Businesses

With Her Blog Post About Toxic Bro-Culture at Uber, Susan Fowler Proved That One Person Can Make a Difference (recode.net) 6

Kara Swisher, writing for Recode: It was Lao Tzu who said that "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now -- culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick -- it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors. It was clear from the moment you read the 3,000-word post by former engineer Susan Fowler about her time at the car-hailing company that nothing was going to be the same. Titled simply, "Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber," the essay deftly and surgically laid out the map that the media and others would use to prove to its out-to-lunch board and waffling investors that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to go. In her account, Fowler was neither mean nor self-righteous, although in reading the story that she laid out about her horrible time there, it would have been completely fair for her to have taken that tone.
Businesses

Remember When You Called Someone and Heard a Song? (vice.com) 113

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: If you were youngish in the early 2000s, you probably remember this phenomenon -- calling a friend's cell phone, and instead of hearing the the standard ring, you heard a pop song. Called ringback tones, this digital music fad allowed cell phone owners to subject callers to their own musical preference. Ringback tones were incredibly trendy in the early and mid-2000's, but have since tapered off nearly to oblivion. Though almost nobody is buying ringbacks anymore, plenty of people still have them from back in the day. [...] In the process of writing this story, I heard from several people that they or someone they knew still had a ringback tone, in large part because they have had it for years, and don't know how to get rid of it.
The Almighty Buck

eBay Will Now Price Match Amazon, Walmart and Others On Over 50,000 Items (techcrunch.com) 51

eBay announced today a new Price Match Guarantee for over 50,000 items across its site -- promising that it will have the best deal online, or it will match the lowest price of a competitor. While only select items are available for this offer, "the move is a significant effort on eBay's part to ensure that it doesn't lose customers to Amazon, Walmart and other online stores as the market consolidates behind the industry's major players," reports TechCrunch. From the report: In order to qualify, the item must be one of the new, unopened items sold daily through eBay Deals, for starters. Deals are eBay's selection of "trending" inventory across all its categories -- like consumer electronics, home & garden, and fashion. The deals are also generally offered at 20 percent to 90 percent off, and are sourced from over 900 of eBay's trusted sellers. These sellers include both smaller merchants looking to grow their customer base as well as major consumer brands. At any time, eBay says there are "tens of thousands" of items offered through the Deals site, with featured deals updating at least once per day, beginning at 8 AM PT.
Security

Honda Shuts Down Factory After Finding NSA-derived Wcry In Its Networks (arstechnica.com) 58

A Honda factory near Tokyo was shuttered for over 24 hours this week after its computers became infected with WannaCry, the same ransomware virus responsible for crippling systems in dozens of countries last month, the car manufacturer said Wednesday. From a report: The automaker shut down its Sayama plant northwest of Tokyo on Monday after finding that WCry had affected networks across Japan, North America, Europe, China, and other regions, Reuters reported Wednesday. Discovery of the infection came on Sunday, more than five weeks after the onset of the NSA-derived ransomware worm, which struck an estimated 727,000 computers in 90 countries. [...] Honda officials didn't explain why engineers found WCry in their networks 37 days after the kill switch was activated. One possibility is that engineers had mistakenly blocked access to the kill-switch domain. That would have caused the WCry exploit to proceed as normal, as it did in the 12 or so hours before the domain was registered. Another possibility is that the WCry traces in Honda's networks were old and dormant, and the shutdown of the Sayama plant was only a precautionary measure. In any event, the discovery strongly suggests that as of Monday, computers inside the Honda network had yet to install a highly critical patch that Microsoft released in March.
Businesses

Walmart to Vendors: Get Off Amazon's Cloud (wsj.com) 152

Amazon vs. Walmart saga continues. It turns out, Walmart isn't thrilled about its partners using Amazon's cloud, and it's telling them to get off it (alternative source). From a report: Walmart is telling some technology companies that if they want its business, they can't run applications for the retailer on Amazon's leading cloud-computing service, Amazon Web Services, several tech companies say. [...] Walmart, loath to give any business to Amazon, said it keeps most of its data on its own servers and uses services from emerging AWS competitors, such as Microsoft's Azure.
United States

Etsy Slashes Almost a Quarter Of Its Staff In Attempt To Refocus (engadget.com) 53

Etsy, the online market for artisan and handmade goods, said on Wednesday that it will reduce its workforce by 15 per cent on top of another round of job cuts announced last month. From a report: CEO Josh Silverman announced this morning that Etsy was laying off 15 percent of its workforce. That's in addition to layoffs that were announced in early May; the total workforce reduction comes in at 22 percent, or about 230 employees. Silverman said the layoffs were part of an effort to focus on Etsy's "vital few initiatives," though he didn't specify exactly what parts of the company were being a drag. The only indication was that the company would focus on its "core marketplace."
Software

Uber Finally Adds a Tipping Option To Its App (gizmodo.com) 84

After years of complaints, Uber is rolling out a tipping option for drivers. "Tipping is available in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston as of today. We're starting with only 3 cities so we can create the best tipping experience for you and your riders. We'll be adding more cities over the next few weeks, and will make tips available to all U.S. drivers, by the end of July 2017," Uber said in an email to drivers. Gizmodo reports: Uber will also roll out a full set of driver-friendly features. The cancellation window will narrow to two minutes (it was previously five) and drivers will get a per-minute fee if a rider makes them wait beyond two minutes. Drivers will also get a cut of Uber's "teen fare" which had previously gone exclusively to Uber. Now, drivers will get $2 of the fee. Uber will also offer drivers the option to enroll in injury-protection insurance. Uber has always argued that it offers a seamless experience and that adding a tip feature into its app would interfere with that. The company promises an up-front fare to the rider, with no fumbling around for cash or evaluation of a driver's performance beyond assigning a rating.
Transportation

Driver Killed In a Tesla Crash Using Autopilot Ignored At Least 7 Safety Warnings (usatoday.com) 468

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: U.S. investigators said a driver who was killed while using Tesla's partially self-driving car ignored repeated warnings to put his hands on the wheel. In a 538-page report providing new details of the May 2016 crash that killed Ohio resident Joshua Brown in a highway crash in Florida, the National Transportation Safety Board described the scene of the grisly incident and the minutes leading up to it. The agency, which opened an investigation to explore the possibility that Tesla's Autopilot system was faulty, said it had drawn "no conclusions about how or why the crash occurred." The NTSB report appears to deliver no conflicting information. The agency said the driver was traveling at 74 miles per hour, above the 65 mph limit on the road, when he collided with the truck. The driver used the vehicle's self-driving system for 37.5 minutes of the 41 minutes of his trip, according to NTSB. During the time the self-driving system was activated, he had his hands on the wheel for a total of only about half a minute, investigators concluded. NTSB said the driver received seven visual warnings on the instrument panel, which blared "Hold Steering Wheel," followed by six audible warnings.
Bitcoin

South Korean Web Hosting Provider Pays $1 Million In Ransomware Demand (bleepingcomputer.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: Nayana, a web hosting provider based in South Korea, announced it is in the process of paying a three-tier ransom demand of nearly $1 million worth of Bitcoin, following a ransomware infection that encrypted data on customer' servers. The ransomware infection appears has taken place on June 10, but Nayana admitted to the incident two days later, in a statement on its website.

Attackers asked for an initial ransom payment of 550 Bitcoin, which was worth nearly $1.62 million at the time of the request. After two days of negotiations, Nayana staff said they managed to reduce the ransom demand to 397.6 Bitcoin, or nearly $1 million. In a subsequent announcement, Nayana officials stated that they negotiated with the attackers to pay the ransom demand in three installments, due to the company's inability to produce such a large amount of cash in a short period of time.

On Saturday, June 17, the company said it already paid two of the three payment tranches. In subsequent announcements, Nayana updated clients on the server decryption process, saying the entire operation would take up to ten days due to the vast amount of encrypted data. The company said 153 Linux servers were affected, servers which stored the information of more than 3,400 customers.

Businesses

Amazon Will Now Let You Try On Clothes Before You Buy Them (theverge.com) 104

For many people, buying clothing online is not worth the hassle of getting a pair of pants or a shirt that does not fit. Many retailers have sought to eliminate that risk by offering free returns on clothing, but now Amazon is going even further. From a report: Amazon is launching Prime Wardrobe, a new program that will let you try on clothes before you buy them. Once you select at least three Prime Wardrobe-eligible pieces from over a million clothing options, Amazon will ship your selections to you in a resealable return box with a prepaid shipping label. After you try on the clothes, you can put the ones you don't want back in the box and leave it at your front door -- Prime Wardrobe also comes with free scheduled pickups from UPS. If you decide to keep at least three items you will get a 10 percent discount off your purchase, and if you keep five or more pieces the discount rises to 20 percent.
Bitcoin

NYTimes: Move Over, Bitcoin. Ether Is the Digital Currency of the Moment. (nytimes.com) 117

An anonymous reader shares a report: The price of Bitcoin has hit record highs in recent months, more than doubling in price since the start of the year. Despite these gains, Bitcoin is on the verge of losing its position as the dominant virtual currency. The value of Ether, the digital money that lives on an upstart network known as Ethereum, has risen an eye-popping 4,500 percent since the beginning of the year (alternative source). With the recent price increases, the outstanding units of the Ether currency were worth around $34 billion as of Monday -- or 82 percent as much as all the Bitcoin in existence. At the beginning of the year, Ether was only about 5 percent as valuable as Bitcoin. The sudden rise of Ethereum highlights how volatile the bewildering world of virtual currency remains, where lines of computer code can be spun into billions of dollars in a matter of months. [...] The two-year old system has picked up backing from both tech geeks and big corporate names like JPMorgan Chase and Microsoft, which are excited about Ethereum's goal of providing not only a digital currency but also a new type of global computing network, which generally requires Ether to use. In a recent survey of 1,100 virtual currency users, 94 percent were positive about the state of Ethereum, while only 49 percent were positive about Bitcoin, the industry publication CoinDesk said this month.
Businesses

Leaked Recording: Inside Apple's Global War On Leakers (theoutline.com) 80

Reader citadrianne writes: A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. The briefing, titled 'Stopping Leakers -- Keeping Confidential at Apple,' was led by Director of Global Security David Rice, Director of Worldwide Investigations Lee Freedman, and Jenny Hubbert, who works on the Global Security communications and training team. According to the hour-long presentation, Apple's Global Security team employs an undisclosed number of investigators around the world to prevent information from reaching competitors, counterfeiters, and the press, as well as hunt down the source when leaks do occur. Some of these investigators have previously worked at U.S. intelligence agencies like the National Security Administration (NSA), law enforcement agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, and in the U.S. military. Top-notch reporting from The Outline, consider reading the full report. During the briefing, a company executive said they have been able to find two employees who leaked information to media.
Advertising

Time Warner Will Spend $100 Million On Snapchat Original Shows, Ads (techcrunch.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Time Warner and Snap Inc. have announced a new deal that will bring increased ad spending and the development of new made-for-Snapchat shows. People familiar with the deal tell TechCrunch that it is valued at about $100 million spent over the next two years. The newly created shows will span a variety of genres, including scripted drama, daily news shows, documentaries and comedy. The shows will be similar to those already released by other networks on Snapchat, and run 3-5 minutes in a vertical format. Right now there is about one new show airing per day -- this deal will push that to about three news shows per day, varying between the different genres outlined above. Snap will take 50 percent of the ad revenue generated by these shows and the content partners will keep the other half, according to the WSJ.
Businesses

Fidget Spinners Are Over (fivethirtyeight.com) 172

Walt Hickey, writing for Five Thirty Eight: The toy craze that has swept the nation -- cheaply manufactured fidget spinners of dubious metallic constitution -- is probably on the way out, with the high-water mark of fidget obsession appearing to be about a month behind us and the interest in the glorified ball bearings plateauing or declining. [...] Even if there's a long tail on this trend, it's very likely that peak fidget spinner is behind us. The kind of content now doing well on YouTube is either fidget-adjacent stunt videos or videos that have taken a particularly weird turn. This doesn't mean the ball-bearing business is doomed, just maybe don't go long on the spinner industrial complex or quit your job to live off a fidget-related Kickstarter idea at this point.
Businesses

Dropbox Is Rolling Out a Private Network to Speed Up File Access (fortune.com) 40

Dropbox, the file storage company that last year moved 90 percent of its data out of Amazon Web Services cloud and into its own data centers, is at it again. From a report on Fortune: The San Francisco company is building its own international private network to make sure users abroad can access their files -- most of which reside in those aforementioned Dropbox U.S. data centers -- faster. "What people don't realize about the internet is that it is very 'bursty' and can hit bottlenecks," Akhil Gupta, vice president of engineering at Dropbox tells Fortune. That is why the company is ripping out third-party load balancers and replacing them with its own software running on standard Linux hardware. Insulating itself from the balky internet is also the reason Dropbox is contracting to use its own dedicated fiber cable to carry that traffic. "We want to make user experience as real time as possible since 70 percent of our users are outside the U.S. and most of the data lives in North America," says Dan Williams, Dropbox's head of production engineering. Dropbox still partners with Amazon for customers in some countries, like Germany, which require user data to stay in the country of origin.
Iphone

'The Unwillingness To Foresee The Future' (stratechery.com) 193

An anonymous reader shares a few excerpts from Ben Thompson's analysis: Back in 2006, when the iPhone was a mere rumor, Palm CEO Ed Colligan was asked if he was worried: "We've learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone," he said. "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They're not going to just walk in." What if Steve Jobs' company did bring an iPod phone to market? Well, it would probably use WiFi technology and could be distributed through the Apple stores and not the carriers like Verizon or Cingular, Colligan theorized." I was reminded of this quote after Amazon announced an agreement to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion; after all, it was only two years ago that Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey predicted that groceries would be Amazon's Waterloo. And while Colligan's prediction was far worse -- Apple simply left Palm in the dust, unable to compete -- it is Mackey who has to call Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, the Napoleon of this little morality play, boss. The similarities go deeper, though: both Colligan and Mackey made the same analytical mistakes: they mis-understood their opponents' goals, strategies, and tactics.
Businesses

Amazon Plans Cuts to Shed Whole Foods' Pricey Image (bloomberg.com) 309

When Amazon completes its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will try to keep the grocer's reputation for premium fresh foods while cutting prices to shed its "Whole Paycheck" image. From a report: Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company's grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. Amazon, known for its competitive prices, is trying to attract more low- and middle-income shoppers with its grocery push. The Seattle-based company already offers discounted Amazon Prime memberships for people receiving government assistance and is part of a pilot program to deliver groceries to food-stamp recipients.
AI

As AI Explodes, Investors Pour Big Bucks Into Startups (siliconangle.com) 135

Investment in AI startups is on a tear as venture capitalists and corporate investors scramble to stake out a leadership position in what could be the driving trend in technology for decades to come. From a report: The financial interest in AI, machine learning and related technologies is hardly new. CB Insights has tracked some $18.4 billion invested in 2,541 AI-related startups since 2012. But the trend is only accelerating. In the latest MoneyTree report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and CB Insights, which showed otherwise mostly stagnant startup funding, AI and machine learning companies shined, reaching an eight-quarter high of $820 million invested in 90 companies. A flurry of significant investments in a number of AI-related companies this past week underscored the point. On Wednesday alone, for instance, AI-powered analytics software provider CognitiveScale raised a $15 million round, voice AI startup Snips raised $13 million and, to top it off, machine learning consultancy Element AI got an unusually large $102 million early-stage investment just eight months after the company was launched. Then on Thursday and Friday, two other AI-powered companies, Conviva and Codota, announced fundings too.
The Almighty Buck

Is Coinbase Closing Accounts For Paying Ransoms With Bitcoins? (coindesk.com) 200

Even as some comparnies are stockpiling bitcoins so they can quickly pay ransom demands, security firms that try paying those ransoms may face losing their accounts on Coinbase. Slashdot reader Mosquito Bites quotes a report from CoinDesk: Less than a year ago, Vinny Troia, CEO and principal security consultant of Night Lion Security and a certified white hat hacker, was sent a compliance form by US bitcoin exchange Coinbase, where he had an account. Coinbase wanted to know how Troia was using bitcoin and his account. "I told them I run a security firm. I pay for ransoms and buy documents on the dark web when clients request it," Troia told CoinDesk. The ransoms Troia helps his clients pay are those stemming from ransomware attacks, which have surged in number over the past few years. Many, like the well-publicized WannaCry attack, are asking for bitcoin.

And the documents? Troia said, "We do breach investigations a lot of times. If a fraudster is saying they're selling my client's stolen documents, the only way to make sure they have what they say they have is to buy those documents." According to Troia, Coinbase "did not like that at all." Coinbase then asked the IT expert whether he had a letter from the Department of Justice giving him permission to do those things. No, Troia said. Upon further research, Troia has not found that any such permission exists. But, "I have my clients authorizing me to do this," he said. Coinbase sent Troia back an email explaining that those actions were against the exchange's rules and shut down his account... "My entire family is blocked from Coinbase," he said.

The Almighty Buck

Venezuelans Flock To Cryptocoins Amid Spiralling Inflation (bloomberg.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Demand for digital coins is soaring in Venezuela amid an escalating political crisis that has protesters demanding that President Nicolas Maduro step down. Inflation has spiraled to the triple digits, debasing the bolivar and depleting savings, while citizens struggle to find everything from food to medicine on store shelves. "If you're going to be in something volatile, you might as well be in something that's volatile and rising than volatile and falling," says Ryan Taylor, chief executive officer of crypto currency Dash Core, the third-largest digital coin by number of transactions... Bitcoin trading volume in Venezuela jumped to $1.3 million this week, about double the amount that changed hands two months ago, according to LocalBitcoins.com...

Venezuela's currency has become nearly worthless in the black market, where it takes more than 6,000 bolivars to buy $1, while bitcoin surged 53 percent in the past month alone. But it's not just about shielding against the falling bolivar, as some Venezuelans are using crypto currencies to buy and sell everyday goods and services, according to Jorge Farias, the CEO of Cryptobuyer.

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