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Android

The Galaxy S8 Will Be Samsung's Biggest Test Ever (theverge.com) 49

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

DJI Proposes New Electronic 'License Plate' For Drones (digitaltrends.com) 59

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

US Congress Votes To Shred ISP Privacy Rules (theregister.co.uk) 351

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

BitTorrent To Refocus On What Made It Rich - uTorrent (torrentfreak.com) 42

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

AT&T Joins The Linux Foundation as a Platinum Member (linuxfoundation.org) 31

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

Facebook Copied Snapchat a Fourth Time, and Now All Its Apps Look the Same (recode.net) 72

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

The Best and Worst Cities To Live in For Tech Workers, Based on Rent and Commute (qz.com) 230

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

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

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs (nytimes.com) 345

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

Amazon Web Services Jumps Into Call-Center Market With New 'Amazon Connect' Service (geekwire.com) 18

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

A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap (qz.com) 244

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

'Brainstorming Doesn't Work' (fastcompany.com) 82

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

Dutch Scientist Proposes Circular Runways For Airport Efficiency (curbed.com) 307

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

GameStop To Close At Least 150 Stores Due To Poor Q4 Sales (nintendowire.com) 109

GameStop announced last week that it will be closing more than 150 of its stores globally due to "weak sales of certain AAA titles and aggressive console promotions by other retailers." The chain also mentioned it "anticipates that it will close between two percent to three percent of its global store footprint" in 2017. Nintendo Wire reports: The Q4 window is often the high point of video game sales, yet despite the launch of new hardware in the PlayStation 4 Pro and a few major releases, it wasn't enough in the company's eyes. Despite this, GameStop still plans on opening 100 stores in 2017 which will likely focus more on non-gaming business, such as the Spring Mobile brand and vinyl collectibles. GameStop CEO Paul Raines said in a statement: "The video game category was weak, particularly in the back half of 2016, as the console cycle ages. Looking at 2017, Technology Brands and Collectibles are expected to generate another year of strong growth, and new hardware innovation in the video game category looks promising." You can view GameStop's 2016 earnings report here.
NASA

NASA Spends 72 Cents of Every SLS Dollar On Overhead Costs, Says Report (arstechnica.com) 157

A new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security shows us where a lot of NASA's money is being spent. The space agency has reportedly spent $19 billion on rockets -- first on Ares I and V, and now on the Space Launch System rocket -- and $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft. If all goes according to plan and NASA is able to fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021, "the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon," reports Ars Technica. "Just the development effort for SLS and Orion, which includes none of the expenses related to in-space activities or landing anywhere, are already nearly half that of the Apollo program." From the report: The new report argues that, given these high costs, NASA should turn over the construction of rockets and spacecraft to the private sector. It buttresses this argument with a remarkable claim about the "overhead" costs associated with the NASA-led programs. These costs entail the administration, management, and development costs paid directly to the space agency -- rather than funds spend on contractors actually building the space hardware. For Orion, according to the report, approximately 56 percent of the program's cost, has gone to NASA instead of the main contractor, Lockheed Martin, and others. For the SLS rocket and its predecessors, the estimated fraction of NASA-related costs is higher -- 72 percent. This means that only about $7 billion of the rocket's $19 billion has gone to the private sector companies, Boeing, Orbital ATK, Aeroject Rocketdyne, and others cutting metal. By comparison the report also estimates NASA's overhead costs for the commercial cargo and crew programs, in which SpaceX, Boeing, and Orbital ATK are developing and providing cargo and astronaut delivery systems for the International Space Station. With these programs, NASA has ceded some control to the private companies, allowing them to retain ownership of the vehicles and design them with other customers in mind as well. With such fixed-price contracts, the NASA overhead costs for these programs is just 14 percent, the report finds.
XBox (Games)

Four Years Later, Xbox Exec Admits How Microsoft Screwed Up Disc Resale Plan (arstechnica.com) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We're now approaching the four-year anniversary of Microsoft's rollout (and subsequent reversal) of a controversial plan to let game publishers limit resale of used, disc-based games. Looking back on that time recently, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices Yusuf Mehdi acknowledged how that rollout fell flat and discussed how hard it was for the firm to change course even in light of fan complaints at the time. In a blog post on LinkedIn posted last weekend, Mehdi writes: "With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn't land well with fans. While the intent was good -- we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games, we didn't deliver what our fans wanted. We heard their feedback, and while it required great technical work, we changed Xbox One to work the same way as Xbox 360 for how our customers could play, share, lend, and resell games. This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we've made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we've never looked back." It's an interesting reflection in light of an interview Mehdi gave to Ars Technica at E3 2013, when the executive defended Microsoft's announced plans for Xbox One game licensing. Mehdi, then serving as Xbox chief marketing and strategy officer, stressed at the time that "this is a big change, consumers don't always love change, and there's a lot of education we have to provide to make sure that people understand... We're trying to do something pretty big in terms of moving the industry forward for console gaming into the digital world. We believe the digital world is the future, and we believe digital is better."
ISS

No One Knows What To Do With the International Space Station (popsci.com) 231

An anonymous reader shares a report: In 2024 the clock will run out on the International Space Station. Maybe. That's the arbitrary deadline that Congress imposed back in 2014, at which point they'll have to decide whether or not to keep funding the ISS. And yeah, that's a whole seven years away. But then again...it's only seven years away. The ISS takes up half of NASA's human exploration budget -- half of the pile of money allotted for things like sending humans to Mars or to an asteroid. And if they want to push further into space exploration, NASA can't keep sinking three to four billion dollars a year into the ISS. Not that it's really their decision. Congress -- specifically the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology -- decides how much money NASA will get. And because politicians aren't experts in space travel, they keep holding hearings to discuss what they could possibly do with the ISS in seven years' time. Let private industry take it over? Let it crash and burn into the South Pacific? Let the program keep running? The latest hearing took place last week. These are hard questions, in part because people have very different opinions on what's valuable about NASA, and therefore about whether the ISS is still useful. Maybe you think that NASA should really be about exploration, about pushing the boundaries of what we know and where we can travel. In that case, the ISS might not be your first priority. That's a huge chunk of the budget that goes toward bringing things back and forth to low Earth orbit instead of venturing to other planets.
The Courts

US Top Court Considers Changing Where Patent Cases May Be Filed (reuters.com) 55

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday grappled over whether to upend a quarter-century of practice and limit where patent-infringement lawsuits can be filed. From a report on Reuters: The U.S. Supreme Court struggled over whether to upend nearly 30 years of law governing patent lawsuits that critics say allows often-baseless litigants to sue in friendly courts, giving them the upper hand over high-technology companies such as Apple and Alphabet Google. The justices heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC to have a patent infringement suit brought against it by food and beverage company Kraft Heinz moved from federal court in Delaware, where it was filed, to Heartland's home base in Indiana. TC Heartland is challenging a lower court ruling denying a transfer to Indiana. Even though the case did not involve a lawsuit filed in Texas, the arguments involved the peculiar fact that the bulk of patent litigation in the United States is occurring in a single, rural region of East Texas, far from the centers of technology and innovation in the United States. Critics have said the federal court there has rulings and procedures favoring entities that generate revenue by suing over patents instead of making products, sometimes called "patent trolls." The outcome of the TC Heartland case could be profoundly felt in the East Texas courts. The justices could curtail where patent lawsuits may be launched, limiting them to where a defendant company is incorporated and potentially making it harder to get to trial or score lucrative jury verdicts.
Data Storage

With Optane Memory, Intel Claims To Make Hard Drives Faster Than SSDs (pcworld.com) 109

SSDs are generally faster than hard drives. However, they are also usually more expensive. Intel wants to change that with its new Optane Memory lineup, which it claims is faster and better performing than SSDs while not requiring customers to break their banks. From a report on PCWorld: Announced Monday morning, these first consumer Optane-based devices will be available April 24 in two M.2 trims: A 16GB model for $44 and a 32GB Optane Memory device for $77. Both are rated for crazy-fast read speeds of 1.2GBps and writes of 280MBps. [...] When the price of a 128GB SATA SSD is roughly $50 to $60 today, you may rightly wonder why Optane Memory would be worth the bother. Intel says most consumers just don't want to give up the capacity for their photos and videos. PC configurations with a hard drive and an SSD, while standard for higher-end PC users, isn't popular for the newbies. Think of the times you've had friends or family fill up the boot drive with cat pictures, but the secondary drive is nearly empty. Intel Optane Memory would give that mainstream user the same or better performance as an SSD, with the capacity advantage of the 1TB or 2TB drive they're used to. Intel claims Optane Memory performance is as good or better than an SSD's, offering better latency by magnitudes and the ability to peak at much lower queue depths.
Businesses

Enemy Number One is Netflix: The Monster That's Eating Hollywood (business-standard.com) 298

From a WSJ report: Tara Flynn, a rising star at a TV production unit of 21st Century Fox, walked into her boss's office last August and told him she was quitting and joining streaming-video giant Netflix Inc. The news was not well-received. "Netflix is public enemy No. 1," said Bert Salke, the head of Fox 21 Television Studios, where Ms. Flynn was a vice president, according to a Netflix legal filing. When Netflix finalized Ms. Flynn's hire a few weeks later, Fox sued, accusing it of a "brazen campaign" to poach Fox executives. In response, Netflix argued Fox's contracts are "unlawful and unenforceable." The ongoing legal battle is just one sign of the escalating tensions between Netflix and Hollywood as the streaming-video company moves from being an upstart dabbling in original programming to a big-spending entertainment powerhouse that will produce more than 70 shows this year. It is expanding into new genres such as children's fare, reality TV and stand-up comedy specials -- including a $40 million deal for two shows by Chris Rock. The shift has unnerved some TV networks that had become used to Netflix's original content being focused on scripted dramas and sitcoms. Netflix's spending on original and acquired programming this year is expected to be more than $6 billion, up from $5 billion last year, more than double what Time Warner Inc.'s HBO spends and five times as much as 21st Century Fox's FX or CBS Corp.'s Showtime.

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