By BeauHD from Slashdot's beginning-of-an-era department
According to The New York Times, Alibaba's co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, is stepping down from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) to pursue philanthropy in education. From the report: A former English teacher, Mr. Ma started Alibaba in 1999 and built it into one of the world's most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things. That fueled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China's richest man. He is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.
In an interview, Mr. Ma said his retirement is not the end of an era but "the beginning of an era." He said he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education. "I love education," he said. Mr. Ma will remain on Alibaba's board of directors and continue to mentor the company's management. Mr. Ma turns 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China known as Teacher's Day. The retirement makes Mr. Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's drastic-times-call-for-drastic-measures department
Housing in Silicon Valley is getting so expensive that the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) petitioned 6,000 faculty and staff members to consider offering students "a room in your home." The college's housing director David Keller wrote in a letter that there are "several hundred students" at the university who don't have "housing guarantees" and need support. Fortune reports: Silicon Valley is notorious for its high living costs. And, according to the report, Santa Cruz and its surrounding areas have far more single-family homes than affordable apartments. Worse yet, a senior at UCSC told the CBS affiliate that some "landlords are kind of jacking up the prices because they know about this." The student, Leon Pham, told CBS that he'll pay $1,100 per month for a small room in a shared house.
Still, there are potentially negative implications to schools asking for professors to rent rooms in their homes to students. Professors are still required to fairly judge student work, and a healthy separation between professors and students is usually what colleges want. The housing crunch, however, might have forced the university's hand. And a spokesperson from the school told CBS that the college has policies that govern "the conduct of students and professors."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cloud-based-quantum-computing department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: Today the [Berkeley-based startup Rigetti] launched a project in the mold of Amazon Web Services (AWS) called Quantum Cloud Services. "What this platform achieves for the very first time is an integrated computing system that is the first quantum cloud services architecture," says Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of his namesake company. The dozen initial users Rigetti has announced include biotech and chemistry companies harnessing quantum technology to study complex molecules in order to develop new drugs. The particular operations that the quantum end of the system can do, while still limited and error-prone, are nearly good enough to boost the performance of traditional computers beyond what they could do on their own -- a coming milestone called quantum advantage. "My guess is this could happen anytime from six to 36 months out," says Rigetti.
So-called hybrid algorithms leveraging both systems are able to spot and correct some errors. And even imperfect results from quantum computers can be good enough in many cases, either flat-out exceeding what traditional computer technology can do, or producing results faster or cheaper. Rigetti has been playing this angle, creating a software development kit called Forest (because it's an ecosystem, says Chad) that allows programmers to access hybrid systems. Like other companies such as IBM, Rigetti has been allowing developers to access small-scale quantum computers online to essentially start working out how to program for them. [...] Rigetti is now inviting customers to apply for free access to these systems, toward the goal of developing a real-world application that achieves quantum advantage. As an extra incentive, the first to make it wins a $1 million prize.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
Microsoft and Google are holding hardware events next month for the Surface computers and Pixel smartphones, respectively. According to TechCrunch, Microsoft is expected to refresh some of its existing products, like the Surface Pro and Studio, on October 2 at 4:00 PM EST in New York City. It's possible we'll see some new additions to the Surface family, but Microsoft did recently announced the Surface Go a couple weeks ago, so it will be off the list. The event tagline is "a moment of your time," which may mean a Surface Watch could be unveiled at the event.
As for Google, they're expected to announce the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, and possibly a new Pixelbook, which runs ChromeOS. The tagline for this event is "I [heart] NY," hinting at the Pixel 3 with the numeral in the heart emojicon. The event will be held at 8:00 AM PST on October 9 at Spring Studios. The Verge reports: The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are the third generation of the Google-branded Pixel line that was first introduced in 2016. In the past few weeks, hardware units of both devices have made their way into the world, giving us a very good idea of what to expect from the announcement. Both devices are expected to get some design tweaks, including a somewhat controversial large notch on the Pixel 3 XL and a glass back for wireless charging on both devices. Each of the Pixel devices will also have dual front-facing cameras and a single rear camera.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's read-the-fine-print department
AT&T is offering a new promotion for first responders and their families. Firefighters, paramedics, and police officers can opt for 25 percent off either of the unlimited plans AT&T announced back in June. But in the fine print, as The Verge points out, "AT&T admits it may throttle data speeds 'when the network is congested.'" The promotion comes soon after Verizon came under scrutiny for throttling firefighters' data as they fought wildfires in California. From the report: AT&T says that first responders looking for completely unlimited internet without data speed caps can use FirstNet, the network it recently began operating specifically for first responders. AT&T was contracted by the U.S. government to built out FirstNet, which offers features that specifically cater to first responders. The company says that it's actively promoting FirstNet, but at the same time, its promotion page doesn't make a mention of the superior plan at all. In an email, AT&T clarified that the promotional plans subject to throttling are for first responders' personal use and family plans. "We're offering first responders and their family members a discount on the consumer plans available today for their personal use," a spokesperson said. "These lines and devices are separate than the FirstNet lines purchased and issued by the first responder agencies, which do not have a data limit."
The deal allows first responders to choose between the AT&T Unlimited & More plan or the Unlimited & More Premium plan, which has more entertainment add-ons to choose from, including HBO, Showtime, and Amazon Music. With the ongoing promotion, a single line alone on Unlimited & More will cost $52.50 a month, while four lines on a plan would cost $30 a month per person. Unlimited & More Premium costs $60 a month for a single line, and $35.62 a month per person for four lines.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's read-the-fine-print department
An anonymous reader writes: The first paid online service for Nintendo Switch, simply named Nintendo Switch Online, is set to arrive at some point later this month, and we're still waiting on a few key details. One detail about the service emerged on Friday via Nintendo's official site, and it's not a great one: there will be specific limits to the service's promised cloud-save support. Nintendo Switch Online's $20/year cost includes a promise to "save your data online for easy access" -- which, for the uninitiated, will be the only way to back up your Switch games' save data when it launches. Currently, should your Nintendo Switch be lost, stolen, or damaged, your progress in games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is toast, as you can neither move save data from one console to another nor personally back it up to a hard drive. The following current and upcoming Switch games do not support Save Data Cloud backups: Splatoon 2, Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu, Pokemon Let's Go Eevee, Dark Souls Remastered, Dead Cells, FIFA 19, NBA 2K19, and NBA Playgrounds.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-fail department
An anonymous reader shares a report: When a group of security researchers reported a popular but allegedly dangerous Mac App Store utility to Apple, noting that it secretly sends "highly sensitive user information" to an "unscrupulous" developer, Apple's response for a full month was surprising: "crickets." But after a cluster of bad press today, Apple finally pulled Yongming Zhang's app Adware Doctor: Anti Malware &Ad from the store. Three researchers, including former NSA staffer Patrick Wardle, Thomas Reed of Malwarebytes, and "privacy fighter" @privacyis1st, said in a blog post today that they reported Adware Doctor last month for sending a user's Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and App Store browsing histories alongside lists of the Mac's apps and running processes to a server in China. Despite receiving confirmation that Apple received the report, the $5 app remained in the App Store -- where it was ranked the number one paid app across all Mac utilities.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department
U.S. President Donald Trump warned on Friday that he was ready to slap tariffs on virtually all Chinese imports into the United States, threatening duties on another $267 billion in Chinese goods on top of $200 billion in imports now primed for levies in coming days. Reuters: The moves would sharply escalate Trump's trade war with Beijing over his demands for major changes in economic, trade and technology policy. China has threatened retaliation, which could include action against U.S. companies operating there. Hours after a public comment period closed on his $200 billion China tariff list, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was "being strong on China because I have to be." "The $200 billion we are talking about could take place very soon depending on what happens with them. To a certain extent its going to be up to China," Trump said. "And I hate to say this, but behind that is another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want. That totally changes the equation." [...] The $200 billion list, which includes some consumer products such as cameras and recording devices, luggage, handbags, tires and vacuum cleaners, would be subject to tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent. Cell phones, the biggest U.S. import from China, have so far been spared, but would be engulfed if Trump activates the $267 billion tariff list. Further reading: Apple says Trump's China tariffs are going to hurt the company.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. From a report: In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to "clear" its orbit, or in other words, be the largest gravitational force in its orbit. Since Neptune's gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status. However, in a new study published online Wednesday in the journal Icarus, UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is with the university's Florida Space Institute, reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported in the research literature. Metzger, who is lead author on the study, reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication -- from 1802 -- that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning. He said moons such as Saturn's Titan and Jupiter's Europa have been routinely called planets by planetary scientists since the time of Galileo. "The IAU definition would say that the fundamental object of planetary science, the planet, is supposed to be a defined on the basis of a concept that nobody uses in their research," Metzger said. "And it would leave out the second-most complex, interesting planet in our solar system." "We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing it because it's functionally useful," he said. "It's a sloppy definition," Metzger said of the IAU's definition. "They didn't say what they meant by clearing their orbit. If you take that literally, then there are no planets, because no planet clears its orbit."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's changing-dynamics department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Consumers are now more aware that they can buy the phone and the network access separately, and are increasingly doing so. "Many were totally unaware of the true value of the plan, and this marks a real change," CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann told us. CCS Insight calls the unbundling "cracking the code." Only 36 per cent of UK SIM-only customers expect to take a traditional bundle-plus-phone deal when their current plan ends, CCS found. Mann noted that this figure is considerably higher than the number of SIM-only customers today, who will upgrade to another SIM-only deal -- indicating strong growth for the SIM-only bit of the market. One in 12 phones in use is a second-hand phone. And there are a variety of fascinating knock-on effects. For example, almost 10 per cent of UK punters now buy direct through Amazon. Operators, who have traditionally acted as credit companies, will have to make their bundles more flexible and attractive. High-margin manufacturers may have to make more use of the refurbished channel, or make older models available for longer. In fact, all OEMs have to look at refurb and online. Mann told us all of these trends are happening already.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's deep-dive department
Jonathan English, writing for City Lab: One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown. This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not. At the turn of the 20th century, when transit companies' only competition were the legs of a person or a horse, they worked reasonably well, even if they faced challenges. Once cars arrived, nearly every U.S. transit agency slashed service to cut costs, instead of improving service to stay competitive. This drove even more riders away, producing a vicious cycle that led to the point where today, few Americans with a viable alternative ride buses or trains. Now, when the federal government steps in to provide funding, it is limited to big capital projects. (Under the Trump administration, even those funds are in question.) Operations -- the actual running of buses and trains frequently enough to appeal to people with an alternative -- are perpetually starved for cash. Even transit advocates have internalized the idea that transit cannot be successful outside the highest-density urban centers. And it very rarely is.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
They have been pouring into emergency rooms around the nation all summer, their bodies bearing a blend of injuries that doctors normally associate with victims of car wrecks -- broken noses, wrists and shoulders, facial lacerations and fractures, as well as the kind of blunt head trauma that can leave brains permanently damaged. The Washington Post reports: When doctors began asking patients to explain their injuries, many were surprised to learn that the surge of broken body parts stemmed from the latest urban transportation trend: shared electric scooters. In Santa Monica, Calif. -- where one of the biggest electric-scooter companies is based -- the city's fire department has responded to 34 serious accidents involving the devices this summer. The director of an emergency department there said his team treated 18 patients who were seriously injured in electric-scooter accidents during the final two weeks of July. And in San Francisco, the doctor who runs the emergency room at a major hospital said he is seeing as many as 10 severe injuries a week. [...] As the injuries pile up in cities across the country, the three largest scooter companies -- operating under the names Bird, Lime and Skip -- have seen their values soar as they attempt to transform urban transit, following the successes of ride-hailing and bike-sharing companies. The scooter start-ups have attracted massive investments from Uber, the prominent technology venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and Alphabet, Google's parent company, with some analysts estimating that some of the privately held companies might be worth more than $1 billion. Responding to The Post, all these companies said safety is a priority to them, but at least Bird is also lobbying against legislation in California that would require users to wear helmets, the paper reported.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what-choices-did-they-have-really? department
From The Linux Foundation's mailing list: Last Friday (just before Labor Day) I learned that Linus had gotten confused about when and where the Maintainer's Summit was going to be held this year. And most unfortunately, he has already scheduled a family vacation overlapping with the week of the Maintainer's Summit. Over the weekend, I've been conferring with folks from the Linux Foundation, Linus, and the Maintainer's / Kernel Summit program committee. We explored a lot of options, but ultimately there were only two choices that were workable: 1) Have the Maintainer's Summit in Vancouver, without Linus. 2) Move the Maintainer's Summit to Edinburgh, with Linus. Curiously enough, Linus suggested option #1. And while holding the Maintainer's Summit without Linus might be an interesting experiment, ultimately, the Program Committee had a strong consensus that moving it Summit to Edinburgh was the better option. This means that the Maintainer's Summit will take place in Edinburgh,
on Monday afternoon, October 22nd. As a reminder, the Maintainer's Summit is an invite-only workshop, with ~30 people attending. The focus of the Maintainer's Summit is process and development issues, *not* technical issues. The Kernel Summit track will still be held in Vancouver alongside Plumber's. Technical discussions will take place there; we simply
won't have the time, or necessarily, the right people, to have technical discussions at the Maintainer's Summit.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department
Multiple Slashdot readers have submitted a blog post by a group of Berlin-based "anti-gentrification activists": Today we occupied the Umspannwerk in Kreuzberg to prevent the planned Google Campus there, to fight against the skyrocketing rents and to open up the space for something better. The Google Campus is intended to be a magnet for annoying young entrepreneurs whose IT-sweatshops ("start-ups") promise to deliver new ideas to Google's company business. New tech companies are driving the rents up in the area higher and higher. The endpoint of this process can be seen in San Francisco, which once must have been a halfway livable city. While it is especially aggravating that Google, despite its aggressive collection of data, is morphing into Big Brother with a user-friendly face, this is not the decisive factor for us. We would also put a spoke in the wheel of any other company. What happens now in the Umspannwerk instead depends on everyone who fills the house with life. It could become a base for the many initiatives that are currently struggling against rising rents and displacement -- a campus of subversion. But it can also be used as a covered grill area for the cold months, or something more. We call on all rebellious tenants, subversive and precarious cultural workers, work-shy benefit scroungers, strike-hungry air traffic controllers, long-living pensioners, unruly refugees, and all other local pests from the neighborhood (and beyond) to join us in the occupation as quickly as possible. A neighborhood assembly will take place at 6 p.m. to discuss the occupation and how to proceed. Local media has covered the development. [Editor's note: the stories are not in English.] Some context on the local tussle: 'Google go home': the Berlin neighbourhood fighting off a tech giant [May 2018, The Guardian].Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's warning-served department
Bruce Schneier argues that governments must step in now to force companies developing connected gadgets to make security a priority rather than an afterthought. Schneier made these arguments in his new book titled, Click Here to Kill Everybody which is on sale now. Here's an excerpt from his interview with MIT Technology Review: Technology Review: So what do we need to do to make the Internet+ era safer? Schneier: There's no industry that's improved safety or security without governments forcing it to do so. Again and again, companies skimp on security until they are forced to take it seriously. We need government to step up here with a combination of things targeted at firms developing internet-connected devices. They include flexible standards, rigid rules, and tough liability laws whose penalties are big enough to seriously hurt a company's earnings. Technology Review: But won't things like strict liability laws have a chilling effect on innovation? Schneier: Yes, they will chill innovation -- but that's what's needed right now! The point is that innovation in the Internet+ world can kill you. We chill innovation in things like drug development, aircraft design, and nuclear power plants because the cost of getting it wrong is too great. We're past the point where we need to discuss regulation versus no-regulation for connected things; we have to discuss smart regulation versus stupid regulation. Technology Review: There's a fundamental tension here, though, isn't there? Governments also like to exploit vulnerabilities for spying, law enforcement, and other activities. Schneier: Governments are certainly poachers as well as gamekeepers. I think we'll resolve this long-standing tension between offense and defense eventually, but it's going to be a long, hard slog to get there.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's magnet department
Elon Musk sat down with California comedian Joe Rogan on Thursday evening for a 2 1/2-hour podcast [YouTube video] that touched upon everything from flamethrowers and artificial intelligence to the end of the universe. Talking about AI, a subject Musk has long been very vocal about, he said artificial intelligence could turn out to be terrible or it could end up being great, but one thing that is certain is that it will be beyond human's control. From a report: "You kind of have to be optimistic about the future. There's no point in being pessimistic," said the head of Tesla and SpaceX. "I rather be optimistic and wrong, than pessimistic and right. [...] It's not necessarily bad, but it's going to be outside of human control. It's going to be very tempting to use AI as a weapon, said Musk. "It will be used as a weapon. The on ramp to serious AI will be more humans using it against eachother. That will be the danger." Musk says he has tried to convince people to slow down where AI is concerned and regulate it, but nobody listened. "The way that regulation works is slow. Usually there will be some new technology that will cause damage or death, there will be an outcry, there will be an investigation," said the Tesla CEO. "Years will pass, there will be some insight committee, then rule making and oversight and eventually regulations. This all takes many years. This is the normal course of things." Musk used the example that it took ten years for seatbelts to become required, even though the number of deaths were obvious. He says this time frame doesn't work for AI. "We can't wait ten years to the point where something is dangerous to do something about AI. It will be too late," said Musk.Read Replies (0)