By BeauHD from Slashdot's what-year-is-it department
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued IBM a -- what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls -- "stupefyingly mundane" patent on e-mail technology. U.S. Patent No. 9,547,842, "Out-of-office electronic mail messaging system" was filed in 2010 and granted about six weeks ago. Ars Technica reports: The "invention" represented in the '842 patent is starkly at odds with the real history of technology, accessible in this case via a basic Google search. EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer, who wrote about the '842 patent in this month's "Stupid Patent of the Month" blog post, points to an article on a Microsoft publicity page that talks about quirky out-of-office e-mail culture dating back to the 1980s, when Microsoft marketed its Xenix e-mail system (the predecessor to today's Exchange.) IBM offers one feature that's even arguably not decades old: the ability to notify those writing to the out-of-office user some days before the set vacation dates begin. This feature, similar to "sending a postcard, not from a vacation, but to let someone know you will go on a vacation," is a "trivial change to existing systems," Nazer points out. Nazer goes on to identify some major mistakes made during the examination process. The examiner never considered whether the software claims were eligible after the Supreme Court's Alice v. CLS Bank decision, which came in 2014, and in Nazer's view, the office "did an abysmal job" of looking at the prior art. "[T]he examiner considered only patents and patent applications," notes Nazer. The office "never considered any of the many, many, existing real-world systems that pre-dated IBM's application."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's price-cuts department
Oculus said Wednesday it is cutting the price of its Rift headset and Touch motion controllers by $100 each, dropping the cost of a complete system to $598. From a report: The Rift and Touch combination will drop to $598 from $799, or roughly $100 off each piece of high-end hardware. The discount applies even if the devices are purchased separately. Earlier this week, Oculus announced it was expanding its gaming content selection by eight titles. Brendan Iribe, who heads up the Oculus PC/VR group, refutes the notion that the price slash is in response to slow sales. "VR is a whole new platform and medium, it's the first time people are putting a computer on their head," Iribe, 37, told USA TODAY at the Game Developers Conference here. "We are cutting the price to bring VR to more people, and that's always been our goal."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's living-things-101 department
An anonymous reader shares The Guadian report: Scientists say they have found the world's oldest fossils, thought to have formed between 3.77bn and 4.28bn years ago. Comprised of tiny tubes and filaments made of an iron oxide known as haematite, the microfossils are believed to be the remains of bacteria that once thrived underwater around hydrothermal vents, relying on chemical reactions involving iron for their energy. If correct, these fossils offer the oldest direct evidence for life on the planet. And that, the study's authors say, offers insights into the origins of life on Earth. "If these rocks do indeed turn out to be 4.28 [bn years old] then we are talking about the origins of life developing very soon after the oceans formed 4.4bn years ago," said Matthew Dodd, the first author of the research from University College, London. With iron-oxidising bacteria present even today, the findings, if correct, also highlight the success of such organisms. "They have been around for 3.8bn years at least," said the lead author Dominic Papineau, also from UCL.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nothing-to-see-here department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader shares an Esquire article: If New Zealand is on your bucket list, it's time to fill out a job application. You see, the tech industry in Wellington, New Zealand is trying to recruit experts from around the world to their community, so they're offering a free trip if you can prove you want the job and deserve an interview. They're calling it a "global talent attraction program" and 100 potential recruits will be invited on the free (yes, free) week-long trip. But, of course, the catch is you have to prove why you could serve as a software developer, creative director, product manager, analyst or digital strategist to get a free ticket. Once you do, your itinerary will be filled with interviews and meetings with others in the New Zealand tech community members, as well as excursions around Wellington.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's speaking-up department
A number of programmers have taken it Twitter to bring it to everyone's, but particularly recruiter's, attention about the grueling interview process in their field that relies heavily on technical questions. David Heinemeier Hansson, a well-known programmer and the creator of the popular Ruby on Rails coding framework, started it when he tweeted, "Hello, my name is David. I would fail to write bubble sort on a whiteboard. I look code up on the internet all the time. I don't do riddles." Another coder added, "Hello, my name is Tim. I'm a lead at Google with over 30 years coding experience and I need to look up how to get length of a python string." Another coder chimed in, "Hello my name is Mike, I'm a GDE and lead at NY Times, I don't know what np complete means. Should I?" A feature story on The Outline adds: This interview style, widely used by major tech companies including Google and Amazon, typically pits candidates against a whiteboard without access to reference material -- a scenario working programmers say is demoralizing and an unrealistic test of actual ability. People spend weeks preparing for this process, afraid that the interviewer will quiz them on the one obscure algorithm they haven't studied. "A cottage industry has emerged that reminds us uncomfortably of SAT prep," Karla Monterroso, VP of programs for Code2040, an organization for black and Latino techies, wrote in a critique of the whiteboard interview. [...] This means companies tend to favor recent computer science grads from top-tier schools who have had time to cram; in other words, it doesn't help diversify the field with women, older people, and people of color.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's holding-accountable department
In February 2015, health insurer Anthem said its database had been compromised, exposing personal information for 78.8 million people, including 60 million to 70 million of its current and former customers and employees. Two years later, much of how it happened, who did it, and what consequences Anthem will face remain unanswered. From a report: Anthem has not disclosed the value of its cyber insurance policy, which defrays some of the costs. The hackers were most likely working on behalf of a foreign government. Many security experts believe it was China, but that has not been proven yet. The FBI would not comment on the pending investigation. It's unclear if Anthem will face a federal penalty. It's by far the largest health care data breach, and the Department of Health and Human Services has imposed fines in the past. We don't know for sure that Anthem was fully protected from this type of attack, and a separate federal agency that had a contract with Anthem previously said the insurer did not have controls in place "to prevent rogue devices...from connecting to its networks." Class-action lawsuits are still pending, and fact-finding discovery ended in December. Anthem could escape big damages if people can't show concrete harm.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sign-of-the-times department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: AOL announced today that it is starting to cut off third-party app access to its Instant Messenger service. As first noticed by ArsTechnica, AOL began notifying users of at least one third-party app, Adium, that it would become obsolete starting on March 28th. At this point, it's unclear whether or not all third-party applications will be rendered useless come March 28th, but the message presented to Adium users seemed to strongly imply that: "Hello. Effective 3/28, we will no longer support connections to the AIM network via this method. If you wish to use the free consumer AIM product, we invite you to visit http://www.aim.com/ for more information." What this likely means is that AOL is shutting down the OSCAR chat protocol that is used to handle AIM messages. The service will, however, continue to be available via AOL's own chat app that is supported on macOS, Windows, iOS, and Android.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's top-of-the-line department
MojoKid writes from a report via HotHardware: NVIDIA just lifted the veil on its latest monster graphics card for gamers -- the long-rumored GeForce GTX 1080 Ti -- at an event this evening in San Francisco during the Game Developers Conference (GDC). The card will sit at the top of NVIDIA's GeForce offering with the Titan X and GeForce GTX 1080 in NVIDIA's Pascal-powered product stack, promising significant performance gains over the GTX 1080 and faster than Titan X performance, for a much lower price of $699. The 12 billion NVIDIA GP102 transistor on the card has 3,584 CUDA cores, which is actually the same as NVIDIA's Titan X. However, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will have fewer ROP units at 88, versus 96 in the Titan X. The 1080 Ti will also, however, come equipped with 11GB of premium GDDR5X memory from Micron clocked at 11,000 MHz for an effective 11Gbps data rate. Peak compute throughput of the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is slightly higher than the Titan X due to the Ti's higher boost clock. Memory bandwidth over its narrower 352-bit GDDR5 memory interface is 484GB/s, which is also slightly higher than a Titan X as well. NVIDIA also noted that peak overclocks on the core should hit 2GHz or higher with minimal coaxing. As a result, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti will be faster than the Titan X out of the box, faster still when overclocked.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's parlor-walls department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans went from having an average of 2.6 TVs per household in 2009 to having 2.3 TVs in 2015, according to survey data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA). The data comes from the agency's Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS), which has been conducted periodically since the 1970s to understand American energy use. The 2015 survey included 5,600 respondents who were contacted in person and then given an option to follow up by mail or online. A fine-detail report on the survey results is due to be released in April 2017. The latest data shows that in 2015, 2.6 percent of households had no TV at all, a jump from the previous four surveys in 2009, 2005, 2001, and 1997 in which a steady 1.2 to 1.3 percent of households didn't own a TV. The 2015 data also showed that the number of people with three TVs or more dropped in 2015. That year, 39 percent of households had more than three TVs, whereas 44 percent had more than three TVs in 2009. Interestingly, the number of households with one or two TVs increased in 2015 to 58 percent, from 54 percent in 2009.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's agree-to-disagree department
A new video published by Bloomberg shows Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver over fares. It all started when one of Kalanick's "companions" appears to say that she's heard that Uber is having a hard year. Bloomberg reports: That pleasant conversation between Kalanick and his friends in the back of an Uber Black? It devolved into a heated argument over Uber's fares between the CEO and his driver, Fawzi Kamel, who then turned over a dashboard recording of the conversation to Bloomberg. Kamel, 37, has been driving for Uber since 2011 and wants to draw attention to the plight of Uber drivers. The video shows off Kalanick's pugnacious personality and short temper, which may cause some investors to question whether he has the disposition to lead a $69 billion company with a footprint that spans the globe. Uber declined to comment on the video. Here's part of the conversation:
Travis Kalanick: "So we are reducing the number of black cars in the next few months."
Fawzi Kamel: "It's good."
Kalanick: "You probably saw some email."
Kamel: "I saw the email [says] it starts in May. But you're raising the standards and dropping the prices."
Kalanick: "We're not dropping the prices on black."
Kamel: "But in general."
Kalanick: "In general but we have competitors. Otherwise we'd be out of business."
Kamel: "Competitors? You had the business model in your hands you could have the prices you want but you choose to buy everybody a ride."
You can read the transcript of the conversation here via Recode.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's keeping-up-with-the-Joneses department
dryriver writes: BBC Capital explores why good ideas people have in the workplace almost never reach the top decision-makers in a company. From the report: "Surely you've heard the plea from on high at your company: we want more innovation, from everyone at every level. Your boss might even agree with the sentiment -- because, of course, who doesn't like innovation? It's good for everyone, right? Yet when it comes to innovating at your job it might be better to lower your expectations -- and then some. Your idea is far more likely to die on your boss's desk than it is to reach the CEO. It's not that top managers don't want new ideas. Rather, it's the people around you -- your colleagues, your manager -- who are unlikely to bend toward change. Today, big companies that don't innovate face extinction. 'Companies are almost forced to say that they are changing these days,' says Lynn Isabella, professor of organizational behavior at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business in the U.S. But, 'it's not organizations that resist change; people resist,' says Isabella. 'The people have to see what's in it for them.'" As mentioned in the report, some of the key questions that the people whom you pitch your ideas to will ask themselves include, what does this innovation mean for me personally -- will it be more challenging or will it lead to more career opportunities, and what will it mean for my job -- will I get fired or will it be (or was it) worth it? Many times the answers to these questions don't stack up in favor of the innovation, Isabella says. As a result, the people who need to buy in don't push for change.Read Replies (0)