Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Those free Windows 10 upgrades are over. Now what?

We've reached the end of Microsoft's unprecedented free upgrade offer for Windows 10. If you choose to upgrade an old Windows PC, you'll now have to pay. But good news: Those annoying GWX notifications are finally gone. 

The Get Windows 10 upgrade nags have officially ended

Microsoft's ambitious plan to get Windows 10 running on a billion devices within the next few years falls into the "Close, but no cigar" category, with the announcement that Windows 10 will need more time to hit that magic round number.

That big goal was predicated on the success of an unprecedented free upgrade offer. When the company first announced the terms of that offer in May 2015, it literally included an asterisk and fine print. Those terms changed slightly over the intervening months, but one element remained constant: The offer was good for one year after the availability of Windows 10.

When they said "Offer ends July 29, 2016," they weren't kidding, either.

If you click the Get Windows 10 icon today, you see a stark message: "Sorry, the free upgrade offer has ended."

Here's the tl;dr version of this post if you don't want to keep reading:

1. The free upgrade offer for the general public ended on July 29 and will not be extended.

2. Any upgrades completed before that date will be valid for as long as the device lasts.

3. There is a possibility that Microsoft will introduce some new upgrade offers this fall, but don't count on it.

Anyone who has taken Microsoft up on its free Windows 10 upgrade offer before the expiration date has a "digital entitlement" (or "digital license" as it's called beginning with version 1607) tied to that hardware. That upgrade doesn't expire.

If you haven't completed the upgrade and activated the installation, you're out of luck, unless you qualify for the one exception. Individuals who use "assistive technologies" get an automatic extension of the free upgrade offer. Details of that upgrade extension are here. This Microsoft Accessibility page defines assistive technology products (they're intended for people with "significant vision, hearing, dexterity, language or learning needs") and includes a list of third-party products.

I've tested the Windows 10 Upgrade Advisor, available from that page, and I can confirm it works as expected, providing a digital license on a Windows 7 device that had not previously been upgraded. It does not include any requirement for proof that you are using assistive technology.

Update 31-July Asked for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson replies:
As we shared earlier, we've extended the free upgrade offer for those who use assistive technology as we continue to make accessibility improvements to Windows 10, including many coming in the Anniversary Update, which is available after the free upgrade offer ends. See the Microsoft Accessibility blog here for more details. We are not restricting the free upgrade offer to specific assistive technologies. If you use assistive technology on Windows, you are eligible for the free upgrade offer. That said, it is not intended to be a workaround for people who don't use assistive technology and who missed the deadline for the free offer.
For procrastinators who think they might have waited too long, my testing this morning uncovered one surprise: Product keys from earlier Windows versions still work on Windows 10. I created a new virtual machine and installed Windows 10 version 1607 Pro using an ISO image. I entered a never-used Windows 7 Ultimate product key, and my copy of Windows 10 was automatically activated with a digital entitlement.
Earlier this week, Microsoft told my colleague Mary Jo Foley that the Get Windows 10 (GWX) notifications will end. They added, "In time, we will remove the application."
My morning-after testing confirms those details. If you decided to pass on the free Windows 10 upgrade, the GWX app remains installed, but based on my experience and the above statements it should no longer appear in the taskbar and its notifications appear to have been silenced.
The Windows 10 download page, which is useful for anyone who needs the Windows 10 installation files to do a recovery or a clean install on a machine that already has a Windows 10 license, is still up. But the Upgrade Now button is gone, replaced by a notice that the free upgrade offer has ended.
In fact, Microsoft's real goal with this upgrade offer isn't just to get its installed Windows 10 base to a billion. The long-term goal is to help close the books on Windows 7 in an orderly fashion before its 10-year extended support commitment ends on January 14, 2020.
Some of those Windows 7 PCs will simply be retired, of course. But what about those that are only a few years old and have more than three years of usable life ahead of them? For Microsoft executives, the prospect that hundreds of millions of PCs will still be running Windows 7 on New Year's Day 2020 has to bring back unpleasant flashbacks of Windows XP's messy end.
After 11 months, Microsoft said a total of 350 million monthly active devices were running Windows 10. (In its most recent earnings release, CEO Satya Nadella committed to "regularly reporting the growth of Windows 10 monthly active devices.")
The shift to using monthly active devices as a metric is a big change for Microsoft, which previously reported on the number of licenses sold. In the first 18 months after releasing Windows 7, for example, Microsoft officials reported that they had sold 350 million Windows 7 licenses.
Windows 10 hit the same milestone in less than a year, thanks in no small measure to that free upgrade offer.
Many of those 350 million devices, perhaps one-third or more, represent new PCs. Another big chunk represents newer devices (less than three years old) originally sold with Windows 8 or 8.1. Windows 10 has succeeded in cutting the share of devices running those versions by more than half over the past year, and the share of PCs running Windows 8.1 should be in the low single digits by the end of 2017.
But what about Windows 7? The most recent figures measured by the US Government's Digital Analytics Program show that the percentage of Windows PCs running that version has dropped significantly in the past year, going from 71.1 percent in the first quarter of 2015, before the release of Windows 10, to roughly 56 percent at the end of July 2016.
That's still a lot of Windows 7 PCs, And even the carrot of a free upgrade was not enough to move that number more than another few percent in the final months of that offer, which explains why the offer wasn't extended.
There's plenty of precedent for this, based on past behavior. For Windows 7 and 8, Microsoft offered significant introductory discounts and then ended them on schedule after a few months, with no extensions.
Financially, this decision is unlikely to have much of an impact. Retail upgrades have historically represented a microscopic share of Microsoft's revenue (see the chart in this article), and most customers who might have been willing to pay for an upgrade will have taken advantage of the free offer by the time the Anniversary Update rolls around.
Asking existing Windows 7 users to pay $99 or more after they've spent a year avoiding the free upgrade seems like a surefire way to guarantee that they never upgrade. That significantly increases the risk of an XP-style mess come 2020.
On the other hand, the free upgrade offer never really applied to large businesses that run Windows Enterprise editions. For those customers who also have purchased Software Assurance for those volume licenses, the Windows 10 upgrade offer is, if not free, at least already paid for. The decision of whether and when to upgrade is driven by business needs, not by the cost of an upgrade license.
In the new "Windows as a Service" model, Microsoft said it plans to deliver two or three new releases each year. The Anniversary Update, which is rolling out to Windows 10 users now, is the first release in the Redstone update series. It's no coincidence that it arrived a few days after the original upgrade offer ended. Another Redstone feature update is scheduled to arrive in the first half of 2017.
Of course, the end of this upgrade offer doesn't eliminate the possibility of a new offer. If not free, then perhaps a discounted in-place upgrade. But an extension of the current offer is not going to happen.
One important date to watch is October 31, 2016. That's when OEM sales of new PCs with Windows 7 Professional officially end. That date marks the beginning of a three-year period in which the population of Windows 7 PCs will presumably shrink quickly as old PCs die and are replaced by newer models running Windows 10 (or aren't replaced at all).

Friday, July 29, 2016

How to avoid ransomware attacks: 10 tips

As ransomware increasingly targets healthcare organizations, schools and government agencies, security experts offer advice to help IT leaders prepare and protect.

intrusion detection

Nigerian princes are no longer the only menaces lurking in an employee's inbox. For healthcare organizations, schools, government agencies and many businesses, ransomware attacks—an especially sinister type of malware delivered through spear phishing emails that locks up valuable data assets and demands a ransom to release them—are a rapidly-growing security threat.

"We're currently seeing a massive explosion in innovation in the types of ransomware and the ways it's getting into organizations," says Rick McElroy, security strategist for cyber security company Carbon Black Enterprise Response. "It's a big business, and the return on investment to attackers is there—it's going to get worse."

While ransomware has existed for years, 2015 saw a spike in activity. The FBI received 2,453 complaints, with losses of over $1.6 million, up from 1,402 complaints the year before, according to annual reports from the bureau's Internet Crime Complaint Center. And the numbers are only growing in 2016, the FBI reports.

"The Dark Web and Bitcoin allow almost anyone to sell stolen data without identification—cyber criminals understand they can make easy cash without the risk of being jailed," says Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of web security company High-Tech Bridge. And hackers—most of which are located in developing countries—are growing more sophisticated, even developing downloadable ransomware toolkits for less-experienced hackers to deploy, according to the 2016 Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology Ransomware Report.

"The days of grammatically incorrect, mass spam phishing attacks are pretty much over," says James Scott, senior fellow and co-founder of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, and co-author of the report. Hackers can now check a victim's social media accounts, and create a fake email address pretending to be a friend or contact in order to get them to click on an infected link or attachment. "It's much more targeted, and will exploit a particular vulnerability in a device, application, server or software," Scott adds.

A typical ransom demand is $300, according to a report from security firm Symantec.

Health threats

The healthcare sector is highly targeted by hacker attacks, due to antiquated or misconfigured computer security systems and the amount of sensitive data they hold, says David DeSanto, director of projects and threat researcher at Spirent Communications.

The large number of employees at most hospitals also makes cyber security safety training difficult, DeSanto says. Experts commonly see attacks occur through spear phishing—targeted emails with attachments with names such as "updated patient list," "billing codes" or other typical hospital communications that employees may click on if not warned.

In 2015, over 230 healthcare breaches impacted the records of 500-plus individuals, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

A February ransomware attack launched against Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in southern California locked access to certain computer systems and left staff unable to communicate electronically for 10 days. The hospital paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to the cybercriminals, says CEO Alan Stefanek.

Following security best practices can help healthcare organizations protect themselves. "The best way is to make regular backups of all systems and critical data so that you can restore back to a known good state prior to the ransomware being on the system," DeSanto says.

Without security best practices, healthcare organizations may be left with few options to retrieve information. In these cases, healthcare organizations may choose to pay the ransomware fee. Some make enough money that paying the ransom for a few infected computers is low compared to the cost of maintaining the infrastructure to protect these attacks, DeSanto adds.

Schools and businesses

Hackers are gaining traction and using new methods across other industry verticals as well. In 2014, a large European financial services company (whose name was not disclosed) discovered with the help of High-Tech Bridge that a hacker placed a back door between a web application and a data set.

For six months, the hacker encrypted all information before it was stored in a database, undetected by company staffers. Then, they removed the encryption key, crashing the application, and demanded $50,000 to restore access to the database.

However, the company did not end up paying, thanks to mistakes made by the hackers, Kolochenko says.

Other victims are not as lucky, says Engin Kirda, professor of computer science at Northeastern University. "If the ransomware hacker does the encryption well, once the data is encrypted it's nearly impossible to decrypt," he adds.

Such was the case for South Carolina's Horry County School District this February, when hackers froze networks for 42,000 students and thousands of staff. District technology director Charles Hucks tried to shut down the system, but within minutes, the attackers immobilized 60 percent of Horry County's computers. The district paid $8,500 in Bitcoin to unlock their systems.

Tips for IT leaders

To prevent a ransomware attack, experts say IT and information security leaders should do the following:

  1. Keep clear inventories of all of your digital assets and their locations, so cyber criminals do not attack a system you are unaware of.
  2. Keep all software up to date, including operating systems and applications.
  3. Back up all information every day, including information on employee devices, so you can restore encrypted data if attacked.
  4. Back up all information to a secure, offsite location.
  5. Segment your network: Don't place all data on one file share accessed by everyone in the company.
  6. Train staff on cyber security practices, emphasizing not opening attachments or links from unknown sources.
  7. Develop a communication strategy to inform employees if a virus reaches the company network.
  8. Before an attack happens, work with your board to determine if your company will plan to pay a ransom or launch an investigation.
  9. Perform a threat analysis in communication with vendors to go over the cyber security throughout the lifecycle of a particular device or application.
  10. Instruct information security teams to perform penetration testing to find any vulnerabilities.
Mitigating an attack

If your company is hacked with ransomware, you can explore the free ransomware response kit for a suite of tools that can help. Experts also recommend the following to moderate an attack:

Research if similar malware has been investigated by other IT teams, and if it is possible to decrypt it on your own. About 30 percent of encrypted data can be decrypted without paying a ransom, Kolochenko of High-Tech Bridge says.

Remove the infected machines from the network, so the ransomware does not use the machine to spread throughout your network.

Decide whether or not to make an official investigation, or pay the ransom and take it as a lesson learned.

"There is always going to be a new, more hyper-evolved variant of ransomware delivered along a new vector that exploits a newly-found vulnerability within a common-use application," Scott of ICIT says. "But there are so many technologies out there that offer security—you just have to use them."

Thursday, July 28, 2016

How to Recover Your Files From a BitLocker-Encrypted Drive

When you are hit by need to recover a drive from a BitLocker encryption, you need a key. Time to use Microsoft:

Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption always forces you to create a recovery key when you set it up. You may have printed that recovery key, written it down, saved it to a file, or stored it online with a Microsoft account. If your BitLocker drive isn’t unlocking normally, the recovery key is your only option.

There are many reasons you may get locked out of your hard drive–maybe your computer’s TPM is no longer unlocking your drive automatically, or you forget a password or PIN. This will also be necessary if you want to remove a BitLocker-encrypted drive from a computer and unlock it on another computer. If the first computer’s TPM isn’t present, you’ll need the recovery key.

First, Find Your Recovery Key

If you can’t find your recovery key, try to think back to when you set up BitLocker. You were asked to either write the key down, print it out to a piece of paper, or save it to a file on an external drive, such as a USB drive. You were also given the option to upload the BitLocker recovery key to your Microsoft account online.

That key should hopefully be stored somewhere safe if you printed it to a piece of paper or saved it to an external drive.

To retrieve a recovery key you uploaded to Microsoft’s servers, visit the OneDrive Recovery Key page and sign in with the same Microsoft account you uploaded the recovery key with. You’ll see the key here if you uploaded it. If you don’t see the key, try signing in with another Microsoft account you might have used.

If there are multiple accounts, you can use the “Key ID” displayed on the BitLocker screen on the computer and match it to the Key ID that appears on the web page. That will help you find the correct key.

If your computer is connected to a domain–often the case on computers owned by an organization and provided to employees or students–there’s a good chance the network administrator has the recovery key. Contact the domain administrator to get the recovery key.

If you don’t have your recovery key, you may be out of luck–hopefully you have a backup of all your data! And next time, be sure to write down that recovery key and keep it in a safe place (or save it with your Microsoft Account).

Situation One: If Your Computer Isn’t Unlocking the Drive at Boot

Drives encrypted with BitLocker normally unlocked automatically with your computer’s built-in TPM every time you boot it. If the TPM unlock method fails, you’ll see a “BitLocker Recovery” error screen that asks you to “Enter the recovery key for this drive”. (If If you’ve set up your computer to require a password, PIN, USB drive, or smart card each time it boots, you’ll see the same unlock screen you normally use before getting the BitLocker Recovery screen–if you don’t know that password, press Esc to enter BitLocker Recovery.)

Type your recovery key to continue. This will unlock the drive and your computer will boot normally.

The ID displayed here will help you identify the correct recovery key if you have multiple recovery keys printed, saved, or uploaded online.

Situation Two: If You Need to Unlock the Drive From Within Windows

The above method will help you unlock your system drive and any other drives that are normally unlocked during the boot-up process.

However, you may need to unlock a BitLocker-encrypted drive from within Windows. Perhaps you have an external drive or USB stick with BitLocker encryption and it’s not unlocking normally, or perhaps you’ve taken a BitLocker-encrypted drive from another computer and connected it to your current computer.

To do this, first connect the drive to your computer. Open the Control Panel and head to System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption. You can only do this on Professional editions of Windows, as only they provide access to the BitLocker software.

Locate the drive in the BitLocker window and click the “Unlock Drive” option next to it.

You’ll be asked to enter the password, PIN, or whatever other details you need to provide to unlock the drive. If you don’t have the information, select More Options > Enter Recovery Key.

Enter the recovery key to unlock the drive. Once you enter the recovery key, the drive will unlock and you can access the files on it. The ID displayed here will help you find the correct recovery key if you have multiple saved keys to choose from.

If your computer is displaying a BitLocker error screen each time it boots and you don’t have any way of getting the recovery key, you can always use the “reset this PC” troubleshooting option to fully wipe your computer. You’ll be able to use the computer again, but you’ll lose all the files stored on it.

If you have an external drive that’s encrypted with BitLocker and you don’t have the recovery key or any other way to unlock it, you may have to do the same thing. Format the drive and you’ll erase its contents, but at least you’ll be able to use the drive again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Flaws in wireless keyboards let hackers snoop on everything you type

Many popular, low-cost wireless keyboards don't encrypt keystrokes.

This nondescript USB dongle can be used to spy on wireless keyboards from hundreds of feet away. 

Your wireless keyboard is giving up your secrets -- literally.

With an antenna and wireless dongle worth a few bucks, and a few lines of Python code, a hacker can passively and covertly record everything you type on your wireless keyboard from hundreds of feet away. Usernames, passwords, credit card data, your manuscript or company's balance sheet -- whatever you're working on at the time.

It's an attack that can't be easily prevented, and one that almost nobody thought of -- except the security researchers who found it.

Security firm Bastille calls it "KeySniffer," a set of vulnerabilities in common, low-cost wireless keyboards that can allow a hacker to eavesdrop from a distance.

Here's how it works: a number of wireless keyboards use proprietary and largely unsecured and untested radio protocols to connect to a computer -- unlike Bluetooth, a known wireless standard that's been tried and tested over the years. These keyboards are always transmitting, making it easy to find and listen in from afar with the right equipment. But because these keystrokes aren't encrypted, a hacker can read anything on a person's display, and directly type on a victim's computer.

The attack is so easy to carry out that almost anyone can do it -- from petty thieves to state-actors.

Marc Newlin, a researcher at the company who was credited with finding the flaw said it was "pretty alarming" to discover.

"A hacker can 'sniff' all of the keystrokes, as well as inject their own keystrokes on the computer," he explained on the phone this week.

The researchers found that eight out of 12 keyboards from well-known vendors -- including HP, Kensington, and Toshiba -- are at risk of eavesdropping, but the list is far from exhaustive.

The scope of the problem is so large that the researchers fully expect that "millions" of devices are vulnerable to this new attack.

Worst of all? There's no fix.

"I think a lot of consumers reasonably expect that the wireless keyboard they're using won't put them at risk, but consumers might not have a high awareness of this risk," he said.

Ivan O'Sullivan, the company's chief research officer, admitted that the ease of this attack had him unsettled. "As a consumer, I expect that the keyboard that I buy won't transmit my keystrokes in plain-text."

"We were shocked. And consumers should be, too," he said.

This isn't the first time wireless devices have put their users at risk. Bastille was the company behind the now-infamous MouseJack flaw, which let hackers compromise a person's computer through their wireless mouse. Even as far back as 2010, it was known that some keyboards with weak encryption could be easily hacked.

Over half a decade later, Newlin said he was hopeful that his research will make more people aware, but he doesn't think this problem "will be resolved."

"Most of the vendors have not responded to our disclosure information," he said. "Many of the vendors haven't responded past an acknowledgement, or they haven't responded at all to our inquiries."

Though not all wireless keyboards are created equal and many are not vulnerable to the eavesdropping vulnerability, there is an easy fix to a simple problem.

"Get a wired keyboard," the researchers said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Halliburton Report: Company Loses $148 Million From Operations With Venezuela

File photo of the company logo of Halliburton oilfield services corporate offices in Houston
Oil services giant Halliburton reported losses totaling $148 million in connection with operations in Venezuela. The company agreed to take a promissory note in exchange for unpaid invoices tied to Venezuela.

PDVSA, a state oil company out Venezuela, has accrued over $19 billion in debts to providers like Halliburton. The debt grows as PDVSA takes on low oil prices and a dying socialist economy which in turn have caused some leading service companies to reduce operations.

Eulogio del Pino, president of PDVSA, said that his company had been in talks about financial agreements with Halliburton, Schlumberger NV, and Weatherford International PLC to securitize debts.

In a quarterly report, Halliburton claimed to have swapped $200 million in trade receivables for a promissory note with its “primary customer in Venezuela.”

Later, the company stated to have “recorded the note at its fair market value at the date of exchange, resulting in a $148 million pre-tax loss.” The only firms legally permitted to work in Venezuelan oil fields are PDVSA and its affiliates.

In the company’s 2015 earnings report, PDVSA said that it had distributed $831 million in promissory notes to pay off debt to providers. The notes pay 6.5 percent interest and are set to mature in 2019.

Analysts say that issues with payment to providers are attached to reports of waning production at PDVSA. However, del Pino has renounced these reports and maintains that all debts are currently reaching resolution.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Master Plan, Part Deux (Elon Musk)

The first master plan that I wrote 10 years ago is now in the final stages of completion. It wasn't all that complicated and basically consisted of:
  1. Create a low volume car, which would necessarily be expensive
  2. Use that money to develop a medium volume car at a lower price
  3. Use that money to create an affordable, high volume car
  4. Provide solar power. No kidding, this has literally been on our website for 10 years.
The reason we had to start off with step 1 was that it was all I could afford to do with what I made from PayPal. I thought our chances of success were so low that I didn't want to risk anyone's funds in the beginning but my own. The list of successful car company startups is short. As of 2016, the number of American car companies that haven't gone bankrupt is a grand total of two: Ford and Tesla. Starting a car company is idiotic and an electric car company is idiocy squared.
Also, a low volume car means a much smaller, simpler factory, albeit with most things done by hand. Without economies of scale, anything we built would be expensive, whether it was an economy sedan or a sports car. While at least some people would be prepared to pay a high price for a sports car, no one was going to pay $100k for an electric Honda Civic, no matter how cool it looked.
Part of the reason I wrote the first master plan was to defend against the inevitable attacks Tesla would face accusing us of just caring about making cars for rich people, implying that we felt there was a shortage of sports car companies or some other bizarre rationale. Unfortunately, the blog didn't stop countless attack articles on exactly these grounds, so it pretty much completely failed that objective.
However, the main reason was to explain how our actions fit into a larger picture, so that they would seem less random. The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy, so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good. That's what "sustainable" means. It's not some silly, hippy thing -- it matters for everyone.
By definition, we must at some point achieve a sustainable energy economy or we will run out of fossil fuels to burn and civilization will collapse. Given that we must get off fossil fuels anyway and that virtually all scientists agree that dramatically increasing atmospheric and oceanic carbon levels is insane, the faster we achieve sustainability, the better.
Here is what we plan to do to make that day come sooner:
Integrate Energy Generation and Storage

Create a smoothly integrated and beautiful solar-roof-with-battery product that just works, empowering the individual as their own utility, and then scale that throughout the world. One ordering experience, one installation, one service contact, one phone app.

We can't do this well if Tesla and SolarCity are different companies, which is why we need to combine and break down the barriers inherent to being separate companies. That they are separate at all, despite similar origins and pursuit of the same overarching goal of sustainable energy, is largely an accident of history. Now that Tesla is ready to scale Powerwall and SolarCity is ready to provide highly differentiated solar, the time has come to bring them together.
Expand to Cover the Major Forms of Terrestrial Transport

Today, Tesla addresses two relatively small segments of premium sedans and SUVs. With the Model 3, a future compact SUV and a new kind of pickup truck, we plan to address most of the consumer market. A lower cost vehicle than the Model 3 is unlikely to be necessary, because of the third part of the plan described below.

What really matters to accelerate a sustainable future is being able to scale up production volume as quickly as possible. That is why Tesla engineering has transitioned to focus heavily on designing the machine that makes the machine -- turning the factory itself into a product. A first principles physics analysis of automotive production suggests that somewhere between a 5 to 10 fold improvement is achievable by version 3 on a roughly 2 year iteration cycle. The first Model 3 factory machine should be thought of as version 0.5, with version 1.0 probably in 2018.
In addition to consumer vehicles, there are two other types of electric vehicle needed: heavy-duty trucks and high passenger-density urban transport. Both are in the early stages of development at Tesla and should be ready for unveiling next year. We believe the Tesla Semi will deliver a substantial reduction in the cost of cargo transport, while increasing safety and making it really fun to operate.
With the advent of autonomy, it will probably make sense to shrink the size of buses and transition the role of bus driver to that of fleet manager. Traffic congestion would improve due to increased passenger areal density by eliminating the center aisle and putting seats where there are currently entryways, and matching acceleration and braking to other vehicles, thus avoiding the inertial impedance to smooth traffic flow of traditional heavy buses. It would also take people all the way to their destination. Fixed summon buttons at existing bus stops would serve those who don't have a phone. Design accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and bikes.

As the technology matures, all Tesla vehicles will have the hardware necessary to be fully self-driving with fail-operational capability, meaning that any given system in the car could break and your car will still drive itself safely. It is important to emphasize that refinement and validation of the software will take much longer than putting in place the cameras, radar, sonar and computing hardware.

Even once the software is highly refined and far better than the average human driver, there will still be a significant time gap, varying widely by jurisdiction, before true self-driving is approved by regulators. We expect that worldwide regulatory approval will require something on the order of 6 billion miles (10 billion km). Current fleet learning is happening at just over 3 million miles (5 million km) per day.
I should add a note here to explain why Tesla is deploying partial autonomy now, rather than waiting until some point in the future. The most important reason is that, when used correctly, it is already significantly safer than a person driving by themselves and it would therefore be morally reprehensible to delay release simply for fear of bad press or some mercantile calculation of legal liability.
According to the recently released 2015 NHTSA report, automotive fatalities increased by 8% to one death every 89 million miles. Autopilot miles will soon exceed twice that number and the system gets better every day. It would no more make sense to disable Tesla's Autopilot, as some have called for, than it would to disable autopilot in aircraft, after which our system is named.
It is also important to explain why we refer to Autopilot as "beta". This is not beta software in any normal sense of the word. Every release goes through extensive internal validation before it reaches any customers. It is called beta in order to decrease complacency and indicate that it will continue to improve (Autopilot is always off by default). Once we get to the point where Autopilot is approximately 10 times safer than the US vehicle average, the beta label will be removed.

When true self-driving is approved by regulators, it will mean that you will be able to summon your Tesla from pretty much anywhere. Once it picks you up, you will be able to sleep, read or do anything else enroute to your destination.

You will also be able to add your car to the Tesla shared fleet just by tapping a button on the Tesla phone app and have it generate income for you while you're at work or on vacation, significantly offsetting and at times potentially exceeding the monthly loan or lease cost. This dramatically lowers the true cost of ownership to the point where almost anyone could own a Tesla. Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving car is likely to be several times that of a car which is not.
In cities where demand exceeds the supply of customer-owned cars, Tesla will operate its own fleet, ensuring you can always hail a ride from us no matter where you are.
So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:
Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery storage

Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major segments

Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning

Enable your car to make money for you when you aren't using it

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Online shopping: Tips to keep close to your wallet

Online shopping: Tips to keep close to your wallet

Online shopping makes it easy and convenient to search for — and buy — the must-have items on your wish list. Before you buy, check out this video for tips on avoiding hassles, getting the right product at the right price, and protecting your financial information:
Online Shopping Tips
Looking for a great product at a great price? These tips can help.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

  • Confirm that the seller is legit. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller if you have a dispute.

  • Pay by credit card to ensure added protections, and never mail cash or wire money to online sellers.

  • Keep records of online transactions until you get the goods.

Want to know more? Check out more ways to ensure hassle-free online shopping.