Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
10 tech start-ups, ideas coming from UCLA, USC students

In an overflowing, sweat-inducing auditorium two weeks ago, start-ups founded by UCLA students took turns at the front to explain how their app and website ideas would change the world. Across town, USC students made their own pitches last weekend.

Sports fans could connect better. Bikers wouldn't have to deal with awkward balancing at stoplights. Communicating by voice, rather than text, could make a comeback.

The aspirations come from a UCLA program that gives start-ups led at least in part by students or recent alumni a summer stipend to polish their products, and a USC event designed to motivate students to dream ideas for a randomly selected industry in one afternoon.

What the students came up with offers a glimpse into what’s buzzing on college campuses. Hint: The dating app Tinder is popular.

Here’s some of what they pitched at Startup UCLA:

MintPak: A travel app that borrows on Tinder’s “hot or not” layout to help a person or a group of friends select a hotel. It asks users to...

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Alibaba IPO becomes world's largest ever

Alibaba Holding Group's IPO officially became the world's largest ever on Monday.

Underwriters who helped make the Chinese e-commerce network a public company exercised an option to sell off some extra shares, bringing the total haul from the IPO to $25.03 billion, from $21.8 billion.

The sum surpasses the $22.1 billion raised by Agricultural Bank of China when it listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2010.

The additional sell-off pumps up the windfall for Alibaba founder Jack Ma and nudges Yahoo's haul past $6 billion after taxes.

About 48 million extra shares were sold at the $68 price offered to large investors before the listing debut, Alibaba said in a statement. When shares started publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, the price leaped 38%.

On Monday, Alibaba shares were down 4.26% to $89.89 as the broader S&P 500 Index slumped about 0.8%.

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Dubs aims to make earplugs a 'fashion staple' by focusing on design

With an intriguing design accented by splashy colors, Dubs is hoping to persuade concert-goers, sports fans and anyone else exposed to piercing sounds that wearing earplugs can be about “cool” as much as maintaining healthy ears.

“In the new world, design matters,” said Fritz Lanman, an investor who’s made bets in Pinterest, Square, Teespring and now Dubs-maker Doppler Labs. “Sunglasses went from something that was prescribed by doctors to a fashion product, and that’s what we’re trying to do for ear protection.”

Doppler is planning to partner with fitness center SoulCycle, nightclub operator Tao Group and music festival Global Citizen to distribute reusable Dubs in the coming weeks. They’ll also be available beginning Nov. 3 at Best Buy for $25 -- one size fits most.

A pair of Dubs look like Bluetooth earbuds that lie flat against the ear and jet out toward the back of the ear. They’re black with a trim around them in aqua-green, blue, pink or white. Dubs have 17 tiny parts in them, but...

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Apple breaks record, sells 10 million new iPhones over the weekend

Apple sold more than 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models over the weekend, breaking a company record. 

The three-day total beat Apple's previous record, set a year ago, when it sold 9 million iPhone 5s and 5c models during their first weekend on sale. 

"Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend, and we couldn't be happier," Chief Executive Tim Cook said

Cook said supplies were short and that Apple could have sold "many more" iPhones if fully stocked. The company is working to fill orders as quickly as possible, he said. Many customers who placed orders for the new iPhone, particularly the larger 6 Plus, are facing shipping dates as late as November. 

Around the Southland, stock was extremely low for Plus devices on opening weekend. Several Best Buy and AT&T stores reported receiving no 6 Pluses. A few Apple stores had some 6 Plus phones, but they were limited to Verizon and Sprint models. 

Apple didn't break down sales between the smaller...

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Activision hires Rudy Giuliani to fight Noriega's 'Call of Duty' suit

Rudy Giuliani is back to denouncing "an evil, heinous criminal," as he put it. This time, it's Manuel Noriega.

Activision Blizzard Inc. has hired the former New York City mayor who presided during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to fight a lawsuit brought by the former military dictator of Panama over his depiction in the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”

Activision plans to file a request to dismiss the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, the Santa Monica company said.

Noriega is seeking royalties and damages for the use of his likeness in the hit video game without his permission.

Activision’s main argument is that Noriega’s fame derives from being a key figure in political events, not from any sort of “creative labor.” Creators of books, TV shows, movies and video games should be able to borrow from history to express context and add some “historical flavor,” according to Activision.

Courts have sometimes treated video games differently from other...

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Oculus VR unveils new prototype, 'sprinting toward' consumer version

 Virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR unveiled a new prototype Saturday that brings the company closer to releasing its first device to consumers.

Lighter and more believable than predecessors over the last two years, Oculus Crescent Bay “is not the consumer version” but “sprinting toward” it, said Brendan Iribe, Oculus’ chief executive. Crescent Bay includes 360-degree motion tracking, integrated headphones and improved ergonomics.

“This allows for sustained presence, and makes you truly believe you’re in a virtual world comfortably,” Iribe said.

He made the announcement at Oculus Connect, the 2-year-old Irvine company’s first conference for developers who make games and apps for Oculus devices. Oculus has attracted more than 130,000 developers and shipped about 100,000 prototypes to them across more than 130 countries, Iribe said. The latest development kit costs $350.

The conference, being held at the ritzy Loews Hollywood Hotel, reflected the glamour of Oculus’ parent company,...

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How did Alibaba's resounding stock market debut compare?

Alibaba’s stock popped resoundingly during its New York Stock Exchange debut Friday, suggesting that the Chinese online shopping middleman could have raised billions of dollars more during its initial public offering.

Alibaba raised $21.8 billion through the IPO by pricing its shares at $68. But the company’s valuation reached $231.4 billion as shares closed at $93.89 in open trading.

The 38% rise in the price of individual shares shattered the 26% jump recorded on average so far this year in debuts of new Internet and technology stocks in the United States, according to data from Dealogic.

While companies across industries usually seek a one-day pop of about 15% and see an average closer to 9% for massive IPOs, tech stocks have enjoyed bounces on average of more than 20% during the last four years. Back in the dot-com frenzy of the late 1990s, debuts sent stocks soaring an average of 86%.

Undervaluing itself to initial investors ensured that Alibaba would have a strong performance...

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Smooth debut for Alibaba after biggest U.S. IPO ever

Alibaba Group came out with a monster roar Friday as its shares began trading at $92.70, up more than 36% from its IPO price of $68. The rest of the day was relatively stable for the new stock, analysts said, falling a nickel below $90 for only a moment and peaking at nearly $100. 

That surge on the New York Stock Exchange instantly raised the company’s total market value from $168 billion to more than $220 billion. Alibaba had raised $21.8 billion in its hotly anticipated IPO, the largest in U.S. history. 

The $68 IPO price, set Thursday, cemented Alibaba at that time as at least the second-largest initial public offering in history, just behind Agricultural Bank of China's $21.9-billion IPO from 2010 and, in the U.S., beating Visa's $19.7-billion performance in 2008. 

The talk of investors since the company filed to go public in May, Alibaba's IPO was the hottest since Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013. Demand was high: During its two-week international road show, institutional...

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Alibaba sets stock price at $68 on eve of IPO

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. set its stock price at $68 a share — the top of its range — on the eve of its initial public offering, meaning that it is set to raise more than $25 billion and that the company’s overall value is higher than’s.

Hotly anticipated for months, the Chinese Internet behemoth’s IPO has ignited the kind of frenzied investor interest that inflamed Facebook in 2012 and Twitter in 2013. During the company’s two-week international road show, institutional investors rushed to place orders for shares, prompting Alibaba to raise its price range.

On Thursday afternoon, Alibaba set its final price of $68 a share. That was higher than its initial price range of $60 to $66 a share. On Monday, it raised its price range to $66 to $68.

Alibaba is often compared to EBay and PayPal, but its interests are much wider. They include banking, maps, cloud computing, an online music service and TV and film production.

It operates Taobao, Alibaba's biggest website and China's...

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Larry Ellison steps down as Oracle CEO, becomes chairman, tech chief

Larry Ellison, the adventurous billionaire who built Oracle Corp. into a technology behemoth, is leaving his position as chief executive, the company said Thursday.

Ellison will become executive chairman of Oracle’s board and also the company’s chief technology officer. Co-presidents Mark Hurd and Safra Catz are being promoted to co-chief executives.

"Safra and Mark will now report to the Oracle board rather than to me," Ellison said in a statement. "All the other reporting relationships will remain unchanged. The three of us have been working well together for the last several years, and we plan to continue working together for the foreseeable future. Keeping this management team in place has always been a top priority of mine."

Ellison plans to continue to work full time and focus on product engineering and strategy, said Michael Boskin, the Oracle board's presiding director.

"Safra and Mark are exceptional executives who have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to lead, manage and...

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A guide to Amazon's new Fire tablets, Kindle e-readers

Amazon updated its lineup of tablets and e-readers on Wednesday night, announcing two new devices and refreshing several others. The online retailer has been pushing an increasing amount of hardware, packing each of the devices with features that tout the benefits of purchasing from Amazon’s online store.

The Fire tablets, for example, will support sharing of apps, books, movies and TV shows between family members through a program called Family Library. One device could have multiple profiles with access to the same content or different devices could load the shared library. The new offerings come days after a rumor emerged that Apple plans to announce upgrades to its iPad lineup next month.

Fire HD

For $99, the 6-inch tablet could fit in a purse or a pocket, according to Amazon. It comes with a brighter screen than its predecessor and a more durable screen than its competitors. The Fire HD has cameras on the front and back, a graphics processor quick enough to play games and an...

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Apple iOS 8 arrives Wednesday, replacing iOS 7

IPhone and iPad enthusiasts, contain yourselves: iOS 8 is ready for download Wednesday.

Apple will release the next iteration of the operating system for the iPhone 4S or newer, the iPad 2 or newer, the iPad Mini, the iPad Air and the iPod Touch 5.

Though not as dizzying as last year’s upgrade to flat icons and slick animations, this year’s optional download of iOS 8 will deliver some new ways to create and consume content.

Most apparent will be the on-screen keyboard, which displays a row of suggested words as people type. Start tapping a-p-p-l, and then just tap on "application" (or "Apple") to automatically insert the rest of the letters.

The Messages app has a new microphone icon. Tap it to send a voice message. All recipients have to do is hold the phone to their ear and listen.

Video and group messaging are also improved. People can choose to let others see their location for a certain or indefinite period of time. From any screen, click the home button twice to quickly reach out...

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