United States

The Rise Of The Contract Workforce (npr.org) 7

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new NPR/Marist poll finds that 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a worker under contract. Within a decade, contractors and freelancers could make up half of the American workforce. Workers across all industries and at all professional levels will be touched by the movement toward independent work -- one without the constraints, or benefits, of full-time employment. Policymakers are just starting to talk about the implications.

[...] It's not just business driving the trend. Surveys show a large majority of freelancers are free agents by choice. John Vensel is a contract attorney at Orrick who grew up a few miles from Wheeling, on the other side of the Pennsylvania state line. In his 20s, he was a freelance paralegal by day and a gig musician by night. "I actually wanted to be a rock star," he says. But these days there are no edgy vestiges of a former rocker, only a 47-year-old family man cooing over cellphone photos of his children, Grace and Gabe. In the two decades in between, Vensel worked full-time corporate jobs. But he was laid off in 2010, on the eve of his graduation from his night-school law program. He graduated with huge piles of debt, into one of the worst job markets. For a time, Vensel commuted three hours round-trip to a full-time job in Pittsburgh. But more recently, he quit and took up contracting to stay near home in Wheeling.

Medicine

The Second Coming of Ultrasound (wired.com) 19

Ultrasound, which works on the principle of piezoelectricity, is finding a second lease of life in medicine, Wired outlines. Applying voltage to a piezoelectric crystal makes it vibrate, sending out a sound wave. When the echo that bounces back is converted into electrical signals, you get an image of, say, a fetus, or a submarine. But in the last few years, the lo-fi tech has reinvented itself in some weird new ways. From a report: Researchers are fitting people's heads with ultrasound-emitting helmets to treat tremors and Alzheimer's. They're using it to remotely activate cancer-fighting immune cells. Startups are designing swallowable capsules and ultrasonically vibrating enemas to shoot drugs into the bloodstream. One company is even using the shockwaves to heal wounds -- stuff Curie never could have even imagined. So how did this 100-year-old technology learn some new tricks? With the help of modern-day medical imaging, and lots and lots of bubbles.
Businesses

Apple Might Discontinue the MacBook Air (gizmodo.com) 43

An anonymous reader shares a report: Just in time for its tenth anniversary, Apple might finally be killing the MacBook Air, according to a new report from Digitimes. If this is true, it'd be the first axing of a laptop line from Apple since the iBook and Powerbook were axed back in 2006. It would also be about damn time. Apple quietly killed the 11-inch MacBook Air back in 2016, but the larger 13-inch version has lingered on, getting a mild processor refresh last year that still left the laptop using a 5th generation Intel processor. That's three generations behind the processors currently found in the MacBook Air's competition, and it is the primary reason the laptop was excluded from our piece looking at the best laptop to be had for under $1000.
Robotics

The Mystery of the Cars Abandoned in a Robot Car Park (bbc.com) 77

The mystery of why a handful of cars were abandoned in a derelict car park in Edinburgh, Capital of Scotland, may have been solved. From a report on BBC: The $7m Autosafe SkyPark used robots to stack cars and was dubbed the "car park of the future" -- but went into receivership in 2003. After lying empty for more than a decade, the building in Morrison Street is now being demolished. And the work has uncovered eight cars which were left behind when the doors were closed. Images of the abandoned vehicles has sparked a number of theories about why they were never removed. But a former employee has said they could be old vehicles which were bought by the car park's former operators to test out the robot equipment. A spokesperson said: "We can confirm that there are eight cars present at the car park on the Capital Square site, which have been there since the car park closed in 2003. The owners of the cars are unknown and they are now the property of the demolition company who will remove the cars once work begins on the levels on which they are located."
Medicine

Vaping Can Be Addictive and May Lure Teenagers to Smoking, Science Panel Concludes (nytimes.com) 132

A national panel of public health experts concluded in a report released on Tuesday that vaping with e-cigarettes that contain nicotine can be addictive and that teenagers who use the devices may be put at higher risk of switching to traditional smoking. From a report: Whether teenage use of e-cigarettes may lead to conventional smoking has been intensely debated in the United States and elsewhere. While the industry argues that vaping is not a steppingstone to conventional cigarettes or addiction, some antismoking advocates contend that young people become hooked on nicotine, and are enticed to cancer-causing tobacco-based cigarettes over time. The new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is the most comprehensive analysis of existing research on e-cigarettes. It concluded the devices are safer than traditional smoking products and that they do help smokers quit, citing conclusive proof that switching can reduce smokers' exposure to deadly tar, numerous dangerous chemicals and other carcinogens.
Security

Tinder's Lack of Encryption Lets Strangers Spy on Your Swipes (wired.com) 33

Tinder's mobile apps still lack the standard encryption necessary to keep your photos, swipes, and matches hidden from snoops, a security firm reports. From Wired: On Tuesday, researchers at Tel Aviv-based app security firm Checkmarx demonstrated that Tinder still lacks basic HTTPS encryption for photos. Just by being on the same Wi-Fi network as any user of Tinder's iOS or Android app, the researchers could see any photo the user did, or even inject their own images into his or her photo stream. And while other data in Tinder's apps are HTTPS-encrypted, Checkmarx found that they still leaked enough information to tell encrypted commands apart, allowing a hacker on the same network to watch every swipe left, swipe right, or match on the target's phone nearly as easily as if they were looking over the target's shoulder. The researchers suggest that lack of protection could enable anything from simple voyeuristic nosiness to blackmail schemes.
Mozilla

Firefox 58 Gets Graphics Speed Boost, Web App Abilities (cnet.com) 117

Mozilla released on Tuesday a new version of its Firefox Quantum browser, boosting its graphics speed and improving a couple of new technologies designed to make the web more powerful. From a report: The browser, version 58, is the first major update since Mozilla's recovery plan hit full stride in November with the debut of Firefox Quantum. Speed is of the essence in Mozilla's recovery plan, and Firefox 58 does better than its predecessor in some graphics tasks by splitting work better across the multiple processor cores that computer chips have these days. The result should be scrolling that's smooth, uninterrupted by the stuttering that in computing circles goes by the disparaging term "jank." [...] Firefox 58 helps with two new web technologies. One, called WebAssembly, provides for dramatically faster web apps. Firefox 58 can get WebAssembly software running faster so you don't have to twiddle your thumbs waiting as long after clicking a link. Another is progressive web apps (PWAs), an initiative that came out of Google to help make the web a better match for the apps we all drop on our phones.
Twitter

Hawaii Governor Didn't Correct False Missile Alert Sooner Because He Didn't Know His Twitter Password (washingtonpost.com) 134

An anonymous reader shares a WashingtonPost report: Minutes after the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly sent a missile alert at 8:07 a.m. on Jan. 13 -- terrifying residents and visitors across the state -- some officials, such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, rushed to Twitter to reassure everyone it was a mistake. But one Twitter account was deafeningly silent for 17 minutes: that of Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Though Ige was informed by the state's adjutant general that the alert was false two minutes after it was sent, he waited until 8:24 a.m. to tweet, "There is NO missile threat." On Monday, after he gave the State of the State address in which he avoided the subject of the missile alert fiasco, reporters demanded an explanation for that long silence. Ige's answer: He couldn't log in to Twitter. "I have to confess that I don't know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that's one of the changes that I've made," Ige said.
Software

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your View On Forced Subscription-Only Software? 470

dryriver writes: All used to be well in the world of Digital Content Creation (DCC) until two very major DCC software makers -- Adobe and Autodesk -- decided to force a monthly subscription model on pretty much every software package they make to please Wall Street investors. Important 2D and 3D DCC software like Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, InDesign, 3DMax, Maya, and Mudbox is now only available to "rent" from these companies. You simply cannot buy a perpetual license or boxed copy for this software at all anymore, and what makes matters worse is that if you stop paying your subscription, the software locks itself down, leaving you unable to open even old files you created with the software for later review. Also annoying is that subscription software constantly performs "license validity" checks over the internet (subscription software cannot be run offline for any great length of time, or on an air-gapped PC) and the software is increasingly tied into various cloud services these companies have set up. The DCC companies want you to save your -- potentially confidential -- project files on their servers, not on your own hard disk.

There are millions of DCC professionals around the world who'd love to be able to buy a normal, perpetual, offline-use capable license for these software tools. That is no longer possible. Adobe and Autodesk no longer provide that. What is your view on this "forced subscription" model? What would happen if all the major commercial software developers forced this model on everyone simultaneously? What if the whole idea of being able to "purchase" a perpetual license for ANY commercial software went away completely, and it was subscription only from that point on?
The Internet

You Spend Nearly a Whole Day Each Week On the Internet (cnet.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Since 2000, our time spent online each week has steadily increased, rising from 9.4 hours to 23.6 hours -- nearly an entire day, according to a recent report by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future. The internet has become an integral component of our home lives as well, with time spent rising more than 400 percent over that period from 3.3 hours to 17.6 hours each week, according to the report, which surveys more than 2,000 people across the U.S. each year. The center's 15th annual Digital Future Report illustrates the internet's dramatic evolution since 2000 from a secondary medium to an indispensable component of our daily lives -- always on and always with us. It also comes as many fear for the future of the unlimited internet we have largely taken for granted over the past two decades. The report also found that the internet has had a dramatic impact on how we get our news. News consumption for all ages went from a print-to-online ratio of 85-15 in 2001 to a near even 51-49 in 2016.
Television

Netflix Is Now Worth More Than $100 Billion (techcrunch.com) 39

Netflix has crossed the $100 billion mark for its market cap as it once again surprised industry observers with better-than-expected growth in its subscribers. TechCrunch reports: The company said it added more than 8 million new subscribers total after already setting pretty robust targets for the fourth quarter this year, giving it a healthy push as it crossed the $100 billion mark after the report came out this afternoon. While the company's core financials actually came in roughly in line with what Wall Street was looking for (which is still important), Netflix's subscriber numbers are usually the best indicator for the core health of the company. That recurring revenue stream -- and its growth -- is critical as it continues to very aggressively spend on new content. The company said its free cash flow will be between negative $3 billion and negative $4 billion, compared to negative $2 billion this year. And that aggressive spending only seems to get more aggressive every time we hear from the company. Netflix is now saying that it expects to spend between $7.5 billion and $8 billion on content in 2018 -- which is around in line with what it said in October when it said it would spend between $7 billion and $8 billion. It's the same range, but tuning up that bottom end is still an important indicator. Some notable numbers include $3.29 billion in revenue, 1.98 million Q4 U.S. subscriber additions, and 6.36 million Q4 International subscriber additions.
Youtube

Google Just Broke Amazon's Workaround For YouTube On Fire TV (cordcuttersnews.com) 201

Google has cracked down on Fire TV users once again. Today, the technology company blocked Silk and Firefox browsers from displaying the YouTube.com interface usually shown on large screens. Cord Cutters News reports: Now if you try to access YouTube.com/TV on a Fire TV through the Firefox or Silk browser you will be redirected to the desktop version of the site. According to Elias Saba from AFTVnews, "By blocking access to the version of YouTube made for television browsers, Google has deliberately made browsing their website an unusable experience on Amazon Fire TVs, Fire TV Sticks, and Fire TV Edition televisions." This fight over YouTube and Amazon has been going on for some time. The standoff heated up in early December as Google announced plans to pull the YouTube app from the Fire TV on January 1st 2018. Amazon responded by adding a browser to allow access to the web version on the Fire TV. Now Google has countered by blocking the Fire TV's browsers from accessing the made-for-TV edition of YouTube.com. Back on December 15th, The Verge reported that Google and Amazon are in talks to keep YouTube on the Fire TV, but as of today it looks like nothing has come from these talks.
Medicine

New Study Finds No Link Between Violent Video Games and Behavior (dailydot.com) 184

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Dot: Scientists have been investigating the impact of violent video games on behavior for more than two decades, and the results are still being debated. In a 2015 resolution on games, the American Psychological Association reported that multiple studies found a link between violent game exposure and aggressive behavior, though critics at the time questioned the findings. Now, a new study published by researchers at the University of York in the journal Computers in Human Behavior further challenges the connection.

It has long been theorized that exposure to in-game concepts like violence has a "priming" effect on players that ultimately impacts behavior, leading scientists to believe that a player exposed to in-game violence will be more susceptible to displaying such violence in real life. The new study found the exact opposite to be true in some instances. In a series of experiments with a little over 3,000 participants (more than any past study to date), university researchers found that exposure to video game concepts like violence won't necessarily impact behavior. It also found that increasing the realism of violent video games does mean aggressive behavior in gamers will increase.

Transportation

Tesla Owner Attempts Autopilot Defense During DUI Stop (arstechnica.com) 123

It turns out driving drunk is still illegal, even with a driver-assistance system active. "On Saturday, January 13, police discovered a man in his Tesla vehicle on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge," reports Ars Technica. "The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 'the man had apparently passed out in the stopped car while stuck in the flow of busy bridge traffic at 5:30pm, according to the California Highway Patrol." From the report: When police woke the man up, he assured officers that everything was fine because the car was "on autopilot." No one was injured in the incident, and the California Highway Patrol made a snarky tweet about it. Needless to say, other Tesla owners -- and people who own competing systems like Cadillac's Super Cruise -- should not follow this guy's example. No cars on the market right now have fully driverless technology available. Autopilot, Supercruise, and other products are driver assistance products -- they're designed to operate with an attentive human driver as a backup. Driving drunk using one of these systems is just as illegal as driving drunk in a conventional car.

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