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Google Fined $1.7 Billion Over Monopolistic Practices

The European commission has reportedly slapped Google with a 1.49 billion Euro (or $1.69 billion USD) fine for "abusing its monopoly in online advertising." More specifically, the report alleges that Google prevented companies that using its search service from running any third party adverts, and the commission claims that "Google's rivals were not able to compete on the merits, either because there was an outright prohibition for them to appear on publisher websites or because Google reserved for itself by far the most valuable commercial space on those websites, while at the same time controlling how rival search adverts could appear." Google apparently changed these practices in 2016, but it took some time for the repercussions to catch up with them.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said: "Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate - and consumers the benefits of competition."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 10:30 AM (CDT)

Digital Foundry Analyzes Google's Stadia Platform

Following Google's "Stadia" game streaming service announcement yesterday, Digital Foundry decided to take a closer look at the hardware behind the platform. Google says they use a "Custom 2.7GHz hyper-threaded x86 CPU with AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2+L3 cache," and while they didn't mention the vendor, DF notes that they haven't seen such a configuration in any of AMD's currently shipping server CPUs, and that it should significantly outpace anything found in a modern console. Meanwhile, the GPU largely resembles a Vega 56 card with 16GB of HBM2, and the games are reportedly loaded from an SSD. Through their own testing, DF came away impressed with the platform's consistent frame pacing, and in some cases, total latency is on par with locally-run games on a console or PC.

Google has also demonstrated scalability on the graphics side, with a demonstration of three of the AMD GPUs running in concert. Its stated aim is to remove as many of the limiting factors impacting game-makers as possible, and with that in mind, the option is there for developers to scale projects across multiple cloud units: "The way that we describe what we are is a new generation because it's purpose-built for the 21st century," says Google's Phil Harrison. "It does not have any of the hallmarks of a legacy system. It is not a discrete device in the cloud. It is an elastic compute in the cloud and that allows developers to use an unprecedented amount of compute in support of their games, both on CPU and GPU, but also particularly around multiplayer."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 20, 2019 9:14 AM (CDT)

Google Partners with AMD for Google Stadia Game Streaming Service

Google has selected AMD as its partner for the Google Stadia game streaming service. Google will use high-performance, custom AMD Radeon datacenter GPUs for its Vulkan and Linux-based Google Stadia. AMD noted how its commitment to open-source AMD Linux drivers would allow Google and its development partners to inspect the code and understand exactly how the driver works, enabling them to better optimize their applications to interface with AMD Radeon GPUs. AMD supplies other tools such as the AMD Radeon GPU Profiler (RGP) that allows developers to identify timing issues that might lead to optimizations. The Google Stadia service will feature game streams with resolutions up to 4K HDR 60 FPS. Google announced a 2019 launch time for the game streaming service.

Streaming graphics-rich games to millions of users on demand and from the cloud requires ultra high-performance processing capabilities to minimize latency and maximize game performance. It also requires advanced technologies to tackle unique datacenter challenges, including security, manageability, and scalability. The AMD graphics architecture supports a wide range of today's gaming platforms -- from PCs to major game consoles -- enabling developers to optimize their games for a single GPU architecture and extend these benefits across multiple platforms which now include large-scale cloud gaming platforms.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 19, 2019 4:41 PM (CDT)

Google GDC 2019 Gaming Announcement

Here is the Google GDC gaming announcement.

Gather around as we unveil Google's vision for the future of gaming at #GDC19.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 19, 2019 12:23 PM (CDT)

Astronauts From Failed Launch Will Return to the ISS Today

Last October, three astronauts aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket survived an explosive, mid flight failure. The ancient, Soviet-designed Soyuz rockets are notoriously reliable, with only 1 other recorded manned launch failure in 1975, but the 2018 incident put the future of the International Space Station in jeopardy, as it was, and still is, the only launch platform deemed reliable enough to haul astronauts to the ISS. Today, at 2:14 PM Central Time, two of the three astronauts that survived the original failure are scheduled to try again. In spite of an abort sequence that subjected them to nearly 8G, the astronauts don't seem worried at all. SpaceFlightNow is covering the event in real time, and NASA's official YouTube channel will stream the launch later today, which you can see below:

Ovchinin and Hague took off aboard the Soyuz MS-10/56S spacecraft on Oct. 11. But two minutes after liftoff, one of the rocket's four strap-on boosters failed to separate cleanly, triggering a catastrophic failure. The Soyuz spacecraft's abort system immediately kicked in, propelling the crew ship to safety for a parachute descent to Earth. The problem with the normally reliable Soyuz booster was quickly identified and corrected and the station's current crew - Soyuz MS-11/57S commander Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut-physician David Saint-Jacques and NASA flight engineer Anne McClain - enjoyed a problem-free ride to orbit Dec. 3. Speaking with CBS News by satellite from Moscow last month, Hague said he continued to have full confidence in the safety and reliability of the Soyuz. "I'm 100 percent confident," he said. "In the aftermath of the launch abort, watching the response from the Russians, the transparency and the way they approach that in terms of sharing their data and resolving the issues, it was impressive. The strength of the international cooperation was tested, and it's as strong as it's ever been."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 14, 2019 12:05 PM (CDT)

Google's Game Streaming Console Controller Potentially Revealed

Google won’t be officially announcing its new game streaming service until next week’s Game Developers Conference, but Twitter user Reps has gone ahead and provided an early look at the "Yeti" console’s controller. Many believe these are merely renders based off a patent uncovered over the weekend, but they do give an idea of what the final product could look like.

The patent indicates that the controller provides for a "seamless activation of a game of other application on a host device" and that a "game may be launched on the host device in a response to an activation signal that is dispatched from the game controller." The game controller itself has a built-in notification system that can notify a player of various game-related responses (i.e. chat notification, leaderboard changes, etc.).

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 10, 2019 9:30 AM (CDT)

Google Discovers Vulnerabilities in Chrome and Windows 7

Google just publicized a combination of zero-day exploits for Windows 7 and Chrome that are reportedly being exploited together in the wild. The bug in Chrome allegedly involved the browser's file reader, while the vulnerability in Windows "is a NULL pointer dereference in win32k!MNGetpItemFromIndex when NtUserMNDragOver() system call is called under specific circumstances." Google says they reported the bug on February 27th, and pushed out a patch for Chrome on March 1st, but the Windows 7 vulnerability doesn't appear to be patched yet. Google claims they've only observed the Windows exploit on 32-bit Windows 7 systems so far, but notes that exploit mitigations already protect newer version of Windows, and say that "users should consider upgrading to Windows 10 if they are still running an older version of Windows." Sophos took a look at the Chrome bug earlier this week, and they seems to think that a single bad webpage could give attackers remote access to computers.

When we heard that the vulnerability was connected to FileReader, we assumed that the bug would involve reading from files you weren't supposed to. Ironically, however, it looks as though attackers can take much more general control, allowing them to pull off what's called Remote Code Execution, or RCE. RCE almost always means a crooks can implant malware without any warnings, dialogs or popups. Just tricking you into looking at a booby-trapped web page might be enough for crooks to take over your computer remotely.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 08, 2019 9:52 AM (CST)

DRAM Prices See Sharpest Decline Since 2011

If you're a regular at HardOCP, you've probably heard that memory prices are dropping like a rock. As we've reported before, a number of factors, including reduced smartphone demand, excess inventory, the Intel CPU shortage, and a stable "bit output" thanks to advancing lithography tech are quickly bringing down DDR4 prices, in spite of manufacturers' efforts to slow down production. However, DRAMeXchange reports that there was a "a most unusual, large down-correction in prices" last February. DRAM contracts are now monthly instead of quarterly deals, and DRAMeXchange revised their first quarter price drop projection to 30%. Looking farther ahead, the market research firm notes that suppliers are holding "around a whopping six weeks' worth of inventory (wafer banks included)," and that the Intel CPU shortage is expected to last until 3Q19, hence the down-corrections are expected to continue throughout the year.

Looking at the DRAM market one or two years into the future, the big trio aren't going to roll over in the competition for market shares any time soon. SK Hynix has recently announced that it will invest 120 trillion won (around US$107 billion ) to build four new wafer fabs as part of its strategy to improve its competitiveness. Micron, on the other hand, doubled down and commenced construction of an IC testing and packaging plant in Taiwan. At the same time, its subsidiary Micron Memory Taiwan ( formerly Rexchip) in Houli, Taichung, is considering building a new 12-inch DRAM wafer fab, which could finish construction as early as the end of next year, and massively contribute to production in 2021. As for the world's largest DRAM supplier Samsung, it is currently building a second fab at Pyeongtaek. "The rich stay rich" - such is the immutable trend of the DRAM market; furthermore, new competitors are aided by a wealth of resources and capital upon entering the market. Hence, if smaller DRAM suppliers don't find ways to catch up on production processes and scale, they may risk being marginalized in the near future.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 07, 2019 8:40 AM (CST)

Google Employees Claim Work on Chinese Search Engine Continues

Following protests from externals sources as well as their own employees, Google allegedly shelved their plans to launch the censored "Dragonfly" search engine in China last year. But, according to a recent report, Google employees discovered that work on Project Dragonfly is ongoing. Inside sources claim that hundreds of commits to the code have been made last December, January, and February, and that Google's official position on the state of the project is as clear as mud. Google's leadership is said to "have really closed down communication and become significantly less transparent," which is supposedly pushing away some of the company's best engineering talent.

Google bosses had originally planned to launch it between January and April of this year. But they changed course after the outcry over the plan and indicated to employees who were working on the project that it was being shelved... "Right now it feels unlaunchable, but I don't think they are canceling outright," McMillen said. "I think they are putting it on the back burner and are going to try it again in a year or two with a different code name or approach." Anna Bacciarelli, a technology researcher at Amnesty International, called on Google "to publicly confirm that it has dropped Dragonfly for good, not just 'for now.'" Bacciarelli told The Intercept that Amnesty's Secretary General Kumi Naidoo had visited Google's Mountain View headquarters in California last week to reiterate concerns over Dragonfly and "the apparent disregard for transparency and accountability around the project."

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 05, 2019 11:31 AM (CST)

Google Pay Equity Analysis Results in $9.7 Million in Adjustments

In 2018, Google included 91% of Google employees in its annual pay equity analysis that covers all job groups that meet minimum n-count thresholds for statistical analysis. Google's annual compensation planning process includes modeling algorithmically each employee's compensation based on work-related inputs like the market rate for their job, their location, level and performance rating. This allows the company to equally compensate employees equitably across gender and racial lines. Any significant discrepancies are handled with a pay raise as compensation. Google made $9.7 million in adjustments to 10,677 Google employees after the 2018 analysis. The main group that was flagged to receive adjustments were men in the Level 4 Software Engineer career. Google said men received less discretionary funds than women in that career path. 49% of total dollars spent on adjustments went to new hires. Google's next goal is to create a leveling equity analysis to assess how employees are leveled when they are hired and improve how they level. The Washington Post says Google is embroiled in a lawsuit that alleges the tech giant discriminates against women.

Our pay equity analysis ensures that compensation is fair for employees in the same job, at the same level, location and performance. But we know that's only part of the story. Because leveling, performance ratings, and promotion impact pay, this year, we are undertaking a comprehensive review of these processes to make sure the outcomes are fair and equitable for all employees.

Discussion
Posted by cageymaru March 05, 2019 10:55 AM (CST)

Google Starts Selling Edge TPUs

Back in 2016, Google revealed their custom built Tensor Processing Unit chips that were explicitly designed for machine learning tasks, and just last year, they started renting out cloud-based access to updated versions of that AI hardware. These monster ASICs are squarely aimed at ML training tasks, but during that same period, Google also released a small, low power Edge TPU designed to run algorithms the big chips train a little closer to home. Previously, these "Edge" ML chips were only available to rent through Google, but an Alphabet spin-off called Coral just started selling the Edge TPUs through Mouser. Interested parties can buy self-contained development boards complete with an ARM CPU, an integrated GPU, I/O, and Ethernet for $149, while a USB accessory akin to an Intel Compute Stick will set you back $75. A PCI-E based accelerator and a 40mm x 40mm "System on Module" are said to be coming sometime in 2019, but there's no word on when, or if, Google will ever sell the bigger TPU ASICs as discrete co-processors.

AI is pervasive today, from consumer to enterprise applications. With the explosive growth of connected devices, combined with a demand for privacy/confidentiality, low latency and bandwidth constraints, AI models trained in the cloud increasingly need to be run at the edge. Edge TPU is Google's purpose-built ASIC designed to run AI at the edge. It delivers high performance in a small physical and power footprint, enabling the deployment of high-accuracy AI at the edge.

Discussion
Posted by alphaatlas March 05, 2019 8:41 AM (CST)

Samsung Offers to Supply Foldable Displays to Apple and Google

Sharing is caring: Korean IT news site ETNews is reporting Samsung has provided samples of its foldable display to Apple and Google, which will certainly make it easier for these giants to develop Galaxy Fold-type devices of their own, presuming they care to. MacRumors points out the former has been working on its own iteration of foldable-display technology, but if that doesn’t pan out, Apple can simply do business with Samsung.

Samsung has historically been both supplier and competitor to Apple and other smartphone manufacturers and provides the OLED screens for Apple's top of the line iPhones. According to the report, Samsung doesn't intend to keep foldable technology to itself and is instead working to dominate as a supplier for the technology. Samsung is said to be able to produced about 2.4 million units a year at this time but is considering moving up to 10 million units a year depending on demand.

Discussion
Posted by Megalith March 03, 2019 10:40 AM (CST)