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AI, Robotics Wonks Urge Autonomous Weapons Ban
July 28, 2015
Leading artificial intelligence and robotics experts have issued an open letter arguing against the development of autonomous weapons. Its publication coincides with the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which ends Friday in Buenos Aires. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is "virtually inevitable," the letter says.
Major Tech Firms Join White House in Climate Change Pledge
July 28, 2015
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior White House officials on Monday met with a group of executives who pledged their companies' support for the administration's efforts to reach a strong climate change agreement in Paris this December. Thirteen major companies, including Apple, Google and Microsoft, signed the American Business Act on Climate Change.
Citibank Dinged $700M for Scamming Credit Card Customers
July 27, 2015
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week ordered Citibank and its subsidiaries to pay about $700 million in relief to eligible consumers and a $35 million civil penalty for, in essence, scamming consumers into paying for unwanted credit card add-on products and services. This is the 10th action the bureau has undertaken against banks for deceiving consumers.
Apple Leaves Nest Thermostat Out in the Cold
July 24, 2015
Apple reportedly has pulled the Nest smart thermostat from both its online and brick-and-mortar stores, possibly paving the way for its own line of smart home appliances. The thermostat disappeared from Apple's product offerings earlier this month. Apple's stores now are selling the Ecobee 3, a thermostat that works with Apple's HomeKit, an Internet of Things platform that's part of iOS.
Twitch Yanks Player Controls From Flash
July 24, 2015
Game-streaming service Twitch on Thursday joined Apple and other tech companies in swearing off its dependence on Adobe's Flash. The move away from Flash will happen in stages, but Twitch has promised its community that the gradual rollout will advance at a steady pace. Twitch began the transition to the more secure HTML5 and JavaScript by hybridizing its streaming video player.
OPM Director's Resignation Draws Mixed Reactions
July 23, 2015
The resignation of U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta is drawing mixed reactions from the cybersecurity community. Archuleta's departure on July 10, in the wake of a massive data breach resulting in the theft of the personal information of more than 22 million people, is being characterized by security pros as everything from "necessary" to "unfair."
The Emperor Is Naked and We're All Idiots
July 20, 2015
An old fable keeps running through my mind about the scam artist who convinced an emperor that he had created clothing only smart people could see. Everyone says they see the clothing because they don't want to look stupid. Walking around in clothing stupid people can't see doesn't sound enticing anyway, but lately it has seemed clear to me that the folks reporting the news think we are idiots.
Flash Furor Grows Despite Adobe's Latest Fix
July 15, 2015
Three new vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash Player have been reported over the past two weeks, triggering a storm of protest and leading Mozilla and Google to ban the plug-in from their Firefox and Chrome browsers. "It is time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for Flash and to ask the browsers to set killbits on the same day," Facebook CSO Alex Stamos tweeted Sunday.
Haters Force Leadership Change at Reddit
July 13, 2015
The haters have won at Reddit, forcing the ouster of interim CEO Ellen Pao and her replacement by cofounder Steve Huffman. Board member Sam Altman, who led a $50 million investment round in the firm, on Saturday announced Pao's resignation and Huffman's appointment, lashing out at the campaign against Pao. It was "sickening" to see some of the things Redditors wrote about Pao, he said.
Walmart to Crash Amazon's Prime Day Party
July 13, 2015
Walmart on Monday announced it will offer an online sale to rival Amazon's Prime Day this Wednesday. The Walmart.com sale will be open to all customers, emphasized CEO Fernando Madeira, unlike Amazon's Prime Day, which is open only to members of Amazon's Prime program, which currently costs $99 per year. Asking customers to pay money to take part in a sale doesn't add up, Madeira said.
NYSE, United Shutdowns Spark Cyberattack Rumors
July 9, 2015
The New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday halted all transactions for three hours, due to what it maintained was a technical glitch. Trading continued on the other exchanges belonging to its owner, holding company Intercontinental Exchange. "The markets did not plummet with the shutdown," said Jim Wright, chief investment officer at Harvest Financial Partners.
Raging Redditors Roar for Pao's Resignation
July 7, 2015
More than 208,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao to step down. Many Redditers fear Pao will run Reddit into the ground, the petition claims, noting that alternative sites have sprung up in recent months and received vast amounts of traffic. The immediate cause of the unrest was last week's dismissal of Victoria Taylor, Reddit's director of talent.
Yelp Study Blasts Google for Screwing With Search
June 30, 2015
Google has been tampering with the responses its search engine gives to queries and, as a result, has been hurting social welfare, alleges a survey conducted by Michael Luca, a Harvard Business School economist, and Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and former FTC advisor. Yelp sponsored the research. The team last week sent a paper reporting the results to the European Commission.
The Encryption Software Scuffle
June 29, 2015
In the face of encryption that could block brute force attempts for years, law enforcement agencies at every level have been calling for keys that allow investigators to crack open smartphones and court cases alike. Some of the world's leading tech companies and privacy advocates have called for the White House to stand against any proposal to weaken the security software on consumer products.
The Automobile as We Know It Is Dead
June 29, 2015
There's a massive number of efforts going on to kill the car as we know it. Among them are efforts to make it a tiny self-driving box that we'd likely be embarrassed to be seen in, efforts to make it highly customized and amazing, and efforts to change its fuel from gasoline to CNG, electricity or something else. There is no doubt that the car as we know it soon will be dead.
CFPB: Mortgage Servicers Still Rooking Consumers
June 29, 2015
Mortgage servicers got a bad name during the subprime mortgage crisis, but despite that reputation damage, and despite new laws designed to get them on the straight and narrow, they're still up to their tricks, the CFPB has found. Between January and April, many servicers violated Regulation X, which spells out requirements for soliciting, completing and evaluating loss mitigation applications.
Self-Driving Cars Avoid Collision, as They Should
June 26, 2015
Two self-driving prototype vehicles, one operated by Google and the other operated by Delphi Automotive, earlier this week avoided a collision in Palo Alto, California. Neither car touched the other, but the incident spurred a number of rattled headlines over the so-called "near miss." In actuality, both vehicles responded as they were supposed to, the companies said in response to the media brouhaha.
Internet Players Wrestle with Proposals to Prevent Capture
June 24, 2015
The Internet is run by a bunch of geeks sitting in a darkened space, lit only by the glow from LED screens, right? That Hollywood image may be how the general public perceives what it takes to send and receive emails, deliver apps, enable electronic transactions, and store great gobs of data. There is much more to operating the Internet, however, including a challenging management environment.
US, Brit Spooks Bedevil Security Software
June 24, 2015
The United States' National Security Agency and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters reportedly have been attacking antivirus and other security software since at least 2008. The aim is to infiltrate networks and track users. The agencies apparently have reverse-engineered security and antivirus software, sometimes under dubious legal authority.
Data Requests Put Amazon Between Rock, Hard Place
June 23, 2015
Amazon's recently released first report on government requests for information revealed that from January to May, it received 813 subpoenas and 25 search warrants. The company fully responded and provided all the requested information sought for 542 of the subpoenas. It provided only some of the requested information for 126 of the cases, and it did not respond to 145 requests.
Apple Knuckles Under to Taylor Swift
June 23, 2015
Apple has given in to a demand from pop diva Taylor Swift to pay royalties to owners of music streamed by its Apple Music service. "We hear you, @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple," tweeted Eddy Cue, who oversees Apple's content stores. "Apple will always make sure that artist[s] are paid." Cue's tweets might resolve the firestorm Swift ignited over the weekend.
Rumors Tell the Apple Watch Story
June 22, 2015
Apple hasn't been saying much, as usual -- but insiders and analysts are fitting together pieces of the Apple Watch puzzle through sales estimates, revelations about the vast gulf separating production costs from final prices, and expected features of the next version. CEO Tim Cook recently said the company was off to an "exciting start to the June quarter with the launch of Apple Watch."
Skies May Soon Be Friendlier to Amazon Drones
June 19, 2015
Amazon on Wednesday appealed to members of Congress to approve use of its fleet of drones for package deliveries. Electrically powered drones could deliver packages to consumer homes and offices faster, more efficiently and with less environmental impact than automobiles, Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, suggested in testimony before the House Oversight Committee.
Hyperloop Dreams May Become Concrete
June 19, 2015
SpaceX this week announced plans to construct a mile-long Hyperloop test track next to its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, scheduled for completion by June 2016. The company concurrently announced an open competition for university students and independent engineering teams to design and build the best Hyperloop pod. Entrants will be able to test their pods on the track.

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Is Microsoft starting to get cool again?
Yes - thanks to Satya Nadella's vision.
Yes - but only in certain areas, like AI and VR.
Maybe - it doesn't seem as stodgy as before.
No - it never was.