Businesses

Walmart Says It's Preordered 15 of Tesla' New Semi Trucks (theverge.com) 72

Soon after Tesla unveiled its new electric Semi Truck and Roadster 2.0, Walmart says it has preordered 15 of the trucks. The Verge notes that the deal was "likely in the works before Tesla unveiled its new truck to the public." From the report: The pilot is planned for the U.S. and Canada. Five of the preordered vehicles will be for Walmart's U.S. business, and 10 will be for its Canadian routes, the company said. Walmart's fleet has about 6,000 trucks. "We have a long history of testing new technology -- including alternative-fuel trucks -- and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle," the company said in a statement. "We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions." Musk said the truck would enter production in 2019. JB Hunt Transport Services, a 56-year-old company based in Arkansas, also reserved "multiple" new Tesla trucks as well.
Android

Even New Phones Are No Longer Guaranteed To Have the Latest Version of Android (theverge.com) 124

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge: The OnePlus 5T and Razer Phone are two fundamentally different devices, which are nonetheless united by one unfortunate downside: both of them are going on sale this month without the latest version of Android on board. OnePlus will tell you that this issue is down to its extremely stringent testing process, while Razer offers a similar boilerplate about working as fast as possible to deliver Android Oreo. But we're now three months removed from Google's grand Oreo launch, timed to coincide with this summer's total eclipse, and all of these excuses are starting to ring hollow. Why do Android companies think they can ship new devices without the latest and best version of the operating system on board? The notorious fragmentation problem with Android has always been that not every device gets the latest update at the same time, and many devices get stuck on older software without ever seeing an update at all. What's changed now is that the "one version behind the newest and best" phenomenon is starting to infect brand new phones as well. The 5T and Razer Phone are just two examples; there's also Xiaomi, which just launched its Mi Mix 2 in Spain with 2016's Android Nougat as the operating system.
Businesses

Y Combinator Cuts Ties With Peter Thiel After Ending Part-Time Partner Program (buzzfeed.com) 66

An anonymous reader shares a report: Billionaire venture capitalist and Facebook board member Peter Thiel is no longer affiliated with startup accelerator Y Combinator, according to an edited company blog post. Thiel was formerly a part-time partner with the accelerator. BuzzFeed News confirmed his departure with a source familiar with Y Combinator's management structure. Thiel's departure from Y Combinator was not previously announced. It comes long after Y Combinator president Sam Altman defended Thiel's role at the accelerator, following criticism of Thiel's support of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. A source close to Y Combinator said that the company ended its part-time partners program, which Thiel was a part of, some time last year. While some other part-time partners moved over to a program called "experts," which provides advice to Y Combinator entrepreneurs, Thiel did not join.
Businesses

Tim Berners-Lee on the Future of the Web: 'The System is Failing' (theguardian.com) 145

Olivia Solon, writing for The Guardian: The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity -- the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee's vision for an "open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries" has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators. "I'm still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence," said the British computer scientist. "We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things," he said. The spread of misinformation and propaganda online has exploded partly because of the way the advertising systems of large digital platforms such as Google or Facebook have been designed to hold people's attention. "People are being distorted by very finely trained AIs that figure out how to distract them," said Berners-Lee. In some cases, these platforms offer users who create content a cut of advertising revenue. The financial incentive drove Macedonian teenagers with "no political skin in the game" to generate political clickbait fake news that was distributed on Facebook and funded by revenue from Google's automated advertising engine AdSense. "The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy. So I am concerned," said Berners-Lee, who in March called for the regulation of online political advertising to prevent it from being used in "unethical ways."
Businesses

A Hacker 'Hero' Has Been Banned From Cyber Conferences After Decades Of Inappropriate Behavior (buzzfeed.com) 297

Several readers share a report: John Draper, a prankster hero to an early generation of hackers, used his status at cybersecurity conferences to arrange private meetings with teenage fans and a reporter where he touched them inappropriately, multiple men have told BuzzFeed News. The allegations are the latest in what has become in recent weeks an explosion of sexual misconduct reports that have roiled a seemingly endless list of industries, from Hollywood to the news media to the Alabama Senate race. As in many of those other cases, Draper's actions were well known to at least a core of people who had regular contact with him. Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak told BuzzFeed News that Steve Jobs once told him that Draper, an early associate, once asked Jobs to sit on Draper's back in the 1970s, an offer Wozniak said Jobs declined as being "out of the ordinary." But in the hacking world, where unusual behavior is accepted and often celebrated, there were few official steps taken to prevent Draper's overtures to unsuspecting fans. Volunteers who worked the annual DEF CON hacking conventions in Las Vegas recalled that one of their responsibilities was to separate Draper from his teenage followers. Draper's behavior drew attention at other conventions as well, where he was a frequent presence. Brandon Creighton, a long-standing volunteer at hacker conferences who was familiar with rumors about Draper, recalled escorting him from a private party after ToorCon in San Diego in 2007, though exactly why was not clear.
Movies

MoviePass Reveals Annual Subscription For $6.95 a Month (slashfilm.com) 99

An anonymous reader shares a report: MoviePass seemed like the deal of the century: $10 a month to see one movie a day at the theaters? No contest. But in the three months since the start-up company seeking to disrupt the theater market with a Netflix-like service launched its new business model, MoviePass has been plagued by technical hiccups, backed-up deliveries, and potential lawsuits. As the company expanded its operations, it finally began to settle into its new subscription base of more than 600,000 users. And now MoviePass is already offering up a new deal: an up-front annual subscription of $89.95, which amounts to about $6.95 a month. But how much of a discount is it really? The MoviePass annual subscription is a limited-time promotion that will last 12 months, according to the website. Users pay $89.95 up front, plus a $6.55 processing fee. "Once your year is up, your plan will convert back into your $9.95 a month. Offer valid until it's not. Limit two per household," the MoviePass website says.
Businesses

Volkswagen To Spend Over $40 Billion on Electric and Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 87

Volkswagen plans to spend more than 34 billion euros ($40 billion) over the next five years on developing electric cars, autonomous driving and other new technologies, it said on Friday. "With the planning round now approved, we are laying the foundation for making Volkswagen the world's number one player in electric mobility by 2025," Chief Executive Matthias Mueller said in a statement.
Businesses

Silicon Valley Thinks It Invented Roommates. They Call It 'Co-living' (theguardian.com) 319

An anonymous reader shares a report: Have you heard of this cool new trend called co-living? It's a bit like co-working, except instead of sharing an office with a bunch of randoms you share a home with a bunch of randoms. Oh, you might be thinking, is it like ye olde concept of "roommates"? Why, yes. Yes it is. As a viral tweet pointed out earlier this week, "co-living", which has inspired a spate of trend-pieces in recent months, is actually "called *roommates* ... you invented ***roommates***." Now, to be fair, co-living isn't just living with a bunch of roommates. No, it's rich millennials living with a bunch of roommates in a fancy building in a recently gentrified part of town. The co-living space is also full of cool amenities like yoga classes and micro-brew coffee bars, meaning you can minimise unnecessary interactions with the outside world. In startup speak, this is what is called "community." The Collective, for example, a co-working space in London, describes co-living as "a way of living focused on a genuine sense of community, using shared spaces and facilities to create a more convenient and fulfilling lifestyle."
Businesses

FCC Repeals Decades-Old Rules Blocking Broadcast Media Mergers (variety.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold -- potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies. The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. One long-standing rule repealed Thursday prevented one company in a given media market from owning both a daily newspaper and a TV station. Another rule blocked TV stations in the same market from merging with each other if the combination would leave fewer than eight independently owned stations. The agency also took aim at rules restricting the number of TV and radio stations that any media company could simultaneously own in a single market. A major beneficiary of the deregulatory moves, analysts say, is Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting company that is seeking to buy up Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
Businesses

37% of Netflix Subscribers Say They Binge-Watch While at Work (netflix.com) 152

On-demand video streaming service Netflix has found that more people than ever are watching video outside their homes. About 67% of people now watch movies and TV shows in public, according to an online survey it commissioned of 37,000 adults around the world. The survey also found that about 37% of Netflix's US subscribers binge-watch shows and movies while at work.
United States

Foreign Students Have Begun To Shun the United States (axios.com) 740

In a potential threat to future U.S. innovation, new international enrollment at U.S. colleges is down for the first time in more than a decade, according to a new report. From the report: It is the first hard sign that the Trump administration's rhetoric may be frightening away some of the world's best and brightest who traditionally have been drawn to settle and work in the U.S. Why it matters: "The Chinese whiz kid, if he can find a way to America, he'll come here. If you're good, you can make a lot of money," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, tells Axios. "That whole set of incentives has always been tied to the immigrant stream, and we're severing that connection." By the numbers: The findings are from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report and its smaller joint "snapshot" report on international enrollment. It found that new international student enrollment dropped by 3.3% for the 2016-2017 academic year, and by a far higher 6.9% in the Fall 2017 semester.
Businesses

The Brutal Fight To Mine Your Data and Sell It To Your Boss (bloomberg.com) 74

An anonymous reader shares a report from Bloomberg, explaining how Silicon Valley makes billions of dollars peddling personal information, supported by an ecosystem of bit players. Editor Drake Bennett highlights the battle between an upstart called HiQ and LinkedIn, who are fighting for your lucrative professional identity. Here's an excerpt from the report: A small number of the world's most valuable companies collect, control, parse, and sell billions of dollars' worth of personal information voluntarily surrendered by their users. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft -- which bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 -- have in turn spawned dependent economies consisting of advertising and marketing companies, designers, consultants, and app developers. Some operate on the tech giants' platforms; some customize special digital tools; some help people attract more friends and likes and followers. Some, including HiQ, feed off the torrents of information that social networks produce, using software bots to scrape data from profiles. The services of the smaller companies can augment the offerings of the bigger ones, but the power dynamic is deeply asymmetrical, reminiscent of pilot fish picking food from between the teeth of sharks. The terms of that relationship are set by technology, economics, and the vagaries of consumer choice, but also by the law. LinkedIn's May 23 letter to HiQ wasn't the first time the company had taken legal action to prevent the perceived hijacking of its data, and Facebook and Craigslist, among others, have brought similar actions. But even more than its predecessors, this case, because of who's involved and how it's unfolded, has spoken to the thorniest issues surrounding speech and competition on the internet.
Privacy

Consumers Are Holding Off On Buying Smart-Home Gadgets Due To Security, Privacy Fears (businessinsider.com) 142

According to a new survey from consulting firm Deloitte, consumers are uneasy about being watched, listened to, or tracked by devices they place in their homes. The firm found that consumer interest in connected home technology lags behind their interest in other types of IoT devices. Business Insider reports: "Consumers are more open to, and interested in, the connected world," the firm said in its report. Noting the concerns about smart home devices, it added: "But not all IoT is created equal." Nearly 40% of those who participated in the survey said they were concerned about connected-home devices tracking their usage. More than 40% said they were worried that such gadgets would expose too much about their daily lives. Meanwhile, the vast majority of consumers think gadget makers weren't doing a good job of telling them about security risks. Fewer than 20% of survey respondents said they were very well informed about such risks and almost 40% said they weren't informed at all.
Businesses

Walmart Is Raising Prices Online To Increase In-Store Traffic (theverge.com) 133

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Walmart is taking a bit of an nontraditional approach to boost sales ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events by raising prices for products sold online and discounting those same items in physical retail stores. According to The Wall Street Journal, the big-box store has quietly raised prices for household and food items such as toothbrushes, macaroni and cheese, and dog food on its website while the prices in stores remained the same. If there are price discrepancies between online and in-store purchases, Walmart will now highlight this on the product's web listing to encourage customers to buy them from their local stores. It's all part of an effort to increase foot traffic as Walmart continues to compete with Amazon just about everywhere else.

With the new pricing strategy, a twin-pack of Betty Crocker Hamburger Helper costs $3.30 on Walmart.com, but goes as low as $2.50 if purchased at a store in Illinois. The aim is to also help reduce processing costs and increase online sales margins, since driving customers to stores means less shipping costs for the retailer. Shipping one box of instant macaroni and cheese from Chicago to Atlanta could cost Walmart as much as $10, reports the WSJ.

Businesses

TechShop Announces Chapter 7 Bankruptcy; Closes All Locations 66

ewhac writes: To the shock and dismay of many, TechShop today announced the immediate closure of all of its U.S. locations and is entering Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. Their homepage has been replaced with a PDF relating TechShop's history, and detailing the circumstances leading to shutting down the company. First launched ten years ago, TechShop was one of the first "shared maker spaces," a members-only machine and work shop where tinkerers, makers, inventors, and innovators were able to prototype their ideas, launch products, or even just fix their own stuff. Its closing will be a huge loss to the tech and maker communities.
Businesses

Companies Wake Up To the Problem of Bullies At Work (wsj.com) 217

Reader cdreimer writes: According to a report in The Wall Street Journal (possibly paywalled), two-thirds of Americans have reported being bullied in the workplace in the last year (up from half in 1989) and boorish behavior by bosses and coworkers are causing companies in lost productivity. The report reads: One of the first things visitors notice when they enter the Irvine, Calif., offices of Bryan Cave LLP is the granite plaque etched with the law firm's 10-point code of civility. The gray slab, displayed in the law firm's reception area, proclaims that employees always say please and thank you, welcome feedback and acknowledge the contributions of others. Such rules may seem more at home in a kindergarten than a law firm, but Stuart Price, a longtime partner, says they serve as a daily reminder to keep things civil at work. Incivility -- and its more extreme cousin, bullying -- is becoming a bigger problem in workplaces. Nearly two-thirds of Americans reported that they were bullied at work last year, up from roughly half of workers in 1998, according to research conducted by Christine Porath, a management professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. These people reported they were "treated rudely at least once a month" by bosses or co-workers in the past year -- which Prof. Porath defined as being bullied.Bullying costs companies in ways large and small, cutting into productivity and turning off customers, management experts say. Workplace behavior is under the microscope after recent allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, technology and media. Some companies have found, as a result of investigations into harassment claims, that bullying and boorish behavior are more common than suspected.
Security

Amazon Is Cutting Prices at Whole Foods Again (cnn.com) 122

An anonymous reader shares a report: Amazon is giving Whole Foods shoppers an early gift for the holidays. The grocer announced Wednesday it's slashing prices again, this time on several "holiday staples," including sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin and turkey. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you'll pay even less for turkey: Whole Foods slashed turkey prices to $1.99 per pound (compared to $2.49 for non-Prime members), or $2.99 per pound for an organic turkey ($3.49 for non-Prime members).
Science

Elon Musk's 'Scientific Method' (rollingstone.com) 239

From a new wide-ranging interview of Elon Musk: An unfortunate fact of human nature is that when people make up their mind about something, they tend not to change it -- even when confronted with facts to the contrary. "It's very unscientific," Musk says. "There's this thing called physics, which is this scientific method that's really quite effective for figuring out the truth." The scientific method is a phrase Musk uses often when asked how he came up with an idea, solved a problem or chose to start a business. Here's how he defines it for his purposes, in mostly his own words:
1. Ask a question.
2. Gather as much evidence as possible about it.
3. Develop axioms based on the evidence, and try to assign a probability of truth to each one.
4. Draw a conclusion based on cogency in order to determine: Are these axioms correct, are they relevant, do they necessarily lead to this conclusion, and with what probability?
5. Attempt to disprove the conclusion. Seek refutation from others to further help break your conclusion.
6. If nobody can invalidate your conclusion, then you're probably right, but you're not certainly right.

Businesses

Technology Invading Nearly All US Jobs, Even Lower Skilled, Study Finds (reuters.com) 132

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Forget robots. The real transformation taking place in nearly every workplace is the invasion of digital tools. The use of digital tools has increased, often dramatically, in 517 of 545 occupations since 2002, with a striking uptick in many lower-skilled occupations, according to a study released Wednesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. The report underscores the growing need for workers of all types to gain digital skills and explains why many employers say they struggle to fill jobs, including many that in the past required few digital skills. There is anxiety about automation displacing workers and in many cases, new digital tools allow one worker to do work previously done by several. Those 545 occupations reflect 90 percent of all jobs in the economy. The report found that jobs with greater digital content tend to pay more and are increasingly concentrated in traditional high-tech centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle and Austin, Texas.
Businesses

'Black Friday Is Dying' (fastcompany.com) 290

A reader shares a report: For years, Black Friday signaled the beginning of Christmas shopping. The day after Thanksgiving was a frantic day of driving to the store at the crack of dawn to fight off other shoppers for great deals. For people who truly hated the ritual, I have some good news for you: Black Friday is going away. That's according to data from GPShopper, which tracks consumer behavior. It turns out, customers are really not into Black Friday. A full 81% of us feel stress surrounding the notion of Black Friday, and 45% of us believe it is the most stressful time of the year. And with online shopping, consumers are increasingly realizing they don't need to do all their shopping on one day. The majority would prefer to shop in the second week of December. Weirdly, a full 12% of consumers would prefer to shop after Christmas, to capitalize on the post-holiday sales, even though their recipients would get their presents a little late.

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