Techpoket Techie World Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:46:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Apple to release updated AirPods with voice-enabled Siri Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:46:02 +0000

Image: lili sams/mashable

AirPod fans, rejoice! Apple is working on a major upgrade to its wireless AirPod headphones, according to a Bloomberg report citing sources familiar with the matter. 

Apple intends to make periodic updates to its AirPods as it does with iPhones and iPads, according to the story.  

The company reportedly plans to release a new model of AirPods with an Apple-designed wireless chip upgrade as early as this year. With the new model, owners will be able to activate Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri,” without needing to physically tap the earphone with their hand. The new device is internally known as “B288.”

An additional model, which may roll out as early as next year, will be water-resistant, meaning it can survive rain and splashes of water. Unlike the Apple Watch, however, it won’t be designed for submersion — so no swimming yet. 

If past predictions hold, these AirPods may be poised for success. In December, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted Apple would ship 26 to 28 million AirPod units in 2018, up to double the number of units shipped in 2017. 

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Honcker raises at least $15M from IAC as it takes on the car-leasing-on-demand market Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:42:49 +0000

The car leasing and rental market is forecast to be worth $124 billion in 2022, and today a startup that is hoping to get a piece of that action by making the process of leasing a car easier is announcing a Series A in its effort to get there.

Honcker — a New York-based startup that acts as an aggregator and search engine for leasing services, and platform for would-be customers to consolidate their data and application process in one place — has raised funding from IAC, the media and marketplace giant behind services like Angie’s List and Tinder, as well as Daily Beast and Vimeo.

Along with the funding, Honcker is releasing a new version of its app with more parameters to search for vehicles and get recommendations, a facility to break or extend leases and add co-signers to leases if needed.

Honcker’s new round comes in the form of a Series A and Honcker is not disclosing many details, but from what we understand the value is around $15 million — a relatively modest amount when you consider that Fair, another hopeful in the flexible ownership/leasing business, has secured up to $1 billion in debt and hundreds of millions in equity investments, plus some acquisitions, for its efforts.

Honcker’s path to growth is a little different, coming on a more modest funding base and with a different structure. Since raising a seed round of $3.6 million in October 2017 from Lead Edge Capital and Evolution, the company has had some interesting traction.

The company, founder and CEO Nathan Hecht told me, is focused on leasing new cars only and working with existing dealerships rather than holding the inventory itself (which is one way of keeping down costs). Today there are over 250 on the platform across eight states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and New York.

Because of its connection to existing car leasing companies, who ultimately hold a customer’s contract, Honcker’s users also typically follow the general leasing schedule, which is typically around 36 months, although Hecht says it’s getting shorter, and the breaking/changing option in the new app should also influence that.

The company has been growing 25 percent month-over-month in terms of transactions on the platform, and has up to now grown with almost no marketing spend and by word-of-mouth.

Honcker got its start, Hecht said, when he was working on a different startup (interestingly, another one based on temporality but of a very different kind: Dstrux was designed to create messages for different social media platforms that would self-destruct).

“I walked into a car dealership to try to lease a car,” he said. “I sat there a whole day but still went home without a car.”

He said he discovered a lot of shortcomings. The process was not only laborious, but didn’t favor the kind of choice that consumers want to have today: you had to know what car make you wanted from the start, but what if you were searching for a minivan and were open to different makes and models?

Hecht also noticed that there were no decent leasing search engines online, in the way that there are for shorter-term car rentals. “And I couldn’t get a monthly payment on the lease, they wanted additional credit applications and more in what turned out to be a long process of choosing vehicle and figuring out the paperwork.”

He said he left the dealership and reconvened with his team and got them to agree to pivot.

There is a clear opportunity to improve the leasing experience these days, and in the future. Many are questioning whether outright car ownership will be as palatable in a future where there are other transportation alternatives, and autonomous and other smart vehicles become potentially too cost-prohibitive to own.

But even if, as Hecht claims, the leasing market is the fastest growing segment of the new-car market right now, itself worth $160 billion in his estimation (that is, higher than the figures I quote at the start of this article from a research firm) that doesn’t mean that all companies going to to try to fix this now are hitting home runs. Among the many that have stumbled have included Beepi, Evercar and Breeze.

Hecht believes, however, that if you run the company “very lean” and stick to a specific goal without rampant expansion and over-leveraging with too much inventory, it’s possible to find success.

And it seems that IAC agrees. The larger firm has been an investor in startups with mixed success. One of its big bets, the TV startup Aereo, was shut down by regulators (but IAC isn’t giving up: it’s also backing Starry from the same founder). On the other hand, it’s had a wild run so far with Tinder, which was wholly funded and incubated by IAC.

Although IAC has a lot of first-hand experience in two-sided marketplaces in its own stables, this is the first time it’s getting involved (via this minority stake) in a car marketplace. Automotive, however, seems to be something it’s getting more interested in, perhaps feeling a little left out of the huge growth of Uber and Lyft. Last year, it also invested in a Series B for trucking startup Convoy, which is also backed by Y Combinator, Greylock Partners, Jeff Bezos and more.

The company has set itself a goal of getting involved in more of these kinds of opportunities to tackle new markets. “This year we will look to plant the seeds for future growth through the acquisition of smaller, earlier stage assets and to incubate opportunities both inside and adjacent to our existing businesses,” IAC CEO Joey Levin wrote in his shareholders’ letter earlier this month.

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Here Are Today’s Best Deals From Around The Internet Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:34:49 +0000

Looking for some home networking devices and computer stuff like modems, routers, range extenders, and SSDs? Need a case for your smartphone? Today’s best deals are exactly what you seek!

Before we kick off the individual deals, we need to let you know that Amazon has a giant page of networking and computer accessory deals available right now. If you don’t want to see our curated list of the best deals, then just head to this page and dig in. If you want to make it a little easier, we’ve already taken the time to go through each and every deal to find the best ones.

WD Black 512GB Performance SSD – 8 Gb/s M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive – WDS512G1X0C

WD Black 512GB Performance SSD – 8 Gb/s M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive – WDS512G1X0C

Buy Now At Amazon

If you’re looking for an absolute beast of an SSD, look no further than this one from WD. It has never been on sale for below $185 before, so today’s deal is definitely worth snagging.

Toshiba Canvio Connect II 1TB Portable Hard Drive, Black (HDTC810XK3A1)

Toshiba Canvio Connect II 1TB Portable Hard Drive, Black (HDTC810XK3A1)

Buy Now At Amazon

This portable hard drive is available at the lowest price it’s ever been today (the previous low was $48), so it’s time to buy!

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB Portable External Hard Drive for Mac USB 3.0 (STDS1000100)

Seagate Backup Plus Slim 1TB Portable External Hard Drive for Mac USB 3.0 (STDS1000100)

Buy Now At Amazon

Here’s another solid deal on portable hard drive for you. Like the last one, this one is available at an all-time low price, however, it’s has been available for fairly close to this price before, so the savings aren’t as massive.

TP-Link AC750 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender with High Speed Mode and Smart Signal Indicator (RE200 V2)

TP-Link AC750 Dual Band WiFi Range Extender with High Speed Mode and Smart Signal Indicator (RE200 V2)

Buy Now At Amazon

Spending less than $20 to extend the range of your home’s Wi-Fi seems like an absolute no-brainer.

Linksys WHW0301 Velop Tri-band Whole Home WiFi Mesh Node, 1-Pack Starter/Add-On Unit (coverage up to 2000 sq. ft), Router Replacement for Home Network, Works with Amazon Alexa

Linksys WHW0301 Velop Tri-band Whole Home WiFi Mesh Node, 1-Pack Starter/Add-On Unit (coverage up to 2000 sq. ft), Router Replacement for Home Network, Works with Amazon Alexa

Buy Now At Amazon

If you want to get started with a mesh Wi-Fi system, but don’t want to break the bank, this deal is for you.

NETGEAR PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 + Extra Outlet, White (PLPW1000-100NAS)

NETGEAR PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 + Extra Outlet, White (PLPW1000-100NAS)

Buy Now At Amazon

A powerline system is a great way to get wired internet in a room where you traditionally couldn’t. If wireless coverage is spotty, this could be your solution!

ASUS CM-32 Cable Modem Wifi Router (AC2600, 32×8) DOCSIS 3.0 with dual USB 2.0, Certified for use on Comcast Xfinity and Spectrum

ASUS CM-32 Cable Modem Wifi Router (AC2600, 32×8) DOCSIS 3.0 with dual USB 2.0, Certified for use on Comcast Xfinity and Spectrum

Buy Now At Amazon

If you’re sick of paying the cable company for a modem/router combination every month, Amazon has this one for its all-time low price (it typically sells for over $210).

NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Router with High Power 5dBi External Antennas (WNR2020v2)

NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Router with High Power 5dBi External Antennas (WNR2020v2)

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If you just need a basic router without any of the frills of the more expensive models, you could do worse than this one for less than $20.

NETGEAR Orbi Home WiFi System (RBK33) with NETGEAR CM700 (32×8) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem. Certified for XFINITY by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter (CM700)

NETGEAR Orbi Home WiFi System (RBK33) with NETGEAR CM700 (32×8) DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem. Certified for XFINITY by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter (CM700)

Buy Now At Amazon

This bundle comes with everything you need to create the most powerful Wi-Fi system on the block. There’s the full mesh system and the performance modem to go with it. Hook it up and never look back!

iPhone 8 Case [Also fits iPhone 7] – RhinoShield [CrashGuard] Bumper [11 Ft Drop Tested] No Bulk [ShockProof Technology] Thin Lightweight Protection – Slim Rugged Cover [Black]

iPhone 8 Case [Also fits iPhone 7] – RhinoShield [CrashGuard] Bumper [11 Ft Drop Tested] No Bulk [ShockProof Technology] Thin Lightweight Protection – Slim Rugged Cover [Black]

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Looking for a case for your phone? You can get this one from RhinoShield for 30% off right now. There are models for the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and Galaxy Note 8 available.

Pay What You Want: Mobile Cross Platform Development Bundle

Here Are Today's Best Deals From Around The Internet sale 7555 primary image wide
Want to learn to create killer mobile apps? This massive bundle of courses is just what you’ve been looking for. Spend a dollar or more and you’ll get Learn Mobile App Development with Ionic Framework. Beat the average of around $14.00, and you’ll get a total of nine courses that’ll teach you everything you need to know!

Looking To Do Some Shopping? Check Out These Killer Deals

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These $60 wireless headphones are on sale for less than $20 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:23:29 +0000

Wireless headphones are just a smart investment these days, so pick up this best-selling pair of Otium headphones for 69% off.

They’ve got everything you expect from a solid pair of wireless headphones. They can run for up to eight hours on a single charge, and you can connect to your device via Bluetooth from up to 30 feet away. You can skip tracks on your playlist and answer calls, and they’re even sweatproof for when you’re jamming at the gym.

They’re usually $60, but you can get them right now for only $18.69.

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Stealth space catapult startup SpinLaunch is raising $30M Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:22:02 +0000

What if instead of blasting cargo into space on a rocket, we could fling it into space using a catapult? That’s the big, possibly crazy, possibly genius idea behind SpinLaunch. It was secretly founded in 2014 by Jonathan Yaney, who built solar-powered drone startup Titan Aerospace and sold it to Google. Now TechCrunch has learned from three sources that SpinLaunch is raising a massive $30 million Series A to develop its catapult technology. And we’ve scored an interview with the founder after four years in stealth.

Sources who’ve spoken to the SpinLaunch team tell me the idea is to create a much cheaper and sustainable way to get things like satellites from earth into space without chemical propellant. Using a catapult would sidestep the heavy fuel and expensive booster rockets used by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

SpinLaunch plans to use a centrifuge spinning at an incredible rate inside a vacuum that reduces friction. All that momentum is then harnessed to catapult a payload into space at speeds one source said could be around 3000 miles per hour. With enough momentum, objects could be flung into space on their own. Alternatively, the catapult could provide some of the power needed with cargo being equipped with supplemental rockets necessary to leave earth’s atmosphere.

After some hesitation about emerging from stealth, Yaney agreed to talk to TechCrunch about his secretive startup, and show us the image of SpinLaunch’s hangar seen above. “Since the dawn of space exploration, rockets have been the only way to access space. Yet in 70 years, the technology has only made small incremental advances” Yaney tells me. “To truly commercialize and industrialize space, we need 10x tech improvement.”

SpinLaunch founder and CEO Jonathan Yaney

Until recently, few details about SpinLaunch have been available. SpinLaunch’s website is password-protected, and some Sunnyvale, CA job listings merely refer to it as a “rapidly growing space launch startup”. But last month, a bill was proposed in the Hawaii state senate to issue $25 million in bonds to assist SpinLaunch with “constructing a portion of its electrical small satellite launch system”. Hawaii hopes to gain construction contracts and jobs, and meet government goals for expanding space accessibility by helping SpinLaunch.

SEC documents show that Yaney raised $1 million in equity in 2014, the year SpinLaunch was founded, $2.9 million in equity in 2015, $2.2 million in debt in mid-2017, and another $2 million in debt in late 2017. Now Yaney confirms SpinLaunch has raised a total of $10 million to date, and that he’s personally an investor. As for the next $30 million, he says “The current status of our series A raise is that we are still taking meetings with potential investors and have not yet received an executed offer.”

Yaney has been co-founding startups since 2000, including TriVance and Moretti Designs. But a passion for aeronautics led him to become a 1000+ hour pilot, and start communications and imaging solar drone startup Titan Aerospace. It sold to Google in 2014 after receiving acquisition interest from Facebook, and Yaney began work on SpinLaunch to huck satellites into orbit.

Yaney explains that reaching orbital velocities typically “requires a rocket to carry massive quantities of propellant, leaving only a small fraction (a few percent) of the overall vehicle’s mass for ‘cargo.’” But SpinLaunch replaces rocket boosters with a kinetic launch system using principles “similar to those explored by several ground-based mass accelerators that date back to the 1960s. Modern adaptations include electromagnetic rail and coil guns, electrothermal-chemical guns, light gas guns, ram accelerators, and blast wave accelerators.”

NASA has investigated the possibility of catapult-assisted launches that fire off a track instead of a centrifuge, but none have become cost-effective enough to be successfully used to commercially launch things into space.

Yaney’s method is different. He says “SpinLaunch employs a rotational acceleration method, harnessing angular momentum to gradually accelerate the vehicle to hypersonic speeds. This approach employs a dramatically lower cost architecture with much lower power.” SpinLaunch is targeting a per launch price of less than $500,000, while Yaney says “all existing rocket based companies cost between $5 million and $100 million per launch.”

NASA has researched catapult-based space launchers that fire cargo off a track.

Two sources says physicists who’ve looked into the company said a potential challenge could be air resistance upon the cargo when the catapult fires. Earth’s atmosphere is so dense that it could be like the cargo was hitting a brick wall upon ejection. Any electronics or other sensitive materials in the cargo might have to be engineered to withstand intense G-forces. This all explains the pointy, aerodynamic launch vehicle shown in the photo up top.

Now it’s a question of getting that ship into space. “During the last three years, the core technology has been developed, prototyped, tested, and most of the tech risk retired” Yaney proclaims. “The remaining challenges are in the construction and associated areas that all very large hardware development and construction projects face.” Touching the heavens isn’t cheap, so SpinLaunch is talking to big institutional VC firms that could afford to fund successive rounds.

If SpinLaunch can overcome the technical barriers, it could democratize access to space by lowering launch costs. That could accelerate a new era of zero-gravity innovation, from space travel to mining to what we once thought of as mere science fiction

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Save 75% on this RAVPower portable charger from Amazon Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:12:03 +0000

Running out of juice on your phone sucks. Not having an outlet around sucks even more. There’s no need to deal with that stress anymore, because this normally $100 external battery pack is here to help.

On one charge, this power bank can provide full power to phones and tablets multiple times over. There are even enough ports to charge two devices at once, because we always have something that needs charging. You can charge it at home overnight so that it’s ready to help you throughout the day, and it even has a built-in flashlight for emergencies.

You can get this power bank for only $25.49—a 75% savings.

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Customer service bot startup Agent IQ announces $6.3 million Series A led by Sierra Ventures Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:01:32 +0000

If you’ve tried to deal with a bot before you can speak to a human customer service rep, you know how frustrating that process can sometimes be. Sure, there are basic tasks that can free up a human rep to handle the more difficult matters, but it can be exasperating when there is no easy way to talk to a person. Agent IQ, a startup that has developed customer service bots, acknowledges that problem and today it announced a $6.3 million Series A investment.

The round was led by Sierra Ventures with participation from CRCM and Rubicon Ventures. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $8.5 million.

Agent IQ has its roots in a Nike marketing program, which allowed customers to communicate with a bot by typing “Hey Nike” into their chat app. CEO and founder, Craig Davis says they began building on that early program, and they learned that just the bot or just an agent didn’t really work for many customers. It required a product that blended technology with humans.

He found by visiting countless customer service centers, the pain wasn’t just for the customers. Reps were bored answering the same basic questions repeatedly, which wasn’t fun or challenging for them. What’s more, when they did need to answer unique questions, it required accessing a variety of disparate systems. The agents had to have multiple windows open trying to juggle different content repositories to find the appropriate response.

Photo: Agent IQ

“We thought it was important to help the agent, suggesting responses based on past conversations and based what they picked up on new knowledge,” Davis explained. They also began presenting knowledge base articles dynamically based on the context of the conversation, using that power of artificial intelligence and machine learning underpinning their solution.

Davis understands that he is competing with giants like Salesforce and Oracle, but he says because his company’s solution is built from the ground up with the latest technology, it has a leg up on these usual suspects. “Let’s talk about AI piece. They have years of technical debt and their technology is overlaid on their customer service management platform. They don’t get seamless handoff and don’t get that closed loop AI learning [that we provide],” Davis claimed.

He’s also competing with startups offering a similar value proposition like Digital Genius.

The company currently has 20 employees and 14 customers, all of which Davis says are Fortune 1000 customers paying at least $500,000 a year. He says the company plans to expand on the sales side and to build out customer success teams using the new funds.

Featured Image: Getty Images

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How to Access and Use the Windows C Drive in Linux Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:00:32 +0000

You’re running Linux on your PC, but you also have Windows installed. It’s a dual boot, but sometimes you’d like to share data between the two operating systems.

But something is stopping you: Windows.

It seems that Windows 10 is locking the C: drive, leaving you unable to access data in Linux. So what can you do about it? Surprisingly, the solution is quite simple.

Why Access Your Windows Data in Linux?

Dual booters (specifically those running Windows and Linux on one computer) have a problem that affects Windows 8 and 10. When using the Linux operating system it’s impossible to access the Windows drive.

access windows c drive in linux

For example, you might have some images that you want to edit in Linux. Perhaps there is a video you want to watch; you might have some documents you wish to work on. Worst still, you might have downloaded a Linux installer while using Windows to save time.

But attempting to access the drive in Linux results in an error message. Typically, you’ll see a couple of boxes pop up. One will exclaim “The NTFS partition is hibernated” while the other will advise that it “Failed to mount” the device. So what are you doing wrong?

Hibernating Windows

Like a small woodland animal, Windows has a hibernation mode. This is employed in Windows 8 and 10, specifically. Shutting down Windows in the usual way will hibernate the system.

This essentially means that everything in memory is committed to the hard disk drive (HDD) for the duration of hibernation. When you come to switch on your computer (or open your laptop), it isn’t actually powering up; rather, it is restoring the data from the HDD back into memory.

You probably know that Windows has some other power management modes. These are:

  • Shut Down: The option to switch off your computer.
  • Sleep: A low-power mode that retains the current session.
  • Hibernate: Saves the current session to the HDD until the computer restarts.
  • Hybrid: A combination of sleep and hibernate, enabling a fast restart. It is usually disabled on laptops.

When you attempt to access your Windows partition in Linux, and you see the error message referring to the partition being “hibernated,” this is because the drive is locked to Windows. Vital data is stored on the HDD, awaiting the operating system being reinitialized.

Disabling Hybrid Boot on Windows

This method of putting the computer into hibernation instead of shutting it down is called “Hybrid Boot.” To get around its limiting effect on Linux dual booters, you’ll need to disable it. Three options are available here:

  1. Don’t shut down your PC to access Linux.
  2. Permanently disable Hybrid Boot.
  3. Delete the hibernation file.

These options are explained further below.

Restart, Don’t Hibernate

The easiest solution is to ensure that your computer has not gone into hibernation. Without hibernated data on your HDD, you’ll be able to access the Windows partition from Linux without any trouble.

Interestingly, when you use the Restart option in Windows, the computer does a full shut down. Rather than committing the session data to HDD, everything is closed down, then rebooted. As long as you’re quick selecting your preferred OS at the GRUB menu, you’ll be able to boot into Linux. Once running, browse to the Windows drive on your system HDD; it should now be accessible.

Disable Hybrid Boot

Rather than avoiding Hybrid Boot, it can be disabled.

access windows c drive in linux

First, open the Windows Control Panel by pressing WIN+R and entering control panel. Next, select Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Change what the power buttons do, then Choose what the power buttons do in the left-hand column.

access windows c drive in linux

Here, look for Change settings that are currently unavailable, then look for Turn on fast start-up (recommended). This will be checked by default; to disable the feature, remove the check, and Save changes.

In future, when you shut down your computer, it will do so properly, as older versions of Windows did. Note that doing this comes at the cost of slower startup times when you boot into Windows.

Delete the Hibernation File

An extreme option is to delete the hibernation file from within Linux. If you rely on this, the hibernation file, hiberfil.sys, is automatically deleted when the C: drive is mounted in Linux (although if you use an SSD, it should be disabled)

However, this will cause any unsaved work to be lost, so choose delete your hibernation file only after consideration.

To do this, open the Disks tool (usually found in the Accessories menu). Open this, then select the drive that contains your Windows partition. You should be able to identify this by the size and manufacturer of the disk. If you have multiple devices, check them all; you’ll spot the Windows partition as it will be formatted with the NTFS file system format.

access windows c drive in linux

When you have found the Windows partition, select it, then click the Gear button, and select Edit mount options.

access windows c drive in linux

At the top of the window, disable Automatic Mount Options. Then in the Mount Options box, input:


Confirm this by clicking OK, then enter your password when prompted. You should now be able to mount the partition in your Linux file manager and browse for the files you need. Even if Hybrid Boot is enabled in Windows, the hibernation file will be deleted. Great, eh?

Well, maybe not. What if you have a dual boot set up with Linux as the default option? A Windows Update will reboot your computer, sending it into Linux. If Windows Update runs without your knowledge, you could lose valuable data in the hibernation file. This could prove devastating.

A safer alternative would be to use the read-only mode for the Windows partition when accessing it from Linux. This will mean that any changes you wish to make to files must be saved locally on the Linux partition.

Sharing Data Between Windows and Linux

Whichever method you choose to work around the C: drive being locked to Windows, you’ll be able to copy, move, open, and edit your files. Although it’s straightforward to access the Windows C: drive in Linux, there are alternatives you might prefer.

  1. Use a USB drive or SD card to store data.
  2. Add a dedicated HDD (internal or external) for shared data.
  3. Use a network share (perhaps a NAS box) or USB HDD connected to your router.
  4. Employ your cloud storage as a network share.

All of these can be explored in more detail via our look at sharing data between Windows and Linux computers.

Note that it is also possible to view Linux data from Windows. You’ll need DiskInternals Linux Reader for this. Once installed, the utility will scan your HDD for Linux partitions, and display them in a Windows Explorer-like user interface. These files and folders can then be browsed and opened in Windows (if compatible).

Download: DiskInternals Linux Reader (Free)

Ubuntu to Collect Your PC Data: What This Means for You

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Indigo Fair raises $12M to connect wholesalers with smaller retail outlets with a smarter service Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:40:46 +0000

Max Rhodes was walking around that weird little parklet in Hayes Valley in San Francisco after taking a break from a five-year stint at Square to figure out what he wanted to do next — and he kept seeing Square registers everywhere.

It was spotting them over and over again in smaller retail shops dotted throughout the city that made him think about the connections between the average product maker — that kind of small group making a bespoke funny candle — and those retailers. That’s what prompted him to start Indigo Fair, a platform that connects those two entities in order to streamline the process of getting those products into smaller retail stores that are looking for just those kinds of weird candles throughout major urban areas. The company said it has raised $12 million in new financing from Forerunner Ventures and Khosla Ventures, with Forerunner’s Kirsten Green joining the board of directors.

“I started to think about the fact that you have all these stores adopting cloud-based PoS systems and inventory systems and, generally all their data is becoming available through their media profiles and inventory systems,” Rhodes said. “If there were some way that you could get all that data and know what is selling where, you could actually predict how well a given product is gonna sell in a store. That was the starting point.”

As so-called “big box” shopping increasingly shifts online, the theory is that there will be more and more niche retail outlets looking for interesting products that try to capitalize on the core original shopping experience, which is more social and curated.

Indigo Fair receives hundreds of applications from makers every week — though, as more and more tools become available to create more complex products, that’s probably only going to increase — and the team accepts about 5% of those applications. Part of the reason is to keep a good handle on the company’s growth and still make sure it has that curated feel for retailers, who know they are getting their hands on a good product. They send in some information and then start getting orders, print out a shipping label, and then start sending the product out to those retailers.

On the retailer end, the shops sign up and immediately have access to those products available through those wholesale makers. Indigo Fair aims to cut out the process of spending tens of thousands of dollars on trips to trade shows with makers to find the right products and then get them in their stores with the hope that they’ll sell. If you go into one of the stores on Valencia Street in San Francisco, you’ll probably find quite a bit of weird stuff that those stores hope to sell. Indigo Fair looks to try to streamline that process and make it easier to get those products in-house without all the travel and hassle.

Of course, even using public data as a starting point, gathering the data to make the model defensible is the harder part. After all, there are a lot of online platforms looking to empower wholesale makers to get their goods into the hands of consumers, though the company today said it’s actually partnering with Shopify and Square. But as the company gets more and more information about what’s selling, what isn’t, and who’s returning what, it gets a better sense of consumer demand for a product — and where to put it — to keep the cost for both of those entities down.

“In so many ways it’s the age old challenge of marketplaces,” Green said. “I think it requires you to be very scrappy, it requires you to find good customers that believe in the proposition and the potential for the product that they’re willing to start working with you in that regard. There is a lot of info you can readily access online today. Just having the patience and the commitment to try to put a bunch of that together on your own platform so you can start building the dataset is just some of the heavy lifting involved.”

Rhodes’ hope, amid increasing competition and different models and approaches like Simon — which wants to help startups get pop-up shops in malls — is that with his experience dealing with the problems first-hand, and with enough data, Indigo Fair will become a go-to service for both retailers and product makers. Rhodes, a former consultant at Bain who helped build Square Cash, with his cofounders Marcelo Cortes and Daniele Perito, look to lean on everyone’s experience getting an expensive umbrella in stores and selling it across North America to enable every product maker to get the same thing done.

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UPS is working on a fleet of 50 custom-built electric delivery trucks Thu, 22 Feb 2018 16:19:59 +0000

UPS will work with partner Workhorse, a battery-electric transportation technology company, to develop and deploy a fleet of 50 custom-built plug-in electric delivery trucks with zero emissions.

The goal is to make trucks that cost as much to buy as do traditional fuel-based delivery vehicles – even without taking into account subsidies. The Workhorse designed-vehicles, will be all-electric, and are designed to run on a single charge throughout a normal delivery day and then charge back up overnight.

Workhorse says they’ll have a 100 mile range, which is a good fit for in-city routes, and the trucks will first enter testing in urban areas in various parts of the U.S., including Atlanta, Dallas, and LA. The test will lead to fine-tuning, which will lead to a larger fleet deployment targeting 2019.

UPS’ goal with this is to help meet its corporate renewable energy and carbon footprint goals, as well as to hopefully reap benefits in terms of vehicle operation efficiency, and the cost of maintenance (which should be far less using all-electric trucks).

Featured Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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