Hear about the challenges of using tech for good at Disrupt SF

Ride-hailing, social interactions from behind tiny screens and fitness tracking are just a few of the things we’ve all become accustomed to thanks to innovative app-makers. It’s not often that we think of tech serving society for good. But it’s time we do. Promise, mRelief, Pigeon.ly and Concrn are four companies that, from the start, […]

Ride-hailing, social interactions from behind tiny screens and fitness tracking are just a few of the things we’ve all become accustomed to thanks to innovative app-makers. It’s not often that we think of tech serving society for good. But it’s time we do.

Promise, mRelief, Pigeon.ly and Concrn are four companies that, from the start, set out to have a positive impact on society. The heads of these startups have identified issues that plague society and that few people take the time to consider. Bail reform, easier access to food stamps, communication with incarcerated individuals and helping people in need are not sexy issues. But you can utilize tech to try to fix them, and you can hear all about it at Disrupt SF.

The issue of bail reform has gained traction in recent years and has been espoused by the likes of California Senator Kamala Harris and Rand Paul, as well as civil liberties groups. That’s because 62 percent of the jail population is behind bars because they can’t afford bail. The premise of Promise is that it serves as a cheaper alternative to incarceration by partnering with counties to monitor the whereabouts of low-risk offenders via an app, rather than keeping them locked up until trial.

“People are going to jail because they look at a piece of paper and misread it, or are going to jail because they can’t afford a class because they’re instead paying child support,” Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Promise co-founder, told TechCrunch in March when the company raised a $3 million round led by First Round Capital, with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation participating.

Like Promise, mRelief is a service that partners with government. The company’s platform is designed to help cut through bureaucratic tape that can prevent people from accessing important services. Either using a web app or text messaging, users can determine their eligibility to receive food stamp services. Recent updates to the platform now let users in certain locations go through the entire application process using the web or SMS platform.

“Our mission has long been to restore dignity by transforming access to social services,” Rose Afriyie, mRelief co-founder and executive director, told TechCrunch earlier this year.

The company has helped more than 230,000 families since launching out of Y Combinator in 2016.

Incarcerated individuals are already cut off from society, and when calling friends and family is too cost-prohibitive, it intensifies the isolation. Frederick Hutson, CEO of Pigeon.ly, started the company to help minimize those costs. Hutson, who served four years in prison for drug trafficking, knows all too well the burden this creates. Since the company was founded in 2012, its services have expanded beyond voice. It also allows users to connect to their inmates with photos and letters.

In San Francisco, there is an app that allows users to help people in need. Currently available only in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, Concrn was designed to provide an alternative to calling emergency services. If a user sees someone in emotional or behavioral crisis, they can use the app to report it to a trained Concrn Responder. This helps to alleviate stress on the 911 system and prevents people from unwillingly going into the medical system.

“Our focus has been to create economic opportunities for people in the Tenderloin community who have previously been marginalized or unable to access employment and also people who have experienced their own mental health crisis in the past,” Neil Shah, Concrn co-executive director, told TechCrunch last year.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Rose Afriyie, Frederick Hutson and Neil Shah will be on the Disrupt SF stage in just a few weeks to talk about using technology to effect change in a society that badly needs it.

The full agenda is here. Passes for the show are available at the early-bird rate until August 1 here.

Control everything you own with this $25 Wemo mini smart plug

These are the only smart plugs I use. They’re incredibly simple.

The WeMo Mini Smart Plug fits into any electrical outlet without obstructing others, allowing for two smart plugs to be placed into the same socket. Right now you can grab one for just $24.99, which is just a few dollars above the lowest these plugs have ever dropped.

The smart plug can be scheduled to turn on or off via the free WeMo app, allowing you to automate anything you plug into the device. The WeMo app also features an “Away Mode” which will turn the lights on and off at random to give the illusion of someone still being home. No matter where you are, as long as you have access to the app, you can control your home’s appliances and electronics straight from your phone. You’ll never have to worry again about whether you left the iron on or not.

WeMo recently announced HomeKit support for these as well, meaning you’ll be able to control them using just your voice and Siri.

See at Amazon

These are the only smart plugs I use. They're incredibly simple.

The WeMo Mini Smart Plug fits into any electrical outlet without obstructing others, allowing for two smart plugs to be placed into the same socket. Right now you can grab one for just $24.99, which is just a few dollars above the lowest these plugs have ever dropped.

The smart plug can be scheduled to turn on or off via the free WeMo app, allowing you to automate anything you plug into the device. The WeMo app also features an "Away Mode" which will turn the lights on and off at random to give the illusion of someone still being home. No matter where you are, as long as you have access to the app, you can control your home's appliances and electronics straight from your phone. You'll never have to worry again about whether you left the iron on or not.

WeMo recently announced HomeKit support for these as well, meaning you'll be able to control them using just your voice and Siri.

See at Amazon

Latest Samsung ads ridicule the iPhone X notch, lack of split-screen multitasking & SD card

“Does the X have a full-screen design without that notch?,” Samsung asks rhetorically in a new Galaxy ad.

The bashing continues as Apple today released three new anti-iPhone ads that poke fun of the infamous notch whilst ridiculing the handset’s lack of an SD card slot and split-screen multitasking.... Read the rest of this post here


"Latest Samsung ads ridicule the iPhone X notch, lack of split-screen multitasking & SD card" is an article by iDownloadBlog.com.
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Jeffrey Katzenberg’s NewTV closes a billion dollar round, says report

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new mobile video startup NewTV, which snagged Meg Whitman as CEO in January, has now closed on $1 billion in funding, according to a report out today in CNN. Investors in the round include Disney, 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros, Entertainment One and other media companies, with a combined $200 million investment, while institutional […]

Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new mobile video startup NewTV, which snagged Meg Whitman as CEO in January, has now closed on $1 billion in funding, according to a report out today in CNN. Investors in the round include Disney, 21st Century Fox, Warner Bros, Entertainment One and other media companies, with a combined $200 million investment, while institutional investors from the U.S. and China made up the rest.

The news follows a May report from Bloomberg, which said NewTV had then raised around $800 million. It had also said 21st Century Fox and Warner Bros. were investors.

Last fall, an SEC filing revealed WndrCo was looking to raise as much as $2 billion. That could indicate that the round CNN is reporting is still in the process of raising.

NewTV declined to comment, when TechCrunch reached them for confirmation.

Details are still fairly sparse on NewTV, which is being incubated by Katzenberg’s WndrCo, a holding company that’s also invested in startups including Mixcloud, Axios, Node, Flowspace, Whistle Sports, and TYT Network.

So far, we know NewTV aims to bring high-quality Hollywood production values and storytelling to mobile, but in a different format. Instead of producing regular-length TV shows, it aims to release content in “bite-sized formats of 10 minutes or less.” This will also involve custom-designed technology built specifically for mobile, it claims.

But it’s unclear why – beyond having Katzenberg and now Whitman’s names attached – this makes the company worth a billion dollar investment. The market for this type of content hasn’t really been proven out. After all, today’s youngest video consumers are happy with YouTube – their TV alternative of sorts – which is filled with short-form video.

And while YouTubers’ grasp of production values and storytelling chops may fall short of “Hollywood” standards, streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and others are filling in the gaps in terms of quality, and are growing sizable subscriber bases.

If there is actually demand for “high-quality short-form” video, it seems content producers could just sell to existing distributors directly.

It’s also unclear for now if NewTV aims to own and distribute its content to others, act as its own standalone streaming service, or plans for a mixture of both.

In any event, as CNN points out, even a large round like this is a small bet for the bigger media companies involved. In addition, they don’t want to miss a shot at backing Katzenberg’s latest – especially given his prior successes at Paramount, Disney and DreamWorks.

 

Meet with Greylock Partners for TechCrunch Include Office Hours this September!

TechCrunch will partner with Greylock for Include Office Hours on September 4th from 2-4pm. The day before TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, Greylock investors Sarah Guo, Saam Motamedi, Matt Heiman, and Seth Rosenberg will meet with underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs to provide key feedback and advice. Founders, apply here! Founded in 2014, TechCrunch launched the Include […]

TechCrunch will partner with Greylock for Include Office Hours on September 4th from 2-4pm. The day before TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, Greylock investors Sarah Guo, Saam Motamedi, Matt Heiman, and Seth Rosenberg will meet with underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs to provide key feedback and advice. Founders, apply here!

Founded in 2014, TechCrunch launched the Include Program in an effort to leverage the extensive TechCrunch network to facilitate opportunities for underserved groups and founders. The Include Office Hours Program is one such initiative.

TechCrunch collaborates with investors to host private 20-minute sessions with startups, where founders can ask for guidance on critical business issues. During September’s Include Office Hours, Greylock will be meeting with 24 companies. To be considered for a session with these investors, fill out this application.

Unlike previous Office Hours, TechCrunch is looking for startups in the following verticals: Enterprise, B2B, Healthcare, Security, Infrastructure, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, SaaS, Fintech, Digital Commerce, Travel, Real Estate, Marketplaces, Messaging, E-commerce, Gaming and Crypto.

Underserved and underrepresented founders include but are not limited to female founders, black, Latino/a, Asian, LGBTQ, veteran, formerly incarcerated and handicapped persons.

Let’s meet our investors:

Sarah Guo – Enterprise, SaaS, B2B, Healthcare, Security and Infrastructure

Sarah’s mission is to partner with founders to productize disruptive ideas, get advantaged distribution and build dominant businesses. Sarah invests in enterprise-focused opportunities in SaaS, B2B, healthcare tech and infrastructure and security. Sarah has led Greylock’s investment in Cleo and is on the board of Cleo and Obsidian Security. She also works closely with Awake Security, Crew, Rhumbix and Skyhigh Networks. She is an advocate for STEM education for women and the underserved.

Saam Motamedi – Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and SaaS

Saam works with entrepreneurs building the next generation of enterprise companies with a focus on applications, big data, AI and vertical SaaS. He works closely with Blend, Spoke and Avi Networks. Prior to Greylock, Saam co-founded Guru Labs, a startup that uses machine learning to turn credit card transaction data into sales for offline merchants by predicting customer preferences.

Matt Heiman – Fintech, Digital Commerce, Travel, Real Estate and Marketplaces

Matt partners with entrepreneurs building companies around fintech, digital commerce, travel, real estate, and marketplaces. He sourced and works closely with Greylock’s investment in Coinbase and several more companies not yet announced. Prior to joining Greylock, Matt was a growth equity investor at Lee Equity Partners, and before that worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, where he managed teams advising Fortune 500 clients across a number of industries.

Seth Rosenberg – Messaging, E-commerce, Gaming, Crypto and Marketplaces

Seth partners with entrepreneurs who are building consumer products and platforms, including messaging, e-commerce, gaming, marketplaces and crypto. Seth works closely with Mammoth Media, DIRT Protocol and companies that are still in stealth. Prior to joining Greylock, Seth worked as a product manager at Facebook, where he led Product for the Messenger Developer Platform. Before Facebook, Seth worked at Goldman Sachs in New York doing tech and media investment banking.

If you are an investor, partner or managing director at a fund interested in hosting Include Office Hours, email neesha@techcrunch.com.

3 Ways Your Kodi Box Could Be at Risk From Malware

kodi-tv-box-malware

If you’re a Kodi user who uses a vast array of add-ons, you need to be careful. You could be inadvertently exposing yourself to malware. Cryptojacking, botnets… there has been a long line of malware claims. We’re going to take a closer look at cryptojacking, explain how to deal with it, then tell you about two other forms Kodi malware you should watch out for. 1. Cryptojacking Cryptojacking is a relatively new form of malware that’s becoming increasingly common due to the growing value of cryptocurrencies. In addition to Kodi, you can find it on other apps in the Google…

Read the full article: 3 Ways Your Kodi Box Could Be at Risk From Malware

kodi-tv-box-malware

If you’re a Kodi user who uses a vast array of add-ons, you need to be careful. You could be inadvertently exposing yourself to malware. Cryptojacking, botnets… there has been a long line of malware claims.

We’re going to take a closer look at cryptojacking, explain how to deal with it, then tell you about two other forms Kodi malware you should watch out for.

1. Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is a relatively new form of malware that’s becoming increasingly common due to the growing value of cryptocurrencies. In addition to Kodi, you can find it on other apps in the Google Play Store.

In simple terms, a cryptojacker secretly runs on a host’s machine and mines cryptocurrencies without their knowledge.

On the upside, cryptojacking is not as dangerous as some other forms of malware; it’s not going to lock your machine and hold you to ransom or try and steal your online banking credentials.

But mining crypto is a resource-intensive task. It can eat through your bandwidth and computer processing power, causing your machine and network to slow to a crawl or even crash entirely.

Anyone who runs Kodi is at risk, but people who install the app on Amazon Fire TV devices are particularly vulnerable.

One strain of cryptojacking malware—called ADB.Miner—spreads through port 5555. The port automatically opens when you enable Developer Options, which is a necessary step for install Kodi on the Fire TV. It’s thought more than 17,000 devices are at risk.

The ADB.Miner malware mines the Monero cryptocurrency.

How to Protect Kodi From Cryptojacking

To protect yourself against cryptojacking on Kodi, you need to use TVAddon’s No-Coin Scan add-on. It’s based on the No-Coin browser extension.

You can find the add-on in the Indigo repo. It’s available through Fusion (fusion.tvaddons.co). Check out our beginner’s guide to Kodi if you’re not sure how to install repos.

Once you’ve installed Indigo, go to Add-ons > Indigo on the Kodi homepage, then scroll down to No-Coin Scan and click on it.

The scan will take a few minutes to complete. When it’s finished, it will either give your system a clean bill of health, or advise you on the correct action to take.

2. Subtitle Malware

In May 2017, researchers at security firm Check Point published a proof of concept video which demonstrated how malware hidden in a subtitle file could attack your computer.

The attack itself occurs when you download the file onto your computer from a subtitle repo. It’s especially troublesome because Kodi typically automates the download process; users often have no idea that the malware is infecting them.

Kodi treats the repos as a trusted source, meaning neither it, nor your anti-virus software, picks up on the malware as it enters your machine.

Check Point noted that VLC, Popcorn Time, and Stremio are also vulnerable to the same attack. It adds that many more media players could also be at risk. As a result, it thinks hundreds of millions of users are vulnerable.

Omri Herscovici, vulnerability research team leader at Check Point, said the fragmented nature of subtitle file formats were to blame:

“The supply chain for subtitles is complex, with over 25 different subtitle formats in use, all with unique features and capabilities. This fragmented ecosystem, along with limited security, means there are multiple vulnerabilities that could be exploited.”

Although Kodi has now closed the loophole, you could be at risk if you’re not running the latest version of the app. Kodi does not update automatically. If you’re running Windows or Mac, check for updates on Kodi’s website. The processes for updating Kodi on Android and updating Kodi on the Amazon Fire Stick are slightly different.

3. DDoS Botnet Attacks

In February 2017, one of the most popular Kodi add-ons in the world was found to be unsafe. Exodus, which at the time had millions of daily users, was an add-on which allowed users to access copyrighted material illegally.

To explain the full story, we need to take a step back for a moment.

Because Exodus was breaking the law, its then-developer wanted to remain anonymous. He was only known by his handle, Lambada. Rival developers copied his work and threatened to expose his true identity, creating a feud.

Instead of backing down, Lambada went on the attack. He added several lines of code to his add-on that automatically contacted a website.

Upon closer investigation, it was found the targeted websites were those of his adversaries. Lambada had created a DDoS botnet which every one of Exodus’ users automatically became a part of. It meant millions of people were inadvertently pinging sites without their knowledge.

Botnets are terrible for users because they can be used to spread malware, reduce your bandwidth, and have an untold number of privacy implications.

It should be noted that Lambada didn’t spread anything malicious. However, keep in mind that Exodus was one of the most well-known Kodi add-ons.

There are lots of murkier Kodi add-ons that can, and do, spread malware and other viruses. Some of the most common culprits are very old add-ons on your system that have changed their developer multiple times and forked versions of popular add-ons.

Are Kodi Video Streams at Risk of Malware?

At the 2018 RSA Conference, Kurtis Minder, CEO of security company GroupSense, gave a talk on the growing threat of malware on Kodi.

He claimed the two major delivery methods for malware were via the Kodi platform and its video streams.

However, his claims regarding video streams are questionable. Bogdan Botezatu, senior e-threat analyst at BitDefender, claimed he had seen such attacks in the wild since 2005’s Trojan.Wimad, that exploited DRM technology on Windows machines.

Hype vs. Reality: How Vulnerable Is Kodi?

All these stories raise the question: Are you really at risk?

Well, despite what some copyright advocates claim, many large security firms agreed that the risk level is quite low. Anti-virus developer Avast says it is yet to see any “Kodi-related malware risks in the wild.” BitDefender said the only significant threat was the previously-discussed subtitle threat.

The threat level is not zero, however. F-Secure noted that “most popular Kodi plugins […] seem clean. But there are at least some plugins that are clearly malicious.”

Of course, malware isn’t the only security threat facing Kodi users. Privacy problems arise from the unencrypted communication between the Kodi app and third-party add-ons, while there are still simmering legal issues if you use Kodi on Amazon Fire TV.

Read the full article: 3 Ways Your Kodi Box Could Be at Risk From Malware

How to set up third-party messaging services in Messages for Mac

How do you set up third-party messaging services on your Mac? Like this!

While many Mac owners primarily use Messages on macOS to chat with iMessage and even sometimes SMS, the app is capable of connecting to more services. You can link accounts like Google and Jabber to Messages and chat with your friends using the messaging systems built by those companies. Here’s how you do it.

How to set up a third-party message service in Messages
How to set up your Jabber account in Messages
How to choose a default IM application
How to set up a third-party message service in Messages

Open Messages.
Open Preferences.
Click the Accounts tab.

Hit the Add button. (Looks like a ‘+’).
Choose the type of account you want to set up.

Hit Continue.
Enter account credentials.

Choose which apps will be able to use the account, making sure the Messages is checked.
Hit Done.

How to set up your Jabber account in Messages

If you have an account with the Jabber messaging service, you can use it wit…

How do you set up third-party messaging services on your Mac? Like this!

While many Mac owners primarily use Messages on macOS to chat with iMessage and even sometimes SMS, the app is capable of connecting to more services. You can link accounts like Google and Jabber to Messages and chat with your friends using the messaging systems built by those companies. Here's how you do it.

How to set up a third-party message service in Messages

  1. Open Messages.
  2. Open Preferences.
  3. Click the Accounts tab.

  4. Hit the Add button. (Looks like a '+').
  5. Choose the type of account you want to set up.

  6. Hit Continue.
  7. Enter account credentials.

  8. Choose which apps will be able to use the account, making sure the Messages is checked.
  9. Hit Done.

How to set up your Jabber account in Messages

If you have an account with the Jabber messaging service, you can use it with Messages just as you would any other account. However, adding it to Messages requires a couple additional steps compared to a standard messaging account.

  1. Open Messages.
  2. Open Preferences.
  3. Click the Accounts tab.

  4. Hit the Add button. (Looks like a '+').
  5. Choose Other Messages Account.

  6. Hit Continue.
  7. Click the drop-down menu next to Account Type and select Jabber.

  8. Enter your username and password.
  9. If necessary, enter your server and port information.
  10. Hit Sign In.

How to choose a default IM application

  1. Open Messages.
  2. Open Preferences.
  3. Next to Default IM application, click the drop-down menu and select your application of choice.

About macOS Mojave

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac (sadly, no public beta for the Apple Watch). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

In macOS 10.14 Mojave, set to be released later in 2018, it appears that Apple has elected to remove the ability to add third-party messaging services to the Messages app. This means that in macOS Mojave and later, Messages will be meant only for SMS and iMessage conversations. You'll need to look to other solutions for using third-party services on your Mac.

Questions?

If you have additional questions about setting up third-party services with Messages on macOS, tell us in the comments.

Updates July 2018: Added a note about this feature being removed in macOS Mojave and removed the entry for AIM, as that service has been shut down.