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Hotel CEO Openly Celebrates Higher Prices After Anti-Airbnb Law Passes (

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: A hotel executive said a recently-passed New York law cracking down on Airbnb hosts will enable the company to raise prices for New York City hotel rooms, according to the transcript of the executive's words on a call with shareholders last week. The law, signed by New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, slaps anyone who lists their apartment on a short-term rental site with a fine up to $7,500. It "should be a big boost in the arm for the business," Mike Barnello, chief executive of the hotel chain LaSalle Hotel Properties, said of the law last Thursday, "certainly in terms of the pricing." Barnello's comment adds fuel the argument, made repeatedly by Airbnb and its proponents, that a law that was passed in the name of affordable housing also allows established hotels to raises prices for consumers. It was included in a memo written by Airbnb's head of global policy, Chris Lehane, to the Internet Association, a tech trade group, reviewed by the Washington Post. LaSalle, a Bethesda, MD-based chain, owns hotels around the country, including New York City. The memo is the latest volley in a bitter fight that has pit the hotel industry, unions, and affordable housing advocates against Airbnb and its supporters. At the heart of the fight is a debate over the societal value of the Airbnb platform and its role in the economy of cities throughout the world. The question is whether Airbnb has been a net benefit, by enabling middle class city-dwellers to make extra money by renting out their homes, or whether it has had the unintended consequence of exacerbating affordable housing crises in expensive cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
The Almighty Buck

Rich People Pay Less Attention To Other People, Says Study ( 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a small recent study, researchers from New York University found that those who considered themselves in higher classes looked at people who walked past them less than those who said they were in a lower class did. The results were published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science. According to Pia Dietze, a social psychology doctoral student at NYU and a lead author of the study, previous research has shown that people from different social classes vary in how they tend to behave towards other people. So, she wanted to shed some light on where such behaviors could have originated. The research was divided into three separate studies. For the first, Dietze and NYU psychology lab director Professor Eric Knowles asked 61 volunteers to walk along the street for one block while wearing Google Glass to record everything they looked at. These people were also asked to identify themselves as from a particular social class: either poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, or upper class. An independent group watched the recordings and made note of the various people and things each Glass wearer looked at and for how long. The results showed that class identification, or what class each person said they belonged to, had an impact on how long they looked at the people who walked past them. During Study 2, participants viewed street scenes while the team tracked their eye movements. Again, higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. For the third and final study, the results suggested that this difference could stem from the way the brain works, rather than being a deliberate decision. Close to 400 participants took part in an online test where they had to look at alternating pairs of images, each containing a different face and five objects. Whereas higher class participants took longer to notice when the face was different in the alternate image compared to lower classes, the amount of time it took to detect the change of objects did not differ between them. The team reached the conclusion that faces seem to be more effective in grabbing the attention of individuals who come from relatively lower class backgrounds.

Tesla Posts Second Profitable Quarter Ever ( 78

anderzole writes from a report via BGR: Tesla on Wednesday posted its earnings report for the quarter gone by and investors will have a lot to cheer about. While analysts on Wall St. were expecting Tesla to post a loss, Tesla during its September quarter actually posted a profit, and an impressive profit at that. When the dust settled, Tesla posted a quarterly profit of $22 million and EPS of $0.71. Revenue for the quarter checked in at $2.3 billion. Illustrating how impressive Tesla's performance was this past quarter, Wall St. was anticipating Tesla to post a loss amid $1.9 billion in revenue for the quarter. As far as deliveries are concerned, Tesla during the quarter boasted that it achieved record vehicle production, deliveries and revenue. More importantly, Tesla reaffirmed via a shareholder letter that the Model 3 is still on track for a late 2017 release. You can read Tesla's shareholder letter here.

176 Original Emojis Join Van Gogh and Picasso At Museum of Modern Art ( 20

If you happen to walk through the Museum of Modern Art in New York between December to March of next year, you may see 176 emoji on display next to Van Gogh and Picasso. On Wednesday, the museum announced that Shigetaka Kurita's original pictographs would be added to its collection. Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly two decades ago, Shigetaka Kurita was given the task of designing simple pictographs that could replace Japanese words for the growing number of cellphone users communicating with text messages. Kurita, who was working for the Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo at the time, came up with 176 of them, including oddities like a rocking horse, two kinds of umbrellas (one open, one closed) and five different phases of the moon. He called them emojis. An estimated 74% of Americans now use emojis every day, nudging the written word to the side in favor of a medium that can succinctly and playfully convey emotions in a society often more adept at texting than talking. That marriage of design and utility prompted the art world to take notice. Museum officials say emojis are the modern-day answer to an age-old tradition of communicating with pictures. "Emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history," said Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at MoMA. "There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these."

Comcast Sues Nashville To Halt Rules That Give Google Fiber Faster Access To Utility Poles ( 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday sued the Nashville metro government and mayor to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. Comcast's complaint in U.S. District Court in Nashville (full text) is similar to one already filed by AT&T last month. Both ISPs are trying to invalidate a One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. The ordinance was passed largely to benefit Google Fiber, which is offering service in Nashville but says that it hasn't been able to deploy faster because it is waiting to get access to thousands of poles. Nearly all the Nashville utility poles are owned either by the municipal Nashville Electric Service or AT&T. Because Comcast has wires on many of the poles, it has some control over how quickly Google Fiber can expand its network. When Google Fiber wants to attach wires to a new pole, it needs to wait for ISPs like Comcast to move their wires to make room for Google Fiber's. The Nashville One Touch Make Ready ordinance "permits third parties to move, alter, or rearrange components of Comcast's communications network attached to utility poles without Comcast's consent, authorization, or oversight, and with far less notice than is required by federal law and by an existing Comcast contract with Metro Nashville," Comcast's complaint said. Comcast asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid and permanently enjoin Nashville from enforcing it. The pre-existing Make Ready process "seek[s] to ensure that all providers can share available pole space cooperatively and safely, without interfering with or damaging any provider's equipment or services," Comcast said. The new procedures mandated by Nashville "are so intrusive that, tellingly, Metro Nashville has wholly exempted its own utility pole attachments from the Ordinance's coverage." Even though Google Fiber announced yesterday that it will pause operations and cut 9% of its staff, the ISP said it would continue operations in Nashville.

Verizon Says Yahoo Name Isn't Going Away ( 22

Verizon is treading carefully with Yahoo, but still wants to seal the deal. From a CNET report: "The deal makes strategic sense," said Marni Walden, the executive vice president of business innovation for Verizon and the person who pushed for the acquisition. "We won't jump off of a cliff blindly." She continues to believe there's value in the Yahoo name, noting that it won't go away if Verizon completes its acquisition. Brands like Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Finance still draw plenty of eyeballs, and offer the kind of audience that Verizon and AOL lack, she said during a keynote session at The Wall Street Journal Digital conference on Wednesday. Her comments come just weeks after Yahoo disclosed a 2014 breach exposed at least 500 million accounts, making it the worst hack in history. Shortly after, reports found that Yahoo had participated in a government program to sniff user emails, further eroding trust. Verizon said this all had the potential to cause a "material impact" to the deal, which could mean Yahoo takes a reduced price or the deal falls through altogether.

Dyn DNS DDoS Likely The Work of Script Kiddies, Says FlashPoint ( 74

While nobody knows exactly who was responsible for the internet outrage last Friday, business risk intelligence firm FlashPoint released a preliminary analysis of the attack agains Dyn DNS, and found that it was likely the work of "script kiddies" or amateur hackers -- as opposed to state-sponsored actors. TechCrunch reports: Aside from suspicion falling on Russia, various entities have also claimed or implied responsibility for the attack, including a hacking group called the New World Hackers and -- bizarrely -- WikiLeaks, which put a (perhaps joke) tweet suggesting some of its supporters might be involved. FlashPoint dubs these claims "dubious" and "likely to be false," and instead comes down on the side of the script kidding theory. Its reasoning is based on a few factors, including a detail it unearthed during its investigation of the attack: namely that the infrastructure used in the attack also targeted a well-known video game company. The attack on Dyn DNS was powered in part by a botnet of hacked DVRs and webcams known as Mirai. The source code for the malware that controls this botnet was put on Github earlier this month. And FlashPoint also notes that the hacker who released Mirai is known to frequent a hacking forum called hackforums[.]net. That circumstantial evidence points to a link between the attack and users and readers of the English-language hacking community, with FlashPoint also noting the forum has been known to target video games companies. It says it has "moderate confidence" about this theory. The firm also argues that the attacks do not seem to have been financially or politically motivated -- given the broad scope of the targets, and the lack of any attempts to extort money. Which just leaves the most likely being motivation to show off skills and disrupt stuff. Aka, script kiddies.

Google Fiber Pauses Operations, CEO Leaves, and About 9 Percent of Staff Is Being Let Go ( 191

The future of Google Fiber has been shaky ever since Google's parent company, Alphabet, was founded. The original plan was to expand Fiber's blazing fast internet service to more than 20 cities, with the goal of eventually delivering nationwide gigabit service. However, Alphabet hit the reset button on those plans Tuesday. Not only is Google Fiber CEO Craig Barratt leaving, but about 9 percent of staff is being let go. That translates to about 130 job losses, since the business has about 1,500 employees. Bloomberg reports: Barratt wrote in a blog post that the company is pulling back fiber-to-the-home service from eight different cities where it had announced plans. Those include major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Moving into big cities was a contentious point inside Google Fiber, according to one former executive. Leaders like Barratt and Dennis Kish, who runs Google Fiber day-to-day, pushed for the big expansion. Others pushed back because of the prohibitive cost of digging up streets to lay fiber-optic cables across some of America's busiest cities. "I suspect the sheer economics of broad scale access deployments finally became too much for them," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. "Ultimately, most of the reasons Google got into this in the first place have either been achieved or been demonstrated to be unrealistic."

Apple's Annual Sales Fall For First Time Since 2001 ( 214

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Apple just posted its first annual sales decline since 2001, the year it launched the iPod and kicked off a tremendous run of groundbreaking products. The tech company revealed Tuesday that annual sales fell to $216 billion in the 2016 fiscal year ending September 30, from a record $234 billion in 2015. The sales decline is closely connected to the falling sales for the iPhone, which remains Apple's largest source of revenue. Apple sold 45.5 million iPhones in the September quarter, down from 48 million iPhones in the same quarter a year earlier. That marks the third consecutive quarter when iPhone sales and overall revenue have declined from a year prior. Many analysts have raised concerns that the global smartphone market is saturated. Customers are taking longer to replace their phones. And Apple's latest iPhone is a dead ringer for the previous two models, eliminating some of the desire to upgrade. The good news is that this sales decline may prove to be a blip and not the new norm. Apple is projecting that it will post sales of $76 billion to $78 billion in the upcoming quarter, up from $74.8 billion a year earlier.

The Phone Hackers At Cellebrite Have Had Their Firmware Leaked Online ( 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Cellebrite, an Israeli company that specializes in digital forensics, has dominated the market in helping law enforcement access mobile phones. But one apparent reseller of the company's products is publicly distributing copies of Cellebrite firmware and software for anyone to download. Although Cellebrite keeps it most sensitive capabilities in-house, the leak may still give researchers, or competitors, a chance to figure out how Cellebrite breaks into and analyzes phones by reverse-engineering the files. The apparent reseller distributing the files is McSira Professional Solutions, which, according to its website, "is pleased to serve police, military and security agencies in the E.U. And [sic] in other parts of the world." McSira is hosting software for various versions of Cellebrite's Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED), hardware that investigators can use to bypass the security mechanisms of phones, and then extract data from them. McSira allows anyone to download firmware for the UFED Touch, and a PC version called UFED 4PC. It is also hosting pieces of Cellebrite forensic software, such as the UFED Cloud Analyzer. This allows investigators to further scrutinize seized data. McSira is likely offering downloads so customers can update their hardware to the latest version with as little fuss as possible. But it may be possible for researchers to take those files, reverse-engineer them, and gain insight into how Cellebrite's tools work. That may include what sort of exploits Cellebrite uses to bypass the security mechanisms of mobile phones, and weaknesses in the implementation of consumer phones that could be fixed, according to one researcher who has started to examine the files, but was not authorised by his employer to speak to the press about this issue.

Samsung is Hoping To Rekindle Note Brand Name Next Year ( 85

Samsung is stepping up its brand damage limitation efforts in the wake of the flaming battery disaster of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone by offering owners of the recalled device in South Korea the ability to upgrade to a Galaxy S8 or Note 8 device next year if they trade in their Note 7 for a Galaxy S7 now. TechCrunch adds:The offer implies Samsung is not in fact intending to retire the Note brand name for good, despite it now being associated with smoldering batteries and exploding smartphones. A cause for the battery overheating problem, which affected some replacement Note 7 devices as well as a number of original devices, has yet to be conclusively identified by the company. Users in its home country who opt for the upgrade program will only need to pay half the price of a Galaxy S7 in order to exchange to an S8 or Note 8 next year -- so they're being offered next year's flagship Samsung phablet at around half price. The company is presumably hoping brand loyalty to the Note can begin at home, although it's possible it might extent the offer to other markets.

Uber's Self-Driving Truck Went on a 120-Mile Beer Run To Make History ( 244

An anonymous reader writes: In the arms race to build self-driving vehicles, Uber-owned Otto just reached a landmark milestone by completing the first-ever commercial cargo run for a self-driving truck. On October 20, the self-driving truck left Fort Collins, Colorado at 1 a.m. and drove itself 120 miles on I-25 to Colorado Springs. The driver, who has to be there to help the truck get on and off the interstate exit ramps, moved to the backseat alongside a crowd of transportation officials to watch the historic ride. 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer filled the trailer. "We're just thrilled. We do think this is the future of transportation," James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch, told Business Insider.

Satya Nadella: 'We Clearly Missed the Mobile Phone' ( 239

At the Wall Street Journal's WSJD Live conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella admitted that Microsoft has largely failed in making a dent in the mobile hardware business. Nadella, who took over the command of Microsoft from Steve Ballmer in February 2014, however added that the company is now focused on doing well in new categories and also building new categories. He said:We clearly missed the mobile phone, there's no question. Our goal now is to make sure we grow new categories. We have devices which are phones today but the place where we are focused on, given where the market is, is what is the unique thing that our phone can do. We have a phone that in fact can replace your PC, the same way we have a tablet that can replace your laptop. Those are the categories that we want to go create. If anything, the lesson learned for us, was thinking of PC as the hub for all things for all time to come. It was perhaps one for the bigger mistakes we made.

Latest WikiLeaks Reveal Suggests Facebook Is Too Close For Comfort With Clinton ( 420

MojoKid writes: As we quickly approach the November 8th elections, email leaks from the Clinton camp continue to loom over the presidential candidate. The latest data dump from WikiLeaks shines a light on emails between Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, John Podesta and Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg. In one email exchange, dated June 6th, 2015, Sandberg expresses her desire for Clinton to become president, writing to Podesta, "And I still want HRC to win badly. I am still here to help as I can." While that was a private exchange, Sandberg also made her zest for seeing Clinton as the 45th President of the United States publicly known in a Facebook post on July 28th of this year. None of that is too shocking when you think about it. Sandberg has every right to endorse whichever candidate she wants for president. However, a later exchange between Sandberg and Podesta showed that Mark Zuckerberg was looking to get in on the action a bit, and perhaps curry favor with Podesta and the Clinton camp in shaping public policy. Donald Trump has long claimed that Clinton is too cozy with big businesses, and one cannot dismiss the fact that Facebook has a global user base of 1.7 billion users. When you toss in the fact that Facebook came under fire earlier this year for allegedly suppressing conservative news outlets in the Trending News bar, questions begin to arise about Facebook's impartiality in the political race. The report also notes that Sandberg is at the top of the list when it comes to picks for Treasury Secretary, if Clinton wins the election. In an interview with Politico, David Segal, executive director for Demand Progress, said "[Sandberg] is a proxy for this growing problem that is the hegemony of five to ten major Silicon Valley platforms." Lina Khan, a fellow with the Open Markets Program at the New American think tank adds: "If a senior Cabinet member is from Facebook, at worst it could directly interfere [in antitrust actions]. But even in the best of cases there's a real worry that it will have a chilling effect on good-faith antitrust efforts to scrutinize potential anti-competitive implications of dominant tech platforms."

Twitter Plans To Cut About 300 Jobs As Soon As This Week: Bloomberg ( 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Twitter Inc. is planning widespread job cuts, to be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter. The company may cut about 8 percent of the workforce, or about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, the people said. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. An announcement about the job reductions may come before Twitter releases third-quarter earnings on Thursday, one of the people said. Twitter, which loses money, is trying to control spending as sales growth slows. The company recently hired bankers to explore a sale, but the companies that had expressed interest in bidding -- Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Alphabet Inc. -- later backed out from the process. Twitter's losses and 40 percent fall in its share price the past 12 months have made it more difficult for the company to pay its engineers with stock. That has made it harder for Twitter to compete for talent with giant rivals like Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc. Reducing employee numbers would relieve some of this pressure.

People Like Netflix's Original Content More Than Its Other Content: AllFlicks ( 77

According to a study by IHS Markit this month, in the last two years Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion. The company has invested big in original programming -- and it looks to be paying off. The folks over at AllFlicks have found that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to that of its syndicated content. AllFlicks reports: Netflix user ratings show that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to its syndicated content. Netflix originals sport an average rating of 3.85 stars out of five; all other content averages 3.47 stars. That means that user ratings for Netflix originals are 11% higher, on average, than user ratings for syndicated content. Netflix does best in the documentaries category, where users rate non-original content, on average, at 3.54. Netflix's documentaries average 4.07 stars, a pretty impressive showing. Netflix's TV shows do the worst, but still edge their other TV show content by 5.7%. It's possible that the frequent reviewers among Netflix's user base differ from the user base as a whole, but there's not a lot of reason to doubt the raw data here. The Netflix originals and non-originals were both reviewed on the same service and using the same rating system, yet originals consistently outperformed the rest of the content.

Alibaba Founder To Chinese Government: Use Big Data To Stop Criminals ( 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma proposed that the nation's top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing the country's nascent effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of its billion-plus people. China's data capabilities are virtually unrivaled among its global peers, and policing cannot happen without the ability to analyze information on its citizens, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said in a speech published Saturday by the agency that polices crime and runs the courts. Ma's stance resonates with that of China's ruling body, which is establishing a system to collect and parse information on citizens in a country where minimal safeguards exist for privacy. "Bad guys in a movie are identifiable at first glance, but how can the ones in real life be found?" Ma said in his speech, which was posted on the official WeChat account of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs. "In the age of big data, we need to remember that our legal and security system with millions of members will also face change." In his speech, Ma stuck mainly to the issue of crime prevention. In Alibaba's hometown of Hangzhou alone, the number of surveillance cameras may already surpass that of New York's, Ma said. Humans can't handle the sheer amount of data amassed, which is where artificial intelligence comes in, he added. "The future legal and security system cannot be separated from the internet and big data," Ma said. Ma's speech also highlights the delicate relationship between Chinese web companies and the government. The ruling party has designated internet industry leaders as key targets for outreach, with President Xi Jinping saying in May last year that technology leaders should "demonstrate positive energy in purifying cyberspace."

New York Times Buys The Wirecutter For $30 Million ( 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old online consumer guide. The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction. Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media's Gizmodo, founded The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company's growth. The Wirecutter provides recommendations for electronics and other gadgets that are both obsessively researched and simply presented. The Wirecutter also owns The Sweethome, which takes the same approach for home appliances and other gear. "We're very excited about this acquisition on two fronts," said Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Company, in the acquisition release. "It's an impressively run business with a very attractive revenue model and its success is built on the foundation of great, rigorously reported service journalism." The Wirecutter tweeted earlier today: "Hey, we're still us. But we're a part of The New York Times now."

Microsoft Raises UK Cloud, Software Prices 22% After Brexit-Fuelled Pound Drop ( 214

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.

AT&T's $85B US Bid For Time Warner Sparks Antitrust Fears in Washington ( 115

An anonymous reader writes: The two top members of the Senate's antitrust subcommittee said Sunday that they plan to probe a colossal deal between AT&T and Time Warner. In a statement, Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. -- chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights -- said AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues" that the panel would "carefully examine." AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson announced the $85 billion deal Saturday as "a great fit" that will combine the "world's best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen." Among those new properties are HBO, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros., which would give them ownership of Cinemax, CNN and DC Comics, to name a few. Last year, AT&T completed the purchase of DirecTV, the country's largest satellite television provider. In an interview with NBC News, Klobuchar pointed to past mega-media acquisitions -- including the purchase of NBCUniversal by Comcast in 2011 and of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications -- and said the "sheer volume" of the deal should give regulators pause.Presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that he would not approve of this deal if elected as the President. In the meanwhile, Bernie Sanders have also asked Obama administration to kill this agreement. The Vermont Senator said, "The deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people,"

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