RelayRides, the startup that runs a peer-to-peer marketplace for people to share their cars, has been ordered to pay a $200,000 fine to New York State after an investigation by the state’s Department of Financial Services found that the company “put New Yorkers at risk through false advertising, unlicensed insurance activity, and other violations,” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s… Read More
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
One of America’s favorite liberal phrases has been sent through the political spin machine and polished into a Frankenstein of sorts, thus rendering it inaccurate and far from its original intention. You might have heard that American founding father Benjamin Franklin said something like “Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither.”
The quote has been the siren song of anti-war protesters and, most recently, the banner for mass online protests against the NSA’s surveillance program. For instance, here was Reddit’s front page two days ago, when it officially joined the fight against Internet and phone spying.
As the Brookings Institute’s Benjamin Wittes observes, “Very few people who quote these words, however, have any idea where they come from or what Franklin was really saying when he wrote them.”
Despite its many (many) variations, this is the actual quote:
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
According to Wittes, the words appear in a letter widely presumed to be written by Franklin in 1775 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the colonial governor. “The letter was a salvo in a power struggle between the governor and the assembly over funding for security on the frontier, one in which the assembly wished to tax the lands of the Penn family,” he explains.
The letter wasn’t about liberty but about taxes and the ability to “raise money for defense against French and Indian attacks. The governor kept vetoing the assembly’s efforts at the behest of the family, which had appointed him.”
Indeed, if you look at the text surrounding the famous quote, it’s pretty clearly about money: “Our assemblies have of late had so many supply bill, and of such different kinds, rejected, on various pretences,” wrote Franklin.
There’s not much on liberty, as we understand the concept, in the entire letter.
How Did It Get Butchered? To Google Ngram!
Thanks to the magic of Google’s nGram viewer, we can get a historical peek at how it got molded for PR purposes. Google’s nGram scans historical texts and lets users see how words change over time.
As we can see from the two chart above, Franklin’s quote didn’t mean much for 150 years after it was uttered, then had a solid and steady uptick around the later half of the 20th century, when fear of big brother began to mount (the top chart represents the frequency of the quote in books from 1750-present, the bottom from 1950-present).
In the few 19th-century books the quote does appear in, it doesn’t appear to be taken out of context, such as in the 1865 epic retelling of “The Life Of Joseph Warren,” where it is quoted in full with delicious servings of context.
But 19th-century authors weren’t always so committed to fidelity of the quote itself. In 1851, in a History of All Nations, the author wrote it in more of the modern form, “they who can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
It wasn’t until the turn of the century did the butchering for ideological purposes begin. For instance, it was taken out of context in a book that is one of the closest things libertarians have to a bible, Frederick Hyak’s Road To Serfdom (1944), where Franklin’s quote concludes a chapter on the magnificence of the free market.
Misquoting folks isn’t new. It arises from the need to push an idea rather than investigate truth; it’s no shocker, then, that campaigns and ideological works have been the culprits of butchering Franklin’s words.
There’s even an academic term for the strategy, explains Matthew McGlone of the University of Texas at Austin – ”contextomy.”
“‘Contextomy’ refers to the selective excerpting of words from their original linguistic context in a way that distorts the source’s intended meaning, a practice commonly referred to as ‘quoting out of context’. Contextomy is employed in contemporary mass media to promote products, defame public figures and misappropriate rhetoric. A contextomized quotation not only prompts audiences to form a false impression of the source’s intentions, but can contaminate subsequent interpretation of the quote when it is restored to its original context. …”
That’s about right.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
At least one wealthy tech investor wants to encourage California’s latent separatist tendencies and slice California into six different states, including one State of Silicon Valley. Per California law, no matter unlikely or odd a proposed ballot proposition is the Secretary of State and the Legislative Analysts Office release a report to voters on a bill’s potential economic impacts [PDF]. Usually, ballot proposition analysis is pretty dry, but making Silicon Valley it’s own state? This was one was a lot more interesting.
Here’s what California thinks could happen if voters approve Tim Draper’s proposition to split California into six states.
What California Would Like And The New Populations
Silicon Valley, comprised of San Jose, San Francisco and its cousin to the East, Oakland, would consist of approximately 6,000,000 citizens. “West California,” whose capital will be Los Angeles, would be the biggest state, with 11,000,000 residents.
The slicing and dicing would be directed by 12 commissioners, two from each state. Congress would have to approve it by 2019. If Congress’s current productivity is any indicator, we would need to get them the paperwork next week and then threaten to shut down California every month for the next 5 years to get any forward momentum.
Most Of The Rich People Would Move
Silicon Valley would become the richest state in all the Union, with a 63,288 average yearly income which would be enough to make a down payment on an apartment.
California would lose 28% of its income tax base ($14.5 billion) but the Valley would be a pretty nice place to live.
The Rest Of The State Would Need More School Funding
Silicon Valley requires almost half the state-aid per pupil as Central California ($3,031 vs. $5,321), partly because of high property taxes. The other states would either need to raise revenue, or enact a Hunger-games style competition to select which students received lunch.
Doctor! We Need A Lot Of Doctors!
The middle of the state has sufficient medical or law schools, which means they would need to be imported to train more residents. Silicon Valley also comprises about half the State’s share of Medi-Cal recipients. The federal government would need to allocate more resources to the needy residents. Alternatively, Silicon Valley could teach the poor residents to code, so that they can pay their super-sized medical bills.
Silicon Valley Would Need Water, Or Be Sponsored By Dasani
California has a torrid love-affair with water; frequent droughts and a complicated management system have always tentatively balanced each region’s needs. Silicon Valley may have money and talent, but it imports ~60% of its water needs. So, Silicon Valley could trade a few doctors and teachers for running water. Or, as most tech companies do, just snag a corporate sponsor.
The Road Ahead
There are also a few loose ends. Each state would need a new capital, pay a transition team, and figure out where to put prisoners. I presume Governor Larry Page would get to live out his life-long fantasy of a Burning Man-type experimental zone, and turn Oakland into a drug-induced rave for Googlers to run all sorts of experiments on. I’d live there if he also offered Google’s salad bar to the residents.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Apple has plans to build a manufacturing plant in Arizona that will extend its ‘Made in The USA’ efforts beyond the Mac Pro and other silicon facilities it maintains in Texas. The news came via a release from both the state of Arizona and the company GT Advanced Technologies, which will produce sapphire material.
The multi-year agreement, which was reported by MacRumors, includes a $580 million prepayment that will get paid back to Apple over five years starting in 2015, and requires that GT maintains a minimum level of manufacturing capacity. The GT release alludes to the fact that Apple got a stellar deal on the glass, noting that ‘gross margins from this new materials business are expected to be substantially lower than GT’s historical equipment margins’, but says that the strategic nature of the agreement and the fact that it’s a recurring deal offset the margins. Basically, Apple came knocking and GT couldn’t say no.
Apple is purchasing an empty First Solar plant to repurpose it as a glass manufacturing center.
In a statement made to Pocket Lint, Apple said that “We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction,” further noting that “this new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”
Apple’s nods to renewable energy apparently helped the deal, which will create 700 permanent jobs and 1,300 construction jobs.
“Apple is indisputably one of the world’s most innovative companies and I’m thrilled to welcome them to Arizona,” said Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. “Apple will have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona and its decision to locate here speaks volumes about the friendly, pro-business climate we have been creating these past four years. Their investment in renewable energy will also be greening our power grid, and creating significant new solar and geothermal power sources for the state. As Governor, I’ve worked hard to demonstrate that Arizona is open for business. Today’s news is proof that’s paying off.”
Apple uses sapphire glass for the protective covers of its camera units, as well as the home button on its latest iPhone. Earlier this year Apple announced that it would assemble its new Mac Pro computers in a plant in Texas. Apple currently cuts deals with its Chinese manufacturers that involve hefty pre-payments for both production and machinery costs. This deal appears to mark an extension of this kind of work to the US, where GT will manufacture the glass inside an Apple-owned facility. Though the deal notes that GT will work off the pre-payments, there is no mention about who will retain ownership of the facility, though it appears to be Apple.
Currently the sapphire glass is only used in a couple of components, but GT says that new furnace technologies will let it lower its cost and raise its capacity. It states this should let it expand its LED and specialty sapphire businesses, but doesn’t clarify whether that means Apple might switch to the harder glass from its current
Corning mystery supplier parts.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
HP stated the obvious today, clearing the air a bit in the world of personal computing, not to mention other areas of the technology industry. Microsoft, it said, is now a competitor to its business. Of course, we knew this.
HP sells software, services, and devices. So does Microsoft. Here’s the key quote from HP CEO Meg Whitman: “Current [HP] partners like Intel and Microsoft are turning from partners to outright competitors.” Microsoft is no longer content or able to mint money by selling software to partners, corporate clients, and the public. As it moves into services and devices, companies that were partners will retain that status, but also garner a new classification: adversary.
As a company, Microsoft will speak to you in loud tones about how much it loves its OEM partners, such as HP. But its tone shifts when conversation turns to its Surface line of tablets, which, in its view, is top-notch. Hang out with Microsoft teams and you’ll see an encroaching level of Surface usage that will in short order overtake ThinkPad’s former preeminence among the company’s employees.
Microsoft has to bloviate and state that it remains committed to its partners — in part because it is, which is underscored by the simple reality that the company has no choice in the matter; Surface sales are hardly the entire PC market. But at the same time you can’t directly undermine your partners with billions of dollars in investments into your own competing products and not risk slight message incoherence.
So it’s the firm smile and filed statement from Microsoft in this case. HP must be more blunt. Its 330,000-strong workforce is in the process of a promised, multi-year transformation. It can’t afford anything but clarity to its investors who, by and large given its current market capitalization, remain skeptical.
Business Insider points out that HP now discusses a multi-OS strategy, when before it was gung-ho for Windows 8. Well, relationships change and markets shift. HP can’t live a 90s life in this decade, and neither can Microsoft. There is more than sunlight between the two.
Top Image Credit: Meg Whitman for Governor
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Uber wants to prove it’s about redefining transportation, not just cars on demand. San Francisco’s BART metro workers almost went on strike Monday, so Uber partnered with Boatbound to offer commuters a “Boat To Work” option. This morning I’m testing out what could be a preview of Uber’s logistic network ambitions — an Uber boat ride from Oakland to San Francisco.
Uber is reportedly in talks to raise a huge financing round of over $150 million at a valuation of more than $3 billion. To make good on that, it may need to be more than just a taxi alternative. At its heart, Uber is about getting things where they need to go. Today that’s people via car. But there’s a massive opportunity in other transportation mediums for inanimate objects as well as humans.
Uber has flirted with a wider scope through a series of marketing campaigns and experiments. It’s offered on-demand ice cream and mariachi bands, and even helicopter rides for New Yorkers looking to escape to the Hamptons.
Those were mostly for fun, though. They showed Uber’s prowess, but less of its potential to make the world seriously more efficient likes its car services have. Boat-To-Work has a firmer base in reality.
BART management and its employee unions still haven’t resolved disagreements about wages, safety, and healthcare. Both sides have legitimate concerns, and the disputes ended up leading to an 4.5 day BART employee strike in early July that complicated commutes for hundreds of thousands of people in the region. A strike looked imminent for today, but Governor Jerry Brown stepped in to block it at the last minute. While the BART trains were still rolling this morning, a massive truck fire on the Bay Bridge brought traffic to a halt, so Boat To Work ended up being solid help anyways.
When Aaron Hall, founder and CEO of new peer-to-peer “Airbnb for boats” rental service Boatbound, heard the strike was looming he had an idea. What if Uber let you book a commuter seat across the San Francisco Bay on one of the boats that Boatbound helps owners rent out? So he called up Uber investor Shervin Pishevar last week. “He set us up with the Uber guys”, Hall tells me. One meeting later, “Boat To Work” was a go.
Hall’s company lets boat owners offset the huge cost of owning a vessel by helping them rent boats to other citizens. Boatbound is looking to increase awareness of the “pier-to-pier” service. Halls says “Boat To Work” is “part of the community building side of Boatbound. We’re trying to make boating more accessible, and we though this would be a cool opportunity to make people’s commutes really memorable.”
For Uber, the program demonstrates its ability to adapt to the needs of anyone or anything that needs to get from here to there. It’s easy to imagine the company one day using its supply and on-demand-balancing apps to smooth out transportation via anything that moves. Hall says “Uber’s becoming a powerhouse. There’s so much they can do.”
So let’s see how they do as I try out the service.
6:30am: When I open my Uber app there’s a new option: ‘Boat’. For $30, Uber sends a fuel-efficient UberX to pick me up and bring me to the Oakland docks where I’ll get my boat to San Francisco and another UberX to the TechCrunch office. There on the docks I meet Captain Scott, a friendly first-time Boatbound renter looking to lend a hand and make a little money while getting more time out on the water.
7:00am: We’re preparing to set sail on “Rollercoaster”, a 44-foot racing sailer. Uber and Boatbound have coffee, orange juice, Danishes, and adorable sailor hats for us. I’m literally hanging my feet over the water as I write this.
7:20am: Captain Scott is the real deal. A lifelong salty. When I asked why he wanted to be a sailor, he tells me “the sense of freedom, the power of the sea, being in harmony with the sea. You’re not stronger than the ocean. if you ever think you are, you’re done.”
We’ll have more on my seaward adventure plus analysis of what the experiment means for Uber soon, and look out for the option to boat back from San Francisco starting at 4pm PST in the Uber app.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Regulators in Colorado want to make it illegal for Uber cabs to come within 200 feet of a hotel, bar or restaurant. Governor John Hickenlooper, who appoints the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) charged with regulating transportation, is remaining suspiciously silent on the rather aggressive proposal.
“He made it very clear that he was not the person trying to put us out of business, but his appointees at the PUC that are trying to put us out of business,” said Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick this morning after a discussion he had with the governor at Fortune’s Brainstorm TECH conference at the Aspen Institute.
The law is, to put it mildly, bizarre. There’s no compelling reason to put a restraining order on smartphone-enabled drivers other than to protect Colorado cabs from the customers who want an alternative. While the governor says he wants Colorado to be a startup-friendly environment, he has been conspicuously silent on the regulators he allegedly controls. The governor’s position is that keeping silent and working behind the scenes is a more strategic way to help Uber, but that requires us to trust that he isn’t beholden to unionized interests.
Uber, however, isn’t waiting. At the conference, the company launched a pop-up SUV service for conference attendees. The temporary service shows that Uber is willing to expand, even under the threat of regulatory apocalypse.
Kalanick also hinted that Uber could be an on-demand service for any possible need. After successful experiments with on-demand ice-cream trucks and Valentine’s Day roses, he hinted that Uber will go much broader.
“What we’re doing right now is we’re in the experimentation phase. Could it be that next summer that we just do a summer of ice cream? Sure. It’s very simple,” he said. For good measure, he joked that on Valentine’s day, “we saved marriages.”
When one questioner asked about secret talks between Uber and a business that does same day-delivery (like eBay or Amazon), Kalanick reiterated his position that Uber will be “the cross between lifestyle (give me what I want and give it to me right now) and the logistics to get it to you.” In other words, Uber could be the platform for on-demand service for everything, though he said that occasional services, such as plumbing, wasn’t a strong value proposition for the company.
Kalanick was silent on questions about whether he was pitching investors about being valued at more than $2 billion. With everything it has going on, it might very well be the next billion-dollar tech star.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
Last week, peer-to-peer ride sharing startup Lyft announced that it had raked in a huge amount of new funding, raising $60 million in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Along with that funding, the company said it would be looking to aggressively expand its peer-to-peer ride service with launches across the country and even globally. The first new market to bear the fruits of that expansion is Boston.
The launch in Boston will put Lyft on the East Coast for the first time since the startup launched its ride sharing service about a year ago. The company is now in five markets altogether, including its home city of San Francisco, as well as expansion markets Los Angeles, Seattle, and most recently, Chicago.
The company claims it is just at the beginning of a global expansion, and will be ramping up more launches over the coming weeks and months. That big funding round, as well as the acqui-hire of new COO Travis VanderZanden — try saying that three times fast — should help accelerate all that.
But the planned expansion is not without its challenges. Lyft, for those who don’t know, has a mobile app that connects passengers who need a ride with drivers who have a car (and some spare time). By doing so, the company is providing a service that is generally more reliable than calling a cab but slightly less expensive than booking an Uber.
At the same time, Lyft is operating a service that falls outside the regulatory structure of most local jurisdictions. “Community” drivers from services like Lyft and competitor SideCar aren’t licensed in the same way that taxi or black car drivers are — which, to put it bluntly, usually pisses off local taxi and black car drivers, not to mention their lobbyists and regulators.
That could be a point of contention in Boston, where local regulators have already had run-ins with Uber. Last summer, the on-demand car startup received a cease-and-desist letter from the Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, apparently because the state had no guidelines in place for using GPS technology, which Uber relies on for picking up passengers and determining fares. The dispute was quickly resolved, after a social media campaign by Uber and some intervention on the part of the Governor’s office.
For what it’s worth, ride sharing opponent SideCar has been operating in Boston since March, apparently without incident. That’s good news on the regulatory front, but could signal even greater competition in that market.
That’s because Uber, which has been operating its black car service in Boston for the last year-and-a-half, has committed to competing with Lyft and SideCar by rolling out its own peer-to-peer ride services through UberX in any market where local regulators have given “tacit approval” of those types of services. In other words, if regulators haven’t tried to crack down on ride sharing or community drivers after 30 days, Uber will enter the fray.
With all that in mind, Lyft could have its hands full in Boston. Nevertheless, the company continues to push forward, with a “friends and family” launch in Boston today, and a full launch to all users beginning Saturday morning at 9:00 am.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch
As a man who spends most of his time in his attic, it’s nice to hit the open roads, feel a little wind in your hair, and run over crack vials as you motor through downtown Manhattan. That’s exactly what I did yesterday as when I tried to ride an Hero Eco A2B Metro electric bike from Bay Ridge to our offices on Broadway, thereby cementing my love for electric bikes and this electric bike in particular.
The Metro, made by German manufacturer Hero Eco (formerly Ultra Motor), is a brutalist electric bike with a built-in battery and maximum speed of 20 MPH. It has pedals and a 7-gear shifter so it is technically considered a moped and does not require a motorcycle license and a built-in limiter ensures you don’t go roaring down the streets on this 80 pound machine.
The company has had these bikes in the US for a few years now but they are working on a complete rebranding – although the bikes will remain the same. You can see the brand new bikes on this absolutely awful webpage they’ve made. This particular model costs about $3,000 online but the build quality is excellent and the equipment – from the fat Kenda tires to the Shimano shifter – is acceptable enough. I noticed some bad reviews on Amazon complaining of damaged motors or tires and, although I didn’t experience these issues over the past week, I cannot speak for extensive use. In my 15 mile ride I saw solid performance and no skidding or fishtailing while accelerating. I did, however, experience a low battery and riding this thing home, even for a mile, on pedal power wasn’t great.
The bike is bit big but it’s still thin enough to ensure you don’t get entangled with other riders in tight paths. I found it worked great in tight quarters and, because it is in actuality just a bicycle with a hub motor, the other cyclists didn’t give me that much of a stink eye.
I’ve avoided looking at electric bikes of late because most of them look like motors strapped to 10-speeds. This is far different and, if I were to describe it in any way, it is the exact opposite of those foldable city bikes folks are riding. My kids, in fact, have taken to calling it Super Bike.
Hero Eco is finding its footing right now and also has sub-$2,000 models available, including their own version of the folding electric called the Kuo which retails for $1,599. The company is also now calling itself HeroEco and was formerly called Ultra Motor, so you may see a bit of confusing until their full rebranding.
What are you paying for? Well, you’re paying for a solid, welded frame, solid components, and excellent acceleration. The range isn’t too shabby and for a bit more you can add on a second battery for 20 miles of range. I could also imagine a user removing the governor – though I’m sure Ultra Motors doesn’t condone this. This isn’t a sport bike. I could really see it more as a bike for folks with a 10-15 mile commute who want to hit the open air a little and don’t want (that much) of a carbon footprint.
Article courtesy of TechCrunch