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An anonymous reader sends word that Amazon is now offering unlimited cloud storage plans to compete with Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. "Last year, Amazon gave a boost to its Prime members when it launched a free, unlimited photo storage for them on Cloud Drive. Today, the company is expanding that service as a paid offering to cover other kinds of content, and to users outside of its loyalty program. Unlimited Cloud Storage will let users get either unlimited photo storage or "unlimited everything" — covering all kinds of media from videos and music through to PDF documents — respectively for $11.99 or $59.99 per year."
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Facebook's ambitious plan to bring internet to the entire world with a fleet of broadband-beaming unmanned aerial vehicles has taken a step closer to fruition. The company's vice president of engineering, Jay Parikh, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook is planning "a real test flight" of its solar-powered internet drone this summer. A smaller version of the drone, one tenth the size of the planned product, was tested earlier this month.

The scheduled test flight would be the first time the full-sized internet drone — called Aquila — will take to the skies. Facebook says the vehicle will have the wingspan of a commercial passenger jet and the length of "six or seven [Toyota] Priuses," but will only weigh as much as four car tires. The lightweight build should help the craft stay flying for weeks, months, or years at a time, using solar energy to keep itself aloft. Google, also in the process of developing its own internet-proliferation project, is using a different approach. The company's Project Loon uses a swarm of balloons to disseminate broadband to unconnected portions of the world.

The technology to build the Aquila drone didn't exist a year ago

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festo1.jpg Festo

The family of animal robots created by German robotics company Festo is growing. As part of its Bionic Learning Network, the company has introduced two new robots: a swarm of ants that can operate cooperatively, and a butterfly robot that leverages the insect's lightness.

The ant robots -- called BionicANTS -- are not just inspired by the insect's physical body, but by its swarm intelligence.

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Apple on Thursday announced it will officially open three international Apple Watch store-within-a-store locations on April 10, offering customers shopping at high-end department stores the chance to try on and preorder the device before it goes on sale.

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Dubbed simply "Apple Watch," the upcoming retail shops are popping up at locations previously known to be undergoing construction for Apple's wearables effort, including Selfridges in London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Isetan in Toyko. All three department stores cater to upper crust clientele.

As with Apple Stores, Apple Watch outlets will be manned by Apple retail staff, who will field questions and help pair customers with their desired model. It appears that Geniuses are not part of the deal, however, as Apple's regional retail webpages direct visitors to nearby Apple Store locations for product support inquiries.

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I'll miss the Cuban embargo. The easing of relations that it brings with it will likely mean the end of the 1950s-style spy games and crazy plots -- like the CIA plot designed to make a leader's beard fall out. Instead, we've finally decided that the United States is open for Cuban business. And you know what that means: trademark lawsuits!
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of a Cuban state-owned company and refused to intervene in a dispute over the “Cohiba” trademark. This is the most recent development in the long-standing rivalry between General Cigar Co Inc., an American (and Scandinavian) company, and Cubatabaco, a Cuban company.
How fun! We finally open up the borders for some business with Cuba and one of the Castro companies decides it's trademark time! Keep in mind, of course, that the state that owns Cubatabaco is a communist nation, but not so communist that they'll refuse to use our capitalist tools to make that money. This dispute actually goes back nearly two decades, with Cubatabaco originally filing a trademark claim in 1997, which was eventually tossed in 2005 by the Second Circuit court, finding that any transfer of property, including a trademark, to a Cuban company would violate the embargo.

But now that the embargo is gone, Cubatabaco has refiled, with a lower court ruling that the Cuban company could challenge General Cigar's mark with the USPTO even before the embargo was lifted -- a ruling the Supreme Court has refused to send back for review. So there appears to be nothing standing in the way of a trademark challenge.

All that said, it's difficult to see how valid a challenge is, actually, given several factors. First, the two companies as yet don't compete in the same markets, due to the legacy of the embargo. Second, the word "cohiba" might not deserve a trademark held by anyone, given that it is simply a foreign word that means "tobacco" in Taino, a language of the Caribbean. That would be like getting a trademark on your beer brand, Cerveza.

However this turns out, welcome officially to business in the States, Cuba! Now that the embargo doesn't keep property from transfering your way, it's all trademark, patents and copyright from here on out!

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Posted by on in Gizmodo

This Smartwatch Ditches Apps For Great Design

In a post-iPhone world, saying that apps are useless will probably get you beheaded in the startup community. But the (brave) designers behind Olio, a gorgeous new smartwatch with a minimalist feature set are saying exactly that.

Olio is a company that's been in stealth ('not actually selling anything') mode for a while now. It's led by Steve Jacobs, a former Apple and HP designer — so it's not just another random Kickstarter. And it's selling a promise of a simple smartwatch without apps.

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Posted by on in Slashdot

I think at this point everyone agrees that the STEM job market in the US is screwed up. Right now we're all pointing fingers at eachother blaming millennials, gen X, baby boomers, immigrants, business owners, politicians, civil servants, the whole government, high schools, colleges, testing services, misogynists, political correctness, investors, people who don't invest, Obama, Bush...

Anyone have any ideas on what to do about it? How about we work on that now.

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Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli visited the Apple Store SoHo in New York on Thursday to read selections from their hotly anticipated biography "Becoming Steve Jobs" and field questions from what quickly became a packed house.

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Crown Publishing via Twitter

Schlender and Tetzeli were featured guests of the SoHo Apple Store's meet and greet series that brings in notable authors, filmmakers, musicians and more to talk about their latest projects. Events are free and open to the public, though some presentations with high profile participants require reservations.

Apple's venue completely filled up for today's discussion, which had the authors reading snippets from the book and answering questions from audience members. Some latecomers were left standing in the aisles, according to people who attended.

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Apple's new MacBooks, announced earlier this month, have been upgraded with force-sensitive trackpads. Using the awkwardly named "Force Touch" technology, the pads can tell how hard you are pressing, allowing Apple to replace the old three-finger tap with a new powerfully pressed "Force Click." But the new tech doesn't just let Apple offer more menu options — other app developers can use the increased fidelity of the new trackpads too. Drawing app Inklet becomes the first piece of third-party software to make use of the new technology.

Users can press harder for thicker lines

Inklet users will be able to use a stylus on their 2015 MacBook trackpads to manipulate and draw over images on screen. Users can highlight the section of the image they want to work on in a shape that corresponds to the trackpad itself. Drawing normally creates a light stroke, but more pressure makes for thicker lines, allowing the stylus to work like a digital paintbrush. For fine detail, you'll be able to resize the highlighted area, zooming in to add tiny details or out to create broad brushstrokes.

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SpzToid sends word that the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers discrimination case wrapped up yesterday. No matter what the outcome turns out to be, it has already effected how business is being done in Silicon Valley. "'Even before there's a verdict in this case, and regardless of what the verdict is, people in Silicon Valley are now talking,' said Kelly Dermody, managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who chairs the San Francisco law firm's employment practice group. 'People are second-guessing and questioning whether there are exclusionary practices [and] everyday subtle acts of exclusion that collectively limit women's ability to succeed or even to compete for the best opportunities. And that's an incredibly positive impact.' Women in tech have long complained about an uneven playing field — lower pay for equal work, being passed over for promotions and a hostile 'brogrammer' culture — and have waited for a catalyst to finally overhaul the status quo. This trial — pitting a disgruntled, multimillionaire former junior partner against a powerful Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital firm — was far from the open-and-shut case that many women had hoped for. More gender discrimination suits against big tech firms are expected to follow; some already have, including lawsuits against Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc."
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Posted by on in Lifehacker

The Ocean Waves Home Screen

It may still be chilly in most parts of the country, but if you long for the summer days of ocean fun, this home screen will get you in the mood.

Like many home screen themes, this is available as a one-click install for Themer, but you can also put it together yourself using Nova Launcher, Zooper Widget Pro, and Tasker. To install the Themer theme:

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Google said it would pay its new chief financial officer, Ruth Porat, more than $70 million in the next two years through a combination of restricted stock units and a biennial grant.

The company hired Morgan Stanley CFO Porat as its finance chief earlier this week, a sign it is aiming to rein in costs as it invests in new businesses such as self-driving cars and Internet-connected eyeglasses.

Porat’s compensation package includes a grant of $25 million through restricted stock units, a $40 million biennial grant in 2016 and a special one-time $5 million sign-on bonus, Google said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

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Apple's CEO has big-time philanthropy on his list of things to do. James Martin/CNET

Apple CEO Tim Cook is following in the footsteps of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates when it comes to philanthropy. Cook said he plans to give away his fortune after paying for his 10-year-old nephew's college, according to Fortune magazine.

"You want to be the pebble in the pond that creates the ripple for change," Cook told the publication.

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Posted by on in Lifehacker

When it comes to cooking, fresh herbs will almost always provide better flavor for your dish, but dried herbs are cheaper and more convenient. These are the dried herbs you can get by substituting for fresh herbs, as well as the herbs you should only use fresh.

In this video from the America's Test Kitchen YouTube channel, Chef Dan Souza explains the science of why certain herbs aren't ever worth using dried. Dried herbs tend to taste dusty and stale due to oxidation, making their flavor compounds more likely to be lost to heat when cooking. Some herbs are heartier than others, though. Dried rosemary, oregano, sage, and thyme are all fine to use in your recipes, especially if the cook time is long and there's a lot of liquid involved. Everything else is best used fresh, so preserve them when you can or dry your own to make sure they don't lose too much flavor.

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Travis Jeffery is a software developer who’s been using a database system called FoundationDB for a project at his startup. Earlier this week, he noticed that the software had been pulled from the web. He soon received a terse email confirming that the software had been taken down intentionally, but little else. “We have made the decision to evolve our company mission,” it read. “And as of today, we will no longer offer downloads.”

Hours later, TechCrunch reported that FoundationDB had been acquired by Apple. Neither company has responded to our request for confirmation, and FoundationDB hasn’t updated its Twitter account since Monday. The only public acknowledgement the company has made of any changes came is a notice posted to the company’s support site featuring the same text that Jeffery received by email. He still hasn’t heard anything else from the company.

FoundationDB’s apparent shutdown won’t ruin Jeffery or his company. Other FoundationDB users might not be so lucky, however, if support for the technology really is being tanked. Sure, they can still use the copies of FoundationDB they’ve already downloaded and installed. But there won’t be a company providing support, updating the database to work with newer operating systems, or providing security patches.

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Good news from California: a bill requiring warrants for Stingray device usage (among other things) has passed out of a Senate committee and is headed for an assembly vote.
Among other sweeping new requirements to enhance digital privacy, the bill notably imposes a warrant requirement before police can access nearly any type of digital data produced by or contained within a device or service.

In other words, that would include any use of a stingray, also known as a cell-site simulator, which can not only used to determine a phone’s location, but can also intercept calls and text messages. During the act of locating a phone, stingrays also sweep up information about nearby phones—not just the target phone.

Despite similar bills being killed by governor vetoes in 2012 and 2013, California legislators are still looking to reform the state's privacy laws. For one thing, this new bill would put the state's Electronic Communication Privacy Act in compliance with the Supreme Court's recent Riley v. California decision (warrant requirement for cell phone searches incident to arrest), as Cyrus Farivar points out.

The committee passed it with a 6-1 vote, suggesting there's broader support for privacy and Fourth Amendment protections now than there were in the pre-Snowden days. Of course, the usual opposition was on hand to portray those pushing for a warrant requirement as being in favor of sexually abusing children.

[Marty] Vranicar [California District Attorneys Association] told the committee that the bill would "undermine efforts to find child exploitation," specifically child pornography.

"SB 178 threatens law enforcement’s ability to conduct undercover child porn investigation. the so-called peer-to-peer investigations," he said. "Officers, after creating online profiles—these e-mails provide metadata that is the key to providing information. This would effectively end online undercover investigations in California."

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Amazon Forces Workers to Sign Sinister Non-Compete Agreementsxa0;

If you take a temporary factory job at Amazon, you have to sign away your ability to work almost anywhere else, for 18 months after your gig is finished.

The Verge recently got one of the non-compete agreements Amazon makes its low-paid warehouse laborers sign, and they're absurdly vague and wide-reaching:

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Uber and Lyft are pretty convenient when it comes to driving services. So convenient that you might not realize how much you're actually spending on rides. Pistats.io collects your Uber and Lyft receipts to give you a visualization of how much you're really spending, along with how far you've traveled and for how long.

Once you grant Pistats.io access to your GMail account (other email providers are coming soon), they'll scan for all Uber and Lyft receipts you've received. That's all the service is grabbing, so you don't have to worry about giving up any other information besides basics like your name and gender. With those receipts, Pistats.io will then display a map of all your past rides, tell you how much you've spent in total, and other data you can see in the video demonstration above. Those $10-$15 rides can add up fast, so make sure you know what kind of money you're really spending. You can check out Pistats.io at the link below.

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Posted by on in Wired.com

Bird-watching has more popular recognition as a hobby, but you can also dragonfly-watch. And what’s not to love about dragonflies? With names like Cyrano Darner, Serpent Ringtail, Black-winged Dragonlet, and a whole group of Shadow Dragons, they make a life list interesting.  A new book by an avid dragon-watcher is a collection of photos and essays about these predatory minibeasts:

Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land by Pieter van Dokkum, published by Yale University Press. Photography by Pieter van Dokkum.

The author is not an entomologist; in fact, he’s the head of the Yale University Astronomy Department. Up until now, you might have only connected him with dragonflies through his Dragonfly Telephoto Array, which recently discovered 7 dwarf galaxies. How did a specialist in intergalactic astronomy end up writing a book about dragonflies? The way most of us become fascinated with the natural world: he looked.

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HughPickens.com writes Micah Lee writes at The Intercept that coming up with a good passphrase by just thinking of one is incredibly hard, and if your adversary really is capable of one trillion guesses per second, you'll probably do a bad job of it. It turns out humans are a species of patterns, and they are incapable of doing anything in a truly random fashion. But there is a method for generating passphrases that are both impossible for even the most powerful attackers to guess, yet very possible for humans to memorize. First, grab a copy of the Diceware word list, which contains 7,776 English words — 37 pages for those of you printing at home. You'll notice that next to each word is a five-digit number, with each digit being between 1 and 6. Now grab some six-sided dice (yes, actual real physical dice), and roll them several times, writing down the numbers that you get. You'll need a total of five dice rolls to come up with each word in your passphrase. Using Diceware, you end up with passphrases that look like "cap liz donna demon self", "bang vivo thread duct knob train", and "brig alert rope welsh foss rang orb". If you want a stronger passphrase you can use more words; if a weaker passphrase is ok for your purpose you can use less words. If you choose two words for your passphrase, there are 60,466,176 different potential passphrases. A five-word passphrase would be cracked in just under six months and a six-word passphrase would take 3,505 years, on average, at a trillion guesses a second.

After you've generated your passphrase, the next step is to commit it to memory.You should write your new passphrase down on a piece of paper and carry it with you for as long as you need. Each time you need to type it, try typing it from memory first, but look at the paper if you need to. Assuming you type it a couple times a day, it shouldn't take more than two or three days before you no longer need the paper, at which point you should destroy it. "Simple, random passphrases, in other words, are just as good at protecting the next whistleblowing spy as they are at securing your laptop," concludes Lee. "It's a shame that we live in a world where ordinary citizens need that level of protection, but as long as we do, the Diceware system makes it possible to get CIA-level protection without going through black ops training."

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Late on Friday night, when the jury and the crowds had left the double-wide courtroom where Ellen Pao was suing her former venture capital firm, the judge took a bathroom break and the lawyers, alone but for a Re/code reporter tucked in the back, started doing something peculiar.

They began reading reporter tweets aloud.

Lynne Hermle, Kleiner Perkins’ ferocious and charismatic defense attorney, said: “Listen to this.” Laughing hard, Hermle read a series of reporter tweets to Alan Exelrod, Pao’s measured, professorial attorney, who shook his head and chortled, saying “no, no.” The judge, Harold Kahn, came back and chimed in with a “what?!” to a particularly silly one.

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Discuss Your Intent Before Content When Disagreeing with Your Boss

Disagreeing with you boss is difficult territory to wander through. To keep things civil, Harvard Business Review suggests you frame your intent as a mutual goal before you get into the details.

The idea's that instead of putting your boss on the defensive right away with your new idea, you talk about your mutual goal and interests first:

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Posted by on in Slashdot

We've improved Slashdot's video section; now you can view our video interviews, product close-ups and site visits with all the usual Slashdot options to comment, share, etc. No more walled garden! It's a work in progress -- we hope you'll check it out (Learn more about the recent updates).

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BlackBerry’s earnings report on Friday will offer more than just a snapshot of the last three months of sales. It should also offer some context with which to judge CEO John Chen’s contention that BlackBerry’s turnaround effort is ahead of schedule.

BlackBerry turned a surprise profit last quarter and Chen said at this month’s Mobile World Congress that the company should continue to generate positive cash flow, as it did last quarter. An actual profit is another question; the company is predicted to post a quarterly loss of four cents per share on revenue of $795.5 million, according to Yahoo Finance.

“We’re going to be making more money,” he said in Barcelona. “We’re going to be generating more cash.”

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A collection of iPhone apps — such as Evernote, Dark Sky, and the New York Times — were updated today to support the Apple Watch, even though the wearable isn't shipping until April 24.

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Evernote has updated its app to allow voice search and dictation through the Watch. Dictated notes will be automatically transcribed and synced. Alternately users will be able to browse recent notes, as well as create and view reminders.

Dark Sky will send weather notifications to the Watch and display a five-day forecast, while the New York Times app will push news stories.

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Posted by on in Verge

Hello internet. I, Sam Sheffer, have returned from vacation. I will once again appear on The Vergecast. Additionally, we've got a special guest in town. His name is Tom Warren, and you could say he knows a thing or two about Microsoft. As is the case with most Thursdays, there's a lot to talk about. Let's get to it.

As usual, we'll be live at 4:30PM ET / 1:30PM PT / 8:30PM GMT via the live stream embed above. And if you miss the live show, you can always watch the replay (using the embed above) or download the audio version on iTunes. And speaking of iTunes, be sure to rate us five stars if you enjoyed the show. We'll do our best to make sure you do.

One final note: be sure to listen to our new podcast, What's Tech? — a bite-sized show that explains all sorts of technologies. This week, we explained virtual reality.

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Emily Yoshida: How did your panel go?

Heems: [whispers] I missed my panel.

You missed it? There were a couple, right?

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Posted by on in CNET

android-tattoo.jpgNo, it's not a character from a sci-fi show. It's just a guy with an awesome tattoo. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

We might not yet have androids roaming around covered in cool carbon-fiber-matrix skin, but there's nothing stopping us from pretending that we do. And that's kind of what this man in the UK can now do thanks to this amazing tattoo that makes him look like he's part multilayered machine.

The tattoo was created by Tony Booth, who owns runs Dabs Tattoo in Southport, England, along with his wife Lisa.

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lg-watch-urbane.jpgThe LG Watch Urbane LTE can also send and accept text messages and make mobile payments -- all on its own. LG

LG has put a price tag on its new smartwatch that doesn't need a smartphone to phone home.

The LG Watch Urbane LTE launches in South Korea on Friday at a price of 650,000 won ($589). It can make and receive phone calls, send and accept text messages, make push-to-talk calls with other phones over the same network and make mobile payments via near-field communication -- all on its own.

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The investigation into the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 has turned toward the co-pilot, whom a French prosecutor says locked the captain cockpit before deliberately flying the plane into the ground and killing all 150 people aboard.

That revelation, which came today, casts Tuesday’s crash in a chilling light but would explain why an Airbus A320—an industry workhorse with an excellent safety record—with an experienced crew went down in picture-perfect conditions without raising an alert.

The captain, whom authorities have not identified, left the cockpit soon after the airplane reached cruising altitude for what was to be a two-hour flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. The captain could not get back into the cockpit. A military official told The New York Times the cockpit voice recorder, recovered from the crash site Tuesday, reveals “the guy outside is knocking lightly on the door, and there is no answer. You can hear he is trying to smash the door down.”

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