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A 'robot' payphone in New York

When PayPal updated its user agreement with language suggesting that it had broad powers to make automated calls (aka robocalls) and texts, customers were understandably nervous. Was the company going to spam you until you bought more stuff using its online wallet? Well, you can relax. PayPal is tweaking the agreement once again to make it clear just when it will (and more importantly, won't) send a recorded message your way. The only times the firm will robocall is when it needs to collect debt, warn you about shady activity or tackle fraud cases. You won't deal with marketing spiels unless you give explicit consent, and you can revoke that permission at any point.

It's a kind gesture, but PayPal is also trying to prevent a thorny situation from getting worse. You see, the FCC was worried that the terms of service were violating a ban on robotic telemarketing -- this should keep PayPal on the regulator's good side. Whatever the motivation, you shouldn't have to worry about getting a sales pitch while you're having dinner.

[Image credit: SarahNW, Flickr]

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Don’t be fooled — the 2016 (B9 generation) Audi A4 may look just like the current generation sedan, but beneath the sheet metal lies a multitude of changes.

Based on recent spy shots and Audi’s latest design language, an evolutionary rather than revolutionary visual update was expected. The grille has been widened a bit, the headlights mirror the TT’s new shape, the character lines are slightly more bold, and the taillights are now full LEDs, but the average car buyer wouldn’t immediately notice these subtle distinctions.

The B9 is longer and wider body than the present generation, while the drag coefficient has been reduced to improve fuel economy. Another core change that is hidden beneath the surface is a significant weight loss of 264 pounds for the sedan, which now weighs 2,910 pounds in total.

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glowing-millipede.jpgYes, this glowing millipede is real and it's coming for you. Sleep tight. Video screenshot by Danny Gallagher/CNET

If you're creeped out by bugs, you should probably just stop reading now.

As part of its ScienceTake series, The New York Times posted a video on its YouTube channel Saturday featuring a species of millipede from the genus Motyxia that can glow in the dark. I'm talking "John Malkovich standing at the foot of your bed when you wake up in the middle of the night" level of creepy -- at least for people who already find insects more terrifying than fascinating.

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According to a report on Monday, rock legends and longtime streaming music holdouts AC/DC are primed to offer their tracks through subscription services, including Apple Music, as early as Tuesday.

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Source: AC/DC

An anonymous source informed The New York Times that the band has embraced subscription-based streaming services and will make an undisclosed number of tracks available on Apple Music, Spotify and Rdio.

AC/DC first agreed to sell its classic library on iTunes in 2012, including a special edition collection featuring demo tracks, live albums and other digital exclusives. At the time, the Australian rockers were one of the last bands to join the digital music revolution.

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python porcupine-feature

We’ve all had those nights when we regret shoving a huge pile of food in our faces. Maybe it’s a steak designed for multiple people or a massive pile of disco fries. But an African rock python from South Africa is seriously regretting a recent meal, or rather, would be if it were still alive.

The 12.8-foot-long resident of the Lake Eland Game Reserve, a private home for wild animals in South Africa, passed away when it couldn’t properly digest a porcupine. Here’s the thing, though, according to the reserve’s Jennifer Fuller, snakes of this size usually have no problem scarfing down porcupines. So, what happened? It just might have gotten embarrassed eating in front of a big crowd.

python porcupine

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Posted by on in CrunchGear
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While companies like Warby Parker and Toms Shoes have made corporate responsibility more popular over the past few years, the technology industry hasn’t adapted as quickly.

Meet LSTN, a headphone company where proceeds from each sale help someone hear for the first time. The company has partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, and has already helped over 20,000 people in more than six different countries.

LSTN’s headphones are also designed to be stylish. Each pair is encased in real ebony wood and superior audio components. Bridget Hilton, founder of LSTN, explained that while most headphone companies use generic mass-produced drivers (the small speaker inside a headphone), LSTN uses custom-made drivers that properly resonate with the wood material. This gives the headphones a unique sound — better than most other competitors on the market.

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Looks like Samsung is finally getting around to patching the SW Update software that has been disabling Windows Update. The company has issued a statement on the issue, which was initially discovered earlier this week, and vowed to correct the problem "in the coming days."

Samsung:

Samsung has a commitment to security and we continue to value our partnership with Microsoft. We will be issuing a patch through the Samsung Software Update notification process to revert back to the recommended automatic Windows Update settings within a few days. Samsung remains committed to providing a trustworthy user experience and we encourage customers with product questions or concerns to contact us directly at 1-800-SAMSUNG.

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Song recordings created before 1972 don't have federal copyright, but many states did grant such copyrights. The varying rules on older songs have been a huge headache for satellite radio provider Sirius XM, and may yet be a boondoggle for streaming services like Pandora.

After experiencing some adverse rulings, Sirius is moving to put its biggest legal conflict over royalties behind it. Documents filed this morning with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate that the company has agreed to pay the major record labels $210 million to end their dispute over whether they should be paying royalties for pre-1972 songs.

The song doesn't end litigation by the '60s band The Turtles, who still have a class-action lawsuit proceeding against Sirius. But the major labels have the rights to about 80 percent of the pre-1972 music that Sirius plays.

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Euphoric reaction to superstar tech businesses is rampant — so much so that the tech industry is in denial about looming threats. The tech industry is in a bubble, and there are sufficient indicators for those willing to open their eyes. Rearing unicorns, however, is a distracting fascination.

The Perfect Storm

Raising funding for tech startups has never been so easy. Some of this flood of money has been because of mutual funds and hedge funds, including Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Tiger Global Management. This is altering not only the funding landscape for tech startups, but also valuation expectations.

There are many concerns that valuations for businesses are confounding rationale. Entrepreneurs and their investors are deviating from more traditional valuation and performance metrics to more unconventional ones. Another cause cited for increasing valuations is the trend of protections for late investors that cause valuations to inflate further. The combination of a number of these factors has put the sector into a state of artificial valuations.

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Get Into a Money-Saving Mindset by Shifting Your Outlook on Experiences

It’s easy to get stuck thinking that you need to spend money to do something worthwhile. With the right perspective, however, saving money can actually open up more experiences to you.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with treating yourself every once in a while, but William Cowie at Get Rich Slowly suggests that when you associate spending with fun, you can end up turning a blind eye to things that might be even more fulfilling:

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Posted by on in CNET

tenba-mini-messenger-bag.jpg Adorama

I've always been a backpack fan, but I must admit my trusty shoulder bag isn't really working for me anymore. I'm always having to rummage around the bottom to find whatever I'm looking for: cable, charger, mouse, mobile hotspot, gum. Ladies with oversize purses, I feel your pain!

So maybe it's time for me to consider a smarter bag, one that's not so deep, one that has lots of easily accessible pouches and compartments.

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The Apple Watch is expanding beyond the launch group of countries today, shortly after the device first became available for in-store purchase at Apple Retail with a reservation. The international sales expansion includes Italy, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland and Taiwan as of today, and the next group includes the Netherlands, Sweden and Thailand starting July 17.

Here’s what today’s international sales debut looked like on the ground at Apple Stores around the world, via photos supplied by the company. My personal favorite is the one with the dog shopping companion:

Apple’s retail rollout of Watch has been slow, with initial sales restricted only to online orders. The device seems to have been severely supply constrained at launch, but Apple is catching up to demand, enabling both in-store sales and the addition of new countries to the list of places where it’s available.

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The lithium-ion batteries in your iPhone or your Tesla Model S are solid but hampered by a hefty price tag. One Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup thinks it can cut manufacturing costs by 50% while increasing performance.

That's a bold claim, no doubt.

Battery startup 24M has developed what it is calling a "semisolid" lithium-ion battery. The company, led by material science and engineering science professor Dr. Yet-Ming Chiang of MIT, promises to massively reduce manufacturing costs by half, thanks to a new design.

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It turns out geography is still a thing.

Recently, Whittl, a Chicago-based company raised a $3.3 million Series A round of capital. The new monetary event follows a $1.3 million seed round that took place around two years ago.

If you can’t see the irony, you haven’t lived outside of the Valley in some time. Given the generic chop of both Clinkle and Secret, it’s hard to keep in mind that not every company is desperate to raise ahead of its product, execution and plans. Whittl, as its co-founder Mike Zivin told TechCrunch on a phone call, has focused on its unit economics, and, to repeat myself, proving its model. So the cost to build the firm so far is less than you might have anticipated.

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Samsung admitted to altering the behavior of Microsoft's Windows Update tool, but claims to have good intentions.
Windows 10 vs. Mac OS X 10.11: OS Showdown

Windows 10 vs. Mac OS X 10.11: OS Showdown

(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Samsung found itself in hot water this week after a Microsoft researcher discovered the company was disabling automatic security updates for its Windows PCs. The company says it's not as bad as it sounds, but few are buying Samsung's explanation.

Microsoft's Patrick Barker found a program called Disable_Windowsupdate.exe buried in Samsung's own software update tool. The program blocks Windows Update from running automatically. If Samsung PC owners want their device updated with the latest security patches, they have to do so manually.

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Okay, there are some legitimate gripes one can have about driver-on-demand services like Uber even if I think many are overstated. You can complain that you don't like the way the company runs its business. You can question the company's commitment to privacy. You can question the company's hardball tactics with politicians and journalists. You can even question the impact that the company has had on the market. These are all legitimate areas to explore, though the deeper you go, the more you're likely to realize that most of the complaints are exaggerated. However, the really crazy kneejerk anti-Uber sentiment tends to be ridiculous, and frequently driven by cab companies that just don't like the competition. For those who use Uber, the service is almost always significantly better, more convenient (and these days, often cheaper) than traditional cab service. That's what happens when you're enabling competition in a previously limited market.

But some folks still are going absolutely nuts over Uber, and France appears to be ground zero for the craziest of the crazy anti-Uber folks. We'd already mentioned that French officials had raided Uber's offices not too long ago, but today cab drivers decided to "protest" Uber by... showing that they're a bunch of violent hooligans. At least that seems to be the message cab drivers are sending with today's violent anti-Uber protests.

French taxi drivers blocked the entrances to Paris’s major airports and train stations, while disruptions were also reported in other cities, including Marseille and Aix-en-Provence in the South.

In Grenoble, near the border with Italy, taxi associations burned tires on the highway, while in Paris, police officers in riot gear used tear gas to disrupt the protests.

The anger from French taxi drivers is the latest in a series of challenges confronting Uber, which has been accused by taxi associations and some policy makers of breaking national transportation laws and of creating unfair competition to traditional taxis. The ride-booking service faces regulatory scrutiny in many of the countries in which it operates.

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Facebook released new employee demographic data on Thursday and the numbers show that while the company’s employees are still predominantly white and male, Facebook’s workforce is slightly more diverse than a year ago.

Facebook’s global workforce is 68 percent male, and it’s U.S. employees are 55 percent white; those numbers are a tiny bit better than last year, when Facebook was 69 percent male and 57 percent white, respectively.

The push in Silicon Valley over the past few years has been toward increasing diversity in tech-specific roles; Facebook, like many of its peers, is still far from equal in those areas. Facebook reported that 94 percent of its tech roles are held by white or Asian employees, the same percentage from one year ago.

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With the launch of Apple Music only days away, a surprising amount of details are still up in the air. After initially planning not to pay artists for songs streamed during its free trial, Apple has reversed that decision, but didn’t say how much it would pay rights holders during this period.

Now it seems that Apple will pay record labels 0.2 cents (that’s $0.002) per free stream during the three-month free trial, The New York Times reports. This doesn’t include a smaller free for songwriting rights, but it looks like Apple may pay 0.047 ($0.00047) per stream for these rights, according to Billboard.

Related: Google Music announces free, ad-supported streaming ahead of Apple Music debut

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Amazon has provided a strong answer to a desire I expressed only yesterday for broader software and hardware support for Alexa, its virtual assistant, and Echo, the speaker hardware that is the first platform wherein Alexa can be found: Today, Amazon announced an Alexa API set to let third-party developers easily build support for the system into their own apps; Alexa Voice Service, for integrating Alexa into connected hardware; and the Alexa Fund, as much as $100 million dedicated to supporting devs, gadget builders and startups who’re looking to build voice-powered experiences.

Amazon’s Echo is a curious device, but one that is the first to demonstrate the truly transformative potential of voice-based computing, in my opinion. The hardware is solid, voice recognition is strong, and the features it does offer are extremely useful. By opening up developer tools to third-parties, Amazon is poised to make it even more transformative; the one sore spot with my Echo use thus far has been its limitations in terms of third-party integrations, something abated only in part by IFTTT recipes.

The Alexa Skills Kit enables software hooks for the virtual assistant, which makes it easy for big companies and single individuals to connect their apps and software to Echo, using only a handful of code to get started. It’s free to use, and Amazon says that hobbyist programmers could do things like enable Alexa to retrieve the posted lunch menu at their child’s school with a simple voice command with a trivial amount of work.

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