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Net Neutrality Complaints Rise Amid FCC Repeal

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 19:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: Internet users are complaining more about net neutrality-related issues since the FCC voted to repeal the existing net neutrality rules earlier this month, according to the FCC's consumer complaint data. The FCC allows consumers to submit complaints about a variety of telecom-related problems, from receiving unwanted phone calls to billing fraud. After adopting net neutrality rules in 2015, the FCC added net neutrality to the list of possible gripes, such as slowed-down internet service or content being blocked. The FCC can use those complaints to spot trends or even launch investigations. According to the data (via the FCC's Consumer Complaint Center), people appear to file more net neutrality complaints when the topic is in the news and people are paying more attention to their internet performance.

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What Amazon's Alexa Economy Pays the People Building Its Skills

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 17:50
From a report on CNET: On a lark, Joel Wilson started developing skills for Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, this past January. After a few weeks of coding, he launched two skills -- Amazon's term for voice-controlled apps -- called Question of the Day and Three Questions. Both quiz people on science, literature and pop culture trivia. In May, he got an email from Amazon telling him to expect a check in the mail as part of a new program that pays cash to makers of popular skills. That first month, Amazon sent him $2,000. It got better from there. He's received checks for $9,000 over each of the past three months, he said. Wilson unexpectedly joined a new Alexa economy, a small but fast-growing network of independent developers, marketing companies and Alexa tools makers. Two years ago, there wasn't nearly as much to do on Alexa and the market for making Alexa skills was worth a mere $500,000. Now, with more than 25,000 skills available, the market is expected to hit $50 million in 2018, according to analytics firm VoiceLabs.

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Thunderbird Will Phase Out Legacy Add-Ons, Will Support WebExtensions

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 17:00
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Mozilla announced last week plans to modernize Thunderbird's codebase, plans that include fixing some "technical debt" by incorporating the recent changes in the Mozilla engine into Thunderbird, adding a new user interface (UI), and phasing out old legacy add-ons that are built on the XUL and XPCOM APIs. The changes are part of Mozilla's new plan for Thunderbird development, a project that it left for dead in 2012, but later decided to reinvigorate in 2016.

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Cash Might Be King, but They Don't Care

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 16:20
In Midtown and some other neighborhoods across New York City, cashless is fast on its way to becoming normal, The New York Times reports, sharing anecdotes where merchants have refused to accept bills from customers (the link may be paywalled). From the report: Cashless businesses were once an isolated phenomenon, but now, similarly jarring experiences can be had across the street at Sweetgreen, or two blocks up at Two Forks, or next door to Two Forks at Dos Toros, or over on 41st Street at Bluestone Lane coffee. In the future, when dollar bills are found only in museum display cases, we will look back on this moment of transition and confusion with the same head-shaking smile with which we regard customs on the Isle of Yap in Micronesia, where giant stone discs are still accepted as payment for particularly big-ticket items. Some people already live in this cashless future. They find nothing strange about paying for a pack of gum with a swipe of a card. If you are one of these people and you are still somehow reading this article, you may be thinking, "What on earth is the big deal?" At Two Forks on 40th Street, where the lunch offerings have cheery names like Squash Goals, Kristin Junco, a 34-year-old auditor for the state Education Department, said she had not used cash for about a week and much prefers a cashless establishment to its opposite. "We travel a lot for work," she said, gesturing to a colleague, "and if they don't take credit cards that makes things difficult." [...] Not surprisingly, the credit card companies, who make a commission on every credit card purchase, applaud the trend. Visa recently offered select merchants a $10,000 reward for depriving customers of their right to pay by the method of their choice. A Visa executive described this practice to CNN as offering shoppers "freedom from carrying cash."

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Cities With Uber Have Lower Rates Of Ambulance Usage

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 15:40
An anonymous reader shares a report: Many potential emergency room patients are too sick to drive themselves to a hospital. But an ambulance can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars without insurance. This where a popular ride-sharing app can step in, while also freeing up the ambulances for those who need them most. With demand for ambulances decreased by available Uber drivers, emergency personnel have been able reach critical patients faster while also applying necessary treatment on the way to the hospital, according to a new economic study from the University of Kansas: "Given that even a reduction of a few minutes can drastically improve survival rates for serious conditions, this could be associated with a substantial welfare improvement." The study investigated ambulance rates in 766 U.S. cities from 43 different states. Taking into account the timelines of when Uber entered each city, the researchers found that the app reduced per capita ambulance usage rates by around 7 percent.

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China's Shanghai Sets Population at 25 Million To Avoid 'Big City Disease'

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 15:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: China's financial hub of Shanghai will limit its population to 25 million people by 2035 as part of a quest to manage "big city disease," authorities have said. The State Council said on its website late on Monday the goal to control the size of the city was part of Shanghai's masterplan for 2017-2035, which the government body had approved. "By 2035, the resident population in Shanghai will be controlled at around 25 million and the total amount of land made available for construction will not exceed 3,200 square kilometres," it said. State media has defined "big city disease" as arising when a megacity becomes plagued with environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a shortage of public services, including education and medical care. But some experts doubt the feasibility of the plans, with one researcher at a Chinese government thinktank describing the scheme as "unpractical and against the social development trend."

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Researchers Fooled a Google AI Into Thinking a Rifle Was a Helicopter

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 12:30
An anonymous reader shares a Wired report: Algorithms, unlike humans, are susceptible to a specific type of problem called an "adversarial example." These are specially designed optical illusions that fool computers into doing things like mistake a picture of a panda for one of a gibbon. They can be images, sounds, or paragraphs of text. Think of them as hallucinations for algorithms. While a panda-gibbon mix-up may seem low stakes, an adversarial example could thwart the AI system that controls a self-driving car, for instance, causing it to mistake a stop sign for a speed limit one. They've already been used to beat other kinds of algorithms, like spam filters. Those adversarial examples are also much easier to create than was previously understood, according to research released Wednesday from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. And not just under controlled conditions; the team reliably fooled Google's Cloud Vision API, a machine learning algorithm used in the real world today. For example, in November another team at MIT (with many of the same researchers) published a study demonstrating how Google's InceptionV3 image classifier could be duped into thinking that a 3-D-printed turtle was a rifle. In fact, researchers could manipulate the AI into thinking the turtle was any object they wanted.

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Movie Theaters Were Already in Trouble. With Disney's Fox Deal, It's Double

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 08:30
Disney's acquisition of Fox's film studio will unite some of the most lucrative movie franchises, from Disney's Star Wars and Marvel series to Fox's X-Men and Avatar. With control of more blockbusters, not only does Disney gain more leverage over theater chains such as AMC and Carmike Cinemas, it also wins more films it could distribute exclusively on its upcoming online service -- cutting out cinema operators entirely. From a report: "Disney is becoming the Wal-Mart of Hollywood: huge and dominant," says Barton Crockett, a media analyst at B. Riley FBR. "That's going to have a big influence up and down the supply chain." Together, Disney and Fox accounted for 40 percent of ticket sales in 2016 in the U.S. and Canada, a level of market concentration that could draw scrutiny from Washington. If the deal goes through, theater owners could get squeezed. Usually a film's box-office revenue is split evenly between exhibitors and the studio. But Disney previously has gotten theaters to hand over a larger share -- sometimes more than 60 percent -- on its biggest, most popular films, such as the Star Wars series. Now it could try the same tactic with Fox's Avatar, which has four sequels in the works. "While the future of movie exhibition looks increasingly dim, a Disney-Fox merger will elevate its level of pain," says Rich Greenfield, an analyst at BTIG LLC. Cinema chains have already suffered this year from a string of box-office bombs, including Warner Bros' King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and online video services such as Netflix are keeping more moviegoers at home.

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People Still Aren't Buying Smartwatches -- and It's Only Going To Get Worse

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 05:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: Wearable technology still isn't catching up. Despite a year full of exciting new smartwatches, tech-enabled clothing or jewelry, and fitness activity trackers galore, the growth of the wearables market is still on the decline, according to a new report from research firm eMarketer. In fact, the entire category is being overtaken by smart speakers, at least during the 2017 holiday season. "Other than early adopters, consumers have yet to find a reason to justify the cost of a smartwatch, which can sometimes cost as much as a smartphone," eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu wrote in the report. "Instead, for this holiday season, we expect smart speakers to be the gift of choice for many tech enthusiasts, because of their lower price points."

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China Closes More Than 13,000 Websites in Past Three Years

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 02:30
China has closed more than 13,000 websites since the beginning of 2015 for breaking the law or other rules and the vast majority of people support government efforts to clean up cyberspace, state news agency Xinhua reports. From the report: The government has stepped up already tight controls over the internet since President Xi Jinping took power five years ago, in what critics say is an effort to restrict freedom of speech and prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party. The government says all countries regulate the internet, and its rules are aimed at ensuring national security and social stability and preventing the spread of pornography and violent content. A report to the on-going session of the standing committee of China's largely rubber stamp parliament said the authorities had targeted pornography and violence in their sweeps of websites, blogs and social media accounts, Xinhua said.

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UK Companies Facing Cyber Security Staff Shortage

Slashdot - Wto, 2017-12-26 00:01
Bruce66423 writes: According to a recent survey of recruitment agencies, 81% expect a rise in demand for digital security staff, but only 16% saw that the demand would be met." Resorting to 'neuro-diversity' [...] "We were originally plucking people from IT and bolting skills on but we changed our entire recruitment policy including targeting different kinds of people," said Rob Partridgeat BT Security. "One area we've looked at is neuro diversity. We know, for example, that some people with Asperger's are highly suited to cyber but don't always have good communication skills so we changed our approach to the way we source and interview candidates.

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Estimates of Bitcoin's Soaring Energy Use Are Likely Overstating the Electric Power Required To Mine the Cryptocurrency

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 23:00
From a report: The computer process that generates each coin is said to be on pace to require more electricity than the United States consumes in a year. This bitcoin "mining" allegedly consumes more power than most countries use each year, and its electricity usage is roughly equivalent to Bulgaria's consumption. But here's another thing you might want to know: All of that analysis is based on a single estimate of bitcoin's power consumption that is highly questionable, according to some long-time energy and IT researchers. Despite their skepticism, this power-consumption estimate from the website Digiconomist has quickly been accepted as gospel by many journalists, research analysts and even billionaire investors. That model is also the basis for forecasts of bitcoin's future energy use that remind some experts of wild projections about internet data traffic in the mid-1990s that contributed back then to companies spending far too much for capacity they would eventually not need. "Doing these wild extrapolations can have real-world consequences," said Jonathan Koomey, a Stanford University lecturer who pioneered studies of electricity usage from IT equipment and helped debunk faulty forecasts in the 1990s. "I would not bet anything on the bitcoin thing driving total electricity demand. It is a tiny, tiny part of all data center electricity use."

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Established Players in Tech Industry Are Displaced By New Technologies and Companies Often When They Are Operating At Their Peak

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 22:01
In a column, Steven Sinofsky, former President of the Windows Division at Microsoft, cites various examples from the past to suggest that it is often when incumbents in technology space have established market dominance that new startups rise and displace them: While the tech incumbents are clearly generating massive revenue and profits, nearly all of this comes from products developed long ago. In fact, as we now know in hindsight, it is exactly when conventional wisdom conflates today's economic success with forward-looking product innovation that seeds are being planted for the next massive wave of innovation. Google was formed at time when the incumbents of AOL and even Yahoo were stronger than ever. Facebook came just after the dot com bubble burst. Even the reincarnation of Apple took place after the bubble burst with products being developed as the bubble peaked. And for what it is worth, the PC ecosystem, particularly Windows, was relatively "flat" mired in Windows Vista while Firefox dominated and Google Chrome was appeared (Windows 7 wouldn't come out for a year after Chrome). In the infrastructure space, the seeds were planted for both AWS and VMWare in the shadow of the dot com bubble. In an historical context it is highly likely that the next wave of innovation in new technologies and new companies will happen right under the noses of big companies operating at what the public markets think of as peak (earnings) potential.

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Russia's Putin Calls For Web Activities of Some Firms To Be Monitored

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 21:01
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the Russian authorities should monitor the activity of "some companies" on social media during next year's presidential election and assess the extent of their involvement in domestic politics. From a report: He did not name the companies or say if he was concerned about the activities of foreign or local firms, but Russia has been accused by the United States and other Western nations of meddling in their elections. "We need to look carefully at how some companies work in internet, in social media, and how widely they are involved in our domestic political life," Putin said, speaking at a meeting with leaders in Russia's parliament about a new "foreign agents" law.

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The Majority of Americans Prefer To Be Greeted With 'Merry Christmas' Over 'Happy Holidays', a Poll Finds

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 20:40
"Merry Christmas" is the preferred greeting of a strong majority of Americans. A survey carried in conjunction by news outlet Axios and SurveyMonkey found that 65 percent of the participants wish to be greeted with "Merry Christmas," while 28% prefer "Happy Holidays."

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How Many Books Will You Read in a Lifetime? Around 4600, If You Read Fast

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 20:05
I once sneered at lifetime reading plans. Two decades later, I'm more aware that reading time, like all time, is precious, writes journalist Nilanjana Roy. From her column on the Financial Times (might be paywalled), shared by a reader: As the new year approaches, I sort my bookshelves and reboot my lifetime reading plan. Like a good road map, the plan makes the difference between dreaming of visiting 50 places before you die, and actually getting to 10 or 11 of those in the year ahead. In my twenties, arrogant with the faith of a speed-reader who had plunged recklessly into reading the classics of Bengali and Hindi literature alongside English, I sneered at lifetime reading plans. So earnest. So stuffy. Who wanted a map when you could freewheel down the highway, veering from JM Coetzee to Ursula K Le Guin, reading Stephen King alongside Beowulf or The Mahabharata, reading Tamil pulp fiction in translation one week, Japanese crime thrillers the next? Two decades later, I'm more aware that the years pass swiftly, that reading time, like all time, is precious. In a thoughtfully planned survey for Literary Hub, writer Emily Temple plotted the number of books an average reader in the US might finish in a lifetime. She analysed trends for women and men across different age groups, and broke down the results into three categories: the average reader (about 12 books a year), the voracious reader (50 books a year) and the super reader (80 books a year). At the age of 25, even a super reader with a long life expectancy will finish a mere 4,560-4,880 books before they die.

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UFO Existence 'Proven Beyond Reasonable Doubt', Says Former Head of Pentagon Alien Program

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 19:07
An anonymous reader shares a Newsweek report: The existence of UFOs had been "proved beyond reasonable doubt," according the head of the secret Pentagon program that analyzed the mysterious aircrafts. In an interview with British broadsheet The Telegraph published on Saturday, Luis Elizondo told the newspaper of the sightings, "In my opinion, if this was a court of law, we have reached the point of 'beyond reasonable doubt.'" "I hate to use the term UFO but that's what we're looking at," he added. "I think it's pretty clear this is not us, and it's not anyone else, so no one has to ask questions where they're from." Elizondo led the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, investigating evidence of UFOs and alien life, from 2007 to 2012, when it was shuttered. Its existence was first reported by The New York Times this month.

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Man Threatened Company With Cyber Attack To Fire Employee and Hire Him Instead

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 18:01
An anonymous reader writes: A North Carolina judge sentenced a Washington man this week to 37 months in prison for threatening a company with attacks unless they fire one of their employees and hire him instead. According to court documents obtained by Bleeping Computer, on April 18, 2016, Todd Michael Gori sent an email to TSI Healthcare, a healthcare software vendor based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Gori, a 28-year-old resident of Wenatchee, Washington, threatened the company with cyber attacks by him and unnamed friends if the company did not fire one of its employees and hire him instead. "I am giving you, TSI healthcare two choices," Gori wrote in the email. "You either lay-off [identity redacted] and replace her with me, an operator 100x better that she is oppressing. Or I will take out your entire company along with my comrades via a cyber attack. Again you have two choices. Get ride of her and hire me. Or slowly be chipped away at until you are gone. She is a horrible operator that can only manage 2 screens with an over inflated travel budget. I fly at least 10x as many places as this loon on 1/5th of the budget," the email reads. "I have petitioned for a job with you guys with her as a reference as I am a felon with computer skills and need assistance getting work as technically I have 'no work history'. She declines everytime and burries me even further."

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Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Books, Movies, Documentaries and Shows From This Year That You Liked and Recommend To Others?

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 17:05
As we prepare to end the year, several readers have suggested we asked one another about the things we liked. We encourage everyone to participate.

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Opera 50 Web Browser Will Offer Anti-Bitcoin Cryptocurrency Mining Feature

Slashdot - Pon, 2017-12-25 16:01
BrianFagioli writes: The upcoming version 50 of the Opera web browser will offer an integrated anti-Bitcoin mining feature. Besides Bitcoin, it will also block the mining of other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin and Ethereum. If you aren't aware, some websites are hijacking user computers to mine for cryptocurrencies. This is not only a potential violation of trust, but it can negatively impact the computer's performance too. Mining is also a huge waste of electricity. Opera 50 will offer an optional setting that, when enabled, blocks this nonsense.

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