By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
One-quarter of its business happens in just five cities; 15 percent of bookings happen on airport trips. From a report: About 24 percent of Uber's bookings -- all the money that customers pay through the app and in cash, including driver earnings -- occur in just five cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and Sao Paulo. For a company that operates in more than 700 cities, including quite a few giants -- Mexico City, Tokyo, Paris, Lagos, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Mumbai, to name a few -- that concentration gives Uber a surprising vulnerability at the local level. And they know it.
This vulnerability casts a new light on, for example, Uber's 2015 humiliation of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, when the company fought off the City Council's proposed vehicle cap. That was a warning to other politicians, and a show of power, but it was also a vital business move. The company's filing also mentions, as a cautionary tale, what happened afterward: Just three years later, the City Council approved minimum rates for drivers and a cap on the number of new ride-hail vehicles. The company also mentions its regulatory challenges in London and San Francisco.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's rather-unfortunate-events department
Reader hackingbear shares a report: As soon as the European Southern Observatory released the black hole photo, under Creative Commons license, on April 10, Visual China Group (VCG), China's leading stock image provider that's compared to Getty Images, made the image available for sale in its library without attribution to the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration. "This is an editorial image. Please call 400-818-2525 or consult our customer service representative for commercial use," said a note for the black hole image on VCG's website. Internet users took to social media slamming VCG for monetizing a photo intended for free distribution among the human race. VCG swiftly revised the note to say the black hole photo should not be used for commercial purposes, but the incident sparked a plethora of comments on Weibo condemning VCG's opportunist business practice.
For example, the price tag of the national emblem image ranges from150 yuan ($22) to 1,500 yuan ($220.) "Copyrights protection should definitely be promoted. The question is, why is VCG allowed to price photos of the black hole and the likes out of the market? Why is it able to exploit loopholes?," Du Yu, a Beijing-based freelance technology journalist, said to TechCrunch. China's the cyberspace watchdog of Tianjin ordered the photo site to end its illegal, rule-breaking practices. "We have taken down all non-compliant photos and closed down the site voluntarily for a revamp in accordance with related laws," said VCG. Shares of VCG, whose executives are mainly American and Canadian citizens and filed 16 copyright lawsuits per day on average (in Chinese, Google translate), plummeted 10 percent Friday morning in Shanghai Stock Exchange.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
In a startling demonstration, the machine drew on experimentation, data, and observation of humans to learn how simple implements could help it achieve a task. From a report: Learning to use tools played a crucial role in the evolution of human intelligence. It may yet prove vital to the emergence of smarter, more capable robots, too. New research shows that robots can figure out at least the rudiments of tool use, through a combination of experimenting and observing people. Chelsea Finn, a researcher at Google Brain, and Sergey Levine, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, developed the robotic system together with several of Levine's students. The setup consists of an off-the-shelf robot arm that can be controlled by a person or a computer. It also includes a camera that sees the environment within reach of the arm -- and, most important, a computer running a very large neural network that lets the robot learn.
The robot worked out how to make use of simple implements, including a dustpan and broom and a duster, to move other objects around. The work hints at how robots might someday learn to perform sophisticated manipulations, and solve abstract problems, for themselves. "It's exciting because it means the robot can figure out what to do with a tool in situations it hasn't seen before," Finn says. "We really want to study that sort of generality, rather than a robot learning to use one tool."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft published today a generic "security configuration framework" that contains guidance for systems administrators about the basic security settings they should be applying in order to secure Windows 10 devices. The SECCON framework, the name Microsoft gave this framework, is are five different recommendations for securing a Windows 10 device, depending on its role inside an organization (Enterprise security, Enterprise high-security, Enterprise VIP security, DevOps, Administrator). [Note: last two docs are empty and don't include any info just yet]. For each of these security levels, Microsoft has published default templates for Windows policies that sysadmins can apply to desired PCs, based on the access levels those workstations have. Microsoft hopes this will automate a system administrator's job in deploying a basic minimum of security features to Windows 10 systems, on which custom modifications can then be made, depending on each enterprise's needs.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
angel'o'sphere shares a report: The annual Stack Overflow survey is one of the most comprehensive snapshots of how programmers work, with this year's poll being taken by almost 90,000 developers across the globe. This year's survey details which languages developers enjoy using, which are associated with the best paid jobs, which are most commonly used, as well as developers' preferred frameworks, databases, and integrated development environments.
Python's versatility continues to fuel its rise through Stack Overflow's rankings for the "most popular" languages, which lists the languages most widely used by developers. This year's survey finds Python to be the fastest-growing major programming language, with Python edging out Android and enterprise workhorse Java to become the fourth most commonly used language. [...] More importantly for developers, this popularity overlaps with demand for the language, with Julia Silge, data scientist at Stack Overflow, saying that jobs data gathered by Stack Overflow also shows Python to be one of the most in-demand languages sought by employers.
By msmash from Slashdot's end-of-road department
An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, WIRED published a list of the 'dark web drug lords who got away.' That list included the Dread Pirate Roberts 2 (DPR2), the creator of the second Silk Road site, which launched almost immediately after the FBI ended the first with the famous arrest of founder Ross Ulbricht. Under DPR2, Silk Road 2 went on to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. The FBI shut that one down too and arrested its remaining administrator. By that time, DPR2 had already passed ownership of the site on and, publicly, it looked like he had evaded prosecution.
But today, a court in Liverpool, England, sentenced Thomas White, a technologist and privacy activist, for crimes committed in part while running Silk Road 2 under the DPR2 persona, among other crimes committed under another persona. White pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, money laundering, as well as making indecent images of children, and was sentenced to a total of 5 years and 4 months in prison. White's arrest took place in November 2014, but the case has remained largely under-wraps because of the UK's strict court reporting rules, which prohibit journalists from covering cases before their conclusion. This is to stop suspects facing "trial by media," and in order to let cases run their course.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's modern-day-tools department
Andrew Yang, the presidential candidate who supports Universal Basic Income and has attracted a devoted online following, is planning to use a 3D hologram on the campaign trail. "On Wednesday he gave the #YangGang, which is what his supporters call themselves, their first look at it," reports New York Magazine. From the report: The hologram's debut came on TMZ Live, which showed a video of Yang's hologram performing a duet alongside a hologram of his "hero," Tupac. "I was doing a demo of what a hologram would consist of in order to send the hologram of me to campaign in Iowa or other battleground states," he said.
Last month, Yang spoke about his hologram plans with Iowa newspaper, The Carroll Daily Times Herald. "We are exploring rolling a truck out that would enable someone to see a hologram of me that is three-dimensional give my stump speech," Yang told the paper. "And, also, if I were in a studio, which we could set up very easily, I could beam in and take questions live." Yang also told the paper that he plans to use hologram technology to remind voters that "it is 2019, and soon it will be 2020, and things are changing."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-longer-growing-like-a-startup department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Jeff Bezos's latest shareholder letter, released on Thursday, opens with the first-ever disclosure of Amazon's total share of sales from the merchants that use the company's e-commerce sites as a sales conduit. The company has long said that those merchants sell about half of the individual items sold on Amazon, but it has never given their contribution to the total value of physical merchandise sold on the site. That number -- a common e-commerce metric known as gross merchandise volume -- has always been a secret at Amazon. Not anymore. Based on Bezos's letter and Amazon's previous disclosures, it's possible to roughly calculate Amazon's gross merchandise volume dating back to 2015. It's a remarkable number -- nearly $300 billion worth of goods sold on Amazon last year. Compare that with the $95 billion in total merchandise and ticket sales reported by eBay, the distant No. 2 player in U.S. e-commerce. (Walmart sells more than $500 billion in merchandise each year, and China's Alibaba sells more than $700 billion in goods.)
But there's a dark cloud in Amazon's figure. The growth of Amazon's total merchandise sales slowed considerably last year, according to Bloomberg Opinion calculations based on Bezos's disclosures. This figure is not the first sign than Amazon's retail juggernaut may have slipped a bit. In 2018, Amazon's nearly $300 billion in GMV was about a 19 percent jump from the prior year. That was notably slower than the rates of increase of 24 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in 2017 and 2016. It's hard to explain the slowdown in Amazon's merchandise sales growth. If anything, it seems as if Amazon is grabbing a larger share of e-commerce sales and that the internet is stealing more sales from physical stores, which have accounted for something like 90 percent of all U.S. retail sales. And yet Amazon's retail sales growth -- although still impressive -- is slowing noticeably.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's effects-of-long-term-space-travel department
The final findings of the NASA Twins Study, which compared 50-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year aboard the International Space Station in 2015, and his identical twin brother, who stayed on Earth, were published in Science. Gizmodo reports: NASA found that Scott Kelly was about as mentally, physically, and genetically healthy as his brother during his trip to space, and that the vast majority of small changes spotted in Scott (relative to himself before the mission) went back to normal within six months time. But the differences seen in Scott while up in space and after his return home could provide NASA important leads on how to keep astronauts safe during longer missions to Mars and beyond.
Preliminary results from the study were released in 2017. But it was the second round of findings, released in January 2018, that really caught the attention of media outlets, some of which misrepresented what was found. In particular, outlets like Newsweek reported that a whopping "seven percent of [Scott Kelly's] genes did not return to normal after he landed." Others implied that Scott Kelly had become a different person from his twin brother. But the researchers were never talking about a seven percent difference between the twins' genes. They were saying that some of Scott Kelly's genes had changed in their expression -- the carrying out of instructions in a cell's genome -- during his time up in space. And that roughly 7 percent of this overall change in gene expression could still be seen six months after he returned home. The remaining change in gene expression six months out was actually closer to 10 percent, but NASA clarified that this was still a relatively tiny change in his epigenetics. "Given that the majority of the biological and human health variables remained stable, or returned to baseline, these data suggest that human health can be mostly sustained over this duration of spaceflight," said NASA in a statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's there's-more-to-this-than-meets-the-eye department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: On Wednesday, an international team of scientists published the first image of a black hole ever. It looked like a SpaghettiO, and yet the image was an incredible scientific achievement that gave humanity a glimpse of one of the universe's most destructive forces and confirmed long-held theories -- namely, that black holes exist. Storing the raw data for the image was a feat itself -- tiny portions of data spread across five petabytes stored on multiple hard drives, the equivalent of 5,000 years worth of MP3s. Katie Bouman, a computer scientist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, led the development of the algorithm that imaged the black hole. An image of her posing with some of the data drives went viral as observers praised her success.
The massive amounts of data were essential to creating the image of the black hole. Bouman and other scientists coordinated radio telescopes all over the Earth, each pointed at the black hole and gathering data at different times. The data scientists then pieced this information together and used an algorithm to fill in the blanks and generate a likely image of the black hole. The five petabytes of data took up such a massive amount of digital and physical space it couldn't be sent over the internet. Instead, the hard drives were flown to processing centers in Germany and Boston where the data was assembled. On Reddit's /r/datahoarder subreddit, a community dedicated to spreading the passion of hoarding vast amounts of data, the drives were bigger news than the scientific achievement itself.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-security-protocols department
Google announced today that Gmail has become the first major email provider to support two new security standards, namely MTA-STS and TLS Reporting. Both are extensions to the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the protocol through which all emails are sent today. ZDNet reports: The purpose of MTA-STS and TLS Reporting is to help email providers establish cryptographically secure connections between each other, with the main goal of thwarting SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks. The two new standards will prevent this by allowing legitimate email providers to create a secure channel for exchanging emails. For example, SMTP MTA Strict Transport Security (MTA-STS) works by allowing email server admins to set up an MTA-STS policy on their server. This policy allows a legitimate provider to request that external email servers verify the security of a SMTP connections before sending any emails. Minimum requirements, such as forcing external email servers to authenticate with a valid public certificate encrypted with TLS 1.2 or higher, can be enforced, depending on preferences, ensuring that emails sent to a company's server travel through an obligatory and properly encrypted channel -- or they don't arrive at all. In addition, the TLS Reporting SMTP extension sets up a reporting mechanism through which a legitimate email server can request daily reports from other email servers about the success or failure of emails that have been sent to the legitimate server's domain. Both, when combined, will either prevent or help email server admins identify SMTP man-in-the-middle attacks against their email traffic.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's near-term-solutions department
Despite efforts from Tesla, Daimler, Nikola and Siemens to reduce emissions from heavy-duty, diesel-powered trucks, either by producing their own electric- or hydrogen-powered alternatives, "trucking in the U.S. is still driven by diesel-fueled, compression-ignition (CI), internal combustion engines," reports Ars Technica. According to a new paper from MIT researchers, "the best way forward is not to wait for all-electric or hydrogen-powered semis, but to build a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) truck with an internal combustion engine/generator that can burn either gasoline or renewable ethanol or methanol." From the report: Such a setup preserves the range and affordability that's expected of diesel long-haul trucks while significantly reducing the emissions associated with diesel. To boot, it's a near-term solution; no waiting for battery weight to fall or hydrogen refueling stations to be installed. [T]here are some distinct problems with all-electric and all-diesel trucks that a hybrid flex-fuel truck could solve. First, freight companies are looking for the cheapest way to transport goods from point A to point B, so expensive electric vehicles don't make short-term economic sense, especially if you're competing with other freight companies using cheaper diesel engines.
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By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
In response to a question posed by The Register via Twitter, the company's former CTO CJ Silverio said, "The main thing I want to note is how NPM's statement is not an apology by [Isaac's] own standards. His blog post about apologies is very clear about the three things an apology must contain, and it seems to me that all three items were missing from that statement. It said nothing substantive. It went so far as to blame NPM's users for forcing them into the move."Read Replies (0)