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Businesses

Amazon Might Be Planning To Use Driverless Cars for Delivery (fortune.com) 24

Amazon could be eyeing driverless car technology as a way to get items to people's doors faster, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. From an article: It seems nearly every tech and auto giant are now evaluating autonomous vehicle technology. Google-owner Alphabet recently spun out its self-driving car unit, Waymo, into its own subsidiary. Apple was just granted a license in California to test autonomous vehicles. Ford and General Motors are also doubling down on creating autonomous vehicles. Amazon's ambitions, however, may not be to actually build these cars. Instead, the e-commerce giant has a team of around a dozen employees thinking of ways to potentially use the nascent technology to expand its own retail and logistics operations. Operating fleets of driverless trucks to ship items bought from its marketplace could help lower costs for the company.
Transportation

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car (theverge.com) 100

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Google co-founder Larry Page had put money in two "flying car" companies. One of those companies, Kitty Hawk, has published the first video of its prototype aircraft. From a report on The Verge: The company describes the Kitty Hawk Flyer as an "all-electric aircraft" that is designed to operate over water and doesn't require a pilot's license to fly. Kitty Hawk promises people will be able to learn to fly the Flyer "in minutes." A consumer version will be available by the end of this year, the company says. The video is part commercial and part test footage, starting with a lakeside conversation between friends about using the Flyer to meet up before switching to what The New York Times says are shots of an aerospace engineer operating the craft in Northern California.
AI

Billionaire Jack Ma Says CEOs Could Be Robots in 30 Years, Warns of Decades of 'Pain' From AI (cnbc.com) 153

Self-made billionaire, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma warned on Monday that society could see decades of pain thanks to disruption caused by the internet and new technologies to different areas of the economy. From a report: In a speech at a China Entrepreneur Club event, the billionaire urged governments to bring in education reform and outlined how humans need to work with machines. "In the coming 30 years, the world's pain will be much more than happiness, because there are many more problems that we have come across," Ma said in Chinese, speaking about potential job disruptions caused by technology. [...] Ma also spoke about the rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and said that this technology will be needed to process the large amount of data being generated today, something that a human brain can't do. But machines shouldn't replace what humans can do, Ma said, but instead the technology community needs to look at making machines do what humans cannot. This would make the machine a "human partner" rather than an opponent.
Businesses

Amazon Launches Marketplace For Digital Subscriptions (talkingnewmedia.com) 6

Amazon said on Monday it is launching a platform for companies with subscription services -- from newspapers, magazines to TV streaming. The "Subscribe with Amazon" marketplace allows consumers to buy subscriptions to products like SlingTV streaming, Headspace meditation, Dropbox Plus, as well as workout videos, online classes, meal plans and even matchmakers. The marketplace also features more traditional subscriptions, similar to those that have become popular on Amazon's Kindle tablets, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and New Yorker.
Businesses

Unroll.me 'Heartbroken' After Being Caught Selling User Data To Uber (cnet.com) 76

The chief executive of email unsubscription service Unroll.me has said he is "heartbroken" that users felt betrayed by the fact that his company monetises the contents of their inbox by selling their data to companies such as Uber. Over the weekend, The New York Times published a profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, in which, among other things, it reported that following an acquisition by shopping app Slice in 2014, Unroll.me developed a side-business: selling aggregated data about users to the very apps they were unsubscribing from. Uber was one of Slice's big data arm Slice Intelligence's customers. CNET adds: While Unroll.me did not specifically admit to selling data to Uber, it has apologised for not being "explicit enough" in explaining how its free service worked. "It was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service," CEO Jojo Hedaya said on the Unroll.me blog. While reiterating that "all data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only," Hedaya admitted, "we need to do better for our users" by offering clearer information on its website.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 130

Many Slashdot readers know Bryan Lunduke as the creator of the humorous "Linux Sucks" presentations at the annual Southern California Linux Exposition. He's now also a member of the OpenSUSE project board and an all-around open source guy. (In September, he released every one of his books, videos and comics under a Creative Commons license, while his Patreon page offers a tip jar and premiums for monthly patrons). But now he's also got a new "daily computing/nerd show" on YouTube, and last week -- using nothing but free software -- he interviewed the 64-year-old founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. "We talk about everything from the W3C's stance on DRM to opinions on the movie Galaxy Quest," Lunduke explains in the show's notes.

Click through to read some of the highlights.
Businesses

Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple (cnbc.com) 108

theodp quotes today's New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick: For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple's privacy guidelines.
Uber told TechCrunch this afternoon that it still uses a form of this device fingerprinting, saying they need a way to identify those devices which committed fraud in the past -- especially in China, where Uber drivers used stolen iPhones to request dozens of rides from themselves to increase their pay rate. It's been modified to comply with Apple's rules, and "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app..." an Uber spokesperson said. "Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."

The article offers a longer biography of Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to start a peer-to-peer music-sharing service named Scour. (The service eventually declared bankruptcy after being sued for $250 billion for alleged copyright infringement.) Desperately trying to save his next company, Kalanick "took the tax dollars from employee paychecks -- which are supposed to be withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service," according to the Times, "and reinvested the money into the start-up, even as friends and advisers warned him the action was potentially illegal." The money eventually reached the IRS as he "staved off bankruptcy for a second time by raising another round of funding." But the article ultimately argues that Kalanick's drive to win in life "has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion."
Businesses

Steve Case On How To Get Funded Outside Tech Corridors (hpe.com) 35

Long-time reader Esther Schindler writes: Innovation occurs outside the Bay Area, New York, Boston, and Austin. So why is it so hard for a startup to get attention and acquire venture capital? Steve Case and Kara Swisher discussed this never-ending-topic recently, such as the fact 78% of U.S. venture capital last year went to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. Case sees a "third wave" of venture capital funding and through his VC firm is investing in startups based outside major tech centers.

But, points out Stealthmode's Francine Hardaway, if you're in Boise or Baltimore you don't have to wait for Case to come to town. She shares advice about what's worked in other startup communities, focusing on the #YesPhx efforts.

Conventional wisdom says you should be in a major tech center to get funding, but the article offers an encouraging counterargument. "Never rely on conventional wisdom if you're an innovator. Money follows real innovation."
Security

Teenage Hackers Motivated By Morality Not Money, Study Finds (theguardian.com) 74

Teenage hackers are motivated by idealism and impressing their mates rather than money, according to a study by the National Crime Agency. From a report: The law enforcement organisation interviewed teenagers and children as young as 12 who had been arrested or cautioned for computer-based crimes. It found that those interviewed, who had an average age of 17, were unlikely to be involved in theft, fraud or harassment. Instead they saw hacking as a "moral crusade", said Paul Hoare, senior manager at the NCA's cybercrime unit, who led the research. Others were motivated by a desire to tackle technical problems and prove themselves to friends, the report found. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Hoare said: "They don't understand the implications on business, government websites and individuals."
Google

In The First Months of Trump Era, Facebook And Apple Spent More On Lobbying Than They Ever Have (buzzfeed.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a report: According to federal lobbying disclosures filed Thursday, Facebook and Apple set their all-time record high for spending in a single quarter. Facebook spent $3.2 million lobbying the federal government in the first months of the Trump era. During the same period last year, Facebook spent $2.8 million (about 15% less). The company lobbied both chambers of Congress, the White House, and six federal agencies on issues including high-tech worker visas, network neutrality, internet privacy, encryption, and international taxation. Facebook was the 12th-highest spender out of any company and second-highest in tech. [...] Apple spent $1.4 million, which is just $50,000 more than during the final months of the Obama presidency, when it set its previous record, but the most it has ever spent in a single quarter. Apple lobbied on issues including government requests for data, the regulation of mobile health apps, and self-driving cars. Google, once again, outspent every other technology company. It was 10th overall, tallying $3.5 million.
The Internet

Trump's FCC Votes To Allow Broadband Rate Hikes Will Deprive More Public Schools From Getting Internet Access (theoutline.com) 256

The FCC voted on Thursday to approve a controversial plan to deregulate the $45 billion market for business-to-business broadband, also known as Business Data Services (BDS), by eliminating price caps that make internet access more affordable for thousands of small businesses, schools, libraries and hospitals. The Outline adds: The price caps were designed to keep phone and, later, broadband, access cheap for community institutions like schools, hospitals, libraries, and small businesses. Now, there will be no limit. A spokesperson for the trade association Incompas, which advocates for competition among communications providers, told The Outline that the increase is expected to be at least 25 percent across the board. Low-income schools already don't have enough money; according to a report last year in The Atlantic, schools in high-poverty districts, where the property taxes are lower, spend 15.6 percent less per student than schools in low-poverty districts. If internet costs go up by 25 percent, it may make more sense to cut that budget item, or, for schools that still don't have internet, never add it at all. Add it to the list of things that well-funded schools in already-rich neighborhoods get that schools in low-income neighborhoods don't. New textbooks. Gyms. Advanced Placement classes that let students earn college credits. Computers. Internet access.
The Almighty Buck

CEO of Silicon Valley's $400 Juicer Promises Refunds After Hand-Squeezing Demonstration (techcrunch.com) 146

Anthony Ha writes via TechCrunch: Jeff Dunn, the former Coca-Cola executive who became CEO of Juicero last year, has responded to a wave of coverage suggesting that the company's juice press isn't all that was promised -- and he's offering dissatisfied customers their money back. A Bloomberg report showed that Juicero's packs could be squeezed by hand, no expensive juicer required. Dunn's response? He doesn't deny that hand-squeezing is a very real possibility, but he does quibble about what you'll find inside, saying it's "nothing but fresh, raw, organic chopped produce" -- see, it's not juice yet because it hasn't been pressed. "What you will get with hand-squeezed hacks is a mediocre (and maybe very messy) experience that you won't want to repeat once, let alone every day," he argued. More importantly, he said, "The value of Juicero is more than a glass of cold-pressed juice. Much more." At the beginning of his post, Dunn said his goal was to "demonstrate the incredible value we know our connected system delivers." And if you're not convinced this is worth $400, well, there's another option for disillusioned Juicero buyers -- Dunn said the company's "Happiness Guarantee" (i.e. its return policy) has been extended to cover anyone who's ever purchased a Juicero Press. So for the next 30 days, anyone who's bought a Press should be able to return it for a full refund.
Businesses

Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down (theverge.com) 168

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.
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."
Network

The Biggest Time Suck at the Office Might Be Your Computer (bloomberg.com) 168

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.
Software

95% Engineers in India Unfit For Software Development Jobs: Report (gadgetsnow.com) 437

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

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.
Education

States Are Moving To Cut College Costs By Introducing Open-Source Textbooks (qz.com) 123

In an effort to curb the rising cost of textbooks, which went up by 88% between 2006 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland and New York have announced initiatives that adopt open-source, copyright-free textbooks. The initiatives will reward colleges who adapt or scale the use of OER (open educational resources) -- "materials like electronic textbooks that typically use licenses that are far less restrictive than traditional, copyrighted textbooks," reports Quartz. From the report: The University System of Maryland recently announced that it would be giving out 21 "mini-grants" to seven community colleges and five public four-year schools. The grants will go to "faculty who are adopting, adapting or scaling the use of OER [open educational resources] in Fall 2017 through high-enrollment courses where quality OER exists," according to the announcement. Although the mini-grants are only $500 to $2,500 each, the effort in Maryland is expected to save 8,000 students up to $1.3 million in the Fall 2017 semester alone. That's a significant amount, but just a drop in the bucket of what students in the state spend on textbooks each year. Another big investment in open educational resources came in the budget passed in New York state last week. The news was somewhat buried by the fact that the budget includes free tuition for New York students whose families make up to $125,000 a year, but the state will also be putting $8 million into open source materials over the next fiscal year.
The Courts

Tesla Settles Lawsuit Against Former Autopilot Program Director Accused of Stealing Info, Engineers (electrek.co) 40

Earlier this year, Tesla filed a lawsuit against its former director of Autopilot Programs, Sterling Anderson, for stealing proprietary information about the Autopilot program and recruiting fellow Tesla engineers to work with him at Aurora Innovation, another autonomous driving company. According to Electrek, "the lawsuit was settled today with Tesla withdrawing their allegations without damages and Aurora agreeing to make itself available for an audit by a third-party to make sure they don't have proprietary information from Tesla's Autopilot program." From the report: Aurora also agreed to cover the cost of the audit for up to $100,000. The startup claims that it had already ordered its own audit, which found âoeno material Tesla confidential information." As for the allegations of poaching employees, Aurora has agreed not to reach out to Tesla employees for a year and to release the names of former Tesla employees who have joined the startup already. You can read Auroraâ(TM)s statement about the settlement in full here and Teslaâ(TM)s further down below: âoeSelf-driving vehicles will save lives, preserve resources, and make transportation more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Aurora was founded on the premise that experience, innovative thinking, hard work, and a commitment to doing the right thing can accelerate this future..."
Businesses

Silicon Valley's $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze (bloomberg.com) 351

An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg report: One of the most lavishly funded gadget startups in Silicon Valley last year was Juicero Inc. It makes a juice machine. The product was an unlikely pick for top technology investors, but they were drawn to the idea of an internet-connected device that transforms single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a refreshing and healthy beverage. Doug Evans, the company's founder, would compare himself with Steve Jobs in his pursuit of juicing perfection. He declared that his juice press wields four tons of force -- "enough to lift two Teslas," he said. Google's venture capital arm and other backers poured about $120 million into the startup. Juicero sells the machine for $400, plus the cost of individual juice packs delivered weekly. But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands. Two backers said the final device was bulkier than what was originally pitched and that they were puzzled to find that customers could achieve similar results without it.

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