Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Soaring SpaceX, Isaacson on Wikipedia, Asimov on creativity, and more

Here’s your supplemental weekend reading list (for when you’ve finished your Times.)

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is perhaps the most remarkable entrepreneurial success story in recent times. Quartz tells how SpaceX leapfrogged NASA to “become a serious space company.”

Walter Isaacson, the guy who wrote the Steve Jobs biography, has a new book, "The Innovators," a highly readable history of computer technology. The Daily Beast runs an excerpt, with a focus on Wikipedia.

In 1959, venerable science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote an essay on creativity. MIT Technology Review publishes it for the first time.

And for hard-core geeks, Ars Technica offers the 10-year tale of Ubuntu.

 

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Amazon's Fire phone flop: A watershed for investors?

Investors are losing patience with Jeff Bezos’ game. Amazon stock swooned Thursday and it’s diving deeper today after the company reported weak earnings and predicted a dismal holiday season.

Since Amazon began in 1994, founder and CEO Bezos has focused on category expansion, revenue growth and beating off or buying the competition – and not so much on profits, which have rarely exceeded the razor-thin.

Long-term investors have done extremely well by Amazon, some of whom have seen increases of several hundred percent as Bezos expanded far beyond retail into e-readers and tablet computers, cloud data storage, music and movie streaming, Hollywood movie production and more. Its new Fire phone, which went on sale in July, so far has flopped, and might mark a watershed for investor sentiment.

Zacks.com Friday mused on “Why Amazon Shares Crashed,” stating “Amazon has taken a very aggressive stand to maintain supremacy in its chosen markets, but whether it will succeed in these plans looks...

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California company imported Indian workers, paid them $1.21 an hour

Eight workers from India were paid as little as $1.21 an hour by a tech company in Fremont, Calif., over several months in late 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, as reported by the Associated Press.

As a result the company, Electronics for Imaging, which specializes in printing technology, agreed to pay $43,000 in back wages and government penalties. Electronics for Imaging, or EFI, said in a prepared statement that it “unintentionally overlooked” U.S. labor law and has "taken steps to ensure that this type of administrative error does not reoccur."

The workers were transferred from Bangalore, India, to help the company move into a new headquarters building. They logged as many as 122 hours a week without overtime with some earning as little as $1.21 an hour. California’s minimum wage at the time was $8 an hour.

 

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Apple to open 25 new stores in China in the next two years

Tim Cook is in China this week, where he announced plans to open 25 new Apple stores in its Greater China region in the next two years.

The chief executive made his remarks to Sina, a Chinese online media company. Currently Apple has 15 stores in its Greater China region, which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Cook met with Vice Premier Ma Kai and toured facilities that produce Apple devices. On Twitter, Cook posted a photo of himself laughing with a female factory worker as she assembled an iPhone 6.

"Great to meet talented people like Zhang Fan, who helps make iPhone 6 in Zhengzhou. An early highlight of this trip," Cook tweeted

After a short delay, Apple began selling the iPhone 6 and 6s in China on Oct. 17; the new phones were released in the U.S. and several other countries a few weeks earlier on Sept. 19.

Apple is keenly interested in increasing its footprint in China, the world's second-largest economy.

The Cupertino, Calif., company reported fourth-quarter results...

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Christian Bale a no-brainer to play Jobs, Twitter knits Fabric, more

Morning nuggets:

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin tells Bloomberg that Christian Bale did not have to audition for the part of Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic.

The Verge reviews the Nintendo 3DS.

Google gets a little break from the Germans, and buys some AI researchers, TechCrunch reports.

Wired says Twitter is introducing a new "platform" called Fabric. Hard to tell from the article just what Fabric is, but apparently it's important.

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Yelp adds hotel and winery bookings with new partnerships

Travelers often turn to Yelp to check out consumer reviews of hotels before they go on vacation, and now they can book a room directly through its site and app thanks to a partnership with start-up Hipmunk.

Yelp made the announcement on its official blog and also said it had partnered with CellarPass to offer winery reservations.

The moves are part of Yelp Platform, which encompasses a growing number of partner companies that offer their services directly on Yelp, including food delivery and spa bookings.

Yelp said that about 28,000 businesses in all major U.S. markets are available for booking on Yelp Platform; the San Francisco company said it would continue to expand in the coming months. It said it wanted to add new partners and categories of businesses as well. 

Roughly 250,000 transactions happened through the Yelp Platform in the third quarter, with more than 50% of them coming from mobile devices, Yelp said.

"It’s clear Yelpers love the convenience of booking and purchase...

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