Businesses

Uber Backers Discuss Stock Sale to SoftBank, Others (bloomberg.com) 25

Eric Newcomer, Olivia Zaleski, Dinesh Nair, and Alex Sherman, reporting for Bloomberg: Uber shareholders and its board, led by early backer Benchmark, have discussed selling some of their shares to Japan's SoftBank and other potential investors, people familiar with the matter said. The talks represent a major turning point for the company. It has amassed more than 500 investors who fought to own a piece of the world's most-valuable startup. The fact that some of the earliest backers now want to reduce their stakes suggests the scandals and other troubles this year have taken a toll. The deal could include an injection of new money into the ride-hailing startup, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. It's unclear what valuation those shares would carry or how much may be sold. Any private share sale like this would need to be approved by San Francisco-based Uber's board. Uber's former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick, who remains on the board, didn't learn about Benchmark's effort to sell early shares until recently, two people familiar with the matter said. Kalanick has often opposed allowing early shareholders to sell their stakes, though the board has allowed occasional exceptions. Even though Benchmark led an investor revolt against Kalanick, at least three major shareholders said they were unaware of Benchmark's effort to sell shares as of Friday morning, three people familiar with the matter said. SoftBank, which recently launched a $93 billion technology fund, has no plans to invest in Uber, a person close to the Japanese company said. SoftBank has backed Uber's primary rivals in India, Southeast Asia and China. Some of Uber's investors would like to see the startup cut deals with overseas competitors -- as it did with Didi Chuxing in China and Yandex NV in Russia. Grab, a leading ride-hailing startup in Asia, is raising as much as $2 billion from backers including SoftBank and Didi.
Google

Google's Life Sciences Unit Is Releasing 20 Million Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes in Fresno (techcrunch.com) 114

Earlier this week, a white Mercedes Sprinter van began a delivery route along the streets of Fancher Creek, a residential neighborhood on the southeastern edge of Fresno, California. Its cargo? 100,000 live mosquitoes, all male, all incapable of producing offspring. As it crisscrossed Fancher Creek's 200 acres, it released its payload, piping out swarms of sterile Aedes aegypti into the air. It'll do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day, from now until the end of December. From a report: Verily, the life science's arm of Google's parent company Alphabet, has hatched a plan to release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected mosquitoes upon Fresno, California -- and that's a good thing! You see, the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito is prevalent in the area. Earlier this year, a woman contracted the first confirmed case of Zika in Fresno through sexual contact with a partner who had been traveling. Now there's the fear of the inevitable mosquito-meets-patient if we don't do something about it. Verily's plan, called the Debug Project, hopes to now wipe out this potential Zika-carrying mosquito population to prevent further infections.
AMD

AMD Threadripper 1950X Trounces Core I9-7900X In Multithreading Benchmark (pcper.com) 113

dryriver writes: The Cinebench R15 benchmark is a popular tool for measuring how well CPUs cope with multithreaded compute loads. AMD's Threadripper 1950X 16 core CPU, priced at $999 according to AMD, benchmarks 41% faster in Cinebench R15 than Intel's also $999 10 core Core i9-7900X CPU. While Intel's Core i9-7900X scores 2186 points on Cinebench, AMD's Threadripper 1950X scores 3046 points. Even the cheaper 12 core $799 Threadripper 1920X is over 200 points faster in Cinebench R15 than Intel's Core i9-7900X. Intel has its own 16 core Core i9-7960X in the works, performance yet unknown, priced at $1,699, but AMD's 16 core part currently appears to be a full $700 cheaper than Intel's MSRP. It remaines to be seen who is faster in single-threaded performance -- Intel may take that crown --and what the power consumption of a fully loaded Threadripper looks like compared to its Core i9 counterpart.
Businesses

Amazon Web Services Drops Controversial Patent Clause From Standard User Agreement (geekwire.com) 16

Amazon Web Services has quietly dropped a controversial provision from its user agreement that essentially forced customers to agree that they could never file a patent infringement lawsuit against the public cloud vendor. From a report: The clause in the basic user agreement raised a lot of eyebrows back in 2015 after AWS asserted it as a possible defense in a patent lawsuit filed by Appistry, a former AWS customer that sued the cloud vendor over high-performance computing patents. Until sometime around February 2017, Section 8.5 of the basic agreement for using AWS included this sentence: "During and after the Term, you will not assert, nor will you authorize, assist, or encourage any third party to assert, against us or any of our affiliates, customers, vendors, business partners, or licensors, any patent infringement or other intellectual property infringement claim regarding any Service Offerings you have used.
Businesses

BetterWorks and CEO Sued By Ex-employee For Alleged Sexually Suggestive Assault (techcrunch.com) 79

From a report: Beatrice Kim is suing her former employer, BetterWorks, and its CEO Kris Duggan for allegedly assaulting her in a sexual manner during a company retreat. The lawsuit also implicates the performance management software startup's regional VP Matt Hart and VP of People Operations Tamara Cooksey for allowing sexual harassment in the workplace and not taking action against Duggan after the alleged assault was reported to the company. Kim is suing over sexual harassment and discrimination, assault and battery, demanding a jury trial, Kim's lawyer Conor D. Mack of Arena Hoffman LLP told TechCrunch.
Google

Google To Replace SMS Codes With Mobile Prompts in 2-Step-Verification Procedure (bleepingcomputer.com) 181

Starting next week Google will overhaul its two-step verification (2SV) procedure and replace one-time codes sent via SMS with prompts shown on the user's smartphone. From a report: This change in the Google 2SV scheme comes after an increase in SS7 telephony protocol attacks that have allowed hackers to take over people's mobile phone numbers to receive one-time codes via SMS and break into user accounts. The rollout process for this feature is scheduled to start next week when Google will invite users to try mobile prompts instead of receiving a one-time code via SMS. Users need an Internet-connected smartphone to use this feature. Every time users will try to log in, Google will show a prompt on their phone asking the account owner to approve the login request. There's no one-time code that users have to fill in, and users can authorize a login request with the tap of a button.
United States

Afghan Girls Robotics Team Allowed To Enter U.S. For Competition (reuters.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: A team of Afghan girls are on their way to compete in an academic robotics competition in the United States after American officials agreed to allow them to enter the country despite initially denying them visas. The reversal reportedly came at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.
Chrome

Popular Chrome Extension Sold To New Dev Who Immediately Turns It Into Adware (bleepingcomputer.com) 187

An anonymous reader writes: A company is going around buying abandoned Chrome extensions from their original developers and converting these add-ons into adware. The latest case is the Particle for YouTube Chrome extension, a simple tool that allows users to change the UI and behavior of some of YouTube's standard features. Because Google was planning major changes to YouTube's UI, the extension's original author decided to retire it and create a new one. This is when the a mysterious company approached the original author and offered to buy the extension from him for a price of his choosing. The original dev says he gave them a high price, but the company agreed to pay right away, but only after the dev signed an non-disclosure agreement preventing him from talking about the company or the transaction. Soon after the sale, the company issued an update that included code for injecting rogue ads on websites such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, eBay, and Booking.com. Users also found other Chrome extensions that were also bought by the same company and had also been turned into adware, such as "Typewriter Sounds" and "Twitch Mini Player." According to some other Chrome extension devs, there are many companies willing to pay large sums of money for taking over legitimate Chrome extensions.
Businesses

Dark Web Marketplace AlphaBay Shuts For Good After Police Raids (theregister.co.uk) 112

Dark web marketplace AlphaBay's closure last week followed an international law enforcement operation and multiple raids, it has emerged. It has also been reported that a key suspect who was arrested in the raids has died in custody. From a report: The world's biggest online drug bazaar dropped offline on 5 July, sparking fears that its administrators had disappeared taking a swag bag of digital currency with them, pulling an "exit scam" like other dark web marketplace kingpins before them. The Wall Street Journal reports that a Canadian suspected of running AlphaBay was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following an international police operation involving authorities in the US and Canada as well as Thailand. Alexandre Cazes, the 26-year-old who had been accused of being the site's admin, was found dead in a Thai jail cell on Wednesday, the WSJ adds. The Bangkok Post reported that Cazes had been resident in Thailand for about eight years and had a Thai wife. Thai authorities said they'd seized four Lamborghini cars and three upmarket residences with a combined value of $11.7m (400 million Thai Baht). US authorities had apparently been seeking to extradite Cazes at the time of his death.
The Internet

Reddit Is Testing Country-Specific Home Pages That Highlight 'Geo Popular' Content (ndtv.com) 49

Reader joshtops writes: Reddit is exploring a new way to make its front page more relevant to its readers. The social aggregation and discussion website is testing tailored home pages based on a reader's location in select places, Gadgets 360 spotted. The company has confirmed to us that it is indeed testing "geo popular" home pages. As part of the test, readers in Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and United Kingdom could see a banner when they visit Reddit.com informing them of the new home page. It's unclear if registered and signed in users are also a part of the experiment. Testing from India, in one case we found several stories from r/India and r/cricket (no surprise given the sport's popularity in the country) subreddits populate the home page. Reddit is also letting people switch the home page to any of the aforementioned country's home pages. Users also have the option to switch to the global -- universal -- home page. In a statement, a Reddit spokesperson told Gadgets 360, "We've been testing new geo-based popular feeds as a way to surface more relevant content to users based on their location," reserving any timeframe for when -- and if -- Reddit plans to roll-out this feature to all its users. "We'll be adjusting as we receive feedback from users," the spokesperson added, reaffirming that users will be "able to toggle locations to see popular posts in other geographical areas or globally."
Businesses

Visa Considers Extending 'War on Cash' Business Incentives Outside US (cnbc.com) 303

Visa is hoping to extend its "war on cash" agenda to businesses in the U.K. after announcing new incentives for U.S. businesses to go cashless. From a report: The payment technology company revealed on Wednesday that it was launching a "cashless challenge" which would see 50 U.S. businesses receive $10,000 each to help them convert to a cashless payment model. It is now aiming to roll the model out to the U.K., though is yet to set a timeframe for the launch, a Visa spokesperson confirmed to CNBC Friday. Under the scheme, businesses in the U.S. are invited to submit plans outlining what going cashless might mean for them, their employees and their customers. Recipients of the award will then be required to use the lump sum to upgrade their point-of-sale systems so they are completely cashless. Any remaining money can be put towards marketing, the company said. "We're declaring a war on cash," Andy Gerlt, a spokesman for Visa, said in the announcement Wednesday.
Businesses

Netflix Shows Are All Worldwide Hits -- Until They're Not (bloomberg.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a report: On a conference call last October, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos described the hip-hop drama "The Get Down" as a success, like the booming streaming service's other popular shows. Eight months and 11 episodes later, "The Get Down" is history, a flop after one season on the world's largest paid video service. The sci-fi thriller "Sense8," another of the company's lavish productions, was scrapped after two seasons. The back-to-back cancellations caught Hollywood by surprise. Netflix has defied convention by offering no inkling of how many people watch its shows and claiming just about everything is a hit. That's vexed competitors worried about Netflix's growing customer base and influence in Hollywood. The streaming company will spend more than $6 billion on programming this year, a good chunk of that on about 1,000 hours of original shows. Cancellations are common for all TV networks -- even for Netflix, which has wrapped up most of its first crop of original shows. Without the need to attract advertisers, the company is shielded from the weekly audience ratings that determine the fate of most dramas and sitcoms. "One of the great things about Netflix is we don't have to release ratings," Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said in an interview this week on CNBC. "Each show gets to have its own audience because it is very personalized." That's great for Netflix and its 100 million customers, who pay up to $12 a month for the service. Without pressure to deliver weekly ratings, the company can give shows time to develop a following. "House of Cards," the thriller starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, just started its fifth season. It's not so great for competitors -- or producers who must grope for ways to measure the success of a given program and wonder if they're getting paid enough by the streaming service. With no data, they must rely on the positive remarks Netflix executives make for all their shows.
Australia

Australia To Compel Technology Firms To Provide Access To Encrypted Missives (reuters.com) 230

Australia on Friday proposed new laws to compel companies such as U.S. social media giant Facebook and device manufacturer Apple to provide security agencies access to encrypted messages. From a report: The measures will be the first in an expected wave of global legislation as pressure mounts on technology companies to provide such access after several terror suspects used encrypted applications ahead of attacks. Australia, a staunch U.S. ally, is on heightened alert for attacks by home-grown radicals since 2014 and authorities have said they have thwarted several plots, although Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said law enforcement needed more help. "We need to ensure the internet is not used as a dark place for bad people to hide their criminal activities from the law," Turnbull told reporters in Sydney. "The reality is, however, that these encrypted messaging applications and voice applications are being used obviously by all of us, but they're also being used by people who seek to do us harm."
Businesses

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts (qz.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.
Businesses

Amazon Prime Is a Blessing and a Curse For Remote Towns (vice.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: If access to Prime is reduced, or in some cases, cut off, it can leave many remote towns in the lurch. One dozen five-gallon barrels of hydraulic oil. A 2x4x8 of lumber. A pallet's worth of 10-ply, heavy-duty truck tires. These are just a few of the heavy, cumbersome orders one Redditor on the Alaska subreddit claimed to have ordered from Amazon Prime, with free shipping, before users started to notice difficulty finding eligible products. For many remote and rural communities in the U.S. and Canada, the arrival of Amazon Prime, with its low prices and free, expedient shipping was a boon. Hard-to-get or expensive products were now accessible, and reasonably priced to boot. For the cost of a membership (which now runs $99 per year), residents were able to get deals on everything from food to diapers to truck tires. But sometimes when something seems too good to be true, it is. Prime has proven to be a bit of a double-edged sword for many of these communities. Residents become dependent on Prime as local retailers struggle to compete. If access to Prime is reduced, or in some cases, cut off, it can leave many remote towns in the lurch.
Movies

Biologists Use Gene Editing To Store Movies In DNA (scientificamerican.com) 87

New submitter elmohound writes: A recent paper in Nature describes how gene editing was used to store a digital movie into a bacterial population. The choice of subject is a nice hommage to Muybridge's 1887 photos. From a report via Scientific American: "The technical achievement, reported on July 12 in Nature, is a step towards creating cellular recording systems that are capable of encoding a series of events, says Seth Shipman, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. To develop such a system, however, his team would need to establish a method for recording hundreds of events in a cell. Shipman and his colleagues, including Harvard geneticist George Church, harnessed the CRISPR-Cas immune system best known for enabling researchers to alter genomes with relative ease and accuracy. Shipman's team exploited the ability to capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and store them in an organized array in the host genome. In nature, those snippets then target an enzyme to slice up the invader's DNA. The team designed its system so that these snippets corresponded to pixels in an image. The researchers encoded the shading of each pixel -- along with a barcode that indicated its position in the image -- into 33 DNA letters. Each frame of the movie consisted of 104 of these DNA fragments." You can view the movie here, which consists of five frames adapted from Muybridge's Human and Animal Locomotion series.
China

Automakers Are Asking China To Slow Down Electric Car Quotas (electrek.co) 304

New submitter Kant shares a report from Electrek: The auto industry is once again attempting to slow down the rollout of electric vehicles. Virtually all automakers, except for Tesla of course, have sent a letter to the Chinese government in an attempt to have them drastically weaken their zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we previously reported, China, the world's biggest car market, has somewhat of an aggressive ZEV mandate that would force automakers to have zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) represent 8% of new car sales as soon as 2018 and quickly ramp up to 12% by 2020. Now Germany's WirtschaftsWoche magazine (via Auto News) reports that the American Automotive Policy Council (AAPC), which represents Chrysler/Fiat, Ford, and GM, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), which represents all major European automakers, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) and the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), have all sent a joint letter to China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology to ask for several significant changes to the mandate.

The "six recommended modifications" include slowing the rollout of the mandate by 1 to 3 years, reconsidering the penalty system if they don't meet the quota, having credits not only for all-electric cars but also plug-in hybrid cars, and basically making the whole mandate weaker so that they don't have to produce as many electric cars.

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