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  • Startups: the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Rebels ... the Dumb

    An anonymous reader writes Many companies emerged in 2014 offering new ways to help people connect, get stuff done, or find that special someone. Slack, for example, offers a chatty alternative to work email. Or Yonomi might actually make an Internet connected home feasible. But other new startups, looking for that new and original thing, peddled products that were gimmicky, legally unsound, or just not super useful. On the other hand, sometimes things that seem gimmicky get revised down the road; Kozmo.com is my favorite example — the business model might not have been perfect, but the underlying idea wasn't so bad. Sometimes there's a large not-being-the-first-mover advantage.

    17 comments | 1 hour ago

  • Russian Hackers Stole Millions From Banks, ATMs

    An anonymous reader writes Tens of millions of dollars, credit cards and intellectual property stolen by a new group of cyber criminals. Group-IB and Fox-IT, in a joint research effort, released a report about the Anunak hackers group. This group has been involved in targeted attacks and espionage since 2013. Anunak targets banks and payments systems in Russia and CIS countries. In Europe, USA and Latin America criminals were mainly focusing on retail networks as well as mass media resources. Anunak is unique in the fact that it aims to target banks and e-payment systems. The goal is to get into bank networks and gain access to secured payment systems. As a result, the money is stolen not from the customers, but from the bank itself. If they manage to infect governmental networks, they use the infrastructure for espionage.

    38 comments | 12 hours ago

  • De-escalating the Android Patent War

    In 2011, a consortium formed from Microsoft, Apple, Sony, BlackBerry, and others spent $4.5 billion acquiring Nortel's patent portfolio, which contained a great deal of ammunition that could be used against Android. That threat has now been reduced. Today, 4,000 of the patents were purchased by a corporation called RPX, which has licensing agreements from Google, Cisco, and dozens more companies. [RPX is] a company that collects a bunch of patents with the goal of using those patents for member companies for defensive purposes. Even though RPX has generally been "good," the business model basically lives because of patent trolling. Its very existence is because of all the patent trolling and abuse out there. In this case, though, it's making sure that basically anyone can license these patents under FRAND (fair and reasonable, non-discriminatory) rates. The price being paid is approximately $900 million. While that article points out that this is considerably less than the $4.5 billion Microsoft and Apple paid originally, again, this is only 4,000 of the 6,000 patents, and you have to assume the 2,000 the other companies kept were the really valuable patents. In short, this is basically Google and Cisco (with some help from a few others) licensing these patents to stop the majority of the lawsuits -- while also making sure that others can pay in as well should they feel threatened. Of course, Microsoft, Apple and the others still have control over the really good patents they kept for themselves, rather than give to Rockstar. And the whole thing does nothing for innovation other than shift around some money.

    59 comments | yesterday

  • Serious Economic Crisis Looms In Russia, China May Help

    jones_supa writes: Russia is facing a "full-blown economic crisis," a former finance minister has warned, as the country is forced to take emergency financial measures. The economy has been battered by a wave of sanctions (set by other countries as a result of tensions over Ukraine), geopolitical uncertainty, and falling oil prices. Analysts have warned that the Russian economy will not improve in the long run until the aforementioned conditions have also improved. The Central Bank of Russia said that a plan to loan Trust bank an amount of up to 30bn rubles ($54m) had been approved. Trust bank has run a series of advertisements featuring actor Bruce Willis in Russia, along with the ironic quote: "When I need money, I just take it." Anna Stupnytska, an economist at Fidelity Solutions, said that "the risk of a sovereign default is low, it's the corporate sector where the main vulnerabilities lie, and banking in particular. Due to sanctions, companies cannot refinance their debt as access to international markets has been essentially cut off." Reader hackingbear adds: Two Chinese ministers offered support for Russia as President Vladimir Putin seeks to shore up the plummeting ruble without depleting foreign-exchange reserves. Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said expanding a currency swap between the two nations and making increased use of the yuan for bilateral trade would have the greatest impact in aiding Russia. Western governments and experts have been criticizing China for restricting exchange and suppressing the value of its currency, even though anyone who lived in China during the 1990's knew that the value of the yuan was cut to align with the (vibrant) black market. But as grandma has warned us, we should be careful of what we wish for. China has greatly sped up the relaxation of currency exchange and is promoting the yuan as an alternative to the dollar for global trade and finance. They've signed currency-swap agreements with 28 other central banks to encourage this. Once accomplished, and backed by China's growing military might, Renminbi would be a formidable competitor to U.S. Dollar, which would hamper the U.S's ability to borrow almost freely with banks around the world.

    255 comments | 2 days ago

  • JP Morgan Breach Tied To Two-Factor Authentication Slip

    itwbennett writes The attackers who stole information about 83 million JPMorgan Chase customers earlier this year gained a foothold on the company's network because a server reportedly lacked two-factor authentication, despite the company's practice of using two-factor authentication on most of its systems. The story, reported in the New York Times, echoes the warnings of security experts over the years that the breach of a single server or employee computer can put an entire network at risk.

    71 comments | 2 days ago

  • Uber Pushing For Patent On Surge Pricing

    mpicpp sends news that Uber is renewing its push for a patent on "surge pricing," the practice of increasing rider fees when many people are trying to find transportation. The system measures supply (Uber drivers) and demand (passengers hailing rides with smartphones), and prices fares accordingly. It’s one of at least 13 U.S. patent applications filed by Uber or its founders to give it an edge over potential rivals ahead of a potential initial public offering. So far, Uber hasn’t had any luck. Ten applications were initially rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “obviousness” or for covering something not eligible for protection.

    179 comments | 2 days ago

  • Minecraft Creator Notch's $70 Million Mansion Recreated In Minecraft

    theodp writes In case you've fallen behind on your TMZ reading, Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson used his Microsoft money to outbid Beyonce and Jay Z for the most expensive mansion in Beverly Hills. Now, the Minecraft mogul's new $70 million mega-mansion has been recreated inside the game that made him rich.

    166 comments | 2 days ago

  • The Magic of Pallets

    HughPickens.com writes Jacob Hodes writes in Cabinet Magazine that there are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the holds of tractor-trailers in the United States transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of. According to Hodes the magic of pallets is the magic of abstraction. "Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a "unit load"—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency; the gains are so impressive, in fact, that many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century." Although the technology was in place by the mid-1920s, pallets didn't see widespread adoption until World War II, when the challenge of keeping eight million G.I.s supplied—"the most enormous single task of distribution ever accomplished anywhere," according to one historian—gave new urgency to the science of materials handling. "The pallet really made it possible for us to fight a war on two fronts the way that we did." It would have been impossible to supply military forces in both the European and Pacific theaters if logistics operations had been limited to manual labor and hand-loading cargo.

    To get a sense of the productivity gains that were achieved, consider the time it took to unload a boxcar before the advent of pallets. "According to an article in a 1931 railway trade magazine, three days were required to unload a boxcar containing 13,000 cases of unpalletized canned goods. When the same amount of goods was loaded into the boxcar on pallets or skids, the identical task took only four hours." Pallets, of course, are merely one cog in the global machine for moving things and while shipping containers have had their due, the humble pallet is arguably "the single most important object in the global economy."

    247 comments | 3 days ago

  • Dish Pulls Fox News, Fox Business Network As Talks Break Down

    An anonymous reader writes Fox News and Fox Business were pulled by Dish Network over the weekend, as both continue to argue over a fee agreement. From the article: "Dish said in a statement early Sunday morning that 21st Century Fox had blocked access to the two networks after Dish balked when rates for other networks owned by the media conglomerate were made a part of the negotiations. Tim Carry, executive vice president of distribution at Fox News Channel, countered in a statement that "Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations. It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider. Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."

    268 comments | 4 days ago

  • T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills

    itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.

    51 comments | 5 days ago

  • LinuxFest Northwest 2015 Will be Held April 25 and 26 (Video)

    Their website says, 'Come for the code, stay for the people! We have awesome attendees and electrifying parties. Check out the robotics club, the automated home brewing system running on Linux, or the game room for extra conference fun.' This is an all-volunteer conference, and for a change the volunteers who run it are getting things together far in advance instead of having sessions that don't get scheduled until a few days before the conference, which has happened more than once with LFNW.

    So if you have an idea for a session, this is the time to start thinking about it. Sponsors are also welcome -- and since LFNW sponsorships regularly sell out, it's not to soon to start thinking about becoming a sponsor -- and if you are part of a non-profit group or FOSS project, LFNW offers free exhibit space because this is a conference that exists for the community, not to make money for a corporate owner. But don't delay. As you can imagine, those free exhibit spots tend to fill up early. (Alternate Video Link)

    21 comments | 5 days ago

  • Scientists Discover That Exercise Changes Your DNA

    HughPickens.com writes The human genome is astonishingly complex and dynamic, with genes constantly turning on or off, depending on what biochemical signals they receive from the body. Scientists have known that certain genes become active or quieter as a result of exercise but they hadn't understood how those genes knew how to respond to exercise. Now the NYT reports that scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have completed a study where they recruited 23 young and healthy men and women, brought them to the lab for a series of physical performance and medical tests, including a muscle biopsy, and then asked them to exercise half of their lower bodies for three months. The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. Then the scientists repeated the muscle biopsies and other tests with each volunteer. Not surprisingly, the volunteers' exercised leg was more powerful now than the other, showing that the exercise had resulted in physical improvements. But there were also changes within the exercised muscle cells' DNA. Using technology that analyses 480,000 positions throughout the genome, they could see that new methylation patterns had taken place in 7,000 genes (an individual has 20–25,000 genes).

    In a process known as DNA methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body. In the exercised portions of the bodies, many of the methylation changes were on portions of the genome known as enhancers that can amplify the expression of proteins by genes. And gene expression was noticeably increased or changed in thousands of the muscle-cell genes that the researchers studied. Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become. Many mysteries still remain but the message of the study is unambiguous. "Through endurance training — a lifestyle change that is easily available for most people and doesn't cost much money," says Sara Lindholm, "we can induce changes that affect how we use our genes and, through that, get healthier and more functional muscles that ultimately improve our quality of life."

    56 comments | about a week ago

  • Will Ripple Eclipse Bitcoin?

    First time accepted submitter groggy.android writes This year's biggest news about Bitcoin may well turn out not to be the repeat of its surge in value last year against the dollar and other state currencies but its impending eclipse by another independent but corporate-backed digital currency. Popularly known as Ripple, XRP shot up in value last year along with other cryptocurrencies that took advantage of the hype around Bitcoin. However, among the top cryptocurrencies listed in Coinmarketcap.com, a site that monitors trading across different cryptocurrency exchanges, Ripple is the only one that not only regained its value after the collapse in the price of Bitcoin but has more than doubled from its peak last year. In September it displaced Litecoin to become the second most valuable cryptocurrency. Even more surpising, a Ripple fork, Stellar, is one of the two other cryptocurrencies in the Coinmarketcap top ten that have risen sharply in value during the last few weeks.

    What makes Ripple different from Bitcoin? Strictly speaking, Ripple isn't the name of the digital currency but of the decentralized payment network and protocol created and maintained by the eponymous Ripple Labs. Users of the Ripple system are able to transact in both cryptocurrency and regular fiat currency like the dollar without passing through a central exchange. XRP is the name of the native unit of exchange used in the Ripple network to facilitate conversion between different currency types.

    143 comments | about a week ago

  • To Fight Currency Mismatches, Steam Adding Region Locking to PC Games

    will_die writes Because of recent currency devaluation Steam has now added region locking for games sold in Russia and CIS. Brazil and local area and Indonesia and local area are also being locked. If you purchase a game from one of those regions you cannot gift it to somone outside of the area. So someone from Russia can gift a game to someone to Georgia [Note: This Georgia, rather than this one, that is.] but not to someone in the USA. You want to see the prices in the Russia store and compare them to the Steam Christmas Sale which should be starting in a few hours.

    159 comments | about a week ago

  • Top Five Theaters Won't Show "The Interview" Sony Cancels Release

    tobiasly writes The country's top five theater chains — Regal Entertainment, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas and Cineplex Entertainment — have decided not to play Sony's The Interview. This comes after the group which carried off a massive breach of its networks threatened to carry out "9/11-style attacks" on theaters that showed the film. Update: Sony has announced that it has cancelled the planned December 25 theatrical release.

    586 comments | about a week ago

  • Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

    HughPickens.com writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

    When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."

    677 comments | about a week ago

  • Single Group Dominates Second Round of Anti Net-Neutrality Comment Submissions

    New submitter aquadood writes: According to the Sunlight Foundation's analysis of recent comment submissions to the FCC regarding Net Neutrality, the majority (56.5%) were submitted by a single organization called American Commitment, which has "shadowy" ties to the Koch brothers' network. The blog article goes on to break down the comments in-depth, showing a roughly 60/40 split between those against net neutrality and those for it, respectively.

    218 comments | about a week ago

  • Uber Limits 'God View' To Improve Rider Privacy

    mpicpp sends this report from CNN: Uber has rolled back employee access to its "God view" mode, which allows the company to track riders' locations and other data. The ride service company was faced with questions about its privacy policies from U.S. Senator Al Franken, following a series of recent privacy debacles. Uber's updated policy is detailed in its response to the senator's questions. Franken sent Uber a letter (PDF, Uber's response) in November after news reports made two things clear: The ride service company collects lots of data on customers — and some executives don't exercise that power responsibly. In one case, an Uber employee using "God View" easily tracked a reporter's movements on her way to a meeting.

    76 comments | about a week ago

  • NASA's $349 Million Empty Tower

    An anonymous reader writes: In a scathing indictment of NASA's bureaucracy, the Washington Post documents a $349 million project to construct a laboratory tower that was closed as soon as it was finished. From the article: "[The tower was] designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space. ... As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially 'mothballed' — closed up and left empty — without ever being used. ... The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010. ... The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn't need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse. ... Jerked from one mission to another, NASA lost its sense that any mission was truly urgent. It began to absorb the vices of less-glamorous bureaucracies: Officials tended to let projects run over time and budget. Its congressional overseers tended to view NASA first as a means to deliver pork back home, and second as a means to deliver Americans into space. In Mississippi, NASA built a monument to its own institutional drift."

    200 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Amazon UK Glitch Sells Thousands of Products For a Penny

    An anonymous reader writes For about an hour on Friday a few lucky Amazon UK shoppers were able to take advantage of a price glitch which discounted thousands of marketplace products to the price of 1p. An Amazon spokesman said: "We are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrect prices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on Amazon.co.uk. We responded quickly and were able to cancel the vast majority of orders placed on these affected items immediately and no costs or fees will be incurred by sellers for these cancelled orders. We are now reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers directly."

    138 comments | about two weeks ago

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