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The Almighty Buck

Google To Invest $550 Million In Chinese E-Commerce Giant JD.com (yahoo.com) 26

hackingbear shares a report from Yahoo News: Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant's efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com. The two companies described the investment announced on Monday as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google's shopping service. This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets. For JD.com, the Google deal shows its determination to build a set of global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba, which has been more focused on forging domestic retail tie-ups.
Android

Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer (www.blog.google) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is beginning to roll out desktop browser support for Android Messages, allowing people to use their PC for sending messages and viewing those that have been received on their Android smartphone. Google says the feature is starting to go out to users today and continuing for the rest of the week. Text, images, and stickers are all supported on the web version.

To get started, the Android Messages website has you scan a QR code using the Android Messages mobile app, which creates a link between the two. In today's blog post, Google also goes over numerous other recent improvements to Android Messenger including built-in GIF search, support for smart replies on more carriers, inline link previews, and easy copy/paste for two-factor authentication messages.

Transportation

Google Maps Removes Uber Integration (arstechnica.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in January 2017, Google and Uber teamed up to put a cool feature in Google Maps: You could search for, book, and pay for an Uber all directly from Google Maps. You didn't even need the Uber app installed. Now, 18 months later, the feature is dead. Google posted a new support page (first spotted by Android Police) that flatly states, "You can no longer book Uber rides directly in Google Maps."

The feature would have you search for a location in Google Maps and ask for directions like normal, but instead of choosing walking, driving, biking, or mass transit directions, a tab for ride-sharing would allow you to book a ride directly. The ride-sharing tab still exists, but instead of booking an Uber, it just gives you an estimate and offers to kick you out to the Uber app.

Google

Google Is Training Machines To Predict When a Patient Will Die (bloomberg.com) 118

A newly developed tool by Google can forecast a host of patient outcomes, including how long people may stay in hospitals, their odds of re-admission and chances they will soon die. Google documented some of this tool's abilities in May; in one instance, Google's tool estimated, by taking 175,639 data points into consideration, that a particular patient's odds at dying during her stay at the hospital was 19.9 percent, up from 9.3 percent that the hospital's computers had estimated. Now Bloomberg reports what Google intends to do with this new tool next. From the report: Google's next step is moving this predictive system into clinics, AI chief Jeff Dean told Bloomberg News in May. Dean's health research unit -- sometimes referred to as Medical Brain -- is working on a slew of AI tools that can predict symptoms and disease with a level of accuracy that is being met with hope as well as alarm. Inside the company, there's a lot of excitement about the initiative.

"They've finally found a new application for AI that has commercial promise," one Googler says. Since Alphabet's Google declared itself an "AI-first" company in 2016, much of its work in this area has gone to improve existing internet services. The advances coming from the Medical Brain team give Google the chance to break into a brand new market -- something co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have tried over and over again. Software in health care is largely coded by hand these days. In contrast, Google's approach, where machines learn to parse data on their own, "can just leapfrog everything else," said Vik Bajaj, a former executive at Verily, an Alphabet health-care arm, and managing director of investment firm Foresite Capital. "They understand what problems are worth solving," he said. "They've now done enough small experiments to know exactly what the fruitful directions are."
The report adds that, among other things, Google's tool has the ability to sift through notes buried in PDFs or scribbled on old charts.
Stats

Gaming Companies Remove Analytics App After Massive User Outcry (bleepingcomputer.com) 199

An anonymous reader writes: "Several gaming companies have announced plans to remove support for an analytics app they have bundled with their games," reports Bleeping Computer. "The decision to remove the app came after several Reddit and Steam users noticed that many game publishers have recently embedded a controversial analytics SDK (software development kit) part of recent updates to their games. The program bundled with all these games, and at the heart of all the recent controversy, is RedShell, an analytics package provided by Innervate, Inc., to game publishers."

The app is intended to collect information about the source of new game installs, and details about the gamer. Following a massive user outcry in the past two weeks, several game makers have given in to pressure and are removing this SDK. Game makers and games who announced they were removing RedShell include Bethesda (Elder Scrolls), All Total War games, Warhammer games, Magic the Gathering Arena, and more. [This Google Docs spreadsheet and Reddit thread have a list of games containing RedShell.]

The Internet

Gmail Proves That Some People Hate Smart Suggestions (techcrunch.com) 178

Citing a number of complaints following Google's Gmail makeover, TechCrunch's Romain Dillet makes the case for why some users don't want smart suggestions in the email service: There's a reason why Gmail lets you disable all the smart features. Some users don't want smart categories, important emails first and smart reply suggestions. Arguably, the only smart feature everyone needs is the spam filter. A pure chronological feed of your email messages is incredibly valuable as well. That's why many Instagram users are still asking for a chronological feed. Sure, algorithmic feeds can lead to more engagement and improved productivity. Maybe Google conducted some tests and concluded that you end up answering more emails if you let Gmail do its thing. But you may want to judge the value of each email without an algorithmic ranking.

VCs could spot the next big thing without any bias. Journalists could pay attention to young and scrappy startups as much as the new electric scooter startup in San Francisco. Universities could give a grant to students with unconventional applications. The HR department of your company could look at all applications without following Google's order.

Google

Diversity At Google Hasn't Changed Much Over the Last Year (cnet.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Not much changed at Google over the last year when it came to the diversity of the tech giant's workforce. Google released its annual diversity report on Thursday detailing the composition of its workforce. The percentage of female employees rose by .1 percent to 30.9 percent. The percentage of Asian employees grew by 1.6 percent to 36.3 percent. The number of black and Latino employees grew by .1 percent to 2.5 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.

"Google's workforce data demonstrates that if we want a better outcome, we need to evolve our approach," said Danielle Brown, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Google, in the report. "That's why from now on ownership for diversity and inclusion will be shared between Google's leadership team, People Operations and Googlers. Our strategy doesn't provide all the answers, but we believe it will help us find them."

Programming

America's Former CTO Remembers Historic Coders (bard.edu) 92

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In her Bard College commencement speech, ex-Google VP and former U.S. CTO Megan Smith revealed to graduates that she gave President Obama a computing history lesson on the same day he learned to code in 2014. "I walked into the Oval Office to do coding with President Obama, and, interestingly, Prince William had just stepped out," Smith explained (YouTube). "They had just had a meeting. I said to President Obama, you know what you and I are about to do is related to Prince William, and he said, how's that. Well, the Prince's wife Kate, her mother and grandmother were codebreakers at Bletchley Park, where they cracked the Nazi Enigma codes...." [Presumably Smith meant to say Kate's great-aunt, not mother — Carole Middleton wasn't born until 1955.]

To be fair to the President, Smith once confessed to not knowing much about computing history herself, explaining in a 2012 Official Google Blog post that she and other visiting tech luminaries were embarrassingly clueless about who Ada Lovelace was in a 2011 visit to England. "Last year, a group of us were lucky enough to visit the U.K. Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street, as part of the Silicon Valley Comes to the U.K. initiative," Smith wrote. "While there, we asked about some of the paintings on the wall. When we got to a large portrait of a regally dressed woman, our host said 'and of course, that's Lady Lovelace'... You can imagine our surprise when we learned she was considered by some to be the world's first computer programmer -- having published the first algorithm intended for use on Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine." One imagines Smith might also have been surprised to learn that many programmers older than Smith were already very aware of Lady Ada at that time thanks to the Department of Defense, who tried in vain to make Ada a household name for decades, but had little success popularizing the Ada programming language, which was named after Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.

Open Source

Why OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community (linuxjournal.com) 120

"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie: The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps.

The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment....

Although undoubtedly difficult, creating high-quality map-based services is a challenge that must be tackled by the Open Source community if it wants to remain relevant in a world dominated by mobile computing. The bad news is that at the moment, millions of people are happily sending crucial geodata to proprietary services like Waze, as well as providing free bug-fixes for Google Maps. Far better if they could be working with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment on open projects, since the resulting datasets would be freely available to all, not turned into corporate property. The good news is that OpenStreetMap provides exactly the right foundation for creating those open map-based services, which is why supporting it must become a priority for the Open Source world.

Security

Inside the Private Event Where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and Other Rivals Share Security Secrets (geekwire.com) 48

News outlet GeekWire takes us inside Building 99 at Microsoft, where security professionals of the software giant, along with those of Amazon, Google, Netflix, Salesforce, Facebook (and others), companies that fiercely compete with one another, gathered earlier this week to share their learnings for the greater good. From the story: As the afternoon session ended, the organizer from Microsoft, security data wrangler Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, complimented panelist Erik Bloch, the Salesforce security products and program management director, for "really channeling the Ohana spirit," referencing the Hawaiian word for "family," which Salesforce uses to describe its internal culture of looking out for one another. It was almost enough to make a person forget the bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce. Siva Kumar then gave attendees advice on finding the location of the closing reception. "You can Bing it, Google it, whatever it is," he said, as the audience laughed at the rare concession to Microsoft's longtime competitor.

It was no ordinary gathering at Microsoft, but then again, it's no ordinary time in tech. The Security Data Science Colloquium brought the competitors together to focus on one of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry. Machine learning, one of the key ingredients of artificial intelligence, is giving the companies new superpowers to identify and guard against malicious attacks on their increasingly cloud-oriented products and services. The problem is that hackers are using many of the same techniques to take those attacks to a new level. "The challenge is that security is a very asymmetric game," said Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor who attended the event. "Defenders have to defend across the board, and attackers only need to find one hole. So in general, it's easier for attackers to leverage these new techniques." That helps to explain why the competitors are teaming up.
In a statement, Erik Bloch, Director Security PM at Salesforce, said, "This is what the infosec and security industry needs more of. Our customers are shared, and so is our responsibility to protect them.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

AI

DeepMind Self-training Computer Creates 3D Model From 2D Snapshots (ft.com) 27

DeepMind, Google's artificial intelligence subsidiary in London, has developed a self-training vision computer that generates 'a full 3D model of a scene from just a handful of 2D snapshots," according to its chief executive. From a report: The system, called the Generative Query Network, can then imagine and render the scene from any angle [Editor's note: the link maybe paywalled; alternative source], said Demis Hassabis. GQN is a general-purpose system with a vast range of potential applications, from robotic vision to virtual reality simulation. Details were published on Thursday in the journal Science. "Remarkably, [the DeepMind scientists] developed a system that relies only on inputs from its own image sensors -- and that learns autonomously and without human supervision," said Matthias Zwicker, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the research. This is the latest in a series of high-profile DeepMind projects, which are demonstrating a previously unanticipated ability by AI systems to learn by themselves, once their human programmers have set the basic parameters.
Hardware

Samsung Unveils Chromebook Plus V2 (betanews.com) 74

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: Samsung announces its latest such laptop -- the premium, yet affordable, Chromebook Plus (V2). This is a refresh of the first-gen "Plus" model. It can run Android apps and doubles as a convertible tablet, making it very versatile. Best of all, you won't have to wait long to get it -- it will go on sale very soon. "The Samsung Chromebook Plus (V2) puts productivity and entertainment at consumers' fingertips and at the tip of the built-in pen. At 2.91 pounds, its thin design makes it easy to slip into a bag and carry all day -- or use throughout the day with its extended battery life. Flipping its 12.2-inch FHD 1920x1080 resolution screen transforms it from notebook to tablet to sketchbook -- and back -- with two cameras for making it easier to stay connected with friends and sharing with the world. Plus, Chrome OS helps users get more done by providing access to millions of Android apps on Google Play," says Samsung. The Chromebook Plus, powered by Intel Celeron Processor 3965Y and 4GB of RAM, goes on sale later this month at $499.
Social Networks

Turkey Bans Periscope (stockholmcf.org) 87

stikves writes: According to online reports, a recent court order has banned Periscope across Turkey. The cited reason is the alleged violation of copyrights of a local company named "Periskop." This adds to the list of online services no longer available in Turkey, including Wikipedia, PayPal and WordPress, among others. While access from Turkey to the domain periscope.tv and to the Twitter account "periscopeco" is banned, users can still access Periscope services under the name Scope TR and Twitter account "scopetr." Lawyers from Twitter, Apple and Google requested rejection of the case, "saying it was impossible for a company like Twitter, operating in the U.S., to be aware of the existence of the same brand name in Turkey," reports Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The Internet

'Netflix and Alphabet Will Need To Become ISPs, Fast' (techcrunch.com) 328

Following the recent official repeal of net neutrality and approval of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner, an anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via TechCrunch, written by Danny Crichton. Crichton discusses the options Alphabet, Netflix and other video streaming services have on how to respond: For Alphabet, that will likely mean a redoubling of its commitment to Google Fiber. That service has been trumpeted since its debut, but has faced cutbacks in recent years in order to scale back its original ambitions. That has meant that cities like Atlanta, which have held out for the promise of cheap and reliable gigabit bandwidth, have been left in something of a lurch. Ultimately, Alphabet's strategic advantage against Comcast, AT&T and other massive ISPs is going to rest on a sort of mutually assured destruction. If Comcast throttles YouTube, then Alphabet can propose launching in a critical (read: lucrative) Comcast market. Further investment in Fiber, Project Fi or perhaps a 5G-centered wireless strategy will be required to give it to the leverage to bring those negotiations to a better outcome.

For Netflix, it is going to have to get into the connectivity game one way or the other. Contracts with carriers like Comcast and AT&T are going to be more challenging to negotiate in light of today's ruling and the additional power they have over throttling. Netflix does have some must-see shows, which gives it a bit of leverage, but so do the ISPs. They are going to have to do an end-run around the distributors to give them similar leverage to what Alphabet has up its sleeve. One interesting dynamic I could see forthcoming would be Alphabet creating strategic partnerships with companies like Netflix, Twitch and others to negotiate as a collective against ISPs. While all these services are at some level competitors, they also face an existential threat from these new, vertically merged ISPs. That might be the best of all worlds given the shit sandwich we have all been handed this week.

Privacy

Spanish Soccer League App In Google Play Wants To Use Phone Mics To Enforce Copyrights (arstechnica.com) 77

The official app for the Spanish soccer league La Liga, which has more than 10 million downloads from Google Play, was recently updated to seek access to users' microphone and GPS settings. "When granted, the app processes audio snippets in an attempt to identify public venues that broadcast soccer games without a license," reports Ars Technica. From the report: According to a statement issued by La Liga officials, the functionality was added last Friday and is enabled only after users click "eyes" to an Android dialog asking if the app can access the mic and geolocation of the device. The statement says the audio is used solely to identify establishments that broadcast games without a license and that the app takes special precautions to prevent it from spying on end users. [La Liga's full statement with the "appropriate technical measures to protect the user's privacy" is embedded in Ars' report.]

[E]ven if the app uses a cryptographic hash or some other means to ensure that stored or transmitted audio fragments can't be abused by company insiders or hackers (a major hypothetical), there are reasons users should reject this permission. For one, allowing an app to collect the IP address, unique app ID, binary representation of audio, and the time that the audio was converted could provide a fair amount of information over time about a user. For another, end users frequenting local bars and restaurants shouldn't be put in the position of policing the copyrights of sports leagues, particularly with an app that uses processed audio from their omnipresent phone.

Microsoft

Microsoft To Give Office 365, Office.com Apps a Makeover (zdnet.com) 88

On the heels of recent redesigns by Google and Apple, Microsoft is giving its Office apps a facelift over the coming months. From a report: Over the coming months, Microsoft will begin rolling out changes to the interface of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Office 365 and Office Online (Office.com) users. Key to the Office app redesign are an updated Ribbon, icon refreshes and new ways to more easily see changes coming to the Office suite. There's a simplified version of the Office Ribbon, which allows users to collapse it so it takes up less space and hides many options, or keep it expanded into the current three-line view. Microsoft is starting to roll out this new Ribbon in the web version of Word to "select consumer users today in Office.com." In July, Microsoft will also make this new Ribbon design available in Outlook for Windows. "We've found that the same ten commands are used 95% of the time by everybody," said Jon Friedman, General Manager of Design Management and Operations. In Outlook such as "Reply," "Reply All" and "Forward" are basically universal. But that other five percent is different for every person, so Microsoft is adding an option to remove commands from the Ribbon, such as Archive, for example, and pin others to it, such as "Reply by IM."
Software

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations For 59 Languages To Its Translate App (techcrunch.com) 46

Google is rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Some of the supported languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Korean (TechCrunch has a full list of the languages in their report). From the report: In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn't really an option since mobile phones didn't have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that's less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google's case, that's about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. Users will see the updated offline translations within the next few weeks.
Chrome

Google Disables Inline Installation For Chrome Extensions (venturebeat.com) 100

An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced that Chrome will no longer support inline installation of extensions. New extensions lose inline installation starting today, existing extensions will lose the ability in three months, and in early December the inline install API will be removed from the browser with the release of Chrome 71. Critics have pointed out such moves make the Chrome Web Store a walled garden, while Google insists pushing users to the store ultimately protects them.
Privacy

Spanish Football League Defends Phone 'Spying' (bbc.com) 86

An anonymous reader shares a report: Spanish football league La Liga has defended the privacy policy of its app after admitting it was accessing the microphone and GPS of Android users. It said it had been trying to track down venues illegally broadcasting matches, by matching audio data and phone location. The app, downloaded more than 10 million times on the Google Play Store, has been criticised by fans. La Liga said it wanted to "protect clubs and their fans from fraud." The broadcasting of football matches in public places without a paid licence cost the game an estimated 150 million euros ($177m) a year, it said. The new function was enabled on Friday, 8 June.

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