By msmash from Slashdot's a-middleground department
Have you noticed that your tiniest ecommerce items, which used to be shipped in a box, are now arriving in a padded envelope? WSJ reports: Amazon is trying to ship each order in one correctly sized package instead of multiple boxes, responding to rising shipping costs and consumers' concern about the environmental impact (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled) and general nuisance of all that cardboard. That means adding bubble envelopes, tweaking algorithms and negotiating with manufacturers to make smaller packaging specifically for online sales, not store shelves. [...] This year, Amazon added machines in its warehouses that create padded mailers on demand to fit smaller items, all of which used to go into the company's smallest-sized box. Almost half of all of Amazon's products fit into the new mailers and poly bags, says Kim Houchens, director of customer packaging experience. Her team has been working to improve algorithms that help decide which size box and how many items should be packed together in each shipment. The algorithms use machine learning to test out new combinations -- for example, shipping a breakable item in a smaller box with less cushioning. The algorithm can scan customer reviews and other data to see if it worked and adjust as needed.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's twelve-monkeys department
schwit1 shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal officials on Tuesday ended a moratorium imposed three years ago on funding research that alters germs to make them more lethal. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine. Such work can now proceed, said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, but only if a scientific panel decides that the benefits justify the risks. Some scientists are eager to pursue these studies because they may show, for example, how a bird flu could mutate to more easily infect humans, or could yield clues to making a better vaccine. Critics say these researchers risk creating a monster germ that could escape the lab and seed a pandemic. Now, a government panel will require that researchers show that their studies in this area are scientifically sound and that they will be done in a high-security lab. The pathogen to be modified must pose a serious health threat, and the work must produce knowledge -- such as a vaccine -- that would benefit humans. Finally, there must be no safer way to do the research. "We see this as a rigorous policy," Dr. Collins said. "We want to be sure we're doing this right."
"Now where are those twelve monkeys?" adds schwit1.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department
Sarah Kaplan, writing for the Washington Post: NASA's newest mission will either land a quadcopter-like spacecraft on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan or collect a sample from the nucleus of a comet. (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source.) The two proposals were selected from a group of 12 submitted to the New Frontiers program, which supports mid-level planetary science missions. The first, called Dragonfly, would be an unprecedented project to send a flying robot to an alien moon. Equipped with instruments capable of identifying large organic molecules, the quadcopter would be able to fly to multiple locations hundreds of miles apart to study the landscape on Titan. This large, cold moon of Saturn features a thick atmosphere and lakes and rivers of liquid methane, and scientists believe that a watery ocean may lurk beneath its frozen crust. [...] The Comet Astrobiology Exploration SAmple Return, or CAESAR, mission would circle back to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which was visited by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft from 2014 to 2016. After rendezvousing with the Mount Fuji-size space rock, CAESAR would suck up a sample from its surface and send it back to Earth, where it would arrive in November 2038 (mark your calendars!).Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department
phalse phace writes: After experiencing another hack, South Korean crypto-currency exchange Youbit has closed their doors and is filing for bankruptcy. BBC reports: "Youbit, which lets people buy and sell bitcoins and other virtual currencies, has filed for bankruptcy after losing 17% of its assets in the cyber-attack. It did not disclose how much the assets were worth at the time of the attack. In April, Youbit, formerly called Yapizon, lost 4,000 bitcoins now worth $73 million to cyberthieves. South Korea's Internet and Security Agency (Kisa) which investigates net crime, said it had started an enquiry into how the thieves gained access to the exchange's core systems. Kisa blamed the earlier attack on Youbit on cyber-spies working for North Korea. Separate, more recent, attacks on the Bithumb and Coinis exchanges, have also been blamed on the regime. No information has been released about who might have been behind the latest Youbit attack. In a statement, Youbit said that customers would get back about 75% of the value of the crypto-currency they have lodged with the exchange."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's other-side-of-those-tweets department
From a piece on The Atlantic: At first, the idea of a company directly tweeting at its customers was very strange. Nowadays, people have gotten used to having back-and-forths with customer service representatives. In any given hour, JetBlue makes public contact with 10, 15, 20 different people. American Airlines receives 4500 mentions an hour, 70 to 80 percent of them on Twitter. Both companies staff their social teams with long-time employees who are familiar with the airlines' systems. Both hire internally out of the "reservations" team, so they know how to rebook flights and make things happen. At American, the average social-media customer-support person has been at the company for 17 years. Every major airline has a team like this. Southwest runs what it calls a "Listening Center." American Airlines calls it their "social-media hub" in Fort Worth, Texas. Alaska has a "social care" team in Seattle that responds to the average tweet for help in two minutes and 34 seconds, according to a report by Conversocial. Most of the time, it's a worthy, but low-profile job. But not always. This is the strangest thing about people tweeting with airlines: They're just a routine part of how the business works now. Tweets and Facebook posts go out via a social-media team and a customer-service team responds to the incoming problems, snark, and jokes.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's secretive-start-up department
Joosy writes: After raising $1.9 billion dollars, Magic Leap finally shows off it's "mixed-reality" goggles. Was the wait worth it? Rolling Stone gets a look: "The revelation, the first real look at what the secretive, multi-billion dollar company has been working on all these years is the first step toward the 2018 release of the company's first consumer product. It also adds some insight into why major companies like Google and Alibaba have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Magic Leap, and why some researchers believe the creation could be as significant as the birth of the Internet." Brian Crecente recalls his first experience with Magic Leap's technology: "This first, oversized demo dropped me into a science-fiction world, playing out an entire scene that was, in this one case, augmented with powerful, hidden fans, building-shaking speakers and an array of computer-controlled, colorful lighting. It was a powerful experience, demonstrating how a theme park could potentially craft rides with no walls or waits. Most importantly, it took place among the set-dressing of the stage -- the real world props that cluttered the ground and walls around me -- and while it didn't look indistinguishable from reality, it was close. To see those creations appearing not on the physical world around me, as if it were some sort of animated sticker, but in it, was startling..."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pay-per-view department
Charter Communications' CEO, Tom Rutledge, is leading an industrywide effort to crack down on password sharing. It's a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers -- and billions of dollars in revenue -- when they can least afford it. Bloomberg reports: Cable and satellite carriers in North America have lost 3 million customers this year alone. But the prevalence of password sharing suggests many of those customers, and possibly many more, are watching popular shows like "The Walking Dead" for free, robbing pay-TV providers and programmers of paying subscribers and advertising dollars. Most pay-TV companies only require users to re-enter their passwords for each device once a year. During contract negotiations this fall, Charter urged Viacom Inc., home of Comedy Central and MTV, to help limit illicit password swapping. The cable company wants programmers to restrict the number of concurrent streams on their apps and force legitimate subscribers to log in more often, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. ESPN, meanwhile, has reduced the number of simultaneous streams that it allows on its app to five from 10 and is considering cutting that to three, Connolly said. ESPN wants to work more closely with distributors to validate subscribers when there are high volumes of streaming on its app outside the cable company's territory.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's out-of-ink department
shanen writes: How many of you don't print much these days? What is the best solution to only printing a few pages every once in a while? Here are some dimensions of the problem...
Inexpensive printers: The cost of new printers is quite low, but how long can the printer sit there without printing before it dies? Lexmark and HP used to offer an expensive solution with integrated ink cartridges that also included new print heads, but... Should I just buy a cheap Canon or Epson and plan to throw it away in a couple of years, probably after printing less than a 100 pages?
Printing services: They're mostly focused on photos, but there are companies where you can take your data for printing. My main concerns here are actually with the costs and the tweaks. Each print is expensive because you are covering their overhead way beyond the cost of the printing itself. Also, most of the time my first print or three isn't exactly what I want. It rarely comes out perfectly on paper the first time.
Social printing: For example, are any of you sharing one printer with your neighbors via Wi-Fi? Do you just sneak a bit of personal printing onto a printer at your office? Do you travel across town to borrow your brother-in-law's printer?Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's come-and-get-it department
BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Speaking of Spotify, the most popular streaming music service in the world has long supported Linux-based operating systems. Installing the official app was not an easy affair, however. Today this changes, as installation gets much simpler. You see, Spotify is now officially available as a Snap for easy installation on any Snap-supporting operating systems such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Canonical, the creator of both Ubuntu and Snaps, explains, "Snaps are containerized software packages designed to work perfectly and securely in any Linux environment. As well as supporting all major Linux systems from a single build, snaps can be also updated or rolled back automatically to ensure that users are always benefiting from the latest version of the application. Since their launch last year, close to 2,500 snaps have been released by developers as they adopt the format for its reliability and security."
Jamie Bennett, VP of Engineering, Devices & IoT, Canonical says, "In launching their own snap, Spotify has ensured that their users in the Linux ecosystem are now able to enjoy the latest version of their leading music streaming application as soon as it's released regardless of which distribution they are using. We're glad to welcome Spotify to the snaps ecosystem and look forward to unveiling more leading snaps in 2018."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's opaque-business-decisions department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Reddit users have noticed that Apple appears to be slowing down old iPhones that have low-capacity batteries. While many iPhone users have experienced perceived slowdowns due to iOS updates over the years, it appears that there's now proof Apple is throttling processor speeds when a battery capacity deteriorates over time. Geekbench developer John Poole has mapped out performance for the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 over time, and has come to the conclusion that Apple's iOS 10.2.1 and 11.2.0 updates introduce this throttling for different devices. iOS 10.2.1 is particularly relevant, as this update was designed to reduce random shutdown issues for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S. Apple's fix appears to be throttling the CPU to prevent the phone from randomly shutting down. Geekbench reports that iOS 11.2.0 introduces similar throttling for low iPhone 7 low-capacity batteries.
When reached for comment, Apple basically confirmed the findings to The Verge, but disputes the assumed intention: "Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components. Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We've now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's perspective department
Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia, writing for the New York Times: Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, there's reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoin's rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled). What gives the Bitcoin bubble significance is that, like '90s tech, it is part of something much larger than itself. More and more we are losing faith in humans and depending instead on machines. The transformation is more obvious outside of finance. We trust in computers to fly airplanes, help surgeons cut into our bodies and simplify daily tasks, like finding our way home. In this respect, finance is actually behind: Where we no longer feel we can trust people, we let computer code take over. Bitcoin is part of this trend. It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis. Banks backed by economically powerful nations had been the symbol of financial trustworthiness, the gold standard in the post-gold era. But they revealed themselves as reckless, drunk on other people's money, holding extraordinarily complex assets premised on a web of promises that were often mutually incompatible. To a computer programmer, the financial system still looks a lot like untested code with weak debugging that puts way too much faith in the idea that humans will behave properly. As with any bad software, it can be expected to crash when conditions change.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's it's-war department
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told employees on Tuesday that the company will take more risks going forward and he said change will be the "new normal." From a report: In an internal memo that was sent to CNBC, Krzanich acknowledged "innovation" inside Intel's client computing business -- its biggest segment -- but said the biggest opportunities are in the company's growth areas like connected devices, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. "It's almost impossible to perfectly predict the future, but if there's one thing about the future I am 100 percent sure of, it is the role of data," Krzanich wrote. "Anything that produces data, anything that requires a lot of computing, the vision is, we're there." The memo also underscores the dramatic change in the nature of Intel's business as it approaches its 50th anniversary in July 2018. "We're just inches away from being a 50/50 company, meaning that half our revenue comes from the PC and half from new growth markets," Krzanich wrote.Read Replies (0)