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Government

Cities Wasting Millions of Taxpayer's Money In Failed IoT Pilots 66

dkatana writes: Two years ago at the Smart Cities Expo World Congress, Antoni Vives, then Barcelona's second deputy mayor, said he refused to have more technology pilots in the city: "I hate pilots, if anyone of you [technology companies] comes to me selling a pilot, just get away, I don't want to see you." He added, "I am fed up with the streets full of devices. It is a waste of time, a waste of money, and doesn't deliver anything; it is just for the sake of selling something to the press and it does not work."

Barcelona is already a leading city in the use of IoT and, according to Fortune, "The most wired city in the world". Over the past 10 years, the city has experienced a surge in the number of sensors, data collection devices and automation and has become "a showcase for the smart metropolis of the future". Over the past few years technology companies have sold pilot programs costing millions of dollars to cities all over the world, claiming it will enhance their "Smart City" rating. Unfortunately, after the initial buzz, many of those pilots never get beyond the evaluation stage and are abandoned because the cities cannot afford them in the first place.
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do If You Were Suddenly Wealthy? 415

An anonymous reader writes: There are a few articles floating around today about comments from Markus Persson, aka "Notch," the creator of Minecraft. He sold his game studio to Microsoft last year for $2.5 billion, but he seems to be having a hard time adjusting to his newfound fame and wealth. He wrote, "The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance. ... Found a great girl, but she's afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead. I would Musk and try to save the world, but that just exposes me to the same type of a$#@%&*s that made me sell minecraft again." While he later suggests he was just having a bad day, he does seem to be dealing with some isolation issues. Granted, it can be hard to feel sorry for a billionaire, but I've wondered at times how I'd handle sudden wealth like that, and I long ago decided it would make the human relationships I'm accustomed to rather difficult. So, how would you deal with Notch's problem? It seems like one the tech industry should at least be aware of, given the focus on startup culture.
Google

Google Facing Fine of Up To $1.4 Billion In India Over Rigged Search Results 106

An anonymous reader writes: The Competition Commission of India has opened an investigation into Google to decide whether the company unfairly prioritized search results to its own services. Google could face a fine of up to $1.4 billion — 10% of its net income in 2014. A number of other internet companies, including Facebook and FlipKart, responded to queries from the CCI by confirming that Google does this. "The CCI's report accuses Google of displaying its own content and services more prominently in search results than other sources that have higher hit rates. It also states that sponsored links shown in search results are dependent on the amount of advertising funds Google receives from its clients. Ecommerce portal Flipkart noted that it found search results to have a direct correlation with the amount of money it spent on advertising with Google." The company has faced similar antitrust concerns in the EU and the U.S
The Almighty Buck

Where the Tech Industry's Political Donations Are Going 94

An anonymous reader writes: Early estimates suggest the 2016 U.S. presidential election will result in $5-10 billion in spending by candidates and organizations — much more than ever before. To support this, they need lots of contributions, and the tech industry is becoming a significant player. (Not as much as the financial industry, of course, but tech's influence is growing.) Re/Code breaks down which candidates are getting the most money from the tech sector so far. Right now, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has gotten the most tech money by far — more than the rest of the field combined, thanks in large part to Larry Ellison. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, is a distant second, followed closely by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are the only other candidates with significant tech contributions so far. Carly Fiorina, a tech industry veteran, has only managed about $13,000 in donations.
The Internet

Metal Gear Solid V PC Disc Contains Steam Installer, Nothing Else 109

dotarray writes: The boxed copy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain reportedly contains nothing but a Steam installer. That's right, even if you fork out real-world money for a physical copy of the game, you'll still have to download the whole thing from the internet. The game officially launches tomorrow. Early critical reviews are quite positive, though you should take that with a grain of salt until the game is more widely distributed. Game Informer says, "Unlike the linear design of previous entries, The Phantom Pain rarely assumes you have particular weapons and equipment, so the missions are brilliantly designed with multiple paths to success." The Washington Post notes, "The Phantom Pain’s openness feels like Kojima finally found a technical platform broad enough to make use of all of those tools and trusts players to build their own narrative drama from the way they choose to put these tools together for each mission." IGN has this criticism: "... where Phantom Pain’s gameplay systems are far richer and meatier than any the series has ever seen, its story feels insubstantial and woefully underdeveloped by comparison." Metal Gear Solid 5 is launching for PCs, current consoles, and previous-gen consoles; Digital Foundry thinks is likely to be the last true cross-generation AAA title.
The Internet

CenturyLink Takes $3B In Subsidies For Building Out Rural Broadband 185

New submitter club77er writes with a link to a DSL Reports article outlining some hefty subsidies (about $3 billion, all told) that CenturyLink has signed up to receive, in exchange for expanding its coverage to areas considered underserved: According to the CenturyLink announcement, the telco will take $500 million a year for six years from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)'s Connect America Fund (CAF). In exchange, it will expand broadband to approximately 1.2 million rural households and businesses in 33 states. While the FCC now defines broadband as 25 Mbps down, these subsidies require that the deployed services be able to provide speeds of at least 10 Mbps down.
Education

NSF Makes It Rain: $722K Award To Evaluate Microsoft-Backed TEALS 54

theodp writes: Microsoft has $92 billion in cash parked offshore, so it's kind of surprising to see a $722K National Science Foundation award is going towards validating the efficacy of Microsoft TEALS, the pet program of CEO Satya Nadella that sends volunteer software engineers with no teaching experience into high schools to teach kids and their teachers computer science. Among its Program Changes for 2015, TEALS said it "explicitly commits to provide a core set of curriculum materials that are complete, organized, and adaptable," which should help improve the outcome of the Developing Computer Science Pedagogical Content Knowledge through On-the-Job Learning NSF study schools are being asked to participate in. Meanwhile, CSTUY, a volunteer organization led by experienced CS teachers (including Slashdot user zamansky), finds itself turning to Kickstarter for $25K to fund Saturday Hacking Sessions. So, as Microsoft-backed Code.org — which has also attracted NSF award money to validate its CS program — is fond of saying: What's wrong with this picture? (To be fair to TEALS: it may have Microsoft backing, but it's not strictly a Microsoft effort, and also started out as a pure volunteer effort, as founder Kevin Wang explained earlier this year.)
Advertising

Inside the Booming, Unhinged, and Dangerous Malvertising Menace 241

mask.of.sanity writes: The Register has a feature on the online malicious advertising (malvertising) menace that has become an explosively potent threat to end-user security on the internet. Experts say advertising networks and exchanges need to vet their customers, and publishers need to vet the third party content they display. Users should also consider script and ad blockers in the interim. From the article: "Ads as an attack vector was identified in 2007 when security responders began receiving reports of malware hitting user machines as victims viewed online advertisements. By year's end William Salusky of the SANS Internet Storms Centre had concocted a name for the attacks. Since then malvertising has exploded. This year it increased by more than 260 percent on the previous year, with some 450,000 malicious ads reported in the first six months alone, according to numbers by RiskIQ. Last year, security firm Cyphort found a 300 percent increase in malvertising. In 2013, the Online Trust Alliance logged a more than 200 percent increase in malvertising incidents compared to 2012, serving some 12.4 billion malvertisement impressions."
Cellphones

Former Apple CEO Creates an iPhone Competitor 133

An anonymous reader links to Fast Company's profile of Obi Worldphone, one-time Apple CEO John Sculley's venture into smartphones. The company's first two products (both reasonably spec'd, moderately priced Android phones) are expected to launch in October. And though the phones are obviously running a different operating system than Apple's, Sculley says that Obi is a similarly design-obsessed company: "The hardest part of the design was not coming up with cool-looking designs," Sculley says. "It was sweating the details over in the Chinese factories, who just were not accustomed to having this quality of finish, all of these little details that make a beautiful design. We had teams over in China, working for months on the floor every day. We intend to continue that process and have budgeted accordingly." Obi is also trying to set itself apart from the low-price pack by cutting deals for premium parts. "Instead of going directly to the Chinese factories, we went to the key component vendors, because we know that ecosystem and have the relationships," Sculley says. "We went to Sony. It’s struggling and losing money on its smartphone business, but they make the best camera modules in the world."
Your Rights Online

Analysis Reveals Almost No Real Women On Ashley Madison 443

gurps_npc writes: Ashley Madison claimed to have about 31 million men and 5.5 million woman enrolled. Those odds are not good for the men, 6:1. But unfortunately, most of those 'women' were fake. This researcher analyzed the data and found only 12,000 actual, real women using Ashley Madison. That means for every 7750 men, there were 3 women. There are reports that Ashley Madison paid people to create fake female profiles. Their website admits that 'some of the users may be there for "entertainment purposes."' The article itself is well written, including a description of the analysis. A charitable person would say that Ashley Madison was selling a fantasy, not reality. But a realist would say Ashley Madison is just a thief stealing money from lonely, unhappy men.
Businesses

Will a Tighter Economy Rein In Startups? 108

Nerval's Lobster writes: It's been quite a ride for the stock market this week. In China, markets cratered; in the U.S., stocks dove for two days, only to rebound on Wednesday. That made many tech firms nervous, both about the Chinese economy (which some of them depend upon) and the continuing flow of money from VCs and investors. While the economic jitters don't seem to be affecting some tech firms' ability to implode themselves, more than one pundit is wondering whether the tech industry will shift into 'fear mode,' which could be bad for the so-called 'unicorns' that need funders to keep partying like it's 1999. Are we going to see money start drying up for startups?
Earth

Countries Gaming Carbon Offsets May Have Dramatically Increased Emissions 145

schwit1 writes: Abuse of the carbon offset system may have caused emissions to increase by as much as 600 million tons. That's the finding of a new report from the Stockholm Environment Institute, which investigated carbon credits used to offset greenhouse gas emissions under a UN scheme. As one of the co-authors of the report put it, issuing these credits "was like printing money." From the article: "In some projects, chemicals known to warm the climate were created and then destroyed to claim cash. As a result of political horse trading at UN negotiations on climate change, countries like Russia and the Ukraine were allowed to create carbon credits from activities like curbing coal waste fires, or restricting gas emissions from petroleum production. Under the UN scheme, called Joint Implementation, they then were able to sell those credits to the European Union's carbon market. Companies bought the offsets rather than making their own more expensive, emissions cuts. But [the studey] says the vast majority of Russian and Ukrainian credits were in fact, "hot air" — no actual emissions were reduced.
Data Storage

Oakland Changes License Plate Reader Policy After Filling 80GB Hard Drive 275

An anonymous reader writes: License plate scanners are a contentious subject, generating lots of debate over what information the government should have, how long they should have it, and what they should do with it. However, it seems policy changes are driven more by practical matters than privacy concerns. Earlier this year, Ars Technica reported that the Oakland Police Department retained millions of records going back to 2010. Now, the department has implemented a six-month retention window, with older data being thrown out. Why the change? They filled up the 80GB hard drive on the Windows XP desktop that hosted the data, and it kept crashing.

Why not just buy a cheap drive with an order of magnitude more storage space? Sgt. Dave Burke said, "We don't just buy stuff from Amazon as you suggested. You have to go to a source, i.e., HP or any reputable source where the city has a contract. And there's a purchase order that has to be submitted, and there has to be money in the budget. Whatever we put on the system, has to be certified. You don't just put anything. I think in the beginning of the program, a desktop was appropriate, but now you start increasing the volume of the camera and vehicles, you have to change, otherwise you're going to drown in the amount of data that's being stored."
Businesses

Life With the Dash Button: Good Design For Amazon, Bad For Everyone Else 258

vivaoporto writes: A scathing review published on Fast Company describes Amazon's Dash Button, the "Buy Now" button brought into the physical world as "the latest symptom of Amazon's slowly spreading disease", "an unabashed attempt to disconnect customers from the amount of money we're spending." The author's criticism centers on Amazon's lack of focus on customer experience, a core UI that doesn't make sense, limited and expensive product selection and a store UX "no longer designed for your convenient shopping", but rather "designed for their profitable selling."
United Kingdom

Met Office Loses BBC Weather Forecasting Contract 119

An anonymous reader writes: UK weather forecasts could be run on computers in New Zealand, as the BBC announced that the UK Met Office lost a forecasting contract it held for almost 100 years. The Guardian reports: "The Met Office has lost the contract it has held for close to a century to provide weather forecasts to the BBC, bringing to an end one of the longest relationships in British media. The broadcaster said it was legally required to open up the contract to outside competition in order to secure the best value for licence fee payers. The meteorological service said it was disappointed by the BBC’s decision to put out to tender the contract, which has been in place since the corporation’s first radio weather bulletin on 14 November 1922. Steve Noyes, operations and customer services director at the Met Office, said: 'Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.'"
NASA

Calls For Funding NASA Commercial Crew Grow 71

MarkWhittington writes: As summer starts to give way to fall and the end of the current fiscal year draws nigh, demands that NASA's commercial crew program be fully funded are being heard with greater frequency and urgency. Astronaut Scott Kelly took time off from his year-long sojourn on the International Space Station to entreat Congress to pony up. IO9 was a little more caustic, stating "Dammit, Congress: Just Buy NASA its Own Space Taxi, Already." Monday, Slate became the latest media outlet to take up the cause

The situation is depressingly familiar to those who have followed the fortunes of the space program since the Apollo moon landings. When President Obama started the commercial crew program in 2010, NASA estimated that it would take a certain amount of money to get government funded and commercially operated spacecraft running by 2015. Then the space agency would no longer be dependent on Russia for rides to the International Space Station.

Congress has decided to allocate less money than NASA feels it needed for commercial crew. This situation is not unusual, as Congress often does this to space projects. However, the politics surrounding the creation of the commercial crew program, which featured the abrupt cancellation of the Constellation space exploration program, has exacerbated the conflict between NASA's will and Congress' won't. President Obama did not consult Congress when he cancelled President Bush's return to the moon program. Congress has displeased ever since.
Censorship

Proposed Rules Would Require Gov't Registration For Malaysian Press Sites 39

Malaysia's Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak has proposed mandatory government registration for web sites operating within Malaysia. This comes after the Malaysian government blocked the online Sarawak Report, and suspended a newspaper called the The Edge "for allegedly posting unverified information." Officials accused these news outlets of publishing inaccurate documents about a corruption scandal that linked the Prime Minister to 1MDB, a state-managed investment firm that reportedly lost billions of taxpayers’ money. ... The proposal to require news websites to register is seen by some as part of the government’s response to the rising outrage over the corruption issue.
Businesses

Not All Uber Drivers Like Surge Pricing, Either 249

CNET reports that Uber's practice of surge pricing, which sometimes raises the ire of passengers, isn't universally acclaimed by the company's drivers, either. "[M]ost Uber riders," according the the linked article, "despise surge pricing," though it's not clear quite how that "most" is arrived at. From the piece: They've complained about running up bills totaling hundreds of dollars, and have criticized the company for using surge pricing during emergencies, like Hurricane Sandy and the Sydney hostage crisis. The San Francisco Better Business Bureau gave Uber the grade of an F because of complaints related to surge pricing. And New York lawmakers have even proposed legislation to put limits on how high fares can go. Now some drivers, like [San Francisco Uber driver Peter] Ashlock, are also having second thoughts on surge pricing." On the other hand, what system would you propose to better reward drivers for working at high-demand times?