Intel Spectre/Meltdown Patch Coming for Newer Chips; Amazon Narrows Field for 2nd HQ; Apple Repatriates Cash & Gives Bonuses; SurveyMonkey Going Public

Intel has admitted that even it’s newer CPUs are affected but the reboot problems from the Spectre/Meltdown patches. This includes Skylake and Kaby Lake chips, according to engadget.com. Patches should be out in about a week, but slowdowns will be between 2 and 25%, depending on the task, and if just one core is running.

Amazon has cut the field of cities where it may build its second headquarters. Geekwire.com says the online giant is down to 20 cities in the US and also Toronto, Canada. They include Washington, D.C. and two suburbs, which may or may not be a hint. The only West Coast city is L.A. All the rest are in the Midwest or Northeast.

Apple announced yesterday the it is bringing back $350 billion in overseas cash the next 5 years, and will build a new facility in the US, employing some 20,000 people. The company will cough up about $38 billion in taxes in the process. The new campus will initially be devoted to AppleCare. No location has been revealed, but it won’t be in California. Now, according to bloomberg.com, Cupertino has also said they are giving a $2500 bonus in restricted stock units as well. Apple has over 120,000 employees, and both full time and part time employees in all departments are eligible.

After 19 years, online polling company SurveyMonkey is getting ready to go public later this year. Recode.net reports that the company has been valued at $2 billion of late. Two other major IPOs set for this year include Spotify and Dropbox. SurveyMonkey has 650 employees and says nearly all the Fortune 500 companies have used it’s online surveys.

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Bitcoin Tanking; 1st Million Apple HomePods Shipped; Galaxy S9 Release Date Leaked

As correctly predicted by ‘the Oracle of Omaha,’ Warren Buffett, Bitcoin is crashing. It’s now under 10,000, half of it’s high, according to bgr.com. Investors are selling off massive amounts of the virtual currency. Other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple are also slumping. While this sounds apocalyptic, keep in mind that even of Bitcoin traders, most is held by a group of people numbering in the low single digits. It’s not going to trash lots of 401(k) accounts or the like. Much of the drop is based on worry of stricter regulations being considered by South Korea and China.

After missing the important holiday shopping season, Apple’s home pods have started shipping from supplier Inventec. 9to5mac.com reports the first million are on the way, with an expected run of between 10 and 12 million this year. Hon Hai Precision Industry is also making the HomePods for Apple. The delay has been blamed on fine tuning software and hardware integration. No release date from Apple yet, but it should be soon for the $350 smart speaker.

Trusted leaker Evan Bless Tweeted yesterday that a C-level executive at a major case maker spilled the beans on the release of Samsung’s Galaxy S9. The handset will launch on February 26th, pre-orders will open on March 1st, and the new hero phone will ship on March 16th. Limber up those fingers for some fast ordering!


Next iPhones May Sport Smaller Notch; Tesla Model 3-Lots of Voice Commands; Google Devices Causing WiFi Outages

After getting universally panned for the notch at the top of the screen, it seems reviewers and actual people really embraced the blacked out area on the iPhone X where Face ID and the front cam live. Now, macrumors.com hears that Apple is looking into combining Face ID and the front cam to produce a smaller notch in the iPhone X successors that will be out in September 2019. It doesn’t look like the combined setup will make this year’s phones. It isn’t clear at this point how they would roll the infrared camera, dot projector, and flood illuminator all into the cam module, but Apple has dumped $821 million into LG Innotek, the company that will make most of all the 3D sensing modules for the upcoming iPhones.

With an answer to a question on Twitter, Elon Musk revealed that the Tesla Model 3…once production is really humming….will be getting a whole slew of voice control options. TechCrunch.com reports that Musk said in response to the question that once the software people got the core product right, you’ll be ‘able to do pretty much anything via voice command’ in the Model 3. So how about “Tesla…Tea. Earl Gray. Hot?”

This isn’t exactly something you want to hear…Google Home and Chromecast devices are causing temporary outages on many routers from ASUS, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Line, and Synology. According to 9to5Google.com, some become completely inoperable for a little bit, and others just drop their internet connection. The short explanation: the Google devices send a giant burst of information when they wake from sleep mode, causing the routers to drop their net connection or shut down the connection to the device. Google says they have a team working quickly to come up with a fix.


PC & Mac Sales; Smart Speaker Market Booming, Wireless Earbuds-‘Assistive Hearing’ Coming

It’s easy, especially when covering tech, to be all over the latest mobile devices, and lose track of what’s happening with the venerable PC…which most of us still have and use. Bgr.com has the numbers as tracked by IDC, and here’s where computer brands stood in 2017: #1 was H-P with 22.7% of the market. Lenovo came in 2nd with 21.1%. In third place was Dell with 16.1% market share, and 4th was Apple at 7.6%. Acer was in 5th place with 6.8%, and ASUS grabbed 6th with 6.6%, hot on their trail. The other 19.1% of computer sales was ‘everybody else.’ Of all of them, Apple had the most growth in the 4th quarter covering the holidays.

While Apple fanboys and fangirls breathlessly await the Apple HomePod, the smart speaker market is absolutely booming. According to 9to5mac.com, it’s up 128% since a year ago. Research from Edison Research and NPR indicates one in 6 Americans own a smart speaker of one type or another. 65% of owners say they would never want to go back to not having one! Of the 16% of us that have smart speakers, 11% are Amazon Alexa powered, while 4% use Google Home.

Since Congress passed a law allowing some hearing aid tech without prescription, wireless earbud makers are looking to that as a new market. Engadget.com reports that wireless earbud pioneer Bragi announced at CES that they would be diving into personalized hearing enhancement for their Dash earbuds. On top of that, they are working to develop personalized fitting for hearing loss using the so-called ‘Earprint’ test….pointing out that correcting for hearing loss needs to be as personalized as fitting for glasses. Another company called Nuheara showed off their updated product called IQBuds Boost.


Galaxy S9 Gets FM Radio; Shortage of Apple Replacement Batteries; Connected Underwear

Another feature has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy S9 that debuts next month. According to bgr.com, Samsung will unlock the FM chip on phones sold in the US and Canada. While you can get radio and internet radio over apps, this might come in very handy in emergencies like hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. The FCC recently called on Apple to do the same, and in fact to activate FM chips in existing iPhones (although the latter isn’t technically possible.)

On the topic of Apple, there’s the ongoing saga of the slowed down, older iPhones due to batteries failing. Macrumors.com says those $29 replacement batteries promised by Apple may not be here in enough volume until March or April for the iPhone 6 Plus. The delay is only a couple weeks for the iPhone 6, and Apple says batteries should be available right now for iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and SE.

In a sure sign that the Internet of Things has gone too far….smart underwear! Mashable.com reports that the skivvies come with sensors woven into the fabric of the undies, and the have a small, rechargeable module that can be removed for recharging….and of course, washing. The Skiin bras and underwear from Myant have 6 different sensors that track heart rate, temperature, pressure, motion, body fat, and hydration levels. All the data is sent to your smartphone app. Pricey? Of course! $279 for 4 pairs of undies.


Facebook Goes for Home Device Market; LG to Make Face ID Tech for Some iPhones & iPads; Galaxy S9 Bowing at Mobile World Congress

Not much the general public can use has come out of Facebook’s secretive Building 8, the hardware development projects facility. Now, according to cheddar.com, something with mass appeal may be on the way. Apparently, Facebook is looking at dropping a video chat device called Portal in May Cath their developer conference. Facebook isn’t aiming at the smart assistant market, but more of a way for families and friends to stay connected via video chat and other social features. It will sport a wide angle lens and be able to recognize faces and associate them with their facebook accounts. The device has tentively been priced $499, but may be rolled out for less, since Amazon has the Echo Show selling at $230. The Portal will be sold online and through pop up stores.

Apple has dropped some serious change in LG division Innotek. Macrumors.com reports that Cupertino expects LG Innotek to build out additional facilities to produce 3D sensing and cam modules for Face ID in the next round of iPhone X and upcoming iPads. It’s expected that Apple will roll out an updated iPhone X in September, along with a larger X Plus, and a midrange phone with LCD screen instead of OLED. All will have Face ID, as will at least one iPad this year.

You won’t have to wait much longer for the Samsung Galaxy S9. Bgr.com says Samsung will unveil their latest hero handset at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the end of February. This date is actually a couple weeks later than some had been saying. If it’s the folding Galaxy X you’re lusting after, Samsung Mobile boss DJ Koh says that may not be out until 2019.


New Google Smart Display; Microsoft Meltdown Updates Brick Some AMD PCs, Samsung’s Foldable Galaxy X Phone; LimeBike eBikes to Select Cities; Robot Strippers Hit Vegas

Google has made a big splash at CES in Las Vegas. From wrapping the trams, to their giant ‘Hey Google’ booth, they are hard to miss. They are going for smart assistant market share in a big way, too. Theverge.com says the list of smart speakers that use Google Assistant has expanded rather dramatically. Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony will all feature speakers with Google Assistant. Of those, JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony will make smart speakers with screens. They should be out by summer. The smart-screen speakers will apparently run Android Things, a version of Android tailored for Internet of Things devices. One obvious leg up on Amazon’s Alexa devices….the Google smart speakers with screens will play YouTube videos! They will also let you access you Nest cam security cams.

Public service message: Apparently Microsoft’s updates to stop ‘Meltdown’ have been pulled, because they bricked some AMD computers. Engadget.com reports that Redmond blames AMD’s documentation, but at any rate, it primarily affects Athlon and Sempron equipped computers. Apple released patches for Meltdown and Spectre on both the Mac OS and iOS yesterday, and they work fine. If you have a Windows machine you know doesn’t have AMD processors, go ahead and install the patch.

Another tease about the folding Galaxy X phone. Samsung is now saying it might enter production by November, and be out by this coming December. Bgr.com notes that CEO of mobile DJ Koh has been teasing this handset for a while now, but we’ve never even gotten a tentative date up to now. The premium handset would be a smartphone while folded, then open up for use as a tablet. No price range, but Samsung calling it ‘premium’ gives you the idea that it will be over a grand like the iPhone X.

There are already bike rental set ups in a number of major cities…even Ford has entered the fray with those. Now, LimeBike is rolling out electric bicycles, or e-bikes in several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, and Miami. Geekwire.com says the e-bikes debuted at CES, and 3ill cost $1 to unlock and and additional buck for each 10 minutes of riding time. LimeBike already has a fleet of garish green bikes with no electric assistance that rent for a dollar per 30 minutes of riding time. The new e-bikes should be available in a couple weeks. They are restricted to 14.5 mph, due to many cities having 15mph bike speed limits. The thought is that with certain cities that have a fair amount of hills, the e-bikes will give riders a break in trying to negotiate those. OK, no Idea about Miami, though…

The most off the wall thing at CES…or maybe ‘off the pole’, isn’t at the show, but at a strip club. According to businessinsider.com, the Sapphire has flown in robot strippers with large security cameras for heads from London! If that isn’t crazy enough, the club claims…claims that the idea is to attract women to the club! So far, no ‘thumbs up’ from either Robocop or Lt Cmdr. Data.