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XBox (Games)

Xbox Chief: We Need To Create a Netflix of Video Games (theguardian.com) 12

Phil Spencer, the man who heads up Microsoft's Xbox division, says that if the video game sector is to grow both creatively and economically it needs to start thinking along the lines of a video-games-as-a-service subscription model. From a report: Over the last five years we've seen the emergence of a new concept: the video game as a service. What this means is the developer's support for a new title doesn't stop when it's launched. They run multiplayer servers so that people can compete online; and they release extra downloadable content (DLC) in the form of new items, maps and storylines -- sometimes free, but very often paid for. [...] So being able to build and sustain a community around a single title takes the risk out of development. However, the costs of renting and running server networks and maintaining the matchmaking and lobby infrastructures make the model inaccessible for smaller teams. Should it be? "This is directly in line with what I think the next wave of innovation needs to be for us as a development platform," says Spencer. His solution, it seems, is to make Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform more open to smaller studios, so they get access to a large global network of servers. "They don't have to go buy a bunch of servers on their own and stick them under their desks and hope they get enough players to pay for them," he says. [...] Spencer feels that, from a creative standpoint, we need new types of narrative experience -- but from a business standpoint, it's getting harder and riskier to commit to those games. Is there an answer? Spencer thinks there is -- and it comes from watching the success of original content made and distributed on modern TV services. "I've looked at things like Netflix and HBO, where great content has been created because there's this subscription model. Shannon Loftis and I are thinking a lot about, well, could we put story-based games into the Xbox Game Pass business model because you have a subscription going? It would mean you wouldn't have to deliver the whole game in one month; you could develop and deliver the game as it goes."
Security

Hackers Exploited Word Flaw For Months While Microsoft Investigated (reuters.com) 14

An anonymous reader writes: To understand why it is so difficult to defend computers from even moderately capable hackers, consider the case of the security flaw officially known as CVE-2017-0199. The bug was unusually dangerous but of a common genre: it was in Microsoft software, could allow a hacker to seize control of a personal computer with little trace, and was fixed April 11 in Microsoft's regular monthly security update. But it had traveled a rocky, nine-month journey from discovery to resolution, which cyber security experts say is an unusually long time. Google's security researchers, for example, give vendors just 90 days' warning before publishing flaws they find. Microsoft declined to say how long it usually takes to patch a flaw. While Microsoft investigated, hackers found the flaw and manipulated the software to spy on unknown Russian speakers, possibly in Ukraine. And a group of thieves used it to bolster their efforts to steal from millions of online bank accounts in Australia and other countries.
Businesses

What Happens To Summer TV Binges If Hollywood Writers Strike (bloomberg.com) 87

An anonymous reader shares a report: There also should be plenty of new video fare if Hollywood's writers and studios can't agree on a new contract by Monday. The beautiful thing about a contract is everyone knows when it ends. In this case, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents some 350 production companies, and the Writers Guild of America, which comprises 12,000 professionals in two chapters, have had three years to prepare for a standoff. In these situations, show makers typically rush to complete a pile of scripts before the deadline. Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at the University of California at Los Angeles, calls this stockpiling "the inventory effect." This is precisely what happened the last time writers walked off the job, from November 2007 to February 2008. If the writers do, in fact, go through with the strike they approved on Monday, jokes and soaps will be the first things to take a hit. Late-night talk shows and soap operas are to entertainment writers what delis are to hungry New Yorkers -- a daily frenzy of high-volume production. If the sandwich makers don't show up, everybody gets hungry quickly.
Businesses

Apple Wants To Turn Its Music App Into a One-Stop Shop For Pop Culture (bloomberg.com) 32

Jimmy Iovine, one of the heads of Apple Music, has long expressed desires to make Apple Music "an entire pop cultural experience." The company, he has previously said, will do so partly by including original video content into its music app. Now, in an interview with Bloomberg, he added that the company plans to include original shows and videos with high-profile partners such as director J.J. Abrams and rapper R. Kelly. Iovine adds, from the interview: A music service needs to be more than a bunch of songs and a few playlists. I'm trying to help Apple Music be an overall movement in popular culture, everything from unsigned bands to video. We have a lot of plans. We have the freedom, because it's Apple, to make one show, three shows, see what works, see what doesn't work until it feels good. The article also sheds light on Iovine's personality: Iovine fidgets when he talks. As his mind wanders, he takes his jacket off, then puts it back on. He frequently clutches his legs, contorting himself into a ball. He's a font of ideas with industry contacts to help execute every one of them. He turned to Pharrell Williams and Gwen Stefani for help picking the model for Beats headphones. Some ideas get Iovine into trouble. He's taken meetings with artists and made arrangements to release music without telling anyone in advance, frustrating colleagues. He's persuaded artists to release music exclusively with Apple, frustrating record labels.
Businesses

Microsoft Co-founder Pledges $30 Million To House Seattle's Homeless (cnn.com) 97

Paul Allen, a founder of Microsoft has pledged $30 million to house Seattle's homeless. From a report: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday the city was partnering with Paul G. Allen's family foundation to build a facility to house homeless families with children. Allen's foundation will provide $30 million toward the development of the facility, while the city of Seattle has pledged $5 million for its maintenance and operation. It will be owned and operated by Mercy Housing Northwest, a nonprofit housing organization. Seattle is in King County, which has 1,684 families that are homeless, according to the mayor's announcement. More than 3,000 homeless children were enrolled in Seattle's public schools during the 2015-2016 year, it said.
The Almighty Buck

Computer Program Prevents 116-Year-Old Woman From Getting Pension (theguardian.com) 143

Bruce66423 quotes a report from The Guardian: Born at the turn of the past century, Maria Felix is old enough to remember the Mexican Revolution -- but too old to get the bank card needed to collect her monthly 1,200 pesos ($63) welfare payment. Felix turns 117 in July, according to her birth certificate, which local authorities recognize as authentic. She went three months without state support for poor elderly Mexicans after she was turned away from a branch of Citibanamex in the city of Guadalajara for being too old, said Miguel Castro, development secretary for the state of Jalisco. Welfare beneficiaries now need individual bank accounts because of new transparency rules, Castro said. "They told me the limit was 110 years," Felix said with a smile in the plant-filled courtyard of her small house in Guadalajara. In an emailed statement, Citibanamex, a unit of Citigroup Inc, said Felix's age exceeded the "calibration limits" of its system and it was working to get her the bank card as soon as possible. It said it was adjusting its systems to avoid a repeat of the situation.
Businesses

LinkedIn Testing 1970's-Style No-CS-Degree-Required Software Apprenticeships (mercurynews.com) 128

theodp writes: The Mercury News reports on REACH, a new software apprenticeship program that LinkedIn's engineering team started piloting this month, which offers people without Computer Science degrees an opportunity to get a foot in the door, as Microsoft-owned LinkedIn searches for ways to help diversify its workforce. For now, the 29 REACH participants are paid, but are only short-term LinkedIn employees (for the duration of the 6-month program). LinkedIn indicated it hopes to learn if tech internships could eventually be made part of the regular hiring process, perhaps unaware that no-CS-degree-required hiring for entry-level permanent positions in software development was standard practice in the 70's and 80's, back when women made up almost 40% of those working as programmers and in software-related fields, nearly double the percentage of women in LinkedIn's global 2016 tech workforce. Hey, even in tech hiring, everything old is new again!
NASA

NASA Inspector Says Agency Wasted $80 Million On An Inferior Spacesuit (arstechnica.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When NASA began developing a rocket and spacecraft to return humans to the Moon a decade ago as part of the Constellation Program, the space agency started to think about the kinds of spacesuits astronauts would need in deep space and on the lunar surface. After this consideration, NASA awarded a $148 million contract to Oceaneering International, Inc. in 2009 to develop and produce such a spacesuit. However, President Obama canceled the Constellation program just a year later, in early 2010. Later that year, senior officials at the Johnson Space Center recommended canceling the Constellation spacesuit contract because the agency had its own engineers working on a new spacesuit and, well, NASA no longer had a clear need for deep-space spacesuits. However, the Houston officials were overruled by agency leaders at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. A new report released Wednesday by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin sharply criticizes this decision. "The continuation of this contract did not serve the best interests of the agency's spacesuit technology development efforts," the report states. In fact, the report found that NASA essentially squandered $80.6 million on the Oceaneering contract before it was finally ended last year.
China

Chinese, European Space Agencies In Talks To Build a Moon Base (techcrunch.com) 65

ESA's Pal Hvistendahl has confirmed via Bloomberg that Chinese and European space agencies are talking with one another about plans to build a base on the moon. The discussions "involve working together to build a human-occupied 'moon village' from which both agencies can potentially launch Mars missions, conduct research, and possibly explore commercial mining and tourism projects," reports TechCrunch. From the report: China's upcoming projects in space include a mission to collect samples from the moon via an uncrewed craft by the end of this year, and to also launch an exploratory mission to the far side of the moon next year, with the similar aim of returning samples for study. The ESA's collaboration with China thus far include participating in the study of those returned samples, and potentially sending a European astronaut to the Chinese space station (which is currently unoccupied) at some future date.
Medicine

Popular Belief That Saturated Fat Clogs Up Arteries Is a Myth, Experts Say (independent.ie) 196

schwit1 quotes a report from Irish Independent: The authors, led by Dr Aseem Malhotra, from Lister Hospital, Stevenage, wrote: "Despite popular belief among doctors and the public, the conceptual model of dietary saturated fat clogging a pipe is just plain wrong." Dr Malhotra and colleagues Professor Rita Redberg, from the University of California at San Francisco, and Pascal Meier from University Hospital Geneva in Switzerland and University College London, cited a "landmark" review of evidence that appeared to exonerate saturated fat. They said relative levels of "good" cholesterol, or high density lipoprotein (HDL), were a better predictor of heart disease risk than levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad" cholesterol. High consumption of foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cakes and fatty meat has been shown to increase blood levels of LDL. The experts wrote: "It is time to shift the public health message in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease away from measuring serum lipids (blood fats) and reducing dietary saturated fat. "Coronary artery disease is a chronic inflammatory disease and it can be reduced effectively by walking 22 minutes a day and eating real food." They pointed out that in clinical trials widening narrow arteries with stents -- stainless steel mesh devices -- failed to reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Earth

New Study Suggests Humans Lived In North America 130,000 Years Ago (npr.org) 181

An anonymous reader writes: In 1992, archaeologists working a highway construction site in San Diego County found the partial skeleton of a mastodon, an elephant-like animal now extinct. Mastodon skeletons aren't so unusual, but there was other strange stuff with it. "The remains were in association with a number of sharply broken rocks and broken bones," says Tom Demere, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum. He says the rocks showed clear marks of having been used as hammers and an anvil. And some of the mastodon bones as well as a tooth showed fractures characteristic of being whacked, apparently with those stones. It looked like the work of humans. Yet there were no cut marks on the bones showing that the animal was butchered for meat. Demere thinks these people were after something else. "The suggestion is that this site is strictly for breaking bone," Demere says, "to produce blank material, raw material to make bone tools or to extract marrow." Marrow is a rich source of fatty calories. The scientists knew they'd uncovered something rare. But they didn't realize just how rare for years, until they got a reliable date on how old the bones were by using a uranium-thorium dating technology that didn't exist in the 1990s. The bones were 130,000 years old. That's a jaw-dropping date, as other evidence shows that the earliest humans got to the Americas about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Security

Hacking Group Is Charging German Companies $275 For 'DDoS Tests' (bleepingcomputer.com) 27

An anonymous reader writes: "A group calling itself XMR Squad has spent all last week launching DDoS attacks against German businesses and then contacting the same companies to inform them they had to pay $275 for 'testing their DDoS protection systems,' reports Bleeping Computer. Attacks were reported against DHL, Hermes, AldiTalk, Freenet, Snipes.com, the State Bureau of Investigation Lower Saxony, and the website of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The attack against DHL Germany was particularly effective as it shut down the company's business customer portal and all APIs, prompting eBay Germany to issue an alert regarding possible issues with packages sent via DHL. While the group advertised on Twitter that their location was in Russia, a German reporter who spoke with the group via telephone said "the caller had a slight accent, but spoke perfect German." Following the attention they got in Germany after the attacks, the group had its website and Twitter account taken down. Many mocked the group for failing to extract any payments from their targets. DDoS extortionists have been particularly active in Germany, among any other countries. Previously, groups named Stealth Ravens and Kadyrovtsy have also extorted German companies, using the same tactics perfected by groups like DD4BC and Armada Collective.
Medicine

Will the High-Tech Cities of the Future Be Utterly Lonely? (theweek.com) 100

adeelarshad82 writes from a report via The Week: The prospect of cities becoming sentient is "fast becoming the new reality," according to one paper. Take Tel Aviv for example, where everyone over the age of 13 can receive personalized data, such as traffic information, and can access free municipal Wi-Fi in 80 public zones. But in a future where robots sound and objects look increasingly sentient, we might be less inclined to seek out behaviors to abate our loneliness. Indeed, one recent study titled "Products as pals" finds that exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic products -- which have characteristics of being alive -- partially satisfy our social needs, which means the human-like robots of tomorrow could kill our dwindling urge to be around other humans.
Software

Ask Slashdot: Are Accurate Software Development Time Predictions a Myth? (medium.com) 189

New submitter DuroSoft writes: For myself and the vast majority of people I have talked to, this is the case. Any attempts we make to estimate the amount of time software development tasks will take inevitably end in folly. Do you find you can make accurate estimates, or is it really the case, as the author, DuroSoft Technologies' CTO/Co-CEO Sam Johnson, suggests via Hacker Noon, that "writing and maintaining code can be seen as a fundamentally chaotic activity, subject to sudden, unpredictable gotchas that take up an inordinate amount of time" and that therefore attempting to make predictions in the first place is itself a waste of our valuable time?
Security

British Cops Will Scan Every Fan's Face At the Champions League Final (vice.com) 82

Using a new facial recognition surveillance system, British police will scan every fan's face at the UEFA Champions League on June 3rd and compare them to a police database of some 500,000 "persons of interest." "According to a government tender issued by South Wales Police, the system will be deployed during the day of the game in Cardiff's main train station, as well as in and around the Principality Stadium situated in the heart of Cardiff's central retail district." From the report: Cameras will potentially be scanning the faces of an estimated 170,000 visitors plus the many more thousands of people in the vicinity of the bustling Saturday evening city center on match day, June 3. Captured images will then be compared in real time to 500,000 custody images stored in the police information and records management system alerting police to any "persons of interest," according to the tender. The security operation will build on previous police use of Automated Facial Recognition, or AFR technology by London's Metropolitan Police during 2016's Notting Hill Carnival.

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