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  • How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

    walterbyrd sends this story from Vox: Everyone agrees that there's been an explosion of patent litigation in recent years, and that lawsuits from non-practicing entities (NPEs) — known to critics as patent trolls — are a major factor. But there's a big debate about whether trolls are creating a drag on innovation — and if so, how big the problem is. A new study (PDF) by researchers at Harvard and the University of Texas provides some insight on this question. Drawing from data on litigation, R&D spending, and patent citations, the researchers find that firms that are forced to pay NPEs (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll. "After losing to NPEs, firms significantly reduce R&D spending — both projects inside the firm and acquiring innovative R&D outside the firm," the authors write. "Our evidence suggests that it really is the NPE litigation event that causes this decrease in innovation."

    20 comments | 1 hour ago

  • Operating Systems Still Matter In a Containerized World

    New submitter Jason Baker writes: With the rise of Docker containers as an alternative for deploying complex server-based applications, one might wonder, does the operating system even matter anymore? Certainly the question gets asked periodically. Gordon Haff makes the argument on Opensource.com that the operating system is still very much alive and kicking, and that a hardened, tuned, reliable operating system is just as important to the success of applications as it was in the pre-container data center.

    60 comments | 6 hours ago

  • Comcast Training Materials Leaked

    WheezyJoe writes: The Verge reports on leaked training manuals from Comcast, which show how selling services is a required part of the job, even for employees doing tech support. The so-called "4S training material" explicitly states that 20 percent of a call center employee's rating for a given call is dependent on effectively selling the customer new Comcast services. "There are pages of materials on 'probing' customers to ferret out upsell opportunities, as well as on batting aside customer objections to being told they need to buy something. 'We can certainly look at other options, but you would lose which you mentioned was important to you,' the guide suggests clumsily saying to an angry customer who doesn't want to buy any more Comcast services." Images of the leaked documents are available on the Verge, making for fun reading.

    128 comments | 8 hours ago

  • Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board

    jones_supa writes: After leaving his position as CEO of Microsoft a year ago, Steve Ballmer has still held a position as a member of the board of directors for the company. Now, he is leaving the board, explaining why in a letter to fresh Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I have become very busy," Ballmer explains. "I see a combination of Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking up a lot of time." Despite his departure, the former-CEO is still invested in the company's success, and he spent most of the letter encouraging Nadella and giving advice. Nadella shot back a supportive, equally optimistic response, promising that Microsoft will thrive in "the mobile-first, cloud-first world."

    113 comments | 13 hours ago

  • Blackberry Moves Non-Handset Divisions Into New Business Unit

    First time accepted submitter BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes The CBC is reporting that Blackberry has made preparations to abandon the phone market by spinning pieces of the business off into Blackberry Technology Solutions. From the article: "The unit ... includes QNX, the company that BlackBerry acquired and used to develop the operating system that became the platform for its new smartphones, and Certicom, a former independent Toronto-area company with advanced security software. BTS will also include BlackBerry's Project Ion, which is an application platform focused on machine-to-machine Internet technology, Paratek antenna tuning technology and about 44,000 patents." When you have less market share than Windows Phone, it's time to throw in the towel ... or as they say in the new "lets not admit we screwed up" vernacular, "pivot to take advantage of new opportunities."

    87 comments | yesterday

  • Rightscorp's New Plan: Hijack Browsers Until Infingers Pay Up

    A few weeks ago, Rightscorp announced plans to have ISPs disconnect repeat copyright infringers. mpicpp (3454017) wrote in with news that Rightscorp announced during their latest earnings call further plans to require ISPs to block all web access (using a proxy system similar to hotel / college campus wifi logins) until users admit guilt and pay a settlement fine (replacing the current system of ISPs merely forwarding notices to users). Quoting TorrentFreak: [Rightscorp] says 75,000 cases have been settled so far with copyright holders picking up $10 from each. ... What is clear is that Rightscorp is determined to go after "Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Cable Vision and one more" in order to "get all of them compliant" (i.e forwarding settlement demands). The company predicts that more details on the strategy will develop in the fall, but comments from COO & CTO Robert Steele hint on how that might be achieved. ... "[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what's called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web." The idea that mere allegations from an anti-piracy company could bring a complete halt to an entire household or business Internet connection until a fine is paid is less like a "piracy speeding ticket" and more like a "piracy wheel clamp", one that costs $20 to have removed.

    355 comments | yesterday

  • Women Founders Outpace Male Counterparts In Certain Types of Kickstarter Funding

    Nerval's Lobster writes Women outpace men when it comes to raising money for technology projects through crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, according to a new study by researchers at New York University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Jason Greenberg (NYC) and Ethan Mollick (Wharton/UPenn) chose 1,250 Kickstarter projects in five categories: games and technology, where founders were predominantly male; film, with an even gender distribution; and fashion and children's books, both populated with more female founders and backers. They analyzed additional factors such as "industry typing" (a theory in which people 'often hold conscious or unconscious biases about what gender is the archetype employee in a particular occupation or industry') and restricted the data set by geography and how much money each Kickstarter project wanted (a project aiming for less than $5,000 may attract an inordinate percentage of family and friends as funders, skewing results). After crunching the data, they found that female founders of technology projects were more likely than males to achieve their Kickstarter goals, a finding that didn't extend to the other four categories. "It appears female backers are responsible for helping female founders succeed in specific industry categories that women backers generally disfavor," they theorized, adding a little later: "The value of crowdfunding is that it enables access to a pool of potential female backers particularly inclined to support women in industry categories in which they believe women to be underrepresented."

    97 comments | yesterday

  • Microsoft's Windows 8 App Store Is Full of Scamware

    Deathspawner writes Windows 8 brought a lot to the table, with one of its most major features being its app store. However, it's not a feature that Microsoft seems too intent on keeping clean. As it is today, the store is completely littered with misleading apps and outright scamware. The unfortunate thing is that to find any of it, all you have to do is simply open the store and peruse the main sections. Not so surprisingly, no Microsoft software seems to be affected by this, but many open-source apps can be found at the store from unofficial sources that have a cost, or will lead the user to download a third-party installer. It's only a matter of time before malware sneaks its way in, if it's not there already.

    176 comments | 2 days ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Would You Pay For Websites Without Trolls?

    First time accepted submitter carbon_tet writes I read two articles this week that made me wonder: "Would anyone actually pay for a website without trolls?" The first, was about web trolls and civility on the internet, and the second about the ad-based internet. It seems that public comments unavoidably have trolls, or they degrade very quickly until someone makes a reference to Hitler. So, is it impossible to have a substantive discussion online without trolls? Would you put your money where your mouth is to have a serious online conversation without them? Are there any topics that you would talk about (or prefer to see talked about) on a website where trolls were paywalled out?

    377 comments | 2 days ago

  • Daimler's Solution For Annoying Out-of-office Email: Delete It

    AmiMoJo writes Sure, you can set an out-of-office auto-reply to let others know they shouldn't email you, but that doesn't usually stop the messages; you may still have to handle those urgent-but-not-really requests while you're on vacation. That's not a problem if you work at Daimler, though. The German automaker recently installed software that not only auto-replies to email sent while staff is away, but deletes it outright.

    229 comments | 2 days ago

  • Facebook Tests "Satire" Tag To Avoid Confusion On News Feed

    An anonymous reader writes "In an attempt to keep you from having to explain to your crazy relatives that despite what they read, Vice President Biden *didn't* get a grow light delivered to the White House under a fake name, Facebook is testing a "satire" tag on news feeds. A Facebook representative issued the following statement to Ars Technica: "We are running a small test which shows the text '[Satire]' in front of links to satirical articles in the related articles unit in News Feed. This is because we received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units."

    131 comments | 2 days ago

  • Financial Services Group WCS Sues Online Forum Over Negative Post

    First time accepted submitter kavzee writes The popular Australian online discussion forum, Whirlpool, is being sued by a financial services group for refusing to remove a negative review about its services. A similar story occurred a number of years ago when another company by the name of 2Clix attempted to sue Whirlpool for the same reasons but later withdrew their case. "A financial services business licenced through National Australia Bank is suing an online forum for refusing to remove an allegedly fake and negative post about its services, claiming it has damaged its reputation with would-be clients. It is the latest legal action launched against an online forum or review website for publishing negative comments, following several high profile cases in Australia and overseas. Financial advice group WCS Group has initiated action against Whirlpool in the Supreme Court of Victoria, seeking unspecified damages and costs, despite the fact the forum generates no revenue."

    110 comments | 2 days ago

  • Microsoft Considered Renaming Internet Explorer To Escape Its Reputation

    An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft's Internet Explorer engineering team told a Reddit gathering that discussions about a name change have taken place and could happen again. From the article: "Microsoft has had "passionate" discussions about renaming Internet Explorer to distance the browser from its tarnished image, according to answers from members of the developer team given in a reddit Ask Me Anything session today. In spite of significant investment in the browser—with the result that Internet Explorer 11 is really quite good—many still regard the browser with contempt, soured on it by the lengthy period of neglect that came after the release of the once-dominant version 6. Microsoft has been working to court developers and get them to give the browser a second look, but the company still faces an uphill challenge."

    413 comments | 2 days ago

  • Companies That Don't Understand Engineers Don't Respect Engineers

    An anonymous reader writes Following up on a recent experiment into the status of software engineers versus managers, Jon Evans writes that the easiest way to find out which companies don't respect their engineers is to learn which companies simply don't understand them. "Engineers are treated as less-than-equal because we are often viewed as idiot savants. We may speak the magic language of machines, the thinking goes, but we aren't business people, so we aren't qualified to make the most important decisions. ... Whereas in fact any engineer worth her salt will tell you that she makes business decisions daily–albeit on the micro not macro level–because she has to in order to get the job done. Exactly how long should this database field be? And of what datatype? How and where should it be validated? How do we handle all of the edge cases? These are in fact business decisions, and we make them, because we're at the proverbial coal face, and it would take forever to run every single one of them by the product people and sometimes they wouldn't even understand the technical factors involved. ... It might have made some sense to treat them as separate-but-slightly-inferior when technology was not at the heart of almost every business, but not any more."

    364 comments | 2 days ago

  • Bezos-Owned Washington Post Embeds Amazon Buy-It-Now Buttons Mid-sentence

    McGruber writes: While reading a story in the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, I saw that the paper had begun embedding Amazon Buy-It-Now links in the middle of story sentences. For example, in this article, a sentence about the sales figures for differing covers of The Great Gatsby read: At Politics and Prose, the traditional [BUY IT NOW] version — featuring the iconic eyes floating on a blue background — sold better than the DiCaprio [BUY IT NOW] cover. This change follows the July news of much larger than expected losses at Amazon and a 10-percent decline in the Amazon's stock value. In related news, the Post reports that the literary executor of George Orwell's estate has accused Amazon.com of doublespeak after they cited one of Orwell's essays in their ebook pricing debate with Hachette and other publishers.

    134 comments | 3 days ago

  • Not Just For ThinkPads Anymore: Lenovo Gets OK To Buy IBM Server Line

    IBM sold its personal computer line (including the iconic ThinkPad line) to Lenovo back in 2005. Now, Lenovo is poised to acquire IBM's line of X86-based servers, and has garnered the approval of a regulatory body which could have scotched the deal. (The article describes the server line at issue as "low end," but that's in the eye of the beholder.) From the article: The conclusion of the review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, is “good news for both IBM and Lenovo, and for our customers and employees,” Armonk, New York-based IBM said yesterday in a statement. While Cfius placed some conditions on the deal, they don’t significantly affect the business, and terms of the transaction didn’t change as result, a person with knowledge of the matter said, without specifying the conditions. The sale drew scrutiny because of disputes between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies, over cyberintrusions. By completing the deal, IBM can jettison a less profitable business to focus on growing areas, such as cloud computing and data analytics, while giving Lenovo a bigger piece of the global computing-hardware market. ... Spokesmen for IBM and Lenovo declined to comment on whether the Cfius clearance included any requirements or concessions. Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, which leads Cfius, declined to comment.

    93 comments | 4 days ago

  • The Man Responsible For Pop-Up Ads On Building a Better Web

    An anonymous reader writes Above all, Ethan Zuckerman wants you to know that he is sorry. In the mid-1990s, Zuckerman was working as a designer and programmer for Tripod.com when he wrote the code for the first pop-up ad. He says: "At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content. Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good."

    130 comments | 4 days ago

  • Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

    An anonymous reader is just one of many who have pointed out that things don't look good for Uber in Berlin. Berlin has banned car service Uber, which allows users to summon a ride on their smartphone, for not offering drivers and vehicles licensed to carry passengers, or full insurance cover, the German capital said. The ban takes immediate effect and Uber risks fines of up to 25,000 euros each time it violates the city's Public Transport Act, Berlin authorities said in a statement. Uber said on Thursday it would appeal against the decision, accusing Berlin of denying its people choice and mobility. "As a new entrant we are bringing much-needed competition to a market that hasn't changed in years. Competition is good for everyone and it raises the bar and ultimately it's the consumer who wins," said Fabien Nestmann, German General Manager at Uber. Undaunted by the setback in Berlin, Uber has launched uberTAXI in Hong Kong.

    338 comments | 5 days ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Should You Invest In Documentation, Or UX?

    New submitter fpodoo writes "We are going to launch a new version of Odoo, the open source business apps suite. Once a year we release a new version and all the documentation has to be rewritten, as the software evolves a lot. It's a huge effort (~1000 pages, 250 apps) and it feels like we are building on quicksand. I am wondering if it would be better to invest all our efforts in R&D on improving the user experience and building tools in the product to better help the user. Do you know any complex software that succeeded in avoiding documentation by having significantly improved usability? As a customer, how would you feel with a very simple product (much simpler than the competition but still a bit complex) that has no documentation?"

    198 comments | 5 days ago

  • Cisco To Slash Up To 6,000 Jobs -- 8% of Its Workforce -- In "Reorganization"

    alphadogg (971356) writes Cisco Systems will cut as many as 6,000 jobs over the next 12 months, saying it needs to shift resources to growing businesses such as cloud, software and security. The move will be a reorganization rather than a net reduction, the company said. It needs to cut jobs because the product categories where it sees the strongest growth, such as security, require special skills, so it needs to make room for workers in those areas, it said. 'If we don't have the courage to change, if we don't lead the change, we will be left behind,' Chairman and CEO John Chambers said on a conference call.

    206 comments | 5 days ago

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