technology

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.

netspend.com

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.

flickr.com/oracle_images

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.

flickr.com/dellphotos

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.

Crytek

Austin may be reaffirming its place at the center of the gaming industry.

A company based in Germany has announced its first studio in North America will be in Austin.

Crytek GmbH ("Crytek") is an interactive entertainment company. It already has eight studios spread across Europe and Asia.

flickr.com/cytosine

Update: AT&T U-verse says service has been restored to most customers affected by the outage. The company posted the following on its facebook page this morning:

U-verse service has been restored for the vast majority of our customers affected by the outage. We expect any remaining customer issues will be resolved this morning. We will provide a credit to customers who were affected. We know our customers count on their U-verse service and we apologize for the inconvenience.

Are you still without service? Leave us a comment or send us an email—news@kut.org—that is, of course, if you can track down some internet access.

Original post: (Jan. 23, 4: 59 p.m.) Some AT&T U-verse customers across Texas and throughout the southern U.S. are experiencing TV and Internet outages.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin has come out on top, almost, in an economic ranking of U.S. cities.

The Milken Institute said Austin is the second best performing city, based on measures like job growth and wage increases. The study’s author, Ross De Vol, say technology is the region’s big wealth driver.

De Vol says what Austin needs to catch No. 1 city San Jose is more money for growing businesses.

Dell Inc.

Shares in computer-maker Dell Inc. surged by 13 percent Monday on rumors the Round Rock based company could go private. Bloomberg News cites anonymous sources as saying Dell is in talks with at least two private equity firms.

John Doggett is a lecturer at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business. He says the talks come as Dell is shifting its business strategy away from PCs.

Carlos Morales/KUT News

The Eanes school district will become one the first in the state to distribute iPads to every single one of its students, kindergarten through 12th grade.

The Texas Legislature paved the way for school districts to adopt tablets two years ago by allowing schools districts to spend textbook money on digital learning materials.

Of course, the school districts still have to buy their own iPads, and that’s what the Eanes school board voted to do last month: Spend $1.2 million to buy enough iPad 2s for every student in the district.

KUT News

Please don’t say your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. As full of merit as your resolution is, it may not be tweeted out by city staff.  

Starting today and through Dec. 31, the city of Austin is encouraging Austinites to text their New Year resolutions to 512-518-5879.  But there’s a catch: you need to think about how your resolution will make the city better. City staff will then go through them and pick the most interesting responses.  

Google has released its Zeitgeist 2012, cataloging what the world was searching for online this year.

And sure, while Austin has its share of Whitney Houston and Gangnam Style fans (Houston and the song from Korean rapper PSY being the world’s top two search terms), Austin residents made plenty of queries closer to home.

Without further ado, here’s the top 10 most searched terms in Austin in 2012:

Two years and $8.4 billion into the government's effort to get doctors to take their practices digital, some unintended consequences are starting to emerge.

One is a lot of unhappy doctors. In a big survey by Medscape, an online site for doctors, 38 percent of the doctors polled said they were unhappy with their electronic medical records system.

The Internet is forever — and so are texts, tweets and Facebook updates — but a startup has big ambitions to bring privacy and impermanence to online communication. The company, called Wickr, lets users decide how long a message lives.

The people behind Wickr found inspiration in 1960s-era TV and messages that self-destructed. "I think everybody who's watched Mission Impossible has always wanted self-destructing messages," says co-founder Nico Sell.

A notorious group of Internet trolls says it has unleashed a worm that has littered Tumblr blogs with inflammatory and racist posts.

According to the technology site The Verge, GNNA, whose full name we can't print in a family blog, says the worm has infected more than 8,000 accounts. The worm spread when users were logged into Tumblr and clicked on a viral — in more ways than one — post that asked for all Tumblr users to "drink bleach and die."

Forget touch screens and voice recognition — what if you could control your computer just by looking at it? Gaze-based interaction has been around for 20 years, used mainly by people with disabilities. But the technology could be available to the masses soon, allowing users to move a cursor with their eyes, or turn the pages of an e-book without lifting a finger.

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