<![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, 24 Apr 2014 04:34:46 -0700 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 04:34:46 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Bratton on Twitter Fail: I Welcome the Attention]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:04:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mynypdtwitter.jpg

An NYPD social media campaign backfired when the police department asked New Yorkers for photos with cops and Twitter erupted with unflattering pictures of officers making arrests, tangling with citizens and in some cases wielding their weapons.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday disputed the idea that the effort was a failure, saying he welcomed the images, and that sometimes police work isn't pretty.

"Send us your photos, good or bad," he said. "I welcome the extra attention."

The department on Tuesday asked followers on its official Twitter account, @NYPDNews, to post photos of themselves with officers:

"Do you have a photo with a member of the NYPD? Tweet us & tag it #myNYPD."

The #myNYPD hashtag quickly took off when people began tweeting photos that the NYPD would probably rather not highlight. The hashtag became a trending topic, drawing responses from around the world. 

Many of the photos showed the NYPD wrestling with demonstrators and pointing or swinging weapons at civilians.

Bratton said Wednesday that the images didn't necessarily portray police misconduct, saying this is the kind of work police officers do.

The tweets accompanying the photos were often negative and sarcastic.

"The #NYPD will also help you de-tangle your hair," read one tweet accompanying a photo of officers pulling a woman's hair as she was in handcuffs.

"Need a lift? The #NYPD's got you! Free Delivery, only at #myNYPD" read another, with a photo showing a man being carried by officers from his arms and legs. 

In a statement on Tuesday, the NYPD defended its campaign, saying it was "creating new ways to communicate effectively with the community."

"Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city," the statement read.

Some people did post the kind of police-friendly photos the department hoped to get.


Photo Credit: Twitter/NYPDNews]]>
<![CDATA[9 Facts About YouTube on Its 9th Anniversary]]> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 09:52:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/youtube-463842675.jpg

YouTube, with its bottomless supply of videos, is turning nine.

The first video ever uploaded to YouTube went up on April 23, 2005, nine years ago Wednesday. To commemorate YouTube's ninth anniversary, we've put together nine fun facts about the video sharing site we all know and love.

1. Paypal brought founders together

YouTube was founded in 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim. The trio met at PayPal, where they were all former employees. YouTube's first headquarters sat above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, Calif. 

2. It was originally a dating site

An earlier version of YouTube was a dating site called "Tune In Hook Up," influenced by the site "Hot or Not," which let users rate the attractiveness of potential partners. But the idea of a video version of Hot or Not failed to catch on after a couple of months.

3. What inspired YouTube as we know it

YouTube's founders say two key experiences inspired them to turn what had been a dating site into the video sharing site we all know. Karim had had trouble finding footage online of Janet Jackson's Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction and, later, of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. And Hurley and Chen had difficulty sharing a video shot at a dinner party in San Francisco in 2005.

4. YouTube? Or Utube

The domain name YouTube.com was activated on Valentine's Day in 2005 and the site was developed months after. But the domain name didn't sit well with an Ohio-based industrial equipment supplier called Universal Tube and Rollform Equipment, with the domain "utube.com." Utube.com was flooded with traffic from people trying to spell the video site, and its owners sued YouTube saying its business was hurt. Claims were dismissed, though, and Utube has changed its site to utubeonline.com.

5. And the first-ever YouTube video upload was...

The first video uploaded to YouTube, titled "Me at the zoo," made its online debut on April 23, 2005. The 19-second video was shot by Yakov Lapitsky and shows YouTube co-founder Karim at the San Diego Zoo. It has racked up 14 million views in its nine years online.

6. April Fools!

Since 2008, YouTube has featured an April Fools' Day prank on April 1 of every year. The first prank, known as "rickrolling," remains a classic: The featured videos on YouTube's main page linked to the music video for Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." From turning the site upside-down in 2009 to allowing users to submit ideas for memes in 2014, YouTube knows how to pull a great prank.

7. Surprising stats

YouTube says users worldwide upload 100 hours of video each minute, and more than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month. More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month, and 80 percent of traffic comes from outside the U.S.

8. Most Viewed Music Video of All Time

According to Videotrine, the nod for the most viewed video of all time goes to the music video for PSY's "Gangnam Style," with 1.9 billion views:

9. Most Viewed Viral Video of All Time

Not counting music videos, the most viewed viral video is the classic "Charlie Bit My Finger," which clocks in at 6.9 million views, according to Videotrine:

Photo Credit: Getty Images for YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Netflix Price Hike on the Way]]> Tue, 22 Apr 2014 08:36:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/04-21-2014-netflix-logo.jpg

Netflix is still packing 'em in.

Investors, loving the streaming company's latest earning report, are jumping into the stock, pushing the price up by more than $20 a share in extended trading Monday night. The stock surge follows another strong quarter for Netflix, which reported a larger than expected profit.

Subscribers are also streaming in. The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company says it grew by 2.25 million new subscribers, many lured in by another strong season of the Netflix original program "House of Cards."

But if you're thinking of joining, know this: Netflix also reports plans to raise the price of its streaming services by "one or two dollars" a month. It currently costs new streamers about eight dollars a month to sign on.

The price increase will be imposed on new customers by July.

Growth is pretty much everywhere, in the U.S. and overseas. Netflix took a big risk with original programming like "House of Cards." It appears to be paying off.

Netflix Inc. earned $53 million, or 86 cents per share, during the first three months of the year. That compared to $2.7 million, or 5 cents, last year.


Scott Budman is on Twitter: @scottbudman. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan]]>
<![CDATA[Journalist Says Google Glass Led to SF Assault]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 06:00:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/04-14-2014-Kyle-Russell.jpg

Google Glass appears to have inspired another attack in San Francisco.

Kyle Russell, a Berkeley-based tech reporter for Business Insider, had his Google Glass ripped from his face and "smashed on the ground" near the 16th and Mission BART station on Friday, he says. 

The attacker, a woman, shouted "Glass" before taking off with the $1,500 computer glasses, Russell said. Russell gave chase but before he could catch the assailant, she smashed the Glass on the ground.

She then "vanished," the Chronicle reported.

Russell had been in the Mission District covering an anti-Google protest, he said on Twitter. There had been a tech bus blockage that morning as well as a protest at an apartment building supposedly bought by a Google lawyer, who had moved to evict the tenants. 

Reaction to Russell's fate -- or, to be more accurate, the fate of his Glass -- ranged from solace-giving to outright schadenfreude, with perhaps a bit more of the latter from the anti-tech set.

Russell told NBC Bay Area he’s amused that critics seem to believe he was “flaunting” his wealth “as a techie, which is funny because I'm a journalist who lives in Berkeley.”

However, "I can see why the person who smashed my Glass did what they did," Russell said in a post summarizing the run-in and the subsequent reactions.

He recognizes that tech-fueled gentrification has pushed people out of their homes, and that his "love for gadgets" like Glass "makes me look and sound like one of the" oppressors, he wrote.

Earlier, a woman reported having her Google Glass snatched off of her face at a San Francisco bar. Sarah Slocum, a self-described tech PR writer, recovered her device.

Photo Credit: Karyne Levy]]>
<![CDATA[Google Is Letting Anyone in the U.S. Buy Glass – Only for One Day]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:07:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/fb-04-14-2014-google-glass.jpg

Pining for Google Glass? You could snag your own pair today.

The tech giant opened up its "Explorer Program" to the general public for one day Tuesday, allowing any adult in the United States to purchase the technology for $1,500 plus tax on the Google Glass site. The limited number of Google Glass were available for sale starting at 6 a.m. PST -- 9 a.m. on the East Coast -- at this link.

The news of the sale created a buzz on social media, especially on Tuesday when many took to Twitter to either praise Glass or complain about the price.

The announcement about the sale, made last week via Google+ and Facebook posts, came after The Verge posted that it had obtained documents that indicated that Google will open up its "Explorer Program," making the personal wearable computers available to anyone.

"Whoops. So... we’d planned to post this next week, but it looks like the cat's out of the bag now," Google Glass said in its post. "Over the past several months, we’ve been trying out different ways to expand the Explorer program. Some of you signed up at Google I/O, some told us what you would do #ifihadglass, some were referred by a friend, some joined through their school or university. Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new."

Currently Google Glass is not available for sale to the public. Anyone who is over 18 years old, is a U.S. resident with a U.S. shipping address, can sign up for the restricted Google Glass Explorer Program.

Google said in its post that it will open up some spots in the Glass Explorer Program on April 15, without specifying exactly how many. They are even throwing in people's favorite shades or frames, thanks to feedback from current explorers.

As for everyone outside the U.S., here's what Google had to say:

"Sorry [sad emoticon] We’re just not ready yet to bring Glass to other countries."


Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Martian Flying Saucer is Real Enough for NASA]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 11:48:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/rocket-sled-test-nasa-saucer.gif

The flying saucers of science fiction movies might be the shape of things to come for future Mars missions that are expected to involve larger payloads that today's landing vehicles are not equipped to handle.

The saucer-shaped landing systems in development, part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will be sent into near-space in June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

Scientists provided a mission overview in a "clean room" Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Reporters were required to wear lab suits and hats.

"If you want to land bigger and bigger payloads, you need ways of growing the size of the vehicle to create more drag," said JPL's principal investigator Ian Clark, likening the vehicle to a puffer fish.

Current landing technologies rely primarily on parachute designs dating to the 1970s Viking Program. That design placed two landers on Mars in 1976 and the same basic technology was used about 35 years later when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars' surface.

After a parachute deployed high above Mars' surface, rocket thrusters were used to slow Curiosity's landing vehicle. The rover was then dropped by cables from the spacecraft and gently placed on the landing site before the tethers were disconnected and the spacecraft soared clear of the site.

NASA's landing vehicles in development would use the saucer shape to maximize atmospheric drag -- slowing and stabilizing the spacecraft after it enters Mars' atmosphere for final approach, a process described as "six minutes of terror." Increasing drag would save rocket engines and fuel required for complex landing maneuvers.

Friction already slows a spacecraft considerably after it enters Mars' atmosphere during the first four minutes of entry. But the spacecraft is still traveling at about 1,000 mph at that point and decelerates to about 200 mph after parachute deployment, which occurs at about 300 feet from the surface, according to NASA.

Thruster rockets, giant airbag cushions and tethers can all be used for the remainder of the descent, but the larger payloads possible in future Mars missions require something more advanced. The decelerators being developed by NASA -- pufferfish-like inflatable devices and an improved parachute -- can almost double payload mass, according to researchers.

The concept was ground-tested using a rocket sled in June 2012. The balloon-like inflatable devices extend around the vehicle to increase drag. A large parachute would then deploy to scrub off more speed.

The parachute is so large it did not fit in a wind tunnel, so researchers used the rocket-powered sled test at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

The upcoming test flights will give scientists a better idea of how the technology works when the saucer is sent high above Earth. The vehicles could be used in Mars missions as early as 2018, according to NASA.

When asked what was so sensitive about the project that it needed to take place in a clean room, Clark laughed, "It is the only space we had available."

Photo Credit: NASA]]>
<![CDATA[Must See: Giant Tetris Game Draws Crowd]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 04:28:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pa-tetris_1200x675_219161155683.jpg Hundreds of Tetris fans got to play a super-sized version of the popular interlocking shapes game in Philadelphia on Saturday.]]> <![CDATA[Many Dodgers Fans Unable to Watch Games as Season Gets Underway]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 09:24:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/dodgersstadiumgame5.jpg

It’s déjà vu all over again for Los Angeles sports fans. Just like with the Lakers last year, Dodgers supporters are unable to watch their team unless they have Time Warner Cable.

Dodgers games are only being shown on the team’s new channel, SportsNet LA, which is distributed solely by Time Warner. Major television distributors DirecTV, Dish, FiOS, Charter and Cox do not have agreements to carry the station.

Frustrated fans can try to watch the game at bars and restaurants but many of them do not have SportsNetLA either.

“We live in LA and we can’t even get the local team,” said Rob Nevera, manager at Big Wangs in Hollywood. “We’re a sports bar, so when we don’t have the sports it has a negative impact on business.”

Some bars and restaurants have resorted to getting two television providers to ensure they have all the games.

“We want to carry everything,” said Erica Minor, a spokeswoman at 33 Taps in Hollywood. “We know some things aren’t on DirecTV so we have to carry Time Warner as well.”

Time Warner is paying $8 billion over the next 25 years to broadcast the Dodgers. They cover 30 percent of the Los Angeles area, leaving the remaining 70 percent in the dark.

Time Warner has launched an "I Need My Dodgers" campaign to try and put pressure on other providers to carry SportsNet LA. At this time there is no word as to when other providers will get the station, but negotiations are ongoing.

<![CDATA[Mozilla CEO Quits After Backlash]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 18:54:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/04-03-2014-Brendan-Eich.jpg

Mozilla's newly-appointed CEO Brendan Eich has stepped down following calls for him to resign over his support for California's anti-gay marriage bill Prop. 8.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's board chairman, announced Eich's resignation in a blog post on Thursday.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community," Baker said.

Eich -- who created the JavaScript programming language -- came under fire for a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to support Prop. 8.

Eich's donation came under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks, and a number of people -- including Mozilla employees -- took to Twitter to criticize him. The dating site OKCupid joined the protest, calling for a boycott of the FireFox browser.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it," Baker's post said. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better."

The Guardian reported that Eich has "repeatedly refused to discuss his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, saying that to do so would violate Mozilla’s principle of inclusiveness."

“I agree with people who say it wasn't private, but it was personal,” he said of the donation in a Wednesday interview. “But the principle that I have operated by, that is formalised in our code of conduct at Mozilla, is it's really about keeping anything that's not central to our mission out of our office."

The Guardian also reported that Eich donated thousands of dollars to Right Wing Republicans such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in the 1990s.

In a March 26 post on his website, Eich addressed lingering concerns about his stance on marriage equality.

"I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support," Eich said. "At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results."

Eich went on to detail Mozilla's commitment to inclusiveness, adding that he was committed to ensuring that "Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion."

In her post, Baker underlined the importance of "diversity and inclusiveness."

"Mozilla supports equality for all," she said. "While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better."

Twitter immediately reacted to news of Eich's resignation, with some asking asking whether the resignation was the best way to address the issue.

Investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesssen tweeted in support of Eich's contribution to technology, saying: "Brendan Eich is a good friend of 20 years, and has made a profound contribution to the web and to the entire world."

Others hailed the power of "clicktivism," praising OKCupid for its call to action.

<![CDATA[The Best April Fools' Jokes From Across the Web]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:55:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/chicken-april-fools86159934.jpg

Won't get fooled again? The Internet is full of so many April Fools' jokes that it's hard to trust anything online. Here are some of the most memorable hoaxes and gags from across the web on April 1.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton parodied his wife, Hillary Clinton's, Twitter photo, which has taken on meme status over the last couple of years. Hillary's photo is of her back in 2011 when she was Secretary of State. The black and white photo shows her texting in sunglasses on a military plane bound for Libya. Bill's photo is almost an exact replica, except he's perched where she used to be and is holding an extremely large iPad.


The tech giant unveiled a legitimate update for Google Maps' iOS and Android apps that lets users hunt Pokémon around the globe. There are 150 of the creatures hiding across the world map. When you catch one, it's tagged in a Pokédex, a digital encyclopedia for Pokémon. The update was announced on Google's Japanese blog on Monday. The blog features a nifty video that's sure to excite Google and Pokémon fans alike.

Google also launched a new app in its Chrome Web Store that allows cats to type on smartphones using their paws. Like the Google Maps app update, this app actually exists; it's not just a gimmick. Features include "four pawing modalities using your trackpad or touchscreen" and "cat translation technology (beta)." Google claims new apps are coming for dogs, fish, hamsters and dinosaurs. Squirrels weren't left out of the mix either...


The video streaming service is tempting users with a brand new original movie: "Rotisserie Chicken." Except there are no actors or elaborate plot lines in this one, just 73 minutes of a rotisserie chicken being cooked in reverse. It's available until April 2, so if watching a juicy hunk of poultry travel backwards in time to its original raw state is your thing, you've got only a day to watch it.

Oh yeah, and there's also a 20-minute movie called "Sizzling Bacon" that's exactly what it sounds like, and just like "Rotisserie Chicken," it's backwards. One reviewer praised "Sizzling Bacon" as "an absolute masterpiece and Netflix's best original yet."


The social news site announced a revolutionary new way to browse Reddit, dubbed "headdit." By moving his or her head, a user can browse different links in Reddit. A user can simply frown to give a down vote and nod vigorously to give an up vote. A look of surprise will open a web link. Presenting a cat in front of the computer initiates "cat mode" (what "cat mode" does, we're not quite sure). "Headdit" uses "hand equivalent action detection" to accomplish this innovative way of browsing Reddit.

Sadly, the announcement was just a joke, and no such technological feat has actually been implemented.


The professional networking site jumped on the cat bandwagon with its new "Cats You May Know." The fake website update, which was announced on LinkedIn's blog, is supposed to connect professionals on the site with the feline community, and vice versa. On the blog, Peter Rusev writes, "Cats You May Know is designed to give pawed professionals an opportunity to brand themselves, share their unique skills, and network with both humans and other relevant cats in their breed." Maybe the cats could use Google's new paw-friendly app to access this faux LinkedIn page.


The taxi app is offering its users in New York a major discount along the Second Avenue subway route. The ride has been discounted down to $2.50 — the same price as a New York subway ride — as an April Fools' Day promotion. The discount lets people ride between 128th and Houston Streets at the discounted price, a steep drop from the normal price, which can top well over $20, depending on traffic.

The taxi's route follows the long-planned Second Avenue Subway line in Manhattan. Known as "The Line That Time Forgot," it was first proposed back in 1929 and has faced significant delays in its construction ever since.


The European Organization for Nuclear Research, operator of the world's largest particle collider, has announced that it is changing the font of its website to the much-maligned Comic Sans. "This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement," said CERN Head of Communications James Gillies.

The laboratory celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It officially switches to the "round and squishy" font today. Chances are slim that it'll still be there tomorrow.

Domino's Pizza

The global pizza chain's British website announced an edible pizza box made entirely of crust. Described as "A world first in 'snackaging' innovation," the Edibox promised to transform pizza delivery and cardboard box recycling. To the disappointment of crust-lovers everywhere, Domino's tweeted that it was all an April Fools' gag.


Vegemite, the crude-colored food paste from Australia, makes many Americans' stomachs turn. But the yeast-based stuff — like its British counterpart, Marmite — is beloved by many. So it's no wonder that Vegemite's announcement that it's releasing a Vegemite energy drink was met with yays and nays on Facebook and Twitter. In the end, it was all just an April Fools' joke.  But that hasn't stopped wishful thinking from some.


The London-based restaurant chain announced via Twitter that it will be adding flavor to its utensils. The chain, which primarily serves Japanese ramen noodles, says it will introduce four flavors of chopsticks: soy, wasabi, chili and ginger. It's actually not a bad idea, but chances are the April Fools' concept won't stick.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook "Friend" Burglarizes Vacationers: Police]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 06:43:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/checkin1.jpg

Stacey Grant was so excited about a family spring break trip to Las Vegas -- their first in two years -- that she posted social media updates on her whereabouts.

What she didn't know was that one of her Facebook friends allegedly used that information to figure out the best time to break into her home, Fontana police said.

Her home was ransacked. The family was heartbroken after learning from police that their daughter's friend allegedly used their online connection to assist in burglarizing the family's home Tuesday.

"It was hurtful," Grant said, in tears. "My whole room was trashed, there were clothes everywhere. My bed was gone."

Police arrested Grant's Facebook friend, Michael Batson, 21, from Barstow, who she said even texted her on the first night of her trip and asked her how it was going.

Within hours of that text message, police called the family to let them know their home in the 16600 block of Windcrest Drive had been burglarized.

Police were already in the area when they noticed Batson, Phillip McKnight, 32, from Barstow and Tyrone Gibson, 20, from Los Angeles loading a U-Haul truck outside their home with the family’s possessions, police said.

All three men were arrested on suspicion of burglary, possession of stolen property and conspiracy. It was not immediately clear whether the suspects have obtained an attorney.

Police recommend making security settings extra tight.

"It serves as a reminder to be very careful of what you post on social media sites," said Martha Guzman-Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the Fontana Police Department.

<![CDATA[Texting-and-Driving Vigilante Exposes Distracted Drivers]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:53:18 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/03-25-2014-twitspotting.jpg

Meet the Bay Area man on a mission to embarrass drivers who text.

As part of his high-tech campaign to get drivers off their phones, a Silicon Valley graphic designer named Brian Singer has been snapping photos of people he sees texting behind the wheel.

“I was blown away by the number of people texting while driving,” Singer said.

Singer snaps the pictures and puts them online. He’s even put them on a few Bay Area billboards.

Experts say texting – or even checking texts – while driving is the equivalent of closing your eyes for a stretch of five seconds.

Singer said he noticed a lot of texting while he commuted to work, so he started the website TWITspotting.com. TWIT stands for “Texting While in Traffic.”

He said he does it because he wants everybody to stop texting.

“Everyone has that moment where you're distracted, eating a hamburger, picking something up off the floor,” Singer said. “But when I started really looking, it really blew my mind."

Singer, who insists he only takes pictures while he’s in the passenger seat, hopes the attention the photos are getting causes people to think twice before taking their eyes off the road.

So far, the website and billboards have been paid for by Singer himself. He says he would like to expand the program with backing from a larger organization.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Assemblyman Pushes for Aerospace Jobs in South Bay]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 20:48:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/198*120/01-hornet.JPG

A California assemblyman is leading the effort to save aerospace jobs in a district that was once, and in some cases still is, considered a hub for the industry.

At a press conference Friday, Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, joined executives of Boeing and Moog, Inc. to urge Congress to add F/A-18 aircraft to the Fiscal Year 2015 President's budget.

The program supports 60,000 jobs nationwide, a third of which are in California, according to Muratsuchi.

"The aerospace industry built the South Bay, and built the Southern California economy," he said. "It's very important to keep those jobs in Southern California."

The Super Hornet and Growler aircraft, part of the F/A-18 and EA-18G programs, were not included in the budget request Congress sent to the Obama Administration, according to Mike Gibbons, the program vice president.

But there is still hope.

"The chief of the Navy has specifically stated that he has an emerging requirement for more growlers, and he's asking congress to add 22 growlers to the budget."

Without those additional orders, the last F-18 parts could be manufactured and delivered to the final assembly plant in St. Louis at the end of 2016.

That could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs at the Moog corporation, which manufactures the electo-mechanical system that controls the wings of the Super Hornet and Growler aircraft.

"The family has grown up, in fact my daughter and my son (also work here) and ...it's been a great ride," said Greg Walborn, a senior engineering manager, has been with Moog more than 40 years.

<![CDATA[Twitter Celebrates 8th Birthday With #FirstTweet]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 08:53:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/162211003.jpg

San Francisco-based Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday with a #flashbackfriday trick that lets tweeps see their first post on the microblogging site.

Twitter set up a website, First-Tweets.com, to allow its estimated 214 million users to look back at their first 140 characters.

The move has users around the world reminiscing about their foray on Twitter. Since its start as a quirky messaging tool, the platform has taken off as a promotional outlet for news agencies, police, politicians and celebrities.

In a blog post, Twitter shared what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Twitter founder founder Jack Dorsey tweeted as novice users. Dorsey wrote: "just setting up my twttr." One of the more popular first tweets comes from Russian President Vladmir Putin, who congratulated president-elect Barack Obama on Nov. 7, 2012.

Check out your first post and have a look a few notable #firsttweets:

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Big Bang" Professor Speaks Out]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 10:56:24 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/03-20-2014-big-bang-prof.jpg

It’s been two weeks since Stanford physics professor Andrei Linde found out that his Big Bang theory was true, but he’s still reeling from the repercussions.

Since the announcement  was made public Monday, 2.4 million people on YouTube have watched Linde react to news that evidence from the BICEP2 experiment in the South Pole supports his cosmic inflation theory of how the universe began.

For many, the two-minute video felt more real than any glammed-up episode of reality television could ever be. Hundreds tweeted, Facebooked and GIF'd it, leaving no doubt that the news had sparked the beginning of many discussions on life, evolution and the universe.

Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, perhaps summed it up best in the New Yorker, explaining that the discovery could “allow us to peer back to the very beginning of time—a million billion billion billion billion billion times closer to the Big Bang than any previous direct observation.”

Linde called the media attention "a pleasant bump on the road."

“We are not exposed to this kind of attention, but that has changed,” Linde said Thursday. “We developed these ideas almost 30 years ago, nobody cared at that time, and only now they are being discussed seriously.”

So what exactly is inflation?

“Inflation is a brief stage of exponential expansion of the universe, which made the universe large and uniform, and produced the seeds for the large-scale structure of the universe,” Linde said.

He added that he is not entirely sure yet that his theory is true.

“I’m 95 percent convinced it’s true, but extraordinary statements need extraordinary proof. If these results are correct, they are among the most spectacular results in observational cosmology obtained in the 21st century. We should wait a little before they are analyzed and confirmed by other observers.”

As for his now-famous reaction on camera, Linde said that it was all real.

In the video released by Stanford University, assistant professor of physics Chao-Lin Kuo gets ready to deliver the good news to Linde.

“He has no idea I’m coming.”Kuo says into the lens, walking toward Linde's house.

“So I have a surprise for you,” Kuo tells Linde and his wife when they open their door. “It’s five sigma at point two.”

Linde’s wife, Standford professor of physics Renata Kallosh, says something that sounds like, “Discovered it?”

Then Linde asks Kuo to repeat himself again, and again, and then stops him mid-sentence, exclaiming: “Point two?”

Later, while celebrating over some champagne, Linde tells Kuo that the couple hadn't been expecting anybody and Renata had asked him whether he had ordered delivery from Amazon.

“Yeah,” he says in the video, “I ordered it 30 years ago. Finally it arrived.”

“My head is turning on my shoulders [since I found out],” Linde told NBC Bay Area Thursday. “There are some miracles about our world which do not allow us to sleep well … any results that support inflation, indirectly support the idea of the multiverse as well."

When asked where the discovery and subsequent validation of his theory falls in the pantheon of great scientific discoveries (Linde counts Einstein, Newton and Niels Bohr among his heroes), Linde said that although he wouldn’t compare it with quantum mechanics or the theory of relativity, it's really important to him.

“It’s changed our vision of life, the universe and our place in the world,” he said.

Photo Credit: via YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Stevie Wonder Touts Technology for Impaired]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 04:05:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Stevie-Wonder-SD-0320.jpg

Music legend Stevie Wonder was in San Diego Thursday, not for a performance, but checking out new gadgets showcased at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

The Grammy Award-winning hitmaker attended the event at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Diego.

There, he spoke with NBC 7 about the importance of assisted technology for those with disabilities and impairments, including visual impairment, such as Wonder himself.

“It’s always good seeing new technology that makes the world more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired,” Wonder told NBC 7.

“Imagine yourself not being able to see, and then all of a sudden, you’re able to get information that you would have never had available to you. That’s how important [new assisted technology] is,” he added.

Wonder made his way through the conference, visiting with friends and checking out gadgets. He wasn’t a keynote speaker or performing, just simply enjoying the event as an attendee.

In its 29th year, the conference filled an exhibit hall, highlighting products from more than 150 companies catering to those with hearing, reading and writing disabilities.

For instance, one product on display was a braille note-taking tool with a voice output system. Other examples of new technology included screen-reader devices that read out loud what is being typed.

The devices may look simple to some, but they can make a world of a difference for those who need it most.

Dinah Cohen has spent the last 23 years as the director of the Department of Defense’s computer electronic program, which provides these types of technology to wounded warriors. She also attended Thursday’s conference and said events like these are important in supporting soldiers returning home from deployment.

“I know when the first wave of wounded warriors were coming back, many had lost their vision, lost their hearing. And they had no idea where to start. And to know the technology is out there is step one of the recovery and process,” said Cohen.

Kathy Martinez is the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. Martinez says assisted technology helps her and others with their everyday tasks.

“Technology is the great equalizer. A lot of us cannot do what we do. I get upwards of 300 emails a day. Tthere’s no way I can ask someone to read them to me. So to have an iPhone or tablet that talks where I can actually hear what’s on the screen is critical for me to do my job,” she said.

Martinez says assisted technology also helps people with disabilities stay employed.

“That means we're paying taxes. That means were not on benefits and contributing to society," she said. "So accessible technology has a huge impact on society as a whole, not only on the person that has disability.”

The International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is in town through Saturday.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Mystery Tech Tenant]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 10:13:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/03-19-2014-sj-tech-office.jpg

Who’s the mystery tenant moving into San Jose's biggest-ever office park? That’s the million-dollar question everyone in Silicon Valley is scrambling to answer.

Speculation started flying as soon as San Jose city officials approved the 2-million square-foot office project on North First Street and Brokaw Road in North San Jose on Wednesday.

The list of potential occupants includes everybody from Seattle-based Microsoft and Amazon, to locals Apple, Google and Facebook.

So far, the only person at City Hall who reportedly knows the name of the company is San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and he’s not talking.

"The company name is not something that I can divulge." Reed told NBC Bay Area. "They’ve asked me to keep it confidential and I will, but it’s obviously a pretty big deal for 2-million square-feet, it’s an awfully large space."

Reed added that it was a Fortune 500 company and people will recognize the name when they finally hear it.

"It’s a Silicon Valley tech company," he said. "There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of companies growing and we want to keep them here."

The project’s developers, Palo-Alto-based Peery-Arrillaga who are also behind Stanford's new stadium and the HP and Apple campuses, are not talking either. The firm did not immediately return requests for comment.

Reed underlined the importance of developing the North San Jose area in a September 2013 traffic impact fee incentive recommendation for large-scale offices and R&D campuses, including Peery-Arrillaga’s proposed project.

“With its superior urban design features and proposed high densities [the proposed project] is an excellent example of how we can achieve the objectives of the North San Jose Development policy,” the mayor said.

He added that he was committed to supporting developments such as the Peery-Arrillaga project, which, "when constructed and occupied" will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to the city.

Peery-Arrillaga was able to secure permits for the project in just six months and got the city to forgo $4 million in transportation impact fees.

The scale of the proposed project itself -- it's twice the size of Facebook's Menlo Park campus and more than two-third the size of Apple's planned "spaceship" campus in Cupertino -- has sparked quite a bit of interest. The site, located near Highway 101, where the Bay 101 Casino is located, is expected to house 8,000 to 10,000 employees in 10 seven-story buildings. There are also plans for an activity center with soccer fields and courts for basketball, raquetball and squash.

Reed says that he doesn't expect the tech pushback San Francisco and Mountain View are currently experiencing, in part because not a whole lot of people live in that area of San Jose.

"It's going to be a very iconic development for the city and for Silicon Valley," said Steve Piasecki, the city's interim planning official. "...You are going to know where the heart of Silicon Valley is in the not too distant future."

Although Piasecki said that there was enough infrastructure in place to handle the traffic impact caused by the proposed project, the city has already heared from concerned residents.

The proposed project is expected to break ground sometime in 2014.

Photo Credit: Peery-Arrillaga]]>
<![CDATA[Rally Held to Fight $1B School iPad Plan]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 06:05:44 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/169621082.jpg

A rally for "Repairs Not iPads" was held Tuesday to fight a $1 billion plan in the nation's second-largest school district to put an iPad in the hands of its 650,000 students.

Community members claims that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy’s "proposal to spend the money on iPads is a vanity project that ignores the basic needs of students," according to a press release.

The tablets cost almost $700 apiece and are paid for by voter-approved bond money.

Former LAUSD Superintendent William J. Johnston and California Assemblyman Curt Hagman both believe that Deasy is misusing bond funds.

Johnston’s reasoning is that use of repair and construction bond money to fund the purchase of tablets for every student and teacher in the district is illegal.

Similarly, Hagman introduced Assembly Bill 1754 which aims to ban the use of school bond money for iPads.

Monica Garcia, an LAUSD board member, said that providing all LAUSD students and staff with iPads or laptop computers would not take away funding from essential programs.

"The iPad program is strictly an investment from our bond program, which is separate from our general fund," Garcia told NBC4.

School district officials faced an embarrassing glitch when the first round of tablets went out last year.

Instead of solving math problems or doing English homework, as administrators envisioned, more than 300 Los Angeles Unified School District students promptly cracked the security settings and started tweeting, posting to Facebook and playing video games.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Google Hangouts, Chats Restored For Some Users]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 12:44:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/466915567.jpg

Google restored service for some users after its chat services, which include Google Talk and Hangouts on Google+, went down on Monday.

The spreadsheet program Google Sheets was fully restored after it also experienced a "service disruption," the company said on its Apps Status Dashboard. Google resolved the issues for Sheets at 2:44 p.m. ET, the dashboard said.

Those trying to "GChat" were seeing messages that indicated recipients were not receiving chat messages, while chat tabs on Google+ said: "things are taking longer than expected."

An update on Google's Apps Status Dashboard at 12:22 p.m. ET announced a "service disruption" with Google Talk and Google+ Hangouts. Google announced the same issue for Sheets at 12:47 p.m. ET.

There was no word on what was causing the problems. In each case, the company said it was "investigating reports of an issue."


Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Apps, Gadgets Aim for Spring Break Safety]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 09:34:58 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/169937693.jpg

Spring break season is finally here, and thousands of college students are swapping their down jackets for bikinis and heading to resort spots.

Amid the crush of alcohol-fueled beach parties, it might be easy to forget about staying safe. Here's a list of easy-to-use gadgets and apps that aim to help you have fun and be safe.

1. Drinking responsibly.
College students can unfortunately be pretty immune to the idea of doing anything responsibly or in moderation, especially when alcohol is involved. But a high blood alcohol content (BAC) level could result in a DUI or worse.

Super tech-savvy drinkers may want to check out Breathometer, the world's first smartphone breathalyzer. (CEO and founder Charles Yim got over $1 million in funding from his appearance on the show Shark Tank and from an Indiegogo campaign.) The breathalyzer plugs straight into your iPhone or Android's headphone jack, and is priced at $49.

Other options that don't require a separate device are smartphone apps. If you're an Android user, AlcoDroid can help you keep track of all the drinks you've consumed – if you choose to log them, that is. iPhone users can download Last Call, a blood alcohol level calculator that also lets you call a taxi, or a local lawyer if you need one.

Although the results from BAC calculators are only estimates, they'll be able to help you pace your drinking and figure out whether or not you should get behind the wheel. (You probably shouldn't.)

2. Buddy system apps.
Whether it's checking out a bar or even hitting the restrooms, it's great to have someone with you to watch your back.

Cyber buddies are better than none: Circle of 6 is an app for iPhone and Android users that lets you message your six close friends if you feel like you're in trouble. You can send your GPS location with just a tap, ask a friend to pick you up or send a text that says "Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption."

Another good app to check out is SafeKidZone, which features include a panic button and a GPS tracking system for everyone in your family.

3. Testing for drugs in your drink.
It's a lot easier for someone to slip a drug into your drink than you might think.

To combat that possibility, several companies have crafted pocket-sized coasters that can test for the presence of incapacitating drugs in your drink. Just a drop of your drink on these coasters will tell you if your drink has been drugged. Texas State Technical College recently handed out 10,000 of these coasters to its students, just in time for spring break.

DrinkSavvy's drug-detecting cups and straws are also starting to make their presence known, starting in Massachusetts. These special cups and straws look and function just like normal drinkware, but they'll instantly change color if they detect such a drug in your drink.

4. Drunk text prevention.
Waking up to a slew of drunken texts after a night you can't remember is embarrassing and all too common. Good thing there are a bunch of self-censoring apps we can use.

Drunk Text Savior for iPhones will analyze your text message for spelling mistakes and swear words. A warning meter will let you know if you should click send, and a save option will let you save the message for later.

Stupid Phonecalls Blocker for Android users will only block one number, but it will block all incoming and outgoing calls, and incoming texts.

5. Getting home safe.
If you're looking for a designated driver, look no further than your smartphone.

StearClear (for iPhone and Android) and BeMyDD (for Android only) both provide pickup services: if you've already driven your car out that night, the app will dispatch two drivers to take you and your car home. BeMyDD also offers personal driver services that will drive you wherever you want, in your own car, at an hourly rate.

You can also rely on Uber to connect with drivers in the area. It's an on-demand service, which means you don't need to make a reservation, and you get picked up within minutes. Depending on which city you're in, you'll have different options for rates and vehicles.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Vetta]]>
<![CDATA[Bad News for Amazon Prime Members]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:52:01 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/amazon-453056767.jpg

If you've ever wanted to sign up for Amazon Prime, you have a week to do so before a big price hike takes effect.

The cost of a standard "Prime" membership is set to set you back $99, up from $79. The $20 rate increase is Amazon's first since the program launched nine years ago.

Prime membership has expanded over the years to include free two-day shipping, free video streaming and a Kindle lending library.

The online retailer detailed the price changes in an email to subscribers. If an existing member's renewal occurs before April 17, 2014, the subscriber will be charged the previous rate of $79 (and $99 for renewals thereafter).

Amazon student memberships will cost $49 and "Prime Fresh" memberships will remain at $299. Prime Fresh members get free same-day and early morning delivery of orders over $35, including fresh grocery and local products found on AmazonFresh.com. It's currently only available in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The standard membership price bump now makes Amazon Prime slightly more expensive than Netflix, which runs just under $96 per year, based on a monthly $7.99 subscription cost.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Feelings Are Contagious?]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 13:41:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/social_media_debate_president.jpg

New research from the University of California, San Diego, has found that feelings shared on Facebook – via negative or positive posts or status updates – are contagious among online friends.

The study, titled “Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks,” was led by UC San Diego professor of political science James Fowler and UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering PhD student Lorenzo Coviello, among several co-authors.

Published in “PLOS ONE,” the research analyzed whether happiness and other emotions are spread from person to person on social networks such as Facebook.

Using data from more than one billion anonymous status updates among more than 100 million Facebook users in the 100 most populous cities in the United States, the study found that positive posts beget positive posts, while negative posts beget negative ones.

According to the research, positive Facebook posts are more influential than negative ones, spreading the positivity among others. Each additional negative post yields 1.29 more negative posts among friends, while each additional positive Facebook post yields an additional 1.75 positive posts among friends, the study deduced.

In order to measure the emotional content of each post, UC San Diego says researchers used an automated text analysis software program called the "Linguistic Inquiry Word Count."

The study also found that rainy weather changes the mood of Facebook posts – and that mood change can be contagious. The research says rainy weather increases the number of negative posts by 1.16 percent and decreases the number of positive posts by 1.19 percent.

Upon analyzing friends living in different cities as those posting about the rain, researchers found that the moods of those being rained on impacted the moods of their dry friends.

“For every one person affected directly, rainfall alters the emotional expression of about one to two other people, suggesting that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony,” the study cites.

“Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends’ emotional expressions to change,” said lead author Fowler. “We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

Fowler said that in today’s digitally-connected world, it’s important to learn what can be transmitted through social media – including how much emotion can actually spread through social networks such as Facebook.

“It is possible that emotional contagion online is even stronger than we were able to measure,” he said.

This could have widespread implications, according to the researchers who write:

“[Emotions] might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.”

Researchers suggest their findings could impact public well-being.

“If an emotional change in one person spreads and causes a change in many, then we may be dramatically underestimating the effectiveness of efforts to improve mental and physical health,” said Fowler. “We should be doing everything we can to measure the effects of social networks and to learn how to magnify them so that we can create an epidemic of well-being.”

Additional co-authors of the Facebook feelings study include UC San Diego political science graduate student Yunkyu Sohn; Adam D. I. Kramer and Cameron Marlow of Facebook; Massimo Franceschetti, also of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School; and Nicholas Christakis of the departments of sociology and medicine at Yale University.

<![CDATA[Police Warn Parents of "Sexting" Teens]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 15:16:25 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cellphone-generic.jpg

After the third "sexting" incident in a month, a Southern California police department is warning parents of young teens about the dangers of sending sexually explicit photos or messages over their phones.

Sexual photos were found on the cellphones of three underage boys in Fullerton in the past month, police said.

One of those boys was allegedly molested by a 28-year-old math teacher at Nicolas Junior High School, police said.

In a separate incident, nude photos of an underage girl were discovered on a 12-year-old boy’s phone, authorities said.

"Images may come back to haunt you later in life as they may be accessible to your family members, significant others, employers and in some cases, even your children. Consider the consequences of your actions before you choose to act," Fullerton police Sgt. Jeff Stuart said in a news release.

A July 2010 FBI study found that 20 percent of teenagers sent or posted a nude or semi-nude photo online. While sexting is not a new phenomenon, officials said they’ve noticed a trend upwards among younger teens and are seeking to prevent situations that sometimes end in tragedy, such as suicide.

The department is urging parents and families to speak with their children to reinforce the message. Stuart said that parents shouldn’t be afraid to monitor their child’s technology and noted that it is a crime to send or receive explicit photos of a minor via text, email or social media.

"There have been occasions where if parents had been monitoring their child’s technology, they might have seen an inappropriate relationship developing before the actual abuse occurred," he said.

<![CDATA[Why the LIVR App Is Too Good To Be True ]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 13:09:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gizmodolivr.jpg

An app unveiled at this year's SXSW turned out to be a hoax intended to fool the media.

The parody app LIVR, named after the organ it will destroy while you use it, was billed as a social network that allows drunk people to meet other drunk people. Brandon Bloch, one of the creators behind the fake app, said the inspiration came to him while attending last year's Consumer Electronics Show.

"I was walking the tradeshow floor and saw apps that I thought were fake, but everybody thought they were real," Bloch told Gizmodo. "I actually couldn't tell if they were fake or real, and I wasn't sure if it mattered because everybody was so into the hype of it."

News sites and tech blogs around the web picked up the story as fact. But the Gizmodo report notes that there are a number of outlets who maintained a healthy dose of skepticism. Here are six reasons why LIVR was too good to be true:

A $5 Breathalyzer

To access the app, you're required to blow into a breathalyzer that plugs into the charging port of a phone and it will read your blood alcohol content (BAC). Once you meet the minimum BAC, you are good to go. However, $5 for a breathalyzer is too good of a deal. iOS breathalyzers attachments exist, but cost much more than $5. Breathalyzers are difficult and expensive to produce, Gizmodo notes.

Truth or Dare Game
This is a crowdsourced version of truth or dare, where you can post ideas for the game and dare people to accomplish a task. The more you participate in certain tasks, the more points are stacked up.

Drunk Dial™
With this feature, you can explore the opportunity of not having to accidentally drunk dial people in your personal address book. Drunk Dial™ will randomly connect two inebriated people, even if they are strangers.

Hot Spots
Hot spots show you the nearest bars and clubs in your area. The larger spots show busier venues based on how many people are using LIVR. Each spot on the map is color coded based on how intoxicated the users are. The darker the circle, the more alcohol has been consumed by people.

Blackout Button
The revolutionary idea of the Blackout Button is just too good to be true. This feature is designed to be used as the night comes to an end. Pushing this button will erase evidence of your misdeeds, meaning it will wipe out call history, photos and more.

Morning After Report
Alternatively, a "Morning After" report can be sent to other users so you can proudly show off your antics from the night before.

<![CDATA[CA Mulls How to Regulate "Driverless Cars"]]> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:54:22 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/172*120/152766339_8.jpg

Sooner or later, consumers will be able to buy cars that rely on computers — not the owner — to do the driving. 

Though the technology is still being tested, the day it rolls out into broad public use can now be measured in years, not decades.

With that timeframe in mind, California's Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday began puzzling through how to regulate the vehicles that haven't been fully developed yet.

Among the complex questions officials sought to unravel at the initial public hearing on regulations in Sacramento:

  • How will the state know the cars are safe?
  • Does a driver even need to be behind the wheel?
  • Can manufacturers mine data from onboard computers to make product pitches based on where the car goes or set insurance rates on how it is driven?
  • Do owners get docked points on their license if they send a car to park itself and it slams into another vehicle?

Once the stuff of science fiction, driverless cars could be commercially available by decade's end. Under a California law passed in 2012, the DMV must decide by the end of this year how to integrate the cars — often called autonomous vehicles — onto public roads. 

Three other states have passed driverless car laws, but those rules mostly focus on testing. California has mandated rules on testing and public operation, and the DMV expects within weeks to finalize regulations dictating what companies must do to test the technology on public roads.

Those rules came after Google Inc. had already sent its fleet of Priuses and Lexuses, fitted with an array of sensors including radar and lasers, hundreds of thousands of miles in California. Major automakers also have tested their own models. 

Now, the DMV is scrambling to regulate the broader use of the cars. With the federal government apparently years away from developing regulations, California's rules could effectively become the national standard.

Much of the initial discussion Tuesday focused on privacy concerns.

California's law requires autonomous vehicles to log records of operation so the data can be used to reconstruct an accident.

But the cars "must not become another way to track us in our daily lives," John M. Simpson of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said at the hearing. Simpson called out Google, saying the Internet giant rebuffed attempts to add privacy guarantees when it pushed the 2012 legislation mandating rules on testing and public operation.

Seated across from Simpson at the hearing's head tables was a representative from Google, who offered no comment on the data privacy issue. 

Discussion also touched on how to know a car is safe, and whether an owner knows how to properly operate it.

Ron Medford, Google's director of safety for its "self-driving car" project, suggested that manufacturers should be able to self-certify that their cars are safe. He cautioned that it would get complicated, fast, if the state tried to assume that role.

In initial iterations, human drivers would be expected to take control in an instant if the computer systems fail. Unlike current technology — which can help park a car or keep it in its freeway lane — owners might eventually be able to read, daydream or even sleep while the car did the work.

Responding to a question received over Twitter, DMV attorney Brian Soublet acknowledged that the department is still grappling with the most fundamental question of whether a person will need to be in the driver's seat.

Maybe not, by the time the technology is safe and reliable, he said.

Soublet asked who would ensure that owners know how to use the new technology. Should the onus be on dealers, manufacturers, owners?

Representatives of automakers suggested they shouldn't be asked to guarantee the capability of owners. John Tillman of Mercedes-Benz said the DMV could test owners on basics such as starting and stopping the automated driving function.

Automaker representatives also expressed concerns that other states could pass regulations that were substantially different from California, creating the kind of patchwork rules that businesses hate.

States outside California have been in touch and are following California's rule-making process closely, said Bernard Soriano, a deputy director at the DMV.

Other discussion centered on how vulnerable the cars could be to hackers, who might wrest control of the vehicles.

Industry representatives said that while that's a concern, they would vigilantly guard against such vulnerability because it would be disastrous.

DMV regulation writers will post draft language regulations around June, then alter the rules in response to public comment by fall in order to get them finalized by year's end, Soublet said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Teens Abuse Yik Yak to Make Threats]]> Sat, 08 Mar 2014 21:49:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/yik+yak.jpg

Concerns over abuse of the new Yik Yak app ranging from fake bomb threats to bullying hit Southern California this week as a prank threat posted on the app left thousands of students on lockdown while a bomb squad swept their campus.

The incident was the latest of three recent Yik Yak-instigated bomb threats , including two at a Massachusetts school. The third happened on Thursday at San Clemente High School in Orange County.

The school’s nearly 3,000 students were on lockdown for four hours. The app, which enables users to post anonymously, has angered some school officials. In Chicago calls for a ban spurred Yik Yak to disable the app.

Bullying on other social media platforms including Facebook and ask.fm have been linked to teen depression and suicide.

Marcus Walton, chief communications officer for the Capistrano Unified School District, which includes San Clemente, cautioned against blaming Yik Yak for the bomb threat prank.

“Social media is just one tool,” he said. “It’s not the tool that’s used, it’s the matter in which it is used…It’s the behavior that matters.”

In Los Angeles, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District said the district does not have a specific policy regarding Yik Yak. According to the LAUSD ‘s “Student Parent Handbook” the use of cell phones is prohibited “on campus during normal school hours.”

Yik Yak, which operates much like Twitter, has gained more than 240,000 followers since launching five months ago, according to USA Today. The app boasts “no profiles, no passwords, it’s all anonymous.”

According to the “Rules” section posted on the app, Yik Yak is intended for a mature audience, college age and over.
The apps rules sections says to “make sure that you are posting quality content. Herds of yaks are strongest when they work together and watch each others [sic] backs.”

Requests for comment from Yik Yak’s creators via email and social media were not returned.



<![CDATA[Netflix Customers Targeted in "New" Scam]]> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 21:24:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/blackberry-playbook-no-netflix-support-thumb-550xauto-84596.jpg

A recent phishing scam targeting Netflix customers was so bold it even took a security expert by surprise.

It started with a fake Netflix site, which Jérôme Segura, senior security researcher for Malwarebytes Corporation, found by chance. The URL included the word Netflix, followed by a string of seemingly random characters that tipped him off to the fraud.

He knowingly participated in the scam and recorded what happened in a video embedded below.

Segura immediately noticed that the customer care number listed on the imposter site was the same one he’d seen weeks earlier in another scam.

What was different: "They were urging me to call a 1-800 number for ‘support.'"

It is unusual for scammers to ask their victims to contact them directly.

This is “something that is completely new to me,” he said. “Normally after a phishing scam you get redirected to new scam.”

Segura made the call and was told his Netflix account was suspended because it had been hacked.

“I knew this was not right because I entered a fake account,” he said.

The scammers told him they needed access to his computer to help him install security software. He complied, using a PC set up with fake information.

The scammers then installed spyware enabling them to access and transfer his (fake) personal information and documents.

"They had me download what was called ‘Netflix support’ but there is no such thing as Netflix support software," he said.

They also requested a photo of Segura’s ID and credit card,

When Segura balked at the request, the “agent” on the line remotely turned on Segura’s computer camera to make it easy for him to comply.

At the end of the session the “agent” attempted to charge Segura upwards of $400 – minus a $50 "discount."

The unusually aggressive nature of the operation could be an indicator of the next wave of phishing scams, he said.

The site was up for two days before it was shut down, he said.

Netflix told NBC4 News in an email it would not comment on the suspected scam.

Scams are not specific to any particular provider or brand, Segura said. Consumers need to be vigilant and on their guard whenever they are online.

People who believe they are the victims of online phishing scams can contact the Federal Trade Commission.

Netflix Tech Support Scam from Malwarebytes on Vimeo.

<![CDATA[Google Barge Sets Sail in Calif.]]> Sun, 09 Mar 2014 17:36:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/googlebarge.jpg

The mysterious Google barge seen floating in the San Francisco Bay has docked in a city sometimes hailed as the "asparagus capital of the world," making its new home in Stockton, Calif.

"It's been a busy six months for our barge and it's grown tired of all the attention," a Google spokeswoman emailed NBC Bay Area. "So we are moving it to Stockton where it can have a break, enjoy the city's delicious asparagus and warmer climate, and get a bit of rest before its next chapter."

The barge, which contains some sort of mysterious project in the works that Google has yet to unveil, landed at Stockton's Navy Rough and Ready Island, about 75 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge, just about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday (PST). It's impossible to tell what's inside the four-story barge painted all in white, as the windows are taped up and security guards the entrances.

Despite the secrecy of what's inside, the port will house the Google barge for six months, with the tech company paying the standard dockage fee of about $12,000 a month, Port of Stockton Director Richard Aschieris said. The news is seen by some as a boon for the Central Valley city, which, in addition to throwing an annual festival celebrating the spindly green vegetable, has made headlines for filing for bankruptcy and fighting high crime rates.

"We're just so pleased they like our facility," Aschieris told NBC Bay Area.

The barge left Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay Area about 8 a.m. PST on Thursday and began lumbering across the bay to  the San Joaquin County seat.

Earlier this week, the Port of Stockton and Stockton officials knew nothing about Google's plans to move its barge. Aschieris said Thursday that the news was "just confirmed at 2 a.m. this morning."

Google was recently put on noticed by bay-watchers in San Francisco Bay that its barge would need to acquire permits or get going. Aschieris said he knew nothing about the permitting process in San Francisco, and housing the barge in Stockton did not require any special paperwork.

CNET, the first to report that the barge would be headed to Stockton, said that Google was poised to have to pay fees levied by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), a California state agency that manages bay waters.

Earlier this month, BCDC -- which had been for some time investigating whether Google needed a construction permit to complete the project at Treasure Island -- said that Google either needed to get such a permit, move elsewhere, or begin accruing fines that would top out at $30,000. The agency gave Google a 35-day grace period. CNET reported that the Port of Stockton falls outside the jurisdiction of the commission.

Meanwhile, CNET also reported that the construction on the barge went on hiatus in October because there were reported issues with the interior design. The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered that the large structure was supposed to be a large exhibition space, covered in sails, and would dock in various places.

As for peeking inside the mysterious Google barge, Aschieris said he didn't think he'd get any special inside look despite his position.

"I doubt it," he said.


NBC Bay Area's Shelby Hansen and Bob Redell contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Israeli Prime Minister in Silicon Valley]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 17:32:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/03-05-2014-netanyahu-brown.jpg

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a swing through the Silicon Valley to meet with high-tech leaders and sign a pro-business agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown.

During a meeting at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, the two emphasized their joint interests in cybersecurity, energy sources and water conservation, and suggested Israel -- an arid country with a growing population -- might be able to help California cope with its ongoing drought.

"California doesn't need to have a water problem,'' Netanyahu said. "Israel has no water problems because we are the number one recyclers of waste water, we stop water leaks, we use drip irrigation and desalination.''

Brown said he would welcome their ideas.

"Israel has demonstrated how efficient a country can be, and there is a great opportunity for collaboration,'' Brown said.

Wednesday's visit follows Netanyahu's meetings with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., on Monday and his appearance Tuesday at the Los Angeles premiere of a television documentary that features him.

This is the first California visit from an Israeli prime minister since 2006, and Netanyahu planned stops at Stanford University, Apple Inc. in Cupertino, as well as a meeting with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum, a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who sold his company to Facebook Inc. for $19 billion last month.

The agreement the leaders signed follows on several decades of commitments from California and Israel to promote trade, research and economic development.

"The best brains in the world are in Silicon Valley and Silicon Wadi,'' said Netanyahu, referring to Israel's tech startup region. And he asked Brown to help get direct flights between San Francisco and Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu also took a moment to talk about the reporters Wednesday of an interception of an Iranian arms shipment to the terrorists in Gaza.

He said the shipment would "rain death and destruction on Israeli civilians and our cities.''

"What this reveals is the true face of Iran,'' he said. "This regime must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons capability.''

He thanked Brown for divesting California's pensions from Iran.

There are hundreds of Israeli firms working in partnership with California companies, and in Silicon Valley ties are particularly tight, with more than 150 Israeli startups based there, according to the consulate general of Israel in Los Angeles. In addition, the California Israel Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Facebook, Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., eBay Inc.'s PayPal and others.

Joint Venture Silicon Valley President Russell Hancock said Silicon Valley has become a mandatory stop for state visitors; this year both the French and Haitian prime ministers have toured tech giants in the region. And he said the region has many interests in common with Israel.

"Israel is particularly strong in cyber-security, which makes sense given their strong military orientation, use of unmanned air vehicles, and their national security vulnerabilities,'' he said. "Security is also a valley strength, and destined to be a big growth area for us, so it's natural for there to be some convergence between us.''

On Tuesday night, Netanyahu attended the premiere in Los Angeles of "Israel: Royal Tour,'' the latest in a PBS series where heads of state give tours of their nations.

"Am I at the Oscars?'' Netanyahu joked, drawing a laugh as he spoke at Paramount Pictures' studio to a group of several hundred local dignitaries and philanthropists.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan]]>
<![CDATA[5 Ways RadioShack Could Reinvent Itself]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 14:12:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/radioshack2.jpg

RadioShack reminded us all why we love it last month with its '80s-themed Super Bowl commercial — but it wasn't enough to reverse the tide of poor sales. The retro retailer, whose roots are in providing components to build ham radios, plans to close 1,100 of its U.S. stores, it announced this week.

Here are a few ways the retailer could reinvent itself.

1) Appeal to maker culture.
Limore Shur, founder of the creative design agency eyeball, suggests RadioShack could reposition itself by going slightly higher-tech — while staying loyal to its DIY roots — by appealing to the DIY tech movement known as maker culture.

"It would seem they have a great opportunity to build off their history as a supplier of relevant materials to make electronics," Shur said.

Instead of trying to compete with big-box stores to sell the latest headphones, RadioShack should fill a niche need for customers looking to modify their 3D printers, fix their interactive LED screens, make their GoPros fly and build drones, he said.

"How great would it be to go into RadioShack and get a kit to fix your (or your daughter's) shattered cell phone screen?" he asked.

And to remove any lingering relation to the analog age, Shur suggests perhaps a change of name is in order: "MakerShack." Even the White House is going to stage its first Maker Faire later this year.

2) Make them all concept stores.

One area where RadioShack has shown growth has been with its Concept Stores, which it said aim to "attract tech-hungry shoppers who will find a new level of products, service and excitement in a store that makes the buying experience fun."

Those stores highlight what RadioShack calls "in-demand" brands like Apple, HTC, Beats Electronics and Samsung and include fixtures like a Speaker Wall to let customers compare products — you know, like a modern-day retail store.

3) Get Jeff Bezos to come knocking.
Quartz first suggested last year that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos should buy RadioShack outright. Now, seeing as the company's market value is below $300 million (for reference: Bezos paid just $250 million for the Washington Post), it wouldn’t be out of the question.

Bezos could take it a step further and turn the store spaces into Amazon "locker rooms," hubs for Amazon's locker delivery service that are also sports merchandise retail stores. Bezos could forge partnerships with local sports teams, letting customers pick up their Kindles or "Cards Against Humanity" games along with their Knicks tees or Chargers hats.

4) Become a mobile phone company.

As writer Steve Cichon very cleverly pointed out at The Huffington Post, every single item in  a RadioShack newspaper advertisement from 1991 (with the exceptions of the three-way speaker and radar detector) can now be replaced with a few taps of your smartphone:

So why not move to become a mobile phone company?

5) Go online-only.
RadioShack could cut costs by going online-only and get rid of the physical locations entirely by selling them to the likes of Starbucks.

The coffee giant bought tea company Teavana last year and opened its first tea bar in New York. Now, Starbucks plans to build 1,000 tea bars in the next 10 years. Why not make it 4,000?

What do you think? What should RadioShack do?

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Asteroid Will Be Closer Than Moon During Fly-By]]> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 10:10:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/asteroid20140304-640.jpg

An asteroid headed for Earth's general neighborhood will be closer than the moon Wednesday when it passes -- an estimated 217,000 miles away.

The asteroid, called 2014 DX110, is estimated at about 45 to 130 feet wide -- less than the width of a football field, but at least as big as the asteroid that injured hundreds of people when it broke apart above Russia last year. DX110 will be about ninth-tenths of the distance between the moon and Earth at its closest approach, expected at mid-day.

Relatively close approaches like this occur frequently, but DX110 is closer than most asteroids. A known asteroid passes between moon's orbit and the Earth about 20 times per year, according to Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A much larger asteroid, 2014 CU13, is expected to pass Tuesday within eight lunar distances -- the distance from Earth to the moon, which ranges by tens of thousands of miles over the course of the moon's orbit but averages about 238,900 miles.

Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]]>
<![CDATA[Facebook Is Looking for Full-Time Cop]]> Tue, 04 Mar 2014 17:19:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/209*120/facebook19.jpg

Facebook is poised to become the first private company in the country to bankroll a full-time beat cop, and several experts say this is likely a blueprint for many more similar partnerships.

“It’s safe to say this is unprecedented,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, the nation’s oldest police research nonprofit in Washington, D.C. “But this may be the model of the future.”

And while several experts think such arrangements are the product of what they call “good corporate citizenship,” critics are uncomfortable with the idea of a privately paid “Facebook Cop.”

On Tuesday, the  Menlo Park City Council will vote whether to accept Facebook’s offer to pay $200,000 a year for three years to pay for a “community safety police officer.” Facebook's headquarters is in Menlo Park, an affluent Silicon Valley city of about 30,000 considered one of the most educated cities in California.

“I find this particularly concerning,” said Alessandro De Giorgi, a justice studies professor at San Jose State University.

Giorgi worries about the ramifications of a private company paying for a historically publicly paid police officer. And in his opinion,  any money should go to fund education, not police officers whose job it is to arrest people – especially students - and put them in jail.

"I don't think there is anything ethically wrong with it," said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware. "But I don't think it's good government. The notion is that government services are paid for by everyone. This comes awfully close to naming rights. So, what will things be called now, Google City Hall?"

Supporters of the plan shudder at nicknames like Facebook Cop and Google City Hall. To them, this is simply a creative way to pay for a public good when tax dollars are increasingly waning.

"This is a generous gift," Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller told NBC Bay Area before the meeting. "And it's a way to keep the community safe." He noted that the contract will have the officer spending most of his or her time near the schools, and not patrolling the campus of Facebook.

Specificially, this particular police officer  would earn an annual salary of $108,000 plus perks and be tasked to help out school campuses and large businesses in planning security measures. The officer would also gather intelligence on gangs, taggers and drugs and run fire and earthquake drills for schools and surrounding businesses, according to the recommendation written by Menlo Park Police Commander Dave Bertini.

“They’d be a regular beat cop with a special assignment,” Bertini told NBC Bay Area.

The officer would work out of a new substation in the Belle Haven neighborhood, about a quarter of a mile from Facebook headquarters, but a socioeconomic world away.

This particular section of town is relatively poor, and the police officer would be a liaison to the school districts and large business campuses in the area. According to the city council agenda,  Facebook employees John Tenanes and Carla Gray came to the police department in October 2013, to offer to pay for such an officer after hearing the city needed help.

A Facebook representative wasn't immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.

He added that once Facebook gives the money, the company will have nothing to do with the hiring or disciplining of the officer.

“They are bending over backwards to be good neighbors,” Bertini said. “There is no quid pro quo here.”

Judy Nadler, the former mayor of Santa Clara and the senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, also has never heard of this particular relationship.

And she warned aloud that any city engaging in such a partnership must assure the public that “no priority is given to Facebook. The potential for the conflict of interest, if Facebook asks for an expansion or a waiver of a parking ticket” is certainly there.

But ultimately, Nadler said that as long as that there is are transparent assurances that Facebook won’t get any special treatment, then she supports these type of “commendable public, private partnerships. Especially when the school districts can’t afford the officer themselves.”

Bueermann, from the police foundation, said there are several examples of when companies pony up money for K-9  dogs, and paying for a human officer is just a larger extension of that.

“I’m not sure what’s motivating Facebook,” he said. “But Zuckerberg has been part of this philanthropic movement. I applaud them for their social consciousness.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA["Minecraft" Film in Development]]> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:06:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/NC_minecraft0725_test_mezzn.jpg

After the uber success of "The Lego Movie," another popular video game that allows you to utilize your imagination, "Minecraft," is also headed to a theater near you.

The game's creator Markus "Notch" Persson confirmed the news on Thursday in a Twitter post, saying, "Someone is trying leak the fact that we're working with Warner Brothers on a potential Minecraft Movie. I wanted to be the leak!"

Since its release on the XBox 360 Live Arcade in 2009, "Minecraft" has sold over three million copies on the XBLA alone and has spawned a myriad of versions and imitators. With no set goals, the sandbox game essentially allows players to create their own worlds.

Players use blocks to design elaborate structures during the day and at night, enemies the likes of skeletons, spiders and even zombies attack your creations. Able to be played in a variety of modes with multiplayer options, the game quickly became a huge hit. References in other video games such as "Borderlands II" and "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim," as well as "South Park" have ensured its place in pop culture. And with over 100 million users, it's safe to say "Minecraft" is as popular as "Grand Theft Auto" and "World of Warcraft."

"Minecraft" film will be developed by "The Lego Movie" producer Roy Lee (“How to Train Your Dragon,” "The Departed") and Jill Messick.