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Presto Vivace writes H-1B records that are critical to research and take up a small amount of storage are set for deletion. "In a notice posted last week, the U.S. Department of Labor said that records used for labor certification, whether in paper or electronic, 'are temporary records and subject to destruction' after five years, under a new policy. There was no explanation for the change, and it is perplexing to researchers. The records under threat are called Labor Condition Applications (LCA), which identify the H-1B employer, worksite, the prevailing wage, and the wage paid to the worker. The cost of storage can't be an issue for the government's $80 billion IT budget: A full year's worth of LCA data is less than 1GB."
42 comments | 2 hours ago
daten writes A coalition of security companies has hit a sophisticated hacking group in China with a heavy blow. The effort is detailed in a report released today by Novetta. The coalition, which calls itself Operation SMN, detected and cleaned up malicious code on 43,000 computers worldwide that were targeted by Axiom, an incredibly sophisticated organization that has been stealing intellectual property for more than six years. The group united as part of Microsoft's Coordinated Malware Eradication (CME) campaign against Hikit (a.k.a. Hikiti), the custom malware often used by Axiom to burrow into organizations, exfiltrate data, and evade detection, sometimes for years.
57 comments | yesterday
Walking The Walk writes YouTube is looking at creating a paid-subscription model that would allow users to skip the ads on their videos. (A more condensed summary from CBC.) No firm date has been announced, and it sounds like tentative steps right now, but YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki did mention that ad-enabled music videos would still be offered.
190 comments | yesterday
theodp writes: A year-long investigation by NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit and The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) raises questions about the H-1B visa program. In a five-part story that includes a mini-graphic novel called Techsploitation, CIR describes how the system rewards job brokers who steal wages and entrap Indian tech workers in the U.S., including the awarding of half a billion dollars in Federal tech contracts to those with labor violations. "Shackling workers to their jobs," CIR found after interviewing workers and reviewing government agency and court documents, "is such an entrenched business practice that it has even spread to U.S. nationals. This bullying persists at the bottom of a complex system that supplies workers to some of America's richest and most successful companies, such as Cisco Systems Inc., Verizon and Apple Inc."
In a presumably unrelated move, the U.S. changed its H-1B record retention policy last week, declaring that records used for labor certification, whether in paper or electronic, "are temporary records and subject to destruction" after five years under the new policy. "There was no explanation for the change, and it is perplexing to researchers," reports Computerworld. "The records under threat are called Labor Condition Applications (LCA), which identify the H-1B employer, worksite, the prevailing wage, and the wage paid to the worker." Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, added: "It undermines our ability to evaluate what the government does and, in today's world, retaining electronic records like the LCA is next to costless [a full year's LCA data is less than 1 GB]." President Obama, by the way, is expected to use his executive authority to expand the H-1B program after the midterm elections.
257 comments | yesterday
blottsie writes: The most-valuable, second-richest telecommunications company in the world is bankrolling a technology news site called SugarString.com. The publication, which is now hiring its first full-time editors and reporters, is meant to rival major tech websites like Wired and the Verge while bringing in a potentially giant mainstream audience to beat those competitors at their own game.
There's just one catch: In exchange for the major corporate backing, tech reporters at SugarString are expressly forbidden from writing about American spying or net neutrality around the world, two of the biggest issues in tech and politics today.
133 comments | yesterday
HughPickens.com writes: Ron Nixon reports in the NY Times that the United States Postal Service says it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations, in many cases without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization. In addition to raising privacy concerns, the audit questioned the efficiency and accuracy of the Postal Service in handling the requests. The surveillance program, officially called mail covers, is more than a century old, but is still considered a powerful investigative tool. The Postal Service said that from 2001 through 2012, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies made more than 100,000 requests to monitor the mail of Americans. That would amount to an average of some 8,000 requests a year — far fewer than the nearly 50,000 requests in 2013 that the Postal Service reported in the audit (PDF).
In Arizona in 2011, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, discovered that her mail was being monitored by the county's sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Wilcox had been a frequent critic of Arpaio, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. Wilcox sued the county, was awarded nearly $1 million in a settlement in 2011 and received the money this June when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Andrew Thomas, the former county attorney, was disbarred for his role in investigations into the business dealings of Ms. Wilcox and other officials and for other unprofessional conduct. "I don't blame the Postal Service," says Wilcox, "but you shouldn't be able to just use these mail covers to go on a fishing expedition. There needs to be more control."
106 comments | yesterday
Bennett Haselton writes: Social networking company Ello has converted itself to a Public Benefit Corporation, bound by a charter saying that they will not now, nor in the future, make money by running advertisements or selling user data. Ello had followed these policies from the outset, but skeptics worried that venture capitalist investors might pressure Ello to change those policies, so this binding commitment was meant to assuage those fears. But is the commitment really legally binding and enforceable down the road? Read on for the rest.
151 comments | 2 days ago
itwbennett writes Working closely with VISA, Apple solved many complex security issues making in-person payments safer than ever. But it's that close relationship with the credit card companies that may be Apple Pay's downfall. A competing solution called CurrentC has recently gained a lot of press as backers of the project moved to block NFC payments (Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.) at their retail terminals. The merchants designing or backing CurrentC reads like a greatest hits list of retail outfits and leading the way is the biggest of them all, Walmart. The retailers have joined together to create a platform that is independent of the credit card companies and their profit-robbing transaction fees. Hooking directly to your bank account rather than a credit or debit card, CurrentC will use good old ACH to transfer money from your account to the merchant's bank account at little to no cost.
627 comments | 2 days ago
colinneagle writes This Friday is Halloween, but if you try to buy a PC with Windows 7 pre-loaded after that, you're going to get a rock instead of a treat. Microsoft will stop selling Windows 7 licenses to OEMs after this Friday and you will only be able to buy a machine with Windows 8.1. The good news is that business/enterprise customers will still be able to order PCs 'downgraded' to Windows 7 Professional. Microsoft has not set an end date for when it will cut off Windows 7 Professional to OEMs, but it will likely be a while. This all fits in with typical Microsoft timing. Microsoft usually pulls OEM supply of an OS a year after it removes it from retail. Microsoft cut off the retail supply of Windows 7 in October of last year, although some retailers still have some remaining stock left. If the analytics from Steam are any indicator, Windows 8 is slowly working its way into the American public, but mostly as a Windows XP replacement. Windows 7, both 32-bit and 64-bit, account for 59% of their user base. Windows 8 and 8.1 account for 28%, while XP has dwindled to 4%.
225 comments | 2 days ago
merbs writes: Hope you're not too attached to looking out the windows when you fly — the designers of tomorrow's airplanes seem intent on getting rid of them. A Paris design firm recently made waves when it released its concept for a sleek, solar paneled, windowless passenger jet. Before that, Airbus proposed eschewing windows and building its cabins out of transparent polymers. Now, the Center for Process Innovation has floated its own windowless plane concept, and it's attracting plenty of headlines, too.
285 comments | 2 days ago
sciencehabit writes "A creationist conference set for a major research campus — Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing — is creating unease among some of the school's students and faculty, which includes several prominent evolutionary biologists. The event, called the Origins Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to "challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance." The one-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event's website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler's worldview, why "the Big Bang is fake," and why "natural selection is NOT evolution." News of the event caught MSU's scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university's business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program—or the sometimes provocative talk titles — until later.
969 comments | 2 days ago
schwit1 writes: The IRS admits to seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars of private assets, without any proof of illegal activity, merely because there is a law that lets them do it. From the article: "Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up and settle the case for a portion of their money.
'They're going after people who are really not criminals,' said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. 'They're middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.'" The article describes several specific cases, all of which are beyond egregious and are in fact entirely unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights is very clear about this: The federal government cannot take private property without just compensation."
421 comments | 3 days ago
theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."
275 comments | 4 days ago
SmartAboutThings writes Microsoft has recently published its Q1 fiscal 2015 earnings report, disclosing that it has made $4.5 billion in net income on $23.20 billion in revenue. According to the report, revenue has increased by $4.67 billion, compared to $18.53 billion from the same period last year. However, net income has decreased 14 percent compared to last year's $5.24 billion mainly because of the $1.14 billion cost associated with the integration and restructuring expenses related to the Nokia acquisition.
But what's finally good news for the company is that the Surface gross margin was positive this quarter, which means the company finally starts making money on Surface sales. Microsoft didn't yet reveal Surface sales, but we know that Surface revenue was $908 million this quarter, up a massive 127 percent from the $400 million this time last year. However, if we assume that the average spent amount on the purchase of this year's Surface Pro 3 was around $1000, then we have less than 1 million units sold, which isn't that impressive, but it's a good start.
117 comments | 5 days ago
Nerval's Lobster writes: Every company needs employees who can analyze information effectively, discarding what's unnecessary and digging down into what's actually useful. But employers are getting a little bit worried that U.S. schools aren't teaching students the necessary critical-thinking skills to actually succeed once they hit the open marketplace. The Wall Street Journal talked with several companies about how they judge critical-thinking skills, a few of which ask candidates to submit to written tests to judge their problem-solving abilities. But that sidesteps the larger question: do schools need to shift their focus onto different teaching methods (i.e., downplaying the need for students to memorize lots of information), or is our educational pipeline just fine, thank you very much?
552 comments | 5 days ago
New submitter Intrepid imaginaut sends word of a study (PDF) into how e-commerce sites show online shoppers different prices depending on how they found an item and what the sites know about the customer. "For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.” To get a better price, the article advises deleting cookies before shopping, using your browser's private mode, putting the items in your shopping cart without buying them right away, and using tools like Camelcamelcamel to keep an eye out for price drops.
163 comments | 5 days ago
dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.
712 comments | 5 days ago
smaxp writes In 2007, Sony's supply chain lessons, the network effect from the shift to Intel architecture, and a better OS X for developers combined to renew the Mac's growth. The network effects of the Microsoft Wintel ecosystem that Rappaport explained 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review are no longer a big advantage. By turning itself into a premium PC company with a proprietary OS, Apple has taken the best of PC ecosystem, but avoided taking on the disadvantages.
296 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader sends in news about a company that was fined for flying in "about eight employees" from India to work 120-hour weeks for $1.21 per hour. Electronics for Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company's Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the U.S. Labor Department's wage and hour division in San Francisco.... An anonymous tip prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the case, which resulted in more than $40,000 in back wages paid to the eight employees and a fine of $3,500 for Electronics for Imaging.
286 comments | about a week ago
HughPickens.com writes Abby Phillip reports at the Washington Post that that Mark Zuckerberg just posted a 30-minute Q&A at Tsinghua University in Beijing in which he answered every question exclusively in Chinese — a notoriously difficult language to learn and particularly, to speak. "It isn't just Zuckerberg's linguistic acrobatics that make this a notable moment," writes Philip. "This small gesture — although some would argue that it is a huge moment — is perhaps his strongest foray into the battle for hearts and minds in China." Zuckerberg and Facebook have been aggressively courting Chinese users for years and the potential financial upside for the business. Although Beijing has mostly banned Facebook, the company signed a contract for its first ever office in China earlier this year. A Westerner speaking Mandarin in China — at any level — tends to elicit joy from average Chinese, who seem to appreciate the effort and respect they feel learning Mandarin demonstrates. So how well did he actually do? One Mandarin speaker rates Zuckerberg's language skills at a seventh grader's speech: "It's hard not see a patronizing note in the Chinese audience's reaction to Zuckerberg's Mandarin. To borrow from Samuel Johnson's quip, he was like a dog walking on its hind legs: It wasn't done well, but it was a surprise to see it done at all."
216 comments | about a week ago