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TypeScript 4.0 beta is here

Microsoft has announced the first beta release for TypeScript 4.0. The most recent version of the language, TypeScript 3.9, was released last month

TypeScript 3.9 had introduced speed and user experience improvements. TypeScript 4.0 follows Microsoft’s pattern of trying to introduce new features that don’t introduce breaking changes for older versions. 

The next version doesn’t add many breaking changes, but adds new features such as variadic tuple types, labeled tuple elements, class property inference from constructors, short-circuiting assignment operators, custom JSX factories, and more.  

The few breaking changes that are included in this release are “lib.d.ts” declaration changes, errors when properties try to override accessors, optional operands for “delete”, and deprecation of the node factory. 

“This beta takes us on our first step into TypeScript 4.0, and while it brings a new major version, don’t fret – there are no substantially larger breaking changes than usual. Our philosophy in evolving TypeScript has always been to provide an upgrade path that minimizes disruptive breaking changes while still giving ourselves some flexibility to flag suspicious code as errors when appropriate. For this reason, we’re continuing with a similar versioning model to that of past releases, so 4.0 is just the natural continuation from TypeScript 3.9,” Daniel Rosenwasser, program manager of TypeScript at Microsoft, wrote in a post

The release candidate for TypeScript 4.0 is expected on August 4, and the final release is scheduled for August 18. 

More information about the new features and breaking changes can be found here

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You can now install the first beta of Android 11

After a series of developer previews, Google today released the first beta of Android 11 and with that, it is also making these pre-release versions available for over-the-air updates. This time around, the list of supported devices only includes the Pixel 2, 3, 3a and 4.

If you’re brave enough to try this early version (and I wouldn’t do so on your daily driver until a few more people have tested it), you can now enroll here. Like always, Google is also making OS images available for download and an updated emulator is available, too.

Google says the beta focuses on three key themes: people, controls and privacy.

Like in previous updates, Google once again worked on improving notifications — in this case, conversation notifications, which now appear in a dedicated section at the top of the pull-down shade. From there, you will be able to take actions right from inside the notification or ask the OS to remind you of this conversation at a later time. Also new is built-in support in the notification system for what are essentially chat bubbles, which messaging apps can now use to notify you even as you are working (or playing) in another app.

Another new feature is consolidated keyboard suggestions. With these, Autofill apps and Input Method Editors (think password managers and third-party keyboards), can now securely offer context-specific entries in the suggestion strip. Until now, enabling autofill for a password manager, for example, often involved delving into multiple settings and the whole experienced often felt like a bit of a hack.

For those users who rely on voice to control their phones, Android now uses a new on-device system that aims to understand what is on the screen and then automatically generates labels and access points for voice commands.

As for controls, Google is now letting you long-press the power button to bring up controls for your smart home devices (though companies that want to appear in this new menu need to make use of Google’s new API for this). In one of the next beta releases, Google will also enable media controls that will make it easier to switch the output device for their audio and video content.

In terms of privacy, Google is adding one-time permissions so that an app only gets access to your microphone, camera or location once, as well as auto-resets for permissions when you haven’t used an app for a while.

A few months ago, Google said that developers would need to get a user’s approval to access background location. That caused a bit of a stir among developers and now Google will keep its current policies in place until 2021 to give developers more time to update their apps.

In addition to these user-facing features, Google is also launching a series of updates aimed at Android developers. You can read more about them here.


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Optimized sensors are key to future of automated vehicles

Puneeth Meruva
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Puneeth Meruva is an Associate at Trucks Venture Capital, studied EECS at MIT and developed vehicle telematics software at Microsoft Research, BMW and Uber.

Sensors are critical components of the modern vehicle. They are the eyes of a car, enabling everything from existing ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) features such as automated braking and lane keeping to potential removal of the driver altogether. The consequences of these “eyes” not pointing in the right direction or not seeing clearly could be catastrophic; your car could needlessly break in the middle of the highway or suddenly swerve into another lane. Sufficiently high and safe sensor accuracy is essential, and calibration is critical to ensuring that a vehicle’s sensors are operating at the highest fidelity.

Sensors can be miscalibrated due to everything from daily normal use and changes in operating conditions (temperature or vibrations) to something more severe like accidents or part replacements. Unfortunately, very little emphasis has been placed on addressing the issue. This comes as no surprise; the automotive product cycle is incredibly long, and automated vehicles simply haven’t been tested long enough yet to thoroughly expose this issue.

Most standard perception sensors in the market today can perform intrinsic (refers to internal parameters of one sensor) calibration autonomously. However, extrinsic (refers to parameters relating multiple sensors together) calibration poses significant problems to fleets given the ever-increasing reliance on multiple sensors to overcome the shortcomings of individual sensors. Most calibration solutions today rely on picking functionally or economically inferior sensor configurations and/or simply hoping that the sensors never become miscalibrated from initial factory settings in the first place. Yet while this is obviously unsafe, there exist no common metrics to measure what it means for a sensor to be miscalibrated and no common standards that companies can hold their sensor calibrations up against. Every player in this space has their own unique sensor suites and an accompanying set of unique calibration practices, further complicating the matter.

Current aftermarket, maintenance, and return-to-service options are woefully underprepared to address the issue. Consider ADAS calibration at a typical maintenance shop. The procedure takes 15-120 minutes and requires expensive equipment (scanning tools, large and clear paved areas, alignment racks, etc.). The vehicle itself also needs to be prepared to meticulous standards; the fuel tank must be full, the tires must be properly inflated, the vehicle must be perfectly flat on a balanced floor, etc. Most garages and mechanics are underequipped and insufficiently trained to conduct what is an incredibly tedious and technically complex procedure. This ultimately causes improper calibration that endangers the vehicle’s passengers and those around them.

Innovations and opportunities in sensor calibration


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Vendr raises $4M from David Sacks’s Craft Ventures to reduce SaaS bills

When TechCrunch last checked in with the Y Combinator-backed Vendr in October, the company had just raised $2 million, and was crowing about its profitability. Profitable seed-stage companies aren’t super common, so the startup stood out.

Today Vendr is back with more news, namely that it has raised $4 million more, this time led by Craft Ventures, the venture capital shop associated with well-known tech denizen David Sacks. TechCrunch wanted to know why a profitable company would go back to the well so quickly, so I got on the phone with Vendr CEO Ryan Neu to get a handle on the latest.

The timing felt propitious. Vendr tries to help save companies money on their software purchasing — both net-new and re-ups — and given that the startup world just took two punches out of its collective belt, perhaps Vendr was riding some tailwinds.

Growth

Neu told TechCrunch in an interview that Vendr’s model wasn’t perfectly aligned with the market back in 2019. Growth, Neu said, was the name of the game. Saving money on software wasn’t as in vogue at the time. Still, the company was growing enough to attract external capital.

Then came 2020, first with Vision Fund cost cutting, followed by the rise of COVID-19, waves of startup layoffs and more. Suddenly conserving cash was hot, and everyone wanted to find dollars to squeeze from budgets. Vendr, which works to save its customers money on their software budgets, was primed for demand.

And it showed up. The new $4 million round was put together after the start of COVID-19; many rounds announced in recent months were pre-baked before the pandemic. This one isn’t like that.

How did it come together, then? On the back of growth. According to Neu, Vendr has more than doubled its revenue and customer base since it raised in October. In far less than a year, then, the company managed the 100% growth rate that is a minimum for attractive growth in venture circles.

Even better for the small company, Neu told TechCrunch that Vendr is adding customers even more quickly now than it was before, that it is “growing non-linearly.”

David Sacks told TechCrunch via email that “Vendr’s capital efficiency and burn multiple are incredibly impressive,” which, given the metrics we have, seems correct.

Nearly as good as growth, however, is the fact that Vendr has raised $6.1 million to date, and, per Neu, has nearly all of it still in the bank. Sacks found that particularly enticing, saying that “fast growth is great, but it’s even more meaningful when you’re hardly burning any money to do it. That kind of product-market fit can’t be faked.”

Closing, Vendr is an odd duck when it comes to product. According to Neu, Vendr effectively started off as a consultancy, with him helping companies save money. It then grew into an increasingly software-powered business. In time, the firm expects to move from being a tech-enabled service to more of a service-enabled technology company.

The new money should help the startup keep writing its own code. And given the company’s ability to charge yearly rates of five-and-six figures to customers to help them control costs, baking a little more software into its internal operations could boost its gross margins nicely. That would make the company even more profitable.

Let’s see how long it takes for Vendr to double in size yet again.


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Microsoft and Harvard collaborate on differential privacy

Microsoft and the OpenDP Initiative at Harvard have collaborated on a new platform that will offer differential privacy for large datasets. Differential privacy allows researchers to analyze datasets without having important data withheld, while also preserving the privacy of that data, according to Microsoft. 

“Differential privacy, the heart of today’s landmark milestone, was invented at Microsoft Research a mere 15 years ago. In the life cycle of transformative research, the field is still young. I am excited to see what this platform will make possible,” said Cynthia Dwork, Gordon McKay professor of CS at Harvard and Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft.

RELATED CONTENT: Microsoft sets plan to bridge “data divide”

According to Microsoft, data analysis is necessary to come up with solutions for the major issues facing us today, such as climate change, racial inequality, and COVID-19. According to John Kahan, chief data analytics officer at Microsoft, however, the deeper into a dataset a researcher goes, the more likely it is that they will reveal personally identifiable information (PII). 

Microsoft and Harvard’s differential privacy platform uses two mechanisms for protecting PII in data sets. 

First, it adds statistical noise to each data point, which protects the privacy of an individual without rendering the dataset useless. 

Second, it calculates the amount of information revealed by a query and deducts that from an overall privacy budget. If it deems personal privacy might be compromised by revealing data, any additional queries are halted. 

By masking PII in datasets, researchers aren’t blocked from that valuable data because of that information, and can continue utilizing that data in their research without being able to gather PII on the sources of the data. This also allows researchers to more safely and easily share their findings without worrying about unveiling PII. 

“The resulting insights will have an enormous and lasting impact and will open new avenues of research that allow us to develop creative solutions for some of the most pressing problems we currently face,” Kahan wrote in a post.

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The pace of startup layoffs may be slowing down

Startups hit the brakes in March as COVID-19 took a toll on the global economy. As certain industries ground to a halt, cohorts of startups made staffing cuts, including those focused on serving restaurants and travel.

The waves of startup layoffs in the COVID-19 era hit companies large and small, impacting even the richest, most recently funded companies. It was a swift correction to staffing in an industry that had enjoyed a decade-long bull market and record private financing totals. Looking back, the pivot to fear appears brisk.

The market for startup talent has since improved, to a degree.

This morning, we’ll look at the pace and scale of startup layoffs, leaning on data provided to TechCrunch by Layoffs.fyi. We’ll also rope in information from a global startup survey executed by Paris’s Station F to better parse where the impacts have been starkest.

An improving picture

According to data from Layoffs.fyi, which tracks job cuts in the startup industry, the number of people laid off stayed aloft from March to April and into the first weeks of May. In contrast, the total number of companies cutting staff declined from early April through the end of May; fewer companies cut staff as time went along, then, but it appears that they made larger cuts.

Here’s the chart:

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Singapore’s micromobility startup Beam raises $26 million

Beam, a Singapore-headquartered micromobility firm that offers shared e-scooters, has raised $26 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in Korea, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.

Sequoia India and Hana Ventures led the two-and-a-half-year-old startup’s Series A financing round, while several more investors from Asia Pacific region including RTP Global, AppWorks, Right Click, Cherubic and RedBadge Pacific participated, Beam said. The startup has raised $32.4 million to date, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Beam, like Bounce and Yulu in India, offers electric scooters in the aforementioned five markets. Electric and gasoline scooters have become popular in several Asian nations and elsewhere as people look for alternative transportation mediums to move around faster and at less cost.

While these vehicles make inroads into various markets, it’s also not uncommon to find these scooters abandoned carelessly in the streets. Beam said unlike other startups, it incentivizes its riders through in-app offers to park the scooters at predetermined spots.

“I’m really excited about our new technology and its ability to reduce the problems associated with randomly scattered scooters around a city. This helps us to further improve our industry-leading vehicle retention rates, reduce operational costs, and most importantly, benefits communities by keeping city streets neater,” said Beam co-founder and chief executive Alan Jiang.

Beam, which did not disclose how many customers it has amassed, will use the fresh capital to grow its operational and engineering focus and grow deeper in its existing markets, it said. It will also “accelerate” the launch of its third-generation e-scooter, the Beam Saturn, which features swappable batteries, improved build, to more markets, it said.

Abheek Anand, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, said Beam’s collaboration with regulators, technology, and insights into the transportation landscape stand to give it an edge in the Asia Pacific region.

The startup’s fundraising comes at a time when many young firms, especially those operating in transportation category, in Asia are struggling to raise capital. Beam said it had implemented stringent cleaning and operations practices to limit the possibility of virus transmission to allay riders’ concern.


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Data Theorem releases full-stack security analyzer for modern web apps and cloud services

Data Theorem released a new full-stack security analyzer called Web Secure. It is designed to provide vulnerability analysis for modern web applications from the web layer down to its embedded APIs and cloud resources. 

According to the company, the analyzer was built for DevOps and security teams to improve web application security testing, and help identify and remediate potential data breaches in modern web applications, also known as Single-Page Applications (SPAs).

“The current generation of web security tools are poorly suited to address these newer application frameworks, APIs and cloud microservices that are the underpinnings of these modern applications,” Data Theorem stated in a post. “Data Theorem’s Web Secure was designed specifically to help customers secure their modern web applications.”

The solution contains a new type of dynamic and run-time analysis that is fully integrated into the CI/CD process, and enables organizations to conduct continuous, automated security inspection and remediation of their modern web applications. 

The new release also expands the SPA features the company released in September 2019 with several new automated hacking security toolkits that help customers understand the impact of vulnerabilities and exploits throughout the whole application stack. SPA SQL injection, SPA XSS protection and Toxic Tokens are among the vulnerabilities that Web Secure actively seeks to remediate. 

“By 2021, 90 percent of web-enabled applications will have more surface area for attack in the form of exposed APIs rather than the user interface, an increase from 40 percent in 2019. API discovery is key to knowing what APIs exist,” Gartner stated in a post. 

Data Theorem noticed organizations often turned to a variety of traditional tools, scanners and web crawlers for mobile applications and APIs, which has not kept pace with Agile SDLC speed. 

Web Secure helps to round out Data Theorem’s AppSec portfolio to protect organizations from data breaches with application security protection for modern web frameworks, API-driven microservices and cloud resources, according to the company. 

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Daily Crunch: IBM is getting out of facial recognition

IBM’s CEO takes a stand on mass surveillance, Apple may soon make a big chip announcement and Google Maps gets new features to help users navigate transit safely.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 9, 2020.

1. IBM ends all facial recognition business as CEO calls out bias and inequality

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced that the company would no longer sell facial recognition services, calling for a “national dialogue” on whether it should be used at all. He also voiced support for a new bill aiming to reduce police violence and increase accountability.

In a letter written in support of the Justice in Policing Act introduced, Krishna said, “IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency.”

2. Apple could reportedly announce Mac shift to its own ARM-based chips this month

For years now, analysts and unconfirmed reports have suggested Apple was working on transitioning its Mac line of computers away from Intel-based chips and to its own, ARM-based processors. Now, Bloomberg reports that the company could make those plans official as early as later this month.

3. Google Maps updated with COVID-19 info and related transit alerts

Google Maps is introducing a series of new features to better inform travelers and commuters about how their trip may be impacted by COVID-19 — including travel restrictions, COVID-19 checkpoints or even just the crowdedness of public transport.

4. DNAnexus raises $100M for a cloud-based analytics platform aimed at genomics and other clinical big data

The idea is to use the funding to continue building out the company’s research platform, particularly as research has boomed around the current coronavirus global health pandemic.

5. Enterprise investors remain flexible as they navigate COVID-19

We asked a number of enterprise investors if they have changed their approach in light of the pandemic and its knock-on economic impacts, how the current environment has changed their relationship with existing portfolio clients and how well those clients are coping with the new reality. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Walmart’s Flipkart rolls out voice assistant to make shopping easier

The AI-powered voice assistant currently supports the grocery category, called Supermart, but a company spokesperson told TechCrunch that Flipkart will soon be extending it to other verticals. The feature began rolling out to Android users today, and the company says it is working on bringing these capabilities to its iOS app.

7. The future ain’t what it used to be in first Bill & Ted Face the Music trailer

Finally, something to look forward to.

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


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Increasing Jakarta EE adoption indicates growing interest in cloud-native Java

Java developers are increasingly becoming interested in cloud-native Java, according to the findings of a new study from the Eclipse Foundation. The study also showed that there has been significant adoption of Jakarta EE 8. 

The 2020 Jakarta EE Developer Survey is based on responses from thousands of Java developers. There was a 19% increase in participation from 2019. 

According to the Eclipse Foundation’s data, the number of certifications for Full Platform Compatible Products for Jakarta EE has been greater in the past 8 months than certifications for Java EE were in over 2 years. 

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Is Java still relevant? 
Jakarta EE to focus on cloud native development

There has also been growing interest in the Jakarta EE community itself. “In addition to significant interest in Jakarta EE and the community’s progress toward Jakarta EE 9, the Eclipse Foundation is seeing record growth in membership, as we added more members in Q1 2020 than any time since our inception,” said Thabang Mashologu, vice president of marketing for the Eclipse Foundation. “This maps to the increased interest in the open source model worldwide.”

According to the survey, Jakarta EE was the second most popular cloud-native Java framework after Spring/Spring Boot, with 35% usage. In addition, Red Hat’s Quarkus, which is a Kubernetes-native Java framework, is now being used by 16% of developers, after being announced just last year. 

The report showed that interest in microservices by Java developers has actually decreased by 4% since last year. The Eclipse Foundation believes this might be due to developers realizing that microservices are not a “one size fits all” solution. Still, microservices remain the top architectural approach for implementing Java systems in the cloud, with 39% of developers considering them. There was also still an increase in the desire for better support for microservices in Jakarta EE. 

Interest in Eclipse Che is also growing. Eclipse Che is a Java-based cloud IDE for creating Kubernetes applications. Usage of Eclipse Che has risen to 11% this year, up from 4% in 2019. 

Finally, the organization found that Java 8 adoption has dropped from 84% in 2019 to 64% in 2020. This is thought to be an indication that Java 11 is replacing Java 8 at the default Java version. 

Along with the survey results, the Eclipse Foundation also released a preview of Jakarta EE 9. According to the Eclipse Foundation, this is a major milestone release and marks the completion of the transition from Java EE. It is also a critical step in the evolution of cloud native Java.

“The Jakarta EE 9 milestone is the first glimpse of a new era that introduces a new namespace that will give us the freedom to update specifications, introduce new features, add new technologies, and boost the pace of innovation,” said Cesar Hernandez, senior software engineer at Tomitribe, a member of the Eclipse Foundation. 

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