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Hello, Mobile Operators? This is Your Age of Disruption Calling
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 11:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Analysts at McKinsey & Company write: For the better part of a decade, telecom companies have suffered through declining revenues, cash flow, and return on investment just as tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have mushroomed by building their businesses on the operators' own infrastructure. While these tech visionaries have enjoyed well over $1 trillion in combined market-cap growth by innovating and thinking differently and adeptly, telecom companies have tried to compete by implementing the same old survival tactics: cutting costs, reducing the workforce, and timidly entering into new business adjacencies. The trouble is that playbook no longer applies. [...] We've seen this before in other capital-intensive industries. The airline industry, for example, despite incredible growth in travel during the early part of this century, destroyed economic value until 2015 when, for the first time, the industry-level average return on invested capital (ROIC) was just in excess of its cost of capital. This return to economic profitability was achieved through a combination of falling fuel prices; significant industry consolidation, especially in the United States; and the growth of ancillary revenues, such as checked-baggage fees. If global operators were to follow the airline industry's prior trajectory, the implications could be dramatic. That's not just for the operators that would see declining investment as capital and talent move into sectors with superior returns but also for current and future over-the-top (OTT) players, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, who rely so heavily on the operators' networks and investments.

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E-commerce Is Concentrating Jobs, Not Killing Them
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's bigger-picture department:
A reader shares a report: The growing popularity of online shopping has hit traditional retailers hard, culminating in a spate of retail bankruptcies and store closures in recent years. But according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the retail apocalypse has actually created nearly as many jobs as it has killed. Though e-commerce and other non-store retailers have hired nearly as many workers as traditional retailers have cut, these new jobs are much more geographically concentrated.

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Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 10:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's real-reason department:
Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.

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RIP AIM: AOL Instant Messenger Dies in December
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-an-era department:
It's the end of an era: as of December 15, AOL's Instant Messenger will no longer exist. From a report: In a statement from Oath, the new entity formed under Verizon combining AOL with the recently-acquired Yahoo, the service will be discontinued. "AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed," said Michael Albers, VP of Communications Product at Oath. AIM was a staple of personal computers since first launching in 1997, serving as a precursor to popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. However, AIM couldn't make the seamless transition to mobile, where most users rely on instant messaging services. Users will be able to manually download any images or files on AIM before the service shuts down. However, users won't be able to export or save their Buddy List, the group of contacts available on AIM.

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iOS 11's Misleading 'Off-ish' Setting For Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is Bad for User Security
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 09:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-apple-does department:
Last month, we covered a story about how turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in iOS 11's Control Center doesn't really turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. EFF has called the situation bad for user security. From the report: Instead, what actually happens in iOS 11 when you toggle your quick settings to "off" is that the phone will disconnect from Wi-Fi networks and some devices, but remain on for Apple services. Location Services is still enabled, Apple devices (like Apple Watch and Pencil) stay connected, and services such as Handoff and Instant Hotspot stay on. Apple's UI fails to even attempt to communicate these exceptions to its users. It gets even worse. When you toggle these settings in the Control Center to what is best described as "off-ish," they don't stay that way. The Wi-Fi will turn back full-on if you drive or walk to a new location. And both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will turn back on at 5:00 AM. This is not clearly explained to users, nor left to them to choose, which makes security-aware users vulnerable as well. The only way to turn off the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios is to enable Airplane Mode or navigate into Settings and go to the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sections. When a phone is designed to behave in a way other than what the UI suggests, it results in both security and privacy problems. A user has no visual or textual clues to understand the device's behavior, which can result in a loss of trust in operating system designers to faithfully communicate what's going on.

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Beijing Startup Offers Engineers $1M Salary Plus Options in Battle For Talent
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's marketing-dynamics department:
An anonymous reader shares a Financial Post report: Beijing ByteDance Technology is the brainchild of entrepreneur Zhang Yiming. The company is best known for a mobile app called Jinri Toutiao, or Today's Headlines, which aggregates news and videos from hundreds of media outlets. In five years, the app has become one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users. Toutiao is on pace to pull in about US$2.5 billion in revenue this year, largely from advertising. It was just valued at more than US$20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, roughly the same as Elon Musk's SpaceX. In China, the Beijing company is controversial because of its recruiting. ByteDance hires top performers from such giants as Baidu and Tencent Holdings, sometimes raising salaries 50 per cent and tossing in stock options. "Our philosophy is to pay the top of the market to get the best," says the slight 34-year-old in an interview at the company's headquarters, his first with foreign media. "The company that wants to achieve the most, you need the best talent." Top performers can make US$1 million in salary and bonus a year, plus options, according to people familiar with its hiring. Total compensation can exceed US$3 million.

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US Jobs Dropped By 33,000 In September, Likely Due To Storms
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 07:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-are department:
An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The U.S. economy shed 33,000 jobs in September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while unemployment fell to 4.2 percent. The September payrolls drop broke a nearly 7-year streak of continuous job gains. But economists caution that the drop is likely representing the short-term consequences of bad weather, not a long-term shift in the job market. Before this report, the economy had added an average of about 175,000 jobs per month; the unemployment rate has been at 4.3 or 4.4 percent since April. Job growth in September was expected to be lower than usual because of the effects of several devastating hurricanes. Economists did not generally predict an actual decline, but a not-so-stellar report was widely anticipated.

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Kaspersky Lab Denies Involvement in Russian Hack of NSA Contractor
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 06:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's denial-denial-denial department:
Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has hit back at a report in the Wall Street Journal which accused it of being involved in a Russian government hack of an NSA contractor in 2015. From a report: The paper reported on Thursday that the NSA contractor, a Vietnamese national who was working to create replacements for the hacking tools leaked by Edward Snowden, was hacked on his personal computer after he took his work home. There, the report says, the contractor's use of Kaspersky's antivirus software "alerted Russian hackers to the presence of files that may have been taken from the NSA." Once the machine was in their sights, the Russian hackers infiltrated it and obtained a significant amount of data, according to the paper. Calling the allegations "like the script of a C movie," Eugene Kaspersky, the infosec firm's founder, gave his own explanation of what might have happened. Mr Kaspersky vehemently denied that his company had played any active role in the breach, noting: "We never betray the trust that our users put into our hands. If we would do that a single time that would be immediately spotted by the industry and our business would be done." Instead, he implied that the root of the problem was that Kaspersky Lab had correctly identified the hacking tools the contractor was working on as malware -- perhaps through Kaspersky Lab's own research into the Equation Group, a "sophisticated cyber espionage platform" believed to be linked to the NSA.

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Why Is There No Nobel Prize In Technology?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 05:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: As the world focuses its attention on this year's recipients of the planet's most prestigious prize, the Nobel, it feels like something's missing from the list: technology. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel established the prizes more than century ago with the instruction that his entire estate be used to endow "prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind." The categories laid out in his will -- physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and peace -- have remained the basis of the awards, and a prize for economics was added in 1968. So, what gives? Why only those five original fields? Nobel didn't say, revealing only that he made his choices "after mature deliberation."

< article continued at Slashdot's behind-the-scenes department >

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Elon Musk Says Tesla Could Rebuild Puerto Rico's Power Grid With Batteries, Solar
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '17 at 02:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
After Puerto Rico was hit by hurricane Maria, Tesla quickly started shipping hundreds of its Powerwall batteries there to try and get power back on to some houses with solar arrays. Now, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to say that Tesla could rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid with batteries and solar on a bigger scale. Electrek reports: Puerto Rico's electricity rates were already quite high at around $0.20 per kWh and reliant on fossil fuels. After it was pointed out that Puerto Rico's destroyed grid is an opportunity to build a better one, Musk wrote on Twitter: "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the Puerto Rico government, PUC (Public Utilities Commission), any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of Puerto Rico."

Musk is referring to solar and battery projects that Tesla recently deployed on other islands, like Tesla's visually stunning Powerpack and solar project in Kauai. Those projects power grids for much smaller populations, but Musk has always said that it's scalable to support much larger islands, like Puerto Rico, and ultimately entire continents, which are just like big islands to a certain degree. The thing is that those systems are still reliant on power lines for larger communities and devices, like solar panels and wind turbines, that are still subject to problems with natural disasters. The advantage of Tesla's solution is that it has the potential to be distributed, which increases the odds of at least some systems staying online or bringing some back online quicker.

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Vice President Pence Vows US Astronauts Will Return To the Moon
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 11:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's back-at-it-again department:
Before astronauts go to Mars, they will return to the Moon, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday and in a speech at the National Air and Space Museum today. He touts "humans exploration and discovery" as the new focus of America's space program. This "means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal. And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars." Engadget reports: There have been two prevailing (and opposing) views when it comes to U.S. endeavors in human spaceflight. One camp maintains that returning to the moon is a mistake. NASA has already been there; it should work hard and set our sights on Mars and beyond. The other feels that Mars is too much of a reach, and that the moon will be easier to achieve in a short time frame. Mars may be a medium-to-long-term goal, but NASA should use the moon as a jumping-off point. It's not surprising that the Trump administration is valuing short-term gains over a longer, more ambitious project. The U.S. will get to Mars eventually, according to Pence, but the moon is where the current focus lies.

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Three-Quarters of All Honey On Earth Has Pesticides In It
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 07:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-news-for-bees department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: About three quarters of all honey worldwide is contaminated with pesticides known to harm bees, according to a new study. Though the pesticide levels were below the limit deemed safe for human consumption, there was still enough insecticide in there to harm pollinators. The finding suggests that, as one of the study authors said, "there's almost no safe place for a bee to exist." Scientists analyzed 198 honey samples from all continents, except Antarctica, for five types of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are known to harm bees. They found at least one of the five compounds in most samples, with the highest contamination in North America, Asia, and Europe. The results are published today in the journal Science.

To get a better sense of just how widespread neonic contamination is, Mitchell and his colleagues analyzed 198 worldwide honey samples collected as a citizen science project between 2012 and 2016. They found that 75 percent of honey contained at least one of the five tested neonics, and 45 percent of samples had two or more. Honey from North America, Asia, and Europe was most contaminated, while the lowest contamination was in South America. Neonic concentrations were relatively low: on average, 1.8 nanograms per gram in contaminated honey -- below the limits set as safe for people by the EU.

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Over Half of New Cancer Drugs 'Show No Benefits' For Survival Or Wellbeing
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's clinically-meaningless department:
New research published in the British Medical Journal finds that most cancer drugs that have recently arrived on the market have come with little evidence that they boost the survival or wellbeing of patients. The Guardian reports: Forty-eight cancer drugs were approved by the European Medicines Agency between 2009 and 2013 for use as treatments in 68 different situations. But the study, which looked at the clinical trials associated with the drugs, reveals that at the time the therapies became available there was no conclusive evidence that they improved survival in almost two-thirds of the situations for which they were approved. In only 10% of the uses did the drugs improve quality of life. Overall 57% of uses showed no benefits for either survival or quality of life. The team then looked to see whether the picture improved over time. The team found that after a follow-up period of between three to eight years, 49% of approved uses were linked to no clear sign of improvement in survival or quality of life. Where survival benefits were shown, the team said these were clinically meaningless in almost half of the cases.

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Amazon Is Testing Its Own Delivery Service To Rival FedEx, UPS
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 06:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's DIY department:
Longtime package delivery companies UPS and FedEx may have some new competition from Amazon. The company is experimenting with a new delivery service of its own intended to make more products available for free two-day delivery and relieve overcrowding in its warehouses. Bloomberg reports: The service began two years ago in India, and Amazon has been slowly marketing it to U.S. merchants in preparation for a national expansion, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the U.S. pilot project is confidential. Amazon is calling the project Seller Flex, one person said. The service began on a trial basis this year in West Coast states with a broader rollout planned in 2018, the people said. Amazon will oversee pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants selling goods on Amazon.com and their delivery to customers' homes, the people said -- work that is now often handled by UPS and FedEx. Amazon could still use these couriers for delivery, but the company will decide how a package is sent instead of leaving it up to the seller. Handling more deliveries itself would give Amazon greater flexibility and control over the last mile to shoppers' doorsteps, let it save money through volume discounts, and help avoid congestion in its own warehouses by keeping merchandise in the outside sellers' own facilities.

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Facebook To Build $1 Billion Data Center In Virginia
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's coming-soon department:
It's official: Facebook will be investing $1 billion in a new data center in Henrico County, which is just outside Richmond, Virginia. According to CNNMoney, Facebook is putting $750 million into construction and $250 million to multiple solar facilities that will power the data center. From the report: The investment is expected to create 100 full-time jobs. Facebook will receive about $19 million in state tax exemptions through 2035, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Facebook already has data centers in Oregon, North Carolina and Iowa. Centers in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Lunas, New Mexico; and New Albany, Ohio are currently under construction. "One of the many important factors in our search for a new data center location is being able to source clean and renewable energy. We also look for great partnerships within the local community, robust infrastructure ... and a strong pool of local talent," Rachel Peterson, Facebook's director of data center strategy, said in a statement.

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Tesla Still On Top In US Electric Vehicle Sales, GM Close Behind
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 05:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's slow-and-steady department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans bought more electric vehicles in September than any other month this year. According to Inside EV's monthly sales report, 21,325 battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs found homes last month. That's 20 percent more than this time last year and the second highest number ever. 2017 looks like it will be a record year; a total of 159,614 EVs were sold, a figure that should easily be eclipsed by the end of October. Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.

General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we're talking about range or sales volume. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction -- 2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt's plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months. Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt.

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Intel's Just Launched 8th Gen 'Coffee Lake' Processors Bring the Heat To AMD's Ryzen
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 03:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
bigwophh writes: The upheaval of the high-end desktop processor segment continues today with the official release of Intel's latest Coffee Lake-based 8th Generation Core processors. The flagship in the new lineup is the Core i7-8700K. It is a 6C/12T beast, with a base clock of 3.7GHz, a boost clock of 4.7GHz, and 12MB of Intel Smart Cache. The Core i5-8400 features the same physical die, but has only 9MB of Smart Cache, no Hyper-Threading, and base and boost clocks of 2.8GHz and 4GHz, respectively. The entire line-up features more cores, support for faster memory speeds, and leverages a fresh platform that's been tweaked for more robust power delivery and, ultimately, more performance. The Core i7-8700K proved to be an excellent performer, besting every other processor in single-threaded workloads and competing favorably with 8C/16T Ryzen 7 processors. The affordably-priced 6-core Core i5-8400 even managed to pull ahead of the quad-core Core i7-7700K in some tests. Overall, performance is strong, especially for games, and the processors seem to be solid values in their segment.

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Uber's iOS App Had Secret Permissions That Allowed It to Copy Your Phone Screen, Researchers Say
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 03:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department:
To improve functionality between Uber's app and the Apple Watch, Apple allowed Uber to use a powerful tool that could record a user's iPhone screen, even if Uber's app was only running in the background, security researchers told news outlet Gizmodo. From a report: After the researchers discovered the tool, Uber said it is no longer in use and will be removed from the app. The screen recording capability comes from what's called an "entitlement" -- a bit of code that app developers can use for anything from setting up push notifications to interacting with Apple systems like iCloud or Apple Pay. This particular entitlement, however, was intended to improve memory management for the Apple Watch. The entitlement isn't common and would require Apple's explicit permission to use, the researchers explained. Will Strafach, a security researcher and CEO of Sudo Security Group, said he couldn't find any other apps with the entitlement live on the App Store. "It looks like no other third-party developer has been able to get Apple to grant them a private sensitive entitlement of this nature," Strafach said. "Considering Uber's past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this."

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Scientists Race To Create Synthetic Blood in the Wake of Mass Tragedies
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's to-the-future department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientists have been working on creating synthetic blood for years now. The hope is that this substance will have a longer shelf life than human blood -- which can only be refrigerated for 42 days -- and eventually can be packaged and stored for use in emergencies. If this works, thousands of lives could be saved every year. "People can't show up fast enough and then the system can't draw their blood fast enough to meet the need," said Allan Doctor, a physician and researcher at the Washington University in St. Louis. Doctor's lab has been working to create a blood substitute called ErythroMer, comprised of human hemoglobin, sourced from the red blood cells in expired blood at blood banks, and a synthetic polymer. This synthetic blood is actually a dehydrated powder, which would allow it to be stored for years, rather than weeks, and easily transported. Doctor envisions that it could eventually be packaged along with purified water so that doctors or EMTs could mix it when they needed to use it on a patient. ErythroMer is still in the planning stages. It has only been tested on animals, and Doctor predicts that the team is about three to five years from the first human trials. Following that, it will need FDA approval, and then healthcare workers will need to be trained to use it properly to avoid infections. "It's important for us to have a bulletproof delivery system," Doctor told me. He predicts that it will be available in six to 10 years if the trials are successful, and if they can make a cost-effective formula. There are different approaches to creating synthetic blood, which is technically just a way of transporting oxygen in the body. In 2013, a team in Romania announced that they were making it with albumin, a liver protein, and hemerythrin, a protein extracted from worms. In the UK, scientists with the National Health Service have been testing lab-grown red blood cells.

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Nearly 4 Million People In US Still Subscribe To Netflix DVDs By Mail
Posted by News Fetcher on October 05 '17 at 02:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's rate-of-change department:
The biggest Netflix-related news today is that the company is raising its streaming videos prices, from $9.99 a month to $10.99. But there is another interesting nugget of information to consider: Netflix still has 3.7 million DVD subscribers in the U.S. who get their discs delivered through the mail for the same $7.99 a month it had previously cost. Recode reports: That's down 17 percent from a year ago, and is much smaller than Netflix's nearly 52 million domestic streaming subscribers, but it's still sizable. Netflix first separated out its DVD and streaming subscription services in July 2011, charging $7.99 each ($15.98 for both). Streaming was originally an added bonus for DVD subscribers at no extra cost. Are you one of the 3.7 million Netflix users who still get DVDs sent in the mail? If so, what's keeping you from embracing the digital age and streaming movies via the internet?

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