Mango Health: A Mobile App For Rewarding People Who Stay On Track With Prescription Drugs


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Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.59.01 PM

Adherence to prescription drugs and supplements is a problem that not only puts the long-term health of millions of patients at risk. It’s a problem that may add an extra $100 to 300 billion in health care costs in the U.S. alone.

Enter Mango Health, a startup that’s adapting some of the triggers and rewards from the social gaming industry to the complex world of health care. The startup is bringing an app into beta today that helps patients stay on track with their prescription medications and supplements. Mango Health has raised nearly $1.5 million from a stellar cast of investors including First Round Capital, Baseline’s Steve Anderson, Floodgate’s Mike Maples, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Square’s chief operating officer Keith Rabois.

“People have a really hard time staying true to their treatment programs,” said co-founder Jason Oberfest, who is a former vice president at Ngmoco, the mobile gaming network that Japan’s DeNA acquired for up to $403 million in 2010. “The more we looked into it, we realized that many of the most common diseases that people have are ones where the consequences of the diseases are the most deferred. So can we use what we’ve learned about gaming to actually change behavior?”

The app includes daily reminders to take drugs at different points. Patients can self-report that they’ve stayed on schedule by taking photos of their drug containers. The more they stay on track, the more rewards they get. Mango Health is working with a number of unnamed brands right now to offer users rewards like magazine subscriptions, discounts on groceries and gift cards.

The model resembles offer walls in social games, where users can get virtual currency for signing up for different services or products. Naturally, this lends itself to a business that earns revenue by generating leads for other companies that are interesting marketing or reaching out to people who are concerned about health.

“There are lots of brands that want to be associated with consumer initiatives to get healthier,” he said.

In the app, there’s also a health journal where patients can keep track of their exercise and daily activities. Plus, there are alerts to tell users how their medications might interact with each other. There is also a social element which shows how well patients adhere to their regimens compared to others.

“We want to make things that are very mundane for a lot of people — like taking medications and supplements correctly – actually fun and elegant,” he said. “In a way, it was somewhat inspired with what Mint did with finance.”

Oberfest says the difference between Mango Health and other health tech-related startups is that it’s aiming for a very, very big potential user base. Many other companies, which produce add-ons or hardware, might only reach a pool of a few million users who are motivated enough to spend money on devices. Likewise, fitness apps might face the same problem as they reach people who really want to make the effort to stay in shape. Oberfest says four out five people in the U.S. have to take some kind of prescription drug or supplement.


Uber Spins Its Latest Variation On Car Rides: DJs On Party Buses In Chicago


This post is by Ingrid Lunden from TechCrunch


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uberpalooza

Uber is still growing its business as a disruptive (sometimes controversial) car service app, but in the meantime it continues to push the envelope on what else it might eventually do with the logistics infrastructure it is also creating. The latest development comes by way of Chicago, where Uber is now laying on busses with DJs and drinks. Yes, it’s bus bumping from Uber.

Uberpalooza will feature DJs Dante, Bobbylite, Megan Taylor and Andrew Hayden, and is being run to coincide with the Lollapalooza music festival taking place in the Windy City this weekend. Those requesting the service will be charged $50 for 25 minutes or 5 miles — whichever comes first (so pick your traffic-clogged streets of Chicago carefully). Up to 10 other people can join in on the party bus — as long as all are over 21.

Uber’s DJ bus is the latest variation on the car service theme. Others have included barbecue delivery and pedicabs during SXSW in Austin, and, just last month, ice cream on demand in different U.S. cities.

How it works: Pretty simple. People using the Uber app in Chicago will be able to select the service a headphones icon on the app.

Uber’s also linking up with Soundtracking, the music/moodsharing app. People who post music on Soundtracking during their rides get entered into a contest to win tickets to a Lollapalooza after-party (but sadly not the sold-out event itself).

Does $50 for 5 miles sound expensive to you? Maybe not for this particular ride. Not only are you getting booze and a live DJ, but the idea is that those already in the music/party mood, and already forking out up to $230 for their weekend Lollapalooza tickets (plus more for everything else), will be well up for taking the experience a little further. Also splitting between 10 friends means it only costs each of you a fiver.

Uber says people who spread the word about Uberpalooza also get the chance to win tickets to other events, as well as an Uber swag bag.


Facebook sees 23 percent surge in mobile-only users since March


This post is by Amar Toor from The Verge - All Posts


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facebook iphone app

Approximately 102 million people accessed Facebook exclusively from mobile devices in June, according to a 10-Q document filed with the SEC Tuesday. That marks a 23 percent increase since March, when the social network saw just 83 million mobile-only users. Overall, the company saw 543 million active mobile users in June, 18.7 percent of whom didn’t access the site via desktop at all.

In fact, Facebook’s active monthly desktop users remained largely flat during the second quarter of 2012, and even dipped slightly across both Europe and the US. The site saw 168 million monthly active users (MAUs) in the US during June — an increase of just ten percent over the same period last year — but enjoyed much stronger growth in emerging…

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Electronic Medical Records Finally Become a Reality, Thanks to the iPad


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Digital health is a hot market right now, with funding levels having tripled over the past year. Y Combinator graduate drchrono is one of many scrappy young startups aiming to change the stodgy old healthcare system. Indeed, drchrono strikes at one of the core problems of traditional healthcare: paperwork. Drchrono is an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) solution for doctors, optimized for the iPad and also available on iPhone and the Web.

Drchrono has a wide range of features; including scheduling an appointment, inputting medical details, eprescribing, billing, and Medical Speech to Text technology. Perhaps the best feature is that the patient can get a copy of their medical records, via the app.


Drchronos was founded in January 2009 by by Daniel Kivatinos and Michael Nusimow. In January of this year, according to a New York Times report, more than 50,000 doctors and 400,000 patients were registered with the service.

This excellent promotional video by Apple showcases how Downtown Urgent Care in St. Louis, MO uses drchrono.


Lots of Competition

EMRs (sometimes called EHRs, Electronic Health Records) are a huge market opportunity and drchrono has no shortage of competitors. They include Practice Fusion, HealthFusion, CareCloud, Athenahealth, GloStream and ElationEMR.

The U.S. government is helping the EMR cause by providing incentives to go paperless, via the HITECH Act. If they use a certified EMR service like drchrono, physicians can qualify for $44,000 or more in economic stimulus incentives.


Which is the leading EMR service? It’s difficult to say for sure, but Practice Fusion appears to have the most registered customers. It claims more than 150,000 registered medical providers and 40 million patients – which makes it three times larger than drchrono in terms of physicians served. Practice Fusion was one of four digital health companies to receive a huge funding round in the first half of 2012, with a $34 million Series C round a month ago.

However, this market is still very much up for grabs. The vast majority of America’s hospitals and healthcare institutions still run a paper-based medical records system. A study released in March 2009 by the New England Journal of Medicine, stated that only 1.5% of 2,952 hospitals surveyed had a comprehensive EHR system. That figure is probably higher today, but it’s still early days for drchrono, Practice Fusion and other budding digital health EMR platforms.


Outlook.com reels in over a million users mere hours after launch


This post is by Nate Ralph from The Verge - All Posts


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Outlook chart

That was fast: in the scant few hours since Microsoft unveiled its Metro-style take on email, one million people have signed up for an account with Outlook.com. The service (which will ultimately replace Hotmail) features a revamped user interface that borrows heavily from Windows 8, direct integration with Facebook and Twitter and Skype conferencing —delivering a clear shot across the bow for Google and Gmail. It’s unclear whether this momentum will hold, or if the high level of interest is merely a surge of folks trying to get in on the ground floor (and secure a decipherable email address). That said, over a million users in mere hours bodes well for the fledgling email platform.

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Rental History: Netflix Settlement Leads To Changes In Privacy Policy, But Who Benefits?


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Netflix

For some of you this will be news, for some, a reminder. But the long and short of it is that Netflix has been forced to change its approach to user privacy, specifically in regard to how long it stores rental history for those who have unsubscribed. Netflix was forced to do so by a class-action lawsuit, which alleged that the company was illegally retaining and disclosing the personal information (browsing history, etc.) of former customers.

Netflix admitted no wrongdoing but settled the lawsuit, which grew out of a 2011 lawsuit that claimed it was in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act, which requires companies to destroy data on their customers after a certain period (usually one year).

The news was initially reported in February by paidContent among others, in which customers had filed a lawsuit after discovering that their rental history was still available after being unsubscribed for a lengthy period of time. So, basically, knowing it has to maintain compliance with the Video Privacy Protection Act, Netflix settled rather than battle this one out.

The results? A $9 million settlement. The reason the news has come up again is because Netflix has been, as a result of the settlement, required to send out emails to all current and former subscribers alerting them to the settlement.

The email reads:

Netflix has agreed to change its data retention practices so that it separates (known as “decoupling”) Entertainment Content Viewing History (that is, movies and TV shows that someone watched) from identification information for those subscribers who have not been a Netflix subscriber for at least 365 days, with some exceptions.

Furthermore, the announcement makes it clear that the $9 million settlement will go towards paying notice and settlement admin expenses, to pay attorneys’ fees of up to $2.25 million, and pay a total incentive award of $30K to the named plaintiffs. Again, the policy change was officially announced to current and former users beginning yesterday. That comes from the organizers of the suit, who have set up a website at videoprivacyclass.com.

As is typical with these kinds of lawsuits, the website is pretty unhelpful and could make it much easier to determine how users can either object to this settlement, exclude their names from the settlement, etc.

So, why should you care?

Well, for starters, let’s be clear: Netflix was never shown to have done anything illegal, and this lawsuit is solely concerned with those people who left Netflix. But, as one may remember, Netflix lost a lot of customers last year as a result of its pricing change (among other things). Today, Netflix has some 24 million domestic streaming customers, with more coming internationally as it builds out its global footprint, and thus far, we’ve seen fairly high turnover. There are tons of people who leave Netflix for good, some who leave and go back, etc. etc. The point is: Over time, this effects a lot of people.

Now, you may not care if Netflix was storing your browsing history, and you may even have been thankful knowing that, if you left Netflix and came back three months later, it would still remember your taste preferences. Netflix itself certainly expected that would be the case.

But the other way to look at this is that, in the end, many people believe that it’s not in their best interest to have personal information stored about you — especially if you don’t know that a company or service is storing information and you did not give it explicit permission to do so.

For the end user, many of us would agree that this kind of stuff should always be opt-in, never be default. Look at what happened to Path. But the thing is that, most of the time, it’s not in a company’s best economic interest to do that. So, even if we all admit that, in this case, a violation was small, it’s still worth bringing attention to because it sends a clear signal that companies need to be more transparent in how they handle (and what they do) with our information. Looking the other way would be a passive affirmation that this is okay.

What’s more, as TechDirt and others pointed out, this could also just be another example of how ludicrous class-action lawsuits in this country can be.

Essentially, while Netflix admits no wrongdoing, it’s going to be doling out $9 million. But, unless you’re one of the two named plaintiffs (Jeff Milans and Peter Comstock, who will split the $30K), the majority of the money goes to charity, but $2.25 million goes to the lawyers.

So, if Netflix has in some way “wronged” its customers (even though it says that it hasn’t), it seems ridiculous that the lawyers walk away with over $2 million, while those that have apparently been “hurt” by their actions receive absolutely nothing. As The Wise Guys noted, scores of customer names were used to win millions of dollars for the attorneys and unnamed non-profit organizations, yet they receive nothing. With the exception of the attorneys, as it stands now, how is this a victory for anyone involved?

Granted, class-action lawsuits of this kind are geared less towards winning restitution for those apparently “harmed” and more towards teaching the companies in question a lesson by stinging them right in their wallet, and hopefully will serve as incentive for companies to change the way they do business, but will it?


Notch answers Q&A thread on Reddit, talks Minecraft, game development, and the gender of his beard


This post is by Rob LeFebvre from VentureBeat


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Markus Persson

Markus Persson, also known as “Notch,” is the developer and creator of Minecraft. The open-world sandbox game focuses on building, crafting, and mining within a randomly generated virtual world, and versions of it are available on an array of devices: PC, Android, iOS, and Xbox 360.

Minecraft is one of the most popular online games to emerge in the past half-decade and now has more than 36 million players (including 6.8 million paying customers), who play a browser-based version, a downloadable PC version, and most recently, an Xbox 360 edition. Its popularity is particularly impressive given that it uses a graphics engine that looks like it was borrowed from Castle Wolfenstein in 1993.

Persson took to the popular social news sharing site, Reddit, today to engage in an “Ask Me Anything” discussion thread, where famous people allow the community to ask any question within a specific period of time. The subjects of these “conferences” then take some time to answer inquiries that they find relevant, and the whole conversation — threaded across various responses and comments — is left up on Reddit for perusal later.

At this point already, users have posted 4,468 comments in the discussion covering a wide diversity of topics, including Persson’s opinion on the second-hand success revolving around his hit game, like the Minecraft Coder Pack and YouTube videos starring Minecraft. Below is a collection of selected questions and responses edited for clarity.

Searge
What is your personal opinion about the MCP project and it’s ability to decompile the game and make the source code kind of available to everyone? And how much do you think the fact that modding is made easy by systems like bukkit and MCP (and the number of available mods) affects the sales of Minecraft?

Notch
Personally, I used to feel threatened by it as I felt it challenged my “vision,” but on the other hand, I also know how wonderful mods are for games. We decided to just let it happen, and I’m very happy we did. Mods are a huge reason of what Minecraft is.

KillaMarci
Seeing as the YouTube community boosted Minecraft so much, do you watch any Minecraft YouTubers yourself regularly? Has any big company ever tried to “buy” Minecraft away from you or buy Mojang entirely? Is it true that you got bored of Minecraft and that’s why you left the lead developer position? If so, do you still get the urge to do some Minecraft coding now and then?

Notch
Yes, but I usually gravitate to their non-minecraft videos. Watching videos of Minecraft can feel weird after a while. Yes. We said no. I didn’t really get bored; I just wanted to move on to other things. I don’t get the urges to go back anymore, but about a month after I left, I missed it a lot. I tried not to let Jens [editor’s note: Jens Bergensten, now lead programmer for Minecraft] know that, though. ;)

SethBling
There are now dozens, maybe hundreds, of people making a living from Minecraft’s secondary market via YouTube, etc. What do you think of this secondary market? Do you have any insights on how the secondary market and Minecraft’s market have interacted with and fed each other?A side note: Thank you for enabling me to have one of the best jobs in the world!

Notch
It all kind of emerged organically. There’s probably a lot more we could do to support it more, so we’ll probably look more into that in the future. We’ve recently started partnering up with cool iOS apps by giving them more exposure and letting them brand themselves “official” in exchange for bags of money.

What else does Persson do for fun? Several users wanted to know.

ZedHeadEd
If you dont mind me asking, do you still play Minecraft for fun?

Notch
Unfortunately not. I used to play it quite a lot and find minor things to tweak, and now that I’m trying to stay out of development of it, the temptation to start “suggesting” things to Jeb is too strong. Besides, TF2 [editor’s note: Team Fortress 2, a popular, online, team-based shooter].

MarioBGE
Heh, I recently joined a random TF2 server with you playing on it, and damn, you’re good. Also, thank you for creating Minecraft. :)

Notch
Haha, thank you!

SirHephaestus
Hi Notch, I was wondering: What do you do at home when you’re not working?

Notch
I refresh Reddit over and over and over in like four different windows.

Some users asked about Persson’s current involvement in the game as well as his experience developing it, and then Persson turned it over to Bergensten.

SuperAccordionDude
What do you think about the latest updates of Minecraft? Are they still true to your vision of the game?

Notch
Other than a few minor things, they’re exactly in line with my vision. The adventure mode stuff is looking amazing, and the way the team managed to finally properly split client from server is wonderful for the game. Jens told me some of his plans for 1.4 and beyond, and hopefully it will allow for more competitive gameplay — something I’ve always wanted to see.

DeadComma
What are the minor things?

Notch
They’re adding more half blocks!! And the script block? Feels impure. Stuff like that.

DungeonMaster2ShopKeepersupercalu
Where did you get the idea for the way villagers look?

Notch
They’re inspired by the shop keepers in Dungeon Master 2 [pictured right].

robhoward
How much do your (Mojang’s) lawyers interfere/alter what you say in public?

Notch
None. I think they find it amusing. They’re great guys, by the way. They’ve been working as lawyers for game devs for many years and have lots of connections, and they like unconventional ways to resolve issues.

Other users focused on the more technical aspects of development, like using JavaScript or Persson’s new game, 0x10c.

daesoph
How much have you actually worked on 0x10c?

Notch
I’ve spent a lot of time on the DCPU specification and implementation, and fleshing out the game world, trying to come up with fun scenarios that I want happen in the game. Actual game content — not much at all. I did some live-streamed development and felt a constant pressure to move ahead fast, which built more hype that I intended and made me feel like I was rushing the game. Now I’m working slower on it until after PAX when I can recruit some other devs internally to help out, and I’m trying to talk less about it. My public enthusiasm for it builds way more hype than I want it to.

Zarutian
Someone had to ask, so why not me: Why Java?
By the way, I am addicted to Minecraft. Keep up the good work ;-)

Notch
I had been working primarily in Actionscript 3 and Java for five years when I started work on Minecraft and chose the language I felt most comfortable with. Specifically, my favorite tool in Java is hot code swapping in debug mode, meaning I can edit the code while the game is running and immediately see the results in the running game. This is super great for rapid tweaking. Java is not the fastest language out there, but I doubt I would’ve finished Minecraft if I did it in a language I enjoyed less, so I’m happy with the choice. Of course, when it came to putting the game on other platforms, we had to port large portions of the codebase — once for mobile phones, and then we had help from 4j to port it for XBLA.

Eiyeron
Just how do you enable correctly hot-swapping in eclipse? I ever wanted to know since the Prelude of the Chambered live.

Notch
Run the program in debug mode, edit the code, and save. It does not work for stuff that changes the class structure, but it does work for code within methods. Code is only swapped out when the thread enters the method, so a while(true) loop will never get swapped out.

And then, of course, the random, funny questions would pop up from time to time:

mollstam [editor’s note: a Minecraft developer]
What is the name of your beard?

Notch
Steve?

TwirledOriole
And just out of curiosity, what gender is it?

Notch
Extremely male.

scottyb2023
If you were able to create a game console, what would be the main feature?

Notch
Laser turrets.

bumpfire
Do you use shampoo or shower gel for your beard?!

Notch
Sometimes. I used conditioner once, and it was glorious.

And finally, a question about Persson’s favorite time playing the game he created:

ChaosRegiert
Since you are going to be flooded with questions…and right now, I don’t have anything to ask that others won’t also ask hundreds of times….I’d love to hear your favorite anecdote about Minecraft or the development of Minecraft. What is the story that you like to tell people? If there is nothing asked in particular — but some kind of entertaining story expected. At parties. Or at the bus station, whatever. I just started recently. Love the game. Thank you!

Notch
The most fun I’ve ever had playing the game was back before infinite worlds when water had a constant volume. I joined some random server and kinda emergently just started to build a castle with a few people. I built some pretty good looking stables, then we got started on the moat and accidentally flooded it too early. In an attempt to get rid of the water, I dug down and fell into a cave, which proceeded to get flooded as well. It was not a pretty castle.

Obviously, a ton more questions and answers reside in the original thread, but it’s touching to see someone as “big and famous” as Markus Persson taking the time to engage people he’s never met in a setting that isn’t about marketing a new game or selling a current one.

[Source: Reddit]

Filed under: games


Rackspace CEO: ‘We’re playing a different game’ than Amazon


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For Rackspace, there’s no turning back from OpenStack now. As of Wednesday, all new customer workloads will deploy on the company’s open source cloud computing platform, leaving the company’s legacy platform for existing customers that want to take their time transitioning to the new cloud. Now, the competition to dethrone cloud king Amazon Web Services really begins. Or does it?

I recently spoke with Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier, who shared his vision for how OpenStack is changing his company from the inside out and how he doesn’t necessarily view Amazon as direct competitor.

On competing with Amazon

Rackspace’s new cloud control panel

Looking at the new Rackspace Cloud portfolio — which now includes computing, object storage, database, monitoring and a new control panel, and which will soon include software-defined networking and block storage capabilities — one can’t be faulted for assuming Rackspace is trying to go toe to toe with the feature-rich AWS. It’s even harder to shake the thought when you hear, as I did a couple months ago from Rackspace CTO John Engates, that the company is thinking about higher-level features such as managed Hadoop or NoSQL services.

But Napier insists that while all the features might be necessary to address customers’ needs, table stakes if you will, it’s not Rackspace’s goal to compete with Amazon for sheer number of developers or market revenue share. “AWS, in particular, is playing a scale game,” he said, “We’re playing a different game.”

That game is about speed and performance — which OpenStack has let Rackspace improve upon significantly — and, most importantly, service. (If you’ve talked to a Rackspace employee, you’ve no doubt heard the spiel about the company’s trademarked (literally) “fanatical support.”). Napier said the recurring theme among customers that use Rackspace and competing clouds is that they use Rackspace for the things with which they want help and a truly managed experience.

There’s a large segment of cloud users that want to pay for peace of mind, he said, which is where Rackspace excels. It will always remain competitive on price, but it doesn’t expect to be the low-price leader. “If somebody want to … get the rock-bottom cheapest price, we believe there are better options than us.”

Still, Rackspace will have to concern itself with AWS, especially as it increasingly targets enterprise workloads with managed services, enhanced security and control, and, yes, lower prices. Now that it’s building technology rather than just assembling other companies’ tech, Rackspace also will have to concern itself with former partners, such as Microsoft and VMware, that are pushing their own public and private cloud agendas (Rackspace launched its Cloud Builders business last year to help customers deploy their own OpenStack clouds).

To that point, Napier joked, “We’re in an interesting, hyper-competitive time in tech. Maybe we need to launch a search engine.” However, he reiterated, customers care about service as well as technology. “What they’re really paying for is an incredible outcome.”

On competing with OpenStack partners

Aside from competitive cloud platforms, though, Rackspace also has to deal with the host of other OpenStack members, such as HP, Internap and Dell rolling out their own OpenStack-based public clouds. There’s also a small but growing group of startups building and selling their own OpenStack software, and the result has been a something like a revolving door of talent among companies — including out of Rackspace.

Napier thinks the movement of employees within the ecosystem is natural as it shapes up, and is just one of the tradeoffs Rackspace had to make in order to let OpenStack grow organically like a true open source project. “There’s going to be a lot of competition within the stack to figure out which platform gets the most traction,” he said. However, he noted, “as long as the community is advancing, we benefit from that.”

The bigger issue would be if the project began splintering like UNIX did in the 1990s and lost its opportunity to take on the proprietary incumbent providers. But, Napier said, everyone seems to be trying hard to ensure that doesn’t happen. (Well, everyone except Citrix, maybe.)

On becoming a new company

Lanham Napier

If it’s surprising to hear all this talk about cloud computing from the CEO of a company that still gets the majority of its revenue from managed hosting, you haven’t been paying attention. Rackspace’s cloud business has been growing far faster than its legacy hosting business and, Napier said, now accounts for between 20 and 25 percent of what should be roughly $1.2 billion in revenue this year. “I actually think that if you roll the tape forward just a few years, it’s going to be inverted,” he said.

And being a cloud provider first means big changes in how the company invests in technology, because technology now opens up new business models. For starters, Napier said, OpenStack has been Rackspace’s biggest software investment ever. Looking at its recent earnings, you’ll see the company has been spending about $15 million a quarter on “capitalized software and other projects” (more than it has been spending on data center build outs) and most of that is OpenStack.

While software spending is at an all-time high, though, Napier expects Rackspace’s hardware spending to drop pretty significantly in the coming years. In part, that’s because OpenStack, by design, allows it to do more with less and to invest in commodity gear instead of the branded gear that managed hosting customers prefer. Rackspace’s involvement in Facebook’s Open Compute Project, which is centered around ultra-efficient no-frills server and storage hardware, and the ARM-based TryStack cloud  should also pay dividends in the form of ever less-expensive and more-efficient gear.

“As these projects gather more stream and momentum,” Napier said, “you’ll see our investment allocation skew more and more toward software.”




Test drive the Asimov lunar rover by backing the Part-Time Scientist’s Kickstarter project


This post is by Evan Rodgers from The Verge - All Posts


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Rover

Unlike other space-bound Kickstarter projects, the Part-Time Scientists and their Remote Rover Experiment (RRE) aren’t seeking to build an end-product using crowd-sourced funding, but rather to design and build a testing ground for their prototype Asimov rover. The team has 22 days left to raise $100,000 so that they can secure a 200-square meter open area where their Asimov lunar rover will be pitted against as many of the Moon’s harsh conditions as the team can emulate.

Donors that contribute $15 or more will receive an RRE Voucher, which will guarantee an opportunity to test drive the Asimov remotely on the test-site once it’s built. The project’s $500 tier is perhaps even more interesting — the team will send you a fully…

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SeatGuru app brings its color-coded airplane seat maps to Android


This post is by Nate Ralph from The Verge - All Posts


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SeatGuru Logo

SeatGuru has finally arrived on Android, bringing the popular website’s color-coded airline seating maps to Google’s mobile platform. The app debuted on iOS in March, and mimics the website’s functionality rather closely. Punch in your flight number and SeatGuru will identify the type of plane you’ll be flying on — displaying a color-coded map of the best and worst seats on your flight. The app can also track your flight’s status, and offers ticket purchasing along with airfare comparisons. SeatGuru is a free download, available now on the Google Play store.

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The Mechanics Of A Small Acquisition – How One Startup Navigated a Multi-Million Dollar Exit


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ExitStrategy

Stypi is a YCombinator backed startup that was recently acquired by Salesforce.com.

Their story details the mechanics for how a small company can manage an acquisition. It provides lessons for startups going through the process for the first time.

Stypi is a real-time editor that multiple people can edit at the same time. It also supports several programming languages which makes it an especially cool collaborative tool.

Jason Chen is one of the founders who now works at Salesforce.com on the Stypi project. His story mostly relates to acquisitions of $25 million or less.

Here are his five insights into the courtship and the eventual exit:

First Contact. That first contact is like meeting someone from the opposite sex. Intentions are confusing but the prospects are enticing. First forays are usually from a founder or the corporate development department of a larger company. These people usually act on behalf of an interested internal team. Get comfortable with this person as this is the individual who will set up and facilitate your meetings. This person is also the one you eventually haggle with over terms.

Further, be prepared for a long courtship. It can cost a lot of money to go through a deal and in the end there may be nothing to show for it. Don’t believe the finish line is just yards away. If you get rejected, then it will hurt all the more.

Courtship. A series of meetings will take place. Mutual NDAs are part of the ritual with larger companies. Decisions to go forward are made quickly after each meeting. Remember, rejection can go both ways. Chen said they decided to end the relationship early with more than half of interested potential acquirers. Meetings move fast when things are going well. Priority for acquisition meetings are reasonably high.

Term Sheet. The relationship is not exclusive. Hopefully you are lucky enough to be pursuing several. Each company will have its own way for managing the term sheet process. How long this takes comes down to due diligence. It’s not unreasonable to ask for timelimes so expectations can be set.

One you get a term sheet, it’s time to celebrate such an incredible accomplishment. Then it is time to get a lawyer who negotiates the key terms. The lawyer will explain it all and help you decide how hard to push for more favorable terms.

Due Diligence and Closing. When the term sheet is signed, it’s time to start acting like two companies that have decided to join together.  The terms sheet requires you to reject any other outstanding offers for a period of 45 days. There will be reviews of any document you ever signed. Anyone can back out at any time but the deal is usually a go unless you are hiding something like a lawsuit or stealing code.

A lot of time goes into signing forms and tracking people down for signatures. It’s like any transaction. There can be a lot of last-minute scurrying.

Exit. This is up to you.  Some have giant parties while others take time off and buy sports cars. Chen says For Stypi, life has not changed very much. They went straight to work the day after closing. For them, Stypi still has a long way to go before they can say they have achieved what they envisioned.


Guy Adams Talks About His Time In Twitter Exile After NBC Olympics Tweets [TCTV]


This post is by Colleen Taylor from TechCrunch


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Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 8.16.14 PM


There has been quite a brouhaha around Twitter, NBC, and The UK Independent reporter Guy Adams these past couple days. It boils down to this: Adams’ Twitter account was suspended after he tweeted out the email address of the NBC executive in charge of the network’s much-criticized handling of broadcasting the Olympics. After a massive uproar online, Adams’ account has since been reinstated, and Twitter has issued a public apology — but it’s safe to say, this has been largely perceived as a massive fail on the part of NBC and especially of Twitter. As a newer and supposedly more progressive company, people seemed to hold the microblogging service to a higher standard, and many are saying that much of the “good will” around the company has been eroded.

We were pleased to have Adams give TechCrunch TV a call via Skype from his home base in Los Angeles to talk about the situation. Watch the video above to hear his thoughts on the suspension, the “dodgy deal” he says Twitter clearly struck with NBC, how Twitter has reached out to make amends, and why after it all he’s still grateful to be back on the service today.


From peace drones to toothbrushes: 4 MassChallenge stars


This post is by Barb Darrow from GigaOM


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There was a lot to see at the MassChallenge Class of 2012 coming out party Tuesday night when the Boston-based accelerator’s 125 finalist startups strutted their stuff for media and investors. Here are my four favorites. (So far.)

1: Drones for Peace. We all know the impact unmanned aerial drones have had in war. Rotary Robotics co-founders James Peverill and Adam Woodworth saw that up close working with the military, but wanted to find a better way to put that technology to use. Their plan is to create inexpensive 1-lb drones that could help reporters crowd-source stories (a la the Arab Spring) or give farmers a bird’s eye view of their land. The planes themselves are made mostly of off-the-shelf Radio Shack type gear. Their secret sauce is the software and integration that will take a GPS location from Google Maps, send it to the WiFi-enabled drone, which then flies off to film the subject from a few hundred feet in the air.

2: Little Bonsai. This two-man shop, founded by Olin College graduates Jake Felser, a mechanical engineer, and Oliver Haas, a designer, wants to offer well-crafted, locally-made and sustainable gear for everyday use. Toward that end, they’re crafting a reusable toothbrush with replaceable head. Estimating that most people go through four toothbrushes per year, cast-off brushes account for 50 million tons of trash annually, the company says. Shocking, no? Electric toothbrushes sport replaceable heads, but many people don’t like them and, Felser said, there is no evidence to support claims that they are more effective than manual brushes.  Little Bonsai plans to put the idea on Kickstarter this fall.

3: Bio-Fiend.  The growing use of biofuels is leading to an increase in the hard-to-recycle byproduct glycerine. The mining and transportation of iron ore and other materials creates “fragdust” blow-off from iron ore that causes health problems, as well as the loss of up to 5 percent of the ore itself as it is transported. Bio-Fiend, a Brazilian startup, says it can tackle two problems with one idea.  Its glycerine polymerization process takes the waste glycerine and creates a dust suppressor which is applied to ore before it is transported. That keeps the ore dust with the ore and out of the surrounding environment, said Fernanda Vidal, industrial engineer on the project.

4: SoundFest. Nearly 700 million people will need help hearing by 2016, according to the World Health Organization. SoundFest is building a smartphone app it says can replace expensive, ungainly hearing aids.  CEO David Duehren was co-founder and CTO of Brooktrout Technology and knows a little something about audio processing. SoundFest embeds signal processing software into phones or tablets to turn them into “personal sound amplification devices.”  The Real Clarity app, due this fall,  runs on iPhones and Android devices. The company is also working on an optional bluetooth ear piece to work with the app to provide wireless hearing assistance. The earpiece also enables the phone to act as a remote microphone.

This is just a small sample of the 125 finalists — culled from 1,237 entrants.  They will take part in a three-month accelerator program, vying for up to $1 million in funding divvied out in $10,000-plus increments to 10 to 20 winners.




Dropbox says spam tied to stolen passwords, employee’s list of user emails


This post is by Jeff Blagdon from The Verge - All Posts


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happy dropbox

Earlier this month, some Dropbox users began complaining about spam coming to addresses that they only used for the online storage and syncing service, leading the company to open an investigation into the issue. Dropbox concluded that it hadn’t been hacked, but up until now hasn’t been able to offer an explanation for the spam. So what exactly happened? In a Wednesday blog post, the company concludes that access to “a small number” of Dropbox accounts was achieved with user passwords stolen from other websites. As for the spam, the company says that one of these stolen passwords allowed someone to access a project document in a Dropbox employee’s folder; one that contained multiple user email addresses.

The notion that the company…

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Nearly 40 iPhone and iPad prototypes revealed in Samsung trial


This post is by Dieter Bohn from The Verge - All Posts


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iphone prototypes

Today at the Apple vs. Samsung trial, Apple designer Christopher Stringer took to the stand as Apple’s first witness. In the course of his testimony about Apple’s design process, he showed dozens of rejected iPhone and iPad designs — including some he actually showed in person. They give us yet another look at Apple’s design process and reveal a bit about how the company forms its design aesthetic. Some of the newly revealed phones do appear to have more in common with Sony’s design aesthetic than Apple’s, for example “Apple Proto 87” goes for a flat, black metallic look with all the major buttons and ports on the side of the device.


Stringer said that Apple created “hundreds” of different models over the course of the design…

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Hulu shows off new shows – why one of them needs to be a hit


This post is by Daniel Frankel from GigaOM


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Speaking at the tail end of a two-week summer gathering of television critics in Beverly Hills Tuesday, Hulu senior VP of content Andy Forssell conceded his company stands out as a little bit of an “odd animal” at the event.

“We’re not a TV network and we’re not a studio. We’re a distributor … But we share a lot of DNA with you,” he told the dwindled gathering of about 70 exhausted TV bloggers and newspaper writers.

Also read: Hulu enters the international co-production business, with the BBC’s The Thick of It

Indeed, just like Hulu’s broadcast-network corporate cousins, ABC, Fox and NBC — which earlier rolled out their series talent and producers in daylong sessions at the Television Critics Association press tour — Hulu needs a hit.

The company has not released an updated subscriber number for its premium Hulu Plus platform since announcing that it surpassed the 2 million level in the first quarter.

Of course, if you live up north in Los Gatos, Calif., and your name is Netflix, that kind of caginess might trigger investor revolt. Last week, for example, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings matter-of-factly hinted that Olympics viewing might — might — impact third-quarter subscriber growth, and Netlix stock spiraled.

Also read: Larry King returns – New show kicks off on Hulu Tuesday

A joint venture between News Corp., Disney and Comcast/NBCUniversal, Hulu doesn’t have the misfortune of having its subscriber data held to the fire of mandated quarterly earnings reports.

Nonetheless, the service is hoping one — or a few — of the original productions and exclusive foreign acquisitions it presented Tuesday becomes the kind watercooler hit that drives subscription growth.

Here’s who Hulu rolled out for TV scribes:

>> Timothy “Speed” Levitch, the quirky star of quirky neat-places-to-visit show Up to Speed. A history-buff guide on a double-decker bus tour in New York City, Levitch became something of a local legend and was shuttled off onto the road of internet video stardom when Gen X indie film darling Richard Linklater “discovered” him. Linklater wasn’t on hand Tuesday, but producers Dana O’Keefe and Alex Lipshultz appeared alongside Levitch to make sure he didn’t go off the rails. O’Keefe described the show — which debuts on Hulu and Hulu Plus August 9 — as a “travel and history show for people who don’t like travel and history shows.”

>> TV interview legend Larry King, whose new zeitgeist-focused show debuted in mid-July. King resisted writers’ attempts to take shots at his ratings-challenged former employer, CNN, which presented hours earlier on the same stage. He also said there’s been no drop-off in his ability to draw celebrity guest to his interview chair, even though he now does his thing on the internet, and he’s coming off a two-year retirement. “If we call, the call gets taken,” he said.

>> Writer Armando Iannucci, whose British political satire series, The Thick of It, is now co-produced by Hulu. Series stars James Smith and Joanna Scanlan also appeared on the brief Q&A panel. The series launches on Hulu July 29.

>> Tom Hollander and James Wood, creators of the British comedy series Rev, another BBC show, which mixes religion and comedy. Both men were petrified of offending the easily offended TCA gathering, self-correcting each “Oh my god” with “I mean, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

>> Gideon Raff, writer-director of Israel’s award-winning drama series Prisoners of War, which debuted on Hulu July 14, also appeared, alongside show stars Mili Avigal and Ishai Golan.

>> Hulu also announced Tuesday that it has picked up season four of British science fiction series Misfits, as well as season two of psychological thriller The Booth at the End.




Samsung angers judge by sending rejected evidence from Apple trial to the media


This post is by Nilay Patel from The Verge - All Posts


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samsung phone designs

The Apple vs. Samsung trial was always destined to be a circus, but Samsung’s already causing trouble on the first day of testimony: Judge Lucy Koh is furious that the company sent the press rejected evidence after the court overruled repeated attempts to introduce it at trial.

Samsung has been desperate to tell the jury about its F700 phone — which was in development months before the January 2007 introduction of the iPhone — and internal Apple emails that show the company pursuing a “Sony-style” design for the phone. All of this information has been public for days, but Samsung’s motions to include it at trial have been denied because the company produced it too late in the discovery process. (For what it’s worth, Apple has…

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Shiny new Digg v.1 relaunch goes live


This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat


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Iconic social news sharing site Digg launched a completely revamped version of the service today, one day ahead of schedule.

Previously, Digg was focused almost entirely on allowing users to vote on community submitted URLs, with the best stuff rising to the top for increased presence and generating massive traffic for the site that hosted the content. It got to about four versions under its previous owners, who attempted to change Digg in an effort to boost monetization. Changes in the old Digg v.4 made the site a convoluted mess of activity, which slowly drove away the bulk of its active users after launching almost two years ago.

By contrast, it took Digg’s new owners about six weeks to completely re-imagine the site as well as formulate a plan to restore Digg to its former glory. It was completely rebuilt from scratch, which is why the team is calling this the new version 1.

“The old Digg infrastructure was expensive and it afforded us little latitude to innovate and build at a fast clip,” the team wrote in a new frequently asked questions page. “We are starting with a fresh code base — it’s modern, it’s fast, and it’s shiny and new.”

And while I haven’t spent much time playing around with it, the new Digg is already more inviting than the one I saw over the past two years.

Just as yesterday’s relaunch preview described, the new Digg is much cleaner and quicker than the previous version. Familiar visual elements, like  “digger” icons and 8-bit shovels, are gone. The abundance of Blue, Yellow, and Green have been replaced with lots of white space. But the biggest difference is undoubtedly the absence of submitted stories listed vertically along with a prominent box displaying the number of Digg votes next to headlines.

The new Digg also does something unlike most social news sharing services that have a centralized front page: it lets the content speak for itself.

Much like the wire frames indicated in the Digg preview, the site displays more important stories as larger, along with that story’s image. If you’ve gone through the bulk of “Top Stories” on the front page, just below it is a list of “popular” submissions, which displays user names and activity data (Digg votes, social shares, etc.) in addition to the submission’s headline. Below that is the “upcoming” stream of real-time submissions.

Some of the things the new Digg team will be working on over the next few months include experimental commenting features, alternate front page story views, a better mobile experience, reading list for web visitors, and a new Digg API. The team is also working on a way to restore all the user data from previous versions of the site. (For now, the team has set up a page where old Digg users can sign up to get notifications about getting their data back.)

I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts on the site once I’ve had a chance to play with it. For now, let us know what you think about the new Digg revamp in the comment section below.

Filed under: social


Many Devices, Many Files and Four Ways to Share Them


This post is by from AllThingsD » Walt Mossberg


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Now that many millions of people have multiple computing devices — laptops, tablets, smartphones — it can be a real pain to make sure you have the document or file you need on the device you’re using at any one time. And if you’re trying to share those documents to collaborate on a project, emailing can quickly become confusing, especially if they are frequently edited or annotated.


[ See post to watch video ]

A number of services are battling it out to act as trusted online repositories for important documents that can be accessed on all your computers and devices, and shared with others. Some even go beyond file storage to include built-in editing and collaboration tools that live on remote servers instead of on devices. In Silicon Valley, this is considered one form of the big trend called cloud computing.

This week, I took a look at some of the leading online file storage and sharing services. I didn’t try to pick a winner, since they all worked fine for me. And I didn’t do an in-depth review of them. Instead, my aim here is just to explain the category and highlight some of the key competitors. I compared their main features and costs.

Overall, this type of service is useful for anyone with many computers and devices, either for personal or group use.

I chose to look at four of the best-known services aimed primarily at consumers: Dropbox, SugarSync, Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive. I omitted one big player, Box, because it is primarily aimed at businesses, while these columns are written for average consumers. I also chose to omit Apple’s iCloud service, because its document storage feature only works today with a few Apple-built apps and only on Apple products. There are many smaller, less well known, alternatives not discussed here.

image

Dropbox is the best known and simplest of the main online-storage services

Most of these services work in basically the same way. They establish a special folder on your computer and install a small program to monitor that folder. Any file you place in that folder is synchronized with a similar special folder on any other computer where you’ve installed the program, as well as with a virtual hard disk stored on a remote server that’s accessible via a Web browser or a mobile app.

If a file saved to the special folder is changed in one place, that change is replicated everywhere else. So the files are both backed up in multiple places and synced. All the services work on both Windows and Mac and on both Apple and Android-powered mobile devices. Each offers a teaser amount of free storage online for these files and then charges for storing more, at various amounts. For simplicity, I compared their annual fees for a 100-gigabyte account, more than enough for most average folks.

Each of the contenders claims to be secure and requires a password, but, like everything on the Internet, there is no way to be absolutely certain their security is impregnable.

Dropbox

This service from a small company, Dropbox Inc., is the best known, and simplest, of the bunch. It also claims to be the most popular. You can share individual files via links you can email or post online that will bring up the file in a browser. You also can create shared folders to which you can give access to others. Dropbox also can be set to automatically import photos from cameras or smartphones. But it has the stingiest free-storage offer — just 2 gigabytes — and is relatively costly, charging $99 for a 100-gigabytes plan.

SugarSync

Also from a small company, SugarSync Inc., and well-established, this service has a feature called Magic Briefcase that is similar to Dropbox. But its big advantage is that it doesn’t require this special folder. Instead, it can synchronize and back up online your existing folder structure, so you don’t have to remember to place important files in the special folder.

For instance, it can keep your pictures folders on a Windows and Mac computer in sync, and make the photos available online or through a mobile app. It also allows you to share files with others. But linking all these folders can be complicated, which is why SugarSync is preparing a radical overhaul to simplify the process. It is also the costliest of the services I compared. While it offers 5 gigabytes free, a 100-gigabyte account costs $150 a year.

SkyDrive
image

IPhone app for Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which offers the most free storage of the bunch.

Microsoft’s contender offers the most free storage of this group — 7 gigabytes — and the lowest price for 100 gigabytes, just $50 a year. This month, it will roll out a revamped user interface and a companion Android app similar to its existing Apple mobile app. But its biggest advantage is that it is deeply integrated with the world’s most popular document-creation tool, Microsoft Office, on both Windows and Mac. It features a stripped-down, but capable, online version of Office that works in any browser. And any file you store on SkyDrive can be edited in your computer’s local copy of Office, if it’s a recent version, at the push of a button. You can also save files directly to SkyDrive from Office on your computer.

Google Drive

This relatively new service wraps storage and synchronization around Google’s online productivity suite, Google Docs. So, like SkyDrive, it features built-in editing and collaboration, though it can’t directly edit Microsoft Office files, which must first be converted to Google’s formats. It also offers numerous third-party apps, like one for drawing diagrams. The service offers 5 gigabytes free, and charges just $60 a year for 100 gigabytes — almost as little as SkyDrive.

Again, all of these services worked for me. But you might prefer, say, SkyDrive, for its bigger free storage, and tie-in to Microsoft Office; or SugarSync, for its ability to work with your existing folders. You can try several before deciding. It costs nothing to give them a test drive.

Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.

An In-Between PC


This post is by from AllThingsD » Walt Mossberg


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Q:

I am a retired person with an old iMac that is on its last legs. In about six months I plan to replace it with a MacBook Air, but currently my budget is very challenged. I use my computer mainly for email, Google and some note taking/writing. It has occurred to me that purchasing a $300 netbook with Windows Starter might be a good interim solution. Does that make sense?

A:

Netbooks with Windows Starter are more cramped and limited than either your current or planned Macs. And they aren’t built with the finest components. But given your budget and computing needs, one should do fine for you—provided you are willing to tackle the modest learning curve involved with switching operating systems.

Q:

Are all-in-one printers (printer, fax, copier) as reliable as single function printers, i.e. printer only? Is there more chance that combo models will require service than single function printers?

A:

I own, and have owned, both types of printers, and haven’t noticed any difference in reliability, nor have I received any significant number of complaints about the multifunction models. All popular consumer printers are sold at low prices and the real money is in the ink. So in my experience, the printers themselves could be more rugged.

Q:

Do you know if there is a feature to turn off the ability of Google’s new Nexus 7 tablet to track a user’s location and Web history?

A:

The Nexus 7’s Google Now feature, which automatically presents relevant information on topics like weather and traffic and flights, depends on the device knowing your location and Web history.

You can opt in or out of allowing the device to track this data, though doing so totally can require several steps and will disable major functions of Google Now and some other features of the Nexus 7. More information is at http://bit.ly/OwdImR.

Write to Walt at walt.mossberg@wsj.com