By EditorDavid from Slashdot's step-two-equals-??? department
An anonymous reader writes:The San Jose Mercury News reports that last year 40% of Silicon Valley's profits came from one company -- Apple. "The iPhone maker accounted for 28 percent of the Bay Area tech industry's $833 billion in 2015 sales," while "Its profits were a jaw-dropping 40 percent of the region's $133 billion total." Meanwhile, Google's parent company Alphabet racked up $75 billion in sales, representing nearly 57% of the total for all Silicon Valley internet companies, followed by eBay and PayPal.
But while sales grew, internet-company profits fell by 29% as more companies focused on growth. "Profits are nice, sure, but becoming profitable isn't the top priority around here, particularly for younger firms," wrote the newspaper, noting that investors are paying 18 times Facebook's annual sales for its stock. In fact, 29% of Silicon Valley's top companies didn't have sales growth in 2015 (an increase from 17% the previous year), and five of the top 10 companies saw a drop in sales in 2015 (including Intel). "The numbers are telling the story," one analyst tells the newspaper. "There is growth, but it is slowing."
The Mercury News adds that "The question for those with the biggest sales drops is how much time do they have left if the trend continues..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fighting-fire-with-fire department
An anonymous reader writes: Friday Researchers at the University of Nebraska flew a drone over a prairie test site, dropping small containers the size of ping-pong balls to ignite controlled fires. "The fires clear out brush to make it easier to control wildfires on the prairie," reports the Associated Press, citing a National Park Service spokesperson who believes it could help clear overgrown vegetation in hard-to-reach areas.
"The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns," reports the AP, "but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable. 'You could afford one of these on the back of your fire truck, whereas you probably can't afford to have a full-sized helicopter parked at your fire station,' said Carrick Detweiler, a member of the Nebraska research team."
One engineering professor tells the AP, "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. Check whether it's safe..." And this Omaha news site has video footage of the drone fire-fighting test.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's frenemies department
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Guardian: Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently joined a Department of Defense advisory panel. Facebook recently hired a former director at the U.S. military's research lab, Darpa. Uber employs Barack Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe and Amazon.com tapped his former spokesman Jay Carney. Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple collectively employ a couple of dozen former analysts for America's spy agencies, who openly list their resumes on LinkedIn. These connections are neither new nor secret. But the fact they are so accepted illustrates how tech's leaders -- even amid current fights over encryption and surveillance -- are still seen as mostly U.S. firms that back up American values. Christopher Soghoian, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level employees' government connections matter less than leading executives' ties to government. For instance, at least a dozen Google engineers have worked at the NSA, according to publicly available records on LinkedIn. And, this being Silicon Valley, not everyone who worked for a spy agency advertises that on LinkedIn. Soghoian, a vocal critic of mass surveillance, said Google hiring an ex-hacker for the NSA to work on security doesn't really bother him. "But Eric Schmidt having a close relationship with the White House does," he said.Danny Yadron, said, "What's worse for a Silicon Valley executive: ties to the Chinese military or friends in the US Defense Department?"Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's good-luck-with-that department
Charlie Sorrel, writing for FastCoExist: Next time you're having a fight with somebody who doesn't like the idea of a universal basic income, you might employ some of these arguments from Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister. In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, he not only refutes the usual arguments against the concept that the government should give everyone a minimum check every month, but he makes them sound quite ridiculous. The interview was published ahead of the Switzerland's vote on a universal basic income (or UBI) in June. If successful, all Swiss adults would get $2,500 per month, and kids around $625 per month, whether or not they have a job. Here are some of Varoufakis's best answers. First, on the need for a UBI: "For the first time in the history of technology more jobs are destroyed than created. Technical progress means that more and more high-paying jobs will disappear and thus shrink the middle class. This will in turn cause a further concentration of income and wealth in the upper classes. That's why I fight like a basic income for sociopolitical reforms.
The robotization [of work] has long been underway, but robots don't buy products. Therefore, a basic income is needed to offset this change and stabilize a society which has an increasing wealth inequality." Then, on why you need a UBI if you already have a good job: "What good is a well-paying job, if you are afraid to lose it? This constant fear paralyzes."Good luck convincing many citizens to do actual work.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hole-in-the-dike department
An anonymous reader writes: Dutch police have seized and shut down Ennetcom, an encrypted communications network with 19,000 users, according to Reuters. The network's 36-year-old owner, Danny Manupassa, has also been arrested, and faces charges of money laundering and illegal weapons possession, while the information obtained in the seizure may also be used for other criminal prosecutions. "Police and prosecutors believe that they have captured the largest encrypted network used by organized crime in the Netherlands," prosecutors said in a statement.
"Although using encrypted communications is legal," Reuters reports, "many of the network's users are believed to have been engaged in 'serious criminal activity,' said spokesman Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor's office, which noted that the company's modified phones have repeatedly turned up in cases involving drugs, criminal motorcycle gangs, and gangland killings. A spokesman for the National Prosecutor's office "declined to comment on whether and how police would be able to decrypt information kept on the servers."Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's word-from-China department
Rishi Alwani, reporting for Gadgets 360 (edited and condensed for clarity): At an event in Beijing this week, Chinese technology conglomerate LeEco showed off its LeSEE self-driving electric supercar. A slide noted that LeEco's car can reach 130mph which is a fair bit behind of the Tesla Model S' top speed range of 140 to 155 mph. Nonetheless, the company said the final product should beat Tesla in "all aspects of performance." The car sports a rounded design with a giant LED screen plastered on the front of the vehicle. If the car is being used for cab services, for instance, the screen can show if it's available for hire or not. There's an arched transparent roof and what seems to be generous cabin space. The interior sported a futuristic-looking steering wheel with a lit-up centre that quite possibly would replace the traditional dashboard and was complemented by a monitor next to it. It also had ridged backseats that may look uncomfortable but is actually memory foam - a polyurethane material used in mattresses that can mould to the shape of a passenger's body for maximum comfort. Perhaps the most interesting component of its LeSEE concept has nothing to do with the technology, but rather the business models involved. For one, the company believes it has a huge role to play in LeShare - a time-sharing electric vehicle platform that's present in Beijing and Shanghai with plans to expand to five more cities in China. Electric vehicles and charging resources will be shared between LeShare and LeEco-backed Uber competitor Yidao. In addition to this, LeEco believes that the car will eventually be free, in line with the same business model it has for some of its other hardware, charging users for content, subscriptions or memberships.For a refresh, LeEco (LeTV) was founded in 2004, and has since become a major name in many technology-centric markets. It offers live-streaming, e-commerce, cloud, smartphones, TV set-top boxes, and smart TVs among many other products and services. The company has a market capitalisation of at least $12 billion.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's what-did-you-learn-in-school-today department
Bruce66423 writes: Time to cancel all the encouragement of studying STEM subjects, obviously...
The Telegraph is reporting that prominent jihadists "are twice as likely to have studied science at university than subjects related to Islam," citing a new report by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics. "The report, which analyzed the histories of 100 of the most prominent jihadist leaders of the last three decades, said that despite claiming to be the sole interpreters of Islamic theology, they often had little or no training in the subject." Osama bin Laden went to a secular school and studied economics at college with little formal Islamic training, while the "underpants bomber," who tried to detonate a bomb in a plane over Detroit in 2009, got his degree in mechanical engineering. Of the 100 cases examined, "Around half had attended university, with 57 per cent of them studying science subjects, compared to only 28 per cent studying Islamic subjects."Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's food-for-thought department
Gizmodo, in its typical sensational voice, ran a story this week in which it argues that smartphones are in a "ridiculously boring place" right now. Alex Cranz with the publication expresses her discontent with some of the recently launched smartphones such as the iPhone SE, the LG G5, and the Galaxy S7. "These devices have not redefined the way we phone, nor have they blown us away with unprecedented speeds, or wowed us with extraordinary battery life. Each of these new phones is merely a marginal improvement over last year's model." I agree with most of what Cranz has to say. In the past one year, we've seen QHD display panel, Snapdragon 810/820 SoC, 3 to 4GB of RAM becoming a norm. Nearly every manufacturer has reached that point, and then sort of stopped there. Compared to the Nexus 4, for instance, the Nexus 6P offers a significant improvement. But when compared to anything you purchased two years ago -- in the echelon of your choice -- the latest offering isn't going to leave a big impression on you. The industry is currently making small noises about what it thinks could be the next big thing. Some players including Samsung and Lenovo believe that it could be the virtual reality addon. We will have to see how much traction that gets. My contention with Cranz's story is that it doesn't talk about how these devices are impacting people's lives, hence missing the big picture. I believe that it doesn't necessarily matter if our smartphones aren't going to get any smarter. The first-generation Moto G, from a few years ago, can also help you quickly get information from the Web, and it can also allow you to book a cab using Uber app, and do pretty much everything that you do on a flagship smartphone. As Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson pointed out last month, the next "second smartphone revolution" could enhance the lives of millions of people in places such as Asia, where most of the population still doesn't have a smartphone. When you look at that, it becomes unnecessary to talk about the top-of-the-line specs and the rate at which these smartphones are receiving incremental improvements. The vast majority of people in the emerging world are in a desperate need of a bare-bone smartphone that allows them to make phone calls, even if it doesn't do it in a "redefined" fashion, and works with speeds that don't blow them away, a couple of things that I think we are taking for granted. Wilson wrote: The first 2.5bn smartphones brought us Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, WhatsApp, Kik, Venmo, Duolingo, and most importantly, drove the big web apps to build world class mobile apps and move their userbases from web to mobile. But, if you stare at the top 200 non-game mobile apps in the US (and most of the western hemisphere) you will see that the list doesn't look that different than the top 200 websites. The mobile revolution from 2007 to 2015 in the west was more about how we accessed the internet than what apps we used, with some notable and important exceptions. The next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all -- from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.At this moment, it does seem to me that over the coming months, our smartphones are unlikely to get a major hardware boost. The biggest milestone we have on the horizon is what happens when everyone has these smartphones, and how does it impact our businesses, culture, and social lives. What's your take on this? Do you think we are yet to reach the peak point in the smartphone world? What's the big picture in your opinion?Update: 04/23 18:55 GMT by M :Robotech_Master's take on this is pretty insightful..Read Replies (0)