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02.28.17 | 3:56 pm

It’s official: YouTube is entering the cable cord-cutter business  

Here at YouTube's sprawling Los Angeles facility, the company is holding an event to announce YouTube TV—its streaming service that will offer conventional TV channels streamed across the net to phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs. The company is only saying it will be available in "the coming months."

But it's disclosing most of the other vital facts about what the service will offer, and on paper, at least, they sound like a serious rival to existing services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue:

• 40 networks in all: the major broadcast networks, plus channels such as ESPN, Fox Sports, USA FX, E!, Bravo, Disney, MSNBC, Sprout, local channels, and (for an additional fee) Showtime—but not those owned by cable behemoths Time Warner and Viacom 

• YouTube's own original content, such as the shows and films that are part of its YouTube Red service

• Unlimited ability to record shows for later watching via a cloud-based DVR

• Google-like search for specific shows or themes such as "time travel"

• A cost of $35 a month for six accounts

[Photo: Unsplash user Sven Scheuermeier]

07.26.17 | an hour ago

Blue Apron shakeup: COO steps down less than one month after IPO

Last night recently IPO'd Blue Apron announced a few changes to its executive team. It introduced a newly formed "consumer products" team, meant to develop "more flexible, diverse, and personalized experiences for Blue Apron's customers." Tim Smith, the company's VP of supply chain, will be heading up this new group. 

Additionally, Blue Apron's chief operations officer, Matthew Wadiak, is stepping down. According to the press release, he will now serve as a senior adviser to the company. Will this shake-up help the company succeed? With Amazon potentially entering the meal-kit arena, who knows? 

07.26.17 | an hour ago

Trump turns back on LGBT community with transgender military ban tweets

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to "fight for" the LGBT community. Now, President Trump has just announced on Twitter that transgender individuals will no longer be allowed to fight for him or lay down their lives for their country. In a series of tweets, the president, who did not serve in the military, announced that transgender soldiers would be a "disruption" and the medical costs associated with their health care too "tremendous."

The Wall Street Journal estimated last year, when President Obama lifted the ban on transgender soldiers, that the cost of  allowing transgender soldiers was around $2 million per year—or less than the cost of one of Trump's many, many weekends at Mar-a-Lago. The ACLU has already weighed in, tweeting: "Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief, @realDonaldTrump. Contact the ACLU."  

07.26.17 | 2 hours ago

That Onion article about the NYC subway keeps getting truer and truer

The New York City subway is so crowded now that the MTA has decided to throw up its hands and just start ripping out seats on some lines to give people more room to stand. It's only a test right now, according to Pix 11, but drastic times call for drastic measures. Keep in mind, this is the same agency that decided the best way to deal with trash was to remove trash bins

All of this, of course, reminds me of an article in the Onion that made the rounds earlier this month. "Entire NYC Subway System Now Consists Of Single Handcar," went the headline. We only laugh to keep from crying.  

[Photo: Pacific Coast Highway via Wikimedia Commons]

07.26.17 | 4 hours ago

Roku is beating Google, Amazon, and Apple in the streaming devices game

The company is beating all three tech giants as far as monthly device usage is concerned, according to the latest reports from eMarketer. Roku can boast it has 38.9 million months users of its device in the U.S., putting it in first place. It's followed by Google's Chromecast with 36.9 million monthly users. Amazon's Fire TV comes in third place with 35.8 million monthly users, and the Apple TV comes in fourth place with 21.3 million monthly users. The biggest loser this time around is actually Google, as its Chromecast device was the market leader last October. Roku has now surpassed it.

[Chart: eMarketer]

07.26.17 | 6:42 am

The U.K. will ban sales of gas-powered cars from 2040

From 2040 all new vehicle sales must be fully electric cars, reports the Times. Not even hybrid vehicles will be allowed to be sold in the U.K. after 2040. The move comes as the U.K. attempts to improve its air quality and follows a similar plan announced by President Macron in France. Currently, just 1% of cars sold in the U.K. are electric. Now the country has just over 22 years to change that.

07.26.17 | 6:19 am

A North Korean nuke could hit the U.S. in a year, intelligence agencies say

The U.S. intelligence agencies previously believed it would take four years for North Korea to develop the technology to put a nuclear warhead on a missile and hit the United States with it. Now the intelligence agencies say North Korea will have that capability sometime in 2018, reports the New York Times. The revised timeline is due to the significant advancements the country has made and demonstrated in its July 4 missile test, which saw the country launch a missile with a warhead 1,700 miles into space. Regarding that test Scott Bray, the national intelligence manager for East Asia acknowledged:

"North Korea's recent test of an intercontinental range ballistic missile — which was not a surprise to the Intelligence Community — is one of the milestones that we have expected would help refine our timeline and judgments on the threats that Kim Jong Un poses to the continental United States. This test, and its impact on our assessments, highlight the threat that North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose to the United States, to our allies in the region, and to the whole world."

07.26.17 | 5:58 am

You’ll now have to pay Uber $15 to return that thing you left in the back seat

Uber has told drivers that they'll no longer be expected to make free trips to return lost items to customers, reports Business Insider. Now when a passenger contacts a driver to ask they come back to return an item left in the car, the Uber app will allow the driver to report they made a return and Uber will compensate the driver $15, a fee which will be charged to the passenger. The move is part of Uber's  "180 days" campaign to address driver feedback, and though it won't make passengers happy, it seems like a fair deal. After all, why should a driver waste his time, gas, and potential customers to fix their passengers' mistakes? 

07.26.17 | 5:48 am

Check out this boring video of Elon Musk’s Boring Company’s first car elevator

It's like a regular elevator, but for cars. Groundbreaking stuff, Elon. 

Testing The Boring Company car elevator

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

Of course, what that elevator will eventually lead to is a bit more exciting…

07.26.17 | 5:34 am

Rick Perry gave an interview to a Russian prankster he thought was Ukraine’s prime minister

The U.S. Energy secretary, and former presidential candidate, got punked by two Russian pranksters called the "Jerky Boys of Russia," reports Reuters. The Russian duo is famous in the country for fooling high-level officials into thinking they are speaking with foreign heads of state. In this case, the Russian pranksters got Perry to discuss his thoughts on a Russian project to its natural gas to Europe and the energy security of Ukraine. You can listen to the entire 22-minute (!!) prank below.

07.25.17 | 5:55 pm

Trump says Apple will build three “big, beautiful” new plants in U.S.

Donald Trump claimed during an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that Apple's Tim Cook committed to building three new plants. If the claim is even true, Apple probably has something very different in mind than the large, blue-collar-job-creating factories Trump is likely imagining. Any new plants would likely be highly automated affairs that call for more skilled than general workers, experts say. 

Or the new factories may be part of a quid pro quo arrangement between Trump and Cook, and completely dependent on the government doing some nice thing for Apple. For example, Apple (and others) wants the government to let it return its massive profits currently held overseas to the U.S. at a low tax rate. Trump has proposed a 10% tax rate. 

But, sources tell me, he and his administration are laboring under the assumption that tech companies will use a big part of the repatriated money to build factories. The tech companies have other ideas, as they did after the last repatriation in 2004 when George W. Bush was president.

07.25.17 | 5:51 pm

I’ll pay extra if Lyft takes me to good tacos instead of Taco Bell

Word comes today that Lyft has partnered with Taco Bell on a new "taco mode," which, to quote a blog post about the pact, "brings to life a first-of-its-kind offering . . . that will delight consumers by bringing them to a Taco Bell drive-thru in a Lyft ride." It's being tested out in California's Orange County for a few days starting Thursday, and again in August, and then will be rolled out nationally next year.

Here's the thing: I don't care how late it is, or how hungry I am. I'm not going to be delighted by having my ride home interrupted by swinging through Taco Bell, even if the visit comes with a free Doritos Locos Taco (which it does). I'm sure there are people for whom this will seem like a great idea. I am not one of them. Sorry, but maybe it's the fact that I've lived in or near San Francisco most of my life, and have had easy access to actual, you know, good tacos. But, hey, Lyft, if my ride takes a detour to La Taqueria, I'll be happy to pay more. Take me to Taco Bell, though, and I'm switching to Uber.

07.25.17 | 5:05 pm

Read Steve Jobs’s biting 2010 farewell to Flash

Finally. Mercifully. At long last. These are the headlines collectively cheering the demise of Flash Player, which will stop receiving support from Adobe at the end of 2020. But long before hating on Flash was cool, Steve Jobs was ahead of the curve. As I noted in a 2015 story on the slow death of Adobe Flash, Jobs's seven-year-old essay on why iOS would never support Flash also serves as a takedown of the technology as a whole, one that's become increasingly applicable to laptops and desktop PCs.

The entire "Thoughts on Flash" essay is still available on Apple's website, but here's an excerpt:

Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn't support touch-based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods, and iPads.

We know from painful experience that letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third-party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.

Jobs concluded, "Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind." Read more about how the end of Flash began.

[Photo: Acaben/Wikimedia Commons]