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Xiaomi Revenues Were Flat in 2015

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 11:35am
Scott Cendrowski, reporting for Fortune: Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and second highest-valued startup in the world at $45 billion, barely grew sales at all last year. Revenue for 2015 reached 78 billion yuan ($12.5 billion), a 5% rise from 2014's 74.3 billion yuan. Taking into account the falling value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, sales rose 3% in U.S. dollar terms. Xiaomi has been mum about the 2015 sales total since founder Lei Jun gave a revenue target of 100 billion yuan ($16 billion at the time) at a government meeting in March last year. Flat sales growth represents a dramatic change of fortune for Xiaomi, which until recently appeared to be enjoying the momentum befitting China's hottest startup. It was coming off sales growth of 135% in 2014, and in early 2015 founder Lei Jun said at a press conference that Xiaomi's new smartphone was even better than Apple's iPhone. However the phone, the Mi Note, amassed early user complaints about hot temperatures and didn't become the mega-seller the company might have hoped.CNBC's Jay Yarrow said "The Apple-killer is dying." For the uninitiated, Xiaomi rose to fame in 2013-14 when the company took the world by storm with its cheap-priced handsets, TVs, speakers, power banks, and cameras. These devices offered top-of-the-line specifications for their respective echelon. The company has been called out before for allegedly copying Apple's iOS design in its MIUI Android-based operating system. In the past two years, Xiaomi has expanded its business to several Asian regions, and intends to sell a number of gadgets in the United States and Europe among other regions starting later this year. The company has also expanded its product portfolio, making weighing scale, rice cooker, suitcase and a range of other items.

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Tesla Co-Founder Says Hydrogen Fuel Cells Are a 'Scam'

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:50am
Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla, believes hydrogen fuel cells are a "scam". Tarpenning, who is not with Tesla anymore appeared on Internet History Podcast last week to outline a number of issues with hydrogen fuel cells. He said (via Electrek blog): If your goal is to reduce energy consumption, petrol or whatever resource, you want to use it as efficiently as possible. You don't want to pick something that consumes a lot for whatever reason, and hydrogen is uniquely bad. There's a saying in the auto industry that hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. It's a scam as far as I can tell because the energy equation is terrible. People will say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it's abundant out there in the universe not here. We live on a planet where hydrogen is super reactive -- it's bound up into everything. It's bound up into water, wood and everything else. They only way that you get hydrogen requires you to pour energy into it to break it from the chemical bonds. Electrolysis is the most common method. You put electricity in water and it separates it, but you are pouring energy in order to make hydrogen, and then you have to compress it and that takes energy, and then you have to transport it to wherever you actually need it, which is really difficult because hydrogen is much harder to work with than gasoline or even natural gas -- and natural gas is not that easy. And then you ultimately have to place it into a car where you'll have a very high-pressure vessel which offers its own safety issues -- and that's only to convert it back again to electricity to make the car go because hydrogen fuel cell cars are really electric cars. They just have an extraordinary bad battery.Here's the podcast.

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How Copyright Law Is Being Misused To Remove Material From the Internet

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 10:10am
London-based resident Annabelle Narey posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet. She noted in her review that her ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom. The Guardian reports about what happened to her in the aftermath of posting that review. Building firm BuildTeam sent a letter to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey. According to Narey, BuildTeam found Narey's comment defamatory and untrue, and asked for the removal of the comment from the website. The original comment saw several other users also post similar grievances, though many of these users pulled their comments in response to the legal threats from BuildTeam. Narey wanted to keep hers up. Then things got even weirder, reports the Guardian. Narey says BuiltTeam staff visited her apartment, and instead of offering any apology, asked her to remove the comment. Mumsnet received a warning from Google: a takedown request under DMCA, alleging copyright infringement. This led Google to de-list the entire thread. From the report: No copyright infringement had occurred at all. At some point after Narey posted her comments on Mumsnet, someone had copied the entire text of one of her posts and pasted it, verbatim, to a spammy blog titled "Home Improvement Tips and Tricks". The post, headlined "Buildteam interior designers" was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it. BuildTeam says it has no idea why Narey's review was reposted, but that it had nothing to do with it.The Guardian deep dives into what is wrong with the copyright system, the issues Google faces in dealing with them, and the consequences many users are facing because of this.

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Spotify's New Family Plan Is Cheaper, $14.99 For Up To 6 people

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 9:19am
An anonymous reader writes: Spotify on Monday announced some changes to its family plan subscriptions, allowing them to use Spotify Premium for $14.99 per month and get six different Spotify accounts and profiles. This is the exact same deal as the one you can get on Apple Music today. Spotify is just making sure you're not going to move your entire family over to Apple Music for pricing reasons. The company introduced family plans back in 2014. At the time, it was one of the first subscription services with family plans. You could get 50 percent off extra Spotify accounts. So it would cost you $14.99 for two accounts, $19.99 for three accounts, $19.99 for four accounts, etc. For big families with at least three accounts, the new Spotify family plan is cheaper. For singles and couples, it's the same price.

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Avoiding BlackBerry's Fate: How Apple Could End Up In a Similar Position

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 8:30am
It's almost unbelievable today that BlackBerry ruled the smartphone market once. The Canadian company's handset, however, started to lose relevance when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. At the time, BlackBerry said that nobody would purchase an iPhone, as there's a battery trade-off. Wittingly or not, Apple could end up in a similar position to BlackBerry, argues Marco Arment. Arment -- who is best known for his Apple commentary, Overcast and Instapaper apps, and co-founding Tumblr -- says that Apple's strong stand on privacy is keeping it from being the frontrunner in the advanced AI, a category which has seen large investments from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon in the recent years. He adds that privacy cannot be an excuse, as Apple could utilize public data like the web, mapping databases, and business directories. He writes: Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for. If they're right -- and that's a big "if" -- I'm worried for Apple. Today, Apple's being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritise those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they're able to do, despite being very good at it, won't be enough anymore, and they won't be able to catch up. Where Apple suffers is big-data services and AI, such as search, relevance, classification, and complex natural-language queries. Apple can do rudimentary versions of all of those, but their competitors -- again, especially Google -- are far ahead of them, and the gap is only widening. And Apple is showing worryingly few signs of meaningful improvement or investment in these areas. Apple's apparent inaction shows that they're content with their services' quality, management, performance, advancement, and talent acquisition and retention. One company that is missing from Mr. Arment's column is Microsoft. The Cortana-maker has also placed large bets on AI. According to job postings on its portal, it appears, for instance, that Microsoft is also working on Google Home-like service.

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Nevada Startup Stores Energy With Trains

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 6:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Nevada's Bureau of Land Management has granted a land lease to a $55 million project by Advanced Rail Energy Storage, which "proposes to use excess off-peak energy to push a heavily-loaded train up a grade," according to Fortune. "Then, when the grid needs that energy back, the cars will be rolled back down the slope...that return trip will generate energy and put it back on the grid." The company claims its solution is about 50% cheaper than other storage technologies, according to Fortune, and boasts an 80% efficency in energy reclamation, "similar to or slightly above typical hydro-storage efficiency." Citing Tesla's factory, the magazine callsthe project "further evidence for Nevadaâ(TM)s emergence as a leading region for innovative transportation and energy projects."

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Space Updates From Three Countries

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 2:30am
The Indian Space Research Organisation continues developing a reusable launch vehicle, which could cut the costs of satellite launches by 90%. William Robinson quotes the Business Times: India will use a mini-rocket with a booster to fly a winged reusable launch vehicle into lower earth orbit on May 23... If everything goes well, it will reach about 70 kilometers from earth, and will plunge into the Bay of Bengal...to demonstrate hypersonic and aero-thermodynamics of the winged re-entry vehicle with autonomous mission management Meanwhile, Thelasko shares this reminder from BlastingNews that the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B celebrated the one-year anniversary of its launch: Today, the maneuverable craft operates in a 220-mile orbit, a higher altitude it briefly held last fall and roughly the same perch occupied twice by the previous X-37B mission, according to satellite-tracking hobbyist Ted Molczan. This X-37B carries at least two payloads, revealed by the military before the ship took off â" an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment. And MarkWhittington writes that "The latest Chinese space station, the Tiangong 2, is slated to be launched later in 2016 and will be visited by Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft. But, according to Spaceflight Insider, the Chinese are already looking ahead to their permanent low Earth orbit space facility, the Tiangong 3, slated to begin construction in 2018."

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Code Quality Predicted Using Biometrics

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: Swiss researchers are unveiling "a not at all sinister-sounding system capable of predicting the quality of code produced by developers based on their biometric data," according to Motherboard. "By looking at the programmer as they program, rather than the code after the programmer is done writing it, the system described by the Zurich researchers finds code quality issues as the code is being produced... By using heart rate information, for example, they were able to quantify the difficulty a given programmer had in producing a piece of software. This information could then be used to identify likely sections of bad code..." In a paper to be presented at an Austin engineering conference this week, the researchers write that "Delaying software quality concerns, such as defects or poor understandability of the code, increases the cost of fixing them," calling their system an improvement over code reviews, even automated ones. "Biometrics helped to automatically detect 50 percent of the bugs found in code reviews and outperformed traditional metrics in predicting all quality concerns found in code reviews." On the other hand, Motherboard likened the stress level for programmers to "a coding interview that never ends where you also happen to be naked. "

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Microsoft Urged to Open Source Classic Visual Basic

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 8:30pm
"On the 25th anniversary of classic Visual Basic, return it to its programmers..." reads the plea at UserVoice.com from Sue Gee -- drawing 85 upvotes. "The new Microsoft claims to back open source, why not in this case? There is no need for Microsoft to do any more work on the code base - simply open source it and allow the community to keep it alive." In an essay at i-programmer.info, Gee shares a video of young Bill Gates building an app with Visual Basic in 1991, and complains that in the 25 years since Microsoft has open sourced .NET Core and the .NET Compiler Platform Roslyn, "but it has explicitly refused to open source VB6." She notes that Friday Visual Basic's program manager announced a "Visual Basic Silver Anniversary Celebratiathon," promising he's reaching out to the VB team members from the last 25 years for a behind-the-scenes retrospective, and adding "this is a party, so feel free to be interactive." "What the post glosses over is that this history was blighted by the fork in the road that was .NET and that many Visual Basic fans are highly unsatisfied that the programming environment they cherished is lost to them..." writes Gee. "Vote for the proposal not because you want to use VB6 or that you think it is worth having -- Vote for it because a company like Microsoft should not take a language away from its users."

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How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 6:30pm
10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself." But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge... Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.) Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."

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Rovio's Desperate Push For 'Angry Birds' Movie

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 5:30pm
An anonymous reader writes:Last year Rovio "cut 213 jobs, affecting all departments except those working on the film and its related projects," remembers VentureBeat, describing their effort to make a movie about three outcast birds on an island of happier birds who all meet in an anger management class. But "Since Rovio funded the entire film, the directors didn't have to answer to an executive committee or a board of trustees..." reports VentureBeat, quoting director Clay Kaytis as saying "We had to make ourselves happy... We were making the films for [ourselves] instead of for a larger entity that expects something in return." After working for four years from a script by Jon Vitti (a writer for both The Simpsons and The Office), and funding a marketing onslaught that lasted nine months, Rovio finally saw their Angry Birds movie open in this weekend's #1 spot, according to the New York Times. "Most of the 'Angry Birds' financial risk fell to Rovio, the Finnish video game company, which paid $173 million to make and market the movie. As such, Rovio will receive the bulk of any profit." In China, McDonald's released special Angry Birds burgers with red or green buns...which at least one patron complained made the buns look moldy.

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Hundreds of Drupal Sites Targeted With Fake Ransomware

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 4:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: A group of hackers have created a ransomware strain that specifically targets Drupal sites. Infection occurs thanks to an automated bot which scans Drupal sites and then uses an SQL injection (CVE-2014-3704) to change the site admin's password. The bot also dumps any emails it finds on the server, and then overwrites the site's main page to show a typical ransomware note. Over 400 sites have been infected until now, but nobody has paid the ransom yet. This case yet again proves why "Web ransomware" will never work because even the worst Web hosting service provides automatic backups from where they could retrieve a clean version of their site.

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Netflix and Amazon Could Face Content Quotas In Europe

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 3:30pm
jader3rd quotes an articles from The Daily Mail about a new EU proposal to be published next week: Netflix and Amazon could be forced to make French, German and even Estonian films and TV shows by the EU. The US companies could also be hit with taxes to raise funds to support the work of film-makers in Europe. The proposal is thought to be driven by the French, who are particularly fearful of their cinema and TV programmes being eclipsed by English language productions... One draft says the aims is to create 'a more level playing field in the promotion of European works by obliging on-demand services to reserve at least 20 percent share for European works in their catalogues and to ensure adequate prominence of such works'. French may become the world's most-spoken language by 2050 (due to its popularity among the fast-growing population of Africa). But even so, should U.S.-based companies be facing "regional quotas" for the content they're offering?

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Ask Slashdot: Have You Migrated To Node.js?

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 2:30pm
A developer maintaining his company's "half-assed LAMP / WordPress stack pipeline for web and web application development" is considering something more scalable that could eventually be migrated into the cloud. Qbertino asks Slashdot: Have you moved from LAMP (PHP) to Node.js for custom product development and if so, what's your advice? What downsides of JS on the server and in Node.js have a real-world effect? Is callback hell really a thing? And what is the state of free and open-source Node products...? Is there any trend inside the Node.js camp on building a platform and CMS product that competes with the PHP camp whilst maintaining a sane architecture, or is it all just a ball of hype with a huge mess of its own growing in the background, Rails-style? Condensing Qbertino's original submission: he wants to be able to quickly deliver "pretty, working, and half-way reliable products that make us money" -- and to build a durable pipeline. So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What did you experience moving to Node.js?

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Segway Inventor To Build Powerful Wheelchair With Toyota

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 1:30pm
Toyota is working with Segway PT inventor Dean Kamen on advanced wheelchairs for the aged and disabled. Slashdot reader necro81 writes: Most people don't know that the two-wheeled balancing technology was first developed by Kamen's company in the early 2000s for the iBot -- an advanced wheelchair that could climb stairs and curbs, had four-wheel drive, and could balance on its rear wheels... it was also a commercial flop: the iBot was discontinued in 2009 after selling hundreds of units (many still in operation a decade later). Today, however, Toyota announced a partnership with Dean Kamen to upgrade the iBot and bring it back to market. I wonder if they'll be used in more than just the obvious ways. 15 years after the introduction of the first Segways, Steve Wozniak is participating in the Segway polo world championships (which are named the "Woz Cup" in his honor). And the Australian army once even had a fleet of Segways which they dressed up like enemy soldiers to practice field maneuvers.

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Attackers Steal $12.7M In Massive ATM Heist

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 12:30pm
Within two hours $12.7 million in cash was stolen from 1,400 ATMs located at convenience stores all across Japan, investigators announced Sunday. An anonymous reader quotes a Japanese newspaper: Police suspect that the cash was withdrawn at ATMs using counterfeit credit cards containing account information leaked from a South African bank. Japanese police will work with South African authorities through the International Criminal Police Organization to look into the major theft, including how credit card information was leaked, the sources said. Over the two hours attackers withdrew the equivalent of $907 in 14,000 different transactions.

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Student Exposes Bad Police Encryption, Gets Suspended Sentence

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:30am
An anonymous reader shares a story about Dejan Ornig, a security analyst in Slovenia who warned the Slovenian police department about vulnerabilities in their supposedly secure communication system TETRA in 2013. (Here's Google's English translation of the article, and the Slovenian original.) He discovered that the system, which was supposed to provide encrypted communication, was incorrectly configured. As a result lots of communication could be intercepted with a $25 piece of equipment and some software. To make matters worse, the system is not used just by the police, but also by the military, military police, IRS, Department of Corrections and a few other governmental institutions which rely on secure communications. After waiting for more than two years for a reaction, from police or Ministry of Interior and getting in touch with security researchers at the prestigious institute Jozef Stefan, he eventually decided to go public with his story... The police and Ministry of interior then launched an internal investigation, which then confirmed Ornig's findings and revealed internal communications problems between the departments... Ornig has been subject to a house search by the police, during which his computers and equipment that he used to listen in on the system were seized. Police also found a "counterfeit police badge" during the investigation. All along Ornig was offering his help with securing the system. On May 11th Ornig received a prison sentence of 15 months suspended for duration of three years, provided that he doesn't repeat any of the offenses for which he was found guilty (illegal access of the communications system). He can appeal this judgment.

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Researchers Generate Electricity Using Seawater and Sunlight

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 10:30am
Slashdot reader sosume writes: Scientists at Osaka University have created a new method to use sunlight to turn seawater into hydrogen peroxide which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. It's the first photocatalytic method of H2O2 production that achieves a high enough efficiency so that the H2O2 can be used in a fuel cell. It's easier and safer to transport liquid H2O2, according to the article, and while its total efficiency is much lower than conventional solar cells, the researchers hope to get better results by using better materials.

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Ransomware Adds DDoS Attacks To Annoy More People

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 9:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Ransomware developers have found another method of monetizing their operations by adding a DDoS component to their malicious payloads. So instead of just encrypting your files and locking your screen, new ransomware versions seen this week also started adding a DDoS bot that quietly blasts spoofed network traffic at various IPs on the Internet. Softpedia points out that "Renting out DDoS botnets on the Dark Web is a very lucrative business, even if prices have gone down in recent years."

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Google-Backed Solar Plant Catches on Fire

Sun, 05/22/2016 - 8:30am
An anonymous reader writes:"The world's largest solar plant just torched itself," read the headline at Gizmodo, reporting on a fire Thursday at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Built on 4,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion plant "has nearly 350,000 computer controlled mirrors -- each roughly the size of a garage door," according to the Associated Press, which reports that misaligned mirrors focused the sunlight on electrical cables, causing them to burst into flames, according to the local fire department. The facility was temporarily shut down, and the fire damaged one of the facility's three towers, according to the Associated Press, while another tower is closed for maintenance, "leaving the sprawling facility on the California-Nevada border operating at only a third of its capacity." The New York Times reported that by 2011 Google had invested $168 in the facility.

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