By timothy from Slashdot's we're-just-here-to-destroy-and-save-the-village department
Nerval's Lobster writes "Last week, Microsoft announced that it would take a $900 million write-off on its Surface RT tablets. Although launched with high hopes in the fall of 2012, the sleek devices—which run Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 designed for hardware powered by the mobile-friendly ARM architecture—have suffered from middling sales and fading buzz. But if Microsoft decides to continue with Surface, there's one surefire way to restart its (metaphorical) heart: make it the ultimate bargain. The company's already halfway there, having knocked $150 off the sticker price, but that's not enough. Imagine Microsoft pricing the Surface at a mere pittance, say $50 or $75 — even in this era of cheaper tablets, the devices would fly off the shelves so fast, the sales rate would make the iPad look like the Zune. There's a historical precedent for such a maneuver. In 2011, Hewlett-Packard decided to terminate its TouchPad tablet after a few weeks of poor sales. In a bid to clear its inventory, the company dropped the TouchPad's starting price to $99, which sent people rushing into stores in a way they hadn't when the device was priced at $499. Demand for the suddenly ultra-cheap tablet reached the point that HP needed weeks to fulfill backorders. (Despite that sales spike, HP decided to kill the TouchPad; the margins on $99 obviously didn't work out to everyone's satisfaction.) In the wake of Microsoft announcing that it would take that $900 million write-down on Surface RT, reports surfaced that the company could have as many as six million units sitting around, gathering dust. Whether that figure is accurate—it seems more based on back-of-napkin calculations than anything else—it's almost certainly the case that Microsoft has a lot of unsold Surface RTs in a bunch of warehouses all around the world. Why not clear them out by knocking a couple hundred dollars off the price? It's not as if they're going anywhere, anyway."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's gary's-good-gnus department
GigaOM notes that (excerpting) "Gary Becker, a Nobel-prize winning professor at the University of Chicago, stated this week that the U.S. patent system is ”too broad, too loose, and too expensive” and called for the end of software patents: 'Disputes over software patents are among the most common, expensive, and counterproductive. Their exclusion from the patent system would discourage some software innovations, but the saving from litigation costs over disputed patent rights would more than compensate the economy for that cost.'"
Here are Becker's comments
, from the always-fun Becker-Posner Blog
.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's this-means-less-if-you're-not-part-of-the-trent department
dcblogs writes "Software employment is rising at 4 to 5% a year, and may be the only tech occupation to have recovered to full employment since the recession. Other tech occupations aren't doing as well. In 2001, there were more than 200,000 people working in the semi-conductor industry. That number was less than 100,000 by 2010, according to a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. Darin Wedel, who was laid off from Texas Instruments, and gained national attention when his wife, Jennifer, challenged President Obama on H-1B use, said that for electrical engineers, 'unless you are in the actual design of circuits, then you're not in demand.' He said that much of the job loss in the field is due to the closing of fabrication facilities. Wedel has since found new work as a quality engineer."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's brute-force department
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Def Con hacker conference in Las Vegas early next month, security researchers Justin Engler and Paul Vines plan to show off the R2B2, or Robotic Reconfigurable Button Basher, a piece of hardware they built for around $200 that can automatically punch PIN numbers at a rate of about one four-digit guess per second, fast enough to crack a typical Android phone's lock screen in 20 hours or less. Engler and Vines built their bot, shown briefly in a preview video, from three $10 servomotors, a plastic stylus, an open-source Arduino microcontroller, a collection of plastic parts 3D-printed on their local hackerspace's Makerbot 3D printer, and a five dollar webcam that watches the phone's screen to detect if it's successfully guessed the password. The device can be controlled via USB, connecting to a Mac or Windows PC that runs a simple code-cracking program. The researchers plan to release both the free software and the blueprints for their 3D-printable parts at the time of their Def Con talk."Read Replies (0)
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's upstream-engagement department
Karrde712 writes "Fedora Cloud Architect Matthew Miller announced a proposal on a plan to redesign the way that the Fedora Project builds its GNU/Linux distribution. Fedora has often been described as a 'bag of bits,' with thousands of packages and only minimal integration. Miller's proposal for 'Fedora.Next' describes reorganizing the packages and upstream projects that comprise Fedora into a series of 'rings,' each level of which would have its own set of release and packaging requirements. The lowest levels of the distribution may be renamed to 'Fedora Core.' Much discussion is ongoing on the Fedora Devel mailing list. If any Slashdot readers have good advice to add to the discussion, it would be most useful to respond to the ongoing thread there."
A full presentation on the plan
will be given at the Flock conference next month, and draft slides
have been uploaded. A few more details about the discussion are below the fold.Read Replies (0)
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's not-invented-here department
An anonymous reader writes "Google today announced it is bringing its Cloud Print project to Windows. The company has launched both a driver and a service, both of which are available for download now from Google Tools. For those who don't know, Google Cloud Print connects Cloud Print-aware applications (across the Web, desktop, and mobile) to any printer. It integrates with the mobile versions of Gmail and Google Docs, and is also listed as a printer option in the Print Preview page of Chrome."
One of the things that annoys me about Android: having to print through the Cloud (tm) when I have an Internet Printing Protocol
CUPS server on the same network as my phone connected to a printer ten feet from me. It wouldn't be so bad if the Google Cloud Print libraries weren't proprietary and did something like IPP proxying instead of using a similarly proprietary API
.Read Replies (0)
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's watch-movies-on-your-work-laptop department
MojoKid writes "Convertible laptops and ultrabooks had a big presence this year with the release of Windows 8. At CES, Lenovo revealed its ThinkPad Helix which it marketed as having a 'groundbreaking "rip and flip" design' that enables this 11.6-inch ultrabook to transform into a powerful Windows 8 tablet with Intel vPro technology for the enterprise. The ThinkPad Helix lets you work in four different modes: laptop, tablet, stand, and tablet+. When attached to the Enhanced Keyboard Dock in laptop mode, you'll get additional battery life and additional ports as well as Lenovo's ThinkPad Precision keyboard, a five button trackpad that supports Windows 8 features, and a traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint. ... The ThinkPad Helix features an 11.6-inch Full HD 1080p IPS (In-Plane Switching) 10-point multi-touchscreen with pen touch input and Gorilla Glass for protection. Lenovo claims the ThinkPad Helix will run for up to 8 hours on a single charge. Performance-wise, the new ThinkPad tablet convertible doesn't have a ton of horsepower, but the machine will get by well enough handling light multimedia and office app use with relative ease."
The "stand" mode is just the tablet part mounted away from the keyboard, tablet+ similarly just the tablet part folded over the dock giving it a longer battery life and more ports. It comes at a price though: ~$1800.Read Replies (0)
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's better-living-through-modular-hardware department
sfcrazy writes "Aaron Seigo, a lead KDE developer, says that the ambitious KDE tablet Vivaldi is shipping to the team for quality testing. Seigo writes on his Google+ page, 'A great start to the week with a warm, sunny, quiet Monday. Well, almost quiet. The first Vivaldi tablets, new dual-core engineering boards and the custom EOMA68 developer workbenches we commissioned have all been shipped out. Don't get too excited: the tablets are pre-certification (EC/FCC) and are on their way to us so we can verify the Q/A targets we set out. Still ...'"
It looks like long-time reader lkcl
's EOMA-68 initiative is working out; in related news the first batch of Allwinner A10 EOMA-68 cards
is shipping to the "...20 Free Software developers brave enough to take one of these at this very early phase."Read Replies (0)
By samzenpus from Slashdot's well-that-wasn't-good department
Nerval's Lobster writes "In June, Steven Spielberg predicted that Hollywood was on the verge of an 'implosion' in which 'three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing to the ground.' The resulting destruction, he added, could change the film industry in radical and possibly unwelcome ways. And sooner than he may have thought, the implosion has arrived: in the past couple weeks, six wannabe blockbusters have cratered at the North American box office: 'R.I.P.D.,' 'After Earth,' 'White House Down,' 'Pacific Rim,' and 'The Lone Ranger.' These films featured big stars, bigger explosions, and top-notch special effects—exactly the sort of summer spectacle that ordinarily assures a solid run at the box office. Yet all of them failed to draw in the massive audiences needed to earn back their gargantuan budgets. Hollywood's more reliant than ever on analytics to predict how movies will do, and even Google has taken some baby-steps into that arena with a white paper describing how search-query patterns and paid clicks can estimate how well a movie will do on its opening weekend, but none of that data seems to be helping Hollywood avoid shooting itself in the foot with a 'Pacific Rim'-sized plasma cannon. In other words, analytics can help studios refine their rollout strategy for new films—but the bulk of box-office success ultimately comes down to the most elusive and unquantifiable of things: knowing what the audience wants before it does, and a whole lot of luck."Read Replies (0)
By samzenpus from Slashdot's touch-a-touch-a-touch-a-touch-me department
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have designed a super-thin flexible skin that lights up when touched. 'Thinner than a sheet of paper, the skin is made from layers of plastic and a pressure-sensitive rubber. A conductive silver ink, organic LEDs, and thin-film transistors made from semiconductor-enriched carbon nanotubes are sandwiched between the layers. Applying pressure sends a signal through the rubber that ultimately turns on the LEDs, which light up in red, green, yellow or blue. Instead of using the material to create bodysuits for Burning Man or other illuminated party tricks, scientists suggest that it might be used for smart wallpapers, health-monitoring devices, or in robotics. The type of interactive pressure sensor developed by the Berkeley scientists could also be useful in artificial skin for prosthetic limbs'"Read Replies (0)