Operating Systems

Linux 4.15 Becomes Slowest Release Since 2011 (theregister.co.uk) 4

An anonymous reader shares a report: Linus Torvalds has decided that Linux 4.15 needs a ninth release candidate, making it the first kernel release to need that much work since 2011. Torvalds flagged up the possibility of an extra release candidate last week, with the caveat that "it obviously requires this upcoming week to not come with any huge surprises" after "all the Meltdown and Spectre hoopla" made his job rather more complicated in recent weeks. Fast-forward another week and Torvalds has announced "I really really wanted to just release 4.15 today, but things haven't calmed down enough for me to feel comfy about it."
China

China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials (wsj.com) 33

U.S. scientists helped devise the Crispr biotechnology tool. First to test it in humans are Chinese doctors (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative link). WSJ reports: In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool. U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven't been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn't the case for Dr. Wu and others in China. In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. [...] There is little doubt China was first out of the block testing Crispr on humans. Nine trials in China are listed in a U.S. National Library of Medicine database. The Wall Street Journal found at least two other hospital trials, including one beginning in 2015 -- a year earlier than previously reported. Journal reporting found at least 86 Chinese patients have had their genes edited.
Software

Corporate Cultural Issues Hold Back Secure Software Development (betanews.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares a report: As the digital economy expands and software becomes more critical, security worries grow. In a new survey, 74 percent of respondents agree that security threats due to software and code issues are a growing concern. The study of over 1,200 IT leaders, conducted by analysts Freeform Dynamics for software company CA Technologies, finds 58 percent of respondents cite existing culture and lack of skills as hurdles to being able to embed security within processes. In addition, only 24 percent strongly agree that their organization's culture and practices support collaboration across development, operations and security. On top of cultural limitations, less than a quarter of respondents strongly agree that senior management understands the importance of not sacrificing security for time-to-market success.
Intel

Intel Urges OEMs and End Users To Stop Deploying Spectre Patch As It May 'Introduce Higher Than Expected Reboots' (intel.com) 71

Intel executive vice president Neil Shenoy said on Monday that the chip-maker has identified the source of some of the recent problems, so it is now recommended that users skip the available patches. From the blog post: We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.
Piracy

iTunes Snafu Made 'Thor: Ragnarok' Available Almost a Month Early (engadget.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares a report: When you check out the 'Thor: Ragnarok' page on iTunes, it says pre-orders of digital copies are expected to arrive on February 20th. But as TorrentFreak reports, some people got their hands on the Marvel film about a month early due to some sort of snafu with iTunes and Movies Anywhere. According to TorrentFreak, a Reddit user said in a now-deleted post that their legal purchase of the film on Vudu landed them an iTunes copy of it the next day. "I pre-ordered Thor Ragnarok on Vudu yesterday and it links it to my iTunes also. But curiously it showed up in my iTunes library this morning (pre-orders shouldn't). And now I can watch the full movie in HD," they wrote. "I obviously downloaded it right away. I know its supposed to come out February 20th." Others then responded that going that same purchase route made the movie available to them in iTunes as well.
Businesses

'Reskilling Revolution Needed for the Millions of Jobs at Risk Due To Technological Disruption' (weforum.org) 255

A new report, published by The World Economic Forum on Monday estimates that 1.4 million U.S. jobs will be hit by automation between now and 2026. Of those, 57 percent belong to women. Without re-education, 16 percent of affected workers will have no job prospects, the study finds. A further 25 percent would have one to three job options. The report adds The positive finding from the report is that with adequate reskilling, 95% of the most immediately at-risk workers would find good-quality, higher-wage work in growing job families. Report highlights the urgent need for a massive reskilling programme, safety nets to support workers while they reskill, and support with job-matching.
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 S Laptops Starting at $189 and New Office 365 Tools for Students (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft today unveiled new Windows 10 S devices from Lenovo and JP, starting at $189, aimed at the education market. The company also announced new Office 365 learning tools for students. The news mirrors Microsoft's firstline workers push in September, which saw new Windows 10 S devices starting at $275. The company is now simply doing the same as part of its latest EDU push, and it's not mincing words when it comes to explaining its target audience: "schools who don't want to compromise on Chromebooks."

Microsoft unveiled four new Windows 10 devices that are all supposed to offer more than Chrome OS. Two are standard laptops: the Lenovo 100e powered by Intel Celeron Apollo Lake for $189 and JP's Classmate Leap T303 with Windows Hello for $199. The other two are 2-in-1s: the Lenovo 300e convertible with pen support for $279 and the Trigono V401 with pen and touch for $299. All four are spill resistant, ruggedized for students, and promise long battery life to avoid having wires all over the classroom.

Google

Google's $20 Million Race To the Moon Will End With No Winner -- and Google is OK With That (cnbc.com) 65

Michael Sheetz, reporting for CNBC: More than ten years after it was announced -- and extended over and over -- the Google-sponsored race to win $20 million by landing on the moon will end with no winners. The four teams racing to win the Google Lunar Xprize, which requires a company to land a spacecraft on the moon by March 31, are either short of money or unable to launch this year, three people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Meanwhile, Google -- which extended the deadline from 2012 to 2014 and then eventually to 2018 -- is not willing to push out the date further. "Google does not have plans at this time to extend the deadline again, however we are so thrilled with the progress made by these teams over the last ten years," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. The commercial space industry has written off the Lunar Xprize as improbable, and not worth pursuing, according to sources.
Facebook

Facebook Says It Can't Guarantee Social Media is Good For Democracy (reuters.com) 168

Facebook said on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but noted that it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else. From a report: The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations.

Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media's role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject. "I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't," Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post. Facebook, he added, has a "moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible."

Android

Yale Privacy Lab and Exodus Privacy's F-Droid Android App Store is a Replacement for Google Play That Features Only FOSS Apps That Don't Do Any Tracking (wired.com) 49

Google Play, the marquee Android apps store, is filled with apps that are riddled with hidden trackers that siphon a smorgasbord of data from all sensors, in all directions, unknown to the Android user. Not content with the strides Google has made to curtail the issue, Yale Privacy Lab has collaborated with Exodus Privacy to detect and expose trackers with the help of the F-Droid app store. From a report on Wired: F-Droid is the best replacement for Google Play, because it only offers FOSS apps without tracking, has a strict auditing process, and may be installed on most Android devices without any hassles or restrictions. F-Droid doesn't offer the millions of apps available in Google Play, so some people will not want to use it exclusively. It's true that Google does screen apps submitted to the Play store to filter out malware, but the process is still mostly automated and very quick -- too quick to detect Android malware before it's published, as we've seen. Installing F-Droid isn't a silver bullet, but it's the first step in protecting yourself from malware.
Businesses

To Combat Shortage, Nvidia Asks Retailers To Limit Graphics Card Orders (pcmag.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: If you're a PC builder -- or your aging desktop system is in dire need of some modern upgrades -- you've probably wondered why it's impossible to get a graphics card lately. You can thank the outrageous interest in cryptocurrency for all of this. Since graphics cards mine cryptocurrency much faster than CPUs, an eager community of get-rich-quick enthusiasts are scooping up graphics cards as fast as they can get them. While there isn't much major manufacturers AMD and Nvidia can do about the overwhelming demand for GPUs, Nvidia is at least trying to let retailers know that they should be holding their stock for the company's core audience: gamers, not miners. "For NVIDIA, gamers come first. All activities related to our GeForce product line are targeted at our main audience. To ensure that GeForce gamers continue to have good GeForce graphics card availability in the current situation, we recommend that our trading partners make the appropriate arrangements to meet gamers' needs as usual," reads a translated statement Nvidia's Boris Bohles. Nvidia is suggesting that retailers limit graphics card orders to just two per person, but that's just an idea -- one Nvidia can't actually enforce beyond restricting sales on its website, which it's currently doing. Further reading: It's a terrible time to buy a graphics card.
Facebook

Facebook VP Says Company Won't Use Experts To Fix Fake News Because It is Worried About Criticism (theoutline.com) 134

Joshua Topolsky, writing for The Outline: According to Axios reporter Ina Fried, the vice president of global communications, marketing, and public policy (phew!) at Facebook shook off suggestions that the network should use outside media literacy watch dogs as opposed to outsourcing its "fake news" problem to a "statistically representative" group of its own users. While speaking at the tech conference DLD (Digital Life Design) in Munich, he revealed that the real motivation behind the company's decision was one based almost entirely on optics. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as the company has been totally ignorant and outrageously slow in accepting responsibility for what has been a disaster for its users. While Twitter is turning to media literacy groups such as Common Sense Media and the National Association for Media Literacy for solutions to its own troll and fake news epidemic, Facebook continues to cower behind a broken concept that the company is a neutral platform where all of its participants are equally weighted.
The Media

LWN.Net Celebrates Its 20th Birthday (lwn.net) 23

Free software/Linux news site LWN.net just celebrated its 20th birthday, with publisher Jonathan Corbet calling the last two decades "an amazing journey." LWN published the first edition of their weekly newsletter on January 22, 1998, and Corbet (who also contributes to the Linux kernel) writes today that "It has been quite a ride. We in the free-software community set out to change the world, and we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations."

Here's how he described their second edition the next week... We were arguably helped by the lead news in that edition: Netscape's decision to open-source its "Communicator" web browser. That quickly brought the world's attention to open-source software, though that term would not be invented for a few months yet, and to Linux in particular. LWN was a shadow of what it is now, but it was evidently good enough to ride on that wave and establish itself as a part of the Linux community.
Corbet reviews the highlights. ("Companies discovered our little hobbyist system and invested billions into it, massively accelerating development at all levels of the system...") But he also adds that "Through all of this, we also got to learn some lessons about successfully running a community information source on the net." For the last 16 years the site has supported itself with $7.00-a-month subscriptions, offering early access to their Weekly Edition plus subscriber-only mailing lists, "allowing our content to quickly become part of the community record."

Plus, through events around the world, "we have met -- and become friends with -- many of our readers and many people in the community as a whole. This community is an amazing group of people; it has been a honor and a joy to be a part of it..."

"The free-software community's work is not done, and neither is ours. "
Intel

Linus Torvalds Calls Intel Patches 'Complete and Utter Garbage' (lkml.org) 397

An anonymous reader writes: On the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Linus Torvalds ended up responding to a long-time kernel developer (and former Intel engineer) who'd been describing a new microcode feature addressing Indirect Branch Restricted Speculation "where a future CPU will advertise 'I am able to be not broken' and then you have to set the IBRS bit once at boot time to *ask* it not to be broken."

Linus calls it "very much part of the whole 'this is complete garbage' issue. The whole IBRS_ALL feature to me very clearly says 'Intel is not serious about this, we'll have a ugly hack that will be so expensive that we don't want to enable it by default, because that would look bad in benchmarks'. So instead they try to push the garbage down to us. And they are doing it entirely wrong, even from a technical standpoint. I'm sure there is some lawyer there who says 'we'll have to go through motions to protect against a lawsuit'. But legal reasons do not make for good technology, or good patches that I should apply."

Later Linus says forcefully that these "complete and utter garbage" patches are being pushed by someone "for unclear reasons" -- and adds another criticism. The whole point of having cpuid and flags from the microarchitecture is that we can use those to make decisions. But since we already know that the IBRS overhead is huge on existing hardware, all those hardware capability bits are just complete and utter garbage. Nobody sane will use them, since the cost is too damn high. So you end up having to look at "which CPU stepping is this" anyway. I think we need something better than this garbage.
Bitcoin

More Wall Street Pundits Caution Against Investing In Bitcoins (cnbc.com) 165

Peter Boockvar is the Chief Investment Officer of Bleakley Financial Group, a $3.5B wealth management firm -- and he predicts "an epic crash will hit the cryptocurrency market," according to CNBC. "He isn't sure if it'll come to a grinding halt or be a slow and steady drop -- but he says it's coming." "When something goes parabolic like this has, it typically ends up to where that parabola began," he said on CNBC's "Futures Now." Boockvar, a CNBC contributor, contends bitcoin is in danger of dropping 90 percent from current levels. He calls it a classic bubble. "I wouldn't be surprised if over the next year it's down to $1,000 to $3,000," he added. That's where bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency player, was trading less than 12 months ago. Friday afternoon it was trading above $11,000.
Meanwhile, today the International Business Times chronicled the predictions of tech billionaire Mark Cuban. In June of last year as bitcoin was climbing toward the $3,000 threshold, Cuban cautioned potential investors about jumping in on the bandwagon... "[C]rypto is like gold. More religion than asset. Except of course gold makes nice jewelry." He told his followers at the time that he wasn't questioning the value of Bitcoin but was questioning the "valuation" and said , "I think it's in a bubble. I just don't know when or how much it corrects." Cuban suggested that when everyone is "bragging about how easy they are making [money]," that indicates there is a bubble happening...

Still, the Dallas Mavericks owner was open to the idea of using cryptocurrencies as a volatile investment vehicle. "If you're a true adventurer and you really want to throw the Hail Mary, you might take 10 percent and put it in Bitcoin or Ethereum," he said. Cuban also cautioned, "If you do that, you've got to pretend you've already lost your money"... Showing just have far Cuban has come on bitcoin and cryptocurrency, he announced earlier this week that his Dallas Mavericks will accept bitcoin and Ethereum as a method to pay for tickets starting next season. Even if the tech investor doesn't fully believe in cryptocurrency, he's clearly willing to try to profit off it...

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