By EditorDavid from Slashdot's of-fire-and-ice department
CNET reports on the massive ice wall created by an "intricate network of small metal pipes, capped off by six-foot-high metal scaffolding."
It turns out, coolant is running through the pipes, freezing the soil below and creating an impermeable ice wall that's nearly 100 feet deep and a mile long, encircling the reactors. It's like a smaller-scale subterranean version of the Wall in Game of Thrones, but instead of keeping out White Walkers and wights, this line of defense keeps in a far more realistic danger: radioactive contaminants from melted-down reactors that threaten to spill into the water by Fukushima Daiichi....
The structure, which cost roughly $300 million, paid for by public funds, serves as critical protection, defending the Fukushima area from one of the most radioactive hotspots in the world. While Tokyo Electric Power Co., also known as Tepco, struggles to find a way to remove radioactive material from the facility -- a process the government estimates could take more than four decades -- the more immediate concern is what to do with the contaminated water leaking out from the facility. One of the solutions has been to put up (down?) this underground ice wall, which prevents much of the surrounding groundwater from getting in.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's last-cash-generations department
"I haven't had a nickel, dime, quarter or penny in my pocket for two years," writes USA Today tech columnist Jefferson Graham, adding "Why bother? We're now living in what's quickly becoming a cashless society, where credit cards or electronic payments on your phone rule."
His column is addressed to the mayor of Philadelphia, who this week signed a bill that bans cashless stores.
Mr. Mayor. It's happening all over the world, and not just from Amazon. We are going cashless. Maybe not in your lifetime, but certainly for millennials. Banks and credit card companies want this to curb the costs of handling green. Selected merchants are into it now... USA Today's Charisse Jones discovered that cash purchases were down to 30 percent of all retail transactions as of last year compared to 40 percent in 2012. Millennials, she noted here this week, are saying no to cash, with 21 percent of those 23- to 34 years old saying that most of their transactions were in cash in 2016....
Mobile pay is still a sliver of overall retail sales, but it's definitely on the rise. Target, a long holdout, just added Apple Pay to one of its options, following in the footsteps of Best Buy, CVS, Costco and other retail giants who now accept payment via iPhone. The big, lone holdout right now is Walmart, the No. 1 retailer. It does have its own mobile pay app, that links bank payments to QR codes. And Mr. Mayor, good news for you. Walmart still accepts cash, too.
But for how long?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's moon-fever department
This week The Space Review published an essay by retired aerospace engineer Gerald Black, who worked in the aerospace industry for over 40 years and tested various rocket engines, including the ascent stage engine of the Apollo lunar module.
"The Moonrush is now on," he argues "fueled by entrepreneurs dreaming of profits from Earth's nearest neighbor."
Leading the Moonrush are a bunch of private companies developing small lunar landers and rovers to explore the Moon. On February 21, the first mission of the Moonrush embarked aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
The Beresheet lunar lander built by Israel's SpaceIL was launched as a secondary payload, sharing the ride with the Indonesian communications satellite PSN-6. After reaching geostationary transfer orbit, Beresheet and the communications satellite separated from the Falcon 9 launcher. The communications satellite will propel itself to geostationary Earth orbit. Meanwhile, Beresheet is slowly raising its orbit. In early April the spacecraft will enter lunar orbit, then land on the Moon. Israel Aerospace Industries, the company that built the lander for SpaceIL, announced plans in January to partner with the German company OHB to offer a commercial lunar payload delivery service to the European Space Agency.
Black also notes that while Google never awarded its $20 million Lunar X grand prize, many teams are still active, including Astrobotic Technology, Moon Express, ispace inc., TeamIndus and PTScientists -- and that NASA will be awarding $2.6 billion in commercial moon exploration contracts over the next decade under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's half-a-cloud department
Ten days ago 66-year-old tech pundit Robert Cringely revealed the first of what may be his final set of annual predictions for the technology industry -- but he's not done yet. Thursday Cringely predicted that "the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) solution based on Open Source using Linux will change the Internet-as-a-Service Cloudscape to VPC-only during 2019" -- and that there'll be an industry-wide shakeout.
Long-time Slashdot reader supremebob, a Connecticut-based sys-admin, writes:
He seems to believe that IBM Cloud and Oracle Cloud and doomed to fail, and Alibaba will only survive because of its strong Chinese presence. These seem like safe predictions, but his comments on Google Cloud are somewhat controversial...
After AWS, Alibaba, and Microsoft, "All the others will eventually disappear," Cringely writes, adding "Remember you read it first here."
Google's largest cloud customer will always be Google and that will inevitably lead to poorer service for outside customers. That's why I think of Google Cloud as half of a player. Feel free to prove me wrong by delighting customers, Google... I don't see the marketing effort to help clients migrate. Lots of handholding is needed that IBM and Microsoft are happy to provide. Google does not understand customers whose IQs are sub-200. As such, Google doesn't have (and likely won't) have a history of winning outside of search advertising.
For IBM, their VPC roll-out is coming in the next month or two, but it's more marketing than an actual product. Big Blue simply has no capital to build out a unique offering. And Oracle? Well the new head of Google Cloud came from Oracle, where not enough was happening.
Cringely also predicts the U.S. government will try to force Amazon to spin-off its near-monopoly cloud business, noting that "the larger customers of AWS (those not operating on a credit card) generally hate Amazon because of its ruthless business behavior."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's permanent-vacations department
Michael Stapelberg, maintains "a bunch" of Debian packages and services, and says the free software Linux distro "has been in my life for well over 10 years at this point."
Today he released a 2,255-word essay explaining why he's "winding down" his involvement in Debian to a minimum, citing numerous complaints including Debian's complicated build stack, waits of up to seven hours before package uploads can be installed, leading to "asynchronous" feedback -- and Debian's lack of tooling for large changes.
The closest to "sending out a change for review" is to open a bug report with an attached patch... Culturally, reviews and reactions are slow. There are no deadlines. I literally sometimes get emails notifying me that a patch I sent out a few years ago (!!) is now merged. This turns projects from a small number of weeks into many years, which is a huge demotivator for me.
Interestingly enough, you can see artifacts of the slow online activity manifest itself in the offline culture as well: I don't want to be discussing systemd's merits 10 years after I first heard about it.
Lastly, changes can easily be slowed down significantly by holdouts who refuse to collaborate. My canonical example for this is rsync, whose maintainer refused my patches to make the package use debhelper purely out of personal preference. Granting so much personal freedom to individual maintainers prevents us as a project from raising the abstraction level for building Debian packages, which in turn makes tooling harder.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's flying-through-the-cloud department
"The next success for the company behind Angry Birds could be twofold: convincing the U.S. public they should buy a 5G mobile phone from Sprint Corp., and developing the world's biggest video game streaming platform in the process," reports Bloomberg:
Rovio Entertainment is in talks with "several" investors to take a stake in its subsidiary Hatch -- a "Netflix for games" platform that Sprint will use to showcase what its high-speed 5G handsets can do when it opens its new network in May. But Rovio Chief Executive Officer Kati Levoranta also needs new investors to buy into her vision for three-year-old Hatch, on which Rovio has already spent about 17 million euros ($19 million), to help it build up its library of games from developers such as Ubisoft and Sega.
"The Hatch service is brilliant for use with 5G, and many of our strategic partners are looking for services that demonstrate how 5G works and the benefits it brings," Levoranta said in an interview at the company's seaside headquarters in Espoo, Finland.... "5G is a big opportunity for us," Vesa Jutila, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Hatch Entertainment Oy, said in an interview. "Everyone seems to think cloud gaming is the way to tell the 5G story to consumers."
The app offers a portfolio of pre-vetted games to consumers, streamed to their handsets via a monthly subscription. Once the initial account is set up, mobile games can be played straight from the cloud, without needing to be downloaded or installed. The advent of high speed, low latency 5G networks makes the model all the more attractive to carriers looking to sell their latest services.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's moving-money department
"In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind transaction, two developers working in separate countries have successfully sent a bitcoin lightning payment over radio waves," writes CoinBase. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The completed payment effectively moved real bitcoin from Toronto, Canada, to San Francisco, California... But sending bitcoin over radio isn't just fun. Some researchers argue it actually has a necessary use case... The idea is that, while the internet can potentially be censored, it's not the only form of technology that can be used to send data from one part of the world to another, "in case China decides to censor bitcoin via the Great Firewall, or places like North Korea where there is no internet at all," as Bloomberg columnist Elaine Ou put it in an email to CoinDesk.
Technology infrastructure startup Blockstream licensed satellites that beam bitcoin to users around the world for similar reasons.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's higher-further-faster department
"With a $302 million international gross, Captain Marvel has earned $455 million overall to date, the largest ever global opening for a March release and the sixth highest of all-time," reports the Wrap. The superhero movie raked in $153 million just in America, reports Collider, "Suggesting that a sad, extremely vocal minority of idiots on the internet don't actually matter in the slightest."
They're referring to another Rotten Tomateos review-counting glitch Friday morning, as covered by the Hollywood Reporter:
The Disney film had only been in theaters for hours on Friday when the female-driven superhero picture was torpedoed online via Rotten Tomatoes. As of 8 a.m., the film had more than 58,000 reviews. That is more than the total of audience score reviews for Avengers: Infinity War for its entire theatrical run.
Rotten Tomatoes explained in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that a glitch was responsible for thousands of reviews showing up on the site when they shouldn't have. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it had included audience reviews given before the film was released, something which is no longer allowed.
Movieweb believes those pre-release reviews were generated by bots, suggesting a small handful of review-bombers who were attempting to amplify their impact. Yahoo Entertainment believes the attempted review-bombers were angry with the film's star "for, well, not giving a crap about what the trolls say. Perhaps that's the best superpower of all."
When asked about the attempt to review-bomb Captain Marvel, the film's star Brie Larson smilingly replied, "Oh... who cares?"
"Love what you love! Who cares what other people think?"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's superfish department
"The first genetically-modified animal for human consumption could be arriving in grocery stores across the United States as early as next year." Long-time Slashdot reader tomhath tipped us off to Indiana Public Media's report on AquaBounty Technologies:
AquaBounty will produce a GMO salmon that CEO Ron Stotish says will grow faster than freshwater-raised fish. "It does so because we've given it the ability, using the same biological process that regulates growth in the unmodified salmon, to grow about twice as fast reaching market rate about half the time," Stotish says. The technology has been around since the 1990s, but it took until 2015 to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, due to concerns about people eating genetically-modified animals. The genetic makeup of the biotech fish takes a growth-hormone regulatory gene from the Pacific Chinook salmon with a promoter gene from an ocean pout and puts it into the genome of an Atlantic salmon. The result causes for the growth hormone to remain on leading to faster growth rate than non GMO salmon.
The modified fish is able to grow to market size using 25 percent less feed than the traditional salmon, increasing cost efficiency... Stotish says his operation causes less harm than traditional fish farming. "We're not using coastal waterways, we're not putting antibiotics and medications into the water," Stotish says. "Our fish are in a controlled environment, we don't need antibiotics, we don't have to treat for sea lice."
The company says that every year Americans consume about 350,000 tons of Atlantic salmon -- more than 95% of which has to be imported.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Pomodoro-techniques department
Dr. Travis Bradberry has a PhD in industrial-organizational psychology, and argues that "The eight-hour workday is an outdated and ineffective approach to work."
A study recently conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application to track employees' work habits. Specifically, the application measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared this to their productivity levels. In the process of measuring people's activity, they stumbled upon a fascinating finding: the length of the workday didn't matter much; what mattered was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.
The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest. People who maintained this schedule had a unique level of focus in their work. For roughly an hour at a time, they were 100% dedicated to the task they needed to accomplish. They didn't check Facebook "real quick" or get distracted by e-mails. When they felt fatigue (again, after about an hour), they took short breaks, during which they completely separated themselves from their work. This helped them to dive back in refreshed for another productive hour of work.
People who have discovered this magic productivity ratio crush their competition because they tap into a fundamental need of the human mind: the brain naturally functions in spurts of high energy (roughly an hour) followed by spurts of low energy (15 - 20 minutes).
He suggests breaking your day into rough hourly intervals, followed by "real" rest. "Getting away from your computer, your phone, and your to-do list is essential to boosting your productivity. Breaks such as walking, reading, and chatting are the most effective forms of recharging because they take you away from your work..."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-feeling-lucky department
What if a robot came to your house to retrieve library books? An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup:
Residents in downtown Mountain View have gotten their first peek at the future with the debut of BookBot, the library's newest non-human helper. A creation of Google's Area 120 -- an experimental division of the technology juggernaut -- the bot is the company's first personal delivery robot to hit the streets and begin interacting with the public, said Christian Bersch, the project's team lead. It's part of a program to test the waters of what could be possible for autonomous, electric robots, he said...
The pilot will run for nine months with a human handler following behind the BookBot for the first six months, he said. That's just to make sure it's operating as planned, get it out of trouble as needed and observe how people are responding. After that, a human will sit behind the controls remotely. And, on a recent Thursday, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Children shrieked at the sight of the robot and immediately jumped in its path to see if it would stop. (It does...) Users must schedule the pickup time in advance, which -- because the bot is fairly popular -- means planning at least a week ahead. It can carry up to about 10 items, Bersch said, depending on the size of the books.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's half-an-Apple department
An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
Despite being championed as a decentralized form of money that puts individuals firmly in control of their own wealth, cryptocurrencies mostly remain the preserve of the super-rich and the super-nerdy. 1,000 Bitcoin wallets currently hold 35.18% of all Bitcoins, for example, and only a select few computer scientists understand the inner workings and machinations of blockchains... Such inconvenient truths undermine the oft-repeated claim that blockchains will democratize wealth, largely by lowering barriers to entry in financial networks and by preventing central banks from devaluing money via inflation. Nonetheless, this prediction has moved one step closer to realization in recent months, with the emergence of tokenized stocks....
In contrast to a new cryptocurrency designed specifically to conform to securities legislation (i.e. a security token), tokenized stocks provide digitized versions of existing shares in established companies, such as Google, Facebook, or Apple... [W]hat's interesting and potentially radical about such digital stocks is that they permit customers to buy fractions of stocks in big companies. This will open up trading to millions of people who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford buying shares in Apple or Amazon...
One significant side effect of tokenized stocks is that they could change the fundamental nature of global stock markets and how they behave, by opening them up to round-the-clock trading... It's interesting to note that some commentators believe the growth of round-the-clock exchanges might, in the long term, result in the emergence of a single global stock market.
The article also notes that it will be cheaper to trade digital versions of stocks, "since person-to-person trades circumvent the need to go through a broker...
"They look set to make the financial world more accessible to millions people, in addition to having serious implications for global markets."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
schwit1 shared this article from the Guardian:
In response to public pressure and increasing scrutiny over the pay of its warehouse workers, Amazon enacted a $15 minimum wage for all its employees on 1 November, including workers at grocery chain Whole Foods, which it purchased in 2017... But since the wage increase, Whole Food employees have told the Guardian that they have experienced widespread cuts that have reduced schedule shifts across many stores, often negating wage gains for employees.
"My hours went from 30 to 20 a week," said one Whole Foods employee in Illinois... "We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time," the worker said. An internal email shared by the employee from their department manager cited the across-the-board shift cuts as "the direct result of guidance from our regional team". In Maryland, another Whole Foods worker said their regional management is forcing stores to cut full-time employee schedules by four hours, to 36 hours a week. "This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained and we rely on working full shifts," the worker said...
In September 2018, several Whole Foods workers organized the group Whole Worker, with the goals of forming a union and providing workers a resource to organize since Amazon took over... "There are many team members working at Whole Foods today whose total compensation is actually less than what it was before the wage increase due to these labor reductions," said a Whole Worker spokesperson in an email to the Guardian.
Neither Amazon nor Whole Foods responded to requests fo a comment, the Guardian reports -- while the workers that they interviewed "were reluctant to speak on the record for fear of retaliation."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's one-platform-to-rule-them-all department
Saturday the Associated Press analyzed Mark Zuckerberg's new vision for Facebook as an encrypted "privacy-focused communications platform."
[C]ritics say the announcement obscures Facebook's deeper motivations: To expand lucrative new commercial services, continue monopolizing the attention of users, develop new data sources to track people and frustrate regulators who might be eyeing a breakup of the social-media behemoth. Facebook "wants to be the operating system of our lives," said Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of media studies at the University of Virginia... Vaidhyanathan said Zuckerberg wants people to abandon competing, person-to-person forms of communication such as email, texting and Apple's iMessage in order to "do everything through a Facebook product."
The end goal could be transform Facebook into a service like the Chinese app WeChat , which has 1.1 billion users and includes the world's most popular person-to-person online payment system... But Zuckerberg said nothing in the Wednesday blog post about reforming privacy practices in its core business, which remains hungry for data. A recent Wall Street Journal report found that Facebook was still collecting personal information from apps such as user heart rates and when women ovulate ... Facebook also has trackers that harvest data on people's online behavior on about 30 percent of the world's websites , said Jeremy Tillman of Ghostery, a popular ad-blocker and anti-tracking software.
"When they say they are building a private messaging platform there is nothing in there that suggests they are going to stop their data collection and ad-targeting business model," he said.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's never-falling-backwards-again department
In the state of Washington, the House has voted 89 to 7 to "ditch the switch, bring the light, and defeat the dark night," says one representative. KOMO reports:
Changing the clocks twice a year impacts the body's natural rhythms and is associated with a spike in heart attacks, strokes, and traffic collisions each year, according to the Washington State Department of Health's impact review. Extended daylight in the evening is also better for kids who play sports or who are active outside, Riccelli said. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.... The federal government would have the final say.
And meanwhile, one Pennsylvania newspaper has published a state representative's op-ed calling for Pennsylvania to help lead the resistance in America's Eastern Standard Time zone, complaining that "This weekend, we again will be forced to comply with an archaic tradition, one that offers no benefits."
There is no national crisis that changing clocks helps to alleviate. In fact, there are more negative side effects from changing clocks than benefits. Studies have shown that automobile accidents, workplace injuries, heart attacks, strokes, cluster headaches, miscarriages, depression, and suicides all increase in the weeks following clock changes.
This government-mandated interruption of natural biological rhythms and sleep cycles can wreak havoc on job performance, academic results, and overall physical/mental health. Clock changes require farmers to make needless adjustments, as crops and animals live by the sunlight... During this legislative session, I will be working to advance this commonsense legislation that will not only end the antiquated ritual of changing clocks, but will also help preserve the health, safety, well-being, productivity, and lives of Pennsylvanians.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-value-your-business department
Two associate professors of marketing recently shared research in the Harvard Business Review about how customer service is structured at at tech, travel, and finance companies:
[O]ur research suggests that some companies may actually find it profitable to create hassles for complaining customers, even if it were operationally costless not to.... We found that these companies screen complaining callers by using a hierarchical organizational structure. This structure, we argue, keeps a lid on the amount of redress customers are willing to seek. In other words, by forcing customers to jump through hoops, the organization helps curb its redress payouts.
As part of our research, described in a forthcoming article in the journal Marketing Science, we interviewed managers of call centers to understand how their customer service organization is structured, and the way it contains redress payouts. We found that most involve at least two levels of agents. The Level 1 agents take all incoming calls and hear each customer's complaint first. These agents are typically limited in the amount of redress they are authorized to offer to the caller...
So what about the idea that frustrating customers has consequences on customer retention and long term reputation? For example, some experts advise companies with upset customers to reach out to them directly to win them back. But, some companies have little regard for their reputation, especially those who control a large market share... companies with few competitors may find it worthwhile to alienate angry customers in order to save on redress costs.... This may help us understand why some of the most hated companies in America are so profitable and why customer service, unfortunately, remains so frustrating.
At one company "Any caller insisting on a refund was told to call the U.S. headquarters during normal business hours, generating additional tasks for any customer seeking more compensation...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's making-the-grades department
An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: As she sat in the airport with a one-way ticket in her hand, Tiffany Filler wondered how she would pick up the pieces of her life, with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt and nothing to show for it. A day earlier, she was expelled from Tufts University veterinary school. As a Canadian, her visa was no longer valid and she was told by the school to leave the U.S. 'as soon as possible.' That night, her plane departed the U.S. for her native Toronto, leaving any prospect of her becoming a veterinarian behind. Filler, 24, was accused of an elaborate months-long scheme involving stealing and using university logins to break into the student records system, view answers, and alter her own and other students' grades. The case Tufts presented seems compelling, if not entirely believable. There's just one problem: In almost every instance that the school accused Filler of hacking, she was elsewhere with proof of her whereabouts or an eyewitness account and without the laptop she's accused of using. She has alibis: fellow students who testified to her whereabouts; photos with metadata putting her miles away at the time of the alleged hacks; and a sleep tracker that showed she was asleep during others. Tufts is either right or it expelled an innocent student on shoddy evidence four months before she was set to graduate.Read Replies (0)