By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: A prestigious college in Beijing that reportedly tried to bar a student because his father was on a government blacklist is causing huge controversy in China. According to state media reports, a high school student with the surname Rao in the eastern city of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, was accepted on the back of his score in China's fiendishly difficult and incredibly competitive national college entrance exam. But before his family could enjoy Rao's accomplishments, the college notified them he may not be able to attend because of his father's poor credit standing -- the father owed 200,000 RMB (about $30,000) to a local bank, and had been put on a blacklist dubbed the "lost trust list" for individuals with bad social standing, state media reported. Blacklists are a key feature of China's controversial "social credit system" -- a set of government programs that sets up both incentives and disincentives to encourage people to behave in socially desirable ways. Social credit in today's China involves government programs that collect and analyze data from different parts of people's lives, including their education history, compliance with traffic rules, criminal history and debt. It has raised serious concerns over individual privacy rights.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-sides-to-every-story department
Longtime Slashdot reader theodp writes: In Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom), Adam Fisher paints quite a different picture of life at now-workforce behavior preachers Google and Facebook, revealing that the tech giants' formative days were filled with the kind of antics that run afoul of HR protocols. Google was not a normal place, begins an excerpt in Vanity Fair that includes some juicy quotes attributed to Google executive chef Charlie Ayers about Google's founders ("Sergey's the Google playboy. He was known for getting his fingers caught in the cookie jar with employees that worked for the company in the masseuse room. He got around.") And in Sex, Beer, and Coding, Wired runs an excerpt about Facebook's wild early days, which even extended to the artwork gracing its office ("The office was on the second floor, so as you walk in you immediately have to walk up some stairs, and on the big 10-foot-high wall facing you is just this huge buxom woman with enormous breasts wearing this Mad Max-style costume riding a bulldog. It's the most intimidating, totally inappropriate thing. [...] That set a tone for us. A huge-breasted warrior woman riding a bulldog is the first thing you see as you come in the office, so like, get ready for that!" So, what changed? "When Sheryl Sandberg joined the company is when I saw a vast shift in everything in the company," said Ayers about Google. Sandberg later became Facebook's grown-up face.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-listening department
It seems like everyone these days has had a paranoiac moment where a website advertises something to you that you recently purchased or was gifted without a digital trail. According to a new website called New Organs, which collects first-hand accounts of these moments, "the feeling of being listened to is among the most common experiences, along with seeing the same ads on different websites, and being tracked via geo-location," reports The Outline. The website was created by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, two Brooklyn-based artists whose work explores the intersections of technology and society. From the report: "We are stuck in this 20th century idea of spying, of wiretapping and hidden microphones," said Brain. "But really there is this whole new sensory apparatus, a complicated entanglement of online trackers and algorithms that are watching over us." It is this new sensory apparatus that Brain and Lavigne metaphorically refer to as "new organs," as if the online surveillance framework used by social media platforms like Facebook has somehow transfigured into a semi-living organism. "These new organs don't actually need to listen to your voice to know that you like Japanese knives," Lavigne told me. "They actually have ways of coming to know things about you that we don't fully understand yet." In other words, these new methods of data collection have become so uncannily accurate in their knowledge of you as to occasionally feel indistinguishable from actual ears listening in on and understanding intimate conversations.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's story-of-success department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Best known for its Viking history, snow sports and jaw-dropping fjords, Norway is making a new name for itself as the only major economy in Europe where young people are getting markedly richer. People in their early thirties in Norway have an average annual disposable household income of around 460,000 kroner (around $56,200). Young Norwegians have enjoyed a 13% rise in disposable household income in real terms compared to Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1980) when they were the same age. These startling figures come from the largest comparative wealth data set in the world, the Luxembourg Income Database, and were analyzed in a recent report on generational incomes for the UK Think Tank The Resolution Foundation.
Compare this with young people in other strong economies: U.S. millennials have experienced a 5% dip, in Germany it's a 9% drop. For those living in southern Europe (the southern Eurozone suffered the brunt of the global economic crisis in 2008), disposable incomes have plunged by as much as 30%. Norway's youth unemployment rate (among 15- to 29-year-olds) is also relatively low at 9.4% compared to an OECD average of 13.9%. According to the BBC, this can be attributed to the country's rapid economic growth, thanks largely to their huge oil and gas sectors. "After seeing the biggest increase in average earnings of any large high-income economy between 1980 and 2013, it now leads multiple global rankings for wealth and wellbeing."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's we-knew-this-day-would-come department
Facebook is trying to get Instagram users to visit its site more often by further entwining the two services. According to Instagram user Spencer Chen, the Instagram app prompted him to check out a friend's new photo on Facebook. "Chen grabbed a screenshot and posted the notification on the internet, calling it a cry for attention by the older social network," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Instagram says what Chen experienced was a product test with a small contingent of users. Still, Instagram feeds Facebook in other ways. Last year, Facebook launched its own version of an Instagram tool called Stories, which lets people post videos that disappear within 24 hours. (The feature was initially copied from Snap Inc., a competitor.) Greenfield noticed the Facebook version became more popular once it became possible for Instagram users to post their stories in both places with the click of a button. Instagram Stories' 400 million users present a significant opportunity for Facebook's advertising business, according to Ken Sena, an analyst at Wells Fargo Securities. Instagram is on track to provide Facebook with $20 billion in revenue by 2020, about a quarter of Facebook's total, he wrote to investors. And cross-posting could help Facebook's video ambitions.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clock-is-ticking department
Tesla has confirmed to Jalopnik that its 200,000th vehicle has been delivered this month, meaning the full $7,500 federal tax credit for electric cars will slowly be phased out. Tesla is the first automaker to reach this mark. "GM is close, too, while Nissan, Ford, and others still have a ways to go," notes The Verge. From the report: Tesla customers who take delivery of their cars -- regardless of whether it's a Model S, X, or 3 -- between now and December 31st, 2018, will still be eligible for the full $7,500 credit from the IRS. Customers who take delivery of their cars between January 1st and June 30th, 2019, will only be eligible for a $3,750 credit. And customers who take delivery of their cars between July 1st and December 31st, 2019, will be offered just $1,875. After that, the incentive is dead.
Put in place early on in the Obama administration, the tax credit was seen as a tool that could be used to encourage customers to buy plug-in electric or hybrid vehicles. This would simultaneously help advance the president's climate and clean energy goals while offering consumers a bit of a break while the cost of battery technology slowly came down. It was also meant to encourage manufacturers to push for greater advancements in that technology. The dollar amount was technically flexible; it was essentially a $2,500 credit with room to increase up to $7,500 depending on the battery capacity of the car being sold. The better the battery in a company's car, the better the rebate their buyers would get.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fun-for-the-whole-family department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Robert Louis Stevenson's 1881 classic Treasure Island tells of Jim Hawkins's adventures on board the Hispaniola, as he and his crew -- along with double-crossing pirate Long John Silver -- set out to find Captain Flint's missing treasure on Skeleton Island. Now, more than a century later, children can try and find it themselves, with the bays and mountains of Stevenson's fictional island given a blocky remodeling in Minecraft, as part of a new project aimed at bringing reluctant readers to literary classics. From Spyglass Hill to Ben Gunn's cave, children can explore every nook and cranny of Skeleton Island as part of Litcraft, a new partnership between Lancaster University and Microsoft, which bought the game for $2.5 billion in 2015 and which is now played by 74 million people each month. The Litcraft platform uses Minecraft to create accurate scale models of fictional islands: Treasure Island is the first, with Michael Morpurgo's Kensuke's Kingdom just completed and many others planned. [...] The project, which is featured on Microsoft's Minecraft.edu website, is currently being presented to school teachers and librarians across the UK. There has been "an enthusiastic response" to the trials under way in local schools, with plans to roll Litcraft out to libraries in Lancashire and Leeds from October 2018.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Last week, Apple refreshed the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models, bringing newer Intel processors and quieter keyboards. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro also just so happens to feature the fastest SSD ever in a laptop, according to benchmarks from Laptop Mag. Mac Rumors summarizes the findings: The site's tests were performed on the $2,499 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar equipped with a 2.7GHz quad-core 8th-generation Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, Intel Iris Plus 655, and a 512GB SSD. A file copy test of the SSD in the new MacBook Pro, which Apple says supports sequential read speeds of up to 3.2GB/s and sequential write speeds up to 2.2GB/s, led Laptop Mag to declare the SSD in the MacBook Pro "the fastest ever" in a laptop. Higher capacity SSDs may see even faster speeds on disk speeds tests. A BlackMagic Disk Speed test was also conducted, resulting in an average write speed of 2,682 MB/s.
On a Geekbench 4 CPU benchmark, the 13-inch MacBook Pro earned a score of 18,055 on the multi-core test, outperforming 13-inch machines from companies like Dell, HP, Asus, and Microsoft. That score beats out all 2017 MacBook Pro models and is faster than some iMac configurations. 15-inch MacBook Pro models with 6-core 8th-generation Intel chips will show even more impressive speeds. With that said, the 13-inch MacBook Pro didn't quite measure up to other machines when it came to GPU performance. "The 13-inch 2018 MacBook Pro uses Intel's Iris Plus Graphics 655 with 128MB of embedded DRAM and was unable to compete in a Dirt 3 graphics test, getting only 38.8 frames per second," reports Mac Rumors. "All Windows-based machines tested offered much better performance."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based digital currency exchange, announced that it is "exploring the addition" of five new cryptocurrencies to its platform. The five cryptocurrencies being considered are Cardano (ADA), Basic Attention Token (BAT), Stellar Lumens (XLM), Zcash (ZEC), and 0x (ZRX). Bitcoinist reports: Coinbase's announcement claims to arrive for both employees and the public at the same time. Notes Coinbase: "We are making this announcement internally at Coinbase and to the public at the same time to remain transparent with our customers about support for future assets." Despite the apparent attempt at remaining transparent, the statement of intent has led many to question why the exchange giant is even making an announcement of its "exploration" at all -- especially following a cut-and-dry announcement of future support for Ethereum Classic. The company pre-emptively responded to such questions by explaining: "Unlike the ongoing process of adding Ethereum Classic, which is technically very similar to Ethereum, these assets will require additional exploratory work and we cannot guarantee they will be listed for trading. Furthermore, our listing process may result in some of these assets being listed solely for customers to buy and sell, without the ability to send or receive using a local wallet. We may also only enable certain ways to interact with these assets through our site, such as supporting only deposits and withdrawals from transparent Zcash addresses. Finally, some of these assets may be offered in other jurisdictions prior to being listed in the U.S." Coinbase also said to expect future announcements of exploration: "Going forward, you should expect that we will make similar announcements about exploring the addition of multiple assets. Some of these assets may become available everywhere, while others may only be supported in specific jurisdictions."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-execution department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: The latest country to consider a website blocking proposal is Japan, and EFF has responded to the call for comment by sharing all the reasons that cutting off websites is a terrible solution for copyright violations. In response to infringement of copyrighted material, specifically citing a concern for manga, the government of Japan began work on a proposal that would make certain websites inaccessible in Japan. In response to Japan's proposal, EFF explained that website blocking is not effective at the stated goal of protecting artists and their work. First, it can be easily circumvented. Second, it ends up capturing a lot of lawful expression. Blocking an entire website does not distinguish between legal and illegal content, punishing both equally. According to numerous studies, the best answer to the problem of online infringement is providing easy, lawful alternatives. Doing this also has the benefit of not penalizing legitimate expression the way blocking does. According to The Japan Times, the "emergency measure" would "encourage [ISPs] to restrict access to such 'malicious' websites 'on a voluntary basis' in order to protect the nation's famed manga and anime industries from free-riders."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's manfeels department
ArenaNet narrative designer Jessica Price was fired last week after she accused a Twitter user of "mansplaining", and adding later "Don't expect me to pretend to like you here." (Her employer characterized this as "attacks on the community.")
So what happened in the week that followed? An anonymous reader writes:
A Reddit user indicated he'd been speaking satirically when he posted that "We can probably fire anyone on the GW2 dev team as long we make a big enough stink," and expressed surprise later that no one had disagreed with him. But another female developer told Kotaku she saw a real call to action on 4chan, and that it was followed by angry letters to the game studio she freelances for calling for her firing too, complaining their games had declined since she was hired (along with another woman). The letters also complained her Twitter account set "a bad example for the letter-writer's children, who supposedly play this game." The company's CEO received "a three-digit number's" worth of angry letters -- though "Fifty or so of them glitched out with a lot of variables exposed, including %FEMALENAME."
"A deeper look at the names and emails associated with the letters went to Facebook bot profiles and people whose profiles indicated associations with Gamergate or 4chan," reports Kotaku -- and Brianna Wu made a similar charge on Twitter last week, citing research by a team of volunteers. "The overwhelming majority of people harassing Jessica Price today on Twitter are bots and sock puppets. These are throwaway accounts that are used as toys. Almost no one claiming to be upset is an established, normal Twitter user." The Verge reports that Wu monitored Jessica Price's account, and found harassment "as bad as she's ever seen," blocking at least 600 different accounts.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bad-robots department
Thursday Elon Musk gave a surprisingly candid interview about Tesla's massive push to increase production of Model 3 sedans to 5,000 a week. An anonymous reader quotes Musk's remarks to Bloomberg:
I spent almost the entire time in the factory the final week, and yeah, it was essentially three months with a tiny break of like one day that I wasn't there. I was wearing the same clothes for five days. Yeah, it was really intense. And everybody else was really intense, too... I think we had to prove that we could make 5,000 cars in a week -- 5,000 Model 3s and at the same time make 2,000 S and X's, so essentially show that we could make 7,000 cars. We had to prove ourselves. The number of people who thought we would actually make it is very tiny, like vanishingly small. There was suddenly the credibility of the company, my credibility, you know, the credibility of the whole team. It was like, "Can you actually do this or not?"
There were a lot of issues that we had to address in order to do it. You know, we had to create the new general assembly line in basically less than a month -- to create it and get to an excess of a 1,000-cars-a-week rate in like four weeks... A lot of the hoped-for automation was counterproductive. It's not like we knew it would be bad, because why would we buy a ticket to hell...? A whole bunch of the robots are turned off, and it was reverted to a manual station because the robots kept faulting out. When the robot faults out -- like the vision system can't figure out how to put the object in -- then you've got to reset the system. You've got to manually seat the components. It stops the whole production line while you sort out why the robot faults out.
When the interviewer asks why that happens, Musk replies, "Because we were huge idiots and didn't know what we were doing. That's why."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's enabled-by-default department
An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld:
The critical Meltdown and Spectre bugs baked deep into modern computer processors will have ramifications on the entire industry for years to come, and Chrome just became collateral damage. Google 67 enabled "Site Isolation" Spectre protection for most users, and the browser now uses 10 to 13 percent more RAM due to how the fix behaves.
"Site Isolation does cause Chrome to create more renderer processes, which comes with performance tradeoffs," Googleâ(TM)s Charlie Reis says. "On the plus side, each renderer process is smaller, shorter-lived, and has less contention internally, but there is about a 10-13% total memory overhead in real workloads due to the larger number of processes. Our team continues to work hard to optimize this behavior to keep Chrome both fast and secure." It's a significant performance hit, especially for a browser battling a reputation for being a memory hog, but a worthwhile one nonetheless.
Chrome's Spectre-blocking site isolation "is now enabled by default for 99 percent of Chrome users on all platforms."Read Replies (0)