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Businesses

Scraping By On Six Figures? Tech Workers Feel Poor in Silicon Valley's Wealth Bubble (theguardian.com) 562

Big tech companies pay some of the country's best salaries. But workers claim the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them feeling financially strained, reports The Guardian. One Twitter employee cited in the story, who earns a base salary of $160,000 a year, said his earnings are "pretty bad", adding that he pays $3000 rent for a two-bedroom house in San Francisco. From the article: Silicon Valley's latest tech boom has caused rents to soar over the last five years. The city's rents, by one measure, are now the highest in the world. The prohibitive costs have displaced teachers, city workers, firefighters and other members of the middle class, not to mention low-income residents. Now techies, many of whom are among the highest 1 percent of earners, are complaining that they, too, are being priced out. The Twitter employee said he hit a low point in early 2014 when the company changed its payroll schedule, leaving him with a hole in his budget. "I had to borrow money to make it through the month." He was one of several tech workers, earning between $100,000 and $700,000 a year, who vented to the Guardian about their financial situation.
AT&T

FCC Chairman Says His Agency Won't Review AT&T's Time Warner Purchase (engadget.com) 65

Today, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai confirmed that his agency would not review AT&T's Time Warner purchase, clearing the way for the Justice Department to likely approve the deal. Engadget reports: Last month, AT&T revealed how it might structure its deal to acquire Time Warner without having to go through FCC review. The communications giant noted that it "anticipated that Time Warner will not need to transfer any of its FCC licenses ... after the closing of the transaction." That means that the FCC wouldn't need to review the transaction. "That is the regulatory hook for FCC review," Pai said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "My understanding is that the deal won't be presented to the commission." The WSJ notes that this would leave the Justice Department as the only governmental agency reviewing the potential deal. Time Warner has said that it has "dozens" of FCC licenses, but the company believes those won't need to be transferred to AT&T as part of the merger, thus keeping the FCC out of the deal. The report notes that the deal still might not go through even if the FCC won't review the transaction. There's a lot of opposition to it from consumer advocacy groups, and President Donald Trump has said he opposes the deal.
Communications

Battle of the Carriers: T-Mobile's New Promotion Offers Three Unlimited Data Lines For $100 (theverge.com) 43

A battle is raging between telecommunications giants and the public is benefiting from it. In response to T-Mobile's "One" unlimited data plan announced in August, Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own a couple of weeks ago. This caused a ripple effect as Sprint and AT&T unveiled new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. The battle appears to show no signs of slowing as the carriers are continuing their efforts to win consumers over. Today, AT&T undercut Verizon and T-Mobile with newer unlimited data plans. The "Unlimited Choice" plan is the cheaper of the two new plans, featuring unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot for $60 per month. While it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option, it may not be as generous as T-Mobile's latest promotion. The company just announced a new promotion after AT&T's announcement that offers three unlimited data lines for $100. The Verge reports: In its continuing efforts to attract more sign-ups, T-Mobile's latest promotion offers an additional line for free for accounts with two or more lines. The offer works whether you want to add an extra phone line or a line for wearables or tablets. The deal is available for current and new customers -- the amount of data available to the free line will match up with whatever your current plan is for the other lines. If your plan does not have the same amount of data between devices, the free line will get whatever's the lowest of the bunch. Just two weeks ago, the company updated its T-Mobile One plan to include unlimited data for $100 a month between two lines. CEO John Legere said the free line promotion also applies this new plan. If you are confused about the four carriers' recent announcements, you are not alone. We have included related links below to help you make sense of each carrier's plans.
Businesses

Mozilla Acquires Pocket and Its More Than 10 Million Users (recode.net) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, is buying Pocket, the read-it-later service, for an undisclosed amount. Pocket, which is described by Mozilla as its first strategic acquisition, will continue to operate as a Mozilla subsidiary. Founder Nate Weiner will continue to run Pocket, along with his team of about 25 people. Pocket, previously known as Read It Later, lets users bookmark articles, videos and other content to read or view later on the web or a mobile device. It's great for things like saving offline copies of web articles to read on plane rides or subway commutes, especially where internet access is sparse. Pocket, which was founded in 2007, has more than 10 million monthly active users, according to a rep. That's not bad, but suggests it's still a fairly niche service, especially as big firms like Facebook and Apple build simple "reading list" features into their platforms.
AI

Supersmart Robots Will Outnumber Humans Within 30 Years, Says SoftBank CEO (fortune.com) 208

Computers running artificial intelligence programs will exceed human intelligence within three decades, Masayoshi Son, founder of the Japanese technology and telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank Group, said on Monday. From a report on Fortune: "I really believe this," Son told a large audience at the Mobile World Congress, the telecom industry's annual conference in Barcelona. A computer will have the IQ equal to 1,000 times the average human by that point, he said. Even clothing like a pair of sneakers will have more computing power that a person, Son joked. "We will be less than our shoes," he said, to laughter. Asked if the rise of the computer could be dangerous for humankind, Son said that would be up to how people react. "I believe this artificial intelligence is going to be our partner," he said. "If we misuse it, it will be a risk. If we use it right, it can be our partner."
Software

Indian State Saves $45 Million As Schools Switch To Open Source Software (factordaily.com) 84

From a report: The Kerala government has made a saving of Rs 300 crore ($45 million) through introduction and adoption of Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) in the school education sector, said a state government official on Sunday. IT became a compulsory subject in Kerala schools from 2003, but it was only in 2005 that FOSS was introduced in a phased manner and started to replace proprietary software. The decision made by the curriculum committee to implement it in the higher secondary sector has also been completed now. "It's not the cost saving that matters more, but the fact that the Free Software license enables not only teachers and students but also the general public an opportunity to copy, distribute and share the contents and use it as they wish," K. Anwar Sadath, executive director IT@School said.
Moon

How To Get Back To the Moon In 4 Years -- This Time To Stay (scientificamerican.com) 324

Scientific American describes "a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently...to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years." It starts by abandoning NASA's expensive Space Launch System and Orion capsule, and spending the money saved on private-industry efforts like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace. schwit1 quotes their report: Musk's rockets -- the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy -- are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready...

Major segments of the space community want every future landing to add to a permanent infrastructure in the sky. And that's within our grasp thanks to Robert Bigelow... Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious -- an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules.

The article calls Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rockets "a wild car" which could also land passengers and cargo on the moon and suggests NASA would be better off funding things like lunar-surface refueling stations, lunar construction equipment, and "devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen."
Transportation

Did Silicon Valley Lose The Race To Build Self-Driving Cars? (autoblog.com) 128

schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Up until very recently the talk in Silicon Valley was about how the tech industry was going to broom Detroit into the dustbin of history. Companies such as Apple, Google, and Uber -- so the thinking went -- were going to out run, out gun, and out innovate the automakers. Today that talk is starting to fade. There's a dawning realization that maybe there's a good reason why the traditional car companies have been around for more than a century.

Last year Apple laid off most of the engineers it hired to design its own car. Google (now Waymo) stopped talking about making its own car. And Uber, despite its sky high market valuation, is still a long, long way from ever making any money, much less making its own autonomous cars. To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that "Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard."

The article argues the big auto-makers launched "vigorous in-house autonomous programs" which became fully competitive with Silicon Valley's efforts, and that Silicon Valley may have a larger role crunching the data that's collected from self-driving cars. "Last year in the U.S. market alone Chevrolet collected 4,220 terabytes of data from customer's cars... Retailers, advertisers, marketers, product planners, financial analysts, government agencies, and so many others will eagerly pay to get access to that information."
Nintendo

$10K Package Of Super Nintendo Games Finally Found By Post Office (eurogamer.net) 150

A project to preserve (and validate) every Super Nintendo game ROM had been derailed when the post office lost a package containing 100 games from the PAL region. But now Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, reports that the package has been found. An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Byuu finally posted photos of the unboxing for the package that was shipped to him January 5th. "I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to the USPS for assuming the worst in that these games were stolen. I should not have been so hasty to assume malicious intent." At the same time, Byuu writes that "My package was sitting in Atlanta, GA for well over a month with my address clearly visible right on the box. Had this case not been escalated to the media, it likely would have gone up for auction in a bin with other electronics sometime in March."

Byuu is now refunding donations he'd received to replace the missing games, and says he can now also resume work on the SNES Preservation Project. And going forward, according to Eurogamer, "Byuu has said he will be more cautious with shipping games in the future -- only using smaller shipments, or buying individual games to scan and archive then selling them on to get some money back."

Businesses

Al Gore Sells $29.5 Million In Apple Stock (appleinsider.com) 193

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AppleInsider: A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday reveals Apple board member Al Gore this week sold 215,437 shares of Apple stock (APPL) worth about $29.5 million. Gore's stock sale, which was accomplished in multiple trades ranging from $136.4 to $137.12 on Wednesday, nearly matches a $29.6 million purchase of Apple shares made in 2013. When Gore bought the stock batch more than four years ago, he exercised Apple's director stock option to acquire 59,000 shares at a price of about $7.48 per share, costing him approximately $441,000. This was pre-split AAPL, so shares were valued at $502.68 each. Following today's sale, Gore owns 230,137 shares of Apple stock worth $31.5 million at the end of trading on Friday.
The Courts

ZeniMax Files Injunction To Stop Oculus From Selling VR Headsets (gamespot.com) 77

ZeniMax, the parent company of Fallout and Skyrim developer Bethesda, has filed for an injunction against virtual-reality company Oculus over the recent stolen technology case. The company had accused Oculus of stealing VR-related code, and was subsequently awarded $500 million by a Dallas court earlier this month. ZeniMax has now filed additional papers against Oculus, requesting that Oculus' products using the stolen code be removed from sale. GameSpot reports: Specifically, ZeniMax is seeking to block sales of its mobile and PC developer kits, as well as technology allowing the integration of Oculus Rift with development engines Unreal and Unity, reports Law360. If the injunction isn't granted, ZeniMax wants a share of "revenues derived from products incorporating its intellectual properties," suggesting a 20 percent cut for at least 10 years. ZeniMax argues the previous settlement of $500 million is "insufficient incentive for [Oculus] to cease infringing." Oculus, meanwhile, says that "ZeniMax's motion does not change the fact that the [original] verdict was legally flawed and factually unwarranted. We look forward to filing our own motion to set aside the jury's verdict and, if necessary, filing an appeal that will allow us to put this litigation behind us," the virtual reality company stated.
Displays

Slashdot Asks: Are Curved TVs Worth It? (cnet.com) 176

New submitter cherishjoo shares a report written by David Katzmaier via CNET: When the first curved TVs appeared more than three years ago I asked whether they were a gimmick. As a TV reviewer I had to give the curve a fighting chance, however, so I took a curved Samsung home to live with my family for awhile, in addition to subjecting it to a full CNET review. In the end, I answered my own question with the headline "Great picture quality, but the curved screen is a flat-out gimmick." Since then most of the video geeks I know, including just about everybody I hear from on Twitter, Facebook and article comments, pooh-poohs curved TV screens as a useless distraction. A curved TV takes the traditional flat screen and bends it along a gentle arc. The edges end up a bit closer, ostensibly providing a slight wraparound effect. Curved TV makers, citing huge curved screens like IMAX, call their sets more "immersive" than their flat counterparts, but in my experience that claim doesn't hold water at in-home (as opposed to theatrical) screen sizes and viewing distances. The only real image-quality benefit I saw to the curve was a reduction in reflections in some cases. That benefit wasn't worth the slight geometric distortions introduced by the curve, not to mention its awkwardness when hung on the wall. That said, the curve doesn't ruin an otherwise good picture. In TVs, assuming similar prices, curved vs. flat boils down to a choice of aesthetics. As Katzmaier mentioned, curved TVs have been on the market for several years now, and while manufacturers continue to produce them, the verdict on whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is still murky. Here's our question for you: Are curved televisions worth the inflated price tag? If you are in the market for a new TV, does the fact that the display is curved entice you or steer you away?
Botnet

World's Largest Spam Botnet Adds DDoS Feature (bleepingcomputer.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes from a report via BleepingComputer: Necurs, the world's largest spam botnet with nearly five million infected bots, of which one million are active each day, has added a new module that can be used for launching DDoS attacks. The sheer size of the Necurs botnet, even in its worst days, dwarfs all of today's IoT botnets. The largest IoT botnet ever observed was Mirai Botnet #14 that managed to rack up around 400,000 bots towards the end of 2016 (albeit the owner of that botnet has now been arrested). If this new feature were to ever be used, a Necurs DDoS attack would easily break every DDoS record there is. Fortunately, no such attack has been seen until now. Until now, the Necurs botnet has been seen spreading the Dridex banking trojan and the Locky ransomware. According to industry experts, there's a low chance we'd see the Necurs botnet engage in DDoS attacks because the criminal group behind the botnet is already making too much money to risk exposing their full infrastructure in DDoS attacks.
Businesses

Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours (cnet.com) 149

Japan is notorious for its long working hours, which have been blamed for a national health crisis known as "karoshi" -- death from overwork. From a report on CNET: Panasonic hopes to curb this, instructing its 100,000-ish employees to work no later than 8 p.m. each day, reports Asahi Shimbun. This hour reduction still enables a 55-hour working week, but the directive from Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga also limited overtime to 80 hours a month.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Should Be Liable For Accidents, Not the Passengers: UK Government (arstechnica.co.uk) 248

"Electric charging points at all major motorway services and petrol stations, and the occupants of a self-driving car aren't liable in the case of an accident -- those are two of the measures proposed by a new law that the UK government hopes will let us reap the rewards of improved transport technology over the next few years," reports Ars Technica. "These changes are part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (VTAB), a draft law that is basically a shopping list of governmental desires." From the report: The first item on the bill involves automated vehicles, and how to ensure that the vehicle's owner (which may or may not be a driver) and potential accident victims are protected. The bill says that insurance companies must offer two types of protection: for when a vehicle is acting autonomously, but also if the human driver decides to takes control. Essentially, the government wants to make sure that an accident victim can always claim compensation from the insurance company, even if the car was acting autonomously. It would then be up for the insurance company to try and reclaim that money from the car maker through existing common law and product liability arrangements. In a somewhat rare display of tech savviness, there are two exemptions listed in the bill. If the vehicle owner makes unauthorized changes to the car's software, or fails to install a software update as mandated by their insurance policy, then the insurer doesn't have to pay. It isn't clear at this point which capabilities will be enough to classify a vehicle as "self-driving." The draft law asks the department for transport (DfT) to work it out, post haste, and then to determine which vehicles qualify for the new type of insurance. The planned law also outlines new governmental powers to improve the UK's electric charging infrastructure.
Businesses

Website Builder Wix Acquires Art Community DeviantArt For $36 Million (techcrunch.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Wix.com has made another acquisition to build out the tools that it provides to users to build and administer websites: it has acquired DeviantArt, an online community for artists, designers and art/design enthusiasts with some 325 million individual pieces of original art and more than 40 million registered members, for $36 million in cash, including $3 million of assumed liabilities. Wix said that it will continue to operate DeviantArt as a standalone site, but it will also use it to boost its own business in a couple of ways. First, DeviantArt users will get access to Wix's web design tools to build out more dynamic online presences. These tools do not only cover design, but commerce and other features for running businesses online. Second, Wix will open up DeviantArt's repository of art and creative community to the Wix platform, giving Wix's users access to that work to use in their own site building. The deal will also include putting further investment into developing DeviantArt's desktop and mobile apps. (Today, that desktop experience is based on a very simple, pared-down interface that is reminiscent of the 2000 birthdate of the startup itself.)
Businesses

Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture (cnbc.com) 192

Excerpts from Mike Isaac's report for the New York Times: Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat. Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. [...] One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Called the A-Team and composed of a small group of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, its members were shielded from much accountability over their actions. One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.
Businesses

Tesla Posts Earnings Loss But Claims Model 3 Production Will Start In July (bgr.com) 67

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from BGR: Tesla on Wednesday released its earnings report (PDF) for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $0.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015. As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September.

Tesla notes in its press release: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions. Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3."

Businesses

Apple's New Spaceship Campus Gets a Name, Lifts Off In April (arstechnica.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple has been building its giant new "spaceship" campus in the company's hometown of Cupertino, California, since December of 2013, and since then fans have paid obsessive attention to the structure. It gets buzzed by drones constantly, and the most popular YouTube videos of the building in progress have amassed well over half-a-million views apiece. The company announced today that the campus will be open to employees starting in April and that the building and environs now have a name: Apple Park. Apple says that moving the 12,000 employees who will work at the campus will take more than six months, and landscaping and construction on some buildings won't be done until the summer. The new campus mostly replaces the university-style Infinite Loop campus Apple has used since 1993, though Apple has said that it will also be keeping the older buildings. The new campus' cost has been estimated at around $5 billion. Apple will also be naming one space on the new campus after its founder and former CEO -- the Steve Jobs Theater will replace the current Town Hall event space that Apple sometimes uses for company meetings and product announcements, and it will open "later this year." The new space will be much larger (it will seat 1,000, compared to roughly 300 for the Town Hall), and the larger space will presumably allow Apple to launch more of its products on its campus rather than having to rent expensive event space in downtown San Francisco. The company is also moving its Worldwide Developers Conference closer to home this year -- it will return to San Jose after many years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 514

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

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