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  • Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million

    Nate the greatest (2261802) writes with news made public Friday that Apple has acquired a little known ebook company called Booklamp, a small Idaho-based ebook startup which is best known for the Book Genome Project. First shown off to the world in 2008, this project was conceived by Booklamp founder and CEO Aaron Stanton as a way of analyzing a book's pacing, dialog, perspective, genre, and other details in order to identify a book's unique DNA. Booklamp has been using the tech to sell various services to publishers, tech companies, and the like, but Booklamps's existing contracts were apparently cancelled earlier this year.

    According to one industry insider the deal happened in April, but Apple managed to keep the news under wraps until just last night. No one knows for sure how Apple will use booklamp but there is speculation that Apple could launch an ebook subscription service similar to the week-old Kindle Unlimited, or they could just use Booklamp to drive ebook recommendations in what some are speculating is the world's second largest ebookstore.

    22 comments | yesterday

  • Greenpeace: Amazon Fire Burns More Coal and Gas Than It Should

    Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The biggest thing that sets the Amazon Fire Phone apart from its Android and Apple competitors probably isn't the clean interface or the unlimited photo storage—it's the dirty power behind it. When Fire users upload their photos and data to Amazon's cloud, they'll be creating a lot more pollution than iPhone owners, Greenpeace says. Apple has made a commitment to running its iCloud on 100 percent clean energy. Amazon, meanwhile, operates the dirtiest servers of any major tech giant that operates its own servers—only 15 percent of its energy comes from clean sources, which is about the default national average." Greenpeace's jaundiced eye is on Amazon more generally; the company's new phone is just an example. Maybe Amazon or some other provider could take a page from some local utilities and let users signal their own preferences with a (surcharged) "clean energy" option.

    269 comments | yesterday

  • Cable Companies: We're Afraid Netflix Will Demand Payment From ISPs

    Dega704 (1454673) writes While the network neutrality debate has focused primarily on whether ISPs should be able to charge companies like Netflix for faster access to consumers, cable companies are now arguing that it's really Netflix who holds the market power to charge them. This argument popped up in comments submitted to the FCC by Time Warner Cable and industry groups that represent cable companies. (National Journal writer Brendan Sasso pointed this out.) The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents many companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter wrote to the FCC:

    "Even if broadband providers had an incentive to degrade their customers' online experience in some circumstances, they have no practical ability to act on such an incentive. Today's Internet ecosystem is dominated by a number of "hyper-giants" with growing power over key aspects of the Internet experience—including Google in search, Netflix and Google (YouTube) in online video, Amazon and eBay in e-commerce, and Facebook in social media. If a broadband provider were to approach one of these hyper-giants and threaten to block or degrade access to its site if it refused to pay a significant fee, such a strategy almost certainly would be self-defeating, in light of the immediately hostile reaction of consumers to such conduct. Indeed, it is more likely that these large edge providers would seek to extract payment from ISPs for delivery of video over last-mile networks."
    Related: an article at Gizmodo explains that it takes surprisingly little hardware to replicate (at least most of) Netflix's current online catalog in a local data center.

    191 comments | 2 days ago

  • Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

    New submitter shirleymarone sends word that investors are becoming impatient with Amazon's willingness to absorb short-term losses for theoretical long-term gains. The company brought in over $19 billion in revenue last quarter, but reported a net loss of $126 million. The company warned of even greater losses this quarter. Amazon officials exude a serene if vague confidence. "We're not trying to optimize for short-term profits," Thomas J. Szkutak, the chief financial officer, said in a conference call. "We're investing on behalf of customers and share owners," he said. "We're fortunate to have these opportunities." But even the analysts, who are generally enthusiastic about the company and its global ambitions, are asking slightly more pointed questions these days. For all these investments, one analyst asked Mr. Szkutak, why are sales not increasing even faster? His answer: Just wait. ... Amazon, which is based in Seattle, long ago transcended its roots as a simple retailer. In recent weeks it introduced Zocalo, a document storage and sharing service that grew out of its fast-growing web services division. It began a program to allow readers to consume as many e-books as they want for a set monthly fee. And it is starting to ship its long-awaited entry in the smartphone sweepstakes. The phone, the result of years of development by thousands of Amazon programmers and designers, is meeting some resistance from reviewers.

    168 comments | 2 days ago

  • Amazon Fire Phone Reviews: Solid But Overly Ambitious

    An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's Fire Phone launches later this week, and the reviews have started to come in. The hardware: "There's nothing terribly special about the Fire Phone's hardware, but there's very little to turn you off either." "The nice-looking IPS display in the Fire Phone gets bright enough for outdoor viewing, and it has nice viewing angles—a necessity for a phone that's meant to be tilted around and looked at from every which way." "An indistinct slab of glass and plastic, the Fire Phone looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product."

    Software: "Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it's incredibly, hilariously inconsistent." "Firefly is the one Fire Phone feature you'll want on any phone you're currently using. Let's hope that it gets enough developer support that it isn't just a link to Amazon's storefronts." "First, and to be absolutely clear, Dynamic Perspective will impress you the first time you see it, and Amazon is pretty good at showing it off. ... But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it." Conclusion: "Smartphones are for work, for life. They're not toys, they're tools. Amazon doesn't understand that, and the Fire Phone doesn't reflect it."

    58 comments | 4 days ago

  • Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

    Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

    290 comments | about a week ago

  • Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is

    An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has been struggling for price control of the book and ebook markets for years, battling publicly and privately with publishers while making a lot of authors nervous. With yesterday's announcement of "Kindle Unlimited," a Netflix-like ebook subscription service, Amazon is reaching their endgame in disrupting the book-selling business. But there are other companies doing the same thing, and an article at TechCrunch makes the case that it's the general market, rather than any company in particular, that's making it harder for authors to earn a living. "Driving the prices lower isn't likely to expand the market of readers, since book prices don't seem to be the deciding factor on whether someone reads a book (time is). But those lower prices directly shrink the incomes of authors, who lack any other means of translating their sales into additional revenue. That's why I don't think the big revolution for writers and other content producers will come from Amazon, but rather from startups like Patreon, which allow producers to build audiences directly and develop their own direct subscription model with their most fervent fans."

    192 comments | about a week ago

  • Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

    An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)

    272 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Microsoft's Missed Opportunities: Memo From 1997

    New submitter gthuang88 (3752041) writes In the 1990s, Microsoft was in position to own the software and devices market. Here is Nathan Myhrvold's previously unpublished 1997 memo on expanding Microsoft Research to tackle problems in software testing, operating systems, artificial intelligence, and applications. Those fields would become crucial in the company's competition with Google, Apple, Amazon, and Oracle. But research didn't do enough to make the company broaden its businesses. While Microsoft Research was originally founded to ensure the company's future, the organization only mapped out some possible futures. And now Microsoft is undergoing the biggest restructuring in its history. At least F# and LINQ saw the light of day.

    161 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Amazon Is Testing a $10-Per-Month Ebook Service

    Nate the greatest (2261802) writes "Details are still scarce but it looks like Amazon is going to be launching a competitor to Scribd and Oyster. Earlier today new pages leaked on the Amazon website which mentioned Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription ebook service. The pages were quickly removed, but not before we got some screenshots. If the screenshots are to be believed Kindle Unlimited is going to offer a catalog of over 600,000 titles for $9.99 a month. The news hasn't been confirmed by Amazon but those pages were seen by a number of authors and bloggers, including indie authors who confirmed that the new service is mentioned in their sales reports."

    87 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FCC Public Comment Period For Net Neutrality Ends Tomorrow, July 15

    samzenpus (5) writes "The deadline for the FCC's public comment period on their proposed net neutrality rule is coming up fast. The final day to let the FCC know what you think is tomorrow, July 15. A total of 647,000 comments have already been sent. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and other tech companies are making a final push for net neutrality saying that the FCC decision, "shifts the balance from the consumers' freedom of choice to the broadband Internet access providers' gatekeeping decisions." The Consumerist has a guide to help you through the comment process, so make sure your voice is heard."

    69 comments | about two weeks ago

  • The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban

    Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

    309 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Amazon Seeks US Exemption To Test Delivery Drones

    angry tapir writes: Amazon.com has asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drones outdoors for use in its Prime Air package delivery service. In the run up to launching the service, which aims to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less, the online retailer is developing aerial vehicles that travel over 50 miles (80 kilometers) per hour, and will carry 5pound (2.3 kilogram) payloads, which account for 86 percent of the products sold on Amazon. They need to ask permission because the FAA specifically banned such behavior last month.

    155 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FTC Files Suit Against Amazon For In-App Purchases

    Charliemopps writes The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against Amazon for illegally billing parents for in-app purchases of digital goods prior to requiring a password for making purchases. "The FTC's complaint, filed Thursday, asks the court to force Amazon to refund the money to those customers. In-app purchases typically involve virtual goods bought within an app, like extra coins or energy in a game, according to the FTC. Some bills totaled hundreds of dollars, and some virtual goods cost as much as $99.99." We recently told you about Amazon's refusal to reach a settlement over these FTC complaints.

    47 comments | about two weeks ago

  • On the Significance of Google's New Cardboard (Video)

    On June 29, 2014, Timothy started a Slashdot post with these words: 'Last week at Google I/O, the company introduced Cardboard, its cheap-and-cheerful (it's made of cardboard, after all) approach to nearly instant VR viewing.' Several commenters noted that Viewmaster has been doing something similar for over 70 years; that you can get a slicker 3-D adapter for your smartphone from Durovis, with the Vrizzmo VR Goggles and vrAse coming soon; and that you can buy an iPhone/iPod Touch-only 3-D viewer for about $8 (at the time this was typed), which is a whole lot less than the price of most third-party Cardboard kits that are getting ready to hit the market. || The Google person behind The Cardboard is VP Clay Bavor, whose day job is overseeing Google apps. Clay says you are welcome to make your own Cardboard from scratch instead of buying one (or a kit) from someone else, and of course you can write all the software for it you like. || You may (or may not) remember that Timothy ended that June 29 post about Cardboard with a promise that before long we'd have 'a video introduction to Cardboard with Google VP Clay Bavor.' So here it is, as promised. (Alternate Video Link)

    35 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Book Review: Data-Driven Security: Analysis, Visualization and Dashboards

    benrothke writes There is a not so fine line between data dashboards and other information displays that provide pretty but otherwise useless and unactionable information; and those that provide effective answers to key questions. Data-Driven Security: Analysis, Visualization and Dashboards is all about the later. In this extremely valuable book, authors Jay Jacobs and Bob Rudis show you how to find security patterns in your data logs and extract enough information from it to create effective information security countermeasures. By using data correctly and truly understanding what that data means, the authors show how you can achieve much greater levels of security. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.

    26 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Amazon Fighting FTC Over In-App Purchases Fine

    An anonymous reader writes One of the common problems of the smartphone generation has been parents who given their phones to children, who then rack up hundreds of dollars of in-app purchases without the parents' knowledge. The FTC smacked Apple with a fine for this, and Google is facing a lawsuit as well. Now, Amazon is the latest target, having received a complaint from the FTC demanding a similar settlement to Apple's. Amazon, however, is not willing to concede the fine; they plan to fight it. Amazon said, "The Commission's unwillingness to depart from the precedent it set with Apple despite our very different facts leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court (PDF). The main claim in the draft complaint is that we failed to get customers' informed consent to in-app charges made by children and did not address that problem quickly or effectively enough in response to customer complaints. We have continually improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want, we refunded those purchases."

    137 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Amazon Sues After Ex-Worker Takes Google Job

    vortex2.71 (802986) writes Amazon is suing a former employee of its cloud services division after he took a similar position at Google. The interesting aspect of the lawsuit is that Google is choosing to vigorously defend the lawsuit, so this is a case of Goliath vs. Goliath rather than David vs. Goliath. According to court documents, Zoltan Szabadi left a business-development position at Amazon Web Services for Google's Cloud Platform division. Szabadi's lawyer responded by contending that, while Szabadi did sign a non-compete agreement, he would only use his general knowledge and skills at Google and would not use any confidential information he had access to at Amazon. He also believes Amazon's confidentiality and non-compete agreements are an unlawful business practice.

    272 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Bug In Fire TV Screensaver Tears Through 250 GB Data Cap

    jfruh (300774) writes Tech writer Tyler Hayes had never come close to hitting the 250 GB monthly bandwidth cap imposed by Cox Cable — until suddenly he was blowing right through it, eating up almost 80 GB a day. Using the Mac network utility little snitch, he eventually tracked down the culprit: a screensaver on his new Kindle Fire TV. A bug in the mosaic screensaver caused downloaded images to remain uncached.

    349 comments | about three weeks ago

  • California Legalizes Bitcoin

    jfruh (300774) writes "California governor Jerry Brown has signed a law repealing Section 107 of California's Corporations Code, which prohibited companies or individuals from issuing money other than U.S. dollars. Before the law was repealed, not only bitcoin but everything from Amazon Coin to Starbucks Stars were techinically illegal; the law was generally not enforced."

    162 comments | about a month ago

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