Apple’s macOS 10.13.4 brings full external GPU support to recent MacBooks

Apple’s latest macOS update is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Available now, version 10.13.4 brings support for external graphics cards (eGPU) first announced last June at WWDC. The update solves one of the biggest disadvantages for Apple’s pro-level users. After increasingly shifting even the highest-end MacBooks more toward the consumer end of the spectrum over the last few years, professional video editors, 3D modelers, or VR developers were stuck with relatively mediocre (and non-upgradeable) GPUs — and only on the 15 inch models. The 12 inch MacBook and the 13 inch MacBook Pro still rely on integrated graphics.…

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Apple doesn’t understand what makes Chromebooks great

Apple announced a new iPad earlier this week at an education-focused event. Though it’s rare for the company to directly acknowledge its competition during presentations, it made no secret the new iPad was aimed at one rival in particular: Chromebooks. The ePad, as some call it, came in at the same $329 price tag as the previous model ($299 for schools), but includes a faster processor and support for the Apple Pencil. At the same time, Apple announced a suite of new software tools to make the iPad more useful for academia. Apple arguably has more clout than any other…

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Reddit slams first Sea of Thieves player to reach ‘Pirate Legend’ status

In the latest gossip from the occasionally bizarre world of gaming communities, fans of the pirate game Sea of Thieves are angry because a popular Twitch streamer allegedly cheated his way to the top spot. The streamer, Prod1gyX, became one of the first to reach “Pirate Legend” status earlier this week. Within a few hours, critics popped up, accusing him of boosting his way to the top by claiming loot discovered by various players as his own. They even have their own hashtag: #NotMyPirateLegend. Ordinarily, I’d dismiss this as trolling, but a quick look over the Sea of Thieves subreddit makes me…

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These clumsy robots prove AI is far from perfect

When a person screws up we call it human nature. So what does it mean when a machine that’s trying to imitate our intelligence makes a mistake? According to the doomsayers, it means robots could attack us because of faulty reasoning – and that’s scary. But, it’s hard to fear a machine that can be defeated with tropical fruit. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the best robot fails we could find to remind everyone we’re still in charge. For starters, who could forget the Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot demonstration? The company showed off its new technology at The Congress of…

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Study shows social media echo chambers might actually be a good thing

A group of researchers, as part of a social experiment, paid liberals and conservatives on Twitter to follow a bot for a month that tweeted political views from the other side. Shockingly, rather than softening their own views or learning to understand the opposition, most participants dug in deeper. We’re not partisan out of ignorance, it seems, but because we fundamentally disagree. Social media echo chambers take a lot of grief. There’s a popular perception that people get stuck inside their own biased worlds and become oblivious to the ‘reality’ the opposing side understands. But perhaps they’re actually doing us…

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Cancer researchers report positive results for larotrectinib, a ‘tumor-agnostic’ drug

Ted Laetsch
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Ted Laetsch is the lead author of a study focusing on how a drug called larotrectinib can be used to treat pediatric cancer patients. (UT Southwestern Photo)

Two clinical studies have provided evidence suggesting that an experimental precision-medicine drug called larotrectinib can fight soft-tissue tumors regardless of the patient’s age or the type of tumor.

Seattle Children’s Hospital participated in both studies.

The first study, published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 75 percent of the patients who had a genetic mutation in their tumors known as tropomyosin receptor kinase fusion, or TRK fusion, responded to treatment. After a year of treatment, 71 percent showed no signs of disease progression.

The Phase 1/2 clinical trial collected data from a pool of 55 patients, ranging in age from 4 months to 76 years, with 17 different types of TRK fusion-positive tumors. Six of the participants in the study were pediatric patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Doug Hawkins
Cancer researcher Doug Hawkins. (Seattle Children’s Hospital Photo)

“Most drugs aren’t tested in children until they are much further along in the approval process, so including children this early in the process was very unusual,” Seattle Children’s cancer researcher Doug Hawkins, a co-author of the study, said in a report from the hospital.

Hawkins is also the senior author of a study published this week in The Lancet Oncology, focusing specifically on larotrectinib’s effect on children and adolescents ranging in age from 1 month to 21 years. The trial involved 22 experimental subjects — 15 with TRK fusion-positive tumors, and seven whose tumors did not have the TRK-fusion mutation. (Two other patients who were enrolled in the study had no measurable signs of disease.)

Larotrectinib had no effect on the non-TRK tumors, but 14 of the 15 patients with TRK fusion-positive tumors responded to treatment. The other patient had an initial partial response that was subsequently assessed as stable disease.

“Our results indicate that larotrectinib is tolerable, with responses observed in a high proportion of infants, children and adolescents with advanced TRK fusion-positive solid tumors,” the researchers reported.

They said larotrectinib could offer a new treatment option for some cancer patients who might otherwise face disfiguring surgery.

Lead study author Ted Laetsch, a cancer researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said the drug showed promise for treating any tumor with the TRK-fusion genetic mutation, which causes cells to grow uncontrollably.

“What’s unique about the drug is, it is very selective,” Laetsch said in a news release. “It only blocks TRK receptors.”

Larotrectinib, which is being developed for clinical use by Connecticut-based Loxo Oncology, won a breakthrough therapy designation for the experimental drug from the Food and Drug Administration in 2016. Further trials will be required for full FDA approval.

Lead author of the New England Journal of Medicine study, “Efficacy of Larotrectinib in TRK Fusion–Positive Cancers in Adults and Children,” is Alexander Drilon of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In addition to Hawkins, Seattle co-authors include Christina Baik (Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) and Erin Rudzinski (Seattle Children’s Hospital).

In addition to Hawkins, Seattle co-authors of the study in The Lancet Oncology, “Larotrectinib for Paediatric Solid Tumours Harbouring NTRK Gene Fusions: Phase 1 Results from a Multicentre, Open-label, Phase 1/2 Study,” include Catherine Albert, Jessica Davis and Erin Rudzinski of Seattle Children’s Hospital.

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Amazon to close TenMarks online education service after 2018-19 school year

Amazon will close its TenMarks online math and writing learning service after the 2018-2019 school year, the latest surprise twist in the tech giant’s foray into education technology.

The company broke the news in emails to customers this week and in a message on the TenMarks website. “We’re winding down,” the announcement reads. “TenMarks will no longer be available after the 2018-2019 school year. Licenses for TenMarks Math and Writing will be honored through June 20, 2019.”

An Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire via email, “After a thorough review of TenMarks, we’ve made the difficult decision to no longer offer this service after June 30, 2019.”

There’s no word on the number of jobs impacted, but the company plans to help those affected by the closure find new roles. Amazon cut hundreds of job at its Seattle headquarters in a recent round of layoffs but continues to hire for other positions.

Amazon acquired TenMarks, an edtech math learning startup, in late 2013. TenMarks was the linchpin of Amazon’s strategy to gain a larger foothold in the K-12 education market, where it competes against a host of startups and other tech giants, including Apple, Microsoft and Google.

People in education widely expected Amazon’s deal to buy TenMarks to lead to either more acquisitions or a greater expansion of TenMarks’ product portfolio — perhaps even using a TenMarks app to deliver a wide variety of educational content and activities for students, much like the Kindle app delivers a wide variety of eBook content.

At the time of the acquisition, TenMarks was said to be used by more than 25,000 schools in 7,000 districts, and in 2017, it did expand its content to cover writing instruction as well as math.

TenMarks founder and chief executive Rohit Agarwal went on to become general manager of Amazon’s K-12 Education Unit. But he left that role and Amazon one year ago, after overseeing the introduction of an early version of Amazon Inspire, a content sharing service for educators, and a subscription reading app for kids called Amazon Rapids. Amazon Inspire stumbled due to concerns over teachers uploading and sharing copyright content.

The sudden announcement was a surprise to teachers who use the service. Education technology news site EdSurge cites the example of a school district in Springfield, Mo., that received a price quote from TenMarks for the 2018-2019 school year, without any indication of the closure, a day before learning that the service would close following the upcoming school year.

The end of TenMarks likely does not mean the end of Amazon’s forays into education. Its Kindle hardware and apps are still in use in K-12 schools in the U.S. and overseas, and Amazon is known to be promoting its cloud-based services to school districts.

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TLDR: April Fool’s comes early, new broadband service from SpaceX, Apple AirPods giveaway

[Editor’s Note: TLDR is GeekWire’s daily news rundown, hosted by Starla Sampaco. Watch today’s update above, subscribe to GeekWire on YouTube for every episode, check back weekday afternoons for more, and sign up for TLDR email updates below.]

Today’s featured stories

Watch to the end of today’s episode for a chance to win a pair of Apple AirPods, by answering a trivia question drawn from a recent TLDR episode. Email your answer to to enter.

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Investors provide a $26.5M lift for World View stratospheric balloon venture

News Brief: Arizona-based World View says it has closed a $26.5 million Series C financing round, led by Accel with participation from previous investors Canaan and Norwest Venture Partners. The funding will help World View accelerate work on its Stratollite system, a low-cost, balloon-borne platform that can provide satellite-type services. World View also says it executed a high-altitude balloon research mission for NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies on Thursday. The mission focused on studying radiation levels at different altitudes.

World View balloon
World View sends up a Z-Class stratospheric flight vehicle to conduct research on radiation level for NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies. (World View Photo)

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Startup Spotlight: Ganaz wants to connect farmers with millions of seasonal farmworkers

Hanna Freeman and Sri Artham bring a combined 22 years of experience at Fair Trade USA to Ganaz. (Ganaz Photo)

Many farmworking jobs are seasonal, short-lived and tricky to find. Seattle-based startup Ganaz hopes to solve those challenges by connecting workers to employers through a platform that also tackles potential language barriers.

“Having worked with farmers and farmworkers for more than a decade, my co-founder, Sri Artham, and I saw an opportunity to use technology to solve some of the most pressing problems in recruiting, retention and communication for both employers and employees,” said CEO Hannah Freeman, 39.

“We are starting in agriculture, with a grand vision to be the trusted source of job information for front line workers around the world in farming, factories, hospitality, fishing and mining,” she said. “These sectors employ hundreds of millions of workers, most of whom now have a cell phone, and we want to leverage that to help workers and their employers thrive.”

Ganaz launched in April 2017 and has four employees. In the past year, it has worked with more than 30 companies and thousands of farmworkers in the Western U.S. and Mexico. U.S. data estimates there are more than 3 million seasonal and migrant farmworkers alone.

In the current political environment, privacy and deportation concerns loom large for many farmworkers and their families. Freeman said worker trust is one of their top concerns.

“All we collect from the workers is their phone number, so it’s quite anonymized,” she said. “As we build out new features, protecting people’s identities and data and ultimately maintaining their trust will be our guiding principle.”

Ganaz generates revenue by charging employers for job postings and the use of their communication platform. The service is free for the workers.

We caught up with Freeman for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for answers to our questionnaire.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Ganaz helps farmworkers find the best jobs and helps agricultural employers recruit, retain and communicate with their multilingual workforce.”

Inspiration hit us when: “This opportunity was hard to miss, since we worked with farmers and farmworkers for so many years. One story in particular really sticks with me. I met a young couple, Ana and Eduardo, in Southern Baja California. A recruiter had convinced them to travel there for a job picking chili peppers, where the pay and housing were really good. They spent the last of their money on bus fare to the farm, only to find that the pay was one third what the recruiter quoted, and housing was not included. Being new to the area, they had to sleep outside while they scrambled to find other work. Meanwhile, just down the road, there was a berry farm that was desperate for workers and offered good pay and nice housing. Ana and Eduardo had a smartphone and a tablet that they expertly used — they simply lacked a service to source options and communicate directly with potential employers.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We started by bootstrapping, then raised a pre-seed round, and plan to raise VC funds as well. Millions of employers needing recruiting, retention and communication tools that fit the needs of a low literacy, multilingual and cell-phone-based workforce. With VC investment, we can efficiently access these global supply chains and scale the business.”

Hannah Freeman, CEO of Ganaz. (Ganaz Photo)

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “We have a holistic view of the industry. Some companies understand employers and downstream brands well, and other parties, especially NGO’s, understand the needs of workers on farms and in factories. Throughout our careers, we’ve been working with and learning the needs of each of those parties — from a migrant worker up to the CEO of a global brand, and we have a deep passion for coming up with win-win solutions.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Meeting workers where they’re at using SMS, Facebook and Messenger.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Funny one: The first name of our company turned out to sound very similar to an inappropriate slang word in Mexican Spanish.

Frustrating one: We started by using a freelance software team, which didn’t always understand the nature of the business. We just hired a talented head of engineering to build our in-house team, something I now wish we’d done six months ago.”

Would you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bill Gates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in work to leverage technology and the ubiquity of cell phones to improve the lives of vulnerable populations around the world, a vision we share.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Farm visits, because collective inspiration is powerful.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Intelligent curiosity about and passion for our mission.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Launch before you think you’re ready, and iterate fast based on market feedback. We are in the field, quite literally, every week and that time pays off in product strategy and customer commitments. Gotta get some dirt on your boots.”

Editor’s note: GeekWire is featuring each of the ten startups in Techstars Seattle leading up to their Demo Day on April 18. Techstars is a worldwide network that offers 40 mentorship-driven accelerator programs around the globe.

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