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Yahoo!

Yahoo Open Sources a Deep Learning Model For Classifying Pornographic Images (venturebeat.com) 106

New submitter OWCareers writes: Yahoo today announced its latest open-source release: a model that can figure out if images are specifically pornographic in nature. The system uses a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning, which involves training artificial neural networks on lots of data (like dirty images) and getting them to make inferences about new data. The model that's now available on GitHub under a BSD 2-Clause license comes pre-trained, so users only have to fine-tune it if they so choose. The model works with the widely used Caffe open source deep learning framework. The team trained the model using its now open source CaffeOnSpark system.
The new model could be interesting to look at for developers maintaining applications like Instagram and Pinterest that are keen to minimize smut. Search engine operators like Google and Microsoft might also want to check out what's under the hood here.
The tool gives images a score between 0 to 1 on how NSFW the pictures look. The official blog post from Yahoo outlines several examples.
Businesses

Salesforce Pushes Regulators To Block Microsoft's LinkedIn Deal (cnn.com) 27

Salesforce is urging the European Union to take a closer look at Microsoft's takeover of LinkedIn as EU regulators ask questions on how the software giant could use AI to exploit data from LinkedIn's professionals. Chief Legal Officer Burke Norton said Salesforce plans to tell European and U.S. antitrust officials it has concerns about the acquisition. From a CNN report:"Microsoft's proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition," Burke Norton, chief legal officer at Salesforce, said in a statement. "By gaining ownership of LinkedIn's unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage. [...] We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive," he added. The European Commission is reaching out to multiple companies as part of a review of the pending acquisition. Salesforce's comments came in response to this, according to Chi Hea Cho, a spokeswoman for Salesforce.
AI

Microsoft Forms New AI Research Group Led By Harry Shum (techcrunch.com) 43

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: A day after announcing a new artificial intelligence partnership with IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon, Microsoft is upping the ante within its own walls. The tech giant announced that it is creating a new AI business unit, the Microsoft AI and Research Group, which will be led by Microsoft Research EVP Harry Shum. Shum will oversee 5,000 computer scientists, engineers and others who will all be "focused on the company's AI product efforts," the company said in an announcement. The unit will be working on all aspects of AI and how it will be applied at the company, covering agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Shum has been involved in some of Microsoft's biggest product efforts at the ground level of research, including the development of its Bing search engine, as well as in its efforts in computer vision and graphics: that is a mark of where Microsoft is placing its own priority for AI in the years to come. Important to note that Microsoft Research unit will no longer be its on discrete unit -- it will be combined with this new AI effort. Research had 1,000 people in it also working on areas like quantum computing, and that will now be rolled into the bigger research and development efforts being announced today. Products that will fall under the new unit will include Information Platform, Cortana and Bing, and Ambient Computing and Robotics teams led by David Ku, Derrick Connell and Vijay Mital, respectively. The Microsoft AI and Research Group will encompass AI product engineering, basic and applied research labs, and New Experiences and Technologies (NExT), Microsoft said.
Security

Microsoft Widens Edge Browser Bug Hunt For Bounty Hunters (theregister.co.uk) 12

Microsoft said today it is expanding its program for rewarding those who find and report bugs in Edge, its latest web browser, enabling bounty hunters to claim their prize for a broader range of vulnerabilities. The Register adds: The snappily titled "Microsoft Edge Web Platform on Windows Insider Preview Bug Bounty Programme" was launched in August, and enabled anyone to report vulnerabilities they discover in Microsoft Edge in exchange for flippin' great wodges of cash. Now, the firm has expanded the programme, with a focus on vulnerabilities that lead to "violation of W3C standards that compromise privacy and integrity of important user data," or which enable remote code execution by a particular threat vector. Specifically, the bounty programme now covers the following: Same Origin Policy bypass vulnerabilities (such as universal cross-site scripting), Referrer Spoofing vulnerabilities, Remote Code Execution vulnerabilities in Microsoft Edge on Windows Insider Preview, and Vulnerabilities in open source sections of Chakra.
AI

Facebook, Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft Come Together To Create Historic Partnership On AI (techcrunch.com) 87

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In an act of self-governance, Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet, IBM, and Microsoft came together today to announce the launch the new Partnership on AI. The group is tasked with conducting research and promoting best practices. Practically, this means that the group of tech companies will come together frequently to discuss advancements in artificial intelligence. The group also opens up a formal structure for communication across company lines. It's important to remember that on a day to day basis, these teams are in constant competition with each other to develop the best products and services powered by machine intelligence. Financial support will be coming from the initial tech companies who are members of the group, but in the future membership and involvement is expected to increase. User activists, non-profits, ethicists, and other stakeholders will be joining the discussion in the coming weeks. The organizational structure has been designed to allow non-corporate groups to have equal leadership side-by-side with large tech companies. As of today's launch, companies like Apple, Twitter, Intel and Baidu are missing from the group. Though Apple is said to be enthusiastic about the project, their absence is still notable because the company has fallen behind in artificial intelligence when compared to its rivals -- many of whom are part of this new group. The new organization really seems to be about promoting change by example. Rather than preach to the tech world, it wants to use a standard open license to publish research on topics including ethics, inclusivity, and privacy.
Microsoft

Vladimir Putin Is Replacing Microsoft Programs With Domestic Software (bloomberg.com) 276

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Moscow city will replace Microsoft Corp. programs with domestic software on thousands of computers in answer to President Vladimir Putin's call for Russia's authorities to reduce dependence on foreign technology amid tensions with the U.S. and Europe. The city will initially replace Microsoft's Exchange Server and Outlook on 6,000 computers with an e-mail system installed by state-run carrier Rostelecom PJSC, Artem Yermolaev, head of information technology for Moscow, told reporters Tuesday. Moscow may expand deployment of the new software, developed by Russia's New Cloud Technologies, to as many as 600,000 computers and servers, and may also consider replacing Windows and Office, Yermolaev said. Putin is urging state entities and local companies to go domestic amid concerns over security and reliability after U.S. firms shut down paid services in Crimea following Russia's 2014 annexation. The plan poses a challenge to the likes of Microsoft, SAP SE and Oracle Corp. in the country's $3 billion software market. Adding to pressure, Putin's internet czar German Klimenko wants to raise taxes on U.S. technology companies to help Russian competitors such as Yandex NV and Mail.ru Group Ltd.
Cloud

Microsoft Partners With Bank of America On Blockchain Trade Finance (securityweek.com) 43

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch said they are working together to make financial transactions more efficient with blockchain technology -- the foundation of bitcoin digital currency. Blockchains are considered tamper-proof registers in which entries are time-stamped and linked to previous "blocks" in a data chain. As expected, the technology that drives the shadowy bitcoin cryptocurrency is drawing interest from the established banking industry, which sees a potential to revolutionize the sector. The companies said they will build and test frameworks for blockchain-powered exchanges between businesses and their customers and banks. Microsoft plans to use its Azure cloud service platform to enable blockchain transactions between a major corporate treasury and a financial institution. "Blockchains serve as public ledgers considered easy to audit and verify. They are also automated, speeding up transactions and limiting potential for error or revision," the report adds. The companies said that by using blockchain technology, they can digitalize and automate trade finance processes, which are traditionally highly manual, time-consuming and costly.
Businesses

Microsoft Is Killing Yammer Enterprise in January 2017, Will Start Integrating Office 365 Groups First (venturebeat.com) 44

Microsoft today provided new information about how it will be integrating Office 365 Groups into its Yammer enterprise-focused social network. The Yammer Enterprise service tier will be going away on January 1, 2017. But Yammer itself will remain available, and there are many levels of integration with the Office 365 services, reports VentureBeat. From the report: It will be possible for people to make Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents using Office Online within Yammer, and it will be easy to go from Yammer to a shared OneNote notebook or the Microsoft Planner project management tool. Team members will be able to select existing files from OneDrive and SharePoint and share them with colleagues in Yammer, too. And Yammer teams will get their own SharePoint sites, enabling them to build wikis and blogs. Microsoft will be rolling out the integration in phases, with the first phase beginning later this year, the Yammer team said in a blog post. The first Yammer customers to get it are those whose users log in with their Office 365 identity. And Microsoft will initially be targeting organizations with a single Yammer network connected to one Office 365 tenant.
Security

Windows 10 Will Soon Run Edge In a Virtual Machine To Keep You Safe (arstechnica.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft has announced that the next major update to Windows 10 will run its Edge browser in a lightweight virtual machine. Running the update in a virtual machine will make exploiting the browser and attacking the operating system or compromising user data more challenging. Called Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, the new capability builds on the virtual machine-based security that was first introduced last summer in Windows 10. Windows 10's Virtualization Based Security (VBS) uses small virtual machines and the Hyper-V hypervisor to isolate certain critical data and processes from the rest of the system. The most important of these is Credential Guard, which stores network credentials and password hashes in an isolated virtual machine. This isolation prevents the popular MimiKatz tool from harvesting those password hashes. In turn, it also prevents a hacker from breaking into one machine and then using stolen credentials to spread to other machines on the same network. Credential Guard's virtual machine is very small and lightweight, running only a relatively simple process to manage credentials. Application Guard will go much further by running large parts of the Edge browser within a virtual machine. This virtual machine won't, however, need a full operating system running inside it -- just a minimal set of Windows features required to run the browser. Because Application Guard is running in a virtual machine it will have a much higher barrier between it and the host platform. It can't see other processes, it can't access local storage, it can't access any other installed applications, and, critically, it can't attack the kernel of the host system. In its first iteration, Application Guard will only be available for Edge. Microsoft won't provide an API or let other applications use it. As with other VBS features, Application Guard will also only be available to users of Windows 10 Enterprise, with administrative control through group policies. Administrators will be able to mark some sites as trusted, and those sites won't use the virtual machine. Admins also be able to control whether untrusted sites can use the clipboard or print.
Operating Systems

Windows 10 Now On 400 Million Active Devices, Says Microsoft (thurrott.com) 153

Microsoft announced today that Windows 10 is now running on over 400 million active devices. This is up from 300 million as of May, and 207 million as of end of the March. The company says that it deems devices that have been active in the past 28 days as "active." Microsoft added that this 400 million active devices figure include tablets and phones as well as Xbox One consoles, HoloLens, and Surface Hubs running Windows 10. Paul Thurrott adds:Microsoft last provided a Windows 10 usage milestone on June 29, when it said that there were 350 million active Windows 10 devices. At that time, I noted that the Windows 10 adoption had accelerated from the previous milestone, hitting an average of almost 29 million new devices per month. But 50 million additional devices over three months is a much slower pace of about 17 million per month. This is the slowest rate since Windows 10 was first announced. Again, no surprise there: Windows 10 was free for its first year, and over that time period it averaged roughly 31.25 million new devices per month (if you assume a figure of 375 million after one year, as I do). Does this mean that Windows 10 will see fewer than 20 million new devices each month, on average, going forward? No, of course not. There's no way to accurately gauge how things will go, given that most future devices will be new PCs purchased by businesses or consumers, or business PCs upgraded to Windows 10.
Cloud

Adobe To Run Some Of Its Creative Cloud Services On Azure (zdnet.com) 17

Adobe will offer its Adobe Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Document Cloud hosted on Microsoft's Azure, the company said today, as part of a deal with Microsoft. ZDNet adds: Some of Adobe's subscription services for creative professionals currently are hosted on Amazon's AWS. It's not clear from Microsoft's announcement of its new Adobe deal whether Adobe's Creative Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Document Cloud will run on any other cloud backbones, with Azure as a secondary option or choice. I've asked Microsoft, and heard back from a spokesperson that today's deal is not exclusive, but that's all I know at this point. Work is underway to move these services to the Azure cloud, a spokesperson confirmed, with more information on this coming in the next few months.
Android

Google Is Planning a 'Pixel 3' Laptop Running 'Andromeda' OS For Release in Q3 2017 (androidpolice.com) 56

Google plans to launch a laptop next year with Pixel branding which will run 'Andromeda' operating system, reports AndroidPolice, citing sources. Andromeda is a hybrid of Android and Chrome OS, the report adds. Pixel, Chrome OS and Android teams have been working on this project, dubbed Bison, for years, apparently. From the report: Bison is planned as an ultra-thin laptop with a 12.3" display, but Google also wants it to support a "tablet" mode. It's unclear to us if this means Bison will be a Lenovo Yoga-style convertible device, or a detachable like Microsoft's Surface Book, but I'm personally leaning on the former given how thin it is. Powering it will be either an Intel m3 or i5 Core processor with 32 or 128GB of storage and 8 or 16GB of RAM. This seems to suggest there will be two models. It will also feature a fingerprint scanner, two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack (!), a host of sensors, stylus support (a Wacom pen will be sold separately), stereo speakers, quad microphones, and a battery that will last around 10 hours. The keyboard will be backlit, and the glass trackpad will use haptic and force detection similar to the MacBook. Google plans to fit all of this in a form factor under 10mm in thickness, notably thinner than the aforementioned Apple ultraportable.The report, however, adds that it is likely that Google might revise the specifications by the time of its launch, which is slated to happen sometime in Q3 2017.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents A User-Monitoring AI That Improves Search Results (hothardware.com) 68

Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes a HotHardware article about Microsoft's new patent filing for an OS "mediation component": This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all textual input within apps to intelligently decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the Mediator and processed. So when the user goes to, for example, the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query.

The search engine (e.g., Bing and Cortana) uses contextual rankers to adjust the ranking of the default suggested queries to produce more relevant [results]. The operating system...tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually).

The article argues this feels "creepy and big brother-esque," and while Microsoft talks of defining a "task continuum," suggests the patent's process "would in essence keep track of everything you type and interact with in the OS and stockpile it in real-time to data-dump into Bing."
Microsoft

Tuesday Was Microsoft's Last Non-Cumulative Patch (helpnetsecurity.com) 221

There was something unique about this week's Patch Tuesday. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes HelpNetSecurity: It was the last traditional Windows Patch Tuesday as Microsoft is moving to a new patching release model. In the future, patches will be bundled together and users will no longer be able to pick and choose which updates to install. Furthermore, these new 'monthly update packs' will be combined, so for instance, the November update will include all the patches from October as well.
Last month a Slashdot reader asked for suggestions on how to handle the new 'cumulative' updates -- although the most common response was "I run Linux."
Security

Malware Evades Detection By Counting Word Documents (threatpost.com) 68

"Researchers have found a new strain of document-based macro malware that evades discovery by lying dormant when it detects a security researcher's test environment," reports Threatpost, The Kaspersky Lab security news service. Slashdot reader writes: Once a computer is compromised, the malware will count the number of Word documents stored on the local drive; if it's more than two, the malware executes. Otherwise, it figures it's landed in a virtual environment or is executing in a sandbox and stays dormant.

A typical test environment consists of a fresh Windows computer image loaded into a VM. The OS image usually lacks documents and other telltale signs of real world use [according to SentinelOne researcher Caleb Fenton]. If no Microsoft Word documents are found, the VBA macro's code execution terminates, shielding the malware from automated analysis and detection. Alternately, if more than two Word documents are found on the targeted system, the macro will download and install the malware payload.

Microsoft

Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, Verizon Are In Talks With Twitter For a Potential Acquisition (cnbc.com) 65

Twitter is in conversation with a number of tech companies for a potential sale. The social company is in talks with Google and cloud computing company Salesforce (which also wanted to purchase LinkedIn), and may receive a formal offer soon, reports CNBC. TechCrunch corroborating on the report adds that Microsoft and Verizon are also in talks, albeit separately, with Twitter for the same. From CNBC report: Shares of Twitter were up 20 percent Friday. Twitter's board of directors is said to be largely desirous of a deal, according to people close to the situation, but no sale is imminent. There's no assurance a deal will materialize, but one source close to the conversations said that they are picking up momentum and could result in a deal before year-end. Suitors are said to be interested as much in the data that Twitter generates as its place as a media company.
Java

TypeScript 2.0 Released (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Since its introduction, TypeScript has included new features to improve performance, enhance JavaScript compatibility, and extend the range of error checking that the TypeScript compiler performs. TypeScript 2.0 introduces a big step forward here by giving developers greater control over null values. null, used to denote (in some broad, hand-waving sense) that a variable holds no value at all, has been called the billion dollar mistake. Time and time again, programs trip up by not properly checking to see if a variable is null, and for good or ill, every mainstream programming language continues to support the null concept. TypeScript 2.0 brings a range of new features, but the biggest is control over these null values. With TypeScript 2.0, programmers can opt into a new behavior that by default prevents values from being null. With this option enabled, variables by default will be required to have a value and can't be set to null accidentally. This in turn allows the compiler to find other errors such as variables that are never initialized.
Microsoft

Microsoft Asked To Compensate After Windows 10 Update Bricked PCs (www.bgr.in) 178

Microsoft has been asked to pay compensation to customers who suffered malfunctions on their PCs when upgrading to Windows 10. Several customers have complained in the past one year about issues such as their computer upgrading to Windows 10 without their consent, and high-data usage due to automatic downloads of Windows 10 installation files in the background. The consumer watchdog has told Microsoft to "honor consumers' rights" and compensate those who have faced issues because of Windows 10. From a report:"Many people are having issues with Windows 10 and we believe Microsoft should be doing more to fix the problem," said Alex Neill, director of policy at Which? Of 2,500 people surveyed, who had upgraded to Windows 10, more than 12 percent said they ended up rolling back to their previous version of the operating system. More than half stated that this was because the upgrade had adversely affected their PC. "We rely heavily on our computers to carry out daily activities so, when they stop working, it is frustrating and stressful," Alex Neill, Director of Campaigns and Policy, was quoted as saying.
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Announce $3 Billion Initiative To 'Cure All Diseases' (venturebeat.com) 161

Yesterday, researchers on behalf of Microsoft said they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion initiative to "cure all diseases." VentureBeat reports: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company created by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to "unlock human potential and promote equality," today announced "Chan Zuckerberg Science," a $3 billion project that aims to cure, prevent, or manage "all diseases in our children's lifetime." "That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick," Mark Zuckerberg later said. But the program hopes to eventually make all diseases treatable -- or at least easily manageable -- by the end of the 21st century. "Our society spends 50x more treating people who are sick than on finding cures. We can do better than that," said Zuckerberg. A press release from the Initiative says Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will provide "at least $3 billion over the next decade to help jumpstart this work." "The plan," as Zuckerberg called it, is to "bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology, [and] grow the movement to fund science." That plan includes a program called Biohub, a partnership between Stanford University, Berkeley, and UCSF that "will focus on understanding underlying mechanisms of disease and developing new technologies which will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies." You can watch the full Chan Zuckerberg Science presentation here.
Microsoft

Lenovo Denies Claims It Plotted With Microsoft To Block Linux Installs (theregister.co.uk) 181

Reader kruug writes: Several users noted certain new Lenovo machines' SSDs are locked in a RAID mode, with AHCI removed from the BIOS. Windows is able to see the SSD while in RAID mode due to a proprietary driver, but the SSD is hidden from Linux installations -- for which such a driver is unavailable. Speaking to The Register today, a Lenovo spokesperson claimed the Chinese giant "does not intentionally block customers using other operating systems on its devices and is fully committed to providing Linux certifications and installation guidance on a wide range of products."
Complaints on Lenovo's forums suggest that users have been unable to install GNU/Linux operating systems on models from the Yoga 900S to the Ideapad 710S, with one 19-page thread going into detail about the BIOS issue and users' attempts to work around it.

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