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Google

Google and Facebook: Unelected Superpowers? 114

Posted by timothy
from the but-if-by-elect-you-mean-choose dept.
theodp (442580) writes "'The government is not the only American power whose motivations need to be rigourously examined,' writes The Telegraph's Katherine Rushton. 'Some 2,400 miles away from Washington, in Silicon Valley, Google is aggressively gaining power with little to keep it in check. It has cosied up to governments around the world so effectively that its chairman, Eric Schmidt, is a White House advisor. In Britain, its executives meet with ministers more than almost any other corporation. Google can't be blamed for this: one of its jobs is to lobby for laws that benefit its shareholders, but it is up to governments to push back. As things stand, Google — and to a lesser extent, Facebook — are in danger of becoming the architects of the law.' Schmidt, by the way, is apparently interested in influencing at least two current hot-button White House issues. Joined by execs from Apple, Oracle, and Facebook, the Google Chairman asserted in a March letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is not in the economic interests of the U.S.; the Obama administration on Friday extended the review period on the pipeline, perhaps until after the Nov. 4 congressional elections. And as a 'Major Contributor' to Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC, Schmidt is also helping to shape public opinion on the White House's call for immigration reform; FWD.us just launched new attack ads (videos) and a petition aimed at immigration reform opponent Rep. Steve King. In Dave Eggers' The Circle, politicians who impede the company execs' agenda are immediately brought down. But that's fiction, right?"
Power

Why Tesla Really Needs a Gigafactory 84

Posted by timothy
from the if-only-there-were-fast-swap-stations-everywhere dept.
Hodejo1 (1252120) writes "Tesla has already put over 25,000 cars on the road with more to come and, presumably, most will still be running well past the 8-year battery warranty. What would happen if it is time to replace the battery pack on an old Model S or X and the cost is $25K? Simple, it would destroy the resale value of said cars, which would negatively affect the lease value of new Tesla automobiles. That's a big part of the real reason why Tesla is building its own battery factory. They not only need to ensure enough supply for new cars, but they have to dramatically bring down the price of the replacement batteries low enough so owners of otherwise perfectly running old Teslas don't just junk them. The Tesla Roadster was not a mass produced vehicle, so the cost of replacing its battery is $40K. The economies of scale of a gigafactory alone will drop battery costs dramatically. Heavy research could drop it further over the next decade or so."
Encryption

OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week 218

Posted by timothy
from the the-good-kind-of-competition dept.
New submitter CrAlt (3208) writes with this news snipped from BSD news stalwart undeadly.org: "After the news of heartbleed broke early last week, the OpenBSD team dove in and started axing it up into shape. Leading this effort are Ted Unangst (tedu@) and Miod Vallat (miod@), who are head-to-head on a pure commit count basis with both having around 50 commits in this part of the tree in the week since Ted's first commit in this area. They are followed closely by Joel Sing (jsing@) who is systematically going through every nook and cranny and applying some basic KNF. Next in line are Theo de Raadt (deraadt@) and Bob Beck (beck@) who've been both doing a lot of cleanup, ripping out weird layers of abstraction for standard system or library calls. ... All combined, there've been over 250 commits cleaning up OpenSSL. In one week.'" You can check out the stats, in progress.
Moon

RIP, NASA Moon Landing Engineer John C. Houbolt 26

Posted by timothy
from the why-when-he-was-a-boy dept.
The Houston Chronicle reports the death of John C. Houbolt, whose ideas helped guide the U.S. moon-landing programs. Houbolt died on Tuesday at the age of 95, in a nursing home in Maine. Says the Chronicle's obituary: "His efforts in the early 1960s are largely credited with convincing NASA to focus on the launch of a module carrying a crew from lunar orbit, rather than a rocket from earth or a space craft while orbiting the planet. Houbolt argued that a lunar orbit rendezvous, or lor, would not only be less mechanically and financially onerous than building a huge rocket to take man to the moon or launching a craft while orbiting the earth, but lor was the only option to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge before the end of the decade."
Input Devices

Google's New Camera App Simulates Shallow Depth of Field 109

Posted by timothy
from the give-your-mom-an-easter-bokeh dept.
New submitter katiewilliam (3621675) writes with a story at Hardware Zone about a new feature that Google's working on for Android phones' built-in cameras: the illusion of shallow depth of field in phone snapshots, which typically err on the side of too much in focus, rather than too little. Excerpting: "The Google Research Blog [note: here's a direct link] revealed that there's quite a fair bit of algorithms running to achieve this effect; to put it in a nutshell, computer vision algorithms create a 3D model of the world based on the shots you have taken, and estimate the depth to every point in the scene."
Technology

The Design Flaw That Almost Wiped Out an NYC Skyscraper 161

Posted by timothy
from the let's-not-blow-this-out-of-proportion dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joel Werner writes in Slate that when Citicorp Center was built in 1977 it was, at 59 stories, the seventh-tallest building in the world but no one figured out until after it was built that although the chief structural engineer, William LeMessurier, had properly accounted for perpendicular winds, the building was particularly vulnerable to quartering winds — in part due to cost-saving changes made to the original plan by the contractor. "According to LeMessurier, in 1978 an undergraduate architecture student contacted him with a bold claim about LeMessurier's building: that Citicorp Center could blow over in the wind," writes Werner. "LeMessurier realized that a major storm could cause a blackout and render the tuned mass damper inoperable. Without the tuned mass damper, LeMessurier calculated that a storm powerful enough to take out the building hit New York every 16 years." In other words, for every year Citicorp Center was standing, there was about a 1-in-16 chance that it would collapse." (Read on for more.)
Government

Declassified Papers Hint US Uranium May Have Ended Up In Israeli Arms 139

Posted by timothy
from the long-long-ago dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson update their story on the NUMEC affair to take into account the recent release of hundreds of classified documents that shed additional light on the story. In the 1960s, the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) was found to be missing about a 100 pounds of bomb-grade uranium. Based on available evidence, Gilinsky and Mattson are convinced that the material ended up in Israel nuclear bombs. The newly release documents add more to the story, and Gilinsky and Mattson are calling on President Obama to declassify the remainder of the file."
Technology

Bookies Predict the Future of Tech 48

Posted by timothy
from the dead-eye-or-snake-eyes dept.
First time accepted submitter machineghost (622031) writes "It's one thing to make predictions about the future of tech; that happens all the time on Slashdot. But it's quite a different thing to put money on the line to back up those predictions, which is exactly what this British bookie has done. Think you know whether Google Glass will beat the iPhone, or whether we'll be ready to go to Mars and back by 2020? Now's your chance to capitalize on those predictions!" Or you could, y'know, invest money in at least some of them, and thereby increase their chances of succeeding.
Censorship

Peoria Mayor Sends Police To Track Down Twitter Parodist 153

Posted by timothy
from the how-is-this-playing-in-peoria? dept.
New submitter rotorbudd (1242864) writes with an article at Reason about Jim Ardis, mayor of Peoria, Illinois, who ordered police to track down whoever was responsible for a parody Twitter account mocking him."Guess the good Mayor has never heard of the Streisand Effect. 'The original Twitter account had a total of 50 followers. The new account has over 200.'"
Privacy

How Nest and FitBit Might Spy On You For Cash 92

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-let-them-take-your-analog-shoelaces dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: "Forbes offers up a comforting little story about how Nest and FitBit are planning on turning user data in a multi-billion-dollar business. 'Smart-thermostat maker Nest Labs (which is being acquired by Google for $3.2 billion) has quietly built a side business managing the energy consumption of a slice of its customers on behalf of electric companies,' reads the article. 'In wearables, health tracker Fitbit is selling companies the tracking bracelets and analytics services to better manage their health care budgets, and its rival Jawbone may be preparing to do the same.' As many a wit has said over the years: If you're not paying, you're the product. But if Forbes is right, wearable-electronics companies may have discovered a sweeter deal: paying customers on one side, and companies paying for those customers' data on the other. Will most consumers actually care, though?"
United States

Americans Uncomfortable With Possibility of Ubiquitous Drones, Designer Babies 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-design-the-babies-to-also-be-drones dept.
alphadogg writes: "Americans are optimistic about scientific inventions on the horizon, though are cautious about future uses of DNA, robots, drones and always-on implants, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey on future technology (PDF). Asked about the likelihood of certain advances 50 years from now, survey respondents were most sure that lab-grown custom organs for transplant will happen (81%). Only 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather by then. When asked how they felt about possible near-term advances, 65% thought robot caregivers for the elderly is a bad idea, 63% didn't want to see personal drones in U.S. airspace, and 66% thought parents altering the DNA of prospective children was a bad idea."
Media

MediaGoblin and FSF Successfully Raise Funds For Federation, Privacy Features 22

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-build-it-they-will-come dept.
paroneayea writes: "GNU MediaGoblin and the Free Software Foundation have jointly run a campaign for privacy and federation on the web. The campaign is in its last day but has already passed the first two funding milestones, and is hoping to raise more with the possibility of bringing in multiple dedicated resources to the project. The project has also released a full financial transparency report so donors can know how they can expect their money to be used!"
Technology

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last? 671

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-my-sister's-smartphone dept.
itwbennett writes: "When you think about tech products these days, you probably think 'refresh cycle' more than 'built to last.' But there are plenty of tech products that put up with hard, daily use year after year. Here's a few to get you started: Logitech MX510 mouse, Brother black & white laser printer, Casio G-Shock watch, Alvin Draf-Tec Retrac mechanical pencil, Sony Dream Machine alarm clock. What's your longest-lasting, hardest-working device?"
Operating Systems

Samsung's Position On Tizen May Hurt Developer Recruitment 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-change-horses dept.
CowboyRobot sends in an article about how Samsung's constantly shifting plans for its smartwatches are making it hard for developers to commit to building apps. Quoting: "Samsung's first smartwatch, released in October last year, ran a modified version of Google's Android platform. The device had access to about 80 apps at launch, all of which were managed by a central smartphone app. Samsung offered developers an SDK for the Galaxy Gear so they could create more apps. Developers obliged. Then Samsung changed direction. Samsung announced a new series of smartwatches in February: the Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, and Gear Fit. Unlike the first device, these three run Samsung’s Tizen platform. ... This week, Samsung made things even more interesting. Speaking to Reuters, Yoon Han-kil, senior vice president of Samsung’s product strategy team, said the company is working on a watch that will use Google’s Android Wear platform. In other words, Samsung will bring three different watches to market with three different operating systems in under a year."
Businesses

Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown 326

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-can-one-of-you-build-robocop-please dept.
jfruh writes: "Over the past few years, the growth rate in Detroit tech jobs has been twice the natural average. The reason is the industry that still makes Detroit a company town: U.S. automotive companies are getting into high tech in a big way, and need qualified people to help them do it. Another bonus: the rent is a lot cheaper than it is in San Francisco. '[A]ccording to Automation Alley's 2013 Technology Industry Report, the metro Detroit area grew to a total of 242,520 technology industry jobs in 2011, representing a 15% increase from the 2010 level of 210,984 technology industry jobs. No other benchmarked region had greater technology industry growth than metro Detroit in this period. Further, according to the report, this growth helped propel metro Detroit to a ranking of fourth among the 14 benchmarked regions, passing San Jose."
Bug

Bug Bounties Don't Help If Bugs Never Run Out 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the trying-to-bail-the-ocean dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: "I was an early advocate of companies offering cash prizes to researchers who found security holes in their products, so that the vulnerabilities can be fixed before the bad guys exploited them. I still believe that prize programs can make a product safer under certain conditions. But I had naively overlooked that under an alternate set of assumptions, you might find that not only do cash prizes not make the product any safer, but that nothing makes the product any safer — you might as well not bother fixing certain security holes at all, whether they were found through a prize program or not." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
The Internet

The Internet of Things and Humans 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the humans-are-communications-channels-for-our-gadgets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Speculating the future of human computer interaction, Tim O'Reilly contemplates how humans and things cooperate differently when things get smarter. He says, '[S]o many of the most interesting applications of the Internet of Things involve new ways of thinking about how humans and things cooperate differently when the things get smarter. It really ought to be called the Internet of Things and Humans ... is Uber an #IoT application? Most people would say it is not; it’s just a pair of smartphone apps connecting a passenger and driver. But imagine for a moment the consumer end of the Uber app as it is today, and on the other end, a self-driving car. You would immediately see that as #IoT. ... Long before we get to fully autonomous devices, there are many “halfway house” applications that are really Internet of Things applications in waiting, which use humans for one or more parts of the entire system. When you understand that the general pattern of #IoTH applications is not just sensor + network + actuator but various combinations of human + network + actuator or sensor + network, you will broaden the possibilities for interfaces and business models."
Yahoo!

Investors Value Yahoo's Core Business At Less Than $0 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-they-have-a-new-logo dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo is most known for its search, email, and news services. But its U.S. web presence is only part of its corporate portfolio. It also owns large stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba (a web services company based in China). Yahoo Japan is publicly traded, and Alibaba is heading toward an IPO, so both have a pretty firm valuation. The thing is: when you account for Yahoo's share of each and subtract them from Yahoo's current market cap, you get a negative number. Investors actually value Yahoo's core business at less than nothing. Bloomberg's Matt Levine explains: 'I guess this is fairly obvious, but it leads you to a general theory of the conglomerate discount, which is that a business can be worth less than zero (to shareholders), but a company can't be (to shareholders). ... A fun question is, as fiduciaries for shareholders, should Yahoo's directors split into three separate companies to maximize value? If YJHI and YAHI are worth around $9 billion and $40 billion, and Core Yahoo Inc. is worth around, I don't know, one penny, then just doing some corporate restructuring should create $13 billion in free shareholder value. Why not do that?'"
Science

Mathematicians Devise Typefaces Based On Problems of Computational Geometry 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the extending-comic-sans-into-all-dimensions dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "Typeface design is something of an art. For many centuries, this art has been constrained by the materials available to typographers, mainly lead and wood. More recently, typographers have been freed from this constraint with the advent of digital typesetting and the number of typefaces has mushroomed. Verdana, for example, is designed specifically for computer screens. Now a father and son team of mathematicians have devised a number of typefaces based on problems they have studied in computational geometry. For example, one typeface is inspired by the folds and valleys generated by computational origami designs. Another is based on the open problem of 'whether every disjoint set of unit disks (gears or wheels) in the plane can be visited by a single taut non-self-intersecting conveyor belt.' Interestingly, several of the new typefaces also serve as puzzles in which messages are the solutions."
Security

Heartbleed Sparks 'Responsible' Disclosure Debate 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the arguing-about-ethics dept.
bennyboy64 writes: "IT security industry experts are beginning to turn on Google and OpenSSL, questioning whether the Heartbleed bug was disclosed 'responsibly.' A number of selective leaks to Facebook, Akamai, and CloudFlare occurred prior to disclosure on April 7. A separate, informal pre-notification program run by Red Hat on behalf OpenSSL to Linux and Unix operating system distributions also occurred. But router manufacturers and VPN appliance makers Cisco and Juniper had no heads up. Nor did large web entities such as Amazon Web Services, Twitter, Yahoo, Tumblr and GoDaddy, just to name a few. The Sydney Morning Herald has spoken to many people who think Google should've told OpenSSL as soon as it uncovered the critical OpenSSL bug in March, and not as late as it did on April 1. The National Cyber Security Centre Finland (NCSC-FI), which reported the bug to OpenSSL after Google, on April 7, which spurred the rushed public disclosure by OpenSSL, also thinks it was handled incorrectly. Jussi Eronen, of NCSC-FI, said Heartbleed should have continued to remain a secret and be shared only in security circles when OpenSSL received a second bug report from the Finnish cyber security center that it was passing on from security testing firm Codenomicon. 'This would have minimized the exposure to the vulnerability for end users,' Mr. Eronen said, adding that 'many websites would already have patched' by the time it was made public if this procedure was followed."

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