Businesses

Unemployment in the UK is Now So Low It's in Danger of Exposing the Lie Used To Create the Numbers (businessinsider.com) 86

Unemployment in Britain is now just 4.5 percent. There are only 1.49 million unemployed people in the UK, versus 32 million people with jobs. This is almost unheard of. Unemployment was most recently this low in December 1973, when the UK set an unrepeated record of just 3.4 percent. From a report: The problem with this record is that the statistical definition of "unemployment" relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work. As the rate gets lower and lower, it tests that lie. Because -- as anyone who has studied basic economics knows -- the official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5 percent of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics. That's more than four times the official number. For decades, economists have agreed on an artificial definition of what unemployment means. Their argument is that people who are taking time off, or have given up looking for work, or work at home to look after their family, don't count as part of the workforce.
Businesses

Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover (nytimes.com) 23

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, Monocle magazine, a favorite read of the global hipsterati, published an enthusiastic report on Lawrenceville, the former blue-collar neighborhood here filled with cafes, hyped restaurants and brick rowhouses being renovated by flippers. Last year, in a much-publicized development, Uber began testing self-driving cars on the streets, putting this city at the forefront of the autonomous-vehicle revolution. Also last year, in a less publicized development, Jean Yang, 30, returned to this city after more than a decade of living in Boston, finding a Pittsburgh she hardly recognized from her 1990s childhood. And four months ago, Caesar Wirth, a 28-year-old software engineer, moved from Tokyo to work for a local tech start-up, Duolingo. These seemingly unrelated events have one thing in common: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. Much has been made of the "food boom" in Pittsburgh, and the city has long had a thriving arts scene. But perhaps the secret, underlying driver for both the economy and the cool factor -- the reason Pittsburgh now gets mentioned alongside Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., as an urban hot spot for millennials -- isn't chefs or artists but geeks. In a 2014 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mayor Bill Peduto compared Carnegie Mellon, along with the University of Pittsburgh, to the iron ore factories that made this city an industrial power in the 19th century. The schools are the local resource "churning out that talent" from which the city is fueled. Because of the top students and research professors at Carnegie Mellon, tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber have opened offices here. The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty. Indeed, East Liberty has become something of a tech hub, said Luis von Ahn, the co-founder and chief executive of Duolingo, a language-learning platform company with its headquarters in that neighborhood. Google Pittsburgh, with its more than 500 employees, also has part of its offices in East Liberty, as does AlphaLab, a start-up accelerator.
Programming

How a VC-Funded Company Is Undermining the Open-Source Community (theoutline.com) 68

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Is a $4 million venture capital-funded startup stealthily taking over popular coding tools and injecting ads and spyware into them? That's what some programmers fear may be happening. It is one of the most troubling scandals to hit the open-source community -- a robust network of programmers who work on shared tools for free -- in recent memory. It started back in April, when a programmer noticed a strange change to an open-source tool called Minimap. Minimap has had more than 3.5 million downloads, but like many open-source tools, it was maintained by a single person who no one knew much about other than their username: @abe33. At some point, @abe33, whose real name is Cedric Nehemie, was hired by Kite. Kite was started by Adam Smith, a successful tech entrepreneur who raised funding from a slew of big names including the CEO of Dropbox and the creator of WordPress. It is unclear what Kite's business model is, but it says it uses machine-learning techniques to make coding tools. Its tools are not open source. After being hired by Kite, @abe33 made an update to Minimap. The update was titled "Implement Kite promotion," and it appeared to look at a user's code and insert links to related pages on Kite's website. Kite called this a useful feature. Programmers said it was not useful and was therefore just an ad for an unrelated service, something many programmers would consider a violation of the open-source spirit. "It's not a feature, it's advertising -- and people don't want it, you want it," wrote user @p-e-w. "The least you can do is own up to that." "I have to wonder if your goal was to upset enough people that you'd generate real attention on various news sites and get Kite a ton of free publicity before your next funding round," @DevOpsJohn wrote. "That's the only sane explanation I can find for suddenly dropping ads into the core of one of the oldest and most useful Atom plugins." [...] Although Kite has no business model yet, it's widely thought in Silicon Valley that having users is the first step toward profitability. Adding users potentially benefits the company in another way, by giving it access to precious data. Kite says it uses machine learning tactics to make the best coding helper tools possible. In order to do that, it needs tons of data to learn from. The more code it can look at, the better its autocomplete suggestions will get, for example.
Wireless Networking

Ask Slashdot: How Can You Avoid Routers With Locked Firmware? 266

thejynxed writes: Awhile ago the FCC in the USA implemented a rule that required manufacturers to restrict end-users from tampering with the radio outputs on wi-fi routers. It was predicted that manufacturers would take the lazy way out by locking down the firmware/bootloaders of the routers entirely instead of partitioning off access to the radio transmit power and channel ranges. This has apparently proven to be the case, as even now routers that were previously marketed as "Open Source Ready" or "DD-WRT Compatible" are coming with locked firmware.

In my case, having noticed this trend, I purchased three routers from Belkin, Buffalo, and Netgear in Canada, the UK, and Germany respectively, instead of the USA, and the results: All three routers had locked firmware/bootloaders, with no downgrade rights and no way to install Tomato, DD-WRT, OpenWRT, etc. It seems the FCC rule is an example of the wide-reaching effect of US law on the products sold in other nations, etc. So, does anyone know a good source of unlocked routers or other technical information on how to bypass this ridiculous outcome of FCC over-reach and manufacturer laziness?

The FCC later specified that they were not trying to block Open Source firmware modifications -- so leave your best suggestions in the comments. How can you avoid routers with locked firmware?
United States

US Agency Revokes All State Discounts For Kaspersky Products (thebaltimorepost.com) 79

The U.S. General Services Administration has removed Kapersky Lab from its list of approved vendors for federal systems, which also eliminates the discounts it previously offered to state governments. Long-time Slashdot reader Rick Zeman writes: "The agency's statement suggested a vulnerability exists in Kaspersky that could give the Russian government backdoor access to the systems it protects, though they offered no explanation or evidence of it," reports the Washington Post. Kaspersky, of course, denies this, offering their source code up for U.S. Government review... "Three current and former defense contractors told The Post that they knew of no specific warnings circulated about Kaspersky in recent years, but it has become an unwritten rule at the Pentagon not to include Kaspersky as a potential vendor on new projects."
"The lack of information from the GSA underscores a disconnect between local officials and the federal government about cybersecurity," the Post reports, adding that "the GSA's move on July 11 has left state and local governments to speculate about the risks of sticking with the company or abandoning taxpayer-funded contracts, sometimes at great cost."

The Post also quotes a cybersecurity expert at a prominent think tank -- the Center for Strategic and International Studies -- who believes that "it's difficult, if not impossible" for a company like Kaspersky to be headquartered in Moscow "if you don't cooperate with the government and the intelligence services."
Businesses

Amazon Report Predicts Pet Translation Devices By 2027 (cbslocal.com) 130

An anonymous reader writes: Devices that can talk to our pet dogs and cats could be less than 10 years away, according to a report Amazon commissioned that was co-authored by futurist William Higham. "Innovative products that succeed are based around genuine and major consumer needs," Higham wrote, noting the tremendous amounts already spent on our pets, and concluding, "Somebody is going to put this together." Amazon already sells one dubious device that converts human voices into meows using samples from 25 cats, according to the Guardian. (One reviewer who tested the device wrote that "the cat seems puzzled.") But Amazon's report also cites the work of Con Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus in Northern Arizona University's biology department, who spent 30 years studying the behavior of prairie dogs. Slobodchikoff discovered prairie dogs have different words for colors and for species of predators, and is now already raising money to develop a translation device for pets.
Although Slobodchikoff concedes that "With cats I'm not sure what they'd have to say. A lot of times it might just be 'you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone.'"
Debian

Debian 'Stretch' Updated With 9.1 Release (debian.org) 40

An anonymous reader quotes Debian.org: The Debian project is pleased to announce the first update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename "stretch"). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems... Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old "stretch" media... Those who frequently install updates from security.debian.org won't have to update many packages, and most such updates are included in the point release.
United Kingdom

UK To Require Drone Registration And Safety Exams (bloomberg.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Drones will have to be registered and their users required to pass safety tests under new rules to be announced by the U.K.'s Department for Transport... Registration will be mandated for owners of drones 250 grams (8.8 ounces) or larger after research found that drones as small as 400 grams (14 ounces) could damage the windscreens of helicopters. Other security measures like "geo-fencing" -- GPS-based technology programmed into drones to prevent them from flying into sensitive areas such as prisons and airports -- are also under consideration, according to a statement from the department.
The BBC points out that "There is no time frame or firm plans as to how the new rules will be enforced and the Department of Transport admitted that 'the nuts and bolts still have to be ironed out.'"

"The UK government says 22 incidents involving commercial airliners and drones were investigated between January and April of this year," adds TechRadar, "with police unable to trace the owners of the drones -- one of the reasons for the new legislation."
Education

College Students Are Flocking To Computer Science Majors (ieeeusa.org) 311

Slashdot reader dcblogs writes: Enrollments in Computer Science are on a hockey stick trajectory and show no signs of slowing down. Stanford University declared computer science enrollments, for instance, went from 87 in the 2007-08 academic year to 353 in the recently completed year. It's similar at other schools. Boston University, for instance, had 110 declared undergraduate computer science majors in 2009. This fall it will have more than 550. Professor Mehran Sahami, who is the associate chair for education in the CS department at Stanford, believes the enrollment trend will continue. "As the numbers bear out, the interest in computer science has grown tremendously and shows no signs of crashing." But after the 2000 dot-com bust computer science enrollments fell dramatically and students soured on the degree. Could something like it happen again?
Mark Crovella, the chair of Boston University's CS department, notes that "the overall interest in computer science at B.U. is currently at about twice the level it was at the peak of the dot.com year." But the article points out that salaries for new grads are still rising, "which suggests that demand is real." And Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration, adds "I'm more worried about the job outlook for people without these skills."
The Military

The US Army Wants Distributed Bot Swarms And An 'Internet of Battlefield Things' (defenseone.com) 85

turkeydance shares a new report about the U.S. Army Research Lab: In the coming months, the Lab will fund new programs related to highly (but not fully) autonomous drones and robots that can withstand adversary electronic warfare operations... A second program called the Internet of Battlefield Things seeks to put to military use "the research that's going on in the commercial space" on distributed sensors and Internet-connected devices... One thrust will be equipping drones and other autonomous systems with bigger brains and better networking so that they can function even when an enemy jams their ability to radio back to a human controller for direction... "When you don't have bandwidth, when you're under cyber attack, when you're being jammed. That's the problem we're trying to address."
The lab's director also says they want "as much processing as possible on the node" so it can continue functioning in "contested environments."
Music

SoundCloud Halts Volunteer Archiving Project (vice.com) 48

Slashdot reader nielo tipped us off to more SoundCloud news. Motherboard reports: Last week, a group of volunteer digital preservationists known as The Archive Team announced they would be attempting to independently archive a 123.6 million track, 900-terabyte swath of SoundCloud, the popular streaming music and audio service that recently announced mass layoffs and office closures, sparking fears of an imminent closure. But just as the volunteer archive of SoundCloud was due to be getting started, it's been abruptly called off at the behest of the company... I reached out to SoundCloud for more information, and a spokesperson responded with the following written statement: "SoundCloud is dedicated to protecting the rights and content of the creators who share their work on SoundCloud. We requested the Archive Team halt their efforts as any action to take content from SoundCloud violates our Terms of Use and infringes on our users' rights... SoundCloud is not going away -- not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future..." But that hasn't stopped some individuals on Reddit's r/datahoarder subreddit from attempting to gather their own personal archives of as much of SoundCloud as they want and can afford to host.
AI

Mozilla's New Open Source Voice-Recognition Project Wants Your Voice (mashable.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Mozilla is building a massive repository of voice recordings for the voice apps of the future -- and it wants you to add yours to the collection. The organization behind the Firefox browser is launching Common Voice, a project to crowdsource audio samples from the public. The goal is to collect about 10,000 hours of audio in various accents and make it publicly available for everyone... Mozilla hopes to hand over the public dataset to independent developers so they can harness the crowdsourced audio to build the next generation of voice-powered apps and speech-to-text programs... You can also help train the speech-to-text capabilities by validating the recordings already submitted to the project. Just listen to a short clip, and report back if text on the screen matches what you heard... Mozilla says it aims is to expand the tech beyond just a standard voice recognition experience, including multiple accents, demographics and eventually languages for more accessible programs. Past open source voice-recognition projects have included Sphinx 4 and VoxForge, but unfortunately most of today's systems are still "locked up behind proprietary code at various companies, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft."
The Almighty Buck

Norway, the Country Where No Salaries Are Secret (bbc.com) 209

In Norway, there are no such secrets. Anyone can find out how much anyone else is paid -- and it rarely causes problems. From a report: In the past, your salary was published in a book. A list of everyone's income, assets and the tax they had paid, could be found on a shelf in the public library. These days, the information is online, just a few keystrokes away. The change happened in 2001, and it had an instant impact. "It became pure entertainment for many," says Tom Staavi, a former economics editor at the national daily, VG. "At one stage you would automatically be told what your Facebook friends had earned, simply by logging on to Facebook. It was getting ridiculous." Transparency is important, Staavi says, partly because Norwegians pay high levels of income tax -- an average of 40.2 percent compared to 33.3 percent in the UK, according to Eurostat, while the EU average is just 30.1 percent. "When you pay that much you have to know that everyone else is doing it, and you have to know that the money goes to something reasonable," he says. "We [need to] have trust and confidence in both the tax system and in the social security system."
Businesses

Verizon Accused of Throttling Netflix and YouTube, Admits To 'Video Optimization' (arstechnica.com) 52

New submitter dgatwood writes: According to an Ars Technica article, Verizon recently began experimenting with throttling of video traffic. The remarkable part of this story is not that a wireless ISP would throttle video traffic, but rather that Verizon's own Go90 video platform is also affected by the throttling. From the article, "Verizon Wireless customers this week noticed that Netflix's speed test tool appears to be capped at 10Mbps, raising fears that the carrier is throttling video streaming on its mobile network. When contacted by Ars this morning, Verizon acknowledged using a new video optimization system but said it is part of a temporary test and that it did not affect the actual quality of video. The video optimization appears to apply both to unlimited and limited mobile plans. But some YouTube users are reporting degraded video, saying that using a VPN service can bypass the Verizon throttling."
If even Verizon can get on board with throttling sans paid prioritization, why is Comcast so scared of the new laws that are about to go into effect banning it?

Mozilla

The New Firefox and Ridiculous Numbers of Tabs (metafluff.com) 208

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: I've got a Firefox profile with 1691 tabs. As you would expect, Firefox handled this profile quite poorly for a long time. I got used to multi-minute startup time, waiting 15-30 seconds for tabs from external apps to show up, and all manner of non-responsive behavior. And then, quite recently, everything changed. Right now, more effort is being put into making Firefox fast than I've seen since... well, since I've been working on Firefox. And I've been at Mozilla for more than a decade. Part of this effort is a project called Quantum Flow -- a bunch of engineers making changes that directly impact Firefox responsiveness. A lot of the improvement in this particular scenario is from Kevin Jones' work on bringing the overall cost of unloaded tabs as close to zero as possible. While the major work has landed, the work continues in Bug 906076. Test scenario: I took my 1691 tab browser profile, and did a wall-clock measurement of start-up time and memory use for Firefox versions 20, 30, 40, and 50 through 56. In the result, the person found that Firefox startup time has gotten worse over time... until Firefox 51.
The Courts

Intel Accuses Qualcomm of Trying To Kill Mobile Chip Competition (cnet.com) 50

Intel has jumped into the fray surrounding the Apple-Qualcomm patent spat by accusing the world's biggest maker of mobile phone chips of trying to use the courts to snuff out competition. From a report: The chip giant made the allegation late Thursday in a public statement (PDF) to US International Trade Commission. The commission had requested the statement as part of its investigation into Qualcomm's accusation that Apple's iPhones of infringe six of Qualcomm's mobile patents. Specifically, Intel said, the case is about quashing competition from Intel, which described itself as "Qualcomm's only remaining competitor" in the market for chips for cellular phones. "Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm's only remaining rival," Intel said in its statement. "This twisted use of the Commission's process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits."
Businesses

Google, Apple, Amazon Hit Record Lobbying Highs (axios.com) 84

An anonymous reader shares a report: The last three months brought record-high lobbying spending from four major tech companies: Google spent $5.93 million, Apple spent $2.2 million, Amazon spent $3.21 million, Uber spent $430,000. Facebook spent $2.38 million this quarter, up from the same period last year but far from a record. Microsoft's bill for the quarter was just over $2 million.
Government

Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary After Objecting To Scaramucci Hire (cnbc.com) 538

CNBC reports: White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday after opposing President Donald Trump's appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The president asked Spicer to stay in his role, but Spicer said appointing Scaramucci was a major mistake, The New York Times, citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. NBC News confirmed the resignation with two people familiar with the matter. Spicer tweeted later that he will continue to serve through August. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was said to have advocated naming Spicer as press secretary. The two worked at the Republican National Committee before joining the administration. Following Spicer's resignation, Priebus said he supports Scaramucci "100 percent," according to news reports.
Transportation

Lyft Launches a New Self-driving Division and Will Develop Its Own Autonomous Ride-hailing Technology (techcrunch.com) 49

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lyft is betting the future of the road centers on sharing autonomous vehicles. It aims to be at the forefront of that technology with a new self-driving division and a self-driving system car manufacturers could plug into their self-driving cars. The company expects to hire "hundreds" of people for the new division by the end of next year and has just signed a lease for 50,000-square-feet on the first floor of a Palo Alto facility where it plans to build out several labs and open testing spaces. The building Lyft refers to as "Level 5" will be developing its new "open self-driving platform" and a combination hardware and software system still in development. Lyft hopes auto manufacturers will then bring in a fleet of autonomous cars to its ride-hailing network. The plan is somewhat similar to one Uber announced earlier. Lyft's larger rival uses Volvo's XC90 to test its self-driving tech on the roads. Uber announced earlier this year it was also partnering with Daimler to operate self-driving cars on its network.
China

Beijing Wants AI To Be Made In China By 2030 (nytimes.com) 169

Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report on The New York Times (may be paywalled, alternative story here): "If Beijing has its way, the future of artificial intelligence will be made in China. The country laid out a development plan on Thursday to become the world leader in A.I. by 2030, aiming to surpass its rivals technologically and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion. Released by the State Council, the policy is a statement of intent from the top rungs of China's government: The world's second-largest economy will be investing heavily to ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing. The plan comes with China preparing a multibillion-dollar national investment initiative to support "moonshot" projects, start-ups and academic research in A.I., according to two professors who consulted with the government about the effort."

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