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  • Ask Slashdot: When Is It Better To Modify the ERP vs. Interfacing It?

    New submitter yeshuawatso writes I work for one of the largest HVAC manufacturers in the world. We've currently spent millions of dollars investing in an ERP system from Oracle (via a third-party implementor and distributor) that handles most of our global operations, but it's been a great ordeal getting the thing to work for us across SBUs and even departments without having to constantly go back to the third-party, whom have their hands out asking for more money. What we've also discovered is that the ERP system is being used for inputting and retrieving data but not for managing the data. Managing the data is being handled by systems of spreadsheets and access databases wrought with macros to turn them into functional applications. I'm asking you wise and experienced readers on your take if it's a better idea to continue to hire our third-party to convert these applications into the ERP system or hire internal developers to convert these applications to more scalable and practical applications that interface with the ERP (via API of choice)? We have a ton of spare capacity in data centers that formerly housed mainframes and local servers that now mostly run local Exchange and domain servers. We've consolidated these data centers into our co-location in Atlanta but the old data centers are still running, just empty. We definitely have the space to run commodity servers for an OpenStack, Eucalyptus, or some other private/hybrid cloud solution, but would this be counter productive to the goal of standardizing processes. Our CIO wants to dump everything into the ERP (creating a single point of failure to me) but our accountants are having a tough time chewing the additional costs of re-doing every departmental application. What are your experiences with such implementations?

    162 comments | 7 hours ago

  • Amazon's eBook Math

    An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has waged a constant battle with publishers over the price of ebooks. They've now publicly laid out their argument and the business math behind it. "We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000." They argue that capping most ebooks at $9.99 would be better for everyone, with the money split out 35% to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon.

    Author John Scalzi says Amazon's reasoning and assumptions are a bit suspect. He disagrees that "books are interchangeable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to." Scalzi also points out that Amazon asserts itself as the only revenue stream for authors, which is not remotely true. "Amazon's assumptions don't include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon's competitors is good for Amazon; there's rather less of an argument that it's good for anyone else."

    280 comments | yesterday

  • 35% of American Adults Have Debt 'In Collections'

    New submitter meeotch writes: According to a new study by the Urban Institute, 35% of U.S. adults with a credit history (91% of the adult population of the U.S.) have debt "in collections" — a status generally not acquired until payments are at least 180 days past due. Debt problems seem to be worse in the South, with states hovering in the 40%+ range, while the Northeast has it better, at less than 30%. The study's authors claim their findings actually underrepresent low-income consumers, because "adults without a credit file are more likely to be financially disadvantaged."

    Oddly, only 5% of adults have debt 30-180 days past due. This latter fact is partially accounted for by the fact that a broader range of debt can enter "in collections" status than "past due" status (e.g. parking tickets)... But also perhaps demonstrates that as one falls far enough along the debt spiral, escape becomes impossible. Particularly in the case of high-interest debt such as credit cards — the issuers of which cluster in states such as South Dakota, following a 1978 Supreme Court ruling that found that states' usury laws did not apply to banks headquartered in other states.

    Even taking into account the folks who lost a parking ticket under their passenger seat, 35% is a pretty shocking number. Anyone have other theories why this number is so much higher than the 5% of people who are just "late"? How about some napkin math on the debt spiral?

    559 comments | 2 days ago

  • Ridley Scott to Produce Philip K Dick's The Man In the High Castle

    hawkinspeter (831501) writes Amazon has given the green light to produce the Hugo award-winning "The Man in the High Castle". This is after the four-hour mini-series was rejected by Syfy and afterwards by the BBC. Philip K Dick's novel takes place in an alternate universe where the Axis Powers won the Second World War. It's one of his most successful works, probably due to him actually spending the time to do some editing on it (most of his fiction was produced rapidly in order to get some money). Ridley Scott has previously adapted PKD's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" as the film Blade Runner, so it will be interesting to see how close he keeps to the source material this time. This news has been picked up by a few sites: International Business Times; The Register and Deadline.

    141 comments | 2 days ago

  • London Police Placing Anti-Piracy Warning Ads On Illegal Sites

    mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "The City of London police has started placing banner advertisements on websites believed to be offering pirated content illegally. The messages, which will appear instead of paid-for ads, will ask users to close their web browsers. The move comes as part of a continuing effort to stop piracy sites from earning money through advertising. Police said the ads would make it harder for piracy site owners to make their pages look authentic. "When adverts from well known brands appear on illegal websites, they lend them a look of legitimacy and inadvertently fool consumers into thinking the site is authentic," said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu). "This new initiative is another step forward for the unit in tackling IP crime and disrupting criminal profits. "Copyright infringing websites are making huge sums of money though advert placement, therefore disrupting advertising on these sites is crucial and this is why it is an integral part of Operation Creative.""

    159 comments | 2 days ago

  • Lots Of People Really Want Slideout-Keyboard Phones: Where Are They?

    Bennett Haselton writes: I can't stand switching from a slideout-keyboard phone to a touchscreen phone, and my own informal online survey found a slight majority of people who prefer slideout keyboards even more than I do. Why will no carrier make them available, at any price, except occasionally as the crummiest low-end phones in the store? Bennett's been asking around, of store managers and users, and arrives at even more perplexing questions. Read on, below.

    540 comments | 3 days ago

  • US States Edge Toward Cryptocoin Regulation

    SonicSpike points out an article from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Research & Analysis department on the legislation and regulation schemes emerging in at least a few states in reaction to the increasing use of digital currencies like Bitcoin. A working group called the Conference of State Bank Supervisors’ Emerging Payments Task Force has been surveying the current landscape of state rules and approaches to digital currencies, a topic on which state laws are typically silent. In April, the task force presented a model consumer guidance to help states provide consumers with information about digital currencies. A number of states, including California, Massachusetts and Texas, have issued warnings to consumers that virtual currencies are not subject to “traditional regulation or monetary policy,” including insurance, bonding and other security measures, and that values can fluctuate dramatically. ... The article focuses on the high-population, big-economy states of New York, California and Texas, with a touch of Kansas -- but other states are sure to follow. Whether you live in the U.S. or not, are there government regulations that you think would actually make sense for digital currencies?

    167 comments | 3 days ago

  • Microsoft's Nokia Plans Come Into Better Focus

    Forbes has an update on what sort of future Nokia faces, as Microsoft reveals a strategy for making sense of the acquisition: [Microsoft EVP of devices Stephen] Elop laid out a framework for cost cuts in a memo to employees on July 17. Devices would focus on high and low cost Windows smartphones, suggesting a phasing out of feature phones and Android smartphones. Two business units, smart devices and mobile phones, would become one, thereby cutting overlap and overhead. Microsoft would reduce engineering in Beijing and San Diego and unwind engineering in Oulu, Finland. It would exit manufacturing in Komarom, Hungary; shift to lower cost areas like Manaus, Brazil and Reynosa, Mexico; and reduce manufacturing in Beijing and Dongguan, China. Also, CEO Satya Nadella gave hints about how Microsoft will make money on Nokia during Tuesday' conference call. Devices, he said, "go beyond" hardware and are about productivity. "I can take my Office Lens App, use the camera on the phone, take a picture of anything, and have it automatically OCR recognized and into OneNote in searchable fashion. There is a lot we can do with phones by broadly thinking about productivity." In other words, the sale of a smartphone is a means to other sales.

    149 comments | 3 days ago

  • SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

    MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called "The US Space Enterprise Partnership" at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA's budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online's Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency's limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

    The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics' Jeff Foust added a tweet, "Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s." The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

    114 comments | 4 days ago

  • Nasty Business: How To Drain Competitors' Google AdWords Budgets

    tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."

    97 comments | 4 days ago

  • Two South African Cancer Patients Receive 3D Printed Titanium Jaw Implants

    jigmypig (3675225) writes "Two patients in South Africa that have had their lives and more specifically their jaws severely affected by cancer, have just received 3D printed jaw implants. The jaws were 3D printed using a laser sintering process that melts powdered titanium, one layer at a time. The process saves a ton of money, and unlike traditional manufacturing of titanium jaws, it doesn't waste any materials. Traditional manufacturing wastes up to 80% of the titanium block used in the process, whereas with 3D printing there is little to no waste at all. This new process also allows for a fully customizable solution. The models are drawn up in CAD software, and then printed out to precisely fit the patient."

    71 comments | 5 days ago

  • Household Robot Jibo Nets Over $1 Million On Indiegogo

    mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.

    61 comments | 5 days ago

  • Russia Posts $110,000 Bounty For Cracking Tor's Privacy

    hypnosec writes: The government of Russia has announced a ~$110,000 bounty to anyone who develops technology to identify users of Tor, an anonymising network capable of encrypting user data and hiding the identity of its users. The public description (in Russian) of the project has been removed now and it only reads "cipher 'TOR' (Navy)." The ministry said it is looking for experts and researchers to "study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users' equipment on the Tor anonymous network."

    98 comments | about a week ago

  • SLS Project Coming Up $400 Million Short

    schwit1 writes: A GAO report finds that the Space Launch System is over budget and NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017. From the article: "NASA isn't meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the 'joint cost and schedule confidence level' to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. 'NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,' the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can't match requirements to resources 'are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.'

    In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS's predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office." The current $12 billion estimate is for the program's cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That's four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for their first manned launches before 2017.

    132 comments | about a week ago

  • eSports Starting To Go Mainstream

    An anonymous reader writes: eSports have never been more popular, and many large companies are starting to view them in the same light as traditional sports. The amount of money being thrown around is beginning to rival the money exchanged over sports teams. A recent Dota 2 tournament handed out over $10 million in prizes, and Google's $1 billion purchase of game-streaming site Twitch.tv has now been confirmed. But it doesn't end there — companies like Coca-cola, Intel, Nissan, and major movie studios are looking at the audiences being drawn by eSports and realizing the advertising potential. "Last fall, Riot Games sold out the Staples Center for its League of Legends Championship Series Finals. While 12,000 people watched live in the home of the Lakers and Kings, over 32 million tuned in to the livestream." George Woo, head of a global eSports tournament, said, "Attendance to Intel Extreme Masters events has grown 10X with us filling up sport stadiums, where we have visitors lining up to get a seat to watch the competition. Online it has grown 100X, where we now get more viewers watching livestreams for a single event than we'd have tune in for an entire season in the past."

    116 comments | about a week ago

  • Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell

    New submitter shirleymarone sends word that investors are becoming impatient with Amazon's willingness to absorb short-term losses for theoretical long-term gains. The company brought in over $19 billion in revenue last quarter, but reported a net loss of $126 million. The company warned of even greater losses this quarter. Amazon officials exude a serene if vague confidence. "We're not trying to optimize for short-term profits," Thomas J. Szkutak, the chief financial officer, said in a conference call. "We're investing on behalf of customers and share owners," he said. "We're fortunate to have these opportunities." But even the analysts, who are generally enthusiastic about the company and its global ambitions, are asking slightly more pointed questions these days. For all these investments, one analyst asked Mr. Szkutak, why are sales not increasing even faster? His answer: Just wait. ... Amazon, which is based in Seattle, long ago transcended its roots as a simple retailer. In recent weeks it introduced Zocalo, a document storage and sharing service that grew out of its fast-growing web services division. It began a program to allow readers to consume as many e-books as they want for a set monthly fee. And it is starting to ship its long-awaited entry in the smartphone sweepstakes. The phone, the result of years of development by thousands of Amazon programmers and designers, is meeting some resistance from reviewers.

    168 comments | about a week ago

  • Lawrence Krauss: Congress Is Trying To Defund Scientists At Energy Department

    Lasrick writes Physicist Lawrence Krauss blasts Congress for their passage of the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cut funding for renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency, and even worse, had amendments that targeted scientists at the Department of Energy: He writes that this action from the US Congress is worse even than the Australian government's move to cancel their carbon tax, because the action of Congress is far more insidious: "Each (amendment) would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change." Although the bill isn't likely to become law, Krauss is fed up with Congress burying its head in the sand: The fact that those amendments "...could pass a house of Congress, should concern everyone interested in the appropriate support of scientific research as a basis for sound public policy."

    296 comments | about a week ago

  • Social Security Administration Joins Other Agencies With $300M "IT Boondoggle"

    alphadogg (971356) writes with news that the SSA has joined the long list of federal agencies with giant failed IT projects. From the article: "Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency. In 2008, Social Security said the project was about two to three years from completion. Five years later, it was still two to three years from being done, according to the report by McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm. Today, with the project still in the testing phase, the agency can't say when it will be completed or how much it will cost.

    142 comments | about a week ago

  • Verizon's Offer: Let Us Track You, Get Free Stuff

    mpicpp points out a new program from Verizon that is perfect if you don't mind being tracked. Are you comfortable having your location and Web browsing tracked for marketing purposes? If so, Verizon's got a deal for you. The wireless giant announced a new program this week called 'Smart Rewards' that offers customers credit card-style perks like discounts for shopping, travel and dining. You accrue points through the program by doing things like signing onto the Verizon website, paying your bill online and participating in the company's trade-in program. Verizon emphasizes that the data it collects is anonymized before it's shared with third parties. The program is novel in that offers Verizon users some compensation for the collection of their data, which has become big business for telecom and tech companies. Some privacy advocates have pushed data-collecting companies to reward customers for their personal information in the interest of transparency.

    75 comments | about a week ago

  • Buying New Commercial IT Hardware Isn't Always Worthwhile (Video)

    Ben Blair is CTO of MarkITx, a company that brokers used commercial IT gear. This gives him an excellent overview of the marketplace -- not just what companies are willing to buy used, but also what they want to sell as they buy new (or newer) equipment. Ben's main talking point in this interview is that hardware has become so commoditized that in a world where most enterprise software can be virtualized to run across multiple servers, it no longer matters if you have the latest hardware technology; that two older servers can often do the job of one new one -- and for less money, too. So, he says, you should make sure you buy new hardware only when necessary, not just because of the "Ooh... shiny!" factor" (Alternate Video Link)

    92 comments | about two weeks ago

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