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08.10.16 | 8:30 am

Morning intel: Apple reportedly updating MacBook Pro, Instagram tests draft feature

• As previously reported, Disney is buying a $1 billion stake in BAMTech, Major League Baseball's video streaming company that is being spun off from umbrella digital business MLB Advanced Media. 

Bloomberg reports that Apple will be significantly updating its MacBook Pro line for the first time in more than four years, in an effort to make up for slumping iPad sales. 

• Instagram has been testing a "Save Draft" feature, which social media services like Twitter have long had, but it's unclear if this will end up rolling out to all Instagram users. 

• Alibaba's leading e-commerce rival in China, JD.com met expectations in its quarterly earnings report this morning—drawing revenue of $9.83 billion—but the company still shows slowing growth.

03.24.17 | 30 minutes ago

This is the world’s earliest known video game Easter egg

The Easter egg can be found in the 1977 game Starship 1 and was uncovered by ex-Microsoft exec Ed Fries, who played a big role in creating the original Xbox. Fries details his journey in discovering the earliest video game Easter egg in an amusing blog post. Using a special sequence of input commands, the Easter egg makes the phrase "Hi Ron!" appear on-screen. The message is a reference to Atari game programmer Ron Milner, who coded Starship 1.

03.24.17 | an hour ago

Apple says not to worry about iPhone and Mac CIA exploits

The exploits were reported by Wikileaks and detail how CIA agents could break into a Mac or iPhone if they had physical access to it. But after taking a look at the leaked documents, Apple told TechCrunch people shouldn't worry—those exploits are old and have been fixed years ago:

We have preliminarily assessed the Wikileaks disclosures from this morning. Based on our initial analysis, the alleged iPhone vulnerability affected iPhone 3G only and was fixed in 2009 when iPhone 3GS was released. Additionally, our preliminary assessment shows the alleged Mac vulnerabilities were previously fixed in all Macs launched after 2013. We have not negotiated with Wikileaks for any information. 

We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. Thus far, we have not received any information from them that isn't in the public domain. We are tireless defenders of our users' security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.

03.24.17 | 2 hours ago

Theranos will give investors double the shares if they promise not to sue

The beleaguered company is already being sued by major partners like Walgreens over its faulty blood tests, and now hopes offering investors from Theranos's latest funding round in 2015 double the shares will help stem more lawsuits, reports the Wall Street Journal. If the investors take the deal, they'll get two shares for every share they purchased—but they have to promise not to sue the company. Some of their extra shares will reportedly come from founder Elizabeth Holmes's own shares.

03.24.17 | 2 hours ago

Twitter wants to start charging you for a slightly better Tweetdeck experience

The new Tweetdeck app would include new premium tools including alerts, trends, and activity analysis tools; advanced analytics; advanced composing and posting tools; advanced audience analytics and insight tools; and tools to monitor multiple timelines from multiple accounts across multiple devices, reports Andrew Tavani. The reported cost for the new app? A monthly subscription fee of $19.99.

03.23.17 | 6:12 pm

Here’s your first look at Netflix’s “thumbs up” ratings system. (Buh-bye, stars.)

When a star burns out, it becomes a white dwarf. And as Fast Company reported last week, Netflix is about to have many white dwarves on its hands when the streaming service replaces its current star-based rating system with a thumbs-up option. At the time, the company had not provided any preview of what its icon would look like, so here's your first chance to gaze upon Netflix's new symbol of approval.

Photos Courtesy Of Netflix

03.23.17 | 6:00 pm

The Silicon Valley startup that wants to help build Trump’s wall is backed by Beijing

A new Department of Defense white paper has some in Washington concerned that the U.S. government isn't doing enough to back tech startups, and that China is rushing in to cover the deficit, according to the New York Times. That means the Chinese military, conceivably, could gain access to advanced U.S. technologies. 

One company that has taken investment from a state-backed investor is Quanergy, which last summer raised funds from the partly state-backed Chinese venture fund GP Capital. It's also said to be the only Silicon Valley startup that has expressed interest in President Trump's border wall, Dan Primack noted in his newsletter recently. Along with the spinning-laser sensors it makes for military driverless vehicles, Quanergy touts a security system billed as "the most complete and intelligent 3-D perimeter fencing and intrusion-detection system." 

While the technology may be compelling, the relationship to Chy-na is likely to rumple Trump's oversized suit. The Defense Dept. has sought to invest more money in startups, through entities like the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental. But if the government declines to partner with smaller innovative tech companies like Quanergy, China very well could. 

Image: Quanergy on YouTube

03.23.17 | 4:51 pm

eBay’s diversity report shows its staff is still mostly dudes

The most recent report since eBay spun off Paypal shows the staff is predominately men. Of the 12,600 employees globally, men comprise 62% of the workforce, while women make up the remaining 38%. Men dominate leadership roles (68%) and make up 78% of technical staff. 

The company's U.S. workforce has better race and ethnicity numbers with 52% white employees. The majority (65%) of U.S. tech staff is Asian. Damien Hooper-Campbell, eBay's chief diversity officer who came on board last June, acknowledges there is work to do to improve the numbers. But the company should get an A for continuing to be transparent, especially as a new survey found that employees believe their companies are more diverse than they actually are.

Image: eBay

03.23.17 | 4:05 pm

Want to make your job listings more appealing? Advertise work-life balance

If you're trying to attract lots of talented job applicants, you might worry that touting a job's totally livable workload could dent its perceived prestige. After all, top-paying jobs notoriously have insane hours to match the pay, right?

But the behavioral-science research organization ideas42 says that's an unfounded fear. In a recent experiment, the group measured people's reactions to job listings and found that while "people definitely expect to be paid more for a decline in work-life balance," the reverse isn't true: "Advertising work-life balance has no effect on perceived prestige of a job, but it does make a job more attractive. In addition, improvement in work-life balance doesn't lead people to think that it pays less."

Photo: Unsplash user Calum MacAulay

03.23.17 | 3:49 pm

SoundCloud has raised $70 million to stay afloat

The cloud of uncertainty hanging over SoundCloud this year has been lifted, at least temporarily. The streaming music platform just raised a $70 million debt round, enabling it to keep chugging along as it coaxes subscribers and, eventually, a buyer. Last fall, rumors swirled that Spotify may be interested in snatching up SoundCloud, but those talks reportedly fizzled out. Since last March, SoundCloud has been struggling to turn its free, user-uploaded audio service into a subscription business with its SoundCloud Go tier

03.23.17 | 3:41 pm

What Silicon Valley can do to bring jobs to Appalachia

The new congressman representing the northern California district where tech giants like Google and Facebook and Apple are based recently visited Eastern Kentucky to meet former coal miners training to be mobile app developers. Rep. Ro Khanna talked to Fast Company about his experience and the lessons he learned about how Silicon Valley can build bridges with "Silicon Holler," as that part of Appalachia is called. 

"We can do a better job—to bring them into the 21st-century economy. And how are we going to provide a middle-class life for them? For me, that means investing in the apprenticeship and training programs. Creating partnerships that rewire labor markets so that people are getting the right skills and employers are taking a chance on those skills."

Read the full interview here.

03.23.17 | 3:00 pm

Eberjey’s secret to thriving brick-and-mortar stores

Fashion brand Bebe just announced it is shutting down its retail presence and focusing entirely on e-commerce after losing $200 million over the last four years. It is following in the footsteps of brands like American Apparel, Wet Seal, and the Limited. 

In the midst of this harsh retail environment, I'm always surprised to hear about brands whose brick and mortar stores are driving the business forward. One such brand is Eberjey, which launched in 1996, but only opened its first retail store five years ago. That store did so well, it will have a total of five by the end of this year (including it's first New York store).

Mariela Rovito, cofounder and president, attributes this success to an obsessive attention to customer experience. This means tailoring the clientele in each and lighting candles, like you would in your home. But mostly, it means training store representatives. "We ask our staff to treat each customer as a guest in their house, and we mean this literally," she says. "Would you give your guest a glass of water when they come through the door? Would you talk their ear off if all they wanted was to come and hang out?" 

Employees are also encouraged to always try to accommodate customer requests as much as humanly possible. Last week, one customer came to the with an elaborate plan to surprise his significant other with a scavenger-hunt-like experience that required the help of the staff. They immediately agreed. Rovito believes that each customer that has a superlative experience will advocate for the brand and, so far, that's proven true. 

03.23.17 | 2:54 pm

Even in 1883, tech journalists were the worst

I recently came across this passage from Doug Most's book The Race Underground, which recounts the story of how the subways got built in New York and Boston. In the passage, Most tells of how a trade magazine called Electrical World took a few cheap shots at Thomas Edison in 1883 because they were already bored with the electric light and were wondering what inventors were going to do next. Keep in mind, this was less than five years after Edison first demonstrated the miracle of light in 1879—an invention that transformed the world. Wrote the magazine: "The electric light has long ceased to be a curiosity or even a novelty." Guys, really?