Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 26

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.

Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector ( 166 writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."


Apple Approves, Then Removes In-App Ad Blocker ( 76

Mickeycaskill writes: Apple has pulled a number of applications from the App Store, most notably the "Been Choice" ad blocker, because of concerns the methods they employ to rid adverts could compromise sensitive user data. iOS 9 allows for the installation of applications that block adverts in Safari, but other apps like Been Choice go one step further and let users remove adverts from applications – including Apple News. Been Choice routes traffic through a VPN to filter out adverts in some applications, but it this technique has attracted the attention of Apple, which is concerned user data could be exposed. Apple says it is working with developers to get their apps back up and Been is refining its application for resubmission. In any case, Been says users must opt-in for in-app ad blocking and that no data is stored on its servers.

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 470

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

Enlightenment Mysteriously Drops Wayland Support 132

jones_supa writes: According to Enlightenment 0.19.12's release notes, it's an important release that fixes over 40 issues, which is quite something, considering that previous versions had only a few improvements, with most of them being minor. However, the big news is that 0.19.12 drops support for the Wayland display server. Unfortunately, the Enlightenment developers have omitted to mention why they decided to remove any form of support for Wayland from this release, and if it will return in upcoming releases of the software.

IP Address May Associate Lyft CTO With Uber Data Breach ( 103

An anonymous reader writes: According to two unnamed Reuters sources the IP address of Lyft CTO Chris Lambert has been revealed by Uber's investigations to be associated with the accessing of a security key that was accidentally deposited on GitHub in 2014 and used to access 50,000 database records of Uber drivers later that year. However, bearing in mind that the breach was carried out through a fiercely protectionist Scandinavian VPN, and that Lambert was a Google software engineer before become CTO of a major technology company, it does seem surprising that he would have accessed such sensitive data with his own domestic IP address.
United States

NSF Awards $74.5 Million To Support Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Research ( 8

aarondubrow writes: The National Science Foundation announced $74.5 million in grants for basic research in cybersecurity. Among the awards are projects to understand and offer reliability to cryptocurrencies; invent technologies to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the science of censorship resistance by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors. According to NSF, long-term support for fundamental cybersecurity research has resulted in public key encryption, software security bug detection, spam filtering and more.

Video Marijuana Growers Need Software, Too (Video) 87

Meet Kyle Sherman, founder and CEO of Flowhub, a company that makes software for marijuana growers. The company's website says Kyle "worked at a grow and experienced the problems with cannabis inventory management first hand. Frustrated by the software his grow was using, he searched for something better. When his search failed him, he became fueled by a passion to create a system that would accelerate workflows, increase accuracy, and simplify compliance."

Every state that legalizes marijuana will give Flowhub a new set of potential customers (and a new set of regulations their software must take into account). And Kyle talks about making easy-to-use enterprise software for other industries, based on his experience making super-simple software for marijuana people. It's possible that Flowhub will also make new versions of the NUG, the handheld "all-in-one device" Flowhub provides along with its subscription-based software. Are we talking about unbridled optimism here? Absolutely! This is America, where possibilities are endless, even in the not-100%-legal (yet) marijuana industry.

'First, Let's Get Rid of All the Bosses' -- the Zappos Management Experiment 325

schnell writes: The New Republic is running an in-depth look at online shoe retailer's experiment in a new "boss-less" corporate structure. Three years ago the company introduced a management philosophy that came from the software development world called "Holacracy," in which there are no "people managers" and groups self-organize based on individual creativity and talents. (When the change was announced, 14% of the company's employees chose to leave; middle management openly rebelled, but perhaps surprisingly the tech organization was slowest to embrace the new idea). The article shows that in this radically employee-centric environment, many if not most employees are thrilled and fulfilled, while others worry that self-organization in practical terms means chaos and a Maoist culture of "coercive positivity." Is Zappos the future of the American workplace, a fringe experiment, or something in between?

Windows Phone Store Increasingly Targeted With Fake Mobile Apps 90

An anonymous reader writes: A post by security company Avast says not only are a large amount of fake apps available from the third-party marketplace of the Windows Phone Store, but they also remain available for quite a while despite negative comments and other flags from end-users. Avast speculates that improved security and auditing procedures at rival stores such as Google Play account for the increasing attention that fake app-publishers are giving to the Windows phone app market.

Getting More Women Coders Into Open Source 688

Nerval's Lobster writes: Diversity remains an issue in tech firms across the nation, with executives and project managers publicly upset over a lack of women in engineering and programming roles. While all that's happening on the corporate side, a handful of people and groups are trying to get more women involved in the open source community, like Women of OpenStack, Outreachy (which is geared toward people from underrepresented groups in free software), and others. How much effort should be expended to facilitate diversity among programmers? Can anything be done to shift the demographics, considering the issues that even large, coordinated companies have with altering the collective mix of their employees?

Software Defined Smart Battery Arrays Extend Laptop Life 42

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft research paper, titled 'Software Defined Batteries', outlines a radical charging alternative which uses a smart battery system to keep consumer-grade gadgets going for much longer than the current norm, by monitoring user habits. Making use of existing technologies, the engineers place multiple battery control under the duties of the operating system to create a software-defined approach optimized for different scenarios, such as word processing, email or video streaming.

Disproving the Mythical Man-Month With DevOps 281

StewBeans writes: The Mythical Man-Month is a 40-year old theory on software development that many believe still holds true today. It states: "A project that requires five team members to work for five months cannot be completed by a twenty-five person team in one month." Basically, adding manpower to a development project counterintuitively lowers productivity because it increases complexity. Citing the 2015 State of DevOps Report, Anders Wallgren from Electric Cloud says that microservices architecture is proving this decades-old theory wrong, but that there is still some hesitation among IT decision makers. He points out three rookie mistakes to avoid for IT organizations just starting to dip their toes into agile methodologies.

What Effect Will VW's Scandal Have On Robocars? 104

pRobotika writes: It's looking bad for Volkswagen, German car manufacturers and possibly even car manufacturers as a whole. But the revelations that VW put software in their cars to deliberately cheat on emissions tests could have even greater repercussions. Robocars' Brad Templeton looks at the effect for manufacturers of autonomous vehicles. From the Robohub article: "There may be more risk from suppliers of technology for robocars. Sensor manufacturers, for instance, may be untruthful about their abilities or, more likely, reliability. While the integrators will be inherently distrustful, as they will take the liability, one can see smaller vendors telling lies if they see it as the only way to get a big sale for their business."

Twitter Shuts Down JSON API and Names New CEO 103

An anonymous reader writes: This month Twitter is closing down the JSON endpoint API which thousands of third-party software and plugin developers have depended upon for years. The alternative Rest API offers data which is aggregated or limited in other ways, whilst the full-featured share data offered by Gnip (purchased last year by Twitter) can cost developers thousands per month to access — in one case up to £20,000 a month. The general objective seems to be to either drive users back to the core Twitter interface where they can be monetized via the social network's advertising, or to regain lost advertising by converting open source data — currently utilized a lot in scientific research — into premium information, offering the possibility for well-funded organizations to gain reputations as Twitter barometers without ever needing to expose the expensive, accurate share figures. The company also announced today that co-founder Jack Dorsey would be the new CEO.
Hardware Hacking

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers 91

szczys writes: The average age of Japan's rice farmers is 65-70 years old. The work is difficult and even small changes to the way things are done can have a profound impact on these lives. The flooded paddies where the rice is grown must maintain a consistent water level, which means farmers must regularly traverse the terraced fields to check many different paddies. A simple sensor board is changing this, letting farmers check their fields by phone instead of in person.

This might not sound like much, but reducing the number of times someone needs to walk the fields has a big effect on the man-hours spent on each crop. The system, called TechRice, is inexpensive and the nodes recharge batteries from a solar cell. The data is aggregated on the Internet and can be presented as a webpage, a text-message interface, or any other reporting scheme imaginable by utilizing the API of the Open Source software. This is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.

OpenIndiana Hipster 2015.10: Keeping an Open-Source Solaris Going 149

An anonymous reader writes: It's been five years since Oracle killed off OpenSolaris while the community of developers are letting it live on with the new OpenIndiana "Hipster" 15.10 release. OpenIndiana 15.10 improves its Python-based text installer as it looks to drop its GUI installer, switches out the Oracle JDK/JRE for OpenJDK, and updates its vast package set. However, there are still a number of outdated packages on the system like Firefox 24 and X.Org Server 1.14 while the default office suite is a broken OpenOffice build, due to various obstacles in maintaining open-source software support for Solaris while being challenged by limited contributors. Download links are available via the release notes. There's also a page for getting involved if wishing to improve the state of open-source Solaris.

Volkswagen Diesel Scandal Logistics Imply Sizable Conspiracy 153

Guinnessy writes with an interesting analysis of the Volkswagen software cheating scandal: Physics Today's Charles Day takes a look at how diesel engines work, and why it's clear it's not just a lone software engineer who came up with the cheat. "...[S]oftware is impotent without hardware. To recognize when a car was being tested and not driven, the defeat device required data from a range of sensors -- sensors that a noncheating car might not need.... Whereas it's conceivable that a single software engineer, directed by a single manager, could have secretly written and uploaded the code that ran the defeat device, installing its associated hardware would require a larger and more diverse team of conspirators," he says.

How Steve Jobs Outsmarted Carly Fiorina 327 writes: Carly Fiorina likes to boast about her friendship with Apple founder Steve Jobs but Fortune Magazine reports that it turns out Carly may have outfoxed of by Apple's late leader. In January 2004, Steve Jobs and Carly Fiorina cut a deal where HP could slap its name on Apple's wildly successful iPod and sell it through HP retail channels but HP still managed to botch things up. The MP3 player worked just like a regular iPod, but it had HP's logo on the back and in return HP agreed to continue pre-loading iTunes onto its PCs. According to Steven Levy soon after the deal with HP was inked, Apple upgraded the iPod, making HP's version outdated and because of Fiorina's deal HP was banned from selling its own music player until August 2006. "This was a highly strategic move to block HP/Compaq from installing Windows Media Store on their PCs," says one Apple source. "We wanted iTunes Music store to be a definitive winner. Steve only did this deal because of that."

In short, Fiorina's "good friend" Steve Jobs blithely mugged her and HP's shareholders. By getting Fiorina to adopt the iPod as HP's music player, Jobs had effectively gotten his software installed on millions of computers for free, stifled his main competitor, and gotten a company that prided itself on invention to declare that Apple was a superior inventor.

Office 2016 Proving Unstable With Apple's El Capitan 137

An anonymous reader writes: Users of Microsoft Office on the Mac are reporting widespread instabilities and conflicts after upgrading to the latest version of the Apple desktop operating system, El Capitan. The first indications that El Capitan and Office 2016 were not working well together came in a now epic thread at Microsoft Community. Many users have surmised that new restrictions in file permissions in El Capitan caused the problems initially, though nearly all agree that Office's Outlook email client is the critical point of failure in the current round of application crashes and loss of functionality.