Box hires former SAP exec as Chief Information Security Officer

Box announced today that it has hired Lakshmi Hanspal to be the company’s new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). She boasts 20 years of security experience including holding executive security roles at SAP Ariba and Bank of America. She also spent time in a senior role at PayPal.

In a blog post announcing the hire, the company defined her role this way: “In the role of CISO, Lakshmi will be responsible for Box’s cyber security practice, security operations and data and platform protection.”

Hanspal sees similarities in Box from her time at SAP Ariba, but she recognizes that she will face a different set of challenges. “My role at Box is similar to what I focused on at SAP Ariba with the biggest difference being Box’s geographical footprint. Box is a born in the cloud company and expanding rapidly globally, so my focus will also include securing public cloud operations (future stack) and risk transparency for our customers,” she told TechCrunch.

She said that will involve improving service maturity and sustainability through automation, while continuing to ensure the highest level of security of both Box corporate and product platforms.

Box CEO Aaron Levie indicated that security is central to everything Box does, so finding the right Chief Information Security Officer was absolutely critical. “Not only does Lakshmi bring with her an impressive and diverse leadership experience from her time at SAP, PayPal and Bank of America, but she’s an incredible team builder and culture add for Box that will take our security team to the next level,” Levie said.

Hanspal is the third woman on Box’s executive team, joining Stephanie Carullo, who was hired as Chief Operating Officer in 2017 and Chief People Officer, Christie Lake.”

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Apple’s battery cases return for the iPhone XS and XR

There’s no shortage of iPhone cases out there, of course. But for those who absolutely must have Apple’s stamp on their accessories, the company just dropped a couple of official charging cases for its latest round of handsets — the XS,  XS Max and XR.

The cases, first spotted by MacRumors, maintain a similar design language as their predecessor, marking its return for the first time since the iPhone 7. The familiar battery bump is back, but it now encompasses the whole of the rear, which should make holding it a little less awkward — and at the very least is a bit better looking.

This time out, the silicone covers are available in black and white and will work with Qi chargers, without having to pull the case off. 

The new smart charging cases are priced at $129, regardless of model, and should add between 33 (for the XS) and 39 (for the XR) hours of additional talk time. As Apple notes, there are some marked advantages with going first party on this one, including intelligent battery status, which is displayed in the notification center and on the phone’s lock screen.

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Twitter’s de-algorithmizing ‘sparkle button’ rolls out on Android

After launching on iOS, Twitter is giving Android users the ability to easily switch between seeing the reverse-chronological “latest tweets” and the algorithmic “top tweets” feeds on their home page. The company announced the rollout at a media event in New York.

The “sparkle button” is a way for Twitter to appease long-time power tweeters while also shifting more of its user base to the algorithmic feed which the company says has served to increase the number of conversations happening on the platform.

You can read more about the company’s algorithmic feed thinking here:

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Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Sites on the web are going Material Design

Google today announced that it has started the long-expected rollout of its Material Design update for Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Sites, after first testing this update to the G Suite apps with its new design for Google Drive last year.

It’s worth noting that there are no new features or other changes here. Everything is still exactly where it used to be (give or take a few pixels). This is solely a design refresh.

What you can expect to see when you get the update, is different interface fonts, slightly revised controls and some new iconography. There’s also some fresh new colors here and there, too. But that’s about it.

Google started the rollout of this new design for G Suite subscribers on the Rapid Release schedule today and everybody who is on that should get it within the next 15 days. Those users whose admins are a bit timider and are sticking to the Scheduled Release schedule will see the new design around February 11. Google doesn’t typically say when those features roll out to free users, but chances are you’ll see them within the next month, too.

Google has been rolling out updated designs for most of its web and mobile apps over the course of the last few months. Google Calendar was one of the latest apps to get this update and with the addition of the G Suite productivity apps, the company has now mostly completed this project — until it released updated Material Design guidelines, of course.

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Riding the RV revolution, Outdoorsy fuels up with $50 million in fresh funding

Outdoorsy is building for the road ahead. The three-year-old company, which connects customers with underused RVs and other trucks big enough to camp in overnight, just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from earlier backers Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.

That puts its total funding, in less than year’s time, at $75 million. (We’d separately reported on its $25 million Series B round last February. It has now raised $81.5 million altogether.)

It’s easy to understand why investors are excited about Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters from the Bay Area to Austin six months ago, partly to get closer to its base of customers, as well as to take advantage of attractive tax incentives. The company is capitalizing on a global trend of millennials who want to stay overnight at places other than hotels, which are often expensive and located in commercial districts that can’t provide the same authentic experience of staying in a neighborhood.

Yet Outdoorsy is taking things a step further, so to speak. As cofounder and CEO Jeff Cavins notes, even with Airbnbs seemingly everywhere, there remain plenty of places where it makes even more sense to rent an RV and set up a grill, including at a beach, beside a lake, or right outside events like musical festivals and car races. That’s saying nothing of traditional camping spots, like Yosemite and Yellowstone Valley.

It’s easier than ever thanks largely to Outdoorsy, too, says Cavins. Earlier on, the company logged serious time with outfits like Aviva, a British multinational insurance company that is not only an Outdoorsy investor at this point but which was convinced by Outdoorsy to create an insurance product expressly to cover RVs as distinct from other, more accident-prone vehicles with which they’ve long been lumped, like dune buggies and jet skis. Offers Cavins, “Most recreational vehicles aren’t driven around much. They are used for camping purposes. Some people do cross-country stuff, but most people don’t like driving so much on their vacations so there isn’t a lot of mobile time with these units.”

Indeed, by offering U.S. and Canadian RV owners up to $1 million in protection, and $2 million in protection for its European users, Outdoorsy says it has managed to sign up 31,000 vehicles to date, including a mix of traditional RVs, camper vans, towable campers, and trucks, all of which are collectively rented for six days on average and that produce, on average, $1,900 in income for their owners over that period.

And that’s mostly in North America. Outdoorsy thinks that as it expands more aggressively in Europe and Australia and New Zealand, among other places it’s rolling into, it will have closer to 65,000 vehicles available to rent on its platform by year end.

Not that expanding geographically is all the company has in mind. On the contrary, says Cavins, Outdoorsy is evolving into a kind of recreational marketplace, one with many more premium services beyond those in introduced last year, which including insurance and roadside assistance. For example, it more recently began inviting customers to finance their vacations through Outdoorsy, which has partnered with the lending company Affirm toward that end. It now offers trip and travel insurance to offset cancellations. And Cavin says the company is rolling out a spate of other new premium services in roughly one month

Outdoorsy also ushering in a new wave of entrepreneurship, by Cavin’s telling. Vehicle owners set their own pricing, with the help of tools provided by Outdoorsy, and they ultimately keep between 75 and 80 percent of what they earn, he says, adding that for some of its customers, those rental fees are beginning to produce meaningful revenue.

He points to one customer that he says is generating more than $1 million — quickly noting that this customer owns between 50 and 55 RVs. But he insists that while “most users start with two vehicles, we have some that get to four, then 20, then they hire hire their own mechanic and cleaning crew.”

What about those stretches of time when it isn’t a holiday and it isn’t summer and fewer people are looking to rent RVs? Cavins admits the market slows down markedly at times, which is why Outdoorsy is building up a business in New Zealand and Australia. Outdoorsy wants to take advantage of summer somewhere all year round. Still, says Cavins, the market is hotter than you might imagine. “Come May, it’s now very hard to get your hands on an RV.”

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Riding the RV revolution, Outdoorsy fuels up with $50 million in fresh funding

Outdoorsy is building for the road ahead. The three-year-old company, which connects customers with underused RVs and other trucks big enough to camp in overnight, just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from earlier backers Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital.

That puts its total funding, in less than year’s time, at $75 million. (We’d separately reported on its $25 million Series B round last February. It has now raised $81.5 million altogether.)

It’s easy to understand why investors are excited about Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters from the Bay Area to Austin six months ago, partly to get closer to its base of customers, as well as to take advantage of attractive tax incentives. The company is capitalizing on a global trend of millennials who want to stay overnight at places other than hotels, which are often expensive and located in commercial districts that can’t provide the same authentic experience of staying in a neighborhood.

Yet Outdoorsy is taking things a step further, so to speak. As cofounder and CEO Jeff Cavins notes, even with Airbnbs seemingly everywhere, there remain plenty of places where it makes even more sense to rent an RV and set up a grill, including at a beach, beside a lake, or right outside events like musical festivals and car races. That’s saying nothing of traditional camping spots, like Yosemite and Yellowstone Valley.

It’s easier than ever, thanks largely to Outdoorsy, too, says Cavins. What he’s referencing is the company’s work with outfits like Aviva, a British multinational insurance company that is not only an Outdoorsy investor but came up with an insurance product expressly to cover RVs as distinct from other, more accident-prone vehicles with which they’ve long been lumped, like dune buggies and jet skis. Offers Cavins, “Most recreational vehicles aren’t driven around much. They are used for camping purposes. Some people do cross-country stuff, but most people don’t like driving so much on their vacations so there isn’t a lot of mobile time with these units.”

Indeed, by offering U.S. and Canadian RV owners up to $1 million in protection, and $2 million in protection for its European users, Outdoorsy says it has managed to sign up 31,000 vehicles to date, including a mix of traditional RVs, camper vans, towable campers, and trucks, all of which are collectively rented for six days on average and that produce, on average, $1,900 in income for their owners over that period.

And that’s mostly in North America. Outdoorsy thinks that as it expands more aggressively in Europe and Australia and New Zealand, among other places it’s rolling into, it will have closer to 65,000 vehicles available to rent on its platform by year end.

Not that expanding geographically is all the company has in mind. On the contrary, says Cavins, Outdoorsy is evolving into a kind of recreational marketplace, one with many more premium services beyond those in introduced last year, which including insurance and roadside assistance. For example, it more recently began inviting customers to finance their vacations through Outdoorsy, which has partnered with the lending company Affirm toward that end. It now offers trip and travel insurance to offset cancellations. And Cavin says the company is rolling out a spate of other new premium services in roughly one month

Outdoorsy also ushering in a new wave of entrepreneurship, by Cavin’s telling. Vehicle owners set their own pricing, with the help of tools provided by Outdoorsy, and they ultimately keep between 75 and 80 percent of what they earn, he says, adding that for some of its customers, those rental fees are beginning to produce meaningful revenue.

He points to one customer that he says is generating more than $1 million — quickly noting that this customer owns between 50 and 55 RVs. But he insists that while “most users start with two vehicles, we have some that get to four, then 20, then they hire hire their own mechanic and cleaning crew.”

What about those stretches of time when it isn’t a holiday and it isn’t summer and fewer people are looking to rent RVs? Cavins admits the market slows down markedly at times, which is why Outdoorsy is building up a business in New Zealand and Australia. Outdoorsy wants to take advantage of summer somewhere all year round. Still, says Cavins, the market is hotter than you might imagine. “Come May, it’s now very hard to get your hands on an RV.”

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Mozilla shutters Firefox’s Test Pilot program

Mozilla today announced that it is closing the Firefox Test Pilot program. For the last three years, Test Pilot was Mozilla’s project to trial some of its more experimental Firefox features with a group of users that opted into this program. It was Test Pilot that first trialed features like Containers, which became the Firefox Facebook Container extension, Page Shot for taking screenshots, and the Lockbox app for iOS, the first non-Firefox Test Pilot project.

While Test Pilot is going away, though, Mozilla promises that it will continue this kind of experimentation. “The innovation processes that led to products like Firefox Monitor are no longer the responsibility of a handful of individuals but rather the entire organization,” the organization explains. “Everyone is responsible for maintaining the Culture of Experimentation Firefox has developed through this process. These techniques and tools have become a part of our very DNA and identity. That is something to celebrate.”

Mozilla promises that it won’t uninstall any of the experiments that you may be using today (if you are a Test Pilot user). Indeed, most of them will surely find their way into the addons.mozilla.org directory or evolve into standalone products. It’s also worth noting that Mozilla Labs continues to work on projects like Firefox for VR and other projects.

Still, it’s a shame to see Test Pilot disappear. It always felt like a useful, low-risk way of trying new things with a small group of users that was willing to be the test subject for niche features like tabs in a sidebar. Mozilla says it’ll actually experiment more now, but it remains to be seen how exactly it will do so without the Test Pilot program.

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GBatteries let you charge your car as quickly as visiting the pump

A YC startup called GBatteries has come out of stealth with a bold claim: they can recharge an electric car as quickly as it takes to full up a tank of gas.

Created by aerospace engineer Kostya Khomutov, electrical engineers Alex Tkachenko and Nick Sherstyuk, and CCO Tim Sherstyuk, the company is funded by the likes of Airbus Ventures, Initialized Capital, Plug and Play, and SV Angel.

The system uses AI to optimize the charging systems in electric cars.

“Most companies are focused on developing new chemistries or materials (ex. Enevate, Storedot) to improve charging speed of batteries. Developing new materials is difficult, and scaling up production to the needs of automotive companies requires billions of $,” said Khomutov. “Our technology is a combination of software algorithms (AI) and electronics, that works with off-the-shelf Li-ion batteries that have already been validated, tested, and produced by battery manufacturers. Nothing else needs to change.”

The team makes some bold claims. The product allows users to charge a 60kWh EV battery pack with 119 miles of range in 15 minutes as compared to 15 miles in 15 minutes today. “The technology works with off-the-shelf lithium ion batteries and existing fast charge infrastructure by integrating via a patented self-contained adapter on a car charge port,” writes the team. They demonstrated their product at CES this year.

Most charging systems depend on fairly primitive systems for topping up batteries. Various factors – including temperature – can slow down or stop a charge. GBatteries manages this by setting a very specific charging model that “slows down” and “speeds up” the charge as necessary. This allows the charge to go much faster under the right conditions.

The company bloomed out of frustration.

“We’ve always tinkered with stuff together since before I was even a teenager, and over time had created a burgeoning hardware lab in our basement,” said Sherstyuk. “While I was studying Chemistry at Carleton University in Ottawa, we’d often debate and discuss why batteries in our phones got so bad so rapidly – you’d buy a phone, and a year later it would almost be unusable because the battery degraded so badly.”

“This sparked us to see if we can solve the problem by somehow extending the cycle life of batteries and achieve better performance, so that we’d have something that lasts. We spent a few weeks in our basement lab wiring together a simple control system along with an algorithm to charge a few battery cells, and after 6 months of testing and iterations we started seeing a noticeable difference between batteries charged conventionally, and ones using our algorithm. A year and a half later of constant iterations and development, we applied and were accepted in 2014 into YC.”

While it’s not clear when this technology will hit commercial vehicles, it could be the breakthrough we all need to start replacing our gas cars with something a little more environmentally-friendly.

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Microsoft continues to build government security credentials ahead of JEDI decision

While the DoD is in the process of reviewing the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract RFPs (assuming the work continues during the government shutdown), Microsoft continues to build up its federal government security bona fides, regardless.

Today the company announced it has achieved the highest level of federal government clearance for the Outlook mobile app, allowing US Government Community Cloud (GCC) High and Department of Defense employees to use the mobile app. This is on top of FedRamp compliance, the company achieved last year.

“To meet the high level of government security and compliance requirements, we updated the Outlook mobile architecture so that it establishes a direct connection between the Outlook mobile app and the compliant Exchange Online backend services using a native Microsoft sync technology and removes middle tier services,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the update.

The update will allows these highly security-conscious employees to access some of the more recent updates to Outlook Mobile such as the ability to add a comment when canceling an event.

This is in line with government security updates the company made last year. While none of these changes are specifically designed to help win the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, they certainly help make a case for Microsoft from a technology standpoint

As Microsoft corporate vice president for Azure, Julia White stated in a blog post last year, which we covered, “Moving forward, we are simplifying our approach to regulatory compliance for federal agencies, so that our government customers can gain access to innovation more rapidly,” White wrote at the time. The Outlook Mobile release is clearly in line with that.

Today’s announcement comes after the Pentagon announced just last week that it has awarded Microsoft a separate large contract for $1.7 billion. This involves providing Microsoft Enterprise Services for the Department of Defense (DoD), Coast Guard and the intelligence community, according to a statement from DoD.

All of this comes ahead of decision on the massive $10 billion, winner-take-all cloud contract. Final RFPs were submitted in October and the DoD is expected to make a decision in April. The process has not been without controversy with Oracle and IBM submitting a formal protests even before the RFP deadline — and more recently, Oracle filing a lawsuit alleging the contract terms violate federal procurement laws. Oracle has been particularly concerned that the contract was designed to favor Amazon, a point the DoD has repeatedly denied.

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Microsoft continues to build government security credentials ahead of JEDI decision

While the DoD is in the process of reviewing the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract RFPs (assuming the work continues during the government shutdown), Microsoft continues to build up its federal government security bona fides, regardless.

Today the company announced it has achieved the highest level of federal government clearance for the Outlook mobile app, allowing US Government Community Cloud (GCC) High and Department of Defense employees to use the mobile app. This is on top of FedRamp compliance, the company achieved last year.

“To meet the high level of government security and compliance requirements, we updated the Outlook mobile architecture so that it establishes a direct connection between the Outlook mobile app and the compliant Exchange Online backend services using a native Microsoft sync technology and removes middle tier services,” the company wrote in a blog post announcing the update.

The update will allows these highly security-conscious employees to access some of the more recent updates to Outlook Mobile such as the ability to add a comment when canceling an event.

This is in line with government security updates the company made last year. While none of these changes are specifically designed to help win the $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, they certainly help make a case for Microsoft from a technology standpoint

As Microsoft corporate vice president for Azure, Julia White stated in a blog post last year, which we covered, “Moving forward, we are simplifying our approach to regulatory compliance for federal agencies, so that our government customers can gain access to innovation more rapidly,” White wrote at the time. The Outlook Mobile release is clearly in line with that.

Today’s announcement comes after the Pentagon announced just last week that it has awarded Microsoft a separate large contract for $1.7 billion. This involves providing Microsoft Enterprise Services for the Department of Defense (DoD), Coast Guard and the intelligence community, according to a statement from DoD.

All of this comes ahead of decision on the massive $10 billion, winner-take-all cloud contract. Final RFPs were submitted in October and the DoD is expected to make a decision in April. The process has not been without controversy with Oracle and IBM submitting a formal protests even before the RFP deadline — and more recently, Oracle filing a lawsuit alleging the contract terms violate federal procurement laws. Oracle has been particularly concerned that the contract was designed to favor Amazon, a point the DoD has repeatedly denied.

via Click on the link for the full article