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JAN
17
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1111
  BGR Show All 
Possible norovirus outbreak linked to Yosemite National Park
yosemite norovirus

Spending a day at a national park can be an exciting adventure. Reconnecting with nature is always a good time, but nearly 200 visitors to California's Yosemite National Park may have gotten a little more than they bargained for. Health officials are now investigating upwards of 170 suspected cases of norovirus linked to visitors returning from Yosemite.

As NBC News reports, the vast majority of the individuals reporting norovirus-like symptoms sprung up in early January. The number of cases has steadily decreased in the days since, but as the virus is highly contagious, it's still a potentially troubling matter.

Continue reading...

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  2. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked
  3. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’

Possible norovirus outbreak linked to Yosemite National Park originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 18:02:02 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Get over 2 lbs of mini Snickers bars for $7.18
Snickers Fun Size Calories

Stop whatever you're doing right now, because there's a deal that you absolutely have to take advantage of before it disappears. Amazon sells 35-ounce bags of SNICKERS Variety Mix Fun Size Candy Bars for $9, which is already a crazy value. Think about it... that's more than 2 lbs of Snickers, and it's a variety bag with all four of the best flavors. Well, if you thought that was a great deal then you're in for a treat, because there's a limited-time 20% coupon that slashes the price to only $7.18!

SNICKERS Variety Mix Fun Size Candy Bars, Great for Valentine's Chocolate, 35.09-Ounce: $7.18

Here's more from the Amazon page:

  • Contains one (1) 35.09 ounce bag of SNICKERS Fun Size Chocolate Candy Bars Variety Mix Bag
  • This variety mix contains fun sized SNICKERS Original, SNICKERS Peanut Butter and SNICKERS Almond and SNICKERS Crisper Chocolate Bars
  • Fun size candy bars are ideal for holiday parties, the office, for Halloween, or birthday parties
  • This chocolate variety mix is packaged in a stand up bag that you can place at the center of any party to share
  • Share an assortment of SNICKERS Fun Size Candy Bars with friends, family and the office

SNICKERS Variety Mix Fun Size Candy Bars, Great for Valentine's Chocolate, 35.09-Ounce: $7.18

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’

Get over 2 lbs of mini Snickers bars for $7.18 originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 17:31:54 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Leak shows the PS5 controller will be backwards compatible with the PS4
PS5 controller release date

We're still anxiously awaiting any official news from Sony about the reveal of the PlayStation 5, but in the meantime, there have been plenty of leaks to keep us occupied. Several of those leaks have revolved around the controller that will ship with the new console -- expected to be dubbed the DualShock 5 -- but the latest actually comes from Sony itself. It appears that for a short time, on a page that explained the differences between the PS4 and PS4 Pro, the PlayStation France website included the DualShock 5 on its list of compatible controllers.

Continue reading...

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’

Leak shows the PS5 controller will be backwards compatible with the PS4 originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 17:00:30 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Apple’s Powerbeats Pro are better than AirPods in every way, and they’re $50 off today
Powerbeats Pro vs AirPods

Apple's AirPods are by far the most popular true wireless earbuds out there right now, and both versions of the AirPods 2 are back down to Black Friday's deeply discounted price. But if you want better sound quality, a better fit, and much better battery life, there's another Amazon sale that you need to check out. The Powerbeats Pro True Wireless Earphones are better than AirPods in literally every way, and that's why they retail for $250. That's exactly how much you'll pay of you buy them right now from Apple, but they're only $199.95 if you snag a pair at Amazon instead.

Powerbeats Pro - Totally Wireless Earphones - Black: $199.95

Here's more from the product page:

  • Totally wireless high-performance earphones
  • Up to 9 hours of listening time (more than 24 hours with charging case)
  • Adjustable, secure-fit ear hooks for lightweight comfort and stability
  • Reinforced design for sweat & water resistance during tough workouts
  • Volume & track controls on each earbud, voice capability, and auto Play/pause
  • Enhanced phone call performance and call handling from either earbud
  • Powerful, balanced sound with dynamic range and noise isolation
  • Earbuds connect independently via class 1 Bluetooth for extended range and fewer dropouts
  • With fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge gives 1. 5 hours of playback when battery is Low1
  • What's in the box: Power Beats Pro totally wireless earphones, charging case, ear tips with four size options, Lightning to USB-A charging cable, quick Start guide, warranty card

Powerbeats Pro - Totally Wireless Earphones - Black: $199.95

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. The hottest Alexa speaker you’ve never heard of is down to just $19 today

Trending Right Now:

  1. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’

Apple’s Powerbeats Pro are better than AirPods in every way, and they’re $50 off today originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 16:31:33 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


You may almost be out of time to get a free year of Apple TV+ – here’s how to sign up
Apple TV+ free year offer

If you bought a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or iPod touch last fall, there's a good chance you already took advantage of Apple's promotion for a free year of Apple TV+, but if not, time is running out. As noted by 9to5Mac, Apple has begun sending out push notifications to remind those eligible for the promotion that they have to redeem the offer within 90 days of activating their device, and the first wave of expirations are rapidly approaching.

Continue reading...

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’

You may almost be out of time to get a free year of Apple TV+ – here’s how to sign up originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 16:02:13 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


Control your garage door with your phone for less than the cost of a smart light bulb
MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener

Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 LED Smart Bulbs cost $50 each when you buy them new. Pick up refurbs instead and you can get them for $39.99 a piece. If you think $40 for a single light bulb already sounds crazy, wait until we put it in perspective for you — for $10 less, you can pick up a MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener by Chamberlain that lets you control your garage door from your smartphone or integrate it with your smart home system. No more messing with keypads that never work on the first try, and no more wondering if you remembered to close your garage door on the way out... all for less than the cost of a single smart light bulb!

MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener Chamberlain MYQ-G0301 - Wireless & Wi-Fi enabled Garage Hub with S…: $29.98

Here's more info from the product page:

  • NEW! FREE IN GARAGE DELIVERY WITH KEY BY AMAZON Prime members in select areas can opt in with the myQ Smart Garage Hub to get Amazon packages securely delivered right inside their garage, Simply link your myQ account in the Key App
  • SMART GARAGE CONTROL Open and close your garage door from anywhere with your smartphone through the myQ App
  • SMART NOTIFICATIONS Receive alerts when your garage door opens or closes in real time by setting up customized notifications great for busy families who come and go from the house through the garage
  • UNIVERSAL – Easy-to-add functionality to upgrade your existing garage door opener. Works with all major brands of garage door openers made after 1993 that have standard safety sensors
  • REQUIREMENTS needed to start - a router with 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi frequency, router with 802.11 B/G/N, a router within 50 feet. of the MyQ Smart Garage Hub (more details in PDF user manual)
  • SIMPLE SETUP Wireless installation with easy step by step instructions provided in the myQ App means you’ll be able to enjoy smart garage control in minutes
  • GUEST ACCESS Securely invite up to three people to control your garage with the myQ Guest Feature (Note: Not intended for guests under the age of 13)
  • SMART COLLABORATIONS Linking your myQ account to Google Assistant and IFTTT is free for a limited time. No credit card required
  • CORE FEATURES Opening, closing, and receiving garage door status notifications are INCLUDED with myQ App at no additional charge

MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener Chamberlain MYQ-G0301 - Wireless & Wi-Fi enabled Garage Hub with S…: $29.98

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  2. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’
  3. Sony’s going to be so mad that one of its hottest new PS5 features already leaked

Control your garage door with your phone for less than the cost of a smart light bulb originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 15:33:21 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


SpaceX is about to blow up a rocket (on purpose), and you can watch live
spacex live stream

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is the company's answer to NASA's demand for a crewed space vehicle that can be used to send astronauts to the International Space Station. Crew Dragon, along with Boeing's Starliner, has seen its fair share of delays, but a test that's scheduled for early Saturday morning will bring the hotly-anticipated spacecraft one big step closer to hauling human passengers.

It's a launch abort test, and it's scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. EST. As the name implies, this will not be a launch into space, but rather a test of how the Crew Dragon capsule keeps its passengers safe in the event of a rocket failure.

Continue reading...

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. Behold: The foldable iPhone of your dreams

SpaceX is about to blow up a rocket (on purpose), and you can watch live originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 15:04:37 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


The tiniest dual-port car charger you’ve ever seen is only $5 when you buy two
Car Charger Amazon

Unless you want Anker's Roav Viva (on sale right now for just $19.49!), which is basically an Echo Dot built into a car charger, then there's really only one car charger you should even consider. It's the AUKEY Flush-Fit Dual-Port USB Car Charger, and it's on sale right now on Amazon at an all-time low price. This mini car charger is so compact that you'll actually be able to close the cover on your power port without removing it. Two-packs normally cost just $15, but the coupon code OIIY7T8O slashes that down to $10.49 right now. That's just over $5 per charger!

AUKEY USB Car Charger, Flush Fit Ultra Compact Dual Port 24W/4.8A Output (2-Pack) for iPhone iP…: $10.49 (use code OIIY7T8O)

Here's what you need to know from the product page:

  • Ultra Compact: Turn an unused 12V / 24V outlet in your car into 2 powerful USB charging ports that sit flush to the edge of the outlet
  • Optimal Charging: Charge two devices simultaneously at full speed with 5V 2.4A of dedicated adaptive power output per USB port
  • Universal Compatibility: Works with all USB-powered devices including Android & Apple smartphones & tablets
  • EntireProtect: Built-in safeguards protect your devices against excessive current, overheating, and overcharging
  • Package Contents: AUKEY CC-S1 24W Dual-Port Car Charger, User Manual.

AUKEY USB Car Charger, Flush Fit Ultra Compact Dual Port 24W/4.8A Output (2-Pack) for iPhone iP…: $10.49 (use code OIIY7T8O)

BGR Top Deals:

  1. Uh, this could be a mistake because 65″ 4K Roku TVs aren’t supposed to cost just $450
  2. Today’s best deals: Rare 4K Roku TV blowout, $16 Wi-Fi extender, $8 wireless charger, $5 Alexa smart plugs, more

Trending Right Now:

  1. There’s a brilliant way for Iron Man to return to the Avengers without ruining ‘Endgame’
  2. PS5 leaker might have revealed the price of the Xbox Series X as well
  3. Behold: The foldable iPhone of your dreams

The tiniest dual-port car charger you’ve ever seen is only $5 when you buy two originally appeared on BGR.com on Fri, 17 Jan 2020 at 14:35:59 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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  TechNewsWorld Show All 
Cybersecurity 2020: A Perilous Landscape
Cybersecurity risks for 2020 stretch far beyond the alarming spike in ransomware. In addition to the daily concerns of malware, stolen data and the cost of recovering from a network intrusion, there is the very real danger of nefarious actors using cyberattacks to interfere with the 2020 U.S. general election. Today, every company that has a computer or any connected devices or software should see itself as a "tech company." Every individual with a smart TV, virtual assistant or other IoT device could be at risk as well.

TROMjaro Updates Deliver Lighter, Better Manjaro
The current version of TROMjaro is as close as it gets to being a Manjaro clone. However, a much different philosophy gives users something more than the Manjaro distro itself offers. The latest ISO release, issued Nov. 11, is labeled "version 11.11.2019" and is based on Manjaro 18.1.2 "Juhraya." As such, TROMjaro is part of the Arch Linux family. However, thanks to TROMjaro's frequent rolling release update schedule, the distro already has advanced beyond the features baked into the almost three-month old ISO.

Business/Customer Sweet Spots: ECT News Roundtable, Episode 2
If you're a small business owner or a key member of an enterprise executive team, you want your firm to succeed. If you're a customer, you want to be treated well. Those goals are not diametrically opposed, but very often it seems that companies and customers are at cross-purposes. ECT News Network recently gathered together -- virtually, that is -- five technology experts who did some hard thinking on some of the issues businesses and consumers confront on a daily basis, and valuable insights were the payoff.

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Google Snaps Up Pointy to Help Main Street Stores Get Online
Google has inked a deal to acquire 6-year-old Ireland-based firm Pointy for $163 million. Pointy provides a $900 box with built-in cellular connectivity, which lets brick-and-mortar retailers list their stock online. It plugs into the retailer's barcode scanner and automatically obtains accurate product names and images for display on a Web page hosted by Pointy. The box recognizes only standard UPC-type codes used by manufacturers. A free Pointy app is available for retailers who already have a compatible POS device.

It's Crunch Time for California Consumer Privacy Act Compliance
The CCPA -- widely considered to be the toughest law in the U.S. regulating the collection, storage and use of personal information -- went into effect on Jan. 1. Rather than preparing for it, however, many businesses have taken a wait-and-see approach. This could be a serious mistake. The new law is similar in many respects to the EU's GDPR, which went into effect last spring. Like the GDPR, the CCPA is expected to have a profound impact on the way businesses collect and protect personally identifiable information from consumers.

Adobe Offers Experience Manager as Cloud Service
Adobe has announced the availability of Adobe Experience Manager as a Cloud Service for B2B and B2C companies of all sizes. The service provides "a globally scalable, agile and secure digital foundation that optimizes marketer and developer workflows across the entire content lifecycle, and connects to data insights to deliver personalized experiences across the customer journey," said Haresh Kumar, director of product marketing for Adobe Experience Manager. "It allows companies to be far more nimble and scale at any point."

What's in Your Containers? Try an Open Source Tool to Find Out
As most security pros know, application containers -- Docker, rkt, etc. -- and the orchestration elements employed to support them, such as Kubernetes, are used increasingly in many organizations. Often the security organization isn't exactly the first stop on the path to deployment of these tools. If it was in your shop, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Instead, usage tends to emerge from the grass roots. It starts with developers using containers on their workstations to streamline unit testing and environmental configuration.

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PHOTOS: Fluorescent turtle embryo wins forty-fifth annual Nikon Small World Competition

PHOTOS: Fluorescent turtle embryo wins forty-fifth annual Nikon Small World CompetitionThe winners of the 45th annual competition showcase a spectacular blend of science and artistry under the microscope.



7 tax scams to watch out for this year

7 tax scams to watch out for this yearIn case wringing your hands over the tax man weren’t enough, criminals are out there trying to swipe your hard-earned cash and personal information from right under your nose.



What the CIA thinks of your anti-virus program

What the CIA thinks of your anti-virus programPARIS (AP) — Peppering the 8,000 pages of purported Central Intelligence Agency hacking data released Tuesday by WikiLeaks are reviews of some of the world's most popular anti-virus products.



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  News Show All 
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  Latest news Show All 
Will Google’s more-efficient ‘Reformer’ mitigate or accelerate the arms race in AI?
Google’s latest refinement to the popular “Transformer” language model promises to make state of the art available to those with a smaller computer budget. But the advances could just as well be used with those commanding vast com
Visa's plan against Magecart attacks: Devalue and disrupt
Visa is actively going after Magecart groups, but also deploying new technologies to safeguard payment card data.
This Linux smartphone is now shipping for $150
Pine64's open source PinePhone runs Linux and is designed for developers and early-adopters.
Singapore public sector called out for recurring IT lapses
Country's government agencies must resolve repeated lapses and plug weaknesses in IT controls, especially given the speed at which new IT systems are implemented, says government committee responsible for assessing how public fund
Microsoft to add new Chief Strategy and Digital Officers to its executive roster
It's the start of 2020, so let the Microsoft executive shuffles and reorgs officially begin.
Apple's latest iOS update is truly getting on my nerves
Software updates are supposed to make things better. Not always, it seems. Not this one, certainly. And it's affecting something very basic.
12 products announced at CES that you can actually buy right now. But should you?
Jason Cipriani and Jason Perlow spent a week scouring the internet -- even asking for advice on Twitter -- to find 12 devices announced at CES 2020 that are available to buy right now.
Kubuntu Focus: A new top-of-the-line Linux laptop arrives
The KDE-empowered version of Ubuntu, Kubuntu, now has a high-powered laptop to call its own: The Kubuntu Focus.
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Watch SpaceX's Crew Dragon in-flight abort test at 8 AM ET on Saturday
One of the last major steps before SpaceX flies its Crew Dragon craft with real NASA astronauts onboard is an "in-flight abort test." Scheduled to take place during a four-hour window on Saturday, Sunday or Monday morning, it will test the vehicle's...

Valve is definitely not working on 'Left 4 Dead 3'
An HTC executive is learning first-hand about the dangers of making unsupported statements in your presentations. Valve has rejected speculation that it's working on a third Left 4 Dead game after Alvin Wang Graylin, HTC's president for Vive in Chin...

Steve Martin and Martin Short will team up again in a new Hulu series
Hulu has just scored what will likely be a huge show for long-time comedy fans. The Disney-owned service has ordered a series starring comedy giants Steve Martin (his first leading TV role, apparently) and Martin Short. There's no title yet, but Ma...

Help Australian wildlife with Humble’s latest 29-game bundle
With the ongoing bushfires in Australia, Humble has launched a new Australia Fire Relief Bundle designed to help organizations working to save and rehabilitate animals affected by the disaster. Those who donate a minimum of $25 will get access to alm...

This machine keeps transplant livers alive for a week
With current technology, a human liver donated for transplant can only be kept alive for 24 hours, and often, if the liver is damaged or diseased, it cannot be considered for transplant. That could soon change. Liver4Life, a Wyss Institute project, h...

Your online activity is now effectively a social ‘credit score’
Kaylen Ward's Twitter fundraiser for the Australian bushfire relief has ended. The Los Angeles-based model said she raised $1 million (by comparison Jeff Bezos donated $690,000). At the start of Ms. Ward's successful donation drive she had three Inst...

Björk and Microsoft use AI to create music that changes with the sky
Björk is no stranger to using technology to express her music in more inventive ways, but now she's using it to shape the music itself in unexpected forms. The Icelandic star is using Microsoft AI as part of Kórsafn ("choral archives"), a...

'Life is Strange 2' and the reality of gun violence in games
Life is Strange 2 deals with a litany of heavy themes, covering everything from police violence and immigration in the United States, to racism and family bonds. French studio Dontnod handles each subject with care, respect and research, consulting w...

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  CNET News Show All 
Disney is reportedly making National Treasure 3 - CNET
Benjamin Gates could be back to hunting treasure through the pages of American history 16 years after his first go around.
The best MLK Day deals for this weekend: AirPods, games, bedding, robovacuums and more - CNET
This weekend is a good opportunity to save some money on gadgets and essentials you missed out on over the holidays.
Apple TV Plus snags exclusive deal with Julia Louis-Dreyfus - CNET
The Emmy-award winner will develop projects as both an executive producer and star.
Bizarre deep-sea creature makes rare appearance in shallower waters - CNET
The unusual creatures were spotted in Western Australia 500 feet underwater instead of 9,800 feet like usual.
Apple reveals worldwide national security requests for customer data - CNET
The tech giant has published a transparency report.
Lexus looks to the moon with lunar mobility concepts - Roadshow
If humans ever colonized the moon, maybe this is what we'd drive.
Joe Biden slams Facebook, calls Zuckerberg a 'real problem' - CNET
In an interview with The New York Times editorial board, the Democratic presidential candidate doesn't hold back.
Chevy Corvette Convertible order books are now open - Roadshow
Dealers will now take preorders and turn them into actual orders, so act quickly.
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  SlashdotShow All 
Best Buy Opens Probe Into CEO's Personal Conduct
The board of Best Buy is investigating allegations that CEO Corie Barry had an inappropriate romantic relationship with a fellow executive (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), who has since left the electronics retaile

DigitalOcean Is Laying Off Staff
Cloud infrastructure provider DigitalOcean announced a round of layoffs, with potentially between 30 and 50 people affected. TechCrunch reports: DigitalOcean has confirmed the news with the following statement: "DigitalOcean recen

Disney Drops 'Fox' Name, Will Rebrand As 20th Century Studios
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Variety: In a move at once unsurprising and highly symbolic, the Walt Disney Company is dropping the "Fox" brand from the 21st Century Fox assets it acquired last March, Variety has learned

Xiaomi Spins Off POCO as an Independent Company
Xiaomi said today it is spinning off POCO, a sub-smartphone brand it created in 2018, as a standalone company that will now run independently of the Chinese electronics giant and make its own market strategy. From a report: The mo

How Just Four Satellites Could Provide Worldwide Internet
We've known since the 1980s that you don't need mega-constellations comprising thousands of satellites to provide global internet coverage to the world. Continuous worldwide coverage is possible with a constellation of just four s

Every Place is the Same Now
With a phone, anywhere else is always just a tap away. From a column: Those old enough to remember video-rental stores will recall the crippling indecision that would overtake you while browsing their shelves. With so many options

NPD's Best-Selling Games of the Decade Charts 'Call of Duty' Domination
The NPD group has rounded up sales stats for the last month, but with the flip from 2019 to 2020 it is also listing some of the best sellers over the last ten years. From a report: Grand Theft Auto V is the best selling game acros

A Hacker is Patching Citrix Servers To Maintain Exclusive Access
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for ZDNet: Attacks on Citrix appliances have intensified this week, and multiple threat actors have now joined in and are launching attacks in the hopes of compromising a high-value target, such as a corpo


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Facebook must disclose app records for Massachusetts probe, judge rules
Facebook Inc has been ordered by a Massachusetts judge to turn over materials to that state's attorney general about thousands of apps that the social media company suspected may have misused customer data.
U.S. will look at sudden acceleration complaints involving 500,000 Tesla vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Friday it will review a petition asking the agency to formally investigate and recall 500,000 Tesla Inc vehicles over sudden unintended acceleration reports.
After India's Amazon snub, Modi's party slams Bezos-owned Washington Post
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party on Friday slammed editorial policies of billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, even as his e-commerce firm Amazon announced plans to create a million jobs in the country b
Break up big tech's 'monopoly', smaller rivals tell Congress hearing
In April 2019, Tile.com, which helps users find lost or misplaced items, suddenly found itself competing with Apple Inc , after years of enjoying a mutually beneficial relationship with the iPhone maker.
German foreign ministry backtracks after sense of humour failure
Social media can be a minefield for the strait-laced world of diplomacy, as the German Foreign Office just found out, when it was forced to delete a tweet and apologise for its contribution to a mildly off-colour Twitter meme.
TomTom closes deal with Huawei for use of maps and services - spokesman
Dutch navigation and digital mapping company TomTom on Friday said it has closed a deal with China's Huawei Technologies for the use of its maps and services in smartphone apps.
Facebook sued in U.S. federal court for alleged anticompetitive conduct
Four companies sued Facebook Inc in U.S. federal court on Thursday for alleged anticompetitive conduct, saying the social network inappropriately revoked developer access to its platform in order to harm prospective competitors.
Travelex staff put away pens and paper as UK systems come back online
More than two weeks after a crippling ransomware attack forced Travelex staff to use pen and paper to calculate foreign currency exchanges, the company said the first of its customer-facing systems in Britain was up and running ag
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Social media

How Iran targets you

      

Cutting the cord

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PC patch

A fix for Windows 10

      

?? Our daily tech podcast

Talking Tech

      

11 questions you always wanted to ask about social media

From security to deleting embarrassing posts, Kim Komando has tips to make your social media experience safe and enjoyable.

      

Racial inequality in Silicon Valley: Pinterest is among many tech companies struggling to become less white

Pinterest's slow progress in building a more diverse workforce is a sign that racial equality is not coming anytime soon to Silicon Valley tech.

      

Is your eye the next frontier for small screen tech? First look at new smart contact lens

Mojo Vision is developing Mojo Lens "smart contact lenses." Here's a first look at what may be your eye-popping augmented reality future.

      

Nancy Pelosi isn't accepting Facebook's friend request, slams company for 'shameful' behavior

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's not so friendly remarks ratcheted up already fraught tensions between Facebook and the Democratic leadership.

      

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SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut spacecraft has a key launch Saturday — here’s what’s going down

SpaceX and NASA are getting ready for a key test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon commercial crew spacecraft on Saturday, and this should be the last major milestone that SpaceX has to pass in terms of demonstration missions before actual crew climb aboard the spaceship for a trip to the International Space Station. Starting at 8 AM ET (5 AM PT), a launch window opens during which SpaceX will hopefully perform what’s called an “in-flight abort” test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launch vehicle, to demonstrate how its safety systems would protect astronauts on board in the unlikely event of an unexpected incident during a real crew flight.

The plan for this mission is to launch the Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 — in this case, one that’s using a refurbished booster stage previously flown on three prior missions. This will be the Falcon 9’s last flight, however, as the plan includes loss of the rocket this time around instead of a controlled landing. The launch is intentionally being terminated early — just after the rocket achieves its “Max Q” point, or the moment during its flight when it’s under maximum atmospheric stress, at about 84 seconds post-liftoff.

At that point, the rocket will be about 19 kilometres (roughly 62,000 feet) above the surface of the Earth, and about four kilometres (2.5 miles) from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX has rigged the Dragon spacecraft’s launch escape system to automatically trigger at this point, which will separate the crew spacecraft from the Falcon and propel it away from the rocket very quickly in order to get it to a safe distance to protect any future passengers. After around five minutes past launch, the Dragon will deploy its parachute system, and then at around 10 minutes after it should splash down in the Atlantic Ocean between 3 and 3.5 km (roughly 2 miles) from shore.

After that, crews will recover the Dragon capsule from the ocean, and return it to Cape Canaveral, where SpaceX will study the spacecraft, including human-sized dummies acting as passengers and sensors within to monitor what happened in the cabin during the test. They’ll use this to ideally show that the abort process works as designed and will protect astronauts on board the spacecraft in case of any emergency that results in an early mission termination.

In addition to the in-flight abort system, SpaceX and NASA are also using this mission to prepare for crewed flight in a number of other ways. Today, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who will crew the first piloted mission hopefully later this year, ran through a dry run of what they would experience in a live mission. They donned space suits and walked the transom that connects the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 to its launchpad support structure, as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted on Twitter.

The test will not involve any attempt to recover the rocket, as mentioned, and SpaceX Crew Mission Management Director Benji Reed said during a press conference today that they do anticipate some kind of “ignition” event with the Falcon 9’s second stage, which could possibly be large enough to be seen from the ground, he said. SpaceX crews will be on standby to recover as much as possible from the rocket wreckage, which will be useful to study, and they’ll also be on hand to minimize any potential environmental impact from the test.

This test was originally scheduled for roughly six months ago, but SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule intended for the mission was destroyed during an unexpected incident while test firing its engines. SpaceX and NASA investigated that explosion, and are now confident that they understand the cause of that incident, and have taken steps to ensure that a similar problem doesn’t happen again. The Crew Dragon being used now for Saturday’s test was originally intended to be the one used for actually flying astronauts, and another capsule is currently in development to serve that purpose.

SpaceX’s launch window for this test opens at 8 AM ET tomorrow, but spans four hours, and Reed said it could actually extend longer tomorrow if need be. NASA Commercial Crew program manager Kathy Leuders explained today that it’s crucial that not only launch conditions, but also recovery conditions, are optimal for the purposes of this test, so both will play a factor in when exactly they launch. Unlike with launches actually designed to reach a specific orbit, timing doesn’t have to be quite as on the nose, so there’s more flexibility in terms of making the decision to proceed or stand down. SpaceX has backup opportunities on both Sunday and Monday should they be required.

We’ll have a live stream and live coverage of the test starting tomorrow morning, so check back early Saturday. The stream will kick off around 15 minutes prior to the scheduled opening of the launch window, so at around 7:45 AM ET.


As Alphabet crests the $1T mark, SaaS stocks reach all-time highs of their own

Continuing our irregular surveys of the public markets, two things happened this week that are worth our time. First, a third domestic technology company — Alphabet — passed the $1 trillion market capitalization threshold. And, second, software as a service (SaaS) stocks reached record highs on the public markets after retreating over last summer.

The two milestones, only modestly related events, indicate how temperate the public waters are for technology companies today, a fact that should extend warmth into the private market where startups, and their venture capital backers, work.

The happenings are good news for technology startups for a number of reasons, including that major tech players have never had as much wealth in hand with which to buy smaller companies, and strong SaaS valuations help both smaller startups fundraise, and their larger brethren possibly exit.

Indeed, the stridently good valuations that major tech companies and their smaller siblings enjoy today should be just the sort of market conditions under which unicorns want to debut. We’ll continue to make this point so long as the public markets continue to rise, pricing tech companies that have already floated higher like the cliche’s own tide.

But while Alphabet, Microsoft and Apple are worth $3.68 trillion as a trio, and SaaS stocks are now worth 12.3x times their revenue (using enterprise value instead of market cap, for those keeping score at home), not every private, venture-backed company will necessarily benefit from public investor largesse.

What about tech-ish startups?

How much the current public-market tech valuation expansion will help companies that are increasingly sorted into the tech-enabled bucket isn’t clear; some companies that went public in 2019 were quickly spit up by investors unwilling to support valuations that matched or rose above their final private valuations. SmileDirectClub was one such offering.

The dividing line between what counts as tech — often fuzzy — appears to be slicing along gross margin lines, and the repeatability of business. The higher margin, and more recurring a company is, the more it’s worth. This market reality is why SaaS stocks’ recent return to form is not a surprise.

For Casper and One Medical, the first two venture-backed IPO hopefuls of the year, the more tech-ish they can appear between now and pricing the better. Because technology companies today are valued so highly, perhaps even a faint dusting of tech will save their valuations as they cross the chasm between private and adult.


Cruise calls for a new way to determine commercial readiness of self-driving cars

Cruise co-founder and CTO Kyle Vogt said Friday that disengagement reports released annually by California regulators are not a proxy for the commercial readiness or safety of self-driving cars.

Vogt, in a lengthy post on Medium, called for a new metric to determine whether an autonomous vehicle is ready for commercial deployment. The post suggests that the autonomous vehicle company, which had a valuation of $19 billion as of May, is already developing more comprehensive metrics.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles, which regulates the permits for autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in the state, requires companies to submit an annual report detailing “disengagements,” a term that means the number of times drivers have had to take control of a car. The DMV defines a disengagement as any time a test vehicle operating on public roads has switched from autonomous to manual mode for an immediate safety-related reason or due to a failure of the system. 

“It’s woefully inadequate for most uses beyond those of the DMV,” Vogt wrote. “The idea that disengagements give a meaningful signal about whether an AV is ready for commercial deployment is a myth.”

These disengagement reports will be released in a few weeks. Cruise did share some of its disengagement data, specifically the number of miles driven per disengagement event, between 2017 and 2019.

cruise disengagement data 2019

The so-called race to commercialize autonomous vehicles has involved a fair amount of theater, including demos. This lack of data has made it nearly impossible to determine if a company’s self-driving cars are safe enough or ready for the big and very real stage of shuttling people from Point A to Point B on city streets. Disengagement reports — as flawed as they might be — have been one of the only pieces of data that the public, and the media, have access to.

How safe is safe enough?

While that data might provide some insights, it doesn’t help answer the fundamental question for every AV developer planning to deploy robotaxis for the public: “How safe is safe enough?”

Vogt’s comments signal Cruise’s efforts to find a practical means of answering that question.

But if we can’t use the disengagement rate to gauge commercial readiness, what can we use? Ultimately, I believe that in order for an AV operator to deploy AVs at scale in a ridesharing fleet, the general public and regulators deserve hard, empirical evidence that an AV has performance that is super-human (better than the average human driver) so that the deployment of the AV technology has a positive overall impact on automotive safety and public health.
This requires a) data on the true performance of human drivers and AVs in a given environment and b) an objective, apples-to-apples comparison with statistically significant results. We will deliver exactly that once our AVs are validated and ready for deployment. Expect to hear more from us about this very important topic soon.

Competitors agree

Cruise is hardly the only company to question the disengagement reports, although this might be the most strongly worded and public call to date. Waymo told TechCrunch that it takes a similar view.

The reports have long been a source of angst among AV developers. The reports do provide information that can be useful to the public, such as number of vehicles testing on public roads. But it’s hardly a complete picture of any company’s technology.

The reports are wildly different; each company provides varying amounts of information, all in different formats. There is also disagreement over what is and what is not a disengagement. For instance, this issue got more attention in 2018 when Jalopnik questioned an incident involving a Cruise vehicle. In that case, a driver took manual control of the wheel as it passed through an intersection, but it wasn’t reported as a disengagement. Cruise told Jalopnik at the time that it didn’t meet the standard for California regulations.

The other issue is that disengagements don’t provide an “apples to apples” comparison of technology, as these test vehicles operate in a variety of environments and conditions.

Disengagements also often rise and fall along with the scale of testing. Waymo, for instance, told TechCrunch that its disengagements will likely increase as it scales up its testing in California.

And finally, more companies are using simulation or virtual testing instead of sending fleets of cars on public roads to test every new software build. Aurora, another AV developer, emphasizes its use of its virtual testing suite. The disengagement reports don’t include any of that data.

Vogt’s post also called out the industry for conducting carefully “curated demo routes that avoid urban areas with cyclists and pedestrians, constrain geofences and pickup/dropoff locations, and limit the kinds of maneuvers the AV will attempt during the ride.”

The shot could be interpreted as a shot at Waymo, which has recently conducted driverless demos on public streets in Chandler, Ariz. with reporters. TechCrunch was one of the first to have a driverless ride last year. However, demos are common practice among many other self-driving vehicle startups, and are particularly popular around events like CES. Cruise has conducted at least one demo, which was with the press in 2017.

Vogt suggested that raw, unedited drive footage that “covers long stretches of driving in real world situations” is hard to fake and a more qualitative indicator of technology maturity.


Eaze’s struggles reflect falling VC interest in cannabis startups

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

Yesterday, TechCrunch reported that Eaze, a well-known cannabis-focused startup, is struggling to stay in business amidst a cash crunch, leadership turmoil, banking issues and a business model pivot. It’s a compelling, critical read.

The news, however, asks a question: How are other cannabis-focused startups faring? We’ll explore the question through the lens of fundraising and the public market results of public cannabis companies in Canada.

Fundraising


EU lawmakers are eyeing risk-based rules for AI, per leaked white paper

The European Commission is considering a temporary ban on the use of facial recognition technology, according to a draft proposal for regulating artificial intelligence obtained by Euroactiv.

Creating rules to ensure AI is ‘trustworthy and human’ has been an early flagship policy promise of the new Commission, led by president Ursula von der Leyen.

But the leaked proposal suggests the EU’s executive body is in fact leaning towards tweaks of existing rules and sector/app specific risk-assessments and requirements, rather than anything as firm as blanket sectoral requirements or bans.

The leaked Commission white paper floats the idea of a three-to-five-year period in which the use of facial recognition technology could be prohibited in public places — to give EU lawmakers time to devise ways to assess and manage risks around the use of the technology, such as to people’s privacy rights or the risk of discriminatory impacts from biased algorithms.

“This would safeguard the rights of individuals, in particular against any possible abuse of the technology,” the Commission writes, adding that: “It would be necessary to foresee some exceptions, notably for activities in the context of research and development and for security purposes.”

However the text raises immediate concerns about imposing even a time-limited ban — which is described as “a far-reaching measure that might hamper the development and uptake of this technology” — and the Commission goes on to state that its preference “at this stage” is to rely on existing EU data protection rules, aka the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The white paper contains a number of options the Commission is still considering for regulating the use of artificial intelligence more generally.

These range from voluntary labelling; to imposing sectorial requirements for the public sector (including on the use of facial recognition tech); to mandatory risk-based requirements for “high-risk” applications (such as within risky sectors like healthcare, transport, policing and the judiciary, as well as for applications which can “produce legal effects for the individual or the legal entity or pose risk of injury, death or significant material damage”); to targeted amendments to existing EU product safety and liability legislation.

The proposal also emphasizes the need for an oversight governance regime to ensure rules are followed — though the Commission suggests leaving it open to Member States to choose whether to rely on existing governance bodies for this task or create new ones dedicated to regulating AI.

Per the draft white paper, the Commission says its preference for regulating AI are options 3 combined with 4 & 5: Aka mandatory risk-based requirements on developers (of whatever sub-set of AI apps are deemed “high-risk”) that could result in some “mandatory criteria”, combined with relevant tweaks to existing product safety and liability legislation, and an overarching governance framework.

Hence it appears to be leaning towards a relatively light-touch approach, focused on “building on existing EU legislation” and creating app-specific rules for a sub-set of “high-risk” AI apps/uses — and which likely won’t stretch to even a temporary ban on facial recognition technology.

Much of the white paper is also take up with discussion of strategies about “supporting the development and uptake of AI” and “facilitating access to data”.

“This risk-based approach would focus on areas where the public is at risk or an important legal interest is at stake,” the Commission writes. “This strictly targeted approach would not add any new additional administrative burden on applications that are deemed ‘low-risk’.”

EU commissioner Thierry Breton, who oversees the internal market portfolio, expressed resistance to creating rules for artificial intelligence last year — telling the EU parliament then that he “won’t be the voice of regulating AI“.

For “low-risk” AI apps, the white paper notes that provisions in the GDPR which give individuals the right to receive information about automated processing and profiling, and set a requirement to carry out a data protection impact assessment, would apply.

Albeit the regulation only defines limited rights and restrictions over automated processing — in instances where there’s a legal or similarly significant effect on the people involved. So it’s not clear how extensively it would in fact apply to “low-risk” apps.

If it’s the Commission’s intention to also rely on GDPR to regulate higher risk stuff — such as, for example, police forces’ use of facial recognition tech — instead of creating a more explicit sectoral framework to restrict their use of a highly privacy-hostile AI technologies — it could exacerbate an already confusingly legislative picture where law enforcement is concerned, according to Dr Michael Veale, a lecturer in digital rights and regulation at UCL.

“The situation is extremely unclear in the area of law enforcement, and particularly the use of public private partnerships in law enforcement. I would argue the GDPR in practice forbids facial recognition by private companies in a surveillance context without member states actively legislating an exemption into the law using their powers to derogate. However, the merchants of doubt at facial recognition firms wish to sow heavy uncertainty into that area of law to legitimise their businesses,” he told TechCrunch.

“As a result, extra clarity would be extremely welcome,” Veale added. “The issue isn’t restricted to facial recognition however: Any type of biometric monitoring, such a voice or gait recognition, should be covered by any ban, because in practice they have the same effect on individuals.”

An advisory body set up to advise the Commission on AI policy set out a number of recommendations in a report last year — including suggesting a ban on the use of AI for mass surveillance and social credit scoring systems of citizens.

But its recommendations were criticized by privacy and rights experts for falling short by failing to grasp wider societal power imbalances and structural inequality issues which AI risks exacerbating — including by supercharging existing rights-eroding business models.

In a paper last year Veale dubbed the advisory body’s work a “missed opportunity” — writing that the group “largely ignore infrastructure and power, which should be one of, if not the most, central concern around the regulation and governance of data, optimisation and ‘artificial intelligence’ in Europe going forwards”.


Baraja’s unique and ingenious take on lidar shines in a crowded industry

It seems like every company making lidar has a new and clever approach, but Baraja takes the cake. Its method is not only elegant and powerful, but fundamentally avoids many issues that nag other lidar technologies. But it’ll need more than smart tech to make headway in this complex and evolving industry.

To understand how lidar works in general, consult my handy introduction to the topic. Essentially a laser emitted by a device skims across or otherwise very quickly illuminates the scene, and the time it takes for that laser’s photons to return allows it to quite precisely determine the distance of every spot it points at.

But to picture how Baraja’s lidar works, you need to picture the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”

GIFs kind of choke on rainbows, but you get the idea.

Imagine a flashlight shooting through a prism like that, illuminating the scene in front of it — now imagine you could focus that flashlight by selecting which color came out of the prism, sending more light to the top part of the scene (red and orange) or middle (yellow and green). That’s what Baraja’s lidar does, except naturally it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The company has been developing its tech for years with the backing of Sequoia and Australian VC outfit Blackbird, which led a $32 million round late in 2018 — Baraja only revealed its tech the next year and was exhibiting it at CES, where I met with co-founder and CEO Federico Collarte.

“We’ve stayed in stealth for a long, long time,” he told me. “The people who needed to know already knew about us.”

The idea for the tech came out of the telecommunications industry, where Collarte and co-founder Cibby Pulikkaseril thought of a novel use for a fiber optic laser that could reconfigure itself extremely quickly.

We thought if we could set the light free, send it through prism-like optics, then we could steer a laser beam without moving parts. The idea seemed too simple — we thought, ‘if it worked, then everybody would be doing it this way,’ ” he told me, but they quit their jobs and worked on it for a few months with a friends and family round, anyway. “It turns out it does work, and the invention is very novel and hence we’ve been successful in patenting it.”

Rather than send a coherent laser at a single wavelength (1550 nanometers, well into the infrared, is the lidar standard), Baraja uses a set of fixed lenses to refract that beam into a spectrum spread vertically over its field of view. Yet it isn’t one single beam being split but a series of coded pulses, each at a slightly different wavelength that travels ever so slightly differently through the lenses. It returns the same way, the lenses bending it the opposite direction to return to its origin for detection.

It’s a bit difficult to grasp this concept, but once one does it’s hard to see it as anything but astonishingly clever. Not just because of the fascinating optics (something I’m partial to, if it isn’t obvious), but because it obviates a number of serious problems other lidars are facing or about to face.

First, there are next to no moving parts whatsoever in the entire Baraja system. Spinning lidars like the popular early devices from Velodyne are being replaced at large by ones using metamaterials, MEMS, and other methods that don’t have bearings or hinges that can wear out.

Baraja’s “head” unit, connected by fiber optic to the brain.

In Baraja’s system, there are two units, a “dumb” head and an “engine.” The head has no moving parts and no electronics; it’s all glass, just a set of lenses. The engine, which can be located nearby or a foot or two away, produces the laser and sends it to the head via a fiber-optic cable (and some kind of proprietary mechanism that rotates slowly enough that it could theoretically work for years continuously). This means it’s not only very robust physically, but its volume can be spread out wherever is convenient in the car’s body. The head itself also can be resized more or less arbitrarily without significantly altering the optical design, Collarte said.

Second, the method of diffracting the beam gives the system considerable leeway in how it covers the scene. Different wavelengths are sent out at different vertical angles; a shorter wavelength goes out toward the top of the scene and a slightly longer one goes a little lower. But the band of 1550 +/- 20 nanometers allows for millions of fractional wavelengths that the system can choose between, giving it the ability to set its own vertical resolution.

It could for instance (these numbers are imaginary) send out a beam every quarter of a nanometer in wavelength, corresponding to a beam going out every quarter of a degree vertically, and by going from the bottom to the top of its frequency range cover the top to the bottom of the scene with equally spaced beams at reasonable intervals.

But why waste a bunch of beams on the sky, say, when you know most of the action is taking place in the middle part of the scene, where the street and roads are? In that case you can send out a few high frequency beams to check up there, then skip down to the middle frequencies, where you can then send out beams with intervals of a thousandth of a nanometer, emerging correspondingly close together to create a denser picture of that central region.

If this is making your brain hurt a little, don’t worry. Just think of Dark Side of the Moon and imagine if you could skip red, orange and purple, and send out more beams in green and blue — and because you’re only using those colors, you can send out more shades of green-blue and deep blue than before.

Third, the method of creating the spectrum beam provides against interference from other lidar systems. It is an emerging concern that lidar systems of a type could inadvertently send or reflect beams into one another, producing noise and hindering normal operation. Most companies are attempting to mitigate this by some means or another, but Baraja’s method avoids the possibility altogether.

“The interference problem — they’re living with it. We solved it,” said Collarte.

The spectrum system means that for a beam to interfere with the sensor it would have to be both a perfect frequency match and come in at the precise angle at which that frequency emerges from and returns to the lens. That’s already vanishingly unlikely, but to make it astronomically so, each beam from the Baraja device is not a single pulse but a coded set of pulses that can be individually identified. The company’s core technology and secret sauce is the ability to modulate and pulse the laser millions of times per second, and it puts this to good use here.

Collarte acknowledged that competition is fierce in the lidar space, but not necessarily competition for customers. “They have not solved the autonomy problem,” he points out, “so the volumes are too small. Many are running out of money. So if you don’t differentiate, you die.” And some have.

Instead companies are competing for partners and investors, and must show that their solution is not merely a good idea technically, but that it is a sound investment and reasonable to deploy at volume. Collarte praised his investors, Sequoia and Blackbird, but also said that the company will be announcing significant partnerships soon, both in automotive and beyond.


Where FaZe Clan sees the future of gaming and entertainment

Lee Trink has spent nearly his entire career in the entertainment business. The former president of Capitol Records is now the head of FaZe Clan, an esports juggernaut that is one of the most recognizable names in the wildly popular phenomenon of competitive gaming.

Trink sees FaZe Clan as the voice of a new generation of consumers who are finding their voice and their identity through gaming — and it’s a voice that’s increasingly speaking volumes in the entertainment industry through a clutch of competitive esports teams, a clothing and lifestyle brand and a network of creators who feed the appetites of millions of young gamers.

As the company struggles with a lawsuit brought by one of its most famous players, Trink is looking to the future — and setting his sights on new markets and new games as he consolidates FaZe Clan’s role as the voice of a new generation.

“The teams and social media output that we create is all marketing,” he says. “It’s not that we have an overall marketing strategy that we then populate with all of these opportunities. We’re not maximizing all of our brands.”


The paradox of 2020 VC is that the largest funds are doing the smallest rounds

I talked yesterday about how VCs are just tired these days. Too many deals, too little time per deal, and constant hyper-competition with other VCs for the same equity.

One founder friend of mine noted to me last night that he has already received inbound requests from more than 90 investors over the past year about his next round — and he’s not even (presumably) fundraising. “I may have missed a few,” he deadpans — and really, how could one not?

All that frenetic activity, though, leads us to the paradox at the heart of 2020 venture capital: It’s the largest funds that are writing the earliest, smallest checks.

That’s a paradox because big funds need big rounds to invest in. A billion-dollar fund can’t write 800 $1 million seed checks with dollars left over for management fees (well, they could, but that would be obnoxious and impossible to track). Instead, the usual pattern is that as a firm’s fund size grows, its managing partners increasingly move to later-stage rounds to be able to efficiently deploy that capital. So the $200 million fund that used to write $8 million Series As transforms into a $1 billion fund writing $40 million Series Bs and Cs.

That’s logical. Yet, the real logic is a bit more complicated. Namely, that everyone is raising huge funds.

As this week’s big VC report from the National Venture Capital Association made clear, 2019 was in many ways the year of the big fund (and SoftBank didn’t even raise!). Twenty-one “mega-funds” launched last year (defined as raising more than $500 million), and that was actually below the numbers in 2018.

All that late-stage capital is scouring for late-stage deals, but there just aren’t that many deals to do. Sure, there are great companies and potentially great returns lying around, but there are also dozens of funds plotting to get access to that cap table, and valuation is one of the only levers these investors have to stand out from the fray.

This is the story of Plaid in many ways. The fintech data API layer, which Visa announced it is intending to acquire for $5.3 billion, raised a $250 million Series C in late 2018 from Index and Kleiner, all according to Crunchbase. Multiple VC sources have told me that “everyone” looked at the deal (everyone being the tired VCs if you will).

But as one VC who said “no” on the C round defended to me this week, the valuation last year was incredibly rich. The company had revenues in 2018 in the upper tens of millions, or so I have been told, which coupled with its publicly reported $2.65 billion Series C valuation implies a revenue multiple somewhere in the 30-50x range — extremely pricey given the company’s ongoing fight with banks to ensure it can maintain data access to its users’ accounts.

Jeff Kauflin at Forbes reported that the company’s revenues in 2019 are now in the lower three digits of millions, which means that Visa likely paid a similarly expensive multiple to acquire the company. Kleiner and Index doubled their money in a year or so, and no one should complain about that kind of IRR (particularly in growth investing), but if it weren’t for Visa and the beneficial alchemy of exit timing, all might have turned out very differently.

Worse than just expensive valuations, these later-stage rounds can become very proprietary and exclusive. From the sounds of it, Plaid ran a fairly open process for its Series C round, which allowed a lot of firms to look at the deal, helping to drive the valuation up while limiting dilution for earlier investors and the founder. But that’s not the only way to handle it.

Increasingly, firms that invested early are also trying to invest later. That Series A investor who put in $5 million also wants to put in the $50 million Series B and the $250 million Series C. After all, they have the capital, already know the company, have a relationship with the CEO and can avoid a time-consuming fundraise in the process.

So for many deals today, those later-stage cap tables are essentially locking out new investors, because there is already so much capital sitting around the cap table just salivating to double down.

That gets us straight to the paradox. In order to have access to later-stage rounds, you have to already be on the cap table, which means that you have to do the smaller, earlier-stage rounds. Suddenly, growth investors are coming back to early-stage rounds (including seed) just to have optionality on access to these startups and their fundraises.

As one VC explained to me last week (paraphrasing), “What’s weird today is that you have firms like Sequoia who show up for seed rounds, but they don’t really care about … anything. Valuation, terms, etc. It’s all a play for those later-stage rounds.” I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration, to be clear, but ultimately, those one million-dollar checks are essentially a rounding error for the largest funds. The real return is in the mega rounds down the road.

Does that mean seed funds will cease to exist? Certainly not, but it’s hard to make money and build a balanced, risk-adjusted portfolio when your competitors literally don’t care and consider the investment a marketing and access expense. As for founders — the times are still really, really good if you can check the right VC boxes.


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Why using AI to screen job applicants is almost always a bunch of crap

Millions of potential employees are subjected to artificial intelligence screenings during the hiring process every month. While some systems make it easier to weed out candidates who lack necessary educational or work qualifications, many AI hiring solutions are nothing more than snake oil. Thousands of companies around the world rely on outside businesses to provide so-called intelligent hiring solutions. These AI-powered packages are advertised as a way to narrow job applicants down to a ‘cream of the crop’ for humans to consider. On the surface, this seems like a good idea. Anyone who’s ever been responsible for the hiring at…

This story continues at The Next Web

Horizon Zero Dawn needs to be the first of many PS4 exclusives on PC

Rumor has it that Horizon Zero Dawn is about to become the first 1st-party PlayStation 4 exclusive game to make the jump to PC. Here’s hoping that, if it’s true, this rumor hopefully presages a closer relationship between PlayStation and PC… or, you know, any relationship at all. This rumor comes from a Kotaku report, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the plans. Granted, it is just a rumor at this point, but given that we’ve already seen Death Stranding coming to PC, it sounds at least somewhat plausible. Sony is also supposed to be putting on a show sometime in February…

This story continues at The Next Web

Huawei P40 Pro leak shows off superzoom lens and reserved ceramic design

With this year’s first batch of flagship phones right around the corner, the leaks are ramping up. Today’s victim: the Huawei P40 Pro. Ever-reliable leaker Evan Blass got his hands on some renders of the phone, matching up with earlier photos of the device in the wild. The leaked device appears to come in white and black options made from ceramic – notably more restrained than the multitude of gradient colorways we’ve seen from Huawei in the past (though I’m sure there will be some of those too). Ceramic is an interesting choice of material because while it is just…

This story continues at The Next Web

Or just read more coverage about: Huawei

Bitcoin fans just turned their Tesla car into a full node

Tesla cars are capable of a lot, from self-driving, smart summoning, and automatic parking — but what about running Bitcoin? As it turns out, they can do that too. Cryptocurrency fans have shared video footage of a Tesla car’s onboard computer system operating as a Bitcoin full node. Downloading full blocks to this @Tesla pic.twitter.com/j4L84QycxX — bcoin (@Bcoin) January 16, 2020 [Read: Accidental Tesla ‘butt dial’ upgrade highlights confusing future of car maintenance] This is possible thanks to the Bcoin project, which shared the video. Bcoin is an alternative implementation of the Bitcoin protocol that any machine — like Tesla‘s onboard computer — can run via its internet…

This story continues at The Next Web

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Thailand launches probe into $2.46M cryptocurrency pyramid ‘scam’

Cryptocurrency investors who fell for an alleged pyramid scheme that resulted in losses of more than $2.46 million (THB75 million) have asked Thailand‘s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to investigate. According to the Bangkok Post, the cryptocurrency project, known as “Khung Nong Cryptocurrency Trading,” became famous in parts of the country in 2018. The scheme allegedly promised maximum returns of 8 percent per week, attracting individuals from Krabi, Trang, Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat who sold their assets — including cars, businesses, and land — in order to invest. [Read: Thailand’s oldest bank hints at new blockchain app powered by Ripple] Human rights activist Phadungsak…

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Oscar-nominated ‘1917’ leaks in massive screener dump

It only hit theaters in December, but Sam Mendes‘ epic war flick 1917 has already leaked on the internet. The World War I-themed movie, which clinched a Golden Globe award for best movie and secured 10 Oscar nominations earlier this week, was one of six film releases leaked in a massive screener dump over the past 24 hours, TorrentFreak reports. This brings the total number of leaked screeners in 2020 to 16, which is a significant increase compared to an all-time low in 2019. For those unfamiliar, screeners are usually intended only for private award screenings. Not this time, though. Curiously,…

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Marley added noise-canceling to its Exodus headphones and I adore them

I had the pleasure of trying out Marley’s Exodus wireless over-ear headphones last May. Despite not being the best-sounding cans I’ve ever used, they got plenty of use simply because of how stylish and comfortable they are. The company has updated that model with active noise-canceling (ANC) chops, Bluetooth 5.0 for better wireless connectivity, a padded headband, and a sleek new black finish. It also costs $50 bucks more. That pits the revamped Exodus headphones against some formidable contenders. I spent the last few weeks putting them through their paces to see how they held up. Here’s what you can…

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Demand is surging for cloud admins. Join them with this $40 training in AWS, Azure & more

Cloud administrator positions have risen over 25% the past five years, and you can get in on the expanding field now with the right background, like the coursework in The Essential Cloud and Networking Certification Training Bundle. Right now, it’s $39.99, over 90 percent off, from TNW Deals.


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