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    Fix, or Toss? The Right to Repair Movement Gains Ground – The New York Times - October 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Extending the life of a product even relatively briefly can have significant benefits, according to Nathan Proctor, who leads the right-to-repair campaign at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer advocacy group. If Americans would extend the life of their cellphones by one year, for instance, it would be the climate-saving equivalent of taking 636,000 cars off the road, or about the amount of passenger vehicles registered in the state of New Mexico.

    Right to repair advocates like Ms. Gordon-Byrne and Mr. Proctor highlight recent strides in the automotive industry. In next months election, Massachusetts will have a question on the ballot designed to ensure that drivers will continue to be able to have local repair shops not just authorized dealers work on their cars as they become more automated and manufacturers control access to that data.

    That measure is designed to build on a 2012 bill in the state that required carmakers to provide independent repair shops with access to the diagnostic tools that had been available only to dealerships.

    The new measure, known as Question 1 on the ballot, has met resistance.

    If Question 1 passes in Massachusetts, anyone could access the most personal data stored in your vehicle, says the narrator in one advertisement. The campaign against the measure talks about the risks of hacking, identity theft and cyberstalking as part of a multimillion-dollar advertising spend by a group called Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, a manufacturer-backed organization that is fighting the question in November.

    Conor Yunits, a spokesman for the coalition, said it sees the new measure as unnecessary: Massachusetts is already the only state that has a right to repair law on the books. The technology they care about telematics is already covered by the existing law. In our view, this is an attempt by national auto parts chains to get access to more consumer data.

    Manufacturers have considerable influence over the standards to which their products are made, said Mark Schaffer, a consultant on the life cycle of electronics. According to a 2017 report that he wrote, thats because major manufacturers sit on the panels that set guidelines for things like environmental impact. As a result, he said, tougher standards can be difficult to achieve.

    As a whole, the industry needs to raise the floor on repairability, Mr. Schaffer said. Thats probably not going to happen until there is a legal requirement at a state or at a national level.

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    Fix, or Toss? The Right to Repair Movement Gains Ground - The New York Times

    Single-Family Rental Neighborhoods Are Hot in the Twin Cities Right Now – Motley Fool - October 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Neighborhoods of single-family homes that don't allow renters are nothing new. But do you know what is? Neighborhoods of single-family homes that only allow renters -- that's what. In a table-turning sort of way, Minneapolis' Twin Cities are seeing a new trend: single-family rental neighborhoods, otherwise known as "built-for-rent" or "built-to-rent" housing. Is there something to this?

    Single-family rental neighborhoods, like those currently being built in the Twin Cities' suburban areas, are upscale homes that rent for between $2,000 and $4,000 a month (or more). The homes range from 1,500 square feet to over 3,000 square feet and come with all the latest accouterments, such as keyless entry, front-door cameras, and smart-home features.

    The neighborhoods offer plenty of amenities as well, such as walking trails, clubhouses, swimming pools, and dog parks. But the main attraction for many residents is a maintenance-free lifestyle. Rent includes lawn care, snow plowing, and appliance repair, all of which is generally handled by a property management company.

    The Twin Cities area, as of October 2020, has one single-family rental community of 66 homes already built, and this neighborhood was completely rented out in a matter of months. Plans from the developer, Watermark Equity Group, are to build two more of these neighborhoods in the Twin Cities area, one with 58 homes and the other with 81 homes.

    The built-to-rent concept might be new for the Twin Cities, but the Phoenix area has seen these types of developments since 2014. Phoenix now has 11 single-family rental neighborhoods, all by developer NexMetro. This builder features rental home communities with one-, two-, three-, and sometimes four-bedroom homes, some attached and some detached, but all with upscale features such as cathedral ceilings, private yards, quartz countertops, and hardwood floors. Plans are to expand this single-family rental model to other areas of the country.

    Most people who are interested in the built-to-rent community would probably be candidates for a luxury apartment building that features all the latest amenities. The problem many people have with apartment living, however, is the shared wall aspect. Single-family rental neighborhoods provide residents with a detached home and with all the convenience features of apartment living.

    1. Young professionals who relocate frequently for work. In the Twin Cities area, for example, a cluster of Fortune 500 companies fuels the trend for single-family rental neighborhoods.

    2. Empty nesters. This group typically can afford to buy but chooses to rent, preferring a lifestyle that doesn't involve home maintenance.

    3. Single people or people who recently divorced. Renting provides the freedom to easily relocate if need be.

    4. Newly married young couples. Not sure how they want to settle down just yet, this group wants to test the lifestyle of living in a single-family home in the suburbs before committing to it.

    The experiment with single-family rental neighborhoods is proving to be a success, as the model is a win for both residents and owners. What's been happening with these developments is builders/developers build the single-family rental neighborhoods, get a property manager to manage them, and then -- after all the homes are rented -- the builder typically sells the entire community to a real estate investment trust (REIT) or a huge rental operator like Invitation Homes.

    Renewals are more likely. Renters tend to view these homes as long-term commitments more than renters of typical rental units usually do, partly because the homes in build-to-rent communities are built and designed the same way as typical subdivisions are, giving them a more permanent feel.

    Higher rent growth. Rent raises tend to outperform those of typical rental units. NexMetro's Avilla neighborhoods in Phoenix have experienced rent increases between 6% and 11%, compared with between 1.6% and 5.4% for apartment rentals nationwide.

    Pride in home and community. Because people tend to view single-family rental homes as long-term commitments, they tend to care more about the home and the neighborhood than renters in typical rental units generally do. This isn't to say that renters as a whole don't care about their rental units or the neighborhood, but people who plan to live in an area for a longer term tend to act more like homeowners who have a greater stake in their homes and community.

    Expect to see more built-to-rent neighborhoods in the future. Home builders Lennar (Lennar Corporation (NYSE: LEN)), JMC Homes, Camillo Properties, and AHV Communities are all planning to build single-family rental neighborhoods across the nation.

    But let's hope these communities are managed better than what happened post-2008 recession. The huge conglomerates that bought foreclosed homes earned a poor reputation based on neglectful maintenance practices, high rent hikes, and excessive late fees. If you like to follow trends, this is one to watch.

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    Single-Family Rental Neighborhoods Are Hot in the Twin Cities Right Now - Motley Fool

    How to buy the best patio heater – Business Insider – Business Insider - October 24, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder


    Matthew Griffith, prevention section chief with the Montreal Fire Department, said shoppers should look for patio heaters with certifications from the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC). These independent certification bodies test and ensure various appliances meet specific safety standards. Griffith said a lot of inexpensive products don't have these safety certifications, which can be quite expensive for brands to obtain."There's a reason why one company can sell it at half the price," he said. Though a product with safety certifications often costs more, Griffith said it's important to prioritize safety over price.

    You're buying a patio heater to keep warm when it gets cold, so heat output should be a key consideration. Most manufacturers list heat output in British thermal units (Btu) and estimate the square footage a heater can handle in ideal conditions. The higher the Btu of a heater, the more heat it will produce and the larger an area it will cover.

    You can estimate the Btu you need to heat your outdoor area by multiplying the cubic footage of the space by your desired temperature increase. My patio is about 1,500 cubic feet (assuming a height of around 5 feet I'm short, so I don't need to heat the air too far above my head), and if I want to hang out outside in the fall when it's 50 degrees outside, I'll probably want to raise the temperature by at least 10 degrees. That means I'll need a heater that puts out at least 15,000 Btu. Bigger spaces or colder climates will require more Btu to heat comfortably.

    If you live in a colder area or are looking to entertain guests, we recommend looking for a heater that produces 40,000 Btu or more, which is enough to heat around 2,000 square feet comfortably. Dome or pyramid-shaped heaters are typically larger and have a higher Btu output, so they can usually heat a larger area than tabletop patio heaters. These tall patio heaters are often seen at restaurants because they can keep a large number of guests comfortable at one time. Thomas Bonfiglio, CEO and founder of Triple T Hospitality, said that the high heat output is one of the reasons he chose pyramid and dome-top heaters for his New York and New Jersey restaurants. "Diners who may still not be comfortable eating inside anywhere can have a pleasant experience outside for many months," Bonfiglio said.

    Propane-powered heaters typically produce more heat than electric heaters because they aren't limited by the circuit system of your home. That, of course, means there are some additional safety considerations for propane heaters, since they won't shut off automatically like an electric heater will when a circuit is overloaded. You can read more about safety considerations in the section below.

    The majority of propane patio heaters are compatible with standard 15-20 pound propane tanks, but some portable versions work with smaller, 16 ounce canisters. You'll have to buy propane tanks separately from the heater, as you would for a gas-powered outdoor fireplace or grill. Fortunately, small and large propane tanks are readily available at most hardware stores; it typically costs about $20 to $25 to refill or buy a 20 pound propane tank at Home Depot.

    How much gas your patio heater uses depends on its heat output, what setting you're using, and the surrounding air temperature (the colder it is, the more gas you'll use to heat the area). Amerigas says that you can expect to generate 22,000 Btu per hour for each pound of propane. So if you have a 40,000 Btu patio heater, it'll burn through about 2 pounds of propane every hour you're operating it on its highest setting. Patio heaters guzzle a lot of propane, so I always like to keep an extra tank on hand, since I have multiple outdoor gas-powered appliances like a grill and an outdoor fireplace.

    Electric heaters are usually cheaper and safer to operate because they produce less heat. They also don't require regular trips to the hardware store for fuel refills. But the heat isn't very powerful or far-reaching if you're looking to keep a crowd warm.

    If aesthetics are important to you, keep in mind that electric and propane heaters give off different types of light. Gas-powered patio heaters create actual flames, which produce a natural, fireplace-like glow. Bonfiglio said he settled on gas models for his restaurant because of their ability to evenly diffuse heat without adding unnecessary bright light.

    Bonfiglio also chose patio heaters with controls that are high up and out of reach to customers, which keeps diners safe and the atmosphere consistent. If your household has children, pets, or fidgety adults who like to play with controls, you might also consider a patio heater with out-of-reach controls to prevent any accidents. Most tall, freestanding patio heaters naturally have controls that are high up. My AmazonBasics patio heater has controls so high that I need to stand on my tippy toes to reach them.

    On the flip side, if you don't have any wayward hands in your home, you might find it a pain to break out the step ladder every time you want to turn on your patio heater. Some models come with remote controls for easier operation, or you may opt for a tabletop unit.

    Experts told us you can store most propane heaters outside all year round. Just add a cover to prevent unnecessary wear and tear during rainstorms and cold winter months. We recommend choosing a model with wheels if you're opting for a standalone unit like a dome-top or pyramid heater, so that it's easy to wheel out of the way when not in use. If storing a portable patio heater indoors, remove the propane attachment before doing so.

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    How to buy the best patio heater - Business Insider - Business Insider

    Looking for local appliance repair? Why you can’t always trust what you find on Google Maps – - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    If your washing machine is on the blink and you're looking for appliance repair, be wary new evidence reveals that you can't always trust Google when it comes to finding a reliable local appliance repair person.

    A months-long investigation by CBC's Marketplace found questionable business practices such as fake Google Maps addresses and bogus company names are plaguing the appliance repair industry.

    In some areas, as many as 50 per cent of the local appliance repair companies returned in a Google Maps search appeared to be fake. Fake company names and locations change all the time, so a phoney company listing that appears on Google Maps one day may be gone the next, the investigation found.

    "I think it's unethical, and I think as a customer you deserve to know who you are dealing with you shouldn't have to be second-guessing," said Joseph Renaud, an Ajax, Ont., resident who unwittingly called a fake local company when trying to fix his tenant's appliance.

    Marketplace uncovered similar tactics during an investigation of the locksmith industry earlier this year.

    And now Marketplace has learned the owners of one company, Omega Appliance, appear to be linked to fake appliance repair and locksmith listings popping up in major cities and towns across Canada.

    The owners of Omega Appliance refused an interview, but through their lawyer they told Marketplace that "Omega has never created its own fake locations since those are part and parcel of the external professional corporations' services in promoting Omega and advertising its services."

    Experts in online searching question why Google hasn't been doing more to combat fraudulent map listings.

    "I think it decreases consumer trust in how to find businesses," said Mike Blumenthal, an American search engine consultant and Google Maps local search expert. "It is well within Google's capability to aggressively monitor and shut down fake businesses."

    When Renaud went to fix his tenant's stove earlier this summer, he reached out to Ajax Appliance Repair, thinking it was a local company located a few minutes' drive away in his community just east of Toronto.

    "Their name came up [in a Google Maps search] and they had really good reviews," he said.

    WATCH | During its investigation, Marketplace also tracked down where all those missing socks go.

    Renaud called and booked an appointment after he was told the initial service fee was $75. When the technician arrived, he said the problem was the bake element, and Renaud was quoted about $400 for the part and labour.

    "Something just didn't seem right I just thought, 'This sounds like way too much,' " Renaud said.

    While he took some time to think about it, the company emailed him the quote and he noticed it came from a different firm altogether, Omega Appliance.

    When Renaud told them he had contacted Ajax Appliance Repair and not Omega Appliance, the Omega employee responded: "Ajax Appliance Repair is Omega Appliance."

    Renaud discovered that Omega Appliance is based in Concord, Ont., about 50 kilometres from Ajax,and has poor reviews and complaints about it lodged with the Better Business Bureau.

    He found reviews about confusing business names, expensive repairs and appliances breaking down shortly after being repaired by a technician.

    On the HomeStars website, which calls itself "Canada's largest network of verified and community-reviewed home service professionals," Omega Appliance has negative customer reviews averaging a 0.7 rating out of 10.

    Ajax Appliance Repair, with many five-star positive reviews, does not exist. When Marketplace visited the location given on the Google Maps listing, they found that the address is a strip mall.

    Renaud told an Omega employee that if he had known he was using Omega Appliance, he would not have agreed to a service call.

    "It seems very odd to me that they would use a fake address and say they are local," Renaud told Marketplace in an interview, "and there's no physical store at all."

    Renaud said he felt misled and that "there was a discord between what they were advertising and actually what was showing up at the property."

    The Marketplace investigation has determined, through an analysis of listings on Google Maps and interviews with individuals who have knowledge of the company's business practices, that Omega Appliances seems to be the main company behind most fake appliance repair companies located around Toronto, southern Ontario and even across Canada.

    Many of the calls made to fake Google Maps appliance repair companies lead to one call centre in Concord that is owned and operated by Eran Gurvich and Ilay Avnin, who also own FC Locksmith, a locksmith company.

    FC Locksmith was featured in a Marketplace investigation in January 2020 that linked that company to more than 80 fake Google Maps locksmith addresses and reviews in the Greater Toronto Area.

    Gurvich and Avnin refused repeated interview requests, and responded to Marketplace via their lawyer, Jonathan Weingarten, who said his clients' companies do not create their "own fake locations" since those are "part and parcel of the external professional corporations' services" hired to promote Omega and advertise its services.

    Marketplace has found that Omega Appliance uses fake company names and locations as a means of advertising and marketing for its own Concord-based appliance company, Omega Appliance, just as it did with its other company, FC Locksmith.

    An Omega employee told Renaud via email that "we service different areas and advertise with the area name and local number."

    In a podcast on wealth management, Gurvich discusses FC Locksmith's advertising techniques and its growth into appliance repair.

    "We had no idea what we were doing. And all of a sudden, we found a formula, and from there, it was kind of a copy/paste."

    Gurvich said the formula that they found"in terms of the advertising, is suitable mainly for mobile services ... now it was easier to get bigger. And naturally, soon enough, we started to touch some other industries: appliances repair services, garage door services."

    Outside Ontario, the company acts as advertisers for local companies, Gurvich said."We have established local companies that can execute the work for us, and we act as ... advertising."

    The phoney appliance repair companies always appear to be "nearby" the customer in a Google Maps search. In Toronto, they use local location names such as Upper Beaches Appliance Repair, Leslieville Appliance Repair and Yonge and Lawrence Appliance Repair. In Calgary, one of the company names they use is Evergreen Appliance Repair. And in B.C., one of the locations is named Surrey Appliance Repair Pros.

    The Google Maps address for the Yonge and Lawrence Appliance Repair is actually a Starbucks coffee shop.

    In Calgary, the address for Evergreen Appliance Repair is a Shoppers Drug Mart. Surrey Appliance Repair Pros is a Scotiabank in Surrey, B.C.

    When Marketplace called in Upper Beaches Appliance Repair and Leslieville Appliance Repair for an appliance repair, an Omega technician came to the door.

    WATCH | How one companyis linked to a network of fake locations and names on Google Maps:

    Upper Beaches Appliance Repair used the address of a local jewellery store. Leslieville Appliance Repair is a Food Basics grocery store.

    With fake company names and locations changing all the time, consumers may see different results in Google Maps every time they search.

    Weingarten, a lawyer based in Maple, Ont., said Omega Appliance hires outside companies to promote its services online, just as it did with locksmith locations.

    "Omega has never created ... its own fake locations since those are part and parcel of the external professional corporations' services in promoting Omega and advertising its services," he said via email.

    WATCH | How some firmsuse fake reviews to lure you in:

    Weingarten did not provide the name of any external professional corporation used by Omega Appliance and FC Locksmith.

    "Most of the locksmith and appliance services around the world are mobile and not done in a specific store," he said. "Therefore, the true relevance of quality of service to clients is not the location of the business but the location of the service, which is at the clientele homes, all performed by local professionals."

    As for customer complaints, he said they are treated with respect and "on many occasions, even when the complaint is found to be unjustified, the customer is fully refunded the cost of the services."

    Mike Blumenthal, an Olean, N.Y.- based Google Maps local search expert and consultant, warned in the previous Marketplace investigation that fake listings are prevalent in the appliance repair, locksmith and garage-door repair industries.

    Blumenthal said that, in some markets, as many as 85 per cent of local Google home services listings could be fake.

    The practice appears to create an illusion of competition that he said causes harm on many levels.

    "Why would Google leave up fake listings?"

    "Google thinks that they're not seen very often and in the aggregate, they're not," Blumenthal said, "but the reality is that Google has 95 per cent of local searches" and that affects a lot of people, looking for local services.

    "Google is not doing their job," he said.

    Google's failure to invest more resources in fighting fake listings hurts consumers, local businesses and ultimately, Blumenthal said, trust in Google itself.

    While Google does have rules regarding fraudulent listings, Canada's regulations have not yet caught up.

    Marie-Christine Vzina, senior communications adviser for the federal Competition Bureau, said while there is nothing in the Competition Act specifically regarding fake online company names and locations, "the Competition Act prohibits anyone from making materially false or misleading claims to promote a product or business interest."

    Vzina said the bureau encourages anyone who suspects deceptive marketing activities to file a complaint via the bureau's online form, as "ensuring truth in advertising in Canada's digital economy is a priority for the bureau."

    When the bureau receives a complaint, the information is examined to determine whether an investigation should be launched.There are two potential enforcement routes under the act to address false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices: the civil or criminal courts.

    Under the criminalcourt system, there is a potential penalty of a fine of up to $200,000 or a jail sentence of up to one year.

    In thecivil route, the court could order a person to cease the activity, publish a notice and/or pay a monetary penalty. For thefirst occurrence, an individual could be liable for a penalty of up to $750,000, while a corporation could be liable for a penalty of up to $10 million.

    Google told Marketplace it takes fake business locations very seriously, monitors closely for scams and fake listings will be removed.After Marketplace alerted Google to the fake locksmith locations we discovered, it seems Google took action most fake locksmith listings no longer appear in Google Maps.

    A Google Canada spokesperson said: "In response to the issue reported to us, we are now auditing all appliance repair listings created in Canada and are in the process of removing any that we find to be fraudulent."

    While some fake appliance repair listings have already been removed since Marketplace alerted Google, they will often pop up again, sometimes under different names or using different addresses.

    All this leaves consumers somewhat on their own when trying to find a reliable local appliance repair service.

    Blumenthal said that until Google figures out a way to stop fake listings for good, the best way to find a local business or service is to get advice from others you trust, via word of mouth and neighbourhood or community social groups.

    1. Check the address. If the business is not at the address provided on Google Maps, you may find a vacant lot, grocery store, drugstore or even a parking lot.

    2. Do you see only glowing five-star Google reviews? It could be a sign that these are fake reviews, and a fake location and company.

    3. If you see reviews where users claim the business is fake, misleading or not at that address, it might be a fake location listing.

    4. If you suspect a fake listing or company location, alert Google.

    1. Open the business's Google Maps profile

    2. Scroll down and click or tap "Suggest an edit."

    3. Select whether you're looking to change details or request a removal.

    4. Fill out the form and click "Submit."

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    Looking for local appliance repair? Why you can't always trust what you find on Google Maps -

    Question 1 Is About Much More Than Car Repair. Its A Civil And Consumer Rights Issue – WBUR - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Imagine this scene from a not-distant future: youre driving in your new car and hear a loud bang. Immediately your vehicle starts pulling sharply to the right and you hear a distinctive flapping sound of rubber hitting pavement. Youve blown a tire!

    Fortunately, you have a spare. You pull over, put the car up on a jack and safely install the tire. But when you get behind the wheel to drive away, your car wont start. A flashing light on the cars digital display tells you that it cant recognize the tire youve installed. Your vehicle informs you that you are required to use dealer approved tires installed by a licensed roadside technician. Youre instructed to call your dealers premium roadside service, where you learn that you need to upgrade to premium support and that the soonest a roadside service technician can get to you is in two hours.

    Creepy, right? But what should really scare you is knowing that the technology to make this dystopian future real already exists and is already installed on modern vehicles.

    Digital rights management (DRM) of the kind Microsoft and Sony use to keep pirated games from running on their gaming consoles is part and parcel of modern vehicles, as well. Today, it isnt used to prevent owners from putting non-manufacturer approved parts on their vehicles but it easily could be.

    If youre thinking to yourself no way, Id advise you to visit farm country, where small family farms are engaged at this moment in a struggle for their economic survival with multi-billion dollar equipment makers like John Deere and Caterpillar.

    Question 1 is a pro-consumer ballot measure that will give car owners and independent repair shops access to wireless maintenance data needed to service and repair modern vehicles.

    Absent an equivalent right to repair law covering farm equipment, those companies have engineered their tractors, combine harvesters and other equipment to work in just this way. Today, many farmers are locked out of their own equipment. Software forces them to pay exorbitant costs for repair and servicing of their own property by exclusively dealer authorized service technicians.

    Or, consider smart home appliances. As this story by VICE indicates: GEs newer refrigerators have RFID sensors that monitor whether owners have installed GE branded replacement water filters. The GE filters, which sell for two- to three times the price of generic filters, contain an RFID tag that makes sure theyre accepted by the fridge. Non-GE filters arent recognized, disabling the refrigerators water filtration or degrading the refrigerators operation by disabling filter health monitoring or displaying warning messages.

    These examples bring us back to why Question 1 and why the right to repair measure may be the most consequential issue youre asked to vote on this year.

    Question 1 is a pro-consumer ballot measure that will give car owners and independent repair shops access to wireless maintenance data needed to service and repair modern vehicles. If passed, it will close a loophole in an existing state law that requires automakers to make data needed for purposes of maintenance, diagnostics and repair available in a standard format to vehicle owners. That law, passed in 2013, included an exception for so-called telematics data that is transmitted wirelessly, rather than via a wired connection to a data port located under the dashboard.

    Seven years later, many new vehicles use the wireless telematics systems to transmit maintenance and repair data. The cars cellular internet connection bypasses the repair shop computers, talking directly to cloud-based servers operated by the automakers. Question 1 simply requires automakers to provide vehicle owners with a standard web-based platform to access those maintenance clouds.

    No big deal, right? Theres nothing extreme or dangerous about the idea that mechanical data shared via a wired connection to a computer in a repair shop should also be accessible wirelessly. Thats why automakers are anxious to change the subject. The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, a group funded by automakers, has blanketed TV and radio in Massachusetts with ads warning that Question 1 will give cyber stalkers and burglars the keys to your car and even your home.

    These warnings about cyberstalking are misleading and have little basis in fact.

    A group I founded, SecuRepairs, represents close to 200 of the worlds top information security experts. Weve been vocal in our support of Question 1 and are encouraging voters to look past auto industry scare tactics. In our professional opinions, this simple expansion to the states right to repair law does not increase the risk of identity theft, cyberstalking or vehicle hacking.

    We shouldnt consign ourselves to a future in which we are tenants, rather than the owners of our things.

    But Question 1 is about much more than the question of whether you or the corner repair shop can work on your car.

    Like farm equipment and home appliance makers: automakers increasingly see their vehicles as smartphones on wheels and their customers (and their data) as the real product. Locking down access to their platform is a prerequisite to locking in the revenue. Thats why, as our homes, businesses and public spaces fill with smart, Internet connected stuff, a right to repair like the one spelled out by Question 1 is critical to our well-being and the economic health of our families and communities.

    In the years to come, corporations will bring forward all manner of smart and connected products with gee whiz features. These products may well deliver convenience. But the price of that convenience cant be software-enforced monopolies that stifle competition and innovation, while bleeding consumers of their money, their data or both.

    The right to repair our cars, appliances, phones and other stuff is essential. We shouldnt consign ourselves to a future in which we are tenants, rather than the owners of our things. I urge you to vote yes on Question 1.

    Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Twitter.

    Original post:
    Question 1 Is About Much More Than Car Repair. Its A Civil And Consumer Rights Issue - WBUR

    Google launches the second cohort of Gaming Growth Lab acceleration program – CTech - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Google's acceleration program for startups and companies in their growth stages launched this week a new cycle of startups that will receive a multidisciplinary support of the technology giant on their way to break into new markets and reach a wider customer base. This is Google's second cycle of the Gaming Growth Lab program, which is designed to support promising mobile gaming companies on their growth journeys. The upcoming cohort, which opened this week, will include eight startups: Funorama, Innplay Labs, Brain Games, Dramaton, SuperPlay, Klever, Obscure games, Baba Entertainment, Storytime app, and Zarzilla.

    Startup Growth Lab is an exclusive Google accelerator designed for marketing leaders from Israel's most promising startups, aiming to accelerate their business. It consists of hands-on workshops and ongoing one-on-one mentoring. The accelerator program covers topics such as industry analysis, brand communication, UX/UI, measurement, creative, and advertising. The program was launched in 2018, and graduates from its first two cohorts include Elementor, Melio, Guesty, DayTwo, and Bookaway.

    The success of the Startup Growth Lab in Israel, led to the program being launched in Spain, Portugal, U.K., Japan, Korea, Brazil, and more, Lior Noy, Startup Growth Lead at Google said. The new cycle, which opens this week, is the second round of the program that is intended exclusively for gaming companies. In January 2021 Startup Growth Lab will open the fourth cycle of the program to which startups from all sectors can be admitted.

    Among the eight startups that graduated from the third cohort of the program, you can find companies such as Orcam Technologies, Voom, Workiz, and Jasper.

    Orcam Technologies that was founded by Mobileye founders Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram has created the wearable assistive device, OrCam MyEye, which is being used by tens of thousands of blind and visually impaired people around the world. OrCams mission is to harness the power of artificial vision by incorporating pioneering technology into a wearable platform that improves the lives of individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or has reading difficulties.

    Workiz was founded in 2014 by three home service professionals Saar Kohanovitch, Idan Kadosh, and Erez Marom to help make their work easy. The company developed a field service management and communication software for small-medium on-demand service businesses such as locksmith, junk removal, carpet cleaning, and appliance repair. Workiz has experienced a monthly double-digit growth following the Covid-19 outbreak. Thousands of home service companies use Workiz to manage their business. Workiz has raised $7.3 million to date.

    See the article here:
    Google launches the second cohort of Gaming Growth Lab acceleration program - CTech

    Latest round of unofficial results bring election into clearer focus – Juneau Empire - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    With nearly 12,000 votes counted, the citys municipal election results are much clearer, although not yet official.

    A round of preliminary results released by the city Friday afternoon show Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs winning reelection to her District 1 seat City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seat and Christine Woll winning the race for an open District 2 seat. Both seats have three-year terms.

    Those are the same results indicated by earlier unofficial counts released by the city, but with more than a thousand additional votes tallied, the count is likely close to what the official results will ultimately show. A Canvas Review Board will start work at 10 a.m. on Tuesday to certify the results.

    Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski ran unopposed for an areawide seat, and Juneau School District Board of Education member Brian Holst and Martin Stepetin Sr. ran in a noncompetitive race for two open school board seats. All of those seats have three-year terms.

    [Juneau district court set to reopen in November]

    Woll paced a four-way race for a District 2 seat that is being vacated by Assembly member Rob Edwardson. She received 5,116 votes, according to the unofficial results. Woll ran against Derek Dzinich, Robert Shoemake and Lacey Derr.

    Im feeling great, felt great before knowing the results because we ran a great campaign, Woll previously told the Empire. Woll did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    Shoemake came in second with 3,034 votes.

    I think its pretty cool we hit 3,000 people, Shoemake said.

    He said that is about the number of votes he anticipated receiving based on how many homes his business, Budget Appliance Repair, has brought him into.

    In some Assembly races, such as 2018s race for two District 2 seats, Shoemakes vote total would have been enough to win a seat.

    Shoemake declined to definitively say whether he might run for office again, but its something he wouldnt rule out.

    In the District 1 race, Hughes-Skandijs received 6,350 votes to Kenny Solomon-Gross 5,044. Solomon-Gross did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

    Im feeling pretty excited to see the latest results just now, Hughes-Skandijs said in a phone interview. Feeling pretty thankful to the voters and supporters and volunteers.

    Hughes-Skandijs said she was impressed by the elections robust voter turnout, which unofficial results put at 42.6%. Its the first time in 20 years turnout in a municipal election has topped 40%, according to city data.

    She said shes glad to have secured a three-year term. Hughes-Skandijs was first appointed to the Assembly in early 2019 and won a one-year term on the Assembly that October. This election was her second time on a ballot since her appountment.

    This will be my first three-year term, which will be funny, Hughes-Skandijs said. Im really excited to have what most people normally have, which is three years to do the work.

    Giving them props

    Voters rejected one ballot proposition, but OKd another one, according to unofficial results. A $15 million bond package that is meant to generate funds for city projects, including school roof repairs, passed 6,912-4,664, according to unofficial results.

    A proposition that would have established a charter commission was rejected 7,424-3,957, according to unofficial results. The proposition, which is required by City and Borough of Juneaus charter to appear on ballots every 10 years, has failed every time it has appeared on ballots.

    Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

    Latest round of unofficial results bring election into clearer focus - Juneau Empire

    Cold callers tricked my father-in-law into paying 1,000 a month to insure his fridge – Mirror Online - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Vulnerable people are losing tens of thousands of pounds a year to cold callers who targeting them with potentially fraudulent insurance.

    Some victims have been tricked into paying more than 1,000 a month to insure kitchen appliances such as fridges and ovens.

    In a report, consumer group Which? said it received more than 150 complaints about potentially fraudulent insurance policies in the year to July.

    It said many of these related to appliance cover for washing machines and other white goods.

    Of the 62 companies that were reported, only two were regulated - despite this being a legal requirement.

    Many described what they were selling as "service plans", although some referred to it as insurance over the phone.

    In one case, a woman found that her father-in-law - who had recently passed away - had been paying 28 direct debits for appliance cover.

    His bills equated to more than 1,000 a month.

    Have you been targeted by cold callers? Get in touch:

    He had four policies with one firm. One of these was for 516 to cover a fridge-freezer from March 2018 to 2021, yet he was also paying another firm, Protect Your Bubble Ltd, to cover the same appliance over part of the same period.

    The company is unrelated to the insurer Protect Your Bubble, which is part of Assurant Direct Ltd, a regulated firm.

    The Financial Conduct Authority, the City watchdog, issued a warning against Protect Your Bubble Ltd last year.

    It said the website was a clone company that was acting fraudulently.

    "Almost all firms and individuals carrying out financial services activities in the UK have to be authorised or registered by us. This firm is not authorised or registered by us but has been targeting people in the UK, claiming to be an authorised firm," the regulator said.

    "This is what we call a 'clone firm'; and fraudsters usually use this tactic when contacting people out of the blue, so you should be especially wary if you have been cold called. They may use the name of the genuine firm, the 'firm reference number' (FRN) we have given the authorised firm or other details."

    The woman also discovered her father-in-law was paying a firm called Premier Protect 365 to cover his fridge.

    Companies House records show this brand is the trading name of Premier Protect Holdings Ltd, which shares a director called Abdelhak Akayour with Protect Your Bubble Ltd.

    On reviews platform Trustpilot, there are more than 100 complaints about the same company.

    In many cases, customers said they eventually gave up on their claims, while others claimed they were led to believe Premier Protect 365 represented their existing provider.

    One person claimed their elderly mother-in-law was convinced into giving out her bank details to renew a policy she did not have.

    Get the latest money advice, news and help straight to your inbox - sign up at

    Soon after, 195 was taken from her account. Her family threatened the company with legal action and the money was returned.

    Which? said one in five people have received a phone call about appliance insurance or extended warranties in the past year.

    While this is only illegal if it's about your pension, there are concerns that some of these firms could be fraudulent.

    Caroline Abrahams of Age UK, a charity, said cold callers should be completely banned in the UK.

    "Many rely on their landlines and cold callers know they are likely to be spending much longer at home over the next six months. Its vital that action is taken by the authorities to prevent these calls," she said.

    If you're concerned about nuisance calls, you can register your landline with the telephone preference service (TPS).

    It's a free service that allows you to opt out of unsolicited sales or marketing calls. You can access it via your landline provider.

    Jenny Ross, at Which? said more needs to be done to shut these firms down.

    "We've found evidence of a surge in appliance repair cold-calls, with some companies using dubious tactics to sell expensive and unnecessary "cover plans" for household appliances to vulnerable people.

    "While there are some legitimate firms that operate within the industry, it is clear there are also many rogue traders exploiting people and evading regulation - and much more must be done to shut them down.

    "We've shared our findings with the Information Commissioner and National Trading Standards who are investigating the issue. We'd also like telecoms companies to consider providing their free call-blocking services by default, rather than customers opting-in, to avoid more people falling victim."

    Read the original post:
    Cold callers tricked my father-in-law into paying 1,000 a month to insure his fridge - Mirror Online

    Service Fusion Recognized as a Top 5 Company on the 2020 Fast Tech List – PRNewswire - October 20, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    DALLAS, Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Service Fusion, a leading provider of field service management software, announced today its selection as one of the top five fastest growing technology companies in the North Texas area, as recognized by the 2020 Tech Titans Fast Tech List. Fast Tech recognizes growth technology companies who have achieved three years of continuous revenue growth, from 2017 to 2019. Service Fusion has seen double-digit growth every year during that time frame, as it has expanded its customer base to over 4,000 service contractors in the US and Canada. This was the first year for Service Fusion to be nominated for this honor.

    "Being selected as one of the Top 5 growth companies in North Texas is a tremendous honor," said Max Paltsev, CEO of Service Fusion. "Our passion for helping small businesses leverage technology has been the driving force of our growth, and this recognition from Tech Titans validates both the hard work of our team members and the trust of our customers."

    "Max and the team at Service Fusion have demonstrated that even in challenging times, companies with great products can succeed," stated Bill Sproull, CEO of Tech Titans. "We are excited to honor Service Fusion as their software has helped essential, small services businesses flourish and grow."

    The Top 5 were revealed at a virtual event on Tuesday, October 13th and were selected from a list of twenty-eight top technology companies in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Area.

    About Service Fusion

    Founded in 2014, Service Fusion serves over 4,000 field service contractors in over 20 residential and commercial service verticals, including HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and appliance repair. Service Fusion allows service contractors to operatetheir business from anywhere. You can learn more about Service Fusion at

    SOURCE Service Fusion

    Service Fusion Recognized as a Top 5 Company on the 2020 Fast Tech List - PRNewswire

    Read These Car Books While Youre Quarantined – Autoweek - March 23, 2020 by Mr HomeBuilder

    Working from home? Youre not alone. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have asked at least some employees to stay away from HQ. So have Google, Apple, Twitter, Amazon, Airbnb you get the picture.

    If social distancing (literally unheard of a couple weeks ago) is the new normal, youre going to need to curl up with a good book. Here are some Autoweek favorites to get you started.

    Uncommon Carriers, by John McPhee

    This is a book about people who do everything from drive trucks to pilot ships to drive coal trainsits a book about transportation. Why should you read it? Because McPhee is a nonfiction-narrative master, one of those writers who makes you interested in subjects you didnt know you were interested in.Uncommon Carriersis a perfect example of McPhee practicing his craft. Wes Raynal

    Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans, by A.J. Baime


    In the '60s, Ford was faltering, and Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca and racer Carroll Shelby figured the best way to bring Ford some needed publicity was to do something no American automaker had ever done: Design, build and race a car that could beat Ferrari at Le Mans,the worlds mostprestigious race. Wes Raynal

    Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip, by Peter Hessler

    Hessler is considered one of the best writers on China. AfterRiver TownandOracle Bones, this is the final book in his award-winning trilogy on the countrys economic rise. Hessler spent seven years traveling the country, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were transforming it, and hedescribes the massive effort to build factories and roads in the traditionally rural nation. Wes Raynal

    100 Drives, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to Do, What to See, by Joe Yogerst

    The title of this new road trip guide by the fine folks at National Geographic is self-explanatory. It lists 100 classic and off-the-beaten-path drives and offers tips, activities for the kids (theyre not in school!!!) and even has playlists. Wes Raynal

    Reid Railton: Man of Speed, by Karl Ludvigsen

    $140.22 (36% off)

    Its about time Reid Railton, whom many consider one of the best automotive engineers of all time, got his due.Reid Railton: Man of Speedis a deep dive into his life, triumphs, tragedies and odd exploits.Im not going to lie: Its an expensive addition to the library at about $140. If you cant spare the cash, see if you can borrow a copy on interlibrary loan. Its worth it. Graham Kozak

    Drive to Win: Essential Guide to Race Driving


    Drive to Win: The Essential Guide to Race Drivingis a book written byCarroll Smith,an engineer-turned-racing-driver-turned-team-manager that takes an unemotional approach to explaining how cars work and how to drive them better. The existing good books are all written from the point of view of the driver,says Smith.This book is not. Here we are going to look at what the driver does (or should do) from the point of view of the racing car. Robin Warner

    My Years with General Motors, by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr.

    Lets get one thing clear:Alfred Sloan is not a natural storyteller. Still, buried in his windy monologues are the roots of storied and beloved GM brands, the tough decisions and educated guesses that led to articles of gospel in modern business schools. And, most of all, the reminder of what GM once was: a seemingly unstoppable global economic powerhouse. Required reading for any student of automotive history. Andrew Stoy

    Chiltons Auto Repair Manual, 1984: American Cars from 1977 Through 1984


    READTHE MANUAL. Good advice, but did you know you can gain incredible insights frompretty much any manual? Its true. My personal favorites are Malaise-era Chiltons automotive manuals, which are chock full of Rube Goldberg emissions control solutions and appalling specifications (190 hp from a 460-cid V8 engine in 1977, for example). If you cant find one on Amazon, check a local thrift store or library dollar "book" bin. Doesnt have to be about cars, even:appliance repair books, HVAC troubleshooting guides, you name ittheyllall make you a better mechanic. Andrew Stoy

    Excerpt from:
    Read These Car Books While Youre Quarantined - Autoweek

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