Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Kindle Fire owners get free access to Washington Post

The Washington Post announced a new app on Thursday that gives Amazon Fire tablet users free online access to the paper.

Fire owners have free access to The Washington Post for six months, with no subscription required. Readers would then have to sign up to pay $1 for the next six months, and then they would pay a monthly fee. The monthly fee would likely cost about $3 to $5 per month, the Post said. 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper for $250 million last year.

"Digital reading opens up so many possibilities for experimentation, and the Washington Post’s new app offers an immersive news-reading experience that we hope our customers find engaging and informative,” Russ Grandinetti, Kindle's senior vice president, said in a statement.

The new app, designed with tablet readers in mind, has two editions released at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time. Readers will have access to high-resolution photos and graphics, a reading view for stories, photos and video and a bird's-eye...

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Where Paul McCartney, virtual reality and a 3D camera collide

Sir Paul McCartney is sitting less than five feet from me at a grand piano, singing his 1973 hit "Live and Let Die." When I turn my head to the right, his drummer is about six feet away. If I swivel 90 degrees, I can see the production crew hoisting cameras and running power cords behind the stage.

I’m on stage with McCartney and his band as he performs at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Except, I’m not actually on stage. I’ve never even been to Candlestick Park. I’m sitting in a conference room in downtown San Francisco with an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset snugly fit around my head and a pair of headphones wrapped around my ears.

The concert snippet I’m watching was filmed earlier this year using a prototype 3D camera developed by Palo Alto-based company Jaunt. The camera is a strange-looking prism about the size of a toaster that has lenses on each of its faces. With this technology, it can film in 360-degree stereoscopic 3D. The camera doesn’t just capture scenes; it...

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Facebook bus drivers vote to join Teamsters union

The bus drivers who take Facebook employees to work in the morning and home again at day's end voted to unionize, the Teamsters union announced Wednesday.

The drivers work for Loop Transportation, a San Francisco company that contracts with Facebook, whose headquarters are in Menlo Park. They have complained of long days, split shifts and wages too low for them to buy homes near their jobs.

Eighty-seven drivers will be joining Teamsters Local 853, Bob Strelo, president of the local, told the Los Angeles Times. He said 43 drivers voted in favor of joining the union and 28 voted against it.

“We are pleased with the outcome and we hope this victory now gives us a foundation and a presence in the tech industry for future organizing,” Strelo said.

Loop Chief Executive Jeff Leonoudakis said his company respects the drivers’ decision. “Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken,” he said in an emailed statement,...

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'Frozen's' Anna and Elsa part of latest campaign to get girls to code

Code.org has brought in the royal women of Arendelle to get girls interested in computer science.

In its latest initiative to introduce more girls and students from other underrepresented groups to coding, the nonprofit organization has teamed with Disney to launch a "Frozen"-themed computer science tutorial.

The tutorial features heroines Anna and Elsa from Disney's 2013 hit, which this year knocked "Toy Story 3" off its throne to become the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Launched as part of Code.org’s Hour of Code campaign, a worldwide effort to broaden participation in computer science, students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical “ice craft.”

Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org’s efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide.

Code.org’s Hour of Code is one of many recent efforts by technology organizations to encourage girls to take an interest in computer...

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Honk app gets tow trucks for drivers lacking roadside coverage

For those who can’t summon a tow truck through the company that made their vehicle, their motor club or their insurance provider, a number of apps are providing a hand.

The latest venture comes out of Santa Monica. Honk announced Wednesday that drivers nationwide can now use the company's website or app to request and pay for roadside assistance, including to retrieve keys locked in a vehicle, replace a tire or get a tow. The minimum price per request is $49, and Honk provides a guaranteed maximum price and an ETA during the booking process.

Honk founder Corey Brundage said he started developing the app last year after his fiancee left her car's headlights on one evening and drained its battery. He said he was frustrated by spending a day trying to negotiate prices and timing for a tow.

Since then, he said, more than 20,000 truck operators have joined his service, with competitive and sometimes better rates compared with roadside assistance firms. He said conversations with college...

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Uber: As drivers get perks, riders losing patience on privacy snafus

Negative news about ride-hailing service Uber continues to mount. Uber said Wednesday that an executive in New York City was under investigation for allegedly tracking a journalist's journey without her consent.

That follows reports that a top Uber exec — seriously or not — laid out plans to dinner-party guests for an Uber team to investigate journalists critical of the company, with a million-dollar budget. Actor and Uber investor Ashton Kutcher defended the dinner-party comments on Wednesday, writing on Twitter: "What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?"

But concerns among passengers about their privacy and safety is becoming a public-relations problem, and could spell trouble for Uber and its rivals as regulators from Illinois, Florida and elsewhere debate whether to give the ride-hailing apps the authority to operate.  Meantime, on Wednesday, Uber unveiled a series of discounts and perks for its restive drivers.

Among the latest developments:

— A BuzzFeed...

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