By msmash from Slashdot's dirty-dealings department
Fascinating article on The Verge on the many ways Amazon Marketplace, the ecommerce giant's the company's third-party platform, sellers sabotage each other and defraud customers, and how Amazon is run its own government, so to speak -- with its own rules that its suppliers have no choice but to follow. And, of course, sellers have little choice but to continue with Amazon. The story starts with this anecdote: framing a seller for false advertising by buying fake five-star reviews for their products. Select excerpts from the report: For sellers, Amazon is a quasi-state. They rely on its infrastructure -- its warehouses, shipping network, financial systems, and portal to millions of customers -- and pay taxes in the form of fees. They also live in terror of its rules, which often change and are harshly enforced. A cryptic email like the one Plansky received can send a seller's business into bankruptcy, with few avenues for appeal. Sellers are more worried about a case being opened on Amazon than in actual court, says Dave Bryant, an Amazon seller and blogger. Amazon's judgment is swifter and less predictable, and now that the company controls nearly half of the online retail market in the US, its rulings can instantly determine the success or failure of your business, he says. "Amazon is the judge, the jury, and the executioner."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's open-the-floodgates department
"At midnight on New Year's Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain," reports Smithsonian Magazine. "It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S. "After January 1, any record label can issue a dubstep version of the 1923 hit 'Yes! We Have No Bananas,' any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt's stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill's The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations." From the report: "The public domain has been frozen in time for 20 years, and we're reaching the 20-year thaw," says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke Law School's Center for the Study of the Public Domain. The release is unprecedented, and its impact on culture and creativity could be huge. We have never seen such a mass entry into the public domain in the digital age. The last one -- in 1998, when 1922 slipped its copyright bond -- predated Google. "We have shortchanged a generation," said Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. "The 20th century is largely missing from the internet."
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's A-for-effort department
In September, a nonprofit deployed a multimillion-dollar floating structure designed to corral plastic debris littering the Pacific Ocean. But, according to CBS News, the 2,000-foot-long structure hasn't picked up any plastic waste. Slashdot reader pgmrdlm shares the report: A floating device sent to corral a swirling island of trash in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii has not swept up any plastic waste. But the young innovator behind the project said Monday that a fix was in the works. Boyan Slat, 24, who launched the Pacific Ocean cleanup project, said the speed of the solar-powered barrier isn't allowing it to hold on to the plastic it catches. The plastic barrier with a tapered 10-foot-deep screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch, while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it. The garbage patch isn't an island and it's even difficult to see with the naked eye, "60 Minutes" reported in September -- it's a vast soup of floating debris, much of it tiny and below the surface.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's future-of-transportation department
Last night, Elon Musk unveiled his vision of a high-speed tunnel system he believes could ease congestion and revolutionize how millions of commuters get around cities. CNBC reports: Musk, who founded the Boring Co. two years ago after complaining that traffic in Los Angeles was driving him "nuts," says the demonstration tunnel cost approximately $10 million to complete. Engineers and workers have been boring the 1.14-mile-long tunnel underneath one of the main streets in Hawthorne, California. One end of the tunnel starts in a parking lot owned by Musk's Space X. The other end of the demonstration tunnel is in a neighborhood about a mile away in Hawthorne.
Tuesday afternoon, the Boring Co. gave reporters demonstration rides through the tunnel in modified Tesla Model X SUVs, going between 40 and 50 miles per hour. Engineers have attached deployable alignment wheels to the two front wheels of the Model X. Those alignment wheels stick out to the side of the main wheels and act as a bumper along the track walls inside the tunnel, keeping the Model X on course and preventing the vehicle from running into the side walls of the tunnel. While the Boring Co.'s first tunnel may be complete, it is far from being finished. The surfaces are bumpy and have yet to be smoothed out. As a result, the demonstration ride, for now, is rough and passengers in the Model X definitely feel the alignment wheels bumping into the track walls to keep the SUV on course.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's software-fixes department
Apple released a tiny update to iOS this week designed to avoid a sales ban in China. iOS version 12.1.2 contains software changes exclusive to China that are designed to circumvent Apple's patent dispute with Qualcomm, which won an initial sales ban over claims that Apple violated a pair of its patents. The Verge reports: The update changes the animation for when an app is forced to close, according to MacRumors, seemingly avoiding a Qualcomm patent around app management. Previously a closed app would slide off the top of the screen, but it now shrinks and disappears into the middle of the screen. Last month, Qualcomm won a court injunction that banned Apple from selling iPhone models including the 6S, 6S Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, and X. iOS 12.1.2 The patents related to how software resizes pictures and manages applications. This fix appears to change application management, but it's currently unclear what, if anything, has changed about the process of resizing pictures.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's left-out-in-the-cold department
DarkRookie2 shares a report from Ars Technica: Many users of Logitech's Harmony Hub smart home hub and remote were recently met with a nasty surprise. The device's latest firmware update, version 4.15.206, reportedly cuts off local access for Harmony Hubs. As a result, many users who created home automation and smart home systems using third-party APIs haven't been able to control many, and in some cases, all of their connected IoT devices. Logitech began pushing out firmware update 4.15.206 last week, its release notes stating that it addresses security and bug fixes. Users immediately flocked to Logitech's community forms to complain once they realized the systems they built up to control their smart home devices essentially became unresponsive. Users with Homeseer and Home Assistant APIs have reported parts of their systems broken, preventing them from controlling things like smart TVs, sound systems, and more using the Harmony Hub and its remote. In a statement to Ars, a Logitech representative confirmed that local access was removed in the latest Harmony Hub firmware update for security reasons: "The XMPP interface was used as part of the setup process and was pointed out as an insecure communication. We removed that interface as part of an effort to make to improve the Hub security. That interface was never designed to be used by third parties. The reason for the firmware update was to make the Harmony Hub more secure, therefore we do not have an official downgrade option. We recommend that users do not try to prevent the automatic firmware update process. We update the firmware as security issues are discovered, so users preventing the automatic firmware update process would not benefit from these future fixes."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's how-to-live-online department
Jason Koebler from Motherboard argues "we should replace Facebook with personal websites." An anonymous reader shares the report: As a freshman in high school, in the year of our lord 2002, I made a website called "Jason's Site." While a website named after myself and devoted to updates about my own life was unspeakably vain for the time, it was also quite forward looking: The site has a news feed, an "about me" page, and an email mailing list for people to receive updates. I intended for it to be funded by reader donations. It had a section for Flash videos and photos, a guestbook, and a "friends" page that was literally a list of my friends. It had an ill-advised but nonetheless prescient "hot or not" section that featured photos of my friends and acquaintances and predated both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg's original idea for the social network, called "FaceMash." I updated the site regularly and obsessively for about three months, and then never returned to it. The site was embarrassing then and is embarrassing now, but abandoning it was a terrible mistake.
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By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Work four days a week, but get paid for five? It sounds too good to be true, but companies around the world that have cut their work week have found that it leads to higher productivity, more motivated staff and less burnout. "It is much healthier and we do a better job if we're not working crazy hours," said Jan Schulz-Hofen, founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, who introduced a four-day week to the company's 10-member staff earlier this year.
In New Zealand, trust company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week earlier this year. Even in Japan, the government is encouraging companies to allow Monday mornings off, although other schemes in the workaholic country to persuade employees to take it easy have had little effect. Britain's Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pushing for the whole country to move to a four-day week by the end of the century, a drive supported by the opposition Labour party. The TUC argues that a shorter week is a way for workers to share in the wealth generated by new technologies like machine learning and robotics, just as they won the right to the weekend off during the industrial revolution.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's opposing-perspective department
Alibaba founder Jack Ma fired a shot at the United States in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. An anonymous reader shares a report: Ma was asked by CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin about the U.S. economy in relation to China, since President-elect Donald Trump has been talking about imposing new tariffs on Chinese imports. Ma says blaming China for any economic issues in the U.S. is misguided. If America is looking to blame anyone, Ma said, it should blame itself. "It's not that other countries steal jobs from you guys," Ma said. "It's your strategy. Distribute the money and things in a proper way." He said the U.S. has wasted over $14 trillion in fighting wars over the past 30 years rather than investing in infrastructure at home.
To be sure, Ma is not the only critic of the costly U.S. policies of waging war against terrorism and other enemies outside the homeland. Still, Ma said this was the reason America's economic growth had weakened, not China's supposed theft of jobs. In fact, Ma called outsourcing a "wonderful" and "perfect" strategy. "The American multinational companies made millions and millions of dollars from globalization," Ma said. "The past 30 years, IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, they've made tens of millions -- the profits they've made are much more than the four Chinese banks put together. ... But where did the money go?"Read Replies (0)