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Communications

Ask Slashdot: How Transparent Should Companies Be When Operational Technology Failures Happen? 22

New submitter supernova87a writes: Last week, Southwest Airlines had an epic crash of IT systems across their entire business when "a router failure caused the airlines' systems to crash [...] and all backups failed, causing flight delays and cancellations nationwide and costing the company probably $10 million in lost bookings alone." Huge numbers of passengers, crew, and airplanes were stranded as not only reservations systems, but scheduling, dispatch, and other critical operational systems had to be rebooted over the course of 12 hours. Passenger delays, which directly attributable to this incident, continued to trickle down all the way from Wednesday to Sunday as the airline recovered. Aside from the technical issues of what happened, what should a public-facing company's obligation be to discuss what happened in full detail? Would publicly talking about the sequence of events before and after failure help restore faith in their operations? Perhaps not aiming for Google's level of admirable disclosure (as in this 18-minute cloud computing outage where a full post-mortem was given), should companies aim to discuss more openly what happened and how they recovered from system failures?
Television

The Mojave Desert: Home of the New Machine Movement 24

pacopico writes: Most people think of the Mojave Desert as a wasteland located somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. For decades, though, Mojave has served as something of an engineering playground for people in the automotive and aerospace industries. Bloomberg has produced a documentary that looks at what's taking place with these engineers in 2016. There's a dude trying to make a flying car, Richard Branson with Virgin Galactic, a group called Hackrod using artificial intelligence software to make a car chassis, and the hacker George Hotz taking his self-driving car along the Las Vegas strip for the first time. One of the cooler parts of the show has a team of students from UCSD sending up a rocket with a 3D printed engine -- the first time any university team had pulled something like this off. Overall, it's a cool look at the strange desert rat tinkerers.
Space

Study: Astronauts Who Reach Deep Space 'Far More Likely To Die From Heart Disease' 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Independent: Astronauts who venture into deep space appear to be much more likely to die from heart disease, according to a new study. In another sign that leaving planet Earth is fraught with danger and a potential blow to hopes of establishing a colony on Mars, researchers discovered deep space radiation appears to damage the body's cardiovascular system. They reported that three out of the seven dead Apollo astronauts died as a result of a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although the numbers are small, that rate of 43 percent is four to five times higher than found among astronauts who flew in low Earth orbit or who did not actually go into space, according to a paper in the journal Scientific Reports. In an attempt to test whether the higher numbers of cardiovascular deaths were simply a statistical blip or a genuine sign of the effect of traveling into deep space, the scientists exposed mice to the same type of radiation that the astronauts would have experienced. After six months, which is the equivalent of 20 human years, the mice showed damage to arteries that is known to lead to the development of cardiovascular disease in humans.
The Almighty Buck

Dark Patterns Across the Web Are Designed To Trick You 84

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Harry Brignell has posted a 30-minute video documenting dark patterns, deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces (not exclusive to the internet) that trick users into setting up recurring payments, purchasing items added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through pre-checked forms on Facebook games for example. Basically, they're tactics used by online services to get users to do things they wouldn't normally do. Yael Grauer has written an in-depth report on Ars Technica about dark patterns, where he discusses Brignull's work with UX designers and business executives: "Klein [Principal at Users Known and author of UX for Lean Startups] believes many of the worst dark patterns are pushed by businesses, not by designers. 'It's often pro-business at the expense of the users, and the designers often see themselves as the defender or advocate of the user,' she explained. And although Brignull has never been explicitly asked to design dark patterns himself, he said he has been in situations where using them would be an easy solution -- like when a client or boss says they really need a large list of people who have opted in to marketing e-mails. 'The first and easiest trick to have an opt-in is to have a pre-ticked checkbox, but then you can just get rid of that entirely and hide it in the terms of conditions and say that by registering you're going to be opted in to our e-mails,' Brignull said. 'Then you have a 100-percent sign-up rate and you've exceeded your goals. I kind of understand why people do it. If you're only thinking about the numbers and you're just trying to juice the stats, then it's not surprising in the slightest.' 'There's this logical positivist mindset that the only things that have value are those things that can be measured and can empirically be shown to be true, and while that has its merits it also takes us down a pretty dark place,' said digital product designer Cennydd Bowles, who is researching ethical design. 'We start to look at ethics as pure utilitarianism, whatever benefits the most people. Yikes, it has problems.'" Brignull's website has a number of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces.
Television

Apple's Rigid Negotiating Tactics Cost Us 'Skinny Bundles' For Apple TV, Says Report 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the reason we don't have actual TV channels on the Apple TV is because the company tried to strong-arm networks -- and failed. Apple's Senior Vice President Eddy Cue is said to have taken the wrong approach. In one meeting, he reportedly told TV executives that "time is on my side." Cue is also accused of bluffing executives by claiming other networks -- specifically Disney and Fox -- were already signed up. The company also refused to show off the Apple TV interface, or "sketch it on the back of a napkin," as one media executive requested. Cue also tried to strike hard bargains, says WSJ. He reportedly asked that Disney put off the royalties Apple would have to pay for several years. Those 'skinny bundles' we heard so much about were what Apple was planning to build its TV experience around, too. In 2015, a bundle consisting of Fox, ESPN and Disney content was conceptualized (and priced at $30), but no agreements were ever signed. In an effort to create more original programming, Apple is scheduled to release its 'Planet of the Apps' TV show about app developers next year.
The Courts

UK Judge Calls For An Online Court Without Lawyers To Cut Costs 56

mi writes from a report via The Times: A senior judge has called for the establishment of an online court (Warning: source may be paywalled) that does not have lawyers and can deal with claims of up to 25,000 British Pound (around $32,850). The proposal is the centerpiece of a package of reforms to the civil justice system, drawn up by Lord Justice Briggs, a Court of Appeal judge. Just how exactly will this court ensure no one is, in fact, a trained professional on the internet, where no one knows who you really are, is not explained. We discussed the idea last year. Apparently, it is still alive. The judge's report says this computer court would provide "effective access to justice without having to incur the disproportionate cost of using lawyers." The Law Gazette reported earlier in June that Briggs has mused about a three-stage process -- triage, conciliation and final judgement -- in which there might be some lawyer involvement.
Bitcoin

North Korea Is Blackmailing Top South Korean Online Retailer For $2.66 Million (softpedia.com) 37

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: South Korea says that North Korea is behind a data breach that occurred last May, where hackers stole details about 10 million user accounts from Interpark.com, one of the country's biggest shopping portals. The hackers later tried to extort Interpark management by requesting for 3 billion won ($2.66 million / 2.39 million euros), otherwise they were going to release the data on the internet. [The hackers wanted the money transferred to their accounts as Bitcoin.] Authorities say they tracked the source of the hack to an IP in North Korea, previously used in other attacks on South Korean infrastructure. "Besides the evidence related to the IP addresses and the techniques used in the attacks, investigators also said that the emails Interpark management received, written in the Korean language, contained words and vocabulary expressions that are only used in the North," reports Softpedia.
Businesses

Microsoft To Lay Off Another 2,850 People In the Next 12 Months (businessinsider.com) 124

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Business Insider: Microsoft is planning to lay off 2,850 more employees in the next 12 months or so, according to Microsoft's full 10-K report it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Part of the document reads: "In addition to the elimination of 1,850 positions that were announced in May 2016, approximately 2,850 roles globally will be reduced during the year as an extension of the earlier plan, and these actions are expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2017." Business Insider reports: "The first 1,850 layoffs mentioned here were mainly from Microsoft's struggling smartphone business, including 1,350 employees in Finland working at what was once Nokia world headquarters. These layoffs also included people in Microsoft's salesforce, which was recently reorganized and saw the departure of COO Kevin Turner. In total, Microsoft laid off 7,400 employees in its last fiscal year, which ended on June 30th, 2016. The new layoffs are a continuation of the same plan, and include the sales group as well as others. About 900 people affected by the new layoffs were already informed during the sales reorganization, according to a person familiar with Microsoft's plans."
Businesses

Samsung Beat Apple In Smartphone Shipments, Profit Surges To 2-Year High (thehindu.com) 68

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier reports speculated this to be true, but now it's official: Samsung has beat Apple in smartphone shipments to lift the company to its most profitable quarter in over two years. The Hindu reports: "Riding on the strong sales of its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones, Samsung Electronics on Thursday declared 8.14 trillion won ($7billion) year on-year operating profit -- 18 percent in the second quarter results. Touted as bad news for Apple that saw a 15 percent decline in iPhone sales in its second quarter results announced this week, Samsung saw substantial earnings improvement led by sales of its flagship products such as Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. A streamlined mid-to low-end smartphone lineup also contributed to improved profitability for the company. According to Samsung, it shipped about 90 million handsets in the April-June period with smartphones making up more than 80 per cent of the total, the Korea Herald reported. Samsung's second-quarter smartphone shipments are estimated at about 72 million units, almost doubling Apple's iPhone shipments of 40.4 million units during the same period."
Crime

Gary Johnson: I'd Consider Pardoning Snowden, Chelsea Manning (vocativ.com) 174

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Vocativ: [Vocativ reports:] "The U.S.'s most popular third-party presidential candidate says he would 'consider' pardoning the highest profile convicts of computer-related crimes in the country, including Chelsea Manning, Ross Ulbricht, and Jeremy Hammond. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, also reiterated his possible willingness to pardon Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency analyst who gave a cache of agency documents to journalists in 2013." "Having actually served as a governor and administered the power to grant pardons and clemency, Gary Johnson is very conscious and respectful of the need for processes for using that authority," Joe Hunter, Johnson's communications director, told Vocativ in a statement. "However, he has made it clear on numerous occasions that he would 'look seriously at' pardoning Edward Snowden, based on public information that Snowden's actions did not cause actual harm to any U.S. intelligence personnel. Likewise, he has said he would look favorably on pardoning Ross Ulbricht, consistent with his broader and long-standing commitment to pardon nonviolent drug offenders, whistleblowers, and others imprisoned under unjust and ill-advised laws," Hunter said. When Vocativ asked specifically about Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, Barrett Brown, and Matthew Keys, Hunter responded: "The same goes for the other individuals you have mentioned -- and hundreds, if not thousands, like them. Gov. Johnson finds it to be an outrage that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the developed world, and announced in 2012 that, as President, he would promptly commence the process of pardoning nonviolent offenders who have done no real harm to others." The Green Party candidate Jill Stein has also shared her thoughts on pardoning Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Not only would she pardon Snowden, but she said she would appoint him to her cabinet.
Democrats

WikiLeaks Releases Hacked Voicemails From DNC Officials (thenextweb.com) 140

An anonymous reader writes: Late Wednesday afternoon as the Democratic National Convention was in full swing, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks decided to follow through with an earlier statement by publishing hacked voicemails of top democratic officials. There are 29 leaked recordings, which are identified by phone number and total about 14 minutes combined. Many of the voicemails are messages of callers leaving their numbers in hopes of being called back. Others are from voters upset that the DNC was giving too much support to Sanders. The Hill reports that "One caller with an Arizona area code called to blast the DNC for putting Sanders surrogate Cornel West on the platform drafting committee. 'I'm furious for what you are doing for Bernie Sanders,' another caller says in a message. 'He's getting way too much influence. What I see is the Democratic Party bending over backwards for Bernie,' adds the caller, who threatens to leave the party if the DNC doesn't stop 'coddling' the Vermont senator."
Google

Google Launches Docs and Sheets Add-ons For Android 12

An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced the launch of new add-ons for the Android versions of Google Docs and Google Sheets. Those services have offered integrations with third-party tools on the web, and now a similar capability is coming to Google's mobile operating system. There's now a dedicated section for add-ons for Docs and Sheets in the Google Play Store, Google Apps product manager Saurabh Gupta wrote in a blog post. Nine add-ons are available for Android as of today: AppSheet, DocuSign, EasyBib, Google Classroom, PandaDoc, ProsperWorks CRM, Scanbot, Teacher Aide, and Zoho CRM. The DocuSign add-on, for example, lets you sign or send a file in Google Docs or Sheets through DocuSign. Generally these services are meant for a work context, but it's possible that developers will build more consumer-oriented add-ons, too.
Windows

Microsoft Faces Two New Lawsuits Over Aggressive Windows 10 Upgrade Tactics 94

Microsoft is facing two more lawsuits over its Windows 10 upgrade tactics. The first lawsuit comes from U.S. District Court in Florida, where the company has been accused of violating "laws governing unsolicited electronic advertisements" The suit, PCWorld reports, says Microsoft's tactics are against the FTC's rules on deceptive and unfair practices. The second lawsuit was filed last month in Haifa, Israel alleging that Microsoft installed Windows 10 on users' computer without their consent. It's similar to another recent lawsuit that was filed against Microsoft in which the Redmond company had to pay a sum of $10,000. The company, however, believes that these new lawsuits won't succeed. In a statement to The Seattle Times, the company said:We believe the plaintiffs' claims are without merit and we are confident we'll be successful in court.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Disable Policies In Windows 10 Pro With Anniversary Update (ghacks.net) 462

Reader BobSwi writes: More changes in the Windows Anniversary update, due August 2nd, are being discovered. After yesterday's news about Cortana not able to be turned off in the Windows Anniversary update, certain registry entries and group policies have been found to be updated with a note stating that they only apply to Enterprise and Education editions. Win 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off policies such as the Microsoft Consumer Experience, Show Windows Tips, Do not display the lock screen, and Disable all apps from the Windows Store.
The Internet

Tumblr To Introduce Ads Across All Blogs 42

Reader evelynlewis445 writes: Tumblr this week quietly announced plans to roll out a new advertising program across its site which will see it implementing ads across users' blogs. The company did not provide specific details on how the program will operate, but it appears to be an expansion of its earlier Creators program, which connects brands with Tumblr users directly, instead of having advertisers work with third-party influencer networks.The ads will begin appearing on the platform starting today. Tumblr remains one of the most popular blogging platforms, attracting over 550 million monthly users to its blogs. Tumblr creators will have an opportunity to share in the revenue from ads on their blogs. The company says that bloggers will have the ability to opt out of the program should they wish not to participate.
Communications

AT&T Violated Rule Requiring Low Prices For Schools, FCC Says (arstechnica.com) 52

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica: AT&T overcharged two Florida school districts for phone service and should have to pay about $170,000 to the U.S. government to settle the allegations, the Federal Communications Commission said yesterday. AT&T disputes the charges and will contest the decision. The FCC issued a Notice of Apparently Liability (NAL) to AT&T, an initial step toward enforcing the proposed punishment. The alleged overcharges relate to the FCC's E-Rate program, which funds telecommunications for schools and libraries and is paid for by Americans through surcharges on phone bills. The FCC said AT&T should have to repay $63,760 it improperly received from the FCC in subsidies for phone service provided to Orange and Dixie Counties and pay an additional fine of $106,425. AT&T prices charged to the districts were almost 400 percent higher than they should have been, according to the FCC. AT&T violated the FCC's "lowest corresponding price rule" designed to ensure that schools and libraries "get the best rates available by prohibiting E-Rate service providers from charging them more than the lowest price paid by other similarly situated customers for similar telecommunications services," the FCC said. Instead of charging the lowest available price, "AT&T charged the school districts prices for telephone service that were magnitudes higher than many other customers in Florida," the FCC said. Between 2012 and 2015, the school districts paid "some of the highest prices in the state... for basic telephone services."
Cloud

Oracle To Buy Cloud-Software Provider NetSuite For $9.3 Billion (bloomberg.com) 31

Oracle announced Thursday that it has agreed to buy NetSuite for $9.3 billion, in a move to bolster its cloud-computing offerings as it races to catch up to rivals. Both companies provide applications for running a business called enterprise-resource-planning software. Bloomberg reports: Oracle, which sells software to big corporations, has been trying to shift more sales to cloud-based products increasingly demanded by its customers. New cloud services made up about 8 percent of the company's total sales during its fiscal fourth-quarter. Buying NetSuite -- whose products include customer relationship management software -- will help Oracle compete against the likes of Salesforce.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. "Oracle and NetSuite cloud applications are complementary, and will coexist in the marketplace forever," said Oracle co-Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd in a statement Thursday. "We intend to invest heavily in both products -- engineering and distribution."
Medicine

E-Cigarettes Emit Toxic Vapors, Says Study (upi.com) 291

An anonymous reader quotes a report from UPI: All electronic cigarettes emit harmful chemicals, and levels of those toxic compounds are affected by factors such as temperature, type and age of the device, a new study finds. In laboratory tests, scientists found that the heat-related breakdown of propylene glycol and glycerin -- two solvents found in most e-cigarette liquids -- causes emissions of toxic chemicals such as acrolein, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. All three are either respiratory irritants or carcinogens, the investigators said. The researchers also found that levels of harmful chemicals in e-cigarette vapor increase between the first few puffs and later puffs as the device gets hotter, and with each use of the device.The new study was published July 27 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. "Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you're better off using e-cigarettes," study corresponding author Hugo Destaillats said in a Berkeley news release. "I would say, that may be true for certain users -- for example, long-time smokers that cannot quit -- but the problem is, it doesn't mean that they're healthier. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy," he explained. The FDA will start regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco on August 8, 2016.
Earth

ULA Interns Launch Record-Breaking 50-Foot Rocket (space.com) 70

schwit1 writes: A team of United Launch Alliance (ULA) interns, working in their spare time, have successfully launched the largest model rocket every built. Space.com reports: "On Sunday (July 24), ULA launched the 50-foot-tall (15.24 meters) Future Heavy rocket out of Fort Carson Army Post, breaking the record for 'the largest sport rocket launched anywhere in the world,' according to a statement from ULA. The Future Heavy is also notable because it was built entirely by company interns and their mentors. 'We like [our interns] to have a very realistic experience,' ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno told Space.com at the Space Symposium meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, last April." Calling it a "model rocket" really isn't fair. The thing is big, and really ranks up there with many of the suborbital rockets NASA used to routinely fly out of Wallops Island. [The fact that] ULA has provided support for this effort again suggests that the leadership of Bruno is reshaping the company into a much more innovative and competitive company.
Democrats

Tech Takes Its K-12 CS Education and Immigration Crisis To the DNC (cnet.com) 118

theodp writes: In early 2013, Code.org and FWD.us coincidentally emerged after Microsoft suggested tech's agenda could be furthered by creating a crisis linking U.S. kids' lack of computer science savvy to tech's need for tech worker visas. Three years later, CNET's Marguerite Reardon reports that tech took its K-12 computer science and immigration crisis to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, where representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon called for the federal government to invest in more STEM education and reform immigration policies -- recurring themes the industry hopes to influence in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. "We believe in the importance of high-skilled immigration coupled with investments in education," said Microsoft President Brad Smith, repeating the Microsoft National Talent Strategy. The mini-tech conference also received some coverage in the New Republic, where David Dayen argues that the DNC is one big corporate bride.

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