<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Tech News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:33:45 -0800 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:33:45 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Newsweek Criticized for Silicon Valley Cover]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 09:19:30 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Newsweek+sexism+in+tech+cover.jpg

Newsweek's latest exposé has social media in a frenzy over the choice of cover art.

To illustrate the "What Silicon Valley Thinks Of Women" article, the American news magazine created a cover illustration showing a computer cursor lifting up the skirt of a woman in a red dress.

Billed by Newsweek as a report of the "sordid, shocking and systemic" sexism in the Northern California technology hub home to Apple, Google and Yahoo, the attention-grabbing art has pundits and social media users questioning its appropriateness.

"Clickbait, designed to piss off women while pretending to investigate sexism in tech. Fail--but you know it," tweeted Jennifer Pozner, executive director of the analysis group Women In Media and News.

Newsweek editor Jim Impoco has not directly responded to the outcry but instead tweeted a line of approval taken from an Adweek review of the article, and also retweeted one commenter's reworking of the cover art to show the woman kicking the cursor away and her expletive-filled thought over the incident.


Photo Credit: Newsweek
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<![CDATA[Earth Observatory Launch Postponed]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 05:20:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/01-29-2015-smap-launch-satellite.jpg

The launch of a satellite that will help scientists study the moisture in Earth's soil, which could help gudie decisions about water resources, weather forecasts and drought, was postponed until Saturday at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite launch was initially scheduled for a 6:20 a.m. PT Friday launch, but mission control scrubbed the launch due to upper level winds just minutes ahead of planned lift-off. The launch was re-scheduled for Friday morning, but delayed again due to minor repairs to the rocket.

The launch is scheduled for Saturday at 6:20 a.m.

The satellite is expected to provide the most useful soil moisture maps ever created, providing more accurate and timely information for weather forecasters, flood monitoring, climate change research and drought management, especially significant in California where a three-year dry spell has left the state's water reservoirs at critically low levels.

The satellite arrived at Vandenberg AFB, just northwest of Santa Barbara, from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena in October.

"Water is vital for all life on Earth, and the water present in soil is a small but critically important part of Earth's water cycle," said Kent Kellogg, SMAP project manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The delivery of NASA's SMAP spacecraft to Vandenberg Air Force Base marks a final step to bring these unique and valuable measurements to the global science community."

After rocketing into space, the satellite will fly at an altitude of 426 miles and provide a global map of soil moisture every two to three days for the next three years. The topsoil observations are more frequent and accurate than anything previously provided to researchers.

"This mission could not be more timely in my view," said Kellogg.

The mission required JPL to build the largest rotating antenna that could be stowed in the satellite’s 1-by-4-foot compartment — about the size of a kitchen trash can. The antenna dish and unfurls to a diameter of nearly 20 feet after spinning out of the compartment like a lasso on an extending support arm.

"We call it the spinning lasso," said Wendy Edelstein, the SMAP instrument manager. "The antenna caused us a lot of angst, no doubt about it.

"We test, and we test, and we test some more. We have a very stable and robust system now."

Once fully deployed, the satellite will orbit Earth every 98.5 minutes, allowing it to map the globe every two to three days.

The satellite's radar system transmits signal to Earth that penetrate its soil and bounce back. Any changes in the electrical properties of the signals indicate changes in soil moisture. It is one of "the most sophisticated signal-processing" systems every developed, according to NASA.

The deployment process has been pre-tested from start to finish 18 times, Kellogg said.

The satellite is capable of telling scientists a lot about the condition of Earth's soil, including its freeze-thaw state. Determining whether soil if frozen or thawed helps researchers better plan for natural hazards.

Soil moisture is already closely tracked in developed agricultural regions, but in vast areas remains unknown.

The launch marks a milestone for NASA’s Earth science missions, which essentially monitor the planet’s vital signs. The satellite is the last of five program mission launches during a 12-month period.

The NASA mission will cost $916 million, according to the space agency. The observatory was assembled at NASA's Southern California Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The next launch at Vandenberg AFB, a Jason 3 satellite aboard a Falcon 9 vehicle, is scheduled for March 31. A launch scheduled for April 13 will blast a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)]]>
<![CDATA[Instagram Down for a 2nd Time This Week]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 06:15:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/158539421.jpg

The photo-centric social media site Instagram was down Wednesday night, just two days after it suffered a similar outage.

The website Is It Down Right Now showed the site as being down shortly after 10:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. By 10:40 p.m. ET it said the site was back up and reachable.

The site went down on Tuesday around the same time that Facebook, which owns Instagram, suffered a widespread outage lasting roughly 40 minutes.

Instagram has about 300 million users, compared to Facebook's 1.25 billion.

Users took to social media on Wednesday night to report the problem and the pain of not being able to post their photos.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Social Media Lights Up During Facebook Outage]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 18:31:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/THETRENDNOONMEDINA_1200x675_389914179993.jpg Facebook and Instagram are back up and running after a massive outage. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[Apple Promotes MLK Day Volunteerism]]> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 07:06:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/8-22-2013-MLK-on-MEET-THE-PRESS.jpg

Apple is defending its policy on Martin Luther King Day, which will be observed nationally on Monday Jan. 19, after a Silicon Valley media blog called out the company for not making it a paid holiday.

The suggestion is that Apple is making a misstep, especially as tech companies are striving for greater diversity.

NBC Bay Area reached out to Apple, which confirms, while Monday is not a paid holiday, the company has encouraged employees to volunteer as a way to honor Dr. King. In turn, Apple, through its matching gifts program, is contributing $50 for every employee hour worked.

MLK Day is a federal holiday, which means government workers will have the day off.

In its article, Valleywag notes Bay Area-based companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo all give employees the holiday off.

Photo Credit: NBC]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Clone Fingerprints Using Photos]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:10:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150113-6pm-biometric-fingerprint_1200x675_384016963519.jpg European hackers showed how easy it is to clone someone’s fingerprint using public photos. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[The Wearable Drone That Swept CES]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 18:41:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/drone-wear.jpg

Imagine combining a flying drone, with a wearable device.

And, while you're at it, add a camera, so you can take a selfie. While your wearable drone is flying.

That's the idea behind a small startup called Nixie, that got a ton of buzz at CES this year. Tucked into the Intel booth, Nixie showed off its wearable device, that comes with four bands. Each band has a propeller on it, and when disbanded, the Nixie can fly away for a bit, snap your photo, and then return to you.

"It's basically like a boomerang," says Nixie co-founder Christoph Kohstall, "but easier to throw."

It's a lightweight device, alright, one clearly in its early stages. Nixie won a wearable contest at Silicon Valley tech giant Intel, got a slot at CES, and wowed the tech-shellacked crowd. Now, on its website, it's posting job listings.

The goal, in addition to stimulating instant oooohs and aaahs, is to let you continue to be active, while still taking your own picture. According to Kohstall, "Most cameras give you the point of view you have yourself. We want to develop a camera that captures you in the moment."

It's an interesting idea, and because it seems to be their moment, the small staff of Nixie has a bit of a runway to make it work.

Scott flies on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Feds Partner With Facebook, Bing For Amber Alerts]]> Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:41:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/211*120/Facebook-generic-1.jpg

Facebook and the federal government announced that they are working together to fight child abduction. Get ready to see an Amber Alert pop up in your news feed.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday - National Amber Alert Awareness Day - that it is teaming up with the tech giant as well as search engine Bing to expand the reach of the Amber Alert system.

Attorney General Eric Holder released a video message Tuesday morning and in it said the Amber Alert system has been key as an early warning system to find abducted children.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the system first started and it is credited with the rescue and safe return of more than 700 abducted children.

The alert has already been expanded to highway signs and mobile phones, and now the attorney general and the tech companies say social media is a logical place to send alerts and increase the number of children returned safely.

“Facebook’s geo-targeted alerts and Bing’s online broadcast tools will give Amber Alerts an expanded social media and Internet presence – extending our web of child protection resources into new and critical areas,” Holder said in the video. “I am grateful for their involvement, and for the participation of so many organizations and agencies that have helped to make the Amber Alert system such an important public safety asset.”

The Attorney General went on to say that finding an abducted child and returning them to safety depends on a fast response, and nothing is faster than the Internet.

“When an Amber Alert is activated, think of Facebook as the world’s largest neighborhood watch,” said Emily Vacher, Facebook’s Security, Trust & Safety manager.

“We’re sending detailed, relevant, timely information to people who use Facebook so they can open their eyes, they can look around their community, and hopefully find that one tip that will bring the child home.”

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CES Theme is "Year of the Robot"]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 19:07:40 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/CES2015MEDINA_1200x675_381379139781.jpg Robot maids, motion sensor jackets ... sounds like the Jetsons, but it's real enough at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015.]]> <![CDATA["Personal Transportation Device" Among CES Debuts]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:06:36 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_mekahlo_trend_noon_1200x675_381307459723.jpg Personal transportation device that moves at up to 6 mph among new tech items to debut at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Jan. 7, 2014.]]> <![CDATA[Home Companion Robots at CES]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 08:20:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/192*120/01-07-2015-robot-ces.jpg People will soon be able to have their very own robot friend, which was showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mekahlo Medina reports for Today in LA on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Gadgets Unveiled at CES 2015]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 11:40:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*160/knbc-ces2015-4k-drone.jpg The International CES show for consumer electronics is full of surprises, including the future of driverless cars, curved TVs, remote-controlled skateboards and more.

Photo Credit: Kenny Holmes]]>
<![CDATA[CES International Tech Show Opens in Las Vegas]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 19:47:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP965047133929.jpg It's the day tech geeks have been waiting for. The doors are open at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sony Set to Release New High Quality Sound Walkman]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 10:10:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ZX2_close_up.jpg

Is the Walkman back?

Sony has unveiled a new Walkman that it says will deliver a "pure sound quality for a more authentic, emotionally involving musical experience." But that experience will cost you.

The new ZX2 Walkman, revealed at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will provide an "unparalleled listening experience" at a price of $1,119.99.

How will the device deliver such a high quality sound? The new walkman has an S-Master HX processor that enables it to carry songs in “high resolution,” meaning each song will be around 150MB, according to Time.

Most CD’s and MP3 players carry compressed versions of songs that are a fraction of that size.

The larger size will allow songs to have more detail, and consequently the device will provide “a more authentic, emotionally involving musical experience,” Sony said in a statement.

The Android-powered device also features a 4-inch touchscreen and a battery life of up to 60 hours.

It will also be able to reach apps through Google Play, though it isn’t meant to be a competitor of smartphones, according to Business Time.

The first Walkman, a portable cassette player, went on sale on July 1, 1979, and went on to become a defining product for Sony in the pre-Apple iPod and smartphone era. Other Walkman-branded players were later created for CDs, the Mini-Disc and MP3s.

More recently, an '80s-era Walkman was prominently featured in the blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Sony's new Walkman ZX2 is set to hit the markets this spring, Time reported. 

Photo Credit: Sony]]>
<![CDATA[Tuesday at CES: Electric Skateboard]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 09:31:43 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/6AM_Mehahlo_CES_2015_PKG_1200x675_380606531905.jpg What's happening Tuesday Jan. 6, 2015 at CES in Las Vegas? A whole new twist on skateboarding. ]]> <![CDATA[All About That Bass: Music at CES]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 23:43:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/IMG_2038_speaker.JPG

"Hey, Mrs. Carter."

Whoever it is that calls out to Beyonce in the song has never sounded better.

And neither has a ton of bass.

I'm listening to the newest speaker from the French company Devialet, and it's a revelation. In a CES that will no doubt be dominated by drones, and droning on, it's a pleasure to have just a little time alone with some terrific sounding music.

"Billie Jean," for example, is a song I've heard 435,000 times. It's a classic. But today I heard parts of it I never knew existed. Something about a high-end speaker from a company that builds them, and sells them for more than $20,000 a piece.

Devialet chose CES to bring its system to the masses. Well, the well-heeled masses. The "Phantom" is still going to about $2,000. Much less than the high-end model, but it's really made for audiophiles who want a stylish speaker to go with their pumping Bass. (Although, to be fair, it's not just the stuff I listen to that sounds great. Segueing into "The Girl From Ipanema" proves that quiet, smooth music can be improved with a quality system, too).

Devialet boasts dozens of patents to bring you the music. The speaker actually moves as the sound changes, thanks to air being pushed inside. It's cool to watch. But away from the technology, they say music is really about what you feel. Quentin Bernard, Devialet Product Manager, says "by bringing the product to a larger market, people will be able to rediscover the emotion of music. This is our goal."

It's a good goal, and the speaker sounds great. It's wifi-enabled, so you can stream your iTunes playlist, or your Spotify. Buy a few of them, and you can wirelessly listen to movies in your home theatre.

And if you can afford it, my advice is: Crank it up. Even fancy speakers are made to blast your "Yonce.

Scott Budman will be cruising CES. Get his updates by following him on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: Scott Budman / NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Wearable Tech, 3-D Food Among Preview Items at CES]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 05:59:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/web_mac_ces_ring_6_1200x675_379960387835.jpg Connected homes, wearable technology and 3-D printed food are among the items previewed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Mekahlo Medina reports for the NBC4 News at 6 on Jan. 4, 2015.]]> <![CDATA[New App Rewards Designated Sober Drivers]]> Sat, 27 Dec 2014 18:07:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/229*120/DDVIP+3.jpg

One new application is looking to make the job of being a designated sober driver a little sweeter.

DDVIP – Designated Driver App, a new application from The California Office of Traffic Safety, gives discounts and exclusive offers to sober designated drivers across the state.

Users can search through all participating bars and restaurants in California and filter them by location. The Greater San Diego area, for instance, has more than 35 restaurants and bars that are offering deals like a free non-alcoholic drink for sober drivers.

Miller’s Field in Pacific Beach is one of the bars in San Diego that participates in the discounts for designated drivers because of the app. The owner called the app a “no-brainer.”

“We offer them a free appetizer and a non alcoholic beverage of their choice if they are the designated driver,” said owner Ray Corallino. “I think it's a really good idea because we have a lot of college kids that come down from the 'State area, USD, UCSD and they have to drive a long way home.”

Some San Diego visitors expressed mixed feelings about the application.

"I think the incentives, getting a free appetizer, people are gonna want to be a designated driver, thinking maybe its not a big deal to be sober tonight, because I'm getting free non-alcoholic drink," said Sean Ridinger. "I'm also getting a free appetizer. It's really a good idea."

Fellow visitor Lexie Farrelly said the application appeals more to one age group.

"I think it's age dependent," Farrelly said. "I think it would almost work for older people, other than younger people because I think, college bars and stuff like that for younger people, I don't think they really care as much."

The application also helps out sober drivers taking a break for a weekend by letting them get a ride from Uber, Lyft or Curb through the application.

The application is available to download for free on Android’s Google Play and the Apple App Store.

<![CDATA[Experts: WWIII Looks Like Sony Hack]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:03:12 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/N6P-SONY-KOREA-HACK-PKG---03282609.jpg

The term “cyber warfare” has been thrown around for years, with security experts wondering what the effects of a damaging cyber attack might look like. Now we know: a Hollywood studio left paralyzed, and the center of the tech world is wondering what's next.

As the billboards advertising Sony Pictures' "The Interview" were pulled down in Hollywood on Thursday, concerns about cyber terrorism shot up in Silicon Valley.

"World War III looks like this,” said Michelle Dennedy, Intel Security's chief privacy officer. She said technology is the new battlefield, and our gadgets are all potential targets.

"This is the wave of the future,” Dennedy said. “Bank robbers robbed banks because that's where the money was. Data is currency. Hackers are going for it because it's valuable."

What happened at Sony should, according to cyber security experts, be a warning to us all.

"This is the first time we've seen it at this scale,” said Truman National Security Project’s Mike McNerney.

The goal of hackers is not just disruption, it's fear, McNerney said. "This is different. The way they were able to combine this online attack that got them the attention they wanted, and then mix this with threat of physical violence, it's something we really haven't seen before."

But it’s likely something we'll see again, as hackers try to invade banks, retailers, anything with an easy to open virtual door.

"I think everyone needs to be worried about this," McNerney said, “whether it's an organization, government entity, or an individual.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Hackers Fake Tech Support to Invade Computers]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:37:47 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/12-16-14_Mac_Hack.JPG

Hackers have found a new way to invade your computer by posing as online "tech support" operators.

The scam recently played out in the home office of Emery Emery, a Studio City editor who also runs an Apple computer repair and consulting company. He was working on a client's Mac laptop at the time.

"She says there's a problem with the computer and it's stuck. It won't move," Emery said.

On the screen, a pop-up window appeared, freezing the computer's browser, and advising the user to call "support for Apple" at the 800-number provided immediately, Emery said.

"There was no question that this was a scam to me right out of the gate."

Emery decided to set a trap.

"I pretended to be a victim. I pretended to not understand what was going on."

He called the number, and while recording the entire exchange, allowed the "support tech operator" to access the computer remotely.

Over the next several minutes, the "operator" asked questions about the number of devices connected to the computer, and made red "slash" marks to pinpoint supposed problems.

"As you can see sir, your network has been compromised," the "operator" could be heard saying. "Sir, someone is accessing your network from different locations."

The "operator" then offered a pricey solution.

"He offered to fix it right there in front of my eyes for $599.99," Emery said. "They wanted $600 dollars to fix something that wasn't a problem."

Emery hung up, then contacted the NBC4 I-Team, hoping Consumer Investigator Randy Mac could provide a warning to other viewers.

The NBC4 I-Team reached out to Apple, but the company declined to comment on the incident.

Similar "hack attacks" involving Microsoft computers have been reported, in which users have received phone calls from alleged "tech support" employees who say their computer needs fixing.

Apple repair expert Emery had advice for any computer owner.

"If a warning ever pops up on your computer that says you have a problem, call this number or download this program, you have just come across a scam," he said. "Nothing happens like that normally."

<![CDATA[Odd Google Searches That Trended in 2014]]> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 08:21:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/453920462.jpg

Google has released its 2014 list of its most common search requests. Many popular searches weren't surprising, like The World Cup, Robin Williams, and Disney's “Frozen.”

However, the search engine also revealed other searches that were also, somehow, popular this past year. People of the web turned to Google for odd info about dogs, beauty, diets, memes, fashion and famous selfies.

Take a look at searches that also trended in 2014: 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Robot Employees at San Jose OSH Store]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 14:07:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/0514-OSH.jpg

The robots will help you now.

Just in time for the holiday rush, the Orchard Supply Hardware in Midtown San Jose has put two new employees to work, both of whom are robots, according to reports.

Silicon Valley Community Newspapers reports the "5-foot tall, plastic shelled bots" are the first artificially-intelligent helpers at the nationwide chain, Lowe's owns OSH, and are helping workers find "odd part replacements or tools."

The robots aren't meant to replace human employees, company officials stress, merely help them as it's "impossible to know where every single item is," spokeswoman Amanda Manna told the newspaper.

But the computer knows.

The robots can scan a spare part held in a customer's hand and immediately locate a new part for sale.

The "OSHbots" will someday know more than just where to find a hammer: fluency in "five languages" will soon accompany the total knowledge of spare parts.

To see them in action, head to 377 Royal Ave. in San Jose.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[SF Nonprofit Teaches San Quentin Inmates How to Code]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 23:45:33 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1201-2014-InmateCoding.jpg

San Quentin is California’s oldest state penitentiary and home to those sentenced to life behind bars – and even death – for the most violent of crimes.

Everything in and around the prison was designed to keep prisoners disconnected from the outside room, from the razor-wire fences to the towers manned by guards at all times.

Everything except one room where 18 students gather four times a week to learn skills they hope will land them a six-figure salary once they walk out of prison walls: coding. In the room, a former print shop, there are four rows of desks and refurbished computers. The “boys in blue” sit and watch a face projected on the screen at the front. The man talking is their instructor, teaching them from a remote location via Google Hangout. The class is focused on learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

It’s part of a new program titled Code 7370 offered by San Francisco-based nonprofit The Last Mile, headed up by husband-wife duo Chris Redlitz and Beverly Parenti.

“We want the guys, and hopefully women in the near future, to be taught inside, to be part of this onshoring movement which is taking people who are maybe in underserved neighborhoods, who don’t have the classic education to become junior coders,” explained Redlitz.

At the front of the room stood Aly Tamboura, 48, who was identified as a star student. Tamboura is also a felon finishing his 14-year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon.

“I have 23 months remaining on that sentence,” Tamboura said. “I see this program as actually giving me the skills so when I get out I have a marketable skill to where I can go out from prison to the workforce.”

Chris Schumacher, 41, is serving a 16-year to life sentence for murder. Both he and Tamboura graduated from The Last Mile’s entrepreneurial training program during which they had to pitch start-ups to actual venture capitalists, businesspersons and investors at San Quentin during “Demo Day.”

He wanted to go a step further and take advantage of Code 7370.

“I was telling some friends that it felt a lot like a pitcher of water being poured into really small glass,” Schumacher described. “But with each day we learn a little bit more and it soaks in a little bit more.”

These are men who are learning how to write programming for apps, though they have never even touched a smartphone.

“I had a flip phone, a Nextel phone, but I don’t think it was very smart,” Tamboura joked.

The biggest hurdle here is what you cannot see among the technology in the prison classroom: there’s no internet connectivity. That’s where San Francisco-based program partner Hack Reactor plays a critical role.

“Every resource they have is either a book or documentation or files we have written or downloaded for them,” explained Wes Bailey, the program director for The Last Mile at Hack Reactor.

Hack Reactor teaches a rigorous three-month coding course that costs students more than $17,000 each. For the prisoners, the six-month elementary-level coding course is free.

“It’s the huge façade coming through the gates, the peeling paint, it’s like wow this is a place I don’t want to be and it’s a very intimidating environment,” Bailey said. “But I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised with how approachable and enthusiastic these guys are.”

These men acknowledge that the job force is gripped by stiff competition and that there’s unforgiving criticism to match: why should those who broke the law get a leg up?

Tamboura said it’s simple, they’re all returning to the community some day and want to maximize the result that they will never return.

“I can say that probably all of us want to do well in life. Nobody wants to come back here. Nobody wants to victimize anyone and this opportunity gives us a path so we can do that , so we can go out and be productive citizens.”

If that’s not sufficient for the naysayers, perhaps the following numbers will hit the mark. According to Chuck Pattillo, general manager of the California Prison Industry Authority (CalPIA), the decision to invest in these prisoners through steps like the coding program ultimately pay off for the taxpayers.

“In our Career Technical Education program, the cumulative recidivism rate is 7.1-percent,” Pattillo said. “So you think about 18 guys here, when they parole at that we’re talking 92.9-percent of these guys aren’t going to come back. That’s $60,000 a year. That’s over a million dollars annually in savings and I’m only investing 105 to 110-thousand dollars a year to run this program.”

Pattillo added he feels there’s a constitutional obligation to make sure people don’t go back to prison.

“So we will do whatever it takes to make sure they are prepared when they leave prison so they never come back again,” Pattillo said. “To do otherwise would be unconscionable.”

For inspiration, many of these men look to Kenyatta Leal, a graduate of The Last Mile who now works at tech start-up accelerator Rocketspace in San Francisco. We were there on his first day on the job in the summer of 2013.

“I’m getting emotional just thinking about it now because there’s some really, really good solid men who deserve a chance. That’s what motivates me.”

For Tamboura, the program has revolutionized the way he’s thinking about his remaining 23 months in prison.

“Now that I’m in this program I want the time to slow down because I want to absorb all of this. I want to be the best coder there is coming out of The Last Mile program.”

It’s inspirational even for those watching from the sidelines.

Phoun You, also a graduate of The Last Mile, said he opted not to pursue Code 7370 just yet but plans on doing it soon. Sentenced to 35 years to life for first-degree murder, You doesn’t have a shot at parole for another 15 years. Still, he said, watching his friends go through the course gives him hope.

“Even though I’ll be left behind, their success makes me feel good,” You said. “Gives me hope that maybe they can pave the way for guys left behind.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Local Amazon Packing Plant Hums on Cyber Monday]]> Tue, 02 Dec 2014 08:17:55 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/196*120/Capture54.JPG

On what might be the busiest online shopping day of the season, an Amazon shipping plant in San Bernardino sent out thousands of packages at high speed.

The facility took in 426 orders per second, an Amazon spokeswoman said, some to be delivered to homes on that same day -- Cyber Monday.

"We gotta get those boxes out quickly so everyone can have their presents for Christmas," packer Caroline Bell said.

Following in the footsteps of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, tech-related items are discounted on shopping sites across the Internet on Cyber Monday.

It means big business for Amazon.com -- last year over 36 million items were ordered on the site.

Called a "fulfillment center" by the company, the San Bernardino shipping center is the size of 28 football fields, with 8 miles of conveyer belts and 2,00 employees, according to Amazon spokeswoman Pia Arthur.

Tablet computers and wearable technology are big sellers. To get them to consumers, much of the plant's operations are automated, but pickers continue to play an important role at the 24-hour facility.

"As soon as the customer order their items online, those items come into our scanners," said Elaine Underwood, another packer.

Photo Credit: Joel Cooke]]>
<![CDATA["Doorman" Keeps Online Orders Safe]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 00:42:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1125-2014-Doorman.jpg

A San Francisco start-up wants to make sure you never miss a package again, or have one stolen off your doorstep. Doorman delivers boxes and envelopes to your door, when you are home.

“Shopping behavior online is changing dramatically,” said Co-Founder of Doorman Kapil Israni. “People are getting their toilet paper online. The problem is they're never home to get their package."

Doorman gives its customers an address to use when purchasing online. That package goes to the company’s warehouse, and customers are alerted when it arrives. The user can then respond with what time they’ll be home that night. One of the part-time contracted drivers then takes the package to your front door and texts you when they’re outside. Deliveries are made between 6 p.m. and midnight, seven days a week.

"This is our attempt to modernize the last broken piece of e-commerce,” said Co-Founder Zander Adell.

Packages arrive the same day they would if you ordered directly from a retailer. The cost is $4 per package, or $20 dollars a month. The hope, is you'll never miss a package again.

“There's nothing worse than getting a door tag. I'd rather get a parking ticket,” said customer Michele Mandell.

“If I'm not home, (other delivery companies) just return it. Then I have to take my car to the center and lose 3-4 hours,” said customer Loic Le Meur.

For now, Doorman is only available in San Francisco, but there are other options in the Bay Area.

Amazon has lockers you can ship packages to, and pick them up when you’re available.

If you ship through the Postal Service, you're urged to insure your package and make sure the box or envelope has to be signed for when it arrives. You can also track its progress online.

"One thing people do is have a trusted neighbor keep an eye out for their packages and say, 'hey, I'm expecting something, can you keep an eye out for it, and I'll do the same,” said USPS Spokesperson Augustine Ruiz.

The Postal Service announced its employees will begin delivering seven days a week through the holidays. USPS expects to deliver 12 percent more packages this holiday season than the same time last year. That equals more than 450 million packages.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[3-D Printing Gives Chance to Little Girl Born With Heart Defect ]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 06:31:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/195*120/11-24-14_Heart-Defect-Surgery-Hensel.JPG

Esther Perez was born with heart defects that could have taken her young life, but thanks to a series of breakthrough procedures at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the now-14-month-old little girl is thriving.

Using a series of conventional MRIs, 3-D MRIs and an incredible printer that reconstructed a model of the girl’s heart, doctors were able to plan her surgery, practice it and reduce her risks and increase her chances of survival.

That was the first miracle for her mother, Martha Perez, who found about her daughter's medical problem while she was still in the womb.

"I stop the pregnancy, or continue. Maybe the baby will be born for just five, 10 minutes, and then the baby maybe will be dying," she recalled, near tears.

Perez credits her faith with helping her to make it through the pregnancy, but when Esther was born, things looked bleak.

Her cardiologist said the baby just wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her body.

An early surgery provided a temporary fix, but as time went on it became clear a second, much more serious operation was needed.

Doctors decided the innovations could help, including creating a life-size model of Esther’s heart.

The paper-and-plastic model was an exact replica of Esther’s heart, so doctors could explore and strategize before the actual surgery.

"As soon as we opened the heart, it was exactly as I had seen before, so making the patch and doing the connections were quite straightforward," said Dr. Richard Kim, the cardiothoracic surgeon who operated on Esther.

Similar heart surgeries were done long before the 3-D technology was available, but doctors said it has helped increase the effectiveness and safety of similar operations.

Dr. Kim said Esther now stands a very good chance of having a healthy, normal life.

Perez said she’s grateful for the chance her daughter has been given.

"It’s a miracle," she said.