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Google

Sergey Brin Is Reportedly Building 'Massive Airship' In NASA Research Center (bloomberg.com) 58

Google co-founder Sergey Brin is secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center, according to a report from Bloomberg. "It's unclear whether the craft, which looks like a zeppelin, is a hobby or something Brin hopes to turn into a business," reports Bloomberg. When asked about further details, Brin wrote in an email: "Sorry, I don't have anything to say about this topic right now." From the report: The people familiar with the project said Brin has long been fascinated by airships. His interest in the crafts started when Brin would visit Ames, which is located next to Google parent Alphabet Inc.'s headquarters in Mountain View, California. In the 1930s, Ames was home to the USS Macon, a huge airship built by the U.S. Navy. About three years ago, Brin decided to build one of his own after ogling old photos of the Macon. In 2015, Google unit Planetary Ventures took over the large hangars at Ames from NASA and turned them into laboratories for the company. Brin's airship, which isn't an Alphabet project, is already taking shape inside one. Engineers have constructed a metal skeleton of the craft, and it fills up much of the enormous hangar. Alan Weston, the former director of programs at NASA Ames, is leading Brin's airship project, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing the secretive plans. Weston didn't respond to requests for comment.
The Courts

Uber Must Provide Waymo With Data Regarding Its Otto Acquisition, Rules Court (thetechportal.com) 24

An appeals court today has ruled that Anthony Levandowski, the Uber executive accused of taking documents from Google's Waymo, can't use the Fifth Amendment to prevent Uber from turning over documents in the case. "The court has now directed Uber to provide data associated with its Otto acquisition to Waymo," reports The Tech Portal. From the report: Following the case, Levandowski invoked the fifth amendment, so as to prevent any other information which could implicate him from coming to the surface. Meanwhile, Waymo has been claiming that Levandowski and Uber signed an agreement with each other just a few days after the former quit his job at Google. The company has also asked Uber to provide it with a log containing details of the cab aggregator's legal involvement with Levandowski. Levandowski has been opposing the motion, stating that it would violate his fifth amendment. However, a new court ruling has quashed these hopes. With this ruling, Waymo can technically also request Uber for a copy of the due diligence report. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said: "Mr. Levandowski argues that he is entitled to relief under the Fifth Amendment because production of the unredacted privilege log could potentially incriminate him. We are not persuaded that the district court erred in its ruling requiring defendants to produce an unredacted privilege log."
AT&T

AT&T Brings Fiber To Rich Areas While the Rest Are Stuck On DSL, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 128

According to a new study from UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, AT&T has been focused on deploying fiber-to-the-home in the higher-income neighborhoods of California, giving wealthy people access to gigabit internet while others are stuck with DSL internet that doesn't even meet state and federal broadband standards. Ars Technica reports: California households with access to AT&T's fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to "AT&T's Digital Divide in California," in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016. The study was funded by the Communications Workers of America, an AT&T workers' union that's been involved in contentious negotiations with the company. By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that's less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T's fiber service. The median income in areas with U-verse VDSL, which ranges from 12Mbps to 75Mbps, is $67,021. In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T's California service area, AT&T's fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads, the report said.
China

Netflix Is Now In China Via a Deal With iQiyi (techcrunch.com) 15

randomErr writes: Last year, Netflix tried to go into China but ran into regulatory issues. So Netflix has entered into a licensing deal with iQiyi. iQiyi was founded in 2010 by Baidu in a very similar way that Google owns YouTube. What Netflix content will be shown and how the subscription service will work has yet to be announced.
EU

EU Lawmakers Include Spotify and iTunes In Geoblocking Ban (reuters.com) 54

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to ban online retailers from treating consumers differently depending on where they live and expanded their proposed law to include music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple's iTunes. Ending so-called geoblocking is a priority for the European Commission as it tries to create a single market for digital services across the 28-nation bloc, but many industries argue that they tailor their prices to specific domestic markets. The proposal, which will apply to e-commerce websites such as Amazon, Zalando and eBay, as well as for services provided in a specific location like car rental, forbids online retailers from automatically re-routing customers to their domestic website without their consent. In a blow for the book publishing and music industries, European Parliament members voted to include copyright-protected content such as music, games, software and e-books in the law. That would mean music streaming services such as Spotify and iTunes would not be able to prevent, for example, a French customer buying a cheaper subscription in Croatia, if they have the required rights.
Music

Streaming Services Help Global Music Industry To Fastest Growth in Nearly 20 Years (billboard.com) 44

The global music industry grew by 5.9 percent in 2016, its fastest rate of growth since 1997, as revenue generated by streaming services surged 60 percent. From a report: The IFPI's Global Music Report (previously known as the Digital Music Report) states that trade revenue generated by the global recorded music industry climbed by 5.9 percent to $15.7 billion, with digital sales up 17.7 percent across the board. After digital revenue surpassed physical for the first time in 2015, digital hits another milestone in 2016, accounting for 50 percent ($7.8 billion) of all music sales for the first time. More importantly, 2016 marked the second successive year that the recorded music market grew after nearly two decades of continually falling sales during which revenues dropped by almost 40 percent at their lowest point. [...] Breaking down the Global Music Report findings, the mass adoption of streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music in both established and emerging markets is -- as expected -- the main driver behind the industry's sustained upturn.
AI

IBM Watson Now Being Used To Catch Rogue Traders (siliconrepublic.com) 56

IBM is piloting its Jeopardy-winning Watson technology as a tool for catching rogue traders at large financial institutions, executives said in an interview Monday. From a report: Referred to as Watson Financial Services, the new product will become a monitoring tool within companies to search through every trader's emails and chats, combining it with the trading data on the floor. The objective? To see if there are any correlations between suspicious conversations online and activity that could be construed as rogue trading.
Bitcoin

BitTorrent Inventor Bram Cohen Will Start His Own Cryptocurrency (torrentfreak.com) 96

Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, has showed deep interest in cryptocurrency in the past, and now it looks like he is going to start his own. From a report: Without going into technical details, Cohen believes that Bitcoin is wasteful. He suggests that a cryptocurrency that pins the mining value on storage space rather than processor time will be superior. In an interview with TorrentFreak's Steal This Show, Cohen revealed that his interest in cryptocurrencies is not merely abstract. It will be his core focus in the near future. "My proposal isn't really to do something to BitCoin. It really has to be a new currency," Cohen says. "I'm going to make a cryptocurrency company. That's my plan." By focusing on a storage based solution, BitTorrent's inventor also hopes to address other Bitcoin flaws, such as the 51% attack. "Sometimes people have this misapprehension that Bitcoin is a democracy. No Bitcoin is not a democracy; it's called a 51% attack for a reason. That's not a majority of the vote, that's not how Bitcoin works."
Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer Will Make $186 Million on Yahoo's Sale To Verizon (cnbc.com) 154

Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYTimes: Yahoo shareholders will vote June 8 on whether to sell the company's internet businesses to Verizon Communications for $4.48 billion. A yes vote, which is widely expected, would end Marissa Mayer's largely unsuccessful five-year effort to restore the internet pioneer to greatness. But Ms. Mayer, the company's chief executive, will be well compensated for her failure. Her Yahoo stock, stock options and restricted stock units are worth a total of $186 million, based on Monday's stock price of $48.15, according to data filed on Monday in the documents sent to shareholders about the Verizon deal. That compensation, which will be fully vested at the time of the shareholder vote, does not include her salary and bonuses over the past five years, or the value of other stock that Ms. Mayer has already sold. All told, her time at Yahoo will have netted her well over $200 million, according to calculations based on company filings.
The Almighty Buck

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All (theatlantic.com) 238

Thelasko shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, which describes how price discrimination is used in online shopping and how businesses like Amazon try to extract consumer surplus: Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer. We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. "It's most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price," Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard. The right price -- the one that will extract the most profit from consumers' wallets -- has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley. It's also the preoccupation of Boomerang Commerce, a five-year-old start-up founded by Hariharan, an Amazon alum. He says these sorts of price experiments have become a routine part of finding that right price -- and refinding it, because the right price can change by the day or even by the hour. (Amazon says its price changes are not attempts to gather data on customers' spending habits, but rather to give shoppers the lowest price out there.)
The Courts

Uber Gets Sued Over Alleged 'Hell' Program To Track Lyft Drivers (techcrunch.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Uber has another lawsuit on its hands. This time, it's about Uber's alleged use of a program called "Hell." The plaintiff, Michael Gonzales, drove for Lyft during the time Uber allegedly used the software. He's seeking $5 million in a class action lawsuit. As the story goes, Uber allegedly tracked Lyft drivers using a secret software program internally referred to as "Hell." It allegedly let Uber see how many Lyft drivers were available to give rides, and what their prices were. Hell could allegedly also determine if people were driving for both Uber and Lyft. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Uber broadly invaded the privacy of the Lyft drivers, specifically violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act and Federal Wiretap Act and engaged in unfair competition. Uber has not confirmed nor outright denied the claims.
Businesses

Square Said To Acquire Team From Struggling Social App Yik Yak (bloomberg.com) 15

According to Bloomberg, Square has acquired the engineering team of Yik Yak for "less than $3 million." From the report: The payments processor paid less than $3 million for between five and ten of Yik Yak's engineers, according to the person. Atlanta-based Yik Yak's Chief Executive Officer Tyler Droll will not join Square, the person added, asking not to be identified talking about a private matter. Atlanta-based Yik Yak, which started in 2013, created a smartphone app that allowed people to contribute to anonymous chat groups in a narrow geographical radius -- like college campuses.
Network

Slashdot Asks: Which Wireless Carrier Do You Prefer? 199

Earlier this year, telecommunications giants like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were battling to see who could release the best unlimited data plan(s). T-Mobile started the domino chain reaction with the launch of its "One" unlimited plan in August. But the competition became especially fierce in February when Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own, causing Sprint and AT&T to unveil new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. Each of the four major carriers have since continued to tweak their plans to ultimately undercut their competitors and retain as many customers are possible.

Given how almost everyone has a smartphone these days and the thirst for data has never been higher, we'd like to ask you about your current wireless carrier and plan. Which wireless carrier and plan do you have any why? Is there any one carrier or unlimited data plan that stands out from the others? T-Mobile, for example, recently announced that it added 1.1 million customers in Q1 2017, which means that it has added more than 1 million customers every quarter for the past four years. Have they managed to earn your business? MyRatePlan has a good breakdown of the current unlimited data plans on the market today.
The Internet

Verizon's $70 Gigabit Internet Is Half the Price of Older 750Mbps Tier (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is now selling what it calls "FiOS Gigabit Connection" for $69.99 a month in a change that boosts top broadband speeds and makes lower prices available to many Internet subscribers. Actual bandwidth will be a bit lower than a gigabit per second, with "downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps," Verizon's announcement today said. The gigabit service is available in most of Verizon's FiOS territory, specifically to "over 8 million homes in parts of the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas," Verizon said. Just three months ago, Verizon boosted its top speeds from 500Mbps to 750Mbps. The standalone 750Mbps Internet service cost $150 a month, more than twice the price of the new gigabit tier. Existing customers who bought that 750Mbps plan "will automatically receive FiOS Gigabit Connection and will see their bills lowered," Verizon said. It's not clear whether they will get their price lowered all the way to $70. It's important to note that the $70 price is only available to new customers, and it's a promotional rate that will "increase after promo period." Additionally, Verizon will charge you a $10 per month router charge unless you pay $150 for the Verizon router, plus other taxes and fees.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Nadella Banks On LinkedIn Data To Challenge Salesforce (reuters.com) 34

Microsoft is rolling out upgrades to its sales software that integrates data from LinkedIn, an initiative that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Reuters was central to the company's long-term strategy for building specialized business software. From the report: The improvements to Dynamics 365, as Microsoft's sales software is called, are a challenge to market leader Salesforce.com and represent the first major product initiative to spring from Microsoft's $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. The new features will comb through a salesperson's email, calendar and LinkedIn relationships to help gauge how warm their relationship is with a potential customer. The system will recommend ways to save an at-risk deal, like calling in a co-worker who is connected to the potential customer on LinkedIn. [...] The artificial intelligence, or AI, capabilities of the software would be central, Nadella said. "I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves," he said. On Monday, LinkedIn said it has surpassed 500 million members globally, one of the first big milestones for the business social network since its acquisition.
Businesses

Amazon Might Be Planning To Use Driverless Cars for Delivery (fortune.com) 109

Amazon could be eyeing driverless car technology as a way to get items to people's doors faster, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. From an article: It seems nearly every tech and auto giant are now evaluating autonomous vehicle technology. Google-owner Alphabet recently spun out its self-driving car unit, Waymo, into its own subsidiary. Apple was just granted a license in California to test autonomous vehicles. Ford and General Motors are also doubling down on creating autonomous vehicles. Amazon's ambitions, however, may not be to actually build these cars. Instead, the e-commerce giant has a team of around a dozen employees thinking of ways to potentially use the nascent technology to expand its own retail and logistics operations. Operating fleets of driverless trucks to ship items bought from its marketplace could help lower costs for the company.
AI

Billionaire Jack Ma Says CEOs Could Be Robots in 30 Years, Warns of Decades of 'Pain' From AI (cnbc.com) 282

Self-made billionaire, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma warned on Monday that society could see decades of pain thanks to disruption caused by the internet and new technologies to different areas of the economy. From a report: In a speech at a China Entrepreneur Club event, the billionaire urged governments to bring in education reform and outlined how humans need to work with machines. "In the coming 30 years, the world's pain will be much more than happiness, because there are many more problems that we have come across," Ma said in Chinese, speaking about potential job disruptions caused by technology. [...] Ma also spoke about the rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and said that this technology will be needed to process the large amount of data being generated today, something that a human brain can't do. But machines shouldn't replace what humans can do, Ma said, but instead the technology community needs to look at making machines do what humans cannot. This would make the machine a "human partner" rather than an opponent.
Businesses

Amazon Launches Marketplace For Digital Subscriptions (talkingnewmedia.com) 7

Amazon said on Monday it is launching a platform for companies with subscription services -- from newspapers, magazines to TV streaming. The "Subscribe with Amazon" marketplace allows consumers to buy subscriptions to products like SlingTV streaming, Headspace meditation, Dropbox Plus, as well as workout videos, online classes, meal plans and even matchmakers. The marketplace also features more traditional subscriptions, similar to those that have become popular on Amazon's Kindle tablets, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and New Yorker.
Businesses

Unroll.me 'Heartbroken' After Being Caught Selling User Data To Uber (cnet.com) 109

The chief executive of email unsubscription service Unroll.me has said he is "heartbroken" that users felt betrayed by the fact that his company monetises the contents of their inbox by selling their data to companies such as Uber. Over the weekend, The New York Times published a profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, in which, among other things, it reported that following an acquisition by shopping app Slice in 2014, Unroll.me developed a side-business: selling aggregated data about users to the very apps they were unsubscribing from. Uber was one of Slice's big data arm Slice Intelligence's customers. CNET adds: While Unroll.me did not specifically admit to selling data to Uber, it has apologised for not being "explicit enough" in explaining how its free service worked. "It was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service," CEO Jojo Hedaya said on the Unroll.me blog. While reiterating that "all data is completely anonymous and related to purchases only," Hedaya admitted, "we need to do better for our users" by offering clearer information on its website.
Businesses

Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple (cnbc.com) 113

theodp quotes today's New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick: For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple's privacy guidelines.
Uber told TechCrunch this afternoon that it still uses a form of this device fingerprinting, saying they need a way to identify those devices which committed fraud in the past -- especially in China, where Uber drivers used stolen iPhones to request dozens of rides from themselves to increase their pay rate. It's been modified to comply with Apple's rules, and "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app..." an Uber spokesperson said. "Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."

The article offers a longer biography of Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to start a peer-to-peer music-sharing service named Scour. (The service eventually declared bankruptcy after being sued for $250 billion for alleged copyright infringement.) Desperately trying to save his next company, Kalanick "took the tax dollars from employee paychecks -- which are supposed to be withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service," according to the Times, "and reinvested the money into the start-up, even as friends and advisers warned him the action was potentially illegal." The money eventually reached the IRS as he "staved off bankruptcy for a second time by raising another round of funding." But the article ultimately argues that Kalanick's drive to win in life "has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion."

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