Elon Musk gets into it with former Tesla employee he sued for alleged data hacking

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is hellbent on chewing out a disgruntled employee.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is hellbent on chewing out a disgruntled employee.

Image: Kiichiro Sato/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been quieter than usual on Twitter for the past day — maybe because he’s too busy emailing a former employee he called out for “sabotage” and proceeded to sue for stealing trade secrets and data about the electric car company.

The Washington Post obtained an email exchange between Musk and Martin Tripp, the former Nevada Gigafactory process technician worker, Tesla sued Wednesday. The emails were sent the same days the suit was filed in a district court in Nevada.

Bizarrely enough, Musk — the eccentric billionaire CEO who is also heading space projects, hyperloop transit systems, and more — went head on with the accused hacker, leaker, and framer. 

In the suit, Tesla alleges Tripp hacked Tesla’s data system, took photos and videos of the manufacturing process, shared data with the media, and put hacking software on three other employee computers in an attempt to receive data after he left Tesla.

In the series of messages dated Wednesday, Musk calls Tripp “a horrible human being” and calls him out for “framing other people.” Musk tells him he betrayed the company and should be ashamed. Tripp didn’t hold back, responding, “You have what’s coming to you for the lies you have told to the public and investors.”

We reached out to Tesla to hear what they have to say about the whole saga. Although Tesla didn’t have any comment on the email exchange, Tesla said Tripp is falsely positioning himself as a whistleblower when he stole Tesla data and made false claims about the company’s waste, production numbers, and use of damaged batteries in Model 3 cars.

This bizarre battle rages on.

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Amazon adds two new Motorola phones to its Prime Exclusive lineup

Amazon is adding two more phones to its Prime Exclusive collection today, with the announcement of the Moto G6 Play and Moto Z3 Play. Both devices will come with Alexa as the default voice assistant.

The G6 Play and Z3 Play will both be available unlocked so you can use them on Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint. As part of the Prime Exclusive collection, Prime members will get a discount on the devices along with preloaded apps like Prime Photos, Video, and Music. They can also access Alexa by tapping the Alexa app icon or double-pressing the power button.

The Moto G6 Play is a less expensive and less powerful version of the Moto G6 that was announced April. The device features a 5.7-inch LCD HD+ display and supports up to 32GB of storage. There are two cameras on the device: a 5-megapixel front-facing camera and 13-megapixel rear-facing camera. Prime members can get the phone for a slightly discounted price of $189.99, instead of the standard $199.

The second device, the Moto Z3 Play, is the larger and more powerful device compared to the G6 Play. It has a slightly larger 6-inch screen and a Full HD+ Super AMOLED display. Storage doubles that of the G6 Plus with 64GB. The front-facing camera is slightly better at eight megapixels and there are dual rear-facing cameras at 12 and five megapixels. It’s available for Prime members for $449.99 instead of the regular $499.99 price point.

The devices are available for preorder today and will begin shipping on June 29th. But if you’re serious about getting one of these devices, it may be worth waiting until July for the annual Prime Day sale to see if the company will offer steeper discounts on its exclusive lineup.

Here’s why Fortnite shopping carts are giving Epic Games such a big headache

One of Fortnite’s biggest draws is that it’s constantly updated with new things, like limited-time events or fancy weapons. While the steady drip of tweaks and additions help keep Fortnite fresh, it’s hard to predict how all these different elements will interact with one another. Lately, players have been exploiting a Fortnite vehicle in a way that keeps forcing Epic Games to take it out.

Shopping carts were introduced into Fortnite on May 30th, and they were an immediate hit. Players could drive carts, or could push them around while other people enjoyed the ride. Better yet, fans could build elaborate ramps and traps that turned matches into amusement park rides. It was messy and ridiculous, yet very Fortnite.

But two weeks later, on June 11th, shopping carts had to be disabled. Then they came back on June 14th. Two days later, shopping carts had to be taken out of the game once more. Then, on June 20th, shopping carts came back. Two hours later? They were gone again. For players who enjoy riding around on shopping carts, the whole thing has been like a seesaw: you never know if they’ll be useable or not.

So, what’s going on? While Epic Games has repeatedly tweeted that shopping carts are causing “issues,” a representative clarified to The Verge that the problem is that players keep using them to go underground, beneath the maps. There are YouTube tutorials out there with hundreds of thousands of views showing this glitch in action. Previous methods include building a structure and repeatedly grabbing a shopping cart while standing inside the structure, and grabbing a shopping cart while sliding down a mountain. While under the map, you can die by the storm — but you are also impervious to damage. You do, however, have to take care not to fall to your death by continually building platforms under you.

Most recently, the method that seemingly got shopping carts disabled is that players could get under the map by building a pyramid over the vehicle. Other videos showcase different methods to do the same thing, though often getting under the map leads to death. Now, getting under the map in itself isn’t the issue. The problem is that anyone using the exploit can still clearly see and harm other players above them. So you could be in a match where an invisible, unreachable force suddenly kills you out of nowhere:

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Players have reported that killing people while under the map has led to bans, and of course Epic has continued to patch out methods as they come up. But players keep finding new ways to abuse the shopping cart, so it’s become a game of cat and mouse.

Normally, when new additions aren’t working out the way Epic intended, the developer usually “vaults” items — that is, takes them out of commission for the foreseeable future. While we don’t know if this is the future of shopping carts necessarily, it seems unlikely that Epic wants to get rid of them.

Since they’ve been released, shopping carts have quickly become a fan favorite that showcase everything that makes Fortnite so joyful. Epic can’t just get rid of them without disappointing fans, which might explain why the feature keeps leaving and coming back. Instead of decommissioning them, Epic wants to find a solution. Now if only players could stop finding new ways to get under the map.

Patent hints that the iPhone could one day have built-in handwriting recognition

It looks like it’s time for some new Apple patents. Just last week, we reported that Apple had filed patents indicating it might steal the Google Pixel 2’s squeeze features. Now, the company has filed another patent — this time for a handwriting recognition system that could be used in multiple languages and a range of different apps — and could one day make it into the iPhone.

There are already handwriting recognition apps for the iPad, but what’s notable about this particular patent is that it could be built straight into iOS, meaning that you could use handwriting recognition as part of the iOS keyboard in any app. In particular, it seems like the technology is targeted at users in Asian or Arab countries, where there are more characters in languages, something that may make typing uncomfortable or inefficient.

As the patent notes, while handwriting algorithms have been getting better, they still need some work. Particularly, there’s a lot of variability in different people’s handwriting styles, which can make it difficult for algorithms to properly detect what’s being written. On top of that, the patent application notes that many countries are multilingual — and as such, users may need to switch between languages often. For example, someone in China might need to write a movie title in English. Manually switching languages on a software keyboard can be difficult.

Apple’s system, however, could make handwriting recognition a little better. Apple describes training the system with writing samples, meaning that it could get better at detecting handwriting as time goes on. The same system is used for detecting handwriting in all languages, so if you switch between languages while you’re writing, it should be able to properly pick it up.

It would certainly be interesting to see a system like this launch on iOS. For starters, either the system would only be available on newer iPad models, or Apple would have to open up Apple Pencil support for the iPhone. The third option is that users would have to “handwrite” with their finger, though that could get a little frustrating and inefficient. It’s possible that Apple won’t ever use the patent at all — the company routinely files for patents that it doesn’t use. It’s important to note, however, that this patent is a continuation of patents that date back to 2013, so the company has clearly been thinking about the tech for some time.

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Why can’t your Instagram upload? OpenSignal explains the upload speed gap

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Summer’s (officially) here, and with it will certainly come a social media barrage, as your friends and family members snap photos and videos of their fun in the sun now that school (and hopefully work) are out, at least temporarily. And in order to share all of those Instagram-worthy moments with an adoring public (because did it really happen if you don’t post about it?), you’ll doubtless be relying on your mobile network’s upload speeds.

To help you better understand why some carriers can help you get your pics onto Instagram and Snapchat faster than others, OpenSignal has published a new explainer to help clarify why there’s such a huge discrepancy between the fastest and slowest 4G upload speeds.

In an era when content creation is just as important as content consumption, upload speeds are vital to our social media wellbeing. And in testing how well the top four national operators did in this metric, OpenSignal was surprised to find that the gap was “particularly wide.”

T-Mobile was the fastest when it came to LTE upload speeds, with an average rate of 7.5 Mbps. That’s three times faster than the 2.5 Mbps recorded by Sprint. Verizon was in second place with 7 Mbps, and AT&T came in with an average 4G upload of 4.5 Mbps in our tests.

So why is all of this the case? For starters, because T-Mobile and Verizon have significantly faster 4G download speeds, it’s not a surprise that their upload speeds are faster as well. As  OpenSignal explains, “Typically when an operator increases its 4G download speeds, its 4G upload speeds grow as well, as they’re both linked to a network’s total capacity.”

But seeing as  Sprint and AT&T have similar 4G download speeds, why the big difference in upload? OpenSignal points to Sprint’s LTE technology, which leverages something called “time division duplexing, or TDD, to transmit data to and from devices.” These networks use the same spectrum for both uplink and downlink (unlike other cellular networks, which separate these two processes). And TDD is interesting in that its operators can “adjust the proportion of time intervals devoted to upload and download as they see fit,” which means that if Sprint sees that users are downloading more than uploading, or vice versa, it can stack its networks to meet this demand.

However, as tastes begin to shift and folks begin looking to send more content to the web, Sprint may have to rethink its strategy after all. And it may start with its T-Mobile merger.

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Google makes it easier to control your account settings with a new search feature

It seems that now more than ever, tech companies are paying close attention to user privacy and making it easier to adjust your settings.

Now, Google is revamping the Google Account hub to make security and privacy settings easier to navigate. The biggest change: You’ll now be able to use a search bar to hunt for specific settings.

The redesign is rolling out to Android starting today, and will reach iOS and web versions later this year. The core focus of this update is making relevant information much easier to find — and easier to adjust to your specific needs.

The search function in particular seems like a no-brainer for the world’s leading search company. Now, you’ll be able to type in a keyword like “payment” or “password” to see the relevant settings that involve them. In addition, you can now easily get support. You’ll be to able to access support forums to see previously answered queries or ask questions to “community experts.”

Suggestions or areas that Google thinks you should review will now be front and center in Settings as well. An example would be if you haven’t updated your phone number in a while or to look over apps that have access to your account. The latter of which is crucially important, especially in the wake of Cambridge Analytica.

Image: Google

This small design change will hopefully encourage users to take a peek into settings more often. Google will also begin making recommendations on the main account page, so that you’ll know when its time to review different aspects of your accounts settings. We can only help this curbs some of the anxiety around data privacy.

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Happn takes on Tinder Places with an interactive map of missed connections

Dating app Happn, whose “missed connections” type of dating experience connects people who have crossed paths in real life, is fighting back at Tinder. Seemingly inspired by Happn’s location-based features, Tinder recently began piloting something called Tinder Places – a feature that tracks your location to match you with those people who visit your same haunts – like a favorite bar, bookshop, gym, restaurant, and more.

Of course Tinder’s move into location-based dating should worry Happn, which had built its entire dating app around the idea of matching up people who could have met in real life, but just missed doing so.

Now, Happn is challenging Tinder Places with a new feature of its own. It’s debuting an interactive map where users can discover those people they’ve crossed paths with over the past seven days.

Happn founder, French entrepreneur Didier Rappaport, dismisses the Tinder threat.

“We don’t see it as a threat at all but as a good thing,” he tells TechCrunch. “Find the people you’ve crossed paths with has always been in Happn’s DNA since the beginning….We are very flattered that Tinder wants to include the same feature in its product. However, we will never use the swipe in our product,” he says.

Rappaport believes swiping is wrong because it makes you think of the other person as a product, and that’s not Happn’s philosophy.

“We want to [give our users a chance] to interact or not with a person, to take their time to decide, to be able to move back in their timeline if suddenly they change their mind and want to have a second chance,” he notes.

To use Happn’s map, you’ll tap on a specific location you’ve visited, and are then presented with potential matches who have been there too, or within 250 meters of that spot. The map will use the same geolocation data that Happn already uses to create its timeline, but just displays it in another form.

For those who aren’t comfortable sharing their location all the time with a dating app (um, everyone?), Happn also offers an “invisibility” mode that lets people hide their location during particular parts of the day – for example, while they’re at work.

While Happn’s new feature is a nice upgrade for regular users, Tinder’s location-based features – we’re sorry to report – are more elegantly designed.

Today, Happn’s invisibility mode has to be turned on when you want to use it, or you have to pay for a subscription to schedule to come on automatically at certain times. That means it requires more effort to use on a day-to-day basis.

Meanwhile, Tinder Places lets you block a regular place you visit – like, say, the gym – from ever being recorded as a place you want to show up for matches. It also automatically removes places that would be inappropriate, including your home and work addresses, and alerts you when it’s adding a new one – so you can quickly take action to remove it, if you choose. Tinder Places is also free. (It’s just not rolled out worldwide at this time).

Happn, however, does offer a way to hide your profile information and other details from select users, and never shows your current location in real time, also like Tinder.

Happn, which launched back in 2014, now claims nearly 50 million users worldwide, across 50 major cities and 40 countries. It claims to have 6.5 million monthly users – but that’s much smaller, compared with Tinder’s estimated 50 million actives.

And with Tinder parent Match Group snatching up Hinge, suing Bumble, and effectively copying the idea of using “missed connections,” one has to wonder how much life rival dating apps, especially those of Happn’s size, have left.

The app is a free download on the App Store, Play Store and Windows Store.

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Amazon may have spilled the beans for Prime Day 2018

The cat’s out of the bag, and it’s all the owner’s fault. On Thursday, online retail giant Amazon may have accidentally let slip when its perennially popular Amazon Prime Day would be in 2018. Mark your calendars, friends, because as per the banner Amazon posted to its U.K. website on Thursday, Prime Day will be July 16. That is less than four weeks from now, so you may want to start taking inventory of what you may need (or realistically, want).

Prime Day has been a huge hit for Amazon ever since it launched in 2015 and it boasts more deals (and better ones) than Black Friday, the largest commerce day in the United States. TechRadar initially noticed the teaser banner, but when contacted for a response to the apparent spillage of the beans, Amazon did not reply.

Another interesting tidbit lies in the report that Prime Day will supposedly last for more than 24 hours, as it will get its start around midday on July 16, and continue through the next day. If we get 36 hours of Prime Day, it will be the longest one yet. In 2017, the sales extravaganza went on for a little more than 24 hours.

2017 was the most successful Prime Day to date, with sales increasing more than 60 percent from 2016, according to Amazon. The day apparently also brought “tens of millions” of new Prime members to Amazon, which represents quite a bit of extra revenue for the company.

It’s likely that it’s not just Amazon that will be holding massive sales come mid-July. Prime Day has sparked off something of a bidding war among various retailers, as stores vie for shoppers’ attention. As CNBC notes, last year, Target began its back-to-school sale the same week as Prime Day, and J.C. Penney hosted its own  “Penney Palooza” sale online.

While Amazon’s best-sellers during Prime Day are generally their own devices, like the Echo, Kindle, and Fire TV Stick, this year could be a bit different. After all, Amazon has been doing more and more with Whole Foods, and other apparel brands like Nike and Calvin Klein are also now available on the site.

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MoviePass will start to surge prices for popular movies in July

MoviePass, the cheap movie ticket subscription service that has taken the film industry by storm, is about to introduce a controversial change to its service. Previously, you could pay a flat price to see any movie you want, but starting in July, getting tickets for high-demand movies will incur an additional fee.

MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told Business Insider that the surge pricing will only happen under certain conditions.

“At certain times for certain films — on opening weekend — there could be an additional charge for films,” Lowe said. The added fee will start at two dollars, but Lowe did not specify how high the pricing can go. Fortunately, MoviePass users who pay for the annual subscription won’t have to worry about surge pricing, as it will only apply to users who are on a month-to-month subscription.

Business Insider reports that the company will also introduce the option to let subscribers get tickets for friends who aren’t on the service for around the retail price of another ticket. MoviePass will also soon allow users to pay extra to see movies in IMAX or 3D, but premium movie pricing won’t be combinable with the adding a friend option.

The MoviePass announcement comes one day after AMC announced its own subscription service that, for $19.95 a month, will let users see up to three movies a week. While more expensive than MoviePass, AMC’s option applies to IMAX and 3D, will give users a discount on concessions, and allows for online reservations.