Friday, July 20, 2018

Traveling to the sun: Why won't Parker Solar Probe melt?

This summer, NASA's Parker Solar Probe will launch to travel closer to the Sun, deeper into the solar atmosphere, than any mission before it. Cutting-edge technology and engineering will help it beat the heat.

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Microsoft caps off a fine fiscal year seemingly without any major missteps in its last quarter

Microsoft is capping off a rather impressive year without any major missteps in its final report for its performance in its 2018 fiscal year, posting a quarter that seems to have been largely non-offensive to Wall Street.

In the past year, Microsoft’s stock has gone up more than 40%. In the past two years, it’s nearly doubled. All of this came after something around a decade of that price not really doing anything as Microsoft initially missed major trends like the shift to mobile and the cloud. But since then, new CEO Satya Nadella has turned that around and increased the company’s focused on both, and Azure is now one of the company’s biggest highlights. Microsoft is now an $800 billion company, which while still considerably behind Apple, Amazon and Google, is a considerable high considering the past decade.

In addition, Microsoft passed $100 billion in revenue for a fiscal year for the first time. So, as you might expect, the stock didn’t really do anything. For a company that’s at around $800 billion, that it’s not doing anything poor at this point is likely a good thing. That Microsoft is even in the discussion of being one of the companies chasing a $1 trillion market cap is likely something we wouldn’t have been talking about just three or four years ago.

The company said it generated $30.1 billion in revenue, up 17% year-over-year, and adjusted earnings of $1.13 per share. Analysts were looking for earnings of $1.08 per share on revenue of $29.23 billion.

So, under Nadella, this is more or less a tale of two Microsofts — one squarely pointed at a future of productivity software with an affinity toward cloud and mobile tools (though Windows is obviously still a part of this), and one that was centered around the home PC. Here are a couple highlights from the report:

  • LinkedIn: Microsoft said revenue for LinkedIn increased 37%, with LinkedIn sessions growth of 41%. Microsoft’s professional network was also listed in a bucket of other segments that it attributed to an increased operating expenditures, which also included cloud engineering, and commercial sales capacity. It was also bucketed into a 12% increase in research and development with cloud engineering, as well as a bump in sales and marketing expenses. This all seems pretty normal for a network Microsoft hopes to continue to grow.
  • Azure: Microsoft’s cloud platform continued to drive its server products and cloud services revenue, which increased 26%. The company said Azure’s revenue was up 89% “due to growth from consumed and SaaS revenue.” Once again, Microsoft didn’t break out specifics on its Azure products, though it seems pretty clear that this is one of their primary growth drivers.
  • Office 365: Office 365 saw commercial revenue growth of 38%, and consumer subscribers increased to 31.4 million. Alongside LinkedIn, Microsoft seems to be assembling a substantial number of subscription SaaS products that offset a shift in its model away from personal computing and into a more cloud-oriented company.
  • GitHub: Nada here in the report. Microsoft earlier this year said it acquired it for a very large sum of money (in stock), but it isn’t talking about it. But bucket it alongside Office 365 and LinkedIn as part of that increasingly large stable of productivity tools for businesses, as Github is one of the most widely-adopted developer tools available.


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Now you’re journaling with power! (with this Mario-branded Moleskine gear)

Although this isn’t a stationery news site (how I should like that!), the latest collection from Moleskine is Mario-related, so technically I can write about it. There’s even a phone case and a rolltop backpack!

It’s pretty much exactly what you expect: the usual solid Moleskine notebooks with a Nintendo flourish. They’re all Mario-related, but have different styles: a cartridge and Game Boy for the pocket-size notebooks, and stylized NES graphics on the larger ones. Unfortunately there’s no planner (hint hint, Moleskine).

“It’s a newstalgic mixture of contemporary technology and timeless paper,” reads the press release. “Nostalgic” already implies both new and old so there’s no need for a portmanteau, and a Game Boy isn’t exactly “contemporary,” but they got the paper thing right.

Actually, the notebooks have some pretty dope detailing. The small ones are embossed with cartridge ridges and Game Boy controls. All of them have internal illustrations and come with a sticker pack.

I would have loved to have these in the old days, though some SMB3 gear would probably have been more timely.

In addition to the notebooks, there’s a solid-looking, candy-red phone case that you can only get in stores and a truly 🔥 backpack. Look at these details (click for the gallery):

[gallery ids="1676828,1676829,1676827,1676831,1676830"]

Wear that at E3 and people will bow down. Well, it’s better than carrying around a giant swag bag from Atlus, anyway.

You can buy everything but the phone case online; you’ll have to find Moleskine dealers to get that for some reason.



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Now you’re journaling with power! (with this Mario-branded Moleskine gear)

Although this isn’t a stationery news site (how I should like that!), the latest collection from Moleskine is Mario-related, so technically I can write about it. There’s even a phone case and a rolltop backpack!

It’s pretty much exactly what you expect: the usual solid Moleskine notebooks with a Nintendo flourish. They’re all Mario-related, but have different styles: a cartridge and Game Boy for the pocket-size notebooks, and stylized NES graphics on the larger ones. Unfortunately there’s no planner (hint hint, Moleskine).

“It’s a newstalgic mixture of contemporary technology and timeless paper,” reads the press release. “Nostalgic” already implies both new and old so there’s no need for a portmanteau, and a Game Boy isn’t exactly “contemporary,” but they got the paper thing right.

Actually, the notebooks have some pretty dope detailing. The small ones are embossed with cartridge ridges and Game Boy controls. All of them have internal illustrations and come with a sticker pack.

I would have loved to have these in the old days, though some SMB3 gear would probably have been more timely.

In addition to the notebooks, there’s a solid-looking, candy-red phone case that you can only get in stores and a truly 🔥 backpack. Look at these details (click for the gallery):

[gallery ids="1676828,1676829,1676827,1676831,1676830"]

Wear that at E3 and people will bow down. Well, it’s better than carrying around a giant swag bag from Atlus, anyway.

You can buy everything but the phone case online; you’ll have to find Moleskine dealers to get that for some reason.



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How Facebook configures its millions of servers every day

When you’re a company the size of Facebook with more than two billion users on millions of servers, running thousands of configuration changes every day involving trillions of configuration checks, as you can imagine, configuration is kind of a big deal. As with most things with Facebook, they face scale problems few companies have to deal and often reach the limits of mere mortal tools.

To solve their unique issues, the company developed a new configuration delivery process called Location Aware Delivery or LAD for short. Before developing LAD, the company had been using an open source tool called Zoo Keeper to distribute configuration data, and while that tool worked, it had some fairly substantial limitations for a company the size of Facebook.

Perhaps the largest of those was being limited to 5 MB distributions with configurations limited to 2500 subscribers at a time. To give you a sense of how configuration works, it involves delivering a Facebook service like Messenger in real time with the correct configuration. That could mean delivering it in English for one user and Spanish for another, all on the fly across millions of servers.

Facebook wanted to create a tool that overcame those limitations, separated the data from the distribution mechanism, had a latency time of less than five seconds and supported 10X more files than Zoo Keeper. Oh yes, and it wanted all of that to run on millions of clients and handle the crazy update rates and traffic spikes that only Facebook could bring to the table.

The product the Facebook engineering team created, LAD (wonder how the Dodgers feel about this), consists of a couple of parts: A proxy that sits on every single machine in the Facebook family and delivers configuration files to any machine that wants or needs one. The second piece is a distributor, which as the name implies delivers configuration information. It achieves this by checking for new updates, and when it finds them, it creates a distribution tree for a set of machines, which are looking for an update.

As Facebook’s Ali Haider-Zaveri wrote in a blog post announcing the new distribution method, the tree methodology helps solve a number of problems Facebook faced when distributing configuration updates at extreme volume. “By leveraging a tree, LAD ensures that updates are pushed only to interested proxies rather than to all machines in the fleet. In addition, a parent machine can directly send updates to its children, which ensures that no single machine near the root is overwhelmed,” Haider-Zaveri wrote.

As for those limitations, the company has been able to overcome those too. Instead of a 5 MB update limit, they have increased it to 100 MB, and instead of 2500 user limit, they have increased it to 40,000.

Such a system didn’t come easily. It required testing and retesting, but it has reached production today — at least for now, until Facebook faces another challenge and finds a new way to do things nobody considered before (because they never reached the scale of Facebook).



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CloudHealth adds support for Google Cloud amidst growing demand

CloudHealth, a startup that enables customers to manage a multi-cloud environment, announced today it was adding support for Google Cloud Platform.

With today’s addition, CloudHealth now supports AWS, Azure, VMware and Google, giving customers a fairly comprehensive view of their cloud usage.

Company co-founder and CTO Joe Kinsella says the company has been seeing inbound interest for Google Cloud support dating back to 2014, but up until now there hasn’t been enough interest to warrant a startup investing the resources necessary to support another platform. He says that has changed over the last 12-18 months as they’ve seen an increase in requests and decided to take the plunge.

Google Cloud cost summary page in CloudHealth. Screenshot: CloudHealth

“I think a lot of the initiatives that have been driven since Diane Greene joined Google [at the end of 2015] and began really driving towards the enterprise are bearing fruit. And as a result, we’re starting to see a really substantial uptick in interest,” he said.

As for why Google is gaining traction, Kinsella believes they have found ways to differentiate themselves in some key areas. “Its two biggest differentiated services are in machine learning services and the App Engine service. I also think that they have generated a lot of innovation across Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service, and they built really reliable, durable, flexible, highly configurable services,” he said.

Dave Bartoletti, an analyst with Forrester Research, who specializes in the public cloud says he has also seen increasing interest in Google Cloud. “Google’s developer experience (e.g., role/account management, CI/CD toolchains, and language support) now rivals AWS and Microsoft. Very strong identity and access management, security, database, and AI/ML services are drawing increasing numbers of traditional enterprise customers,” Bartoletti told TechCrunch.

CloudHealth is a cloud-based subscription service. Customers sign up and enter their cloud credentials and they get an integrated view of their cloud activity in a single interface. Kinsella says their solution provides several primary benefits including visibility, governance, compliance and cost control.

Cross cloud usage view in CloudHealth. Screenshot: CloudHealth

The company’s primary competitor is customers trying to build a tool to monitor multi-cloud activity themselves, something that Bartoletti also sees. “Cloud cost monitoring and optimization tools help clients pay only for what they use, pay as little as possible for what they use, and develop best practices for workload sizing and automated operations to continue to save money over time, without needing to build a large cost management practice in house,” he said.

The company, which has over 300 employees, is based in downtown Boston with multiple offices around the world. It was founded in 2012 and has raised over $87 million with its most recent Series D round generating $46 million from the likes of Kleiner Perkins, Scale Venture Partners, Meritech Capital Partners, Sapphire Ventures and .406 Ventures.



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Thursday, July 19, 2018

UK criticises security security of Huawei products

The report revealed shortcomings in the Chinese firm's engineering processes.

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Money to help Trump immigrants rejected

A software company criticised for working with US Border Control has a donation to a refugee charity rejected.

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CALET succeeds in direct measurements of cosmic-ray electron spectrum up to 4.8 TeV

Researchers have succeeded in the direct, high-precision measurements of cosmic-ray electron spectrum up to 4.8 TeV, based on observations with the Calorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET). Observations by CALET are expected to reveal the mysteries of cosmic-rays and nature of dark matter in the future.

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Some MacBook Pro users complain about throttling issues

The new MacBook Pro has a thermal issue. YouTuber Dave Lee found out that the top-performing MacBook Pro can’t operate at full speed for a long time because it gets too hot.

According to him, a video export in Adobe Premiere Pro is taking longer on a brand new MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i9 CPU than on a 2017 MacBook Pro with an Intel Core i7 CPU (previous Intel generation).