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Showing posts from October, 2018

U.S. declines in internet freedom rankings, thanks to net neutrality repeal and fake news

If you need a safe haven on the internet, where the pipes are open and the freedoms are plentiful — you might want to move to Estonia or Iceland.The latest “internet freedoms” rankings are out, courtesy of Freedom House’s annual report into the state of internet freedoms and personal liberties, based on rankings of 65 countries that represent the vast majority of the world’s internet users. Although the U.S. remains firmly in the top ten, it dropped a point on the year earlier after a recent rash of changes to internet regulation and a lack of in the realm of surveillance.Last year, the U.S. was 21 in the global internet freedom ranking — the lower number, the better a country ranks. That was behind Estonia, Iceland, Canada, Germany and Australia. This year the U.S. is at 22 — thanks to the repeal of net neutrality and the renewal of U.S. spy powers.The report also cited “disinformation and hyperpartisan content” — or fake news — as a “pressing concern.”It was only in June, after a pr…

Tarform debuted new e-motorcycles but is there a U.S. market?

With more failures in the electric motorcycle industry than going concerns and a contracting American motorcycle market, now would seem to be an odd time to launch a new bike into the EV arena. But Tarform, a new startup that unveiled its first vehicle last month in Brooklyn, is undeterred.That’s despite the fact that the company will likely face an uphill ride selling its high-end, higher priced e-motos.The EV upstart recently pulled the cover off its first e-motorcycles—prototype Café and Scrambler models at Brooklyn’s NewLab.The 295 and 320 pound machines bring 7 kilowatt-hour (KwH) Lithium-ION batteries, 43 horsepower, a top speed of 93 miles per hour, and 92 mile city riding ranges.With the debut, the New York and Stockholm based startup now moves into testing phase and taking orders for its first production electric two-wheelers, expected to manufacture by late 2019.Before getting back to the sobering EV topic of achieving scale and profitability, Tarform is committed to bringin…

Social Capital’s Chamath Palihapitiya says ‘we need to return to the roots of venture investing’

In the first of many annual letters Chamath Palihapitiya will be penning as part of his firm’s new era as a technology holding company, the founder of Social Capital criticized the venture capital industry.After highlighting the latest trends within VC — i.e. SoftBank’s Vision Fund, private equity activity in VC deals and inflated valuations — Palihapitiya divulged the asset class’s biggest problems. A copious amount of capital is flowing through the industry and VCs have an insatiable appetite for “unicorn status.” As a result, investors are paying more and more for equity in startups at all stages, hurting both startup employees and limited partners, who ultimately have to foot the bill.“The dynamics we’ve entered is, in many ways, creating a dangerous, high stakes Ponzi scheme,” Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, wrote. “Highly marked up valuations, which should be a cost for VCs, have in fact become their key revenue driver. It lets them raise new funds and keep drawing fe…

Twitter tests homescreen button to easily switch to reverse chronological

Twitter is digging one of its most important new features out of its settings and putting it within easy reach. Twitter is now testing with a small number of iOS users a homescreen button that lets you instantly switch from its algorithmic timeline that shows the best tweets first but out of order to the old reverse chronological feed that only shows people you follow — no tweets liked by friends or other randomness.Sometimes you want to see the latest Tweets, first. We’re testing a way for you to make it easier to switch your timeline between the latest and top Tweets. Starting today, a small number of you will see this test on iOS. pic.twitter.com/7NHLDUjrIv— Twitter (@Twitter) October 31, 2018

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GM looks to cut costs by offering buyouts to 18,000 employees

General Motors has offered voluntary buyouts to 18,000 salaried employees in North America who have at least 12 years experience, as the automaker looks to cut costs all while investing in its electric and autonomous future.The company has described this as a proactive measure aimed at preparing for coming headwinds such as  slow sales in North America and China, commodity prices and tariffs.But it’s just as much about preparing for the future. The company has been undergoing a transformation over the past four to five years, ditching expensive, money-losing programs like the Opel brand in Europe, and investing more into electrification and autonomous vehicle technology.And it’s not wasting any time.GM is giving these employees until Nov. 19 to decide whether they’ll take the buyout offer. Those who accept will receive severance beginning Feb. 1, 2019.About 36% of the company’s 50,000 employees in North America are eligible for the buyout. A GM spokesman declined to say how many emplo…

Watch this little robot transform to get the job done

Robots just want to get things done, but it’s frustrating when their rigid bodies simply don’t allow them to do so. Solution: bodies that can be reconfigured on the fly! Sure, it’s probably bad news for humanity in the long run, but in the meantime it makes for fascinating research.A team of graduate students from Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania made this idea their focus and produced both the modular, self-reconfiguring robot itself and the logic that drives it.Think about how you navigate the world: If you need to walk somewhere, you sort of initiate your “walk” function. But if you need to crawl through a smaller space, you need to switch functions and shapes. Similarly, if you need to pick something up off a table, you can just use your “grab” function, but if you need to reach around or over an obstacle you need to modify the shape of your arm and how it moves. Naturally you have a nearly limitless “library” of these functions that you switch between at will…

Some law enforcement drones are dropping out of the sky

The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority is cautioning police departments and other emergency services to suspend operations of a specific drone model after some of the devices lost power unexpectedly and fell while in flight.The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) safety warning applies to DJI Matrice 200 series drones, used by some emergency services in the U.K. The failures were first reported by West Midlands police department, though law enforcement in Norfolk, Devon, Cornwall and the West Midlands also uses DJI drones. Devon and Cornwall have grounded two affected drones out of their fleet of 20, according to the BBC.According to the CAA, “A small number of incidents have been recently reported where the aircraft has suffered a complete loss of power during flight, despite indications that there was sufficient battery time still remaining.” No injuries have been reported, despite “immediate loss of lift with the remote pilot unable to control its subsequent flight path.”While no reports h…

Influencer marketing startup Mavrck raises another $5.8M

Mavrck has raised another $5.8 million in funding, bringing its total raised to $13.8 million.When the company raised its Series A back in 2015, it was focused on helping brands work with “micro-influencers” who were already using their products. Now it describes itself as an “all-in-one” influencer marketing platform, offering a number of tools to automate and measure the process.Last month, Mavrck announced new features for Pinterest, where it’s now an official marketing partner. It also says it’s been doing more to improve measurement and detect fraud — on the fraud side, it promises to analyze a “statistically significant sample” of an Instagram account’s followers, and of the accounts that engage with their content, to determine if they’re bots.Customers include P&G, Godiva and PepsiCo, and the company says recurring revenue has grown 400 percent year-over-year.“Everything that we have done at Mavrck this year has been done with the intention to drive the influencer industry …

Fitbit earnings beat expectations on strength of smartwatch sales

Fitbit is slowly righting its financial ship, courtesy of a successful push into smartwatch category. The wearable company reported a profit (when adjusted for items such as stock-based compensation) thanks to growing sales in the new category.   Total revenues rose slightly to $393.6 million in the third quarter compared with the same period last year. The company did report a loss this quarter under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). But it was rosier than in previous quarters and showed that Fitbit is moving in the right direction. Net losses narrowed considerably to $2.1 million from $113.4 million this time last year. A good deal of the company’s revenue is being driven by the shift to smartwatches, which now comprise around half of Fitbit’s total revenue.It’s a gamble that’s finally starting to pay off for the company. Fitbit launched its first smartwatch in August of last year. The Ionic was the result of three high-profile acquisitions: Pebble, Coin and Vector. I…

Xiaomi doesn’t want Lyft using its electric scooters

Xiaomi, the electric scooter manufacturer that a handful of the shared electric scooter services in the U.S. (like ones from Uber, Lyft, Spin and Bird) rely on, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Lyft. In the letter, obtained by TechCrunch, Xiaomi says it did not consent to associate its brand with Lyft.Xiaomi alleges Lyft has referenced Xiaomi’s brand in its advertisements and other documentation referring to its shared electric scooter business.“We also do not condone Lyft’s unauthorized modification or retrofitting of our electric scooters for general public use,” Xiaomi wrote in its letter.If Lyft does not cease to use, purchase and modify its scooters, Xiaomi says it will pursue legal action against Lyft. Xiaomi also demands that Lyft must stop deploying its scooters “that have been modified without our consent in public scooter rentals.”But Lyft says it has no knowledge of using Xiaomi’s trademarks in its advertising.“We have no intention of using any other company’s trademar…

Intel May Outsource Chipsets, Atom Production to TSMC

Intel may shift manufacturing to TSMC as it works to boost 14nm deployment and CPU shipments.The post Intel May Outsource Chipsets, Atom Production to TSMC appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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Snapchat’s PR sues influencer for not promoting Spectacles on Instagram

Influcencer marketing could get a lot more accountable if Snapchat’s PR firm wins this lawsuit. Snapchat hoped that social media stars promoting v2 of its Spectacles camera sunglasses on its biggest competitor could boost interest after it only sold 220,000 of v1 and had to take a $40 million write-off. Instead Snap comes off looking a little desperate to make Spectacles seem cool.Snap Inc comissioned its public relations firm PR Consulting (real imaginative) to buy its an influencer marketing campaign on Instagram. The firm struck a deal with Grown-ish actor Luka Sabbat after he was seen cavorting with Kourtney Kardashian. Sabbat got paid $45,000 up front with the promise of another $15,000 to post himself donning Spectacles on Instagram.He was contracted to make one Instagram feed post and three Stories posts with him wearing Specs, plus be photographed wearing them in public at Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks. He was supposed to add swipe-up-to-buy links to two of those Story posts, …

The tactics behind The Athletic’s breakout success in sports subscriptions

Local newspapers may be shuttering and people may be consuming most news on social media, but don’t tell Alex Mather that a subscription news publication can’t grow like a unicorn startup. His 2-year-old sports publisher The Athletic has gained over 100,000 paid subscribers (60% under age 34) and has a 90% retention rate.Having already raised $30 million in its short life, the company announced a new $40 million Series C yesterday, led by Founders Fund and Bedrock Capital. It reportedly values The Athletic around $200 million.I interviewed Alex Mather (The Athletic’s CEO) and Eric Stomberg (Partner at Bedrock Capital) to understand what’s behind the breakout success and why they think this publishing startup can scale to become a multi-billion dollar company.EP: Bedrock makes concentrated, contrarian bets. Explain how The Athletic fits that.ES: I first met Alex and Adam in 2016 during Y Combinator. The popular view then, as it remains now, was that people just aren’t willing to pay fo…

A look at all the companies participating in 500 Startups’ 24th accelerator program

TechCrunch has an exclusive look at the companies participating in 500 Startups‘ 24th startup accelerator batch, which kicked off last week.Through its four-month seed program, the Silicon Valley seed fund invests $150,000 in exchange for 6 percent equity. The companies below include a mix of industries from cryptocurrency to digital health to e-commerce. 500 Startups says 40 percent of the companies have a female founder, 50 percent have a black, mixed-race or Latinx founder and 31 percent are headquartered outside the U.S.Here’s a closer look at the 22 companies, which will demo their tech to investors on February 28:Alba: A Santiago, Chile-based mobile marketplace for babysitters in emerging markets.Assemble: A Los Angeles-based digital platform for automating video content production.Back Office: A Palm Beach, Florida-based financial software provider focused on streamlining personal bookkeeping.BlockVigil: A San Francisco-based platform for building and scaling blockchain applica…

Microsoft’s Windows 10 ‘October’ Update Isn’t Launching in October

Here we are at the end of October, and there's still no October update following an embarrassing rollback.The post Microsoft’s Windows 10 ‘October’ Update Isn’t Launching in October appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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10 Best Camera and Video Accessories from PhotoPlus Expo

Dwarfed by shows such as CES, NYC's PhotoPlus Expo gathers the faithful. Every year, a changing array of cameras, gadgets, accessories and seminar.The post 10 Best Camera and Video Accessories from PhotoPlus Expo appeared first on ExtremeTech.

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After canceling ‘Rift 2’ overhaul, Oculus plans a modest update to flagship VR headset

Facebook’s virtual reality arm may soon find itself in the unfamiliar position of playing catch-up with hardware competitors.Last week, TechCrunch reported that Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe had decided to leave Facebook partially due to his “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus” and decisions surrounding the cancellation of a next-generation “Rift 2” project.The company’s prototype “Rift 2” device, codenamed Caspar, was a “complete redesign” of the original Rift headset, a source familiar with the matter tells us. Its cancellation signified an interest by Facebook leadership to focus on more accessible improvements to the core Rift experience that wouldn’t require the latest PC hardware to function. Iribe did not agree with the direction, with a source telling us that he was specifically not interested in “offering compromised experiences that provided short-term user growth but sacrificed on comfort and performance.”Former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe sharing details …

SpaceX shuffles Starlink leadership, hoping to accelerate launch

SpaceX is changing the lineup at the Seattle-based offices of Starlink, the company’s nascent satellite broadband division. A Reuters report depicts a whirlwind visit by CEO Elon Musk as a middle management bloodbath, but SpaceX says it’s just the usual fast-moving space company stuff.Starlink plans to put thousands of satellites into space with which to blanket the world in broadband — SpaceX isn’t the only aspirant to this plan, but it is farther along than some. It launched a pair of prototype satellites in February, Tintin A and B, which are reportedly working perfectly well as ongoing test platforms.SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 9 carrying Starlink demo satellites Space is no place to rush into, however, but that clashed with aggressive timelines set by Musk years ago and apparently not quite being met. Reuters reported that several leads on the project were pushing for more testing, and Musk visited Seattle to provide a kick in the pants.Among those reported fired were VP o…

CBS launches a streaming entertainment network, ET Live

CBS is today launching another streaming network, this time focused on entertainment news. The service, which is called ET Live, was developed by CBS Interactive and CBS TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” news magazine, and will be available both as a standalone app as well as a part of the CBS streaming app aimed at cord cutters, CBS All Access.The new service will deliver 24/7 coverage of entertainment news, including breaking news, celebrity interviews, features, behind-the-scenes, red carpet coverage, plus trends stories across celebrity fashion, beauty and lifestyle.The content isn’t just a rehash of the “Entertainment Tonight” on-air broadcast, the network claims. Instead, it will feature original programming and a roster of new hosts, including Lauren Zima, Denny Directo, Cassie DiLaura, Tanner Thomason, Jason Carter and Melicia Johnson.The flagship show’s current hosts – Nancy O’Dell, Kevin Frazier, Nischelle Turner and Keltie Knight – will make regular appearances, however, to prom…

Lime recalls some scooters due to fire concerns

Lime, the electric scooter and bike-share startup, has pulled some of its scooters from the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego and Lake Tahoe. That’s because of two hardware challenges the company has experienced, Lime wrote in a blog post last night.In August, Lime says it became aware of a potential issue with some of its Segway Ninebot scooters. Specifically, Lime identified a problem with one of the two batteries in some of its earlier scooter versions.“In several isolated instances, a manufacturing defect could result in the battery smoldering or, in some cases, catching fire,” Lime wrote on its blog. “We took this issue very seriously. Immediately upon learning of the defect, we worked with Segway Ninebot to create a software program to detect the potentially affected batteries. We then worked independently to create an even more thorough software program to ensure that no potentially faulty scooters remained in circulation. When an affected battery was identified — with a red co…

Scared to trade stocks? Titan algorithmically invests for you

Titan could put an end to stock market FOMO. The app choose the best 20 stocks by scraping top hedge fund data, adds some shorts based on your personal risk profile, and puts your money to work. No worrying about market fluctuations or constantly rebalancing your portfolio. You don’t have do anything, but can get smarter about stocks thanks to its in-app explanations and research reports. Titan wants to be the easiest way to invest in stocks for a mobile generation who want an affordable coach to guide them through the market themselves.“Our goal is to take things that aren’t accessible [in wealth management] and make them accessible, starting with hedge fund” says Titan co-founder Joe Percoco. That potential to democratize one of the keys to financial mobility has won Titan a $2.5 million seed round from Y Combinator’s co-founder Paul Graham, president Sam Altman, and partners including Gmail creator Paul Bucheit. The rest of the capital comes from Maverick Ventures, BoxGroup, and Li…

Lendix is now called October

French startup Lendix is changing its name to October. The company is using this opportunity to redesign its branding assets and refresh the design of the website for new users. The product remains the same — a lending platform connecting individual and institutional investors with small and medium companies.From what I’ve heard, October had to change its name due to some trademark issue. But the company used this opportunity to move away from its original, pretty boring name. Lendix is a straightforward name that suggests that it’s all about lending money.But there are so many companies with “lend” in their names that it quickly became a disadvantage — Lendopolis, Unilend, Lendosphère, LendingClub…October is easy to understand and to write down in a casual conversation. If the company wants to branch out and start offering other financial products, it won’t be awkward.That’s about it. I just wanted to note the change given that I’ve covered October a few times over the years.

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Twitter’s spam reporting tool now lets you specify type, including if it’s a fake account

Twitter is adding more nuance to its spam reporting tools, the company announced today. Instead of simply flagging a tweet as posting spam, users can now specify what kind of spam you’re seeing by way of a new menu of choices. Among these is the option to report spam you believe to be from a fake Twitter account.Now, when you tap the “Report Tweet” option and choose “It’s suspicious or spam” from the first menu, you’re presented with a new selection of choices where you can pick what kind of spam the tweet contains.Here, you can pick from options that specify if the tweet is posting a malicious link of some kind, if it’s from a fake account, if it’s using the Reply function to send spam, or if it’s using unrelated hashtags.These last two tricks are regularly used by spammers to increase the visibility of their tweets.Often, high profile Twitter users will see replies to their tweets promoting the spammers’ content. For example, check any of @elonmusk’s thread for crypto scammers’ twee…