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The Internet

The Linux Foundation Launches IoT-focused Open Source EdgeX Foundry (betanews.com)

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, The Linux Foundation launches the open source EdgeX Foundry -- an attempt to unify and simplify the Internet of Things. The Linux Foundation says, "EdgeX Foundry is unifying the marketplace around a common open framework and building an ecosystem of companies offering interoperable plug-and-play components. Designed to run on any hardware or operating system and with any combination of application environments, EdgeX can quickly and easily deliver interoperability between connected devices, applications, and services, across a wide range of use cases. Interoperability between community-developed software will be maintained through a certification program."
Social Networks

Some of the Biggest Economies Aren't a Big User Of Social Media (axios.com) 13

From a report: Only 37 percent of Germans use social media, according to a new Pew survey, a surprising figure given the fact that Germany is the world's fourth-largest economy by GDP, according to the World Economic Forum. Similar patterns follow for Japan, France and Italy, ranked 3rd, 6th and 8th in largest economy by GDP.
Transportation

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car (theverge.com) 51

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) 96

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.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 115

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.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other? (bostonglobe.com) 232

Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony.
The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."
Businesses

Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple (cnbc.com) 105

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."
Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 85

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 89

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
The Internet

Should Archive.org Ignore Robots.txt Directives And Cache Everything? (archive.org) 168

Archive.org argues robots.txt files are geared toward search engines, and now plans instead to represent the web "as it really was, and is, from a user's perspective." We have also seen an upsurge of the use of robots.txt files to remove entire domains from search engines when they transition from a live web site into a parked domain, which has historically also removed the entire domain from view in the Wayback Machine... We receive inquiries and complaints on these "disappeared" sites almost daily."
In response, Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: We can stipulate at the outset that the venerable Internet Archive and its associated systems like Wayback Machine have done a lot of good for many years -- for example by providing chronological archives of websites who have chosen to participate in their efforts. But now, it appears that the Internet Archive has joined the dark side of the Internet, by announcing that they will no longer honor the access control requests of any websites.
He's wondering what will happen when "a flood of other players decide that they must emulate the Internet Archive's dismal reasoning to remain competitive," adding that if sys-admins start blocking spiders with web server configuration directives, other unrelated sites could become "collateral damage."

But BoingBoing is calling it "an excellent decision... a splendid reminder that nothing published on the web is ever meaningfully private, and will always go on your permanent record." So what do Slashdot's readers think? Should Archive.org ignore robots.txt directives and cache everything?
Microsoft

Microsoft Will Block Desktop 'Office' Apps From 'Office 365' Services In 2020 (techradar.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is still encouraging businesses to rent their Office software, according to TechRadar. "In a bid to further persuade users of the standalone versions of Office to shift over to a cloud subscription (Office 365), Microsoft has announced that those who made a one-off purchase of an Office product will no longer get access to the business flavours of OneDrive and Skype come the end of the decade." PC World explains that in reality this affects very few users. "If you've been saving all of your Excel spreadsheets into your OneDrive for Business cloud, you'll need to download and move them over to a personal subscription -- or pony up for Office 365, as Microsoft really wants you to do."

Microsoft is claiming that when customers connect to Office 365 services using a legacy version of Office, "they're not enjoying all that the service has to offer. The IT security and reliability benefits and end user experiences in the apps is limited to the features shipped at a point in time. To ensure that customers are getting the most out of their Office 365 subscription, we are updating our system requirements." And in another blog post, they're almost daring people to switch to Linux. "Providing over three years advance notice for this change to Office 365 system requirements for client connectivity gives you time to review your long-term desktop strategy, budget and plan for any change to your environment."

In a follow-up comment, Microsoft's Alistair Speirs explained that "There is still an option to get monthly desktop updates, but we are changing the 3x a year update channel to be 2x a year to align closer to Windows 10 update model. We are trying to strike the right balance between agile, ship-when-ready updates and enterprise needs of predictability, reliability and advanced notice to validate and prepare."
America Online

Verizon.net 'Gets Out Of The Email Business' (networkworld.com) 70

"We have decided to close down our email business," Verizon has announced -- in a move which affects 4.5 million accounts. Slashdot reader tomservo84 writes: Strangely enough, I didn't find out about this from Verizon, itself, but SiriusXM, who sent me an email saying that since I have a Verizon.net email address on file, I'd have to update it because they were getting rid of their email service. I thought it was a bad phishing attempt at first...
Network World reports that customers are being notified "on a rolling basis... Once customers are notified, they are presented with a personal take-action date that is 30 days from the original notification." But even after that date, verizon.net email addresses can be revived using AOL Mail. "Over the years we've realized that there are more capable email platforms out there," Verizon concedes.

"Migration is going well," a Verizon spokesperson told Network World. "I don't have any stats to share, but customers seem to appreciate that they have several choices, including an option that keeps their Verizon.net email address intact."
Transportation

Waymo Is Using Grand Theft Auto V To Help Teach Its Self-Driving Cars (bloomberg.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix... Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector. The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections...

The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team. Waymo uses its simulators to create a confounding motoring situation for every variation engineers can think of: having three cars changing lanes at the same time at an assortment of speeds and directions, for instance. What's learned virtually is applied physically, and problems encountered on the road are studied in simulation.

Open Source

Systemd-Free Devuan Announces Its First Stable Release Candidate 'Jessie' 1.0.0 (devuan.org) 320

Long-time reader jaromil writes: Devuan 1.0.0-RC is announced, following its beta 2 release last year. The Debian fork that spawned over systemd controversy is reaching stability and plans long-term support. Devuan deploys an innovative continuous integration setup: with fallback on Debian packages, it overlays its own modifications and then uses the merged source repository to ship images for 11 ARM targets, a desktop and minimal live, vagrant and qemu virtual machines and the classic installer isos. The release announcement contains several links to projects that have already adopted this distribution as a base OS.
"Dear Init Freedom Lovers," begins the announcement, "Once again the Veteran Unix Admins salute you!" It points out that Devuan "can be adopted as a flawless upgrade path from both Debian Wheezy and Jessie. This is a main goal for the Devuan Jessie stable release and has proven to be a very stable operation every time it has been performed. "
Businesses

107 Cancer Papers Retracted Due To Peer Review Fraud (arstechnica.com) 129

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The journal Tumor Biology is retracting 107 research papers after discovering that the authors faked the peer review process. This isn't the journal's first rodeo. Late last year, 58 papers were retracted from seven different journals -- 25 came from Tumor Biology for the same reason. It's possible to fake peer review because authors are often asked to suggest potential reviewers for their own papers. This is done because research subjects are often blindingly niche; a researcher working in a sub-sub-field may be more aware than the journal editor of who is best-placed to assess the work. But some journals go further and request, or allow, authors to submit the contact details of these potential reviewers. If the editor isn't aware of the potential for a scam, they then merrily send the requests for review out to fake e-mail addresses, often using the names of actual researchers. And at the other end of the fake e-mail address is someone who's in on the game and happy to send in a friendly review. This most recent avalanche of fake-reviewed papers was discovered because of extra screening at the journal. According to an official statement from Springer, the company that published Tumor Biology until this year, "the decision was made to screen new papers before they are released to production." The extra screening turned up the names of fake reviewers that hadn't previously been detected, and "in order to clean up our scientific records, we will now start retracting these affected articles...Springer will continue to proactively investigate these issues."

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