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SoftBank Said to Offer to Buy Uber Stock at 30 Percent Discount

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp is offering to purchase shares of Uber Technologies at a valuation of $48 billion, a 30 percent discount to its most recent valuation of $68.5 billion, a person familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The investment, which has been approved by the Uber board, would give the Japanese investor up to 17 percent of the ride services company. The offer comes as Uber is trying to improve corporate governance and cut the influence of former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick.

A second person said the offer price was in line with what investors had been expecting. SoftBank is also expected to make a separate $1 billion investment in the company at the $68.5 billion valuation.

SoftBank is making the tender offer on Monday, the sources said. Even at the discounted price, Uber is one of the world’s most valuable companies, and the offer is a chance for early investors to lock in substantial profits.

Bloomberg reported the offer price earlier on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2017

Pokemon GO Event bringing big bonuses today [UPDATE]

This week Pokemon GO users will find a number of bonuses applied to their everyday game, thanks to millions of users worldwide. The challenges set up by Niantic earlier this month had users aim to catch thousands, then millions of Pokemon in a short period of time. While some nay-sayers doubted the possibility, trainers made with the catching and attained every goal possible.

Thanksgiving indeed, said thousands and millions of users around the world this past week in Pokemon GO. According to Niantic, the goal was caught in plenty of time – even while the first segment of this race to the finish didn’t speed ahead as quick as the rest. There’s a reason for that, of course – more than one reason.

The beginning of this challenge sequence started early in the week last week. This was before Thanksgiving, which took place on Thursday. In the United States, Thanksgiving is a holiday in which people gather together to eat supper and/or dinner, giving thanks for whatever bountiful goodness we have to be thankful for when we shovel food into our mouths. As such, we need about a day or two to get ready to go to grandmother’s house.

Once citizens were at their Grandmas houses, they had a whole lot of free time. All that free time seems to have been used on Pokemon GO, as the global goal of 3-BILLION Pokemon was reached well within the event’s limits. As such, the entire event’s goals brought bonuses, the likes of which include the following:

These bonuses are in full effect now – go out and grab what’s coming to you! Especially you iPhone X users, be sure to update to get the full-screen effect. The newest version of Pokemon GO is ready to roll for your abnormal display, right out to the edges!

UPDATE: Those perks not enough? Here’s one more! Because of the dedication (some say obsession) of Pokemon GO fans, Niantic will be making the Gen 2 legendary bird Ho-Oh available in Raid Battles all the way to December 12! If you ever catch one during that period, better thank the army of Global Catch Challenge players who made the impossible possible.

SoftBank makes offer for Uber shares at 30% discount

A SoftBank Group-led team of investors has made an offer to buy Uber’s shares in a tender offer that would value the company at about a 30% discount to Uber’s last private valuation of nearly $70 billion, a source with knowledge of the proposed deal tells TechCrunch. We’re hearing that the proposed price per share is $32.96, which works out to under $50 billion.

Bloomberg first reported the latest development, which follows months of talks about both a direct investment in the ride-hailing company at the company’s last private valuation of nearly $70 billion and also a large purchase of the shares of existing shareholders at the lower price.

Uber already announced a few weeks ago that was moving forward with the process, specifically that it “entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank and Dragoneer on a potential investment.”Now the tender offer is expected to launch tomorrow, which is the date we reported at the time.

It’s a package deal and the $1 billion investment at Uber’s last private valuation is contingent on the secondary happening. The tender would include nearly $9 billion of shares from existing shareholders, the amount needed to get the SoftBank-led group its desired 14% of the company.

We’re told that Uber employees with at least 10,000 of vested share will be eligible to sell. Other Uber shareholders, including venture capitalists, angel investors and former employees could also be eligible.

They are asking the sellers to be “accredited investors,” which is typical for buyers, but less common for sellers. This means that Uber employees who make less than $200,000 in salary, will also need to be worth $1 million to sell their shares (this includes the value of the shares). In other words, you already need to be “rich” to make more money here.

But for those eligible, this will finally give more employees an opportunity to turn paper money into cash.

We’re told it’s also possible that if SoftBank does not find enough sellers at the $32.96 share price, that they may raise the price to meet the desired 14% ownership.

Until recently, most Uber shareholders were prevented from selling. The $1 billion investment in the company will also help the company continue to fuel its growth as it prepares to grow public in 2019.

This is a big moment for Uber, in what has been a very difficult year. Uber has been dealt legal battles, including a patent lawsuit with Alphabet’s self-driving car division, and public outcry about its company culture. Co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was pressured to resign in June.

Kalanick recently named Ursula Burns and John Thain to those seats. If one of them gives up their spot, Kalanick will require a board vote to appoint a replacement, as long as the SoftBank deal is finalized.

Featured Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Another annoying iOS 11 autocorrect bug has emerged

New iOS releases typically come with their fair share of problems, but iOS 11 may very well be the buggiest iOS release we’ve seen yet. Though Apple has done a good job of fixing some of the more egregious issues we’ve seen with minor software updates, it seems that we can’t even go a week or two without some new bizarre software problem rearing its ugly head.

Just about two weeks removed since the release of iOS 11.1.1 — an update which finally fixed that pesky keyboard bug which autocorrected the letter “I” to an odd-looking symbol — we’re now getting word that another keyboard issue with iOS 11 has emerged. Originally brought to light by MacRumors, a growing number of iPhone and iPad users are reporting that iOS 11 is bizarrely autocorrecting the word “it” to “I.T.”

Users impacted by the bug have noted that rebooting their device doesn’t alleviate the problem. A frustrating bug, to be sure, there is a quick fix users can implement to skirt around the issue until Apple rolls out an official solution.

If you’re one of the users affected by the bug, you can take advantage of iOS’ built-in text replacement feature to right the ship. To do so, simply go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. From there, tap the “+” icon located on the upper right of the screen and then type in the word “it” into both the Phrase and Shortcut fields.

If the fix above doesn’t work for you, you’ll probably want to just turn off the autocorrect feature altogether.

Epic Games receives scathing legal rebuke from 14-year-old Fortnite cheater’s mom

Epic Games, the game developer of the massively popular Fortnite survival shooter, now finds itself at the center of a heated debate around the ethics of punishing cheaters after filing a lawsuit against a 14-year-old boy. In response, the boy’s mother filed a legal note tearing down Epic’s lawsuit and calling for it to be thrown out. The ensuing debate has been fierce, with some praising Epic and others decrying the legal measures as excessive and heartless, suggesting this case could become a touchstone for how game developers of highly competitive online titles handle cheaters and licensing agreement violations in the future.

Fortnite, which contains a a multiplayer mode heavily borrowing elements of the breakout game Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, has become a huge hit on both console and PC. The game involves a contest between a large number of human players, with as many as 100 people facing off in a single round. That makes it one of the most competitive games on the market, which attracts the attention of malicious PC players who use game modifications to develop cheating software and then subscription services to digitally distribute that software for money. This software typically makes it easier to aim guns, allowing players to automate the act of defeating opponents.

Epic, which has banned cheaters only to see them develop more robust workarounds, has responded by suing both distributors of the software and, now it seems, at least one user of it. Suing an individual user instead of simply banning them is an unorthodox and controversial move because it echoes the misguided actions of the music recording industry in its attempt to crackdown on piracy. That parallel was only further cemented by the note submitted by the 14-year-old’s mother in the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The mother — who appears to be either a lawyer, a friend or family member of one, or a very dedicated researcher — lays out an impressive case for why the suit against her son should be thrown out. Her argument boils down to the fact that her son did not develop the cheats, nor did he distribute them. Instead, he simply downloaded them from a popular cheating website and streamed himself using the cheats.

Not only that, but the mother makes a convincing argument that it would be difficult for Epic to prove in court that her underage son was bound by its end user licensing agreement (EULA) given that Fortnite is a free-to-play game and its EULA did not contain an option for underage users to obtain parental consent, which she says she never gave. It would also be difficult for Epic to prove that the act of cheating harmed its ability to make a profit considering the game’s revenue stream is restricted to microtransaction purchases of cosmetic in-game items. She also cites potential disclosure violations on Epic’s part, including the company naming the boy and directly suing a minor, both of which are illegal in some states.

However, this is where it starts to get really tricky. Epic says it’s in the right because the lawsuit isn’t about the use of cheating software, but the promotion of said software on YouTube. In a statement, the company explained that the 14-year-old cheater refused to take down a video Epic says is effectively a how-to guide for using the cheating software.

“This particular lawsuit arose as a result of the defendant filing a DMCA counterclaim to a takedown notice on a YouTube video that exposed and promoted Fortnite Battle Royale cheats and exploits,” Epic told The Verge in a statement. “Under these circumstances, the law requires that we file suit or drop the claim. Epic is not okay with ongoing cheating or copyright infringement from anyone at any age. As stated previously, we take cheating seriously, and we’ll pursue all available options to make sure our games are fun, fair, and competitive for players.”

In other words, the 14-year-old cheater contested Epic’s DMCA takedown notice on YouTube, seemingly pushing the company to file a lawsuit to ensure others Fortnite players couldn’t do the same. In fact, the boy even made a second YouTube video in which he admitted to using the software, live streaming himself cheating, and refusing to take the initial video down.

So it looks like the boy really did take some foolish steps that make Epic’s case appear more reasonable. On the other hand, Epic is suing a 14-year-old over a YouTube dispute, a territory that’s already a lightning rod for controversy in the game community because of how corporations have misused DMCA takedowns in the past. Because Epic is claiming the boy violated its EULA by using and broadcasting the cheat and refusing to take down the YouTube video, it can seek a fine of up to $150,000, meaning a large and powerful game corporation could bankrupt a family for the naive actions of a young teenager. It’s unclear the company even knew the boy’s age at the time it filed suit. It’s also up in the air right now whether Epic really plans on following through. More understandably, the company may just want the threat of a lawsuit hanging in the air to deter future cheaters from making YouTube or Twitch live streams of the behavior and encouraging others to do the same.

On a grander scale, the lawsuit speaks to the contentious debate around the legal enforcement of licensing agreements and terms of service contracts. Nearly every piece of technology, including both hardware and software, carries with it some type of murky agreement regulating the behavior of consumers, whether it’s to prevent them from modding a video game, jailbreaking a smartphone, or using a product in some way its creators never intended. We agree to these contracts without reading them or even understanding what types of behavior scale from prohibited to illegal. For children with unfettered access to the internet, this is an especially troublesome gray area resulting in a minefield for parents and corporations alike.

Cheating at a video game may not be as serious as using Facebook or Twitter to harass or threaten someone, or using programming scripts to participate in a distributed denial of service attack against a government website. But these hacks do have a harmful effect on an online game community by undermining the integrity of a title’s fair and level playing field. Remarkably, even in 2017, the extent to which a company will use legal means to crackdown on this behavior is still being worked out on a case-by-case basis, with Fortnite just the latest and most visible example.

How Epic plans to handle it will be telling, not just because it illustrates how far a company might go to take a YouTube video down, but because it shines a spotlight on the rights and responsibilities of minors. These are players who, increasingly, are playing games that are given out for free online that involve interacting with other human beings — all with little rules, protections, or guardrails to regulate their behavior. Cheating may be something developers have a legitimate interest in stamping out, but doing so by using their formidable resources to crush a 14-year-old would appear to be a step too far.

Sensor Tower: Animal Crossing gets 15 million mobile downloads in 6 days

Judging by the flood of memes on Twitter about Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, it’s no surprise to hear that it had a successful launch. In the first six days, it’s been downloaded at least 15 million times from the Apple App Store and Google Play, according to market analyst Sensor Tower. That puts it ahead of Fire Emblem: Heroes, though it’s behind Super Mario Run, which drew 32 million downloads in its first six days.

Pocket Camp is based on the popular Animal Crossing series, which has sold over 30 million games since its 2001 debut. Players create personalized camp sites and can build more furniture by leveling up and collecting crafting ingredients. It’s a social game that rewards daily logins and adding people as friends, and a big part of the gameplay is befriending animals in the world by gifting them with items like fruit, bugs, and fish. The in-game currency is bells, but some items and areas must be purchased using Leaf Tickets. Players can earn these by completing quests or using real-world money.

Nintendo has been trying to grab a spot in the lucrative mobile games market, which is estimated to grow to $65 billion in 2020. Its first title, Super Mario Run, has now hit 200 million downloads since its debut in December 2016. Even though only 4 percent of folks opt to pay the $10 price to unlock the full game, its numbers look impressive and it generated $8.4 million on its first day. Nintendo’s second title Fire Emblem: Heroes was free to play with microtransactions, and it pulled in $2.9 million on day one.

The exact numbers aren’t out yet on how Pocket Camp’s microtransactions have fared. However, Sensor Tower reports that it’s No. 10 on the Apple App Store’s top-grossing chart in Japan. It’s lagging behind in the U.S., where it sits at No. 72, but the download numbers look promising.

“Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is yet another example of the Nintendo brand’s power to drive massive adoption out of the gate on mobile, even without the huge marketing push that Super Mario Run received,” said Sensor Tower analyst Ruika Lin. “The Animal Crossing franchise has historically had the wider draw on consoles and handhelds when compared to the more hardcore Fire Emblem series, and we’re now seeing that echoed on the App Store and Google Play.”

Amazon Cyber Monday deals include $100 Acer Chromebook, $999 Apple MacBook

amazon-cyber-monday-deals-specials-sales-chromebooks-gaming-desktops-laptops.jpg

Some of Amazon’s Cyber Monday laptop deals.

As the biggest online retailer in the known universe, no one is more equipped to handle Cyber Monday than Amazon. Among all of the deals it will be touting today, including sales on its own Fire tablets, the shopping Goliath has a number of specials for those looking to buy a new computer.

Cyber Monday 2017

Front and center in its deals of the day, Amazon is discounting a quartet of Chromebooks, including the Acer CB3-131-CESZ with Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and 11.6-inch display for just $99.99. You can double the RAM with the CB3-131-C8SZ for $30 more, or upgrade to one of two convertible Chromebooks: The Acer Chromebook R 13 runs on a MediaTek processor, and includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 13.3-inch full HD touchscreen for $289.99, while the Asus Flip C302 features an Intel Core m3 CPU, 4 gigs of RAM, 64GB of storage, and 12.5-inch touchscreen for $386.99.

Those looking for a deal on Apple’s MacBook will also find savings at Amazon today. Like Best Buy, the retailer is chopping the price of MacBook Pro laptops, in this case a significant discount on a 13-inch configuration with 3.3GHz Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB solid-state drive for $1,984, or $315 less than Apple’s own price. Another deal of the day is on a previous generation 12-inch MacBook; if you can live with an older Intel Core m5-6Y54 CPU, you still get 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD for $999.99, compared to $1,209 from the refurbished section of Apple’s online store.

In addition to continued savings on many of its Black Friday deals, Amazon has other Windows PCs on sale for Cyber Monday. If you act quickly, you can grab a choice of Dell Inspiron notebook — either the 15 3000 2-in-1 with eighth-generation Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive, and 13.3-inch touchscreen for $629.99, or a gaming configuration with Core i7- 7700HQ, 8 gigs of RAM, terabyte hard drive and 128GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, and 15.6-inch full HD display for $699.99.

Also on the clock as a limited-supply deal is the Asus ZenBook 3 for $999, which packages a Core i7-7500U CPU, 16GB of memory, and 512GB SSD into a 2-pound chassis with 12.5-inch display. Another Asus special is the Gaming G11CD-DB52 desktop with Core i5-6400, 8GB of RAM, terabyte hard drive, and GeForce GTX 950 graphics for $649, $150 off.

Amazon has two different Lenovo Flex 2-in-1 laptops on sale, depending on what you value more. For $599.99, the Flex 5 has a bigger screen (15.6-inch vs. 14-inch), but for $699 you can get a Flex 4 with a more powerful processor (Core i7 vs. Core i5), along with AMD Radeon R5 M430 graphics. Finally, gamers might appreciate the deal on the MSI GL62M gaming laptop, which offers i7-7700HQ, 8GB of RAM, 1TB hard drive and 128GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1050Ti, and 15.6-inch full HD display for $899.99, or almost $200 off.

Plex’s DVR now lets you skip the commercials… by removing them for you

Plex confirmed it’s rolling out a new feature that will allow cord cutters to skip the commercials in the TV programs recorded using its software, making the company’s lower-cost solution to streaming live TV more compelling. Unlike other commercial-skip options, Plex’s option will remove commercials from recordings automatically.

The company, which originally offered home media software for organizing personal collections, recently began to serve cord cutters by offering a way to watch live TV streamed via a connected antenna, and record those programs.

Its live TV service isn’t technically the same thing as a live TV streaming service, because it’s capturing signals from a digital antenna in your home, not streaming shows over the internet, as with something like Sling TV. But it does offer an easy way to watch free television from over-the-air broadcast networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, PBS, CW and others.

Now Plex Pass subscribers will be able to skip the ads.

The new feature works by locating the commercials in your recorded media. It then actually removes them before the media is stored in your library. That sounds like it could be even better than TiVo’s commercial skipping option, for example, because you don’t have to press a button to skip the ads — they’re being pulled out for you, proactively.

Plex’s feature may not be a perfect solution, however. As the blog Cord Cutter News noted (which was first to spot the feature’s arrival), the process could take a long time and cause high CPU usage, according to Plex’s own documentation.

Additionally, the feature is only available in beta for Plex Pass subscribers — that is, those who pay for Plex — for the time being.

To get started, you’ll need to make sure your Update Channel is set to “beta” in order to try it out. (You’ll need to be on the latest version of the software — version 1.10.0.4516, the company tells TechCrunch.)

The “Remove Commercial” option will then appear in the Plex Server Settings for Live TV and DVR.

The option works across all platforms except for FreeBSD and devices that are unable to transcode, we’re also told.

Though still fairly new, Plex’s live TV service has been steadily growing. The company added a streaming news service to its software this September, and as of November 2017, has grown to 15 million registered accounts. It has not said how many of those are paying subscribers, but that number has grown from 13 million in June.

Pokémon GO’s Global Catch Challenge Secret Grand Prize Is A Ho-Oh Raid Release

Niantic

Pokemon GO

I thought that the rewards of the Pokémon GO Global Catch Challenge were a touch…underwhelming. A region-locked bird and some bonuses? I mean, fine, but worthy of three billion catches? I don’t think so.

Turns out Niantic had something up their sleeve this entire time. They’ve just announced that the final Legendary of the Gen 1/2 era, Ho-Oh, will be released in raids (normal raids) for the next two weeks.

The absence of Ho-Oh in Pokémon GO has been a bit conspicuous for a while now. We have seen the release of four other Legendary Birds, three Legendary Beasts and Mewtwo (in EX raids), but Ho-Oh was left out along with the Mythics, Celebi and Mew.

There were many (many) theories about when Ho-Oh would arrive as Niantic added art for him and tweaked his stats behind the scenes. One was that he would show up when the Legendary Beasts arrived, another was that he would be the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving event.

There was no Thanksgiving event, that was the Global Catch Challenge, but I suppose he is the centerpiece of that all the same as the “grand prize” offering for 3 billion catches. Many were worried that Ho-Oh was going to be locked into exclusive raids like Mewtwo. I’m betting that was considered, but this was definitely the right call, and a perfect cap to the Catch Challenge.

Niantic

Don’t get me wrong, I liked getting my Farfetch’d as much as anyone, but that was a prize that literally took thirty seconds and no effort to redeem. It just didn’t seem like the gold at the end of a rainbow for a challenge this expansive. Ho-Oh definitely is worthy of the event, and I’m glad that Niantic realized this and sprung him on fans as a “surprise.”

I did have a sneaking suspicion about this. Ho-Oh almost needed be released now, before Gen 3 arrived, and with the Beasts departing at the end of this month, that left a Legendary hole in the roster. Ho-Oh was the logical choice for many reasons, which is why I was surprised to see him left out of the initial rundown of the Global Catch Challenge. But I suppose it speaks volumes about the enthusiasm of the Pokémon GO community that they rallied for 3 billion catches for Farfetch’d. I bet Ho-Oh would have gotten 5 billion, if it was announced he was on the way.

Ho-Oh raids will begin tomorrow I believe, and will continue to December 12th, so you will have plenty of chances to catch him. And after that? I have to believe Gen 3’s launch is imminent, and we’ll be left wondering when the Mythics might arrive, along with a whole new set of Legendaries in the new generation.

Respect, Niantic. This was a good call, and a great finale for what turned out to be a very solid event.

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