AI

A Computer Umpires Its First Pro Baseball Game 52 52

An anonymous reader writes: Baseball has long been regarded as a "game of inches." Among the major professional sports it arguably requires the greatest amount of precision — a few extra RPMs can turn a decent curveball into an unhittable one, and a single degree's difference in the arc of a bat swing can change a lazy popup into a home run. As sensor technology has improved, it's been odd to see how pro baseball leagues have made great efforts to keep it away from the sport. Even if you aren't a fan of the game, you're probably familiar with the cultural meme of an umpire blowing a key call and altering the course of the game.

Thus, it's significant that for the first time ever, sensors and a computer have called balls and strikes for a professional game. In a minor league game between the San Rafael Pacifics and the Vallejo Admirals, a three-camera system tracked the baseball's exact position as it crossed home plate, and a computer judged whether it was in the strike zone or not. The game went without incident, and it provided valuable data in a real-life example. The pitch-tracking system still has bugs to work out, though. Dan Brooks, founder of a site that tracks ball/strike accuracy for real umpires, said that for the new system to be implemented permanently, fans must be "willing to accept a much smaller amount of inexplicable error in exchange for a larger amount of explicable error."
Software

Ask Slashdot: Everyone Building Software -- Is This the Future We Need? 296 296

An anonymous reader writes: I recently stumbled upon Apple's headline for version 2 of its Swift programming language: "Now everyone can build amazing apps." My question: is this what we really need? Tech giants (not just Apple, but Microsoft, Facebook, and more) are encouraging kids and adults to become developers, adding to an already-troubled IT landscape. While many software engineering positions are focused only on a business's internal concerns, many others can dramatically affect other people's lives. People write software for the cars we drive; our finances are in the hands of software, and even the medical industry is replete with new software these days. Poor code here can legitimately mess up somebody's life. Compare this to other high-influence professions: can you become surgeon just because you bought a state-of-art turbo laser knife? Of course not. Back to Swift: the app ecosystem is already chaotic, without solid quality control and responsibility from most developers. If you want simple to-do app, you'll get never-ending list of software artifacts that will drain your battery, eat memory, freeze the OS and disappoint you in every possible way. So, should we really be focusing on quantity, rather than quality?
Advertising

Advertising Companies Accused of Deliberately Slowing Page-load Times For Profit 268 268

An anonymous reader writes: An industry insider has told Business Insider of his conviction that ad-serving companies deliberately prolong the 'auctioning' process for ad spots when a web-page loads. They do this to maximize revenue by allowing automated 'late-comers' to participate beyond the 100ms limit placed on the decision-making process. The unnamed source, a principal engineer at a global news company (whose identity and credentials were confirmed by Business Insider), concluded with the comment: "My entire team of devs and testers mostly used Adblock when developing sites, just because it was so painful otherwise." Publishers use 'daisy-chaining' to solicit bids from the most profitable placement providers down to the 'B-list' placements, and the longer the process is run, the more likely that the web-page will be shown with profitable advertising in place.
Businesses

DHI Group Inc. Announces Plans to Sell Slashdot Media 512 512

An anonymous reader writes: DHI Group Inc. (formerly known as Dice Holdings Inc.) announced plans to sell Slashdot Media (slashdot.org & sourceforge.net) in their Q2 financial report. This is being reported by multiple sources. Editor's note: Yep, looks like we're being sold again. We'll keep you folks updated, but for now I don't have any more information than is contained in the press release. Business as usual until we find a buyer (and hopefully after). The company prepared a statement for our blog as well — feel free to discuss the news here, there, or in both places.
Security

Your Stolen Identity Goes For $20 On the Internet Black Market 56 56

HughPickens.com writes: Keith Collins writes at Quartz that the going rate for a stolen identity is about twenty bucks on the internet black market. Collins analyzed hundreds of listings for a full set of someone's personal information—identification number, address, birthdate, etc., known as "fullz" that were put up for sale over the past year, using data collected by Grams, a search engine for the dark web. The listings ranged in price from less than $1 to about $450, converted from bitcoin. The median price for someone's identity was $21.35. The most expensive fullz came from a vendor called "OsamaBinFraudin," and listed a premium identity with a high credit score for $454.05. Listings on the lower end were typically less glamorous and included only the basics, like the victim's name, address, social security number, perhaps a mother's maiden name. Marketplaces on the dark web, not unlike eBay, have feedback systems for vendors ("cheap and good A+"), refund policies (usually stating that refunds are not allowed), and even well-labeled sections. "There is no shortage of hackers willing to do about anything, computer related, for money," writes Elizabeth Clarke. "and they are continually finding ways to monetize personal and business data."
Businesses

EBay Is Shutting Down Its On-Demand Delivery Service 29 29

An anonymous reader writes: It may come as no surprise but eBay made it official in a statement today; they are ending their on-demand delivery service eBay Now. The company also plans to end a number of mobile applications, including eBay Valet, eBay Fashion and eBay Motors. A company statement reads in part: "...today we are retiring the eBay Now service in the U.S., including the local Brooklyn pilot program. Last year, we retired our eBay Now app and brought the program's delivery capabilities and many participating merchants' inventory into our core mobile apps. This significantly reduced our dependency on a separate standalone service. While we saw encouraging results with the eBay Now service, we always intended it as a pilot, and we are now exploring delivery and pick-up/drop-off programs that are relevant to many more of our 25 million sellers, and that cover a wider variety of inventory that consumers tell us they want. We will continue to pilot scheduled delivery in the UK."
Education

Computer Science Enrollments Match NASDAQ's Rises and Fall 67 67

dcblogs writes: In March 2000, the NASDAQ composite index reached a historic high of 5,048, at just about the same time undergrad computer science enrollments hit a peak of nearly 24,000 students at PhD-granting institutions in the U.S. and Canada, according to data collected by the Computing Research Association in its most recent annual Taulbee Survey. By 2005, computer science enrollments had halved, declining to just over 12,000. On July 17, the NASDAQ hit its highest point since 2000, reaching a composite index of 5,210. In 2014, computer science undergrad enrollments reached nearly, 24,000, almost equal to the 2000 high. Remarkably, it has taken nearly 15 years to reach the earlier enrollment peak.
Google

Google Is Dropping Its Google+ Requirement Across All Products Including YouTube 166 166

An anonymous reader writes: After years of plugging Google+ into all of its services, today Google announced that your Google+ profile will no longer be your identity in all its products. The company says it will take a few months for all the changes to happen, but the first product to be uncoupled will be YouTube. Bradley Horowitz, Google's vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, says the changes are a response to user feedback: "We've also heard that it doesn't make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use."
Android

Razer Acquires Ouya's Storefront and Technical Team 90 90

An anonymous reader writes: The Ouya Android-based gaming console was one of Kickstarter's biggest successes — and one of the biggest letdowns for all the backers. The console never really took off, and the company behind it has limped along over the past couple years. Until today. Razer has now acquired the Ouya technical team, as well as their online storefront — but not the console hardware itself. Razer intends to dump of all these new resources into its Forge TV product, also an Android game console. "Razer went so far as to kick a little sand in the face of the little-console-that-couldn't—by advertising its own Forge microconsole as a 'more advanced' system and telling Ouya owners that they will receive 'a clear path of migration' to buy the company's current $100, AndroidTV-compatible box." The fate of Ouya's hardware is not explicitly mentioned, but the news article suggests it is simply "discontinued."
Businesses

Trillion-Dollar World Trade Deal Aims To Make IT Products Cheaper 96 96

itwbennett writes: A new (tentative) global trade agreement, struck on Friday at a World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, eliminates tariffs on more than 200 kinds of IT products, ranging from smartphones, routers, and ink cartridges to video game consoles and telecommunications satellites. A full list of products covered was published by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which called the ITA expansion 'great news for the American workers and businesses that design, manufacture, and export state-of-the-art technology and information products, ranging from MRI machines to semiconductors to video game consoles.' The deal covers $1.3 trillion worth of global trade, about 7 percent of total trade today. The deal has approval from 49 countries, and is waiting on just a handful more before it becomes official,
Math

For the Love of the Analytics of the Game: Before Beane, There Was AVM Systems 15 15

theodp writes: Those of you slugging your way through EdX's (free) Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics MOOC course might want to take a break from your R and SQL coding to check out Grantland's Before Beane, in which Ben Lindbergh tells the story of AVM Systems, the little-known company that jump-started sabermetrics and made Moneyball possible. Ken Mauriello, whose love-for-the-analytics-of-the-game led him to ditch a trading career to co-found AVM in the mid-90's, said of the early days, "Back in the day we weren't doing presentations [to skeptical MLB teams] with laptops. We were carrying around two enormous boxes with an enormous monitor and an enormous tower. It was like Planes, Trains & Automobiles traveling around with that stuff. Watching a great big Gateway box with your monitor come tumbling out upside down, and you pick it up and it's rattling. ... So we're in the hotel, saying, 'Please lord, let this thing work.'"
Businesses

LinkedIn (Temporarily) Backs Down After Uproar At Contact Export Removal 42 42

Mark Wilson writes: LinkedIn caused a storm a couple of days ago when it removed the option to instantly download contacts. Many users of the professional social network were more than a little irked to discover that while contact exporting was still available, a wait of up to three days had been put in place. Unsurprisingly, users revolted, having been particularly upset by the fact the change was implemented with no warning or announcement. But the company has managed to turn things around by quickly backtracking on its decision after listening to a stream of complaints on Twitter.
Transportation

Fiat Chrysler Hit With Record $105 Million Fine Over Botched Recalls 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has levied a record fine against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to punish them for failing to adequately recall and fix defective cars. (If Fiat sounds familiar, it's the same company that issued a 1.4 million-vehicle recall on Friday over a remote hack.) The NHTSA's $105 million fine is half-again as much as the next biggest fine (given to Honda last year over faulty airbags). Fiat Chrysler "admitted to violating federal rules requiring timely recalls and notifications to vehicle owners, dealers and regulators." The company will be forced to buy back hundreds of thousands of vehicles (at the owners' discretion, of course) that have problems with the suspension that could lead to a loss of control. A million more Jeep owners will be given a chance to trade in their vehicle at a higher rate than market value because of rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to catching fire.
Bitcoin

Winklevoss Twins Get Closer To Launching Their Bitcoin Exchange 93 93

An anonymous reader writes: Reuters has an update on the Winklevoss twins plan to launch a regulated Bitcoin exchange called Gemini. The two have filed a New York trust application necessary for them to launch their Gemini bitcoin exchange. If approved, the exchange would be able to accept deposits, and issue loans. The twins say they want to make digital currency mainstream in the United States.
Businesses

How Amazon Could Drive Blended Reality Into The Living Room 16 16

An anonymous reader writes: Here's an interesting story on TechCrunch joining the dots on Amazon's interest in computer vision and its connected speaker-plus-virtual assistant in-home device, the Amazon Echo. The author speculates that if Amazon adds a camera to the Echo the device could be used for augmented reality-powered virtual try-ons of products such as clothes, streaming the results to the user's phone or TV. From the article: "The product development process for Microsoft's Kinect sensor took around four to five years from conception to shipping a consumer product. The computer vision field has clearly gained from a lot of research since then, and Woodford reckons Amazon could ship an Echo sensor in an even shorter timeframe — say, in the next two years — provided the business was entirely behind the idea and doing everything it could to get such a product to market."
EU

EU May Become a Single Digital Market of 500 Million People 132 132

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that the EU is becoming increasingly vociferous in its opposition to "geo-blocking" — the practice of making media services available in some areas but not in others: "European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channel of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU." That adds up to a block of nearly 500 million first-world media consumers. They don't necessarily all speak the same language, but English is probably the most commonly understood single language. And the important thing for American media companies to remember is that they're not American in thought, taste or outlook.
HP

HP R&D Starts Enforcing a Business Casual Dress Code 467 467

An anonymous reader writes: HP was once known as a research and technology giant, a company founded in a garage by a pair of engineers and dominated by researchers. Whilst a part of that lives on in Agilent any hope for the rest of the company has now died with the announcement that HP R&D will have to dress in business "smart casual" with T-shirts, baseball caps, short skirts, low cut dresses and sportswear all being banned.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Building an Open Source Community For a Proprietary Software Product? 85 85

An anonymous reader writes: I run a company that develops scientific computing software. Our core product is a traditional proprietary application — we develop the software and deliver the "binaries" to our customers. We're considering changing our deployment to include all of the source code and giving our customers some additional rights to explore and extend it. The codebase is HTML/JavaScript/Python/SQL, so a lot of the code is available in some form already, albeit minified or byte compiled.

Because we are in a scientific domain, most of our customers use Open Source software alongside our product. We also maintain Open Source projects and directly support others. We're strong supporters of Open Source and understand the value of having access to the source code.

We also support a free (as in beer) version of the software with a smaller feature set (production and enterprise elements that individual users don't need are removed). We'd like that version to use the same model as well to give users that don't need the full commercial version the ability to extend the software and submit patches back to us for inclusion in future releases.

Overall, we'd really like to find a model that allows our core product to work more like an Open Source product while maintaining control over the distribution rights. We'd like to foster a community around the product but still generate revenue to fund it. In our space, the "give the product away but pay for support" model has never really worked. The market is too small and, importantly, most customers understand our value proposition and have no problem with our annual license model.

We've looked at traditional dual licensing approaches, but don't think they're really right fit, either. A single license that gives users access to the code but limits the ability to redistribute the code and distribute patches to the "core" is what we'd prefer. My questions for the Slashdot community: Does anyone have direct experience with models like this? Are there existing licenses that we should look at? What companies have succeeded doing this? Who has failed?
AT&T

FCC Approves AT&T's DirecTV Purchase 100 100

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has granted approval to AT&T to purchase DirecTV for $48.5 billion. AT&T will become the largest provider of cable or satellite TV in the U.S., with 26.4 million subscribers. "Adding TV customers gives AT&T more power to negotiate with big media companies over prices for those channels. The deal also combines a nationwide satellite TV service, the country's largest, with the No. 2 nationwide wireless network as time spent on mobile devices increases." The FCC did put conditions on the deal: AT&T must make fiber internet service available to 12.5 million people, offer cheaper internet plans to low-income customers, and not mess with the internet traffic of online video competitors.
Power

MIT Stealth Startup Charges Up Wireless Power Competition 63 63

gthuang88 writes: Wireless charging of electronics is an old concept, but there's a new player in the competition between companies like WiTricity, Energous, and tech giants Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. A new spinout from Dina Katabi's lab at MIT, called Pi, may have a new take on how to charge mobile devices at a distance. The company isn't talking yet, but Katabi's research suggests the system uses an array of coils to produce a magnetic field and detect when a device is within range, like a Wi-Fi router. The array can then focus the magnetic field on a coil attached to a phone or mobile device and induce a current to charge the battery. But it's still very early, and the field of wireless charging needs to settle on technical standards and work out its commercial kinks.