TIME Companies

Widespread Wireless Outages Hit Southern States

Tennessee and Kentucky are reporting the most issues

Several major wireless carriers experienced outages across Tennessee, Kentucky and other southern states on Tuesday afternoon.

Customers began experiencing connectivity issues in cities including Nashville, Tenn., Louisville, Ky., and Huntsville, Ala., around 3:00 p.m. Central Time, according to outage maps from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. According to a statement from Sprint, the issue was caused by a local exchange provider.

All four companies are investigating the issue, which appears to be affecting customers regardless of their carrier, T-Mobile’s customer service team said on Twitter.

TIME Careers

Netflix Announced a Game-Changing Parental Leave Policy

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France.

This is huge for new parents

Netflix announced Tuesday that it’s allowing employees to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave during the first year after their child’s birth or adoption.

During that first year, Netflix employees will be able to take off however long they feel they need to. They can return on a full- or part-time basis, and even take subsequent time off later in the year if needed. Netflix will “keep paying them normally,” eliminating the hassle of having to switch to disability leave, the company says.

Netflix’s policy deserves high marks for extending leave to fathers, as well as understanding that the entire first year after childbirth can be challenging for new parents. But it should be noted that unlimited time off policies can have their pitfalls. Many tech companies, including Netflix, offer unlimited paid vacation time. That can be great for employees taking long trips, but it also means employees have to work with their managers and teams ahead of time to make sure their absence won’t jeopardize a project or deadline. Extended absences can also strain workplace relations.

TIME Social Media

Instagram Bans #EDM Hashtag

Will it make a comeback like #curvy?

#EDM—a common abbreviation for electronic dance music—is the latest Instagram hashtag to be blocked, the social media company confirmed Tuesday.

The block, first reported by music blogs earlier in the day, means the hashtag can’t be searched, which occurs automatically when certain hashtags are used to share content that violates Instagram’s community guidelines, Gabe Madway, an Instagram spokesperson, told TIME in a statement.

“In this case, #EDM was being used to share content that violates our guidelines around nudity,” he said. Madway added that Instagram is working on a way to more quickly restore hashtags that have previously been blocked, and to better communicate its policies around hashtags.

The hashtag blacklist has been known for years, but drew controversy last month when #curvy was banned. The hashtag was then unbanned—its search results are now more tightly moderated—after users slammed the company’s banning of a body-positive term.

TIME Video Games

Xbox One Is Getting a Major New TV Feature

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Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno—Getty Images People playing video games with Xbox One remote control.

We've been waiting for this for years

Microsoft plans to add a new feature to its Xbox One game console that users have been clamoring for ever since the system launched in 2013: a digital video recorder (DVR).

After an upcoming upgrade, Xbox customers will be able to record free over-the-air TV shows live or in advance. The feature will allow users to stream recorded shows across devices using the Xbox app or Windows 10. They will also be able to download that video content to a PC, phone, or tablet to view offline.

“Once your Xbox One is set up for over-the-air TV, it’s as easy as plugging a USB hard drive into your Xbox One console and recording your content,” the company writes on its Xbox blog Xbox Wire. “And by recording content to an external drive, there’s no impact on your gameplay activities or ability to save to the console.”

Microsoft’s announcement confirms rumors that the company would make the feature available. The only constraint is your hard drive’s memory.

The company says the new update will be available in select countries in 2016.

So go ahead. Record away.

TIME Video Games

Check Out the New Halo 5-Themed Xbox One

It's the ultimate Halo 5 bundle, and not cheap.

Though sadly not a rethink (and shrink) of the bulky Xbox One games console, Halo enthusiasts have a new, albeit pricey, piece of memorabilia to consider when Halo 5: Guardians arrives in October.

For $500, you can kit out your entertainment center with Microsoft’s “Limited Edition Halo 5: Guardians Bundle.” It’s a special version of the Xbox One etched with metallic blue accents and Halo-inspired military symbology, all wrapped around a 1TB hard drive and connected to a similarly skinned Xbox One gamepad.

You can preorder the system now, and it’ll be available on October 20, one week before Halo 5: Guardians ships on October 27.

You’ll also get Halo 5: Guardians (though only as a download), the Warzone REQ Bundle (basically a bunch of unlockable weapons and armors, skins and assassination animations for the new Warzone multiplayer mode), FOTUS-class armor (think spiky duds) with a special multiplayer emblem, a metallic Guardian model, the complete Halo: The Fall of Reach animated series, dossiers for the game’s Blue and Osiris warring factions, a Spartan themed SteelBook and the classified orders given to Spartan Locke, the newly introduced playable character who’s hunting for an AWOL Master Chief at the game’s outset.

For Master Chief buffs, take note that the Limited Edition’s gamepad is styled after Locke’s blueish armor. You’ll have to spend another $70 if you want the separately sold gold-and-green accented Master Chief gamepad.

TIME Buzz Aldrin

This Is How Much the U.S. Government Reimbursed Buzz Aldrin for His ‘Business Trip’ To the Moon

Buzz Aldrin Poses next To The U.S. flag On Moon
NASA—Getty Images Buzz Aldrin poses for a photo during his ‘business trip’ in July 1969.

The former astronaut shows us his epic Throwback Thursday picture

We can all finally stop #TBT-ing. Buzz Aldrin has won.

Last Thursday, the former astronaut tweeted a picture of his travel voucher from the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 with the caption: “#TBT My mission director @Buzzs_xtina’s favorite piece of my memorabilia. My travel voucher to the moon. #Apollo11″

The points of travel? Texas, Florida, the moon, the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, and finally back to Texas, making this voucher one of the most unusual pieces of government paperwork.

Aldrin was reimbursed a total $33.31 for the 20-day excursion, which is worth about $217 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In a follow-up tweet he said the Apollo 11 crew also had to sign customs forms for bringing back moon rocks and moon dust samples, yet I can’t even convince airport security officials to let me keep cheese purchased when traveling to a foreign country.

TIME Microsoft

These Are Microsoft’s 3 Most Important Goals

Lenovo Tech World In Beijing
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the Lenovo Tech World at China National Convention Center on May 28, 2015 in Beijing, China. Lenovo launched a series of new products during the one-day event.

"Reinvent productivity," for one

This is not your father’s Microsoft.

The tech titan has been radically changing its game plan, especially after CEO Satya Nadella took over early last year. Today, look no further than the company’s recently filed annual report to find evidence of the company’s ongoing strategic shifts.

One big difference between this year’s 10-k filing and last year’s is a new section right at the top titled “Our vision.” After a bit of throat clearing—such as the repetitive refrain “mobile-first, cloud-first”—Microsoft gets down to business, culling its strategy into three solitary pillars.

These pithy “ambitions that drive us” represent a summation of the company’s three main focus points:

  • Reinvent productivity and business processes.
  • Build the intelligent cloud platform.
  • Create more personal computing.

Each bullet translates to a piece of Microsoft’s business: Software (Office 365), cloud-computing (Azure), and personal computing (Windows 10, apps, games), respectively.

Interestingly, the Redmond, Wash.-based company appears to be deemphasizing Windows this time around. It’s as though the operating system’s purpose—beyond allowing Microsoft to more neatly stitch its cross-device electronic ecosystem together—is to be a vassal in service of Microsoft’s other businesses.

That’s a big change for one of the company’s historical moneymakers. But it does reflect the company’s latest financial trends: Sliding device sales and growing cloud revenue, that is.

 

 

TIME Security

These Hackers Can Push You Off Your Skateboard

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Daniel Grill—Getty Images/Tetra images RF Man with skateboard at the edge of ramp

Assuming it's electric, anyway

Two security experts have discovered a massive flaw in electric skateboard technology.

The potential for a problem first occurred to Richo Healey, who works on security for payments company Stripe, when he was riding his own electric skateboard, Wired reports. Healey’s board suddenly stopped working when he reached an intersection, ceasing to receive orders from his remote control. As it turns out, the high volume of Bluetooth traffic surrounding the intersection interfered with his remote’s connection to his board.

Recognizing this defect, Healey figured it would be easy to hack a Bluetooth-enabled electric skateboard. He teamed up with Mike Ryan, who works on security for eBay, to develop an exploit which they’ve called FacePlant. They describe FacePlant as “a synthetic version of the same [radio frequency] noise” that Healey experienced at the intersection. The exploit allows the researchers to gain complete control over someone’s electric skateboard, letting them either stop the board completely or send it in reverse at full speed. In either scenario, the rider is put at a risk of being physically harmed.

The pair plan to present their findings at Def Con, an annual Las Vegas hacker conference happening this weekend, Wired reports.

TIME facebook

Your Facebook Friends Could Be the Ticket to Your Next Loan

Patent for approving or denying a financial loan based on your connections

It’s no secret that Facebook has been gathering data about its users for years and uses that data to tailor the ads its serves them.

One day, it may also use that data to approve — or deny — its users a financial loan.

On Tuesday, the social network was granted a patent for authorizing and authenticating a user based on their social network on Facebook, as first spotted by SmartUp Legal. Though the document details multiple applications for the patent, including filtering out SPAM and helping with search queries, it also explicitly states that it could be used to approve a loan based on a user’s social connections:

When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes. If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.

The patent is actually part of the portfolio Facebook purchased from Friendster — arguably the first modern social network — for $40 million in 2010. Friendster’s then-VP of engineering Christopher Lunt is cited as the inventor, and he’s now at health insurance shopping site GetInsured.

Though it’s unclear whether Facebook will ever use this patent for that application, as companies often file more than they actually put to use, it could have serious implications for certain people if it does. Using social media data isn’t exactly new — modern consumer lenders such as Affirm already take non-traditional data to estimate credit risk. Implementing this patent could help provide alternative lending, and it could also make it easier for predatory lenders to reach vulnerable people if the method described above is all that’s necessary for the loan.

We’ve reached out to both Facebook and Friendster’s founder for more details, and we’ll publish an update if we hear more.

TIME Gadgets

Epson Is About to Kill the Most Annoying Thing About Printers

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Hlinkazsolt—Getty Images Printing ink

Goodbye, cartridges?

The end of printer-related frustration might be drawing near.

Epson, the purveyor of printers and ink, is getting ready to launch a game-changing printer this September, according to Bloomberg. The EcoTank stores ink in deep wells that hold enough to print about 4,000 documents–almost twenty times the capability of current home and small business models.

The new printer will cost about $379 to start—far more than the $60 for a current Epson model. But owners of the EcoTank model will only have to buy $13 refill bottles to feed their tanks when they empty out, which Bloomberg says should happen every 3.5 years or so. In the long run, that’s a much better deal than the current cartridge scheme.

The ink cartridges of old, which constantly need to be refilled, have posed a customer relations problem for Epson. While printers’ low prices hook customers into purchasing their equipment, the frequent and high cost of ink enrages them. In 2006, Epson settled class action lawsuits brought by embittered customers who noticed some last drops of ink in cartridges that printers were refusing. Customers earned a $45 credit per printer, but Epson never admitted wrongdoing.

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