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In Defiance of California Law, Uber Tests Self-Driving Cars

posted Sunday Dec 18, 2016 by Scott Ertz

In Defiance of California Law, Uber Tests Self-Driving Cars

The idea of self-driving cars is still a fairly new one, and governments all over are scrambling to both understand and regulate their existence. California, one of the earliest states to accept them as an inevitability, is one of the states having the hardest time creating their regulations and apply them evenly and fairly. For example, are driver-supported vehicles, like Tesla, the same as vehicles that have no human onboard, and if not, should they be treated differently?

In California, a fully-autonomous vehicle, like the ones being tested by companies like Google and Audi, require a special license to be operated on public roads. Vehicles like Tesla, which require a human to sit in the driver's seat while the vehicle operates itself, do not require any special license. That is, in theory, at least.

Uber began testing autonomous vehicles in California similar to those developed by Tesla. While Uber believes that their new vehicles belong in the same category as Tesla, the state of California disagrees. In fact, the state's DMV is demanding that Uber acquire a license to operate these vehicles on public roads. Uber believes that, if Tesla owners do not require a special license, Uber should not, either.

There are a couple of important pieces of information to consider here. First, Uber feels that they are better than others in their market. They don't want to be considered, and especially regulated like, a taxi service. They spend a lot of time and money fighting the possibility in cities, states and countries around the world. Often, especially in cities that have a thriving taxi economy, they fail despite spending the money.

This fight against the world is all because they consider themselves to be different from a taxi service, and instead a "ride sharing" service, which they are not. If they were, the driver and passenger would be splitting the cost of gas instead of one paying a 3rd party a pre-determined amount to be taken where they are going.

Second, Tesla drivers are private citizens, driving themselves and accepting the risk of the ride in a special vehicle for themselves and not others. In the case of Uber, the people getting into the vehicles are paying customers of a taxi/limousine service who, if accepting the risk of a ride in a unique vehicle, are doing so from a professional driver, whom they assume to be treated as such.

According to a letter sent to Uber on Friday, the state will be seeking "injunctive and other appropriate relief" with the intention of stopping the unlicensed program. Considering the state has 20 other companies that have already received the licensing, it seems like any legal relief will be easily granted. The letter was signed by the Supervising Deputy Attorney Generals Miguel A. Neri and Fiel D. Tigno, which lends the full weight of the state behind the effort. For Uber, continuing to fight this order will, inevitably cost far more than licensing the vehicles in the first place.

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2017 Will See 20 Unscripted Series Headed to Netflix

posted Sunday Dec 11, 2016 by Scott Ertz

2017 Will See 20 Unscripted Series Headed to Netflix

Since Netflix announced its intentions to offer 50% original content, we have seen some big, but sometimes confusing, moves from their original content divisions. Just a couple of weeks ago, the company gave $40 million to Chris Rock to return to the stage after a long absence, bringing 2 new specials to the platform.

If you think that is strange, wait until you hear this week's move. The company will be bringing 20 new, original series to Netflix in 2017. The downside is that they are all "unscripted series," meaning that Netflix is joining the reality show/competition show bandwagon in a big way. This new catalog includes a series from the The Biggest Loser EP and Sylvester Stallone titled Ultimate Beastmaster. IMDB describes the series, saying,

Touted as the first international competition show of its kind, "Ultimate Beastmaster" will feature six country-specific versions, with local languages, competitors and hosts from each country: the U.S., Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Germany and Japan. All 10 episodes will launch at the same time worldwide on Netflix. The series will feature 108 competitors, 18 from each country, with each hourlong episode featuring 12 contestants - two from each locale. The athletes will run a demanding new obstacle course known as "The Beast," and each episode will crown a "Beastmaster," with the nine individual winners competing against each other in the final episode of the season for the chance to become the Ultimate Beastmaster.

If this sounds familiar, it's because it is - they are describing the Japanese series Sasuke, known in the US as Ninja Warrior, adapted for G4TV, and then NBC, as American Ninja Warrior. Hopefully this is not a sign of the things to come. If Netflix is going to get into the unscripted world, hopefully the majority of these series (we can't say all) will actually be original. Where Netflix has shined in their original programming is when they work with entirely new IP, like Stranger Things, or working with established IP for new concepts, like Marvel.

Will all of the Netflix unscripted series be direct copies of existing IP, or will we see some truly unique content? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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LinkedIn is Officially Part of Microsoft

posted Sunday Dec 11, 2016 by Scott Ertz

LinkedIn is Officially Part of Microsoft

Several months ago, Microsoft and LinkedIn entered into an agreement in which LinkedIn would become part of Microsoft, with a price tag of $26 billion. After months of regulatory hurdles around the world, the acquisition has been approved and completed. This means that Microsoft finally has a successfully social network in its list of properties.

In the past, Microsoft has struggled to figure out its place in the social world. MSN had a social feature, which was rebranded to Live, and ultimately killed off. Then they accidentally announced a new network, so.cl, which was built around media. That platform, despite some really interesting features, never took off. All of these offerings failed because Microsoft tried reaching too far outside of their core business.

Microsoft is an enterprise company. The fact that you've got a Windows computer at home is an extension of the fact that people have Windows computers at work and wanted to maintain consistency more than a lot of marketing from Microsoft. With that in mind, LinkedIn is the perfect social platform for Microsoft, seeing as they are both focused around business. While Microsoft produces arguably the best cloud platform in Azure, LinkedIn produces the only real business-focused social platform - seemingly a perfect pairing.

In the coming months, we will see few major changes to LinkedIn as it is, though it would be nice to see a UWP-style visual overhaul in the future. Instead, what we will see is integrations between Microsoft products and LinkedIn. For example, LinkedIn will be coming to Azure Active Directory, allowing people to use their login to join or use other products. We will also see LinkedIn notifications coming to Windows, likely in the form of a Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app.

Most importantly, LinkedIn will be coming to Office products. Imagine being able to update your resume in Word by refreshing data from your LinkedIn profile - no more managing double data. Or sending emails or LinkedIn messages to your connections without having to leave Outlook. We should hopefully also be able to see network activity on the person's contact in Windows/Office.

The company also has plans for LinkedIn's purchases, including Pulse and Lynda.com. Thy will be bringing together the Bing, MSN And LinkedIn Pulse brands, creating a "business news desk" that is built on top of MSN, with data from Pulse and searchable through Bing. In addition, Lynda.com, the online training platform, will be getting Office 365 support and Office 365 will be getting Lynda.com support.

Clearly Microsoft is not planning on treating this acquisition the way they have others in the past, such as Nokia. They have clear plans and have likely already begun to implement many during the transition period. I expect to see an official LinkedIn UWP app in fairly short-order, with other features coming in the Creators Update timeframe.

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One Man Spent $1 Million on Mobile Game Game of War

posted Sunday Dec 11, 2016 by Scott Ertz

The most expensive television ads of the year happen during the Super Bowl. Usually, only the biggest of the big can afford to run even a short ad during this period, as it would likely drain a smaller company's entire marketing budget for the year. Which is why I was confused when, in 2015, I saw an ad for mobile game Game of War during the game. How could a game like this afford to run an ad during the Super Bowl?

As it turns out, one man may have helped in that task. California resident Kevin Lee Co pleaded guilty in court this week to embezzling $5 million from his job, $1 million of which he spent on Game of War. Yes, you read that right - he stole A LOT of money and spent 20% of the ill-gotten cash on a single mobile game. Of course he also did the more traditional theft stuff: plastic surgery, cars, season tickets and more.

But, let's focus on the game aspect, because it accounts for the single largest chuck of cash, by a lot. During the life of the game, we have encountered players who have sunk thousands of dollars into the game, but this is, by far, the largest money sink we've encountered. It is the equivalent of an entire day's worth of revenue for the company, who sports lots of active players, by a single player.

For those who have not played, the overall game is fairly simple: you build a fortress with troops and equipment, and hope to hold your ground. The game happens in real-time, which means that even when you are not playing, your territory is still vulnerable to other invading players. It's a level beyond the "free-to-play, pay-to-win" model. Cracked once described the game, saying,

But, here, you're spending money on troops and other expendables that can be lost in combat. I was casually browsing the map at work recently and came across a guy who must have spent at least 7,000 Euros. He wasn't around to defend himself, so we attacked. We wiped out about 2,500 Euros. Two-and-a-half grand, gone in five minutes. It's like gambling, but with no possibility of winning.

So, rather than pay-to-win, it's pay-to-even-have-a-chance, but then you still lose it all anyway. For co, the gambling was a bonus, as he was using someone else's money, without their knowledge, to gamble on a lose-lose game. His ultimate loss, however, is the 20-year prison sentence he currently faces.

Have you played the game? More importantly, have you spent money on the game? Let us know in the comments.

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Samsung is About to Disable Remaining Note7 Devices

posted Sunday Dec 11, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Samsung is About to Disable Remaining Note7 Devices

It's hard to believe that after more than 3 months and all the negative publicity over Galaxy Note7 handsets catching fire or exploding that there are any devices out in the wild, but there are. Samsung in also surprised, being as the company has had a recall program in place, and a software update that prevented the devices from charging fully. But that is about to come to an end.

In an update, which will begin to roll out on December 19, Samsung will prevent the remaining Note7 handsets from charging at all. That means that, if you still own one and are still using it after the update, once the phone's battery dies, you're done. No charging and, most importantly, no getting remaining data off of the phone without being tethered to a power source. The game will have ended for the Note7 as a phone.

Most of the industry believes this to be a smart and appropriate move from the phone maker. The devices pose a potential risk to users' health and safety and Samsung is trying to ensure that a mistake on their end does not ultimately cause harm to their customers. There is one major holdout, though, and it is Verizon. The company believes that the update actually causes risk to customers. In a statement, the carrier said,

Today, Samsung announced an update to the Galaxy Note 7 that would stop the smartphone from charging, rendering it useless unless attached to a power charger. Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note 7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.

If that sounds reasonable to you, let me remind you that the recall has been going on for months, and Verizon had an in-store trade-in program, where an owner could walk out with a new device in their possession. The people who are still holding on to these potentially dangerous devices made the decision that responding to the recall in a timely manner was not important to their own cellular usage, because if the phone self-destructs, they will still be without a phone.

For Samsung, the important distinction here is that the responsibility for customer safety has officially shifted from them to Verizon. If something goes wrong with one of the handsets that Verizon did not require users to return, it will be their fault and not Samsung's, who has created steps to prevent the devices from going bad.

Whether you are on Verizon or another carrier and you still have a Note7, GET RID OF IT. There is absolutely no reason to still have one in your possession at this point. Give it back, take the credit, move on with your day.

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Windows Coming Back to ARM, Now With x86 App Support

posted Sunday Dec 11, 2016 by Scott Ertz

Windows Coming Back to ARM, Now With x86 App Support

When Microsoft introduced Windows 8, it came with another operating system: Windows RT. The poorly named offshoot of the prime Windows product was designed to run on ARM processors with the intention of creating a market for less expensive Windows tablets. Windows RT had one limitation that was outside of the control of Microsoft, and that was adaptation of Windows Store apps. Windows RT could not run traditional desktop apps, but was limited to the new style of distribution.

While many large software platforms got onboard, others skipped Windows Store entirely, like Instagram and Snapchat. This made it not a great platform for consumption, which is one of two main usages for tablets. The other is enterprise usage, which often relies on antiquated desktop apps, which were also incapable of existing on the platform.

It was no surprise, then, when Microsoft discontinued Windows RT at the introduction of Windows 10. This left Windows RT owners feeling unloved and ARM left in the dark. It also created the question as to how Microsoft would treat ARM in the future. Windows 10 mobile supports the processors, but is once again limited to apps coming from the Windows Store (for both Windows Phone and Windows 10). This has limited the appeal of Windows 10 mobile's Continuum as a business platform.

That is until now. Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced a partnership which has brought an x86 processor emulator to ARM processors. The emulator allows Windows to translate Intel-style software into ARM-style software as it runs. This means that software intended for x86 processors (built for Win32, or 32-bit processors) will soon be able to run on ARM-powered Windows devices.

This new capability will theoretically allow traditional Windows desktop apps to run in two new spaces: Windows 10 mobile devices, like small tablets and phone, particularly while in Continuum mode. It will also allow Windows laptops to compete on spec and price with Chrome and Android powered computers, while allowing people to continue using the software they already know and own.

Windows 10 for ARM is an important and exciting development for the Windows landscape, and could certainly pose a problem for Google's ambitions, but create a lot of new opportunity for hardware partners. Check after the break to see a video of Windows 10 on ARM in action.

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