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Archivo del Autor: Belen De Leon

Here’s how SF wants to regulate electric scooters

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is gearing up to present its proposal for electric scooter permitting. This comes after the SF Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance for the SFMTA to create a permitting process to better regulate the plethora of electric scooters from Bird, Lime and Spin.

The SFMTA’s proposal lays out a 24-month pilot program, which would grant up to five permits and 500 scooters per permit. As part of the program, electric scooter companies would need to provide user education and insurance, share its detailed trip data with the city, have a privacy policy that protects user data, offer a low-income plan and operate in a to-be-approved service area.

That means the city would allow no more than 2,500 electric scooters on the streets at any one time. In order to receive a permit, each company would need to first pay an application fee of $5,000 and show how they would ensure safe use and proper storage of scooters.

“The SFMTA supports innovative solutions that have the potential to complement our existing transportation network,” the proposal states. “Powered Scooter Share Programs introduce a new transportation option that may be convenient for users making short trips or as a “last mile” solution when paired with public transit. Furthermore, if Powered Scooter Share users replace trips they would otherwise have taken by automobile, they have the potential to reduce traffic congestion, parking demand, and carbon emissions. SFMTA staff have received numerous emails from Powered Scooter Share Program users expressing their support for these programs.”

The SFMTA’s proposal also describes how the city has received numerous complaints from residents pertaining to electric scooters. The complaints cover improper parking that blocks sidewalks and access to doors, as well as someone tripping over a scooter that was left on a sidewalk.

“This is of particular concern to members of the public who travel in a wheelchair or who have visual impairments, and have greater difficulty seeing and avoiding (or moving) Powered Scooter Share Scooters blocking their path,” the proposal states. “The SFMTA has been informed of one instance in which a person with a visual impairment fell after tripping on a scooter, as well as a report of a person breaking a toe after tripping on a Powered Scooter Share scooter.”

As of earlier this week, the San Francisco Department of Public Works had impounded 319 scooters, resulting in impoundment fees of $5,774 for Bird, Lime and Spin. As part of the proposed permitting process, companies would need to pay $10,000 for a “public property repair and maintenance endowment” in the event the city incurs additional costs due to the damaging of public property or needing to store improperly parked scooters.

The SFMTA Board of Directors is holding a public hearing next week to consider implementing this permit process.

Source: TechCrunch

The Creepy Genetics Behind the Golden State Killer Case

In the end, it wasn’t stakeouts or fingerprints or cell phone records that got him. It was a genealogy website.
Source: Wired

Microsoft makes Office 2019 ready for business users to preview

Microsoft is allowing business customers to try out Office 2019. The preview brings the latest features available on Office 365 to users who want a perpetual, rather than subscription, license of Microsoft’s productivity suite.

The post Microsoft makes Office 2019 ready for business users to preview appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

The dull Windows 10 April 2018 Update is everything a patch should be

Windows 10’s latest patch is the April 2018 Update. The dull name represents in change in tactic from previous patches, which hyped major features almost as if each patch was a new Windows release. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.

The post The dull Windows 10 April 2018 Update is everything a patch should be appeared first on Digital Trends.

Source: Digital trends

EcoFlow raises $4M from unconventional investors to grow its mobile power business

EcoFlow, a Chinese hardware firm developed by former JDI engineers that sells portable power stations, has pulled in a Series A round of over $4 million ahead of the imminent launch of new products and an international sales expansion.

The Shenzhen-based company has taken an interesting route. Founded in 2016, the startup burst on to the scene when it launched its River product in an Indiegogo campaign that pulled in $1 million. Today, River is available in the U.S. where it is sold via Home Depot, Camping World, Amazon, HSN and the EcoFlow website for $699 upwards.

That’s pretty impressive progress for a young company, and CEO and co-founder Eli Harris told TechCrunch in an interview that relationships with key partners are at the core of that. In particular, EcoFlow has raised strategic investment from supply chain partners rather than traditional VC and that is the case again. This new $4 million came courtesy of battery makers Guangzhou Penghui Energy and SCUD Group, industrial design tooling factory ESID, and supply chain-focused firms Delian Capital and Chunjia Assets.

Names that aren’t known in Silicon Valley, for sure, but the key is what they bring to the table.

“Our investors are almost entirely vertically integrated with every component in our supply chain,” Harris said. “That gives us access to these top-tier manufacturers that no startups could enjoy and help us get direct access to vendors at large companies.”

Aside from reaching quality components and getting a good price, relationships with these component makers help EcoFlow with its cash flow — always a challenge puzzle piece for hardware startups. Harris explained that the relationships allow his company to delay paying for components rather than having to pay upfront — before product is sold and revenue comes in — which optimizes the books and means the capital can be put to work on R&D, sales and marketing and more.

The River itself is touted as industry-leading portable power. Aside from an aesthetic nice design, the li-ion-based device has a total output of 500 watts, weighs just 11 pounds and features two quick-charge USB ports, two USB type C ports, two standard USB ports, two AC outlets, two DC outlets and one 12V car port.

Now EcoFlow is doubling down with plans to launch two new products before the end of this year. Harris isn’t providing specific details right now, but he said the company is looking to take advantage of its promising growth.

“We think we are around 18 months ahead of the market in terms of engineering capabilities. Most experienced battery players are going after electronic vehicles and industrial opportunities, while smaller players have issues getting to manufactures, talent and money to build portable energy solutions,” he said.

While $699 may make the product a luxury for some — despite a $100 discount right now — Harris said that the price is likely to decrease going forward as technology develops.

“Batteries are expensive products but we will see costs come down with the expansion of the EV market, so we’ll be trending in the right direction. But people who understand the tech don’t think it is an expensive product,” Harris explained.

“A lot of the tech we use now will be utilized in future products so that’ll mean lower development costs as we leverage existing IP. We’re also exploring using second life batteries since cells are one of the biggest expenses of the product,” he added.

Working with those battery makers that it also counts as investors could help on that second-life battery push, which could cut the costs to one-fourth of what EcoFlow pays now.

While tactically selected investors are a boon for many reasons, Harris admitted that they do require educating of the investor-investee relationship as it is unconventional in their space. But, he said, increasingly large component and manufacturing firms are keen to do startup investments to help get new ideas, open relationships in the U.S. and explore other new areas of focus.

“A lot of the manufacturing industry players have been stuck in that OEM wheelhouse and there’s more competition now. The previous models of just churning out product might not be sustainable, and margins are thinner,” he said.

Most immediately, EcoFlow is looking to expand sales beyond the U.S and Canada with plans to move into Europe later this year. It also plans to raise a “significant” funding round before 2018 is out as the two new products hit the market.

Source: TechCrunch

CultureCrush breaks out of the swipe right box

Most dating apps are aimed at a general population, but people of color and immigrants are rarely well-represented. CultureCrush wants to fix that. This app, created by a team led by former attorney Amanda Spann, lets you search the dating pool by nationality, ethnicity and tribe in an effort to help fish out of water find a match.

“We have 24,000 users, 5% of which are premium paid users, and the app has generated revenue every month since its existence. Upon our relaunch, we anticipate this number to rapidly accelerate,” said Spann. “CultureCrush is the only app of its kind that enables you to search by nationality, ethnicity, and tribe. We have nearly 1,000 tribes from across the continent of Africa. Akin to JDate, CultureCrush allows users to connect with others from specific ethnic or national backgrounds. Anyone who grew up in a specific culture understands the magic of connecting with others from the same or similar background. CultureCrush improves upon the JDate model by establishing an inclusive ecosystem where all cultures can find and date each other, or any other culture they like.”

The app also supports friend-to-friend matchmaking and has a three-day message countdown that dumps matches after 72 hours. The app is similar to other niche dating services like BlackPeopleMeet, PlentyOfGeeks and even Trump.Dating. There’s someone for everyone, the thinking goes, but sometimes you have to shrink the pool.

Spann created the app in Chicago after talking with a friend of hers from Nigeria. She said her friend found it difficult to date especially because of the cultural divide she experienced on traditional dating apps. Further, Spann and her friend felt uncomfortable on traditional dating apps after getting fetish comments like “Hi Chocolate Goddess.” For her, enough was enough.

“It’s predicted that by the end of this year African-Americans will be the most represented out of any ethnic group online. Pairing this with the fact that African-Americans are currently spending nearly 48 billion on travel annually and 8.7 percent of the overall US black population is comprised of immigrants, we believe that 2018 is ripe with opportunity for CultureCrush,” she said. “We’re excited to see how our users respond to the new features and we are looking forward to focusing our energy and attention back into growing our user base after our initial setbacks.”

“We decided to pursue the project after observing that mainstream dating apps often fail to account for cultural preferences and rarely yield positive experiences for users of color,” said Spann. “Imagine being a Nigerian man who just moved from Lagos to Chicago for med school, it might be nice to meet a local woman from your tribe. Or being a Jamaican woman spending a week in Copenhagen for work who wants to grab a drink with someone of Caribbean descent. Or what if you are an African-American who lives in a predominately white community, having difficulty meeting other people of color,” she said.

The app is available now and you can sign up to be notified when the new app hits the stores.

Source: TechCrunch

Tesla shareholder wants to remove Elon Musk from chairman position

Ahead of Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting in June, stockholder Jing Zhao has submitted a proposal to replace the board’s chairman, Elon Musk, with an independent director. Musk, the chief executive officer at Tesla, has been chairman of the board since 2004.

“Although the current leadership structure, in which the positions of Chairman and CEO are held by one person, could provide an effective leadership for Tesla at the early stage, now in this much more highly competitive and rapidly changing technology industry, it is more and more difficult to oversee Tesla’s business and senior management (especially to minimize any potential conflicts) that may result from combining the positions of CEO and Chairman,” Zhao wrote in his proposal.

Zhao, who holds 12 shares of the company’s common stock, also noted Musk’s positions at SolarCity and SpaceX, and how Musk’s involvement could lead to conflicts down the road. But the likelihood of this happening is slim to none.

And the board has already expressed its opposition, recommending a vote against this proposal. In its statement, the board says Tesla’s success would not have been possible without Musk at the helm of both the board and the company itself.

“In light of the significant future opportunities for growth and the careful execution needed in order for the Company to achieve it, the Board believes that the Company is still best served by Mr. Musk continuing to serve as Chairman,” the board stated. “Moreover, the role of the Lead Independent Director protects the Company against any potential governance issues arising from a non-independent director serving as Chairman. This position is vested with broad authority to lead the actions of the independent directors and communicate regularly with the Chief Executive Officer. Additionally, the Company now has seven independent directors following the addition of two additional independent directors in July 2017.”

I reached out to Tesla for comment and the company directed me to the board’s response. Here it is in full:

The Board believes that the Company’s success to date would not have been possible if the Board was led by another director lacking Elon Musk’s day-to-day exposure to the Company’s business. In light of the significant future opportunities for growth and the careful execution needed in order for the Company to achieve it, the Board believes that the Company is still best served by Mr. Musk continuing to serve as Chairman.

Moreover, the role of the Lead Independent Director protects the Company against any potential governance issues arising from a non-independent director serving as Chairman. This position is vested with broad authority to lead the actions of the independent directors and communicate regularly with the Chief Executive Officer. Additionally, the Company now has seven independent directors following the addition of two additional independent directors in July 2017. The Board believes that the broad authority of the Lead Independent Director and the presence of six other independent directors ensures that the Board acts independently. This current Board structure also is consistent with majority practice at large public companies: according to the 2017 Spencer Stuart Board Index, 72% of companies in the S&P 500 do not have an independent board chairman.

The proponent acknowledges that a combined Chief Executive Officer and Chairman is an effective form of leadership for an early-stage company, until it faces increased competition and rapid technological changes. The Board believes that it is precisely during times when a company must quickly adapt to constant change and outside pressures that Board leadership needs to be lockstep with the Company’s operations. Our achievements to date notwithstanding, the Company is still at a point in its development where we must execute well in order to realize our long-term goals, and separating the roles of Chief Executive Officer and Chairman at this time would not serve the best interests of the Company or its stockholders.

Source: TechCrunch

Facebook’s Messenger Kids’ app gains a ‘sleep mode’

Facebook’s Messenger Kids, the social network’s new chat app for the under-13 crowd, has been designed to give parents more control over their kids’ contact list. Today, the app is gaining a new feature, “sleep mode,” aimed at giving parents the ability to turn the app off at designated times. The idea is that parents and children will talk about when it’s appropriate to send messages to friends and family, and when it’s time for other activities – like homework or bedtime, for example.

The app, which launched last December, has not been without controversy.

Some see it as a gateway drug for Facebook proper. Others whine that “kids should be playing outside!” – as if kids don’t engage in all sorts of activities, including device usage, at times. And of course, amid Facebook’s numerous scandals around data privacy, it’s hard for some parents to fathom installing a Facebook-operated anything on their child’s phone or tablet.

But the reality, from down here in the parenting trenches, is that kids are messaging anyway and we’re desperately short on tools.

Instead of apps built with children’s and parents’ needs in mind, our kids are fumbling around on their own, making mistakes, then having their devices taken away in punishment.

The truth is, with the kids, it’s too late to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Our children are FaceTime’ing their way through Roblox playdates, they’re texting grandma and grandpa, they’re watching YouTube instead of TV, and they’re begging for too-adult apps like Snapchat – so they can play with the face filters – and Musical.ly, which has a lot of inappropriate content. (Seriously, can someone launch kid-safe versions?)

Until Messenger Kids, parents haven’t been offered any social or messaging apps built with monitoring and education in mind.

I decided to install it on my own child’s device, and I’ll admit being conflicted. But I’m using it with my child as a learning tool. We talk about how to use the app’s features, but also about appropriate messaging behavior – what to chat about, why not to send a dozen stickers at once, and how to politely end a conversation, for example.

Unlike child predator playgrounds like Kik, popularity-focused social apps like Instagram, or apps where messages simply vanish like Snapchat, Messenger Kids lets parents choose the contact list and control the experience. And, as a backup, I have a copy of the app on my own phone, so I can spot check messages sent when I’m not around.

With the new sleep mode feature, I can now turn Messenger Kids off at certain times. That means no more 8 AM video calls to the BFF. (Yes, we’ve discussed this – after the fact. Sorry, BFF’s parents.) And no more messaging right at bedtime, either.

To configure sleep mode, parents access the Messenger Kids controls from the main Facebook app, and tap on the child’s name. You can create different settings for weekdays and weekends. If the child tries to use the app during these times, they’ll instead see a message that says the app is in sleep mode and to come back later.

The control panel is also where parents can add and remove contacts, delete the child’s account, or create a new account.

Facebook suggests that parents have a discussion with kids about the boundaries they’re creating when turning on sleep mode.

That may seem obvious, but it’s surprisingly not. I’ve actually heard some parents scoff at parental control features because they think it’s about offloading the job of parenting to technology. It’s not. It’s about using tools and parenting techniques together – whether that’s internet off times, device or app “bedtimes,” internet filtering, or whatever other mechanisms parents employ.

I understand if you can’t get past the fact that the app is from Facebook, of all places. Or you have a philosophical point of view on using Facebook products. But Facebook integration means this app could scale. In the few months it’s been live, the app has been download around 325,000 times, according to data from Sensor Tower.

Messenger Kids is a free download on iOS and Android.


Source: TechCrunch

Yawn: Amazon cloud business just keeps rolling along

It’s almost becoming boring reporting that the Amazon cloud had a monster quarter. It’s not news at this point, because of course they did. Yesterday, it once again blew away analyst expectations with 49 percent revenue growth for the quarter. Oh ya, and that revenue? Well that was $5.44B for the quarter, a ways above the projected $5.26B. Ho hum. Another day in paradise for the Amazon cloud.

That’s a $21.76 billion run rate for a business that is but one piece of Amazon’s vast empire. Amazon’s cloud arm, AWS, has been running away with infrastructure services marketshare for a long time. When you consider companies the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Google and Alibaba are chasing them, it makes their run even more remarkable.

Conventional economic wisdom would suggest that the bigger you get, the harder it is to maintain big growth numbers, yet AWS has defied that wisdom and just keeps on growing, quarter after quarter after quarter. It says something about the way Amazon as whole operates. It never backs down and it never gives in.

Meanwhile across the lake, Microsoft was also reporting its earnings yesterday as well, and the cloud numbers were also quite good with what Microsoft calls ‘The Intelligent Cloud’ up 17 percent and Azure earnings up an impressive 93 percent. That was compared to 15 percent growth for Intelligent Cloud and 98 percent Azure growth in the previous quarter.

Microsoft clearly represents the best hope to give Amazon a run for its money and it’s doing its part to make that happen, but even with all of that growth, Amazon just keeps growing too– albeit at a smaller rate at this point, but certainly strong enough to maintain its hefty marketshare advantage.

Tracking the numbers

Canalys, a firm that tracks cloud marketshare numbers says that Amazon’s revenue is nearly double that of its nearest competitor, Microsoft, and far ahead of Google. While Google did not break out its cloud numbers in its earnings report this week, Canalys ranked it third, up 89% for the quarter to US$1.2 billion.

In terms of how that translated into marketshare, AWS continues to own about third of the market, while Microsoft is around 15 percent and Google around 5 percent, according to Canalys’ latest numbers.

That tracks fairly consistently with Synergy Research Group, another firm that tracks the market. It had Amazon at 33%, Microsoft at 13% with IBM 8%, Google 6% and Alibaba 4%. Synergy’s John Dinsdale says the growth we have seen the last two quarters has been quite remarkable.

“Normal market development cycles and the law of large numbers should result in growth rates that slowly diminish – and that is what we saw in late 2016 and through most of 2017. But the growth rate jumped by three percentage points in Q4 and by another five in Q1,” Dinsdale said in a statement.

Overall, while the cloud market continues to grow as companies shift more workloads there, the revenue numbers increase, but the marketshare percentages have held relatively steady. Amazon continues to control the vast majority of marketshare, and while there are others chasing them with deep pockets and large investments, it appears that none of these companies is threat to Amazon’s dominance for now.

Source: TechCrunch

One last Avengers: Infinity War theory and a Double Dare revival (Stream Economy, Ep. 1) – CNET

Everyone makes conspiracy theory boards for MCU movies… right?
Source: CNET