Last year, Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation for the Tesla Model S after investigating its reliability. Today, the nonprofit organization released its 2016 Car Reliability Survey and found that, while the Tesla Model S has become more reliable, the Tesla Model X has proved to be unreliable overall. CNNMoney reports: CEO Elon Musk admitted that he wished he hadn't put so much new, complex technology on [the Model X] all at once when he unveiled the model last year. Apparently, he was right to worry. The Model X's complicated "falcon wing" doors have been a big trouble spot, said Jake Fisher, head of Consumer Reports' car testing unit. Even the front doors, which have electric motors that let them open on their own, have been a headache for customers, he added. As a result, Tesla ranks among the "Less Reliable" brands on Consumer Reports' list. The SUV's dependability is rated as "Much worse than average." Still, overall owner satisfaction with the vehicle is rated as "Excellent." For a long time, "dependability problems" have tended to be relatively trivial, said Fisher, as the industry has perfected the major mechanical aspects of the cars. In recent years, the problems have stemmed from the more high-tech additions to the newest cars, like the computer screens that work with phone, navigation and entertainment features, said Fisher. But now, with tougher fuel economy rules pushing more complex transmission technologies, dependability issues are once again starting to involve fundamental mechanical components. New eight- and nine-speed transmissions as well as dual-clutch and continuously variable transmissions have been suffering problems at a higher-than-average rate, Fisher said. It's been years since new car buyers would have to worry about things that could actually render their vehicle undrivable. But those concerns are coming back, Fisher said. As for the Model S, Consumer Reports says "Tesla's Model S has improved to average reliability, which now makes the electric car one of our recommended models."
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Twitter Inc. is planning widespread job cuts, to be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter. The company may cut about 8 percent of the workforce, or about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, the people said. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. An announcement about the job reductions may come before Twitter releases third-quarter earnings on Thursday, one of the people said. Twitter, which loses money, is trying to control spending as sales growth slows. The company recently hired bankers to explore a sale, but the companies that had expressed interest in bidding -- Salesforce.com Inc., The Walt Disney Co. and Alphabet Inc. -- later backed out from the process. Twitter's losses and 40 percent fall in its share price the past 12 months have made it more difficult for the company to pay its engineers with stock. That has made it harder for Twitter to compete for talent with giant rivals like Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Facebook Inc. Reducing employee numbers would relieve some of this pressure.
According to a study by IHS Markit this month, in the last two years Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion. The company has invested big in original programming -- and it looks to be paying off. The folks over at AllFlicks have found that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to that of its syndicated content. AllFlicks reports: Netflix user ratings show that Netflix's subscriber base prefers Netflix's original content to its syndicated content. Netflix originals sport an average rating of 3.85 stars out of five; all other content averages 3.47 stars. That means that user ratings for Netflix originals are 11% higher, on average, than user ratings for syndicated content. Netflix does best in the documentaries category, where users rate non-original content, on average, at 3.54. Netflix's documentaries average 4.07 stars, a pretty impressive showing. Netflix's TV shows do the worst, but still edge their other TV show content by 5.7%. It's possible that the frequent reviewers among Netflix's user base differ from the user base as a whole, but there's not a lot of reason to doubt the raw data here. The Netflix originals and non-originals were both reviewed on the same service and using the same rating system, yet originals consistently outperformed the rest of the content.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Chinese billionaire Jack Ma proposed that the nation's top security bureau use big data to prevent crime, endorsing the country's nascent effort to build unparalleled online surveillance of its billion-plus people. China's data capabilities are virtually unrivaled among its global peers, and policing cannot happen without the ability to analyze information on its citizens, the co-founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said in a speech published Saturday by the agency that polices crime and runs the courts. Ma's stance resonates with that of China's ruling body, which is establishing a system to collect and parse information on citizens in a country where minimal safeguards exist for privacy. "Bad guys in a movie are identifiable at first glance, but how can the ones in real life be found?" Ma said in his speech, which was posted on the official WeChat account of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs. "In the age of big data, we need to remember that our legal and security system with millions of members will also face change." In his speech, Ma stuck mainly to the issue of crime prevention. In Alibaba's hometown of Hangzhou alone, the number of surveillance cameras may already surpass that of New York's, Ma said. Humans can't handle the sheer amount of data amassed, which is where artificial intelligence comes in, he added. "The future legal and security system cannot be separated from the internet and big data," Ma said. Ma's speech also highlights the delicate relationship between Chinese web companies and the government. The ruling party has designated internet industry leaders as key targets for outreach, with President Xi Jinping saying in May last year that technology leaders should "demonstrate positive energy in purifying cyberspace."
An anonymous reader shares a Gizmodo report: Remember how smartwatches were supposed to be the next big thing? About that... The market intelligence firm IDC reported on Monday that smartwatch shipments are down 51.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2016. This is bad news for all smartwatch vendors (except maybe Garmin), but it's especially bad for Apple, which saw shipments drop 71.6 percent, according to the IDC report Apple is still the overall smartwatch market leader, with an estimated 41.3-percent of the market, but IDC estimates it shipped only 1.1 million Apple Watches in Q3 2016, compared with 3.9 million in 2015. To a degree, that's to be expected, since the new Apple Watch Series 2 came out at the tail-end of the quarter. But the news is still a blow, when you consider how huge the Apple Watch hype was just 18 months ago.
schwit1 quotes a report from Washington Post: Secret law enforcement requests to conduct electronic surveillance in domestic criminal cases have surged in federal courts for Northern Virginia and the District, but only one in a thousand of the applications ever becomes public, newly released data show. The bare-bones release by the courts leaves unanswered how long, in what ways and for what crimes federal investigators tracked individuals' data and whether long-running investigations result in charges. In Northern Virginia, electronic surveillance requests increased 500 percent in the past five years, from 305 in 2011 to a pace set to pass 1,800 this year. Only one of the total 4,113 applications in those five years had been unsealed as of late July, according to information from the Alexandria division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which covers northern Virginia. The report adds: "The federal court for the District of Columbia had 235 requests in 2012, made by the local U.S. attorney's office. By 2013, requests in the District had climbed 240 percent, to about 564, according to information released by the court's chief judge and clerk. Three of the 235 applications from 2012 have been unsealed. The releases from the Washington-area courts list applications by law enforcement to federal judges asking to track data -- but not eavesdrop -- on users' electronic communications. That data can include sender and recipient information, and the time, date, duration and size of calls, emails, instant messages and social media messages, as well as device identification numbers and some website information."
American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin argues that though hardware is nice and dandy, it is the software that matters. And not just software that runs on a computer, "but the metaphorical idea of rules and algorithms designed to solve problems and connect people," he writes. Godin has used the piece to note how Apple has increasingly grown focused on hardware, and as a result, it's not putting much effort to fixing its software. He writes, "Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it's free, no competitors. Keynote, a presentation program that hasn't been improved in years. iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty. iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon. No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they've stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new." From the article: Software can change faster than hardware, which means that in changing markets, bet on software. It's tempting to treat the user interface as a piece of fashion, some bling, a sort of jewelry. It's not. It's the way your user controls the tool you build. Change it when it stops working, not when you're bored with it. Every time you change the interface, you better have a really good reason.John Gruber disagrees. He writes: Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don't lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can't even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable -- there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It's unsettling.
Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old online consumer guide. The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction. Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media's Gizmodo, founded The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company's growth. The Wirecutter provides recommendations for electronics and other gadgets that are both obsessively researched and simply presented. The Wirecutter also owns The Sweethome, which takes the same approach for home appliances and other gear. "We're very excited about this acquisition on two fronts," said Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Company, in the acquisition release. "It's an impressively run business with a very attractive revenue model and its success is built on the foundation of great, rigorously reported service journalism." The Wirecutter tweeted earlier today: "Hey, we're still us. But we're a part of The New York Times now."
An anonymous reader shares a CNET report: If you can turn thin air into water, there may be more than $1 million in it for you. XPrize, which creates challenges that pit the brightest minds against one another, is hoping to set off a wave of new innovations in clean water -- and women's safety too. The company announced its Water Abundance XPrize and the Anu & Naveen Jain Women's Safety XPrize on Monday in New Delhi. The first competition will award $1.75 million to any team that can create a device able to produce at least 2,000 liters of water a day from the atmosphere, using completely renewable energy, for at most 2 cents a liter. Teams have up to two years to complete the challenge. India is at the center of the world's water crisis, with access to groundwater depleted in some northern and eastern parts of the country. Water has become so scarce in India that natural arsenic has infiltrated the soil and water in certain regions. While there are systems that can currently extract water from the atmosphere, many of them aren't energy-efficient, or generating enough water. "We know that overuse of groundwater resources are causing the water crisis and it's only getting worse," said Zenia Tata, XPrize's executive director of Global Expansion. The $1 million Women's Safety XPrize calls for an emergency alert system that women can use, even if they don't have access to their phones. The alert would have to be sent automatically and inconspicuously to emergency responders, within 90 seconds, at a cost of $40 or less a year. The device would have to work even in cases where there's no cellphone signal or internet access.
Reader Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft is to substantially increase its prices for software and cloud services prices offered in British pounds in order to accommodate the sharp drop in the currency against the US dollar in recent weeks. Beginning in January 2017 on-premises enterprise software prices will go up by 13 percent and most enterprise cloud prices will increase by 22 percent, bringing them into line with euro prices. Microsoft said it isn't planning to change its prices for consumer software and cloud services. The value of the pound has fallen by about 18 percent since the EU referendum on 23 June.
The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre. Reuters reports: With world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilize the planet, scientists said. That could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants. But other changes -- such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables -- could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks, he said.
An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.
PayPal has announced that it's rolling out as an additional payment option within Facebook Messenger, which currently supports payments via debit cards. From a VentureBeat article: PayPal has been pushing to expand its reach into the consumer realm, having struck partnerships with MasterCard, Visa, Vodafone, and Alibaba, among other companies in the past few months alone. With Facebook Messenger on board, this opens PayPal up to a potential one billion users. Facebook first unveiled plans to expand Messenger beyond a messaging app and into a platform last year, letting retailers connect with customers on one of the world's most popular messaging services. Retailers including Everlane and Zulily were among the first partners announced, while big-name brands such as KLM have since signed up to embrace Messenger as a platform.
An anonymous reader writes: The two top members of the Senate's antitrust subcommittee said Sunday that they plan to probe a colossal deal between AT&T and Time Warner. In a statement, Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. -- chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights -- said AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues" that the panel would "carefully examine." AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson announced the $85 billion deal Saturday as "a great fit" that will combine the "world's best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen." Among those new properties are HBO, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros., which would give them ownership of Cinemax, CNN and DC Comics, to name a few. Last year, AT&T completed the purchase of DirecTV, the country's largest satellite television provider. In an interview with NBC News, Klobuchar pointed to past mega-media acquisitions -- including the purchase of NBCUniversal by Comcast in 2011 and of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications -- and said the "sheer volume" of the deal should give regulators pause.Presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that he would not approve of this deal if elected as the President. In the meanwhile, Bernie Sanders have also asked Obama administration to kill this agreement. The Vermont Senator said, "The deal would mean higher prices and fewer choices for the American people,"