Lime's Gen 3 scooter is built to survive rider abuse


Lime might have lost access to San Francisco, but it does have a consolation prize: a new scooter to entice you in those cities where its shared service does operate. The Lime-S Gen 3 touts technology upgrades like a color screen (for speed, battery capacity and future parking zone alerts), improved location accuracy and a status light that indicates the charge level without making you check your phone. However, the biggest upgrades are to longevity — you should see fewer dead scooters littering the sidewalks.

The Gen 3 model carries a larger battery with a 20 percent longer range (about 30 miles), for a start. And crucially, they’re more durable. The aluminum frame should be stronger overall, and key components are IP67 water-resistant. You wouldn’t want to toss one into a lake, but it’ll stand a better chance of surviving a fierce rainstorm. Appropriately, all the wires are now contained inside the scooter to prevent a cut or the elements from ruining a machine.

It could be a more enjoyable ride, too. Larger 10-inch wheels and a dual suspension should do a better job of absorbing bumps, while braking systems for both wheels (electrical and mechanical at the front, step-based at the back) give you more control over a stop. An active rear light and reflectors on all sides will help alert others. Even the parking should be safer in the long run, since Lime is developing both virtual parking zones and the ability to determine whether or not you’re riding on the sidewalk.

Lime arguably didn’t have much choice but to upgrade. The shared scooter field is increasingly competitive with heavyweights like Lyft and Uber getting into the game. This helps Lime stand out from the pack — you might be more likely to use its scooters if they’re both more reliable and more enjoyable to use.

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YouTube TV apologizes for outage with a one-week credit


If you’re one of many who experienced the Youtube TV outage on October 16th, check your email. YouTube TV sent its subscribers an apology today which contained a link to a form you can fill out to receive one week’s free credit.

Take note that that you must complete your form by midnight PT on Wednesday to receive the $10 discount. All you have to do is follow the link to the form which auto-fills your email address; then just press submit.


Those who missed out on Tuesday’s NBA opener or the MLB playoff game can commiserate with soccer fans who were cut out of the Croatia-England World Cup game on YouTube TV back in July. Google offered a similar response and credit after that outage.

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Fake news is down on Facebook in the US and France, say three studies

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have not had a great year. From being called in front of Congress to getting lashed by the media for its appalling handling of user data, the pressure has been on the social media site to get things right. Even calls for Zuckerberg to be kicked out as chairman are starting to percolate. But Zuckerberg might be able to breath a little easier today as three new independent studies show that fake news overall is going down on the website he launched from his dorm room.

The first study came from three researchers between New York University and Stanford who looked at 570 sites known for spreading false stories between January 2015 to July 2018. They found that interaction with fake news sites rose on both Facebook and Twitter from 2015 to a few months after the 2016 presidential election. After the election, data shows that interactions with fake stories declined by more than half. On Twitter, however, interactions continued to rise.

That doesn’t mean Facebook is off the hook yet. Study authors Hunt Allcott, Matthew Gentzkow and Chuan Yu show that “interaction with misinformation remains high, and that Facebook continues to play a particularly important role in its diffusion.” Even considering the drop, fake news interaction on Facebook still averages about 70 million per month.

The University of Michigan’s School of Information Center for Social Media Responsibility took a slightly different approach. It created what it calls the “iffy quotient.” This metric measures how much content from “iffy” sites are amplified on Facebook. The team compiled a set of websites that published misinformation and labeled such as iffy. This was done to show that defining fake news is in it of itself a difficult challenge, like delineating between satire or opinion from actual false narratives. Back in 2016, engagement on stories shared by iffy sites were twice as high on Facebook than on Twitter. Now it’s 50 percent higher on Twitter.

Les Décodeurs, French newspaper Le Monde’s fact checking arm, surveyed 630 exclusively French-speaking sites, and analyzed its activity between January 2015 to September 2018. It showed that in France, engagement with “unreliable or dubois sites” has dropped 50 percent.

While all three studies give Facebook some credit for tackling fake English or French news, none delved into the problems facing countries like Myanmar, India and Sri Lanka that are being flooded by false narratives, some of which have led to real-world violence. Facebook had been very slow in addressing the fake news in Myanmar in particular, where racial tensions were being amplified by false stories, pushing public opinion so sharply against the Rohingya minority Muslim community, that mass genocide and ethnic cleansing occurred and is still occurring. Facebook had only a handful of Burmese-language content reviewers until 2017, but this year has upped that number to 60. Still, because Facebook is such an integral part of Burmese internet culture, it will be a monumental task to moderate.

While there’s still more for Facebook to do on this front around the world, it does show that concerted efforts have made a difference in Western countries at least. The next course of action will be spreading this model around to Facebook’s 2.23 billion users around the world.

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Chrome 70 brings picture-in-picture mode to desktop

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Get ready for productivity to plummet around your office. Chrome 70, the latest version of Google’s browser, enables a picture-in-picture feature that will let you keep videos in a floating window that will follow you around — though it will require developers to support it.

For a look at how picture-in-picture works, fire up Chrome (make sure you’re running the most recent version) and head over to YouTube. When you start to play a video, right click twice until a Chrome dropdown menu shows up. Select the “Picture in Picture” option from the menu and the video will open up in a small window that will hover over the top of all other windows — even if you open another program. You’ll have to keep the original tab open to keep the video running, and you can move and resize the window to fit anywhere you’re like.

Picture-in-picture mode has actually been available on Chrome for Android for a few months and buried in desktop versions of Chrome since the Chrome 69 beta. The release of Chrome 70 marks the first time the feature has been enabled by default. Previously, you would have manually activate it by going into Chrome’s “Flags,” where Google keeps its experimental features that can be tested but aren’t fully ready for prime time. Now that it’s enabled off the bat, it’s just a matter of developers adopting the feature and making it available for other media players.

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Russian woman indicted for interfering with 2018 US midterm elections

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US officials aren’t waiting until after the midterm elections to take legal action against interference efforts. Federal authorities have charged Russian national Elena Khusyaynova for allegedly serving as the primary accountant for Project Lakhta, an influence campaign that targeted the US midterms as well as foreigners in the US, European Union member states, the Ukraine and even some Russian audiences. Khusyaynova reportedly managed expenses for activists, social networking ads and news post promotions, domain name registrations and proxy servers.

The initiative explicitly set out to conduct “information warfare” against the US by spreading distrust of American political candidates and the system at large, according to the Department of Justice. It also went out of its way to disguise its origins, using VPNs and fake social accounts in order to stoke political tensions. Some of these accounts had been used in the 2016 elections.

While the charges don’t directly tie Khusyaynova back to the Russian government, the DOJ said Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin funded the effort both himself and through companies he owns, Concord Catering Concord Management and Consulting. Officials stressed that there was no evidence the group had succeeded in interfering with the election.

The news came just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the DOJ, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement saying they were “concerned” about interference efforts from Russina, China, Iran and other countries, including social network campaigns. They also suggested that there were few direct hacking attempts. While there have been attempts to compromise local and state governments (not to mention politicians), there isn’t evidence that hackers have compromised the voting process, according to the statement. Still, it appears that attempts at manipulation are very much underway — whether or not they’ve been successful.

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Facebook hires tarnished UK politician to fix its reputation

These days, all Facebook seems to do is lurch from one public relations crisis to a political one, and back again. Consequently, the company has decided to hire a British former politician, Sir Nick Clegg, as VP of Global Affairs and Communications. Clegg will replace Elliot Shrage, who announced he was stepping down from that role earlier this year.

Clegg will spend a short amount of time at Facebook’s California HQ but will divide his time between the US and UK until the start of 2019. It’s believed that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, arguably the two most important figures at Facebook, approved (and were involved) with Clegg’s hiring.

He won’t be a figure known to many in the US, but Clegg was leader of Britain’s “third” political party, the Liberal Democrats, between 2007 and 2015. Clegg led the party as a center / center-left organization and was considered a rising political star.

At the 2010 general election, the Liberal Democrats had their best ever results, winning 57 seats and ensuring neither of the two larger parties could govern alone. Despite the political conflicts, Clegg chose to enter into partnership (coalition) with the right-wing Conservative Party, becoming deputy Prime Minister.

The partnership would prove toxic, both to Clegg’s brand and that of the Liberal Democrats, and in the next election lost 49 of its 57 seats. He would subsequently resign the leadership, and would go on to lose his seat at the 2017 election to the Labour party.

Clegg was held personally responsible for a decision to triple the cost of university tuition fees, despite promising not to do so on the campaign trail. He would go on to become a figure of some ridicule, with even Lord Steel — a former Liberal leader himself — writing that he “steered the Liberal Democrats to disaster.”

According to the Financial Times, Clegg was “wooed” by Zuckerberg, saying that Clegg would have a key role in shaping Facebook’s strategy.

The move does make sense on some levels: Clegg is an experienced politician, albeit not a very popular one. But he does know how the European Union works, and is still well-regarded on the continent for his pro-European stance. Consequently he may be useful when Facebook navigates policy debates between itself and the trading bloc.

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Steam VR update lets low-end PCs run games more smoothly

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Steam VR has introduced a feature for Beta called “Motion Smoothing,” which will give PCs with hardware that aren’t quite top of the line the power to deliver VR experiences more smoothly. It functions like Motion Smoothing for TV and Asynchronous Spacewarp for Oculus devices, which are frame-rate smoothing techniques that generate synthetic frames between two real ones in order to avoid a stuttery experience.

When Steam VR determines that an experience is lagging or dropping frames, Motion Smoothing automatically kicks in. It drops an app’s framerate from 90FPS to 45FPS and generates a synthetic frame for every real one to mimic real 90FPS. If things get especially bad, it can generate two to three frames for every real one instead. Steam explains that the feature “dramatically [lowers] the performance requirements,” allowing PCs with lower end hardware to “produce smooth frames.”

Take note, however, that the feature will not work with the Oculus Rift or with Windows Mixed Reality headsets. You can only take advantage of it if you have an HTC Vive or a Vive Pro, and if you’re running Windows 10 — all you need to do is right-click on Steam VR and select beta under Tools in Library. You can always switch it off in case it doesn’t work as intended, though, or in case the experimental version makes things even worse.

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The Morning After: The cheapest Tesla Model 3 ever

Friday morning has arrived, and with it we’re looking at the cheapest Model 3 ever. Also, Apple opened orders for the iPhone XR and set a date for its event where we expect to meet new iPads and Macs. Plus, there’s groundbreaking news in the worlds of chipmaking and quantum computing.

A 2-in-1 that’s not just another Surface wannabe.
Samsung Galaxy Book 2 hands-on

This laptop packs a Snapdragon 850 processor that helps it achieve gigabit LTE speeds and last up to 20 hours on a charge. According to Qualcomm, that will increase its performance and battery life by 30 percent over previous models. Like other Snapdragon PCs, the Galaxy Book 2 will ship with Windows 10 S as its default operating system, though you can upgrade to full Windows 10 for free. The Galaxy Book 2 will be available on November 2nd for $1,000 — with keyboard and S Pen included — on Microsoft, Samsung and AT&T’s websites and through Verizon and Sprint later this year.

It costs $4,000 less than the previous cheapest option.Now there’s a cheaper Model 3 for you to buy

According to Elon Musk, that promised $35,000 Model 3 (before any tax rebates are applied) is still months away, but the company has an alternative for people who would like to get theirs this year and still pay a little less. A new mid-range battery + RWD version is now the cheapest base model we’ve seen yet, dropping the entry price from $49,000 to $45,000.

Brooklyn bound.
Apple’s iPad and Mac event is scheduled for October 30th

Ungh, will everyone stop announcing phones, hybrid PCs and tablets for just a hot second? Apple is back (iPhone XR goes on preorder today), for what’s likely to be an iPad and Mac event, with roughly ten different event invites going out to journalists and analysts yesterday — all in different artistic styles. Those rumored iPad Pros with a near bezel-free design could well be making an appearance.

Prepare yourself.
‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ starts its 100GB pre-release downloads

Rockstar’s new western will be released next week on PS4 and Xbox One, so of course gamers who have pre-ordered a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2 will be able to pre-load starting today. Just make sure you’ve got enough space available because it could need about 100GB (XB1) or 150GB of free space (PS4) just to complete the installation process. While you’re waiting for it to download and eventually unlock on October 26th, there’s also a new Launch trailer to check out, which focuses on the single-player story — and that’s key since multiplayer won’t be available until November.

You can drop the info into apps like Facebook Messenger, Line and WhatsApp.
Google Maps ETA sharing comes to iOS, third-party apps

After first introducing the feature in 2017, Google is giving users the ability to share their location and route in real-time with others on both Android and iOS devices — and through third-party messaging apps. The Share Your Progress feature allows you to send your contacts a live look at your location, the route you’re on, your phone’s battery life and how long it will take for you to arrive at your destination.

But wait, there’s more…

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Funimation shows leave Crunchyroll following Sony's acquisition

Bones / Funimation

When Sony acquired Funimation, it apparently also meant the end of the anime localizer’s partnership with Crunchyroll and VRV. According to Polygon, Funimation president Gen Fukunaga sent a memo to employees announcing that the company is leaving those streaming platforms as a direct result of Sony’s purchase. Funimation specializes in distributing anime dubbed in English, including My Hero Academia and One Piece, providing a good complement to Crunchyroll’s subtitled shows.

Its contract with Crunchyroll is set to expire on November 9th, but it’s not entirely clear if it’s pulling all its shows from the platform or if it’ll leave a few available. All the titles it’s removing from Crunchyroll (and VRV) will be exclusively available on its own streaming service FunimationNow. The company first teamed up with Sony to develop the service, which was launched in 2016. Fukunaga said that going forward, the company will cater to both dub and sub fans, while also releasing dubbed titles at a faster pace.

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