By BeauHD from Slashdot's downward-sloping-demand-curve department
2017 was the first year that smartphone unit shipments didn't grow, according to a new Internet Trends report. "Shipments actually declined by 0.5 percent, as IDC noted in February," reports The Verge. "In 2016, shipments were lukewarm at 2 percent yearly growth, but this downturn is significant." From the report: Among smartphone shipments, Android and iOS have all but completely pushed out every other mobile operating system. And despite the growing price of today's top flagship devices, the average selling price of a smartphone has steadily fallen over the years. As more of the world now owns smartphones, growth has basically stalled. Similarly, internet user growth has only grown 7 percent in 2017, compared to 12 percent in 2016. More people are accessing the internet than ever, on an average of 5.9 hours a day. And they're browsing on mobile, indicating that they're just holding onto older models of phones instead of buying new ones.Read Replies (0)
By whipslash from Slashdot's meet-the-new-bosses department
Microsoft Corp. has agreed to acquire GitHub Inc., the code repository company popular with many software developers, and could announce the deal as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.
GitHub preferred selling the company to going public and chose Microsoft partially because it was impressed by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Terms of the agreement weren't known on Sunday. GitHub was last valued at $2 billion in 2015.
GitHub is an essential tool for coders. Many corporations, including Microsoft and Alphabet Inc.'s Google, use GitHub to store their corporate code and to collaborate. It's also a social network of sorts for developers. While GitHub's losses have been significant -- it lost $66 million over three quarters in 2016 -- it had revenue of $98 million in nine months of that year.
On Friday, it was reported that Microsoft was in talks with GitHub about an acquisition. Now it seems like it's actually happening.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-more-than-meets-the-eye department
New submitter DuroSoft writes: It has been over a year since Microsoft unveiled its open source GVFS (Git Virtual File System) project, designed to make terabyte-scale repositories, like it's own 270GB Windows source code, manageable using Git. The problem is that the GNOME project already has a virtual file system by the name of GVfs that has been in use for years, with hundreds of threads on Stack Overflow, etc. Yet Microsoft's GVFS has already surpassed GVfs in Google and is causing confusion. To make matters worse, Microsoft has officially refused to change the name, despite a large public backlash on GitHub and social media, and despite pull requests providing scripts that can change the name to anything Microsoft wants. Is this mere arrogance on Microsoft's part, laziness to do a quick Google search before using a name, or is it something more sinister?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's force-fed department
A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a psychopathic algorithm named Norman, as part of an experiment to see what training artificial intelligence on data from "the dark corners of the net" would do to its world view. Unlike most "normal" algorithms by AI, Norman does not have an optimistic view of the world. BBC reports: The software was shown images of people dying in gruesome circumstances, culled from a group on the website Reddit. Then the AI, which can interpret pictures and describe what it sees in text form, was shown inkblot drawings and asked what it saw in them. These abstract images are traditionally used by psychologists to help assess the state of a patient's mind, in particular whether they perceive the world in a negative or positive light. Norman's view was unremittingly bleak -- it saw dead bodies, blood and destruction in every image. Alongside Norman, another AI was trained on more normal images of cats, birds and people. It saw far more cheerful images in the same abstract blots.
The fact that Norman's responses were so much darker illustrates a harsh reality in the new world of machine learning, said Prof Iyad Rahwan, part of the three-person team from MIT's Media Lab which developed Norman. "Data matters more than the algorithm. "It highlights the idea that the data we use to train AI is reflected in the way the AI perceives the world and how it behaves."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's story-of-survival department
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Guardian, written by Hermione Hoby: Michael Seidenberg, pictured kingly in his throne of a wicker chair, feet spread, pipe in mouth, is one of around 50 New York indie booksellers featured in a series of portraits by Philippe Ungar and Franck Bohbot, a pair of bibliophilic Frenchmen who met and befriended each other in Brooklyn. The two, writer and photographer respectively, have taken great pleasure in traveling across the city, to neighborhoods in every borough, to meet and photograph booksellers in their habitats. Despite their diversity, the way their distinct personalities and passions are reflected and amplified in their shops, they are all, says Ungar, "looking for the same thing -- a generous vision of sharing culture". Ungar mentions Corey Farach, owner of the scruffy, adored and longstanding feminist bookshop Bluestockings. Farach, as Ungar recounts with admiration, encourages those people who can't afford to buy a $40 book to take a seat, make themselves comfortable, and just read it in the shop. "That is to me," says Ungar, "the spirit of the indie booksellers." Because, as he sees it, "a bookstore is much more than a bookstore, it's much more than selling books. It's a public shelter. Whoever you are, you don't have to buy anything, they won't ask you for your ID. You're free -- you can stay for hours and browse. There's a generosity, an optimism. And that's what we wanted to enhance." "[I]ndie bookshops are outposts of idealism," writes Hoby. "And if they seem like the most romantic places in the city, it might be down to this -- to the way their owners and customers might all be engaged in the same project, a kind of sanctuary building in the unsheltered world." She goes on to mention Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, "a small space crammed with vintage titles," as well several closed bookshops "which have fallen to astronomically rising rents." "Three Lives & Company [...] narrowly escaped closure in 2016 after an upswell of neighborhood support," writes Hoby. The group that owns the building decided to "provide it with stability," given how well-loved it is in the West Village.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's digital-middleman department
Earlier this week, a judge in Tennessee ruled that Amazon isn't liable for damages caused by a hoverboard that spontaneously exploded and burned down a family's house, even though they bought it on Amazon's website. "The plaintiff claimed that Amazon didn't properly warn her about the dangers they knew existed with the product, but the judge didn't agree," reports CNBC. At the time, hoverboards were all the rage; Amazon sold almost 250,000 of them over a 30-day period. The plaintiff claims the company had an obligation to warn customers properly about the dangers it knew existed. "[The plaintiff] bought the hoverboard on Amazon, the receipt came from Amazon, the box had an Amazon label and all the money was in Amazon's hands," adds CNBC. "[The plaintiff] has been unable to find the Chinese manufacturer of the device." From the report: It's the latest legal victory for Amazon, which has for years fended off litigation related to product quality and safety by arguing that, for a big and growing part of its business, it's just a marketplace. There are buyers on one end and sellers on the other -- the argument goes -- and Amazon connects them through a popular portal, facilitating the transaction with a sophisticated logistics system. The courts are reinforcing the power of Amazon's business model as the ultimate middleman. But for American consumers, there's growing cause for concern. [...] But if Amazon isn't liable when faulty products sold through its website cause personal injuries and property damage, customers are often left with no recourse. That's because it's frequently impossible for consumers to figure out who manufactured the defective product and hold that party responsible.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's too-hot-to-handle department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A California state bill that would have more heavily regulated the use of flamethrowers has now effectively fizzled out in a legislative committee. In light of this development, there's nothing to stop Boring Company customers in California from receiving the company's sold-out flamethrowers. On May 26, the day after the bill died in committee, CEO Elon Musk tweeted: "About to ship. @BoringCompany holding flamethrower pickup parties in a week or so, then deliveries begin. Check https://www.boringcompany.com/... for details." After Musk said he would be selling a flamethrower dubbed "Not a Flamethrower" to get around customs, Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) authored a bill that would have imposed more restrictions on their acquisition and use.
"I honestly thought it was a joke when I saw the news about this," the assemblyman said in a statement at the time. "This product, in the wake of California's deadliest wildfire year in state history, is incredibly insensitive, dangerous, and most definitely not funny." He added: "There are many times in which technology and inventions benefit society but are not made available to the public. We don't allow people to walk in off the street and purchase military grade tanks or armor-piercing ammunition... I cannot even begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers alike."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's un-friending department
An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News' report on Facebook's annual shareholder's meeting:
On Thursday in Menlo Park, one investor compared the social network's poor stewardship of user data to a human rights violation. Another warned that scandal is not good for Facebook's bottom line. And one advised Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to emulate George Washington, not Vladimir Putin, and avoid turning Facebook into a "corporate dictatorship." Facebook struggled to keep order, kicking one woman out of the meeting within the first few minutes for repeated interruptions. A plane zipped overhead pulling a banner that read "YOU BROKE DEMOCRACY" and advertising Freedom From Facebook, a group of privacy and anti-monopoly activists that are pressing the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to break up the company...
Zuckerberg repeated the same reassurances he used in front of U.S. and European lawmakers earlier this year: The company hasn't taken a broad enough view of its responsibility... "We're also very focused on being more transparent," Zuckerberg said, touting the fact that the company had just posted its policies on content moderation for the first time. Minutes earlier, the company announced that shareholder proposals for more transparency and oversight had failed, surprising no one. Zuckerberg controls the company through special stock that gives him more votes than other shareholders.
"Facebook said that just because the proposals were blocked, that didn't mean the company doesn't care about these issues."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hello-my-name-is department
"The tech industry has reached a maximum saturation point for conferences, summits and forums," writes CNN's senior media reporter, sharing his general disillusionment after Recode's recent Code Conference:
But even at their best, these events fail to generate truly significant news because executives have been media-trained to the point of impenetrability... [S]peakers like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek have mastered the art -- there should be a German word for it -- of speaking for 30+ minutes without saying much of consequence or going beyond their comfort zone... [I]n two days, nothing was said on stage that fundamentally changed the existing narrative for any of these companies... Business executives are more strategic and more cautious than ever in how they speak publicly. The business media needs to be equally strategic in pushing them to say more.
He argues that the best things about conferences happen offstage, when attendees network and talk among themselves. Is that your experience, Slashdot readers? Share your own thoughts in the comments.
Are tech conferences overrated?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's silver-bullets department
An anonymous reader quotes the Los Angeles Times:
Mayor Michael Tubbs, a Stockton native and Stanford graduate who is all of 27 years old, wants to give at least $500 a month to a select group of residents. They'll be able to spend it as they wish, for 18 months, in a pilot program to test the impact of what's called guaranteed basic income... Workers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco-Oakland area, driven out of the cuckoo housing markets in those communities, have snapped up cheaper properties in Stockton, accepting the bargain of killer commutes... But Stockton still suffers the crushing burdens of poverty, crime and now the rising rents and home prices that come with gentrification. For those who don't have the education or training to work 60 miles away on tech's front lines, Stockton still struggles to develop jobs that pay a living wage...
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Space X's Elon Musk have both pitched the idea in terms of inevitability, given the growing income gap and the threat of massive job losses because of automation... As small as the program will be, it's not going to dramatically affect many Stockton residents, but the goal is to get a sense of whether such an infusion on a broader scale can significantly alter lives and boost the economy.
The program will be funded by private and nonprofit sources, according to the article. And while it may not start until early next year, Stockton is already launching a similar program where the benefits are more targeted.
Stockton is about to award stipends of up to $1,000 a month to residents deemed most likely to shoot somebody... The idea is that a small number of people are responsible for a large percentage of violence, and offering them an alternative path -- with counseling and case management over an 18-month period, along with a stipend if they stay the course -- can be a good investment all around.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blasts-from-the-past department
Long-time Slashdot reader t0qer writes: In the early days of PC gaming, there was 3 major titles. Doom, Duke Nukem, and Descent. Descent was the first game to have true 3D environments and enemies, whereas Doom/Duke was considered "2.5D." Even though Descent never gained the popularity of Quake or Doom, it's had a dedicated fanbase that has continued playing and updating the game over the last 20 years. The original programmers got together, and created a "Spiritual Successor" called Overload. Already garnering mostly postive reviews on Steam, the game features the same controls and overall feel of the original Descent, but without the frustration of having to set IRQ, DMA, and port jumpers for your sound blaster.
Engadget reports that the Overload devs "made sure to replicate what defined Descent and its two sequels, and what is still unique today: packing players in tight corridors to constrict their free-flying movement and transforming battles into maddening close-quarters space combat." The game's lead designer tells them that first-person-shooter games "have evolved a lot, but that evolution has left some gaping holes in its wake."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reader-reparations department
Richard Stallman weighed in Friday on what he calls "massive commercial surveillance of individuals," saying that the two camps arguing about it "both miss the point." First there's the trustbusters who want to break Big Tech companies into smaller firms too small to eliminate their competition or exert undue influences on regulators. Then there's those who urge carefully-calibrated regulations to ensure tech companies always act in a way that's good for society. RMS writes:
By arguing about whether to divide up the power that this data gives to businesses, or to regulate the use of it (perhaps nationalizing it), they miss the point that both alternatives destroy our privacy and give the state a perfect basis for repression.
The danger is to collect that data at all.
More generally, I think the idea of taxing companies for the magnitude of harm that they do (regardless of whether they broke any rules to do it) is a good one.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's when-they-come-for-you department
An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:
A Tesla vehicle in Autopilot mode collided with a parked police cruiser in California, authorities said. The Tesla sedan was driving outbound when it struck a parked Laguna Beach police car, the Laguna Beach police department said Tuesday. According to police, the driver in the Tesla sustained minor injuries. The police cruiser was empty of officers at the time of the crash. Laguna Polic1e Sgt. Jim Cota told the Los Angeles Times the police car "is totaled."
The police sergeant also told the Times that it was the same area where a Tesla crashed into a semi-truck last year, adding "Why do these vehicles keep doing that? We're just lucky that people aren't getting injured."
"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents," Tesla responded in a statement, "and before a driver can use Autopilot, they must accept a dialogue box which states that 'Autopilot is designed for use on highways that have a center divider and clear lane markings.'"
Record producer Zedd also responded to the news by sharing on Twitter what he calls "the other side":
I once fell asleep driving home late at night on the highway (w/ autopilot on) and got woken up by it beeping + turning off music to wake me up. Would have prob been dead without it... I didn't touch the steering wheel for a couple minutes and then it turned off the music and started beeping.
Elon Musk responded to the tweet, "Glad you're ok!"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's one-star department
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post:
An Uber driver in Denver killed his passenger early Friday morning, telling a witness he had fired several times in self-defense, police said... Police say Michael Andre Hancock shot Hyun Kim, 45, with a semiautomatic pistol during a confrontation at 2:47 a.m. Friday, according to a partially redacted probable-cause affidavit provided to The Washington Post... Hancock does not have a criminal record in the state, the Denver Post reported. An Uber official said Hancock has been driving with the popular ride-hailing app for three years. His father, also named Michael Hancock, told KDVR-TV he had a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Putnam, the police spokeswoman, said she was unsure if that had been confirmed.
Company policy says riders and drivers cannot carry firearms in vehicles while using the ride-sharing app. Some states have regulations that override that prohibition, but in Colorado, which allows guns in vehicles to protect lives and property, the regulation for Uber users still applies, Uber spokeswoman Carly DeBeikes told The Post in a statement. Uber, rocked by allegations of inadequate screening and abuse among its drivers and corporate leaders, said Hancock's access to the app was removed
Uber was fined $8.9 million by Colorado regulators last year "for allowing 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses to drive for the company," reports the Denver Post. They note that in some cases Uber's drivers only had revoked or suspended licenses, while "a similar investigation of smaller competitor Lyft found no violations."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's digital-diplomas department
Last summer, MIT ran a pilot program creating verifiable, tamper-proof "digital diplomas" for a small number of graduates. But they don't know how the pilot turned out, and there's a lot of experimentation underway. Eventually, all your credentials -- resume, employment history, occupational licenses, diplomas -- may be in a blockchain. The use of blockchain enabled digital credentials is growing. This could speed employment verification, and make lying on resumes harder.
The article points out that while a number of universities are exploring blockchain, MIT "has not heard of a case where a student's digital diploma was either consumed or accepted by an employer," although "Many certificates were verified..."
"MIT's pilot illustrates the state of blockchain in HR. It is in a beta, proof-of-concept, experimental phase. Blockchain verification is currently not a practical option for employers and recruiters."Read Replies (0)