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Category: Techno News

  • Apple's Market Cap Hits $700 Billion (AAPL)

    Tim Cook looking at iMac Retina display

    Apple's market cap passed $700 billion shortly after trading opened Tuesday morning.

    The stock was trading at about $119. The market cap was about $701 billion.

    More to come...refresh for the latest.

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  • The Best Black Friday Deals In Tech

    black friday shopping target tvs

    Tech toys usually get the best deals on Black Friday. 

    So how do you get the most for your money? We're sifting through all the Black Friday tech deals and picking out the best ones.

    We'll be updating this list with new deals as they're announced throughout the week, so be sure to check back!

    Note: We include links to buy items online, but most deals are available in stores too.

    Wal-Mart has a great deal on the iPhone 6 if you're a Sam's Club member.

    You can get an iPhone 6 for $100 with a two-year contract from Wal-Mart as long as you're also a Sam's Club member. If you're not, you can get the iPhone 6 starting at $180 with a two-year contract.

    Price: Starts at $100 if you're a Sam's Club member (Normally starts at $199.) Buy it at Wal-Mart.

    You can get the Surface Pro 3 for up to $150 off.

    Depending on which Surface Pro 3 model you get, you can save up to $150 on Black Friday.

    Price: Save $100 on the Intel i5 model or $150 on the Intel i7 model. Pricing will vary depending on storage and other options you choose. Buy it here.

    Sprint is selling the Samsung Galaxy S5 for $200 off.

    If you pass a credit check, Sprint will sell you Samsung's Galaxy S5 for $200 off. Through the carrier's Easy Pay installment plan, you put $0 down on the phone and pay $18.75 per month for 24 months.

    Price: $450. (Normally $650.) Buy it here.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider


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  • You'll Now Be Able To See Exactly How Slow Your T-Mobile Service Is After You Hit Your Data Cap

    t-mobile ceo john legere

    As part of a new agreement with the Federal Communications Commission, T-Mobile will start providing customers with more accurate information about connection speeds, even when speeds are reduced due to data plan restrictions, the FCC announced on Monday (via CNET).

    The carrier will roll out new tools that allows users to get an accurate sense of how fast their current connection is, even after they've blown past their monthly data caps.

    T-Mobile, unlike most carriers, doesn't hit consumers with charges once they've exceeded their monthly data limit. Once you pass that data cap, T-Mobile switches you to slower service instead of 4G LTE service. 

    T-Mobile will now send customers text messages that show customers where to get accurate information about the network speeds they'll be experiencing. The FCC also says the carrier will include links to accurate speed tests on T-Mobile phones, and will update its website to include clearer information about the speeds customers "actually experience."

    The FCC says T-Mobile hasn't been transparent about this in the past, since speed tests would only show information about the carrier's full network speed — not the reduced speeds customers experience after exceeding their data limit.

    The FCC has been probing carriers about speed reduction practices for months, and the new agreement with T-Mobile comes just after the FCC convinced Verizon to stop throttling LTE for those on unlimited data plans last month.

    It's unclear exactly when T-Mobile's new practices will kick into effect, but the FCC says it should be "fully" implemented within 60 days. 

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  • Millennials Are Switching Off TV In Favor Of ... BuzzFeed

    BuzzFeed has released a detailed report on how technology is impacting it as a media company.

    The report reads almost as a crystal ball for legacy media companies: more than 50% of US millennials read BuzzFeed per month, according to comScore, so it's a good indicator of the direction in which online media might be going.

    And for TV networks, that roadmap looks terrifying.

    Take a look at this chart from the report. BuzzFeed's monthly reach amongst millennials far outstrips that of CBS, NBC and FX.

    BuzzFeed monthly us reach

    The trend is not as defined, but BuzzFeed is also catching up with the major TV networks among US consumers of all ages when it comes to monthly reach.

    buzzfeed monthly us reach all consumers

    There is, of course, a likely difference between a BuzzFeed viewer and a TV viewer. Chances are, a lot of BuzzFeed viewers may only spend a few minutes browsing the site, while TV viewers are more likely to settle down and be fully engaged with a TV show for a longer period. But what the charts do show is that BuzzFeed is definitely becoming a media destination among young people.

    Legacy media companies shouldn't just discount BuzzFeed as a repository for whimsical lists, quizzes and cute GIFs that can't possibly rival their quality programming. BuzzFeed is steadily building a video business in the form of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, devoted to creating moving image content ranging from its trademark GIFs to feature films.

    Video is already growing rapidly on BuzzFeed, as this chart shows.

    video buzzfeed

    Importantly, BuzzFeed's video business is all being built with mobile in mind. This is how BuzzFeed is rivaling TV — by playing networks at their own game when it comes to content creation, but making the distribution channel seamless via social and mobile. Unfortunately for producers and directors who live for their work appearing on the big screen, mobile is fast becoming the primary platform where videos are consumed. BuzzFeed says 50% of its video views are on mobile.

    And contrary to the received wisdom that people are only watching mobile videos quickly while they commute, saving their important content consumption for the TV set when they get home: mobile BuzzFeed video views start to peak in the evening, coinciding with prime time TV.

    buzzfeed primetime

    That stat doesn't necessarily suggest millennials are watching BuzzFeed instead of the big TV networks' hit shows, but what it does suggest is that it's increasingly demanding their attention during the most important (and expensive) advertising hours. Chances are — although BuzzFeed doesn't suggest this in its report — that millennials are checking out BuzzFeed during the commercial breaks. Advertisers won't want to hear that.

    As BuzzFeed says in the report: "TV commercials became popular because of two big advantages: huge reach and the ability to deliver a message using sight, sound and motion. But those advantages don't just apply to TV any more."

    BuzzFeed sides with eMarketer in predicting that mobile and video will become the primary way people consume media online. And it says that over time ad spend will become more in sync with time spent on media. Here's how it stands now.

    emarketer time spent media spend

    However, it's worth nothing that other media bodies and researchers reject that consumers are spending more time online than with TV. Many reports suggesting the demise of TV consumption are often based on survey results, and people likely understate how much time they spend watching TV.

    Here's how Enders Analysis places TV versus digital consumption in the UK, for example.

    enders TV

    Still, in the case of BuzzFeed, it's clearly a brand on the rise, building up the capabilities to become a multi-faceted media company and without the legacy complications of big TV rivals. It also claims to be "extremely profitable" and in August received $50 million in financing from venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz, valuing the company at $850 million, according to a Marketing Week report. There's lots of room to grow further.

    The report will also makes fascinating reading for businesses that operate primarily online.

    Elsewhere, BuzzFeed describes how its social referral traffic is 5X its search traffic. It wants to encourage more advertisers to consider shifting their search budgets to social if they want to engage with millennials.


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  • How To Stop People From Being Able To See That You Read Their Facebook Message (FB)

    We all probably have a friend or two with an iPhone who chooses to leave their "Read receipts" on so you can tell when they've read a text. A lot of people think read receipts are the worst, which is why it's great that Apple allows you to turn them off. 

    Facebook however, does not. When you read someone's Facebook message, they'll always know, seeing the specific time or just the date of when you read the message, depending on when they look back at it themselves. 

    Quite frankly, sometimes you just want to be able to let someone assume that you missed their note. But that "Seen" check-mark makes it impossible to fake:

    facebook messages

    Turns out, there actually is a way to disable Facebook read receipts, though not technically through Facebook. 

    You can't avoid read receipts on mobile, but there are a few ways to essentially turn them off on desktop. We spotted these examples on LifeHacker, which posted a longer piece on how to turn off read receipts for a variety of different apps. 

    Unseen is a free Facebook app that will let you secretly read messages without the sender knowing:

    Unseen Facebook

    Facebook Unseen is a Google Chrome extension with great reviews that lets you manually mark each message as either read or un-read.

    Facebook unseen

    Read more examples of how to prevent people from seeing you read your messages on LifeHacker.

    SEE ALSO: It Looks Like Twitter's CFO Just Accidentally Tweeted A Private Message About Acquiring A Company

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  • Here Are Some Of The Crazy Things Best Buy Does To Prepare For Black Friday

    Best Buy Black Friday line

    Black Friday no longer waits until Friday. This year, a handful of stores kick off their holiday sales on Thursday evening, including Best Buy, which will gets started at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. 

    But the prep starts far before that.

    On Saturday morning, Best Buy employees all around the country gathered before the store officially opened for a "dress rehearsal" for the big day, according to a fun profile of a store in Alexandria, Virginia by The Washington Post's Sarah Halzack.   

    "If you do a Black Friday at Best Buy, believe me, you can do anything," the store's manager told employees that morning. 

    The piece is packed with fun details, but here are some of the craziest ways Best Buy prepares for and handles Black Friday:

    • The entrance door will only be opened two feet wide, to stop people from rushing through in a giant, mob-like pack 
    • Best Buy is extremely strategic about where it places its merchandise: There will be separate lines for the most popular products, and lines should be arranged so they never block the displays for other hot items
    • The team runs through a PowerPoint slide on Saturday with detailed drawings of the floor plan
    • There are ten employees who's sole job that day will be to fill holes they spot on shelves
    • There will be a few "line sellers" outside talking to people waiting to get in, answering questions about products and trying to gauge what will be in highest demand
    • Some merchandise that is usually locked-up won't be, to make it more easily accessible for speediest hand-off
    • In the Alexandria store, there are nine employees trained just to man the counter where customers pick up products they ordered online; no one should wait more than three minutes, unless they're carting out a huge TV
    • Every employee will be on-shift Thursday night in the Alexandria store. Even though they have to adhere to their Best Buy t-shirts and black pants, they're allowed to wear "comfortable shoes" instead of the regulation black shoes, that can't be slip-ons or open toes 

    Read more about the crazy process on The Washington Post

    SEE ALSO: Amazon Fires Back At An Ex-Employee Who Is Planning A Hunger Strike Outside Its Seattle Headquarters

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  • THE WEARABLES REPORT: Growth Trends, Consumer Attitudes, And Why Smartwatches Will Dominate

    WearablesMarketForecastWearables face unique obstacles that will lead them to have less of an immediate market impact compared with tablets and smartphones.

    For now, most of the devices need to connect with a smartphone or tablet for most of their functionality. 

    Wearables also suffer from a perception problem. Consumers still don't understand how a wearable might really benefit them. In a recent report on the wearable computing market from BI Intelligence, we also discuss other barriers to adoption, including price, lack of functionality, and style. 

    We also look at how how the wearables market will perform in the long run. We forecast out shipments numbers, explain why the smartwatch will be the leading wearable device category going forward, and analyze proprietary results from our BI Intelligence consumer survey on smartwatch purchase intent. 

    Access The Full Report And Data By Signing Up For A Trial Today >>

    Here are some key points from the report:

    The report is full of charts and data that can be downloaded and put to use.

    In full, the report:

    For full access to all BI Intelligence's charts, data, and analysis on the mobile and Internet of Things industry, sign up for a two-week trial.



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  • Kim Dotcom Is Officially Broke

    Kim Dotcom

    German entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has acknowledged that he has run out of money after spending over $10 million on legal costs.

    Speaking through a Skype call at the unBound Digital conference in London, Dotcom said his three-year legal fight could be coming to an end. "My legal team resigned after I ran out of money," Dotcom said. "I spent $10 million to defend myself. They have drained all my resources."

    Dotcom was arrested in 2012 after a dramatic police raid on his $24 million mansion in New Zealand. The New Zealand government had worked together with copyright enforcement agencies in the US to bring down the serial entrepreneur, accusing him of aiding copyright pirates through his Megaupload file-sharing site.

    Dotcom said the appearance could be his last public interview, because he suspected that the New Zealand government could use his lack of funds to revoke his bail Thursday during his next bail hearing.

    "I'm an easy target because of my flamboyant lifestyle," he said. "It's hard to keep a low profile when you have number plates with 'GOD' and 'STONED' on them. Also, I’m German, and Hollywood loves German Bond villains."

    Kim Dotcom mansion in New Zealand

    At its peak, Mega was one of the biggest sites on the internet. Accounting for over 4% of global internet traffic, the file-sharing site had 50 million unique visitors every day. It even launched high-profile ad campaigns with big names in the entertainment industry.

    But the police accuse Dotcom of enabling online piracy, charging him with racketeering, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, and conspiring to commit money laundering.

    Dotcom has always denied the charges against him, saying Tuesday that "Megaupload had 100% takedown for clients and gave Hollywood studios direct access. It was the same story with Iraq and weapons of destruction. The US government abused its power. It has no ethics anymore. I’ve lost my faith in the law. It’s just 'who pays, wins.'”

    Exactly one year after police shut down Megaupload, Dotcom launched a new file-sharing site: Mega. This new site features strong encryption, advertising itself as a safe place to store files away from government spying. Dotcom says that Mega has merged with a company listed on the New Zealand stock exchange and is valued at $210 million.

    But Dotcom made it clear to the audience at unBound Digital that he had no ownership stake in Mega. Instead, the company is owned by his wife, from whom he recently separated.

    Kim Dotcom

    A recent report in the New Zealand Herald said that Dotcom was living alone in his giant mansion, prevented from venturing outside. But Dotcom denied those claims Tuesday:

    "They said I’m a lonely man alone in my mansion, but my kids are living with me. I’m playing with them every day. I’m a happy man because of my kids. If they were not around, it would be much darker."

    Facing a return to jail after running out of money, Dotcom had a single plea for the audience in what may be his last interview: "If I go back to jail, send me cards ... cards with photos of cats on."

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  • Here Is Where Apple's Black Friday Deals Will Be In The UK

    apple store

    Apple is again likely to hold a Black Friday sale in the UK. Here is a link to the UK Apple Store where the deals will appear.

    CityAM believes this will be the URL for the direct link to the deals. But that can't be verified.

    Apple will most likely get a huge influx of shoppers to its stores and online if previous years' Black Friday events are any guide.

    Some seem to think the UK will get price reductions rather than gift cards. This website says discounts are expected on iPads, iPods, MacBooks, and accessories.

    Apple has already announced its US deals (see them all here), which see purchases rewarded with gift cards. If you buy an iPhone, for example, you'll get a $50 voucher. But the company hasn't yet released its UK bargains.

    Yahoo Finance also believes Apple might bring actual prices down, noting that iTunes online gift cards, worth more than £25 and bought from Giftcloud, will be reduced from Nov. 28 until Dec. 1. But everything else is purely speculation; nothing is confirmed. The only certainty at this stage is Apple's work with World AIDS Day

    As Macworld points out, last year Apple offered savings of £31 on the iPad Air, while £15 was taken off the iPad Mini price. MacBook Pro models were cheaper by £81, and iPods were also discounted. 

    We'll keep you updated on Apple's Black Friday movements in the UK.

    The Black Friday shopping phenomenon arrived in the UK in 2010, when Amazon first promoted Black Friday discounts to shoppers. Black Friday in the US is the day after Thanksgiving, a day that almost all Americans have off from work — and many use it to begin their Christmas shopping.

    Black Friday is essentially meaningless in the UK, except that American retailers have figured out that it is a good time to officially get the British Christmas shopping season started. Last year there was a 6.9% rise in shopper "footfall" on UK high streets on Black Friday.

    NOW WATCH: Don't Be Afraid To Cancel Cable — Here's How To Get All The Programs You Love

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  • 10 Things In Tech You Need To Know Today (TWTR, GOOG, AMZN, AAPL, CMCSA, BBRY)

    anthony notoGood morning! It's going to be a cloudy, mild day in New York. Here's the tech news you need to know this morning.

    1. Twitter's CFO accidentally tweeted a DM about acquiring a company. DM fails are a common mistake.

    2. Google has settled a defamation case with a Morgan Stanley banker who was falsely accused of being a murderer. Defamatory posts appeared in Google Search results. 

    3. Amazon is going to help customers find plumbers and electricians. They'll see suggested tradesmen after buying items like ceiling fans. 

    4. A sophisticated piece of malware named "Regin" has attacked internet users in 14 countries. We don't yet know who it was created by.

    5. Apple has unveiled its Black Friday deals. Shoppers will receive iTunes gift cards with certain purchases.

    6. Comcast will start notifying customers 30 minutes before a technician arrives. The alert takes place through its new app.

    7. BlackBerry will pay iPhone users up to $550 to switch to a BlackBerry phone instead. The deal starts in December.

    8. Amazon has accused a man who is protesting outside of its HQ of doing it for media attention. He was employed by the company in 2012. 

    9. Apple's iCloud service is so bad because the company doesn't have a dedicated team working on it. It keeps having to rebuild existing technology.

    10. The FAA has proposed new rules on commercial drone use. It could stop Amazon's plans to use drones to deliver packages.

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  • The Accidental Tweet From Twitter's CFO Reveals The Company's Biggest Problem (TWTR)

    anthony noto

    Back in February, CEO Dick Costolo told Wall Street analysts that the company was going to make Twitter easier to use.

    He may have failed in that task, judging by the accidental tweet sent out by Twitter CFO Anthony Noto yesterday. Noto appeared reveal the fact that the company is considering a new acquisition:

    Noto tweet twitter

    On the one hand, it's just a simple human error by Noto, and we can't read too much into it. Noto is new to Twitter, after all. But on the other, Twitter is a public company and news of impending acquisitions can move the stock up or down — Re/code has a list of some the companies Noto could have been referring to, which includes Storehouse, Shots, Secret, Prismatic, Drawbridge and Shopular. So this is serious — the company's CFO is having difficulty using his own product, and it may have consequences for investors.

    Twitter has a longstanding problem with its confusing user interface that it has not solved. Plenty of people get the DM thing wrong: Anthony Weiner, the congressman who fell from grave after sending naked photos of himself on Twitter, made the same mistake.

    In February, Costolo said Twitter would be redesigned so that users were less confused by its navigation and interface.

    bii sai cotd twitter maus 2While Twitter is useful, the more you use it the more elaborate and complicated your dashboard can become, with separate streams for your home feed, sent tweets, direct messages, notifications and "activity."

    As a longtime Twitter user, I can tell you that there have been only tiny, subtle changes to the Twitter user interface. It's still a complicated product that seemingly requires you to learn a separate shorthand of RTs, MTs, @, ".", #'s and bitly links in order to get the best from it.

    And it is easy to confuse a private direct message, or DM, and a public reply tweet — which is what Noto seems to have screwed up yesterday. The litmus test: I still would not recommend that my mother begin using Twitter, but I've begged her to get onto Facebook so we can share photographs better. (My mum is a bit of a gadget nerd by the way — she's already got an iPhone 6 and Apple TV.)

    This isn't trivial. Costolo believes that getting the user experience right is what will drive monthly active user (MAU) growth. Right now, that user growth is feeble. In Q3 it reported 283 million MAUs, up 21% for the year. That sounds like a lot but remember that Facebook has more than 1.3 billion users. Instagram overtook Twitter in popularity a long time ago. Snapchat probably has faster growth than Twitter, although fewer users overall.

    There is a case to be made that Twitter should not, in fact, be a mass medium for every single person. The company has a lot of valuable data and does not need to be as big as Facebook to succeed. But as long as Costolo keeps telling investors that reaching everyone on the planet is achievable, then the company needs to make its product easier and simpler to use.

    Disclosure: The author owns shares of Twitter (TWTR).

    SEE ALSO: 'People Are Losing Confidence In Him': A Brutal Takedown Of Dick Costolo's Reign At Twitter

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  • The 10 Most Important Things In The World This Morning

    Ferguson Michael Brown

    Good morning! Here's what you need to know before your first meeting of the day.

    1. Riots broke out after a grand jury in the US decided not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown, an unarmed man, in Ferguson, Missouri. Police cars have been smashed and the police used tear gas on protesters.

    2. The account of the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, has been aired for the first time. He says he was attacked by Brown after he stopped the man to ask him not to walk in the middle of the street.

    3. BT is staging a bid to acquire either EE or o2. The £10 billion move would put BT back on top of the UK telecoms market, the Financial Times says.

    4. Germany's consumers saved the country from recession. Consumer demand countered a slump in business buying.

    5. Apple announced its Black Friday deals. The tech company rarely discounts its products on any other day. See the offers here.

    6. If you walk past Google's London office you might get zapped by static electricity. Authorities say the weird energy field emanating from the building is safe.

    7. The Saudis aren't bothered by falling oil prices. They're hoping it will squeeze the nascent US shale oil business.

    8. The glass walkway over Tower Bridge in London has already been cracked. Someone dropped a beer bottle onto it and the top layer shattered.

    9. Coca-Cola is launching its own brand of expensive milk. It will be twice the price, and have more protein, less sugar and no lactose, compared to normal milk.

    10. China is considering letting its army fight terrorists abroad. Chinese troops rarely deploy in foreign countries.

    And finally ...

    The artist who created the Kryptos sculpture for the CIA has released another clue to help people decipher the code written on it. Spies have been working on the code for years but have repeatedly failed to crack the last portion of it.

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  • After 96 Loan Rejections, This Guy Built A $750 Million Marketplace For Business Loans

    Funding Circle co-founder Sam HodgesSam Hodges, co-founder and US managing director of Funding Circle, used to run a chain of successful fitness gyms in 2007. That's when he realized the US banking system was broken for small business owners. 

    Although his business was profitable and he had a healthy credit score, Hodges just couldn’t get the loan he needed to expand his business. Banks repeatedly declined his loan applications and other online finance companies offered terms that “simply didn’t make sense.” 

    After getting turned down for the 96th time, Hodges realized something was definitely wrong. Big companies with tens of millions in revenue and hundreds of employees were able to easily secure loans exceeding $5 million. But it was nearly impossible for companies of his size, with a few million dollars in sales and less than 50 employees, to find bank loans.

    “There’s a big gaping hole, and that gap has gotten worse over the last five or six years,” Hodges told Business Insider.

    So Hodges launched an online marketplace called Emergence Lending Network. His peer-to-peer lending network, which last year merged with the UK-based Funding Circle, provides a marketplace where small business owners could borrow money directly from individual or institutional investors. 

    The way it works is pretty simple. Once you pass its online eligibility test (which takes roughly 15 to 30 minutes), Funding Circle’s own underwriters go through a verification process to ensure you’re eligible to apply for a loan. During this process, it looks into a lot of data, including credit score and profitability, as well as things as small as the quality of social media presence and yelp reviews, to determine the health of the business. Based on this, each borrower is given a grade and loan terms, which help lenders decide which businesses are better to lend to. Hodges says on average it takes less than two weeks to complete a loan. 

    Funding Circle has processed over $750 million since 2010 in the US and UK markets, and it expects to lend out more than $1 billion in 2015. So far, it’s raised over $123 million from Accel Partners, Union Square Ventures, and Index Ventures.

    Funding Circle is part of a larger group of online lending platforms, and the whole sector has been growing rapidly. Lending Club, for example, is now valued at over $3.75 billion and has filed for a $500 million IPO in August. Prosper, another P2P lender, was last valued at $650 million. In fact, all three of these companies were mentioned in a recent report by Karen Mills, former Administrator of the US Small Business Administration, for using technology to help businesses gain better access to capital.

    "Emerging online players are filling the technology void left by many banks, and pushing innovation within the banking sector in the same ways in which other online upstarts such as Amazon.com changed retail and Square has changed the small business payments business," she wrote.

    But what makes Funding Circle different from the rest is its laser focus on small businesses, Hodges says. “Our main message is small businesses can turn online and use marketplaces like ours to get access to finance.”

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  • Amazon Wants To Help You Find A Plumber


    Amazon wants to connect users with handymen like plumbers and electricians through the expansion of its Amazon Local Services division in New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing a document viewed as well as person briefed on the plan. 

    Amazon shoppers in those cities will reportedly see installation or handyman offers after purchasing goods like ceiling fans, air conditioners, and the like. The company will offer a money-back guarantee on its services and will do background checks on any service provider that it lists on the site. Every handyman or woman will have to liability insurance. 

    Here's a deal that we found while searching "ceiling fans" in the Local Services section for Los Angeles:

    Local Services 

    The company eventually plans to expand the program to include fitness instructors, music teachers, and more, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

    Reuters reported these plans back in June. 

    This service sounds very similar to what's offered by startup Pro.com, a company founded by former Amazon employee Matt Williams. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos invests in Pro.com and it has raised $14 million total.  


    SEE ALSO: Amazon Fires Back At An Ex-Employee Who Is Planning A Hunger Strike Outside Its Seattle Headquarters

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  • These Are The Angry Facebook Posts That Put A Guy In Prison


    The Supreme Court is going to hear a free speech case next week that will determine whether a then-27-year-old's violent, rap-inspired Facebook posts should have landed him behind bars. 

    The court will hear arguments next Monday in the case of Anthony Douglas Elonis, who was convicted of violating a federal law that bars making interstate threats to harm people. 

    Elonis' string of damning Facebook rants came after his wife of seven years left him and took their two kids with her in May 2010, according to the petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

    Elonis made questionable Facebook posts about his former employer (an amusement park that fired him), followed by posts about his estranged wife, and then a post in which he appeared to threaten elementary school kids. That last post prompted the FBI to start monitoring him, which in turn inspired a derogatory post from Elonis about the "Little Agent Lady" who came to his door.

    Elonis argues that his posts — many of which were in rap form — weren't actually meant to threaten their subjects, and that he had a First Amendment right to make these statements. He has support from a number of free speech groups, including the ACLU.

    "The inherently impersonal nature of online communication makes such messages inherently susceptible to misinterpretation," his lawyers wrote in his petition.

    The subjects of Elonis' Facebook communications obviously interpreted his posts as threats, and it's not hard to see why.

    In one Facebook comment, Elonis suggested that his son "dress up as matricide" for Halloween. His wife obtained a Protection from Abuse order, prompting him to post a longer rant about her that was basically a word-for-word adaption of sketch by a comedy group they'd seen together, according to his petition.

    "Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?" he wrote. "It’s illegal. It’s indirect criminal contempt ... I also found out it's incredibly illegal, extremely illegal, to go on Facebook and say something like the best place to fire a mortar launcher at her house would be the cornfield behind it ..."

    His post about the FBI agent is more graphic. In it, he noted that it "it took all the strength I had not to turn the b**** ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist, and slit her throat."

    Like a lot of rap lyrics, Elonis' have a violent undertone. His words got him 44 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

    In the past, violent rap lyrics have even been used to secure murder convictions. Here are the rap lyrics that helped convict a guy of attempted murder

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  • People Are Flipping Out Over This Spy Software Created By An Unknown Government

    cyber attackAn unusually sophisticated malware called “Regin” has attacked internet and telecommunications companies in 14 countries since 2008, Symantec and Kaspersky Labs said in separate reports.

    Symantec believes Regin was likely created for cyber espionage purposes by a nation state, although it didn't suggest which government was responsible for it.

    “Regin is a complex piece of malware whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen,” Symantec wrote in a report published on Sunday. “Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.”

    Symantec says Regin was first detected in 2008, but disappeared three years later, only to resurface in 2013. Regin has attacked all kinds of businesses, including telecoms, hospitality, and airlines, but nearly half of it targeted private individuals and small businesses. Russia and Saudi Arabia were the two hardest hit countries, each accounting for 28% and 24% of the attacks respectively, but it’s also been spotted in Mexico, Ireland, and India.

    In a follow up report on Monday, another IT security lab, Kaspersky Labs, said it’s been tracking Regin for the past two years. It said the victims of Regin were mostly seen in telecom operators, government institutions, multinational political bodies, or financial/research institutions. It says the two main objectives of the attacks were “intelligence gathering” and “facilitating other types of attacks,” with 14 countries being identified as victims of Regin so far. Like Symantec, Kaspersky concluded, it’s likely Regin is “supported by a nation-state.” 

    Although none of the reports named which nation-state is likely responsible for Regin, Re/code pointed to a couple reports (by The Intercept and the Germany magazine Der Spiegel) as hinting that the NSA and the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ may have a hand in it.  

    The Wall Street Journal also reported that the malware appears to be the tool used by GCHQ in an attack on a telecom company in Belgium which delivered lots of traffic between Asia, Africa, and the Middle East — areas of interest for western governments. The leak was exposed when emails provided by Edward Snowden showed spies at British intelligence agencies boasting about breaking into the telecom. 

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  • Here's One Reason Why iCloud Has Been Such A Mess (AAPL)

    Tim Cook angry sad

    With its soaring stock price and hugely popular products, Apple has become synonymous with success.

    While that's generally true for the company's hardware, its online services, like iCloud, are a totally different story.

    One reason is because Apple has no central dedicated team to work on these services, reports The Information's Jessica Lessin

    That means whenever Apple wants to create new online services, they have to rebuild a lot of the underlying technology. This is a legacy of the way Apple is organized: the company is so secretive, it often isolates product groups from each other so product details won't leak. 

    This has become a real problem in the case of iCloud. You probably heard about iCloud last summer. 

    iCloud can be used to store photos taken on users' iPhones. That became a problem when hackers went after some celebrities' iCloud accounts and posted their nude photos online.

    Apple has since instituted a new privacy policy and enabled two-factor authentication for iCloud in order to reassure users, but the incident damaged Apple's reputation.

    iCloud isn't Apple's first stab at online services, either.

    Before iCloud there was MobileMe, which users didn't like. It was expensive, and Google offered similar services for free.

    There's no telling when Apple will learn from its stumbles in the cloud. But it might start by hiring a team to do just that. 

    SEE ALSO: The 13 Best Custom iPhones Money Can Buy

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  • It Looks Like Twitter's CFO Just Accidentally Tweeted A Private Message About Acquiring A Company

    It looks like Twitter's CFO Anthony Noto just accidentally tweeted what should've been a direct message that was meant for someone else:

    Noto, who joined Twitter in July, has since deleted the tweet. 

    Several people, including TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine and Fusion's Kevin Roose, have pointed out that Noto has recently followed a group of people who work at Mic News, a general news site targeted toward millennial readers. Their speculation is that Noto was talking about Mic.

    He's not the first one to have a "DM fail," and he most likely won't be the last. 

    Generally, Twitter — and especially CEO Dick Costolo —  has been under fire since its latest earnings report. Critics say that even though it is a mainstream product, it has failed to gain a global audience of logged-in, monthly users. 

    The company has acquired four companies this year. Its most recent buy was Mitro, a company that lets multiple people control passwords for a single account.

    Twitter had no comment on this report.

    NOW WATCH: Your Facebook App Is Quietly Clogging Up Your iPhone

    SEE ALSO: Amazon Fires Back At Ex-Employee Who Is Planning A Hunger Strike Outside Its Seattle Headquarters

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  • BlackBerry Will Pay iPhone Owners Up To $550 To Switch (AAPL, BBRY)

    john chen blackberry chief

    How much are iPhone users worth to BlackBerry? Try $550 apiece.

    If you're willing to trade in your iPhone 6 o to a Passport on ShopBlackberry.com or Amazon, BlackBerry will give you up to $400 in trade-in value, plus an extra $150 "top up" for U.S. residents. Canadian residents get an extra $200 Canadian. The Phone has to be working, but otherwise it looks like the restrictions are pretty loose

    Older iPhones are worth less on trade-in — the iPhone 4 is the least valuable at $90. But the top up applies regardless.

    The deal kicks off December 1. Details are here. 

    What do you say, iPhone owners? Is this enough to get you to switch?


    SEE ALSO: Obama -- 'I Forgot My Blackberry'

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  • Amazon Fires Back At An Ex-Employee Who Is Planning A Hunger Strike Outside Its Seattle Headquarters (AMZN)

    Kivin Varghese

    A former Amazon employee who has been protesting outside the company's Seattle headquarters for nearly three weeks, plans to begin a hunger strike Tuesday morning. He says his goal is to raise awareness about Amazon's "poor employee treatment, low ethical standards, and an abysmal environmental record."

    Kivin Varghese sued Amazon for wrongful termination in 2012 after working for the company for seven months.  Although he won part of his case in July 2013 — Amazon waived enforcement of an 18-month non-compete obligation and granted him all rights to a patent application he'd filed — the trial for the second part of the suit is scheduled for March 2015.

    An Amazon spokesperson says Varghese's case has never been about treatment of other employees, customers or the environment and that he is raising new issues in an effort to get media attention. 

    Here's the full statement Business Insider recieved:

    "Mr. Varghese was employed by Amazon for seven months in 2012 and was terminated for poor performance. Since his termination, Mr. Varghese has hired two different sets of lawyers and filed a lawsuit that seeks many millions of dollars of damages from Amazon. He has been aggressively litigating his claims since 2012. While we do not comment on active litigation and won’t do so here, this case has never been about treatment of other employees, customers or the environment – issues he first raised less than three weeks ago in an effort to get media attention. This case is about Mr. Varghese’s own termination and Amazon’s refusal to pay his monetary demands. Trial is set for March 23, 2015."

    Varghese told Business Insider that he originally started his protest on November 5 because he became frustrated by the drawn-out legal process and wants to draw attention to his case (read more about his original lawsuit and allegations here). Since the protest began, he has expanded his protest — and the forthcoming hunger strike — to include new complaints against Amazon, like broader working condition and environmental issues. (In 2013, Greenpeace gave Amazon an "F" grade renewable energy use and advocacy, but earlier this month, Amazon committed to work towards running cloud services on 100% renewable energy.)

    Varghese tells Business Insider that he has decided to escalate to a hunger strike after being moved by the response he's gotten from other Amazon employees. 

    "I've heard from so many by email and calls from across the country and on campus," he says. "The stories that they tell me are just awful, of the way that they're treated. Even though I have an issue with how Amazon treated me, this has become much bigger than just my issue." 

    Amazon has come under fire for its warehouse conditions and employee treatment in the past

    Varghese chose to start his hunger strike tomorrow as online shopping starts ramping up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with the goal of trying to convince "even one percent" of Amazon shoppers to take their business elsewhere, either by buying locally or choosing other e-tailers. He will stop eating at 7 a.m. tomorrow and will keep going until "the end," which he says means until he either ends up in the hospital, gets arrested, or gets a response from Amazon with a proposal about how to fix the issues he's highlighting. He admits that his idea might sound "crazy."  

    "All I know is, I need to do the best I can to try to get things to change," he says. "I know it's going to be a huge uphill battle. I'm going to be sitting out there alone on the sidewalk on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. But I'm hoping that my story will make people reconsider their buying for the holiday season."

    Varghese is the only one protesting outside Amazon's headquarters but a petition he wrote has recieved at lelast 2,217 signatures (with a goal of 20,000). 

    SEE ALSO: The First 21 Amazon Employees: Where Are They Now?

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  • MIT-Designed 'Smart' Frying Pan Promises A Perfectly Cooked Meal Every Time

    Pantelligent Never feel the need to order takeout after a poorly cooked meal again.

    A new Kickstarter project is promoting something called Pantelligent, which is exactly like a frying pan — only smarter.    

    Fed up with the fact that "frying pans have barely changed in thousands of years," four MIT engineers created this high-tech frying pan. It has a temperature sensor on the inside that communicates with a smartphone app to give the chef a step-by-step guide to cooking a perfect meal. 

    The app comes pre-loaded with a bunch of recipes, including ones for buttermilk pancakes, mushroom risotto, seared scallops, salmon, scallion pancakes, and more.

    All you have to do is choose which one you want and click "start cooking." 


    Electronics in the handle transmit the data to a phone through Bluetooth. Just tap the phone to the pan's handle to get the data, and the app can say how hot the pan is, when to add ingredients, and when to stir or flip.

    All the cook needs to do is follow the alerts. 

    The pan is able to do this through a “patent-pending design that accurately measures the temperature of the pan’s cooking surface,” according to the Kickstarter page

    It even gives reassurances and says things like “spot on” when the chef has done done a step correctly. 


    Chefs who don’t want to follow a step-by-step process can use the “freestyle” mode, which allows the user to set a target temperature for the pan and warns if the pan gets too hot or cold. The freestyle mode works like a “sous chef that never gets distracted,” according to Kickstarter

    It even has a recipe-recording feature, which allows chefs to record someone cooking so that they can emulate them later. This feature would be perfect for someone trying to get a family recipe just right. 

    The smart-pan has recieved a lot of praise on Kickstarter, and has already raised $8,000 more than its $30,000 goal at the time of this post, with 42 days lefts to go.

    Pantelligent asks for a $199 pledge, and will be delivered in August of 2015. But for those who want it immediately, the creators are offering a prototype to be delivered in January for a pledge of over $2,000. 

    For more information, check out the Kickstarter page here

    SEE ALSO: An Insane Kickstarter Invention Claims To Scramble Eggs Inside Their Shell

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  • A Gecko-Inspired Invention Lets Humans Scale Walls Like Spider-Man

    Wall climbing gecko force

    Everyone's wished they had a superhuman ability at some point in their lives. And on the super power scale, the ability to scale glass walls like Spider-Man is right up there at the top — and it's already possible, as shown by a new invention described in a recently published study in the journal Interface.

    Using gecko-inspired hand pads created by these scientists, a person can now walk up a glass wall.

    "This is one of the most exciting things I've seen in years," Kellar Autumn, a biomechanist at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, who wasn't involved with the study, told Science Magazine.

    Gecko feet

    To build the devices that enable this wall crawling ability, researchers analyzed how geckos support themselves and then improved on that already-powerful adhesive ability.

    Gecko feet are covered in tiny little bristles or hairs called setae, which interact with the molecules of different surfaces to create an electric attraction called van der Waals force. This force helps the little lizards cling to vertical surfaces and even walk on some ceilings.

    Part of what makes this really amazing is that the structure of these connections allows the gecko to detach and reattach their feet at will, which is the special skill that actually lets them climb up the wall and not just stick to it in one place.gecko

    At their strongest, these little hairs are able to create an insanely strong attraction. If each of the 6.5 million tiny bristles was operating at full power all the time, those little gecko feet should be able to hold up a 286-pound adult human — bigger than the average NFL defensive end.

    But as Science explains, geckos can actually only lift a maximum of 4.4 pounds: The bristles on their feet can't all be used at the same time. The physical structure of the foot means that only a few small hairs can be at their stickiest at once. So on a small scale, they are incredibly powerful, but it's hard to scale up that ability to bigger and heavier objects.

    A human trick

    Whenever humans have tried to replicate gecko climbing ability, they've run into the same problem — they can't replicate sticking power using only a tiny surface area, and it's especially difficult to create enough sticking power for something as large as a person.

    But a team of engineers at Stanford figured out how to make it work.

    gecko inspired tech

    In the new contraption, the two hand pads are all that hold the climber (lead study author Elliot Hawkes in the image above) in the above photo. The footholds he stands on are connected to those hand pads, so that the pads themselves are holding his body weight and he doesn't have to cling to the wall using brute strength. He's actually just standing on the foot-ledges in the above image.

    Each of the two hand pads is covered by 24 small tiles. Each tile is covered in tiny silicon rubber hairs that mimic the gecko's setae, each about as tall as human hair is thick. Those little rubber hairs, or microwedges, as they are called, can attach and detach easily without breaking down — and there's something special about their adhesive force that makes them perfect for climbing.

    The adhesive is designed so it becomes stickier when more force is pulling on it but it becomes less sticky if you take that force away. So by stepping on a foothold connected to a hand pad, Hawkes causes that pad to generate adhesive force and stick to the wall. To detach and climb up, he just has to take his weight off the foothold.

    gecko climbing

    In order to create pads that are small but still able to use that force to hold a person's weight, Hawkes had to figure out where the gecko and other attempts at replicating it were inefficient.

    "Engineers hate inefficient things," he tells LiveScience.

    Walk the walk

    The key was designing the hand pads so that the 24 tiles would be able to fully attach to the wall even with a weight pulling on them. So he connected the tiles using a material that becomes less stiff and more elastic when it's being pulled on, the opposite of most natural fibers. This means that the pads can evenly distribute all the weight, instead of having the majority of the force pull on one gradually weakening connection.

    "To be able to climb glass felt a little bit magical — it feels like you're hooking this device onto a perfectly flat smooth surface, and it doesn't feel possible," Hawkes told LiveScience.

    There are still limitations. This particular version attaches easily to glass, but wouldn't work the same on a rougher or sandy surface. But he thinks that those problems can be solved using other types of bio-inspired design, like the mechanism that geckos use to self-clean their setae as they go.

    He said that next up is figuring out how to use this type of adhesive to pick up space junk before it smashes into a satellite or to build drones that can walk up and clean skyscrapers.

    But we're hoping he also takes a shot at harnessing the power of the spiderweb.

    SEE ALSO: Jetpacks Help Soldiers Run At The Speed Of Olympic Athletes

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  • Here's Proof Apple Is Exploring Virtual Reality (AAPL)

    virtual reality kids

    Apple has been rumored to be exploring virtual reality for some time now.

    So far, reports have been based on previous patents filed by Apple revolving around virtual reality, but not all patents see the light of day. This new job listing from Apple, on the other hand, shows that the company is looking for an app engineer to "create high performance apps that integrate with Virtual Reality systems for prototyping and user testing," according to 9to5Mac.

    What Apple means by "virtual reality systems" isn't clear exactly, but it looks like iPhone maker is at least interested in exploring apps that could be experienced through virtual reality.

    The real question: Which piece of Apple hardware would these virtual reality apps run on? OS X? iOS?

    Both Oculus and Samsung are already asking developers to work on apps that will work with the Oculus Rift and Gear VR virtual reality headsets, and both of those developments are mobile-leaning.



    Apple could theoretically allow iOS apps to integrate with those headsets, but a previous patent awarded to Apple suggests the company might be working on its own virtual reality headset of sorts.

    Here are the images from Apple's headset patent, courtesy of PatentlyApple.

    Apple virtual reality gaming headset patent

    While Apple has a habit of filing for numerous design patents that may never materialize into actual products, Apple's move from virtual reality patents to job listings suggests something is in the works.

    You can check out the full job listing over at Apple's website.

    SEE ALSO: Steve Jobs Dropped The First iPod Prototype Into An Aquarium To Prove A Point

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  • CHART OF THE DAY: Samsung's Mobile Market Share Is Tumbling

    We’ve previously reported on the troubled state of Samsung’s mobile business, but the cheese became a little more binding on Monday with a report from The Wall Street Journal saying the South Korean company is considering replacing some of its top executives as a result of its cratering smartphone business.

    To get an idea of the pressure Samsung is facing in the mobile sphere, check out the company’s global smartphone market share. Based on IDC data charted for us by BI Intelligence, Samsung’s market share is getting eaten not only by Apple, representing the high-end smartphone market, but most notably from low-end phone makers in China including Lenovo, Huawei, and Xiaomi, which has come out of nowhere to become the biggest smartphone maker in China and the third-biggest in the world. (The "Other" section in this chart includes a bunch of smaller phone makers in India, Indonesia, and other big countries. But they're all much smaller than HTC.)

    Samsung’s mobile profits and revenue are both tumbling, but that only partially explains the shakeup. As for what Samsung should actually do about its mobile woes, Business Insider’s Jay Yarow has a far-out idea to save the company.

    bii sai cotd smartphone market share

    SEE ALSO: CHART OF THE DAY: Apple Has Nearly A Billion Payment Cards On File

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  • A Secret Message Hidden In A CIA Sculpture 25 Years Ago Might Finally Be Solved

    Kryptos sculpture at the CIA

    Like something from a Dan Brown novel, Kryptos is a cryptographic puzzle at CIA headquarters that has never been solved.

    The sculpture is 12 feet high, and stands on the grounds of the CIA complex in Langley, Virginia. American artist Jim Sanborn built it 25 years ago.

    Kryptos contains four hidden messages, carved out of metal. Those four messages are the clues to a riddle. Sanborn has hinted that solving the riddle will be something akin to a treasure hunt on the grounds of the CIA's headquarters.

    Three of the messages hidden in the sculpture have been solved. The fourth is 97 letters but no one has been able to decipher it. Even the code-cracking masters at the NSA, who were the first ones to solve the other three parts, gave up.

    In honor of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and Sanborn's 69th birthday, the artist has released a clue, a hint to the world's smartest mathematicians and cryptographers to help them finally crack the last section of code.

    This is only the second hint he's ever given to crack the code that hides the clues, reports Wired's Kim Zetter. Once all four clues have been revealed, the next step will be to solve the riddle itself.

    Zetter reports:

    Four years ago, concerned that he might not live to see the mystery of Kryptos resolved, Sanborn released a clue to help things along, revealing that six of the last 97 letters when decrypted spell the word “Berlin”... To that clue today, he’s adding the next word in the sequence—“clock”... Now the Kryptos sleuths just have to unscramble the remaining 86 characters.

    The first part of the puzzle that is a clue to the riddle is a poetic phrase that Sanborn composed:

    "Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion."

    The second indicates that the solution to the riddle may be a thing that's buried in the ground:

    "It was totally invisible. How’s that possible? They used the earth’s magnetic field. x The information was gathered and transmitted undergruund to an unknown location. x Does Langley know about this? They should: it’s buried out there somewhere. x Who knows the exact location? Only WW. This was his last message. x Thirty eight degrees fifty seven minutes six point five seconds north, seventy seven degrees eight minutes forty four seconds west. x Layer two."

    The third message is a description of opening King Tut’s tomb when it was discovered in 1922 based on the diary of Archaeologist Howard Carter.

    "Slowly, desparatly slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker, but presently details of the room within emerged from the mist. x Can you see anything? q"

    The code has been particularly hard to crack in part because some of the worlds have been misspelled like "iqlusion and "undergruund."

    Sanborn told Wired that he's the only man alive that knows the answer to the riddle. So if the world's smartest crypto-mathematicians don't crack the fourth clue and solve the riddle while Sanborn is still alive, the mystery gracing the grounds of the CIA may remain hidden forever.

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