Bitcoin

Coinbase Buys Earn.com For Reported $100 Million, Adds Key Executive (cnbc.com) 9

Digital currency exchange Coinbase announced today that it has acquired Earn.com, a portal that allows people to make money by answering emails or completing other tasks. Coinbase did not disclose the terms of the deal but according to Recode, the offer was more than $100 million. As part of the acquisition, the crypto company will bring on Earn's founder and CEO Balaji Srinivasan as its first-ever chief technology officer. From the report: Srinivasan will act as "technological evangelist" for both the industry, and for Coinbase in his new role, the company said. "Balaji has become one of the most respected technologists in the crypto field and is considered one of the technology industry's few true originalists," Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said in a blog post Monday. Srinivasan holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering and an MS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University, and has taught courses in data mining, stats, genomics, blockchain at his alma mater. He will also be responsible for recruiting more talent, an effort that the San Francisco-based company has beefed up in recent months.
Businesses

Uber Challenges Study Suggesting Its Drivers Earn $3.37 Per Hour (reuters.com) 271

An MIT study using data from more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers concluded they're earning a median pretax profit of just $3.37 per hour. But now Reuters reports: Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi criticized the MIT study in a tweet on Friday as "Mathematically Incompetent Theories (at least as it pertains to ride-sharing)," and linked to a response by Uber chief economist Jonathan Hall that challenged the study's methodology. Hall's rebuttal to the study said the likely misinterpretation of a survey question and the study's "inconsistent logic" produced a wage result that was below similar studies elsewhere. He said the study used a "flawed methodology" compared with a survey that found drivers' average hour earnings were $15.68. "The earnings figures suggested in the paper are less than half the hourly earnings numbers reported in the very survey the paper derives its data from," wrote Hall.

The MIT study's lead author, Stephen Zoepf, told Reuters in an email on Saturday, "I can see how the question on revenue might have been interpreted differently by respondents" and called Hall's rebuttal thoughtful. "I'm re-running the analysis this weekend using Uber's more optimistic assumptions and should have new results and a public response acknowledging the discrepancy by Monday," he wrote.

Saturday Uber's CEO tweeted a thank-you to MIT, "for listening and revisiting this study and its findings. Right thing to do."
Cellphones

Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Down For First Time Ever (theregister.co.uk) 77

According to Gartner, global sales of smartphones have declined year-on-year for the first time since the research company started tracking the global smartphone market in 2004. "Global sales of smartphones to end users totaled nearly 408 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, a 5.6 percent decline over the fourth quarter of 2016," reports Gartner. The Register reports: In Gartner's Q4 sales stats, Samsung maintained a narrow lead in global volume shipments of smartphones -- but every major (top five) vendor outside of those based in China saw unit shipments slip. Several major factors caused the market shrinkage, said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner. "First, upgrades from feature phones to smartphones have slowed right down due to a lack of quality 'ultra-low-cost' smartphones and users preferring to buy quality feature phones. Second, replacement smartphone users are choosing quality models and keeping them longer, lengthening the replacement cycle of smartphones. Moreover, while demand for high quality, 4G connectivity and better camera features remained strong, high expectations and few incremental benefits during replacement weakened smartphone sales," Gupta added. This is a characteristic of the emerging markets, where all the action is -- not mature markets like the UK or USA. Samsung leap-frogged Apple by virtue of its sales declining slower than the market average -- Sammy's numbers were 3.6 per cent to 74.02 million units.
Twitter

Pro-Gun Russian Bots Flood Twitter After Parkland Shooting (wired.com) 705

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: In the wake of Wednesday's Parkland, Florida school shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, troll and bot-tracking sites reported an immediate uptick in related tweets from political propaganda bots and Russia-linked Twitter accounts. Hamilton 68, a website created by Alliance for Securing Democracy, tracks Twitter activity from accounts it has identified as linked to Russian influence campaigns. On RoBhat Labs' Botcheck.me, a website created by two Berkeley students to track 1500 political propaganda bots, all of the top two-word phrases used in the last 24 hours -- excluding President Trump's name -- are related to the tragedy: School shooting, gun control, high school, Florida school. The top hashtags from the last 24 hours include Parkland, guncontrol, and guncontrolnow.

While RoBhat Labs tracks general political bots, Hamilton 68 focuses specifically on those linked to the Russian government. According to the group's data, the top link shared by Russia-linked accounts in the last 48 hours is a 2014 Politifact article that looks critically at a statistic cited by pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Twitter accounts tracked by the group have used the old link to try to debunk today's stats about the frequency of school shootings. Another top link shared by the network covers the "deranged" Instagram account of the shooter, showing images of him holding guns and knives, wearing army hats, and a screenshot of a Google search of the phrase "Allahu Akbar." Characterizing shooters as deranged lone wolves with potential terrorist connections is a popular strategy of pro-gun groups because of the implication that new gun laws could not have prevented their actions. Meanwhile, some accounts with large bot followings are already spreading misinformation about the shooter's ties to far-left group Antifa, even though the Associated Press reported that he was a member of a local white nationalist group. The Twitter account Education4Libs, which RoBhat Labs shows is one among the top accounts tweeted at by bots, is among the prominent disseminators of that idea.

Data Storage

Backblaze Hard Drive Stats for 2017 (backblaze.com) 93

BackBlaze is back with its hard drive reliability report. From the blog post: Beginning in April 2013, Backblaze has recorded and saved daily hard drive statistics from the drives in our data centers. Each entry consists of the date, manufacturer, model, serial number, status (operational or failed), and all of the SMART attributes reported by that drive. As of the end of 2017, there are about 88 million entries totaling 23 GB of data. At the end of 2017 we had 93,240 spinning hard drives. Of that number, there were 1,935 boot drives and 91,305 data drives. This post looks at the hard drive statistics of the data drives we monitor. We'll review the stats for Q4 2017, all of 2017, and the lifetime statistics for all of the drives Backblaze has used in our cloud storage data centers since we started keeping track.
Businesses

World's Second Largest Meat Processor Invests In Lab-Grown Meat Startup (foxbusiness.com) 111

Tyson Foods, the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, announced it has invested in Silicon Valley startup Memphis Meats, a company that makes lab-grown meat using animal cells. The investment amount was not disclosed, but it follows a slew of other high-profile backers including Cargill Inc., Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Fox Business reports: Last December, Tyson made a similar investment in another meatless startup called Beyond Meat, investing a roughly 5% stake in the company that produces plant-based meat alternatives. Tyson CEO Tom Hayes told FOX Business in March of last year that he sees plant-based protein as a big part of the company's future. "If you take a look at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) stats, protein consumption is growing around the world -- and it continues to grow. It's not just hot in the U.S.; it's hot everywhere, people want protein, so whether it's animal-based protein or plant-based protein, they have an appetite for it. Plant-based protein is growing almost, at this point, a little faster than animal-based, so I think the migration may continue in that direction," Hayes told FOX Business. Memphis Meats, which debuted its first animal-free meatball in 2016, followed by the world's first chicken strip in 2017, said customers should expect to see these products on store shelves by 2021 or 2022.
Transportation

Lyft Says Nearly 250K of Its Passengers Ditched a Personal Car In 2017 (techcrunch.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Lyft has a new report out detailing its "economic impact" for 2017, and the document includes a lot of stats on its performance throughout the year. The ride-hailing provider claims 375.5 million rides for the year, which is 130 percent growth measured year-over-year. It served 23 million different passengers, itself a 92 percent YoY increase, and had 1.4 million drivers on the platform -- 100 percent growth vs. its total for 2016. Lyft is making some especially strong claims regarding its impact on car ownership trends: In 2017 alone, it said that almost a quarter of a million passengers on its platform dropped owning a personal vehicle, due to the availability of ridesharing specifically. Fifty percent of its users also report driving their own car less because of Lyft's service, and a quarter of those on the platform say they don't feel personal vehicle ownership is that important anymore. The ride-hailing company also found attitudes generally favorable towards self-driving vehicles and their use: 83 percent of Lyft passengers surveyed by the company said they'd be open to hailing and riding in a self-driving vehicle once they're available.
Programming

Which JavaScript Framework is the Most Popular? (infoworld.com) 161

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld's report on which JavaScript frameworks are the most widely-used: In a study of 28-day download cycles for front-end JavaScript frameworks, NPM, which oversees the popular JavaScript package registry, found that React has been on a steady upward trajectory; it now accounts for about 0.05 percent of the registry's 13 billion downloads per month as of the fourth quarter of 2017. Web developers as well as desktop and mobile developers are adopting the library and it has spawned an ecosystem of related packages. Preact, a lightweight alternative to React, also has seen growth and could become a force in the future.

On the down side, Backbone, which accounted for almost 0.1 percent of all downloads in 2013, now comprises only about 0.005 percent of downloads (about 750,000 per month). Backbone has declined steeply but is kept afloat by the long shelf life of projects using it, NPM reasoned. The jQuery JavaScript library also remains popular but has experienced decreasing interest. Angular, the Google-developed JavaScript framework, was the second-most-popular framework behind React, when combining the original Angular 1.x with the rewritten Angular 2.x. Version 1.x was at about 0.0125 percent of downloads last month while version 2.x was at about 0.02 percent. Still, Angular as a whole is showing just modest growth.

They also report that the four JavaScript frameworks with the fastest growth rates for 2017 were Preact, Vue, React, and Ember.

But for back end services written in JavaScript, npm reports that Express "is the overwhelmingly dominant solution... The next four biggest frameworks are so small relative to Express that it's hard to even see them."
Open Source

Stack Overflow Stats Reveal 'the Brutal Lifecycle of JavaScript Frameworks' (stackoverflow.blog) 165

A developer on the Internal Tools team at Stack Overflow reveals some new statistics from their 'Trends' tool: JavaScript UI frameworks and libraries work in cycles. Every six months or so, a new one pops up, claiming that it has revolutionized UI development. Thousands of developers adopt it into their new projects, blog posts are written, Stack Overflow questions are asked and answered, and then a newer (and even more revolutionary) framework pops up to usurp the throne...

There appears to be a quick ascent, as the framework gains popularity and then a slightly less quick but steady decline as developers adopt newer technologies. These lifecycles only last a couple of years. Starting around 2011, there seems to be major adoption of a couple of competing frameworks: Backbone, Knockout, and Ember. Questions about these tags appear to grow until around 2013 and have been in steady decline since, at about the same time as AngularJS started growing. The latest startup is the Vue.js framework, which has shown quick adoption, as it is one of the fastest growing tags on Stack Overflow. Only time can tell how long this growth will last.

"Let's be honest," the post concludes. "The size of a developer community certainly counts; it contributes to a thriving open source environment, and makes it easier to find help on Stack Overflow."
Programming

C Programming Language 'Has Completed a Comeback' (infoworld.com) 243

InfoWorld reports that "the once-declining C language" has "completed a comeback" -- citing its rise to second place in the Tiobe Index of language popularity, the biggest rise of any language in 2017. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Although the language only grew 1.69 percentage points in its rating year over year in the January index, that was enough beat out runners-up Python (1.21 percent gain) and Erlang (0.98 percent gain). Just five months ago, C was at its lowest-ever rating, at 6.477 percent; this month, its rating is 11.07 percent, once again putting it in second place behind Java (14.215 percent) -- although Java dropped 3.05 percent compared to January 2017. C's revival is possibly being fueled by its popularity in manufacturing and industry, including the automotive market, Tiobe believes...

But promising languages such as Julia, Hack, Rust, and Kotlin were not able to reach the top 20 or even the top 30, Tiobe pointed out. "Becoming part of the top 10 or even the top 20 requires a large ecosystem of communities and evangelists including conferences," said Paul Jansen, Tiobe managing director and compiler of the index. "This is not something that can be developed in one year's time."

For 2017 Tiobe also reports that after Java and C, the most popular programming languages were C++, Python, C#, JavaScript, Visual Basic .Net, R, PHP, and Perl.

The rival Pypl Popularity of Programming Language index calculates that the most popular languages are Java, Python, PHP, JavaScript, C#, C++, C, R, Objective-C, and Swift.
Iphone

Apple's iPhones Were the Best-Selling Tech Product of 2017 (usatoday.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Once again, the iPhone was the best-selling tech product of 2017, selling more units than the No. 2 through No. 5 products combined. According to Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, who compiled the chart for USA TODAY, Apple will sell 223 million iPhones in 2017, up from 211 million phones the previous year... Apple took a risk in introducing three new iPhones for 2017...but all in all, Apple sold more iPhones total, although fewer than the peak year of 2015, when it moved 230 million units. (That was the year of the iPhone 6...)

The global market share for smartphones is dominated by Google's Android system, which owns 85%, compared to 15% for Apple's iOS, according to researcher IDC. But the iPhone is the most popular smartphone brand, having opened a huge gap compared to No. 2 Samsung's Galaxy phones at 33 million. However Samsung, which has a broader portfolio of phones, sells more overall. Indeed, in 2016, Samsung shipped over 320 million phones, most lower-priced phones sold outside the United States, like the J3, On8 and A9 lines.

Apple's strong performance through September earned CEO Tim Cook a $9.3 million bonus on top of his $3.06 million salary -- plus vesting of $89.2 million more in Apple stock. Here's the complete list of the five best-selling tech products of 2017:
  • Apple iPhones: 223 million
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones: 33 million
  • Amazon Echo Dot connected speakers: 24 million
  • Apple Watch: 20 million
  • Nintendo Switch video game console: 15 million

Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Applauds 'Massive Change' to HTTPS (eff.org) 214

"The movement to encrypt the web reached milestone after milestone in 2017," writes the EFF, adding that "the web is in the middle of a massive change from non-secure HTTP to the more secure, encrypted HTTPS protocol." In February, the scales tipped. For the first time, approximately half of Internet traffic was protected by HTTPS. Now, as 2017 comes to a close, an average of 66% of page loads on Firefox are encrypted, and Chrome shows even higher numbers. At the beginning of the year, Let's Encrypt had issued about 28 million certificates. In June, it surpassed 100 million certificates. Now, Let's Encrypt's total issuance volume has exceeded 177 million certificates...

Browsers have been pushing the movement to encrypt the web further, too. Early this year, Chrome and Firefox started showing users "Not secure" warnings when HTTP websites asked them to submit password or credit card information. In October, Chrome expanded the warning to cover all input fields, as well as all pages viewed in Incognito mode. Chrome has eventual plans to show a "Not secure" warning for all HTTP pages... The next big step in encrypting the web is ensuring that most websites default to HTTPS without ever sending people to the HTTP version of their site. The technology to do this is called HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), and is being more widely adopted. Notably, the registrar for the .gov TLD announced that all new .gov domains would be set up with HSTS automatically...

The Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) standard became mandatory for all CAs to implement this year... [And] there's plenty to look forward to in 2018. In a significant improvement to the TLS ecosystem, for example, Chrome plans to require Certificate Transparency starting next April.

Movies

Movie Ticket Sales Hit A 22-Year Low in 2017 (msn.com) 162

An anonymous reader quotes the Los Angeles Times: Hollywood is celebrating the end of 2017 with astronomical sales from "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," which is on track to soon exceed $1 billion in global ticket sales and eventually become the biggest movie of the year. But that won't be enough to write a happy storyline for the industry. Although movie ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada are expected to dip just below last year's record of $11.38 billion, the number of tickets sold is projected to drop 4% to 1.26 billion -- the lowest level since 1995, according to preliminary estimates from studio executives.

The falloff in ticket sales can mostly be explained by a handful of movies that flopped, especially during the dreary summer season that posted the worst results in more than two decades. Even such massive hits as "Wonder Woman," "Thor: Ragnarok" and "It" couldn't make up for a lackluster summer lineup populated by rickety franchises ("Alien: Covenant") and poorly reviewed retreads ("The Mummy"). However, the long-term decline in attendance reflects systemic challenges facing the industry. Audiences are spending less time going to the movies and are consuming more entertainment on small screens and through streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon that are spending billions on original video content. At the same time, while higher ticket prices have helped to offset attendance declines, they have made consumers pickier about what movies they're willing to go see. And those increasingly discerning consumers turn to social media and Rotten Tomatoes to decide what's worth their time and money.

Stats

Slashdot's 10 Most-Visited Stories of 2017 (slashdot.org) 35

Slashdot's most-visited story of 2017 was Google Has Demonstrated a Successful Practical Attack Against SHA-1, which was visited more than 212,000 times since it was published in Feburary.

And our second- and third-most popular stories also came in February -- both just one week before.

FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone and IT Decisions Makers and Executives Don't Agree On Cyber Security Responsibility.

Keep reading for a complete list of Slashdot's 10 most-visited stories of 2017.
Windows

Windows 10 Visits To US Government Sites Surpass Windows 7 For the First Time (onmsft.com) 111

In what may be a signal of changing attitudes for Windows 10, visits to U.S. government sites via Windows 10 have surpassed Windows 7 for the first time. On MSFT reports: This United States government website reports that of the 2.54 billion visits to U.S. Government websites over the past 90 days, 20.9% came from Windows 10, and 20.7% from Windows 7. Interestingly, Windows 8.1 came in at 2.7%, Windows 8 .05%, and other OS 0.8%. The numbers are a bit niche and could be just from a holiday bump based on the sites 90-day average, but they still do give a solid number comparison for the state of various OS and browser stats. When it comes to browser share, Edge was not popularly used to visit U.S. Government websites. Chrome was on top with 44.4%, Followed up Safari with 27.6%, Internet Explorer at 12.3%, and then Firefox at 5.9% and Edge at 3.9%. Though all these government percentages may be bleak for Microsoft, the latest AdDuplex December report also shows strong adoption for Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, so things can only go up from Microsoft from here on out.
Stats

The Majority of Americans Prefer To Be Greeted With 'Merry Christmas' Over 'Happy Holidays', a Poll Finds 410

"Merry Christmas" is the preferred greeting of a strong majority of Americans. A survey carried in conjunction by news outlet Axios and SurveyMonkey found that 65 percent of the participants wish to be greeted with "Merry Christmas," while 28% prefer "Happy Holidays."
Stats

Researchers Ask: Are People Better Off Than 50 Years Ago? (marketwatch.com) 357

Long-time Slashdot reader gollum123 quotes MarketWatch: Are you doing better than the previous generation? The Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., asked nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe that question this past spring. Residents in 20 countries said people like them were better off than they were 50 years ago. In Vietnam, 88% felt better off, followed by India (69%), South Korea (68%), Japan (65%), Germany (65%), Turkey (65%), the Netherlands (64%), Sweden (64%), Poland (62%) and Spain (60%)...

The U.S. was among the other 18 countries in which people said they were actually worse off than half a century ago. In Senegal, 45% felt this way, followed by Nigeria (54%), Kenya (53%), the U.S. (41%), Ghana (47%), Brazil (49%), France (46%), Hungary (39%), Lebanon (54%) and Peru (46%).

55% of Canadians feel they're better off, while just 45% of people in the U.K. feel the same way, according to the article.

"Venezuela, which has suffered from political unrest and economic turbulence in recent years, was last on the list. Some 72% people there said they felt worse off than 50 years ago."
Security

Firefox Prepares To Mark All HTTP Sites 'Not Secure' After HTTPS Adoption Rises (bleepingcomputer.com) 244

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: The increased adoption of HTTPS among website operators will soon lead to browsers marking HTTP pages as "Not Secure" by default, and Mozilla is taking the first steps. The current Firefox Nightly Edition (version 59) includes a secret configuration option that when activated will show a visible visual indicator that the current page is not secure. In its current form, this visual indicator is a red line striking through a classic lock that's normally used to signal the presence of encrypted HTTPS pages. According to Let's Encrypt, 67% of web pages loaded by Firefox in November 2017 used HTTPS, compared to only 45% at the end of last year.
Google

Google Reveals the Most-Trending Searches of 2017 (google.com) 49

"Google's annual list of the most popular searches is here, offering a peek into what people are really thinking about," writes CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: This year, you wanted to know more about one of the most powerful storms on record, the devastating Hurricane Irma. But you were also curious about [hip hop artist] Cardi B. and Unicorn Frappuccinos... Like 2017 itself, this year's top searches skew a little darker than usual, but are punctuated with some whimsy and positive moments. The top trending searches in the U.S. were Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, the Super Bowl and the Las Vegas shooting.

To determine the most popular trending searches, Google looked at its trillions of queries, filtered out spam and repeats, and identified searches that had the highest uptick in traffic compared with the previous year. It breaks them into categories like news, memes, and recipes (beef stroganoff was a hit).

Surprisingly there were more searches for 'iPhone 8" than for 'iPhone X," though those were the top two most-searched consumer technology products. (Followed by Nintendo Switch, Samsung Galaxy S8, and Xbox One X.) Other top searches this year included "What is net neutrality?" as well as questions about what bitcoin is, how to buy it, and the latest bitcoin prices. And one of the 10 most-searched phrases of the year was "fidget spinner."

Google uploaded an inspiring video to YouTube stating "This year more than ever we asked how." To dramatic music, the examples it gives include "How to calm a dog during a storm," "How to help Puerto Rico," "How to make a protest sign" -- and "How to move forward."
Microsoft

Do More People Use Firefox Than Edge and IE Combined? (computerworld.com) 152

A funny thing happened when Net Applications' statistics began excluding fake traffic from ad-defrauding bots. Computerworld reports: Microsoft's Edge browser is less popular with Windows 10 users than earlier thought, if revised data from a U.S. analytics vendor can be believed. According to Net Applications of Aliso Viejo, Calif., Edge has been designated the primary browser by fewer than one in six Windows 10 users for more than a year and a half. That's a significant downgrading of Edge's user share statistics from the browser's portrayal before this month...

By comparing Edge's old and new shares, it was evident that as much as half of the earlier Edge traffic had been faked by bots. The portion of Edge's share credited to bots fluctuated month to month, but fell below 30% in only 4 of the 19 months for which Net Applications provided data... Microsoft's legacy browser, Internet Explorer (IE) also was revealed as a Potemkin village. Under the old data regime, which included bots, IE's user share was overblown, at times more than double the no-bots reality. Take May 2016 as an example. With bots, Net Applications pegged IE at 33.7%; without bots, IE's user share dwindled to just 14.9%. Together, IE and Edge - in other words, Microsoft's browsers - accounted for only 16.3% of the global user share last month using Net Applications' new calculations... In fact, the combined IE and Edge now face a once unthinkable fate: falling beneath Mozilla's Firefox.

StatCounter's stats on browser usage already show more people have already been using Firefox than both of Microsoft's browsers combined -- in 12 of the last 13 months.

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