By msmash from Slashdot's history-repeating-itself department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Everyone in Silicon Valley knows the story of Xerox inventing the modern personal computer in the 1970s and then failing to commercialize it effectively. Yet one of Silicon Valley's most successful companies, Google's Alphabet, appears to be repeating Xerox's mistake with its self-driving car program. Xerox launched its Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1970. By 1975, its researchers had invented a personal computer with a graphical user interface that was almost a decade ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the commercial version of this technology wasn't released until 1981 and proved to be an expensive flop. Two much younger companies -- Apple and Microsoft -- co-opted many of Xerox's ideas and wound up dominating the industry.
Google's self-driving car program, created in 2009, appears to be on a similar trajectory. By October 2015, Google was confident enough in its technology to put a blind man into one of its cars for a solo ride in Austin, Texas. But much like Xerox 40 years earlier, Google has struggled to bring its technology to market. The project was rechristened Waymo in 2016, and Waymo was supposed to launch a commercial driverless service by the end of 2018. But the service Waymo launched in December was not driverless and barely commercial. It had a safety driver in every vehicle, and it has only been made available to a few hundred customers.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: It appears that when you use a year constraint on book search, the search index has dramatically constricted to the point of being, essentially, broken. Here's an example. While writing something, I became interested in the etymology of the phrase 'set in stone.' Online essays seem to generally give the phrase an absurd antiquity -- they talk about Hammurabi and Moses, as if it had been translated from language to language for decades. I thought that it must be more recent -- possibly dating from printers working with lithography in the 19th century.
So I put it into Google Ngrams. As it often is, the results were quite surprising; about 8,700 total uses in about 8,000 different books before 2002, the majority of which are after 1985. Hammurabi is out, but lithography doesn't look like a likely origin for widespread popularity either. That's much more modern that I would have thought -- this was not a pat phrase until the 1990s. That's interesting, so I turned to Google Books to find the results. Of those 8,000 books published before 2002, how many show up in the Google Books search result with a date filter before 2002? Just five. Two books that have "set in stone" in their titles (and thus wouldn't need a working full-text index), one book from 2001, and two volumes of the Congressional record. 99.95% of the books that should be returned in this search -- many of which, in my experience, were generally returned four years ago or so -- have vanished. Further reading: How Google Book Search Got Lost; Whatever Happened To Google Books?; and Google's New Book Search Deals in Ideas, Not Keywords.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's David-vs.-Goliath department
New submitter bluekloud shares a report: Mitch Hungerpiller thought he had a first-class solution for mail that gets returned as undeliverable, a common problem for businesses that send lots of letters. But the process he helped develop and built his small Alabama technology company around has resulted in a more than decade-long fight with the U.S. Postal Service, which says his solution shouldn't have been patentable. The David vs. Goliath dispute has now arrived at the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the justices will hear Hungerpiller's case, which involves parsing the meaning of a 2011 patent law.
"All I want is a fair shake," said Hungerpiller, who lives in Birmingham and is a father of three. Hungerpiller, 56, started thinking seriously about returned mail in 1999 when he was doing computer consulting work. While visiting clients he kept seeing huge trays of returned mail. He read that every year, billions pieces of mail are returned as undeliverable, costing companies and the Postal Service time and money. So he decided to try to solve the problem. He developed a system that uses barcodes, scanning equipment and computer databases to process returned mail almost entirely automatically. His clients, from financial services companies to marketing companies, generally direct their returned mail to Hungerpiller's company, Return Mail Inc., for processing. Clients can get information about whether the mail was actually correctly addressed and whether thereâ(TM)s a more current address.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
In a report published Monday, The Information [paywalled] has detailed tactics used by China's Huawei to steal Apple's trade secrets. These tactics include Huawei engineers appealing to Apple's third-party manufacturers and suppliers with promises of big orders, but instead using the opportunity to pry on processes specific to iPhone-maker's component production. From a report: According to today's report, a Huawei engineer in charge of the company's smartwatch project tracked down a supplier that makes the heart rate sensor for the Apple Watch. The Huawei engineer arranged a meeting, suggesting he was offering the supplier a lucrative manufacturing contract, but during the meeting his main intent was questioning the supplier about the Apple Watch. The Huawei engineer attended the supplier meeting with four Huawei researchers in tow. The Huawei team spent the next hour and a half pressing the supplier for details about the Apple Watch, the executive said. "They were trying their luck, but we wouldn't tell them anything," the executive said. After that, Huawei went silent.
This event reportedly reflects "a pattern of dubious tactics" performed by Huawei to obtain technology from rivals, particularly Apple's China-based suppliers. According to a Huawei spokesperson the company has not been in the wrong: "In conducting research and development, Huawei employees must search and use publicly available information and respect third-party intellectual property per our business-conduct guidelines." According to the U.S. Justice Department, Huawei is said to have a formal program that rewards employees for stealing information, including bonuses that increase based on the confidential value of the information gathered.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Thanks to recent changes to privacy legislation in Europe and South Korea aimed at protecting the living, we now have more power than ever over our personal information -- even from beyond the grave. While this may have felt like a gimmick in the past, cyber funerals -- where our personal data is removed from the web posthumously -- are slowly becoming a viable option. From a report: Digital undertaking is the act of erasing and tidying up your public data after you die. It's a relatively new idea, but one that's already taking off in South Korea, according to the Korean Employment Information Service. Think of it as a ghoulish version of the European Union's right to be forgotten legislation. For most digital undertakers, the tricky task is to contact the social media companies, search engines or even media companies who publish personal information, and request for it to be deleted when their client dies. If that doesn't work, then companies -- be they in South Korea, the USA or UK -- can bury search engine results by flooding Google with new, conflicting data about the deceased. Santa Cruise, a company based in Seoul, was one of the first in South Korea to take on the task of digital undertaking. Founded in 2008, it was originally an agency for entertainment figures but now specializes in removing personal data from the internet for clients both dead and alive. The company's scope includes digital undertaking and even "reputation management" for those who have been victims of revenge porn.Read Replies (0)