Rami Alkarmi builds lean startup Ecosystems





Geek. Investor. Growth Strategist.

A proud geek, investor, and widely recognized advisor and expert in strategy, lean startup ecosystems, business models, growth & distribution through big data and viral marketing, and corporate venturing.

In 2013, he founded Arcoten Holdings as his advising/investing vehicle where he partners with corporates, accelerators, and incubators to build lean startup ecosystems, and helps companies through providing expertise in growth, hands-on mentorship, access to capital, and helps companies iterate product and grow fast. From time to time, he also likes to build companies with friends and partners inside Arcoten.

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Posts tagged "sillicon alley insider"

Chad Dickerson 1

Etsy, the online marketplace that specializes in crafts and other artistic items, has a gorgeous office space in Brooklyn, New York. 

The company has been profitable since 2009, thanks to the site’s more than 1 million active sellers, who made $895 million on goods last year.

(Etsy’s main revenue comes from charging sellers $0.20 to list a single item for four months, and then 3.5% of the value of the sale if someone buys an item.)

As you’d expect, the office space has an artsy, quirky feel, but the team also has several sustainability initiatives. 

Etsy’s office is in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood called DUMBO (it stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”).



The lobby of its building — 55 Washington St. — is pretty slick.



Head up to the fifth floor, and you’ll find Etsy.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider






bii sameday delivery forecast 1

Companies like Google, Amazon, eBay, and Uber are operating and expanding services that allow shoppers to order something online and have it that same day, without ever leaving home.

If they manage it, despite the expense and complexities involved in delivering over the “last mile,” these companies will grow e-commerce’s customer base (as well as its share of retail dollars), and siphon off one of offline retail’s last real competitive advantages. 

In a new report, BI Intelligence takes an exhaustive look at the same-day delivery market, sizing the percentage of people who will purchase goods to be delivered the same-day this year. We uncover the demographics of same-day delivery customers, the markets where these services have the best chance of taking off, and assess how each of the many new same-day delivery entrants compares to the others. We also look at the technology that really could make getting a package delivered to your door hours after you order it a common phenomenon.

Access The Full Market Forecast By Signing Up For A Free Trial Today »

Here are some of the key points from the report: 

  • USE: BI Intelligence estimates that 2% of shoppers living in cities where same-day delivery is offered have used such services. In dollar terms, we estimate that roughly $100 million worth of merchandise will be delivered via same-day fulfillment this year in 20 US cities.
  • CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS: Consumer interest in same-day delivery is already fairly high. Four in 10 US shoppers said they would use same-day delivery if they didn’t have time to go to the store, and one in four shoppers said they would considering abandoning an online shopping cart if same-day delivery was not an option. 
  • DEMOGRAPHICS: The most common same-day delivery shopper fits a very specific profile — millennial, highly likely to be male, urban-dwelling, and young. The products people want delivered same-day are also fairly niche.
  • BARRIERS: Despite all the competition in the same-day delivery market, it still won’t be easy to get people to pay for these services. 92% of consumers say they are willing to wait four days or longer for their e-commerce packages to arrive. 

In full, the report:

To access the Same-Day Delivery Market Forecast Report and BI Intelligence’s ongoing coverage on the future of retail, mobile, and e-commerce — including charts, data, and analysis — sign up of a free trial. 

bii sameday delivery product

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1992 Oldsmobile Trofeo

Touchscreen infotainment systems are the all the rage these days.

For most drivers, the idea of a touchscreen that controls all of a car’s functions is sci-fi that only recently became reality.

However, in 1989 General Motors equipped its Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo with a touchscreen system that was decades ahead of its time. Called the Visual Information Center (VIC), the touchscreen gave the driver access to everything from the radio to engine management data.

1989 Oldmobile Toronado Trofeo

This must have been mindblowing for drivers a quarter century ago. In a 1992 review, the Orlando Sentinel’s Richard Truett was astonished, writing ”I have never seen this in a car.” 

In 1990 video review of the Oldsmobile Trofeo by MotorWeek, the VIC’s glorious capabilities were on full display.

First, the $1,300 option controlled the car’s radio and optional CD player:

1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo

Then the reviewer adjusted the car’s climate control using the touchscreen:

1989 Oldmobile Toronado Trofeo Climate

The Visual Information Center gave the driver access to a slew of diagnostic information:

1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Engine computer

Amazingly the The VIC even had a “Navigation” function. Unfortunately, in the era before GPS, the screen only provides access…to a compass!

1990 Oldmobile Toronado Trofeo Nav

To top it all off, for another $999, buyers of the Trofeo could get an in-car telephone controlled through the VIC. 

1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Phone

As wonderful as the VIC was in its day, the system’s user interface and user-friendliness can’t compare to the infotainment systems of today.

However, for a piece of hardware that’s at least 25 years old, the overall presentation and functionality is remarkable. Considering some of the dashboards in GM cars over the past two decades, we have to ask, “Where the heck was this awesome piece of tech all of these years?”

(For the record, GM shut down Oldsmobile in 2004.)

Here’s the full MotorWeek review of the 1990 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo:

SEE ALSO: Chrysler And Google Teamed Up To Create This Awesome Factory Tour

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Cisco Brad Cooper

A former Cisco employee has pleaded guilty to killing his wife years after investigators found a Google map on his computer zoomed onto the exact spot where her body was discovered.

Ex-Cisco engineer Bradley Cooper was initially convicted of strangling his wife, Nancy, in 2011, but he appealed the verdict and won a new trial.

But instead of that trial, Cooper took a plea deal, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and received a sentence of 12 to 15 years. He also agreed to allow his two children to be adopted by Nancy’s sister.

In 2008, Cooper and his wife were having marital problems. One morning in 2008, Nancy went out running and never came back. She had been strangled, and the police found her body in a nearby park.

Investigators alleged the Google map search that led to her body was done the day before the murder while the computer was connected to Cisco’s network, Cooper’s place of employment.

Prosecutors also alleged that Cooper, a communications technology expert, borrowed a piece of network equipment from Cisco and used it to fake a phone call from his wife after she was already dead. The router was never found, reports Network World’s Paul McNamara.

Cooper’s lawyer wanted to present testimony that the Google map was planted on his computer by someone else. But the judge for the original trial refused to allow those witnesses to testify. The judge even ruled that national security would be comprised if the state’s investigators were questioned about how they found the Google Maps file, according to trial documents posted by blogger Brad Reese.

Cooper appealed, and in 2013 an appeals court sided with him and ordered a new trial.

While he ultimately pleaded guilty, not everyone thinks he really killed his wife.

An anonymous blogger writing a blog called Justice for Bradley Cooper, has been criticizing how the computer evidence was handled. “It was quite painful to hear Brad Cooper plead guilty to second degree murder, knowing that all the evidence points to his innocence,” the blogger wrote on Monday.

The prosecuting attorney Howard Cummings disagrees. He said that Nancy Cooper’s death was the result of “mental and psychological domestic violence” that escalated to murder, reports WRAL news.

Cisco declined comment.

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Lyft on a Big Wheel

Car-sharing service Lyft announced today that it is acquiring Hitch, a San Francisco-based service that connects passengers who are traveling along similar routes. 

The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed. 

The move will give a boost to Lyft Line, the company’s carpooling feature that it announced last month. 

With Lyft Line, you set your destination, and Lyft will match you with someone who’s already on your route, offering up to 60% off the original price of the ride. If it can’t match you up with someone else on the route, you’ll still get a discount on your ride. Lyft Line is only available in San Francisco, and will expand to Los Angeles soon.

Hitch’s concept is similar: You request a ride and tell the app where you want to be dropped off and how many passengers will be traveling with you. Then, if another person requests a ride going in the same direction, the app will create a route that works best for both passengers. 

The app gets a little deeper, too. It shows you some Facebook information about your fellow passengers, like mutual friends and shared “likes.” 

Hitch’s cofounders, Snir Koesh and Noam Szpiro, will join Lyft. Hitch’s service will shut down Tuesday.

Before creating Hitch, they created an app called Corral Rides. That app aggregated all the different transportation options available, including Uber and Lyft, and breaking down price and time tables for each option. But it was soon shut down because Uber and Lyft and other ride-sharing apps don’t provide an open API, according to TechCrunch.

Hitch will close today, and its drivers will be able to become Lyft drivers. Lyft says it will host a kickoff event that will make the transition to the platform easy for Hitch drivers. 

The move to buy a platform that’s strictly devoted to carpools shouldn’t come as a surprise. Many of the major ride-sharing apps offer a carpool option. Uber announced UberPool the night before Lyft was set to launch Lyft Line. And that same week, Sidecar announced its version, called Shared Rides. 

But California state regulators might soon be cracking down on the various carpool options. The Public Utilities Commission sent letters last week to each of the services, saying that the carpooling option violates state law, according to PC World. 

SEE ALSO: Uber’s Latest Move Shows How Ruthless It Is With The Competition

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PlayStation TV

Sony announced on Monday that the PlayStation TV will be available on Oct. 14, and will launch with 700 games. 

We got our first look at the set-top box at the E3 video game conference in June. The PlayStation TV will allow you to play PS3, PlayStation One, and PSP classic games through Sony’s streaming-game service, PlayStation Now. It will also give you access to music and video-streaming services, much like Amazon’s Fire TV or the Apple TV. 

It will also connect with a PlayStation 4, allowing you to play PS4 games on another TV in your house, using what it calls Remote Play. The only caveat is that a wired internet network connection is necessary. 

The PlayStation TV will be $99 for the system itself. You’ll also need to buy a DualShock 3 controller, which must be purchased separately and costs about $40. Or for $139, you can a bundle that includes a controller and a Lego game, as well as an 8GB memory card. 

The device has been out in Japan for nearly a year under the name Vita TV, but was marred by a fairly limited library of games and mediocre streaming services.

It’ll be interesting to see what Sony has in mind for the future of the set-top box, or if it’s just trying to throw its hat into an already crowded ring full of Apple TVs and Rokus. The Fire TV launched with more than 100 games back when it debuted earlier this year. And Microsoft doesn’t offer a set-top box or any sort of “remote” play functionality with its Xbox console.  

According to Business Insider Intelligence, video game consoles are the most popular streaming devices, with 54% of the market. 

bii_newdeviceshare

Perhaps with a launch library full of 700 games and the promise of Remote Play, the PlayStation TV will offer people an alternative to a standalone streaming device, which costs way less than a full gaming console. 

You can preorder a PlayStation TV now

SEE ALSO: Here’s Why Microsoft Might Spend $2 Billion On A Video Game With No Ending

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Bono U2

U2’s Bono had some choice words for Steve Jobs about iTunes, according to TUAW’s Yoni Heiser.

In an interview with Irish radio host Dan Fanning, Bono recounted a conversation he had with Steve Jobs in 2009:

So 5 years ago I began a conversation with Steve Jobs at my house in France and I said to Steve: “How is it that for a person who cares about the way things look and feel more than anyone else in the world that iTunes looks like a spreadsheet?”

Bono was probably talking about iTunes 9 (or eariler). Admittedly, it looks pretty spreadsheet-esque:

iTunes 9 Flickr

To Bono’s point, iTunes hasn’t changed much since this version came out. It got a slicker, more modern look in 2012, but it’s still pretty much the same.

Apple recently used iTunes to give away U2’s new album, it wasn’t exactly a big hit with users. Apple is also reportedly rebranding Beats Music into iTunes, a signal that the bane of Bono’s existence isn’t going away anytime soon.

SEE ALSO: Apple Denies Report That It Will Shut Down Beats Music

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Larry Page not bad

You may think of Google as a Web search company.

Google CEO Larry Page does not. He thinks of Google as a technology company.

He believes Google’s mission is to identify human problems than can be solved with technology and then come up with the technologies that solve those problems.

It’s a pretty broad mission.

Here’s a list of available and under development Google products:

  • An Internet search engine.
  • Web email.
  • A news aggregator.
  • Calendar software.
  • A suite of productivity applications, including spreadsheet, word-processing, and photo-editing software.
  • Cloud storage for consumers
  • Cloud storage for businesses.
  • Cloud computing for businesses.
  • A website for watching Internet videos.
  • A web browser.
  • A smartphone/tablet operating system.
  • A thermostat. 
  • Unknown life-extending technologies.
  • Computerized contact lenses
  • Robot assistants
  • Self-driving cars
  • "A spoon designed to make life easier for people with diseases such as Parkinson’s."
  • A home video monitoring system.
  • High-speed Internet service.
  • Laptop computers.
  • Desktop computers.
  • A dongle that puts Internet video on your TV.
  • Balloons that broadcast Internet signal.
  • Drones that deliver goods to homes.
  • Computers you wear like glasses.
  • Airborne wind turbines.
  • A digital collection of all the world’s books.
  • A map of the world.
  • A collection of photographs of every street in the world.
  • A social network.
  • Software for creating and maintaining blogs.
  • An online video rental store.
  • An online software store.
  • A live-updating database of equities and financial news.
  • A service that allows you to pay for things with your phone.
  • A language translation service.
  • A phone number replacement service.
  • Video-conferencing software.

BONUS: Larry Page also wants to…

  • Fix Wall Street.
  • Fix airports.
  • Know exactly where shoppers are in stores, so that Google can tell them what products are available in the aisle they are walking down.

Some of the products on this list are obviously related to Google’s core business, Web search. Chrome and Android assure that a Google search bar is never far from almost all Web user.

But it’s a pretty wild and varied list. Who knew that Google made a spoon?

So far, shareholders are not punishing Page for a lack of focus. Google is up more than 6% this year.

Obviously, that’s not because of the robots or contact lenses Google is working on. 

It’s because Google has the world’s most lucrative Internet business pumping the place full of cash: search advertising.

There is little reason to worry that search advertising will go away any time soon.

There is some reason to worry it will stop growing so fast, though!

People are using the Internet on their phones more than they used to.

webusersvsmobileusers

And, when people use the Internet on their phones, they are increasingly using apps instead of the Web.

Apps Mobile Web Flurry

But don’t worry about any of that, Larry! The rest of us can’t wait for self-driving cars.

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raymond kurzweil

What energy crisis? In less than 20 years, solar power will be so inexpensive and widespread that it will meet the entirety of the world’s energy needs at virtually no cost, futurist Ray Kurzweil, told The Washington Post.

At present, solar power accounts for a scant 0.23% of US energy consumption, and about 1% of energy consumption worldwide.

However, the artificial-intelligence pioneer points out that solar power use has been doubling every two years over the past three decades, as well as consistently dropping in cost. Kurzweil, who is currently Director of Engineering at Google, says that at the current rate of growth, solar power will be able to meet today’s energy needs in about 14 years.

Given growing energy needs, Kurzweil predicts that solar power will be inexpensive and ubiquitous enough to power the planet in about 20 years.

The prediction may sound far-fetched, but Kurzweil isn’t the only one making it. X Prize founder and Singularity University co-founder Peter Diamandis agrees:

Likewise, Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow at Singularity University and director of research at Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University, points out that a mere three decades ago, people were just as skeptical of mobile phones as they are of solar energy today, and with similar justification.

READ MORE: CEO Of Sunrun: Solar Energy Is On The Rise

SEE ALSO: Check Out Solar Impulse, The Solar-Powered Airplane That Can Fly Forever

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Camera iPhone 6

When Apple unveiled its iPhone 6 earlier this month, it talked about the upcoming camera features we can expect to see in its newest smartphone.

Although the iPhone 6 comes with an 8-megapixel camera just like the iPhone 5s, its sensor is still capable of capturing sharp, clear images.

When you look at the numbers on paper, it sounds like the iPhone’s camera is slightly behind.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 features a 16-megapixel camera, for example, and Motorola’s second-gen Moto X comes with a 13 megapixel camera.

We took some shots with the iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, Galaxy S5, and Moto X to see how each phone’s camera holds up in real-world testing.

NOTE: All photos were taken with the camera set to Auto to demonstrate how they perform out of the box. Each image was taken in the same spot at the same time. 

Here’s a photo of the Flatiron Building in New York City taken with the iPhone 6.



This is the same photo taken with the iPhone 5s. The pictures look exactly the same.



In this image taken with Samsung’s Galaxy S5, you’ll notice the building looks a little darker.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider






Dead Finback Whale

Confrontations between rival navies are rare these days, but American seamen face another challenge: avoiding collisions with the largest animals that have ever existed.  

Marine biologist Greg Silber is after new insights to prevent US vessels from striking whales. In 2009 he and his team used an artificial basin at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in West Bethesda, Maryland, to test the hydrodynamics of “ship strikes” — collisions between vessels and the massive yet highly vulnerable sea mammals.

Undertaken at a military facility and by a government organization — Silber works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA — their resulting study had a purpose far beyond satisfying the researchers’ individual curiosity.

“What we did was build a whale model that was completely to scale,” Silber told Business Insider. “The same density, the same weight, the same size, relative to the size of the vessel model. And then we ran the ship model at the whale.” Researchers hoped that studying the dynamics of a simulated collision could help develops methods for avoiding ship strikes. 

Granted, there were limits to what the study could achieve. Living whales are likely to move as a collision unfolds, and organic tissue don’t have the same properties as the plastic resin and fiberglass model the researchers used. But the simulations still gave a glimpse into what happens in the “near field,” Silber’s term for the few dozen yards that are closed before a ship and a whale collide.

Screen Shot 2014 09 22 at 4.15.30 PMFor instance, researchers were able to figure out a “lethal” and “safe” zone for whales relative to a given naval vessel, based on the size and position of both (see chart at left).

"We know how vessels work. We know a little about how whales work. We don’t know anything about the actual interaction," said Silber. 

The oceans are vast — but not so vast that whale strikes are unavoidable. One line of the Old English epic Beowulf calls the ocean a “whale road,” and the animals can suffer the same violent fate as any creatures that share their habitat with human traffic.

Another Silber study collected nearly 300 incidents of confirmed or possible ship strikes in 27 years. Over two thirds were fatal for the whales involved.

In his research at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Silber was surprised to find the model ship successfully recreated the suction effect of a working propeller — which is strong enough to suck in certain whales, a class of creatures that can weigh in excess of 100 tons.

“Even when the whale was at depth, let’s say [the equivalent of] 30 feet, 50 feet, maybe even 80 feet, it can be drawn towards the ship and then hit by the propeller,” said Silber. This “significant lateral drawing action,” which often occurred when the model whale was submerged rather than afloat, was perhaps Silber’s biggest finding, though it wasn’t always quite strong enough to draw all whales into a ship’s blades. 

Whale Model With Accelerometer

Ship strikes often occur head-on as well. The most extreme case may have been off the coast of Florida in 1991, when a Navy hydrofoil traveling at 45 miles an hour struck a whale, causing a fast landing that threw the crew forward.

A warped hull and broken steering arms on both sides of the vessel were only part of the $1 million in damage.

The US Navy, which has nearly 300 vessels deployed around the world, has had an outsized role in reported ship strikes. Among the cases with “known vessel type” in Silber’s study, 23 involved the Navy, ahead of 20 container ships and 19 whale-watching ships.

But the Navy isn’t necessarily the most blameworthy party. Silber said the military branch reports cases “religiously,” even in cases where it can’t verify whether a strike actually took place. And since commercial ships are often larger in size than naval vessels, freighters and or massive container ships might not even notice they’ve struck a whale. Silber’s study notes that “a 10,000-ton Naval ship has a greater likelihood of recognizing that a collision has occurred than does a 40,000-ton container ship.”

The Navy is also busier along seaboards than in the open ocean, where most ship strikes occur.North Atlantic right whale 2One whale species suffers from ship strikes most — and it’s also the Atlantic’s most critically endangered.

North Atlantic right whales as a species seem to be more prone to being hit by large vessels than other large whale species,” says Tony LaCasse, a representative of the New England Aquarium, which runs conservation programs targeting the species. “They are basically all black, and they often are feeding near the surface for long periods of times at a slow speed.”From the mid ’80s to the mid aughts, nearly 40 percent of right whale deaths were attributed to ship strikes, a significant blow to a population thought to be smaller than 500 individuals. That vulnerability is what led Silber and his team to use the right whale, specifically, as their model. 

In 2008, US agencies including NOAA implemented a speed limit of 10 knots for ships 65 feet or greater in length. The restriction applied to locations along the Atlantic seaboard at times of year when right whale populations were at their densest.

Silber’s study had called the casualty numbers are probably an under-counting, since “many other strikes likely go undetected or unreported.” He believes fatal ship strikes could number in the hundreds annually.

The world’s oceans are also set to get a little busier, with freight transport projected to grow four percent every year this decade. If sea traffic increases as a result, whales will have additional deadly hazards to content with, on top of the ones already facing them.

SEE ALSO: This amazing plane is the military’s most versatile beast of burden

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Apple on Monday announced yet another record-breaking opening weekend for its latest iPhone lineup, which includes the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. But by now, it’s customary — even expected — for each new iPhone to break the opening weekend record of its predecessor. Based on company data charted for us by BI Intelligence, Apple has successfully one-upped itself each year since the first iPhone was released in June 2007. 

Tech_COTD 922

SEE ALSO: APPLE ANNOUNCES OPENING WEEKEND IPHONE 6 SALES WERE OVER 10 MILLION

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Sheryl Sandberg worked her way up the ranks in Google and Facebook to become one of the most successful women in tech. 

A new comic book called "Female Force: Sheryl Sandberg" tells her whole life story in drawing form, from working for former treasury secretary Larry Summers to joining Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.

The “Female Force” series has highlighted a number of successful women in the past, including Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Arianna Huffington. The imprint was created by Bluewater Productions, who has also written about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs, among many others. 

"Our goal is to show the behind-the scenes machinations — many of them ignored by the mainstream media — that resulted in Sheryl Sandberg becoming a leading voice in empowering successful businesswomen," publisher Darren Davis said. "A visual medium provides perspective that is not only accessible but more relatable to the average person without losing any of the information involved."

You can download it as an e-book or buy the print version from Comic Flea Market.

The comic book starts in her early working days, first in the federal government and then at Google. 

sheryl sandberg comic

Readers then get the story of how she got poached by Facebook.

sheryl sandberg comic

sheryl sandberg comic

It also addresses quite a bit of her personal life, including her relationship with her husband, Survey Monkey CEO David Goldberg.

sheryl sandberg comic

There are lots of “Lean In” references as well.

sheryl sandberg comic

SEE ALSO: The Fabulous Life Of Facebook Billionaire Sheryl Sandberg

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eric schmidt at d

Google on Monday announced it would pull its support from The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) due to the organization’s ongoing denial of climate change.

"The facts of climate change are not in question anymore, everyone understands that climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place, and we should not be aligned with such people,” Google chairman Eric Schmidt said in a statement.

But some people might be wondering: Why did Google support this organization in the first place?

For those who don’t know, ALEC was founded in 1973 as “the Conservative Caucus of State Legislators,” but its current goal is to further “the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism.” 

Among its various campaigns, ALEC has focused on opposing abortion in the US; expanding “Stand Your Ground” gun laws that allow citizens the right to self-defense if they feel their property is under attack; opposing the individual health insurance mandate enacted by the Affordable Care Act; prohibiting cities from building public broadband networks; advancing the cause to privatize state prisons; forcing states to demand that voters produce state-issued IDs; and much more.

Last October, Google (and Facebook, too) joined ALEC, a group that has initiatives to give tax cuts to tobacco companies, privatize schools and for-profit education companies, repeal state taxes for the wealthy, and oppose renewable energy efforts.

But Google didn’t just join ALEC; it also funded it.

According to the watchdog group Common Cause"In addition to paying to be a member of ALEC ($12,000 - $25,000 per year), Google and Facebook both pay to be a member of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force ($5,000 per year). If they sponsor a workshop, training, or party during ALEC’s conferences, that is an additional amount (somewhere around $40,000 per event), plus conference fees to send their lobbyists/executives to ALEC conferences, plus any additional funding they give to ALEC or ALEC scholarship accounts. All of this funding is considered charitable contributions to a 501(c)(3). Google may write it off as a tax write-off.”

In a column for The Huffington Post, author Norman Solomon cited a book by Robert McChesney in hopes to explain why Google had aligned itself with ALEC:

Any qualms about privacy, commercialism, avoiding taxes, or paying low wages to Third World factory workers were quickly forgotten,” McChesney writes. “It is not that the managers are particularly bad and greedy people — indeed their individual moral makeup is mostly irrelevant — but rather that the system sharply rewards some types of behavior and penalizes other types of behavior so that people either get with the program and internalize the necessary values or they fail.”

Solomon believed Google joined ALEC so it could remain in a position of power, which would allow the company to impact — or at least know about — future changes to national policies and legislation.

“Google’s involvement in ALEC is consistent with the company’s mega-business model that relentlessly exploits rigorous data-mining of emails, online searches and so much more,” Solomon writes.

Another theory from Todd O’Boyle, director of Common Cause: “[Google] might be concerned about right-of-way and video franchising related to Google Fiber, or maybe they want to work on state tax issues.” 

It’s unclear why Google initially joined ALEC — there are theories, but the company offered no official statement. That said, it’s pretty clear why Google decided to back out of its deal with ALEC on Monday.

On Sept. 3, more than 50 different labor, watchdog and advocacy groups wrote a letter to Google asking to cut its ties with ALEC. A Google spokesperson initially told Ars Technica, “We aren’t going to be commenting on this letter.” However, with Microsoft cutting its ties with ALEC just weeks prior, Google may have foreseen a bigger controversy stirring, and severed ties in an attempt to save face.

We’ve reached out to Google for an official explanation for its change of heart — besides the statement produced today by Schmidt — and we’ll update this story when we learn more.

SEE ALSO: A Former NBA Player Was Arrested For Stealing $14,000 Worth Of Apple Products And Reselling Them At A Pawn Shop

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This week, NASA announced that Elon Musk’s SpaceX will receive a $2.6 billion contract to develop the manned iteration of its Dragon capsule, the first version of which is already being used to resupply the International Space Station.

(Boeing received a contract to develop its own manned space craft, the CST-100 capsule, as well, to the tune of $4.2 billion.)

Under the Commercial Crew Program contract, SpaceX will not only assist NASA in transporting astronauts and cargo to the ISS, but will also be free to transport civilians, in effect providing a taxi service to low-Earth orbit for anyone who can afford it. So how will it work?

First, the basics. Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon V2 capsule in May:

spacex dragon 2 unveilThe pressurized capsule seats up to seven people, with a total payload volume of 10 cubic meters. The trunk provides an additional 14 cubic meters of unpressurized cargo room:

spacex dragon v2 interiorIt also features a clean, simple interface for the pilot, including touch screens, a joystick for navigation, and manual buttons for emergency functions:

spacex dragon screens2The Dragon is launched into Earth’s orbit by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket (pictured below launching the unmanned version of Dragon, which has been used to send cargo up to the International Space Station):

falcon 9 launchAs it gains altitude, the Dragon V2 sheds the Falcon 9 rocket stages that get it to space and positions itself by the International Space Station (ISS).

To dock with the space station, its nose cap opens to expose the docking hatch. Unlike the original Dragon, the new version will not discard the nose cap entirely, but have it swing open:

dragon v2 ISS approach openThe docking hatch, as the name implies, allows the Dragon V2 to dock at the ISS — or on any spacecraft, in theory, according to Musk. The original Dragon relies on the Space Station’s Canada Arm to wrangle it upon approach, a limitation that the manned capsule will not share.

dragon v2 ISS dockOnce the cargo and passengers are safely aboard, the Dragon decouples from the ISS, potentially engaging up to 12 thrusters to maneuver away, and the nose cap closes.

dragon v2 iss decouplePrior to re-entry, the Dragon jettisons its trunk, which carries the two solar arrays that power the capsule, along with unpressurized cargo, while it navigates around the ISS. It’s not needed when the capsule is ready to return home.

dragon v2 detachGetting rid of the trunk exposes the Dragon’s heat shield, which is what allows the astronaut-carrying capsule to safely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere without burning up due to friction with the atmosphere.

The heat shield on the Dragon is an advanced version of the one NASA used for its Stardust robotic space probe. It protects the capsule as it accelerates to speeds up to 17,500 miles per hour.

dragon v2 reentryBut unlike Stardust, the Dragon V2 uses 18 powerful thrusters, capable of producing 90 lbs of thrust apiece, to land safely and gently on almost any kind of surface, instead of landing in the ocean.

dragon v2 descentThis gives Dragon V2 the flexibility to land nearly anywhere on Earth.

dragon v2 landing

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