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EU Commission: Apple must repay its $14.5b Irish tax break

The Commission says that because the deal gave Apple a "significant advantage" over its competition, the iPhone maker must now be prepared to pay back "illegal state aid" over the ten-year period before it began investigating its tax practices. Officials say that amount totals around €13 billion (from between 2003 and 2014) and that interest must also be accounted for. That could mean an additional €1-2 billion could be bolted onto that figure.

"Member States cannot give tax benefits to selected companies – this is illegal under EU state aid rules. The Commission's investigation concluded that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses over many years," says Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. "In fact, this selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 percent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 percent in 2014."

Apple and the Irish government will appeal the ruling. The company said the following in a statement:

The European Commission has launched an effort to rewrite Apple's history in Europe, ignore Ireland's tax laws and upend the international tax system in the process. The Commission's case is not about how much Apple pays in taxes, it's about which government collects the money. It will have a profound and harmful effect on investment and job creation in Europe.

Apple follows the law and pays all of the taxes we owe wherever we operate. We will appeal and we are confident the decision will be overturned.

The story began way back in 1991 when Apple signed a deal with the Irish government that enabled it to use a very specific type of tax loophole. This loophole was called a "double Irish" and, very simply, allowed Apple to split profits, paying almost nothing in the process. It's quite a successful system, and in 2014, Apple was able to stash two-thirds of its global income in this tax haven. While Apple is feeling the effects of the ruling, it was Ireland that arranged the illegal deal.

It's not just Europe that feels that Apple's tax affairs were shady, with Senator Carl Levin criticizing the company back in 2013. He wrote a lengthy report (.PDF) saying that Apple had negotiated an effective tax rate of less than two percent in Ireland. In the US, by comparison, it would have been expected to at least pay 15 percent.

But sweetheart deals are in violation with the principles of the free market, which the European Commission has sought to uphold. Countries are barred from offering secret handouts to give local players an unfair advantage over the competition. This is classified as "state aid," and is illegal in the eyes of the Commission.

In response to the ruling, Apple posted a Customer Letter titled "A Message to the Apple Community in Europe" to its website, in which Apple CEO Tim Cook detailed the company's investment and growing operations in Ireland. He also took time to comment on the ruling and how it may affect EU businesses doing business in the US:

"In Apple's case, nearly all of our research and development takes place in California, so the vast majority of our profits are taxed in the United States. European companies doing business in the U.S. are taxed according to the same principle. But the Commission is now calling to retroactively change those rules."

"Beyond the obvious targeting of Apple, the most profound and harmful effect of this ruling will be on investment and job creation in Europe. Using the Commission's theory, every company in Ireland and across Europe is suddenly at risk of being subjected to taxes under laws that never existed."

The US won't agree with the ruling, given that it feels that any tax Apple owes should go to the treasury. Tim Cook himself has said that he feels that where you "create value is the place where you are taxed." The implication being that the only place Apple should be on the hook for tax is in the US, even though much of that value is created in Foxconn's Chinese factories. But, then again, it's not as if the US currently benefits from Apple's largesse, either.

The company has been very open about the fact that it has roughly $230 billion stashed in overseas bank accounts that it refuses to repatriate. Cook justifies this by saying that the cost of returning money to the US is too high -- shaking out to a tax rate of almost 40 percent, or $92 billion. An investigation over at Forbes revealed that Apple recently hired a Washington lobby firm to push for a corporate tax holiday, even though such a program has been proven not to work.

Daniel Cooper contributed to this report.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/eu-commission-apple-tax-ireland/

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The compact Yuneec Breeze drone is built for 4K selfies

The Breeze comes with an app to let you control the flight, see a live stream, and take photos or video. Once the it's over, you can download them to your phone and post to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube Instagram or WhatsApp. It doesn't appear to break down in any way for easier transport (other than the folding propellers), but certainly looks small enough to throw in a backpack.

The selfie drone market is pretty small right now -- Ehang's GhostDrone 2 Aerial, for one, runs $600 with a 4K camera. Other models, like the Nixie and Hexo+, have yet to ship. That makes the $500 price tag for the Yuneec Breeze look pretty reasonable, and you can actually buy one starting today.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/the-compact-yuneec-breeze-drone-is-built-for-4k-selfies/

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Kim Dotcom will be allowed to stream his extradition appeal

Over the past few days, Dotcom and his lawyer Ira Rothken had argued that the hearing should be streamed as it was a "public interest" case. US officials tried to block the request, suggesting that it could reveal sensitive information and influence jurors. However, the New Zealand judge -- who had asked for opinions from other media and didn't receive any objections -- approved the petition, making it the first New Zealand court case to be streamed in its entirety when it appears on YouTube on Wednesday.

To appease the court, the video will be broadcast with a 20-minute delay. This will allow any evidence that has been suppressed by the court to be removed. Dotcom's lawyer is pleased: "It's very important that the entire world gets to see the courtroom," says Rothken. "The Internet isn't run by any one nation, so we thought the solution itself would come from the Internet."

Before it was seized, Megaupload was one of the web's most trafficked websites. Officials argue it earned Dotcom and his colleagues over $175 million and cost copyright owners more than $500 million. The defendants believe they can't be held responsible for the illegal actions of its users, an statement often used by torrent sites, but US officials have relentlessly pursued them in hope of a landmark copyright conviction.

Should Dotcom and his counterparts be found guilty, they could face lengthy prison sentences. But that hasn't fazed the German: he intends to launch a new version of Megaupload and a new digital currency later this year.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/kim-dotcom-stream-extradition-appeal/

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VMware won’t charge you to run a new OS in Fusion

Virtual machine software is theoretically a one-and-done purchase, but you know that's not how it works in practice. You typically end up buying an upgrade every year just to get the latest operating system support, whether it's in the virtual environment or your native OS of choice. You might not have to run on that treadmill this year, though. VMware is releasing free upgrades to Fusion (8.5 and 8.5 Pro) and Workstation (12.5 and 12.5 Pro) that support the latest and greatest platforms. The Linux, Mac and Windows versions of those programs can all run Windows 10 Anniversary Update and Windows Server 2016 in a virtual system, including multiple systems on Linux and Windows. On the Mac, Fusion will also take advantage of macOS Sierra features like Siri voice commands and tabbed windows.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/vmware-offers-rare-free-upgrade/

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Twitter’s promoted stickers invade UK feeds

Playing its part in the ongoing game of shameless social network feature copying, Twitter launched stickers for all users last month. These let you spice up your pictures with emoji and other cartoony overlays before posting them, and you can also search by sticker to see what others are doing with them. It took all of five minutes for Twitter to suck the fun out of the feature, though, as Pepsi became the first brand to shell out for promoted stickers. And now Brits can feature in quarterly ad revenue statistics, too, with the launch of promoted stickers in the UK.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/twitter-promoted-stickers-uk/

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Kwikset’s second-gen Kevo is ready to lock up your smart home

The UniKey-powered Kevo app allows homeowners to remotely manage door access, receive lock notifications and view activity history. The lock is engineered to work with a wide range of smart home products, and can be unlocked with either a smartphone, compatible wearables or a contactless key fob. Like its predecessor, the second-generation Kevo fits standard residential exterior doors, but the interior side now boasts a sleeker design that reduces some of the bulk. For anyone who doesn't consider themselves a locksmith, Kevo offers an in-app, interactive installation guide to help you with the setup, and the hardware comes with a lifetime warranty on the moving parts, a one-year warranty on the electronics and dedicated customer support.

The Kevo 2nd Gen is on sale now for $229 and comes in Satin Nickel, Venetian Bronze and Polished Brass finishes.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/kwikset-kevo-second-gen-smart-lock/

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Uber gives you ride discounts for shopping with a Visa card

Local Officers is initially launching in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it'll be available in stages. The first wave of stores are mostly eateries, such as Peet's Coffee, Barcito, PizzaRev and Uno Dos Tacos. You probably won't score many points quickly in the near future, unless you're fond of eating out. There's a good chance that the store list will expand, however, so you may soon get free rides on a regular basis.

Either way, it's a pretty shrewd move from both companies. Visa gives you a better reason to pull out your credit card instead of turning to debit or cash. Uber, meanwhile, might just get you to regularly depend on its service instead of competitors like Lyft.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/uber-local-offers-with-visa/

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The wireless FIIL Diva headphones are gorgeous but flaky

To get more out of the headphones it helps to download the FIIL+ app for iOS or Android. Oddly enough the app asks you to log in with a social media account. As I had no desire to let FIIL access my Facebook or Twitter accounts just to use a pair of headphones, I logged in as "guest." The app will automatically detect the headset and display important info like battery life right on the first screen, including playback and standby hours. The battery on the Diva is great: When fully charged the app was listing 30+ hours of music playback, and even after using the headset for three full workdays I still had 30% left in the battery.

The app is the only way to access the 3D sound feature, which simulates the experience of listening to music in different sized rooms. The biggest of these is "hall," which I guess is sort of like being at a concert. But I don't go to live performances because I crave a distant echoey sound to my favorite songs, so this feature really didn't appeal to me.

Standard music playback is bright and crisp, and I found myself noticing details I often miss when using my earbuds. I listened to the entirety of Arcade Fire's Funeral, and I was surprised how clearly I could hear the chimes I had never even noticed before against the more aggressive guitars and drums.

I also experimented with My AudioFiilter at the office and on the street, and found no measurable difference in audio quality. The voice prompt when you push the button should let you know which mode you're currently on, but the voice was too low, meaning that if I had music on I couldn't make out what was being said. Also, one of the recordings on my demo unit was still in Chinese. I figure this will be fixed in the final version, but it made figuring out which mode was active even harder.

There's also an opposite "Windy" mode that filters out wind noise; I tried this in a room with multiple fans and an AC and it screened out the sound quite well. But it won't help the constant pounding of your steps when you're walking or running, which felt more pronounced on the Diva than other headphones.

I eventually ignored these odd modes completely and stuck with the standard settings.

Outside of these audio tricks, the Diva is designed for convenience. That means the good battery life and the touch controls, but it especially applies to the voice control and motion sensing capabilities. The motion sensing is perhaps the marquee feature of the Diva headset. When you take the headphones off the music pauses, and when you put them back on the music should resume. It's a great idea: How many times have you taken headphones off and left the audio running because it took too long to fiddle with an app or find a tiny button? (The multifunction button on the Diva is pretty small.)

In practice, the motion-sensing is finicky. I would take the Diva off and put it down, only to find music still playing when I returned a few minutes later. It takes a little practice to get it right: The instructions say to pull the headphones apart when you take them off, but I also found it helped to snap my wrist a bit when I took them off, and to take them off quickly. If I took them off slowly and carefully, the Diva never really seemed to get the message. But if I was a little rough, the motion sensing was more likely to respond.

After some practice it became more reliable, but I can't say the same of putting the headphones back on. I tried pulling them, snapping them, praying; it didn't behave consistently and I often just used the multifunction button to turn them back on. I also had some issues with the music cutting out for no discernable reason, or skipping tracks. The problems were more likely to occur when I was walking around, which makes me think it might be an issue with the motion sensing in my demo unit.

Another thing that needs to work: The voice controls. In theory, I should have been able to say "Hey FIIL, play Arcade Fire," and it would play a track. I never got it to work. There was at least one instance where I was holding the Diva in my hand and I heard a voice say, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that." I was talking to my roommate at the time, and at no point did I say "FIIL" or even "hey" so I don't know what the headset thinks it heard.

The FIIL Diva promises a certain level from freedom: Not just from wires, but from fiddly controls and constant charging. And the potential is certainly there. Like its namesake, the Diva was lovely to look at and performed beautifully. But also like some real divas, it could be incredibly temperamental and unreliable.

If you want to try out some luxurious headphones and don't mind a few growing pains, the FIIL Diva is on Kickstarter today for an early bird price of $129, with a final retail value of $149.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/fiil-diva-headphones-hands-on/

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Intel’s 7th generation Core CPUs will devour 4K video

So just how good are these new batch of Core processors? How about a CPU utilization rate of around 5 percent and power usage of 0.5 watts on the new Core i7-7500U while playing local 4K video. That's compared to 40 to 70 percent CPU usage and a 10.2 watt power draw on its predecessor, the i7-6500U. And when playing 4K VP9-encoded video on YouTube, the new seventh generation i7 clocks in at 10 to 20 percent CPU usage while drawing 0.8 watts of power. The previous chip, on the other hand, ate up 70 to 80 percent of the CPU while taking up 5.8 watts of power.

Even as a computer geek, it's been hard to get excited over new processors over the last few years. Intel, for the most part, has focused on steadily improving its lineup instead of aiming for dramatic performance gains. (My fourth-generation quad-core desktop chip can still go toe-to-toe with sixth-gen offerings.) But when it comes to 4K, Intel has delivered an evolutionary upgrade. And while it might not sound that important yet, it sets the stage for laptops and desktops that need to drive the new video standard.

Specifically, Intel added hardware encoding and decoding capabilities for both 10-bit HEVC 4K video and 8 to 10-bit VP9 video. There's also HDR and wide color gamut support, but Intel says it's up to manufacturers to implement the two competing HDR standards, Dolby Vision and HDR10. On top of just letting you watch more 4K video, the new chips' encoding performance could be a huge deal for anyone editing media, with speeds between 1X and 3X real-time for 30FPS 4K.

Intel's seventh generation Core processors (codenamed "Kaby Lake") are basically a refined version of the company's Skylake design from last year. Once again, they're built on a 14 nanometer process, and they rely on Intel's Speed Boost feature, which pushes the chips to their maximum speed faster than previous generations. Unfortunately, the company isn't saying much about its seventh gen desktop lineup yet, but we'll hopefully hear details early next year.

The new laptop chips are divided into two groups: the "Y-series" for thin designs using up to 4.5 watts of power, and the "U" series for faster performance (or just about every other type of laptop). And while there's still a Core M3 processor in the new lineup, Intel has dumped the M5 and M7 models in exchange for the power efficient Y-series. Base clock speeds range between 2.4 GHz and 2.7 GHz for the U-series chips, with boost speeds up to 3.1GHz on the Core i5 and 3.5GHz on the Core i7. And for the more efficient Y-series, base speeds run between 1GHz and 1.3GHz, with larger boost figures between 2.6GHz and 3.6GHz.

When it comes to typical web browsing, Intel claims the new i7-7500U is 19 percent faster than the i7-6500U, while i7-7Y75 chip is 18 percent faster than the M7-6Y75, as measured by WebXPRT 2015. And when it comes to productivity, the company says the new CPUs are around 12 percent faster than their predecessors, based on SYSmark 2014 figures. Sure, they're not exactly exciting upgrades if you have a fairly new laptop, but if yours is getting long in the tooth, you'll definitely notice the difference. And while I didn't get any exact figures on battery life, you can expect some sort of improvement (especially when watching videos).

So what do these new chips mean for you? Basically, if you're in the market for a new laptop, it's worth waiting for new models featuring the seventh gen CPUs in September. And if you're planning to build or buy a new desktop, sit tight until January.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/intel-7th-generation-core-cpus/

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ICYMI: The US Government wants to limit big rig speeds

Meanwhile a doctor at University of California San Francisco found a way to apply 3D technology to existing CT scans, letting health practitioners select segments of a scan and turn tissue around to get a better look at formerly hidden sections.

If you're interested in geology, we recommend the full Ice Age decomposition video here. Those interested in our work towards living on Mars will want to know about the simulated mission on Hawaii now being at an end. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/30/icymi-the-us-government-wants-to-limit-big-rig-speeds/

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