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Programming

It's Not Developers Slowing Things Down, It's the Process 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-the-heat,-it's-the-humidity dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Software engineers understand the pace of writing code, but frequently managers don't. One line of code might take 1 minute, and another line of code might take 1 day. But generally, everything averages out, and hitting your goals is more a function of properly setting your goals than of coding quickly or slowly. Sprint.ly, a company than analyzes productivity, has published some data to back this up. The amount of time actually developing a feature was a small and relatively consistent portion of its lifetime as a work ticket. The massively variable part of the process is when "stakeholders are figuring out specs and prioritizing work." The top disrupting influences (as experienced devs will recognize) are unclear and changing requirements. Another big cause of slowdowns is interrupting development work on one task to work on a second one. The article encourages managers to let devs contribute to the process and say "No" if the specs are too vague. Is there anything you'd add to this list?
Advertising

Google Launches Service To Replace Web Ads With Subscriptions 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-everyone-says-they-want-but-nobody-actually-wants dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation.

The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.
Television

Aereo Files For Bankruptcy 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the prosecution-is-easier-than-innovation dept.
An anonymous reader writes: After losing its Supreme Court case in June and briefly attempting to transform itself into a cable company, Aereo is now filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their service worked by letting people stream over-the-air television to their internet-connected devices. The content industry pushed back, and though Aereo argued its way through several lower courts, they say, "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."
Robotics

Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards 88

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-register-that-copy-of-windows.-you-have-20-seconds-to-comply dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is testing a group of five robot security guards. They contain a sophisticated sensor suite that includes 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging, night vision, LIDAR, and audio recorders. They can also detect various chemicals and radiation signatures, and do some rudimentary behavioral analysis on people they see. (And they look a bit like Daleks.) The robots are unarmed, so we don't have to worry about a revolt just yet, but they can sound an alarm and call for human officers. They weigh about 300 lbs each, can last roughly a day on a battery charge, and know to head to the charging station when they're low on power.
The Internet

Leaked Documents Show EU Council Presidency Wants To Impair Net Neutrality 46

Posted by Soulskill
from the power-to-the-isps dept.
NotInHere writes: The advocacy group "European Digital Rights" (EDRi) reports on leaked documents proposed by the Presidency of the council of the EU (currently held by Italy), which plans to remove vital parts from the telecommunications package that introduced net neutrality. The changes include removing the definition of "net neutrality" and replacing it with a "reference to the objective of net neutrality," which EDRi says will impair any ability to enforce it.

Also, the proposed changes would allow ISPs to "block, slow down, alter, degrade or discriminate" traffic in order to meet "obligations under a contract with an end-user to deliver a service requiring a specific level of quality to that end-user." EDRi writes that "[w]ith all of the talk of the need for a single digital market in Europe, we would have new barriers and new monopolies."

The council of the EU is one of its two legislative chambers. The EU parliament can now object or propose further changes to prevent the modified telecommunications package from passing.
Crime

Swedish Court Refuses To Revoke Julian Assange's Arrest Warrant 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the wanted-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes A Swedish court rejected an appeal by Julian Assange to revoke a detention order issued over allegations of sexual assault. "In the view of the Court of Appeal there is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced at present for that reason," the appellate court added. "When it comes to the reasons for and against detention, i.e. the assessment of proportionality that is always made when use is made of a coercive measure such as detention, the Court of Appeal considers that Julian Assange's stay at the embassy shall not count in his favor since he can himself choose to bring his stay there to an end."
Earth

Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the still-burning dept.
HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does.

But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"
ISS

Russia May Be Planning National Space Station To Replace ISS 165

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-by-myself dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that Russia may be building its own space station to replace the ISS. Russia may be planning to build a new, independent national space station rather than prolong its participation in the $150 billion International Space Station (ISS) program beyond its current 2020 end date. The U.S. space agency NASA proposed last year to extend the life of the ISS — the largest international project ever undertaken by nations during peacetime — beyond its currently scheduled 2020 end date to at least 2024.
Games

The Man Who Made Tetris 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the fitting-it-in dept.
rossgneumann writes Life gets pretty chill after creating 'Tetris' and escaping the KGB. A quick web search for "Alexey Pajitnov" brings up pages of articles and interviews that fixate only on his seminal creation—a work that remains, far and away, the best selling video game of all time. But clearly, there's more to the man than just Tetris. Meeting Pajitnov himself led me to wonder about, well, everything else. What was the Tetris-less life of Alexey Pajitnov?
United States

Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-demand dept.
Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.
The Courts

Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-take-the-law-into-your-own-hands-you-take-them-to-court dept.
mdsolar writes A group of Harvard students, frustrated by the university's refusal to shed fossil fuel stocks from its investment portfolios, is looking beyond protests and resolutions to a new form of pressure: the courts. The seven law students and undergraduates filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts against the president and fellows of Harvard College, among others, for what they call "mismanagement of charitable funds." The 11-page complaint, with 167 pages of supporting exhibits, asks the court to compel divestment on behalf of the students and "future generations."
Nintendo

The Nintendo DS Turns 10 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the got-to-play-them-all dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Nintendo DS has reached a remarkable milestone: it's turned 10 years old. A new retrospective on one of Nintendo's greatest ever smash hits points out that it's now old enough to become a Pokemon trainer, and looks back at some of the greatest (and possibly overlooked) titles on the platform which has sold 154 million copies in a decade.
PlayStation (Games)

Customers Creating Fake Amazon Pages To Get Cheap Electronics At Walmart 216

Posted by samzenpus
from the match-this-price dept.
turkeydance writes People are reportedly creating fake Amazon pages to show fake prices on electronics and other items. In the most heavily publicized cases, Walmart was reportedly duped into selling $400 PlayStation 4 consoles for under $100. From the article: "The company announced on Nov. 13 that it would price-match select online retailers, including Amazon.com. However, any Amazon member with a registered selling account can create authentic looking pages and list items 'for sale' online. Consumers need only take a screen capture of the page and show it to a cashier at checkout in order to request the price match."
Australia

UNSW Has Collected an Estimated $100,000 In Piracy Fines Since 2008 89

Posted by timothy
from the quasi-private-justice dept.
Jagungal (36053) writes The SMH reports that The University of NSW says it has issued 238 fines estimated to total around $100,000 - to students illicitly downloading copyright infringing material such as movies and TV shows on its Wi-Fi network since 2008. The main issues are that the University is not returning any money to the copyright holders but is instead using the money raised for campus facilities and that it is essentially enforcing a commonwealth law.
AI

Google Announces Image Recognition Advance 28

Posted by timothy
from the what-does-a-grue-look-like? dept.
Rambo Tribble writes Using machine learning techniques, Google claims to have produced software that can better produce natural-language descriptions of images. This has ramifications for uses such as better image search and for better describing the images for the blind. As the Google people put it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's the words that are the most useful ..."

This process can check if this value is zero, and if it is, it does something child-like. -- Forbes Burkowski, CS 454, University of Washington

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