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Attention, Scrabble enthusiasts! A whopping 300 new words have been added to Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, including a few that are sure to satisfy millennials and aggravate everyone else: Bitcoin, emoji and botnet. Merriam-Webster likes to keep up with the hip, younger crowd and often adds words that began as slang but infiltrated the average person’s vocabulary.  ‘Ew,’ ‘bizjet’ (a jet used for business purposes, of course), ‘aquafaba,’ ‘facepalm,’ ‘hivemind,’ ‘macaron,’ ‘yowza,’ ‘beatdown,’ ‘zomboid,’ ‘twerk,’ ‘sheeple,’ ‘wayback,’ ‘bokeh,’ ‘frowny,’ ‘puggle,’ ‘nubber‘ and ‘OK’ are also among the new entries. “OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, told The Associated Press. “Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game.” OK may not be worth much, but bizjets could garner up to 120 points. Earlier this month, Merriam-Webster added 800 new words to their flagship English dictionary, including ‘TL;DR,’ ‘instgramming,’ ‘fintech,’ ‘biohacking,’ ‘rando’ and ‘bingeable.’ HQ Trivia names new CEO and teases upcoming Wheel of Fortune-style game

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Last week, after Hatreon creator and 3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson was charged with the sexual assault of a minor, he managed to evade arrest briefly in Taipei. On Friday, authorities successfully located Wilson and extradited him back to Texas, booking him into a Harris County jail. Now, Wilson is out on a $150,000 bond. Facing sexual assault charges, 3D-printed gun advocate Cody Wilson evades US authorities Wilson’s arrest in a Taipei hotel on Friday was the result of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Marshals, Taiwan’s police force and the U.S. State Department. His charges stem from an August 22 incident during which Wilson allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old he found on SugarDaddyMeet.com, paying her $500 for sex in a North Austin hotel. The charges are corroborated by security footage showing Wilson himself and a car with a license plate registered to his business. The charges originated from a report by a counselor who had spoken with the 16-year-old girl who identified Wilson and described the alleged assault. Wilson lives in Austin where he owns and operates Defense Distributed, a defense company that conducts research and development “for the benefit of the American rifleman.” He reportedly fled to Taiwan after receiving a tip that authorities sought to arrest him. “This was a collaborative effort that demonstrates the dedication of local, state, federal and international officials working together to bring this fugitive to justice,” U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau said of the arrest. In a statement to local news, Wilson’s lawyer Samy Khalil announced Wilson’s intentions to fight the charges. “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case,” Khalil said. “That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”

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You heard it here first! Early-bird ticket sales are extended till September 28 for TechCrunch Sessions: AR/VR on October 18 at UCLA. Don’t miss out on the biggest savings for this event — book your $99 tickets here. Students, get your tickets for just $45 when you book here. What’s going to happen at TC Sessions: AR/VR you ask? You’re going to hear from today’s leading innovators, watch exclusive demos onstage and network with some of the world’s leading minds in augmented/virtual reality. Who wouldn’t want that? Onstage discussions include Augmenting the Office, Building Inclusive Worlds, Your Virtual Self, and Ditching Headsets for Holograms. And you’ll get to hear from leading industry minds, including: Ashley Crowder (VNTANA) Cyan Banister (Founders Fund) Yelena Rachitsky (Oculus) Nathan Burba (Survios) Ficus Kirkpatrick (Facebook) Matt Miesnieks (6D.AI) Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst) When you tweet your attendance through our ticketing platform, you’ll save an additional 25 percent (for early-bird tickets) and 15 percent (for student tickets). Check out the full agenda and speaker list here.

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It’s been five years since T-Mobile picked up MetroPCS, and now the prepaid service is finally getting a fresh coat of paint. The “PCS” bit is getting the old heave-ho, while the brand’s owners are letting you know who’s boss with the new Metro by T-Mobile brand name. The new name involves some new plans, along with a couple of perks from key partners. There are two new (pricier) tiers, in addition to the standard ones. The new unlimited plans run $50 and $60 a month, and both include storage via Google One. That makes the newly rebranded service the first to offer up access to Google’s new storage plan. The cloud deal also offers access to Google Experts, who can help you troubleshoot issues with any Google service. The $60 a month plan, meanwhile, tosses in Amazon Prime for good measure. That’s not exactly a solid reason to upgrade in and of itself, given that an Amazon Prime plan currently runs $119 a year, but the more premium plan offers 15GB of LTE data for its mobile hotspot versus 5GB.

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Everyone’s favorite endless, serene snowboarding game just made the leap from mobile to the Mac App Store. Available now for $9.99, Alto’s Adventure for Mac is a desktop port of the side-scrolling snowscape game that’s won hearts and accolades since it first hit iOS in 2015. Earlier this year, the team behind Alto’s Adventure introduced a second game, Alto’s Odyssey, which trades the first game’s snowy terrain for sand and sun while maintaining its charm. If you’ve already spent some time with Alto’s Odyssey, the Mac version of the classic is a good reason to circle back. The game’s serene setting and blissed out music make Alto’s Adventure eminently replayable, even if you’ve already sunk tens of hours into lengthening your scarf in an infinite procedurally generated snowy world dotted with charming villages, dramatic slopes and many, many things to trip over. ‘Alto’s Adventure’ sequel ‘Alto’s Odyssey’ launches on iOS on February 22 If you’ve yet to dive into Alto’s Adventure, and we really recommend that you do, the Mac version is probably a good starting place. For everyone else, progress in the game syncs across devices through iCloud, so it’s a good excuse to push a little further into one of the most thoughtful, pleasant mobile game experiences to date. And while you’re hanging out in the Mac App Store, don’t forget to update to Mojave — Apple’s latest desktop operating system is available now.

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Airbnb’s head of engineering will leave the company before the end of 2018 to pursue other projects and focus on his family. The news was first reported by The Information and later confirmed to TechCrunch by Airbnb. Curtis joined the home-sharing platform in 2013 after about two years as the director of engineering at Facebook. Airbnb will work with Heidrick & Struggles to find his successor, who will be named chief technology officer, a title some at the company had expected Curtis to receive last year, per The Information. Airbnb has several other holes in its C-suite; it’s also in the process of hiring a chief marketing officer and a chief financial officer. Airbnb wants to give its hosts equity in its business “For a while, Mike has been thinking about making this change to take a long break,” an Airbnb spokesperson told TechCrunch. “After discussing this change with [CEO] Brian Chesky, they agreed that Mike would step down after helping the company choose his successor.” Curtis may be feeling the early-stage itch. When he joined Airbnb nearly six years ago, he told TechCrunch he was particularly excited about how early the company was: “the opportunity with where we can take it is limitless,” he said. But Airbnb is no longer a little startup, it’s one of the most valuable private tech companies in the world. In Curtis’ tenure alone, the engineering team grew from 40 people to more than 1,000 and the company raised more than $4 billion and garnered a $31 billion valuation. Now, it’s gearing up to go public in 2019. Airbnb aims to be ‘ready’ to go public from June 30, 2019, creates cash bonus program for staff

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Microsoft is hosting its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida this week. And although Ignite isn’t the household name that Microsoft’s Build conference has become over the course of the last few years, it’s a massive event with over 30,000 attendees and plenty of news. Indeed, there was so much news this year that Microsoft provided the press with a 27-page booklet with all of it. We wrote about quite a few of these today, but here are the most important announcements, including one that wasn’t in Microsoft’s booklet but was featured prominently on stage. 1. Microsoft, SAP and Adobe take on Salesforce with their new Open Data Initiative for customer data What was announced: Microsoft is teaming up with Adobe and SAP to create a single model for representing customer data that businesses will be able to move between systems. Why it matters: Moving customer data between different enterprise systems is hard, especially because there isn’t a standardized way to represent this information. Microsoft, Adobe and SAP say they want to make it easier for this data to flow between systems. But it’s also a shot across the bow of Salesforce, the leader in the CRM space. It also represents a chance for these three companies to enable new tools that can extract value from this data — and Microsoft obviously hopes that these businesses will choose its Azure platform for analyzing the data. 2. Microsoft wants to do away with more passwords What was announced: Businesses that use Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) will now be able to use the Microsoft Authenticator app on iOS and Android in place of a password to log into their business applications. Why it matters: Passwords are annoying and they aren’t very secure. Many enterprises are starting to push their employees to use a second factor to authenticate. With this, Microsoft now replaces the password/second factor combination with a single tap on your phone — ideally without compromising security.   3. Microsoft’s new Windows Virtual Desktop lets you run Windows 10 in the cloud What was announced: Microsoft now lets businesses rent a virtual Windows 10 desktop in Azure. Why it matters: Until now, virtual Windows 10 desktops were the domain of third-party service providers. Now, Microsoft itself will offer these desktops. The company argues that this is the first time you can get a multiuser virtualized Windows 10 desktop in the cloud. As employees become more mobile and don’t necessarily always work from the same desktop or laptop, this virtualized solution will allow organizations to offer them a full Windows 10 desktop in the cloud, with all the Office apps they know, without the cost of having to provision and manage a physical machine. 4. Microsoft Office gets smarter What was announced: Microsoft is adding a number of new AI tools to its Office productivity suite. Those include Ideas, which aims to take some of the hassle out of using these tools. Ideas may suggest a layout for your PowerPoint presentation or help you find interesting data in your spreadsheets, for example. Excel is also getting a couple of new tools for pulling in rich data from third-party sources. Microsoft is also building a new unified search tool for finding data across an organization’s network. Why it matters: Microsoft Office remains the most widely used suite of productivity applications. That makes it the ideal surface for highlighting Microsoft’s AI chops, and anything that can improve employee productivity will surely drive a lot of value to businesses. If that means sitting through fewer badly designed PowerPoint slides, then this whole AI thing will have been worth it. 5. Microsoft’s massive Surface Hub 2 whiteboards will launch in Q2 2019 What was announced: The next version of the Surface Hub, Microsoft’s massive whiteboard displays, will launch in Q2 2019. The Surface Hub 2 is both lighter and thinner than the original version. Then, in 2020, an updated version, the Surface Hub 2X, will launch that will offer features like tiling and rotation. Why it matters: We’re talking about a 50-inch touch-screen display here. You probably won’t buy one, but you’ll want one. It’s a disappointment to hear that the Surface Hub 2 won’t launch into next year and that some of the advanced features most users are waiting for won’t arrive until the refresh in 2020. 6. Microsoft Teams gets bokeh and meeting recordings with transcripts What was announced: Microsoft Teams, its Slack competitor, can now blur the background when you are in a video meeting and it’ll automatically create transcripts of your meetings. Why it matters: Teams has emerged as a competent Slack competitor that’s quite popular with companies that are already betting on Microsoft’s productivity tools. Microsoft is now bringing many of its machine learning smarts to Teams to offer features that most of its competitors can’t match. 7. Microsoft launches Azure Digital Twins What was announced: Azure Digital Twins allows enterprises to model their real-world IoT deployments in the cloud. Why it matters: IoT presents a massive new market for cloud services like Azure. Many businesses were already building their own version of Digital Twins on top of Azure, but those homegrown solutions didn’t always scale. Now, Microsoft is offering this capability out of the box and for many businesses, this may just be the killer feature that will make them decide on standardizing their IoT workloads on Azure. And as they use Azure Digital Twins, they’ll also want to use the rest of Azure’s many IoT tools.

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Dust off your old Bose 501 speakers. New devices are coming that will give traditional audio equipment a voice. Amazon recently announced a mess of new Echo devices and among the lot are several small, diminutive add-ons. These models did not have a smart speaker built into the devices but rather turned other speakers into smart speakers. Sonos has a similar device. Called the Sonos Amp, the device connects the Sonos service to audio receivers and can drive traditional speakers. There’s a new version coming out in 2019 that adds Alexa and AirPlay 2. This movement back towards traditional speaker systems could be a boon for audio companies reeling from the explosion of smart speakers. Suddenly, consumers do not have to choose between the ease of use in an inexpensive smart speaker and the vastly superior audio quality of a pair of high-end speakers. Consumers can have voice services and listen to Cake, too. Echo devices are everywhere in my house. They’re in three bedrooms, my office, our living room, my workshop and outside on the deck. But besides the Tap in the workshop and Echo in the kitchen, every Echo is connected to an amp and speakers. For instance, in my office, I have an Onkyo receiver and standalone Onkyo amp that powers a pair of Definitive Technology bookshelf speakers. The bedrooms have various speakers connected to older A/V receivers. Outside there’s a pair of Yamaha speakers powered by cheap mini-amp. Each system sounds dramatically better than any smart speaker available. There’s a quiet comfort in building an audio system: To pick out each piece and connect everything; to solder banana clips to speaker wire and ensure the proper power is flowing to each speaker. Amazon and Google built one of the best interfaces for audio in Alexa and Google Assistant. But that could change in the future. In the end, Alexa and Google Assistant are just another component in an audio stack, and to some consumers, it makes sense to treat them as a turntable or equalizer — a part that can be swapped out in the future. The world of consumer electronics survives because of the disposable nature of gadgets. There’s always something better coming soon. Cell phones last a couple of years and TVs last a few years longer. But bookshelf speakers purchased today will still sound great in 20 years. There’s a thriving secondary market for vintage audio equipment, and unlike old computer equipment, buyers want this gear actually to use it. If you see a pair of giant Bose speakers at a garage sale, buy them and use them. Look at the prices for used Bose 901 speakers: they’re the cost of three Apple HomePods. Look at ShopGoodwill.com — Goodwill’s fantastic auction site. It’s filled with vintage audio equipment with some pieces going for multiple thousands of dollars. Last year’s smart speakers are on there, too, available for pennies on the dollar. For the most part, audio equipment will last generations. Speakers can blow and wear out. Amps can get hit by surges and components can randomly fail. It happens, but most of the time, speakers survive. This is where Amazon and Sonos come in. Besides selling standalone speakers, both companies have products available that adds services to independent speaker systems. A person doesn’t have to ditch their Pioneer stack to gain access to Alexa. They have to plug in a new component, and in the future, if something better is available, that component can be swapped out for something else. Amazon first introduced this ability in the little Echo Dot. The $50 speaker has a 3.5mm output that makes it easy to add to a speaker system. A $35 version is coming soon that lacks the speaker found in the Dot and features a 3.5mm output. It’s set to be the easiest and cheapest way to add voice services to speakers. Amazon and Sonos also have higher-end components nearing release. The Amazon Echo Link features digital and discrete audio outputs that should result in improved audio. The Amazon Echo Amp adds an amplifier to power a set of passive speakers directly. Sonos offers something similar in the upcoming Sonos Amp with 125 watts per channel and HDMI to allow it to be connected to a TV. These add-on products give consumers dramatically more options than a handful of plastic smart speakers. There are several ways to take advantage of these components. The easiest is to look at powered speakers. These speakers have built-in amplifiers and unlike traditional speakers, plug into an outlet for power. Look at models from Edifier, Klipsch or Yamaha. Buyers just need to connect a few cables to have superior sound to most smart speakers. Another option is to piece together a component system. Pick any A/V receiver and add a couple of speakers and a subwoofer. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Small $30 amps like from Lepy or Pyle can drive a set of speakers — that’s what I use to drive outdoor speakers. Or, look at Onkyo or Denon A/V surround sound receivers and build a home theater system and throw in an Amazon Echo Link on top. As for speakers Polk, Klipsch, Definitive Technology, KEF, B&W, and many more produce fantastic speakers that will still work years after Amazon stops making Echo devices. Best of all, both options are modular and allows owners to modify the system overtime. Want to add a turntable? Just plug it in. That’s not possible with a Google Home. Technology doesn’t have to be disposable. These add-on products offer the same solution as Roku or Fire TV devices — just plug in this device to add new tricks to old gear. When it gets old, don’t throw out the TV (or in this case speakers), just plug in the latest dongle. Sure, it’s easy to buy a Google Home Max, and the speaker sounds great, too. For some people, it’s the perfect way to get Spotify in their living space. It’s never been easier to listen to music or NPR. There are a few great options for smart speakers. The $350 Apple HomePod sounds glorious though Siri lacks a lot of smarts of Alexa or Google Assistant. I love the Echo Dot for its utility and price point, and in a small space, it sounds okay. For my money, the best smart speaker is the Sonos One. It sounds great, is priced right, and Sonos has the best ecosystem available. I’m excited about Amazon’s Echo and Sub bundle. For $249, buyers get two Echos and the new Echo Sub. The software forces the two Echos to work in stereo while the new subwoofer supplements the low-end. I haven’t heard the system yet, but I expect it to sound as good as the Google Home Max or Apple HomePod and the separate component operation should help the audio fill larger spaces. Sonos has similar systems available. The fantastic Sonos One speaker can be used as a standalone speaker, part of a multiroom system, or as a surround speaker with other Sonos One speakers and the Sonos Beam audio bar. To me, Sonos is compelling because of their ecosystem and tendency to have a longer product refresh cycle. In the past, Sonos has been much slower to roll out new products but instead added services to existing products. The company seems to respect the owners of its products rather than forcing them to buy new products to gain new abilities. In the end, though, smart speakers from Apple, Sonos, Google or Amazon will stop working. Eventually, the company will stop supporting the services powering the speakers and owners will throw the speakers in the trash. It’s depressing in the same way Spotify is depressing. Your grandkids are not going to dig through your digital Spotify milk crate. When the service is gone, the playlists are gone. That’s the draw of component audio equipment. A turntable purchased in the ’70s could still work today. Speakers bought during the first dot-com boom will still pound when the cryptocurrency bubble pops. As for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to me, it makes sense to treat it as another component in a larger system and enjoy it while it lasts.

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Zoho.com was pulled offline on Monday after the company’s domain registrar received phishing complaints, the company’s chief executive said. The web-based office suite company, which also provides customer relationship and invoicing services to small businesses, tweeted that the site was “blocked” earlier in the day by TierraNet, which administers its domain name. In an email to TechCrunch, Zoho boss Sridhar Vembu said that TierraNet “took our domain down without any notice to us” after receiving complaints about phishing emails from Zoho-hosted email accounts. In doing so, thousands of businesses that rely on Zoho for their operations couldn’t access their email, documents and files, and other business critical software during the day. Zoho counts Columbia University, Netflix, Citrix, Air Canada and the Los Angeles Times as customers. “They kept pointing us back to their legal, even when I tried to call their senior management,” said Vembu in the email. Zoho.com was back up and running hours later, but at the time of writing, service to the site is spotty — likely due to the slow nature of domain name resolving. It may take hours or days for the site to be fully restored across the globe. Yes a detailed explanation is coming, as we dig our way out of this. We are working to ensure that everyone is able to access https://t.co/o2TlVFrtjB and ensuring that this does not repeat ever again. We apologize. — Sridhar Vembu (@svembu) September 24, 2018 Vembu said that TierraNet received three complaints about Zoho-hosted email users in the past two months, which resulted in the domain blocking. He also tweeted about the incident to try to inform users of the domain blockage. “We resolved two of them by suspending the accounts, and one is under investigation,” he said. “We host tens of millions of accounts, and this is sad that our entire domain gets taken down for three complaints,” he said. “We are actively working to move our domain registration to another provider.” It’s not unusual for companies like Zoho, or rivals like Microsoft and Google, to be used by malicious actors to host phishing sites or send phishing emails to unsuspecting victims. But companies typically work to limit malicious use — even if it’s near impossible to stamp it out completely. TierraNet has so far remained silent on the issue. Several tweets showed TierraNet customer support agents apparently confirming Vembu’s version of events. pic.twitter.com/bXPF7P56vW — Heather Jones (@HeatherJonesRS) September 24, 2018 We reached out to TierraNet for comment but didn’t hear back at the time of writing. If that changes, we’ll update.

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According to some early numbers from Apple analyst extraordinaire, Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone Max XS is currently running laps around its smaller counterpart. In a note posted by MacRumors, Kuo suggested that the 6.5-inch handset sold three to four time as well as the XS during its inaugural weekend. “We have determined that the demand for XS Max is better than expected (3–4 times that of XS),” says Kuo. “The gold and space-grey colors are significantly more popular than the silver. 256GB is the most popular, and 512GB is subject to a serious shortage because only Samsung can currently ship NAND Flash well. We are positive that XS Max shipments will grow steadily in 4Q18 thanks to demand from Asia market and the gift season.” The higher demand shouldn’t be altogether surprising. After all, the XS doesn’t mark an earth shattering upgrade over its predecessor. The Max, on the other hand, is a pretty sizable jump in display size for the company that was once suggested that consumers simple don’t want a larger phone.  And while the two models are quite similar from the standpoint of specs, the bigger display will only run an extra $100. If you’re already in for $1,000, what’s another $100 between friends, right? The note also states that Apple Watch Series 4 demand is better than anticipated, while the iPhone XR is expected to be a good seller for the company. No surprise on that last one, really. The XR represents an attainable upgrade for those users unwilling or unable to pull the trigger for a $1,000 phone with last year’s handset.

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Sleep-tracking app Sleep Cycle is bringing a new feature to its Android app to help snoring users track the sleep effects of their rather loud ailment. Sleep Cycle is a great little app that helps you learn about your quality of sleep and helps wake you up at a time where you’re more likely to wake up feeling refreshed than groggy. There are a lot of smart home sleep trackers that do something similar with a linked pillow sensor but Sleep Cycle just opts to use your phone’s sensors to gather data which proves similarly robust. How snore data will integrate into the app’s dashboard That said, this snore-detection feature is only for Android users as I’m guessing permission there are lax enough to allow an app to have the mic recording overnight, which is admittedly an awful lot of info to let flow through a third-party app but it’s also obviously pretty essential to a feature like this functioning at all. Basically it seems the app pairs the sound measurements with the accelerometer data from the phone placed on your bed and determines how closely tied your snoring is to restless movement, rolling that it to help determine its “sleep score” metric. If you don’t actually know if you’re snoring, the app will clue you into that as well with the feature enabled. You’ll be able to see how many minutes you snored and listen to it as well. The new feature is available now for the app’s Android version.

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Following an acquisition by FTD Companies earlier this year for a reportedly small amount of cash, on-demand flower service BloomThat is pausing its services as it works “to figure out how to best integrate BloomThat as part of the FTD portfolio of brands,” the founders wrote to its customers a few days ago. “Before we go, we want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of our loyal bloomers,” the founders wrote. “Over the last five years, you’ve brightened many lives with a simple, thoughtful gesture. Thank you for entrusting us with your most important moments – we’re honored to have been a part of a truly special movement.” In February 2016, BloomThat launched its flower delivery service nationwide. But instead of offering delivery within a couple of hours, BloomThat guaranteed next-day delivery, which effectively moved the startup into the territory of 1-800-FLOWERS and FTD. BloomThat will continue to fulfill orders through September 28, 2018. Those who are interested in continuing to buy flowers after the end of this month are being directed to FTD or ProFlowers.com. Prior to the acquisition, BloomThat had raised $7.5 million from investors like Rothenberg Ventures, Forerunner Ventures, Sherpa Capital and others, with the most recent round in April 2015. I’ve reached out to BloomThat and will update this story if I hear back.

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When it comes to public areas where you are most free to surrender self-awareness and self-consciousness, lounging on a multi-hour airline flight is probably prime territory. Coincidentally, it’s also a venue where virtual reality companies see an opportunity to open people to a world of VR content. Today, Alaska Airlines announced that it will be partnering with Skylights to bring the startup’s latest hardware to a couple of its routes in a pilot (ha) program. Skylights launched out of Y Combinator’s accelerator a couple of years ago with the focus of making VR the go-to entertainment choice for airline passengers. This is the startup’s first partnership with an airline in the U.S., they’ve preciously worked with European airlines including Emirates and XL Airways. If you’re sitting in coach, sadly the good virtual life is out of reach as the service is only being rolled out to first class passengers seated on the Alaska Airlines Seattle-Boston and Boston-San Diego routes. The new “Allosky” hardware is pretty compact, it’s designed for watching 2D and 3D movies mostly though you’ll also be able to watch some 360 content. It’s pretty slick for mobile VR hardware even if it’s still pretty conspicuous. While the last-gen looked like a pretty standard Gear VR, the new generation looks like some oversized old people sunglasses. Just as Bose headphones became a go-to for isolating people from the noise of airplanes, Skylights is hoping its VR hardware can be the go-to for isolating passengers from the sights.

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Google has changed a lot in 20 years. What started as an index of “just” a few million pages is now reaching into the hundreds of billions; what was once a relatively simple (if very clever!) search engine is now an impossibly complex brew of machine learning, computer vision, and data science that finds its way into the daily lives of most of the planet. Google held a small press event in San Francisco today to discuss what’s next, and what it saw as the “Future of Search”. Here’s everything they talked about: Google Discover The famously minimalist Google.com homepage is about to get a bit more crowded (at least on mobile.) Google says that 1 in 8 queries in a given month are repeats — a user returning to search on a topic they care about. With that in mind, it’s going to start highlighting these topics for you before you start your search. Google Feed (the content discovery news feed it’s been building out in the dedicated Google App and on the Android home screen) is being rebranded as “Discover” and will now live underneath the Google.com search bar on all mobile browsers. Discover will highlight news, video, and information about topics Google thinks you care about — like, say, hiking, or soccer, or the NBA. If you want a certain topic to show up more or less, there’s a slider to adjust accordingly. It’ll start rolling out “in the next few weeks” Recalling past queries In the same vein: Google will now learn to recognize when you’re returning to a topic you’ve searched for before, and try to start back up where you left off. When returning to a search topic, you’ll now see a card at the top of the results that’ll offer up a list of the pages you clicked through to before, and relevant follow-up queries people tend to search for next. While Google keeping track of what you searched for is nothing new, finding that info generally meant digging through settings pages to find your history. With this, Google is attempting to play something that otherwise seems a bit creepy into a front page feature. (And to answer what I imagine will be just about everyone’s first question: Google’s Nick Fox says you can remove the card, or “opt out of seeing it all together”.) Dynamic Organization Trillions of searches later, Google knows what you’re probably looking for, and what you’ll be looking for next. And they can get pretty specific about it. To use their example: if you’re searching for “Pug”, you’re probably looking for characteristics of the breed, or for images of well-known pugs. People searching for a longer haired breed like a Yorkshire Terrier, meanwhile, are often interested in things like grooming details — even if it’s not the first thing they search for. With this in mind, Google’s knowledge graph will now dynamically generate cards for a given topic and present them at the top of the results page — basically, an all-in-one info packet of everything it thinks you’re looking for, or might look for next. Collections In a move that feels pretty Pinteresty, you’ll now be able to save search results into “collections” for later perusal. Google will look for patterns in your collections, and toss up suggested pages when it finds an overlap. Stories Snapchat has its stories. Facebook has stories. Instagram? Stories. Even Skype tried it for a while. Now Google is “doubling down” (their words) on stories. AI will generate stories built up from articles, images, and videos on a search topic (starting with notable people “like celebrities and athletes) and incorporate them into search results. Google Images Upgrades Google Images is picking up support for Google Lens — the company’s computer vision-heavy solution for figuring out exactly what is within an image. Their example: in a search result for “nursery”, Google Lens could help to identify a specific type of crib or bookcase that you’ve highlighted in an image.

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There are few stories as important right now as the internet being ripped asunder by the increasing animosity between the U.S. and China. Eric Schmidt, the former chairman of Alphabet, said last week at a private event in San Francisco that “I think the most likely scenario now is not a splintering, but rather a bifurcation into a Chinese-led internet and a non-Chinese internet led by America.” He should know: Alphabet and its Google subsidiary are on the front lines of that split, experiencing a massive furor over the company’s Project Dragonfly to launch a censored search engine in the Middle Kingdom. It’s hardly alone though, with Apple facing militant criticism from Chinese netizens over its iPhone presentation and Facebook finding its application for a corporate entity on the mainland being returned and rejected. At the heart of this split is the death of the internet as we once knew it: a unified layer for the transfer of human knowledge. As the internet has gained more and more power over society and our everyday lives, the need by governments worldwide to tame its engineering to political and moral ends has increased dramatically. About four years ago, I wrote a piece called “From internet to internets” in which I argued that this sort of split was obvious. As I wrote at the time: “Across the world, it is becoming abundantly clear that the internet is no longer the independent and self-reliant sphere it once was, immune to the peculiarities of individual countries and their laws. Rather, the internet is firmly under the control of every government, simultaneously.” Yet, the rules that countries like Spain put in place around media and news didn’t split the internet as I had predicted. The economic power of the U.S. and China did. Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu may have declined in value this year, but their combined market caps is still in the trillions of dollars. WeChat, which is owned by Tencent, has more than a billion users, and while only 10% of its user base is estimated to be outside China, the ties are growing as more countries build economic bridges with the mainland. Sometimes, those bridges are quite literal. Through the Belt and Road initiative and fledgling institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China has provided massive outlays to other nations primarily around infrastructure, building partnerships and deepening economic ties. China and the U.S. are increasingly fighting a global battle for tech legitimacy (Photo by Jason Lee / AFP / Getty Images) That infrastructure is sometimes roads, but it can also be in areas like telecommunications. Huawei has made massive inroads into Africa, both in smartphones and in core infrastructure. Chinese-owned Transsion, which most Westerners have probably never heard of, is the dominant smartphone manufacturer on the continent. Chinese-made telecom infrastructure. Chinese handsets. Increasingly Chinese apps. For all of the concerns of Congress and national security officials about Huawei and ZTE equipment entering the American or Australian markets, the real fight for the future of the internet is going to be in precisely these developing regions which have no incumbent technology. That’s what has made the Trump administration’s strategy toward trade negotiations with China so miserable to watch. The focus has been on repeated rounds of tariffs that will ensure that Chinese goods — particularly in high-tech industries — are more expensive to American consumers, allowing domestic manufacturers to better compete. Yet, the policies have done nothing to ensure that American values around the internet are exported to continents like Africa or South America, or that Cisco’s equipment will be chosen over Huawei’s. That might be changing at long last. The Financial Times reported yesterday that the Trump administration is preparing to double down on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which offers commercial lending facilities to developing countries. It would be merged into another agency and given a much more rich budget (as high as $60 billion) to go and compete with Chinese financing around the world. Maybe that measure will be successful in closing the strategic distance between the two countries. Maybe rumors that the administration is going to broadly double down on the trade war will lead to a much more comprehensive set of policies. But along the way, regardless of what happens, these skirmishes will lead to a fracturing of the internet, and along with it, the death of the internet as a bastion and voice of freedom and knowledge for all people everywhere.

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A meeting on the status of anti-piracy efforts at search engines has produced a collaborative approach to better addressing the issue of pirated works appearing in search results. An international collective of search giants thinking of creating a blacklist of all known pirated works, which will be compared with search results every five minutes and any matches removed. The meeting, which took place last week, was reported by Russian outlets Vedomosti and RBC; TorrentFreak noted the news soon after. The attendees included Google, Yandex, Mail.ru Group, Gazprom Media, and other local trade associations. The issue at hand: how to return accurate results when someone searches for “download princess bride movie” without also including links to piracy sites. Yandex in particular has been under threat by regulators for its refusal to take more serious steps to block pirated content — the company argues that it isn’t required by law to do so. The argument is in some ways similar to that of Google, which has resisted pressure to be the first and last line of defense, incurring great cost to protect someone else’s property. But clearly both are open to a more collaborative effort. The solution proposed by the groups is a shared ledger of links and works known to be pirated. This register would be continually updated and each partner would regularly check it against its index and strike any matches from being displayed in results within six hours. The list would be curated by the companies themselves and rightsholders who find, as they often do, links to or copies of their copyrighted materials online. Obviously this isn’t an entirely novel idea: search engines and media companies of course have their own lists and may even share some information, and Russian regulator Roscomnadzor has one that ISPs consult when issuing blocks at their level. But this would be an official, cross-border, cross-industry collaboration, built to minimize both the time and paperwork needed to remove an infringing link. The difficulties and dangers of such a system are easily imaginable. A mistaken or fraudulent entry could lead to a site being delisted or demoted in search results, and because this system is largely internal to the companies and not part of an official process (like DMCA takedowns, such as they are), the owner of that entry could lack recourse. There’s no shortage of stories of YouTube videos being taken down via fraudulent reports, so the new system would need to be both robust against that threat and responsive to petitions. There are also plenty of ways that piracy sites can escape the clutches of these systems, which by necessity given the scale of the issue, are largely automated. Futzing with the URL — for instance, generating a new one for every user and deleting them shortly after —  could lead to an inflated and inaccurate register. (That’s just one simple way of throwing a wrench in the machinery; piracy sites are technically adept and legally savvy and their methods may be rather more sophisticated.) And because the list wouldn’t necessarily be backed by law — this would be an understanding between these organizations based on mutual benefit — it might be respected only when convenient. If, for example, one of the companies faces an ugly lawsuit or challenge regarding a listing, it may choose to slacken its enforcement to avoid such complications. The war between big web properties and piracy is an ongoing one and no one is likely to strike a killing blow given how advanced things are on both sides of the line of battle. But it’s equally unlikely that either side will stop or slow in its efforts to gain the upper hand, if only temporarily. It’s unclear what stage this effort is at, but Roskomnadzor and the trade associations confirmed to Vedomosti that work is underway, though Yandex would only say that it was involved. I’ve asked Google for comment and will update this story if I hear back.

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Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution and today it announced it’s requiring that all suppliers of leafy green vegetable for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019 . Most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes. This makes it difficult and time consuming to track down an issue should one like the E. coli romaine lettuce problem from last spring rear its head. By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision. Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the blockchain to digitize the food supply chain process. In fact, supply chain is one of the premiere business use cases for blockchain (beyond digital currency). Walmart is using the IBM Food Trust Solution, specifically developed for this use case. “We built the IBM Food Trust solution using IBM Blockchain Platform, which is a tool or capability that that IBM has built to help companies build, govern and run blockchain networks. It’s built using Hyperledger Fabric (the open source digital ledger technology) and it runs on IBM Cloud,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior VP for Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain explained. Before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, it’s been reduced to 2.2 seconds. That substantially reduces the likelihood  that infected food will reach the consumer. Photo:  Shana Novak/Getty Images One of the issues in a requiring the suppliers to put their information on the blockchain is understanding that there will be a range of approaches from paper to Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated ERP systems all uploading data to the blockchain. Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman says that this something they worked hard on with IBM to account for. Suppliers don’t have to be blockchain experts by any means. They simply have to know how to upload data to the blockchain application. “IBM will offer an onboarding system that orients users with the service easily. Think about when you get a new iPhone – the instructions are easy to understand and you’re quickly up and running. That’s the aim here. Essentially, suppliers will need a smart device and internet to participate,” she said. After working with it for a year, the company things it’s ready for broader implementation with the goal ultimately being making sure that the food that is sold at Walmart is safe for consumption, and if there is a problem, making auditing the supply chain a trivial activity. “Our customers deserve a more transparent supply chain. We felt the one-step-up and one-step-back model of food traceability was outdated for the 21st century. This is a smart, technology-supported move that will greatly benefit our customers and transform the food system, benefitting all stakeholders,” Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart said in statement. In addition to the blockchain requirement, the company is also requiring that suppliers adhere to one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which have been internationally recognized as food safety standards, according to the company.

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See, snap, sale. In a rare partnership for Amazon, the commerce giant will help Snapchat challenge Instagram and Pinterest for social shopping supremacy. Today Snapchat announced it’s slowly rolling out a new visual product search feature, confirming TechCrunch’s July scoop about this project codenamed “Eagle”. Users can use Snapchat’s camera to scan a physical object or barcode which brings up a card showing that item and similar ones along with their title, price, thumbnail image, average review score and Prime availability. When the tap on one, they’ll be sent to Amazon’s app or site to buy it. Snapchat determines if you’re scanning a song, QR Snapcode, or object, and then Amazon’s machine vision tech recognizes logos, artwork, package covers, or other unique identifying marks to find the product. It’s rolling out to small percentage of US users first before Snap considers other countries. Snap refused to disclose any financial terms of the partnership. It could be earning a referral fee for each thing you buy from Amazon, or it could just be doing the legwork for free in exchange for added utility. A Snapchat spokesperson tells me it’s the latter is the motivation (without ruling out the former), as Snapchat wants its camera to become the new cursor — your point of interface betwen the real and digital worlds. Social commerce is heating up as Instagram launches Shopping tags in Stories and a dedicated Shopping channel in Explore, while Pinterest opens up Shop The Look pins and hits 250 million monthly users. The feature should mesh well with Snap’s young and culture-obsessed audience. In the US, its users are 20 percent more likely to have made a mobile purchase than non-users, and 60 percent more likely to make impulse purchases according to studies by Murphy Research and GfK. In the video demo above, you can see Snapchat identifying Under Armour’s HOVR shoe (amongst all its other models), and the barcode for Covergirl’s clean matte liquid makeup. That matches our scoop based on code dug out of Snapchat’s Android app by TechCrunch tipster Ishan Agarwal. Snapchat’s shares popped three percent the day we published that scoop, and again this morning before falling back to half that gain. The feature could prove useful for when you don’t know the name of the product you’re looking at, as with shoes. That could turn visual search into a new form of word-of-mouth marketing where every time an owner shows off a product, they’re effectively erecting a billboard for it. Eventually, visual search could help users shop across language barriers. Amazon is clearly warming up to social partnerships, recognizing its inadequacy in that department. Along with being named Snapchat’s official search partner, it’s also going to be bringing Alexa voice control to Facebook’s Portal video chat screen that’s reportedly debuting this week according to Cheddar’s Alex Heath. Snapchat could use the help. It’s now losing users and money, down from 191 million to 188 million daily active users last quarter while burning $353 million. Partnering instead of trying to build all its technology in-house could help reduce that financial loss, while added utility could aid with user growth. And if Snap can convince advertiers, they might pay to educate people on how to scan their products with Snapchat. Snap keeps saying it wants to be a “Camera Company” but it’s really an augmented reality software layer through which to see the world. The question will be whether it can change our behavior so that when we see something special, we interact with it through the camera, not just capture it. Snapchat code reveals team-up with Amazon for ‘Camera Search’

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True Ventures has led the $3 million round for Mode, a real-time database that gives companies instant access to sensor data. GigaOm founder and True Ventures partner Om Malik has joined the startup’s board of directors as part of the deal. Sensor data is collected from vehicles, cell phones, appliances, medical equipment and other machines. Businesses deploying these sensors, however, often don’t have back-end databases or tools to understand what that data means for the real world. San Mateo-based Mode wants to help them make sense of it by moving the hoards of sensor data to the cloud, where they can better understand their devices and derive actionable insights. For now, Mode is targeting the solar, medical and manufacturing industries. “We focus on data collection because we want to address common infrastructure challenges and let customers spend their time utilizing data for their businesses,” said Gaku Ueda, Mode co-founder and Twitter’s former director of engineering. Ueda and co-founder Ethan Kan, who was previously the director of engineering at gaming startup 50Cubes, have a long history of friendship. True Ventures’ Malik says that’s part of what attracted him to the company. “Companies are not a straight line,” Malik told TechCrunch. “You go through ups and downs. If you have a good co-founder, you have someone to get you through it.” The round brings Mode’s total funding to $5 million. The company, which is also backed by Kleiner Perkins, Compound.vc and Fujitsu, will use the Series A financing to connect additional sensors to the cloud and expand its team.

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Porsche will no longer make diesel-powered vehicles, opting instead to invest more money into electric and hybrid technology, the company said over the weekend. Porsche has never been as committed to diesel as other automakers under its parent company VW Group. Porsche has offered some diesel versions of its models, including the Porsche Cayenne. But waning demand combined with the fallout from the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal has accelerated Porsche’s move away from diesel. Now it’s ditching diesel for good. Porsche hasn’t had any diesel models in its portfolio since February 2018. And the proportion of Porsche diesel models globally was just 12 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, interest in hybrid models has grown, Lutz Meschke, deputy chairman and board member wrote in a post on LinkedIn. About 63 percent of Panamera vehicles are ordered as hybrid models, Meschke added. “Porsche has no intention of demonizing the diesel engine — it is, and will remain, an important drive technology,” Meschke said in his LinkedIn post. “As a sports car manufacturer for which diesel engines have traditionally played a subordinate role, we have come to the conclusion that we can survive without diesel models in the future.” Porsche says it will provide service to existing diesel customers. The shift away from diesel comes as Porsche ramps up its investment in all-electric and hybrid electric models. Porsche plans to invest more than €6 billion ($7 billion) into electrification, which includes hybrids, by 2022. Half of all new vehicles from Porsche may feature an electric drive — either as part of a hybrid concept or as a purely electric vehicle — by 2025. More than $580 million of that capital will be allocated to the production of the Taycan and other vehicles based on it. The Porsche Taycan, the all-electric sports car formerly known as Mission E, is expected to come on the market in 2019.

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At a small press event in San Francisco today, Google dropped a mention of a big new feature on the way: Google Lens support is coming to Google Image Search. For the unfamiliar, Google Lens (previously available as a dedicated app, and as part of Google Photos) taps the company’s computer vision work to figure out the contents of an image and provide more details about exactly what you’re looking at. One example Google demonstrated: in a search for “nursery” you might see a crib you like and want to buy. With the existing search interface, finding that exact model of crib with nothing but that image might prove challenging. Besides the color and “crib,” what keywords do you type in? Tap the new Lens button, however, and Google will throw all of its computer vision chops at the image to tear it apart and try to work backwards to identify it. Want to identify something else in the image — like, say, a lamp in the background — instead? Use your finger to highlight that specific section, and it’ll focus on that object instead. It’s not limited to random pieces of furniture though — it can identify dog breeds in a photo, or landmarks, or clothing, or cars, or any number of abstract categories. If Google has seen enough images of that object or thing to model some level of understanding of it, Lens should be able to work backwards to tell you more about it. Lens should start rolling into Image Search later this week.

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News broke this morning that Bumble would be taking Tinder parent company, Match Group, to court. Its lawsuit alleges that Match Group fraudulently obtained trade secrets, publicly disparaged Bumble, and impacted Bumble’s other investment and acquisition offers at a time when Match Group itself was trying to acquire Bumble’s business. Now, Match Group has responded to the news in a statement that dismisses Bumble’s suit as having “no substance.” Reached for comment, a Match Group spokesperson said the following: Our statement on this lawsuit is the same today as it was six months ago: we obviously think this has no substance. To our knowledge, Bumble still has not served us. However, we understand their desire to distract from ongoing, actual litigation, regarding their misappropriation of trade secrets and infringing on our intellectual property. Bumble is required to file a response to our original claims next week and we look forward to proving these in court. Bumble claims it has, in fact, served Match Group  -despite Match Group’s comment here – through the Texas Secretary of State’s office. (Match Group’s HQ is Dallas.) Match Group’s statement is referencing the lawsuit it has against Bumble, regarding patents, announced in March 2018. That filing is embedded below. View this document on Scribd More to come….

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Stripe, the fast-growing payments startup that is now worth over $9 billion, is working on a new product to help it fill out some of the gaps in its product suite as it bids to become the go-to financial services partner to startups and other businesses. It has been testing a new cash advance service, providing financing to its business customers, that would provide funds to businesses 1-2 days after applying for them. Stripe has already started to reach out proactively to customers to market and issue the loans, which appear to be getting tested under the brand name Advance. One of those businesses provided us with details of what Stripe is proposing: the business was offered a $25,000 advance by Stripe, with a 10 percent premium (in other words, a loan for $25,000 will total $2,500 plus the $25,000 loan amount). Users are given a fixed percentage rate, taken from daily sales, to pay back the Advance — meaning the minimum amount you pay back can vary by the day based on your sales for that day. In the case of our tipster, that payback rate was three percent of his daily sales. Asked about the cash advance service, Stripe acknowledged that it was testing something out and pointed us to this tweet without elaborating more. So we don’t know if Stripe has been offering other users different premiums or payback percentages, nor if $25,000 is the cap or if it’s loaning more, nor if it’s working with a third-party to provide the financing, or whether it is offering it off its own balance sheet. As a point of comparison, today Square works with Celtic Bank to provide loans through Square Capital, and the loans come the next day and range from $500 to $100,000, with what appears to be variable premiums; like Stripe, customers are given an option to pay back by way of a fixed percentage of daily sales. Amex offered the same customer approached by Stripe the ability to take a loan of $250,000 with a lower overall cost for the money, four percent. PayPal provides loans of up to 30% of your annual sales “in minutes” after approval. For those reasons, we think that when (if) Stripe fully launches its Advance product, you might see different numbers based on this feed back and what’s already out in the market. Building a cash-advance service makes sense for a number of reasons. For one, it will help Stripe diversify its business as it continues to grow. Payments — the core of Stripe’s business — generally make a thin margin and require economies of scale. Financing works on a different principle, potentially giving the company a way of making an instant return on money that it already has. And there is a demonstrably large appetite for business loans. Square Capital has loaned out more than $3.1 billion to businesses since May 2014, and it has been successful enough that the company is now working on a way to make the loan feature a part of its successful Square Cash app, opening it to consumers as well. The basic Square Capital business is also growing: the company said that in its most recent quarter, Square Capital facilitated over 60,000 business loans totaling $390 million, up 22 percent year over year. Issuing business loans, in that regard, also would help Stripe compete better against the rest of the payments and financial services pack, including other tech-first companies like Square and PayPal, more established payment and credit firms like American Express, and of course traditional banks. Stripe has already been expanding into other business services, such as helping companies incorporate in Delaware, and better manage fraud on transactions. Financing fits in with those: like the fraud product, it’s another example of how Stripe can build products based around data that it is already picking up about its business customers and their transaction histories. You can also see Advance (or whatever it might be called) as as way for Stripe to better hold on to customers. Our tipster said that he was actually considering leaving Stripe because getting full records of his company’s accounts on Stripe, to arrange financing through out companies, has been too difficult. This financing service doesn’t solve that problem — but it would give customers who are otherwise happy with Stripe an alternative rather than becoming a deal-breaker. Indeed, you could also argue that not offering a financing product puts Stripe somewhat behind the game and missing out on a key financial service for smaller and younger enterprises, a service that others have been offering for years now. SMBs typically take loans to smooth out cash flow, invest in a part of their businesses as they are growing, or to make up for an unexpected cost in a given period. Some prefer to take out financing instead of working with VCs. “The thing a lot of startup founders don’t realize is the cost of VC capital,” our source said. “VC capital is by far the most expensive way to access capital as a company, more expensive than credit card debt.”

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As a nearly constant traveler I’ve been looking for something like the Surface Go all my life. I’ve lugged around everything from massive ThinkPads to iPad Pros and I’ve always found myself stuck in one of two situations – the laptops that made the most sense were too heavy to be comfortably portable and the tablets and ultraportables I used, including the Surface Pro, offered too much of a performance trade-off to warrant swapping from a full desktop device. I tried a number of other laptops over the past year including my daily driver, the TouchBar-powered MacBook Pro, as well as a Lenovo’s oddly designed YogaBooks. Nothing quite clicked. The trade offs were always drastic. Wanted power? Sacrifice weight. Wanted thin and light? Sacrifice the keyboard. Want battery life and compatibility? Sacrifice the desktop experience. So when the Surface Go came out I wasn’t too excited. Now I am. When Brian Heater first reviewed the device he found them lacking. “And the Surface Go isn’t a bad little device, at the end of the day. At $400, it’s on the pricier side for a tablet, and certain sacrifices have been made for the sake of keeping the price down versus the souped up Surface Pro,” he wrote. “And unlike other Surface devices, the Go is less about pioneering a category for Windows 10 than it is simply adding a lower-cost, portable alternative to the mix. As such, the product hits the market with a fair bit of competition. Acer and Lenovo have a couple, for starters, most of which fall below the Go’s asking price.” He’s right. There are thin and lights available for far less, and the Surface Go, with its 6-hour battery life and mid-range specs, is no hard core gaming machine. However, the user experience of the Go when matched with a keyboard cover have blown other contenders out of the water. Why? Because, like Google’s Pixel line, Microsoft knows how to tune its hardware to its software. The Surface Go easily replaced by MacBook for most activities including light photo editing, writing, and communications. The Go ships with Windows 10 in S mode, a performance improving mode that reduces the total number of available apps available but, thanks to a certification process, ensures the apps will be more performant. It is trivial to turn off S Mode and install any other app you want and most people will do this, realizing that while noble, S Mode just doesn’t fly if you’re trying to use the whole breadth of the Windows universe. Once I turned off S Mode I could install Scrivener and a few other tools and even got some games running, although the tablet gets a little hot. That’s the real benefit of the Surface Go – you don’t compromise on apps, performance, or size and all of it is specially tuned to the software it runs. If you’re thinking of exploring the Surface Go you’ll find it’s not the cheapest ultraportable on the market. At $399 for the entry level model – I regret not splurging on the $150 upgrade – and $99 for the keyboard cover – it’s still more expensive than similarly appointed devices from Asus and Lenovo . That said none of those manufacturers could hit on all of the sweet spots that Microsoft hit. In terms of design and ease-of-use the Surface Go wins and in terms of price you’re basically paying a little more for more compatibility and performance. So if you’re looking for a portable, usable, and fun device that beats many other current laptops hands down, it might be time to turn your gaze on Microsoft. As someone who got sciatica from lugging around too many heavy laptops, your buttocks will thank you.

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Enjoy reading lots of words about new operating systems? Good news! There are plenty of those here. Enjoy actually downloading and running said new operating systems? Gooder news! macOS 10.14 Mojave is now available in final public form over at the Mac App Store. As with the last several versions of the desktop OS, Mojave’s a free download — though every time the company launches a new one, there tends to be a bit of a bottleneck with downloads, so you may want to give this one a bit of time before attempting. As far as what you’ve got to look forward to on the this new version, Dark Mode is the biggest marquee feature here. Mojave offers the ability to switch windows and backgrounds to a dark design with light text — which, like many of the OS’s new features, is targeted at the company’s core audience of creative pros. Stacks is probably my personal favorite of the bunch. With a click of a button, it cleans your ridiculously messy desktop into piles of files sortable by type and various other categories. The first batch of iOS apps have been ported to the desktop here, as well, including Voice Memos, Stocks, Home and News. Screenshots have been pretty thoroughly tweaked, while Safari’s got a bunch of new security features.

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