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United Kingdom

'No Turning Back' on Brexit as Article 50 Triggered (bbc.com) 126

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Britain's departure from the European Union is "an historic moment from which there can be no turning back," Theresa May has told MPs. The prime minister said it was a "unique opportunity" to "shape a brighter future" for the UK. She was speaking after Britain's EU ambassador formally triggered the two year countdown to the UK's exit by handing over a letter in Brussels. It follows June's referendum which resulted in a vote to leave the EU. In a statement in the Commons, the prime minister said: "Today the government acts on the democratic will of the British people and it acts too on the clear and convincing position of this House." She added: "The Article 50 process is now under way and in accordance with the wishes of the British people the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union."
Android

What Killed Adobe Flash? (daringfireball.net) 127

An employee, who claims to have worked on the development of Flash, writes: Apparently, the world settled on the "One True Cause" for why Flash "died". Take for example this blogpost by John Gruber about FedEx... it ends with this consideration on Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash": "If it had been an angry rant, it would have been easily dismissed without needing to be factually refuted -- "That's just Jobs being a prick again." The fact that it wasn't angry, and because it was all true, made it impossible to refute."

Impossible to refute. There's no doubt that this was the beginning of the end for Flash, right? Except that this is utterly wrong. I worked on Flash, and I worked on the thing that actually killed Flash. It is my strong belief, based on what I observed, that Steve Jobs' letter had little impact in the final decision -- it was really Adobe who decided to "kill" Flash. Yes, Flash was a bad rap for Adobe, and Steve's letter didn't help. But ultimately, what was probably decisive was the fact that developing Flash cost Adobe a ton of money.
John Gruber, responding to the blogpost: To be clear, I don't think Jobs's letter killed Flash. But I don't think Adobe did either. Eventually Adobe accepted Flash's demise. What killed Flash was Apple's decision not to support it on iOS, combined with iOS's immense popularity and the lucrative demographics of iOS users. If Jobs had never published "Thoughts on Flash", Flash would still be dead. The letter explained the decision, but the decision that mattered was never to support it on iOS in the first place. It's possible that Flash would have died even if Apple had decided to allow it on iOS. Android tried that, and the results were abysmal. Web page scrolling stuttered, and video playback through Flash Player halved battery life compared to non-Flash playback.
Oracle

Oracle Hires Global Specialists To Explore Feasibility of Buying Accenture 46

Paul Kunert writes in an exclusive report via The Register: Oracle has hired global specialists to explore the feasibility of buying multi-billion dollar consultancy Accenture, sources have told us. The database giant has engaged a team of consultants to conduct due diligence to "explore the synergies that could be created if they [Oracle] bought Accenture lock stock and barrel," one source claimed. On top of the financial considerations, the consultants are evaluating the pros and cons including the potential impact on Oracle's wider channel. "While these things have a habit of fizzling out there are some fairly serious players around the table," a contact added. Another claimed the process was at an early stage. "If buying Accenture was a 100 meter race, Oracle is at the 10 to 15 meter stage now." [T]his buy would be an immensely bold, complicated and pricey move: NYSE-listed Accenture has a market cap of $77.5 billion, and shareholders will expect a premium offer. A deal would dwarf Oracle's $10 billion buy of PeopleSoft, its $7.4 billion deal for Sun Microsystems, and more recently, the $9.3 billion splashed on Netsuite. In buying Accenture, Oracle would be taking a leaf out of the mid-noughties handbook - when HP fatefully bought EDS and IBM acquired PWC to carve out a brighter future.
Australia

World's Largest Dinosaur Footprints Discovered In Western Australia (theguardian.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The largest known dinosaur footprints have been discovered in Western Australia, including 1.7 meter prints left by gigantic herbivores. Until now, the biggest known dinosaur footprint was a 106cm track discovered in the Mongolian desert and reported last year. At the new site, along the Kimberley shoreline in a remote region of Western Australia, paleontologists discovered a rich collection of dinosaur footprints in the sandstone rock, many of which are only visible at low tide. The prints, belonging to about 21 different types of dinosaur, are also thought to be the most diverse collection of prints in the world. Steve Salisbury, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Queensland told ABC News: "We've got several tracks up in that area that are about 1.7 meters long. So most people would be able to fit inside tracks that big, and they indicate animals that are probably around 5.3 to 5.5 meters at the hip, which is enormous." "It is extremely significant, forming the primary record of non-avian dinosaurs in the western half the continent and providing the only glimpse of Australia's dinosaur fauna during the first half of the early Cretaceous period," he said. The findings were reported in the Memoir of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. The largest tracks belonged to sauropods, huge Diplodocus-like herbivores with long necks and tails. The scientists also discovered tracks from about four different types of ornithopod dinosaurs (two-legged herbivores) and six types of armored dinosaurs, including Stegosaurs, which had not previously been seen in Australia. At the time the prints were left, 130m years ago, the area was a large river delta and dinosaurs would have traversed wet sandy areas between surrounding forests.
NASA

NASA Launches Massive Digital Library For Space Video, Photos and Audio (space.com) 46

earlytime quotes a report from Space.com: NASA on Tuesday (March 28) unveiled a new online library that assembles the agency's amazing space photos, videos and audio files into a single searchable library. The NASA Image and Video Library, as the agency calls it, can be found at http://images.nasa.gov/ and consolidates space imagery from 60 different collections into one location. The new database allows users to embed NASA imagery in websites, includes image metadata like date, description and keywords, and offers multiple resolution sizes, NASA officials said. According to the NASA statement, other features include: Automatic scaling to suite the interface for mobile phones and tablets; EXIF/camera data that includes exposure, lens used and other information (when available from the original image); Easy public access to high resolution files; Downloadable caption files for all videos. The new NASA archive is not meant to be a complete archive of all of the space agency imagery. But it does aim to showcase what the space agency has to offer.
Businesses

Bay Area Tech Executives Indicted For H-1B Visa Fraud (mercurynews.com) 220

New submitter s.petry quotes a report from The Mercury News: Two Bay Area tech executives are accused of filing false visa documents through a staffing agency in a scheme to illegally bring a pool of foreign tech workers into the United States. An indictment from a federal grand jury unsealed on Friday accuses Jayavel Murugan, Dynasoft Synergy's chief executive officer, and a 40-year-old Santa Clara man, Syed Nawaz, of fraudulently submitting H-1B applications in an effort to illegally obtain visas, according to Brian Stretch, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. The men are charged with 26 counts of visa fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to prosecutors. Each charge can carry penalties of between two and 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say the men used fraudulent documents to bring workers into the U.S. and create a pool of H-1B workers to hire out to tech companies. The indictment charges that from 2010 to 2016, Dynasoft petitioned to place workers at Stanford University, Cisco and Brocade, but the employers had no intention of receiving the foreign workers named on the applications. Nawaz submitted fake "end-client letters" to the government, falsely claiming the workers were on-site and performing jobs, according to the indictment.

Slashdot reader s.petry adds: "While not the only problem with the H-1B Visa program, this is a start at investigating and hopefully correcting problems."

Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Lies Programmers Tell Themselves? 436

snydeq writes: "Confidence in our power over machines also makes us guilty of hoping to bend reality to our code," writes Peter Wayner, in a discussion of nine lies programmers tell themselves about their code. "Of course, many problems stem from assumptions we programmers make that simply aren't correct. They're usually sort of true some of the time, but that's not the same as being true all of the time. As Mark Twain supposedly said, 'It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.'" The nine lies Wayner mentions in his discussion include: "Questions have one answer," "Null is acceptable," "Human relationships can be codified," "'Unicode' stands for universal communication," "Numbers are accurate," "Human language is consistent," "Time is consistent," "Files are consistent," and "We're in control." Can you think of any other lies programmers tell themselves?
Google

Google Launches New Website To Showcase Its Open Source Projects and Processes (betanews.com) 33

BrianFagioli writes: Google is an essential member of the open source community. The search giant contributes some really great projects, offering code to be used many -- it claims more than 2,000 such contributions! Heck, the company even hosts the annual Summer of Code program, where it pairs students with open source projects teams. In other words, Google is helping to get young folks excited about open source. Today, Google announced that it is launching an all-new website to focus on open source. It is not a general open source site, but a destination to learn more about the search-giant's relationship with it. "Today, we're launching opensource.google.com, a new website for Google Open Source that ties together all of our initiatives with information on how we use, release, and support open source. This new site showcases the breadth and depth of our love for open source. It will contain the expected things: our programs, organizations we support, and a comprehensive list of open source projects we've released. But it also contains something unexpected: a look under the hood at how we 'do' open source," says Will Norris, Open Source Programs Office, Google.
Privacy

US Congress Votes To Shred ISP Privacy Rules (theregister.co.uk) 449

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The U.S. House of Representatives has just approved a "congressional disapproval" vote of privacy rules, which gives your ISP the right to sell your internet history to the highest bidder. The measure passed by 232 votes to 184 along party lines, with one Democrat voting in favor and 14 not voting. This follows the same vote in the Senate last week. Just prior to the vote, a White House spokesman said the president supported the bill, meaning that the decision will soon become law. This approval means that whoever you pay to provide you with internet access -- Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, etc -- will be able to sell everything they know about your use of the internet to third parties without requiring your approval and without even informing you. That information can be used to build a very detailed picture of who you are: what your political and sexual leanings are; whether you have kids; when you are at home; whether you have any medical conditions; and so on -- a thousand different data points that, if they have sufficient value to companies willing to pay for them, will soon be traded without your knowledge. With over 100 million households online in the United States, that means Congress has just given Big Cable an annual payday of between $35 billion and $70 billion.
China

Tesla Deal Boosts Chinese Presence in US Auto Tech (reuters.com) 55

From a Reuters report:China's Tencent has bought a 5 percent stake in U.S. electric car maker Tesla for $1.78 billion, the latest investment by a Chinese internet company in the potentially lucrative market for self-driving vehicles and related services. Tencent's investment, revealed in a U.S. regulatory filing, provides Tesla with an additional cash cushion as it prepares to launch its mass-market Model 3. Tesla's shares were up 2.9 percent at $277.03 in midday trading on Tuesday, enabling it to rival Ford as the second-most-valuable U.S. auto company behind General Motors. The deal expands Tencent's presence in an emerging investment sector that includes self-driving electric cars, which could enable such new modes of transportation as automated ride-sharing and delivery services, as well as ancillary services ranging from infotainment to e-commerce.
Businesses

The Best and Worst Cities To Live in For Tech Workers, Based on Rent and Commute (qz.com) 247

An anonymous reader shares a report: Most cities with a cluster of tech companies can offer those workers either a short commute or low rents -- but not both, according to a study by property consultancy Savills. Berlin is the exception to that rule. Savills found that the German capital offers tech workers some of the lowest rents and among the shortest commutes of 22 cities it surveyed. Commuting is a hugely important factor for worker satisfaction. One study, by the UK's Office of National Statistics, found that each additional minute of commuting increased workers' anxiety and reduced their satisfaction with life. Based on how long it takes to get to work.
The five best cities are: Austin (16 mins), Melbourne, Stockholm, Berlin, and Tokyo (24 mins).
Five worst cities: Bengaluru (47 mins), Hong Kong, Seattle, Seoul, and Toronto (40 mins).

Based on how much tech workers pay in rent (per week).
Best cities: Seoul ($153), Santiago, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Cape Town ($192).
Five worst cities: San Francisco (with $775.45), New York, Boston, London, and Singapore ($488.16).
Businesses

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs (nytimes.com) 358

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they've declared a different winner: the robots. From a report on the New York Times: The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots. The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts. From a report on The Verge, which looks at another finding in the study: They found that each new robot added to the workforce meant the loss of between 3 and 5.6 jobs in the local commuting area. Meanwhile, for each new robot added per 1,000 workers, wages in the surrounding area would fall between 0.25 and 0.5 percent.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Jumps Into Call-Center Market With New 'Amazon Connect' Service (geekwire.com) 19

Amazon Web Services just unveiled a new service for running call centers, dubbed Amazon Connect, leveraging the same technology used by Amazon.com's own customer service system to route and manage calls using automatic speech recognition and artificial intelligence. From a report: The announcement is the latest move by the cloud giant beyond its core infrastructure technologies and into higher-level cloud services. Amazon says the service incorporates its Lex technology, an artificial intelligence service for speech recognition and natural language processing, which also powers the company's Alexa virtual assistant. The company says Amazon Connect works with existing AWS services such as DynamoDB, Amazon Redshift, or Amazon Aurora, as well as third-party CRM and analytics services. Salesforce says it's integrating its Service Cloud Einstein with Amazon Connect. It uses a graphical interface to let companies set up a workflow for calls without coding.
Businesses

A Lawsuit Over Costco Golf Balls Shows Why We Can't Have Nice Things For Cheap (qz.com) 249

Ephrat Livni, writing for Quartz: Unless you're a golfer, you probably don't think about golf balls. But a new US lawsuit about these little-dimpled spheres has an economics lesson for all shoppers, showing why consumers have cause for concern when companies use court for sport. Costco, the wholesale membership club, rocked the golf world in 2016 when it started selling its Kirkland Signature (KS) golf balls at about $15 per dozen, a quarter to a third the price of popular top-ranked balls. Industry insiders called it a "miracle golf ball" for its great performance and low cost, and Costco sold out immediately. It's planning to release more in April. In response to the bargain ball's reception, however, Acushnet -- which makes the popular Titleist balls -- sent the membership club a threatening letter. It accused Costco of infringing on 11 patents and engaging in false advertising for claiming that KS balls meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.
Education

'Brainstorming Doesn't Work' (fastcompany.com) 84

People aren't necessarily more creative in groups than alone, or vice versa, according to numerous studies. An anonymous reader shares an article: In fact, creativity needs both conditions; our performance peaks when we alternate -- first working alone, then coming together to share our ideas, then going off by ourselves again to mull over what we heard. It's a process. This is because our brains' creative engines are fueled both by quiet mind-wandering, allowing novel and unexpected connections to form, and by encountering new information, which often comes from other people. The typical brainstorm over-delivers on the latter and under-delivers on the former, which means that for lots of people, brainstorming is an utter nightmare. Introverts just feel alienated, and extroverts aren't pushed to reflect more deeply on the ideas they've batted around amongst themselves.
Transportation

Dutch Scientist Proposes Circular Runways For Airport Efficiency (curbed.com) 318

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: While airport terminal architecture has a solid history of style and innovation, rarely is a proposal put forth to utterly redesign the runway. But that's precisely the aim of Henk Hesselink, a Dutch scientist working with the Netherlands Aerospace Center. Dubbed the "endless runway," Hesselink's brainchild is a 360-degree landing strip measuring more than two miles in diameter. Since airplanes would be able to approach and take off from any direction around the proposed circle, they wouldn't have to fight against crosswinds. And three planes would be able to take off or land at the same time. Hesselink's team uses flight simulators and computerized calculations to test the unconventional design, and have determined that round airports would be more efficient than existing layouts. With a central terminal, the airport would only use about a third of the land of the typical airport with the same airplane capacity. And there's an added benefit to those living near airports: Flight paths could be more distributed, and thereby making plane noise more tolerable. BBC produced a video detailing Hesselink's circular runway concept. The concept is fascinating but there are many questions the video does not answer. Phil Derner Jr. from NYC Aviation writes via Business Insider about some of those unanswered questions in his article titled "Why the circular runway concept wouldn't work." The fundamental issues discussed in his report include banked runway issues, curved runway issues, navigation issues, and airspace issues. What do you think of Hesselink's concept? Do you think it is preposterous or shows promise?
Businesses

GameStop To Close At Least 150 Stores Due To Poor Q4 Sales (nintendowire.com) 118

GameStop announced last week that it will be closing more than 150 of its stores globally due to "weak sales of certain AAA titles and aggressive console promotions by other retailers." The chain also mentioned it "anticipates that it will close between two percent to three percent of its global store footprint" in 2017. Nintendo Wire reports: The Q4 window is often the high point of video game sales, yet despite the launch of new hardware in the PlayStation 4 Pro and a few major releases, it wasn't enough in the company's eyes. Despite this, GameStop still plans on opening 100 stores in 2017 which will likely focus more on non-gaming business, such as the Spring Mobile brand and vinyl collectibles. GameStop CEO Paul Raines said in a statement: "The video game category was weak, particularly in the back half of 2016, as the console cycle ages. Looking at 2017, Technology Brands and Collectibles are expected to generate another year of strong growth, and new hardware innovation in the video game category looks promising." You can view GameStop's 2016 earnings report here.
NASA

NASA Spends 72 Cents of Every SLS Dollar On Overhead Costs, Says Report (arstechnica.com) 162

A new report published by the nonpartisan think tank Center for a New American Security shows us where a lot of NASA's money is being spent. The space agency has reportedly spent $19 billion on rockets -- first on Ares I and V, and now on the Space Launch System rocket -- and $13.9 billion on the Orion spacecraft. If all goes according to plan and NASA is able to fly its first crewed mission with the new vehicles in 2021, "the report estimates the agency will have spent $43 billion before that first flight, essentially a reprise of the Apollo 8 mission around the Moon," reports Ars Technica. "Just the development effort for SLS and Orion, which includes none of the expenses related to in-space activities or landing anywhere, are already nearly half that of the Apollo program." From the report: The new report argues that, given these high costs, NASA should turn over the construction of rockets and spacecraft to the private sector. It buttresses this argument with a remarkable claim about the "overhead" costs associated with the NASA-led programs. These costs entail the administration, management, and development costs paid directly to the space agency -- rather than funds spend on contractors actually building the space hardware. For Orion, according to the report, approximately 56 percent of the program's cost, has gone to NASA instead of the main contractor, Lockheed Martin, and others. For the SLS rocket and its predecessors, the estimated fraction of NASA-related costs is higher -- 72 percent. This means that only about $7 billion of the rocket's $19 billion has gone to the private sector companies, Boeing, Orbital ATK, Aeroject Rocketdyne, and others cutting metal. By comparison the report also estimates NASA's overhead costs for the commercial cargo and crew programs, in which SpaceX, Boeing, and Orbital ATK are developing and providing cargo and astronaut delivery systems for the International Space Station. With these programs, NASA has ceded some control to the private companies, allowing them to retain ownership of the vehicles and design them with other customers in mind as well. With such fixed-price contracts, the NASA overhead costs for these programs is just 14 percent, the report finds.
Earth

Climate Change Is Altering Global Air Currents (independent.co.uk) 342

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: One of the scientists who demonstrated conclusively that global warming was an unnatural event with the famous "hockey stick" graph is now warning that giant jetstreams which circle the planet are being altered by climate change. Jetstreams are influenced by the difference in temperatures between the Arctic and the equator. But the Arctic has been warming much faster than tropical climates -- the island of Svalbard, for example was 6.5 degrees celsius warmer last year compared to the average between 1961 and 1990. The land has also been warming faster than the sea. Both of those factors were changing the flow of these major air currents to create "extreme meanders" which were helping to cause "extreme weather events", Professor Michael Mann said. In a paper in the journal Scientific Reports, Professor Mann and other researchers wrote that evidence of the effect of climate change on the jetstreams had "only recently emerged from the background noise of natural variability." They said that projections of the effect on the jetstreams in "state-of-the-art" climate models were "mirrored" in "multiple" actual temperature measurements. The jetstream normally flows reasonably consistently around the planet, but can develop loops extending north and south. The researchers, who studied temperature records going back to 1870 as well as satellite data, said these loops could grow "very large" or even "grind to a halt" rather than moving from west to east. The effect has been most pronounced during the past 40 years, they found.

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