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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Nov 2017

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

Facebook previously tested using AI to detect troubling posts and more prominently surface suicide reporting options to friends in the U.S. Now Facebook is will scour all types of content around the world with this AI, except in the European Union, where General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws on profiling users based on sensitive information complicate the use of this tech.

Facebook also will use AI to prioritize particularly risky or urgent user reports so they’re more quickly addressed by moderators, and tools to instantly surface local language resources and first-responder contact info. It’s also dedicating more moderators to suicide prevention, training them to deal with the cases 24/7, and now has 80 local partners like Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Forefront from which to provide resources to at-risk users and their networks.

“This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process, especially in Facebook Live,” says VP of product management Guy Rosen. Over the past month of testing, Facebook has initiated more than 100 “wellness checks” with first-responders visiting affected users. “There have been cases where the first-responder has arrived and the person is still broadcasting.”

The idea of Facebook proactively scanning the content of people’s posts could trigger some dystopian fears about how else the technology could be applied. Facebook didn’t have answers about how it would avoid scanning for political dissent or petty crime, with Rosen merely saying “we have an opportunity to help here so we’re going to invest in that.” There are certainly massive beneficial aspects about the technology, but it’s another space where we have little choice but to hope Facebook doesn’t go too far.

[Update: Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos responded to these concerns with a heartening tweet signaling that Facebook does take seriously responsible use of AI.

Alex Stamos✔@alexstamos

The creepy/scary/malicious use of AI will be a risk forever, which is why it's important to set good norms today around weighing data use versus utility and be thoughtful about bias creeping in. Also, Guy Rosen and team are amazing, great opportunity for ML engs to have impact. https://twitter.com/JoshConstine/status/935177132350648320 …

4:32 PM - Nov 27, 2017

Twitter Ads info and privacy

 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the product update in a post today, writing that “In the future, AI will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, and will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide as well, including quickly spotting more kinds of bullying and hate.”

Unfortunately, after TechCrunch asked if there was a way for users to opt out, of having their posts a Facebook spokesperson responded that users cannot opt out. They noted that the feature is designed to enhance user safety, and that support resources offered by Facebook can be quickly dismissed if a user doesn’t want to see them.]

Facebook trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts that have been manually reported for suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “are you OK?” and “Do you need help?”

“We’ve talked to mental health experts, and one of the best ways to help prevent suicide is for people in need to hear from friends or family that care about them,” Rosen says. “This puts Facebook in a really unique position. We can help connect people who are in distress connect to friends and to organizations that can help them.”

How suicide reporting works on Facebook now

Through the combination of AI, human moderators and crowdsourced reports, Facebook could try to prevent tragedies like when a father killed himself on Facebook Live last month. Live broadcasts in particular have the power to wrongly glorify suicide, hence the necessary new precautions, and also to affect a large audience, as everyone sees the content simultaneously unlike recorded Facebook videos that can be flagged and brought down before they’re viewed by many people.

Now, if someone is expressing thoughts of suicide in any type of Facebook post, Facebook’s AI will both proactively detect it and flag it to prevention-trained human moderators, and make reporting options for viewers more accessible.

When a report comes in, Facebook’s tech can highlight the part of the post or video that matches suicide-risk patterns or that’s receiving concerned comments. That avoids moderators having to skim through a whole video themselves. AI prioritizes users reports as more urgent than other types of content-policy violations, like depicting violence or nudity. Facebook says that these accelerated reports get escalated to local authorities twice as fast as unaccelerated reports.

Mark Zuckerberg gets teary-eyed discussing inequality during his Harvard commencement speech in May

Facebook’s tools then bring up local language resources from its partners, including telephone hotlines for suicide prevention and nearby authorities. The moderator can then contact the responders and try to send them to the at-risk user’s location, surface the mental health resources to the at-risk user themselves or send them to friends who can talk to the user. “One of our goals is to ensure that our team can respond worldwide in any language we support,” says Rosen.

Back in February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “There have been terribly tragic events — like suicides, some live streamed — that perhaps could have been prevented if someone had realized what was happening and reported them sooner . . .  Artificial intelligence can help provide a better approach.”

With more than 2 billion users, it’s good to see Facebook stepping up here. Not only has Facebook created a way for users to get in touch with and care for each other. It’s also unfortunately created an unmediated real-time distribution channel in Facebook Live that can appeal to people who want an audience for violence they inflict on themselves or others.

Creating a ubiquitous global communication utility comes with responsibilities beyond those of most tech companies, which Facebook seems to be coming to terms with.

Source: techcrunch.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Nov 2017

Giant battery produced ahead of time

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Tesla billionaire Elon Musk recently bet US $50m that he'd be able to build the world's biggest battery within 100-days.

It appears that the entrepreneur has won that bet, having helped officials in South Australia build a battery big enough to prevent energy blackouts in the state.

State Premier Jay Weatherill confirmed the news, saying officials are working with Musk to start testing the extremely powerful lithium ion battery.

 

Weatherill confirmed that tests will begin within just a few days, which is before Musk's December 1st deadline. He established the latter as a deadline when he confirmed the deal at the start of 2017.

At the time, the tech entrepreneur said he'd be willing to produce the battery for free if he lost the bet. He estimated it would cost around US $50m.

Australian councils will cover the bill as part of a AUD $550m state-backed plan to ensure there are sufficient energy resources in place when major blackouts take place.

The country also plans to invest in a 250-megawatt gas-fired generator. Officials hope to get it up and running by next summer.

South Australia has been hit with a string of catastrophic power cuts in recent times, stemming from winds caused by storm tore transmissions towers that come from underground.  

The Tesla Powerback, which runs off a wind farm owned by French renewable energy firm Neoen, can provide thousands of home with emergency power when blackouts occur.  Musk is also chairman of Solar City, a solar panel firm.

Weatherill said: "South Australia is set to have back-up power in place this summer through the world's largest lithium ion battery, which is set to be energised for the first time in the coming days as it enters a phase of regulatory testing."

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Nov 2017

Dell offers new Ubuntu certified range of workstations

Precision range features Ubuntu out of the box

dell

Dell teams up with Canonical again

Dell has launched a range of workstations offering the Linux-based Ubuntu operating system out of the box.

There are five new computers in the Precision series, and they come with Canonical certification meaning users don't have to worry about incompatibility issues.

The Precision 5720, sports a 27-inch screen and comes with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS support. Along with an AMD Radeon Pro WX graphics card, you can choose between Intel Xeon, 6th Generation and 7th Core processors.

 

Dell Precision 7720 comes with a 17-inch 1600x900 LED display, and there are four configurations to choose from. The base option has an Intel Core i5-7300HQ processor.

Memory options for the computer also vary. Depending on the price you pay, you can choose between 8GB and 64GB. You can also get a Nvidia Quadro P4000 8GB GDDR5 graphics card.

The Precision 7520 is the company's third option. It's essentially a compact version of the 7720, offering a 15-inch FHD display and an Intel i5-7300 processor. You can get up to 32GB of RAM.

Dell's Precision 5520 also features a 15-inch display. The base model sports an Intel Core i5-7440HQ processor, along with 500 HDD. Meanwhile, the top model comes with a Quadro M1200 GPU.

Finally, there's the Precision 3520, which is the firm's cheapest offering, with an Intel Core i5-7440HQ processor along with Nvidia's Quadro M620 graphics card featuring 2GB of memory.

"We are excited to announce the availability of 5 new Dell Precision computers that come pre-installed with Ubuntu," said Canonical.

These are systems developed by and for developers, and are available in form factors ranging from sleek ultrabooks to powerful workstations."

 

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 28th Nov 2017

SmartwatchesImage copyrightNCC

Image captionGermany's telecoms regulator urged parents to destroy some sorts of children's smartwatches

Net-connected toys and gadgets bought as Christmas gifts could put the privacy and safety of children at risk, warns the UK's data regulator.

Many toys have poor security, easy to guess passwords and cannot be updated to fix bugs, said deputy information commissioner Steve Wood.

Some are so poorly protected that they could be used by hackers as a route into a home network, he said.

He urged parents to take care when buying the smart devices.

Buying power

"You wouldn't knowingly give a child a dangerous toy, so why risk buying them something that could be easily hacked into by strangers?" said Mr Wood.

Anyone thinking about buying a connected toy or device should research it carefully, he said, to find out if it has a good or bad reputation when it comes to protecting the data it will handle.

Parents should ideally try out any gadget and familiarise themselves with privacy settings before wrapping it for Christmas Day, he added.

The pre-gift check should give parents a chance to change default usernames and passwords to stronger alternatives. It could also be a chance to turn off any remote viewing options on those devices and toys that sport a camera.

Parents should also vote with their wallet and avoid connected devices or wearables that have earned a reputation for leaking or losing data.

"If consumers reject products that won't protect them, then developers and retailers should soon get the message," he said.

Spying devices

Nick Viney, from security firm McAfee, said: "People must realise the value of their data to cybercriminals and not ignore the risks of being connected until it's too late.

"After families rip open their presents next month, they must take a moment to consider whether they're adequately protected."

Mr Wood's warning comes soon after a German regulator banned some smartwatches aimed at children.

The country's Federal Network Agency branded watches that can be used to track children as spying devices. The Agency said the watches broke strict surveillance laws.

Also, in mid-November, consumer advisers Which? issued a warning about the security risks of several net-connected toys. It wrote to retailers to ask them to stop stocking the toys and said many could be used as spying devices.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 22nd Nov 2017

GoogleImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

If information is power in the digital age (and it is), then Google has a fair claim to being the most powerful company in the world.

It has collected, digitised, arranged and presented more information than any company in history.

It knows more about you than anyone.

Does the NHS or HMRC know if you have a dog or not? Google does.

With great power, supposedly, comes great responsibility.

The powerful should not abuse their position and should perhaps play a role in supporting the societies in which they operate.

Do Google and the other titans of the digital age like Apple, Facebook and Amazon pass those tests?

I went to Manchester to meet Google's chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, who was opening a "digital garage" - a drop in centre in the middle of the city where folks can pop in to get tutorials on digital skills like writing a CV, using spreadsheets or making an online marketing plan for your business. All for free.

She said: "We want to help people young and old to make the most of their lives and the opportunities the digital age presents to them. 50% of the world is still not online, 75% of UK businesses say they can't find employees with the right digital skills - we want to help with that."

Self-serving

It's a laudable aim and it was a slick presentation which went down well with a crowd that included the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

He praised Google's efforts as a perfect fit for the regions ambitions to create a digital economy.

But it was also slightly self-serving.

The training module on how to advertise your business on-line is essentially a tutorial on how to use Adwords, a service that charges companies for showing up on Google searches - which generates $100m of revenue a DAY.

It shouldn't be a surprise that a business promotes its own products.

GoogleImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

But when you own the means by which the world goes searching that advantage becomes a problem for everyone else.

If you are looking to buy an item, Google's own shopping comparison service pops up on top.

If Google is the internet shop window, it puts its own stuff right at the front leaving competitors services gathering dust in the store room equivalent of page two of the search results.

The EU fined Google €2.4bn for doing this, which the search company is appealing.

A taxing issue

Then of course there is the issue of tax.

Google and its parent company Alphabet are driving technological innovation that will see huge changes in the way we live and work in the years to come.

They are pioneers in Artificial Intelligence and robotics that will bring many benefits to the world but may also bring mass unemployment.

Other tech titans are reshaping the world in other ways - witness the impact Amazon has had on retail and the nature of the high street or Uber on the taxi industry.

UberImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionUber, like Google, is changing society

The bill for this huge societal adjustment will fall to governments and taxpayers while the companies rewriting the map of the future have found some pretty far flung corners of it to store their cash in.

The recent leak of documents from an offshore law firm - the so called Paradise Papers - show some of these supra national economic powers like Apple are keeping their profits in the parts of the world that charge the least - if any - tax.

Google profits generated outside the US have ended up in Bermuda - which has a corporation tax rate of zero.

On this point, Ms Porat was as unapologetic as Apple have been in the past.

"We don't design the rules - we follow them. If there is an international reform of taxation, we would welcome that and work with it," she said.

Forget the legal arguments - does the company feel any sense of moral responsibility?

"We feel that we contribute to the communities we serve. This digital garage is an example of that. We help drive growth for businesses big and small and that creates jobs and economic growth. We feel good about what we do"

No finance chief worth their salt wants to pay more tax than they are legally required to - and Ms Porat is worth a considerable amount of salt (having been chief financial officer of US investment bank Morgan Stanley previously).

European regulators and politicians are on their case - French Emmanuel Macron recently called tech firms the "freeloaders of the modern world" and EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestagher found that Google "abused it's dominance and seriously harmed competition" - a finding that the company is appealing.

But despite the litigation, the fines, the appeals and the attendant uncomfortable headlines, one thing is clear.

The tech giants enjoy incredible customer loyalty which is perhaps why they genuinely do not believe they are the bad guys in the story of the new industrial revolution.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Nov 2017

It's not just Russia - they're all at it, warns Freedom House

At least 30 governments are using dodgy social media tactics for propaganda and manipulation

Sacha Baron Cohen in the film The Dictator. Image courtesy of Paramount Films

Governments around the world are "dramatically" using dodgy social media tactics to undermine democracy, according to a report published this week.

The latest Freedom on the Net report, published by Freedom House, claims that many governments are increasingly manipulating information on social media for their own political ends.

This is threatening the use of the internet as a liberating form of communication between individuals, the civil liberties group claims. 

 

Online manipulation and disinformation tactics were used in elections of around 18 countries in the last year, Freedom House claims, including the US presidential elections. 

Citizens are struggling to choose leaders based on factual news and authentic information because there's an influx of manipulated content appearing on their screens.

In Turkey, around 6,000 are believed to be employed by the government to fight political opponents on social media sites

Internet freedom has declined for a seventh consecutive year, and there's also been a rise in disruption in mobile internet service and technical attacks against human rights organisations.

The report looked at the internet freedom of 65 countries, covering 87 per cent of internet users, and focused on developments between June 2016 and May 2017.

Governments in 30 of these countries are using manipulation tools to distort online information, compared to 23 per cent last year. They're using paid commentators, trolls, bots and false news sites to influence citizens.

The Philippines is a prolific example of a country deploying such technologies. Its government has tasked a keyboard army to make people believe it's cracking down on the drug trade.

And in Turkey, around 6,000 are believed to be employed by the government to fight political opponents on social media sites. There's also Russia's accused meddling in the American presidential election, which was plagued by fake news.

At least 15 countries have restricted internet freedom as well. For instance, Ukraine has stopped citizens from accessing Russia-based services.

The fabrication of grassroots support for government policies on social media creates a closed loop in which the regime essentially endorses itself

Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, said: "The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global.

"The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating."

Sanja Kelly, director of the Freedom on the Net project, said: "Governments are now using social media to suppress dissent and advance an antidemocratic agenda.

"Not only is this manipulation difficult to detect, it is more difficult to combat than other types of censorship, such as website blocking, because it's dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it."

"The fabrication of grassroots support for government policies on social media creates a closed loop in which the regime essentially endorses itself, leaving independent groups and ordinary citizens on the outside."

Source: v3.co.uk

Source: discus.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Nov 2017

Lorenz code wheelsImage copyrightMATT CRYPTO

Image captionBletchley Park is host to a centre developing cyber-based lessons for school pupils

A £20m initiative to get schoolchildren interested in cyber-security has been launched by the UK government.

The Cyber Discovery programme is aimed at 15 to 18-year-olds and involves online and offline challenges themed around battling hackers.

It is one of several programmes trying to build interest in security work and help fill a looming skills gap.

One industry expert said a broad strategy would be needed to address the widening gap.

Hacker clubs

The free Cyber Discovery programme aims to "encourage the best young minds into cyber-security", said Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in a statement.

Young people interested will be asked to enrol via an online assessment and the best performers in that test will then be put through a "comprehensive curriculum" that helps familiarise them with cyber-security work.

The curriculum will cover:

  • digital forensics
  • defending against web attacks
  • cryptography
  • programming
  • ethics of hacking

It mixes online challenges with face-to-face learning, role-playing and real-world technical challenges, said James Lyne, head of research and development at the Sans Institute, who helped draw up the programme. Extracurricular clubs will also be set up as part of the project that will be run by mentors who help participants take the skills they learn further.

Stereotypical hackerImage copyrightXIJIAN

Image captionWork needs to be done to remove the stigma from hackers, say experts

It is one of several UK initiatives aimed at galvanising interest in security work among young people.

The organisation behind the Cyber Security Challenge, which runs lots of programmes seeking adult security workers, has one that is specifically aimed at schools. Called the Cyber Games, it is a series of competitions held around the UK that puts pupils through a variety of cyber-themed challenges and activities.

Another developed by Qufaro, a cyber-training college at Bletchley Park, is an add-on to the existing ICT curriculum that is centred on computer security.

Budgie Dhanda, head of Qufaro, said the lessons and projects it has drawn up form an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) that pupils can study alongside their A/S levels. EPQs are available in many subjects, said Mr Dhanda, and let pupils explore a subject in greater detail than they would in the classroom.

"There are a lot of different modules in it that cover the spectrum of cyber-functions and capabilities the industry requires," he said.

Professional services firm Deloitte has pledged to pay the fees of any students who take on the cyber EPQ in 2017-18.

Phil Everson, head of cyber-risk at Deloitte, said it had decided to back Qufaro entrants in a bid to help plug the skills gap.

"There's already significant global demand for cyber-talent across the world," he said. "And there are not enough skilled people to meet that demand."

One industry estimate suggests there will be more than 3 million unfilled jobs in the cyber-security industry by 2021.

"We want to try to give the younger generation who have grown up with the internet an awareness of security and its implications," he said. "The course is about foundational skills and abilities."

NCA officersImage copyrightNCA

Image captionThe UK's National Crime Agency has sought to divert young cyber-offenders into security jobs

Deep pool

Filling the growing skills gap in the cyber-security industry needed a three-pronged approach, said industry veteran Ian Glover who heads the Crest organisation that certifies people who carry out security work.

More could be done to tap into the "latent pool" of technical expertise among people who already work with computers, he said, but currently handle lower-level administrative functions rather than coding or forensics.

"There are a lot of people who have 50% of the core skills they would need to work in cyber-security," he said. "Short conversion courses could quickly help them add to their skill set and swap that admin job for one on a security team," said Mr Glover.

In addition, he said, there were plenty of other graduates that could quickly put expertise in other areas, such as international studies, to use in roles such as threat intelligence.

The final, and most long-term element involved getting school pupils interested in the field, he said, but it had to be sure to give them a rounded view of the industry.

"If you can get them interested in technology that's great," he said, "but you need to be able to describe the range of roles there are in cyber-security and the benefits of being in the industry because it's an awesome place to be."

Just as important, he said, was changing the negative associations with the word "hacker".

"The perception is there that hacking is bad," he said. "We need to change the language around it and provide guidance to young people to articulate what is meant by a job or career in this space."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Nov 2017

By Will SmaleBusiness reporter, BBC News

John CollisonImage copyrightSTRIPE

Image captionJohn Collison does not enjoy discussing how much he is worth

John Collison does not seem entirely comfortable with his somewhat impressive claim to fame - he is the world's youngest self-made billionaire.

Just 27, he otherwise seems a supremely confident business leader and excellent communicator.

But ask him about how wealthy he is, and you sense his awkwardness.

"People now ask this a lot and I feel like they always want some really interesting answer - and I have nothing for them," says the Irishman.

"People ask 'how has your life changed?', and they want me to have taken up some elaborate new hobby, like Faberge egg collecting or yacht racing."

Instead he says he likes going for a run in his spare time, describing it as a "very practical, low maintenance hobby".

John is the co-founder of a US-based software business that most people will never have heard of, called Stripe.

A person using Apple Pay

Image captionComputer giant Apple uses Stripe's technology

He set up and now runs the San Francisco-based company with his older brother Patrick, 29, who is the world's third youngest self-made billionaire. (Evan Spiegel, 27, the co-founder of social media firm Snapchat, stands between the two brothers as the second-youngest).

Founded in 2011, Stripe is not widely known because it doesn't sell anything that consumers can buy. Instead its software systems enable companies around the world to more easily accept online payments and run their websites.

With more than 100,000 global customers, last year it announced a new round of funding that valued the company at $9.2bn (£7bn).

This means that John and Patrick are each worth at least $1.1bn, according to Forbes magazine, which is expert at calculating the wealth of the rich and famous.

Not bad for two brothers who grew up in rural Republic of Ireland, and who both dropped out of university.

Keen computer programmers as teenagers, John and Patrick grew up in a small village in County Tipperary, in the west of the country.

John Collison (left) and brother PatrickImage copyrightSTRIPE

Image captionJohn (left) and his brother Patrick both became millionaires before they went to university

After attending a state secondary school in the city of Limerick, their choice of universities was an indication of their ambition in life.

Not for them a college in Ireland or the UK, they instead both decided to study at top US institutions.

Despite no family connections in the US, Patrick successfully applied to study maths at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, near Boston in 2007. Two years later John was accepted nearby, at the equally well respected Harvard University.

John says: "It was obviously easier for me because Patrick had already done it, but we'd both developed a bit of wanderlust.

"I had considered the UK, but that wasn't far enough away, it wasn't wandering enough. And both of us were studious, so going to a top college in the US was always tempting."

Stripe employeesImage copyrightSTRIPE

Image captionStripe's world headquarters is in San Francisco, while its European office is in Dublin

But even before John had started at Harvard, he and his brother had already become millionaires thanks to their first business venture, a software firm that enabled small firms and sole traders to do business more easily on the auction website eBay.

Ultimately called Auctomatic, it was sold in 2008 for $5m (£3.8m) a year after they had set up its first iteration.

The brothers then turned their attention to Stripe, and continued to work on it together after John started at Harvard. They then both dropped out of university to launch Stripe in Silicon Valley, California.

John says: "We came up with Stripe the way a lot of people come up with similar ideas - we were in the market for something like Stripe [that we could use].

"You might wonder what is hard about starting an [online] business. Creating a product that people actually want to buy, and getting them to hear about it, all that we could handle. But getting money from people over the internet was extremely difficult.

A Deliveroo riderImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionDeliveroo is another of Stripe's customers, who total more than 100,000 companies of all sizes

"I remember saying to Patrick 'how hard can it be? Maybe we should give it a try?'."

So they set about developing a software system that allows firms of all sizes to more easily collect payments, and run other parts of their websites, such as safely storing customer data, and other security systems.

Despite numerous competitors, Stripe's user numbers quickly grew, and it secured funding and support from such technology sector heavyweights as Tesla boss Elon Musk, and Paypal founder Peter Thiel.

Its business model is relatively straightforward - it charges customers an amount per transaction processed using its software. In the UK this is 1.4% of the value of the transaction plus 20p.

presentational grey line

More The Boss features, which every week profile a different business leader from around the world:

presentational grey line

While Stripe doesn't release details of its annual revenues, the firm's $9.2bn valuation suggests it is a lucrative business. And when it comes to further growth potential, John is supremely confident.

"Only 5% of consumer spending globally currently happens online, and we want to help increase that.

"We are indexed to the growth of the internet economy. As long as the internet economy continues to grow, Stripe will continue to grow.

Elon MuskImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionTesla boss Elon Musk is an investor in Stripe

"I don't know about you, but I think that is a very safe thing to bet on."

Today Stripe has 750 employees, including 500 in San Francisco, and 150 overseas, including European offices in Dublin, London, Paris and Berlin.

Technology journalist Martin Veitch contributing editor to tech website IDG Connect, says it isn't surprising that Stripe is receiving so much attention, but he cautions that it remains a young business.

"Any company that has the potential to be a de facto standard in web business operations will generate almost cult-like interest, and that is what the brothers have done in online and mobile payments," he says.

"But this is a competitive space… Stripe's valuation might make some of us weep with envy, but these remain very early days."

On a day-to-day basis John, who has the title of president, says that he spends more time dealing with external matters, such as sales deals and partnerships, while Patrick focuses most on internal matters, such as engineering.

In their spare time they share an apartment in San Francisco that must be some bachelor pad.

Just don't ask them what it is like to be a billionaire.

"Mostly it [the billionaire thing] is just a calculator exercise," says John. "The valuation is predicated on us continuing to execute and launch very compelling products in a highly competitive space - so good signs, but still a lot to do."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 20th Nov 2017

Star Wars Battlefront IIImage copyrightEA GAMES

Games publisher EA has suspended in-game purchases in its latest Star Wars title Battlefront II, following criticism from players.

Gamers had complained that unlocking popular characters such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader took too long unless they paid for credits.

EA said in-game purchases would be halted because it did not want the controversy to "overshadow" the game.

But it said the ability to buy game currency would return.

'Insidious'

In Battlefront II, players earn credits by completing campaigns. The credits can be spent to unlock new items and characters in the game.

Players and reviewers were disappointed that earning credits through gameplay took several hours, and that there was a cap on the number of credits that could be earned in Arcade Mode each day.

The game was "diseased by an insidious microtransaction model that creates an uneven battlefield," wrote Andrew Reiner in a review for Game Informer..

Others argued that it was unfair to encourage microtransactions in a game that typically cost between £49.99 and £69.99 in the UK, or $60 in the US.

EA initially responded by reducing the number of credits required to unlock in-game upgrades by 75% - but it also reduced the amount earned by playing campaigns.

It has now temporarily halted microtransactions. "Sorry we didn't get this right," it said in a statement.

"The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we've made changes to the game. We'll share more details as we work through this."

The announcement was met with scepticism on Reddit, where players had raised complaints about the game.

"According to their statement, EA is disabling in-game purchases only temporarily. In other words, they're waiting for the Reddit hive mind to get mad about something else and three weeks later they'll put it back to how it was," suggested one gamer.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Thu 16th Nov 2017

Discus Systems was founded in 1997 to meet the demand from small and medium-sized businesses in our local area for IT support and service. Originally based in Coleshill to the south-east of Birmingham, in 2010 we expanded beyond the capability of our office and moved to prestigious new premises in Hampton in Arden, Solihull. From here, we are ideally located to provide IT support throughout the West Midlands, covering Birmingham, Coventry, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield, Tamworth, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Bromsgrove, Derby and Redditch... [More]

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