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More Than a Hoodie: How We Talk About Developers - Tue Apr 4 19:33:42 2017

An anonymous reader shares an article: For generations, movies, video games, and tv shows have portrayed the developer as either an awkward hoodie-wearing nerd, or an insane and menacing basement dweller (or both). From Ace Ventura to Silicon Valley, everyone has had their chance to portray the developer. Few actors do this with the same grace they'd reserve for a role portraying a doctor. [...] I think it's time for all of us to try and elevate our understanding of what a developer is. If you are a tech company who markets to developers, or is hoping to hire developers this is doubly true. So, how should we talk about developers? First, we should talk about how important their work is. Programming is one of the fastest growing industries in the world as it serves a role in every part of society. Developers maintain and build critical parts of our infrastructure. Second, we need to talk about the craft of what they do... we need to show more code. Every developer may use a different set of tools, but across the board their craft is evolving at increasing rates. [...] I think we can drop developer stereotypes all together at this point. It's a job people know -- it's time to add some vitamins to that kool-aid. After all, we're just like lawyers, librarians, electricians and cab drivers... we're just people, totally unique and different people. But if there is one thing that unites us, it's a unifying desire to build new things, improve old things, learn when we can and avoid being stereotyped. It's as simple as that.

A Case For Why Movie-Theater Experience Is Still Worth the Effort - Tue Apr 4 18:51:12 2017

It's all but confirmed that major Hollywood studios are chalking out plans to make movies available in the home mere weeks after their theatrical debuts. Some director and producers, including Christopher Nolan of Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige and Interstellar fame are seemingly opposed to the idea, urging people to watch movies at the theaters for "best experience." The Verge has an article today in which it lists 10 reasons it thinks people should not stop going to the cinema halls. From the article, condensed for space:
1. The big screen. There's something to be said about watching visual storytelling on a three-story screen, particularly when the film really takes advantage of the format.
2. People everywhere. A group of people laughing together simultaneously triggers a feeling that you should laugh, too; during a suspenseful moment, you can feel dozens of strangers suck in their breath together.
3. Focus. Even people who try their hardest to give a movie their undivided attention on a living-room screen have fallen victim to temptations like "Well, I'm just sitting here, I might as well pay the electric bill."
4. Relentlessness. Part of the advantage of that kind of focus is that movies that are tense, scary, or deeply emotional can cast much more of a spell over you when you don't have the option to pause or turn away from the worst, then rewind later to catch it safely out of context.
5. A massive speaker system.
6. Previews.
7. Disruption. A problem with watching movies at home is that it makes the film-watching experience blur into the same experience as surfing cable channels, running a Netflix comedy show in the background while you do dishes, or half-assedly watching an Adventure Time marathon while stoned.
8. Alone time. Going to the movies with friends or your significant other can be a cherished pastime, especially when you're surrounded by an excited audience.
9. 32 ounces of cola in the dark.
10. Bragging rights.

Bill Would Stop Warrantless Border Device Searches of US Citizens - Tue Apr 4 18:08:00 2017

Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul as well as Reps. Jared Polis and Blake Farenthold have introduced legislation that would require law enforcement to first obtain a warrant before they can search our electronic devices when we enter the United States. From a report: A new bipartisan bill would prevent Americans' electronic devices from being searched at the border without a warrant, a response to an increase in such electronic searches. The bill would require a warrant before agents could search Americans' phones, laptops and other devices at entries to the US, including airports and border crossings. "Americans' constitutional rights shouldn't disappear at the border," Wyden said in a statement. "By requiring a warrant to search Americans' devices and prohibiting unreasonable delay, this bill makes sure that border agents are focused on criminals and terrorists instead of wasting their time thumbing through innocent Americans' personal photos and other data."

Some Hackathon Hustlers Make Their Living From Corporate Coding Contests - Tue Apr 4 17:25:30 2017

Some coders go from one marathon hacking session to another, subsisting on prize money and schwag. From a feature article on Bloomberg: Peter Ma looked around his San Francisco condo and realized he'd won everything in it. His flat-screen TV, home theater system, 3D printers, phones, tablets, computers and furniture were either hackathon prizes or purchased with hackathon earnings. Stashed under his leather couch -- which he'd bought with an Amazon gift card -- was a thick stack of 2- and 3-foot-long cardboard checks commemorating his most cherished wins. "The only non-schwag I have are shoes," he said. With his gray hoodie and close-cropped goatee, 33-year-old Ma looks like any of the thousands of computer programmers roaming the city, but he's part of an elite corps. He and about a dozen friends travel the hackathon circuit. They build apps, connected devices and other products during all-night, fiercely competitive programming contests where sleep is scarce and caffeine is plentiful. The sessions are usually sponsored by corporations, and top prizes mean serious cash. Some of the hackers have jobs. Some do contracting work. Some have corporate sponsors. Almost all of them are working on a pet startup idea. For Ma and a few others, hackathons are a job. Ma knows he would make more money if he had a more traditional career. He just doesn't want one.

Why Intel Insists Rumors Of The Demise Of Moore's Law Are Greatly Exaggerated - Tue Apr 4 16:43:41 2017

From an article on FastCompany: Intel hasn't lost its zeal for big leaps in computing, even as it changes the way it introduces new chips, and branches beyond the PC processor into other areas like computer vision and the internet of things. "Number one, too many people have been writing about the end of Moore's law, and we have to correct that misimpression," Mark Bohr, Intel's technology and manufacturing group senior fellow and director of process architecture and integration, says in an interview. "And number two, Intel has developed some pretty compelling technologies ... that not only prove that Moore's law is still alive, but that it's going to continue to provide the best benefits of density, cost performance, and power." But while Moore's law soldiers on, it's no longer associated with the types of performance gains Intel was making 10 to 20 years ago. The practical benefits of Moore's law are not what they used to be. [...] For each new generation of microprocessor, Intel used to adhere to a two-step cycle, called the "tick-tock." The "tick" is where Moore's law takes effect, using a new manufacturing process to shrink the size of each transistor and pack more of them onto a chip. The subsequent "tock" introduces a new microarchitecture, which yields further performance improvements by optimizing how the chip carries out instructions. Intel would typically go through this cycle once every two years. But in recent years, shrinking the size of transistors has become more challenging, and in 2016, Intel made a major change. The latest 14 nm process added a third "optimization" step after the architectural change, with modest performance improvements and new features such as 4K HDR video support. And in January, Intel said it would add a fourth optimization step, stretching the cycle out even further. The move to a 10 nm process won't happen until the second half of 2017, three years after the last "tick," and Intel expects the new four-step process to repeat itself. This "hyper scaling" allows computing power to continue to increase while needing fewer changes in the manufacturing process. If you divide the number of transistors in Intel's current tick by the surface area of two common logic cells, the rate of improvement still equals out to more than double every two years, keeping Moore's law on track. "Yes, they've taken longer, but we've taken bigger steps," Bohr said during his three-hour presentation.

Student Loan Debt Has Nearly Tripled - Tue Apr 4 16:11:42 2017

An anonymous reader shares a report: Recent college graduates who borrow are leaving school with an average of $34,000 in student loans. That's up from $20,000 just 10 years ago, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In that report, out this week, the New York Fed took a careful look at the relationship between debt and homeownership. For people aged 30 to 36, the analysis shows having any student debt significantly hurts your chances of buying a home, compared to college graduates with no debt. The cliche of "good debt" notwithstanding, the consequences of borrowing are real, and they are lasting. The report paints a mixed picture of how student borrowing has evolved over the last decade, since the financial crisis. There are some bright spots: For example, student loan defaults peaked five years ago and have declined ever since. And repayment seems to have slowed down among high-balance borrowers -- those who owe $75,000 or more. Meaning, after 10 years, they have paid down only one-quarter to one-third of what they owe.

Teenagers Think Google is Cool, Study By Google Finds - Tue Apr 4 15:29:03 2017

Today's teenagers think Google and Google brands are cool, research funded by Google has found. From a report: Google published "It's Lit: A guide to what teens think is cool", a "magazine" compiling the results of its research into Generation Z, characterised as those aged from 13 to 17. The Google-funded research found Generation Z relied on brands to "shape their world," and that Google was the third-most cool. Cool was defined by the researchers as "unique, impressive, interesting, amazing, or awesome." YouTube, which Google owns, came out at number one ahead of Netflix. Google's web browser Chrome placed tenth, in front of Nike.

The Mac Pro Is Getting a Major Do-Over - Tue Apr 4 14:25:18 2017

Apple is moving away from the current, cylinder-shaped design used on its Mac Pro desktop, but that replacement will take until next year to hit shelves. From a report: "The Mac Pro, the current vintage that we introduced, we wanted to do something bold and different. In retrospect, it didn't well suit some of the people we wanted to reach," admitted Apple SVP Craig Federighi. "So many of our customers were moving to iMac that we saw a path to address to many, many more of those people," he added. "With the current generation Mac Pro, which some customers love, others may not, one of the things that's certainly clear and true about that is the team tried to do something different, something bold and we always want to encourage the Mac team that whatever products you make, that make customers happy, that we do bold work. Because the Mac's always been about that. It's been about not being conventional thinking, not me-too-stuff," said Phil Schiller. [...] While we'll have to wait until 2018 for the Mac Pro rebirth ("Want to do something great... that will take longer than this year to do," said Schiller), iMac fans can expect a significant update this year, including some new configurations designed specifically for Pro users who already fans of the all-in-one design. [...] Schiller was somewhat less emphatic when I asked if he was willing to make any "courageous" decisions about Mac Pro ports. I thought I saw a little discomfort flicker across Schiller's face as he reacted to that word and he told me that Apple wasn't making promises about ports on the Mac Pro. Port decisions, he said, are made at a product level. "Just because on one product we removed something, doesn't mean we're going to remove it elsewhere," he told me. More on this here.

Apple Will Ship A Pro iMac Later This Year, It Won't Feature Touchscreen - Tue Apr 4 13:32:23 2017

Apple's expected update to its iMac line will arrive later this year with some previously unexpected additions: pro models. From a report: "We have big plans for the iMac," Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing, said during a recent reporter roundtable at the company's Machine Shop hardware prototyping lab. "We're going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind." Just what those configurations will entail, Apple won't yet say. Nor will it comment on the possibility of an iMac Pro moniker for the more powerful machines in the lineup. Company executives are, however, quite happy to confirm a feature the pro iMac will not have: touchscreen. "No," Schiller said when asked if Apple would consider building such a thing. "Touch doesn't even register on the list of things pro users are interested in talking about. They're interested in things like performance and storage and expandability."

Companies Start Implanting Microchips Into Workers' Bodies - Tue Apr 4 13:11:36 2017

A Swedish start-up called Epicenter is offering to implant its employees and start-up members with microchips that function as swipe cards, allowing them to open doors, operate equipment or buy food and drinks with a wave of the hand. While these microchips have been available for decades, the technology has never been implanted in humans on such a broad scale. "Epicenter and a handful of other companies are the first to make chip implants broadly available," reports Associated Press. From the report: [A]s with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. Although the chips are biologically safe, the data they generate can show how often employees come to work or what they buy. Unlike company swipe cards or smartphones, which can generate the same data, people cannot easily separate themselves from the chips. Epicenter, which is home to more than 100 companies and roughly 2,000 workers, began implanting workers in January 2015. Now, about 150 workers have the chips. A company based in Belgium also offers its employees such implants, and there are isolated cases around the world in which tech enthusiasts have tried them out in recent years. The small implants use near-field communication technology, or NFC, the same as in contactless credit cards or mobile payments. When activated by a reader a few inches away, a small amount of data flows between the two devices via electromagnetic waves. The implants are "passive," meaning they contain information that other devices can read, but cannot read information themselves. Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute, says hackers could conceivably gain huge swaths of information from embedded microchips. The ethical dilemmas will become bigger the more sophisticated the microchips become. Epicenter workers stage monthly events where attendees can receive the implant.

Nintendo Switch Consoles Are Reportedly Warping When Docked - Tue Apr 4 10:01:44 2017

When the Nintendo Switch was launched in early March, some users complained about dead or stuck pixels, which Nintendo later dismissed as being "normal." We're now approaching the one-month mark and some users are reporting that the console can warp when it's been docked for an extended period of gaming. The Independent reports: [Reddit] User _NSR has posted a picture of a bent Switch online, alongside a message reading, "The Nintendo Switch is starting to warp while only being in dock mode." _NSR expanded on the issue in further comments, explaining, "It does get very hot, considering how small the system is and it is outputting Breath of the Wild for long periods of time on a big screen, it may be too much for it to handle. I'm wondering if it being docked is the problem though, most of my time has been on the dock, and it has to work harder to output to a larger screen. Luckily it hasn't affected the way that it plays, the lack of disc drive is definitely a good thing here." Fellow Reddit users have offered multiple possible explanations for the warp, with battery issues and thermal expansion being suggested. Another Switch user, Magnaha23, backed up _NSR's claim, commenting, "I actually checked my Switch after seeing this. It's starting to do the exact same thing just not as bad as yours yet. I called Nintendo and got a repair set up in like 10 minutes. "I got a prepaid label for overnight shipping. Once they get it it takes a few days to process and repair. If they can repair the unit, which if the whole thing is warped they probably can't, they will send back. Otherwise, they will transfer my data over to a new unit and send that back. They said 6-8 business days once they get my Switch. We shall see..." Other people on the thread, however, say they haven't noticed any warping despite using it for lengthy gaming sessions while docked.

WhatsApp To Foray Into Digital Payments With India's Controversial Aadhaar - Tue Apr 4 07:55:15 2017

Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp is mulling a foray into digital payment services in India (Editor's note: the link is paywalled; alternate source), its first such offering globally, and has advertised to hire a digital transactions lead in the country. From a report on The Ken: WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, is working quietly to launch person-to-person payments on its platform within the next six months, said four sources with knowledge of the matter. The initiative is seen as strategic for Facebook and currently being driven out of the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Its career page lists, among other roles, an opening for a digital transaction lead with knowledge of UPI, Aadhaar and BHIM, to be based out of Menlo Park. Aadhaar is a controversial database that has biometric information of more than 1.2 billion people in India. WhatsApp, used by over a billion people, has more than 200 million active users in India.

Graphene-Based Sieve Turns Seawater Into Drinking Water - Tue Apr 4 07:11:18 2017

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater. The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water. The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes. It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale. Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, shows how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide. Isolated and characterized by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications. But it has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapor deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly. On the other hand, said Dr Nair, "graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab." Graphene oxide membranes have already proven their worth in sieving out small nanoparticles, organic molecules and even large salts. But until now, they couldn't be used to filter out common salts, which require even smaller sieves. Previous work had shown that graphene oxide membranes became slightly swollen when immersed in water, allowing smaller salts to flow through the pores along with water molecules. Now, Dr Nair and colleagues demonstrated that placing walls made of epoxy resin (a substance used in coatings and glues) on either side of the graphene oxide membrane was sufficient to stop the expansion.

An Unexpected Relationship Between Nuclear Power and Low Birth Weight - Tue Apr 4 03:38:57 2017

Applehu Akbar writes: Ars Technica reports on a Carnegie-Mellon study of an unexpected side effect of the slowdown in nuclear plant construction after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The pollution associated with replacing the power in places where nuclear plants were delayed or canceled has resulted in significantly lower birth weights for children born in the region. The impact on birth weight starts at 97g less in the second quarter after a nuclear shutdown and goes to 146g for in the third quarter, and of similar magnitude thereafter. Though the steady shift in recent years from coal to natural gas has probably slowed this trend down (no update to the study has been announced) because gas pollutes less, Trump's policy of bringing back coal may mean that micro-babies are back in fashion. Here's an excerpt from Ars Technica's report: "[Carnegie Mellon assistant professor of economics and public policy Edson Severnini] looked at the closure of the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama in 1985 as well as the Sequoyah plant in Tennessee, which was closed from 1985 to 1988. The closure of the two plants corresponded to increased coal burning at nearby coal plants -- in 1985, TVA noted in its annual report that coal plants had 'extraordinary performance' due to the shut down of the nuclear plants. He also gathered birth-weight data from the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) and found that babies born in regions with the biggest increase in coal burning had lower birth weights than babies born in other nearby areas. Looking at data from 1983 to 1985, before the nuclear plant shut down, also showed that the largest change in birth weight occurred after the shutdown."

Google X Worked An Older Employee Until He Was Hospitalized, Then Laid Him Off - Tue Apr 4 01:32:31 2017

Julie188 writes: When Google shows up to buy your startup and trade out your relatively worthless startup stock for Google stock, and offers you a high paying job, too, it seems like a dream come true. But for a group of ex-military guys at a startup called Titan Aerospace, it was more like a nightmare, according to a detailed article from Business Insider. After Google buys their company, it shuts it down, gets them to move across the country to California and then sets them up working long hours outdoors in 100-degree heat. One older guy, in his mid-50s, was even hospitalized, and when he returned to work, he was essentially pushed out. Some people claimed it was bias against older workers and veterans.

Bitcoin Becomes Legal Payment Option In Japan, Prices Spike - Tue Apr 4 00:49:54 2017

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Investopedia: A bill to amend Japan's Banking Act has finally come to fruition, recognizing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as legal tender. The bill has far-reaching repercussions for the digital currency world as well as the way that cryptocurrencies can be traded and exchanged. The Banking Act was modified after a long process of debate and dialog which saw proponents of digital currencies arguing on their behalf. Now, after months of discussion, the bill has come into effect as of the beginning of April. Section 3 of the bill has been modified to including wording on virtual currency and is being called the Virtual Currency Act, according to reporting by Brave New Coin. Digital currencies like Bitcoin have finally received definition and recognition as a means of payment by the Japanese government. The Banking Act's Payment Services Act has also moved to define a digital currency as "property of value," meaning that it is usable for payment in the broader marketplace and that it may be bought or sold. At the same time, the Japanese bill distinguishes between digital currencies like Bitcoin and "electronic money." Digital currency, in this case, is not issued by a specific entity and may be used by any accepting individual, while electronic money can be linked to a specific issuer and can only be used by that issuer or persons specified by the issuer. Along with the recognition of Bitcoin and other digital currencies is the stipulation that profits from trading of those currencies may be considered as "income from business activities or miscellaneous income." This makes Bitcoin subject to various taxes, including capital gains tax.

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With a Terrible Tech Manager? - Tue Apr 4 00:08:01 2017

snydeq writes: From the Know It All to the Overwhelmer, succeeding beneath a bad manager takes strategy and finesse, writes Paul Heltzel in his round-up of bad IT bosses and how to keep them from derailing your career. "While there are truly great leaders in IT, not all inspire confidence. Worse, you can't always choose who will lead your team. But you can always map out new paths in your career. With that in mind, here is a look at some prototypically bad managers you may have already encountered in your engineering departments, with tips on how to deal with each of them." The six "terrible tech managers" mentioned by Heltzel include: "The Know It All," "The Pushover," "The Micromanager," "The Unexpected Boss," "The Fearful Manager," and "The Overwhelmer." Have you ever worked for any of these managers? If so, how did you deal with them?

FCC Limits Order On Charter Extending Broadband Service - Mon Apr 3 23:25:08 2017

According to Reuters, the FCC has voted on Monday to reverse a requirement imposed under the Obama administration that Charter extend broadband service to 1 million households already served by a competitor. From the report: As a condition of approval for its acquisition of two cable companies, Charter had agreed in May 2016 to extend high-speed internet access to 2 million customers within five years, with 1 million served by a broadband competitor. The decision was a win for a group representing smaller cable companies that sought to overturn the "overbuild" requirement and marked the latest reversal of Obama-era requirements by the new Republican-led FCC under President Donald Trump. Under the new order, Charter, the No. 2 U.S. cable company with 26 million residential and business customers in 41 states, must add service to 2 million additional potential subscribers in places without existing service, FCC spokesperson Mark Wigfield said. Supporters say the move ensures that more people without access to high-speed broadband, especially in some rural and urban areas, will have an option.

AIG Is Now Selling Cyber Insurance, But Only To High Net Worth Individuals - Mon Apr 3 22:42:11 2017

chicksdaddy writes from a report via Security Ledger: It turns out that the rich really aren't like everyone else -- they have more cyber insurance. That, after insurance giant AIG announced Monday that it has started offering cyber insurance to protect individuals and families from ransomware attacks, data theft and cyber bullying, The Security Ledger reports. But don't go looking to sign up at Wal-Mart: the service is only available to AIG's Private Client Group, which caters to high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals and families. The service is the first of its kind to provide what insurers call "first party coverage" -- basically: insurance to make the affected party whole after an adverse incident. In a sign of the times, AIG said it will pay for things like school relocation for children traumatized by cyber bullying and ransom to cyber criminals in the hope of restoring data and technology held hostage by crypto-ransomware. Private Client Group customers must have real estate or other assets like boats or art with a value of more than $1 million, said Jerry Hourihan, president of AIG's Private Client Group for the U.S. and Canada. Hourihan said that the new service is based on similar insurance that AIG offers to businesses and is a response to inquiries and demands from its high net worth clients, who have become increasingly concerned about cyber threats, he said. The insurance would be purchased as a so-called "rider" to a traditional home insurance policy and add about 10% or 15% to the annual premium. It's not a big stretch for AIG because it turns out there's not much daylight between really well off families and businesses. "Our clients have domestic employees and family offices to help manage their lives. They take on quasi commercial exposure," Hourihan said. There are no immediate plans to offer similar protections to families of ordinary means, despite a recent survey by the firm Accenture that found as many as 1 in 4 Americans has been the victim of data theft. (

Verizon Is Rebranding Yahoo, AOL As 'Oath' - Mon Apr 3 22:31:51 2017

Nathan Ingraham reports via Engadget: Somewhere along the way, Verizon's planned purchase of Yahoo got real complicated. Thanks to security breaches of gargantuan proportions, Yahoo has lost a ton of value -- and the company was struggling even when Verizon announced its intentions to buy the former internet juggernaut. Part of the value lost is in the Yahoo brand, which Verizon apparently considers toxic at this point. To that end, Verizon is changing the name of the combined Yahoo and AOL company. Business Insider first reported that "Oath" will be the new name of the company (which would be the parent company of Engadget). Minutes after we published this story, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong confirmed the change in a tweet. Engadget also makes note of a Recode report, which indicates that current Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer will not continue with the new company.

Amazon Launches Amazon Cash, a Way To Shop Its Site Without a Bank Card - Mon Apr 3 22:10:26 2017

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Amazon this morning announced the launch of Amazon Cash, a new service that allows consumers to add cash to their balance by showing a barcode at a participating retailer, then having the cash applied immediately to their online Amazon account. The service will support adding any amount between $15 and $500 in a single transaction, Amazon says. Amazon Cash will be available at brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.S., including CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Supermarkets, and VG's Grocery. Other stores will be added in the future. The advantage to Amazon Cash is that, as soon as you checkout at the register, the funds are available in the customer's Amazon account. There are also no fees -- something that can't be said of all the prepaid cards on the market. However, Amazon isn't selling "Amazon Cash"-branded Gift Cards at stores -- instead, customers visit from web or mobile, or search for "amazon cash" in the Amazon mobile app to access their Amazon Cash barcode. They can also navigate to "Manage Gift Card" balance to find the Amazon Cash barcode, as it's effectively connected Amazon's gift card functionality. That same barcode can be reused any time the customer wants to add more cash to their Amazon account. It can also be added to your Wallet app on iOS or as a homescreen shortcut on Android.

Amazon Was Sucking in Quidsi's Inventory Over a Year Before Shutdown - Mon Apr 3 21:28:01 2017

Amazon's explanation last week that it was closing Quidsi because the unit was unprofitable didn't sound much like Jeff Bezos. The Amazon founder is famous for operating retail businesses at such slim margins that rivals can't compete. Quidsi employees had another reason to be surprised. From a report: As recently as late 2016, at Quidsi's quarterly all-hands meeting in Jersey City, NJ, executives from Amazon headquarters in Seattle spoke to the unit's 250-plus workers and affirmed the parent company's commitment to Quidsi's business, according to multiple people who were in attendance. One of the executives to present was John Boumphrey, Amazon's vice president who oversees baby products, and the direct boss of Quidsi CEO Emilie Arel Scott, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the meeting was confidential. Yet last Wednesday, with the first quarter coming to a close, employees were informed that Amazon was shutting Quidsi down and laying off hundreds of workers, ostensibly because the division was unable to make a profit. The diapers, toiletries, beauty products and pet care items sold by the various Quidsi brands would all be available on, the company said. [...] In the fourth quarter of 2015, Amazon started redirecting inventory from Quidsi's three fulfillment centers -- in Nevada, Kansas and Pennsylvania -- to Amazon's own massive network of warehouses, sources said. That process continued throughout 2016 and is still underway, two people told us. Quidsi's facilities were running out of capacity.

Netflix Now Lets You Download Videos Onto Your PC - Mon Apr 3 20:45:32 2017

Netflix now offers offline streaming via its Windows 10 PC application, meaning you'll have even more options wherever you're stuck without Internet access. From a report: Netflix added the offline viewing options as part of the most recent update to the Netflix app on Windows 10. Because the Windows Store doesn't show you what version of the Netflix app you're using, just make sure you check for updates using the large blue button in the upper-right corner of the Windows Store app to receive the latest version. You won't need the Creators Update to take advantage of the new feature, either. When you open the app, Netflix will show you a large splash screen that advertises the new "download and go" capability. Unfortunately, if you click the Find me something to download button, the Netflix app doesn't currently display a list of downloadable titles; you'll have to hunt them down yourself. Netflix introduced the same capability on iOS and Android late last year. It's a bold move by Netflix to bring this feature to desktop. There is always the risk of someone finding out a way to break the DRM and easily distribute the files.

Musk Trolls Shorts as Tesla's Value Hits Record, Passes Ford - Mon Apr 3 20:04:02 2017

Tesla's Elon Musk poked fun at short sellers as his electric-car maker's stock surged to a record, vaulting its market value past century-old rival Ford. From a report on Bloomberg: "Stormy weather in Shortville..." the chief executive officer tweeted Monday, as Tesla shares climbed as much as 5.8 percent. The maker of Model S sedans and Model X crossovers saw its capitalization surge to about $48.2 billion, $3.1 billion more than Ford, the No. 2 automaker in the U.S. after General Motors Co. Tesla has long been a popular target by short sellers such as Jim Chanos, who famously bet early on energy company Enron's failure -- and was proved right. Short interest in Tesla has risen to 29 percent of its free float from a 52-week low of 20 percent in mid-October, according to Markit data. Tesla's move past Ford came one day after Musk's company reported worldwide shipments of 25,000 cars and SUVs in the first quarter, exceeding analysts' estimates. While Ford delivered about nine times as many vehicles in just the U.S. last month, its sales missed projections and the shares fell.

Bidding Website Rentberry May Be the Startup of Your Nightmares - Mon Apr 3 19:22:01 2017

Renting is already fraught with pain, from annual rent hikes to extortionate lettings fees. But if a new service called Rentberry takes off, it could be about to get a lot worse. From a report: Rentberry has been operating in test cities and angering affordable housing advocates since 2016. But with its new expansion into 1,000 cities in the United States, the rental bidding website is about to piss off a lot more people. Alex Lubinksy, founder of Rentberry, seems to be pursuingan image that's closer to Uber's vilified Travis Kalanick than the do-gooder model of Elon Musk. Lubinsky courts the controversy that surrounds his startup and is known to include negative press when communicating his vision to reporters. But one big difference with Rentberry will be that if it takes off and becomes the new standard for renting apartments, most of its customers won't be able to run a #deleteRentberry campaign because landlords will have the control. The website essentially functions as a cross between CraigsList and eBay. A landlord lists a rental space and potential tenants bid against one another to claim the lease. Tenants' personal information is available to the landlord. The landlord then makes their final decision by weighing what the best offer is along with which bidder seems like they'd be the best tenant. For now, Rentberry charges users a $25 fee, but in the future, it plans to charge 25 percent of the difference between the asking price and the agreed upon rent. Whoever received the better deal pays the fee -- every month.

Apple Wants To Sell Premium TV Channels in a Bundle - Mon Apr 3 18:50:04 2017

Apple isn't done trying to sell you pay TV. From a report on Recode: Here's Apple's latest proposal: It wants to sell consumers a premium TV bundle, which combines HBO, Showtime and Starz. Apple already sells each of those channels individually. But it has approached the three networks about rolling them up into a single package, as conventional pay TV operators sometimes do. The difference: Traditional pay TV operators, like Charter, usually require consumers to subscribe to a basic level of TV channels before it will sell them a premium bundle. Apple could sell the bundle as standalone product, delivered via its iOS devices and its Apple TV settop box. Apple doesn't have a bundle deal in place with any of the premium networks, industry sources say. Apple currently sells HBO for $15 a month, Showtime for $11 a month, and Starz for $9 a month.

Computer Programmers May No Longer Be Eligible For H-1B Visas [Update] - Mon Apr 3 18:39:34 2017

Two anonymous readers share a report: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services quietly over the weekend released new guidance that computer programmers are no longer presumed to be eligible for H-1B visas. This aligns with the administration's focus on reserving the temporary visas for very high-skilled (and higher-paid) professionals while encouraging low- and mid-level jobs to go to American workers instead. The new guidance affects applications for the lottery for 2018 fiscal year that opened Monday. Companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions will have to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees. From a Bloomberg report, which has confirmation: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department issued a memorandum that makes it harder for companies to bring foreign technology workers to the U.S. using the H-1B visa process. The new guidelines, issued late Friday, require additional information for computer programmers applying for the work visa to prove the jobs are complicated and require more advanced knowledge and experience. The new policy is effective immediately, so it will change how companies apply for the visas in an annual lottery process that begins Monday. Indian outsourcing firms, which have faced the most amount of criticism, stand to lose the most. The changes don't explicitly prohibit any applications for a specific type of job. Instead, they bring more scrutiny to those for computer programmers doing the simplest jobs.

Computer Programmers May No Longer Be Eligible For H-1B Visas - Mon Apr 3 17:48:15 2017

Two anonymous readers share a report: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services quietly over the weekend released new guidance that computer programmers are no longer presumed to be eligible for H-1B visas. This aligns with the administration's focus on reserving the temporary visas for very high-skilled (and higher-paid) professionals while encouraging low- and mid-level jobs to go to American workers instead. The new guidance affects applications for the lottery for 2018 fiscal year that opened Monday. Companies applying for H-1B visas for computer programming positions will have to submit additional evidence showing that the jobs are complex or specialized and require professional degrees.

Drone Complaints Soar in the UK - Mon Apr 3 17:27:14 2017

Drones are stirring up public annoyance in the U.K. as the number of complaints to police are said to have soared twelvefold over the past two years -- including allegations of snooping neighbors, burglary "scoping" exercises, prison smuggling and near-misses with aircraft. From a report: Last year incidents rose to 3,456 (about 10 a day), almost tripling the 2015 figure of 1,237. In 2014, the number of incidents was only 283, indicating that the commercial success of the devices has brought with it a growing public nuisance. The findings were a result of a freedom of information request submitted by the Press Association to show the number of incidents logged by police around the country between 2014 and 2016. Their timely release follows several reports of near-misses with passenger planes and drones, and the arrest of Daniel Kelly, 27, last year, who became the first person in the U.K. to be jailed for smuggling items into prisons. But the actual total of cases is thought to be much higher, as not all police forces were able to submit data on the drone cases.

'Grammar Vigilante' Secretly Corrects Bristol Street Signs - Mon Apr 3 16:43:01 2017

An anonymous reader shares a report: A self-confessed "grammar vigilante" has been secretly correcting bad punctuation on street signs and shop fronts in Bristol for more than a decade. The anonymous crusader carries out his work in the dead of night using the "Apostrophiser" -- a long-handled tool he created to reach the highest signs. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the BBC that correcting rogue apostrophes is his speciality.

Android Overtakes Windows as the Internet's Most Used Operating System - Mon Apr 3 16:01:38 2017

As expected last month, Android has surpassed Windows to become the world's most used operating system, according to the web analytics firm StatCounter. From a report: Usage figures published by StatCounter show that Android accounted for 37.93 percent of the worldwide OS Internet usage share in March. Windows is not far behind at 37.91 percent, but Android taking the lead is being described as a "milestone in technology history." The fact that Android is now topping the charts can be attributed to the fact that mobile devices are now used to connect to the Internet far more frequently than desktop computers and laptop. Coupled with declining PC sales, Windows is starting to lose out overall, although it still accounts for 84 percent of the worldwide desktop operating system market.

Why Bargain Travel Sites May No Longer Be Bargains - Mon Apr 3 15:30:42 2017

Aggregators like Expedia have made us lazy -- and we may be missing out on the best deals. From a report on Backchannel: Most of us rely on metasearch engines, like Priceline, Expedia, or Travelocity, which typically use dozens (sometimes as many as 200) of online travel agents, called OTAs, and aggregators to find the best deals. (A metasearch engine and an aggregator are interchangeable terms -- they both scour other sites and compile data under one roof. An OTA is an actual travel agency that actually does the booking and is the lone site responsible for everything you buy through them.) We rely on these sites because we assume they have the secret sauce -- the most powerful search engines, tweaked by superstar programmers armed with the most sophisticated algorithms -- to guide us to the cheapest options. With a single search, you can feel assured that you are paying a rock bottom price. Over time, however, the convention has flipped. As competition among the sites heated up, the hard-to-believe cheap fares required some filtering. A too-good-to-be-true fare ($99 to Europe from California) usually came with a catch (the $400, indirect, ticket home). And as the business models that on which these aggregators rely are getting tighter, the deals are getting worse. How can you be certain you're getting the lowest quote? The short answer is, you can't.

Norway's Doomsday Vault Will Now Store and Protect the World's Data - Mon Apr 3 14:48:11 2017

Doomsday may be closer than ever, but thanks to the Arctic World Archive, at least your data could survive the looming apocalypse. From a report: Norway is already the home to the Global Seed Vault, a frozen ark for 1.5 million seeds to avoid their extinction, and now the Arctic World Archive aims to do the same for your data -- in the same disused mine in the same mountain on the island of Svalbard, famous for its polar bear population. Run by a small Norwegian archiving company called Piql, the World Arctic Archive will store key documents, books and other files on photosensitive film held in protective boxes, a technique Piql says it's tested to survive for at least 500 years and believes will last for 1,000. That longevity is helped by the storage location. More on this here.

Apple To Develop Its Own GPU, UK Chip Designer Imagination Reveals In 'Bombshell' PR - Mon Apr 3 14:05:26 2017

From a report on AnandTech: In a bombshell of a press release issued this morning, Imagination has announced that Apple has informed their long-time GPU partner that they will be winding down their use of Imagination's IP. Specifically, Apple expects that they will no longer be using Imagination's IP in 15 to 24 months. Furthermore the GPU design that replaces Imagination's designs will be, according to Imagination, "a separate, independent graphics design." In other words, Apple is developing their own GPU, and when that is ready, they will be dropping Imagination's GPU designs entirely. This alone would be big news, however the story doesn't stop there. As Apple's long-time GPU partner and the provider for the basis of all of Apple's SoCs going back to the very first iPhone, Imagination is also making a case to investors (and the public) that while Apple may be dropping Imagination's GPU designs for a custom design, that Apple can't develop a new GPU in isolation -- that any GPU developed by the company would still infringe on some of Imagination's IP. As a result the company is continuing to sit down with Apple and discuss alternative licensing arrangements, with the intent of defending their IP rights.

GitHub Repository Owners Targeted By Data-Stealing Malware - Mon Apr 3 10:35:44 2017

"Phishing emails zeroing in on developers who own Github repositories were infecting victims with malware capable of stealing data through keyloggers and modules that would snag screenshots," writes ThreatPost. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Researchers at Palo Alto Networks this week said that in mid-January, an unknown number of developers were targeted with emails purporting to be job offers. The attachments instead carried malicious .doc files containing an embedded macro. The macro executed a PowerShell command that would grab malware from a command and control site and execute it... [Senior threat researcher Brandon] Levene said it's unknown how widespread the January campaign was or why developers were targeted, but given the vast number of projects hosted on the platform, it would likely be an attractive target for either criminals and nation-state attackers.
Levene said the PowerShell script drops a binary named Dimnie, which has been around since 2014 but before January targeted primarily Russian-speaking targets. Someone who received two different emails said they appeared to be hand-crafted, according to Ars Technica, and referenced data changed that same day. They believe this suggests "a focused campaign explicitly targeting targets perceived as 'high return investments,' such as developers (possibly working on popular/open source projects)."

Salary-Comparing Survey Identifies Top-Paid Developers, Discovers North America Pays Better - Mon Apr 3 06:32:40 2017

21,000 developers were surveyed for this year's annual survey by VisionMobile -- and for the first time, they were asked about their salaries. An anonymous reader quotes [S]killed cloud and backend developers, as well as those who work in emerging technologies including Internet of Things, machine learning and augmented/virtual reality can make more money than frontend web and mobile developers whose skills have become more commoditized... The top 10 percent of salary earners in AR who live in North America earn a median salary of $219,000, compared with $169,000 for the top earning 10 percent of backend developers, according to the report... New, unskilled developers interested in emerging tech will have a harder time finding work, and earn less than their counterparts in more commoditized areas, due both to their lack of experience and fewer companies hiring in the early market.

Along with skill level and software sector, developer salaries also vary widely by where they live in the world. A web developer in North America earns a median income of $73,600 USD per year, compared with the same developer in Western Europe whose median income is $35,400 USD. Web developers in South Asia earn $11,700 in South Asia while those in Eastern Europe earn $20,800 per year.

For developers who want to move up in the world, VisionMobile suggests "Invest in your skills. Do difficult work. Improve your English. Look for opportunities internationally. Go for it. You deserve it!"

Tor Browser Will Feature More Rust Code - Mon Apr 3 03:55:37 2017

An anonymous reader writes: "The Tor Browser, a heavily modified version of the Firefox browser with many privacy-enhancing features, will include more code written in the Rust programming language," reports BleepingComputer. In a meeting held last week in Amsterdam, Tor developers decided to slowly start using Rust to replace the C++ code. The decision comes after Mozilla started shipping Rust components with Firefox in 2016. Furthermore, Rust is a memory-safe(r) language than C++, the language used for Firefox and the customized Tor code, which means less memory corruption errors. Less of these errors means better privacy for all.
"Part of our interest in using safer languages like Rust in Tor is because a tiny mistake in C could have real consequences for real people," Tor developer Isis Agora Lovecruft posted on Twitter, adding "Also the barrier to entry for contributing to large OSS projects written in C is insanely high."

Will Streaming Media Lead To A Massive Writer's Strike? - Mon Apr 3 01:50:59 2017

"A decade ago, Hollywood writers brought the entertainment industry to a standstill when they walked off the job for three months in a dispute over pay for movies and TV shows distributed online," writes the Los Angeles Times. But they're reporting that it may happen again, with the Writers Guild of America now seeking a strike authorization vote from its members. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have transformed Hollywood and contributed to an unprecedented number of quality series being produced -- a phenomenon often described as the new Golden Age of TV. But times haven't been golden for many writers for whom more is now less. Shorter seasons are the new norm, with many series consisting of 10 or fewer episodes on cable and streaming -- less than half the length of traditional seasons on network shows. That has put writers in a financial crunch since many have exclusivity clauses that prevent them from working on multiple shows per season...

"It's getting more and more difficult to make a living as a writer," said John Bowman, a TV writer-producer, and former head of the WGA negotiating committee. Studios are equally dug in as more customers cut the cable cord in favor of streaming options. They're also grappling with a dramatic fall-off in once-lucrative DVD sales and a flattening of attendance at the multiplex. They are releasing fewer titles a year, meaning fewer opportunities for screenwriters... Complicating matters is a lack of transparency. Streaming services operate on subscription models and don't release viewer data, making it difficult to devise a formula for residuals (fees for reruns).

Amazon is a member of the studio alliance, while Netflix "is expected to sign on to an eventual contract." (Though streaming also seems to be hurting the popularity of reruns, which is also reducing the residuals writers receive.) But underscoring the impact of online media, Slashdot reader JustAnotherOldGuy asks, "with all the alternative content available, does anyone care...? Would the writer's strike have any serious impact on your life?"

Ask Slashdot: Can Linux Run a GPU-Computing Application Written For Windows? - Sun Apr 2 23:55:26 2017

dryriver writes: I have been told that Linux can run Windows software using Wine or perhaps a VM. What happens if that Windows software is a GPU-computing application -- accessing the GPU through HLSL/GLSL/CUDA/OpenCL or similar interfaces? Can Wine or other solutions run that software at a decent speed under Linux? Or is GPU-computing software written for the Windows platform unsuitable for use -- emulated or otherwise -- under Linux? This sounds like one of those cases where there's a theoretical answer and then your own real-world experiences. So leave your best answers in the comments. Can Linux run a GPU-computing application that's written for Windows?

Five US Navy SEAL Units Are Now Testing Brain-Zappers - Sun Apr 2 22:51:57 2017

Five different Navy SEAL units are testing "transcranial electrical stimulation," reports, with one command's spokesperson saying the early results "show promising signs... we are encouraged to continue and are moving forward with our studies." The device's manufacturer says the number of devices being tested is "in the double digits," and believes the "neuro-priming" device could improve shooting performance, adding "it's kind of all about just training a little bit smarter." schwit1 quotes their report: Transcranial electrical stimulation was one of the technologies touted by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in July 2016 as part of his Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) initiative. Since then, multiple SEAL units have begun actively testing the effectiveness of the technology, officials with Naval Special Warfare Command told At a conference near Washington, D.C., in February, the commander of all Navy special operations units made an unusual request to industry: Develop and demonstrate technologies that offer "cognitive enhancement" capabilities to boost his elite forces' mental and physical performance. "We plan on using that in mission enhancement," Rear Admiral Tim Szymanski said.
Admiral Szymanski says experiments found that operators monitoring screens reportedly maintained peak performance for 20 hours -- rather than experience the usual drop-off in concentration after 20 minutes.

California Company Plans Tests For Airfreight-Carrying Cargo Drones - Sun Apr 2 21:37:55 2017

Their ultimate goal is "a cargo drone the size of a jetliner" built with sturdy, light-weight carbon fiber composites and supplemental electric engines to reduce fuel consumption. Long-time Slashdot reader linuxwrangler writes: Backed by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, drone startup Natilus is attempting to reduce global airfreight costs by 50% through the use of autonomous cargo drones. To reduce regulatory and infrastructure burden, they plan to have their cargo drones take off and land on water 12 miles offshore and fly over uninhabited areas below controlled airspace. Shipments that take 11 hours in a 747 would take 30 in the drone but at half the cost. Container shipping is less than half the cost of the drone but takes three weeks. Test flights of a 30 foot prototype over San Pablo Bay north of San Francisco are planned for this summer.
The company hopes to start flying a 140-foot drone carrying 200,000 pounds by 2020, which Draper says will provide goods transportation "without the friction and costs associated with keeping people alive on airplanes."

The US May Finally See Widespread 'Super Wi-Fi' Deployment - Sun Apr 2 20:35:40 2017

The end of the FCC's spectrum auction last week "should give a clear indication of how much space will be available in each TV market for Super Wi-Fi," according to the Bay Area Newsgroup. An anonymous reader quotes their report: [T]he technology has promised speedy internet for rural citizens and to help urban dwellers get connected in buildings and rooms that are now twilight zones for Wi-Fi signals... And because the spectrum is regulated and largely reserved for television signals, Super Wi-Fi transmissions don't have to contend with interference from random devices like microwaves or cordless phones, as do signals in other wireless bands. Super Wi-Fi signals generally won't be as fast as regular Wi-Fi signals, but for many customers, they'll be faster and provide better service than what they'd get otherwise...

It's widely expected that there will be plenty of room for Super Wi-Fi in rural areas where there are few television signals, which is why companies like and Q-Wireless have pressed forward with the technology even before the auction closes. The big question is whether regulators will preserve sufficient space for Super Wi-Fi in areas like New York and Los Angeles where there are lots of broadcast stations and in cities like Detroit and San Diego that have to share the airwaves with cities from other countries. If there's not enough space in those areas, Super Wi-Fi, in this country at least, will likely be relegated to rural areas.

Can Robots Help Children With Autism? - Sun Apr 2 19:42:23 2017

An anonymous reader writes: Sunday is World Autism Awareness Day, and landmarks around the world will "light it up blue" as a show of support, including New York's Rockefeller Center and the White House. "Autism spectrum disorders affect an estimated one out of every 68 children in America," President Trump posted Friday, and autistic characters have now even been added to the new Power Rangers movie and on Sesame Street.

But technology could also play a role in improving the live of people with autism spectrum disorders. Reuters is reporting on a robot specifically designed to help teach communication and interaction skills to autistic children, while Vanderbilt University has 20 studies exploring more ways that robotics and technology could help, according to Zachary Warren, an associate professor of pediatrics. "A child may not respond to their mother calling their name but may automatically respond to a robot action or a piece of technology," Warren says after one program which showed improvement in five out of six participants. "If we can use that technology to shift how that child responds, then we may have a very valuable system to that child, that family and maybe for autism intervention."

This Year's H-1B Visa Applications Look A Lot Like Last Year's - Sun Apr 2 18:37:57 2017

"This year's round of H-1B visa program applications was scheduled to launch Monday, and it was largely absent of President Donald Trump's proposed policy changes," writes Newsweek. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last updated its online page dedicated to the program, which granted visas to skilled foreign workers, Wednesday with the rules mostly similar to those of last year and quotas remaining the same. These requirements were set to launch despite Trump's vow to reform the program on the grounds that companies exploited it to fill jobs once held by U.S. citizens who earned higher wages.

An alleged draft of an executive order was leaked last month and widely circulated, raising fears that the administration was preparing to gut the program. These measures were never announced. "There was a window in which the White House could have made serious reforms," Russ Harrison, head of government relations for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA, told The Wall Street Journal. "For whatever reason, they decided not to take it."

How To Protect Your Privacy Online - Sun Apr 2 17:44:39 2017

Though the U.S. Congress voted to roll back privacy rules, broadband customers can still opt-out of targeted advertising from Comcast, Charter, AT&T, and T-Mobile. But an anonymous reader explains why that's not enough: "It's not clear that opting out will prevent ISPs from putting your data to use," reports The Verge, adding "you're opting out of seeing ads, but not out of providing data." Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, tells NPR that consumers can also "call their providers and opt out of having their information shared." But he also suggests a grass roots effort, calling this "an opportunity to pressure companies to implement good practices and for consumers to say 'I think that you should require opt-in consent and if you're not, why not?'"

To try to stop the creation of that data, Brian Krebs has also posted a guide for choosing a VPN provider, and shared a useful link to a chart comparing VPN providers that was recommended by the EFF. This may help avoid some of the problems reported with VPN services, and Krebs also recommends Tor as a free (albeit possibly slower) option, while sharing an informational link describing Tor's own limitations.

I'm curious what steps Slashdot's readers are taking (if any) to protect their own privacy online?

Researchers Detect A Mysterious Flash Of X-Rays From A Faraway Galaxy - Sun Apr 2 16:42:31 2017

"It was a spark in the night. A flash of X-rays from a galaxy hovering nearly invisibly on the edge of infinity. Astronomers say they do not know what caused it." Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the New York Times: The orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, was in the midst of a 75-day survey of a patch of sky known as the Chandra Deep Field-South, when it recorded the burst from a formerly quiescent spot in the cosmos. For a few brief hours on Oct 1, 2014, the X-rays were a thousand times brighter than all the light from its home galaxy, a dwarf unremarkable speck almost 11 billion light years from here, in the constellation Fornax. Then whatever had gone bump in the night was over and the X-rays died.

The event as observed does not fit any known phenomena, according to Franz Bauer, an astronomer at Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and lead author of a report to be published in Science.

He described some possible explanation in a blog post this week -- for example, a star being torn apart by a black hole, or the afterglow from a gamma ray burst seen sideways -- but the spectrum readings aren't a match, according to the Times. "None of the usual cosmic catastrophe suspects work."

FSF Activists Want You To Call Tim Berners-Lee About DRM - Sun Apr 2 15:36:48 2017

"The Free Software Foundation is calling on netizens to make calls to the W3C demanding they not include DRM in Web standards," an anonymous reader writes. Cory Doctorow reports: There's only two weeks left until members of the World Wide Web Consortium vote on whether the web's premier open standards organization will add DRM to the toolkit available to web developers, without effecting any protections for people who discover security vulnerabilities that affect billions of web users, let alone people who adapt web tools for those with disabilities and people who create legitimate, innovative new technologies to improve web video.
Tim Berners-Lee has final say over this change, according to the article, which directs callers to urge him to "keep the web free and open, rather than rescuing DRM from its slow collapse due to the complexity of fielding and supporting it without standards like those the W3C makes."

Manatee No Longer An Endangered Species - Sun Apr 2 14:44:33 2017

An anonymous reader quotes the Miami Herald: The manatee -- for decades the poster mammal for environmental decline in Florida -- is officially no longer an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that the manatee will instead be designated "threatened" -- a status change that reflects a boom in population over the last decade. In February, Florida wildlife managers released preliminary results of an annual count that recorded 6,620 manatees lumbering in the warm waters of Florida's lagoons, springs and canals... "We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees," Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club, said in a statement. "A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long- term survival."
It was the third consecutive year to see an increase in the estimated population of manatees.

Amazon's Drone-Delivery Dreams Are No Joke - Sun Apr 2 11:35:54 2017

Backchannel's Steven Levy reports that Amazon "has a site at an undisclosed semi-rural location where it attempts to simulate the possible obstacles that drones will face in real-world deliveries." Amazon's drones reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, and can perform a 20-mile round trip, which makes Amazon believe they could especially useful deliveries to the suburbs, some rural areas. "The facility features a faux backyard and other simulated locations where drones might have to drop off their cargo." An anonymous reader quotes their report: "For a while, we were missing clotheslines," says Paul Viola, an AI expert who is charge of Prime Air's autonomy efforts. Now, Amazon's vehicles have a "Don't Hit Clotheslines!" rule in their code. There's even a simulated dog (though not a robot) that Amazon uses to see how the vehicles will respond to canine threats... Amazon is also planning for urban deliveries, with the idea of landing drones on rooftops [and] eventually it might expand to multiple deliveries per expedition, or even take returns back to the warehouse...

All of this is done without human intervention. Drones know where to go and how to get there without a human sitting at a ground station actually flying the plane... [A]n Air Prime technician can order a drone to land, but ultimately the drones are autonomous. Amazon envisions that eventually it will have sort of an air traffic controller monitoring the flight patterns of multiple drones.

If something goes wrong, "the first rule of Amazon drones is to abort the flight, returning to base or even carefully finding a landing spot from which to send a rescue signal. 'If it doesn't seem safe, it will land as soon as safely possible,' says Gur Kimchi, who has headed the Prime Air team for four years. (He previously worked at Microsoft.)"

HTC Introduces Eye-Tracking 'VR Ad Service' - Sun Apr 2 07:45:30 2017

We all knew this day would come: HTC has introduced a "VR Ad Service" that knows when viewers are actively looking at ads. "Ads that appear in immersive VR environments can not only provide more effective impressions, they can also track whether the users have viewed them or have turned away their gaze. Accordingly, the multiplied effect of effective impressions and verified viewings will bring you higher advertising revenue!" HTC explains. PC Gamer reports: Advertisers will only pay for ads after they've been viewed, according to Business Insider. Some of the formats they will use include loading scenes, 2D and 3D in-app placements, app recommendation banners, and big screen video. This will be an opt-in ad service for developers. HTC notes that by opting in, "all of your free apps would be automatically put on the list which can be used to integrate VR Ads." News of in-game ads coming to VR isn't exactly the sort of thing that will excite gamers. If there's a silver lining here, it's that ads are more likely to be relevant to the viewer's interests over time, at least in theory. "Compared to ordinary ad impressions, ads that are seen by users in a immersive VR environment can not only meet the user's needs by means of precise re-targeting, but can also be detected if they are viewed effectively by users," HTC states. "Therefore, promotion of your applications would have much more effective impression, which not only arouses the attention of potential users and enhance brand image, but further attracts interested users directly to download your apps in the VR environment!"

Jetpack Entrepreneur Creates Iron Man-Style Human Flying Suit - Sun Apr 2 03:42:25 2017

"British aeronautic engineering startup Gravity unveiled a new human flying suit Friday," writes VentureBeat. An anonymous reader quotes their report. It's a six-engine jet-propelled personal flying apparatus that the company says will take regular humans to superhero heights at several hundred miles per hour. At the moment, flights are limited to just a few feet above the ground. The suit includes six miniaturized jet engines, two of which are worn on each of the pilot's arms, and two of which can be mounted on the feet, or, in later incarnations of the suit, low on the pilot's back. Each of the jet engines gets fuel from a backpack...

Gravity says the human body is "the airframe" and that your arms and legs serve to both direct and control thrust... "We've already had a few comparisons to Tony Stark, but this is real-world aeronautical innovation,"Gravity founder Richard Browning said in a statement. "We are serious about building a world-changing technology business. We stand at the very beginning of what human propulsion systems will do."

Browning tells TechCrunch "It's no way as dangerous or crazy as it looks."