AMD talks up Naples

AMD has been telling the world+dog about its next generation Zen-based server platform, codenamed Naples.

Naples is an up to 32-core, 64-thread variant of Zen, targeted at enterprise and data centres.

AMD said that Naples processors will feature eight-channel DDR4 memory controllers (with up to 16 DIMMs attached per CPU), with support for up to 4TB of memory and 128 lanes of on-chip PCI Express connectivity.

All this will be in a dual processor/dual socket configuration, which gives Naples up to 64 physical cores (128 threads), access to 32 DIMM slots, and aggregate 16 memory channels. This is double the memory channels, higher memory and more cores than a similar Intel Xeon E5-2699A V4 based server.

AMD’s performance comparisons at its tech day event pit a 2P Naples server with 512GB of DDR4 RAM up against a 2P Intel Xeon E4-2699A V4 configuration with 384GB of RAM.

The Naples system had a higher memory capacity and that memory was clocked much higher too — 2400MHz versus 1866MHz. The Naples system has more cores, and with SMT on, can ultimately process more threads.

The AMD Naples system also has double the memory channels, further improving peak memory bandwidth. In its demos, AMD used a seismic analysis workload, which involved multiple iterations of 3D wave equations.

The only thing that AMD didn’t provide were the prices, but it did say that they should be in the shops in Q2 this year.

Danish watchdog growls at Alphabet

A Danish consumer watchdog has reported Alphabet to the Danish Data Protection Agency for potentially breaking privacy laws.

What has got the Danes’ goat is that Alphabet was not capping the amount of time personal data is stored on Google’s servers.

Google and Facebook face increased scrutiny over how and where they store location and search history data from users of smartphones and mail accounts.

“The consumer council Taenk would like the Data Protection Agency to assess whether Google’s indefinite data collection complies with consumer’s basic right to privacy,” the watchdog snarled.

Google apparently has nearly a decade of data on users with a Google account,  the report claims.

VW shows off self-driving car

Hitler’s favourite car maker, VW, has been trying to put diesel-gate behind it by releasing an eco-friendly self-driving car.

The car was demoed at the Geneva auto show, and VW said it will invest billions of euros in electric cars, ride-hailing and automated driving, and launch over 30 electric models by 2025.

The self-driving concept car called Sedric – a so-called Level 5 vehicle capable of fully automated operation – is a precursor for more such models from the Volkswagen (VW) group in years to come.

Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said VW is hiring top specialists and plans to spend several billions of euros on automated driving alone.

Sedric can carry four passengers and could be used for ride-sharing fleets as well as for individual consumers, VW said.

Mercedes-Benz unveiled its fully autonomous F 015 luxury concept two years ago. But Toyota has said it does not expect to see Level 5 cars in widespread use for another 10-15 years, while Ford does not plan to offer such vehicles for consumers until 2025 or later.

Tech needs open data barks watchdog

Canada’s top securities watchdog  has barked that open access to data is essential to developing financial tech solutions using innovative technology such as blockchain.

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) paper was the product of a “hackathon” it hosted in November aimed at finding new financial technology solutions to old problems such as regulatory processes, identity authentication, and transparency.

Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, underpinned most solutions proposed at the hackathon, according to the paper. Blockchain is a tamper-proof, decentralised database.

Pat Chaukos, chief of OSC LaunchPad, a regulatory “sandbox” created last fall as part of its efforts to modernize and support innovation said that Blockchain has the potential to create solutions for problems in an open and scalable way,

But it needs open-access data before you can get to the innovation.

The European Union is ahead on this sort of thing. Its Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), for example, set to come into effect in early 2018, will allow a third party to access banking data with the customer’s permission.

“We’re going to support the facility of access to data. … It is very much a live discussion for all regulators, and I would actually even say for government,” said Chaukos.

Requiring financial institutions to make core information about a client available to other parties could potentially make signing up for financial services simpler, for example.

Open data would eliminate duplication and streamline manual regulatory processes, including how information is verified, collected and analysed, the paper said, improving auditing, and oversight, and making compliance checks faster.

The move would also increase competition and offers tangible benefits for investors, Chaukos added.

Streaming content is not piracy

Derbyshire Trading Standards has said that if users only stream and don’t download, they’re likely to be exempt from copyright law and can’t be considered pirates.

So far no one has been prosecuted for merely streaming content, mostly because it is hard to track, but the Standards body has suggested that while those selling streaming services are probably breaking the law, their customers are not.

Derbyshire Council Trading Standards said that Kodi was a legitimate piece of software and the developers do not support its use for illegal purposes.

“Derbyshire County Council trading standards officers believe it is illegal under copyright legislation to sell Kodi boxes installed with those add-ons that facilitate the illegal streaming of copyrighted material – although there are court cases pending elsewhere in the UK that will provide further clarification.”

“Accessing premium paid-for content without a subscription is considered by the industry as unlawful access, although streaming something online, rather than downloading a file, is likely to be exempt from copyright laws,” the spokesperson added.

Italians see off Facebook in court

Facebook has suspended its location-sharing feature in Italy after a Milan court ruled last year that the social networking giant had violated competition and copyright laws by effectively copying a similar app from a local startup.

Italian software developer Business Competence filed a lawsuit in 2013, accusing Facebook’s Nearby feature of having copied its Faround application, which helps users locate Facebook friends in the vicinity.

Facebook launched its Nearby feature only months after Faround was included in the social network’s app store in 2012.

The complaint alleged that the two applications were “extremely similar” in their functions and general set-up.

Facebook said it has discontinued offering what it now calls Nearby Places in Italy while it appeals against the court’s ruling.

The court ordered Facebook to suspend Nearby Places in Italy or daily pay a fine of 5,000 euros for copyright infringement and unfair competition. It said that Facebook may have to pay further damages to be determined at a later stage.

Facebook wanted the order put on hold while it awaited a ruling on the merits of the case, but its request was rejected by the court in December. It said on Monday that it is complying with the decision pending its appeal.

Facebook insists that the claims were without merit and the order was wrongly decided, but we have respectfully complied with the order in the interim.

Business Competence’s Faround app was launched in September 2012 and quickly gained popularity among Italian users.

Faround was the most downloaded new social networking app in the country but downloads plunged the month after Facebook launched its own Nearby feature on December 17 of that year.

“It was a big blow to us to see that we were losing everything we had invested (into Faround),” Business Competence Chief Executive Sara Colnago said. It had cost the outfit half a million euros to build the app.

FBI allow a “paedophile” to go free

The Untouchables do not want to be touched by a court demands that it explain how its Tor hack works.

The court wanted to know how the FBI located a child porn suspect, and federal prosecutors responded by dropping all charges against a man accused of accessing Playpen, a notorious and now-shuttered website.

The case is one of nearly 200 cases nationwide that have raised new questions about the appropriate limitations on the government’s ability to hack criminal suspects. Michaud marks just the second time that prosecutors have asked that case be dismissed.

Annette Hayes, a federal prosecutor, wrote in a court filing that the government had to choose between disclosure of classified information and dismissal of its indictment.

“Disclosure is not currently an option. Dismissal without prejudice leaves open the possibility that the government could bring new charges should there comes a time within the statute of limitations when and the government be able to provide the requested discovery.”

The Department of Justice is currently prosecuting over 135 people nationwide whom they believe accessed the illegal website.

To find those them, federal authorities seized and operated the site for 13 days before closing it down. During that period, the FBI deployed a Tor exploit that allowed them to find out those users’ real IP addresses.

The DOJ has called this exploit a “network investigative technique,” (NIT) while many security experts have dubbed it as “malware.” Defense attorneys want the NIT’s source code as part of the criminal discovery process.

Last year, US District Judge Robert Bryan ordered the government to hand over the NIT’s source code in Michaud. Since that May 2016 order, the government has classified the source code itself, thwarting efforts for criminal discovery in more than 100 Playpen-related cases that remain pending.

On the plus side many of the Playpen defendants have pleaded guilty, and only a few have had charges dropped altogether.

Microsoft and Safari browser use dying

It seems that the world has had enough of Microsoft and Apple’s browsers and all roads are starting to lead to Chrome.

According to California-based analytics vendor Net Applications, from March 2015 to February 2017, the use of Microsoft’s IE and Edge on Windows and Apple’s Safari browser plummeted.

Two years ago, the Volish browsers were run by 62 per cent of Windows PC owners. Last month, the figure had fallen by more than half, to just 27 percent. An estimated 69 per cent of all Mac owners used Safari to go online. But by last month, that number had dropped to 56 percent, a drop of 13 percentage points — representing a decline of nearly a fifth of the share of two years prior.

Simultaneous with the decline of IE and Safari has been the rise of Chrome. The user share of Google’s browser — its share of all browsers on all operating systems — more than doubled in the last two years, jumping from 25 percent in March 2015 to 59.5 percent last month. Along the way, Chrome supplanted IE to become the world’s most-used browser.

In the last 24 months, Mozilla’s Firefox — the other major browser alternative to Chrome for macOS users — has barely budged, losing just two-tenths of a percentage point in user share.

Munich might still stick to Linux agreement

The poster child for the use of Linux by government authorities, the City of Munich, might stick to its commitment to the operating system after all.

There had been ructions in Munich over whether its move to Linux had been such a good idea and if it had saved as much as it thought it had.

Most media have reported that a final call was made to halt the LiMux and switch back to Microsoft software, but the Free Software Foundation Europe says this is fake news.

What happened was that the opposing parties were overruled, but the decision was amended such that a strategy document must specify which LiMux-applications will no longer be needed. This was not killing off the project but postponing it until more facts were known such as the extent in which prior investments must be written off, and a rough calculation of the overall costs of the desired unification.

The FSFE said that so far mayor Dieter Reiter was forced to postpone the final decision, and this was possible through the unwavering pressure created by joint efforts between The Document Foundation, KDE, OSBA, and the FSFE together with all the individuals who wrote to city council members and took the issue to the media.

Although the mandate hints that the existing vendor-neutral approach is to be replaced with a proprietary solution, it leaves the door open.

Some politicians said they’d never received this much input from the public before, and the Free Software Foundation Europe says the city’s issues were caused “from organisational problems, including lack of clear structures and responsibilities,” which should not be attributed to the Linux operating system.

“LiMux as such is still one of the best examples of how to create a vendor-neutral administration based on Free Software,” the FSFE said.

Uber might be forced to test drivers’ English

Uber lost a court battle to stop a London regulator from imposing strict new English reading and writing standards on private hire drivers.

The move could mean the loss of thousands of workers.

The company took legal action in August after public body Transport for London (TfL) said that drivers should have to prove their ability to communicate in English, including to a standard of reading and writing which Uber said was too high.

Judge John Mitting said the TfL was entitled to require private hire drivers to demonstrate English language compliance.

Uber had cited Tfl data that the language rules could mean about 33,000 private hire drivers out of a total of 110,000 operating in London would fail to renew their licenses over the next few years.

TfL’s new rules were partly a response to protests from drivers of London’s famous black cabs, who are concerned that Uber’s over 30,000 drivers are undermining their business model by not meeting the same standards.

Uber’s General Manager in London Tom Elvidge said in a statement said that writing an essay has nothing to do with communicating with passengers or getting them safely from A to B.

“We intend to appeal this unfair and disproportionate new rule.”

Uber did manage to overturn two other TfL proposals for drivers to have permanent private hire insurance and that it should operate a 24/7 call centre.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan welcomed the court’s decision and said he was focused on better regulating the sector.
“From my first day at City Hall I have been determined to drive up standards and improve safety for every taxi and private hire passenger traveling in London,” he said.