Top tech stories of the day – Thursday 10 October, 2013

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Jeff Bezos biography portrays the Amazon CEO as a tempestuous genius –  Bloomberg Businessweek has published extensive excerpts from writer Brad Stone’s upcoming book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.

The ten-page article covers a smorgasbord of topics, ranging from the beginnings of Amazon to Bezos’ undiscussed difficult relationship with his biological father. It also details some of the inner workings of Amazon, including Bezos’ leadership group, which is reportedly known as “the S Team.”

Jeff Bezos biography portrays the Amazon CEO as a tempestuous genius

 

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Fitbit Force brings smartwatch features to a fitness tracker – Well, Fitbit had a little trouble keeping the wraps on its Force activity tracking watch. But the company is ready to officially unveil its latest wearable and plans to launch it in the coming weeks for $129.95. The Force borrows heavily from the aesthetic successes of the Flex, with its clean rubberized design and small dark display. That display, though, is where it sets itself apart from its more affordable predecessor. The Force is able to deliver detailed tracking information — not just represent your steps as dots — like the time and even (pending a firmware update) caller ID information when paired with an iPhone 4s or newer running iOS 7.

Fitbit Force brings smartwatch features to a fitness tracker

 

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BlackBerry may break up as buyout becomes less likely – Things are getting even worse for BlackBerry, with concerns that the buyout offer from Fairfax Financial may fall through and talks with other potential buyers turning stale. If BlackBerry is unable to find a buyer, it may be headed towards a breakup, where various company holdings are sold separately to the highest bidder.

BlackBerry may break up as buyout becomes less likely

 

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Hawaii shoots first in ‘Star Wars’-style laser timelapse – This three-minute timelapse video was shot at the summit of Mauna Kea, the 13,803-foot (4.2km) volcano in Haiwaii. Due to its position, the peak is ideal for space observation. It’s currently home to the Manua Kea Observatories, which are used for scientific research across the electromagnetic spectrum, and will soon play host to the world’s largest optical telescope.

In addition to aiding in the scientific quest for knowledge — and being a dead ringer for Star Wars‘ Ion Cannons — the observatories also make a fantastic subject for a timelapse. Photographer Sean Goebel spent seven days and nights over several months capturing the observatories against the spectacular constellations of the Milky Way.

Hawaii shoots first in ‘Star Wars’-style laser timelapse

 

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Chinese students allegedly forced to build PS4s at Foxconn for school credit – Not all internships are as easy as making coffee in exchange for a glowing reference. In fact, according to Chinese media, over 1,000 students from the Xi’an Institute of Technology have been working on the PlayStation 4 production line at Foxconn as part of a work experience partnership.

Apparently, the interns are treated much like employees, so apart from the work’s questionable relevance to future careers, they get paid and have something for the CV. All is not quite as above board as it sounds, though, for Foxconn has admitted to Quartz that some students were designated night shifts and overtime in disagreement with internship protocol. Foxconn says it’s taken steps to make sure it won’t happen again, and was keen to highlight the voluntary nature of intern participation.

Chinese students allegedly forced to build PS4s at Foxconn for school credit

 

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Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199 – Before 2012, Dropcam was a software outlet famous for integrating its camera tech into other people’s hardware. However, it knew that in order to grow, the company needed to get into the hardware business as well. So, it hired some of the team behind Cisco’s Flip video cameras to create the Dropcam HD — one of a few IP shooters on the market that offered 720p video at an affordable price. Little did the Dropcam folks know, of course, that the device would be a big hit, pushing revenues 500 percent higher than it’d ever experienced.

Dropcam Pro launched with better optics, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth for $199

 

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson says his criticisms of ‘Gravity’ are a compliment to its quality – After posting a series of humorous nitpicking tweets on Gravity last Sunday, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has taken to Facebook to compliment the movie’s quality. In the lengthy post, Tyson notes that he was “stunned” to see the media attention given to the tweets, before explaining his actions.

“What few people recognize,” says Tyson, “is that science experts don’t line up to critique Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Man of Steel or Transformers or The Avengers. These films offer no premise of portraying a physical reality.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson says his criticisms of ‘Gravity’ are a compliment to its quality

 

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Foxconn pressured thousands of interns to work overtime during PlayStation 4 assembly – In the race to have Sony’s PlayStation 4 console ready for launch, Foxconn pressured over 1,000 student interns to work overtime during the assembly process. After conducting an internal investigation, the component supplier recently admitted the violation to Quartz, vowing that “immediate actions” had been taken to bring the facility in question in line with Foxconn’s normal assembly line policies. Further, Foxconn is said to be “reinforcing the policies of no overtime and no night shifts for student interns” following the worrying discovery.

Foxconn pressured thousands of interns to work overtime during PlayStation 4 assembly

 

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Acer brings Haswell power to the new C720 Chromebook –  At $249, it’s slightly more expensive than the previous $199 notebook, but Acer appears to have addressed some of our issues with last year’s model.

One big problem was short battery life, which should be improved with the switch to Haswell, and the C7′s lengthy bootup times could be helped with the switch from SATA to a solid state drive. The C720 is also slightly thinner and lighter than the original C7, although it appears to still be based on the the same general form factor.

Acer brings Haswell power to the new C720 Chromebook

 

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Sony shrinks flagship Z1 smartphone to a more manageable size – Japanese carrier NTT Docomo has announced the Xperia Z1F, a new Sony smartphone based on this year’s Xperia Z1. The Z1′s standout feature was its 20-megapixel camera with a point-and-shoot-sized sensor, but where that model featured a 5-inch 1080p display, the Z1F’s has been shrunk down to 4.3 inches at 720p. Docomo says that this is to achieve a more comfortable grip in the hand, and the resulting device is just a little bit bigger than an iPhone 5S.

At 140g and 9.7mm thick, the Z1F isn’t the slimmest or lightest phone around, but its design is remarkably comfortable nonetheless.

Sony shrinks flagship Z1 smartphone to a more manageable size

 

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 ‘Breaking Bad’ prop auction raises close to $1 million – An auction on ScreenBid for props, vehicles, and costumes from Breaking Bad has ended, raising nearly $1 million in total. The highest bid was for Walter White’s copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which fetched $65,550 from a starting bid of $3,000. “We’ve been floored by some of these prices,” ScreenBid co-founder Jeffrey Dash told Variety.

Other notable bids included $26,750 for Tio Salamanca’s bell, $20,250 for Tuco Salamanca’s acrylic-sealed grill, and $9,900 for Walter’s briefs — first seen in the show’s pilot, and perhaps the most recognizable underwear in recent TV history. And gadget fans were even catered for, to an extent: Jesse Pinkman’s Hello Kitty edition Samsung S5230 brought in $4,600.

‘Breaking Bad’ prop auction raises close to $1 million

 

Thanks for reading,
Tom Peters.



Author: Tom Peters

Journalist. Digital enthusiast. Asking questions about media business models and writing for DailyTechWhip.com

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