BMW’s redesigned 8 Series is cleaner, more aggressive

Both cars show off the automaker’s new cleaner design language with fewer but sharper lines. The result is beautiful. They look like they’ll slice through the wind with hardly any turbulence thanks to the smoother surface. But the Z4 with its larger footprint but shorter bonnet is especially magnificent. When it does become available, it’ll be in high demand.

BMW’s redesigned 8 Series is cleaner, more aggressive

The Series 8 concept sees the return of that line after an 18 year hiatus. It, along with the larger more aggressive Z4 signal the return of “sports cars” to the BMW family.

While the cars are built for speed, we expect them to be filled with the current tech found in the rest of the line-up, including BMW’s semi-autonomous adaptive cruise control with “Stop & Go” feature for heavy traffic.

Also don’t be surprised to see the gesture-control feature that lets you turn up the volume by spinning a finger make an appearance — at least in the Series 8 when it drops in 2018. It might be a bit tougher to get the cameras and sensors needed for that feature to work on the open air Z4 though.

Both of the cars look outstanding and while we only have to wait about a year for the Series 8, when we’ll see a final version of the Z4 is still up in the air. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

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What does a fancy toothbrush tell me about myself?

And I’ll admit, after doing it, I felt a little dirty. Not only did I fall for an ad, it was an ad that clearly pushed all of my buttons as an environmentally conscious woman who happens to like pretty shoes. It was clear that the ad was specifically targeted at me, and it worked. I started thinking: What do all of these ads say about who Instagram (or Facebook, etc.) think I am? But perhaps, more important, do these ads reflect who I really am (or at least, who I think I am)?

Of course, targeted advertising isn’t new. Google has been doing it for years. It tailors ads depending on your search results as well as what’s in your Gmail inbox. Facebook does much of the same, and because it has hooks deep in the internet, your NewsFeed is likely peppered with ads from sites you’ve already visited. If you casually browsed for curtains on or a chair on West Elm, you’ll likely see those same items pop up on Facebook the next time you log in.

What’s more recent, however, are the ads that aren’t a result of a search but are based on your interests. Facebook and Instagram have said that they figure out which ads to show you based not just on cookies and browser history, but also on your likes, dislikes and the topics you’re passionate about.

What does a fancy toothbrush tell me about myself?

“To decide what ads to show you, we use information about your activity on Facebook, including the information you share, the pages you like, the groups you join and information from your use of apps and websites off Facebook,” an Instagram spokesperson told Engadget.

If you’re on Instagram but not on Facebook, Instagram will take into consideration the kinds of Instagram accounts you follow, the type of content you “like” and your activity on other websites and services. Over time, Instagram wants the ads to essentially blend together with the other content in your feed.

This targeted approach has been extremely lucrative. At last count, Facebook has more than 5 million advertisers, while Instagram has more than a million. For a company that makes most of its money through ads, that’s a really good thing. What’s more, 60 percent of Instagram users report that they learn about a product or a service on Instagram before anywhere else. This is because Instagram is an especially attractive place for small businesses to advertise — after all, it’s highly targeted, which usually results in higher returns for strapped startups’ dollars.

Over the past month, I took more notice of the ads I saw on Instagram. I found that they seem to be mostly related to fashion and home decor. The brands I see most often are Dagne Dover (handbags), MM La Fleur (a personal-stylist service), Brooklinen (bedding), Lively (undergarments), Allbirds (wool running shoes), Quip (a stylish electric toothbrush) and Glossier (cosmetics). I also got ads from more well-known brands like Sonos and Soylent.

What does a fancy toothbrush tell me about myself?

I can see why I’m getting these sorts of ads. I do tend to shop for clothes and decor items online. Indeed, I’ll fully admit here that not only did I buy the Rothys shoes, I was also swayed enough by the Dagne Dover ad to click on over to the site. Why, I do need a roomy bag that holds all my essentials! It holds a laptop, a water bottle and there’s four extra pockets in it? Sold! Though I didn’t buy it directly through the app, I eventually did purchase a bag.

The other brands, though, didn’t move the needle for me as much. I already have Brooklinen bed sheets (prompted more by a Sweethome review rather than an ad), and while the Lively undies, the Glossier lip gloss and the Allbirds shoes looked intriguing, I’m not really in the market for them right now. MM La Fleur is a little outside my comfort zone too — even though I like the idea of a personal stylist, this one seemed geared toward business professionals, of which I certainly am not.

As for Quip, well, it’s one of those products that strike me as a little silly. I don’t need my toothbrush to look stylish — I just need it to clean my teeth. Sure, Quip also offers a subscription service for replacement heads, but I could easily get a pack of eight replacement Oral-B heads from Costco for a fraction of the price.

“Being able to be the first oral-care brand to sell and engage through social media was a must for us,” said Shane Pittson, a growth marketer for Quip. “Initially we focused on some demographics that matched up with early adopters. […] Early success was found in acquiring customers that were buying similar products (shaving subscription services, sample boxes etc.)” Now, Pittson says, the company tends to be broader in its targeting — after all, he joked, most everyone has teeth.

What does a fancy toothbrush tell me about myself?

When I asked friends and colleagues if they saw the same ads on their own social feeds, I received a mixed response. Some of the brands sounded familiar — Quip and Sonos were certainly known — but the rest were more hit or miss. Others saw only sporting equipment and gadgets, while some saw mostly food-related brands.

What stood out to me were that the majority of advertising seemed to be from smaller businesses and startups that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. One odd Instagram-advertised product that seems to have gone viral is the Lamzac, a blow-up lounge chair that you “inflate” by just swinging it through the air.

Other curious products my friends have seen on Instagram include Pixel Thug Life sunglasses from Phonebibi, a glow-in-the-dark solar-charged jacket from Vollebak and a Couch guitar strap with cats on it. A colleague joked to me that Instagram ads were a little bit like the modern-day Skymall, and I can’t help but agree.

Based on the brands that were targeted at me, I started to wonder if Instagram and Facebook had pegged me as some sort of fashion-conscious hipster with a penchant for industrial design. And, well, it’s true that I like pretty things. But if you know me, you also know that I’m in T-shirts and jeans most of the time, I almost never wear makeup and most of the furniture in my home is from IKEA. In short, the ads I see seem to reflect an aspirational me, rather than the real me.

Of course, because the ads are based on my interests and where I tend to shop online rather than who I am in real life, that’s not entirely surprising. But this might change in the future. Right now, some big brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, McDonald’s and Under Armour are trying out targeted ads that are not just based on your likes and dislikes, but also on the photos you upload to your Instagram page.

They’re doing this with the help of Cluep, a Toronto-based company that uses machine-learning and image-recognition to target ads based on the images users post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. So if you post a photo of a pair of sneakers, you might then see an ad for Nike.

Cluep is even working on extending this image recognition capability to videos, so that clip of your cute kitty could then result in a targeted ad for Fancy Feast. As Facebook has been working on an image-recognition tech of its own, it won’t be surprising if it eventually incorporates that same tech to its advertising algorithm too.

A brief look at my Instagram page reveals that I tend to take photos mostly of, well, food. Perhaps instead of designer toothbrushes and bespoke handbags, the ads I see on Instagram will be for organic meats and artisanal bread. That’s still just a narrow depiction of who I am, but it’s admittedly a lot closer to who I really am. The life that Instagram has dreamt up for me might sound fun and glamorous, but I’m pretty good without an inflatable bean bag, thank you very much.

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HBO hacking woes continue: this time on social media

BREAKING: Yet another hack problem for HBO tonight…this time to it’s social media accounts

— Andrew Wallenstein (@awallenstein) August 17, 2017

HBO hacking woes continue: this time on social media

[Screencap taken by BBC]

In OurMine’s posts, it asked the HBO team to contact them to “upgrade [their] security.” It’s unclear what happened behind the scenes — an HBO spokesperson declined to comment when Variety asked — but the posts have since been deleted.

HBO has been going through a tough time way before OurMine joined the fray. A group of hackers infiltrated its system in July and asked for a $6 million ransom for draft scripts of five Game of Thrones episodes, some exec emails and bunch of documents and passwords. A Star India subcontractor also leaked episode 4 of the show’s current season. More recently, HBO Nordic in Spain accidentally released episode 6 way before its August 20th broadcast date.

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Tim Cook condemns ‘repulsive’ racist violence in Charlottesville

Cook also revealed that Apple will be donating $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League to help both organizations working to get rid of hate. In addition, Apple will match its employees’ donations to human rights groups 2-for-1 until September 30th. You can look forward to a new iTunes feature that will make it easy to donate to SPLC, as well.

Over the past few days, the President has lost the support of many other high-profile tech personalities due to his actions. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Jeff Immelt of GE and a list of other executives from other industries left his manufacturing council and other advisory boards following the events in Charlottesville. (Elon Musk peaced out way back when the administration decided to leave the Paris climate agreement.)

Unlike those execs, the Apple CEO never had a close relationship with the President. He worked with Trump when it came to tax reform and used his influence to talk to the President’s people about improving LGBTQ+ rights, but he butted heads with the administration over the Muslim immigration ban and its stance on climate change. His position might not be that surprising, but it’s good to know where people, especially powerful ones like Cook, stand. Here’s the CEO’s full letter to his employees:


Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I’ve heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.

What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world.

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

I believe Apple has led by example, and we’re going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.

In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees’ donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30.

In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.


We’ve seen the terror of white supremacy & racist violence before. It’s a moral issue – an affront to America. We must all stand against it

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) August 14, 2017

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Shonin’s wearable Streamcam simplifies personal security

We’re talking IP67 waterproof construction (like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus), automatic cloud backup and a simple one-touch recording system. The Streamcam is available in LTE and WiFi flavors, and will record encrypted 1080p video to an included, and expandable, 8Gb SD card. An available clip-on battery pack will double the camera’s shooting time, too. It’s worth noting that base battery life isn’t listed anywhere on the pitch page, however. Shonin promises direct broadcasts to Facebook, YouTube and “many other destinations” as well.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the Streamcam won’t begin shipping until next February. That’s the nature of Kickstarter projects. Given that Shonin’s cofounder Sameer Hasan was behind the Kobu e-reader, maybe any worries about this device actually coming to market are unfounded.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $116,642 of its initial $30,000 target. If the $150,000 stretch goal is hit, the team promises to add software-based image stabilization. Currently, two early bird backing tiers have yet to sell out. $169 will get you a WiFi model, and $10 more will upgrade you to a LTE-equipped camera.

The price goes up from there, but unlike other campaigns there aren’t any crazy things like dinner with the design team. Instead, Shonin is keeping everything focused on the product itself, opting for hardware bundles instead. Refreshing, no?

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AltspaceVR is keeping its virtual hangout open

We have good news! AltspaceVR is going to live on thanks to you.

— AltspaceVR (@AltspaceVR) August 16, 2017

If you’re not familiar, AltspaceVR is sort of like Second Life for virtual reality that works with the Gear VR, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. It announced its shutdown in July after running out of money and failing to secure another round of funding on time. Since the company had no choice but to let most of its employees go, a skeleton crew is keeping its virtual world running for now.

While the company is being very secretive about its future plans, TechCrunch has spotted a potential investor in Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. When AltspaceVR announced its shutdown, Luckey polled his followers, asking whether he should try to save the California-based firm:

Should I try to save @AltspaceVR? (caveat: may not be possible)

— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) July 29, 2017

Now, he has retweeted the company’s story announcing that it’s living on. Whoever its new investors are, AltspaceVR users can now throw virtual parties to celebrate their virtual hangout’s new lease on life.

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Vizio TVs add the Google Play video app

Vizio has been adding streaming apps to its smart TVs these past few weeks, including Netflix and Amazon Video. The latest addition to its streaming apps collection? Google Play Movies & TV. The company is making the app available on its high-end VIA+ and D-series Smart TVs, giving you a way to buy or rent titles from the app without having to use a phone or tablet and a Chromecast or Roku.

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Uber is reportedly closing down its car-leasing program in the US

And that’s not all. Uber apparently sunk some $600 million into its domestic leasing program, opening it to 24 markets. Recently, the company came under fire for leasing unsafe vehicles to drivers in Singapore.

As WSJ describes, this part of Uber’s business seems like it was doomed from the start. Sources say that the lease costs were more than a driver would pay a typical dealer, which in turn pushed drivers to take more fares. More fares meant more wear and tear on a vehicle, which resulted in lower resale values of said cars.

On top of that, dealers outside of Uber’s own shops were often pushing drivers into more expensive vehicles and perpetuating the vicious cycle. WSJ has even more details so make sure to check out the link below. But rest assured, if you had August 8th in your “Uber is gonna turn itself around” betting pool, today is not your day.

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Watch the most impressive ‘Game of Thrones’ VFX reel yet

The show uses CGI to bring its fire-breathing lizards to life, of course, since 747-sized dragon props are hard to come by. While shots from several years ago were serviceable, the CGI has clearly improved with more realistic dragon texturing, rippling “manes” and less hokey shots of actress Emilia Clarke aboard “Drogon.” To get the latter, the team developed a full rig for Clarke to ride that moved perfectly in time with the motion of her fire-breathing steed.

To add realism to the digital creations, the team also did a lot of practical work on set with special flying cameras, pyrotechnics and fire — lots of fire. In one spectacular Drogon destruction POV scene, they used a cable-camera rig mounted on two tall cranes to capture the pyrotechnic effects. “We had to have the ‘spider-cam’ camera fly in real time and in perfect sync with a hundred feet of ground explosions that are huge,” said VFX supervisor Joe Bauer.

For the piece de resistance, the team set no less than 20 stuntmen on fire, the most ever in a single TV shot. “The difficulty with 20 people is that you ramp up the safety aspect of it, because there are more people in harm’s way and more that can go wrong,” said Producer Chris Newman.

It’s just about as impressive to watch the scene as the real-life execution. The stunt coordinator does a countdown from 12 after the explosion, then yells “Out! Out! Out!” At that point, technicians armed with fire extinguishers swarm in to make sure everyone is safe.

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Intel’s push for petabyte SSDs requires a new kind of drive

There aren’t many ways to make data center storage exciting, but mentioning a drive that could hold up to one petabyte (1,000 terabytes) comes close. Intel is making the case to swap out old disk-based drives in data centers with SSDs, and as part of that it’s showing off a new “Ruler” form factor. Instead of molding to the 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch size of traditional drives or just the dimensions of a PCIe slot, its long skinny shape fits into a standard rack mounted server. As TechGage notes, with regular 10TB hard drives would take up a 100-bay 4U server. The new Ruler drives aren’t available yet, but Intel claims it will offer them with both its Optane and 3D NAND SSDs in the “near future.”

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