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BlackBerry's 'Classic' Smartphone Is About to Disappear
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 01:11 PM
By manishs from Slashdot's good-riddance department:
From a Reuters report:The beleaguered tech company continues its shift to software. BlackBerry will stop making its Classic smartphone, 18 months after launching it in an effort to entice users who prefer physical, rather than touch, keyboards, the Canadian technology company said on Tuesday. The Classic was launched early last year, with a physical keyboard in the vein of its Bold predecessor and powered by the company own overhauled BlackBerry 10 operating system. BlackBerry has since launched a phone powered by Alphabet's Android software and plans several more, and BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen last month expressed confidence the company's trimmed-down handset business can turn a profit by a self-imposed September deadline.

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Skype Meetings Is Microsoft's New Free Video Conferencing Tool For Small Businesses
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 11:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's if-an-app-was-preventing-you-from-talking department:
Microsoft is launching a free tool to make it easier for people to make video conference calls. The company on Tuesday released Skype Meetings, which is largely similar to using the traditional Skype app, but comes with features that make it easier to set up video calls and collaborate with colleagues. TechCrunch reports:The more fully featured Skype for Business product allows you to host meetings with up to 250 people and it's deeply integrated into Outlook, Word and PowerPoint. Skype Meetings, on the other hand, only allows for PowerPoint collaboration (screen sharing, laser pointer, etc.) and screen sharing. Video calls are also limited to a maximum of 10 people during the first two months. After that, the maximum number of participants drops to three people. Participants can join Skype Meetings from virtually any device with the help of a personalized URL and the calls are powered by the same technology as Skype for Business calls. That means you will get to take advantage of Skype's head tracking feature, for example, which ensures that a face will always be in the center of the screen, no matter where it is in the actual video image.

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Linux Letting Go: 32-bit Builds On the Way Out
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 11:41 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's good-riddance department:
An anonymous shares a report on The Register:Major Linux distributions are in agreement: it's time to stop developing new versions for 32-bit processors. Simply: it's a waste of time, both to create the 32-bit port, and to keep 32-bit hardware around to test it on. At the end of June, Ubuntu developer Dimitri Ledkov chipped into the debate with this mailing list post, saying bluntly that 32-bit ports are a waste of resources. "Building i386 images is not 'for free', it comes at the cost of utilising our build farm, QA and validation time. Whilst we have scalable build-farms, i386 still requires all packages, autopackage tests, and ISOs to be revalidated across our infrastructure." His proposal is that Ubuntu version 18.10 would be 64-bit-only, and if users desperately need to run 32-bit legacy applications, the'll have to do so in containers or virtual machines. [...] In a forum thread, the OpenSUSE Chairman account says 32-bit support "doubles our testing burden (actually, more so, do you know how hard it is to find 32-bit hardware these days?). It also doubles our build load on OBS".

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Google's DeepMind AI To Use 1 Million NHS Eye Scans To Spot Diseases Earlier
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 10:22 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's interesting-advances department:
Google DeepMind has announced its second collaboration with the NHS, as part of which it will work with Moorfields Eye Hospital in east London to build a machine learning system which will eventually be able to recognise sight-threatening conditions from just a digital scan of the eye. The five-year research project will draw on one million anonymous eye scans which are held on Moorfields' patient database, reports Ars Technica, with the aim to speed up the complex and time-consuming process of analysing eye scans. From the report:The hope is that this will allow diagnoses of common causes of sight loss, like diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, to be spotted more rapidly and hence be treated more effectively. For example, Google says that up to 98 percent of sight loss resulting from diabetes can be prevented by early detection and treatment. Two million people are already living with sight loss in the UK, of whom around 360,000 are registered as blind or partially-sighted. Google quotes estimates that the number of people suffering from sight loss in the UK will double by 2050. Improvements in detection and treatment would therefore have a major impact on the quality of life for large numbers of people in the UK and around the world.

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Uber Hires a Robot To Patrol Its Parking Lot and It's Way Cheaper Than a Security Guard
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 10:22 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's humans-need-not-apply department:
Fusion's Kashmir Hill is reporting about a five-foot-tall, white, egg-shaped robot that one can find at the company's inspection lot near Mission Bay in San Francisco. The K5 robot is a stand-in for a human security guard, and it sports multiple high-definition cameras for 360-degree vision, a thermal camera, a laser rangefinder, a weather sensor, a license-plate recognition camera, four microphones, and person recognition capabilities. The report adds:If someone suspicious comes into the lot, or starts messing with a car, the robot can't tase them or break out any weapons. Instead the robot can set off an alarm, send a signal to human security personnel, and record everything that person does to be used against them later by police. Customers of Knightscope, the company that manufactures the aforementioned robot don't buy the machines. They rent them, usually two at a time, so one can charge its battery while the other patrols. The cost is $7 an hour. "For the cost of a single-shift security guard, you get a machine that will patrol for 24 hours a day 7 days a week," said Stephens, citing wages of $25 to $35 hour for a human security guard.

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Comcast Will Let Netflix Onto Its X1 Platform
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 09:02 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's talk-of-the-town department:
Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:Cable giant Comcast will allow popular web video streaming service Netflix onto its X1 platform. (Editor's note: both the companies confirmed the move to the publication.) Sources said the deal to be on the cable giant's set-top box would be akin to the arrangement that Netflix has cut with smaller cable operators in the United States and bigger ones across the globe. Netflix also has deals with Apple, Roku and Google's Chromecast; its app is offered on these Internet TV services. It also is embedded in smart televisions.It's an enormous step, given the long and sometimes contentious history between the two companies against a backdrop of increased consumer usage of internet-delivered video. From the report:Back in 2012, for example, Peter Kafka reported that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was "once again accusing Comcast of violating 'net neutrality' principles by favoring its own web video service over those from Netflix, HBO and Hulu, when it comes to data usage."

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The FBI Recommends Not To Indict Hillary Clinton For Email Misconduct
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 09:02 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's sense-prevails department:
FBI Director James Comey says that his agency isn't recommending that the DOJ pursue charges against Hillary Clinton for setting up a private email server as Secretary of State. At a press conference on Tuesday, Comey added that while there is "evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information," they think that "no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case." The Verge reports:The recommendation is the result of a painstaking investigation by the bureau, which uncovered a number of new details. The investigation found 110 emails in 52 email chains were determined to contain classified information, including 8 chains contained information that was marked as top secret at the time, Director Comey said. Secretary Clinton used several different email servers and numerous mobile devices, and many of those servers were decommissioned and otherwise altered as they were replaced.

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MRI Software Bugs Could Upend Years Of Research
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 07:31 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's bad-data department:
An anonymous reader shares a report on The Register: A whole pile of "this is how your brain looks like" MRI-based science has been invalidated because someone finally got around to checking the data. The problem is simple: to get from a high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain to a scientific conclusion, the brain is divided into tiny "voxels". Software, rather than humans, then scans the voxels looking for clusters. When you see a claim that "scientists know when you're about to move an arm: these images prove it", they're interpreting what they're told by the statistical software. Now, boffins from Sweden and the UK have cast doubt on the quality of the science, because of problems with the statistical software: it produces way too many false positives. In this paper at PNAS, they write: "the most common software packages for fMRI analysis (SPM, FSL, AFNI) can result in false-positive rates of up to 70%. These results question the validity of some 40,000 fMRI studies and may have a large impact on the interpretation of neuroimaging results."

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TP-LINK Loses Control of Two Device Configuration Domains
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 07:31 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's security-woes department:
Reader Orome1 writes: Security researcher Amitay Dan warns that tplinklogin.net, a domain through which TP-LINK router owners can configure their devices, is no longer owned by the company, and that this fact could be misused by malware peddlers. TP-LINK has confirmed that they no longer own the domain in question, and will not be trying to buy it from the unknown seller for now. Instead, they intend to change the domain in the manuals to a newer one that's already in use.ComputerWorld has more details.

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Verizon To Hike Prices On Plans But Offer More Data
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 06:11 AM
By manishs from Slashdot's pay-more,-get-more department:
Roger Cheng, reporting for CNET: Big changes are afoot at Verizon. The nation's largest wireless carrier is set to unveil changes to its plans that will make them more expensive, but will also include more data, according to someone familiar with the changes. The low-end "S" plan will go up by $5 to $35 a month, but will include 2 gigabytes of data, twice as much as before. The "M" plan will go up by $5 to $50 a month, while its data will rise from 3GB to 4GB. The "L" plan will go up by $10 to $70 a month, while data increases from 6GB to 8GB. The "XL" plan will go up by $10 to $90 a month, but you'll get 16GB, up from 12GB before. Lastly, the "XXL" plan will cost $10 more at $110 a month, but you will get 24GB instead of 18GB. The changes are part of a broader overhaul of its plans, which will also include a rollover data program called "Carryover Data," a new way to avoid overage fees, and better access to Canada and Mexico. The move reflects a heightened competitive environment, one in which smaller rivals T-Mobile and Sprint have begun winning away customers through aggressive offers. Many of these changes mimic offers already available at the other carriers.

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Historic Route 66 To Feature Solar Road Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 06:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's glowing-superhighway department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced plans to upgrade a small stretch of the historic Route 66 roadway with solar-powered panels. The panels, which are created by Solar Roadways, can support the weight of cars, feature built-in LEDs to create light-up road markings, and can be used to generate electricity to donate back to the grid. The company has won a number of contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, though it's unlikely we'll see solar-powered roadways throughout the country anytime soon. MoDOT said it hopes to lay the first panels starting with the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center by the end of the year, The Kansas City Star reports. SolarCity released a new report recently that says their solar power systems have a usable lifetime of at least 35 years, which is 40% longer than what the market expects.

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NASA's Juno Space Probe Enters Orbit Around Jupiter
Posted by News Fetcher on July 05 '16 at 03:21 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's mission-accomplished department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: NASA says it has received a signal from 540 million miles across the solar system, confirming its Juno spacecraft has successfully started orbiting Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. "Welcome to Jupiter!" flashed on screens at mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. The probe had to conduct a tricky maneuver to slow down enough to allow it to be pulled into orbit: It fired its main engine for 35 minutes, effectively hitting the brakes to slow the spacecraft by about 1,212 miles per hour (542 meters per second). Juno was launched nearly five years ago on a mission to study Jupiter's composition and evolution. It's the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter since Galileo. The largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter is a huge ball of gas 11 times wider than Earth and 300 times more massive than our planet. Researchers think it was the first planet to form and that it holds clues to how the solar system evolved. Juno is a spinning, robotic probe as wide as a basketball court. It will circle Jupiter 37 times for 20 months, diving down to about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers) above the planet's dense clouds. The seven science instruments on board will study Jupiter's auroras and help scientists better understand the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. An onboard color camera called JunoCam will take "spectacular close-up, color images" of Jupiter, according to NASA. Juno launched from Cape Canaveral on August 5, 2011, which is some 445 million miles (716 million kilometers) away from Jupiter. Juno has however traveled a total distance of 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) to reach Jupiter as it had to make a flyby of Earth to help pick up speed. "After a 1.7 billion mile journey, we hit our burn targets within one second, on a target that was just tens of kilometers large," said Nybakken, Juno Project Manger. "That's how well the Juno spacecraft performed tonight."

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Microsoft Xbox Project Scorpio Puts Out 6 TFLOPs On Par With Current Gaming PCs
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 11:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's frozen-in-time department:
MojoKid quotes a report form HotHardware: Microsoft is hoping to usher in a new era in console gaming just over a year from now. While the company is just a month away from launching the Xbox One S refresh in the U.S., Project Scorpio is the console that really has gamers talking. During E3, Microsoft provided scant details on the console, only cluing us in to the fact that it would support virtual reality, 4K gaming, and push 6 TFLOPs of computing power. Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, CD Projekt Red's Principal Narrative Designer, had a few things to say about that last bullet point regarding compute performance. If you recall, AMD's newly introduced Radeon RX 480 offers peak performance of 5.8 TFLOPs, which puts it in close proximity of Microsoft's Project Scorpio. But of course, trying to compare consoles to PCs using this stat alone isn't exactly apples to oranges, though Tomaszkiewicz explains, "For sure [Scorpio] will have better looking games," Tomaszkiewicz said. "If this was available when we were working on Wild Hunt, I would expect similar quality that we have on PC right now or even better maybe." HotHardware's report goes on to mention that once new console hardware is introduced, it's frozen for years at a time without any updates. Therefore, it would only be a short while before PCs would completely outcompete it in terms of performance. Also, given the fact that Project Scorpio is not arriving until late 2017 at the earliest, the 6 TFLOPs of power won't seem like much when compared to the new cycle of high-end GPUs with far superior performance. Tomaszkiewicz agrees, adding, "New graphic cards are being released very often and more often than the new consoles being released. So I think it will put Scorpio on par with the PC is that we have at that point. But I think PC is growing so fast that it'll outpace [Scorpio]."

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Researchers Develop Electronic Nose To Sniff Out Pesticides and Nerve Gas
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 08:34 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's Basset-Hound department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Researchers from KU Leuven have now built a very sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). "MOFs are like microscopic sponges," postdoctoral researcher Ivo Stassen explains. "They can absorb quite a lot of gas into their minuscule pores." "We created a MOF that absorbs the phosphonates found in pesticides and nerve gases. This means you can use it to find traces of chemical weapons such as sarin or to identify the residue of pesticides on food. This MOF is the most sensitive gas sensor to date for these dangerous substances. Our measurements were conducted in cooperation with imec, the Leuven-based nanotechnology research centre. The concentrations we're dealing with are extremely low: parts per billion -- a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool -- and parts per trillion." The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices, Professor Rob Ameloot adds. "You can apply the MOF as a thin film over the surface of, for instance, an electric circuit. Therefore, it's fairly easy to equip a smartphone with a gas sensor for pesticides and nerve gas." Professor Ameloot continues, "MOFs can measure very low concentrations, so we could use them to screen someone's breath for diseases such as lung cancer and MS in an early stage. Or we could use the signature scent of a product to find out whether food has gone bad or to distinguish imitation wine from the original. This technology, in other words, offers a wide range of perspectives."

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Google Cast Is Now Baked Into Chrome, No Extension Needed
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's all-in-one-solution department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Google Chrome 51 browser now includes a built-in 'Cast' option within the drop-down settings menu, which can also be accessed from right clicking in a tab. This will then cast the current tab to the appropriate TV or monitor. Previously, if you wanted to cast content from your computer to your Chromecast-equipped display, you needed to download a Chrome extension. Along with the new changes, Google has removed the ability to tweak settings for resolution, bitrate, and quality when casting a tab, so Chrome itself will now control such parameters automatically. Chrome 51 is now available as a stable version, and the Cast option should be rolling out to users now. This casting ability will also be baked into Chrome OS. The report points out several new related features coming in Chrome 52, such as the ability to cast to Hangouts. You will be able to push Chrome tabs to your contacts within an open video Hangout, which may be useful for remote meetings. In addition, the Cast to Hangouts feature will also retrieve your calendar information to find such scheduled Hangout meetings to make quick sharing easier.

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SolarCity Pushing Industry To 40% Increase In Useful Lifetime of Solar Power Installations
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's limited-powertrain-warranty department:
An anonymous reader writes: SolarCity released a new report that says solar power systems have a usable lifetime of at least 35 years, which is 40% longer than what the market expects. Electrek reports: "The key finding of the report is that power degradation (annual efficiency loss) of solar panels supplied to SolarCity is as much as 35% lower than for a comparable industry-wide selection of non-SolarCity panels, which are typically expected to last for 25 years. In the study here, SolarCity looked at greater than 11,000 panels to determine their data points and come to their conclusion that their solar panels are performing well beyond expected industry standards. Today, standard efficiency solar panels put out by Tier 1 suppliers are generally warranted to lose no more than 0.7% efficiency per year for the first 25 years -- this is the Power Production Warranty. The key finding in this study is that the annual 0.7% efficiency loss is too high an estimation -- and that the number ought be closer to 0.5%. While it might seem a small number -- a difference of 0.2% -- when applied over a multiple decades timeframe, it means that instead of the standard twenty five year assumed productive life, we can expect at least another ten years of production above 80% of the original system output. Large installers like SolarCity, able to do this type of wide-scale research -- and to also demand higher quality, are showing their ability to pull the manufacturers of the world upward. With SolarCity building their own solar panel Gigafactory we ought expect the quality levels to be even greater in the near future.

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MIT's Swarm Chip Architecture Boosts Multi-Core CPUs, Offering Up To 18x Faster Processing
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 05:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's one-tenth-the-code department:
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Gizmag: MIT's new Swarm chip could help unleash the power of parallel processing for up to 75-fold speedups, while requiring programmers to write a fraction of the code that is usually necessary for programs to take full advantage of their hardware. Swarm is a 64-core chip developed by Prof. Daniel Sanchez and his team that includes specialized circuitry for both executing and prioritizing tasks in a simple and efficient manner. Neowin reports: "For example, when using multiple cores to process a task, one core might need to access a piece of data that's being used by another core. Developers usually need to write code to avoid these types of conflict, and direct how each part of the task should be processed and split up between the processor's cores. This almost never gets done with normal consumer software, hence the reason why Crysis isn't running better on your new 10-core Intel. Meanwhile, when such optimization does get done, mainly for industrial, scientific and research computers, it takes a lot of effort on the developer's side and efficiency gains may sometimes still be minimal." Swarm is able to take care of all of this, mostly through its hardware architecture and customizable profiles that can be written by developers in a fraction of the time needed for regular multi-core silicon. The 64-core version of Swarm came out on top after MIT researchers tested it out against some highly-optimized parallel processing algorithms, offering three to 18 times faster processing. The most impressive result was when Swarm achieved results 75 times better than the regular chips, because that particular algorithm had failed to be parallelized on classic multi-core processors. There's no indication as to when this technology will be available for consumer devices.

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Why Tech Support Is (Purposely) Unbearable
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 04:21 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's let-me-put-you-on-hold department:
HughPickens.com writes: Getting caught in a tech support loop -- waiting on hold, interacting with automated systems, talking to people reading from unhelpful scripts and then finding yourself on hold yet again -- is a peculiar kind of aggravation that mental health experts say can provoke rage in even the most mild-mannered person. Now Kate Murphy writes at the NYT that just as you suspected, companies are aware of the torture they are putting you through as 92 percent of customer service managers say their agents could be more effective and 74 percent say their company procedures prevented agents from providing satisfactory experiences. "Don't think companies haven't studied how far they can take things in providing the minimal level of service," says Justin Robbins, who was once a tech support agent himself and now oversees research and editorial at ICMI. "Some organizations have even monetized it by intentionally engineering it so you have to wait an hour at least to speak to someone in support, and while you are on hold, you're hearing messages like, 'If you'd like premium support, call this number and for a fee, we will get to you immediately.'" Mental health experts say there are ways to get better tech support or maybe just make it more bearable. First, do whatever it takes to control your temper. Take a deep breath. Count to 10. Losing your stack at a consumer support agent is not going to get your problem resolved any faster and being negative in your dealings with others can quickly paint you as a complainer no one wants to work with. Don't bother demanding to speak to a supervisor, either. You're just going to get transferred to another agent who has been alerted ahead of time that you have come unhinged. To get better service by phone, dial the prompt designated for "sales" or "to place an order," which almost always gets you an onshore agent, while tech support is usually offshore with the associated language difficulties. Finally customer support experts recommended using social media, like tweeting or sending a Facebook message, to contact a company instead of calling. You are likely to get a quicker response, not only because fewer people try that channel but also because your use of social media shows that you know how to vent your frustration to a wider audience if your needs are not met.

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Japan's First VR Porn Festival Shut Down Due To Unprecedented Popularity
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's don't-get-too-excited department:
turkeydance quotes a report from Daily Mail: A Japanese sex festival was over prematurely as herds of virtual porn fans caused overcrowding fears. Streams of locals were looking to get their hands on the latest inventions from the adult entertainment industry in the first festival of its kind -- the Adult VR Fest 01 in the Akihabara region of Tokyo. But fans of virtual reality porn, which re-enacts sex and other acts using a blend of simulation headsets, male-friendly sex toys and other gadgets, were left disappointed as the event was shut down due to unprecedented popularity. A Japanese reporter told VR Talk: "For those who did get to go inside, excitement ran wild. I'm not entirely sure if the same thing would happen in the U.S., but VR porn enthusiasts rushed to have a go at some of the latest virtual reality gadgets." About 20 fans were able to make it inside, but the event was reportedly called off due to the unsettling crowds gathered outside. VR Talk also reported that Google searches for the phrase 'VR Porn' have soared nearly 10,000%.

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New Cars Are Too Expensive For The Typical Family, Says Study
Posted by News Fetcher on July 04 '16 at 03:01 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's poor-investment-decisions department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from GulfNews: A new analysis from Bankrate.com found that a median-income household in the U.S. could not afford the average price of a new vehicle in any of the 50 largest cities in the country, though cars are more affordable in some cities than others. The average price of a new car or light truck in 2016 is about $34,000, according to Kelley Blue Book. That's in part because new cars are loaded with helpful but expensive safety features like collision-avoidance systems. Bankrate calculated an "affordable" purchase price for major cities, using median incomes from U.S. census data, and factoring in costs for sales taxes and insurance. In San Jose, California -- the heart of Silicon Valley -- the median income is about $84,000, and an "affordable" new car purchase price is about $33,000 -- close to, but still below, the average new car price. In lower-income cities, however, affordable purchase prices for a typical family are far below the average cost of a new car. In Hartford, Connecticut, where the median income is about $29,000, an affordable purchase price is about $8,000 -- about a quarter of the average new-car price. Experian Automotive said the number of new cars bought with financing rose to more than 86 percent (Source: may be paywalled) in the first quarter of this year. The average loan amount topped $30,000, with the average term for a new-car loan in the 68-month range -- some stretch as long as seven years.

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