Software

'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants (chicagotribune.com) 23

A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.
Television

YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem (mashable.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."
Security

Shipping Company Maersk Says June Cyberattack Could Cost It Up To $300 Million (cnbc.com) 35

An anonymous reader shares an article: Container shipping company A.P. Moller Maersk on Tuesday said it expects that computer issues triggered by the NotPetya cyberattack will cost the company as much as $300 million in lost revenue. "In the last week of the [second] quarter we were hit by a cyber-attack, which mainly impacted Maersk Line, APM Terminals and Damco," Maersk CEO Soren Skou said in a statement. "Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July and as a consequence, our Q3 results will be impacted. We expect that the cyber-attack will impact results negatively by USD 200-300m." Maersk Line was able to take bookings from existing customers two days after the attack, and things gradually got back to normal over the following week, the company said. It said it did not lose third-party data as a result of the attack.
Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 444

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
Businesses

Higher Minimum Wages Bring Automation and Job Losses, Study Suggests (axios.com) 504

An anonymous reader shares a report via email: As of the start of the year, 19 U.S. states had raised minimum wages, dramatizing a long simmering debate: Do minimum wages kill jobs, and make the working class worse off in the end? Or do they simply make them a little richer, with little or no loss to overall employment? In a new paper, economists Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and David Neumark of UC Irvine parse 35 years of census data and come down on the worse-off side: For lower-skill jobs like bookkeepers and assembly-line workers, they say, higher minimum wages encourage employers to automate -- according to their calculations, a $1 increase can cost tens of thousands of jobs nationally.
Businesses

Apple Is Bringing a Billion Dollar Checkbook To Hollywood and Wants To Buy 10 TV Shows (recode.net) 71

Apple is officially open for business in Hollywood. From a report: The company is telling content makers it wants to spend $1 billion on its own stuff over the next year. That's music to studios' ears, and a tune they have been expecting for some time -- especially after Apple hired two top Sony TV executives in June. We still don't know what Apple wants to do with that content: The Wall Street Journal says Apple wants to make up to 10 "Game of Thrones" -- or "House of Cards"-scale shows, but that's not enough to launch a full-scale subscription service.
Communications

WordPress Bans Fascist Website Linked To Charlottesville Killer (fastcompany.com) 380

tedlistens writes: WordPress has said that it does not censor websites like that of self-proclaimed fascist group Vanguard America. But last night, the group's site was taken offline for violating the company's terms of service. The about-face was likely prompted by Vanguard's participation in last weekend's Unite the Right rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which James Alex Fields drove his car into a crowd, killing one person and injuring 19. Fields has claimed allegiance to Vanguard America; the group denies that Fields was a member. For WordPress to drop a site, even a fascist site, is a very big deal; the same is true of GoDaddy's and Google's decision to drop their registration of neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer (another site that GoDaddy previously said would be permitted on free speech grounds). WordPress hasn't explained the shift in its approach to the website: the company's user agreement and terms of service have not changed since Charlottesville. That policy, like that of other tech platforms, has long stood by strict neutrality and freedom of expression. That may now be changing.
Businesses

Amazon Adds 'Instant Pickup Points' In US Brick-And-Mortar Push (reuters.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Amazon is rolling out U.S. pickup points where shoppers can retrieve items immediately after ordering them, shortening delivery times from hours to minutes in its latest move into brick-and-mortar retail. The world's largest online retailer has launched 'Instant Pickup' points around five college campuses, such as the University of California at Berkeley, it said on Tuesday. Amazon has plans to add the program to more sites by the end of the year. Shoppers on Amazon's mobile app can select from several hundred fast-selling items at each location, from snacks and drinks to phone chargers. Amazon employees in a back room then load orders into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes to access them.
Software

App Developers Should Charge More If They Want People To Buy Subscriptions, Suggests Report (theverge.com) 50

A new report from Liftoff, a Silicon Valley-based mobile app marketing and retargeting firm, says that subscription-based apps may do better if developers charge a higher price for services, rather than setting prices too low to lure users in initially. The Verge reports: The Liftoff report, which analyzed data gathered between June 2016 and June 2017, categorized app subscriptions into low-cost monthly subs ($0.99 to $7), medium ($7 to $20), and high-cost subs ($20 to $50), while also factoring the cost of acquisition per customer. The company found that apps in the medium price range had the highest conversion rate -- 7.16 percent -- and the lowest cost to acquire a subscriber, at just over $106 dollars. This was five times higher than the rate of people who subscribed to apps when the apps were in the low-cost category. This may partly be because streaming media apps, like Netflix and Spotify, have already conditioned people to pay around $10 a month for services. But it also might be attributable to the sunk cost fallacy, Liftoff says: the "cognitive bias people have that makes them stay the course because they have already spent time or resources on it." The report also examines apps that fulfill "need states," like dating apps or cloud services. These have the potential to offer services that customers are willing to pay for, again and again. But, according to Liftoff, utility apps have a much higher install-to-subscriber rate compared to dating apps. Blame those who eventually find love?
Businesses

Amazon Is Seeking $16 Billion Bond Sale For Whole Foods (bloomberg.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Amazon is turning to the debt markets to fund the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods and power Jeff Bezos's planned conquest of the supermarket business. The world's largest online retailer is selling $16 billion of unsecured bonds in as many as seven parts, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. In a sign of market interest, the longest portion of the offering, a 40-year security may yield 1.45 percentage points above Treasuries, down from initial talk of 1.6 percentage points to 1.65 percentage points, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the deal is private. The sale marks the first bond-market foray since 2014 for Amazon and will support the purchase of the organic-food chain, according to a company statement. The partnership, which rattled the grocery world when announced in June, is expected to reduce prices at Whole Foods, an iconic yet struggling high-end grocery trying to lure more low- and middle-income shoppers. The deal could intensify a price war in an industry beset by razor-thin margins and persistent deflation.
Businesses

Netflix Co-Founder's Crazy Plan: Pay $10 a Month, Go to the Movies All You Want (bloomberg.com) 267

Mitch Lowe, a founder of Netflix, has a crazy idea. Through his new startup MoviePass, he wants to subsidize our film habit, letting us go to the theater once a day for about the price of a single ticket. From a report: Lowe, an early Netflix executive who now runs a startup called MoviePass, plans to drop the price of the company's movie ticket subscriptions on Tuesday to $9.95. The fee will let customers get in to one showing every day at any theater in the U.S. that accepts debit cards. MoviePass will pay theaters the full price of each ticket used by subscribers, excluding 3D or Imax screens. MoviePass could lose a lot of money subsidizing people's movie habits. So the company also raised cash on Tuesday by selling a majority stake to Helios and Matheson Analytics, a small, publicly traded data firm in New York. [...] Theater operators should certainly welcome any effort to increase sales. The top four cinema operators, led by AMC Entertainment, lost $1.3 billion in market value early this month after a disappointing summer.
Mozilla

64-bit Firefox is the New Default on 64-bit Windows (mozilla.org) 171

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Users on 64-bit Windows who download Firefox will now get our 64-bit version by default. That means they'll install a more secure version of Firefox, one that also crashes a whole lot less. How much less? In our tests so far, 64-bit Firefox reduced crashes by 39% on machines with 4GB of RAM or more.
Intel

Intel CEO Exits President Trump's Manufacturing Council (axios.com) 257

Ina Fried, writing for Axios: Intel said Monday that CEO Brian Krzanich was leaving President Trump's American Manufacturing Council, the latest executive to distance himself from the president following the weekend's events in Virginia. In a blog post, Krzanich said that the decline in American manufacturing remains a serious issue, but said that "politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing," Krzanich said in a blog post. "Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base."
Businesses

Gates Makes Largest Donation Since 2000 With $4.6 Billion Pledge (bloomberg.com) 159

From a report: Bill Gates made his largest gift since the turn of the century, giving away Microsoft shares that accounted for 5 percent of his fortune, the world's biggest. The billionaire donated 64 million of the software maker's shares valued at $4.6 billion on June 6, according to a Securities & Exchange Commission filing released Monday. While the recipient of the gift wasn't specified, Gates has made the majority of his donations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charity he and his wife use to direct their philanthropic efforts. It's the largest gift of Microsoft shares that Gates has made since 2000. The 61-year-old gave away $16 billion worth of Microsoft shares in 1999 and $5.1 billion a year later, according to calculations by Bloomberg.
Earth

Popular Pesticides Keep Bumblebees From Laying Eggs (npr.org) 136

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Wild bees, such as bumblebees, don't get as much love as honeybees, but they should. They play just as crucial a role in pollinating many fruits, vegetables and wildflowers, and compared to managed colonies of honeybees, they're in much greater jeopardy. A group of scientists in the United Kingdom decided to look at how bumblebee queens are affected by some widely used and highly controversial pesticides known as neonicotinoids. What they found isn't pretty. Neonics, as they're often called, are applied as a coating on the seeds of some of the most widely grown crops in the country, including corn, soybeans and canola. These pesticides are "systemic" -- they move throughout the growing plants. Traces of them end up in pollen, which bees consume. Neonicotinoid residues also have been found in the pollen of wildflowers growing near fields and in nearby streams. The scientists, based at Royal Holloway University of London, set up a laboratory experiment with bumblebee queens. They fed those queens a syrup containing traces of a neonicotinoid pesticide called thiamethoxam, and the amount of the pesticide, they say, was similar to what bees living near fields of neonic-treated canola might be exposed to. Bumblebee queens exposed to the pesticide were 26 percent less likely to lay eggs, compared to queens that weren't exposed to the pesticide. The team published their findings in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.
The Courts

Judge Says LinkedIn Cannot Block Startup From Public Profile Data (reuters.com) 162

A U.S. federal judge on Monday ruled that LinkedIn cannot prevent a startup from accessing public profile data, in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public. Reuters reports: U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction request brought by hiQ Labs, and ordered LinkedIn to remove within 24 hours any technology preventing hiQ from accessing public profiles. The dispute between the two tech companies has been going on since May, when LinkedIn issued a letter to hiQ Labs instructing the startup to stop scraping data from its service. HiQ Labs responded by filing a suit against LinkedIn in June, alleging that the Microsoft-owned social network was in violation of antitrust laws. HiQ Labs uses the LinkedIn data to build algorithms capable of predicting employee behaviors, such as when they might quit. "To the extent LinkedIn has already put in place technology to prevent hiQ from accessing these public profiles, it is ordered to remove any such barriers," Chen's order reads. Meanwhile, LinkedIn said in a statement: "We're disappointed in the court's ruling. This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members' ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn."
Google

Google Pays Apple $3 Billion Per Year To Remain On the iPhone, Analyst Says (cnbc.com) 101

In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."

Republicans

Trump Can Block People On Twitter If He Wants, Administration Says (arstechnica.com) 212

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The administration of President Donald Trump is scoffing at a lawsuit by Twitter users who claim in a federal lawsuit that their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle. "It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to hold that a president's choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter -- a privately run website that, as a central feature of its social-media platform, enables all users to block particular individuals from viewing posts -- violate the Constitution." That's part of what Michael Baer, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuit Friday. In addition, the Justice Department said the courts are powerless to tell Trump how he can manage his private Twitter handle, which has 35.8 million followers.

"To the extent that the President's management of his Twitter account constitutes state action, it is unquestionably action that lies within his discretion as Chief Executive; it is therefore outside the scope of judicial enforcement," Baer wrote. (PDF) Baer added that an order telling Trump how to manage his Twitter feed "would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns by intruding directly into the president's chosen means of communicating to millions of Americans."

The Military

US Army Walks Back Decision To Ban DJI Drones Ever So Slightly (suasnews.com) 27

garymortimer shares a report from sUAS News: News has reached me that another DJI memo was passed around on Friday the 11th of August. An exception to policy with recommendations from the asymmetric warfare group that will permit the use of DJI kit once some conditions have been met. The Android Tactical Assault Kit will become the ground control station (GCS) of choice when a DJI plugin has passed OPSEC (Operational Security) scrutiny. In a separate report from Reuters, DJI said it is "tightening data security in the hopes that the U.S. Army will lift its ban on DJI drones because of 'cyber vulnerabilities.'" The company is "speeding deployment of a system that allows users to disconnect from the internet during flights, making it impossible for flight logs, photos or videos to reach DJI's computer servers," reports Reuters. While the security measure has been in the works for several months, it's being rolled out sooner than planned because of the Army's decision to discontinue the use of DJI drones.
Businesses

Andy Rubin's Essential Is Now Valued at Over a Billion Dollars Without Shipping a Single Phone (theverge.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares a report: Essential, the new phone startup from Android founder Andy Rubin, is now a unicorn, according to reports from over the weekend. If you're not up to date on the parlance of Silicon Valley, a unicorn is a company that's valued at over $1 billion dollars, which is no small feat in today's market. This title is even more impressive, given that Essential has yet to ship a single device to consumers. According to a report, Foxconn's FIH Mobile filing for a $3 million investment in Essential for around 0.25 percent of the fledgling phone company revealed Essential's new unicorn status with a valuation of around $1.2 billion.

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