Intel

Intel Has Axed the Group Working on Fitness Trackers and Health Wearables (cnbc.com) 2

Intel has axed the division that worked on health wearables, including fitness trackers, CNBC is reporting citing a source. From the report: The company has been slowly de-emphasizing its own line of wearables for the past several years, and has not mentioned wearables on its earnings calls since 2014. In November, TechCrunch reported that the company was planning to take a step back from the business after its acquisition of the Basis fitness watch didn't pan out as expected. Intel denied at the time that it was stepping back. But a source told CNBC that the chip maker in fact let go about 80 percent of the Basis group in November. Many of the people were given the opportunity to relocate to other parts of the business. About two weeks ago, Intel completely eliminated the group, this person said. The company's New Technologies Group, which looks at cutting-edge business areas, is now focusing on augmented reality, another source told CNBC.
Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 96

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

Piracy

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way (torrentfreak.com) 218

HBO is leaving no stones unturned in keeping Game of Thrones' piracy under control. The company is monitoring various popular torrent swarms and sending thousands of warnings targeted at internet subscribers whose connections are used to share the season 7 premiere of the popular TV series, reports TorrentFreak: Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company's anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates. The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements. "We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization," the notification begins. "HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks." Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders. The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it's likely that many more are being tracked.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Cryptocurrencies Are 'a Ticking Time Bomb' (bloomberg.com) 52

randomErr writes from a report via Business Insider (alternate source): Ethereum, the rival to bitcoin, has been on a tear. Its founders said the latest trend in the cryptocurrency space may not be as good for the cryptocurrency as some might think. Ethereum is up 1,700% over the last year, and that spike has occurred in tandem with the growth of the hottest new trend in fundraising: initial coin offerings. Approximately $1.2 billion has been raised by the new cryptocurrency-based capital raising method this year, according to Autonomous Next, a financial technology analytics service. It is a trend that has sparked excitement across Wall Street. But the cofounder of the company behind the cryptocurrency, Charles Hoskinson, told Bloomberg that initial coin offerings may not benefit Ethereum. "People say ICOs are great for ethereum because, look at the price, but it's a ticking time-bomb," said Hoskinson. "There's an over-tokenization of things as companies are issuing tokens when the same tasks can be achieved with existing blockchains. People are blinded by fast and easy money."
Facebook

Facebook Is Looking Into Allowing Paywall For Selected Media Stories (techcrunch.com) 33

New submitter sarbonn writes: Facebook is testing whether or not it can start charging for stories by placing a paywall that appears after ten stories have been viewed from one of its media sources. An interesting takeaway is that Facebook would like to do this by avoiding the mandatory 30 percent cut that Apple and Google get from their stores by going around their app stores. This is being targeted for around October. The news comes from Campbell Brown, who heads Facebook's new partnerships business. "We are in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook. As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs," Brown told TechCrunch in a statement via a spokesperson.
Businesses

Why is Comcast Using Self-driving Cars To Justify Abolishing Net Neutrality? (theverge.com) 193

Earlier this week, Comcast filed its comments in favor of the FCC's plan to eliminate the 2015 net neutrality rules. While much of the document was devoted to arguments we've heard before -- Comcast believes the current rules are anti-competitive and hurt investment, but generally supports the principles of net neutrality -- one statement stood out. The Verge adds: Buried in the 161-page document was this quirky assertion (emphasis ours): "At the same time, the Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public... And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine. Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it. In other words, Comcast is arguing for paid prioritization and internet fast lanes to enable self-driving cars to communicate better with other vehicles and their surrounding environment, thus making them a safer and more efficient mode of transportation. The only problem is that autonomous and connected cars don't use wireless broadband to communicate. When cars talk with each other, they do it by exchanging data wirelessly over an unlicensed spectrum called the Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) band, using technology similar to Wi-Fi. The FCC has set aside spectrum in the 5.9GHz band specifically for this purpose, and it is only meant to be used for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) applications. That includes vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) -- so cars talking to other cars, to traffic signals, to the phone in your pocket... you name it. Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportationâ(TM)s new rule goes into effect.
AI

Many Firms Are 'AI Washing' Claims of Intelligent Products (axios.com) 87

Software companies are seeking to exploit the current artificial intelligence craze by "AI washing" -- exaggerating the role of AI in their products, according to a new report by Gartner, the research firm. From a report: Gartner, which tracks commercial manias through a tool it calls the Hype Cycle, compares what is currently going on in AI with a prior surge in environmental over-statement -- "greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit." The bottom line: More than 1,000 vendors say their products employ AI, but many are "applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately," Gartner says in its report. Kriti Sharma, who runs the AI team at Sage, tells Axios that a lot of companies are seeking to solve problems using AI that would be better done by humans. And what is often called AI "is just automation that you are doing," she said.
Businesses

Microsoft's Wilsonville Jobs Are Going To China, Underscoring Travails of Domestic Tech Manufacturing (oregonlive.com) 138

An anonymous reader tips us a story: Just two years ago, Microsoft cast its Wilsonville factory as the harbinger of a new era in American technology manufacturing. The tech giant stamped, "Manufactured in Portland, OR, USA" on each Surface Hub it made there. It invited The New York Times and Fast Company magazine to tour the plant in 2015, then hired more than 100 people to make the enormous, $22,000 touch-screen computer. But last week Microsoft summoned its Wilsonville employees to an early-morning meeting and announced it will close the factory and lay off 124 employees -- nearly everyone at the site -- plus dozens of contract workers. Panos Panay, the vice president in charge of the Surface product group, traveled from corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to tell the staff that Microsoft was moving production to the same place it makes all other Surface products. Though workers present say he didn't disclose the location, Microsoft has previously said it makes its other Surface computers in China. The company hasn't explained, in public or to its Wilsonville employees, why it gave up on domestic manufacturing so quickly and didn't respond to repeated inquiries for comment. But the only thing surprising about Microsoft's decision is that it tried to make its computers in the U.S. in the first place.
Intel

Intel's Big Bet On Baseball (axios.com) 55

Ina Fried, reporting for Axios: Intel has been traveling the country this year, broadcasting one major league game a week in virtual reality. On Tuesday, the company's crew was close to home as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Cleveland Indians 2-1 in extra innings. How it works: The games are free to watch, but require the person to have a Samsung phone and Gear VR headset. To broadcast a game in VR, Intel has camera rigs on the first and third base side, as well as the traditional "deep home" shot. It also aims to have an additional camera or two in a spot unique to each stadium. In Arizona, for example, it has one near the stadium's swimming pool. Each camera setup has six pairs of cameras to capture high-definition footage in 180 degrees. In the parking lot, meanwhile, separate teams work in two adjoining vans. One group works on the sound and stitches the images together, while a second van houses a more traditional broadcast setup, including play-by-play announcer J.B. Long. Tweaking the product: Still new at this, Intel is constantly adding new tricks to its arsenal. Last night's game, for example, was the first time the company added real-time VR graphics to the mix, showing baseball cards with stats above the players. Intel CEO has said he wants VR sports to be a billion dollar business for the company.
Businesses

Avast Now Owns CCleaner After Acquiring Piriform (betanews.com) 98

An anonymous reader writes: Security firm Avast has acquired software firm Piriform. Not only does the acquired company make CCleaner, but many other solid programs too. In fact, the rest of Piriform's library -- Recuva, Speccy, and Defraggler -- are staples of the Windows freeware community. "CCleaner is a leading brand in the market, used by 130 million people, including 15 million Android users. CCleaner has an extensive and extremely loyal community of tech-savvy users, who need to speed up and optimize their PC and Android experience. Avast will maintain the CCleaner brand of products along with Avast's existing performance optimization products, Avast Cleanup and AVG Tune Up. With the addition of CCleaner, Avast has dramatically expanded its product offerings in the PC and smartphone optimization market reaching customers around the world who demand faster performance," says Avast. Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast explains, "We see many commonalities between CCleaner and Avast, allowing for great new products for our user bases. Avast and CCleaner are the top two downloaded products on popular download sites. They are both known by advanced users as focused on performance, so we believe there will be a great interest from our CCleaner customers in using Avast security products and vice versa. In today's connected world, it's all about speed and high performance, and with Piriform's robust technology we can address this need perfectly. We look forward to working with the Piriform team to grow the business together."
Businesses

iPhones Are Priced 'High in the Extreme' But They're Worth It, Says Apple Co-founder Wozniak (scmp.com) 262

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's iPhone has been losing ground to domestic competitors in China. That is because Chinese smartphone makers offer sophisticated functions at reasonable prices, according to Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and one of the pioneers of the personal computer industry. "Here is what I admire about Chinese phones: really good, intelligent decisions about how to lower the cost but keep enough of the functionality in, because I am into products that are good, well designed, nice looking, but at prices that the average person can afford," he said. Still, Wozniak believes the quality of Apple's product makes it worth the high price tag. "In life I don't believe in quantity as much as I do in quality. So you may not have the hugest share in the market or be the No 1, but you should have the best product you can possibly build and Apple qualifies for that," Wozniak, told reporters after he discussed artificial intelligence with Liu Zihong, chairman and chied executive of Royole, in a technology forum held at Tianan Cyber Park in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Tuesday. Unlike Chinese smartphone brands that prioritise cost-effectiveness, Apple's popular and more expensive iPhone handsets are still the leader in innovation in certain features despite being more of a "safe product," he said. "Apple products are safe. And Apple's pricing is high in the extreme. It's a safe bet for a lot of people, and when you love Apple you are willing to pay for it," he said.
AI

Michigan Will Build 25 Self-Driving Trolleys In 2017 (observer.com) 99

French trolley-maker Navya announced its first manufacturing facility in North America. The company will build a 20,000 square foot facility for the construction of its self-driving trolley, the Arma. "It aims to construct 25 vehicles there this year," reports Observer. "It has 45 vehicles deployed around the world already. These robots have a max speed of about 27 miles per hour, but typically travel more like 12 miles per hour (the speed of a typical bike ride). Each one can transport about 15 people." From the report: The plant will be built in Saline, Michigan, a suburban town just south of Ann Arbor with a population of less than 9,000. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates that the plant will support 50 new jobs. "As the greater Ann Arbor area continues to establish itself as a hub for autonomous vehicle development, we feel it's the perfect location for us. Strong government and community support for mobility initiatives combined with an excellent talent pool provide the ideal environment for our expansion in North America," Navya CEO Christophe Sapet said in a press release. "I have no doubt that they will become an important and valued member of our already stellar business community," Brian Marl, Saline's mayor, said in a release.
Government

US Increases Number of H-2B Visas By 15,000 (arstechnica.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President Donald Trump has said he's going to set more limits on the H-1B visa program, which allows tens of thousands of technology workers into the U.S. each year. But yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security moved to expand another type of visa, the H-2B, which allows lower-skilled workers in on a seasonal basis. The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday it is going to allow an additional 15,000 workers to come in under the H-2B visa category, which is typically used by U.S. businesses in industries like tourism, construction, and seafood processing. The program normally allows for 66,000 visas, split between the two halves of the year. That means the DHS increase, announced yesterday, represents an increase of more than 40 percent for the second half of 2017. Businesses can begin applying for the additional visas right away, as long as they attest under penalty of perjury that their business will "suffer irreparable harm" if it can't employ additional H-2B workers in 2017. The expansion is a temporary one, and it only applies to the current year.
The Courts

California Lawsuit Wants To Weaken Noncompetes (axios.com) 120

An anonymous reader shares a report: California already prohibits companies from enforcing noncompetes within the state, but a Bay Area life sciences company is asking a state court to go even further. Veeva Systems is suing three of its East Coast-based competitors and asking a California Superior Court judge to declare that it has the right to hire employees who have signed such agreements. Veeva also wants a court to limit the use of non-disparagement and confidentiality agreements. "Non-compete agreements are bad," the company said in its suit. "These agreements limit employment opportunities. They suppress wages. They keep employees trapped in jobs they do not want, and they keep employees from fairly competing with their former employers. These agreements restrict fair and robust competition for employees."
Businesses

Negative Free Cash Flow Will Be an Indicator of Enormous Success For Netflix, Says CEO (barrons.com) 111

During Netflix's quarterly earnings call, in which it noted it had added more than five million subscribers in the last three months, CEO Red Hastings was also asked about the millions of dollars it burns every quarter. Hastings said that burning cash is a sign of success, in a way. Here's the money quote: Look, when we produce an amazing show like Stranger Things, that's a lot of capital up front, and then you get a payout over many years. And seeing the positive returns on that for the business as a whole is what makes us comfortable that we should continue to invest and integrate to basically self-develop many more properties as Ted (the content head) can find the appropriate ones. And then there's comfort with being able to finance it, and of course, our debt-to-market cap is incredibly low and conservative, so we've got lots of room there. And I think that combination that it's spent well and we can raise it is what makes us very excited. And the irony is the faster that we grow and the faster we grow the owned originals, the more drawn on free cash flow that we'll be. So in some senses, negative free cash flow will be an indicator of enormous success. On Monday, Netflix updated its estimate for negative free cash flow for 2017. While previously the company had said it would be $2 billion, Netflix now says it will be $2 to $2.5 billion (versus $1.7 billion in 2016).
Businesses

Apple's Risky Balancing Act With the Next iPhone (macworld.com) 127

Long time columnist Jason Snell: As there always are at this time of year, there are lots of rumors out there about what the next iPhone will be. This year we're hearing that Apple is going to release a high-priced, next-generation phone in addition to the expected iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models. [...] By most accounts, Apple's next-generation iPhone will offer a similar design. But also, by many accounts, Apple is struggling to create that product -- and when it arrives, it may be expensive, late to ship, and supply constrained. This is one of those areas where Apple may be the victim of its own success. The iPhone is so popular a product that Apple can't include any technology or source any part if it can't be made more than 200 million times a year. If the supplier of a cutting-edge part Apple wants can only provide the company with 50 million per year, it simply can't be used in the iPhone. Apple sells too many, too fast. Contrast that to Apple's competition. On the smaller end, former Android chief Andy Rubin announced the Essential phone, but even Rubin admitted that he'd only be able to sell in thousands, not millions. Same for the RED Hydrogen One -- groundbreaking phone, hardly likely to sell in any volume. The Google Pixel looks like it's in the one million range. Apple's biggest competitor, Samsung, has to deal with a scale more similar to Apple's -- but it's still only expected to sell 50 or 60 million units of the flagship Galaxy S8.
Android

End of the Line For Remix OS as Jide Shifts Its Energy Towards the Enterprise (neowin.net) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: It was only in July last year that Remix OS, an Android-based operating system for PCs, was bumped up to Version 3.0, which featured Android 6.0 Marshmallow under the hood. In fact, news of the upgrade came hot on the heels of an announcement from Chuwi with regards to the release of its $239 Vi10 Plus tablet that dual-booted Remix OS and Windows 10. A little over a month later, Jide Technology then followed up with a "developer preview" of the OS leveraging Android 7.0 Nougat. However, after a somewhat brief period of existence of just a few years, the company has announced that it is shifting its focus away from the consumer segment to the enterprise. In a statement on its website, Jide stated that: "Over the past year, we received an increasing number of inquiries from enterprises in various industries, and began helping them build great tools for their organizations by leveraging Jide software and hardware. We see huge potential in the role that Jide can play to revolutionize how these businesses operate. And given our existing resources, we decided to focus our company efforts solely on the enterprise space moving forward."
Google

Google Glass Makes an Official Return (cnbc.com) 105

Alphabet's Google has officially launched the "Enterprise Edition" of its smart glasses hardware, which is now available to a network of Google partners. From a report: The company's developer partners range from logistics and manufacturing to patient care. These apps have long-been involved with Glass through the business-focused "Glass at Work" program. In a blog post Tuesday, Google Glass project leader Jay Kothari said partners such as GE Aviation, AGCO, DHL, Dignity Health, NSF International, Sutter Health, Boeing and Volkswagen have been using Glass over the past several years, and make up just a sampling of 50 companies using the wearable. Wired said several of these companies found the original Google Glass to be very useful in factories and other enterprise environments. Google discovered this and began work on a product built by a team dedicated to building a new version of Glass for the enterprise. According to Kothari, the Google Glass Enterprise Edition glasses are lighter and more "comfortable for long term wear." They also offer more power and longer battery life and, offer support for folks with prescription lenses, Wired said. The glasses, too, are stronger and do double duty as safety glasses. Further reading: Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act.
Google

Google Fiber Is Losing Its Second CEO in Less Than a Year (businessinsider.com) 71

An anonymous reader shares a report: Google Fiber, the high-speed internet service operated by Alphabet, has lost its second CEO in less than a year. Gregory McCray is stepping down from the CEO job of Access, the Alphabet subsidiary that houses the Fiber unit, Google confirmed to Business Insider on Monday. The change is the latest shake-up at Access, which announced in October that it would stop rolling out its 1 gigabit per second wired broadband networks to new cities and focus on newer, wireless options, such as the Webpass wireless service it acquired last year. The Access group also had layoffs towards the end of 2016 and shifted hundreds of other employees to different units within Google earlier this year. Alphabet CEO Larry Page said in an emailed statement to Business Insider on Monday that the company is "committed to the success of Google Fiber" and was looking for new leader for the business.
Medicine

Long Working Days Can Cause Heart Problems, Study Says (theguardian.com) 75

According to a major new study, long days at the office can be bad for your heart. While the risk of stroke is increased from working too many hours in the office, it seems that working more than 55 hours a week means a 40% higher chance of developing an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), when compared to those with a better work-life balance. The Guardian reports: The research team, led by Professor Mika Kivimaki from the department of epidemiology at University College, London, analysed data on the working patterns of 85,494 mainly middle-aged men and women drawn from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Participants were put into groups according to their work pattern, with 35-40 hours a week regarded as the control group. No one had AF at the start of the study, published in the European Heart Journal. After 10 years of follow-up, an average of 12.4 per 1,000 people had developed AF, but among those working 55 hours or more, this figure was higher at 17.6 per 1,000 people. Those working the longest hours were more overweight, had higher blood pressure, smoked more and and consumed more alcohol. But the team's conclusions about longer working hours and AF still remained after taking these factors into account.

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