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Yesterday — August 24th 2019Your RSS feeds

I Replaced My Oven With a Waffle Maker, and You Should Too

By Scott Gilbertson
Dust off that waffle iron and enter a world of cooking that goes way beyond breakfast.

Uber tries to reassure customers that it takes safety seriously, following NYTimes book excerpt

By Connie Loizos

It’s hard at times not to feel sorry for Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, given all that he inherited when he became the ride-share giant’s top boss back in April 2017.

Among his many to-do items: take public a money-losing company whose private-market valuation had already soared past what many thought it was worth, clean-up the organization’s win-at-all-costs image, and win over employees who clearly remained loyal to Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick, an inimitable figure who Khosrowshahi was hired to replace.

Things are undoubtedly about to get worse, given the fast-upcoming publication of a tell-all book about Uber authored by New York Times reporter Mike Isaac. In just one excerpt published yesterday by the newspaper, Isaac outlines how Uber misled customers into paying $1 more per ride by telling them Uber would use the proceeds to fund an “industry-leading background check process, regular motor vehicle checks, driver safety education, development of safety features in the app, and insurance.”

The campaign was hugely successful, according to Isaac, who reports that it brought in nearly half a billion dollars for Uber. Alas, according to employees who worked on the project, the fee was devised primarily to add $1 of pure margin to each trip.

Om Malik, a former tech journalist turned venture capitalist, published a tongue-in-cheek tweet yesterday after reading the excerpt, writing, “Apology from @dkhos coming any minute — we are different now.”

Malik was close. Instead of an apology, Uber today sent some of its riders an email titled, somewhat ominously, “Your phone number stays hidden in the app.” The friendly reminder continues on to tell customers that their “phone number stays hidden when you call or text your driver through the app,” that “pickup and dropoff locations are not visible in a driver’s trip history,” and that “for additional privacy, if you don’t want to share your exact address, request a ride to or from the nearest cross streets instead.”

The email was clearly meant to reassure riders, some of whom might be absorbing negative press about Uber and wondering if it cares about them at all. But not everyone follows Uber as closely as industry watchers in Silicon Valley, and either way, what the email mostly accomplishes is to remind customers that riding in an Uber involves life-and-death risk.

Stressing that the company is “committed to safety” is the debating equivalent of a so-called negative pregnant, wherein a denial implies its affirmative opposite. It’s Uber shooting itself in the foot.

Uber

It would have been more effective for Uber to email riders that when it talks about safety, it really does mean business — and not the kind where it swindles its own customers for pure monetary gain.

Either way, the affair underscores the tricky terrain Uber is left to navigate right now. Though campaigns like Uber’s so-called “safe rides fee” was orchestrated under the leadership of Kalanick — who did whatever it took to scale the company — it’s Khosrowshahi’s problem now.

So is the fact that the company’s shares have been sinking since its IPO in early May; that Uber’s cost-cutting measures will be scrutinized at every turn (outsiders particularly relished the company’s decision to save on employees’ work anniversaries by cutting out helium balloons in favor of stickers); and that Uber appears to be losing the battle, city by city, against labor activists who want to push up the minimum wage paid to drivers.

And those are just three of many daunting challenges that Khosrowshahi has been tasked with figuring out  (think food delivery, self-driving technologies, foreign and domestic opponents). No doubt Isaac’s book will highlight plenty of others.

How Uber handles the inevitable wave of bad publicity that comes with it remains to be seen. We don’t expect Khosrowshahi to come out swinging; that’s not his style. But we also hope the company doesn’t take to emailing riders directly, without any context. It’s great if Uber is taking customer safety more seriously than it might have under Kalanick’s leadership, but reaching out to tell riders how to remain safe from their Uber drivers isn’t the way to do it, especially without acknowledging in any way why it’s suddenly so eager to have the conversation.

The new Disney+ streaming service is oriented around fans and families

By Jonathan Shieber

You can tell a lot about a service by what it prioritizes on its home screen. With the new Disney + service the focus is initially organized by fan base, with different silos for the company’s various studios and the fans that follow them.

As the company gets the service off the ground — and casts about for content to stuff it with — curation is increasingly important. Over the course of my conversation with the Ricky Strauss, who’s overseeing Disney’s streaming service, “quality over quantity” was the mantra.

I spent some time reviewing the app and its features at the D23 expo and it seems the emphasis of quality over quantity in content didn’t necessarily extend to the app itself. The user interface and controls — at least on the AppleTV version that was used in my demonstration — were a little clunky.

While there’s going to be a rich content library of old and new titles — Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars classics and a mix of Fox content (chiefly “The Simpsons”) featured prominently on the home screen — other content is going to be a little bit more difficult to find.

Navigation over to the sidebar is required to find the new Disney+ original series (including the acquisitions like the “Diary of a Female President” series that Disney ordered earlier in the year. And don’t even bother trying to find any media from Hulu — or Hulu itself.  There are no plans to integrate any Hulu content or Fox properties that now fall under the auspices of Disney or its underlying studios (that includes the mutant corner of the Marvel Comics world that now fall under Disney’s purview after the Fox deal).

Family friendly fare for Disney means that the service (as previously reported) won’t have any media that would warrant a rating above PG-13. There won’t be a whiff of anything remotely as bloody or graphic as “Deadpool” on Disney’s streams.

While there aren’t a number of robust parental controls (since the content is designed to be more family friendly than the average streaming service) there is a kids’ mode designed for ages seven and below.

In the kids mode shows are organized by character, because that’s the way children (many of whom are pre-literate) relate to the medium. The screen for kids is also brighter and in kids accounts, the autoplay feature is turned off (the default for the streaming services is that autoplay is on for adults).

Initially the service will be available in several languages at launch through subtitles and dubbing with plans to be as inclusive as possible when the service rolls out in each of the countries it will be operating in. And eventually Disney wants the streaming service to be available everywhere.

The $7-a-month price tag will enable families to get four simultaneous streams, all the videos will be in 4K, UHD and HDR with an ability for a family to set up seven different user profiles. As CNet noted, this is in sharp contrast to Netflix, which only allows for five profiles and enables simultaneous streaming only at a higher price point.

Given the broader functionality, it’d be more apt to compare Disney+ to Netflix’s premium $15.99 per month service, rather than its basic $8.99 price point. Disney+’s content library and family friendly pitch also make it a compelling offering for families with young children.

Each profile can be designated with the Disney avatar of your choice. The service also won’t be dropping its original episodes all at once, preferring to serialize the entertainment — more like a traditional network.

For Disney, which owns Marvel, LucasFilm, as well as its own catalog of live action and animated shows through the now 36-year-old Disney Channel, and the film libraries of Pixar and the Walt Disney Co. the successful launch of Disney+ is nothing less than the future of the company.

At D23, the company’s fan service expo, that was incredibly apparent.

Confirmed: Disney is making an Obi-Wan series with Ewan McGregor

By Greg Kumparak

The rumors have been suggesting it for a while now, and fans have been pretty much begging for it… and it’s happening: Disney is making an Obi-Wan series for Disney+, with Ewan McGregor returning to the role.

Disney dropped the news at a panel during D23 this evening, almost immediately after premiering the trailer for its other live action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.

Story developing…

Here’s the first trailer for the upcoming Disney+ Star Wars series, The Mandalorian

By Greg Kumparak

It’s here!

About ten months after we learned that Jon Favreau would be heading up a Star Wars series called “The Mandalorian” on Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service Disney+, we have the first full trailer. It premiered this evening during the Disney+ panel at the D23 conference.

Everyone involved had stayed relatively hush-hush about the series until now, with only a couple of details mentioned with its announcement. We knew it takes place about five years after Return of the Jedi — so a few decades before Force Awakens. Favreau had also said that it follows “the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy” — which we later learned would be played by Pedro Pascal (perhaps best known as Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones.)

According to the New York Times, Disney is dropping “roughly $100 million” to produce the first 10 episodes.

The Mandalorian is set to debut alongside Disney+ on November 12th, 2019.

 

 

Before yesterdayYour RSS feeds

Disney introduces “She Hulk”, “Moon Knight” and “Ms. Marvel” to Disney+ streaming service

By Jonathan Shieber

As part of its big reveal of the slate of shows coming to Disney+ streaming service, Marvel head Kevin Feige introduced three new shows that would be joining the Marvel pantheon: “She Hulk”, “Moon Knight” and “Ms. Marvel” as part of the expanded Marvel Universe.

Ms. Marvel tells the story of teenager Kamela Khan, who was Marvel’s first Muslim character to lead her own series. A Pakistani-American from New Jersey, Khan can changer he shape.

Moon Knight is based on the character Marc Specter who is a mercenary left for dead in the Egyptian desert who is imbued with special powers by a spiritual force. And She Hulk is the story of Bruce Banner’s cousin, Jennifer Walters, who in the comics receives a blood transfusion from her relative and is transformed into her own version of the Hulk.

Other revelations from the Marvel portion of the big Disney+ presentation included the full cast for the WandaVision show, which Feige described as a combination sitcom and traditional marvel epic.

Old Marvel favorites including Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis and Randall Park as Agent Wu from the “Ant Man” movies will make appearances in the Wanda/Vision show.

Also rejoining the Marvel Universe is Emily Van Camp reprising her role as Sharon Carter, the daughter of Peggy Carter. She’ll make her appearance in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

The expansion of the MCU with these three new shows is indicative of how deep a bench of intellectual property Disney has at its disposal to flesh out its streaming service. It can also serve to dull the pain some fans may feel at the loss of the Netflix-licensed characters like Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist (somebody liked it), and Jessica Jones.

These choices also indicate how Disney is growing its roster of women in the MCU taking the role of superheroes, which comes on the back of the success of Captain Marvel.

 

 

Trump adds tariffs to $550 billion of Chinese imports in trade war reprisal

By Kirsten Korosec

President Trump announced Friday on Twitter that tariffs on Chinese imports will increase 5 percentage points in a tit-for-tat response to China’s own plans to place new duties on U.S. goods.

About $250 billion of goods produced by China and imported into the U.S. already have a 25% tariff. This newest increase will push tariffs to 30% beginning October 1, 2019. Trump also increased “List 4” tariffs from 10% to 15%. The List 4 tariff, which affects the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports, will go into effect September 1 and December 15.

…unfair Trading Relationship. China should not have put new Tariffs on 75 BILLION DOLLARS of United States product (politically motivated!). Starting on October 1st, the 250 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, currently being taxed at 25%, will be taxed at 30%…

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

The increase in tariffs on Chinese imports follows news earlier Friday that China will impose $75 billion worth of duties on U.S. goods, beginning Sept. 1 and December 15. China’s foreign ministry said that it would resume tariffs on U.S. imports of automobiles and auto parts and place an additional 5% or 10% tariff on agricultural and food products like soybeans, coffee, whiskey and seafood.

U.S. automakers Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla all saw shares fall in response to China’s new tariffs. Automakers that build vehicles in the U.S. for export to China — a group that includes Tesla and Ford — will take the brunt of China’s newest tariffs. The move could force these companies to raise prices, which could further dampen sales.

The president’s initial response on Twitter to China’s decision sent the market into a tailspin. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fall by as much as 700 points before closing the day slightly down only 623 points at 25,628.60. The S&P 500 Index fell 75.84 points to end the day at 2,847.11 and the Nasdaq dropped 239.62 points to close at 7,751.77.

Trump’s tariffs announcement came after markets closed Friday.

…Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%. Thank you for your attention to this matter!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

 

Bag Week 2019: A whole bunch of fannies

By Veanne Cao

It’s finally Bag Week again! The most wonderful week of the year at TechCrunch. Just in time for back to school, we’re bringing you reviews of bags of all varieties: from backpacks to rollers to messengers to…

The fanny pack. Or hip pack, waist bag, belt bag, sling, crossbody and sometimes bum bag, because where you’re from, a fanny means lady parts. Whatever it’s called, I’ve been searching for an all-around go-to alternative for purses. (I don’t care much for them since they don’t match my tee-shirt and holes-in-jeans aesthetic.)

For the past two months, I’ve been trying out fanny packs (and trying to shove various objects into them) for different daily routines.

fannypacks_various_objects

I haven’t found one that gets the job done for everything, but here are a variety of great fannies.

Herschel Eighteen Hip Pack – $49.99

[gallery ids="1869526,1869527,1869528,1869529,1869530,1869531,1869532,1869533,1869534,1869535"]

 

I own three Herschel backpacks, all of which have served me well for the past two years, so I was pretty stoked about this one. The only problem though, with my 5’4” wimpy frame, I should have opted for a smaller bag in their hip pack line. Although it’s smaller than Peak Design’s Everyday Sling, the side support makes it uncomfortable to wear across the chest and only works as a back sling or fanny pack.

Pros:

  • Solid construction
  • Huge main compartment large enough to hold a water bottle, book, camera and knick-knacks
  • Comfortable air mesh padding on the back

Cons:

  • Opening for the two front storage pockets is too small, which makes it cumbersome to put things in, pull things out
  • Missing inner pocket inside the main compartment for keys and wallet so there’s a lot of digging involved

Dimensions: 7″ (H) x 11″ (W) x 3″ (D)

More details and specs here.

 

Moment Fanny Sling – $69.99

[gallery ids="1869537,1869538,1869539,1869540,1869541,1869543,1869544,1869545,1869546,1869547"]

The fine people at Moment, known for their mobile phone lenses, recently launched a series of bags and cases. Although this bag was designed with the intention of storing their lenses and gear, it has become my boyfriend’s everyday bag since I received it back in June. It withstood a grimy Budapest rainstorm, a grimy music festival and a grimy New York summer.

Pros:

  • Pockets for days (including one on the back that fits your wallet or phone)
  • Weatherproof shell and zippers
  • Comfortable for everyday use
  • Flexible, expandable — can be worn across the chest, as a traditional fanny pack or sling

Con:

  • The Velcro loop that keeps excess straps in place wore down after a month and tends to slip off

Dimensions: 5.1″ (H) x 8.25” (W) x 3.75” (D)

More details and specs here.

 

Peak Design Everyday Sling 5L – $99.95

[gallery ids="1869555,1869557,1869558,1869559,1869560,1869561,1869562,1869563,1869564,1869565"]

This was my go-to photography bag for the summer. It’s been perfect for organizing all the essentials: DSLR, two lenses, SD cards, notebook (or iPad), batteries, etc. I love everything about this bag. That’s it. That’s the review. There’s nothing else I can say.

Pros:

  • Tons of pockets, dividers of sorts and padding for all of your accessories
  • Tuck-away system to hide excess straps and front zipper
  • Quick adjusting straps for when you need to grab your camera or to switch configurations
  • Weatherproof nylon canvas shell

Cons:

  • So far, nothing

Dimensions: 7.48″ (H) x 12.2″ (W) x 4.33″ (D)

More details and specs here.

 

State Bags Crosby Fanny Pack – $150

[gallery ids="1869566,1869567,1869568,1869569,1869570,1869572,1869573"]

From the smooth leather body to the gold foil embossed logo, this is the classiest one of the bunch, and has been my date night go-to for the past month. It’s casual enough to accessorize with jeans and tee-shirt, but stylish enough to make it look like you put in the effort.

The best part, though, is that there are good people behind the products. For every bag you purchase, they donate fully packed backpacks to kids throughout America.

Pros:

  • Mesh inside pocket to separate smaller items
  • Well-made and designed
  • Slip pocket on the back for quick access to iPhone X

Cons:

  • The straps started to pill a little after a month of use

Dimensions: 5.00″ (H) x 7.09″ (W) x 1.97″ (D)

More details and specs here.

Patagonia Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack – $29.00

[gallery ids="1869548,1869549,1869550,1869552,1869553,1869554"]

This is the fun-sized candy bar of fanny packs. It’s adorable, has an 80s throwback colorblock design and folds into its own pocket when not in use. It’s quite small and only holds the essentials (wallet, phones, keys, and in my case, an inhaler), but it’s ideal for running errands.

Pros:

  • Sturdy and small
  • Mesh back padding for comfort and breathability
  • Soft adjustable strap

Cons:

  • Nylon construction — it sometimes feels like a toiletries bag

Dimensions: 7” (W) x 4.5”(H) x 2” (D)

More details and specs here.

 

Timbuk2 Slacker Chest Pack – $49.00

[gallery ids="1869574,1869575,1869576,1869577,1869578,1869579"]

This is the most basic, yet comfortable fanny pack. It was my everyday dog-walking bag. It held a water bottle, doggie treats and a collapsible dog bowl, while my wallet was tucked into the inside mesh pocket. There’s even an in-pocket strap to hold your keys.

Pros:

  • Air mesh back panel for breathability and comfort
  • Uncomplicated design

Cons:

  • The zipper doesn’t open the entire width of the bag
  • Straps won’t adjust small enough for skinny people with narrow hips — it’ll fall right off your booty

Dimensions: 3.94” (H) x 11.2” (W) x 2.48” (D)

More details and specs here.

Generic fanny pack – free

[gallery ids="1869523,1869524,1869525"]

This is not a great fanny pack. I’m including this bottom of the barrel bag I received as Google schwag during CES earlier this year as a control. It’s made in China with visible threads, sloppily sewn together. Ugly, yet surprisingly comfortable. It gets the job done and you don’t have to worry about losing it. You can get a similar one on Amazon for eight bucks.

Chinese tariff retaliation, presidential tweets and market unease sends exchanges plummeting

By Jonathan Shieber

After a week of modest gains, major stock indexes plummeted on Friday as China retaliated against U.S. tariffs by imposing $75 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. goods coming into the country.

China’s foreign ministry said that it would resume tariffs on U.S. imports of automobiles and auto parts and place an additional 5% or 10% tariff on agricultural and food products like soybeans, coffee, whiskey and seafood.

The trouble was exacerbated by statements on President Donald Trump’s Twitter account, which called for the U.S. to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.” The president also accused China of stealing “our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year.”

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

The attacks sent markets into a tailspin. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by as much as 700 points before closing the day slightly down only 623 points at 25,628.60. Meanwhile the S&P 500 Index fell 75.84 points to end the day at 2,847.11 and the Nasdaq dropped 239.62 points to close at 7,751.77.

The declines come on top of a dismal week of economic reports for the U.S. Earlier, the number of jobs the country had added over the past year was revised downward by 500,000. Meanwhile, the national debt is ballooning at a faster rate than expected, with the U.S. deficit expected to hit $1.2 trillion by 2020.

Walmart and Tesla are going to try and work things out

By Kirsten Korosec

Walmart came out swinging earlier this week in a lawsuit that accused Tesla of breach of contract and gross negligence over problems with rooftop solar panel systems installed at the retail giant’s stores.

Now, just days later, the lawsuit has been placed on hold while the two companies try to reach an agreement that would keep the solar installations in place and put them back in service, according to a joint statement issued late Thursday night.

“Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed,” the statement read. “Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future. Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely.”

Walmart hasn’t dropped the lawsuit. The complaint is still on file with New York state court. But the two parties are going to try to reach an agreement that would avoid a lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which is aimed at Tesla’s energy unit that was formerly known as SolarCity, alleges that seven fires on Walmart rooftops were caused by the solar panel systems. Walmart asked Tesla to remove the solar panel systems on all 244 stores where they are currently installed and to pay for damages related to fires that the retailer alleges stem from the panels.

Now, a Walmart spokesperson said it is “actively working towards a resolution” with Tesla.

Neither Tesla or Walmart would explain the details of the negotiations.

The stakes are high for Tesla. Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk  announced a new rental offering for solar power in a bid to reboot the flagging renewable energy business.

Tesla’s share of the solar market has declined since its merger with SolarCity in 2016. In the second quarter Tesla deployed only 29 megawatts of new solar installations, while the number one and two providers of consumer solar, SunRun and Vivint Solar, installed 103 megawatts and 56 megawatts, respectively.

Tesla’s renewable energy business includes residential and commercial solar and energy storage products. The company also has a utility-scale energy product called Megapack. While Tesla still produces solar panels for residential use, much of its focus has been on developing its solar roof, which is comprised of tiles. It still operates a commercial business, which targets municipalities, schools, affordable housing, enterprise and agriculture and water districts as customers.

The company doesn’t provide a breakdown of its solar installations, making it difficult to determine if the commercial business is flat, falling or on the rise. Language in its latest 10-Q suggests Tesla is putting a renewed effort into its solar business.

Tesla said it’s working on revamping the customer service experience for solar products, according to the 10-Q. The company said while its retrofit solar system deployments have it expects they “will stabilize and grow in the second half of the year.”

How Pivotal got bailed out by fellow Dell family member, VMware

By Ron Miller

When Dell acquired EMC in 2016 for $67 billion, it created a complicated consortium of interconnected organizations. Some, like VMware and Pivotal, operate as completely separate companies. They have their own boards of directors, can acquire companies and are publicly traded on the stock market. Yet they work closely within the Dell, partnering where it makes sense. When Pivotal’s stock price plunged recently, VMware saved the day when it bought the faltering company for $2.7 billion yesterday.

Pivotal went public last year, and sometimes struggled, but in June the wheels started to come off after a poor quarterly earnings report. The company had what MarketWatch aptly called “a train wreck of a quarter.”

How bad was it? So bad that its stock price was down 42% the day after it reported its earnings. While the quarter itself wasn’t so bad, with revenue up year over year, the guidance was another story. The company cut its 2020 revenue guidance by $40-$50 million and the guidance it gave for the upcoming 2Q19 was also considerably lower than consensus Wall Street estimates.

The stock price plunged from a high of $21.44 on May 30th to a low of $8.30 on Aug 14th. The company’s market cap plunged in that same time period falling from $5.828 billion on May 30th to $2.257 billion on Aug 14th. That’s when VMware admitted it was thinking about buying the struggling company.

Waxed canvas messengers from Trakke, Waterfield and Mission Workshop are spacious and rugged

By Devin Coldewey

It’s nearing the end of Bag Week 2019, where we highlight the best receptacles for the tech we cover daily, and we’ve got a few more winners for you. Earlier this week I collected a few excellent waxed canvas laptop bags, a sequel to last year’s round-up, but these messenger-style bags stood out. So I’ve collected them here separately.

As I’ve written before, waxed canvas is a wonderful material. The natural fibers infused with wax provide water resistance, structure, protection and a great look that only gets better with time as you use it. It’s my favorite material and it should be yours too. Only trouble is, it can be expensive. But keep in mind that these bags are the kind that you take with you for a decade or two.

Waterfield Vitesse – $159

waxed messengers 01

Pros:

  • Extremely handsome material and color
  • Great closure mechanism
  • Interior laptop sleeve is lovely

Cons:

  • Permanently attached nylon straps
  • Exterior pocket style not for everyone
  • Prominent badge

Store link

Waterfield’s canvas material was my favorite, with the possible exception, accounting for taste, of the heavy-duty Saddleback bag. While the latter is raw and rugged, this one is more refined and flexible. The canvas is much softer and more pliable than the other bags, but still thick and protective. It isn’t very stiff, though.

The Vitesse is a simple, useful bag. It has plenty of space inside for a day out or even an overnight if you’re careful. There are three simple pockets on the inside for stowing smaller items, and a large laptop compartment that closes with a Velcro strap.

Waterfield recommends a sleeve for your laptop, and I support that, especially considering how nice their sleeves are. The padded waxed canvas sleeve that they sent along has a leather base and magnetic closure that made me feel quite confident in throwing the bag around. I also used it in other bags, like the Joshu+Vela one, which lacked their own padding. There are of course cheaper and thinner sleeves than this, but I felt this one deserved a shout-out.

[gallery ids="1873239,1873229,1873237,1873238,1873236,1873235,1873234,1873233,1873232,1873231"]

On the outside, under the flap, is a single large pocket space that can be accessed through zippers on either side of the bag. These are weather-sealed, as well, so if they’re exposed a bit they won’t leak. There’s a leather handle up top that feels well balanced and won’t get in your way. On the front of the flap is a (to me) over-prominent leather logo badge. Maybe I’m over-sensitive to this kind of thing.

The closure method is unique: studs that fit into holes in leather straps attached to the flap. I thought it was weird at first but it’s grown on me: it’s easy to undo in a hurry, and not hard to attach even with one hand.

My main issue is the strap. For a messenger bag the strap is really important, and the truth is Waterfield kind of blew it here. The Vitesse basically just has a plain nylon strap, sewn on at an angle to the corners of the bag. Unlike many laptop bags, the straps can’t swivel, so they’ll get twisted. And unlike the other messengers here, there’s no big obvious pad or quick-adjust capability.

I’m a little sad I can’t recommend the Vitesse more, given its strengths, but this strap really is hard to get over.

Trakke Wee Lug (Mk2) – £225 (around $270)

waxed messengers 12

Pros:

  • Refined, well thought-out design and components
  • Comfortable strap setup
  • Low-key waxing and color

Cons:

  • Closure can take some getting used to
  • Switching strap side could be easier
  • Low-key waxing and color

Store link

This Scottish maker of waxed canvas items has a long history over there, and sources its cloth from one of the original purveyors of waxed canvas in the world. We’re talking 19th century here.

But the design and in fact the cloth itself are distinctly modern. A “dry wax” finish gives the Wee Lug very little of a waxy feel, but it’s definitely in there, you can tell. It’ll just take longer to develop the kind of wear marks you get in a hurry on the more wax-forward bags like the Vitesse above. It’s also a lighter, smoother color in person, compared with the caramel Rummy and more textured Vitesse.

The truth is this finish isn’t for everyone, in that if you really want that old-fashioned waxed look, this isn’t it. But keep in mind that you can (and should) wax or rewax the material on this kind of bag, and you’re free to do so.

Whether the material is to your liking or not, the design is excellent. The exterior has two zip-access side pockets a bit like the Vitesse, but larger and a bit easier to access. The interior has a zipping padded laptop area, smaller zipped pocket, two simple side pockets and a large general-use space. It’s also a bright, citrusy not-quite-safety orange that complements the tan exterior well.

[gallery ids="1873245,1873247,1873246,1873244,1873243,1873242,1873240,1873241"]

The zippers all have loops, a more practical alternative to ordinary pulls and, in my opinion, more attractive than leather thongs, which seem to me like they’re just a way to use up scraps. There’s a carry handle near the top of the back that feels very strong and despite sticking out a bit hasn’t bothered me while using the bag.

Closure is achieved by slipping a metal clip below through a gap in another metal clip above; it takes a little bit to get used to, but ultimately it’s both simple and robust, and very unlikely to wear out.

The shoulder strap is thick black canvas, with a generous (20-inch) shoulder pad. In the middle is a Cobra buckle for quick donning and removing. The Wee Lug is definitely intended to be worn high across the back, as the padded portion of the strap goes all the way to the edge of the bag. I should say the D-rings and hardware other than the buckle are the weakest parts of the whole bag — just ordinary plastic.

Those straps can be removed and reattached on the opposite sides so it goes from a right- to left-shouldered bag, but this process is a bit cumbersome. If it were too easy it might happen on accident, but slipping the thick canvas strap through the gap in its clip takes a lot of strength — something you might not have when you’re tired from riding and want to switch shoulders.

If I had to recommend one bag out of these three, I think the Trakke would be it.

Mission Workshop Monty – $255

 

waxed messengers 19

Pros:

  • Nice marky waxed finish
  • Truly waterproof
  • Very spacious

Cons:

  • Feels a little overengineered
  • No padded laptop space
  • No handle and strap again could be easier to switch

Store link

Mission Workshop puts together bags of obviously high quality, but they tend to have an aspect of cleverness to them that I don’t always find warranted. In the case of the Monty (and its big siblings the Rummy and Shed) they have a great basic setup that feels like there’s just a bit too much going on.

What they get right is the materials and feeling of ruggedness. If I was going into seriously inclement weather, the Monty is the bag I’d take, no question. Waxed canvas is naturally water resistant and it’ll keep your gear safe from spray or limited rain, but torrential downpour or immersion breaks the spell. If you’re going to be riding in the rain regularly and for long periods of time, you need a synthetic, waterproof layer if you don’t want anything getting damp.

That’s what’s inside the Monty: a strong tarp layer lining every pocket and space that pretty much guarantees your gear stays dry. The exterior is a lovely caramel-colored waxed canvas that was extremely eager to pick up marks and impressions (and, as is often the case with wet finishes, dirt and fuzz — Filson’s do this too).

[gallery ids="1873252,1873256,1873255,1873254,1873253,1873251,1873250,1873249,1873248"]

The other thing they get right is the amount of structured and unstructured space. The Monty has a very large main compartment in the back, big enough it’s difficult to photograph (I tried… for some reason this thing is not photogenic, though it looks good in real life). Then there’s a zippered area with two sub-compartments in the front, and two open pockets that close with a single flap in front of that. There’s no shortage of places to put your things, but you’re never at a loss where something should go.

I personally think the front pocket closure is a little much, since you can hardly reach inside them without removing the main flap and undoing this huge Velcro piece, but better too secure than not secure enough. And I would have liked a bit of padding around the larger zip pocket, or a padded sub-area where a laptop could go.

But the main issue I have with the Monty is that it tries to accommodate two styles when really there’s only one. You can close the bag in two ways: by folding the flap over and securing it with the company’s excellent Arkiv closures, or by rolling it down and Velcroing it shut with a different flap.

Rolltop stuff is in MW’s DNA, but it simply doesn’t fit here. If you roll it up, the straps have nothing to do but hang onto the front of the pockets. Meanwhile if you fold it over, you have unused Velcro all over the outside, and a flap on the inside doing nothing. You can’t roll it a little and then fold it over, since it would hide the closure rails.

I feel like MW could have made a strong decision one way or the other here and made the bag either rolltop or flap closure, but instead they did both, and whichever you choose, you still sort of run into the other. And the thing is it doesn’t matter which you choose, since your stuff will be protected fine either way and neither opens up or obscures any extra space.

So the Monty, despite being a very practical bag in some ways, feels like a weird hybrid in others. Whereas the Wee Lug knows exactly what it is and pursues that design exclusively.


These are all three great bags, but they serve very different purposes. The Waterfield is a great all-round casual bag, but the strap really makes it impractical for cycling or long wear. The Trakke is much more suited for athletic activities and has more room and organization, making it something of a perfect weekender or day bag. And the MW is sort of a prepper bag, ready for anything and a bit off-kilter.

If I had to buy a single one of these right now, I’d go with the Trakke — the attention to detail appeals to me. If, on the other hand, I knew I’d be facing lots of rain or the possibility of dropping my bag in the surf, I’d go MW. And if Waterfield gets its strap game together I’d find their bag easy to recommend as a flexible, unfussy hybrid. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Daily Crunch: Overstock CEO resigns

By Anthony Ha

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Overstock CEO resigns after ‘deep state’ comments

This comes after CEO Patrick Byrne released a statement declaring that he cooperated with federal investigators back in 2015 and was in fact “the notorious ‘missing chapter 1’ of the Russia investigation.” He subsequently gave interviews that also touched on his relationship Maria Butina, who’s been accused of working as a Russian agent.

The ensuing controversy sent Overstock’s share price tumbling, and Byrne said yesterday that he would have to “sever ties with Overstock, both as CEO and board member.”

2. Sphero has acquired littleBits

Founded in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Sphero and littleBits took separate approaches to creating STEM toys, but ultimately ended up in similar spaces.

3. Google says China used YouTube to meddle in Hong Kong protests

The search giant, which owns YouTube, followed in the footsteps of Twitter and Facebook, which earlier this week said China had used their social media sites to spread misinformation and discord among the protesters.

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4. VMware acquires Carbon Black for $2.1B and Pivotal for $2.7B

Although these are two very different companies, both Carbon Black and Pivotal focus on modern workloads.

5. Oracle directors give blessing to shareholder lawsuit against Larry Ellison and Safra Catz

Three years after closing a $9.3 billion deal to acquire NetSuite, several Oracle board members have written a letter to the Delaware Court, approving a shareholder lawsuit against company executives Larry Ellison and Safra Catz over the deal.

6. Tumblr’s next step forward with Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg

In an interview, Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg discussed Tumblr’s history and the impact of the poorly received adult content restrictions. He also shed some light on where Tumblr goes under its new owners. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

7. Apple exec Susan Prescott is coming to TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise

Prescott has been at Apple since 2003, and she’ll be joining us to discuss the company’s enterprise strategy.

Is Knotel poised to turn WeWork from a Unicorn into an Icarus?

By Mike Butcher

The day of reckoning for the ‘flexible office space as a startup’ is coming, and it’s coming up fast. WeWork’s IPO filing has fired the starting gun on the race to become the game-changer both in the future of property and real estate but also the future of how we live and work. As Churchill once said, ‘we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’.

Until recently WeWork was the ruler by which other flexible space startups were measured, but questions are now being asked if it deserves its valuation. The profitable IWG plc, formerly Regus, has been a business providing serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and the rest, for years and yet WeWork is valued by ten times more.

That’s not to mention how it exposes landlords to $40 billion in rent commitments, something which a few of them are starting to feel rather nervous about.

Some analysts even say WeWork’s IPO is a ‘masterpiece of obfuscation’

UK’s health data guardian sets a firm line for app development using patient data

By Natasha Lomas

The UK’s health data watchdog, the National Data Guardian (NDG), has published correspondence between her office and the national privacy watchdog which informed the ICO’s finding in 2017 that a data-sharing arrangement between an NHS Trust and Google-owned DeepMind broke the law.

The exchange was published following a Freedom of Information request by TechCrunch.

In fall 2015 the Royal Free NHS Trust and DeepMind signed a data-sharing agreement which saw the medical records of 1.6 million people quietly passed to the AI company without patients being asked for their consent.

The scope of the data-sharing arrangement — ostensibly to develop a clinical task management app — was only brought to light by investigative journalism. That then triggered regulatory scrutiny — and the eventual finding by the ICO that there was no legal basis for the data to have been transferred in the first place.

Despite that, the app in question, Streams — which does not (currently) contain any AI but uses an NHS algorithm for detecting acute kidney injury — has continued being used in NHS hospitals.

DeepMind has also since announced it plans to transfer its health division to Google. Although — to our knowledge — no NHS trusts have yet signed new contracts for Streams with the ad giant.

In parallel with releasing her historical correspondence with the ICO, Dame Fiona Caldicott, the NDG, has written a blog post in which she articulates a clear regulatory position that the “reasonable expectations” of patients must govern non-direct care uses for people’s health data — rather than healthcare providers relying on whether doctors think developing such and such an app is a great idea.

The ICO had asked for guidance from the NDG on how to apply the common law duty of confidentiality, as part of its investigation into the Royal Free NHS Trust’s data-sharing arrangement with DeepMind for Streams.

In a subsequent audit of Streams that was a required by the regulator, the trust’s law firm, Linklaters, argued that a call on whether a duty of confidentiality has been breached should be judged from the point of view of the clinician’s conscience, rather than the patient’s reasonable expectations.

Caldicott writes that she firmly disagrees with that “key argument”.

“It is my firm view that it is the patient’s perspective that is most important when judgements are being made about the use of their confidential information. My letter to the Information Commissioner sets out my thoughts on this matter in some detail,” she says, impressing the need for healthcare innovation to respect the trust and confidence of patients and the public.

“I do champion innovative technologies and new treatments that are powered by data. The mainstreaming of emerging fields such as genomics and artificial intelligence offer much promise and will change the face of medicine for patients and health professionals immeasurably… But my belief in innovation is coupled with an equally strong belief that these advancements must be introduced in a way that respects people’s confidentiality and delivers no surprises about how their data is used. In other words, the public’s reasonable expectations must be met.”

“Patients’ reasonable expectations are the touchstone of the common law duty of confidence,” she adds. “Providers who are introducing new, data-driven technologies, or partnering with third parties to help develop and test them, have called for clearer guidance about respecting data protection and confidentiality. I intend to work with the Information Commissioner and others to improve the advice available so that innovation can be undertaken safely: in compliance with the common law and the reasonable expectations of patients.

“The National Data Guardian is currently supporting the Health Research Authority in clarifying and updating guidance on the lawful use of patient data in the development of healthcare technologies.”

We reached out to the Royal Free NHS Trust and DeepMind for comment on the NDG’s opinion. At the time of writing neither had responded.

In parallel, Bloomberg reported this week that DeepMind co-founder, Mustafa Suleyman, is currently on leave from the company. (Suleyman has since tweeted that the break is temporary and for “personal” reasons, to “recharge”, and that he’s “looking forward to being back in the saddle at DeepMind soon”.)

The AI research company recently touted what it couched as a ‘breakthrough’ in predictive healthcare — saying it had developed an AI model for predicting the same condition that the Streams app is intended to alert for. Although the model was built using US data from the Department of Veterans Affairs which skews overwhelmingly male.

As we wrote at the time, the episode underscores the potential value locked up in NHS data — which offers population-level clinical data that the NHS could use to develop AI models of its own. Indeed, a 2017 government-commissioned review of the life sciences sector called for a strategy to “capture for the UK the value in algorithms generated using NHS data”.

The UK government is also now pushing a ‘tech-first’ approach to NHS service delivery.

Earlier this month the government announced it’s rerouting £250M in public funds for the NHS to set up an artificial intelligence lab that will work to expand the use of AI technologies within the service.

Last fall health secretary, Matt Hancock, set out his tech-first vision of future healthcare provision — saying he wanted “healthtech” apps and services to support “preventative, predictive and personalised care”.

So there are certainly growing opportunities for developing digital healthcare solutions to support the UK’s National Health Service.

As well as — now — clearer regulatory guidance that app development that wants to be informed by patient data must first win the trust and confidence of the people it hopes to serve.

The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV now has a 259-mile range thanks to some cell chemistry tinkering

By Kirsten Korosec

The 2020 Chevy Bolt EV now has 259 miles of range, a 9% increase from previous year models of the electric hatchback, according to the EPA.

To get there, the company focused on cell chemistry, not the battery pack. The GM brand did not add more battery cells or change the battery pack or the way it is integrated into the vehicle structure, a spokesperson confirmed.

Instead, Chevrolet’s battery engineering team made what the company described as “impactful changes to the cell chemistry.” The changes to the cell chemistry allowed the team to improve the energy of the cell electrodes, and ultimately enabled them to squeeze more range out of the battery.

The increase pushes the 2020 Chevy Bolt ahead of the Kia Niro and the standard range plus variant of the Tesla Model 3, with 239 and 240 miles of range, respectively. Other versions of the Model 3, the long-range and performance, have a much longer 310-mile range. It’s also just one mile better than the 258-mile range Hyundai Kona EV. Nissan Leaf Plus, the laggard in the group, can travel 226 miles on a single charge.

That might not seem like much. But in this small, yet growing pool of electric vehicle models, jumping from 238 to 259 miles could help Chevrolet sell more Bolt EVs next year. It could also cannibalize sales this year.

The electric vehicle has never been a top seller for the GM brand, particularly compared to its top-selling SUVs and trucks. It has beat out some of its other Chevy models and sales are high enough for the company to stick with the compact hatchback for now.

GM delivered 23,297 Chevy Bolt EVs in 2017, the first model year of the electric vehicle. But the following year, deliveries fell 22%, to 18,019. Sales have rebounded in the first half of the year.

The 2020 model year, which will be offered in two new exterior colors, is expected to arrive in dealerships later this year. The base price of the electric vehicle is $37,495, which includes destination and freight charges. Tax, title, license and dealer fees are excluded.

Verified Expert Growth Marketing Agency: Torch

By Yvonne Leow

CEO Jeremy OBriant never intended to create Torch, an agile growth marketing agency based in San Francisco. He started his career as a CPA, but after leading a growth team at Sidecar and running growth projects on his own, forming Torch was the most obvious thing to do. He now leads a team that implements “agile growth,” an iterative approach that involves setting clear goals and running smaller experiments over the course of monthly sprints. Learn more about their approach to growth, their ideal client, and more.

“Torch offers custom solutions to whatever you need. They are fast and deliver on what they promise. They are also scrappy and willing to try stuff to solve unique needs.” Head of Product in SF

Torch’s approach to growth

We aim to be the thought leaders of Agile Growth. We didn’t invent the term, but we are certainly becoming the leading voice of the process in the growth marketing world. Agile simply means being able to move quickly and with ease. We start with clearly defined business goals and prioritize growth tactics based on the impact, cost, and efficiency. Then collaborate with growth teams to execute a handful of items in recurring growth sprints, typically on a monthly cadence.”

On their ideal client

“Our ideal partner has product-market fit, is redefining their category, and is ready to scale in a sustainable way. We are very strategic in the types of businesses we work with and steer clear of doing narrow prescriptive tactics. We love to collaborate with partners that are open to taking a fresh strategic look at their entire growth stack and embrace the agile approach to discover the right strategy for their unique situation.”

designer fast facts 37

Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup growth marketing agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already. 

Interview with Torch CEO Jeremy OBriant

Jeremy OBriant

Yvonne Leow: Tell me about your background and how you became a growth marketer. 

Jeremy OBriant: People are often surprised when I tell them I started my career as a CPA. I ended up working in the trenches on several M&A deals and heard lots of founding stories from entrepreneurs.

Nonprofits and NGOs: Exhibit at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019

By Neesha A. Tambe

Nonprofit groups and NGOs are now invited to apply for exhibit space in Startup Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt SF on Friday, October 4th.

Founded in 2014, TechCrunch Include leverages our extensive network to support underserved and underrepresented groups in tech. Two years ago, we began to invite nonprofit and NGO groups to exhibit at the conference, as well as provide tickets for the event. This year, TechCrunch will host 10 nonprofits or NGOs at the Moscone Center at Startup Alley inside Disrupt SF.

TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Alley is the heart of the conference show floor. Filled with early-stage startups, Startup Alley is the prime location to connect with startups, network with investors and engage with more than 100 corporate partners at the show. Participation in the Alley will give nonprofits and NGOs a unique opportunity to engage with the brightest tech talent, entrepreneurs and prominent investors from around the globe. Not to mention hundreds of press in attendance!

Nonprofits and NGOs are eligible if they support an underrepresented or underserved community in tech, have registered 501c3 or an equivalent status for at least three years and did not participate at a TC Disrupt in 2018. Organizations that are selected will be asked to engage with their communities regarding the conference after selection. Preference will be given to local organizations.

Applications are open now til Wednesday September 4th. Groups will be notified of their participation status September 6th. If you have additional questions, please email startupalley@techcrunch.com.

Apply now!

Japan’s ispace now aims for a lunar landing in 2021, and a Moon rover deployment in 2023

By Darrell Etherington

One of the private companies aiming to deliver a commercial lunar lander to the Moon has adjusted the timing for its planned mission, which isn’t all that surprising given the enormity of the task. Japanese startup ispace is now targeting 2021 for their first lunar landing, and 2023 for a second lunar mission that will also include deploying a rover on the Moon’s surface.

The company’s ‘HAKUTO-R’ program was originally planned to to include a mission in 2020 that would involve sending a lunar orbital vehicle for demonstration purposes without any payloads, but that part of the plan has been scrapped in favor of focusing all efforts on delivering actual payloads for commercial customers by 2021 instead.

This updated focus, the company says, is due mostly to the speeding up of the global market for private launch services and payload delivery, including for things like NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, wherein the agency is looking for a growing number of private contractors to support its own needs in terms of getting stuff to the Moon.

ispace itself isn’t on the list of 9 companies selected in round one of NASA’s program, but the Japanese company is supporting American non-profit Draper in its efforts, which was one fo the chosen. The Draper/ispace team-up happened after ispace’s initial commitment to its 2020 orbital demo, so its change in priorities makes sense given the new tie-up.

HAKUTO-R will use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 for its first missions, and the company has also signed partnerships with JAXA, Japan’s space agency, as well as new corporate partners including Suzuki, Sumitomo Corporation, Shogakukan, and Citizen Watch.

Ping Identity files for $100M IPO on Nasdaq to trade as ‘PING’

By Ingrid Lunden

Some eight months after it was reported that Ping Identity’s owners Vista Equity had hired bankers to explore a public listing, today Ping Identity took the plunge: the Colorado-based online ID management company has filed an S-1 form indicating that it plans to raise up to $100 million in an IPO on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “Ping.”

While the initial S-1 filing doesn’t have an indication of price range, Ping is said to be looking at a valuation of between $2 billion and $3 billion in this listing.

The company has been around since 2001, founded by Andre Durand (who is still the CEO), and it was acquired by Vista in 2016 for about $600 million — at a time when a clutch of enterprise companies that looked like strong IPO candidates were going the private equity route and staying private instead.

But more recently, there has been a surge in demand for better IT security linked to identity and authentication management, so it seems that Vista Equity is selling up. The PE firm is taking advantage of the fact that the market’s currently very strong for tech IPOs, but there is so much M&A in enterprise right now (just yesterday VMware acquired not one but two companies, Carbon Black for $2.1 billion and Pivotal for $2.7 billion) that I can’t help but wonder if something might move here too.

The S-1 reveals a number of details on the company’s financials, indicating that it’s currently unprofitable but on a steady growth curve. Ping had revenues of $112.9 million in the first six months of 2019, versus $99.5 million in the same period a year before. Its loss has been shrinking in recent years, with a net loss of $3.1 million in the first six months of this year versus $5.8 million a year before (notably in 2017 overall it was profitable with a net income of $19 million. It seems that the change is due to acquisitions and investing for growth).

Its annual run rate, meanwhile, was $198 million for the first six months of the year, compared to $159.6 million in the same period a year ago.

The area of identity and access management has become a cornerstone of enterprise IT, with companies looking for efficient and secure ways to centralise how not just their employees, but their customers, their partners and various connected devices on their networks can be authenticated across their cloud and on-premise applications.

The demand for secure solutions covering all the different aspects of a company’s IT stack has grown rapidly over recent years, spurred not just by an increased move to centralised applications served through the cloud, but also by the drastic rise in breaches where malicious hackers have exploited vulnerabilities and loopholes in companies’ sign-on screens.

Ping has been one of the bigger companies building services in this area and tackling all of those use cases, competing with the likes of Okta, OneLogin, AuthO, Cisco and dozens more off-the-shelf and custom-built solutions.

The company offers its services on an SaaS basis, covering services like secure sign-on, multi-factor authentication, API access security, personalised and unified profile directories, data governance and AI-based security policies. It claims to be the pioneer of “Intelligent Identity,” using AI to help its system analyse user, device and network behavior to better identify potentially malicious activity.

More to come.

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