-term exploration of becoming independent of Intel for its Mac processors. Apple has used its own A-Series processors inside iPhones and iPads since 2010, and its chip business has become one of the Cupertino, California-based company's most critical long-term investments. Apple engineers are planning to offload the Mac's low-power mode, a feature marketed as "Power Nap," to the next-generation ARM-based chip. This function allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use. The feature currently uses little battery life while run on the Intel chip, but the move to ARM would conserve even more power, according to one of the people. The current ARM-based chip for Macs is independent from the computer's other components, focusing on the Touch Bar's functionality itself. The new version in development would go further by connecting to other parts of a Mac's system, including storage and wireless components, in order to take on the additional responsibilities. Given that a low-power mode already exists, Apple may choose to not highlight the advancement, much like it has not marketed the significance of its current Mac chip, one of the people said. Building its own chips allows Apple to more tightly integrate its hardware and software functions. It also, crucially, allows it more of a say in the cost of components for its devices. However, Apple has no near-term plans to completely abandon Intel chips for use in its laptops and desktops, the people said.
Data Storage

Annual Hard Drive Reliability Report: 8TB, HGST Disks Top Chart Racking Up 45 Years Without Failure (arstechnica.com) 114

Online backup solution provider Backblaze has released its much-renowned, annual hard drives reliability and failure report. From a report on ArsTechnica: The company uses self-built pods of 45 or 60 disks for its storage. Each pod is initially assembled with identical disks, but different pods use different sizes and models of disk, depending on age and availability. The standout finding: three 45-disk pods using 4TB Toshiba disks, and one 45-disk pod using 8TB HGST disks, went a full year without a single spindle failing. These are, respectively, more than 145 and 45 years of aggregate usage without a fault. The Toshiba result makes for a nice comparison against the drive's spec sheet. Toshiba rates that model as having a 1-million-hour mean time to failure (MTTF). Mean time to failure (or mean time between failures, MTBF -- the two measures are functionally identical for disks, with vendors using both) is an aggregate property: given a large number of disks, Toshiba says that you can expect to see one disk failure for every million hours of aggregated usage. Over 2016, those disks accumulated 1.2 million hours of usage without failing, healthily surpassing their specification. [...] For 2016 as a whole, Backblaze saw its lowest ever failure rate of 1.95 percent. Though a few models remain concerning -- 13.6 percent of one older model of Seagate 4TB disk failed in 2016 -- most are performing well. Seagate's 6TB and 8TB models, in contrast, outperform the average. Improvements to the storage pod design that reduce vibration are also likely to be at play.
Data Storage

GitLab.com Melts Down After Wrong Directory Deleted, Backups Fail (theregister.co.uk) 356

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Source-code hub Gitlab.com is in meltdown after experiencing data loss as a result of what it has suddenly discovered are ineffectual backups. On Tuesday evening, Pacific Time, the startup issued the sobering series of tweets, starting with "We are performing emergency database maintenance, GitLab.com will be taken offline" and ending with "We accidentally deleted production data and might have to restore from backup. Google Doc with live notes [link]." Behind the scenes, a tired sysadmin, working late at night in the Netherlands, had accidentally deleted a directory on the wrong server during a frustrating database replication process: he wiped a folder containing 300GB of live production data that was due to be replicated. Just 4.5GB remained by the time he canceled the rm -rf command. The last potentially viable backup was taken six hours beforehand. That Google Doc mentioned in the last tweet notes: "This incident affected the database (including issues and merge requests) but not the git repos (repositories and wikis)." So some solace there for users because not all is lost. But the document concludes with the following: "So in other words, out of 5 backup/replication techniques deployed none are working reliably or set up in the first place." At the time of writing, GitLab says it has no estimated restore time but is working to restore from a staging server that may be "without webhooks" but is "the only available snapshot." That source is six hours old, so there will be some data loss.
Businesses

Apple Sets a New Record For iPhone Sales (theverge.com) 131

Apple has reported strong financial results for the first quarter of 2017. According to CEO Tim Cook, the "holiday quarter results generated Apple's highest quarterly revenue ever, and broke multiple records along the way." The company took in $78.4 billion in revenue and sold 78 million iPhones. The Verge reports: Apple reported a profit of $17.8 billion, and said its earnings per share were boosted by the high demand for the larger models of its iPhones, which have higher margins. On the earnings call, Chief financial officer Luca Maestri said that customer satisfaction with iPads, and the new iPad pro, was very high. He predicted strong growth in that category. But the sales figures don't reflect that optimism, with unit sales and revenue from iPad both down around 20 percent year over year. With over a billion iOS devices active around the world, Apple has been able to shore up its flagging hardware sales growth with an increase in revenue from services to those devices. This includes money from Apple Pay, iCloud storage, Apple Music, and App Store sales. It was by far the fastest-growing segment of Apple's revenue this quarter, climbing 18 percent to $7.17 billion since the same period last year. Cook said Apple is aiming to double service revenue over the next four years. Maestri said Apple's App Store had double the revenue of Google's Play Store in 2016. Apple has more than $200 billion in cash parked overseas. Cook said on today's call that he was optimistic about tax reform in the U.S. happening this year, and that this might allow Apple to bring a lot of that money back home. "With our toe in the water, we're learning a lot about the original content business," Cook said, hinting at one way Apple might deploy all that capital.
Businesses

Tesla's Battery Revolution Just Reached Critical Mass (bloomberg.com) 201

Tesla is all set to cut the ribbon on a massive battery storage facility in the California desert -- the biggest of its kind on earth. It joins similarly huge facilities built by AES and Altagas, which are both set to launch around the same time. Combined, the plants constitute 15% of the battery storage installed globally last year. From a report: Tesla Motors is making a huge bet that millions of small batteries can be strung together to help kick fossil fuels off the grid. The idea is a powerful one -- one that's been used to help justify the company's $5 billion factory near Reno, Nev. -- but batteries have so far only appeared in a handful of true, grid-scale pilot projects. That changes this week. Ribbons will be cut and executives will take their bows. But this is a revolution that's just getting started, Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel said in an interview on Friday. "It's sort of hard to comprehend sometimes the speed all this is going at," he said. "Our storage is growing as fast as we can humanly scale it."
Businesses

Razer Buys Nextbit (betanews.com) 12

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, startup Nextbit announced that it has been acquired by PC accessory maker Razer. True, it seems like an odd acquisition, but not any stranger than Razer buying THX. With that said, getting into the smartphone game seems like a very risky business, as more established companies -- such as HTC -- are struggling lately. Has Razer made a mistake? "I'm thrilled to announce that we're joining the Razer family! They're rebels like us, they speak from the heart, and they share our need to push boundaries. Nextbit will operate as an independent division inside Razer, focused on unique mobile design and experiences. To put it simply, we'll be doing exactly what we've been doing all along, only bigger and better," says Tom Moss, Co-Founder and CEO, Nextbit. Nexbit turned a lot of heads a couple of years ago when it released the Robin, "the first Android phone that makes running out of space history." The device's onboard storage is merged with the accompanied cloud storage, allowing Robin to seamlessly back up your apps and photos, archive the stuff you're not using and restore items when you need them. Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to purchase the Robin from Nextbit as the company has stopped selling the device and all accessories. Though, they "will continue to fulfill warranties for 6 more months" and "will continue to provide software updates and security patches through February 2018."
Businesses

Dropbox Finally Brings Its Google Docs Competitor Out of Beta (theverge.com) 26

Dropbox today made Paper -- its note-taking app that it's emphasizing is a tool that's built for managing workflow as well -- global. In addition to the launch of Paper, the company said that users will also be able to automatically generate presentations in Keynote and other applications through the app. From a report: Dropbox's software is similar to Google's suite of workplace cloud apps. Paper -- itself a minimal document editor and writing tool like Google Docs -- is the focal point, while all of Dropbox's other services and features now plug into and augment the experience. Paper is Dropbox's latest attempt to court businesses away from Microsoft and Google, or at the very least to encourage companies to pay for Dropbox services on top of what they already use institutionally. It's part of Dropbox's ongoing shift away from consumer storage and apps and toward enterprise software that is both more lucrative and self-sustaining. The company shut down its Mailbox email app and Carousel photo storage service back in 2015. In place of its consumer focus, Dropbox has been pouring more resources into Paper and other projects that make its mobile apps and website a place to perform work, instead of a barebones destination for files.
Businesses

Toshiba Will Spin Off Some Of Its Memory Business (computerworld.com) 13

Lucas123 writes: Toshiba, which invented NAND flash, plans to sell off an as-of-yet undisclosed portion of its memory business, including its solid-state drive unit, to Western Digital. Toshiba is spinning the business off to WD, a business ally, because it hopes in the long run the Toshiba-WD alliance will enable an expansion in NAND flash production capacity and increased efficiency in storage product development... Currently, Toshiba and WD together represent 35% of global NAND flash production; Samsung leads that market with 36% of production. "Toshiba wants to put its memory business in a more stable financial position," said Sean Yang, research director of DRAMeXchange. "Facing mounting operational and competitive pressure, the spun-off entity will be more effective in raising cash to stay afloat or expand"...

Toshiba's solvency and fundraising ability are also in trouble because of a $1.9 billion accounting scandal and a multi-billion dollar loss related to a nuclear plant purchase. Last week, Toshiba announced its share price had tumbled 13% after reports that its nuclear power business had lost $4.4 billion.

Government

Who Hacked The Washington D.C. Police Surveillance Cameras? 81

An anonymous reader quotes GIzmodo: City officials and the Secret Service have confirmed that just days before the presidential inauguration, police surveillance cameras in Washington, DC were targeted by hackers. Reportedly, 70% of the CCTV storage devices were infected with ransomware. According to the Washington Post, "City officials said ransomware left police cameras unable to record between January 12 and January 15. The cyberattack affected 123 of 187 network video recorders in a closed-circuit TV system for public spaces across the city, the officials said late Friday." A spokesperson for the Secret Service says despite the compromised cameras, the safety of the public or protectees was never jeopardized, and the city's CTO says they resolved the problem without paying the ransom by simply removing all software from the devices and rebooting them.
Iphone

iPhone 7 Ousts Samsung Galaxy Note 4 As 'Device of Choice' For UK Defense Officials (thestack.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Apple is to offer its iPhone 7 as the "device of choice" for the UK military's secure communications. British telecom giant BT is said to be hardening the Apple device in order for it to be able to handle the Ministry of Defense's military communications, including state secrets and highly-sensitive data. While BT has not provided further details on the development, due to security reasons, the telco is reportedly in the process of upgrading the iPhone 7 to support various modes of operation and to add secure apps or "storage containers," as well as military-grade encryption features among other enhancements. The iPhone 7 will now replace Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, which was originally selected for the project, as security in the Samsung model was found to be inadequate.
Data Storage

Seagate Says 16TB Hard Drive To Hit Market Within 18 Months (techspot.com) 232

An anonymous reader shares a report: If you haven't shopped around for hard drives in a while, you may be surprised at what's out there. The largest 3.5-inch desktop hard drives currently available from Seagate, for example, offer a whopping 10TB of capacity for less than $500. In the event that 10TB isn't quite enough storage and a multi-drive setup isn't ideal, you'll be happy to hear that Seagate over the next 18 months plans to ship 14TB and 16TB drives. A 12TB HDD based on helium technology is currently undergoing testing and according to CEO Stephen Luczo, initial feedback is positive. Most enthusiasts and even some PC manufacturers are now using solid state drives as their primary drive due to the fact that they're much faster and more power-efficient. What's more, because they have no moving parts, SSDs generate no noise and are much more durable.
Cloud

Microsoft Reportedly Working On a 'Lightweight Version of Windows' Known As 'Cloud Shell' (neowin.net) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: Last week, details emerged of Microsoft's plans to develop a single, unified, 'adaptive shell' for Windows 10. Known as the 'Composable Shell', or CSHELL, the company's efforts were said to be focused on establishing a universal Windows 10 version with a standardized framework to scale and adapt the OS to any type of device, display size or user experience, including smartphones, PCs, tablets, consoles, large touchscreens, and more. Today, Petri reported that Microsoft is working on a new shell for Windows known as 'Cloud Shell'. According to internal documentation referred to in that report, Cloud Shell is described as a "lightweight version of Windows designed for the modern computing world." It also hints at plans to introduce the Cloud Shell sometime in 2017 -- but little else is known about the new shell besides that. Cloud Shell is said to be connected, in some way, with the Windows Store and Universal Windows Platform app framework, and the report speculates that it may also be related to Microsoft's plans to bring the full version of Windows 10 to mobile devices with ARM-based processors, which it announced in December. However, the cloud nomenclature, and the reference to this being a 'lightweight' version of Windows could hint at a 'thin client'-style approach, in which the Windows 10 shell could be streamed from Microsoft's Azure platform to any device with an internet connection, while its cloud servers remotely handle all of the processing and storage requirements of each users' tasks.
Bug

Dropbox Kept Files Around For Years Due To 'Delete' Bug (bleepingcomputer.com) 73

Dropbox has fixed a bug that caused old, deleted data to reappear on the site. The bug was reported by multiple support threads in the last three weeks and merged into one issue here. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: In some of the complaints users reported seeing folders they deleted in 2009 reappear on their devices overnight. After seeing mysterious folders appear in their profile, some users thought they were hacked. Last week, a Dropbox employee provided an explanation to what happened, blaming the issue on an old bug that affected the metadata of soon-to-be-deleted folders. Instead of deleting the files, as users wanted and regardless of metadata issues, Dropbox choose to keep those files around for years, and eventually restored them due to a blunder. In its File retention Policy, Dropbox says it will keep files around a maximum 60 days after users deleted them.
Android

Netflix Will Now Let Android Users Download Content Onto SD Storage (consumerist.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumerist: Now that Netflix has finally opened the doors to offline viewing, subscribers have the ability to download content and watch it later. That's all well and good if you've got plenty of space on your device, but not so useful if you don't. Android users will have some breathing room now, however, as Netflix's most recent app update lets users set their download location to either internal storage or an SD card. As The Verge notes, offline content has a time limit, so it's not like you can download all the movies and TV shows your heart desires and leave them there forever. The feature doesn't support any Android devices that have a microSD slot, either.
China

Viral Chinese Selfie App Meitu, Valued at Over $5 Billion, Phones Home With Personal Data (theregister.co.uk) 81

The Meitu selfie horrorshow app going viral through Western audiences is a privacy nightmare, researchers say. The app, which has been featured on several popular outlets including the NYTimes, USA Today, and NYMag, harvests information about the devices on which it runs, includes invasive advertising tracking features and is just badly coded. From a report: But worst of all, the free app appears to be phoning some to share personal data with its makers. Meitu, a Chinese production, includes in its code up to three checks to determine if an iPhone handset is jailbroken, according to respected forensics man Jonathan Zdziarski, a function to grab mobile provider information, and various analytics capabilities. Zdziarski says the app also appears to build a unique device profile based in part on a handset's MAC address. "Meitu is a throw-together of multiple analytics and marketing/ad tracking packages, with something cute to get people to use it," Zdziarski says. Unique phone IMEI numbers are shipped to dozens of Chinese servers, malware researcher FourOctets found. The app, which was valued at over $5 billion last year due its popularity, seeks access to device and app history; accurate location; phone status; USB, photos, and files storage read and write; camera; Wifi connections; device ID & call information; full network access, run at startup, and prevent device from sleeping on Android phones.
Operating Systems

Oracle Scraps Plans For Solaris 12 (theregister.co.uk) 127

bobthesungeek76036 writes: According to The Register, Solaris 12 has been removed from Oracle roadmaps. This pretty much signals the demise of Solaris (as if we didn't already know that...) From the report: "The new blueprint -- dated January 13, 2017 -- omits any word of Solaris 12 that Oracle included in the same document's 2014 edition, instead mentioning 'Solaris 11.next' as due to debut during this year or the next complete with 'Cloud Deployment and Integration Enhancements.' At the time of writing, search engines produce no results for 'Solaris 11.next.' The Register has asked Oracle for more information. The roadmap also mentions a new generation of SPARC silicon in 2017, dubbed SPARC Next, and then in 2020 SPARC Next+. The speeds and capabilities mentioned in the 2017 document improve slightly on those mentioned in the 2014 roadmap.

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