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Britain joins the US in banning uncharged smartphones from flights

Britain has now joined the United States in demanding that travelers have fully-charged smart devices before they're allowed to board flights.

 

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Britain's Department for Transport has said that, "in line with" advice from the US, prospective passengers can be harassed into proving their devices are powered up - otherwise they may not be allowed to board certain flights. "Passengers flying into or out of the UK are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel," the Department said in a statement.

 

It's likely to be viewed as a rather over-the-top move, much like the recent decision by US policymakers. As anyone who has had the pleasure of air travel will know, sometimes it's not always possible to keep your device charged up - especially when charging stations at airports can be limited. British Airways recently announced it would outright ban uncharged devices from flights before reversing the decision, and allowing passengers the option of having their phones or tablets forwarded to their destination in the mail.

Samsung investigating child labor claims in Chinese production factory

Korean electronics company Samsung is under fire due to suspicions one of its suppliers uses child labor to help keep costs down. The latest round of accusations are courtesy of China Labor Watch, a U.S. activist group that tracts illegal workplace behavior in China.

 

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Some employees in the Dongguan plant are reportedly under the age of 16, and work 11 hours a day, 7 days per week, while not receiving overtime pay. If the allegations are true, it's a tragic situation that unfortunately we seem to hear more information about.

 

"We are urgently looking into the latest allegations and will take appropriate measures in accordance with our policies to prevent any cases of child labor in our suppliers," Samsung noted in an emailed statement to Reuters.

Continue reading 'Samsung investigating child labor claims in Chinese production factory' (full post)

Amazon asks FAA for permission to ramp up drone development

When Amazon rolled out a glimpse at its Prime Air drones a while back, most of us though it was a hoax. Amazon appears to believe there may be a future for using drones to deliver products and is asking the FAA to let it develop drones.

 

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Amazon wants to be able to test drones outside of its testing sites designated by the FAA. By expanding its testing sites, Amazon says that it will be able to innovate more quickly. Currently to test a new design, Amazon has to travel to one of the six FAA approved sites around the country.

 

Ultimately, Amazon wants to be able to deliver packages weighing five pounds or less by drones. The retail giant says that 86% of the packages sold on its site weigh less than five pounds. Amazon also says that it has a drone capable of flying over 50 mph while carrying a five-pound package.

FTC says Amazon let kids make unauthorized in-app purchases

The FTC says that Amazon has made it too easy for kids to make in-app purchase using parents phones and accounts. According to the FTC, Amazon's in-app purchase system allowed children to make millions of dollars of in-app purchases that the parent didn't authorize. The FTC leveled this allegation against Amazon in a complaint filed Thursday in a US court.

 

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The suit was filed against Amazon in the Western District of Washington and is seeking a court order to force Amazon to refund money to parents for all unauthorized purchases made by kids. The FTC is also seeking a ban on Amazon's ability to bill parents and other account holders for in-app charges without consent.

 

The FTC wants to highlight a central tenant in this case and that tenant is that companies should get parents permission before charging for in-app purchases. Director of the FTC Consumer Protection Bureau Jessica Rich says that Amazon employees raised concerns about purchases by children years before Amazon changed any procedures. The FTC complaint also notes that the refund process is "unclear and rife with deterrents."

Elon Musk donates $1 million to the Nikola Tesla Museum

It wasn't too long ago that The Oatmeal was asking for funds to erect the Nikola Tesla Museum, going as far as asking the founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, for some help.

 

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Back in May, Musk replied over Twitter saying "I would be happy to help". He has now just helped, providing a huge $1 million for the project. Musk reportedly called up Matthew Inman (the man behind The Oatmeal) promising two things - first, a Tesla supercharger to be built outside of the museum, making the museum part of Tesla's massive, nationwide recharging network, and two - the $1 million for the development and construction of the museum.

 

The original crowdfunding campaign saw $1.3 million raised, which was enough to save Tesla's old laboratory from being torn to the ground. In order to make it into a museum, more money was required, with a rough estimate of $8 million required. This $1 million injection of cash is one great start for that though.

Uber driver allegedly flees authorities with three passengers onboard

A man named Ryan W Simonetti and two of his coworkers were in Washington DC recently where they hailed an Uber ride via the app. When the trio walked up to the Uber car, they noticed a DC Taxi inspector talking to the driver of the Uber car. As the inspector walked off, Simonetti says the Uber driver just drove off.

 

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The inspector turned on his lights and started to follow the Uber car according to Simonetti. The passenger told the driver the cop was following him and the Uber driver allegedly responded, "He's not a real cop." The driver then ran a red light and proceeded to drive above the speed limit. Simonetti said it was like an episode of cops.

 

The driver allegedly told the passengers he couldn't stop and let them out because he would get a $2,000 fine. "It was insane," Simonetti said. "I physically tried to force his leg to hit the brake. I ripped off his pant leg ... I said, 'Here's two options. You take this exit, or I'm going to knock the side of your head in. If we crash, we crash, but you're gonna kill us anyway.'" The driver eventually let them out of the car and continued to flee authorities. The matter is under investigation by law enforcement and Uber.

Antenna patent ruling threatens Motorola products in Europe

A German firm could have just forced Google's Motorola handsets off store shelves thanks to a new patent ruling.

 

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It was argued that Motorola's antennas infringe on a patent owned by German laser specialist company LPKF, and now a local court has just ruled in the latter's favor. At the moment LPKF hasn't decided how it will act, but it has the power to pull Motorola products if an agreement is not reached. The patent dispute surrounds a technology LPKF believes it has the rights to - Laser Direct Structuring - which cuts costs and simplifies creating patterns for antennas.

 

LPKF had previously filed against companies in China, but a court overruled the claims. "The more attractive a patent is, the harder you have to work to defend it," LPKF CEO Ingo Bretthauer said in a statement. "We will continue to fight for our patent in China and systematically take action against infringers outside China." A Motorola spokesperson said the company had "taken steps" to avoid interruptions in the supply line.

Lyft heads to New York City Friday despite legal issues

Lyft is a car-hiring app that lets normal people play cabbie to earn extra money. Lyft has been available in cities around the country for a while and it is set to expand into New York City this Friday. The catch for Lyft and the drivers that plan to drive for the service is that Lyft is not legal in New York.

 

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There are over 500 people signed up to drive for Lyft when it launches in Brooklyn and Queens this week. The issue for these drivers and Lyft with the launch is that it is not certified by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Drivers for Lyft risk having cars seized and high fines for working illegally.

 

In NYC, anyone offering rides for money without a TLC license is subject to $600 penalty and $185 in tow fees. Lyft thinks that these laws don't apply to ride sharing apps. "We don't believe any city law has the jurisdiction to do anything to these drivers," said Lyft cofounder John Zimmer. After a ride is over, Lyft will offer a suggested donation rate for the ride, said to be about 30% cheaper than a normal taxi.

Apple loses patent case in China clearing way for more legal action

Apple has lost a patent infringement case in China this week after Chinese courts upheld a patent owned by a Chinese firm. The court upholding the Chinese patent means that a legal case against Apple can now proceed. Apple took Chinese firm Zhizhen Internet Technology and the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office to court in an attempt to get a ruling that a patent on speech recognition tech being used by Zhizhen was invalid.

 

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The Beijing first Intermediate Court ruled in Zhizhen's favor according to a state run newspaper. Apple says that it intends to appeal the case and take it to the Beijing Higher People's Court. Zhizhen filed suit against Apple in 2012 claiming that Siri violated its voice system patents.

 

"Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri (speech recognition technology) and we do not believe we are using this patent," said a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman in an emailed statement to Reuters.

 

"While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen," the spokeswoman said.

Los Angeles receives first bitcoin ATM machines courtesy of Robocoin

Bitcoin payment processor ExpressCoin has rolled out two new bitcoin-to-cash ATM machines in Los Angeles, manufactured by Robocoin. To verify the transaction, customers need to enter an email address and submit a palm scan - and it's possible to purchase or sell bitcoins using U.S. currency or other popular forms of currency, according to reports. The machines are located in Hollywood and Venice.

 

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This is another major step forward for Robocoin, which has seen its ATM machines rolled out in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Las Vegas, and other select metropolitan areas. There are more than 30 Robocoin ATMs spread throughout the world, and that number will continue to grow moving forward.

 

"I regard the financial system in general and the players in that as our competitor," said John Russell, Robocoin founder, in a statement. "Western Union is on our cross hairs big-time... the process of wire transfers, international wire transfers - we're going to smash them, we're going to crush them. We're going to totally disrupt that environment, and that's what I'm most excited about."

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