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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

IBM awarded $82.5M after Groupon is found to infringe on its e-commerce patents – CNET

The suit covered four IBM patents.
Source: CNET

Apple will fix any device for free if damaged by Japan's devastating floods – CNET

You have until the end of September to take advantage of the service.
Source: CNET

New Spectre attack lets hackers steal data without having to run local code on PCs

Researchers at the Graz University of Technology reveals a new attack called NetSpectre. Unlike the internet-based Spectre attack that requires code running locally on the target PC, this version doesn’t need to run local code.

The post New Spectre attack lets hackers steal data without having to run local code on PCs appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

Best Buy Black Friday in July's top deals – CNET

Best Buy’s Black Friday in July 2018 sale is a little underwhelming. As usual, many of the best deals are on Apple products.
Source: CNET

NASA’s 3D-printed Mars Habitat competition doles out prizes to concept habs

A multi-year NASA contest to design a 3D-printable Mars habitat using on-planet materials has just hit another milestone — and a handful of teams have taken home some cold hard cash. This more laid-back phase had contestants designing their proposed habitat using architectural tools, with the five winners set to build scale models next year.

Technically this is the first phase of the third phase — the (actual) second phase took place last year and teams took home quite a bit of money.

The teams had to put together realistic 3D models of their proposed habitats, and not just in Blender or something. They used Building Information Modeling software that would require these things to be functional structures designed down to a particular level of detail — so you can’t just have 2D walls made of “material TBD,” and you have to take into account thickness from pressure sealing, air filtering elements, heating, etc.

The habitats had to have at least a thousand square feet of space, enough for four people to live for a year, along with room for the machinery and paraphernalia associated with, you know, living on Mars. They must be largely assembled autonomously, at least enough that humans can occupy them as soon as they land. They were judged on completeness, layout, 3D-printing viability, and aesthetics.

So although the images you see here look rather sci-fi, keep in mind they were also designed using industrial tools and vetted by experts with “a broad range of experience from Disney to NASA.” These are going to Mars, not paperback. And they’ll have to be built in miniature for real next year, so they better be realistic.

The five winning designs embody a variety of approaches. Honestly all these videos are worth a watch; you’ll probably learn something cool, and they really give an idea of how much thought goes into these designs.

Zopherus has the whole print taking place inside the body of a large lander, which brings its own high-strength printing mix to reinforce the “Martian concrete” that will make up the bulk of the structure. When it’s done printing and embedding the pre-built items like airlocks, it lifts itself up, moves over a few feet, and does it again, creating a series of small rooms. (They took first place and essentially tied the next team for take-home case, a little under $21K.)

AI SpaceFactory focuses on the basic shape of the vertical cylinder as both the most efficient use of space and also one of the most suitable for printing. They go deep on the accommodations for thermal expansion and insulation, but also have thought deeply about how to make the space safe, functional, and interesting. This one is definitely my favorite.

Kahn-Yates has a striking design, with a printed structural layer giving way to a high-strength plastic layer that lets the light in. Their design is extremely spacious but in my eyes not very efficiently allocated. Who’s going to bring apple trees to Mars? Why have a spiral staircase with such a huge footprint? Still, if they could pull it off, this would allow for a lot of breathing room, something that will surely be of great value during year or multi-year stay on the planet.

SEArch+/Apis Cor has carefully considered the positioning and shape of its design to maximize light and minimize radiation exposure. There are two independent pressurized areas — everyone likes redundancy — and it’s built using a sloped site, which may expand the possible locations. It looks a little claustrophobic, though.

Northwestern University has a design that aims for simplicity of construction: an inflatable vessel provides the base for the printer to create a simple dome with reinforcing cross-beams. This practical approach no doubt won them points, and the inside, while not exactly roomy, is also practical in its layout. As AI SpaceFactory pointed out, a dome isn’t really the best shape (lots of wasted space) but it is easy and strong. A couple of these connected at the ends wouldn’t be so bad.

The teams split a total of $100K for this phase, and are now moving on to the hard part: actually building these things. In spring of 2019 they’ll be expected to have a working custom 3D printer that can create a 1:3 scale model of their habitat. It’s difficult to say who will have the worst time of it, but I’m thinking Kahn-Yates (that holey structure will be a pain to print) and SEArch+/Apis (slope, complex eaves and structures).

The purse for the real-world construction is an eye-popping $2 million, so you can bet the competition will be fierce. In the meantime seriously watch those videos above, they’re really interesting.

Source: TechCrunch

Idaho inmates hacked prison-issued tablets for $225,000 in credits

Inmates in Idaho successfully hacked the software of the prison-issued tablets to issue themselves nearly a quarter of a million dollars in credits on the devices that are often one of their only connections to the outside world. The tablets, made by prominent prison vendor JPay, give inmates the ability to use email, listen to music and transfer money, among other basic computing functions but charge fees for some services.

The Associated Press reports that Idaho prison officials discovered 364 inmates leveraging a software vulnerability to increase their JPay account balances. In Idaho, the devices are the result of a partnership between JPay and CenturyLink. The latter company confirmed the software vulnerability but declined to offer further details beyond stating that it had since been resolved.

Of the 364 inmates exploiting JPay, 50 inmates were able to issue themselves credits for more than $1,000. One inmate was able to use the software flaw to self-issue a credit of almost $10,000. The company has recovered about a quarter of the total of around $225,000 so far and has suspended some functions for inmates until they reimburse the stolen credits.

“This conduct was intentional, not accidental. It required a knowledge of the JPay system and multiple actions by every inmate who exploited the system’s vulnerability to improperly credit their account,” Idaho Department of Correction spokesperson Jeff Ray said in a statement on the JPay incident.

The individuals exploiting the JPay system are incarcerated at a handful of Idaho prisons, including Idaho State Correctional Institution, Idaho State Correctional Center, South Idaho Correctional Institution, Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino and a private Correctional Alternative Placement Plan building.

On its website, JPay describes itself as a “highly trusted name in corrections because we offer a fast and secure method of sending money,” which seems up for debate given the recent turn of events. The company has a presence in prisons across 35 states.

Source: TechCrunch

Gadget Lab Podcast: The New MacBook Pro

This week, WIRED product reviews editor Brendan Nystedt joins the show to run down the particulars of the 2018 MacBook Pro.
Source: Wired

Check out this first of its kind, direct-to-consumer urine-testing app with FDA clearance

Urinary tract infections are highly uncomfortable and distracting, and they are very common for women because of the female anatomy. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, many women experience more than one infection during their lifetimes.

Many of the afflicted try resolving the infection on their own — using heating pads, drinking more water, taking pain medications. But often, these infections become quickly more advance, a doctor is called, an in-patient visit is made, and the whole terrible episode is only ended after a trip to the pharmacy for some antibiotics.

Until now, at least.

A young San Francisco-based startup called Scanwell Health just this week began selling directly to consumers the first and, for now, the only FDA-cleared urine testing app that allows someone to test their urine at home using a paper test strip and a camera phone. (Its app uses sophisticated color metrics to analyzes the strip and determine what’s what.)

The kits are just $5. A call to a pharmacist on Scanwell’s payroll to confirm the results will cost another $25, but that prescription service will also call in an order for antibiotics immediately if there’s an infection. (Users can also order the antibiotics, but it takes a couple of days for them to arrive.)

The startup — which has so far raised just $120,000 from Y Combinator — was founded by Stephen Chen, a Harvard MBA who has the kind of backstory that makes investors slobber.

Right out of school, he joined Teco Diagnostics a now 33-year-old maker of in-vitro diagnostics and medical devices, first as an R&D manager and later as a GM. Using what he’d learned there, he left Teco in 2013 to create a separate company, Petnostics, which makes a urine test for pets that can help identify a range of issues, from diabetes to kidney stones to bacterial infections. He even pitched the company on the show “Shark Tank,” which was hosting open tryouts within distance of his home a couple of year ago, and he landed $300,000 in exchange for 20 percent of the company.

While the exposure was great, the terms were not, suggests Chen, who says he ultimately didn’t take the money. He didn’t need to, apparently. Petnostics is still a going concern and it has generated enough revenue to support the development of Scanwell, which Chen says was always part of his master plan. In fact, Chen started the FDA approval for Scanwell nearly three years ago. The reason: UTI testing for humans is a much bigger market, especially when factoring in the billions of dollars that are wasted on emergency room trips for UTIs each year. Though hard to fathom, a visit to the ER for the condition can cost a stunning $2,600.

What happens from now depends on how effectively Scanwell reaches its target market, but so far, it seems, so good.

Though the direct-to-consumer service will take some time (different states have different regulations around over-the-phone prescription services), people in California and select other states can use the service today. In the meantime, Scawell is making its kits available on as many college campuses as possible, given UTIs tend to be prevalent at schools because students are sexually active.

The company is also looking to work more closely with insurance companies, arguing it can help them improve their own quality ratings by using Scanwell kits to reduce Medicare and other insurance payouts.

Not last, the four-person team is already working on other urine-based tests, including a test that identifies chronic kidney disease, and another test for cardiovascular diseases.

Says Chen, “Paper test are so cheap. They can reach people through the mail. It’s kind of like when AOL used to send out a bunch of discs. We can work with health providers to work with their patient populations and reach them more effectively through home tests.”

Hopefully, they’ll agree with Chen. Certainly, as he notes, home access to diagnostics is “long overdue.”

Source: TechCrunch

Why unskippable Stories ads could revive Facebook

Prepare for the invasion of the unskippables. If the Stories social media slideshow format is the future of mobile TV, it’s going to end up with commercials. Users won’t love them. And done wrong they could pester people away from spending so much time watching what friends do day-to-day. But there’s no way Facebook and its family of apps will keep letting us fast-forward past Stories ads just a split-second after they appear on our screens.

We’re on the cusp of the shift to Stories. Facebook estimates that across social media apps, sharing to Stories will surpass sharing through feeds some time in 2019. One big reason is they don’t take a ton of thought to create. Hold up your phone, shoot a photo or short video and you’ve instantly got immersive, eye-catching, full-screen content. And you never had to think.

Facebook CPO Chris Cox at F8 2018 charts the rise of Stories that will see the format surpass feed sharing in 2019

Unlike text, which requires pre-meditated reflection that can be daunting to some, Stories are point and shoot. They don’t even require a caption. Sure, if you’re witty or artistic you can embellish them with all sorts of commentary and creativity. They can be a way to project your inner monologue over the outside world. But the base level of effort necessary to make a Story is arguably less than sharing a status update. That’s helped Stories rocket to more than 1.3 billion daily users across Facebook’s apps and Snapchat.

The problem, at least for Facebook, is that monetizing the News Feed with status-style ads was a lot more straightforward. Those ads, which have fueled Facebook’s ascent to earning $13 billion in revenue and $5 billion in profit per quarter, were ostensibly old-school banners. Text, tiny photo and a link. Advertisers have grown accustomed to them over 20 years of practice. Even small businesses on a tight budget could make these ads. And it at least took users a second to scroll past them — just long enough to make them occasionally effective at implanting a brand or tempting a click.

Stories, and Stories ads, are fundamentally different. They require big, tantalizing photos at a minimum, or preferably stylish video that lasts five to 15 seconds. That’s a huge upward creative leap for advertisers to make, particularly small businesses that’ll have trouble shooting that polished content themselves. Rather than displaying a splayed out preview of a link, users typically have to swipe up or tap a smaller section of a Story ad to click through.

And Stories are inherently skippable. Users have learned to rapidly tap to progress slide by slide through friends’ Stories, especially when racing through those with too many posts or that come from more distant acquaintances. People are quick with the trigger finger the moment they’re bored, especially if it’s with an ad.

A new type of ad blindness has emerged. Instead of our eyes glazing over as we scroll past, we stare intensely searching for the slightest hint that something isn’t worth our time and should be skipped. A brand name, “sponsored” label, stilted product shot or anything that looks asocial leads us to instantly tap past.

This is why Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg scared the hell out of investors on the brutal earnings call when she admitted about Stories that, “The question is, will this monetize at the same rate as News Feed? And we honestly don’t know.” It’s a radically new format advertisers will need time to adopt and perfect. Facebook had spent the past year warning that revenue growth would decelerate as it ran out of News Feed ad inventory, but it’d never stressed the danger as what it was: Stories. That contributed to its record-breaking $120 billion share price drop.

The shift from News Feed ads to Stories ads will be a bigger transition than desktop ads to mobile ads for Facebook. Feed ads looked and worked identically, it was just the screen around them changing. Stories ads are an entirely new beast.

Stories ads are a bigger shift than web to mobile

There is one familiar format Stories ads are reminiscent of: television commercials. Before the age of TiVo and DVRs, you had to sit through the commercials to get your next hit of content. I believe the same will eventually be true for Stories, to the tune of billions in revenue for Facebook.

Snapchat is cornered by Facebook’s competition and desperate to avoid missing revenue estimates again. So this week, it rolled out unskippable vertical video ads it actually calls “Commercials” to 100 more advertisers, and they’ll soon be self-serve for buyers. Snap first debuted them in May, though the six-second promos are still only inserted into its longer-form multi-minute premium Shows, not user-generated Stories. A Snap spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on future plans. But I’d expect its stance will inevitably change. Friends’ Stories are interesting enough to compel people to watch through entire ads, so the platform could make us watch.

Snapchat is desperate, and that’s why it’s already working on unskippable ads. If Facebook’s apps like Instagram and WhatsApp were locked in heated battle with Snapchat, I think we’d see more brinkmanship here. Each would hope the other would show unskippable ads first so it could try to steal their pissed-off users.

But Facebook has largely vanquished Snapchat, which has seen user growth sink significantly. Snapchat has 191 million daily users, but Facebook Stories has 150 million, Messenger Stories has 70 million, Instagram Stories has 400 million and WhatsApp Stories (called Status) leads with 450 million. Most people’s friends around the world aren’t posting to Snapchat Stories, so Facebook doesn’t risk pushing users there with overly aggressive ads, except perhaps amongst U.S. teens.

Instagram’s three-slide Stories carousel ads

That’s why I expect we’ll quickly see Facebook start to test unskippable Stories ads. They’ll likely be heavily capped at first, to maybe one to three per day per user. Facebook took a similar approach to slowly rolling out auto-play video News Feed ads back in 2014. And Facebook’s apps will probably only show them after a friend’s story before your next pal’s, in-between rather than as dreaded pre-rolls. Instagram already offers carousel Stories ads with up to three slides instead of one, so users have to tap three times to blow past them.

An Instagram spokesperson told me they had “no plans to share right now” about unskippable ads, and a Facebook spokesperson said “We don’t have any plans to test unskippable stories ads on Facebook or Instagram.” But plans can change. A Snap spokesperson noted that unlike a full 30-second TV spot, Snapchat’s Commercials are up to six seconds, which matches an emerging industry trend for mobile video ads. Budweiser recently made some six-second online ads that it also ran on TV, showing the format’s reuseability that could speed up adoption. For brand advertisers not seeking an on-the-spot purchase, they need time to leave an impression.

By making some Stories ads unskippable, Facebook’s apps could charge more while making them more impactful for advertisers. It would also reduce the creative pressure on businesses because they won’t be forced to make that first split-second so flashy so people don’t fast-forward. Employing unskippable ads could also create an incentive for people to pay for a hypothetical ad-free Facebook Premium subscription in the future.

If Facebook makes the Stories ad format work, it has a bright future that contrasts with the doomsday vibes conjured by its share price plummet. Facebook has more than 5X more (duplicated) Stories users across its apps than its nearest competitor Snapchat. The social giant sees libraries full of Stories created each day waiting to be monetized.

Source: TechCrunch

Viacom acquires Gen Z digital media company AwesomenessTV

Viacom today confirmed it’s acquiring digital media company AwesomenessTV, whose network reaches 158 million subscribers and approximately 300 million monthly views. The news follows a report from earlier this week that said the two were in talks about an acquisition, which priced the deal at “well below $300 million,” according to Variety.

Viacom did not confirm the deal terms, but an under $300 million price point would be less than half of AwesomenessTV’s previous $650 million valuation, cited by Bloomberg.

Prior to this, AwesomenessTV was majority owned by Comcast/NBCUniversal which has a 51 percent stake in the company; Hearst and (TechCrunch parent company by way of Oath), Verizon, are minority shareholders with 24.5 percent stakes. When Verizon acquired its stake two years ago, it spent around $159 million, which valued the business then at the $650 million price point, or double its valuation at the time Hearst invested in 2014.

“Awesomeness has done an incredible job building their brand into a digital media powerhouse for today’s most sought-after and hard-to-reach youth audiences,” said Kelly Day, President of Viacom Digital Studios and former Chief Business Officer of AwesomenessTV, in a statement about the deal. “The team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, a world-class television and film studio, and a robust branded content team and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios.”

Viacom’s interest in the property has to do with its ability to reach young viewers – specifically “Gen Z” viewers who are growing up watching YouTube, not traditional TV. AwesomenessTV has reach into this market by way of its 158 million total subscribers and over 6 million YouTube subscribers.

Viacom sees its youth focus as a natural fit that falls in between its younger Nickelodeon and older MTV audiences.

AwesomenessTV’s studio has put out Emmy-winning content, and has developed a library of over 200 hours of long-form TV series and feature films, which it brings to Viacom. It also has connections with those in the digital-native talent and influencer space of value. And it has established relationships with advertisers catering to this youth market, including Hollister, Gatorade, Invisalign, and Kraft, which Viacom took into consideration when making this deal.

Following the deal’s close, AwesomenessTV will be integrated into Viacom’s Digital Studios division led by president Kelly Day, while its existing CEO Jordan Levin will depart. Levin will remain during a transition period only, we understand. But a CEO is no longer needed as AwesomenessTV will not operate as a standalone entity.

AwesomenessTV was co-founded by Brian Robbins, who currently serves as President of Paramount Players at Viacom, and Joe Davola. Robbins connection likely helped to spark the talks, sources had earlier told Variety.

Viacom seemed an ideal suitor for the business, given its interest in digital video/influencer space, which it has acted on before with its February acquisition of the video creator conference VidCon, and its acquisition of the influencer marketing firm Whosay.

The news of the deal also follows the high-profile closure of one of AwesomenessTV partners’ efforts in the streaming space: Verizon’s go90. Verizon had been working with AwesomenessTV to develop short-form original programming for its misguided streaming service go90, which failed to take off and is shutting down for good this month.

Source: TechCrunch