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An anonymous reader writes Google [Thursday] shared an update from Project Loon, the company's initiative to bring high-speed Internet access to remote areas of the world via hot air balloons. Google says it now has the ability to launch up to 20 of these balloons per day. This is in part possible because the company has improved its autofill equipment to a point where it can fill a balloon in under five minutes. This is a major achievement, given that Google says filling a Project Loon balloon with enough air so that it is ready for flight is the equivalent of inflating 7,000 party balloons.
53 comments | 2 hours ago
oyenamit writes Online shopping in India is still in its infancy but is growing tremendously to reach the mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people. Invariably, the conflict between pure online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart and brick and mortar stores was bound to emerge. Unfortunately for Google's Android One, it has been on the receiving end of this friction. Leading brick and mortar retailers in India have refused to sell Android One handsets ever since the US company chose to launch its products exclusively online. The three Android One makers in India — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — launched their handsets exclusively online in mid-September. When sales did not meet their expectations, they decided to release their products via the brick and mortar store channel. However, smaller retailer and mom-n-pop shops have decided to show their displeasure at having being left out of the launch by deciding not to stock Android One. The Android One phones, announced at the most recent Google I/O, are Google's attempt to bring stock Android (as on Google's Nexus devices) to emerging markets, with competent but not high-end phones.
19 comments | 5 hours ago
enbody writes A year-old startup, Assembly, is built on the premise of creating products using open-source style development, but structured in a way that you get paid for your contributions. Open-source development is well-known in the Slashdot community, as are a variety of ways to earn a living around open-source, such as support. What is new here is being paid as part of the development, and not just for coding — your contribution might be as project manager or sales. A nice description with video showed up today on the Verge. Of course, the devil is in the details, but they have products so someone in Slashdot land may be interested. (Bias warning: I know one of these guys.)
24 comments | 10 hours ago
An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released its annual financial report for 2013, and the numbers hint as to why the organization signed a five-year deal with Yahoo, announced by the duo on November 19. Revenue increased just 1 percent, and the organization's reliance on Google stayed flat at 90 percent. The total revenue for the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiaries in 2011 was $163 million, and it increased 90.2 percent to $311 million for 2012. Yet that growth all but disappeared last year, as the total revenue moved up less than 1 percent (0.995 percent to be more precise) to $311 million in 2013. 85 percent of Mozilla's revenue came from Google in 2011, and that figure increased to 90 percent in 2012. While the 90 percent number remained for 2013, it's still a massive proportion and shows Mozilla last year could not figure out a way to differentiate where its money comes from.
109 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."
233 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader sends this report from the Associated Press:
"Dissenters within the National Security Agency, led by a senior agency executive, warned in 2009 that the program to secretly collect American phone records wasn't providing enough intelligence to justify the backlash it would cause if revealed, current and former intelligence officials say.
The NSA took the concerns seriously, and many senior officials shared them. But after an internal debate that has not been previously reported, NSA leaders, White House officials and key lawmakers opted to continue the collection and storage of American calling records, a domestic surveillance program without parallel in the agency's recent history.
93 comments | yesterday
theodp writes: "The high-tech industry," reports the Washington Post's Nancy Scola, "will have at least two things to be happy about in President Obama's speech outlining executive actions he'll take on immigration. The president plans to grant the tech industry some, but not nearly all, of what it has been after in the immigration debate. The first is aimed at increasing the opportunity for foreign students and recent graduates from U.S. schools to work in high-tech jobs in the United States. And the second is aimed at making it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to set up shop in the United States. According to the White House, Obama will direct the Department of Homeland Security to help students in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — by proposing, per a White House fact sheet released Thursday night, to "expand and extend" the controversial Optional Practical Training program that now allows foreign-born STEM students and recent graduates remain in the United States for up to 29 months. The exact details of that expansion will be worked out by the Department of Homeland Security as it goes through a rulemaking process."
159 comments | yesterday
jones_supa writes: In Windows, the kernel version number is once again in sync with the product version. Build 9888 of Windows 10 Technical Preview is making the rounds in a private channel and the kernel version has indeed been bumped from 6.4 to 10.0. Version 6.x has been in use since Windows Vista. Neowin speculates that this large jump in version number is likely related to the massive overhaul of the underlying components of the OS to make it the core for all of Microsoft's products. The company is working to consolidate all of its platforms into what's called OneCore, which, as the name implies, will be the one core for all of Microsoft's operating systems. It will be interesting to see if this causes any software compatibility issues with legacy applications.
149 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: When looking for a new (or used) car, I have readily available information regarding features, maintenance history, and potential issues for that specific model or generation. What I would really like is a car that is readily hackable on the convenience-feature level. For example, if I want to install a remote starter, or hack the power windows so holding 'up' automatically rolls it up, or install a readout on the rear of the car showing engine RPMs, what make/model/year is the best pick? Have any of you done something similar with your vehicle? Have you found certain models to be ideal or terrible for feature hacking?
176 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation.
The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.
262 comments | yesterday
NotInHere writes: The advocacy group "European Digital Rights" (EDRi) reports on leaked documents proposed by the Presidency of the council of the EU (currently held by Italy), which plans to remove vital parts from the telecommunications package that introduced net neutrality. The changes include removing the definition of "net neutrality" and replacing it with a "reference to the objective of net neutrality," which EDRi says will impair any ability to enforce it.
Also, the proposed changes would allow ISPs to "block, slow down, alter, degrade or discriminate" traffic in order to meet "obligations under a contract with an end-user to deliver a service requiring a specific level of quality to that end-user." EDRi writes that "[w]ith all of the talk of the need for a single digital market in Europe, we would have new barriers and new monopolies."
The council of the EU is one of its two legislative chambers. The EU parliament can now object or propose further changes to prevent the modified telecommunications package from passing.
70 comments | yesterday
HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does.
But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"
141 comments | yesterday
rossgneumann writes Life gets pretty chill after creating 'Tetris' and escaping the KGB. A quick web search for "Alexey Pajitnov" brings up pages of articles and interviews that fixate only on his seminal creation—a work that remains, far and away, the best selling video game of all time. But clearly, there's more to the man than just Tetris. Meeting Pajitnov himself led me to wonder about, well, everything else. What was the Tetris-less life of Alexey Pajitnov?
34 comments | yesterday
Rambo Tribble writes Using machine learning techniques, Google claims to have produced software that can better produce natural-language descriptions of images. This has ramifications for uses such as better image search and for better describing the images for the blind. As the Google people put it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes it's the words that are the most useful ..."
29 comments | 2 days ago
New submitter Gordon_Shure_DOT_com writes Human rights charity Amnesty International has released Detekt, a tool that finds and removes known government spyware programs. Describing the free software as the first of its kind, Amnesty commissioned the tool from prominent German computer security researcher and open source advocate Claudio Guarnieri, aka 'nex'. While acknowledging that the only sure way to prevent government surveillance of huge dragnets of individuals is legislation, Marek Marczynski of Amnesty nevertheless called the tool (downloadable here) a useful countermeasure versus spooks. According to the app's instructions, it operates similarly to popular malware or virus removal suites, though systems must be disconnected from the Internet prior to it scanning.
94 comments | 2 days ago
dcblogs writes At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency.
231 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes So for a variety of reasons (some related to recent events, some ongoing for a while) I've kinda soured on Linux and have been looking at giving BSD a shot on the desktop. I've been a Gentoo user for many years and am reasonably comfortable diving into stuff, so I don't anticipate user friendliness being a show stopper. I suspect it's more likely something I currently do will have poor support in the BSD world. I have of course been doing some reading and will probably just give it a try at some point regardless, but I was curious what experience and advice other slashdot users could share. There's been many bold comments on slashdot about moving away from Linux, so I suspect I'm not the only one asking these questions. Use-case wise, my list of must haves is: Minecraft, and probably more dubiously, FTB; mplayer or equivalent (very much prefer mplayer as it's what I've used forever); VirtualBox or something equivalent; Firefox (like mplayer, it's just what I've always used, and while I would consider alternatives, that would definitely be a negative); Flash (I hate it, but browsing the web sans-flash is still a pain); OpenRA (this is the one I anticipate giving me the most trouble, but playing it is somewhat of an obsession).
Stuff that would be nice but I can live without: Full disk encryption; Openbox / XFCE (It's what I use now and would like to keep using, but I could probably switch to something else without too much grief); jackd/rakarrack or something equivalent (currently use my computer as a cheap guitar amp/effects stack); Qt (toolkit of choice for my own stuff). What's the most painless way to transition to BSD for this constellation of uses, and which variety of BSD would you suggest?
260 comments | 2 days ago
New submitter lazarus (2879) writes Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get." The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.
101 comments | 2 days ago
Nerval's Lobster writes Whatever your plans for Thanksgiving, Google can offer some advice: try to avoid driving anywhere the day before. Analysts from the search-engine giant's Google Maps division crunched traffic data from 21 U.S. cities over the past two years and found that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is by far the worst traffic day that week, with some notable exceptions. (In Honolulu, Providence, and San Francisco, the worst traffic is always on Saturday; in Boston, it's Tuesday.) Unfortunately, Wednesday is often the only available travel day for many Americans—but Google thinks they can beat the worst of the traffic if they leave before 2 P.M. or after 7 P.M. on that day. Traffic on Thanksgiving itself is also light, according to the data. When it comes to driving back home, Sunday beats Saturday from a traffic perspective. According to Google Maps' aggregated trends, Americans also seek out "ham shop," "pie shop," and "liquor store" on the day before Thanksgiving, as they rush to secure last-minute items.
60 comments | 2 days ago
the_newsbeagle writes In 2007, Google boldly declared a new initiative to invent a green energy technology that produced cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants. Sure, energy researchers had been hammering at this task for decades, but Google hoped to figure it out in a few years. They didn't. Instead, Google admitted defeat and shut down the project in 2011. In a admirable twist, however, two of the project's engineers then dedicated themselves to learning from the project's failure. What did it mean that one of the world's most ambitious and capable innovation companies couldn't invent a cheap renewable energy tech?
211 comments | 2 days ago