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Businesses

Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture (cnbc.com) 4

Excerpts from Mike Isaac's report for the New York Times: Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat. Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. [...] One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Called the A-Team and composed of a small group of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, its members were shielded from much accountability over their actions. One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.
NASA

NASA Scientists Propose New Definition of Planets, and Pluto Could Soon Be Back (sciencealert.com) 139

Rei writes: After several years of publicly complaining about the "bullshit" decision at the IAU redefining what comprises a planet, New Horizons program head Alan Stern and fellow planetary geologists have put forth a new definition which they seek to make official, basing planethood on hydrostatic equilibrium. Under this definition, in addition to Ceres, Pluto and other Kuiper Belt objects, large moons like Titan and Europa, as well as our own moon, would also become planets; "planet" would be a physical term, while "moon" would be an orbital term, and hence one can have a planetary moon, as well as planets that orbit other stars or no star at all (both prohibited under the current definition). The paper points out that planetary geologists already refer to such bodies as planets, citing examples such as a paper about Titan: "A planet-wide detached haze layer occurs between 300-350 km above the surface; the visible limb of the planet, where the vertical haze optical depth is 0.1, is about 220 km above the surface."
The Courts

Judge Blocks California Law Limiting Publication of Actor's Ages (politico.com) 101

mi writes: IMDb has a reason to rejoice. Politico reports: "A federal judge has barred the State of California from enforcing a new law limiting online publication of actors' ages. Acting in a case brought by online movie information website IMDb, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled Wednesday that the California law likely violates the First Amendment and appears poorly tailored to proponents' stated goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood. The judge expressed deep skepticism that the law, which he said appeared to apply only to IMDb, would have any effect on discrimination. The judge rejected the state's arguments that the law was a regulation of commercial speech, finding that IMDb was acting as a publisher in posting the birthday and age information online." "It's not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal anti-discrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end," Chhabria wrote in a three-page order.
Communications

T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies (arstechnica.com) 60

"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.
Businesses

Tesla Posts Earnings Loss But Claims Model 3 Production Will Start In July (bgr.com) 53

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from BGR: Tesla on Wednesday released its earnings report (PDF) for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $0.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015. As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September.

Tesla notes in its press release: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions. Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3."

Businesses

Apple's New Spaceship Campus Gets a Name, Lifts Off In April (arstechnica.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple has been building its giant new "spaceship" campus in the company's hometown of Cupertino, California, since December of 2013, and since then fans have paid obsessive attention to the structure. It gets buzzed by drones constantly, and the most popular YouTube videos of the building in progress have amassed well over half-a-million views apiece. The company announced today that the campus will be open to employees starting in April and that the building and environs now have a name: Apple Park. Apple says that moving the 12,000 employees who will work at the campus will take more than six months, and landscaping and construction on some buildings won't be done until the summer. The new campus mostly replaces the university-style Infinite Loop campus Apple has used since 1993, though Apple has said that it will also be keeping the older buildings. The new campus' cost has been estimated at around $5 billion. Apple will also be naming one space on the new campus after its founder and former CEO -- the Steve Jobs Theater will replace the current Town Hall event space that Apple sometimes uses for company meetings and product announcements, and it will open "later this year." The new space will be much larger (it will seat 1,000, compared to roughly 300 for the Town Hall), and the larger space will presumably allow Apple to launch more of its products on its campus rather than having to rent expensive event space in downtown San Francisco. The company is also moving its Worldwide Developers Conference closer to home this year -- it will return to San Jose after many years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
United States

Americans at Risk of Identity Theft as They File their Tax Returns (betanews.com) 72

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: As we move into the tax return season a new study reveals that attitudes to identity theft and a pattern of poor practices are leaving much of the public vulnerable. Data security and ID theft protection company CyberScout has carried out its second annual Tax Season Risk Report and finds 58 percent of Americans are not worried about tax fraud in spite of federal reports of 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns in 2016, totaling more than $4 billion in potential fraud. Among other findings are that only 35 percent of taxpayers demand that their preparers use two-factor authentication to protect their clients' personal information. Less than a fifth (18 percent) use an encrypted USB drive to save important documents like tax worksheets, W-2s, 1099s or 1040s. And another 38 percent either store tax documents on their computer's hard drive or in the cloud, approaches that are susceptible to a variety of hacks.
NASA

Thrilling Discovery of Seven Earth-Sized Planets Orbiting Nearby Star (theguardian.com) 241

At a press conference on Wednesday, NASA scientists announced that they have spotted seven Earth-sized planets orbiting closely around a small, ultra-cool star. The star is 39 light years away. From a report on The Guardian: It is the first time that so many Earth-sized planets have been found in orbit around the same star, an unexpected haul that suggests the Milky Way may be teeming with worlds that, in size and firmness underfoot at least, resemble our own rocky home. The planets closely circle a dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away makes the system a prime candidate to search for signs of life. Only marginally larger than Jupiter, the star shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than our sun. "The star is so small and cold that the seven planets are temperate, which means that they could have some liquid water and maybe life, by extension, on the surface," said Michael Gillon, an astrophysicist at the University of Liege in Belgium. [...] While the planets have Earth-like dimensions, their sizes ranging from 25 percent smaller to 10 percent larger, they could not be more different in other features. Most striking is how compact the planet's orbits are. Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, is six times farther from the sun than the outermost seventh planet is from Trappist-1.
Verizon

Verizon To Begin 5G User Trials in 11 Markets by Middle of Year (bloomberg.com) 35

Verizon will test faster fifth-generation (5G) mobile broadband service in 11 markets in the first half of this year as the nation's largest wireless carrier tries to take the lead in the 5G race. From a report on Bloomberg: Working with equipment partners including Ericsson and Samsung, Verizon will beam 5G signals to a test group of homes and businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Miami; Sacramento, California; Seattle; and Washington, D.C., according to a statement released as part of Mobile World Congress, which starts this week in Barcelona. While 5G service isn't expected to be commercially available until 2020, Verizon and its closest rival, AT&T, are bringing the technology out of the lab and into the hands of actual users to spur development.
United States

US Homeland Security Employees Locked Out of Computer Networks (reuters.com) 116

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Some U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees in the Washington area and Philadelphia were unable to access some agency computer networks on Tuesday, according to three sources familiar with the matter. It was not clear how widespread the issue was or how significantly it affected daily functions at DHS, a large government agency whose responsibilities include immigration services, border security and cyber defense. In a statement, a DHS official confirmed a network outage that temporarily affected four U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facilities in the Washington area due to an "expired DHS certificate." Reuters first reported the incident earlier Tuesday, which a source familiar with the matter said also affected a USCIS facility in Philadelphia. Employees began experiencing problems logging into networks Tuesday morning due to a problem related to domain controllers, or servers that process authentication requests, which could not validate personal identity verification (PIV) cards used by federal workers and contractors to access certain information systems, according to the source.
Google

Google Releases Open Source File Sharing Project 'Upspin' On GitHub (betanews.com) 54

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, Google unveiled yet another way to share files. Called "Upspin," the open source project aims to make sharing easier for home users. With that said, the project does not seem particularly easy to set up or maintain. For example, it uses Unix-like directories and email addresses for permissions. While it may make sense to Google engineers, I am dubious that it will ever be widely used. "Upspin looks a bit like a global file system, but its real contribution is a set of interfaces, protocols, and components from which an information management system can be built, with properties such as security and access control suited to a modern, networked world. Upspin is not an "app" or a web service, but rather a suite of software components, intended to run in the network and on devices connected to it, that together provide a secure, modern information storage and sharing network," says Google. The search giant adds: "Upsin is a layer of infrastructure that other software and services can build on to facilitate secure access and sharing. This is an open source contribution, not a Google product. We have not yet integrated with the Key Transparency server, though we expect to eventually, and for now use a similar technique of securely publishing all key updates. File storage is inherently an archival medium without forward secrecy; loss of the user's encryption keys implies loss of content, though we do provide for key rotation."
The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 443

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

The Almighty Buck

Valve's Gabe Newell Says Only 30 SteamVR Apps Have Made $250,000+ (roadtovr.com) 141

New submitter rentarno writes: According to Valve President, Gabe Newell, only 30 virtual-reality apps on Steam (of some 1,000) have made more than $250,000. But that isn't stopping the company from throwing the bulk of their weight behind virtual reality; Valve recently confirmed that it's working on 3 full VR games. Valve still believes in a huge future for VR, even while things are slow to start. It'll take work to find and make the content that's great for VR, Newell says. "We got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR. It was kind of a novelty, purely a development milestone. There was absolutely nothing compelling about them. Nobody's going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies. You have to aspire and be optimistic that the unique characteristics of VR will cause you to discover a bunch of stuff that isn't possible on any of the existing platforms." How do you view the VR industry in early 2017? Do you think it shows promise or will eventually fail like 3D TV?
Censorship

'We Won't Block Pirate Bay,' Swedish Telecoms Giant Says (torrentfreak.com) 27

Last week, a Swedish Patent and Market Court of Appeal ordered The Pirate Bay and streaming portal Swefilmer to be blocked by internet service provider Bredbandsbolaget for the next three years. The order was not well supported by other internet service providers in Sweden, as it appears they don't like the idea of becoming copyright policemen. TorrentFreak reports: Last week ISP Bahnhof absolutely slammed the decision to block The Pirate Bay, describing the effort as signaling the "death throes" of the copyright industry. It even hinted that it may offer some kind of technical solution to customers who are prevented from accessing the site. For those familiar with Bahnhof's stance over the years, this response didn't come as a surprise. The ISP is traditionally pro-freedom and has gone out of its way to make life difficult for copyright enforcers of all kinds. However, as one of the leading telecoms companies in Sweden and neighboring Norway, ISP Telia is more moderate. Nevertheless, it too says it has no intention of blocking The Pirate Bay, unless it is forced to do so by law. "No, we will not block if we are not forced to do so by a court," a company press officer said this morning. Telia says that the decision last week from the Patent and Market Court affects only Bredbandsbolaget, indicating that a fresh legal process will be required to get it to respond. That eventuality appears to be understood by the rightsholders but they're keeping their options open.
Transportation

UPS Develops 'Rolling Warehouse' System In Which Drones Are Launched From Atop Trucks (bloomberg.com) 38

mi writes: A Bloomberg article describes a test conducted by UPS on Monday, "launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet." The company is looking to design a "rolling warehouse" system in which a drone is "deployed from the roof of a UPS truck and flies at an altitude of 200 feet to the destination." It returns after dropping off the package while the truck is already on its way to the next stop.
Education

University Offers Course To Help Sniff Out and Refute 'Bullshit' (engadget.com) 379

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: There's now a course at the University of Washington, "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data" that helps you find bad information and show others why it's bad. The instructors, Professors Jevin D. West and Carl T. Bergstrom, jokingly write that "we will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful ... that you acquire during the course of your college education." They add that the intention is not to be political, as "both sides of the aisle have proven themselves facile at creating and spreading bullshit." The intention, then, is to arm students (and the public if they want) with the tools to combat a scourge of misinformation that's aided and abetted by social media.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
China

China's Millennials Are Hustling For Part-Time Gigs Instead of Traditional Jobs (bloomberg.com) 144

Bloomberg has a report today in which it underscores a growing trend among millennials in China who are looking for part-time jobs. From the article: Hopping from one short-term stint to another isn't the sort of aspiration an earlier generation had in China, where the middle-class dream has long been university degrees followed by a stable job -- preferably one backed by the government. In a 2016 poll of 13,000 college students, 48 percent said they didn't want to enter the traditional labor market. Hardly any of these part-time jobs pay well, but it doesn't matter to millennials. The report adds: "The money is little," Zhang Chen, a 21-year-old accounting student said of the short gig that pays about 240 yuan ($35). "But I want a more interesting life." Chen was lined up for the work through DouMi, a startup that focuses exclusively on part-time positions and blends elements of a temp agency with an internet jobs board and marketing service. For around 130 yuan a day, DouMi users can sort crates of milk at a supermarket or hand out pamphlets on frozen sidewalks. Those considered "beautiful women," and between the ages of 18 and 28, can make four times as much plus tips by working as live-streaming models to keep mostly-male viewers entertained. Many of the roles run for mere days or weeks at a time, a flexibility that suits those juggling social lives and university studies. "Every month we have between 300,000 and 400,000 jobs," said Chief Executive Officer Zhao Shiyong.
The Internet

How is The New York Times Really Doing? (om.co) 403

Wired magazine did a profile on The New York Times in its this month's issue. Talking about the paper's transition from print to more digital-focus than ever, author Gabriel Snyder wrote, "It's to transform the Times' digital subscriptions into the main engine of a billion-dollar business, one that could pay to put reporters on the ground in 174 countries even if (OK, when) the printing presses stop forever." Veteran journalist Om Malik analyzes the numbers: -> The company reported revenue of nearly $1.6 billion in 2016 -- remarkably consistent with prior years.
-> Print advertising revenue dipped by $70 million year-over-year to $327 million in 2016.
-> Digital advertising revenue, while a meaningful portion of the Times' revenue, did not grow enough to offset vanishing print ad dollars.
-> Total digital ad revenue in 2016 was $206 million, up only 6% from the prior year.
-> The key revenue driver for the New York Times has been its digital subscription business, which added more than half a million paid subscribers in 2016. Thanks in part to interest around the presidential election, the newspaper added 276,000 new digital subscribers in Q4, the single largest quarterly increase since 2011 (the year the pay model was launched).

The Times' digital success is hinged upon two major drivers: affiliate revenues from services like the Wirecutter and digital subscriptions. Advertising might be a good short term bandaid, but the company needs to focus on how to evolve away from it even more aggressively. The Times needs to simplify their sign-up experience and make it easier for people to pay for the subscriptions. As of now, it is like the sound you hear when scratching your nails on a piece of glass.

Businesses

The Death of the Click (axios.com) 129

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: For the past 10 years, we've operated on the premise that the most important digital metric is the click that refers a person to a website. That click usually comes from a social distribution channel, like Facebook or Twitter, or a search engine, like Google or Bing. But according to industry experts, the click referral is becoming an idea of the past, soon to be replaced by content exposure. [...] Most publishers have designed their websites to measure user interaction through clicks, not scroll rates or time spent on stories. As the industry moves away from click-through rates (CTR's) as the most meaningful marketing metric, those publishers will have a difficult time justifying the effectiveness of their platforms for marketers.

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