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AI

Hacker George Hotz Unveils $999 Self-Driving Add-On (pcmag.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PC Magazine: Hacker George Hotz is gearing up to launch his automotive AI start-up's first official product. In December, the 26-year-old -- known for infiltrating Apple's iPhone and Sony's PlayStation 3J -- moved on to bigger things: turning a 2016 Acura ILX into an autonomous vehicle. According to Bloomberg, Hotz outfitted the car with a laser-based radar (lidar) system, a camera, a 21.5-inch screen, a "tangle of electronics," and a joystick attached to a wooden board. Nine months later, the famed hacker this week unveiled the Comma One. As described by TechCrunch, the $999 add-on comes with a $24 monthly subscription fee for software that can pilot a car for miles without a driver touching the wheel, brake, or gas. But unlike systems currently under development by Google, Tesla, and nearly every major vehicle manufacturer, Comma.ai's "shippable" Comma One does not require users to buy a new car. "It's fully functional. It's about on par with Tesla Autopilot," Hotz said during this week's TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.
China

China Starts Developing Hybrid Hypersonic Spaceplane (popsci.com) 90

hackingbear quotes a report from Popular Science: While SpaceX is making news with its recoverable rockets, China announced that it is working on the next big thing in spaceflight: a hypersonic spaceplane. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation is beginning advanced research on a high tech, more efficient successor to the retired Space Shuttle, with hybrid combined cycle engines combining turbofan, ramjet, scramjet and rocket engines, that can takeoff from an airport's landing strip and fly straight into orbit. CASTC's rapid research timeline also suggests that the reports in 2015 of a Mach 4 test flight for a recoverable drone testbed for a combined cycle ramjet/turbofan engine were accurate. And China also has the world's largest hypersonic wind tunnel, the Mach 9 JF-12, which could be used to easily test hypersonic scramjets without costly and potentially dangerous flight testing at altitude. Its nearest competitor, the British Skylon in contrast uses pre-cooled jet engines built by Reaction Engines Limited to achieve hypersonic atmospheric flight, as opposed to scramjets. Both spacecraft will probably first fly around the mid 2020s.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Exchange Bitfinex Says It Was Hacked, Roughly $60M Stolen (reuters.com) 117

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Hong Kong-based digital currency exchange Bitfinex said late on Tuesday it has suspended trading on its exchange after it discovered a security breach, according to a company statement on its website. The company said it has also suspended deposits and withdrawals of digital currencies from the exchange. "We are investigating the breach to determine what happened, but we know that some of our users have had their bitcoins stolen," the company said. "We are undertaking a review to determine which users have been affected by the breach. While we conduct this initial investigation and secure our environment, bitfinex.com will be taken down and the maintenance page will be left up." The company said it has reported the theft to law enforcement. It said it has not yet determined the value of digital currencies stolen from customer accounts. CoinDesk reports that the company confirmed roughly 120,000 BTC (more than $60 million) has been stolen via social media. "In response, bitcoin prices fell to $560.16 by 19:30 UTC, $530 by 23:30 and $480 at press time, CoinDesk USD Bitcoin Price Index (BPI) data reveals," reports CoinDesk. "This price was roughly 20% lower than the day's opening of $607.37 and 27% below the high of $658.28 reached on Saturday, July 30th, when the digital currency began pushing lower."
Businesses

AR Helmet Startup Skully Has Crashed and Burned (techcrunch.com) 43

An anonymous reader writes from a report via TechCrunch: Sources inside the AR helmet company Skully say the startup is no more. TechCrunch reports: "Operations have ceased within the company, and we're told the website will be turned off at some point today. [Skully's CEO and co-founder Marcus Weller] has also been asked to sign a confidentiality deal with investors. Weller told TechCrunch today he will not sign and that he's completely walked away from all dealings with the company as of 10 days ago. The site is still up for now but it says Skully's AR-1 helmet is sold out in every size and no one is able to order. A source tells us sales were cut off on Monday. The shutdown leaves several vendors and Skully's manufacturer Flextronics with unpaid bills and at least 50 full-time employees out of a job. It's unclear if any of the vendors will be paid. That also means the more than 3,000 people who pre-ordered a helmet may never get one -- and one source tells us it's doubtful any of them will be receiving a refund." One source claims Weller botched a possible acquisition deal with Chinese company LeSports before leaving the company last week, while another says the deal might still happen now that the former CEO is gone. Weller is saying that he and his brother were forced out of the company after investors disagreed with the LeSports deal. Investors from Intel Capital ultimately determined it was best to simply shut down the entire company instead of trying to salvage the company Weller started. "We're disappointed Skully has closed its doors. We've been focused on the company's success for nearly two years and have recently been trying to negotiate a funding round to keep it going," Intel Capital said in a statement. "We're certainly sorry for the employees who are losing their jobs, the crowdfunding backers whose investments didn't work out and the customers who'd pre-purchased product. We continue to be excited by the promise of this kind of wearable technology."

UPDATE 8/10/16: Skully has sent an email to its customers telling them they have officially closed their doors. TechCrunch reports that the site is still up, but the company is no more. "Over the past several weeks our management team has worked feverishly to raise additional capital but unforeseen challenges and circumstances, beyond our control, made this effort impossible," the letter to customers reads. The company is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which means customers will likely not be getting a refund on pre-orders for the $1500 AR helmet.
Censorship

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Blocked In Turkey During Reported Coup Attempt (techcrunch.com) 153

An anonymous reader writes: In response to an attempted military coup, the Turkish government has reportedly blocked social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. TechCrunch reports: "Turkey Blocks, a Twitter account that regularly checks if sites are being blocked in the country, reported at 1:04 PM Pacific (11:04 PM Istanbul time) that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all unresponsive, though Instagram and Vimeo remained available." Some Turkish users were able to update their social media accounts likely through a VPN or other anonymizing service. One user posted a video on Twitter that shows what appears to be a fighter jet flying very low over the Turkish capital of Ankara; another user has tweeted a video of a helicopter opening fire in Turkey. The Associated Press reports that Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, has confirmed the coup by a group within Turkey's military. The following statement from the group was reportedly read on local television: "Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged. All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue."

UPDATE 7/15/16: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued a statement in a FaceTime call to CNN Turk urging Turkish citizens to take to the streets to defend "Turkish democracy." He urges the Turkish people to convene at public squares and airports, saying there is no power higher than the power of the people.
Iphone

PSA: Pokemon Go Has Full Access To Your Google Account Data (techcrunch.com) 104

An anonymous reader writes: If you're an iPhone user and have installed Pokemon GO, you may have noticed that the app grants itself full access to your Google account. It can read your email, location history, documents and pretty much every else associated with your Google account. (You can check to see for yourself here.) Given the nature of the game, it's understandable for it to request a lot of permissions, as it needs your precise location, ability to access the camera and motion sensors, read and write the SD card, and charge you money when you run out of Pokeballs or eggs. But full access to your Google account is pushing it, even if Niantic or Nintendo has no malicious intentions. If you're concerned about these permissions, you can always sign-up using a Pokemon Trainer account, assuming the servers are permitting. Google describes full account access as such: "When you grant full account access, the application can see and modify nearly all information in your Google Account (but it canâ(TM)t change your password, delete your account, or pay with Google Wallet on your behalf). This 'Full account access' privilege should only be granted to applications you fully trust, and which are installed on your personal computer, phone, or tablet."
Democrats

DNC Hacker Releases Clinton Foundation Documents (washingtonexaminer.com) 156

An anonymous reader writes: Following a report that Russian hackers penetrated the DNC's database, a hacker, who identifies himself as "Guccifer 2.0" after a popular Romanian hacker who hacked various American political figures, most notably Hillary Clinton and her private server, has published documents on Tuesday that he says came from the party's digital files. The documents detail Clinton's weaknesses as a candidate, and include a collection of negative press clips about the Clinton Foundation and a list of defenses against attacks on her private email use. Washington Examiner reports: "Another document, titled '2016 Democrats Positions Cheat Sheet,' listed major policy issues and indicated where Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, Lincoln Chaffee, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden -- all former or possible rivals for the Democratic nomination -- stood on each issue." The documents contain information ranging from how the Clinton Foundation and its allies should respond to criticisms of the Clinton Foundation's revenue sources to how Chelsea Clinton wasn't able to answer questions about Clinton Foundation donations and other instances in which Bill Clinton was called a "sexual predator" for his past indiscretions. Even though the cybersecurity breach was blamed on the Russian government, the Kremlin has denied any involvement. The DNC also has yet to confirm or deny the authenticity of the leaked documents.
Government

Invoking Orlando, Senate Republicans Set Up Vote To Expand FBI Spying (reuters.com) 660

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up a vote late on Monday to expand the FBI's authority to use a secretive surveillance order without a warrant to include email metadata and some browsing history information. The move, made via an amendment to a criminal justice appropriations bill, is an effort by Senate Republicans to respond to last week's mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub after a series of measures to restrict guns offered by both parties failed on Monday. Privacy advocates denounced the effort, saying it seeks to exploit a mass shooting in order to expand the government's digital spying powers. The amendment would broaden the FBI's authority to use so-called National Security Letters to include electronic communications transaction records such as time stamps of emails and the emails' senders and recipients. NSLs do not require a warrant and are almost always accompanied by a gag order preventing the service provider from sharing the request with a targeted user. The amendment filed Monday would also make permanent a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows the intelligence community to conduct surveillance on "lone wolf" suspects who do not have confirmed ties to a foreign terrorist group. A vote is expected no later than Wednesday, McConnell's office said. Last week, FBI Director James Comey said he is "highly confident that [the Orlando shooter] was radicalized at least in part through the internet."
Businesses

New York Senate Passes Bill That Bans Short-Term Apartment Listings On Airbnb (theverge.com) 211

An anonymous reader writes: The New York Senate passed a bill on Friday that makes it illegal to advertise entire unoccupied apartments for short-term rentals on Airbnb. The bill is headed to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk for him to either veto or sign into law. The Verge reports: "The bill prohibits online apartment listings that last under 30 days and run up against the city's multiple dwelling law, which is designed to stop apartment buyers from renting out the entire space and basically turning their units into Airbnb hotels. First-time offenders would be fined $1,000, but a third infraction would be much costlier at $7,500. 'Let's be clear: this is a bad proposal that will make it harder for thousands of New Yorkers to pay the bills,' an Airbnb spokesperson told Tech Crunch. 'Dozens of governments around the world have demonstrated that there is a sensible way to regulate home sharing and we hope New York will follow their lead and protect the middle class.'" One of the bill's sponsors, State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, disagrees and claims that it targets "people or companies with multiple listings. There are so many units held by commercial operators, not individual tenants. They are bad actors who horde multiple units, driving up the cost of housing around them and across the city." She went on to say, "You should know who your neighbor is and what happens when people rent out their apartments on Airbnb is you get strangers," said told the New York Post. "Every night there could be a different person sleeping in the next apartment and it shatters that sense of community in the building. It also can be dangerous."
Businesses

Domino's Ends Free Pizza Promo With T-Mobile Due To High Demand (techcrunch.com) 56

An anonymous reader writes: In addition to giving customers stock in the company, T-Mobile announced last week at its "un-carrier" event that it would be offering freebies every Tuesday through its new app, such as Domino's pizza and Fandango movie tickets. One week has passed since then and Domino's is now backing out of the free pizza promotion due to higher-than-expected demand. T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted an internal memo from the company that read, "After reviewing yesterday's results and taking your feedback into account, the decision has been made not to continue the T-Mobile Tuesdays promotion unless we can find a solution that is best for the brand." Customers of T-Mobile were upset to find that Domino's was limiting the number of free pizzas per store due to promotion limits. Some stores simply stopped accepting the coupons. What may have led to the extremely high demand was the fact that under the deal's terms, T-Mobile customers on a single family plan could all use their own codes to place large orders of multiple pizzas. That is to say, each line warranted a free pizza.
Communications

Facebook Now Lets Users Comment With a Video (techcrunch.com) 29

An anonymous reader writes: As internet users continue to consume more videos than ever before, Facebook has decided to further add to the trend and officially launch video comments. Users are watching so many videos that the Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts internet video traffic will represent 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. Facebook said via a blog post that the new feature was developed at Facebook's 50th Hackathon. The team that built the feature included: Bob Baldwin who lead the initiative with Hermes Pique and Sameer Madan working on iOS, Muhammed Ibrahim worked on the web, and Billy Ng worked on Android. Baldwin's past projects consisted of features that let Facebook users include photos or stickers in the comments. The new video comments feature may help Facebook catch up to Snapchat in terms of daily videos viewed on the social media platform.
United States

Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel To Back Trump As GOP Presidential Candidate (techcrunch.com) 281

An anonymous reader writes: Billionaire tech investor, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal Peter Thiel has agreed to back Trump as a California delegate in Cleveland this summer. He will be one of 172 selected Golden State delegates headed to the Republican National Convention. His support for Trump contrasts many other leaders, like A16z's Marc Andreessen who has voiced his distaste for Trump, tweeting: "OH: Trump is like an Internet comments section decided to run for President." In the past, Thiel, who is a libertarian at heart, has donated $2.6 million to Ron Paul in 2012 and added $2 million to a Super PAC backing Ted Cruz's former running mate ex-HP CEO Carly Fiorina. He also gave $250,000 to Ted Cruz's bid for Texas attorney general in 2009.
Open Source

Scientist Shrinks Arduino To Size Of An AA Battery (techcrunch.com) 47

An anonymous reader writes: Johan Kanflo has managed to make the already small Tiny328 Arduino clone into an even smaller computing platform about the size of a single AA battery. Not only will it fit in a typical AA battery holder, but it will actually draw power from the batteries beside it as it's wired in "backwards" (with the + and - poles reversed). The Arduino platform consists of open-source hardware, open-source software, and microcontroller-based kits, making it easy to (re)program the processors, and develop software for hardware applications using a java-clone and an easy-to-learn IDE. For those interested in the AAduino, Johan has made his creation available online on Github with instructions and schematics to build your own.
Encryption

Burr-Feinstein Anti-Encryption Bill Is Officially Released (techcrunch.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein released the official version of their anti-encryption bill today after a draft appeared online last week. The bill, titled the Compliance with Court Orders Act 2016, would require tech firms to decrypt customers' data at a court's request. The bill is not expected to get anywhere in the Senate. President Obama has also indicated that he will not support the bill, Reuters reports. The bill requires legislation requires communications services to backdoor their encryption in order to provide "intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information or data." Sen. Feinstein stated, "The bill we have drafted would simply provide that, if a court of law issues an order to render technical assistance or provide decrypted data, the company or individual would be required to do so. Today, terrorists and criminals are increasingly using encryption to foil law enforcement efforts, even in the face of a court order. We need strong encryption to protect personal data, but we also need to know when terrorists are plotting to kill Americans."
AI

Facebook's Messenger Bot Store Could Be Most Important Launch Since App Store (techcrunch.com) 60

An anonymous reader writes from an opinionated article on TechCrunch by Tom Hadfield: If Facebook announces the "Messenger Bot Store" at F8, as many predict, it would be arguably the most consequential event for the tech industry since Apple announced the App Store and iPhone SDK in March 2008. Today, Facebook Messenger has 800 million monthly active users -- more than 100 times the number of iPhone owners when Apple launched the App Store. In January, TechCrunch first reported rumors of Facebook's secret Chat SDK for building Messenger bots. If and when Facebook announces a Bot Store, it will mark the "end of the beginning" of a new era: messaging as a platform. Over the summer, The Information broke the news that AI-powered Facebook M would enable Messenger users to make purchases, restaurant reservations, and travel bookings within the messaging interface. A Messenger Bot Store would have far-reaching consequences not only for entrepreneurs and investors, but also developers and designers. Sam Lessin, the CEO of Fin, says the rise of chat-based user interfaces will mark "a fundamental shift that is going to change the types of applications that get developed and the style of service development." For a time, bots were perceived to be plain-text exchanges and as such were often described as "invisible apps." As Jonathan Libov at USV points out, "just because the container is a messenger doesn't mean that all the apps inside are text-based." Tomaz Stolfa says there is "unexplored potential in blending conversational interfaces with rich graphical UI elements." If 800 million Facebook users start discovering bots in Messenger after F8, it will vindicate those who have been saying bots are the new apps.
Social Networks

4chan Founder Chris Poole Will Try To Fix Social At Google (techcrunch.com) 185

An anonymous reader writes: Google never "got" social. For all the resources thrown at it, Google+ just never quite felt human. But luckily Google just hired the guy behind 4chan -- a site that epitomized the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity on the internet. Chris Poole started 4chan in his bedroom at age 15. In the 12 years since, he built it into a 20 million active user image-sharing community around topics ranging from cosplay and cute animals to anime porn and the notoriously uncensored anonymous channel /b/. While Google probably won't force him into a suit and tie, Poole now has a much more corporate job: He'll be working under Google's Bradley Horowitz, VP of streams, photos and sharing. Poole writes: "When meeting with current and former Googlers, I continually find myself drawn to their intelligence, passion, and enthusiasm -- as well as a universal desire to share it with others. I'm also impressed by Google's commitment to enabling these same talented people to tackle some of the world's most interesting and important problems."
Communications

The Widely Reported ISIS Encrypted Messaging App Is Not Real 113

blottsie writes: Despite widespread reports to the contrary, an app created for Islamic State militants to send private encrypted messages does not exist, a week-long Daily Dot investigation found. All of the media articles on the Alrawi app showed screenshots of a different app entirely, one that is a glorified RSS reader with a totally different name. The Defense One journalist who first reported on GSG's claims about the app told the Daily Dot that he hadn't seen any version of Alrawi at all, and the subsequent reports on the app largely relied on Defense One's reporting. The Daily Dot was the first media outlet to receive, on Jan. 18, what GSG claimed was the Alrawi encryption app. The app, called "Alrawi.apk," contained no ability to send or encrypt messages. It was created using MIT's App Inventor, a plug-and-play tool meant primarily for children.
Microsoft

Microsoft Leaks New HoloLens Details (mashable.com) 71

New submitter moriarty1972 writes: More details about Microsoft's HoloLens have come out. The device will offer roughly five to five and a half hours of battery life when working on Word documents or email, and about two and a half hours when using it for highly intensive computational work involving detailed renderings. Mashable reports: "Microsoft's augmented reality headset called the HoloLens has already won over a number of fans eager to try the device, but details about how it works have been scarce However, a few more bits of information about the HoloLens leaked during a recent event in Tel Aviv, Israel, courtesy of Bruce Harris, a technical evangelist at Microsoft."
Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 Reach End-of-Life Next Week (thenextweb.com) 250

An anonymous reader writes: On Tuesday, January 12, Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 will officially reach their end of life. A new patch going live soon will add a notification that nags users to upgrade. "What's even bigger about the end of life for these versions is that this means Internet Explorer 11 is the last version of Microsoft's old browser that's left supported, as the company continues to transition customers to Edge on Windows 10."
Security

Ashley Madison Says It Added 4 Million Members Since the Hack (cnn.com) 125

New submitter fardindany writes with news that the months-old Ashley Madison hack seems to have had little impact on new users joining up. CNN reports: "Despite the infamous hack that exposed millions of cheaters online, infidelity dating site Ashley Madison says its ranks are growing. At the time of the hack, Ashley Madison said it had 39 million members. The website now says it has more than 43 million members, according to a rolling count on its homepage."

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