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How ad-free subscriptions could solve Facebook

At the core of Facebook’s “well-being” problem is that its business is directly coupled with total time spent on its apps. The more hours you pass on the social network, the more ads you see and click, the more money it earns. That puts its plan to make using Facebook healthier at odds with its finances, restricting how far it’s willing to go to protect us from the harms of over use. The advertising-supported model comes with some big benefits, though. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that “We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.” Ads lets Facebook remain free for those who don’t want to pay, and more importantly, for those around the world who couldn’t afford to.
Ads pay for Facebook to keep the lights on, research and develop new technologies, and profit handsomely in a way that attracts top talent and further investment. More affluent users with more buying power in markets like the US, UK, and Canada command higher ad prices, effectively subsidiz…
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Uber, Google and other tech employees form Coalition of Black Excellence

When black employee resource groups from a variety of tech companies come together, black magic happens. More specifically, black excellence happens.

The Coalition of Black Excellence Week, spearheaded by Uber Litigation Counsel Angela Johnson in collaboration with black ERGs from over 40 tech companies like Facebook, Google, eBay, Lyft and Microsoft, kicks off this Monday in the San Francisco Yay (Bay) Area.

The idea for CBE Week came in part from Johnson’s experiences living in Washington D.C., and being able to attend events put on by the Congressional Black Caucus, she told me at Uber’s headquarters this week.

“When I moved out to the Bay Area, I really wished there were similar types of experiences for tech,” Johnson said. “And I thought if we could bring together different black ERGs, or diversity and inclusion committees, or people who were interested in some of the issues the black community is passionate about, a lot of positive change and impact could come from that.”


Sqreen wants to become the IFTTT of web app security

French startup Sqreen recently launched a Security Hub with dozens of plugins to put you in control of the security of your web app. In many ways, it feels like enabling tasks on popular automation service IFTTT.

Sqreen participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield and Y Combinator’s current batch. The vision of the product hasn’t changed. Sqreen lets you protect your web service with little effort from your side.

Big companies have dedicated security teams that protect services, try to run attacks to find weaknesses and more. Smaller companies don’t necessarily have enough time and money to build a dedicated team. But your product is still vulnerable to SQL injections, XSS attacks and brute-force attacks.

Sqreen isn’t a firewall. You just have to install a library package on your server and add a couple of lines at the top your source code to require the Sqreen module in your application.

Once this is done, Sqreen monitors attacks in real time without a big performance hit — the …

Engineering against all odds, or how NYC’s subway will get wireless in the tunnels

Never ask a wireless engineer working on the NYC subway system “What can go wrong?” Flooding, ice, brake dust, and power outages relentlessly attack the network components. Rats — many, many rats — can eat power and fiber optic cables and bring down the whole system. Humans are no different, as their curiosity or malice strikes a blow against wireless hardware (literally and metaphorically).

Serverless software deployment to the cloud, this is not.

New York City officially got wireless service in every underground subway station a little more than a year ago, and I was curious what work went into the buildout of this system as well as how it will expand in the future.

That curiosity is part of a series of articles I’ve written on an observed pattern known as cost disease, the massively inflating costs of basic human services like health care, housing, infrastructure, and education. The United States spends trillions of dollars on each of these fields, massively outspending similar na…

3D printing company New Matter is shutting down this month

Perhaps 2014 wasn’t the ideal time to get into the 3D printing game. After years of hype, the even the biggest names have been struggling to stay afloat. Pasadena startup New Matter is joining the growing list of companies who’ve unsuccessfully made a go at it, announcing that it will be closing up shop by the end of the month.

It’s not for lacking of trying — and the company’s MOD-t printer was met with decent reviews when it launched in 2016. In his writeup, John praised the pricing ($300 or $400, depending on where you picked one up) and ease of use, though added cautiously, “you get what you pay for.”

Initially funded on Indiegogo, the company went back to the crowdfunding well last year, this time taking to Kickstarter to pay for a Model 2. The project managed to exceed its goal in five days, but New Matter still pulled the plug. The company says it ultimately wanted to go back to the drawing board.

“We have always strived to listen closely to our customers’ feedback, and given …

Trump cites Facebook exec’s comments downplaying Russian ad influence on election

You’d be forgiven for missing Donald Trump’s multiple retweets of Facebook executive Rob Goldman over the weekend. Perhaps you were spending time with family, watching Black Panther or just attempting to forget politics for a moment by ignoring the manic flurry of social media updates from the leader of the free world.

But in amongst a deluge of tweets that blamed Democrats for failing to preserve DACA, called out the FBI over the recent school shooting in Florida on the FBI and affectionately referred to a member of congress as “Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control,” the President cited Facebook’s VP of Ads as evidence against claims that his campaign colluded with Russia.

“The Fake News Media never fails,” Trump tweeted over the weekend. “Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!”

Trump was citing Goldman’s own Twitter dump over the past week, responding to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent indictment of 13 Russian citize…

South Korea aims for startup gold

Back in 2011, when South Korea won its longshot bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, the country wasn’t widely recognized as a destination for ski and snow lovers. It wasn’t considered much of a tech startup hub either.

Fast forward seven years and a lot has changed. For the next 10 days, the eyes of the world will be on the snowy slopes of PyeongChang. Meanwhile, a couple of hours away in Seoul, a burgeoning startup scene is seeing investments multiply, generating exits and even creating a unicorn or two.

While South Korea doesn’t get a perfect score as a startup innovation hub, it has established itself as a serious contender. More than half a billion dollars annually has gone to seed through late-stage funding rounds for the past few years. During that time, at least two companies, e-commerce company Coupang and mobile-focused content and commerce company Yello Mobile, have established multi-billion-dollar valuations.

To provide a broader picture of how South Korea stacks up in t…

The CC Aurora is actually pretty fun, as far as projectors go

I don’t review projectors. Projectors are boring. Even the good ones. They remind me of vacation slideshows and the film strips we had to watch in health class — neither of which I’m in a particular hurry to revisit in my adult life.

That said, I’ve always harbored some germ of a notion that some day I might buy one, to compensate for being one of those weirdos without a TV set. There’s something undeniably appealing about a big screen TV you can break out during movie night and then stash back into the closest of your one-bedroom New York City apartment.

XGIMI’s CC Aurora is the closest I’ve seen to fitting the bill — or, for that matter, being a projector that I could actually muster any reasonable amount of excitement about. From the looks of it, it’s kind of the perfect package for the apartment dweller: it’s compact, self-contained with a built-in speaker system and plays nicely with mobile devices.

Clearly I’m not alone here, either. The product scored $170,000 on Indiegogo — a…

Here’s how to keep track of Elon Musk’s Roadster and Starman in space

Elon Musk’s Starman, the mannequin driver of the Tesla Roadster SpaceX launched aboard its Falcon Heavy rocket, is taking a trip around our solar system, in a large elliptical orbit that will bring him relatively close to Mars, the Sun and other heavenly bodies. But how to track the trip, now that the Roadster’s onboard batteries are out of juice and no longer transmitting live footage?

Thanks to the work of Ben Pearson, a SpaceX fan and electrical engineer working in the aerospace industry, who created ‘Where is Roadster,’ a website that makes use of JPL Horizons data to track the progress of the Roadster and Starman through space, and to predict its path and let you know when it’ll come close to meeting up with various planets and the Sun.

The website tells you the Roadster’s current position, too, as well as its speed and whether it’s moving towards or away from Earth and Mars at any given moment. It’s not officially affiliated with SpaceX or Tesla, but it is something Elon Musk i…

Facebook will verify the location of U.S. election ad buyers by mailing them postcards

Facebook’s global director of policy programs says it will start sending postcards by snail mail to verify buyers of ads related to United States elections. Katie Harbath, who described the plan at a conference held by the National Association of Secretaries of State this weekend, didn’t reveal when the program will start, but told Reuters that it would be before the Congressional midterm elections in November.

The cards will be sent to people who want to purchase ads that mention candidates running for federal offices, but not issue-based political ads, Harbath said, and contain a code that buyers need to enter to verify that they are in the U.S. The program is similar to ones used by Google My Business and Nextdoor when they need to verify business owners or users who want to join closed neighborhood groups, respectively.

Harbath told Reuters that the postcards “won’t solve everything,” but were the most effective method the company came up with to prevent people from using false i…