How a Microsoft Cloud Outage Hit Millions of Users Around the World
An anonymous reader shares Reuters' report from earlier this week:
Microsoft Corp said on Wednesday it had recovered all of its cloud services after a networking outage took down its cloud platform Azure along with services such as Teams and Outlook used by millions around the globe. Azure's status page showed services were impacted in Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. Only services in China and its platform for governments were not hit. By late morning Azure said most customers should have seen services resume after a full recovery of the Microsoft Wide Area Network (WAN). From Microsoft's [preliminary] post-incident review:
An outage of Azure, which has 15 million corporate customers and over 500 million active users, according to Microsoft data, can impact multiple services and create a domino effect as almost all of the world's largest companies use the platform.... Microsoft did not disclose the number of users affected by the disruption, but data from outage tracking website Downdetector showed thousands of incidents across continents.... Azure's share of the cloud computing market rose to 30% in 2022, trailing Amazon's AWS, according to estimates from BofA Global Research.... During the outage, users faced problems in exchanging messages, joining calls or using any features of Teams application. Many users took to Twitter to share updates about the service disruption, with #MicrosoftTeams trending as a hashtag on the social media site.... Among the other services affected were Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, OneDrive for Business, according to the company's status page.
"I think there is a very big debate to be had on resiliency in the comms and cloud space and the critical applications," Symphony Chief Executive Brad Levy said.
We determined that a change made to the Microsoft Wide Area Network (WAN) impacted connectivity between clients on the internet to Azure, connectivity across regions, as well as cross-premises connectivity via ExpressRoute.
As part of a planned change to update the IP address on a WAN router, a command given to the router caused it to send messages to all other routers in the WAN, which resulted in all of them recomputing their adjacency and forwarding tables. During this re-computation process, the routers were unable to correctly forward packets traversing them. The command that caused the issue has different behaviors on different network devices, and the command had not been vetted using our full qualification process on the router on which it was executed....
Due to the WAN impact, our automated systems for maintaining the health of the WAN were paused, including the systems for identifying and removing unhealthy devices, and the traffic engineering system for optimizing the flow of data across the network. Due to the pause in these systems, some paths in the network experienced increased packet loss from 09:35 UTC until those systems were manually restarted, restoring the WAN to optimal operating conditions. This recovery was completed at 12:43 UTC.
Why This Teacher Has Adopted an Open ChatGPT Policy
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR:
Ethan Mollick has a message for the humans and the machines: can't we all just get along? After all, we are now officially in an A.I. world and we're going to have to share it, reasons the associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School. "This was a sudden change, right? There is a lot of good stuff that we are going to have to do differently, but I think we could solve the problems of how we teach people to write in a world with ChatGPT," Mollick told NPR. [...] This year, Mollick is not only allowing his students to use ChatGPT, they are required to. And he has formally adopted an A.I. policy into his syllabus for the first time.
He teaches classes in entrepreneurship and innovation, and said the early indications were the move was going great. "The truth is, I probably couldn't have stopped them even if I didn't require it," Mollick said. This week he ran a session where students were asked to come up with ideas for their class project. Almost everyone had ChatGPT running and were asking it to generate projects, and then they interrogated the bot's ideas with further prompts. "And the ideas so far are great, partially as a result of that set of interactions," Mollick said. He readily admits he alternates between enthusiasm and anxiety about how artificial intelligence can change assessments in the classroom, but he believes educators need to move with the times. "We taught people how to do math in a world with calculators," he said. Now the challenge is for educators to teach students how the world has changed again, and how they can adapt to that.
Mollick's new policy states that using A.I. is an "emerging skill"; that it can be wrong and students should check its results against other sources; and that they will be responsible for any errors or omissions provided by the tool. And, perhaps most importantly, students need to acknowledge when and how they have used it. "Failure to do so is in violation of academic honesty policies," the policy reads. [...] "I think everybody is cheating ... I mean, it's happening. So what I'm asking students to do is just be honest with me," he said. "Tell me what they use ChatGPT for, tell me what they used as prompts to get it to do what they want, and that's all I'm asking from them. We're in a world where this is happening, but now it's just going to be at an even grander scale." "I don't think human nature changes as a result of ChatGPT. I think capability did."
UK Scientists Discover Method To Reduce Steelmaking's CO2 Emissions By 90%
Researchers from the University of Birmingham have developed an innovative method for existing furnaces that could reduce steelmaking's CO2 emission by nearly 90%. The Next Web reports:
The iron and steel industry is a major cause of greenhouse gasses, accounting for 9% of global emissions. That's because of the inherent carbon-intensive nature of steel production in blast furnaces, which currently represent the most-widely used practice. In blast furnace steel manufacturing, coke (a type of coal) is used to produce metallic iron from ore obtained from mining -- which releases large quantities of carbon dioxide in the process. According to Dr Harriet Kildahl, who co-devised the method with Professor Yulong Ding, their technology aims to convert this carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide that can be reused in the iron ore reaction. The study has been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.
This is realized using a thermochemical cycle which performs chemical reactions through changes in temperature. That way, the typically damaging CO2 is turned into a useful part of the reaction, forming "an almost perfect closed carbon loop." This drastically reduces emission by the amount of coke needed and, subsequently, lowers steelmaking's emissions by up to 88%. As per the researchers, if this method was implemented in the remaining two blast furnaces in the UK, it could save 1.28 billion pounds in 5 years, all while reducing the country's overall emissions by 2.9%.
"Current proposals for decarbonizing the steel sector rely on phasing out existing plants and introducing electric arc furnaces powered by renewable electricity. However, an electric arc furnace plant can cost over 1 billion pounds to build, which makes this switch economically unfeasible in the time remaining to meet the Paris Climate Agreement," Professor Ding said. "The system we are proposing can be retrofitted to existing plants, which reduces the risk of stranded assets, and both the reduction in CO2, and the cost savings, are seen immediately."
Missing Radioactive Capsule Sparks Urgent Health Alert In Western Australia
A tiny radioactive capsule with the potential to cause skin burns has gone missing as it was transported from a mine in Western Australia. The Guardian reports:
Hazardous material experts are searching for the 8mm by 6mm capsule, which is believed to have fallen from a truck as it was traveling the 1,400km between a mine site north of Newman in the Pilbara and a depot in Perth. At an emergency press conference on Friday, the WA chief health officer, Andy Robertson, said the capsule, which is only 6mm by 8mm, emits a "reasonable" amount of radiation. [...] The radioactive gauges are often used in the mining industry. Health authorities said the amount of radiation exposure was comparable to receiving 10 X-rays in the space of an hour.
Robertson said the capsule was understood to have fallen from a truck during the 1,400km journey, after vibrations worked loose a bolt, and the capsule fell through the bolt hole. The Department of Emergency and Fire Services issued a health alert on Friday saying there was "radioactive substance risk in parts of the Pilbara, Midwest Gascoyne, Goldfields-Midlands and Perth Metropolitan regions." DFES country north chief superintendent David Gill said areas around the mine site, north of Newman, and the transport depot had unsuccessfully been searched. Drivers who had travelled along the Great Northern Highway between Newman and Perth were being asked to check their tyres in case the capsule had become stuck in them.
An ALS Patient Set a Record For Communicating Via a Brain Implant: 62 Words Per Minute
An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review:
Eight years ago, a patient lost her power of speech because of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, which causes progressive paralysis. She can still make sounds, but her words have become unintelligible, leaving her reliant on a writing board or iPad to communicate. Now, after volunteering to receive a brain implant, the woman has been able to rapidly communicate phrases like "I don't own my home" and "It's just tough" at a rate approaching normal speech. That is the claim in a paper published over the weekend on the website bioRxiv by a team at Stanford University. The study has not been formally reviewed by other researchers. The scientists say their volunteer, identified only as "subject T12," smashed previous records by using the brain-reading implant to communicate at a rate of 62 words a minute, three times the previous best. [...] People without speech deficits typically talk at a rate of about 160 words a minute. Even in an era of keyboards, thumb-typing, emojis, and internet abbreviations, speech remains the fastest form of human-to-human communication.
The brain-computer interfaces that [co-lead author Krishna Sehnoy's] team works with involve a small pad of sharp electrodes embedded in a person's motor cortex, the brain region most involved in movement. This allows researchers to record activity from a few dozen neurons at once and find patterns that reflect what motions someone is thinking of, even if the person is paralyzed. In previous work, paralyzed volunteers have been asked to imagine making hand movements. By "decoding" their neural signals in real time, implants have let them steer a cursor around a screen, pick out letters on a virtual keyboard, play video games, or even control a robotic arm. In the new research, the Stanford team wanted to know if neurons in the motor cortex contained useful information about speech movements, too. That is, could they detect how "subject T12" was trying to move her mouth, tongue, and vocal cords as she attempted to talk?
These are small, subtle movements, and according to Sabes, one big discovery is that just a few neurons contained enough information to let a computer program predict, with good accuracy, what words the patient was trying to say. That information was conveyed by Shenoy's team to a computer screen, where the patient's words appeared as they were spoken by the computer. [...] The current system already uses a couple of types of machine learning programs. To improve its accuracy, the Stanford team employed software that predicts what word typically comes next in a sentence. "I" is more often followed by "am" than "ham," even though these words sound similar and could produce similar patterns in someone's brain. Adding the word prediction system increased how quickly the subject could speak without mistakes.
Amazon Is Reportedly Making a Tomb Raider TV Series
Amazon is developing a TV series based on the Tomb Raider video game franchise with scripts written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The Verge reports:
Details are light on this new Tomb Raider series, but THR says that while Waller-Bridge will serve as a writer and executive producer, she won't be starring in the show. The show is apparently still in the development stages, so we probably shouldn't expect to see it anytime soon. This new series could be another potentially big video game franchise adaptation for Amazon, which announced in December that it would be making a God of War TV show. But it also marks a further investment from Amazon into the Tomb Raider franchise, as the company will also be publishing the next Tomb Raider game from Crystal Dynamics. Amazon didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.
US and EU To Launch First-Of-Its-Kind AI Agreement
The United States and European Union on Friday announced an agreement to speed up and enhance the use of artificial intelligence to improve agriculture, healthcare, emergency response, climate forecasting and the electric grid. Reuters reports:
A senior U.S. administration official, discussing the initiative shortly before the official announcement, called it the first sweeping AI agreement between the United States and Europe. Previously, agreements on the issue had been limited to specific areas such as enhancing privacy, the official said. AI modeling, which refers to machine-learning algorithms that use data to make logical decisions, could be used to improve the speed and efficiency of government operations and services.
"The magic here is in building joint models (while) leaving data where it is," the senior administration official said. "The U.S. data stays in the U.S. and European data stays there, but we can build a model that talks to the European and the U.S. data because the more data and the more diverse data, the better the model." The initiative will give governments greater access to more detailed and data-rich AI models, leading to more efficient emergency responses and electric grid management, and other benefits, the administration official said. The partnership is currently between just the White House and the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union. The senior administration official said other countries will be invited to join in the coming months.
PagerDuty CEO Quotes MLK Jr. In Worst Layoff Email Ever
Jody Serrano writes via Gizmodo:
In a 1,669-word email to employees, [PagerDuty CEO Jennifer Tejada] echoed the script many tech CEOs have recited in recent months, stating that today's "volatile economy requires additional transformation" by the company. As a result, PagerDuty would be "refining" its operating model by cutting about 7% of its staff globally. That wasn't the only "refinement" the company would undertake, though. According to Tejada, PagerDuty will reduce its discretionary spend, negotiate "more favorable commercial agreements with key vendors," and "rationalize [its] real estate footprint." Up to this point, Tejada's email, while overly complex, weird, and tone deaf, still was not that bad. She goes on to acknowledge employees and their contributions to PagerDuty and announces a decent severance pay of 11 weeks, with extended healthcare coverage and job support. "It doesn't seem to have been written with ill intent, but rather with the goal to save time (by announcing layoffs, promotions, and predictions for a solid year) and save face (by refusing to say the word layoffs)," adds Serrano. "In these difficult situations, though, it's just better to be upfront."
Nonetheless, it all starts to go downhill when she decides to use the same email where she announces layoffs to celebrate recent employee promotions, reveal good financial results for the fourth quarter of last year, and state that the company expects to end the year strong. As if she couldn't do so in another email where people weren't told they were possibly losing their jobs. "We expect to finish the year strong -- in fact, we have reaffirmed our guidance for FY23 today -- and those results, combined with the refinements outlined above, put PagerDuty in a position of strength to successfully execute on our platform strategy regardless of what the market and the macroenvironment bring," Tejada said.
While it's clearly a CEO's job to cheer on their company, Tejada makes things sound so good that it's perplexing to think the company has to lay off any people to begin with. Alas, the PagerDuty CEO was not done sticking her foot in her mouth and ended her note with a reference a quote from King's sermons published in The Measure of a Man in 1959. She used brackets to change the quote slightly to accommodate her message. "I am reminded in moments like this, of something Martin Luther King said, that 'the ultimate measure of a [leader] is not where [they] stand in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where [they] stand in times of challenge and controversy,'" Tejada said.
Boeing Pleads Not Guilty To Fraud In Criminal Case Over Deadly 737 Max Crashes
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR:
Aerospace giant Boeing entered a plea of not guilty to a criminal charge at an arraignment in federal court in Texas Thursday. The company is charged with felony fraud related to the crashes of two of its 737 Max airplanes that killed a total of 346 people. About a dozen relatives of some of those who were killed in the crashes gave emotional testimony during the three-hour arraignment hearing about how they've been affected by what they call "the deadliest corporate crime in U.S. history." They testified after Boeing's chief aerospace safety officer Mike Delaney entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of the airplane manufacturer to the charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. The company is accused of deceiving and misleading federal regulators about the safety of a critical automated flight control system that investigators found played a major role in causing the crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and in Ethiopia in 2019.
Boeing and the Justice Department had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement to settle the charge two years ago but many of the families of the crash victims objected to the agreement, saying that they were not consulted about what they called a "secret, sweetheart deal." Under the terms of the agreement, Boeing admitted to defrauding the FAA by concealing safety problems with the 737 Max, but pinned much of the blame on two technical pilots who they say misled regulators while working on the certification of the aircraft. Only one of those pilots was prosecuted and a jury acquitted him at trial last year. Boeing also agreed to pay $2.5 billion, including $1.7 billion in compensation to airlines that had purchased 737 Max planes but could not use them while the plane was grounded for 20 months after the second plane crashed. The company also agreed to pay $500 million in compensation to the families of those killed in the two Max plane crashes, and to pay a $243 million fine. The agreement also required Boeing to make significant changes to its safety policies and procedures, as well as to the corporate culture, which many insiders have said had shifted in recent years from a safety first focus to one that critics say put profits first.
After three years, if the aerospace giant and defense contractor lived up to the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement, the criminal charge against Boeing would be dismissed and the company would be immune from further prosecution. But last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor agreed that under the Crime Victims' Rights Act, the relatives' rights had been violated and they should have been consulted before the DOJ and Boeing reached the agreement. Last week, he ordered Boeing to appear Thursday to be arraigned. On Thursday, the families asked Judge O'Connor to impose certain conditions on Boeing as a condition of release, including appointing an independent monitor to oversee Boeing's compliance with the terms of the previous deferred prosecution agreement, and that the company's compliance efforts "be made public to the fullest extent possible." O'Connor did not rule on whether to impose those conditions yet, as Boeing and the Justice Department opposed the request. But he did impose a standard condition that Boeing commit no new crimes.
Mercedes Is the First Certified Level-3-Autonomy Car Company In the US
At CES earlier this January, Mercedes announced that it would become the first car company to achieve certification from the SAE for a Level 3 driver assist system. That became official on Thursday when the automaker confirmed its Drive Pilot ADAS (automated driver assist system) now complies with the requirements of Nevada Chapter 482A, which governs the use of autonomous vehicle technology on the state's roads. That makes Drive Pilot the only legal Level 3 system in the US for the moment. Engadget reports:
Level 3 capabilities, as defined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), would enable the vehicle to handle "all aspects of the driving" when engaged but still need the driver attentive enough to promptly take control if necessary. That's a big step up from the Level 2 systems we see today such as Tesla's "Full Self-Driving," Ford's Blue Cruise, and GM's Super Cruise. All of those are essentially extra-capable highway cruise controls where the driver must maintain their attention on driving, typically keeping their hands on or at least near the wheel, and be responsible for what the ADAS is doing while it's doing it. That's a far cry from the Knight Rider-esque ADAS outlook Tesla is selling and what Level 2 autonomy is actually capable of. "An unwavering commitment to innovation has consistently guided Mercedes-Benz from the very beginning," Dimitris Psillakis, President and CEO of MBUSA, said in Thursday's press statement. "It is a very proud moment for everyone to continue this leadership and celebrate this monumental achievement as the first automotive company to be certified for Level 3 conditionally automated driving in the US market."
Mercedes' Drive Pilot system can, "on suitable freeway sections and where there is high traffic density," according to the company, take over the bumper-to-bumper crawling duties up to 40 MPH without the driver needing to keep their hands on the wheel. When engaged, the system handles lane-keeping duties, stays with the flow of traffic, navigates to destinations programmed into the Nav system, and will even react to "unexpected traffic situations and handles them independently, e.g. by evasive maneuvers within the lane or by braking maneuvers."
Intel's 'Historic Collapse' Erases $8 Billion From Market Value
Intel saw about $8 billion wiped off its market value on Friday after the U.S. chipmaker stumped Wall Street with dismal earnings projections, fanning fears around a slump in the personal-computer market. Reuters reports:
The company predicted a surprise loss for the first quarter and its revenue forecast was $3 billion below estimates as it also struggled with slowing growth in the data center business. Intel shares closed 6.4% lower, while rival Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia ended the session up 0.3% and 2.8%, respectively. Intel supplier KLA Corp settled 6.9% lower after its dismal forecast.
"No words can portray or explain the historic collapse of Intel," said Rosenblatt Securities' Hans Mosesmann, who was among the 21 analysts to cut their price targets on the stock. The poor outlook underscored the challenges facing Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger as he tries to reestablish Intel's dominance of the sector by expanding contract manufacturing and building new factories in the United States and Europe. "AMD's Genoa and Bergamo (data center) chips have a strong price-performance advantage compared to Intel's Sapphire Rapids processors, which should drive further AMD share gains," said Matt Wegner, analyst at YipitData.
Analysts said that puts Intel at a disadvantage even when the data center market bottoms out, expected in the second half of 2022, as the company would have lost even more share by then. "It is now clear why Intel needs to cut so much cost as the company's original plans prove to be fantasy," brokerage Bernstein said. "The magnitude of the deterioration is stunning, and brings potential concern to the company's cash position over time."
BuzzFeed Says It Will Use AI To Help Create Content, Stock Jumps 150%
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN:
BuzzFeed said Thursday that it will work with ChatGPT creator OpenAI to use artificial intelligence to help create content for its audience, marking a milestone in how media companies implement the new technology into their businesses. Jonah Peretti, the company's co-founder and chief executive, told employees in a memo that they can expect "AI inspired content" to "move from an R&D stage to part of our core business." Peretti elaborated that the technology will be used to create quizzes, help with brainstorming, and assist in personalizing content to its audience. BuzzFeed, for now, will not use artificial intelligence to help write news stories, a spokesperson told CNN. Further reading: CNET Used AI To Write 75 Articles
"To be clear, we see the breakthroughs in AI opening up a new era of creativity that will allow humans to harness creativity in new ways with endless opportunities and applications for good," Peretti said. "In publishing, AI can benefit both content creators and audiences, inspiring new ideas and inviting audience members to co-create personalized content." "When you see this work in action it is pretty amazing," Peretti added, vowing to "lead the future of AI-powered content." The news sent BuzzFeed's sagging stock skyrocketing more than 150% in trading Thursday to more than $2 a share.
Japan, Netherlands To Join US in Chip Controls on China
Japan and the Netherlands are poised to join the US in limiting China's access to advanced semiconductor machinery, forging a powerful alliance that will undercut Beijing's ambitions to build its own domestic chip capabilities, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing people familiar with the negotiations. From the report:
US, Dutch and Japanese officials are set to conclude talks as soon as Friday US time on a new set of limits to what can be supplied to Chinese companies, the people said, asking not to be named because the talks are private. Negotiations were ongoing as of late Thursday in Washington. There is no plan for a public announcement of restrictions that will likely be just implemented, the people said.
The Netherlands will expand restrictions on ASML Holding NV, which will prevent it from selling at least some of its so-called deep ultraviolet lithography machines, crucial to making some types of advanced chips and without which attempts to set up production lines may be impossible. Japan will set similar limits on Nikon. The joint effort expands on restrictions the Biden administration unveiled in October that were aimed at curtailing China's ability to manufacture its own advanced semiconductors or buy cutting-edge chips from abroad that would aid military and artificial-intelligence capabilities.
Apple Devising Software To Help Anyone Build AR Apps, To Drive Headset Sales
Apple is developing software that offers an easy way for users of its upcoming mixed-reality headset to build their own augmented reality apps, as part of an effort to drive mass adoption of the device by broadening the array of content for it, The Information reported Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. From the report:
With the software tools, Apple hopes that even people who don't know computer code could tell the headset, via the Siri voice assistant, to build an AR app that could then be made available via Apple's App Store for others to download. The tool, for example, could allow users to build an app with virtual animals moving around a room and over or around real-life objects without the need to design the animal from scratch, program its animations and calculate its movement in a 3D space with obstacles.
AI Wildfire Detection Bill Gets Initial Approval in Colorado
A year after the most destructive wildfire in the state's history scorched nearly 1,100 homes, Colorado lawmakers are considering joining other Western states by adopting artificial intelligence in the hopes of detecting blazes before they burn out of control. From a report:
A Colorado Senate committee on Thursday unanimously voted to move forward a bill to create a $2 million pilot program that would station cameras on mountaintops, and use artificial intelligence to monitor the footage and help detect early signs of a wildfire. The bill will move to the state Senate Appropriations Committee next.
"It can detect just a wisp of smoke and it's that type of situation in remote areas that could save forests and homes and properties and lives," Democratic state Sen. Joann Ginal, one of the bill's sponsors, said in the hearing. The deployment of AI is part of an ongoing effort by firefighters to use new technology to become smarter about how they prepare and better position their resources. Fire lookout towers once staffed by humans have largely been replaced by cameras in remote areas, many of them in high-definition and armed with artificial intelligence to discern a smoke plume from morning fog.