Latest Microsoft Patch Breaks Windows 10 Desktop Search, Start Menu, Audio

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Microsoft’s efforts to tame the problems in Windows 10 1903 continue to backfire for the company. Earlier this month, we discussed how a cumulative update patch had broken Cortana and SearchUI functionality more generally, causing high CPU usage spikes and sometimes breaking Windows Desktop Search. On Tuesday, September 10, Microsoft distributed a new patch intended to resolve these problems.

That fix, KB4515384, is now confirmed to have its own set of problems. There are reports that Windows 10’s Start Menu may now stop working with one of two error messages, either: “We’ll try to fix it next time you log in,” or “Critical error — Your Start Menu isn’t working.” Meanwhile, Windows Desktop Search may continue to display blank results to any query.

KB-Update-Error

“Microsoft has received reports that some users are having issues related to the Start menu and Windows Desktop Search,” the company said. “We are presently investigating and will provide an update when more information is available”.

There are also reports of audio issues hitting this update as well. There are various reports of audio either missing from games or being drastically reduced. Windows Latest notes that one way to fix these problems is to reduce Windows Audio to 16-bit DVD quality. This can be done by clicking on the ‘Sound’ icon in Control Panel, clicking on your Speaker/Headphone solution to change its properties, navigating to the ‘Advanced’ tab, and selecting the 16-bit 48000 Hz (DVD Quality) option.

If none of that works, you can always uninstall the update.

And that’s where we are these days with Windows 10. The truth is, I don’t even know how big these issues are. That they exist is a given, but how many people are they impacting? I don’t feel as though Microsoft has created a more stable product with Windows 10 — I don’t trust updates not to screw things up — but is that actually what most people experience? The fact that Windows gets updated so much more often now makes it easier to track the various hiccups hitting the OS, but it doesn’t tell us how many people are being impacted by them.

At the same time, Microsoft continues to have some pretty objectively big issues, at least as far as how many people they impact. Not being fully compatible with Microsoft’s own Surface products is pretty embarrassing. Windows also shouldn’t need to block its own updates on systems with external storage solutions — we’d expect that kind of issue to be fixed before any update goes live.

Microsoft has made a lot of meaningful changes to how it approaches privacy in Windows 10 and those changes have generally been good. It collects less data now and has better explained what it does with what it collects. But the much-promised improvement to the OS update model? Hasn’t really happened, at least not to the degree they promised it would. There are still a lot of issues getting through the cracks that don’t seem as if they should be. I’m tired of using pithy images of used car salesman and poorly designed airplanes. Could you just fix the operating system?

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area of the screen. Just create a layout or choose one of the templates, and then hold Shift while dragging to drop windows into one of your custom zones — they’ll snap right into place. You can also choose to override the Windows Snap hotkey (Win + arrow) with FancyZones.

This is only the first release, and Microsoft plans to release a lot more tools. If the new PowerToys is anything like the old one, it may give us a glimpse at features that will come bundled in future Windows builds.

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Boston gets a new biotech accelerator with the launch of Petri – gpgmail

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As biotechnology becomes more central to new innovations in healthcare, material science, and manufacturing, one of the nation’s research hubs is getting a new accelerator called Petri to launch companies focused on the commercialization of new technologies.

Backed by the Boston-based venture capital firm, Pillar, Petri has a three-year $15 million commitment to back companies developing new biotech applications in food, healthcare, industrial chemicals, and new materials — along with the enabling technologies to bring these products to market.

“We’re at the inflection point where these technologies will impact and continue to impact health but will also  impact food, agriculture, chemicals and materials,” says Petri co-founder, Tony Kulesa. “Everything we touch has some element of biology.”

Pillar has already invested in a couple of companies that show the potential promise of new biotech research coming from Boston-based universities like Boston University, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Asimov,io, a company that has set an ultimate goal of designing new genomes for industrial applications, was co-founded by graduates from Boston University and MIT, and is a part of the Pillar portfolio. PathAi, a company working on enabling technologies for computational biology, also counts an MIT grad as a co-founder. Meanwhile, Harvard’s George Church has been instrumental in the development of a number of biotech companies working at the frontier of genetic applications for healthcare and manufacturing.

Kulesa, an instructor at MIT spent seven years at MIT watching, in his words, how engineering has transformed biology. “It became clear to me that these technologies need to get out in the world,” says Kulesa.

Joining Kulesa as a managing director is Brian Baynes, a serial entrepreneur who founded Midori Health, an animal nutrition startup; Kaleido Biosciences, a microbiome control focused company; Celexion, a protein engineering and synthetic biology company; and Codon Devices, a synthetic biology toolkit company which was sold to Ginkgo Bioworks .

Over time, Kulesa and Baynes expect to have 10 to 20 companies in each cohort as the program expands. In addition to checks of at least $250,000 the Petri accelerator has lab space for each company and office space available.

The companies also could benefit from potential partnerships with companies like Gingko Bioworks, which happens to share office space in the same building, and with the accelerator’s clutch of big-name advisors and “co-founders” recruited from across the life sciences industry.

These co-founders who collectively hold a double-digit equity stake in Petri’s accelerator include Reshma Shetty, from Ginkgo Bioworks; Emily Leproust of Twist Bioscience; Stan Lapidus who was at Exact Sciences and Cytyc; Daphne Koller, the co-founder and chief executive of Insitro; Alec Nielsen the founder Asimov; and researchers Chris Voigt of MIT, and Pam Silver and George Church from Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

Genetically engineered organisms are finding their way into everything from food to fuel to chemistry. Companies like Impossible Foods, which uses genetically modified soy product, has raised hundreds of millions for its protein replacement, while Solugen, a manufacturer of chemicals using genetically modified organisms, has raised tens of millions to commercialize its technology. And Ginkgo Bioworks has raised nearly half a billion dollars to pursue applications for industrial biology.

“Engineering thinking has arrived in biology and the number of entrepreneurs that are interested in this area has grown dramatically,” says Pillar founding partner, Jamie Goldstein, in a statement. “Unlike classic biotech, these ideas don’t require tens or hundreds of millions of before you can demonstrate value–creating the opportunity for different funding models.”

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WeWork and Uber are proof valuations are meaningless – gpgmail

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Hello and welcome back to Equity, gpgmail’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Kate and Alex were back to cover a lot of late-stage news, which they rounded up with some early-stage notes towards the end. As a reminder, come check out the show at Disrupt SF if you are in town, we’ll be out amongst startups, chatting all things startups and money.

Up top, we dug into WeWork and the latest from the company’s continuing IPO saga. The question regarding the co-working company’s public offering has changed to whether the IPO will happen this year, not just at what price the firm can entice enough investment to actually get public.

Alex has written about the company’s cash appetite a few times now, which raise the question of how long the company can survive without some sort of large, external investment. If SoftBank is willing to commit more capital is an open question.

Moving along to Uber, the firm underwent layoffs again this week. More than 400 people, or 8% of the operations, were cut as the company attempts to streamline operations, cut costs and, well, take baby steps toward profitability.

Turning to the early-stage part of the world, there’s a new early-stage-focused venture fund out there, Work Life Ventures, which intends to put small checks into promising SaaS companies. The firm is led by SaaS School founder Brianne Kimmel, a well-known angel investor in the enterprise space. So far she’s backed three companies out of the fund, including recent Y Combinator standout Tandem.

We finished off the episode with… cereal. A company called Magic Spoon (their website is here, as promised) raised $5.5 million this week for its D2C breakfast business. Our take is that the price point is a bit too high for comfort in its current iteration. It’ll be interesting to see if the startup can lower its prices now that it has new capital.

We’ll be back in a week! Chat soon, and please stop telling us to become angel investors!

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.



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Top 10 Cars, SUVs of the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show

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It’s a pity the world’s most important auto show is only held every other year. The Frankfurt Motor Show 2019 — IAA, or Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (International Auto Show) to the locals — had a laser focus on the future. In particular, all-out electrification, and the stepping-stones: hybrids, 48-volt hybrids, plug-in hybrids.

How big is the Frankfurt auto show? It’s CES times two. Messe Frankfurt comprises 12 buildings and 400,000 square meters of exhibition space, or 4.3 million square feet, equal to 75 football fields and end zones. The again-expanded Las Vegas Convention Center is now up to 2 million square feet of exhibit space. Here’s our take on the most important vehicles of this show of shows.

Yes, there are a lot of electrified cars in the slideshow. It’s not because we’re Tesla-Rivian-Leaf-Bolt EV-worshipping robots. It’s because that’s where the world, give or take the US, is headed: toward electrified vehicles with 2-3 times the energy efficiency as gasoline or diesel burned in a combustion engine.

Volkswagen, for instance, has said its last new internal combustion engine design will come out circa 2026. That doesn’t mean Vee-Dub is all-electric in 2027. Rather it means VW will drive into the future with existing combustion engines, and refinements, but no new engines. Recall that GM got half a century out of the small block Chevy V8 engine, 1954-2003.

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This game uses troll tactics to teach critical thinking – gpgmail

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The best medicine against online disinformation is an informed society that’s thinking critically. The problem is there are no shortcuts to universal education.

Enter Finnish Public Broadcasting Company, Yle, which is hoping to harness the engagement power of gamification to accelerate awareness and understanding of troll tactics and help more people spot malicious Internet fakes. It’s put together an online game, called Troll Factory, that lets you play at being, well, a hateful troll. Literally.

The game begins with a trigger warning that it uses “authentic social media content” that viewers may find disturbing. If you continue to play you’ll see examples of Islamophobic slogans and memes that have actually been spread on social media. So the trigger warning is definitely merited.

The game itself takes the form of a messaging app style conversation on a virtual smartphone in which you are tasked by the troll factory boss to whip up anti-immigrant sentiment. You do this by making choices about which messages to post online and the methods used to amplify distribution.

Online disinformation tactics intended to polarize public discourse which are depicted in the game include the seeding of conspiracy theory memes on social media; the exploitation of real news events to spread fake claims; microtargeting of hateful content at different demographics and platforms; and the use of paid bots to amplify propaganda so that hateful views appear more widely held than they really are.

After completing an inaugural week’s work in the troll factory the game displays a rating and shows how many shares and follows your dis-ops garnered. This is followed by contextual information on the influencing methods demonstrated — putting the activity you’ve just participated in into wider context.

Yle, which is a not-for-profit public service broadcaster with a remit to educate and inform, released a Finnish version of the troll factory game back in May but decided to follow up with this international version (in English) after the game got such a strong local reception, including being picked up by people in natsec and education to use as an educational resource, according to Jarno Koponen, head of AI & personalization, at Yle Uutiset News Lab.

“The initial response in Finland was so encouraging: Something like this is needed,” he told us. “Something that makes information operations tangible and visible. We believe that it’s our duty as a public broadcasting company to promote methods, in Finland and abroad, that help citizen’s to better understand our everyday digital environments from their own standing point.

“We want simultaneously to collect more feedback on what’s working in the game-like storytelling, in order to use those findings to develop better products in the future, and to share those finding with for example with other public broadcasting companies in the world.”

Koponen said the team also wanted to test a specific hypotheses about the power of games to debunk junk — after a recent Cambridge University study showed gamified methods work in fighting fake news.

“Based on our data, news articles or more traditional social media analysis doesn’t reach and thus have effect on people en masse,” he said, when asked why Yle chose a game wrapper for its anti-disinformation message, rather than a more traditional educational format such as a documentary film.

“Social media is in your pocket and goes wherever you go. The means to educate you about social media need to be in your pocket too. Especially young people are a hard audience to reach. Thus we need to actively develop new storytelling methods to provide for them nonpartisan information and insight about the world around us. We experimented with different forms from data visualisations to interactive simulations and found game-like experience being the most effectual and engaging.”

“We’ve so far collected direct feedback from our users in social media (from Twitter to Reddit) and on our website,” he added. “Some of the descriptive comments were: ‘This is horrible, but thanks for making us aware of this’ or ‘Scary but illuminating’. It was picked up in social media especially by people and organisations working with younger people from teachers to public libraries, as well as information security and national security professionals.”

Asked whether he thinks social media platforms should be doing more to clear bots and inauthentic content off their platforms, Koponen called for increased transparency from platforms but added that media literacy remains key to influencing how tech giants behave too.

We believe that more transparency is needed on behalf of the social media platforms. However, the more aware the citizen is, the better equipped she’s to decide on her own behalf what works and what doesn’t. We believe that promoting media literacy is key in having meaningful impact on the practices and policies of social media platforms.”

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Element AI raises $151M on a $600-700M valuation to help companies build and run AI solutions – gpgmail

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While tech giants like Google and Amazon build and invest in a multitude of artificial intelligence applications to grow their businesses, a startup has raised a big round of funding to help those that are not technology businesses by nature also jump into the AI fray.

Element AI, the very well-funded, well-connected Canadian startup that has built an AI systems integrator of sorts to help other companies develop and implement artificial intelligence solutions — an ‘Accenture’ for machine learning, neural network-based solutions, computer vision applications, and so on — is today announcing a further 200 million Canadian dollars ($151.3 million) in funding, money that it plans to use to commercialise more of its products, as well as to continue working on R&D, specifically working on new AI solutions.

“Operationalising AI is currently the industry’s toughest challenge, and few companies have been successful at taking proofs-of-concept out of the lab, imbedding them strategically in their operations, and delivering actual business impact,” said Element AI CEO Jean-François (JF) Gagné in a statement. “We are proud to be working with our new partners, who understand this challenge well, and to leverage each other’s expertise in taking AI solutions to market.”

The company did not disclose its valuation in the short statement announcing the funding, nor has it ever talked about it publicly, but PitchBook notes that as of its previous funding round of $102 million back in 2017, it had a post-money valuation of $300 million, a figure a source close to the company confirmed to me. From what I understand the valuation now is between $600 million and $700 million, a mark of how Element AI has grown that’s especially interesting, considering how quiet is has been.

The funding is being led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), along with participation from McKinsey & Company and its advanced analytics company QuantumBlack; and the Québec government. Previous investors DCVC (Data Collective), Hanwha Asset Management, BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada), Real Ventures and others also participated, with the total raised to date now at C$340 million ($257 million). Other strategic investors in the company have included Microsoft, NVIDIA and Intel.

Element AI was started under an interesting premise that goes something like this: AI is the next major transformational shift — not just in computing, but in how businesses operate. But not every business is a technology business by DNA, and that creates a digital divide of sorts between the companies that can identify a problem that can be fixed by AI and build/invest in the technology to do that; and those that cannot.

Element AI opened for business from the start as a kind of “AI shop” for the latter kinds of enterprises, to help them identify areas where they could build AI solutions to work better, and then build and implement those solutions. Today it offers products in insurance, financial services, manufacturing, logistics and retail — a list that is likely to get longer and deeper with this latest funding.

One catch about Element AI is that company has not been very forthcoming about its customer list up to now — those that have been named as partners include Bank of Canada and Gore Mutual, but there is a very notable absence of case studies or reference customers on its site.

However, from what we understand, this is more a by-product of the companies (both Element AI and its customers) wishing to keep involvement quiet for competitive and other reasons; and in fact there are apparently a number of large enterprises that are building and deploying long-term products working with the startup. We have also been told big investors in this latest round (specifically McKinsey) are bringing in customers of their own by way of this deal, expanding that list. Total bookings are a “significant double digit million number” at the moment.

“With this transaction, we are investing capital and expertise alongside partners who are ideally suited to transform Element AI into a company with a commercial focus that anticipates and creates AI products to address clients’ needs,” said Charles Émond, EVP and Head of Québec Investments and Global Strategic Planning at la Caisse, in a statement. CDPQ launched an AI Fund this year and this is coming out of that fund to help export more of the AI tech and IP that has been incubated and developed in the region. “Through this fund, la Caisse wants to actively contribute to build and strengthen Québec’s global presence in artificial intelligence.”

Management consultancies like McKinsey would be obvious competitors to Element AI, but in fact, they are turning out to be customer pipelines, as traditional system integrators also often lack the deeper expertise needed in newer areas of computing. (And that’s even considering that McKinsey itself has been investing in building its own capabilities, for example through its acquisition of the analytics firm QuantumBlack.

“For McKinsey, this investment is all about helping our clients to further unlock the potential of AI and Machine Learning to improve business performance,” said Patrick Lahaie, Senior Partner and Montreal Managing Partner for McKinsey & Company, in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating closely with the talented team at Element AI in Canada and globally in our shared objective to turn cutting-edge thinking and technology into AI assets which will transform a wide range of industries and sectors. This investment fits into McKinsey’s long-term AI strategy, including the 2015 acquisition of QuantumBlack, which has grown substantially since then and will spearhead the collaboration with Element AI on behalf of our Firm.”

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You can kickstart a new career in cloud computing with this Microsoft Azure training

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Cloud services and platforms are playing an increasingly important role in businesses spanning virtually every industry. Companies ranging from small startups to Fortune 500 conglomerates all rely on the cloud in order to innovate new products and reach more clients, and their reliance on these tools is growing every day.

The Essential Microsoft Azure Certification Bundle will get you up to speed with one of the world’s most powerful and relied-upon cloud platforms, and it’s available for over 95% off at just $29.99.

Featuring 30 hours of training, this bundle will introduce you to both the fundamentals and more advanced elements of this ubiquitous cloud computing tool.

You’ll learn how to use the Git control system in order to create three-stage workflows and repositories, how to build playbooks and manage an entire cloud region, how to configure network devices across both Windows and Linux operating systems and more.

There’s also instruction that teaches you how to create branches and track files in order to cut down on your work time and streamline your workflow.

Get the skills and certifications you need in order to succeed in a cloud-based world with the Essential Microsoft Azure Certification Bundle for just $29.99—over 95% off for a limited time.

Prices are subject to change.



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Titan’s Lakes May Have Been Formed By Underground Explosions, Not Erosion

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There are only two objects in the solar system with sustained pools of liquid on their surface: Earth and Titan. On Earth, we have a well-understood water cycle that keeps liquid water flowing on the surface of our planet. On Titan, the process is believed to be conceptually similar but based on liquid methane rather than water. There are signs that Titan has an alkanological cycle similar to the hydrological cycle on this planet. But how Titan actually got its lakes has been something of a mystery until now. Researchers are suggesting that the lakes may actually have formed as the result of explosions, not erosion.

Many of Titan’s lakes are what is known as Sharp Edged Depressions (SEDs). They have circular or irregular shapes that are generally not thought to be impact craters. On Earth, many of these types of lakes are karstic, meaning they form when liquid (water on Earth) undermines the geology beneath an area and it collapses, forming a depression that then fills. However, there aren’t many substances in Titan’s crust that are believed to be susceptible to dissolution in the first place. The organic material that rains out of Titan’s atmosphere and collects at the poles is insufficient to create an erodible organic sedimentary layer. The researchers write:

The presence of raised rims in SED basins undermines the karst lake model for SEDs with raised rims. According to the karst model, the lake basins on Titan should be produced as dolines formed by collapse, dissolution or subsidence of the terrain; such processes do not produce rims. While SEDs with raised rims are not formed by a karstic process, their presence in a karstic-like environment is not excluded.

The team has an alternate proposal for how the lakes may have formed — nitrogen bombs. On Earth, certain characteristic structures are produced by phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruptions. When seawater comes into contact with magma, the result can be a substantial steam explosion. Maars and other forms of tuff produced by this kind of explosion have characteristics that fit the observed characteristics of Titan’s lakes. We see that many Titan lakes have ramparts of material built up around them, and this could correspond to debris ejected from the newly formed crater as a result of a nitrogen explosion.

Titan-Lakes-Explosion

The theory isn’t perfect, because there’s not as much debris around the various lakes as might be expected on Earth — but this could be explained by differences in Titan’s natural composition and its planetary evolution. One theory is that at some point in the distant past, Titan’s atmosphere was dominated by nitrogen, not methane, and the moon was much colder. This could have been the case if the level of methane in Titan’s atmosphere was lower than it is today. As the amount of methane increased and the planet warmed, small temperature variations could have produced an extreme pressure rise in the nitrogen-dominated aquifers. There may even be evidence of this kind of event occurring on Neptune’s moon Triton during the Voyager 2 flyby.

Scientists are still studying the characteristics of Titan’s geology to determine whether this is a plausible hypothesis, but we could know more in fairly short order. The NASA Dragonfly mission to Titan is set to gather an unparalleled amount of information about this distant moon, shedding new light on its history and continued evolution.

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UK police arrest a number of climate activists planning Heathrow drone protest – gpgmail

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UK police have arrested a number of environmental activists affiliated with a group which announced  last month that it would use drones to try to ground flights at the country’s busiest airport.

The group, which calls itself Heathrow Pause, is protesting against the government decision to green light a third runway at the airport.

In a press release published today about an operation at Heathrow Airport, London’s Met Police said it has arrested nine people since yesterday in relation to the planned drone protest which had been due to commence early this morning.

Heathrow Pause suggested it had up to 200 people willing to volunteer to fly toy drones a few feet off the ground within a 5km drone ‘no fly’ zone around the airport — an act that would technically be in breach of UK laws on drone flights, although the group said it would only use small drones, flown at head height and not within flight paths. It also clearly communicated its intentions to the police and airport well in advance of the protest.

“Three women and six men aged between their 20s and the 60s have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance,” the Met Police said today.

“Four of the men and the three women were arrested yesterday, Thursday, 12 September, in Bethnal Green, Haringey and Wandsworth, in response to proposed plans for illegal drone use near Heathrow Airport.

“They were taken into custody at a London police station.”

The statement says a further two men were arrested this morning within the perimeter of Heathrow Airport on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a public nuisance — though it’s not clear whether they are affiliated with Heathrow Pause.

Videos of confirmed members of the group being arrested by police prior to the planned Heathrow Pause action have been circulating on social media.

In an update on its Twitter feed this morning Heathrow Pause says there have been 10 arrests so far.

It also claims to have made one successful flight, and says two earlier drone flight attempts were thwarted by signal jamming technology.

More flights are planned today, it adds.

A spokeswoman for Heathrow told us there has been no disruption to flights so far today.

In a statement the airport said: “Heathrow’s runways and taxiways remain open and fully operational despite attempts to disrupt the airport through the illegal use of drones in protest nearby. We will continue to work with the authorities to carry out dynamic risk assessment programmes and keep our passengers flying safely on their journeys today.”

“We agree with the need for climate change action but illegal protest activity designed with the intention of disrupting thousands of people, is not the answer. The answer to climate change is in constructive engagement and working together to address the issue, something that Heathrow remains strongly committed to do,” it added.

We’ve asked the airport to confirm whether signal jamming counter-drone technology is being used to try to prevent the protest.

The Met Police said a dispersal order under Section 34 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 has been implemented in the area surrounding Heathrow Airport today.

“It will be in place for approximately 48 hours, commencing at 04:30hrs on Friday, 13 September,” it writes. “The order has been implemented to prevent criminal activity which poses a significant safety and security risk to the airport.”



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India’s OkCredit raises $67M to help small merchants digitize their bookkeeping – gpgmail

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OKCredit, a Bangalore-based startup that enables small merchants to turn their bookkeeping digital, has raised $67 million to expand its business in the nation.

The Series B financing round for the two-year-old startup was led by Lightspeed and Tiger Global. The new round, which follows Series A financing round in June this year, climbs OkCredit’s total raise to $87 million.

OkCredit operates an eponymous mobile app that allows merchants to keep track of their day-to-day purchases and sales. Last month, startup founders told gpgmail that the app had amassed over 5 million active merchants across 2,000 cities in India.

More to follow…

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