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These are top smart-home devices

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 03:34:21 UT

Ecobee4 Cnet rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 The good: The thermostat has a responsive display, a remote sensor and tons of smart integrations, including a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker. The bad: The price is high, particularly if you don’t care about the Alexa speaker or the Ecobee4’s other smart capabilities. The cost: $239 to $249 The bottom line: There’s no comparison — the Ecobee4 is the best smart thermostat available today.



Virtual assistants still baffle some of their users

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 03:22:11 UT

These days, you can find virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant in all sorts of things, from smart speakers and smartphones to washing machines and bathroom mirrors. The challenge isn’t finding these digitized helpers, it is finding people who use them to do much more than they could with the old clock/radio in the bedroom. A management consulting firm recently looked at heavy users of virtual assistants, defined as people who use one more than three times a day. The firm, called Activate, found that the majority of these users turned to virtual assistants to play music, get the weather, set a timer or ask questions.



Twitter analyst support piles up as turnaround gains steam

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 03:03:48 UT

As Twitter came clean about its role in spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 election, it accumulated likes from some of its most important followers: Wall Street analysts. The San Francisco company, in the third year of CEO Jack Dorsey’s turnaround effort, has been upgraded by at least six analysts since reporting better-than-expected third-quarter results in October. That’s helped fuel a more than 40 percent rally. On Friday, Twitter reported it had concluded an investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election on its service. It had previously identified and suspended accounts connected to a Russian propaganda operation known as the Internet research agency.



China’s economic growth looks strong — maybe too strong

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 04:04:35 UT

HONG KONG — The pace of growth in China’s economy accelerated last year for the first time in seven years as exports, construction and consumer spending all climbed strongly. At least, that’s what the government says. In reality, the pace of growth in China’s economy is anybody’s guess. Various signals suggest China’s growth did speed up last year, which could give the government the room it needs to tackle an accumulation of serious financial, environmental and social problems this year. But measuring the size and health of the world’s second-largest economy can be difficult at best.



Antismoking plan may kill cigarettes, and save Big Tobacco

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 01:11:59 UT

WASHINGTON — Imagine if cigarettes were no longer addictive and smoking itself became almost obsolete; only a tiny segment of Americans still lit up. That’s the goal of an unprecedented antismoking plan being carefully fashioned by U.S. health officials. But the proposal from the Food and Drug Administration could have another unexpected effect: opening the door for companies to sell a new generation of alternative tobacco products, allowing the industry to survive — even thrive — for generations to come.



Facebook to start ranking news sources on trustworthiness

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 00:31:00 UT

Facebook, which is cutting the amount of news in its news feed, will prioritize information from the publishers that remain on the social network by measuring how trustworthy they are, the Menlo Park company said. Trustworthiness is based on a recent survey of U.S. Facebook users that gauged their familiarity with, and trust in, different sources of news. The results will inform the company’s ranking in the news feed, a stream of updates people see when they log in. News sources should also be “informative” and relevant to people’s local communities, the company said Friday. The move helps Facebook avoid perceptions of bias in selecting what news providers to highlight.



Amazon’s bigger Prime number; ‘Game of Thrones’ hotel; Delta pet crackdown

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 23:22:37 UT

A bigger Prime number Amazon is raising the price of its Prime membership monthly plan by nearly 20 percent, but its annual fee will remain at $99. Starting Friday, new monthly members will pay $12.99 a month, up from $10.99. Qualifying college students will pay $6.49 a month, up from $5.49. Existing monthly members will start paying the higher fees next month. Amazon said its $5.99-a-month Prime membership for low-income people who receive government assistance is not affected by the price increase.



2 Federal Reserve openings provide 1 chance to counter Trump

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 23:14:22 UT

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is facing a significant change in leadership that goes beyond the installation of a chairman. It is also awaiting the appointment of two other top officials who will play a crucial role in shaping Fed policy. President Trump, who has already nominated Jerome Powell as the Fed’s next chairman, also gets to pick a new vice chairman. But the other open position, the presidency of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is not Trump’s choice to make. The New York Fed chooses its own president, a position that is often described as the second-most powerful at the Fed.



Workers at Apple supplier Catcher describe harsh conditions

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 23:05:08 UT

At a Catcher Technology Co. manufacturing complex in the Chinese industrial city of Suqian, about six hours’ drive from Shanghai, workers stand for up to 10 hours a day in hot workshops slicing and blasting iPhone casings for Apple, handling noxious chemicals sometimes without proper gloves or masks. These conditions — some described in a recent report by advocacy group China Labor Watch and others in Bloomberg News interviews with Catcher workers — show the downside of a high-tech boom buoying the world’s second-largest economy.



The marriage failed. The company thrived

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 22:46:45 UT

It might be hard to imagine a 45,000-square-foot “Star Wars” studio of George Lucas being converted into the production facility for an organic cosmetics company — one that features products like a mint-and-coconut soap and sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners. There is something implausible about the optics of it, if nothing else. Then again, there is something implausible about San Rafael’s EO Products, beginning with its homegrown origins and the way that, more than two decades later, the company is run by Brad Black and Susan Griffin-Black, the couple who head it. Make that former couple.



At retail trade show, technology is the star

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 22:16:23 UT

The floor of the National Retail Federation’s annual trade show in New York this week was crowded with alert systems primed to recognize heavy-spending customers, shelves fitted with real-time inventory trackers and robots for every step of the supply chain. It was a conference about shopping that looked more like an expo for tech, as if the electronics trade show CES had decamped from Las Vegas and moved to the Javits Center in Manhattan. The retail federation said last week that total sales in November and December made their largest leap since 2008, surging 5.5 percent from a year earlier. This week Adobe Analytics reported that online sales over the same period grew by 14.7 percent to a record $108.



ICYMI: Gay couple sues Vistaprint; a cashless Starbucks; Krispy Kreme vote

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 22:12:20 UT

If you missed it ... In a week when Forbes magazine should have come out with a spanking-new issue, this also happened: •Stephen Heasley and Andrew Borg sued Vistaprint after it went the extra mile in screwing up their wedding programs. The Australian couple said that when their shipment arrived, instead of programs they received religious pamphlets with messages about temptation and sin, with phrases such as “fight against Satan’s temptation and pursue what is good.” The Dutch company, which has a regional headquarters in Massachusetts, told media outlets that it would never discriminate against its customers and is investigating the incident. •Money talks, but cash is being muted.



Uber nearing autonomous cars without human backup driver

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 21:41:23 UT

DETROIT — Uber plans to carry passengers in autonomous vehicles without human backup drivers in about the same time frame as competitors, which expect to be on the road at the latest sometime next year, the service’s autonomous vehicle chief said Wednesday. Advanced Technology Group leader Eric Meyhofer wouldn’t give a specific start date but he said the San Francisco company won’t deploy the driverless cars without human backups unless they are proved safe. “Once we can check that box, which we call passing the robot driver’s license test, that’s when we can remove the vehicle operator,” Meyhofer said in an interview at an auto industry investors conference Detroit. “We’re going aggressively, too.



Ship traffic, Jan. 22

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:48:08 UT

Ship traffic Due to arrive today SHIP FROM PORT Cap Corrientes Papeete, Tahiti OAK



Ship traffic, Jan. 21

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 18:47:32 UT

Ship traffic Due to arrive today SHIP FROM PORT APL New York Long Beach OAK