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Updated: 55 min 37 sec ago

Startup Aims To Tackle Grid Storage Problem With New Porous Silicon Battery

2 hours 19 min ago
New submitter symgym writes: Recently out of stealth mode is a new battery technology that's printed on silicon wafers (36 million "micro-batteries" machined into 12-inch silicon wafers). It can scale from small devices to large-scale grid storage and promises four times the energy density of lithium-ion batteries for half the price. There should also be no issues with fires caused by dendrite formation. "When you use porous silicon, you get about 70 times the surface area compared to a traditional lithium battery... [and] there's millions of cells in a wafer," says Christine Hallquist of Cross Border Power, the startup that plans to commercialize the battery design developed by Washington-based company XNRGI. "It completely eliminates the problem of dendrite formation." If all of this is true, it's a massive disruptive invention. Hallquist also notes that the new batteries are 100% recyclable. "At the end of the life of this product, you bring the wafers back in, you clean the wafer off, you reclaim the lithium and other materials. And it's essentially brand new. So we're 100 percent recyclable." "Hallquist says the battery banks that Cross Border Power plans to sell to utility companies as soon as next year will be installed in standard computer server racks," reports IEEE Spectrum. "One shipping container worth of those racks (totaling 40 racks in all) will offer 4 megawatts (MW) of battery storage capacity, she says. Contrast this, she adds, to a comparable set of rack-storage lithium ion batteries which would typically only yield 1 MW in a shipping container."

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Chuck Schumer Asks FBI To Investigate FaceApp

2 hours 57 min ago
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the FBI to investigate FaceApp after privacy concerns have been raised about the Russian company which developed the app. In a letter posted on Twitter, Mr Schumer called it "deeply disturbing" that personal data of U.S. citizens could go to a "hostile foreign power." The BBC reports: Wireless Lab, a company based in St. Petersburg, says it does not permanently store images, and does not collect troves of data -- only uploading specific photos selected by users for editing. "Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia," a company statement reported by news site TechCrunch said. Mr Schumer however has asked that the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate FaceApp. "I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it," his letter reads.

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Microsoft's Q4 Earnings and 2020 Expectations Are Through the Roof

3 hours 37 min ago
Slashdot reader John Nautu shares a report from Windows Report: Microsoft released their Q4 earnings and it's (almost) all good news. The giant registered amazing growth on all departments, increasing its share price by one third. It was a record fiscal year for Microsoft, and the numbers exceeded all expectations: - Revenue was $33.7 billion and increased 12% - Operating income was $12.4 billion and increased 20% - Net income was $13.2 billion GAAP and $10.6 billion non-GAAP, and increased 49% and 21%, respectively - Diluted earnings per share was $1.71 GAAP and $1.37 non-GAAP, and increased 50% and 21%, respectively - GAAP results include a $2.6 billion net income tax benefit explained in the Non-GAAP Definition section below Of course, Microsoft's partnership with many industry leading companies also played a role in the constant development and improvement of their products. Despite Azure leading the way, Office 365, Windows, and Microsoft Teams also contributed to the growth. [Teams recently overtook Slack with 13 million daily users.] It's not all good news though. The Verge notes that the company's gaming business has stalled. "Gaming revenue declined by 10 percent this quarter, alongside Xbox software and services revenue decline of 3 percent." Ryan Duguid, Chief Evangelist at Nintex, said the company is planning some big things for next year: "In 2020, we expect to see Microsoft double down in three key areas to further differentiate from the leading tech giants: AI and ML (across the entire platform), data (infinitely expandable, cost-effective, and supportive of ODI), and modern workplace (productivity software)." In after-hours trading, Microsoft shares gained more than 1%. "The closing price gave Microsoft a market capitalization of $1.045 trillion, the only U.S. company worth more than $1 trillion," reports MarketWatch.

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EFF Hits AT&T With Class-Action Lawsuit For Selling Customers' Location To Bounty Hunters

4 hours 19 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Tuesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class action lawsuit against AT&T and two data brokers over their sale of AT&T customers' real-time location data. The lawsuit seeks an injunction against AT&T, which would ban the company from selling any more customer location data and ensure that any already sold data is destroyed. The move comes after multiple Motherboard investigations found AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon sold their customers' data to so-called location aggregators, which then ended up in the hands of bounty hunters and bail bondsman. The lawsuit, focused on those impacted in California, represents three Californian AT&T customers. Katherine Scott, Carolyn Jewel, and George Pontis are all AT&T customers who were unaware the company sold access to their location. The class action complaint says the three didn't consent to the sale of their location data. The complaint alleges that AT&T violated the Federal Communications Act by not properly protecting customers' real-time location data; and the California Unfair Competition Law and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act for misleading its customers around the sale of such data. It also alleges AT&T and the location aggregators it sold data through violated the California Constitutional Right to Privacy. The lawsuit highlights AT&T's Privacy Policy that says "We will not sell your personal information to anyone, for any purpose. Period." An AT&T spokesperson said in a statement "While we haven't seen this complaint, based on our understanding of what it alleges we will fight it. Location-based services like roadside assistance, fraud protection, and medical device alerts have clear and even life-saving benefits. We only share location data with customer consent. We stopped sharing location data with aggregators after reports of misuse."

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Berkeley Becomes First US City To Ban Natural Gas In New Homes

5 hours 2 min ago
Berkeley has become the first city in the nation to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes. The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban gas from new low-rise residential buildings starting Jan. 1. The San Francisco Chronicle reports: The natural gas ordinance, introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison, requires all new single-family homes, town homes and small apartment buildings to have electric infrastructure. After its passage, Harrison thanked the community and her colleagues "for making Berkeley the first city in California and the United States to prohibit natural gas infrastructure in new buildings." The city will include commercial buildings and larger residential structures as the state moves to develop regulations for those, officials said. The ordinance allocates $273,341 per year for a two-year staff position in the Building and Safety Division within the city's Department of Planning and Development. The employee will be responsible for implementing the ban.

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Dropbox Accidentally Installed New File Manager App On Users' Systems

5 hours 42 min ago
Dropbox said it accidentally exposed a new desktop app experience to some users for a short period of time. While the issue has since been resolved, many users were caught off guard after being silently "upgraded" to this radically different version of Dropbox. Ars Technica reports: This new version of Dropbox wants to be... a file manager? Instead of the minimal sync app, the Dropbox icon now opens a big, multi-panel, blue and white window showing all your Dropbox files. It kind of looks like Slack, if Slack was a file manager. You can now "star" folders as important so they show up in the left panel (again, like a Slack chat room). The middle panel shows your Dropbox files, and the right panel shows a file preview with options for comments and sharing. You can search for files, sort by name or date, and do all the usual file operations like cut, copy, and paste. It's a file manager. A big part of the appeal of Dropbox is (was?) that it's a dead-simple product: it's a folder, in the cloud! Put your stuff in the folder, and it seamlessly gets backed up and synced to all your other computers. Part of using Dropbox means installing the sync app to your computer, and to keep everything fresh and up to date, Dropbox has the ability to silently update this app from time to time. Using this mechanism to silently install a bigger, more bloated, completely different version of the Dropbox app onto people's computers seems... wrong, especially with no notice whatsoever. Updates are one thing, but many users (your author included) feel like there was a lack of consent here. Here's the statement Dropbox issued earlier today: "We recently announced a new desktop app experience that is now currently available in Early Access. Due to an error, some users were accidentally exposed to the new app for a short period of time. The issue has been resolved, though there might be a short lag for some users to see resolution. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused." Developer Marco Arment responded to the statement, tweeting: "'That immensely unpopular change we forced onto all of you yesterday? We only meant to force it on *some* of you. The rest of you weren't supposed to get it forced upon you until later.' Doesn't really fix the problem, does it?"

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Data Broker LocationSmart Will Fight Class Action Lawsuit Over Selling AT&T Data

6 hours 19 min ago
A broker that helped sell AT&T customers' real-time location data says it will fight a class action lawsuit against it. From a report: The broker, called LocationSmart, was involved in a number of data selling and cybersecurity incidents, including selling location data that ended up in the hands of bounty hunters. "LocationSmart will fight this lawsuit because the allegations of wrongdoing are meritless and rest on recycled falsehoods," a LocationSmart spokesperson said in an emailed statement. LocationSmart did not point to any specific part of the lawsuit to support these claims. On Tuesday, activist group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and law firm Pierce Bainbridge filed a class action lawsuit against LocationSmart, another data broker called Zumigo, and telecom giant AT&T. The lawsuit's plaintiffs are three California residents who say they did not consent to AT&T selling their real-time location data through the data brokers. The lawsuit alleges all three companies violated the California Constitutional Right to Privacy, and seeks monetary damages as well as an injunction against AT&T to ensure the deletion of any sold data.

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Amazon's Most Ambitious Research Project Is a Convenience Store

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 23:27
Amazon has set up 14 Amazon Go stores in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. They do not have any cash registers so once customers have scanned a screen from a special app on their phone at the entrance, they just grab their items and walk out the door, while Amazon magically charges their credit card. By all accounts, the company intends to open more of these stores in the months and years ahead. Bloomberg Businessweek reports today the kind of investment Amazon has made into these stores -- it is the ecommerce firm's most ambitious research project to date -- but despite that, how these stores are just like 7-Eleven stores, but with more complexity and cost. From the report: From a technological perspective, the Go stores are a marvel -- a succinct demonstration of Amazon's capacity to devote vast resources toward applying the state of the art in artificial intelligence to an everyday problem. They also illustrate the company's tendency to pursue technology for technology's sake (see: the Fire Phone), resulting in a store that offers all the selection of a 7-Eleven, but with more complexity and cost. Scores of cameras pointed at all angles hang from the ceilings to track shoppers as they wander the aisles, while precise scales embedded in the shelves tabulate products down to the gram to figure out which ones have been picked up. Behind the scenes, sophisticated image recognition algorithms decide who took what -- with Amazon workers in offices available to review footage to ensure shoppers are accurately charged. Each store also has a local staff on hand to help people download the Go app, restock shelves, and, in locations with a liquor section, check IDs. Will all this work be worth it? Some Go stores seem almost deserted except for the lunchtime rush. Employees familiar with Amazon's internal projections say the outlets in Chicago, in particular, are falling short of expectations, and the company has had to resort to raffles and giveaways of tote bags and other branded goodies. Yet, as the turbulent history of the project suggests, the Go store isn't so much the culmination of the company's efforts but something closer to an ongoing experiment. And the potential prize -- a big piece of the $12 trillion grocery industry -- is one that Amazon, with its limitless resources and appetite for risk, may be in the best position to claim.

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Apparent Arson Attack Devastates Kyoto Animation Anime Studio With Dozens Confirmed Dead

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 22:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Several people have been killed after an apparent arson attack gutted a building at Kyoto Animation, one of Japan's most renowned anime studios. NHK reports that 33 people are confirmed dead and many more have been injured. An explosion was heard around the studio at around 10.30AM local time. Police are questioning a man in his 40s who was seen spreading and lighting a gasoline-like liquid in the 1st Studio building, which is said to be where most of Kyoto Animation's mainline production takes place. The Mainichi Shinbun newspaper reports that the man said he started the fire. Kyoto Animation, also known as KyoAni, is best known for series like K-On! and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya, and release standalone feature A Silent Voice in 2016. Netflix picked up the streaming rights to KyoAni's Violet Evergarden series and made it available worldwide last year. UPDATE: Several sources are now reporting that the man who set fire to the building screamed angrily, "they faked it." According to The Daily Beast, "The word he used in Japanese, pakuri, can reference stealing an idea, ripping off a product, or plagiarizing someone else's work."

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Trump Says He's Looking Into a Pentagon Cloud Contract For Amazon or Microsoft

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 22:05
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he's seriously considering looking at a Pentagon contract that's said to be worth up to $10 billion for Microsoft or Amazon. From a report: "I never had something where more people are complaining," Trump said, adding that he's going to take a close look at it. "We're getting tremendous complaints from other companies," Trump said in a press pool at the White House during a meeting with the prime minister of The Netherlands. "Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it." He named Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. Since April, Microsoft and Amazon have been the only remaining competitors for the contract after IBM and Oracle were ruled out by the Defense Department. The contract, known as JEDI, is viewed as a marquee deal for the company that ultimately wins it, particularly as Microsoft and Amazon are aggressively pursuing government work for their expanding cloud units. While Trump didn't cite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by name on Thursday, the billionaire executive has been a constant source of frustration for the president. Bezos owns the Washington Post, which Trump regularly criticizes for its coverage of his administration. Trump also has gone after Amazon repeatedly for, as he claims, not paying its fair share of taxes and ripping of the U.S. Post Office.

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Initial Tests of the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and 5G Networks in US Cities Find The Phone Often Overheats and Switches To 4G

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 21:24
Joanna Stern, reporting for the Wall Street Journal: One of the biggest findings of my multi-city 5G review tour: The Samsung Galaxy S10 5G isn't reliable in the summer -- unless, well, you summer in Iceland. When I ran tests, the phone's 5G often switched off due to overheating, leaving me with a 4G connection. Cellular carriers demo-ing or testing the phone have taken to cooling the devices with ice packs and air conditioners. The phone does this when the temperature reaches a certain threshold to minimize energy use and optimize battery, a Samsung spokeswoman said. "As 5G technology and the ecosystem evolve, it's only going to get better," she added. But there is good part, too. The report adds: After nearly 120 tests, more than 12 city miles walked and a couple of big blisters, I can report that 5G is fasten-your-seat-belt fast...when you can find it. And you're standing outdoors. And the temperature is just right. As my findings show, 5G is absolutely not ready for you. But like any brand new network technology, it provides a glimpse of the future. "Holy spit!" I said the first time I saw a speed test hit 1,800 megabits per second on Verizon's network in downtown Denver. [...] Don't speak megabits? I downloaded the whole new season of "Stranger Things" from Netflix -- 2.1 gigabytes of video -- in 34 seconds. The same averaged more than an hour on my 4G connections. And I downloaded a huge, 10GB file full of video and images from Google Drive in 2.5 minutes.

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Japan To Lead Development of SWIFT Network For Cryptocurrency

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 20:45
Japan's government is leading a global push to set up an international network for cryptocurrency payments, similar to the SWIFT network used by banks, in an effort to fight money laundering, Reuters reports. From the report: Tokyo aims to have the network in place in the next few years, the person said, declining to be identified because the information has not been made public. A team related to the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will monitor its development and Japan will cooperate with other countries, the source said. It remains unclear how the cryptocurrency network would work. SWIFT is the international payments messaging system used by banks to send money around the world.

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Ex-Microsoft Worker Charged in Alleged Scheme To Steal $10M in Gift Cards and Use Funds To Finance Extravagant Purchases

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 20:06
An anonymous reader shares a report: A former Microsoft worker has been arrested and charged with mail fraud, in an alleged scheme to steal $10 million worth of digital currency from his ex-employer and use the funds to finance extravagant purchases, including a Tesla and lakefront home. Volodymyr Kvashuk, a 25-year-old software developer and Ukrainian citizen who worked for Microsoft from 2016 to 2018, allegedly took advantage of a testing program meant to simulate customer purchases. He made test accounts to obtain Microsoft gift cards and then sold some or all of them through online resellers.

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Bulgaria's Hacked Database Leaks To Hacking Forums

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 19:28
The database of Bulgaria's National Revenue Agency (NRA), which was hacked over the weekend and sent to local reporters, is now being shared on hacking forums, ZDNet has learned from sources in the threat intelligence community. From a report: Download links to the hacked database have been shared by a hacked data trader known as Instakilla, believed to be operating out of Bulgaria. ZDNet obtained a copy of the database and verified its authenticity with local sources, and this is a copy of the same database sent to local media over the weekend. The database contains 57 folders, 10.7 GB in size, and holds personal and financial information consistent with what Bulgarian newspapers reported receiving over the weekend. This includes personally identifiable information, tax information, from both the NRA, and from other government agencies who shared their data.

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iOS and iPadOS 13 Beta 4 Signals Death of 3D Touch, Rise of Context Menu

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 18:54
Back in 2015, Apple introduced pressure-sensitive iPhone screens alongside 3D Touch as a potentially major hardware-software innovation, but barely supported the feature, leading to informed speculation that all of 2019's iPhones would lose their pressure-sensing hardware. This week's release of the fourth iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 developer betas appears to put the final nail in 3D Touch's coffin, tightening up the responsiveness of its replacement: Context Menus. From a report: If you aren't already familiar with 3D Touch, the concept was simple: slight, medium, and heavy pressure on an iPhone's screen could be recognized differently, such that a light press would open an app while a firm press in the same spot would instead conjure up a contextual menu. Apple sometimes nested additional "peek and pop" features within iPhone apps using the same pressure sensitivity, giving users extra options if they pressed down more on the screen. Over the last few beta releases of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, Apple has been rolling out a replacement called Context Menus -- a change it set the stage for last year by releasing the iPhone XR without 3D Touch hardware. Back then, Apple said it was giving the XR an alternative called "Haptic Touch" that pulled up the same sort of contextual menus as earlier iPhones, but did so using two tricks: Instead of pressure, it sensed button press time, counting an extra split-second as a stronger button press, confirming the different intent with a "thump" from the phone's vibration feature. Now iPad users will get a version of Haptic Touch minus the haptics.

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Slack Resets Passwords For 1% of Its Users Because of 2015 Hack

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 17:42
ZDNet: Slack published more details about a password reset operation that ZDNet reported earlier today. According to a statement the company published on its website, the password reset operation is related to the company's 2015 security breach. In March 2015, Slack said hackers gained access to some Slack infrastructure, including databases storing user credentials. Hackers stole hashed passwords, but they also planted code on the company's site to capture plaintext passwords that users entered when logging in. At the time, Slack reset passwords for users who it believed were impacted, and also added support for two-factor authentication for all accounts. But as ZDNet reported earlier today, the company recently received a batch of Slack users credentials, which prompted the company to start an investigation into its source and prepare a password reset procedure. "We immediately confirmed that a portion of the email addresses and password combinations were valid, reset those passwords, and explained our actions to the affected users," Slack said. In a message on its website, Slack said this batch of credentials came via its bug bounty program. The company said it initially believed the data came from users who had their PCs infected with malware, or users who reused passwords across different services.

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Have We Hit Peak Podcast?

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 17:30
There are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry, with between 2,000 and 3,000 new shows launching each month. From a report: The frequency with which podcasts start (and then end, or "podfade," as it's coming to be known in the trade) has produced a degree of cultural exhaustion. We're not necessarily sick of listening to interesting programs; but we're definitely tired of hearing from every friend, relative and co-worker who thinks they're just an iPhone recording away from creating the next "Serial." "Anyone can start one and so anyone who thinks they can start one will do it," said Nicholas Quah, who runs an industry newsletter called Hot Pod. "It's like the business of me." "Being a podcast host plays into people's self-importance," said Karen North, a clinical professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. And it projects that importance to others. Public speaking and consulting gigs now often go to "the person who's the expert and has the podcast," she said. People use all kinds of metrics to tout the popularity of their shows, whether it's the number of iTunes reviews they get or the total downloads they receive per month. These metrics mean different things and don't necessarily connote success. And as recent social media scandals have shown, popularity can be purchased. But Dr. North said that having a big audience doesn't necessarily matter. "When people interview experts, even if nobody ever listens to the podcast, hosts get the benefit of learning from and networking with the guest," she said. "It's a great stunt." Call him cynical, but Jordan Harbinger, host of "The Jordan Harbinger Show" podcast, thinks there is a "podcast industrial complex." Hosts aren't starting shows "because it's a fun, niche hobby," he said. "They do it to make money or because it will make them an influencer."

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Netflix Will Roll Out a Lower-Priced Subscription Plan in India

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 16:41
Netflix said on Wednesday that it will roll out a cheaper subscription plan in India, one of the last great growth markets for global companies, as the streaming giant scrambles to find ways to accelerate its slowing growth worldwide. From a report: The company added 2.7 million new subscribers in the quarter that ended in June this year, it said today, far fewer than the 5 million figure it had forecasted earlier this year. The company said lowering its subscription plan, which starts at $9 in the U.S., would help it reach more users in India and expand its overall subscriber base. The new plan will be available in India in Q3. According to third-party research firms, Netflix has fewer than 2 million subscribers in India. Netflix started to test a lower-priced subscription plan in India and some other markets in Asia late last year. The plan restricts the usage of the service to one mobile device and offers only the standard definition viewing (~480p). During the period of testing, which was active as of two months ago, the company charged users as low as $4. [...] For Netflix, the decision to lower its pricing in India comes at a time when it has hiked the subscription cost in many parts of the world in recent quarters. In the U.S., for instance, Netflix said earlier this year that it would raise its subscription price by up to 18%.

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Uber Glitch Charges Passengers 100 Times the Advertised Price, Resulting in Crosstown Fares in the Thousands of Dollars

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 16:01
Uber passengers in multiple cities were startled Wednesday when they were charged 100 times the advertised fare for short trips, a glitch that sparked jokes about surge pricing gone wild. From a report: Riders in cities including Washington and San Diego took to social media to post about the sky-high rates, a problem that Uber confirmed, although it declined to say how widespread the issue was. Some who ordered food for quick delivery said they were also overcharged. One social media user reported that Uber maxed out her husband's card with a charge of $1,905, when it was supposed to be $19.05. "Not cool, especially on his birthday," she added. Another woman posted to social media that she was charged $1,308 for a $13.08 trip. The charge was so high it triggered a fraud alert, according to a screen shot the rider posted on Twitter. Uber said the glitch has been fixed. The company said the fare would be corrected so riders are charged only the amount for their actual trip, though they may temporarily see an inaccurate trip fare on their credit or debit cards. Passengers won't need to dispute the charges with their banks.

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Amazon Accidentally Sold $13,000+ Camera Gear For $100 On Prime Day

Thu, 18/07/2019 - 15:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from PetaPixel: Amazon discounted a wide range of camera gear for Prime Day this week, but some photographers scored what may be the best deals of their lives. Thanks to a pricing error, many people were able to purchase high-end camera gear bundles, some worth over $5,000, for just around $100. It all started when someone noticed that the $550 Sony a6000 and 16-50mm lens bundle was being listed at just $94.50 on Amazon, and the person shared the "deal" on Slickdeals, where it hit the front page. Many users were able to see the same price and place orders, while other users reported still seeing the normal price of $550. And it wasn't 3rd-party sellers that the $94.50 price applied to -- the gear was being sold and shipped by Amazon. But then people noticed that other cameras and bundles were also being sold for $94.50, and that's when the real frenzy started. "Literally everything is $94.48," one member writes. "I have bought like 10k worth of stuff that was like 900 dollars total." "I got a $13,000 lens for $94," another member writes regarding their Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS order. "LOL waiting for the cancellation but thats like 99.3% off." Other members spoke to Amazon customer service about their order and were told that the order would indeed ship. Others also reported that they successfully price matched gear at retailers such as Best Buy and Walmart.

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