Google Says 21 Percent of Tech Hires in 2014 Were Women in New Diversity Report

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Google said 21 percent of tech hires last year were women, boosting overall number of women in technical roles by 1 percent, as part of efforts to increase diversity.
The company recently began disclosing the makeup of its workforce after admitting that it was “wrong, and that it’s time to be candid about the issues.”
The technology industry has long been plagued not just by allegations of a gender gap but also by a broad lack of inclusiveness that affects minorities too.
Google said Monday that the increase in Black and Hispanic employees outpaced the company’s overall hiring growth, but made up for only 2 percent and 3 percent of total workforce, respectively.
“Though we still have a long way to go, we’re seeing some early progress,” the company said in a Google+post.google_divesity_chart_official.jpg
As of December 31, Google had 53,600 full-time employees.
In its Google+ post, the Mountain View giant broke down some statistics about women and minority hires.
— 21 percent of the tech hires we made last year were women and the overall number of women in technical roles went up by 1 percent. This increase reflects some long-standing investments. For example, in 2010, just 14 percent of the Software Engineers we hired through our outreach at colleges and universities were women. Since then, we’ve invested $3 million in Anita Borg Scholarships for women pursuing computer science degrees, and worked to build a community of women in technology. This past year, 22 percent of software engineers hired through campus outreach were women — more than the percentage of women pursuing CS degrees today (18 percent). Other signs in the industry are also showing promise; this year 23 percent of attendees at Google I/O were women, up from 20 percent in 2014, and just 8 percent in 2013.
— The increase in Black and Hispanic Googlers outpaced Google’s hiring growth overall — but they still make up just 2 percent and 3 percent of the company, respectively. Still, we’ve laid groundwork to accelerate representation of Blacks and Hispanics. We’ve doubled the number of universities we recruit from, and we’ve deepened our partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities. On the technical side, our Black and Hispanic communities grew by 39 percent in the U.S., compared to 28 percent tech growth overall. Our non-technical teams in the U.S. grew by 17 percent last year, while the Black community in grew by 38 percent and Hispanic by 22 percent in non-tech.

Written with inputs from Reuters

Instagram ‘Reopens Account’ Dedicated to Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

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Photosharing service Instagram on Monday reopened an account dedicated to Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, days after having closed it in the runup to the 26th anniversary of his death.The @EmamKhomeini account, which published rare or unseen photos of the Islamic republic’s founder, had 100,000 followers before it was removed in late May.

“Instagram in an email announced the deletion of the page … and only provided the automated generic text banning violent, pornographic or advertisement content,” according to Iranian media.

Another account @EmamKhomeiny, was created to replace it as Iran prepares to mark the anniversary Thursday of Khomeini’s death.

Iran, which has 40 million Internet users among a population of nearly 78 million, has blocked many news, political or pornographic sites and several social networks, especially Twitter and Facebook, since mass protests in June 2009 challenging the re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranians use software to circumvent the restrictions.

Iran began filtering images on Instagram in late 2014 to censor content deemed “offensive” as part of a government project to selectively control social networks.

President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, has pledged an easing of Internet censorship but he has faced resistance from hardliners.

Japanese Government Seeks to Reassure Public Over Pension Data Leak

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government sought on Tuesday to assure the Japanese public their pensions were not at risk after a big data leak, an incident with echoes of a scandal that helped oust Abe during his first term in office.The leak, underscoring what critics have long charged is Japan’s vulnerability tocyber-attacks, coincide with Abe’s push to legislate a big shift from post-war pacifism, keep a nascent recovery on track and craft plans to rein in public debt.

News of the hacking came days after the United States and Japan announced Washington would extend its cyber-defence umbrella over its ally to help it cope with the growing threat of attacks against military bases and infrastructure.

Japan Pension Service staff computers were improperly accessed by an external email virus, allowing the leak of some 1.25 million cases of personal data, its president told a news conference on Monday. The leaks involved names, identification numbers, birth dates and addresses.

“We will make every effort to keep this from causing inconvenience to those whose data was leaked and to review the issue and take preventive measures,” Abe’s top aide, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told a news conference.

While Abe will probably weather the storm, a risk to his ratings, now relatively robust, could not be ruled out, analysts said.

“The conditions are much more favourable to him (than in his first term),” said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano, citing opposition weakness and Japanese media’s tendency not to antagonise a government that could last several more years.

“On the other hand, even though his support levels are still relatively high, his policies are not widely supported,” Nakano said. “It depends on how he is seen as coping.”

Opposition officials were quick to go on the attack.

“This is a situation which undermines the foundations of livelihoods and shakes confidence in pensions,” Kyodo news agency quoted Democratic Party executive Yoshiaki Takaki as saying.

Takaki said the party would grill officials in parliament.

Public outrage over the loss of 50 million records of pension premium payments by the Japan Pension Service’s predecessor was a major factor in a devastating defeat suffered by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in a 2007 upper house election.

Abe, whose first cabinet lost several ministers to other scandals and gaffes, including one who committed suicide, quit in September 2007 due to political deadlock and ill health.

Zomato Closes Urbanspoon 5 Months After Acquisition

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Zomato shared the above image [note for ed: There is no spoon pic as story image] on Twitter and Facebook late on Monday night, announcing the final closure of the Urbanspoon brand.

It acquired the US-based restaurant reviews site in January, and at the time, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal also wrote a blog post saying that its biggest challenge is now going to be taking on Yelp.

In January, Zomato COO and Co-Founder Pankaj Chaddah told NDTV Gadgets that Zomato would be closing the Urbanspoon brand. “We would have to keep two identities, two systems, two databases,” he said. “It is better to work with one brand, and keep a global identity. We will migrate the product, and keep the Zomato identity.”

“For us, the most important thing that Urbanspoon brings is the user base,” he had added. “It also brings huge geographies and experience in those markets, and the Urbanspoon team will continue with us, though we’ll be adding to it. They’ve also been doing some product stuff we haven’t, and we’ll marry what they do with our own stuff.”

Either this process has been completed pretty quickly, or keeping the Urbanspoon brand around was proving more expensive – and less help against Yelp – than expected. NDTV Gadgets has reached out to Zomato to try and learn more about why the brand was closed so quickly, but have not received a response as yet.

As of now, visitors to the Urbanspoon website are redirected to Zomato; the Urbanspoon app still works, but some features of the app also no longer work, and all accounts have been migrated to Zomato.

This includes several changes for Urbanspoon users. For one, the rating system on Urbanspoon has changed, from the like and dislike system to Zomato’s five point scale. Also, Zomato only allows one review per person per restaurant, while Urbanspoon had no such restrictions. It also requires people to log in to use the app, unlike Urbanspoon.

The acquisition of Urbanspoon was just one in a string of high profile acquisitions around the world, but according to Chaddah, the plan for 2015 now is to consolidate and launch new features. We’ve seen the rollout of features like Zomato Cashless in Dubai in February, support for online ordering and then a new app just to order food.

Although some have criticised Zomato as lacking in innovation, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the company is trying to become a part of every aspect of the restaurant ecosystem, with payments and deliveries already launched, and table booking rumoured to be coming next. With that focus in mind, it perhaps makes sense that Zomato wanted to close down the Urbanspoon brand as quickly as possibly, before the two products diverged too wildly.

Facebook Death Threat Not Grounds for Conviction

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The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that a death threat posted on Facebook was not enough to convict its author unless there was explicit intent to cause harm.But the court took pains to make its ruling on statutory grounds rather than address the broader issue of whether such a statement is protected under First Amendment guarantees of free speech.

The nine-member court first heard arguments in the case December 1, 2014. The panel had to rule on apparent death threats that a man upset over his separation from his wife made against her on Facebook. His comments landed him in prison.

Elonis was convicted of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to transmit in interstate commerce “any communication containing any threat . . . to injure the person of another.”

“There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts,” Anthony Elonis’ post said in the form of rap music lyrics.

The court had to decide if the threat posted on Facebook actually bore with it an intention to cause harm or was rather a form of expression covered by the First Amendment.

In a 7-2 decision, the judges said it was “unnecessary to consider any 1st Amendment issues.”

It said “requiring only negligence with respect to the communication of a threat is not sufficient to support a conviction.”

Elonis has said that his post was simply a “therapeutic” tool and that he had no intention to hurt anyone, so his message did not amount to an actual threat.

Still, a lower court sentenced him to three years in jail and three years’ probation.

But the Supreme Court sided Monday with Elonis. It threw out his conviction and sent the case back to the lower court.

The high court said prosecutors should have had to prove that Elonis actually had a specific intent to cause harm to his estranged wife.

When the case first came before the court late last year, the government had argued that the federal law under which Elonis was jailed barred actual threats defined as statements a “reasonable person” would construe as the serious expression of an intent to cause harm.

Sony Xperia Z3+ Price and Availability Tipped

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Sony last month launched the Xperia Z3+ as the global variant of the Japan-onlyXperia Z4 smartphone. The company announced that the Xperia Z3+ will be available globally next month without revealing price of the handset.Now, an Italian website is claiming that Sony’s Xperia Z3+ flagship will be available starting June-end (precisely between June 22-26) and will be priced at EUR 699 (approximately Rs. 48,750). So far the Sony Xperia Z3+ smartphone has not beenlisted by the company’s Italian site. In the meanwhile, a UK retailer also listing the Xperia Z3+ for pre-order late last month, priced at GBP 549 (approximately Rs. 53,250) and with an end of June availability.

Last month, Sony also launched the dual-SIM variant of the Xperia Z3+ called Xperia Z3+ Dual for select markets.

The Android 5.0 Lollipop-based Sony Xperia Z3+ features a 5.2-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) Triluminos display and is powered by X-Reality for mobile picture engine. Following the suite of some other flagships, the Xperia Z3+ is also powered by a 64-bit octa-core (quad-core 1.5GHz + quad-core 2GHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor coupled with 3GB of RAM. The handset is enclosed in a metal frame.

The Xperia Z3+ from Sony also retains the 20.7-megapixel autofocus rear camera of its predecessor. The rear camera however now features 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS BSI sensor, Bionz image processor, and a pulsed LED flash. The Sony Xperia Z3+ sports a 5-megapixel front-facing camera with Exmor R BSI sensor, which is an upgrade from Xperia Z3’s 2.2-megapixel front camera. It also features a 25mm wide-angle lens, apart from electronic image stabilisation. Both the Sony Xperia Z3+ and Xperia Z3+ Dual feature identical specifications except that the latter supports dual-SIM cards.

The handset includes 32GB of inbuilt storage, which is further expandable via microSD card (up to 128GB). The smartphone is backed by a 2930mAh battery. Other features on the Xperia Z3+ include an IP65/IP68 equivalent certification, which according to Sony makes the phone waterproof and dust-tight. Another USP of the device is support for high-resolution audio with LDAC compression technology. It measures 146x72x6.9mm and weighs 144 grams. Connectivity features on the Xperia Z3+ include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi with hotspot, 3G, 4G LTE, GPS/ A-GPS, Glonass, Micro-USB, DLNA, and NFC.

Millennials Favour Facebook for US Political News

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When it comes to political news, Millennials are more likely to turn to Facebook than their television-watching Baby Boomer elders, a Pew Research Center study released Monday suggests.The Washington-based social research institute surveyed nearly 3,000 online adults to learn how Americans are informing themselves in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.

Sixty-one percent of Millennials, aged 18 to 33, said they got their news about politics and government from Facebook, with another 37 percent tuning in to local television newscasts.

It was the reverse among Baby Boomers, aged 50 to 68, with 60 percent watching local TV news and 39 percent favouring the popular social networking website.

Generation Xers, aged 34 to 49, were more balanced between the two media, with 51 percent logging onto Facebook for political and government news and 46 percent favouring local television.

“We are only beginning to understand the complex interactions of personal choice, friend networks and algorithms in the social media space,” said Pew’s director of journalism research Amy Mitchell.

“As the research continues, these data suggest there are fundamental differences in the ways younger and older generations stay informed about political news,” she said in a statement announcing the findings.

The survey, conducted March 19 to April 29, did not include the so-called Silent Generation, aged 69 to 86, due to the large proportion of its members who don’t use the Internet, Pew said.

While mainstream media enjoyed a higher level of trust across all three generations, Millennials were more likely to put confidence in satirical newscasts such as “The Daily Show” hosted by Jon Stewart.

But overall, Millennials expressed less interest in politics overall, with only 26 percent saying it was one of their three favourite topics of interest.

Among Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, the proportions were 34 percent and 45 percent respectively.

Google’s Project Vault Puts a Secure, Encrypted Computer Inside a microSD Card

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One of the most interesting announcements made at Google I/O was Project Vault, a security-focused computer concealed within an ordinary microSD card. When plugged into a compatible PC, smartphone or other device, it can enable completely secure end-to-end communications. Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group designed Project Vault to protect a user’s most sensitive data, under the assumption that if not everything can be safe, at least some of it can.The fingernail-sized device runs on a custom ARM processor and has 4GB of secure storage space. It runs its own security-centric real-time OS with built in cryptographic infrastructure including a suite of encryption services and a hardware random-number generator. It has its own NFC hardware including an antenna, which can be used to authenticate users based on a physical token in their possession. The microSD interface suffices for all data input and output.

Google claims the Vault is completely transparent to its host devices and shows up as any ordinary storage destination. It is completely device- and OS-agnostic and only needs to be plugged in to work. Compatible apps can interact with two dedicated files: one that must be written to and the other that can only be read from. The rest of its file system is fake, and any interaction with it will result in a standard “bad sector” error, preventing even the host device from seeing what goes in and out of the Vault. No special drivers or user intervention are required. This means that a user’s security is maintained even if he or she moves the Vault between multiple host devices, no matter how insecure they might be.

The device and its software support text messaging, voice, and video streaming, as long as parties on both ends have their own Vault cards. Immutable hardware logging features would help owners determine if anyone has tried tampering with their Vault. Google is using 500 prototype cards internally and hopes to have commercial products out soon, with enterprise customers targeted first and consumer applications rolling out later. An open-source kit including development hardware and source code is already available.

New ‘Deep Learning’ Robot Learns Skills Through Trial and Error

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Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have developed algorithms that enable robots to learn motor tasks through trial and error – much like humans learn things.They demonstrated their technique, a type of reinforcement learning, by having arobot complete various tasks – putting a clothes hanger on a rack, assembling a toy plane, screwing a cap on a water bottle, and more – without pre-programmed details about its surroundings.

“What we’re reporting on here is a new approach to empowering a robot to learn,” said Pieter Abbeel.

“The challenge of putting robots into real-life settings, like homes or offices, is that those environments are constantly changing. The robot must be able to perceive and adapt to its surroundings,” added co-researcher Trevor Darrell.

The researchers turned to a new branch of artificial intelligence known as deep learning.

This helps the robot recognise patterns and categories among the data it is receiving.

In the experiment, the researchers worked with a Willow Garage Personal Robot 2 (PR2) which they nicknamed BRETT.

They presented BRETT with a series of motor tasks, such as placing blocks into matching openings or stacking Lego blocks.

When given the relevant coordinates for the beginning and end of the task, the PR2 could master a typical assignment in about 10 minutes.

When the robot is not given the location for the objects in the scene and needs to learn vision and control together, the learning process takes about three hours.

In the world of artificial intelligence, deep learning programs create “neural nets” in which layers of artificial neurons process overlapping raw sensory data, whether it be sound waves or image pixels.

Instagram Starts Sending ‘Highlights’ Emails to Users

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In a recent development, Instagram started sending an email digest called ‘Highlights’ featuring a few of the posts from people you follow.It could bring back users who have strayed from the photo network.

This is the first time Instagram has sent any type of promotional or re-engagement email, TechCrunch reported.

To accomplish its mission of sharing moments and fuel its ad-based business model, Instagram needs users to voraciously browse its feed.

Instagram’s strategy for that has been to avoid letting photos slip outside its walls. It decided not to let Twitter render its photos in-line, so people would have to use Instagram.

But now it is reaching out, hoping to meet users half way. ‘Highlights’ could remind people what they are missing when they do not open Instagram.

‘Highlights’ could solve an issue common amongst maturing social networks that show a live, reverse chronological feed of posts. It impacts networks like Instagram and Twitter, but not relevancy-sorted streams like Facebook’s.

The unfiltered feed problem happens when people follow too many oversharers that drown out their real friends who do not post as often.

But those effects can be offset, to a degree, with ways to surface the most popular content in your network.

Instagram earlier this month released its Layout app for Android, an app launched for iPhone back in March.

In April, Instragram launched the @Music Channel to highlight artists. The account @Music will each week highlight an up-and-coming artist or offer a behind-the-scenes look at a more established musician.