<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:14:04 -0800 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:14:04 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![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]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 12:08:51 -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.

<![CDATA[7 Tech Trends for 2015]]> Wed, 26 Nov 2014 10:34:08 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP836878317132.jpg

Will 2015 be the year of wearable tech?

The long-awaited Apple Watch will be making its debut in early 2015 and consumers will be able to get their hands on newly available 3D printers to make food and collectibles. Smart home devices are also among the hot tech trends in the new year, experts say.

“It’s a world of synced devices that will become mainstream in 2015," said Stacy Glasgow, a Chicago-based consumer trends consultant for market research firm Mintel. "It’s no longer about startups or early adopters. We’re seeing a lot of big retailers giving consumers smart products and devices.”

Glasgow said that in Mintel’s research, the company found that 59 percent of U.S. consumers were interested in using an app or device to control their home. About 22 percent already owned a wearable device already. “We definitely see that number in a position to grow,” she said.

Eric Openshaw, vice chairman and U.S. technology, media and telecom leader for Deloitte based in San Francisco, said that the wearable technology market is exploding but is probably going to be more important for businesses rather than consumers.

“I think there are huge benefits for the industrial user,” he said.

Coye Cheshire, an associate professor for the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, said most of the trends we’re seeing have to do with playing with user data.

“It’s called instrumenting the experience,” he said. “It’s all these apps, such as fitness apps or other metrics, capturing user data and returning it back to the consumer.” The hype is exciting, but he said society is not quite sure what it really wants to know. “The assumption is that if there’s more of this data and you turn it back to the people it will equal better experience, but it remains highly unknown if that’s the case.”

Here's a list of seven tech trends for 2015:


The TellSpec is a small spectroscope that uses a beam of infrared light to figure out the composition of food and help users determine exactly how many calories and grams of fat, protein or carbohydrates they are consuming just with a wave of the device. The TellSpec shoots the information to a smartphone (Android or iOS) where users can see not only the vital stats of the food, but also if it contains allergens like eggs or gluten. The company has been busy scanning foods so the spectroscope has a full database and can identify traces of ingredients, according to Fast Company.

Cheshire seemed interested but not optimistic about the scanner. “Will some people carry them around? There are a small amount of people who are responsible for almost all the uptick of all devices,” he said of the new adopters. But will it be popular with the mainstream – that’s another story.

Wearable Technology

The Apple Watch will likely be a must-have for those who want both a status symbol and a stylish timepiece (they come in different colors, from sensible stainless steel to elegant 18K rose gold). Other wearable tech, such as Google Glass, have already made their debut and caused the public to crave more gadgets like it. Samsung is launching a new platform, Samsung Architecture for Multimodal Interactions (also dubbed SAMI), to capitalize on wearables. Expect to see more offerings from Microsoft, Motorola, Jawbone and others, including the Polo Tech Shirt which also offers biometric readings with a designer label.

Gartner Inc. predicts more wearable tech will come on the market because our society is becoming increasingly mobile and wants it available in more environments, including work. Cheshire said that cheaper sensors are making it possible. “This is the early stage of wearable technology and different companies are trying to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” he said. "If were playing futurist, I wouldn’t bet on many of these things being around in a few years."

Smart Appliances and Smart Homes

“Virtually every large appliance is looking at the ‘Internet of Things,’ from sensor technology to smartphones to home networks,” Openshaw said of today's smart appliances and machines. Both Nest and Apple have devised ways to tell your house to turn on lights, adjust the thermostat or record TV programs via your smartphone, and you can expect to see more in 2015.

According to GigaOm, small startups are also joining the smart home movement by adding Bluetooth so users can control light bulbs, outlets or even receive pictures with their smartphone of who is knocking at your door. Expect all these apps to work with voice integration, so you will literally be talking to your smartphone to start your dryer or start preheating the oven.

Digitized Dining

We’re all familiar with making reservations online with apps such as OpenTable or finding food online via GrubHub, but now more restaurants are letting you order your food online. Already Pizza Hut offers that capability (and receives half of its online orders from mobile devices) as does Panda Express. Some Chili’s and Applebee’s provide tablets for customers to order, while McDonald’s and White Castle are also working on a touch-screen customizing kiosk, which may do away with a cashier altogether.

“I think the trend is rooted to an unprecedented expectation for on-demand convenience,” Glasgow said. “It’s this new immediacy in shopping and food service.” She said to expect more “blurring” between online and brick-and-mortar stores.

Paying With Your Phone

The idea of “click and pay” with a smartphone has been around for the last few years, but perhaps it needed Apple’s new iPhone 6 to bring the mobile payment system to the mainstream. Security professionals say it's a "significant improvement over using a credit card" and Apple said it "doesn't collect your purchase history, so we don't know what you bought, where you bought it or how much you paid for it."

But there are still some issues. According to Consumer Reports, a reporter used his wife’s credit card after scanning it into his iPhone without impunity or questions and in October, Bank of America apologized for charging customers twice for purchases they made using the system.

Cheshire said that digital payment isn't enough to the transaction more seamless. “Paying by your phone alone doesn’t make it efficient,” he said, “but if you also make an order and pay for it with the same phone it can be.”


It may sound a bit creepy, and your teenagers will hate it, but keeping tabs on your entire family at all times is now a reality with this free Life360 app.

“If I had an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 so I could know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.

Parents will likely love the “Places” part of the app that is literally a map that shows everyone in the circle coming or going from certain spots and alerts users when members have left or have entered a specific area.

“I think the social implication is that we’re raising our kids to know they can’t be trusted or trust people in general,” Cheshire said. Glasgow disagreed, saying that it may calm parental anxieties. “If I have an application for (my kids aged) 11 to 12 to know what they’re doing, I would be thrilled,” Openshaw said.

3D Printers

How would you like to have a printer that can create a gun or a pizza? Apparently many people are interested. The shipments of 3D printers will double in 2015 and double again in 2016, according to Gartner Inc. Previously the domain of scientific labs or universities, 3D printers have captured the interest of the masses perhaps because it can reduce costs and create facsimiles almost instantly.

“We see another trend that consumers are finding they enjoy making things on their own and I think 3D printing facilitates that,” Glasgow said, mentioning the beauty of 3D printer Mink which can create custom-colored eye shadow or lipstick.

Consumers may also be interested in exploring cuisine with the Foodini, a 3D printer that creates your favorite foods from “sweet to savory” according to CNN. Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines which creates the Foodini, says a consumer version of its product will be out soon and retail for around $1,000.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Company Unveils Electronically-Powered Skates]]> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 06:18:37 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1121-2014-RocketSkates.jpg

Forget walking or rollerblading — how about rocket skating?

California-based company Acton has developed electronically-powered skates that can propel the wearer up to 12 miles per hour — no pushing required.

Founders said the idea was inspired by "Iron Man," "Inspector Gadget" and "The Jetsons."

"The idea of just being able to slide around the urban environment is very exciting," said Peter Treadway, co-founder of Acton. "It's kind of like a magic carpet for your feet."

The skates were released this week and sell for $500 a pair.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Auto Show: Chevrolet Gran Turismo Concept]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 10:03:09 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/11-21-2014-la-auto-show-459259756_10+%281%29.jpg Chevrolet brought its design for a downloadable Gran Turismo 6 concept car to the 2014 LA Auto Show. The design was inspired by the outrageous Chaparral Can-Am race cars of the 1960s and 70s.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Drivers Try to Trick Popular Traffic App Waze]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 07:51:06 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/11-20-14-waze-app.JPG

Westside Los Angeles residents are working to fool Waze — a popular traffic app — into believing the side streets are clogged, so that the app stops diverting traffic into their neighborhoods.

Waze is a driving tool that uses crowd sourcing to tell commuters the best roads to get to where they need to go in the least amount of time.

"The freeways are not enough anymore," said Lawrence Marshall. "It's head on. They are dialed in. I'm avoiding traffic."

The problem: the app is diverting traffic from the freeways to neighborhood side streets.

Some West LA residents have had enough, declaring war against the app.

Waze promises that residents’ plan to trick the app will not work.

"Fake, coordinated traffic reports can't come to fruition because they’ll be negated by the next 50 people that drive down the street passively," Waze said in a statement.

Photo Credit: Mekahlo Medina ]]>
<![CDATA[FB Shuttle Drivers “Like” Union Bid]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 04:11:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fb16.jpg

Shuttle bus drivers who take Facebook employees to and from Silicon Valley overwhelmingly gave the "thumbs up" to forming a union on Wednesday, after they had complained publicly for months about their low pay, split shifts and health insurance benefits.

Rome Aloise, secretary for the Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro, said the vote was 43 in favor of unionizing and 28 opposed. A total of 16 of the 87 drivers who work for Loop Transportation - the shuttle company contracted to drive Facebook employees, did not vote.

"This will now give these drivers at Facebook, and most probably the drivers for all of the companies that use this type of service a chance at a piece of the pie," Aloise said. "This makes it possible for those that make Facebook successful to get to work comfortably, safely and in a timely fashion.  Hopefully the tech companies will step up and pay the "freight" so to speak"

The National Labor Board still needs to certify the election, and then bargaining can begin with Loop for a first-time contract.

In a statement, Loop CEO Jeff Leonoudakis said that the company didn't feel "our drivers' interests are best served by union representation."

But, he added: "Our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process."

Leonoudakis reiterated that the company's drivers earn between $17 and $25 an hour and get full medical benefits valued at up to $714 per month per employee. One of the drivers' complaints is over their split shifts. They pick up Facebook employees about 6 a.m. and have to take them home sometimes 14 or 15 hours later - and are only getting paid for an eight-hour shift.

Leonoudakis said that the drivers can sleep at the Loop Transportation yard, or eat for free at Facebook's campus.

Facebook officials has not formally commented on the labor strife, indicating that the fight is not with their tech company, but with a third party contractor.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Facebook Drivers Vote to Unionize, Demand More Pay]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:58:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fb16.jpg

Shuttle bus drivers who schlep Facebook employees to and from Silicon Valley began voting on Wednesday on whether to form a union, arguing they have an archaic relationship with the tech giant, comparing their situation to nobles and servants.

A total of 87 drivers for Facebook's shuttle bus contractor, Loop Transportation in San Francisco, began voting in shifts throughout the day, deciding whether to become part of the Teamsters.

The drivers are hoping for higher pay and better health care insurance. But they'd also like a solution to the "horrendous" split shifts of driving Facebook employees to the Menlo Park campus beginning at 6 a.m. and returning home 14 hours later, only to be paid for eight of those hours, according to Rome A. Aloise, secretary for the Teamsters Local 853 in San Leandro.

The union began circulating a petition a few weeks ago. By Wednesday, it had about 5,000 signatures.

Aloise said the shuttle drivers came to his group about six or seven months ago. Even though the driver work for Loop, because of who they take to work  - Facebook -  the labor fight has made it to the pages of USA Today, Business Insider and the New York Times.

"Zuckerberg needs to step up," Aloise said Wednesday morning by phone, adding that the Teamsters have tried to set up a meeting with him and even friended him on Facebook - to no avail. "These drivers are helping him and all his employees make a lot of money. And they just want a fair life."

Even though Facebook doesn't directly employ the drivers, Aloise said CEO Mark Zuckerberg should call up Loop and offer to close the gap on what the drivers are asking for because the company is so profitable and has such a high-profile image.

Facebook spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina declined to comment on Wednesday morning, even as drivers and their supporters rallied the evening before in front of the company's Menlo Park headquarters.

Protesters - many of whom were older men with gray beards - pumped their fists to beeping horns in front of the Facebook "thumbs up" sign in Menlo Park. Some held signs that read "Dear Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook drivers need you." Facebook has indicated in the past that the issue isn't with Facebook, it's with the company the drivers work for.

Loop Transportation President and CEO Jeff Leonoudakis responded Wednesday with a four-paragraph email lauding his "talented drivers." He said Loop has "long provided its dedicated professionals with one of the best wage and benefit packages in the Bay Area and comfortable accommodations between shifts."

Leonoudakis added that the drivers take home "$17-25" and get full medical benefits, up to $714 a month per employee paid by Loop, paid vacations, holidays and sick days. He added that during split shifts, drivers can hang out at either Loop and use the company's lounge with bunk beds to take a nap or watch TV, or eat for free at the Facebook campus.

Aloise said the Teamsters represent five other Loop driver groups, including those who work at San Francisco and Oakland international airports. Those drivers earn between $17 and $24 an hour, he said, but have much better health care packages, get a pension and don't have to work the split shifts. Aloise added that the Facebook shuttle drivers were earning about $17 or $18 an  hour until they began complaining and started receiving raises shortly after.

Drivers for public transportation services such as SF Muni, AC Transit and SamTrans, can make as much as $25 or even $30 an hour.

The union drew comparisons to a generic era of nobles and servants, likening Facebook techies to privileged players of a hierarchical social class.

"While your employees earn extraordinary wages and are able to live and enjoy life in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Bay Area, these drivers can't afford to support a family, send their children to school, or least of all, afford to even dream of buying a house anywhere near where they work," Aloise wrote in an Oct. 2 letter to Zuckerberg.

"This is reminiscent of a time when noblemen were driven around in their coaches by their servants," the letter continued. "Frankly, little has changed; except your noblemen are your employees, and the servants are the bus drivers who carry them back and forth each day."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[Google "Trekkers" Maps Hiking Trail]]> Thu, 20 Nov 2014 05:23:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1118-2014-GoogleTrekker1.jpg

Google "trekkers" are helping you map out your next hiking trip and get a feel for being on the trail.

The backpack-type trekker carries 15 cameras and records the hiker's every move with the same technology used in Google Earth and Google Maps.

"The trekker takes an image as the person walks -- every two and a half seconds," said Deanna Yick, a Google Street View manager. "That enables us to get a picture of what a place is like and a feel for being there."

Hannah Lonergan recently went on a hike using a Google trekker.

"It's a lot heavier, you have an antenna, you have to watch out for low-hanging branches," Lonergan said when asked how a trekker compares to a regular camping backpack. She added that the trekker weights about 60 pounds.

The City of Monterey is working with Google to get trekkers on local trails.

"We feel like this is a great way to showcase Monterey County," said Tammy Blount, Monterey City Convention Bureau CEO.

Google officials said trekkers can handle privacy concerns on the spot. For example, if someone is hiking on the trial and doesn't want to be in the picture, the hiker can pause the camera and make sure the hiker's anonymity is preserved.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Tony Hawk Rides Hoverboard]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 05:28:20 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2014-11-17+at+3.26.35+PM.png

The hoverboard is reality, and Tony Hawk has taken a spin on it.

The pro skateboarder tested the $10,000 prototype Hendo Hoverboard after husband and wife Greg and Jill Henderson launched a Kickstarter to fund it. 

In the video, Hawk performs a few tricks on the board, which hovers an inch off the ground and uses magnets, though he also ends up falling several times.

Hawk had caught attention for another hoverboard video earlier this year — a fake video made by Funny or Die that featured the skateboarder, musician Moby and others riding boards high into the sky, in a prank for which Hawk eventually apologized.  

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<![CDATA[Uber Wants to Raise $1 Billion to Expand Service]]> Sun, 09 Nov 2014 11:34:53 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/uber-451549230.jpg

What's a ride worth?

Uber wants to raise $1 billion to further expand its service worldwide.

The ride-sharing company has set its sights on opening up shop in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa.

Uber is already the highest valued private company in the Silicon Valley, and officials hope its reputation will help in the fundraising and expansion.

The 5-year-old company is currently operating in 45 countries.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Living a Data-Free Day in 2014: Not Easy]]> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 21:07:32 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/smartphone+generic1.jpg

As smart phones and smart technologies increasingly become part of our everyday lives, it’s become incredibly difficult to live data-free or go a day without generating a signal data footprint on the technology cloud that now hovers above all of us.

Three of us at NBC Bay Area tried to go a single day avoiding all of the tracking associated with the smart devices that surround us at home, in the car and at work. We quickly learned that it was difficult, if not impossible, to go a whole day without giving up our privacy in some sort of way – something we were warned of in advance.

Technology consultant Rob Enderle said, “Without dramatically changing your life, without you know going out and living in the desert or in the middle of a forest, it’s really hard to [go completely data-free].”

First step, driving to work. So long as you don't use GPS to navigate, FasTrak to pay tolls, Pandora for music, podcasts or satellite radio for entertainment, you'd be on track for a data-free diet.

Getting to work, presents a whole new set of obstacles. Like many people employed in the Bay Area, our building requires key cards for entry – key cards that transmit data about your location. Gone are the days, for most folks, when a hard copy key will get you in. So if you want, you can risk it and hope you don’t get caught, and piggyback off someone else’s entrance.

That's just the start of the work-related data minefields we encounter. There’s no real workaround for logging onto computers, using e-mail and getting information from our desk phones – all involve leaving huge, traceable imprints. And, these standard office tools are just the beginning.

When it comes to the basic things we do with our smartphones – like texting, Facebook-ing, taking pictures, keeping lists, etc. – each send tons of data into the cloud.

Back on planet earth, paying for lunch is even a problem. Using a credit card in an instance translates into a new data footprint making cash-in-wallet the only workaround.

The digital fingerprints extend far into our personal lives, too. Want watch a movie? Trips to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video aren’t an option anymore. They been swapped out for Netflix and rental kiosks, both require your email address, credit card and other personal information.

What would seem like an easy thing – a data-free day in 2014 – actually turned out to be a day without much communication, work, or the basic aspects of life we've become so accustomed to, like instant internet access and smartphones in our palm of our hands and all the data that courses through them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rocket Launch Aborted Over Boat Just Before Blast-Off]]> Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:59:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/15011952803_64c309615d_o.jpg

The planned launch of a rocket from a NASA launchpad in Virginia was aborted less than 10 minutes before blast-off Monday night, after a sailboat wound up in the restricted launch range area.

Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket , which will carry a capsule stuffed with space gear and science experiments to astronauts at the International Space Station, is now set to launch Tuesday evening.

The rocket had been supposed to launch its space gear-stuffed Cygnus capsule into space at 6:45 p.m. ET on Monday, en route to the International Space Station, from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore, becoming the biggest rocket to launch from the site.

But although the Monday mission was aborted, skygazers in the Washington, D.C., area were still in for quite a sight, as the International Space Station itself was passing overhead just a few minutes after the rocket had been slated to launch.

Orbital has explained when watchers will be able to see the rocket soar into view with a handy map, showing how many seconds after blast-off they should expect to spot it. 

If you're unsure how to spot a rocket blasting off, the Washington Post advises looking for a glowing trail of light that makes an arc in the sky. Orbital released diagrams of the expected view from major sites and cities on its website.

The launch now slated for Tuesday will kick off the third in a series of eight planned Orbital delivery missions to ferry crucial equipment and food to astronauts.

This one will also carry a trove of science experiments — including the Meteor, the first space-based system to observe meteors, and the Drain Brain, a special neck collar for astronauts to determine how their blood flows down to their hearts without gravity, Discovery News reported. The results could help researchers develop countermeasures for headaches in space, an ISS scientist told Discovery.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
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<![CDATA[Company Paid Workers $1.21 An Hour]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:47:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1022-2014-EFI.jpg

A Bay Area tech company has been slapped with a fine and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in back wages after a United States Department of Labor investigation revealed the company paid workers $1.21 an hour.

The Labor Department said about eight employees of Fremont-based Electronics For Imaging were flown in from India and worked 120-hour weeks to help with the installation of computers at the company's headquarters. The employees were paid their regular hourly wage in Indian rupees, which translated to $1.21.

EFI, which posted third-quarter revenue of nearly $200 million, released the following statement on Thursday: "During this process we unintentionally overlooked laws that require even foreign employees to be paid based on local US standards."

Last year, another company, Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, faced similar charges and was fined for underpaying employees from Mexico an hourly wage of $2.66.

Federal officials said both cases are particularly egregious, given the booming labor market and the wealth in Silicon Valley.

"It is certainly outrageous and unacceptable for employers here in Silicon Valley to bring workers and pay less than the minimum wage," said Alberto Raymond, an assistant district director for the United States Department of Labor.

EFI has been ordered to pay $40,000 in back wages to the employees. In addition, the company was hit with a $3,500 fine.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Company Develops Hoverboard]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:43:21 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/hoverboard-raw-two---00005717.jpg

Lots of companies talk about their "float." For the employees of Los Gatos-based Arx Pax, their product has extra bragging rights. It really does float. It's a working hoverboard. Kind of like what you remember Michael J. Fox riding on in "Back to the Future Part 2." 

NBC Bay Area got a chance to glide around the Arx Pax warehouse in it for a little bit, and watch real surfers take it for a very fast very cool spin. This is the real deal, part of a Kickstarter campaign to get the hover technology into the hands of developers, while possibly keeping us safe from future earthquakes.


"In the event of an earthquake," says company Co-Founder Greg Henderson, "the ground can shake, but the building would stay still." This would happen if the magnetic technology that floats the hoverboard were used underneath your house.

How does it work? A magnetic field pushes the board into the air. Four circular hover engines generate an electromagnetic field over the copper flooring, which creates an opposing field. The two fields then repel one another.

Henderson's co-founder, Jill Avery Henderson (yes, they're married – it's why the hoverboard is called the "Hendo") adds to the long-term mission: "It's not all about hoverboards. It's a wonderful springboard to take it where it really needs to go, a better world."

A world where we might float, instead of shake.

Scott rides the "Hendo" on Twitter: @scottbudman

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
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<![CDATA[LA Shoppers Not Sold on Apple Pay]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:19:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/516604997.jpg

Apple Pay failed to find immediate favor with LA shoppers when it launched Monday morning.

It is being billed as a game changer in the way people pay for things, but concerns about security have led to some holding off at the moment.

However, those that are using the system so far, in which a credit card’s information is stored on users’ iPhones and accessed by swiping it at the tills, have given it positive reviews.

But Carol Drake, who was shopping at Whole Foods market in Glendale, isn’t quite convinced.

"I'm just not comfortable yet," she said.

Fellow customer Robert Pruitt, who is unable to use the system because he has a Samsung phone, wasn’t as concerned about privacy.

"I’m more concerned about the convenience than I am about someone taking my ID," he said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

The store’s manager, Linda Gutierrez, also believed it would benefit customers and businesses.

"Excited it’s a secure way for customers to pay for their purchases and we don’t have to deal with cards or cash or anything else," she said.

The new system got off to a bumpy start on the tech front, too. While stores were ready for it, iPhones weren't.

Apple Pay was only available with the iOS 8.1 download, and most did not get it until afternoon.

Once it is installed, users can swipe their phone at a vendor’s location and confirm transactions using a built-in fingerprint sensor.

The tech giant said it will take awhile before all users get the iOS rollout, and only iPhone 6 and 6-plus devices are equipped with the necessary communication system which makes transactions possible.

The Cupertino company also claims the system is one of the most secure out there, despite Google and Microsoft offering similar applications in their mobile operating systems.

When users pay in stores, the Device Account Number and a transaction security code are used to process the payment.

Neither Apple or the phone sends actual credit numbers to merchants.

They do say they receive anonymous transaction information like time and location of the transaction, which helps them improve Apple Pay.

Photo Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apple Event: New iPads Announced]]> Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:11:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/new-ipad-AP903945536056_0.jpg Check out the newest products and programs tech giant Apple announced on Oct. 16, 2014.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[NASA Ames Hosts Open House on 75th Anniversary]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 11:03:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/ames-aerial-2012_0.jpg

It's not every day a regular Joe can see what an astronaut or a NASA Ames scientist does for a living.

But everyone is invited to the open house at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley on Saturday, to celebrate the agency's 75-anniversary and take the two-mile tour of the sprawling plant. The last time the renowned research center was opened to the public like this was in 1997.

The event is free, but advance tickets are required.

Visitors will get to see the ArcJet Alley, Technology Way and the Ames Rotocraft researchers.

The Ames Research Center is one of 10 NASA field centers in the United States, which employs 2,500 employees. It was established in 1939 and named for Joseph S. Ames, the then-chair of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. It's located at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale.

According to the center, NASA Ames is the lead agency for the Mars Curiosity rover’s Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and for NASA’s first mission capable of finding Earth-size and smaller planets.

Ames Research scientists also do supercomputing, build sophisticated wind tunnels, create robots to aid humans in space and help to generate $1.3 billion annually for the United States.

The open house is Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with ticketed reservation. Click here to make a reservation.

Photo Credit: NASA Ames Research Center]]>
<![CDATA[Report Links GoPro to Brain Injury]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:12:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP886669197394.jpg

The French commentator whose reported remarks had sparked reports that a GoPro camera may have played a role in Formula 1 racing legend Michael Schumacher's brain injury is now urging everyone to "stop all speculation."

Schumacher, 45, has been immobile and unable to speak after he fell and hit a rock in a skiing accident last year while he was wearing a GoPro camera mounted on his helmet.

European news outlets had reported that racing commentator Jean-Louis Moncet told Europe 1 radio that Schumacher's son Mick told him the placement of the camera contributed to the brain injury — but Moncet denied that Tuesday on Twitter.

"The problem for Michael was not the hit, but the mounting of the GoPro camera that he had on his helmet that injured his brain," Eurosport had earlier quoted Moncet as having said.

But Moncet appeared to contradict that suggestion in a tweet Tuesday.
"STOP ALL SPÉCULATION," he tweeted. "Mick could not say something about camera or injury of Michael because we did not speak together."
Following the initial report linking the GoPro to Schumacher's injury, shares of the Bay Area-based company plummeted, losing as much as 10 percent in trading Monday, Business Insider reported.

A GoPro spokesman declined to comment on the report linking the camera to Schumacher's injury but said the company was monitoring the situation closely.

Schumacher emerged from a medically-induced coma in June but remains in serious condition.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Long Beach Fire Deploys App to Speed CPR Response]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:38:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/pulsepoint+app.JPG

Long Beach has signed on to a new smartphone app that alerts nearby users when someone needs CPR, and emergency personnel said the connection could mean the difference between life and death.

Called Pulse Point, the app buzzes users' phones when someone in close proximity is in need of CPR, potentially decreasing the wait time before someone in need gets help.

Inside the Long Beach emergency operations center, 911 operators coordinate calls and emergency crews, and navigate about 40 cardiac arrests calls a week, averaging 4 to 5 calls a day.

“Over a thousand people a day die of sudden cardiac arrest across the country,” Long Beach Fire Department Deputy Chief Rich Brandt said.

Brandt says Pulse Point is an essential tool to save more lives.

“Or improve their chances of survival," he said.

The iOS and Android app is a free download. Once it’s on the phone, users share their location with the developers and the fire department, who are able to alert you when someone nearby needs CPR. Even if a user doesn’t know how to perform the technique, the app can deliver a play by play, even down to the chest compression rate.

"We take pride (that) we provide best service possible,” said Jake Heflin with the fire department. “We’re not everywhere all the time, we rely on community to help fill that gap."

Heflin said about 500 Long Beach residents have downloaded the app since they launched two week ago, and they are hoping for tens of thousands more.

The developer is a former fire chief from Northern California and said the app doesn’t store any information other than the phone’s last location.

Long Beach fire said it hopes the app will empower more residents to help maintain each other’s safety, especially with something as accessible as CPR.

<![CDATA[Teens Develop Brain-Teaser App]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 05:13:56 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/impossible+rush+app.jpg

Fifteen-year-old Austin Valleskey doesn't have his drivers license yet...but he already has a worldwide successful app.

A few months ago the suburban Chicago teen was contacted about an idea for an app by Australian Ben Pasternack, who is also 15.

"I thought it was cool," said the Wheaton Academy sophomore. "He asked if I wanted to make it into a game. I said sure, it's a Saturday, I've got a couple of hours."

And a few hours is all it took for Valleskey to create a prototype for Impossible Rush- a brain-teaser game.

"We didn't think much of it. We just wanted people to have fun with it," Valleskey said.

And people did.

The pair contacted a marketer who agreed to buy the app and the game's popularity skyrocketed.

With over 500,000 downloads at its peak, the app was ranked 16th in the U.S., 7th in Sweden and 18th in Australia, according to Business Insider.

Valleskey said he was in disbelief.

"It passed up Skype, Tinder, Netflix, all of these huge companies. It was crazy cool to me!" the teen told NBC Chicago Thursday. "It's a great thrill."

The young teen says he taught himself computer programming just one year ago during a road trip to Florida.

His parents shared his latest excitement.

"It's been just so much fun to see the success he's had with it," said Michael Valleskey. "He's learning so much going through this process."

Valleskey says he's already working on developing another app.