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Businesses

Westinghouse Files For Bankruptcy, In Blow To Nuclear Power (reuters.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Westinghouse Electric Co, a unit of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, hit by billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in the U.S. Southeast. The bankruptcy casts doubt on the future of the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in three decades, which were scheduled to begin producing power as soon as this week, but are now years behind schedule. The four reactors are part of two projects known as V.C. Summer in South Carolina, which is majority owned by SCANA Corp, and Vogtle in Georgia, which is owned by a group of utilities led by Southern Co. Costs for the projects have soared due to increased safety demands by U.S. regulators, and also due to significantly higher-than-anticipated costs for labor, equipment and components. Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse said it hopes to use bankruptcy to isolate and reorganize around its "very profitable" nuclear fuel and power plant servicing businesses from its money-losing construction operation. Westinghouse said in a court filing it has secured $800 million in financing from Apollo Investment Corp, an affiliate of Apollo Global Management, to fund its core businesses during its reorganization. Westinghouse's nuclear services business is expected to continue to perform profitably over the course of the bankruptcy and eventually be sold by Toshiba, people familiar with the matter said. When regulators in Georgia and South Carolina approved the construction of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors in 2009, it was meant to be the start of renewed push to develop U.S. nuclear power. However, a flood of cheap natural gas from shale, the lack of U.S. legislation to curb carbon emissions and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan dampened enthusiasm for nuclear power. Toshiba had acquired Westinghouse in 2006 for $5.4 billion. It expected to build dozens of its new AP1000 reactors -- which were hailed as safer, quicker to construct and more compact -- creating a pipeline of work for its maintenance division.
The Almighty Buck

Jeff Bezos Is Now the World's Second Richest Person (bloomberg.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Jeff Bezos has leapt past Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffett to become the world's second-richest person. Bezos, 53, added $1.5 billion to his fortune as Amazon.com Inc. rose $18.32 on Wednesday, the day after the e-commerce giant said it plans to buy Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com. Bezos has a net worth of $75.6 billion on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, $700 million more than Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s Buffett and $1.3 billion above Ortega, the founder of Inditex S.A. and Europe's richest person. Amazon's founder has added $10.2 billion this year to his wealth and $7 billion since the global equities rally began following the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president on Nov. 8. The rise is the third biggest on the Bloomberg index in 2017, after Chinese parcel-delivery billionaire Wang Wei's $18.4 billion gain and an $11.4 billion rise for Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Android

App Store Sales For Android To Overtake Apple's iOS, Research Firm Says (sfgate.com) 42

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, Apple's App Store, the place where people download apps for games and social networking services on their iPhones, has generated far more revenue worldwide than its Android competitors. This year, things are changing: The App Store will fall second to the amount of revenue generated by Android app distributors, predicts analytics firm App Annie. In 2017, the App Store will generate $40 billion in revenue, while Android app stores run by Google and other parties will generate $41 billion, App Annie said. That gap is expected to widen in 2021, with Android app stores generating $78 billion in revenue and Apple's App Store at $60 billion in revenue, according to App Annie's report released on Wednesday. The surge in revenue for Android comes from a growing number of consumers in China who are buying Android phones and are willing to pay for apps. In 2021, App Annie expects there to be eight Android smartphone users to every single iPhone user in China.
IT

More Than Ever, Employees Want a Say in How Their Companies Are Run (qz.com) 177

Two readers share a report: While workers have traditionally looked to unions to address their grievances, a new generation is trusting in the power of petitions to force changes. At the Wall Street Journal, 160 reporters and editors, delivered a letter to their managers protesting the lack of women and minorities running the organization, Business Insider reported yesterday. "Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men," the letter read. IBM employees are circulating an online petition objecting to the tone of CEO Ginni Rometty's letter to US president Donald Trump, and calling on her affirm what they call the company's progressive values. [...] Other employee petitions call for Oracle to oppose US president Donald Trump's second travel ban, and to let men who work at US regional supermarket Publix grow beards. Employee petitions are now so popular there's a website, coworker.org, devoted to hosting them. In some cases, the campaigns work: Starbuck's relaxed its rules about visible tattoos and unnatural hair color for baristas after thousands signed petitions asking for a change. Sometimes, they fail disastrously. Interns at one (unnamed) company described in a blog about being fired en masse after signing a petition asking for a more relaxed dress code.
Communications

Yes, You've Still Got Mail (recode.net) 131

Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg, writes: Like radio, email isn't dying, it's just changing. Over the past decade or so it's become much more like postal mail. It's not the place you expect to find a greeting from a friend or even a timely update from a professional colleague. Instead, it's a mix of junk mail you hate and discard, plus bills and missives from businesses you also hate but can't discard. [...] Still, despite all signs to the contrary -- and many predictions -- email is not dead. In fact, some analyses suggest that it's growing. Few people can afford to be without it. It hasn't expired; it has morphed. There are lots of reasons email persists, even as faster and simpler forms of communication proliferate and your personal communications likely have mostly migrated elsewhere. But one big one is that new types of media channels rarely totally kill off old ones, even though everyone predicts they will. The old ones just adapt and change. Back in the day, television was supposed to kill off radio, but radio gradually saved itself by dropping the programming TV did better (like dramas and variety shows) and starting to focus on playing hit songs and hosting political and sports talk shows. I think something similar is going on with email. Once the king of digital discourse, email has surely been dethroned by an army of alternatives: Vast and numerous messaging services; photo- and video-oriented sharing on social networks or the photo apps of Apple and Google; business tools like Slack. I get the latest pictures of my granddaughter through iCloud photo sharing. I get the latest discussions of how we plan to cover stories on The Verge or Recode through Slack. My editor and I collaboratively edit my stories inside Google Docs. Ten years ago, all those things would have been done via email. Back then, when a reader wanted to tell me I was an idiot (or worse) for something I wrote, I got an email. Now, they tell me on Twitter.
Android

What Killed Adobe Flash? (daringfireball.net) 203

An employee, who claims to have worked on the development of Flash, writes: Apparently, the world settled on the "One True Cause" for why Flash "died". Take for example this blogpost by John Gruber about FedEx... it ends with this consideration on Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash": "If it had been an angry rant, it would have been easily dismissed without needing to be factually refuted -- "That's just Jobs being a prick again." The fact that it wasn't angry, and because it was all true, made it impossible to refute."

Impossible to refute. There's no doubt that this was the beginning of the end for Flash, right? Except that this is utterly wrong. I worked on Flash, and I worked on the thing that actually killed Flash. It is my strong belief, based on what I observed, that Steve Jobs' letter had little impact in the final decision -- it was really Adobe who decided to "kill" Flash. Yes, Flash was a bad rap for Adobe, and Steve's letter didn't help. But ultimately, what was probably decisive was the fact that developing Flash cost Adobe a ton of money.
John Gruber, responding to the blogpost: To be clear, I don't think Jobs's letter killed Flash. But I don't think Adobe did either. Eventually Adobe accepted Flash's demise. What killed Flash was Apple's decision not to support it on iOS, combined with iOS's immense popularity and the lucrative demographics of iOS users. If Jobs had never published "Thoughts on Flash", Flash would still be dead. The letter explained the decision, but the decision that mattered was never to support it on iOS in the first place. It's possible that Flash would have died even if Apple had decided to allow it on iOS. Android tried that, and the results were abysmal. Web page scrolling stuttered, and video playback through Flash Player halved battery life compared to non-Flash playback.
Oracle

Oracle Hires Global Specialists To Explore Feasibility of Buying Accenture 58

Paul Kunert writes in an exclusive report via The Register: Oracle has hired global specialists to explore the feasibility of buying multi-billion dollar consultancy Accenture, sources have told us. The database giant has engaged a team of consultants to conduct due diligence to "explore the synergies that could be created if they [Oracle] bought Accenture lock stock and barrel," one source claimed. On top of the financial considerations, the consultants are evaluating the pros and cons including the potential impact on Oracle's wider channel. "While these things have a habit of fizzling out there are some fairly serious players around the table," a contact added. Another claimed the process was at an early stage. "If buying Accenture was a 100 meter race, Oracle is at the 10 to 15 meter stage now." [T]his buy would be an immensely bold, complicated and pricey move: NYSE-listed Accenture has a market cap of $77.5 billion, and shareholders will expect a premium offer. A deal would dwarf Oracle's $10 billion buy of PeopleSoft, its $7.4 billion deal for Sun Microsystems, and more recently, the $9.3 billion splashed on Netsuite. In buying Accenture, Oracle would be taking a leaf out of the mid-noughties handbook - when HP fatefully bought EDS and IBM acquired PWC to carve out a brighter future.
Android

The Galaxy S8 Will Be Samsung's Biggest Test Ever (theverge.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: You know what's coming tomorrow, you've known and waited for it for months now. Samsung's 2017 flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, will be officially announced, and one of the most critical periods in the company's history will begin. The phone Samsung launches on Wednesday will carry greater expectations and have to prove a lot more than usual. Even as the world's biggest smartphone maker, Samsung's mobile credibility was deeply shaken by the Galaxy Note 7 snafu, so it now needs to reassert its reliability while also rebooting its technological advantage. Vlad Savov provides a "rundown of the biggest challenges facing Samsung" in his report. While Samsung will need to nail the design and camera performance, as well as many other things, the most critical area will be the battery, given how the Note 7 was recalled due to battery issues. Even though that incident took place half a year ago, we are still faced with the consequences. Samsung is still trying to figure out what to do with the "recalled units" and people are still making bad jokes about "explosive Samsung news." If the Galaxy S8 is to have any battery issues whatsoever, the result could be catastrophic for the company. Though, Samsung is well aware of this and has likely packed "the most robust and durable batteries we've ever seen in a smartphone" inside the Galaxy S8 devices.
Businesses

DJI Proposes New Electronic 'License Plate' For Drones (digitaltrends.com) 101

linuxwrangler writes: Chinese drone maker DJI proposed that drones be required to transmit a unique identifier to assist law enforcement to identify operators where necessary. Anyone with an appropriate receiver could receive the ID number, but the database linking the ID with the registered owner would only be available to government agencies. DJI likens this to a license plate on a car and offers it as a solution to a congressional mandate that the FAA develop methods to remotely identify drone operators. "The best solution is usually the simplest," DJI wrote in a white paper on the topic, which can be downloaded at this link. "The focus of the primary method for remote identification should be on a way for anyone concerned about a drone flight in close proximity to report an identifier number to the authorities, who would then have the tools to investigate the complaint without infringing on operator privacy. [...] No other technology is subject to mandatory industry-wide tracking and recording of its use, and we strongly urge against making UAS the first such technology. The case for such an Orwellian model has not been made. A networked system provides more information than needed, to people who don't require it, and exposes confidential business information in the process."
Privacy

US Congress Votes To Shred ISP Privacy Rules (theregister.co.uk) 508

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The U.S. House of Representatives has just approved a "congressional disapproval" vote of privacy rules, which gives your ISP the right to sell your internet history to the highest bidder. The measure passed by 232 votes to 184 along party lines, with one Democrat voting in favor and 14 not voting. This follows the same vote in the Senate last week. Just prior to the vote, a White House spokesman said the president supported the bill, meaning that the decision will soon become law. This approval means that whoever you pay to provide you with internet access -- Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, etc -- will be able to sell everything they know about your use of the internet to third parties without requiring your approval and without even informing you. That information can be used to build a very detailed picture of who you are: what your political and sexual leanings are; whether you have kids; when you are at home; whether you have any medical conditions; and so on -- a thousand different data points that, if they have sufficient value to companies willing to pay for them, will soon be traded without your knowledge. With over 100 million households online in the United States, that means Congress has just given Big Cable an annual payday of between $35 billion and $70 billion.
Businesses

BitTorrent To Refocus On What Made It Rich - uTorrent (torrentfreak.com) 53

Best known for its uTorrent client, BitTorrent Inc has been focusing more on other projects for a while. But now, with another shake-up imminent, the company has made a fresh commitment to focus on uTorrent and Mainline clients. From an article on TorrentFreak: Caught between the bad publicity generated by millions of pirates using the software for less than legal activities, a reliance on its huge revenue, plus its role in distributing content from signed-up artists, BitTorrent Inc. has at times been required to delicately maneuver around the client's very existence. Now, however, that might be about to change. According to a report from Variety, changes are underway at BitTorrent Inc that could see uTorrent and its Mainline sister client come back into the limelight. First up, the company has yet another new CEO. Rogelio Choy joins the company after spending two years at parking service Luxe Valet. However, Choy is also a former BitTorrent employee, serving as its Chief Operating Officer between 2012 and 2015. The hiring of Choy reportedly coincides with a shake-up of BitTorrent Inc.'s product line. BitTorrent Live, the patented live video streaming project developed by BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, will be set loose as a separate, venture-funded company, Variety reports.
AT&T

AT&T Joins The Linux Foundation as a Platinum Member (linuxfoundation.org) 38

From a press release: The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit advancing professional open source management for mass collaboration, today announced that AT&T has become a Platinum member. This follows news of the company's contribution of several million lines of ECOMP code to The Linux Foundation, as well as the new Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) Project based on production-ready code from AT&T and OPEN-O contributors. Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, joins The Linux Foundation Board of Directors and was also recently selected as the ONAP chairman. "Open source is crucial to AT&T's software transformation," said Chris Rice, chairman of ONAP and senior vice president of AT&T Labs. "So, it was a natural decision for us to join The Linux Foundation. SDN is helping us meet performance, capital spending and efficiency goals and we expect continued benefits. But more so, we recognize that the open source community accelerates innovation. We're excited to work with The Linux Foundation and its members to promote a globally accepted platform for SDN and NFV technologies."
Social Networks

Facebook Copied Snapchat a Fourth Time, and Now All Its Apps Look the Same (recode.net) 84

Facebook is copying Snapchat again. From a report on Recode: Today it launched Stories, the 24-hour photo and video montages that ultimately disappear, inside of its core Facebook app. This is the fourth time Facebook has cloned the key Snapchat feature in the past nine months; the social giant has already copied it into Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. On the surface, Facebook's move simply looks like an unabashed defense strategy against Snapchat, the company's most obvious threat since 2011, when Google tried to dive into social with a service that turned out to be much more like a bellyflop. This is getting serious. What many people don't realize is that even if Facebook manages to get half a percent of its users to use its copycat tools, Snapchat will lose a substantial number of potential customers that could have joined its service. With Facebook, which has over 1.8 billion users (+ the possibly tens of millions of people that use WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger app and don't have a Facebook account), increasingly offering all of Snapchat's features on its apps, the future of Evan Spiegel's company doesn't look all that good.
Businesses

The Best and Worst Cities To Live in For Tech Workers, Based on Rent and Commute (qz.com) 252

An anonymous reader shares a report: Most cities with a cluster of tech companies can offer those workers either a short commute or low rents -- but not both, according to a study by property consultancy Savills. Berlin is the exception to that rule. Savills found that the German capital offers tech workers some of the lowest rents and among the shortest commutes of 22 cities it surveyed. Commuting is a hugely important factor for worker satisfaction. One study, by the UK's Office of National Statistics, found that each additional minute of commuting increased workers' anxiety and reduced their satisfaction with life. Based on how long it takes to get to work.
The five best cities are: Austin (16 mins), Melbourne, Stockholm, Berlin, and Tokyo (24 mins).
Five worst cities: Bengaluru (47 mins), Hong Kong, Seattle, Seoul, and Toronto (40 mins).

Based on how much tech workers pay in rent (per week).
Best cities: Seoul ($153), Santiago, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Cape Town ($192).
Five worst cities: San Francisco (with $775.45), New York, Boston, London, and Singapore ($488.16).
Businesses

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs (nytimes.com) 373

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they've declared a different winner: the robots. From a report on the New York Times: The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots. The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts. From a report on The Verge, which looks at another finding in the study: They found that each new robot added to the workforce meant the loss of between 3 and 5.6 jobs in the local commuting area. Meanwhile, for each new robot added per 1,000 workers, wages in the surrounding area would fall between 0.25 and 0.5 percent.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Jumps Into Call-Center Market With New 'Amazon Connect' Service (geekwire.com) 20

Amazon Web Services just unveiled a new service for running call centers, dubbed Amazon Connect, leveraging the same technology used by Amazon.com's own customer service system to route and manage calls using automatic speech recognition and artificial intelligence. From a report: The announcement is the latest move by the cloud giant beyond its core infrastructure technologies and into higher-level cloud services. Amazon says the service incorporates its Lex technology, an artificial intelligence service for speech recognition and natural language processing, which also powers the company's Alexa virtual assistant. The company says Amazon Connect works with existing AWS services such as DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, or Amazon Aurora, as well as third-party CRM and analytics services. Salesforce says it's integrating its Service Cloud Einstein with Amazon Connect. It uses a graphical interface to let companies set up a workflow for calls without coding.
Businesses

A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap (qz.com) 260

Ephrat Livni, writing for Quartz: Unless you're a golfer, you probably don't think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little-dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started selling its Kirkland Signature (KS) golf balls at about $15 per dozen, a quarter to a third the price of popular top-ranked balls. Industry insiders called it a "miracle golf ball" for its great performance and low cost, and Costco sold out immediately. It's planning to release more in April. In response to the bargain ball's reception, however, Acushnet -- which makes the popular Titleist balls -- sent the membership club a threatening letter. It accused Costco of infringing on 11 patents and engaging in false advertising for claiming that KS balls meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.
Education

'Brainstorming Doesn't Work' (fastcompany.com) 86

People aren't necessarily more creative in groups than alone, or vice versa, according to numerous studies. An anonymous reader shares an article: In fact, creativity needs both conditions; our performance peaks when we alternate -- first working alone, then coming together to share our ideas, then going off by ourselves again to mull over what we heard. It's a process. This is because our brains' creative engines are fueled both by quiet mind-wandering, allowing novel and unexpected connections to form, and by encountering new information, which often comes from other people. The typical brainstorm over-delivers on the latter and under-delivers on the former, which means that for lots of people, brainstorming is an utter nightmare. Introverts just feel alienated, and extroverts aren't pushed to reflect more deeply on the ideas they've batted around amongst themselves.
Transportation

Dutch Scientist Proposes Circular Runways For Airport Efficiency (curbed.com) 325

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: While airport terminal architecture has a solid history of style and innovation, rarely is a proposal put forth to utterly redesign the runway. But that's precisely the aim of Henk Hesselink, a Dutch scientist working with the Netherlands Aerospace Center. Dubbed the "endless runway," Hesselink's brainchild is a 360-degree landing strip measuring more than two miles in diameter. Since airplanes would be able to approach and take off from any direction around the proposed circle, they wouldn't have to fight against crosswinds. And three planes would be able to take off or land at the same time. Hesselink's team uses flight simulators and computerized calculations to test the unconventional design, and have determined that round airports would be more efficient than existing layouts. With a central terminal, the airport would only use about a third of the land of the typical airport with the same airplane capacity. And there's an added benefit to those living near airports: Flight paths could be more distributed, and thereby making plane noise more tolerable. BBC produced a video detailing Hesselink's circular runway concept. The concept is fascinating but there are many questions the video does not answer. Phil Derner Jr. from NYC Aviation writes via Business Insider about some of those unanswered questions in his article titled "Why the circular runway concept wouldn't work." The fundamental issues discussed in his report include banked runway issues, curved runway issues, navigation issues, and airspace issues. What do you think of Hesselink's concept? Do you think it is preposterous or shows promise?

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