An anonymous reader writes: Android Police is reporting that the Android software company Cyanogen Inc. will be laying off 20 percent of its workforce, and will transition from OS development to applications. The Android Police report says "roughly 30 out of the 136 people Cyanogen Inc. employs" are being cut, and that the layoffs "most heavily impact the open source arm" of the company. Android Police goes on to say that CyanogenMod development by Cyanogen Inc "may be eliminated entirely." Ars Technica notes the differences between each "Cyanogen" branding. Specifically, CyanogenMod is a "free, open source, OS heavily based on Android and compatible with hundreds of devices," while Cyanogen Inc. is "a for-profit company that aims to sell Cyanogen OS to OEMs." It appears that many of the core CyanogenMod developers will no longer be paid to work on CyanogenMod, though the community is still free to develop the software." Android Police details the firing process in their report: "Layoffs reportedly came after a long executive retreat for the company's leaders and were conducted with no advanced notice. Employees who were not let go were told not to show up to work today. Those who did show up were the unlucky ones: they had generic human resources meetings rather ominously added to their calendars last night. So, everyone who arrived at Cyanogen Inc. in Seattle this morning did so to lose their job (aside from those conducting the layoffs)." Early last year, Microsoft invested in a roughly $70 million round of equity financing for the then-startup Cyanogen Inc. Not too long before that, Google tried to acquire Cyanogen Inc., but the company turned down Google's offer to seek funding from investors and major tech companies at a valuation of around $1 billion. Cyanogen Inc. CEO Kirt McMaster once said the company was "attempting to take Android away from Google" and that it was "putting a bullet through Google's head."
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Portland Press Herald: Volkswagen plans to fix the engines that were rigged to cheat on emissions tests by updating computer software and installing a larger catalytic converter to trap harmful nitrogen oxide, according to two dealers who were briefed by executives on the matter. The dealers said that limited details of the plan were made public last week at a regional dealer meeting in Newark, New Jersey, by Volkswagen of America Chief Operating Officer Mark McNabb. Portland Press Herald reports: "One dealer said the group was told that early testing of a small sample of repaired cars showed that the fix made 'no discernible difference' in the cars' mileage, horsepower or torque. Both dealers said they were told that more testing was needed and that the plans still had to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. One of the dealers said the so-called 'Generation 1' diesels -- about 325,000 VW Jettas, Golfs, Passats and Beetles from the 2009 to 2014 model years – would get new software and bigger catalytic converters in January or February of next year. About 90,000 'Generation 2' Passats already have sufficient emissions systems and would get only a software update early next year. Another 67,000 'Generation 3' 2015 models would get software in October and would get additional hardware a year later, the dealer said. Dealers also were told that they'd be reimbursed by VW for sales losses due to the scandal, and that new vehicles are coming." Last month, Volkswagen agreed to a record $14.7 billion settlement over the emissions cheating.
ErichTheRed writes: This isn't perfect, but it is the first attempt I've seen at removing the "body shop" loophole in the H-1B visa system. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would raise the minimum wage for an H-1B holder from $60K to $100K, and place limits on the body shop companies that employ mostly H-1B holders in a pass-through arrangement. Whether it's enough to stop the direct replacement of workers, or whether it will just accelerate offshoring, remains to be seen. But, I think removing the most blatant and most abused loopholes in the rules is a good start. "The high-skilled visa program is critical to ensuring American companies can attract and retain the world's best talent," said Issa in a statement. "Unfortunately, in recent years, this important program has become abused and exploited as a loophole for companies to replace American workers with cheaper labor from overseas."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Comcast plans to roll-out prepaid cable TV and internet services later this year in portions of Illinois and four other states. According to a company announcement, Comcast's Xfinity Prepaid Services lets users sign up for TV or internet services and renew service for seven or 30 days at a time -- instead of paying by the month. A one-time setup fee of $80 includes equipment and 30 days of service, with users paying $15 for an additional seven days and $45 for an additional 30 days. "We want to create an easy, pay-as-you-go option for people who want more flexibility and predictability when buying our services," said Marcien Jenckes, Executive Vice President, Consumer Services, Comcast Cable. "And our partnership with Boost Mobile will give Xfinity Prepaid customers even more places where they can conveniently sign-up and pay-as-they-go."
Mastercard has agreed to purchase a controlling stake in VocalLink, the payments processor that handles most payroll and household bill processing in the UK. The American payment giant will be paying up to $1.14 billion. Fortune reports: According to MasterCard MA, the deal would create "the first true combination of the traditional person-to-merchant cards business with a clearing business." That is, of course, presuming it clears regulatory scrutiny. VocaLink runs Link, the network that provides interoperability between British ATMs, as well as BACS, the clearing house for payments between bank accounts, and Faster Payments, the inter-bank transfer system for Internet and telephone-based payments.FastCompany explains what this could mean for MasterCard users.
An anonymous reader writes: Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch that Pokemon Go has attracted more downloads in the App Store during its first week than any other app in App Store history. What's even more surprisingly is that the app was only available in a few countries at the time -- it initially launched in New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. Apple didn't provide the number of downloads, but one can assume it's well into the millions. Pokemon Go is expected to become even more popular as it becomes available in more countries -- the game just launched in Japan today. With millions of downloads in the first week alone, Pokemon Go is expected to generate large sums of money for Apple. The Guardian is reporting that Apple will "rake in $3 billion in revenue from Pokemon Go in the next one to two years as gamers buy 'PokeCoins' from its app store."
An anonymous reader writes: While Google Fiber gets a massive amount of media hype (justly based on its disruptive speed and price point), the reality is that despite numerous city "launches" -- not that many people can actually get the service. But while many ISPs and analysts have dismissed Google Fiber as an adorable experiment that will never impact them, many of these folks have been forced to changing their tune as Google Fiber's list of planned launch cities grows larger. In a profile piece over at USAToday, the company once again notes that while Google Fiber may have begun as a PR exercise, it's now dead serious about being a large, nationwide disruptive kick in the ass for incumbent broadband providers. "It is indeed a real business, and it's serving to increase competition as well, and that's something that we don't mind," Google Fiber boss and former Qualcomm exec Dennis Kish tells the paper. "We think it's healthy for the market and for consumers."
It's no secret that ransomware hackers are in the business to make money. But a new business arrangement hitting the news today may surprise many. Vice's Motherboard, citing research and investigation (PDF) from security firm F-Secure, is reporting that a Fortune 500 company, the name of which hasn't been unveiled, hired a ransomware gang to hack its competitors. From the article: In an exchange with a security researcher pretending to be a victim, one ransomware agent claimed they were working for a Fortune 500 company. "We are hired by [a] corporation to cyber disrupt day-to-day business of their competition," the customer support agent of a ransomware known as Jigsaw said, according to a new report by security firm F-Secure. "The purpose was just to lock files to delay a corporation's production time to allow our clients to introduce a similar product into the market first."In a statement to Motherboard, Mikko Hypponen said, "If this indeed was a case where ransomware was used on purpose to disrupt a competitor's operation, it's the only case we know of." F-Secure adds that the consumer representative noted that "politicians, governments, husbands, wives -- people from all walks of life contract [them] to hack computers, cell phones."
In March, Microsoft announced native support for cross-platform play between Xbox One and Windows 10. At the time, the company also added that this support could be extended to "other console and PC networks," something which led people to wonder if truly cross-platform gaming, on any platform, was next. When asked, Sony did say that it was open to the idea. "PlayStation has been supporting cross-platform play between PC on several software titles starting with Final Fantasy 11 on PS2 and PC back in 2002. We would be happy to have the conversation with any publishers or developers who are interested in cross-platform play." But since then, it appears that Sony has had a change of heart, which has resulted in developers asking the company for an update. Kotaku reports: In recent days, the developers behind Rocket League and The Witcher 3 have both called for Sony to break down the walls separating PlayStation Network and Xbox Live and allow cross-platform multiplayer. What's changed in the last few days are developers making an open call for Sony to make good on having that conversation with publishers and developers. In an interview with IGN, Psyonix president Jeremy Dunham explained how the Rocket League developer had already taken care of the technical side of things. "We're literally at the point where all we need is the go-ahead on the Sony side," said Dunham, "and we can, in less than a business day, turn it on and have it up and working no problem. It'd literally take a few hours to propagate throughout the whole world, so really we're just waiting on the permission to do so." In another statement to IGN, CD Projekt RED CEO Marcin Iwinski supported Psyonix.
Verizon Communications is nearing a deal to buy Yahoo, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the matter. While nothing is official yet, the publication claims that Verizon is discussing a price close to $5 billion for Yahoo's core Internet business. The report adds that Yahoo's patents are not part of the discussion, and it's unclear whether the two companies are considering Yahoo's real estate. "The companies may be ready to announce the deal in the coming days, the people said," the report adds. Interestingly, CNBC, citing its own sources, is independently reporting the same thing.
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Digital Trends: Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Tennessee have found a non-chemical way to extend regular milk's shelf life to around 2-3 weeks, and without affecting the nutrients or flavor. The technology they've developed involves increasing the temperature of milk by just 10 degrees for less than a second, which is well below the 70-degree Celsius threshold needed for pasteurization. That quick heat blast is still able to eliminate more than 99 percent of the bacteria left from pasteurization. "The developed technology uses low temperature, short time (LTST) in a process that disperses milk in the form of droplets with low heat/pressure variation over a short treatment time in conjunction with pasteurization," Bruce Applegate, Purdue's associate professor in the Department of Food Science, explained to Digital Trends. "The resultant product was subjected to a taste panel and participants had equal or greater preference for the LTST pasteurized milk compared to normally pasteurized milk. The shelf was determined to be a minimum of two weeks longer than the standard shelf life from pasteurization alone." As for whether or not this method will make its way to store shelves, it won't in the near future. "Currently an Ohio-based milk processor is using this technology and distributing the milk," Applegate says. "The unit is approved for processing milk in Ohio and distribution nationwide. The product is currently being distributed, however it has not been labeled as extended shelf life milk. Once the commercial application is validated the milk will be labelled with the extended shelf life." Scientists from Duke University believe there may be a large source of hydrogen gas under the ocean, caused by rocks forming from fast-spreading tectonic plates.
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Engadget: Spotify is now opening its data to targeted advertising. "Everything from your age and gender, to the music genres you like to listen to will be available to various third-party companies," reports Engadget. "Spotify is calling it programmatic ad buying (Warning: source may be paywalled) and has already enabled it." The nearly 70 million people that currently use Spotify's free, ad-supported streaming service across 59 countries will be affected. The ads will be audio-based and stretch between 15-30 seconds in length. The advertisers who buy ad spots will be able to look for specific users by viewing their song picks to find the best matches for the products they're selling. Two weeks ago, China has released its first ever set of digital ad regulations that seems to all but ban ad blocking.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: A Texas man who acted as a secret agent for the Russian government and illegally exported cutting-edge military technology to Russia has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Alexander Fishenko learned his punishment Thursday in federal court in New York. He pleaded guilty in September to crimes including acting as a Russian agent. The 50-year-old Fishenko is a U.S. and Russian citizen. He owned Houston-based Arc Electronics Inc. Prosecutors say he led a scheme that evaded strict export controls for micro-electronics commonly used in missile guidance systems, detonation triggers and radar systems. Prosecutors say his company shipped about $50 million worth of technologies to Russia between 2002 and 2012. In other Russian-related news, a Russian government-owned news site Sputnik has reported that the Kremlin is building a nuclear space bomber that should be flight-ready by 2020.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Stuff.co.nz: McDonald's New Zealand has been left with egg on its face after a raft of bad-taste burger suggestions customers forced it to quickly take down its new design-your-own-burger website. The company launched its "Make Burger History" site this week, as part of a new promotion where customers can "build your own unique burger" and get free fries and a medium soft drink. "Just come in to a participating 'Create Your Taste' McDonald's and order your Creation at the self ordering kiosk," McDonald's promised. But its failure to consider what pranksters might dream up online has left the company red-faced, with the website overrun by racist, homophobic and otherwise offensive suggestions. The page now redirects to the McDonald's homepage. The burger concepts ranged from the mild, such as "Bag of Lettuce" (literally just a pile of lettuce leaves) and "The Carbonator" (seven burger buns, no filling), to X-rated, including "Girth" (a stack of seven undressed burger patties) and "Ron's Creamy Surprise" (a pile of mayonnaise, best left unexplained). But many went totally tasteless, creating burgers with names like "Mosque at Ground-Zero," "Rektal Prolapse" and "Toddler Body Bag," some of which ended up on the website's front page before it was shut down entirely overnight.
Amazon sells all kinds of stuff -- some legit, some not as much. So it didn't really come as a big surprise when the company announced that it will now be selling student loans too. Quartz has more details: The e-commerce giant inked a deal with Wells Fargo to offer interest rate discounts on loans to students who are Amazon Prime members. The bank, which is the second largest student lender in the US, will shave off half a percentage point for Amazon "Prime Student" customers who take out student loans to attend college or are looking to refinance their existing student loans.
An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Guardian: We all know what Pokemon Go is, and we all know how successful it is. The Guardian is reporting that Apple will "rake in $3 billion in revenue from Pokemon Go in the next one to two years as gamers buy 'PokeCoins' from its app store, according to analysts." One pack of 100 PokeCoins costs about $1 in Apple's app store, but gamers can purchase as many as 14,500 PokeCoins for about $100. "We believe Apple keeps 30% of Pokemon Go's revenue spent on iOS devices, suggesting upside to earnings," Needham and Co brokerage analyst Laura Martin wrote in a client note on Wednesday. The game, which is also available on Android, had over 21 million active users after only being on the market for less than two weeks. It has also been rolled out in 35 countries since its U.S. debut. "Martin said Pokemon Go's ratio of paid users to total users was 10 times that of Candy Crush, the hit game from King Digital that generated more than $1 billion of revenue in both 2013 and 2014," reports The Guardian. Not only has Apple's stock risen since the launch of Pokemon Go, but Nintendo's stock has more than doubled.
Several sellers on Amazon had noted earlier this month that the platform is riddled with counterfeit products and that things have gotten worse after Chinese manufacturers were allowed to sell goods to the consumers in the United States. Amid the report, the German footwear company Birkenstock has announced it will no longer sell its sandals on Amazon. The company added that it will also ban any sales of its products by third-party sellers on Amazon, effectively making its products unavailable on the world's largest online store, according to a report on CNBC. From the report: "The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an 'open market,' creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand," Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan wrote from the company's U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. "Policing this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has proven impossible."
An anonymous reader writes from a report via Los Angeles Times: After teasing Part 2 of his "master product plan" for over a week, Elon Musk finally delivered. Los Angeles Times reports: "In a blog post published on the automaker's website, Musk introduced a multiyear, four-pronged strategy that includes new kinds of Tesla vehicles, expanded solar initiatives, updates on Tesla's 'autopilot' technology and a ride-sharing program. Commercial trucks, buses, a 'future compact SUV' and a 'new kind of pickup truck' will be added to Tesla's fleet of electric cars. A heavy-duty truck called the Tesla Semi and a shrunken bus that Musk called a 'high passenger density urban transport' vehicle are in early development stages 'and should be ready for unveiling next year,' he said. The smaller bus would be designed without a center aisle, with seats close to the entrances, and would be able to automatically pace themselves with traffic, the post said. The bus driver would become a 'fleet manager.' Musk also used the master plan to defend his bid for rooftop solar power provider SolarCity and said he aims to make Tesla's Autopilot robotic driver-assist system 10 times safer than cars that humans drive manually. Musk also plans to move Tesla into the popular ride-sharing business, not only with an Uber-like fleet but also with an app that lets Tesla owners rent out their vehicles when they're not using them, perhaps defraying a portion of their auto loans. This will happen, he said, 'when true self-driving is approved by regulators,' a turn of events that's at least several years away."
HughPickens.com writes: Mid-range prostitution is a relatively new market, enabled by technology. Before the internet, it was hard for escorts to find customers: They had to either walk the streets searching for customers, rely on word-of-mouth, or work with agencies. The internet changed all that as Allison Schrager writes at Quartz that if you work at Goldman Sachs in NYC and you want to tie up a woman and then have sex with her, you'll first have to talk to Rita. Rita will "insist on calling your office, speaking to the switchboard operator, and being patched through to your desk. Then she will want to check out your profile on the company website and LinkedIn. She'll demand you send her message from your work email, and require a scan of either your passport or driver's license." Though some escorts rely on sex work-specific sites that maintain "bad date" lists of potentially dangerous clients, others make use of more mainstream sources to gather information about and verify the identities of potential johns. Rita is addressing a problem that every business, both legal and illegal, has. Before the internet, more commerce occurred locally -- customers knew their merchants or service providers and went back to them repeatedly. As technology has expanded our transactional networks, it must also offer new ways of building trust and reputation. "The lesson here is that, while you'd think all the technological options for finding customers would make Rita's job as a madam obsolete, it has actually made her services more critical," says Schrager. "One step ahead of the mainstream economy, Rita's thriving business shows that some jobs won't disappear. They just need to be recast in a way that capitalizes on what made them valuable in the first place."
An anonymous reader writes: BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he is "disturbed" by Apple's tough approach to encryption and user privacy, warning that the firm's attitude is harmful to society. Earlier this year, Chen said in response to Apple resisting the government's demands to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters: "We are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good." During BlackBerry's Security Summit in New York this week, Chen made several more comments about Apple's stance on encryption. "One of our competitors, we call it 'the other fruit company,' has an attitude that it doesn't matter how much it might hurt society, they're not going to help," he said. "I found that disturbing as a citizen. I think BlackBerry, like any company, should have a basic civil responsibility. If the world is in danger, we should be able to help out." He did say there was a lot of "nonsense" being reported about BlackBerry and its approach to how it handles user information. "Of course, there need to be clear guidelines. The guidelines we've adopted require legal assets. A subpoena for certain data. But if you have the data, you should give it to them," he said. "There's some complete nonsense about what we can and can't do. People are mad at us that we let the government have the data. It's absolute garbage. We can't do that." Chen also warned that mandatory back doors aren't a good idea either, hinting at the impending Investigatory Powers Bill. "There's proposed legislation in the U.S., and I'm sure it will come to the EU, that every vendor needs to provide some form of a back door. That is not going to fly at all. It just isn't," he said.