Microsoft's Surface Revenue Drops By $285M (26%)

An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld:
Revenue generated by Microsoft’s Surface hardware during the March quarter was down 26% from the same period the year before, the company said yesterday as it briefed Wall Street. For the quarter, Surface produced $831 million, some $285 million less than the March quarter of 2016, for the largest year-over-year dollar decline ever… The revenue decline “indicates that the aging product needs a refresh badly,” Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, wrote in a note to clients today. “Price cutting and competing vendors’ products will continue to create declines until new product is released, rumored for later this year.” Microsoft threw cold water on any significant changes to the Surface line before June, forecasting that the current quarter will also post a revenue decline.

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NASA Launches Super Balloon To Detect Cosmic Particles From Near Space

“After seven unsuccessful attempts NASA has launched a stadium-sized balloon in Wanaka,” reports the New Zealand Herald, adding that the super-pressure balloon will collect data from “near space” over the next 100 days. Reuters reports: The balloon, designed by NASA to detect ultra-high energy cosmic particles from beyond the galaxy as they penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, is expected to circle the planet two or three times. “The origin of these particles is a great mystery that we’d like to solve. Do they come from massive black holes at the centre of galaxies? Tiny, fast-spinning stars? Or somewhere else?” Angela Olinto, a University of Chicago professor and lead investigator on the project, said in a statement.

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Developer Shares A Recoverable Container Format That's File System Agnostic

Long-time Slashdot reader MarcoPon writes: I created a thing: SeqBox. It’s an archive/container format (and corresponding suite of tools) with some interesting and unique features. Basically an SBX file is composed of a series of sector-sized blocks with a small header with a recognizable signature, integrity check, info about the file they belong to, and a sequence number. The results of this encoding is the ability to recover an SBX container even if the file system is corrupted, completely lost or just unknown, no matter how much the file is fragmented.

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Ask Slashdot: Could We Build A Global Wireless Mesh Network?

An anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device — and without any central authority.
There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules… How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation?
Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world — or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?

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Wired Founding Editor Now Challenges 'The Myth of A Superhuman AI'

Wired’s founding executive editor Kevin Kelly wrote a 5,000-word takedown on “the myth of a superhuman AI,” challenging dire warnings from Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk about the potential extinction of humanity at the hands of a superintelligent constructs. Slashdot reader mirandakatz calls it an “impeccably argued debunking of this pervasive myth.” Kelly writes:
Buried in this scenario of a takeover of superhuman artificial intelligence are five assumptions which, when examined closely, are not based on any evidence…

1.) Artificial intelligence is already getting smarter than us, at an exponential rate.
2.) We’ll make AIs into a general purpose intelligence, like our own.
3.) We can make human intelligence in silicon.
4.) Intelligence can be expanded without limit.
5.) Once we have exploding superintelligence it can solve most of our problems…
If the expectation of a superhuman AI takeover is built on five key assumptions that have no basis in evidence, then this idea is more akin to a religious belief — a myth

Kelly proposes “five heresies” which he says have more evidence to support them — including the prediction that emulating human intelligence “will be constrained by cost” — and he likens artificial intelligence to the physical powers of machines. “[W]hile all machines as a class can beat the physical achievements of an individual human…there is no one machine that can beat an average human in everything he or she does.”

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Apple, Tesla Ask California To Change Its Proposed Policies On Self-Driving Car Testing

Tesla and Apple have asked the state of California to change its proposed policies on self-driving cars to allow companies to test vehicles without traditional steering wheels and controls or human back-up drivers, among other things. Reuters reports: In a letter made public Friday, Apple made a series of suggested changes to the policy that is under development and said it looks forward to working with California and others “so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public.” Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Toyota Motor Corp, Tesla Motors Inc and others also filed comments suggesting changes. Apple said California should revise how companies report self-driving system “disengagements.” California currently requires companies to report how many times the self-driving system was deactivated and control handed back to humans because of a system failure or a traffic, weather or road situation that required human intervention. Apple said California’s rules for development vehicles used only in testing could “restrict both the design and equipment that can be used in test vehicles.” Tesla said California should not bar testing of autonomous vehicles that are 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) or more. Tesla also said California should not prohibit the sale of non-self-driving vehicles previously used for autonomous vehicle testing.

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Washington State Orchard Owners Look To Robots As Labor Shortage Worsens

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Seattle Times: Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States. That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market. The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day. FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years. Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. While financial details are not available, the builders say the robotic pickers should pay for themselves in two years. That puts the likely cost of the machines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. FFRobotics is developing a machine that has three-fingered grips to grab fruit and twist or clip it from a branch. The machine would have between four and 12 robotic arms, and can pick up to 10,000 apples an hour, Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics, said. One machine would be able to harvest a variety of crops, taking 85 to 90 percent of the crop off the trees, Kober said. Humans could pick the rest. Abundant Robotics is working on a picker that uses suction to vacuum apples off trees.

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Airbnb Gives In To Regulator's Demand To Test For Racial Discrimination By Hosts

As part of an agreement with California regulators, Airbnb will allow the government to test for racial discrimination by hosts. The Guardian reports: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced Thursday that it had resolved a complaint it filed against Airbnb with an agreement that forces the company to permit the state to conduct “fair housing testing” of certain hosts. That means that for the first time the San Francisco-based company is giving a regulatory body permission to conduct the kind of racial discrimination audits that officials have long used to enforce fair housing laws against traditional landlords. The DFEH’s original complaint — which had not previously been disclosed — was based on research and a growing number of reports suggesting that hosts regularly refuse to rent to guests due to their race, a problem exposed last year under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.

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