Samsung, Micron, SK Hynix sued again over alleged DRAM price fixing

Samsung, Micron, and SK Hynix are facing yet another class-action lawsuit over allegedly fixing the prices of memory used in iPhones, Macs, and nearly every other computing device, with the memory producers accused of collusion to raise prices in the DRAM market.

Filed on May 3, the lawsuit alleges that Samsung, Hynix, and Micron are working together to artificially inflate the cost of memory. By having a near-total dominance of memory production as a group, the three supposedly had the ability to control memory pricing with relative ease.

The way the trio allegedly controlled that pricing was by artificially limiting the supply of memory on the market. By supposedly creating a shortage of DRAM chips, the high demand for the components therefore resulted in raised pricing.

Representing 14 individual parties, the class action claims the plaintiffs were victims of antitrust practices due to an alleged reduction in supplies. The class-action lawsuit itself claims to represent Americans who bought mobile phones and computers between 2016 and 2017, a period in which the lawsuit claims DRAM chip prices rose more than 130%.

The lawsuit by law firm Hagens Berman is a reattempt of one that it started in 2018, making identical claims, however that lawsuit was dismissed in December 2020. It is unclear exactly what is different in the latest lawsuit attempt.

A 2006 lawsuit from Hagens Berman was successful, in that it achieved a settlement worth $345 million.

It remains to be seen whether the latest attempt will suffer the same fate as the 2018 lawsuit, as it may not be possible to prove suitable levels of collusion in court. Industry officials speaking to the Korea Times observed that DRAM pricing is in sync with demand and supply moves.

“It seems to be going too far to say that the three chipmakers artificially inflated the price of DRAM chips,” said one official. “DRAM prices have displayed a downtrend over the last two years.”

The timing of the latest lawsuit attempt is apt, as it takes place during a global semiconductor shortage. The global chip shortage, which is thought to last until 2022, has impacted the production of consumer electronics around the world, and affects everything from processors to memory chips, including DRAM.

Over 200,000 people affected by Amazon review scam data leak

A database used to operate an Amazon fake reviews scam has leaked in a data breach, with the data trove revealing personal data for at least 200,000 people.

The reviews on Amazon have been plagued by fake reviews for quite some time, with fictional high-scoring testimonials propping up the score of products to make them look good on the online retailer’s pages. A data breach allegedly shows some of the workings behind one of the scams, as well as hinting at the scale of the problem.

The scam operates by Amazon vendors sending lists of products to reviewers that they wish to receive a five-star review for. The reviewers then buy the items and provide a five-star “review” for it on Amazon.

The reviewer then sends a message back to the vendor, containing a link to their Amazon profile and PayPal details. The reviewer then receives the refund, and gets to keep the product they “reviewed” as payment, as well as an extra cash reward in some cases.

Security researchers from SafetyDetectives uncovered an open ElasticSearch database linked to one such operation on March 1, 2021. More than 13 million records, the equivalent of 7 gigabytes of data, were hosted in the open, without any form of password protection or encryption.

The database included email addresses as well as WhatsApp and Telegram phone numbers for vendors taking part in the scam. Messages linked to reviewers had directly and indirectly identifiable personal data, including over 75,000 links to Amazon accounts and profiles, PayPal account email addresses, other email addresses, and “fan names” believed to be usernames, but could contain names and surnames.

Vendors were also provided email addresses of reviewers to contact, including 232,664 Gmail addresses, though that also includes duplicates. In total, including Amazon vendors compromised via contact details, it is estimated by the researchers that between 200,000 and 250,000 people were affected.

While the server was based in China, it seems the leak may have primarily affected Europe and the United States, though the details could easily apply to any country in the world. The owner of the server is unknown, but it is anticipated that if discovered, they could be subject to punishments from consumer protection laws.

Vendors paying for fake reviews may also face sanctions from Amazon itself for breaking its terms of service. Individuals reviewing products could face penalties, depending on their country of residence and whether law enforcement or regulators are interested in prosecution.

Fake reviews are a major problem for any digital storefront, and this includes Apple. In February, a wave of fake reviews prompted criticism of Apple for not doing enough to combat them, while in April, one app scam was found to be grossing over $1 million in revenue per month.

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Clubhouse finally launches its Android app

Clubhouse finally has an Android app that you can download from the Play Store — provided you live in the U.S.

The voice social network launched its beta Android app on Play Store users in the U.S. on Sunday, and said it will gradually make the new app available in other English-speaking countries and then the rest of the world.

The social network, valued at about $4 billion in its most recent fundraise, first launched its app on iOS last year and until now has been exclusively available to iPhone users. The startup, which still requires new users to be invited by existing Clubhouse members, recently began testing the Android app.

“Our plan over the next few weeks is to collect feedback from the community, fix any issues we see and work to add a few final features like payments and club creation before rolling it out more broadly,” the team wrote.

Clubhouse download figures across some of its popular markets, according to estimates by mobile insight firm AppMagic. (Though precise download estimates from other mobile insight firms vary, they all suggest Clubhouse app’s popularity has dropped in recent months.)

Clubhouse’s launch on Android comes at a time when scores of technology giants including Facebook, Twitter, Discord, Spotify, and Reddit, have either launched their similar offerings — or announced plans to do so.

Twitter’s clone of Clubhouse, called Spaces, has emerged as one of the biggest competitors to the A16z and Tiger Global-backed-startup. An unplanned Twitter Spaces, available on Android as well, hosted by a high-profile Indian startup founder on earlier Sunday attracted hundreds of listeners within a few minutes, for instance.

“As a part of the effort to keep the growth measured, we will be continuing the waitlist and invite system, ensuring that each new community member can bring along a few close friends. As we head into the summer and continue to scale out the backend, we plan to begin opening up even further, welcoming millions more people in from the iOS waitlist, expanding language support, and adding more accessibility features, so that people worldwide can experience Clubhouse in a way that feels native to them,” Clubhouse team wrote.

Clubhouse’s beta Android app currently lacks a number of features such as the ability to follow a topic, in-app translations, localization, ability to create or manage a club, link Twitter and Instagram profiles, payments, as well as the ability to change the profile name or user name.

More to follow…

Wistron, Foxconn facilities hit by COVID-19 outbreak in India

A pair of facilities in India operated by Apple supply chain partners Wistron and Foxconn were affected by COVID-19 in May, reports state, with a total of 13 employees confirmed to be infected.

On Saturday, Foxconn confirmed that 10 Chinese engineers based at its Chennai facility had been infected with COVID-19. The discovery following tests of staff led to the infected workers being quarantined at a local hospital.

After the discovery was made, the factory was disinfected but still continued to operate, reports Taiwan News. The company also provided employees with supplies to prevent further infections. Central News Agency also reports Foxconn is willing to work with local government policies to respond to any future changes in the pandemic.

Report sources say the potential impact to the local economy influenced the local government to allow Foxconn to continue operations at the facility without completely shutting down.

Foxconn’s infection isn’t the only one to potentially affect Apple’s supply chain in the country, as Wistron endured its own infection discovery five days prior. Three Taiwanese engineers at the Kolar, Karnataka facility were diagnosed as infected by the virus.

On discovery of the infections, Wistron informed the local government and shut down the factory for 5 days to disinfect the facility, as per standard epidemic prevention procedures. Employees were fully screened during the downtime, while preparations were also made to vaccinate the workforce.

Both Foxconn and Wistron are members of Apple’s supply chain, chiefly as assemblers of final products for the company, and performs some production within India. It is unclear how this may have affected production at either facility, but it seems that Foxconn will have minimal downtime due to being allowed to stay open.

India is currently enduring a second wave of coronavirus infections, which has pushed the death toll in the country above 200,000 and with over 21 million reported cases. In May alone, daily new COVID-19 cases have breached 400,000 instances at least three times, with the country’s government drawing criticism for allowing mass gatherings for religious festivals and election rallies to take place.

AirTag hacked and reprogrammed by security researcher

Apple’s AirTag can be hacked and its software modified, a security researcher has discovered, with an exploration of the microcontroller revealing elements can be reprogrammed to change what specific functions do.

Apple is well known for having high levels of security built into its products, and that has naturally led to the new AirTags becoming a target for security researchers. Just over a week after shipping, it seems that some AirTag elements can be modified.

German security researcher “Stack Smashing” revealed on Twitter that they were able to “break into the microcontroller” of the AirTag. Posted on Saturday and first reported by The 8-Bit, the tweet thread includes some details about the researcher’s exploration of the device.

After a few hours and the destruction of multiple tags in the process, the researcher made firmware dumps and eventually discovered the microcontroller could be reflashed. In short, the researcher proved it was possible to alter the programming of the microcontroller, to change how it functions.

An initial demonstration showed an AirTag with a modified NFC URL that, when scanned with an iPhone, displays a custom URL instead of the usual “found.apple.com” link.

While only in its early stages, the research shows that it takes a lot of knowhow and effort to hack AirTag in the first place. During a demonstration video, the modified AirTag is shown attached to cables, which are claimed to provide just power to the device.

It is plausible that similar techniques could be used for malicious purposes, though it is unclear exactly how far it can be pushed at this time.

Given that AirTag relies on the secure Find My network for its Lost Mode to function, it seems likely that Apple would roll out some form of server-side defense against any malicious modified versions.

Since its launch, a hidden debug mode has been found in AirTag, providing developers with considerably more information than users would normally need about the device’s hardware.

The human-focused startups of the hellfire

Disasters may not always be man-made, but they are always responded to by humans. There’s a whole panoply of skills and professions required today to respond to even the tiniest emergency, and that doesn’t even include the needs during pre-disaster planning and post-disaster recovery. It’s not a very remunerative industry for most and the mental health effects from stress can linger for decades, but the mission at the core of this work — to help people in the time of their greatest need — is what continues to attract many to partake in this never-ending battle anyway.

In the last three parts of this series on the future of technology and disaster response, I’ve focused on, well, technology, and specifically the sales cycle for new products, the sudden data deluge now that Internet of Things (IoT) is in full force, and the connectivity that allows that data to radiate all around. What we haven’t looked at enough so far is the human element: the people who actually respond to disasters as well as what challenges they face and how technology can help them.

So in this fourth and final part of the series, we’ll look at four areas where humans and technology intersect within disaster response and what future opportunities lie in this market: training and development, mental health, crowdsourced responses to disasters, and our doomsday future of hyper-complex emergencies.

Training in a hellfire

Most fields have linear approaches to training. To become a software engineer, students learn some computer science theory, add in some programming practice, and voilà (note: your mileage may vary). To become a medical doctor, aspiring physicians take an undergraduate curriculum teeming with biology and chemistry, head to medical school for two deadened years of core anatomy and other classes and then switch into clinical rotations, a residency, and maybe fellowships.

But how do you train someone to respond to emergencies?

From 911 call takers to EMTs and paramedics to emergency planning officials and the on-the-ground responders who are operating in the center of the storm as it were, there are large permutations in the skills required to do these jobs well. What’s necessary aren’t just specific hard skills like using call dispatch software or knowing how to upload video from a disaster site, but also critically-important softer skills as well: precisely communicating, having sangfroid, increasing agility, and balancing improvisation with consistency. The chaos element also can’t be overstated: every disaster is different, and these skills must be viscerally recombined and exercised under extreme pressure with frequently sparse information.

A whole range of what might be dubbed “edtech” products could serve these needs, and not just exclusively for emergency management.

Communications, for instance, isn’t just about team communications, but also communicating with many different constituencies. Aaron Clark-Ginsberg, a social scientist at RAND Corporation, said that “a lot of these skills are social skills — being able to work with different groups of people in culturally and socially appropriate ways.” He notes that the field of emergency management has heightened attention to these issues in recent years, and “the skillset we need is to work with those community structures” that already exist where a disaster strikes.

As we’ve seen in the tech industry the last few years, cross-cultural communication skills remain scarce. One can always learn this just through repeated experiences, but could we train people to develop empathy and understanding through software? Can we develop better and richer scenarios to train emergency responders — and all of us, really — on how to communicate effectively in widely diverging conditions? That’s a huge opportunity for a startup to tackle.

Emergency management is now a well-developed career path. “The history of the field is very fascinating, [it’s] been increasingly professionalized, with all these certifications,” Clark-Ginsberg said. That professionalization “standardizes emergency response so that you know what you are getting since they have all these certs, and you know what they know and what they don’t.” Certifications can indicate singular competence, but perhaps not holistic assessment, and it’s a market that offers opportunities for new startups to create better assessments.

Like many of us, responders get used to doing the same thing over and over again, and that can make training for new skills even more challenging. Michael Martin of emergency data management platform RapidSOS describes how 911 call takers get used to muscle memory, “so switching to a new system is very high-risk.” No matter how bad existing software interfaces are, changing them will very likely slow every single response down while increasing the risk of errors. That’s why the company offers “25,000 hours a year for training, support, integration.” There remains a huge and relatively fragmented market for training staff as well as transitioning them from one software stack to another.

Outside these somewhat narrow niches, there is a need for a massive renaissance in training in this whole area. My colleague Natasha Mascarenhas recently wrote an EC-1 on Duolingo, an app designed to gamify and entrance students interested in learning second languages. It’s a compelling product, and there is no comparative training system for engaging the full gamut of first responders.

Art delaCruz, COO and president of Team Rubicon, a non-profit which assembles teams of volunteer military veterans to respond to natural disasters, said that it’s an issue his organization is spending more time thinking about. “Part of resilience is education, and the ability to access information, and that is a gap that we continue to close on,” he said. “How do you present information that’s more simple than [a learning management system]?” He described the need for “knowledge bombs like flash cards” to regularly provide responders with new knowledge while testing existing ideas.

There’s also a need to scale up best practices rapidly across the world. Tom Cotter, director of emergency response and preparedness at Project Hope, a non-profit which empowers local healthcare workers in disaster-stricken and impoverished areas, said that in the context of COVID-19, “a lot of what was going to be needed [early on] was training — there were huge information gaps at the clinical level, how to communicate it at a community level.” The organization developed a curriculum with Brown University’s Watson Institute in the form of interactive PowerPoints that were ultimately used to train 100,000 healthcare workers on the new virus, according to Cotter.

When I look at the spectrum of edtech products existing today, one of the key peculiarities is just how narrow each seems to focus. There are apps for language learning and for learning math and developing literacy. There are flash card apps like Anki that are popular among medical students, and more interactive approaches like Labster for science experiments and Sketchy for learning anatomy.

Yet, for all the talk of boot camps in Silicon Valley, there is no edtech company that tries to completely transform a student in the way that a bona fide boot camp does. No startup wants to holistically develop their students, adding in hard skills while also advancing the ability to handle stress, the improvisation needed to confront rapidly-changing environments, and the skills needed to communicate with empathy.

Maybe that can’t be done with software. Maybe. Or perhaps, no founder has just had the ambition so far to go for broke — to really revolutionize how we think about training the next generation of emergency management professionals and everyone else in private industry who needs to handle stress or think on their feet just as much as frontline workers.

That’s the direction where Bryce Stirton, president and co-founder of public-safety company Responder Corp, has been thinking about. “Another area I am personally a fan of is the training space around VR,” he said. “It’s very difficult to synthesize these stressful environments,” in areas like firefighting, but new technologies have “the ability to pump the heart that you need to experience in training.” He concludes that “the VR world, it can have a large impact.”

Healing after disaster

When it comes to trauma, few fields face quite the challenge as emergency response. It’s work that almost by definition forces its personnel to confront some of the most harrowing scenes imaginable. Death and destruction are given, but what’s not always accounted for is the lack of agency in some of these contexts for first responders — the family that can’t be saved in time so a 911 call taker has to offer final solace, or the paramedics who don’t have the right equipment even as they are showing up on site.

Post-traumatic stress is perhaps the most well-known and common mental health condition facing first responders, although it is hardly the only one. How to ameliorate and potentially even cure these conditions represents a burgeoning area of investment and growth for a number of startups and investors.

Risk & Return, for instance, is a venture firm heavily focused on companies working on mental health as well as human performance more generally. In my profile of the firm a few weeks ago, managing director Jeff Eggers said that “We love that type of technology since it has that dual purpose: going to serve the first responder on the ground, but the community is also going to benefit.”

Two examples of companies from its portfolio are useful here to explore as examples of different pathways in this category. The first is Alto Neuroscience, which is a stealthy startup founded by Amit Etkin, a multidisciplinary neuroscientist and psychiatrist at Stanford, to create new clinical treatments to post-traumatic stress and other conditions based on brainwave data. Given its therapeutic focus, it’s probably years before testing and regulatory approvals come through, but this sort of research is on the cutting-edge of innovation here.

The second company is NeuroFlow, which is a software startup using apps to guide patients to better mental health outcomes. Through persistent polling, testing, and collaboration with practitioners, the company’s tools allow for more active monitoring of mental health — looking for emerging symptoms or relapses in even the most complicated cases. NeuroFlow is more on the clinical side, but there are obviously a wealth of wellness startups that have percolated in recent years as well like Headspace and Calm.

Outside of therapeutics and software though, there are entirely new frontiers around mental health in areas like psychedelics. That was one of the trends I called out as a top five area for investment in the 2020s earlier this year, and I stand by that. We’ve also covered a startup called Osmind which is a clinical platform for managing patients with a psychedelic focus.

Risk & Return itself hasn’t made an investment in psychedelics yet, but Bob Kerrey, the firm’s board chairman and the former co-chair of the 9/11 Commission as well as former governor and senator of Nebraska, said that “it’s difficult to do this if you are the government, but easier to do this in the private sector.”

Similar to edtech, mental health startups might get their start in the first responder community, but they are hardly limited to this population. Post-traumatic stress and other mental health conditions affect wide swaths of the world’s population, and solutions that work in one community can often translate more broadly to others. It’s a massive, massive market, and one that could potentially transform the lives of millions of people for the better.

Before moving on, there’s one other area of interest here, and that is creating impactful communities for healing. First responders and military veterans experience a mission and camaraderie in their service that they often lack once they are in new jobs or on convalescence. DelaCruz of Team Rubicon says that one of the goals of bringing veterans to help in disaster regions is that the veterans themselves “reconnect with identity and community — we have these incredible assets in these men and women who have served.” It’s not enough to just find a single treatment per patient — we oftentimes need to zoom out to the wider population to see how mental health ripples out.

Helping people find purpose may not be the easiest challenge to solve as a startup, but it’s certainly a major challenge for many, and an area fermenting with new approaches now that the the social networking wave has reached its nadir.

Crowdsourcing disaster response

Decentralization has been all the rage in tech in recent years — just mention the word blockchain in a TechCrunch article to get at least 50 PR emails about the latest NFT for a toilet stain. While there is obviously a lot of noise, one area where substance may pan out well is in disaster response.

If the COVID-19 pandemic showed anything, it was the power of the internet to aggregate as well as verify data, build dashboards, and deliver highly-effective visualizations of complex information for professionals and laypeople alike. Those products were developed by people all around the world often from the comfort of their own homes, and they demonstrate how crowds can quickly draft serious labor to help respond to crises as they crop up.

Jonathan Sury, project director at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said that “COVID has really blown so much of what we think about out of the water.” With so many ways to collaborate online right now, “that’s what I would say is very exciting … and also practical and empowering.”

Clark-Ginsberg of RAND calls it the “next frontier of disaster management.” He argues that “if you can use technology to broaden the number of people who can participate in disaster management and respond to disasters,” then we might be reaching an entirely new paradigm for what effective disaster response will look like. “Formal structures [for professional frontline workers] have strengthened and that has saved lives and resources, but our ability to engage with everyday responders is still something to work on.”

Many of the tools that underpin these crowdsourced efforts don’t even focus on disasters. Sury pointed to Tableau and data visualization platform Flourish as examples of the kinds of tools that remote, lay first responders are using. There are now quite robust tools for tabular data, but we’re still relatively early in the development of tools for handling mapping data — obviously critical in the crisis context. Unfolded.ai, which I profiled earlier this year, is working on building scalable geospatial analytics in the browser. A lot more can be done here.

Oftentimes there are ways to coordinate the coordinators. Develop for Good, which I looked at late last year, is a non-profit designed to connect enterprising computer science students to software and data projects at non-profits and agencies that needed help during the pandemic. Sometimes these coordinators are non-profit orgs, and sometimes, just very active Twitter accounts. There’s a lot more experimentation possible on how to coordinate efforts in a decentralized way while still engaging with professional first responders and the public sector.

Speaking of decentralization, it’s even possible that blockchain could play a role in disaster and crisis response. Many of these opportunities rest on using blockchain for evidence collection or for identity. For example, earlier this week Leigh Cuen took a careful look at an at-home sexual assault evidence collection kit from Leda Health that uses the blockchain to establish a clear time for when a sample was collected.

There is a lot more potential to harness the power of crowdsourcing and decentralization, and many of these projects have applications far outside disaster management itself. These tools not only solve real problems — they provide real community to people who may not be related to the disaster itself, but are enthusiastic to do their part to help others.

The black swans of black swans

In terms of startups, the three markets I identified — better training, better mental health, and better crowdsourcing collaboration tools, particularly around data — collectively represent a very compelling set of markets that will not only be valuable for founders, but can rapidly improve lives.

In his book Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow talks about how an increasing level of complexity and coupledness in our modern technical systems all but guarantee disasters to occur. Add in a warming world as well as the intensity, frequency, and just plain unusualness of disasters arriving each year, and we are increasingly seeing entirely novel forms of emergencies we have never responded to before. Take most recently the ultra-frigid conditions in Texas that sapped power from its grid, leading to statewide blackouts for hours and days in some parts of the state.

Clark-Ginsberg said, “We are seeing these risks emerge that aren’t just typical wildfires — where we have a response structure that we can easily setup and manage the hazard, [we’re] very good at managing these typical disasters. There are more of these atypical disasters cropping up, and we have a very hard time setting up structures for this — the pandemic is a great example of that.”

He describes these challenges as “trans-boundary risk management,” disasters that cross bureaucratic lines, professions, societies, and means of action. “It takes a certain agility and the ability to move quickly and the ability to work in ways outside typical bureaucratic structures, and that is just challenging full stop,” he said.

The Future of Technology and Disaster Response

Even as we begin to have better point solutions to the individual problems that disasters and their responses require, we can’t be remiss in neglecting the more systematic challenges that these emergencies are bringing to the fore. We have to start thinking about bringing humans together faster and in more novel ways to be the most effective, while coupling them flexibly and with agility to the best tools that meet their needs in the moment. That’s probably not literally “a startup,” but more a way of thinking about what it means to construct a disaster response fresh given the information available.

Amanda Levin, a policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that “even if we mitigate, there are huge pressures and huge impacts today from a warming world … even if we stop emissions today, [they] will still persist.” As one of my interviewees in government service who asked to go unnamed noted about disaster response, “You always are coming up short somewhere.” The problems are only getting harder, and we humans need much better tools to match the man-made trials we created for ourselves. That’s the challenge — and opportunity — for a tough century ahead.

iPhone used to track Florida murder victim in the Apple crime blotter

Rudy Giuliani’s continuing Apple troubles, an iPad counterfeit money sting in Canada, and a serial fake Walmart employee is accused of taking iPhones.

The latest in an occasional AppleInsider series, looking at the world of Apple-related crime.

Florida murder suspect used iPhone as a tracker, police say

A man accused of murder in the Orlando area saw the victim buying expensive items at a mall, and then he attached an iPhone to the man’s car in order to track and rob him, Click Orlando reports. The alleged shooter and an accomplice later invaded a party the shopper was attending and opened fire.

Police say they noticed the iPhone affixed to the bottom of the recovered, held in a nylon bag and attached with magnets. The iPhone had been newly purchased and was under the ID of a Panda Express employee at the mall, whose purse had previously been stolen.

Albuquerque Police Department corruption probe centered on MacBook purchase

The unauthorized purchase of a MacBook by the third-highest-ranking official in the Albuquerque Police Department kicked off a major Internal Affairs investigation, according to KRQE. However, it is alleged the probe whitewashed the investigation and that a document seemingly confirming that the purchase was authorized was in fact fabricated.

The officer agreed to surrender the computer in question.

Raid wasn’t Rudy Giuliani’s first trouble with Apple products

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and attorney for former President Donald Trump, said on television last week that the April raid on his home and office was “unconstitutional” because agents had already obtained his data “from the iCloud.” Giuliani also told Fox News that the agents took “seven or eight electronic items of mine,” some of which were presumably Apple products.

It’s far from the ex-mayor’s first trouble with iPhones and similar products. NBC News reported in 2019 that Giuliani visited an Apple Store in San Francisco in 2017 because he was locked out of his iPhone and had entered the wrong code ten times.

At the time of the visit, Giuliani had been named by the president as a cybersecurity adviser.

Capitol riot defendant tried to restore iPhone to factory settings

A man accused of participating in the January 6 capitol insurrection attempted to perform a factory reset of his iPhone, but the FBI already had plenty of information on him. According to FBI documents published by Comic Sands, the man, who had first denied his participation, was also spotted on videos taken by others.

Another man accused of January 6 involvement took a different tack: Destroying his phone. Per an affidavit, a search of the man’s home didn’t find the phone, but it did uncover a Discord message in which he stated, “destroying phone now.”

Fake Walmart employee accused of stealing iPhones, again

A man entered a Walmart location in Georgia, donned a Walmart uniform, and stole 19 iPhones– and it’s believed to be the third time he’s done it.

According to WRDW, the same man is accused of stealing a collection of AirPods from a Walmart SuperCenter in February. In March, at the same Walmart as the latest theft, the man is accused of using a barrel key to steal some Nintendo Switch games.

Irish butcher pleads guilty to stealing iPhone at nightclub

A man in Ireland who works as an apprentice butcher was caught stealing a woman’s iPhone at a nightclub- and was discovered after the woman called the phone and it rang in his pocket.

The Independent states the incident took place in 2019, and the butcher pled guilty to the charge of possession of stolen property, although related charges of cocaine possession were dismissed.

Canadian police catch man they say used counterfeit money for iPad

Police in Canada say they caught a man who answered an ad from a woman selling an iPad, and then paid for it with an envelope full of counterfeit money.

Global News reports the man was caught when the woman saw the same iPad for sale on the same site. Undercover agents then answered the advertisement and ultimately caught the man.

He was charged with fraud, using counterfeit money, and trafficking obtained by crime.

IT worker for Australian trams arrested for iPhone and Apple Watch theft

An IT worker for the Yarra Trams system in Australia was arrested and accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in phones and other technology from the agency. According to The Age, the man took $230,000 worth of items over two years, and officials found an Apple watch, two iPhones, and other items in his possession, along with illegal steroids.

SpaceX launches and lands a Falcon 9 rocket booster a record 10th time

SpaceX has launched another 60 Starlink satellites — making 180 delivered to orbit in under two weeks — but the launch early Sunday morning was more notable because it set a new, key record for Falcon 9 rocket reusability. This marked the 10th flight of the first-stage rocket booster used for the launch, which sets a record for re-use for SpaceX as the rocket booster with the most successful mission under its belt.

The launch took place at 2:42 AM EDT, flying from Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX also successfully returned the booster to its drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean for a tenth successful landing for the rocket, too, making it a record-setter in that regard as well, and setting up the possibility that it could fly yet again. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said it could be “possible” for a Falcon 9 booster to fly “100+” times with servicing and component replacement.

This Falcon 9 has previously flown on missions including the original uncrewed demonstration mission of Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft, and seven prior Starlink launches. SpaceX has shown just how reusable its rockets are with its aggressive Starlink launch schedule, most of which have employed rocket boosters that have flown a number of missions before, including other launches for the broadband internet megaconstellation.

Since SpaceX is both launch provider and customer on Starlink, it’s actually crucial for the company to realize as many cost savings as possible during its frequent flights building the network of low Earth orbit satellites. Re-use of the boosters is a key ingredient, and one where the cost savings definitely accrue over time. Musk has previously said that the economics are such that for its external customer flights, it’s at about “even” on the second use of a booster, and “ahead” in terms of costs by the third. During its Starlink launch program, SpaceX has repeatedly set and broken its own reusability records, indicating a key means of keeping the costs of building out its in-space satellite infrastructure is using flight-proven boosters as much as possible.

This is the 27th Starlink launch thus far, and SpaceX has another planned just six days from now on May 15, with at least one more likely in the works for later this month after that. The company hopes to have its broadband network built out to the point where it has global reach by the end of this year.

Filming 'The Mosquito Coast' in Mexico was challenging for the cast

A video promoting the Apple TV+ show “The Mosquito Coast” reveals the challenges of filming the third episode of the drama by traveling to real-world locations, rather than relying on sound stages.

The Mosquito Coast” is a drama that follows an American family traveling through the Southwest and into Central America. In a teaser for the third episode, “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” Apple shows the lengths production took to film the show.

To make the show as real as possible on camera, the cast and crew visited locations in Mexico to accurately depict the group heading across the border and down into the country. The decision made the show more intense for the cast to film than typical location recreation techniques.

“This has been a really hard shoot,” said Justin Theroux, who stars as Allie Fox. “There’s one way of shooting a show, which is on sound-stages in Burbank. You want it to look like the desert, you drive a little bit out of LA. This is wildly different.

Logan Polish, who plays Dina Fox, said “Actually going to all these different places, and it’s so diverse, it was just so exciting.”

The production followed a path that led to a similar experience as the characters are portrayed as enduring on the show, starting with some filming in California which as “lovely” according to Theroux. “Then we went to this border town in Mexicali to shoot some of the desert episode. It has this enormous scope and this enormous canvas.

Melissa George, acting as Margot Fox, complained “you often have nightmares thinking about that episode. We had a fantastic director that just put us through Hell, because that’s what they were going through and that’s what they decided they would do to us.”

This involved eating cactus fruit, being thirsty throughout, and sleeping on a bus. “When you’re sweating, you’re really sweating, ya know?” offered Theroux. “When you’re cold, you’re really cold. When you’re hot, you’re really hot. Hopefully, that translates in the show itself.

In an interview with AppleInsider in April, actress Melissa George revealed the issues of shooting in a pandemic helped with filming. The uncertainty of not knowing whether the location they were going to film in was going to be usable was apparently a similar experience to what the Fox family would have gone through on their own journey.

“The Mosquito Coast started airing on Apple TV+ on April 30, with new episodes released episodically.

How Duolingo became a $2.4B language unicorn

At the heart of Duolingo is its mission: to scale free education and increase income potential through language learning. However, the same mission that has helped it grow to a business valued at $2.4 billion with over 500 million registered learners, has led to tensions that continue to define the business.

How do you survive as a startup if you don’t want to charge users? How do you design a startup that isn’t too hard to lose people, but isn’t too easy to compromise education? How do you balance monetization goals while also keeping education as a product free?

For my first EC-1, I spent months with Duolingo executives, investors, and of course, competitors, to answer some of these questions.

One of my favorite details in the story that got left on the cutting room floor was Duolingo co-founder and CEO Luis von Ahn comparing his company to the elliptical. I was pressing him on the efficacy of Duolingo, and the long-standing critique that it still can’t teach a user how to speak a language fluently.

“Now, there’s a difference between whether you know you’re doing the elliptical or yoga or running, but by far, the most important thing is that you’re doing something [other than] just walking around,” he said.

What von Ahn is getting at is that Duolingo’s biggest value proposition is that it helps people get motivated to learn a language, even if it’s just five minutes — or an elliptical workout — a day. He thinks motivation is harder than the learning itself. Do you agree?

If you enjoyed my series, make sure to check out other EC-1s and subscribe to ExtraCrunch to support me, this newsletter and the rest of the team. I’d also love it if you followed me on Twitter @nmasc_.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Tesla, the morality of going public and verticalized telehealth.

There’s always a Tesla angle

When I was working in Boston, the newsroom saying was “there’s always a Boston Angle.” In a remote, tech-dominated world, I’ll tweak it: There’s always a Tesla angle. While we all prepare for Elon Musk to grace the SNL stage, there’s a story you might want to check out.

Here’s what to know: Tesla tapped a small Canadian startup to build cleaner and cheaper batteries. The price tag will shock you, but the story tells a bigger narrative about patented technology, and the outsized impact that a tiny startup has on Tesla’s route to batteries.

Literally moving us along:

Tesla electric vehicle china

Image Credits: Getty Images

The clash of the CFOs

While Equity usually keeps it light and punny, we chewed into a deeper topic this week: the morality of going public. Startups are staying private longer than ever before, but one CFO argues that it’s a moral obligation to leave the nest and provide returns to the general public. We had that CFO on the show, along with another CFO at a company pursuing a SPAC. It ended up being the most interesting clash of the CFOs I’ve been a part of.

Here’s what to know: The growth of venture capital as an asset class has a role to play in this whole mess and has kept the nest warm for many startups. We talk about if the tides are turning, or we’re saying goodbye to a world in which a company like Salesforce would debut price for $11 per share.

While you’re focused on Twitter’s tip jar, here’s other money news you may have missed in the meantime: 

Image Credits: Getty Images / dane_mark

Where telehealth goes from here

As I start to cover digital health, one of the biggest questions I ask and get asked is where telehealth goes from here. Virtual caretaking had an uptick in usage because of the pandemic but is now starting to slow as the world reopens and vaccinations are on the rise. For telehealth startups, it means crafting a pitch that explains why virtual care makes sense for the conditions you serve.

Here’s what to know: I talked about how to become pandemic-proof in healthcare with Expressable, a virtual speech therapy startup that just raised millions in venture capital money. Part of the startups’ product differentiation is an edtech platform that motivates consumers to asynchronous practice speech exercises with the help of parents and friends.

And down the rabbit hole we go: 

Image Credits: Getty Images / drante

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And that’s that. Thank you for reading along and supporting me. I’ll never get over it.

N