Businesses

Yesterday Americans Spent $5 Billion Online (cnn.com) 68

An anonymous reader quotes CNN Money: Black Friday 2017 was all about digital sales. American shoppers spent a record $5 billion in 24 hours. That marks a 16.9% increase in dollars spent online compared with Black Friday 2016, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks 80% of online spending at America's 100 largest retail websites... Meanwhile, malls and big-box retailers were left only slightly emptier. Early estimates from ShopperTrak, a data analytics company that measures the number of shoppers at stores, said foot traffic "decreased less than one percent when compared to Black Friday 2016."
The Almighty Buck

Bitcoin and Ethereum Prices Are Surging Again (cnbc.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes CNBC: Bitcoin is getting a Black Friday boost. The digital currency climbed above $8,700 to a record high Saturday following increased investor interest around the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday shopping. Bitcoin rose more than 6 percent to a record high of $8,725.13, according to CoinDesk, trading around $8,674 midday on Saturday. [Bitcoin passed $8,000 for the first time just six days earlier]. Another digital currency, ethereum, also hit an all-time high of $485.18, according to CoinMarketCap [rising more than 50% from $300 as recently as mid-November]...

The largest bitcoin exchange in the U.S., Coinbase, added about 100,000 accounts between Wednesday and Friday -- just around Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday -- to a total of 13.1 million. That's according to public data available on Coinbase's website and historical records compiled by Alistair Milne, co-founder and chief investment officer of Altana Digital Currency Fund. Coinbase had about 4.9 million users last November, Milne's data showed... The world's largest futures exchange, CME, is planning to list bitcoin futures in the second week of December...another step in establishing bitcoin as a legitimate asset class.

UPDATE (9/26/17): Sunday the price of Bitcoin surged past $9,000 -- just one week after surging past $8,000.
The Media

After Bankrupting Gawker, Peter Thiel Demands a Chance to Buy Them (buzzfeed.com) 149

An anonymous reader quotes BuzzFeed: In a federal bankruptcy court filing on Wednesday, lawyers for venture capitalist Peter Thiel objected to the ongoing sale process of Gawker.com, arguing that the billionaire has been unfairly excluded from bidding for the assets of the defunct news website... Whoever ends up buying the site will also buy its archives, which are still up, and will have the right to do with them what they want, including delete them. In the filing, Thiel's lawyers allege that he was prevented from receiving information in regard to a potential bid for Gawker.com by plan administrator William Holden and his counsel, Gregg Galardi, following a Wall Street Journal story in October that said Holden and Galardi had started to market the website to potential buyers...

The Wall Street Journal reported that Holden has been exploring the sale of Gawker.com since July, and that he recently marketed the site's potential legal claims against Thiel as part of its appeal. The marketing of those claims is at the center of Thiel's complaint, in which his lawyers argue that Holden should not be able to conduct a sale of those claims and ask that the court drop a motion that allows for discovery to move forward. Thiel's representatives also said that they contacted those administrating the sale of Gawker.com last month "to express Mr. Thiel's interest in participating in the sale process," but that they had been rebuffed and then ignored.

Thiel's complaint calls him the "most able and logical purchaser."
Power

Is Elon Musk Greatly Exaggerating Tesla's Battery Technology? (bloomberg.com) 266

"Tesla's newest promises break the laws of batteries," writes Bloomberg. Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne summarizes their report. "Elon Musk knows how to make promises. Even by his own standards, the promises made last week while introducing two new Tesla vehicles...are monuments of envelope pushing. To deliver, according to close observers of battery technology, Tesla would have to far exceed what is currently thought possible." The Tesla Semi, which Musk claims can haul 80,000 pounds at highway speeds for 500 miles, then recharge 400 miles of range in 30 minutes, would require "a charging system that's 10 times more powerful than one of the fastest battery-charging networks on the road today -- Tesla's own Superchargers."

The Tesla Roadster is promised to be the quickest production car ever built. But that achievement would mean squeezing into its tiny frame a battery twice as powerful as the largest battery currently available in any electric car. These claims are so far beyond current industry standards for electric vehicles that they would require either advances in battery technology or a new understanding of how batteries are put to use, said Sam Jaffe, battery analyst for Cairn Energy Research in Boulder, Colorado.

But Jaffe reaches an interesting conclusion. "I don't think they're lying. I just think they left something out of the public reveal that would have explained how these numbers work."
Space

Flat Earther's Homemade Rocket Launcher Breaks Down in His Driveway (desertsun.com) 246

The Desert Sun has an update on the progress of 61-year-old self-taught rocket scientist 'Mad' Mike Hughes: A man who believes Earth is flat, and was ready to launch himself from a rocket in California on Saturday afternoon to prove it, has canceled his plans. At least for now. Not having the required federal permits plus mechanical problems with his "motorhome/rocket launcher" forced self-taught rocket scientist "Mad" Mike Hughes to put his experiment on hold. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management "told me they would not allow me to do the event ... at least not at that location," Hughes said in a YouTube announcement, amid international attention over his plans to launch into the "atmosflat."

"It's been very disappointing," he said... "My feeling is that one of the top executives at the Bureau of Land Management called Needles, California, saying... 'What's going on? Who permitted this?'" Hughes said. Plus, as he and his team were preparing to leave Wednesday, the motorhome/rocket launcher broke down in his driveway, he said... His plan is to try again next week.

Security

Should Brokers Use 'Voice Prints' For Stock Transactions? (cnbc.com) 64

Fidelity and Charles Schwab now allow traders to use "voice prints" to authorize stock transactions. But there's more to the story, argues long-time Slashdot reader maiden_taiwan: Fidelity Investments is touting its new security feature, MyVoice, which allows a customer to access his/her financial accounts by telephone without a password. "When you call Fidelity, you'll no longer have to enter PINs or passwords because Fidelity MyVoice helps you interact with us securely and more conveniently. Through natural conversation, MyVoice will detect and verify your voiceprint in the first few moments of the call... Fidelity MyVoice performs even if you have a cold, allergies, or a sore throat."

Based on my own experience, Fidelity now enables MyVoice automatically for its customers who call in for other reasons. Apparently, their conversation with Fidelity customer service provides enough data for MyVoice to recognize them. (Customers are informed afterward that MyVoice has been enabled, and they can opt out, although they aren't told that opting out is possible.)

It's not clear whether Fidelity is creating voice profiles of their customers without asking first. (Fidelity's site says only that their representatives will "offer" to enroll you the next time you call.) But the original submission ends with two more questions. "In an era where Apple's face recognition is easily defeated by family members, is voice recognition any more secure?"

And "Is a 'voiceprint' even possible?"
Advertising

Google Flagged Its Own Chromebook Ad As Spam On YouTube (theverge.com) 35

AmiMoJo quotes The Verge: It's no secret that YouTube's algorithm for automatically flagging videos can be troublesome -- recent issues have seen content creators getting their videos demonetized for seemingly no reason -- but Google's latest faux pas might hit the company a little closer to home. Google posted an ad for its new Chromebook Pixel that is getting flagged as spam... It's particularly telling about whatever is happening with YouTube's algorithm that even official Google content is getting removed "for violating YouTube's policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams."
Education

Why Do Employers Require College Degrees That Aren't Necessary? (thestreet.com) 358

Slashdot reader pefisher writes: A lot of us on Slashdot have noticed that potential employers advertise for things they don't need. To the point that sometimes they even ask for things that don't exist. Like asking for ten years of experience in a technology that has only just been introduced. It's frustrating because it makes you wonder "what's this employers real game?"

Do they just want to say they advertised for the position, or are they really so immensely stupid, so disconnected from their own needs, that they think they are actually asking for something they can have...? Here is a Harvard Study that addresses one particular angle of this. It doesn't answer any questions, but it does prove that you aren't crazy. And it quantifies the craziness.

The study's author calls it "degree inflation," and after studying 26 million job postings concluded that employers are now less willing to actually train new people on the job, possibly to save money. "Many companies have fallen into a lazy way of thinking about this," the study's author tells The Street, saying companies are "[looking for] somebody who is just job-ready to just show up." The irony is that college graduates will ultimately be paid a higher salary -- even though for many jobs, the study found that a college degree yields zero improvement in actual performance.

The Street reports that "In a market where companies increasingly rely on computerized systems to cull out early-round applicants, that has led firms to often consider a bachelor's degree indicative of someone who can socialize, run a meeting and generally work well with others." One company tells them that "we removed the requirement to have a computer science degree, and we removed the requirement to have experience in development computer programming. And when we removed those things we found that the pool of potential really good team members drastically expanded."
Government

Bloomberg Op-Ed: The Internet 'Already Lost Its Neutrality' (japantimes.co.jp) 171

An anonymous reader quotes a new Bloomberg opinion piece on net neutrality: The internet will be filled today with denunciations of this move, threats of a dark future in which our access to content will be controlled by a few powerful companies. And sure, that may happen. But in fact, it may already have happened, led not by ISPs, but by the very companies that were fighting so hard for net neutrality... Our experience of the internet is increasingly controlled by a handful of firms, most especially Google and Facebook. The argument for regulating these companies as public utilities is arguably at least as strong as the argument for thus regulating ISPs, and very possibly much stronger; while cable monopolies may have local dominance, none of them has the ability that Google and Facebook have to unilaterally shape what Americans see, hear and read.

In other words, we already live in the walled garden that activists worry about, and the walls are getting higher every day... The fact that these firms were able to cement their power at the moment when regulators were most focused on keeping the internet open tells you just how difficult it is to get that sort of regulation right; while you are looking hard at one danger, an equally large one may be creeping up just outside the range of your peripheral vision.

Robotics

Is Sharp's Robot Vacuum Cleaner Vulnerable To Remote Take-over? (jvn.jp) 42

Slashdot reader AmiMoJo reports: Sharp's COCOROBO (heart-bot) vacuum cleaners can not just clean your house. They have cameras that can be viewed from a smart phone, and automatically take pictures of things they find under your sofa. They have microphones and voice recognition, and are able to ask how your day was when you get home from work. You can even activate their speakers and talk to your pets from the office. Unfortunately, so can anyone else if you don't install critical firmware updates.
JPCERT's warning says that the attacker must be on the same LAN to impersonate you, though "as a result, there is a possibility that an arbitrary operation may be conducted."
Movies

DC Fans Angry Over Rotten Tomatoes 'Justice League' Ratings (wired.com) 266

Rotten Tomatoes launched a new movie-review series called See It/Skip It last week -- but it just made some people hate the site even more. An anonymous reader quotes Wired: Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregator-slash-Hollywood-agitator, had irked DC fans by withholding its Justice League score until Thursday night's See It/Skip It premiere -- even though a wave of reviews for the film had already been posted online. The move was ostensibly a ploy to get viewers to tune in for the show, yet others saw a greater villainy at work: Was Rotten Tomatoes, which is owned in part by Warner Bros., actually trying to shield the studio from an inevitably bad grade that could help kill its opening weekend?

The See It/Skip It pushback -- which involved a lot of Tweet-screaming -- was a reminder of just how controversial Justice League had become... With Justice League having earned a less-than-expected $96 million in its opening weekend, the lowest ever for a DCEU title, the movie will likely be seen as a Flash-point moment for DC movies as a whole. Considering how some DC obsessives have reacted to the films' bad reviews -- there have been death threats in the past -- the conspiracy theory is actually a somewhat measured response... But there's another reason for all the pre-release pressure on Justice League: With the exception of this summer's Wonder Woman, the previous DC entries have all earned disappointingly low scores on Rotten Tomatoes... For some fans, the low scores felt like a referendum not only on [director Zack] Snyder's work, but the DC Extended Universe franchise as a whole -- so much so, a few defenders even began to speculate as to whether Rotten Tomatoes was manipulating the DCEU data (or, at the very least, grading the reviews on a much steeper curve than the Marvel films). Such theories filled message boards and Quora discussions, and there was even a Change.org petition to shut the site down that collected more than 23,000 signatures... Dangling the [Justice League] verdict in front of fans, and putting off the inevitable, felt like a misuse of power.

"They just want to focus on the negative," one DC fan told the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, the film's director has endorsed a Change.org petition calling for the release of his original edit of the film.

Justice League cost nearly a third of a billion dollars to produce. On Thanksgiving Day, it earned less money than Disney-Pixar's film Coco.
United States

Bipartisan US Election Group Issues Security Tips (reuters.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: A bipartisan Harvard University project aimed at protecting elections from hacking and propaganda will release its first set of recommendations today on how U.S. elections can be defended from hacking attacks. The 27-page guidebook calls for campaign leaders to emphasize security from the start and insist on practices such as two-factor authentication for access to email and documents and fully encrypted messaging via services including Signal and Wickr. The guidelines are intended to reduce risks in low-budget local races as well as the high-stakes Congressional midterm contests next year.

Though most of the suggestions cost little or nothing to implement and will strike security professionals as common sense, notorious attacks including the leak of the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, have succeeded because basic security practices were not followed... "We heard from campaigns that there is nothing like this that exists," said Debora Plunkett, a 31-year veteran of the National Security Agency who joined the Belfer Center this year. "We had security experts who understood security and election experts who understood campaigns, and both sides were eager to learn how the other part worked."

The group includes "top security experts" from both Google and Facebook.
Privacy

Imgur Confirms Email Addresses, Passwords Stolen In 2014 Hack (zdnet.com) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Imgur, one of the world's most visited websites, has confirmed a hack dating back to 2014. The company confirmed to ZDNet that hackers stole 1.7 million email addresses and passwords, scrambled with the SHA-256 algorithm, which has been passed over in recent years in favor of stronger password scramblers. Imgur said the breach didn't include personal information because the site has "never asked" for real names, addresses, or phone numbers. The stolen accounts represent a fraction of Imgur's 150 million monthly users. The hack went unnoticed for four years until the stolen data was sent to Troy Hunt, who runs data breach notification service Have I Been Pwned. Hunt informed the company on Thursday, a US national holiday observing Thanksgiving, when most businesses are closed. A day later, the company started resetting the passwords of affected accounts, and published a public disclosure alerting users of the breach.
Earth

Lightning Can Trigger Nuclear Reactions, Creating Rare Atomic Isotopes (sciencemag.org) 75

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: Rare forms of atoms, like carbon-13, carbon-14, and nitrogen-15, have long been used to figure out the ages of ancient artifacts and probe the nuances of prehistoric food chains. The source of these rare isotopes? Complicated cascades of subatomic reactions in the atmosphere triggered by high-energy cosmic rays from outer space. Now, a team of scientists is adding one more isotope initiator to its list: lightning. Strong bolts of lightning can unleash the same flurry of nuclear reactions as cosmic rays, the researchers report in Nature. But, they add, the isotopes created by these storms likely constitute a small portion of all such atoms -- so the new findings are unlikely to change the way other scientists use them for dating and geotracing.
AMD

First AMD Ryzen Mobile Laptop Tested Shows Strong Zen-Vega Performance (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD Ryzen Mobile processors are arriving now in retail laptops from the likes of HP, Lenovo and Acer. With the first CPUs to hit the market, AMD took quad-core Ryzen and coupled it with 8 or 10-core Vega GPUs on a single piece of silicon in an effort to deliver a combination of strong Ryzen CPU performance along with significantly better integrated graphics performance over Intel's current 8th Gen Kaby Lake laptop chips. AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U chips have 4MB of shared L3 cache each, but differ with respect to top-end CPU boost clock speeds, number of integrated Radeon Vega Compute Units (CUs), and the GPU's top-end clocks. Ryzen 7 2700U is more powerful with 10 Radeon Vega CUs, while Ryzen 5 2500U sports 8. Ryzen 7 2700U also boosts to 3.8GHz, while Ryzen 5 2500U tops out at 3.6GHz. In the benchmarks, Ryzen Mobile looks strong, competing well with Intel quad-core 8th Gen laptop CPUs, while offering north of 60 percent better performance in graphics and gaming. Battery life is still a question mark, however, as some of the very first models to hit the market from HP have inefficient displays and hard drives instead of SSDs. As more premium configurations hit the market in the next few weeks, hopefully we'll get a better picture of Ryzen Mobile battery life in more optimized laptop builds.

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