By BeauHD from Slashdot's nickel-and-dimed department
schwit1 shares an excerpt from an in-depth report via ProPublica and NPR, which have been investigating for the past year the various tactics the health insurance industry uses to maximize its profits: A future in which everything you do -- the things you buy, the food you eat, the time you spend watching TV -- may help determine how much you pay for health insurance. With little public scrutiny, the health insurance industry has joined forces with data brokers to vacuum up personal details about hundreds of millions of Americans, including, odds are, many readers of this story. The companies are tracking your race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth. They're collecting what you post on social media, whether you're behind on your bills, what you order online. Then they feed this information into complicated computer algorithms that spit out predictions about how much your health care could cost them. Patient advocates warn that using unverified, error-prone "lifestyle" data to make medical assumptions could lead insurers to improperly price plans -- for instance raising rates based on false information -- or discriminate against anyone tagged as high cost. And, they say, the use of the data raises thorny questions that should be debated publicly, such as: Should a person's rates be raised because algorithms say they are more likely to run up medical bills? Such questions would be moot in Europe, where a strict law took effect in May that bans trading in personal data.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's two-front-war department
Slashdot readers hyperclocker and Hallux-F-Sinister have shared news about Walmart's new strategy to take on Amazon. In a nutshell, Walmart will use more of Microsoft's cloud services and work with the company on AI and machine learning projects. The goal is to reduce its energy consumption and improve its delivery systems. Hyperclocker shares an excerpt from a report: Today, Walmart announced that it has established a strategic partnership with Microsoft to, "further accelerate Walmart's digital transformation in retail, empower its associates worldwide and make shopping faster and easier for millions of customers around the world." What that means in reality is, Walmart is embracing Microsoft's cloud services and will run its digital operations by taking full advantage of Microsoft Azure and Office 365. The partnership agreement lasts for five years and starts with a team of Walmart and Microsoft engineers working together to transition the retailer to Microsoft's ecosystem.
Hallux-F-Sinister provides some commentary: According to CNN Money, Walmart and Microsoft are ganging up on Amazon.com. I found myself wondering if this was more like Lex Luthor teaming up with the Joker to fight Sinestro, or Bruce Wayne letting Tony Stark use the Bat Computer to fight against the thing Richard Pryor's character designed in whichever godawful nineteen eighties-era Superman sequel he was in. The story itself would bore an accountant to tears, I am convinced, so I did not dare read it for fear of being rendered insensate; but here is the URL if you find you are in desperate need of sleep. Perhaps this other bit of news will wake you up: Walmart is also contemplating starting its own streaming service to compete with Amazon and Netflix. According to GeekWire, citing The Information, "Walmart is considering various ways to stand out, including undercutting Amazon and Netflix on price or offering an ad-supported free service."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Over the last few years, Microsoft has been working to improve the Windows console. Console windows now maximize properly, for example. In the olden days, hitting maximize would make the window taller but not wider. Today, the action will fill the whole screen, just like any other window. Especially motivated by the Windows subsystem for Linux, the console in Windows 10 supports 16 million colors and VT escape sequences, enabling much richer console output than has traditionally been possible on Windows.
Microsoft is working to build a better console for Windows, one that we hope will open the door to the same flexibility and capabilities that Unix users have enjoyed for more than 40 years. The APIs seem to be in the latest Windows 10 Insider builds, though documentation is a little scarce for now. The command-line team is publishing a series of blog posts describing the history of the Windows command-line, and how the operating system's console works. The big reveal of the new API is coming soon, and with this, Windows should finally be able to have reliable, effective tabbed consoles, with emoji support, rich Unicode, and all the other things that the Windows console doesn't do... yet.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: The national security of the United States relies on a healthy airline industry. That requires modern reliable airplanes -- and highly skilled pilots to operate them. However, the United States has a shortage of pilots right now, particularly at the regional airline levels. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were about 827,000 pilots in America in 1987. Over the past three decades, that number has decreased by 30%. Meanwhile, during this period, there has been a tremendous increase in the demand for air travel. The International Air Transport Association predicts that, over the next 20 years, air travel will double. This is a classic case of low supply and high demand. This mismatch has created a perfect storm that could wreak havoc on the US airline industry over the next decade. The somber news is this shortage is going to get much worse.
I have not only studied and researched the airline industry since 1978, but I also was a pilot for 19 years, before going back to academia in 2006. In the 1970s, when most of today's airline pilots like myself were growing up, piloting for an airline was considered a prestigious career. The job offered not only high salaries and nice schedules with many days off, but also a respected position in society. In the early 1990s, pilot salaries approached $300,000 in today's dollars for some international pilots. What's more, during this time, the military had a steady and consistent demand for pilots. A young aspiring aviator could go into the military to receive all of his or her flight training. Once these pilots had fulfilled their military commitment, they were almost guaranteed a good job flying for a major airline. Today, this is no longer the case. The career of the airline pilot has lost its luster.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
CBC reports: The detailed medical histories and contact information of possibly tens of thousands of home-care patients in Ontario are allegedly being held for ransom by thieves who recently raided the computer systems of a health-care provider. CarePartners, which provides home medical care services on behalf of the Ontario government, announced last month that it had been breached. It said only that personal health and financial information of patients had been "inappropriately accessed," and did not elaborate further. However, a group claiming responsibility for the breach recently contacted CBC News and provided a sample of the data it claims to have accessed, shedding new light on the extent of the breach. The sample includes thousands of patient medical records with phone numbers and addresses, dates of birth, and health card numbers, as well as detailed medical histories including past conditions, diagnoses, surgical procedures, care plans and medications for patients across the province.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Thousands of credentials for accounts associated with New Zealand-based file storage service Mega have been published online, ZDNet reports. From the report: The text file contains over 15,500 usernames, passwords, and files names, indicating that each account had been improperly accessed and file names scraped. Patrick Wardle, chief research officer and co-founder at Digita Security, found the text file in June after it had been uploaded to malware analysis site VirusTotal some months earlier by a user purportedly in Vietnam. Wardle passed the data to ZDNet. We verified that the data belonged to Mega, the file-sharing site formerly owned by internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom by contacting several users, who confirmed that the email address, password, and some of the files we showed them were used on Mega.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Of the 100 images submitted to the 2018 Robotart competition, an automaton called CloudPainter rose to the top, with evocative portraits featuring varying degrees of abstraction. One of its winning images was created by a team of neural networks, AI algorithms, and robots. Robotart's founder, Andrew Conru, told MIT Technology Review that this year's entries have shown refined brushstrokes and composition. "CloudPainter, the winner this year, has been involved all three years and has made the most improvement in his system," he says. "The resulting work, while it still uses an inputted photo as reference, can execute paintings using different painting styles."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's streak-continues department
sombragris writes: Slackware, the oldest GNU/Linux distribution which is still actively maintained, turned 25 this week. The latest stable version, Slackware 14.2, was released two years ago, but the development version (-current) is updated on a fast pace. Today the development version offers kernel 4.14.55, gcc 8.1.1, glibc 2.27. mesa 18.1.4, xorg 1.20, and the Xfce and KDE desktop environments as default, with many more available as third-party packages. Other points of note are that Slackware is systemd-free, opting instead for a simple BSD-style init. Since its first release ever, this has been a distro with a strong following due to its hallmarks of simplicity, speed, ease of maintenance and configuration. Happy birthday Slackware!Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's fascinating-world department
Deep in Ecuador's lush Quijos Valley, a society thrived -- and then disappeared. But a lake preserved its story. From a report: In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest, a place where people had never gone. But they were very wrong. Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution. The Quijos Valley lies in one of the most biodiverse cloud forests in the world, along a pre-Columbian trade route that linked the rich Amazonian lowlands with the high Andes. Thousands of people lived there centuries before the Spanish arrived, farming maize, squash, beans, and even passionfruit in poor soil of the valley floor. The study's researchers found a tiny lake in the valley and dug down into the silt at the bottom, pulling up a plug of sediment that had built up over the last 1000 years -- and found evidence of human occupation going back to the very oldest part of the core. In the oldest layers, scientists found tiny pieces of pollen -- swept from the valley and the surrounding forest into the lake by wind -- from maize and other plants that only grow in open, airy conditions, which told them that humans were cultivating plants on the valley floor. They also found plenty of charcoal bits, indications that people had lit fires nearby.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department
BrianFagioli writes: Today, Samsung announces yet another milestone, this time with its low-powered memory. You see, Samsung has created what it calls the "industry's first 10-nanometer (nm) class 8-gigabit (Gb) LPDDR5 DRAM." The company promises significant power reduction -- up to 30 percent over LPDDR4X DRAM. This should be important for the upcoming 5G explosion. "The 8Gb LPDDR5 boasts a data rate of up to 6,400 megabits per second (Mb/s), which is 1.5 times as fast as the mobile DRAM chips used in current flagship mobile devices (LPDDR4X, 4266Mb/s). With the increased transfer rate, the new LPDDR5 can send 51.2 gigabytes (GB) of data, or approximately 14 full-HD video files (3.7GB each), in a second," says Samsung. The Galaxy-maker further says, "The 10nm-class LPDDR5 DRAM will be available in two bandwidths -- 6,400Mb/s at a 1.1 operating voltage (V) and 5,500Mb/s at 1.05V -- making it the most versatile mobile memory solution for next-generation smartphones and automotive systems."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's spoke-too-soon department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Munro & Associates, a small Detroit-area firm that disassembles new cars and analyzes them down to the nuts and bolts, came out in April with damning findings that the Model 3 was poorly built and -- even worse for Tesla's long-term outlook -- costly to build. On that second point, at least, founder Sandy Munro has reversed course. Upon further analysis, his firm has found that the sedan can be profitable. It may even have the potential to make a 30 percent margin, which would be unmatched by any other other battery-powered vehicle. Munro said the systems that impressed him most were the tight integration of circuit board components, which he calls "a symphony of engineering," and the efficiency of the battery developed by Tesla and Panasonic Corp. Munro also pointed to a comprehensive side-by-side comparison of the parts and materials used by the Model 3, General Motors Co.'s Chevrolet Bolt, and BMW AG's i3, in which the Model 3 comes out favorably. The report echoes a teardown published in June by German magazine WirtschaftsWoche, which found that the Model 3 costs about $28,000 to build -- $18,000 for materials and $10,000 for production.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's supply-and-demand department
hackingbear writes: "China's medical insurance regulator will begin negotiations with domestic and overseas pharmaceutical companies to lower prices of cancer drugs in a bid to cut the financial burden on patients," reports Reuters. "The State Medical Insurance Administration said it was preparing to include more cancer drugs on its list of medicines eligible for reimbursement, and said 10 foreign and eight domestic pharmaceutical companies had expressed a willingness to work with the authority."
Unlike India, or what we may have been told, China enforces pharmaceutical patents rigorously. Recently, the Chinese box office hit Dying to Survive, which told the real life story of a leukemia patient/businessman put on trial due to smuggling imitation drugs to help fellow patients who cannot pay the exorbitant cost of a drug produced by a Swiss pharmaceutical giant, has brought in huge revenues and rave reviews since the movie was released on July 5. Last year, China forced two rounds of NRDL negotiations after seven years of stasis. More than a dozen cancer drugs, including AstraZeneca's Iressa and Roche's Herceptin, are now covered by the country's insurance program, but only after the companies agreed to huge discounts -- a typical move trading lower prices for higher volume. Demand for Herceptin, for example, surged after the discount and triggered a national shortage.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's commence-panic department
Netflix shares plunged by more than 14% on Monday, after the firm reported disappointing subscriber growth. While the entertainment service added 5.2 million subscribers last quarter, it forecasted a growth of 6.2 million. BBC reports: Investors are worried about Netflix's growth potential in the face of increased competition from tech giants such as Apple, YouTube and Amazon, as well as traditional firms, which have started to invest more in online streaming. Disney, for example, plans to launch its own streaming service and stop licensing some of its material to Netflix.
In a letter to investors, Netflix called it a "strong but not stellar quarter," ending with about 130 million subscribers globally. The firm added just 670,000 subscribers in the U.S. -- far short of the more than one million it added in the second quarter of 2017. It added 4.5 million subscribers internationally, fewer than the two most recent quarters but up 8% year-on-year. However, it said its finances were strong. The company reported $3.9 billion in quarterly revenue, up 40% compared to the second quarter of 2017. Profits totaled $384.3 million, almost six times the figure during the same period a year ago.Read Replies (0)