How to stop annoying High Sierra upgrade prompts in macOS

At 3:28PM ET I made a discovery that will change humanity for the better. Okay, maybe not humanity, but it will certainly make my life better.

I’m using a 2015 MacBook Pro. I bought it last fall because I needed a new computer, and because I need to plug things in all the time, I didn’t want any of the new Macs. This meant that my new old computer came installed with macOS Sierra 10.12.1. I’ve heard nothing but bad things about High Sierra so I’ve been holding off.

But macOS doesn’t want me to hold off. I keep getting these notifications telling me to upgrade. I just want them to stop. You can’t even dismiss the notification: you have to click either “Install” or “Details.” And the details option just opens the Mac App Store… a place no one wants to go.

Today, I found myself in the good old Mac App Store after trying to dismiss another notification and came face to face with the High Sierra banner, imploring me to upgrade. Trying to deal with this annoyance, I right clicked on the banner. To my surprise, I was given a prompt to “Hide Update”! Shocked, I took a screenshot.

Could this be what I have been looking for? Could this stop the annoying notifications to upgrade to an OS I don’t want on my new old computer?

A Google search tells me yes, this could be the answer!

And I wanted to share it with you. All of you lovely people. Go, open the Mac App Store for one last time, and get rid of that notification forever. Maybe. I’m actually not 100 percent sure this will work. And then I’ll probably have to do the whole thing over again when Apple releases macOS Higher Sierra.

ARKit could bring your nightmares into your living room

I’ve never seen The Ring because I’m a huge baby, but I’ve now watched a terrifying augmented reality demo of its main villain Samara coming out of the TV screen, just like in the movie. A developer named Abhishek Singh, who has created lots of AR experiences, tweeted his idea of The Ring in AR.

I reenacted a famous scene from ‘The Ring’ to bring #horror movies to life in AR#madewithunity#ARKitpic.twitter.com/fRU2ul56ki

— Abhishek Singh (@shekitup) February 21, 2018

Samara not only comes out of the screen, but she follows the user around the room and shows up in hallways. It’s terrifying, especially for a baby like me. Another developer, Mike Woods, created a Ring experience with ARKit earlier this year, but it isn’t as scary as Singh’s.

I liked AR better when I only thought about it being used to place puppies around me or make my face look great. Now, I’m just thinking about a demon chasing me down my hallway and I’m not loving that reality, to be honest!

HP’s first Windows 10 ARM PC is available for preorder

HP’s first Windows 10 PC that’s powered by an ARM-based processor is now available for preorder for $999.99. It’s scheduled to ship by March 9th, and it’s one of the first “always connected PCs” that HP, Asus, and Lenovo have teamed up with Qualcomm to release over the next year or so.

The HP Envy x2 is a 2-in-1 tablet with a 12.3-inch touchscreen that has an edge-to-edge 1920 x 1280 pixel display. It looks a lot like the HP Spectre x2, which came out last year. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of universal flash storage. It has a Qualcomm Adreno 540 GPU. Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi are also built in. A nano SIM card reader allows access to LTE data, and the Envy also features a USB 3.1 Type-C port, microSD slot, and headphone jack. Its stereo speakers were made in partnership with Bang & Olufsen.

Image: HP

It has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing selfie camera. The HP Envy x2 also has a three-microphone array and a detachable keyboard that’s backlit. The tablet runs Windows 10 S out of the box, but an upgrade to the full Windows 10 experience is free.

Its measurements and battery life seem designed for traveling, while sometimes unplugged. The HP Envy x2 is 11.5 x 8.3 x 0.27 inches and it weighs in at a portable 1.54 pounds. The battery life seems significantly long, as HP claims the tablet has up to 19 hours of life while playing full HD videos.

The price is high for a small notebook, but reasonable if HP can deliver on its battery life and connectivity promises. The Envy comes with a stylus in the box as well.

This startup wants to use AI to prove that it knows your skin

A new beauty startup, Proven, is using artificial intelligence to determine the best skincare routines for people based on their skin type and needs, and all of the products will be made in-house.

Amy Yuan, one of Proven’s co-founders, uses her computational physics background to build an “AI engine” that pores through reviews of various skincare products, reports TechCrunch. Proven claims the machine has analyzed 8 million reviews, 20,000 ingredients, and 100,000 products using fraud-detection algorithms to rule out fake reviews. By looking through a massive quantity of data, the machine can then determine trends and general patterns in what products are suitable for particular skin types.

Proven suggests a skincare routine for you via a considerably detailed quiz that asks questions like where you live, whether your skin is oily or dry, and what skincare products you can’t live without. At the end, the results categorize what kind of skin you have and offer Proven’s custom skincare products, such as toners, serums, and a non-optional skin report, all of which you can buy as a bundle through a subscription that charges you $120 every two months. The startup appears to be aimed at women, the largest consumer group for the skincare industry, though the quiz does offer the option to identify as male.

Credit: Proven

Proven is not the first beauty startup to use big data to support and market its product strategy. HelloAva launched a chatbot last year that recommends skincare products that contain safer ingredients. Function of Beauty, a Y Combinator-backed company, also uses algorithms to make custom shampoos and conditioners. Function of Beauty doesn’t claim to use deep learning and machine learning like Proven does, but it does have a detailed quiz and in-house products.

Skincare can be an even tougher field than hair care. The skincare industry is filled with a myriad of products, and everyone’s skin is different, with different skin conditions like eczema and rosacea. Notably, Proven’s quiz fails to ask whether you have these aforementioned conditions. After I took the Proven quiz, it gave me the result of Trouble Skin, probably because I answered “Not Sure” on a question about skin allergies, and listed mild dryness, acne, and oiliness as problems. AI may be useful for Proven’s chemist to figure out the best formula for common skin problems, but from the user end, it doesn’t yet seem personal enough.

Former Google employee files lawsuit alleging the company fired him over pro-diversity posts

A former Google engineer is suing the company for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination, according to court documents filed today. Tim Chevalier, a software developer and former site-reliability engineer at Google, claims that Google fired him when he responded with internal posts and memes to racist and sexist encounters within the company and the general response to the now-infamous James Damore memo. News of Chevalier’s lawsuit was reported earlier today by Gizmodo.

Chevalier said in a statement to The Verge, “It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers.” Chevalier, who is also disabled and transgender, alleges that his internal posts that defended women of color and marginalized people led directly to his termination in November 2017. He had worked at Google for a little under two years.

Notably, Chevalier’s posts had been quoted in Damore’s lawsuit against Google — in which Damore sued the company for discrimination against conservative white men — as evidence Google permitted liberals to speak out at the company unpunished. Chevalier’s lawsuit alleges that his firing is, in fact, a form of punishment. (Damore recently had a separate labor board complaint shot down by the US National Labor Relations Board, which stated in a guidance memo that Google was in the right to fire him.)

bonus trivia: Breitbart also devoted an entire post to Chevalier as an example of Google condoning violence (see again: Nazis, punching of) but the examples were on his personal accounts

— Nitasha Tiku (@nitashatiku) February 21, 2018

In a statement, Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano says Google was enforcing its policy against the promotion of harmful stereotypes. “An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes. All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited” Scigliano says. “This is a very standard expectation that most employers have of their employees. The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

One of the internal memes Chevalier created was inspired by a black Google employee, who wrote in an internal Google Plus post that she was being asked to present her ID badge more often than her white co-workers. A Google employee allegedly responded to the post by noting that asking for ID was just part of the job, Gizmodoreported. Chevalier then made a privilege-denying dude meme using Google’s internal meme generator with the caption, “I have opinions about forms of oppression that don’t affect me.”

In mid-September, Chevalier was called into a meeting by HR and told that a complaint had been made about another post in which he said he would not work with people who shared Damore’s views, according to Gizmodo. In the same month, Chevalier’s acting manager told him repeatedly he was engaging in too much “social activism,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court and Chevalier is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and injunctive relief against those alleged harmful acts. One of Chevalier’s attorneys, David Lowe, stated that Chevalier’s termination was a result of Google failing to rein in its mostly unfiltered internal social networks. “Company social networking forums can be incredibly useful, but employers have an obligation to prevent them from becoming a cesspool of bullying and harassment,” Lowe said in a press release.

Last August, Chevalier and 13 other Google employees were also targeted by alt-right trolls as part of a widespread backlash against Damore’s firing. A 4chan-related Twitter account posted a screenshot of the employees’ Twitter profiles, all of whom were of color, women, or trans men. These profiles then became targets of online harassment, some of which Chevalier details in his complaint.

Update at 7:45PM ET, 2/21: Added statement from Google.

Moog is bringing back a modular synth from 1969 for $35,000

Moog announced last week that it is bringing back one of its iconic synthesizers — the IIIp — for a limited reissue for $35,000. The company says only 40 units will be handcrafted, and each one will feature the original’s documentation, art, and circuit board files. In total, each IIIp will have 37 modules including ten 901-Series audio oscillators, the 984 4-channel Matrix Mixer, and the 905 Spring Reverb.

Originally released in the late 1960s, the Moog Synthesizer IIIp was the company’s first portable system, coming in roadworthy flight cases, and was used by artists like Isao Tomita and George Harrison. They were discontinued in 1973 but are still coveted, not only because of their limitless ability to be reconfigured, but for the inimitable sounds it creates. These types of modular synthesizers have unique sonic character due to many physical components and attributes (like the cabinets, which help resonate the sound itself, or the actual temperature of the synth), resulting in imperfect waveforms, drifting notes, and more.

If you’re scoffing at the price, a Moog engineer broke down why machines like this can cost tens of thousands of dollars in an interview with CDM. “Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money,” the engineer says, “so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems… The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build.”

Each Moog IIIp will be custom mounted and hand-wired in three solid wood, tolex-wrapped cabinets, exactly per the original design. It will have a 100 percent discrete design, and will be made using the original parts. (Moog worked with parts suppliers to re-issue certain components that had been outmoded or discontinued to ensure there were no modern replacements.)

This isn’t the first time Moog has brought back a popular synth. In 2015, it did a limited run of the System 55, System 35, and the Model 15, synths that originally came out in the 1970s.

Blame air currents for the East Coast’s warm spell, and also climate change

The US East Coast has been unusually hot this week, breaking temperature records from Boston to Washington, DC. But what’s causing this sudden warm spell?

The answer has to do with the air currents in the atmosphere, according to Mark Chenard, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Mark, Maryland. Most of the time, winds in the atmosphere flow from west to east; this is called “zonal flow” and it’s responsible for our everyday weather. But every once in a while, the winds start flowing north to south, creating a pattern called “amplified flow.”

“Cold air from north comes down south, and warm air from the south goes north,” he says. So, warm air from the Gulf of Mexico is floating upward toward those of us in the Northeast. At the same time, a cold front is making the western parts of the country much colder than usual.

Unusual warmth should linger across most of the East at least until early March. pic.twitter.com/AEWQ2HY9Ea

— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) February 21, 2018

So what’s causing these patterns? Chenard says that, most of the time, it’s just normal variability in weather patterns. It’s hard to pin any one event as being caused by global warming.

Still, as Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic notes, one big sign of climate change is warmer winters. Global temperatures have been rising, and as a result, winters are warmer than they used to be. For the past three years now, Earth has been breaking its own temperature records. And ice in the Arctic is shrinking — last month, the average ice extent was the smallest on record for January.

Record-breaking temperatures on the East Coast are unlikely to last more than a day or two, says Chenard. But the pattern of “warmer than normal” days will probably last into the beginning of March, so there are a few more days to enjoy — unless climate change keeps you up at night.

Exclusive: Telegram is holding a secretive second pre-ICO sale

You have to admire Pavel Durov’s audacity.

Over the past few months, the CEO of Telegram convinced 81 accredited investors, including Silicon Valley giants Sequoia Capital and Benchmark, to give him $850 million in a presale of his company’s cryptocurrency in advance of an initial coin offering, or ICO. Now he’s trying to raise even more money from accredited investors before the coin gets offered to the public in a secretive second presale.

This week, investors got an email explaining that Telegram is doing another private presale, four sources with knowledge of the deal told The Verge.

The exact amount to be raised is still being determined, according to one source, but two other sources said Telegram is estimating it will be around the same size as the first round, which would bring the total raised to over $1.6 billion before the ICO even opens up to the general public. Telegram’s offering was already the largest ICO ever, dwarfing the previous record of $232 million. Telegram declined to comment on the second presale. Sequoia Capital declined to comment and Benchmark did not respond to questions.

The change in Telegram’s plans comes as the company is under scrutiny for its proposed Telegram Open Network or TON, which promises to be an Ethereum-like ecosystem with apps, services, and a store for digital and physical goods. Critics say the proposal is short on technical details, and that Telegram’s high valuation is being driven by hype and speculation rather than the value of the technology.

How much money is Telegram raising total? Estimates have varied. The company seemed to revise its goals upward as interest in the offering surged. One cryptocurrency and blockchain investor, Carlos Mosquera of Solidus Capital, said the numbers presented by Telegram kept changing; he was offered different versions of the offer from different intermediaries. Discounts on the presale coins ranged from 30 to 80 percent of the expected public price, according to multiple investors who were pitched on the first presale. “A month and a half ago we got the pitch and the opportunity for Telegram,” Mosquera said. “We passed because we received two or three different terms and deals by the same ICO. None of the information was clear.”

Mosquera’s firm was not invited to participate in the second presale, but he said he isn’t surprised to hear that Telegram is looking for more private investor cash. “Nowadays the presales are hotter than the crowd sale itself,” he said.

It makes sense for Telegram to raise more private money if there is enough demand, multiple investors told The Verge. The first presale was rumored to be oversubscribed, and early investors are reportedly flipping their shares and making 2x returns on the secondary market.

The SEC has also been increasing its oversight of ICOs, which means Telegram may not make its public ICO available in the US, CNBC reported. That could be part of the reason why Telegram wants to get more money from accredited investors — meaning firms and individuals with annual income of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million — because there are fewer regulatory requirements through that process than through an offering to the general public.

Telegram’s public ICO was expected to take place in March. It’s unclear if the new second private offering affects the timeline for the public sale or how many coins will be available to the public at launch.

Telegram’s ICO is one of the most anticipated the cryptocurrencies world has seen, and it’s the first to attract more traditional Silicon Valley venture capital firms. But observers are skeptical of its value offering.

Telegram’s ICO will fund a suite of blockchain-based products including file storage, a DNS service, and an ad exchange as part of the TON, according to the 132-page “technical white paper” circulated to investors. Critics say the proposal makes ambitious claims, such as being able to process millions of transactions per second, without explaining how.

Christian Catalini, a professor and founder of MIT’s Cryptoeconomics Lab, is working on a study of about 1,500 ICOs with his team. “We actually document in our research paper that there has been a major transition from more technical white papers to the kind of white papers that look a lot more like sales pitches,” Catalini told The Verge. “There’s been less focus on technical details over time and, for some of these, much more on selling the vision. In the case of the Telegram one there is a lot that is being promised and not a lot of clarity on how that would be delivered.”

Matthew Green, cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, had a similar reaction to the white paper. “So to their credit, Telegram has shown that it can execute and get software written. That’s actually a big deal when it comes to blockchain projects,” Green said in an email. “That plus millions of dollars means they could pull something off. But I’ll be honest, the white paper reads like someone went out on the internet and harvested the most ambitious ideas from a dozen projects and said ‘let’s do all of those but better!’ It feels unachievable, at least at the scale they’re aiming for now.”

Even if the Telegram team had included more technical details, not everyone is convinced it makes sense conceptually. Telegram is effectively proposing to act as a benevolent dictator — it will control a majority of its currency, at least to start — helping a system that will eventually be decentralized get off the ground.

“Blockchains are useful when there’s no central authority in command, or when there’s risk that the owner of the platform might fold,” Emin Gün Sirer, a professor at Cornell, expert on distributed systems, and co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts, said in an email. “Yet Telegram ICO’s appeal stems from its reach to 200 million users, and its central vision over the future of the platform. If the owner folded, there would be little value to what remains. So their adoption of a blockchain, in fact, a whole family of blockchains, seems spurious.”

Others have speculated that Durov is not really raising money for a new blockchain-centric venture, but simply to keep Telegram afloat. Durov was reportedly self-funding the company with his earnings from selling VK.com, the Russian Facebook clone that he founded. “With growing user base, he would’ve eventually run out of money. Therefore he opted for an ICO as a mechanism to raise funds without getting outside investors into Telegram’s shareholder capital,” Gregory Klumov, CEO of the government blockchain company Stasis, told Bloomberg.

Charles Noyes, a quantitative analyst at the cryptocurrency VC firm Pantera Capital, said his team passed on Telegram’s private presale the first time around. (His firm did not get the offer for the second presale.) To him, the secretive Telegram ICO goes against the spirit of blockchain development.

“It’s very important in blockchain technology and specifically cryptocurrencies that you be very open with what you’re trying to do and have as many people as possible looking at it to see if they can find a flaw,” he said. The Bitcoin white paper was first published to a cryptocurrency mailing list, and its pseudonymous author Satoshi Nakamoto requested feedback. Not inviting outside scrutiny is dangerous, Noyes said. “When you operate the way they do, which is closed, with secrecy, not subjecting yourself to peer review, you basically open yourself up to the possibility that there is a trivial bug in it that destroys the network.”

Whether the platform functions well may not matter for early investors. Even with the lockup period that restricts them from selling their tokens right away, investors who bought their coins at a discount could see a significant return after the ICO opens up to the broader public and starts circulating on the TON. Telegram can also promote its ICO to its users, who numbered 170 million in October 2017 according to one of the presale documents, and its app has become a hub for cryptocurrency chat groups.

“Telegram as a messenger may attract them to Telegram’s new network,” said Alan Woodward, a visiting professor at the University of Surrey, expert in cryptography and information security who has criticized Telegram in the past for using proprietary cryptography instead of commonly accepted, peer-reviewed cryptography. “Something seems to have worked,” he wrote in an email, “in that they have raised a lot of money already.”

Additional reporting by Casey Newton and Lauren Goode

Ford president leaves the company over ‘inappropriate behavior’

Ford Motor Company President Raj Nair is leaving the company “effective immediately” after an internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior. “Certain behavior by Nair was inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct,” the company writes in a statement. No further specifics were given about which parts of the company’s code of conduct were violated.

“We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

Nair had been with the company for 31 years, and in 2017 was named to the position of president of North American operations. He had previously served as the company’s CTO, and also ran Ford’s global product development. Nair was broadly in charge of the company’s most ambitious technology efforts, like its attempt to create on-demand mobility services, and its push toward self-driving cars.

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“I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused,” Nair said in the company’s statement. “I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future.”

This is the second high-profile response to misconduct that Hackett has had to issue in his short tenure as CEO. Days after a New York Times investigative report revealed in December repeated claims of sexual harassment and abuse at two of the company’s factories in Chicago, Hackett released an open letter to employees that asked for employees to speak up about their own experiences.

The new Blu Vivo X has four cameras and costs $249 for a limited time

Today, budget Android phone maker Blu announced its latest flagship handset, the Blu Vivo X. The device’s standout feature is that it has not two or even three, but four cameras. The Blu Vivo X continues the trend of lower-endphones featuring four cameras, with a dual front-facing one for taking selfies and a more powerful dual rear-facing system for standard mobile photography. Blu explains the logic in the press release: “When it comes to cameras, two is better than one, and four is better than two.”

The phone has a six-inch screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 1440 x 720 resolution. The front of the phone is made of curved Gorilla Glass, with a 20-megapixel camera and a 8-megapixel camera to help create a bokeh, or blurred background, effect. The Blu Vivo X’s rear-facing cameras are 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel.

The phone is powered by MediaTek’s Helio 2.6 GHz octa-core CPU, which is supposed to provide “high end flagship performance,” and a non-removable 4,010mAh battery that’s capable of fast charging in under two hours.

Credit: BLU Products

It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable internal storage. It runs Android Nougat 7.0 out of the box, which is disappointing but expected for a lower-end phone. It has a fingerprint sensor, facial recognition, and a microSD slot.

While the phone’s specs are pretty standard, it’s the selfie features that stand out. There’s a Panorama Selfie mode that uses the camera’s ability to shoot in 120 degrees, a Group Selfie mode “to make sure you don’t miss anyone,” and an option for a softer front-facing flash.

It’s on sale on Amazon for $299.99, but the device is currently discounted down to $249.99. It comes in a single Midnight Black color.