The Upload: Your tech news briefing for Monday, June 15

The Upload: Your tech news briefing for Monday, June 15

IBM bets on Spark... report claims Russia, China cracked Snowden files... Alibaba preps video streaming

Edward Snowden speaks via video link to the SXSW conference on March 10, 2014

Edward Snowden speaks via video link to the SXSW conference on March 10, 2014

As Spark faithful gather this week, IBM puts down its bet

The hugely popular Hadoop framework for processing big data sets is getting some serious competition from alternative platform Spark, the Wall Street Journal reports, and thousands of the upstart's acolytes are expected at the Spark Summit in San Francisco this week. IBM is getting behind the Apache open-source project with an investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in software developers and technology, the New York Times says.

Russia and China reportedly crack Snowden's files, identifying US and UK spies

Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have reportedly decrypted files of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and have identified British and U.S. secret agents. As a result, the U.K.'s MI6 has withdrawn agents from operations in hostile countries, according to a report in the Sunday Times of London. The story, based on anonymous sources, is however being widely lambasted as a political hatchet job, and Glenn Greenwald, a journalist who worked with Snowden to produce the blockbuster reports exposing NSA surveillance two years ago, said that the leaker insists he gave the files to journalists or destroyed them to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Alibaba plans a Netfix-like streaming service for China

With no less a goal than becoming both the HBO and the Netflix of China, e-commerce powerhouse Alibaba plans to launch a streaming video service in the country in about two months, Reuters reported. The company's head of digital entertainment, Patrick Lui, said the service will include acquired content but also material produced in-house; it's set to debut in about two months under the name TBO -- short for Tmall Box Office.

And here comes another VR headset, this time from Starbreeze

Starbreeze is ready to go up against the likes of Oculus and Valve with its own virtual reality headset, announced at a pre-E3 event this past weekend, PC World reports. The games developer is calling its equipment the StarVR, and it's said to feature a 210 degree field of view and competition-beating 5120x1440-pixel resolution.

One in four mobile apps installed never gets a second look

While developers dream of getting rich off of a successful mobile app, a study shows that they had better focus on making a good first impression: Users are a fickle crowd who download liberally but will often abandon apps after only a single try, re/code reports. The research by Localytics indicates that these days one in four apps are dismissed after one try, up from last year when one in five apps suffered that fate.

Spotify helps expose retro tunes with "rewind" feature

Music lovers who are as interested in uncovering gems from yesteryear as they are in discovering new artists can now try out a soft-launched feature called "rewind" from streaming service Spotify, VentureBeat reports. Rewind prompts you to select three artists you like, and then presents you with a blast-from-the-past playlist.

U.S. Labor Department will look at whether H-1B visas are being misused

In the wake of some well-publicized cases of U.S. tech workers being replaced with lower-paid IT staff brought in by outsourcing firms via the H-1B visa program, the U.S. Labor Department plans a probe into whether the practice is legal. The visa program is intended to allow companies to import workers when they are unable to find qualified U.S. residents, but it's coming under fire as businesses apparently use it to simply lower their staffing costs. Meanwhile, at least one division of Disney appears to be backpedaling on such plans after articles in Computerworld and the New York Times reported that outsourced workers were compelled to train their replacements as a condition of severance.

Watch now

BeOn Home is a lighting system that includes three intelligent LED bulbs meant to help out both when you're home and when you're not.

One last thing

Google still hasn't shared much information about Project Loon, its ambitious attempt to use high-altitude balloons to bring the Internet to the roughly 5 billion people on the planet who are out of range of existing networks, but the technology and challenges behind it are slowly coming into focus.

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