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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Cellphones

Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-it-up dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Good Print Media Is Left? 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-the-crap-in-my-mailbox-every-day dept.
guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"
Handhelds

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the beginning-of-the-end dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's another story of a tech gadget that arrived before its time. Nokia created a web-ready tablet running EPOC (later to be renamed as Symbian) thirteen years ago. The tablet was set to go into full production, and they actually built a thousand units just before it was canceled. The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."
Media

Bill Gates Patents Detecting, Responding To "Glassholes" 127

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the fighting-back-against-the-thousand-eyes dept.
theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.
Technology

San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained 329

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-forgiven-for-tldr'ing-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We've heard a few brief accounts recently of the housing situation in San Francisco, and how it's leading to protests, gentrification, and bad blood between long-time residents and the newer tech crowd. It's a complicated issue, and none of the reports so far have really done it justice. Now, TechCrunch has posted a ludicrously long article explaining exactly what's going on, from regulations forbidding Google to move people into Mountain View instead, to the political battle to get more housing built, to the compromises that have already been made. It's a long read, but well-researched and interesting. It concludes: 'The crisis we're seeing is the result of decades of choices, and while the tech industry is a sexy, attention-grabbing target, it cannot shoulder blame for this alone. Unless a new direction emerges, this will keep getting worse until the next economic crash, and then it will re-surface again eight years later. Or it will keep spilling over into Oakland, which is a whole other Pandora's box of gentrification issues. The high housing costs aren't healthy for the city, nor are they healthy for the industry. Both thrive on a constant flow of ideas and people.'"
Government

52 Million Photos In FBI's Face Recognition Database By Next Year 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
Advocatus Diaboli writes "The EFF has been investigating the FBI's Next-Generation Identification (NGI) scheme, an enormous database of biometric information. It's based on the agency's fingerprint database, which already has 100 million records. But according to the documents EFF dug up, the NGI database will include 52 million images of people's faces by 2015. At least 4.3 million images will have been taken outside any sort of criminal context. 'Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check, your prints are sent to and stored by the FBI in its civil print database. However, the FBI has never before collected a photograph along with those prints. This is changing with NGI. Now an employer could require you to provide a 'mug shot' photo along with your fingerprints. If that's the case, then the FBI will store both your face print and your fingerprints along with your biographic data.'"
The Internet

Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket 317

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-should-get-the-same-amount-of-water-and-electricty dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Back in February, after a lengthy dispute, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for network access after being dogged by complaints of slow speeds from Comcast subscribers. Two months later, it appears that Comcast has delivered on its promises, jumping up six places in Netflix's ISP speed rankings. The question of whether this is good news for anyone but Comcast is still open."
Technology

This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions 270

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the futuristic-but-not-too-futuristic dept.
harrymcc (1641347) writes "If you remember the golden age of BYTE magazine, you remember Robert Tinney's wonderful cover paintings. BYTE's April 1981 cover featured an amazing Tinney image of a smartwatch with a tiny text-oriented interface, QWERTY keyboard, and floppy drive. It's hilarious — but 33 years later, it's also a smart visual explanation of why the future of technology so often bears so little resemblance to anyone's predictions. I wrote about this over at TIME.com. 'Back then, a pundit who started talking about gigabytes of storage or high-resolution color screens or instant access to computers around the world or built-in cameras and music players would have been accused of indulging in science fiction.'"
Mozilla

Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-chris-beard-hates-kittens dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Following the contentious and ultimately failed appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO last month, the Mozilla Corporation has appointed Chris Beard to the board of directors and made him interim CEO. Beard starting working as chief marketing officer for Mozilla in 2004, and oversaw the launch of its current browser, Firefox, in 2005. Beard also managed the launches of Firefox on Android and the Firefox OS for mobile phones." See the official announcement. Quoting: "We began exploring the idea of Chris joining the Board of Directors some months ago. Chris has been a Mozillian longer than most. He’s been actively involved with Mozilla since before we shipped Firefox 1.0, he’s guided and directed many of our innovative projects, and his vision and sense of Mozilla is equal to anyone’s. I have relied on his judgement and advice for nearly a decade. This is an excellent time for Chris to bring his understanding of Mozilla to the Board."
Medicine

Carpenter Who Cut Off His Fingers Makes "Robohand" With 3-D Printer 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the finger-jam dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes with the ultimate DIY story about a carpenter in South Africa who lost his fingers in an accident, and now runs a company that makes mechanical prosthetics with 3D printing technology. "'I was in a position to see exactly what happens in the human hand. I got the basics of what it's all about and thought yeah, I'll make my own.' Richard van As is recalling the moment in May 2011 when he sat in a Johannesburg hospital waiting to hear if his fingers could be stitched back on. Just an hour earlier, he had been in his carpentry workshop sawing wood when the saw slipped and ripped diagonally through the four fingers on his right hand....After days of scouring the Internet he couldn't find anywhere to buy a functional prosthetic finger and he was astonished at the cost of prosthetic hands and limbs which began in the tens of thousands of dollars. But his online surfing paid off as it brought him to an amateur video posted by a mechanical effects artist in Washington State, by the name of Ivan Owen. Together, the pair developed a mechanical finger for van As, but their partnership has also gone on to benefit countless hand and arm amputees around the globe, through the birth of the company "Robohand." Officially launched in January 2012, Robohand creates affordable mechanical prosthetics through the use of 3D printers. Not only that, but it has made its designs open source, so that anyone with access to such printers can print out fingers, hands and now arms as well.'"
Transportation

The Best Parking Apps You've Never Heard Of and Why You Haven't 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the park-that-anywhere dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "If you read no further, use either the BestParking or ParkMe app to search all nearby parking garages for the cheapest spot, based on the time you're arriving and leaving. I'm interested in the question of why so few people know about these apps, how is it that they've been partially crowded out by other 'parking apps' that are much less useful, and why our marketplace for ideas and intellectual properly is still so inefficient." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Education

Bachelor's Degree: An Unnecessary Path To a Tech Job 283

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-a-piece-of-paper dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes "A study of New York City's tech workforce found that 44% of jobs in the city's 'tech ecosystem,' or 128,000 jobs, 'are accessible' to people without a Bachelor's degree. This eco-system includes both tech specific jobs and those jobs supported by tech. For instance, a technology specific job that doesn't require a Bachelor's degree might be a computer user support specialist, earning $28.80 an hour, according to this study. Tech industry jobs that do not require a four-year degree and may only need on-the-job training include customer services representatives, at $18.50 an hour, telecom line installer, $37.60 an hour, and sales representatives, $33.60 an hour. The study did not look at 'who is actually sitting in those jobs and whether people are under-employed,' said Kate Wittels, a director at HR&A Advisors, a real-estate and economic-development consulting firm, and report author.. Many people in the 'accessible' non-degree jobs may indeed have degrees. For instance. About 75% of the 25 employees who work at New York Computer Help in Manhattan have a Bachelor's degree. Of those with Bachelor's degrees, about half have IT-related degrees."
Google

Anyone Can Buy Google Glass April 15 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Starting at 9 a.m. ET on April 15 anyone in the US will be able to buy Google Glass for one day. From the article: 'This is the first time the device has been available to the general public. So far, the face-mounted computers have been sold only to Google "Explorers," the company's name for early adopters. At first only developers could buy Glass, but Google slowly expanded the program to include regular people. Some were hand-picked, others applied to be Explorers through Google contests by sharing what cool projects they would do if they had Glass.'"
Businesses

Apple's Spotty Record of Giving Back To the Tech Industry 266

Posted by samzenpus
from the giving-back dept.
chicksdaddy (814965) writes "Given Apple's status as the world's most valuable company and its enormous cash hoard, the refusal to offer even meager support to open source and industry groups is puzzling. From the article: 'Apple bundles software from the Apache Software Foundation with its OS X operating system, but does not financially support the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) in any way. That is in contrast to Google and Microsoft, Apple's two chief competitors, which are both Platinum sponsors of ASF — signifying a contribution of $100,000 annually to the Foundation. Sponsorships range as low as $5,000 a year (Bronze), said Sally Khudairi, ASF's Director of Marketing and Public Relations. The ASF is vendor-neutral and all code contributions to the Foundation are done on an individual basis. Apple employees are frequent, individual contributors to Apache. However, their employer is not, Khudairi noted. The company has been a sponsor of ApacheCon, a for-profit conference that runs separately from the Foundation — but not in the last 10 years. "We were told they didn't have the budget," she said of efforts to get Apple's support for ApacheCon in 2004, a year in which the company reported net income of $276 million on revenue of $8.28 billion.'"
The Internet

Why the IETF Isn't Working 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the maybe-we-should-pay-these-people dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Vidya Narayanan spent seven years working on the Internet Engineering Task Force, and was nominated for the Internet Architecture Board. But she declined the nomination and left the IETF because standards bodies are not able to keep up with the rapid pace of tech development. She says, '[W]hile the pace at which standards are written hasn't changed in many years, the pace at which the real world adopts software has become orders of magnitude faster. Standards, unfortunately, have become the playground for hashing out conflicts and carrying out silo-ed agendas and as a result, have suffered a drastic degradation. ... Running code and rough consensus, the motto of the IETF, used to be realizable at some point. Nowadays, it is as though Margaret Thatcher's words, "consensus is the lack of leadership" have come to life. In the name of consensus, we debate frivolous details forever. In the name of patents, we never finish. One recent case in point is the long and painful codec battles in the WebRTC working group.'"

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