Businesses

Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down (theverge.com) 169

Plastc announced today that it is planning to file for bankruptcy and will shut down on April 20, 2017, after raising more than $9 million through preorders and shipping to no backers. "Plastc launched in 2014 with the promise of shipping a single card that could digitally hold 20 credit or debit cards that a user could switch between," reports The Verge. From the report: With that, all backers' money is lost, and no Plastc cards will ship. Plastc announced the news on its website today along with the fact that all its employees have been laid off. Its customer care and social media channels have also been shut down. The company explains that it thought it would close $3.5 million in funding in February this year, but that fell through. Another possible investment deal of $6.75 million fell through, too. What's not clear is how more than $9 million wasn't sufficient to get backers their orders. Backers will likely have questions and want their money back, but with no one to turn to from Plastc, they'll likely be out the cash.
Canada

Canada Rules To Uphold Net Neutrality (www.cbc.ca) 65

According to a new ruling by Canada's telecommunications regulator, internet service providers should not be able to exempt certain types of content, such as streaming music or video, from counting toward a person's data cap. The ruling upholds net neutrality, which is the principle that all web services should be treated equally by providers. CBC.ca reports: "Rather than offering its subscribers selected content at different data usage prices, Internet service providers should be offering more data at lower prices," said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC in a statement. "That way, subscribers can choose for themselves what content they want to consume." The decision stems from a 2015 complaint against the wireless carrier Videotron, which primarily operates in Quebec. Videotron launched a feature in August of that year, enabling customers to stream music from services such as Spotify and Google Play Music without it counting against a monthly data cap as a way to entice people to subscribe to Videotron's internet service. The decision means that Videotron cannot offer its unlimited music streaming plan to subscribers in its current form -- nor can other internet providers offer similar plans that zero-rate other types of internet content, such as video streaming or social media.
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Forces Recyclers To Shred All iPhones and MacBooks (vice.com) 224

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Apple rejects current industry best practices by forcing the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and MacBooks so they cannot be repaired or reused -- instead, they are turned into tiny shards of metal and glass. "Materials are manually and mechanically disassembled and shredded into commodity-sized fractions of metals, plastics, and glass," John Yeider, Apple's recycling program manager, wrote under a heading called "Takeback Program Report" in a 2013 report to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. "All hard drives are shredded in confetti-sized pieces. The pieces are then sorted into commodities grade materials. After sorting, the materials are sold and used for production stock in new products. No reuse. No parts harvesting. No resale."
Canada

Subway Sues Canada Network Over Claim Its Chicken Is 50 Percent Soy (yahoo.com) 296

jenningsthecat writes: As reported here back in February, the CBC, (Canada's national broadcaster), revealed DNA test results which indicated the chicken used in Subway Restaurants' sandwiches only contained about 50% chicken. Now, Subway is suing the public broadcaster for $210 million, because "its reputation and brand have taken a hit as a result of the CBC reports." The suit claims that "false statements [...] were published and republished, maliciously and without just cause or excuse, to a global audience, which has resulted in pecuniary loss to the plaintiffs."

Personally, my working assumption here is that the CBC report is substantially correct. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out -- but should this have happened at all? Regulatory agencies here in Canada seem to be pretty good when it comes to inspecting meat processing facilities. Should they also be testing the prepared foods served by major restaurant chains to ensure that claims regarding food content are true and accurate?

Transportation

Tesla Recalls 53,000 Model S, Model X Cars For Stuck Parking Brakes (cnet.com) 107

Tesla has issued a voluntary recall for approximately 53,000 Model S and Model X cars, which may be susceptible to having stuck parking brakes. The company hasn't received any reports of the parking brake system failing, but decided to issue a recall for precautionary reasons. According to CNET, the recall affects 31,000 Model S and Model X cars in the U.S., "and all affected vehicles carry build dates between February and October 2016." From the report: The problem lies with the electric parking brakes that help secure the vehicles when placed in Park. The parking brakes contain a small gear that might fracture, which would prevent the parking brake from releasing. Thus, a car that enters Park may not be able to move again. This has no bearing on the vehicles' regular brakes, and Tesla has received no reports of the parking brake system failing to hold a car in place. Tesla estimates that about 2 percent of the vehicles recalled contain the improperly manufactured gear. It should be noted that the parking brake assembly is from a third-party supplier, as well.
Google

Google Home Now Recognizes Specific Users' Voices, Gains Support For Multiple Accounts (phonedog.com) 48

Google has issued a long-awaited feature for Google Home: support for multiple users. In an update rolling out today, up to six people will be able to connect their Google account to a Google Home, and the unit will try to distinguish each person's voice from the other users connected to the device. Therefore, each person will be able to get access to their schedule, playlists, and more. PhoneDog reports: Support for multiple users is rolling out in the U.S. now and will be available in the U.K. in the coming months. To know if the feature is available to you, launch the Google Home app and look for a card that says "Multi-user is available." You can also click the icon in the upper right corner, find your Google Home, and select "Link your account." From there, you'll train the Google Assistant to recognize your voice so that it knows it's you when you're talking and not the other people with connected accounts. You'll say "Ok Google" and "Hey Google" twice each.
Television

FCC Takes First Step Toward Allowing More Broadcast TV Mergers (theverge.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In a divided vote today, the Federal Communications Commission took steps that could lead to more consolidation among TV broadcasters, reducing the number of sources of local news. Today's changes revolve around the media ownership cap -- a limit on how many households a TV or radio broadcaster is allowed to reach. The rules are meant to promote diversity of media ownership, giving consumers access to different content and viewpoints. The cap currently prevents a company from reaching no more than 39 percent of U.S. households with broadcast TV. Large broadcasters hate the cap because it prevents them from getting even bigger. And since Trump took office and Ajit Pai was named chairman of the FCC, they've been lobbying to have it revised. The FCC's vote today starts to do that. First, it reinstates a rule known as the "UHF discount," which lets broadcasters have a bigger reach in areas where they use a certain type of technology. And second, it starts plans to revisit and raise the media ownership cap.
Businesses

Airbnb Fires Back, Accuses Hotel Industry Of Punishing the Middle-Class (thehill.com) 106

According to a legal documents, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (lobbying group for hotels in the U.S.) kicked off a plan last year to fight back Airbnb and other home-sharing services with a $5.6 million annual budget. Airbnb has responded to the revelation. From a report: The company's head of policy, Christopher Lehane, accused hoteliers of price-gouging customers and called their fight against Airbnb a "campaign to punish the middle-class" in a letter. It's only the latest salvo in a long fight between Airbnb and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), which believes the startup is cutting into its business. [...] In a letter to the AHLA, Airbnb accused the group of trying to hurt middle-class property owners. The Airbnb head of policy argued that "we ought to be able to agree that the middle-class family that shares their home while traveling is not a commercial operator running a business." In its minutes, the AHLA alleged that many of the listings on Airbnb are operated by commercial entities. Lehane also accused the AHLA of being inconsistent on homesharing. He said the group's board meeting showed support for "the rights of property owners to occasionally rent out a room or their home."
IT

CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds (hbr.org) 148

Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary? Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all. From an article: My collaborators and I conducted a series of six studies (a combination of experiments and surveys) to see how cc'ing influences organizational trust. While our findings are preliminary and our academic paper is still under review, a first important finding was that the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel (alternative link). In our experimental studies, in which 594 working adults participated, people read a scenario where they had to imagine that their coworker always, sometimes, or almost never copied the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then required to respond to items assessing how trusted they would feel by their colleague. ("In this work situation, I would feel that my colleague would trust my 'competence,' 'integrity,' and 'benevolence.'") It was consistently shown that the condition in which the supervisor was "always" included by cc made the recipient of the email feel trusted significantly less than recipients who were randomly allocated to the "sometimes" or "almost never" condition. Organizational surveys of 345 employees replicated this effect by demonstrating that the more often employees perceived that a coworker copied their supervisor, the less they felt trusted by that coworker. To make matters worse, my findings indicated that when the supervisor was copied in often, employees felt less trusted, and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organizational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety.
China

China's First Cargo Spacecraft Launch a 'Crucial Step' To Space Station (cnn.com) 20

Earlier today, China launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program. Chinese state media Xinhua described the event as a "crucial step for China's plan to have an operational space station by 2020." From a report: The Tianzhou-1 took off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China's southern Hainan province, on track to dock with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-2. The launch was the latest in a series of major announcements by the Chinese space program, which celebrated its longest-ever space mission in November.
Windows

File System Improvements To the Windows Subsystem for Linux (microsoft.com) 110

An anonymous reader shares a new article published on MSDN: In the latest Windows Insider build, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) now allows you to manually mount Windows drives using the DrvFs file system. Previously, WSL would automatically mount all fixed NTFS drives when you launch Bash, but there was no support for mounting additional storage like removable drives or network locations. Now, not only can you manually mount any drives on your system, we've also added support for other file systems such as FAT, as well as mounting network locations. This enables you to access any drive, including removable USB sticks or CDs, and any network location you can reach in Windows all from within WSL.
Cloud

Amazon Cloud Chief Jabs Oracle: 'Customers Are Sick of It' (cnbc.com) 81

It's no secret that Amazon and Oracle don't see eye to eye. But things are far from improving, it appears. From a report: On Wednesday, two months after Oracle co-CEO Mark Hurd called Amazon's cloud infrastructure "old" and claimed his company was gaining share, Amazon Web Services chief Andy Jassy slammed Oracle for locking customers into painfully long and expensive contracts. "People are very sensitive about being locked in given the experience they've had the last 10 to 15 years," Jassy said on Wednesday on stage at Amazon's AWS Summit in San Francisco. "When you look at cloud, it's nothing like being locked into Oracle." Jassy was addressing a cultural shift in the way technology is bought and sold. No longer does the process involve the purchase of heavy proprietary software with multi-year contracts that include annual maintenance fees. Now, Jassy says, it's about choice and ease of use, including letting clients turn things off if they're not working.
Security

Mastercard is Building Fingerprint Scanners Directly Into Its Cards (fastcompany.com) 85

Mastercard said on Thursday it's beginning trials of its "next-generation biometric card" in South Africa. In addition to the standard chip and pin, the new cards have a built-in fingerprint reader that the user can use to authenticate every purchase. From a report: Impressively, the new card is no thicker or larger than your current credit and debit cards.
Microsoft

Microsoft Says It Will Release Two Feature Updates Per Year For Windows 10, Office (petri.com) 63

Microsoft is making a few changes to how it will service Windows, Office 365 ProPlus and System Center Configuration Manager. From a report: Announced today, Microsoft will be releasing two feature updates a year for Windows 10 in March in September and with each release, System Center Configuration Manager will support this new aligned update model for Office 365 ProPlus and Windows 10, making both easier to deploy and keep up to date. This is a big change for Microsoft as Windows will now be on a more predictable pattern for major updates and by aligning it with Office 365 Pro Plus, this should make these two platforms easier to service from an IT Pro perspective. The big news here is also that Microsoft is announcing when Redstone 3 is targeted for release. The company is looking at a September release window but it is worth pointing out that they traditionally release the month after the code is completed.
Government

President Trump Misses 90-Day Deadline To Appoint a Cybersecurity Team After Alleged Russian Hacking (politico.com) 347

From a report: President-elect Donald Trump was very clear: "I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office," he said in January, after getting a U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in last year's elections and promising to address cybersecurity. Thursday, Trump hits his 90-day mark. There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what. It's the latest deadline Trump's set and missed -- from the press conference he said his wife would hold last fall to answer questions about her original immigration process to the plan to defeat ISIS that he'd said would come within his first 30 days in office. Since his inauguration, Trump's issued a few tweets and promises to get to the bottom of Russian hacking -- and accusations of surveillance of Americans, himself included, by the Obama administration.
Science

Discovery May Help Decipher Ancient Inca String Code (nationalgeographic.com) 40

A discovery made in a remote mountain village high in the Peruvian Andes suggests that the ancient Inca used accounting devices made of knotted, colored strings for more than accounting. From a report on National Geographic: The devices, called khipus (pronounced kee-poos), used combinations of knots to represent numbers and were used to inventory stores of corn, beans, and other provisions. Spanish accounts from colonial times claim that Inca khipus also encoded history, biographies, and letters, but researchers have yet to decipher any non-numerical meaning in the cords and knots. Now a pair of khipus protected by Andean elders since colonial times may offer fresh clues for understanding how more elaborate versions of the devices could have stored and relayed information. "What we found is a series of complex color combinations between the cords," says Sabine Hyland, professor of anthropology at University of St Andrews in Scotland and a National Geographic Explorer. "The cords have 14 different colors that allow for 95 unique cord patterns. That number is within the range of symbols in logosyllabic writing systems." Hyland theorizes that specific combinations of colored strings and knots may have represented syllables or words.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia's 'Ban' of 'The Daily Mail' Didn't Really Happen (theoutline.com) 70

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that editors at Wikipedia had "voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website," calling the publication "generally unreliable." Two months later, not only previous Daily Mail citations on Wikipedia pages are still alive, several new ones have also appeared since. So what's going on? The Outline has the story: There are no rules on Wikipedia, just guidelines. Of Wikipedia's five "pillars," the fifth is that there are no firm rules. There is no formal hierarchy either, though the most dedicated volunteers can apply to become administrators with extra powers after being approved by existing admins. But even they don't say what goes on the site. If there's a dispute or a debate, editors post a "request for comment," asking whoever is interested to have their say. The various points are tallied up by an editor and co-signed by four more after a month, but it's not a vote as in a democracy. Instead, the aim is to reach consensus of opinion, and if that's not possible, to weigh the arguments and pick the side that's most compelling. There was no vote to ban the Daily Mail because Wikipedia editors don't vote. (emphasis ours.) So what happened? The article adds: In this case, an editor submitted a broader request for comment about its [the Daily Mail's] general reliability. Seventy-seven editors participated in the discussion and two thirds supported prohibiting the Daily Mail as a source, with one editor and four co-signing editors (more than usual) chosen among administrators declaring that a consensus, though further discussion continued on a separate noticeboard, alongside complaints that the debate should have been better advertised. Though it's discouraged, the Daily Mail can be (and still is) cited. An editor I met at a recent London "Wikimeet" said he'd used the Daily Mail as a source in the last week, as it was the only source available for the subject he was writing about.
Network

The Biggest Time Suck at the Office Might Be Your Computer (bloomberg.com) 169

Sharing personal anecdotes and recent studies, a new report on Bloomberg blames outdated computers, decade-old operating systems and ageing equipments for being one of the biggest hurdles that prevents people from doing actual work in their offices. From the article: Slow, outdated computers and intermittent internet connections demoralize workers, a survey of 6,000 European workers said. Half of U.K. employees said creaking computers were "restrictive and limiting," and 38 percent said modern technology would make them more motivated, according to the survey, commissioned by electronics company Sharp. Scott's (a 25-year-old researcher who works at an insurance firm) PC runs the relatively up-to-date Windows 8 operating system, but his computer sometimes struggles to handle large spreadsheets and multiple documents open simultaneously, slowing him down. Others are in a worse spot. One in every eight business laptops and desktops worldwide still run Windows XP, which was introduced in 2001. [...] Some businesses can't help using old hardware or operating systems, because they use specialized software that also hasn't been brought up-to-date.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Shut Down Wunderlist, an App It Acquired Two Years Ago, In Favor Of Homegrown App To-Do (techcrunch.com) 58

From a report on TechCrunch: Microsoft acquired the popular mobile to do list application Wunderlist back in 2015, and now it's preparing users for its eventual demise with the release of its new application "To-Do," it announced this week. The new app was built by the team behind Wunderlist, and will bring in the favorite elements of that app in the months ahead, Microsoft insists. The company also added that it won't shut down Wunderlist until it's confident that it has "incorporated the best of Wunderlist into To-Do." In case you're hoping Wunderlist will get some sort of reprieve, Microsoft makes its forthcoming demise pretty clear. Stating its plans in black-and-white: "we will retire Wunderlist," it says in a blog post. In the meantime, Microsoft is encouraging Wunderlist users to make the switch by offering an importer that will bring in your lists and to-dos from Wunderlist into To-Do, where those items will now be available in other Microsoft products, like Exchange and Outlook.
Science

Physicists Observe 'Negative Mass' (bbc.com) 117

Physicists have created a fluid with "negative mass," which accelerates towards you when pushed. From a report on BBC: In the everyday world, when an object is pushed, it accelerates in the same direction as the force applied to it; this relationship is described by Isaac Newton's Second Law of Motion. But in theory, matter can have negative mass in the same sense that an electric charge can be positive or negative. Prof Peter Engels, from Washington State University (WSU), and colleagues cooled rubidium atoms to just above the temperature of absolute zero (close to -273C), creating what's known as a Bose-Einstein condensate. In this state, particles move extremely slowly, and following behaviour predicted by quantum mechanics, acting like waves. They also synchronise and move together in what's known as a superfluid, which flows without losing energy.
China

China To Question Apple About Live-Streaming Apps On App Store That Violate Internet Regulations (theguardian.com) 31

Three Chinese government agencies are planning to tell Apple to "tighten up checks" on live-streaming software offered on its app store, which can be used to violate internet regulation in the country. "Law enforcement officers had already met with Apple representatives over live-streaming services, [state news agency Xinhua reported], but did not provide details of the meetings," reports The Guardian. From the report: The inquiry appears to be focused on third-party apps available for download through Apple's online marketplace. The company did not respond to requests for comment. China operates the world's largest internet censorship regime, blocking a host of foreign websites including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but the authorities have struggled to control an explosion in popularity of live-streaming video apps. As part of the inquiry into live-streaming, three Chinese websites -- toutiao.com, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com -- were already found to have violated internet regulations, and had broadcast content that violated Chinese law, including providing "pornographic content," the Xinhua report said. Pornography is banned in China. The three sites were told to increase oversight of live-broadcasting services, user registration and "the handling of tips-offs." Two of the websites, huoshanzhibo.com and huajiao.com, were under formal investigation and may have their cases transferred to the police for criminal prosecutions, the Xinhua report said. Casting a wide net, the regulations state that apps cannot "engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others."
Software

95% Engineers in India Unfit For Software Development Jobs: Report (gadgetsnow.com) 453

An anonymous reader shares a report: Talent shortage is acute in the IT and data science ecosystem in India with a survey claiming that 95 percent of engineers in the country are not fit to take up software development jobs. According to a study by employability assessment company Aspiring Minds, only 4.77 percent candidates can write the correct logic for a programme -- a minimum requirement for any programming job. Over 36,000 engineering students form IT related branches of over 500 colleges took Automata -- a Machine Learning based assessment of software development skills -- and over 2/3 could not even write code that compiles.
Businesses

No, Millennials Aren't a Bunch of Job-Hopping Flakes (fastcompany.com) 214

From a report: Today, Pew researchers published findings that refute yet another stereotype about millennials that actual millennials find infuriating: the idea that they're job-hopping more often than other generations. According to Pew's analysis of recent government data, "college-educated millennials are sticking with their jobs longer than their Gen X counterparts."
Businesses

Qualcomm Collected Partial iPhone Royalties Despite Legal Battle With Apple (fortune.com) 14

From a report: Qualcomm continued to collect some royalties for Apple's use of its wireless technology in iPhones last year despite dueling lawsuits between the two mobile giants, cheering Qualcomm investors who feared that the payments had entirely dried up. Qualcomm said on Wednesday that Apple's contract manufacturers including Foxconn paid royalties, although they withheld around $1 billion from the undisclosed total amount due. The amount withheld equaled the amount Qualcomm withheld from Apple last year under a separate agreement to cooperate on mobile technology that has since expired.
Medicine

South Indian Frog Oozes Molecule That Inexplicably Decimates Flu Viruses (arstechnica.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses. A compound in the frog's mucus -- long known to have germ-killing properties -- can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don't know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way. The study authors, led by researchers at Emory University, note that the peptide appears uniquely nontoxic -- something that can't be said of many other frog-based compounds. Thus, the peptide on its own holds promise of being a potential therapy someday. But simply figuring out how it works could move researchers closer to a vaccine or therapy that could take out all flus, ditching the need for yearly vaccinations for each season's flavor of flu.

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