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Showing posts from December, 2017

Certain Sonos and Bose models can be accessed by hackers to play sound remotely

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Researchers at Trend Micro have discovered a potential hack opening key speakers from Sonos and Bose to remote access. As first reported by Wired, the Sonos Play:1, Sonos One, and Bose SoundTouch systems can be located and taken over through an online scan, letting hackers play music through the system. For now, the access appears to be largely prank-based. The researchers, naturally, used the vulnerability to play Rick Astley and mess with a nearby Alexa-enabled system with commands, a la South Park. Another slightly more ominous report from a Sonos forum was written by a user who was understandably freaked out when the sound of creaking doors, crying babies and breaking glass started playing through her system at top volumes. On the upside, the number of vulnerable systems is relatively limited. The researchers found between 2,000 and 5,000 impacted Sonos system and less than 500 Bose speakers. A spokesperson for Sonos told TechCrunch, “We’re looking into this more, but what is being …

Thousands of major sites are taking silent anti-ad-blocking measures

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It’s no secret that ad blockers are putting a dent in advertising-based business models on the web. This has produced a range of reactions, from relatively polite whitelisting asks (TechCrunch does this) to dynamic redeployment of ads to avoid blocking. A new study finds that nearly a third of the top 10,000 sites on the web are taking ad blocking countermeasures, many silent and highly sophisticated. Seeing the uptick in anti-ad-blocking tech, University of Iowa and UC Riverside researchers decided to perform a closer scrutiny (PDF) of major sites than had previously been done. Earlier estimates, based largely on visible or obvious anti-ad-blocking means such as pop-ups or broken content, suggested that somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of popular sites were doing this — but the real number seems to be an order of magnitude higher. The researchers visited thousands of sites multiple times, with and without ad-blocking software added to the browser. By comparing the final rendered code …

A photographer shot an awesome time-lapse of SpaceX’s recent rocket launch

Last Friday, SpaceX launched its 18th and final mission of 2017, sending a Falcon 9 rocket out of Vandenberg Air Force Base and into the California sky. The white tail of the rocket was an unusual sight, leaving many in Southern California who did not know a rocket launch was occurring confused, with some even speculating it was a UFO. Now, a spectacular 40-second time-lapse of the Falcon 9 has been posted by photographer Jesse Watson. Watson lives in Yuma, Arizona, and according to PetaPixel had been following SpaceX launches for some time. Though this latest launch was held at Vandenberg Air Force Base, 400 miles away, he says it was “perfectly viewable” from where he lives in Yuma. He had never shot a rocket before, but used The Photographer’s Ephemeris, a map-centric sun and moon calculator, as well as Google Maps to figure out where to set up his shots. Because he was working on estimated knowledge, Watson used four cameras and five lenses at four different locations, with three of…

HQ Trivia is coming soon to Android

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HQ Trivia is letting Android users pre-register for the live-streamed trivia game built by the makers of Vine, Rus Yusupov and Colin Kroll. Pre-registering means you’ll get notified the moment HQ Trivia is available for download. HQ, which opened up pre-registration on December 24, had previously marketed its Android app as being available “this Christmas.” To me, that means it was supposed to be available by Christmas. But apparently that’s not what HQ Trivia meant. Earlier this month, the startup tweeted it’ll have “a nice little stocking stuffer coming your way” for those on Android phones. I’ve reached out to HQ and will update this story if I hear back. HQ hosts live games every day at 6pm PT as well as every weekday at 12pm PT. The game is pretty simple. It asks you 12 multiple-choice questions and if you get all of them right, you win or split a predetermined amount of money. Just yesterday, HQ increased the minimum prize from $1,000 to $2,000. Intermedia Labs, the company behind …

Elon Musk promises to make a pickup truck ‘right after Model Y’

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cIn response to someone who requested a Tesla pickup truck, Musk said, “I promise that we will make a pickup truck right after Model Y. Have had the core design/engineering elements in my mind for almost 5 years. Am dying to build it.” In terms of size, Musk said it would be comparable to Ford’s F-150 total size, but “maybe slightly bigger to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I’d like to add.” This isn’t too surprising given that Musk said earlier this year Tesla planned to show off an electric pickup sometime within the next couple of years. Then, at Tesla’s big semi-truck unveiling in November, Musk revealed an image of an electric pickup truck, which was based on the architecture of the semi-truck. And in Musk’s “Master Plan, Part Deux” in 2016, he described Tesla’s plans to create “a new kind of pickup truck.” The only hint we have around timing is that Tesla would start making the pickup truck right after Model Y, which Tesla has yet to unveil. The Model Y is a cro…

Scaleworks announces pre-holiday surprise with Keen IO acquisition

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Scaleworks, a private equity firm based in San Antonio, Texas, apparently couldn’t wait until after the holidays to share the news of its latest purchase. The firm announced it was acquiring Keen IOin a Medium blog post yesterday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and neither company was available for comment beyond the blog post, but Keen has raised close to $30 million since it was founded in 2011. Keen IO makes tools for developers to create customized analytics dashboards. Scaleworks’ general partner Ed Byrne, who penned the blog post announcement, described the company in these terms: “Keen.io, launched in 2011, set out to let developers create a custom analytics back-end. It lets companies easily build and embed all sorts of analytics for teams and customers and often powers the dashboards in your favorite SaaS tools,” he wrote. Byrne added that it was a company the firm had had an eye on for some time as many of its properties are using the Keen IO toolkit to build dashboards. …

The AI chip startup explosion is already here

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All eyes may have been on Nvidia this year as its stock exploded higher thanks to an enormous amount of demand across all fronts: gaming, an increased interest in data centers, and its major potential applications in AI. But while Nvidia’s stock price and that chart may have been one of the more eye-popping parts of 2017, a year when AI continued its march toward being omnipresent in technology, something a little more subtle was happening in the AI world that may have even deeper ramifications. This year, an array of startups that are all working on their own variations of hardware that will power future devices built on top of AI received enormous amounts of funding. Some of these startups have nowhere near a massive install base (or have yet to ship a product) but already appear to have no trouble raising financing. Looking to optimize inference and machine training — two key parts of processes like image and speech recognition — startups have sought to find ways to pick away at these…

Ted Chiang is a genius, but he’s wrong about Silicon Valley

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Ted Chiang isn’t just one of the greatest science-fiction writers alive — he’s one of the greatest writers alive full stop. Which is why I was so saddened and disappointed by his recent excoriation of Silicon Valley in BuzzFeed. As the tech industry grows ever more powerful, we need brilliant minds critiquing and dissecting its many flaws. Instead we got a trenchant takedown of a Valley that only exists in the minds of especially shallow journalists. To be clear, his larger point is dead on: that being that the worry about an AI which maximizes for the wrong thing, most famously one which is told to make paperclips and responds by turning the entire planet into paperclips, is a worry which applies perfectly and exactly to capitalism itself. The maximalist capital mindset, i.e. “all the world’s problems can be solved just by making markets freer” and “the social responsibility of businesses is to increase their profits” are indeed examples of robotic thinking, either profound intellectua…

Coinbase suspends trading amid cryptocurrency rout

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Coinbase, the most popular site for cryptocurrency transactions in the U.S., has suspended all trading activity today amid a crash in cryptocurrency prices. A statement on the company’s website this morning read, “Due to today’s high traffic, buys and sells may be temporarily offline. We’re working on restoring full availability as soon as possible.” That follows an earlier statement from the company that all buys and sells were temporarily disabled. A spokesperson fro the company referred me to the company’s website for status updates, saying there was no additional information to share. It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for the marquee crypto-currency wallet and transaction company as a late-year surge in transactions have repeatedly felled Coinbase’s services. The latest suspension follows a crash in cryptocurrency pricing that we first reported yesterday. That drop — which at one point erased more than $4,000 from the value of bitcoin — was the biggest loss of value (on a percentage bas…

Mattermark to shut down after selling to FullContact

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Mattermark, the site for startup and company data, is shutting down its own business after selling in a disappointing outcome to FullContact. In a document obtained by TechCrunch, co-founder and CEO Danielle Morrill wrote that “common stockholders will not be receiving anything in this deal.” In other words, Mattermark employee shares are worthless. It was just last year that Mattermark raised a $7.3 million Series B. Since it was founded in 2012, the business raised over $17 million from high-profile investors likeAndreessen Horowitz, NEA, 500 Startups, Foundry Group and Sherpa Capital. Foundry and 500 Startups are also investors in FullContact. The letter says that “the consideration for the purchase of the company did not clear the preference of preferred shareholders.” This means that the VCs aren’t necessarily getting all their money back, either. Unfortunately, as Mattermark data will show you, running a startup is tough. We’re told that it was hard to convince people to pay for the…

Goldman is reportedly getting into bitcoin and crypto trading

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Global banking giant Goldman is setting up up a trading desk focused on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, according to a report from Bloomberg. The bank is said to be in the early stages of setup, which means hiring and figuring out the logistics, including how the bank will hold the assets and keep them secure. The ultimate goal, Bloomberg claimed, is to begin trading by June 2018. “In response to client interest in digital currencies, we are exploring how best to serve them,” the bank told Bloomberg in a statement. The move would make it the first major bank to embrace trading bitcoin and cryptocoins, which have surged in value in 2017, with bitcoin itself getting close to the $20,000 mark before falling this week. It’s current price is $14,633, according to Coindesk, a huge jump on $998 on January 1 2017. Goldman is one of a handful of financial organizations to offer Bitcoin Futures for selected clients. CBOE was first to offer the trading option on December 10, and it has since bee…

Bitcoin and almost every other cryptocurrency crashed hard today

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Bitcoin has been on a tear this past with the value of the cryptocurrency jumping from $8,000 to nearly $20,000. Well that run hit an abrupt end today as the price crashed as much as 23 percent on Coinbase. The price briefly dipped below $12,000 on some exchanges at around 7:30 am London time. The drop — which wiped more than $4,000 from the value of bitcoin at one point — was the highest percentage loss of value that bitcoin has seen this year. The cryptocurrency was valued at just $998 on January 1 2017 and it soared to a record high of nearly $20,000 on some exchanges earlier this week. It isn’t just bitcoin that has lost significant value. Ethereum (down 20 percent), Bitcoin Cash (down 30 percent), Litecoin (down 21 percent) and nearly every high-profile altcoin lost value over the last 24 hours, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Ripple was up seven percent, and just one of two coins to remain green over the past day.What’s causing the depreciation is anyone’s guess in the same way th…

Apple addresses why people are saying their iPhones with older batteries are running ‘slower’

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Because of a Reddit post and the loose interpretation of subsequent benchmark testsposted by Primate Labs’ John Poole, the “Apple throttles old iPhones” meme has reared its ugly head again. The gist, as it always is, is that Apple is being super petty and trying to force customers to upgrade their phones by making their old phones run slower. As always, the answer is no. It would be beyond stupid and incredibly short-sighted for Apple to do this and, if it was actually true, would likely lead to tangles of a governmental and legal nature that no company like Apple would ever want to happen. Instead, Apple is focusing attention on smoothing out the very high and quick peaks of power draw that can cause problems with older batteries. Here’s a statement that Apple provided when I inquired about the power profile that people were seeing when testing iPhones with older batteries: Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life…