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The Almighty Buck

Apple Is In Talks To Launch Its Own Venmo (recode.net) 38

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The company has recently held discussions with payments industry partners about introducing its own Venmo competitor, according to multiple sources familiar with the talks. The service would allow iPhone owners to send money digitally to other iPhone owners, these people said. One source familiar with the plans told Recode they expect the company to announce the new service later this year. Another cautioned that an announcement and launch date may not yet be set. The new Apple product would compete with offerings from big U.S. banks as well as PayPal, its millennial-popular subsidiary Venmo, as well as Square Cash in the increasingly competitive world of digital money-transfers. Apple has also recently held discussions with Visa about creating its own pre-paid cards that would run on the Visa debit network and which would be tied to the new peer-to-peer service, sources told Recode. People would be able to use the Apple cards to spend money sent to them through the new service, without having to wait for it to clear to their bank account.
Businesses

Microsoft Co-founder Pledges $30 Million To House Seattle's Homeless (cnn.com) 164

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 Internet

Verizon's $70 Gigabit Internet Is Half the Price of Older 750Mbps Tier (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Verizon is now selling what it calls "FiOS Gigabit Connection" for $69.99 a month in a change that boosts top broadband speeds and makes lower prices available to many Internet subscribers. Actual bandwidth will be a bit lower than a gigabit per second, with "downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps," Verizon's announcement today said. The gigabit service is available in most of Verizon's FiOS territory, specifically to "over 8 million homes in parts of the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas," Verizon said. Just three months ago, Verizon boosted its top speeds from 500Mbps to 750Mbps. The standalone 750Mbps Internet service cost $150 a month, more than twice the price of the new gigabit tier. Existing customers who bought that 750Mbps plan "will automatically receive FiOS Gigabit Connection and will see their bills lowered," Verizon said. It's not clear whether they will get their price lowered all the way to $70. It's important to note that the $70 price is only available to new customers, and it's a promotional rate that will "increase after promo period." Additionally, Verizon will charge you a $10 per month router charge unless you pay $150 for the Verizon router, plus other taxes and fees.
Government

Ontario Launches Universal Basic Income Pilot (www.cbc.ca) 513

Reader epiphani writes: The Ontario Government will pilot universal basic income in a $50M program supporting 4,000 households over a 3 year period. While Slashdot has vigorously debated universal basic income in the past, and even Elon Musk has predicted it's necessity, experts continue to debate and gather data on the approach in the face of increasing automation. Ontario's plan will study three communities over three years, with participants receiving up to $17,000 annually if single, and $24,000 for families.
Earth

'Detergent' Hydroxl Molecules May Affect Methane Levels In The Atmosphere (caltech.edu) 68

An anonymous reader quotes Caltech's announcement about the results of a study funded by NASA and the Department of Energy: During the early 2000s, environmental scientists studying methane emissions noticed something unexpected: the global concentrations of atmospheric methane -- which had increased for decades, driven by methane emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture -- inexplicably leveled off. The methane levels remained stable for a few years, then started rising again in 2007... New modeling by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University suggests that methane emissions might not have increased dramatically in 2007 after all. Instead, the most likely explanation has less to do with methane emissions and more to do with changes in the availability of the hydroxyl radical, which breaks down methane in the atmosphere... If global levels of hydroxyl decrease, global methane concentrations will increase -- even if methane emissions remain constant, the researchers say...

Tracking decadal trends in both methane and hydroxyl, Christian Frankenberg and his colleagues noted that fluctuations in hydroxyl concentrations correlated strongly with fluctuations in methane... "Think of the atmosphere like a kitchen sink with the faucet running," Frankenberg explains. "When the water level inside the sink rises, that can mean that you've opened up the faucet more. Or it can mean that the drain is blocking up. You have to look at both."

So what's changing the level of hydroxl in the atmosphere? The researchers say they have no idea.
Open Source

Systemd-Free Devuan Announces Its First Stable Release Candidate 'Jessie' 1.0.0 (devuan.org) 364

Long-time reader jaromil writes: Devuan 1.0.0-RC is announced, following its beta 2 release last year. The Debian fork that spawned over systemd controversy is reaching stability and plans long-term support. Devuan deploys an innovative continuous integration setup: with fallback on Debian packages, it overlays its own modifications and then uses the merged source repository to ship images for 11 ARM targets, a desktop and minimal live, vagrant and qemu virtual machines and the classic installer isos. The release announcement contains several links to projects that have already adopted this distribution as a base OS.
"Dear Init Freedom Lovers," begins the announcement, "Once again the Veteran Unix Admins salute you!" It points out that Devuan "can be adopted as a flawless upgrade path from both Debian Wheezy and Jessie. This is a main goal for the Devuan Jessie stable release and has proven to be a very stable operation every time it has been performed. "
Microsoft

LinkedIn Apologizes For Trying To Connect Everyone In Real Life (vocativ.com) 71

LinkedIn has apologized for a vague new update that told some iPhone users its app would begin sharing their data with nearby users without further explanation. From a report: The update prompted outrage on Twitter after cybersecurity expert Rik Ferguson received a strange alert when he opened the resume app to read a new message: "LinkedIn would like to make data available to nearby Bluetooth devices even when you're not using the app." That gave Ferguson, vice president of research at the cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, a handful of concerns, he told Vocativ. Among them: "the lack of specificity, which data, when, under what conditions, to which devices, why does it need to happen when I'm not using the app, what are the benefits to me, where is the feature announcement and explanation, why wasn't it listed in the app update details." Reached for comment, LinkedIn said it's a mistake -- that some iPhone users were accidentally subject to undeveloped test feature the company is still working on.
Education

States Are Moving To Cut College Costs By Introducing Open-Source Textbooks (qz.com) 123

In an effort to curb the rising cost of textbooks, which went up by 88% between 2006 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland and New York have announced initiatives that adopt open-source, copyright-free textbooks. The initiatives will reward colleges who adapt or scale the use of OER (open educational resources) -- "materials like electronic textbooks that typically use licenses that are far less restrictive than traditional, copyrighted textbooks," reports Quartz. From the report: The University System of Maryland recently announced that it would be giving out 21 "mini-grants" to seven community colleges and five public four-year schools. The grants will go to "faculty who are adopting, adapting or scaling the use of OER [open educational resources] in Fall 2017 through high-enrollment courses where quality OER exists," according to the announcement. Although the mini-grants are only $500 to $2,500 each, the effort in Maryland is expected to save 8,000 students up to $1.3 million in the Fall 2017 semester alone. That's a significant amount, but just a drop in the bucket of what students in the state spend on textbooks each year. Another big investment in open educational resources came in the budget passed in New York state last week. The news was somewhat buried by the fact that the budget includes free tuition for New York students whose families make up to $125,000 a year, but the state will also be putting $8 million into open source materials over the next fiscal year.
Education

Maryland Awards 21 Grants To Prepare 'Open Source' Textbooks (usmd.edu) 98

"The University System of Maryland has awarded 21 "mini grants" to university faculty to "help them expand open education resources," reports OpenSource.com. Recipients of the grants are also given time off to prepare courses that use open textbooks, and will receive personalized support and training on effective course design. An anonymous reader writes: "Although our faculty view textbooks as essential, some of our students see them as a luxury they cannot afford," said Community College of Baltimore County President Sandra Kurtinitis. "Having access to open educational resources will provide some financial relief for our students as well as contribute to their academic success." The cost of textbooks has risen 812% since 1978, the school system said in an announcement, "outpacing even the cost of medical services and new housing. Nationally, students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks."

The Maryland Open Source Textbook initiative started in 2013 "to provide a state-wide opportunity for faculty to explore the promise of open education resources to reduce students' cost of attendance while maintaining, or perhaps even improving, learning outcomes." Since then it's helped replace traditional textbooks in over 60 different courses at 14 public institutions across the state, resulting in a cumulative cost savings of over $1 million for 3,500 students. "In addition to saving students money, faculty have gained the ability to adapt and customize their instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with their pedagogical methods to best meet their students' needs," the school system reports. "In follow up surveys with students participating in the MOST initiative, 93% reported that the open educational resource content they used was the same or better quality than traditional textbooks."

NASA

Nearby Ocean Worlds Could Be Best Bet For Life Beyond Earth, Says NASA (cnn.com) 59

NASA has new evidence that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus. In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said. From a report: New observations of these active ocean worlds in our solar system have been captured by two NASA missions and were presented in two separate studies in an announcement at NASA HQ in Washington today. Using a mass spectrometer, the Cassini spacecraft detected an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumes rising from the "tiger stripe" fractures in Enceladus' icy surface. Saturn's sixth-largest moon is an ice-encased world with an ocean beneath. The researchers believe that the hydrogen originated from a hydrothermal reaction between the moon's ocean and its rocky core. If that is the case, the crucial chemical methane could be forming in the ocean as well.
Facebook

Instagram's Snapchat Clone Is Now More Popular Than Snapchat -- and It's Only 8 Months Old (cnbc.com) 50

Facebook's top Snapchat clone Instagram Stories has hit 200 million daily active users, surpassing the last count of 161 million that Snapchat announced alongside its IPO. Instagram Stories launched in August, hit 100 million dailies in October, and 150 million in January, so it's hardly slowing as it grows. Meanwhile, Instagram is getting faster at copying even Snapchat's most technologically advanced features with a series of global iOS and Android updates. A report adds: Along with this announcement, Facebook is introducing new 'sticker' tools for Instagram, to make it a more appealing alternative to Snapchat, and more engaging for its users. Now Instagram's users can turn their selfies into stickers, which they'll be able to easily share, or pin within a video. The app is also launching new Geostickers for Chicago, London, Madrid and Tokyo to apply over photos. The stickers have been designed by artists from the respective cities, enabling users to tap to learn more about the art.
Microsoft

Microsoft Acquires Container Platform Deis From Engine Yard (techcrunch.com) 31

According to an announcement made earlier today, Microsoft has acquired Deis, "the company behind some of the most popular tools for building and managing applications on top of the Google-incubated Kubernetes container orchestration service," writes Frederic Lardinois via TechCrunch. From the report: "At Microsoft, we've seen explosive growth in both interest and deployment of containerized workloads on Azure, and we're committed to ensuring Azure is the best place to run them," Microsoft's executive VP for its cloud and enterprise group Scott Guthrie writes today. "To support this vision, we're pleased to announce that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Deis -- a company that has been at the center of the container transformation." Deis provides three core open-source tools for managing Kubernetes deployments: Workflow, a platform for developers and operations teams to easily deploy and manage containerized apps; the Kubernetes package manager Helm; and Steward, a Kubernetes-native service broker (which basically allows applications to talk to each other). Like similar companies, its business model relies on providing paid support and training for these applications. The team will continue to work on these open-source tools, which are currently in use by the likes of Mozilla, CloudMine and SocialRadar.
Businesses

China's LeEco Calls Off Its $2 Billion Purchase of TV Maker Vizio (axios.com) 25

Last year, China's conglomerate LeEco announced it would be acquiring TV maker Vizio for a sum of $2 billion. The move would have given LeEco, which is increasingly expanding its business beyond Chinese market, an instant foothold in the United States. But today, both companies announced they are cancelling the plan due to "regulatory headwinds." In a statement, the companies said: We continue to believe that there is great synergy between the two companies, and are pleased to announce that LeEco and Vizio have reached an agreement that is a win for both companies ... LeEco and Vizio will continue to explore opportunities to incorporate the Le app and content within the Vizio connected CE platform, and engage in a collaborative partnership to leverage LeEco's ecosystem user interface platform, along with the brand's exclusive content and distribution channels, to bring Vizio products to the China market. The announcement comes amid troubled times for both the companies. On one hand, LeEco is struggling financially. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the company had delayed payroll for its US employees. Vizio was thrown under the bus in February after FTC fined the company $2.2 million to settle a case involving the TVs' data collection techniques.
Google

Google Announces Android Cross-Licensing Program 'PAX' -- But Why? (consortiuminfo.org) 33

"Linux and open-source software have had to contend with intellectual property legal challenges for years," writes ZDNet. "Now, Google has started a new effort to bring peace to potential Android IP sore points: PAX... a royalty-free, community-patent cross-license." PAX is starting with nine members: Google, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, HTC, Foxconn Technology Group, Coolpad, BQ, HMD Global, and Allview. These companies own more than 230,000 global patents. PAX's purpose is to create a "community-driven [patent] clearinghouse, developed together with our Android partners, [that] ensures that innovation and consumer choice -- not patent threats -- will continue to be key drivers of our Android ecosystem. PAX is free to join and open to anyone."
Slashdot reader Andy Updegroved writes: The question is why? The announcement and the related website are extremely brief, and although everyone is invited to get a copy of the cross license, Google reserves the right to decide first whether your motives are pure and you can keep a secret. And so far, the only members of the "PAX Community" listed are existing Google business partners. Is Google aware of some new patent tempest brewing just over the horizon, about to burst into public view? And will any other company names and logos be added to the PAX Community Web page? We'll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Andy Updegrove tells ZDNet it does involve "formal cross-licenses between participants, and therefore enforceable rights, but not an infrastructure to do more (at least insofar as one can tell from the initial announcement)."
Media

Walt Mossberg Is Retiring (theverge.com) 37

Walt Mossberg, a well-respected and long-time tech journalist, announced via The Verge that he will be retiring in June of this year. In his announcement post, he starts by reflecting on where it all began: It was a June day when I began my career as a national journalist. I stepped into the Detroit Bureau of The Wall Street Journal and started on what would be a long, varied, rewarding career. I was 23 years old, and the year was 1970. That's not a typo. So it seems fitting to me that I'll be retiring this coming June, almost exactly 47 years later. I'll be hanging it up shortly after the 2017 edition of the Code Conference, a wonderful event I co-founded in 2003 and which I could never have imagined back then in Detroit. I didn't make this decision lightly or hastily or under pressure. It emerged from months of thought and months of talks with my wise wife, my family, and close friends. It wasn't prompted by my employer or by some dire health diagnosis. It just seems like the right time to step away. I'm ready for something new.
Twitter

Twitter Co-Founder Ev Williams Is Selling 30 Percent of His Stock For 'Personal' Reasons (recode.net) 42

The co-founder and current board member of Twitter, Ev Williams, said today that he plans to sell a "minority of [his] TWTR" stock over the next year, and doesn't plan to sell "more than 30 percent" of his holdings. Williams is the company's largest individual shareholder, so his recent announcement may make some investors worried. However, Twitter stock was only down less than 1 percent Thursday following this news. Recode reports: Williams was careful to say the sale was for "personal" reasons, not company performance reasons. Twitter's stock is down more than 15 percent over the past three months. Williams explained the sale in a blog post, and wrote that he has spent a lot of money investing through his venture fund, Obvious Ventures, and also donated a lot to charity and political campaigns over the past year. "I'd like to continue," he added. Williams sold about $4 million in stock this week, according to an SEC filing, and has set up a 10b5-1 trading plan, which means he'll sell at pre-determined dates moving forward to avoid any concerns over insider trading.
Programming

Twitter To Developers: Please Love Us Again (mashable.com) 143

Twitter wants to fix its relationship with developers, it said Thursday. The company, which sold its developer platform to Google earlier this year, said moving forward it intends to be more transparent with developers and provide them with more insight. From a report: While some continue to call the end of Twitter (and others gave up on the product years ago), the company is prioritizing more tools for developers in order to grow the site. "These efforts represent a massive new engineering and product investment in the future of the Twitter API platform, and in our developer ecosystem," Andy Piper, Twitter's staff developer advocate, wrote in a blog post announcement. One of the steps involves creating an easier to use service overall. Twitter offers several developer products, including free APIs, services from data analysis group Gnip, and the enterprise-level Twitter API product. Twitter plans to simplify its offerings by releasing one way to get access to the Firehouse (access to all tweets in real-time), one way to access Twitter search, and one access for account activity.
IBM

OS/2-Based 'Arcanos 5.0' Has Finally Been Releas -- Oh Wait, No It Wasn't. Never Mind. (arcanoae.com) 42

"Because we want ArcaOS 5.0 to be the best that it can be, Arca Noae has made the difficult decision to delay release two weeks, with a new projected delivery date of April 15, 2017," reads a new announcement on the Arca Noae web site. Because we don't believe in selling anything we are not ready to ship, we will not be taking pre-orders for ArcaOS 5.0. Please be patient while we get the last few things as they should be, so that your experience installing and using ArcaOS 5.0 is as smooth as possible.
One of last week's most popular stories was about the upcoming release of this x86 OS/2-based operating system (codenamed "Blue Lion") which will offer full backward compatibility with legacy OS/2, DOS and Windows 3.1 applications, as well as "ported Linux applications." It's still on its way, the developers explain, but "Finishing touches can often take longer than expected."
Apple

Apple Opens App Accelerator in Bangalore, India To Foster iOS App Development (mashable.com) 33

From a report: Apple is taking further steps to foster the developer ecosystem in the world's fastest growing smartphone market. The Cupertino-based company said it has opened a new App Accelerator in Bangalore, India. The announcement comes less than a year after the company said it would open an iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in India's Silicon Valley. Through the new App Accelerator, the company hopes to offer specialised support to developers as well as tools to help them push the boundaries. At the centre, a group of experts will lead briefings and provide one-on-one app reviews for developers. [...] With Apple's push to turn India into its next major market, it will pay in the long run to have quality apps that solve local problems on the App Store.

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