Mapbox taps ex-Apple designer to head augmented reality efforts

(Reuters) – Mapping startup Mapbox Inc said Monday that it had hired Avi Cieplinski, an veteran of Twitter and Apple who co-invented several popular iPhone features, to head up its efforts help application makers design location-based augmented reality software.

Mapbox does not make a mapping app itself but provides the underlying maps inside of other apps that compete against Alphabet Inc’s Google Maps and HERE Technologies, a map firm owned by a group of companies. Mapbox maps are found in Snap Inc’s messaging app and the Instacart grocery delivery app.

Washington, D.C.-based Mapbox secured $164 million in funding last year from a group led by Softbank Group Corp’s Vision Fund and has been expanding beyond standard maps and to help developers use location in creative ways. Earlier this month, the company announced a series of partnerships with Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp and Softbank’s ARM Holdings around mapping services for self-driving cars.

Augmented reality, in which digital objects are superimposed on the real-world on the screen of a device, has become another key area of focus for Mapbox.

Both Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google have rolled out systems to help developers build augmented reality software but beyond a very rough version of augmented reality featured in the game Pokemon Go, the technology has yet to gain widespread popularity.

But Cieplinski said that was part of what drew him to the job with Mapbox. At Apple, he co-invented the phone “3D Touch” feature, which lets users press harder or softer on the screen to carry out different functions, and the so-called “Taptic Engine” that can marry taps on the screen to the feeling of a click, despite the lack of a physical button.

Just as he helped app developers understand how to work those features into their software, Cieplinski said he hopes to help software developers integrate augmented reality and maps of the real world. That could mean anything from pinning a game character to real world location similar to Pokemon Go, to letting users see “through” buildings because Mapbox’s data knows what is on the other side.

“Augmented reality is a great example of something that is new and very exciting, but also ill-defined, especially when you think about what it’s going to do for regular people,” Cieplinski said. “This is a great company to do that work in.”

In recent months, Mapbox has also hired executives from Tesla and Google.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis

Rockwell to take 8 percent stake in software maker PTC for $1 billion

(Reuters) – Rockwell Automation said on Monday it would buy an 8.4 percent stake in PTC for $1 billion as it looks to combine technologies such as internet of things, and augmented reality with its factory automation equipment and software.

As part of the deal, Rockwell will acquire 10.6 million newly issued PTC shares for $94.50 per share, to become its third-biggest shareholder.

The per-share price represents a premium of 8.6 percent to software maker PTC’s close on Friday.

Rockwell Automation’s chairman and Chief Executive Officer Blake Moret will join PTC’s board after the deal closes, which is expected within the next two months, according to a joint statement.

Leveraging Rockwell’s domain expertise with PTC’s technology will help companies to capitalize on the promise of industrial Internet of Things (IoT), PTC Chief Executive Officer Jim Heppelmann said.

PTC offers a portfolio of computer-aided design modeling, product and service lifecycle management software products for manufacturers.

Rockwell — which makes electronic motor starters, relays and timers for industries — has been strengthening its capabilities in the so-called IoT, or technology that allows different devices and systems to communicate with each other over the internet.

Morgan Stanley & Co LLC was the financial adviser to PTC, while Goldman Sachs & Co LLC advised Rockwell.

Goodwin Procter LLP was PTC’s legal adviser to PTC, while Foley & Lardner LLP advised Rockwell.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

How Microsoft's Windows Red Team Keeps PCs Safe

One of them jailbroke Nintendo handhelds in a former life. Another has more than one zero-day exploit to his name. A third signed on just prior to the devastating Shadow Brokers leak. These are a few of the members of the Windows red team, a group of hackers inside Microsoft who spend their days finding holes in the world’s most popular operating system. Without them, you’d be toast.

Many companies have a red team, or several, and they generally share the same purpose—to play the role of an attacker, probing releases new and old for vulnerabilities, hoping to catch bugs before the bad guys do. Few of them, though, focus on a target as ubiquitous as Windows, an operating system that still boasts nearly 90 percent market share for laptop and desktop computers worldwide. When Windows breaks, the whole world hears the shatter.

Putting It Together

The Windows red team didn’t exist four years ago. That’s around the time that David Weston, who currently leads the crew as principal security group manager for Windows, made his pitch for Microsoft to rethink how it handled the security of its marquee product.

“Most of our hardening of the Windows operating system in previous generations was: Wait for a big attack to happen, or wait for someone to tell us about a new technique, and then spend some time trying to fix that,” Weston says. “Obviously that’s not ideal when the stakes are very high.”

Weston wanted to go beyond Microsoft’s historical mode of using bug bounties and community relationships to formulate a defense. He was tired of the reactive crouch, of responding to known issues rather than discovering new ones. He wanted to play some offense.

Drawing inspiration from his experience with whitehat hackers at events like Pwn2Own—and tired of waiting until the competition ended to glean valuable insights into Windows vulnerabilities—Weston began putting together a team that would essentially conduct a Windows-focused hacking contest every day of the year.

Today, members of that team include Jordan Rabet, whom David noticed after Rabet showed off an impressive Nintendo 3DS jailbreak in a 2014 YouTube video. Rabet currently focuses on browser security but also played a key role in Microsoft’s response to the Spectre vulnerability that rocked the computer industry less than a year ago.

Viktor Brange, who lives in Sweden, helped respond to leaked NSA Windows-hacking tool Eternal Blue by sifting through Microsoft code base, ascertaining the severity of various issues to triage. Adam Zabrocki’s deep Linux experience helps tackle kernel and virtualization issues. Jasika Bawa helps transform the team’s findings into actual product improvements. And two other members of the team WIRED spoke with for this story do sensitive enough work that they requested anonymity.

Together, the red teamers spend their days attacking Windows. Every year, they develop a zero-day exploit to test their defensive blue-team counterparts. And when emergencies like Spectre or EternalBlue happen, they’re among the first to get the call.

Code Red

Again, red teams aren’t novel; companies that can afford them—and that are aware they could be targeted—tend to use them. If anything, it may come as a surprise that Microsoft hadn’t sicced one on Windows until so recently. Microsoft as a company already had several other red teams in place by the time Weston built one for Windows, though those focused more on operational issues like unpatched machines.

“Windows is still the central repository of malware and exploits. Practically, there’s so much business done around the world on Windows. The attacker mentality is to get the biggest return on investment in what you develop in terms of code and exploits,” says Aaron Lint, who regularly works with red teams in his role as chief scientist at application protection provider Arxan. “Windows is the obvious target.”

Training that mindset internally on Windows has already paid dividends. In addition to helping mitigate Spectre and EternalBlue—the team can only say so much about what, exactly, they did in either case—they’ve notched some important wins that helped not only Microsoft, but the entire industry.

At the top of Weston’s list is shutting down a phishing attack used by notorious Russian hacking group Fancy Bear, which Microsoft calls Strontium, by shoring up Win32k, a Windows kernel-driver and popular hacker punching bag.

“In most browser attacks, you first need to compromise what’s called the browser sandbox, and then you need a way out of that sandbox to do what attackers want to do, information theft or persistent access to the machine,” Weston says. “It turns out that this very old and large kernel surface is the ideal place to do that.”

By attacking that surface through the eyes of an adversary, the team found previously undisclosed techniques to leverage it in an attack. Which meant, in turn, that Microsoft was able to ship an update that blocked those same efforts in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition in the fall of 2016. The Windows 10 Creators Update, released six months later, took even further steps to detect kernel exploits.

It’s an important win, and one that may not have come so quickly had Microsoft relied on more traditional methods of vulnerability-spotting.

“What it tends to be is finding the issues that are a little bit beyond the pale in terms of security vulnerability, that might not be a immediately apparent or directly searchable, findable from vulnerability scanning techniques,” Arxan’s Lint says. After all, you can only scan for problems you already know about. A red team finds the ones you don’t.

Running Out the Clock

The members of the red team don’t have a specific quota; they’ll prioritize targets based on things like what they’ve seen hackers exploit in the wild or which features are relatively untested and sensitive.

“We want to emulate the kinds of things we’ve seen in the wild and then take it to the next level,” says Rabet. “People were doing something a couple of years ago; where are they going to go next? And we try to go in that direction.”

At the same time, the team needs to be selective. “Bugs will always be there,” Zabrocki says. “We can’t fix all the bugs in the world,” especially with as big and complex and constantly evolving a product as Windows. Better, then, to focus on broader solutions like kernel anomaly detection, which can help prevent a whole host of woes.

And solving a problem entirely sometimes isn’t even the objective. Every time the Windows red team starts a project, they also start a clock.

“The goal of the timer is to give us an objective cost analysis of what it takes to hack something,” Weston says. “A start-to-finish, median cost to attack something puts an economic tag on a compromise that’s something we can drive up over time, which we think is a good objective metric.” The more time and money a hack costs to execute, in other words, the less likely an attacker will be to pursue it. Weston hands out computer-shaped trophies for particularly good finds.

The red team doesn’t issue patches, of course, which can lead to some frustrations if they find what they view as a pressing vulnerability that ends up not getting a timely fix. “A lot of it depends on the internal mechanisms within the company. It’s a big company. There are a lot of people who want to have a say in how we do things,” says one anonymous team member, who laments that Microsoft can sometimes take months to fix what both internal and external security researchers see as serious issues.

Helping set those priorities is Bawa, who uses the red team’s activity as an “internal barometer” of how effective Microsoft’s endpoint detection products are—especially against attacks they’ve never seen before. “It really comes down to being able to look at their activity as a blueprint for what we might expect from state of the art activity coming from outside of Microsoft.”

Windows will always be a popular hacker target, and Weston’s team is just one piece of Microsoft’s efforts to protect it. But given the sophistication of hackers, whether they’re nation states or criminal syndicates, it’s at least comforting to know that there’s a team in Redmond keeping pace with the bad guys—and even staying one step ahead.

More Great WIRED Stories

E3 Is Going to be a Weird One—But Don’t Hold Your Breath

It’s early-mid June, which means the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the perennially-at-a-crossroads, very-important-and-yet-somehow-not-important-at-all videogames showcase, is returning. As has been the case for the past few years, the press conference proceedings that mark the largest news-drivers of the event begin today, with Microsoft and Bethesda Softworks holding conferences today and Sony, Nintendo, and everyone else following suit in the days after.

My prediction: this is going to be a weird one.

Here’s what I know not to expect: any new hardware, from anyone. The Nintendo Switch is only a year old, and with Sony and Microsoft’s recent forays into high-end revisions of their consoles, there likely won’t be any exciting new wrinkles in the hardware scene. Eventually, it seems likely we will reach a new console generation, despite both Sony and Microsoft expressing interest in a more iterative model. Eventually, there probably will be a PlayStation 5 and an Xbox… uh, Two? But it seems highly unlikely that it’ll be this year.

So what will we get? Games, games, games. More than any recent E3, this one seems poised to focus primarily on major, big-budget console releases for what might be the rest of the current generation. With no anchoring hardware announcements, focus is going to be strongly placed on first-party offerings and what they have to differentiate themselves from their competition.

We have some ideas what those offerings are. Sony has been fairly clear about a large segment of their upcoming showcase selection, which will include lukewarm-looking zombie game Days Gone as well as experimental creation tool Dreams and dark adventure The Last of Us Part Two.

Microsoft and Nintendo’s prospects are a bit more opaque, though. Microsoft has struggled for the past couple of years with maintaining a library of first-party exclusives that fans find interesting. Should we be expecting another Gears of War sequel? The long-awaited debut of Halo 6, after the previous game was, to many, a vast disappointment? It’s possible that we’ll see more in Microsoft’s ongoing effort to integrate Xbox and the PC, turning their Windows and Xbox brands into extensions of one another. We might even get a Halo game on the PC, if we’re really lucky.

And Nintendo? Well, we know they’re working on a new Pokemon. And there’s going to be a Super Smash Bros. game for the Switch. But what else? The company’s biggest franchises had mainline releases last year, leaving the potential stable of games uncertain. Will we see more details about Metroid Prime 4? Probably, but don’t expect it until 2019 at the earliest. Some sort of wacky Mario tie-in? Seems likely. But with Nintendo’s online service, slated for Fall 2018, still a cipher, it’s hard to say what shape the Switch’s offerings are going to take going forward.

But no matter what happens, here’s what not to expect: anything epochal, or generation shifting. Some E3s make gaming history; others just come and go, with some neat announcements and maybe some good memes. My guess is this is going to be the latter.

These Startups Are Using AI and Virtual Reality to Fight Mental Illness

Mental health professionals and entrepreneurs have a message for those suffering from anxiety and depression: You are not alone.

That message seems especially relevant in 2018. The sudden deaths of Kate Spade, the fashion designer and entrepreneurial icon, and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain this week shine a light on a systemic problem: Mental illness. Both Spade and Bourdain are reported to have taken their own lives, with the former having struggled with depression for a long period of time, according to her husband, Andy Spade. They were 55 and 61, respectively.

Indeed, roughly 18 percent of American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and yet only a fraction of those access the treatment that they need or could benefit from. That’s a problem that a growing number of technology companies want to tackle.

To be sure, the best pathway to treatment is consulting a licensed professional. In the absence of a therapist–or in a pinch–here are seven tech startups that want to help those suffering from anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness. Of course, should you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

1. Quartet Health

Founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, a Palantir expat, and Steve Shulman, the startup uses machine learning to identify patients with possible mental health conditions. It then links those patients, primary care physicians and behavioral therapists to come up with a customized treatment plan. 

“Making collaboration between primary care physicians and behavioral health specialists work is a must if we are going to improve the overall health of our country,” said Gupta. “The bridge between mental and physical health is being built with technology leading the charge.”

The New York City firm, which partners with some insurance providers, has raised $92 million in funding, from investors including Polaris Partners and, most recently, Google Ventures.

2. DotCom Therapy

Recent Inc. 30 under 30 honorees Emily Purdom and Rachel Robinson came up with the idea for DotCom Therapy in 2015. The Springfield, Missouri-based business has a unique approach to healthcare: It partners with 28 schools in seven countries to provide speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health and tele-audiology services, connecting patients to some 90 therapists with laptops at the ready. Sessions start $30 for 15 minutes. “Now is the time when everyone has a laptop, a tablet, a phone, and this is the first time in history when everyone’s connected,” said co-founder Robinson in a recent interview with Inc. “So whether you’re living in Downtown Chicago or rural Alaska, you have a way of accessing this technology.”

With the exception of a small friends and family raise, the company is self-funded. It booked $2 million in revenue last year.

3. Talkspace

Even at the height of his career in 2014, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was deeply depressed, and contemplating suicide. “I hadn’t left my room for five days,” he said. “I questioned whether I wanted to be alive anymore.” After connecting with a therapist, Phelps said, he was finally able to tackle his problems head-on.

Last month, Phelps teamed up with Talkspace as part of an effort to promote awareness for mental illness. Talkspace connects users to licensed therapists through a website and mobile app, with plans starting at $32 per session. Founded by Oren and Roni Frank in 2012, the company says it has treated more than half a million patients, and counting.

4.  Joyable

This San Francisco startup, which bills itself as the leading online solution for overcoming social anxiety, wants to help those who are time-strapped. The Joyable app offers brief, five-to-ten minute activities for users, ranging from checking in with your feelings at any given moment and examining ‘personal values.’ Individual plans cost $99 per month, and typically involve eight-to-twelve weeks of guided therapy, including check-ins with a regular coach. The activities are modeled after a psychotherapy method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, a heavily researched and widely-respected field.

Joyable, which launched in 2013, has raised more than $15 million in funding and claims to have reached more than 500,000 users.

5.  Lantern

This app specifically aims to help those suffering from stress, anxiety and body image issues. Lantern, which insists it’s more of a supplement than a replacement for traditional talk therapy, connects patients to licensed professionals for regular check-ins. The service costs around $49 per month, or $300 per year, and Lantern is currently working to integrate with employers such that its tools are covered by insurance and can be offered to workers as a benefit.

Based in San Francisco, the company–headed up by Alejandro Foung and Nicholas Letourneau–launched in 2012, and has raised over $20 million. 

6.  Limbix

Palo Alto, California-based Limbix is not your average virtual reality startup: It makes a software that therapists use in what’s called “exposure therapy,” simulating stressful or trauma-inducing situations for patients to help them overcome their fears. Co-founder and CEO Benjamin Lewis, a former Google project manager, launched the company with Tony Hsieh in 2016. Since that time, Limbix has raised more than $3 million from investors including Sequoia Capital, as it builds on more than two decades of research and clinical trials.

7.  Woebot

This AI-powered app functions as a therapy chatbot for those suffering from depression and anxiety. Similar to Limbix, Woebot uses principles of CBT to recommend various tools and techniques for overcoming stressful situations on the fly. Founded by Alison Darcy, a clinical psychologist at Stanford University, and a team of researchers in 2017, Woebot costs $39 per month.

Apple Loop: Latest Leak 'Confirms' New iPhone, iOS 12 Drops Sexy For Security, WWDC Fails MacBooks

Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop includes the latest renders of the new iPhone X for 2018, the hardware that wasn’t announced at WWDC, why iOS 12 stands for stability, the renewed focus on iPhone security, the disappointment of no new MacBooks at WWDC, and all the spoof products announced on the internet.

Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days (and you can read my weekly digest of Android news here on Forbes).

First Renders Of The New iPhone X

As part of Apple’s push to expand the iPhone line-up (and increase sales of the iPhone family after years of declining share), the geekerati are expecting a budget version of the iPhone X (not to be confused with an update of the iPhone SE). What will it look like? Forbes’ Gordon Kelly reveals new renders of the budget iPhone X:

What Hemmerstoffer’s images and video (embedded below) show, is a 6.1-inch design which blends the chassis of the iPhone 8 and a single rear camera with the fascia of the iPhone X, complete with Face ID facial recognition module and the distinctive notch. On the flipside, this means no Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

…Hemmerstoffer notes this currently unnamed budget iPhone X (my naming bet is simply ‘iPhone’), will also pack wireless charging, stereo speakers and a new A12 chipset. So this is basically a single-camera iPhone X for over $200 less.

More here on Forbes.

OnLeaks/ MySmartPrice

Budget’ 6.1-inch iPhone and 6.5-inch iPhone X Plus (OnLeaks/ MySmartPrice)

What Wasn’t Announced At WWDC

Lots of news to come out of this week’s Worldwide Developer Conference from Apple, but before we get to what did appear, it’s important to realise what was not on show. Apple refused the opportunity to show off any new hardware. No iPads, no Macs, no MacBooks, no peripherals, and perhaps most importantly, no mid-range iPhones to replace the iPhone SE. And WWDC was the best time to announce this upcoming smartphone, as I discussed earlier this week:

Assuming Taniyama-Shimura, there are enough signs in the supply chain that an update to the iPhone SE is coming. So the question becomes not of ‘will it arrive’ but ‘when will it arrive.’

…its non-appearance at WWDC tells us a lot about the handset.  iPhone sales this year need a boost. The iPhone X has not delivered the super-cycle it promised and sales are flat to slightly down year-on-year. Market share is approaching single figures, and relying on high-end handsets with high margins may be delivering financial success… but it doesn’t provide for growth or entry into new markets. The iPhone SE 2 can help balance the equation of revenue and market share by offering a low-priced gateway into Apple’s world of smartphones.

More on why Apple hid the SE 2 here.

Twelve Stands For Stability

Almost all of the focus at WWDC was on software, and the vast majority of that focus was on iOS. There have not been any major changes or additions, Apple has focused on the stability of the code to rebuild the bulletproof perception of the iPhone’s operating system. Zach Epstein is glad the new release is just ‘meh’:

It’s no secret that iOS 11 has been a complete mess for Apple. It’s not the travesty that whiny anti-Apple bloggers would have you believe, of course, but there’s no question that Apple made some big mistakes in iOS 11. It has had more security holes, annoying bugs, and performance issues than any version of iOS from recent history, and many of those problems still exist in iOS 11.3 and iOS 11.4 now, more than 8 months after the software’s initial release.

We learned many months ago that performance and overall user experience were going to be Apple’s main points of focus in iOS 12. In fact, insider reports stated that Apple decided to delay the addition of several big new features in iOS 12 and push them back to subsequent releases, or maybe even until next year’s iOS 13 update. This way, Apple’s various iOS engineering teams could focus on improving performance in iOS and on refining the user experience, rather than on integrating complex new features.

More at BGR.

Next: Security is key, a requiem for macOS, and Conan O’Brien’s new iPhone…

?Mark Shuttleworth dishes on where Canonical and Ubuntu Linux are going next

Mark Shuttleworth looked good at OpenStack Summit in Vancouver. Not only were his company Canonical and operating system Ubuntu Linux doing well, but thanks to his microfasting diet, he’s lost 40 pounds. Energized and feeling good, he’s looking forward to taking Canonical to its initial public offering (IPO) in 2019 and making the company more powerful than ever.

It’s taken him longer than expected to IPO Canonical. Shuttleworth explained, “We will do the right thing at the right time. That’s not this year, though. There’s a process that you have to go through and that takes time. We know what we need to hit in terms of revenue and growth and we’re on track.”

In the meantime, besides his own wealth — according to the BBC, his personal wealth jumped by £340 million last year — he’s turned to private equity to help fuel Canonical’s growth.

And, where is that growth coming from? Well, it’s not the desktop. Found as users — and Shuttleworth himself — of the Linux desktop, Canonical’s real money comes in from the cloud.

Ubuntu remains the dominant cloud operating system. According to the May 8, 2018 Cloud Market statistics, on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud, Ubuntu dominates the cloud with 209,000 instances, well ahead of its competitors Amazon Linux AMI, 88,500; Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and CentOS‘s 31,400, and Windows Server‘s 29,200. As another data point, the executives at the OpenStack cloud company Rackspace told me that although their company had started with RHEL, today it’s 60/40 Ubuntu.

OpenStack has been very, very good for Canonical, which is more than you can say for many companies that tried to make it as OpenStack providers or distributors. “With OpenStack it’s important to deliver on the underlying promise of more cost-effective infrastructure,” Shuttleworth said. Sure, “You can love technology and you can have new projects and it can all be kumbaya and open source, but what really matters is computers, virtual machines, virtual disks, virtual networks. So we ruthlessly focus on delivering that and then also solving all the problems around that.”

So it is, Shuttleworth claims, that “Canonical can deliver an OpenStack platform to an enterprise in two weeks with everything in place.”

What’s driving Canonical growth on both the public and OpenStack-based cloud is “machine learning and container operations. The economics of automating the data center brings people to Ubuntu.”

That said, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is still an area of investment for us. We have the right set of primitives [Ubuntu Core, Ubuntu for IoT and Snap contanizeried applications] to bring IoT all over the planet.” But, it’s “not profitable yet”.

Shuttleworth thinks Ubuntu will end up leading IoT, as it has the cloud, “because a developer can transfer their programs from a workstation to the cloud to a gateway to the IoT. I want to make sure we build the right set of technologies so you can operate a billion things with Ubuntu on it.” To make this happen, Shuttleworth said Canonical currently has just short of 600 full-time developers.

As for the desktop, Shuttleworth finds it a “fascinating study of human nature that Unity [Ubuntu’s former desktop] became a complete exercise in torches and pitchforks. I’m now convinced a lot of the people who demanded its demise never used it.” That’s because, while “I think GNOME is a nicely done desktop,” many Ubuntu users are now objecting to GNOME. Shuttleworth also had kind words about the KDE Neon, MATE, and LXDE desktops. Still, “I do miss Unity, but I use GNOME.”

Shuttleworth would like to see the open-source community become “safer to put new ideas out into it.” Too often, “it’s obnoxious to someone else’s labor of love.”

That said, in business competition, Shuttleworth said, after people criticized him for calling out Red Hat and VMware by name in his OpenStack keynote speech, “I don’t think it was offsides to talk about money and competition. OpenStack has to be in the room where public clouds are discussed and Ubuntu has to be in the conversation when it comes to cloud operating systems. No one has questioned the facts.”

In a way, though, having given up on innovating on the desktop and on the smartphone market has been a blessing. “I can work with more focus on cloud and the edge and IoT. We’re moving faster. Our security and performance story can be tighter because we can put more time on both them.”

One thing that Shuttleworth believes Canonical does better than his competition is delivering the best from upstream to its customers. “Take OpenStack, we didn’t invent a bunch of pieces. We take care of stuff people need by trusting the upstream community. People find this refreshing.”

Canonical also succeeds, he thinks, because they eat their own dog food. “We learn stuff by operating it ourselves and not just developing it. We experience what it’s like to operate many OpenStack and Kubernetes stacks. We then offer these complex solutions as a managed service, and that reduces the cost for users.”

The result is a company that Shuttleworth is sure will lead the way in the cloud and container-driven world of IT.

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'Onrush' Review: The Hero Shooter Of Driving Games

Credit: Deep Silver

Onrush is a very different kind of driving game.

When I first booted up Onrush on my Xbox One X, I was fully expecting some kind of neon-infused, amped-up, spiritual continuation of the developer’s previous Motorstorm games. Something improved but safe, modernized yet familiar. What I got instead was a genre-shattering wrecking ball, a giant middle finger to standard driving game conventions. Onrush isn’t about racing at all, it turns out. It’s about reflexes, pure adrenaline and possibly most importantly, the kind of cooperative strategy usually reserved for hero shooters and tag team fighters.

I won’t lie—the early hours of Onrush were admittedly overwhelming and unexpectedly confusing for this seasoned gamer. Yes, the basic mechanics of commandeering the game’s virtual two- and four-wheelers won’t trip up most experienced players, especially if you’ve mastered a fair share of off-road rally games. But it’s just beyond these fundamentals that instinctual play goes flying out the mud-caked window. See, there’s no finish line and no placing in Onrush’s races, a complete lack of traditional first, second and third rankings to strive for. There’s only a massive, shifting, battling pack of vehicles chasing down specific objectives, and if you fall far enough behind, the game warps you back into the action. It’s Mad Max with less sand and guns, and minus that guitar-riffing marionette weirdo.

Credit: Deep Silver

If can manage it, play Onrush on a 4K display.

The modes available are relatively diverse and interesting, if a little lacking in sheer number. Overdrive, for example, has contestants accumulating points for their team by linking boosts and Burnout-style takedowns. Lockdown sees the relentless pursuit and tenuous claim of fast-moving, highlighted sections of track, while Countdown requires driving through green gates that add precious seconds to your team’s constantly diminishing timer. Then there’s Switch, which is an elimination mode of sorts which forces downed players to swap out for the next available steed. Regardless of the flavor, it’s all team-based, and in this way, the overarching effect is strangely reminiscent of Overwatch. Individual accomplishments are encouraged but ultimately trumped by the squad’s aims and the push-pull of group competition. It’s incredibly different for a driving game and takes some getting used to.

Speaking of Overwatch, the game’s vehicle roster bears striking resemblance to Blizzard’s varied battler lineup. Not in art direction or character design, per se, but in class distribution and special abilities. You’ve got your tanks, your attackers, your defense personas and also your lightweight speed demons. Each car or motorbike has its own strengths, weaknesses and Rush abilities. Think of the latter as an analog to Overwatch’s ‘Ultimates’, special moves unique to each character that give you a temporary leg up on the competition. You fill up your Rush gauge as you boost, take down adversaries, do tricks and obliterate AI fodder vehicles throughout each event. Once that tank is full, you can unleash a turbo boost combined with some kind of oppositional impediment or ally accouterment. These are always satisfying to activate, though they can be incredibly hard to control.

Credit: Deep Silver

The tracks in Onrush are pretty phenomenal.

The action here is, without a doubt, extremely intense. At any given moment, you’re one tiny error away from wiping out, one wrong turn from bending your metal frame around the nearest pine tree. This, it feels, is simultaneously the best and worst thing about Onrush. The excitement of so much chaos can be exhilarating, but it can also seriously impede your basic sense of control. I can’t even count how many times I crashed just because I literally couldn’t see what was coming up in front of me. On that note, there’s a seemingly random nature to some of Onrush’s difficulty, and a sort of learned helplessness that can overtake various stretches of repeated failure, especially online against grizzled veterans. Every so often I’ll get thrown into an event during which I never can survive for more than a few seconds, getting wrecked from all angles the moment I spawn in. This issue has alleviated somewhat as I’ve naturally become more proficient at the game, incorporating new strategies and better utilizing certain abilities.

It helps that from a technical standpoint, Onrush is a mechanical marvel. The game’s engine was built from the ground up to support dynamic weather, constantly shifting lighting and up to 24 cars on-screen at once. It looks gorgeous on Xbox One X, which can run the software at either 30 fps/4K or an unwavering 60 fps/1080p. I usually stick to the latter, though early on I was running it in 4K just to slow things down as I got my bearings. I will say that sometimes the dynamic weather, especially the snow blizzard effects, can really get in the way of gameplay. That’s probably intended, but I often felt it to be too detrimental to my field of view.

Credit: Deep Silver

Be prepared for a rather steep learning curve.

When everything is clicking, Onrush feels amazing, but until your skill can catch up with the insanity that’s happening on-screen, I can see this being a frustrating experience for less patient gamers. The career mode offers plenty of single player challenges to take on, while the online multiplayer runs smoothly and is definitely where the game shines, if you can get enough live players to jump in, that is. There’s also tons of neat unlockables—vehicle skins, driver outfits, tombstones (customized markers you leave behind after wrecking)—to earn via in-game currency and gear crates, which don’t integrate microtransactions, at least not yet. I can see myself playing this for a long time to come, as long as the online community stays active.

Even after hours of play, Onrush remains wonderfully difficult to classify. The stomach-churning drops of Hydro Thunder. The insane crashes of Burnout. The combo system and radical attitude of SSX. The nail-biting cooperative multiplayer mayhem of Overwatch. It’s a recipe that probably shouldn’t work as well as it does, and despite a steep learning curve, it creates what feels like the next evolutionary step in driving games. Or, at the very least, the initial iterative lurch toward a completely new genre.

Developer: Codemasters Evo

Publisher: Deep Silver

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One (version tested), PC

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Price: $59.99

Score: 8/10

Disclaimer: Free review code was provided for coverage purposes

Thursday's Google Doodle Celebrates Anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar


Virginia Apgar was the first woman to become a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 109th birthday of physician Virginia Apgar, who developed the scale doctors still use to quickly gauge the health of newborn babies: the Apgar score.

The Apgar score a 0-10 scale with five criteria: Appearance (skin color, ranging from blue or pale to a healthy flesh color), Pulse, Grimace (response to stimulation, ranging from no response to an unhappy expression to full-fledged crying), Activity (arm and leg movement), and Respiration. (Conveniently, those words spell out APGAR.) Most healthy babies score a 7 or above, and anything below a 3 requires immediate medical care.

Apgar graduated from medical school in 1933. During her residency, the chairman of surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian medical center steered her toward anesthesiology, partially because surgery was an especially difficult field for women to find career opportunities in at the time, but also reportedly because he believed she had what it took to advance the field in important ways. Anesthesiology had, until recently, been the domain of nurses, but by the late 1930s had become complex enough to require physicians, and the medical field was working hard to catch up.

By 1938, Apgar was the director of a brand-new division of anesthesia at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she spent the next decade running the department, developing a residency program to train new anesthesiologists, and treating patients.

Apgar was a faculty member at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in the early 1950s when she noticed that although the infant mortality rate was improving, that was mostly due to interventions after the first 24 hours. Within that crucial window of time 24 hours after birth, there had been no change in infant mortality since 1930. Apgar wanted to know why the medical field hadn’t gotten better at saving newborns – and how to fix it. The result was the Apgar score.

Later in her career, Apgar advocated for universal vaccination against rubella to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease, which causes miscarriages or severe birth defects. She also worked to promote testing for birth defects.

She died in 1974 at the hospital where she attended medical school and spent two decades of her career.

5 Ways to Develop More Meaningful Relationships at Work

You might assume it is common knowledge that relationships in business are important and that everyone strives to create and maintain good working relationships. However, that is not always the case.

Business relationships are tricky. Sometimes they are transactional; simply interacting as a means to an end. Other times they are relational, and centered on having meaningful engagements that build and maintain the relationship. And they can even be a combination of the two.

Transactional interactions can be collaborative or competitive. When collaborative, you and your counterpart walk away feeling good about the transaction, like you were treated fairly and more likely to engage with one another in the future. On the other hand, if competitive, you might feel like you were treated unfairly, cheated or nickeled and dimed. In such cases, you probably will not want to engage with this person again.

In relational interactions, you care about the outcome, but also about your colleague. In turn, your colleague cares about you, too. This means you are paying attention to the process and quality of how you are both communicating, not just interacting as a means to an end.

Framing these engagements as a collaborative, relational process helps you build and maintain relationships. Here are five components of collaborative relationships and how you can develop yours to be more mutually beneficial.

1. Fostering open communication.

Communicating in an open and honest manner, in any relationship, is critical. You want to experience the authenticity of your counterpart and you want that person to see you for who you are.

You want to be prepared and honestly acknowledge what it is you know and do not know. Admitting you do not have an answer and saying you will look into it and get back to them establishes credibility. Being caught making things up can be considered deceptive and inauthentic.

2. Building trust.

Building trust allows you both to feel safe sharing information. Trust does not come overnight. It is time-consuming to build, but can be easily compromised.

One way of building trust is to find out what is important to your counterpart and commit to providing something for them. It can be a key data point, a book reference or an introduction to a colleague. Whatever you promise, make sure it is something you can actually deliver on and that will build your image of being reliable.

3. Managing the pace.

Relationships take time. There is a window within which you will feel comfortable about the pace to establish rapport, and build trust and confidence in each other. Signing an important contract the next day can feel rushed, while meeting for three years before closing a deal can feel like an eternity.

It is useful to determine the “what” and “when” of milestones you can use to measure the pace of building your relationship. Your short- and long-term goals will need to be taken into consideration to identify these milestones and when you would like to reach them.

4. Controlling your emotions. 

Engaging in new relationships can feel exciting, make you anxious or both. You will not know how to interpret some comments made or actions taken, nor how to communicate your own feelings because you do not know this other person well.

Identify practices you can use to feel more comfortable even in the uncomfortable moments. Try to slow down your breathing or visualize a soothing scene. This will keep you calm and buy you time to think of a suitable response to dig deeper and clarify your understanding.

5. Creating mutually-beneficial outcomes.

At the end of the day, mutual benefits are the payoff for investing time and energy into business relationships. Maybe you learn from each other. Maybe performance increases when you are around each other. Or maybe there are other tangible benefits.

Think about the aspects of the relationship you find valuable and want to retain. What are your contributions? What are theirs?

It is the mutually-beneficial relationships that prove to be most valuable in the workplace, and in life.