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theodp writes "The purpose of product placement/product integration/branded entertainment," explains Disney in a job posting, "is to give a brand exposure outside of their traditional media buy." So, one imagines the folks in Disney Marketing must be thrilled that Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa will be featured in the 'signature tutorial' for CSEdWeek's 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids — including a sizable captive audience — in the weeks before Christmas. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," announced Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney's 'Frozen' heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, "students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org's efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide."
78 comments | 9 hours ago
HughPickens.com writes: Jerry Hirsch writes in the LA Times that personal transportation is on the cusp of its greatest transformation since the advent of the internal combustion engine. For a century, cars have been symbols of freedom and status. But according to Hirsch, passengers of the future may well view vehicles as just another form of public transportation, to be purchased by the trip or in a subscription. Buying sexy, fast cars for garages could evolve into buying seat-miles in appliance-like pods, piloted by robots, parked in public stalls. "There will come a time when driving the car is like riding the horse," says futurist Peter Schwartz. "Some people will still like to do it, but most of us won't." People still will want to own vehicles for various needs, says James Lentz, chief executive of Toyota's North American operations. They might live in a rural area and travel long distances daily. They might have a big family to haul around. They might own a business that requires transporting supplies. "You will still have people who have the passion for driving the cars and feeling the road," says Lentz. "There may be times when they want the cars to drive them, but they won't be buying autonomous-only cars."
One vision of the future is already playing out in Grenoble, France, where residents can rent from a fleet of 70 pod-like Toyota i-Road and Coms electric cars for short city trips. "It is a sharing program like what you see in Portland with bicycles," says Lentz. Drivers can check out and return the cars at various charging points. Through a subscription, they pay the equivalent of $3.75 for 30 minutes. Because the vehicles are so small, its easy to build out their parking and charging infrastructure. Skeptics should consider the cynicism that greeted the horseless carriage more than a century ago, says Adam Jonas. He adds that fully autonomous vehicles will be here far sooner than the market thinks (PDF). Then, Jonas says, skeptics asked: "Why would any rational person want to replace the assuredness of that hot horse body trustily pulling your comfortable carriage with an unreliable, oil-spurting heap of gears, belts and chains?"
343 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: I'm a systems architect (and a former Unix sysadmin) with many years of experience on the infrastructure side of things. I have a masters in CS but not enough practical exposure to professional software development. I'd like to start my own software product line and I'd like to avoid outsourcing as much as I can. I'm seeking advice on what you think are the best practices for running a software shop and/or good blogs/books on the subject.
To be clear, I am not asking about what are the best programming practices or the merits of agile vs waterfall. Rather I am asking more about how to best run the shop as a whole. For example, how important is it to have coding standards and how much standardization is necessary for a small business? What are the pros and cons of allowing different tools and/or languages? What should the ratio of senior programmers to intermediate and junior programmers be and how should they work with each other so that nobody is bored and everyone learns something? Thanks for your help.
151 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: On Friday a U.S. federal judge approved a settlement in the Apple ebook price-fixing case that could see the technology giant paying $450 million. $400 million of that would go to the roughly 23 million consumers thought to be affected by the price fixing, and the rest would go to lawyers. Though the case is now settled, the dollar amount is not necessarily final — an appeals court still has to rule on a previous verdict. If the appeals court finds in Apple's favor, then the total settlement drops to only $70 million. If they find against Apple, then it's the full amount. "The settlement appeared to reflect fatigue by Apple, the Justice Department, state attorneys general and class-action lawyers eager to conclude a case that has dragged on, largely because of delays by Apple."
50 comments | 2 days ago
oyenamit writes Online shopping in India is still in its infancy but is growing tremendously to reach the mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people. Invariably, the conflict between pure online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart and brick and mortar stores was bound to emerge. Unfortunately for Google's Android One, it has been on the receiving end of this friction. Leading brick and mortar retailers in India have refused to sell Android One handsets ever since the US company chose to launch its products exclusively online. The three Android One makers in India — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — launched their handsets exclusively online in mid-September. When sales did not meet their expectations, they decided to release their products via the brick and mortar store channel. However, smaller retailer and mom-n-pop shops have decided to show their displeasure at having being left out of the launch by deciding not to stock Android One. The Android One phones, announced at the most recent Google I/O, are Google's attempt to bring stock Android (as on Google's Nexus devices) to emerging markets, with competent but not high-end phones.
50 comments | 2 days ago
enbody writes A year-old startup, Assembly, is built on the premise of creating products using open-source style development, but structured in a way that you get paid for your contributions. Open-source development is well-known in the Slashdot community, as are a variety of ways to earn a living around open-source, such as support. What is new here is being paid as part of the development, and not just for coding — your contribution might be as project manager or sales. A nice description with video showed up today on the Verge. Of course, the devil is in the details, but they have products so someone in Slashdot land may be interested. (Bias warning: I know one of these guys.)
33 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released its annual financial report for 2013, and the numbers hint as to why the organization signed a five-year deal with Yahoo, announced by the duo on November 19. Revenue increased just 1 percent, and the organization's reliance on Google stayed flat at 90 percent. The total revenue for the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiaries in 2011 was $163 million, and it increased 90.2 percent to $311 million for 2012. Yet that growth all but disappeared last year, as the total revenue moved up less than 1 percent (0.995 percent to be more precise) to $311 million in 2013. 85 percent of Mozilla's revenue came from Google in 2011, and that figure increased to 90 percent in 2012. While the 90 percent number remained for 2013, it's still a massive proportion and shows Mozilla last year could not figure out a way to differentiate where its money comes from.
150 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."
301 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation.
The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.
284 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes: After losing its Supreme Court case in June and briefly attempting to transform itself into a cable company, Aereo is now filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their service worked by letting people stream over-the-air television to their internet-connected devices. The content industry pushed back, and though Aereo argued its way through several lower courts, they say, "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo's technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."
132 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does.
But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"
142 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes with news that Russia may be building its own space station to replace the ISS. Russia may be planning to build a new, independent national space station rather than prolong its participation in the $150 billion International Space Station (ISS) program beyond its current 2020 end date. The U.S. space agency NASA proposed last year to extend the life of the ISS — the largest international project ever undertaken by nations during peacetime — beyond its currently scheduled 2020 end date to at least 2024.
225 comments | 2 days ago
Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.
145 comments | 3 days ago
turkeydance writes People are reportedly creating fake Amazon pages to show fake prices on electronics and other items. In the most heavily publicized cases, Walmart was reportedly duped into selling $400 PlayStation 4 consoles for under $100. From the article: "The company announced on Nov. 13 that it would price-match select online retailers, including Amazon.com. However, any Amazon member with a registered selling account can create authentic looking pages and list items 'for sale' online. Consumers need only take a screen capture of the page and show it to a cashier at checkout in order to request the price match."
269 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes The man who in every sense sits at the nerve centre of SUSE Linux has no airs about him. At 38, Vojtch Pavlík is disarmingly frank and often seems a bit embarrassed to talk about his achievements, which are many and varied. He is every bit a nerd, but can be candid, though precise. As director of SUSE Labs, it would be no exaggeration to call him the company's kernel guru. Both recent innovations that have come from SUSE — patching a live kernel, technology called kGraft, and creating a means for booting openSUSE on machines locked down with secure boot, have been his babies.
61 comments | 3 days ago
reifman writes Amazon's hiring so quickly in Seattle that it's on pace to employ 45,000 people or seven percent of the city. But, 75% of these hires are male. While Seattle women earned 86 cents per dollar earned by men in 2012, today, they make only 78 cents per dollar. In "Amageddon: Seattle's Increasingly Obvious Future", I review these and other surprising facts about Amazon's growing impact on the city: we're the fastest growing — now larger than Boston, we have the fastest rising rents, the fourth worst traffic, we're only twelfth in public transit, we're the fifth whitest and getting whiter, we're experiencing record levels of property crime and the amount of office space under construction has nearly doubled to 3.2 million square feet in the past year.
482 comments | 3 days ago
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Billboard: 'On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice told a Virginia federal judge that Kim Dotcom and cohorts have no business challenging the seizure of an estimated $67 million in assets because the Megaupload founder is evading prosecution. The government brought criminal charges against Dotcom in early 2012, but he's been holed up in New Zealand awaiting word on whether he'll be extradited. The government got antsy and this past July, brought a civil complaint for forfeiture in rem, a maneuver to firmly establish a hold over money from bank accounts around the world, luxury cars, big televisions, watches, artwork and other property allegedly gained by Megaupload in the course of crimes. Dotcom is fighting the seizures by questioning the government's basis for asserting a crime, saying "there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement," as well as challenging how the seized assets are tied to the charges against Dotcom. But according to the U.S. government, Dotcom doesn't get the pleasure of even making the arguments. In a motion to strike, the government cites the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement, which bars a person from using the resources of the court if that person is aware of prosecution and is evading it.
164 comments | 3 days ago
An anonymous reader writes BitTorrent today outlined the company's plans for its file synchronization tool Sync. Next year, the company will launch Sync 2.0, finally taking the product out of beta, as well as three new paid Sync products. Ever since its debut, Sync has provided a wide variety of solutions to various problems, BitTorrent says, from distributing files across remote servers to sharing vacation photos. BitTorrent thus believes it needs to build three distinct products for each of these separate audiences, including a Pro version for $40 per year.
59 comments | 3 days ago
angry tapir writes An Android Trojan program that's behind one of the longest running multipurpose mobile botnets has been updated to become stealthier and more resilient. The botnet is mainly used for instant message spam and rogue ticket purchases, but it could be used to launch targeted attacks against corporate networks because the malware allows attackers to use the infected devices as proxies, according to security researchers.
54 comments | 4 days ago
merbs writes The CEO of the world's largest PR firm has a policy when it comes to campaigns that focus on the environment. "We do not work with astroturf groups and we have never created a website for a client with the intent to deny climate change," Richard Edelman wrote in a blog post in August. That may actually turn out to be true. Technically. Edelman may not work with astroturf groups. Instead, it appears to prefer to build them itself, from the ground up, using sophisticated proprietary software platform designed to "convert" advocates and then "track" their behavior.
101 comments | 4 days ago