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Android

What Killed Adobe Flash? (daringfireball.net) 191

An employee, who claims to have worked on the development of Flash, writes: Apparently, the world settled on the "One True Cause" for why Flash "died". Take for example this blogpost by John Gruber about FedEx... it ends with this consideration on Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash": "If it had been an angry rant, it would have been easily dismissed without needing to be factually refuted -- "That's just Jobs being a prick again." The fact that it wasn't angry, and because it was all true, made it impossible to refute."

Impossible to refute. There's no doubt that this was the beginning of the end for Flash, right? Except that this is utterly wrong. I worked on Flash, and I worked on the thing that actually killed Flash. It is my strong belief, based on what I observed, that Steve Jobs' letter had little impact in the final decision -- it was really Adobe who decided to "kill" Flash. Yes, Flash was a bad rap for Adobe, and Steve's letter didn't help. But ultimately, what was probably decisive was the fact that developing Flash cost Adobe a ton of money.
John Gruber, responding to the blogpost: To be clear, I don't think Jobs's letter killed Flash. But I don't think Adobe did either. Eventually Adobe accepted Flash's demise. What killed Flash was Apple's decision not to support it on iOS, combined with iOS's immense popularity and the lucrative demographics of iOS users. If Jobs had never published "Thoughts on Flash", Flash would still be dead. The letter explained the decision, but the decision that mattered was never to support it on iOS in the first place. It's possible that Flash would have died even if Apple had decided to allow it on iOS. Android tried that, and the results were abysmal. Web page scrolling stuttered, and video playback through Flash Player halved battery life compared to non-Flash playback.
Privacy

US Congress Votes To Shred ISP Privacy Rules (theregister.co.uk) 489

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

The Best and Worst Cities To Live in For Tech Workers, Based on Rent and Commute (qz.com) 251

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) 369

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) 20

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) 256

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.
Businesses

GameStop To Close At Least 150 Stores Due To Poor Q4 Sales (nintendowire.com) 119

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) 164

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) 114

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) 234

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.
Businesses

Enemy Number One is Netflix: The Monster That's Eating Hollywood (business-standard.com) 309

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.
Businesses

Galaxy Note 7 Is Not Dead, Samsung Says It Will Sell Refurbished Units (samsung.com) 78

Samsung announced on Monday it plans to sell refurbished units of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, months after the handset was pulled from the markets due to fire-prone batteries. The company says it is yet to determine the markets it will sell the refurbished Note 7 units, and it is in talks with relevant regulatory authorities and carriers. The company also has a plan in place for the units it doesn't want to bring back to the market. In a statement, the company said, "For remaining Galaxy Note 7 devices, components such as semiconductors and camera modules shall be detached by companies specializing in such services and used for test sample production purposes. Finally, for left over component recycling, Samsung shall first extract precious metals, such as copper, nickel, gold and silver by utilizing eco-friendly companies specializing in such processes."
Australia

Is Australia Becoming A Cashless Society? (abc.net.au) 365

Australia's Reserve Bank will roll out an instantaneous money-transferring technology later this year, "which will push Australia even further towards being a cashless society," according to ABC. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In 2014, 12 financial institutions signed up to build the "New Payment Platform," partly as a way of bringing Australia up to speed with other countries that are ahead in the race to becoming completely cashless. Sweden is on track to become the world's first completely cashless economy, and just last November India got rid of its highest denomination bills, effectively eliminating 90 per cent of its paper money... The "New Payment Platform" will mean money can be transferred almost instantaneously, even when the payer and payee are members of different banks.
"It's estimated that somewhere between about $3.5 and $5 billion in Australia every year is lost in tax revenue due to the sort of cash economy," says an economics professor at the University of New South Wales, who predicts Australia could be cash-free by 2020. The Australian Payments Association reports that over 75% of the country's face-to-face payments are already tap-and-go, and ATM withdrawals have sunk to a 15-year low.
Businesses

Over 14K 'Let's Encrypt' SSL Certificates Issued To PayPal Phishing Sites (bleepingcomputer.com) 250

BleepingComputer reports: During the past year, Let's Encrypt has issued a total of 15,270 SSL certificates that contained the word 'PayPal' in the domain name or the certificate identity. Of these, approximately 14,766 (96.7%) were issued for domains that hosted phishing sites, according to an analysis carried out on a small sample of 1,000 domains, by Vincent Lynch, encryption expert for The SSL Store... Lynch, who points out the abuse of Let's Encrypt's infrastructure, doesn't blame the Certificate Authority (CA), but nevertheless, points out that other CAs have issued a combined number of 461 SSL certificates containing the term "PayPal" in the certificate information, which were later used for phishing attacks... Phishers don't target these CAs because they're commercial services, but also because they know these organizations will refuse to issue certificates for certain hot terms, like "PayPal," for example. Back in 2015, Let's Encrypt made it clear in a blog post it doesn't intend to become the Internet's HTTPS watchdog.
Of course, some web browsers don't even check whether a certificate has been revoked. An anonymous reader writes: Browser makers are also to blame, along with "security experts" who tell people HTTPS is "secure," when they should point out HTTPS means "encrypted communication channel," and not necessarily that the destination website is secure.
Robotics

US Workers Face A Higher Risk Of Being Replaced By Robots (cnn.com) 275

There's a surprising prediction for the next 15 years from the world's second largest professional services firm. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Millions of workers around the world are at risk of losing their jobs to robots -- but Americans should be particularly worried. Thirty-eight percent of jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years, according to a new report by PwC. Meanwhile, only 30% of jobs in the U.K. are similarly endangered. The same level of risk applies to only 21% of positions in Japan.
61% of America's financial service jobs "are at a high risk of being replaced by robots," according to the article, vs. just 32% of the finance jobs in the U.K. (Those U.S. finance jobs tend to be "domestic retail operations" like small-town bank tellers, whereas U.K. finance jobs concentrate more in international finance and investment banking.) The firm's chief economist sees a world where new jobs are more likely to go to higher-skilled workers, and he ultimately predicts "a restructuring of the jobs market... The gap between rich and poor could get even wider."
Printer

Why You Should Care About the Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges (consumerist.com) 227

rmdingler quotes a report from Consumerist: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn't sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase "patent exhaustion" is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it? The case in question is Impression Products, Inc v Lexmark International, Inc, came before the nation's highest court on Tuesday. Here's the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner. Then there's Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark's. Lexmark, however, doesn't want that; if you use third-party toner cartridges, that's money that Lexmark doesn't make. So it sued, which brings us to the legal chain that ended up at the Supreme Court. In an effort to keep others from getting a piece of that sweet toner revenue, Lexmark turned to its patents: The company began selling printer cartridges with a notice on the package forbidding reuse or transfer to third parties. Then, when a third-party -- like Impression -- came around reselling or recycling the cartridges, Lexmark could accuse them of patent infringement. So far the courts have sided with Lexmark, ruling that Impression was using Lexmark's patented technology in an unauthorized way. The Supreme Court is Impression's last avenue of appeal. The question before the Supreme Court isn't one of "can Lexmark patent this?" Because Lexmark can, and has. The question is, rather: Can patent exhaustion still be a thing, or does the original manufacturer get to keep having the final say in what you and others can do with the product? Kate Cox notes via Consumerist that the Supreme Court ruling is still likely months away. However, she has provided a link to the transcript of this week's oral arguments (PDF) in her report and has dissected it to see which way the justices are leaning on the issue.
Bitcoin

Venezuelan Developers Are Using Bitcoin, Rare Pepe Trading Cards To Fight Against a Dismal Economy (cryptoinsider.com) 91

According to Crypto Insider, Venezuelan developers have been selling "rare pepes" -- trading cards that contain unique illustrations and photoshops of the character Pepe the Frog. While the trading cards started out as nothing more than a joke, many of them have been traded for thousands of dollars on the Counterparty platform, which is built on top of Bitcoin, and have provided a way for many developers to sustain themselves in Venezuela's poor economy. From the report: The basic idea behind the issuance of rare pepes on top of the Counterparty platform is that it enables scarcity in a digital world. Each rare pepe card is linked to a little bit of bitcoin through a practice known as coin coloring. Whoever owns the private keys associated with the address where the bitcoins that represent a specific rare pepe card is located is the one who owns that particular trading card. Now, a group of developers in Venezuela are building games similar to Hearthstone and Pokemon where the rare pepe trading cards will play an integral role. If you go to rarepepe.party right now, you're mainly presented with a video of what the first game based on the Rare Pepe digital trading cards will look like. The concept is similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering where players essentially do battle with their opponents via characters on trading cards, which have specific stats and features. In this case, the characters are various rare pepes. With many rare pepes already released (you can view them in the official rare pepe directory), the developers behind Rare Pepe Party are attempting to provide a use case for these new trading cards. While some rare pepe cards already have stats on them, the developer who chatted with Crypto Insider says those stats may not mean much when it's time to play the game. While rare pepes are nothing more than fun and games for much of the developed world, they're a matter of survival in Venezuela. "We're based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times," said the developer. The developer claims roughly 80 percent of the offices around the area where Rare Pepe Party is being developed have shut down over the past year. The biggest businesses on their street have also dropped as much as 90 percent of their employees.
Businesses

South Korea Finds Qualcomm Prevented Samsung From Selling Its Exynos Processors (digitaltrends.com) 13

According to the South Korea Trade Commission (SKTC), Qualcomm prevented Samsung from selling its Exynos processors to various third-party phone manufacturers. "The Commission's report claims that Qualcomm abused its standard-essential patents -- which define technical standards like Wi-Fi and 4G -- to prevent Samsung from selling its modems, integrated processors, and other chips to smartphone makers like LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and others," reports Digital Trends. "The Commission reportedly threatened to file suit against Samsung, which had agreed to license the patents for an undisclosed sum, if the South Korean electronics maker began competing against it in the mobile market." From the report: That bullying ran afoul of the South Korea Trade Commission's rules, which require that standard-essential patents be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. "Samsung Electronics has been blocked from selling its modem chips to other smartphone manufacturers due to a license deal it signed with Qualcomm," the commissioners wrote. The report provides legal justification for the $853 million fine the SKTC placed on Qualcomm in December for "anti-competitive practices." Qualcomm intends to appeal. "[We] strongly disagree with the KFTC's announced decision, which Qualcomm believes is inconsistent with the facts and the law, reflects a flawed process, and represents a violation of due process rights owed American companies" under an applicable agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.

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