By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Italy's famously Leaning Tower of Pisa is a little less off-kilter. Nearly two decades after engineers completed consolidation work to keep the tower from toppling over, officials monitoring the monument said recently that its famed tilt had been further reduced by 4 centimeters, or 1.5 inches. From a report: The tower, which has leaned to one side ever since it began to take shape in 1173, has lost 4cm of its tilt over the past two decades, according to a report from the surveillance group that meets every three months to give updates on the monument's condition. "Since restorative work began, the tower is leaning about half a degree less," said Nunziante Squeglia, a geotechnics professor at the University of Pisa who works with the group. "But what counts is the stability of the tower, which is better than initially predicted." The structure, which was badly damaged during the second world war, was closed to the public in 1990 over safety fears and did not reopen for 11 years.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Some of Amazon's workers in Europe are protesting against what they call unfair work conditions, in a move meant to disrupt operations on Black Friday. From a report: They've timed the latest protest for Black Friday, one of the busiest annual shopping days online as retailers slash prices and heavily promote deals to try to spark a seasonal buying rush. In the UK, the GMB Union says it's expecting "hundreds" to attend protests timed for early morning and afternoon at Amazon warehouses in Rugeley, Milton Keynes, Warrington, Peterborough and Swansea. At the time of writing the union had not provided details of turnout so far.
Protests are also reported to be taking place in Spain, France and Italy today. Although, when asked about strikes at its facilities in these countries, Amazon claimed: "Our European Fulfilment Network is fully operational and we continue to focus on delivering for our customers. Any reports to the contrary are simply wrong." The demonstrations look intended to not only apply pressure on Amazon to accept collective bargaining but encourage users of its website to think about the wider costs involved in packing and despatching the discounted products they're trying to grab. In a statement on Wednesday announcing the Black Friday protest, Tim Roache, the GMB's general secretary, said: "The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman. They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances. We're standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay -- they're not robots."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's engineering-marvel department
On Monday, November 26th, NASA will attempt to land the InSight spacecraft on Elysium Planitia, a vast plain just north of the Martian equator. If NASA is successful, InSight (short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport) will be the first mission to investigate Mars' deep interior with thermal probes and seismometry, an approach scientists think will address questions about the red planet's formation and composition. But first, the spacecraft must land. From a report: Getting to Mars is hard, but NASA engineers consider entry, descent, and landing -- the seven-minute period in which mission planners are helpless to intervene, due to the tremendous distance between Mars and Earth -- the riskiest sequence in the entire mission. Here's how NASA plans to pull it off.
For InSight, the action will begin Monday, November 26th at around 11:47 am PT (2:47 pm ET). That's when the lander is slated to hit the top of Mars' atmosphere, at an altitude roughly 43 miles above the planet's surface. On contact, the spacecraft will be blazing along at a not-so-cool 5500 meters per second. That's 12,300 miles per hour. At those speeds, the primary concern for NASA's engineers is friction. Mars' atmosphere, which is roughly 100 times thinner than Earth's, plays a vitally important role in InSight's arrival: Bleeding the spacecraft of its kinetic energy. Yet the atmosphere poses a significant threat, as well. The resistance it exerts on InSight's heat shield, a 419-pound enclosure composed primarily of crushed cork, will drive the temperature of the protective barrier to temperatures greater than 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit -- hot enough to melt steel.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's hallelujah department
If you're a tab-hoarder, and you use Chrome browser, Google may have some news for you soon. The company is working on a scrollable tabstrip to make it easier for users to navigate through tabs, a developer was quoted as saying. Peter Casting, who works on Chrome UI, said, "scrollable tabstrip is in the works. In the meantime, try shift-clicking and ctrl-clicking to select multiple tabs at once, then drag out to separate Windows to group tabs by Window." TechDows, which first reported the development: We're expecting this as the related bug, the 'UI: tab overflow' bug created 10 years back, reports opening too many tabs causes add tab button (+) to disappear and tabs do not scroll then, the expected result has been mentioned as 'scrollable tabs.'Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Ostracus writes: Using ratings, competitions and bonuses to incentivise workers isn't new -- but as I found when I became a Lyft driver, the gig economy is taking it to another level. [...] The language of choice, freedom, and autonomy saturate discussions of ride hailing. "On-demand companies are pointing the way to a more promising future, where people have more freedom to choose when and where they work," Travis Kalanick, the founder and former CEO of Uber, wrote in October 2015. "Put simply" he continued, "the future of work is about independence and flexibility." In a certain sense, Kalanick is right. Unlike employees in a spatially fixed worksite (the factory, the office, the distribution centre), rideshare drivers are technically free to choose when they work, where they work and for how long. They are liberated from the constraining rhythms of conventional employment or shift work. But that apparent freedom poses a unique challenge to the platforms' need to provide reliable, "on demand" service to their riders -- and so a driver's freedom has to be aggressively, if subtly, managed. One of the main ways these companies have sought to do this is through the use of gamification.
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By msmash from Slashdot's times,-they-are-changin' department
Brits are ditching DVD players and desktop PCs and are increasingly turning to newer technology such as smart TVs and smart watches, Ofcom research has found. From the research: Shoppers in the UK are predicted to spend billions of pounds again this year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and much of that is expected to be spent buying tech online. So, Ofcom has crunched the numbers on which tech devices people have been buying in recent years, and which ones they're getting rid of.
Ownership of digital devices such as smart TVs, smart watches and smartphones has grown significantly in recent years, as more people need a constant connection to the internet -- internet users say they spend an average of 24 hours a week online. By contrast, MP3 players, DVD players and desktop computers seem to be falling out of favour as smartphone use continues to grow, particularly for browsing and streaming. Meanwhile, the popularity of tablets and e-readers seems to have peaked. Ownership of both is significantly higher than it was seven years ago, but has levelled out in the last few years.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's everywhere-around-you department
How did Choc, a quirky calligraphic typeface drawn by a French graphic designer in the 1950s, end up on storefronts everywhere? From a report: Stand just about anywhere on Broadway, or on Canal Street with its sprightly neon and overstuffed souvenir shops, or the long stretch of restaurants, hardware stores, pharmacies, bars, realtors, barber shops, groceries and auto shops that extends through Fifth Avenue in South Brooklyn, and you'll find a surplus of vibrant and overstated signage -- a cacophony of typography. Steven Heller, a co-chairman at the School of Visual Arts' M.F.A. program, sees it somewhat differently. "You say 'cacophony,'" he said. "I call it chaos." But amid all of this chaos there is the occasional beacon. Choc, for instance.
It's a typeface that draws the eye with its inherent contradictions. It seems to have been drawn improvisationally with a brush, and yet it's so hefty it looks like it could slip off a wall. It's both delicate and emphatic, a casual paradox, like a Nerf weapon. Choc is far from the most popular typeface on the storefronts of New York, but it can still be found everywhere and in every borough. It's strewn on fabric awnings and etched in frosted glass. It gleams in bright magenta or platinum lighting. It's used for beauty salons, Mexican restaurants, laundromats, bagel shops, numerous sushi bars. It may be distorted, stacked vertically, or shoehorned into a cluster of other typefaces. But even here Choc remains clear and articulate, its voice deep and friendly, its accent foreign, perhaps, yet endearing. You've already seen it, probably repeatedly, like a stranger you recognize from your morning commute.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-social-media? department
Ryan Holmes, writing on Medium: Back in March of last year, Conde Nast Traveler did something a little unusual in the social media universe. They played hard to get. Instead of courting new followers with clickbait and promo codes, the company required that interested people apply to get into their closed Facebook Group, focused on female travelers. To be considered for membership, applicants had to explain why the Group was important to them, and show an understanding of the community guidelines. Today, the Women Who Travel Facebook Group counts more than 50,000 members. And it boasts a level of activity many brands could only dream of -- three-quarters of users are active on a daily basis. The initiative has been so successful, in fact, that Conde Nast has since extended Facebook Groups across eight of its brands, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Allure, BRIDES, Golf Digest, SELF and Teen Vogue.
The Facebook Group is nothing new. Spaces for like-minded people to congregate and discuss specific subjects -- from hobbies to pets and celebrities -- date in one form or another to the platform's earliest days. These Groups have long been segmented into three classes: open (or general admission), closed (requiring admin approval for new members) and secret (invisible to outside search and accessible only with a direct link). But for a combination of technical and cultural reasons, Groups are suddenly having their moment. (Apart from Facebook, LinkedIn revamped its own Groups offering this fall for its 500-plus million users, adding the ability to share pics and videos, as well as receive comment notifications.) In the past year alone, Facebook Group membership is up 40 percent, with 1.4 billion people -- more than half of Facebook's massive user base -- now using Groups every month. Of those, 200 million people belong to so-called "meaningful Groups," considered a vital part of users' daily lives.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's happy-thanksgiving department
The 2018 holiday season is predicted to be a bumper year for e-commerce, helped by economic forces like lower unemployment and underlying trends like an ever-growing proportion of shoppers opting to spend their money online, and specifically on mobile devices. From a report: Thanksgiving, a day when brick-and-mortar stores tend to be closed, is a big one for online spending, and so far it's off to a flying start. Adobe, which puts out real-time analytics tracking e-commerce sales, said that as of 10am ET, $406 million had already been spent online today -- growth of 23.2 percent on 2017. Adobe tracks e-commerce transactions across 80 of the top 100 US online retailers and says its analytics are based on over 1 trillion visits to retail sites and 55 million SKUs.
At this rate, Adobe said it believes that sales today will total a record $3.5 billion, versus $2.9 billion a year ago. Notably, this is revised up from figures Adobe put out earlier this month, when it projected $3.1 billion in sales today. It's the first day of the "big five" for holiday shopping. Figures from Internet Retailer research predict that the total amount that will be spent over the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will be $21.6 billion. While rising tides might lift all boats, the biggest will reap the most rewards: it estimates that Amazon will account for nearly one-third of all sales.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what-the-hell-is-going-on? department
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out an unusually strong statement telling Americans to toss any romaine lettuce in any form: whole, chopped, pre-bagged into Caesar salads, combined into spring mix, and so on. The warning covered not just homes but retailers and restaurants, and came with a recommendation to empty any fridge where romaine has been stored, and wash it out with soap and warm water. From a report: The CDC said it was making the recommendation to not eat, serve or sell any romaine lettuce because 32 people in 11 states, plus 18 people in Ontario and Quebec, have been made ill by E. coli O157:H7, which causes very serious illness because it produces a toxin that destroys cells lining the intestines and kidneys. The patients are all infected with the same strain, based on genetic fingerprinting, and the only thing they have in common is that they all ate romaine.
But, the CDC said, "no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand of romaine lettuce has been identified." The agency isn't usually so sweeping in its statements, but with a holiday coming -- one that's centered around eating and that takes people offline into the real world of airports and cars and dinner tables -- it warned against all romaine until the threat can be better defined. The Food and Drug Administration, which does have the power to compel foods to be recalled, is investigating, along with health departments in the 11 states where people have gotten sick.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
Google is not complying with European demands that it must make the search for products fairer, rivals say. In an open letter to the EU's Competition Commissioner on Thursday, they wrote: We are writing to you as leading European comparison shopping services (CSSs) to express our collective view that Google's "compliance mechanism" in the Google Search (Comparison Shopping) case does not comply with the European Commission's June 2017 Prohibition Decision. It has now been more than a year since Google introduced its auction-based "remedy", and the harm to competition, consumers and innovation caused by Google's illegal conduct has continued unabated. We therefore respectfully urge you to commence non-compliance proceedings against Google. BBC offers some background: In June 2017, European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager ruled that Google had abused its power by promoting its own shopping service at the top of search results, and demanded that it provide equal treatment to rival comparison sites in future. She issued a record fine of $2.7bn -- the largest penalty the European Commission has ever imposed. She also demanded that Google end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or face further costs. Google is still appealing against the fine, but has come up with a system that it says makes shopping fairer. It changed the shopping box, which is displayed at the top of search results, so that it is no longer populated with just Google Shopping ad results, but gives space to other shopping comparison services, who can bid for advertising slots.Read Replies (0)