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Is Tech Billionaires' Educational Philanthropy a Bug Or a Feature?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fair-question department:
Long-time reader theodp writes: Some education watchers have adopted a wait-and-see response to Jeff Bezos' two-pronged $2B pledge to aid the homeless and to establish preschools for low-income children (Mark Zuckerberg's The Primary School interestingly prefers 'em even younger, noting "we admit students at or before birth"). Not so Audrey Watters, who presents her misgivings in a blog post, titled, "It's Like Amazon, But for Preschool" (tl;dr: read her URL), wondering what a chain of preschools that "use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon" might look like, considering Amazon's own labor practices. She asks, "Are private preschool chains really the path we want to pursue, particularly if we believe that access to excellent early childhood education is so incredibly crucial? Can the gig economy and the algorithm ever provide high quality preschool? For all the flaws in the public school system, it's important to remember: there is no accountability in billionaires' educational philanthropy." Sharing Watters' concerns is author Anand Giridharadas, who argues in his new book Winners Take All that the wealthy pursue social change without uprooting the systems that produce inequality. Bezos has a "a stark opportunity to be a traitor to his class, to actually think about giving in ways that transform the system atop which he stands," Giridharadas said. "It is great to be a winner who gives back. It is even better to be a winner who thinks about how winners can take less."

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CloudFlare's IPFS Gateway Makes it Easy To Create Distributed Web Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's networking-world department:
CloudFlare has introduced a new gateway that allows you to easily access content stored on IPFS, or the InterPlanetary File System, through a web browser and without having to install a client. From a report: With this announcement, CloudFlare also explains how you can use their gateway to create static web sites that are served entirely over IPFS. This allows users to create web sites containing information that cannot be censored by governments, companies, or other organizations. [...] With CloudFlare's IPFS Gateway, it is very easy to access files stored in IPFS using any web browser. To open a file stored on IPFS you would simply connect to the web address https://cloudflare-ipfs.com/ipfs/[hash] URL, where hash is the hash of the file stored on IPFS.

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Machines Are Going To Perform More Tasks Than Humans By 2025
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 06:56 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's future-of-jobs department:
In less than a decade, most workplace tasks will be done by machines rather than humans, according to the World Economic Forum's latest AI job forecast. From a report: Machines will overtake humans in terms of performing more tasks at the workplace by 2025 -- but there could still be 58 million net new jobs created in the next five years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a report on Monday. Developments in automation technologies and artificial intelligence could see 75 million jobs displaced, according to the WEF report "The Future of Jobs 2018." However, another 133 million new roles may emerge as companies shake up their division of labor between humans and machines, translating to 58 million net new jobs being created by 2022, it said. At the same time, there would be "significant shifts" in the quality, location and format of new roles, according to the WEF report, which suggested that full-time, permanent employment may potentially fall. Some companies could choose to use temporary workers, freelancers and specialist contractors, while others may automate many of the tasks. New skill sets for employees will be needed as labor between machines and humans continue to evolve, the report pointed out.

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China's OnePlus is Going To Start Making TVs
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 05:33 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-expansion department:
Chinese electronics company OnePlus, known for making inexpensive but high-end smartphones, is entering a new line of business: making TVs. From a report: Best known for its phones, China's OnePlus also has a small catalog of really good accessories like wireless earphones and surprisingly awesome backpacks, though nothing as complex or expensive as a television set. In announcing the news on the OnePlus online forums, company chief Pete Lau describes it as "the first step in building a connected human experience." [...] OnePlus has decided to make its entry point into this market the TV itself, which has always been at the center of home entertainment, though often with the help of other connected devices. Reading Lau's teaser announcement, the OnePlus TV -- which so far only has a project name, no timeline or specs have been revealed -- will serve as the connectivity hub for OnePlus' future vision of the smart home.

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Microsoft Windows U-turn Removes Warning About Installing Chrome, Firefox
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 04:12 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's call-it-a-truce department:
Earlier last week, several users with a new Windows 10 build reported that they were seeing a warning when they attempted to install Chrome or Firefox browser. It turns out, Microsoft has listened to the complaints and is reversing course. CNET reports: A new "fast-ring" test version of Windows, Insider Preview Build 17760, no longer interrupts the installation of rival browsers, a CNET test shows. Earlier this week, an earlier test version of Windows would warn people who tried to install the Chrome, Firefox, Opera or Vivaldi web browsers, "You already have Microsoft Edge -- the safer, faster browser for Windows 10." The dialog box presented two options: "Open Microsoft Edge" -- the default -- and "Install anyway." The feature raised some hackles and brought back memories of Microsoft's strong-arm tactics promoting its old Internet Explorer browser in the first browser wars two decades ago. But Microsoft isn't alone in such tactics: Google promotes its Chrome browser as faster and safer to people who visit its own websites with other browsers.

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Google Remotely Changed the Settings on a Bunch of Phones Running Android 9 Pie
Posted by News Fetcher on September 17 '18 at 02:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's wait-what department:
Last week, a mix of people who own Google Pixel phones and other devices running Android 9 Pie noticed that the software's Battery Saver feature had been switched on -- seemingly all by itself. And oddly, this was happening when the phones were near a full charge, not when the battery was low. From a report: Initially it was assumed that this was some kind of minor bug in the latest version of Android, which was only released a few weeks ago. Some users thought they might've just enabled Battery Saver without realizing. But it was actually Google at fault. The company posted a message on Reddit last night acknowledging "an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended." So Google had remotely -- and accidentally -- changed a phone setting for a bunch of real-world customers. Several staffers at The Verge experienced the issue. "We have now rolled battery saver settings back to default. Please configure to your liking," the Pixel team wrote on Reddit before apologizing for the error.

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Nvidia Researchers Generate Synthetic Brain MRI Images For AI Research
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 08:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's pushing-the-limits department:
AI holds a great deal of promise for medical professionals who want to get the most out of medical imaging. However, when it comes to studying brain tumors, there's an inherent problem with the data: abnormal brain images are, by definition, uncommon. New research from Nvidia aims to solve that. From a report: A group of researchers from Nvidia, the Mayo Clinic, and the MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science this weekend are presenting a paper on their work using generative adversarial networks (GANs) to create synthetic brain MRI images. GANs are effectively two AI systems that are pitted against each other -- one that creates synthetic results within a category, and one that identifies the fake results. Working against each other, they both improve. GANs could help expand the data sets that doctors and researchers have to work with, especially when it comes to particularly rare brain diseases.

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Linus Torvalds Reflects On How He's Been Hostile To Linux Community Members Over the Years, Issues Apology, and Announces He Will Be Taking Some Time Off
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 05:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's aye-aye-captain department:
On Sunday, Linus Torvalds spoke about the confusion he had regarding Maintainer's Summit, but more importantly, how this incident gave him a chance to realize "that I really had been ignoring some fairly deep-seated feelings in the community." In an email to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Torvalds apologized for hurting people with his behavior over the years, and possibly driving some people "away from kernel development entirely." On that end, said Torvalds, "I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately." He wrote: [...] It's one thing when you can ignore these issues. Usually it's just something I didn't want to deal with. This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good. This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry. The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely.I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately. Put another way: When asked at conferences, I occasionally talk about how the pain-points in kernel development have generally not been about the _technical_ issues, but about the inflection points where development flow and behavior changed. These pain points have been about managing the flow of patches, and often been associated with big tooling changes - moving from making releases with "patches and tar-balls" (and the _very_ painful discussions about how "Linus doesn't scale" back 15+ years ago) to using BitKeeper, and then to having to write git in order to get past the point of that no longer working for us. We haven't had that kind of pain-point in about a decade. But this week felt like that kind of pain point to me. To tie this all back to the actual 4.19-rc4 release (no, really, this_is_ related!) I actually think that 4.19 is looking fairly good, things have gotten to the "calm" period of the release cycle, and I've talked to Greg to ask him if he'd mind finishing up 4.19 for me, so that I can take a break, and try to at least fix my own behavior. This is not some kind of "I'm burnt out, I need to just go away" break. I'm not feeling like I don't want to continue maintaining Linux. Quite the reverse. I very much *do* want to continue to do this project that I've been working on for almost three decades. This is more like the time I got out of kernel development for a while because I needed to write a little tool called "git". I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow. And yes, some of it might be "just" tooling. Maybe I can get an email filter in place so at when I send email with curse-words, they just won't go out. Because hey, I'm a big believer in tools, and at least _some_ problems going forward might be improved with simple automation. [...]

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Vulnerability in WebKit Crashes and Restarts iPhones and iPads
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 04:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's you-have-been-warned department:
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for ZDNet: A security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in the WebKit rendering engine used by Safari that crashes and restarts the iOS devices -- iPhones and iPads. The vulnerability can be exploited by loading an HTML page that uses specially crafted CSS code. The CSS code isn't very complex and tries to apply a CSS effect known as backdrop-filter to a series of nested page segments (DIVs). Backdrop-filter is a relative new CSS property and works by blurring or color shifting to the area behind an element. This is a heavy processing task, and some software engineers and web developers have speculated that the rendering of this effect takes a toll on iOS' graphics processing library, eventually leading to a crash of the mobile OS altogether.

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Fans Are Spoofing Spotify With 'Fake Plays', And That's A Problem For Music Charts
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 02:52 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's gaming-the-system department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: The Billboard charts have long been the gold standard by which musicians measure their success, but as recent tantrums by the likes of Nicki Minaj have highlighted, the rising influence of streaming services is upending that model -- and giving die-hard fans a way to manipulate the data. A recent release by the Korean pop group BTS prompted its superfandom, millions strong across the globe, to do just that by launching a sophisticated campaign to make sure the boy band reached No. 1. The strategy employed by the so-called BTS Army went largely like this: Fans in the US created accounts on music streaming services to play BTS's music and distributed the account logins to fans in other countries via Twitter, email, or the instant messaging platform Slack. The recipients then streamed BTS's music continuously, often on multiple devices and sometimes with a virtual private network (VPN), which can fake, or "spoof," locations by rerouting a user's traffic through several different servers across the world. Some fans will even organize donation drives so other fans can pay for premium streaming accounts. "Superfans of pop acts have long been doing this sort of thing," said Mark Mulligan, managing director of the digital media analysis company MIDIA Research. "But if a superfan has decided to listen nonstop to a track, is that fake? If so, how many times do they have to listen to a track continuously before it is deemed
'fake'?" One BTS fan group claimed it distributed more than 1,000 Spotify logins, all to make it appear as though more people in the US were streaming BTS's music and nudge their album Love Yourself: Tear up the Spotify chart, which in turn factors into Billboard's metrics.

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India's Space Agency Successfully Launches 2 UK Earth Observation Satellites
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 02:52 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up,-up,-and-away department:
The late-night dark skies at Sriharikota, India, lit up in bright orange hues as the PSLV-C42 lifted off and vanished into the thick black clouds, carrying two satellites from the United Kingdom -- NovaSAR and S1-4 from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR. Local news outlet reports: The lightest version of the PSLV, flying in its core-alone version without the six strap-on motors, the PSLV-C-42 rose into the skies at 10.08 p.m. Almost 18 minutes later, the two satellites were placed in the desired orbit by ISRO. This was the 12th such launch of a core-alone version of the PSLV by ISRO. "This was a spectacular mission. We have placed the satellite in a very, very precise orbit," R. Hutton, Mission Director, said. The two satellites, owned by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) were placed in a circular orbit around the poles, 583 km (362 miles) from Earth. The commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation earned more than â220 crore ($30.5 million) on this launch. The NovaSAR is a technology demonstration mission designed to test the capabilities of a new low cost S-band SAR platform. It will be used for ship detection and maritime monitoring and also flood monitoring, besides agricultural and forestry applications. The S1-4 will be used for environment monitoring, urban management, and tackling disasters. On the sidelines, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it will launch three more satellites to provide high-speed bandwidth connectivity to rural areas as part of the government's Digital India programme, a local news agency reported.

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American Eating Habits Are Changing Faster than Fast Food Can Keep Up
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Home cooking would be making a comeback if it ever really went away. From a report: Restaurants are getting dinged by the convenience of Netflix, the advent of pre-made meals, the spread of online grocery delivery, plus crushing student debt and a focus on healthy eating. Eighty-two percent of American meals are prepared at home -- more than were cooked 10 years ago, according to researcher NPD Group. The latest peak in restaurant-going was in 2000, when the average American dined out 216 times a year. That figure fell to 185 for the year ended in February, NPD said. Don't be fooled by reports of rising U.S. restaurant sales at big chains like McDonald's. Increases have been driven by price hikes, not more customers. Traffic for the industry was down 1.1 percent in July, the 29th straight month of declines, according to MillerPulse data. "It's counterintuitive because you see a lot of things in the press about restaurant sales increasing," said David Portalatin, a food-industry adviser at NPD. "America does still cook at home." The shift is weighing on the fast-food industry. Eateries already are struggling with higher labor and rent costs that they're passing along to customers, which in turn makes home cooking more economical. McDonald's, Jack in the Box, Shake Shack and Wendy's have all raised prices in the past year.

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India's ISRO Successfully Launches 2 UK Earth Observation Satellites
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 12:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up,-up,-and-away department:
The late-night dark skies at Sriharikota, India, lit up in bright orange hues as the PSLV-C42 lifted off and vanished into the thick black clouds, carrying two satellites from the United Kingdom -- NovaSAR and S1-4 from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SHAR. Local news outlet reports: The lightest version of the PSLV, flying in its core-alone version without the six strap-on motors, the PSLV-C-42 rose into the skies at 10.08 p.m. Almost 18 minutes later, the two satellites were placed in the desired orbit by ISRO. This was the 12th such launch of a core-alone version of the PSLV by ISRO. "This was a spectacular mission. We have placed the satellite in a very, very precise orbit," R. Hutton, Mission Director, said. The two satellites, owned by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) were placed in a circular orbit around the poles, 583 km (362 miles) from Earth. The commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation earned more than â220 crore ($30.5 million) on this launch. The NovaSAR is a technology demonstration mission designed to test the capabilities of a new low cost S-band SAR platform. It will be used for ship detection and maritime monitoring and also flood monitoring, besides agricultural and forestry applications. The S1-4 will be used for environment monitoring, urban management, and tackling disasters. On the sidelines, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said it will launch three more satellites to provide high-speed bandwidth connectivity to rural areas as part of the government's Digital India programme, a local news agency reported.

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Survey Finds 85% of Underserved Students Have Access To Only One Digital Device
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 12:12 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's digital-divide department:
A new research [PDF] on students who took the ACT test, conducted by the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, found that 85% of underserved (meaning low income, minority, or first generation in college) students had access to only one device at home, most often a smartphone. From a blog post: American Indian/Alaskan, Hispanic/Latino, and African American students had the least access. White and Asian students had the most. Nearly a quarter of students who reported that family income was less that $36,000 a year had access to only a single device at home, a 19% gap compared to students whose family income was more than $100,000.

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For Decades, Some of the Atomic Matter in the Universe Had Not Been Located. Recent Papers Reveal Where It Has Been Hiding
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
In a series of three recent papers, astronomers have identified the final chunks of all the ordinary matter in the universe. From a report: And despite the fact that it took so long to identify it all, researchers spotted it right where they had expected it to be all along: in extensive tendrils of hot gas that span the otherwise empty chasms between galaxies, more properly known as the warm-hot intergalactic medium, or WHIM. Early indications that there might be extensive spans of effectively invisible gas between galaxies came from computer simulations done in 1998. "We wanted to see what was happening to all the gas in the universe," said Jeremiah Ostriker, a cosmologist at Princeton University who constructed one of those simulations along with his colleague Renyue Cen. The two ran simulations of gas movements in the universe acted on by gravity, light, supernova explosions and all the forces that move matter in space. "We concluded that the gas will accumulate in filaments that should be detectable," he said. Except they weren't -- not yet. "It was clear from the early days of cosmological simulations that many of the baryons would be in a hot, diffuse form -- not in galaxies," said Ian McCarthy, an astrophysicist at Liverpool John Moores University. Astronomers expected these hot baryons to conform to a cosmic superstructure, one made of invisible dark matter, that spanned the immense voids between galaxies. The gravitational force of the dark matter would pull gas toward it and heat the gas up to millions of degrees. Unfortunately, hot, diffuse gas is extremely difficult to find. To spot the hidden filaments, two independent teams of researchers searched for precise distortions in the CMB, the afterglow of the Big Bang. As that light from the early universe streams across the cosmos, it can be affected by the regions that it's passing through. In particular, the electrons in hot, ionized gas (such as the WHIM) should interact with photons from the CMB in a way that imparts some additional energy to those photons. The CMB's spectrum should get distorted. Unfortunately the best maps of the CMB (provided by the Planck satellite) showed no such distortions. Either the gas wasn't there, or the effect was too subtle to show up. But the two teams of researchers were determined to make them visible. From increasingly detailed computer simulations of the universe, they knew that gas should stretch between massive galaxies like cobwebs across a windowsill. Planck wasn't able to see the gas between any single pair of galaxies. So the researchers figured out a way to multiply the faint signal by a million.

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The Linux Kernel Has Grown By 225,000 Lines of Code This Year, With Contributions From About 3,300 Developers
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's where-we-are department:
Here's an analysis of the Linux kernel repository that attempts to find some fresh numbers on the current kernel development trends. He writes: The kernel repository is at 782,487 commits in total from around 19.009 different authors. The repository is made up of 61,725 files and from there around 25,584,633 lines -- keep in mind there is also documentation, Kconfig build files, various helpers/utilities, etc. So far this year there has been 49,647 commits that added 2,229,836 lines of code while dropping 2,004,759 lines of code. Or a net gain of just 225,077 lines. Keep in mind there was the removal of some old CPU architectures and other code removed in kernels this year so while a lot of new functionality was added, thanks to some cleaning, the kernel didn't bloat up as much as one might have otherwise expected. In 2017 there were 80,603 commits with 3,911,061 additions and 1,385,507 deletions. Given just over one quarter to go, on a commit and line count 2018 might come in lower than the two previous years. Linus Torvalds remains the most frequent committer at just over 3% while the other top contributions to the kernel this year are the usual suspects: David S. Miller, Arnd Bergmann, Colin Ian King, Chris Wilson, and Christoph Hellwig. So far in 2018 there were commits from 3,320 different email addresses. This is actually significantly lower than in previous years.

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Amazon Says It is Investigating Claims That Its Employees Are Taking Bribes To Sell Internal Data To Merchants To Help Them Increase Their Sales on the Website
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 09:32 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-bad-guys department:
Amazon.com is investigating internal leaks as it fights to root out fake reviews and other seller scams from its website, the company told WSJ. From the report: Employees of Amazon, primarily with the aid of intermediaries, are offering internal data and other confidential information that can give an edge to independent merchants selling their products on the site, according to sellers who have been offered and purchased the data, brokers who provide it and people familiar with internal investigations. The practice, which violates company policy, is particularly pronounced in China, according to some of these people, because the number of sellers there is skyrocketing. As well, Amazon employees in China have relatively small salaries, which may embolden them to take risks. In exchange for payments ranging from roughly $80 to more than $2,000, brokers for Amazon employees in Shenzhen are offering internal sales metrics and reviewers' email addresses, as well as a service to delete negative reviews and restore banned Amazon accounts, the people said. Amazon is investigating a number of cases involving employees, including some in the U.S., suspected of accepting these bribes, according to people familiar with the matter. An internal probe began in May after Eric Broussard, Amazon's vice president who oversees international marketplaces, was tipped off to the practice in China, according to people familiar with the matter. Amazon has since shuffled the roles of key executives in China to try to root out the bribery, one of these people said.

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Automation: The Exaggerated Threat of Robots
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 08:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
It will take quite a lot of time before robots become cheaper than workers in emerging markets such as Africa, argues Nico Beckert of Flassbeck Economics, a consortium of researchers who aim to provide economics insights with a more realistic basis. From the post: All industrialized countries used low-cost labour to build industries and manufacture mass-produced goods. Today, labour is relatively inexpensive in Africa, and a similar industrialization process might take off accordingly. Some worry that industrial robots will block this development path. The reason is that robots are most useful when doing routine tasks -- precisely the kind of work that is typical of labour-intensive mass production. At the moment, however, robots are much too expensive to replace thousands upon thousands of workers in labour-intensive industries, most of which are in the very early stages of the industrialization process. Robots are currently best used in technologically more demanding fields like the automobile or electronics industry. Even a rapid drop in robot prices would not lead to the replacement of workers by robots in the short term in Africa where countries lag far behind in terms of fast internet and other information and communications technologies. They also lack well-trained IT experts. Other problems include an unreliable power supply, high energy costs and high financing costs for new technologies. For these reasons, it would be difficult and expensive to integrate robots and other digital technologies into African production lines.

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Why Edinburgh's Clock is Almost Never on Time
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 06:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's mysteries-of-life department:
Arrive in Edinburgh on any given day and there are certain things you can guarantee. One of which is, the time on the turret clock atop The Balmoral Hotel is always wrong. By three minutes, to be exact. From a report: While the clock tower's story is legendary in Edinburgh, it remains a riddle for many first-timers. To the untrained eye, the 58m-high landmark is simply part of the grand finale when surveyed from Calton Hill, Edinburgh's go-to city-centre viewpoint. There it sits to the left of the Dugald Stewart Monument, like a giant exclamation mark above the glazed roof of Waverley Train Station. Likewise, the sandstone baronial tower looks equally glorious when eyed from the commanding northern ramparts of Edinburgh Castle while peering out over the battlements. It is placed at the city's very centre of gravity, between the Old Town and the New Town, at the confluence of all business and life. Except, of course, that the dial's big hand and little hand are out of sync with Greenwich Mean Time. This bold irregularity is, in fact, a historical quirk first introduced in 1902 when the Edwardian-era building opened as the North British Station Hotel. Then, as now, it overlooked the platforms and signal boxes of Waverley Train Station, and just as porters in red jackets met guests off the train, whisking them from the station booking hall to the interconnected reception desk in the hotel's basement, the North British Railway Company owners wanted to make sure their passengers -- and Edinburgh's hurrying public -- wouldn't miss their trains. Given an extra three minutes, they reasoned, these travellers would have more time on the clock to collect their tickets, to reach their corridor carriages and to unload their luggage before the stationmaster's whistle blew. Still today, it is a calculated miscalculation that helps keep the city on time.

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How Tech Companies Responded To Hurricane Florence
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '18 at 02:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dotcom-after-the-story department:
112-mph winds from Hurricane Florence battered the Carolinas on Saturday, resulting in at least 13 deaths and leaving more than 796,000 households with no electricity, according to CNN, with over 20,000 people evacuating to emergency shelters.

One Myrtle Beach resident spotted an alligator walking through their neighborhood, and the New York Post warns the hurricane "could displace venomous snakes from South Carolina's wetlands," uprooting "some 38 species of snakes -- including dangerous cottonmouths and copperhead vipers."

Cellphone carriers are offering free calling, texting, and data services to affected customers in the Carolinas, and Quartz reports that other tech companies are also trying to help:

People fleeing Florence can find hundreds of places on Airbnb to stay for free; the company will screen applicants and cover homeowners for any damage up to $1 million. Harmany is an app created specifically to connect people during natural disasters. It's set up so that people who have a place can list it, adding it to a map where those needing shelter can find them. Gas Buddy, which lets users search for gas prices and availability by zip code, has set up a special "Florence Live Updates" page and section on its app so users can identify which gas stations are out of fuel, diesel, or power....

The main federal disaster agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has an app that is supposed to provide up-to-the minute information about the storm, shelters, and evacuation routes. It is crashing constantly, according to Android users. (Quartz's didn't have the same problems, but hitting the "get directions" button to one North Carolina shelter inexplicably opened up Uber.) FEMA also recommends the Red Cross's Hurricane app, which shows location specific weather alerts, has a flashlight and an alarm, and allows users to connect with people in their contacts, but doesn't have information on shelters.
< article continued at Slashdot's dotcom-after-the-story department >

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