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  • 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.

    80 comments | 2 hours 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."

    211 comments | yesterday

  • 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.

    132 comments | yesterday

  • 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 | 2 days 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 | 2 days ago

  • Netflix Reduces Physical-Disc Processing, Keeps Prices the Same

    Nom du Keyboard writes: After seeing a drop in my DVD service from Netflix I got a customer service representative tonight to confirm that Netflix has ceased processing DVD returns on Saturdays nationwide. And that they did this without notifying their customers, or reducing prices to compensate for the reduced service. Given that the DVD selection still far outstrips their streaming selection, this may be news to others like myself who don't find streaming an adequate replacement for plastic discs. My experience up until recently, unlike Netflix's promise of a 1-3 day turnaround at their end which gives them lots of wiggle room to degrade service even further, had been of mailing in a DVD on day one, having them receive it and mail out my next selection on day two, and receiving it on day three. Now with them only working 5 days and many U.S. Post Office holidays, they're still getting the same money for significantly less. The Netflix shipping FAQ confirms the change, and a spokesperson said, "Saturdays have been low volume ship days for us."

    338 comments | 3 days ago

  • Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

    Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

    289 comments | 4 days ago

  • States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

    An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Labor has released data that some proponents of raising minimum wage are touting as evidence that higher minimum wage promotes job growth. While the data doesn't actually establish cause and effect, it does "run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs." The data shows that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages in January added jobs at a faster rate than those that didn't. Other factors likely contributed to this outcome, but some economists are simply relieved that the higher wage factor didn't have a dramatically negative effect in general.

    774 comments | 5 days ago

  • New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation

    An anonymous reader writes: If digital currencies are fundamentally different than physical ones, why do they work in the same way? That's a question being asked by Couchbase co-founder J. Chris Anderson, who's building a currency and transaction system where reputation is the fundamental unit of value. "Unlike with bitcoin—which keeps its currency scarce by rewarding it only to those who participate in what amounts to a race to solve complex cryptographic puzzles—anyone will be able to create a new Document Coin anytime they want. The value of each coin will be completely subjective, depending on who creates the coin and why. 'For example, the coin my disco singer friend created and gave me at my barbeque might be what gets me past the rope at the club,' Anderson says. A coin minted by tech pundit Tim O'Reilly might be highly prized in Silicon Valley circles, but of little interest to musicians. 'It's a bit like a combination of a social network with baseball trading.'" Anderson isn't aiming to supplant Bitcoin, or even challenge the money-exchange model that drives society. But he's hoping it will change the way people think about currency, and open up new possibilities for how we interact with each other.

    100 comments | about a week ago

  • US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

    dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."

    528 comments | about a week ago

  • Google To Stop Describing Games With In-App Purchases As 'Free'

    An anonymous reader writes After a series of investigations, lawsuits, and fines over how in-app purchases are advertised and communicated to users, Google has agreed to stop labeling games that use in-app purchases as "Free." This change is the result of a request by the European Commission to stop misleading customers about the costs involved with using certain apps. "Games should not contain direct exhortation to children to buy items in a game or to persuade an adult to buy items for them; Consumers should be adequately informed about the payment arrangements for purchases and should not be debited through default settings without consumers' explicit consent." The EC notes that Apple has not yet done anything to address these concerns.

    139 comments | about a week ago

  • Dell Starts Accepting Bitcoin

    An anonymous reader writes: Mainstream retail companies have been slow to adopt Bitcoin, perhaps skeptical of its long-term value or unwilling to expend the effort required to put a payment system into place. Today, Bitcoin adoption got a momentum boost with Dell's announcement that it will accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Dell is by far the biggest company to start accepting Bitcoin. It's interesting to note that Dell, like many of the larger companies interacting with Bitcoin right now, is doing so through a third-party payment processor. On one hand, it's good — we don't necessarily want each company building their own implementation and possibly screwing it up. On the other hand, it scales back slightly the decentralized and fee-less nature of Bitcoin, which are important features to many of its supporters.

    152 comments | about a week ago

  • Ask Slashdot: How Many Employees Does Microsoft Really Need?

    An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday, word came down that Microsoft was starting to lay off some 18,000 workers. As of June 5th, Microsoft reported a total employee headcount of 127,005, so they're cutting about 15% of their jobs. That's actually a pretty huge percentage, even taking into account the redundancies created by the Nokia acquisition. Obviously, there's an upper limit to how much of your workforce you can let go at one time, so I'm willing to bet Microsoft's management thinks thousands more people aren't worth keeping around. How many employees does Microsoft realistically need? The company is famous for its huge teams that don't work together well, and excessive middle management. But they also have a huge number of software projects, and some of the projects, like Windows and Office, need big teams to develop. How would we go about estimating the total workforce Microsoft needs? (Other headcounts for reference: Apple: 80,000, Amazon: 124,600, IBM: 431,212, Red Hat: 5,000+, Facebook: 6,800, Google: 52,000, Intel: 104,900.)

    272 comments | about a week ago

  • Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

    schwit1 notes that the Australian government has repealed a controversial carbon tax. After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. In a vote that could highlight the difficulty in implementing additional measures to reduce carbon emissions ahead of global climate talks next year in Paris, Australia's Senate on Wednesday voted 39-32 to repeal a politically divisive carbon emissions price that contributed to the fall from power of three Australian leaders since it was first suggested in 2007.

    291 comments | about a week ago

  • New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

    An anonymous reader writes On Thursday, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of financial services, announced proposed regulations for virtual currency companies operating in New York. The "BitLicense" plan, which includes rules on consumer protection, the prevention of money laundering and cybersecurity, is the first proposal by a state to create guidelines specifically for virtual currency. "We have sought to strike an appropriate balance that helps protect consumers and root out illegal activity—without stifling beneficial innovation," he said in a statement.

    121 comments | about a week ago

  • Taking Great Ideas From the Lab To the Fab

    aarondubrow (1866212) writes The "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs — the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science Foundation created a new program called InTrans to extend the life of the most high-impact NSF-funded research and help great ideas transition from lab to practice. Today, in partnership with Intel, NSF announced the first InTrans award of $3 million to a team of researchers who are designing customizable, domain-specific computing technologies for use in healthcare. The work could lead to less exposure to dangerous radiation during x-rays by speeding up the computing side of medicine. It also could result in patient-specific cancer treatments.

    19 comments | about a week ago

  • Open Hardware and Digital Communications Conference On Free Video, If You Help

    Bruce Perens writes The TAPR Digital Communications Conference has been covered twice here and is a great meeting on leading-edge wireless technology, mostly done as Open Hardware and Open Source software. Free videos of the September 2014 presentations will be made available if you help via Kickstarter. For an idea of what's in them, see the Dayton Hamvention interviews covering Whitebox, our Open Hardware handheld software-defined radio transceiver, and Michael Ossman's HackRF, a programmable Open Hardware transceiver for wireless security exploration and other wireless research. Last year's TAPR DCC presentations are at the Ham Radio Now channel on Youtube.

    15 comments | about a week ago

  • Sony Forgets To Pay For Domain, Hilarity Ensues

    First time accepted submitter Dragoness Eclectic writes Early Tuesday, gamers woke up to find out that they couldn't log in to any Sony Online Entertainment games--no Everquest, no Planetside 2, none of them. Oddly, the forums where company reps might have posted some explanation weren't reachable, either. A bit of journalistic investigation by EQ2Wire came across the explanation: SOE forgot to renew the domain registration on SonyOnline.net, the hidden domain that holds all their nameservers. After 7 weeks of non-payment post-expiration, NetworkSolutions reclaimed the domain, sending all access to Sony's games into an internet black hole. Sony has since paid up. SOE's president, John Smedley, has admitted that the expiration notices were being sent to an "unread email" address.

    277 comments | about a week ago

  • Two Big Dark Matter Experiments Gain US Support

    Graculus writes: The Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation announced on Friday that they will try to fund two major experiments to detect particles of the mysterious dark matter whose gravity binds the galaxies instead of just one. The decision allays fears that the funding agencies could afford only one experiment to continue the search for so-called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.

    37 comments | about a week ago

  • Apple Agrees To $450 Million Ebook Antitrust Settlement

    An anonymous reader writes: Last year, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Apple conspired with publishers to control ebook prices in violation of antitrust laws. Apple launched an appeal which has yet to conclude, but they've now agreed to a settlement. If the appeal verdict goes against Apple, they will be on the hook for $450 million, most of which will go to consumers. If they win the appeal, they'll still have to pay $70 million. $450 million is much more than the other publishers had to pay, but much less than the expected penalty from a damages trial set for August (and still only about one percent of Apple's annual profit).

    91 comments | about a week ago

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