By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Not quite, but it's certainly more than a blip in the cultural history of communication: in 2017, for the first time, the number of voice calls -- remember, those things you did with your actual voice on your actual phone -- fell in the UK. Meanwhile, internet addiction keeps growing, presumably because we haven't quite worked out what to do with all those hours we're saving on talking. More than three-quarters (78%) of British adults own a smartphone, and we check them on average every 12 minutes. That adds up to 24 hours a week online via our phones -- much of that time swallowed up by modern-style chat on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, with some left over for texting. It has taken a toll on talking, sure, but few smartphone users might claim to feel less connected as a result. Now, the idea of ringing someone for "a chat" has a quaint, retro quality. I can, and will, talk you under the table, but phone calls are a luxury usually reserved for about five people: my mum, my sister, two best friends and my editor, obviously. Even then, I'm rubbish at picking up. Much is made about smartphones leading to dumber conversation -- amid claims that the art of chatter has been lost. Arguably, however, conversation has simply been rebooted and reconfigured. Take the myriad ways in which we can and do communicate now. It's a given that I will spend an embarrassing portion of my day glued to a screen (It's work!) and much of that will be chatting (again, it's work!).Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's making-a-mess department
Piriform, the maker of CCleaner, has pulled v5.45 of its suite from the website after users expressed concerns over the privacy changes in the application, the company, which was acquired by Avast last year, said. In v5.45, the company made it impossible to disable "active monitoring", and the privacy settings had been removed for free customers. Additionally, as BetaNews reported earlier this week, Avast also made it impossible for users to quit the software. Addressing these concerns, Avast said, "Today we have removed v5.45 and reverted to v5.44 as the main download for CCleaner while we work on a new version with several key improvements." The company added: We're currently working on separating out cleaning functionality from analytics reporting and offering more user control options which will be remembered when CCleaner is closed. We're also creating a factsheet to share which will outline the data we collect, for which purposes and how it is processed. [...] As stated before, we'll split cleaning alerts (which don't send any data) from UI trend data (which is anonymous and only there to measure the user experience) and provide a separate setting for each in the user preferences. Some of these features run as a separate process from the UI: we'll restore visibility of this in the notifications area, and you'll be able to close it down from that icon menu as before. We understand the importance of this to you all. This work is our number 1 priority and we are taking the time to get it right in the next release. There are numerous changes required, so that does mean it will take weeks, not days. While we work on this, we have removed version 5.45 and reinstated version 5.44. According to stats shared by the company, CCleaner has been downloaded over two billion times. In a week, it is estimated to see five million downloads.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's surf's-up department
An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News:
Tesla's sleek, $1,500 carbon fiber surfboard sold out in a day, and it's not surprising: The company, in collaboration with a Southern California board maker, said it was producing a limited edition of 200, and Tesla has many die-hard fans. The board "features a mix of the same high-quality matte and gloss finishes used on all our cars," Tesla said in promotional material for the product. "The deck is reinforced with light-weight 'Black Dart' carbon fiber, inspired by the interiors in our cars...."
Now, less than a week after orders were submitted, 21 of the boards -- sized to fit in the Palo Alto electric car maker's Model 3 and Model S sedans, and the Model X SUV -- are up for sale on eBay. Asking prices are steep, as high as $6,450, with most sellers wanting $3,000 to $4,000.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's degrees-of-separation department
A a new article in CIO magazine argues that when it comes to computer science, "few of us really need much of any of it." Slashdot reader itwbennett offers this summary:
At the heart of the matter is the fact that most businesses don't really need programmers to be deep thinkers. For them, it's "just as worthwhile to hire someone from a physics lab who just used Python to massage some data streams from an instrument. They can learn the shallow details just as readily as the CS genius," according to the article.
CIO's anonymous author promises an incomplete list of "why we may be better off ignoring CS majors." Some of the highlights:
Theory distracts and confuses. "Many computer scientists are mathematicians at heart and the theorem-obsessed mindset permeates the discipline." Academic languages are rarely used. "...the academy breeds snobbery and a love for arcane solutions." Many CS professors are mathematicians, not programmers. "One of the dirty secrets about most computer science departments is that most of the professors can't program computers. Their real job is giving lectures and wrangling grants...." Many required subjects are rarely used. "...it's too bad few of us use many data structures any more." Institutions breed arrogance. "...the very nature of academic degrees are designed to give graduates the ability to argue one's superiority with authority. " Many modern skills are ignored. "If you want to understand Node.js, React, game design or cloud computation, you'll find very little of it in the average curriculum... It's very common for computer science departments to produce deep thinkers who understand some of the fundamental challenges without any shallow knowledge of the details that dominate the average employee's day."
"It's not that CS degrees are bad," the article concludes. "It's just that they're not going to speak to the problems that most of us need to solve."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sky-net department
InfoQ got some interesting insights from their interview with Christophe de Hauwer, the chief strategy and development officer at the communications satellite company SES:
According to Morgan Stanly, the global space economy is predicted to grow from $350 billion in revenues today to more than $1.1 trillion by 2040. This impressive growth is driven by an exploding demand for connectivity... On one hand, satellite will be key to satisfy consumers' demand for always-on, high-performance connectivity. On the other hand, it will play an essential role in providing connectivity to populations in underserved and unserved areas...
[A]irlines are facing growing demands for inflight connectivity: market studies have shown that 63% of travelers think more flights should offer Wi-Fi, and 48% think Wi-Fi in the air should be as fast as it is on the ground. We are shaping and scaling our satellite fleet in order to deliver both the performance and economics needed to take these services mainstream. Whether a plane is travelling along densely populated routes or vast areas of deserts, we want to have them covered with the right kind of connectivity, always on, everywhere.
He also points out that SpaceX's re-usable rockets are just one of the ways space technology is making telecommunications cheaper.
"Electric propulsion means satellites can achieve a 40-50% reduction in their mass; high-throughput spot beams deliver a significantly higher amount of bandwidth than traditional satellites and can reduce cost per bit; fully new digitized payloads enable increased efficiency, full flexibility in global coverage and further optimization of spectrum use."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's trash-talk department
"Ever wondered why pages seem to load slower and slower? Or why it is that browsing seems to take just as long to load a page, even though your broadband connection doubled in speed a couple of months ago?" gb7djk, a long-time Slashdot reader, blames "the bullshit web" -- as described in this essay by Calgary-based front-end developer Nick Heer (who does his testing on a 50 Mbps connection).
A story at the Hill took over nine seconds to load; at Politico, seventeen seconds; at CNN, over thirty seconds. This is the bullshit web... When I use the word "bullshit" in this article, it isn't in a profane sense. It is much closer to Harry Frankfurt's definition in On Bullshit: "It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth -- this indifference to how things really are -- that I regard as of the essence of bullshit...." The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we're simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing.... But a lot of the stuff we're seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier -- if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.
Take that CNN article, for example. Here's what it contained when I loaded it:
- Eleven web fonts, totalling 414 KB
- Four stylesheets, totalling 315 KB
- Twenty frames
- Twenty-nine XML HTTP requests, totalling about 500 KB
- Approximately one hundred scripts, totalling several megabytes -- though it's hard to pin down the number and actual size because some of the scripts are "beacons" that load after the page is technically finished downloading.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unfriending department
"Facebook really is evil," writes Quartz reporter Nikhil Sonnad. "Not on purpose. In the banal kind of way. Underlying all of Facebook's screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans..." An anonymous reader quotes Sonnad's essay:
The imperative to "connect people" lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them. The billions of Facebook accounts belong not to "people" but to "users," collections of data points connected to other collections of data points on a vast Social Network, to be targeted and monetized by computer programs.
There are certain things you do not in good conscience do to humans. To data, you can do whatever you like.... With Facebook, "life is turned into a database," writes technologist Jaron Lanier in his 2010 book You Are Not a Gadget... Silicon Valley culture has come to accept as certain, Lanier writes, that "all of reality, including humans, is one big information system".... The problem, says Lanier, is that there is nothing special about humans in this information system. Every data point is treated equally, irrespective of how humans experience it.
The essay argues Facebook's value system "has diverged from that of the rest of society," adding that Facebook "seems to be blind to the possibility that it could be used for ill."
Facebook needs to "check their instinctive technological optimism against the realities of human life. Absent human considerations, Facebook will continue to bring thoughtless, banal harm to the world."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's word-on-the-street department
An anonymous reader quotes CBS MoneyWatch:
The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle's King County, Washington found. The problem is "exploding" in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine. The problem of vehicle residency is national in scope, although its impact may be more "acutely felt in urban areas where space is more limited," said Sara Rankin, an assistant professor law at Seattle University and the director of Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
"Amazon, Microsoft and other big tech companies are in the Seattle area," notes Zero Hedge, adding "It is a region that is supposedly 'prospering', and yet this is going on."
Back in Silicon Valley, one Google employee slept in a truck in Google's parking lot for two years -- allowing him to save at least $48,000 that he would've paid in rent -- though many vehicle-dwellers apparently have non-technical jobs as plumbers, janitors, and even teachers. "A fair number of
the 'vehicular homeless' in Silicon Valley are employed but are unable to find affordable housing," reports CBS, citing an AP article last November about "Silicon Valley's car people".
"Lines of RVs can be found near the headquarters of tech heavyweights such as Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's chip-off-the-ol-blockchain department
"Corporate America's love affair with all things blockchain may be cooling," reports Bloomberg. An anonymous reader quotes their report. [Alternate version here.]
A number of software projects based on the distributed ledger technology will be wound down this year, according to Forrester Research Inc. And some companies pushing ahead with pilot tests are scaling back their ambitions and timelines. In 90 percent of cases, the experiments will never become part of a company's operations, the firm estimates. Even Nasdaq Inc., a high-profile champion of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, hasn't moved as quickly as hoped. The exchange operator, which talked in 2016 about deploying blockchain for voting in shareholder meetings and private-company stock issuance, isn't using the technology in any widely deployed projects yet...
"The disconnect between the hype and the reality is significant -- I've never seen anything like it," said Rajesh Kandaswamy, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "In terms of actual production use, it's very rare...." Only 1 percent of chief information officers said they had any kind of blockchain adoption in their organizations, and only 8 percent said they were in short-term planning or active experimentation with the technology, according to a Gartner study. Nearly 80 percent of CIOs said they had no interest in the technology. Many companies that previously announced blockchain rollouts have changed plans
Problems include the fact that most blockchains "also can't yet handle a large volume of transactions," and worries about compatibility with other software -- which some hope to address next year with software certification testing. But at least two big tech companies are aggressively pushing blockchain.
"So far, IBM and Microsoft have grabbed 51 percent of the more than $700 million market for blockchain products and services, WinterGreen Research Inc. estimated earlier this year,"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Alexa-argue department
TechCrunch reports on a new Alexa skill called "Away Mode".
Instead of lights and noises, you can keep your home safe from unwanted visitors by playing lengthy audio tracks that sound like real -- and completely ridiculous -- conversations. When you launch Away Mode, Alexa will play one of seven audio tracks penned by comedy writers from SNL, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and UCB... These include gems like "Couple Has Breakup While Also Trying to Watch TV," "Two Average Guys Brainstorm What's Unique About Themselves So They Can Start a Podcast About It," "Emergency PTA Meeting To Discuss Memes, Fidget Spinners, and Other Teen Fads," and more. There are conversations from a book club where no one discusses the book, a mom walking her daughter through IKEA assembly over the phone, a stay-at-home mom losing her s***, and argument over a board game....
After enabling the skill on your Alexa device, you can cycle through the various conversations by saying "Next"... The tracks themselves are around an hour or so long... There are other "burglar deterrent" skills for Alexa if you're interested in the general concept, like that play fake house alarms or sound like guard dogs. But Away Mode is just a little more fun.
It's the brainchild of San Francisco-based Hippo Insurance, whose brand manager hopes to get people thinking about home security (though she says it isn't meant to be a serious security tool). Yet, "Theoretically it's a good idea," adds former California police chief Jim Bueermann (now the head of the nonprofit Police Foundation). "If this thing mimics real conversation, it's much more likely to trick the burglar into believing somebody is home."
In one fake argument, a board game player shouts "Hand me the rulebook! The other rulebook! That's the rules reference.... No, it's in the learn-to-play guide. That's the quick reference!"Read Replies (0)
Can We Decentralize the Web?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '18 at 10:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's building-a-new-internet department
This week the Internet Archive hosted an amazing Decentralized Web Summit, which united the makers who want to build a web "that's locked open for good." [Watch the videos here.] Vint Cerf was there, as was the technical product development leader for Microsoft's own decentralized identity efforts, several companies building the so-called punk rock Internet, "along with a handful of venture capitalists looking for opportunities." One talk even included Mike Judge, the creator of HBO's Silicon Valley, which recently included the decentralized web in its ongoing storyline.
Computing highlighted remarks by Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, and Mitchell Baker, the chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation.
The ideology of the web's early pioneers, according to Baker, was free software and open source. "Money was considered evil," she said. So when companies came in to commercialize the internet, the original architects were unprepared. "Advertising is the internet's original sin," Kahle told the packed room. "Advertising is winner-take-all, and that's how we've ended up with centralization and monopolies."
At the conference, attendees presented utopian visions of how the future of the internet could look. Civil, a new media startup, proposed crowd-supported journalism using cryptocurrency micro-payments. Mastodon, a decentralized and encrypted social network, was commonly referenced as an alternative to Twitter. As Facebook and Google continue to monopolize the digital advertising ecosystem -- recent estimates say that the two companies control over 70% of digital advertising spending globally -- the promise of a decentralized web, free from the shackles of advertiser demands is fun to imagine.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's on-the-grid department
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company:
In seven years, the island nation of Samoa plans to run on 100% renewable electricity. Over the last year, the local utility has worked with Tesla to install a key piece of that plan -- battery storage, and also a software system that can control Samoa's entire electricity supply. In the past, like many islands, the country ran mostly on imported, expensive, and polluting diesel power. As recently as 2012, the country brought in 95 million liters of diesel.
Spurred by the cost and the threat of climate change -- Samoa is at particular risk from sea level rise and new outbreaks of climate-related diseases -- the country has been ramping up the use of renewables, with five large solar plants, a wind farm, and hydropower plants. But as renewable energy grew, the grid struggled with reliability.
"It had gotten to the point where just the solar, combined, could provide over half of the entire peak demand for the island, but they were having quite a few challenges managing that efficiently," says JB Straubel, Tesla's chief technical officer.... Tesla installed two of its "Powerpack" battery systems, and also developed and implemented island grid controller software that can control both the batteries and all of the power plants. "If a big cloud comes over the island and the solar drops very quickly, we can control the battery to make up the difference so we don't have to start a generator immediately, and we don't have to keep a generator running even when it might not be needed," says Straubel.Read Replies (0)
With any major version release, it is not unexpected for breaking changes to be introduced and that's certainly the case for TypeScript 3.0. One obvious change is that with "unknown" becoming a new type, it is now a reserved type name and can no longer be used in type declarations. Otherwise, there's a range of API breaking changes due to a number of functions and internal methods being deprecated or being made internal. On the plus side, TypeScript 3.0 reportedly has improved error messages, along with project references that let TypeScript projects have dependencies on other TypeScript projects.Read Replies (0)