AI

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines (tumblr.com) 11

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Businesses

Amazon Tests Two-Hour Booze Delivery In 12 US Cities (foodandwine.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes SFGate: Thanks to the Prime Now service, Amazon will now deliver booze to the home, failing house party, mundane family brunch, or other occasion of Prime members in the Bay Area. While Prime Now (a delivery service that comes with a $99 annual Prime membership) is available in 30 different cities across the U.S., the alcohol delivery service can only be accessed in a select 12 of those 30, including San Francisco... Two-hour delivery on booze is free of charge, but if you find yourself in a truly desperate situation, one-hour delivery is available for an extra $7.99. ID's are checked upon delivery by couriers.

A minimum of $30 is required for a delivery, which shouldn't be a problem to hit seeing that prices are slightly higher than standard for what you'd find in your corner liquor store. $26 for a 12-pack of Coronas, $15 for a six-pack of Angry Orchard, and $23 for a bottle of chardonnay, for example... Delivery hours match those of regular Prime Now services, which run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Amazon is competing with local liquor-delivery services in the Bay Area, according to the article, as well local services in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Amazon began testing liquor deliveries in March in two Ohio cities, then slowly began rolling it out to more, according to Food & Wine magazine (which has a complete list of the 12 cities). "Unlike other markets such as Seattle, which was the first to get alcohol delivery via Prime Now back in 2015, and Manhattan, which just got Prime Now alcohol delivery this past June, Portland can only order beer and wine, and not spirits, through the service. If Portlanders want spirits in a hurry, they'll have to hunt it down a different way like some sort of bourbon-loving caveman."

Amazon is also testing two-hour liquor deliveries in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Richmond, Virginia.
The Almighty Buck

With 200 Million Daily Users, Giphy Will Soon Test Sponsored GIFs (techcrunch.com) 50

Giphy, the four-year-old search engine for GIFs with 200 million daily active users, will soon start testing sponsored GIFs within messaging experiences. "This means that users who search for GIFs may be served a sponsored GIF within the messaging tab," reports TechCrunch. From the report: There are some obvious use-cases here: A search for "Monday" or "morning" might turn up a Starbucks GIF. But there is also an opportunity for brands, especially movies and TV shows (which makes up a huge portion of Giphy's content), to work their existing content into people's messages. Structurally, this isn't too different from what Google does with search terms. If you search for "Walmart," you'll more than likely see a sponsored listing for both Walmart and Target. With Giphy, however, searches are rarely for specific brands but rather based around certain actions, reactions or emotions. With the forthcoming sponsored messaging product, a search for "Wooo" might turn up a GIF of someone pouring Jose Cuervo shots. A search for "cheers" might show folks clinking two Budweiser beer bottles together.
Beer

Microbe New To Science Found In Self-Fermented Beer (sciencemag.org) 27

sciencehabit writes: In May 2014, a group of scientists took a field trip to a small brewery in an old warehouse in Seattle, Washington -- and came away with a microbe scientists have never seen before. In so-called wild beer, the team identified a yeast belonging to the genus Pichia, which turned out to be a hybrid of a known species called P. membranifaciens and another Pichia species completely new to science. Other Pichia species are known to spoil a beer, but the new hybrid seems to smell better.
Their investigation offered a proof-of-concept for a new methodology for studying spontaneously fermented beers -- especially since the brewmaster admitted that like many brewers making wild beers, "he had no idea what microbes were living in the barrel staves that had inoculated his beer."

The scientists dubbed the new hybrid Pichia apotheca -- which is Greek for "warehouse."
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Beer

Researchers Create New Probiotic Beer That Boosts Immunity (upi.com) 84

randomErr writes: A new patent has been filed for a innovative brewing technique that incorporates a live strain of good bacteria into the brewing process. Researchers at NUS (National University of Singapore) have created a probiotic sour beer that may boost immunity and improve gut health. The bacteria Lactobacillus paracasei L26 is capable of neutralizing toxins and viruses and regulating the immune system. Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, of the Food Science and Technology Program at NUS said, "While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project."
Microsoft

Microsoft Claims 'No Known Ransomware' Runs on Windows 10 S. Researcher Says 'Hold My Beer' (zdnet.com) 125

Earlier this month, Microsoft said "no Windows 10 customers were known to be compromised by the recent WannaCry (WannaCrypt) global cyberattack," adding that "no known ransomware works against Windows 10 S." News outlet ZDNet asked a security researcher to see how good Microsoft's claims were. Turns out, not much. From the report: We asked Matthew Hickey, a security researcher and co-founder of cybersecurity firm Hacker House, a simple enough question: Will ransomware install on this operating system? It took him a little over three hours to bust the operating system's various layers of security, but he got there. "I'm honestly surprised it was this easy," he said in a call after his attack. "When I looked at the branding and the marketing for the new operating system, I thought they had further enhanced it. I would've wanted more restrictions on trying to run privileged processes instead of it being such a short process."
Businesses

At $75,560, Housing a Prisoner in California Now Costs More Than a Year at Harvard (latimes.com) 333

The cost of imprisoning each of California's 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year, the AP reported. From the article: That's enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer Gov. Jerry Brown's spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes a record $11.4 billion for the corrections department while also predicting that there will be 11,500 fewer inmates in four years (alternative source) because voters in November approved earlier releases for many inmates. The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase. The result is a per-inmate cost that is the nation's highest -- and $2,000 above tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses to attend Harvard. Since 2015, California's per-inmate costs have surged nearly $10,000, or about 13%. New York is a distant second in overall costs at about $69,000.
Education

Should The Government Pay For Veterans To Attend Code Schools? (backchannel.com) 168

mirandakatz writes: David Molina was finishing up his 12-year time in the army when he started teaching himself to code, and started to think that he might like to pursue it professionally once his service was done. But with a wife and family, he couldn't dedicate the four years he'd need to get an undergraduate degree in computer science -- and the GI Bill, he learned, won't cover accelerated programs like code schools. So he started an organization dedicated to changing that. Operation Code is lobbying politicians to allow vets to attend code schools through the GI Bill and prepare themselves for the sorts of stable, middle-class jobs that have come to be called "blue-collar coding." Molina sees it as a serious failing that the GI Bill will cover myriad vocational programs, but not those that can prepare veterans for one of the fastest-growing industries in existence.
The issue seems to be quality. The group estimates there are already nine code schools in the U.S. which do accept GI Bill benefits -- but only "longer-standing ones that have made it through State Approving Agencies." Meanwhile, Course Report calculates 18,000 people finished coding bootcamps last year -- and that two thirds of them found a job within three months.

But I just liked how Molina described his introduction into the world of programmers. While stationed at Dover Air Force Base, he attended Baltimore's long-standing Meetup for Ruby on Rails, where "People taught me about open source. There was pizza, there was beer. They made me feel like I was at home."
Businesses

How Tilt Went From Hot $375 Million Startup To Fire Sale (fastcompany.com) 167

tedlistens writes: Not long ago, social payments company Tilt seemed to have it all -- a hot idea; cool, young founders with Y Combinator pedigrees; and $67 million in funding -- not to mention a $375 million valuation. But Tilt was more successful at cultivating its user growth and fun, frat-tastic office culture than at nailing down a viable business model. When Tilt finally ran out of cash, the party ended with the company's sale at fire-sale prices to fellow Y Combinator alums Airbnb in an aqui-hire deal. Where did it all go wrong? Here's an excerpt from the report: "Tilt was based on the premise that 'something like PayPal and Facebook would collide,' Tilt founder and CEO James Beshara says. The company aspired to be a social network for money -- instead of sharing photos and videos, users exchanged digital cash for birthday ragers and beer runs. During Tilt's early years, the pitch was simple, and carefully calibrated for Silicon Valley boardrooms: 'Let's prove that we can dominate the globe.' [...] By early 2013, millions in venture dollars were pouring into Tilt's coffers. Investors were lured by the same strong social metrics (viral coefficient, for example, a measure of user growth) that had marked Facebook as a winner. But the hopes embedded in Tilt's $375 million valuation came crashing down to earth last year. Beshara hadn't built a business; instead, he had manufactured a classic Silicon Valley mirage. While investors were throwing millions of dollars at the promise of a glittering business involving 'social' and 'money,' their Mark Zuckerberg-in-the-making was basking in the sunny glow of Bay Area praise and enjoying the ride with his bros. Revenue was not a top priority -- a remarkable oversight for any company, and a particularly galling one for a payments company. Eventually, with cash running low, Tilt went looking for a buyer..."
Businesses

Staples Tries Co-Working Spaces To Court Millennials And Entrepreneurs (pilotonline.com) 177

Are there any Slashdot readers who are doing their work in co-working spaces? An anonymous reader writes: Staples office-supply stores is aggressively repositioning its brand to entice new customers like tech entrepreneurs and small businesses, reports The New York Times. "A case in point: Staples' partnership with Workbar, a Boston-based co-working company founded in 2009... Workbar attracts the coveted millennial generation, as well as entrepreneurs, a potential pipeline for new small business customers." Three co-working spaces have now been added to Staples stores, including their original flagship store in Boston, and the Times spotted funky art, skylights, an artificial putting green, as well as gourmet coffee "and -- on some nights -- happy hours with beer and wine."

"This blend of old and new shows how Staples Inc. is digging up its roots as one of the first, and most successful, big-box retailers. Under Shira Goodman, the company's new chief executive officer, Staples hopes it can reverse its years of declining sales, unlike so many other retailers left for dead in the internet age."

The company also reports online orders already make up 60% of their sales, which they hope to push to 80% by 2020, according to the Motley Fool. "Selling products, 50% of which are outside of traditional office supply categories, to businesses large and small has proven to be a resilient business for Staples."
Beer

Alcohol Is Good for Your Heart -- Most of the Time (time.com) 125

Alcohol, in moderation, has a reputation for being healthy for the heart. Drinking about a glass of wine for women per day, and two glasses for men, is linked to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. From a report on Time: A new study of nearly two million people published in The BMJ adds more evidence that moderate amounts of alcohol appear to be healthy for most heart conditions -- but not all of them. The researchers analyzed the link between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart ailments in a large group of U.K. adults. None of the people in the study had cardiovascular disease when the study started. People who did not drink had an increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12 percent to 56 percent, compared to people who drank in moderation. These eight conditions include the most common heart events, such as heart attack, stroke and sudden heart-related death.
Robotics

What Happens When Robots Can Deliver Your Groceries? (venturebeat.com) 136

"What if you could get groceries in less than two minutes without even leaving your apartment?" asks VentureBeat. "Another beer...? Think guacamole would go extremely well with those Doritos you just opened?" Several grocery-delivery startups are already working to make this a reality. Slashdot reader moglito summarizes their vision of autonomous indoor-delivery robots from automated refrigerators servicing high-rise apartment buildings. Coupled with AI algorithms for learning what residents like to consume, and algorithms for automatically restocking those items via a network of suppliers or logistics companies, this "bot-mart" could make grocery shopping a boring and time-consuming thing of the past... Will robots similarly reduce the need for a kitchen next?
Yes, the article also describes cooking robots (which can already prepare burgers, pizza, and sandwiches), as well as new automated delivery vehicles restaurants. "Perhaps the only question remaining is whether there is a business case for this," they point out -- though under some scenarios, it could actually prove cheaper than driving to the grocery store yourself. "Consumers will find it ever easier to get what they want, when they want it, where they want it."
Space

Why Astronauts Are Banned From Getting Drunk in Space (bbc.com) 154

Bryan Lufkin, writing for BBC: "Alcohol is not permitted onboard the International Space Station for consumption," says Daniel G Huot, spokesperson for Nasa's Johnson Space Center. "Use of alcohol and other volatile compounds are controlled on ISS due to impacts their compounds can have on the station's water recovery system." For this reason, astronauts on the space station are not even provided with products that contain alcohol, like mouthwash, perfume, or aftershave. Spilling beer during some drunken orbital hijinks could also risk damaging equipment. [...] There could be another reason to avoid frothy drinks like beer -- without the assistance of gravity, liquid and gases can tumble around in an astronaut's stomach, causing them to produce rather soggy burps.
Beer

How Beer Brewed 5,000 Years Ago In China Tastes Today (thestreet.com) 109

schwit1 quotes The South China Morning Post: Stanford University students have recreated a Chinese beer using a recipe that dates back 5,000 years. The beer "looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today," said Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology, was quoted by the university as saying. Last spring, Liu and her team of researchers were carrying out excavation work at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province and found two pits containing remnants of pottery used to make beer, including funnels, pots and amphorae. The pits dated to between 3400BC and 2900BC, in the late Yangshao era. They found a yellowish residue on the remains of the items, including traces of yam, lily root and barley...Liu taught her students to recreate the recipe as part of her archaeology course.
One student following a second ancient beer recipe created a beverage that "smelled like funky cheese."
Transportation

Watchdog Group Wants Uber's Self-Driving Trucks Off the Road (usatoday.com) 113

New submitter Kemtores quotes a report from USA Today: A few months ago, the ride-hailing giant announced that it would begin testing self-driving Volvo SUVs in this hilly city, but a day later that process was halted after the DMV said Uber had not applied for the proper permits. Uber moved its fleet to Arizona. Uber cars laden with sensors still troll San Francisco, but the company said it is only for mapping purposes. Now a southern California non-profit that has long raised concerns about the safety of autonomous vehicles has asked the DMV to look closer at the operations of Otto, a self-driving truck company that Uber bought last year for $670 million. Otto made headlines in October when it completed a 120-mile beer run with a large semi-tractor in Colorado. But Consumer Watchdog's John Simpson charged in a letter to DMV director Jean Shiomoto that in fact Otto's testing here did violate the law by operating in autonomous mode, offering proof in the form of documentation Otto submitted to Colorado officials that described a process where the driver hit a button and let the truck do the work.
The Media

A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company? (siliconvalley.com) 126

Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes: The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.

But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?

Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.
Beer

Tostitos' Breathalyzer Bags Can Detect If You're Drunk -- Then Call Uber 75

Slashdot reader schwit1 writes that Tostito's corn chips "has developed a special bag, available for a limited time, that can detect if you've had too much to drink." Its all-black packaging measures your breath for traces of alcohol, and if the test reveals you're sober, a green circle appears on the bag. But, Mashable reports... If it decides you've been drinking -- regardless of how much -- an image of a red steering wheel appears on the otherwise stark black bag along with a reminder not to drive and a code for a $10 Uber discount (valid only on Super Bowl Sunday). And if you've had so much to drink that the mere act of hailing an Uber becomes a difficult chore, the bag will even do that for you. The package is equipped with near-field communication technology that will automatically order a ride when tapped with a smartphone.
The Internet

Uber Launches 'Uber Freight' Website To Prepare the World For Autonomous Delivery Trucks (inverse.com) 92

Uber has launched a website for a service called Uber Freight. While there are little details about the company's expansion from ride-hailing, Uber Freight is meant to prepare the world for autonomous delivery trucks, according to Inverse. From the report: Uber acquired a startup called Otto, which planned to bring the first self-driving trucks to market, in August. Since then the company has used its trucks to deliver 50,000 cans of beer and hundreds of Christmas trees in San Francisco. This new service won't use those trucks, at least not at the beginning. Instead it will function much like Uber's existing platform: Some people will sign up to drive items across the country, and others will join so they can send packages without having to sign a contract with established shipping companies. The service will likely bring "surge pricing" to trucking, too. Uber Freight could also help Otto's trucks by using data gathered from drivers on the platform. This would allow the self-driving vehicles to learn from experienced people while regulators figure out how to govern autonomous trucks and the technology catches up to all of the promises made by its creators. Uber Freight's launch coincides with growing interest in trucking from many tech companies. Nikola Motor Company wants to use tech to make trucking more environmentally friendly and appealing to millennials; Tesla's working on self-driving trucks; the list could go on. Uber told Inverse it's going to wait until the new year to elaborate on how the system works. "We don't have any new information to share at the moment," a spokesperson said, "but hope to in the new year so please do stay in touch." It looks like the future of trucking -- or at least one potential future -- is going to take a little while longer to make its debut.
AI

Londoners Tests A Self-Driving Beer Tap And An AI-Assisted Brewery (gizmodo.co.uk) 90

At a bar in London, they're now testing the prototype for a self-driving beer tap, according to drunkdrone. Gizmodo UK reports: All you need to do is select your pint of choice on the touchscreen, pay with a tap of your contactless card and stick your pint glass at its base. The pump contains an electronic valve, which opens to allow beer to flow through. A liquid flow meter ensures the right amount of good stuff comes out.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg is also reporting on a London startup that's brewing beer with a special algorithm that constantly modifies the percentage of each ingredient -- hops, water, yeast and grain -- based on ongoing customer feedback. Levels of carbonation, bitterness and alcohol content all change based on how people are responding... The algorithm produces new recipes every month incorporating the feedback. "There are too many brands out there that just have one recipe for a beer, and they've had it for 60 years," said Hew Leith, co-founder of IntelligentX, the maker of the beer appropriately named AI. "We're not about that. We're about using data to listen to our customers, get all that feedback, and then brew something that's more attuned to what they actually want and need."
He believes the same process could also be used to design perfume, chocolate, and coffee.

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