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Updated: 12 min 26 sec ago

Tesla's Household Battery: Costs, Prices, and Tradeoffs

1 hour 30 min ago
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.

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Facebook Wants to Skip the Off-Site Links, Host News Content Directly

2 hours 35 min ago
The Wall Street Journal, in a report also cited by The Next Web and others, reports that Facebook is to soon begin acting not just as a conduit for news links pasted onto users' timelines (and leading to articles hosted elsewhere) but also as a host for the articles themselves. From the WSJ article: To woo publishers, Facebook is offering to change its traditional revenue-sharing model. In one of the models under consideration, publishers would keep all of the revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites, the people familiar with the matter said. If Facebook sells the advertisement, it would keep roughly 30% of the revenue, as it does in many other cases. Another motivation for Facebook to give up some revenue: It hopes the faster-loading content will encourage users to spend more time on its network. It is unclear what format the ads might take, or if publishers will be able to place or measure the ads they sell within Facebook. It seems likely Facebook would want publishers to use its own advertising-technology products, such as Atlas and LiveRail, as opposed to those offered by rivals such as Google Inc.

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4.0 Earthquake Near Concord, California

2 hours 52 min ago
craighansen writes: Just felt a small earthquake, which I confirmed at USGS was a magnitude 4.0 at 2015-05-03 22:13:19 UTC, followed by a magnitude 2.7 a minute later, both located near Concord, California.

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High School Students Discover Pulsar With Widest-Known Orbit

4 hours 17 min ago
Science 2.0 reports that A team of high school students analyzed data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and discovered a never-before-seen pulsar which has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star - one among only a handful of double neutron star systems. ... This pulsar, which received the official designation PSR J1930-1852, was discovered in 2012 by Cecilia McGough, who was a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia at the time, and De'Shang Ray, who was a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland. These students were participating in a summer Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop, which is an NSF-funded educational outreach program that involves interested high school students in analyzing pulsar survey data collected by the GBT. Students often spend weeks and months poring over data plots, searching for the unique signature that identifies a pulsar. Those who identify strong pulsar candidates are invited to Green Bank to work with astronomers to confirm their discovery.

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Empty Landscape Looms, If Large Herbivores Continue to Die Out

5 hours 14 min ago
From the BBC comes this depressing excerpt: Populations of some of the world's largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an "empty landscape", say scientists. About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research. Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss. A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant. "This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole," he said. "The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert." Here's the study, published in Science Advances, on which the BBC article is based.

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SurveyMonkey's CEO Dies While Vacationing With Wife Susan Sandberg

6 hours 16 min ago
McGruber writes: Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and spouse of Facebook COO Sheryl K. Sandberg, died on Friday night. He was 47. 'We are heartbroken by this news,' Facebook said in a statement. Mark Zuckerberg, a friend of the family, said that Mr. Goldberg died while on vacation abroad with Ms. Sandberg. Goldberg built Surveymonkey into a provider of web surveys on almost every topic imaginable, with 500 employees and 25 million surveys created. News reports said it was valued at nearly $2 billion when it raised a round of funding last year.

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SurveyMonkey's CEO Dies While Vacationing With Wife Susan Sanberg

6 hours 16 min ago
McGruber writes: Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and spouse of Facebook COO Sheryl K. Sandberg, died on Friday night. He was 47. 'We are heartbroken by this news,' Facebook said in a statement. Mark Zuckerberg, a friend of the family, said that Mr. Goldberg died while on vacation abroad with Ms. Sandberg. Goldberg built Surveymonkey into a provider of web surveys on almost every topic imaginable, with 500 employees and 25 million surveys created. News reports said it was valued at nearly $2 billion when it raised a round of funding last year.

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Tesla Adds Used Models To Its Inventory, For Online Purchase

7 hours 27 min ago
Jalopnik reports that Tesla Motors Inc. has very quietly started to sell used cars online, following in the footsteps of larger car companies. Its new certified vehicle program brings down the staggering costs of one of their electric cars while still ensuring manufacturer maintenance and repairs. Most of the cars that are on Tesla’s website were previously owned by people who have since traded up to the AWD Model S. Soon, this stockpile will also include leased Teslas. Engadget adds You're limited to shopping in a handful of cities in the U.S. and Canada, but the cars come with a 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty to assuage fears that you've bought a lemon. No, the move doesn't make the company's luxury EVs much more attainable -- the best offer we've seen so far is for a $59,000 'entry' model.

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Microsoft's AI Judges Age From Snapshots, With Mixed Results

8 hours 42 min ago
mikejuk writes: A Microsoft Research project that lets users upload photos and estimates their age and gender has attracted more attention than expected — not all of it complimentary. The How-Old.net site demonstrates of some of the capabilities of the Face API included in Microsoft's Project Oxford that was announced at Build. It may have been expected to be a source of amusement but instead it backfired when people started to upload their own photos and discovered just how wrong its estimates could be. It demonstrates not only that machine learning has a long way to go before it's good at estimating age, but also that machine learning may not be the most politically correct way to go about answering the question 'How Old Do I look'. It might be better to employ and algorithm that built in all the rules of how to make a polite answer to that request — such as always knock a decade off the age of anyone over 28. Perhaps this particular neural network needs to learn some social skills before pronouncing how old people look. However it is capable of telling some truths — a photo of Barak Obama in 2005 gives an estimated age of 46, close to his real age of 44, but just 9 years later in 2014 the age guessing robot places him at 65. It seems that Mr President aged 20 years in less than 10 years of office.

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How Silicon Valley Got That Way -- and Why It Will Continue To Rule

10 hours 10 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: Lots of places want to be 'the next Silicon Valley.' But the Valley's top historian looks back (even talks to Steve Jobs about his respect for the past!) to explain why SV is unique. While there are threats to continued dominance, she thinks its just too hard for another region to challenge SV's supremacy.

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Chrome Passes 25% Market Share, IE and Firefox Slip

11 hours 16 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: In April 2015, we saw the naming of Microsoft Edge, the release of Chrome 42, and the first full month of Firefox 37 availability. Now we're learning that Google's browser has finally passed the 25 percent market share mark. Hit the link for some probably unnecessarily fine-grained statistics on recent browser trends. Have your browser habits shifted recently? Which browsers do you use most often?

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Statues of Assange, Snowden and Manning Go Up In Berlin

12 hours 14 min ago
HughPickens.com writes: RT Times reports that Alexanderplatz square in Berlin has become the stage for a provocative art piece which celebrates whistleblowers and encourages ordinary citizens to speak out. "They have lost their freedom for the truth, so they remind us how important it is to know the truth," says sculptor Davide Dormino. The life-sized statues of the three whistleblowers stand upon three chairs, as if speaking in an impromptu public meeting. Next to them is a fourth, empty chair. "The fourth chair is open to anyone here in Berlin who wants to get up and say anything they want," says the artist. Dormino, who came up with the idea together with the US journalist Charles Glass, specifically chose a classical bronze statue for his depiction – and not an installation or abstract piece – since statues are usually made of establishment figures. According to Domino while men who order others to their deaths get immortalized, those who resist are often forgotten, so "the statue pays homage to three who said no to war, to the lies that lead to war and to the intrusion into private life that helps to perpetuate war." Activists and members of Germany's Green party unveiled the life-size bronze statues on May Day.

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Bill Gates Owes His Career To Steven Spielberg's Dad; You May, Too

13 hours 25 min ago
theodp writes: On the 51st birthday of the BASIC programing language, GE Reports decided it was finally time to give-credit-where-credit-was-long-overdue, reporting that Arnold Spielberg, the 98-year-old father of Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, helped revolutionize computing when he designed the GE-225 mainframe computer. The machine allowed a team of Dartmouth University students and researchers to develop BASIC, which quickly spread and ushered in the era of personal computers. BASIC helped kickstart many computing careers, include those of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, as well as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

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Unable To Hack Into Grading System, Georgia Student Torches Computer Lab

15 hours 24 min ago
McGruber writes: A 15 year-old Douglas County, Georgia high school student has been charged with five felonies, including burglary and arson, after sheriff's deputies caught him while responding to a 1 AM fire at Alexander High School. The boy admitted to investigators that he set fire to a computer after trying, unsuccessfully, to hack into the school computer system to change his grade on a failed test. "It's very sad and tragic. He could have very easily come to one of his counselors and asked for help," said Lt. Glenn Daniel with the Douglas County Sheriff's Department. "From what we can tell, (the student) was mad and frustrated because he could not hack into the system." Lt. Daniel said the charges could land the young man in prison for several years. The computer lab was cleaned up and re-opened in time for the start of that day's classes.

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Hacking the US Prescription System

18 hours 29 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: It appears that most pharmacies in the US are interconnected, and a breach in one leads to access to the other ones. A security advisory released [Friday] shows how a vulnerability in an online pharmacy granted access to prescription history for any US person with just their name and date of birth. From the description linked above: During the signup process, PillPack.com prompts users for their identifying information. In the end of the signup rocess, the user is shown a list of their existing prescriptions in all other pharmacies in order to make the process of transferring them to PillPack.com easier. ... To replicate this issue, an attacker would be directed to the PillPack.com website and choose the signup option. As long as the full name and the date of birth entered during signup match the target, the attacker will gain access to the target's full prescription history.

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In Second Trial, Ex-Goldman Sachs Programmer Convicted of Code Theft

21 hours 31 min ago
Ars Technica reports that A former Goldman Sachs programmer—featured in the book Flash Boys—was convicted on Friday for stealing high-speed trading code from the bank. Sergey Aleynikov, 45, was also acquitted on one count of unlawful duplication, according to Reuters. The New York state jury could not come to a verdict on another count of unlawful use of secret scientific material. Sergey Aleynikov was also acquitted of unlawful duplication. This was the second trial for Aleynikov in five years. He could face up to four years in prison.

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NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out!

5/2/2015 9:11pm
TheRealHocusLocus writes: HR 2039: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 (press release, full text, and as a pretty RGB bitmap) is in the House. In $18B of goodies we see things that actually resemble a space program. The ~20,000 word document is even a good read, especially the parts about decadal cadence. There is more focus on launch systems and manned exploration, also to "expand the Administration's Near-Earth Object Program to include the detection, tracking, cataloguing, and characterization of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects less than 140 meters in diameter." I find it awesome that the fate of the dinosaurs is explicitly mentioned in this bill. If it passes we will have a law with dinosaurs in it. Someone read the T-shirt. There is also a very specific six month review of NASA's "Earth science global datasets for the purpose of identifying those datasets that are useful for understanding regional changes and variability, and for informing applied science research." Could this be an emerging Earth Sciences turf war between NOAA and NASA? Lately it seems more of a National Atmospheric Space Administration. Mission creep, much?

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Robots In 2020: Lending a Helping Hand To Humans (And Each Other)

5/2/2015 7:24pm
Lashdots writes: In the next five years, robots won't kill us (or drive our cars). But they will get better at helping us do routine tasks—and at helping each other too. Those are some of the predictions Fast Company gleaned from some of the robotics firms on its "most innovative" list, including Anki Robotics, robot-based genetic testing startup Counsyl, and Lockheed Martin, which has demonstrated a pair of unmanned aerial vehicles that work together to fight fires. I'm just waiting for drones that will simultaneously cut my lawn and deter burglars.

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CareerBuilder Cyberattack Delivers Malware Straight To Employers

5/2/2015 6:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: Security threat researchers Proofpoint have uncovered an email-based phishing attack which infected businesses with malware via the CareerBuilder online job search website. The attack involved the hacker browsing job adverts across the platform and uploading malicious files during the application process, titling the documents "resume.doc" and "cv.doc." Once the CV was submitted, an automatic email notification was sent to the business advertising the position, along with the uploaded document. In this case, Proofpoint found that as a business opens the automatic email from CareerBuilder to view the attached file the document plays on a known Word vulnerability to sneak a malicious code onto the victim's computer. According to the threat research group, the manual attack technique although time-consuming has a higher success rate than automated tools as the email attachments are more likely to be opened by the receiver.

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Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

5/2/2015 5:29pm
Presto Vivace writes: The H-1B visa issue rarely surfaces during presidential races, and that's what makes the entrance by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) into the 2016 presidential race so interesting. ... ...Sanders is very skeptical of the H-1B program, and has lambasted tech firms for hiring visa workers at the same time they're cutting staff. He's especially critical of the visa's use in offshore outsourcing.

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