Google

Google Will Hit 100 Percent Renewable Energy This Year (inverse.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Google has announced that after 10 years a carbon-neutral company, it will be able to brag running on entirely renewable energy at the end of 2017. That means that all of the electricity the company consumes in both its data centers and offices are provided by wind and solar energy. Announced in Google's 2017 environmental report, Google says it has created "new energy purchasing models that others can follow" and that "we've helped drive wide-scale global adoption of clean energy." In addition to being an obvious PR boon, the company says its mission of full sustainability fits in with its larger mission. (It also makes the fact that as recently as 2015 Google alone reportedly consumed as much energy as the entire city of San Francisco in a year way more palatable.)

One step the company has recently taken in marrying its ethos of sustainability with its products is a new initiative to equip Google Street View vehicles with air quality sensors. In addition to its goal of being run by renewable energy, Google is also working on achieving zero waste to landfill. Nearly half of the company's 14 data centers have already reached this goal, according to Google executive Urs Holzle's 2017 Google Environmental report released on Tuesday.

Privacy

US Government Has 'No Right To Rummage' Through Anti-Trump Protest Website Logs, Says Judge (theregister.co.uk) 277

A Washington D.C. judge has told the U.S. Department of Justice it "does not have the right to rummage" through the files of an anti-Trump protest website -- and has ordered the dot-org site's hosting company to protect the identities of its users. The Register reports: Chief Judge Robert E. Morin issued the revised order [PDF] Tuesday following a high-profile back and forth between the site's hosting biz DreamHost and prosecutors over what details Uncle Sam was entitled to with respect to the disruptj20.org website. "As previously observed, courts around the country have acknowledged that, in searches for electronically stored information, evidence of criminal activity will likely be intermingled with communications and other records not within the scope of the search warrant," he noted in his ruling. "Because of the potential breadth of the government's review in this case, the warrant in its execution may implicate otherwise innocuous and constitutionally protected activity. As the Court has previously stated, while the government has the right to execute its Warrant, it does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost's website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities." The order then lists a series of protocols designed to protect netizens "to comply with First Amendment and Fourth Amendment considerations, and to prevent the government from obtaining any identifying information of innocent persons."
Businesses

Qualcomm Fined Record $773 Million In Taiwan Antitrust Probe (bloomberg.com) 23

According to Bloomberg, Qualcomm was fined a record NT$23.4 billion ($773 million) by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission in the latest blow from regulators over the way the U.S. company prices mobile phone chips and patents. From the report: The company has been violating antitrust rules for at least 7 years and Qualcomm collected NT$400 billion in licensing fees from local companies during that time, the Taiwanese regulator said on its website Wednesday. Qualcomm disagrees with the decision and intends to appeal, the San Diego-based company said in a statement. The Taiwanese regulator said Qualcomm has monopoly market status over key mobile phone standards and by not providing products to clients who don't agree with its conditions, the U.S. company is violating local laws. It said Taiwanese companies had purchased $30 billion worth of Qualcomm baseband chips. Besides the fine, the Fair Trade Commission told Qualcomm to remove previously signed deals that force competitors to provide price, customer names, shipment, model name and other sensitive information as well as other clauses in its agreements.
Software

PornHub Uses Computer Vision To ID Actors, Acts In Its Videos (techcrunch.com) 135

Baron_Yam shares a report from TechCrunch, which details PornHub's use of machine learning to ID actors and acts in its videos: The computer vision system can identify specific actors in scenes and even identifies various positions and attributes. While it is obviously very difficult to describe the feature set for a family audience, the system can identify individual performers in real time -- in the demo here it recognizes one performer even from the side -- and it can also identify sex acts. Facial detection is nothing new, even for mobile devices, but this system goes one step further by categorizing videos and images based on various attributes. This means you'll be able find favorites by name or characteristics, a feat that once require prodigious amounts of data entry.

"So far we've used the model on about 500k featured videos which includes user submitted and we plan to scan the whole library in the beginning of 2018," said Price. "Very shortly, the technology will also be used to detect various sex positions / categories and be able to properly tag them as well."

Security

Equifax Breach Included 10 Million US Driving Licenses (engadget.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: 10.9 million U.S. driver's licenses were stolen in the massive breach that Equifax suffered in mid-May, according to a new report by The Wall Street Journal. In addition, WSJ has revealed that the attackers got a hold of 15.2 million UK customers' records, though only 693,665 among them had enough info in the system for the breach to be a real threat to their privacy. Affected customers provided most of the driver's licenses on file to verify their identities when they disputed their credit-report information through an Equifax web page. That page was one of the entry points the attackers used to gain entry into the credit reporting agency's system.
Books

Amazon Finally Makes a Waterproof Kindle (theverge.com) 67

After 10 years of Kindles, Amazon has finally made a kindle e-reader with an IPX8 waterproof rating. The new Kindle Oasis features a 7-inch display and aluminum back. The Verge reports: Unlike last year's Kindle Oasis, which used a magnetic case you attached to the e-reader to extend its battery life, the new Oasis relies entirely on its built-in battery. It has a similar physical design, with one thicker side that tapers down on the other side, for one-handed reading. But Amazon has made a point of saying that it managed to fit in a bigger battery, while keeping the tapered side of the device at 3.4 millimeters. The resolution of the e-paper display is the same at 300 ppi, but it has a couple extra LED lights now for a brighter, more even-looking display. And it also has ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness as you move from room to room, or from outdoors to indoors. There are physical page-turn buttons, plus the touchscreen page-turn option; Amazon says it's worked on both the hardware and software side of things to make page-turning feel faster. The new e-reader has been tested in two meters of water for up to 60 minutes. It's also been tested in different water environments, like hot tubs, pools, and bubble baths.
Piracy

Pirate Bay is Mining Cryptocurrency Again, No Opt Out (torrentfreak.com) 184

The Pirate Bay is mining cryptocurrency again, causing a spike in CPU usage among many visitors. From a report: For now, the notorious torrent site provides no option to disable it. The new mining expedition is not without risk. CDN provider Cloudflare previously suspended the account of a site that used a similar miner, which means that The Pirate Bay could be next. Last month The Pirate Bay caused some uproar by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website. The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra source of revenue. [...] The Pirate Bay currently has no opt-out option, nor has it informed users about the latest mining efforts. This could lead to another problem since Coinhive said it would crack down on customers who failed to keep users in the loop.
Android

Failed Palo Alto Startup Pivots From Trying To Be an 'Android Killer' To Self-driving Tech (bizjournals.com) 71

A Palo Alto startup that stopped trying to be an "Android killer" last year after raising $185 million has apparently pivoted to developing autonomous vehicle technology. From a report: The company now known as Cyngn has changed its name from Cyanogen and recently got a permit to test its self-driving tech on California roads, according to a report Wednesday on Axios. It's being led by Lior Tal, the former chief operating officer who took over as CEO last fall when Kirt McMaster left. The rest of the startup's current team of about 30 people appear to have joined since the strategy shift, Axios reported, citing LinkedIn records. Some of them are former Facebook people, like Tal, and alumni of automakers who include Mercedes-Benz. No new funding has been disclosed for the reinvented company. It lists on its website investors who backed it before it pivoted, including Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Qualcomm and Chinese social networking company Tencent. The company was the center of acquisition talk in 2014, when companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung and Yahoo expressed interest in the company.
Transportation

California DMV Changes Rules To Allow Testing and Use of Fully Autonomous Vehicles (techcrunch.com) 117

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its rules to allow companies to test autonomous vehicles without a driver behind the wheel -- and to let the public use autonomous vehicles. From a report: The DMV released a revised version of its regulations and has started a 15-day public comment period, ending October 25, 2017. California law requires the DMV to work on regulations to cover testing and public use of autonomous vehicles, and the regulator said that this is the first step. "We are excited to take the next step in furthering the development of this potentially life-saving technology in California," the state's Transportation Secretary, Brian Kelly, said in a statement. California's DMV took pains in its announcement to highlight that it wasn't trying to overstep the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has the final say on developing and enforcing compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Rather, the California regulations, are going to require manufacturers to certify that they've met federal safety standards before their cars become (driverlessly) street legal. And manufacturers still have to obey the state traffic laws written for California.
Australia

Unsent Text On Mobile Counts As a Will, Australian Court Finds (abc.net.au) 144

A court in Australia has accepted an unsent, draft text message on a dead man's mobile phone as an official will. The 55-year-old man had composed a text message addressed to his brother, in which he gave "all that I have" to his brother and nephew. From a report: The Supreme Court in Brisbane heard the 55-year-old took his own life in October 2016, after composing a text addressed to his brother, which indicated his brother and nephew should "keep all that I have," because he was unhappy with this wife. A friend found the text message in the drafts folder of the man's mobile phone, which was found near his body. The unsent message detailed how to access the man's bank account details and where he wanted his ashes to be buried.
Businesses

Despite Sanctions, Russian Organisations Acquire Microsoft Software (reuters.com) 44

An anonymous reader shares a report: Software produced by Microsoft has been acquired by state organizations and firms in Russia and Crimea despite sanctions barring U.S-based companies from doing business with them, official documents show. The acquisitions, registered on the Russian state procurement database, show the limitations in the way foreign governments and firms enforce the U.S. sanctions, imposed on Russia over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. Some of the users gave Microsoft fictitious data about their identity, people involved in the transactions told Reuters, exploiting a gap in the U.S. company's ability to keep its products out of their hands. The products in each case were sold via third parties and Reuters has no evidence that Microsoft sold products directly to entities hit by the sanctions. "Microsoft has a strong commitment to complying with legal requirements and we have been looking into this matter in recent weeks," a Microsoft representative said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.
Businesses

This Company Is Crowdsourcing Maps For Self-Driving Cars (wired.com) 61

mirandakatz writes: If we want self-driving cars to become mainstream, we need maps -- and not just any maps. We need ridiculously detailed and constantly updated maps of the world's roads. And there's a mad race among startups to become the definitive provider of those maps. At Backchannel, Steven Levy takes a deep look at Mapper, a startup that just came out of stealth today and that hopes to become that definitive provider by crowdsourcing the production of those maps, paying drivers to drive around with a special mapping device on their windshields. As Levy writes, "Mapper's solution is to create an army of part-time workers to gather data that will accrue to a huge "base map" for autonomous cars, and to update the map to keep it current. Think of the work as an alternative to driving for Uber and Lyft, without having to deal with customer ratings or backseat outbursts from Travis Kalanick."
Businesses

Israeli Spies 'Watched Russian Agents Breach Kaspersky Software' (bbc.com) 194

Israeli spies looked on as Russian hackers breached Kaspersky cyber-security software two years ago, according to reports. From a report: The Russians were allegedly attempting to gather data on US intelligence programs, according to the New York Times and Washington Post. Israeli agents made the discovery after breaching the software themselves. Kaspersky has said it was neither involved in nor aware of the situation and denies collusion with authorities. Last month, the US government decided to stop using the Russian firm's software on its computers. The Israelis are said to have notified the US, which led to the ban on Kaspersky programs. The New York Times said that the situation had been described by "multiple people who have been briefed on the matter."
Encryption

Justice Department To Be More Aggressive In Seeking Encrypted Data From Tech Companies (wsj.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Wall Street Journal (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The Justice Department signaled Tuesday it intends to take a more aggressive posture in seeking access to encrypted information from technology companies, setting the stage for another round of clashes in the tug of war between privacy and public safety. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued the warning in a speech in Annapolis, Md., saying that negotiating with technology companies hasn't worked. "Warrant-proof encryption is not just a law enforcement problem," Mr. Rosenstein said at a conference at the U.S. Naval Academy. "The public bears the cost. When our investigations of violent criminal organizations come to a halt because we cannot access a phone, even with a court order, lives may be lost." Mr. Rosenstein didn't say what precise steps the Justice Department or Trump administration would take. Measures could include seeking court orders to compel companies to cooperate or a push for legislation. A Justice Department official said no specific plans were in the works and Mr. Rosenstein's speech was intended to spur public awareness and discussion of the issue because companies "have no incentive to address this on their own."
Earth

A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up In Antarctica (vice.com) 270

Scientists are perplexed over a giant hole that has opened up in Antarctica. According to Motherboard, the "gigantic, mysterious hole" is as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine. From the report: The gigantic, mysterious hole "is quite remarkable," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice." Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What's strange here, though, is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack," he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren't understood. "This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there." (It measured 80,000 km^2 at its peak.) "This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
Software

Symantec CEO: Source Code Reviews Pose Unacceptable Risk (reuters.com) 172

In an exclusive report from Reuters, Symantec's CEO says it is no longer allowing governments to review the source code of its software because of fears the agreements would compromise the security of its products. From the report: Tech companies have been under increasing pressure to allow the Russian government to examine source code, the closely guarded inner workings of software, in exchange for approvals to sell products in Russia. Symantec's decision highlights a growing tension for U.S. technology companies that must weigh their role as protectors of U.S. cybersecurity as they pursue business with some of Washington's adversaries, including Russia and China, according to security experts. While Symantec once allowed the reviews, Clark said that he now sees the security threats as too great. At a time of increased nation-state hacking, Symantec concluded the risk of losing customer confidence by allowing reviews was not worth the business the company could win, he said.
Security

Equifax Increases Number of Britons Affected By Data Breach To 700,000 (telegraph.co.uk) 58

phalse phace writes: You know those 400,000 Britons that were exposed in Equifax's data breach? Well, it turns out the number is actually closer to 700,000. The Telegraph reports: "Equifax has just admitted that almost double the number of UK customers had their information stolen in a major data breach earlier this year than it originally thought, and that millions more could have had their details compromised. The company originally estimated that the number of people affected in the UK was 'fewer than 400,000.' But on Tuesday night it emerged that cyber criminals had targeted 15.2 million records in the UK. It said 693,665 people could have had their data exposed, including email addresses, passwords, driving license numbers, phone numbers. The stolen data included partial credit card details of less than 15,000 customers."
Cellphones

Security, Privacy Focused Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Successfully Crowdfunded (softpedia.com) 82

prisoninmate shares a report from Softpedia: Believe it or not, Purism's Librem 5 security and privacy-focused smartphone has been successfully crowdfunded a few hours ago when it reached and even passed its goal of $1.5 million, with 13 days left. Librem 5 wants to be an open source and truly free mobile phone designed with security and privacy in mind, powered by a GNU/Linux operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux and running only Open Source software apps on top of a popular desktop environment like KDE Plasma Mobile or GNOME Shell. Featuring a 5-inch screen, Librem 5 is compatible with 2G, 3G, 4G, GSM, UMTS, and LTE mobile networks. Under the hood, it uses an i.MX 6 or i.MX 8 processor with separate baseband modem to offer you the protection you need in today's communication challenges, where you're being monitored by lots of government agencies.
IBM

How Does Microsoft Avoid Being the Next IBM? (arstechnica.com) 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: For fans of the platform, the official confirmation that Windows on phones isn't under active development any longer -- security bugs will be fixed, but new features and new hardware aren't on the cards -- isn't a big surprise. This is merely a sad acknowledgement of what we already knew. Last week, Microsoft also announced that it was getting out of the music business, signaling another small retreat from the consumer space. It's tempting to shrug and dismiss each of these instances, pointing to Microsoft's continued enterprise strength as evidence that the company's position remains strong. And certainly, sticking to the enterprise space is a thing that Microsoft could do. Become the next IBM: a stable, dull, multibillion dollar business. But IBM probably doesn't want to be IBM right now -- it has had five straight years of falling revenue amid declining relevance of its legacy businesses -- and Microsoft probably shouldn't want to be the next IBM, either. Today, Microsoft is facing similar pressures -- Windows, though still critical, isn't as essential to people's lives as it was a decade ago -- and risks a similar fate. Dropping consumer ambitions and retreating to the enterprise is a mistake. Microsoft's failure in smartphones is bad for Windows, and it's bad for Microsoft's position in the enterprise as a whole.
Communications

T-Mobile Website Allowed Hackers to Access Your Account Data With Just Your Phone Number (vice.com) 62

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard: Until last week, a bug on a T-Mobile website let hackers access personal data such as email address, a customer's T-Mobile account number, and the phone's IMSI, a standardized unique number that identifies subscribers. On Friday, a day after Motherboard asked T-Mobile about the issue, the company fixed the bug. The flaw, which was discovered by security researcher Karan Saini, allowed malicious hackers who knew -- or guessed -- your phone number to obtain data that could've been used for social engineering attacks, or perhaps even to hijack victim's numbers. "T-Mobile has 76 million customers, and an attacker could have run a script to scrape the data (email, name, billing account number, IMSI number, other numbers under the same account which are usually family members) from all 76 million of these customers to create a searchable database with accurate and up-to-date information of all users," Saini, who is the founder of startup Secure7, told Motherboard in an online chat. "That would effectively be classified as a very critical data breach, making every T-Mobile cell phone owner a victim," he added.
Google

Google Paid $7.2 Billion Last Year To Partners, Including Apple, To Prominently Showcase Its Search Engine and Apps on Smartphones (bloomberg.com) 57

A reader shares a Bloomberg report: There's a $19 billion black box inside Google. That's the yearly amount Google pays to companies that help generate its advertising sales, from the websites lined with Google-served ads to Apple and others that plant Google's search box or apps in prominent spots. Investors are obsessed with this money, called traffic acquisition costs, and they're particularly worried about the growing slice of those payments going to Apple and Google's Android allies. That chunk of fees now amounts to 11 percent of revenue for Google's internet properties. The figure was 7 percent in 2012. These Google traffic fees are the result of contractual arrangements parent company Alphabet makes to ensure its dominance. The company pays Apple to make Google the built-in option for web searches on Apple's Safari browsers for Mac computers, iPhones and other places. Google also pays companies that make Android smartphones and the phone companies that sell those phones to make sure its search box is front and center and to ensure its apps such as YouTube and Chrome are included in smartphones. In the last year, Google has paid these partners $7.2 billion, more than three times the comparable cost in 2012.
Bitcoin

Russian Central Bank To Ban Websites Offering Crypto-currencies (reuters.com) 45

An anonymous reader shares a report: Russia will block access to websites of exchanges that offer crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, Russian Central Bank First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov said on Tuesday. He called them "dubious." Russian financial authorities initially treated any sort of money issued by non-state approved institutions as illegal, saying they could be used to launder money. Later the authorities accepted the globally booming market of crypto-currencies but want to either control the turnover or to limit access to the market "We cannot stand apart. We cannot give direct and easy access to such dubious instruments for retail (investors)," Shvetsov said, referring to households.
Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

Earth

EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (nytimes.com) 316

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source: The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama's signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America's efforts to tackle global warming. At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions. The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor's environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

Television

Hulu Lowers Prices After Netflix Raises Theirs (variety.com) 108

Coincidentally, as Netflix raised their prices last week, Hulu decided to lower theirs. The streaming service is now offering a plan, which includes commercials, for $5.99 per month for the first year -- a short-term promotion aimed at luring new subs with the kickoff of the fall television and Hulu's expanded TV library lineup. Variety reports: Hulu's special offer for the limited-commercials plan is available through Jan. 9, 2018, only to new or returning Hulu subs. After one year, the regular $7.99 monthly price will kick in. Hulu offers a commercial-free option for $12 per month, and a live TV service (which includes access to original series like Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale" and on-demand titles) for $40 monthly. A Hulu rep said the company's new promo is intended to draft off the fall 2017 TV season. As it looks for another original series on the order of "Handmaid's Tale" -- so far its only breakout hit -- Hulu has inked deals to bring thousands of current and older TV shows to the platform to armor-up in its battle with rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Open Source

OpenBSD 6.2 Released (openbsd.org) 114

basscomm writes: OpenBSD 6.2 has now been released. Check out the release notes if you're into that kind of thing. Some of the new features and systems include improved hardware support, vmm(4)/ vmd(8) improvements, IEEE 802.11 wireless stack improvements, generic network stack improvements, installer improvements, routing daemons and other userland network improvements, security improvements and more. Here is the full list of changes.
Advertising

Google Uncovers Russia-Bought Ads On YouTube, Gmail and Other Platforms (reuters.com) 345

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a person briefed on the company's probe told Reuters on Monday. The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook, but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation. The revelation is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year's election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect Donald Trump. Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.
Media

Windows 10 Update Removes Windows Media Player (betanews.com) 255

Recently made available Windows 10 update KB4046355 for the Fall Creators Update disables Windows Media Player from the operating system. BetaNews reports: While it could be argued that Windows Media Player is no longer an essential addition to Windows -- there are plenty of quality third-party alternatives, such as VLC Media Player, not to mention the Films & TV app in Windows 10 itself -- many users still rely on it. The feature's removal came to light when users installed KB4046355 on devices running Windows 10 version 1709 -- the Fall Creators Update. This update, referred to as FeatureOnDemandMediaPlayer, removes Windows Media Player from the OS, although it doesn't kill access to it entirely. If you want the media player back you can install it via the Add a Feature setting. Open Settings, go to Apps > Apps & Features, and click on Manage optional features.
Mars

SpaceX's Mars Vision Puts Pressure on NASA's Manned Exploration Programs (marketwatch.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Entrepreneur Elon Musk's announcement late last month accelerating plans for manned flights to Mars ratchets up political and public relations pressure on NASA's efforts to reach the same goal. With Musk publicly laying out a much faster schedule than NASA -- while contending his vision is less expensive and could be financed primarily with private funds -- a debate unlike any before is shaping up over the direction of U.S. space policy. Industry officials and space experts consider the proposal by Musk's Space Exploration to land people on the red planet around the middle of the next decade extremely optimistic. Some supporters concede the deadline appears ambitious even for reaching the moon, while Musk himself acknowledged some of his projected dates are merely "aspirational." But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration doesn't envision getting astronauts to Mars until at least a decade later, a timeline NASA is finding increasingly hard to defend in the face of criticism that it is too slow.
Businesses

How Comcast is Shortchanging Customers In Vermont (wired.com) 144

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Comcast is suing Vermont's Public Utility Commission, claiming -- among many other things -- that its First Amendment rights have been violated. But as Susan Crawford argues at Backchannel, there are far too many holes in that argument. Crawford writes that 'Comcast, which Wall Street knows is essentially an unregulated public utility for high-speed internet access in the areas it covers, has unlimited resources to fight off this public-spirited regulator...[And] although there are many efforts in Vermont to provide fiber (including ECFiber), they're still small: Comcast isn't feeling any pressure to upgrade its lines to fiber. And, as [Craig] Moffett has reported, Comcast from now on will be growing through price hikes, not through building new lines. It's done with building new lines. The whole thing is dispiriting.'
Microsoft

Microsoft 'Was Sick', CEO Satya Nadella Says In New Book (intoday.in) 241

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a new book called Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. An anonymous reader quotes India Today: Nadella's push for cultural shift -- and hiring "learn-it-alls" instead of "know-it-alls" -- is largely meant to jolt enthusiasm for a new era of innovation at the company. Microsoft had long depended on the success of its flagship Windows operating system and the royalties it gets for each PC sold with it. But the global PC market is declining, and Microsoft fell behind as Apple and Google led the shift to smartphones. Nadella doesn't take any shots at Microsoft's co-founder and first CEO Bill Gates -- who wrote the book's foreword -- or Ballmer. But he's frank about their disagreements, especially over Ballmer's disastrous $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone business in 2014.

Nadella also refers to the company's previous organizational structure as a "confederation of fiefdoms" and recounts negative feedback received from employee surveys and emails. "The company was sick," Nadella writes. "Employees were tired. They were frustrated. They were fed up with losing and falling behind despite their grand plans and great ideas. They came to Microsoft with big dreams, but it felt like all they really did was deal with upper management, execute taxing processes and bicker in meetings..." He promises not to squander the new energy felt by employees after years of frustration. So far, it seems to be paying off; Microsoft shares have doubled since he took the top job in early 2014, and the company is attracting buzz for its work in AI, augmented reality and a new effort in futuristic computing.

A former Microsoft board member says Nadella "has made people believe in the future of Microsoft in a way that neither Bill nor Steve really did."
Earth

Carbon-Emitting Soil Could Speed Global Warming, Warns 26-Year Study (theguardian.com) 203

An anonymous reader quote the Guardian: Warming soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break... The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming...

In the Science study, researchers examined plots of soil in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, a mixed hardwood forest in the U.S. They experimented by heating some of the plots with underground cables to 5C above normal levels, leaving others as a control. The long-term study revealed that in the first 10 years there was a strong increase in the carbon released from the heated plots, then a period of about seven years when the carbon release abated. But after this second calmer period, which the scientists attribute to the adjustment of the soil microbes to the warmer conditions, the release of carbon resumed its upward path. From 1991, when the experiment began, the plots subjected to 5C warming lost about 17% of the carbon that had been stored in the top 60cm of the soil, where the greatest concentration of organic matter is to be found...

Lead scientist Jerry Melillo, points out that currently 10 billion metric tons of carbon gets released into the atmosphere every year, but "The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity, that will accelerate the global warming process. Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip."
Open Source

Linux Now Has its First Open Source RISC-V Processor (designnews.com) 161

"SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processors," writes Design News. An anonymous reader quotes their report: When it released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year, Silicon Valley startup SiFive was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry. Now the company has delivered further on that promise with the release of the U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD... This latest development has RISC-V enthusiasts particularly excited because now it opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space...

"The U54 Coreplexes are great for companies looking to build SoC's around RISC-V," Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive, as well as the one of the co-creators of RISC-V, told Design News. "The forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V." Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward. "No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can't make a dent," Waterman said. "But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered."

ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."
Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Earth

100K Lose Power As America Faces Its Third Hurricane In Three Weeks (go.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: The good news: Hurricane Nate was eventually downgraded to "a tropical storm" at 4:30 Sunday morning (EST), moving north-northeast with maximum winds of 70 mph. The bad news: 100,000 people don't have power in Mississippi and Alabama, and a tornado watch is in effect until 11 a.m. "Even though Nate has made landfall and will weaken today, we are still forecasting heavy rain from Nate to spread well inland towards the Tennessee Valley and Appalachian mountains," ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said Sunday morning. Saturday the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi was hit with 85 mph winds and a storm surge of between four to five feet. "Gulf Coast residents are waking up to a wet, windy -- and in some cases, powerless -- Sunday morning," reports ABC News, "but it's still not as devastating as they expected."
Youtube

YouTube Alters Algorithm To Promote News, Penalize Vegas Shooting Conspiracy Theories (usatoday.com) 373

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: YouTube has changed its powerful search algorithm to promote videos from more mainstream news outlets in search results after people looking for details on the Las Vegas shooting were served up conspiracy theories and misinformation. YouTube confirmed the changes Thursday... In the days after the mass shooting, videos abounded on YouTube, some questioning whether the shooting occurred and others claiming law enforcement officials had deceived the public about what really happened...

Public outcry over YouTube videos promoting conspiracy theories is just the latest online flap for the major U.S. Internet companies. Within hours of the attack, Facebook and Google were called out for promoting conspiracy theories... Helping drive YouTube's popularity is the "Up next" column which suggests additional videos to viewers. The Wall Street Journal found incidents this week in which YouTube suggested videos promoting conspiracy theories next to videos from mainstream news sources. YouTube acknowledged issues with the "Up next" algorithm and said it was looking to promote more authoritative results there, too.

At least one video was viewed over a million times, and Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes that "I've received emails from Google users who report YouTube pushing links to some of those trending fake videos directly to their phones as notifications." He's suggesting that from now on, YouTube's top trending videos should be reviewed by actual humans.
Cellphones

Alphabet's Balloons Will Bring Cellphone Service To Puerto Rico (wired.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes:Hurricanes Irma and Maria wiped out more than 90 percent of the cellphone coverage on Puerto Rico. Now the FCC has given "Project Loon" permission to fly 30 balloons more than 12 miles above the island for the next six months, Wired reports, to temporarily replace the thousands of cellphone towers knocked down by the two hurricanes.

Each balloon can service an area of 1,930 miles, so the hope is to restore service to the entire island of Puerto Rico and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In May Project Loon, part of Google's parent company Alphabet, deployed its technology in Peru and later provided emergency internet access there during serious flooding. (Those balloons were acually launched from Puerto Rico.) These new Project Loon balloons will be "relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users' handsets," according to the article, which reports that eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico have already consented to the arrangement.

AI

Tim O'Reilly: Don't Fear AI, Fear Ourselves (wired.com) 72

Tim O'Reilly, publisher of geeky books, "seizes on this singular moment in history" for a futuristic new book of his own, according to this interview with Steven Levy. An anonymous reader writes: When it comes to artificial intelligence, O'Reilly sees a reason for optimism in the fact that we're already discussing biased algorithms. ("We had plenty of bias before but we couldn't see it.") O'Reilly ultimately believes AI won't take away our jobs, and even argues that we're defining it all wrong. "What we now call AI is just the next stage of us weaving our intelligence together into a greater whole. If you think about the internet as weaving all of us together, transmitting ideas, in some sense an AI might be the equivalent of a multi-cellular being and we're its microbiome, as opposed to the idea that an AI will be like the golem or the Frankenstein. If that's the case, the systems we are building today, like Google and Facebook and financial markets, are really more important than the fake ethics of worrying about some far future AI.

"We tend to be afraid of new technology and we tend to demonize it, but to me, you have to use it as an opportunity for introspection. Our fears ultimately should be of ourselves and other people."

O'Reilly calls financial markets "the first rogue AI," while also priasing innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for moving humankind in new and positive directions. And he also calls Uber "a good metaphor for what's right and wrong in tech" because of its clashes with both its drivers and city governments.

"It's interesting that Lyft, which has been both more cooperative in general and better to drivers, is gaining share. That indicates there's a competitive advantage in doing it right, and you can only go so far being an ass."
Printer

New Open Source 3D Printer Can Print Without Human Intervention (autodrop3d.com) 49

Slashdot reader mmiscool shares some videos about "the next step in 3D printing": Autodrop3d is an open source system that solves the problem of needing a human to remove a 3D print from its print bed. Implemented as an open source hardware and software system, it allows for web based, multi-user print queue, automatic notifications, and web-based CAD design tools to all be integrated in one open source system. There's a video that shows the hardware in operation and a link to the web site with a Git repository for the software and hardware components.
Autodrop3D is now raising money on Kickstarter, promising to show their support for open source innovation by "releasing all of our documentation, design files, and software prior to the end of this Kickstarter campaign."

And for $75 pledges, "we will 3D print an object of your choice and mail it to you.... You will also receive our heartfelt thanks."
Education

Publishers Take ResearchGate To Court, Seek Removal of Millions of Papers (sciencemag.org) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Scholarly publishing giants Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS) have filed a lawsuit in Germany against ResearchGate, a popular academic networking site, alleging copyright infringement on a mass scale. The move comes after a larger group of publishers became dissatisfied with ResearchGate's response to a request to alter its article-sharing practices. ResearchGate, a for-profit firm based in Berlin, Germany, which was founded in 2008, is one of the largest social networking sites aimed at the academic community. It claims more than 13 million users, who can use their personal pages to upload and share a wide range of material, including published papers, book chapters and meeting presentations.

Yesterday, a group of five publishers -- ACS, Elsevier, Brill, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer -- announced that ResearchGate had rejected the association's proposal. Instead, the group, which calls itself the "Coalition for Responsible Sharing," said in a October 5th statement that ResearchGate suggested publishers should send the company formal notices, called "takedown notices," asking it to remove content that breaches copyright. The five publishers will be sending takedown notices, according to the group. But the coalition also alleges that ResearchGate is illicitly making as many as 7 million copyrighted articles freely available, and that the company's "business model depends on the distribution of these in-copyright articles to generate traffic to its site, which is then commercialized through the sale of targeted advertising." The coalition also states that sending millions of takedown notices "is not a viable long-term solution, given the current and future scale of infringement Sending large numbers of takedown notices on an ongoing basis will prove highly disruptive to the research community." As a result, two coalition members -- ACS and Elsevier -- have opted to go to court to try to force ResearchGate's hand.

Earth

Neanderthal Ancestors May Be To Blame For Why You Can't Get a Tan (telegraph.co.uk) 118

turkeydance shares a report from The Telegraph: If you struggle to get a tan, consider yourself a night owl or are plagued with arthritis, then your Neanderthal ancestors could be to blame, a new genetic study has shown. Although Neanderthals are often portrayed in drawings as swarthy, in fact they arrived in Northern Europe thousands of years before modern humans, giving time for their skin to become paler as their bodies struggled to soak up enough sun. When they interbred with modern humans those pale genes were passed on. Likewise, genetic mutations which predispose people to arthritis also came from our Neanderthal ancestors, as did the propensity to be a night owl rather than a lark, as northern latitudes altered their body clocks. A raft of new papers published in the journals Science and the American Journal of Human Genetics has shed light on just how many traits we owe to our Neanderthal ancestors.

Scientists also now think that differences in hair color, mood and whether someone will smoke or have an eating disorder could all be related to inter-breeding, after comparing ancient DNA to 112,000 British people who took part in the UK Biobank study. The Biobank includes genetic data along with information on many traits related to physical appearance, diet, sun exposure, behavior, and disease and helps scientists pick apart which traits came from Neanderthals. Dr Janet Kelso, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, said: "We can now show that it is skin tone, and the ease with which one tans, as well as hair color that are affected."

The Almighty Buck

Browsers Will Store Credit Card Details Similar To How They Save Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A new W3C standard is slowly creeping into current browser implementations, a standard that will simplify the way people make payments online. Called the Payment Request API, this new standard relies on users entering and storing payment card details inside browsers, just like they currently do with passwords. The API is also a godsend for the security and e-commerce industry since it spares store owners from having to store payment card data on their servers. This means less regulation and no more fears that an online store might expose card data when getting hacked. By moving the storage of payment card details in the browser, the responsibility of keeping these details safe is moved to the browser and the user. Browsers that support the Payment Request API include Google Chrome, who first added support for it in Chrome for Android 53 in August 2016, and added desktop support last month with the release of Chrome 61. Microsoft Edge also supports the Payment Request API since September 2016, but the feature requires that users register a Microsoft Wallet account before using it. Firefox and Safari are still working on supporting the API, and so are browser implementations from Facebook and Samsung, both eager to provide a simpler payment mechanism than the one in use today.
Bug

Massive 70-Mile-Wide Butterfly Swarm Shows Up On Denver Radar System (bbc.com) 47

dryriver shares a report from BBC: A colorful, shimmering spectacle detected by weather radar over the U.S. state of Colorado has been identified as swarms of migrating butterflies. Scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) first mistook the orange radar blob for birds and had asked the public to help identifying the species. They later established that the 70-mile wide (110km) mass was a kaleidoscope of Painted Lady butterflies. Forecasters say it is uncommon for flying insects to be detected by radar. "We hadn't seen a signature like that in a while," said NWS meteorologist Paul Schlatter, who first spotted the radar blip. "We detect migrating birds all the time, but they were flying north to south," he told CBS News, explaining that this direction of travel would be unusual for migratory birds for the time of year. So he put the question to Twitter, asking for help determining the bird species. Almost every response he received was the same: "Butterflies." Namely the three-inch long Painted Lady butterfly, which has descended in clouds on the Denver area in recent weeks. The species, commonly mistaken for monarch butterflies, are found across the continental United States, and travel to northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest during colder months. They are known to follow wind patterns, and can glide hundreds of miles each day.
AT&T

Sprint, T-Mobile Could Announce a Merger By Month's End (androidpolice.com) 47

Last month, it was reported that T-Mobile is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint. Now, it appears that negotiations between the two companies are almost complete. Android Police reports: The report claims that Sprint and T-Mobile are putting the finishing touches on the merger, which will likely be announced at the quarterly earnings report at the end of this month. Some of the current discussion topics include Sprint's valuation (estimated to be around $29 billion), the location of the combined company's headquarters, and appointments to the executive management team. The merge is not expected to include a breakup/termination fee, meaning if one company backed out of the deal, there would be no financial penalty. This would align both companies to lobby government regulators for approval without any conflicts of interest. After AT&T called off its buyout of T-Mobile in 2011 due to government opposition, the company paid a $4 billion breakup fee to T-Mobile, which helped strengthen T-Mobile as a competitor. The report notes that while T-Mobile and Sprint's quarterly earnings reports have not been set, T-Mobile's was on October 24 last year, and Sprint's was the next day.
America Online

Regulate Facebook Like AIM (vice.com) 105

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven shares a report from Motherboard arguing why the U.S. government should regulate Facebook like AIM: Sixteen years ago, the FCC approved a merger between American Online and Time Warner, but with several conditions. As part of the deal, AOL was required to make its web portal compatible with other chat apps. The government stopped AOL from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM, meaning it had to adopt interoperability -- the ability to be compatible with other computer systems. The FCC required AOL to be compatible with at least one instant messaging rival immediately after the merger went through. Within six months, the FCC required AOL to make its portal compatible with at least two other rivals, or face penalties. The FCC's decision changed how we communicate with each other on the internet. By forcing AIM to make room for competition, a range of messaging apps and services, as well as social networks emerged. Instead of being limited to AIM, people who used AOL's portal could choose other platforms.

If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge. "Facebook has to allow people to access their relationships however they want through other businesses or tools that are not controlled by Facebook," Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, said. "Having them control and mediate the structure of those relationships -- that's not right." Of course, people can opt out of Facebook and choose to use other, smaller social networks. But those businesses are essentially unable to thrive because of the hold Facebook has on how we communicate online. All our friends and family are already on Facebook, and because the platform is not regulated to allow competition, it's incredibly difficult for other, newer ones to emerge.

Communications

Hello, Mobile Operators? This is Your Age of Disruption Calling (mckinsey.com) 43

Analysts at McKinsey & Company write: For the better part of a decade, telecom companies have suffered through declining revenues, cash flow, and return on investment just as tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have mushroomed by building their businesses on the operators' own infrastructure. While these tech visionaries have enjoyed well over $1 trillion in combined market-cap growth by innovating and thinking differently and adeptly, telecom companies have tried to compete by implementing the same old survival tactics: cutting costs, reducing the workforce, and timidly entering into new business adjacencies. The trouble is that playbook no longer applies. [...] We've seen this before in other capital-intensive industries. The airline industry, for example, despite incredible growth in travel during the early part of this century, destroyed economic value until 2015 when, for the first time, the industry-level average return on invested capital (ROIC) was just in excess of its cost of capital. This return to economic profitability was achieved through a combination of falling fuel prices; significant industry consolidation, especially in the United States; and the growth of ancillary revenues, such as checked-baggage fees. If global operators were to follow the airline industry's prior trajectory, the implications could be dramatic. That's not just for the operators that would see declining investment as capital and talent move into sectors with superior returns but also for current and future over-the-top (OTT) players, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, who rely so heavily on the operators' networks and investments.
Businesses

E-commerce Is Concentrating Jobs, Not Killing Them (axios.com) 105

A reader shares a report: The growing popularity of online shopping has hit traditional retailers hard, culminating in a spate of retail bankruptcies and store closures in recent years. But according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the retail apocalypse has actually created nearly as many jobs as it has killed. Though e-commerce and other non-store retailers have hired nearly as many workers as traditional retailers have cut, these new jobs are much more geographically concentrated.
Google

Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will (theverge.com) 380

Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.

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