The Internet

Playboy Drops Nudity As Internet Fills Demand 179 writes: Ravi Somaiya reports in the NY Times that as part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy Magazine will still feature women in provocative poses but they will no longer be fully nude. "That battle has been fought and won," says CEO Scott Flanders. "You're now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it's just passé at this juncture." According to Somaiya, for a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance. The magazine will adopt a cleaner, more modern style. There will still be a Playmate of the Month, but the pictures will be "PG-13" and less produced — more like the racier sections of Instagram. "A little more accessible, a little more intimate," says Flancers. It is not yet decided whether there will still be a centerfold.

Japan Leads Push For AI-Based Anti-Cyberattack Solutions ( 33

An anonymous reader writes: Japanese firms NTT Communications and SoftBank are working to develop new artificial intelligence (AI) platforms, offering cyber-attack protection services to their customers. Up until recently, AI-based security systems were only used for certain scenarios, in online fraud detection for example. The new offerings will be the first commercially-available platforms of their type for use in a wide range of applications.

First Legal Union of Illegal Street Vendors Created In Barcelona 60

dkatana writes: Street vendors across Barcelona's tourist districts last week created their own union to negotiate with city officials. Barcelona has a new mayor, and new policies dealing with the "Top Manta" (for the blankets — or mantas — they spread out on the sidewalk). The recently-elected left-leaning administration in this Mediterranean city is taking a new — and controversial — approach to this complex issue. They argue that the real fault is the government's for not having a more comprehensive immigration policy. Mayor Ada Colau has welcomed the newly created Popular Union for Street Vendors (Sindicato Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes), established by the illegal vendors themselves.

Bernie Sanders Comes Out Against CISA 199

erier2003 writes: Sen. Bernie Sanders' opposition to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in its current form aligns him with privacy advocates and makes him the only presidential candidate to stake out that position, just as cybersecurity issues loom large over the 2016 election, from email server security to the foreign-policy implications of data breaches. The Senate is preparing to vote on CISA, a bill to address gaps in America's cyberdefenses by letting corporations share threat data with the government. But privacy advocates and security experts oppose the bill because customers' personal information could make it into the shared data.
The Almighty Buck

Author Joris Luyendijk: Economics Is Not a Science ( 359

The Real Dr John writes: A Nobel prize in economics, awarded this year to Angus Deaton, implies that the human world operates much like the physical world: that it can be described and understood in neutral terms, and that it lends itself to modeling, like chemical reactions or the movement of the stars. It creates the impression that economists are not in the business of constructing inherently imperfect theories, but of discovering timeless truths. In 1994 economists Myron Scholes and Robert Merton, with their work on derivatives, seemed to have hit on a formula that yielded a safe but lucrative trading strategy. In 1997 they were awarded the Nobel prize in economics. A year later, Long-Term Capital Management lost $4.6bn (£3bn) in less than four months; a bailout was required to avert the threat to the global financial system.

Fenno-German 'Sea Lion' Telecom Cable Laying Begins ( 39

jones_supa writes: A couple of years ago, details began to unfold of a government-backed high capacity data cable between Germany and Finland, which would be routed through the Baltic Sea. The cable has now been nicknamed "Sea Lion," and the work started Monday in Santahamina coastal area, outside Helsinki. The cable was built by Alcatel Lucent and is operated by the Finnish firm Cinia Group. The Finnish government, along with the banking and insurance sector, have together invested €100M into the project. That investment is expected to pay for itself many times over once the business sector gets a boost from the new telecom jump. The new cable also makes Finland independent of the Øresund Bridge, through which all of the country's Internet traffic is currently routed, via Denmark and Sweden. Eventually the new link can reach Asia as well, via the Northeast Passage shipping route.

Facebook UK Paid £35m In Staff Bonuses, But Only £4,327 In Corporation Tax ( 250

New submitter Phil Ronan writes: After getting away with paying £0 corporate tax in 2013, Facebook UK has announced that its corporate tax payment for 2014 (total revenue: £105 million) is going to be £4,327. This is a tiny fraction of the £35 million pounds given away by the company in staff bonuses over the same period. "The share scheme was worth an average of more than £96,000 for each member of staff. Once salaries were taken into account, a British employee of Facebook received more than £210,000 on average. ... A spokesperson for Facebook said: 'We are compliant with UK tax law, and in fact in all countries where we have operations and offices. We continue to grow our business activities in the UK.' She added that all the firm’s employees paid UK income tax on their payouts."

Charge Rage: Electric Cars Are Making People Meaner In California 538 writes: Matt Richtel reports that the push to make the state greener with electric cars is having an unintended side effect: It is making some people meaner. The bad moods stem from the challenges drivers face finding recharging spots for their battery-powered cars. Unlike gas stations, charging stations are not yet in great supply, and that has led to sharp-elbowed competition. According to Richtel, electric-vehicle owners are unplugging one another's cars, trading insults, and creating black markets and side deals to trade spots in corporate parking lots. The too-few-outlets problem is a familiar one in crowded cafes and airports, where people want to charge their phones or laptops. But the need can be more acute with cars — will their owners have enough juice to make it home? — and manners often go out the window. "Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that's a problem," says Peter Graf. "Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, 'I see you're fully charged, can you please move your car?'"

The problem is that installation of electric vehicle charging ports at some companies has not kept pace with soaring demand, creating thorny etiquette issues in the workplace. German software company SAP installed 16 electric vehicle charging ports in 2010 at its Palo Alto campus for the handful of employees who owned electric vehicles. Now there are far more electric cars than chargers. Sixty-one of the roughly 1,800 employees on the campus now drive a plug-in vehicle, overwhelming the 16 available chargers. And as demand for chargers exceeds supply, there have been notorious incidents of "charge rage." Companies are finding that they need one charging port for every two of their employees' electric vehicles. "If you don't maintain a 2-to-1 ratio, you are dead," said ChargePoint CEO Pat Romano. "Having two chargers and 20 electric cars is worse than having no chargers and 20 electric cars. If you are going to do this, you have to be willing to continue to scale it."

Dell To Buy EMC For $67 Billion ( 114

im_thatoneguy writes: After days of rumors, the NY Times is reporting that Dell will in fact be acquiring storage company (and VMWare parent) EMC in a record $67B deal being financed by a consortium of banks. Dell has confirmed the deal on their website.

Under the deal, Dell will pay $33.15 a share, which represents a premium even on top of EMC's current value, which had already jumped on initials rumors of a $50B acquisition last week. However, insiders say the deal won't be a straight forward cash buy-out of stock holders. Instead, EMC investors will receive about 70% in cash and the remainder in what's called a Tracking Stock, which will track the performance of just the VMWare Division within the new organization.

The Almighty Buck

The World of Luxury Bomb Shelters ( 282

An anonymous reader writes with this Vice profile of Robert Vicino, founder and CEO of survival prep company The Vivos Group. For a prepaid $35,000 entry fee, you may take shelter in one of his luxury bomb shelters when civilization collapses. "Those who make it their business to equip themselves for a civilization-ending mega-disaster—a.k.a. 'preppers'—are sometimes stereotyped as wild-eyed tinfoil hat wearers who live outside of society, but Robert Vicino caters to survivalists whose fears are backed up by money. The San Diego businessman is gunning to be the vanguard of a multibillion-dollar industry. If we're to follow the entrepreneur's logic, the rich don't live on the same scale as ordinary people in today's society—why should that change after the end of the world?"

Replacement of Writers Leads Gartner's Predictions ( 113

dcblogs writes: Gartner's near-future predictions include: Writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, one in five of the documents you read, will be authored by a machine. By 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This may seem Orwellian, but certain jobs require people to be fit, such as public safety workers. By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is based on the belief that the world is moving to a post-app era, where assistants such as Apple's Siri act as a type of universal interface.

Twitter To Begin Layoffs ( 137

An anonymous reader writes: Just a few days ago, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company and took over the role of CEO. Now, the NY Times reports that the company will be facing layoffs as he cuts the company's costs. Twitter somehow manages to employ over 4,100 people across 35+ offices, so many investors are thrilled with the news. "Twitter's spending has been rising. In the last quarter for which Twitter reported financial results, costs and expenses totaled $633 million, up 37 percent from a year earlier. The layoffs will most likely affect multiple areas of the company, including the engineering and media teams, according to the people with knowledge of the plans." The company is also dropping plans to build a 100,000 square-foot expansion to its headquarters.

Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector ( 266 writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."


Verizon Boosts Price of Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans By $20 ( 175

nicholasjay writes: In November, Verizon Wireless is going to start charging its customers with the grandfathered "unlimited data" plans an extra $20 for the data. This is obviously an attempt to get people off of the old unlimited data plans. Even though a Verizon spokesperson confirmed the change, I'm hoping they won't go through with this plan — but right now I'm weighing all my options.

In Midst of a Tech Boom, Seattle Tries To Keep Its Soul 392 writes: Nick Wingfield has an interesting article in the NYT about how Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Portland, and other tech hubs around the country are seeking not to emulate San Francisco where wealth has created a widely envied economy, but housing costs have skyrocketed, and the region's economic divisions have deepened with rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco at more than $3,500 a month, the highest in the country. "Seattle has wanted to be San Francisco for so long," says Knute Berger. "Now it's figuring out maybe that it isn't what we want to be." The core of the debate is over affordable housing and the worry that San Francisco is losing artists, teachers and its once-vibrant counterculture. "It's not that we don't want to be a thriving tech center — we do," says Alan Durning. "It's that the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities have gotten themselves into a trap where preservationists and local politics have basically guaranteed buying a house will cost at least $1 million. Already in Seattle, it costs half-a-million, so we're well on our way."

Seattle mayor Ed Murray says he wants to keep the working-class roots of Seattle, a city with a major port, fishing fleet and even a steel mill. After taking office last year, Murray made the minimum-wage increase a priority, reassured representatives of the city's manufacturing and maritime industries that Seattle needed them., and has set a goal of creating 50,000 homes — 40 percent of them affordable for low-income residents — over the next decade. "We can hopefully create enough affordable housing so we don't find ourselves as skewed by who lives in the city as San Francisco is," says Murray. "We're at a crossroads," says Roger Valdez. "One path leads to San Francisco, where you have an incredibly regulated and stagnant housing economy that can't keep up with demand. The other path is something different, the Seattle way."

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 479

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."
The Almighty Buck

Researchers Unable To Replicate Findings of Published Economics Studies ( 210

An anonymous reader writes: Federal Reserve economists Andrew Chang and Phillip Li looked at 67 papers in 13 reputable academic journals. Their findings were shocking. Without the help of the authors, only a third of the results could be independently replicated. Even with the author's help, only about half, or 49%, could. Business Insider reports: "It's a pretty massive issue for economics, especially given the impact that the subject has on public policy. Li and Chang use a well-known paper by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff as an example. The study showed a significant growth drop-off once a country's national debts reached 90% of gross domestic product, but three years after being published the study was found to contain a significant Microsoft Excel error that changed the magnitude of the effect." With cancer studies and most recently psychology studies all having replication trouble, these economics papers have some company.

'First, Let's Get Rid of All the Bosses' -- the Zappos Management Experiment 327

schnell writes: The New Republic is running an in-depth look at online shoe retailer's experiment in a new "boss-less" corporate structure. Three years ago the company introduced a management philosophy that came from the software development world called "Holacracy," in which there are no "people managers" and groups self-organize based on individual creativity and talents. (When the change was announced, 14% of the company's employees chose to leave; middle management openly rebelled, but perhaps surprisingly the tech organization was slowest to embrace the new idea). The article shows that in this radically employee-centric environment, many if not most employees are thrilled and fulfilled, while others worry that self-organization in practical terms means chaos and a Maoist culture of "coercive positivity." Is Zappos the future of the American workplace, a fringe experiment, or something in between?

Why Is RAM Suddenly So Cheap? It Might Be Windows 209

jfruh writes: The average price of a 4GB DDR3 memory DIMM at the moment $18.50 — a price that's far lower than at this time last year. Why is it so cheap? The memory business tends to go in boom and bust cycles, but the free availability of Windows 10 means that fewer people are upgrading their PCs, reducing RAM demand. Analyst Avril Wu said, "Notebook shipments in the third quarter fall short of what is expected for a traditional peak season mainly because Windows 10 with its free upgrade plan negatively impacted replaced sales of notebooks to some extent rather than driving the demand for these products." And prices might stay low for another two years.

Getting More Women Coders Into Open Source 696

Nerval's Lobster writes: Diversity remains an issue in tech firms across the nation, with executives and project managers publicly upset over a lack of women in engineering and programming roles. While all that's happening on the corporate side, a handful of people and groups are trying to get more women involved in the open source community, like Women of OpenStack, Outreachy (which is geared toward people from underrepresented groups in free software), and others. How much effort should be expended to facilitate diversity among programmers? Can anything be done to shift the demographics, considering the issues that even large, coordinated companies have with altering the collective mix of their employees?