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Businesses

Twitch Will Begin Selling Games You're Watching Later This Year (kotaku.com) 11

Twitch, home to millions of people who go to the site to watch games being player, is adding an e-commerce element to its game streaming platform. The Amazon-owned company announced today that it will sell video games directly on its site, which is already used by nearly 10 million daily active users. From a report: The new game sales program will allow stream viewers to click a "Buy Now" button at the bottom of the stream page to purchase the game they are viewing. Sales go through Twitch parent company Amazon, and while games will be available worldwide, only U.S. dollars will be supported as payment currency at launch
Businesses

Scraping By On Six Figures? Tech Workers Feel Poor in Silicon Valley's Wealth Bubble (theguardian.com) 180

Big tech companies pay some of the country's best salaries. But workers claim the high cost of living in the Bay Area has them feeling financially strained, reports The Guardian. One Twitter employee cited in the story, who earns a base salary of $160,000 a year, said his earnings are "pretty bad", adding that he pays $3000 rent for a two-bedroom house in San Francisco. From the article: Silicon Valley's latest tech boom has caused rents to soar over the last five years. The city's rents, by one measure, are now the highest in the world. The prohibitive costs have displaced teachers, city workers, firefighters and other members of the middle class, not to mention low-income residents. Now techies, many of whom are among the highest 1 percent of earners, are complaining that they, too, are being priced out. The Twitter employee said he hit a low point in early 2014 when the company changed its payroll schedule, leaving him with a hole in his budget. "I had to borrow money to make it through the month." He was one of several tech workers, earning between $100,000 and $700,000 a year, who vented to the Guardian about their financial situation.
Canada

Canada's Top Mountie Issues Blistering Memo On IT Failures (www.cbc.ca) 54

Reader Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has levelled a blistering memo obtained by the CBC on how critical IT failures have increased by 129 per cent since Shared Services Canada took over tech support for the entire government five years ago. Not only that, the memo says, the duration of each outage has increased by 98 per cent. "Its 'one size fits all' IT shared services model has negatively impacted police operations, public and officer safety and the integrity of the criminal justice system," reads the memo. A list of specific incidents includes an 11-hour network computer outage on Jan. 18 that downed every Mountie's BlackBerry, affected dispatching, and prevented the RCMP and 240 other police forces from accessing the Canadian Police Information Centre database.
AT&T

AT&T Undercuts Verizon, T-Mobile With New Unlimited Plan (cnet.com) 49

Roger Cheng, writing for CNET: AT&T just fired the latest salvo in the unlimited data wars. The Dallas telecommunications giant unveiled two new unlimited data plans. The first is Unlimited Choice, a stripped-down plan that comes with unlimited data at a maximum speed of 3 megabits per second, standard definition, and no mobile hotspot. At $60, it's lower than T-Mobile's $70 plan and Verizon's $80 option. Both plans, however, offer you full high-definition video and 10 gigabytes of mobile hotspot access. Sprint still offers the cheapest option at $50 a month, although prices rise by $10 after a year. AT&T continues to push its video aspirations with higher end option called Unlimited Plus that includes HD video and 10GB of mobile hotspot access. The plan costs $90 a month, but gives you the option to add DirecTV Now streaming video service for $10 and DirecTV home satellite TV service for $25 a month.
AI

Supersmart Robots Will Outnumber Humans Within 30 Years, Says SoftBank CEO (fortune.com) 133

Computers running artificial intelligence programs will exceed human intelligence within three decades, Masayoshi Son, founder of the Japanese technology and telecommunications conglomerate SoftBank Group, said on Monday. From a report on Fortune: "I really believe this," Son told a large audience at the Mobile World Congress, the telecom industry's annual conference in Barcelona. A computer will have the IQ equal to 1,000 times the average human by that point, he said. Even clothing like a pair of sneakers will have more computing power that a person, Son joked. "We will be less than our shoes," he said, to laughter. Asked if the rise of the computer could be dangerous for humankind, Son said that would be up to how people react. "I believe this artificial intelligence is going to be our partner," he said. "If we misuse it, it will be a risk. If we use it right, it can be our partner."
Google

Google Assistant To Be Available On Older Versions of Android Soon (zdnet.com) 19

Matthew Miller, writing for ZDNet: Google has announced that Google Assistant is coming to smartphones running Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, starting this week. The Google Assistant will begin rolling out this week to English users in the US, followed by English in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as German speakers in Germany. Google continue to add more languages in the future.
Windows

Microsoft To Introduce a New Feature In Windows 10 Which Will Allow Users To Block Installation of Desktop Apps (mspoweruser.com) 179

Microsoft is planning to introduce a new feature to Windows 10 that will allow a user to prevent installation of desktop apps. The latest Windows Insider build comes with an option that allows users to enable app installations only from the Windows Store. From a report on MSPowerUser: Once enabled, users will see a warning whenever they try to install a Win32 app -- they will get a dialog saying apps from the Windows Store helps to keep their PC "safe and reliable." This feature is obviously disabled by default, but users can enable it really easily if they want.
Sony

Sony Launches Phone With World's First 4K HDR Screen; Nokia Brings Back the 3310 Handset (wired.com) 56

Rumors were true. Nokia did launch its 3310 handset at MWC. It's been almost 17 years since the 3310 first came out. In that time the Nokia brand has been bought, sold, and stripped for parts. From a report on Wired: The 3310 is still very much a feature phone. It has a web browser, but only barely -- it's a dumbed-down version of Opera, basically there for emergency tweeting. It exists for you to make phone calls, send texts the way you did a decade ago (T9 FTW!), and play Snake. The 3310 weighs less than three ounces, and its battery lasts an absurd 31 days in standby time, or up to 22 hours of talk time. The new 3310 has a camera, for one thing, a 2-megapixel shooter. It also has a 2.4-inch, 240x320 screen, which is hilariously small and low-res but still a huge improvement over the original. It is priced at 49 Euros ($51). Also at the event, Sony announced that it is not done with putting a 4K screen on smartphones. From a report on The Verge: The XZ Premium has the world's first 4K HDR (2,160 x 3,840, High Dynamic Range) display in a smartphone. Sony has the latest and best Qualcomm chip while others are still offering the Snapdragon 820 and 821, but the Xperia XZ Premium won't be out until late spring or just ahead of the summer. Hell, the demo units shown off ahead of MWC weren't running anywhere close to final software -- so Sony is pre-announcing its new flagship device by a long margin. Other notable features include water resistance, rated to IP65 and IP68, a thinner profile at 7.9mm, and MicroSD storage expandability. The phone's battery is a reasonable 3,230mAh, and there's a fingerprint sensor integrated into the side-mounted power button as usual.
Intel

Intel Reacts To AMD Ryzen Apparently Cutting Prices On Core i7 And i5 Processors (hothardware.com) 173

Less than a week after AMD announced the first line up of Ryzen processors, Intel is apparently fighting back by dropping the price of several of its processors. Rob Williams, writing for HotHardware: So, what we're seeing now are a bunch of Intel processors dropping in price, perhaps as a bit of a preemptive strike against AMD's chips shipping later this week -- though admittedly it's still a bit too early to tell. Over at Amazon, the prices have been slower to fall, but we'd highly recommend that you keep an eye on the following pages, if you are looking for a good deal this week. So far, at Micro Center we've seen the beefy six-core Intel Core i7-6850K (3.60GHz) drop from $700 to $550, and the i7-6800K (3.40GHz) drop down to $360, from $500. Also, some mid-range chips are receiving price cuts as well. Those include the i7-6700K, a 4.0GHz chip dropping from $400 to $260, and the i7-6600K, a 3.50GHz quad-core part dropping from $270 to $180. Even Intel's latest and greatest Kaby Lake-based i7-7700K has experienced a drop, from $380 to $299, with places like Amazon and NewEgg retailing for $349.
Software

Indian State Saves $45 Million As Schools Switch To Open Source Software (factordaily.com) 67

From a report: The Kerala government has made a saving of Rs 300 crore ($45 million) through introduction and adoption of Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) in the school education sector, said a state government official on Sunday. IT became a compulsory subject in Kerala schools from 2003, but it was only in 2005 that FOSS was introduced in a phased manner and started to replace proprietary software. The decision made by the curriculum committee to implement it in the higher secondary sector has also been completed now. "It's not the cost saving that matters more, but the fact that the Free Software license enables not only teachers and students but also the general public an opportunity to copy, distribute and share the contents and use it as they wish," K. Anwar Sadath, executive director IT@School said.
Transportation

Questioning The Privacy Policies Of Data-Collecting Cars (autoblog.com) 72

Remember when Vizio's televisions started collecting data about what shows people were watching? One transportation reporter is more worried about all the data being collected by cars. schwit1 quotes Autoblog: Nowadays, auto manufacturers seem to be tripping over each other pointing out that they offer Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. And more recent phenomenon are announcements -- from companies including Ford and Hyundai -- that they are offering Amazon Alexa capabilities. You talk. It listens... Here's the thing. While it may seem appealing to have all manner of connectivity in cars, there is the other side of that. Without getting all tinfoil hat about this, when your TV set is ratting you out, isn't it likely that your car will? It drives. And watches. And listens. And collects data...
That data could be shared with everyone from auto insurers and advertisers to law enforcement officials and divorce attorneys. But the real problem may be consumers assuming strong privacy protections that don't actually exist. The article argues that GM's privacy policy "is like most privacy policies, which boils down to: You use it (the device, software, etc.), you potentially give up a portion of your privacy."
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Would You Use A Cellphone With A Kill Code? 242

Slashdot reader gordo3000 writes: Given all the recent headlines about border patrol getting up close and personal with phones, I've been wondering why phone manufacturers don't offer a second emergency pin that you can enter that wipes all private information on the phone? In theory, it should be pretty easy to just input a different pin (or unlock pattern) that opens up a factory reset screen on the phone and in the background begins deleting all personal information.

I'd expect that same code could also lock out the USB port until it is finished deleting the data, to help prevent many of the tools they now have to copy out everything on your phone. This nicely prevents you from having to back up and wipe your phone before every trip but leaves you with a safety measure if you get harassed at the border.

It could be built into the operating system, added by the manufacturer, or perhaps sideloaded as a custom mod -- but that begs the question of whether it'd really be a popular feature. So leave your own thoughts in the comments. Would you use a cellphone with a kill code?
Moon

How To Get Back To the Moon In 4 Years -- This Time To Stay (scientificamerican.com) 282

Scientific American describes "a way to get to the Moon and to stay there permanently...to begin this process immediately and to achieve moon landings in less than four years." It starts by abandoning NASA's expensive Space Launch System and Orion capsule, and spending the money saved on private-industry efforts like Elon Musk's SpaceX and Robert Bigelow's Bigelow Aerospace. schwit1 quotes their report: Musk's rockets -- the Falcon and the soon-to-be-launched Falcon Heavy -- are built to take off and land. So far their landing capabilities have been used to ease them down on earth. But the same technology, with a few tweaks, gives them the ability to land payloads on the surface of the Moon. Including humans. What's more, SpaceX's upcoming seven-passenger Dragon 2 capsule has already demonstrated its ability to gentle itself down to earth's surface. In other words, with a few modifications and equipment additions, Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules could be made Moon-ready...

Major segments of the space community want every future landing to add to a permanent infrastructure in the sky. And that's within our grasp thanks to Robert Bigelow... Since the spring of 2016, Bigelow, a real estate developer and founder of the Budget Suites of America hotel chain, has had an inflatable habitat acting as a spare room at the International Space Station 220 miles above your head and mine. And Bigelow's been developing something far more ambitious -- an inflatable Moon Base, that would use three of his 330-cubic-meter B330 modules.

The article calls Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rockets "a wild car" which could also land passengers and cargo on the moon and suggests NASA would be better off funding things like lunar-surface refueling stations, lunar construction equipment, and "devices to turn lunar ice into rocket fuel, drinkable water, and breathable oxygen."
Movies

Can Streaming Companies Replace Hollywood Studios? (vanityfair.com) 113

"Movie-theater attendance is down to a 19-year low, with revenues hovering slightly above $10 billion," reports Vanity Fair, arguing that traditional studios should feel threatened by nimble streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, which produced the film Manchester By The Sea -- nominated for six Oscars. An anonymous reader writes: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos attended the Oscars, prompting host Jimmy Kimmel to joke that if the film won, "you can expect your Oscar to arrive in 2 to 5 business days, possibly stolen by a GrubHub delivery man." But it's a symbol of an inevitable disruption in Hollywood. "Studios now account for less than 10% of their parent companies' profits," writes Vanity Fair, adding "By 2020, according to some forecasts, that share will fall to around 5%... Some 70% of box office comes from abroad, which means that studios must traffic in the sort of blow-'em-up action films and comic-book thrillers that translate easily enough to Mandarin. Or in reboots and sequels that rely on existing intellectual property." Former Paramount CEO Barry Diller famously said "I don't know why anyone would want a movie company today. They don't make movies; they make hats and whistles."

The article makes the case that Hollywood, "in its over-reliance on franchises, has ceded the vast majority of the more stimulating content to premium networks and over-the-top services such as HBO and Showtime, and, increasingly, digital-native platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. These companies also have access to analytics tools that Hollywood could never fathom, and an allergy to its inefficiency."

The article argues that with A.I., CGI, big data and innovation, "Silicon Valley has already won," and that "it's only a matter of time -- perhaps a couple of years -- before movies will be streamed on social-media sites."
Transportation

'Uber Is Doomed', Argues Transportation Reporter (jalopnik.com) 293

When an Uber self-driving car ran a red light last year, they blamed and suspended the car's driver, even though it was the car's software that malfunctioned, according to two former employees, ultimately causing Uber cars to run six different red lights. But technical issues may be only the beginning. An anonymous reader writes: Jalopnik points out that in 2016 Uber "burned through more than $2 billion, amid findings that rider fares only cover roughly 40% of a ride, with the remainder subsidized by venture capitalists" (covering even less than the fares of government-subsidized mass transit systems). So despite Google's lawsuit and other recent bad publicity, "even when those factors are removed, it's becoming more evident that Uber will collapse on its own."

Their long analysis argues that the problems are already becoming apparent. "Uber, which didn't respond to questions from Jalopnik about its viability, recently paid $20 million to settle claims that it grossly misled how much drivers could earn on Craigslist ads. The company's explosive growth also fundamentally required it to begin offering subprime auto loans to prospective drivers without a vehicle."

Last month transportation industry analyst Hubert Horan calculated that Uber Global's losses have been "substantially greater than any venture capital-funded startup in history."

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