Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
15 things to know about JibJab as L.A. start-up turns 15

As JibJab celebrates its 15th birthday Wednesday, the Los Angeles media company with a humorous edge is showing that it can keep up on the latest trends.

JibJab has risen from two brothers in a tiny Brooklyn office mastering email marketing to now 80 employees in Venice taking on animated GIFs, Santa Claus and “Sesame Street.” Here’s a look at 15 highlights from one of LA's oldest venture capital-backed start-ups, which says it’s profitable.

1. JibJab reached national prominence in 2004 by lampooning presidential candidates George W. Bush and John F. Kerry in an animation set to “This Land Is Your Land.” The video was seen millions of times in the first few days, becoming one of the first viral hits of the broadband age.

2. Then-ABC News anchor Peter Jennings named JibJab cofounders Gregg and Evan Spiridellis as “People of the Year” at the end of 2004.

3. The company still makes a comical year-in-review video annually. But the politically themed videos -- even when they became hits --...

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Protests propel FireChat app to top spot in Hong Kong

The most popular app of the moment in China and Hong Kong is a cross between WhatsApp and Twitter, made possible by a new networking technology.

Designed for friends to get in a touch with one another at crowded concerts and events, FireChat took off across the Pacific over the weekend.

Protesters in Hong Kong have been demonstrating against China’s move to limit voter choices in Hong Kong’s 2017 election for the territory’s top official. But China has been blocking access or censoring conversations on other social networks, including Instagram, limiting protesters’ ability to organize.

FireChat doesn’t rely on cell towers or a connection to the Web to work. Instead, it creates a "mesh network" in which one phone latches to another in a continuously growing chain using the phones' Bluetooth and wireless technologies. Two links in the chain must be no more than 75 yards apart. Once the app is downloaded, users post to a public forum similar to Twitter where people can see messages --...

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Hackers admit stealing data worth millions from Army, Microsoft, more

Two members of an international hacking ring pleaded guilty Tuesday for their roles in stealing $100 million worth of intellectual property and other data from the U.S. Army, Microsoft and several other technology companies, and two other people also have been indicted, the Department of Justice said.

“The members of this international hacking ring stole trade secret data used in high-tech American products, ranging from software that trains U.S. soldiers to fly Apache helicopters to Xbox games that entertain millions around the world,” Assistant Atty. Gen. Leslie R. Caldwell said in a statement.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday, says the defendants gained unauthorized access to networks belonging to the Army, Microsoft Corp., Epic Games Inc., Valve Corp. and Zombie Studios from January 2011 to March 2014 and conspired to use and sell information they stole.

It accuses them of taking information related to Microsoft’s Xbox Live and then-unreleased Xbox One; software that Zombie Studios...

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9? Microsoft goes straight to Windows 10

Skipping over Windows "9," Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 on Tuesday to steer far away from displeasure with the company's current computer operating system.

Expected to go on sale in the middle of next year, 30 years after version 1.0 launched the iconic brand, Windows 10 is the first built to power any size gadget from smartphones to TV screens, company executives announced Tuesday.

Tuesday's unveiling was geared toward large companies that drive Microsoft’s high-margin software licensing business.

The early details might not be enough to get those businesses excited about a major software overhaul, but they represented progress for the troubled technology giant, analysts said.

“This is a pretty audacious move for Microsoft,” said Rob Enderle, a technology analyst who used Windows 10 demos on Tuesday. “They are trying for something much bigger than they have ever done before.”

The user experience on Windows 10 more closely resembles classic Windows rather than the grid-style layout...

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Matchstick aims to undercut Chromecast with lower price, open platform

If $35 sounded like a good deal to be able to watch Netflix directly on a TV screen, try $18.

Google brought down the cost of accessing online content on a TV when it released the Chromecast a year ago, providing an alternative to costlier streaming-media boxes such as Apple TV and Roku. The Chromecast, which plugs into an HDMI port, allows a user to tap on a smartphone, tablet or computer app to beam content onto the bigger screen.

Now, a new company pitching itself as the anti-Google is releasing its own content-beaming device called Matchstick. It’ll retail for $25, but Kickstarter backers can get it for $18 with an expected delivery date of February.

Last year, Google drew scorn from app makers for its closed system requiring apps to have the company’s approval before they could take advantage of the Chromecast. Google later opened the door to all apps, though with specific rules and guidelines in place.

Matchstick is touting an open system for which software and hardware details...

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Apple's iPhone 6 clears hurdles in China, to hit mainland Oct. 17

Chinese consumers may be able get their hands on Apple’s iPhone 6 as early as Oct. 17, after the company secured regulatory approval from Chinese government.

“We are thrilled to bring iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to our customers in China on all three carriers at launch,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a statement released Tuesday. When Cook unveiled the company’s latest generation of smartphone in early September, mainland China was not among the first group of nations where the device went on sale Sept. 19.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China’s telecommunications regulator, cited security risks with iPhone 6 as the reason that caused the delay in approving a proper license for the device to be sold in the country, the agency said in a statement on its website.

“During our review, press reports accused Apple’s iOS of having 3 backdoor programs that can leak personal data,” the agency’s statement said. “An authoritative testing agency in China confirmed...

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GoPro gets a little cheaper -- and fancier -- with new Hero4 camera

GoPro hoisted its high-end offering further into the age of high-definition video with the introduction of the Hero4, its latest line of participant-sports-oriented video cameras. The company also lowered the price of its cheapest camera to $129 from $200, and freshened up parts of its entire lineup.

Action-sports enthusiasts are flocking to GoPro video cameras by the millions: the devices’ image-stabilization technology and wide lenses, mounted on helmets, sticks or boards, can produce a sleek, professional look unobtainable with hand-held smartphones.

Starting from zero a decade ago, the company is on pace to ship more than 3 million cameras this year and near $1 billion in annual revenue. The company went public in June at a $3-billion valuation.

GoPro cameras are designed to be used in wet, rugged environments. But the cameras have typically cost more than $200, limiting their appeal.

The new GoPro Hero, which shoots high-definition video, will cost $129 when it goes on sale Oct. 5...

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China's gray market hot for iPhones, even amid push for local handsets

It might not be easy for mainland Chinese to buy a new iPhone 6, but that’s not stopping plenty of people from dropping big bucks on one.

Apple has not received regulatory approval from mainland Chinese authorities to sell its latest handsets in the country, driving a frenzy for new iPhones on the gray market.

Scalpers located as far-flung as New York and Sydney have been trying to cash in by reselling the phones.

The new iPhones have been smuggled into mainland China in paper containers for cream pies and toothpaste, coffee and tea boxes; one man was even caught carrying eight devices in his underwear. A Wall Street Journal reporter noticed vendors with big suitcases outside an Apple store in Hong Kong, with a particular interest in the gold iPhone 6 Plus to take back and resell in China.  

In an interview with French news agency AFP, reseller Gary Yiu said iPhones could be resold for $2,580 in the mainland immediately after they were released. (The Apple phones are legally on sale in...

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Netflix users watching 92 minutes a day, but YouTube remains king

Netflix pushed out 7 billion hours of content from April through June, spread over the 50.05 million subscribers Netflix said it had as of June. That’s nearly 92 minutes of viewing per day per subscriber, according to a new research report from The Diffusion Group.
 
The average Netflix subscriber, accordingly, could have snacked on about two episodes of “Breaking Bad” a day and wrapped up the entire series in 31 days.
 
But the research doesn’t reveal who is watching what, specifically. Netflix doesn’t break out those numbers, nor does it publicize hours spent by age range. Subscribers also sometimes share their account log-ins with friends and family members including children, who in some families spend many hours being babysat by Netflix cartoons and family movies. 
 
Still, the Diffusion report is the latest to confirm that online viewing is chomping away at the time people spend watching traditional TV, which for now remains the most-viewed medium among U.S. adults.
 
The report found...

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Radiohead's Thom Yorke offers new album for sale -- through BitTorrent

Radiohead's Thom Yorke more than just surprised fans by releasing an unexpected new album Friday. He broke new ground by selling the downloadable release exclusively through BitTorrent, using a technology favored by illegal downloaders to deliver not just its content, but also a means to pay for it.

The eight-track album, "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes," sells for $6, about half the price of a major new release at Apple's iTunes Store. The album is being offered as a BitTorrent Bundle, a format that offers downloaders a free sample of its content -- in this case, a single and a video from the album -- before inviting them to pay to unlock the rest.

In a prepared statement, Yorke and Nigel Godrich cast the effort as a proof-of-concept for artistic self-determination.

"It's an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around," they wrote. "If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce...

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Apple responds to claims of bending iPhones, calling cases 'rare'

Apple Inc. has responded to complaints that the newest version of its flagship product, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, are vulnerable to bending in users’ pockets.

Reports have been surfacing on social media and on message boards that the new, larger phones are somewhat malleable, and that their frames can actually bend when left in front pockets.

In a statement, the company said bent iPhones are “extremely rare” with normal use. Only nine customers have come forward to complain to Apple about their iPhone 6 Plus being bent out of shape, the company said.

“Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy,” the company said in a statement, adding that the new iPhones are constructed from aluminum that’s “tempered for extra strength,” are reinforced in “high stress” areas, and undergo a series of tests, including “3-point bending” tests.

On Thursday, the company invited journalists to its testing facility.

“We chose these high-quality materials and...

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Bash bug on Apple, Linux computers leading to attacks, experts say

A program that comes pre-installed on Apple’s Mac and MacBook as well as millions of other computers has a flaw that could let hackers take control of the computer, cybersecurity experts said Thursday.

Hackers would gain access to everything on the computer, such as "sensitive information, confidential information, intellectual property, customer data, financial data – the list goes on – including the ability to make changes,” Kyle Kennedy, chief technology officer at data security firm STEALTHbits Technologies, said in a statement.

The Department of Homeland Security's computer security team also issued an alert about the bug, which cybersecurity experts said had the highest threat-level rating and required only minimal wits to exploit.

The affected program, Bash, is rarely used by anyone other computer programmers. It allows users to write coded text commands that translate to actions on the computer, from simple things like deleting files to complex tasks like changing network...

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