Earth

World's First Floating Wind Farm Emerges Off Coast of Scotland (bbc.co.uk) 111

AmiMoJo writes: The world's first full-scale floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast of Scotland. The revolutionary technology will allow wind power to be harvested in waters too deep for the current conventional bottom-standing turbines. The manufacturer hopes to cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the U.S., where waters are deep. The tower, including the blades, stretches to 175m and weighs 11,500 tons. The price of energy from bottom-standing offshore wind farms has plummeted 32% since 2012, and is now four years ahead of the government's expected target. Another big price drop is expected, taking offshore wind to a much lower price than new nuclear power.
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Biotech

Wisconsin Company Will Let Employees Use Microchip Implants To Buy Snacks, Open Doors (theverge.com) 82

A Wisconsin company called Three Square Market will soon offer employees implantable chips to open doors, buy snacks, log in to computers, and use office equipment like copy machines. The chips use near field communication (NFC) technology and will be implanted between the thumb and forefinger of participating employees. According to The Verge, around 50 people are supposedly getting the optional implants. From the report: NFC chips are already used in a couple of workplaces in Europe; The Los Angeles Times reported on startup workspace Epicenter's chip program earlier this year. In the US, installing them is also a form of simple biohacking. They're essentially an extension of the chips you'd find in contactless smart cards or microchipped pets: passive devices that store very small amounts of information. A Swedish rail company also lets people use implants as a substitute for fare cards. 32M CEO Todd Westby is clearly trying to head off misunderstandings and paranoia by saying that they contain "no GPS tracking at all" -- because again, it's comparable to an office keycard here.
Businesses

Fact-checking and Rumor-dispelling Site Snopes.com Held Hostage By vendor (savesnopes.com) 303

Snopes.com, which began as a small one-person effort in 1994 and has since become one of the Internet's oldest and most popular fact-checking sites, is in danger of closing its doors. From a report: Since our inception, we have always been a self-sustaining site that provides a free service to the online world: we've had no sponsors, no outside investors or funding, and no source of revenue other than that provided by online advertising. Unfortunately, we have been cut off from our historic source of advertising income. We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for Snopes.com. That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the Snopes.com web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site's hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or -- most crucially -- place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us. Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.
Businesses

Push Notifications From Popular Apps Are Becoming Increasingly Useless And Annoying (wired.com) 151

David Pierce, writing for Wired: Push notifications are ruining my life. Yours too, I bet. Download more than a few apps and the notifications become a non-stop, cacophonous waterfall of nonsense. Here's just part of an afternoon on my phone:
"Hi David! We found new Crown jewels and Bottle caps Pins for you!"
"Everyone's talking about Bill Nye's new book, Everything All at Once. Read a free sample."
"Alex just posted for the first time in a while."
I get notifications when an acquaintance comments on a stranger's Facebook posts, when shows I don't care about come to Netflix, and every single day at 6 PM when the crossword puzzle becomes available. Recently, I got a buzz from my close personal friends at Yelp. "We found a hot new business for you," it said. I opened the notification, on the off chance that Yelp had finally found the hot new business I've been waiting for. It did not. So I closed Yelp, stared into space for a second, and then opened Instagram. Productivity over. Over the last few years, there's been an increasingly loud call for a re-evaluation of the relationship between humans and smartphones. For all the good that phones do, their grip on our eyes, ears, and thoughts creates real and serious problems. "I know when I take [technology] away from my kids what happens," Tony Fadell, a former senior VP at Apple who helped invent both the iPod and the iPhone, said in a recent interview. "They literally feel like you're tearing a piece of their person away from them. They get emotional about it, very emotional. They go through withdrawal for two to three days." Smartphones aren't the problem. It's all the buzzing and dinging, endlessly calling for your attention.

Businesses

Unemployment in the UK is Now So Low It's in Danger of Exposing the Lie Used To Create the Numbers (businessinsider.com) 301

Unemployment in Britain is now just 4.5 percent. There are only 1.49 million unemployed people in the UK, versus 32 million people with jobs. This is almost unheard of. Unemployment was most recently this low in December 1973, when the UK set an unrepeated record of just 3.4 percent. From a report: The problem with this record is that the statistical definition of "unemployment" relies on a fiction that economists tell themselves about the nature of work. As the rate gets lower and lower, it tests that lie. Because -- as anyone who has studied basic economics knows -- the official definition of unemployment disguises the true rate. In reality, about 21.5 percent of all working-age people (defined as ages 16 to 64) are without jobs, or 8.83 million people, according to the Office for National Statistics. That's more than four times the official number. For decades, economists have agreed on an artificial definition of what unemployment means. Their argument is that people who are taking time off, or have given up looking for work, or work at home to look after their family, don't count as part of the workforce.
Businesses

Pittsburgh Gets a Tech Makeover (nytimes.com) 39

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2015, Monocle magazine, a favorite read of the global hipsterati, published an enthusiastic report on Lawrenceville, the former blue-collar neighborhood here filled with cafes, hyped restaurants and brick rowhouses being renovated by flippers. Last year, in a much-publicized development, Uber began testing self-driving cars on the streets, putting this city at the forefront of the autonomous-vehicle revolution. Also last year, in a less publicized development, Jean Yang, 30, returned to this city after more than a decade of living in Boston, finding a Pittsburgh she hardly recognized from her 1990s childhood. And four months ago, Caesar Wirth, a 28-year-old software engineer, moved from Tokyo to work for a local tech start-up, Duolingo. These seemingly unrelated events have one thing in common: Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science. Much has been made of the "food boom" in Pittsburgh, and the city has long had a thriving arts scene. But perhaps the secret, underlying driver for both the economy and the cool factor -- the reason Pittsburgh now gets mentioned alongside Brooklyn and Portland, Ore., as an urban hot spot for millennials -- isn't chefs or artists but geeks. In a 2014 article in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mayor Bill Peduto compared Carnegie Mellon, along with the University of Pittsburgh, to the iron ore factories that made this city an industrial power in the 19th century. The schools are the local resource "churning out that talent" from which the city is fueled. Because of the top students and research professors at Carnegie Mellon, tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber have opened offices here. The big tech firms, along with their highly skilled, highly paid workers, have made Pittsburgh younger and more international and helped to transform once-derelict neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and East Liberty. Indeed, East Liberty has become something of a tech hub, said Luis von Ahn, the co-founder and chief executive of Duolingo, a language-learning platform company with its headquarters in that neighborhood. Google Pittsburgh, with its more than 500 employees, also has part of its offices in East Liberty, as does AlphaLab, a start-up accelerator.
Transportation

Uber Takes Inspiration From Its Indian Rival, Plans To Introduce an Infotainment System in Its Cars In the Country (ndtv.com) 20

Reader manishs writes: Uber is taking a page out of Ola's playbook as it pushes to expand business in India, its largest overseas market. Months after its Indian rival introduced its 'connected platform' called Ola Play, Uber is set to launch its own infotainment system across several of its cab tiers in the country, people familiar with the matter have told Gadgets 360. The company began testing its infotainment system -- an Android tablet that comes loaded with a range of services -- in select cities in the country earlier this year. The ride-hailing service now plans to install the tablet on several of its premium cabs including its Uber X fleet, and make it available for passengers in select circles later this year, people said. Uber has been inviting select drivers in New Delhi and other cities to install an HD screen-enabled tablet, according to a source and two drivers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. This is the first time Uber is planning to bring an actual tablet to its cabs in any of the markets where it operates. The company currently offers Uber Trip Experiences in select markets where it lets passengers consume a range of services using their own phone.
Programming

How a VC-Funded Company Is Undermining the Open-Source Community (theoutline.com) 84

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Outline: Is a $4 million venture capital-funded startup stealthily taking over popular coding tools and injecting ads and spyware into them? That's what some programmers fear may be happening. It is one of the most troubling scandals to hit the open-source community -- a robust network of programmers who work on shared tools for free -- in recent memory. It started back in April, when a programmer noticed a strange change to an open-source tool called Minimap. Minimap has had more than 3.5 million downloads, but like many open-source tools, it was maintained by a single person who no one knew much about other than their username: @abe33. At some point, @abe33, whose real name is Cedric Nehemie, was hired by Kite. Kite was started by Adam Smith, a successful tech entrepreneur who raised funding from a slew of big names including the CEO of Dropbox and the creator of WordPress. It is unclear what Kite's business model is, but it says it uses machine-learning techniques to make coding tools. Its tools are not open source. After being hired by Kite, @abe33 made an update to Minimap. The update was titled "Implement Kite promotion," and it appeared to look at a user's code and insert links to related pages on Kite's website. Kite called this a useful feature. Programmers said it was not useful and was therefore just an ad for an unrelated service, something many programmers would consider a violation of the open-source spirit. "It's not a feature, it's advertising -- and people don't want it, you want it," wrote user @p-e-w. "The least you can do is own up to that." "I have to wonder if your goal was to upset enough people that you'd generate real attention on various news sites and get Kite a ton of free publicity before your next funding round," @DevOpsJohn wrote. "That's the only sane explanation I can find for suddenly dropping ads into the core of one of the oldest and most useful Atom plugins." [...] Although Kite has no business model yet, it's widely thought in Silicon Valley that having users is the first step toward profitability. Adding users potentially benefits the company in another way, by giving it access to precious data. Kite says it uses machine learning tactics to make the best coding helper tools possible. In order to do that, it needs tons of data to learn from. The more code it can look at, the better its autocomplete suggestions will get, for example.
Businesses

Amazon Report Predicts Pet Translation Devices By 2027 (cbslocal.com) 143

An anonymous reader writes: Devices that can talk to our pet dogs and cats could be less than 10 years away, according to a report Amazon commissioned that was co-authored by futurist William Higham. "Innovative products that succeed are based around genuine and major consumer needs," Higham wrote, noting the tremendous amounts already spent on our pets, and concluding, "Somebody is going to put this together." Amazon already sells one dubious device that converts human voices into meows using samples from 25 cats, according to the Guardian. (One reviewer who tested the device wrote that "the cat seems puzzled.") But Amazon's report also cites the work of Con Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus in Northern Arizona University's biology department, who spent 30 years studying the behavior of prairie dogs. Slobodchikoff discovered prairie dogs have different words for colors and for species of predators, and is now already raising money to develop a translation device for pets.
Although Slobodchikoff concedes that "With cats I'm not sure what they'd have to say. A lot of times it might just be 'you idiot, just feed me and leave me alone.'"
EU

Company Gets 45,000 Bad Facebook Reviews After Teenaged Hacker's Unjust Arrest (bleepingcomputer.com) 287

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: Over 45,000 users have left one-star reviews on a company's Facebook page after the business reported a security researcher to police and had him arrested in the middle of the night instead of fixing a reported bug. The arrest took place this week in Hungary after an 18-year-old found a flaw in the online ticket-selling system of Budapesti Közlekedési Központ, Budapest's public transportation authority. The young man discovered that he could access BKK's website, press F12 to enter the browser's developer tools mode, and modify the page's source code to alter a ticket's price. Because there was no client or server-side validation put in place, the BKK system accepted the operation and issued a ticket at a smaller price...

The teenager -- who didn't want his name revealed -- reported the issue to BKK, but the organization chose to contact the police and file a complaint, accusing the young man of hacking their systems... BKK management made a fatal mistake when they brazenly boasted in a press conference about catching the hacker and declaring their systems "secure." Since then, other security flaws in BKK's system have surfaced on Twitter. As details of the case emerged, public outrage grew against BKK and its manager Kálmán Dabóczi, especially after it was revealed that BKK was paying around $1 million per year for maintenance of its IT systems, hacked in such a ludicrously simple manner.

Iphone

Apple Sued By State Farm Over Alleged iPhone Fire (cnet.com) 157

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Insurer State Farm and one of its customers, Wisconsin resident Xai Thao, allege that one of Apple's older iPhones had a defective battery that led to a fire last year. A lawsuit filed on Thursday by both State Farm and Thao claims that her iPhone 4S "failed" and "started a fire at Thao's home." The lawsuit further claims that "preliminary investigations show evidence of a significant and localized heating event in the battery area of the iPhone." It also declares that there were "remnants of internal shorting, indicating that an internal failure of the iPhone's battery caused the fire"... The State Farm lawsuit says that Thao's iPhone was "in a defective and unreasonably dangerous condition" when she bought it in 2014. The suit is claiming in excess of $75,000 in damages.
Businesses

Disastrous 'Pokemon Go' Event Leads To Mass Refunds (techcrunch.com) 190

thegarbz writes: A Pokemon Go Fest hosted in Chicago and attended by between 15-20,000 people has ended in disaster. The event was plagued by logistical issues resulting in 3+ hour long delays getting into Chicago's Grant Park... Those people who were lucky enough to get into the paid event were greeted with a completely overloaded cell network unable to cope with the number of people trying to get online at the same time. The occasional person who was able to connect experienced a never ending string of game-breaking bugs when attempting to catch the rare Pokemon created specifically for this event.
Gaming company Niantic finally just gave a rare Pokemon Go character to everyone who attended -- though one attendee still called it a "horrible, terrible day." The Kansas City Star reported some people had paid as much as $400 for their tickets -- which had sold out within minutes -- and that some attendees had even started lining up for the event at 6 a.m.
Education

College Students Are Flocking To Computer Science Majors (ieeeusa.org) 340

Slashdot reader dcblogs writes: Enrollments in Computer Science are on a hockey stick trajectory and show no signs of slowing down. Stanford University declared computer science enrollments, for instance, went from 87 in the 2007-08 academic year to 353 in the recently completed year. It's similar at other schools. Boston University, for instance, had 110 declared undergraduate computer science majors in 2009. This fall it will have more than 550. Professor Mehran Sahami, who is the associate chair for education in the CS department at Stanford, believes the enrollment trend will continue. "As the numbers bear out, the interest in computer science has grown tremendously and shows no signs of crashing." But after the 2000 dot-com bust computer science enrollments fell dramatically and students soured on the degree. Could something like it happen again?
Mark Crovella, the chair of Boston University's CS department, notes that "the overall interest in computer science at B.U. is currently at about twice the level it was at the peak of the dot.com year." But the article points out that salaries for new grads are still rising, "which suggests that demand is real." And Jay Ritter, a professor of finance at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business Administration, adds "I'm more worried about the job outlook for people without these skills."
Music

SoundCloud Halts Volunteer Archiving Project (vice.com) 48

Slashdot reader nielo tipped us off to more SoundCloud news. Motherboard reports: Last week, a group of volunteer digital preservationists known as The Archive Team announced they would be attempting to independently archive a 123.6 million track, 900-terabyte swath of SoundCloud, the popular streaming music and audio service that recently announced mass layoffs and office closures, sparking fears of an imminent closure. But just as the volunteer archive of SoundCloud was due to be getting started, it's been abruptly called off at the behest of the company... I reached out to SoundCloud for more information, and a spokesperson responded with the following written statement: "SoundCloud is dedicated to protecting the rights and content of the creators who share their work on SoundCloud. We requested the Archive Team halt their efforts as any action to take content from SoundCloud violates our Terms of Use and infringes on our users' rights... SoundCloud is not going away -- not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future..." But that hasn't stopped some individuals on Reddit's r/datahoarder subreddit from attempting to gather their own personal archives of as much of SoundCloud as they want and can afford to host.
Businesses

Are Nondisparagement Agreements Silencing Employee Complaints? (cnbc.com) 183

cdreimer writes, "According to a report in the New York Times, 'nondisparagement agreements are increasingly included in employment contracts and legal settlements' to hide abuses that would otherwise be made public." The Times reports: Employment lawyers say nondisparagement agreements have helped enable a culture of secrecy. In particular, the tech start-up world has been roiled by accounts of workplace sexual harassment, and nondisparagement clauses have played a significant role in keeping those accusations secret... Nondisparagement clauses are not limited to legal settlements. They are increasingly found in standard employment contracts in many industries, sometimes in a simple offer letter that helps to create a blanket of silence around a company. Their use has become particularly widespread in tech employment contracts, from venture investment firms and start-ups to the biggest companies in Silicon Valley, including Google... Employees increasingly "have to give up their constitutional right to speak freely about their experiences if they want to be part of the work force," said Nancy E. Smith, a partner at the law firm Smith Mullin.
Three different tech industry employees told the Times "they are not allowed to acknowledge that the agreements even exist." And Google "declined to comment" for the article.
Businesses

Nolan's Cinematic Vision in 'Dunkirk' is Hollywood's Best Defense Against Netflix (marketwatch.com) 191

There's nothing quite like filming a movie on film, according to the director Christopher Nolan. His new WWII film, Dunkirk, was shot entirely on epic 65mm, as opposed to digital. And it's receiving the widest release of that film format in recent history. But Nolan's views on doing things the way "they're meant to be done," isn't limited to just making a film. He also wants you watch the movie in the theatre, and not on streaming service Netflix, which he says he rarely uses. From a report: "Dunkirk," director Christopher Nolan's big budget war epic, is a filmmaker's film and a movie buff's dream with its wide, high-resolution 70mm format. It's like an expressionist painting, said ComScore media analyst Paul Dergarabedian. The Hollywood Reporter even said "Dunkirk" could launch a 70mm film renaissance. "I would always prefer and really recommend that everyone see it on Imax 70mm," Dergarabedian said. "People talk about 'they don't make movies like that anymore.' Well, this is that movie." Dunkirk, which opens across the U.S. this weekend, is a film that everyone will tell you has to be seen on the big screen. And that has rekindled the debate about the pros and cons of films opening in a theater versus being streamed by Netflix. In an interview with Indiewire ahead of the film's premiere, Nolan criticized Netflix for its "bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films." Netflix, despite doubling down on its film business and looking to make inroads in the industry, has continued its controversial stance against Hollywood's theatrical window model. To the film industry's dismay, Netflix is still adopting a day and date release model -- dropping a movie on the streaming service the same day it hits theaters. Hollywood relies on the money moviegoers spend at the box office, and the industry is reluctant to give up the exclusive window of time that films are only in theaters, fearing it would cripple that income stream. "Dunkirk" is an impressive $150 million argument on behalf of cinema.
Businesses

Millennials Only Have a 5 To 6 Second Attention Span For Ads (cnbc.com) 172

Reader schwit1 writes: If you're an advertiser who wants to market a product to millennials, you're going to have to make it quick. A new study by comScore revealed online ads targeted toward millennials have to be around 5 to 6 seconds to be effective, a sharp contrast from the traditional 30-second commercial seen on TV. "The length of time of an episode or a viewing period is really important and has got to be short, otherwise you just won't keep the attention of millennials," comScore CEO Gian Fulgoni told CNBC's "Squawk Alley." The format of advertising may have to be radically changed to reach millennials, he suggested. "You're going to have to make your case literally in a matter of seconds and make sure you grab somebody's attention, Fulgoni said.
Businesses

Verizon Accused of Throttling Netflix and YouTube, Admits To 'Video Optimization' (arstechnica.com) 52

New submitter dgatwood writes: According to an Ars Technica article, Verizon recently began experimenting with throttling of video traffic. The remarkable part of this story is not that a wireless ISP would throttle video traffic, but rather that Verizon's own Go90 video platform is also affected by the throttling. From the article, "Verizon Wireless customers this week noticed that Netflix's speed test tool appears to be capped at 10Mbps, raising fears that the carrier is throttling video streaming on its mobile network. When contacted by Ars this morning, Verizon acknowledged using a new video optimization system but said it is part of a temporary test and that it did not affect the actual quality of video. The video optimization appears to apply both to unlimited and limited mobile plans. But some YouTube users are reporting degraded video, saying that using a VPN service can bypass the Verizon throttling."
If even Verizon can get on board with throttling sans paid prioritization, why is Comcast so scared of the new laws that are about to go into effect banning it?

The Courts

Intel Accuses Qualcomm of Trying To Kill Mobile Chip Competition (cnet.com) 50

Intel has jumped into the fray surrounding the Apple-Qualcomm patent spat by accusing the world's biggest maker of mobile phone chips of trying to use the courts to snuff out competition. From a report: The chip giant made the allegation late Thursday in a public statement (PDF) to US International Trade Commission. The commission had requested the statement as part of its investigation into Qualcomm's accusation that Apple's iPhones of infringe six of Qualcomm's mobile patents. Specifically, Intel said, the case is about quashing competition from Intel, which described itself as "Qualcomm's only remaining competitor" in the market for chips for cellular phones. "Qualcomm did not initiate this investigation to stop the alleged infringement of its patent rights; rather, its complaint is a transparent effort to stave off lawful competition from Qualcomm's only remaining rival," Intel said in its statement. "This twisted use of the Commission's process is just the latest in a long line of anticompetitive strategies that Qualcomm has used to quash incipient and potential competitors and avoid competition on the merits."

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