By msmash from Slashdot's next-billion-users department
Growing smartphone and internet penetration across many African countries saw global streaming companies make a deeper play for audiences here this year. From a report: Netflix signaled its interest in Africa by hiring a content producer for the region and took on the MultiChoice, the continental satellite TV giant owned by Naspers, Africa's most valuable company. The Los Gatos, California company spooked MultiChoice with everything from trolling online ads to billboards placed conspicuously close to their Johannesburg headquarters. MultiChoice has clearly taken notice and has called for Netflix to be regulated. No African regulator has shown the appetite to rein Netflix in, though. Indeed, Netflix has bolstered its library of African content with a first original movie from Nigeria's Nollywood movie industry and committed to producing its first original African series.
[...] Altogether, there's clearly a growing market as content consumption habits evolve among Africa's youth -- a majority of the continent's population. For example, Nigerians are already consuming more video on mobile devices than on television. Platforms like Tv2Go, which launched in South Africa in November, are experimenting with free mobile platforms, but may find that increasingly discerning streaming audiences need binge-worthy content to attract them.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Spending time looking at screens is not intrinsically bad for children's health, say the UK's leading children's doctors, who are advising parents to focus on ensuring their children get enough sleep, exercise and family interaction rather than clamping down on phones and laptops. From a report: The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has produced the first guidance for parents on how long children should spend on their laptops and phones, which throws the ball firmly back into the parents' court. Each family should decide what is best for its own members -- although all children would benefit from switching off the screen an hour before they go to bed to help them sleep. The college says the focus for parents should be on what the family is doing together, saying screen time is not an issue if parents have control over other aspects of their children's lives. The guidance appears to run counter to the thinking of the health secretary, Matt Hancock, a father of three young children, who has asked England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to draw up some rules on the use of social media.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lowering-the-boom department
The "Ocean Cleanup" project deployed a 2,000-foot floating debris trap in September near a drifting plastic patch in the Pacific Ocean that's twice as big as Texas. It broke.
An anonymous reader quotes NPR:
Invented by Boyan Slat when he was just 17, the barrier has so far done some of what it was designed to accomplish. It travels with wind and wave propulsion, like a U-shaped Pac-Man hungry for plastic. It orients itself in the wind and it catches and concentrates plastic, sort of. But as Slat, now 24, recently discovered with the beta tester for his design, plastic occasionally drifts out of its U-shaped funnel. The other issue with the beta tester, called System 001, is that last week, a 60-feet-long end section broke off.
The first issue, Slat said, was likely due to the device's speed. In a September interview with NPR, he said the device averages about four inches per second, which his team has now concluded is too slow. The break in the barrier was due to an issue with the material used to build it. "In principle, I think we are relatively close to getting it working," Slat said in an interview Saturday with NPR's Michel Martin. "It's just that sometimes the plastic is also escaping again. Likely what we have to do is we have to speed up the system so that it constantly moves faster than the plastic." For the material failure, Slat said his team will probably try to locally reinforce the system to combat the problem of material fatigue.
Slat's U-shaped plastic trap is now being towed the 800 miles back to Hawaii for repairs.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blame-for-bugs department
Why is Grindr being sued by Matthew Herrick, an aspiring actor working in a restaurant in New York? "His former partner created fake profiles on the app to impersonate Herrick and then direct men to show up at Herrick's home and the restaurant where he worked asking for sex, sometimes more than a dozen times per day."
But 14 police reports later, Herrick's lawsuit is now arguing that all tech companies should face greater accountability for what happens on their platforms, reports NBC News:
His lawsuit alleges that the software developers who write code for Grindr have been negligent, producing an app that's defective in its design and that is "fundamentally unsafe" and "unreasonably dangerous" -- echoing language that's more typically used in lawsuits about, say, a faulty kitchen appliance or a defective car part. If successful, the lawsuit could bring about a significant legal change to the risks tech companies face for what happens on their platforms, adding to growing public and political pressure for change. "This is a case about a company abdicating responsibility for a dangerous product it released into the stream of commerce," his lawsuit argues, adding: "Grindr's inaction enables the weaponization of its products and services...."
In court, Grindr is relying on the more sweeping defense allowed by the 1996 law known as the Communications Decency Act. The act's Section 230 has been interpreted by courts to immunize internet services from liability for content posted online by third parties -- whether ex-boyfriends or otherwise. That immunity, though, is subject to a raging debate about whether social media companies and other tech firms should be so free to introduce products without much forethought about the hazards they could create.... Herrick's case has drawn interest from the tech industry, its supporters and its critics who see his lawsuit as a test for a possible new legal theory for holding tech firms to account.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Ars-me-mateys department
The editors of Ars Technica have announced their annual "Deathwatch" list, identifying "companies, tech, and trends least likely to succeed in 2019." An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The past year has been an absolute freefall for Essential.... The market was ultimately not impressed with the Essential phone, and the fire sales started almost immediately. Only two months after launch, the phone got a permanent $200 price drop, to $499. November saw deals as low as $399. Eventually, the $700 phone was discounted all the way down to $224, thanks to a mix of poor sales and a lack of consumer confidence in the company. A poorly selling phone was one thing, but things really started to look bad for Essential in May, when it was announced the company had cancelled the second generation Essential Phone. The first device took such a toll on the company that it was considering selling itself, and suddenly the future of Essential was in doubt.
While the phone was dead, in May the company said it was focusing on an upcoming smart home product and operating system. But by October, it announced that it was cutting 30 percent of its staff, and the company was pivoting away from smart home products and would try building a phone again. It will re-sell you a missing headphone jack, though. Essential's next phone -- if the company lasts that long -- is supposedly "an AI Phone That Texts People for You" according to Bloomberg. That sounds awful. On top of all that, Essential's CEO and founder Rubin has been the subject of a major sexual misconduct controversy at Google.
They also write that 2019 "is going to probably determine whether Facebook's management team will continue as it is -- or whether there's a stockholder rebellion, or a government lawsuit, or some combination of both that drives CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others out."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's car-wars department
An anonymous reader quotes Electrek:
In what is quickly becoming a problem for some Tesla drivers, pickup truck drivers have again taken over a Supercharger station and yelled profanities in what appears to be an act of protest against Tesla. Earlier this month, we reported on a strange situation at Tesla's Hickory Supercharger in North Carolina where three large pickup trucks blocked access to the station and reportedly chanted "F*** Tesla"....
Now it looks like it's becoming a trend since another Reddit user spotted pickup truck drivers taking over another Tesla Supercharger. They reportedly were also yelling profanities to Tesla owners coming to charge at the Supercharger station.
Electrek also cites one Tesla owner's reports of being "coal rolled" -- intentionally targetted with extra black exhaust fumes from specially-modified engines.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's peak-AI department
johnnyb (Slashdot reader #4,816) writes:
Kurzweil's conception of "The Singularity" has been at the forefront of the media conception of artificial intelligence for many years now. But how close is that to reality? Will AI's be able to design ever-more-powerful AIs? Eric Holloway suggests that the power of AI has been fueled by Moore's law more than AI technology itself, and therefore hitting Moore's Wall will bring AI expansion to a fast halt.
Holloway calls that halt "peak AI...the point where a return on the investment in AI improvement is not worthwhile." He argues that humanity will reach that point, "perhaps soon...."
"So, returning to our original question, whether there is a path to Kurzweil's Singularity, we must conclude from our analysis that no such path exists and that unlimited self-improving AI is impossible."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's meals-on-wheels department
"General Motors is partnering with DoorDash to enable on-demand food deliveries via driverless cars," reports VentureBeat.
An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The duo announced that a pilot delivery program will kick off in San Francisco in "early 2019," and will involve both meals from restaurants and groceries.... Back in 2016, GM splashed out more than $1 billion to buy Cruise Automation, a startup that developed an autopilot system for existing cars. In the intervening months, the company has been doubling down on its autonomous car efforts, last year announcing a driverless car with no steering wheel or pedals, with plans to launch the vehicle sometime in 2019. Elsewhere, GM also revealed that it is investing $100 million into facilities for building self-driving cars, while Honda recently put $2 billion into GM's Cruise for a 5.7 percent stake....
GM and DoorDash haven't revealed the full extent of the pilot or what the next stage will be, but it did say that "select merchants" that are already using DoorDash in the San Francisco area are on board. The underlying purpose, it said, is to "test and improve" the efficiency of autonomous deliveries in the area. "We see autonomous vehicles playing a major role in the future of delivery as consumer behaviors continue to shift online, and we are confident Cruise's leading technology will help us scale to meet growing consumer demand," noted DoorDash CEO Tony Xu.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lack-of-wisdom-of-crowds department
"Medical crowdfunding has become a billion-dollar industry practically overnight, led by sites like GoFundMe," reports Gizmodo, citing new research on its dark side: over a million dollars in donations "funneled to ludicrous, unscientific treatments for life-threatening diseases like cancer."
The authors of the study, published Thursday in The Lancet, searched for a particular kind of medical crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe: campaigns for cancer treatments that involved the use of homeopathy. Homeopathy might easily be considered the lowest-hanging fruit of medical quackery. The theory behind how it works is nonsensical (in short, its proponents claim water can be programmed with the "memory" of toxic substances that will then treat the symptoms they normally cause); there are no good studies that show it works; and its practitioners are some of the most brazen cranks this side of P.T. Barnum still kicking. "These treatments are the bunkiest of the bunk, just complete garbage," lead author Jeremy Snyder, a bioethicist at Simon Fraser University in Canada, told Gizmodo.
Snyder and his co-author found that over 200 GoFundMe campaigns, as of June 2018, had been created to help fund homeopathic cancer treatments...and were shared on Facebook more than 100,000 times in total. They collectively asked for more than $5 million in funding, and raised $1.4 million from over 13,000 donors.... Snyder and his co-author also tried to find out what ultimately happened to the people behind all these campaigns. Sometimes, the campaigns would have final updates reporting the person had died; other times, they were able to track down obituaries. In total, they found that 28 percent of the people had died by the time of their search. But even that might be an underestimate...
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's road-sharing-vs-ride-sharing department
The percentage of Americans biking to work has dropped for the third year straight, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. An anonymous reader quotes USA Today:
Nationally, the percentage of people who say they use a bike to get to work fell by 3.2 percent from 2016 to 2017, to an average of 836,569 commuters, according to the bureau's latest American Community Survey, which regularly asks a group of Americans about their habits. That's down from a high of 904,463 in 2014, when it peaked after four straight years of increases....
Experts offered several explanations for the nationwide decrease that has unfolded even as cities spent millions trying to become more bike-friendly. Most obviously, lower gasoline prices and a stronger economy contributed to strong auto sales and less interest in cheaper alternatives, such as mass transit and bikes. The rise of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and electric scooters cut into bike commuting, said Dave Snyder, executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition.
In at least two American cities -- Cleveland and Tampa -- the number of bike commuters has dropped by 50%.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's creating-not-consuming department
Tech Republic re-visits the story of the earliest attempts to build the Raspberry Pi, and the dramatic launch of a quest "to rekindle the curiosity about computing in a generation immersed in technology but indifferent to how it worked."
[T]he dominant computers -- games consoles and later tablets and smartphones -- no longer offered an invitation to create, but rather to consume. Eben Upton recalls a bonfire party in 2007 where an 11-year-old boy told him he wanted to be an electrical engineer, and his disappointment at realizing the boy didn't have access to a computer he could program on. "I said, 'Oh, what computer have you got?'. He said, 'I've got a Nintendo Wii'. And there was just that awful feeling about there being a kid who was excited, a kid who was showing concrete interest in our profession, and who didn't have access to a programmable computer, a computer of any sort. He just had a games console."
At this time Upton was working as a system-on-a-chip architect at chip designer Broadcom, and realized he had the skills to try to halt this drift away from computers that encouraged users to code.
Upton describes the Raspberry Pi as "a very conscious attempt" to bring back the easily programmable home computers that he remembered as a child in the 1980s -- and he was gratified at its success. "Even early on you started to see those pictures of kids lying on the living room floor, looking up at the TV with Raspberry Pi plugged into it, the same way we used to."
It was named "Pi" because it booted into a version of Python, and Raspberry because "There's a lot of fruit-named computer companies, and the 'blowing a raspberry' thing was also deliberate."
It's gone on to become the world's third best-selling general-purpose computer.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's open-source-under-the-hood department
ZDNet reports that by 2020, "many, if not most, new cars will be running with Linux."
While some companies, like Tesla, run their own homebrew Linux distros, most rely on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). AGL is a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for connected cars with over 140 members... Its membership includes Audi, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Mercedes, Suzuki, and the world's biggest automobile company: Toyota. Why? "Automakers are becoming software companies, and just like in the tech industry, they are realizing that open source is the way forward," said Dan Cauchy, AGL's executive director, in a statement.
Car companies know that while horsepower sells, customers also want smart infotainment systems, automated safe drive features, and, eventually, self-driving cars. Linux and open-source company can give them all of that. The AGL's goal is to develop an open-source, common platform for infotainment systems: The Unified Code Base (UCB). This is a Linux distribution and open-source software platform for car infotainment, telematics, and instrument cluster applications... The AGL's hope is that this will serve as a de facto industry standard. It's well on its way.
Yesterday Hyundai announced that they were also joining both the AGL effort and the Linux Foundation.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's owned-by-Microsoft department
LinkedIn had 590 million members -- though back in 2016 Microsoft conceded that less than 25% of the service's members were active. Yet CNBC recently shared estimates that 95% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to find candidates, and touted a new tool called "LinkedIn Hashtags" which lets companies highlight policies like "#dogfriendly" or "#freelunch".
But is LinkedIn really helpful for job-seekers? An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
I'm on unemployment and am looking for a new job, and I've been told "Oh, you need to be on LinkedIn if you want to be taken seriously!"
So I go there, and it looks like Facebook or something, wants to scrape my email contacts, upload pictures, and so on.
Is LinkedIn really necessary, or is it just a ruse to get me to give them all sorts of personal information like all other social media sites?
"I'm also unemployed and looking for a job," adds another anonymous Slashdot reader, "and have all my crap on Linkedin and Indeed, and have been using them to apply left and right. If they aren't useful anymore I'm essentially sitting on my hands doing nothing."
But Slashdot reader tomhath insists that LinkedIn "was never relevant. Their motto was that you didn't exist if you're not there -- but that was only their marketing hype, not reality."
Leave your own thoughts in the comments. Is LinkedIn still relevant?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's looks-like-BB-8 department
"Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored," reports the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (which is operating the spacecraft). "Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we've seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago."
Tablizer (Slashdot reader #95,088) shares their report:
"The new images -- taken from as close as 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) on approach -- revealed Ultima Thule as a "contact binary," consisting of two connected spheres. End to end, the world measures 19 miles (31 kilometers) in length. The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across). The team says that the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender-bender...
Data from the New Year's Day flyby will continue to arrive over the next weeks and months, with much higher resolution images yet to come.
Space.com reports that astronomers are now hunting for moons near Ultima Thule. At a Thursday news conference, a New Horizons co-investigator from the SETI Institute explained that the rotation of Ultima Thule appears to have been slowed by orbiting moons, and the discovery of "Any moon at all, on any orbit at all, will tell us the mass and the density to pretty decent usable precision." Although it's also possible that the moons of Ultima Thule have since drifted away.
Space.com adds that the New Horizons spacecraft "has enough fuel and power, and is in good enough health, to potentially fly past a third object, if NASA grants another mission extension."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's magic-internet-money-lawsuits department
Long-time Slashdot reader foxalopex writes:
It looks like Nvidia is going to be hit with a class action for investors who lost big when their stock price crashed more than 50% due to an overstock of GPU cards that were produced for the crypto-currency craze back in 2018.
The suit claims investors were told Nvidia had control of the situation until it crashed worse than even Nvidia had anticipated.
"The Company's public statements were false and materially misleading," argues the complaint from a Los Angeles law firm, seeking investors who purchased shares in NVIDIA between August 10, 2017 and November 15, 2018.
It was on November 15 that NVIDIA issued a statement that "excess channel inventory post the crypto-currency boom...will be corrected." Citing new products for machine learning, film rendering, and cloud computing, they added that "Our market position and growth opportunities are stronger than ever."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's summer-of-'72 department
General Motors was once the world's most profitable company -- for two decades -- and by 1970 its revenue was $22.8 billion (or $152 billion in today's dollars). But five weeks ago GM announced that it was finally ending small-car production and closing its Lordstown Assembly plant in Youngstown, Ohio.
So what went wrong? Quartz argues that GM's decline "began with its quest to turn people into machines," as "the company turned assembly work into an interlocking chain of discrete tasks, to be executed by robots whenever possible." In an article shared by Slashdot reader reporter, Quartz argues that seen in that light, the company's response to a 1972 strike "marked the beginning of the company's long but uneven descent, which would be characterized by a repeated impulse to bet on fancy, futuristic but unproven technologies while undervaluing its workers."
But the strike also raised larger issues for "a massive special task force" issuing a federal report on the quality of working life in 1972, titled Work in America...
[T]echnology had failed in its promise to free humans from drudgery and wring profit from their talents, the authors said. On the contrary, the new jobs created generally required minimal expertise and therefore prevented workers from honing their skills. That stymied career mobility and left people mired in the same torpor of boredom for decades. Despite this, America continued to offer its young people increasingly rigorous education -- even as work life left little opportunity to apply it.... The larger hopes and ambitions of Work in America -- the vision that saw satisfying work itself as essential to the health of American society and democracy -- exists now as little but a curio in the footnotes of academic journals....
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's first-of-its-kind department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: China will introduce the world's first driverless trains to run at speeds of up to 217 mph (350 km/h) on the Beijing-Zhangjiakou railway line. The automatic operation bullet trains were trialled on a section of the Beijing-Shenyang line in 2018 by the China Railway Corporation (CRC) and the system passed all safety tests. "The bullet train can automatically depart, operate between stations and adjust the train's operation to meet its precise timetable after a single button is pressed," a researcher from China Academy of Railway Sciences told the Sciences and Technology Daily. A driver currently performs these operations on high-speed trains.
For the first 10 years of the high-speed ATO trains, an attendant will still be deployed on board to ensure nothing goes wrong. After that, the trains will be totally driverless. Experts say this should improve safety long-term. "An automatic driving system could greatly improve the safety of trains which run on high-speed railways, compared with human drivers who may have sudden health problems or disregard safety precautions during driving," Sun Zhang, a railway expert and professor at Shanghai Tongji University, told the Global Times. The Beijing-Zhangjiakou Line is currently being constructed for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, "to enable easy travel between Beijing and the Winter Olympic Village in 50 minutes," the report says.Read Replies (0)