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Businesses

How Cable Monopolies Hurt ISP Customers (backchannel.com) 73

"New York subscribers have had to overpay month after month for services that Spectrum deliberately didn't provide," reports Backchannel -- noting these practices are significant because together Comcast and Charter (formerly Time Warner Cable) account for half of America's 92 million high-speed internet connections. An anonymous reader quotes Backchannel: Based on the company's own documents and statements, it appears that just about everything it has been saying since 2012 to New York State residents about their internet access and data services is untrue...because of business decisions the company deliberately made in order to keep its capital expenditures as low as possible... Its marketing department kept sending out advertising claims to the public that didn't match the reality of what consumers were experiencing or square with what company engineers were telling Spectrum executives. That gives the AG's office its legal hook: Spectrum's actions in knowingly saying one thing but doing another amount to fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive behavior under New York law...

The branding people went nuts, using adjectives like Turbo, Extreme, and Ultimate for the company's highest-speed 200 or 300 Mbps download offerings. But no one, or very few people, could actually experience those speeds...because, according to the complaint, the company deliberately required that internet data connections be shared among a gazillion people in each neighborhood... [T]he lawsuit won't by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the attorney-general's assault -- charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct -- will lead to a call for alternatives. Maybe it will generate momentum for better, faster, wholesale fiber networks controlled by cities and localities themselves. If that happened, retail competition would bloom. We'd get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we're stuck with today.

The article says Spectrum charged 800,000 New Yorkers $10 a month for outdated cable boxes that "weren't even capable of transmitting and receiving wifi at the speeds the company advertised customers would be getting," then promised the FCC in 2013 that they'd replace them, and then didn't. "With no competition, it had no reason to upgrade its services. Indeed, the company's incentives went exactly in the other direction."
United States

The Videogame Industry Is Fighting 'Right To Repair' Laws (vice.com) 210

An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard: The video game industry is lobbying against legislation that would make it easier for gamers to repair their consoles and for consumers to repair all electronics more generally. The Entertainment Software Association, a trade organization that includes Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, as well as dozens of video game developers and publishers, is opposing a "right to repair" bill in Nebraska, which would give hardware manufacturers fewer rights to control the end-of-life of electronics that they have sold to their customers...

Bills making their way through the Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Tennessee, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Illinois statehouses will require manufacturers to sell replacement parts and repair tools to independent repair companies and consumers at the same price they are sold to authorized repair centers. The bill also requires that manufacturers make diagnostic manuals public and requires them to offer software tools or firmware to revert an electronic device to its original functioning state in the case that software locks that prevent independent repair are built into a device. The bills are a huge threat to the repair monopolies these companies have enjoyed, and so just about every major manufacturer has brought lobbyists to Nebraska, where the legislation is currently furthest along... This setup has allowed companies like Apple to monopolize iPhone repair, John Deere to monopolize tractor repair, and Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo to monopolize console repair...

Motherboard's reporter was unable to get a comment from Microsoft, Apple, and Sony, and adds that "In two years of covering this issue, no manufacturer has ever spoken to me about it either on or off the record."
GameCube (Games)

Machine-Learning AI Now Beats Humans At Super Smash Bros. Melee (qz.com) 71

"The AI is definitely godlike," one professional player told Quartz. "I am not sure if anyone could beat it." An anonymous reader quotes their report about an AI's showdown with the best players of Super Smash Bros. Melee: Of 10 professionals that faced the bot, each one was killed more than they could kill the bot... But the bot was once only as good as a mere mortal. At first, Vlad Firoiu, creator and a competitive Smash player himself, couldn't train 'Phillip' to be as strong as the in-game bot, which he says even the worst players can beat fairly easily. Firoiu's solution? He started making the bot play itself over and over again, slowly learning which techniques fail and which succeed, called reinforcement learning. Then, he left it alone.

"I just sort of forgot about it for a week," said Firoiu, who coauthored an unreviewed paper with William F. Whitney, the NYU student [who helped him] on the work. "A week later I looked at it and I was just like, 'Oh my gosh.' I tried playing it and I couldn't beat it."

Business Insider points out that their AI read the players positions, velocities, and states directly from the game's memory, so the AI responds six times faster than a human player. To compensate it played as Captain Falcon, the game's slowest character, but there was one crucial glitch. "One particularly clever player found that the simple strategy of crouching at the edge of the stage caused the network to behave very oddly, refusing to attack and eventually KOing itself by falling off the other side of the stage."
Businesses

Al Gore Sells $29.5 Million In Apple Stock (appleinsider.com) 181

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AppleInsider: A U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Friday reveals Apple board member Al Gore this week sold 215,437 shares of Apple stock (APPL) worth about $29.5 million. Gore's stock sale, which was accomplished in multiple trades ranging from $136.4 to $137.12 on Wednesday, nearly matches a $29.6 million purchase of Apple shares made in 2013. When Gore bought the stock batch more than four years ago, he exercised Apple's director stock option to acquire 59,000 shares at a price of about $7.48 per share, costing him approximately $441,000. This was pre-split AAPL, so shares were valued at $502.68 each. Following today's sale, Gore owns 230,137 shares of Apple stock worth $31.5 million at the end of trading on Friday.
The Courts

ZeniMax Files Injunction To Stop Oculus From Selling VR Headsets (gamespot.com) 77

ZeniMax, the parent company of Fallout and Skyrim developer Bethesda, has filed for an injunction against virtual-reality company Oculus over the recent stolen technology case. The company had accused Oculus of stealing VR-related code, and was subsequently awarded $500 million by a Dallas court earlier this month. ZeniMax has now filed additional papers against Oculus, requesting that Oculus' products using the stolen code be removed from sale. GameSpot reports: Specifically, ZeniMax is seeking to block sales of its mobile and PC developer kits, as well as technology allowing the integration of Oculus Rift with development engines Unreal and Unity, reports Law360. If the injunction isn't granted, ZeniMax wants a share of "revenues derived from products incorporating its intellectual properties," suggesting a 20 percent cut for at least 10 years. ZeniMax argues the previous settlement of $500 million is "insufficient incentive for [Oculus] to cease infringing." Oculus, meanwhile, says that "ZeniMax's motion does not change the fact that the [original] verdict was legally flawed and factually unwarranted. We look forward to filing our own motion to set aside the jury's verdict and, if necessary, filing an appeal that will allow us to put this litigation behind us," the virtual reality company stated.
Government

FCC To Halt Rule That Protects Your Private Data From Security Breaches (arstechnica.com) 117

According to Ars Technica, "The Federal Communications Commission plans to halt implementation of a privacy rule that requires ISPs to protect the security of its customers' personal information." From the report: The data security rule is part of a broader privacy rulemaking implemented under former Chairman Tom Wheeler but opposed by the FCC's new Republican majority. The privacy order's data security obligations are scheduled to take effect on March 2, but Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent that from happening. The data security rule requires ISPs and phone companies to take "reasonable" steps to protect customers' information -- such as Social Security numbers, financial and health information, and Web browsing data -- from theft and data breaches. The rule would be blocked even if a majority of commissioners supported keeping them in place, because the FCC's Wireline Competition Bureau can make the decision on its own. That "full commission vote on the pending petitions" could wipe out the entire privacy rulemaking, not just the data security section, in response to petitions filed by trade groups representing ISPs. That vote has not yet been scheduled. The most well-known portion of the privacy order requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. The opt-in rule is supposed to take effect December 4, 2017, unless the FCC or Congress eliminates it before then. Pai has said that ISPs shouldn't face stricter rules than online providers like Google and Facebook, which are regulated separately by the Federal Trade Commission. Pai wants a "technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world" based on the FTC's standards. According to today's FCC statement, the data security rule "is not consistent with the FTC's privacy standards."
Data Storage

Toshiba Plans To Ship a 1TB Flash Chip To Manufacturers This Spring (computerworld.com) 24

Lucas123 writes: Toshiba has begun shipping samples of its third-generation 3D NAND memory product, a chip with 64 stacked flash cells that it said will enable a 1TB chip shipping later this spring. The new flash memory product has 65% greater capacity than the previous generation technology, which used 48 layers of NAND flash cells. The chip will be used in data centers and consumer SSD products. The technology announcement comes even as suitors are eyeing buying a majority share of the company's memory business. Along with a previous report about Western Digital, Foxxcon, SK Hynix and Micron Technology have now also thrown their hats in the ring to purchase a majority share in Toshiba's memory spin-off, according to a new report in the Nikkei's Asian Review.
Businesses

Boeing and Airbus Can't Make Enough Airplanes To Keep Up With Demand (axios.com) 159

From a report on Axios: Aerospace manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus cannot produce airplanes fast enough to meet demand despite what the Wall Street Journal calls "one of the industry's steepest production increases since World War II." The run up in demand is partially the result of fast-growing airline industries in the Middle East and China. Manufacturers will need to increase production by 30% to meet current orders, and such booming demand is one sign of a healthier global economy.
AI

Americans Believe Robots Will Take Everyone Else's Job, But Theirs Will Be Safe, Study Says (cnbc.com) 352

An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: You may accept, by now, that robots will take over lots of jobs currently held by human workers. But you probably believe they won't be taking yours. Though other industries are in danger, your position is safe. That's according to a report released by LivePerson, a cloud-based messaging company which surveyed 2,000 U.S.-based consumers online in January. Their researchers find that only three percent of respondents say they experience fear about losing their job to a robot once a week. By contrast, more than 40 percent of respondents never worry about it. And a whopping 65 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat agree that other industries will suffer because of automation, but theirs will be fine.
Transportation

Tesla Is So Sure Its Cars Are Safe That It Now Offers Insurance For Life (mashable.com) 143

In the self-driving future envisioned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, car owners might be saying "goodbye" to a whole lot more than steering wheels. From a Mashable report: Musk is so sure of the safety features bundled into Tesla vehicles that his company has begun offering some customers a lifetime insurance and maintenance package at the time of purchase. No more monthly insurance bills. No more unexpected repair costs. "We've been doing it quietly," Tesla President of Global Sales and Service Jonathan McNeill explained on the call, "but in Asia in particular where we started this, now the majority of Tesla cars are sold with an insurance product that is customized to Tesla, that takes into account not only the Autopilot safety features but also the maintenance costs of the car." "It's our vision in the future that we'll be able to offer a single price for the car, maintenance and insurance in a really compelling offering for the consumer," added McNeill. "And we're currently doing that today."
Businesses

Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours (cnet.com) 143

Japan is notorious for its long working hours, which have been blamed for a national health crisis known as "karoshi" -- death from overwork. From a report on CNET: Panasonic hopes to curb this, instructing its 100,000-ish employees to work no later than 8 p.m. each day, reports Asahi Shimbun. This hour reduction still enables a 55-hour working week, but the directive from Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga also limited overtime to 80 hours a month.
Earth

World's Only Sample of Metallic Hydrogen Has Been Lost (ibtimes.co.uk) 270

New submitter drunkdrone quotes a report from International Business Times: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionize modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed "the holy grail of high pressure physics." The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the center of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid. Scientists theorized that metallic hydrogen -- when used as a superconductor -- could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionize medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets. Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated. The metal was being held between two diamonds at a pressure of around 71.7 million pounds per square inch -- more than a third greater than at the Earth's core. According to The Independent, one of these diamonds shattered while the sample was being measured with a laser, and the metal was lost in the process.
Businesses

Website Builder Wix Acquires Art Community DeviantArt For $36 Million (techcrunch.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Wix.com has made another acquisition to build out the tools that it provides to users to build and administer websites: it has acquired DeviantArt, an online community for artists, designers and art/design enthusiasts with some 325 million individual pieces of original art and more than 40 million registered members, for $36 million in cash, including $3 million of assumed liabilities. Wix said that it will continue to operate DeviantArt as a standalone site, but it will also use it to boost its own business in a couple of ways. First, DeviantArt users will get access to Wix's web design tools to build out more dynamic online presences. These tools do not only cover design, but commerce and other features for running businesses online. Second, Wix will open up DeviantArt's repository of art and creative community to the Wix platform, giving Wix's users access to that work to use in their own site building. The deal will also include putting further investment into developing DeviantArt's desktop and mobile apps. (Today, that desktop experience is based on a very simple, pared-down interface that is reminiscent of the 2000 birthdate of the startup itself.)
Businesses

Inside Uber's Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture (cnbc.com) 191

Excerpts from Mike Isaac's report for the New York Times: Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture. Among the most egregious accusations from employees, who either witnessed or were subject to incidents and who asked to remain anonymous because of confidentiality agreements and fear of retaliation: One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat. Until this week, this culture was only whispered about in Silicon Valley. Then on Sunday, Susan Fowler, an engineer who left Uber in December, published a blog post about her time at the company. [...] One group appeared immune to internal scrutiny, the current and former employees said. Called the A-Team and composed of a small group of executives who were personally close to Mr. Kalanick, its members were shielded from much accountability over their actions. One member of the A-Team was Emil Michael, senior vice president for business, who was caught up in a public scandal over comments he made in 2014 about digging into the private lives of journalists who opposed the company. Mr. Kalanick defended Mr. Michael, saying he believed Mr. Michael could learn from his mistakes.
Businesses

Tech Breakthroughs Take a Backseat in Upcoming Apple iPhone Launch (reuters.com) 114

Stephen Nellis, reporting for Reuters: The new iPhone is expected to include new features such as high-resolution displays, wireless charging and 3-D sensors. Rather than representing major breakthroughs, however, most of the innovations have been available in competing phones for several years. Apple's relatively slow adoption of new features both reflects and reinforces the fact smartphone customers are holding onto their phones longer. Timothy Arcuri, an analyst at Cowen & Co, believes upwards of 40 percent of iPhones on the market are more than two years old, a historical high. That is a big reason why investors have driven Apple shares to an all-time high. There is pent-up demand for a new iPhone, even if it does not offer breakthrough technologies. It is not clear whether Apple deliberately held off on packing some of the new features into the current iPhone 7, which has been criticized for a lack of differentiation from its predecessor. Still, the development and roll-out of the anniversary iPhone suggest Apple's product strategy is driven less by technological innovation than by consumer upgrade cycles and Apple's own business and marketing needs.
Communications

T-Mobile Promises Big LTE Boost From 5GHz Wi-Fi Frequencies (arstechnica.com) 64

"T-Mobile USA is ready to deploy a new LTE technology over the same 5GHz frequencies used by Wi-Fi following U.S. government approval of the first 'LTE-U' devices," reports Ars Technica. "The Federal Communications Commission today authorized the first LTE-U (LTE for unlicensed spectrum) devices after a controversial process designed to ensure that cellular network use of the 5GHz band won't interfere with Wi-Fi networks." From the report: LTE-U will help T-Mobile achieve its goal of offering gigabit LTE speeds, the carrier said. Verizon Wireless is also planning to use LTE-U. The company said in September that it is "eager to deploy" the technology and developed an equipment testing plan, but it's not clear when a Verizon deployment will happen. Cellular carriers in the US generally hold exclusive licenses to spectrum, while Wi-Fi operates in unlicensed frequencies. Anyone can operate in unlicensed spectrum without an FCC license as long as they use certified radio equipment and comply with power limits and other technical requirements. The plan to bring LTE to unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum set off an industry fight. LTE-U deployment plans drew opposition in 2015 from cable companies and the Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry group that certifies equipment to make sure it doesn't interfere with other Wi-Fi equipment. Industry groups worked together to develop a "Coexistence Test Plan" to prevent interference, and the Wi-Fi Alliance said it's satisfied with the result even though the new testing is voluntary rather than required by the FCC.
Businesses

Tesla Posts Earnings Loss But Claims Model 3 Production Will Start In July (bgr.com) 67

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a report from BGR: Tesla on Wednesday released its earnings report (PDF) for the company's recent fourth quarter. When the dust settled, Tesla posted revenue of $2.28 billion and a loss of 69 cents per share. By way of contrast, Tesla during the same quarter a year-ago posted a loss of $0.87 per share on the back of $1.75 billion in revenue. Notably, Tesla notes that its cumulative 2016 revenue checked in at $7 billion, a 73% increase from 2015. As far as the Model 3 is concerned, Tesla's press release relays that the company is still on track to begin production in July ahead of volume production in September.

Tesla notes in its press release: "Our Model 3 program is on track to start limited vehicle production in July and to steadily ramp production to exceed 5,000 vehicles per week at some point in the fourth quarter and 10,000 vehicles per week at some point in 2018. To support accelerating vehicle deliveries and maintain our industry-leading customer satisfaction, we are expanding our retail, Supercharger, and service functions. Model 3 vehicle development, supply chain and manufacturing are on track to support volume deliveries in the second half of 2017. In early February, we began building Model 3 prototypes as part of our ongoing testing of the vehicle design and manufacturing processes. Initial crash test results have been positive, and all Model 3-related sourcing is on plan to support the start of production in July. Installation of Model 3 manufacturing equipment is underway in Fremont and at Gigafactory 1, where in January, we began production of battery cells for energy storage products, which have the same form-factor as the cells that will be used in Model 3."

Businesses

Apple's New Spaceship Campus Gets a Name, Lifts Off In April (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Apple has been building its giant new "spaceship" campus in the company's hometown of Cupertino, California, since December of 2013, and since then fans have paid obsessive attention to the structure. It gets buzzed by drones constantly, and the most popular YouTube videos of the building in progress have amassed well over half-a-million views apiece. The company announced today that the campus will be open to employees starting in April and that the building and environs now have a name: Apple Park. Apple says that moving the 12,000 employees who will work at the campus will take more than six months, and landscaping and construction on some buildings won't be done until the summer. The new campus mostly replaces the university-style Infinite Loop campus Apple has used since 1993, though Apple has said that it will also be keeping the older buildings. The new campus' cost has been estimated at around $5 billion. Apple will also be naming one space on the new campus after its founder and former CEO -- the Steve Jobs Theater will replace the current Town Hall event space that Apple sometimes uses for company meetings and product announcements, and it will open "later this year." The new space will be much larger (it will seat 1,000, compared to roughly 300 for the Town Hall), and the larger space will presumably allow Apple to launch more of its products on its campus rather than having to rent expensive event space in downtown San Francisco. The company is also moving its Worldwide Developers Conference closer to home this year -- it will return to San Jose after many years at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
United States

Americans at Risk of Identity Theft as They File their Tax Returns (betanews.com) 77

Ian Barker, writing for BetaNews: As we move into the tax return season a new study reveals that attitudes to identity theft and a pattern of poor practices are leaving much of the public vulnerable. Data security and ID theft protection company CyberScout has carried out its second annual Tax Season Risk Report and finds 58 percent of Americans are not worried about tax fraud in spite of federal reports of 787,000 confirmed identity theft returns in 2016, totaling more than $4 billion in potential fraud. Among other findings are that only 35 percent of taxpayers demand that their preparers use two-factor authentication to protect their clients' personal information. Less than a fifth (18 percent) use an encrypted USB drive to save important documents like tax worksheets, W-2s, 1099s or 1040s. And another 38 percent either store tax documents on their computer's hard drive or in the cloud, approaches that are susceptible to a variety of hacks.
Iphone

iPhone Owners in US Spent $40 Each on Apps in 2016 (cnet.com) 130

Zoey Chong, writing for CNET: iPhone users in the US are spending more and more on apps and in-app purchases. Spending climbed to an average of $40 per person last year, according to research released Monday by Sensor Tower. This is up from $35 in 2015. Gaming continued to lead the way, accounting for more than 80 percent of Apple App Store revenue in the US. Spending in that category increased from $25 on average per person in 2015 to $27 last year. This may not be the biggest surprise, given that 2016 witnessed the rise of Pokemon Go, which crossed $1 billion in revenue worldwide last month.

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