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Firefox Usage is Down 85% Despite Mozilla's Top Exec Pay Going Up 400%

1 hour 12 min ago
Software engineer Cal Paterson writes: Mozilla recently announced that they would be dismissing 250 people. That's a quarter of their workforce so there are some deep cuts to their work too. The victims include: the MDN docs (those are the web standards docs everyone likes better than w3schools), the Rust compiler and even some cuts to Firefox development. Like most people I want to see Mozilla do well but those three projects comprise pretty much what I think of as the whole point of Mozilla, so this news is a a big let down. The stated reason for the cuts is falling income. Mozilla largely relies on "royalties" for funding. In return for payment, Mozilla allows big technology companies to choose the default search engine in Firefox - the technology companies are ultimately paying to increase the number of searches Firefox users make with them. Mozilla haven't been particularly transparent about why these royalties are being reduced, except to blame the coronavirus. I'm sure the coronavirus is not a great help but I suspect the bigger problem is that Firefox's market share is now a tiny fraction of its previous size and so the royalties will be smaller too - fewer users, so fewer searches and therefore less money for Mozilla. The real problem is not the royalty cuts, though. Mozilla has already received more than enough money to set themselves up for financial independence. Mozilla received up to half a billion dollars a year (each year!) for many years. The real problem is that Mozilla didn't use that money to achieve financial independence and instead just spent it each year, doing the organisational equivalent of living hand-to-mouth. Despite their slightly contrived legal structure as a non-profit that owns a for-profit, Mozilla are an NGO just like any other. In this article I want to apply the traditional measures that are applied to other NGOs to Mozilla in order to show what's wrong. These three measures are: overheads, ethics and results.

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Climate Disruption Is Now Locked In. The Next Moves Will Be Crucial.

1 hour 48 min ago
America is now under siege by climate change in ways that scientists have warned about for years. But there is a second part to their admonition: Decades of growing crisis are already locked into the global ecosystem and cannot be reversed. From a report: This means the kinds of cascading disasters occurring today -- drought in the West fueling historic wildfires that send smoke all the way to the East Coast, or parades of tropical storms lining up across the Atlantic to march destructively toward North America -- are no longer features of some dystopian future. They are the here and now, worsening for the next generation and perhaps longer, depending on humanity's willingness to take action. "I've been labeled an alarmist," said Peter Kalmus, a climate scientist in Los Angeles, where he and millions of others have inhaled dangerously high levels of smoke for weeks. "And I think it's a lot harder for people to say that I'm being alarmist now." Last month, before the skies over San Francisco turned a surreal orange, Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature ever measured on the planet. Dozens of people have perished from the heat in Phoenix, which in July suffered its hottest month on record, only to surpass that milestone in August. Conversations about climate change have broken into everyday life, to the top of the headlines and to center stage in the presidential campaign. The questions are profound and urgent. Can this be reversed? What can be done to minimize the looming dangers for the decades ahead? Will the destruction of recent weeks become a moment of reckoning, or just a blip in the news cycle? The Times spoke with two dozen climate experts, including scientists, economists, sociologists and policymakers, and their answers were by turns alarming, cynical and hopeful. "It's as if we've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for decades" and the world is now feeling the effects, said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. But, she said, "we're not dead yet." Their most sobering message was that the world still hasn't seen the worst of it. Gone is the climate of yesteryear, and there's no going back. The effects of climate change evident today are the results of choices that countries made decades ago to keep pumping heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at ever-increasing rates despite warnings from scientists about the price to be paid.

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A New York Clock That Told Time Now Tells the Time Remaining

2 hours 19 min ago
For more than 20 years, Metronome, which includes a 62-foot-wide 15-digit electronic clock that faces Union Square in Manhattan, has been one of the city's most prominent and baffling public art projects. Its digital display once told the time in its own unique way, counting the hours, minutes and seconds (and fractions thereof) to and from midnight. But for years observers who did not understand how it worked suggested that it was measuring the acres of rainforest destroyed each year, tracking the world population or even that it had something to do with pi. On Saturday Metronome adopted a new ecologically sensitive mission. From a report: Now, instead of measuring 24-hour cycles, it is measuring what two artists, Gan Golan and Andrew Boyd, present as a critical window for action to prevent the effects of global warming from becoming irreversible. On Saturday at 3:20 p.m., messages including "The Earth has a deadline" began to appear on the display. Then numbers -- 7:103:15:40:07 -- showed up, representing the years, days, hours, minutes and seconds until that deadline. As a handful of supporters watched, the number -- which the artists said was based on calculations by the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin -- began ticking down, second by second. "This is our way to shout that number from the rooftops." Mr. Golan said just before the countdown began. "The world is literally counting on us." The Climate Clock, as the two artists call their project, will be displayed on the 14th Street building, One Union Square South, through Sept. 27, the end of Climate Week. The creators say their aim is to arrange for the clock to be permanently displayed, there or elsewhere. Mr. Golan said he came up with the idea to publicly illustrate the urgency of combating climate change about two years ago, shortly after his daughter was born. He asked Mr. Boyd, an activist from the Lower East Side, to work with him on the project.

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Jeff Bezos Is Opening His First Tuition-Free Bezos Academy Preschool, Where Each Child 'Will Be the Customer'

3 hours 39 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos on Tuesday announced he's soon opening the first location of a network of tuition-free "Montessori-inspired" preschools for underserved children. In an Instagram post, Bezos said the first Bezos Academy will open in Des Moines, Wash., on Oct. 19. The network of schools will offer year-round programming, five days a week, for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Admissions will prioritize low-income families, according to the Bezos Day One Fund website. "This classroom is just the beginning," Bezos wrote in a post featuring a photo of a preschool classroom. "The @bezosacademy opens its doors on Oct. 19th. This one in Des Moines, WA, is the first of many free preschools that we'll be opening for underserved children." The nonprofit organization says it wants to run the schools using the same set of principles that have driven e-commerce giant Amazon. "Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer," the organization said on its website.

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Google Is Pulling the Plug On Paid Chrome Extensions Over the Next Year

6 hours 39 min ago
Google has announced that paid Chrome extensions will no longer be available and will be phased out over the next year. 9to5Google reports: Following a temporary suspension on paid extensions this year due to fraudulent transactions, Google will pull the plug on paid extensions entirely over the next several months. Developers haven't been able to submit new paid extensions since March, but this week's announcement confirms that paid extensions won't be coming back at all. Further, the free trial option offered by the Chrome Web Store will go away on December 1. On February 21, 2020, all paid Chrome extensions will lose access to payments through the Web Store. Sometime later in the year, too, Google will pull the plug on its licensing API that enables developers to verify that a user has actually paid for the extension. For developers who still want to monetize their extensions, Google says they'll need to migrate to both another payment processor and a new licensing API: "The Chrome Web Store payments system is now deprecated and will be shut down over the coming months. There are many other ways to monetize your extensions, and if you currently use Chrome Web Store payments, you'll need to migrate to one of them."

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Old TV Caused Village Broadband Outages For 18 Months

9 hours 39 min ago
seoras shares a report from the BBC: The mystery of why an entire village lost its broadband every morning at 7am was solved when engineers discovered an old television was to blame. An unnamed householder in Aberhosan, Powys, was unaware the old set would emit a signal which would interfere with the entire village's broadband. After 18 months engineers began an investigation after a cable replacement program failed to fix the issue. The embarrassed householder promised not to use the television again. The village now has a stable broadband signal. The engineers used a spectrum analyzer to help pinpoint the "electrical noise" that was causing the problem. "At 7am, like clockwork, it happened," said engineer Michael Jones. "It turned out that at 7am every morning the occupant would switch on their old TV which would, in turn, knock out broadband for the entire village."

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T-Mobile Amassed 'Unprecedented Concentration of Spectrum,' AT&T Complains

13 hours 9 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T and Verizon are worried about T-Mobile's vast spectrum holdings and have asked the Federal Communications Commission to impose limits on the carrier's ability to obtain more spectrum licenses. Verizon kicked things off in August when it petitioned the FCC to reconsider its acceptance of a new lease that would give T-Mobile another 10MHz to 30MHz of spectrum in the 600MHz band in 204 counties. AT&T followed that up on Friday with a filing that supports many of the points made in Verizon's petition. T-Mobile was once the smallest of four national carriers and complained that it didn't have enough low-band spectrum to match AT&T and Verizon's superior coverage. But T-Mobile surged past Sprint in recent years and then bought the company, making T-Mobile one of three big nationwide carriers along with AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile also bolstered its low-band spectrum holdings by dominating a 600MHz auction in 2017. "The combination of Sprint and T-Mobile has resulted in an unprecedented concentration of spectrum in the hands of one carrier," AT&T wrote in its filing to the FCC on Friday. "In fact, the combined company exceeds the Commission's spectrum screen, often by a wide margin, in Cellular Market Areas representing 82 percent of the US population, including all major markets." T-Mobile's large spectrum holdings demand "changes in how the Commission addresses additional acquisitions of spectrum by that carrier," AT&T said in another part of the filing. AT&T also posted a blog on the topic, saying that "Additional spectrum leases with Dish will cause T-Mobile to exceed the 250MHz screen by as much as 136MHz." Officially, AT&T said it "takes no position on whether T-Mobile's lease applications were properly accepted by the FCC," but the company said that the FCC "should provide an explanation of why it permitted T-Mobile to further exceed the spectrum screen." "The Commission's failure to issue a written order in a transaction allowing spectrum aggregation in excess of the screen to this degree is highly unusual... Moreover, without a written order explaining its analysis, there is no evidence that the Commission has carefully attempted to evaluate the potential for competitive harm," AT&T wrote.

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Dark Web Drugs Raid Leads To 179 Arrests

14 hours 37 min ago
Police forces around the world have seized more than $6.5 million in cash and virtual currencies, as well as drugs and guns in a co-ordinated raid on dark web marketplaces. The BBC reports: Some 179 people were arrested across Europe and the U.S., and 500kg (1,102lb) of drugs and 64 guns confiscated. It ends the "golden age" of these underground marketplaces, Europol said. "The hidden internet is no longer hidden", said Edvardas Sileris, head of Europol's cyber-crime centre. The operation, known as DisrupTor, was a joint effort between the Department of Justice and Europol. It is believed that the criminals engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit goods and services across the U.S. and Europe. Drugs seized including fentanyl, oxycodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and MDMA. Of those arrested 119 were based in the U.S., two in Canada, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the UK, three in Austria and one in Sweden.

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The Fairphone 3+ Is a Repairable Dream That Takes Beautiful Photos

15 hours 14 min ago
The Fairphone 3+ is a $550 phone with modular parts that can easily be swapped out by users themselves. "In many ways, a Fairphone is the antithesis of the iPhone," writes Catie Keck via Gizmodo. "It doesn't benefit most retailers to allow you to easily repair your own stuff, meaning that a lot of gizmos these days -- particularly higher-end electronics -- are packed with proprietary parts and sometimes even software locks to dissuade consumers from attempting to perform repairs themselves." While it is a "repairable dream" and features two big camera upgrades over the Fairphone 3 (which does support the new upgraded camera modules), it's, sadly, only available overseas. Keck writes: Fairphone 3+ has 64GB of memory but can be upgraded to 400GB with a MicroSD card. It has a Qualcomm 632 processor, a 5.65-inch display, Bluetooth 5, a 3000mAh battery that supports Qualcomm QuickCharge, and six total modules to swap out for easy repair. A thing I didn't expect to love as much as I did was fingerprint ID on the backside of the phone -- particularly as Face ID on my iPhone 11 has become a massive pain in the butt in these mask-on times. At present, Fairphone doesn't support 4G connectivity in the U.S., my biggest gripe with the phone second only to the fact that the phones only ship within Europe. [...] Fairphone runs on Android -- the Fairphone 3+ comes with Android 10 pre-installed and ready to go. As for its camera, I was happy enough with the photograph with the newer lens. Photo nerds may be more sensitive to the trade-offs when compared with, say, the iPhone 11 Pro, but for the average person, I think Fairphone's cameras would work beautifully. I especially loved the portrait mode on the front camera, which worked in even exceptionally low-light environments for me. Software likely isn't the primary reason that anyone is looking at getting a Fairphone device, but shipping pre-installed with a lot of familiar apps means making the switch will likely be relatively painless, though so far my iPhone is a bit snappier overall in terms of performance. Again, the tradeoff is a commitment to repairability that you simply won't get with an Apple device unless the company radically overhauls its entire business model or unless it's forced, neither of which seems remotely likely for the foreseeable future.

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Tesla Unveils Model S Plaid: 520+ Miles, 200 MPH, and 0-60 MPH In Less Than 2s

15 hours 54 min ago
In addition to promising a $25,000 Tesla, Elon Musk unveiled its Model S Plaid, the new highest performance version of its flagship sedan. Electrek reports: The electric car is going to have over 520 miles of range, 200 mph top speed, and 0 to 60 mph acceleration in less than two seconds. The automaker lists the following features on its website: - Quickest 0-60 mph and quarter-mile acceleration of any production car ever - Acceleration from 0-60 mph: less than 2.0 s - Quarter mile: less than 9.0 s - Tri Motor All-Wheel Drive In a quick video, Tesla briefly revealed the latest Model S Plaid prototype design. This new prototype appears to be significantly toned down versus the prototype unveiled last week and looks closer to the current Model S. Tesla is now taking orders for the vehicle, and it unveiled the price. It starts at $139,990 before options. Musk said that Tesla brought the Model S Plaid prototype to the Laguna Seca racetrack last weekend, and they achieved a 1:30 lap time. Last year, Tesla completed a lap in 1:36.55 with the prototype Model S Plaid. What about the $25,000 Tesla? Well, thanks to its various battery innovations, "We're confident we can make a very, very compelling $25,000 electric vehicle, that's also fully autonomous," Musk said. "And when you think about the $25,000 price point you have to consider how much less expensive it is to own an electric vehicle. So actually, it becomes even more affordable at that $25,000 price point."

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Apple CEO Impressed By Remote Work, Sees Permanent Changes

16 hours 37 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said he's been impressed by employees' ability to operate remotely and predicted that some new work habits will remain after the pandemic. During an interview at The Atlantic Festival on Monday, Cook said Apple created products including new Apple Watches and iPads that are launching on time this year, despite the need for most employees to work away from the office due to Covid-19. Cook said he doesn't believe Apple will "return to the way we were because we've found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually." Cook said 10% to 15% of Apple employees have gone back to the office and he hopes the majority of staff can return to the company's new campus in Silicon Valley sometime next year. The CEO said he goes into the office at different points during the week and he noted that remote work is "not like being together physically." Working in the office sparks creativity such as during impromptu meetings, he added.

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Tesla Announces 'Tabless' Battery Cells That Will Improve Range of Its Electric Cars

17 hours 19 min ago
At Tesla's Battery Day Event today, the company unveiled plans to develop a "tabless" battery cell that will make their EV batteries five times more energy dense, six times more powerful, and enable a 16 percent range increase for the company's vehicles. These new "tabless" cells, which Tesla is calling 4860 cells, are "close to working" at the pilot plant level, Musk said. The Verge reports: The company will produce its new batteries in-house, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicts will help dramatically reduce costs and allow the company to sell electric vehicles for the same price as gasoline-powered ones. The battery is expected to lower Tesla's cost per kilowatt-hour, the unit of energy most commonly used to measure the capacity of the battery packs in modern electric vehicles. Many experts believe that lowering these costs would allow Tesla to dramatically lower the price of its cars, thereby making them far more accessible. Musk's announcement that Tesla will begin manufacturing its own batteries should help with the shortages the company has experienced in the past with Panasonic and its other suppliers. With that said, Tesla won't stop purchasing those batteries anytime soon. "In the run-up to Battery Day, Musk tweeted that the company would continue to use batteries supplied by Panasonic, China's CATL, LG Chem, and others," notes The Verge. "Not only that, but Tesla would buy more batteries from its suppliers than normal."

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Linux Journal Is Back

17 hours 54 min ago
On August 7, 2019, Linux Journal laid off all staff members and was left with no operating funds to continue in any capacity. Today, the technology magazine announced that they've secured a deal to keep the site alive indefinitely under the ownership of Slashdot Media. Linux Journal writes: We will begin publishing digital content again as soon as we can. If you're a former Linux Journal contributor or a Linux enthusiast that would like to get involved, please contact us and let us know the capacity in which you'd like to contribute. We're looking for people to cover Linux news, create Linux guides, and moderate the community and comments. We'd also appreciate any other ideas or feedback you might have. Right now, we don't have any immediate plans to resurrect the subscription/issue model, and will be publishing exclusively on LinuxJournal.com free of charge. Our immediate goal is to familiarize ourself with the Linux Journal website and ensure it doesn't ever get shut down again. We're ecstatic to be able to take the helm at Linux Journal, and ensure that this legendary Linux resource and community not only stays alive forever, but continues to grow and improve. Reach out if you'd like to get involved!

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Shell Reportedly To Slash Oil and Gas Production Costs To Focus More On Renewables

18 hours 37 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: Royal Dutch Shell is looking to slash up to 40 percent off the cost of producing oil and gas in a major drive to save cash so it can overhaul its business and focus more on renewable energy and power markets, sources told Reuters. Shell's new cost-cutting review, known internally as Project Reshape and expected to be completed this year, will affect its three main divisions and any savings will come on top of a $4 billion US target set in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Shell now wants to focus its oil and gas production on a few key hubs, including the Gulf of Mexico, Nigeria and the North Sea, the sources said. The company's integrated gas division, which runs Shell's liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations as well as some gas production, is also looking at deep cuts, the sources said. For downstream, the review is focusing on cutting costs from Shell's network of 45,000 service stations -- the world's biggest which is seen as one its "most high-value activities" and is expected to play a pivotal role in the transition, two more sources involved with the review told Reuters. The review, which company sources say is the largest in Shell's modern history, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020 when Shell wants to announce a major restructuring. It will hold an investor day in February 2021. Teams in Shell's three main divisions are also studying how to reshape the business by cutting thousands of jobs and removing management layers both to save money and create a nimbler company as it prepares to restructure, the sources said. Besides cutting costs at its downstream retail business, Shell is pressing ahead with plans to reduce the number of its oil refineries to 10 from 17 last year. It has already agreed to sell three. The review of refining operations also includes finding ways to sharply increase the production of low-carbon fuels such as biofuels, chemicals and lubricants. That could be done by using low-carbon raw materials such as cooking oil, one source said. "We had a great model but is it right for the future? There will be differences, this is not just about structure but culture and about the type of company we want to be," said a senior Shell source, who declined to be named.

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Microsoft Secures Backend Server That Leaked Bing Data

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 23:28
Microsoft suffered a rare cyber-security lapse earlier this month when the company's IT staff accidentally left one of Bing's backend servers exposed online. From a report: The server was discovered by Ata Hakcil, a security researcher at WizCase, who exclusively shared his findings with ZDNet last week. According to Hakcil's investigation, the server is believed to have exposed more than 6.5 TB of log files containing 13 billion records originating from the Bing search engine. The Wizcase researcher was able to verify his findings by locating search queries he performed in the Bing Android app in the server's logs. Hakcil said the server was exposed online from September 10 to September 16, when he notified the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), and the server was secured again with a password. Reached out for comment last week, Microsoft admitted to the mistake.

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China, in Pointed Message To US, Tightens Its Climate Targets

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 22:50
President Xi Jinping of China pledged on Tuesday that his country, the world's top producer of greenhouse gases, would adopt much stronger climate targets and achieve what he called "carbon neutrality before 2060." If realized, the pledges would be crucial in the global fight against climate change. From a report: The announcement, made at the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, is significant because China is currently the top producer of greenhouse gas emissions. What the country does to curb its emissions, therefore, is crucial to slowing down global warming on the whole. The timing of the announcement was equally notable, coming so close to United States elections in which climate change has become increasingly important to voters. President Trump has pulled the United States out of an international agreement aimed at slowing down climate change. His challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., has pledged to rejoin the accord and promised to spend $2 trillion to slash emissions and address the effects of climate change.

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YouTube Will Use Tech Updates To Better Enforce Age Restrictions

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 22:10
YouTube said Tuesday that it has updated its technology to enable the tech giant to better enforce its age restriction policies. From a report: The company has been criticized and penalized for its policies and architecture that displayed harmful content to kids and violated children's data privacy. The company is announcing three new changes: It will begin using machine learning to automatically apply age restrictions to content on its platform around the world. It's using technology to identify age-restrictive content so that when viewers discover age-restricted videos embedded on most third-party websites, they will now be required to log in to watch those videos in order to verify their age. It will start to request that some users in Europe verify their age with a valid ID or credit card, in response to new EU regulations, like the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

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Microsoft Is Bringing Edge To Linux

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 21:30
Krystalo writes: Edge is finally coming to Linux. At Ignite 2020 today, Microsoft announced that Edge for Linux will be available in the Dev preview channel starting in October. Linux users will be able to download the preview from the Microsoft Edge Insider website or from their native Linux package manager. Microsoft will start with the Ubuntu and Debian distributions, with support for Fedora and openSUSE coming afterwards. "Linux stands out in that, while it has a relatively small desktop population in terms of what you might call typical consumer or end user, developers are often overrepresented in that population, and especially in areas like test automation, or CI/CD workloads for their web apps," Edge program manager Kyle Pflug told VentureBeat. "Edge on Linux is a natural part of our strategy to reduce fragmentation and test overhead for web developers. By providing the same rendering behavior and tools across platforms, developers can build and test sites and web apps in their preferred environment and be confident in the experience their customers will have."

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Microsoft Gets Exclusive License For OpenAI's GPT-3 Language Model

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 20:52
Microsoft today announced that it will exclusively license GPT-3, one of the most powerful language understanding models in the world, from AI startup OpenAI. From a report:> In a blog post, Microsoft EVP Kevin Scott said that the new deal will allow Microsoft to leverage OpenAI's technical innovations to develop and deliver AI solutions for customers, as well as create new solutions that harness the power of natural language generation. "We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at scale," Scott wrote. "The scope of commercial and creative potential that can be unlocked through the GPT-3 model is profound, with genuinely novel capabilities -- most of which we haven't even imagined yet. Directly aiding human creativity and ingenuity in areas like writing and composition, describing and summarizing large blocks of long-form data (including code), converting natural language to another language -- the possibilities are limited only by the ideas and scenarios that we bring to the table." The implications of the licensing agreement weren't immediately clear, but Microsoft says that OpenAI will continue to offer GPT-3 and other models via its Azure-hosted API, launched in June.

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Microsoft Develops a 'Virtual Commute' for Remote Workers

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 20:05
Millions of employees now commute from their bed to a desk at home. After the initial euphoria of skipping smog-filled traffic jams and cramped train compartments, a new reality has dawned in which the work day blends into the rest of life, like a never-ending video conference call. Microsoft has a solution for this. From a report: The company's Teams collaboration software is adding the ability to schedule a "virtual commute." It won't start your car or ride the subway for you, but it will remind users about the end of the work day, suggest tasks to help workers wind down and create a little mental space before kids' homework, dinner, laundry and other obligations come crashing in. For example, Teams will prompt users to list tasks as completed or add them to tomorrow's to-do list, while asking workers to rate how their day went and suggesting guided meditation, through an integration with the Headspace app. Pandemic-related burnout and difficulty separating work and personal life has become a surprisingly common concern among Microsoft's corporate customers, according to Chief Marketing Officer Chris Capossela. "The thing we didn't predict that we've learned is now at the top of customers' mind is really the well-being of their employees," he said.

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