An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: Apple is finally going to give its developers a way to respond to customer reviews on its App Store and Mac App Store -- a feature that's long been available to Android developers on Google Play, much to the chagrin of the Apple developer community. According to developer documentation for the iOS 10.3 beta, when this version of Apple's mobile operating ships, developers will also be able to ask for reviews in new ways, in addition to responding to those posted publicly on the App Store. Apple's ratings and reviews system has felt antiquated, and has been a source of frustration for developers and users alike. When a customer leaves a negative review, developers couldn't respond to the criticism -- which is sometimes unwarranted -- in a way that other App Store customers could see. For example, a customer may be misunderstanding a feature, or may have complained about a bug that's been fixed in a later release.
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Hollywood is buzzing after Tuesday morning's long-awaited Oscar nominations announcements, finally revealing who will be competing for an Academy Award on Feb. 26. One of the biggest stories of the morning was the nominations haul scored by e-commerce giant Amazon and its streaming video arm, Amazon Studios. From a report: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave Amazon's big Oscar contender, director Kenneth Lonergan's devastating drama Manchester by the Sea, six total nominations on Tuesday. Manchester by the Sea, which Amazon co-distributed with indie studio Roadside Attractions, is nominated for Best Picture, while Lonergan is nominated in both the directing and original screenplay categories. Actors Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges all also scored acting category nods. In total, Amazon has seven nominations, with the Iranian thriller The Salesman -- which Amazon is distributing in the U.S. -- up for Best Foreign Picture. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has made no secret about his desire to win an Academy Award -- an accomplishment no streaming service has yet pulled off -- and the company has spent a lot of money building out its portfolio of original feature films as it looks to compete with more traditional Hollywood studios. Last year, Amazon saw its Oscar hopes dashed after the company's collaboration with director Spike Lee on the film Chi-Raq failed to garner any nominations. But Amazon also spent a reported $10 million on the distribution rights to Manchester by the Sea at last year's Sundance Film Festival.
An equally divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its landmark decision forbidding the U.S. government from forcing Microsoft and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States. From a report: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in a 4-4 decision Tuesday, declined to rehear its July decision that denied the DOJ access to the email of a drug trafficking suspect stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland. Microsoft has been fighting DOJ requests for the email since 2013. The DOJ has argued that tech companies can avoid valid warrants by storing customer data outside the U.S. Judges "readily acknowledge the gravity of this concern," but the 31-year-old U.S. Stored Communications Act (SCA) doesn't allow worldwide search under a U.S. warrant, wrote Judge Susan Carney. "We recognize at the same time that in many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology," Carney wrote in Tuesday's decision. "It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose."
Reader Krystalo writes: Mozilla today launched Firefox 51 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The new version includes a new warning for websites which collect passwords but don't use HTTPS, WebGL 2 support for better 3D graphics, and FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) playback. Mozilla doesn't break out the exact numbers for Firefox, though the company does say "half a billion people around the world" use the browser. In other words, it's a major platform that web developers target -- even in a world increasingly dominated by mobile apps.
The Australian government is planning to allow 90% of travellers to pass through passport control without human help by 2020. From a report: With a $100m budget, it has begun the search for technology companies that could provide biometric systems, such as facial, iris and fingerprint recognition. Head of border security John Coyne said it could be a "world first." But critics have questioned the privacy implications of such a system. "Biometrics are now going in leaps and bounds, and our ability to harness the power of big data is increasing exponentially," Mr Coyne told the Sydney Morning Herald. The department of border security hopes to pilot the "Seamless Traveller" project in Canberra this summer, with rollout to larger airports scheduled to be completed by spring 2019.
China, the world's second largest economy, is pouring 1.5 billion yuan ($168 million) into a program aimed at making it rain in its usually arid northwestern region. From a report: No stranger to using technologies like cloud seeding to influence and even control weather patterns, China's top economic planners recently gave the go ahead for what will be one of the country's largest weather-modification projects, reports the South China Morning Post. According to the Post, a feasibility study by the country's meteorological agency concluded that the three-year program could see a rise in precipitation over an area of 960,000 sq km, or as much as 10% of the country's landmass. The multi-million dollar budget allocated by the National Development and Reform Commission will reportedly cover the cost for four new aircraft and updates to eight existing planes, nearly 900 rocket launch systems and over 1,800 digital control devices.
U.S. online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday. From a report: Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said. Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices. The Commission opened an investigation into the company's e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services. The EU competition enforcer gave rivals and customers a month to provide feedback before it decides whether to accept the proposal. Under EU antitrust rules, such settlements mean no finding of infringement nor fines which could reach 10 percent of a company's global turnover.
The Google Lunar XPrize (GLXP) teams are still soldiering on and, with the deadline now less than 12 months away, the XPrize Foundation has confirmed that five of those teams have signed launch contracts that that will allow them to launch to the moon by the end of the year. From a report on CNET: The GLXP is a $30 million purse of prizes open to independent teams from around the globe, with the overall goal of fostering the development of commercial space exploration. $20 million goes to the first team to successfully land a vehicle on the moon and then successfully cover a distance of 500 meters of lunar surface while streaming high-definition video back to the Earth. $5 million goes to the second team to do the same, while millions of dollars in other prizes are also up for grabs -- including bonuses for extra distance and visiting historic sites. The deadline? It currently stands at midnight, December 31 of 2017. Any team whose lander hasn't left the launchpad by then is automatically out of the running.
Reader Mark Wilson writes: Microsoft is no stranger to pissing people off, particularly when it comes to Windows 10. There have been endless cries about forced updates, complaints about ads, moaning about privacy, and now the CEO of Vivaldi has lashed out at the company for its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge. Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the "actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives." He takes particular umbrage at Windows 10's continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge. Indicating that his patience has now run out, von Tetzchner points to a 72-year-old friend who was confused by the change and unable to reverse things. He says that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.
On Monday, Microsoft hosted an online event to discuss the impact of the UK's departure from the European Union on the tech industry. The company currently has two large datacentres in the UK, and it is expanding those in response to vigorous demand for cloud services. But Brexit could throw a spanner in the works. From a report: Microsoft's UK Government Affairs Manager Owen Larter said, "We're really keen to avoid import tariffs on any hardware. Going back to the datacenter example, we're looking to build out our datacenters at a pretty strong lick in the UK, because the market is doing very well. If all of a sudden there are huge import [tariffs] on server racks from China or from eastern Europe, where a lot of them are actually assembled, that might change our investment decisions and perhaps we build out our datacenters across other European countries." Simply put, if they cannot build in Britain, then they will build surrounding it. Currently, the data is shared freely between the EU countries without any issues. This is because they all have similar security between them. However, if the UK leaves the EU, then this could cause even more issues for Microsoft.
As companies fall all over themselves to hype creation of U.S. jobs, IBM is catching flak for promising thousands of new ones while firing folks right and left. From a report: Company CEO Ginni Rometty said in a December USA Today op-ed that her firm would hire 25,000 people for U.S. positions in the next four years, 6,000 of them this year. "She didn't mention that International Business Machines Corp. was also firing workers and sending many of the jobs overseas," reports Bloomberg. Big Blue wrapped up its third round of 2016 firings -- or "resource actions" in IBM HR parlance -- in late November, and job losses for the year likely totaled in the thousands, current and former employees told Bloomberg. Many of the jobs were shipped to Asia and Eastern Europe, and the firings have continued into this year, employees said.
mmell writes: An editorial in the Washington Post and made publicly available via an MSN news feed has asked the question: "In the Trump administration era of 'alternative facts,' what happens to government data?" Given that Slashdot members (and readers) may represent a somewhat more in-the-know crowd on matters concerning data integrity and trustworthiness, I thought this would be a good place to ask: can we trust (or has anyone ever really trusted) government data? One might think government data would all be cut 'n' dried and not subject to manipulation, but I personally remember when government data back early in the Reagan presidency went from reporting nearly 15% unemployment nationwide to well under 6% by redefining what "unemployed" meant. So . . . has government data ever been trustworthy, and is it still so?
tomhath quotes a report from TechCrunch: Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's $45 billion philanthropy organization is making its first acquisition in order to make it easier for scientists to search, read and tie together more than 26 million science research papers. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is acquiring Meta, an AI-powered research search engine startup, and will make its tool free to all in a few months after enhancing the product. Meta's AI recognizes authors and citations between papers so it can surface the most important research instead of just what has the best SEO. It also provides free full-text access to 18,000 journals and literature sources. Meta co-founder and CEO Sam Molyneux writes that "Going forward, our intent is not to profit from Meta's data and capabilities; instead we aim to ensure they get to those who need them most, across sectors and as quickly as possible, for the benefit of the world."
Paul Fernhout writes: China has unseated North America as the global investment leader in financial technology, or "fintech," according to Citigroup's latest report on "digital disruption." The researchers attribute the power shift to the rise of what they term "Chinese dragons," an industry term for the biggest upstarts in Asia. Think of Ant Financial, the payments spinout of Alibaba, as well as Lu.com, JD Finance, and Qufenqi, emerging eastern juggernauts that are generally less familiar to consumers in the west. China accounted for more than half of all fintech investments globally in the first nine months of last year, the report said. Specifically in terms of venture capital, the country more than doubled its worldwide share of the investment category, rising to 46% of the global total versus just 19% the same period in 2015. The U.S., meanwhile, sunk to 41% of the global total from 56% during the same period in 2015, putting it behind China.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Cervical cancer is 77 percent more deadly for black women and 44 percent more deadly for white women than previously thought, researchers report today in the journal Cancer. But the lethal boosts aren't from more women actually dying than before -- they're from scientists correcting their own calculation error. In the past, their estimates didn't account for women who had undergone hysterectomies -- which almost always removes the cervix, and with it the risk of getting cervical cancer. We don't include men in our calculation because they are not at risk for cervical cancer and by the same measure, we shouldn't include women who don't have a cervix," Anne F. Rositch, the study's lead author and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins told The New York Times. For the study, the researchers looked at national cervical cancer mortality data collected between 2000 to 2012. They also looked into national survey data on the prevalence of hysterectomies. Then, they used those figures to adjust the number of women at risk of dying of cervical cancer. The researchers found that black women have a mortality rate of 10.1 per 100,000. For white women, the rate is 4.7 per 100,000. Past estimates had those rates at 5.7 and 3.2, respectively. The new death rate for black women in the US is on par with that of developing countries. Though the new study wasn't designed to address racial disparities, experts speculate that the large difference reflects unequal access to preventative medicine and quality healthcare.