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AI

Newest Tesla Autopilot Data Shows A 40% Drop in Crashes (bloomberg.com) 57

There's a surprise in the data from an investigation into Tesla safety by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [W]hile all Tesla vehicles come with the hardware necessary for Autopilot, you need a software upgrade that costs thousands of dollars to make it work. Since buyers can add Autopilot features after purchase, this provides a perfect before-and-after comparison. It turns out that, according to the data Tesla gave investigators, installing Autopilot prevents crashes -- by an astonishing 40 percent...

Now -- thanks to an investigation that initially hurt the company -- there is finally some real data, and it's good news for Tesla... As the software matures to match the new hardware, Musk said on Thursday via a Tweet, Tesla is targeting a 90 percent reduction in car crashes.

Programming

Is The C Programming Language Declining In Popularity? (dice.com) 286

An anonymous reader writes: Java overtook C as the most popular language in mid-2015 on the TIOBE Programming Community index. But now over the last 13 months, they show C's popularity consistently dropping more and more. C's score had hovered between 15% and 20% for over 15 years but as 2016 ended, the language's popularity is now down to 8.7%. "There is no clear way back to the top," reports the site, asking what happened to C? "It is not a language that you think of while writing programs for popular fields such as mobile apps or websites, it is not evolving that much and there is no big company promoting the language."

But the Insights blog at Dice.com counters that TIOBE "has hammered on C for quite some time. Earlier this year, it again emphasized how C is 'hardly suitable for the booming fields of web and mobile app development.' That being said, job postings on Dice (as well as rankings compiled by other organizations) suggest there's still widespread demand for C, which can be used in everything from operating systems to data-intensive applications, and serves many programmers well as an intermediate language."

i-programmer suggests this could just be an artifact of the way TIOBE calculates language popularity (by totaling search engine queries). Noting that Assembly language rose into TIOBE's top 10 this year, their editor wrote, "Perhaps it is something to do with the poor state of assembly language documentation that spurs on increasingly desperate searches for more information." Maybe C programmers are just referring to their K&R book instead of searching for solutions online?
Operating Systems

Apple Could Finally Sell More Devices Than Microsoft In 2017 (computerworld.com) 97

Gartner predicts Apple will ship more iOS and macOS devices in 2017 than Windows-powered devices "for the first time this century," and then increase their lead over the next two years. An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million. Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years... The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline." The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.

The article also points out that even in 2016, Windows devices came in second, and "accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Was 2016's Best-Performing Currency (newsweek.com) 104

The co-founder of Blockchain published an opinion piece in Newsweek today mocking predictions about the death of bitcoin, saying "each is more wrong than the last... Bitcoin was again declared the world's best performing currency in 2016 by Bloomberg. In fact, it's held that title every year since 2010, with the notable exception of 2014, when it was the worst." An anonymous reader writes: Bitcoin president Nicolas Cary writes that bitcoin has become more stable than many of the world's top currencies, while the British pound "has dropped by more than 17% in a colossal collapse of confidence... In Africa, the Egyptian pound dropped 59% and the Nigerian naira fell 37%. In South America, the Argentine peso plummeted over 17% and the Venezuelan bolivar tumbled so far off a cliff it's difficult to measure -- even bricks of cash are worthless for everyday purchases there. Perhaps most dramatically of all, India, the world's second most populated country, introduced a stunning policy of demonetization declaring banknotes illegal overnight...

"During this time period, and partially in response to it, the price of bitcoin surged... Bitcoin also trounced the stock market from a performance perspective. Brand names like McDonald's, Home Depot and Disney grew at a paltry 1.6% or less; bitcoin outpaced them by over 70 times."

In 2009 one man in Norway bought $27 worth of bitcoin while writing a thesis on encryption, then forgot about them. Six years later, he discovered they were worth nearly $500,000.
Businesses

Apple's Share of PC Users Drops To A Five-Year Low (infoworld.com) 228

Windows 10 is installed on 24.5% of devices -- but that's only half the story. "Apple's Mac share of personal computers worldwide fell to a five-year low in December," reports Computerworld, adding that Linux and Windows "both benefited, with increases of around a half percentage point during 2016." An anonymous reader quotes their report: According to web analytics vendor Net Applications, Apple's desktop and notebook operating system -- formerly OS X, now macOS -- powered just 6.1% of all personal computers last month, down from 7% a year ago and a peak of 9.6% as recently as April 2016... The Mac's 6.1% user share in December was the lowest mark recorded by Net Applications since August 2011, more than five years ago... In October, the company reported sales of 4.9 million Macs for the September quarter, a 14% year-over-year decline and the fourth straight quarterly downturn. Apple's sales slide during the past 12 months has been steeper than for the personal computer industry as a whole, according to industry researchers from IDC and Gartner, a 180-degree shift from the prior 30 or so quarters, when the Mac's growth rate repeatedly beat the business average.
Apple's success through 2016 was "fueled by Microsoft's stumbles with Windows 8 and a race-to-the-bottom mentality among rival OEMs," according to the article, which also notes that the user share for Linux exceeded 2% in June, and reached 2.3% by November.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Announces Their Most Viewed Articles Of 2016 (wikipedia.org) 65

Slashdot reader westand writes, "Wikipedia's 5000 most-visited articles of 2016 have been released, and Donald Trump leads the pack." (Though the site's second-most popular article was about a porn site.) The top 5000 pages account for 21.6 billion views, with 42% of those being mobile traffic... After artificial traffic is discounted, election and celebrity deaths feature prominently.
Wikipedia's article about the U.S. presidential election of 2016 also came in at #11, while their articles about Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton came in at #16 and #19, respectively. Other top-20 articles covered deaths in 2016, as well as "Prince (musician)" and David Bowie, with four more articles that covered 2016 superhero movies also reaching the top 20. (Along with "List of Bollywood films of 2016".) The eighth most-popular article was about web scraping, while Wikipedia's 404.php page was actually more popular than any article on the site.

The original submission also points out that 323 million views were covered by The Wikipedia Zero project, in which mobile operators in the Global South ""'zero-rate' access to Wikimedia sites in their billing system, so their subscribers will not incur data charges while accessing Wikipedia and the sister projects on the mobile web or apps." And Wikipedia adds that their list is generated by Andrew G. West, a senior research scientist at Verisign Labs who "is particularly interested in academic collaboration regarding this English Wikipedia dataset."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

2016 Saw A Massive Increase In Encrypted Web Traffic (eff.org) 91

EFF's "Deeplinks" blog has published nearly two dozen "2016 in Review" posts over the last nine days, one of which applauds 2016 as "a great year for adoption of HTTPS encryption for secure connections to websites." An anonymous reader writes: In 2016 most pages viewed on the web were encrypted. And over 21 million web sites obtained security certificates -- often for the first time -- through Let's Encrypt. But "a sizeable part of the growth in HTTPS came from very large hosting providers that decided to make HTTPS a default for sites that they host, including OVH, Wordpress.com, Shopify, Tumblr, Squarespace, and many others," EFF writes. Other factors included the support of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 by Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Other "2016 in Review" posts from EFF include Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet and DRM vs. Civil Liberties. Click through for a complete list of all EFF "2016 in Review" posts.
Stats

Slashdot's 10 Most-Visited Stories of 2016 (slashdot.org) 35

Slashdot's most-visited story of the year was "Microsoft Live Account Credentials Leaking From Windows 8 And Above," which was visited more than 330,910 times since we published it August 16. And our second and third most popular stories came in the spring -- Apple Is Fighting A Secret War To Keep You From Repairing Your Phone and Google Chrome To Disallow Backspace As a 'Back' Button. Click through for a complete list of Slashdot's 10 most-visited stories of 2016.
Role Playing (Games)

Analysts Tout 'State of The Developer' Survey By Awarding RPG Characters (amazon.com) 47

An anonymous reader writes: Analysts at VisionMobile have begun conducting this year's "State of the Developer" Survey -- their perennial assessment of salaries, skills, and tools -- but this time with a twist. "Based on your responses, you'll find out what kind of character you'd be in a fantasy world: A mage? A fighter? A dragon slayer?" according to a blog post publicizing the event by Amazon's manager of developer marketing. "As in previous years, you'll also receive your personal Developer Scorecard showing how you compare to other developers in your country, a free copy of the final State of the Developer Nation report, and a chance to win some cool prizes."
The survey presents a map of seven "kingdoms" -- IoT, Mobile, Desktop, Backend, Web, Machine learning, and AR/VR -- and invites developers to complete their "quest," awarding virtual badges and real-world prizes, which include an Oculus Rift headset, a Surface Pro 3, an Apple Watch, and a Pixel Phone. Along your "journey," a developer owl even dispatches encouraging geeky jokes. (Like "Whenever I see a door that says 'push', I always pull first, to avoid conflicts.")
Google

Google Asked to Remove a Billion 'Pirate' Search Results in a Year (torrentfreak.com) 68

Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 1,000,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine over the past twelve months, TorrentFreak reports. According to stats provided in Google's Transparency Report for the past one year, Google was asked to remove over one billion links -- or 1,007,741,143 links. From the article: More than 90 percent of the links, 908,237,861 were in fact removed. The rest of the reported links were rejected because they were invalid, not infringing, or duplicates of earlier requests. In total, Google has now processed just over two billion allegedly infringing URLs from 945,000 different domains. That the second billion took only a year, compared to several years for the first, shows how rapidly the volume of takedown requests is expanding. At the current rate, another billion will be added by the end of next summer. Most requests, over 50 million, were sent in for the website 4shared.com. However, according to the site's operators many of the reported URLs point to the same files, inflating the actual volume of infringing content.
Stats

Julian Assange Could Be Time's 'Person Of The Year', And Is Also Still Not Dead (time.com) 145

Long-time Slashdot reader cstacy noticed Saturday that Julian Assange hadn't made any communications or public appearances in six weeks. But today an anonymous reader writes: Julian Assange is still not dead, reports The Inquisitr, noting "the WikiLeaks founder made his first appearance in weeks, speaking with an interviewer for a conference in Beirut" including comments about the recent death of Fidel Castro.

Assange is also in the running to be chosen as "Person of the Year" in Time magazine's annual online reader's poll, and last Monday even moved briefly into first place, inching past Donald Trump. "It's worth noting that the poll presents people alphabetically," Time reported, "so Assange is the first option participants consider and Trump comes near the end of the poll."

I think the poll's being hacked by state actors, since Vladimir Putin now leads with 38%, followed by Theresa May (16%) and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un (13%), and Donald Trump is locked in a tie for fourth place with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 9%. Time worked with Opentopic and IBM's Watson to assemble the initial list for reader's votes, which also included Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI director James Comey. Surprisingly, a few celebrities also turned up on the list too, including comedian Samantha Bee, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.
Desktops (Apple)

New MacBook Pro's Dedicated AMD Graphics Chips Are 'Significantly' Faster and Support Dual 5K Displays (macrumors.com) 170

Whereas Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pros feature integrated Iris Pro graphics, the 15-inch MacBook Pros feature dedicated AMD graphics, resulting in significant performance improvements over previous MacBook Pro models. Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham found the Radeon Pro 455 graphics chip in particular to be a "significant boost" over the dedicated GPUs available in the 2012-2015 MacBook Pro models, such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX 650M, Nvidia GeForce GTX 750M, and AMD Radeon R9 M370X. MacRumors reports: AMD's Polaris-based Radeon Pro 450, Radeon Pro 455, and built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 GPUs in the new 15-inch MacBook Pro support up to six displays, whereas Intel's integrated GPUs affixed to the logic board can drive a total of three displays. The expanded support enables the new MacBook Pro to drive two of Apple and LG's new UltraFine 5K displays at 60Hz simultaneously. Intel's GPUs can't because, due to bandwidth limitations of the DisplayPort 1.2 spec, the two 5K displays technically function as four displays. This method is known as Multi-Stream Transport (MST). Apple could have used Nvidia's faster Pascal-based GPUs, which support DisplayPort 1.3, but Thunderbolt 3 and most monitors do not support the higher-bandwidth spec yet. In the meantime, Nvidia's GPUs can only drive up to three displays beyond the main MacBook Pro screen -- not enough for dual 5K displays over MST. Apple officially says the 15-inch MacBook Pro offers up to 130% faster graphics performance, and up to 2.5x more computing power per watt, compared to the previous-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro, but those stats are based on the built-to-order Radeon Pro 460 chip that costs between $100 and $200 extra.
Microsoft

Microsoft Survey Shows Negative Online Interactions Affect People In Real Life (computerworld.com) 60

"Preliminary results of a new Microsoft survey show nearly two-thirds of people surveyed had at least one negative online experience that had an impact on them in the real world, ranging from a loss of trust in others, increased stress or sleep deprivation," reports Computerworld. Microsoft's chief online safety officer writes: Both adults and teens said they became less trusting of others in the real world after a negative interaction online (adults: 31%, teens: 29%). Consequences to adults that outpaced those to teens included the older generation becoming less trusting of people online (42% of adults vs. 37% of youth), and a reluctance to participate in blogs and other online forums (23% of adults vs. 20% of teens)... The study, "Civility, Safety and Interaction Online -- 2016," polled youth ages 13-17 and adults ages 18-74 in 14 countries... Half reported being "extremely or very" worried about online risks generally, with the most common concerns being unwanted contact (43%) and various forms of harassment (39%).
Microsoft's blog post urges people to "Embrace digital civility and model healthy behaviors for young people both online and off" -- and also notes that today is World Kindness Day.
Businesses

Amazon May Handle 30% Of All US Retail Sales (usatoday.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Amazon's yearly sales account for about 15% of total U.S. consumer online sales, according to the company's statements and the Department of Commerce. But the Seattle e-commerce company may actually be handling double that amount -- 20% to 30% of all U.S. retail goods sold online -- thanks to the volume of sales it transacts for third parties on its website and app. Only a portion of those sales add to its revenue.

"The punchline is that Amazon's twice as big as people give them credit for, because there's this iceberg under the surface, but you only see the tip," said Scot Wingo, executive chairman of Channel Advisor, an e-commerce software company that works with thousands of online sellers. When third-party sales are taken into account, Amazon's share of what U.S. shoppers spend online could be as high as $125 billion yearly...

Amazon's share will grow even larger when they can offer two-hour deliveries, warns one analyst, while another puts it more succinctly. "Amazon's just going to slowly grab more and more of your wallet."
The Almighty Buck

Silicon Valley Big Data Startup Palantir Responds To Labor Department's Discrimination Lawsuit (fortune.com) 80

Silicon Valley's big data startup Palantir, founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, has filed a response to the Department of Labor after the agency sued the company for discriminating against Asian job applicants. From a Fortune report: Palantir says that no discrimination took place and that the Labor Department's statistical analysis -- the basis for the recent suit -- is faulty. The suit, according to Palantir's 15-page response, wrongly suggests that the company "should have hired a workforce that matched the racial composition of the group of individuals whose resumes Palantir received, without regard to candidate qualifications." Palantir's response also points out that the suit addressed only three out of 44 job titles for which Palantir hired employees within the 18-month analysis period conducted by the Labor Department. What's more, says the response, 36% of those eventually hired across all the job openings within that timeframe were Asian -- a rate that exceeds the percentage of qualified Asian employees in the external labor market, according to stats from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
China

Baidu's Voice Recognition Software Is More Accurate Than Typing (thestack.com) 55

The massive Chinese web services company Baidu has launched their sophisticated new TalkType 'keyboard' which defaults to voice recognition app. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: Baidu claims that the app's speech recognition is more accurate than actual typing, having developed and tested the technology alongside speech software experts at Stanford University...The researchers concluded that Baidu's technology was three times faster than a typical user typing in English. The results showed that the TalkType error rate was 20.4% lower than an English texter hunting and tapping for letters. The accuracy was even greater for those typing in Mandarin, with the error rate dropping 63.4% when using TalkType.
Of course, last year Baidu was also accused of gaming the testing for their image-recognition software.
Earth

Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs (popsci.com) 159

A team of researchers from Canada, Holland, China, the U.S. and Brazil "found that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made reservoirs were likely equal to the equivalent of one gigaton of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year...a little less than one-sixth of the United State's greenhouse gas emissions." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Popular Science: A reservoir is usually created by damming a river, overflowing the banks and flooding the surrounding area, creating a man-made lake...the perfect conditions for microbes to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane (a gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide)... "When reservoirs are first flooded there's organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide," John Harrison, a co-author of the paper, tells Popular Science.

"Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide." Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.

If the world's reservoirs were a country, they'd be #8 on a list of polluters -- right behind Brazil, China, the EU and the U.S.
Education

Poor Scientific Research Is Disproportionately Rewarded (economist.com) 81

A new study calculates a low probability that real effects are actually being detected in psychology, neuroscience and medicine research paper -- and then explains why. Slashdot reader ananyo writes: The average statistical power of papers culled from 44 reviews published between 1960 and 2011 was about 24%. The authors built an evolutionary computer model to suggest why and show that poor methods that get "results" will inevitably prosper. They also show that replication efforts cannot stop the degradation of the scientific record as long as science continues to reward the volume of a researcher's publications -- rather than their quality.
The article notes that in a 2015 sample of 100 psychological studies, only 36% of the results could actually be reproduced. Yet the researchers conclude that in the Darwin-esque hunt for funding, "top-performing laboratories will always be those who are able to cut corners." And the article's larger argument is until universities stop rewarding bad science, even subsequent attempts to invalidate those bogus results will be "incapable of correcting the situation no matter how rigorously it is pursued."
Facebook

Facebook Inflated Video Viewing Stats For Two Years (cnet.com) 49

Facebook has admitted inflating the average time people spend watching videos for two years by failing to count people who watched for less than three seconds. CNET reports: The metric was artificially inflated because it only counted videos as viewed if they had been seen for three or more seconds, not taking into account shorter views, the company revealed several weeks ago in a post on its advertiser help center web page. Facebook has been putting a greater emphasis on video in recent years, particularly live video. In March, Facebook began giving anyone with a phone and internet connection an easy way to broadcast live video to the 1.7 billion people who use its service every day.
Education

Stanford's New Alcohol Policy Isn't Based On Much Research (vice.com) 201

Sophia Carter-Kahn, reporting for Motherboard: Last week Stanford University announced a strict new alcohol policy in hopes to curb binge drinking. The new policy bans hard liquor at on-campus parties, and restricts hard alcohol in undergraduate possession to containers smaller than 750 milliliters ("a fifth"). Lisa Lapin, the vice president of university communications, clarified that the goal is to prevent medical transports [i.e. trips to the hospital]. Universities across the country are looking for new ways to deal with dangerous binge drinking. If this new restriction at Stanford is successful, it would set a precedent for how universities across the country grapple with a seemingly insurmountable alcohol problem. There's just one catch: there's little data to suggest restricting bottle size can change college drinking culture. Colleges have tried different strategies, from mailing parents flyers about alcoholism stats to policing campuses to break up parties. Dartmouth College, for example, implemented a hard alcohol ban last year. And the University of Virginia cracked down on liquor and Greek life on campus. But their efforts don't seem to be working. Drunkorexia -- skipping meals to have more room for alcohol -- is on the rise. And administrative desperation to find some way to reduce alcohol consumption has continued.

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