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Businesses

Survey Says: Elon Musk Is Most Admired Tech Leader, Topping Bezos and Zuckerberg (teslarati.com) 95

First Round Capital conducted a poll of 700 tech company founders and found Elon Musk to be the most admired leader in the technology industry. Elon Musk received 23 percent of the votes; 10 percent said Amazon's Jeff Bezos, 6 percent said Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and 5 percent wrote in Steve Jobs. First Round writes: "We launched State of Startups to capture what it means to be an entrepreneur. We asked the leaders of venture-backed companies about everything from the fundraising environment to their working relationships with their co-founders to their office's price per square foot. [...] Once again, we asked founders to write in which current tech leader they admire the most and we tallied 125 names. The Tesla and SpaceX leader held firm at the top spot (23%)..." Teslarati reports: While the survey did not ask respondents to explain their choice, it is safe to assume that Elon's propensity for setting lofty and visionary goals, and then being able to execute on them, is one trait admired most by tech founders. Most recently, Musk moved the scheduled start of production for the upcoming Model 3 midsize sedan forward by a full two years. Tesla also recently celebrated a record-setting third quarter and has been moving aggressively to close the second half of this year with 50,000 cars delivered. The company has announced a series of sweeteners to motivate people to order and take delivery of new vehicles before the end of the year. Unlimited Supercharger access for long distance travel and a, then, upcoming price hike on its entry level Model S 60, announced by the Palo Alto-based electric car maker and energy company, were incentives to stimulate sales. With plans to increase annual vehicle production by a factor of ten to twenty-fold by the end of the decade, send humans to mars and transform the energy sector, Musk's innovative solutions to rewrite humanity as we know it joins an elite rank held by few genius inventors and industrialists who have gone on to change the world.
Technology

Fake Apple Chargers Fail Safety Tests (bbc.com) 113

Investigators have warned consumers they face potentially fatal risks after 99% of fake Apple chargers failed a basic safety test. From a report on BBC: Trading Standards, which commissioned the checks, said counterfeit electrical goods bought online were an "unknown entity." Of 400 counterfeit chargers, only three were found to have enough insulation to protect against electric shocks. It comes as Apple has complained of a "flood" of fakes being sold on Amazon. Apple revealed in October that it was suing a third-party vendor, which it said was putting customers "at risk" by selling power adapters masquerading as those sold by the Californian tech firm.
Transportation

Apple Will Use Drones To Improve the Quality of Apple Maps (bloomberg.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple plans to use drones and new indoor navigation features to improve its Maps service and catch longtime leader Google (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternate link), according to people familiar with the matter. The Cupertino, California-based company is assembling a team of robotics and data-collection experts that will use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans, one of the people said. Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added. Apple is also developing new features for Maps, including views inside buildings and improvements to car navigation, another person familiar with the efforts said. Apple filed for an exemption on Sept. 21, 2015, from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones for commercial purposes, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News. At that time, exemptions were required to commercially operate drones. In a response dated March 22, 2016, the FAA granted Apple approval to "operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography," according to one of the documents. Apple's application told the FAA that it would use a range of drones sold by companies such as SZ DJI Technology Co. and Aibotix GmbH to collect the data. Apple has hired at least one person from Amazon's Prime Air division to help run the drone team, one of the people said.
NASA

ULA Unveils Website That Lets You Price Out a Rocket 'Like Building a Car' (theverge.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: This morning, United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno unveiled a new website that allows satellite makers to figure out what it will really cost to launch a vehicle on one of ULA's rockets. It's like going to "Ford or Chevy and building your car," Bruno said, except in the end you wind up with a more than $100 million rocket that can take cargo to space. And just like checking out on Amazon, the website allows you to save your rocket and submit it to ULA to start the process of finalizing a launch contract. The site, called RocketBuilder.com, looks to be ULA's attempt to further infiltrate the commercial satellite market, after launching mostly government satellites and NASA missions for the past decade. Bruno says the site is meant to provide an "unprecedented level of transparency" to commercial customers about the true cost of launching a satellite with ULA. "The sticker price on the rocket is just the tip of the iceberg," Bruno said at a press conference this morning in Washington, DC. "There is a whole host of other costs." The site is supposed to give potential customers an idea of what those costs might be. Rocket Builder allows you to pick when you want to launch and what orbit you want your satellite to go to. And then, depending on its destination and how big the satellite is, the site will help you calculate the size of your payload fairing -- the nose cone that encases the satellite on the top of the rocket -- as well as how many additional boosters you're going to need for thrust. Customers even have the option of picking customizable "service options," which include adding an onboard video system to the rocket, or conducting "expanded mission rehearsals." There's even the option of purchasing a VIP experience, where you can invite 100 customers or investors to come watch the launch as a marketing tool.
Cloud

Seagate Introduces External Hard Drive That Automatically Backs Up To Amazon's Cloud (theverge.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Seagate and Amazon have partnered up on a $99 1TB external hard drive that automatically backs up everything stored on it to the cloud. The Seagate Duet drive's contents are cloned to Amazon Drive, so you can be pretty confident that your important stuff will be safe. Getting set up with the cloud backup process requires plugging in the drive, signing in with your Amazon account -- and that's pretty much it, from the sounds of it. Drag and drop files over, and you'll be able to access them from the web or Amazon's Drive app on smartphones and tablets. If you're new to the Drive service, Seagate claims you'll get a year of unlimited storage just for buying the hard drive, which normally costs $59.99 annually. Amazon's listing for the Duet (the only way to buy it right now) confirms as much, but there's some fine print: Offer is U.S.-only; Not valid for current Amazon Drive Unlimited Storage paid subscription customers; You've got to redeem the promo code within two months of buying the hard drive if you want the year's worth of unlimited cloud storage; If you return the Duet, Amazon says it will likely reduce your 12 months of unlimited Drive storage down to three, which beats taking it away altogether, I guess.
United States

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever (zdnet.com) 56

Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.
Businesses

Amazon Worker Jumps Off Company Building After Email Note (bloomberg.com) 387

An anonymous reader writes: An Amazon employee was injured when he leaped off a building at the company's Seattle headquarters in what police characterized as a suicide attempt. The man, who wasn't identified by authorities, sent an e-mail visible to hundreds of co-workers, including Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, before the incident occurred, according to a report on Bloomberg. The man survived the fall from Amazon's 12-story Apollo building at about 8:45 a.m. local time Monday and was taken to a Seattle hospital, police said. The man had recently put in a request to transfer to a different department, but was placed on an employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing company personnel matters. More than 20,000 people work in multiple buildings at Amazon's headquarters.
AI

Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen (bloomberg.com) 84

Amazon's Echo speakers have garnered a lot of interest over the past few months. Many people believe that they like Amazon Echo because of how easy it's to operate -- there is no display, you talk with Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, which is reasonably good at understanding your queries. But in what seems like a deviation from the idea that made Echos so popular, Amazon is reportedly working on an Echo-like speaker, only this time it is more premium and has a 7-inch display, too. From a report on Bloomberg: The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company's voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.
AT&T

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels (theverge.com) 80

ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.
Businesses

Amazon and eBay Sellers' VAT Fraud Rife Despite Crackdown (theguardian.com) 81

Huge numbers of VAT fraudsters are illegally selling goods tax-free to British shoppers on Amazon and eBay, despite new government efforts to crack down on this ballooning 1bn pound VAT evasion crisis, reports the Guardian. From the article: A Guardian investigation found a wide variety of popular goods being illegally sold without VAT on Britain's leading shopping sites. They range from cheap Christmas tree lights, electric toothbrushes and thermal socks to expensive laptops, iPads, music keyboards, violins and pingpong tables. In some cases, VAT fraudsters offer unbeatable prices. Mostly, however, their prices remain in line with law-abiding competitors and the proceeds of evasion disappear overseas, often to China. Guardian investigations found many tax-evading sellers were trading without displaying VAT numbers on Amazon or eBay. Others were showing made up numbers, or numbers cloned, without authorisation, from unsuspecting legitimate businesses.
Businesses

Amazon Puts New Limit On Customer Reviews: No More Than 5 a Week Except For Verified Purchases (geekwire.com) 95

Amazon says it will start capping the number of product reviews any customer can submit in a given week, limiting each person to five/week except for products that have been verified by the company as purchased by the reviewer. From a GeekWire report: Books, music and video are exempt from the limit, but the new cap applies to the rest of Amazon's vast online selection of products. It's the latest move by the e-commerce giant to police its online reviews, a critical resource used by many online shoppers to assess products before buying. The news comes during the peak holiday shopping season, the most important time of year for Amazon, as the company tries to get more people comfortable with doing more of their shopping online. An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the changes in a message to GeekWire, and they're spelled out in Amazon's updated Community Guidelines.
Google

Online Pranksters Mock Trump's $149 Christmas Ornament, Rename Trump Tower on Google Maps (yahoo.com) 524

An anonymous reader quotes a Digital Trends story about a suspicious malfunction on Google Maps: At some point yesterday, Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue home was given a rather unceremonious rechristening, and a search for "Trump Tower" revealed a pin for "Dump Tower" instead. It was rather tricky to find for some, and required zooming in on the building itself at just the right angle (which is perhaps how the culprit got away with the stunt in the first place). At a separate angle, someone else (or perhaps the same person) transliterated the skyscraper's name in Russian Cyrillic, perhaps meant to be a jab at Trump's alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin and company... While the team [at Google Maps] managed to put out this first fire, another quickly arose to take its place (as is often the case on the internet), and later in the day on Saturday, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle was renamed Dump International Hotel and Tower. Meanwhile, another anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week Donald Trump emailed his supporters selling a $149 collectible "Make America Great Again" Christmas ornament finished with 14k gold, to raise money for both his campaign and the Republican party. But Yahoo News reports that it's now getting some suspicious negative (and politically-charged) reviews on its page on Amazon. ("One Star. "It tried to put my nativity figures into an internment camp.") And another reviewer even wrote a satirical story about how their family decided on the ornament for the tree. "During our family meeting we overwhelmingly chose the other ornament but somehow we still ended up with this one. We're not sure what happened."
United Kingdom

Black Friday Protest Sites Included An Amazon Warehouse (thecourier.co.uk) 163

An anonymous reader writes: Friday a group of protesters picketed Amazon's warehouse in Dunfermline, Scotland, alleging workers there face "up to 60 hours per week for little more than the minimum wage," according to an article in The Courier. "They also claim that new workers are tracked and monitored every minute of their working day and sacked if they fail to meet targets... Amazon has dismissed the claims, insisting that the firm values its employees and maintains a 'culture of direct dialogue' with them."

But around the world, more than 1 million people celebrated Buy Nothing Day on Friday, according to the editor in chief of Adbusters, saying their event has now spread to more than 60 countries. The Adbusters.org site suggested protesters stage zombie walks to parody the mindlessness of consumerism, and urged credit card-cutting ceremonies as well as "Whirl-Marts," where large groups of people "silently drive your shopping carts around in a long, inexplicable conga line without ever actually buying anything." The site is also sharing downloadable images which can be printed out for posters "to insert into public spaces."

One prominent retailer even closed both its physical and online stores Friday and gave all of its 12,000 employees the day off, according to USA Today. REI, which sells outdoor recreational equipment, was encouraging people to take advantage of Friday's free admission to many state parks for the second year in a row, and as many as 2.7 million people "pledged to participate" using the company's hashtag, #OptOutside.
Businesses

Amazon Makes Good On Its Promise To Delete 'Incentivized' Reviews (techcrunch.com) 106

Amazon is making good on its promise to ban "incentivized" reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. From a TechCrunch article: The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailer's site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve. Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their "honest opinion" of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews. Over time, these reviews proliferated on Amazon, and damaged consumers' trust in the review system as a whole. And that can impact consumers' purchase decisions.
Media

Amazon Wants To Include Live Sports as Part of Prime Membership (geekwire.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's next Prime membership benefit could be the ability to stream live sports. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Amazon is in talks with leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and a handful of others about live game rights. The fact that Amazon wants to stream live sports isn't a new development. But the Journal did have a noteworthy tidbit: Amazon could offer a "premium, exclusive sports package" to those who pay for a $99 per year, or $8.99 per month, Prime membership. Amazon is exploring streaming rights to multiple sports at a variety of levels. The Journal reported that Amazon wanted to exclusively license NBA's League Pass streaming product; it is also reaching out to traditional broadcasters like Univision and ESPN about the content they own but don't end up airing on TV.Amazon was also recently exploring deals with Indian Premier League, a cricket match league. In a recent interview with David Remnick of The New Yorker, Reed Hastings said that one of the most difficult decisions for him has been to not do live sports. He said Netflix doesn't want to move away from movies and TV shows, and only focus on improving the quality of the shows and user experience.
Businesses

Barnes & Noble Announces A New $50 Android Tablet (teleread.org) 41

Next Friday Barnes & Noble will release a $50 Android tablet, competing against Amazon's tablets with a more-open version of Android. Long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master writes: The specs are similar to slightly better than the $50 Fire, but the kicker is this tablet will ship with plain-vanilla Marshmallow Android 6.0 and the Google Play utilities -- unlike the Fire, which limits its users to only those apps Amazon deems suitable to offer. Might this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?
If you truly care about your app ecosystem, this would at least save you the trouble of having to root your tablet just to install apps from the Google Play Store.
The Almighty Buck

Amazon Now Sells Cars (reuters.com) 59

Fiat Chrysler said it has teamed up with Amazon to sell its cars via the e-commerce company's site. Not only will you be able to order a car with a simple click online, but doing so will earn you an additional discount. Reuters reports: Initially only Italian buyers will be able to purchase their cars with a simple click online and the offers on Amazon. It will be limited to three models -- the 500, the Panda and the 500L. FCA said the choice was deliberate because the Panda is Italy's biggest selling car, while buyers of the 500 and its larger 500L version embody the young and adventurous nature this initiative is trying to appeal to. "The time has arrived to give consumers a new, more efficient and transparent way to choose a new vehicle," Gianluca Italia, responsible for Fiat Chrysler in Italy, said during an online press conference. The manager at the world's seventh largest carmaker said the partnership will appeal to buyers looking for deals from the comfort of their own home, adding that existing promotions will be improved by up to 33 percent for online customers. So, after making their clicks online, buyers will be contacted by Amazon to decide on a dealer where they can finalize their purchase and pick up the car. The vehicle should be ready within two weeks of the initial click.
Television

The Grand Tour Show To Be Streamed In Over 200 Markets as Amazon Prime Video Goes Global (mashable.com) 70

For years, Amazon's Prime Video on-demand streaming service has been available in limited regions, such as the United States and United Kingdom (along with a handful of other markets), but that's changing now. Amazon is expanding the Prime Video service to more than 200 new markets. The announcement comes via The Grand Tour motor show, which premieres in select places Friday. Earlier this week, show's hosts -- Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May -- posted on Amazon website that their new show will be streamed in over 200 nations (pretty much everywhere where BBC's Top Gear is broadcasted and streamed). Speaking of which, fans of the Grand Tour will be able to watch the show worldwide starting next month, and once Prime Video is available in their region, they will be able watch new episodes at the same time as others. The move comes months after Netflix expanded to 130 new regions in January this year. Netflix is available in roughly 200 territories as well.
Star Wars Prequels

Thanks To the Princess, Han Wasn't Always Solo (cnn.com) 143

rmdingler writes: It seems the chemistry was strong with these two. It is interesting to note how long it took this to emerge, as by today's standards, it doesn't rise to nearly the same level of scuttlebutt. Almost 40 years later, Carrie Fisher told People magazine that she and Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of the 1977 film 'Star Wars.' "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend," she said. "After stumbling on often angst-ridden journals she kept while filming on location in London, she felt the time had come to open up about the formative experience," reports People magazine. "'It's been 40 years,' explains Fisher, who went on to write The Princess Diarist, excerpted exclusively in this week's issue."
Cloud

Google Cloud Will Add GPU Services in Early 2017 (geekwire.com) 19

Google Cloud will add GPUs as a service early next year, the company has said. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and IBM's Bluemix all already offer GPU as a service. From a report on GeekWire: Google may be seeking to distinguish itself, however, with the variety of GPUs it's offering. They include the AMD FirePro S9300 x2 and two offerings from NVIDIA Tesla: the P100 and the K80. And Google will charge by the minute, not by the hour, making GPU usage more affordable for customers needing it only for short periods. CPU-based machines in the cloud are good for general-purpose computing, but certain tasks such as rendering or large-scale simulations are much faster on specialized processors, Google explained. GPUs contain hundreds of times as many computational cores as CPUs and excel at performing risk analysis, studying molecular binding or optimizing the shape of a turbine blade. Google's GPU services will be available in early 2017 through Google Compute Engine and Google Cloud Machine Learning.

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