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Cellphones

Cheap Smartphones Quietly Becoming Popular In the US 139

An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that ZTE and its cheap Android smartphones have been grabbing more and more of the market in the U.S. It's not that the phones are particularly good — it's that they're "good enough" for the $60 price tag. The company has moved up to fourth among smartphone makers, behind Apple, Samsung and LG. That puts them ahead of a lot of companies making premium devices: HTC, Motorola, and BlackBerry, to name a few. ZTE, a Chinese manufacturer, seems to be better at playing the U.S. markets than competitors like Xiaomi and Huawei, and they're getting access to big carriers and big retailers. "Its phone sales are all the more surprising because it's been frozen out of the more lucrative telecom networking market since 2012. That year, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report warning that China's intelligence services could potentially use ZTE's equipment, and those of rival Huawei Technologies, for spying. Huawei then dismissed the allegations as 'little more than an exercise in China bashing.'"
Data Storage

Police Body Camera Business All About the Video Evidence Storage 98

Lucas123 writes: Body cameras are the fastest growing segment of the police video camera business. The two largest police body camera manufacturers today — Taser and VieVu — say they've shipped devices to 41% of the nation's 18,000 police departments. But, the hardware is only the basis for the real business: video evidence storage. Last year, Taser's gross profit margins on hardware were 15.6%; the gross margins for video storage were 51%, according to Glenn Mattson, who follows Taser as an equity analyst for Ladenburg Thalmann. "There's no contest. They don't care about making money on the cameras," Mattson said. As of the first quarter of this year, more than a petabyte of police video has been uploaded to Taser's Evidence.com service. Just one of VieVu's clients, the Oakland PD, has uploaded more than a million police videos. The cost of storage, however, is so high that police departments have been forced to determine strict retention policies, that in some cases may effect the long-term handling of evidence. In Birmingham, Ala., for example, where they've deployed 300 cameras and hope to double that this year, the the video cameras themselves cost about $180,000, but the department's total outlay for a five-year contract including cloud storage with Taser will be $889,000.
Microsoft

FTC: Machinima Took Secret Cash To Shill Xbox One 156

jfruh writes: The Machinima gaming video network took money from a marketing agency hired by Microsoft to pay "influencers" up to $45,000 to promote the Xbox One. Crucially, the video endorsers did not disclose that they'd been paid, which has caused trouble with the FTC. For its part, Machinima notes that this happened in 2013, when the current management was not in charge.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Blocks Hundreds of Accounts Doing Paid Editing 143

jan_jes writes: After weeks of investigation, Wikipedia has blocked 381 user accounts for "black hat" editing. The reason for the ban is that the accounts were engaged in undisclosed paid advocacy — the practice of accepting or charging money to promote external interests on Wikipedia without revealing their affiliation, in violation of Wikimedia's Terms of Use. In addition to blocking the 381 "sockpuppet" account, the editors deleted 210 articles created by these accounts.
Businesses

Comcast To Charge $30 For Unlimited Data Over 300GB Cap 229

For some time, Comcast has been testing 300 GB monthly data caps in certain markets. An anonymous reader notes a policy change unveiled today that gives customers in those markets the ability to switch back to unlimited data for $30 extra. Previously (and currently, for customers who don't pay the extra $30), Comcast would charge $10 per 50GB above the cap. "Comcast's intent on this front has been clear for some time. Comcast lobbyist and VP David Cohen last year strongly suggested that usage caps would be arriving for all Comcast customers sooner or later. The idea of charging users a premium to avoid arbitrary usage restrictions has been a pipe dream of incumbent ISP executives for a decade." The new policy goes into effect on October 1.
Bitcoin

Secret Service Agent Pleads Guilty In Bitcoin Theft 82

An anonymous reader writes: A former Secret Service agent has pleaded guilty to charges related to the theft of $800,000 worth of bitcoins during a high-profile investigation into the online drug marketplace Silk Road. Reuters reports: "Shaun Bridges, 33, appeared in federal court in San Francisco and admitted to money laundering and obstruction of justice....In court on Monday, Bridges admitted his theft made Ulbricht believe that another individual was stealing from Silk Road and helped lead Ulbricht to try to hire someone to kill that person."
Government

Cities Wasting Millions of Taxpayer's Money In Failed IoT Pilots 147

dkatana writes: Two years ago at the Smart Cities Expo World Congress, Antoni Vives, then Barcelona's second deputy mayor, said he refused to have more technology pilots in the city: "I hate pilots, if anyone of you [technology companies] comes to me selling a pilot, just get away, I don't want to see you." He added, "I am fed up with the streets full of devices. It is a waste of time, a waste of money, and doesn't deliver anything; it is just for the sake of selling something to the press and it does not work."

Barcelona is already a leading city in the use of IoT and, according to Fortune, "The most wired city in the world". Over the past 10 years, the city has experienced a surge in the number of sensors, data collection devices and automation and has become "a showcase for the smart metropolis of the future". Over the past few years technology companies have sold pilot programs costing millions of dollars to cities all over the world, claiming it will enhance their "Smart City" rating. Unfortunately, after the initial buzz, many of those pilots never get beyond the evaluation stage and are abandoned because the cities cannot afford them in the first place.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do If You Were Suddenly Wealthy? 825

An anonymous reader writes: There are a few articles floating around today about comments from Markus Persson, aka "Notch," the creator of Minecraft. He sold his game studio to Microsoft last year for $2.5 billion, but he seems to be having a hard time adjusting to his newfound fame and wealth. He wrote, "The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance. ... Found a great girl, but she's afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead. I would Musk and try to save the world, but that just exposes me to the same type of a$#@%&*s that made me sell minecraft again." While he later suggests he was just having a bad day, he does seem to be dealing with some isolation issues. Granted, it can be hard to feel sorry for a billionaire, but I've wondered at times how I'd handle sudden wealth like that, and I long ago decided it would make the human relationships I'm accustomed to rather difficult. So, how would you deal with Notch's problem? It seems like one the tech industry should at least be aware of, given the focus on startup culture.
Google

Google Facing Fine of Up To $1.4 Billion In India Over Rigged Search Results 152

An anonymous reader writes: The Competition Commission of India has opened an investigation into Google to decide whether the company unfairly prioritized search results to its own services. Google could face a fine of up to $1.4 billion — 10% of its net income in 2014. A number of other internet companies, including Facebook and FlipKart, responded to queries from the CCI by confirming that Google does this. "The CCI's report accuses Google of displaying its own content and services more prominently in search results than other sources that have higher hit rates. It also states that sponsored links shown in search results are dependent on the amount of advertising funds Google receives from its clients. Ecommerce portal Flipkart noted that it found search results to have a direct correlation with the amount of money it spent on advertising with Google." The company has faced similar antitrust concerns in the EU and the U.S
Government

Where the Tech Industry's Political Donations Are Going 130

An anonymous reader writes: Early estimates suggest the 2016 U.S. presidential election will result in $5-10 billion in spending by candidates and organizations — much more than ever before. To support this, they need lots of contributions, and the tech industry is becoming a significant player. (Not as much as the financial industry, of course, but tech's influence is growing.) Re/Code breaks down which candidates are getting the most money from the tech sector so far. Right now, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has gotten the most tech money by far — more than the rest of the field combined, thanks in large part to Larry Ellison. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, is a distant second, followed closely by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are the only other candidates with significant tech contributions so far. Carly Fiorina, a tech industry veteran, has only managed about $13,000 in donations.
The Internet

Metal Gear Solid V PC Disc Contains Steam Installer, Nothing Else 197

dotarray writes: The boxed copy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain reportedly contains nothing but a Steam installer. That's right, even if you fork out real-world money for a physical copy of the game, you'll still have to download the whole thing from the internet. The game officially launches tomorrow. Early critical reviews are quite positive, though you should take that with a grain of salt until the game is more widely distributed. Game Informer says, "Unlike the linear design of previous entries, The Phantom Pain rarely assumes you have particular weapons and equipment, so the missions are brilliantly designed with multiple paths to success." The Washington Post notes, "The Phantom Pain’s openness feels like Kojima finally found a technical platform broad enough to make use of all of those tools and trusts players to build their own narrative drama from the way they choose to put these tools together for each mission." IGN has this criticism: "... where Phantom Pain’s gameplay systems are far richer and meatier than any the series has ever seen, its story feels insubstantial and woefully underdeveloped by comparison." Metal Gear Solid 5 is launching for PCs, current consoles, and previous-gen consoles; Digital Foundry thinks is likely to be the last true cross-generation AAA title.
The Internet

CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 199

New submitter club77er writes with a link to a DSL Reports article outlining some hefty subsidies (about $3 billion, all told) that CenturyLink has signed up to receive, in exchange for expanding its coverage to areas considered underserved: According to the CenturyLink announcement, the telco will take $500 million a year for six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund (CAF). In exchange, it will expand broadband to approximately 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states. While the FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps down, these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.
Education

NSF Makes It Rain: $722K Award To Evaluate Microsoft-Backed TEALS 64

theodp writes: Microsoft has $92 billion in cash parked offshore, so it's kind of surprising to see a $722K National Science Foundation award is going towards validating the efficacy of Microsoft TEALS, the pet program of CEO Satya Nadella that sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience into high schools to teach kids and their teachers computer science. Among its Program Changes for 2015, TEALS said it "explicitly commits to provide a core set of curriculum materials that are complete, organized, and adaptable," which should help improve the outcome of the Developing Computer Science Pedagogical Content Knowledge through On-the-Job Learning NSF study schools are being asked to participate in. Meanwhile, CSTUY, a volunteer organization led by experienced CS teachers (including Slashdot user zamansky), finds itself turning to Kickstarter for $25K to fund Saturday Hacking Sessions. So, as Microsoft-backed Code.org — which has also attracted NSF award money to validate its CS program — is fond of saying: What's wrong with this picture? (To be fair to TEALS: it may have Microsoft backing, but it's not strictly a Microsoft effort, and also started out as a pure volunteer effort, as founder Kevin Wang explained earlier this year.)
Advertising

Inside the Booming, Unhinged, and Dangerous Malvertising Menace 259

mask.of.sanity writes: The Register has a feature on the online malicious advertising (malvertising) menace that has become an explosively potent threat to end-user security on the internet. Experts say advertising networks and exchanges need to vet their customers, and publishers need to vet the third party content they display. Users should also consider script and ad blockers in the interim. From the article: "Ads as an attack vector was identified in 2007 when security responders began receiving reports of malware hitting user machines as victims viewed online advertisements. By year's end William Salusky of the SANS Internet Storms Centre had concocted a name for the attacks. Since then malvertising has exploded. This year it increased by more than 260 percent on the previous year, with some 450,000 malicious ads reported in the first six months alone, according to numbers by RiskIQ. Last year, security firm Cyphort found a 300 percent increase in malvertising. In 2013, the Online Trust Alliance logged a more than 200 percent increase in malvertising incidents compared to 2012, serving some 12.4 billion malvertisement impressions."
Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 137

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Your Rights Online

Analysis Reveals Almost No Real Women On Ashley Madison 449

gurps_npc writes: Ashley Madison claimed to have about 31 million men and 5.5 million woman enrolled. Those odds are not good for the men, 6:1. But unfortunately, most of those 'women' were fake. This researcher analyzed the data and found only 12,000 actual, real women using Ashley Madison. That means for every 7750 men, there were 3 women. There are reports that Ashley Madison paid people to create fake female profiles. Their website admits that 'some of the users may be there for "entertainment purposes."' The article itself is well written, including a description of the analysis. A charitable person would say that Ashley Madison was selling a fantasy, not reality. But a realist would say Ashley Madison is just a thief stealing money from lonely, unhappy men.
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 109

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
Earth

Countries Gaming Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions 157

schwit1 writes: Abuse of the carbon offset system may have caused emissions to increase by as much as 600 million tons. That's the finding of a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which investigated carbon credits used to offset greenhouse gas emissions under a UN scheme. As one of the co-authors of the report put it, issuing these credits "was like printing money." From the article: "In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash. As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production. Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But [the studey] says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" — no actual emissions were reduced.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 275

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."