Robotics

Bankers Publicly Embracing Robots Are Privately Fearing Job Cuts (bloomberg.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Within the upper echelons of many financial firms, there's a lot of soul searching as executives prepare to roll out a new generation of technology. Publicly, they're upbeat, predicting machines will perform almost all repetitive tasks, freeing humans to focus on more valuable pursuits. Privately, many confide to peers, consultants and sometimes journalists that they're worried about what will happen to their staffs -- and what to tell them. There's also uncertainty. Maybe it's all overblown, executives say, because the tech will be hard to implement and humans will find new roles. Or perhaps it's the beginning of the end for legions of professionals in one of the world's most lucrative fields. Can jobs held by office-dwelling millionaires disappear like those on factory floors? The result, is that employees aren't getting a clear message on what's to come.

For a rosy scenario, look to McKinsey & Co. In July, the consulting firm published a report estimating machines are ready to assume roughly a third of the work now performed by banks' rank and file. The authors framed it as positive: People will have more time to tend to clients, conduct research or brainstorm ideas. So far, it noted, firms at the forefront aren't slashing jobs. At JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the most tech-savvy banks, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon predicted in June that his workforce will more likely grow than shrink over the next 20 years. Technology may displace workers, he's said, but it also creates opportunities. Yet in interviews, about a dozen Wall Street executives and consultants responsible for deploying technologies -- and steeped in their capabilities -- were more bearish on humans. Machines will take over task after task, they said, and banks simply won't need nearly as many people.

Businesses

First Floating Wind Farm Delivers Electricity (arstechnica.com) 22

The world's first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the Scottish grid today. "The 30MW installation, situated 25km (15.5mi) from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, will demonstrate that offshore wind energy can be harvested in deep waters, miles away from land, where installing giant turbines was once impractical or impossible," reports Ars Technica. "At peak capacity, the wind farm will produce enough electricity to power 20,000 Scottish homes." From the report: The installation, called Hywind Scotland, is also interesting because it was built by Statoil, a Norwegian mega-corporation known for offshore oil drilling. Statoil has pursued offshore wind projects in recent years, using the companyâ(TM)s experience building and managing infrastructure in difficult open sea conditions to its advantage. Hywind Scotland began producing power in September, and today it starts delivering electricity to the Scottish grid. Now, all that's left is for Statoil and its partner company Masdar to install a 1MWh lithium-ion battery, charmingly called âoeBatwind,â on shore. Batwind will help the offshore system regulate power delivery and optimize output. After a number of small demonstration projects, the five 6MW turbines are the first commercial turbines to lack a firm attachment to the seafloor. They're held in place using three giant suction anchors, which are commonly used in offshore oil drilling. Essentially, an enormous, empty, upside-down âoebucketâ is placed on the seafloor, and air is sucked out of the bucket, which forces the bucket downward, further into the seafloor sediment. The report mentions a 2013 video that shows how offshore wind farms work.
Books

Amazon E-Book Buyers Receive Payment From Antitrust Lawsuit Settlement (idropnews.com) 23

If you bought a Kindle e-book between April 2010 and May 2012, you might see some Amazon credit coming your way. The company is reportedly distributing funds from an antitrust lawsuit that it levied at Apple in 2013. From a report: Amazon has set up a website listing the available credits, and it has begun sending out emails this morning to U.S. customers who are eligible for a refund. Apple and a handful of book publishers, including Penguin, HarperCollins, Machete Book Group and Macmillan, were found guilty of conspiring to inflate the prices of e-books in order to weaken Amazon's grip on the market. While the book publishers settled out of court, Apple decided to fight the lawsuit and appealed several times. Eventually, it was ordered to pay a total of $450 million in the protracted antitrust case.

Several refunds have already been distributed because of the lawsuit. In fact, the bulk of credits were sent out in 2014 and 2016. The round of credits being sent out today comes from an earmarked $20 million meant to pay states involved in the suit. The Amazon credits have a six-month shelf life and must be spent by April 20, 2018, or they'll expire. In addition the Amazon credits, customers may also be receiving Apple credits that can be used toward iBooks, iTunes and App Store purchases. Apple is currently notifying eligible customers via email.

Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Ways To Get Companies To Actually Focus On Security? 91

New submitter ctilsie242 writes: Many years ago, it was said that we would have a "cyber 9/11," a security event so drastic that it fundamentally would change how companies and people thought about security. However, this has not happened yet (mainly because the bad guys know that this would get organizations to shut their barn doors, stopping the gravy train.) With the perception that security has no financial returns, coupled with the opinion that "nobody can stop the hackers, so why even bother," what can actually be done to get businesses to have an actual focus on security. The only "security" I see is mainly protection from "jailbreaking," so legal owners of a product can't use or upgrade their devices. True security from other attack vectors are all but ignored. In fact, I have seen some development environments where someone doing anything about security would likely get the developer fired because it took time away from coding features dictated by marketing. I've seen environments where all code ran as root or System just because if the developers gave thought to any permission model at all, they would be tossed, and replaced by other developers who didn't care to "waste" their time on stuff like that.

One idea would be something similar to Underwriters Labs, except would grade products, perhaps with expanded standards above the "pass/fail" mark, such as Europe's "Sold Secure," or the "insurance lock" certification (which means that a security device is good enough for insurance companies to insure stuff secured by it.) There are always calls for regulation, but with regulatory capture being at a high point, and previous regulations having few teeth, this may not be a real solution in the U.S. Is our main hope the new data privacy laws being enacted in Europe, China, and Russia, which actually have heavy fines as well as criminal prosecutions (i.e. execs going to jail)? This especially applies to IoT devices where it is in their financial interest to make un-upgradable devices, forcing people to toss their 1.0 lightbulbs and buy 1.0.1 lightbulbs to fix a security issue, as opposed to making them secure in the first place, or having an upgrade mechanism. Is there something that can actually be done about the general disinterest by companies to make secure products, or is this just the way life is now?
The Courts

Tesla Faces Lawsuit For Racial Harassment In Its Factories (mercurynews.com) 102

Three former Tesla factory workers have filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming they were subject to constant racial discrimination and harassment in the electric car company's factories. "The men, who are African-American, claim in a new complaint filed Monday in state court that Tesla supervisors and workers used racial epithets and drew racist graffiti on cardboard boxes," reports The Mercury News. From the report: The new suit is the second by black employees charging Tesla failed to address racial antagonism at its factory. The electric vehicle maker also has a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board over claims it illegally tried to silence workers promoting a union. The complaints come as the Tesla heads into a crucial ramp-up of Model 3 production, its lower-cost electric vehicle. A Tesla spokesman denied the suit's allegations and said the men never raised the complaints to the company during their brief time at the plant. "Given our size, we recognize that unfortunately at times there will be cases of harassment or discrimination in corners of the company," the spokesman said. "From what we know so far, this does not seem to be such a case." The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, claims Owen Diaz and his son, Demetric, were called the N-word while they worked at the Fremont factory, and supervisors did little to stop it. A third man, Lamar Patterson, also claims he was subjected to insensitive racist remarks.
Businesses

"Maybe It's a Piece of Dust" (theoutline.com) 405

An anonymous reader shares a report: I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken -- it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice. "Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem -- a misbehaving keyboard -- Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?"
Businesses

Amazon's Next Big Bet is Letting You Communicate Without a Smartphone, Says Alexa's Chief Scientist (cnbc.com) 136

An anonymous reader shares a report: The next big function to take off on Amazon's Echo devices will be voice or video calling -- which is a way Alexa can reduce the need to have your smartphone on your at all times, said Rohit Prasad, VP and Head Scientist at Alexa Machine Learning. "If you have not played with calling and the video calls on Echo Show, you should try it because that is revolutionizing how you can communicate," Prasad said in an exclusive interview with CNBC at an Alexa Accelerator event in Seattle Tuesday night. (The event is dedicating to developing new voice-powered technologies.) "When you can drop in on people who have given you access -- so I can drop in and call my mom in her kitchen without her picking any device -- it's just awesome." (Amazon added the ability to call mobile numbers and landlines for free onto Echo devices a few weeks ago.) Amazon doesn't have a smartphone that lets customers bring a digital assistant everywhere -- like Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant -- and communicating through Alexa devices is one way of reducing the need for a personal handset, Prasad said "I can easily drop in and talk to my kids," Prasad says. "They don't have a smartphone so that's my easiest way to talk to them. It's yet another area where Alexa is taking the friction away."
Patents

Tribal 'Sovereign Immunity' Patent Protection Could Be Outlawed (arstechnica.com) 89

AnalogDiehard writes: The recent -- and questionable -- practice of technological and pharmaceutical companies selling their patents to U.S. native Indian tribes (where they enjoy "sovereign immunity" from the inter partes review (IPR) process of the PTO) and then the tribes licensing them back to the companies is drawing scrutiny from a federal court and has inspired a new U.S. bill outlawing the practice. The IPR process is a "fast track" (read: much less expensive) process through the PTO to review the validity of challenged patents -- it is loved by defendants and hated by patent holders. Not only has U.S. Circuit Judge William Bryson invalidated Allergan's pharmaceutical patents due to "obviousness," he is questioning the legitimacy of the sovereign immunity tactic. The judge was well aware that the tactic could endanger the IPR process, which was a central component of the America Invents Act of 2011, and writes that sovereign immunity "should not be treated as a monetizable commodity that can be purchased by private entities as part of a scheme to evade their legal responsibility." U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) -- no stranger to abuses of the patent system -- has introduced a bill that would outlaw the practice she describes as "one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I've ever seen and it should be illegal." Sovereign immunity is not absolute and has been limited by Congress and the courts in the past. The bill would apply only to the IPR proceedings and not to patent disputes in federal courts.
The Military

SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Win US Air Force General's Endorsement (bloomberg.com) 70

As the military looks to drive down costs, the head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk. "It would be 'absolutely foolish' not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which brings such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. 'Jay' Raymond said," reports Bloomberg. From the report: "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly." The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, Movie Studios Sue Over TickBox Streaming Device (arstechnica.com) 127

Movies studios, Netflix, and Amazon have teamed up to file a lawsuit against a streaming media player called TickBox TV. The device in question runs Kodi on top of Android 6.0, and searches the internet for streams that it can make available to users without actually hosting any of the content itself. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The complaint (PDF), filed Friday, says the TickBox devices are nothing more than "tool[s] for mass infringement," which operate by grabbing pirated video streams from the Internet. The lawsuit was filed by Amazon and Netflix Studios, along with six big movie studios that make up the Motion Picture Association of America: Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

"What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs' copyrighted content," write the plaintiffs' lawyers. "TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox's customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization." The device's marketing materials let users know the box is meant to replace paid-for content, with "a wink and a nod," by predicting that prospective customers who currently pay for Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu will find that "you no longer need those subscriptions." The lawsuit shows that Amazon and Netflix, two Internet companies that are relatively new to the entertainment business, are more than willing to join together with movie studios to go after businesses that grab their content.

Intel

Intel Aims To Take on Nvidia With a Processor Specially Designed for AI (fastcompany.com) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: In what looks like a repeat of its loss to Qualcomm on smartphones, Intel has lagged graphics chip (GPU) maker Nvidia in the artificial intelligence revolution. Today Intel announced that its first AI chip, the Nervana Neural Network Processor, will roll out of factories by year's end. Originally called Lake Crest, the chip gets its name from Nervana, a company Intel purchased in August 2016, taking on the CEO, Naveen Rao, as Intel's AI guru. Nervana is designed from the ground up for machine learning, Rao tells me. You can't play Call of Duty with it. Rao claims that ditching the GPU heritage made room for optimizations like super-fast data interconnections allowing a bunch of Nervanas to act together like one giant chip. They also do away with the caches that hold data the processor might need to work on next. "In neural networks... you know ahead of time where the data's coming from, what operation you're going to apply to that data, and where the output is going to," says Rao.
Businesses

Traditional PC Sales Continue To Slide (zdnet.com) 213

Sales of traditional PCs continue to decline, although the overall PC market is likely to grow slightly next year. From a report: Traditional PC shipments are forecast to drop by nearly eight percent this year, and another 4.4 percent in 2018, predicts analyst firm Gartner. Which means that, by 2019, 16 million fewer traditional PCs and notebooks will be sold than were shipped this year. However, much of this will be offset by the rise in spending on high-end notebooks like Microsoft's Surface and Apple's MacBook, so that the overall PC market will by 2019 be at pretty much the same level it was last year. Tablets -- defined by Gartner as basic and utility ultramobile devices -- will also decline over the period to 2019.
Businesses

Tesla Employees Detail How They Were Fired, Claim Dismissals Were Not Performance Related (cnbc.com) 244

New submitter joshtops shares a CNBC report: Tesla is trying to disguise layoffs by calling the widespread terminations performance related, allege several current and former employees. On Friday, the San Jose Mercury News first reported that Tesla had dismissed an estimated 400 to 700 employees. That number represents between 1 and 2 percent of its entire workforce. But one former employee, citing internal information shared by a manager, said the total number fired is higher than 700 at this point. Most of the people let go from Tesla so far have been from its motors business, said people familiar with the matter. They were not from other initiatives like Tesla Powerwall, which is helping restore electricity to the residents of Puerto Rico now. The mass firings, which affected Tesla employees across the U.S., had begun by the weekend of Oct. 7 and continued even after the initial news report, sources said. Among those whose jobs were terminated in this phase, some were given severance packages quickly while others are still waiting on separation agreements. Some terminated employees told CNBC they were informed via email or a phone call "without warning," and told not to come into work the next day. The company also dismissed other employees without specifying a given performance issue, according to these people. "Seems like performance has nothing to do with it," one Tesla employee told CNBC under the condition of anonymity. "Those terminated were generally the highest paid in their position," this person said, suggesting that the firings were driven by cost-cutting. That assessment was echoed by several others, including three employees fired from Tesla during this latest wave.
AT&T

Mobile Phone Companies Appear To Be Selling Your Location To Almost Anyone (techcrunch.com) 148

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: You may remember that last year, Verizon (which owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch) was punished by the FCC for injecting information into its subscribers' traffic that allowed them to be tracked without their consent. That practice appears to be alive and well despite being disallowed in a ruling last March: companies appear to be able to request your number, location, and other details from your mobile provider quite easily. The possibility was discovered by Philip Neustrom, co-founder of Shotwell Labs, who documented it in a blog post earlier this week. He found a pair of websites which, if visited from a mobile data connection, report back in no time with numerous details: full name, billing zip code, current location (as inferred from cell tower data), and more. (Others found the same thing with slightly different results depending on carrier, but the demo sites were taken down before I could try it myself.)
Android

Essential Is Getting Sued For Allegedly Stealing Wireless Connector Technology (gizmodo.com) 43

"Keyssa, a wireless technology company backed by iPod creator and Nest founder Tony Fadell, filed a lawsuit against Essential on Monday, alleging that the company stole trade secrets and breached their nondisclosure agreement," reports Gizmodo. Keyssa has proprietary technology that reportedly lets users transfer large files in a matter of seconds by holding two devices side by side. From the report: According to the lawsuit, Keyssa and Essential engaged in conversations in which the wireless tech company "divulged to Essential proprietary technology enabling every facet of Keyssa's wireless connectivity," all of which was protected under a non-disclosure agreement. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Keyssa "deployed a team 20 of its top engineers and scientists" to educate Essential on its proprietary tech, sending them "many thousands of confidential emails, hundreds of confidential technical documents, and dozens of confidential presentations." Essential ended this relationship after over 10 months and later told Keyssa that its engineers would use a competing chip in the Essential Phone. But Keyssa is accusing Essential of including techniques in its phone that were gleaned from their relationship, despite their confidentiality agreement. Central to this lawsuit is one of the Essential Phone's key selling points: the option to swap in modular add-ons, made possible thanks to the phone's unique cordless connector. In short, if Keyssa's claims hold water, then one of the phone's defining factors is a product of theft.
Television

Netflix Adds 5.3 Million Subs In Q3, Beating Forecasts (variety.com) 67

Netflix shows no signs of slowing down. The company announced its third quarter results, adding more subscribers in both the U.S. and abroad than expected. Variety reports: The company gained 850,000 streaming subs in the U.S. and 4.45 million overseas in the period. Analysts had estimated Netflix to add 784,000 net subscribers in the U.S. and 3.62 million internationally for Q3. "We added a Q3-record 5.3 million memberships globally (up 49% year-over-year) as we continued to benefit from strong appetite for our original series and films, as well as the adoption of internet entertainment across the world," the company said in announcing the results, noting that it had under-forecast both U.S. and international subscriber growth. Netflix also indicated that its content spending may be even higher next year than previously projected. The company had said it was targeting programming expenditures of $7 billion in 2018; on Monday, Netflix said it will spend between $7 billion and $8 billion on content (on a profit-and-loss basis) next year. For 2017, original content will represent more than 25% of total programming spending, and that "will continue to grow," Netflix said.
Security

Ask Slashdot: What Are Some Hard Truths IT Must Learn To Accept? (cio.com) 408

snydeq writes: "The rise of shadow IT, shortcomings in the cloud, security breaches -- IT leadership is all about navigating hurdles and deficiencies, and learning to adapt to inevitable setbacks," writes Dan Tynan in an article on six hard truths IT must learn to accept. "It can be hard to admit that you've lost control over how your organization deploys technology, or that your network is porous and your code poorly written. Or no matter how much bandwidth you've budgeted for, it never quite seems to be enough, and that despite its bright promise, the cloud isn't the best solution for everything." What are some hard truths your organization has been dealing with? Tynan writes about how the idea of engineering teams sticking a server in a closet and using it to run their own skunkworks has become more open; how an organization can't do everything in the cloud, contrasting the 40 percent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner six years ago who believed they'd be running most of their IT operations in the cloud by now; and how your organization should assume from the get-go that your environment has already been compromised and design a security plan around that. Can you think of any other hard truths IT must learn to accept?
Patents

Apple To Appeal Five-Year-Long Patent Battle After $439.7 Million Loss (theverge.com) 69

Appel has been ordered to pay $439.7 million to the patent-holding firm VirnetX for infringing on four patented technologies that were apparently used in FaceTime and other iOS apps. According to The Verge, Apple plans to appeal the ruling -- continuing this long-running patent battle, which began back in 2012. From the report: VirnetX first filed suit against Apple in 2010, winning $368 million just two years later. It then sued again in 2012, which is the suit that's being ruled on today. Apple initially lost the suit, then filed for a mistrial. It won a new trial, lost that trial, was ordered to pay around $300 million, then lost some more and is now having that amount upped even further. That's because a judge found Apple guilty of willful infringement, bumping its payment amount from $1.20 per infringing Apple device to $1.80 per device. Those include certain iPhones, iPads, and Macs. VirnetX says the ruling is "very reasonable." Apple didn't issue a statement other than to say that it plans to appeal. While $440 million isn't a lot of money for Apple, there's principle at stake here: VirnetX is a patent troll that makes its money from licensing patents and suing other parties. The company's SEC filing states, "Our portfolio of intellectual property is the foundation of our business model."
Businesses

eBay Launches Authentication Service To Combat Counterfeit High-End Goods (venturebeat.com) 69

Ecommerce giant eBay has launched a previously announced service designed to combat the scourge of fake goods on the platform. From a report: eBay has proven popular with fake goods' sellers for some time, with fashion accessories and jewelry featuring highly on counterfeiters' agenda. The company announced eBay Authenticate way back in January with a broad focus on giving "high-end" goods an official stamp of approval prior to sale. Ultimately designed to encourage buyers to part with cash on expensive items, it uses a network of professional authenticators who take physical receipt of a seller's products, validates them, and then photographs, lists, and ships the goods to the successful buyer. For today's launch of eBay Authenticate, the service is only available for luxury handbags from 12 brands, including Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Valentino, though the program will be expanded to cover other luxury goods and brands from next year. "With tens-of-thousands of high-end handbags currently available, eBay is primed to boost customer confidence in selling and shopping for an amazing selection of designer merchandise," noted Laura Chambers, vice president of consumer selling at eBay. "We also believe our sellers will love this service, as it provides them with a white-glove service when selling luxury handbags."
AI

Voice Assistants Will Be Difficult To Fire (wired.com) 180

mirandakatz writes: As voice assistants crop up left and right, consumers are facing a decision: Are you an Alexa? A Google Assistant? A Siri? Choose wisely -- because once you pick one voice assistant, it'll be difficult to switch. As Scott Rosenberg writes at Backchannel, "If I want to switch assistants down the line, sure, I can just go out and buy another device. But that investment of time and personal data isn't so easy to replace... Right now, all these assistants behave like selfish employees who think they can protect their jobs by holding vital expertise or passwords close to their chests. Eventually , the data that runs the voice assistant business is going to have to be standardized."

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