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E-scooter startup Bird is raising another $300M

Electric scooter startup Bird is said to be nearing a deal to extend its Series C funding with an additional $300 million led by cross-over investor Fidelity, according to an Axios report. Bird declined to comment.
Fidelity has not previously invested in Bird and is reportedly doing so at a flat pre-money valuation of $2 billion, which Bird earned with a $300 million Sequoia-led financing in June. Santa Monica-based Bird has raised more than $400 million in venture capital funding to date from investors, including Accel, CRV, Greycroft, Index Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Craft Ventures and Tusk Ventures.
The investment comes at a time when many investors are losing faith in scooter startups’ claims to be the solution to the problem of last-mile transportation, as companies in the space display poor unit economics, faulty batteries and a general air of undependability. Lime, Bird’s biggest e-scooter competitor, has at least expanded its suite of micro-mobility offerings from bikes and scooters to LimePods, a line of shareable vehicles available in Seattle, to peak investor interest. San Francisco-based Lime has been seen pitching to investors in Silicon Valley recently, too, with reports indicating it’s looking for a $400 million investment at a $3 billion valuation — more than three times the valuation it garnered with a $335 million round in July.

The electric scooter wars of 2018

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This extra-large handheld Nintendo works (and feels) like the real thing

Handheld retro gaming machines come and go, but few go so simply and effectively to the point as My Arcade’s Retro Champ. You stick in your NES cartridge, hit the power button and, assuming you blew on it beforehand, it powers up. This one sets itself apart with a big ol’ screen, Famicom compatibility and a whopping 35-hour battery life. Update: Nope! It’s 3 to 5 hours, not 35 as the company originally stated. I thought that was suspiciously high.
I played with the Retro Champ at CES, where they had one under lock and key — it’s not the production version, but that’s coming in the Spring. But it works just like you’d expect, and I was pleased to find it responsive, comfortable and pleasantly ridiculous. It’s really quite big, but not nearly as heavy as it looks.
The 7-inch screen is bright and the color looked good; it was responsive and the device felt well-balanced. The controls are where you’d expect, with big scoops in the back of the case to help you grip it. NES cartridges go in the top (and stick out as you see) and Famicom cartridges tuck in the bottom.

There’s a stand so you can prop it up and use wireless controllers with it (not included; they’re trying to keep the price low), and you can also plug it straight into your TV via HDMI, which basically makes this thing a spare NES home console. (I’m waiting to hear back on the screen and output resolutions and some other technical details.)
Lastly (and hilariously), there’s a hidden cleaning kit with space for a few Q-tips and a small bottle of solvent, for getting those really grimed-up games working.
[gallery ids="1767436,1767441,1767437,1767440,1767443,1767442,1767439,1767438,1767435"]
My questions went to the usual pain points for scrupulous retro-loving gamers like myself:
Yes, it’s a 16:9 screen, and of course NES games were 4:3. So yes, you’ll be able to change that.
And no, it’s not just loading the ROM data into an emulator. This is the common way of doing it, and it produces artifacts and incompatibility with some games, not to mention control lag and other issues. Things have gotten better, but it’s definitely corner-cutting.
I chatted with Amir David, the creative director and one of the developers of the device. Though he couldn’t get into the technical details (patents pending), he said that they had developed their own chip that runs the game the same way an actual NES would.

So any cartridge that works on the NES, including homebrew and hacked games, will load right up no problem. That means you can also use a cartridge with an SD card loader, like an Everdrive, for those hard-to-get and hacked titles.
Some features are up in the air, for instance save states. It’s possible, but because this is in effect just a small Nintendo and not a virtual one, it’s also tricky. We’ll see.
I was also curious why there were four round buttons instead of the traditional NES D-pad. David said they were still waiting on feedback from players about which worked best; for an actual controller, the original D-pad might be good, but perhaps not for the handheld style. So they’re considering a few configurations; likewise the buttons on the right — they could get some tweaking before release.
The device goes for $80, which seems fair to me. If you want absolute fidelity for a home console, you can spend five to 10 times that amount, while for handhelds there are cheaper and smaller devices out there, most of which use emulators. They’re aiming for enthusiasts who want an easy but uncompromised way of playing their cartridges — lots of us have consoles sitting in boxes, but it’s a pain to get them set up. The Retro Champ could be one of the easiest ways to get back in the game. It ships in June.

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Don’t expect a new Nvidia Shield Tablet anytime soon

The Shield TV, Nvidia’s Android TV streaming box, is still getting regular updates, but the Shield Tablet, which launched in 2014, was last refreshed in 2015 and officially discontinued last year, wasn’t quite the same success. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said during a small press gathering at CES in Las Vegas today, the company doesn’t have any plans to resurrect it.
“Shield TV is still unquestionably the best Android TV in the world,” he said. “We have updated the software now over 30 times. People are blown away by how much we continue to enhance it.” And more (unspecified) enhancements are coming, he said.
On the mobile side, though, the days of the Shield Tablet are very much over, especially now that the Nintendo Switch, which uses Nvidia’s Tegra chips, has really captured that market.
“We are really committed to [Shield TV], but on mobile devices, we don’t think it’s necessary,” Huang said. “We would only build things not to gain market share. Nvidia is not a ‘take somebody else’s market share company.’ I think that’s really angry. It’s an angry way to run a business. Creating new markets, expanding the horizon, creating things that the world doesn’t have, that’s a loving way to build a business.”
He added that this is the way to inspire employees, too. Just copying competitors and maybe selling a product cheaper, though, does nothing to motivate employees and is not what Nvidia is interested in.
Of course, Huang left the door open to a future tablet if it made sense — though he clearly doesn’t think it does today. He’d only do so, “if the world needs it. But at the moment, I just don’t see it. I think Nintendo did such a great job.”

Bonus: The outspoken Huang also used his time with the assembled journalists to voice his opinion of AMD’s new Radeon VII graphics cards, which were announced earlier today. “Wow. Underwhelming, huh? I was kind of like saying ‘what?’ Because the performance is lousy and there’s nothing new. There’s no raytracing, no artificial intelligence. It’s a 7nm chip with HBM memory that barely keeps up with a 2080 and when we turn on DLSS, we’ll crush it. When we turn on raytracing, we’ll crush it. And it’s not even available yet.”

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How Trump’s government shutdown is harming cyber and national security

It’s now 18 days since the U.S. government unceremoniously shut down because Congress couldn’t agree on a bill to fund a quarter of all federal departments — including paying their employees.
But federal workers are starting to feel the pinch after not getting paid for two weeks, and this will have a knock-on effect to U.S. national security. The longer the shutdown goes on, the greater the damage will be.
The “too long, didn’t read” version is that before Christmas, President Trump wanted $5 billion for a wall on the southern border with Mexico to fulfill a campaign promise. Despite the Republicans having a majority in both houses of Congress, they didn’t have the votes to pass the spending bill in the Senate, which would’ve kept the government going when existing funding expired on midnight on December 22. No vote was held, even after a successful vote in the House, and the government shut down. When the Democrats took the majority in the House last week following their midterm wins, they were ready to pass a funding bill — without the $5 billion (because they think it’s a gigantic waste of money) — and get the government going again. But Trump has said he won’t sign any bill that doesn’t have the border wall funding.
More than two weeks later, some 800,000 federal workers are still at home — yet, about half were told to stay and work without pay. Worse, there’s no guarantee that federal workers will get paid for the time the government was shut down unless lawmakers intervene.
Unless the Democrats get a veto-proof majority, the impasse looks set to continue.
A crew works replacing the old border fence along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border, as seen from Tijuana, in Baja California state, Mexico, on January 8, 2019. (Photo by GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Government shutdowns don’t happen very often — usually — or really at all outside the U.S., and yet this is the first time in four decades that the government has been closed three times in one year. That doesn’t mean cyber or national security threats conveniently stop. Granted, most of the government is functioning and ticking over. There are still boots on the ground, cops on the street, NSA analysts fighting hackers in cyberspace and criminals still facing justice.
But while most of the core government departments — State, Treasury, Justice and Defense — are still operational, others — like Homeland Security, which takes the bulk of the government’s cybersecurity responsibility — are suffering the most.
And the longer the shutdown goes on, the greater chance of tighter budgets and that more staff could be furloughed.
Here’s a breakdown:
Homeland Security’s new cybersecurity unit got off to a rough start: The newly established Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of Homeland Security, has only been operational since November 16, but about more than half of its staff have been furloughed, according to Homeland Security. The division is designed to lead the national effort to defend critical national infrastructure from current, ongoing threats. By our count at the time of writing, the CISA has been shut down for one in 10 days of its two-month tenure.
Threat intelligence sharing will take a hit: A little-known program inside Homeland Security, known as the Automated Indicator Sharing, has also sent home more than 80 percent of it staff, according to Duo Security. AIS allows private industry and government agencies to share threat intelligence, which is shared with Homeland Security’s government partners, to ensure that any detected attack can only ever be used once. The shutdown is going to heavily impact the data exchange program.
New NIST standards to face delays: More than 85 percent of National Institute of Standards and Technology employees have been sent home without pay, leaving just a handful of essential staff to keep NIST’s new advice and guidance work going. NIST is responsible for giving all government departments necessary and up-to-date security advice. It also means that FIPS testing, used to grant devices and new technologies security certifications to run on government networks, has completely stopped during the shutdown.
Underpaid TSA agents are now entirely unpaid: The TSA, found at every U.S. airport security screening area, is still working despite the shutdown. More than 90 percent of the TSA’s workforce of 60,078 employees will go unpaid — on top of already low pay, which has resulted in a high turnover rate. Despite Trump’s remarks to the contrary, several news agencies say TSA workers are calling out sick in droves. And that’s going to harm airport security. Many worry that the already low morale could put airline security at risk. One traveler/passenger at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport tweeted this week: “I asked TSA agent if I should take out my laptop out of its case and she said, ‘I don’t care, I’m not getting paid’.”
Secret Service staff are working unpaid: And, whether you like them or not, keeping the president and senior lawmakers and politicians alive is a paramount national security concern, yet the vast majority of front-line and back office Secret Service agents currently protecting senior administration staff are going unpaid during the shutdown.
And that’s just some of the larger departments.
The shutdown isn’t only hampering short-term efforts, but could result in long-lasting damage.
“Cyber threats don’t operate on Washington’s political timetable, and they don’t stop because of a shutdown,” Lisa Monaco, former homeland security advisor to the president, told Axios on Wednesday. And security firm Duo said that trying to keep all of the cyber-plates spinning at once while not at full-strength is “risky,” especially given nobody knows how long the shutdown will last.
All this for a border wall that Trump says will prevent terrorists from pouring into the U.S.
Critics say that the cost-benefit to building the wall vis-à-vis the shutdown doesn’t add up. Experts say that there hasn’t been a single case of a known terrorist to have crossed illegally into the U.S. from the Mexican border. In fact, since the September 11 attacks, more than three-quarters of all designated acts of terror were carried out by far-right extremists and not Islamic violent extremists, according to a government watchdog. The vast majority of terrorist incidents were U.S. citizens or green card holders.
A border wall might keep some terrorists out, but it’s not going to stop the terrorists who are already in the U.S. Yet, right now it seems the White House wants the appearance of security rather than the security from a quarter of what the government already has at its disposal.

Here’s what to expect in cybersecurity in 2019

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Instagram now lets you regram your posts to multiple accounts

Instagram is swaying the balance toward simplicity but away from originality. It’s adding the ability to publish feed posts to different accounts you control at the same time by toggling them on within the composer screen. An Instagram spokesperson confirms this option is becoming available to all iOS users, telling TechCrunch, “We are rolling out this feature to provide a better experience for people who often post to multiple accounts.”
This “self regram” could make it easier for businesses, influencers and regular folks with Instas and Finstas to publish the same meme, promotional image or other content across their profiles simultaneously instead of having to post on one at a time. But it could also make Instagram’s feed a bit more cookie-cutter, with different audiences of different accounts seeing the same shots and captions. The desire to keep the feed original and personal has been a driving force behind Instagram refusing to add a native regram feature for sharing other people’s feed posts to your audience.
Instagram gives all iOS users the ability to publish a post to several of their own accounts at once
Recontextualizing posts uniquely for different accounts or networks is some of the most common social media guru advice. A personal account might want to publish with a more informal, colloquial and intimate style. A business account might be better off acting generally accessible and adding a call to action. A Finsta, or fake Instagram account people keep on the side for posting more raw content, is free to get a little crazy. An identical one-size-fits-all post might actually be one-size-fits-none. That’s why we’d suggest only using this feature if your different accounts have similar themes and fan bases.
TechCrunch first discovered the feature thanks to a tip from SocialThings founder Zachary Shakked, who says “it could save a tiny bit of time.” Other users, including Jay Elaine’s Get Branded, also showed off the new feature, as seen above. Once users select a photo or video to post, the Instagram for iOS composer screen for adding captions and tags now includes toggle switches for syndicating the post to your other accounts to which you’re logged in. We’ve asked whether the feature will come to Android (I’d assume so in the future) and Stories (anyone’s guess), but Instagram hasn’t responded. You still can’t regram posts by other people, or your own after you publish.
Instagram is now testing a much more prominent way to import photos from Google Photos on Android
As Instagram grows beyond the 1 billion monthly user mark, it’s working to eliminate friction from content creation wherever it can. Instagram recently began testing a much more prominent shortcut of importing photos from Google Photos on Android. First spotted by mobile researcher and all-star TechCrunch tipster Jane Manchun Wong, the Photos shortcut is now right on the image selection screen for some users instead of being buried within the Other folder of your albums. An Instagram spokesperson confirmed that “We are only testing this on Android. You have been able to share to feed from Google photos on Android before but the ability to do so was hidden behind a couple of different steps so we’re up-leveling that ability to make it easier.”
Simplifying publishing sounds obviously better, but it could also dilute the quality of Instagram. Luckily, the feed’s algorithm can simply demote generic content that doesn’t resonate with people. But if the feed becomes full of stale cross-posted promotional spam, it could send younger users fleeing toward the next generation of social apps trying to spice it up.

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Twitter gives events a boost with new publisher tools

As Twitter continues to look for ways to monetize its platform beyond basic advertising, it is building more tools for businesses that turn Twitter into more of a utility that helps them do their jobs.
Today at CES, Twitter said it’s going to make it easier for publishers to better understand what sort of content is resonating with its readers on the social network through a new kind of analytics dashboard, and, in a separate dashboard, to better track real-time information around events, and especially to track events that are coming up.

Together, the two tools underscore how Twitter continues to plug away at building out a richer experience for organizations that use Twitter not just as part of their marketing but for wider business activities, and simply for getting work done. That directly feeds back into Twitter’s advertising business, of course: The more essential the platform feels to an organization, the more likely they are to spend money on using it.
That advertising business has been slowly but surely continuing to grow: Today Kay Madati, Twitter’s VP of content partnerships, said that premium video ads account for half of the company’s ad revenue. He also noted that the company’s had eight consecutive quarters of growth in daily active usage, although that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, with recent quarters indicating that the company continues to struggle with overall user growth.
The concept for a new Twitter publisher dashboard would offer insights and analytics that can better inform organizations’ content strategies.
Keith Coleman, Twitter’s VP of Product (pictured right), clarified the dashboard is still very much an “early concept.”
However, the idea is to offer publishers an easy way to see who on Twitter is reading and engaging with their content, when they’re viewing it and what content is working best.
The goal is to allow publishers to better optimize what they produce to make it effective, the company said.
Events, meanwhile, is also going to be getting a boost of attention. Twitter is working a dashboard that will show which events are coming up, including breaking news events.
For example, an event like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas would be the type of event that would appear on this dashboard.
This, in turn, can link up with a new kind of conversation format that the company is preparing to roll out; when users now write Tweets, Twitter will provide some more context to them around the Tweet by including, for example, a location underneath their Twitter handle that could better explain what is going on so that a single statement makes more sense to casual readers who haven’t been following all of the person’s previous Tweets:

Twitter’s wider focus on events is not new, of course — the company has long described itself as the town hall and town square for the world, providing real-time conversations about what is going on. Twitter’s long been trying to harness that in a more actionable way for ordinary users by way of hashtags, and in a more organized way for organizations. Efforts at events calendars stretch back as far as 2017.
The thinking behind the events dashboard will allow the publishers to figure out — in advance — how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter — either in terms of the content they publish, or (more hopefully, perhaps) through advertising and promoting content.
Twitter also discussed how the events would appear on Twitter, explaining that it’s trying to make it easier for newcomers to follow events, without the need of a knowing the hashtag.
“We know people want to come to see what’s happening. And particularly, they want to come to Twitter to see what’s happening when events are unfolding in the real world,” said Coleman, speaking onstage at CES this morning.
“If you think about the experience of actually following that — it’s hard. You have to follow the publications, you have to follow the journalists, you have to follow the attendees whose names you don’t even know. You don’t have all the hashtags,” he said.
The events section will organize this information for you, so you can “tune in” to the live events without having to know who or what to follow.
While the analytics dashboard is likely to be something that would be accessed through media.twitter.com and aimed at publishers and others using Twitter in a business context, events will have a wider remit: it will be pinned to the top of the timeline, in Explore and accessible through Search, Coleman said.

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Twitter wants to give events a boost with new publisher tools

As Twitter continues to look for ways to monetise its platform beyond basic advertising, it is building more tools for businesses that turn Twitter into more of a utility that helps them do their jobs.
Today at CES, Twitter said it’s going to make it easier for publishers to better understand what sort of content is resonating with its readers on the social network though a new kind of analytics dashboard, and, in a separate dashboard, to better track real-time information around events and especially to track events that are coming up.

Together, the two tools underscore how Twitter continues to plug away at building out a richer experience for organizations that use Twitter not just as part of their marketing but for wider business activities, and simply for getting work done. That directly feeds back into Twitter’s advertising business, of course: the more essential the platform feels to an organization, the more likely they are to spend money on using it.
That advertising business has been slowly but surely continuing to grow: today Kay Madati, Twitter’s VP of content partnerships, said that premium video ads account for half of the company’s ad revenue now. He also noted that the company’s had eight consecutive quarters of growth in daily active usage, although that statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, with recent quarters indicating that the company continues to struggle with overall user growth.
The concept for a new Twitter publisher dashboard would offer insights and analytics that can better inform organizations’ content strategies.
Keith Coleman, Twitter’s VP of Product (pictured right), clarified the dashboard is still very much an “early concept.”
However, the idea is to offer publishers an easy way to see who on Twitter is reading and engaging with their content, when they’re viewing it, and what content is working best.
The goal is to allow publishers to better optimize what they produce to make it effective, the company said.
Events, meanwhile, is also going to be getting a boost of attention. Twitter is working a dashboard that will show what events are coming up, including breaking news events.
For example, an event like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas would be the type of the event that would appear on this dashboard.
This, in turn, can link up with a new kind of conversation format that the company is preparing to roll out: when users now write Tweets, Twitter will provide some more context to them around the Tweet by including, for example, a location underneath their Twitter handle that could better explain what is going on so that a single statement makes more sense to casual readers who haven’t been following all of the person’s previous Tweets:

Twitter’s wider focus on events is not new, of course: the company has long described itself as the town hall and town square for the world, providing real-time conversations about what is going on. Twitter’s long been trying to harness that in a more actionable way for ordinary users by way of hashtags, and in a more organised way for organizations. Efforts at events calendars stretch back to as far as 2017.
The thinking behind the events dashboard will allow the publishers to figure out – in advance – how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter — either in terms of the content that they publish, or (more hopefully, perhaps) through advertising and promoting content.
Twitter, also discussed how the events would appear on Twitter, explaining that it’s trying to making it easier for newcomers to the network to follow events, without the need of a knowing the hashtag.
“We know people want to come to see what’s happening. And particularly, they want to come to Twitter to see what’s happening when events are unfolding in the real world,” said Coleman, speaking on stage at CES this morning.
“If you think about the experience of actually following that – it’s hard. You have to follow the publications, you have to follow the journalists, you have to follow the attendees whose names you don’t even know. You don’t have all the hashtags,” he said.
The events section will organize this information for you, so you can “tune in” to the live events, without having to know who or what to follow.
While the analytics dashboard is likely to be something that would be accessed through media.twitter.com and aimed at publishers and others using Twitter in a business context, events will have a wider remit: it will be pinned to the top of the timeline, in Explore and accessible through Search, Coleman said.

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Twitter is giving events coverage a boost with new publisher tools

As Twitter continues to look for ways to monetise its platform beyond basic advertising, it is building more tools for businesses to turn Twitter into more of a utility. Today at CES, Twitter said it’s going to make it easier for publishers to better understand what sort of content is resonating with its readers on the social network though a new kind of analytics dashboard, and, in a separate dashboard, to better track real-time information around events and especially to track events that are coming up.

The company said it is developing a concept for a new publisher dashboard offering insights and analytics that can better inform their content strategy.
Keith Coleman, Twitter’s VP of Product (pictured right), clarified the dashboard is still very much an “early concept.”
However, the idea is to offer publishers an easy way to see who on Twitter is reading and engaging with their content, when they’re viewing it, and what content is working best.
The goal is to allow publishers to better optimize what they produce to make it effective, the company said.
Events, meanwhile, is also going to be getting a boost of attention. Twitter is working a dashboard that will show what events are coming up, including breaking news events.
For example, an event like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas would be the type of the event that would appear on this dashboard.
This, in turn, can link up with a new kind of conversation format that the company is preparing to roll out: when users now write Tweets, Twitter will provide some more context to them around the Tweet by including, for example, a location underneath their Twitter handle that could better explain what is going on so that a single statement makes more sense to casual readers who haven’t been following all of the person’s previous Tweets:

Twitter’s wider focus on events is not new, of course: the company has long described itself as the town hall and town square for the world, providing real-time conversations about what is going on. Twitter’s long been trying to harness that in a more actionable way for ordinary users by way of hashtags, and in a more organised way for organizations. Efforts at events calendars stretch back to as far as 2017.
The thinking behind the events dashboard will allow the publishers to figure out – in advance – how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter — either in terms of the content that they publish, or (more hopefully, perhaps) through advertising and promoting content.
Twitter, also discussed how the events would appear on Twitter, explaining that it’s trying to making it easier for newcomers to the network to follow events, without the need of a knowing the hashtag.
“We know people want to come to see what’s happening. And particularly, they want to come to Twitter to see what’s happening when events are unfolding in the real world,” said Coleman, speaking on stage at CES this morning.
“If you think about the experience of actually following that – it’s hard. You have to follow the publications, you have to follow the journalists, you have to follow the attendees whose names you don’t even know. You don’t have all the hashtags,” he said.
The events section will organize this information for you, so you can “tune in” to the live events, without having to know who or what to follow.
While the analytics dashboard is likely to be something that would be accessed through media.twitter.com and aimed at publishers and others using Twitter in a business context, events will have a wider remit: it will be pinned to the top of the timeline, in Explore and accessible through Search, Coleman said.

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Twitter looks to improve events on Twitter with new publisher tools

Twitter says it’s going to make it easier for publishers to better understand what sort of content is resonating with its readers on the social network. The company this morning at CES briefly discussed a concept for a new publisher dashboard offering insights and analytics that can better inform their content strategy.
The company clarified the dashboard is still very much an “early concept.”
However, the idea is to offer publishers an easy way to see who on Twitter is reading and engaging with their content, when they’re viewing it, and what content is working best.
The goal is to allow publishers to better optimize what they produce to make it effective, the company said.
In addition, Twitter is working on another publisher tool – an events dashboard that will show what events are coming up, including breaking news events.
For example, an event like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas would be the type of the event that would appear on this dashboard.
This will allow the publishers to figure out – in advance – how they want to participate in that conversation on Twitter.
The company also discussed how the events would appear on Twitter, explaining that it’s trying to making it easier for newcomers to the network to follow events, without the need of a knowing the hashtag.
“We know people want to come to see what’s happening. And particularly, they want to come to Twitter to see what’s happening when events are unfolding in the real world,” said Keith Coleman, VP, Product at Twitter, speaking on stage at CES this morning.
“If you think about the experience of actually following that – it’s hard. You have to follow the publications, you have to follow the journalists, you have to follow the attendees whose names you don’t even know. You don’t have all the hashtags,” he said.
The events section, meanwhile, will organize this information for you, so you can “tune in” to the live events, without having to know who or what to follow.
Events will be pinned to the top of the timeline, in Explore and accessible through Search, he said.

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This hole-digging drone parachutes in to get the job done

A new drone from the NIMBUS group at the University of Nebraska can fall out of a plane, parachute down, fly to a certain place, dig a hole, hide sensors inside it and then fly away like some crazy wasp. Robots are weird.
The goal of the project is to allow drones to place sensors in distant and hostile environments. The system starts on a plane or helicopter, which ejects the entire thing inside of a cylindrical canister. The canister falls for a while, then slows down with a parachute. Once it’s close enough to the ground it pops out, lands and drills a massive hole with a screw drill and leaves the heavy parts to fly home.
Drones can only fly for so long while carrying heavy gear, so this ensures that the drone can get there without using battery and escape without running down to empty.
“Battery powered drones have very short flight times, especially when flying with a heavy load, which we are since we have our digging apparatus and sensor system. So to get to distant locations, we need to hitch a ride on another vehicle,” said NIMBUS co-director Carrick Detweiler to Spectrum. “This allows it to save energy for return trips. In this video we used a much larger gas powered UAS with multiple hours of flight time, but our same system could be deployed from manned aircraft or other systems.”
The drone can even sense if the ground is too hard for digging and choose another spot, allowing for quite a bit of flexibility. Given that these things can land silently in far-off locations, you can imagine some interesting military uses for this technology. I’m sure it will be fine for us humans, though. I mean what could go wrong with a robot that can hide things underground in distant, unpopulated places and escape undetected?

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Put Alexa and a JBL speaker in your ceiling with this clever LED downlight

This light makes the smart home even more accessible. Installed as any other ceiling downlight, the June AI downlight features Amazon Alexa through integrated JBL speakers. There’s a light in there, too.
The idea is great: make the smart home invisible. Instead of having an Amazon Echo sitting on a table, this device sits in a person’s ceiling doing the job of a normal light. But when called upon, it can play music, control devices or anything else possible with an Echo.

“This integration of technologies easily and affordably converts any house into a functional, seamless smart home,” says Jeff Spencer, Acuity Brands Lighting vice president and general manager, Residential, in a released statement. “Being located in the ceiling creates a unique advantage enabling Juno AI to deliver not only intelligence through simple voice commands, but also exceptional lighting and sound.”
Devices like this will continue to appear as Amazon and Google expand their reach by working with more developers and hardware makers. At this point, both companies are seemingly more interested in licensing their services than selling their own devices.

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New Synergy Research report finds enterprise data center market is strong for now

Conventional wisdom would suggest that in 2019, the public cloud dominates and enterprise data centers are becoming an anachronism of a bygone era, but new data from Synergy Research finds that the enterprise data center market had a growth spurt last year.
In fact, Synergy reported that overall spending in enterprise infrastructure, which includes elements like servers, switches and routers and network security; grew 13 percent last year and represents a $125 billion business — not too shabby for a market that is supposedly on its deathbed.
Overall these numbers showed that market is still growing, although certainly not nearly as fast the public cloud. Synergy was kind enough to provide a separate report on the cloud market, which grew 32 percent last year to $250 billion annually.
As Synergy analyst John Dinsdale, pointed out, the private data center is not the only buyer here. A good percentage of sales is likely going to the public cloud, who are building data centers at a rapid rate these days. “In terms of applications and levels of usage, I’d characterize it more like there being a ton of growth in the overall market, but cloud is sucking up most of the growth, while enterprise or on-prem is relatively flat,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.

Perhaps the surprising data nugget in the report is that Cisco remains the dominant vendor in this market with 23 percent share over the last four quarters. This, even as it tries to pivot to being more of a software and services vendor, spending billions on companies such as AppDynamics, Jasper Technologies and Duo Security in recent years. Yet data still shows that it still dominating in the traditional hardware sector.

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Cisco remains the top vendor in the category in spite of losing a couple of percentage points in marketshare over the last year, primarily due to the fact they don’t do great in the server part of the market, which happens to be the biggest overall slice. The next vendor, HPE, is far back at just 11 percent across the six segments.
While these numbers show that companies are continuing to invest in new hardware, the growth is probably not sustainable long term. At AWS Re:invent in November, AWS president Andy Jassy pointed out that a vast majority of data remains in private data centers, but that we can expect that to begin to move more briskly to the public cloud over the next five years. And web scale companies like Amazon often don’t buy hardware off the shelf, opting to develop custom tools they can understand and configure at a highly granular level.
Jassy said that outside the US, companies are one to three years behind this trend, depending on the market, so the shift is still going on, as the much bigger growth in the public cloud numbers indicates.

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