Shell Oil: The last gasoline car will be built in 2070

This post is by Antony Ingram, Green Car Reports from VentureBeat

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The disappearance of internal-combustion engines is far from inevitable today, but several groups and governments are now predicting when the last gasoline vehicles will be sold.

The latest prediction comes from a particularly unlikely source: Shell Oil Company, one of the largest petroleum producers in the world.

The company predicts in its latest report that petroleum-powered cars could be nearly gone by 2070.

The concept is part of Shell’s ‘New Lens Scenarios’, reports Autoblog Green. They are forward-looking predictions that help the company decide how to operate over the coming years.

Shell is actually no stranger to such scenario-building, and 2013 actually marks the 40th year of this policy. This year, Shell has developed two New Lens Scenarios, which it terms “Mountains” and “Oceans”.

Each predicts a future based on two possible paths the global economy may take over the coming decades, when affected by technological developments and the global population.

Changing pressures

In both scenarios, that global population is expected to top 9 billion by 2050. The future could be very different for those 9 billion depending on each scenario, though.

In Mountains, a ‘lens’ in which incumbent governmental and economic power persists, natural gas would become a dominant fuel by the 2030s while demand for liquid fuels derived from oils falls.

In terms of transportation, we’d be driving much less — only 1,200 miles per year, on average, a tiny fraction of average U.S. mileage today — thanks to shorter average journeys from a more city-centric population, and better use of two-wheeled transport and public transport.

Economic growth would be sluggish, though, and it’s not great news for the environment — the target of no more than a 2-degree centigrade rise in global temperatures would have been surpassed.

In Oceans, Shell predicts a world with greater understanding and compromise. The world would be a more prosperous one, but dwindling food, energy, and water become the new priorities.

Natural gas doesn’t take off in the way it’s now expected to, but solar grows to become the world’s largest energy source. Still, the march of climate change outpaces technological developments, forcing society to make “significant adaptions”.

Oil phased out by 2070… or sooner?

In each scenario, Shell’s overall estimate is that by 2070, the passenger road market could be “nearly oil-free”, with electricity and hydrogen the dominant means of fueling road transportation.

There’s far too much detail to replicate Shell’s full report (you can read the full 48-page PDF file here) but it’s a fascinating look into possible future outcomes with regards to social pressures, energy, and the global economy.

It may also be outpaced by developments in individual countries. German site eCarTec reports that Swiss green pressure group wants electric cars to dominate as soon as 2050, promoting electric charging and wider use of electric vehicles.

Other visions have been even more severe, such as UK governmental proposals that make any vehicle that’s not a hybrid, plug-in, or zero-emission illegal by 2040 – though such plans were criticized for lacking realism.

Ultimately, none of us can predict the future. But when global firms like Shell start assuming that gasoline will go away, the next 100 could be very interesting indeed.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.


Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others urge Congress to enact NSA reforms

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

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Much as they did a month ago with a previous bill, several tech giants have signed on to an open letter in support of the recently-introduced USA Freedom Act. AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all endorsed the bill, which would limit the FISA rules the NSA currently uses to justify bulk collection of data. The letter focuses primarily on the issue of transparency, namely allowing these companies to disclose more information about what data the government has requested of them. Each company has taken a slightly different path in trying to get the government to change its policies surrounding this kind of transparency — but aligning together behind this bill could be a good sign that it could pass, especially since it…

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Is LinkedIn Intro good, bad, or impossible?

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When LinkedIn posted LinkedIn Intro: Doing the Impossible on iOS, I was intrigued. The post title was provocative (presumably as intended) and drew a lot of attention from various people in the security world. Several of these posts were deeply critical which generated another post from LinkedIn titled The Facts about LinkedIn Intro. By this point I had sent emails to several of my friends who were experts in the email / SMTP / IMAP / security ecosystem and was already getting feedback that generally trended negative. And then I saw this post titled Phishing With Linkedin’s Intro – a clever phishing attack on Intro (since fixed by LinkedIn).

All of this highlights for me my general suspicion around the word “impossible” along with the complexity that is increasing as more and more services interconnect in non-standard ways.

One of the thoughtful notes I got was from Scott Petry — one of my good friends and co-founder of Authentic8 (we are investors).  Scott co-founded Postini and a bunch of email stuff at Google after Google acquired Postini in 2007. Following are his thoughts on LinkedIn Intro.

I am all for seamless integration of services. And while “man in the middle” is commonly seen as a pejorative, the MITM approach can enable integrations that weren’t readily available previously.

Postini, which started life as a spam-filtering service, became a huge email MITM enabling all sorts of email processing not available on the mail server itself. Seamless integration was a big part of our success: companies pointed their mx record to Postini; Postini filtered and passed the good stuff on to the company’s mail server. While controversial in 1999, DNS redirect-based services have become accepted across all ports and protocols. Companies such as Cloudflare, OpenDNS, Smartling, and more all offer in-line services that improve the web experience through DNS-level MITM-type model. Simple to configure and high leverage. They just aren’t thought of as MITM services.

Extending functionality of services by authorizing plug-ins to gain access to your data can be really useful as well. I use Yesware in Gmail to help track messages and automate responses when I send company-related marketing/sales emails. It’s a great service, enabling functionality not previously available, and you could think of this as a man in the middle as well. It is important to point out that in the case of Yesware and DNS style integrations, I need to explicitly approve the integration. The details are made available up front.

New levels of integrated services are coming online daily. And vendors are getting more and more clever with APIs or skirting them altogether in order to get their app in front of us. It’s natural to be sucked in by the value of these services and it’s easy to overlook any downside. Especially given that for many of them, the people who are paid to think about security ramifications aren’t in the loop. They can be installed and configured by end users, not IT. And most users take the security for granted … or overlook it all together.

Last week, on the LinkedIn engineering blog, details on the new LinkedIn Intro app were shared. Intro integrates dynamic LinkedIn profile information directly into the iOS email app. It didn’t get much attention when it was launched, but once the engineering team blogged about how did the impossible to integrate with the iOS email client, the story blew up.

LinkedIn Intro does a beautiful job of auto-discovering your environment and auto-configuring itself. A click or two by the user, and she’s up and running with active LinkedIn data in her email app.

All this clever engineering hides the fact that LinkedIn is accessing your email on your behalf. Intro uses an IMAP proxy server to fetch your mail where they modify it, then deliver it to your iPhone. Classic Man in the Middle.

If you remember setting up your mail service on your iPhone, it is a bit clunky. You need to know the host names of your service, the ports, encryption values, etc. It isn’t easy. But you don’t do any of this with Intro. Instead of going through the usual configuration screens on iOS, Intro uses Apple’s “configuration profiles” capability auto discover your accounts and insert their servers in the middle. And since it uses OAuth to log in, it doesn’t even need to ask for your credentials.

They do such a good job of hiding what they’re doing that the significance of the data issues were lost on everyone (except the security researchers who raised the brouhaha).

This weekend, LinkedIn made another blog post. In their words, they wanted to “address inaccurate assertions that have been made” and “clear up these inaccuracies and misperceptions”. The post followed the PR playbook to the letter.

With one small exception concerning a profile change, the post does nothing to clear up inaccuracies and misperceptions. Instead, their post lists their reassurances about how secure the service is.

Even with these assurances, the facts remain. LinkedIn Intro pipes your email through their servers. All of it. LinkedIn Intro inserts their active web content into your email data. At their discretion.

With its clever engineering, Intro became a violation of trust. And worse, potentially a massive security hole. If the research community didn’t raise the alarm, the details of Intro’s integration wouldn’t have hit the radar.

I think the lesson here is twofold:

1) We live in a world where our data is scattered across a variety of disparate systems. It is incumbent on us to understand the risks and weigh them against the reward of the shiny new app promising to make our lives better. If something appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.

2) Vendors need to be more transparent about what they’re doing with our data. Especially if the vendor has a spotty reputation in privacy and security realms. If they’re not, the Internet community will do it for you.

The post Is LinkedIn Intro Good, Bad, or Impossible? appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

This story originally appeared on .


DJI’s latest Phantom drone beams aerial footage to your phone

This post is by Sean Hollister from The Verge - All Posts

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The DJI Phantom ready-to-fly quadcopter let amateur pilots capture amazing footage from the sky, but it didn’t come with the equipment necessary to actually film that footage, stabilize it, or see what you were shooting in real time. This week, the company’s introduced a copter that does. The new Phantom 2 Vision comes with a custom 14 megapixel, 1080p camera with a 60-degree tilting gimbal, an f/2.8 aperture lens, and a wide 140 degree field of view — all mounted on a shock-absorbing bracket to avoid the jitters which plagued the original GoPro-compatible model.

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Is cord cutting real, or does Time Warner Cable just suck?

This post is by Tom Cheredar from VentureBeat

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Is cord cutting real, or does Time Warner Cable just suck?
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The two largest cable service providers in the U.S. reported very different results when it came to subscription numbers — once again questioning the legitimacy of the consumer cord cutting movement, among other things.

Today Time Warner Cable reported that it had lost over 306,000 TV subscriptions (of 11.7 million total) during its third quarter, which is a much larger drop than analysts anticipated. That means well over a quarter of a million households were fed up with TWC and went elsewhere for their viewing pleasure.

This may have far more to do with TWC’s lackluster TV service than anything else. The huge TV subscriber drop really doesn’t prove cord cutting is a force because TWC also saw a drop in both its broadband Internet (24,000 fewer subscribers) and home phone services. And since many regions only have one high-speed ISP, you’d think the company’s broadband subscriber growth would at the very least stay flat if people were truly turning to the Internet for TV content.

TWC attributes the bulk of its TV subscriber loss to its month-long blackout of CBS, the country’s most watched broadcast network, and its stable of premium cable channels like Showtime. That may very well be true, but it’s certainly not the only reason customers canceled. It was probably just the last straw.

I’m a TWC subscriber who pays for extended basic TV package, so I can vouch for the fact that the company’s service is awful. The set-top box is ancient, and the operating system on it is slow, buggy, and redundant. You get the same channels repeated multiple times, some in HD and some in standard def. Other channels are frustratingly only available in either SD or HD but not both. Channels are grouped by genres (news, lifestyle, entertainment, sports, etc.), which is fine, but so is the on-demand content. And searching for something that crosses genres just plain sucks because you have to use the remote to type. This experience may have been barely acceptable several years ago, but certainly not today. If TWC ever experienced a blackout for one of the few channels I watched, I’d probably cancel immediately. Not just the TV portion — I’d get rid of everything.

On the other hand, the number one U.S. cable provider, Comcast, has been working on a much improved TV watching experience with the release of its X1 set-top box and operating system, as VentureBeat previously reported. (Of course Comcast isn’t without its share of mind-numbingly frustrating issues, either.) Comcast also reported a decline of 129,000 (of 21.6 million) TV subscribers for the third quarter, yet its broadband Internet subscribers rose to 20.3 million. But Comcast also didn’t have to deal with the CBS blackout, so it’s hard to say if we’d see an overall decline like TWC did.

So where does this leave TWC? Hopefully it’ll push the company to revolutionize its set-top boxes, for starters. It wouldn’t really even need to work that hard. Fanhattan’s Fan TV is currently looking to do this for cable providers, and yesterday Comcast execs told analysts that it would be open to licensing its X1 technology to other cable providers. But TWC might not even get the chance to do this if its subscription numbers keep dropping.

That said, Reuters is reporting that TWC is now much more open to the idea of merging with cable provider Charter Communications (the idea was first proposed to a very resistant TWC back in July). If that doesn’t happen, TWC now has to face a newly empowered Aereo, which offers all the basic broadcast stations for a fraction of TWC’s monthly price, not to mention competition from satellite TV service Dish Network and DirecTV.

We may not be witnessing the rise of the cord cutting movement, but this could be the downfall of TWC as a residential cable provider. The next few quarters will definitely be interesting.


Runtastic Releases Scary, Exciting “Story Running” To Encourage Your Ploddings

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libra scale

Runtastic, an Austrian running startup with an aim of hitting the Polars and Nikes of the world where it counts, has released something it’s calling “Story Running,” essentially an app that tracks your run and replays an audio story that becomes more exciting as you approach the high points of an interval run.

There have been a few of these already, most notably Zombies Run! and, unless you’re ensconced in a long audiobook, they do add a bit of aural pleasure to the long slog of keeping you out of an early grave. There are a number of genres, including “Fantasy,” “Adventure” and “Travel.”

Runtastic also announced the Libra scale, a BMI, bone mass, muscle mass, and BMR/AMR calculating scale that connects to an iOS device to track your weight and important statistics. It costs 129 euro and will be available in November.

Runtastic Releases Scary, Exciting “Story Running” To Encourage Your Ploddings

This post is by from TechCrunch

Click here to view on the original site: Original Post

libra scale

Runtastic, an Austrian running start-up with an aim of hitting the Polars and Nikes of the world where it counts has released something its calling “Story Running,” essentially an app that tracks your run and replays an audio story that becomes more exciting as you approach the high points of an interval run.

There have been a few of these already, most notably Zombies Run! and, unless you’re ensconced in a long audiobook they do add a bit of aural pleasure to the long slog of keeping ourselves out of an early grave. There are a number of genres including “Fantasy,” “Adventure,” and “Travel.”

Runtastic also announced the Libra scale, a BMI, bone mass, muscle mass, and BMR/AMR calculating scale that connects to an iOS device to track your weight and important statistics. It costs 129 Euro and will be available in November.

Circle Raises $9M Series A From Accel And General Catalyst To Make Bitcoins Mainstream

This post is by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch

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Circle Internet Financial has launched with $9M of Series A funding to increase mainstream adoption of digital currencies like Bitcoin by providing a payment platform for consumers and merchants. Investors include Jim Breyer, Accel Partners and General Catalyst Partners.

All three invested in Circle founder Jeremy Allaire’s previous startup Brightcove, an online video platform that went public in 2012.

Circle is a payment platform that wants to make it easy for businesses and consumers to use Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Despite its association with Deep Web black market Silk Road, as well as concerns over its stability, more consumers and companies are beginning to show interest in Bitcoins because they can facilitate online payments at lower costs and with greater security and privacy than existing electronic payment methods. One potential draw for merchants is avoiding the fees and risks of fraud and chargebacks associated with credit cards.

For consumers, Circle says it is building a secure platform that will protect consumer privacy. For businesses and charities, it will provide tools and services that enable them to accept digital currency payments with no transaction fees.

Circle’s Series A is one of the largest–if not the largest–amounts of funding secured so far by a digital currency startup. Other Bitcoin-based companies that have recently landed significant investment include Coinbase, which raised a $5 million Series A led by Union Square Ventures, and BitPay, which has received about $2.5 million to date from Founders Fund and various angel investors.

Other startups that have recently launched to take advantage of the increasing interest in Bitcoin include London-based Bitcoin exchange Coinfloor; music jukebox hack Beatcoin; micropayment platform BitWall; and whitelabel exchange Buttercoin.

In order for companies like Circle to be successful, however, they will have to allay concerns about regulatory issues. As Shakil Khan, founder of Bitcoin news Web site CoinDesk, pointed out last week during a Disrupt Berlin panel, average customers want to see some kind of regulation before they adopt Bitcoin. On the other hand, there are potential opportunities for digital currency companies around the world. For example, China’s government is beginning to show interest in Bitcoins (and a division of Chinese Internet giant Baidu recently started accepting Bitcoin payments).

Circle is based in Boston, with international operations headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The company is regulated by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury, as a money transmitter and is seeking state licenses. John Beccia, the former chief regulatory counsel for the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C., will also serve as Circle’s general counsel and chief compliance officer.

Allaire also co-founded of Allaire Corporation, creators of Web development language ColdFusion. Allaire Corp. was acquired by Macromedia in 2001, where Allaire became CTO and helped oversee the creation of a Flash-based application platform.

“Bitcoin and digital currency represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the future of the Internet and global commerce,” said Alliare in a statement. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to make payments easier, more secure and less costly for consumers and businesses. Digital currency can dramatically reduce the friction and costs currently experienced in the world by merchants and consumers.”

Jim Breyer, Partner at Accel Partners, will join Circle’s board of directors, as well as David Orfao of General Catalyst Partners.

“The dramatic global growth in mobile, social and online commerce is creating the need and potential for a real global digital currency. With Jeremy’s vision for Circle and track record as an Internet pioneer, the opportunity here is to potentially build a significant global company,” said Breyer.

Halloween on Instagram: Who got it right?

This post is by Jolie O'Dell from VentureBeat

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Halloween on Instagram: Who got it right?

@ms_living: “Wishing you a purr-fect Halloween! #tbt #thecatsmeow”

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GE, BMW, and even Martha Stewart aren’t above cuttin’ up a bit on All Hallows’ Eve.

Check out what the big brands served up to their Instagram followers to celebrate Halloween. It’s kind of adorable. Except when it’s totally awkward.

Who do you think got it right, and who fell flat? Let us know in the comments, and have a responsible, safe, punctual, thrifty, emotionally cautious, and thoroughly insured Halloween.


Nomorerack Raises $40M In Series B Financing To Build Depth Across Its Biggest Categories

This post is by Eliza Brooke from TechCrunch

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Less than one year after completing a $12 million Series A round, the multi-category retailer Nomorerack has raised $40 million in Series B financing led by Oak Investment Partners and HTV Industries. Although the company launched as a flash sales site in 2010, Nomorerack has since transitioned to position itself as an online retailer that offers deep discounts across the board in numerous categories.

The financing will go toward customer acquisition and building out the depth of its top categories, which include jewelry, apparel, electronics, home and lifestyle.

“At the end of the day, when we advertise on [sites like] MSN, the broader we are, the more appealing we are,” CEO Deepak Agarwal said.

The company did $9 million in revenue in 2011, north of $100 million in 2012, and is now on track to do close to $300 million, Agarwal said. It’s profitable, and about 70 percent of sales are repeat purchases from consumers. They are currently seeing around 5 million monthly unique visitors to the site.

The site started off featuring sets of nine items that would stay live for 24 hours before they were swapped out for another batch. Today, there are more than 3,000 deals available at any given time, curated by a 16-person buying team, many of which are live for months at a time. How long any given product remains available on the site is determined by an algorithm on the backend that takes into account revenue and sales volume.

“It started out as a daily deal and then over time has evolved to have deep breadth and depth. A lot of products do not get removed from the site. Whereas before, when we launched, they would only last for 24 hours.”

The site is able to offer discounts to consumers by buying directly from manufacturers and disrupting the typical retail pricing chain.

Agarwal said that while Nomorerack is taking market share away from brick-and-mortar stores like TJ Maxx, Target and Walmart, their consumers are shopping on similar sites like eBay and Amazon.

The site recently launched a full-scale jewelry boutique, a mechanism for building depth that they would like to apply to apparel and home, as well. The manufacturing chains for apparel and jewelry are especially ripe for disruption, Agarwal said, as there is a particularly high discrepancy between the manufacture cost and retail price of both. It’s not dissimilar to the recent push Amazon has made in the fashion category.

Home, the site’s biggest category, currently accounts for 30 percent of sales dollars, with electronics coming in second and fashion in third.

Acquiring customers is the company’s biggest expense, Agarwal said. The team is largely based on display advertising, with about 80 percent of marketing dollars going in that direction. That means advertising on sites like AOL, Yahoo, Facebook and Google, as well as running national television commercials, which Agarwal described as an effective driver for them.

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Google and Samsung sued for patent infringement by major tech consortium

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A new front opened today in the patent wars between large technology companies, as a consortium that owns thousands of patents from the Nortel bankruptcy auction filed suit against Google and other manufacturers alleging infringement. Rockstar, which is owned jointly by Apple, Blackberry, Ericsson, Microsoft, and Sony, filed suit in US District Court in Texas. In addition to Google, the consortium has alleged infringement by Asus, HTC, Huawei, LG, Pantech, Samsung, and ZTE.

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Ecomm Newcomer Greats Is Building A Brand On Sweet, Affordable Sneakers

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Someone should probably go make a Wikipedia page for the “Warby Parker model,” since it has rapidly become the go-to business strategy for online retail startups.

The latest addition to the genus Ecommerce Lowoverheadus is Greats, a men’s footwear brand that launched in August. The name derives from the ambition to put a fresh spin on the enduring designs in sneaker history. Although that might sound like copycat design, pretty much every shoe brand iterates on others’ designs; as with most menswear categories, the classics persist in one form or another.

Although their wares are manufactured in the same facilities as upscale lines like Lanvin and Balenciaga, the goal is to create high quality goods while keeping the price point low by cutting out retail overhead. The shoes are priced in the range of $39 to $190, and while early adopters will undoubtedly skew toward sneaker aficionados, the target audience is broad.

“We’re going to make shoes for men with feet,” co-founder Ryan Babenzien said.

Babenzien and his co-founder, Jon Buscemi, are career shoe guys. The former did branding and marketing at K-Swiss and Puma, while Buscemi already has founding another footwear brand, Gourmet Footwear, under his belt.

The company raised an angel round of $500,000 last April, at which point they hadn’t even opened a bank account, Babenzien said. They were pre-selling in beta until their launch on August 6 and only began shipping three weeks ago.

Like Warby, Greats got a lot of early attention from press, including the seal of cool-approval on GQ’s blog. Now the team is looking to raise its seed round.

More than anything, Greats is aiming to be a label, not a startup with a clever business model. When we spoke, Babenzien came back again and again to the idea of building a brand, and, more importantly, to making sure that the DNA of the product is readily recognizable to consumers from the get-go. (Lest we forget that, the site’s URL is

Greats launched with two styles in three colors each and will be rolling out six additional shoes over the course of the next year. Sneakers are a focus in the first batch, but they’ll also be adding styles like boots and boat shoes into the mix by the end of 2014.

At the moment, Greats’s profit margins are 60%, but the team thinks they can get them higher than that.

“I could have sold this for $120,” Babenzien said, gesturing at the $99 black leather sneakers he was wearing. “And nobody would have blinked. We wanted to make a real statement.”

Part of the team’s long-term roadmap is globalizing Greats. Babenzien said they have been seeing web traffic coming from France, England, Asia, Australia, and Canada.

“The culture of men’s sneakers and footwear is global… we’d like to get to $100 million in revenue in five years,” he said. “I think based on what we’ve seen, it’s well within reach.”

They’ll also be taking on auxiliary categories. Socks, for instance, are something they could get into in the near term. (“That’s more of a strategic category than anything else,” Babenzien said.) Bags and sweatshirts would naturally follow. Because sneakers are part of a youth culture, college age guys form a large portion of Greats’s potential market, and the brand has the opportunity to outfit them from the shoes up.

The company has been moving quickly since April, and they’re wasting no time in getting their products into the offline retail world, as well. On November 9, Greats is opening a hundred square foot shop in a small glass walled shopping complex on Williamsburg’s waterfront, which they’re calling the “Field House” in reference to the brand’s vintage athletic vibe. Customers can buy shoes in the shop, although Babenzien noted that it’s the only physical store in which people will be able to make purchases.

The store will only be open from noon to 7 pm on weekends, the point being to get consumers touching and test driving Greats shoes, rather than serving as a major retail location.

Although having an offline location was always in the team’s playbook, they didn’t expect to make the move so soon. But the Williamsburg space was cheap and didn’t have a lease, so they snatched it up.

Greats is also getting product into the real world with two displays at the upscale LA men’s store Union and at High Point, a sneaker Mecca in Phoenix. The shoes won’t be available for sale at either joint; it’s more about building the brand in the context of other sought-after designers.

The sneaker market for guys is big, and these shoes, with their buttery leather uppers, are sweet. (Unfortunately for the ladies, they’re not running unisex sizes just yet.) The tricky part about online native fashion startups is that the fashion part of the equation – finding the line’s voice and aesthetic point of view – so often loses out to a focus on being online native. Young, creative designers fail all the time out of a lack of business acumen, but a fashion label needs direction, achievable through tight branding and great product. The Greats guys get that.

Being A CIO At Tesla Motors, A Startup That Builds Cars And Its Own IT

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Tesla Motors has proven that it can build the most modern cars in the world. And apparently Elon Musk insisted they build their own IT systems and e-commerce platform, too.

Most all of Tesla’s IT is homegrown, said CIO Jay Vijayan, appearing onstage at the Constellation Research Connected Enterprise event today. The reason: the traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems did not cut it, and the company has a vertically integrated operation that required a custom environment.

The speed and agility Tesla needed in an ERP environment could not be found in the market, Vijayan said. SAP’s ERP tech was clearly not working for other car manufacturers and Vijayan knew what it would take to implement and update the SAP environment. “Elon said this is not going to cut it,” Vijayan said.

In four months, Vijayan and his team of more than 250 built the ERP system, which serves as the foundation of the electric carmaker’s operations. Now every department is using the same system without the need for making custom connectors, so different systems can work together.

The company also built a world-class e-commerce system that is designed to help people buy cars as seamlessly as possible.

Tesla needed to build its own IT and its own e-commerce system due to the fundamental difference in its business model. For decades, auto manufacturers have sold their cars through local dealers, a fixture of every town in America. But Tesla sells its cars directly to customers. All the materials, the processes and the features need an operation that is uniquely designed so Tesla can sell its cars online.

Tesla is another example of how much tech is being reinvented by young companies that have to build things themselves for their business models to work.

Amazon’s Kindle Countdown Deals give customers ticking-clock discounts

This post is by Bryan Bishop from The Verge - All Posts

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Amazon’s launched a new program that’s going to give Kindle owners discounts on ebooks — albeit in a rather high-pressure fashion. Kindle Countdown Deals are basically ticking-clock sales: users can visit the page for the Kindle edition of a participating book and see the discounted price, along with a bubble that counts down the minutes until the deal expires, complete with a warning about the pending price increase.

Amazon is positioning Countdown Deals as a way for books to gain additional exposure, with choices about the length of the sale and price put into the hands of the publisher. There are some guidelines, however. Ebooks must be exclusive to the Kindle to opt into the program, and the deals need to run between one day to a…

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AT&T is already exploring a potential Vodafone takeover

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AT&T wants a piece of the European wireless market, and buying Vodafone may be the ticket. Bloomberg reports that AT&T is already “mapping out a strategy” to purchase the giant European telecom company, and already figuring out how it would manage Vodafone’s European operations. Apparently, the company hasn’t yet been daunted by European officials worried about AT&T’s role in the PRISM surveillance scandal.

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Calls To Limit Speech In The Snowden Era Underscore The Importance Of A Free Press

This post is by Alex Wilhelm from TechCrunch

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The Snowden revelations have reignited a discussion about privacy – especially privacy in the digital age. That discussion will eventually, we can hope, not only reform how the government views the privacy of its citizens, but also how those citizens interact with private entities that might store massive amounts of their personal information.

It’s stunning to consider how much better informed we are as a global citizenry thanks to Snowden’s efforts and the journalists that have worked closely with him. They have carefully brought to light documents and information regarding the spying efforts of the United States government, and to a lesser degree, the British government on a scale that was previously unimaginable.

But the Snowden leaks have done more than uncover a secret world of surveillance. They are starting to drive change at the congressional level. Following revelations that the NSA taps the fiber-optic cables of the Internet, tracks the metadata of all phone calls placed in the United States, and forces technology companies to hand over user data, we’ve entered into a new era of transparency.

There are forces arrayed against this trend, however. The parts of the government that wish to remain hidden are not enjoying their time in the spotlight.

United States

In short, [NSA General Keith Alexander] is not much of a fan of free speech, an adversarial press, a transparent government, public accountability, or a great many other things that a constitutional, democratic republic requires to function.

Change is already under way. Bills in Congress are being proposed, with bipartisan and bicameral support, that would greatly curtail the legal authority, and therefore ability, of the NSA to collect as much data as it currently does.

The shifting tone in Congress – most recently and most notably the about-face of Senator Dianne Feinstein on the subject of the NSA – has been matched by a stiffly unshifting tone from the spy agencies themselves.

With its track record of being truthful already underwater, the NSA has managed to explain little in recent weeks – and complain much. It has become known that their talking points are as manufactured as their denials – there will come a time when leaning heavily on 9/11 will show weakness of argument, but we can have that talk some other time – now public, the public protestations of the NSA are becoming increasingly cardboardish.

But when the NSA and its ilk are clear, we can learn the most. And when it comes to something so intensely serious, clarity is useful. The NSA’s General Keith Alexander recently made the following set of remarks (transcription by Politico):

“I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000-whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these-you know it just doesn’t make sense.

We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.”

It’s somewhat difficult to tally just how much the general managed to get wrong in two short statements, but let’s try. He’s wrong that the documents are being sold; they are not. Stopping “it” would mean stopping the free press, in essence overriding the First Amendment. That’s not a good idea. He’s correct that it would be up to “courts and the policymakers” to gut free speech in the country, but he’s wrong in that it is not “wrong to allow this to go on.”

In short, the general is not much of a fan of free speech, an adversarial press, a transparent government, public accountability, or a great many other things that a constitutional, democratic republic requires to function.

Let’s look at just how bad an idea it would be to follow his advice.

If we did not allow newspapers, blogs, Twitter users, writers and readers of all shapes and sizes and sorts to publish what they might, and learn what they will, then we would not know that the NSA was tapping the data connections between Yahoo and Google data centers in foreign countries. Why foreign countries? Because the rules that guide the NSA are looser in foreign countries, and so it can do what it can’t in the United States. What we have learned is plain: If there is data, the NSA wants to tap, collect, store, and then analyze it at will.

Given the history of privacy, and the historical backing of the Fourth Amendment, this isn’t much in line with the American Experiment. To then prevent the American citizenry from finding out that their legal protections were being hollowed out not good, and the general is wrong.


Across the pond, this is a bit more explicit. Here’s The Guardian, in August [emphasis mine]:

I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK.

The last sentence is key, as it describes a process by which what is fit and not fit to be published is determined before publication. In August The Guardian stated that such a thing was “near impossible” in the United States. And yet, General Alexander recently called for “a way of stopping it,” again with “it” being the reporting about the Snowden documents. Alexaner continued: “It’s wrong to allow this to go on.” So, the general is calling for prior restraint, which has long been a firewall between censorship and the public learning what it might.

There are fresh threats from the British government, however, that also bear telling. Here’s current Prime Minister David Cameron on the continued leaks (via The Guardian):

We have a free press, it’s very important the press feels it is not pre-censored from what it writes and all the rest of it. The approach we have taken is to try to talk to the press and explain how damaging some of these things can be and that is why the Guardian did actually destroy some of the information and disks that they have. But they’ve now gone on and printed further material which is damaging.

I don’t want to have to use injunctions or D notices or the other tougher measures. I think it’s much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility. But if they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act.

Sadly, his government has already taken to smashing laptops of journalists and threatening prior restraint. He has now introduced new legal methods as potential tools to increase pressure. Also, there is a certain sliminess to the comment that the press “feels it is not pre-censored from what it writes.” There is a large gap between that and the press in fact being free to write whatever it wishes.

Hell No

It’s plain that the governments of the United States and Britain would prefer it if we knew nothing of their surveillance activities. With that in mind, we now do, and they want to stop the continued leaks.

But as we are seeing from congressional activity in the United States, the leaks are producing change. Which is precisely what the NSA and GCHQ do not want. Tough. If to get their way they think for a moment we are willing to give up the right to free expression, thought and writing, then they can go to hell.

Top Image Credit: Shutterstock

Google Voice to deny access to third-party apps next year

This post is by Casey Newton from The Verge - All Posts

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Third-party apps for Google Voice have six months to live. Google said today that it is ending support for apps that “are making unauthorized use of Google Voice” by providing calling and SMS services. “These apps violate our terms of service and pose a threat to your security,” said Nikhyl Singhal, director of real-time communications, in a post on Google+. “So we’re notifying these app developers that they must stop making unauthorized use of Google Voice to run their services and transition users by May 15, 2014.”

Separately, Singhal said that today’s update to the app will not allow users to send SMS messages on Hangouts with their Google Voice numbers. Sprint customers are the exception, as the company allows users to maintain a…

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Android KitKat, iPad Upgrades, and Evil Tips Galore

This post is by from Lifehacker

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This week on the podcast we’re talking about the new features in Android KitKat, evil tips from millionaires, and how to mooch off of your friends. We’re also answering your questions about tracking someone down online, changing your home address on Google Maps, and when you should upgrade your iPad and Windows 8.

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Pandora Joins Chromecast Bandwagon

This post is by ReadWrite Editors from ReadWrite

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When Google announced its Chromecast TV device this summer, it promised that Pandora would eventually work with it. The day has finally arrived: The popular music app now offers an  update in the Google Play Store that lets users pipe music through the thumb drive–shaped TV streaming device.

iPhone users get Chromecast streaming as well, although iPad users will have to wait for now. Pandora says it is “coming soon.” 

See also: The Chromecast App Drought Breaks, Sort Of, As Hulu Signs On

This brings the total number of third-party Chromecast streaming apps to three, including Netflix and Hulu.

Is Comcast Buying The Seattle Mayoral Election To Dodge Homegrown Competition? Not Really

This post is by Alex Wilhelm from TechCrunch

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The mayor of Seattle has alleged that Comcast donated significant sums to his rival ahead of the November 5 election. The money could have been donated, perhaps, in hopes of scuttling the planned public-private broadband initiative in the city that could introduce new inexpensive, and fast competitive service.

In response to a question during a Reddit AMA asking what would happen to the effort – which will likely be executed with a private firm by the name of Gigabit Squared – Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said, ”I don’t know, but I do know Comcast gave [rival candidate] Murray a big pile of money.”

That’s a stark implication. The Washington Post reported on the situation, intimating as well that Comcast could be taking a financial interest in the outcome of the election, and therefore is donating to prevent its competitive landscape from becoming steeper.

Let’s be frank: Comcast wants less competition not more, as do all corporations. It also makes political donations, as do nearly all public companies. It also donates to specific candidates, over time, because it finds the views of those candidates more palatable to its interests and perhaps in hopes of swaying them slightly during their time in elected office.

That is simple politics. If any of that surprises you, you are a bit behind.

Comcast has donated to McGinn’s rival Ed Murray in the past through his tenure as a State Senator. So, the relationship is extant. This election cycle, Comcast has made a direct $700 donation to his campaign, and a Comcast executive named Janet Turpen also donated $500.

That sort of company-executive donation is not abnormal. For example, Yahoo and one of its executives have also donated to Murray’s mayoral electoral bid this cycle. No one is accusing Yahoo of attempting to buy a vote. Now, the Post goes on to list the following larger and less public donations by Comcast to groups that have put money behind Murray:

The Broadband Communications Association of Washington PAC, which received 94 percent of its 2013 contributions from Comcast, donated $5,000 to the group People for Ed Murray less than a month after Gigabit Squared’s pricing announcement. That was the PAC’s largest single donation. Unsurprisingly, People for Ed Murray has made significant expenditures supporting Murray’s candidacy. The Web site of the Broadband Communications Association of Washington also lists Janet Turpen as president-elect.

Comcast also donated $5,000 to the PAC called the “Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy,” or CASE, whose largest expenditures were donations to People for Ed Murray, to the tune of $52,500 – over half of the money spent by the group according to the most recent disclosures online. Their second largest expenditures was $10,000 to People for a New Seattle Mayor, a group opposing McGinn’s reelection.

So, $10,000. That’s hardly big money. Perhaps $10,000 speaks more loudly than what is normal in a mayoral election, but the sums here are not out of hand.

Comcast, in a statement provided to the Post, denied that it is trying to buy the election or unduly influence it. Which is what you would expect the company to say, of course. As a firm it is spending to have an impact. You don’t spend money for no reason, of course. Comcast is supporting Murray because it favors him over McGinn. And given that McGinn has worked on creating a competitor to Comcast, that is hardly surprising.

Still, what we lack in all of this a simple answer: Does Murray favor scrapping the public-private broadband pilot, and later the full project? That is not clear. The Post says this:

The [Murray] spokesman also committed that, if elected, Murray would honor the current agreements between Gigabit Squared and the city, “but he will also makes sure that the City monitors the company’s performance to ensure that they are delivering the promised results as the project moves forward.” In other words, the limited pilot project would likely go forward in a Murray administration, but there’s more of a question about whether the rest of Seattle would be offered gigabit service via a private-public partnership.

That strikes me as a bit weak. Could it be that Murray is less enthusiastic about the broadband initiative than McGinn? Sure. It’s not his project after all. But the intimation that Comcast is trying to shift the election perhaps to dodge this specific bit of competition feels like perhaps sensible speculation, but speculation all the same.

Murray can lay this all to rest by simply stating that he is committed to the project – if he is, of course. Simple speech is the best response to innuendo.

Top Image Credit: Flickr