By BeauHD from Slashdot's hook-line-and-sinker department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Tens of thousands of fake listings are added to Google Maps each month, redirecting users to fraudulent websites selling phony or overpriced services, or are part of some referral scam. Researchers say that 74% of these abusive listings were for local businesses in the U.S. and India, mainly in pockets around certain local hotspots, especially in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Chicago, Houston, or Los Angeles. In most cases, the scheme was simple. A customer in need of a locksmith or electrician would search Google Maps for a local company. If he navigated to the website of a fake business or called its number, a call center operator posing as the business' representative would send over an unaccredited contractor that would charge much more than regular professionals. If a customer's situation were urgent, the contractor would often charge more than the initial agreed upon price. Researchers said that 40.3% of all the listings for fake companies they found focused on on-call services, such as locksmiths, plumbers, and electricians, and were for customers who were desperate to resolve issues. Further, overall, operators of fake listings managed to hijack 0.5% of Google Maps' outbound traffic for the studied period.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's not-a-done-deal department
Last year, China's conglomerate LeEco announced it would be acquiring TV maker Vizio for a sum of $2 billion. The move would have given LeEco, which is increasingly expanding its business beyond Chinese market, an instant foothold in the United States. But today, both companies announced they are cancelling the plan due to "regulatory headwinds." In a statement, the companies said: We continue to believe that there is great synergy between the two companies, and are pleased to announce that LeEco and Vizio have reached an agreement that is a win for both companies ... LeEco and Vizio will continue to explore opportunities to incorporate the Le app and content within the Vizio connected CE platform, and engage in a collaborative partnership to leverage LeEco's ecosystem user interface platform, along with the brand's exclusive content and distribution channels, to bring Vizio products to the China market. The announcement comes amid troubled times for both the companies. On one hand, LeEco is struggling financially. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the company had delayed payroll for its US employees. Vizio was thrown under the bus in February after FTC fined the company $2.2 million to settle a case involving the TVs' data collection techniques.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's sleep-is-the-new-black department
The New York Times has a good story on how sleep is increasingly becoming a big business -- and the tech industry is rushing in to tweak our natural rhythms. From the article: At M.I.T.'s Media Lab, the digital futurist playground, David Rose is investigating swaddling, bedtime stories and hammocks, as well as lavender oil and cocoons. [...] Meanwhile, at the University of California, Berkeley, Matthew P. Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology and the director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory there, is working on direct current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness in the aging brain. [...] In Paris, Hugo Mercier, a computer science engineer, has invested in sound waves. He has raised over $10 million to create a headband that uses them to induce sleep. [...] Ben Olsen, an Australian entrepreneur, hopes to introduce Thim, a gadget you wear on your finger that uses sound to startle you awake every three minutes for an hour, just before you go to sleep. [...] Sleep entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and beyond have poured into the sleep space, as branders like to say -- a $32 billion market in 2012 -- formerly inhabited by old-style mattress and pharmaceutical companies.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's things-to-ponder department
Numerous studies and real-life examples show humble, unassuming people as leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run. The humity, exuded by these leaders, can be contagious. Yet, instead of following the lead of these unsung heroes, an article on Harvard Business Review argues, we appear hardwired to search for people who exude charisma. The article looks into why such is the case: One study suggests that despite being perceived as arrogant, narcissistic individuals radiate "an image of a prototypically effective leader." Narcissistic leaders know how to draw attention toward themselves. They enjoy the visibility. It takes time for people to see that these early signals of competence are not later realized, and that a leader's narcissism reduces the exchange of information among team members and often negatively affects group performance. It's not that charismatic and narcissistic people can't ever make good leaders. In some circumstances, they can. For example, one study found that narcissistic CEOs "favor bold actions that attract attention, resulting in big wins or big losses." A narcissistic leader thus can represent a high-risk, high-reward proposition.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's sad-realities department
From a report on Reuters: Bill Hinshaw is not a typical 75-year-old. He divides his time between his family -- he has 32 grandchildren and great-grandchildren -- and helping U.S. companies avert crippling computer meltdowns. Hinshaw, who got into programming in the 1960s when computers took up entire rooms and programmers used punch cards, is a member of a dwindling community of IT veterans who specialize in a vintage programming language called COBOL. The Common Business-Oriented Language was developed nearly 60 years ago and has been gradually replaced by newer, more versatile languages such as Java, C and Python. Although few universities still offer COBOL courses, the language remains crucial to businesses and institutions around the world. In the United States, the financial sector, major corporations and parts of the federal government still largely rely on it because it underpins powerful systems that were built in the 70s or 80s and never fully replaced. And here lies the problem: if something goes wrong, few people know how to fix it. The stakes are especially high for the financial industry, where an estimated $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through COBOL systems. The language underpins deposit accounts, check-clearing services, card networks, ATMs, mortgage servicing, loan ledgers and other services. The industry's aggressive push into digital banking makes it even more important to solve the COBOL dilemma. Mobile apps and other new tools are written in modern languages that need to work seamlessly with old underlying systems. That is where Hinshaw and fellow COBOL specialists come in. A few years ago, the north Texas resident planned to shutter his IT firm and retire after decades of working with financial and public institutions, but calls from former clients just kept coming.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-things-work department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Does your wallet contain an airline-branded credit card? If so, your daily Starbucks visits, iTunes selections and dining habits serve a critical role in keeping the U.S. airline industry fat and happy. For carriers such as American Airlines, riding Citigroup Inc. plastic, or Delta, on American Express Co., these programs are a cash cow, a golden goose -- or any other fiscal livestock you care to conjure. Each mile fetches an airline anywhere from 1.5 cents to 2.5 cents, and the big banks amass those miles by the billions (alternative source), doling them out to cardholders each month. For the banks, people who pay annual fees for those cards in order to accumulate miles are the closest thing to a sure bet. These consumers typically have higher-than-average incomes and spend more on their cards, generating merchant fees for the banks. They also tend to maintain high credit scores, which means they pay their bills on time and banks experience fewer defaults. The airline-miles business, formally known as loyalty programs, has become a high-margin enterprise that's grown in size and value amid airline consolidation, with carriers keen to expand credit card rolls and see loyalty members spend more.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tables-turning department
Tesla became the largest U.S. auto maker by market value on Monday, overtaking General Motors -- a feat that would have seemed highly improbable 13 years ago when the electric-car maker first began tinkering with the idea of making a sports car. From a report: Tesla climbed as much as 3.4 percent in early Monday trading, boosting its market capitalization to about $51 billion. The company was valued at about $1.7 billion more than GM as of 9:35 a.m. in New York. The turnabout shows the extent to which investors have bought into Musk's vision that electric vehicles will eventually rule the road. While GM has beat Tesla to market with a plug-in Chevrolet Bolt with a price and range similar to what Musk has promised for his Model 3 sedan coming later this year, the more than century-old company has failed to match the enthusiasm drummed up by its much smaller and rarely profitable U.S. peer. No matter, say investors who like the stock. Tesla is a technology player with the ability to dominate a market for electric cars and energy storage. To those same investors, GM and Ford are headed for a slowdown in car sales that will erode profits. "Is it fair? No, it isn't fair," Maryann Keller, an auto-industry consultant in Stamford, Connecticut, said of GM ceding the market-cap crown. "Even if Tesla turns a profit, they will eventually have to make enough to justify this valuation."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Old-MacDonald-had-a-tractor-he-couldn't-repair department
Manufacturers lock consumers into restrictive "user agreements," and inside "there's things like you won't open the case, you won't repair," complains a U.S. advocacy group called The Repair Association. But now the issue is getting some more attention in the American press. An anonymous reader quotes NPR:
Modern tractors, essentially, have two keys to make the engine work. One key starts the engine. But because today's tractors are high-tech machines that can steer themselves by GPS, you also need a software key -- to fix the programs that make a tractor run properly. And farmers don't get that key. "You're paying for the metal but the electronic parts technically you don't own it. They do," says Kyle Schwarting, who plants and harvests fields in southeast Nebraska... "Maybe a gasket or something you can fix, but everything else is computer controlled and so if it breaks down I'm really in a bad spot," Schwarting says.
He has to call the dealer. Only dealerships have the software to make those parts work, and it costs hundreds of dollars just to get a service call. Schwarting worries about being broken down in a field, waiting for a dealer to show up with a software key.
The article points out that equipment dealers are using those expensive repair calls to offset slumping tractor sales. But it also reports that eight U.S. states, including Nebraska, Illinois and New York, are still considering bills requiring manufacturers to sell repair software, adding that after Massachusetts passed a similar lar, "car makers started selling repair software."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's way-back-machines department
"Today, we look back at the classic era of home computing that existed alongside the dreariness of business computing and the heart-pounding noise and colour of the arcades," writes the site Den of Geek. An anonymous reader reports:
The article remembers the days of dial-up modems, obscure computer magazines, and the forgotten phenomenon of computer clubs. ("There was a time when if you wanted to ask a question about something computer related, or see something in action, you'd have to venture outside and into another building to go and see it.") Gamers grappled with old school controllers, games distributed on cassette tapes, low-resolution graphics and the "playground piracy" of warez boards -- when they weren't playing the original side-scrolling platformers like Mario Bros and Donkey Kong at video arcades.
In a world where people published fanzines on 16-bit computers, shared demo programs, and even played text adventures, primitive hardware may have inspired future coders, since "Old computers typically presented you with a command prompt as soon as you switched them on, meaning that they were practically begging to be programmed on." Home computers "mesmerised us, educated us, and in many cases, bankrupted us," the article remembers -- until they were replaced by more powerful hardware. "You move on, but you never fully get over your first love," it concludes -- while also adding that "what came next was pretty amazing."
Does this bring back any memories for anybody -- or provoke any wistful nostalgic for a bygone era? Either way, I really liked the way that the article ended. "The most exciting chapter of all, my geeky friends? The future!"Read Replies (0)