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  • 'How Close Are We to Self-Driving Cars, Really?'
    Chris Urmson helped pioneer self-driving car technology at Google before founding Aurora (which sells self-driving car software to automakers, and this week announced a new partnership with Chrysler and a new round of investment by Hyundai). In a new interview, Urmson "says he expects that in about five to 10 years, Americans will start seeing robots cruising down the road in a handful of cities and towns across the country," reports Slate. "It will be about 30 to 50 years, he says, until they're everywhere. " I think within the next five years we'll see small-scale deployment. That'll be a few hundred or a few thousand vehicles. Really this is the, it's Silicon Valley speak, this is the zero-to-one moment of proving that the technology actually works, understanding how customers want to use it, convincing ourselves that -- and when I say ourselves, I mean as a society -- that these are sufficiently safe, that we trust them on the roadway, and that's that first phase... [W]hen the technology actually starts to become scaled, then we can ask the question what have we learned, what are the ways that we can make this a little bit safer, a little bit incrementally more efficient, and that's what I think local and state governments and federal government would invest in infrastructure... The statistic I heard was 30 percent of traffic in San Francisco is people looking for parking. I heard a more alarming statistic that was 80 percent of traffic in Paris was people looking for parking. So imagine you have automated vehicles that take you to a location, you hop out, then it just drives down the block and picks up the next person and takes them where they're going. Suddenly, you've alleviated a massive chunk of the congestion in a city. Similarly, if you look at the floor plan of a city today, somewhere between 30â"40 percent of cities is dedicated to parking and roads. And so again, if you have automated vehicles operating as a transportation service, whether it's private or public transportation networks in the city, you don't need that real estate to be dedicated for parking. That real estate now can be recaptured, and it can be used for park space, it can be used for residential space, yeah, it can be used for mixed residential-commercial office space... Certainly for urban centers, I think it's much more likely that this technology is a shared platform that people get on and get off. It's an even more convenient version of a bus or of a taxi service.

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  • Security Cameras + AI = Dawn of Non-Stop Robot Surveillance
    AmiMoJo shared this post from one of the ACLU's senior technology policy analysts about what happens when security cameras get AI upgrades: [I]magine that all that video were being watched -- that millions of security guards were monitoring them all 24/7. Imagine this army is made up of guards who don't need to be paid, who never get bored, who never sleep, who never miss a detail, and who have total recall for everything they've seen. Such an army of watchers could scrutinize every person they see for signs of "suspicious" behavior. With unlimited time and attention, they could also record details about all of the people they see -- their clothing, their expressions and emotions, their body language, the people they are with and how they relate to them, and their every activity and motion... The guards won't be human, of course -- they'll be AI agents. Today we're publishing a report on a $3.2 billion industry building a technology known as "video analytics," which is starting to augment surveillance cameras around the world and has the potential to turn them into just that kind of nightmarish army of unblinking watchers.... Many or most of these technologies will be somewhere between unreliable and utterly bogus. Based on experience, however, that often won't stop them from being deployed -- and from hurting innocent people... We are still in the early days of a revolution in computer vision, and we don't know how AI will progress, but we need to keep in mind that progress in artificial intelligence may end up being extremely rapid. We could, in the not-so-distant future, end up living under armies of computerized watchers with intelligence at or near human levels. These AI watchers, if unchecked, are likely to proliferate in American life until they number in the billions, representing an extension of corporate and bureaucratic power into the tendrils of our lives, watching over each of us and constantly shaping our behavior... Policymakers must contend with this technology's enormous power. They should prohibit its use for mass surveillance, narrow its deployments, and create rules to minimize abuse. They argue that the threat is just starting to emerge. "It is as if a great surveillance machine has been growing up around us, but largely dumb and inert -- and is now, in a meaningful sense, 'waking up.'"

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



  • Are Open Source Developers Being Underfunded and Exploited?
    Donation-based open source programmer Andre Staltz recently collected data from GitHub, Patreon, and OpenCollective to try to calculate how much money is being donated to popular projects. The results? Out of 58 projects checked, "there were two clearly sustainable open source projects, but the majority (more than 80%) of projects that we usually consider sustainable are actually receiving income below industry standards or even below the poverty threshold." More than 50% of projects are red: they cannot sustain their maintainers above the poverty line. 31% of the projects are orange, consisting of developers willing to work for a salary that would be considered unacceptable in our industry. 12% are green, and only 3% are blue: Webpack and Vue.js... The median donation per year is $217, which is substantial when understood on an individual level, but in reality includes sponsorship from companies that are doing this also for their own marketing purposes... The total amount of money being put into open source is not enough for all the maintainers. If we add up all of the yearly revenue from those projects in this data set, it's $2.5 million. The median salary is approximately $9k, which is below the poverty line. If split up that money evenly, that's roughly $22k, which is still below industry standards. The core problem is not that open source projects are not sharing the money received. The problem is that, in total numbers, open source is not getting enough money... GitHub was bought by Microsoft for $7.5 billion. To make that quantity easier to grok, the amount of money Microsoft paid to acquire GitHub -- the company -- is more than 3000x what the open source community is getting yearly. In other words, if the open source community saved up every penny of the money they ever received, after a couple thousand years they could perhaps have enough money to buy GitHub jointly... If Microsoft GitHub is serious about helping fund open source, they should put their money where their mouth is: donate at least $1 billion to open source projects. Even a mere $1.5 million per year would be enough to make all the projects in this study become green. The article suggests concrete actions to stop this "exploitation," including donating to open source projects, as well as more scrutiny of how well open source projects are funded, and "pressuring Microsoft to donate millions to open source projects." It also suggests considering alternative licenses for new projects, and unionizing. But Chris Aniszczyk, the CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, responded on Twitter that the donation-based approach is "a path to ruin for sustainability... you solve this problem by having companies hire folks or help maintainers build businesses around their projects... let's not turn open source into a gig economy and demand more of companies instead." So what do Slashdot's readers think? Are open source developers being underfunded and exploited? And if so -- what's the solution?

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



  • News Industry Argues Google and Facebook 'Rob Journalism of Its Revenue', Seek Government Help
    This week USA Today's former editor-in-chief argued that "Tech overlords Google and Facebook have used monopoly to rob journalism of its revenue," in an op-ed shared by schwit1: Over the past decade, the news business has endured a bloodbath, with tens of thousands of journalists losing their jobs amid mass layoffs. The irony is, more people than ever are consuming news... Why the disconnect? Look no further than a new study by the News Media Alliance, which found that in 2018, Google made $4.7 billion off of news content -- almost as much as every news organization in America combined made from digital ads last year. Yet Google paid a grand total of zero for the privilege. News industry revenue, meanwhile, has plunged... Google and Facebook command about 60% of all U.S. digital advertising revenue, and have siphoned off billions of dollars that once were the lifeblood of the news media. Let's be perfectly clear: Journalism's primary revenue source has been hijacked. It's time that news providers are compensated for the journalism they produce. That's why passage of the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is crucial... Toward that end, "News industry officials, including Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Kevin Riley, testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill in favor of legislation they say would help recover advertising revenue lost in recent years to tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook." The bipartisan bill would provide a four-year reprieve from federal antitrust laws, allowing print and digital publishers to collectively bargain with tech companies about how their content is used -- and what share of ad dollars they'll receive.... Federal antitrust laws bar news organizations from banding together to negotiate more favorable terms from social media and search sites. And individual outlets are deterred from acting alone, according to Chavern's group, because large tech companies could tank a news organization's traffic by demoting or excluding its stories from searches. The bill's proponents say it could help turn the tide for an industry that's been harmed over the past two decades by declining print subscriptions and ad revenue streams that have dried up and increasingly headed online. As tech sites' share of advertising revenue has grown -- Google's skyrocketed from $3.8 billion in 2005 to $52.4 billion in 2017 -- U.S. newspapers have watched their's nosedive from more than $49 billion to $16.5 billion during the same 12-year period, according to the Pew Research Center.

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  • These Are the Internet of Things Devices That Are Most Targeted By Hackers
    ZDNet reports: Internet-connected security cameras account for almost half of the Internet of Things devices that are compromised by hackers even as homes and businesses continue to add these and other connected devices to their networks. Research from cybersecurity company SAM Seamless Network found that security cameras represent 47 percent of vulnerable devices installed on home networks. According to the data, the average U.S. household contains 17 smart devices while European homes have an average of 14 devices connected to the network... Figures from the security firm suggest that the average device is the target of an average of five attacks per day, with midnight the most common time for attacks to be executed -- it's likely that at this time of the night, the users will be asleep and not paying attention to devices, so won't be witness to a burst of strange behavior. The anonymous reader who submitted this story suggests a possible solution: government inspectors should examine every imported IoT device at the border. "The device gets rejected if it has non-essential ports open, hard-coded or generic passwords, no automated patching for at least four years, etc."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



  • Target Experiences A 'Massive' Nationwide Cash Register Outage
    CBS News reports: Target acknowledged nationwide "system issues" affecting its stores on Saturday that prevented its customers from checking out at registers. The outage caused long checkout lines at Target locations, with upset customers posting images and video on social media. Slashdot reader McGruber shared an article reporting more than 5,000 posts on Downdetector.com about problems at Target stores Saturday -- and noting that Target is America's eighth-largest retailer. (CBS reports Target has 1,800 stores scattered across the country.) "This is how you bring America to a standstill," a Minnesota news producer joked on Twitter (where the phrase #targetdown is now trending...) "At least Target kept me fed," the news producer added later. "They brought out candy and popcorn and wings. I'm thinking they should set up a TV next and pop in a movie. Maybe we can play bean bag toss, too..."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.



  • Star Trek Logo Spotted On Mars
    Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot brings us news about the southern hemisphere of Mars: The University of Arizona HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) has posted a photo of curious chevron shapes in southeast Hellas Planitia that are the result of "a complex story of dunes, lava, and wind." "Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo..." RockDoctor (Slashdot reader #15,477) adds that "For those wanting to try to find it on a Mars map, it's at Latitude (centered) -49.325Â Longitude (East) 85.331Â."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.