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05.09.16 | 6:52 am

You can watch Mercury make a rare transit in front of the sun today

Grab your telescope and a solar filter and look at the sun today, and you'll see a tiny black dot moving across it from 7:12 a.m. EST to 2:42 p.m. EST, reports the Washington Post. That black dot is Mercury passing between the Earth and the sun. This only happens once every 13 years, so be sure not to miss it. Of course since you should never look directly at the sun (and if you don't have a telescope with solar filter), NASA will be live-streaming the event so everyone can take a peek.

03.24.17 | 2 hours ago

Uber’s test for job applicants sounds like a violation of the Geneva convention or a frat hazing ritual

The secrets of Uber's job recruiting procedure are revealed in a new Bloomberg story that includes plenty of fascinating details. Last year, the company hosted an event for job candidates that involved an exercise called Colourblind that tests how they handle chaotic situations, but sounds more like torture: "Candidates were instructed to pluck sateen blindfolds from a cardboard box and silently arrange puzzle pieces into molded shapes. The Uber staff hosting the event set a timer to seven minutes, while they clapped vigorously and blasted pop music from a stereo."

In addition, the company's lackluster approach to diversity was spotlighted. When staffers pushed CEO Travis Kalanick to invest more in such recruiting efforts, he'd reply with a typical Uber-ism: "Let's keep jamming on this" but any decisions would be repeatedly postponed, reports Bloomberg. In addition, at least six recruiters involved in diversity initiatives have reportedly left the company in the last 18 months. Next week, Uber will release a diversity report and an HR executive told Bloomberg: "We're spending a good deal of time reflecting on what will lead to true diversity and inclusion."

Read the full story here.

03.24.17 | 3 hours ago

Do customers want virtual makeup try-on tools? Smashbox has some data

If you're shopping for makeup online, with no way to test if a product works, buying is always a risk. Makeup companies are now trying to mitigate these risks with virtual try-on tools. But are customers into it?

Two weeks ago, Smashbox launched a program that allows customers to upload a picture of themselves to see how every single product they sell–lipstick, foundation, blush, eyeliner–will look on their face. Smashbox makes the platform available directly on the website so customers don't have to worry about downloading an app. The brand worked with ModiFace, a face visualization company, to create the platform. Ginny Chien, the brand's executive director of global digital and consumer marketing, says they picked this company because it most accurately represented colors on the face, which was crucial to the tool's effectiveness.

Smashbox's customers, which largely consists of millennials, have quickly adopted the technology. In the first two weeks of launching, the tool was used more than 20,000 times, and a significant percentage of customers visiting Smashbox's homepage gave it a go. 

03.24.17 | 11:35 am

Amazon adds more discounted phones—if you can handle the ads

Amazon Prime members can now get a couple more unlocked Android phones at a discount, provided they're willing to endure lots of advertising. The new handsets in Amazon's "Prime Exclusive" range include the Moto G5 Plus for $185 (a $45 discount) and the Alcatel A30 for $60 (a $40 discount). Both phones put ads or special offers on the lock screen, and come pre-loaded with various Amazon apps and widgets.

Although the discounts are significant, the barrage of lock-screen ads can get mentally exhausting, as I discovered while reviewing the first two Prime Exclusive phones last year. People check their phones dozens of times a day, and when an ad is the first thing you see, it has a way of searing itself into your brain, which of course is the point. At least Amazon lets users pay off the subsidy to stop the ads once they've had enough.

03.24.17 | 11:13 am

Google Hangouts will probably lose standard text messaging soon

Google is reportedly stripping SMS message support from Hangouts for Android as the app pivots toward enterprise use. According to a GSuite user on Reddit, SMS supprt in Hangouts will go away on May 22, and all users will start getting notified of the impending change in a few days. (Google has not yet confirmed the news.)

Removing SMS from Hangouts would leave Google without an app that unifies standard texts and internet-based messages, akin to Apple's iMessage. The company is instead pushing users toward the default Android Messages app, while asking the industry to adopt RCS, a more feature-rich text messaging standard that Google already supports. Yet Google also expects consumers to use Allo, its virtual assistant-infused messaging app, and is positioning Hangouts as a workplace collaboration tool. Choose wisely.

03.24.17 | 10:45 am

Watch an Amazon Prime drone make its first delivery in the U.S.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, the drone is seen delivering a small box containing a few bottles of sunscreen in southern California on Monday, where the MARS 2017 conference was taking place. Last year, Amazon made some drone deliveries in the U.K.

03.24.17 | 10:37 am

Comcast’s new plan for cord cutters is taking shape

For the legacy cable business, there are two ways to address cord-cutting: Try to win customers back with sweeter pay-TV packages or let them cut the cord and offer them your own streaming service. Comcast's strategy for option B appears to be taking shape, as Bloomberg reported this week. The Philly cable giant has negotiated key streaming deals with cable TV owners to offer their networks across the country. Conceivably, that could mean a Comcast-run streaming service that rivals Sling TV or PlayStation Vue. For now, there don't seem to be any immediate plans to release a product, but I wouldn't be surprised if we heard rumblings of one soon. Read more from Bloomberg

03.24.17 | 9:10 am

Here’s the State Department’s announcement authorizing the Keystone XL Pipeline

The controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project got the go-ahead from the State Department this morning with a permit allowing TransCanada to "construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities at the U.S.-Canadian border in Phillips County, Montana, for the importation of crude oil." The move comes after a 60-day review period that began with an order from President Trump during his first week in office. It reverses a decision from former President Obama, who rejected the permit in 2015

It's not over yet, though. As we wrote this morning, the project is still facing the harsh economics of the oil industry, with lower production forecasts and oil and shipping firms wary of a potential border tax. Read the State Department's announcement here.

Photo: Flickr user Shannon Ramos

03.24.17 | 7:35 am

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 | 6:38 am

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 | 6:31 am

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 | 6:24 am

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