Andrew Weber for KUT News

The Austin Chamber of Commerce is looking to sell Austin abroad.

Yesterday, the chamber and the State Department invited 26 ambassadors from around the world joined top tech companies like Google, Apple, Samsung and AT&T at the Driskill Hotel, in a tour aimed at bringing more international businesses to Austin.

The Texas-based company Defense Distributed is getting quite a bit of attention this week for its Liberator — a handgun made almost entirely by a 3-D printer.

Photo courtesy of TrackingPoint, Inc.

An Austin-based company, TrackingPoint, has developed a high-powered, long-range computerized rifle that can turn anyone into an expert marksman. But some wonder whether putting that technology in the hands of everyday people is a wise idea. 

At shooting range just outside of Austin, I’m holding one of TrackingPoint’s top-of-the-line, $22,000 rifles. I have some shooting experience. But I’ve never shot a big rifle before. Three company representatives walk me through it.

If you have a CD or book you don't want anymore, you can sell it. The law says that's perfectly legal. But what about an MP3 or an e-book? Can you legally resell your digital goods?

This was the question before a judge in the case of Capitol Records v. ReDigi Inc.

Launched in 2011, ReDigi is basically a digital version of a used-record store. You can sell the company your old MP3s, and you can buy "used" MP3s that other people have sold.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin has been tapped by Google to be the second city in the U.S. to get Google Fiber, the search giant’s super fast gigabit internet service. Kansas City was the first city to dive in with Google. And it’s learned some lessons.

Some of Central Texas’ largest Internet providers also serve Kansas City, Missouri. Think Time Warner and AT&T, among others. Kansas City Assistant City Manager Rick Usher says as soon as word spread that Google was getting some deals –  waived fees, right-of-way access and more – his phone wouldn’t stop ringing.

As South by Southwest Interactive grows, so does the difficulty of trying to encapsulate the annual conference. And while onlookers can point to big themes in 2013 and much, much more, one burgeoning area with real world applications is civic apps and hacks.

Simply put, civic apps take publicly available data – anything from crime statistics to restaurant inspection scores – and mashes them up with applications like maps, making them accessible to the smartphone set. The biggest example is Code for America, a national non-profit that works with cities to develop meaningful data applications.

Google has agreed to pay a $7 million fine to settle claims from 37 states and the District of Columbia that the search giant improperly collected data from unsecured wireless networks across the United States using its "Street View" vehicles.

Technology has made it easier than ever to track your activity levels, your sleep cycles, how you spend your time, and more. The self-trackers who near-obsessively capture and analyze their own data are part of a growing "Quantified Self" movement.

Everywhere you walk in downtown Austin, Texas, new names compete for the attention of the tens of thousands wandering the SXSW Interactive festival. Which of this year's emerging ideas and brands — MakerBot, Leap Motion, Geomagic — will break into mainstream consciousness? Here's a quick rundown of the conversation topics in coffee lines, and some notes on appearances and panels that caught our attention:

Beyond The Keyboard And Mouse

Facebook Unveils Big Changes to Your News Feed

Mar 7, 2013

Update at 1:31 p.m. ET. Larger Images, Mobile Oriented:

Facebook announced today that it was overhauling its "news feed." This is significant on two fronts: First, this is truly the first big makeover for the feature since its inception. Second, its users — some 1 billion worldwide — are known to be very touchy about changes.

Reuters said the new news feed is "visually richer" and "mobile device-oriented." It means the feed will look the same on your computer as it does on your mobile device.

Police may begin impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers who offer rides for money – and that includes drivers using online apps like SideCar.

Item 30 on this week’s Austin City Council agenda would allow police to impound “a ground transportation service vehicle operated in violation” of the city code governing transportation franchise agreements, like the ones in place with Austin taxi companies.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Update (Jan. 21. 2013): Outbox has announced it is ceasing operations. Read more here.

An Austin company is expanding its concept of undoing the work of the United States Postal Service. 

Outbox picks up its customers’ mail, scans it, and makes it available online. The company announced today that it will start serving San Francisco and parts of Silicon Valley, after testing its service in Austin since 2011.

Outbox workers open and scan letters, catalogs and flyers. Customers log in to Outbox’s website to see their – now-digital – mail. You never have to go to your mailbox. The cost? About 5 bucks a month.

If the Chinese military is regularly hacking into the computers of U.S. organizations, as an American security firm says, it raises all sorts of questions about how the U.S. should respond.

Is this a job for the military or the intelligence agencies? What role should diplomats and trade officials be playing?

The report issued this week by the IT security consultancy Mandiant says it has traced the hacking activity to the People's Liberation Army's Unit 61398, which has "systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations."

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

One of the largest public companies in Central Texas is changing hands. Austin-based NetSpend Holdings Inc. has agreed to be acquired by Total System Services (TSYS) for around $1.4 billion.

TSYS is a payment processing company based in Columbus, Georgia. It provides credit solutions to financial institutions, businesses, and governments in more than 80 countries.

courtesy Heyride

SideCar, a San Francisco company that uses smartphones to connect car owners with people who need a ride, has acquired HeyRide, an Austin company that tried to do the same thing.

HeyRide received a cease and desist order in November from the city of Austin. The city said the startup operated like a cab service but didn’t take the same safety and regulatory precautions.

The White House has set up its latest online Fireside Hangout to focus on issues President Obama raised in his State of the Union Address this week. The live event is hosted by Google. The White House says he'll focus on jobs and other topics, such as early childhood education.

Dell Inc. is facing a lawsuit. It was filed in Delaware on Wednesday.

The lawsuit accuses founder and CEO Michael Dell and other company directors of breaching their fiduciary duties by failing to maximize shareholder value and selling the company at the lowest price at the expense of shareholders.

Update: Dell's announcement this morning has thousands of Austin employees wondering how going private will affect them.

John Doggett is a Senior Lecturer at UT’s McCombs School of Business. He expects layoffs at Dell.

“I expect they will substantially reduce their PC group by most likely getting rid of consumer PCs and anybody in that group may lose their job," Doggett said. "They will also get out of their investor relations group because they don’t have any investors to talk to in the public. They probably will also not do any or many acquisitions... And I expect those who can leave, are going to leave. There’s going to be an exodus if they feel that their job is at risk."

Michael Dell sent an email out to employees shortly before 8:30 this morning.

Google Street View Takes A Hike. So?

Jan 31, 2013

A few months back, Google released a few of its engineers into the wild with a camera called the Google Trekker.