Transportation

Inside Faraday Future's Financial House of Cards (theverge.com) 3

Sean O'Kane, reporting for The Verge: When Faraday Future emerged from stealth mode in 2015, it promised to transform the car industry with an American-made luxury electric vehicle that would someday be fully autonomous, maybe even sold through a subscription service. As we learned at CES 2017, the company was taking aim at Tesla with a car -- the FF91 -- that was designed to dazzle, with a 0-60 time of 2.4 seconds as jaw-dropping as the proposed $180,000 price tag. Since then, though, Faraday Future has been more focused on survival than speed. The Verge has learned from multiple sources about the nature of the company's financial plight. While Faraday Future posed as the newest California electric car startup that attracted top auto industry talent, 10 former employees and one person close to the company say the behavior and business practices of its chief investor have brought business to a halt. Also read: Everything wrong with Faraday Future's "Tesla killer"
Businesses

Why Google and Amazon Are Hypocrites (om.blog) 56

Amazon earlier this month responded to Google's decision to remove YouTube from all Fire TV products and the Echo Show. Google says it's taking this extreme step because of Amazon's recent delisting of new Nest products (like Nest Secure and the E Thermostat) and the company's long-running refusal to sell Chromecast or support Google Cast in any capacity. Veteran journalist Om Malik writes: This smacks of so much hypocrisy that I don't even know where to start. The two public proponents of network neutrality and anything but neutral about each other's services on each other's platforms. They can complain about the cable companies from blocking their content and charging for fast lanes. The irony isn't lost on me even a wee bit. They are locked in a battle to collect as much data about us -- what we shop, what we see, what we do online and they do so under the guise of offering us services that are amazing and wonderful. They don't talk about what they won't do with our data, instead, they bicker and distract. So to think that these purveyors of hyper-capitalism will fight for interests of consumers is not only childish, it is foolish. We as end customers need to figure out who is speaking on our behalf when it comes to the rules of the Internet.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Fees Are Skyrocketing (arstechnica.com) 211

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The cost to complete a Bitcoin transaction has skyrocketed in recent days. A week ago, it cost around $6 on average to get a transaction accepted by the Bitcoin network. The average fee soared to $26 on Friday and was still almost $20 on Sunday. The reason is simple: until recently, the Bitcoin network had a hard-coded 1 megabyte limit on the size of blocks on the blockchain, Bitcoin's shared transaction ledger. With a typical transaction size of around 500 bytes, the average block had fewer than 2,000 transactions. And with a block being generated once every 10 minutes, that works out to around 3.3 transactions per second. A September upgrade called segregated witness allowed the cryptographic signatures associated with each transaction to be stored separately from the rest of the transaction. Under this scheme, the signatures no longer counted against the 1 megabyte blocksize limit, which should have roughly doubled the network's capacity. But only a small minority of transactions have taken advantage of this option so far, so the network's average throughput has stayed below 2,500 transactions per block -- around four transactions per second.
Bitcoin

In-Store WiFi Provider Used Starbucks Website To Generate Monero Coins (hackread.com) 23

hjf writes: On December 2nd, Twitter user Noah Dinkin tweeted a screenshot that showed that Starbucks' in-store "free WiFi" is using their captive portal to briefly mine the Monero cryptocurrency during the 10-second delay splash screen. Starbucks has not yet responded to the tweet, and neither has their wifi provider, Fibertel Argentina. While Dinkin mentioned that the culprit behind the scheme could be Starbucks' in-store wifi provider, it's possible that a cybercriminal could have hacked their website to place CoinHive code secretly. HackRead notes that "just a few days ago researchers identified more than 5,000 sites that were hijacked to insert CoinHive code, yet Starbucks' direct involvement is still unclear." CoinHive is a company that produces a JavaScript miner for the Monero Blockchain that you can embed in your website. Any coins mined by the browser are sent to the owner of the website.
Bitcoin

The Case that Bitcoin Is a Bubble (economist.com) 246

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from the Economist: It seems that every day, Bitcoin seems to hit a new high. But the reported price can move up and down by $1,000 or so within a few hours. This might have made it a great investment for those who got in at the right price and are nimble enough to get out in time. But it doesn't make it a useful means of exchange (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). When the price is rising fast, those who use bitcoin will be reluctant to part with it; when the price falls, those who sell goods will be reluctant to accept it.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Futures Surge In First Day Of Trading (npr.org) 63

On their first day of trading, bitcoin futures surged past $18,000, adding to a streak for the digital currency that began the year at just $1,000 and has nearly tripled in value over the past month alone. From a report: Reuters reports that bitcoin futures, traded through the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), saw January contracts, which opened at $15,460 in New York on Sunday evening, leap to a high of $17,170 during Asian hours. Trading, which began at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT), was so intense that halts designed to cool volatility were triggered twice on the CBOE. The halts are "not surprising based on the volatility of the underlying [asset]. The futures are behaving as expected and designed," Tom Lehrkinder, senior analyst at consulting firm Tabb Group, was quoted by CNBC as saying.
The Almighty Buck

Launch of Bitcoin Futures Trading Crashes CBOE Site (thestreet.com) 96

"5PM CT is the start of Bitcoin futures trading and the $CBOE website appears to be down," one market watcher posted on Twitter (and his observation was quickly confirmed by other cryptocurrency-watching accounts and confirmed by CBOE). "I'm guessing watching Bitcoin futures start trading is a more popular spectator sport than anticipated."

Bitcoin futures will also begin trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in eight days. The Street report that the anticipation of that "has triggered wild swings in bitcoin prices over the last week." Overall, trading bitcoin futures is a positive development for the cryptocurrency says the research team at Fundstrat... The introduction of derivatives lays the necessary market structure for institutions to allocate cash towards cryptocurrencies, points out Fundstrat... Short sellers may now express negative views on bitcoin, which could lead to short-term pricing pressure. But the ability for short sellers to hate on bitcoin could be viewed as a longer term positive, Fundstrat says. Shorting essentially creates true price discovery and means that hedge funds could take bitcoin more seriously. This should improve the long-term prospects of bitcoin as it broadens sponsorship, Fundstrat believes.
IOS

Top iOS Apps of 2017: Bitmoji Beats Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger (cnn.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Apple has unveiled its list of most downloaded iOS apps of the year, and topping the list is free custom emoji app Bitmoji... Bitmoji soared to the top of the list, thanks to an integration with Snapchat. (Snapchat's parent company acquired Bitmoji last year for an unknown amount)... Users must download the Bitmoji app to use it with Snapchat.

Fittingly, the main Snapchat app took second place, despite a tough year on Wall Street that was attributed to slow user growth. Snapchat was the most downloaded app of 2016. Google's YouTube took the number three spot this year, while Facebook's Messenger and Instagram placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Almighty Buck

Coinbase Warns During Times of High Volatility, Access Could Become 'Unavailable' (cityam.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes City AM: A leading bitcoin exchange has warned that customers may be unable to get their money out quickly in the event of a crash in the cryptocurrency's price. Writing in a blog post last week, Coinbase's co-founder and chief executive Brian Armstrong, said despite "sizeable and ongoing" increases in the firm's technical infrastructure and engineering staff, access to Coinbase services could become "degraded or unavailable during times of significant volatility or volume. This could result in the inability to buy or sell for period of time," he said.

Armstrong added that there would be restrictions on how much customers could sell, or sell limits, to "protect client accounts and assets"... Bitcoin's market capitalisation rose above $300 billion for the first time earlier this week when its price rocketed to an all-time high of just over $17,000. Many analysts have warned that bitcoin represents an unsustainable bubble, though no one is quite sure when it will burst.

Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 250

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
Idle

'Cards Against Humanity' Gives Out $1000 Checks (nbcchicago.com) 401

An anonymous reader writes: In November "Cards Against Humanity" announced "a complicated holiday promotion" where people paid $15 for six surprises in December. (For the first surprise in the Cards Against Humanity Saves America promotion, "we purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for Trump to build his wall.") The second surprise was the launch of a new podcast filled with positive news, and for the third surprise, they're redistributing the money people paid to join the event. "Most of our subscribers (about 140,000 people) got nothing today — they could have it worse. The next 10,000 subscribers received a full $15 refund of their Cards Against Humanity Saves America purchase. Finally, the poorest 100 people received a check for $1,000, paid for by everyone else."

A new web page shares stories from the grateful participants, and explains the site's careful methodology for determining who needed the $1,000 checks the most. ("We excluded all Canadians. They already have universal healthcare. They'll be fine.") It argues that wealth inequality is the biggest issue in the world, but "Our lawyers advised against our first choice — a campaign to eat all the rich people and live in their houses — so we settled for something more achievable."

Earth

Toyota's New Power Plant Will Create Clean Energy From Manure (usatoday.com) 73

schwit1 shares a report from Futurism: Japanese automobile giant Toyota is making some exciting moves in the realm of renewable, clean energy. The company is planning to build a power plant in California that turns the methane gas produced by cow manure into water, electricity, and hydrogen. The project, known as the Tri-Gen Project, was unveiled at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show. The plant, which will be located at the Port of Long Beach in California, will be "the world's first commercial-scale 100% renewable power and hydrogen generation plant," writes USA Today. Toyota is expecting the plant to come online in about 2020.

The plant is expected to have the capability to provide enough energy to power 2,350 average homes and enough fuel to operate 1,500 hydrogen-powered vehicles daily. The company is estimating the plant to be able to produce 2.35 MW of electricity and 1.2 tons of hydrogen each day. The facility will also be equipped with one of the largest hydrogen fueling stations in the world. Toyota's North America group vice president for strategic planning, Doug Murtha, says that the company "understand[s] the tremendous potential to reduce emissions and improve society."

Bitcoin

People Who Can't Remember Their Bitcoin Passwords Are Really Freaking Out Now (slate.com) 202

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Slate: Bitcoin has had quite a week. On Thursday, the cryptocurrency surged past $19,000 a coin before dropping down to $15,600 by Friday midday. The price of a single Bitcoin was below $1,000 in January. Any investors who bought Bitcoins back in 2013, when the price was less than $100, probably feel pretty smart right now. But not all early cryptocurrency enthusiasts are counting their coins. Instead they might be racking their brains trying to remember their passwords, without which those few Bitcoins they bought as an experiment a few years ago could be locked away forever. That's because Bitcoin's decentralization relies on cryptography, where each transaction is signed with an identifier assigned to the person paying and the person receiving Bitcoin.

"I've tried to ignore the news about Bitcoin completely," joked Alexander Halavais, a professor of social technology at Arizona State University, who said he bought $70 of Bitcoin about seven years as a demonstration for a graduate class he was teaching at the time but has since forgotten his password. "I really don't want to know what it's worth now," he told me. "This is possibly $400K and I'm freaking the fuck out. I'm a college student so this would change my life lmao," wrote one Reddit user last week. The user claimed to have bought 40 bitcoins in 2013 but can't remember the password now. "A few years ago, I bought about 20 euros worth of bitcoin, while it was at around 300eur/btc.," lamented another Reddit user earlier this week. "Haven't looked at it since, and recently someone mentioned the price had hit 10.000usd. So, I decided to take a look at my wallet, but found that it wasn't my usual password. I have tried every combination of the password variations I usually use, but none of them worked."

The Almighty Buck

Insurers Are Rewarding Tesla Owners For Using Autopilot (reuters.com) 139

Britain's largest auto insurance company Direct Line is testing out an idea to let Tesla owners receive a 5% discount for switching on the car's autopilot system, seeking to encourage use of a system it hopes will cut down on accidents. Reuters reports: The move - confirmed by company representatives in response to Reuters' questions - is Tesla's only tie-up in the UK and comes at a time when the company is trying to convince insurers that its internet-connected vehicles are statistically safer. Direct Line said it was too early to say whether the use of the autopilot system produced a safety record that justified lower premiums. It said it was charging less to encourage use of the system and aid research.

"Crash rates across all Tesla models have fallen by 40 percent since the introduction of the autopilot system ... However, when owners seek to insure their Tesla vehicles, this is not reflected in the pricing of premiums," Daniel Pearce, Financial Analyst at GlobalData, said. Direct Line, which is enjoying soaring motor insurance prices in Britain, said it sets premiums for Tesla drivers based on the risk they present, including who is driving, their age, driving experience and claim history.

Music

Apple Is Reportedly Buying Shazam For Nearly Half a Billion Dollars (phonedog.com) 59

Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, one of the most recognized services for music recognition. While the exact amount is unknown, the service may be purchased by Apple for around $400 million. PhoneDog reports: Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, say sources speaking to TechCrunch. The deal will reportedly be signed this week and could be announced as early as next Monday. A report from Recode echoes the news of Apple acquiring Shazam, adding that Shazam will likely be valued at around $400 million. Apple -- and other companies -- already offer a music recognition service, but Apple must see something in Shazam's services that it thinks can help improve its own music recognition if it's going to drop nearly half a billion dollars on this deal. Shazam is able to identify TV shows, films, and advertisements in addition to music, so perhaps Apple sees some benefit to these abilities, too.
Businesses

Bangladesh Bank, NY Fed Discuss Suing Manila Bank For Heist Damages (reuters.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bangladesh's central bank has asked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to join a lawsuit it plans to file against a Philippines bank for its role in one of the world's biggest cyber-heists, several sources said. The Fed is yet to respond formally, but there is no indication it would join the suit. Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Fed in February last year, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system. The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.
Bitcoin

About 40 Percent of Bitcoin Is Held By 1,000 Users. If a Few of Them Want To Sell, That Could Tank Values (bloomberg.com) 241

On Nov. 12, someone moved almost 25,000 bitcoins, worth about $159 million at the time, to an online exchange. The news soon rippled through online forums, with bitcoin traders arguing about whether it meant the owner was about to sell the digital currency. From a report on Bloomberg: Holders of large amounts of bitcoin are often known as whales. And they're becoming a worry for investors. They can send prices plummeting by selling even a portion of their holdings. And those sales are more probable now that the cryptocurrency is up nearly twelvefold from the beginning of the year. About 40 percent of bitcoin is held by perhaps 1,000 users; at current prices, each may want to sell about half of his or her holdings, says Aaron Brown, former managing director and head of financial markets research at AQR Capital Management. What's more, the whales can coordinate their moves or preview them to a select few. Many of the large owners have known one another for years and stuck by bitcoin through the early days when it was derided, and they can potentially band together to tank or prop up the market.
United States

November Jobs Report: Economy Adds 228,000 Jobs; Unemployment Steady (npr.org) 119

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent, unchanged from October. "Employment growth has averaged 174,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016," the agency's Acting Commissioner William J. Wiatrowski said of the report. The number of unemployed people was "essentially unchanged at 6.6 million," the bureau said. Of that number, 1.6 million are considered to be long-term unemployed -- workers who have not had jobs for 27 weeks or more. "Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers increased to 15.9 percent in November," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Other groups saw little change from the previous month. As for wages, the agency says, "In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 64 cents, or 2.5 percent."
The Military

The US Is Testing a Microwave Weapon To Stop North Korea's Missiles (vox.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: According to an NBC News report, the weapon -- which is still under development -- could be put on a cruise missile and shot at an enemy country from a B-52 bomber. It's designed to use microwaves to target enemy military facilities and destroy electronic systems, like computers, that control their missiles. The weapon itself wouldn't damage the buildings or cause casualties. Air Force developers have been working with Boeing on the system since 2009. They're hoping to receive up to $200 million for more prototyping and testing in the latest defense bill. There's just one problem. It's not clear that the weapon is entirely ready for use -- and it's not clear that it would be any more effective than the powerful weapons the U.S. already possesses. The weapon, which has the gloriously military-style name of Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, isn't quite ready for action, but it could be soon. Two unnamed Air Force officials told NBC that the weapon could be ready for use in just a few days.
Businesses

ISP Disclosures About Data Caps and Fees Eliminated By Net Neutrality Repeal (arstechnica.com) 281

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. Since the requirements were part of the net neutrality rules, they will be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week. Ars Technica reports: While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to keep some of the commission's existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won't have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service. There have been two major versions of the FCC's transparency requirements: one created in 2010 with the first net neutrality rules, and an expanded version created in 2015. Both sets of transparency rules survived court challenges from the broadband industry. The 2010 requirement had ISPs disclose pricing, including "monthly prices, usage-based fees, and fees for early termination or additional network services." That somewhat vague requirement will survive Pai's net neutrality repeal. But Pai is proposing to eliminate the enhanced disclosure requirements that have been in place since 2015. Here are the disclosures that ISPs currently have to make -- but won't have to after the repeal:

-Price: the full monthly service charge. Any promotional rates should be clearly noted as such, specify the duration of the promotional period and the full monthly service charge the consumer will incur after the expiration of the promotional period.
-Other Fees: all additional one time and/or recurring fees and/or surcharges the consumer may incur either to initiate, maintain, or discontinue service, including the name, definition, and cost of each additional fee. These may include modem rental fees, installation fees, service charges, and early termination fees, among others.
-Data Caps and Allowances: any data caps or allowances that are a part of the plan the consumer is purchasing, as well as the consequences of exceeding the cap or allowance (e.g., additional charges, loss of service for the remainder of the billing cycle).

Pai's proposed net neutrality repeal says those requirements and others adopted in 2015 are too onerous for ISPs.

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