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)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's browser-battles department
An anonymous reader quotes an associate technology editor at Fast Company's Co.Design:
While the amount of data about me may not have caused harm in my life yet -- as far as I know -- I don't want to be the victim of monopolistic internet oligarchs as they continue to cash in on surveillance-based business models. What's a concerned citizen of the internet to do? Here's one no-brainer: Stop using Chrome and switch to Firefox... [W]hy should I continue to use the company's browser, which acts as literally the window through which I experience much of the internet, when its incentives -- to learn a lot about me so it can sell advertisements -- don't align with mine....?
< article continued at Slashdot's browser-battles department
>Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's #blastoff department
An anonymous reader quotes NASA.gov:
Social media users are invited to register to attend the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This launch, currently targeted for late June, will be the next commercial cargo resupply services mission to the International Space Station... A maximum of 40 social media users will be selected to attend this two-day event, and will be given access similar to news media.
Besides viewing and photographing the launch, the 40 selected participants will also:
Tour NASA facilities at Kennedy Space Center
Speak with representatives from NASA and SpaceX
Speak with researchers about investigations heading to the orbiting microgravity laboratory
Meet fellow space enthusiasts who are active on social media
Applications must be received by Wednesday at noon EDT.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's space-invaders department
An anonymous reader quotes Linux.com:
Attempts to establish Linux as a gaming platform have failed time and time again, with Valve's SteamOS being the latest high-profile casualty. Yet, Linux has emerged as a significant platform in the much smaller niche of retro gaming, especially on the Raspberry Pi. Atari has now re-emerged from the fog of gaming history with an Ubuntu-based Atari VCS gaming and media streaming console aimed at retro gamers. In addition to games, the Atari VCS will also offer Internet access and optional voice control. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the system can be used as a standard Linux computer.
The catch is that the already delayed systems won't ship until July 2019... By the launch date, Atari plans to have "new and exclusive" games for download or streaming, including "reimagined classic titles from Atari and other top developers," as well as multi-player games. The Atari VCS Store will also offer video, music and other content... The hardware is not open source, and the games will be protected with HDCP. However, the Ubuntu Linux stack based on Linux kernel 4.10 is open source, and includes a "customizable Linux UX." A Linux "sandbox" will be available for developing or porting games and apps. Developers can build games using any Linux compatible gaming engine, including Unity, Unreal Engine, and Gamemaker. Atari also says that "Linux-based games from Steam and other platforms that meet Atari VCS hardware specifications should work."
Atari boasts this will be their first device offering online multi-player experiences, and the device will also come pre-loaded with over 100 classic Atari games.
An Indiegogo campaign this week seeking $100,000 in pre-orders has already raised over $2.2 million from 8808 backers.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's church-of-Emacs department
There's a new version of the 42-year-old libre text editor with over 2,000 built-in commands, reports LWN.net:
Highlights include a built-in Lisp threading mechanism that provides some concurrency, double buffering when running under X, a redesigned flymake mode, 24-bit color support in text mode, and a systemd [user] unit file.
The Free Software Foundation has released a 10,653-word description of all the new features in Emacs 26.1. Here's a couple more:
The Emacs server now has socket-launching support. This allows socket based activation, where an external process like systemd can invoke the Emacs server process upon a socket connection event and hand the socket over to Emacs... This new functionality can be disabled with the configure option '--disable-libsystemd'.
The new function 'call-shell-region' executes a command in an inferior shell with the buffer region as input.
Intercepting hotkeys on Windows 7 and later now works better.
The new user variable 'electric-quote-chars' provides a list of curved quotes for 'electric-quote-mode', allowing user to choose the types of quotes to be used.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's telephone-culture-or-there-lack-of department
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, written by Alexis C. Madrigal: No one picks up the phone anymore. Even many businesses do everything they can to avoid picking up the phone. Of the 50 or so calls I received in the last month, I might have picked up four or five times. The reflex of answering -- built so deeply into people who grew up in 20th-century telephonic culture -- is gone. There are many reasons for the slow erosion of this commons. The most important aspect is structural: There are simply more communication options. Text messaging and its associated multimedia variations are rich and wonderful: words mixed with emoji, Bitmoji, reaction gifs, regular old photos, video, links. Texting is fun, lightly asynchronous, and possible to do with many people simultaneously. It's almost as immediate as a phone call, but not quite. You've got your Twitter, your Facebook, your work Slack, your email, FaceTimes incoming from family members. So many little dings have begun to make the rings obsolete.
But in the last couple years, there is a more specific reason for eyeing my phone's ring warily. Perhaps 80 or even 90 percent of the calls coming into my phone are spam of one kind or another. [...] There are unsolicited telemarketing calls. There are straight-up robocalls that merely deliver recorded messages. There are the cyborg telemarketers, who sit in call centers playing prerecorded bits of audio to simulate a conversation. There are the spam phone calls, whose sole purpose seems to be verifying that your phone number is real and working.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's hide-and-seek department
Earlier this week, a federal court in Germany threw out a challenge by the world's largest internet hub, the De-Cix exchange, against the tapping of its data flows by the BND foreign intelligence service. What this means is that the country's spy agency can continue to monitor major internet hubs if Berlin deems it necessary for strategic security interests. From a report: The operator had argued the agency was breaking the law by capturing German domestic communications along with international data. However, the court in the eastern city of Leipzig ruled that internet hubs "can be required by the federal interior ministry to assist with strategic communications surveillance by the BND." De-Cix says its Frankfurt hub is the world's biggest internet exchange, bundling data flows from as far as China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, which handles more than six terabytes per second at peak traffic.
De-Cix Management GmbH, which is owned by eco Association, the European internet industry body, had filed suit against the interior ministry, which oversees the BND and its strategic signals intelligence. It said the BND, a partner of the US National Security Agency (NSA), has placed so-called Y-piece prisms into its data-carrying fibre optic cables that give it an unfiltered and complete copy of the data flow. The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's which-one-is-it department
Scientists from the Southwest Research Institute suggest Pluto may be a comet, as opposed to a planet or dwarf planet. According to a study published in the journal Icarus, Pluto could be made up of billions of comets all mashed together. Smithsonian reports: Scientists had long believed the dwarf planet Pluto was formed the way planets come to be: they start as swirling dust that's gradually pulled together by gravity. But with the realization that Pluto was a Kuiper belt dwarf planet, researchers began speculating about the origins of the icy world. The researchers turned to Sputnik Planitia -- the western lobe of the massive heart-shaped icy expanse stamped on Pluto's side -- for the task. As Christopher Glein, lead author of the paper and researcher at the Southwest Research Institute, explains to [Popular Science editor Neel V. Patel], the researchers used the data from New Horizons on this icy expanse to estimate the amount of nitrogen on Pluto and the amount that's escaped from its atmosphere.
Glein explains the conclusions in a statement: "We found an intriguing consistency between the estimated amount of nitrogen inside the [Sputnik Planitia] glacier and the amount that would be expected if Pluto was formed by the agglomeration of roughly a billion comets or other Kuiper Belt objects similar in chemical composition to 67P, the comet explored by Rosetta." The report goes on to mention a few caveats. "For one, researchers aren't sure that comet 67P has an average comet composition," reports Smithsonian. "For another, New Horizons only captured information about Pluto at a specific point in time, which means nitrogen rates could have changed over the last billions of years. [T]here's also still the possibility Pluto formed from cold ices with a chemical composition to that of the sun."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department
Google has quietly crept out of the tablet business, removing the "tablets" heading from its Android page. It was there yesterday, but it's gone today. TechCrunch reports: Google in particular has struggled to make Android a convincing alternative to iOS in the tablet realm, and with this move has clearly indicated its preference for the Chrome OS side of things, where it has inherited the questionable (but lucrative) legacy of netbooks. They've also been working on broadening Android compatibility with that OS. So it shouldn't come as much surprise that the company is bowing out.
Sales have dropped considerably, since few people see any reason to upgrade a device that was originally sold for its simplicity and ease of use, not its specs. Google's exit doesn't mean Android tablets are done for, of course. They'll still get made, primarily by Samsung, Amazon and a couple of others, and there will probably even be some nice ones. But if Google isn't selling them, it probably isn't prioritizing them as far as features and support. Android Police was first to break the news.Read Replies (0)