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Technology

Ikea's Stuff is Tough To Assemble, So It Bought a Startup To Do It For You

One of the most popular jobs on TaskRabbit, a service that lets you hire workers for quick gigs, is assembling Ikea furniture. So perhaps it's no surprise that the Swedish retail giant has acquired the startup for an undisclosed price. From a report: For now, TaskRabbit services -- where each worker sets their own rates but the company takes 20 percent -- are available in 40 American cities and in London. The majority of its American workers (or "taskers" as the company dubs them) do not receive any health or retirement benefits, as is typical in so-called "gig economy" jobs. While TaskRabbit itself has not been sued in federal court by any of its workers so far, other companies in the industry have been -- numerous labor cases filed against Uber were recently heard at the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco. It seems unlikely that Swedish business culture will have any impact on TaskRabbit's workers, the overwhelming majority of whom are ad hoc contractors. Sweden, which generally lacks a similar "gig economy" environment, boasts universal public health care and housing and child care subsidies. Employees in Sweden are required to be provided a minimum of five weeks paid annual leave, and wages are typically set by annual collective bargaining.

System76 Pop!_OS Beta Ubuntu-based Linux Distribution Now Available To Download

BrianFagioli writes: Next month, a new era of Ubuntu begins. Unity is dead, and GNOME 3 takes over as the default desktop environment. While this change was for the best, it was still shocking for many. For a company like System76, for instance, that sells computers pre-loaded with Ubuntu, this was problematic. Why? Well, the company essentially lost control of the overall user experience by relying on vanilla Ubuntu. It was being forced to follow Canonical's path. To solve this, and regain some control, System76 has been developing its own operating system called 'Pop!_OS.' No, it is not reinventing the wheel here -- it will still use Ubuntu as a base, and GNOME will be the desktop environment. The company is customizing the operating system, however, with things like fonts, themes, and icons, to create something truly unique. This could lead to an improved user experience.

Google Quietly Discontinues NFC Smart Unlock Without Explanation

Mark Wilson writes: Android users have been slowly discovering that Google has killed off NFC Smart Unlock. The feature, which makes it possible to unlock a phone with an NFC device such as a ring or bracelet, has been discontinued without explanation. Earlier in the month, Android users started to post messages on Google's Issue Tracker website, indicating that the feature was no longer available to them.

Source: used goods marketplace LetGo quietly raised $100M at $1B+ valuation, nine months after raising $175M (Ingrid Lunden/TechCrunch)


Ingrid Lunden / TechCrunch:

Source: used goods marketplace LetGo quietly raised $100M at $1B+ valuation, nine months after raising $175M  —  LetGo, a startup that has built a marketplace for people to buy and sell used goods, is one of the fastest growing apps in the U.S. at the moment according to comScore …

'Lost Continent' Rises Again With New Expedition

Tens of millions of years after it disappeared under the waters of the Pacific Ocean, scientists have completed the first explorations of what some scientists are calling a hidden continent. From a report: During a two-month ocean voyage this summer, a team of more than 30 scientists from 12 countries explored the submerged landmass of Zealandia on an advanced research vessel and collected samples from the seabed. Scientists were able to drill into the ocean floor at depths of more than 4,000 feet, collecting more than 8,000 feet of sediment cores that provides a window into 70 million years of geologic history, reports Georgie Burgess for ABC News. More than 8,000 fossils from hundreds of species were also collected in the drilling, giving scientists a glimpse at terrestrial life that lived tens of millions of years ago in the area. "The discovery of microscopic shells of organisms that lived in warm shallow seas, and of spores and pollen from land plants, reveal that the geography and climate of Zealandia were dramatically different in the past," expedition leader Gerald Dickens said in a statement.

Not Many People Are Buying Andy Rubin's iPhone-Killer Essential Phone, It Seems

An anonymous reader shares a report: Essential Products has sold an estimated 5,000 phones through Sprint since the gadget made its big retail debut in the United States earlier this month, according to estimates from BayStreet Research. That figure would put Essential, whose maker became a unicorn without shipping handset, well below market heavyweights like Apple and Samsung, which typically sell tens of millions of phones per quarter in the United States. BayStreet tracks shipments of phones and other devices across the United States. Essential representatives didn't respond to requests for comment on the BayStreet estimates. BayStreet also clarified that its 5,000 figure is an estimate of Essential's sell-through (when a customer buys a product from a retailer) rather than its sell-in (when a retailer buys something from a manufacturer). Sprint is the exclusive carrier for the phone; most phones in the United States are sold through carriers. However, Essential also offers an unlocked version of its gadget. Essential, the first major startup from Android founder Andy Rubin's venture capital firm Playground, currently sells the $699 Android-powered Essential Phone through Sprint and promises to release the Essential Home smart-home hub later this year.

GoPro says the Fusion 360, which shoots 360-degree 5.2K video at 30fps, will be available for $699 in November (Sean O'Kane/The Verge)

Sean O'Kane / The Verge:

GoPro says the Fusion 360, which shoots 360-degree 5.2K video at 30fps, will be available for $699 in November  —  The beginning of ‘a new creative area,’ according to the company  —  The consumer 360-degree camera that GoPro's been talking about since CES 2016 is finally coming to market.

GoPro announces the Hero6 with 4K video at 60fps, 2.7K at 120fps, and 1080p at 240fps, available today for $499 (Lucas Matney/TechCrunch)


Lucas Matney / TechCrunch:

GoPro announces the Hero6 with 4K video at 60fps, 2.7K at 120fps, and 1080p at 240fps, available today for $499  —  Today, on a massive planetarium screen at San Francisco's Academy of Sciences museum, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman revealed the next generation of the company's venerable Hero action cam series, the Hero6.

Moscow Deploys Facial Recognition to Spy on Citizens in Streets

Moscow is adding facial-recognition technology to its network of 170,000 surveillance cameras across the city in a move to identify criminals and boost security. From a report: Since 2012, CCTV recordings have been held for five days after they're captured, with about 20 million hours of video stored at any one time. "We soon found it impossible to process such volumes of data by police officers alone," said Artem Ermolaev, head of the department of information technology in Moscow. "We needed an artificial intelligence to help find what we are looking for." Moscow says the city's centralized surveillance network is the world's largest of its kind. The U.K. is one of the most notorious for its use of CCTV cameras but precise figures are difficult to obtain.

Companies Are Once Again Storing Data On Tape, Just in Case

An anonymous reader shares a report: To stay up to date in the battle against hackers, some companies are turning to a 1950s technology. Storing data on tape seems impossibly inconvenient in an age of easy-access cloud computing. But that is the big security advantage of this vintage technology, since hackers have no way to get at the information. The federal government, financial-services firms, health insurers and other regulated industries still keep tape as a backup to digital records. Now a range of other companies are returning to tape as hackers get smarter about penetrating defenses -- and do much more damage when they do get in. Rob Pritchard, founder of the Cyber Security Expert consulting firm and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, has noticed the steady resurgence of tape as part of best-practice backup strategies. "Companies of all sizes must be able to restore data quickly if needed," he says, "but also have a robust, slower-time, recovery mechanism should the worst happen." Mr. Pritchard, who works with a range of organizations to improve corporate cybersecurity practices, says: "A good backup strategy will have multiple layers.

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