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Showing posts from September, 2018

Trump administration sues California over its brand-new net neutrality law

The Department of Justice announced on Sunday that it has filed a lawsuit against California to block its new net neutrality law, just hours after it was signed by governor Jerry Brown. The lawsuit was first reported by the Washington Post. Senior Justice Department officials told the newspaper it is filing the lawsuit because only the federal government can regulate net neutrality and that the Federal Communications Commission had been granted that authority by Congress to ensure states don’t write conflicting legislation.In its announcement, the Justice Department stated that by signing California’s Senate Bill 822 into law, the state is “attempting to subvert the Federal Government’s deregulatory approach by imposing burdensome state regulations on the free Internet, which is unlawful and anti-consumer.”Attorney General Jeff Sessions said “under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce—the federal government does. Once again the California legislature has enacte…

The best gear for starting a small business

Editor’s note:This post was done in partnership withWirecutter. When readers choose to buyWirecutter’sindependently chosen editorial picks, Wirecutter and TechCrunch may earn affiliate commissions.When you’re ready to start a small business, having some helpful essentials will make the process a bit easier. Whether you need to print your own business cards or you’re ready to process orders on a reliable laptop, we’ve put together a few of our recommendations that will cover the basics.Photo: Michael Hession Business Card Printing Service: VistaprintVistaprint has the best print quality of all the services we tested, and its website offers the best ordering and design experience. If you don’t need a large quantity of business cards, Vistaprint will allow you to order batches as small as 100. You can choose from thousands of templates and a variety of finishes. During printing testing, we were able to read small type and we found that the service’s colors and trimming were accurate.Photo…

Unbiased algorithms can still be problematic

Creating unbiased, accurate algorithms isn’t impossible — it’s just time consuming.“It actually is mathematically possible,” facial recognition startup Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen told me on a panel at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.Algorithms are sets of rules that computers follow in order to solve problems and make decisions about a particular course of action. Whether it’s the type of information we receive, the information people see about us, the jobs we get hired to do, the credit cards we get approved for, and, down the road, the driverless cars that either see us or don’t, algorithms are increasingly becoming a big part of our lives. But there is an inherent problem with algorithms that begins at the most base level and persists throughout its adaption: human bias that is baked into these machine-based decision-makers.Creating unbiased algorithms is a matter of having enough accurate data. It’s not about just having enough “pale males” in the model, but about having enough images of peo…

The war over music copyrights

VC firms haven’t been the only ones raising hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in a booming market. After 15+ years of being the last industry anyone wanted to invest in, the music industry is coming back, and money is flooding in to buy up the rights to popular songs.As paid streaming subscriptions get mainstream adoption, the big music streaming services – namely Spotify, Apple Music, and Tencent Music, but also Pandora, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, and others – have entered their prime. There are now over51 millionpaid subscription accounts among music streaming services in the US. The music industry grew 8% last year globally to$17.3 billion, driven by a 41% increase in streaming revenue and 45% increase inpaidstreaming revenue.The surge in music streaming means a surge in income for those who own the copyrights to songs, and the growth of entertainment in emerging markets, growing use in digital videos, and potential use of music in new content formats like VR only…

Until data is misused, Facebook’s breach will be forgotten

We cared about Cambridge Analytica because it could have helped elect Trump. We ignored LocationSmart because even the though the company was selling and exposing the real-time GPS coordinates of our phones, it was never clear exactly if or how that data was misused.This idea, that privacy issues are abstract concepts for most people until they become security or ideological problems, is important to understanding Facebook’s massive breach revealed this week.The social network’s engineering was sloppy, allowing three bugs to be combined to steal the access tokens of 50 million people. In pursuit of rapid growth at affordable efficiency, Facebook failed to protect its users. This assessment doesn’t discount that. Facebook screwed up big time.But despite the potential that those access tokens could have let the attackers take over user accounts, act as them, and scrape their personal info, it’s unclear how much users really care. That’s because for now, Facebook and it’s watchdogs aren’…

Carpooling service Klaxit partners with Uber for last-minute changes

French startup Klaxit connects drivers with riders so that you don’t have to take your car to work every day. And the company recently announced a new feature with the help of Uber. If your driver cancels your ride home, Klaxit will book an Uber for you.Klaxit is a ride-sharing startup that focuses on one thing — commuting to work. And this problem is more complicated than you might think. You can’t just go to work with the same person every day because you don’t always go to work at the same time. Similarly, sometimes your driver has to leave work early, leaving you at the office with no alternative.As a driver, you want to take the quickest route to work. So you want to be matched with riders who are exactly on the way to work.Klaxit currently handles 300,000 rides per day. In particular, the company has partnered with 150 companies, including big French companies such as BNP Paribas, Veolia, Vinci and Sodexo.Klaxit can be particularly useful for companies with large office building…

9 Times Your Smart Speaker Got Weird

Smart speakers have been the new *thing* for a couple of years now. ABle to play your favorite music or audio book, or simply give you weather updates with a vocal prompt, they’re […]The post 9 Times Your Smart Speaker Got Weird appeared first on Geek.com.

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Relike lets you turn a Facebook page into a newsletter

French startup Ownpage has recently released a new product called Relike. Relike is one of the easiest ways to get started with email newsletters. You enter the web address of your Facebook page and that’s about it.The company automatically pulls your most recent posts from your Facebook page and lets you set up an emailing campaign in a few clicks. You can either automatically pick your most popular Facebook posts or manually select a few posts.Just like any emailing service, you can choose between multiple templates, decide the day of the week and time of the day, import a database of email addresses and more. If you’ve used Mailchimp in the past, you’ll feel right at home.But the idea isn’t to compete directly with newsletter services. Many social media managers, media organizations, small companies, nonprofits and sports teams already have a Facebook page but aren’t doing anything on the email front.Relike is free if you send less than 2,000 emails per month and don’t need advance…

What the heck is going on with measures of programming language popularity?

I looked at the TIOBE index today, as I do every so often, as most of the software pros I know do every so often. It purports to measure the popularity of the world’s programming languages, and its popularity-over-time chart tells a simple story: Java and C are, and have been since time immemorial, by some distance the co-kings of language.But wait. Not so fast. The rival “PYPL Index” (PopularitY of Programming Languages) says that Python and Java are co-kings, and C (which is lumped in with C++, surprisingly) is way down the list. What’s going on here?What’s going on is that the two indexes have very different methodologies … although what their methodologies have in common is both are very questionable, if the objective is to measure the popularity of programming languages. TIOBE measures the sheer quantity of search engine hits. PYPL measures how often language tutorials are Googled.Both are bad measures. We can expect the availability of online resources to be an extremely lagging…

Elon Musk will step down as Tesla chairman and pay a $20 million fine in SEC settlement

But the entrepreneur gets to remain CEO of the electric carmaker.Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk will step down as chairman of the electric carmaker for at least three years as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a security fraud charge stemming from a series of tweets that the SEC believes misled investors.Musk and Tesla will also each pay $20 million fines as part of the settlement, but did not have to admit any wrongdoing related to the August 7 tweets that saw Musk allege that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at a per-share price that was well above its stock price at the time. The stock price subsequently skyrocketed before trading was halted and Tesla remains a public company.If the penalties are approved by a judge, the total $40 million in fines will be paid out to investors who were “harmed” in the aftermath of the tweets. Tesla has also agreed to add two independent directors to its board as part of the pact.For Musk, the resul…

Solve, MIT’s take on social innovation challenges, may be different enough to work

Since McKinsey released a report on how best to use prizes to incentivize innovation nearly a decade ago, an entire industry has grown around social innovation challenges. The formula for these “save the world” competitions has become standard. Drum up a lot of buzz around an award. Partner with big names to get funding and high-profile judges. Try and get as many submissions as possible from across the world. Whittle down the submissions and come up with a list of finalists that get to pitch at a glitzy event with a lot of media attention.On the final stage, based on pitches that last for mere minutes, judges typically pick one winner that can get upwards of millions in prize funding. Don’t have a software platform to run a challenge of this kind? No worries, numerous for-profit vendors have sprung up that can do all the work for you—for anywhere from ten to a few hundred thousand dollars. The growth has been so exponential that prizes awarded through competitions has grown from less…

Ne-Yo wants to make Silicon Valley more diverse one investment at a time

Dressed in a Naruto t-shirt and a hat emblazoned with the phrase “lone wolf,” Ne-Yo slouches over in a chair inside a Holberton School classroom. The Grammy-winning recording artist is struggling to remember the name of “that actor,” the one who’s had a successful career in both the entertainment industry and tech investing.“I learned about all the things he was doing and I thought it was great for him,” Ne-Yo told TechCrunch. “But I didn’t really know what my place in tech would be.”It turns out “that actor” is Ashton Kutcher, widely known in Hollywood and beyond for his role in several blockbusters and the TV sitcom That ’70s Show, and respected in Silicon Valley for his investments via Sound Ventures and A-Grade in Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Bird and several others.Ne-Yo, for his part, is known for a string of R&B hits including So Sick, One in a Million and Because of You. His latest album, Good Man, came out in June.Ne-Yo, like Kutcher, is interested in pursuing a side gig in inv…

Elon Musk agrees to resign as Tesla chairman in settlement with SEC

This is a developing storyTesla CEO Elon Musk will step down as chairman of the electric automaker and pay a $20 million fine under a settlement reached with the U.S Securities and Exchange commission. Musk will remain CEO.Musk will resign from his role as chairman of the Tesla board within 45 days of the agreement, which was filed Saturday. He has agreed to not seek reelection or accept an appointment as chairman for three years.The SEC filed a complaint Thursday in federal district court alleged that Musk lied when he tweeted on August 7 that he had “funding secured” for a private takeover of the company at $420 per share. Federal securities regulators reportedly served Tesla with a subpoena just a week after the tweet. Investigations can take years before any action is taken, if at all.The SEC said in the complaint that Musk violated anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. The commission has asked the court to fine Musk and bar the billionaire entrepreneur from serv…

Best Buy stocked an unannounced Chromecast ahead of Google’s hardware event

Google’s big hardware event, scheduled for October 9, is expected to feature the new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones. But now we know that Google will probably reveal a third-generation model of Chromecast, thanks to one recent Best Buy customer who discovered the device on store shelves.Whoops.“GroveStreetHomie” detailed his experience on a Reddit post entitled “I think I bought the 3rd gen Chromecast too early.”According to the Reddit post, the customer went to Best Buy earlier to pick up a Chromecast for a new TV. That’s when “GroveStreetHomie” noticed the packaging and design was different from an earlier version.The cashier wasn’t able to scan the item because it wasn’t in the system yet. The release date was labeled October 9 — the same day as the 2018 Google hardware event.“But since I already had it in my hand and was the same price as the 2nd generation Chromecast, they let me have it under the old SKU,” the post read.This new unannounced Chromecast is apparently thicker than t…

The 2019 BMW i3 now has 153 miles of range thanks to a bigger battery

The BMW i3 is getting an upgraded battery — plus a bunch of other improvements —that will give the 2019 model about 153 miles of range. That’s roughly a 30% improvement from the previous model.The boost in range is noteworthy, yet it still lags behind the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles. And it’s only a smidge better than the much cheaper Nissan Leaf.The upshot: it’s a steady improvement that expresses some continued investment and interest in the i3 brand. But will it be enough to keep this city car in the EV mix?When the BMW i3 first went into production in 2013 it had a 22.6-kilowatt hour battery pack containing 60 ampere hours (Ah) batteries. That first i3 had range of 81 miles, according to EPA estimates. The company’s second-generation battery, introduced in 2016, grew to 33 kwh of gross energy (94 amp hours) and had a range of about 115 miles under the EPA cycle.Now the 2019 model, which will comes with 120 Ah batteries in a 42.2-kWh-battery pack,…

Autonomous shuttle startup May Mobility expands to a third U.S. city

May Mobility launched its first low-speed autonomous shuttle service in Detroit this summer. By March, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company will be operating in at least three U.S. cities.The company, which just announced plans to expand to Columbus, Ohio, is planning to add another route in Grand Rapids, Michigan.May Mobility is different from other companies racing to deploy autonomous vehicles at a commercial scale. The startup, which was founded by veterans in the self-driving and automotive industry, has developed low-speed autonomous shuttles that are designed to run along a specific route in business districts or corporate and college campuses.The company said it will bring four of its six-seat electric shuttles to Grand Rapids. The one-year pilot will begin March 2019.This latest shuttle launch is part of a broader effort called the Grand Rapids Autonomous Mobility Initiative, a coalition of companies that includes Consumers Energy, French automotive supplier Faurecia, Gentex…

Bots replacing office workers drive big valuations

Joanna GlasnerContributor More posts by this contributorGetting personal: Funding rises for software-driven tastemakersThe alumni of these universities raised the most VC in the past year A lot of people still get paid to sit in offices and do repetitive tasks. In recent years, however, employers have been pushing harder to find ways to outsource that work to machines.Venture and growth investors are doing a lot to speed up the rise of these worker-bots. So far this year, they’ve poured hundreds of millions into developers of robotic process automation technology, the term to describe software used for performing a series of tasks previously carried out by humans.Process automation funding activity spiked last week with a $225 million Series C round for one of the category leaders, New York-based UiPath. Sequoia Capital and Alphabet’s CapitalG led the financing, which brings total capital raised by the 13-year-old company to more than $400 million, with a most recent valuation of $3 bil…

Facebook is weaponizing security to erode privacy

At a Senate hearing this week in which US lawmakers quizzed tech giants on how they should go about drawing up comprehensive Federal consumer privacy protection legislation, Apple’s VP of software technology described privacy as a “core value” for the company.“We want your device to know everything about you but we don’t think we should,” Bud Tribble told them in his opening remarks.Facebook was not at the commerce committee hearing which, as well as Apple, included reps from Amazon, AT&T, Charter Communications, Google and Twitter.But the company could hardly have made such a claim had it been in the room, given that its business is based on trying to know everything about you in order to dart you with ads.You could say Facebook has ‘hostility to privacy‘ as a core value.Earlier this year one US senator wondered of Mark Zuckerberg how Facebook could run its service given it doesn’t charge users for access. “Senator we run ads,” was the almost startled response, as if the Facebook…