Jaguar’s return to motorsport set to electrify fans of Formula E

Jaguar is returning to motorsport. The British car manufacturer will grace race circuits all over the world as it competes in the all-electric FIA Formula E series in late 2016.

The company is partnering with Williams Advanced engineering, a company it has past form with after collaborating on the C-X75 hybrid hypercar protoypes. It intends to use Willams’ expertise in race operations to keep the team running smoothly, as well as collaborating in the R&D and testing phases.

Testing will start in the spring of 2016 and the team’s first race is set for September of the same year.

“We firmly believe electrification is the future,” said Nick Rogers, Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) group engineering director. As a result of the R&D done for the series, “We will be releasing a portfolio of electric JLR vehicles,” he added.

Stressing the importance of the development work going into the team, Rogers expressed a wish to eke out every last watt on offer to not only make the race car go faster, but also make its electric road offerings better.

The venture will allow Jaguar to grow its fan base, according to James Barclay, Jaguar’s Formula E team director. The team’s full name, the car’s livery and driver lineup will be revealed soon, he promised.

Formula E’s lack of noise has concerned traditional motorsport fans in its opening season. Would Jaguar do something to change it? Barclay commented that he was suprised by the noise the cars make in person and that the great racing the series offers is what draws people in. Rogers added: “We don’t want to fake the noise, do we?”

For now, Jaguar says it’s not about winning, but about the R&D the series necessitates, though it’s safe to say the team would like some shiny new silverware in the lobby.

Jaguar is no stranger to motorsport, having competed at events such as the Mille Miglia, Le Mans and even Formula One. It used those sports to drive tech forward to benefit its road cars, as it hopes to here. You know the disc brakes on your car? Those were first developed for the Jaguar C-Types in the ’50s so they could stop better than the competition.

The electric announcements aren’t the only thing Jaguar released this week. It also dropped a new vehicle in its F line, the “F-Sleigh”. Launched at an event showing off JLR-branded gear, the F-Sleigh was presented all in ice and looked a bit swish — for a Santa who wants to jazz up his yearly run.

Why watching the original ‘Star Wars’ again was a bad idea

I was 9 when the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1977. Like so many kids around that age, I left the theater vibrating with the sheer epic force (I know, I know) of what I had just seen.

From that film I learned that you could be both a spiritual Jedi and a lightsaber-wielding badass; that it’s always worth saving the girl; that alien-populated bars looked really fun, if a little dangerous; that you always say yes when an epic quest falls in your lap; that droids rock; and that the opening notes of a film score could be as powerful as a drug.

Since that first viewing, Luke, Vader and company have loomed large in my imagination, and clearly in the imaginations of many other adults introduced to the sci-fi franchise as kids. So have the rest of the characters, as well as the sounds of a lightsaber, a Wookiee and a TIE fighter and the idea that someday I would learn to control people through the power of suggestion and a wave of my hand.

But it now seems that maybe all that got a little gilded in my memory.

A few days ago, in preparation for the release of “The Force Awakens” this week, I fired up my Apple TV, rented “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” and settled in. While the opening credits were everything I remembered, things went downhill from there. It seems the “Star Wars” I’ve been holding in my mind over the years is actually a hell of a lot better than the real thing — and I kind of wish I had just left it that way.

Here are five ways my recent viewing challenged the perfect, magical film I’d hung onto all these years.

C-3P-Oh man will you just shut up!
C-3PO is a LOT more annoying than I remembered. OK, I get that he’s a worrywart and all, but boy, I kind of just wanted him to shut the frack up after the first few minutes. Way too much fretting and insulting R2, who is still, by far, the coolest character in the film. Also, I never realized this till now, but 3PO is a lot like Dr. Smith from the 1960’s TV show “Lost In Space.” And no one liked him.

Loser Luke
Somehow, the years had shaped the young Luke Skywalker into a humble, noble, brave — and very lucky — guy in my memory. The fact is, he was pretty darn whiny. After the other night’s viewing, I’m convinced he didn’t really deserve to be singled out by Obi-Wan to save the galaxy. The 9-year-old me, obviously, would have been a much better choice. I am sure I whined less than Luke.

Obi-Wan, a not-so wise guy
Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t actually dispatch all that much wisdom. In my memory, Obi-Wan played a much larger role in the film and dropped nuggets of knowledge like a Zen master on a little too much tequila. In reality, except for a quick explanation of the Force and telling Luke to “let go,” there really isn’t much more that comes from the old guy.

Costume party
The costumes are kind of meh; they really haven’t held up over time. So much looked a bit tacky — even Vader’s getup at times. And that Mos Eisley Cantinascene! What I remembered as a stunning assemblage of alien life this time around looked more like a costume party where people had gotten their masks at a not-very-good discount shop. There were definitely some standouts where the makeup guys knew what they were doing. But way too many plastic masks. I know I’ve been spoiled by movies with bigger and bigger budgets over the years, but it seems like Lucas could have leveled up those costumes.

Lightspeed indeed
Everything sped by faster than I remembered. I was truly surprised at how fast the major scenes in the film went: Vader and Obi-Wan’s battle; the time in cantina; Luke’s training aboard the Millennium Falcon; the trash compactor scene. In my memory they all lasted for about 15 minutes each (which I know is impossible). In reality, they whizzed by like stars seen through a ship making the jump to lightspeed.

For that gripe, of course, I can’t blame the filmmakers. A movie with so-so dialogue and mediocre costumes took root in my 9-year-old brain and grew into something much bigger than what was actually on the screen. The battles lasted longer, the characters were more noble and the aliens really came from other planets — not the makeup department.

So maybe what I’m really mourning here is the loss of my 9-year-old imagination, my willingness to just go with the illusion that “Star Wars” created and not get so nitpicky over cheap-looking masks and dopey dialogue. My childhood brain certainly made the film more magical and epic than it was during the viewing I had a few nights ago.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be watching the rest of the original trilogy, and it will be interesting to see how those films hold up in relation to my longtime perception of them. By the time “Return of the Jedi” came out, I was a senior in high school, so I have a feeling my memory of that film might be a little closer to reality than when my age could still be counted in single digits.

I know one thing. Yoda had better be as cool as I remember him, or I’m going to just have to find a Jedi to mind-trick me into remembering things just as they seemed back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Apple Music lands exclusive Taylor Swift concert video

Taylor Swift had a birthday present for her fans on Sunday.

Swift and Apple said Sunday that subscribers to the Apple Music service will have exclusive access to a concert video shot during the pop’s star’s recently concluded world concert tour. The film, which will be released December 20, features on-stage performances as well as backstage scenes from a concert performed last month at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia.

“Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes,”Swift wrote on Sunday, her 26th birthday. “I have a little surprise for you.”

The deal deepens the ties Apple and Swift have developed since the pair had a falling-out earlier this year. In June, just days before the launch of the music-streaming service from the Cupertino, California-based company, the singer publicly chastised Apple for its decision to withhold royalty payments to artists during a three-month free trial of Apple Music.

Swift called the policy “shocking” and “disappointing” and threatened to withhold her blockbuster album “1989” from the streaming service. Later that day, Apple’s head of software and services, Eddy Cue, tweeted that the electronics giant would capitulate and pay all artists for every stream during the trial period.

The whirlwind drama was quickly resolved, but the conversation on social media between two of the biggest names in music revived a public debate about how streaming-music services treat artists. Musicians such as Swift complain that streaming formats don’t compensate artists fairly.

Apple Music offers recommendations based on songs purchased from Apple’s iTunes Store, ripped from CDs or chosen on-demand from an online catalog of more than 30 million titles. It also includes a 24/7 radio station called Beats 1 and a service called Connect, where artists can present themselves to fans and share songs directly to their iPhones.

Since Apple Music launched in June, 6.5 million people have signed on as paying subscribers, CEO Tim Cook said in October, with another 8.5 million people participating in the music service’s 90-day free trial. By comparison, rival music service Spotify has 25 million paid members and another 50 million who listen for free.

Why buying anything on your smartphone stinks


Hey cool, I just found some awesome Festivus-themed socks. I’m going to buy them right now!

All I have to do is use my smartphone’s tiny keyboard to oh-so-carefully tap in my name, email, password…then my address…then my credit card number…then…sheesh, forget it. I’ll just play Candy Crush.

A scene like that may seem meaningless — hardly anyone cares I didn’t get those socks — but such aborted purchases point to a big problem in US smartphone shopping that’s frustrating customers and retailers alike.

The process of buying physical goods on your phone stinks. Consumers complain that product images are too small and that entering payment information is aggravating and stressful. So while we all use our smartphones more and more to compare prices and research products, we don’t tend to make purchases on the devices, according to data from several retail researchers. Most people use desktops instead, where a larger screen and physical keyboard make buying a breeze.

“The reality is,” Anuj Nayar, PayPal’s senior director of global initiatives, told me while holding up his iPhone, “it’s very, very difficult to pay with one of these.”

The results of this situation are crummy for those on both sides of the transaction. US retailers are seeing a big increase in their online traffic coming from smartphones, but they aren’t able to turn those visitors into buyers — and they’re likely annoying potential customers along the way. That’s a huge missed sales opportunity, industry experts say. The situation is unproductive for consumers, too, sincethey spend three hours every day on mobile devices for activities not involving phone calls.

“My little iPhone 5 just is not conducive to shopping,” Marisa Falcon, a 30-year-old Brooklyn resident, said while checking her phone on the street in Manhattan. “Entering your credit card on that touchscreen is a total drag.”

Data from the busy holiday-shopping season is a drag, too. From Black Friday to Cyber Monday this year, nearly half of online retail traffic came from smartphones, about double from the year before, reports market researcher ChannelAdvisor. But smartphones accounted for just a quarter of purchases. Desktops brought in 60 percent of sales while accounting for less traffic than phones.

Just 20 percent of US shoppers using smartphones tend to complete a purchase after placing an item in their virtual shopping cart, according to Visa. That figure is about 60 percent on desktops and 40 percent on tablets. Just how bad is that? If those people were in-store customers waiting at the checkout line, four out of five would be ditch their carts and walk out of the store before making their purchase.

Toys “R” Us is working to change that by simplifying its site on smartphones and making mobile checkouts easier, said Richard Barry, the company’s chief merchandising officer. Those efforts have started convincing more shoppers to follow through with their purchases, he said. But there’s still a long way to go.

It’s difficult and expensive for traditional retailers to make these changes. Most don’t have widely used mobile apps and employ just a handful of mobile developers, so change comes slowly. For now, Amazon and eBay seem to be benefiting from other retailers’ lousy mobile sites, said Scot Wingo, ChannelAdvisor’s executive chairman. Both online sellers have popular apps that store customer information, making shopping much easier.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In China, mobile shopping is much simpler for customers, thanks to better integration of payment information on phones and more-developed mobile shopping websites, Wingo said. That lets retailers including and Alibaba make large chunks of their sales on the same devices customers now use the most. Alibaba reported that, as of September, 47 percent of its sales came from mobile, a figure most US retailers would envy.

There are several efforts afoot to make smartphone shopping in the US less miserable, but they’re still young.

PayPal last year launched One Touch, which lets people buy items on retail sites without having to constantly re-enter their information. However, the service has attracted only a sliver of PayPal’s 173 million active accounts.

Visa is working on a similar concept, called Visa Checkout. Yet the number of users amounts to a rounding error relative to its 2.1 billion accounts.

Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest also are starting to offer “buy now” buttonson their sites to make buying easier.


Apple’s Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay might also jump into the mix as they evolve and gain adoption as places for consumers to store their payment information, Wingo said. Both services today focus on in-store purchases, not online shopping.

As those efforts ramp up, next year could be a critical one in helping make the smartphone more than just a place where people go window-shopping.

“We’re still in the early days of enabling the smartphone as a great commerce vehicle,” said Sam Shrauger, senior vice president of Visa’s digital solutions.

Maybe it won’t be too much longer before I actually want to use my phone to nab those Festivus socks.

NFL’s Johnny Manziel endorses Microsoft’s Surface like no one else


Microsoft and the NFL have so far enjoyed a relationship as smooth as Sid and Nancy’s.

After Redmond struck a reported $400 milliondeal in 2013 with the NFL to have its Surfaces exclusively on team sidelines, announcersreferred to them as “iPads.”

It’s taken education as well as, I imagine, aggressive mastication in order to embed the Surface as something known and properly named during NFL games.

On Sunday, the Surface saw its finest hour.

It was during the utterly lamentable game between the hapless Cleveland Browns and the witless San Francisco 49ers that controversial Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, aka Johnny Football, clutched his Surface with some frustration.

Clearly, plays had been busted. These plays were featured in graphic detail on the Surface. This led to Manziel attempting to bust the Surface on his head. Repeatedly.

The action was thankfully captured by SB Nation and displayed on Twitter for all to see. I had it on loop for at least four hours.

Here is Manziel banging the device repeatedly, rhythmically against his head for a beautiful eternity. This was truly the most rhythm the Browns offense has shown all season. And to think they were actually winning at the time.

What seems evident is that, like the finest of linebackers and the most resilient of defensive ends, the Surface took the blows and did it its way.

This surely proves that this device is durable and can be productive even in the hands of the most legendary dunderheads. (If you’re unfamiliar with Manziel’s wayward ways, please Google “Johnny Manziel apologizes” or “Manziel needs to behave better.”)

Microsoft’s efforts to advertise the Surface have generally been anodyne.

I cannot imagine, therefore, that the company could itself have created an advertisement better than this, even if its whole creative team had bashed the devices on their heads for the next year.

Pandora station converts your thumbs-ups into its playlist


Online music service Pandora has created a new station devoted to playing only your favorite songs.

Launched Monday, Thumbprint Radio is based on all the music on Pandora that you’ve ever thumbs-upped to show your approval. The new station plays all of your thumbed-up songs, both old and new, but also adds new music based on the tunes you’ve already liked.

Thumbprint Radio is a new way for Pandora to try to distinguish itself from powerful rivals such as Spotify and Apple Music. Though Pandora is the largest music streaming service with more than 80 million active listeners, Spotify has grown nearly as big, now counting more than 75 million users. Apple Music still trails, with roughly 15 million users about three months after its launch in June.

Other services have made their own attempts at customized music tailored to your preferences.Spotify offers a feature called Discover Weeklywith a playlist based on what it picks up as your favorite music. Different services also offer customized stations and the ability to create playlists based on your favorite songs. But Thumbprint Radio is more automated as it does all the work in collecting and playing the music it knows you like.

Listeners to Thumbprint Radio can potentially hear every song they’ve ever liked, from the first to the most recent. You can customize your thumbs-up list by adding more songs or removing songs you no longer like. To create your Thumbprint Radio station, you’ll need to have at least three separate stations with four thumbs-up each. But the more thumbs you provide, the more diverse the listening experience will be. You’re not limited to one type of music, since your thumbs-up selections can spread across genres.

You can view all of your thumbs in your profile, a Pandora spokesman said, and edit your thumbs up and thumbs down in your station page as well. You can also share your Thumbprint Radio station with your Pandora friends to give them a sense of your musical tastes, Pandora Chief Product Officer Chris Phillips, said in a blog post Monday. And as your Thumbprint Radio station changes on your end, so will it change for your friends. So there’s no need to reshare it or manually update the station for others.

“Thumbprint Radio is a collaboration between each listener and Pandora,” Phillips said in a statement. “You shared with us what music you love via all your thumbs, and we heard you.”

Thumbprint Radio is available both on Pandora’s website and its mobile apps and is accessible to paying subscribers and nonsubscribers.

Galaxy S7 may sport retina scanner with pressure sensitive display

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 may include a pressure-sensitive display and other innovative features designed to win back consumers.

Next year’s phone will add a screen thatresponds to the strength of your touch, “people familiar with the matter” told the Wall Street Journal for a story published Monday. A new high-speed charging port, a higher-quality camera and a retina scanner on certain models may also be part of the package, the Journal’s sources added.

The Galaxy S7 needs to capture consumers’ interest after this year’s Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge failed to provide enough of a boost to Samsung’s struggling smartphone sales. The company has been bitten by budget-friendly Chinese phones on the low end and by Apple’s iPhone on the high end. The challenge for Samsung, which last month shook up the leadership of its mobile business, is to outfit its flagship phone with modern, enticing features yet keep the price competitive.

As with the Galaxy S6 lineup, the new phone is expected to come in two flavors: a Galaxy S7 with a standard display and a Galaxy S7 Edge with a display that curves on both the right and left edges. Expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress in late February, the device will reach consumers in the US in mid-March, according to the Journal’s sources.

The pressure-sensitive screen would be an attempt to match the 3D Touch feature in Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. Lightly tapping the screen produces a different result than does holding down the screen more firmly.

Silicon Valley needs you, but isn’t willing to pay enough

It’s never been a better time to be a computerIt’s never been a better time to be a computer coder. But talk to hiring managers and you hear a different story.

First the good news: A record 78 percent of hiring managers throughout the tech industry say they plan on hiring more people in the first half of 2016 than they did in the second half of this year, according to a survey by Dice, a tech job website. And 71 percent of companies said they plan to bolster their tech teams by double-digit percentages or more.

Seems like good news, but there’s a glitch: Dice says there isn’t enough talent to fill all those positions and the people applying for jobs are asking for salaries above what many managers can pay.

Nearly two-thirds of those hiring managers and recruiters said the salary guidelines at their companies prevent positions from being filled. What that means is they can’t pay prospective employees enough to sign on the dotted line. That’s up from 58 percent last year.

“It doesn’t appear the challenging recruitment market will lighten anytime soon,” Bob Melk, president of Dice, said in a statement.

There are two ways to read the survey. On one hand, it’s a sign the tech industry’s innovation engine still needs new bodies, and that the gold rush that has come to define the latest Internet boom continues.

But it could be a sign that employees may be expecting too much, and that they want more than the stock options, six-figure salaries and famous perks like free food, transportation and beer bashes that tech is offering up today. If companies aren’t willing to pay, someone is, though. Nearly half of the hiring managers surveyed said they encounter more counteroffers than they did just six months ago.

So what convinces an employee to join a company? Sign-on bonuses and relocation expenses are key, recruiters said. Those “sweeteners” appear to be working. For now.

Drone owners must register with FAA, starting December 21

You might enjoy flying that new drone around the yard this holiday season, but there’s a new string attached.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday that US residents must register hobbyist drones by February 19 at its drone registration website. Registration opens December 21 and is free through January 20, the agency said. After that, the FAA will charge $5 for registration.

Accepting the guidance of an advisory panel, the FAA said registration is required for any hobbyist drone weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds. That weight limit includes even relatively small drones like the $549 Parrot Bebop 2, not just the serious$1,000 hobby-oriented models from companies like DJI.

The FAA’s registration rule (PDF) applies only to hobbyist drones. Those used for business purposes are prohibited unless the FAA has granted the business a special exemption. The FAA expects to release rules legalizing business use of drones by mid-2016.

Drones, which are typically camera-equipped quadcopters, have become a new consumer and business phenomenon for those interested in remote-controlled vehicles, aerial photography and even aerial racing. As the aircraft have grown in popularity over the last several years, though, drones have become a concern for the government agency responsible for regulating the nation’s airspace. In 2014, the FAA received 238 reports of potentially unsafe drone use. So far in 2015, that figure has already reached 1,133.

So far, though, it’s hard to truly judge the drone safety risk, said Michael Sievers, an attorney who co-chairs drone work at law firm Hunton & Williams.”The FAA has often cited the significantly increased frequency of pilot reports of UAS sightings. But it is hard to judge how accurately those figures represent a real safety problem,” he said. High-profile problems only represent a small portion of flights. “That we’ve not had a truly catastrophic incident is either a sign of very good fortune or a sign of a manageable risk.”

The FAA is prepared to enforce its rule.

“Failure to register an aircraft can result in civil penalties up to $27,500,” the rule states. “Criminal penalties for failure to register can include fines of up to $250,000.”

When registering, drone owners must provide a name, physical address and email address. Drone owners then must mark their drones with a registration number or register its serial number with the FAA.

The FAA believes the cost to operate the drone registration system will be $56 million through 2020.

US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said registration will improve drone safety.

“Unmanned aircraft enthusiast are aviators, and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” Foxx said in a statement. “Registration gives us an opportunity to work with these users to operate their unmanned aircraft safely.”

Updated at 1:03 p.m. PT with an attorney’s comment and more information on registration.
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