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Tesla accidentally busted two windows on the Cybertruck while demonstrating how tough they are

22 novembre, par Greg Kumparak[ —]

Well, I don’t think that was supposed to happen.

In what was one of the more surreal product launches I’ve seen, Tesla debuted its $39,900 Cybertruck pickup tonight. After running through some specs and hitting the truck’s door with a sledge hammer, Elon asked an on-stage companion (Tesla’s lead designer, Franz von Holzhausen) to demonstrate the strength of the Tesla “Armor Glass” by throwing a solid metal, baseball-sized ball at the driver side window.

It… did not go well.

While the glass didn’t completely shatter, it did appear to crack from edge to edge.

“Oh my [bleeping] God,” Musk laughs. “Well, maybe that was a little too hard.”

So they tried it again on the rear passenger window… and it cracked too. “Room for improvement,” Musk says with a shrug.

Was this a gag? A “Hah hah! Just kidding, here’s a test on the real glass!” sort of thing? Nope. Elon stood in front of the truck, two broken windows and all, and completed the presentation.

While no one would expect most standard windows to stand up to a test like this, even Elon seemed surprised by the results. “We threw wrenches, we threw everything.” he said on stage. “We even literally threw a kitchen sink at the glass, and it didn’t break. For a little weird reason it broke now, I don’t know why.”

“We’ll fix it in post,” he followed up with a laugh then moved on to talking about the car’s suspension. The video went private on Tesla’s YouTube channel about 30 seconds after the live stream was over.

And with that, the undeniable truth that is “live demos never work” lives on.

tesla cybertruck


Behold, the Tesla Cybertruck is here

22 novembre, par Kirsten Korosec[ —]

Elon Musk revealed Thursday evening the Tesla Cybertruck, a futuristic vehicle that seemed stripped straight out of a post-apocalyptic era movie.

The Tesla Cybertruck, which Musk unveiled in dramatic fashion and to the hoots and hollers of invited guests at the Tesla Design Center in Hawthorne, California, is made of cold-rolled steel, armored glass that did crack in one demonstration, and adaptive air suspension.

And yet despite its cubist look and performance specs, its price is rather modest.

Tesla will offer three variants of the cybertruck. The cheapest version, a single motor and rear wheel drive model, will cost $39,900, have a towing capacity of 7,500 pounds and more than 250 miles of range. The middle version will be a dual-motor all-wheel drive, have a towing capacity of more than 10,000 pounds and be able to travel more than 300 miles on a single charge. The dual motor AWD model is priced at $49,900.

The third version will have three electric motors and all-wheel, a towing capacity of 14,000 pounds and battery range of more than 500 miles. This version, known as “tri motor” is priced at $69,900.

Musk touted the acceleration of the Cybertruck as well, showing a video at one point of the truck beat a Porsche 911 off the line. Musk said the “tri motor” version can travel from 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 2.9 seconds. The single motor rear wheel is the slowest off the line with a 0 to 60 mph acceleration of less than 6.5 seconds.

tesla cybertruck

Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed Thursday, November 21, 2019, the Tesla Cybertruck.

Tesla said customers can put down a $100 deposit. They’ll be able to complete their configuration as production nears in late 2021. Tri Motor AWD production is expected to begin in late 2022.

Musk has talked about producing an all-electric pickup truck for years now. In December, Musk resurrected the idea, saying that Tesla might have a prototype to unveil in 2019.

Musk mentioned on Twitter the desire to produce a pickup truck in April 2017, before the first Model 3 sedans had been handed over to customers and the CEO had entered production hell. At the time, Musk tweeted that a pickup truck would be unveiled in 18 to 24 months.

If Tesla were to hit that mark it would be bringing its electric truck to market after GM and Rivian have started delivering their products.

Rivian is expected to begin vehicle production of its electric R1T pickup truck in the second half of 2020. GM CEO Mary Barra said Thursday during an investor conference that the automaker plans to bring an electric pickup truck to market in 2021. Ford also is planning an electric F-150 truck.

It’s unclear how much demand there will be for electric pickup trucks. However, the demand for gas- and diesel-powered trucks is growing. Large trucks account for 14.4% of new vehicle sales through October, compared to 12.6% in 2015, according to Edmunds.

Midsize trucks accounted for 3.7% of new vehicle sales through October, compared to 1.5% in 2014.

Automakers are keen to tap into that growth since trucks and SUVs, which tend to have higher profit margins than sedans. And those margins could continue to increase if automakers can keep costs down.

The average transaction price of a full-size truck (gas and diesel) crossed $50,000 for the first time in September, and continues to climb, according Jessica Caldwell, the executive director of insights at Edmunds. The average transaction price of a full-size truck was $50,496 in October, and a midsize truck was $36,251.


Austin-based Next Coast Ventures just closed its second fund with $130 million

22 novembre, par Connie Loizos[ —]

It’s November. We’re eleven years into a bull run. And a protracted trade war with China — not to mention the impeachment proceedings — is causing some nervousness about what next year will hold.

Little wonder that venture firms, which have been writing checks faster than ever in recent years, are also stocking up on dry powder. In the last 10 days alone, some of the many firms to announce new funds include Boldstart Ventures, Drive Capital, .406 Ventures, CAVU Venture Partners, Unusual Ventures, Northzone, Kindred Ventures, EQT Ventures, Inspired Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.

Newly in the same company is Next Coast Ventures, a firm that just closed on $130 million in fresh capital commitments to pursue a thematic approach and that is focused for right now on the future of work, the rise of digital natives, the death of traditional retail and the ways that ubiquitous connectivity is changing marketplaces.

It’s the second fund for the firm, which closed its debut fund with a very respectable $85 million, thanks in large part to the backgrounds of its two managing directors. Michael Smerklo previously bought a technology services company called ServiceSource that he ran for 12 years and eventually took public. His co-founder, Thomas Ball, previously spent more than a decade with Austin Ventures.

Interestingly, for many years, Austin Ventures was the only game in town in Austin, but that has changed meaningfully since it announced in 2015 that it wouldn’t be raising more capital. Not only has Next Coast just gathered up more capital, but so have numerous other regional firms this year. In April, for example, we reported on the newest, $105 million, fund raised by LiveOak Ventures. Meanwhile, Silverton Partners, one of the city’s most active investors, is zeroing in on a new $120 million fund just one year after closing a $108 million fund, and several other firms — including ATX Ventures and Quake Capital — are trying to raise sizable new funds.

As for Next Coast, some of its many current bets include Everlywell, a company that sells tens of in-home diagnostic tests and that closed on $50 million in funding earlier this year, and AlertMedia, a cloud-based mass notification system that aims to streamline notifications across devices and platforms and which raised $25 million in Series C funding back in January. (You can check out a longer list of its investments here.)

The firm has also seen five companies in its portfolio sell to acquirers (all for undisclosed terms). While one has yet to be announced, the other four are OnRamp, a cloud hosting company that sold last year to a data and IT company called LightEdge; the personal finance startup Clarity Money, which sold to Goldman Sachs last year; the wardrobe tech company Finery, which sold to Stitch Fix in September; and the smart oven maker Brava, which just yesterday disclosed that it’s being acquired by Middleby, an industrial equipment company.

We were in touch yesterday with Smerklo to learn how Next Coast’s new and bigger fund might differ from its predecessor, and the answer seems to be: not much. He said check sizes will increase, from a range of $3 million to $7 million into Series A-stage companies to more like $5 million to $10 million at the upper end.

He also suggested that Next Coast remains as committed as ever to uncovering and funding talent regionally, something that’s getting easier all the time, evidently. “Austin’s entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem is absolutely booming,” Smerklo wrote us via email. “It’s never been cheaper to start a company, and places like Austin with a high quality of life, growing available capital and a strong entrepreneurial spirit will continue to be a hotbed for founders and tech talent.”


Another US court says police cannot force suspects to turn over their passwords

22 novembre, par Zack Whittaker[ —]

The highest court in Pennsylvania has ruled that the state’s law enforcement cannot force suspects to turn over their passwords that would unlock their devices.

The state’s Supreme Court said compelling a password from a suspect is a violation of the Fifth Amendment, a constitutional protection that protects suspects from self-incrimination.

It’s not an surprising ruling, given other state and federal courts have almost always come to the same conclusion. The Fifth Amendment grants anyone in the U.S. the right to remain silent, which includes the right to not turn over information that could incriminate them in a crime. These days, those protections extend to the passcodes that only a device owner knows.

But the ruling is not expected to affect the ability by police to force suspects to use their biometrics — like their face or fingerprints — to unlock their phone or computer.

Because your passcode is stored in your head and your biometrics are not, prosecutors have long argued that police can compel a suspect into unlocking a device with their biometrics, which they say are not constitutionally protected. The court also did not address biometrics. In a footnote of the ruling, the court said it “need not address” the issue, blaming the U.S. Supreme Court for creating “the dichotomy between physical and mental communication.”

Peter Goldberger, president of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, who presented the arguments before the court, said it was “fundamental” that suspects have the right to “to avoid self-incrimination.”

Despite the spate of rulings in recent years, law enforcement have still tried to find their way around compelling passwords from suspects. The now-infamous Apple-FBI case saw the federal agency try to force the tech giant to rewrite its iPhone software in an effort to beat the password on the handset of the terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife killed 14 people in his San Bernardino workplace in 2015. Apple said the FBI’s use of the 200-year-old All Writs Act would be “unduly burdensome” by putting potentially every other iPhone at risk if the rewritten software leaked or was stolen.

The FBI eventually dropped the case without Apple’s help after the agency paid hackers to break into the phone.

Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, said the Pennsylvania case ruling sends a message to other courts to follow in its footsteps.

“The court rightly rejects the government’s effort to create a giant, digital-age loophole undermining our time-tested Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination,” he said. “The government has never been permitted to force a person to assist in their own prosecution, and the courts should not start permitting it to do so now simply because encrypted passwords have replaced the combination lock.”

“We applaud the court’s decision and look forward to more courts to follow in the many pending cases to be decided next,” he added.


Twitter will finally let you turn on two-factor authentication without giving it a phone number

21 novembre, par Greg Kumparak[ —]

Two-factor authentication is good! SMS-based two-factor authentication? Not the best option. After countless tales of people having their phone numbers and inbound SMS hijacked by way of SIM swapping, it’s clear that SMS just isn’t the right solution for sending people secondary login codes.

And yet, for many years, it’s been the mandatory go-to on Twitter . You could switch to another option later (like Google Authenticator, or a physical Yubikey) — but to turn it on in the first place, you were locked into giving Twitter a phone number and using SMS.

Twitter is getting around to fixing this, at long last. The Twitter Safety team announced that you’ll be able to enable two-factor authentication without the need for a phone number, starting sometime today.

This news comes just a few months after Jack Dorsey’s own Twitter account was hacked (seemingly by way of a SIM swap) and a few weeks after Twitter had to admit it was using phone numbers provided during the two-factor setup process for serving targeted ads.

Some users are reporting that the setup process still requests a phone number, so it seems like this change is being rolled out rather than launching for everyone immediately.


Y Combinator abruptly shutters YC China

21 novembre, par Devin Coldewey[ —]

Prolific startup accelerator Y Combinator has abandoned plans to establish a branch of the program in China. The company cites a general change in strategy, but a deafening silence on the complexity and controversy of working with China right now suggests there’s more at play.

In a short blog post, YC leadership explained that “as we worked to establish YC China, we had a change in leadership,” viz. the replacement of CEO Sam Altman with Geoff Ralston in May. This apparently led to a complete about-face on YC’s China strategy.

Qi Lu, hired a little more than a year ago to lead the YC China effort, is departing to run his own program, MiraclePlus. And Chinese companies will still be welcome at Y Combinator “— but as part of our U.S. program.”

A Y Combinator representative confirmed that it has no involvement with MiraclePlus or Qi Lu whatsoever, and that the company will no longer have any local presence in China at all.

It’s hard to accept at face value this vague explanation for such a costly, high-profile retreat.

Altman said when announcing Qi’s hiring that he had been trying to recruit him “for years.” As for the program itself, Altman said that “China has been an important missing piece of our puzzle” and that they would be building “a long-term local organization that will combine the best of Silicon Valley and China.”

That there is no mention of the uncertain international politics and U.S.-China relations right now, nor the explosive situation in Hong Kong, or ongoing human rights issues elsewhere in the country, seems a deliberate choice to make this move seem as ordinary as possible. But those things are major questions for anyone looking to do business in China, and it’s hard to believe none had any bearing on the decision to abruptly pack up and leave a major enterprise behind.

It seems like with a company like Y Combinator, it would be easy enough to provide a modicum of transparency and say that there was a mismatch in culture, or the logistics weren’t working out, or they ended up forwarding too many of the companies to the YC prime location anyway.

Perhaps that information was not deemed material for a public statement, but it only leaves inquiring minds to speculate. Was there pressure from this or that quarter? Is the culture at YC changing? Are other Altman-era projects being abandoned? Did the company gain anything at all by this boondoggle?

For such a major endeavor by one of the most prominent tech communities in Silicon Valley, this highly guarded and obviously incomplete account of its total abandonment seems strange and inadequate. We’ll be looking into it further.


OutVoice officially launches its freelancer payment tools

21 novembre, par Anthony Ha[ —]

OutVoice, a startup that allows editors to pay freelancers with the click of a button, has officially left beta testing and is open to any publication.

The company is also announcing that it has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from content monetization startup Coil.

OutVoice was founded by Matt Saincome and Issa Diao (pictured above). When the product was still in beta last year, Saincome told me it was created to solve “a horrible problem for everyone” involved in publishing freelance work: When he was a freelance writer, he’d have to constantly bug editors so that he could get paid, but then as the founder of the satirical sites The Hard Times and Hard Drive, he realized that managing payments was a huge headache.

OutVoice simplifies the whole process by integrating directly into WordPress and other content management systems. When editors load a story into the CMS, they can also identify the contributor and the payment amount. Then once they hit publish, the payment is sent and should arrive in the freelancer’s back account within a few days.

This means freelancers don’t have to worry about payment delays, while publications don’t have to worry about tracking invoices and writing checks (or losing their best writers and photographers if they don’t stay on top of this).

OutVoice also handles the initial on-boarding paperwork that the freelancers need to fill out, and it creates monthly reports for accounting and taxes. Publications can pay for the service on either a per-transaction basis (5% of payments plus $1 per transaction) or through a monthly subscription, which starts at $29 per month.

And by working with Coil, OutVoice says it can take advantage of new payment technologies like Interledger.

“Our goal at Coil is to make it easy and effortless for content creators to get paid,” said Coil CEO Stefan Thomas in a statement. “During their beta, OutVoice has already erased hundreds of years of lag time between freelance content creators and their paycheck. We’re excited to partner with OutVoice to promote more efficient payment solutions and processes, giving creators more time and money to create.”


Alphabet’s X details a garbage-sorting bot that’s part of its plan to make robots an everyday thing

21 novembre, par Darrell Etherington[ —]

Alphabet subsidiary X, which is the former Google X, focuses exclusively on ambitious “moonshots,” or applications of tech you might expect are science fiction, not a real product in development. Like a robot that can sort through office trash.

X does a lot of its work more quietly than other Alphabet companies — until it’s ready to share some of its progress. It has reached that point with the Everyday Robot Project, an ongoing effort that X has been working on for “the past couple of years,” according to project lead Hans Peter Brondmo, who in a Medium post today shed some light on what the project is and what it does.

Brondo compares robotics today to computing in the 1950s and 60s — it’s a working reality, but it’s happening in dedicated spaces and the only people interacting with them on the regular are specially trained computer operators, using them for professional purposes. The challenge, then, is to usher in an era of robotics akin to the era of consumer computing — in other words, how do we get to a world where ordinary people live and interact with robots every day?

The challenges are both more mundane and more complex than you might imagine: They have everything to do with stuff we take for granted every day, like other people walking around, trash bins that are out at the curb one day and gone the next, furniture that moves around, different weather conditions and just about anything you can think of that’s a pretty normal part of everyday life but hard to predict exactly day-to-day. Robots work best with specificity and exactness, especially when it comes to programming.

The Everyday Robot Project knew this, and quickly determined that to create robots that are genuinely useful to actual people going about their lives, the key was to “teach” rather than “program,” according to Brondmo. That meant working with the team at Google AI, first in a lab setting, and then out in the world. That’s where it arrived at the robot it’s detailing today: One it successfully taught to sort through garbage at X’s own offices.

The robot, trained via simulation and reinforcement learning, among other techniques, managed to actually reduce the level of waste contamination (putting the wrong garage in the wrong place and causing the whole contents of that bin to go to the landfill instead of being recycled, for instance) from around 20% to less than 5. If you’ve ever worked in a building that is certified as green by some kind of officially recognized standard, then you might know how impressive this actually is in terms of overall impact.

Aside from actually making a significant dent in the amount of unneeded waste heading to a landfill from a sizeable office, this development helps X prove out some of the feasibility of its ultimate goal of making robots everyday affairs for most people. There’s still a long ways to go before robots are commonplace companions — the smartphones we carry around everywhere, in the general computing analogy — but this is a step in that direction.


Google employees will rally in protest of alleged worker retaliation

21 novembre, par Megan Rose Dickey[ —]

Google is under fire again for its treatment of employees. Tomorrow, a group of Google employees is holding a rally and press conference to speak out against the company’s decision to place two employees on indefinite administrative leave.

Earlier this month, Google fired one employee and put two, Laurence Berland and Rebecca Rivers, on leave for allegedly violating company policies. At the time, Google said one had searched for and shared confidential documents that were not pertinent to their job, and one had looked at the individual calendars of some staffers. Both Berland and Rivers are set to speak tomorrow at the rally.

This news was reported earlier by Forbes’ Jillian D’Onfro.

“The company is claiming that it is for looking up calendars and documents, which is something we all do, but we know that it is punishment for speaking up for themselves and others,” workers organizing at Google said in a press release. “We are demanding that Google bring these workers back to work immediately.”

They went on to say that the “attack” on Rivers and Berland “is an attack on all people who care about transparency and accountability for tech.” Organizers pointed to how Rivers helped create the petition to demand Google end its contract with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and how Berland has participated in a number of worker-organized campaigns, including the one resisting YouTube’s role in facilitating hate speech.

“It’s a brute force intimidation attempt to silence workers and make it harder for us to fight back on issues of systemic racism, sexual harassment, harmful technologies, hate speech on our platforms, and business relationships with organizations that engage in human rights abuses,” organizers said.

Since the massive employee-led walkout last November, organizers say Google has tried to undermine further attempts to organize. In July, walkout co-organizer Meredith Whittaker left the company following reports of retaliation in April. Organizers of tomorrow’s rally also say Google has implemented new policies, like accessing need-to-know data a fireable offense. Organizers of the rally say both Rivers and Berland were put on leave for “simply looking at openly shared internal information.”

The rally will start at 11 a.m. at Google’s San Francisco office at 345 Spear Street. I’ve reached out to Google and will update this story if I hear back.


Netgear’s Meural Canvas II is a better version of the best home gadget for photographers

21 novembre, par Darrell Etherington[ —]

Netgear has released the first updated Canvas digital art from from Meural since acquiring the company last September, and the next-generation connected frame comes with some decent quality-of-life improvements as well as a new, additional size. It’s not a dramatic change from the original Meural Canvas, but it means that a product that was already great is now even better.

The Meural Canvas II from Netgear comes in two sizes, including a smaller 16×24-inch frame that provides a 21.5-inch diagonal picture (starting at $399.95), and a 19×29-inch frame with a 27-inch diagonal display (starting at $599.95). Both screens are 1080P full HD resolution, and both feature ambient light sensors (which are relocated to a better location under the mat that surrounds the screen for improved light detection) that will automatically adjust the brightness of your image to make it appear more natural and less like a screen.

The Canvas II features built-in Wi-Fi, which is also upgraded with this generation (Netgear, which makes routers and other Wi-Fi products, seems to have brought its expertise to bear here) and they offer new Ethernet connectivity, as well as full-size SD ports. They also can hang either vertically or horizontally, and a new accessory mount for this generation (sold separately) allows for even easier switching between the two orientations via simple rotation.

For the virtual art collector

Meural is controlled primarily from the Meural companion app, though you can also access a web interface to accomplish much of the same thing from a desktop browser. The app features curated collections of artwork, which is available both via a paid monthly subscription and via direct, one-time purchases. One of the changes that the Meural service has undergone is that the subscription membership now gets you some, but not all, of the art available — some premium content is still an additional charge. It’s definitely not as good from the user’s perspective as when everything was free once you’d paid the subscription fee, but paying monthly still nets you 20GB of cloud storage for uploading your own art, discounts on the stuff that is available for purchase and access to a much larger library than you get without any membership.

Subscriptions go for either $8.95 per month, or $69.95 per year, and they’re probably plenty to satisfy most casual art lovers who just want some recognizable or interesting works to adorn their walls, and want to be able to change that on a fairly regular basis. And when you use the art provided through Meural’s various collections, you can take a look at credits and descriptions right on the display — available quickly via a motion control swipe up gesture made possibly by the sensors built into the frame.

A note on those motion controls — they allow you to navigate between artwork, and even change playlists and access a menu of other options related to the frame. Basically, you wave your hand near the bottom of the Meural to make this work, and it’s great when it does work, but it definitely takes some learning to figure out how and where to swipe to make it reliably respond. It’s convenient that it’s an option, but controlling the display with the iOS or Android app is a lot more pleasant, generally speaking.

The built-in library that Meural provides is definitely a selling point, and Meural is regularly adding new art collections, both for paid purchases and to build out the library of those works available included in the subscription. It just added a bunch through a new partnership with Marvel, in fact, including movie posters from a long list of their cinematic universe releases.

For the amateur/enthusiast/pro photographer

The primary reason I think the Meural Canvas II is a fantastic product has very little to do with its subscription-based art collection, however. Instead, it’s all about the flexibility and convenience that the Canvas provides when it comes to displaying your own photos. It’s incredibly easy to upload your photos from your mobile device or your desktop, and you can organize them in playlists, add descriptions and titles, and crop them manually or have the frame crop them automatically to display in its 16×9 aspect ratio.

As a display for your own photos, the Meural Canvas II is hard to beat: It’s a lot more flexible and cost effective than getting high-quality prints made, as you can rotate them out as often as you feel like, and the display’s color rendering and matte finish, while obviously not as good as a professional photo print, is nonetheless very pleasing to the eye. When you take as many photos as we collectively do now, but seldom have anywhere to show them off, the Canvas provides the perfect opportunity to ensure they have a great place to shine at home.

The included SD card reader means it’s easy to load up images and put them on the Canvas locally, but I also found that uploading from whatever Wi-Fi-connected device I had access to around the house was easy and fast (again, seems like Netgear’s core expertise came into play here). The ability to quickly change the orientation, which is fast and simple even without the rotation mount accessory, is another big plus for your own photos, as it means you can show off both portraits and landscapes.

Oh, and the ability to load your own artwork isn’t limited to just your photography, of course — any image in a standard format, including animated GIFs, can work on the Meural, which means it’s really only limited by the scope of what’s available on the internet.

Bottom line

Between the frame options, which you can swap out for different color options eventually when they’re sold separately, and the ability to upload your own content to the Canvas, it’s easily the most customizable piece of home decor you can find right now. For some, opting to move up to something like Samsung’s The Frame TV might be a better option, but that’s much larger, much more expensive, much heavier for mounting and not as flexible when it comes to playlists and your own curation of art to display.

The Meural Canvas II provides largely the same visual experience as the generation it replaces, but the other improvements make this a much better product overall, with faster, more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity, improved motion controls, more flexible on-device storage and new mounting options. If you like some variety in your wall art, or you’ve just been trying to figure out how to do something interesting with all those pictures you take, the Meural Canvas II is a great option.


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