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Power

Alphabet's Nest Wants to Build a 'Citizen-Fueled' Power Plant (bloomberg.com) 145

Mark Chediak, reporting for Bloomberg:Alphabet Inc's Nest Labs is looking to enlist enough customers in California to free up as much power as a small natural gas-fired plant produces, helping alleviate potential energy shortages in the region following a massive gas leak that has restricted supplies. Nest, which supplies digital, wireless thermostats, is partnering with Edison International's Southern California Edison utility to get households enrolled in a state-established energy conservation program. The company wants to attract 50,000 customers through next summer that could shrink their total demand by as much as 50 megawatts when needed, Ben Bixby, Nest's director of energy businesses at Nest, said by phone. "We are building a citizen-fueled clean power plant," he said.
Media

The Slashdot Interview With VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf 32

You asked, he answered!

VideoLan President and Lead Developer of VLC Jean-Baptiste Kempf has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on to find out about the upcoming VideoLAN projects; how they keep VLC sustainable; what are some mistakes they wish they hadn't made; and what security challenges they face, among others!
Google

Google Fiber To Cut Staff In Half After User Totals Disappoint, Says Report (dslreports.com) 201

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Sources claim that Google Fiber has been disappointed with the company's overall number of total subscribers since launching five years ago. A paywalled report over at The Information cites a variety of anonymous current and former Google employees, who say the estimated 200,000 or so broadband subscribers the company had managed to sign up by the end of 2014 was a fary cry from the company's original projection of somewhere closer to 5 million. Google Fiber has never revealed its total number of subscribers. A report last October pegged the company's total broadband subscribers at somewhere around 120,000, though it's unclear how many of those users had signed up for Google Fiber's symmetrical 5 Mbps tier, which was originally free after users paid a $300 installation fee. Disappointed by sluggish subscriber tallies, The Information report states that last month Alphabet CEO Larry Page ordered Google Fiber boss Craig Barratt to cut the total Google Fiber staff in half to roughly 500 people. That's a claim that's sure to only fuel continued speculation that the company is starting to get cold feet about its attempts to bring broadband competition to a broken duopoly market.
Google

You Can Now Play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe in Google's Search Results (venturebeat.com) 54

Paul Sawers, writing for VentureBeat: Google announced a couple of fun little nuggets today: you can now play Solitaire and Tic-Tac-Toe directly in Google's search results. Available through the desktop and Google mobile apps, anyone searching for the keywords "solitaire" or "tic-tac-toe" will see the usual search results, but featured prominently alongside them you'll also now see a "tap to play" option which whisks you off to play the game. Google is no stranger to hiding so-called "easter eggs" in its products, including Search -- for example, last year it had a surprise in store to mark the anniversary of Super Mario. Moreover, Google already lets you play some games within Search, including Pacman.
Social Networks

YouTube Plans To Bring Photos, Polls, and Text To Its Video Service (venturebeat.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: YouTube is developing a feature internally called Backstage where users can share photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos with their subscribers. Backstage is expected to launch by the end of the year, possibly this fall, on mobile and desktop, initially with select popular YouTube accounts and with limited features, VentureBeat has learned. Akin to a Facebook Timeline or Twitter profile, Backstage will live alongside the Home and Videos tabs within individual YouTube channels. Posts shared to Backstage will appear in reverse chronological order, and, crucially, will also appear in subscribers' feeds and notifications, making them highly visible to fans. While Backstage is expected to introduce entirely new types of content to YouTube, including tweet-like text posts and topical polls, it also presents new opportunities for video sharing. Backstage will eventually enable users to share both traditional YouTube videos and Backstage-only videos, possibly creating an opportunity for more intimate, or even ephemeral, video sharing between YouTubers and their fans.
Transportation

Self-Driving Cars Aren't Going To Be So Great Until We Make Our Maps Better (theverge.com) 146

Uber is debuting its self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this month, a move that has many taxi drivers upset. The Verge's Nilay Patel argues that this move should change the way we think about maps and addresses. He adds that Uber is currently unable to pinpoint his home, and often ends up at the door of a "widely different address." Citing the CEO of a "large ridesharing company", Patel writes that this issue is known as the "egress problem" -- "the way we locate buildings on a map doesn't really describe how people move in and out of those buildings." Though there are workarounds and inventive ways to pinpoint your exact address, Patel argues that when we grow reliant on self-driving cars, things will get far more complicated and futile if we don't make our maps and navigation services better. He writes: Driverless cars are one of the ultimate signifiers of the future -- the real Jetsons stuff. And we're so close to making them happen: tons of cars have sophisticated adaptive cruise control that can basically keep you going on the highway, prototypes of true self-driving cars from Google and others are already on the road, and the momentum is only increasing. But maybe we shouldn't hand control of how we get somewhere to the machines until we're entirely sure the robots know where we're going.
Google

Google Search Removes 'Mobile-Friendly' Label, Will Tackle Interstitials Next (venturebeat.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced two updates to mobile search results: an aesthetic one rolling out now and an algorithmic one coming next year. The former consists of removing the "mobile-friendly" label in search results and the latter will punish mobile sites that use interstitials. The goal is to "make finding content easier for users," though as always, the company didn't share exactly how much of an impact users and webmasters can expect. The report adds: "If your site is in the 15 percent group, here's a quick recap. A webpage is considered 'mobile friendly' if it meets the following criteria, as detected in real time by Googlebot: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash; Uses text that is readable without zooming; Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom; Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped. The company now wants to tackle 'intrusive interstitials' as they 'provide a poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.' After January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible when coming from mobile search results 'may not rank as highly.' Interstitials that Google doesn't like include showing a popup that covers the main content (immediately or delayed), displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content, and using a layout where the above-the-fold portion is similar to a standalone interstitial but the original content is inlined underneath. Interstitials that Google deems OK include legal obligations (cookie usage or for age verification), login dialogs on sites where content is not publicly indexable, and banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissible."
Android

Hey Google, Want To Fix Android Updates? Hit OEMs Where It Hurts (arstechnica.com) 188

Yesterday we talked about some of Nexus devices, including 2013's Nexus 5 not receiving an update, because it has been more than two years since the launch of the phone. But as you may know, this commitment to keeping the devices up to date is even worse when you look at what other Android OEMs are doing. ArsTechnica's Ron Amadeo has a solution: Google keeps missing the point when it comes to addressing Android's update situation. It keeps coming up with strategies to make updating "easier" for OEMs, but I don't think the problem is "ease of updating" -- it's creating any incentive for OEMs to update at all. Google seems to think that its partners will update phones because it's The Right Thing To Do by their customers and that handing out gold stars will send them scrambling to produce updates for their devices. I don't think that's ever going to happen. Google actually already tried the "shame" tactic and it didn't work. When Google-owned Motorola, Moto's update speed went through the roof. Motorola was achieving near-Nexus-like update speeds on many of its phones and was definitely putting other manufacturers to shame. But the increased update competition never really spurred other OEMs to start competing on update speeds. The bottom line is that Android partners only care about, well, the bottom line -- money. These companies already have your money, so updating a device that's already been sold is a needless expense. There's also a good argument to be made that updating a device hurts future sales. If your phone isn't updated, it will start to feel old, so you're more likely to buy a new phone sooner.
Microsoft

Microsoft Apps Will Be Pre-loaded On Lenovo and Motorola Android Devices (betanews.com) 76

An anonymous reader writes: There was a time when Microsoft was seen as the enemy of Linux and Apple communities. Understandably, at the time, the company only wanted Windows to succeed. Nowadays, however, the operating system is sort of inconsequential. Microsoft seems happy to have its software succeed on 'competitor' platforms such as iOS, Android, macOS, Ubuntu and more. Today, Microsoft announces that it has partnered with Lenovo on a new mobile initiative. The Windows-maker's productivity apps will be pre-loaded on Lenovo and Motorola-branded devices running Google's Linux-based Android operating system.As of earlier this year, Microsoft had over 74 Android OEM partners. As for submitter's take on this, it's pretty simple. Microsoft is going where users are. If they are not going to purchase Windows Phones, Microsoft will go to Android and iOS.
Operating Systems

Linux Turns 25, Is Bigger and More Professional Than Ever (arstechnica.com) 309

The Linux operating system kernel is 25 years old this month, ArsTechnica writes. It was August 25, 1991 when Linus Torvalds posted his famous message announcing the project, claiming that Linux was "just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu." From the article: But now, Linux is far bigger and more professional than Torvalds could have imagined. Linux powers huge portions of the Internet's infrastructure, corporate data centers, websites, stock exchanges, the world's most widely used smartphone operating system, and nearly all of the world's fastest supercomputers. The successes easily outweigh Linux's failure to unseat Microsoft and Apple on PCs, but Linux has still managed to get on tens of millions of desktops and laptops and Linux software even runs on Windows.Do you use any Linux-based operating system? Share your experience with it. What changes would you want to see in it in the next five years?
Android

Google Begins Rolling Out Android 7.0 Nougat (venturebeat.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: Google today started rolling out Android 7.0 Nougat to existing Nexus devices via an over-the-air software update. This is a gradual rollout: The Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus 9, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and General Mobile 4G (Android One) will all be updated, but " it may take several weeks" before everyone gets the latest and greatest, a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.The Nexus 5 (2013), which packs in a Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with 2GB of RAM and 5-inch full-HD display, won't be receiving Android Nougat update -- despite having all the hardware capabilities required for a phone to receive Google's latest OS update. The truth of the matter is if Google wanted to update the Nexus 5 with the latest Android software, it could have. It just chose not to. It's very likely that same will be the case for the Nexus 6, a phone that has 3GB of RAM, and Snapdragon 805 SoC, next year when the company releases Android O update.
Google

Fake Google Salesmen Are Actually SEO Telemarketers (vortex.com) 105

Long-time Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: It seems like almost every day I get junk solicitation phone calls "from Google." They call about my Google business local listings, about my not being on the first page of Google search results, and so on -- and they want me to pay them to "fix" this stuff. When I look up the Caller ID numbers they use, I often finds pages of people claiming they're Google phone numbers. Sometimes the Caller ID display actually says Google!

Is Google really doing this? Negative. NONE of these calls are from Google. Zero. Zilch. Nada. These callers are inevitably "SEO"; (Search Engine Optimization) scammers of one sort or another. They make millions of "cold calls" to businesses using public phone listings (from the Web or other sources) or using phone number lists purchased from brokers. If you ever actually deal with them, you'll find that their services typically range from useless to dangerous.

Crime

Want To Hunt Bank Robbers? There's an App For That, Says The FBI (networkworld.com) 67

Long-time Slashdot reader coondoggie quotes an article from Network World: The FBI today said it released a new application making it easier for the public -- as well as financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and others -- to view photos and information about bank robberies in different geographic areas of the country.
The FBI's new "Bank Robbers" application runs on both Android and iOS, according to the article, "and lets users sort bank robberies by the date they occurred, the category they fall under (i.e., armed serial bank robber), the FBI field office working the case, or the state where the robbery occurred." The app ties into BankRobbers.fbi.gov, which overlays FBI information about bank robberies onto Google Maps.

The app's users "can also select push notifications to be informed when a bank robbery has taken place near their location," according to the FBI's site, which adds innocently that "If the location services on your device are enabled, you can view a map that shows the relevant bank robberies that took place in your geographic area..."
Oracle

Oracle Is Funding a New Anti-Google Group (fortune.com) 155

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Fortune: Oracle says it is funding a new non-profit called "Campaign for Accountability," which consists of a campaign called "The Google Transparency Project" that claims to expose criminal behavior carried out by Google. "Oracle is absolutely a contributor (one of many) to the Transparency Project. This is important information for the public to know. It is 100 percent public records and accurate," said Ken Glueck, Senior Vice President of Oracle. Fortune reports: "Oracle's hidden hand is not a huge surprise since the company has a history of sneaky PR tactics, and is still embroiled in a bitter intellectual property lawsuit with Google." One would think Microsoft may be another contributor, but the company said it is not. Daniel Stevens, the deputy director of the CfA, declined to name the group's other donors, or to explain why it does not disclose its funders. Why does this matter? "When wealthy companies or individuals pose as a grass-roots group like the so-called 'campaign for accountability' project, [it] can confuse news and public relations, and foster public cynicism," writes Jeff John Roberts via Fortune.
Chrome

Google Will Kill Chrome Apps For Windows, Mac, and Linux In Early 2018 (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced plans to kill off Chrome apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2018. Chrome extensions and themes will not be affected, while Chrome apps will continue to live on in Chrome OS. Here's the deprecation timeline:

Late 2016: Newly published Chrome apps will not be available to Windows, Mac, and Linux users (when developers submit apps to the Chrome Web Store, they will only show up for Chrome OS). Existing Chrome apps will remain available as they are today and developers can continue to update them.
Second half of 2017: The Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Early 2018: Chrome apps will not load on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
There appears to be two main reasons why Google is killing Chrome apps off now. First, as Google explains in a blog post: "For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn't provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap. Since then, we've worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers." Secondly, Chrome apps aren't very popular: "Today, approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux will therefore be removing support for packaged and hosted apps over the next two years."
Chrome

Google Restores Backspace Functionality To Chrome With an Add-on (betanews.com) 141

In May, Google upset many users when it announced it was going to stop the backspace button from also functioning as the back button. If you're among the ones who felt let down by company's decision, there is something you can do about it now. Alan Buckingham, writing for BetaNews: If you don't want to go to the effort of moving your mouse pointer to the back arrow at the left of the address bar to go back to the previous site, you can now install the new Go Back With Backspace add-on. The official description reads, "Go back with the backspace button! This extension re-enables the backspace key as a back navigation button -- except if you're writing text". The reason given for all of this, according to Google, is "many people lost their progress while working online by accidentally pressing backspace and leaving a page -- so we removed the feature from Chrome, and created this extension for those who prefer the old behavior".
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.
AT&T

AT&T, Apple, Google To Work On 'Robocall' Crackdown (reuters.com) 110

Last month the FCC had pressed major U.S. phone companies to take immediate steps to develop technology that blocks unwanted automated calls available to consumers at no charge. It had demanded the concerned companies to come up with a "concrete, actionable" plan within 30 days. Well, the companies have complied. On Friday, 30 major technology companies announced they are joining the U.S. government to crack down on automated, pre-recorded telephone calls that regulators have labeled as "scourge." Reuters adds: AT&T, Alphabet, Apple, Verizon Communications and Comcast are among the members of the "Robocall Strike Force," which will work with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The strike force will report to the commission by Oct. 19 on "concrete plans to accelerate the development and adoption of new tools and solutions," said AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, who is chairing the group. The group hopes to put in place Caller ID verification standards that would help block calls from spoofed phone numbers and to consider a "Do Not Originate" list that would block spoofers from impersonating specific phone numbers from governments, banks or others.
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Android

iOS and Android Combined For Record 99% of Smartphone Sales Last Quarter (macrumors.com) 189

An anonymous reader writes: The research firm Gartner has crunched some numbers and found that Android and iOS accounted for a record 99.1% worldwide market share in the second calendar quarter of 2016, which is compared to 96.8% in the year-ago period. What some may view as even more shocking is that Android accounted for 86.2% of the market share in the second quarter, up from 82.2% a year ago. Meanwhile, iOS lost some ground as it dropped to 12.9% market share from 14.6% in the year-ago period. It's no surprise that Windows and BlackBerry have been losing market share. They dropped to 0.6% and 0.1% market share worldwide respectively. Just six years ago, BlackBerry and Symbian operating systems were industry leaders. Now, they're industry losers. Which third-party operating system has what it takes to take on the establishment?

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