By msmash from Slashdot's ripping-off department
LA Times reports: Charles Dahan knows from firsthand experience how badly people get ripped off when buying eyeglasses. He was once one of the leading suppliers of frames to LensCrafters, before the company was purchased by optical behemoth Luxottica. He also built machines that improved the lens-manufacturing process. In other words, Dahan, 70, knows the eyewear business from start to finish. And he doesn't like what's happened. "There is no competition in the industry, not anymore," he told me. "Luxottica bought everyone. They set whatever prices they please."
Both Butler and Dahan (former executives with LensCrafters) acknowledged what most consumers have long suspected: that the prices we pay for eyewear in no way reflect the actual cost of making frames and lenses. When he was in the business, in the 1980s and '90s, Dahan said it cost him between $10 and $16 to manufacture a pair of quality plastic or metal frames. Lenses, he said, might cost about $5 a pair to produce. With fancy coatings, that could boost the price all the way to $15.
He said LensCrafters would turn around and charge $99 for completed glasses that cost $20 or $30 to make -- and this was well below what many independent opticians charged. Nowadays, he said, those same glasses at LensCrafters might cost hundreds of dollars. Butler said he recently visited factories in China where many glasses for the U.S. market are manufactured. Improved technology has made prices even lower than what Dahan recalled. "You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8," Butler said. "For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you'd get from Prada."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department
CSS, or the language that styles and arranges how page elements appear on a website, will soon get support for trigonometry functions such as sine, cosine, tangent, and others, ZDNet is reporting. From the report: The new trigonometry functions were approved at the end of February in a meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) CSS Working Group. The new functions approved and set to join the CSS standard are: Sine - sin(), cosine - cos(), tangent - tan(), arccosine - acos(), arcsine - asin(), arctangent - atan(), arctangent (of two numbers x and y) - atan2(), square root - sqrt(), square root of the sum of squares of its arguments - hypot(), and power of - pow().Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: In March 2017, President Trump issued an executive order expediting the deployment of biometric verification of the identities of all travelers crossing its borders. That mandate stipulates facial recognition identification for "100 percent of all international passengers," including American citizens, in the top 20 US airports by 2021. Now, the United States Department of Homeland Security is rushing to get those systems up and running at airports across the country. But it's doing so in the absence of proper vetting, regulatory safeguards, and what some privacy advocates argue is in defiance of the law.
According to 346 pages of as-yet-unpublished documents obtained by the nonprofit research organization Electronic Privacy Information Center, US Customs and Border Protection is scrambling to implement this "biometric entry-exit system," with the goal of using facial recognition technology on travelers aboard 16,300 flights per week -- or more than 100 million passengers traveling on international flights out of the United States -- in as little as two years, to meet Trump's accelerated timeline for a biometric system that had initially been signed into law by the Obama administration. This, despite questionable biometric confirmation rates and few, if any, legal guardrails.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's real-fake-news department
"The Tennessee Star claims to be the 'most reliable' online local paper in the state," reports Salon. "In fact it's just a GOP front." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
An investigation by the fact-checking outlet Snopes found that several new local news websites are actually being launched by Republican consultants whose company is funded in part by the candidates the sites cover. Politico first reported last year that Tea Party-linked conservative activists Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill and Christina Botteri were behind the "Tennessee Star," a website that purported to be a local news website but mostly posted content licensed from groups linked to big Republican donors. Snopes discovered that the trio has since launched similar sites in other battleground states ahead of the 2020 elections: the Ohio Star and the Minnesota Sun...
The group behind the sites does not appear content with just three outlets. According to Politico, Leahy has purchased domain names associated with Missouri, New England, the Dakotas, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, most of which are electoral battleground states that will be vital in 2020.
Kathleen Bartzen Culver, who heads the Center of Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told Snopes that political operatives are free to launch their own news platforms, but it's a problem if they are trying to deceive readers into believing the sites are nonpartisan local news. "I have no problem with advocacy organizations creating content that reinforces the positions they take on public policy issues on the left, right or center. The issue comes in when they're not transparent about that advocacy," Culver said... "The information sphere is so polluted right now that the average citizen has trouble telling what is real and what is not," Culver told Snopes. "I find that very troubling within a democracy."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's man-in-the-muddle department
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg:
Russian internet trolls appear to be shifting strategy in their efforts to disrupt the 2020 U.S. elections, promoting politically divisive messages through phony social media accounts instead of creating propaganda themselves, cybersecurity experts say. The Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency may be among those trying to circumvent protections put in place by companies including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to find and remove fake content that hackers created to sow division among the American electorate in the 2016 presidential campaign. "Instead of creating content themselves, we see them amplifying content," said John Hultquist, the director of intelligence analysis at FireEye Inc. "Then it's not necessarily inauthentic, and that creates an opportunity for them to hide behind somebody else."
Other hackers are breaking into computing devices and using them to open large numbers of social media accounts, according to Candid Wueest, a senior threat researcher at Symantec Corp. The hacked devices are used to create many legitimate-looking users as well as believable followers and likes for those fake users... Wueest said he observed a decrease in the creation of new content by fake accounts from 2017 to 2018 and a shift toward building massive followings that could be used as platforms for divisive messages in 2020.
Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy responded that policing foreign influence campaigns is "an incredibly hard balance" between the need to slow down bad actors while maintaining "meaningful public discussion."Read Replies (0)
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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