Education

Wisconsin Speech Bill Might Allow Students To Challenge Science Professors (arstechnica.com) 438

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: There have been some well-publicized incidents in which student groups or other protesters have interfered with scheduled appearances by right-wing speakers at U.S. universities. In response, a number of states have considered "campus free speech" bills based on model legislation produced by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank. Different bills introduce specific penalties for students who shout down the speech of others and prevent college administrators from disinviting speakers, to give two examples. One such bill is being debated in Wisconsin. Faculty and university officials in the state are concerned about what else might be prevented by the bill's overly vague language, according to the local Cap Times. As often happens with bills relevant to science education, the debate has also elicited some rather bizarre comments from the bill's sponsors. The trouble comes from this section of the bill: "That each institution shall strive to remain neutral, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day, and may not take action, as an institution, on the public policy controversies of the day in such a way as to require students or faculty to publicly express a given view of social policy." While the bills' scope is focused on public events involving invited speakers, there are a couple key questions here. University officials want to know how far this requirement "to remain neutral" extends. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has spoken out against proposed bans on stem cell research on campus. Would the university run afoul of this law if it did so again?
Bitcoin

Why Ethereum Is Outpacing Bitcoin (venturebeat.com) 150

Even as Bitcoin hits its all-time high, people's interest in other cryptocurrencies hasn't waned, especially Ethereum. But what makes Ethereum popular among some? From an article on VentureBeat: Despite its recent appreciation in value, as a technology, Bitcoin has stagnated over the last three years. Two rival factions have emerged with violently opposing views on what should be done to allow the Bitcoin network to handle more transactions than it can right now. While Bitcoin has been paralysed by indecision, Ethereum has raced ahead with technology that not only does everything Bitcoin can do faster, in higher volume, and at lower cost -- it does a lot more besides. [...] Bitcoin is really only useful as a store of value. Even then, its usefulness for actually transacting value is limited. In a world where people are used to online payments being confirmed instantly, Bitcoin transactions can take anywhere from tens of minutes to several hours, depending on how busy the network is. It's also expensive -- especially if you're only sending small amounts. The average transaction currently costs about $1.50. Ethereum, on the other hand, was never intended as a Bitcoin competitor. Ethereum is actually a platform for new kinds of decentralized (often financial) applications (dApps) that run on a peer-to-peer network of computers. These dApps are designed to disintermediate the kinds of relationships and transactions for which we have traditionally required things like banks, public registries, and the legal system. For technologists, this is exciting stuff, and a vibrant community of software developers has enthusiastically embraced it. Hundreds of projects, startups, and companies at every scale -- including the likes of Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung -- are building software using Ethereum.
The Almighty Buck

Report Reveals In-App Purchase Scams In the App Store (macrumors.com) 48

In a Medium article titled How to Make $80,000 Per Month On the Apple App Store, Johnny Lin uncovers a scamming trend in which apps advertising fake services are making thousands of dollars a month from in-app purchases. The practice works by manipulating search ads to promote dubious apps in the App Store and then preys on unsuspecting users via the in-app purchase mechanism. MacRumors reports: "I scrolled down the list in the Productivity category and saw apps from well-known companies like Dropbox, Evernote, and Microsoft," said Lin. "That was to be expected. But what's this? The #10 Top Grossing Productivity app (as of June 7th, 2017) was an app called 'Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN.' Given the terrible title of this app (inconsistent capitalization, misplaced colon, and grammatically nonsensical 'Clean & Security VPN?'), I was sure this was a bug in the rankings algorithm. So I check Sensor Tower for an estimate of the app's revenue, which showed ... $80,000 per month?? That couldn't possibly be right. Now I was really curious." To learn how this could be, Lin installed and ran the app, and was soon prompted to start a "free trial" for an "anti-virus scanner" (iOS does not need anti-virus software thanks to Apple's sandboxing rules for individual apps). Tapping on the trial offer then threw up a Touch ID authentication prompt containing the text "You will pay $99.99 for a 7-day subscription starting Jun 9, 2017." Lin was one touch away from paying $400 a month for a non-existent service offered by a scammer. Lin dug deeper and found several other similar apps making money off the same scam, suggesting a wider disturbing trend, with scam apps regularly showing up in the App Store's top grossing lists.
The Almighty Buck

US Banks Launching Answer To Peer-To-Peer Payment App Venmo (reuters.com) 43

The U.S. banking industry is about to launch its answer to the popular mobile payments app Venmo. "Over the next week, five of the largest U.S. banks will light up their segments of a new payments network called Zelle, executives said in interviews," reports Reuters. "They plan to announce details of the launch on Monday, and expect another two dozen banks and credit unions to join over the next year." From the report: The long-awaited network will allow tens of millions of bank customers to send money to each other instantly - known as person-to-person payments - with a few taps on their smartphones. That is an improvement over Venmo, which immediately alerts users that a money transfer is in progress, but takes time to shift funds between bank accounts. Customers who use existing bank payment apps may not notice much of a change beyond marketing. Transfers will simply happen faster because the banks are finally linking to each other, executives said. JPMorgan, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, U.S. Bancorp and Capital One Financial Corp will be the first to plug into Zelle.
Businesses

Wordpress Parent Automattic Is Closing Its San Francisco Office Because Its Employees Never Show Up (qz.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: Automattic, the technology company that owns WordPress.com, has a beautiful office in a converted San Francisco warehouse, with soaring ceilings, a library, and a custom-made barn door. If you like the space, you're free to move in. The office at 140 Hawthorne went on the market after CEO Matt Mullenweg came to the realization not enough employees used it. As he explained on the Stack Overflow podcast earlier this year: "We got an office there about six or seven years ago, pretty good lease, but nobody goes in it. Five people go in it and it's 15,000 square feet. They get like 3,000 square feet each. There are as many gaming tables as there are people." Automattic has always given its 550 employees the choice of working remotely; the San Francisco space was an optional co-working space, spokesman Mark Armstrong said. The company maintains similar offices in Cape Town, South Africa, and outside Portland, Maine, and gives employees a $250-a-month stipend if they want to use commercial co-working offices elsewhere. And if they'd rather work at Starbucks, Automattic will pay for their coffee.
United States

Sharp To Americans: You Don't Want to Buy a Sharp-Brand TV (wsj.com) 115

Sharp has sued China's Hisense Electric, which licensed the Sharp brand for televisions sold in the U.S., accusing Hisense of putting the Sharp name on poor-quality TVs and deceptively advertising them (alternative source). From a report: The court action is the latest effort by Osaka-based Sharp to retrieve the right to use its own name when selling TVs in one of the world's largest markets. Sharp is trying to recover its position as a global maker of consumer electronics. Hisense rejected the allegations and said it was selling high-quality televisions under the Sharp name. The dispute illustrates the risks when the owner of a well-known brand name gives up control over products sold under that name.
United States

Trump-Style Tactics Finally Stopped Working For Uber (buzzfeed.com) 238

BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith describes a three-year-old meeting that Uber held -- which saw several influencers including actor Ed Norton among attendees -- as the beginning of the ride-hailing company's long slow meltdown. Later today, the company is expected to announce that its CEO Travis Kalanick would be temporarily stepping away, and his closest lieutenant is all set to hand his resignation. On Sunday, the company held a board meeting, which according to several journalists, lasted for nearly seven hours. The meeting capped a difficult stretch for the ride-hailing company, which is trying to weather an investigation into its workplace culture, a lawsuit by Google parent Alphabet over the alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets, a federal probe into its business practices, and the recent departures of top executives. Back to Ben: At the dinner (which took place three years ago), Emil Michael, the right hand of CEO Travis Kalanick, heatedly complained to me about the press. The company, he told me, could hire a team of opposition researchers to fight fire with fire and attack the media -- specifically to smear a female journalist who has criticized the company. I suggested to him that this plan wouldn't really work because the story would immediately become a story about Uber behaving like maniacs. "Nobody would know it was us," Michael responded. "But you just told me!," I replied. [...] Instead of making any meaningful changes, Uber simply pressed on for years. It found both continued growth and accumulating scandals. Many of its crises, like those remarks to me, were tinged with misogyny, whether sexual harassment of its engineers or pulling a rape victim's medical files. After one of those engineers, Susan Fowler, stepped forward with a blog post detailing systemic sexual harassment and discrimination -- a post that was followed up by a series of devastating stories by The New York Times, Recode, and others -- the company invited former Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an internal investigation. Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Michael is set to resign, and Reuters reported Kalanick will take a leave of absence ahead of what's expected to be a deeply damning Holder report. (Kalanick is also coping with a family tragedy.) They will leave having built the most valuable private company in the world. But it is a company whose cultural darkness is inseparable from its place as the icon of the tech boom. Uber -- and the boom -- have been defined both by massive new conveniences and by a corporate culture that is aggressive, paranoid, and dismissive of, in particular, complaints from women; a culture of enemies lists and cavalier approaches to the law. Emil Michael told Uber employees Monday that he has left the company.
Businesses

US Tech Companies Start To Become Copycats of Chinese Peers (foxbusiness.com) 86

hackingbear quotes Dow Jones Newswire: Chinese technology companies have long had a reputation of being copycats of Western peers, but U.S. companies have recently begun to return the favor, said a partner at prominent venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz... China's internet titans such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. are influencing U.S. startups and majors alike, and many Chinese models are being replicated in the U.S., said Connie Chan, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture firm. LimeBike, a startup at San Mateo, Calif., adapted China's dockless bike-sharing model, first rolled out by Beijing-based Ofo Inc. and Beijing Mobike Technology Co., for U.S. consumers... Also, Apple Inc. recently added payment services to its iMessage chat service, taking a page from Tencent's playbook. "I love this reversal of what 'China copycat' can mean," she said. "It no longer just means a Chinese company copying the States, it can mean a U.S. company copying China."

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