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Google wins retrial over its use of Java in Android

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

A jury in San Francisco today cleared Google of copyright infringement in a case brought by Oracle over Google’s use of Java in Android.

The jury of eight women and two men took three days of deliberation to reach its verdict. Oracle was seeking up to $9 billion in damages, making it a huge victory for Google and its legal team. 

Oracle’s lawyers sat stoney-faced. The reaction from Google’s legal team was also muted at first, though they stood smiling and embraced after the jury was led out of the room. But Oracle said it will appeal, so the case will yet drag on.

A previous jury failed to reach an agreement on the fair-use question, and there was a chance this jury might have done the same. In the earlier case, a majority of jurors concluded Google’s use of Java was fair, but a unanimous jury decision is required.

At issue was Google’s decision to copy 37 Java application programming interfaces, including thousands of lines of “declaring” code, into its Android operating system.

Since the trial began on May 10, the jury has heard evidence from a parade of Silicon Valley bigwigs including Google’s Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, and former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Google’s message to the jury was that Sun intended Java to be free for anyone to use, which is why it made the Java language open source in the first place. It cited a blog post from Schwartz, congratulating Google on Android’s release, as evidence that Sun had no problem with Google’s use of Java. (Oracle later bought Sun.)

Oracle’s lawyers painted a very different picture. Google was desperate to get its mobile operating system to market quickly, they told the jury, and after failing to secure a licensing deal with Sun, Google went ahead and used Java anyway. They dismissed Schwartz’s blog post as a way to make Android look like a win for Sun.

“They knew they were breaking the rules, they knew they were taking shortcuts, and they knew it was wrong,” Peter Bicks, an attorney for Oracle, told the jury in his closing statement.

But the jury didn’t buy Oracle’s argument.

The outcome is a small victory for software developers, who were alarmed by an earlier decision in the case that application programming interfaces can be protected under U.S. copyright law.

Many developers had assumed APIs weren’t eligible for protection, viewing them as functional elements of software that are required to make two programs interoperate.

The earlier decision that APIs are protected still stands, meaning some developers may be wary of using another company’s APIs without permission. But the fact that Google’s fair-use defense prevailed could make large vendors like Oracle think twice about bringing similar lawsuits in future.

Google originally argued that APIs like those in Java aren’t eligible for copyright protection. The federal district court judge in the case agreed, but an appeals court overturned his ruling. Google asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the matter, but it declined.

Google’s defense turned next to the legal doctrine of fair use, which allows copying of creative works under limited circumstances, most commonly for things like criticism, satire, and educational use.

The jury had to consider four factors in deciding whether Google’s use was fair. They included whether its use of Java was “transformative,” meaning it created something new and different from the original copyright work, which in this case was Java Standard Edition.

The jurors also had to consider the extent to which Android harmed Java in the marketplace. Google’s lawyers argued that Sun never succeeded in the smartphone market because it never built a decent smartphone OS — not because of Android.

It’s a civil case, which means Google had to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that its use of Java was fair. That’s a lower burden than in a criminal trial, when Google would have had to prove its case “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Twitter open-sources Heron for real-time stream analytics

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Heron, the real-time stream-processing system Twitter devised as a replacement for Apache Storm, is finally being open-sourced after powering Twitter for more than two years.

Twitter explained in a blog post that it created Heron because it needed more than speed and scale from its real-time stream processing framework. The company also needed easier debugging, easier deployment and management capabilities, and the ability to work well in a shared, multitenant cluster environment.

Apache Storm was the original solution to Twitter’s problems. It was created by a marketing intelligence company called BackType, and Twitter bought the company in 2011 and eventually open-sourced Storm, providing it to the Apache Foundation.

There’s no question Storm has a lot of advantages. It’s scalable and fault-tolerant, with a decent ecosystem of “spouts,” or systems for receiving data from established sources. But it was reputedly also hard to work with and hard to get good results from, and despite a recent 1.0 renovation, it’s been challenged by other projects, including Apache Spark and its own revised streaming framework.

Rather than reuse an existing software project, Twitter elected to start from scratch with a container- and cluster-based design, outlined in a paper released last year. The user creates Heron jobs, or “topologies,” and submits them to a scheduling system, which launches the topology in a series of containers.

The scheduler can be any of a number of popular schedulers, like Apache Mesos or Apache Aurora. Storm, by contrast, has to be manually provisioned on clusters to add scale.

One smart decision by Twitter early on was to make Heron backward-compatible with Storm’s API. This was a practical choice on Twitter’s part, since it meant that existing Storm spouts and bolts could be reused in Heron. But it means anyone else with an existing investment in Storm can make the switch to Heron with less effort than it would take to make use of another project.

That should give existing Storm users some incentive to check out Heron. Twitter claims it’s been able to gain anywhere from two to five times an improvement in “efficiency” (basically, lower opex and capex) with Heron, and now others looking for a way to speed up their stream processing can find out for themselves.

Business users get live chat in Office Online

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Microsoft’s attempts to catch up with Google in the online collaboration space took a step forward Wednesday, when the company announced that it’s giving business users live chat in Office Online. 

The new feature will allow users to discuss documents stored in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business using chat sessions powered by Skype for Business.

When more than one person is working on a shared document inside Word, Excel, OneNote, or PowerPoint Online, they’ll see a chat button show up in the Web app’s toolbar. When clicked, it’ll open a chat sidebar so everyone with the document open can discuss it. 

It’s an enterprise-grade improvement to the Skype chat Microsoft already offers for consumers using Office Online, as part of the company’s push to better compete with other productivity suites that feature real-time collaboration. Skype for Business chats compliment other functionality in Office Online, like support for real-time co-authoring of documents shared between users.

The chats aren’t designed to replace traditional document collaboration tools like leaving comments and tracking changes, but they can help a team of people all looking at the same document to better work together in a more rapid-fire way. 

It’s a feature that has been core to the Google Docs productivity suite for quite some time, and this update means that businesses using Office 365 have another reason to consider sticking with Microsoft rather than switching to one of its competitors. 

Microsoft has recently rolled out a number of other updates to Office, including new watch face support in Outlook on Android Wear and the launch of SharePoint for iOS, which the company announced earlier this month

In addition, Microsoft is offering discounts for consumers who want to buy either Office 365 Home or its subscription-free Office Home and Student 2016 software. 

Salesforce picks AWS as preferred public cloud provider

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Salesforce has named Amazon Web Services as its preferred public cloud provider for services like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and App Cloud, expanding an existing partnership to provide the back end for the software-as-a-service provider.

AWS already hosts several Salesforce services like Heroku, SalesforceIQ, and the recently announced IoT Cloud. This latest deal will help Salesforce to expand internationally without having to build its own data centers in order to comply with local data sovereignty laws. 

That’s important as Salesforce tries to pick up more customers in countries that have strict requirements about where data is stored. Salesforce isn’t the only company to turn to AWS in this capacity: Dropbox will store data with AWS in Germany starting later this year

The news means that Amazon, already the public cloud leader, will be getting money from one of the biggest success stories in the SaaS market. It comes at a time when Amazon is locked in a tight battle with other providers, including Microsoft and Google. 

For Amazon, the deal means it should get more revenue from Salesforce as that company continues to grow. It’s also a vote of confidence for AWS that could help it win more SaaS customers. 

Not surprisingly, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff heaped praise on Amazon.

“There is no public cloud infrastructure provider that is more sophisticated or has more robust enterprise capabilities for supporting the needs of our growing global customer base,” he said in a statement.

That’s an implicit snub at Microsoft, Google and Amazon’s other competitors in the public cloud market, which Salesforce could have chosen as part of this push.

Of course, it would be strange for Salesforce to bet on Microsoft Azure. While it’s partnered with the Redmond-based company in some areas, the two compete against each other in the CRM market. 

What’s old is new again with MIT’s latest bug finder

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Debugging code is a perennial headache for software developers, but scientists have announced a new technique that could make the process significantly easier.

Developed at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the University of Maryland, the method essentially bridges the gap between the traditional technique of symbolic execution and today’s modern software, making it possible to debug code far more efficiently.

Symbolic execution is a software analysis technique that can be used to locate and repair bugs automatically by tracing out every path a program might take during execution. The problem is, that technique doesn’t tend to work well with applications written using today’s programming frameworks.

That’s because modern applications generally import functions from those frameworks, which include huge libraries of frequently reused code. Analyzing just the application itself might not be a problem, but the process becomes prohibitively time-consuming if the analyzer also has to evaluate every possible instruction for, say, adding a button to a window, including the position of the button on the screen, its movement when a user scrolls up and down, the way it changes appearance when it’s pressed, and so on.

“Forty years ago, if you wanted to write a program, you went in, you wrote the code, and basically all the code you wrote was the code that executed,” said Armando Solar-Lezama, an associate professor at MIT, whose group led the work. “Today, you go and bring in these huge frameworks and these huge pieces of functionality that you then glue together, and you write a little code to get them to interact with each other. If you don’t understand what that big framework is doing, you’re not even going to know where your program is going to start executing.”

To get around the problem, computer scientists often go through a time-consuming and error-prone process of creating models of the imported libraries that describe their interactions with new programs but don’t require their code to be evaluated line by line. In the new study, presented last week at the International Conference on Software Engineering, the researchers created a system that constructs those models automatically.

Dubbed Pasket, the system produced promising results.

“The scalability of Pasket is impressive — in a few minutes, it synthesized nearly 2,700 lines of code,” said Rajiv Gupta, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California at Riverside. “Moreover, the generated models compare favorably with manually created ones.”

DoppioJVM brings JVM apps to the browser

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Expanding possibilities for using conventional programming languages on the Web, the DoppioJVM project brings JVM programs to the browser.

Still just a beta-quality research project, open source DoppioJVM leverages the Doppio JavaScript runtime to run unmodified JVM programs in the browser, hooking up with Java APIs that interact with OS resources, said developer John Vilk, a student at the University of Massachusetts.

Both Doppio and DoppioJVM were written in TypeScript, which compiles to JavaScript. “Our ambitions [for Doppio] are to make it easier for developers to re-use existing programs and code written in conventional programming languages on the Web,” Vilk noted.

Programs written in conventional programming languages, such as C++ and Java, expect a traditional operating system environment. To that end, Doppio emulates OS services like blocking I/IO and a file system in JavaScript on top of existing browser APIs. Doppio’s file system, a standalone library called BrowserFS, emulates the Node.js file system API and ships as a standalone library.

DoppioJVM is Java 8-compatible and leverages an unmodified version of the Java 8 OpenJDK Java Class Library for compatibility with a range of software.

For now, DoppioJVM is hard to integrate into Web pages because the focus has been more on compatibility than usability, said Vilk. “It needs more documentation and an integration guide before it’s ready for 1.0. At the moment, you need to build it from source if you want to use it.”

Vilk also noted that while DoppioJVM has excellent compatibility, it could be much faster. It can execute programs written in most JVM languages, including Java, Clojure, Scala, JRuby, and Jython, since it can run those languages out of their JAR files. It requires no plug-ins and is compatible with unmodified JVM programs, but it has been is slower than a native JVM. The technology has served as the default JVM for JavaPoly.js, a library that polyfills native JVM support in the browser.

Dropbox wants to speed up Python with Pyston 0.5

Posted by on 26 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

After months of silence, the Pyston project — a Dropbox-sponsored initiative to create a high-performance, JIT-compiling Python runtime — has announced a new version.

The bad news: Pyston 0.5 is slower than previous versions. The good news: It’s also more compatible.

According to a post on the official Pyston project blog, version 0.5 features support for reference counting (“refcounting”), the memory management methodology used by the Python’s original CPython implementation. Originally, Pyston ran a more sophisticated tracing garbage collector, but it created serious compatibility problems with existing programs.

Rather than try to make Pyston’s garbage collection system backward-compatible with the expectations of existing Python applications, Pyston’s developers decided to ditch the tracing garbage collector altogether and go back to a refcounting system like the one Python originally employed.

One of Python’s most important packages, NumPy, widely used in mathematical, scientific, and financial applications, can now run as-is in Pyston. Other libraries that Pyston’s developers described as “tricky,” such as cffi (the C Foreign Function Interface, a third-party system for linking Python and C libraries), also now work.

Steps forward and back

On the other hand, Pyston took a performance hit as a result of this change of horses. Pyston 0.5 is “about 10 percent slower” than version 0.4, but Pyston’s developers are confident the problem isn’t insurmountable. They say it’s mainly a product of focusing first on getting refcounting running rather than optimizing it completely.

Some of the slowdown with NumPy, for instance, is due to calls from C code back into the Python runtime, which is not yet optimized in Pyston.

Performance will be a priority for version 0.6, say Pyston’s developers, with an interim 0.51 release coming soon to apply quick-and-dirty performance fixes. Pyston currently supports only Python 2, but Python 3 compatibility is cited as a long-term goal.

More ways to go faster

Aside from Pyston, Python developers are exploring several strategies for a faster runtime. One, long established and widely adopted, is the PyPy runtime, which also uses JIT compilation. Another possibility is a series of projects that will attempt to speed up the stock CPython runtime — not orders of magnitude faster, but incrementally so.

A third project, Pyjion, is a Microsoft initiative that adds a JIT interface to CPython. This way, accelerators can be plugged into the existing Python runtime, granting both high speed and strong backward compatibility. Microsoft has plans for a JIT based on the one in the CoreCLR that could be plugged into such an API.

Backward compatibility has been a lingering bugbear for speeding up Python. Many projects allow Python acceleration, typically at the cost of breaking existing Python applications and libraries. Or they involve changes to Python’s syntax that yield the same net result. The Holy Grail of all the advantages and none of the drawbacks remains elusive — though based on the enthusiasm shown by Pyston’s developers and their cohorts, it’s not out of reach.

Salesforce brings cross-channel service a step closer with new ‘Snap-ins’

Posted by on 25 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

You can’t always bring customers to your best customer-service tools, but now you can bring those tools to them thanks to a new addition announced Wednesday for Salesforce’s Service Cloud.

Dubbed Service Cloud Lightning Snap-ins, the new offering allows organizations of any size to take key support features from Salesforce’s Service Cloud and “drop” them into their websites or mobile apps. Case-management and live-chat capabilities can now be added to mobile and Web apps, for example, and a tap-to-call feature is available for Android and iOS.

A new module enabling two-way video chat, meanwhile, allows customers and agents to see each other. A customer could also use a smartphone’s front-facing camera to show the agent the problem at hand.

“Customers today expect service that is smart, personalized and fast — wherever and whenever they are interacting with a brand,” said Mike Milburn, general manager and senior vice president for Service Cloud.

Sixty-one percent of consumers use multiple channels to resolve customer-service issues, so it’s essential for companies to connect with them across channels, Salesforce said.

Service Cloud Lightning targets customer-service departments, and the Snap-ins are designed to make their service more personalized via SDKs (software development kits) for Web and mobile. The idea is that agents can use contextual customer details from app data to point customers to the right solutions quickly.

Last year, Salesforce launched Service for Apps to help companies integrate Service Cloud into mobile apps. Now, it’s extending that in-app service to websites and Web apps and simplifying the process through the new SDKs.

Service Cloud Lightning is available in editions starting at $75 per user per month; most Snap-in functions are priced separately. Snap-in SDKs are expected to be generally available next month and will be included for users with a Service Cloud Lightning enterprise or unlimited license at no additional cost.

Ansible 2.1 gets a grip on Microsoft Azure and Docker

Posted by on 25 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

When popular IT automation framework Ansible was acquired by Red Hat, the question had to be asked: What’s going to change? Would Ansible be geared to support Red Hat’s products?

It didn’t seem that way with Ansible 2.0 when it debuted back in January with a host of generic improvements to its scripting handling. Version 2.1, though, brings broader support for containers, Microsoft Windows, and Microsoft Azure, technologies Red Hat has either invested itself in heavily or partnered with. But the changes remain high-level, not coupled to anything Red Hat does.

The Azure-specific additions include support for Azure Resource Manager, which uses templates and RBACs to consistently and repeatably deploy resources for applications. It’s the kind of work Ansible itself might do, so having Ansible leverage Azure’s methods makes plenty of sense.

With Windows generally, Ansible can now manage other parts of the OS, such as Windows file sharing and the firewall, and it can use NTLM directly, instead of Kerberos, to manage machines joined to a domain. A new action, win_reboot, makes it easier to script workflows that require restarting a system, which is hard to avoid if you’re performing multiple software or kernel-driver installations.

Ansible 2.1 also overhauls container support — another field where Red Hat has been heavily involved. The existing Docker modules have been rewritten, and a new docker_service module allows Docker Compose to be embedded into Ansible playbooks. This means Ansible now has more control over the deployment infrastructrure used to run containers, as well as the ability to interface closely with how containers are built and managed.

A third major addition to Ansible 2.1 is networking automation for using Ansible to control networking platforms like Cisco, Juniper, Cumulus, Arista, and OpenSwitch.

So far, Red Hat has provided Ansible with features that are at least a partial reflection of Red Hat’s own interests, but on a high level — such as support for containers generally, rather than OpenShift or RHEL specifically. That’s a good direction to take, as it does justice to existing Ansible users and their use cases, rather than putting the brunt of new and future Ansible features into supporting Red Hat infrastructure. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Google’s Abacus API adds security by subtracting passwords

Posted by on 25 May, 2016

This post was originally published on this site

Users are notoriously bad at creating strong passwords, so Google’s Project Abacus proposes shifting the authentication burden away from users and onto their Android devices.

This isn’t merely a pie-in-the-sky infosec team notion, either, as the company plans to make the technology available to all Android developers before the end of the year.

Abacus runs in the background and monitors the user’s activity on the device, such as search content, current location, and typing patterns. These elements are combined with biometric data, such as facial recognition, voice speed, and fingerprints, to derive a cumulative Trust Score to unlock devices or sign into applications.

The plan is to make authentication even simpler and more efficient than existing multifactor authentication schemes because the user doesn’t have to do anything differently or learn to use something new.

Many authentication technologies already rely on the user having the device with them. Abacus extends the idea so that the user doesn’t have to prove identity. Instead, the smartphone knows the user and knows whether or not that user has access to the specific application.

Abacus has been in the works for the past year and is currently in trials at 33 universities. Google plans to release the API for Abacus to select financial institutions in June and make it available to all Android developers by the end of 2016, Dan Kaufman, the lead of Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects division, said in a talk at Google I/O last week.

Many information security folks would love to see passwords disappear, and biometrics is the most popular approach at the moment. Just as the fingerprint lock on the iPhone and Android devices has made PIN codes/pattern locks/passphrases unnecessary, developers see the potential of using facial recognition and speech patterns to authenticate users trying to access their applications. Google already offers several different schemes, including sending one-time codes to mobile phones whenever a user tries to log in from an unknown device and unlocking the device through facial recognition.

There are some concerns about overly relying on biometrics, such as situations where the user has an injury and can’t easily swipe the fingerprint sensor, or has a bad enough cold that the voice recognition fails. Abacus doesn’t rely on biometrics only to calculate the Trust Score, and more importantl the Trust Score merely indicates how confident the system is that the user is who the user claims to be. The decision on whether or not to grant access stays with the developer.

In practice, developers can set a certain threshold for the application. If the user’s Trust Score is not high enough (maybe the user has that aforementioned cold), then the application can fall back to asking the user to enter a password or try another method of verification. Some developers may decide to require a lower score for their application than others.

The fact that the system monitors what we do or what we type while surfing online seems a little creepy, and when paired with Google’s insatiable appetite for all kinds of user data, the endeavor feels overly intrusive. The question is how much of the information is actually stored and whether the company plans to mine Abacus data for its other analytics projects. If typing patterns and search terms aren’t actually stored but used as part of calculations, for example, then the monitoring doesn’t feel so much like surveillance.

Trust Score may gain traction precisely because it seems to make authentication less intrusive. Users don’t enable two-factor authentication for myriad reasons, including the fact that it slows down the log in process, it’s awkward, or they don’t want to share their mobile phone numbers. The question is whether users would trust their smartphones to know who they are. Considering how much of their lives users already have on their smartphones, it’s not so far-fetched that they would be willing to give their devices that much authority.

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