As English burns, Scrabble plays the fiddle adding 300 words like Bitcoin, botnet and emoji

As English burns, Scrabble plays the fiddle adding 300 words like Bitcoin, botnet and emoji

Attention, Scrabble enthusiasts! A whopping 300 new words have been added to Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, including a few that are sure to satisfy millennials and aggravate everyone else: Bitcoin, emoji and botnet.

Merriam-Webster likes to keep up with the hip, younger crowd and often adds words that began as slang but infiltrated the average person’s vocabulary. 

‘Ew,’ ‘bizjet’ (a jet used for business purposes, of course), ‘aquafaba,’ ‘facepalm,’ ‘hivemind,’ ‘macaron,’ ‘yowza,’ ‘beatdown,’ ‘zomboid,’ ‘twerk,’ ‘sheeple,’ ‘wayback,’ ‘bokeh,’ ‘frowny,’ ‘puggle,’ ‘nubber‘ and ‘OK’ are also among the new entries.

“OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time,” Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, told The Associated Press. “Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game.”

OK may not be worth much, but bizjets could garner up to 120 points.

Earlier this month, Merriam-Webster added 800 new words to their flagship English dictionary, including ‘TL;DR,’ ‘instgramming,’ ‘fintech,’ ‘biohacking,’ ‘rando’ and ‘bingeable.’

After extradition to Texas, 3D-printed gunmaker Cody Wilson is out on bail

After extradition to Texas, 3D-printed gunmaker Cody Wilson is out on bail

Last week, after Hatreon creator and 3D-printed gun activist Cody Wilson was charged with the sexual assault of a minor, he managed to evade arrest briefly in Taipei. On Friday, authorities successfully located Wilson and extradited him back to Texas, booking him into a Harris County jail. Now, Wilson is out on a $150,000 bond.

Wilson’s arrest in a Taipei hotel on Friday was the result of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Marshals, Taiwan’s police force and the U.S. State Department. His charges stem from an August 22 incident during which Wilson allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old he found on SugarDaddyMeet.com, paying her $500 for sex in a North Austin hotel.

The charges are corroborated by security footage showing Wilson himself and a car with a license plate registered to his business. The charges originated from a report by a counselor who had spoken with the 16-year-old girl who identified Wilson and described the alleged assault.

Wilson lives in Austin where he owns and operates Defense Distributed, a defense company that conducts research and development “for the benefit of the American rifleman.” He reportedly fled to Taiwan after receiving a tip that authorities sought to arrest him.

“This was a collaborative effort that demonstrates the dedication of local, state, federal and international officials working together to bring this fugitive to justice,” U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas Susan Pamerleau said of the arrest.

In a statement to local news, Wilson’s lawyer Samy Khalil announced Wilson’s intentions to fight the charges. “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case,” Khalil said. “That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”

TC Sessions: AR/VR early-bird sale extended to Friday

TC Sessions: AR/VR early-bird sale extended to Friday

You heard it here first! Early-bird ticket sales are extended till September 28 for TechCrunch Sessions: AR/VR on October 18 at UCLA. Don’t miss out on the biggest savings for this event — book your $99 tickets here. Students, get your tickets for just $45 when you book here.

What’s going to happen at TC Sessions: AR/VR you ask?

You’re going to hear from today’s leading innovators, watch exclusive demos onstage and network with some of the world’s leading minds in augmented/virtual reality. Who wouldn’t want that?

Onstage discussions include Augmenting the Office, Building Inclusive Worlds, Your Virtual Self, and Ditching Headsets for Holograms. And you’ll get to hear from leading industry minds, including:

Ashley Crowder (VNTANA)

Cyan Banister (Founders Fund)

Yelena Rachitsky (Oculus)

Nathan Burba (Survios)

Ficus Kirkpatrick (Facebook)

Matt Miesnieks (6D.AI)

Niko Bonatsos (General Catalyst)

When you tweet your attendance through our ticketing platform, you’ll save an additional 25 percent (for early-bird tickets) and 15 percent (for student tickets).

Check out the full agenda and speaker list here.

MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile

MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile

It’s been five years since T-Mobile picked up MetroPCS, and now the prepaid service is finally getting a fresh coat of paint. The “PCS” bit is getting the old heave-ho, while the brand’s owners are letting you know who’s boss with the new Metro by T-Mobile brand name.

The new name involves some new plans, along with a couple of perks from key partners. There are two new (pricier) tiers, in addition to the standard ones. The new unlimited plans run $50 and $60 a month, and both include storage via Google One.

That makes the newly rebranded service the first to offer up access to Google’s new storage plan. The cloud deal also offers access to Google Experts, who can help you troubleshoot issues with any Google service.

The $60 a month plan, meanwhile, tosses in Amazon Prime for good measure. That’s not exactly a solid reason to upgrade in and of itself, given that an Amazon Prime plan currently runs $119 a year, but the more premium plan offers 15GB of LTE data for its mobile hotspot versus 5GB.

You can play Alto’s Adventure on your Mac now

You can play Alto’s Adventure on your Mac now

Everyone’s favorite endless, serene snowboarding game just made the leap from mobile to the Mac App Store. Available now for $9.99, Alto’s Adventure for Mac is a desktop port of the side-scrolling snowscape game that’s won hearts and accolades since it first hit iOS in 2015.

Earlier this year, the team behind Alto’s Adventure introduced a second game, Alto’s Odyssey, which trades the first game’s snowy terrain for sand and sun while maintaining its charm. If you’ve already spent some time with Alto’s Odyssey, the Mac version of the classic is a good reason to circle back.

The game’s serene setting and blissed out music make Alto’s Adventure eminently replayable, even if you’ve already sunk tens of hours into lengthening your scarf in an infinite procedurally generated snowy world dotted with charming villages, dramatic slopes and many, many things to trip over.

If you’ve yet to dive into Alto’s Adventure, and we really recommend that you do, the Mac version is probably a good starting place. For everyone else, progress in the game syncs across devices through iCloud, so it’s a good excuse to push a little further into one of the most thoughtful, pleasant mobile game experiences to date.

And while you’re hanging out in the Mac App Store, don’t forget to update to Mojave — Apple’s latest desktop operating system is available now.

Mike Curtis, Airbnb’s VP of engineering, is leaving

Mike Curtis, Airbnb’s VP of engineering, is leaving

Airbnb’s head of engineering will leave the company before the end of 2018 to pursue other projects and focus on his family. The news was first reported by The Information and later confirmed to TechCrunch by Airbnb.

Curtis joined the home-sharing platform in 2013 after about two years as the director of engineering at Facebook.

Airbnb will work with Heidrick & Struggles to find his successor, who will be named chief technology officer, a title some at the company had expected Curtis to receive last year, per The Information. Airbnb has several other holes in its C-suite; it’s also in the process of hiring a chief marketing officer and a chief financial officer.

“For a while, Mike has been thinking about making this change to take a long break,” an Airbnb spokesperson told TechCrunch. “After discussing this change with [CEO] Brian Chesky, they agreed that Mike would step down after helping the company choose his successor.”

Curtis may be feeling the early-stage itch. When he joined Airbnb nearly six years ago, he told TechCrunch he was particularly excited about how early the company was: “the opportunity with where we can take it is limitless,” he said.

But Airbnb is no longer a little startup, it’s one of the most valuable private tech companies in the world.

In Curtis’ tenure alone, the engineering team grew from 40 people to more than 1,000 and the company raised more than $4 billion and garnered a $31 billion valuation. Now, it’s gearing up to go public in 2019.

The 7 most important announcements from Microsoft Ignite today

The 7 most important announcements from Microsoft Ignite today

Microsoft is hosting its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida this week. And although Ignite isn’t the household name that Microsoft’s Build conference has become over the course of the last few years, it’s a massive event with over 30,000 attendees and plenty of news. Indeed, there was so much news this year that Microsoft provided the press with a 27-page booklet with all of it.

We wrote about quite a few of these today, but here are the most important announcements, including one that wasn’t in Microsoft’s booklet but was featured prominently on stage.

1. Microsoft, SAP and Adobe take on Salesforce with their new Open Data Initiative for customer data

What was announced: Microsoft is teaming up with Adobe and SAP to create a single model for representing customer data that businesses will be able to move between systems.

Why it matters: Moving customer data between different enterprise systems is hard, especially because there isn’t a standardized way to represent this information. Microsoft, Adobe and SAP say they want to make it easier for this data to flow between systems. But it’s also a shot across the bow of Salesforce, the leader in the CRM space. It also represents a chance for these three companies to enable new tools that can extract value from this data — and Microsoft obviously hopes that these businesses will choose its Azure platform for analyzing the data.


2. Microsoft wants to do away with more passwords

What was announced: Businesses that use Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AD) will now be able to use the Microsoft Authenticator app on iOS and Android in place of a password to log into their business applications.

Why it matters: Passwords are annoying and they aren’t very secure. Many enterprises are starting to push their employees to use a second factor to authenticate. With this, Microsoft now replaces the password/second factor combination with a single tap on your phone — ideally without compromising security.


3. Microsoft’s new Windows Virtual Desktop lets you run Windows 10 in the cloud

What was announced: Microsoft now lets businesses rent a virtual Windows 10 desktop in Azure.

Why it matters: Until now, virtual Windows 10 desktops were the domain of third-party service providers. Now, Microsoft itself will offer these desktops. The company argues that this is the first time you can get a multiuser virtualized Windows 10 desktop in the cloud. As employees become more mobile and don’t necessarily always work from the same desktop or laptop, this virtualized solution will allow organizations to offer them a full Windows 10 desktop in the cloud, with all the Office apps they know, without the cost of having to provision and manage a physical machine.


4. Microsoft Office gets smarter

What was announced: Microsoft is adding a number of new AI tools to its Office productivity suite. Those include Ideas, which aims to take some of the hassle out of using these tools. Ideas may suggest a layout for your PowerPoint presentation or help you find interesting data in your spreadsheets, for example. Excel is also getting a couple of new tools for pulling in rich data from third-party sources. Microsoft is also building a new unified search tool for finding data across an organization’s network.

Why it matters: Microsoft Office remains the most widely used suite of productivity applications. That makes it the ideal surface for highlighting Microsoft’s AI chops, and anything that can improve employee productivity will surely drive a lot of value to businesses. If that means sitting through fewer badly designed PowerPoint slides, then this whole AI thing will have been worth it.


5. Microsoft’s massive Surface Hub 2 whiteboards will launch in Q2 2019

What was announced: The next version of the Surface Hub, Microsoft’s massive whiteboard displays, will launch in Q2 2019. The Surface Hub 2 is both lighter and thinner than the original version. Then, in 2020, an updated version, the Surface Hub 2X, will launch that will offer features like tiling and rotation.

Why it matters: We’re talking about a 50-inch touchscreen display here. You probably won’t buy one, but you’ll want one. It’s a disappointment to hear that the Surface Hub 2 won’t launch into next year and that some of the advanced features most users are waiting for won’t arrive until the refresh in 2020.


6. Microsoft Teams gets bokeh and meeting recordings with transcripts

What was announced: Microsoft Teams, its Slack competitor, can now blur the background when you are in a video meeting and it’ll automatically create transcripts of your meetings.

Why it matters: Teams has emerged as a competent Slack competitor that’s quite popular with companies that are already betting on Microsoft’s productivity tools. Microsoft is now bringing many of its machine learning smarts to Teams to offer features that most of its competitors can’t match.


7. Microsoft launches Azure Digital Twins

What was announced: Azure Digital Twins allows enterprises to model their real-world IoT deployments in the cloud.

Why it matters: IoT presents a massive new market for cloud services like Azure. Many businesses were already building their own version of Digital Twins on top of Azure, but those homegrown solutions didn’t always scale. Now, Microsoft is offering this capability out of the box, and for many businesses, this may just be the killer feature that will make them decide on standardizing their IoT workloads on Azure. And as they use Azure Digital Twins, they’ll also want to use the rest of Azure’s many IoT tools.

more Microsoft Ignite 2018 coverage

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable

Dust off your old Bose 501 speakers. New devices are coming that will give traditional audio equipment a voice.

Amazon recently announced a mess of new Echo devices and among the lot are several small, diminutive add-ons. These models did not have a smart speaker built into the devices but rather turned other speakers into smart speakers.

Sonos has a similar device. Called the Sonos Amp, the device connects the Sonos service to audio receivers and can drive traditional speakers. There’s a new version coming out in 2019 that adds Alexa and AirPlay 2.

This movement back towards traditional speaker systems could be a boon for audio companies reeling from the explosion of smart speakers. Suddenly, consumers do not have to choose between the ease of use in an inexpensive smart speaker and the vastly superior audio quality of a pair of high-end speakers. Consumers can have voice services and listen to Cake, too.

Echo devices are everywhere in my house. They’re in three bedrooms, my office, our living room, my workshop and outside on the deck. But besides the Tap in the workshop and Echo in the kitchen, every Echo is connected to an amp and speakers. For instance, in my office, I have an Onkyo receiver and standalone Onkyo amp that powers a pair of Definitive Technology bookshelf speakers. The bedrooms have various speakers connected to older A/V receivers. Outside there’s a pair of Yamaha speakers powered by cheap mini-amp. Each system sounds dramatically better than any smart speaker available.

There’s a quiet comfort in building an audio system: To pick out each piece and connect everything; to solder banana clips to speaker wire and ensure the proper power is flowing to each speaker.

Amazon and Google built one of the best interfaces for audio in Alexa and Google Assistant. But that could change in the future. In the end, Alexa and Google Assistant are just another component in an audio stack, and to some consumers, it makes sense to treat them as a turntable or equalizer — a part that can be swapped out in the future.

The world of consumer electronics survives because of the disposable nature of gadgets. There’s always something better coming soon. Cell phones last a couple of years and TVs last a few years longer. But bookshelf speakers purchased today will still sound great in 20 years.

There’s a thriving secondary market for vintage audio equipment, and unlike old computer equipment, buyers want this gear actually to use it.

If you see a pair of giant Bose speakers at a garage sale, buy them and use them. Look at the prices for used Bose 901 speakers: they’re the cost of three Apple HomePods. Look at ShopGoodwill.com — Goodwill’s fantastic auction site. It’s filled with vintage audio equipment with some pieces going for multiple thousands of dollars. Last year’s smart speakers are on there, too, available for pennies on the dollar.

For the most part, audio equipment will last generations. Speakers can blow and wear out. Amps can get hit by surges and components can randomly fail. It happens, but most of the time, speakers survive.

This is where Amazon and Sonos come in. Besides selling standalone speakers, both companies have products available that adds services to independent speaker systems. A person doesn’t have to ditch their Pioneer stack to gain access to Alexa. They have to plug in a new component, and in the future, if something better is available, that component can be swapped out for something else.

Amazon first introduced this ability in the little Echo Dot. The $50 speaker has a 3.5mm output that makes it easy to add to a speaker system. A $35 version is coming soon that lacks the speaker found in the Dot and features a 3.5mm output. It’s set to be the easiest and cheapest way to add voice services to speakers.

Amazon and Sonos also have higher-end components nearing release. The Amazon Echo Link features digital and discrete audio outputs that should result in improved audio. The Amazon Echo Amp adds an amplifier to power a set of passive speakers directly. Sonos offers something similar in the upcoming Sonos Amp with 125 watts per channel and HDMI to allow it to be connected to a TV.

These add-on products give consumers dramatically more options than a handful of plastic smart speakers.

There are several ways to take advantage of these components. The easiest is to look at powered speakers. These speakers have built-in amplifiers and unlike traditional speakers, plug into an outlet for power. Look at models from Edifier, Klipsch or Yamaha. Buyers just need to connect a few cables to have superior sound to most smart speakers.

Another option is to piece together a component system. Pick any A/V receiver and add a couple of speakers and a subwoofer. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Small $30 amps like from Lepy or Pyle can drive a set of speakers — that’s what I use to drive outdoor speakers. Or, look at Onkyo or Denon A/V surround sound receivers and build a home theater system and throw in an Amazon Echo Link on top. As for speakers Polk, Klipsch, Definitive Technology, KEF, B&W, and many more produce fantastic speakers that will still work years after Amazon stops making Echo devices.

Best of all, both options are modular and allows owners to modify the system overtime. Want to add a turntable? Just plug it in. That’s not possible with a Google Home.

Technology doesn’t have to be disposable.

These add-on products offer the same solution as Roku or Fire TV devices — just plug in this device to add new tricks to old gear. When it gets old, don’t throw out the TV (or in this case speakers), just plug in the latest dongle.

Sure, it’s easy to buy a Google Home Max, and the speaker sounds great, too. For some people, it’s the perfect way to get Spotify in their living space. It’s never been easier to listen to music or NPR.

There are a few great options for smart speakers. The $350 Apple HomePod sounds glorious though Siri lacks a lot of smarts of Alexa or Google Assistant. I love the Echo Dot for its utility and price point, and in a small space, it sounds okay. For my money, the best smart speaker is the Sonos One. It sounds great, is priced right, and Sonos has the best ecosystem available.

I’m excited about Amazon’s Echo and Sub bundle. For $249, buyers get two Echos and the new Echo Sub. The software forces the two Echos to work in stereo while the new subwoofer supplements the low-end. I haven’t heard the system yet, but I expect it to sound as good as the Google Home Max or Apple HomePod and the separate component operation should help the audio fill larger spaces.

Sonos has similar systems available. The fantastic Sonos One speaker can be used as a standalone speaker, part of a multiroom system, or as a surround speaker with other Sonos One speakers and the Sonos Beam audio bar. To me, Sonos is compelling because of their ecosystem and tendency to have a longer product refresh cycle. In the past, Sonos has been much slower to roll out new products but instead added services to existing products. The company seems to respect the owners of its products rather than forcing them to buy new products to gain new abilities.

In the end, though, smart speakers from Apple, Sonos, Google or Amazon will stop working. Eventually, the company will stop supporting the services powering the speakers and owners will throw the speakers in the trash. It’s depressing in the same way Spotify is depressing. Your grandkids are not going to dig through your digital Spotify milk crate. When the service is gone, the playlists are gone.

That’s the draw of component audio equipment. A turntable purchased in the ’70s could still work today. Speakers bought during the first dot-com boom will still pound when the cryptocurrency bubble pops. As for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to me, it makes sense to treat it as another component in a larger system and enjoy it while it lasts.

Zoho pulled offline after phishing complaints, CEO says

Zoho pulled offline after phishing complaints, CEO says

Zoho .com was pulled offline on Monday after the company’s domain registrar received phishing complaints, the company’s chief executive said.

The web-based office suite company, which also provides customer relationship and invoicing services to small businesses, tweeted that the site was “blocked” earlier in the day by TierraNet, which administers its domain name.

In an email to TechCrunch, Zoho boss Sridhar Vembu said that TierraNet “took our domain down without any notice to us” after receiving complaints about phishing emails from Zoho-hosted email accounts.

In doing so, thousands of businesses that rely on Zoho for their operations couldn’t access their email, documents and files, and other business-critical software during the day. Zoho counts Columbia University, Netflix, Citrix, Air Canada and the Los Angeles Times as customers.

“They kept pointing us back to their legal, even when I tried to call their senior management,” said Vembu in the email.

Zoho.com was back up and running hours later, but at the time of writing, service to the site is spotty — likely due to the slow nature of domain name resolving. It may take hours or days for the site to be fully restored across the globe.

Yes a detailed explanation is coming, as we dig our way out of this. We are working to ensure that everyone is able to access https://t.co/o2TlVFrtjB and ensuring that this does not repeat ever again. We apologize.

— Sridhar Vembu (@svembu) September 24, 2018

Vembu said that TierraNet received three complaints about Zoho-hosted email users in the past two months, which resulted in the domain blocking. He also tweeted about the incident to try to inform users of the domain blockage.

“We resolved two of them by suspending the accounts, and one is under investigation,” he said.

“We host tens of millions of accounts, and this is sad that our entire domain gets taken down for three complaints,” he said. “We are actively working to move our domain registration to another provider.”

It’s not unusual for companies like Zoho, or rivals like Microsoft and Google, to be used by malicious actors to host phishing sites or send phishing emails to unsuspecting victims. But companies typically work to limit malicious use — even if it’s near impossible to stamp it out completely.

TierraNet has so far remained silent on the issue. Several tweets showed TierraNet customer support agents apparently confirming Vembu’s version of events.

We reached out to TierraNet for comment but didn’t hear back at the time of writing. If that changes, we’ll update.

iPhone XS Max is reportedly dramatically outselling the XS

iPhone XS Max is reportedly dramatically outselling the XS

According to some early numbers from Apple analyst extraordinaire Ming-Chi Kuo, the iPhone Max XS is currently running laps around its smaller counterpart. In a note posted by MacRumors, Kuo suggested that the 6.5-inch handset sold three to four times as well as the XS during its inaugural weekend.

“We have determined that the demand for XS Max is better than expected (3-4 times that of XS),” says Kuo. “The gold and space-grey colors are significantly more popular than the silver. 256GB is the most popular, and 512GB is subject to a serious shortage because only Samsung can currently ship NAND Flash well. We are positive that XS Max shipments will grow steadily in 4Q18 thanks to demand from Asia market and the gift season.”

The higher demand shouldn’t be altogether surprising. After all, the XS doesn’t mark an earth-shattering upgrade over its predecessor. The Max, on the other hand, is a pretty sizable jump in display size for the company that once suggested consumers simple don’t want a larger phone. 

And while the two models are quite similar from the standpoint of specs, the bigger display will only run an extra $100. If you’re already in for $1,000, what’s another $100 between friends, right?

The note also states that Apple Watch Series 4 demand is better than anticipated, while the iPhone XR is expected to be a good seller for the company. No surprise on that last one, really. The XR represents an attainable upgrade for those users unwilling or unable to pull the trigger for a $1,000 phone with last year’s handset.