Facebook Hires Digital Forensics Firm to Audit Cambridge Analytica; Apple Developing Own MicroLED Screens; IBM working on World’s Smallest Computer; Woman Killed by Self-Driving Uber

Facebook…after failing to stop the publication of the news that Cambridge Analytica had harvested personal info from 50 million + users….has hired Stroz Friedberg to audit Cambridge. The firm, which played a big digital role in the Trump campaign, and Aleksander Kogan, the psycology professor involved in obtaining Facebook’s (and your) data, have both agreed to comply with the audit. Engadget.com says Facebook has also called on Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who disclosed Cambridge’s use of the data, to submit to the audit. Stay tuned.

Apple is working on developing its own MicroLED displays, and has actually already built some units for testing, according to reuters.com. The next-gen screens are being made at a plant in California, and Apple has allegedly made a giant investment in this. First to get the MicroLED screens will probably be wearables like the Apple watch, with the tech then moving to iPhones and iPads.

IBM, which pioneered the personal computer, is now downsizing…ultimately to the size of a grain of sand. TechCrunch.com reports that they already are working on one in the lab that is about one millimeter square. The little computers are intended to attach to all kinds of things…and can be used to authenticate products, track medications, and more. They only have the computing power of a chip from 1990, but will also include a solar cell for self power.

Not a first anyone wants to hear about…the first fatality involving a self-driving car. Reuters.com says an Uber self-driving SUV struck and killed a woman pedestrian in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, one of the cities where they are testing the automated cars. There was a safety driver along, who failed to react quickly enough when the woman jaywalked in the wee hours of the morning Monday. Uber has suspended all US testing until an investigation can be completed.

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Galaxy S10 3D Face Recognition; Galaxy S9 Easter Egg Health Feature; Nest Temp Sensor & Video Doorbell; Apple Patents ‘Keyless Keyboard’

The Galaxy S8 and the new S9’s have face unlock, but it’s 2D, not 3D. Now, according to 9to5google.com, Samsung is working on a true 3D system like Apple’s iPhone X on the S10. If the trials pan out, you may not need to combine the face unlock with either a fingerprint or iris reader to access things like your bank and credit accounts when the S10 comes out next year.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are out tomorrow, and have a heart rate sensor on the back. That’s nothing new for Samsung, but this one has an added trick that never got covered in all the leaks or even the rollout. Bgr.com says Samsung has managed to fly a feature of it under the radar. In February, at the rollout, Samsung also announced an app called My BP Lab. The app transforms the Galaxy S9’s heart rate monitor into a blood pressure monitor. Preliminary tests by journalists that have tried it out indicate that the readings are extremely accurate! Right now, the feature is a bit of a beta, and isn’t incorporated into the main Samsung Health app, but it likely will be before long.

Nest has rolled out a temperature sensor that works with its smart thermostats to keep rooms in your home closer to the ideal temperature. Theverge.com reports that the #39 sensor will be shipping in April, and there’s a preorder now for a 3 pack for $99. It does require the latest-generation Nest Learning Thermostat or the Thermostat E, and won’t work with first or second generation Nests…so I’m out of luck for now.

Nest has also released the Hello video doorbell for $229, and the long time coming Nest x Yale door lock…which is $249 or $279 if you get Nest Connect. The video doorbell does require a wired connection with power, but it is a direct shot at the Amazon Ring from Google.

Apple has applied for a patent on a ‘keyless keyboard,’ one that would basically use another touchscreen with haptic feedback to allow for a more versatile (and liquid and crumb-proof) keyboard. Appleinsider says it would allow for moving the trackpad into the middle, or changing the layout of the keyboard to an ergonomic one, and even specialty keyboard layouts using just software. As will all patents, and especially Apple’s, there’s no telling when or if this might hit the market.


Samsung In-Person Phone Repairs; Google Bans Crypto Ads; Netflix May Bow Weekly Newsmagazine Show; Walmart Expands Grocery Delivery

A strong plus for Apple’s iPhone line has been the ability to make an appointment, and hit an Apple store when your phone is on the fritz. Now, Samsung has announced they are acting to offer in-person service for Galaxy phones in the US. Engadget.com reports that after March 15th, users will be able to visit one of 300+ uBreakiFix locations around the country and get Samsung authorized repairs in person on late model high end Galaxy phones, from the S6 and Note 5 on up to the new S9’s. Both Samsung and uBreakiFix are promising same day repairs, and in most cases 2 hour fixes. Walk-ins are ok, but appointments are encouraged. The repair chain is also adding 200 more locations, and that is expected by 2019.

Google AdWords has banned all cryptocurrency ads. 9to5google.com says the ban will take effect in June to give advertisers time to wrap up schedules. The ban includes related content in addition to actual cryptocurrencies…initial coin offerings, exchanges, wallets, and trading advice ads will be stopped. The action is no doubt in response to the high volatility in the virtual currency market lately. Google notes the havoc that can wreak in less savvy people.

Word is, Netflix may be dipping its toe into news. According to cnet.com, the streaming programming giant is working on something in the vein of ’60 Minutes’ or ’20/20,’ a newsmagazine type format that will run weekly. In addition to entertainment programming, Netflix has already expanded to documentaries, so this may be another nature extension to position them as a full service program provider.

With Amazon now utilizing their acquisition of Whole Foods to expand their own grocery delivery business, Walmart has reacted with an aggressive lan to expand its own grocery delivery service from the present 6 test markets to 100 metro areas. Geekwire.com says Walmart will be able to leverage its 800 physical stores to reach what they say is over 40 percent of US households. Walmart will charge a $9.95 fee on orders of over $30. Using the Whole Foods grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime Now members can get free delivery in 4 test markets: Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. If they want delivery in an hour or less, it’s an additional $7.99.


Apple Buys Texture; Fitbit Releases 2 New Models; Tesla Model 3 Production Pains

Apple has picked up Texture, the digital newsstand, focusing in on content ‘from trusted sources.’ Techcrunch.com says the so-called Netflix of Magazine Publishing will continue to operate as it has, offering some 200 magazines online for the monthly $9.99 fee. The service will continue to run on apps for iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Windows 8 and 10. Texture has been owned by Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers Media, and investment firm KKR.

Fitbit has rolled out a couple of new models. The Versa is positioned as an Apple Watch competitor, while the Ace is touted as being kid friendly. Macrumors.com reports that the Versa, which is more rounded at the corners than previous models, is the lightest metal smartwatch in the US…made of ultra-thin, anodized aluminum. It has a brighter touchscreen and battery that lasts over 4 days on a charge. The Ace looks like a slimmer Fitbit and band, and is for kids 8 and up. It will track steps, active minutes, and sleep on a 5 day battery charge. It works with a Fitbit family account, so parents can monitor and control what the kids connect with. It launches in Q2, but can be pre-ordered today for $99.95 from fitbit.com. The Versa ls also open for preorders at $199.95 at the website, and other online retailers by tomorrow.

Production of the Tesla Model 3 continues to sputter. The company shut down production February 20th to the 24th to ‘improve automation and systemically address bottlenecks,’ according to engadget.com. So much for 5,000 units per week in March. The new goal is 5,000 per week in June.


Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)


Lyft To Test Self-Driving Cars Outside Concord, CA; Tesla’s Nav-Maps Engine Nears Completion; United Healthcare Looks to Apple Watch

A number of auto manufacturers are already testing self-driving equipment at the old Concord Naval Weapons Station on the Northeast part of Concord, CA. Now, Lyft has joined the party, according to theverge.com. Lyft will be testing out its self-driving tech at the 5000 square foot proving area. Uber already has a leg up on them, having started testing on public streets in several US cities. Besides Concord, there are 9 other official autonomous vehicle proving ground locations around the country, and of course, the auto makers all have had their own proving grounds for decades. Self-driving cars will be here sooner than you think…trucks, too…as Tesla is hauling a couple loads of batteries from the Gigafactory in Northern Nevada to their plant in Fremont, CA right now.

Speaking of Tesla, the Muskman has now said that their navigation and maps engine, which he claims is ‘light years ahead’ of all the others, is nearly done. Electrek.co reports that a hacker was able to get into a site Tesla is using, and posted screen shots. The hacker, who goes by ‘verygreen,’ says it looks like Google Maps, but is smoother and more detailed. Expect the software to be pushed out the Tesla owners sooner, not later.

Another company has joined the growing group offering people Apple Watches in an effort to monitor and keep them healthy…and this one is a biggie. 9to5mac.com says United Healthcare will make it so customers can earn an Apple Watch 3 basically for free, and on top of that will let users earn up to $1000 towards medical bills after the cost of the wearable.


Next iPhones-Smaller Then No Notches; Amazon Expands Discounted Prime; Cam Makers Partner for Easier Smartcams; Brits Refine Laws for Self-Driving Cars

The latest word, which comes from Korea’s ET News by way of macrumors.com, is that the next iPhones will have a notably smaller notch for the TrueDepth camera system. This will apparently be true for all 3 models expected in the fall. In addition to that, a sketchier rumor says Apple will be able to ditch the notch entirely in 2019!

Amazon already discounts Prime for people with an EBT card to $5.99 a month, instead of $12.99. Now, according to geekwire.com, they will expand this program to people on Medicaid, too. Users will still get free 2 day shipping, Prime Video, etc. Amazon says they plan to add other ways for people on assistance to qualify for the discount moving forward. The 2 day delivery for people on Medicaid is especially interesting since Amazon is looking to get into the prescription business.

Smartcams can bee cool to have for checking on kids, pets, or just for home security, but some can be a pain to set up, and even more so to get to work with other kinds, and with various systems. Now, Sony, Nikon, iPhone maker Foxconn, as well as others, are working together to make it possible for you to monitor video streams from different cams through a unified interface. Thenextweb.com reports that the makers are devising a specification called NICE so the footage from various cams can be split into scenes, indexed, made searchable and scannable in thumbnails, and more easily stashed in cloud storage. If all works out, there should be NICE cams and related products on the market by 2019.

Self-driving cars are gearing up to hit the roads, and like in the US, the Brits are trying to get things ready. Techcrunch.com says regulators in the United Kingdom are shooting for 2021 as the year driverless cars without a safety operator can be rolling on the roads there. A number of issues have to be worked out, including who is the responsible party if there’s no driver, and how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is shared control through some human-machine interface. If things go as planned, car makers may not have to worry one day about building right hand drive cars for the UK and a number of former British colonies that still drive on the left side of the road.