Chip Shortage Hits MacBooks; Facebook Labels Satire; Fake Vaxx Cards for Sale; Mustang Mach-e Bug

The chip shortage is hitting Apple. MacBook production is being hindered due to the shortage of chips mounted onto the circuit board before final assembly, which is a key step in the overall production process. ‌iPad‌ production is being impacted due to display and display component shortages. According Macrumors.com, Apple has postponed component orders for the two devices to the second half of the year.  iPhone production is so far not affected. For 

Facebook is adding additional labels to posts from Pages that appear in users’ News Feeds in a bid to reduce confusion about their origin. These labels will include “public official,” “fan page,” and “satire page.” Theverge.com says the company says it’s already started testing the deployment of these labels in the US, and will gradually add them to more posts. Sadly, identifying satire seems particularly important. Maybe some people will be less outraged by an Onion post.

The sudden surge of forged vaccine cards online has overwhelmed social platforms dealing with scammers taking advantage of pandemic anxieties. “Hundreds” of sellers have profited off of Americans’ fervent clamor for official vaccine cards, according New York Times reported Thursday. Despite policies banning the sale of fake cards on their platforms,  eBay, Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify each were hosting sellers that purport to have vaccine cards for sale. All those platforms are now taking extra steps to remove the fakes. 

Add a software bug to the list of issues affecting Ford’s recently released Mustang Mach-E electric crossoverThe Verge.com reports that a problem with the car’s secondary 12-volt battery is leaving some vehicles unable to start, even when their primary lithium-ion battery is fully charged. Ford has acknowledged the issue, and says the problem is a software-related issue with the car’s powertrain control module. The company claims the bug only affects a “small number” of Mach-E vehicles, and they’re working on a patch. 


Fitbit Blood Pressure Study; Twitter Looked at Clubhouse; Twitch Curbs Offline Misconduct; Virtual Google I/O

Fitbit’s most advanced smartwatch today can track heart rate, blood oxygen, and skin temperature, and now, the company is investigating if it can measure blood pressure with a new study for Sense owners. 9to5google.com says Fitbit Labs is launching a blood pressure study this month to “potentially measure”  the “time it takes for a pulse of blood to reach your wrist after your heart beats.” Sense owners over 20 in the US will receive a notification in the Fitbit app about this study.  

Twitter held talks recently to acquire Clubhouse, the buzzy audio-based social network. Bloomberg reports that the companies discussed a potential valuation of roughly $4 billion for Clubhouse. Discussions are no longer ongoing, and it’s unclear why they stalled. A Twitter spokesman declined to comment. A Clubhouse representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.Twitter’s Clubhouse competitor, called Spaces, launched in late 2020, though it’s still in beta form and not all users can create or host public discussions. 

Twitch will start taking disciplinary actions against people for misconduct that takes place offline or entirely on other platforms. According to engadget.com, the company may ban people for off-service misconduct under its expanded harassment and hateful conduct policy.The service will still target misconduct that takes place both on and off of Twitch (like if a user is harassing a streamer on its platform as well as Twitter). The updated policy adds a second category to tackle misconduct that doesn’t happen on Twitch at all. 

Last year, due to the pandemic, Apple and Microsoft went virtual for their big developer events. Google called off I/O all together. Techcrunch.com says this year, the Google show is set to return in virtual form. Google sent out its customary puzzle invites today, noting that the event will be held May 18-20.  Like other online-only events of a recent vintage, this version of the developer’s conference will be free to attend and open to all.


Starlink Sat Dishes; Vitals by Smartphone; TikTok Gets Captions; Chip Shortage

SpaceX has been shipping satellite dishes to Starlink customers that are actually worth far more than the $499 it’s charging its customers. It initially cost the company $3,000 to produce each satellite dish, according to CNBC.The company has since reduced the manufacturing cost to $1,500, and then down to $1,300. The manufacturing costs are expected to fall even further to “the few hundred dollar range within the next year or two.”  The $499 for the Starlink dish and Wi-Fi modem is a one-time fee. Users must also pay $99 a month to receive the internet service. 

Scientists with the University of Washington and Microsoft Research have new technology that allows medical providers to remotely check a patient’s pulse and heart rate.The tool uses the camera on a smartphone or computer to capture 18 seconds of video of a person’s face. Geekwire.com says that the video is analyzed to measure changes in the light reflected by a patient’s skin, which correlates to changes in blood volume and motion that are caused by blood circulation. 

TikTok has announced the launch of a new feature designed to make its app accessible to people who are hard of hearing or deaf. The company is today debuting auto captions — a feature that, when enabled, will automatically transcribe the speech from a video so viewers can read what’s being said in the video as an alternative to listening. Techcrunch.com reports that initially, auto captions will support American English and Japanese, with additional languages coming in the months ahead. 

Auto manufacturers and other companies are hoping that the global chip shortage will end soon, but snarled semiconductor supply chains may not untangle until 2022. According to arstechnica.com, the pandemic upended the market for semiconductors. As demand for cars plummeted, automakers slashed their orders. But at the same time, demand for chips that power laptops and data centers skyrocketed. Shortages of wafers and packaging substrates are compounding the problem. 


Clubhouse Allows Creator Pay; Cook-Apple AR & Car; Android Auto-More Apps; Softbank Invests in Warehouse Robotics

Buzzy social audio app Clubhouse will let all users pay other creators . Theverge.com says it’s the first monetization tool built right into the app. Clubhouse says it won’t take a cut of payments, meaning that creators get the entirety of what somebody sends them. Not everyone will be able to receive payments just yet, though; that will be rolling out in waves, “starting with a small test group,” according to Clubhouse. Right now, Clubhouse is only available on iOS as an invite-only app, though an Android version is in the works. 

Tim Cook has hinted at Apple’s vision for augmented reality tech, telling Sway’s Kara Swisher that charts and other visual elements could enhance conversation. Cnet.com notes that he wouldn’t confirm reports that the company is working on a mixed reality headset, but he agreed with Swisher’s suggestion that AR is “critically important” to Apple’s future. Also—Cook didn’t rule out the possibility of the long-rumored Apple Car, noting that such a device’s autonomy would be its “core technology.” 

Android Auto users will soon see a greater variety of navigation, parking and charging apps on the Play Store. Google is now allowing third-party developers to push software in those categories to production. According to engadget.com, that means you’ll soon start seeing those apps show up on the Play Store. Up to now, Google allowed third-party developers to release messaging and media apps for Android Auto, but not much else. 

Japanese investment firm The SoftBank Group has announced it will spend $2.8 billion to buy a 40% stake in robotics company AutoStore System, which specializes in robotics for warehouses. Zdnet.com says that company develops a line of robots, including the “R5,” a member of its Red Line series, for moving bins full of goods around a warehouse. Its software offerings, such as AutoStore’s “The Router,” optimize the movement of robotics systems around a warehouse. 


WFH- Boss Enjoys More; Saudis Price Up Asian Oil; Samsung’s Fat Profits; LG Exits Smartphones

A lot has been made of surveys showing how the hybrid of work from home and office is great. Zdnet.com found in a study Microsoft did that it depends. Apparently, it’s working great for bosses. For the rest of us…maybe not so much. Redmond found 52% of the company’s IMs were being sent between 6pm and midnight. Sixty-one percent of leaders described themselves as “thriving.” However… that those who don’t make the decisions are thriving 23 points less than their bosses! 

The Saudis think the economy is improving. Aramco, the Saudi state energy firm, will increase its grades for Asia in May by between 20 and 50 cents a barrel. It will raise the key Arab Light grade for the region by 40 cents from April to $1.80 per barrel above the benchmark. The company had been expected to hike the grade by 30 cents, according to a Bloomberg survey of eight traders and refiners. Western Europe is flat, Saudi exports to the US are down a dime. 

Samsung Electronics likely saw a 45% jump in profit for January through March on robust sales of smartphones, TVs and home appliances, though chip division earnings are seen tumbling after a storm suspended production at its U.S. plant. Reuters says its attributed to spending more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Consumers have splurged on an array of high-margin consumer electronics which in turn has helped cause a global shortage of semiconductors. Samsung is scheduled to officially announce preliminary first-quarter results on Wednesday. 

LG said on Monday it will close its loss-making mobile phone business worldwide as the once pioneer brand looks to focus its resources in “growth areas” such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, AI and B2B solutions, and platforms and services. Techcrunch.com reports that the South Korean firm said in a statement that its board of directors approved the decision today. LG, which maintained No. 3 spot in the smartphone market in the U.S. for a long time, said it will continue to sell handsets until the inventory lasts.


Facebook Adding (Back) ‘Most Recent’ to Timeline; Nest Hello Successor Indicated; Apple Maps Adds COVID Measures; LinkedIn Working on Clubhouse Clone

If you constantly have to toggle to Most Recent on your Facebook timeline, you are in luck. Macrumors.com reports that Facebook has announced a number of changes coming up in both iOS and Android, that make it easier for users to turn off the algorithmically ranked News Feed, and also new tools for controlling who can comment on posts. The ‘Most Recent’ mode shows posts in chronological order, as opposed to being served to you based on their algorithm. It is out now on Android, and should be in the next couple weeks on iOS. You will also be able to turn off political ads (!!) and ’Snooze’ annoying people or pages, so you can stop seeing their posts. 

Google Home V. 2.35 is being released on Android and iOS, and has an interesting item. According to 9to5google.com, there is a graphic of the back of a new Google Nest gadget, and it appears to be a new version of the Hello doorbell. Also in the update…they have made ‘Accessibility’ options for Smart Displays and Assistant speakers…well, more accessible. In the list, the Accessibility options appear in a new menu under ‘Device Features.’ The toggles were previously split between the Display and Audio pages…now, they are conveniently consolidated. As for the pic of the possible updated Hello doorbell…The device appears narrower than the 2018 model, while the diagnostic micro-USB connector has been replaced and modernized.

Apple Maps has added a cool feature, and one which will be especially handy as folks start to travel more again. Engadget.com says when you search for an airport, the place card will include a summary of coronavirus related procedures that airport has. The summary may include things like the need to wear a mask, quarantine guidelines and any testing requirements. Each card also includes a link to the airport’s website where you can find out about those in more detail.Apple has also listed vaccination sites and testing locations in Maps. Google Maps has already rolled out a similar suite of COVID-19 related features.

As has been true forever, someone comes out with an idea, it gets hot, and gangs of other companies try to clone it. Now, LinkedIn is joining the scrum of companies trying to duplicate the buzzy Clubhouse. Techcrunch.com reports LinkedIn is testing out a social audio experience in its app. Unlike the Clubhouse copies being built by Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn thinks it will have a good niche because it will connect people via their professional identity, not just a social community. LinkedIn has also just launched a new ‘Creator’ mode that lets anyone set their profile so it can be followed for updates, like Facebook Stories and LinkedIn Live videos. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, Telegram and Discord have also been working on Clubhouse rivals. It will be interesting to see what LinkedIn does, should they succeed in buying Discord.


Virtual WWDC Announced; Google & T-Mobile Multi-Pronged Partnership; Hyundai KONA EV Fire Danger; Biden-30 Gigawatts Offshore Wind Turbines by 2030

Apple has announced WWDC 2021, and yes, it will be completely virtual again. According to 9to5mac.com, it will run June 7th through June 11th. Expected reveals include iOS 15, macOS 12, and watchOS 8. It’s a free event for all developers. Last year’s virtual WWDC was quite well received, and got kudos for being much more inclusive. As opposed to the limited number of attendees possible in-person in Silicon Valley, the virtual WWDC last year was seen by 22 million across all of Apple’s streams. Besides the operating systems and usual breakouts for developers, expect Apple to tease upcoming hardware running their own Silicon. New iMacs and MacBook Pro models are expected in the fall. 

Google and T-Mobile have announced a broad partnership that will have the carrier plugging key Google services like RCS, Google One, and YouTube…and of course, the Pixel line. According to 9to5google.com, Messages by Google will become the ‘default rich messaging solution’ and app on Android devices. The carrier will better promote the “full suite of Pixel devices” and other products running Google’s OS, including Android TV. YouTube TV is becoming T-Mobile’s premium streaming solution with customers getting a $10 discount. At $54.99 per month, it comes as TVision launched less than six months ago and is now shutting down on April 29.

Public service notice: Don’t park your Hyundai Kona EV in your garage or near your house! Theverge.com says the NHTSA has issued a recall for 2019-20 Hyundai Kona and 2020 Ioniq EVs following reports of over a dozen battery fires. An electrical short in the Kona’s lithium-ion battery cells increases the risk of fire while parked, charging, and driving, NHTSA said, adding, “The safest place to park them is outside and away from homes and other structures.”

The Biden administration has designated New York Bight, a shallow-water area off the coast of Long Island and New Jersey as a new priority area for offshore wind turbines. Engadget.com reports that they are shooting for 30 gigawatts of power from the project by 2030! The White House says they will work to get expedited permitting to jump start development. The 30 gigawatts would power 10 million homes, and avoid pumping some 78 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 


Apple Watch Explorer Edition; NY- First Digital COVID Passport; Jeep Building EV Chargers at Off-Road Trails; San Diego Comic-Con in Person This Fall

Apple is apparently working on an ‘Explorer Edition’ Watch, which would be ruggedized for extreme sports or harsh environments. According to cnet.com, it will feature a rubberized exterior and better impact resistance.  It would be aimed at rock climbing, motocross, and other sports activities where a normal Apple Watch might take a beating…and not keep on ticking…to paraphrase the old Timex slogan. The Explorer Edition is NOT expected to be out by this fall. Speaking of fall, you would presumably turn off the hard fall detector feature on this watch, or it would be calling 911 for you every time you had a hard bump. Mine goes off sometimes when banging on a cat box I’m emptying! The rumors have the Explorer Edition being priced up with the top line Watch…don’t expect it with the lower cost models.

There has been buzz around the world about digital COVID-19 vaccination passports that would live in your smartphone wallet. Now, New York state has launched theirs…the Excelsior Pass. Engadget.com reports that now, You can use your phone’s virtual wallet (on Android or iOS) or a printout to flash a QR code and otherwise show that you’re safe when you want to go to a concert or stage performance. Madison Square Garden will begin using the pass this week with other large venues to follow…and smaller ones starting on April 2nd. The pass is completely voluntary for both the public and for businesses. Although some are grousing about the invasion of privacy from carrying medical info on smartphones, right now this seems the best way to ensure that people in venues with sizable crowds are relatively safe from COVID-19.

While Tesla has its system of Superchargers, GM is ready to build thousands of EV charging stations, and other makers are preparing to put in 10,000 or more coast-to-coast, what about folks who want to do some off-roading in there e-RV? Businessinsider.com says that Jeep is building charging points at popular off-roading trails around the country. They are being put up in partnership with Electrify America. The first ones should be available late this spring in Moab, Utah and in California at Big Bear, and the Rubicon Trail. The planned chargers are level 2. Jeep presently has a plug in hybrid, but is planning a fully electric version of every model.

Comic-Con will be back! An in-person one, too! The event is scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend, November 26th through the 28th in San Diego. According to theverge.com, this will be the 2nd summer in a row the event was cancelled due to COVID-19…but better late than never, huh? Comic-Con is normally one of the biggest conventions in the US, pulling in 130,000 people to San Diego. Comic-Con International says that if you purchased a ticket to Comic-Con 2020, your rolled over 2021 ticket is valid for the next in-person event in 2022. However, the organization is “working on an option for those wishing to transfer their badge or exhibitor deposits/payments as full or partial payment towards our 2021 November event.”


Qualcomm Making Switch-Type Android Console; Watch OS 7.4-Mask Unlock Feature; Smart Airless Bike Tires; Slack Lets Users DM Outside Organization

Although chip manufacturers have a rather sketchy history of selling hardware straight to consumers, Qualcomm is going this route, teasing plans to build an Android—powered Nintendo Switch. According to 9to5google.com, Qualcomm will drop a Snapdragon chip into an Android-powered game console with detachable controllers and the ability to connect to TV sets. The chipmaker is shooting for a handheld that appears to be a ‘thicker, bulkier smartphone’. It will probably have a Snapdragon 888 and a 6000mAh battery, and will rock Quick Charge and 5G. Qualcomm says the gaming system will run Android 12 with a ‘customized launcher.’ They are shooting for a $300 price tag. No word on when the device might hit the market. 

The latest beta for WatchOS from Apple, 7.4, has a welcome feature should it make it into the final release. 9to5mac.com reports that it uses the Watch to replace Face ID and the passcode to unlock your iPhone when the user is wearing a mask as well as their Apple watch. The Watch has to be on your wrist and unlocked (and protected by a passcode.) As someone who has grown tired of repeatedly keying in the passcode on my phone when checking my shopping list, I say this will be a welcome feature! Of course, after the mask wearing eases with the COVID-19 pandemic easing, the feature will also be handy when an iPhone user is wearing a helmet or face covering for whatever other professional or cultural purpose. 

The private sector has been benefiting from NASA tech since the 60’s. Now, bike tires may be one of the latest to borrow from NASA for airless bike tires. Engadget.com says a startup called Smart is using the space agency’s airless shape memory alloy (SMA) tech that was created for lunar and Mars rovers in their ‘Metl’ bike tires. The tires are made up of interconnected springs that don’t require inflation. According to Smart, the ‘superelastic’ tires are built like titanium to withstand rugged terrain without going flat. A puncture free ride sounds pretty great, but so is saving landfills from millions of ruined rubber tires and tubes. Smart hopes to have the tires out next year. The tech could ultimately make its way into cars.

Slack has moved more towards being a full messaging platform, by adding the ability to direct message people outside your company. According to cnet.com, Slack Connect DMs are available now. The feature works by creating a new message and choosing ‘DM outside your company.’ You need their email address to use it. The initiator of the message needs to be a paid user (or your company is one), but you can message any user of Slack, including ones on the free plan. ** Note that as of this afternoon, Slack has disabled the ability to send a message along with an invite…to prevent harassment and spamming…something they probably should have considered BEFORE rolling out the feature!


Microsoft in Talks re Buying Discord; Niantic Partners With Nintendo; Waymo Driverless Taxis-Multi Stop Now; Class Action Certified Over crApple Butterfly Keyboards

In a hot deal that may or may not happen, Microsoft is in talks to buy Discord for over $10 billion. Bloomberg.com reports that discord has been talking to a number of potential buyers, but that a deal is not imminent. In a rumor that may please Discord users, one party close to the situation has leaked that Discord is more likely to go public at this point than to sell itself. Gamers have loved Discord as the go-to way to chat by video, voice, and text. Through the pandemic, the platform has also added study groups, dance classes, book clubs, and other virtual gatherings. Previously, Microsoft had tried to by TikTok, and in the past had looked at picking Pinterest. The company’s purchase of Skype seemed to chase off most users, and even business users have mostly abandoned that for Microsoft Teams, which has had robust use through the pandemic. 

Niantic has announced it is partnering with Nintendo to co-develop a new game based on the Pikmin franchise. According to TechCrunch.com, it will launch later this year. The new augmented reality app ‘…will include gameplay activities to encourage walking and make walking more delightful.” Although Pokemon Go has disappeared from most peoples’ radar, it brought in over a billion dollars to the San Francisco based company in 2020! 

Waymo has added a new feature to his autonomous taxis in the phoenix area. Mashable.com says you can now ‘add a stop’. Now, you can stop for groceries, or pick up a friend without having to reorder a car for each leg. If it is a long stop, the vehicle will wait nearby, and pick up up when you are ready for the next leg of your trip. Waymo stresses that “the meter is not running while on your long stop,” unlike with a traditional taxi. Another plus…you can now connect your phone via Google Cast and play music from other music systems besides Google Play Music. 

A judge has certified a class action against Apple for its crappy butterfly keyboard design. According to theverge.com, The suit covers anyone who purchased an Apple MacBook with a butterfly keyboard in seven states: California, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, and Michigan. That includes people who bought a MacBook model dating between 2015 and 2017, a MacBook Pro model between 2016 and 2019, or a MacBook Air between 2018 and 2019. It is my fervent hope that this doesn’t result in everyone involved getting something like a $25 Apple gift card! I am typing and re-typing this on one on a MacBook Pro. The worst offender is the letter ’s,’ which either won’t type, or becomes multiples of the letter, but there are a number of other keys that intermittently screw up…including the space bar that won’t always ‘space.’ (I retyped that 3 times, trying to get only one letter ’s,’ btw. Even with a warranty, who wants to have to make an appointment, go to an Apple Store, drop of the laptop, and hope you get a decent refurbished one that isn’t worse? After that, you can reinstall from backup every single thing to the wiped drive. Grrr.