Aspiring YouTube star? It’s time for a reality check.


There’s something to be said for those with the courage to follow their dreams. But if your dream is to make it big on YouTube you should probably take a seat. This is going to hurt a little. Choosing a far-fetched career path isn’t new. From a young age, many of us aspired to be actors, pop stars, or professional athletes. This generation, though, has a new plan: taking over the internet. In a British survey last year, one in three children professed a desire to be full-time YouTubers. That is to say, the children wanted to be the next…

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Classic SNES game Chrono Trigger gets godawful PC port


Square Enix surprised fans today by releasing Chrono Trigger on Steam, making it the first time the cult classic has been ported to PC. Fans should be cheering. Instead, they’re groaning over the game’s terrible quality. The Steam release appears to be a port of the seven-year-old mobile version of the game. Let’s just say this particular version doesn’t look good on Windows. It has the tile-based interface, intended to go hand-in-hand with touch controls, an ugly font, and buttons which stay in the corner of your screen the whole game. This looks like someone’s first attempt at an RPG Maker…

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IBM’s Watson is going to space


IBM yesterday announced it would be providing the AI brain for a robot being built by Airbus to accompany astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). When only the best of the best will do, it looks like Watson has the right stuff. The robot, which looks like a flying volleyball with a low-resolution face, is being deployed with German astronaut Alexander Gerst in June for a six month mission. It’s called CIMON, an acronym for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, and it’s headed to space to do science stuff. It’ll help crew members conduct medical experiments, study crystals, and play…

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Bye bye black box: Researchers teach AI to explain itself


A team of international researchers recently taught AI to justify its reasoning and point to evidence when it makes a decision. The ‘black box’ is becoming transparent, and that’s a big deal. Figuring out why a neural network makes the decisions it does is one of the biggest concerns in the field of artificial intelligence. The black box problem, as it’s called, essentially keeps us from trusting AI systems. The team was comprised of researchers from UC Berkeley, University of Amsterdam, MPI for Informatics, and Facebook AI Research. The new research builds on the group’s previous work, but this time…

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Wacom’s new ‘Engine’ turns your Cintiq Pro into a workstation


What’s better than a big drawing tablet? A really big drawing tablet. Wacom today announced the Cintiq Pro 24, joining the current 13 and 16-inch models. It’s sporting a 4K Display with 98 percent Adobe RGB coverage, ensuring accuracy for color-critical work. It also supports Wacom’s new-ish Pro Pen 2 with 8,192 levels of pressure sensitivity, tilt detection, and an etched glass panel for low parallax. Perhaps more interesting, however, is Wacom’s new Cintiq Pro Engine. It’s basically a mini computer that attaches to the back of your Cintiq to turn it into a all-in-one, semi-portable workstation. The engine includes…

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Chinook salmon are shrinking, and Alaska’s killer whales may be among the culprits

Chinook salmon
A Chinook salmon frequents Oregon’s McKenzie River. (Morgan Bond Photo via UW)

King salmon, the big fish that are famous in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, are shrinking — not only in numbers, but in size as well.

A study published today in the journal Fish and Fisheries has found that the largest and oldest Chinook salmon (also known as king salmon or Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) have mostly disappeared along the West Coast.

“Chinook are known for being the largest Pacific salmon, and they are highly valued because they are so large,” lead author Jan Ohlberger, a research scientist in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, said in a news release. “The largest fish are disappearing, and that affects subsistence and recreational fisheries that target these individuals.”

The study is based on 40 years’ worth of data focusing on populations of hatchery fish and wild Chinook populations from California to Alaska. The fish are born in freshwater rivers and streams, spend most of their lives in the Pacific Ocean, then return to their home waters to spawn and die.

For most of the populations studied, the average length of the returning fish has declined by as much as 10 percent over the decades, Ohlberger and his colleagues found.

Ohlberger said the widespread shrinkage points to a trend that goes beyond regional fishing practices, animal behaviors or inland ecosystems.

“This suggests that there is something about the larger ocean environment that is driving these patterns,” Ohlberger said. “I think fishing is part of the story, but it’s definitely not sufficient to explain all of the patterns we see. Many populations are exploited [by fishing] at lower rates than they were 20 to 30 years ago.”

The preferences of marine mammals such as killer whales may play a part.

“We know that resident killer whales have a very strong preference for eating the largest fish, and this selectivity is far greater than fisheries ever were,” said senior author Daniel Schindler, a UW professor of aquatic and fishery sciences.

The population of southern resident killer whales that frequent Washington state’s Puget Sound may be in decline, but the numbers of northern resident killer whales that hang out around Alaska appear to be growing at an extremely fast rate. The UW researchers suggest that the burgeoning northern orca population may be a significant factor in the plight of the Chinook salmon.

Other scientists and fishing industry sources have noted a rapid decline in the numbers of Chinook salmon returning to the Southeast Alaska coastline — which has led to tighter restrictions on commercial fishing. And last month, yet another research group from Washington State University reported a dramatic long-term decline in genetic diversity among Columbia River Chinook salmon.

In addition to Ohlberger and Schindler, the authors of “Demographic Changes in Chinook Salmon Across the Northeast Pacific Ocean” include Eric Ward and Bert Lewis.

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Washington becomes first state in the nation to pass net neutrality regulations in defiance of FCC

Rep. Drew Hansen sponsored Washington’s net neutrality bill. (Photo via HouseDemocrats.WA.Gov.)

Washington passed its own net neutrality protections Tuesday, the first state to do so in a direct rebuke to the other Washington.

A bill that reinstates protections repealed by the Federal Communications Commission in December passed both houses of Washington state’s legislature Tuesday afternoon. It now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed.

The bill forbids broadband companies from blocking or slowing lawful internet traffic or selling fast lanes at a premium. It also requires broadband companies to publicly disclose their business practices “sufficient for consumers to make informed choices.”

Lawmakers in more than 25 states have introduced their own net neutrality legislation but Washington is the first to pass its bill in both chambers of the legislature.

“This is one of those bills where we get to stand up and say states matter,” said Washington Sen. Kevin Ranker during Tuesday’s vote. “States can truly make a difference. We can truly represent the core values of our constituents.”

In December, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality in favor of a “light-touch” regulatory structure.

The FCC adopted net neutrality regulations in 2015 in an effort to ensure internet service providers wouldn’t prioritize some online content over others. The regulations codified existing standards that were the status quo before net neutrality had a catchy name.

Washington state’s net neutrality law is likely to face legal challenges. The FCC’s official repeal of net neutrality, which was published in the Federal Register last week, preempts states and local jurisdictions from passing de facto net neutrality laws. The FCC said it would “preempt any state or local measures that would effectively impose rules or requirements that we have repealed or decided to refrain from imposing in this order.” That includes laws that would require disclosure of business practices from internet providers, like the one moving through the Washington state legislature.”

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is also preparing a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision, as part of a coalition with attorneys general from 21 other states and the District of Columbia.

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Such a deal? White House reports $3.9B contract with Boeing for Air Force One

Air Force One illustration
Boeing will beef up two 747 jets to serve as Air Force One planes. (Boeing Illustration)

The White House says President Donald Trump has struck an “informal deal” with Boeing on a $3.9 billion fixed-price contract for two new Air Force One planes.

“Thanks to the president’s negotiations, the contract will save the taxpayers more than $1.4 billion,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said today in a widely distributed statement.

The extent of the savings is debatable, however.

Replacing the presidential Air Force One planes became a bone of contention between Boeing and Trump soon after his election, when the then-president-elect complained that the order should be canceled because “costs are out of control, more than $4 billion.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg mended fences with Trump at a December 2016 meeting during which Muilenburg made a “personal commitment” to keep the cost below $4 billion.

Today’s statement appears to confirm that the commitment will be kept.

The current Air Force One 747 jets are nearing the end of their 30-year design lifetime, and the plans for replacing them have been in the works for years.

Pentagon officials shaved a significant amount off the cost by opting to buy two 747-8 jets that had been built for a Russian airline but had to be put in mothballs when the company went bankrupt.

The cost of the airframes represents a relatively small percentage of the price tag, however. Most of the expense has to do with designing and installing upgrades, including secure communication systems, in-flight defense systems and beefed-up power systems.

Because of the range of options available for upgrades, there’s fairly wide leeway in the potential price tag. Last September, Defense One said Muilenburg presented options that could have put the price anywhere between $2.28 billion and $4.4 billion.

In a tweet, Boeing said that Trump “negotiated a good deal on behalf of the American people”:

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace industry analyst with the Teal Group, told The Washington Post that to some extent, diplomacy dictated the depiction of the deal.

“Boeing learned first, of all the defense contractors, that you have to flatter Trump, you have to give him credit for any number of things, no matter how fictitious,” Aboulafia was quoted as saying.

The details of the formal deal are likely to come out in the months and years ahead. If the contract has a fixed price of $3.9 billion, Boeing would be responsible for any cost overruns.

The Pentagon’s timetable calls for the planes to be customized starting next year, with presidential service due to start in 2024.

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Tech Moves: OfficeSpace taps former Microsoft GM as CEO; new CTO at drone maker Insitu; and more

Mark Ashida. (OfficeSpace Photo)

OfficeSpace, a leading commercial real estate listing service based in Seattle, is under new leadership. The company appointed longtime tech executive and former Microsoft general manager Mark Ashida as its new CEO Tuesday.

Ashida replaces OfficeSpace Founder and CEO Susie Algard, who will now serve as the chair of the company’s board.

Ashida’s experience as a tech leader is hard to overstate. His resume includes four years as the general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Enterprise Networking Group. He founded and led security startup PassEdge until it was acquired by InterTrust, then served as InterTrust’s COO until it was acquired by Microsoft. His most recent role was as the CEO of cloud backup service Symform, which Quantum acquired and later shut down. He also serves as the chairman of the board of directors for Seattle’s Center for Infectious Disease Research.

“Under Susie Algard’s leadership, the OfficeSpace.com team has built a revolutionary platform that better facilitates the necessary relationship between brokers and tenants,” Ashida said in a press release. “I believe that there are many future prospects for the commercial real estate market that remain untapped, especially as brokers and tenants continue to move towards internet platforms as their operating dashboard to list and find office space. I am very excited about the opportunity to lead OfficeSpace.com into its next phase of growth.”

Matt Bartow. (Insitu Photo)

— Insitu, the Boeing-owned drone maker, announced Tuesday that it has promoted longtime employee Matt Bartow as its new chief technology officer. He replaces Pete Kunz, who left the CTO role to serve as the chief technologist at Boeing’s innovation group, HorizonX.

Bartow joined Insitu in 2009 and has held various roles during his time there, including director of products and director of engineering. He formerly spent six years at Boeing and began his career as a materials scientist in NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

The announcement comes a week after the company’s CEO and president Ryan Hartman left Insitu to become CEO of Hood Technology Corp. An Insitu spokesperson told GeekWire the company is searching for a new CEO and isn’t planning to appoint an interim CEO.

Boeing acquired Insitu in 2008. The company makes unmanned aerial systems including ScanEagle, Integrator and RQ-21A Blackjack for military and commercial use.

Bill McClain. (Phytelligence Photo)

Phytelligence, a biotech startup that uses high-tech gel to grow crops, has tapped former Clarisonic and Phillips marketing leader Bill McClain to serve as the company’s executive vice president of marketing.

McClain most recently served as an instructor at the University of Washington and has held marketing leadership roles at skincare company Clarisonic, owned by L’Oreal, and electric toothbrush maker Sonicare. After Sonicare was acquired by Phillips, he joined Phillips and eventually led marketing for the company’s oral care products in Europe.

Phytelligence, a 70-person company that spun out of Washington State University, raised $7 million last year. Its momentum earned it a place on the 2017 Seattle 10, GeekWire’s annual selection of the 10 hottest startups in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m excited to be part of such an innovative company that’s making a real difference,” McClain said in a press release. “In partnership with growers, Phytelligence brings more high-nutrition food to market faster and more sustainably. I look forward to building on the brand’s success with new international marketing initiatives.”

Jim Thomson. (HNTB Photo)

HNTB Corporation, the national civil engineering company, promoted longtime executive and former Northwest District leader Jim Thomson to serve as a senior vice president. Thompson is based in the company’s Bellevue, Wash., office and will work on projects throughout the Western U.S.

Thomson first joined HNTB in 1987 and served as the Northwest District leader and a vice president beginning in 2011. HNTB’s projects in the Seattle area include many high-profile infrastructure projects like the SR 99 tunnel, improvements to the Mercer Street corridor and several extensions of Seattle’s Link light rail network. The company employs 180 in the Seattle region.

Kevin Williams. (Act-On Photo)

— Portland, Ore., tech executive Kevin Williams joined marketing automation company Act-On Software as its new senior vice president of customer success. He joins the company from Aurea Software, where he was the VP of customer success. Williams previously spent eleven years at Jive Software, eventually serving as the company’s VP of customer support.

“Our success is integrally tied to our customers’ success and I am looking forward to positively impacting both as I actively help marketers realize the true potential of adaptive marketing to grow their business by better anticipating, automating, and accelerating their engagement efforts,” Williams said in a press release.

Dan Lyons. (Fitcode Photo)

— Fitcode, a Kirkland, Wash.,-based startup that uses tech to help customers navigate online clothes shopping, added Dan Lyons as director of sales. Lyons was most recently an account executive at PayScale and formerly held roles at real-time analytics company NeuStar, public relations company Cision and cybersecurity analytics company DomainTools.

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Amazon’s tallest new geek? NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal is a ‘home court defender’ in ads for Ring

Ring and Shaq
Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, left, is shown helping to install a Ring video camera in an ad for the company. (Ring Photo)

Seattle may still be without the beloved Sonics, but a huge NBA star now has ties to the city in a roundabout way.

With the news Tuesday that Amazon is acquiring Ring, the maker of video doorbells and other smart technologies, the tech giant appears to also be acquiring Shaquille O’Neal, the longtime basketball star who also happens to be a Ring spokesman.

Over the years, the four-time NBA champ has endorsed a wide range of products and services. A dedicated page on the Ring website bills the 7-footer as a defender of the “home court” for customers who use the company’s products. O’Neal even shows off one of his championship rings — synergy!

“Shaq is more than just a big person with a big personality,” Ring says on the Shaq page. “Just like Ring, he wants to reduce crime in neighborhoods. So we drafted Sheriff Shaq to lead our team and to pass along some savings to you!”

Whether O’Neal remains a pitchman for Ring under Amazon remains to be seen. The company’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, proved himself to be fond of the advertising spotlight with an appearance in an Amazon Alexa commercial during this year’s Super Bowl.

But O’Neal is already a fan of one Seattle tech institution — GeekWire. We’ve had our laughs with the big man during his appearances at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in years past, where he told us he was the tallest geek in the world.

O’Neal and fellow “Inside the NBA” analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are regulars at CES.

O’Neal has previously told GeekWire that he appreciates “dummy-proof” tech and that he’s a fan of all the “technology guys” who make stuff one click, two click or Bluetooth enabled. He said he wasn’t into starting his own company, and that he wasn’t an expert on anything except basketball, being funny and being a nice guy.

Shaq
Shaquille O’Neal at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

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