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It's a 'Cold War Every Day' Inside Apple's IS&T Group

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via BuzzFeed News: A group inside Apple called Information Systems & Technology, or IS&T, builds much of the company's internal technology tools -- from servers and data infrastructure to retail and corporate sales software -- and operates in a state of tumult. IS&T is made up largely of contractors hired by rival consulting companies, and its dysfunction has led to a rolling state of war. "It's a huge contractor org that handles a crazy amount of infrastructure for the company," one ex-employee who worked closely with IS&T told me. "That whole organization is a Game of Thrones nightmare." Interviews with multiple former IS&T employees and its internal clients paint a picture of a division in turmoil, where infighting regularly prevents the creation of useful software, and whose contract workers are treated as disposable parts. "There's a Cold War going on every single day," Archana Sabapathy, a former IS&T contractor who did two stints in the division, told me. Sabapathy's first stint at IS&T lasted more than three years, the second only a day. Inside the division, she said, contracting companies such as Wipro, Infosys, and Accenture are constantly fighting to fill roles and win projects, which are handed out largely on the basis of how cheaply they can staff up to Apple's needs. "They're just fighting for the roles," Sabapathy told me. "That's all they care about, not the work, not the deliverables, the effort they put in, or even talent. They're not looking for any of those aspects." IS&T is thus filled with vendor tribalism, where loyalty to one's contracting company trumps all. "Making a friendship is -- like you wouldn't even think about that," Sabapathy told me, speaking of cross-vendor relationships. "It's not the traditional American way of working anymore. You build relationships when you come to work because you spend most of your time here -- that's not there." "Sabapathy told [BuzzFeed's Alex Kantrowitz] Apple employees' expectations for their IS&T contractors were unrealistic given that they saw the sum total they were paying the consulting companies ($150 to $120 an hour, she said) but the contractors themselves were making much less ($40 to $55 an hour) after the companies took their cut," writes Kantrowitz. "The approach leaves Apple with lesser contractors but the same high demands, a recipe for disappointment." In closing, Kantrowitz suggests if Apple wants to become inventive again, "it will need to give its employees more time to develop new ideas." He adds: "IS&T could therefore become a division of strength at Apple one day, building tools that minimize work that supports existing products while making room for those ideas. But until Apple gives the division a hard look, its employees will be stuck spending their time reworking broken internal software, and wishing they were inventing instead."

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Trump Threatens To Withhold Funding For World Health Organization

What better way to celebrate World Health Day than by threatening to withhold funding for the World Health Organization. That's exactly what President Trump said he was considering today at Tuesday's coronavirus press briefing. The New York Times reports: "We're going to put a hold on money spent to the W.H.O.; we're going to put a very powerful hold on it and we're going to see," Mr. Trump said, accusing the organization of having not been aggressive enough in confronting the dangers from the virus. "They called it wrong. They call it wrong. They really they missed the call." Mr. Trump appeared to be particularly angry at the W.H.O. for issuing a statement saying it did not support his decision on Jan. 31 to restrict some travel from China because of the virus. At the time, the group issued a statement saying that "restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions." "Don't close your borders to China, don't do this," Mr. Trump said, paraphrasing the group and accusing the organization of "not seeing" the outbreak when it started in Wuhan, China. "They didn't see it, how do you not see it? They didn't see it. They didn't report it. If they did see it, they must have seen it, but they didn't report." In fact, the W.H.O. repeatedly issued statements about the emergence of the virus in China and its movement around the world. The budget for the W.H.O. is about $5 billion and comes from member countries around the world. "In 2017, the last year for which figures were available, the United States was required to spend $111 million based on the organization's rules, but sent an additional $401 million in voluntary contributions," reports The New York Times. Trump said his government will investigate the organization and that "we will look at ending funding." It's unclear if he's planning to eliminate all funding, or only some.

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WeWork Sues SoftBank In Intensifying Crisis Over Canceled $3 Billion Tender Offer

Just days after SoftBank announced that it would not consummate its $3 billion tender offer for WeWork shares that would have bought out some of the equity held by the company's co-founder Adam Neumann along with venture capital firms like Benchmark and many individual company employees, the company is now retaliating, suing SoftBank over alleged breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. TechCrunch reports: In a press statement this morning, the Special Committee of WeWork's board said that it "regrets the fact that SoftBank continues to put its own interests ahead of those of WeWork's minority stockholders." WeWork's Special Committee argues that SoftBank already received the benefits of the contract it signed last year, which included board control provisions. It's demanding that SoftBank either complete the transaction, or offer cash to cover damages related to its scuttling of the deal. Under the terms of the tender offer proposed in November last year, SoftBank would buy upwards of $3 billion in shares from existing shareholders with the transaction closing at the beginning of April. As part of the terms of that contract, the co-working company and SoftBank agreed to a set of performance milestones that WeWork agreed to meet in exchange for the secondary liquidity. Such terms are customary in most financial transactions. SoftBank in its statement last week said that WeWork failed to meet a number of those performance requirements, and said that it was within its rights under the tender offer contract to walk away from the deal. WeWork's financials have been rocked by the global pandemic of novel coronavirus, which has seen the company's co-working facilities mostly closed worldwide as part of public health mandates for social distancing. Given the disagreement between the parties, a lawsuit was all but inevitable.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Sets Aside $1 Billion In Square Equity For Coronavirus Relief

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Tuesday he will set aside $1 billion in his Square equity to support relief efforts for COVID-19 and other causes once the pandemic is over. In a series of tweets, Dorsey said that after the pandemic is over, he will dedicate the money to causes like universal basic income (UBI) and girls' health and education. He said he's pulling the shares from his stake in Square instead of Twitter because he own more stock in the Square. Dorsey said he'll cash in the shares over time. "The impact this money will have should benefit both companies over the long-term because it's helping the people we want to serve," Dorsey said on Twitter. Dorsey said that he wants to see the impact of his donation during his lifetime, and that "the needs are increasingly urgent." He also said he hopes it will inspire others to "do something similar." Dorsey also tweeted a link to a public Google Doc where people can track which organizations the fund's money will go to. Dorsey isn't the only technologist to support relief efforts for COVID-19. Yesterday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said his foundation will spend billions of dollars on coronavirus vaccine development. Amazon's Jeff Bezos said he's donating $100 million to U.S. food banks. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated $25 million toward creating treatments for coronavirus through their philanthropic organization.

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PS5's Controller, the DualSense, Revealed

Sony has revealed the DualSense, PlayStation 5's new controller that will "bring a sense of touch to PS5 gameplay." IGN reports: Announced on PlayStation.Blog, the DualSense will keep "much of what gamers love about DualShock 4 intact, while also adding new functionality and refining the design." Touch was a big inspiration when designing the DualSense, and haptic feedback is one of the ways this new controller will help bring PS5 games to life. Sony mentions that this feedback will add " a variety of powerful sensations you'll feel when you play, such as the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud." Adaptive triggers have also been incorporated to the L2 and R2 buttons, which will help players "feel the tension of your actions, like when drawing a bow to shoot an arrow." The angle of the hand triggers were changed and some subtle updates were made to the grip. One thing that will be missing from the DualSense is the "Share" button that was featured on the DualShock 4. Sharing from the controller is not gone, but that previous button was replaced by the new "Create" button. Sony promises more details will be revealed on this change as we get closer to PlayStation 5's launch. DualSense will also have a built-in microphone array that will allow players to easily chat with friends, even for those who don't own a headset. As for the controller's color, it is a bit of a non-traditional design as far as PlayStation is concerned. Usually, PlayStation controllers have a single color, but the DualSense has a two-toned design to make it stand apart. Additionally, the position of the light bar, which will be returning, was moved to "give it an extra pop." Now, the light bar sits on either side of the touch pad, as opposed to the top of the controller. Here's a picture of the front of the controller:

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Google Backs Apple's SMS OTP Standard Proposal

Google is now backing a standard proposed by Apple engineers in January to create a default format for one-time passcodes (OTP) sent via SMS to users during the two-factor authentication (2FA) process. From a report: The standard, proposed by Apple engineers working on the Safari WebKit project, has now reached the status of official Web Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG) specification draft. "We've moved 'Origin-bound one-time codes delivered via SMS' to @wicg_, where we're working on a shared spec with our collaborators at Google. Please take a look! Updated explainer, and specification," wrote Apple's Ricky Mondello. The proposal aims to fix some issues with the current state of SMS 2FA/OTP codes, all of which have different formats, unique per the websites sending the codes.

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Samsung's Older Smart TVs Are Losing Remote Control App Support

Samsung is killing its Smart View app for Android and iOS, which serves as a remote control for its older smart TVs. From a report: The company has updated the application's descriptions to announce that it will no longer be supported starting on October 5th. Android Police first spotted the changes and noted that, in addition to its capability as a remote control, Smart View can also beam music and media to the company's TVs. It's unclear how Samsung defines "older" -- hence which all models will be impacted.

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Oil Companies Are Collapsing, but Wind and Solar Energy Keep Growing

A few years ago, the kind of double-digit drop in oil and gas prices the world is experiencing now because of the coronavirus pandemic might have increased the use of fossil fuels and hurt renewable energy sources like wind and solar farms. That is not happening. From a report: In fact, renewable energy sources are set to account for nearly 21 percent of the electricity the United States uses for the first time this year, up from about 18 percent last year and 10 percent in 2010, according to one forecast published last week. And while work on some solar and wind projects has been delayed by the outbreak, industry executives and analysts expect the renewable business to continue growing in 2020 and next year even as oil, gas and coal companies struggle financially or seek bankruptcy protection. In many parts of the world, including California and Texas, wind turbines and solar panels now produce electricity more cheaply than natural gas and coal. That has made them attractive to electric utilities and investors alike. It also helps that while oil prices have been more than halved since the pandemic forced most state governments to order people to stay home, natural gas and coal prices have not dropped nearly as much. Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. That's because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels.

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Xbox Co-creator Rob Wyatt Sues Atari For Failing To Pay Him for Design of VCS Console

Xbox co-creator Rob Wyatt has filed a lawsuit against Atari for failing to pay him for the design work he did in creating the Atari VCS console. From a report: Tin Giant, Wyatt's company, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Colorado, alleging breach of contract and defamation. Tin Giant said that Atari owes it in excess of $261,720. Wyatt, a co-creator of the Xbox and cofounder of The Last Gameboard, said in an interview last year that he quit as lead architect for Atari. He alleged that Atari did not pay his company, Tin Giant, for six months of work. Atari CEO Fred Chesnais declined to comment in a statement, saying that he had not received a copy of the lawsuit yet. Atari has not developed a game console for more than 20 years.

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Zuckerberg's Jealousy Held Back Instagram and Drove Off Founders

The Facebook CEO promised Kevin Systrom independence, but a new book shows that the promise only lasted until Instagram started to look like the favorite son. From a report: By the end of 2016, just as Zuckerberg's company was facing its first controversies related to Donald Trump's election, Zuckerberg was focused on a different kind of threat. Typical Facebook users were posting fewer of their own thoughts and photos, and Zuckerberg suspected Instagram's successful copying of Snapchat Stories was to blame. (The success came as a surprise even to Zuckerberg, who unbeknownst to Systrom had again tried and failed to buy Snapchat shortly before Instagram Stories debuted.) He enlisted his most trusted data scientists to study whether Instagram was becoming a Facebook alternative and threatening its dominance. Zuckerberg thought the research showed that Instagram would start eating into Facebook's user base within six months. The word "cannibalization" started to creep into his management meetings. Systrom disagreed with Zuckerberg's assessment of the data. "This is not Instagram taking away from the Facebook pie to add to the Instagram pie," he told Zuckerberg at a weekly Monday leadership meeting. "The total pie is getting bigger." It wasn't just Instagram vs. Facebook. It was all of these Facebook properties vs. every other choice in the world, like Netflix, Snapchat, Twitter, and, you know, sleep. Others in the room sided with Systrom. They were puzzled by Zuckerberg's apparent jealousy of Instagram's success. Zuckerberg had always said Facebook should reinvent itself before a competitor got the chance and that the company should make the decisions about how to do so based on data. "If we don't create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will," the booklet passed out at employee orientation reads. Yet Zuckerberg couldn't seem to bear the idea that Instagram might outshine Facebook. He told Systrom he believed Instagram Stories was successful not because of its design, but because they'd happened to release the feature ahead of Facebook Stories. Facebook had helped Instagram long enough, he decided. In 2018, Instagram would have to start giving back. Instagram users barely noticed Zuckerberg's first change. He ordered Systrom to build a prominent link within the Instagram app that would send his users to Facebook. Around the same time, he had his own engineers remove the prominent link to Instagram on Facebook's site. Zuckerberg's willingness to expand Instagram's team had waned, too. He balked at adding engineers to facilitate the release of IGTV, even though Instagram was on track to hit 1 billion users and $10 billion in revenue that year.

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In a First, China Knocks US From Top Spot in Global Patent Race

China was the biggest source of applications for international patents in the world last year, pushing the United States out of the top spot it has held since the global system was set up more than 40 years ago, the U.N. patent agency said on Tuesday. From a report: The World Intellectual Property Organization, which oversees a system for countries to share recognition of patents, said 58,990 applications were filed from China last year, beating out the United States which filed 57,840. China's figure was a 200-fold increase in just 20 years, it said. The United States had filed the most applications in the world every year since the Patent Cooperation Treaty system was set up in 1978. More than half of patent applications -- 52.4 % -- now come from Asia, with Japan ranking third, followed by Germany and South Korea. [...] According to the WIPO data, China's Huawei, the world's biggest maker of telecoms equipment, was the top corporate patent filer for the third consecutive year.

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Microsoft Announces IPE, a New Code Integrity Feature for Linux

Microsoft has revealed details about a new project it has been working on for Linux kernel. From a report: Named Integrity Policy Enforcement -- or IPE -- the project is a Linux security module (LSM). LSMs are optional add-ons for the Linux kernel that enable additional security features. According to a documentation page published on Monday, IPE is Microsoft's attempt to solve the code integrity problem for Linux -- an operating system the company broadly uses in its Azure cloud service. On Linux systems where IPE is enabled, system administrators can create a list of binaries that are allowed to execute and then add the verification attributes the kernel needs to check for each binary before allowing it to run. If binaries have been altered by an attacker, IPE can block the execution of the malicious code.

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Firefox 75 Arrives With Revamped Address Bar; Mozilla To Stick With 2020 Schedule

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 75 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Firefox 75 includes a revamped address bar with significant search improvements, a few performance tweaks, and a handful of developer features. You can download Firefox 75 for desktop now from Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider. When the coronavirus crisis took hold, millions found themselves spending more time in their browsers as they learn and work from home. But the crisis is also impacting software developers. Google was forced to pause its Chrome releases, which typically arrive every six weeks. Ultimately, Chrome 81 was delayed, Chrome 82 is being skipped altogether, and Chrome 83 has been moved up a few weeks. Microsoft has followed suit with Edge's release schedule, consistent with Google's open source Chromium project, which both Chrome and Edge are based on. Mozilla wants to make clear it is not in the same boat. The company took an indirect jab at Google and Microsoft today, saying: "We've built empathy into our systems for handling difficult or unexpected circumstances. These strengths are what allow us to continue to make progress where some of our competitors have had to slow down or stop work."

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As School Moves Online, Many Students Stay Logged Out

Teachers at some schools across the country report that fewer than half of their students are participating in online learning. From a report: Chronic absenteeism is a problem in American education during the best of times, but now, with the vast majority of the nation's school buildings closed and lessons being conducted remotely, more students than ever are missing class -- not logging on, not checking in or not completing assignments. The absence rate appears particularly high in schools with many low-income students, whose access to home computers and internet connections can be spotty. Some teachers report that fewer than half of their students are regularly participating. The trend is leading to widespread concern among educators, with talk of a potential need for summer sessions, an early start in the fall, or perhaps having some or even all students repeat a grade once Americans are able to return to classrooms. Students are struggling to connect in districts large and small. Los Angeles said last week that about a third of its high school students were not logging in for classes. And there are daunting challenges for rural communities like Minford, Ohio, where many students live in remote wooded areas unserved by internet providers.

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Microsoft Buys Corp.com So Bad Guys Can't

Brian Krebs: In February, KrebsOnSecurity told the story of a private citizen auctioning off the dangerous domain corp.com for the starting price of $1.7 million. Domain experts called corp.com dangerous because years of testing showed whoever wields it would have access to an unending stream of passwords, email and other sensitive data from hundreds of thousands of Microsoft Windows PCs at major companies around the globe. This week, Microsoft agreed to buy the domain in a bid to keep it out of the hands of those who might abuse its awesome power.

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