Businesses

How Silicon Valley Got That Way -- and Why It Will Continue To Rule

Posted by timothy
from the the-weather's-really-nice-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Lots of places want to be 'the next Silicon Valley.' But the Valley's top historian looks back (even talks to Steve Jobs about his respect for the past!) to explain why SV is unique. While there are threats to continued dominance, she thinks its just too hard for another region to challenge SV's supremacy.
Security

CareerBuilder Cyberattack Delivers Malware Straight To Employers 43

Posted by timothy
from the where-it-hurts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Security threat researchers Proofpoint have uncovered an email-based phishing attack which infected businesses with malware via the CareerBuilder online job search website. The attack involved the hacker browsing job adverts across the platform and uploading malicious files during the application process, titling the documents "resume.doc" and "cv.doc." Once the CV was submitted, an automatic email notification was sent to the business advertising the position, along with the uploaded document. In this case, Proofpoint found that as a business opens the automatic email from CareerBuilder to view the attached file the document plays on a known Word vulnerability to sneak a malicious code onto the victim's computer. According to the threat research group, the manual attack technique although time-consuming has a higher success rate than automated tools as the email attachments are more likely to be opened by the receiver.
AT&T

AT&T Bills Elderly Customer $24,298.93 For Landline Dial-Up Service 214

Posted by timothy
from the but-it-says-in-the-fine-print dept.
McGruber writes: 83-year-old Woodland Hills, California resident Ron Dorff usually pays $51 a month to AT&T for a landline, which he uses to access the Internet via an old-school, low-speed AOL dial-up subscription.... but then, in March, AT&T sent him a bill for $8,596.57. He called AT&T and their service rep couldn't make heads or tails of the bill, so she said she'd send a technician to his house. None came, so Dorff figured that everything was ok.

Dorff's next monthly bill was for $15,687.64, bringing his total outstanding debt to AT&T, including late fees, to $24,298.93. If he didn't pay by May 8, AT&T warned, his bill would rise to at least $24,786.16. Droff then called David Lazarus, business columnist for the LA Times, who got in touch with AT&T, who wasted little time in deciding it would waive the more than $24,000 in charges.

AT&T spokeshole Georgia Taylor claims Dorff's modem somehow had started dialing a long-distance number when it accessed AOL, and the per-minute charges went into orbit as he stayed connected for hours.

AT&T declined to answer the LA Times questions about why AT&T didn't spot the problem itself and proactively take steps to fix things? AT&T also declined to elaborate on whether AT&T's billing system is capable of spotting unusual charges and, if so, why it doesn't routinely do so.
Patents

Patent Issued Covering Phone Notifications of Delivery Time and Invoice Quantity 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-should-patent-the-rubber-stamp dept.
eldavojohn writes: The staggering ingenuity of the U.S. Patent system has again been showcased by the EFF's analysis of recent patents. This week's patent and follow-up patent cover the futuristic innovative idea that when you order something, you can update your order and add additional amounts to your order while it's being processed. But wait, it gets even more innovative! You may one day be able to even to notify when you would like it delivered — on your phone! I know, you're busy wiping all that brain matter off your screen as your head seems to have exploded. Well, it turns out that inventor and patent holder Scott Horstemeyer (aka Eclipse IP, LLC of Delray Beach, FL) found no shortage of targets to go after with his new patents. It appears Tiger Fitness (and every other online retailer) was sending notices to customers about shipments. Did I mention Horstemeyer is a lawyer too? But not just a regular lawyer, a "SUPER lawyer" from the same firm that patented social networking in 2007, sued Uber for using location finding technologies in 2013 and sued Overstock.com as well as a small time shoe seller for using shipping notifications in 2014. A related article at Vox makes this case: "The primary problem with the patent system is, well, the patent system. The system makes it too easy to get broad, vague patents, and the litigation process is tilted too far toward plaintiffs. But because so many big companies make so much money off of this system, few in Congress are willing to consider broader reforms."
Piracy

Grooveshark Shuts Down 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the should-have-thought-that-through-a-bit-better dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Grooveshark, one of the most popular music streaming websites, has announced that they are shutting down immediately. Several lawsuits from the record companies pushed the company out of business. In a notice posted on the Grooveshark website, its two founders said, "[D]espite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation." All of their music has been deleted, and the site itself now belongs to the record companies. NewYorkCountryLawyer adds that according to the settlement (PDF), Grooveshark must pay $50 million, but no money judgment has been entered against individual defendants.
Power

Tesla Announces Home Battery System 499

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-plans-for-a-1.21-gigawatt-model dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, Elon Musk finally revealed Tesla's plans for the home: battery systems designed to store up to 10 kWh of power. The company is leveraging the battery technology they've developed for their electric cars to enable more people to switch to renewable power for their homes. There will be two models of the battery. The 10 kWh version will cost $3,500, and the 7 kWh version will cost $3,000. They can deliver power at a continuous rate of 2kW, with peaks up to 3 kW. Crucially, the batteries will be warrantied for 10 years. Musk thinks the market for home batteries will expand to at least two billion, eventually. But even a much smaller uptake for now will validate the creation of Tesla's "gigafactory."

"The gigafactory is the recipient of the largest incentive package ever given by Nevada at $1.3 billion, which followed a hotly contested tax incentive bidding war between various states to land the Tesla battery plant. For the investment to pay off, Tesla needs to convince hundreds of thousands of consumers per year to buy its cars and battery products, with the gigafactory serving as a cornerstone to the company's sales strategy. ... An early gigafactory rendering released by Tesla stated that the plant will have an annual battery pack output of 50 gigawatt hours — the bulk of which will go toward batteries for cars with most of the remainder to be allocated for stationary batteries, according to figures mentioned by Tesla's chief technology JB Straubel last year. The gigafactory's sheer scope makes other battery products a possibility as well."
Open Source

How an Open Standard API Could Revolutionize Banking 72

Posted by samzenpus
from the cheap-money dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Open bank data will give us the freedom to access all banks in real time and from a single view, automatically calculating the best deals in complete transparency, which will be a significant step forward for social good and give people more control over their finances. Meanwhile, financial tech incubators, accelerators, and startups are creating a more experienced talent pool of developers ready to act upon these newly available assets. From the article: "The United Kingdom government has commissioned a study of the feasibility of UK banks giving customers the ability to share their transactional data with third parties via an open standard API. First mentioned alongside the autumn statement back in December, the chancellor has now outlined plans for a mandatory open banking API standard during the recent budget in March."
Security

Once a Forgotten Child, OpenSSL's Future Now Looks Bright 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the shot-in-the-arm dept.
Trailrunner7 writes: Rarely does anything have a defined turning point in its history, a single day where people can point and say that was the day everything changed. For OpenSSL, that day was April 7, 2014, the day that Heartbleed became part of the security lexicon. Heartbleed was a critical vulnerability in the venerable crypto library. OpenSSL is everywhere, in tens of thousands of commercial and homespun software projects. And so too, as of last April, was Heartbleed, an Internet-wide bug that leaked enough memory that a determined hacker could piece together anything from credentials to encryption keys.

"Two years ago, it was a night-and-day difference. Two years ago, aside from our loyal user community, we were invisible. No one knew we existed," says Steve Marquess, cofounder, president and business manager of the OpenSSL Foundation, the corporate entity that handles commercial contracting for OpenSSL. "OpenSSL is used everywhere: hundreds, thousands of vendors use it; every smartphone uses it. Everyone took that for granted; most companies have no clue they even used it." To say OpenSSL has been flipped on its head—in a good way—is an understatement.

Heartbleed made the tech world realize that the status quo wasn't healthy to the security and privacy of ecommerce transactions and communication worldwide. Shortly after Heartbleed, the Core Infrastructure Initiative was created, uniting The Linux Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Dell, Google and other large technology companies in funding various open source projects. OpenSSL was the first beneficiary, getting enough money to hire Dr. Steve Henson and Andy Polyakov as its first full-timers. Henson, who did not return a request to be interviewed for this article, is universally known as the one steady hand that kept OpenSSL together, an unsung hero of the project who along with other volunteers handled bug reports, code reviews and changes.
The Internet

Comcast Brings Fiber To City That It Sued 7 Years Ago To Stop Fiber Rollout 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery dept.
An anonymous reader writes with the latest update in Comcast's "if you can't beat them, join them" fiber plan. In April 2008, Comcast sued the Chattanooga Electric Power Board (EPB) to prevent it from building a fiber network to serve residents who were getting slow speeds from the incumbent cable provider. Comcast claimed that EPB illegally subsidized the buildout with ratepayer funds, but it quickly lost in court, and EPB built its fiber network and began offering Internet, TV, and phone service. After EPB launched in 2009, incumbents Comcast and AT&T finally started upgrading their services, EPB officials told Ars when we interviewed them in 2013. But not until this year has Comcast had an Internet offering that can match or beat EPB's $70 gigabit service. Comcast announced its 2Gbps fiber-to-the-home service on April 2, launching first in Atlanta, then in cities in Florida and California, and now in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Businesses

Yes, You Can Blame Your Pointy-Haired Boss On the Peter Principle 209

Posted by timothy
from the or-dilbert-principle dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: You've heard of the Peter Principle, which suggests that all employees manage to rise to the level of their incompetence. (That is to say, everybody is promoted until their skills and strengths no longer align with their current position.) While the Peter Principle is often treated as a truism, a recent Gallup study (registration required)—the result of four decades' worth of research, involving 2.5 million manager-led teams—suggests that it holds a significant degree of real-world truth. "Gallup has found that only 10 percent of working people possess the talent to be a great manager," the study mentions in its introduction. "Companies use outdated notions of succession to put people in these roles." In Gallup's estimation, there are so many bad managers out there that one out of every two employees have "left their job to get away," according to the study. "Managers who are not engaged or who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually." In other words, there are a lot of pointy-haired managers out there.
Businesses

Oculus Rift-Based System Brings True Immersion To Telepresence Robots 34

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-the-comfort-of-your-own-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: University of Pennsylvania researchers have built an Oculus Rift-based telepresence system that attempts to bring true immersion to remotely operated robots. The system, called DORA (Dexterous Observational Roving Automaton), precisely tracks the motion of your head and then duplicates those motions on a mobile robot moving around at a remote location. Video from the robot's cameras is transmitted to the Oculus headset. One of the creators said that while using the system you "feel like you are transported somewhere else in the real world."
Businesses

Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers 622

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-no-longer-needed dept.
Lucas123 writes: Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. Last Friday, the partnership was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press. One of the briefing documents obtained after the meeting stated, "H-1B workers complement — instead of displace — U.S. Workers." Last October, however, Disney laid off at least 135 IT staff (though employees say it was hundreds more), many of them longtime workers. Disney then replaced them with H-1B contractors that company said could better "focus on future innovation and new capabilities." The fired workers believe the primary motivation behind Disney's action was cost-cutting. "Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing," one former employee said. Disney officials promised new job opportunities as a result of the restructuring, but the former staff interviewed by Computerworld said they knew of few co-workers who had landed one of the new jobs. Use of visa workers in a layoff is a public policy issue, particularly for Disney. Ten U.S. senators are currently seeking a federal investigation into displacement of IT workers by H-1B-using contractors. Kim Berry, president of the Programmer's Guild, said Congress should protect American workers by mandating that positions can only be filled by H-1B workers when no qualified American — at any wage — can be found to fill the position."
Robotics

Fetch Robotics Unveils Warehouse Robots 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the lift-bots dept.
gthuang88 writes: Warehouse automation has become a big business, with Amazon's Kiva robots leading the way. Now a startup called Fetch Robotics is rolling out a pair of new robots that can pick boxes off of shelves, pass them to each other, and carry the goods to a shipping station. Fetch, led by Willow Garage veteran Melonee Wise, is competing with companies like Amazon's Kiva Systems, Rethink Robotics, and Harvest Automation to develop dexterous, mobile robots for retail, distribution, and manufacturing.
The Almighty Buck

How One Tweet Wiped $8bn Off Twitter's Value 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the some-mistakes-are-bigger-than-others dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Someone mistakenly published earnings information on a Nasdaq-run investor relations page for Twitter before the company officially released the news and it sent the stock into a tailspin. Initially the earnings statement went unnoticed, but soon a Tweet with the results got a lot of attention. The stock lost more than $8 billion at one point as news spread. "We asked the New York Stock Exchange to halt trading once we discovered our Q1 numbers were out, and we published our results as soon as possible thereafter," said Twitter's senior director for investor relations, Krista Bessinger. "Selerity, who provided the initial tweets with our results, informed us that earnings release was available on our Investor Relations site before the close of market. Nasdaq hosts and manages our IR website, and we explicitly instructed them not to release our results until after the market close and only upon our specific instructions, which is consistent with prior quarters. We are continuing to investigate with them exactly what occurred."
IBM

IBM CIO Thinks Agile Development Might Save Company 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the best-laid-plans dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: A new Wall Street Journal article details how IBM CIO Jeff Smith is trying to make Big Blue, which is going through some turbulent times as it attempts to transition from a hardware-dependent business to one that more fully embraces the cloud and services, operate more like a startup instead of a century-old colossus. His solution centers on having developers work in smaller teams, each of which embraces Agile methodology, as opposed to working in huge divisions on multi-year projects. In order to unite employees who might be geographically dispersed, IBM also has its groups leave open a Skype channel throughout the workday. Smith hopes, of course, that his plan will accelerate IBM's internal development, and make it more competitive against not only its tech-giant competition, but also the host of startups working in common fields such as artificial intelligence.
Space

Armadillo Aerospace Resurrected On Kickstarter By the Team Members 29

Posted by Soulskill
from the reaching-for-the-sky dept.
savuporo writes: Team members from John Carmack's defunct suborbital rocket company, Armadillo Aerospace, have re-launched the suborbital rocket project now as Exos Aerospace through a Kickstarter campaign. While original Armadillo efforts stopped just shy of actually getting to space, the team intends to pick up where they left off, rebuild and make it into a sustainable suborbital payload business. Carmack, while not involved, says their core is "arguably the most competent in suborbital alt-space."

There are multiple other small launcher startups springing up again across the globe — Rocket Labs recently unveiled their new engines, Firefly is making progress, and Lin Industrial also announced their rocket recently.
Android

Crowdfunded Android Console Ouya Reportedly Seeking Buyout 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the internet-doesn't-want-what-it-says-it-wants dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Ouya, the Android-based games console, enjoyed one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns to date, raising $8.6 million after asking for only $960,000. But now that the console has been on the market for a while, the company is struggling. After borrowing roughly $25 million from investors to keep it going, they're now trying to restructure the debt, and reportedly seeking a buyout. "Interest in Ouya's microconsole has dropped considerably since its launch back in 2013, where it had to offer store credit to dissatisfied Kickstarter backers for failing to deliver devices on time. Following disappointing sales figures for early games, the company has tried several times to turn its fortunes around."
Transportation

Uber Testing Massive Merchant Delivery Service 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-me-pizza dept.
An anonymous reader writes: TechCrunch has obtained documents showing that Uber is testing out a delivery service that would allow shoppers to buy something online and have it delivered on the same day. "Sources say that Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Cohen's Fashion Optical and Hugo Boss are all in talks with the Uber Merchant Delivery program, and one source in particular said that there are over 400 different merchants currently in talks (or already testing) with Uber for same-day delivery. (Cohen's Fashion Optical and Hugo Boss are both used as examples in the training presentation.) ... From what we can gather from the manual, it seems that Uber drivers and couriers are currently taking merchant orders through a different app (and even a separate phone) than the one they use to receive regular UberRUSH orders. Eventually, however, Uber drivers will be able to take both human passengers and Uber Merchant orders at the same time through an intelligent routing system, all from a single driver-side app."
Transportation

Massachusetts Governor Introduces Bill To Regulate Uber, Lyft 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-your-medallions dept.
jfruh writes: The "wild west" days of ridesharing services may be coming to an end. The governor of Massachusetts has proposed a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and their rivals in the state. Among the new rules: ridesharing services would have to run background checks on their drivers and keep a roster of active drivers; vehicles would need to have some external marker indicating that they're a ridesharing car; and drivers would need to hold at $1 million worth of insurance when transporting passengers.
Verizon

Verizon Tells Customer He Needs 75Mbps For Smoother Netflix Video 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the selling-your-grandma-upgrades dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Verizon recently told a customer that upgrading his 50Mbps service to 75Mbps would result in smoother streaming of Netflix video. Of course, that's not true — Netflix streams at a rate of about 3.5 Mbps on average for Verizon's fiber service, so there's more than enough headroom either way. But this customer was an analyst for the online video industry, so he did some testing and snapped some screenshots for evidence. He fired up 10 concurrent streams of a Game of Thrones episode and found only 29Mbps of connection being used. This guy was savvy enough to see through Verizon's BS, but I'm sure there are millions of customers who wouldn't bat an eye at the statements they were making. The analyst "believes that the sales pitch he received is not just an isolated incident, since he got the same pitch from three sales reps over the phone and one online."