Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

+ - Uber seeking patent on surge pricing->

Submitted by mpicpp
mpicpp writes: Uber is seeking a patent for its "surge pricing," in which riders are sometimes charged exorbitant amounts at times of high demand.
The company submitted a patent application in September 2013. Uber initially had that application rejected by the U.S. Patent Office, but it is appealing that decision.

New guidelines announced by the Patent Office just last week could change the way the office rules on its application, according to a patent expert. The new rules seek to strike more of a balance between rewarding innovators and promoting free commerce, said Michael Messinger, a director at the law firm Sterne Kessler.

The Uber case is the type of case that could show how the Patent Office implements those new guidelines.

The surge pricing is one of the innovations that separates Uber from traditional taxi services, which charge a fixed rate that is generally set by a city's taxi commission. Uber argues the surge prices can attract additional drivers to handle periods of peak demand.

But it came under harsh criticism just last week when it was charging as much as 200 Australian dollars ($165), to passengers who wanted to flee central Sydney as a hostage crisis unfolded in the city. In the face of the criticism for those prices, the company offered refunds and free rides.

Link to Original Source

+ - Uber Drivers Can Charge You For Rides That Never Happened

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: I decided my trip to San Francisco last week would be a fitting time to finally give Uber a go. It wasn’t a very good first experience. After a four-hour flight delay, the last thing I wanted to deal with was getting charged for a ride I never took. Yet that’s exactly what happened. I never got into a car, because I never saw it. Nonetheless, the driver decided to charge me anyway.

Comment: Re:Stone Age diet ? he wants to live all 20 years? (Score 5, Interesting) 441

by Derec01 (#48654329) Attached to: How Venture Capitalist Peter Thiel Plans To Live 120 Years

The paleo diet might end up being silly, but just once I'd like to see this discussion without the kneejerk "20-30 year life expectancy".

If you made it to 15 years of age or so in a hunter-gatherer society, you might reasonably expect to survive to 60. As an infant, you are highly likely to fall prey to disease or poor care, pushing the life expectancy at birth way down on average even though those deaths usually had nothing to do with the diet of a mature adult in the community. Adults didn't usually drop dead at 30 from poor nutrition.

Comment: Re:Diet causes change in those microbes (Score 5, Informative) 297

by Derec01 (#48349311) Attached to: Study: Body Weight Heavily Influenced By Heritable Gut Microbes

Diet doesn't really change the microbes.

That is not what recent science indicates at all.

"Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome", Nature 505, 559–563 (23 January 2014) doi:10.1038/nature12820

"Here we show that the short-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression. "

Comment: Re:That totally won't work. (Score 1) 479

by Derec01 (#47980373) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

This assumes you're getting hired at a consultant position in an MBB (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) style firm because that's what the GP was suggesting. By "consultant" he means management consulting; the major firms in that field actively recruit Ph.D's, and definitely not for the sales skills.

It's a very distinct suggestion from being a consulting computer scientist, which the GP was never suggesting.

Comment: Re:But its cooler here... (Score 2) 552

by Derec01 (#47471827) Attached to: The Last Three Months Were the Hottest Quarter On Record

The ozone layer is regenerating because the use of CFCs was regulated. If we had continued to pump more, it would overcome the sun's rate of production. Therefore I'm not sure of the point you're making; it's a success story for regulation. If we just forgot about it and didn't regulate, it wouldn't be regenerating fast enough.

Comment: Re:Another comic book gimmick (Score 1) 590

by Derec01 (#47461285) Attached to: Marvel's New Thor Will Be a Woman

Neither of those examples are gimmicks. A gimmick would be an extraordinary occurrence just for the sake of having a female character. If it's an ordinary replacement and it happens to be female I don't see how it's a gimmick.

In the former, it's been established that the "Robin" position gets passed around frequently. There's half a dozen of them. What's gimmicky about one of them being female?

In the latter, Peter Parker was replaced in the Ultimate universe because he *died*. This might be gimmicky in the normal Marvel Universe, where the status quo remains forever, but in the Ultimates universe, iconic heroes die all the time and stay dead. Beast drowned, the Wasp was eaten by the Blob, and so on. Spider-Man wears a mask and is easy to impersonate, what's gimmicky about any random kid with spiderish powers taking up the name?

Comment: Re:Useless coins (Score 1) 753

by Derec01 (#47446175) Attached to: Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Actually, can you explain to me the benefits of a $1 coin to the user? Fine, it's more durable; I don't really care, I rarely accidentally destroy $1 bills, so that benefit accrues solely to the mint.

I get the odd comment from European friends about how silly the dollar bill is, which I don't understand. In practice, my experience in the Euro area and in the UK is that my pocket gets so frigging heavy and awkward. Meanwhile I can get a weightless stack of $1s as change in the US. Sure, they could make the dollar coin tiny, but now it will be confused with a dime or nickel, requiring an entire reset of the whole coin system relative sizes and weights.

Comment: Not exactly green (Score 4, Insightful) 139

by Derec01 (#47283735) Attached to: Continuous System For Converting Waste Plastics Into Crude Oil

I'm all for eliminating waste, but if the net effect is that we're removing plastic from landfills and emitting it as CO2, that's not terribly different from digging up crude oil and emitting it as CO2.

Now, I'm sure there's some sort of multiplier here that makes it a bit better - perhaps the plastics are a cleaner source and less energy will be used to process it - but currently this carbon is sequestered in an inert if unattractive form whose dangers are mostly localized.

Comment: Re:Science Writers: Stop Causing Us Intellectual P (Score 4, Informative) 147

by Derec01 (#47151279) Attached to: Strange New World Discovered: The "Mega Earth"

A little bit pedantic, but it certainly matters as they vary as different powers of the radius. Having 2.3 times the radius would be almost 12.2 times the volume. If the volume was only 2.3 times the Earth's volume, then the radius would only be 1.32 times larger.

Comment: Re:Easy answers (Score 1) 305

by Derec01 (#46822073) Attached to: 'The Door Problem' of Game Design

Let me guess, you only ever play sandbox games?

The summary questions are essential questions to answering what kind of game you want to design, and you explained the consequences of ignoring them perfectly in your commentary. A game is a combined experience and challenge. That experience needs to fundamentally be finite, if only because you have finite designer time. What you have to do is make the experience finite without throwing arbitrary restrictions at the player when possible. Yet I wouldn't want EVERY game to be set in a featureless canyon rather than a city just because I can't open every door.

Sandbox games aren't bad, per se; it's a good design challenge. Frankly though, I've never played a sandbox game that didn't feel a little soulless (Nethack, GTA, Minecraft, etc.). I prefer games with some narrative thread or plotline, and that inherently will mean balancing the experience and interactivity you want to provide. If I can't open a door that I think I should be able to open, that is a failure, but it's not simply that they shouldn't have put a door there or built a room.

Comment: Re:u can rite any way u want (Score 1) 431

by Derec01 (#46746619) Attached to: Is Germany Raising a Generation of Illiterates?

I don't think you need to be torn between the two. Even though in many cases strict grammar isn't necessary, where would we be without formal rules to provide a sliding scale?

If I fail to communicate effectively in some context, grammar provides a clear standard I can return to in order to iteratively improve my communication. If everyone had conflicting standards, I'd have no shared toolbox to use. Two mathematicians may be perfectly able to talk about their work in common vernacular; if it starts getting miscommunicated, though, they have a shared formal grammar of logic within which to make things clearer.

Comment: Re:It's just a tool I guess (Score 1) 294

by Derec01 (#46356971) Attached to: Doctors Say New Pain Pill Is "Genuinely Frightening"

This seems a little better than that, if I'm understanding it correctly. The drug would never be mass-produced if its approval is revoked, and it's doubtful that the company would let its production method out AND that it would come to someone with the capabilities of producing it illicitly.

It's hard to have a black market if no one makes the drug for any legal use.

Comment: Not to defend shortsightedness (Score 1) 269

by Derec01 (#46156359) Attached to: How Voter Shortsightedness Skews Elections

Let me play devil's advocate here. While we can ascribe that to "dumb voter shortsightedness", wouldn't it also be true to say that if you can ascribe economic performance to a president at all, their effect on things would be much more heavily weighted towards the recent past anyway?

Early term performance would likely be out of their hands, and my assumption would be that they want to get reelected and would try hard to eke out some benefit before election season. If you can't bring out the big performance before the election, perhaps you don't have anything to offer.

Of course, imagining that your choice of president has a greater effect on your wellbeing than state and local elections or larger economic trends is a bit weird to me anyway.

Too much of everything is just enough. -- Bob Wier