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Businesses

Amazon To Expand Counterfeit Removal Program in Overture To Sellers (reuters.com) 39

Amazon.com is expanding a program to remove counterfeit goods from its website this spring as part of a broader push to assure brand owners that the online retailer is an ally rather than a threat. From a report: As early as next month, any brand can register its logo and intellectual property with Amazon so the e-commerce company can take down listings and potentially seller accounts when counterfeits are flagged, Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, said in an interview on Monday. The so-called brand registry, which had been in a test phase, will be widely available for free in North America, Faricy said ahead of his presentation at the Shoptalk commerce conference in Las Vegas.
Businesses

Walmart Unveils 'Store No. 8' Tech Incubator In Silicon Valley (bloomberg.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is creating a technology-startup incubator in Silicon Valley to identify changes that will reshape the retail experience, including virtual reality, autonomous vehicle and drone delivery and personalized shopping. The incubator will be called Store No. 8, a reference to a Wal-Mart location where the company experimented with new store layouts. Marc Lore, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart's e-commerce operations, announced the incubator Monday at the ShopTalk conference in Las Vegas. The world's biggest retailer has been overhauling its online team to better challenge Amazon.com Inc. with greater selection and lower prices. Lore founded Jet.com, which Wal-Mart purchased in September for about $3.3 billion in pursuit of Amazon in the e-commerce race. Lore said Wal-Mart has an advantage over "pure play" e-commerce companies because of its large network of stores that attract shoppers for such items as fresh food. The incubator will partner with startups, venture capitalists and academics to promote innovation in robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence, according to Wal-Mart. The goal is to have a fast-moving, separate entity to identify emerging technologies that can be developed and used across Wal-Mart.
Businesses

Apple's Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality (bloomberg.com) 94

Apple is beefing up its staff with acquisitions and some big hires to help design augmented reality glasses and iPhone features, according to Bloomberg. From a report: Apple is working on "digital spectacles" that could connect to an iPhone and beam content like movies and maps, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported on Monday. The Cupertino, Calif.- based company is also working on augmented reality features for the iPhone that are similar to Snapchat, Bloomberg said. To make its augmented reality push, Apple has acquired augmented reality start-ups FlyBy Media and Metaio, and hired major players from Amazon, Facebook's Oculus, Microsoft's HoloLens, and Dolby.
Businesses

Ebay: Yes, Speedy Shipping Really Is a Thing With Us (cnet.com) 62

Fast shipping is -- finally -- no longer all about Amazon. From a report on CNET: On Monday, eBay announced it will offer a new guaranteed-delivery program in the US starting this summer, pledging deliveries in three or fewer days for more than 20 million products. For the first time, Ebay's shoppers will be able to filter searches to see only items guaranteed to arrive in one, two or three days. "We know we need to continue to up our game on shipping," Hal Lawton, eBay's senior vice president of North America, said in an interview. [...] It's worth noting, though, that this Ebay announcement doesn't actually speed up deliveries on the site. Many professional sellers on Ebay have already been providing these faster deliveries, in some cases for years. Ebay, which says 63 percent of packages sold through its site arrive in three days or less, has been offering customers more conservative delivery estimates because it doesn't ship directly.
Robotics

America May Miss Out On the Next Industrial Revolution (theverge.com) 297

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the U.S. and around the world, but there's an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing. The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world's next radical shift in how goods are produced. That's because the robot makers -- as in, the robots that make the robots -- could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe. As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall focuses on building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfillment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon. "The robots are coming," Rendall said. "After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people's interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labor and there's an appetite for automation that we haven't seen before." While Rendall described himself as one of the optimists, who believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, he said there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust. "China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing," he said, adding that the country is driving "an overwhelming amount" of growth. The difference, he added, is how China is responding to automation, which is by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford's assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.
Earth

Most People Would Give Lab-Grown Meat a Try, New Survey Reveals (sciencealert.com) 162

Clive Phillips and Matti Wilks report via ScienceAlert: In a recent survey, published this month in PLOS One, we investigated the views of people in the United States, a country with one of the largest appetites for meat and an equally large appetite for adopting new technologies. A total of 673 people responded to the survey, done online via Amazon Mechanical Turk, in which they were given information about in vitro meat (IVM) and asked questions about their attitudes to it. Although most people (65 percent), and particularly males, were willing to try IVM, only about a third said they would use it regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat. But many people were undecided: 26 percent were unsure if they would use it as a replacement for farmed meat and 31 percent unsure if they would eat it regularly. This suggests there is scope to persuade consumers that they should convert to IVM if a suitable product is available. As an indication of this potential, 53 percent said it was seen as preferable to soy substitutes. The biggest concerns were about IVM's taste and lack of appeal, particularly in the case of meats seen as healthy, such as fish and chicken, where only two-thirds of people that normally ate them said that they would if it was produced by in vitro methods. By contrast, 72 percent of people who normally eat beef and pig products would still do so if they were produced as IVM.
Government

Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft Are Helping Google Fight an Order To Hand Over Foreign Emails (businessinsider.com) 67

Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Cisco have filed an amicus brief in support of Google, after a Pennsylvania court ruled that the company had to hand over emails stored overseas in response to an FBI warrant. From a report: An amicus brief is filed by people or companies who have an interest in the case, but aren't directly involved. In this case, it's in Silicon Valley's interest to keep US law enforcement from accessing customer data stored outside the US. It isn't clear what data Google might have to hand over and, last month, the company said it would fight to the order. In the brief, the companies argue: "When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States -- in the place where the customers' private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer's consent."
Space

Jeff Bezos' Spaceflight Company Blue Origin Gets Its First Paying Customer (nytimes.com) 32

Long-time Slashdot reader nickovs writes: Blue Origin was started as a "moon shot" company by Jeff Bezos and recently claimed that it would be offering an "Amazon-like" delivery service to the moon by 2020. In the mean time it seems their customers will be slightly closer to Earth: this week they announced that they now have a paying customer in the form of the satellite TV company Eutelsat. While this isn't a huge technical milestone, it is a major business milestone, turning Blue Origin from a hobby business into one which might eventually make a profit. According to a New York Times article, "The commercial partnership brings Blue Origin closer in line with SpaceX, created by Elon Musk, which has been launching satellites and taking NASA cargo to the International Space Station for several years."
Meanwhile, SpaceX announced last week that two space tourists have already put down "a significant deposit" for a week-long trip around the moon at the end of 2018, adding "Other flight teams have also expressed strong interest and we expect more to follow."
Bitcoin

The Promise of Blockchain Is a World Without Middlemen (hbr.org) 73

dryriver writes: The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about how Blockchain technology may bring down the cost of business transactions and enable new ways of doing things: "Consider the problem that small manufacturers have dealing with giants like Wal-Mart. To keep transaction costs and the costs of carrying each product line down, large companies generally only buy from companies that can service a substantial percentage of their customers. But if the cost of carrying a new product was tiny, a much larger number of small manufacturers might be included in the value network. Amazon carries this approach a long way, with enormous numbers of small vendors selling through the same platform, but the idea carried to its limit is eBay and Craigslist, which bring business right down to the individual level. While it's hard to imagine a Wal-Mart with the diversity of products offered by Amazon or even eBay, that is the kind of future we are moving into." "Decentralization" is the idea that a database works like a network "that's shared with everybody in the world, where anyone and anything can connect to it," writes Vinay Gupta for Harvard Business Review. "Decentralization offers the promise of nearly friction-free cooperation between members of complex networks that can add value to each other by enabling collaboration without central authorities and middle men." The proposition ultimately makes things "more efficient in unexpected ways." For example, "a 1% transaction fee may not seem like much, but down a 15-step supply chain, it adds up. [...] The decentralization that blockchain provides would change that, which could have huge possible impacts for economies in the developing world," writes Gupta.
Television

Amazon Says It's Open To Pushing Content Through Cable Boxes (bloomberg.com) 21

Amazon, the e-commerce giant that's shaking up the entertainment industry, says it's open to pursuing deals to stream content through cable operators' set-top boxes, much like Netflix has done in the U.S. and Europe. From a report on Bloomberg: "Amazon is definitely open to those partnerships and to be fair, we haven't done as much there as Netflix have done," Alex Green, managing director of Amazon Video, said Thursday at the Cable Congress conference in Brussels. So far, Amazon has been more focused on growing its customers and building its own devices, he said. But "we do talk to all sorts of players in the cable industry." Amazon, which won its first Academy Awards last month for movies "Manchester by the Sea," and "The Salesman," is challenging pay-TV providers and video-game developers as the Seattle-based company expands beyond its online retail roots with growing media ambitions. The rise of internet-based subscription services from the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Alphabet's YouTube, have stoked analyst predictions that consumers will increasingly ditch cable and kill traditional TV.
Businesses

Despite Netflix and Amazon Prime, Most of the World Watches Pirated Content (techinasia.com) 244

An anonymous reader shares a TechInAsia report: More than half of the people surveyed across the world still watch pirated movies and TV shows, a new survey shows. The study, conducted by digital security firm Irdeto, asked more than 25,000 adults across 30 countries about video watching trends. Here's what it found: 52 percent of those surveyed said they watch pirated videos. 48 said they would stop, or watch less illegal content after they were told about the damaging effects of piracy on the media industry. While many recognize that producing or sharing pirated video is illegal (70 percent), far fewer people are aware that streaming or downloading is also against the law (59 percent).
Businesses

Tech's Ruling Class Casts a Big Shadow (theverge.com) 74

Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg believes that Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, or Gang of Five -- as he likes to call them, are casting a big shadow over how today's startups foster, a phenomenon he believes will continue to happen over the years to come. From his column for The Verge: What we have now in consumer tech, in 2017, is an oligopoly, at least superficially similar to the old industrial-era American corporate groups that once dominated key industries. I think that their enduring and growing power casts a shadow over the Silicon Valley legend that there are lots of great new consumer tech innovations being incubated right now in garages or dorm rooms somewhere that will be taken all the way to becoming great companies, the way each of the Gang of Five was. What I fear is more likely to happen to any such startup is that, if they're good, they get acquired by a member of the Gang, or that their idea is turned into a feature for one of the Gang's products. And, even if that never happens and a startup thrives, too often it can only thrive by being successful on a platform controlled by one or more Gang members, with the big guy maybe taking a cut. For instance, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, which went public last week, famously spurned a $3 billion takeover offer from Gang member Facebook in 2013. But it depends for its very operation on the cloud services of Google and on the mobile app platforms of Apple and Google. And plenty of other companies which either presented threats or opportunities to the Gang have been snapped up by them. Each of the five companies actively scoops up numerous smaller companies every year, in many cases just for their talent and / or patents. In fact, I'd be amazed if there weren't plenty of startups whose main goal is to be purchased by the Gang.
Crime

Amazon Shares Data With Arkansas Prosecutor In Murder Case (ap.org) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Associated Press: Amazon dropped its fight against a subpoena issued in an Arkansas murder case after the defendant said he wouldn't mind if the technology giant shared information that may have been gathered by an Amazon Echo smart speaker. James Andrew Bates has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Victor Collins, who was found dead in a hot tub at Bates' home. In paperwork filed Monday, Bates said Amazon could share the information and Amazon said it handed over material on Friday. The Echo "listens" for key words and may have recorded what went on before Collins was found dead in November 2015. Amazon had fought a subpoena, citing its customers' privacy rights. A hearing had been set for Wednesday on whether any information gathered was even pertinent.
Power

Amazon Pledges To Cover 15 Massive Warehouse Rooftops With Solar Panels (arstechnica.com) 44

Amazon announced earlier this week that it would install solar panels on 15 of its fulfillment and sorting centers around the U.S. in 2017. "Depending on the specific project, time of year, and other factors, a solar installation could generate as much as 80 percent of a single fulfillment facility's annual energy needs," Amazon wrote in a press release. "That energy will provide electricity for everything from keeping the lights on to powering Amazon Robotics at fulfillment centers," reports Ars Technica. From the report: Amazon is finding stride with other major companies, but it's a bit short compared to some of its more ambitious peers. For example, Google announced in December that by the end of 2017 it would be using a carbon offsets program to pay for as much renewable energy as all of its data centers and offices worldwide consumed. The search giant said at the time that the move to renewable energy wasn't just for show -- it was about avoiding energy price fluctuations in the long term. That's a sentiment Amazon echoed as well in its Tuesday press release. "We are putting our scale and inventive culture to work on sustainability -- this is good for the environment, our business, and our customers," wrote Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of worldwide operations. "By diversifying our energy portfolio, we can keep business costs low and pass along further savings to customers. It's a win-win."
Businesses

Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin To Offer 'Amazon-Like' Moon Delivery By 2020 (geekwire.com) 76

Less than a week after Elon Musk's SpaceX announced it would soon offer space tourists a cruise around the moon, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has announced that he would be launching an Amazon-like service shipping supplies, experiments, and crew to the Moon by 2020. From a report: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture has proposed sending a robotic lander to the moon's south polar region by 2020, as an initial step toward an "Amazon-like" lunar delivery system and eventually a permanently inhabited moon base. The report says the company's seven-page proposal, dated Jan. 4, has been circulating among NASA's leadership and President Donald Trump's transition team. It's only one of several proposals aimed at turning the focus of exploration beyond Earth orbit to the moon and its environs during Trump's term.
Data Storage

Researchers Store Computer OS, Short Movie On DNA (phys.org) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a new study published in the journal Science, a pair of researchers at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) show that an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA's nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides. They demonstrate that this technology is also extremely reliable. Erlich and his colleague Dina Zielinski, an associate scientist at NYGC, chose six files to encode, or write, into DNA: a full computer operating system, an 1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La Ciotat," a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon. They compressed the files into a master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code made up of ones and zeros. Using an erasure-correcting algorithm called fountain codes, they randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, and mapped the ones and zeros in each droplet to the four nucleotide bases in DNA: A, G, C and T. The algorithm deleted letter combinations known to create errors, and added a barcode to each droplet to help reassemble the files later. In all, they generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long, and sent it in a text file to a San Francisco DNA-synthesis startup, Twist Bioscience, that specializes in turning digital data into biological data. Two weeks later, they received a vial holding a speck of DNA molecules. To retrieve their files, they used modern sequencing technology to read the DNA strands, followed by software to translate the genetic code back into binary. They recovered their files with zero errors, the study reports. The study also notes that "a virtually unlimited number of copies of the files could be created with their coding technique by multiplying their DNA sample through polymerase chain reaction (PCR)." The researchers also "show that their coding strategy packs 215 petabytes of data on a single gram of DNA."
The Internet

An Incorrect Command Entered By Employee Triggered Disruptions To S3 Storage Service, Knocking Down Dozens of Websites, Amazon Says (amazon.com) 169

Amazon is apologizing for the disruptions to its S3 storage service that knocked down and -- in some cases affected -- dozens of websites earlier this week. The company also outlined what caused the issue -- the event was triggered by human error. The company said an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process. "Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended," the company said in a press statement Thursday. It adds: The servers that were inadvertently removed supported two other S3 subsystems. One of these subsystems, the index subsystem, manages the metadata and location information of all S3 objects in the region. This subsystem is necessary to serve all GET, LIST, PUT, and DELETE requests. The second subsystem, the placement subsystem, manages allocation of new storage and requires the index subsystem to be functioning properly to correctly operate. The placement subsystem is used during PUT requests to allocate storage for new objects. Removing a significant portion of the capacity caused each of these systems to require a full restart. While these subsystems were being restarted, S3 was unable to service requests. Other AWS services in the US-EAST-1 Region that rely on S3 for storage, including the S3 console, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) new instance launches, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes (when data was needed from a S3 snapshot), and AWS Lambda were also impacted while the S3 APIs were unavailable.
Businesses

Programmers Are Confessing Their Coding Sins To Protest a Broken Job Interview Process (theoutline.com) 1001

A number of programmers have taken it Twitter to bring it to everyone's, but particularly recruiter's, attention about the grueling interview process in their field that relies heavily on technical questions. David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework, started it when he tweeted, "Hello, my name is David. I would fail to write bubble sort on a whiteboard. I look code up on the internet all the time. I don't do riddles." Another coder added, "Hello, my name is Tim. I'm a lead at Google with over 30 years coding experience and I need to look up how to get length of a python string." Another coder chimed in, "Hello my name is Mike, I'm a GDE and lead at NY Times, I don't know what np complete means. Should I?" A feature story on The Outline adds: This interview style, widely used by major tech companies including Google and Amazon, typically pits candidates against a whiteboard without access to reference material -- a scenario working programmers say is demoralizing and an unrealistic test of actual ability. People spend weeks preparing for this process, afraid that the interviewer will quiz them on the one obscure algorithm they haven't studied. "A cottage industry has emerged that reminds us uncomfortably of SAT prep," Karla Monterroso, VP of programs for Code2040, an organization for black and Latino techies, wrote in a critique of the whiteboard interview. [...] This means companies tend to favor recent computer science grads from top-tier schools who have had time to cram; in other words, it doesn't help diversify the field with women, older people, and people of color.
The Internet

Amazon's Cloud Service Has Outage, Disrupting Sites (usatoday.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares a report on USA Today: Portions of Amazon Web Services, the nation's largest cloud computing company, went offline Tuesday afternoon, affected multiple companies across the United States but especially on the east coast. The outage appeared to have begun around 12:45 pm ET. It was centered in AWS' S3 storage system on the east coast. Many of the services that firms use AWS are for back-end processes, and therefore not immediately visible to consumers, though the outage could disrupt customer-facing activities like logins and payments. At least some websites that appear to be affected are: Airbnb, Down Detector, Freshdesk, Pinterest, SendGrid, Snapchat's Bitmoji, Time, Buffer, Business Insider, Chef, Citrix, CNBC, Codecademy, Coursera, Cracked, Docker, Expedia, Expensify, Giphy, Heroku, Home Chef, iFixit, IFTTT, isitdownrightnow.com, Lonely Planet, Mailchimp, Medium, Microsoft's HockeyApp, News Corp, Quora, Razer, Slack, Sprout Social, Travis CI, Trello, Twilio, Unbounce, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Zendesk.

The dashboard of Amazon Web Services, which tracks the status of the service, is unable to change color, Amazon said. It is because the status dashboard also runs on the service that is down.

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