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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Government

Funding Tech For Government, Instead of Tech For Industry 28

Posted by Soulskill
from the imagine-an-iphone-developed-by-the-government dept.
An anonymous reader writes: If you're a creative engineer looking to build a product, you're probably going to end up starting your own business or joining an established. That's where ideas get funding, and that's where products make a difference (not to mention money). Unfortunately, it also siphons a lot of the tech-related talent away from government (and by extension, everybody else), who could really benefit from this creative brilliance. That's why investor Ron Bouganim just started a $23 million fund for investment in tech companies that develop ideas for the U.S. government. Not only is he hoping to transfer some of the $74 billion spent annually by the government on technology to more efficient targets, but also to change the perception that the best tech comes from giant, entrenched government contractors.
Businesses

Uber CEO: We'll Run Your Errands 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the filling-in-the-gaps dept.
mpicpp writes with Uber's latest plans for expansion. The future of Uber is about pharmacies and rickshaws. So says CEO Travis Kalanick. One of several avenues for expansion is in a category of delivery that's about running errands. "In Los Angeles, we're doing something called Uber Fresh, which is you push a button and you get a lunch in five minutes," Kalanick told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "In DC, we're doing Uber Corner Store. So imagine all the things you get at a corner store...FedEx isn't going to your nearest pharmacy and delivering something to you in five minutes," he continued. Another is in emerging markets, where the company may focus on rickshaws, rather than high-end black cars, Kalanick said.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Maker Mojang For $2.5 Billion 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-fish dept.
jawtheshark writes The rumors were true. Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, is being sold to Microsoft. Of course, the promise is to keep all products supported as they are. From the article: "Microsoft said it has agreed to buy Mojang AB, the Swedish video game company behind the hit Minecraft game, boosting its mobile efforts and cementing control of another hit title for its Xbox console. Minecraft, which has notched about 50 million copies sold, will be purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion, the company said in a statement. The move marks the tech giant's most ambitious video game purchase and the largest acquisition for Satya Nadella, its new chief executive. Minecraft is more than a great game franchise - it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft,' Nadella said in a statement."
Businesses

Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor 372

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-tor-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes Comcast agents have reportedly contacted customers who use Tor and said their service can get terminated if they don't stop using Tor. According to Deep.Dot.Web, one of those calls included a Comcast customer service agent who allegedly called Tor an “illegal service.” The Comcast agent told the customer that such activity is against usage policies. The Comcast agent then allegedly told the customer: "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day." Update: 09/15 18:38 GMT by S : Comcast has responded, saying they have no policy against Tor and don't care if people use it.
Transportation

Technological Solution For Texting While Driving Struggles For Traction 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-behavioral-incentive-strong-enough dept.
An anonymous reader writes: While legislators and police try to tackle the epidemic of distracted driving through education, regulation, and enforcement, Scott Tibbitts is trying to solve it through engineering. He developed a small device which, when plugged into a vehicle, would determine which phone belonged to the driver and shut off its texting and voice call capabilities. "The telematics box sends a wireless message that the car is moving. The phone sends its own message about its location. Both sets of information — from the car and phone — are sent to Katasi's servers. Then, an algorithm weighs the incoming data with other information, like the location of the phones belonging to all the people who drive the car and the starting point of the trip; if the trip starts at Junior's high school, and mom and dad's phones are at work, the driver has been identified — Junior is driving."

The problem is that Tibbitts can't get anyone interested in setting up a system to make these devices ubiquitous. Consumers can't be sold on such a product: all evidence suggests people are increasingly unwilling to be cut off from constant communication. So, he tried working with carriers. Sprint partnered with Tibbitts long enough to test the device, but they were afraid of the legal risks involved. Now, Tibbitts is nursing the technology along, looking for a way to get it into cars and make people safer.
Canada

Drone-Based Businesses: Growing In Canada, Grounded In the US 94

Posted by Soulskill
from the looking-forward-to-hockey-drones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As small drones become affordable, and as clever people come up with ideas on how to use them, we've been hearing about more and more plans for drone-based business. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration was quick to shut down such ideas in order to give themselves time to regulate the nascent industry. Not so, in Canada. Thanks to a simple permit system, anyone wanting to use a drone for commercial purposes can do so in Canada by simply applying and waiting a few weeks. Around 1,500 of these permits have been granted already, and Canada's private drone industry is flourishing as a result. Drones have been used for agriculture analysis, TV production, real estate photography, law enforcement, and many other tasks.
Businesses

Amazon Is Killing Off Its Free P2P Money-Transfer Service WebPay On October 13 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the internet-impermanence dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon WebPay, a free online money-transfer service, is shutting down October 13, 2014. This means you'll no longer be able to send, receive, or request money using just your email address and the Amazon Payments webpage. There were hints back in June that the service would be going away soon. Amazon sent out an email this week to active Amazon Payments account users notifying them it is pulling the plug.
HP

HP Buys Cloud Provider, Gets Marten Mickos To Head Its Cloud Division 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.
jfruh writes: In 2010, HP tried to buy its way into the analytics game by shelling out billions for Autonomy, a deal that was a famous disaster. But that isn't stopping the company from making big buys: it will be buying Eucalyptus, a cloud provider headed by ex-MySQL AB CEO Marten Mickos, and bringing Mickos in to head the new HP Cloud division.
Businesses

Kickstarter's Problem: You Have To Make the Game Before You Ask For Money 210

Posted by timothy
from the such-high-standards dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this piece about Digital Knights, the studio behind the Kickstarter campaign project Sienna Storm, which was cancelled this week after the team raised only 10% of their $180,000 target, despite a compelling concept (a card based espionage game) and a reputable team including the writer of the original Deus Ex, Sheldon Pacotti. The team is now seeking alternative funding before reaching out to publishers, but in an interview given this week, Knights CEO Sergei Filipov highlights what he sees as a recent and growing problem with crowdfunding games: an expectation to see a working prototype. "It seems at least 50 or 60 percent of the game needs to be completed before one launches a campaign on Kickstarter," he says. It's a chicken and egg cycle some indie developers will struggle to break out of, and shows just how far we've come since Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter burst the doors open two years ago.
Businesses

Direct Sales OK Baked Into Nevada's $1.3 Billion Incentive Deal With Tesla 148

Posted by timothy
from the not-that-they-should-need-to-ask-for-that dept.
The new battery factory that Tesla has announced it will build in Nevada comes with some nice perks: specifically, with a package of tax incentives, road construction, and legislative protection from the kind of dealer cartels that have hindered Tesla's ability to sell cars in some other states. A Bloomberg wire story gives some details about the size of the deal that Nevada made to attract the company: The biggest chunk of the deal, Tesla's sales tax exemptions, is worth an estimated at $725 million. In addition, the company would save more than an estimated $300 million in payroll and other taxes through 2024. ... Among the bills approved in both houses was a provision phasing out and eliminating 1970s-era tax credits for insurance companies, which backers said would free up about $125 million over five years beginning in 2016 for transferable tax credits to Tesla. The package would also gut a pilot program approved just last year giving tax credits to the film industry, freeing up about $70 million for Tesla. ... Lawmakers also agreed to buy right of way to build a road connecting I-80 and U.S. 50, a project estimated to cost $43 million that will improve access to the industrial park from other regions of the state.
Businesses

Hewlett-Packard Pleads Guilty To Bribing Officials in Russia, Poland, and Mexico 110

Posted by timothy
from the keeping-the-crony-in-crony-capitalism dept.
Charliemopps writes Hewlett-Packard and three subsidiaries pleaded guilty Thursday to paying bribes to foreign officials in Russia, Mexico and Poland and agreed to pay $108 million in criminal and regulatory penalties. For over 10 years Hewlett-Packard kept 2 sets of books to track slush-funds they used to bribe government officials for favorable contracts. From the article: According to the Justice Department, HP Poland paid more than $600,000 in cash bribes and gifts, travel and entertainment to the the police agency's director of information and communications technology. HP Poland gave the government official bags filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash, provided the official with HP desktop and laptop computers, mobile devices and other products and took the official on a leisure trip to Las Vegas, which included a private tour flight over the Grand Canyon, the Justice Department said. The foreign officials probably weren't reporting the income on their taxes, either.
United States

U.S. Threatened Massive Fine To Force Yahoo To Release Data 223

Posted by timothy
from the your-government-at-work dept.
Advocatus Diaboli writes The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA's controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government's demands. The company's loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.
Books

Publishers Gave Away 123 Million Books During World War Two 121

Posted by samzenpus
from the publish-or-perish dept.
An anonymous reader writes Information wants to be free? During the Second World War, it actually was. Publishers took advantage of new printing technologies to sell crates of cheap, paperback books to the military for just six cents a copy, at a time when almost all the other books they printed cost more than two dollars. The army and the navy shipped them to soldiers and sailors around the world, giving away nearly 123 million books for free. Many publishers feared the program would destroy their industry, by flooding the market with free books and destroying the willingness of consumers to pay for content. Instead, it fueled a postwar publishing boom, as millions of GIs got hooked on good books, and proved willing to pay for more. It's a freemium model, more than 70 years ago.
Microsoft

Microsoft Killing Off Windows Phone Brand Name In Favor of Just Windows 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-rose-by-any-other-name dept.
DroidJason1 writes Microsoft is killing off the "Windows Phone" name in favor of Windows. The company also plans to drop the "Nokia" name from handsets in favor of just "Lumia." These details were revealed in a leaked memo. We've already begun seeing these changes in recent advertisements from Microsoft and it makes perfect sense seeing as how Microsoft is shifting towards one operating system to rule them all.
Microsoft

Microsoft Paid NFL $400 Million To Use Surface, But Announcers Call Them iPads 401

Posted by Soulskill
from the free-advertising dept.
mpicpp sends this news from Business Insider: Prior to the season, Microsoft and the NFL struck a 5-year, $400 million deal with one of the major components being that the Microsoft Surface would become "the official tablet of the NFL," with coaches and players using the Surface on the sidelines during games. But Microsoft and the league ran into a problem during week one of the season when at least two television announcers mistakenly referred to the tablets as iPads, giving a huge rival some unexpected exposure. The biggest blunder for the league came during the nationally televised Monday Night Football game when ESPN's Trent Dilfer joked about how long it took Cardinals assistant head coach Tom Moore to "learn how to use the iPad to scroll through the pictures." In a separate incident, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints was spotted by Fox commentator John Lynch using a Surface on the sideline. Lynch remarked that Brees was "not watching movies on his iPad.
United States

Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion 526

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-money dept.
First time accepted submitter ltorvalds11 writes Cuba says its economy is suffering a "systematic worsening" due to a US embargo, the consequences of which Havana places at $1.1 trillion since Washington imposed the sanctions in 1960, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against gold. "There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorizing and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba for 55 years," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno told reporters. He also blamed the embargo for the difficulties in accessing internet on the island, saying that the United States creates an obstacle for companies providing broadband services in Cuba. Additionally, he said that the area is one of the "most sensitive" to the embargo, with economic losses estimated at $34.2 million. It is also the sector that has fallen "victim of all kinds of attacks" by the US, as violations of the Cuban radio or electronic space "promote destabilization" of Cuban society, the report notes. The damage to Cuban foreign trade between April 2013 and June 2014 amounted to $3.9 billion, the report said. Without the embargo, Cuba could have earned $205.8 million selling products such as rum and cigars to US consumers. Barack Obama last week signed the one-year extension of the embargo on Cuba, based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, created to restrict trade with countries hostile to the U.S..
Android

Amazon Instant Video Now Available On Android 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-watch dept.
briancox2 writes Amazon has avoided releasing the Amazon Instant Video app that is on Fire and Kindle to the general Android market, even though the app has been available for some time on iOS. Now, after a workaround had allowed some users to install the app on Android by fiddling with permissions, Amazon has released the app to many devices calling it "Amazon Instant Video for Google TV". It's not clear yet which devices can run this app. Currently it is not available for older Samsung Galaxy lines, however the Nexus, a major competitor of Amazon's devices, can run the new app.
Businesses

California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews 275

Posted by samzenpus
from the use-your-words dept.
ericgoldman writes Some businesses are so paranoid about negative consumer reviews that they have contractually banned their customers from writing reviews or imposed fines on consumers who bash them. California has told businesses to stop it. AB 2365--signed by Governor Brown yesterday, and the first law of its kind in the nation--says any contract provisions restricting consumer reviews are void, and simply including an anti-review clause in the contract can trigger penalties of $2,500.
Math

Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-credit-to-the-genesis-device dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Most research into the origin of life focuses on the messy business of chemistry, on the nature of self-replicating molecules and on the behavior of autocatalytic reactions. Now one theorist says the properties of information also place important limits on how life must have evolved, without getting bogged down in the biochemical details. The new approach uses information theory to highlight a key property that distinguishes living from non-living systems: their ability to store information and replicate it almost indefinitely. A measure of this how much these systems differ from a state of maximum entropy or thermodynamic equilibrium. The new approach is to create a mathematical model of these informational differences and use it to make predictions about how likely it is to find self-replicating molecules in an artificial life system called Avida. And interestingly, the predictions closely match what researchers have found in practice. The bottom line is that according to information theory, environments favorable to life are unlikely to be unusual.
Businesses

Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+ 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-what-now dept.
dotarray (1747900) writes "A surprising story has emerged today that suggests Microsoft is looking to buy Minecraft developer Mojang. The reported price tag is "more than US$2 billion." The original report is at the WSJ (possibly behind a paywall). Quoting: "For Microsoft, "Minecraft" could reinvigorate the company's 13-year-old Xbox videogame business by giving it a cult hit with a legion of young fans. Mojang has sold more than 50 million copies of "Minecraft" since it was initially released in 2009 and earned more than $100 million in profits last year from the game and merchandise. "Minecraft" is already available on the Xbox, as well as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, PCs and smartphones."

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