The Upload: Your tech news briefing for Thursday, May 14

US House votes to end NSA dragnet...Wal-Mart set to compete with Amazon Prime...Chambers gets sentimental on earnings call

NSA headquarters.

NSA headquarters.

U.S. House votes to end NSA bulk data collection

The dragnet collection of U.S. phone records by the National Security Agency exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden nearly two years ago is finally on its way to being a relic of history. The U.S. House of Representatives voted 338 to 88 in favor of a bill that prohibits the practice. However, the USA Freedom Act does extend an expiring provision in the anti-terrorism Patriot Act that allows the NSA to collect U.S. telephone and business records, but with a more limited scope.

Wal-Mart set to compete with Amazon Prime

Wal-Mart is ready to go toe-to-toe with Amazon in the Seattle e-commerce giant's sweet spot: it's aiming to undercut the lucrative and successful Amazon Prime subscription service, the Associated Press reports. Wal-Mart will test-offer unlimited shipping service for online customers for $50, half what Amazon charges.

Chambers leaving on a high note as Cisco posts tidy increase in profits, sales

Retiring Cisco CEO John Chambers will hand his successor a company that is on a steady course when he leaves in July: for its third quarter it reported on Wednesday revenue that was up five percent at $12.1 billion, while profit increased by nearly 12 percent to 2.4 billion. In his last earnings call he was in a sentimental and slightly defensive mood, calling criticism of the company "garbage" and insisting that he would completely hand the reins over to incoming chief Chuck Robbins and act only as his "wingman."

Security flaw in virtualization systems puts data centers at risk

A critical vulnerability in code used by several virtualization platforms can put business information stored in data centers at risk of compromise. The Venom flaw lets an attacker break out from the confines of a virtual machine and execute code on the host system, and is found in code used by the QEMU open source machine emulator and virtualizer, as well as Xen, KVM and other virtualization platforms. It doesn't affect VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Bochs hypervisors, said security firm CrowdStrike.

Microsoft outlines Windows 10 versions, but doesn't fill in pricing

You'll be able to get Windows 10 in a range of different flavors, Microsoft has disclosed, but it still isn't being forthcoming with pricing details, PC World reports. Consumers will be able to choose from either Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Home for PCs, but on phones and tablets, it will be Windows 10 Mobile. For larger-scale customers, look for Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.

Researchers mimic brain with 100-synapse circuit board

University of California at Santa Barbara researchers have created a circuit that mimics the human brain in a push to advance AI and machine learning. The circuit board runs about 100 artificial synapses and was able to perform a simple image classification, Computerworld reports. The ultimate goal is to expand the circuit to more brain-like scale, but researchers have a long way to go, as the human brain has about one quadrillion synaptic connections.

Weak batteries hand humans an edge in the war versus robots

Amid the deluge of headlines lately about all the jobs that we can expect to lose to robots comes some welcome news: once you take away the power cord and make them rely on batteries, they're still likely to fall down long before we do, the Wall Street Journal reports. Robots expected to compete in a U.S. defense department contest tend to exhaust their onboard power supplies quickly and still move much less efficiently than humans. For now.

Watch now

Check out this drone camera that follows you around, is waterproof and can be thrown into the air to launch.

One last thing

It's been a long time since Netscape, the Web browser that made Marc Andreessen famous. The New Yorker profiles the venture capitalist who aims to read the future.

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IDG News Service staff

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