The Almighty Buck

Will Autonomous Cars Be the Insurance Industry's Napster Moment? 92 92

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us are looking forward to the advent of autonomous vehicles. Not only will they free up a lot of time previously spent staring at the bumper of the car in front of you, they'll also presumably make commuting a lot safer. While that's great news for the 30,000+ people who die in traffic accidents every year in the U.S. alone, it may not be great news for insurance companies. Granted, they'll have to pay out a lot less money with the lower number of claims, but premiums will necessarily drop as well and the overall amount of money within the car insurance system will dwindle.

Analysts are warning these companies that their business is going to shrink. It will be interesting to see if they adapt to the change, or cling desperately to an outdated business model like the entertainment industry did. "One opportunity for the industry could be selling more coverage to carmakers and other companies developing the automated features for cars. ... When the technology fails, manufacturers could get stuck with big liabilities that they will want to cover by buying more insurance. There's also a potential for cars to get hacked as they become more networked."
Mozilla

Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software 269 269

puddingebola writes: Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
Television

Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May Making Show For Amazon 191 191

mrspoonsi writes: Amazon has announced that former Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May will be reuniting to create “an all-new car show” that will be exclusively on Amazon Prime. The first season will be made available worldwide in 2016 and will be produced executive producer Andy Wilman. The BBC reports: "The move follows their departure from the hit BBC Two show earlier this year. Clarkson's contract was not renewed following an 'unprovoked physical attack' on a Top Gear producer. His co-hosts then followed him in leaving the show. They will now make the unnamed new programme with former Top Gear executive producer Andy Wilman, who also quit the BBC following the 'fracas.' In a statement from Amazon, Clarkson said: 'I feel like I've climbed out of a biplane and into a spaceship.'"
Google

The New Google Glass Is All Business 44 44

An anonymous reader writes: Google scrapped an early version of its smart glasses in January, but has developed another model just for businesses. The company hopes to get this newest version of Glass in the hands of healthcare, manufacturing and energy industry professionals by this fall. Recode reports: "The new model can fold up like a traditional pair of glasses and is more rugged for outdoor use. However, unlike most other smart glasses, it still sports a small screen to the upper right of the user's vision, rather than displaying an image in the center of one's view like the ODG R7 or Microsoft HoloLens."
Piracy

Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions 84 84

Kim Dotcom was the founder of Megaupload, its successor Mega, and New Zealand's Internet Party. A while ago you had a chance to ask him about those things as well as the U.S. government charging him with criminal copyright violation and racketeering. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Transportation

Are We Reaching the Electric Car Tipping Point? 846 846

HughPickens.com writes: Geoff Ralston has an interesting essay explaining why it is likely that electric car penetration in the U.S. will take off at an exponential rate over the next 5-10 years rendering laughable the paltry predictions of future electric car sales being made today. Present projections assume that electric car sales will slowly increase as the technology gets marginally better, and as more and more customers choose to forsake a better product (the gasoline car) for a worse, yet "greener" version. According to Ralston this view of the future is, simply, wrong. — electric cars will take over our roads because consumers will demand them. "Electric cars will be better than any alternative, including the loud, inconvenient, gas-powered jalopy," says Ralston. "The Tesla Model S has demonstrated that a well made, well designed electric car is far superior to anything else on the road. This has changed everything."

The Tesla Model S has sold so well because, compared to old-fashioned gasoline cars it is more fun to drive, quieter, always "full" every morning, more roomy, and it continuously gets better with automatic updates and software improvements. According to Ralston the tipping point will come when gas stations, not a massively profitable business, start to go out of business as many more electric cars are sold, making gasoline powered vehicles even more inconvenient. When that happens even more gasoline car owners will be convinced to switch. Rapidly a tipping point will be reached, at which point finding a convenient gas station will be nearly impossible and owning a gasoline powered car will positively suck. "Elon Musk has ushered in the age of the electric car, and whether or not it, too, was inevitable, it has certainly begun," concludes Ralston. "The future of automotive transportation is an electric one and you can expect that future to be here soon."
Businesses

Symantec: Hacking Group Black Vine Behind Anthem Breach 18 18

itwbennett writes: Symantec said in a report that the hacking group Black Vine, which has been active since 2012 and has gone after other businesses that deal with sensitive and critical data, including organizations in the aerospace, technology and finance industries, is behind the hack against Anthem. The Black Vine malware Mivast was used in the Anthem breach, according to Symantec.
Businesses

How Developers Can Fight Creeping Mediocrity 130 130

Nerval's Lobster writes: As the Slashdot community well knows, chasing features has never worked out for any software company. "Once management decides that's where the company is going to live, it's pretty simple to start counting down to the moment that company will eventually die," software engineer Zachary Forrest y Salazar writes in a new posting. But how does any developer overcome the management and deadlines that drive a lot of development straight into mediocrity, if not outright ruination? He suggests a damn-the-torpedoes approach: "It's taking the code into your own hands, building or applying tools to help you ship faster, and prototyping ideas," whether or not you really have the internal support. But given the management issues and bureaucracy confronting many companies, is this approach feasible?
Security

Research: Industrial Networks Are Vulnerable To Devastating Cyberattacks 75 75

Patrick O'Neill writes: New research into Industrial Ethernet Switches reveals a wide host of vulnerabilities that leave critical infrastructure facilities open to attackers. Many of the vulnerabilities reveal fundamental weaknesses: Widespread use of default passwords, hardcoded encryption keys, a lack of proper authentication for firmware updates, a lack of encrypted connections, and more. Combined with a lack of network monitoring, researchers say the situation showcases "a massive lack of security awareness in the industrial control systems community."
Security

Tools Coming To Def Con For Hacking RFID Access Doors 27 27

jfruh writes: Next month's Def Con security conference will feature, among other things, new tools that will help you hack into the RFID readers that secure doors in most office buildings. RFID cards have been built with more safeguards against cloning; these new tools will bypass that protection by simply hacking the readers themselves. ITWorld reports that Francis Brown, a partner at the computer security firm Bishop Fox, says: "...his aim is to make it easier for penetration testers to show how easy it is to clone employee badges, break into buildings and plant network backdoors—without needing an electrical engineering degree to decode the vagaries of near-field communication (NFC) and RFID systems."
AI

A Computer Umpires Its First Pro Baseball Game 68 68

An anonymous reader writes: Baseball has long been regarded as a "game of inches." Among the major professional sports it arguably requires the greatest amount of precision — a few extra RPMs can turn a decent curveball into an unhittable one, and a single degree's difference in the arc of a bat swing can change a lazy popup into a home run. As sensor technology has improved, it's been odd to see how pro baseball leagues have made great efforts to keep it away from the sport. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you're probably familiar with the cultural meme of an umpire blowing a key call and altering the course of the game.

Thus, it's significant that for the first time ever, sensors and a computer have called balls and strikes for a professional game. In a minor league game between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals, a three-camera system tracked the baseball's exact position as it crossed home plate, and a computer judged whether it was in the strike zone or not. The game went without incident, and it provided valuable data in a real-life example. The pitch-tracking system still has bugs to work out, though. Dan Brooks, founder of a site that tracks ball/strike accuracy for real umpires, said that for the new system to be implemented permanently, fans must be "willing to accept a much smaller amount of inexplicable error in exchange for a larger amount of explicable error."
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 351 351

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Advertising

Advertising Companies Accused of Deliberately Slowing Page-load Times For Profit 375 375

An anonymous reader writes: An industry insider has told Business Insider of his conviction that ad-serving companies deliberately prolong the 'auctioning' process for ad spots when a web-page loads. They do this to maximize revenue by allowing automated 'late-comers' to participate beyond the 100ms limit placed on the decision-making process. The unnamed source, a principal engineer at a global news company (whose identity and credentials were confirmed by Business Insider), concluded with the comment: "My entire team of devs and testers mostly used Adblock when developing sites, just because it was so painful otherwise." Publishers use 'daisy-chaining' to solicit bids from the most profitable placement providers down to the 'B-list' placements, and the longer the process is run, the more likely that the web-page will be shown with profitable advertising in place.
Businesses

DHI Group Inc. Announces Plans to Sell Slashdot Media 550 550

An anonymous reader writes: DHI Group Inc. (formerly known as Dice Holdings Inc.) announced plans to sell Slashdot Media (slashdot.org & sourceforge.net) in their Q2 financial report. This is being reported by multiple sources. Editor's note: Yep, looks like we're being sold again. We'll keep you folks updated, but for now I don't have any more information than is contained in the press release. Business as usual until we find a buyer (and hopefully after). The company prepared a statement for our blog as well — feel free to discuss the news here, there, or in both places.
Security

Your Stolen Identity Goes For $20 On the Internet Black Market 57 57

HughPickens.com writes: Keith Collins writes at Quartz that the going rate for a stolen identity is about twenty bucks on the internet black market. Collins analyzed hundreds of listings for a full set of someone's personal information—identification number, address, birthdate, etc., known as "fullz" that were put up for sale over the past year, using data collected by Grams, a search engine for the dark web. The listings ranged in price from less than $1 to about $450, converted from bitcoin. The median price for someone's identity was $21.35. The most expensive fullz came from a vendor called "OsamaBinFraudin," and listed a premium identity with a high credit score for $454.05. Listings on the lower end were typically less glamorous and included only the basics, like the victim's name, address, social security number, perhaps a mother's maiden name. Marketplaces on the dark web, not unlike eBay, have feedback systems for vendors ("cheap and good A+"), refund policies (usually stating that refunds are not allowed), and even well-labeled sections. "There is no shortage of hackers willing to do about anything, computer related, for money," writes Elizabeth Clarke. "and they are continually finding ways to monetize personal and business data."
Businesses

EBay Is Shutting Down Its On-Demand Delivery Service 29 29

An anonymous reader writes: It may come as no surprise but eBay made it official in a statement today; they are ending their on-demand delivery service eBay Now. The company also plans to end a number of mobile applications, including eBay Valet, eBay Fashion and eBay Motors. A company statement reads in part: "...today we are retiring the eBay Now service in the U.S., including the local Brooklyn pilot program. Last year, we retired our eBay Now app and brought the program's delivery capabilities and many participating merchants' inventory into our core mobile apps. This significantly reduced our dependency on a separate standalone service. While we saw encouraging results with the eBay Now service, we always intended it as a pilot, and we are now exploring delivery and pick-up/drop-off programs that are relevant to many more of our 25 million sellers, and that cover a wider variety of inventory that consumers tell us they want. We will continue to pilot scheduled delivery in the UK."
Education

Computer Science Enrollments Match NASDAQ's Rises and Fall 67 67

dcblogs writes: In March 2000, the NASDAQ composite index reached a historic high of 5,048, at just about the same time undergrad computer science enrollments hit a peak of nearly 24,000 students at PhD-granting institutions in the U.S. and Canada, according to data collected by the Computing Research Association in its most recent annual Taulbee Survey. By 2005, computer science enrollments had halved, declining to just over 12,000. On July 17, the NASDAQ hit its highest point since 2000, reaching a composite index of 5,210. In 2014, computer science undergrad enrollments reached nearly, 24,000, almost equal to the 2000 high. Remarkably, it has taken nearly 15 years to reach the earlier enrollment peak.
Google

Google Is Dropping Its Google+ Requirement Across All Products Including YouTube 170 170

An anonymous reader writes: After years of plugging Google+ into all of its services, today Google announced that your Google+ profile will no longer be your identity in all its products. The company says it will take a few months for all the changes to happen, but the first product to be uncoupled will be YouTube. Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, says the changes are a response to user feedback: "We've also heard that it doesn't make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use."
Android

Razer Acquires Ouya's Storefront and Technical Team 91 91

An anonymous reader writes: The Ouya Android-based gaming console was one of Kickstarter's biggest successes — and one of the biggest letdowns for all the backers. The console never really took off, and the company behind it has limped along over the past couple years. Until today. Razer has now acquired the Ouya technical team, as well as their online storefront — but not the console hardware itself. Razer intends to dump of all these new resources into its Forge TV product, also an Android game console. "Razer went so far as to kick a little sand in the face of the little-console-that-couldn't—by advertising its own Forge microconsole as a 'more advanced' system and telling Ouya owners that they will receive 'a clear path of migration' to buy the company's current $100, AndroidTV-compatible box." The fate of Ouya's hardware is not explicitly mentioned, but the news article suggests it is simply "discontinued."
Businesses

Trillion-Dollar World Trade Deal Aims To Make IT Products Cheaper 97 97

itwbennett writes: A new (tentative) global trade agreement, struck on Friday at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, eliminates tariffs on more than 200 kinds of IT products, ranging from smartphones, routers, and ink cartridges to video game consoles and telecommunications satellites. A full list of products covered was published by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which called the ITA expansion 'great news for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture, and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles.' The deal covers $1.3 trillion worth of global trade, about 7 percent of total trade today. The deal has approval from 49 countries, and is waiting on just a handful more before it becomes official,