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Twitter among SF tech companies that may face new payroll tax

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 15:29

City leaders estimate the tax could generate $120 million annually that would be earmarked to curb homelessness and the housing shortage in SF.

James Cameron just admitted what he really thinks of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 15:28
When  Star Wars: The Force Awakens  hit theaters last year, it instantly became a money-making machine the likes of which we had never seen. Suffice it to say, Disney's decision to purchase Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012 was nothing short of a brilliant business move. Anchored by nostalgia and an entirely new cast mixed in with some recognizable favorites, Star Wars: The Force Awakens  immediately began to break any number of box office records, including becoming the fastest film to ever pass the $1 billion threshold in global box office receipts. But despite the film's uncanny ability to print money, not everyone was of the mind that  Star Wars: The Force Awakens  was actually a good movie. As we highlighted a few months back, many of the film's more negative reviews centered on the fact that it effectively presented viewers with the same exact story we had already seen decades earlier. And recently joining that chorus of naysayers is none other than Titanic and Avatar director James Cameron. DON'T MISS: The iPhone 7 nightmare During a recent interview, Cameron was asked what he thought about  Star Wars: The Force Awakens,  and while the famed director tried to remain diplomatic at first, he couldn't help but let his real thoughts on the film shine through. George Lucas is a friend of mine, and he and I were having a good conversation the other day about it. I don’t want to say too much about the film. I also have a lot of respect for J.J. Abrams, and I want to see where they’re taking it next. So far so good, but Cameron just couldn't help himself. Cameron continued: I have to say that I felt that George’s group of six films had more innovative visual imagination. This film was more of a retrenchment to things you had seen before and characters you have seen before and it took a few baby steps forward with new characters. So for me, the jury’s out. I want to see where they’re going with it. Personally, I applaud Cameron's candor. Not only is Hollywood a place where big time stars are afraid to be 100% honest when critiquing the competition, but  Star Wars  is one of those popular franchises so drenched in nostalgia and passion that some people simply refuse to hear any opposing viewpoints. Having seen the film, I thought the film was just okay, if not downright overrated. As I noted in a review late last year,  "the film’s primary anchor is the iconic name it’s attached to." Truth be told, Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a standalone film is rather forgettable, offering up nothing new, exciting, or compelling. In any event, for those interested, Cameron's full remarks can be seen in the video below at around the 3-minute and 16 second mark.

Boris Johnson's Brexit victory speech uploaded to Pornhub with X-rated title

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 15:24

Pornhub user "BrexitVote" posted Johnson's speech with a comical, but obscene title.

We tried Ghostbusters: Dimension, the world’s most immersive VR experience

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 15:18

At Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Times Square today, we got to try out one of the world’s most expensive and immersive virtual reality experiences. On July 1st, Sony and a Utah startup called The Void will open Ghostbusters: Dimension, which lets you become a ghostbuster in what The Void likes to call a "hyper-real" world. Dimension is part of a larger exhibit based on the new Ghostbusters movie, which also includes wax versions of the stars and a walk-through haunted house experience. With two partners, you enter an elaborate stage where the real world is mapped to the virtual one, capturing ghosts by shooting a plastic gun that stands in for a proton pack.

Facebook says it’s not using location data to suggest friends, even after admitting it was

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:59
OK Facebook, you really need to make up your mind about what you say in public. And it would probably be a lot easier if you didn’t sneak certain features past your customers. The social network recently admitted to using smartphone location data to recommend friends to people, after someone discovered a recommendation that had no other reasonable explanation than the harvest and use of location data. But now, Facebook says that’s not what it’s doing at all. DON'T MISS:  The iPhone 7 nightmare “Location information by itself doesn’t indicate that two people might be friends,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fusion a few days ago . “That’s why location is only one of the factors we use to suggest people you may know.” As Fusion reports, multiple people took to the internet to reveal they also received weird friend recommendations in the past, likely based on location information – check out these Reddit and Slashdot threads. Fusion says that on Monday night after seeing plenty of negative feedback, Facebook reversed its stance on the issue. The company dug further into the matter and found that “we’re not using location data, such as device location and location information you add to your profile, to suggest people you may know.” Facebook did run a pilot late last year that used location data for the friend suggestion feature. But it was never rolled out to the general public. “We ran a small test to use city-level location to better rank existing [“People You May Know] candidates and not all were aware that the test had ended,” a Facebook spokesperson told Fusion . “The test ran for four weeks at the end of 2015.” So does this mean the people who complained online about having seen location-based suggestions in Facebook were all part of that test? That’s not likely, and Facebook didn't explain how these strange recommendations like the one reported by Fusion earlier this week would be possible if location data isn’t used. Fusion speculates that Facebook could be looking at IP addresses and wireless networks rather than GPS or cellular location data to determine location and issue recommendations. The site also says that the Federal Trade Commission may be happy to learn that Facebook is using such a feature without proper consent from users. The FTC recently fined  a mobile advertising company $4 million because it figured out location information based on wireless network data and tracked hundreds of millions of consumers’ locations without their explicit consent.

Google Maps on mobile is adding support for multiple destinations

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:56

Google Maps is an incredibly useful smartphone app, and I use it every single day. Until now, only the desktop version of Google Maps has allowed you to get directions for a trip that spans multiple stops. It's rolling out now, and you'll know you've got it when you see a new plus icon underneath the directions field in Maps.

Windows 10 anniversary update set for August

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:47

Microsoft on Wednesday said it will mark the one-year anniversary of Windows 10 with a major update to the software powering more than 350 million computing devices. "The Anniversary Update will help people be more productive, stay safer online and, of course, have fun," Windows and Devices Group corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi said in a blog post. The Windows 10 update set for release on August 2 promised improved security and enhanced capabilities for the Microsoft Edge browser.

HTC turns its Vive VR business into a separate subsidiary

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:47

HTC has decided to take its most valuable asset, the Vive VR headset and the budding ecosystem developing around it, and turn it into a separate business. Reports earlier this week indicated that HTC was spinning off the Vive, but the company has now clarified for The Verge that it is only establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary, which it is calling HTC Vive Tech Corporation. HTC can confirm that it has established a wholly-owned subsidiary, HTC Vive Tech Corporation, as a vehicle for developing strategic alliances to help build the global VR ecosystem.

With Amazon in mind, Wal-Mart to offer free shipping for 30 days

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:46

(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc on Wednesday launched a free 30-day trial of ShippingPass, its two-day shipping program for shoppers in the United States, as the world's largest retailer looks to take on Inc's Prime subscription service. Wal-Mart said that existing ShippingPass subscribers will get one month free. Wal-Mart's two-day service costs $49 a year.

Amazon starts selling its own branded coffee, baby food

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:45

The company quietly launches private-label brands Mama Bear baby food and Happy Belly coffee on its website.

Clinton's tech policy backs entrepreneurs and more internet access

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:45

Hillary Clinton unveils a tech agenda that promises to reinvigorate the economy. At least one critic warns that her plans are costly.

Microsoft bundles Surfrace Pro 4 and Xbox One

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:41

Encouraging consumers to buy the new Surface Pro 4 as well as the soon-to-be-old version of the Xbox One, the second will be given away with the first in a July to August deal on the Microsoft Store. The Surface 3 line is coming to an end at the end of the year and the smaller, 4K and HDR-supporting Xbox One S is around the corner with an August release date. Between then and now is a Microsoft Store promotion that sees the original Xbox One sold for free with purchases of a Surface Pro 4 keyboard and tablet screen combo, which starts at $899.

Ford issues three recalls for fewer than 10,000 vehicles

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:39

Affected models include Focus Electric, F-150, Explorer and Transit Connect.

HTC leads $10 billion consortium to invest in virtual reality

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:35

The phone maker, whose Vive VR headset was released earlier this year, helps to form an investment consortium aimed at supporting "true innovation" in VR.

Protect your messages, hide them in emoji

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:26

Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser, has come up with a novel way to send secret messages across the web -- and look adorable while doing it.

Google My Activity site reveals all the data that's been collected about your online habits

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 14:16

Google recently launched a new page called My Activity that shows you a history of your online activities and interactions with its products.