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Code/red: Fab Operators No Longer Standing By

Plus, debunking that August 8 Alibaba IPO date and more.

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  • WWDC continues, as does the deluge of “Guy With No Leadership Skills or Business Acumen: Tim Cook Must Do This Thing” headlines.
  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy holds a hearing on Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s location privacy bill.

Hello, You Have Somehow Reached Fab Customer Support. Where Did You Get This Number?

Dilapidated e-commerce darling Fab has had its share of cuts over the past year, sacking about 70 percent of its staff in a sad and seemingly endless conga line of layoffs. Here’s one more cut: The company’s customer service line. StellaService, a company that tracks the customer service performance of online retailers, started noticing on May 19 that Fab was not answering calls from its customers. Further investigation revealed that the company had pulled the number from its website, though it still answers emails from customers. For a company that purports to have a “smile guarantee,” the move seems a strange one — especially when you consider that Fab topped Stella’s phone support list in its category of retailers during February and March. But as Valleywag reports, the company may be undergoing the tough transition from existence to nonexistence. Fab says things are in flux. “We are testing different service level models, alongside merchandising and pricing strategies,” a company spokeswoman told Code/red. “We are 100 percent committed to Smiles Guaranteed and an amazing overall customer experience.”

That Rumored 8/8 Date for Alibaba’s IPO? Bah!

Bloomberg’s article positing August 8 as the day of Alibaba’s hotly anticipated initial public offering makes for a nice little story with its “ba”-means-“eight”-in-Chinese theorizing, but Code/red has discovered that day is not certain by any means. Sources say Alibaba has not decided on a date and, more importantly, an exchange. Add to this the fact that most bankers are off gallivanting in the Hamptons during late August, August 8 is a Friday in China, and the fact that SEC comment could delay the float, and August 8 seems far more unlikely than not.

Point/Counterpoint: Your Network Is a Pig vs. Stop Confusing Our (Buffering)

Netflix: “The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback.”

Verizon: “This is a PR stunt. We’re investigating this claim, but it seems misleading and could confuse people.”

But Are They Grateful? Nooo. They Just Want to Whine About Buses and Evictions.

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen: “Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products.”

More Crappy Cable Bundles Actually “Tremendous Consumer Benefits”

Regulators should bless AT&T’s proposed acquisition of DirecTV, because of the deal’s “tremendous consumer benefits.” This according to AT&T, for whom that phrase is not a synonym for lower prices, but a smug euphemism for service bundles. “First and foremost, the deal offers tremendous consumer benefits,” the company said in an SEC filing. “The combined company will have the ability to offer customers the option of bundling the DirecTV experience with integrated AT&T offers: Mobile, broadband or any number of other products. The ability to bundle a high-quality video product with other services outside of our current U-verse TV footprint creates a unique new competitor giving customers what they want — an integrated bundle of video, broadband, mobility and other services.”

HealthKit Would Like Some Apple Money Now, Please

HealthKit co-founder Alison Hardacre: “It is very flattering that they like our name, but I’m a little let down because how hard would it have been to spend five seconds to put into their browser and find us? Everybody worries that Google or Apple will come into their space and their business will die, but no one thinks that company will come into that space and use the same name!”

Um, You Left Out the Words “But Ineffective”

Interim Target board Chairwoman Roxanne Austin: “Under the board’s leadership and oversight, Target took significant action to address evolving cyber crime risks before the breach.”

Google, Apple Take Top Honors in China’s “Pawns of the Villain” Rankings

Remember a few years back when the House Intelligence Committee said that Huawei and ZTE were national security threats because of their loyalties to the Chinese government? Remember how Steve Kroft appeared on “60 Minutes” solemnly asking, “Do we trust the Chinese?” Well, these days the Chinese are asking the same question about the U.S. and its marquee tech companies. To wit, this front page story on China’s state-owned newspaper, The People’s Daily, lambasting Google, Apple and Yahoo as U.S. government pawns. “U.S. companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. are all coordinating with the PRISM program to monitor China,” the publication said. “To resist the naked Internet hegemony, we will draw up international regulations, and strengthen technology safeguards, but we will also severely punish the pawns of the villain. The priority is strengthening penalties and punishments, and for anyone who steals our information, even though they are far away, we shall punish them!”

Meanwhile, in Other “Resisting the Naked Internet Hegemony” News …

The Chinese government is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square by blocking access to Google. “This is by far the biggest attack on Google that’s ever taken place in China,” anti-censorship activist group told the New York Times. “Probably the only thing comparable is when the Chinese government first started blocking websites in the 1990s.”

Ah, That Timeless Nerd Crisis: Broken Glasses

Andy Greenberg, Wired: “Berlin artist Julian Oliver has written a simple program called that detects any Glass device attempting to connect to a Wi-Fi network based on a unique character string that he says he’s found in the MAC addresses of Google’s augmented reality headsets. … When it detects Glass, it uses the program Aircrack-NG to impersonate the network and send a “deauthorization” command, cutting the headset’s Wi-Fi connection. It can also emit a beep to signal the Glass-wearer’s presence to anyone nearby.”

And a Tobias Frere-Jones Font Would Probably Be the Perfect Substitute, Right?

Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones: “Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems have been gradually converging for some time. So it was inevitable that one typographic palette would displace the other. With OS X 10.10, Mac desktops will sport Helvetica everywhere. But I had really hoped it would be the other way around, with the iPhone taking a lesson from the desktop, and adopt Lucida Grande. Check the lock screen on your iPhone. You’ll see Helvetica there, a half-inch tall or larger, and it looks good. Problem is, there aren’t many other places where it looks as good.”

Yeah, Right

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan: “Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process. Twitter is what we analyze. This is real time stream analysis. The ability to detect sarcasm and false positives is just one of 16 or 18 things we are looking at. We are looking for the ability to quantify our social media outreach. We aren’t looking solely to detect sarcasm.”

Off Topic

Google Glass for Assassins and England vs. Peru: Victory by 3 Goals and a Paper Airplane.

Thanks for reading. Got a tip or a comment? Reach me at, @johnpaczkowski. Subscribe to the Code/red newsletter here.

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