By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a blog post: It appears that when you use a year constraint on book search, the search index has dramatically constricted to the point of being, essentially, broken. Here's an example. While writing something, I became interested in the etymology of the phrase 'set in stone.' Online essays seem to generally give the phrase an absurd antiquity -- they talk about Hammurabi and Moses, as if it had been translated from language to language for decades. I thought that it must be more recent -- possibly dating from printers working with lithography in the 19th century.
So I put it into Google Ngrams. As it often is, the results were quite surprising; about 8,700 total uses in about 8,000 different books before 2002, the majority of which are after 1985. Hammurabi is out, but lithography doesn't look like a likely origin for widespread popularity either. That's much more modern that I would have thought -- this was not a pat phrase until the 1990s. That's interesting, so I turned to Google Books to find the results. Of those 8,000 books published before 2002, how many show up in the Google Books search result with a date filter before 2002? Just five. Two books that have "set in stone" in their titles (and thus wouldn't need a working full-text index), one book from 2001, and two volumes of the Congressional record. 99.95% of the books that should be returned in this search -- many of which, in my experience, were generally returned four years ago or so -- have vanished. Further reading: How Google Book Search Got Lost; Whatever Happened To Google Books?; and Google's New Book Search Deals in Ideas, Not Keywords.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's David-vs.-Goliath department
New submitter bluekloud shares a report: Mitch Hungerpiller thought he had a first-class solution for mail that gets returned as undeliverable, a common problem for businesses that send lots of letters. But the process he helped develop and built his small Alabama technology company around has resulted in a more than decade-long fight with the U.S. Postal Service, which says his solution shouldn't have been patentable. The David vs. Goliath dispute has now arrived at the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the justices will hear Hungerpiller's case, which involves parsing the meaning of a 2011 patent law.
"All I want is a fair shake," said Hungerpiller, who lives in Birmingham and is a father of three. Hungerpiller, 56, started thinking seriously about returned mail in 1999 when he was doing computer consulting work. While visiting clients he kept seeing huge trays of returned mail. He read that every year, billions pieces of mail are returned as undeliverable, costing companies and the Postal Service time and money. So he decided to try to solve the problem. He developed a system that uses barcodes, scanning equipment and computer databases to process returned mail almost entirely automatically. His clients, from financial services companies to marketing companies, generally direct their returned mail to Hungerpiller's company, Return Mail Inc., for processing. Clients can get information about whether the mail was actually correctly addressed and whether thereâ(TM)s a more current address.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
In a report published Monday, The Information [paywalled] has detailed tactics used by China's Huawei to steal Apple's trade secrets. These tactics include Huawei engineers appealing to Apple's third-party manufacturers and suppliers with promises of big orders, but instead using the opportunity to pry on processes specific to iPhone-maker's component production. From a report: According to today's report, a Huawei engineer in charge of the company's smartwatch project tracked down a supplier that makes the heart rate sensor for the Apple Watch. The Huawei engineer arranged a meeting, suggesting he was offering the supplier a lucrative manufacturing contract, but during the meeting his main intent was questioning the supplier about the Apple Watch. The Huawei engineer attended the supplier meeting with four Huawei researchers in tow. The Huawei team spent the next hour and a half pressing the supplier for details about the Apple Watch, the executive said. "They were trying their luck, but we wouldn't tell them anything," the executive said. After that, Huawei went silent.
This event reportedly reflects "a pattern of dubious tactics" performed by Huawei to obtain technology from rivals, particularly Apple's China-based suppliers. According to a Huawei spokesperson the company has not been in the wrong: "In conducting research and development, Huawei employees must search and use publicly available information and respect third-party intellectual property per our business-conduct guidelines." According to the U.S. Justice Department, Huawei is said to have a formal program that rewards employees for stealing information, including bonuses that increase based on the confidential value of the information gathered.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
Thanks to recent changes to privacy legislation in Europe and South Korea aimed at protecting the living, we now have more power than ever over our personal information -- even from beyond the grave. While this may have felt like a gimmick in the past, cyber funerals -- where our personal data is removed from the web posthumously -- are slowly becoming a viable option. From a report: Digital undertaking is the act of erasing and tidying up your public data after you die. It's a relatively new idea, but one that's already taking off in South Korea, according to the Korean Employment Information Service. Think of it as a ghoulish version of the European Union's right to be forgotten legislation. For most digital undertakers, the tricky task is to contact the social media companies, search engines or even media companies who publish personal information, and request for it to be deleted when their client dies. If that doesn't work, then companies -- be they in South Korea, the USA or UK -- can bury search engine results by flooding Google with new, conflicting data about the deceased. Santa Cruise, a company based in Seoul, was one of the first in South Korea to take on the task of digital undertaking. Founded in 2008, it was originally an agency for entertainment figures but now specializes in removing personal data from the internet for clients both dead and alive. The company's scope includes digital undertaking and even "reputation management" for those who have been victims of revenge porn.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's getting-to-the-bottom-of-things department
Some analysis from research firm MIDiA: Earlier this month Electronic Arts (EA) reported disappointing quarterly results, now Activision has laid off nearly 800 staff, mostly in marketing and sales. As MIDiA has reported multiple times before, engagement has declined throughout the sector, suggesting that the attention economy has peaked. Consumers simply do not have any more free time to allocate to new attention seeking digital entertainment propositions, which means they have to start prioritizing between them.
This downward trend in engagement has persisted for a while now, and the latest quarterly results from some major games publishers confirm that a revenue slowdown will ultimately follow consumer behaviour. Arguably sooner than most of the games industry would have thought. Publishers will be quick to blame declining engagement and revenues on Fortnite. While the title indeed intensified the manifestation of the peak attention economy dynamics among gamers, the coming slowdown is part of a much bigger challenge -- how to capture attention in an increasingly attention-scarce landscape.
Top publishers are facing several headwinds at the same time. Fortnite is only one of them, and arguably one of the less harmful ones to the long-term outlook of the games industry: Fortnite's model utilises the attention economy dynamics: It's a high-grade gaming experience and it's free to play, which means there is little barrier for consumers to allocate attention to, compare to its paid counterparts. While it has undoubtedly cannibalised some revenue and engagement from other major publishers, Fortnite engagement still contributes to the bottom line of the global games industry. More gamers engage with games videos and events than Fortnite: Not only is engagement declining across mobile, PC and console gaming, at the same time, video is winning the race against gaming in capturing attention on multipurpose devices such as PC.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's wow department
Goldman Sachs analysts attempted to address a touchy subject for biotech companies, especially those involved in the pioneering "gene therapy" treatment: cures could be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in an April 10 report entitled "The Genome Revolution." From a report: "The potential to deliver 'one shot cures' is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically-engineered cell therapy and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies," analyst Salveen Richter wrote in the note to clients Tuesday. "While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow."
Richter cited Gilead Sciences' treatments for hepatitis C, which achieved cure rates of more than 90 percent. The company's U.S. sales for these hepatitis C treatments peaked at $12.5 billion in 2015, but have been falling ever since. Goldman estimates the U.S. sales for these treatments will be less than $4 billion this year, according to a table in the report. "GILD is a case in point, where the success of its hepatitis C franchise has gradually exhausted the available pool of treatable patients," the analyst wrote.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's email-etiquette department
Yes, we're all overwhelmed with email. One recent survey suggested that the average American's inbox has 199 unread messages. But volume isn't an excuse for not replying. Ignoring email is an act of incivility, reads an opinion piece. From the story: "I'm too busy to answer your email" really means "Your email is not a priority for me right now." That's a popular justification for neglecting your inbox: It's full of other people's priorities. But there's a growing body of evidence that if you care about being good at your job, your inbox should be a priority. When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious -- organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)
I'm not saying you have to answer every email. Your brain is not just sitting there waiting to be picked. If senders aren't considerate enough to do their homework and ask a question you're qualified to answer, you don't owe them anything back. How do you know if an email you've received -- or even more important, one you're considering writing -- doesn't deserve a response? After all, sending an inappropriate email can be as rude as ignoring a polite one. [...] Whatever boundaries you choose, don't abandon your inbox altogether. Not answering emails today is like refusing to take phone calls in the 1990s or ignoring letters in the 1950s. Email is not household clutter and you're not Marie Kondo. Ping!Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is still upset that Amazon isn't coming to New York. De Blasio attacked the company Sunday for canceling plans to build a second headquarters in Queens last week. From a report: "This is an example of an abuse of corporate power," de Blasio told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press." "Amazon just took their ball and went home. And what they did was confirm people's worst fears about corporate America." He made similar comments in a New York Times op-ed Saturday. Amazon canceled the deal just months after announcing plans to split its new, second headquarters between New York and Virginia. The Seattle-based company, which is trying to grow its footprint at home and abroad, spent a year reviewing hundreds of "HQ2" proposals from all over North America before settling on the two regions.
[...] On Sunday, de Blasio, a Democrat, said New York offered Amazon a "fair deal," and blamed the company for making what he called an "arbitrary" decision to leave after some people objected. "They said they wanted a partnership, but the minute there were criticisms, they walked away," he added. "What does that say to working people that a company would leave them high and dry simply because some people raised criticisms?"Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's upon-further-reflection department
An excerpt from a report, which looks at the complicated business of funding open source software development: On the surface, the open source software community has never been better. Companies and governments are adopting open source software at rates that would've been unfathomable 20 years ago, and a whole new generation of programmers are cutting their teeth on developing software in plain sight and making it freely available for anyone to use. Go a little deeper, however, and the cracks start to show. The ascendancy of open source has placed a mounting burden on the maintainers of popular software, who now handle more bug reports, feature requests, code reviews, and code commits than ever before.
At the same time, open source developers must also deal with an influx of corporate users who are unfamiliar with community norms when it comes to producing and consuming open source software. This leads to developer burnout and a growing feeling of resentment toward the companies that rely on free labor to produce software that is folded into products and sold back to consumers for huge profits. From this perspective, Heartbleed wasn't an isolated example of developer burnout and lack of funding, but an outgrowth of a systemic disease that had been festering in the open source software community for years. Identifying the symptoms and causes of this disease was the easy part; finding a cure is more difficult. Further reading: How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, India has wanted foreign companies to thrive in the country. When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, one of its early major pushes was to formulate plans and structure incentives to attract foreign investment. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled plans to liberalize the foreign investment rules. He also visited the U.S. and met with top Silicon Valley executives, nearly all of whom subsequently expanded their commitments in India. It further introduced lofty incentives to encourage companies to participate in Make in India and Digital India, a set of state-run initiatives to drive job growth in the nation.
[...] But over the past year, in the run-up to the general elections in May, the Indian government has unveiled -- and in many cases, enforced -- a wave of sweeping changes. It now dictates how foreign companies handle and make use of Indian user data and other aspects of how ecommerce platforms operate, and it is working on introducing greater oversight for technology platforms. [...] Lobby groups that represent U.S. companies and industry watchers say they see an extreme shift from the "warm, welcoming, collaborative" approach the government exhibited in 2014. "In the past year or so, the engagement has been combative, with abrupt, disruptive policy changes that are being held without consultation, and, unusually, with absolutely no room for negotiation or even deadline extensions -- as we saw with data localisation and FDI in ecommerce," Prasanto K Roy, a technology and policy analyst, told VentureBeat. The story also looks at how much revenue Silicon Valley companies that count India as one of their biggest markets is generating there. Spoiler alert: it's very little.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
Reader theodp writes: Thanks to software, Bill and Melinda Gates report in their 2019 Annual Letter, textbooks are becoming obsolete. Bill writes: "I read more than my share of textbooks. But it's a pretty limited way to learn something. Even the best text can't figure out which concepts you understand and which ones you need more help with. It certainly can't tell your teacher how well you grasped last night's assigned reading. But now, thanks to software, the standalone textbook is becoming a thing of the past" (if so, it'll be a 60-year overnight success!). The Gates are putting their money where their mouths are -- their education investments include look-Ma-no-textbooks Khan Academy and Code.org. Code.org, whose AP Computer Science Principles course for high schools "does not require or follow a textbook", boasted in its just-released Annual Report that 38% of all AP CS exam takers in 2018 came from "Code.org Computer Science Principles classrooms," adding that it had spent $24.2 million of its donors' money on curriculum and its Code Studio learning platform (30,300 hours of coursework), another $46.7 million to prepare 87,000 new K-12 CS teachers, $12.4 million on Marketing, and $6.9 million on Government Affairs. So, do we still need textbooks?Read Replies (0)