Google Cancels ‘Physical’ I/O 2020 Due To Coronavirus Concerns

Google has announced that it will not host an in-person I/O 2020 over coronavirus concerns. The company is looking into an alternative format. 9to5Google reports: Google I/O 2020 was announced in January, with the ticket application and drawing process taking place late last month. Hosted at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, it’s right across the street from the Googleplex headquarters. “Due to concerns around the coronavirus (COVID-19), and in accordance with health guidance from the CDC, WHO, and other health authorities, we have decided to cancel the physical Google I/O event at Shoreline Amphitheatre,” reads a statement on the Google I/O website.

Those that purchased tickets will be fully refunded by March 13, while registered guests this year will automatically be able to purchase I/O 2021 passes. Looking forward, the company is going to “explore other ways to evolve Google I/O to best connect with our developer community.” At this time, Google does not look to be committing to the original May 12-14 timeframe. Meanwhile, Google will be providing $1 million to local Mountain View organizations to help with the lack of I/O and its over 7,000 attendees. This is specifically aimed at helping raise awareness about the coronavirus, as well as aiding small businesses, increasing STEM education, and supporting organizations working with unhoused neighbors.

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Libraries Could Preserve Ebooks Forever, But Greedy Publishers Won’t Let Them

Caitlin McGarry, reporting for Gizmodo: There are currently 342 potential borrowers waiting for 197 digital copies of Ronan Farrow’s investigative thriller Catch and Kill at the Los Angeles Public Library. […] Why can only one person borrow one copy of an ebook at a time? Why are the waits so damn interminable? Well, it might not surprise you at all to learn that ebook lending is controversial in certain circles: circles of people who like to make money selling ebooks. Publishers impose rules on libraries that limit how many people can check out an ebook, and for how long a library can even offer that ebook on its shelves, because free, easily available ebooks could potentially damage their bottom lines. Libraries are handcuffed by two-year ebook licenses that cost way more than you and I pay to own an ebook outright forever.

Ebooks could theoretically circulate throughout public library systems forever, preserving books that could otherwise disappear when they go out of print — after all, ebooks can’t get damaged or lost. And multiple library-goers could technically check out one ebook simultaneously if publishers allowed. But the Big Five have contracts in place that limit ebook availability with high prices — much higher than regular folks pay per ebook — and short-term licenses. The publishers don’t walk in and demand librarians hand over the ebooks or pay up, but they do just…disappear. “You think about Harvard Library or New York Public Library — these big systems that, in addition to lending out stuff for people to use, are also the places where we look to preserve our heritage forever,” said Alan Inouye, the American Library Association’s senior director of public policy and government relations. “You can’t do that if it’s a two-year license.”

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Apple News Aggregation Site MacSurfer Closes Shop

John Gruber spotted this announcement on decades old Apple news aggregation site MacSurfer’s website: Dear MHN Readers:

Not seeing a viable future with subscriptions, MacSurfer and TechNN will cease operations effective immediately. Please allow a few weeks to process forthcoming refunds. If need be, subscription inquiries can be addressed to the Publisher at the bottom of the Homepage. Thanks kindly for your support, and thanks for the memories… Further reading: Adios, MacSurfer.

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Apple can’t break up with China, Wall Street Journal report argues

People in matching white uniforms work at a long table.

Workers assemble and perform quality control checks on MacBook Pro display enclosures at an Apple supplier facility in Shanghai. (credit: Apple Inc.)

A report in The Wall Street Journal published today provided new insights and analysis on Apple’s heavy reliance on partners in China to manufacture its products.

The piece is timed with fluctuating stock for Apple and serious concerns about its ability to meet its goals and ship products to its millions of customers as efforts to contain the coronavirus debilitate the company’s supply lines. Twice in about a year, Apple’s profits and market value have suffered because of problems faced in China. First, it was the United States’ trade war with the country. Now it’s the health crisis.

Some Apple staffers, executives, and investors have in the past expressed concerns about the company’s reliance on the region; generally, it’s ideal business practice for a large multinational corporation to diversify and not become overly dependent on one market, region, or partner.

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Source: Tech – Ars Technica

New entry in commercial quantum computing, using entirely different tech

Image of an I-shaped piece of electronics on a dark background.

Enlarge / Honeywell’s ion trap hardware. (credit: Honeywell)

Over the years, academics developed a variety of systems that you could run quantum algorithms on. Most of these had one or two helpful traits—easy to manipulate or able to hold their state for longer—but lacked enough of the others to keep them from being practical computing solutions. Over the last few years, however, a number of companies have figured out how to manufacture significant numbers of solid-state qubits called transmons. Because the fabrication technology for transmons is similar to that of existing chipmaking, lots of the major players in the nascent market—including Google, IBM, and Rigetti—have settled on transmons.

But transmons aren’t ideal either. They require extremely cold temperatures, show significant device-to-device variability, and are good but not great at holding their state. A number of people in the field I’ve talked to have suggested there’s still room for another technology to surpass transmons, and Ars’ own Chris Lee is putting his money on that happening.

Now, a company new to the quantum computing market is also betting it will. Honeywell, a company better known as a defense contractor and materials supplier, is announcing that it has built a quantum computer using an alternate technology called “ion trap” and will be making it available via Microsoft’s Azure cloud service later this year. The company also claims that, by some measures, it’s the most powerful quantum computer yet built, but that’s a claim that needs to be considered very carefully.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica

C.D.C. Drops Coronavirus Testing Numbers From Its Website

A tally of the number of people tested for the novel coronavirus disappeared from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on Monday. From a report: The change was first reported by journalist Judd Legum on Twitter. The disappearance of the numbers comes less than a week after the first cases of the virus with unknown origins were reported in the US. In the past few days, six deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been confirmed in Washington state.

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Silicon Valley Leaders’ Plea to Democrats: Anyone but Sanders

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist Keith Rabois, onstage in January at a tech conference, said his first choice for president was a Democrat, Pete Buttigieg. And, sure, it would be a close call for Joseph R. Biden Jr. over President Trump. But Bernie Sanders? The New York Times: At that, Mr. Rabois, who has been a top executive at or invested in LinkedIn, Square, Yelp and PayPal, balked. Speaking to the crowd, he drew the line at democratic socialism. (Mr. Buttigieg ended his campaign on Sunday night.) “I would certainly vote for Trump over Sanders,” Mr. Rabois declared. When it comes to the 2020 Democratic primaries, with California poised to allocate hundreds of delegates this week on Super Tuesday, many tech leaders in Silicon Valley have a plea: Anyone but Sanders.

From venture capitalists to chief executives, the tech elite are favoring moderates like Mr. Buttigieg and Michael R. Bloomberg. And with Mr. Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, leading the field in California and looking like the front-runner for the nomination, the tone among the leadership is growing more urgent. Few tech executives want to end up stuck choosing between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, tech company workers are gathering en masse for Mr. Sanders. While Silicon Valley has long leaned blue, the chasm between centrist Democrats and an animated left wing has created uncertainty. And now two other things are happening. California Republicans see an opportunity. And a new moderate party in the state — the Common Sense Party — is rising.

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Chinese Security Firm Says CIA Hacked Chinese Targets For the Past 11 Years

China’s largest cyber-security vendor has published today a report accusing the CIA of hacking Chinese companies and government agencies for more than 11 years. From a report: The report, authored by Qihoo 360, claims the CIA hacked targets in China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, Internet companies, and government agencies. CIA hacking operations took place between September 2008 and June 2019, and most of the targets were located in Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang, Qihoo researchers said. Qihoo claims that a large part of the CIA’s hacking efforts focused on the civil aviation industry, both in China and in other countries. The Chinese security firm claims the purpose of this campaign was “long-term and targeted intelligence-gathering” for the purpose of tracking “real-time global flight status, passenger information, trade freight and other related information.”

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Honeywell Says It Will Soon Launch the World’s Most Powerful Quantum Computer

“The best-kept secret in quantum computing.” That’s what Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) CEO Ilyas Khan called Honeywell’s efforts in building the world’s most powerful quantum computer. In a race where most of the major players are vying for attention, Honeywell has quietly worked on its efforts for the last few years (and under strict NDA’s, it seems). But today, the company announced a major breakthrough that it claims will allow it to launch the world’s most powerful quantum computer within the next three months. From a report: In addition, Honeywell also today announced that it has made strategic investments in CQC and Zapata Computing, both of which focus on the software side of quantum computing. The company has also partnered with JPMorgan Chase to develop quantum algorithms using Honeywell’s quantum computer. The company also recently announced a partnership with Microsoft. Honeywell has long built the kind of complex control systems that power many of the world’s largest industrial sites. It’s that kind of experience that has now allowed it to build an advanced ion trap that is at the core of its efforts. This ion trap, the company claims in a paper that accompanies today’s announcement, has allowed the team to achieve decoherence times that are significantly longer than those of its competitors.

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Cisco: Avoid coronavirus, stay home, use Webex

Stay safe, work from home, don't get COVID-19.

Enlarge / Stay safe, work from home, don’t get COVID-19. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Networking giant Cisco is getting into the coronavirus monitoring and mitigation game with its Webex remote meeting property. The company notes that in the wake of mandates issued to employees to halt travel plans and/or work from home, traffic across its Webex backbone has increased significantly.

Webex meeting traffic connecting Chinese users to global workplaces has increased by a factor of 22 since the outbreak began; traffic in other Asian countries is up by 400 percent or more, and free signup rates in impacted countries have increased 700 percent or more.

In response, Cisco is offering temporarily unlimited usage (with no time restrictions) in all countries, not just the ones worst hit by coronavirus. The company is also offering free 90-day licenses to businesses that are not currently Webex customers and offering free upgrades to customers whose current plan is insufficient to accommodate increased traffic due to the outbreak.

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Biz & IT – Ars Technica