<![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, 20 Apr 2014 01:25:45 -0700 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 01:25:45 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[LinkedIn Reaches 300 Million Members]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:30:06 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/linkedin-logo.jpg

The professional social network LinkedIn has hit a milestone--300 million members, and it appears the Mountain View-based service is growing fast.

Just 15 months ago, there were 200 million members. The company said its vision is to create economic opportunity for all of the 3.3 billion people in the global workforce.

For a bit of perspective, Facebook hit 1.3 billion users in January.

 

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<![CDATA[Airbnb Asks Hosts to Sign Anti-Eviction Petiton]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 20:23:56 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/airbnb.jpg

World-famous web-based hotel service Airbnb is asking its hosts and supporters to sign on to a petition that begs San Francisco lawmakers to protect its business model.

Currently, Airbnb hosts can be evicted from their apartments with 72 hours' notice, because renting out space for a short-term rental is a violation of most rental agreements. Airbnb in headquartered in San Francisco, which could declare war on its entire existence should it so chose.

Some landlords have gone that route, according to Uptown Almanac. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu this week proposed legislation that would see Airbnb hosts pay a hotel tax in exchange for some eviction protections -- but it may not be enough.

Douglas Atkins, Airbnb's "global head of community," has asked hosts of the company -- which received $500 million in venture funding recently -- to contact their lawmakers to "stop the evictions and fix the law," according to Business Insider.

In other words, fix it so the regulations no longer threaten Airbnb's mere existence.

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<![CDATA[Marc Benioff Calls On Tech To Give Back -- Big]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:25:41 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/167*120/152360339.jpg

There are needy nonprofits and efforts rich in nobility but short on cash everywhere in the Bay Area.

Marc Benioff is trying to get them $10 million. And he wants everyone in the tech world to help out.

The Salesforce.com CEO has little patience or understanding for fellow tech boom barons who don't want to give back, according to to San Francisco Magazine.

Benioff, whose $33 billion company employs 4,000 people in San Francisco, is trying to get 20 tech companies total to give $500,000 each to philanthropy group The Tipping Point Community.

That would be 75 percent of the entire giving seen in all of 2013, in about two months, the magazine reported.

Benioff has made waves for his 1/1/1 philosophy, in which 1 percent of his firm's profits are given away to charity.

That makes the city better, yet many tech firms are reluctant to give, the magazine reported -- due to a "pervasive and pernicious culture of selfishness," according to Benioff.

"You've got CEOs who don't believe that organizations or individuals should give back," he told the magazine, adding that "this is not what companies do."

But Benioff is convinced that he can convert enough firms to his way of thinking. As he put it, he's sent out 25 emails asking CEOs to give -- and he's received 14 yes replies.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zynga: Back On The "Farm"]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:54:59 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/162*120/04_16_farmville.JPG

Attention "FarmVille" fans (and, clearly, there are many of you still out there): The sequel is here.

San Francisco's Zynga just launched "FarmVille2: Country Escape," an attempt to boost its fortunes, by returning to the site of its original hit. This time, though, the emphasis is on mobile play - a good move, given the recent rise in mobile fortunes hauled in by the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

In a release from Zynga (ZNGA) this morning, its President of Games, Jonathan Knight says "we've reimagined the franchise as a mobile experience to match how players want to connect with their farm and with their friends," A big nod to how players want to connect with both their friends, and their own devices, anywhere at anytime.

Will this be enough to bring Zynga back to the levels it held during the original "FarmVille" era? Not sure about that, but stressing mobility is important. After all, it's where the money, players, and now the cows, are all hanging out.

Scott hangs out on Twitter: @scottbudman

 



Photo Credit: Zynga]]>
<![CDATA[Zuckerberg Tells Silicon Execs to Go Abroad]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:11:45 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/zukerberg.JPG

For Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, one of the most valuable things for a Silicon Valley executive is to go abroad and see the world.

"One of the things that we do is ask product managers to go travel to an emerging-market country to see how people who are getting on the Internet use it," Zuckerberg told the New York Times. "They learn the most interesting things. People ask questions like, ‘It says here I’m supposed to put in my password — what’s a password?’ For us, that’s a mind-boggling thing."

Zuckerberg was deflecting a question about the rising age of Facebook users and loss of teens and young adults. Instead, he said, it's the thing he worries least about and is more concerned with connecting the world.

Perhaps this is why Facebook bought WhatsApp, because Facebook’s messaging platform wouldn't work for a global audience world. While Messenger works better in the West because of mobile infrastructure, WhatsApp will work on older smartphones in developing nations.  In short, Facebook's gamble of attracting young people also helped connect the world.
 
 


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Anarchist Group Wants $3 Billion from Google]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:10:47 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/171*120/131194619.jpg

An anarchist group called  the Counterforce wants Google to give $3 billion to create anarchist communities around Northern California to solve the housing crisis.

The group previously posted notes on doors of at least one Google employee and his neighbors calling him a "parasite," according to The Verge. The Counterforce also released another statement saying it wanted $3 billion from Google to spawn anarchist collectives where aspiring anarchists could live for free and that it would solve "the housing crisis" in the Bay Area.

Others claiming the Counterforce name claimed responsibility for blocking Amazon worker shuttles in Seattle. The Counterforce is named after a resistance group in Thomas Pynchon novel Gravity’s Rainbow, and dislikes the technology, according to The Verge.  "We want to destroy the capitalist system, create a new world without an economy, and push back against the alienating technologies that are coming to dominate the cultural and physical landscape," the group said in an email to site..
 
"I find it ethically questionable, singling out individual people," Enrico Moretti, a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of a book that estimates that every new tech job creates five additional jobs outside the tech sector told The Verge. "I don’t think it’s representative of how people feel about this. That said, I think it’s working."
 
Anarchists are defined as people who believe that government and laws are not necessary and may use violence as a means to overthrow the status quo. That said, we're not sure that asking for billions to establish anarchist collectives is the best way to do that, both philosophically and logistically.
 
 
 


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Protesters Descend on Apple Store, Decry Offshore Earnings]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:33:58 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/apple+logo2.JPG

Siri! Where is Apple hiding all of its money?

Overseas, according to protesters dressed as Apple Store employees, who want the company to start paying its fair share, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Apple stashes as much as $102 billion in holdings "overseas," said a group of protesters, who arrived on-scene at San Francisco's Union Square store for about half an hour on Tuesday. Organizers called the protest a little "Tax Day fun."

The protesters include union members with SEIU USWW, who organize security guards and janitors at tech firms and other companies in San Francisco and the East Bay.

The store did not close during the half-hour long protest, the newspaper reported.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[SF Workers Protest Tax Exemptions for Tech Companies]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 03:55:50 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0415-seiu-protest.jpg

Hundreds of San Francisco union workers took to the streets on tax day to protest the city’s three-year old payroll tax exemptions that have lured more than a dozen tech companies, including Twitter, to the once-desolate strip of mid-Market Street.

Workers, many who are currently negotiating contracts with the city, donned fake mustaches ala Mayor Ed Lee, and characterized the incentives as a giveaway to corporate tech giants, at the expense of working families who can no longer afford to live in San Francisco.

“They have money,” said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who works for Local 1021. “We’re saying why don’t we take that money and spend it on working people.”

The value of the tax breaks varies widely depending on who’s crunching the numbers.

San Francisco leaders said the incentives deprived the city of just under $2 million in taxes, while generating $8 million in new revenue.

Union leaders, on the other hand, said lost taxes total somewhere close to $56 million.

“The economy is working for a section of the city,” Bradshaw said. “But for a large number of people, they’re being left behind in San Francisco.”

San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development said the payroll tax breaks offered to Twitter, lured 17 other tech companies to mid-market. They also brought 17 small businesses, 13,000 jobs and more than 5,000 units of new housing under construction in the area.

“The 13,000 jobs support so many other jobs and economic activity in the city,” said Todd Rufo, the mayor’s director of economic and workforce development. “That supports construction jobs, it supports our local small businesses."

Rufo said the new economic activity in mid-Market is attracting new restaurants to the area, while generating new business for long-time area stalwarts.

“Now there’s an influence of the younger crowd,” said Jeannie Kim, who has owned Sam’s Diner on Market Street for more than a decade. “People who are more in business suits are coming in.”

Kim has expanded the footprint of her diner, while adding staff and new hip dishes to accommodate the new customers. But she said despite the influx of new business, the area still suffers an abundance of crime and homeless issues.

“You’re not going to make everybody happy, and there are still things that need to change,” Kim said. “It’s going to take some time.”



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Journalist Says Google Glass Led to SF Assault]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:00:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-14-2014-Kyle-Russell.jpg

Google Glass appears to have inspired another attack in San Francisco.

Kyle Russell, a Berkeley-based tech reporter for Business Insider, had his Google Glass ripped from his face and "smashed on the ground" near the 16th and Mission BART station on Friday, he says. 

The attacker, a woman, shouted "Glass" before taking off with the $1,500 computer glasses, Russell said. Russell gave chase but before he could catch the assailant, she smashed the Glass on the ground.

She then "vanished," the Chronicle reported.

Russell had been in the Mission District covering an anti-Google protest, he said on Twitter. There had been a tech bus blockage that morning as well as a protest at an apartment building supposedly bought by a Google lawyer, who had moved to evict the tenants. 

Reaction to Russell's fate -- or, to be more accurate, the fate of his Glass -- ranged from solace-giving to outright schadenfreude, with perhaps a bit more of the latter from the anti-tech set.

Russell told NBC Bay Area he’s amused that critics seem to believe he was “flaunting” his wealth “as a techie, which is funny because I'm a journalist who lives in Berkeley.”

However, "I can see why the person who smashed my Glass did what they did," Russell said in a post summarizing the run-in and the subsequent reactions.

He recognizes that tech-fueled gentrification has pushed people out of their homes, and that his "love for gadgets" like Glass "makes me look and sound like one of the" oppressors, he wrote.

Earlier, a woman reported having her Google Glass snatched off of her face at a San Francisco bar. Sarah Slocum, a self-described tech PR writer, recovered her device.



Photo Credit: Karyne Levy]]>
<![CDATA[Dropbox Defends Condoleezza Rice Appointment]]> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 18:48:22 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/175*120/080815rice.jpg

Dropbox won't drop Condoleeza Rice.

The cloud-based file-sharing service has come under fire since it appointed the former secretary of state to its board of directors. The company has since responded to a "Drop Dropbox" campaign with a blog post.

The post says, in essence, that the company supports privacy and Condi -- and you can, too.

The company has "been fighting for transparency and government surveillance reform," CEO Drew Houston wrote in an April 11 blog post, and "none of this is going to change to Dr. Rice's appointment to our Board."

The organizers of Drop Dropbox note that Rice was an architect of the Iraq War and also pursued warantless wiretaps that served as precursors to the National Security Agency's current en masse collection of Americans' personal and private data.

At its blog SiliconBeat, the San Jose Mercury News wrote that appointing Rice to the position isn't the same move as Mozilla's when it named to its CEO position a famous programmer who had also donated money to the proponents of a gay marriage ban.

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Is Letting Anyone in the U.S. Buy Glass – Only for One Day]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:07:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/fb-04-14-2014-google-glass.jpg

Pining for Google Glass? You could snag your own pair today.

The tech giant opened up its "Explorer Program" to the general public for one day Tuesday, allowing any adult in the United States to purchase the technology for $1,500 plus tax on the Google Glass site. The limited number of Google Glass were available for sale starting at 6 a.m. PST -- 9 a.m. on the East Coast -- at this link.

The news of the sale created a buzz on social media, especially on Tuesday when many took to Twitter to either praise Glass or complain about the price.

The announcement about the sale, made last week via Google+ and Facebook posts, came after The Verge posted that it had obtained documents that indicated that Google will open up its "Explorer Program," making the personal wearable computers available to anyone.

"Whoops. So... we’d planned to post this next week, but it looks like the cat's out of the bag now," Google Glass said in its post. "Over the past several months, we’ve been trying out different ways to expand the Explorer program. Some of you signed up at Google I/O, some told us what you would do #ifihadglass, some were referred by a friend, some joined through their school or university. Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new."

Currently Google Glass is not available for sale to the public. Anyone who is over 18 years old, is a U.S. resident with a U.S. shipping address, can sign up for the restricted Google Glass Explorer Program.

Google said in its post that it will open up some spots in the Glass Explorer Program on April 15, without specifying exactly how many. They are even throwing in people's favorite shades or frames, thanks to feedback from current explorers.

As for everyone outside the U.S., here's what Google had to say:

"Sorry [sad emoticon] We’re just not ready yet to bring Glass to other countries."

 



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Politics Test Silicon Valley's Russian Ties]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 14:48:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/217*120/AP652607603147.jpg

Entrepreneurs and investors say Silicon Valley's fast-growing financial ties with Russia's tech sector are being slowed down by current political tensions between the White House and the Kremlin.

"It's safe to say a lot of investors here are taking a step back to see how the situation will unfold," said Alexandra Johnson, who manages a $100 million venture fund called DFJ VTP Aurora, a Menlo Park, Calif., branch of Russian bank VTB.

For decades, Russia's sophisticated scientists and engineers remained at arm's length from Silicon Valley's venture capitalists and marketing mavens. That changed in recent years with a flurry of investment, largely sparked in 2010 when then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited the region and met with high-tech leaders.

Russians investors, including billionaire Yuri Milner, who has large stakes in Facebook and Twitter, poured an estimated $2 billion into U.S. tech firms over the past three years, according to Johnson, who organized a technology symposium with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs last month in San Mateo, south of San Francisco.

But Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors fear negative economic fallout from Russia's takeover of Crimea, its troop buildup near Ukraine's border and its attempts to compel constitutional changes in that country, markedly raising political tensions with the West.

Secretary of State John Kerry has charged Russia with "creating a climate of fear and intimidation" and the Obama administration has frozen assets and revoked visas of some Russian officials and their associates.

Among the concerns in this technology center are whether visa limits will make it hard for business travel or for scientists to relocate. In addition, economic sanctions could tighten the flow of dollars between tech sectors in both countries. And for those U.S. and Russian firms with ties to Ukraine, rumors of a draft are fanning fears that young entrepreneurs and engineers will have to close up shop and fight.

Experts say an investment slowdown will be temporary and will not untrack rapidly growing, lucrative U.S.- Russia business relationships in the long run.

Axel Tillmann, who invests Russian venture capital on behalf of government-sponsored RVC-USA, said the tensions are definitely going to "slow things down for a while," describing a two- to three-month suspension of additional investment by Russian government funds in tech firms.

However, Tillmann said the flow of investments is certain to resume because Russian companies thrive on Silicon Valley's entrepreneurship.

"Russian technologists have been at the leading forefront of technology for many years, even going back to the Soviet Union, but they had the problem they called `The lonely ideas,'" he said. "The ideas just sat there."

Tillmann said the one thing Russian companies are not very good at today is commercializing their technology - something that Silicon Valley firms are masters at doing. "When we combine, we get the best of both," he said.

In Russia, entrepreneurs and investors now tap Silicon Valley experts to try to replicate their success.

A planned technology hub outside Moscow, the Skolkovo Innovation Center, includes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Cisco CEO John Chambers and retired Intel CEO Craig Barrett on its 17-member board.

Russian entrepreneurs have also launched their own firms in the Silicon Valley, and tech giants are buying stakes in Russian startups.

Last year, for example, Cisco acquired a stake in Russian software developer Parallels and got a seat on its board.

The Russian Innovation Center, which opened two years ago on Silicon Valley's Sand Hill Road amid a cluster of venture capital firms, combines three firms investing in California companies committed to the Russian market.

And today more than 100 Russian high-tech firms have representative offices in the northern California region, including Russian search engine Yandex, which employs former Yahoo and Google engineers at its Palo Alto laboratory.

On April 3, San Jose-based Cisco, a valley leader in building ties to Russia, announced that it had won a contract to supply the video conferencing network for Moscow's water and sanitation supplier.

Cisco has also reported that it is currently reviewing its Russian business practices for any possibility of corruption.

Spokesman John Earnhardt said they are watching events closely, but that Russia remains an important market.

Silicon Valley-based Dmitry Akhanov, president of the U.S. subsidiary of Russia's state-owned venture fund RUSNANO, said it has taken years to shape those East-West tech sector relationships.

"Political turmoil can happen, but business ties are much more sustainable because those are people-to-people, and those build trust," he said. "The diplomats need to calm down and think about the immediate consequences of their decisions. It's very easy to hurt an economy and much harder to rebuild."

Oleg Slepov, who heads the Russian Trade Representation's office in San Francisco, said he's spoken with many U.S. business leaders lately who tell him they have no plans to close or scale down their business in Russia.

Slepov said he's even optimistic that business ties may help ease the conflict.

"The interests of Russian and American companies are so intertwined today that, on itself, it becomes a factor that is contributing to easing of tensions between Russia and the U.S.," he said.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Salesforce Inks SF's Biggest-Ever Office Lease]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:41:08 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/167*120/152360339.jpg

Welcome to Salesforce city.

The cloud computing giant will make its name on the San Francisco skyline, after signing the biggest-ever lease of office space in city history, according to reports.

Salesforce has inked a deal to occupy 714,000 square feet of the Transbay Tower once the 1,070-foot office building is completed in 2017, according to the San Francisco Business Times. That's half of the building.

The Transbay Tower, the largest skyscraper west of the Mississippi, will be renamed the Salesforce Tower, the newspaper reported.

Luminaries such as Mayor Ed Lee and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi were on hand Friday for the announcement.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff touted the lease of 30 floors of office space -- which begins in 2018, and could be worth as much as $560 million over 15 years -- as a landmark achievement for his company, which was founded 15 years ago in San Francisco.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Is Letting Anyone in the U.S. Buy Glass – Only for One Day]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:05:14 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/466915567.jpg

The cat is definitely out of the bag now.

In a Google+ and Facebook post around noon Thursday, Google Glass announced that it's going to open up its Explorer Program to anyone in the U.S. for one day.

That's right, any adult in this country can become an Explorer by visiting the Google Glass site and buying Glass for $1,500 plus tax.

The announcement came after The Verge posted that it had obtained documents that indicated that Google will open up its "Explorer Program," making Glass available to anyone who wants a pair, possibly next week.

"Whoops. So... we’d planned to post this next week, but it looks like the cat's out of the bag now," Google Glass said in its post. "Over the past several months, we’ve been trying out different ways to expand the Explorer program. Some of you signed up at Google I/O, some told us what you would do #ifihadglass, some were referred by a friend, some joined through their school or university. Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new."

Currently Google Glass is not available for sale to the public. Anyone who is over 18 years old, is a U.S. resident with a U.S. shipping address, can sign up for the restricted Google Glass Explorer Program.

Google said in its post that it will open up some spots in the Glass Explorer Program on April 15, without specifying exactly how many. They are even throwing in people's favorite shades or frames, thanks to feedback from current explorers.

The number of spots are limited however, so mark your calendars to grab a pair.

As for everyone outside the U.S., here's what Google had to say:

"Sorry [sad emoticon] We’re just not ready yet to bring Glass to other countries."

 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Dropbox Adds Condoleezza Rice to Board]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:24:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/rep.conv.wed.P8.jpg

While many announced Dropbox's new Carousel, or storage application for photos, others may have overlooked that Dropbox also named former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to its board of directors.

As it turns out, Dropbox had used Rice's consulting business, RiceHadleyGates, on "management issues," according to Bloomberg News. However, Dropbox felt Rice would be a good addition to the team especially about privacy issues in the age of NSA spying.  

“As a country, we are having a great national conversation and debate about exactly how to manage privacy concerns,” Rice told Bloomberg about her new position. “I look forward to helping Dropbox navigate it.”

Rice will be only one of four directors who will oversee the startup, so her position is one with a lot of clout. She is also expected to advise in international expansion.

While Dropbox has yet to file for its initial public offering, it's becoming increasingly difficult for the public (and possible investors) to ignore. Hiring a high-profile member to its board, as well as adding new apps to its features, will continue to keep people talking about it.

 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Cruz-Based Startup Takes On PayPal]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:09:27 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/183*120/94674017.jpg

PayStand is looking to take a bite out of PayPal.

Despite robust competition in the online payments sector, the Santa Cruz-based startup is seeking to take advantage of some merchants' discontent with PayPal's fees and take a sector of the market for itself, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Venture capital is quite interested in how people pay, the newspaper noted, with investors getting behind the likes of Square, Stripe and others, the newspaper reported.

PayStand is aiming for "small and mid-sized merchants and nonprofits" sick of the fees for processing credit card payments and checking account transfers charged by PayPal, the newspaper reported.

Bitcoin, for example, is processed for free by PayStand, the newspaper reported. Processing other cash is done for a monthly fee, depending on how big an organization is, the newspaper reported.

So far, PayStand has 1,000 customers and $1 million in venture capital behind it, the newspaper reported.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NASA Tests "Saucers" for Mars]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:48:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/214*120/rocket-sled-test-nasa-saucer.gif

The flying saucers of science fiction movies might be the shape of things to come for future Mars missions that are expected to involve larger payloads that today's landing vehicles are not equipped to handle.

The saucer-shaped landing systems in development, part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will be sent into near-space in June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

Scientists provided a mission overview in a "clean room" Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Reporters were required to wear lab suits and hats.

"If you want to land bigger and bigger payloads, you need ways of growing the size of the vehicle to create more drag," said JPL's principal investigator Ian Clark, likening the vehicle to a puffer fish.

Current landing technologies rely primarily on parachute designs dating to the 1970s Viking Program. That design placed two landers on Mars in 1976 and the same basic technology was used about 35 years later when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars' surface.

After a parachute deployed high above Mars' surface, rocket thrusters were used to slow Curiosity's landing vehicle. The rover was then dropped by cables from the spacecraft and gently placed on the landing site before the tethers were disconnected and the spacecraft soared clear of the site.

NASA's landing vehicles in development would use the saucer shape to maximize atmospheric drag -- slowing and stabilizing the spacecraft after it enters Mars' atmosphere for final approach, a process described as "six minutes of terror." Increasing drag would save rocket engines and fuel required for complex landing maneuvers.

Friction already slows a spacecraft considerably after it enters Mars' atmosphere during the first four minutes of entry. But the spacecraft is still traveling at about 1,000 mph at that point and decelerates to about 200 mph after parachute deployment, which occurs at about 300 feet from the surface, according to NASA.

Thruster rockets, giant airbag cushions and tethers can all be used for the remainder of the descent, but the larger payloads possible in future Mars missions require something more advanced. The decelerators being developed by NASA -- pufferfish-like inflatable devices and an improved parachute -- can almost double payload mass, according to researchers.

The concept was ground-tested using a rocket sled in June 2012. The balloon-like inflatable devices extend around the vehicle to increase drag. A large parachute would then deploy to scrub off more speed.

The parachute is so large it did not fit in a wind tunnel, so researchers used the rocket-powered sled test at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

The upcoming test flights will give scientists a better idea of how the technology works when the saucer is sent high above Earth. The vehicles could be used in Mars missions as early as 2018, according to NASA.

When asked what was so sensitive about the project that it needed to take place in a clean room, Clark laughed, "It is the only space we had available."



Photo Credit: NASA]]>
<![CDATA[Uber Helps Passengers Pitch to Google Ventures]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:50:11 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-09-2014-uberpitch.jpg

Uber is giving people in the Bay Area the chance to have their big ideas heard by Google Ventures.

The ridesharing service is teaming up with Google’s venture capital investment arm for #UberPITCH. They say “anyone with 15 minutes and a good idea can request a ride” and make a pitch.

Passengers have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to Google Ventures’ general partners.

General Partner David Krane said the promotion is “a little bit unusual.” He called the #UberPitch a “first date.” If anyone’s idea wows him, Krane said, there could be a second meeting, “and maybe that leads to a funding.”

“We’re hoping for that outcome today,” Krane said.

“I think what we’re certain we’re gonna see today is passion, enthusiasm and lots of creativity,” Krane said. “I think we’ll see a little bit of everything.”

From 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Wednesday, distinguished investors are hearing ideas in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park, and the rides don’t cost a thing.

Krane said Google Ventures invests about $300 million per year, with about $1.5 under management.

Here’s how to pitch:

If you already use Uber, apply the code UberPITCHSV in order to request UberPITCH. If you don’t have the app, download Uber and enter UberPITCHSV.

More information is posted on Uber’s blog.

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<![CDATA[San Quentin Inmates Get Trained For Silicon Valley Startups]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:04:04 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/sanquentin.jpg

Before Kenyatta Leal took a job at a downtown San Francisco tech company, he landed an internship using the right connections.

He made those connections while behind bars at San Quentin State Prison, where he'd been incarcerated since 1994.

Leal took advantage of a program called The Last Mile, which trains inmates in state prison to take internships and then, hopefully, jobs at Silicon Valley tech startups, according to reports.

Program cofounders Beverly Parenti and Chris Redlitz are confronted with a great tech divide in training inmates for tech jobs: Many have never seen or used a smartphone or the Internet, NYU Local reported.

And they're also barred from using the Internet while in prison. 

So, during their twice-a-week training sessions, inmates write blog posts by hand that are posted online by volunteers before pitching a business idea "backed by a social cause" to fellow inmates.

It has worked so far for a few inmates, which is saying something: all they needed was the proper training.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Exclusive: 'Leaning In' with Sheryl Sandberg]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 08:14:12 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/465001605.jpg Scott McGrew talks exclusively to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg about selling off shares of the company and the new chapters in her book, "Lean In."

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Ageism Stifles Medical Innovation]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:06:20 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/stethoscope+generic+edit.jpg

Is your new company trying to help people with medical needs? Sorry, no money for you.

But you say you have a new social network? I bet we can find $100 million for you.

Ageism is running rampant in Silicon Valley, where 20-somethings with "fresh" ideas are king, and people over 35 with experience coding or handling capital are being sidelined, according to the New Republic's lengthy article on the subject.

But in addition to punishing people for being old, this race to find the next young thing is also stifling progress in medicine, MedCityNews.com observed.

Take the story of startup founder Mark Goldenson. He'd founded two start-ups by the time he turned 30, one for an online "game show," the magazine reported.

Both failed. So then he had an idea to start a company that helps people find psychiatric counseling online. It had "enormous social value" in the United States, where mental health problems go untreated -- but in Silicon Valley, he could find no takers.

He "never had more trouble raising money," he told the New Republic.

MedCityNews hopes that after Mark Zuckerberg turns 30 and is over the hill -- next month, in fact -- he and the other titans of tech "start funding companies that really make a difference."

Meanwhile, be sure to share these feelings via Snapchat.



Photo Credit: Adam Berry/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Silicon Valley" Kind of Like the Real Silicon Valley]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:24:23 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-07-2014-silicon-valley.jpg

Awkward dudes, a lot of brainstorming on buzzwords. Computers and cash -- and not a lot of contributions from ladies.

"Silicon Valley," the new HBO show that's "Office Space" and "King of the Hill" creator Mike Judge's spoof on the "real" Silicon Valley, is "spot on," reviews of the new show said.

But what's right about the new show, which premiered Sunday, is also what's wrong about the real tech culture, according to Siliconbeat.com. There were only three women with speaking roles in the first episode. There were, however, jokes about nipples and such from the dudes who code.

In other words, "it was 'bro culture' and the lack of diversity in tech in a nutshell," the website wrote.

Techies themselves aren't taking kindly to "Silicon Valley," either: Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO who made his money off of PayPal, hated it, according to reports.

Then again, it's the puffed-up princes of computer capitalism like Musk that the show is trying to satirize -- so maybe that's to be expected, as the cast members said.



Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Construction Project Could Cause Traffic Issues]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:52:24 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/101513-apple-campus-rendering.jpg

Traffic near the site of Apple’s new “Spaceship” campus in Cupertino is expected to get a whole lot worse.

A section of Pruneridge Avenue between Wolfe Road and Tantau Avenue was scheduled to permanently close starting Monday.

That part of Pruneridge is needed to connect the new 176-acre Apple campus with buildings it already owns on the other side of the road.

The stretch is known to be a shortcut for drivers in the area.

The campus will bring more jobs and tax revenue to Cupertino. But, in the meantime, nearby businesses are worried the construction will drive away customers.

"Yeah, we're really worried, but we don't have any choice," Fantasia Coffee and Tea’s Jennifer Wang said. "It's already the decision."

 

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<![CDATA[Must See: Giant Tetris Game Draws Crowd]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 04:28:19 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/pa-tetris_1200x675_219161155683.jpg Hundreds of Tetris fans got to play a super-sized version of the popular interlocking shapes game in Philadelphia on Saturday.]]> <![CDATA[Calif. Bill Could Help Protect Consumers From ID Theft]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 04:51:10 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Target+CC+Security+121913.jpg

Protecting consumers from identity theft is the new goal of a new bill in Sacramento that would require businesses to adopt better security practices to protect people's personal information.

Under the new legislation, if data breaches do occur, retailers, not banks, would be responsible for reimbursing any compromised consumers.

Last holiday season, Target was the victim of massive data breaches that compromised millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers.

"Trust me, credit card companies and banks and credit unions and the retailers do not want to have their systems hacked into," Fremont Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski said. "This is not good publicity for them, so we’re trying to figure out some rational improvements in the law that will restore the confidence that consumers want.”

The bill would also require businesses to notify consumers within 15 days of detecting any possible data theft.



Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Downtown San Jose Sees Restaurant Boom]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 20:19:52 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/0814-downtown.jpg

Business is booming in the South Bay and it’s more than just tech. It’s the new South Bay food boom.

The South Bay has been in a construction boom for a few years, bringing new jobs along with new buildings – good news for a slew of new restaurants opening in downtown San Jose. It is now a hot spot for “restaurant” growth as dozens of new places to eat have hit the downtown to shake things up.

“We feel there's a revival here, and San Jose would be a good spot for us,” said Pete Be, owner of Da Kine Island Grill in downtown San Jose.

San Jose’s Dishcrawl tracks the restaurant industry and said that growth here had been slow for awhile.

“I think in alignment with what the city is trying to do with building urban development and high-rises - it’s actually going to fuel the economy,” said Dishcrawl CEO Tracy Lee.

Lee said that downtown San Jose is definitely seeing a boom

“I think downtown is growing – it’s never been as it's been today,” Be said.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Patent Office Too Expensive, Delayed]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 18:38:48 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/12-23-2013-san-jose-city-hall-flag.jpg

Granting patents in Silicon Valley looks really expensive. More expensive than San Jose was planning on.

The much-cheered opening of a branch of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in San Jose City Hall has been delayed until at least mid-2015.

Local leaders have blanched at the estimated $4.7 million price tag, according to the San Jose Mercury News, after it took nearly four years of cajoling and political begging to land the patent office.

The extra cost includes the requirement for San Jose to rent extra space to house its own workers due to all the space the patent judges and examiners would require at City Hall, the newspaper reported.

As it is, San Jose is poised to approve extra "incentives" to attract the patent office to the location, which is an undeveloped "shell" city leaders couldn't "give away"' to other companies, the newspaper reported.

Still, the increased costs are worth it, according to Mayor Chuck Reed.

Without them, the patent office could go to Mountain View.



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook May Give You a Secret Identity]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:38:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/SecretApp.jpg
Facebook has been noticing the rise in anonymous sharing apps and now wants part of the action.
 
Although there have been rumors that Facebook offered $100 million to social app Secret, those rumors have been scotched, according to the Re/Code. Still, Facebook is working on how to make their users share anonymously, too.
 
Apparently Facebook has already been figuring out ways for users to log in anonymously, but the goal is that users will be liberated with a secret identity. Messages on anonymous sharing apps tend to be more outrageous, with admissions of cheating, stealing and generally being an unfeeling or immoral person. Others like a platform free of judgment, or at least to who they really are.
 
As the Re/Code suggests, Facebook could just buy its way into the market, just as it bought messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion last month. However, Facebook doesn't need to buy a company to make for users to post anonymously -- it simply needs an app where they can log on without using their real names.
 
The new feature could provide more usage for the site and possibly bring younger users, something Facebook seems not to be attracting. 

 

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<![CDATA[Microsoft to Move into SF's Biggest Office Space]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:36:38 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Microsoft-generic1.jpg

The tech giant is moving into a physical giant.

Microsoft Corp. is moving its San Francisco offices into 555 California Street, San Francisco's second-tallest, and biggest, office tower, Bloomberg reported.

The move will be made in December, according to a top official for Vornado Realty Trust, which owns the iconic skyscraper.

Microsoft will occupy two floors and take up 50,000 square feet of space total.

Having the company on Montgomery Street should raise its public profile, Bloomberg reported.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Resigns After Gay Marriage Backlash]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 18:54:15 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-03-2014-Brendan-Eich.jpg

Mozilla's newly-appointed CEO Brendan Eich has stepped down following calls for him to resign over his support for California's anti-gay marriage bill Prop. 8.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's board chairman, announced Eich's resignation in a blog post on Thursday.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community," Baker said.

Eich -- who created the JavaScript programming language -- came under fire for a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to support Prop. 8.

Eich's donation came under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks, and a number of people -- including Mozilla employees -- took to Twitter to criticize him. The dating site OKCupid joined the protest, calling for a boycott of the FireFox browser.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it," Baker's post said. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better."

The Guardian reported that Eich has "repeatedly refused to discuss his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, saying that to do so would violate Mozilla’s principle of inclusiveness."

“I agree with people who say it wasn't private, but it was personal,” he said of the donation in a Wednesday interview. “But the principle that I have operated by, that is formalised in our code of conduct at Mozilla, is it's really about keeping anything that's not central to our mission out of our office."

The Guardian also reported that Eich donated thousands of dollars to Right Wing Republicans such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in the 1990s.

In a March 26 post on his website, Eich addressed lingering concerns about his stance on marriage equality.

"I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support," Eich said. "At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results."

Eich went on to detail Mozilla's commitment to inclusiveness, adding that he was committed to ensuring that "Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion."

In her post, Baker underlined the importance of "diversity and inclusiveness."

"Mozilla supports equality for all," she said. "While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better."

Twitter immediately reacted to news of Eich's resignation, with some asking asking whether the resignation was the best way to address the issue.

Investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesssen tweeted in support of Eich's contribution to technology, saying: "Brendan Eich is a good friend of 20 years, and has made a profound contribution to the web and to the entire world."

Others hailed the power of "clicktivism," praising OKCupid for its call to action.

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<![CDATA[NASA Cuts Ties With Russian Space Program]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:44:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/04-02-2014-nasa-ames-rocket.jpg

An Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. military weather satellite was launched into space, but with the lift-off comes questions about the rocket's future and the United States’ strong ties to Russia through the space program.

The rocket, carrying the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program-19 spacecraft, blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California's Central Coast at 7:46 a.m. PDT Thursday, headed for a polar orbit.

NASA announced Wednesday it plans to cut virtually all ties to the Russian space program. The only exception, for now, is the International Space Station. The announcement comes amid tensions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea away from Ukraine.

The Atlas V rocket plays heavily into all this. The engines which power the rocket are made by Russia.

The Air Force says the weather program's satellites have been the primary provider of terrestrial and space weather information to the U.S. military for 50 years.

But, earlier this week, the Pentagon asked the Air Force to investigate whether using Russian engines on American rockets -- like the Atlas V, which carries the satellites into orbit -- poses a national security risk.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also said he has serious concerns, agreeing that the U.S. needs to take a closer look at the issue.

Even Elon Musk has chimed in. Musk is the head of Tesla Motors and Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, which makes and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. He says it is in the "long-term security interest" of the U.S. to build the rocket engines domestically.

No doubt, Musk would love for SpaceX to build them -- in the U.S.

The debate is intensifying with NASA's announcement that they are suspending ties with the Russian government -- except for the International Space Station.

In a statement, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said:

"The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple."

NASA pays Russia more than $70 million every time an American flies into space on a Russian rocket.

Right now, there are two Americans on board the space station

The weather satellite was built by Lockheed Martin.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Will HBO's "Silicon Valley" Get it Right?]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:17:34 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/218*120/siliconvalleycast.jpg

The producers of HBO's "Silicon Valley" decided to portray the tech industry in a positive light, both for the comedy's storyline and to lure an audience to the cable channel, according to reports.

“We couldn’t completely kick over the idea of Silicon Valley,” producer Alec Berg told the New York Times. “If we’re trying to get people to invest in our guys, and what our guys want is to succeed in this business, we can’t have the audience feeling that these guys are wrong to want that.”

Executive producer and director Mike Judge, of "King of the Hill" and "Office Space" fame, also spent time in the 1980s working as an engineer in Silicon Valley. 

“I think people in tech are funny, weird, awkward and interesting people, and you just don’t see them portrayed as they are,” Judge told the Times. “I thought I might be one of the few people in Hollywood who could get this crowd.”

However, the Times seems to think that an audience may not "care enough about the weird guys who make our apps to tune in for eight episodes" or that the "inner workings of software engineers could be a harder sell."
 
But isn't "The Big Bang Theory", a comedy about geeky scientists, consistently the highest-rated program on television? Perhaps the Times' TV critic is a little unimaginative, but in Silicon Valley most will be entertained by the portrayal of eccentric billionaire angel investors, or the villainous and spurned corporate billionaire who hires a member of the protagonist's team "as the VP of spite."
 
The comedy is about Richard (Thomas Middleditch), a computer programmer that creates an app that can compress files and sets off a bidding war for his work: will he sell it for millions or be the master of his own destiny? There are other characters here, including his self-effacing best friend, Big Head, and other programmers that could be described as stereotypical  -- the nihilistic Gilfoyle (Martin Starr), the naysaying Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani), and failed tech entrepreneur Erlich (T.J. Miller).
 
There are even cameos by the Silicon Valley regulars, including Google's Eric Schmidt,  Re/Code's Kara Swisher, and a mock TechCrunch Disrupt conference. (Even a Stanford professor was consulted on the show's algorithm for compressing files.)
 
If anything, as the producers say, there's likely lessons for those looking to succeed in the Valley. And if that wasn't enough, apparently Tesla founder and billionaire Elon Musk hated the series. So now it's a must-see.
 
"Silicon Valley" premieres Sunday, April 6 on HBO. 
 

 



Photo Credit: HBO]]>
<![CDATA[Uber, Lyft In $500 Million Battle]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:52:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/Uber_Dallas_Council_102313_722x406_55848515673.jpg

Behind that pink mustache is a wad of cash -- cash to rival the backing of the sleek guy next door.

Investors are taking great interest in which ride service you take home, with $250 million in new financing for Lyft announced just Wednesday.

That matches the $250 million Uber received last summer, WIRED reported, and with both companies now on "more equal financial footing," the race is on to see whose business model can win.

Lyft goes for a mix of "service" and community, WIRED reported, taking the idea of a "sharing economy" to an extreme. There's more flexibility and more "fun" -- and perhaps less of an idea of a sleek product than with Uber.

What will work best? Whichever is faster and cheaper, in theory.

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<![CDATA[Report: Young People Start Billion-Dollar Companies]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 20:29:07 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/zuckrberg.JPG

Thirty-one is just about the right time to have a billion-dollar idea.

If you're going to have one at all.

Of the 52 founders of 35 billion-dollar companies, the median age is about 30, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

That's about the age when the founders of billion-dollar, venture-backed companies of today were in start up mode, according to a review conducted by Harvard Business School.

However, the school took a step back about making any kind of age-based pronouncement.

"We can conclude that founders under the age of 35 represent a significant portion of founders in the billion-dollar club, and most likely the majority," a report author said.

However, another report skewed older: current CEOs and presidents at billion-dollar companies are about 42 years old.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook's Zuckerberg Takes $1 Salary]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:41:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/180*120/ZuckerbergPrideCelebration.jpg

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg decided he's worth $1 a year, at least according to his salary.

Previously, Zuckerberg was paid $503,205 in 2012, but in 2013 only claimed $1, according to Bloomberg News.

The report comes from regulatory filings, and comes after Facebook's initial public offering. Those of you who worry about Zuckerberg probably shouldn't. He's still the 22nd richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Of course, Zuckerberg did receive $653,165 in compensation for "passenger fees, fuel, crew and catering costs for his use of private planes for personal reasons, as part of his security program," according to Bloomberg.

Zuckerberg's $1 annual salary comes from a Silicon Valley tradition -- Apple's Steve Jobs, as well as Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin, also take $1 salaries. Of course, that's likely because each held or currently holds a hefty amount of company stock and likely sold a bunch of it to make them independently wealthy. Last year, he cashed out $2.3 billion and another $1.1 billion to pay his tax bill.

As we can see, salaries don't really make wealth for Silicon Valley elites. It's really all about the IPO and number of company shares.

 

 



Photo Credit: Mike Matas]]>
<![CDATA[LifeSaver App Prevents Distracted Driving]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:06:13 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/KNTV_000000006387232_1200x675_213484099969.jpg NBC Bay Area's Chase Cain reports on extra police patrols in Palo Alto and a new app that will keep you safer on the roads.]]> <![CDATA[The Best April Fools' Jokes From Across the Web]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:55:16 -0700 http://media.nbcbayarea.com/images/213*120/chicken-april-fools86159934.jpg

Won't get fooled again? The Internet is full of so many April Fools' jokes that it's hard to trust anything online. Here are some of the most memorable hoaxes and gags from across the web on April 1.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton parodied his wife, Hillary Clinton's, Twitter photo, which has taken on meme status over the last couple of years. Hillary's photo is of her back in 2011 when she was Secretary of State. The black and white photo shows her texting in sunglasses on a military plane bound for Libya. Bill's photo is almost an exact replica, except he's perched where she used to be and is holding an extremely large iPad.

Google

The tech giant unveiled a legitimate update for Google Maps' iOS and Android apps that lets users hunt Pokémon around the globe. There are 150 of the creatures hiding across the world map. When you catch one, it's tagged in a Pokédex, a digital encyclopedia for Pokémon. The update was announced on Google's Japanese blog on Monday. The blog features a nifty video that's sure to excite Google and Pokémon fans alike.

Google also launched a new app in its Chrome Web Store that allows cats to type on smartphones using their paws. Like the Google Maps app update, this app actually exists; it's not just a gimmick. Features include "four pawing modalities using your trackpad or touchscreen" and "cat translation technology (beta)." Google claims new apps are coming for dogs, fish, hamsters and dinosaurs. Squirrels weren't left out of the mix either...

Netflix

The video streaming service is tempting users with a brand new original movie: "Rotisserie Chicken." Except there are no actors or elaborate plot lines in this one, just 73 minutes of a rotisserie chicken being cooked in reverse. It's available until April 2, so if watching a juicy hunk of poultry travel backwards in time to its original raw state is your thing, you've got only a day to watch it.

Oh yeah, and there's also a 20-minute movie called "Sizzling Bacon" that's exactly what it sounds like, and just like "Rotisserie Chicken," it's backwards. One reviewer praised "Sizzling Bacon" as "an absolute masterpiece and Netflix's best original yet."

Reddit

The social news site announced a revolutionary new way to browse Reddit, dubbed "headdit." By moving his or her head, a user can browse different links in Reddit. A user can simply frown to give a down vote and nod vigorously to give an up vote. A look of surprise will open a web link. Presenting a cat in front of the computer initiates "cat mode" (what "cat mode" does, we're not quite sure). "Headdit" uses "hand equivalent action detection" to accomplish this innovative way of browsing Reddit.

Sadly, the announcement was just a joke, and no such technological feat has actually been implemented.

LinkedIn

The professional networking site jumped on the cat bandwagon with its new "Cats You May Know." The fake website update, which was announced on LinkedIn's blog, is supposed to connect professionals on the site with the feline community, and vice versa. On the blog, Peter Rusev writes, "Cats You May Know is designed to give pawed professionals an opportunity to brand themselves, share their unique skills, and network with both humans and other relevant cats in their breed." Maybe the cats could use Google's new paw-friendly app to access this faux LinkedIn page.

Uber

The taxi app is offering its users in New York a major discount along the Second Avenue subway route. The ride has been discounted down to $2.50 — the same price as a New York subway ride — as an April Fools' Day promotion. The discount lets people ride between 128th and Houston Streets at the discounted price, a steep drop from the normal price, which can top well over $20, depending on traffic.

The taxi's route follows the long-planned Second Avenue Subway line in Manhattan. Known as "The Line That Time Forgot," it was first proposed back in 1929 and has faced significant delays in its construction ever since.

CERN

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, operator of the world's largest particle collider, has announced that it is changing the font of its website to the much-maligned Comic Sans. "This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement," said CERN Head of Communications James Gillies.

The laboratory celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It officially switches to the "round and squishy" font today. Chances are slim that it'll still be there tomorrow.

Domino's Pizza

The global pizza chain's British website announced an edible pizza box made entirely of crust. Described as "A world first in 'snackaging' innovation," the Edibox promised to transform pizza delivery and cardboard box recycling. To the disappointment of crust-lovers everywhere, Domino's tweeted that it was all an April Fools' gag.

Vegemite

Vegemite, the crude-colored food paste from Australia, makes many Americans' stomachs turn. But the yeast-based stuff — like its British counterpart, Marmite — is beloved by many. So it's no wonder that Vegemite's announcement that it's releasing a Vegemite energy drink was met with yays and nays on Facebook and Twitter. In the end, it was all just an April Fools' joke.  But that hasn't stopped wishful thinking from some.

Wagamama

The London-based restaurant chain announced via Twitter that it will be adding flavor to its utensils. The chain, which primarily serves Japanese ramen noodles, says it will introduce four flavors of chopsticks: soy, wasabi, chili and ginger. It's actually not a bad idea, but chances are the April Fools' concept won't stick.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>