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Slashdot: News For Nerds

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An anonymous reader shares an article: For starters, the profile of a programmer's mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Coding isn't the only job that demands intense focus. But you'd never hear someone say that brain surgery is "fun," or that structural engineering is "easy." When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise? For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is "eating the world" -- and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word "coding" sounds routine and repetitive, as though there's some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem. It doesn't help that Hollywood has cast the "coder" as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. Insisting on the glamor and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don't need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study. It's better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it's up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more "decisions" are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological, or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it's rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what's going on beneath these processes.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 6:00 pm
From a Motherboard report: Despite Samsung stating that a user's irises are pretty much impossible to copy, a team of hackers has done just that. Using a bare-bones selection of equipment, researchers from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) show in a video how they managed to bypass the scanner's protections and unlock the device. "We've had iris scanners that could be bypassed using a simple print-out," Linus Neumann, one of the hackers who appears in the video. The process itself was apparently pretty simple. The hackers took a medium range photo of their subject with a digital camera's night mode, and printed the infrared image. Then, presumably to give the image some depth, the hackers placed a contact lens on top of the printed picture.And, that's it. They're in.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 5:21 pm
Speaking of new laptops, Chinese conglomerate Huawei plans a global expansion into computers, it said on Tuesday, posing a fresh challenge to established PC players in a market that has suffered two years of falling sales volumes and pressure on margins. From a report: At a news conference in Berlin, the Shenzhen-based company introduced its first line-up of three personal computer models, including a 15.6-inch screen notebook, a 2-in-1 tablet and notebook hybrid and an ultra slim, metallic 13-inch notebook. Initially, Huawei plans to target the premium-priced consumer market, competing with Lenovo, HP and Dell, which together sell more than 50 percent of all PCs. To a lesser extent, it will also go up against Apple's high-end, but shrinking, Mac computer business. Huawei's Matebook X is a fanless notebook with splash-proof screen and combined fingerprint sign-on and power button, priced between 1,399 and 1,699 euros ($1,570-$1,900). Its Matebook E 2-in-1 hybrid will run from 999 to 1,299 euros while the Matebook D with 15.6-inch display is priced at 799 to 999 euros, it said. Huawei said it aims to offer the new PCs in 12 countries in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East in early June.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 4:40 pm
Apple has settled a patent dispute with Finnish telecom equipment maker Nokia and agreed to buy more of its network products and services. The deal means Nokia will get bigger royalties from Apple for using its mobile phone patents, helping offset the impact of waning demand for its mobile network hardware. Nokia's shares were up by seven percent following the announcement. WSJ puts things into perspective: Nokia's deal with Apple follows a highly unusual playbook: using a lawsuit to win business from your adversary (could be paywalled). When the first iPhone was unveiled a decade ago, Apple became a major competitor to the Finnish group, which was then the world's leading mobile-phone maker. As Nokia's business dwindled, the companies became legal antagonists. Now they are set to become business partners. The settlement announced Tuesday involves Apple paying Nokia a lump sum plus royalties for each device it sells using Nokia's technology. This is broadly the same kind of agreement the two sides reached in 2011 following a two-year lawsuit. The previous deal expired last year, which is why both sides launched fresh suits in December. In the aftermath of the lawsuit last year, Apple had pulled all Withings products from its stores. As part of the settlement, Apple said it will reverse that move.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 4:00 pm
It isn't looking good for humanity. Google's AI AlphaGo on Tuesday defeated Ke Jie, the world's number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. The new win comes a year after AlphaGo beat Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of AI to date. Adding insult to the injury, AlphaGo scored the victory over humanity's best candidate in China, the place where the abstract and intuitive board game was born. Engadget adds: After the match, Google's DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis explained that this was how AlphaGo was programmed: to maximise its winning chances, rather than the winning margin. This latest iteration of the AI player, nicknamed Master, apparently uses 10 times less computational power than its predecessor that beat Lee Sedol, working from a single PC connected to Google's cloud server. [...] The AI player picked up a 10-15 point lead early on, which limited the possibilities for Jie to respond. Jie was occasionally winning during the flow of the match, but AlphaGo would soon reclaim the lead, ensuring that his human opponent had limited options to win as the game progressed.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 3:20 pm
On the sidelines of Windows 10 China Government Edition release, Microsoft also announced a new Surface two-in-one laptop. The latest addition to company's hybrid computing line up, the "new Surface Pro" sports an improved design, and houses a newer processor from Intel. From an article: The new Surface Pro features the same 3:2 12.3-inch PixelSense display as its predecessor, providing a resolution of 2736 x 1824 (267 ppi) and 10 point multi-touch capabilities. Surface Pro is based on faster and more reliable Intel "Kaby Lake" chipsets in Core m3-7Y30 with HD Graphics 615, Core i5-7300U with HD Graphics 620, and Core i7-7660U with Iris Plus Graphics 640 variants, which should make for a better experience. As with the previous version, the Core m3 version of the new Surface Pro is fanless and thus silent. But this is new: The Core i5 versions of the new Surface Pro are also fanless and silent. And a new thermal design helps Microsoft claim that the i7 versions are quieter than ever, too. The new Surface Pro is rated at 13.5 hours of battery life (for video playback), compared to just 9 hours for Surface Pro 4. That's a 50 percent improvement. urface Pro can be had with 4, 8, or 16 GB of 1866Mhz LPDDR3 RAM. The new Surface Pro is built around the USB 3-based Surface Connect connector and features one full-sized USB 3 port and one miniDisplayPort port. Microsoft also announced a new Surface Pen (sold separately), and claims that the new pen is twice as accurate (compared to the previous version). No word on the pricing but it will be available in all major global markets in the "coming weeks." The new Surface ships with Windows 10 Pro. (Side note: Earlier Microsoft used to market the Surface Pro devices as tablets that could also serve as laptops. The company is now calling the Surface Pro laptops that are also tablets.)

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 2:40 pm
At an event in China on Tuesday, Microsoft announced yet another new version of Windows 10. Called Windows 10 China Government Edition, the new edition is meant to be used by the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises, ending a standoff over the operating system by meeting the government's requests for increased security and data control. In a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson writes: The Windows 10 China Government Edition is based on Windows 10 Enterprise Edition, which already includes many of the security, identity, deployment, and manageability features governments and enterprises need. The China Government Edition will use these manageability features to remove features that are not needed by Chinese government employees like OneDrive, to manage all telemetry and updates, and to enable the government to use its own encryption algorithms within its computer systems.

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Author: msmash
Posted: May 23, 2017, 2:00 pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: LeEco, a Chinese company that made a big splash in the U.S. last fall, is preparing for a round of layoffs that may happen as soon as Tuesday, according to sources. Two people told CNBC the company is planning massive layoffs in the U.S., with one source saying that only 60 employees will be left after the cut. The company's current headcount in the U.S. is over 500, according to this person. CNBC obtained an email calling employees together for a Town Hall Meeting that will occur in three of the company's U.S. locations, including San Diego, Santa Monica and San Jose, at 10 a.m. PST. The email asks employees to attend unless they're off for the day, in which case they're asked to call in. It's not clear what will be announced at the meeting, but a second source told CNBC that layoffs will be announced tomorrow. Under the restructuring, LeEco will refocus on encouraging Chinese-American consumers to watch LeEco's Chinese content library, one person said.

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Author: BeauHD
Posted: May 23, 2017, 1:00 pm
sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers and alien life enthusiasts alike are buzzing over the sudden dimming of an otherwise unremarkable star 1300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. KIC 8462852 or "Tabby's star" has dimmed like this several times before, prompting some researchers to suggest that the megastructures of an advanced alien civilization might be blocking its light. And now -- based on new data from numerous telescopes -- it's doing it again. "This is the first clear dip we have seen since [2013], and the first we have ever caught in real time," says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in State College. If they can rope in more telescopes, astronomers hope to gather enough data to finally figure out what's going on. "This could be the first of several dips about to come," says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. "Many observers will be closely watching." KIC 8462852 was first noticed to be dipping in brightness at seemingly random intervals between 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler telescope. Kepler, launched to observe the stellar dimmings caused when an exoplanet passes in front of its star, revealed that the dimming of Tabby's star was much more erratic than a typical planetary transit. It was also more extreme, with its brightness sometimes dropping by as much as 20%. This was not the passage of a small circular planet, but of something much larger and more irregular.

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Author: BeauHD
Posted: May 23, 2017, 10:00 am
Martin Moszkowicz, chairman of the board at Constantin Film, confirmed to Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the "Resident Evil" movie franchise is getting rebooted into a six-film franchise. From the report: The franchise was set to end with this year's "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter," which grossed $312 million worldwide after its January release, including an eye-popping $160 million in China alone. Sony helped sow the seeds of success by securing a release for "Resident Evil: Afterlife" and "Resident Evil: Extinction" in China. Based on the Capcom video game, the series launched in 2002 with Paul W.S. Anderson directing, and Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Bernd Eichinger, and Samuel Hadida producing the first of a six-movie series. The "Resident Evil" movie franchise has earned $1.2 billion worldwide to date, making it Europe's most successful independent horror-genre movie franchise in history and the highest-grossing film series to be based on a video game.

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Author: BeauHD
Posted: May 23, 2017, 7:00 am

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