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FedEx To Close Data Centers, Retire All Mainframes By 2024, Saving $400 Million

FedEx is to close its data centers and retire all of its remaining mainframes within the next two years. Speaking during the FedEx investor day, FedEx CIO Rob Carter said the company is aiming for a "zero data center, zero mainframe" environment based in the cloud, which will result in $400 million in savings annually. From a report: "We've been working across this decade to streamline and simplify our technology and systems," he said. "We've shifted to cloud...we've been eliminating monolithic applications one after the other after the other...we're moving to a zero data center, zero mainframe environment that's more flexible, secure, and cost-effective. Within the next two years we'll close the last few remaining data centers that we have, we'll eliminate the final 20 percent of the mainframe footprint, and we'll move the remaining applications to cloud-native structures that allow them to be flexibly deployed and used in the marketplace and business. While we're doing this, we'll achieve $400 million of annual savings."

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 5:36 pm

HTC Quietly Announced a New Android Tablet, and Nobody Noticed

HTC, the once-impressive Android smartphone manufacturer, has a surprise tablet to accompany its bizarre metaverse-focused Desire 22 Pro. From a report: The new A101 is an Android tablet with a 10.1-inch display, entry-level specs, and a design that's straight out of the middle of the last decade. The device, which we spotted via AndroidPolice, appears to have been quietly announced last month -- according to the Wayback Machine -- and is aimed at the African market. It follows the A100 tablet, which was released in Russia last year to a similar non-reaction. Given that the tablet appears to be marketed solely at emerging markets, I don't want to be too snarky about its specs or design. But it's still just plain weird to see HTC -- makers of literally the first-ever Android phone and a company that Google once entrusted to build a Nexus-branded tablet (the Nexus 9) -- producing forgettable devices like this. The A101 even runs 2020's Android 11 out of the box, rather than Android 12 or the big-screen focused Android 12L.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:45 pm

EU Lawmakers Pass Landmark Tech Rules, But Enforcement a Worry

EU lawmakers gave the thumbs up on Tuesday to landmark rules to rein in tech giants such as Alphabet unit Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, but enforcement could be hampered by regulators' limited resources. From a report: In addition to the rules known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), lawmakers also approved the Digital Services Act (DSA), which requires online platforms to do more to police the internet for illegal content. Companies face fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover for DMA violations and 6% for DSA breaches. Lawmakers and EU states had reached a political deal on both rule books earlier this year, leaving some details to be ironed out. The European Commission has set up a taskforce, with about 80 officials expected to join up, which critics say is inadequate. Last month it put out a 12 million euro ($12.3 million) tender for experts to help in investigations and compliance enforcement over a four-year period. EU industry chief Thierry Breton sought to address enforcement concerns, saying various teams would focus on different issues such as risk assessments, interoperability of messenger services and data access during implementation of the rules.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:00 pm

AI-Powered Technology Will Be Used To Speed Up VAR Offside Calls at World Cup

New AI-powered technology will be used at the Qatar World Cup, Fifa has confirmed, claiming it will halve the time taken to make VAR offside decisions. From a report: Semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) will see a complete overhaul of the system used to judge positional offside decisions in the lead-up to a goal. While a referee and their assistant will still make on-field calls and the referee will have a final say on SAOT decisions, the controversial practice of rewinding TV footage will be a thing of the past. "Semi-automated offside technology is faster and more accurate and offers better communication to fans," said Pierluigi Collina, the chair of Fifa's referees committee. "It can create a new form of visualisation for supporters at home and in the ground. All tests have worked well and so [SAOT] is going into Qatar World Cup 2022." During the World Cup offside reviews will be conducted by creating a 3D map of the goalscoring action, using a combination of 12 cameras and a hi-tech ball. The Adidas Al Rihla ball will be fitted with a sensor that sends out location data 500 times per second, which will be matched against player positions on camera, with synchronised devices tracking 29 points on players' bodies and relaying information 50 times per second.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 3:23 pm

The West's Drought Could Bring About a Data Center Reckoning

When it comes to water use, data centers are the tech industry's secret water hogs -- and they could soon come under increased scrutiny. From a report: The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead -- the country's largest reservoir -- is nearing "dead pool" levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought. Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country's data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use. Exactly how much water, however, is an open question given that many companies don't track it, much less report it. While their energy use and accompanying emissions have made more headlines, data centers' water usage is coming under increasing scrutiny. And as climate change makes water more scarce, pressure could grow on hyperscale data centers to disclose their water use and factor scarcity into where and how they operate. Centers consume water both directly (for liquid cooling) and indirectly (for non-renewable electricity generation). Roughly one-fifth of the data center servers in the U.S. source water directly from moderately to highly water-stressed watersheds, according to a 2021 analysis published in Environmental Research Letters.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 2:41 pm

Large Hadron Collider Discovers Three New Exotic Particles

The international LHCb collaboration at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has observed three never-before-seen particles: a new kind of "pentaquark" and the first-ever pair of "tetraquarks," which includes a new type of tetraquark. The findings, presented today at a CERN seminar, add three new exotic members to the growing list of new hadrons found at the LHC. They will help physicists better understand how quarks bind together into these composite particles. From a report: Quarks are elementary particles and come in six flavours: up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. They usually combine together in groups of twos and threes to form hadrons such as the protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei. More rarely, however, they can also combine into four-quark and five-quark particles, or "tetraquarks" and "pentaquarks." These exotic hadrons were predicted by theorists at the same time as conventional hadrons, about six decades ago, but only relatively recently, in the past 20 years, have they been observed by LHCb and other experiments. Most of the exotic hadrons discovered in the past two decades are tetraquarks or pentaquarks containing a charm quark and a charm antiquark, with the remaining two or three quarks being an up, down or strange quark or their antiquarks. But in the past two years, LHCb has discovered different kinds of exotic hadrons. Two years ago, the collaboration discovered a tetraquark made up of two charm quarks and two charm antiquarks, and two "open-charm" tetraquarks consisting of a charm antiquark, an up quark, a down quark and a strange antiquark. And last year it found the first-ever instance of a "double open-charm" tetraquark with two charm quarks and an up and a down antiquark. Open charm means that the particle contains a charm quark without an equivalent antiquark.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 2:00 pm

Twitter Sues India's Government Over Content Takedown Orders

Twitter has sued the Indian government to challenge some of its takedown orders, TechCrunch reported Tuesday, further escalating the tension between the American social giant and New Delhi. From a report: In its lawsuit, filed Tuesday, Twitter alleges that New Delhi has abused its power by ordering it to remove several tweets from its platform. The lawsuit follows a rough year and a half for Twitter in India, a key overseas market for the firm, where it has been asked to take down hundreds of accounts and tweets, many of which critics argue were objected because they denounced the Indian government's policies and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 1:00 pm

'The Phone is Terrible For Cloud Gaming'

An anonymous reader shares a column: The promise of cloud gaming is that you can do it from anywhere using any device with internet access and a good enough browser (each cloud gaming service seems to have its own requirements on the browser front). You should be able to play super demanding games whether you're on a work trip with nothing but a work laptop or at home and the main TV is being hogged -- or even if you just don't feel like sitting on the couch. But the biggest promise of cloud gaming is that, no matter where you are, if you've got a phone then you've got all your games. In practice, this is a bad idea. After spending the last few weeks rapturously using my Steam Deck near daily to play games in the cloud, I am never going to willingly attempt cloud gaming on my phone again. Valve's enormous do-anything handheld PC has made me realize that, actually, sometimes dedicated gaming hardware is good! The Swiss Army knife approach to mobile gaming promised by cloud gaming on your phone is about as useful as the saw on a real Swiss Army knife. I appreciate the effort, but I don't actually want to use it. I've tried to make cloud gaming work on my phone a lot. I've attempted Red Dead Redemption 2 and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Halo and Gears of War and plenty of other games. Each time, I'm hit with wonder because, holy shit, these are demanding AAA games that usually require tons of expensive (and noisy) hardware playing on my phone. That feels like the delivery on a promise tech companies made me decades ago. But the wonder wears off when you cloud game on your phone for an extended period of time. Cloud gaming drains the phone's battery quickly, which means you can and will be feeling the battery anxiety.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 7:30 am

Japanese Court Ruling Poised To Make Big Tech Open Up on Algorithms

Japanese legal experts have said an antitrust case related to a local restaurant website could change how large internet platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon operate in the country, forcing them to reveal the inner workings of their secret algorithms. From a report: Last month, a Tokyo court ruled in favour of Hanryumura, a Korean-style BBQ restaurant chain operator in an antitrust case brought against Kakaku.com, operator of Tabelog, Japan's largest restaurant review platform. Hanryumura successfully argued that Kakaku.com had altered the way user scores were tallied in ways that hurt sales at its restaurant outlets. While Kakaku.com has been ordered to pay Hanryumura $284,000 in damages for "abuse of superior bargaining position," the internet company has appealed against the decision. Japanese legal experts said the outcome may have far-reaching implications, as the court requested Kakaku.com to disclose part of its algorithms. While the restaurant group is constrained from publicly revealing what information was shown to it, the court's request set a rare precedent. Big Tech groups have long argued that their algorithms should be considered trade secrets in all circumstances. Courts and regulators across the world have begun to challenge that position, with many businesses having complained about the negative impact caused by even small changes to search and recommendations services.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 4:30 am

Vim 9.0 Released

After many years of gradual improvement Vim now takes a big step with a major release. Besides many small additions the spotlight is on a new incarnation of the Vim script language: Vim9 script. Why Vim9 script: A new script language, what is that needed for? Vim script has been growing over time, while preserving backwards compatibility. That means bad choices from the past often can't be changed and compatibility with Vi restricts possible solutions. Execution is quite slow, each line is parsed every time it is executed. The main goal of Vim9 script is to drastically improve performance. This is accomplished by compiling commands into instructions that can be efficiently executed. An increase in execution speed of 10 to 100 times can be expected. A secondary goal is to avoid Vim-specific constructs and get closer to commonly used programming languages, such as JavaScript, TypeScript and Java. The performance improvements can only be achieved by not being 100% backwards compatible. For example, making function arguments available by creating an "a:" dictionary involves quite a lot of overhead. In a Vim9 function this dictionary is not available. Other differences are more subtle, such as how errors are handled. For those with a large collection of legacy scripts: Not to worry! They will keep working as before. There are no plans to drop support for legacy script. No drama like with the deprecation of Python 2.

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Posted on 5 July 2022 | 1:30 am

Former Top Apple Lawyer Pleads Guilty To Insider Trading

The former top corporate lawyer at Apple pleaded guilty to insider trading charges, for what prosecutors called a five-year scheme to trade ahead of the iPhone maker's quarterly earnings announcements. Gene Levoff, 48, of San Carlos, California, pleaded guilty to six securities fraud charges at a hearing before U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, New Jersey. From a report: Levoff allegedly exploited his roles as corporate secretary, head of corporate law and co-chair of a committee that reviewed drafts of Apple's results to generate $604,000 of illegal gains on more than $14 million of trades from 2011 to 2016. Prosecutors said Levoff ignored the quarterly "blackout periods" that barred trading before Apple's results were released, as well as the company's broader insider trading policy -- which he was responsible for enforcing. "Gene Levoff betrayed the trust of one of the world's largest tech companies for his own financial gain," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna in New Jersey said in a statement.

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Posted on 4 July 2022 | 11:00 pm

SQLite or PostgreSQL? It's Complicated!

Miguel Grinberg, a Principal Software Engineer for Technical Content at Twilio, writes in a blog post: We take blogging very seriously at Twilio. To help us understand what content works well and what doesn't on our blog, we have a dashboard that combines the metadata that we maintain for each article such as author, team, product, publication date, etc., with traffic information from Google Analytics. Users can interactively request charts and tables while filtering and grouping the data in many different ways. I chose SQLite for the database that supports this dashboard, which in early 2021 when I built this system, seemed like a perfect choice for what I thought would be a small, niche application that my teammates and I can use to improve our blogging. But almost a year and a half later, this application tracks daily traffic for close to 8000 articles across the Twilio and SendGrid blogs, with about 6.5 million individual daily traffic records, and with a user base that grew to over 200 employees. At some point I realized that some queries were taking a few seconds to produce results, so I started to wonder if a more robust database such as PostgreSQL would provide better performance. Having publicly professed my dislike of performance benchmarks, I resisted the urge to look up any comparisons online, and instead embarked on a series of experiments to accurately measure the performance of these two databases for the specific use cases of this application. What follows is a detailed account of my effort, the results of my testing (including a surprising twist!), and my analysis and final decision, which ended up being more involved than I expected. [...] If you are going to take one thing away from this article, I hope it is that the only benchmarks that are valuable are those that run on your own platform, with your own stack, with your own data, and with your own software. And even then, you may need to add custom optimizations to get the best performance.

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Posted on 4 July 2022 | 10:00 pm

Government Policies Will Not Get UK To Net Zero, Warns Damning Report

The government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK's net zero targets, its statutory advisers have said, in a damning progress report to parliament. From a report: The Climate Change Committee (CCC) voiced fears that ministers may renege on the legally binding commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, noting "major policy failures" and "scant evidence of delivery." Lord Deben, the chair of the committee and a former Conservative environment secretary, said the government had set strong targets on cutting emissions but policy to achieve them was lacking. "The government has willed the ends, but not the means," he said. "This report showed that present plans will not fulfil the commitments [to net zero]." He said net zero policies were also the best way to reduce the soaring cost of living. Average household bills would be about $151.3 lower today if previous plans on green energy and energy efficiency had been followed through. "If you want to deal with the cost of living crisis, this is exactly what you need to do," he said. The greatest failure was the insulation policy. Britain's homes are the draughtiest in western Europe, heating costs are crippling household budgets, and heating is one of the biggest single sources of carbon emissions, but the government has no plans to help most people insulate their homes.

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Posted on 4 July 2022 | 9:00 pm

Gartner Predicts 9.5% Drop in PC Shipments

The party is over for PC makers as figures from Gartner suggest the market is on course for a breathtaking decline this year. From a report: According to the analysts, worldwide PC shipments will decline by 9.5 percent, with consumer demand leading the way -- a 13.5 percent drop is forecast, far greater than business PC demand, which is expected to drop by 7.2 percent year on year. The PC market in the EMEA region is forecast to fare even worse, with a 14 percent decline on the cards for 2022. Gartner pointed the finger of blame at uncertainty caused by conflicts, price increases and simple unavailability of products. Lockdowns in China were also blamed for an impact in consumer demand. It all makes for grim reading from a channel perspective. While worldwide PC shipments fared the worst, tablet devices are forecast to fall by 9 percent and mobile phones by 7.1 percent. Overall, the total decline over all types of devices in the report is expected to be 7.6 percent. This is in stark contrast to a 11 percent increase year on year in the shipment of PCs in 2021 and 5 per cent for mobile phones.

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Posted on 4 July 2022 | 8:00 pm

The Really Important Job Interview Questions Engineers Should Ask (But Don't)

James Hawkins: Since we started PostHog, our team has interviewed 725 people. What's one thing I've taken from this? It's normal for candidates not to ask harder questions about our company, so they usually miss out on a chance to (i) de-risk our company's performance and (ii) to increase the chances they'll like working here. Does the company have product-market fit? This is the single most important thing a company can do to survive and grow. "Do you ever question if you have product-market fit?" "When did you reach product-market fit? How did you know?" "What do you need to do to get to product-market fit?" "What's your revenue? What was it a year ago?" "How many daily active users do you have?" It's ok if these answers show you the founder doesn't have product market fit. In this case, figure out if they will get to a yes. Unless you want to join a sinking ship, of course! Early stage founders are (or should be) super-mega-extra-desperately keen to have product-market fit -- it's all that really matters. The ones that will succeed are those that are honest about this (or those that have it already) and are prioritizing it. Many will think or say (intentionally or through self-delusion) that they have it when they don't. Low user or revenue numbers and vague answers to the example questions above are a sign that it isn't there. Product-market fit is very obvious.

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Posted on 4 July 2022 | 7:00 pm