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Main article: Operating system

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Tortoise co-founder Dmitry Shevelenko is bringing autonomous scooters to TC Sessions: Mobility

20:00 | 19 February

TechCrunch Sessions Mobility is gearing up to be a lit event. The one-day event, taking place May 14 in San Jose, has just added Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder and president of an automatic repositioning startup for micromobility vehicles. Yes, that means we’ll be having autonomous scooters rolling around on stage. #2020

Tortoise, which recently received approval to deploy its tech in San Jose, is looking to become an operating system of sorts for micromobility vehicles. Just how Android is the operating system for a number of mobile phones, Tortoise wants to be the operating system for micromobility vehicles.

Given the volume of micromobility operators in the space today, Tortoise aims to make it easier for these companies to more strategically deploy their respective vehicles and reposition them when needed. Using autonomous technology in tandem with remote human intervention, Tortoise’s software enables operators to remotely relocate their scooters and bikes to places where riders need them, or, where operators need them to be recharged. On an empty sidewalk, Tortoise may employ autonomous technologies while it may rely on humans to remotely control the vehicle on a highly trafficked city block.

Before co-founding Tortoise, Shevelenko served as Uber’s director of business development. While at Uber, Shevelenko helped the company expand into new mobility and led the acquisition of JUMP Bikes . Needless to say, Shevelenko is well-versed to talk about the next opportunities in micromobility.

Other speakers at TC Sessions Mobility include Waymo COO Tekedra Mawakana, Uber Director of Policy, Cities & Transportation Shin-pei Tsay and Argo AI co-founder and CEO Bryan Salesky.

Tickets are on sale right now for $250 (early bird status). After April 9, tickets go up so be sure to get yours before that deadline. If you’re a student, tickets cost just $50.

Early-stage startups in the mobility space can book an exhibitor package for $2000 and get 4 tickets and a demo table. Packages allow you to get in front of some of the biggest names in the industry and meet new customers. Book your tickets here.

 


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Canonical’s Anbox Cloud puts Android in the cloud

21:09 | 21 January

Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, today announced the launch of Anbox Cloud, a new platform that allows enterprises to run Android in the cloud.

On Anbox Cloud, Android becomes the guest operating system that runs containerized applications. This opens up a range of use cases, ranging from bespoke enterprise app to cloud gaming solutions.

The result is similar to what Google does with Android apps on Chrome OS, though the implementation is quite different and is based on the LXD container manager, as well as a number of Canonical projects like Juju and MAAS for provisioning the containers and automating the deployment. “LXD containers are lightweight, resulting in at least twice the container density compared to Android emulation in virtual machines – depending on streaming quality and/or workload complexity,” the company points out in its announcements.

Anbox itself, it’s worth noting, is an open-source project that came out of Canonical and the wider Ubuntu ecosystem. Launched by Canonical engineer Simon Fels in 2017, Anbox runs the full Android system in a container, which in turn allows you to run Android application on any Linux-based platform.

What’s the point of all of this? Canonical argues that it allows enterprises to offload mobile workloads to the cloud and then stream those applications to their employees’ mobile devices. But Canonical is also betting on 5G to enable more use cases, less because of the available bandwidth but more because of the low latencies it enables.

“Driven by emerging 5G networks and edge computing, millions of users will benefit from access to ultra-rich, on-demand Android applications on a platform of their choice,” said Stephan Fabel, Director of Product at Canonical, in today’s announcement. “Enterprises are now empowered to deliver high performance, high density computing to any device remotely, with reduced power consumption and in an economical manner.”

Outside of the enterprise, one of the use cases that Canonical seems to be focusing on is gaming and game streaming. A server in the cloud is generally more powerful than a smartphone, after all, though that gap is closing.

Canonical also cites app testing as another use case, given that the platform would allow developers to test apps on thousands of Android devices in parallel. Most developers, though, prefer to test their apps in real — not emulated — devices, given the fragmentation of the Android ecosystem.

Anbox Cloud can run in the public cloud, though Canonical is specifically partnering with edge computing specialist Packet to host it on the edge or on-premise. Silicon partners for the project are Ampere and Intel .

 


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Yac is reinventing voicemail for the Slack generation

19:51 | 15 January

With distributed workforces all the rage in the tech community these days, startups are trying to build new tools to keep those teams connected and communicating in the ways that make folks most comfortable.

One of these companies is the Orlando, Fla.-based startup, Yac, which just raised $1.5 million in financing from a clutch of investors to reinvent voicemail for teams raised on Slack and Zoom calls.

The rise of the digital, distributed workforce is a  phenomenon that’s on the rise and the increasing number of remote workers shows no sign of slacking. Indeed, new statistics indicate tha

full time these days.

These remote workforces can reduce costs for both young and mature companies alike, but they come with certain tradeoffs and can make communication and collaboration more difficult, according to Yac co-founder Justin Mitchell.

He points to the problems with communication and culture at Away, which contributed to the ouster of that company’s chief executive (who was later re-hired).

Yac addresses the issue of providing verbal feedback and communication asynchronously instead of needing to respond in real time. Email and voicemail also perform these asynchronous communication functions, but Mitchell says that they’re just not tools that respond to the needs of the modern workforce.

So far, there are 4,500 messages a month left on Yac’s service and the company has around 250 daily active users.

A desktop view of Yac’s messaging service in action

Yac was born out of the digital design agency SoFriendly and was initially built for Product Hunt’s Maker Festival. The winning team at the event, Yac took off as a business when the founding team got a call from Adam Draper, the third generation venture capital investor. Draper’s Boost VC was an early backer of the company, which went on to collect additional funding from Betaworks and Active Capital.

The key, Mitchell says is the asynchronous aspect of communication that Yac enables. As a distributed team itself, Yac and SoFriendly knew the perils and annoyances that come from the always on, real-time communication platforms like Slack or the in-person conference call or video call via Zoom.

“We know a lot of headaches that a fully remote organization runs into,” says Mitchell. “I hope for us to be the next Zoom but for a distributed workforce.”

The company currently has six full time employees and is using the same freemium model that made Slack so initially compelling to early stage companies. The free version provides unlimited messaging, but there’s a cap on how long messages will remain active. For paying customers there’s no retention limit and the company provides transcription services and deeper integrations with a team’s workflows, says Mitchell. It’s all at a cost of $8 per-user and the company is launching its first paid plans this month.

“The future of meetings will be asynchronous, in your ears, and hands free,” says Pat Matthews, the chief executive and Founder of Active Capital. “Just look at any city and you’ll see people are no longer working in cubicles, they’re on the move, in coffee shops, and multitasking. That’s the power of building for remote first instead of office workers.”

Mitchell says the product is good for distributed teams — whether they’re distributed across floors of a building or across cities in the U.S. or around the world.

“Using Yac is kind of like calling over to a friend while you’re working, but because it’s asynchronous you don’t have to bother them. It makes working remotely a lot easier especially when your team is scattered around the country,” says Charlie Taylor, Head of Partnerships, Bose, and an early Yac user, in a statement. 

Can the same thing be done with a voicemail or an email? Mitchell acknowledges that it can, but that the experience is clunky and negative. What’s more annoying than a missed call? While getting a Yac is using a Snap -like interface to send a video message.

 


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Brilliant adds a dimmer switch and smart plug to its smart home ecosystem

21:13 | 6 January

Until now, Brilliant only offered its relatively high-end smart switches with a touchscreen, but at CES this week, the company is expanding its product lineup with a new dimmer switch and smart plug. Both require that you already own at least one Brilliant Control, so these aren’t standalone devices but instead expansions to the Brilliant Control system.

The main advantage here is that once you have bought into the Brilliant system for your smart home setup, you won’t need to get a new Brilliant Control for every room. Because the Controls start at $299 for a single switch, that would be a very pricey undertaking. At $69.99, the dimmer is competitively priced (and offers a discount for bundles with multiple switches), as is the plug, at $29.99. This will surely make the overall Brilliant system more attractive to a lot of people.I’ve tested the Control in my house for the last few weeks and came away impressed, mostly because it brings a single, flexible physical control system to the disparate smart plugs, locks and other gadgets I’ve accumulated over the last year or so. I couldn’t imagine getting one for every room, though, as that would simply be far too expensive. Brilliant’s system works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and includes third-party integrations with companies like Philips Hue, LIFX, TP-Link Lutron, Wemo, Ecobee, Honeywell, August, Kwikset, Schlage, Ring, Sonos and others. The different Brilliant devices communicate over a Bluetooth Mesh and connect to the internet over Wi-Fi.

“Before Brilliant, an integrated whole-home smart home and lighting system meant either spending tens of thousands of dollars on an inflexible home automation system, or piecing together a jumble of disparate devices and apps,” said Aaron Emigh, co-founder and CEO of Brilliant. “With our new smart switch and plug-in combination with the Brilliant Control, we are realizing our mission to make it possible for every homeowner to experience the comfort, energy efficiency, safety and convenience of living in a true smart home.”

One nice feature of the dimmer is that it includes a motion sensor, which will allow for a lot of interesting usage scenarios. You’ll also be able to double-tap the switch to trigger a smart home or lighting scene.

The plug is obviously more straightforward, but it’s worth noting that it’s a plug you’d install in an electrical box, not a Wemo-style plug that you simply plug in. As with all Brilliant devices, that means you either have to be comfortable with doing some very basic electrical work yourself (and Brilliant offers very straightforward instructions) or have somebody install it for you.

Both the plug and dimmer switch are now available for pre-order and will ship in Q1 2020.

CES 2020 coverage - TechCrunch

 


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Twitter to add a way to ‘memorialize’ accounts for deceased users before removing inactive ones

23:11 | 27 November

Twitter has changed its tune regarding inactive accounts after receiving a lot of user feedback: It will now be developing a way to “memorialize” user accounts for those who have passed away, before proceeding with a plan it confirmed this week to deactivate accounts that are inactive in order to “present more accurate, credible information” on the service. To the company’s credit, it reacted swiftly after receiving a significant amount of negative feedback on this move, and it seems like the case of deceased users simply wasn’t considered in the decision to proceed with terminating dormant accounts.

After Twitter confirmed the inactive account (those that haven’t tweeted in more than six months) cleanup on Tuesday, a number of users noted that this would also have the effect of erasing the content of accounts whose owners have passed away. TechCrunch alum Drew Olanoff wrote about this impact from a personal perspective, asking Twitter to reconsider their move in light of the human impact and potential emotional cost.

In a thread today detailing their new thinking around inactive accounts, Twitter explained that its current inactive account policy has actually always been in place, but that they haven’t been diligent about enforcing it. They’re going to begin doin so in the European Union partly in accordance with local privacy laws, citing GDPR specifically. But the company also says it will now not be removing any inactive accounts before first implementing a way for inactive accounts belonging to deceased users to be “memorialized,” which presumably means preserving their content.

Twitter went on to day that it might expand or refine its inactive account policy to ensure it works with global privacy regulations, but will be sure to communicate these changes broadly before they go into effect.

It’s not yet clear what Twitter will do to offer this ‘memorialization’ of accounts, but there is some precedent they can look to for cues: Facebook has a ‘memorialized accounts’ feature that it introduced for similar reasons.

 


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Vistaprint left a customer service database unprotected, exposing calls, chats and emails

18:00 | 25 November

A security researcher has found an exposed database on the internet belonging to online printing giant Vistaprint.

Security researcher

discovered the unencrypted database last week. There was no password on the database, allowing anyone to access the data inside. The database was first detected by exposed device and database search engine Shodan on November 5, but it may have been exposed for longer.

Hough

to warn of the security lapse, but has not heard back.

Vistaprint, owned by Netherlands-based parent Cimpress, quietly took the database offline after TechCrunch reached out, but a spokesperson did not comment by our deadline, nor did they provide answers to several questions,— including if the company plans to inform customers. Many of the records we found contained data on EU citizens, who are protected under the strict GDPR data protection rules.

The company also did not say if it planned to alert U.S and European data protection regulators.

The database contained five tables stored with data on more than 51,000 customer service interactions, such as calls to customer service or chats with an online support agent. The data also included personally identifiable information, including names and contact information, which could identify individual customers.

One table named “cases” contained incoming customer queries, including the customer’s name, email address, phone number, and the date and time of their interaction with customer service. Many of those customer service interactions were as recent as mid-September.

The data also contained information hidden from the customer. Each customer service interaction in the “cases” table appeared to have graded the customer’s query based off keywords picked from their query. That helped to determine the customer’s “sentiment”, which then described their complaint as either “negative” or “neutral”. The data also included the “priority” of a customer’s interaction, allowing it to be pushed higher in the queue.

Another table named “chat” contained thousands of customers’ line-by-line online chat interactions with support agents, but also contained information about the customer’s browser and network connection, where they were located, and what operating system they used, and their internet provider.

Some of the recorded chat logs also contained sensitive information like order numbers and postal tracking numbers, but there were no passwords or financial data in the exposed database.

The “emails” table contained entire email threads with customers detailing problems or other issues with their orders. And, the “phone” table contained specific information about each call, including the date and time, how long the customer was kept on hold, a written transcript of the call — often including details of the customer’s orders — and an internal link (which we could not access) to the recording of the call.

The data also contained some account information, including work email addresses and some phone numbers belonging to Vistaprint customer service staff.

According to Hough, the database was not currently sending or receiving data. The database was named “migration,” suggesting the database was used to temporarily store data while it was moved customer records from one server to another.

But it’s not clear why the database was exposed and left online without a password.

It’s the latest example of a security lapse involving lax internal data controls. This year alone, several data exposures have put millions of customers at risk, including online game ‘Magic: The Gathering”, a popular online ‘camgirl’ site, as well as job searching site Monster.com and IT giant Tech Data.

Related stories:

 


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Hulu is down, and nobody’s sure why

19:45 | 24 November

Hulu is currently down.

We’re not sure why, and neither does Hulu. A stream of tweets complaining about the outage surfaced Sunday morning on the U.S. east coast. In response, Hulu’s Twitter support didn’t seem to know either, instead telling frustrated users that it’s looking into it.

Fantastic. Stay tuned for more. Or switch to Netflix instead.

 


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Equity Dive: Poshmark’s origin story with co-founder & CEO Manish Chandra

17:00 | 22 November

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

We have something a bit different for you this week. Equity co-host Kate Clark recently sat down with Manish Chandra, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Poshmark, and one of his earliest investors, NFX managing partner James Currier.

If you haven’t heard of Poshmark, it’s an online platform for buying and selling clothes. Basically, it’s the thrift shop of the 21st century. We asked Chandra how he and co-founders Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala and Chetan Pungaliya cooked up the idea for Poshmark, what bumps they faced along the way, how they raised venture capital and, of course, what details of their upcoming initial public offering he could share with us. Meanwhile, Currier dished about the company’s early days, when the Poshmark team worked hard on the floor of Currier’s office.

Unfortunately, neither Chandra or Currier were willing to share deets about Poshmark’s IPO, reportedly expected soon. But they both shared interesting insights into building a successful venture-backed company, battling competition and putting your best foot forward.

Glad you guys came back for another episode, we’ll see you soon.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

 


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GitHub launches a mobile app, smarter notifications and improved code search

21:00 | 13 November

At its annual Universe conference today, Microsoft -owned GitHub announced a couple of new products, as well as the general availability of a number of tools that developers have been able to test for the last few months. The two announcements that developers will likely be most interested in are the launch of GitHub’s first native mobile app and an improved notifications experience. But in addition to that, it is also taking GitHub Actions, the company’s workflow automation and CI/CD solution, as well as GitHub Packages, out of beta. GitHub is also improving its code search, adding scheduled reminders and it’s launching a pre-release program that will allow users to try out new features before they are ready for a wider rollout.

GitHub is also extending its sponsor program, which until now allowed you to tip individual open source contributors for their work, to the project level. With GitHub Sponsors, anybody can help fund a project and the members of that project then get to choose how to use the money. These projects have to be open source and have a corporate or non-profit entity attached to it (and a bank account).

“Developers are what’s driving us and we’re building the tools and the experiences to help them come together to create the world’s most important technologies and to do it on an open platform and ecosystem,” GitHub SVP of Product Shanku Niyogi told me. Today’s announcements, he said, are driven by the company’s mission to improve the developer experience. Over the course of the last year, the company launched well over 150 new features and enhancements, Niyogi stressed. For its Universe show, the company decided to highlight the new mobile app and notification enhancements, though.

The new mobile app, which is now out in beta for iOS, with Android support coming soon, offers all of the basic features you’d want from a mobile app like this. The team decided to focus squarely on the kind of mobile use cases that would make the most sense for a developer on the go, so you’ll be able to share feedback on discussions, review a few lines of code and merge changes, but this isn’t meant to be a tool that replicated the full GitHub experience, though at least on the iPad, you do get a bit more screen real estate to work with.

“When you start to look at the tablet experience, that then extends out because you now got more space,” explained Niyogi. “You can look at the code, you can navigate some of that, we support some of the key same keyboard shortcuts that github.com does to be able to look at a larger amount of content and a larger amount of code. So, the idea is the experience scales with the mobile devices you have, and but it’s also designed for the things you’re likely to do when you’re not using your computer.”

Others have built mobile apps for GitHub before, of course, and it turns out that the developers of GitHawk, which was launched by a group of engineers from Instagram, recently joined GitHub to help the company in its efforts to get this new app off the ground.

The second major new feature is the improved notifications experience. As every GitHub user on even a medium-sized team knows, GitHub’s current set of notifications can quickly become overwhelming. That’s something the GitHub team was also keenly aware of, so the company decided to build a vastly improved system that includes filters, as well as an inbox for all of your notifications right inside of GitHub.

“The experience for developers today can result in an inbox in Gmail or whatever email client you use with tons and tons of notifications — and it can end up being kind of hard to know what matters and what’s just noise,” Kelly Stirman, GitHub’ VP of Strategy and Product Management, said. “We’ve done a bunch of things over the last year to make notifications better, but what we’ve done is a big step. We’ve reimagined what notifications should be.”

Using filters and rules, developers can zero in on the notifications that matter to them, all without flooding your inbox with unnecessary noise. Developers can customize these filters to their hearts’ content. That’s also where the new mobile experience fits in well. “Many times, the notification will be sent to you when you’re not at your computer when you’re not at your desktop,” noted Stirman. “And that notification might be somebody asking for your help to unblock something. And so it’s natural we think that we need to extend the GitHub experience beyond the desktop to a mobile experience.”

Talking about notifications: GitHub also today announced a new feature in a limited preview that adds a few more notifications to your inbox. You can now set up scheduled reminders for pending code reviews.

Among the rest of today’s announcements, the improved code search stands out because that’s definitely an area where some improvements were necessary. This new code search is currently in limited beta, but should roll out to all users over the next few months. It’ll introduce a completely new search experience, the company says, that can match special characters and casing, among other things.

Also new are code review assignments, now in public beta, and a new way to navigate code on GitHub.

 


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Facebook pilloried over iPhone ‘secret camera access’ bug

20:48 | 12 November

Facebook has faced a barrage of concern over an apparent bug that resulted in the social media giant’s iPhone app exposing the camera as users scroll through their feed.

A tweet over the weekend blew up after Joshua Maddux

a screen recording of the Facebook app on his iPhone. He noticed that the camera would appear behind the Facebook app as he scrolled through his social media feed.

Several users had already spotted the bug earlier in the month. One person

“a little worrying”.

Some immediately assumed the worst — as you might expect given the long history of security vulnerabilities, data breaches and inadvertent exposures at Facebook over the past year. Just last week, the company confirmed that some developers had improperly retained access to some Facebook user data for more than a year.

Will Strafach, chief executive at Guardian Firewall, said it looked like a “harmless but creepy looking bug.”

The bug appears to only affect iPhone users running the latest iOS 13 software, and those who have already granted the app access to the camera and microphone. It’s believed the bug relates to the “story” view in the app, which opens the camera for users to take photos.

One workaround is to simply revoke camera and microphone access to the Facebook app in their iOS settings.

Despite the apparent widespread concern from users on social media, Facebook did not respond to repeated requests for comment from TechCrunch. That said, Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen

this morning that it “sounds like a bug” and the company was investigating.

“I guess it does say something when Facebook trust has eroded so badly that it will not get the benefit of the doubt when people see such a bug,” said Strafach.

 


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