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05.09.16 | 11:52 am

AdBlock Plus says it’s on the verge of a billion downloads

That's according to the CEO of the ad-blocking software's maker Eyeo. Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt this morning, Till Faida also said that AdBlock Plus is installed on over 100 million active devices. Those numbers represent huge growth for the software, which was claiming 500 million downloads and 50 million active users earlier this year. AdBlock Plus is so disliked that Faida's panel had to be separated from that of Randall Rothenberg, the outspoken head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, who has referred to ad blockers as "economic terrorists" and "extortionists." 

09.30.16 | 31 minutes ago

More trouble on the horizon in Europe for WhatsApp in the wake of its flip-flop on sharing data

Earlier this week, officials in Hamburg ordered Facebook to stop collecting data on WhatsApp users in Germany in the wake of the messaging app's controversial decision to change its mind and start sharing such data with Facebook.

Now the U.K.'s data protection watchdog seems poised to take action, reports TechCrunch. In an interview with BBC's PM program on Radio 4 on Thursday, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said her office is probing the data-sharing arrangement after hearing from lots of angry WhatsApp users: "There's a lot of anger out there. And again it goes back to promises, commitment, fairness, and transparency. We have launched an investigation into the data sharing, remembering that in 2014 when Facebook bought WhatsApp there was a commitment made that between the two companies they would not share information."

09.30.16 | 42 minutes ago

Report: The next iPhones could feature OLED screens

The rumors could be true about the next iPhone, dubbed iPhone 8, looking radically different. To date, all iPhones use LCD display technology but the next one could feature OLED displays, according to a Bloomberg report that Apple is in negotiations with Sharp to produce organic LED displays for its next line of smartphones. For non-device geeks, OLED is superior to LCD in that it has better contrast ratios due to its lack of a backlight and much less power drain. Currently, the only Apple device to use the technology is the Apple Watch, notes 9to5Mac

09.30.16 | an hour ago

To protect endangered species, rangers are applying the technology used in online poker

Protecting endangered species from poachers has been a losing battle in recent years—the number of African elephants plummeted by 20% between 2006 and 2015 due to a increase in ivory poaching—so  conservationists and researchers are turning to some high-tech tools to help them. They are using artificial intelligence and game theory algorithms used in online poker to help track down poachers. 

"We're trying to predict future poacher attacks or where poachers may strike next based on what we have observed in the past on our patrols," Milind Tambe from the University of Southern California, whose team is developing technology dubbed the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS), tells Reuters.

09.30.16 | an hour ago

Blue Origin will test its “crew escape” system during its rocket launch next week

Blue Origin, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's commercial spaceflight company, will test its "crew escape" system during the next launch of its New Shepard rocket on October 4 at 10:50 a.m. (EST), which will be live-streamed on its site. "A solid rocket motor fires for two seconds, quickly separating the crew capsule away from the booster," says the narrator in a video describing the procedure, reports "Once away, the capsule enters a standard descent profile, deploying drogue and main parachutes before coasting down to a landing." 

Below is the New Shepard capsule containing its in-flight escape motor:

[Image: Blue Origin]

09.30.16 | 12:03 am

Marc Andreessen says he feels “50 pounds lighter” since quitting Twitter last week

Venture capital investor Marc Andreessen, who abruptly quit Twitter last week, says that he feels "50 pounds lighter" and "free as a bird" since quitting the platform last week. He was talking at the Strictly VC event in Palo Alto when he made the remarks, reports TechCrunch. The investor also defended his firm Andreessen Horowitz's track record, though admitting that even "the best venture capitalists in the world still strike out most of the time. That's just the nature of the beast."

09.29.16 | 6:54 pm

Evening intel: Robot babysitters, AOL does something right, a mansplainer apologizes

• Meet iPal, a three-foot-tall humanoid robot designed to look after children ages three to eight for several hours unsupervised.

• AOL's new email app, Alto, has several surprisingly handy features, the most notable of which is the Dashboard, which picks out flights, calendar events, hotel bookings, shipments, and more.

• The WSJ contributor who advised women in tech to hide their genders online as a way of combating sexism has apologized after a day of backlash.  

• The British fashion brand Asos is the center of a scathing BuzzFeed exposé that accuses the company of mistreating its warehouse workers. 

• The FCC has temporarily backed down from a plan to force cable companies to "unlock" their set-top boxes, and Comcast couldn't be happier. 

09.29.16 | 6:44 pm

Comcast is pretty stoked that the FCC’s cable-box plan fell through

The Philadelphia cable giant applauded the FCC today after Chairman Tom Wheeler backed off of his set-top box proposal at the last minute, saying it wasn't quite ready for a vote. 

David Cohen, Comcast's senior executive VP, said in a statement that Wheeler made the right decision and should allow more time to iron out the kinks. "This is an extremely complicated and technical item that should not be adopted without the opportunity for expert and public input," Cohen said. 

The proposal would have forced cable and satellite TV providers to "unlock" their set-top boxes and let third-party companies like Google offer TV programming through apps. Box rental fees are said to cost consumers an estimated $231 a year. Read Cohen's full statement. 

09.29.16 | 5:24 pm

If you vote for Jill Stein, prepare to incur the wrath of these “Star Trek” actors

A broad coalition of actors, writers, and directors connected to the Star Trek universe have their names attached to an open letter urging fans of the science-fiction franchise to vote for Hillary Clinton in November and resist the urge to pick a third-party candidate. The letter was posted today on a Facebook page called "Trek Against Trump."

"We have heard people say they will vote Green or Libertarian or not at all because the two major candidates are equally flawed. That is both illogical and inaccurate. Either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump will occupy the White House. One is an amateur with a contemptuous ignorance of national laws and international realities, while the other has devoted her life to public service, and has deep and valuable experience with the proven ability to work with Congress to pass desperately needed legislation."

J.J. Abrams, Brent Spiner, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana are among the names attached to the letter, in addition to actors associated with nearly every Trek incarnation. 

Normally, I wouldn't urge anyone to read the comments, but read the comments: There are more than 150 so far, and not everyone is happy about the Star Fleet elite ostensibly defending the two-party status quo. Look, I get it, but the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few—that's kind of a basic Star Trek thing. 

09.29.16 | 4:34 pm

VC makes naive error, pays deeply in shame and tears

Yesterday, the "Experts" section of the Wall Street Journal posted an opinion piece by John Greathouse in which even the headline induced rage: "Why Women in Tech Might Consider Just Using Their Initials Online." The body of the post didn't add much nuance.

Unsurprisingly, the internet reacted. Angry readers were quick to flood Twitter with comments, explaining to Greathouse, a venture capitalist, that asking women to mask their gender online is not solving the problem of sexism in tech—it's admitting defeat. 

A day has gone by and now it seems Greathouse agrees. He recently posted this apology on Twitter:

09.29.16 | 4:16 pm

This scathing exposé reveals how Asos treats its warehouse staff

Today, BuzzFeed published a long-form story, based on three months of reporting, about how the British online fashion brand Asos treats its U.K. warehouse staff. Workers describe being unable to take regular toilet breaks or water breaks for fear of missing targets; some have had their contracts terminated because they were ill or tending to a sick relative. 

In the U.S., Gawker published similar stories about Amazon's warehouse practices. It's possible that Asos modeled its warehouse after Amazon's, since founder Nick Robertson said he wanted his company to become the "Amazon of fashion." 

09.29.16 | 3:56 pm

Soon, our kids will have robot babysitters

We got a taste for what this will look like at the RoboBusiness exhibit in California. iPal, a 3-foot-tall humanoid robot, is designed to look after children ages 3 to 8 for several hours unsupervised. It is created by a robotics company called Avatar Mind, which is based out of Nanjing, Shenzhen, and Silicon Valley.

The Guardian asked experts what they thought of iPal and the consensus seemed to be that it is a terrible idea. As a temporary amusement, robots can be fun and educational, but child development experts worry that robotic nannies will not provide children with the emotional support they require. 

[Image via Avatar Mind]

09.29.16 | 3:25 pm

Facebook wants to boost your marketing career for the low, low price of your soul

Blueprint launched last year as a training tool for marketers. Now Facebook is offering a certification program to validate that you're a professional who's fluent in Blueprint. 

That sounds harmless enough, except the process for getting it makes the SATs look like a free-for-all. Mainly, you have to let Facebook peer into your eyes, your home, and deep into your everlasting soul. Oh, and there's also a test you have to take, administered by Pearson, and a $150 fee. But hey, all in the name of your marketing career. 

This uncomfortably upbeat instructional video feels like a dark and inscrutable metaphor for the dystopian fate that awaits all of humanity, but it technically isn't.