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Android

Slashdot Asks: Would You Pay For Android Updates? (theverge.com) 257

It's no secret that most Android OEMs could do better when it comes to seeding out updates for their existing devices. A report on Bloomberg earlier this week claimed that Google plans to publicly name and shame the OEMs who are too slow at updating their devices. An HTC executive who didn't want to be identified told Slashdot on Thursday that it is not the right way to approach the problem. But that's only one part of the problem. The other issue is that almost every Android OEM partner -- including Google itself -- only provides support to their devices for 18-24 months. Vlad Savov of The Verge in a column today urges Android OEMs to perhaps charge its users if that is what it takes for them to offer support to their devices for a longer period of time and in a timely manner. He writes: I've been one of the many people dissatisfied with the state of Android software updates, however I can't in good conscience direct my wrath at the people manufacturing the devices. Price and spec competition is so intense right now that there's literally no option to disengage: everyone's been sucked into the whirlpool of razor-thin profit margins, and nobody can afford the luxury of dedicating too many resources to after-sales care. The question that's been bugging me lately is, if we value Android updates as highly as we say we do, why don't we pay for them? The situation can't be fixed by manufacturers -- most of them are barely breaking even -- or by Google, which is doing its best to improve things but ultimately relies on carriers and device makers to get the job done. Carriers will most certainly not be the solution, given how they presently constitute most of the problem (just ask AT&T Galaxy S6 owners) -- so like it or not, the best chance for substantial change comes from us, the users. What I'm proposing is a simple crowdfunding operation. I'm skeptical about this, because I don't think it is in an OEM's best interest to serve its existing users for long -- how else they will convince customers to purchase their new devices? A newer software version is after all one of the ultimate selling points of a new phone. So I don't think an OEM will take up on such an offer. What do you folks think?
Books

Slashdot Asks: Should It Be Legal To Resell E-Books, Software, and Other Digital Goods? (arstechnica.co.uk) 380

There's no one stopping you from selling the CDs and DVDs that you buy, so why can't you do the same with e-books, music albums, movies, and other things you've downloaded? Ars Technica reports about a Dutch second-hand e-book platform called Tom Kabinet which has been "at a war" with Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) over this issue. This is seen as a threat to the entire book industry. German courts have suggested that the practice of reselling e-books should be stopped, whereas Dutch courts don't necessarily see it as an issue. What's your view on this?
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Have You Migrated To Node.js? 341

A developer maintaining his company's "half-assed LAMP / WordPress stack pipeline for web and web application development" is considering something more scalable that could eventually be migrated into the cloud. Qbertino asks Slashdot: Have you moved from LAMP (PHP) to Node.js for custom product development and if so, what's your advice? What downsides of JS on the server and in Node.js have a real-world effect? Is callback hell really a thing? And what is the state of free and open-source Node products...? Is there any trend inside the Node.js camp on building a platform and CMS product that competes with the PHP camp whilst maintaining a sane architecture, or is it all just a ball of hype with a huge mess of its own growing in the background, Rails-style?
Condensing Qbertino's original submission: he wants to be able to quickly deliver "pretty, working, and half-way reliable products that make us money" -- and to build a durable pipeline. So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What did you experience moving to Node.js?
AI

Ask Slashdot: Can You Have A Smart Home That's Not 'In The Cloud'? 183

With the announcement of Google Home on Wednesday, one anonymous Slashdot reader asks a timely question about cloud-based "remote control" services that feed information on your activities into someone else's advertising system: In principle, this should not be the case, but it is in practice. So how hard is it, really, to do 'home automation' without sending all your data to Google, Samsung, or whoever -- just keep it to yourself and share only what you want to share?

How hard would it be, for instance, to hack a Nest thermostat so it talks to a home server rather than Google? Or is there something already out there that would do the same thing as a Nest but without 'the cloud' as part of the requirement? Yes, a standard programmable thermostat does 90% of what a Nest does, but there are certain things that it won't do like respond to your comings and goings at odd hours, or be remotely switchable to a different mode (VPN to your own server from your phone and deal with it locally, perhaps?) Fundamentally, is there a way to get the convenience and not expose my entire life and home to unknown actors who by definition (read the terms of service) do not have my best interest in mind?

Yesterday one tech company asked its readers, "What company do you trust most to always be listening inside your home?" The winner was "nobody", with 63% of the votes -- followed by Google with 16%, and Apple with 13%. (Microsoft scored just 3%, while Amazon scored 2%.) So share your alternatives in the comments. What's the best way to set up home automation without sending data into the cloud?
First Person Shooters (Games)

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Favorite Doom Story? 351

I remember loading Doom for the first time from a 3.5-inch disk back in 1994. In 1997 the source code for Doom's Linux version was released just before Christmas. A hidden Doom level appeared in Microsoft Excel, and a Doom video was also used to promote Windows 95. By 2004 a drummer from Nine Inch Nails was recording the theme song for Doom 3...

There was that weird movie with The Rock and Karl Urban. Last year Doom was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. This January John Romero created a new level, and this weekend's release of a new Doom also featured a mod with one of the the original Doom II levels from 1994.

After a storied history, millions of frags, and thousands of hours of in-world gameplay, Doom holds a unique place in both the history of gaming and geeks. So share your favorite stories in the comments. What's your personal best-loved story about Doom?
Communications

Ask Slashdot: What Was The Greatest Era Of Innovation? (nytimes.com) 177

speedplane writes: The New York Times is running a story on innovation over the past 150 years. [The story starts at the end of the American Civil War with the newly completed transcontinental railway in the 1870s. Then it highlights the profoundly different lifestyle of the 1920s, the end of 'The Great War' and the beginning of the Great Depression. By the 1970s, many of the transportation and communication changes from the 20s became fundamental parts of daily life. The story ends in 2016, an era in which human life has changed the most in the last 46 years.]

We're in the golden age of innovation, an era in which digital technology is transforming the underpinnings of human existence. Or so a techno-optimist might argue. We're in a depressing era in which innovation has slowed and living standards are barely rising. That's what some skeptical economists believe. The truth is, this isn't a debate that can be settled objectively.

What do slashdotters think is the greatest era of innovation?


Transportation

Slashdot Asks: How Long Before Self-Driving Cars Become Mainstream? 381

Here's the thing, regardless of one's stand on self-driving cars, they are no longer a futuristic idea. Major car companies such as Tesla, BMW, and Mercedes have already released an autonomous vehicle or plan to release one soon. Sergio Marchionne, an Italian-Canadian executive who is currently the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, recently said: It isn't pie in the sky. People are talking about 20 years. I think we will have it in five years. ZDNet has published its interview of Jim McBride, technical leader in Ford's autonomous vehicles team, who thinks self-driving cars are five years away from changing the world. At the same time, we must acknowledge the talks about these smart vehicles killing many jobs, and the security vulnerabilities we read every once in a while. What's your take on this?
Advertising

Ask Slashdot: Should I Expect Tracking When Subscribing To News Sites? 206

Long-time Slashdot reader robot5x writes: I'm a fan of online privacy and, where possible, don't automatically permit cookies and tend to set Ghostery to block all trackers in my browser. This rarely causes a problem -- I have lots of subscriptions to various sites which require me to login and have only rarely encountered minor issues. Recently I had a present of a Slate Plus membership. I really like their content and was keen on supporting it financially. Activating it from the email they sent required me to first register as a user. I clicked on the icon, and nothing happened. Ghostery picked up 7 trackers which I had blocked.

Assuming that one of these was the cause, I activated each in turn and reloaded. None of them made any difference, except a single tracker from JanRain. Accepting this tracker let everything work perfectly. Reading more about JanRain though -- and particularly its interaction with Adobe analytics (which it also tries to load) -- I discovered that they wanted to "create a holistic view of your business by collecting, analyzing and reporting all customer interactions. To derive the most actionable insights, you must link your customers' actions with who they are and what their interests are. Janrain bridges the gap by connecting demographic and psychographic data, collected through traditional and social login, with Adobe's behavioral data, so you understand the whole customer journey".

I do not want them to do any of this, and don't think I should have to. Interactions with Slate's 'support' were excruciating and -- while they at least didn't ask me to restart my computer -- they actually ended up saying that allowing these trackers is tied to their login process and I have to either accept or get a refund.

Robot 5x asks: Is it unacceptable to have to accept being tracked as a paying customer for new sites? "Or am I just being a big baby?"
Your Rights Online

Ask Slashdot: Should This Photographer Sue A Hotel For $2M? (google.com) 254

Unhappy Windows User writes: An Austrian photographer was contracted by the luxury [hotel] Sofitel in Vienna to photograph the bar with an amazing view over the skyline. He was paid for his time (4200 euros) and arranged a three-year internal usage contract for the photos. After the contract expired, he still found his photos being used -- on external sites too. He is now suing for 2 million euros, based on each individual usage.

My question is: Is this the real market value of his work...? It seems like the largest economic contribution to the work was from Sofitel, who allowed access to the property and closed it to customers. I don't have any issue in a photographer wanting to be paid fairly for his work, and asking for perhaps double or treble the original price for the breach of contract to match what an unlimited license would have cost. [But] with this money they could have employed a professional for a month and automatically obtained full rights to the work...it seems like this guy is trying to take advantage of an oversight by a large corporation, never to have to work again.

Here's the original article in German and an English translation, and it's one of those rare cases where the copyright belongs to an individual instead of a massive entertainment conglomeration. But do you think the photographer should be suing for 2 million euros over this copyright beach?
Data Storage

Slashdot Asks: What's Your View On Benchmark Apps? 50

There's no doubt that benchmark apps help you evaluate different aspects of a product, but do they paint a complete picture? Should we utterly rely on benchmark apps to assess the performance and quality of a product or service? Vlad Savov of The Verge makes an interesting point. He notes that DxOMark (a hugely popular benchmark app for testing a camera) rating of HTC 10's camera sensor is equal to that of Samsung's Galaxy S7, however, in real life shooting, the Galaxy S7's shooter offers a far superior result. "I've used both extensively and I can tell you that's simply not the case -- the S7 is outstanding whereas the 10 is merely good." He offers another example: If a laptop or a phone does well in a web-browsing battery benchmark, that only gives an indication that it would probably fare decently when handling bigger workloads too. But not always. My good friend Anand Shimpi, formerly of AnandTech, once articulated this very well by pointing out how the MacBook Pro had better battery life than the MacBook Air -- which was hailed as the endurance champ -- when the use changed to consistently heavy workloads. The Pro was more efficient in that scenario, but most battery tests aren't sophisticated or dynamic enough to account for that nuance. It takes a person running multiple tests, analyzing the data, and adding context and understanding to achieve the highest degree of certainty. The problem is -- more often than not -- gadget reviewers treat these values as the most important signal when judging a product, which in turn, also influences several readers' opinion. What's your take on this?
Programming

Slashdot Asks: Have You Experienced Ageism? (observer.com) 561

Friday the Huffington Post wrote that "Ageism runs rampant through Silicon Valley, where older workers are frequently overlooked for jobs." They ran tips from the man who recruited Tim Cook for Apple, who pointed out that it's difficult and expensive to recruit new talent, urging businesses to "stop seeing workforce diversity as a good deed; it's good business." And earlier this month The Observer ran an article by Dan Lyons, a writer for HBO's "Silicon Valley," who shared his perspective on ageism from his time at HubSpot. Their CEO actively cultivated an age imbalance, bragging that he was "trying to build a culture specifically to attract and retain Gen Y'ers," because, "in the tech world, gray hair and experience are really overrated."

Meanwhile, Slashdot reader OffTheLip writes: Information technology is a young business in comparison to many other industries but one of the few where older workers are not valued for their institutional knowledge... As a recently retired techie I experienced this firsthand, both as an older worker, and earlier in my career [as] one who didn't see the value in older workers. As Lyons states, older workers are good business.
What are your thoughts? And have you experienced ageism?
Technology

Slashdot Asks: Does It Matter That We've Reached Peak Smartphone? 197

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.
Hardware

Slashdot Asks: Do You Prefer To Handwrite or Type Notes? (npr.org) 192

A study published by Psychological Science and transcribed on NPR explores the science behind note-taking. As technology becomes smaller, cheaper and more functional than ever before, it's not uncommon to see people taking notes on their laptop or tablet, especially in a school or work-related environment. In fact, it may be even more common to see people taking notes with an electronic device than with a pen and paper. The study shows that the process of taking notes by hand is slower, thus allowing the information being written to better soak into your brain. However, it's a double-edged sword. While using something like a laptop to type notes may be faster and allow for people to better transcribe what they're hearing, writing longhand generally allows people to better process the information they are writing, but at the expense of length. That is to say, writing longhand doesn't provide people with as much to look back on since the process is slower.

Now everyone is different and everyone has their own formula and routine that works for them, so we thought we'd ask the question: Do you prefer to handwrite notes or type notes on a computer? Does one form of note-taking work better than the other or is it a combination of the two that is best?
Education

Slashdot Asks: What's Your View On Speed Reading? 207

Wouldn't it be great if you could read a novel in an hour or two? Certainly, many people do that. The phenomenon of speed reading is nothing new with plenty of people claiming that they have grown habituated -- or taught themselves into -- reading things in an accelerated fashion. Not everyone -- including yours truly -- is a fan of this. There are several studies that suggest that 'speed reading' result in people missing out on lots of tidbits. A New York Times article, published Friday, also suggests the same. Jeffrey M. Zacks, and Rebecca Treiman, in an op-ed, citing a recent article in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, claim that "it's extremely unlikely you can greatly improve your reading speed without missing out on a lot of meaning." They write: Certainly, readers are capable of rapidly scanning a text to find a specific word or piece of information, or to pick up a general idea of what the text is about. But this is skimming, not reading. We can definitely skim, and it may be that speed-reading systems help people skim better.Which brings us to the question: What's your view on speed reading?
Programming

Slashdot Asks: What Are Some Insults No Developer Wants To Hear? (infoworld.com) 523

snydeq writes: Flame wars in the bug tracker might be exactly the right (harsh) feedback your code needs, writes Peter Wayner in his run-down of the insults no programmer wants to hear about their code or coding skills. "The technology world is a bit different than the pretty, coiffed world of suits and salesdroids where everyone is polite, even when they hate your guts and think you're an idiot. Suit-clad managers may smile and hide their real message by the way they say you're doing "great, real great pal," but programmers often speak their minds, and when that mind has something unpleasant to say, look-out, feelings." Instead of posting this story in a click-bait fashion as presented from InfoWorld, we thought we'd ask the developers of Slashdot: What are some insults no developer wants to hear? Some of the classic insults include: N00b, /dev/null, Eye Candy, Fanboi, and [Nothing]. Are there any insults you are familiar with that aren't mentioned in the list?
Apple

Slashdot Asks: It's Been a Year Since Apple Watch Release, What's Your Thought On It? 359

In an op-ed, Quartz's Mike Murphy writes that Apple Watch, the Cupertino-based company's first wearable device, hasn't been the success the company was hoping it to be. Apple unveiled the Apple Watch alongside the iPhone 6 at a media conference in September 2014. It wasn't, however, until April 2015 that the company began selling it. The Apple Watch has received a mixed response from people. While some have found the design premium-looking, almost everyone has complained about the battery life. Many have found the health-centric features of Apple Watch useful. though the lack of apps, in general, is a downer for many. Apple, which usually doesn't miss boasting sales number, remains tight-lipped on exactly how many Apple Watch units it has sold. Murphy writes: Every Apple product in the last 15 years or so has been two things: desirable and useful. They've made it easier for people to be creative, listen to a lot of music on the go, communicate with anyone in the world or find out any piece of information wherever they are. The Apple Watch looks good, but from a desirability perspective, some argue that the most interesting thing about it has been the collaborations it has had with Hermes, rather than the watch itself. Apple has always prided itself on 'thinking different', and has stood out by creating differentiating products. But different in the case of the Apple Watch right now just means "weird." Apple probably doesn't want a product where using one gets you referred to as "that guy." Do you own an Apple Watch? If not, are you planning to purchase one? Those who own it, what features do you like in the Apple Watch that you think other watches cannot offer.
Government

Slashdot Asks: Should FBI Reveal to Apple How to Unlock Terrorist's iPhone? (latimes.com) 286

After reports that the FBI managed to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters without the help of Apple, Apple is now the one that needs the FBI's assistance. "The responsible thing for the government to do is privately disclose the vulnerability to Apple so they can continue hardening security on their devices," said Justin Olsson, product counsel at security software maker AVG Technologies. However, many experts in the field believe that the government isn't legally obligated to provide the information to Apple. As mentioned in Los Angeles Times, this creates a new ethical dilemma: Should tech companies be made aware of flaws in their products, or should law enforcement be able to deploy those bugs as crime-fighting tools?
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With Glare On Cellphones? 135

An anonymous reader writes: As far as I know, I am not particularly sensitive to glare; I've used CRTs in offices full of overhead fluorescent lights, and just ignored the terrible reflections, and I've worked in places where the natural sunlight cleverly funneled in by architects was bounced around by glass walls and mirrors in just the right way to irritate. Still, I never found it much of a problem. Now, though, I work in a field that has me both working outdoors a lot, and traveling by car a fair amount, too. Now that days are getting longer, especially up here in the Pacific Northwest, I know that I'll be squinting and cursing a lot at my phone. My question(s): Are there are any modern smart phones you can recommend with a truly or even passably day-light readable screen? I don't care if it's e-ink (that would be cool), transflective (long promised!) or maybe just a secondary screen with some daylight-readable technology. Barring that, how do you deal with glare on a phone, when you need to use it on a sunny day? Same answer could apply to laptop use, I suppose. Do you build a little glare shield, of the kind that camera operators use? Wear a giant hood of privacy and darkness? I know I'm not alone — I see lots of others squinting and cursing at their cell phones, cupping it with their hands at their eyes, or ducking into scant shade just to see whether the call that's coming is one they need to take, or to read a text. I've tried quite a few phones that have been praised by reviewers for their bright, crisp, daylight-friendly displays, but I think those reviewers probably lived in New York or San Francisco, and were reading in either shadow or fog, because even the brightest Samsungs, Motorolas, and LGs I've seen cannot hold a candle to the summer sun north of Seattle.
Advertising

Slashdot Asks: Should NPR Stop Promoting Its Own Podcasts and NPR One App On Air? (boingboing.net) 143

A new "ethics" policy from NPR details new rules to stop promoting NPR One and its podcasts on the air, to ultimately please local station managers who pay the largest share of NPR's bills.

Chris Turpin, V.P. for news programming and operations, writes: As podcasts grow in number and popularity we are talking about them more often in our news programs. We are also fielding more and more questions from news staff and Member stations about our policies for referring to podcasts on air. To that end, we want to establish some common standards, especially for language in back announces. Our hope is to establish basic principles that are easy to understand and allow plenty of flexibility for creativity. These guidelines apply to all podcasts, whether produced by NPR or by other entities. No Call to Action: We won't tell people to actively download a podcast or where to find them. No mentions of npr.org, iTunes, Stitcher, NPR One, etc.
Basically, NPR won't promote "the lauded, loved app that is basically the future of NPR" to listeners who would be most interested in it. How do you feel about NPR's new policy?
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Are You Excited About Upcoming 4-inch iPhone or 9.7-inch iPad Pro? 310

If rumors are to be believed, at its 'Let Us Loop You In' event on Monday, Apple will launch a new smartphone dubbed "iPhone SE," and a new tablet dubbed "iPad Pro." According to 9to5Mac's Mark Gurman, who has a reliable track record with Apple news, the iPhone SE will sport a 4-inch display and have the same processor, RAM and other innards as the iPhone 6s, which was launched last year. The new 9.7-inch iPad will reportedly have the same hardware specifications as the 12-inch iPad Pro, which was also unveiled last year. The Associated Press reports that the forthcoming event hasn't stirred "much passion." It adds, "So far, however, there have been no hints of any dramatic announcements, such as last year's highly anticipated Apple Watch debut, or major initiatives like the company's long-rumoured but yet-to-materialize streaming TV service." Are you looking forward to purchasing either of the devices?

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