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Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 137

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Privacy

Tech Nightmares That Keep Turing Award Winners Up At Night 82

itwbennett writes: At the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany this week, RSA encryption algorithm co-inventor Leonard Adelman, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, and cryptography innovator Manuel Blum were asked "What about the tech world today keeps you up at night?" And apparently they're not getting a whole lot of sleep these days. Cerf is predicting a digital dark age arising from our dependence on software and our lack of "a regime that will allow us to preserve both the content and the software needed to render it over a very long time." Adelman worries about the evolution of computers into "their own species" — and our relation to them. Blum's worries, by contrast, lean more towards the slow pace at which computers are taking over: "'The fact that we have brains hasn't made the world any safer,' he said. 'Will it be safer with computers? I don't know, but I tend to see it as hopeful.'"
Transportation

Many Drivers Never Use In-Vehicle Tech, Don't Want Apple Or Google In Next Car 417

Lucas123 writes: Many of the high-tech features automakers believe owners want in their vehicles are not only not being used by them, but they don't want them in their next vehicle, according to a new survey by J.D. Power. According to J.D. Power's 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features. The five features owners most commonly report that they "never use" are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don't even want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don't want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 109

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
Privacy

How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out of Your Personal Data In Windows 10 425

MojoKid writes: Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize leaks as much as possible are often requested by users who have recently made the jump to the new operating system. If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up menu. Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. It's worth noting, however, that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.
Robotics

Video More From Tim O'Reilly about the 'WTF?!' Economy (Videos) 61

More From Tim O'Reilly about the 'WTF?!' Economy (Video) On August 12 we ran two videos of Tim O'Reilly talking with Slashdot's Tim Lord about changes in how we work, what jobs we do, and who profits from advances in labor-saving technology. Tim (O'Reilly, that is) had written an article titled, The WTF Economy, which contained this paragraph:

"What do on-demand services, AI, and the $15 minimum wage movement have in common? They are telling us, loud and clear, that we’re in for massive changes in work, business, and the economy."

We're seeing a shift from cabs to Uber, but what about the big shift when human drivers get replaced by artificial intelligence? Ditto airplane pilots, burger flippers, and some physicians. WTF? Exactly. Once again we have a main video and a second one available only in Flash (sorry about that), along with a text transcript that covers both videos. Good thought-provoking material, even if you think you're so special that no machine could possibly replace you.
Education

Buzzwords Are Stifling Innovation In College Teaching 95

jyosim writes: Tech marketers brag about the world-changing impact of 'adaptive learning' and other products, but they all mean something different by the buzzword. On the other side of it, professors are notoriously skeptical of companies, and crave precise language. Richard Culatta, director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, says the buzzwords have thus become a major obstacle to improving teaching on campuses, since these tribes (professor and ed-tech vendors) must work together.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 275

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Education

Wired: IBM's School Could Fix Education and Tech's Diversity Gap 176

theodp writes: Wired positively gushes over IBM's Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), saying it could fix education and tech's diversity gap. Backed by IBM, the P-TECH program aims to prepare mainly minority kids from low-income backgrounds for careers in technology, allowing them to earn a high school diploma and a free associate degree in six years or less. That P-TECH's six inaugural graduates completed the program in four years and were offered jobs with IBM, Wired reports, is "irrefutable proof that this solution might actually work" (others aren't as impressed, although the President is drinking the Kool-Aid). While the program has only actually graduated six students since it was announced in 2010, Wired notes that by fall, 40 schools across the country will be designed in P-TECH's image. IBM backs four of them, but they'll also be run by tech giants like Microsoft and SAP, major energy companies like ConEdison, along with hospital systems, manufacturing associations, and civil engineering trade groups. They go by different names and are geared toward different career paths, but they all follow the IBM playbook.
Government

California Bill Would Dramatically Limit Commercial Drones 192

An anonymous reader writes: California's Senate Bill 142 would prohibit drones from flying under 350 feet over any property without express permission from the property's owner. The bill passed the California Assembly easily. Tech advocates have been battling privacy advocates to influence the inevitable regulation of private and commercial drones. Industry groups say this restriction will kill drone delivery services before they even begin. The legislation would also drastically diminish the usefulness of camera-centric drones like the ones being rolled out by GoPro. If passed, the bill could influence how other states regulate drones. The article notes that 156 different drone-related bills have been considered in 46 different states this year alone, and the FAA will issue nationwide rules in September.
Open Source

KDE Plasma 5.4 Released 43

jrepin writes: KDE have announced the release of Plasma 5.4 desktop. This release of Plasma brings many nice touches for our users such as new fullscreen application launcher, much improved high DPI support, KRunner auto-completion and many new beautiful Breeze icons. It also lays the ground for the future with a tech preview of Wayland session available. We're shipping a few new components such as an Audio Volume Plasma Widget, monitor calibration tool and the User Manager tool comes out beta.
Windows

A Breakdown of the Windows 10 Privacy Policy 318

WheezyJoe writes: The Verge has a piece on Windows 10 privacy that presents actual passages from the EULA and privacy policy that suggest what the OS is capturing and sending back to Microsoft. The piece takes a Microsoft-friendly point of view, arguing that all Microsoft is doing is either helpful or already being done either by Google or older releases of Windows, and also touches on how to shut things off (which is also explained here). But the quoted passages from the EULA and the privacy policy are interesting to review, particularly if you look out for legal weasel words that are open to Microsoft's interpretation, such as "various types (of data)", diagnostic data "vital" to the operation of Windows (cannot be turned off), sharing personal data "as necessary" and "to protect the rights or property of Microsoft". And while their explanations following the quotes may attempt an overly friendly spin, the article may be right about one thing: "In all, only a handful of these new features, and the privacy concerns they bring, are actually in fact new... Most people have just been either unaware or just did not care of their existence in past operating systems and software." Even pirates are having privacy concerns and blocking Windows 10 users.
Stats

Mostly Theater? Taking Aim At White House 'We the People' Petitions 68

theodp writes: "Since we launched We the People in 2011," wrote the White House last month, "millions of Americans have engaged with their government on the issues that matter to them. This groundbreaking online platform has made petitioning the government, a First Amendment right, more accessible than ever. Over the past few years, the Obama administration has taken a stance on a number of causes that citizens really care about and used the We the People petition platform to voice their concerns." Sounds good, but even if the White House is listening to We the People petitions, as it assured skeptics, one wonders what — and who — exactly they are listening to. Petitions suffer from being aye-only, lack identity and location verification, and appear to have other data quality issues. One attempting to explore the petition data for the 67,022-and-counting signers of a new petition urging a quick response to a court decision that could cut the time international STEM students can work in the U.S. on student visas after graduation, for example, would be stymied by thousands of missing and non-U.S. postal codes. Plotting what location info is available does show that the petitioners are clustered around tech and university hubs, hardly a surprise, but it sheds no context on whether these represent corporate, university, and/or international student interests.
Security

Why Car Info Tech Is So Thoroughly At Risk 192

Cory Doctorow reflects in a post at Boing Boing on the many ways in which modern cars' security infrastructure is a white-hot mess. And as to the reasons why, this seems to be the heart of the matter, and it applies to much more than cars: [M]anufacturers often view bugs that aren't publicly understood as unimportant, because it costs something to patch those bugs, and nothing to ignore them, even if those bugs are exploited by bad guys, because the bad guys are going to do everything they can to keep the exploit secret so they can milk it for as long as possible, meaning that even if your car is crashed (or bank account is drained) by someone exploiting a bug that the manufacturer has been informed about, you may never know about it. There is a sociopathic economic rationality to silencing researchers who come forward with bugs.
Advertising

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router 198

lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).
Stats

Standardized Tests Blamed, Asian Students Ignored In Google-Gallup K-12 CS Study 184

theodp writes: According to a study released Thursday by Google and Gallup, standardized tests may be holding back the next generation of computer programmers. The Google-Gallup Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education report (PDF) found that the main reason given by a "comprehensive but not representative" sample of 9,693 K-12 principals and 1,865 school district superintendents in the U.S. for their schools not offering computer science "is the limited time they have to devote to classes that are not tied to testing requirements." Which makes one wonder if Google now views Bill Gates as part of the problem and/or part of the solution of K-12 CS education. The Google-Gallup report also explores race/ethnicity differences to access and learning opportunities among White, Black and Hispanic students — but not Asian students — a curious omission considering that Google's own Diversity Disclosure shows that 35% of its U.S. tech workforce is Asian, making it by far the most overrepresented race/ethnicity group at Google when compared to the U.S. K-12 public school population. Which raises the question: Why would the Google-Gallup study ignore the access and learning opportunities of the race/ethnicity subgroup that has enjoyed the greatest success at Google? Not unsurprisingly, the Google-Gallup report winds up by concluding that what U.S. K-12 education really needs is more CS cowbell.
The Courts

Do You Have a Right To Use Electrical Weapons? 698

An anonymous reader writes: David Cravets points out a growing debate in U.S. constitutional law: does the second amendment grant the same rights regarding electrical weapons as it does for traditional firearms? A Massachusetts ban on private ownership of stun-guns is being considered by the Supreme Court, and it's unclear whether such ownership has constitutional protection. The state's top court didn't think so: "... although modern handguns were not in common use at the time of enactment of the Second Amendment, their basic function has not changed: many are readily adaptable to military use in the same way that their predecessors were used prior to the enactment. A stun gun, by contrast, is a thoroughly modern invention (PDF). Even were we to view stun guns through a contemporary lens for purposes of our analysis, there is nothing in the record to suggest that they are readily adaptable to use in the military." The petitioner is asking the court (PDF) to clarify that the Second Amendment covers non-lethal weapons used for self-defense. Constitutional law expert Eugene Volokh agrees: "Some people have religious or ethical compunctions about killing. ... Some adherents to these beliefs may therefore conclude that fairly effective non-deadly defensive tools are preferable to deadly tools."
Encryption

Jeb Bush Comes Out Against Encryption 494

An anonymous reader writes: Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called on tech companies to form a more "cooperative" arrangement with intelligence agencies. During a speech in South Carolina, Bush made clear his opinion on encryption: "If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren't in our midst." He also indicated he felt the recent scaling back of the Patriot Act went too far. Bush says he hasn't seen any indication the bulk collection of phone metadata violated anyone's civil liberties.
Businesses

Do Old Programmers Need To Keep Leaping Through New Hoops? 242

Nerval's Lobster writes: In recent years, it seems as if tech has evolved into an industry that lionizes the young. Despite all the press about 21-year-old rock-star developers and 30-year-old CEOs, though, is there still a significant market for older programmers and developers, especially those with specialized knowledge? The answer is "yes," of course, and sites like Dice suggest that older tech pros should take steps such as setting up social media accounts and spending a lot of time on Github if they want to attract interest from companies and recruiters. But do they really need to go through all of that? If you have twenty, thirty, or even forty years of solid tech work under your belt, is it worth jumping through all sorts of new hoops? Or is there a better way to keep working — provided you don't already have a job, that is, or move up to management, or get out of the game entirely in order to try something startling and new.