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The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Electric Semi Trucks Are Priced To Compete At $150,000 (theverge.com) 40

Last week, Tesla unveiled its new four-motor electric Semi but left out one key detail -- the price. "Now that's changed: the regular versions of the 300-mile and the 500-mile trucks will cost $150,000 and $180,000 each," reports The Verge. "There is also a 'Founders Series' which will cost $200,000 per truck." Tesla does note that the prices are "expected" leaving the company some wiggle room on the final pricing. From the report: If those prices and specs stick then Tesla has a potentially disruptive offering with Semi. Most long-haul diesel trucks are priced around $120,000 and cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate each year. Tesla claims its all-electric Semi will provide more than $200,000 in fuel savings alone over the lifespan of the truck.
The Courts

AT&T, Comcast Lawsuit Has Nullified a City's Broadband Competition Law (arstechnica.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T and Comcast have convinced a federal judge to nullify an ordinance that was designed to bring more broadband competition to Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Metro Council last year passed a "One Touch Make Ready" rule that gives Google Fiber or other new ISPs faster access to utility poles. The ordinance lets a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself, instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. AT&T and Comcast sued the metro government in U.S. District Court in Nashville, claiming that federal and local laws preempt the One Touch Make Ready rule. Judge Victoria Roberts agreed with AT&T and Comcast in a ruling issued Tuesday. Google Fiber is offering service in Nashville despite saying last year that it was waiting for access to thousands of utility poles. "We're reviewing [the] court ruling to understand its potential impact on our build in Nashville," a Google spokesperson said this week, according to The Tennessean. "We have made significant progress with new innovative deployment techniques in some areas of the city, but access to poles remains an important issue where underground deployment is not a possibility."
The Almighty Buck

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Surpasses $100 Billion Net Worth (bloomberg.com) 31

Amid optimism for Amazon's Black Friday sales, Jeff Bezos' net worth jumped above $100 billion on Friday. The Amazon CEO's fortune reportedly surged $2.4 billion to $100.3 billion, after the retailer's shares grew more than 2 percent on Black Friday. Bloomberg reports: Online purchases for the day are up 18.4 percent over last year, according to data from Adobe Analytics, and investors are betting the company will take an outsized share of online spending over the gifting season. The $100 billion milestone makes Bezos, 53, the first billionaire to build a 12-figure net worth since 1999, when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates hit the mark. Bezos's fortune rose $32.6 billion this year through Thursday, the largest increase of anyone on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 500 richest people. Amazon have climbed 5 percent this week alone.
Star Wars Prequels

Legislators Take Aim At Star Wars Battlefront II, EA Over 'Gambling In Games' (polygon.com) 35

dryriver writes: A number of pay-to-win microtransaction FPS games, including Dirty Bomb and the $60 Star Wars Battlefront II, have drawn the ire of legislators in countries like Belgium and the United States. Not only are advanced characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and various weapons and abilities in these games "locked" -- you pay for them in hard cash, or play for them for dozens and dozens of tedious hours -- the games also feature so called "Loot Boxes," which are boxes that contain a random item, weapon, character or ability. So like playing slot machines in Vegas, each time you can get something good, something mediocre or something totally crap. You cannot determine with any certainty what you will get for your real-world dollars or in-game achievements. Angry Reddit users recently downvoted a blundering statement by EA on the topic with a whopping 249,000 downvotes -- an all time downvote record on Reddit, shocking EA into retreating from its pay-to-win model and announcing unspecified "changes" now being made to Star Wars Battlefront II. Legislators in a number of countries have also sharply criticized "Loot Boxes" and "microtransactions" in games, with one legislator in Belgium vowing to have the sale of such games banned completely in the EU, because children are essentially being forced to "gamble with real money" in these games. Forbes has written a great piece about how EA is now essentially stuck with a $60 Star Wars game that cost a lot to make but probably cannot be monetized any further, because there is considerable risk of all games with loot boxes, microtransactions and "pay to win" monetization models being completely banned from sale in a number of different countries now. The morale of the story? Maybe people should not pay a game developer any more than the $40-60 they paid when they thought they "bought" the game in the first place.
Google

Regulators Question Google Over Location Data (cnn.com) 15

Sherisse Pham and Taehoon Lee, writing for CNN Tech: Google is facing scrutiny for reportedly collecting data about the location of smartphone users without their knowledge. Regulators in South Korea summoned Google representatives this week to question them about a report that claimed the company was collecting data from Android devices even when location services were disabled. The Korea Communications Commission (KCC) "is carrying out an inquiry into the claims that Google collected users' Cell ID data without consent even when their smartphone's location service was inactive," Chun Ji-hyun, head of KCC's privacy infringement division, told CNNMoney on Friday. U.K. data protection officials are also looking into the matter. "Organizations are required by law to be transparent with consumers about what they are doing with personal information," said a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner's Office. "We are aware of the reports about the tracking system and are in contact with Google."
Businesses

Mobile Homes Are So Expensive Now, Hurricane Victims Can't Afford Them (bloomberg.com) 198

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hurricane victims emerging from ravaged trailer parks are discovering that the U.S. mobile-home market has left them behind. In Florida and Texas, dealerships are swarmed by buyers looking to rebuild their lives after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but many leave disappointed. The industry, led by Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes, is peddling such pricey interior-designer touches as breakfast bars and his-and-her bathroom sinks. These extras, plus manufacturers' increased costs for labor and materials, have pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach for many of the newly homeless.
Businesses

Belgium Denounces Loot Boxes as Gambling; Hawaiian Legislator Calls Them 'Predatory' (arstechnica.co.uk) 189

Peter Bright, writing for ArsTechnica: Belgium's Gaming Commission has ruled that loot boxes -- in-game purchases where what you receive is randomized and only known once you open the box -- are gambling. The country's minister of justice, Koen Geens, has said that he wants to see them banned Europe-wide, reports PC Gamer. Amid outcry over the use of loot boxes in Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2, the Belgian Gaming Commission decided last week to look into the issue, with Commission Director Peter Naessens specifically saying that the combination of paying money and receiving something "dependent on chance" prompted the investigation. Rather swiftly, it seems, the Commission has made its decision. In October, the US' Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rejected calls to classify loot boxes as gambling. It told Kotaku that since players receive some reward from opening the loot box -- even if it's useless or unwanted -- that it's not gambling. As such, loot box games will receive neither ESRB's "Real Gambling" nor "Simulated Gambling" labels, the former of which automatically gives a game an "Adults Only" rating. Many retailers refuse to sell A-O games, so giving every title that uses loot boxes such a rating would likely be harmful to their sales. The question of whether loot boxes are gambling may see some new scrutiny in the US. Hawaiian Democratic State Representative Chris Lee has described loot boxes as predatory behavior.
Businesses

New Uber CEO Knew of Hack for Months (wsj.com) 27

Greg Bensinger and Robert McMillan, reporting for the WSJ: While the massive data breach at Uber didn't happen under the watch of its new chief executive, more than two months elapsed before he notified affected customers and drivers of the incident (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled), people familiar with the matter said. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi learned of the breach, which Uber said happened in October 2016 and affected some 57 million accounts, about two weeks after he officially took the helm on Sept. 5, one of the people said. Mr. Khosrowshahi said he immediately ordered an investigation, which he wanted to complete before making the matter public. About three weeks ago, though, Uber disclosed the investigation and the broad outlines of the breach to SoftBank, which is considering a multibillion-dollar investment in the ride-hailing company, according to other people familiar with the matter. Uber officials, including its chief security officer, knew at the time of the breach that personal information had been accessed. Uber only informed customers and drivers on Tuesday.
Communications

Broadband Firms in UK Must Ditch 'Misleading' Speed Ads (bbc.com) 67

An anonymous reader shares a report: Broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get, from May next year. Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10% of customers will actually receive. In future, adverts must be based on what is available to at least half of customers at peak times. It follows research that suggested broadband advertising can be misleading for consumers. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) looked into consumers' understanding of broadband speed claims and found that many were confused by headline speeds that they would never actually get in their own homes. The concerns were passed on to the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) which consulted with ISPs, consumer groups and Ofcom to find a better way to advertise fast net services. Most argued that the fairest and clearest way would be to use the average speeds achieved at peak time by 50% of customers.
Bitcoin

We'll Never Legalize Bitcoin, Says Russian Minister (siliconangle.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares a report: In yet another backflip worthy of the Moscow Circus, a Russian minister has said that the country will never legalize bitcoin, just seven months after another government minister said it was considering making it legal. Minister of Communications and Mass Media Nikolai Nikiforov made the statement this week, saying that "bitcoin is a foreign project for using blockchain technology, the Russian law will never consider bitcoin as a legal entity in the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation." Recognizing that blockchain technology is separate to bitcoin, Nikiforov went on to say that "I think that it is quite possible to use blockchain technology and the use of various digital tokens." Those tokens may constitute a Russian-issued cryptocurrency. TASS reported that "Russia's Communication Ministry has submitted to the government the document containing technical details related to cryptocurrencies adoption."
Businesses

Apple Only Wants To Put Its Stores Where White People Live, Investigation Reveals (theoutline.com) 486

Brian Josephs, writing for The Outline: New York's northernmost borough is the city's most diverse, has the lowest income per household, and is the only borough without an Apple Store after one opened up in Brooklyn's predominantly white neighborhood of Williamsburg last year. This trend holds true on a national scale. That means 251 of the 270 stores, or 93 percent, are located in majority-white ZIP codes. Of the 19 that are not located in majority-white ZIP codes, eight are in ZIP codes where whites are still the largest racial bloc. For context, Garden City, New York, a city with a population of around 22,000 that is 94 percent white, has an Apple Store. Lake Grove, New York, which has a population of around 11,000 and is 89 percent white, has an Apple Store. By comparison, nearly 1.5 million people live in the densely-packed Bronx, which is only 21 percent white. Bronx residents must travel either north to Ridge Hill or down to the Upper East Side to get to an Apple store. Apple told me it couldn't comment on the record about what criteria it uses to decide where new stores are built or the demographics of its stores' neighborhoods, but USC Marshall School of Business professor Ira Kalb reasoned that the company is "going after the high-end of the market, so their store location choices typically go after areas that are considered upscale."
Facebook

China's Tencent Breaks Through $500bn Stock Market Capitalisation (bbc.com) 77

An anonymous reader shares a report: The value of China's biggest social network company -- Tencent Holdings -- has overtaken that of Facebook. The company owns WeChat, an enormously popular messaging app in China, and hit gaming franchises such as League of Legends and Honour of Kings.It is the first Asian firm to surpass a market value of $500bn. Its chief executive, Ma Huateng, is now worth more than the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, according to Forbes. The magazine valued him at $48.3bn on Tuesday, making him the world's ninth richest man according to its ranking.
Microsoft

Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staffs (wsj.com) 263

Tatyana Shumsky, reporting for WSJ: Adobe's finance chief Mark Garrett says his team struggles keeping track of which jobs have been filled at the software company. The process can take days and requires finance staff to pull data from disparate systems that house financial and human-resources information into Microsoft's Excel spreadsheets. From there they can see which groups are hiring and how salary spending affects the budget. "I don't want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what is the data telling us," Mr. Garrett said. He is working on cutting Excel out of this process, he said. CFOs at companies including P.F. Chang's China Bistro, ABM Industries and Wintrust Financial are on a similar drive to reduce how much their finance teams use Excel for financial planning, analysis and reporting (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; an alternative source wasn't immediately available). Finance chiefs say the ubiquitous spreadsheet software that revolutionized accounting in the 1980s hasn't kept up with the demands of contemporary corporate finance units. Errors can bloom because data in Excel is separated from other systems and isn't automatically updated.
Social Networks

Facebook Still Lets Housing Advertisers Exclude Users By Race (arstechnica.com) 192

AmiMoJo writes: In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment, or credit. Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African-Americans,mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina, and Spanish speakers. All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act. Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Every single ad was approved within minutes. The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters 'interested in Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam.' It was approved after 22 minutes.
Bitcoin

$31 Million In Tokens Stolen From Dollar-Pegged Cryptocurrency Tether 59

Mark Wilson shares a report from BetaNews: All eyes may be on the meteoric rise of Bitcoin at the moment, but it's far from being the only cryptocurrency on the block. Startup Tether issued a critical announcement after it was discovered that "malicious action by an external attacker" had led to the theft of nearly $31 million worth of tokens. Tether is a dollar-pegged cryptocurrency formerly known as Realcoin, and it says that $30,950,010 was stolen from a treasury wallet. The company says it is doing what it can to ensure exchanges do not process these tokens, including temporarily suspending its backend wallet service. Tether knows the address used by the attacker to make the theft, but is not aware of either who the attacker is, or how the attack took place. The company is releasing a new version of its Omni Core software client in what it says is "effectively a temporary hard fork to the Omni Layer."
Security

Sacramento Regional Transit Systems Hit By Hacker (cbslocal.com) 35

Zorro shares a report from CBS Local: Sacramento Regional Transit is the one being taken for a ride on this night, by a computer hacker. That hacker forced RT to halt its operating systems that take credit card payments, and assigns buses and trains to their routes. The local transit agency alerted federal agents following an attack on their computers that riders may not have noticed Monday. "We actually had the hackers get into our system, and systematically start erasing programs and data," Deputy General Manager Mark Lonergan. Inside RT's headquarters, computer systems were taken down after the hacker deleted 30 million files. The hacker also demanded a ransom in bitcoin, and left a message on the RT website reading "I'm sorry to modify the home page, I'm good hacker, I just want to help you fix these vulnerability."
Transportation

Uber Fined $8.9 Million In Colorado For Allowing Drivers With Felonies, Motor Violations To Work (jalopnik.com) 105

Uber has been fined by a Colorado regulator on Monday for nearly $9 million, after an investigation revealed that 57 people with criminal and motor vehicle offenses were allowed to drive with the ride-hailing company. Jalopnik reports: States across the U.S. have been considering laws to require additional background checks for individuals who drive for Uber and competitors like Lyft. In Colorado, the state's Public Utilities Commission investigated the company's drivers after an incident this past March, reported The Denver Post, when a driver dragged a passenger out of a car and kicked them in the face. The commission said it found 57 drivers had issues that should've disqualified them from driving for Uber, including felony convictions for driving under the influence and reckless driving, while others had revoked, suspended or canceled licenses. A similar investigation was conducted on Lyft, the Post reported, but no violations were revealed. An Uber spokesperson said the situation stems from a "process error" that was "inconsistent with Colorado's ridesharing regulations." The spokesperson said Uber "proactively notified" the commission. "This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action," the company said in a statement to the Post. "Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans."
Privacy

Uber Concealed Cyberattack That Exposed 57 Million People's Data (bloomberg.com) 31

According to Bloomberg, hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber. The massive breach was reportedly concealed by the company for more than a year. From the report: Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers were accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver's license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card details, trip location info or other data were taken, Uber said. At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.

Here's how the hack went down: Two attackers accessed a private GitHub coding site used by Uber software engineers and then used login credentials they obtained there to access data stored on an Amazon Web Services account that handled computing tasks for the company. From there, the hackers discovered an archive of rider and driver information. Later, they emailed Uber asking for money, according to the company.

Businesses

Why Apple's HomePod Is Three Years Behind Amazon's Echo (bloomberg.com) 96

Apple unveiled the HomePod, its first smart speaker to take on market-leading Amazon's Echo lineup of speakers, in June this year. Despite being three years late to the party, the HomePod has largely been pitched more as a speaker that sounds great instead of a device that sounds great but more importantly can also help you with daily chores. On top of this, Apple said last week it was delaying the shipment of HomePod from December this year to "early 2018." So why does a company, the market valuation of which is quickly reaching a trillion dollar, so behind its competitors? Bloomberg reports on Tuesday: Apple audio engineers had been working on an early version of the HomePod speaker for about two years in 2014 when they were blindsided by the Echo, a smart speaker from Amazon with a voice-activated assistant named Alexa. The Apple engineers jokingly accused one another of leaking details of their project to Amazon, then bought Echos so they could take them apart and see how they were put together. They quickly deemed the Echo's sound quality inferior and got back to work building a better speaker. More than two years passed. In that time Amazon's Echo became a hit with consumers impressed by Alexa's ability to answer questions, order pizzas and turn lights on and off. Meanwhile, Apple dithered over its own speaker, according to people familiar with the situation. The project was cancelled and revived several times, they said, and the device went through multiple permutations (at one point it stood 3 feet tall) as executives struggled to figure out how it would fit into the home and Apple's ecosystem of products and services. In the end, the company plowed ahead, figuring that creating a speaker would give customers another reason to stay loyal. Yet despite having all the ingredients for a serious competitor to the Echo -- including Siri and the App Store -- Apple never saw the HomePod as anything more than an accessory, like the AirPods earphones.
Businesses

FCC Announces Plan To Repeal Net Neutrality (nytimes.com) 326

FCC on Tuesday said it plans to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. From a report on the New York Times: The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service. Note from the editor: the aforementioned link could be paywalled; consider the alternative sources: NPR, ArsTechnica, Associated Press, BBC, Axios, Reuters, TechCrunch, and Slate.

FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny criticized the move. She said, "So many things wrong here, like even if FCC does this FTC still won't have jurisdiction. But even if we did, most discriminatory conduct by ISPs will be perfectly legal. This won't hurt tech titans with deep pockets. They can afford to pay all the trolls under the bridge. But the entrepreneurs and innovators who truly make the Internet great won't be so lucky. It will be harder for them to compete. The FCC is upending the Internet as we know it, not saving it."

This is what the internet looks like when there is no net neutrality. Earlier today, news outlet Motherboard suggested we should build our own internet if we want to safeguard the essence of open internet.

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