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Android

Low-Cost Android One Phones Coming To The US, Says Report (theverge.com) 18

The Android One platform is a program designed by Google to provide budget-friendly Android smartphones to developing markets. The phones are attractive because they contain no bloatware, competing services, and a lack of software and security updates -- the stuff that most low-end smartphones contain. According to a report from The Information, the program is about to make its way to the U.S. market. The Verge reports: Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven't heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal. Android One may not have been the rousing worldwide success Google was hoping for, but it's still an important initiative for the company. Especially at the low end, there's a lot of incentive for manufacturers to pile on extra software in a bid to make those devices more profitable -- but that could cut against Google's efforts to make its own services more pervasive and popular. If Google really does put some real effort behind Android One, it could make its plans for Android a little clearer. Google itself has taken a stand that it wants to make its own hardware at the high-end of the smartphone market with the Pixel, and if The Information's report is accurate, it wants to ensure that its services are not cut out from the low end.
The Almighty Buck

Blockchain Technology Could Save Banks $12 Billion a Year (silicon.co.uk) 88

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Accenture research has found Blockchain technology has the potential to reduce infrastructure costs by an average of 30 percent for eight of the world's ten biggest banks. That equates to annual cost savings of $8-12 billion. The findings of the "Banking on Blockchain: A Value Analysis for Investment Banks" report are based on an analysis of granular cost data from the eight banks to identify exactly where value could be achieved. A vast amount of cost for today's investment banks comes from complex data reconciliation and confirmation processes with their clients and counterparts, as banks maintain independent databases of transactions and customer information. However, Blockchain would enable banks to move to a shared, distributed database that spans multiple organizations. It has become increasingly obvious in recent months that blockchain will be key to the future of the banking industry, with the majority of banks expected to adopt the technology within the next three years.
Businesses

Verizon Looking To Buy Comcast or Charter, Says Report (nypost.com) 61

"Two well-placed sources" told The New York Post that Verizon is considering purchasing a big cable company to help it grow demand for its wireless data products. The source said the most likely targets would be "Charter or Comcast." New York Post reports: Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam may be getting ready to answer rival ATT's moves to buy DirecTV and Time Warner. To be sure, Verizon is not in talks with any cable company and may not ever make such a move. Still, McAdam has been under pressure recently with Verizon's deal to acquire Yahoo still a question mark months after two major hacks of the internet portal were revealed. The wireless giants operate on 4G wireless networks but are preparing to become a real alternative to the cable company with phone, TV and data services. To do that more effectively, the phone companies are pouring money into 5G connections that can work with cable systems to provide more stable coverage for consumers. McAdam has already given Wall Street analysts and investors big hints that he's looking at a combination with, say, a Charter Communications. In a mid-December meeting with Wall Street analysts, McAdam said a get-together between the two "makes industrial sense." Three weeks later, at CES, his comments to friends make it clear that cable distribution is a path he is exploring, perhaps more seriously than first thought. "For regulatory reasons, Verizon can't dominate in FiOS and cable, so it appears to have to set its sights on cable," an industry source said. Charter could be a seller under the right conditions, the source added, emphasizing that Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge are just getting going on their vision for Charter.
Businesses

Apple App Store Prices Rise in UK, India and Turkey (bbc.com) 77

Apple is to put up the price it charges for apps in the UK, India and Turkey. From a report on BBC: UK costs will numerically match those of the US, meaning that a program that costs $0.99 will now be 99p. That represents a 25% rise over the previous currency conversion, which was 79p. "Price tiers on the App Store are set internationally on the basis of several factors, including currency exchange rates, business practices, taxes, and the cost of doing business," it said. "These factors vary from region to region and over time." The rise will also affect in-app purchases but not subscription charges. The cost of a $0.99 app will become 80 rupees in India, representing a 33% rise from the previous price of 60 rupees.
AT&T

AT&T Denies Refunds For DirecTV Now Customers, Despite the Service's Performance Issues (techcrunch.com) 87

A number of consumers report they're unable to get a refund for their subscription to AT&T's recently launched streaming service, DirecTV Now -- something they've requested after being unhappy with the new service's performance. From a report on TechCrunch: According to several postings on AT&T's official forums, customers found the only way to get help was through a hard-to-find chat feature, and when they asked the AT&T reps about refunds, the customers were told they were not offered. Writes one user with the handle EIUdrummerboy, after attempting to get a refund via chat, the rep told them specifically: "We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds."
The Courts

How A Professional Poker Player Conned a Casino Out of $9.6 Million (washingtonpost.com) 394

Phil Ivey is a professional poker player who's won ten World Series of Poker bracelets -- but he's also got a new game. An anonymous reader write: In 2012, Ivey requested that the Borgata casino let him play baccarat with an assistant named Cheng Yin Sun while using a specific brand of playing cards -- purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards -- and an automatic shuffler. He then proceeded to win $9.6 million over four visits. The pair would rotate certain cards 180 degrees, which allowed them to recognize those cards the next time they passed through the deck. (They were exploiting a minute lack of a symmetry in the pattern on the backs of the cards...)

But last month a U.S. district judge ruled that Ivey and his partner had a "mutual obligation" to the casino, in which their "primary obligation" was to not use cards whose values would be known to them -- and ordered them to return the $9.6 million [PDF]. "What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game," Ivey's attorney told the AP, adding that the judge's ruling will be appealed.

The judge also ruled Ivey had to return the money he later won playing craps with his winnings from the baccarat game -- though the judge denied the casino's request for restitution over the additional $250,000 worth of goods and services they'd "comped" Ivey during his stay.
Government

Amateur Scientists Find New Clue In D.B. Cooper Case, Crowdsource Their Investigation (kare11.com) 133

Six months after the FBI closed the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history -- after a 45-year investigation -- there's a new clue. An anonymous reader quotes Seattle news station KING: A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world's most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case. They're asking for the public's help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s. The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971. A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

Tom Kaye, lead researcher for the group calling itself Citizen Sleuths, says the group is intrigued by the finding, because the elements identified were rarely used in 1971, during the time of Cooper's daring leap with a parachute from a passenger jet. One place they were being used was for Boeing's high-tech Super Sonic Transport plane...

Interestingly, it was even a Boeing aircraft that Cooper hijacked, and witnesses say he wasn't nervous on the flight, and seemed familiar with the terrain below.
Earth

Moon Express Raises $20 Million In Series B-1, Fully Funds Trip To The Moon (techcrunch.com) 62

The company competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize, Moon Express, has raised $20 million in funding and announced that they have now fully financed their mission to the moon. The company made history last year as it became the first private company to receive permission to travel to the moon. Moon Express plans to launch their MX-1E spacecraft to the moon at the end of 2017 with the goal of winning the $20 million grand prize in the X-Prize competition. TechCrunch reports: If successful, Moon Express would become the first private company and the fourth entity in history to soft-land on the moon. The first three entities were all government-funded superpowers from the U.S., USSR and China. Of course to win that title, Moon Express will need to beat the other X-Prize competitors including SpaceIL from Israel, Team Indus from India (carrying the Japanese team HAKUTO as a payload), and the international team Synergy Moon. Each company has had launch contracts confirmed by X-Prize, a requirement to remain in the competition. The first company to soft-land on the Moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth will win the grand prize of $20 million. There's also $5 million up for grabs for the company that comes in second. Perhaps the most challenging of the X-Prize requirements is the deadline. To win the prizes, competitors must complete all tasks by the end of 2017. Although the X-Prize Foundation has pushed the deadline back before. What makes the Google Lunar X-Prize competition especially unique is that it required participants to obtain 90% of their funding from private sources. In theory, this would encourage profit-driven business plans, kick-starting a wave of lunar-based commercialization.
Businesses

SpaceX Accident Cost it Hundreds of Millions (fortune.com) 67

Elon Musk's SpaceX lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 after a botched cargo run to the International Space Station and the subsequent grounding of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. From a report: The accident derailed SpaceX's expectations of $1.8 billion in launch revenue in 2016, an analysis of the privately held firm's financial documents showed, according to the Journal, which said it had obtained the documents. SpaceX declined to comment on the Journal's report. In a statement emailed to Reuters, SpaceX chief financial officer Bret Johnsen said the company "is in a financially strong position" with more than $1 billion in cash reserves and no debt.
United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 532

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
Education

Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did At Same Stage of Life (usatoday.com) 493

According to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, even though they are better educated. Their median household income is $40,581, and their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher. USA Today reports: The analysis of the Fed data (PDF) shows the extent of the decline. It compared 25 to 34 year-olds in 2013, the most recent year available, to the same age group in 1989 after adjusting for inflation. Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989. The home ownership rate for this age group dipped to 43 percent from 46 percent in 1989, although the rate has improved for millennials with a college degree relative to boomers. The median net worth of millennials is $10,090, 56 percent less than it was for boomers. Whites still earn dramatically more than Blacks and Latinos, reflecting the legacy of discrimination for jobs, education and housing. Yet compared to white baby boomers, some white millennials appear stuck in a pattern of downward mobility. This group has seen their median income tumble more than 21 percent to $47,688. Median income for black millennials has fallen just 1.4 percent to $27,892. Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than their boomer predecessors to $30,436. The analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity. Research last year by economists led by Stanford University's Raj Chetty found that people born in 1950 had a 79 percent chance of making more money than their parents. That figure steadily slipped over the past several decades, such that those born in 1980 had just a 50 percent chance of out-earning their parents. This decline has occurred even though younger Americans are increasingly college-educated. The proportion of 25 to 29 year-olds with a college degree has risen to 35.6 percent in 2015 from 23.2 percent in 1990, a report this month by the Brookings Institution noted.
Advertising

Drone Maker Lily Robotics Faked Promotional Video, Gets Sued For False Advertising and Misleading Business Practices (theregister.co.uk) 38

Dotnaught quotes a report from The Register: Lily Robotics says its decision on Thursday to shut down and return pre-order payments for a never-delivered drone, which came on the same day that San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon charged the company with false advertising and misleading business practices, was purely coincidental. According to a source familiar with the complaint filed against the company, Lily Robotics has known about the DA's investigation for several months. On the strength of a promotional video on YouTube in May 2015, embedded below, Lily Robotics raised more than $34 million in pre-order sales over the course of that year for a drone called Lily Camera. The flying gadget, when built, would be capable of being launched with a throw, following people, and recording them. But after pushing the delivery date back multiple times, Lily Robotics has yet to ship a single drone to its 60,000 prospective customers, according to the lawsuit filed against the company. In theory, Lily Robotics could face a fine of more than a hundred million dollars, depending upon the outcome of a trial, if it comes to that. The company faces potential fines for at least two business code violations subject to a civil penalty of $2,500 per violation, and there are some 60,000 individuals affected. In practice, however, such fines are usually orders of magnitude less, particularly if both sides agree on a settlement. The complaint against Lily, obtained by The Register, alleges that the company knowingly misled customers by creating a promotional video that purported to show video footage captured with a Lily drone prototype. "In fact, none of the video in the Promotional Video was shot by a Lily Camera," the complaint says. "Most notably, the POV footage used in the promotional video was filmed using a professional camera drone called the DJI Inspire." Among the Lily Camera prototypes present at the video shoot, the complaint says, the ones that could actually record video were able to do so because they had Go-Pro cameras mounted on them.
Businesses

eBay To Combat Counterfeiters With Professional Authenticators That Inspect High-End Goods 64

To many, eBay serves as a convenient conduit for shifting unwanted goods and buying items at a fraction of their MSRP. But the online shopping emporium has long been a popular platform for fake products, with luxury goods such as fashion accessories and jewelry high on eBay counterfeiters' agenda. eBay is attempting to fix that. From a report: To counter this, eBay has revealed plans to introduce a new authentication program later this year, with a broad focus on "high-end" goods and launching initially as a trial with fashion items such as handbags. Dubbed eBay Authenticate, the new service will be powered by a "network of professional authenticators," and is ultimately designed to encourage buyers to part with cash on expensive items, safe in the knowledge that the merchandise is legitimate.
Medicine

CVS Announces Super Cheap Generic Alternative To EpiPen (arstechnica.com) 372

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Pharmaceutical giant CVS announced Thursday that it has partnered with Impax Laboratories to sell a generic epinephrine auto-injector for $109.99 for a two-pack -- a dramatic cut from Mylan's Epipen two-pack prices, which list for more than $600 as a brand name and $300 as a generic. The lower-cost auto-injector, a generic form of Adrenaclick, is available starting today nationwide in the company's more than 9,600 pharmacies. Its price resembles that of EpiPen's before Mylan bought the rights to the life-saving devices back in 2007 and raised the price repeatedly, sparking outcry. Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy, said the company felt compelled to respond to the urgent need for a more affordable alternative. "Over the past year, nearly 150,000 people signed on to a petition asking for a lower-cost epinephrine auto-injector option and millions more were active in social media searching for a solution," she said in a statement. The price of $109.99 for the alternative applies to those with and without insurance, CVS noted. And Impax is also offering a coupon to reduce the cost to just $9.99 for qualifying patients. Also in the press statement, Dr. Todd Listwa of Novant Health, a network of healthcare providers, noted the importance of access to epinephrine auto-injectors, which swiftly reverse rapid-onset, deadly allergic reactions in some. "For these patients, having access to emergency epinephrine is a necessity. Making an affordable epinephrine auto-injector device accessible to patients will ensure patients have the medicine they need, when they need it."
EU

Europe Calls For Mandatory 'Kill Switches' On Robots (cnn.com) 172

To combat the robot revolution, the European Parliament's legal affairs committee has proposed that robots be equipped with emergency "kill switches" to prevent them from causing excessive damage. Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes. "A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics," said Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal. "To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework." CNNMoney reports: The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines. For example, designers should include "kill switches" so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn't work as designed. The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the "laws of robotics" described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The proposal also says that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations. That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments. "You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human," said Delvaux. "You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you." The report cites the example of care robots, saying that people who are physically dependent on them could develop emotional attachments. The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme -- similar to car insurance -- that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots. The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of "electronic persons." This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently. It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations -- for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause. If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security.
China

Bitcoin Slides as China's Central Bank Launches Checks On Exchanges (reuters.com) 43

An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: China's central bank launched spot checks on leading bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai, ratcheting up pressure on potential capital outflows and knocking the price of the cryptocurrency down more than 12 percent against the dollar. The People's Bank of China said its probe of bitcoin exchanges BTCC, Huobi and OKCoin was to look into a range of possible rule violations, including market manipulation, money laundering and unauthorized financing. It did not say if any violations had been found. Chinese authorities have stepped up efforts to stem capital outflows and relieve pressure on the yuan. While the yuan lost more than 6.5 percent against the dollar last year, its worst performance since 1994, the bitcoin price has soared to near-record highs.
AI

LinkedIn's and eBay's Founders Are Donating $20 Million To Protect Us From AI (recode.net) 74

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, have each committed $10 million to fund academic research and development aimed at keeping artificial intelligence systems ethical and to prevent building AI that may harm society. Recode reports: The fund received an additional $5 million from the Knight Foundation and two other $1 million donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group. The $27 million reserve is being anchored by MIT's Media Lab and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, the name of the fund, expects to grow as new funders continue to come on board. AI systems work by analyzing massive amounts of data, which is first profiled and categorized by humans, with all their prejudices and biases in tow. The money will pay for research to investigate how socially responsible artificially intelligent systems can be designed to, say, keep computer programs that are used to make decisions in fields like education, transportation and criminal justice accountable and fair. The group also hopes to explore ways to talk with the public about and foster understanding of the complexities of artificial intelligence. The two universities will form a governing body along with Hoffman and the Omidyar Network to distribute the funds. The $20 million from Hoffman and the Omidyar Network are being given as a philanthropic grant -- not an investment vehicle.
AT&T

AT&T Imposes Another $5 Rate Hike On Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans (arstechnica.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ATT is raising the price of its grandfathered unlimited data plans by $5 a month, the second such increase in the past year. The price increase affects longtime mobile customers who have held onto unlimited data plans for years after ATT stopped selling them to new subscribers. The latest price increase was reported by DSLReports yesterday, and ATT confirmed the move to Ars. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," ATT said. The unlimited data price had been $30 a month for seven years, until ATT raised it to $35 in February 2016. The price increase this year will bring it up to $40. That amount is just for data: Including voice and texting, the smartphone plans cost around $90 a month. ATT encouraged customers to move to one of its new plans, most of which have data limits, saying the newer packages "provide several benefits that our legacy unlimited plan doesn't." For example, the newer plans support mobile hotspot connections allowing a phone's Internet service to be shared with another device. ATT had stopped selling unlimited smartphone data to new customers and to customers who are switching plans, but last year introduced a new unlimited plan that's available only to people who also subscribe to DirecTV or U-verse TV.
Crime

Two Triple-Screen Laptops Were Stolen From Razer's CES Booth (theverge.com) 165

In a Facebook post, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan said two of their prototype laptops shown off at CES 2017 were stolen. "We treat theft/larceny, and if relevant to this case, industrial espionage, very seriously -- it is cheating, and cheating doesn't sit well with us," Tan wrote. "Penalties for such crimes are grievous and anyone who would do this clearly isn't very smart." Both items were prototype models of a laptop, called Project Valerie, that has three 4K displays. The Verge reports: Tan says that Razer is working with law enforcement and CES management to investigate. He's also asking show attendees to email legal@razerzone.com with any info they might have on what happened. A company representative added that a $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction. The alleged theft occurred "after official show hours," says Allie Fried, director of global events communications for the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. "The security of our exhibitors, attendees and their products and materials are our highest priority," Fried wrote in an email to The Verge. "We look forward to cooperating with law enforcement and Razer as the incident is investigated."
Microsoft

Ask Slashdot: What Is the Best Way To Thank Users For Reporting Security Issues? 128

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: I have worked in the IT field long enough to know that many issues can be avoided if users pay attention to pop-ups, security alerts, "from" addresses et al and not just machine gun click their way through things. Unfortunately, most users seem to have the "fuck it" mentality in terms of good security practices. Sometimes I will have users submit a ticket asking if an email is safe to open or if that strange 800 number that popped up in their browser is really Microsoft. When that happens I like to talk to them in person (when possible) to commend them and tell them how much trouble could be avoided if more users followed their example. I'm curious to know if anyone has ever worked somewhere with bug bounty type incentives for corporate users or if you have a unique way of thanking people for not trying to open Urgent_Invoice.exe.

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