NASA successfully puffs up its inflatable space habitat

Second time’s the charm. Following a less-than-successful initial test run, NASA and Bigelow Aerospace have successfully inflated the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module attached to the International Space Station. It took several hours (the team didn’t want any movement that could destabilize the station), but the experimental pod now extends nearly 5.6 feet out and 10.6 feet across. That’s not the full size (it’ll ultimately be 7 feet long), but it’s hopefully smooth sailing from here on out.

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Apple Store’s worst feature? Customers, says ex-employee

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

The Apple Store is a joyous place. Until customers arrive, that is.Enlarge Image

The Apple Store is a joyous place. Until customers arrive, that is.

Josh Miller/CNET

You’ve always wondered what life is like at an Apple store, haven’t you?

Behind the scenes and in an employee’s heart and mind, what’s really happening? What’s he or she really thinking?

On Saturday, Business Insider published an interview with a woman who says she worked at a UK Apple store between 2011 and 2015.

She says a lot. Or, at least, uses many words.

At heart, though, she suggests that the very worst thing about the stores isn’t the management, the products or even the cultlike nature of the Apple brand.

Instead, she said, it’s the fact that you’re simply a retail worker who usually gets treated poorly, “not necessarily by the store, but by the customers. It is an incredibly disheartening job.”

Apple fanpersons are, it seems, not the most charming. She said people come in just to complain.

And how they complain.

“Maybe 60 percent of the time there’s actually something wrong” with a product, she said. “But the point is, they’ll come to you. They won’t have booked a Genius Bar appointment or have looked it up online first. About once a day I was called a bitch for not knowing how something worked.”

In fact, she said, on one special occasion, a customer offered her that very verbal nicety — along with the modifier “lazy” and a demand that she travel to a certain legendary place of eternal misery (no, not Walmart on Black Friday, but close). And why? Because she’d apologized for not immediately knowing the exact issue with a device the customer had brought in — a gadget that “wasn’t even an Apple product, but a third-party accessory.”

It’s so easy to be critical of brands and products, isn’t it? Perhaps we don’t always stop to think about how sweetly we’re behaving.

When it comes to Apple products, the existence of a convenient retail outlet seems to serve as a convenient emotional outlet for frustrated customers.

The employee said she even got death threats, such as one from an endearing customer who said that because Apple wouldn’t repair a gadget for free, “they would wait outside until I finished work to run me down with their car.”

I think Apple calls such extreme reactions “going thermonuclear.”

Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment on the BI interview.

You’ll be wondering what kept such an employee working in the store for so long. It was, she said, her fellow staffers. Even though she admitted that Apple is, as many have suspected, cultlike, she said a lot of her co-workers were musicians and graphic designers who participated in “cool stuff.”

When asked to single out the worst product Apple sells, she replied it was the Apple Watch.

“It’s a bit like the first iPad, which lacked a load of features the iPad 2 had,” she said. “My parents still have the iPad 2. They want to get a new one, but theirs works, and it does everything they want it to. The next Apple Watch will probably have far more features.”

She said Apple doesn’t appear to fire many people once they get a coveted job at one of its stores. Given this particular worker’s fond remembrances, though, that sense of job security might not be so comforting.

Next time you wander into an Apple store and see an employee with Apple logo emblazoned over heart, remember this: You are the problem. In their minds, employees are happy to fix your gadget. In their hearts, they’d like to fix you.

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Europe will make publicly funded scientific research public

The motivation behind today’s decision is to make Europe a more attractive place to do business, and to spark innovation. Researchers will be able to look into one another’s work with ease, hopefully fostering an environment of collaboration. The official announcement namechecks not only “doctors and teachers,” but also “entrepreneurs;” a clear sign that the EU sees this as a very startup-friendly move.

To be clear, the decision will only affect the publication of research that is either fully or partly funded by public funds. Presently, that’s not the case: the results of a lot of public-private research and even some publicly funded research are behind paywalls on the sites of science journals.

In addition to the free-for-all on science papers, the EU is extending the decision to scientific data. To do this, it’s decreeing that data behind the articles and research be made publicly available and easy to reuse. In this case, it does note that there are well-founded reasons for not allowing this, such as “intellectual property rights, security or privacy.” Where warranted, researchers will be able to keep the data behind closed doors. This exception’s importance can’t be understated: without the caveat, this effort to spark innovation could have led to the exact crowd the EU is hoping to attract heading elsewhere for fear of losing their competitive edge.

It’s unclear what the knock-on effects could be. On the upside, sharing of knowledge is good for the scientific community, Europe and the world as a whole. But players on the periphery may see the move as troubling. Scientific journals rely on money from universities and businesses to sustain themselves, and by making a vast swathe of research free to access, the EU could be seriously draining an income resource.

Although there are still plenty of privately funded research initiatives, and these would be unaffected, many companies partner with public institutions and governments in order to further their research, and journals will no longer be able to make money from those papers. It’s thought that journals will charge authors for publishing papers, which could introduce its own problems.

Today’s announcement is a big win for Open Access advocates. The Netherlands, which currently holds the EU council presidency (it rotates every six months), had floated the idea back in April, but few believed it would gain such widespread approval so quickly. Today’s decision came from the EU’s Competitiveness Council, which incorporates ministers from every EU member state. All parties voted unanimously in favor of the proposal.

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Apple Car hints and Tesla Autopilot misses (AutoComplete Podcast 20)

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We go riding with George Hotz and his $1,000 autonomous car

McLaren 570GT Review: Smooth Speed – Carfection


Exclusive: Apple explores charging stations for electric vehicles

Uber and Toyota are teaming up, and it could shake up the car industry.

It never ends: Toyota recalls another 1.6 million cars for Takata airbag inflators

Toyota Prius scores best gas mileage of any car Consumer Reports has ever tested

GM to dole out debit cards, extended warranties as part of fuel-economy compensation plan

Dieselgate may have a light at the end of the tunnel after all


Tesla updates Summon because some people need a little extra help

Tesla driver caught sleeping, living the autopilot dream in traffic

Tesla Model S on Autopilot crashes into van parked on highway

Tesla, Jaguar, Volvo lead consumer software complaints in 2016

More research emerges showing consumers uninformed, wary of new vehicle technology

Public not sold on fully autonomous vehicles, study finds


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With contribution from Stephen Beacham.

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Senator behind biometric privacy act tries to remove its teeth

Link’s proposed changes alter the definition of a “scan” to be an in-person experience only. The new language defines a scan as “data resulting from an in-person process whereby a part of the body is traversed by a detector or an electronic beam.” The revision also adds “physical or digital” photographs to the list of items that are not biometric identifiers. The changes are attached to HB6074, a bill that tackles unclaimed property procedures. The alterations were proposed just before the legislature is set to recess for the long Memorial Day weekend, The Verge notes.

Christopher Dore is a partner with Edelson, the firm working on the lawsuit against Facebook, and he thinks the social network had something to do with the revisions.

“We believe that Facebook is a lobbyist that is a part of this,” Dore said, according to The Verge. “The changes that have been proposed certainly mirror the arguments that have been made in our case.”

Earlier this month, a judge denied Facebook’s motion to dismiss the Illinois case against its face-scanning technology.

Regarding this week’s proposed revisions, a Facebook spokesperson tells Engadget, “We appreciate Sen. Link’s effort to clarify the scope of the law he authored.”

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Hoping for a happy adulhood for Harry Potter? Think again

Accio Kleenex! Fans are going to do some sobbing if they see the new play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” J.K. Rowling promises.

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