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Businesses

Startups: the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Rebels ... the Dumb 33

Posted by timothy
from the pets-dot-com dept.
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.
The Internet

US Internet Offers 10Gbps Fiber In Minneapolis 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
An anonymous reader writes Christmas came early in Minneapolis! U.S. Internet has announced that they are now offering 10 Gbps service to all of their existing fiber customers. Their prior top tier service was 1 Gbps. The article also goes on to state that they're actively working on rolling out 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps fiber service as well."
Google

The History of the NORAD/Microsoft and Google Santa Trackers 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the NSA-only-has-santa-metadata dept.
theodp writes: Marketing Land's Danny Sullivan has a pretty epic post on How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD, and wonders if future generations will think of Santa tracking as synonymous with Google, just as past ones have felt about NORAD. Until it split with Google in 2012 (for unknown reasons) and hooked up with Microsoft, Sullivan explains, NORAD had really been the only place to go for a serious, dependable Santa tracking service. "There's a big part of me that wishes Google had gotten out of Santa tracking when it split from NORAD," says Sullivan of the divorce. "The NORAD Santa tracker brings back memories from my childhood; it brings back memories of me being a father with young kids checking in on Santa's progress. In contrast, Google feels to me like an upstart interloper messing with my nostalgic memories. But maybe Google's a welcome alternative to others. It's not uncommon to see the occasional complaint about a NORAD "Santa Cam" video showing Santa being accompanied by fighter jets. Some might prefer a Santa tracker that's not connected to a military organization. Of course, some might not feel one connected to a giant company is necessarily preferable. Part of me is also sad that when I go to NORAD's own site, I get a big Internet Explorer icon in the top right corner, which effectively opens up an ad for Microsoft. I guess I feel it's too blatant. Of course, complaining about the commercialization of something Christmas-related, I suppose, is kind of useless." Sullivan adds, "Overall, I'm thankful to the many people who are involved with both operations [NORAD Tracks Santa and Google Santa Tracker], who work hard to make children smile on Christmas Eve.""
The Internet

TripAdvisor Fined In Italy For Fake Reviews 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the italy:-1-star,-didn't-elect-me-king dept.
mpicpp writes with news that TripAdvisor, a travel website filled with user-generated reviews, has been hit with a €500,000 ($611,000) fine for "misleading customers" by failing to cull fake reviews from their list. "The regulator complained that people reading TripAdvisor Italy were unable to distinguish between genuine and fake reviews posted on the site. It said both were presented by TripAdvisor as 'authentic and genuine in nature.' Demanding payment of the fine within 30 days, the ICA also accused the travel company of failing to provide proper checks to weed out bogus postings."
Communications

The Slow Death of Voice Mail 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-the-tone,-please-hang-up-and-send-me-an-email dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Duane D. Stanford reports at Bloomberg that Coca-Cola's Atlanta Headquarters is the latest big company to ditch its old-style voice mail, which requires users to push buttons to scroll through messages and listen to them one at a time. The change went into effect this month, and a standard outgoing message now throws up an electronic stiff arm, telling callers to try later or use "an alternative method" to contact the person. Techies have predicted the death of voice mail for years as smartphones co-opt much of the office work once performed by telephones and desktop computers. Younger employees who came of age texting while largely ignoring voice mail are bringing that habit into the workforce. "People north of 40 are schizophrenic about voice mail," says Michael Schrage. "People under 35 scarcely ever use it." Companies are increasingly combining telephone, e-mail, text and video systems into unified Internet-based systems that eliminate overlap. "Many people in many corporations simply don't have the time or desire to spend 25 minutes plowing through a stack of 15 to 25 voice mails at the end or beginning of the day," says Schrage.

In 2012, Vonage reported its year-over-year voicemail volumes dropped 8%. More revealing, the number of people bothering to retrieve those messages plummeted 14%. More and more personal and corporate voicemail boxes now warn callers that their messages are rarely retrieved and that they're better off sending emails or texts. "The truly productive have effectively abandoned voicemail, preferring to visually track who's called them on their mobiles," concludes Schrage. "A communications medium that was once essential has become as clunky and irrelevant as Microsoft DOS and carbon paper."
United Kingdom

BT, Sky, and Virgin Enforce UK Porn Blocks By Hijacking Browsers 289

Posted by timothy
from the big-enough-to-give-you-what-you-want dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story at Ars Technica, excerpting: BT, Sky, and Virgin Media are hijacking people's web connections to force customers to make a decision about family-friendly web filters. The move comes as the December deadline imposed by prime minister David Cameron looms, with ISPs struggling to get customers to say yes or no to the controversial adult content blocks. The messages, which vary by ISP, appear during browser sessions when a user tries to access any website. BT, Sky,TalkTalk and Virgin Media are required to ask all their customers if they want web filters turned on or off, with the government saying it wants to create a "family friendly" Internet free from pornography, gambling, extreme violence and other content inappropriate for children. But the measures being taken by ISPs have been described as "completely unnecessary" and "heavy handed" by Internet rights groups. The hijacking works by intercepting requests for unencrypted websites and rerouting a user to a different page. ISPs are using the technique to communicate with all undecided customers. Attempting to visit WIRED.co.uk, for example, could result in a user being redirected to a page asking them about web filtering. ISPs cannot intercept requests for encrypted websites in the same way.
The Internet

Comcast's Lobbyists Hand Out VIP Cards To Skip the Customer Service Wait 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-charmed-existence dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A lengthy story about how David Gregory lost his job hosting Meet the Press holds an interesting tidbit: Comcast's team of lobbyists regularly hands out VIP cards to influential (and influence-able) people in Washington that lets them bypass normal customer service and fast-track their support problems. "Its government-affairs team carried around 'We'll make it right' cards stamped with 'priority assistance' codes for fast-tracking help and handed them out to congressional staffers, journalists, and other influential Washingtonians who complained about their service. A Comcast spokeswoman says this practice isn't exclusive to DC; every Comcast employee receives the cards, which they can distribute to any customer with cable or internet trouble. Nevertheless, efforts like this one have surely helped Comcast boost its standing inside the Beltway and improve its chances of winning regulatory approval for its next big conquest: merging with the second-largest cable provider in the country, Time Warner Cable." (The David Gregory article is worth a look on it's own, too; it shows how Comcast's purchase of NBC has led to interference in NBC's attempts at real journalism.)
Christmas Cheer

Goodbye, Alek's Internet-Controlled Christmas Lights for Celiac Research 21

Posted by timothy
from the ho-ho-ho-and-a-merry-old-hoax-except-it's-real-these-days dept.
Alek Komarnitsky, Colorado (and the Internet's) own Clark Griswold, has decided to retire as his own props master, programmer, best boy, and effects specialist. After 10 years of increasingly elaborate set-ups, Alek's decided to go out with a bang, with his largest-yet rooftop display of open-source powered, remotely controllable, internet-connected Christmas lights. (This year, he even matches the fictional Griswold's 25,000 lights, but truth tops fiction, with live webcams, animated props, and more.) We talked with Alek last year, too; but now he's got a full decade's worth of reminiscing about his jest-made-real hobby as That Guy With the Lights, and some advice for anyone who'd like to take on a project like this.

Alek has managed to stay on good terms with his neighbors, despite the car and foot traffic that his display has drawn, and kept himself from serious harm despite a complex of minor, overlapping risks including ladders, squirrels, a fair amount of electricity and (the most dangerous, he says) wind. The lights are what the world sees, but the video capture and distribution to the vast online audience is an equal part of the work. Alek has learned a lot along the way about automation, logistics, wireless networking, and the importance of load balancing. It's always possible the lights will return in some form, or that someone will take up the mantle as Blinkenlights master, but this tail end of 2014 (and the first day of 2015) is your last good chance to tune in and help toggle some of those lights. (The display operates from 1700-2200 Mountain time.) Alternate Video Link Update: 12/22 22:50 GMT by T : Note: Alek talks about the last year here.
United States

North Korean Internet Is Down 359

Posted by samzenpus
from the right-back-at-you dept.
First time accepted submitter opentunings writes "Engadget and many others are reporting that North Korea's external Internet access is down. No information yet regrading whether anyone's taking responsibility. From the NYT: "Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, an Internet performance management company, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend, and by Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline. 'Their networks are under duress,' Mr. Madory said. 'This is consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers,' he said, referring to a distributed denial of service attack, in which attackers flood a network with traffic until it collapses under the load."
Earth

Hot Springs At Yellowstone Changed Their Color Due To Tourist Activity 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-colors dept.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers say that the different colors of the hot springs in Yellowstone National Park are caused by human contamination. From the article: "Researchers at Montana State University and Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany have created a simple mathematical model based on optical measurements that explains the stunning colors of Yellowstone National Park's hot springs and can visually recreate how they appeared years ago, before decades of tourists contaminated the pools with make-a-wish coins and other detritus. If Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonderland, Grand Prismatic Spring and its neighbors are the ebullient envoys, steaming in front of the camera and gracing the Internet with their ethereal beauty. While the basic physical phenomena that render these colorful delights have long been scientifically understood—they arise because of a complicated interplay of underwater vents and lawns of bacteria—no mathematical model existed that showed empirically how the physical and chemical variables of a pool relate to their optical factors and coalesce in the unique, stunning fashion that they do."
Communications

Texas Instruments Builds New Energy Technology For the Internet of Things 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
dcblogs writes Texas Instruments says it has developed electronics capable of taking small amounts of power generated by harvested sources and turning them into a useful power source. TI has built an efficient 'ultra-low powered' DC-to-DC switching converter that can boost 300 to 400 millivolts power to 3 to 5 volts. To power wearables, the company says it has demonstrated drawing energy from the human body by using harvesters the size of wristwatch straps. It has worked with vibration collectors, for instance, about the same size as a key. It is offering this technology as a means to power sensors in Internet of Things applications, as well as to augment battery power supplies in wearables.
Education

Librarians: The Google Before Google 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
An anonymous reader writes NPR has an article about the questions people ask librarians. Before the internet, the librarian was your best bet for a quick answer to anything on your mind. "We were Google before Google existed," NYPL spokesperson Angela Montefinise explains. "If you wanted to know if a poisonous snake dies if it bites itself, you'd call or visit us." The New York Public Library in Manhattan recently discovered a box of old reference questions asked by patrons and plans to release some in its Instagram account. Here are a few of the best:
  • I just saw a mouse in the kitchen. Is DDT OK to use? (1946)
  • What does it mean when you dream of being chased by an elephant? (1947)
  • Can you tell me the thickness of a U.S. Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We couldn't tell you that answer quickly. Why don't you try the Post Office? Response: This is the Post Office. (1963)
  • Where can I rent a beagle for hunting? (1963)
Youtube

Viacom's Messy Relationship With YouTube and The Rise of Stephen Colbert 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the birth-of-the-nation dept.
Presto Vivace writes with this story about how Stephen Colbert became a YouTube Megastar. "Clips from The Colbert Report soon became a staple at YouTube, a startup that was making it easier for anyone and everyone to upload and watch home movies, video blogs, and technically-illicit-but-increasingly-vanilla clips of TV shows from the day before. And Colbert’s show was about to find itself at the center of a conflict between entertainment media and the web over online video that’s shaped the last decade. In fact, The Colbert Report has been defined as much by this back-and-forth between Hollywood and the web as by the cable news pundits it satirizes....A year after The Colbert Report premiere, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Five months later, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement, asking for $1 billion in damages. The value of these videos and their audiences were clear. The Colbert Report and “Stephen Colbert” are mentioned three times in Viacom’s complaint against YouTube, as much or more than any other show or artist."
The Internet

Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the lots-of-farmville-to-catch-up-on dept.
lpress writes Cuba first connected to the Internet in 1996 through a Sprint link funded by the US National Science Foundation. A year later the Cuban government decided to contain and control it. Now they say the Internet is a priority. If so, they need a long term plan, but they can get started with low cost interim measures. There is virtually no modern infrastructure on the island, but they could aggressively deploy satellite technology at little cost and, where phone lines could support it, install DSL equipment.
The Courts

Judge: It's OK For Cops To Create Fake Instagram Accounts 204

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-ip-address dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a ruling that seems obvious in a case about police making a fake Instagram account. A federal judge in New Jersey has signed off on the practice of law enforcement using a fake Instagram account in order to become "friends" with a suspect — thus obtaining photos and other information that a person posts to their account. "No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information," United States District Judge William Martini wrote in an opinion published last Tuesday. In other news, an undercover officer still doesn't need to tell you that he or she is a member of law enforcement if you ask.
Crime

Bitcoin Exec To Spend Two Years Behind Bars For Silk Road Transactions 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
mrspoonsi writes Charlie Shrem, former Bitcoin Foundation board member and CEO of the now-defunct exchange BitInstant, has been sentenced to two years in prison for helping Silk Road users anonymously swap cash for digital currency. Silk Road, as you know, was the online marketplace infamous for hosting anonymous drug and gun sales that was busted by the FBI back in 2013. A version 2.0 went up shortly after that, but it suffered the same fate as its predecessor this November. Based on evidence gathered during the crackdown, Shrem agreed to partner with Robert M. Faiella to trade over $1 million in cash from buyers. Faiella was the one with direct contact to buyers, hiding behind the name BTCKing to post ads promoting his dollar-to-Bitcoin business on the marketplace.
Communications

Tor Network May Be Attacked, Says Project Leader 86

Posted by timothy
from the routing-around-the-routing-around dept.
Earthquake Retrofit writes The Register is reporting that the Tor Project has warned that its network – used to mask peoples' identities on the internet – may be knocked offline in the coming days. In a Tor blog post, project leader Roger 'arma' Dingledine said an unnamed group may seize Tor's directory authority servers before the end of next week. These servers distribute the official lists of relays in the network, which are the systems that route users' traffic around the world to obfuscate their internet connections' public IP addresses.
Medicine

How a 3D Printer Let a Dog Run For the First Time 25

Posted by timothy
from the dogs-have-been-running-since-forever dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Ever since 3-D printing began to enter the mainstream, people have discussed the technology's potential for building prosthetic arms and legs for human beings. But what about doing the same for dogs? In one of those videos that ends up circulated endlessly on the Internet, a dog named Derby, born with a congenital deformity that deprived him of front paws, is outfitted with a pair of 3-D-printed prosthetics. With those "legs" in place, the dog can run for the first time, at a pretty good clip. Both the prosthetics and the video were produced by 3D Systems, which builds 3-D printers, and it seems likely that other 3-D-printing companies will explore the possibility of printing off parts for pets. And while the idea of a cyborg pooch is heartwarming, it will be interesting to see how 3D printers will continue to advance the realm of human prosthetics, which have become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade.
The Courts

All the Evidence the Government Will Present In the Silk Road Trial Is Online 51

Posted by Soulskill
from the defendant-knowingly-and-willfully-went-on-the-internets dept.
apexcp writes: In less than a month, one of the biggest trials of 2015 will begin in New York City. The full list of government evidence and defense objections found its way online recently, shedding light on both the prosecutor's courtroom strategy and the defense team's attempted rebuttals. Also important is what's not presented as evidence. There's not a single piece of forensic documentation about how the FBI originally found Silk Road servers, an act the defense has called "blatantly criminal."
Piracy

Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version of the Pirate Bay 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-all-spartacus dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.

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