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New ‘Black Mirror’ trailer features Miley Cyrus, Anthony Mackie… and more dystopia

Posted by on May 15, 2019 in actors, Bandersnatch, black mirror, choose your own adventure, ChooseCo, Entertainment, Miley Cyrus, Musicians, Netflix, TC | 0 comments

“Black Mirror” is coming back for its fifth season to once again show us why technology’s progress means we can no longer have nice things.

The new season will tell three stories written by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones.

Featured performers include Anthony Mackie, Miley Cyrus, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Topher Grace, Damson Idris, Andrew Scott, Nicole Beharie, Pom Klementieff, Angourie Rice, Madison Davenport and Ludi Lin.

The last “Black Mirror” feature to appear on Netflix was the interactive epic “Bandersnatch,” which let viewers determine the fate of characters throughout the course of the story.

It was an experiment that could cost Netflix, thanks to a lawsuit from Chooseco, the company behind the “Choose your own adventure” series of books that inspired Black Mirror’s experiment in storytelling.

The fifth season likely marks a return to straight episodic narratives, with Cyrus featured in what “Variety” called a “meta storyline” about a celebrity who undergoes a transformation to attract more fans.

The new episodes will drop on Netflix June 5.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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A brief history of Uber’s bumpy road to an IPO

Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Alphabet, Anthony Levandowski, Arizona, California, carsharing, Colorado, Commuting, driver, Emil Michael, equal employment opportunity commission, executive, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, Google, Lyft, pandodaily, Sarah Lacy, self-driving car, TC, transport, Travis Kalanick, Uber, Uber Startup, waymo | 0 comments

It’s been nine years since UberCab made its first appearance on the WordPress pages of this website. In the ensuing years, the startup has grown from an upstart looking to upend the taxi cab cartels, to a juggernaut that has its hands in every form of transportation and logistics service it can think of.

In the process, Uber has done some things that might give (and in fact has given) some shareholders pause.

From its first pitch deck to this historic public offering, TechCrunch has covered the über startup that has defined the post-financial-crisis era of consumer venture investing.

Here are some of the things that shouldn’t get swept into the dustbin of Uber’s history as the company makes its debut as a public company.

  • In 2014 Uber used a tool called “God View” to track the movements of passengers and shared those details publicly.At the time, the company was worth a cool $18.2 billion, and was already on the road to success (an almost pre-ordained journey given the company’s investors and capitalization), but even then, it could not get out of the way of its darker impulses.
  • A former executive of the company, Emil Michael, suggested that Uber should investigate journalists who were critical of the company and its business practices (including PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy).
  • As it expanded internationally, Uber came under fire for lax hiring practices for its drivers. In India, the company was banned in New Delhi, after a convicted sex offender was arrested on suspicion of raping a female passenger.
  • Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opened an investigation into the company for gender discrimination around hiring and salaries for women at the company. Uber’s problems with harassment were famously documented by former employee Susan Fowler in a blog post that helped spur a reckoning for the tech sector.
  • Uber has been forced to pay fines for its inability to keep passenger and driver information private. The company has agreed to 20 years of privacy audits and has paid a fine to settle a case that was opened by the Federal Trade Commission dating back to 2017.
  • While Uber was not found to be criminally liable in the death of an Arizona pedestrian that was struck and killed by a self-driving car from the company’s fleet, it remains the only company with an autonomous vehicle involved in the death of a pedestrian.
  • Beyond its problems with federal regulators, Uber has also had problems adhering to local laws. In Colorado, Uber was fined nearly $10 million for not adhering to the state’s requirements regarding background checks of its drivers.
  • Uber was also sued by other companies. Notably, it was involved in a lengthy and messy trade secret dispute with Alphabet’s onetime self-driving car unit, Waymo. That was for picking up former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski and some know-how that the former Alphabet exec allegedly acquired improperly before heading out the door.
  • Uber even had dueling lawsuits going between and among its executives and major shareholders. When Travis Kalanick was ousted by the Uber board, the decision reverberated through its boardroom. As part of that battle for control, Benchmark, an early investor in Uber sued the company’s founder and former chief executive,  Travis Kalanick for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Uber’s chief people officer, Liane Hornsey was forced to resign following a previously unreported investigation into her alleged systematic dismissals of racial discrimination complaints within Uber.
  • Lawsuits against the company not only dealt with its treatment of gender and race issues, but also for accessibility problems with the ride-hailing service. The company was sued for allegedly violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Disabled Persons Act.
  • The ride-hailing service also isn’t free from legal woes in international markets. Earlier this year, the company paid around $3 million to settle charges that Uber had violated local laws by operating in the country illegally.
  • Finally, the company’s lax driver screening policies have led to multiple reports of assault by drivers of Uber passengers. Uber recently ended the policy of forcing those women to engage in mandatory arbitration proceedings to adjudicate those claims.
  • Not even the drivers who form the core of Uber’s service are happy with the company. On the eve of its public offering, a strike in cities across the country brought their complaints squarely in front of the company’s executive team right before the public offering, which was set to make them millions.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Blue Origin launches ‘Club for the Future’ to inspire a new generation of space exploration

Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Blue Origin, Space, TC | 0 comments

As part of his big reveal of Blue Origin’s new lunar lander, “Blue Moon,” Jeff Bezos announced Club for the Future, a new organization to inspire a new generation of space explorers and entrepreneurs.

The new organization, open to educators, parents and children in kindergarten through high school, seems designed to integrate educational lessons with Blue Origin missions.

“Club members’ ideas combined with a foundation of affordable, frequent, and reliable access to space, will help spark a future without limits,” reads the website’s exhortation to new members.” Dream. Experiment. Build. As we grow, look out for new activities, content, and opportunities to access space.”

The first project is to “receive a postcard from space.”

All participants need to do is draw or write a vision for the future of life in space on the blank side of a self-addressed, stamped postcard, and send it to “Club for the Future” at PO BOX 5759, KENT, WA 98064, U.S.A.

The first 10,000 postcards received before July 20, 2019 will be placed inside the Crew Capsule on a New Shepard flight, and then returned to senders with a stamped “flown to space” certification.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Despite declines for the quarter, Tesla is bullish on its overall energy business

Posted by on Apr 24, 2019 in analyst, articles, Elon Musk, Energy, energy storage, gigafactory, renewable energy, solar energy, Solar Power, TC, Tesla, Zachary Kirkhorn | 0 comments

Even as its solar business declined in step with its overall earnings, Tesla is bullish on the prospects for the energy side of its business over the course of the year.

The energy business is an unheralded part of Tesla — overshadowed by its headline grabbing (and much larger) auto exploits — that chief executive Elon Musk thinks will generate an increasing share of revenue for the company over time.

Revenues from its solar power and energy storage business fell by 13% from the fourth quarter 2018 and 21% from a year ago period down to $324.7 million from $371.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $410 million in the year ago quarter.

Solar energy deployments fell from 73 megawatts to 47 megawatts from the fourth to the first quarter, the company said. Those figures were offset by a slight increase in solar deployments.

The company actually introduced a new financing and purchasing model for solar installations in the second quarter — saying in its shareholder letter that residential solar customers can buy directly from the Tesla website, in standardized capacity increments.

“We aim to put customers in a position of cash generation after deployment with only a $99 deposit upfront. That way, there should be no reason for anyone not to have solar generation on their roof,” Musk and chief financial officer Zachary Kirkhorn wrote in the shareholder letter.

Tesla’s battery storage business was hit as the company shifted units from energy storage to installation in its own vehicles.

“Energy storage production in the second half of 2018 was limited by cell production as we routed all available Gigafactory 1 cell capacity to supply Model 3,” the company wrote in its letter. “Some Gigafactory 1 cell production has been routed back to the energy storage business, enabling us to increase production in Q1 by roughly 30% compared to the previous quarter.”

And Musk thinks that the energy business will grow significantly over the course of the year. “We hope that growth rate will continue and battery storage will become a bigger and bigger percentage over time,” Musk said on an analyst call following the earnings release. Potentially, Tesla thinks its energy business could grow by as much as 300%, Musk said. 


Source: The Tech Crunch

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Netflix to open a production hub in New York and invest up to $100 million in the city

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in California, E-Commerce, executive, Governor, Netflix, New York, Streaming Media, TC | 0 comments

Start spreading the news. Netflix is coming to New York City in a big way.

The streaming media service has committed to invest up to $100 million to build a production hub and hire hundreds of new staffers in the Big Apple, according to a statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.

Netflix’s new production hub will include an expanded Manhattan office and six sound stages in Brooklyn that could bring in hundreds of executive positions and thousands of production crew jobs to New York within the next five years, according to a statement from the Empire State Development Corp. 

“New York has created a film-friendly environment that’s home to some of the best creative and executive talent in the world, and we’re excited to provide a place for them at Netflix with our production hub,” said Jason Hariton, Director of Worldwide Studio Operations & Real Estate at Netflix, in a statement.

The new corporate offices Netflix has planned will occupy 100,000 square feet in Manhattan at 888 Broadway, housing 127 new executive content acquisition, development, production, legal, publicity and marketing positions. They’ll join the 32 employees Netflix currently has in New York.

Netflix already produces Orange is the New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, She’s Gotta Have It, The Irishman, Someone Great, Private Life and Russian Doll in New York and has leased 161,000 square feet to build sound stages and support spaces in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood.

To sweeten the pot for Netflix, the Empire State Development Corp. has offered $4 million in performance-based Excelsior Tax Credits over ten years, which the corporation says are tied to real job creation. To receive the incentive, Netflix must create 127 jobs by 2024 at its executive production office and retain those jobs for another five years.


Source: The Tech Crunch

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