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Operating Systems

Italian Supreme Court Bans the 'Microsoft Tax' 275

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-hardware-a-bit-cheaper dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In a post at the Free Software Foundation, lawyer Marco Ciurcina reports that the Italian Supreme Court has ruled the practice of forcing users to pay for a Windows license when they buy a new PC is illegal. Manufacturers in Italy are now legally obligated to refund that money if a buyer wants to put GNU/Linux or another free OS on the computer. Ciurcina says, "The focus of the Court's reasoning is that the sale of a PC with software preinstalled is not like the sale of a car with its components (the 4 wheels, the engine, etc.) that therefore are sold jointly. Buying a computer with preinstalled software, the user is required to conclude two different contracts: the first, when he buys the computer; the second, when he turns on the computer for the first time and he is required to accept or not the license terms of the preinstalled software. Therefore, if the user does not accept the software license, he has the right to keep the computer and install free software without having to pay the 'Microsoft tax.'"
Businesses

Ballmer Says Amazon Isn't a "Real Business" 227

Posted by timothy
from the but-they-sure-have-a-good-catalog dept.
theodp writes According to Steve Ballmer, Amazon.com is not a real business. "They make no money," Ballmer said on the Charlie Rose Show. "In my world, you're not a real business until you make some money. I have a hard time with businesses that don't make money at some point." Ballmer's comments come as Amazon posted a $437 million loss for the third quarter, disappointing Wall Street. "If you are worth $150 billion," Ballmer added, "eventually somebody thinks you're going to make $15 billion pre-tax. They make about zero, and there's a big gap between zero and 15." Fired-up as ever, LA Clippers owner Ballmer's diss comes after fellow NBA owner Mark Cuban similarly slammed IBM, saying Big Blue is no longer a tech company (Robert X. Cringely seems to concur). "Today, they [IBM] specialize in financial engineering," Cuban told CNBC after IBM posted another disappointing quarter. "They're no longer a tech company, they are an amalgamation of different companies that they are trying to arb[itrage] on Wall Street, and I'm not a fan of that at all."
Microsoft

Microsoft Now Makes Money From Surface Line, Q1 Sales Reach Almost $1 Billion 113

Posted by timothy
from the but-that's-just-on-the-surface dept.
SmartAboutThings writes Microsoft has recently published its Q1 fiscal 2015 earnings report, disclosing that it has made $4.5 billion in net income on $23.20 billion in revenue. According to the report, revenue has increased by $4.67 billion, compared to $18.53 billion from the same period last year. However, net income has decreased 14 percent compared to last year's $5.24 billion mainly because of the $1.14 billion cost associated with the integration and restructuring expenses related to the Nokia acquisition.

But what's finally good news for the company is that the Surface gross margin was positive this quarter, which means the company finally starts making money on Surface sales. Microsoft didn't yet reveal Surface sales, but we know that Surface revenue was $908 million this quarter, up a massive 127 percent from the $400 million this time last year. However, if we assume that the average spent amount on the purchase of this year's Surface Pro 3 was around $1000, then we have less than 1 million units sold, which isn't that impressive, but it's a good start.
The Internet

Secretive Funding Fuels Ongoing Net Neutrality Astroturfing Controversy 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
alphadogg writes: The contentious debate about net neutrality in the U.S. has sparked controversy over a lack of funding transparency for advocacy groups and think tanks, which critics say subverts the political process. News stories from a handful of publications in recent months have accused some think tanks and advocacy groups of "astroturfing" — quietly shilling for large broadband carriers. In a handful of cases, those criticisms appear to have some merit, although the term is so overused by people looking to discredit political opponents that it has nearly lost its original meaning. An IDG News Service investigation found that major groups opposing U.S. Federal Communications Commission reclassification and regulation of broadband as a public utility tend to be less transparent about their funding than the other side. Still, some big-name advocates of strong net neutrality rules also have limited transparency mechanisms in place.
The Almighty Buck

How To Beat Online Price Discrimination 153

Posted by Soulskill
from the complain-until-they-give-it-to-you-for-free dept.
New submitter Intrepid imaginaut sends word of a study (PDF) into how e-commerce sites show online shoppers different prices depending on how they found an item and what the sites know about the customer. "For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.” To get a better price, the article advises deleting cookies before shopping, using your browser's private mode, putting the items in your shopping cart without buying them right away, and using tools like Camelcamelcamel to keep an eye out for price drops.
Robotics

Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes 669

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-compliments-to-the-chefbot dept.
dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.
Businesses

Tech Firm Fined For Paying Imported Workers $1.21 Per Hour 281

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader sends in news about a company that was fined for flying in "about eight employees" from India to work 120-hour weeks for $1.21 per hour. Electronics for Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company's Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the U.S. Labor Department's wage and hour division in San Francisco.... An anonymous tip prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the case, which resulted in more than $40,000 in back wages paid to the eight employees and a fine of $3,500 for Electronics for Imaging.
Medicine

Leaked Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Ebola Vaccine Issues 122

Posted by timothy
from the how-much-for-what-benefit-to-whom-with-what-certainty dept.
sciencehabit writes Extensive background documents from a meeting that took place today at the World Health Organization (WHO) have provided new details about exactly what it will take to test, produce, and bankroll Ebola vaccines, which could be a potential game changer in the epidemic. ScienceInsider obtained materials that vaccinemakers, governments, and WHO provided to the 100 or so participants at a meeting on 'access and financing' of Ebola vaccines. The documents put hard numbers on what until now have been somewhat fuzzy academic discussions. And they make clear to the attendees—who include representatives from governments, industry, philanthropies, and nongovernmental organizations—that although testing and production are moving forward at record speed, knotty issues remain.
Facebook

We Need Distributed Social Networks More Than Ello 258

Posted by timothy
from the pick-your-battles dept.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton writes: Facebook threatened to banish drag queen pseudonyms, and (some) users revolted by flocking to Ello, a social network which promised not to enforce real names and also to remain ad-free. Critics said that the idealistic model would buckle under pressure from venture capitalists. But both gave scant mention to the fact that a distributed social networking protocol, backed by a player large enough to get people using it, would achieve all of the goals that Ello aspired to achieve, and more. Read on for the rest.
The Almighty Buck

Apple 1 Sells At Auction For $905,000 81

Posted by timothy
from the hey-motherboard-problems-are-an-apple-tradition dept.
Dave Knott writes One of the few remaining examples of Apple Inc's first pre-assembled computer, the Apple 1, sold for $905,000 at an auction in New York on Wednesday. The final price outstrips expectations, as auction house Bonhams had said it expected to sell the machine, which was working as of September, for between $300,000 and $500,000. The buyer was The Henry Ford organization, which plans to display the computer in its museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Only 63 surviving authentic Apple 1's were listed in an Apple 1 Registry as of January out of the 200 that were built. The auctioned computer is thought to be one of the first batch of 50 Apple-1 machines assembled by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in Steve Job's family garage in Los Altos, California in the summer of 1976. It is also believed to be one of only 15 that still have functioning motherboards. That's a bit more beastly than the original price.
Advertising

Ello Formally Promises To Remain Ad-Free, Raises $5.5M 165

Posted by timothy
from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.
Social media site Ello is presented as the anti-Facebook, promising an ad-free social network, and that they won't sell private data. Today, they've also announced that Ello has become a Public Benefit Corporation, and that the site's anti-advertising promise has been enshrined in a corporate charter. The BBC reports on the restrictions that Ello has therefore entered into, which mean the site cannot, for monetary gain,
  1. Sell user-specific data to a third party
  2. Enter into an agreement to display paid advertising on behalf of a third party; and
  3. In the event of an acquisition or asset transfer, the Company shall require any acquiring entity to adopt these requirements with respect to the operation of Ello or its assets.

While that might turn off some potential revenue flows (the company says it will make money by selling optional features), as the linked article points out, it hasn't turned off investors; Ello has now raised $5.5 million from investors.

The Courts

Judge Says EA Battlefield 4 Execs Engaged In "Puffery," Not Fraud 91

Posted by timothy
from the anything-they-say-they-set-their-minds-to dept.
DemonOnIce writes with a story, as reported by Ars Technica, that a federal judge in San Francisco has dismissed a proposed securities fraud class action lawsuit connected to Battlefield 4's bungled rollout. From the report: EA and several top executives were sued in December and were accused of duping investors with their public statements and concealing issues with the first-person shooter game. The suit claimed executives were painting too rosy of a picture surrounding what ultimately would be Battlefield 4's disastrous debut on various gaming consoles beginning last October, including the next-generation Xbox One. But US District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco said their comments about EA and the first-person shooter game were essentially protected corporate speak. "The Court agrees with defendants that all of the purported misstatements are inactionable statements of opinion, corporate optimism, or puffery," Illston ruled Monday.
Advertising

NPR: '80s Ads Are Responsible For the Lack of Women Coders 767

Posted by Soulskill
from the advertisers-driving-culture dept.
gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR's Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show's experts, computers were advertised as a "boy's toy." This, combined with early '80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.
Government

Safercar.gov Overwhelmed By Recall For Deadly Airbags 120

Posted by timothy
from the give-it-to-the-healthcare.gov-folks dept.
darylb writes "The NHTSA's safercar.gov website appears to be suffering under the load of recent vehicle recalls, including the latest recall of some 4.7 million vehicles using airbags made by Takata. Searching recalls by VIN is non-responsive at present. Searching by year, make, and model hangs after selecting the year. What can sites serving an important public function do to ensure they stay running during periods of unexpected load?" More on the airbag recall from The New York Times and the Detroit Free Press.
Privacy

Speed Cameras In Chicago Earn $50M Less Than Expected 398

Posted by timothy
from the short-term-memory dept.
countach44 writes that (in the words of the below-linked article) "Chicagoans are costing the city tens of millions of dollars — through good behavior." The City of Chicago recently installed speed cameras near parks and schools as part of the "Children's Safety Zone Program," claiming a desire to decrease traffic-related incidents in those area. The city originally budgeted (with the help of the company providing the system) to have $90M worth of income from the cameras — of which only $40M is now expected. Furthermore, the city has not presented data on whether or not those areas have become safer.
Facebook

Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals 239

Posted by Soulskill
from the do-that-with-linkedin-like-everyone-else dept.
HughPickens.com writes: CNNMoney reports that Facebook has sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration demanding that agents stop impersonating users on the social network. "The DEA's deceptive actions... threaten the integrity of our community," Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan wrote to DEA head Michele Leonhart. "Using Facebook to impersonate others abuses that trust and makes people feel less safe and secure when using our service." Facebook's letter comes on the heels of reports that the DEA impersonated a young woman on Facebook to communicate with suspected criminals, and the Department of Justice argued that they had the right to do so. Facebook contends that their terms and Community Standards — which the DEA agent had to acknowledge and agree to when registering for a Facebook account — expressly prohibit the creation and use of fake accounts. "Isn't this the definition of identity theft?" says privacy researcher Runa Sandvik. The DEA has declined to comment and referred all questions to the Justice Department, which has not returned CNNMoney's calls.
Businesses

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man 341

Posted by timothy
from the that-trick's-not-so-weird dept.
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.
The Almighty Buck

Developers, IT Still Racking Up (Mostly) High Salaries 196

Posted by timothy
from the money-goes-further-if-you-live-in-omaha dept.
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Software development and IT remain common jobs among those in the higher brackets, although not the topmost one, according to a new study (with graph) commissioned by NPR. Among those earning between $58,000 and $72,000, IT was the sixth-most-popular job, while software developers came in tenth place. In the next bracket up (earning between $72,000 and $103,000), IT rose to third, with software development just behind in fourth place. As incomes increased another level ($103,000 to $207,000), software developers did even better, coming in second behind managers, although IT dropped off the list entirely. In the top percentile ($207,000 and above), neither software developers nor IT staff managed to place; this is a segment chiefly occupied by physicians (in first place), managers, chief executives, lawyers, and salespeople who are really good at their jobs. In other words, it seems like a good time to be in IT, provided you have a particular skillset. If those high salaries are in Silicon Valley or New York, though, they might not seem as high as half the same rate would in Omaha, or Houston, or Raleigh.
IBM

IBM Pays GlobalFoundries $1.5 Billion To Shed Its Chip Division 84

Posted by timothy
from the watson-told-them-to dept.
helix2301 writes with word that Big Blue has become slightly smaller: IBM will pay $1.5 billion to GlobalFoundries in order to shed its costly chip division. IBM will make payments to the chipmaker over three years, but it took a $4.7 billion charge for the third quarter when it reported earnings Monday. The company fell short of Wall Street profit expectations and revenue slid 4 percent, sending shares down 8 percent before the opening bell.
Robotics

Robot SmackDowns Wants To Bring Robot Death Matches To an Arena Near You 82

Posted by timothy
from the only-if-I-get-to-drive dept.
Business Insider profiles Andrew Stroup, Gui Cavalcanti and Matt Oehrlein, who are trying to get off the ground a robot competition league, called Robot SmackDowns. The idea, as you might guess from the name, is to showcase violence and drama to draw on the crowd-appeal of wrestling, NASCAR, and monster truck rallies: this is definitely not Dean Kamen's FIRST — it's giant mechanical beasts shooting at and otherwise trying to destroy each other. And it's not quite right to call them robots in the usual sense; they're more like mecha: "In a MegaBots battle, a two-member team sits inside the bot's upper torso, where the controls systems are housed. Although the co-founders assure me that the pilot and gunner are well protected inside, the situation presents a heightened suspense. Each 15,000-pound robot is equipped with six-inch cannons inside its arms that fire paint-filled missiles and cannon balls at 120 miles per hour. Good aim can cause enough damage to jam its opponent's weapons system or shoot off a limb." They'll be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon; according to the article, "Assuming it raises enough money to build a fleet, [the company's] plan is to take the bots on the road. They will tour the country, face off in epic battles against other MegaBots, and build a fan base. Stroup says (without giving specifics) networks have reached out and will closely watch how MegaBot, Inc.'s upcoming Kickstarter campaign performs. The possibilities for distribution seem endless, though the team is tight-lipped about the exact direction it's headed."

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