Shyp is preparing for a comeback under new management

Fifteen months after shutting down, Shyp is getting ready to launch again. The startup tweeted today that “We are back! We’re hard at work to rebuild an unparalleled shipping experience. Before we begin operations again, we’d love to hear your feedback in this quick survey. We look forward to working with you and can’t wait to change the future of shipping!”

Most of the survey questions focus on online shopping returns, asking how easy or difficult it was to package the product for return, print the prepaid label, purchase postage or ship the product. The last question offers a hint about what direction the rebooted Shyp might take, asking “When returning a product, how likely would you be to use a service that picked up and shipped the product instead of having to ship it yourself?”

Shyp’s website doesn’t say when it will be back or what services it will offer, but it does mention that Shyp restarted in January 2019 under new management and backed by angel investors “with plans to disrupt the industry with what it does best: cutting-edge technology and a superior customer experience.”

Once one of the hottest on-demand startups, Shyp shut down in March 2018 after missing targets to expand to cities outside of San Francisco. When it first launched in 2014, Shyp initially offered on-demand service for almost anything customers wanted shipped, charging $5 plus postage to pick up, package and bring the item to a shipping company. Eventually it introduced a pricing Read the rest

Alexa’s voice apps for kids can now offer purchases that parents approve

Amazon will now allow developers to offer premium content for purchase in Alexa skills aimed at children. The company on Friday introduced new tools for building skills with in-app purchases that requires the Amazon account holder — typically mom or dad — to approve or decline the requested purchase via a text or email.

In-skill purchasing was first introduced to all U.S. Alexa developers last year, and more recently became available to international developers. But like any app aimed at children, Alexa skills needed to offer a purchase approval workflow for those in its kids’ category, or it would risk unapproved purchases initiated by younger users.

That’s where these new developer tools come in.

Now, developers can create premium kid skills using either the Alexa Skills Kit Command-Line Interface (ASK CLI) or the Alexa Developer Console. Other tools allow the skills to route purchase requests to the account holder over SMS or email. The account holder then has 24 hours to act on the request, or the request is automatically canceled.

The premium content can come in the form of either one-time purchases or subscriptions, says Amazon.

A group of developers had early access to the tools and already added premium content to their own kid skills. This includes the grand prize winner from one of Amazon’s developer contests, Kids Court; plus You Choose Superman Adventures; Travel Quest; Animal Sounds; and Master Swords.

Parents who don’t want their kids asking to buy anything have two options to opt out of all this.

They can disable the feature in the Alexa app under Settings -> Alexa Account -> Voice Purchasing -> Kid Skills Purchasing. Meanwhile, FreeTime on Alexa customers, which comes with the Echo Dot Kids Edition, won’t receive offers to purchase premium content. … Read the rest

Daily Crunch: Telegram faces new attack in China

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Telegram faces DDoS attack in China… again

The popular encrypted messaging service Telegram is once again being hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in Asia as protestors in Hong Kong take to the streets.

As they look to evade surveillance measures by government officials, Telegram is one of the tools that organizers have turned to. Four years ago, a similar attack struck the company’s service, just as China was initiating a crackdown on human rights lawyers in the country.

2. Bird confirms acquisition of Scoot

This acquisition means Bird may finally get to operate shared electric scooters in San Francisco.

3. LaLiga fined $280K for soccer app’s privacy-violating spy mode

Users of the LaLiga app were outraged to discover the smartphone software does rather more than show minute-by-minute commentary of football matches: It can use the microphone and GPS of fans’ phones to record their surroundings in a bid to identify bars that are unofficially streaming games.

4. Google leaks its own phone

Details of the Pixel 4 have been swirling around this week, so Google decided to just leak the design of its next phone via its official Twitter account, revealing the backplate and new camera module on the smartphone.

5. NFC gets a lot more powerful in iOS 13

This opens up a range of new application possibilities, Apple said, including the ability to create apps that read passports and contactless smart cards and interact with NFC-enabled hardware.

6. Facebook collected device data on 187,000 users using banned snooping app

The social media giant said in a letter to Sen. … Read the rest

Apple soups up Logic Pro X ahead of Mac Pro launch

When it announced the long-awaited Mac Pro relaunch onstage at WWDC last week, Apple settled on creative pro software as the best way to illustrate the desktop’s power. Along with Final Cut, Logic was one of the centerpieces of that introduction.

Today the company issued the update to Logic Pro X illustrated onstage. Version 10.4.5 of the pro-level music production software supports up to 56 processing threads, and up to 1,000 audio tracks and software instrument tracks.

That can be augmented with 1,000 auxiliary channel strips and 1,000 external MIDI tracks. The company says the new version is capable of handling five times as many real-time plug-ins on the software as the last version of the Mac Pro.

There a handful of other smaller updates, as well. Per Apple:

  • The loop browser can filter by loop type and allows drag and drop of multiple loops into your project simultaneously.
  • The redesigned DeEsser 2 plug-in provides more options to reduce sibilance on audio tracks.
  • MIDI beat clocks can be sent to individual ports, each with unique settings like timing offset and plug-in delay compensation.

Version 10.4.5 is out today for $200 or as a free update to existing users. The new Mac Pro, meanwhile, isn’t set to be released until the fall.

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Kickstarter issues new transparency guidelines for projects

Fresh off its 10th anniversary and under the helm of a new CEO, Kickstarter is shaking things up with a new set of guidelines targeted at seller claims.

A new page titled Honest and Clear Presentation in Projects notes:

The language you choose to present your project plays a critical role in setting expectations for backers. Your project description should give backers a realistic and accurate picture of what you’ve done so far, what stage of development you’re in now, and what you’re hoping to create with their support.

Among the bullets points here are presenting projects as ideas, rather than finished products and, notably, avoiding exaggerations and dubious claims — both of which are mainstays of not just Kickstarter projects, but advertising in generally.

Included among the latter is a dissuasion to “Use superlatives or puffery to describe your project, such as ‘the world’s best / smallest / fastest / first / etc.’ or ‘the ultimate / unrivaled / revolutionary / etc.’ ”

So, calling these “the world’s best rules” would be heavily frowned upon.

Kickstarter’s leaning heavily on the idea of guidelines. The head of the crowdfunding site’s System Integrity Team, Meg Heim, tells The Verge, “We don’t see this as a one-time quick fix, or even a crackdown,” adding that it’s intended to “help guide creators into setting expectations that’ll help them [and their campaign] in the long run.”

Community guidelines are, by their very nature, more difficult to enforce than, say, a crackdown. The main deterrent here appears to be that the service is less likely to promote those projects that don’t adhere. It’s a fairly soft consequence, though Kickstarter’s page and newsletter promotions do go a long way toward helping projects gain momentum.

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