<![CDATA[NBC Bay Area - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/nbc_bayarea_blue.png NBC Bay Area http://www.nbcbayarea.com en-us Sun, 31 Aug 2014 01:37:53 -0700 Sun, 31 Aug 2014 01:37:53 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Tesla Plans to Install Giant Sign Alongside I-880]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:41:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/08282014-tesla-plant-sign.jpg

Electric car maker Tesla wants to put up a giant sign near its Fremont factory that, if approved, would instantly become one of the Bay Area's biggest.

Fremont city leaders foresee heavy development in the area along Interstate 880 where Tesla is situated. In addition to a BART station, they want to add thousands of housing units and thousands of new jobs, too.

Tesla is an anchor of the plan – and the company has an idea to make sure its brand stands out: Tesla wants to put up a sign that’s 40-feet tall by 200-feet wide, as long as a hockey rink.

"We want people to know that they're in Fremont, Tesla's factory is in Fremont, and we're very proud of that,” said Bill Harrison, Fremont’s mayor.

That civic pride will, if approved, be on display, lit up and visible 24 hours a day along I-880, showing off one of the Bay Area's most successful companies.

California Highway Patrol officials said the agency isn’t concerned about the sign distracting drivers. Motorists NBC Bay Area spoke with agreed. Besides, San Jose driver Jim O'Brien said, “As long as it's not causing accidents, and it’s good for the company, it’s good for the Bay Area."

"They're a great company to have around,” Fremont resident Karen Kenaga said. “I have no problem with any kind of sign. We need the recognition."

Fremont has strict rules for the size of billboards, but the city says those don’t apply in this case because Tesla says it’s not a billboard, it’s a sign.

Harrison insists, it's not a sweetheart deal for Tesla, just good business for his city. “I think we'd be doing this if it wasn't Tesla,” Harrison said. “If there was a factory here producing something other than awesome cars, but employing over 4,000 people, I as mayor would make sure we're doing what we can to help them."

Tesla declined a request to comment on the sign, other than to say it will have more information available at Thursday night’s planning commission meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Fremont City Hall.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Scott Budman]]>
<![CDATA[BART Unveils Smartphone App to Call Police]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:49:51 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/bart-app.jpg

Instead of calling police, and instead of texting police, BART passengers can now hail cops via an app.

Think of it as Uber for law enforcement officers, on BART.

BART unveiled "BART Watch" on Thursday, a "free app" that allows passengers to tell BART police of unlawful activity going on during their train rides, according to reports.

BART officials think that passengers will be more likely to take a photo of a crime in progress with a smartphone rather than dial 911 or use the emergency intercoms that are on train cars, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Text alerts are received anonymously, the newspaper reported. If a smartphone user is out of cellular range, the alert will be sent as soon as the phone has service again.

The app also lets users select the nature of the crime in progress they are trying to report.

The app is part of a $265,000 contract BART directors approved earlier this year, the newspaper reported.

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<![CDATA[Apple: Yes, We Have An Event Scheduled Sept. 9]]> Fri, 29 Aug 2014 03:58:46 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/2014-08-28-apple-invitation-thumbnail.jpg

Apple has made it official: The next gadget event will be September 9th.

The Cupertino company sent out official invitations to the press Thursday morning, with a date (September 9th), time, and place (10am, Cupertino). The invitation also came with a brief message: 'Wish We Could Say More."

The tech press is already saying plenty about the event, speculating that we'll see a new iPhone, a new iPad (both reportedly larger), and maybe even the long-guessed about iWatch. Apple is not saying anything beyond its emailed invitation.

Investors like the drama, though; shares of Apple stock (AAPL), on a tear lately, hit a new all-time high this morning, as the invitations arrived in boxes.

A quick note about the venue: Cupertino's Flint Center is historic in Apple lore. It's the place where Steve Jobs first showed off the Mac computer back in 1984.

Scott will be at the event, with updates on Twitter: @scottbudman



Photo Credit: Apple]]>
<![CDATA[No Charges in Ex-Napster Exec Death]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:01:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/212*120/milton+olin.jpg

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy was not negligent when he crossed into a bike lane and fatally struck a prominent entertainment lawyer who was riding his bicycle in Calabasas in December, prosecutors said in their decision not to charge the deputy with vehicular manslaughter.

Deputy Andrew Francis Wood entered the bike lane and hit Milton Everett Olin Jr. in Calabasas "as a result of inattention caused by typing" on his patrol car computer on Dec. 8, 2013, officials said.

"Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking'' Milton Everett Olin Jr., who was riding east in the bicycle lane on Mulholland Highway shortly after 1 p.m. Dec. 8, 2013, according to the charge evaluation worksheet.

Wood entered the bicycle lane "as a result of inattention caused by typing into his MDC (mobile digital computer)," according to the charge evaluation worksheet, which said Wood was responding to another deputy who asked if an investigation had been done at Calabasas High School.

He was acting lawfully and within the "course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response," prosecutors said.

Sheriff's officials declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Olin's family sued the county July 16, alleging wrongful death and claiming the deputy was negligent. The lawsuit, which also names the Sheriff's Department and Wood, seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Olin, 65, was a former chief operating officer for Napster.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Altschul & Olin LLP]]>
<![CDATA[HP Recalls Computer Power Cords for Burn Hazard]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:31:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/20140826+PowerCord.jpg

Hewlett-Packard is recalling almost 5.6 million power cords in the U.S. for notebook computers because they can overheat and catch fire.

Two people have reported they suffered burns and 13 people have experienced minor property damage as a result of the overheating cords, HP said. HP has had 29 reports of the cords heating up or catching fire.

The power cords were distributed with HP and Compaq notebook and mini notebook computers and docking stations. The power cords are black and have an “LS-15” molded mark on the AC adapter end.

Customers should immediately stop using and unplug the recalled power cords and contact Hewlett-Packard to order a free replacement. Consumers can continue to use the computer on battery power.

The recall also covers almost 500,000 cords in Canada.

For more information on the recall, click here.

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<![CDATA[Watchdog Groups Diss Competition for Tesla Factory as "Race To The Bottom"]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:14:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_tesla_trabajos_tucson1.jpg

How much is too much to give away for a $5 billion battery factory? In the case of the states attempting to do the most to welcome Tesla's "Gigafactory," it's all too much, according to consumer watchdogs.

Tesla's factory promises thousands of jobs and great economic activity. And so to woo Tesla to their state, leaders across the West are promising tax breaks, incentives and even breaks from environmental law in order to be the one who secures the factory, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

These promises are going to far, according to a coalition of public interest groups (PIRGs) that penned an open letter to state leaders, who are reminded that for every tax break, there's less cash for roads, schools, hospitals and everything else.

"Recently, our states have been pitted into a race to the bottom from which no real winner may emerge," the letter says. "Telsa Motors' proposed "Gigafactory" -- undoubtedly a valuable source of economic growth for its eventual home state -- has been offered to you in an unusual public auction, with the opening bid set at $500 million in public subsidies."

That bid has since been exceeded or matched by California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and now Texas, which is reportedly offering up to $800 million in subsidies.

The Bay Area Council, a coalition of some of the area's biggest corporations, defended the subsidy-making in a rejoinder letter offered Wednesday.

Work has begun on a supposed factory for Tesla near Reno, but apparently the jockeying for the 6,500 jobs is still ongoing.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Supersonic "Bullet Sub" Proposed]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 06:44:35 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/generic+periscope+submarine+generic.jpg

Planes, trains, automobiles -- and a supersonic torpedo?

The means to get to Asia and back in the time it takes to take a long lunch break may be a possibility through a supersonic submarine, according to Chinese researchers who say they have found a way to make this proposition possible.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that scientists have figured out how to make a submarine supersonic, or very close to it.

Researchers at Harbin Institute of Technology say that they can encapsulate a submarine in an air bubble that would reduce drag significantly. Called "supercavitation," the technology was first employed by the Russian Navy to create torpedoes that could travel in excess of 250 miles an hour.

By using the same technology for submarines, an underwater vessel could in theory travel 5,800 kilometers an hour. That's about 3,600 miles an hour, or fast enough to go from San Francisco to Shanghai in 100 minutes, the newspaper reported.

There are some drawbacks: first, the sub would have to be launched at a high speed. Second, you can't really steer. Third, no "underwater rocket engine" to propel the sub for such a long time exists.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Andrea Danti, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Drones Lead New Tech to Help Areas Hit by Earthquakes]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 18:07:00 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/napa_earthquake2985638956.jpg NBC Bay Area's business and tech reporter Scott Budman shows how technology like drones will help surveillance of areas hit by earthquakes.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Rolls out iPhone Battery Replacement Program]]> Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:40:37 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/tlmd_iphone_5_nuevo_12.jpg

If you have an iPhone 5 with a short battery life, you may be eligible for a new, free battery, thanks to Apple’s new iPhone battery replacement program.

Apple released a statement that it has determined a certain number of iPhone 5s purchased between September 2012 and January 2013 “may suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

Go here if you think your phone meets these requirements and find out how to get a new battery.

Apple also said that if you already replaced your iPhone 5 battery, you could be eligible for a refund.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Squatting Brothers Finally Depart Airbnb Condo]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:54:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/airbnb-stock-image-airbnb-generic.jpg

The Airbnb guests from hell have moved on. But Cory Tschogl isn't sure what she'll do with the condo they squatted in for most of the summer after over-staying an Airbnb rental, according to reports.

Maksym Pashanin and his brother Denys moved into Tschogl's Palm Springs condo earlier this summer, after making the arrangements via Airbnb.

They had stayed for 44 days but had only paid for 30 when Tschogl tried to give them the heave-ho -- only to discover that the unscrupulous pair now enjoyed tenant protections under California law. They would not leave, and they could not make her -- and they were eager to boast about it.

The pair threatened to sue her, and then bragged about the squatting on Kickstarter, where they had collected $40,000 for a video game that never materialized.

Maksym said he'd squat again before Airbnb banned the pair for life. For one reason or another, they elected to depart the condo willingly sometime over the past week, and left it undamaged, Tshogl told reporters.

Apparently the brothers have a history of this: They were sued by a San Francisco landlord for non-payment of rent, Business Insider reported. Meanwhile, Tschogl told the Chronicle she's "very emotionally and mentally uneasy."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Wealth Driving Santa Cruz Real Estate Boom]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:48:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/199*120/GiantDipper.jpg

Santa Cruz is now the home of the million-dollar property. Between 20 and 33 percent of home sales in Santa Cruz over the last three months have been for homes worth $1 million or more, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which is taking note of the changing fortunes of the popular tourist and surf destination.

The money -- and the buyers -- all appear to be coming from one direction: Silicon Valley. One agent said that tech wealth is driving as much as 80 percent of his business, the newspaper reported.

Homes are at their highest value since 2007, the newspaper reported, with most demand on Pleasure Point, Opal Cliff Drive, and on West Cliff Drive.

Oceanfront homes are by far the priciest, with one Opal Cliff home asking $7 million. It last changed hands in the 1980s, for significantly less. Another home is being sold for the first time since the 1930s, the newspaper reported.



Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Sentinel]]>
<![CDATA[High-Speed Gigafiber Internet Coming to Cupertino]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:48:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0820-2014-INTERNET.jpg

Download a full-length movie in 30 seconds or download 25 songs in one second. That's some of what you'll be able to do when Gigafiber comes to Cupertino.

AT&T officials said Cupertino will be the first city in California to have the Gigafiber service.

Gigafiber, which provides Internet speeds of a gigabit per second, promises to boost Cupertino homes and small businesses, like Philz Coffee, into the speed stratosphere.

If area businesses are willing to pay and plug in, their Internet speeds will soar. But it won't come cheap -- access to Gigafiber will likely cost around $70 to $90 per month.

AT&T said it will likely take up to six months before Gigafiber is in place.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:58:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/216*120/Steve+Ballmer+Clips+1.JPG

Steve Ballmer on Tuesday left Microsoft's Board of Directors, citing new commitments as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a day after publicly stepping into his role with the team.

"The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season so my departure from the board is effective immediately," Ballmer wrote in his resignation letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I see a combination of the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking a lot of time."

Ballmer, who handed off the reins as CEO to Nadella in February, expressed confidence in the company’s future and said he is proud that "Microsoft has been my life's work."

"I bleed Microsoft -- have for 34 years and I always will," he wrote.

Ballmer bought the Clippers from Shelly Sterling, wife of former owner Donald Sterling, for $2 billion in May.

The deal was approved by the NBA and finalized Aug. 12 after a tumultuous court battle between the Sterlings.

Shelly Sterling said last week she is "thrilled that the Clippers now have such a wonderful new owner."

Ballmer introduced himself to thousands of Clippers fans on Monday during an energetic rally at the Staples Center that also featured several players and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Ballmer promised to keep the team in LA and to usher in an era of many victories.

"This is an amazing new day in Clippers history," Coach Doc Rivers said at the rally. "I couldn't be more excited to work together with Steve as we continue to build a first-class, championship organization."

In a response to Ballmer's resignation letter Tuesday, Nadella thanked Ballmer for his time at the company and wished him success.

"I am sure that you will bring the same boldness, passion and impact to your new endeavors that you brought to Microsoft," Nadella wrote.

Ballmer remains a shareholder at Microsoft.

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<![CDATA[Google's IPO 10 Years Later]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 19:17:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/tlmd_637019_google.jpg

It was a company known for lava lamps, dogs hanging out under desks, and big bouncy balls for employees to sit on.

As co-founder Sergey Brin said, "The important thing is to be serious in your business, but foolish in your culture."

Then, on August 19, 2004, Google went public, and changed Silicon Valley, and the tech industry along with it.

You may not remember, but many were skeptical about Google's IPO: There already was a Yahoo, an Amazon, and an Ask Jeeves. Was search really a long-term business plan?

Google proved everybody wrong, except their investors. Those men and women became very wealthy, as Google shares move steadily upward. Now, after gains of 1,300% over a decade, Google's market value is the third largest in America, trailing only Apple and Exxon.

The co-founders are worth about $30 billion each, and many Googlers have gone on to start new startups, or help run giant companies, like Yahoo, Twitter, and Facebook.

Google, meanwhile, is putting lots of that stock money to use: In addition to the wildly profitable search business, the company has rolled out cars to map the planet, cars to drive themselves, and the popular and controversial "Glass" project. And, don't forget the money spent to buy YouTube and Nest.

Google has its eye on the future, and will no doubt continue to make money, deal with privacy concerns, and push the technology envelope.

Scott can be searched on Twitter: @scottbudman

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<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Startups Must Pass "The Toothbrush Test"]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 06:01:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/CR+Toothbrush.jpg

A good start-up idea is like a toothbrush: you use it twice a day and it improves your life.

That's according to Google CEO Larry Page, who is credited with coining this new test of tech viability. The test is being used more and more often to judge whether a company is worthy of being bought out by bigger dogs like Google or Facebook, The New York Times's Dealbook first reported.

The toothbrush test, aside from sounding neat, clean and very twee, is also a way to more money for the people who lead tech companies.

More and more tech companies are doing their own buying-out, New York Magazine's Silicon Valley-based correspondent Kevin Roose wrote. Investment banks were used in less than one-third of acquisitions of $100 million or more in 2014, the magazine reported. 

Doing the acquiring this way removes the bankers, who would otherwise be getting an awful lot in fees.

Using the toothbrush test as the metric, then, is a simple, easy and very unscientific way to judge an app's viability. It could also be utterly foolish -- but then again, "bidding $4 billion for a messaging app that will never make any money whatsoever" could be, too, the magazine reported.



Photo Credit: Consumer Reports]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Co-Founder in Ferguson #HandsUpDontShoot]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:42:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/michael-brown-ferguson.jpg

San Francisco's Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey went down to Missouri over the weekend - with phone and Twitter account in hand - to take part in the Ferguson protests.

According to his Twitter feed, Dorsey arrived on Friday, and said it "feels good to be home. I'll be standing with everyone in Ferguson all weekend." He used the hashtag #HandsUpDontShoot to signify why Ferguson is now the newest civil rights flashpoint - Dorsey grew up ten miles from Ground Zero.
 

The St. Louis suburb has been roiled by unrest following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

The 18-year-old African American man was killed after being shot six times by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, 28, who is white. Brown was unarmed and had no criminal record. But according to Ferguson police, was a suspect in a robbery committed minutes before the shooting.

Brown's death has sparked demonstrations and unrest in Ferguson, so much so that the National Guard was called in to help on Sunday night. And the FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

Dorsey later clarified he's not exactly from Ferguson, but "proudly born & raised in St. Louis City." He did not respond to a Tweet on Monday from NBC Bay Area requesting further comment.

According to his tweets, retweets and Vines, Dorsey showed the protests on Sunday were mostly peaceful, and they drew crowds ranging from Harley Davidson bikers to monks dressed in wine and gold garb.

"Marching," was what he wrote on Sunday, showing six seconds of people marching quietly in the streets, one woman with her hands raised up in prayer. He showed pictures of volunteers bringing in food and drinks to the marchers. He took pictures of people praying in the streets. And he showed a picture that he called his parents, hanging out, talking to peopel.

Dorsey did a lot of retweeting too, showing that things weren't all rosy. He retweeted Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Kesling, who showed a smoke "multi-projectile" was fired and found on the street.


But the overall theme of Dorsey's running tweets was one of a community that ws pulling together in hard times. Early Monday morning, he described a "lovely lady" named Erma Dupree, who stayed for hours cleaning up the streets of her hometown.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Highest-Paid Googlers? Still Engineers]]> Sun, 17 Aug 2014 21:01:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/google8.jpg

Not a real surprise, but the highest-paid employees at Google are its engineers. (Its software engineer interns even make around $80,000 a year.)

Business Insider did a Top 20 of the highest paid jobs at Google and found senior software engineers topped out at $152,985 annually, while its online sales and operations reps made about $50,200 a year, according to statistics from workplace and salary site Glassdoor.

Software engineer interns make $70,000 to $90,000 a year, which is more than account managers ($71,080) but financial and business analysts for Google make six figures ($103,244 and $104,389 respectively). Software research engineers, likely at Google X, make $126,916, while research scientists make a little more at $135,785.

What's missing from the report are salaries for those Googlers who work in support, such as office staff, cafeteria workers, baristas or custodians. If we know all this others stuff, we want to know if Google pays office drones and food servers more than other industries, and do they get stock options?



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Goes On Offensive Against Bullies Following Zelda Williams Debacle]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 18:11:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/AP091109053180.jpg

It's a bad time for trolls.

Twitter is pledging to go on the offensive against Internet bullies, who managed to taunt Zelda Williams off of the Web this week, according to reports.

Zelda Williams, the daughter of comic genius Robin Williams, quit Twitter on Aug. 13 after "cruel users" harassed her following her father's suicide, according to US Weekly.

Williams, 25, suffered through images sent her way that included Photoshopped pictures of her father's body, the news source reported.

She quit soon thereafter, prompting a swift reply from Twitter executives.

Del Harvey, the social media platform's vice president of trust and safety, said that "a number of accounts" had been suspended, and that Twitter is overall re-examining its rules, the news source said.

Zelda, for her part, said that a special place is reserved for the trolls: her father is sending a flock of pigeons to "poop on [their]" cars, she wrote on her blog.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Airbnb Legalization Has Safety Concerns]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 16:51:31 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/airbnb-stock-image-airbnb-generic.jpg

Regulating Airbnb could be dangerous.

A building code advisory committee in San Francisco rejected that city's plan to allow operators of short-term rentals like Airbnb to legalize the service, citing "fire-safety, life-safety," handicap accessibility and other concerns, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The proposal from Sup. David Chiu would allow the city to collect the city's 14 percent hotel tax on rooms or apartments listed n Airbnb, VRNO, Flipkey and other sites, the newspaper reported.

There are about 5,000 such listings in San Francisco, where the practice is technically illegal, the newspaper reported.

Lacking, however, are provisions for safety code. That includes smoke detectors, fire exits and other requirements of a hotel -- things that aren't necessarily required in a residence, the newspaper reported.

The Code Advisory Committee's verdict isn't necessarily a death knell for the legislation, however: legalizing Airbnb passed the Planning Commission and now needs approval from the Board of Supervisors, who will consider the issue as early as September.



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Mark Zuckerberg is Taking the Ice Bucket Challenge]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:31:25 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/177*120/tlmd_forbes20_mark_zuckerberg.jpg

Oh, that Ice Bucket challenge. Everybody's doing it -- and we mean everybody.

Gavin Newsom, Chris Christie -- and now Mark Zuckerberg.

For the uninitiated, the challenge, which is intended to raise awareness and funds for the fight against ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, works like this: you dump a bucket of ice water, cubes and all, on your head. Then you donate some money -- and challenge other people to do the same.

The Zuck was challenged by Christie, the New Jersey governor who also issued the call to New Jersey Sen. and Silicon Valley favorite Corey Booker.

After Zuckerberg took the plunge, he challenged Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Sheryl "Lean In" Sandberg and Reed Hastings.

You could be next.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Battling California Legislature, Lyft]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 21:01:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/451565438.jpg

Lyft or the legislature?

It's hard to tell which entity Uber fears and loathes more.

The ride-sharing company is in full-on attack mode against its "ride-sharing" competitor as well as the California Legislature, according to reports.

Uber is furiously lobbying against AB 2293, a bill from Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord that would set "strict new insurance requirements," according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The law would require the companies to tell their drivers to disclose the limitations of their commercial liability insurance, and another bill, AB 612, would require a new set of permits for charter-party carriers who used Lyft or Uber to find rides, according to reports.

And the ride shares oppose them all.

The company's going public with a campaign that declares "California needs Uber," according to SF Weekly.

Bonilla has been put on the defensive, telling reporters that she's not trying to stifle "innovation"
-- merely protect consumers.

Uber has aired radio ads featuring luminaries like former Golden State Warriors superstar Baron Davis, who urge lawmakers to foil her plans.

Meanwhile, there are claims that Uber is "playing dirty" against Lyft, calling and canceling  more than 5,500 rides since last year. Uber doubled that, and claimed that Lyft did that trick to Uber, but for nearly 13,000 Uber trips.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Huntbnb Lets Landlords See If Their Properties Are On Airbnb]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 17:47:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/airbnb.jpg

With the rental market in San Francisco tight and short-term rentals possible grounds for eviction, a service called Huntbnb is allowing landlords to see if their properties are being listed on Airbnb without their permission.

Huntbnb is allowing any user to punch in an address to find out if that address is hosting an Airbnb rental, according to PandoDaily.

The system isn't perfect but it's the closest yet to an answer: the service scans Airbnb listings and, when given an address, offers nearby listings that could be that address.

The landlord can then figure out pretty easily if his or her tenant has a listing based on what the property looks like and the name of the host.

Huntbnb uses the public API to give the closest-possible listings, the website reported.

Tenants in rent-controlled housing have been evicted in San Francisco for listing their homes on Airbnb, so services like Huntbnb will indeed come in handy... for some people.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area

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<![CDATA[Apple Honors Robin Williams on its Website]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:56:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/08132014-ROBIN-WILLIAMS-APPLE.jpg

Apple is honoring Robin Williams with a memorial on its web site.

Williams died Monday at his home in Tiburon, California, at the age of 63 after battling severe depression.

Apple posted a simple tribute in black-and-white which includes a picture of the late actor and comedian along with this brief message.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Robin Williams. He inspired us through his passion, his generosity, and the gift of laughter. He will be greatly missed."

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted about WIlliams' death Monday, calling him an "incomparable talent and a great human being."

Williams is also being rememberd on iTunes, which has set up a "Remembering Robin WIlliams" section that includes over 40 of his movies and stand up comedy shows.

iTunes has divided Williams' work into "Essentials," "Comedy" and "Drama," and also posted a photo of him with the following paragraph on his illustrious career.

"One of the most beloved and unforgettable performers in the history of show business, Robin Williams brought laughter and inspiration to millions. Throughout a career that spanned five decades, Williams evolved from stand up comedian to international movie star. Among the great masters of improv, he transfixed audiences with a mile-a-minute comic energy. Williams' Golden Globe-winning turn in Good Morning, Vietnam demonstrated that his versatile acting talents were equally suited to evoking dramatic complexity. Many of Williams' most iconic performances--in Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, and his Oscar-winning triumph Good Will Hunting--were dazzling high-wire acts that left audiences in tears of laughter one minute and tears of poignancy the next."

MacRumors reminds us that a speech by WIlliams' character, Professor John Keating, in the movie Dead Poets Society, was the inspiration behind Apple's "Your Verse" line of iPad advertisements. Keating delivered the famous "What will your verse be?" line in the movie. Williams was also the voice over in this iPad Air commercial, one of his final productions.

"Medicine, law, business, engineering—these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life," Williams (as Keating) says in the voiceover. "But poetry, beauty, romance, love—these are what we stay alive for."

See if you can recognize his voice:

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<![CDATA[Wanderu Caters to Bus Travelers]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:12:57 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/08132014-bus-app.jpg

Like a lot of entrepreneurial endeavors, theirs was a case of “We need this right now – why doesn’t it exist?” The idea for Wanderu arose when Polina Raygorodskaya and Igor Bratnikov were stranded in Virginia by a canceled rideshare. Desperate for a ride, the concept was born, described on its website as “the simplest way for you to find and book inner-city buses and trains between any two points”. Indeed, visitors to the Wanderu site are told they’re “Free to Wanderu around the country.”

Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov, would later assume the company’s roles of CEO and COO, respectively. On the Aug. 10 episode of NBC Bay Area’s Press:Here, Scott McGrew referred to the online travel booking service as “Expedia for the Greyhound set.” Indeed, the iconic Greyhound bus has gone through a complete renovation in conjunction with its 100th anniversary this year. More than 90 percent of its coaches are brand-new or refurbished with leather seats, power outlets and the now-mandatory Wi-Fi.

With its emphasis on curbside bus stops, modernized double-decker buses and on-board Wi-Fi, Wanderu is geared toward travel for the “next generation.” Discussing the generational gap of what’s valued, Raygorodskaya said, “For the millennial demographic, it’s the coolest new electronics that you have…the reason why Lyft and Uber are so successful is because people don’t want to drive—they want to be driven around.”

Since its inception in 2011, the Boston-based company has expanded from primarily Midwest travel to all over North America, with routes from DC to New York, Orlando to Miami, Seattle to Vancouver, Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and San Francisco to LA.

The constant need for instant access to information, especially among the younger generation that’s accustomed to it, was a primary incentive for Raygorodskaya to develop this meta-search site. She told McGrew, “As a millennial…I want to be able to book a trip at the click of a button. I don’t want to have to go to 10 different websites to see what time the bus is leaving.” Also, she noted, “We’re (millennials) less likely to own cars.”

Still, the ability to quickly, easily, and cheaply plan your trip – no matter how complex – is priceless (one of Wanderu’s many partner companies, Megabus, has fares starting at just $1), especially when other plans fall through, such as was the case with Raygorodskaya and Bratnikov. “There are hundreds of bus companies in the U.S. We do routing…we’re able to reach destinations that you can’t reach with just one company,” she added.

Buses are not the only mode of transportation with which Wanderu connects its users. “We integrate transit to get you to and from the station, and we also route providers together in case you need to take more than on bus or train.”

A recent expansion announced in June that Wanderu partnered with busing company Turimex Internacional, which serves the Southwest and Mexico. An app is also currently in production, and the growing demand is evident that it can’t come soon enough. As Raygorodskaya notes, “I just got an email; someone needed help because they’re trying to find a bus to get to their wedding tomorrow.” 

 

Press:Here is a weekly roundtable featuring top technology reporters interviewing Silicon Valley CEOs and entrepreneurs. It is hosted by Scott McGrew.

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<![CDATA[California Sweetens Deal for Tesla Factory: Report]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:52:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Tesla-Store-Sign.jpg

California is now offering a new deal to Elon Musk in an effort to sway Tesla to build its big battery factory in the state.

The offer includes $500 million and an exemption from strict California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rules, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gov. Jerry Brown's office is planning to roll out the package of a half-billion dollars in tax breaks as part of a benefits package that would make the Golden State a golden opportunity for the electric car-maker, according to reports.

Meanwhile, some of the state's toughest green rules could be waived, a state senator involved in the negotiations told the LA Times.

The factory, wherever it's built, could employ up to 6,500 people and cost $5 billion.

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<![CDATA[Google Backs $300M Trans-Pacific Cable System for Faster Internet]]> Mon, 11 Aug 2014 13:43:53 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/196*120/97367122.jpg

Google is backing the building of a new high-speed Internet Trans-Pacific cable system that will connect the United States with Japan, according to reports.

The new system, dubbed FASTER, is set to debut in 2016 and will be managed by Google and several other companies including China Mobile International and KDDI, according to the Next Web. The new cable system will feature 6-fiber-pair cable and optical transmission and connect to Chikura and Shima in Japan. Major hubs will include several Asian cities as well as  Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, according to the report.

“FASTER is one of a few hundred submarine telecommunications cables connecting various parts of the world,” FASTER executive committee chairman Woohyong Choi said in a statement. “The FASTER cable system has the largest design capacity ever built on the Trans-Pacific route, which is one of the longest routes in the world."

Urs Holzle, Google's senior vice president of technical infrastructure, said the new system would create "fast and reliable" high-speed Internet in Asia.
 
It's not surprising that Google wants to speed up and strengthen the Internet in Asia, one of the biggest markets in the world. Google is only footing part of the $300 million bill, so it's likely getting its money's worth if it can secure even a fraction of Asian users who will benefit from the cable system.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Is Potato Salad Guy California's Fault]]> Fri, 08 Aug 2014 17:51:09 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/5267386119_8bc31236f6_b.jpg

The Ohio man who raised $55,000 for potato salad on Kickstarter wrapped up his campaign this week. Kickstarter's blog helpfully broke down some of the numbers.

Turns out that California was one of the highest contributors to the oddball project, second only to Zack Brown's home state of Ohio.

The way Brown pitched the project, it seemed satirical, absurd, but also rather literal. "Basically, I’m just making potato salad. I haven’t decided what kind yet," he wrote.

The goal was set at a reasonable $10. "It might not be good," he warned. "It's my first potato salad."

An ABC station in Columbus helped to drum up suport as did a post on the linksharing site, Reddit. Within days, Brown had attracted tens of thousands of dollars. Despite the $10 goal, the money kept pouring in until the official close of the campaign this week.

It ended up being an historic Kickstarter. Many campaigns have earned more money, but according to Kickstarter, few have earned more pageviews. They say the potato salad kickstarter gathered 4.1 million visits, making it the fourth most popular campaign page in the site's history.

California now has a place in that little piece of internet history, having pledged 17.2% of the total Americans contributed. Only Brown's home state, Ohio, pledged more with 17.6%. The third highest contributor was New York with only 9.5%.

It's easy to imagine that California, as the tech center of the country, might have a greater attraction to Kickstarter (if not potato salad per se) but a lot of this seems to be a function of population. California's has about 18 million more people than New York, meaning our pledges per capita are much more modest.

Californians pledged just a quarter for every thousand residents, while New York showed a smidge more dedication with $0.27 per thousand. Of course, all this pales in comparison to Ohio, which raised a good $0.84 per thousand.

Now that the campaign is over, there will, in fact, be potato salad. Ohio residents can attend "PotatoStock", an event Brown plans to throw in Columbus in September. But skeptics might be glad to learn that a lot of this money will be going into a foundation for hunger. As Brown explains on his project page, "while our little internet joke will one day be forgotten, the impact will be felt forever."



Photo Credit: Steven Depolo / Flickr]]>
<![CDATA[Apple's "Spaceship" Headquarters Taking Shape]]> Sat, 09 Aug 2014 11:47:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/08082014-apple-campus.jpg

Apple's new Cupertino headquarters is starting to take shape.

The progress can be seen in an image posted on the City of Cupertino's website recently. The outline of the so-called "spaceship" is clearly visible.

Ground broke for the 2.8-million-square-foot building back in November. Apple is hoping to have the whole thing completed by 2016.



Photo Credit: City of Cupertino ]]>
<![CDATA[Drones Collecting Hurricane Data from Ocean's Surface]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 18:55:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/080714+holoholo.jpg

As Hurricane Iselle bears down on Hawaii’s Big Island, a Silicon Valley company is offering some high-tech help to visually track the storm.

Sunnyvale-based Liquid Robotics is taking us right into the eye of the storm. Its $300,000 drone, Wave Glider, doesn’t fly into the storm… It floats.

Powered by solar panels, and equipped with a camera and weather gauges, some of the company’s Wave Gliders are right now autonomously tweeting back information and photos from inside the hurricane that’s headed for Hawaii’s Big Island.

Gary Gysin is the company’s CEO.

“It has a Java-based control system and one of the interesting things with this hurricane is that we can actually tweet the vehicle and get information off of it right in the middle of a hurricane,” Gysin said. “The difference here is that typically you get this information from satellites way above the earth’s surface. Here, we’re on the ocean surface collecting this data, which has never been done before.”

Amanda Pacheco, of Oakland, is also tracking the hurricane and hoping her family, all of whom live on the Big Island, are prepared when the storm when it hits.

“I almost started crying talking to my mom,” Pacheco said. “I’m really worried about them and really love them.”

Most of Pacheco’s family, including her mother, lives in Kona, which is in the storm’s path.
However, her dad is in Hilo, which will likely get hit first.

“My mom is still holding out hope that our big mountain will break up the storm,” Pacheco said. “I’m not sure that’s even possible, but she’s holding out hope the storm won’t make it to the Big Island.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: @Holoholo_WG / Twitter]]>
<![CDATA[Google, Barnes & Noble Team Up For Same-Day Delivery]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 15:51:03 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Google-Shopping-Express.jpg

Google and Barnes & Noble have teamed up to offer same-day delivery on books, toys, games, and magazines just one day after Amazon announced it expanded its same-day delivery service from four cities to 10.

Google's same-day deliveries are an add-on to Google Shopping Express, the tech company's online marketplace that delivers items to customers from local sellers. Unlike Amazon's "Get It Now" service, Google's same-day delivery service will be limited to customers in San Francisco, West Los Angeles, and Manhattan for now,  The New York Times reported Thursday. In New York, Google Shopping Express plans to expand to Brooklyn and Queens.

Google's express service asks customers to select one of three time windows for delivery between the hours of 9 a.m.- 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Only Manhattanites can get deliveries as late as 10 p.m.

The same-day deliveries from Google Shopping Express are free for subscribers and cost $4.99 per delivery, per store for non-subscribers, which is cheaper than Amazon's pricing for same-day deliveries. Google is offering free membership to Google Shopping Express for six months, and has yet to announce a price for the subscription fee. 

Select Barnes & Noble stores participating in the arrangement with Google, including Manhattan's Union Square store, San Jose's Steven Creek Boulevard store, and the Marina del Rey store in Southern California, will have employees on site to take online orders for same-day delivery, according to the Times.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Bay Area



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Palo Alto Startup Starts Drone Deliveries... In Bhutan]]> Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:45:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/451783648.jpg

Happiness begins in Bhutan. So, too, may deliveries via drone.

A Bay Area-based startup is using the Himalayan mountain country as its testing ground for "drone-based deliveries," according to reports.

Matternet feels that it can save lives by delivering medical supplies via unmanned aerial vehicles, according to domain-b.com.

The company is currently running supplies from a hospital in the capital to clinics in mountainous terrain otherwise in the country.

Bhuthan has under 1,000 medical centers of various sizes, from hospitals to small clinics, to serve 700,000 people -- but many of these are virtually inaccessible, given the unforgiven mountain terrain.

The startup, which is using drones to deliver medical supplies, is therefore a perfect solution, the Web site reported.

Matternet counts founder Andreas Raptopoulos and former Fulbright scholar Paola Santana as its brain trust, with Paypal and Yammer board memebrs as investors.

The company went to Bhutan after trying out its technology in earthquake-ravaged Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Web site reported.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Camp Google: Rich and Famous Gather For Elite Conference]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 12:32:54 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/lloyd-blankfein.jpg

Bohemian Grove? That's so Cold War. Try the Camp -- as in the Google Camp.

Google has invited the rich, famous, and powerful to Sicily, where the coterie of bankers, investors, and doers will engage in "high-minded discussions of global issues," according to the New York Times.

Oh, and chill on the beach, of course.

Google is being quiet about the camp, refusing to comment and not publishing anything publicly about its party for the powerful, the Times reported. However, it's apparently an annual event that's been around for some time.

Guests include Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd C. Blankfein, executives from German and Spanish banks, Uber chief Travis Kalanick, Tesla boss Elon Musk, Comcast CEO Brian L. Roberts and Snapchat boss Evan Spiegel.

Also on hand is Ben Horowitz, venture capitalist with Marc Andreessen at make-or-break Silicon Valley fund Andreessen Horowitz.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Boots 'Bomb Gaza' Apps from Google Play]]> Tue, 05 Aug 2014 06:16:39 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/192*120/BombGaza.jpg

Google removed two Android games that let users bomb Gaza with air strikes, according to reports.

The two games, "BombGaza" and "Gaza Assault: Code Red" both appeared in Google Play last month and let players drop bombs on terrorists in Gaza. In "BombGaza," if the player kills too many civilians, he or she loses, according to Mashable. Both were yanked from the Play Store on Aug. 4 following a torrent of criticism.

Google told Mashable it did not comment on apps and their removal, only that it removes apps that "violate our policies." It's likely that the causes were depictions of gratuitous violence and possibly hate speech.

Despite the two games being removed, other apps, such as "Whack the Hamas" where players neutralize terrorists with hidden faces and reportedly inspired by Israeli attack forces, are still available, according to the Telegraph.
 
“Any war games that are clearly designed to support the continuation of a conflict like this in such a very delicate environment are really dangerous," Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told the Telegraph. "We’ve seen huge amounts of hate language and bigotry over the past few weeks. It’s the last sort of things that’s needed: anything that somehow sanitizes violence."
 
The game can also be used as "propaganda" for young people, he said.
 
Doyle's points are valid ones. By making Hamas, an armed Palestine resistance group, faceless caricatures to be destroyed, it has made the group seem deserving of violence. By turning the destruction of Palestinans and Gaza a game, it also demeans the conflict and their humanity.

 

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<![CDATA[Tip From Google Leads to Man's Child Porn Arrest]]> Mon, 04 Aug 2014 18:02:44 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/160*120/Google+generic+crop.jpg

How do detectives crack the case nowadays? Forget elementary, Watson -- try Google.

A tip from the Internet giant, which was monitoring John Henry Skillern's email, led authorities to arrest the 41-year old Texas man for allegedly possessing child pornography, according to reports.

"Thank goodness for Google," one neighbor said of the bust, according to KHOU.

The National Center for Exploited and Missing Children processed the tip, according to news sources.

Skillern, a registered sex offender who worked as a cook at a Denny's, is being held on $200,000 bail, the news station reported.

Back in California, Google is not commenting to media. But privacy and Internet experts note that Google has already made it clear that its users have no "legitimate" expectation to privacy, as the Internet giant argued in a recent court case.

It was not immediately clear if Google fingered the child porn via a unique digital "fingerprint" all digital images have, or if another method was used.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>