Earth

Why Bill Gates Is Dumping Another $1 Billion Into Clean Energy 60

An anonymous reader writes: A little over a month ago, Bill Gates made headlines when he decided to double down on his investments in renewable energy. Now, he's written an article for Quartz explaining why: "I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century's progress against poverty and disease — and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem." He also says government is not doing enough to fund such research, and that energy markets aren't doing a good enough job of factoring the negative effects of carbon emissions.
Math

Using Math To Tune a Video Game's Economy 38

An anonymous reader writes: When the shipping deadline was approaching for The Witcher 3, designer Matthew Steinke knew there was a big part of the game still missing: its economy. A game's economy is one of the things that can make or break immersion — you want collection and rewards to feel progressive and meaningful. Making items to expensive gives the game a grindy feel, while making them too cheap makes progression trivial. At the Game Developers Conference underway in Germany, Steinke explained his solution.

"Steinke created a formula that calculated attributes like how much damage, defense, or healing that each item provided, and he placed them into an overall combat rating could be used to rank other items in the system. ... Steinke set about blending the sub-categories into nine generalized categories, allowing him to determine the final weighting for damage and the range of prices for each item. To test if it all worked, he used polynomial least squares (a form of mathematical statistics) to chart each category's price progression. The resultant curve (pictured below) showed the rate at which spending was increasing as the quality of each item approached the category's ceiling value."
Microsoft

Behind the Microsoft Write-Off of Nokia 169

UnknowingFool writes: Previously Microsoft announced they had written off the Nokia purchase for $7.6B in the last quarter. In doing so, Microsoft would create only the third unprofitable quarter in the company's history. Released on July 31, new financial documents detail some of the reasoning and financials behind this decision. At the core of the problem was that the Phone Hardware business was only worth $116M, after adjusting for costs and market factors. One of those factors was poor sales of Nokia handhelds in 2015. Financially it made more sense to write it all off.
DRM

FirefoxOS-Based Matchstick Project Ends; All Money To Be Refunded 95

Kohenkatz writes: Matchstick, a project built on FirefoxOS that aimed to compete with Google's Chromecast, which was initially funded on Kickstarter, is shutting down and will be refunding all pledges. In a post to Kickstarter backers today, they announced that this decision was due to the difficulty of implementing the DRM components that are necessary for access to a lot of paid content. Rather than drag out the project on an unknown schedule, they have decided to end the project.
Social Networks

Girls Catfish ISIS On Social Media For Travel Money 233

MarkWhittington writes: Yahoo Travel reported that three women in Chechnya took ISIS for $3,300 before getting caught. They are now under investigation for Internet fraud, which seems to be illegal even when committed against the most fearsome terrorist army in modern times. The scam seems to be a combination of the Nigerian Prince con, in which a mark is fooled into giving the con artist large sums of money and catfishing, in which the mark strikes up an online romance with someone he thinks is an attractive woman (or man depending on the gender and preference of the mark.)
Businesses

Sociologist: Job Insecurity Is the New Normal 567

Mr.Intel writes: Allison Pugh, professor of Sociology at University of Virginia, and author of The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity, says workers in the U.S. are caught up in a "one-way honor system," in which workers are beholden to employers. She says that the golden era when Americans could get a job, keep it, and expect to retire with an adequate pension are over. JP Morgan Chase has cut 20,000 from its workforce in the past 5 years, last year HP cut 34,000 jobs, and many others have announced layoffs. In this interview Pugh talks about the social effects of this "insecurity culture."
United States

DoD Ditches Open Source Medical Records System In $4.3B Contract 185

dmr001 writes: The US Department of Defense opted not to use the Department of Veterans Affairs' open source VistA electronic health record system in its project to overhaul its legacy systems, instead opting for a consortium of Cerner, Leidos and Accenture. The initial $4.3 billion implementation is expected to be the first part of a $9 billion dollar project. The Under Secretary for Acquisition stated they wanted a system with minimum modifications and interoperability with private sector systems, though much of what passes for inter-vendor operability in the marketplace is more aspirational than operable. The DoD aims to start implementation at 8 sites in the Pacific Northwest by the end of 2016, noting that "legacy systems are eating us alive in terms of support and maintenance," consuming 95% of the Military Health Systems IT budget.
China

China To Impose Export Control On High Tech Drones and Supercomputers 67

hackingbear writes: Following similar hi-tech export restriction policies in the U.S. (or perhaps in response to the U.S. ban on China,) China will impose export control on some drones and high performance computers starting on August 15th, according to an announcement published on Friday by China's Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs. The ban includes (official documents in Chinese) drone that can take off in wind speed exceeding 46.4km/hour or can continuously fly for over 1 hour as well as electronic components specifically designed or modified for supercomputers with speed over 8 petaflops. Companies must acquire specific permits before exporting such items. Drones and supercomputers are the two areas where China is the leader or among the top players. China is using its rapidly expanding defense budget to make impressive advances in (military) drone technology, prompting some to worry that the United States' global dominance in the market could soon be challenged. The tightening of regulations comes two weeks after an incident in disputed Kashmir in which the Pakistani army claimed to have shot down an Indian "spy drone", reportedly Chinese-made. China's 33-petaflops Tianhe-2, currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, while still using Intel Xeon processors, makes use of the home-grown interconnect, arguably the most important component of modern supercomputers.
Businesses

Uber Invests $1 Billion In Indian Market 54

New submitter keithlynpitts writes: Uber is looking to expand its services in India, and will invest $1 billion there in the next nine months. India is the second biggest market for Uber after the U.S. The company hopes their investment will help speed growth in the country, which is already at a staggering 40% every month. "We expect to hit over 1 million trips per day," said Amit Jain, president at Uber India.
Bitcoin

Japanese Police Arrest Mount Gox CEO Mark Karpeles 104

McGruber writes with the news as carried (paywalled) by the Wall Street Journal that Mark Karpeles, who headed bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox, has been arrested by Japanese police: In February 2014, Mount Gox filed for bankruptcy, saying it had lost 750,000 of its customers' bitcoins as well as 100,000 of its own, worth some $500 million at the time. A police spokesman said Mr. Karpelès is suspected of manipulating his own account at the company by making it appear that $1 million was added to it. The BBC reports the arrest as well, and notes that the coins missing from Mt. Gox represent 7% of all Bitcoins in circulation.
Businesses

Silicon Valley's Big Lie 129

HughPickens.com writes: Danny Crichton writes at TechCrunch that startups in Silicon Valley run on an alchemy of ignorance and amnesia and that lying is a requisite and daily part of being a founder, the grease that keeps the startup flywheel running. Most startups fail. The vast, vast majority of startup employees will never exercise their options, let alone become millionaires while doing it. But founders have little choice as they sell their company to everyone, whether investors, employees, potential employees, or clients. "Founders have to tell the lie – that everything is fine, that a feature is going to launch even though the engineer for that feature hasn't been hired yet, that payroll will run even though the VC dollars are still nowhere on the horizon," writes Crichton. "For one of the most hyper-rational populations in the world, Silicon Valley runs off a myth about startup success, of the lowly founder conquering the world."
The Almighty Buck

Will Autonomous Cars Be the Insurance Industry's Napster Moment? 231

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us are looking forward to the advent of autonomous vehicles. Not only will they free up a lot of time previously spent staring at the bumper of the car in front of you, they'll also presumably make commuting a lot safer. While that's great news for the 30,000+ people who die in traffic accidents every year in the U.S. alone, it may not be great news for insurance companies. Granted, they'll have to pay out a lot less money with the lower number of claims, but premiums will necessarily drop as well and the overall amount of money within the car insurance system will dwindle.

Analysts are warning these companies that their business is going to shrink. It will be interesting to see if they adapt to the change, or cling desperately to an outdated business model like the entertainment industry did. "One opportunity for the industry could be selling more coverage to carmakers and other companies developing the automated features for cars. ... When the technology fails, manufacturers could get stuck with big liabilities that they will want to cover by buying more insurance. There's also a potential for cars to get hacked as they become more networked."
Mozilla

Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software 367

puddingebola writes: Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
Piracy

Interviews: Kim Dotcom Answers Your Questions 90

Kim Dotcom was the founder of Megaupload, its successor Mega, and New Zealand's Internet Party. A while ago you had a chance to ask him about those things as well as the U.S. government charging him with criminal copyright violation and racketeering. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Graphics

On Linux, $550 Radeon R9 Fury Competes With $200~350 NVIDIA GPUs 81

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month AMD released the air-cooled Radeon R9 Fury graphics card with Fury X-like performance, but the big caveat is the bold performance is only to be found on Windows. Testing the R9 Fury X on Linux revealed the Catalyst driver delivers devastatingly low performance for this graphics card. With OpenGL Linux games, the R9 Fury performed between the speed of a GeForce GTX 960 and 970, with the GTX 960 retailing for around $200 while the GTX 970 is $350. The only workloads where the AMD R9 Fury performed as expected under Linux was the Unigine Valley tech demo and OpenCL compute tests. There also is not any open-source driver support yet for the AMD R9 Fury.
Medicine

Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable? 54

Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.
PC Games (Games)

Sprked Tries To Solve Valve's Paid Mods Scandal 40

SlappingOysters writes: This article takes a closer look at the emerging crowdfunding platform Sprked, which aims to follow the Patreon support model, but exclusively for video game modders. The service is currently in its early stages, but by crafting a system of appreciation and support that acknowledges the loyalty of the modding community, Sprked has the potential to promote and foster the creativity that is so integral to modding, instead of hampering it with the murky baggage of a mandatory economy. Valve's attempt to let modders make some money for their efforts backfired within the community — there are four demons the paid mods plan must slay to actually work.
Patents

MPEG LA Announces Call For DASH Patents 66

An anonymous reader writes: The MPEG LA has announced a call for patents essential to the Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (or DASH) standard. According to the MPEG LA's press release, "Market adoption of DASH technology standards has increased to the point where the market would benefit from the availability of a convenient nondiscriminatory, nonexclusive worldwide one-stop patent pool license." The newly formed MPEG-DASH patent pool's licensing program will allegedly offer the market "efficient access to this important technology."
Advertising

Advertising Companies Accused of Deliberately Slowing Page-load Times For Profit 382

An anonymous reader writes: An industry insider has told Business Insider of his conviction that ad-serving companies deliberately prolong the 'auctioning' process for ad spots when a web-page loads. They do this to maximize revenue by allowing automated 'late-comers' to participate beyond the 100ms limit placed on the decision-making process. The unnamed source, a principal engineer at a global news company (whose identity and credentials were confirmed by Business Insider), concluded with the comment: "My entire team of devs and testers mostly used Adblock when developing sites, just because it was so painful otherwise." Publishers use 'daisy-chaining' to solicit bids from the most profitable placement providers down to the 'B-list' placements, and the longer the process is run, the more likely that the web-page will be shown with profitable advertising in place.
Security

Your Stolen Identity Goes For $20 On the Internet Black Market 57

HughPickens.com writes: Keith Collins writes at Quartz that the going rate for a stolen identity is about twenty bucks on the internet black market. Collins analyzed hundreds of listings for a full set of someone's personal information—identification number, address, birthdate, etc., known as "fullz" that were put up for sale over the past year, using data collected by Grams, a search engine for the dark web. The listings ranged in price from less than $1 to about $450, converted from bitcoin. The median price for someone's identity was $21.35. The most expensive fullz came from a vendor called "OsamaBinFraudin," and listed a premium identity with a high credit score for $454.05. Listings on the lower end were typically less glamorous and included only the basics, like the victim's name, address, social security number, perhaps a mother's maiden name. Marketplaces on the dark web, not unlike eBay, have feedback systems for vendors ("cheap and good A+"), refund policies (usually stating that refunds are not allowed), and even well-labeled sections. "There is no shortage of hackers willing to do about anything, computer related, for money," writes Elizabeth Clarke. "and they are continually finding ways to monetize personal and business data."