Two stories regarding chipmaker AMD in the news today. First, they missed their Q1 earnings target, after reporting losses of $180 million, or $0.23/share:
Revenue landed at $1.03 billion, down 26 percent on the year-ago quarter (statement) ...Non-GAAP earnings were a loss of 9 cents per share ...Wall Street was expecting a loss of 5 cents per share on revenue on $1.05 billion.
"Under the backdrop of a challenging PC environment, we are focused on improving our near-term financial results and delivering a stronger second half of the year based on completing our work to rebalance channel inventories and shipping strong new products," [said AMD chief executive Lisa Su].
Secondly, AMD is withdrawing from the high-density server business, reversing a strategy that began 3 years ago with the acquisition of SeaMicro:
AMD paid $334 million to buy SeaMicro, which developed a new type of high-density server aimed at large-scale cloud and Internet service providers ...The purchase was made under former CEO Rory Read, and has now been reversed by Lisa Su, who took over the CEO job last October ...AMD said the move is part of its effort to "simplify and sharpen" its investment focus. As a result, it is taking a charge of $75 million.
AMD still sees growth potential in the server market, but not from selling complete systems. It's returned its focus to x86 chips and to the development of its first ARM server processor, code-named Seattle.
Paul Schreiber blogs about the tech behind the websites of presidential candidates. "So, you want to run a country. Can you hire someone who can run a website? ...Here's how the (declared) candidates' sites fare." There's a table comparing 4 candidates' sites based on HTTPS, URL permutations, IPv6, SSL rating, and other related qualities. Schreiber mentions that he will "update this as more candidates declare or sites change."
From the blog comments
HillaryClinton.com was using IIS (and no https) until Sunday morning, when they switched over.
Aaron Kinney writes in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' -- people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."
Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship -- perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the environmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix."
Residents have been using Dahl Hith, a water-filled cave outside Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to cool off for years. They have also left graffiti on the cave walls. Now that smartphones have multiplied and people have used them to upload videos of their excursions to YouTube, researchers have started using the writing as reference points to track the water table in the region:
They use the writing as reference points to estimate the position of the water table.
Some of these scribbles have dates in them; and some of the videos themselves incorporate time information.
All of this data has allowed the team to reconstruct past conditions in Dahl Hith.
"Since smartphones have become so popular and deliver quite good video quality - such data becomes useable. A few years ago, some people would have criticised it as 'grey data', and said 'you shouldn't use it'. But since there is no other data, you need to be creative," said Nils Michelsen, from the Institute for Applied Geosciences, TU Darmstadt, Germany.
He has been presenting his team's work at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.
The cave study is another example in what is becoming a significant trend - the trawling of social media for scientifically valuable information.
It's a creative use of the medium, and unexpected. It's slightly reminiscent, too, of the fellow a few years back who mined Facebook to discern migration patterns and interest regions in the United States. Are there other, unexpected externalities of social media or mobile technology Soylentils have come across?
A NY Times columnist had his car stolen by kids who were possibly using a repeater to rebroadcast his key fob:
Keyless entry systems typically only communicate with their remote fobs over the distance of a few feet, but he thinks that the gadget is capable of extending this range, fooling the car into thinking that the remote is within range even though it was actually in Bilton's House, about 50 feet away. He arrived at this theory after he consulted with Boris Danev, a Swiss-based security expert:
"It's a bit like a loudspeaker, so when you say hello over it, people who are 100 meters away can hear the word, 'hello,'" Mr. Danev said. "You can buy these devices anywhere for under $100." He said some of the lower-range devices cost as little as $17 and can be bought online on sites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist.
Sounds creative and easy. Maybe those clubs aren't so silly after all.
Phoronix reports that version 0.6 of GNU Hurd has been released. Before getting too excited about GNU Hurd, it's still bound to x86 32-bit and doesn't offer any compelling new features.
GNU Hurd 0.6 has "numerous cleanups and stylistic fixes" to the code-base, the message dispatching code in Hurd servers is now better, there's support for protected payloads of GNU March 1.5+, libz/libz2 are used as the decompressors to replace gz/bz2, the native fakeroot has improved, the performance of the integer hashing library has improved, and the init server has been split into the start-up server and a SysVinit-style program. The procfs and random translators were also merged.
More details on the new GNU Hurd release can be found via the 0.6 release announcement issued by Thomas Schwinge.
WikiLeaks has published "The Sony Archives," a searchable database containing 30,287 documents and 173,132 emails leaked from Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). The WikiLeaks press release portrays the archive as newsworthy and in the public interest:
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said: "This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there."
Sony is a member of the MPAA and a strong lobbyist on issues around internet policy, piracy, trade agreements and copyright issues. The emails show the back and forth on lobbying and political efforts, not only with the MPAA but with politicians directly. In November 2013 WikiLeaks published a secret draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) IP Chapter. The Sony Archives show SPE's internal reactions, including discussing the impact with Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative. It also references the case against Megaupload and the extradition of its founder Kim DotCom from New Zealand as part of SPE's war on piracy.
The connections and alignments between Sony Pictures Entertainment and the US Democratic Party are detailed through the archives, including SPE's CEO Lynton attending dinner with President Obama at Martha's Vineyard and Sony employees being part of fundraising dinners for the Democratic Party. There are emails setting up a collective within the corporation to get around the 5,000 USD limit on corporate campaign donations to give 50,000 USD to get the Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo elected as "Thanks to Governor Cuomo, we have a great production incentive environment in NY and a strong piracy advocate that’s actually done more than talk about our problems."
Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton is on the board of trustees of RAND Corporation, an organisation specialising in research and development for the United States military and intelligence sector. The Sony Archives show the flow of contacts and information between these two major US industries, whether it is RAND wanting to invite George Clooney and Kevin Spacey to events, or Lynton offering contact to Valerie Jarrett (a close advisor to Obama) or RAND desiring a partnership with IMAX for digital archiving. With this close tie to the military-industrial complex it is no surprise that Sony reached out to RAND for advice regarding its North Korea film The Interview. RAND provided an analyst specialised in North Korea and suggested Sony reach out to the State Department and the NSA regarding North Korea's complaints about the upcoming film. The Sony documents also show Sony being in possession of a brochure for an NSA-evaluated online cloud security set-up called INTEGRITY.
"The attackers used the dissemination of stolen information to try to harm SPE and its employees, and now WikiLeaks regrettably is assisting them in that effort," said a Sony Pictures spokesperson in a statement. "We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks' assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees."
Wired has a profile of "Real Vegan Cheese", a product emerging from Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, California. The DIY/biotech lab is using genetically modified yeast cells to produce 11 proteins normally found in cow's milk, which can then be used to create synthetic cheese.
The genetic engineering approach to cheese has been enabled by the rapidly falling cost of DNA synthesis. It now costs less than $0.25 per base pair to obtain a custom DNA sequence which can be delivered by mail. Why make vegan cheese using yeast? Cheesemaking is an artisanal process with centuries of history and one of the earliest examples of human-directed microbiology. Existing plant-based vegan cheeses can't reproduce the casein proteins needed to achieve a passable cheese. However, Real Vegan Cheese will not use animal fat or lactose.
The process is not limited to bovine cheese:
When I visit the lab, I discover the cheese team includes a biologist, a bioethicist, a retired clinical psychologist, an accountant, and a former Apple marketer. "This to me is a natural extension of computer culture," says Maria Chavez, the ex-Apple employee and a leader of the vegan cheese project. "What is bigger to hack than our bodies and our environment? It's one of the last big frontiers. The possibilities are exciting."
The possibilities include not just vegan cow cheese, but, well, vegan human cheese. The same basic process for synthesizing cow's milk applies to milk from any other mammal. You just need different genes. Cheese made from engineered human breast milk may not sound like a top seller at the deli counter. But the team says it can serve a practical purpose: Human milk cheese could offer an option to people who have allergies to non-human dairy products. (Chavez said the group has put its experiments with human milk on hold due to Food and Drug Administration concerns about possible autoimmune reactions.)
The team is also attempting to create a narwhal cheese, after achieving the stretch goal on Indiegogo. The recipe and experiments involved will be released as "open source"; the DNA sequence(s) will be submitted to iGEM's Registry of Standard Biological Parts.
Critics of synthetic foods worry about the use of GMOs and the lightly regulated nature of biotechnology labs and hackerspaces. The Real Vegan Cheese team notes that the cheese itself isn't a GMO, only the yeast is. Other recent forays into synthetic food include Muufri's synthetic milk, and Evolva's vanilla/vanillin and saffron substitutes.
A Venture Capital firm says techies need to get along with government:
From Airbnb to Uber, some of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies have been fighting regulators since their inception. Now, one of the tech industry’s most respected venture capital firms wants to help both sides of the battle make nice with each other.
Andreessen Horowitz announced today that it’s launching a new policy and regulatory affairs unit, and that it has appointed Ted Ullyot, Facebook’s former general counsel, to lead the shop. Ullyot, who worked at both the White House and the Department of Justice before coming to the Valley, will be tasked with helping the firm’s portfolio companies see eye to eye with the government regulators with whom they’re increasingly butting heads.
Well, what do techies say, agree with the VC or string them up by their toes and poke them with sticks? Inquiring minds want to know...
A trailer spanning about 90 seconds has emerged for the upcoming new Star Wars movie. Featuring footage of Han Solo and Chewbacca, together with shots of a grand scope reminiscent of Star Wars: A New Hope, the trailer appears to depict a film quite closely aligned with the first Star Wars trilogy of yore. The anticipation was huge and reactions generally positive, with several high profile fans posting exuberant reactions minutes after seeing the trailer.
Could this be the redemption of the Star Wars franchise?
New research suggests our emotional state can be transmitted to others through our sweat:
Humans may be able to communicate positive emotions like happiness through the smell of our sweat, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that we produce chemical compounds, or chemosignals, when we experience happiness that are detectable by others who smell our sweat.
For the second part of the study, the researchers recruited 36 Caucasian females, with no psychological disorder, respiratory disease, or other illness. The researchers note that only females were included in this part of the study as women generally have both a better sense of smell and a greater sensitivity to emotional signals than men do. The study was double-blind, such that neither the researcher nor the participant knew which sweat sample the participant would be exposed to at the time of the experiment.
Facial expression data revealed that women who were exposed to "fear sweat" showed greater activity in the medial frontalis muscle, a common feature of fear expressions. And women who were exposed to "happy sweat" showed more facial muscle activity indicative of a Duchenne smile, a common component of happiness expressions. There was no observable association, however, between the women's facial responses and their explicit ratings of how pleasant and intense the sweat was.
So those dirty socks you were wearing when you won that epic Ultimate Frisbee finale? Hold onto those--they could help you get snuggles.
This is a little old but doesn't seem to have been discussed here. The Pew Research Center has released a report on privacy strategies adopted by Americans after the Snowden leaks started.
The analysis in this report is based on a Pew Research Center survey conducted between November 26, 2014 and January 3, 2015 among a sample of 475 adults, 18 years of age or older.
Concern about the surveillance programs is in the 30% range.
- 39% say they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government monitoring of their activity on search engines.
- 38% say they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government monitoring of their activity on their email messages.
- 37% express concern about government monitoring of their activity on their cell phone.
- 31% are concerned about government monitoring of their activity on social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.
- 29% say they are concerned about government monitoring of their activity on their mobile apps.
A fraction of users have changed their behaviour.
- 18% of the Americans who are aware of the surveillance programs say they have changed the way they use their email accounts “somewhat” or a “great deal.”
- 17% say they have changed the way they use search engines.
- 15% say they have changed the way they use social media.
- 15% say they have changed the way they use their cell phones.
- 13% say they have changed the way they use mobile apps.
- 13% say they have changed the way they use text messages.
- 9% say they have changed the way they use their landline phone.
Spreading information about the programs seems to help change behaviour
Those who are more likely to have changed their behaviors include the people who have heard “a lot” about government surveillance (38% say they have changed a great deal/somewhat in at least one of these activities), those who are at least somewhat concerned about the programs (41% have changed at least one activity), and those who are concerned about government monitoring of their use of social media, search engines, cell phones, apps, and email.
Scientists have found a way to study finer details of electron motion through a material using flawed diamonds:
researchers studied Johnson noise, otherwise known as white noise. In a metal, there is a sea of electrons that is free to travel around in constant motion—the fact that the temperature is above absolute zero is enough to keep electrons in motion. Because of this motion, the density of electrons varies slightly from place to place at any given time. These fluctuations create small attractive and repulsive forces that drive electrons to attempt to neutralize the fields. In doing so, they create new density fluctuations and fields in an endlessly repeating cycle.
How could you possibly observe this behavior in detail? Using impure diamonds, as it turns out. I've discussed nitrogen vacancies in diamond in the past. Essentially, a carbon atom likes to be surrounded by four other carbon atoms. Nitrogen, on the other hand, only likes to have three atoms around it. If nitrogen is substituted for one of the carbon atoms, it cruelly rejects one of its neighbors. The electron proffered by the carbon atom is left stranded between a cold and uninviting nitrogen atom and a carbon atom that would sooner be rid of it. The nature of these surroundings gives the electron a very well-defined energy level structure, creating what is called an NV- center.
The technique is thought to have practical relevance for the design and fabrication of semiconductor circuits.
Danny Hakim reports at the NYT that as European antitrust regulators formally accuse Google of abusing its dominance, Microsoft is relishing playing a behind-the-scenes role of scold instead of victim. Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups to go after Google. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing. “Microsoft is doing its best to create problems for Google,” says Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People’s Party, the center-right party that is the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. “It’s interesting. Ten years ago Microsoft was a big and strong company. Now they are the underdog.”
According to Hakim, Microsoft and Google are the Cain and Abel of American technology, locked in the kind of struggle that often takes place when a new giant threatens an older one. Microsoft was frustrated after American regulators at the Federal Trade Commission didn’t act on a similar antitrust investigation against Google in 2013, calling it a “missed opportunity.” It has taken the fight to the state level, along with a number of other opponents of Google. Microsoft alleges that Google's anti-competitive practices include stopping Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube; blocking Microsoft Windows smartphones from "operating properly" with YouTube; blocking access to content owned by book publishers; and limiting the flow of ad campaign information back to advertisers, making it more expensive to run ads with rivals. "Over the past year, a growing number of advertisers, publishers, and consumers have expressed to us their concerns about the search market in Europe," says Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "They've urged us to share our knowledge of the search market with competition officials."
"Is anyone else freaking out right now? I'm kind of freaking out." said Dan Price, the CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, as he announced that the new minimum salary for current employees will be raised to $70,000 a year. Price is taking a pay cut from $1 million to $70,000 and spending an appreciable amount of the company's profit to raise annual salaries from the current average of $48,000.
From the article:
The United States has one of the world's largest pay gaps, with chief executives earning nearly 300 times what the average worker makes, according to some economists' estimates. That is much higher than the 20-to-1 ratio recommended by Gilded Age magnates like J. Pierpont Morgan and the 20th century management visionary Peter Drucker.
[...] Under a financial overhaul passed by Congress in 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission was supposed to require all publicly held companies to disclose the ratio of C.E.O. pay to the median pay of all other employees, but it has so far failed to put it in effect. Corporate executives have vigorously opposed the idea, complaining it would be cumbersome and costly to implement.
[...] The happiness research behind Mr. Price's announcement on Monday came from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. They found that what they called emotional well-being — defined as "the emotional quality of an individual's everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one's life pleasant or unpleasant" — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about $75,000 a year.