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02.08.17 | 7:27 am

The toilets in Apple’s new spaceship campus are reportedly inspired by the iPhone

As are other utilitarian objects in the new building, Reuters reports:

Apple's novel approach to the building took many forms. Architect German de la Torre, who worked on the project, found many of the proportions – such as the curve of a rounded corner – came from Apple's products. The elevator buttons struck some workers as resembling the iPhone's home button; one former manager even likened the toilet's sleek design to the device.

[Image: Apple]

07.28.17 | an hour ago

Hackers will try to infiltrate voting machines this weekend, but in a good way

The Def Con hacking convention in Las Vegas will host its first "hacker voting village" event this weekend in which hackers will get their hands on more than 30 pieces of election equipment ranging from voting machines to digital poll books, reports Reuters. They'll then be able to do anything they want to the machines from trying to inject malicious code into them to literally tearing them apart to mess with the hardware inside. The goal of the event is to raise awareness about how elections can be manipulated through hacking.

07.28.17 | 3 hours ago

Meg Whitman shoots down Uber CEO rumors

The HP CEO took to Twitter to make it clear she's not going anywhere.

07.28.17 | 2:24 am

Republicans fail at the one thing they absolutely had to succeed at

If you were a Republican in Washington, D.C., on the evening of November 8, thinking about the years ahead, glorying in Donald Trump's victory, and savoring the fact that you were now about to control both houses of Congress and the White House, you probably chuckled thinking about how you were finally going to get to take down Obamacare. You'd spent seven years promising to do so, and now you had the power. Your base was demanding it, your new president got elected (partly) on it, and your leadership had bloody well banked their political fortunes on it.

Well, you failed. Miserably. Despite all that control, you couldn't even get a "skinny" version of your repeal-and-replace bill through Congress. Tonight, as everyone knows by now, the Senate Republicans failed to pass Trumpcare, foiled by nay votes from Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and, surprisingly to many people, John McCain. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scored a massive own goal on this one. If he'd done a proper count earlier in the week, he could have skipped the vote to move forward, and tonight, he could have avoided the final vote on the actual bill, and saved himself and his party the ignominy and the political fallout of failure on this singular, key issue. Meanwhile, Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, already facing a tough re-election 2018 bid, surely screwed himself this evening by voting yes in a lost cause. The safe money now is that he'll lose his seat next year. And for what? The bill failed. What in the hell does Sheldon Adelson have on him, anyway?

So, congratulations, Republicans. You bet it all on getting rid of Obamacare, even as every credible poll showed the American public supported it, in spite of all its warts. And, hey, Donald Trump: nice leadership. I'm sure you're quite tired of all the winning by now. Is it time to go play golf yet? 

[Photo: Flickr user Kevin Burkett]

07.27.17 | 9:27 pm

Social VR pioneer Altspace says it’s shutting down

AltspaceVR, the venture-backed Silicon Valley operation, which was among the first to build social VR environments, said this afternoon that it's closing down August 3 due to financial difficulties, despite 35,000 monthly users who visited for anything from business meetings, watching sports together, or hanging out with musicians like Reggie Watts–a respectable number given that consumer virtual reality is still a fairly nascent medium.

"It looked like we had a deal for our next round of funding, and it fell through," the company wrote in a statement. "Some combination of this deal falling through and the general slowness of VR market growth made most of our investors reluctant to fund us further. We've been out fundraising but have run out of time and money."

The company also said it's not clear what will happen now to its community. "The amazing people that worked at this company created some awesome technology–things that we think will be foundational to the future of social VR. We'd love to see this technology, if not the company, live on in some way, and we're working on that."

07.27.17 | 5:51 pm

Thinx appoints a Fab alum as its new CEO

Four months after former Thinx CEO Miki Agrawal left amid a firestorm of allegations about her management style and HR policies, the period underwear company has finally landed a new CEO. Maria Molland Selby will join Thinx on Monday.

Selby has previously held leadership roles at e-commerce startup Fab, which weathered a fair share of negative press back in its heyday, as well as Yahoo, Reuters, and Dow Jones. "This is a team that has gone through a lot, with the shadow of leadership changes and obviously the PR associated with that," Selby told Bloomberg. "I'm happy to see we were able to move forward relatively quickly."

Since Agrawal's departure, Thinx has increased salaries, tweaked its parental leave policy—increasing it to 12 weeks for employees who have been there for at least a year—and made healthcare free for most employees. Thinx also created an employee handbook outlining how to air workplace grievances. 

Through my reporting on Thinx, I've learned the company has struggled to find someone willing to tackle the role of HR head, which might explain why Selby vaguely told Bloomberg that Thinx will hire someone "in the next couple of months." 

07.27.17 | 5:15 pm

Zuck vs. Musk: Maybe they both have a point on AI

If you've been following the public back-and-forth between Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla's Elon Musk, you probably know that the two tech titans don't see eye to eye on artificial intelligence. Will it solve our greatest problems or lead to our ultimate destruction? Zuckerberg has generally been more sunny and optimistic, while Musk has been warning that we have to be prepared for the havoc AI will wreak on jobs, the economy, and society. But maybe they both have a point—or maybe they're not even speaking the same language. 

Bob Safian, editor of Fast Company, hashed out some of these questions this week with the folks on CBS This Morning. Check out the video below:  

07.27.17 | 4:51 pm

Is this the end of the insane Amazon stock bonanza?

Earlier today, business and tech publications fawned over news that Jeff Bezos surpassed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. This was predicated on Amazon's stock steadily climbing ahead of its quarterly earnings report.

Now the company has published its results and things are a bit less rosy. While Amazon surpassed revenue expectations, hitting almost $38 billion, profits weren't so great thanks to heavy investing in multiple areas. Analysts expected Amazon's earnings per share to hit $1.42. However, it reported only 40 cents. That's a 77% slump. The stock is now falling in after-hours trading.

Is this the end of the insane stock rise that led to Amazon exceeding $1,000 a share? Well, it could certainly put a damper on things. The company is absolutely doing fine. Amazon Web Services, one of its rising business units, exceeded expected revenue, hitting $4.1 billion. 

But Amazon is spending a lot of money and not bringing in the profits Wall Street so badly wants. "If the profit slump affects the stock performance," writes Forrester analyst James McQuivey in an email, "it will be because it finally gives investors something specific to pin Amazon down on." Yet this is what Jeff Bezos has been doing since the beginning—investing heavily and keeping margins thin in the name of scaling. McQuivey says the myriad Amazon product and service investments is what caused Wall Street's enthusiasm in the first place, pointing to its Echo platform and AWS business. 

But investors probably aren't too happy right now. "The short-term slump will dampen their enthusiasm for now, but it's uncertain how long that dampening effect will continue," writes McQuivey

Amazon's stock may very well rebound tomorrow. Or this could be the start of a cautionary tale about whether the company's performance jibes with what Wall Street wants.

07.27.17 | 4:20 pm

Facebook bends to publishers, letting them keep 100% of subscription revenue and data (for now)

With Facebook controlling heaps of the news industry's ad revenue, media organizations have felt more beholden than ever to the whims of the social network. Recently, legacy news publishers have come together to try and collectively bargain with Facebook and Google for more equitable publisher solutions. Today, it sounds as if Facebook seems to have given in to one of those demands.

Facebook launched a journalism project in January, and has alluded to its plan to introduce a way for publishers to sell subscriptions, but little information has been given about the program. Today, Recode writes that the current plan would give the media companies 100% of revenue from subscription sign-ups through its Instant Articles program, as well as allow them to not share data with Facebook. Here's how it would work

Industry sources say that instead of operating a subscription service itself, Facebook plans on creating a paywall it would implement after non-subscribers view 10 articles a month from a particular publisher.

When users hit the 10-article limit, Facebook plans on sending users to that publisher's site to sign up for a subscription.

"Quality journalism costs money to produce, and we want to make sure it can thrive on Facebook," Facebook's news partnerships leader, Campbell Brown, said in a statement that appeared to confirm the idea, which is "part of our test to allow publishers in Instant Articles to implement a paywall." Apple, meanwhile, sells subscriptions through the App Store and the Apple News app, but it takes up to 30% of profits.

This is a concession Facebook is willing to make as it listens to the grumblings of a beleaguered media industry—not to mention the looming possibility of more stringent government regulation of the tech behemoths. A few weeks ago, my I wrote about why newspapers are trying to collectively bargain with Facebook and Google, and what they're hoping to get

[Photo: Flickr user Jon S

07.27.17 | 2:20 pm

Is Bannon becoming the Bernie of Breitbart?

Steve Bannon has kept a pretty low profile for the last few months. After being described as the puppeteer behind Trump's administration in a few articles early on, we've heard little about the man and what he's doing. In recent days, however, two articles by The Intercept have described recent Bannon pushes. And they're not exactly what you'd expect.

The first piece, published yesterday, described an increased marginal tax rate for the rich. Anonymous sources said that Bannon has been advocating for a 44% marginal tax rate for people who make over $5 million, compared to the 39.6% one in place now for the top tier. In essence, he's pushing for greater taxation on the rich, which doesn't sound that Trumpian.

Today, anonymous sources are saying that not only is Bannon lobbying for a higher tax rate, he's also pushing for more government control over technology giants. Specifically, writes The Intercept, he wants Facebook and Google to be considered public utilities. This means essentially that they would be considered public goods that citizens consume, and thus should be held to more uniform regulation. (It's also something I argued a few months ago!)

Another priority Bannon shares with Bernie: Both want the end of the use of offshore tax havens by the tech giants and the rest of corporate America. In a photo posted to Twitter by a visitor to Bannon's office in May, a glimpse of Trump's tax reform plan was visible on a whiteboard of White House goals: "Create a 10% repatriation tax." 

Don't get me wrong: Bannon is still Bannon. For example, he had reportedly been lobbying for Trump to take the action he did yesterday on transgender people in the military. He's also still the man that made Breitbart what it is today, which today published an article that put Earth emojis around the name of Trump chief economic advisor Gary Cohn.

Yet Bannon's recent pushes, if proven, show that he's gunning for something that is definitely not within the confines of the traditional Republican party. And they're also both pushes that someone like Bernie Sanders would probably endorse.

[Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons]

07.27.17 | 2:13 pm

Here’s Boy Scouts chief Michael Surbaugh’s full statement on Donald Trump’s divisive jamboree speech

It took a few days, but the chief scout executive for the Boy Scouts of America finally weighed in publicly on President Trump's highly politicized speech at the organization's National Jamboree on Monday. In a statement posted online, Michael Surbaugh acknowledged that the country is locked in a polarized climate but said the tenets of scouting—trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, bravery—haven't changed:

"I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program."

Read the full statement here.

07.27.17 | 1:14 pm

Kickstarter’s CEO and cofounder is leaving

Yancey Strickler, who took over the top spot in 2014, is stepping down as CEO of the crowdfunding site later this year. He announced the move in a blog post on Wednesday night, saying it was time to move on after spending 12 years of his life working on Kickstarter. Earlier this year, we wrote about how the Brooklyn-based company revamped its business model to become a Public Benefit Corporation and vowed never to go public. Strickler didn't say what his next move would be but said he would be up to "new projects" soon. [via TechCrunch]

07.27.17 | 12:57 pm

Once upon a time, the iPod Nano was AMAZING

Apple has confirmed that it has discontinued the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle, leaving the iPod Touch as the last remaining variant of the music player that changed the company forever. I don't even have to insert a decision here on why it's killing them off—it's just too darn obvious.

But thinking about the iPod Nano dying brought back pleasant memories of the device's launch in 2005. It's hard to overstate just how impressive an engineering feat the sliver-like little gadget seemed at the time, or the degree to which it carried an irresistible OMG I want that vibe that few Apple products before or since have matched. And it was also a bold marketing move to release an all-new small iPod with a new name given that the device it replaced—the hard drive-based iPod Mini—had been such a hit.

Here's Steve Jobs unveiling the Nano at Apple's September 2005 event, which also served to introduce a famously bad product–Motorla's ROKR "iPod phone."