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Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth In Less Than a Decade
Posted by News Fetcher on January 03 '17 at 08:02 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bright-days-ahead department:
Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it's likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere, reports Bloomberg. From the article: In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy's Enel SpA and Dublin's Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home. Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That's help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The solar supply chain is experiencing "a Wal-Mart effect" from higher volumes and lower margins, according to Sami Khoreibi, founder and chief executive officer of Enviromena Power Systems. The speed at which the price of solar will drop below coal varies in each country. Places that import coal or tax polluters with a carbon price, such as Europe and Brazil, will see a crossover in the 2020s, if not before. Countries with large domestic coal reserves such as India and China will probably take longer.

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3,000 Ride-Sharing Cars Could Replace Every Cab in New York City, MIT Study Says
Posted by News Fetcher on January 03 '17 at 06:40 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
All 13,000 taxis in New York City could be replaced by a fleet of 3,000 ride-sharing cars if used exclusively for carpooling, according to research published today by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). From a report: Instead of hailing taxis, passengers that use ride-sharing services for carpooling may lead to reduced traffic congestion, pollution, and fuel use. The CSAIL researchers used public data from NYC taxi rides published by the University of Illinois to develop the algorithm. They calculated that 3,000 four-person vehicles travelling to similar destinations could meet 98 percent of taxi demand in the city with an average wait time of 2.7 minutes. Perhaps the most important part of the system is a dynamic repositioning of vehicles based on real-time demand, which makes the system 20 percent faster.

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Specs of Qualcomm's First ARM Processor Capable of Running Windows 10 Leaks
Posted by News Fetcher on January 03 '17 at 12:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's all-the-deets department:
Qualcomm's upcoming Snapdragon 835's specs have leaked ahead of its CES reveal. An anonymous reader writes: According to the leaked press release, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 sports the Qualcomm Kryo 280 CPU (quad-core), Qualcomm Adreno 540 GPU, and Qualcomm Hexagon DSP to manage the different workloads. All of this combined together will result in a 27% increase in performance when compared to the previous generation. Qualcomm is also making significant improvements with the Snapdragon 835 when it comes to power consumption. To be precise, the Snapdragon 835 consumes 40% less power than the older generation which is supposed to offer the following: "1+ day of talk time, 5+ days of music playback, and 7+ hours of 4K video streaming. Should your phone need more power, Qualcomm Quick Charge 4 provides five hours of battery life for five minutes of charging." Qualcomm stated in the press release that the Snapdragon also comes with substantial improvements to the graphics rendering and virtual reality. According to the company, the Snapdragon 835 includes "game-changing" enhancements to improve audio, intuitive interactions, and vibrant visuals. The processor also offers 25 percent faster 3D graphic rendering and produces 60X display colors than the Snapdragon 820.

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Scribd Pulls Digital Comics From Its Subscription Reading Service
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 10:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's cost-cutting department:
Popular ebooks platform, Scribd has quietly removed digital comics from its subscription reading service. According to a report on The Digital Reader, the feature was added in February 2015, and may have been pulled as part of a cost-cutting measure. From the article: Scribd confirmed the news in a statement: "We launched comics in 2015, and while we were excited to bring new content to our readers, few actively took advantage of them. We will be focusing our efforts on enhancing the experience surrounding our other great content types including books, audiobooks, magazines, and documents. We alerted comic readers of the news via email in early December. We understand that this news is disappointing to comic readers. This was a difficult decision, and we hope that they'll explore the rest of what Scribd has to offer in the coming months." It's interesting that Scribd says that they informed subscribers, because that is not the impression I get from the complaints on Twitter. Many were surprised when they noticed, and based on the timestamps the comics were apparently pulled on or before 1 December.

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Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 07:20 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.

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Windows 10 Gains 14% Desktop Market Share in 2016, Edge Continues to Struggle
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 04:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's market-share department:
From a report by long time Microsoft watcher Brad Sams on Petri.com: With 2016 now behind us, we can take a look at how far Windows 10 has come thanks to usage-share with statistics from Net Marketshare. At the end of December for 2016, Windows 10 is installed on roughly 24.5% of devices whereas, at the end of 2015, the OS was only installed on around 10% of machines. During the same period, Windows 7 declined from 55.68% to 48.34%, Windows 8.1 usage dropped from 10.3% to 6.9% and XP dropped slightly from 11% to about 9%. Also, released alongside Windows 10, is the company's new browser, Edge. While the market share of the desktop OS has grown steadily, Edge has not performed as well. At the end of 2015, Edge obtained a market share of 2.79% and at the end of 2016, it has climbed to 5.33%. But, Chrome, which had a market share of 32.33% at the end of 2015 now commands 56.43% of the market. During the same period, Internet Explorer dropped from 46.32% in 2015 to 20.84% in 2016.

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Legal Sparring Continues in Bitcoin User's Battle with IRS Tax Sweep
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 03:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's twisted-cases department:
In a strange twist, Coindesk reports that the IRS has, somewhat indirectly, removed one target from its broad request for data about U.S. users of the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase. It no longer wants data about Jeffrey Berns, a lawyer who also happens to be fighting the IRS's "John Doe" request in court. From a report on Fortune: Berns originally filed a motion on December 13th asking the U.S. District Court for Northern California to stop the IRS' subpoena of Coinbase records. The IRS believes that its request, filed in November, is justified because Bitcoin owners "may fail, or may have failed, to comply with one or more provisions of the internal revenue laws." Berns is represented by his own law firm, Berns Weiss, whose motion argues that the IRS data search is "an abuse of process" and "overbroad." Berns has said his motion is intended to defend not only himself, but all targeted users. But according to a December 28th court filing by the IRS, Berns is no longer a target of its records request because he identified himself in his own filing, and the request is only for unidentified users. Therefore, the IRS argues, Berns is not a party to proceedings and his request to block the data grab should be thrown out of court. In response, Berns Weiss had its own spin, telling Coindesk that "The IRS's willingness to withdraw the summons as to Mr. Berns only because it is now aware of his identity," and without the additional information they're seeking about many other Coinbase users, "Makes it clear that the IRS does not have a legitimate purpose in seeking substantial personal and financial information concerning approximately 3 million Americans."

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China Smog: Millions Start New Year Shrouded By Health Alerts and Travel Chaos
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 03:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's air-pollution-woes department:
Millions in China rang in the New Year shrouded in a thick blanket of toxic smog, causing road closures and flight cancellations as 24 cities issued alerts that will last through much of the week. From a report on The Guardian: On the first day of 2017 in Beijing, concentrations of tiny particles that penetrate deep into the lungs climbed as high as 24 times levels recommended by the World Health Organization. More than 100 flights were cancelled and all intercity buses were halted at the capital's airport. In the neighbouring port city of Tianjin, more than 300 flights were cancelled while the weather forecast warned thick smog will persist until 5 January. All of the city's highways were also shut as low visibility made driving hazardous, effectively trapping residents. In the neighbouring port city of Tianjin, more than 300 flights were cancelled while the weather forecast warned thick smog will persist until 5 January. All of the city's highways were also shut as low visibility made driving hazardous, effectively trapping residents.

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Dell Launches XPS 13 2-in-1 Laptop With Intel Kaby Lake Chip, Starts at $1,000
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 01:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-laptops department:
Ahead of CES 2016, which officially kicks off Tuesday, Dell has announced a convertible version of its popular XPS 13 laptop. The machine is powered by a seventh-generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i chip (i5 and i7 options are available), Intel HD Graphics 615 integrated GPU, 4 to 16GB LPDDR3 RAM, a 128GB-1TB solid-state drive (SSD), a 720p webcam on the bottom of the display with support for Windows Hello, a fingerprint scanner, a 46 watt-hour battery, and a 13.3-inch touchscreen, available in QHD+ or FHD configurations. From a report on VentureBeat: The bezel is very narrow, in keeping with the XPS style. The fanless PC offers an SD card slot and two USB-C ports, and a USB-A to USB-C adapter comes in the box. The laptop is 0.32-0.54 inch thick, which is thinner than Dell's 2016 XPS. But the keyboard hasn't been squished down -- the keys have 1.3mm travel, or just a tad bit (0.1mm) more than you get on the XPS laptop -- which is impressive. The laptop weighs 2.7 pounds. The question is whether people will want the convertible option when the laptop is fine as is. The convertible XPS 13 starts at $1000, which is $200 more than the XPS 13 laptop.

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France Begins Opt-Out Organ Donation
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-moves department:
Laura June, reporting for The Outline: France began to use a new opt-out system of organ donation on Jan. 1, making it one of a large number of European nations that now use a "presumed consent" system. This means that any adult who dies will now donate their organs by default, regardless of their survivors' wishes, unless they have signed a refusal registry in advance. The new law gets around what has historically been a stumbling block for organ donation: the surviving families of the deceased. A survey in France previously showed that while up to 80 percent of the population was in favor of donating their own organs, about 40 percent of families refuse when pressed to make the choice.

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SpaceX Moves Past Explosion With New Launch Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 12:22 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's getting-back-to-shape department:
SpaceX plans to resume launching rockets as soon as next week, after completing an investigation into a spectacular launch pad explosion that destroyed a rocket and a satellite in September. From a report on CNN: The news comes following an in-depth investigation into the explosion of a rocket from SpaceX's September mission. The company said in a statement Monday the botched launch was due to a failed pressure vessel in a liquid oxygen tank. The vessel buckled, causing liquid oxygen to accumulate. It believes this led to friction, sparks and the explosion. SpaceX conducted the investigation along with officials from NASA, the Federal Aviation Authority, the U.S. Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board. The Federal Aviation Administration will have to sign off on the report and issue SpaceX a license to launch. SpaceX appears optimistic it will be launching rockets again soon.

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All the Features Facebook Copied From Snapchat in 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's steal-like-no-one-is-watching department:
Last year, Facebook looked several times at Snapchat, a company that reportedly refused to be acquired by the social giant, for new features in Facebook Messenger, and its Instagram services. From a report on Recode: Here's the list of features Facebook launched this year that appear to be direct threats to Snapchat: 1. Facebook bought MSQRD, an app that creates silly face filters, in March. 2. It has since added the face filter technology to the main Facebook app and Messenger. 3. Facebook started testing a new Snapchat-style camera inside its main app. Messages sent using the new camera are ephemeral. 4. Facebook built a Snapchat clone app called Flash specifically for emerging markets like Brazil. 5. Instagram ripped off Snapchat's Stories feature. (It actually works pretty well.) Instagram also added ephemeral messaging.

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Japanese White-Collar Workers Are Already Being Replaced by Artificial Intelligence
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 09:34 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's they-are-here department:
Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work is also becoming increasingly competent. From a report on Quartz: One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with "IBM Watson Explorer," starting by this month. The AI will scan hospital records and other documents to determine insurance payouts, according to a company press release, factoring injuries, patient medical histories, and procedures administered. Automation of these research and data gathering tasks will help the remaining human workers process the final payout faster, the release says.

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Samsung To Reveal This Month What Caused the Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone To Catch Fire - Report
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 09:34 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's putting-an-end department:
One of the biggest mysteries of 2016 will come to an end sometime this month. Samsung will make public the results of its months-long investigation into what caused several Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to turn into flames later this month, according to a report on Reuters. From the report: The South Korean firm said in October it was examining all aspects of the phone, suggesting there may be a combination of factors that contributed to one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has also previously noted that it was working with several third-party sources and experts to figure out what could have caused the error. A popular theory among many is that Samsung attempted to further slim the form factor of the Galaxy Note 7, which resulted in the battery to be held too tightly within the device -- which in turn, caused the layers of lithium cobalt oxide and graphite to touch.

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Tesla Rolling Out Autopilot Software Updates to 1,000 Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's software-updates department:
Tesla Motors began rolling out software updates to customers with newer cars, bringing them to parity with owners who have what's known as "Autopilot 1" and setting the stage to ultimately unleash full self-driving capability. From a report on Bloomberg:"HW2 Autopilot software uploading to 1,000 cars this eve. Will then hold to verify no field issues and upload to rest of fleet next week," Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said. When Musk announced in October that all vehicles now being produced at the Fremont, California, factory are shipping with a new hardware suite to enable full self-driving, he warned that the cars would temporarily lack some of the features currently available on Tesla vehicles with "first generation" Autopilot as the company validated the software. That includes some standard safety features like automatic emergency breaking, collision warning and active cruise control. Now customers with the âoeHardware 2â suite will have those features.

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Samsung To Reveal What Caused the Galaxy Note 7 To Catch Fire This Month
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 08:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's putting-an-end department:
One of the biggest mysteries of 2016 will come to an end sometime this month. Samsung will make public the results of its months-long investigation into what caused several Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to turn into flames later this month, according to a report on Reuters. From the report: The South Korean firm said in October it was examining all aspects of the phone, suggesting there may be a combination of factors that contributed to one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has also previously noted that it was working with several third-party sources and experts to figure out what could have caused the error. A popular theory among many is that Samsung attempted to further slim the form factor of the Galaxy Note 7, which resulted in the battery to be held too tightly within the device -- which in turn, caused the layers of lithium cobalt oxide and graphite to touch.

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Bitcoin Breaks $1,000 Level, Highest in More Than 3 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 06:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's new-heights department:
The price of digital currency bitcoin has hit the $1,000 mark for the first time in three years. From a report on CNBC: The cryptocurrency was trading at $1,021 at the time of publication, according to CoinDesk data, at level not seen since November 2013, with its market capitalization exceeding $16 billion. Bitcoin has been on a steady march higher for the past few months, driven by a number of factors such as the devaluation of the yuan, geopolitical uncertainty and an increase in professional investors taking an interest in the asset class. "We are seeing the aftermath of zero interest rates run amok. So bitcoin is a healthy reminder that we don't have to hold on to dollars or renminbi, which is subject to capital controls and loss of purchasing power. Rather it's a new asset class," Bobby Lee, chief executive of BTC China, one of the world's largest bitcoin exchanges, told CNBC by phone.

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Intel Finds Moore's Law's Next Step At 10 Nanometers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 05:12 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cheaper-chips department:
An anonymous reader writes: Sometime in 2017, Intel will ship the first processors built using the company's new, 10-nanometer chip-manufacturing technology. Intel says transistors produced in this way will be cheaper than those that came before, continuing the decades-long trend at the heart of Moore's Law -- and contradicting widespread talk that transistor-production costs have already sunk as low as they will go.

In the coming years, Intel plans to make further improvements to the design of these transistors. And, for the first time, the company will optimize its manufacturing technology to accommodate other companies that wish to use Intel's facilities to produce chips based on ARM architecture, which is nearly ubiquitous in modern mobile processors.

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Despite Piracy Claims, North American Box Office Hits Record $11.4 Billion In 2016
Posted by News Fetcher on January 02 '17 at 12:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Disney-domination department:
Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: Despite constant claims of losing billions of dollars to "piracy", the North American box office closed out 2016 with $11.4 billion in ticket sales. That marks a new record for the industry, bypassing the previous record of $11.1 billion that was established in 2015. Disney had four of the top five highest-grossing films, including "Finding Dory," the year's top film with $486.3 million. "When holdovers are taken into account, Disney had six of the year's ten highest-grossing releases, a group that includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which debuted in 2015," reports Variety. Other top films include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($408.2 million), Captain America: Civil War ($408.1 million), The Secret Life of Pets ($368.4 million), and The Jungle Book ($364 million).
Disney "controlled more than a quarter of the domestic market share despite releasing fewer films than any of the major studios," according to the article, which notes that the record was achieved despite the absence of big releases in several major movie franchises partly through higher ticket prices (and possibly also inflation).

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Changing Other People's Flight Bookings Is Too Easy
Posted by News Fetcher on January 01 '17 at 08:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's airline-insecurity department:
"The security of online travel booking systems are stuck in the 1990s, according to security researchers," reports Computerworld. An anonymous reader quotes their article, which argues that the ancient systems are also "woefully insecure":
This allows attackers to easily modify other people's reservations, cancel their flights and even use the refunds to book tickets for themselves, according a team of researchers who analyzed this online ecosystem... They presented their findings Tuesday at the 33rd Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg.

The three major Global Distribution Systems operators...store Passenger Name Records for hundreds of millions of travelers at any given time. Any data added or modification made to a booking is stored in their systems and all that's required to access that information is typically a last name and a six-character booking code. There are multiple access points into these systems and this includes the websites operated by airlines and travel agencies, but also third-party websites like CheckMyTrip... The booking code itself is far from secret. It's printed on luggage tags that most people throw away after each flight -- even if their entire trip has not concluded yet -- and is also embedded in the QR codes printed on tickets that an alarmingly large number of travellers photograph and post on social media websites, the researchers said.

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