Books

Former Slashdot Contributor Jon Katz Believes He Can Talk To Animals (amazon.com) 16

Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland got a surprise when he visited his local bookstore: Jon Katz turns 70 this August, and he's published a new book called Talking to Animals: How You Can Understand Animals and They Can Understand You. Katz was a former newspaper reporter (and a contributing editor to Rolling Stone) who wrote for HotWired, the first online presence for Wired magazine in the mid-1990s, before becoming a controversial contributor to Slashdot during the site's early days. Katz left Manhattan in the 1990s to live on a farm "surrounded by dogs, cats, sheep, horses, cows, goats, and chickens," according to the book's description, an experience he writes about on his blog. His new book promises that Katz now "marshals his experience to offer us a deeper insight into animals and the tools needed for effectively communicating with them."
The Internet

Verizon Is Killing Tumblr's Fight For Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: In 2014, Tumblr was on the front lines of the battle for net neutrality. The company stood alongside Amazon, Kickstarter, Etsy, Vimeo, Reddit, and Netflix during Battle for the Net's day of action. Tumblr CEO David Karp was also part of a group of New York tech CEOs that met with then-FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in Brooklyn that summer, while the FCC was fielding public comment on new Title II rules. President Obama invited Karp to the White House to discuss various issues around public education, and in February 2015 The Wall Street Journal reported that it was the influence of Karp and a small group of liberal tech CEOs that swayed Obama toward a philosophy of internet as public utility. But three years later, as the battle for net neutrality heats up once again, Tumblr has been uncharacteristically silent. The last mention of net neutrality on Tumblr's staff blog -- which frequently posts about political issues from civil rights to climate change to gun control to student loan debt -- was in June 2016. And Tumblr is not listed as a participating tech company for Battle for the Net's next day of action, coming up in three weeks. One reason for Karp and Tumblr's silence? Last week Verizon completed its acquisition of Tumblr parent company Yahoo, kicking off the subsequent merger of Yahoo and AOL to create a new company called Oath. As one of the world's largest ISPs, Verizon is notorious for challenging the principles of net neutrality -- it sued the FCC in an effort to overturn net neutrality rules in 2011, and its general counsel Kathy Grillo published a note this April complimenting new FCC chairman Ajit Pai's plan to weaken telecommunication regulations.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Will Now Price Match Amazon, Walmart and Others On Over 50,000 Items (techcrunch.com) 67

eBay announced today a new Price Match Guarantee for over 50,000 items across its site -- promising that it will have the best deal online, or it will match the lowest price of a competitor. While only select items are available for this offer, "the move is a significant effort on eBay's part to ensure that it doesn't lose customers to Amazon, Walmart and other online stores as the market consolidates behind the industry's major players," reports TechCrunch. From the report: In order to qualify, the item must be one of the new, unopened items sold daily through eBay Deals, for starters. Deals are eBay's selection of "trending" inventory across all its categories -- like consumer electronics, home & garden, and fashion. The deals are also generally offered at 20 percent to 90 percent off, and are sourced from over 900 of eBay's trusted sellers. These sellers include both smaller merchants looking to grow their customer base as well as major consumer brands. At any time, eBay says there are "tens of thousands" of items offered through the Deals site, with featured deals updating at least once per day, beginning at 8 AM PT.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 170

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Quietly Forms a Mixed Reality Team, But What Is It Building? (geekwire.com) 41

Nat Levy, reporting for GeekWire: Amazon is building a new "two pizza team" within Amazon Web Services focused on mixed-reality technology, another sign that the cloud powerhouse is expanding its reach and branching out into new areas. AWS isn't talking publicly about the initiative, but a job posting for a software engineer sheds some light on the team's goals. The posting says the company is "building a set of services, and platform to bring AWS and Amazon into the world of Mixed Reality." The company wants engineers with experience in "Computer Vision, 3D objects, rendering and data storage by designing, developing and testing software solutions." The posting further states that "applications would include real-time 3D modeling, image and video stream processing all within a scalable distributed environment." The posting calls the group a "true start-up within AWS (a real two pizza team)." The two-pizza term goes back to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and his well-known rule that any team or meeting that can't be fed with two pizzas is too large.
Government

Tim Cook Told Trump Tech Employees Are 'Nervous' About Immigration (cnbc.com) 325

Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.
Businesses

Amazon Will Now Let You Try On Clothes Before You Buy Them (theverge.com) 105

For many people, buying clothing online is not worth the hassle of getting a pair of pants or a shirt that does not fit. Many retailers have sought to eliminate that risk by offering free returns on clothing, but now Amazon is going even further. From a report: Amazon is launching Prime Wardrobe, a new program that will let you try on clothes before you buy them. Once you select at least three Prime Wardrobe-eligible pieces from over a million clothing options, Amazon will ship your selections to you in a resealable return box with a prepaid shipping label. After you try on the clothes, you can put the ones you don't want back in the box and leave it at your front door -- Prime Wardrobe also comes with free scheduled pickups from UPS. If you decide to keep at least three items you will get a 10 percent discount off your purchase, and if you keep five or more pieces the discount rises to 20 percent.
Iphone

Steve Jobs Wanted the First iPhone To Have a Permanent Back Button Like Android (bgr.com) 193

anderzole shares a report from BGR: Brian Merchant's new book, The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, provides a captivating and intriguing look at how the most revolutionary product of our time was designed and developed. Through a series of interviews with Apple engineers and designers who played an integral role in the iPhone's creation and development, Merchant maps out how the iPhone came to be after more than two years of non-stop work at breakneck speed. One of the more interesting revelations from the book is that the iPhone design Apple unveiled in January of 2007 might have looked vastly different if Steve Jobs had his way. According to Imran Chaudhri, a veteran Apple designer who spent 19 years working on Apple's elite Human Interface Team, Steve Jobs wanted the original iPhone to have a back button in addition to a home button. Believe it or not, the original iPhone could have very well looked like a modern-day Android device. "The touch-based phone, which was originally supposed to be nothing but screen, was going to need at least one button," Merchant writes. "We all know it well today -- the Home button. But Steve Jobs wanted it to have two; he felt they'd need a back button for navigation. Chaudhri argued that it was all about generating trust and predictability. One button that does the same thing every time you press it: it shows you your stuff. 'Again, that came down to a trust issue,' Chaudhri says, 'that people could trust the device to do what they wanted it to do. Part of the problem with other phones was the features were buried in menus, they were too complex.' A back button could complicate matters too, he told Jobs. 'I won that argument,' Chaudhri says."
Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Iphone

'The Unwillingness To Foresee The Future' (stratechery.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a few excerpts from Ben Thompson's analysis: Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumor, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone," he said. "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in." What if Steve Jobs' company did bring an iPod phone to market? Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorized." I was reminded of this quote after Amazon announced an agreement to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion; after all, it was only two years ago that Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey predicted that groceries would be Amazon's Waterloo. And while Colligan's prediction was far worse -- Apple simply left Palm in the dust, unable to compete -- it is Mackey who has to call Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the Napoleon of this little morality play, boss. The similarities go deeper, though: both Colligan and Mackey made the same analytical mistakes: they mis-understood their opponents' goals, strategies, and tactics.
Government

198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak (zdnet.com) 119

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.
Businesses

Amazon Plans Cuts to Shed Whole Foods' Pricey Image (bloomberg.com) 311

When Amazon completes its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will try to keep the grocer's reputation for premium fresh foods while cutting prices to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image. From a report: Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. Amazon, known for its competitive prices, is trying to attract more low- and middle-income shoppers with its grocery push. The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients.
Movies

Studio-Defying VidAngel Launches New Video-Filtering Platform (yahoo.com) 201

Last December VidAngel fought three Hollywood studios in court for the right to stream filtered versions of movies. Now fogez reports that "they have come up with a new tactic in their attempts to bring filtering choice into the streaming media equation. Instead of leveraging the legal loophole that landed them in court, VidAngel is now going to insert themselves as a filtering proxy for services like Netflix and Amazon." From the Hollywood Reporter: Its new $7.99 per month service piggybacks on users' streaming accounts. Customers log into the VidAngel app, link it to their other accounts and then filter out the language, nudity and violence in that content to their heart's desire... "Out of the gate we'll be supporting Netflix and Amazon and HBO through Amazon channels," says Harmon, adding that Hulu, iTunes and Vudu will follow... Harmon says it remains to be seen if the studios will fight VidAngel's new platform, but his biggest concern is how Amazon and Netflix will respond. He says his company has reached out to the streamers, and he hopes they'll raise any concerns through conversation instead of litigation... "VidAngel's philosophy is very libertarian," he says. "Let directors create what they want, and let viewers watch how they want in their own home. That kind of philosophy respects the views of both parties."
The original submission describes the conflict as a "freedom of choice versus Hollywood."
Classic Games (Games)

Original Colossal Cave Adventure Now Playable On Alexa (amazon.com) 36

Last month Eric Raymond announced the open sourcing of the world's very first text adventure. Now Slashdot reader teri1337 brings news about their own special project: A few old-timers here may recall with fond memories the phrase "Somewhere nearby is Colossal Cave..." Well, a voice-playable version of Colossal Cave "Adventure" is now available on Amazon Echo devices as a [free] Alexa Skill. This is a port of the original 1976 text adventure game written by Willie Crowther and Don Woods, which started the interactive fiction genre and led to later games like Infocom's Zork. This version was written from scratch as an AWS Lamda function incorporating the original 350-point game database, and made available with permission from Don Woods.
Businesses

Amazon Says It Won't Replace Whole Foods Cashiers With Computers... Yet (cnbc.com) 109

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain. It also isn't planning any layoffs, according to a spokesperson. There is some speculation, however, that Amazon may change its plans and use new technology inside of Whole Foods locations. Commenting on Amazon's announcement from earlier today, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said, "Only one company on earth can buy grocery chain, be rumored to buy enterprise software company & in both cases be lauded for strategic vision."
Businesses

Amazon To Buy Whole Foods Market For $13.7 Billion (usatoday.com) 197

Amazon said Friday it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion as the giant internet retailer makes a deeper push into the grocery space. From a report: Amazon has dabbled in brick-and-mortar operations, experimenting with a bookstore that opened in New York last month and plans to open "no-checkout" convenience stores. But the Whole Foods acquisition represents a dramatic departure from its early business model founded on online retailing and related technology. Grocery retail is a notoriously thin-profit-margin business. And Whole Foods -- often derided as "Whole Paycheck" -- has struggled in recent years to keep up with emerging competitors that are expanding nationwide with cheaper items. Traditional grocery stores have also widened their organic food selections in hopes of retaining customers who are increasingly looking to eat healthily.
Patents

Amazon Granted a Patent That Prevents In-Store Shoppers From Online Price Checking (theverge.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Amazon's long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon's own stores. The patent, titled "Physical Store Online Shopping Control," details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways. The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you're trying to access a competitor's website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what's offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright. Amazon's patent also lets the retailer know your physical whereabouts, saying, "the location may be triangulated utilizing information received from a multitude of wireless access points." The retailer can then use this information to try and upsell you on items in your immediate area or direct a sales representative to your location.
Businesses

Team Collaboration App Slack, Valued at $9 Billion, Draws Attention of Amazon (bloomberg.com) 79

Amazon is in the running among a handful of companies looking to acquire the popular chatroom startup, reports Bloomberg. From the article: San Francisco-based Slack could be valued at at least $9 billion in a sale, the people said. An agreement isn't assured and discussions may not go further, said the people. Buying Slack would help Seattle-based Amazon bolster its enterprise services as it seeks to compete with rivals like Microsoft and Alphabet's Google. The company's cloud-hosting unit, Amazon Web Services, in February unveiled a paid-for video and audio conferencing service -- Amazon Chime -- that lets users chat and share content. Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode: Slack, the popular business communications company, is in the midst of raising $500 million at a $5 billion post-money valuation, an effort that has attracted several potential buyers interested in taking out the company ahead of the funding. Those include Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, several of which have previously shown interest in acquiring Slack. Bloomberg reported the interest by Amazon today, with a $9 billion sales price.
Businesses

Netflix Changes Course, Says It Will 'Never Outgrow' Fight For Net Neutrality (vice.com) 107

After a few months of wishy-washy statements on net neutrality indicating that the company had largely given up on it, Netflix is changing course. From a report: On July 12, the video streaming company will join Amazon, Reddit, Pornhub, Imgur, and more to incorporate slowed-down or disrupted service to raise awareness for the importance of strong net neutrality guidelines, giving visitors to its site a taste of what a future without a free and open internet could look like. The protest, organized by Fight for the Future, freepress, and Demand Progress, takes place five days before the first deadline for comments on the FCC's proposal to roll back net neutrality protections. The change in heart comes days after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, "[Net neutrality is] not narrowly important to us because we're big enough to get the deals we want."
AI

Facebook Built an AI System That Learned To Lie To Get What It Wants (qz.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Humans are natural negotiators. We arrange dozens of tiny little details throughout our day to produce a desired outcome: What time a meeting should start, when you can take time off work, or how many cookies you can take from the cookie jar. Machines typically don't share that affinity, but new research from Facebook's AI research lab might offer a starting point to change that. The new system learned to negotiate from looking at each side of 5,808 human conversations, setting the groundwork for bots that could schedule meetings or get you the best deal online. Facebook researchers used a game to help the bot learn how to haggle over books, hats, and basketballs. Each object had a point value, and they needed to be split between each bot negotiator via text. From the human conversations (gathered via Amazon Mechanical Turk), and testing its skills against itself, the AI system didn't only learn how to state its demands, but negotiation tactics as well -- specifically, lying. Instead of outright saying what it wanted, sometimes the AI would feign interest in a worthless object, only to later concede it for something that it really wanted. Facebook isn't sure whether it learned from the human hagglers or whether it stumbled upon the trick accidentally, but either way when the tactic worked, it was rewarded.

Slashdot Top Deals