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Microsoft

Apple, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft Sign White House Pledge For Equal Pay (fortune.com) 23

In honor of Women's Equality Day, an anonymous reader shares with us a festive report from Fortune: More than two months after the White House first announced its Equal Pay Pledge for the private sector, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and other major industry players have signed on. By taking the pledge, which was first introduced at the United State of Women Summit in June of this year, companies promise to help close the national gender pay gap, conduct annual, company-wide pay analyses, and review hiring and promotion practices. The new signees were announced in a White House statement on Friday -- which also happens to be Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Apple, which announced earlier this year that it has no pay gap, released a statement promising to dig even deeper into compensation. "We're now analyzing the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide. If a gap exists, we'll address it," the company said in a statement. Twenty-nine companies signed the pledge on Friday, bringing the total number of signatories to 57. The pledge is part of a $50-million, White House-led initiative to expand opportunities for and improve the lives of women and girls. The consortium members issued a statement via Whitehouse.gov's press release: "The Employers for Pay Equity consortium is comprised of companies that understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, including ensuring that all individuals are compensated equitably for equal work and experience and have an equal opportunity to contribute and advance in the workplace. We are committed to collaborating to eliminate the national pay and leadership gaps for women and ethic minorities. Toward that end, we have come together to share best practices in compensation, hiring, promotion, and career development as well as develop strategies to support other companies' efforts in this regard. By doing so, we believe we can have a positive effect on our workforces that, in turn, makes our companies stronger and delivers positive economic impact." The consortium members include: Accenture, Airbnb, BCG, Care.com, CEB, Cisco, Deloitte, Dow, Expedia, EY, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Jet.com, L'Oreal USA, Mercer, PepsiCo, Pinterest, Rebecca Minkoff, Salesforce, Spotify, Staples, Stella McCartney, and Visa.
Power

Dyson Will Spend $1.4 Billion, Enlist 3,000 Engineers To Build a Better Battery (digitaltrends.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Among the 100 new products the company founder James Dyson wants to invent by 2020, the greatest investment in people and money is to improve rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as reported by Forbes (Warning: paywalled). And Dyson is not planning incremental improvements. His opinion is that current Li-ion batteries don't last long enough and aren't safe enough -- the latter as evidenced by their propensity to spontaneously catch on fire, which is rare but does happen. Dyson believes the answer lies in using ceramics to create solid-state lithium-ion batteries. Dyson says he intended to spend $1.4 billion in research and development and in building a battery factory over the next five years. Last year Dyson bought Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Sakti3, which focuses on creating advanced solid-state batteries, for $90 million. The global lithium-ion battery market accounts for $40 billion in annual sales, according to research firm Lux as cited by Forbes. Dyson's company (which is an accurate description since he has 100-percent ownership) currently employs 3,000 engineers worldwide. He intends to hire another 3,000 by 2020. Their average age is 26. Dyson values young engineers, saying, "The enthusiasm and lack of fear is important. Not taking notice of experts and plowing on because you believe in something is important. It's much easier to do when you're young."
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Is Testing a 30-Hour, 75% Salary Workweek (washingtonpost.com) 144

Amazon is planning a pilot program in which a select group of workers will need to work for 30 hours a week, instead of the usual 40 to 70 hours, and make 75 percent of the salary + benefits (alternate source). From the report:Currently, the pilot program will be small, consisting of a few dozen people. These teams will work on tech products within the human resources division of the company, working Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional flex hours. Their salaries will be lower than 40-hour workers, but they will have the option to transition to full-time if they choose. Team members will be hired from inside and outside the company. As of now, Amazon does not have plans to alter the 40-hour workweek on a companywide level, the spokesman said.
Australia

Robot Babies Not Effective Birth Control, Australian Study Finds (sky.com) 282

An anonymous reader writes: Girls given imitation babies to look after in an effort to deter teenage pregnancy could actually be more likely to get pregnant, according to a study. Researchers in Australia found 8% of girls who used the dolls were expecting by the age of 20, compared with 4% of those who did not. The number of girls having at least one abortion was also higher among girls given the dolls: 9% compared to 6%. 'Baby Think It Over' dolls were used in a Virtual Infant Parenting (VIP) programme which began in 57 schools in Western Australia in 2003. During the three-year study, published in The Lancet, 1267 girls aged 13 to 15 used the simulators -- which need to be fed and changed, while 1567 learned the normal health curriculum. The idea originated in the United States and is used in 89 countries. Researchers from the Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are now warning that such programmes may be a waste of public money.
Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 32

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
Crime

US Unveils Charges Against KickassTorrents, Names Two More Defendants (arstechnica.com) 107

A total of three men are said to be operators of file-sharing site KickassTorrents (KAT), according to U.S. prosecutors. Last month, federal authorities arrested the 30-year-old Ukrainian mastermind of KAT, Artem Vaulin, and formally charged him with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. Two other Ukrainians were named in the new indictment (PDF): Levgen (Eugene) Kutsenko and Oleksander (Alex) Radostin. While only Vaulin has been arrested, bench warrants have been issue for the arrest of all three men. Ars Technica reports: "Prosecutors say the three men developed and maintained the site together and used it to 'generate millions of dollars from the unlawful distribution of copyright-protected media, including movies, [...] television shows, music, video games, computer software, and electronic books.' They gave out 'Reputation' and 'User Achievement' awards to users who uploaded the most popular files, including a special award for users who had uploaded more than 1,000 torrents. The indictment presents a selection of the evidence that the government intends to use to convict the men, and it isn't just simple downloads of the copyrighted movies. The government combed through Vaulin's e-mails and traced the bitcoins that were given to him via a 'donation' button."
Businesses

Uber Loses At Least $1.2 Billion In First Half of 2016 (bloomberg.com) 154

An anonymous reader writes: The ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc. is not a public company, but every three months, dozens of shareholders get on a conference call to hear the latest details on its business performance from its head of finance, Gautam Gupta. On Friday, Gupta told investors that Uber's losses mounted in the second quarter. Even in the U.S., where Uber had turned a profit during its first quarter, the company was once again losing money. In the first quarter of this year, Uber lost about $520 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, according to people familiar with the matter. In the second quarter the losses significantly exceeded $750 million, including a roughly $100 million shortfall in the U.S., those people said. That means Uber's losses in the first half of 2016 totalled at least $1.27 billion. "It's hardly rare for companies to lose large sums of money as they try to build significant markets and battle for market share," said Joe Grundfest, professor of law and business at Stanford. "The interesting challenge is for them to turn the corner to become profitable, cash-flow-positive entities."
Facebook

WhatsApp To Share Some Data With Facebook (bloomberg.com) 102

Two years ago when Facebook bought WhatsApp, the instant messaging client said that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of its users. Things are changing now, WhatsApp said Thursday. The Facebook-owned app will share with the company some member information, as well as some analytics data of its users. Bloomberg reports: WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policy today that allows businesses to communicate with users. The messages could include appointment reminders, delivery and shipping notifications or marketing material, the company said in its revised terms of service. In a blog post, WhatsApp said it will be testing these business features over the coming months. The strategy is an important step for Facebook as it attempts to make money from its most expensive acquisition. In addition to the messages from businesses, WhatsApp said it would begin sharing more information about its users with the "Facebook family." The data, including a person's phone number, could be used to better targets ads when browsing Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp said.
The Almighty Buck

'Legalist' Startup Automates The Lawsuit Strategy Peter Thiel Used To Bankrupt Gawker (gizmodo.com) 240

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmodo: "Two Harvard undergraduates have created a service called Legalist that uses what they call 'data-backed litigation financing,' analyzing civil lawsuits with an algorithm to predict case outcomes and determine which civil lawsuits are worth investing in," reports Gizmodo. The process is very similar to what billionaire Peter Thiel did when he secretly funded a lawsuit from Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media. "Legalist says it uses an algorithm of 58 different variables including, as [Legalist cofounder] Eva Shang told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, who the presiding judge is and the number of cases the judge is currently working on. The algorithm has been fed cases dating back to 1989 and helps people figure out how long a case will last and the risks associated with it. In a presentation at Y Combinator's Demo Day on Tuesday [Legalist was developed as part of Y Combinator's Summer 2016 class], the founders claimed that the startup funded one lawsuit for $75,000 and expects a return of more than $1 million. Shang says the $1.40 is earned for every $1 spent in litigation financing, which can prove to be a profitable enterprise when you're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars." Shang told Business Insider in reference to the Gawker lawsuit, "That's the kind of thing we're staying away from here." The company will supposedly be focusing on commercial and small-business lawsuits, and will not be backing lawsuits by individuals.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Under Tim Cook: More Socially Responsible, Less Visionary (cnn.com) 152

Let's talk about Apple, unarguably one of the most remarkable companies on the face of the earth. (Remarkable doesn't necessarily mean great -- it just means that the company is something worth making a remark). You can like it, or hate it, but you can simply not ignore Apple. But what's the occasion, you ask? It's been five years since Tim Cook took over as Apple CEO. (Editor's note: auto-playing video ahead, which may annoy you) Under his leadership, Apple has grown to become the world's most successful company, doubling the stock price and registering a staggering 84 percent growth in its net worth. Media outlets are abuzz with articles, analysis, and over-analysis of Tim Cook's Apple today. Some excerpts from a CNN article: Apple's culture has changed noticeably, both for the better and the worse. [...] If Jobs put a dent in the universe through Apple's coveted products, Cook is making his mark by highlighting the importance of social efforts: LGBT rights, philanthropy, corporate diversity, renewable energy and improving manufacturing conditions abroad. Under Cook's leadership, Apple finally began matching charitable contributions from employees, which had long been a sore spot for staff. Apple had 110,000 full-time employees as of the end of September 2015, nearly doubling from the 60,400 employees it reported having in September 2011, shortly after Cook took over, according to annual filings with the SEC. [...] There's now a feeling among some Apple insiders that the company is just running the same product playbook that Jobs created in his final years at the helm. "For four or five years, the playbook is the same that's been done," says Amit Sharma, a former Apple exec on the online store team. But, he adds, "just because everybody is looking for new doesn't mean it's not working."
AI

Microsoft Buys AI-Powered Scheduling App Genee (thestack.com) 28

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Microsoft has announced that it has completed its acquisition of artificial intelligence-based scheduling app Genee for an undisclosed amount. The app, which was launched in beta last year, uses natural language processing tools and decision-making algorithms to allow users to schedule appointments without having to consult a calendar. Prior to the acquisition, Genee supported scheduling across Facebook, Twitter, Skype, email, and via SMS. From September 1, Genee will close its own service and will officially join Microsoft, supposedly the Office 365 team. Microsoft believes the addition will help it "further [its] ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience."
Businesses

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper (theverge.com) 17

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Instapaper, a pioneering app for saving articles to read later, has been acquired -- again. The app, which was created by developer Marco Arment and sold to Betaworks in 2013, has found a new home at Pinterest. The goal is "to accelerate discovering and saving articles on Pinterest," the company said in a statement. It will continue to operate as a standalone app, and the Instapaper team will work on both that app and on Pinterest generally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. As a visual search engine, Pinterest isn't often thought of as a place to bookmark written content. But in 2013 the company introduced article pins, a format that creates rich bookmarks complete with a photo and a preview of the text. The acquisition of Instapaper suggests the company believes there is more to be done there -- although it's not certain how valuable that will be for Pinterest. Instapaper can be used for free or in a $30-a-year premium version; the company has never said how many subscribers it has.
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 188

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
The Almighty Buck

Pokemon Go Daily Active Users, Downloads, Engagement Are Dropping (bloomberg.com) 192

An anonymous reader writes:Pokemon Go is starting to lose the battle for mobile mindshare, according to Axiom Capital Management. As such, investors and executives at Facebook Inc., Instagram, Tinder (Match Group Inc.), Twitter Inc., and Snapchat can breathe a sigh of relief, says Senior Analyst Victor Anthony. "Given the rapid rise in usage of the Pokemon Go app since the launch in July, investors have been concerned that this new user experience has been detracting from time spent on other mobile focused apps," he writes. Enthusiasm about the potential for Pokemon Go (and augmented reality gaming in general) to improve Nintendo Co Ltd.'s financial performance sent shares parabolic after the app launched in the U.S., and even spurred rallies in secondary plays linked to the success of the game. Data from Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia, however, show that Pokemon Go's daily active users, downloads, engagement, and time spent on the app per day are all well off their peaks and on a downward trend.
Cellphones

Samsung Plans To Sell Refurbished High-End Smartphones In 2017 (reuters.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd plans to launch a program to sell refurbished used versions of its premium smartphones as early as next year, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The world's top smartphone maker will refurbish high-end phones returned to the company by users who signed up for one-year upgrade programs in markets such as South Korea and the United States. Samsung would then re-sell these phones at a lower price, the person said, declining to be identified as the plan was not yet public. The person declined to say how big a discount the refurbished phones would be sold at, which markets the phones would be sold in or how many refurbished devices Samsung could sell. It was not clear to what extent the phones would be altered, but refurbished phones typically are fitted with parts such as a new casing or battery. Refurbished phones could help vendors such as Samsung boost their presence in emerging markets such as India, where high-end devices costing $800 or so are beyond most buyers. Samsung's refurbishment program, details of which the person said could be finalized as early as 2017, could help the firm generate revenue from dated high-end smartphones returned by users upgrading to newer versions.
Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 318

mdsolar quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. "The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Businesses

Bill Gates's Net Worth Hits $90 Billion (bloomberg.com) 174

schwit1 quotes a report from Bloomberg: The net worth of the world's richest person Bill Gates hit $90 billion on Friday, fueled by gains in public holdings including Canadian National Railway Company and Ecolab Inc. Gates's fortune is now $13.5 billion bigger than that of the world's second-wealthiest person, Spanish retail mogul Amancio Ortega, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. At $90 billion, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder's net worth is equal to 0.5 percent of U.S. GDP. Less than two weeks ago, Bill Gates topped Forbes' "100 Richest Tech Billionaires In The World 2016" (Warning: may be paywalled) list with an estimated fortune of $78 billion.
Android

Apple, Samsung Capture All Of Industry's Smartphone Profits (zdnet.com) 161

Continuing to operate on razor thin margins, smartphone manufacturers other than Samsung and Apple are bleeding money. Apple accounted for 75 percent of the smartphone's profits in the second quarter this year, down from 90 percent a year ago, according to Canaccord Genuity. Samsung, which has reported strong sales thanks to its Galaxy S7 series of smartphones, accounted for more than 30 percent of the industry, the research added. ZDNet reports: While this tale could revolve around Apple vs. Samsung the larger question is this: Why would any company want to make smartphones? Let's get real. All the profits go to Apple (high end) or Samsung (high end and scale). The rest of the players in the market don't make money and get disrupted by whatever vendor is flavor of the month? Remember that Xiaomi was supposed to be the next big thing in China and elsewhere, but is now being disrupted by Oppo and Vivo. A quarter from now Oppo and Vivo will be thumped by some smartphone manufacturer we haven't heard of yet.
Businesses

Massachusetts Will Tax Ride-Sharing Companies To Subsidize Taxis (reuters.com) 445

Massachusetts will tax ride-sharing services -- 20 cents for each ride -- with 25% of the money raised going into a special fund for the taxi industry (according to an article shared by schwit1 ). Reuters reports: Ride services are not enthusiastic about the fee. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing potential competitors," said Kirill Evdakov, the chief executive of Fasten, a ride service that launched in Boston last year and also operates in Austin, Texas. Some taxi owners wanted the law to go further, perhaps banning the start-up competitors unless they meet the requirements taxis do, such as regular vehicle inspection by the police...

The fee may raise millions of dollars a year because Lyft and Uber alone have a combined 2.5 million rides per month in Massachusetts... The 5-cent fee will be collected through the end of 2021. Then the taxi subsidy will disappear and the 20 cents will be split by localities and the state for five years. The whole fee will go away at the end of 2026.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the law, which specifically bans ride-sharing services from passing those costs on to their drivers or riders. And the article notes that Taiwan has also hit Uber with a $6.4 million tax bill, while Seattle has passed a new law allowing ride-sharing drivers to unionize.
Bitcoin

'SingularDTV' Will Use Ethereum For DRM On A Sci-Fi TV Show (rocknerd.co.uk) 78

It's "an epic sci-fi adventure about the human race's journey into a theoretical technological Singularity." Or is it an "entertainment industry boondoggle...part DRM snake oil marketing, part pseudo-Bitcoin scam and part sincere Singularitarian weirdness?" Long-term Slashdot reader David Gerard writes: SingularDTV is an exciting new blockchain-based entertainment industry startup. Their plan is to adapt the DRM that made $121.54 for Imogen Heap, make their own completely pre-mined altcoin and use that to somehow sell two million views of a sci-fi TV show about the Singularity. Using CODE, which is explicitly modeled on The DAO ... which spectacularly imploded days after its launch. There's a white paper [PDF], but here's an analysis of why these schemes are a terrible idea for musicians.
'Singular' will be a one-hour adventure/drama "that explores the impact technology will have on the future of our planet and how it will shape the evolution of our human race," set in the years 2021 to 2045, "as an unprecedented technological revolution sweeps over the world..."

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