Everyone deals with annoying technology (and those LinkedIn spam messages), but few ever have those emails of frustration released to the public.
Since May, the State Department has been releasing Hillary Clinton’s emails from when she served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. During that time, the tech-savvy Clinton had created a private email server in her home and used a personal email for some of her official government business. A court ordered that those emails needed to be released as a matter of public record.
When you’re trying to help run the country, though, you’re bound to run into a few technical problems along the way.
While many of the now-public emails are dealing with the day-to-day work of being Secretary of State, there are several gems — like a fight over a fax machine — that show how Clinton deals with the struggles of technology like the rest of us.
Sometimes you can’t find the radio station.
Or figure out how to operate a fax machine.
Sometimes the White House operators just don’t believe who you say you are. (Although this one admittedly is likely more unique to Clinton than the rest of us.)
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Tech website Gadgets 360 has exclusively begun taking reservations for the extremely affordable, upper mid-range Obi Worldphone SF1 for customers in India.
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Do you have multiple Instagram accounts? Those of you who do can attest to the annoyance that it can be to switch between accounts. Now we know this is something Instagram is definitely working on!
Feeling melancholic? Do you wish Cyanogen was back in bed with OnePlus? That may not be happening anymore, but at least now we know CyanogenMod is coming to the OnePlus 2!
There’s plenty of Black Friday and Cyber Week deals out there, but those who like an unlocked handset will probably prefer the new discount eBay seller 232tech is currently holding on the Galaxy Note 5.
It has become especially trendy among software companies such as Salesforce and FireEye. This helps the companies keep labor costs down while giving employees a possibly valuable asset to supplement their income.
But the prevalence of the practice among software firms drew criticism from Raimo Lenschow of Barclays.
“This strategy of high stock-based compensation expense is logical for high-growth companies that need to be careful with their cash balances as they invest since they are either burning cash or only marginally free cash flow positive,” wrote Lenschow, a tech analyst. “Yet, it is important to understand that this comes at the expense of existing shareholders who see their stakes essentially transferred away.”
Diluting investors’ stakes
Let’s break it down. Say a company has 2 million shares total. It issued 1 million shares to the public and keeps 1 million private. An investor can then buy 100,000 shares, and they would expect to own 5% of the company. If the company decides at the beginning of its fiscal year to distribute 500,000 shares to its employees, however, the investors stake then decreases to 4%.
Based on the average rate of stock compensation, said Lenschow, this could be a serious issue.
“We show later in this report that the average annual share base dilution for high growth software companies is over 4% annually,” said the note.
“This means that over the course of ten years, a shareholder could see their stake in the company diluted by 34%. We believe this is something to be careful of, especially as investors are starting to perform valuations based on financial estimates that are farther and farther into the future.”
A cover for financial reports
The second issue is the way software companies are reporting the compensations. According to Lenschow, many of these companies are only reporting stock options given to employees, not unvested restricted stock units (RSUs).
The companies are able to hide this because employees are promised the stock, but it is doled out over a number of years. This makes a big difference.
“The difference between the ‘diluted’ share count from the weighted average share count on the income statement and a proper share count calculation is quite large for some of the high growth names,” wrote Lenschow. “We… find that for some names it nearly approaches a double digit percentage, with an average of approximately 7%.”
Lenschow said some tech companies, most notable Amazon, have been able to more accurately report this data. But this probably isn’t going to happen.
“More transparency would be helpful for investors in this case, although it is likely not in the companies’ interests,” said. “The companies benefit from the lower perceived share counts since it makes their valuations seem cheaper.”
Not only that, said Lenschow, but this also allows the companies, through crafty accounting, to make their profit margins appear higher than they are.
Lenschow’s note suggests that while this sort of compensation is great for attracting talent and making the companies look better, it’s not particularly beneficial for investors.
A week and a half ago, we learned that Tesla is on a quest to hire more engineers to accelerate the development of its self-driving car technologies.
Tesla was already no slouch in the autonomous-vehicle world, having released its Autopilot feature into the wild just over a month ago.
We sampled Autopilot as soon as it hit the streets and were quite impressed, to put it mildly.
But evidently, Tesla CEO isn’t impressed enough. So he put out a call via Twitter for “hardcore” software engineers to take Autopilot from where it now — semi-autonomous driving under certain circumstances, such as on highways — to the mythical full autonomy of the “Minority Report” type: cars that can drive themselves 100% of the time.
This is a hugely important development for both Tesla and the auto industry. Regardless of how one feels about how Tesla got to where it is now and where it may wind up in the future, the company has provided tremendous leadership for startup automakers, electric vehicles, and autonomous driving.
On autonomous driving, Tesla was actually a bit late to the game, but it has caught up rapidly. It now sits squarely in middle of an industry consensus about self-driving vehicles. The view is that autonomy will evolve over the next 10 years, with major car makers gradually adding features to their fleets. Consumers will move slowly and steadily from the “super” cruise control features that are now appearing in cars to full autonomy.
A faster future
Tesla was part of that consensus. The more out-there ideas about self-driving cars were being explored by Google, which with its Google Car is trying to take the human driver completely out of the picture from the get go. The pace at which Tesla introduced Autopilot more or less mirrored what General Motors has been doing, just with a more aggressive go-to-market plan.
Until Autopilot actually wound up in Tesla vehicles.
It was clearly a burning bush moment for Musk. This is how it goes sometimes: you don’t see the future until some small aspect of it appears in the present.
Musk isn’t one to waste time, so little more than a month after he saw Autopilot in action, he was ready to double down on the technology. The fastest way to effect massive technological change in the early 21st century is through software. Tesla already has plenty of experience with this, effectively making its cars almost new in their capabilities through over-the-air software updates.
Model S sedan owners, for example, went to sleep with cars that drove dumb and woke up with cars that could drive themselves. Software did that.
Theoretically, Tesla vehicles are already equipped with enough cameras and sensors to drive themselves much of the time. It’s simply a matter of orchestrating the data. And that of course is the challenge that Musk has now made it his personal responsibility to tackle — the forthcoming Tesla self-driving Seal team is going to report directly to the CEO.
Everyone I’ve spoken with the auto industry thinks that full autonomy will probably happen, but they also know that it order to achieve full autonomy, massive amounts of data will have to be crunched and lots of money will have to be invested in upgraded the tech that currently allows cars to manage the cruise-control-plus autonomy we can now enjoy on a limited basis.
Musk hears that, sees how Tesla Autopilot has performed so far, and concludes that there must be a cheaper, faster solution.
What does he have to do to pursue that solution?
Well, he doesn’t need to construct a factory or develop an entirely new platform. He just needs to hire some programmers, set them down in front of laptops, and hover over them like a ruthless taskmaster. I hope these people know what they’re signing up for. Faster and cheaper doesn’t mean easier.
Fortunately, Tesla has a big advantage over, say, a new entrant to the automotive game that also wants to offer disruptive autopiloting: Tesla has a fleet of some 90,000 cars, roughly, on the road right now that it can use as a vast test platform.
Every Autopilot-enabled Tesla is already feeding data back to the mothership, providing a basis for tweaking the technology for future updates. Tesla’s vehicles are quite literally learning the roads that they drive on and are enriching the company’s overall mapping efforts. This is something of a secret weapon for Tesla autonomous-driving initiatives: its entire fleet can learn to drive itself.
The bet on software
If Musk is right about betting on software, then he could advance the timetable on full autonomy by half a decade. Big leaps in automotive technology are held back by hardware. In essence, cars are about as good as they can get, having been steadily improved over a century Future progress on the hardware side will be incremental, even for Tesla.
That leaves the software side for game-changing innovations.
Musk knows this. That’s why he isn’t wasting any time. And I wouldn’t bet against him. He’s used software to alter the banking system (PayPal), drastically improve the automobile (Tesla), and provide a much cheaper way to get rockets into space.
That’s an impressive track record. A month ago, electric cars didn’t naturally lead to autonomous driving. But now they do. Get ready to experience Tesla’s vision of the future, a whole lot sooner than expected.
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Increasingly, consumers are opting to do Black Friday from the comfort of their their phones, tablets and PCs. Online sales for Black Friday were up 21.5% over last year, according to IBM.
Between Black Friday and Thanksgiving, online shoppers spent about $4.5 billion, with 60% – $2.72 billion– spent on Black Friday itself, according to Adobe.
As you might expect, ecommerce giant Amazon was a big winner. Traffic to Amazon grew nearly 21% for this year’s Black Friday compared to 2014, according to ChannelAdvisor. And traffic to eBay grew 1.5% on Black Friday.
Price comparison tool Google Shopping was another huge winner, with traffic growth about 40% year over year, ChannelAdvisor says, while other online stores (which include sites like Best Buy, Sears, Rakuten.com, and Shopping.com, but excludes Amazon and eBay) claimed their fair share, collectively seeing a 77% increase in visitors.
More than half of shoppers — 57% — used their phones and tablets to browse ecommerce sites. And a large percentage, 35%, made the actual purchase on their phones or tablets, instead of switching to their PCs to do that, IBM says.
As to what people bought online: Electronics, electronics, electronics.
According to Adobe, the most popular Black Friday electronics were:
Samsung 4K TVs Apple iPad Air 2 Microsoft Xbox One Apple iPad Mini Sony PS4
Adobe says the five most popular toys were:
Lego Dimensions Shopkin dolls Lego Star Wars Barbie Dream House Lego Friends
According to IBM, the most popular Black Friday products were:
Samsung TVs Apple Watch Sony TVs Beats by Dre LG TVs Jordan Shoes Nintendo Super Smash Bros MeccaNoid Personal Robots (a robot kit that kids build themselves)
US shoppers took to their smartphones, tablets and PCs in record numbers on Black Friday, spending $2.72 billion shopping online, according to Adobe.
And one major retailer, Neiman Marcus, largely missed out, because its website kept crashing. The retailer says that the intermittent outage on Friday occurred over about 12 hours. It’s not revealing the cause of the outage.
And then, its website crashed again on Saturday.
The retailer was trying to get back into the Black Friday game by extending all of its Black Friday online promotions until 6 PM central on Saturday.
We’ve reached to the company to ask if it will extend its deals even longer, given its ongoing website problems and we’ll update this post when we hear back.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is responsible for some of the world’s most significant scientific and technological breakthroughs.
DARPA has had a hand in major inventions like GPS, the internet, and stealth aircraft. And it’s always developing new technologies — military or intelligence-related systems that could end up having a huge impact outside the battlefield as well.
We’ve looked at some of DARPA’s active projects, and found some of the more astounding systems that are currently in the works.
Bullets that can change direction in flight
Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) are the military’s first self-guided bullets.
EXACTO bullets are able to change their path during flight to correct for the movement of a target or any other factors that might have driven the bullet off course.
The bullets feature optical tips that can detect lasers on a target. Tiny fins on the bullets then guide the bullet towards that laser.
The Pentagon successfully conducted a live-fire test utilizing these rounds.
The High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program is an ambitious DARPA project aimed at neutralizing surface-to-air missile threats that aircraft may encounter.
Generally, surface-to-air missiles are faster than the plane they’re targeting, making it difficult for an aircraft to evade fire. The HELLADS program attempts to use lasers to disable incoming missiles.
DARPA is also planning on increasing the strength of the HELLADS laser in order to make it an offensive weapon capable of destroying enemy ground targets.
ARES will be a dual-mode vehicle capable of both driving on the ground and achieving high-speed vertical takeoff and landing. Twin tilting fans will allow the vehicle to hover and land. The vehicle can also configure itself for high-speed flight.
DARPA hopes that the ARES will be especially resistant to IEDs — while also being able to evade aerial threats, like air-to-air missiles.
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When you think about teaching robots to say “no” to human commands, your immediate reaction might be, “that seems like a truly horrible idea.” It is, after all, the bread and butter of science fiction nightmares; the first step to robots taking over the world.
But Gordon Briggs and Matthias Scheutz, two researchers at Tufts University’s Human-Robot Interaction Lab, think teaching robots to say “no” is an important part of developing a code of ethics for the future.
Consider this: the first robots to do evil deeds will definitely be acting on human orders. In fact, depending on your definition of a “robot” and of “evil,” they already have. And the threat of a human-directed robot destroying the world is arguably greater than that of a rogue robot doing so.
That’s where Briggs and Scheutz come in. They want to teach robots when to say “absolutely not,” to humans.
To do so, the pair have created a set of questions their robots need to answer before they will accept a command from a human:
- Knowledge: Do I know how to do X?
- Capacity: Am I physically able to do X now? Am I normally physically able to do X?
- Goal priority and timing: Am I able to do X right now?
- Social role and obligation: Am I obligated based on my social role to do X?
- Normative permissibly: Does it violate any normative principle to do X?
These questions work as a simplified version of the calculations humans make every day, except they hew more closely to logic than our thought processes do. There’s no, “Do I just not feel like getting out of bed right now” question.
Briggs and Scheutz’s efforts evoke science fiction superstar Isaac Asimov’s classic three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
In Briggs and Scheutz’s formulation, the second law is decidedly more complicated. They are giving robots a lot more reasons to say no than simply, “It might hurt a human being.”
Watch a video of how this programming actually functions in a robot below. The robot refuses to walk off the edge of the table until the researcher promises to catch him:
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing a plan to attach over 200 sensors to its system of satellites in order to detect wildfires quickly from space. The new system will revolutionize the way responders receive information about fires.
Produced by Justin Gmoser
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Regardless of how we define it, success can feel like a fleeting and often elusive target. It takes confidence, passion, and drive to accomplish your goals and to recognize success when you’ve achieved it.
Here’s how 20 influential executives and entrepreneurs describe the key to their success.
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The ASUS Chromebit is a full-fledged Chrome OS machine that fits in your pocket and only costs $84.99. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it could change your life if it fulfills your needs.
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Seven overseas fashion tech startups cosied up with Google in London this week as they look to scale their businesses.
The five-day exchange programme, led by Google program manager Francesca Dean, is designed to help the overseas startups forge relationships with retailers, investors, and other London companies.
Business Insider went to meet the cohort at Google’s London office on Tottenham Court Road on Wednesday. Here’s what we found out.
The fashion tech startups piled into one of Google’s conference rooms and told journalists about their businesses.
Sarah Drinkwater, head of Google’s Campus, told Business Insider: “Given that London is such a hub for fashion and retail tech, we selected seven startups that were nominated by our global partners to come here for a week-long immersion in the city, from investor meetings to product mentoring.”
“Through the Google for Entrepreneurs network (Campuses and partners in 42 locations, from Galvanize in San Francisco, to Factory in Berlin, Gaza Sky Geeks, Fishburners in Sydney), we know there are communities of founders the world over keen to scale,” said Drinkwater.
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British challenger bank Atom on Tuesday sold a 29.5% stake in the business to Spanish banking group BBVA for £45 million ($68 million).
It means the bank, which has yet to launch and will operate through just an app, has raised over £135 million ($203 million) to date. BBVA’s stake makes it Atom’s biggest shareholder and values the 18-month-old startup at around £150 million ($226.6 million).
Atom is one of a number of new challenger banks that have sprung up across the UK since the financial crisis. These new banks are hoping to steal market share from big lenders by capitalising on consumer dissatisfaction.
Atom fits into an even more specific niche within the challenger bank field: neobanks. Neobanks are online-only lenders that operate through just apps or online portals.
Atom became the first mobile-only bank to get a banking licence earlier this year and is set to launch in the UK early next year. Other neobanks applying for licences include Starling Bank and Mondo.
BBVA’s chairman and CEO Francisco Gonzalez says in an emailed statement on Tuesday:
BBVA believes the digital market in the UK offers excellent growth opportunities and that digital banks that put the customer first are the future. BBVA’s investment in Atom backs those beliefs in one move.
Atom’s CEO Mark Mullen says:
Atom is delighted to partner with BBVA. We have long admired their vision and leadership, and like us BBVA clearly believe in the power of technology to transform customers’ lives for the better. We share BBVA’s commitment to place the interests of customers at the heart of everything they do.
Atom, based in Durham, is also backed by financial heavyweights including star fund manager Neil Woodford and Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist famous for coining the term BRICs to refer to Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Atom CEO Mullen used to run HSBC’s telephone banking business and Atom’s chairman Anthony Thomson co-founded challenger bank Metro Bank.
The company hasn’t revealed much about but Mullen told us back in June: “We’ve set about designing a banking app that’s in tune with how people think about their money. Taking an app-based approach allows us to use all the features of your mobile device to provide a slick and highly personalised experience.”