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Tech News


Snapchat: How the vanishing-photo app managed not to fade

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 16:18:29 UT

The fast-growing social network for millennials has come a long way since its founder Evan Spiegel dropped out of Stanford University in 2012, three classes shy of graduation. Snapchat cut a sharp contrast to Facebook and other social networks, which encouraged people to share and share often — even those spontaneous moments they might come to regret the next morning or at the next job interview. Snapchat, by contrast, let people "show and share things that they do not want to last on the internet as a permanent record," said Ira Kalb, a marketing and branding professor at the University of Southern California. According to news reports, Snap is readying for a public stock offering that could value the company at $20 billion to $25 billion. The company has worked hard to roll out new features so users don't get bored. "Stories" allows individuals and brands to create a narrative from messages, videos and photos from the past 24 hours. "Lenses" lets people add different animated overlays to photos and videos; the feature has proven to be popular both with young adults and advertisers. For now, though, Snap is managing to remain hip and even has an unconventional distribution strategy for Spectacles , $130 sunglasses that take video for sharing on Snapchat. Rather, they have to find a vending machine or temporary store popping up with just 24 hours' notice.

Gov't proposal envisions phone calls on airline flights

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 01:13:49 UT

Gov't proposal envisions phone calls on airline flights WASHINGTON (AP) — Airlines could let passengers make in-flight phone calls using Wi-Fi under a proposal from federal regulators. [...] the Department of Transportation said Thursday that it envisioned allowing the calls if airlines tell all customers about the policy when they buy their tickets. "Today's proposal will ensure that air travelers are not unwillingly exposed to voice calls, as many of them are troubled over the idea of passengers talking on cell phones in flight," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement. Flight attendants have said previously that they fear the calls could lead to fights between passengers who want to make calls and passengers who don't want to listen to the conversations.

Apple chief Tim Cook picked to give MIT commencement speech

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 00:31:33 UT

MIT President L. Rafael Reif says Cook's brilliance as a business leader and his passion for important issues will resonate with its graduates. MIT's 2016 speaker was "Jason Bourne" actor Matt Damon, who followed U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

Navy's futuristic-looking USS Zumwalt arrives in homeport

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 20:09:25 UT

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Navy's biggest, most expensive and most technologically advanced destroyer arrived at its homeport on Thursday after a nearly four-month transit that included some hiccups, such as a high-profile breakdown in the Panama Canal. The USS Zumwalt arrived in San Diego to a welcoming ceremony that included the commander of naval surface forces, Vice Adm. The 610-foot-long warship features new technology including an electric power plant that drives it, an inward-sloping tumblehome hull, a composite deckhouse that hides sensors and an angular shape to minimize its radar signature.

Banking on change: Tech startups target financial services

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 19:13:47 UT

Given how much customers dislike it, the financial services industry seems ripe for "disruption," as Silicon Valley likes to call industry upheaval. Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry last week announced plans for a special national bank charter that would allow fintechs to offer their products without having to get regulatory approval state to state. A recent survey of the financial services industry by the research firm Gartner Inc. found that 70 percent of respondents considered fintech startups to be a bigger threat than their traditional rivals. "During the next 10 years, we are going to create an international company that will be like nothing the financial services industry has ever seen," boasts Baiju Bhatt, co-founder of Robinhood, a stock brokerage that does not charge any commissions for its more than 1 million customers to buy and sell shares. To make money, Robinhood recently introduced a $10 monthly service that allows trading when the stock market is closed and offers higher borrowing limits. At Affirm, an online lender, CEO Max Levchin is attempting to reshape finance for a second time after making his first big splash in Silicon Valley as a co-founder of PayPal, a digital payment service born in the 1990s. Instead of providing a revolving line of credit with high interest rates that compound, Affirm has developed its own formula to identify borrowers able to repay loans in equal installments in time frames ranging from three months to one year. Like the big traditional banks, most digital-only banks also offer government-backed insurance on deposits, but Berdak says that is not enough to overcome lingering doubts about their long-term prospects. After years of frustration, Miller defected to Simple, a digital bank that Australian immigrant Josh Reich started in 2010 after concluding that U.S. banks "went out of their way to screw customers out of their money." Besides eschewing service fees, Simple also offers money management tools that help their customers set aside money.

Sandberg: False stories on Facebook didn't sway election

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 18:39:18 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg says she doesn't think misinformation spread on the social media platform swayed the election in favor of President-elect Donald Trump. [...] she said Thursday during an interview on NBC's "Today" show that the company is looking at ways to label fake news and "doing the things we can do to make it clearer what's a hoax on Facebook."

Pebble discontinuing smartwatches after its sale to Fitbit

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 17:43:02 UT

(AP) — Pioneering smartwatch maker Pebble is no longer manufacturing or selling any of its devices after the bulk of the company was bought by Fitbit. Palo Alto, California-based Pebble says its devices will continue to work as normal for now but might lose functionality in the future.

German intel agency: Russia is trying to destabilize Germany

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 12:50:25 UT

"There is growing evidence of attempts to influence the federal election next year," said the BfV's head, Hans-Georg Maassen, citing "increasingly aggressive cyberespionage" against political entities in Germany. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said last month: Believe me, we're expecting cyberattacks during election campaigns, every election campaign in Russia. Media outlets controlled by the Russian government and pro-Russian blogs in Germany regularly report on crimes committed by migrants in Germany, linking the incidents to Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to allow hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country last year.

Softbank tycoon who met with Trump is Japan's deal maker

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 19:43:55 UT

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, who met with President-elect Donald Trump and then announced plans to create 50,000 jobs and invest $50 billion in U.S. startups, has been one of Japan's most aggressive overseas investors for over two decades. Softbank became Japan's largest distributor of computer software and leading publisher of computer-related magazines and books, going public in 1994. The Tokyo-based company is now one of Japan's biggest telecoms providers, with more than 63,590 employees, a solar power business, humanoid robots for home use, ride-booking services and financial technology. In July, Softbank bought Britain's ARM Holdings for 24.3 billion pounds ($32 billion), in a deal the British government hailed as a vote of confidence despite its decision to leave the European Union. In 1995, back when Softbank was still a software distributor and publisher of computer and hi-tech magazines, it bought Comdex and other computer-related show businesses from The Interface Group.

Innovation or monopoly? Panel looks at ATT-Time Warner deal

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 19:04:00 UT

"Together, AT&T and Time Warner will disrupt the entrenched pay-TV models, giving customers more options, creating more competition for cable TV providers and accelerating deployment of 5G wireless broadband," Stephenson testified. In hours of questioning before the Senate Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, the skepticism of some senators seemed to deepen over what would be one of the largest media mergers ever. Critics of the merger range from industry analysts and public-interest groups to President-elect Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail that he'd kill the deal "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." Mark Cuban, the billionaire sports and media mogul who owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, played evangelist for the deal in a fast-moving world of media and entertainment content. Because of Time Warner's shows and movies — including "Game of Thrones" and the "Harry Potter" films — and AT&T's ability to gather information about its tens of millions of customers, AT&T thinks it could do a better job tailoring ads and video to user preferences. [...] many consumers already consider ads that know everything about them creepy or invasive, and digital-rights groups complain that any preferential deal AT&T could offer with, say, HBO, would hurt competition.

Millions leap at party invite by Mexican rural family

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 18:27:44 UT

A local event photographer posted the video describing a down-home 15th birthday party complete with food, horse races and local bands to his Facebook page, which is usually dedicated to announcing weddings, baptisms and other events in a rural corner of the northern state of San Luis Potosi. Maybe it was daughter Rubi Ibarra's rhinestone tiara and faux leopard-skin dress, or father Crescencio Ibarra's cowboy hat, and his halting description of a 10,000-peso ($500) prize for the "chiva," a horse race that would cap the party. Internet jokesters published photos of troops of turkeys, backhoes stirring giant caldrons of soup, and massive crowds "heading for Rubi's party." The internet memes were punctuated by frequent images of goats, because Crescencio Ibarra used the term "chiva" —the Spanish word for goat, which is also local slang for a two-horse competition— to refer to the race to be held at the party.

6 ways to keep phone charges low during international travel

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 16:58:26 UT

6 ways to keep phone charges low during international travel With the exception of Verizon , carriers typically block your phone from other carriers' plans until you've paid off the hardware, typically after two years. Just visit a kiosk at the airport when you arrive, or stop by a cellphone or convenience store in town. [...] it'll get you email and basic messaging, and it's much cheaper than the $205 Verizon would charge for 100 megabytes without an international plan. Use your hotel's Wi-Fi as much as possible; your Instagram pictures can wait, especially if your friends are asleep anyway. Otherwise, the phone waited until I got back to the hotel's Wi-Fi. On most version of Android, turn on "Restrict background data" to blocks apps from using cellular data while running in the background. To let certain apps override that, you need "Data saver" on the latest version of Android, Nougat, which isn't yet available on most phones. Get and set up apps for museums and other places you're visiting before you leave home or the hotel. The offline mode isn't meant for walking directions, though what I got for driving was often close enough (The exception was Venice, where cars are banned). [...] there's no offline transit support, but I got transit directions by enabling cellular briefly and used offline mode to get to my stops. Netflix recently updated its app to offer similar downloads for offline viewing.

Car company offering red light-reading vehicles in Las Vegas

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 08:17:42 UT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — On the theory that a driver who knows when a red light will turn green is more relaxed and aware, vehicle manufacturer Audi is unveiling this week in Las Vegas a technology that enables vehicles to "read" traffic signals ahead and tell the motorist how long the wait will be. Malhotra said Audi hopes to expand the system soon to other big U.S. cities, including places like Los Angeles, which have patchwork traffic management systems run by varying jurisdictions in a sprawling urban landscape. The Las Vegas-area program, dubbed the Freeway and Arterial System of Transportation, or FAST, collects data and synchronizes 1,300 traffic signals in a region home to more than 2 million people and host to more than 40 million tourists a year. The car company official called the debut of the commercial service "a small step forward in V2I," but a key demonstration of the kind of technology that will enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication and driverless cars. The university Transportation Research Institute program is backed by several federal traffic safety, research, trucking and transit agencies, and pilot programs are slated for Wyoming, New York and Tampa, Florida.

Trump: Japanese mogul pledges $50 billion US investment

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 04:00:44 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — After meeting with Donald Trump on Tuesday, Japanese tech billionaire Masayoshi Son said he will invest $50 billion in new startups in the United States, committing to creating 50,000 new jobs over an unspecified time period. The announcement is the latest instance in which Trump appears to be conducting economic policy via ad-hoc deal-making — sometimes taking credit whether he deserves it or not. The claim was a stretch; Ford had no plans to move the plant and had already agreed to keep producing one specific model there, although it did back away from a plan to shift production of the Lincoln MKC, a small SUV, from Louisville to Cuautitlan, Mexico. Because he said he would do a lot of deregulation, I said, 'This is great, the U.S. will become great again'. Trump plans to meet with leading tech executives next week, a group that will include venture capitalist Peter Thiel — one of Trump's few supporters in Silicon Valley — and Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins. The carrier's attempt to join with rival T-Mobile failed in 2014 after regulators objected to combining two of the four largest mobile telecom companies in the United States.

High court sides with Samsung in patent dispute with Apple

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 00:51:41 UT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court unanimously sided with smartphone maker Samsung on Tuesday in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone. Apple accused Samsung of duplicating a handful of distinctive iPhone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rounded rectangular shape of the phone and the layout of icons on the screen. Companies including Google, Facebook and eBay sided with Samsung, arguing that the verdict was an excessive windfall for copying a few features of the iPhone. On the other side, sportswear manufacturer Adidas and jewelry maker Tiffany & Co. said allowing Apple to recover all the profits Samsung earned would discourage "design pirates" and protect companies that invest in creative designs.