By BeauHD from Slashdot's telephone-culture-or-there-lack-of department
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, written by Alexis C. Madrigal: No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering -- built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture -- is gone. There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options. Text messaging and its associated multimedia variations are rich and wonderful: words mixed with emoji, Bitmoji, reaction gifs, regular old photos, video, links. Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It's almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You've got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete.
But in the last couple years, there is a more specific reason for eyeing my phone's ring warily. Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my phone are spam of one kind or another. [...] There are unsolicited telemarketing calls. There are straight-up robocalls that merely deliver recorded messages. There are the cyborg telemarketers, who sit in call centers playing prerecorded bits of audio to simulate a conversation. There are the spam phone calls, whose sole purpose seems to be verifying that your phone number is real and working.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department
Earlier this week, a federal court in Germany threw out a challenge by the world's largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service. What this means is that the country's spy agency can continue to monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests. From a report: The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data. However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs "can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND." De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world's biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic.
De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence. It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow. The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's which-one-is-it department
Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute suggest Pluto may be a comet, as opposed to a planet or dwarf planet. According to a study published in the journal Icarus, Pluto could be made up of billions of comets all mashed together. Smithsonian reports: Scientists had long believed the dwarf planet Pluto was formed the way planets come to be: they start as swirling dust that's gradually pulled together by gravity. But with the realization that Pluto was a Kuiper belt dwarf planet, researchers began speculating about the origins of the icy world. The researchers turned to Sputnik Planitia -- the western lobe of the massive heart-shaped icy expanse stamped on Pluto's side -- for the task. As Christopher Glein, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Southwest Research Institute, explains to [Popular Science editor Neel V. Patel], the researchers used the data from New Horizons on this icy expanse to estimate the amount of nitrogen on Pluto and the amount that's escaped from its atmosphere.
Glein explains the conclusions in a statement: "We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the [Sputnik Planitia] glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta." The report goes on to mention a few caveats. "For one, researchers aren't sure that comet 67P has an average comet composition," reports Smithsonian. "For another, New Horizons only captured information about Pluto at a specific point in time, which means nitrogen rates could have changed over the last billions of years. [T]here's also still the possibility Pluto formed from cold ices with a chemical composition to that of the sun."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department
Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out.
Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support. Android Police was first to break the news.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's burnout-paradise department
Polygon reports of several prominent YouTube creators who are struggling with burnout. The cause can be attributed to "constant changes to the platform's algorithm, unhealthy obsessions with remaining relevant in a rapidly growing field and social media pressures [that] are making it almost impossible for top creators to continue creating at the pace both the platform and audience want," reports Polygon. From the report: Three weeks ago, Bobby Burns, a YouTuber with just under one million subscribers, sat down on a rock in Central Park to talk about a recent mental health episode. One week ago, Elle Mills, a creator with more than 1.2 million subscribers, uploaded a video that included vulnerable footage during a breakdown. Six days ago, Ruben "El Rubius" Gundersen, the third most popular YouTuber in the world with just under 30 million subscribers, turned on his camera to talk to his viewers about the fear of an impending breakdown and his decision to take a break from YouTube. Burns, Mills and Gundersen aren't alone. Erik "M3RKMUS1C" Phillips (four million subscribers), Benjamin "Crainer" Vestergaard (2.7 million subscribers) and other top YouTubers have either announced brief hiatuses from the platform, or discussed their own struggles with burnout, in the past month. Everyone from PewDiePie (62 million subscribers) to Jake Paul (15.2 million subscribers) have dealt with burnout. Lately, however, it seems like more of YouTube's top creators are coming forward with their mental health problems. In closing, Polygon's Julia Alexander writes: "YouTube offers no clear support system for creators, nor is it clear if the company has offered professional help to some of its top creators who've made their burnout public. Instead, YouTube's only direct reaction is a playlist dedicated to burnout and mental health. The creators are essentially working until they no longer physically can, and apologizing to their fans after believing they've failed. Polygon has reached out to YouTube for more information about services that are provided to creators. The only way to beat burnout is to take breaks. Unfortunately, for many YouTubers, those breaks are rarely planned."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's passive-income department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The Wall Street Journal has published a new report detailing one thing we might expect to see on stage at WWDC next week: a digital ad platform expansion. According to the Journal, Apple has been in talks with major apps including Snapchat and Pinterest about the project: "Over the past year, Apple has met with Snap Inc., Pinterest Inc. and other companies about participating in an Apple network that would distribute ads across their collective apps, the people said. Apple would share revenue with the apps displaying the ads, with the split varying from app to app, they said."
The report adds that the new ad effort would expand on the "nearly $1 billion" business of search ads, which it introduced to the App Store in 2016. In addition to app ads being display in search results in the App Store, developers could include advertisements in search results within their own apps: "Under the concept discussed internally and raised with potential partners, users searching in Pinterest's app for 'drapes' might turn up an ad distributed by Apple for an interior-design app, or Snap users searching for 'NFL' might see an ad for a ticket-reseller app, one of the people said."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's who-wants-to-be-a-millionaire department
According to The New York Times, President Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to "prepare immediate steps" to stop the closure of unprofitable coal and nuclear plants around the country. From the report: Under one proposal outlined in the memo, which was reported by Bloomberg, the Department of Energy would order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants for two years, using emergency authority that is normally reserved for exceptional crises like natural disasters. That idea triggered immediate blowback from a broad alliance of energy companies, consumer groups and environmentalists. On Friday, oil and gas companies joined with wind and solar organizations in a joint statement condemning the plan, saying that it was "legally indefensible" and would force consumers to pay more for electricity.
The administration has also discussed invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950, which allows the federal government to intervene in private industry in the name of national security. (Harry S. Truman used the law to impose price controls on the steel industry during the Korean War.) If the Trump administration were to invoke these two statutes, the move would almost certainly be challenged in federal court by natural gas and renewable energy companies, which could stand to lose market share. Such an intervention could cost consumers between $311 million to $11.8 billion pear year, according to a preliminary estimate (PDF) by Robbie Orvis, director of energy policy design at Energy Innovation.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cheaper-by-the-dozen department
Rei writes: An interesting report came out the other day from Germany, where an engineering firm purchased four Tesla Model 3s on the grey market to study on behalf of an anonymous major German auto manufacturer. Among their key findings: due in part to a huge reduction in cobalt in the batteries (2.8% in the cathodes versus a typical 8%) and a number of simplifications, the parts cost of a Model 3 (in units of 10,000 vehicles per week) is estimated at $18,000, along with $10,000 in production costs. Note that the teardown was for the long-range version with the premium upgrades package.
On Reddit, users with access to the full report added further details. The 75kWh battery is 40% of the components cost ($7,200); the interior is completely symmetric (facilitating RHD); there are only 4 kinds of screws used in the underbody (a typical German luxury manufacturer uses 40); many parts of the car are designed specifically so as to be easier for robots to grab; and the battery pack is harder to remove than on the S/X (e.g. not battery swap capable). After studying the individual components, they concluded that German EV manufacturers would not be capable of producing a similar vehicle at this point in time. Asked on Twitter whether Musk agreed with their price conclusions at a rate of 10,000 vehicles per week, Musk replied: "Definitely." That said, Tesla is still in the process of moving from 3,500 to 5,000-6,000 per week by the end of this quarter, and is not expected to reach 10,000 vehicles per week until next year.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's high-rollers department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Three U.S. states announced major investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars on Thursday. In total, California, New York, and New Jersey will put $1.3 billion on the table in the coming years to help chip away at one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread EV adoption. California's Public Utilities Commission approved up to $738 million worth of projects over the next five years, the agency announced. Southern California Edison and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will spend up to $343 million and $236 million, respectively, to build charging infrastructure that will support thousands of medium or heavy-duty vehicles at around 1,500 locations throughout the state. PG&E will spend another $22 million building 234 DC fast-charging stations at around 50 different sites throughout the state.
In New York, the governor's office announced a pledge of up to $250 million through 2025 to its electric vehicle expansion initiative, EVolve NY. The New York Power Authority will work with the private sector to install up to 200 DC fast chargers "along key interstate corridors" with the goal of making them available every 30 miles, and it will also bring them to urban areas as well, including at or near New York City's two major airports. Meanwhile, New Jersey's biggest utility owner Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced a $300 million pledge to build out up to 50,000 charging stations along highways, in residential areas, and at workplaces.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
The tussle over technology talent is reaching far beyond Silicon Valley. From a report: Firms from industrial giants to car makers are rethinking the way they recruit as they compete with each other and traditional technology outfits for people with expertise in high-tech fields like machine learning, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. For some positions that Siemens AG needs to fill, there may be a universe of fewer than 2,000 qualified people in the U.S., said Michael Brown, vice president of talent acquisition in the Americas for the German industrial conglomerate that makes everything from gas turbines to mammography machines. "The question is how many of those are looking for a job?" Mr. Brown said. Finding the right potential candidates on sites like LinkedIn isn't easy because "they're tired of being found." Siemens has 377,000 employees world-wide and about 50,000 in the U.S. At the moment, it has about 1,500 open jobs across America, most of which require some software or science-related background. Employers are handicapped by several factors, data show and recruiters say: Cutting-edge skills are evolving faster than universities can train people, the supply of talented young workers entering these fields isn't satisfying the huge demand for them, and mobility -- a worker's willingness to uproot their life for a job in a new place -- has declined. The odds of luring rare, coveted candidates away from their current job or city are long, Mr. Brown said.Read Replies (0)