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The Almighty Buck

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All (theatlantic.com) 18

Thelasko shares an excerpt from a report via The Atlantic, which describes how price discrimination is used in online shopping and how businesses like Amazon try to extract consumer surplus: Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer. We live in the age of the variable airfare, the surge-priced ride, the pay-what-you-want Radiohead album, and other novel price developments. But what was this? Some weird computer glitch? More like a deliberate glitch, it seems. "It's most likely a strategy to get more data and test the right price," Guru Hariharan explained, after I had sketched the pattern on a whiteboard. The right price -- the one that will extract the most profit from consumers' wallets -- has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley. It's also the preoccupation of Boomerang Commerce, a five-year-old start-up founded by Hariharan, an Amazon alum. He says these sorts of price experiments have become a routine part of finding that right price -- and refinding it, because the right price can change by the day or even by the hour. (Amazon says its price changes are not attempts to gather data on customers' spending habits, but rather to give shoppers the lowest price out there.)
The Courts

Uber Gets Sued Over Alleged 'Hell' Program To Track Lyft Drivers (techcrunch.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Uber has another lawsuit on its hands. This time, it's about Uber's alleged use of a program called "Hell." The plaintiff, Michael Gonzales, drove for Lyft during the time Uber allegedly used the software. He's seeking $5 million in a class action lawsuit. As the story goes, Uber allegedly tracked Lyft drivers using a secret software program internally referred to as "Hell." It allegedly let Uber see how many Lyft drivers were available to give rides, and what their prices were. Hell could allegedly also determine if people were driving for both Uber and Lyft. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges Uber broadly invaded the privacy of the Lyft drivers, specifically violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act and Federal Wiretap Act and engaged in unfair competition. Uber has not confirmed nor outright denied the claims.
Businesses

Square Said To Acquire Team From Struggling Social App Yik Yak (bloomberg.com) 9

According to Bloomberg, Square has acquired the engineering team of Yik Yak for "less than $3 million." From the report: The payments processor paid less than $3 million for between five and ten of Yik Yak's engineers, according to the person. Atlanta-based Yik Yak's Chief Executive Officer Tyler Droll will not join Square, the person added, asking not to be identified talking about a private matter. Atlanta-based Yik Yak, which started in 2013, created a smartphone app that allowed people to contribute to anonymous chat groups in a narrow geographical radius -- like college campuses.
Network

Slashdot Asks: Which Wireless Carrier Do You Prefer? 103

Earlier this year, telecommunications giants like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint were battling to see who could release the best unlimited data plan(s). T-Mobile started the domino chain reaction with the launch of its "One" unlimited plan in August. But the competition became especially fierce in February when Verizon introduced unlimited data plans of their own, causing Sprint and AT&T to unveil new unlimited data plans that same week, both of which have their own restrictions and pricing. Each of the four major carriers have since continued to tweak their plans to ultimately undercut their competitors and retain as many customers are possible.

Given how almost everyone has a smartphone these days and the thirst for data has never been higher, we'd like to ask you about your current wireless carrier and plan. Which wireless carrier and plan do you have any why? Is there any one carrier or unlimited data plan that stands out from the others? T-Mobile, for example, recently announced that it added 1.1 million customers in Q1 2017, which means that it has added more than 1 million customers every quarter for the past four years. Have they managed to earn your business?
Operating Systems

NSA's DoublePulsar Kernel Exploit a 'Bloodbath' (threatpost.com) 83

msm1267 quotes a report from Threatpost: A little more than two weeks after the latest ShadowBrokers leak of NSA hacking tools, experts are certain that the DoublePulsar post-exploitation Windows kernel attack will have similar staying power to the Conficker bug, and that pen-testers will be finding servers exposed to the flaws patched in MS17-010 for years to come. MS17-010 was released in March and it closes a number of holes in Windows SMB Server exploited by the NSA. Exploits such as EternalBlue, EternalChampion, EternalSynergy and EternalRomance that are part of the Fuzzbunch exploit platform all drop DoublePulsar onto compromised hosts. DoublePulsar is a sophisticated memory-based kernel payload that hooks onto x86 and 64-bit systems and allows an attacker to execute any raw shellcode payload they wish. "This is a full ring0 payload that gives you full control over the system and you can do what you want to it," said Sean Dillon, senior security analyst at RiskSense. Dillon was the first to reverse-engineer a DoublePulsar payload, and published his analysis last Friday. "This is going to be on networks for years to come. The last major vulnerability of this class was MS08-067, and it's still found in a lot of places," Dillon said. "I find it everywhere. This is the most critical Windows patch since that vulnerability." Dan Tentler, founder and CEO of Phobos Group, said internet-net wide scans he's running have found about 3.1 percent of vulnerable machines are already infected (between 62,000 and 65,000 so far), and that percentage is likely to go up as scans continue. "This is easily describable as a bloodbath," Tentler said.
Software

Lyrebird Claims It Can Recreate Anyone's Voice Based On Just a 1 Minute Sample (theverge.com) 56

Artem Tashkinov writes: Today, a Canadian artificial intelligence startup named Lyrebird unveiled its voice imitation deep learning algorithm that can mimic a person's voice and have it read any text with a given emotion, based on the analysis of just a few dozen seconds of audio recording. The website features samples using the recreated voices of Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. A similar technology was created by Adobe around a year ago but it requires over 20 minutes of recorded speech. The company sets to open its APIs to the public, while the computing for the task will be performed in the cloud.
The Internet

Verizon's $70 Gigabit Internet Is Half the Price of Older 750Mbps Tier (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is now selling what it calls "FiOS Gigabit Connection" for $69.99 a month in a change that boosts top broadband speeds and makes lower prices available to many Internet subscribers. Actual bandwidth will be a bit lower than a gigabit per second, with "downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps," Verizon's announcement today said. The gigabit service is available in most of Verizon's FiOS territory, specifically to "over 8 million homes in parts of the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas," Verizon said. Just three months ago, Verizon boosted its top speeds from 500Mbps to 750Mbps. The standalone 750Mbps Internet service cost $150 a month, more than twice the price of the new gigabit tier. Existing customers who bought that 750Mbps plan "will automatically receive FiOS Gigabit Connection and will see their bills lowered," Verizon said. It's not clear whether they will get their price lowered all the way to $70. It's important to note that the $70 price is only available to new customers, and it's a promotional rate that will "increase after promo period." Additionally, Verizon will charge you a $10 per month router charge unless you pay $150 for the Verizon router, plus other taxes and fees.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Nadella Banks On LinkedIn Data To Challenge Salesforce (reuters.com) 27

Microsoft is rolling out upgrades to its sales software that integrates data from LinkedIn, an initiative that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told Reuters was central to the company's long-term strategy for building specialized business software. From the report: The improvements to Dynamics 365, as Microsoft's sales software is called, are a challenge to market leader Salesforce.com and represent the first major product initiative to spring from Microsoft's $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the business-focused social network. The new features will comb through a salesperson's email, calendar and LinkedIn relationships to help gauge how warm their relationship is with a potential customer. The system will recommend ways to save an at-risk deal, like calling in a co-worker who is connected to the potential customer on LinkedIn. [...] The artificial intelligence, or AI, capabilities of the software would be central, Nadella said. "I want to be able to democratize AI so that any customer using these products is able to, in fact, take their own data and load it into AI for themselves," he said. On Monday, LinkedIn said it has surpassed 500 million members globally, one of the first big milestones for the business social network since its acquisition.
Bug

Linux 4.11 Delayed For a Week (theregister.co.uk) 39

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds said over the weekend that v4.11 version of Linux has hit a speed bump in the form of "NVMe power management that apparently causes problems on some machines." The Register adds: "It's not entirely clear what caused the [NVMe] issue (it wasn't just limited to some NVMe hardware, but also particular platforms), but let's test it." Which sounds like a good idea, given that flash memory on the PCIe bus is increasingly mainstream. That problem and "a couple of really annoying" bugs mean that Torvalds has decided to do an eighth release candidate for Linux 4.11. "I did get fixes for the issues that popped up, so I could have released 4.11 as-is," Torvalds wrote, "but it just doesn't feel right."
Businesses

Amazon Might Be Planning To Use Driverless Cars for Delivery (fortune.com) 89

Amazon could be eyeing driverless car technology as a way to get items to people's doors faster, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal. From an article: It seems nearly every tech and auto giant are now evaluating autonomous vehicle technology. Google-owner Alphabet recently spun out its self-driving car unit, Waymo, into its own subsidiary. Apple was just granted a license in California to test autonomous vehicles. Ford and General Motors are also doubling down on creating autonomous vehicles. Amazon's ambitions, however, may not be to actually build these cars. Instead, the e-commerce giant has a team of around a dozen employees thinking of ways to potentially use the nascent technology to expand its own retail and logistics operations. Operating fleets of driverless trucks to ship items bought from its marketplace could help lower costs for the company.
The Internet

The Linux Foundation Launches IoT-focused Open Source EdgeX Foundry (betanews.com) 28

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Today, The Linux Foundation launches the open source EdgeX Foundry -- an attempt to unify and simplify the Internet of Things. The Linux Foundation says, "EdgeX Foundry is unifying the marketplace around a common open framework and building an ecosystem of companies offering interoperable plug-and-play components. Designed to run on any hardware or operating system and with any combination of application environments, EdgeX can quickly and easily deliver interoperability between connected devices, applications, and services, across a wide range of use cases. Interoperability between community-developed software will be maintained through a certification program."
Social Networks

Some of the Biggest Economies Aren't a Big User Of Social Media (axios.com) 67

From a report: Only 37 percent of Germans use social media, according to a new Pew survey, a surprising figure given the fact that Germany is the world's fourth-largest economy by GDP, according to the World Economic Forum. Similar patterns follow for Japan, France and Italy, ranked 3rd, 6th and 8th in largest economy by GDP.
Transportation

No Longer a Dream: Silicon Valley Takes On the Flying Car (theverge.com) 142

Last year, Bloomberg reported that Google co-founder Larry Page had put money in two "flying car" companies. One of those companies, Kitty Hawk, has published the first video of its prototype aircraft. From a report on The Verge: The company describes the Kitty Hawk Flyer as an "all-electric aircraft" that is designed to operate over water and doesn't require a pilot's license to fly. Kitty Hawk promises people will be able to learn to fly the Flyer "in minutes." A consumer version will be available by the end of this year, the company says. The video is part commercial and part test footage, starting with a lakeside conversation between friends about using the Flyer to meet up before switching to what The New York Times says are shots of an aerospace engineer operating the craft in Northern California.
AI

Billionaire Jack Ma Says CEOs Could Be Robots in 30 Years, Warns of Decades of 'Pain' From AI (cnbc.com) 236

Self-made billionaire, Alibaba chairman Jack Ma warned on Monday that society could see decades of pain thanks to disruption caused by the internet and new technologies to different areas of the economy. From a report: In a speech at a China Entrepreneur Club event, the billionaire urged governments to bring in education reform and outlined how humans need to work with machines. "In the coming 30 years, the world's pain will be much more than happiness, because there are many more problems that we have come across," Ma said in Chinese, speaking about potential job disruptions caused by technology. [...] Ma also spoke about the rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and said that this technology will be needed to process the large amount of data being generated today, something that a human brain can't do. But machines shouldn't replace what humans can do, Ma said, but instead the technology community needs to look at making machines do what humans cannot. This would make the machine a "human partner" rather than an opponent.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 152

Many Slashdot readers know Bryan Lunduke as the creator of the humorous "Linux Sucks" presentations at the annual Southern California Linux Exposition. He's now also a member of the OpenSUSE project board and an all-around open source guy. (In September, he released every one of his books, videos and comics under a Creative Commons license, while his Patreon page offers a tip jar and premiums for monthly patrons). But now he's also got a new "daily computing/nerd show" on YouTube, and last week -- using nothing but free software -- he interviewed the 64-year-old founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. "We talk about everything from the W3C's stance on DRM to opinions on the movie Galaxy Quest," Lunduke explains in the show's notes.

Click through to read some of the highlights.
Social Networks

Is Social Media Making Us Hate Each Other? (bostonglobe.com) 278

Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader reports on Carr's newest warning: It seems obvious: The more we learn about other people, the more we'll come to like them. The assumption underpins our deep-seated belief that communication networks, from the telephone system to Facebook, will help create social harmony. But what if the opposite is true? In a Boston Globe article, Nicholas Carr presents evidence showing that as we get more information about other people, we tend to like them less, not more. Through a phenomenon called "dissimilarity cascades," we place greater stress on personal and cultural differences than on similarities, and the bias strengthens as information accumulates. "Proximity makes differences stand out," he writes. The phenomenon intensifies online, where people are rewarded for sharing endless information about themselves. What the research indicates, warns Carr, is that the spread of social media is more likely to create social strife than social harmony.
The article concludes by opposing the idea that "If we get the engineering right, our better angels will triumph. It's a pleasant thought, but it's a fantasy... Technology is an amplifier. It magnifies our best traits, and it magnifies our worst. What it doesn't do is make us better people. That's a job we can't offload on machines."
Businesses

Uber Tried To Hide Its Secret IPhone Fingerprinting From Apple (cnbc.com) 109

theodp quotes today's New York Times profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick: For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple's engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had secretly been tracking iPhones even after its app had been deleted from the devices, violating Apple's privacy guidelines.
Uber told TechCrunch this afternoon that it still uses a form of this device fingerprinting, saying they need a way to identify those devices which committed fraud in the past -- especially in China, where Uber drivers used stolen iPhones to request dozens of rides from themselves to increase their pay rate. It's been modified to comply with Apple's rules, and "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app..." an Uber spokesperson said. "Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."

The article offers a longer biography of Kalanick, who dropped out of UCLA in 1998 to start a peer-to-peer music-sharing service named Scour. (The service eventually declared bankruptcy after being sued for $250 billion for alleged copyright infringement.) Desperately trying to save his next company, Kalanick "took the tax dollars from employee paychecks -- which are supposed to be withheld and sent to the Internal Revenue Service," according to the Times, "and reinvested the money into the start-up, even as friends and advisers warned him the action was potentially illegal." The money eventually reached the IRS as he "staved off bankruptcy for a second time by raising another round of funding." But the article ultimately argues that Kalanick's drive to win in life "has led to a pattern of risk-taking that has put his ride-hailing company on the brink of implosion."
Social Networks

Startup Still Working On 'Immortal Avatars' That Will Live Forever (cnet.com) 88

Startup Eternime, founded by MIT fellow Marius Ursache, is still working on "immortal avatars" that, after your death, will continue interacting with your loves ones from beyond the grave. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Give Eternime access to your social media profiles and the startup's algorithms will scrape your posts and interactions to build a profile... The algorithms will study your memories and mannerisms. They'll learn how to be "you"... Eternime was announced in 2014 after Ursache developed the idea during the MIT Entrepreneurship Development Program. He wasn't entirely sure if he should develop the project further and wanted to get a sense of public reaction.

In the first four days, 3,000 people signed up at Eterni.me, the company's website, for a private beta. Then, Urasche received an email from a man dying of terminal cancer. "Eternime, he wrote, was the last chance to leave something behind for friends and family," Urasche told me. "That was the moment I decided that this was something worth dedicating my life to"... Since 2014, the Eternime website has largely been silent, although it continues to take names of people who want to test the service. Ursache says the Eternime team has been refining the product over the last two years, testing features, figuring out what will work and what won't.

"The private beta test is ongoing," according to the article, "and Ursache says the feedback has been positive." But unfortunately, the service still isn't operational yet.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 95

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
The Internet

Should Archive.org Ignore Robots.txt Directives And Cache Everything? (archive.org) 170

Archive.org argues robots.txt files are geared toward search engines, and now plans instead to represent the web "as it really was, and is, from a user's perspective." We have also seen an upsurge of the use of robots.txt files to remove entire domains from search engines when they transition from a live web site into a parked domain, which has historically also removed the entire domain from view in the Wayback Machine... We receive inquiries and complaints on these "disappeared" sites almost daily."
In response, Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes: We can stipulate at the outset that the venerable Internet Archive and its associated systems like Wayback Machine have done a lot of good for many years -- for example by providing chronological archives of websites who have chosen to participate in their efforts. But now, it appears that the Internet Archive has joined the dark side of the Internet, by announcing that they will no longer honor the access control requests of any websites.
He's wondering what will happen when "a flood of other players decide that they must emulate the Internet Archive's dismal reasoning to remain competitive," adding that if sys-admins start blocking spiders with web server configuration directives, other unrelated sites could become "collateral damage."

But BoingBoing is calling it "an excellent decision... a splendid reminder that nothing published on the web is ever meaningfully private, and will always go on your permanent record." So what do Slashdot's readers think? Should Archive.org ignore robots.txt directives and cache everything?

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