Netflix office goes on lockdown over report of a potential shooter, suspect now in custody

Alarming reports popped up on Twitter late Thursday of incident involving an armed individual at Netflix’s Hollywood office on Sunset Blvd. TechCrunch has confirmed with the Los Angeles Police Department that a call reporting a man with a gun first came in at 3:53 Pacific Time. According to the LAPD, there were no shots fired, no reports of injuries and the suspect in question has been taken into custody. Though some reports on social media appeared to contradict those details, the LAPD again confirmed that there is only one suspect and that suspect is in custody. As of 5:12 Pacific Time, Netflix employees reported being allowed to leave on foot though some areas remained closed as a precaution.

Netflix first moved into the historic Hollywood Sunset Bronson studio site in 2015 and expanded its lease on the space in 2017. The company shares the location with local news outlet KTLA.

#BREAKING: KTLA and Netflix are on lockdown after LAPD received a report of a person with a “deadly weapon” on the lot

— KTLA (@KTLA) February 15, 2019

This story is developing.

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Citizen expands its crime-tracking alert app to Baltimore

Depending on who you ask, Citizen is either a useful urban safety tool or a menacing glimpse into a self-surveilled police state, but either way, the app is coming to Baltimore. Citizen, formerly known as Vigilante, is a crime tracking app that offers geo-targeted alerts that notify users of dangers lurking nearby, from carjackings to kidnappings and every mundane horror in between.

Citizen launched first in New York City before expanding to San Francisco in 2017. The app pulls in public safety data, sifts it through its own editorial team and dispenses it out to relevant users based on their location. Citizen’s founder and CEO Andrew Frame told the Baltimore Sun that Citizen is expanding to the city both because its team has connections there and due to Baltimore’s reputation for crime. The city’s reputation for a deeply corrupt police department with sometimes fatal results was not part of that calculation.

“Given the escalating crime and lack of public safety resources, Baltimore was a great place to try something new,” Frame said of the new market. “Citizen can now help Baltimore residents in the way it has helped New York and San Francisco, with real-time notifications that let a user escape a burning building or rescue a four-year old from an abductor. Citizen, with its real-time information, may be just what Baltimore needs.”

Considering the popularity of services like Nextdoor, it’s hard to argue that people don’t want to know what’s going on around them just for the sake of knowing. The problem is that there’s no evidence this state of hyper-awareness does any quantifiable good and at least some evidence that it can actually put people, specifically people of color, at more risk due to implicit bias and racial profiling. For better or worse, that fact paired with the collective lack of concern over the demonstrable ills of asking untrained individuals to assess and report threats explains Citizen’s apparent popularity. “How to Record Great Live Video on Citizen: By broadcasting live, you can help Protect the World,” the company implored in a blog post for users last October.

Still, given that its first iteration got banned from the app store for actually encouraging regular people to intervene in crimes in progress, the company could be said to have matured, if by no choice of its own.

As we wrote when Citizen expanded to San Francisco, “People who get off on local crime updates on the evening news with probably love Citizen. So will catastrophists, or anyone else rapt by what feels like a hastening pace of global disaster. Nextdoor-lovers who thrive in a state of hypervigilance will feel right at home.”

Update: In a conversation with TechCrunch, a spokesperson for the company noted that while users can add …read more

'>How Umami Burger is leading the meatless revolution with the best-tasting 'Impossible' veggie burger we've ever had

Restaurant chain Umami Burger has three variations of the new Impossible Burger recipe, and INSIDER can confirm it’s an incredible new veggie burger. …read more

A ridiculously rare copy of Super Mario for NES just sold for over $100,000

An extra special copy of Super Mario for NES just sold for a mind-boggling $100,150.

Before you go digging through the attic to find your old copy to throw up for auction, you should know: the version in question here is super, super rare.

So what makes it special?

Super Mario has been released and re-released dozens of times in the past three decades. Even if we’re just talking about the original NES cartridge that came in a black box, there were eleven ever-so-slightly-different versions of the box shipped between 1985 and 1994. Some had tabs for hanging them from store shelves; some lacked a trademark symbol or two in the right spots; others had slightly tweaked graphics for the Nintendo “Seal of Quality” on the face.

The very first few runs, though, had a particularly obvious quirk: rather than being shrink-wrapped, they were sealed with just a little black “Nintendo” sticker at the top of the box. These early versions hit just a handful of test markets. Remember, Mario wasn’t a thing at this point — no one really had any idea what this game was about, much less the worldwide icon that Mario would become. So even amongst the super small number of copies that were distributed prior to the game’s wider launch in 1986, most people who got their hands on it wouldn’t think to keep it in pristine condition.

Wata Games, which certified this copy, pins the condition at around 9.4 out of 10. It also says that this copy is the only known “sticker sealed” one still in existence, and that even the sticker itself is somehow in tip-top shape. Wata has a breakdown of the many variations of Super Mario prints and reprints here.

$100,000 is a hefty chunk of change to drop on a game, and a press release from Heritage Auction house says the purchase was actually a joint effort between multiple buyers, including a coin dealer, multiple video game collectors and the founder of the auction house itself.

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NASA releases the “last light” image taken by Kepler before it retired last year

NASA Kepler space telescope’s “last light” image

NASA has released the final view taken by Kepler in September, shortly before the space telescope was retired after nearly a decade of unprecedented discoveries about the universe beyond our solar system.

“It bookends the moment of intense excitement nine and a half years earlier when the spacecraft first opened its eye to the skies and captured its ‘first light’ image,” wrote NASA Ames Research Center public affairs officer Alison Hawkes. “Kepler went on to discover more than 2,600 worlds beyond our solar system and statistically proved that our galaxy has even more planets than stars.”

The “last light” image was taken on September 25, about a month before Kepler retired. The space telescope was pointed in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and the image encompasses the TRAPPIST-1 system, containing “seven rocky planets, at least three of them believed to be temperate worlds,” Hawkes wrote, and the GJ 9827 system, a star with an orbiting super Earth exoplanet (or planet outside the Solar System) that is “considered an excellent opportunity for follow up observations with other telescopes to study an atmosphere of a faraway world.”

Kepler’s field of view also slightly overlapped with NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), its planet-hunting successor, so astronomers will be able to compare data from the two. TESS launched last year and is expected to catalogue more than 1,500 exoplanets.

Kepler’s legacy is even more extraordinary because its primary mission was originally planned to last for 3.5 years. Instead, the space craft, named for 17th-century German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler operated for nine years, thanks a combination of its sturdy construction and fuel reserve. During that time, it discovered more than 4,500 confirmed planets and planet candidates, including 3,912 exoplanets.

Significantly, many of the planets Kepler discovered may be similar to Earth in size, with NASA analysis concluding that 20 to 50 percent of the stars in the sky are likely orbited by “small, possibly rocky planets that are in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water could pool on the surface” and potentially host life.

Kepler also continued recording specific targets every 30 seconds, doing so for a few hour after the “last light” image was taken. “Although Kepler’s transmitters have been turned off and it is no longer collecting science, its data will be mined for many years to come,” Hawkes wrote.

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Agile dreams on a waterfall budget

Whenever I connect with other product executives, there’s a single topic that nearly always earns a knowing (and often defeated) head nod…

Continue reading on UX Collective »

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Google makes it easier for cheap phones and smart devices to encrypt your data

Encryption is an important part of the whole securing-your-data package, but it’s easy to underestimate the amount of complexity it adds to any service or device. One part of that is the amount of processing encryption takes — an amount that could be impractical on small or low-end devices. Google wants to change that with a highly efficient new method called Adiantum.

Here’s the problem. While encryption is in a way just transforming one block of data reversibly into another, that process is actually pretty complicated. Math needs to be done, data read and written and reread and rewritten and confirmed and hashed.

For a text message that’s not so hard. But if you have to do the same thing as you store or retrieve megabyte after megabyte of data, for instance with images or video, that extra computation adds up quick.

Lots of modern smartphones and other gadgets are equipped with a special chip that performs some of the most common encryption algorithms and processes (namely AES), just like we have GPUs to handle graphics calculations in games and such.

But what about older phones, or cheaper ones, or tiny smart home gadgets that don’t have room for that kind of thing on their boards? Just like they can’t run the latest games, they might not be able to efficiently run the latest cryptographic processes. They can still encrypt things, of course, but it might take too long for certain apps to work, or drain the battery.

Google, clearly interested in keeping cheap phones competitive, is tackling this problem by creating a special encryption method just for low-power phones. They call it Adiantum, and it will be optionally part of Android distributions going forward.

The technical details are all here, but the gist is this. Instead of using AES it relies on a cipher called ChaCha. This cipher method is highly optimized for basic binary operations, which any processor can execute quickly, though of course it will be outstripped by specialized hardware and drivers. It’s well documented and already in use lots of places — this isn’t some no-name bargain bin code. As they show, it performs way better on earlier chipsets like the Cortex A7.

The Adiantum process doesn’t increase or decrease the size of the payload (for instance by padding it or by appending some header or footer data), meaning the same number of bytes come in as go out. That’s nice when you’re a file system and don’t want to have to set aside too many special blocks for encryption metadata and the like.

Naturally new encryption techniques are viewed with some skepticism by security professionals, for whom the greatest pleasure in life is to prove one is compromised or unreliable. Adiantum’s engineers say they have “high confidence in its security,” with the assumption (currently reasonable) that its component “primitives” ChaCha and AES are themselves secure. We’ll soon see!

In the meantime don’t expect any instant gains, but future low-power devices may offer better security without having to use …read more