Tips for Buying the Perfect Pump

Pumps are used every day by many businesses in a wide variety of industries. Has your current pump bit the dust? If this is the case, buying a new one can be a bit of a project. Going into a store and buying the first pump you see on the shelf would not be a smart thing to do. You need to put more thought into your purchase than that. You are going to be depending on this pump to perform well for you for many years to come. Therefore, it is in your best interests to study all of your options so you are not disappointed with the pump you choose. Here are a few of the best tips that will set you on the right path.

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  1. Talk to the people who work at the stores that sell pumps.

You should get some input from the people who sell pumps on a daily basis. They might know much more about pumps than you do. Therefore, they will be able to teach you about certain features and capabilities of the pump that you might not have been aware of. Tell these people what type of job you need the pump to perform. You should also let them know your minimum pump requirements. The people at the pump retailer can take this info and use it to find the ideal pump for your specific needs. You should shop at a store that sells many different products like Firestone air springs. Ideally, you want the store you do business with to have a very large inventory. This will ensure that you have the opportunity to choose from many different pump manufacturers.

  1. Has the pump received many good reviews from people who have bought it?

You should spend a couple of hours reading reviews of many different pumps that have been posted online. This will give you valuable info that will benefit you greatly before you start spending money. You will be able to find out what other consumers thought about the pumps they purchased. A pump that has received many negative reviews is probably not an item you should purchase. Make a note of the pumps that receive the most positive feedback.

  1. Buy a pump that was made by a company with an established track record.

A company that has been around for several decades has obviously attracted many loyal customers. The only way a company can do this is to make high quality products. Therefore, it stands to reason that a pump manufacturer that has been around for a long time will make a product that will not let you down. You should give serious consideration to buying a pump that has been made by a company that has established itself as a leader in the pump industry.

  1. The pump that you buy should have a good warranty attached to it.

Your pump could break down. Having a warranty will save you the cash that you would’ve had to pay to repair the pump. This is why buying a pump with a warranty is so crucial. The warranties that are offered by pump manufacturers will vary. Therefore, you should compare the length of the warranties included with the pumps you are interested in.

GM’s ‘Super Cruise’ Tesla Autopilot competitor arrives in a Cadillac this fall

GM will launch its Super Cruise advanced highway automatic driving feature this fall, debuting first in the new Cadillac CT6. Super Cruise has been in the works for a few years now, and the semi-autonomous drive mode is finally almost ready for its debut, after its release date was pushed from 2016 to 2017 to give engineers more time to focus on designing the safest system possible.

Super Cruise offers features very similar to Tesla’s Autopilot, which can take over control of driving in highway settings, maintaining lane position and adapting speed based on surrounding traffic. The feature will be available on a limited basis, with access narrowed to “divided, limited-access highways” with “defined ‘on’ and ‘off’ ramps” according to The Verge. The system will also track driver head position using infrared cameras built into the steering wheel that will make sure they pay attention while the feature is engaged, and will alert them via a steering-wheel mounted light notification system, and audio alerts, if they stop.

GM has also incorporated a fail-safe measure that will safely stop the vehicle if a driver ends up not being able to respond to the alerts, a feature which Tesla also implements in its Autopilot software. Super Cruise can also be updated over-the-air, another similarity between it and Tesla’s offering.

Unlike Autopilot, however, GM’s semi-autonomous highway driving features incorporate LiDAR data – Tesla has refrained from equipping its vehicles with the high-resolution laser detection tech, and GM likewise isn’t putting LiDAR on consumer cars. Cost of components and the aesthetics likely make this an unappealing way to go, but GM has an interesting workaround to both use LiDAR data and keep it off production vehicles: It’s deploying a fleet of LiDAR mapping cars that will image highways where Super Cruise is used and make that information available to the system over-the-air.

 The option is a paid add-on, with a $2,500 upgrade price and a $3,100 additional requirement if you get a trim-model that doesn’t include a driver assist suite lumped into the existing price.

Super Cruise finally getting on the road is definitely exciting, but this is also the year Elon Musk has said he’s aiming to field a first coast-to-coast test of Tesla’s full self-driving technology. In other words, we’re off to the autonomous races.

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to test swarming palm-sized drones

Imagine a fleet of drones, each the size of your palm blooming from a package dropped from an airplane. That’s what the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s tiny CICADA drone can do. And hopefully, it’ll prove it through upcoming swarm flight testing.

The CICADA, or Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft, have pressure, temperature and humidity sensors on board, and consist basically of a circuit board with tiny wings and autopilot controls built-in. It weighs only 65 grams, and drops at around 1,000 feet per minute according to the official specs. One of the launch tubes that carry the CICADAs holds 32 individual drones, and the tube is designed to be dropped from a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion airplane. The CICADAs deploy from the tube once it’s released from the aircraft, and fly on to their target, where they can land with accuracy of around 5 meters square..

This final round of testing concludes the basic research phase of the project, and set up CICADA for custom-tailored industrial or research applications.

 The CICADA project has been in the works for a while, since development began in 2006 and it got its first flight test in 2011. This is a graduation of sorts for the palm-sized covert surveillance devices. Given their flexiblity, speed and silent operation, it’s easy to imagine they’ll enjoy a healthy life post-research phase in a range of applications.

Apple hires security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski

Jonathan Zdziarski has been a leading expert on Apple and iOS security and forensics for years — and now he’s taking his expertise inside the company.

Zdziarski, who has written several books on iOS and was an outspoken supporter of Apple during its battle with the FBI last year, announced on his blog that he’s joining Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team to work on protecting user security and privacy.

“This decision marks the conclusion of what I feel has been a matter of conscience for me over time. Privacy is sacred; our digital lives can reveal so much about us — our interests, our deepest thoughts, and even who we love. I am thrilled to be working with such an exceptional group of people who share a passion to protect that,” he wrote.

 Earlier in his career, Zdziarski worked on jailbreaking iPhones and, in 2014, he raised the issue of backdoors in Apple products. Apple said at the time that the functions Zdziarski identified were “diagnostic capabilities.” More recently, Zdziarski developed Little Flocker, a security application for macOS.

Although Apple declined to comment on the hire, it makes sense for the company to bring one of the world’s foremost experts on its products in-house. Zdziarski also declined to comment on the move, but said in his post he’s “very excited to be working with a group of like minded individuals.”

Jason Goldberg raises $400K more to turn Pepo into ‘the best place to host live conversation’

Serial entrepreneur Jason Goldberg has famously had his ups and downs, most notably with the e-commerce company Fab.com. He hasn’t stopped moving forward, however.

In October, he launched a new messaging app called Pepo that enables anyone to create and join live messaging communities. In December, Pepo announced $2.35 million in seed funding led by the Chinese conglomerate Tencent. And today, Pepo is announcing $400,000 in additional seed funding from its backers, along with two new features — “questions and stories,” and live Q&As — that Goldberg expects will continue to fuel what he describes as steady growth so far.

He shared the latest in a call earlier today from Pune, India. Our chat has been edited for length.

TC: You’re calling from India. Is that where Pepo is based?

JG: We have three people in Berlin, where I live, and 20 people in Pune. It’s the same team that helped me build Fab and [a later iteration of the company] Hem. Officially, though, Pepo is based in Palo Alto.

TC: For those who’ve missed it, what’s the big idea behind Pepo?

JG: What we think is very interesting and compelling is a two-sided marketplace concept. It’s people, plus expertise, and the overall plan for that will emerge over the next couple of years.

We decided to go out early and iterate with our users, rather than trying to guess in getting in right. We feel like because we’ve taken that approach, our users have given us a lot of leeway.

TC: So it’s early days, but right now users are creating messaging “channels” around any number of topics that interest them, then you match people to the channels they find interesting, and these feature influencers or experts sort of lead the conversation. Is that correct? What’s in it for the influencers or experts if so?

JG:  We’ve told them they can create their own channel, have a live conversation with their followers and new followers, and build an audience.

For a lot of folks who have a following on Twitter or Instagram, what Pepo gives them is a higher level of engagement. Think of it this way: What if you could have a Slack channel with everyone who follows you on Twitter or Instagram? Twitter is good for a thought here and there, and Instagram is a great place to post your best two or three pictures of the day or post a story that will disappear. With Pepo, we’re connecting one to many.

TC: And these influencers are finding followers?

JB: We’ve concentrated a large part of our efforts on the supply — the influencers and experts who have the content. If they host it on Pepo [the thinking goes], it will bring the demand. So we’ve invested early on in the ability for these [experts] to host conversations with people who can read and reply but not post their own messages. It’s been like a form of microblogging.

Now, [with the new features we’re rolling out] if the channel host allows it, every member in that channel can post into the channel; they can submit a question or a story that the host can address. The channel host can also do a live Q&A and host it like a Reddit AMA.

TC: You’ve said from the start that Pepo is going to focus more on engagement than size. What can you tell us about how many people are using the app, and what percentage of them return regularly?

JG: I can tell you that our return usage is very strong on a week-to-week and month-to-month basis. About half of our users are using the app each month, and we’ve seen 100 percent month-over-month growth since launching.

TC: What’s the business model?

JG: We have several concepts that are in the works already, so we’ll be adding monetization elements sooner rather than later. But basically, if our channel hosts do well, we’ll do well, so we’re really focused on how does someone — say a top influencer when it comes to solo female travel — make money through the platform.

The general Silicon Valley philosophy is to get several million users, then monetize, but we’re more akin to Airbnb’s philosophy that monetization can help drive the platform. Many people would be interested in bringing their expertise to the platform if they felt confident that they could monetize that expertise.

 TC: So, through native ads? Can you be more specific?

JG: No advertising is in our plans right now. We’re thinking more of paid channels where people pay to ask questions or for services or to contact people directly. For example, a top Berlin foodie has said that several people have contacted him for either an itinerary or a walking guide of food stops in Berlin [which are services for which he could charge].

TC: How do you protect these hosts from abuse, from being trolled?

JG: We want everyone to be a real person, so we’ve had a verified user process from day one. We use the information they give us, and their Facebook connections, to determine whether a person is who they say they are. If you want to sign up under a fake name, you can, but the features you can access are limited.

We also give a lot of controls to channel hosts. It’s easy for them to decide whether a channel is public or private or secret, and they can block or report or ban someone.

We’re also coming up with a ranking system because the internet definitely brings out all types.

TC: You mentioned Slack. Are these channel conversations searchable as with Slack, and are there threaded comments?

JG: Everything is being indexed, so right now, you can search for people, locations and channels, and we’re adding search across the entire platform in coming weeks.

What a lot of our users have told us is that information they’re getting on Pepo is happening elsewhere in secret conversations on WhatsApp, and Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger, but they’re not indexable or searchable or findable again, and others can’t leverage that information. Hosting these more open forums is a way to leverage that knowledge base.

And yes, there are threaded replies and also the Q&As have threaded video replies.

TC: What if the host sets the channel to private?

JG: Any number of members have access to that information forever. There are 6,500 people in a global gay travelers group, and the information that users are provided there is proving super helpful for people who are members.

TC: You’ve just raised $400,000 after announcing $2.35 million in December. Is there a particular logic to raising funding in a piecemeal fashion?

JG: A number of number of existing investors, including Greycroft, said: “If there’s an opportunity to invest, we’d like to do that before you raise a Series A round.”

Viro wants to make mobile VR development a snap, and raises $2.5M to do it

VR is all over the place, but sometimes it’s not where you most expect it. Plenty of apps out there might could do with a wee bit of VR to help show off an apartment or a bit of 3D content, but those experiences can be pretty labor-intensive. Viro is a new company that hopes to empower mobile developers to easily add VR to their apps using familiar tools and code bases.

“VR needs more content,” CEO Danny Moon told TechCrunch, “and different toolsets allow developers to create different types of experiences. Viro allows mobile developers to build native VR.”

You may think, well, isn’t that what Unity, Unreal and other cross-platform engines are for? Yes indeed, but they also add levels of complexity and don’t always play nice with the tools a developer has built their app with, or the skillset that a company has built up.

“For building a game, Unity is great,” said co-founder Raj Advani, “but it’s not the simplest tool for building applications. You open up a game development platform, you see like a thousand different controls staring at you. Viro is simpler, it uses the same [i.e. mobile and web] codebase, it uses less code to do the same things.”

Moon used the example of Airbnb, which is already experimenting with other social and presentational modes online. If they want to try doing some VR stuff internally, they can’t just tell their app team to learn Unity. They could hire a couple of people or an agency to put something together, but all of a sudden you’re looking at six figures before you can even start working on it.

Viro uses a custom rendering engine, on top of which is React Native, a JavaScript-based app framework that many web and mobile devs will already be familiar with. You don’t even need Xcode or Android Studio. The goal is to get users up and running in a VR environment of their own within half an hour or so, and enable the super-quick turnaround times one expects from a mobile team and perhaps not so much from a content-heavy VR team.

 Of course, it’s not as fully featured as those mainstream commercial content creation tools — if you want things like realistic physics and complex lighting, you’ll still want to use them.

“But we don’t consider ourselves Unity lite,” Moon explained. “This is a different tool for different stuff. There are non-gaming apps that people want to build. There are these emergent cases that you see in mobile, like Uber, that people didn’t predict on day one — we’re hoping Viro will enable that kind of thing.”

Today is the first public release of Viro, which is free to use — so give it a try, check out some test code on GitHub or look at some sample work in the Viro Media app (iOS/Android). The plan is to keep the core toolset free and add premium services later when (ideally) companies decide to adopt the service more fully.

The company has raised $2.5 million from Softbank NY, Eniac Ventures, Lowercase Capital and a few others. Moon pointed out that this is the first VR investment for many, but that they were enticed by the idea that they were investing not in VR content, but in the tools to create it. Whether you think VR is the future, a flash in the pan or somewhere in-between, it’s hard to deny that at least for the next couple of years, lowering the barrier to entry is a valuable proposition.

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance joins Revolution LLC to promote startups outside of Silicon Valley

Two months after its release, Hillbilly Elegy hit the top of The New York Times bestseller list, thrusting author J.D. Vance somewhat reluctantly into the spotlight. The book’s release hit at exactly the right moment, with Vance’s memoir providing blue-leaning America some much-needed insight to the inner workings of a segment of America central to the rise of Donald Trump.

In the nine months since the book’s release, Vance has been something of a lightning rod for both the left and the right. Now the author is using his newfound platform to join forces with Revolution LLC, the D.C.-based investment firm founded by AOL co-founder Steve Case. Vance will be tasked with expanding the company’s Rise of the Rest initiative, which is focused on growing investments in startups outside the Silicon Valley and New York City tech bubbles.

“I don’t know if I’m ever going to be comfortable with being the media-dubbed spokesperson,” Vance tells TechCrunch. “But I do think you can talk about the issues and try to raise awareness or you can do something about the issues — my goal here is to try to do both. There’s an opportunity I’ve been given here with the platform the book has afforded.”

Since last April, Vance has served as a principal at Peter Thiel’s VC firm, Mithril Capital Management LLC, a title he’ll retain even as he becomes a partner at Revolution and moves back to his native Ohio from San Francisco.

“J.D. and I first connected about six months ago, after his book came out,” says Case. “He grew up in Ohio, moved around the country a bit and most recently was in Silicon Valley and just moved back to Columbus, because he really wanted to be part of helping the communities in that region. It was a perfect fit with our initiative and that’s why we decided to join forces.”

Vance will initially serve as something of a spokesperson for Rise of the Rest, a position that will eventually evolve into more of an investment role at the firm, as the team works to raise awareness of startups outside of California, New York and Massachusetts, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of VC funds last year.

“For a lot of Silicon Valley investors, if they can’t get in a car and drive to the company, they’re not interested investing in it,” says Case.

 The blunt force trauma of the last election has apparently served as something of a wake-up call for some investors, who, much like many others in coastal blue states have looked to works like Elegy to provide some insight into a disillusioned middle of the country that played such a pivotal role in November’s election. The Washington Post has since dubbed Vance the “voice of the rust belt,” while The New Republic issued the slightly less catchy title of “the liberal media’s favorite white trash-splainer.”

In spite of his newfound prominence, Vance says that Washington hasn’t come knocking.
“I’ve haven’t been approached by folks in the government,” he tells TechCrunch. “My thinking about this has always been that there’s obviously a policy element to addressing some of the problems that I write about in the book, but there really has to be a private sector element, too.”

Not that one can’t do both, of course. Vance’s own rise to national prominence occurred at roughly the same moment as Thiel’s transition from investor to political firebrand, scoring a pivotal speaking spot at July’s Republican National Convention and eventually earning himself a spot on Trump’s transition team.

Vance avoids the temptation to get too political when discussing the Mithril co-founder. “Peter is a friend and I’m a big fan of his,” he says. “I’ve been incredibly disconnected from some of the interactions that Peter’s had with the administration. I don’t know how close those contacts have been, but to the degree that he’s advising them at all, that makes me pretty pleased.”

For now, Vance says he’s fixated on Rise of the Rest. In a few weeks, the organization will hold a summit in DC, where he’ll serve as a keynote speaker. “The focus is really getting this Rise of the Rest initiative off the ground,” he says. “To build on some of the momentum that Steve and folks have already delivered and developed, but also to use this media moment to get out the word. A big part of this is trying to get out the word on what we’re trying to do.“

Lyft just met its goal of launching in 100 more U.S. cities in 2017

Ride-hailing company Lyft is celebrating a milestone — it just launched in 10 additional U.S. markets, making for 100 cities added to the list of places it’s available in 2017. That was the target Lyft had originally set for itself as its year-end goal, but it’s only been three months and the company has already crossed that marker.

Thursday’s launch in 10 new cities follows expansion to 40 cities in January and more than 50 cities in February, which means Lyft now offers ride-hailing in 300 cities across the U.S. in total. It’s pressing the pedal on growth at a key moment in the ongoing saga of its competition with Uber, the leading rideshare provider by volume and reach, which is facing significant challenges because of sexual harassment issues within its workforce, a CEO who has trouble keeping his cool around drivers and a regulatory evasion tactic.

Lyft’s ability to capitalize on its rival’s current vulnerability will definitely be impacted by reach. Many involved in the #DeleteUber campaign that has sprung up in response to the issues listed above offer Lyft as an alternative suggestion, driving a lot of sign-ups — but if the service isn’t available, it’s obviously going to miss out on some of those conversions.

Lyft says this puts it nine months ahead of its anticipated schedule in rolling out to new markets. Jaime Raczka, Lyft’s head of early-stage markets and expansion, said the company plans to use its head start to continue growing.

 “In just the first quarter of 2017, we’ve introduced Lyft to more than 100 new cities,” she shared in an emailed statement. “This puts us nine months ahead of schedule in our rapid growth plan, and we are excited to continue this momentum of bringing safe and affordable rides to even more cities throughout the nation.”

Still no word on international expansion, however — Lyft has been reported to be working on that next stage of its growth, but, so far, its milestones and progress in 2017 have been concentrated on its existing U.S. market.

Uber get its self-driving vehicle test permit in California

Uber is now listed as one of the companies licensed to test autonomous vehicle technology in California. The ride-hailing provider originally launched a pilot of its self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs in San Francisco last year, but picked up and moved the test to Arizona after California’s Department of Motor Vehicles revoked the registration on its cars because it had not secured a testing permit prior to launch.

The permit from the DMV does not mean Uber will restore its full pilot in SF — which included 16 SUVs with self-driving kit, offering service mixed in with the regular fleet, so that any user might get an autonomous test vehicle when hailing a ride with the UberX app. Instead, Uber’s self-driving car deployment will be limited to two of the XC90s, and 48 specifically named drivers are able to drive the cars, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The conditions of the permit don’t forbid Uber from resuming its passenger pickups, but the company says it’s not going to be picking up riders as it begins testing again. The company’s tech came under fire in San Francisco during the initial launch when the test vehicles were caught running red lights — Uber said that the car pictured on video was actually human-driven at the time, but a New York Times follow-up report later said it was actually in autonomous mode at the time.

 Uber originally held that it didn’t technically require one of the California DMV’s autonomous test vehicle permits to use its cars on public roads because of the nature of its tests and specifics of how it was implementing its technology. It revealed that it was working with the DMV to acquire its license last week, but its position regarding the technical legality of its original tests hasn’t changed according to the company, despite its willingness to now work with the state motor vehicle authority.

MIT’s New Speech Recognition Chip Delivers Power Savings of Up to 99 Percent

Researchers at MIT have developed a low-power special-purpose chip that is claimed to reduce the power consumption of electronic devices and help them save battery life as a result. The chip, which is specialised for automatic speech recognition, has been claimed to require between 0.2 and 10 milliwatts compared with 1 watt requirement by a standard smartphone running speech-recognition software.

MIT's New Speech Recognition Chip Delivers Power Savings of Up to 99 Percent

This remarkable difference in power requirement effectively means that the new chip can result in power savings between 90 percent to 99 percent, the researchers claim. The drastic reduction in power consumption means that speech recognition can be introduced in more number of devices going forward, especially in those cases where power constraints were preventing the application of the technology.

As more and more devices are now getting support for speech recognition (recently introduced Android Wear 2.0 watches with Google Assistant being a good example), this new dedicated chip can prove to be a real game-changer. Further, as the size of the devices keeps getting smaller, and more and more power components are utilised, the battery life issues resolved by this chip might open new gates for the hardware developers.

“Speech input will become a natural interface for many wearable applications and intelligent devices,” Anantha Chandrakasan, head of the group that developed the new chip, was quoted as saying in the report. “The miniaturisation of these devices will require a different interface than touch or keyboard. It will be critical to embed the speech functionality locally to save system energy consumption compared to performing this operation in the cloud,” she said.

If you are wondering how the chip manages to save the power, it is all possible due to efficient implementation of speech-recognition networks. The chip additionally includes a “voice activity detection” circuit that separates the ambient noise to determine whether it might be speech or not. Only when this circuit confirms that it is a speech, a larger and more complex voice-recognition circuit is given the green signal to get into action.

Considering that adoption rate of IoT (Internet of Things) devices has picked up pace in recent times and devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home have seen good amount of success, this new chip might end up setting a new milestone in the industry.