Posts tagged after

Now You Can Decide Who Manages Your Facebook Profile After You Die by @mattsouthern

Have you ever put any thought into who you’d trust with managing your Facebook profile when you pass away? I can’t blame you if that has never crossed your mind before, but now Facebook is asking you to think about it with the introduction of the Legacy Contact feature. Now you can choose who will manage your Facebook profile after you die by selecting them as your legacy contact. Once Facebook has been notified that an individual has died, his or her account will be memorialized. When an account is memorialized, a legacy contact will then be able to take over […]

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After Nine Years, Google’s Udi Manber Moves On

Executive had been at Amazon and Yahoo before Google.

The post After Nine Years, Google’s Udi Manber Moves On appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Maybe The Microsoft Surface Isn’t Dead After All

Like the Little Engine That Could, Microsoft’s beleaguered Surface tablet keeps chugging uphill—and refuses to quit.

Its latest achievement: In Microsoft’s latest quarterly earnings report, its Surface line pulled in $1.1 billion in revenue, a 24% increase over the year-earlier period. The company’s flagship tablet, the Pro 3—an expensive but essentially full-fledged Windows machine—led the way.

These number suggest that the Surface, a sore point for Microsoft just a few months ago, may have turned the corner. While Microsoft didn’t break out profit numbers for the Surface, it said greater sales of the Pro 3 improved the “gross margin” of the company’s computing and gaming hardware division.

See also: The Surface Damage Is Mounting At Microsoft

That’s an important turnaround. Just six months ago, a Computerworld analysis suggested that the Surface line had cost Microsoft a total of $1.7 billion in losses.

Microsoft’s cloud revenue grew by 114 percent, marking the sixth consecutive quarter in which commercial cloud revenue has more than doubled. It’s yet another indication, should you need one, that much of Microsoft’s future lies in cloud-related services. 

Overall, the company reported $26.5 billion in revenue for the quarter, up from $23.2 billion a year earlier. Profitability, however, declined, with net income shrinking to $5.9 billion in the quarter from $6.6 billion a year earlier.

Photo by Dan Rowinski for ReadWrite

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Google Attempts to Reclaim Users After Yahoo & Mozilla Deal

In order to recapture some of the users it lost to Yahoo after its deal with Mozilla, Google has released instructions on how to switch back to setting its search engine as the default.

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Microsoft To Offer Free Windows 10 Upgrades For A Year After Release

Windows 10, Microsoft’s attempt to atone for its Windows 8 sins while also positioning itself for the mobile future it’s never really grasped, will be available as a free upgrade for its first year after release.

Microsoft vice president Terry Myerson announced the upgrade plan at a major Windows 10 event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. The upgrade will be available to any computer running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, plus smartphones running Windows Phone 8.1.

The free-upgrade plan, which mirrors Apple’s decision a year and a half ago to distribute its own software upgrades at no charge, is a huge gamble for Microsoft. Sales of Windows licenses represent a goodly chunk of the company’s revenues.

But the company clearly felt the need to make a major play for developers, who so far have largely shunned Microsoft’s mobile platforms and whose allegiance to desktop Windows apps remains in question. If the plan works as intended, the free upgrades should drag most Windows users onto Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system, making it a big, unified and presumably more attractive target for app developers.

“This makes Windows the most attractive development platform ever,” Myerson said. Some of Microsoft’s competitors will doubtless beg to differ. But it’s still a huge move.

Photo by David Hamilton for ReadWrite

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Meet Rocket, Which Says It Isn’t Such A Docker Blocker After All

If 2014 was the year that Docker made application containers sexy, 2015 may be the year that Rocket, from CoreOS, makes them open, secure and composable. (Such containers offer a simple way of packaging and distributing software intended to run across a range of hardware and software platforms.)

See also: Why Docker Is Going To Dominate Your 2015

Alex Polvi

At least, that’s the plan CoreOS founder Alex Polvi laid out a month ago when his company announced a rival runtime that would compete with Docker itself. That plan, unsurprisingly, upset some within the Docker community.

Polvi, however, insists that he comes in peace. In a recent discussion with me, he stressed that while Rocket isn’t really meant to replace Docker, there’s a big demand for a standardized basic container technology—one that Docker itself isn’t providing.

See also: How Not To Manage An Open-Source Community, Courtesy Of Docker

After letting the dust settle for a few weeks, I connected with Polvi to learn how Docker and Rocket compete with—and complement—each other.

Rocket != Docker

ReadWrite: Before anything else, exactly who should be considering Rocket instead of Docker? Is it the same type of user/buyer for both?

Alex Polvi: There are really two buckets of users for Rocket and they could both be considered “platform builders.”

The first set of platform builders are companies like Cloud Foundry, Mesosphere, or cloud service providers (Amazon Web Services, Google, Rackspace) that are building a platform as their product. Rocket allows them to add containers to their platform while keeping the rest of what they do today.

The second set are enterprises that already have an existing environment and want to add containers to it. These would typically be large enterprises that have already invested in their own internal platform and want to layer in containers.

My understanding is that the Docker Platform will be a choice for companies that want vSphere for containers—that is, they want a whole platform off the shelf.

Lastly, I anticipate Rocket always being ahead on security, as that is one of the core design principles behind it. For enterprises that have rigorous security requirements, I think they will find Rocket a better choice over time.

Containers Are Components, Not A Platform

RWYou’ve talked about how Docker’s current direction, i.e., to build out a full container platform, doesn’t square with its original intent. Why does this matter?

AP: Docker started out as a component for building platforms with. A building block. Something you could layer into your existing systems to take advantage of containers. Examples of this in action are Kubernetes or the EC2 Container service. These things use containers as part of a larger system. They have no need for clustering, or host provisioning, or any of that stuff, because they bring it themselves. 

This was the original value prop of Docker, a simple tool to help you build things and why I think it has been so successful to date.

Now Docker is a platform itself, not the building block. Is this bad? No, it is just no longer the ideal component for building systems. That includes our system, where we want to use containers to build an OS.

We think there is still a need for the component to exist for other systems to integrate with. We think the original premise of Docker is still a good one, so we want to make sure it exists. That’s why we built Rocket.

RW: What’s wrong with Docker becoming a platform? Is this just bad for CoreOS, or is it bad for potential enterprise customers, too?

AP: I think the Docker Platform needs to exist. It is not bad for CoreOS, and Docker users are free to run the Docker Platform on CoreOS, which we will continue to support.

Docker Platform and Rocket are distinctly different things. Docker Platform is a product. Rocket is a component. Companies will choose Docker Platform as an alternative to things like Cloud Foundry. Companies like Cloud Foundry will use things like Rocket to build Cloud Foundry.

Walk Before You Run

RWNeil McAllister has criticized Rocket as being “not much,” that it’s “just a prototype.” Is that fair?

AP: When he came to our meet-up, the software was three weeks old. We openly called it a prototype. Please keep in mind Docker was at similar quality levels around March 2013.

RW: So when can we expect to see Rocket as a full-fledged container runtime? And how will it differ from Docker?

AP: It’ll take a little time, but it is moving a lot faster than the Docker project, although we have a lot of ground to catch up on.

Our primary focus is on these three areas:

  1. Security: Making sure we design it from the get-go for environments with the most rigorous security requirements; 
  2. Composability: Rocket can be easily layered into existing projects or environments. We found most of our users have existing environments they want to add containers to, versus swap them out wholesale.
  3. Open Standards: With the App Container spec, we are making a clear stance on our support of open standards around containers. The web is a better place if both Firefox and Chrome exist, because they share open standards. We want this world to exist for containers.

RW: But Docker founder Solomon Hykes keeps insisting that you haven’t actually solved these problems….

AP: I don’t know what he is talking about and I can’t get a response. (Maybe you can?)

If he is criticizing our current feature set, please do realize that Rocket was released a few weeks ago at prototype level. Once we call it 1.0 it will fulfill the goals outlined in the original post.

Where’s The Money In Containers?

RW: Part of Docker’s platform strategy may come down to money: adding functionality to Docker may make it easier to sell. How does CoreOS intend to make money?

AP: We make money today. We sell software. You can see some of the products on our website, like CoreUpdate and CoreOS Enterprise Registry.

We intend to build more products that cater to this emerging space. We build products that could be replaced by companies piecing it all together themselves, but decided to just buy our solution because we make it easier and better than they could have done on their own.

It’s worth nothing that, in general, open source is great at producing components, not products. We will continue to invest in our components—we have nearly 100 open source repos already—and have no intention of directly commercializing them. Examples of this are CoreOS itself (the OS), Rocket, and etcd. 

The components that we choose to build are the ones that do not exist today, but we see as a requirement for this new way of running infrastructure.

On the commercial side we will continue to build full solutions that take advantage of these new technologies. This means our competitors are the internal teams piecing everything together themselves. Very large companies will do this no matter what, as they have huge teams that just build systems to run infrastructure. 

However, we think we can deliver solutions to companies that want the same level of sophistication of the big companies, but don’t want to build it all themselves. 

Innovation vs. Cacophony 

RWGiven there is now at least Docker and Rocket, does this proliferation of competing container technologies pose a threat to enterprise adoption?

AP: Everyone in our emerging space wants customers to be successful with containers. We felt we had to do something—namely in the three areas of security, composability and open standards—to make sure that containers are enterprise ready. We think Rocket helps with this, and encourages Docker to move in the right direction as well.

RW: But my sense is that mainstream users are already sitting on the fence, wondering what to do. Does it concern you that the industry noise could constrain the market? 

AP: Everyone running some sort of web service should definitely take a look at containers. This happens to be a lot of companies, because pretty much every company has some sort of web service now (which is often being developed for mobile apps).

Apps that on a single server and are scaled by throwing more hardware at it are not a good fit for containers.

The most concerning thing to me is if someone’s internal container project fails and they go back to the old way of doing things. This is not good for anyone in this space. 

Lead photo by wirrelwater

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Confronting Video Game Torture, After The CIA’S Report

Editor’s Note: This was originally published by our partners at Kill Screen

The Senate’s report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program recently released to the public is a look into the use of torture on detainees by United States intelligence personnel. And make no mistake, it was a catalogue of nightmares. Much of it we already knew—the CIA’s use of waterboarding, or simulated drowning, was made public in 2007—but the report contained new grisly details, such as the forced rectal feeding and hydration of prisoners.

Response to the report has been divided, with about half of Americans believing that the interrogation methods of the CIA were justified according to a national survey by the Pew Research Center. Primarily, the strongest defenders of the Agency have been conservative politicians, chief among them Associate Justice Anton Scalia of the Supreme Court. During a radio interview following the release of the report, Scalia offered his opinions on the subject:

For more stories about video games and culture, follow@killscreen on Twitter.

“Listen, I think it is very facile for people to say, ‘Oh, torture is terrible.’ You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person? I don’t think that’s so clear at all.”

Scalia’s hypothetical—a bomb planted in Los Angeles—was actually explored in another television program, the second season of 24, in which Jack Bauer’s rough interrogation of a suspected terrorist uncovered information of an impending nuclear attack. In 2007, when accusations of torture by American agents first arose, Scalia gave a similar statement. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles…He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” said Scalia. “Is any jury going to convict Jack Bauer?”

Scalia might be right—not that L.A. is in imminent danger of nuclear holocaust, but that if Jack Bauer can torture someone, even a terrorist, and remain the hero of his TV timeslot, that says a lot about the American relationship to torture.

In Video Games, As On TV …

Of course, television doesn’t hold the monopoly on depictions of torture. Last year’s Grand Theft Auto 5 features an interactive torture scene. In it, Trevor, one of the three playable characters of the game, tortures a hapless victim to gather information for the “FIB,” a thinly veiled allegory to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. 

The most disturbing part of the scene—above the option to waterboard the restrained man with gasoline—might be how cooperative the victim tries to be before each torture sequence. “Are you ready to talk now?” says one of his interrogators, an FIB man. His response: “I’ve been willing to talk since I was kidnapped!” 

See also: One Of The Most Elaborate Alternate Reality Games Ever Is Launching In 2015

It’s eerily prescient, considering that one of the worst details to come out of the CIA torture report was our torture of willing informants. The scene is clearly intended as commentary, but the game still gleefully allows the the player to choose the tool of torture each time.

Both of the recent games in the Far Cry series contain torture, though in Far Cry 4, it’s almost an optional scene—the player can watch while a government agent tortures a suspected terrorist and monologues about family life in America. Far Cry 3’s torture scene, on the other hand, is put center stage: the victim is protagonist Jason Brody’s younger brother, Riley, who Jason must torture to keep his cover as a hardened criminal. As in the GTA 5 sequence, the game implicates you in the torture—you’ve got to hit the button to make Jason deliver some very un-pulled punches.

Clearly, this is supposed to be a horrifying situation. This forced familial violence is darkly and Greekly ironic. After digging his thumb into his brother’s gunshot wound (which is maybe going a little far to sell the act), Jason looks down at his hands and asks “What have I become?”

This is an interesting question. Has Jason become morally compromised? Well, torturing his own brother is pretty evil, yeah. So was killing the last nine Sumatran tigers to make a tote bag. On the other hand, Jason goes on to continue fighting the red-shirted bad guys, trying to save his friends, and generally fighting the good fight. So, if Jason’s question is “What have I become,” one response might be, “Still the hero of this story.”

See also: Twitch Plays Pokemon And The Year In Crowdplaying

While some praised Far Cry 3 or GTA 5 for their writing, many others called them facile, even amateurish. Let’s turn, then, to the narrative powerhouse The Last of Us, which received praise in pretty much all corners for its dark and complex story. When Ellie goes missing, Joel—previously established as a ruthless killer, gun runner and general hard case—restrains two men he thinks might know where she is and tortures them until he gets the information he wants. Then, he kills them both.

So, what does this scene say about Joel? It’s a grisly sequence, and by the end of the game Joel’s humanity is even more compromised, but I would argue that the audience still isn’t against him in the context of this torture scene. His victims were established right away as bad men. They were shooting at him, until he handcuffed one to a radiator and jammed a bowie knife under the other’s kneecap. 

On top of that, everything Joel does is in order to find and protect Ellie, who we know is in danger, and has become personally very dear to the player by this point in the game with her sassy tongue and heart of gold. Joel’s use of torture is grim, but I think most people would feel that it was, in context, necessary.

These aren’t isolated cases, either. In Splinter Cell: Conviction, the “interrogation” button is synonymous with smashing someone’s head through a dirty urinal, which Sam Fisher does without a second thought. In Call of Duty: Black Ops, two of the main characters place a shard of glass in someones mouth before socking him in the jaw in order to get him to talk. Even in the far-off future of Mass Effect 2, a Commander Shepard indulging in a renegade prompt can, during an interrogation with a crime boss, bloody his nose and threaten to “cut his balls off and sell them to a krogan.” Why any krogan would want to buy them is, thankfully, left unsaid.

The Myth Of  “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

A pattern begins to emerge when these individual portrayals of torture are examined as a whole. Yes, video games understand that torture is bad; often, it is portrayed as gruesome and even evil. The problem is that games keep putting their protagonists in the role of torturer. Regardless of whether they are willing, enthusiastic torturers, or driven by desperation, they’re more often than not the heroes of their story. They are the Jack Bauers, if you will, and few players would convict them.

If developers want to use torture in their games to make them more “gritty” and dark, of course, that’s their right. It becomes problematic when the portrayal of torture in nearly every game fails to address one of the most divisive sides of the issue: its effectiveness in providing reliable information.

Consider this: never, in any game, does a character get unreliable information from a victim of torture. Joel finds where Ellie is being kept, Sam Fisher finds the terrorists, and—even while monologuing about the ineffectiveness of torture—Trevor gets the information he needs for a successful assassination. Compare this incredibly high success rate with the findings of the report, which were that “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually provided very little actionable intelligence. 

See also: The Year Video Games Got Funny Again

That’s G-man talk for accurate information; almost every successful operation in the torture report was driven by information gathered from bribes, willing informants and wires, not torture. In games, though, torture works. It may be an evil action, only undertaken by the most desperate of heroes, but it works. This leads me to wonder if the reason that 51 percent of Americans feel that the CIA was justified in its use of torture is because of our entertainment, whether it’s 24 or The Last of Us, which shows that torture is effective, rather than frequently misleading, as it is in reality.

A close look at these portrayals of torture points to either cognitive dissonance or an exceptionally cynical, Machiavellian mindset that is, on reflection, parallel to America’s own tumultuous and questionable relationship with torture. These games, intentionally or not, posit that we, as players, may do a bad thing, but as long as we’re doing it for the right reasons, we can still be the hero of the story.

More From Kill Screen

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Report: Yahoo Search Share Up After Firefox Deal, Google Down

According to new data from StatCounter, Yahoo has seen a nearly 2 point search market share gain in the US in the past month. Attributing it to the recent Yahoo-Firefox default search deal, StatCounter reported that Yahoo had a share of 10.4 percent vs. 8.6 percent a year ago. Google had a December…

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Yahoo Search Back Online After 4+ Hour Outage; Bing Went Down Earlier Friday

Outage seems to have hit around 2:30 pm ET.

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Duane Forrester Returns To Bing After Being Laid Off From Microsoft Two Months Ago

Bing re-hires Duane Forrester after letting him go two months ago. Duane Forrester will be working in basically the same role as before.

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