Prime Day is Here; The UK Spaceport Will Be in Scotland; Samsung Health Measurements

Christmas in July is here…or as Amazon calls it, Prime Day. The ‘day’ lasts 36 hours, not even counting the pre-sale deals or ‘last chance’ ones. Techcrunch.com notes that, as is often the case, a couple of the hotter deals are on Amazon’s own products. The Amazon Cloud Cam is $60, or half price. The Kindle Paper White has been dropped to $80, which is $40 off regular price. If you’re looking for something more pricey and outdoorsy, check the DJI Mavic Pro foldable drone at $999, which is $300 off the usual price. Prime Day officially starts at noon Pacific time July 16th.

The first spaceport built for the UK Space Agency will be on Scotland’s north coast, and Lockheed Martin is a major winner, with a $31 million grant to develop it and a new made-in-Britain system for deploying satellites into orbit. Geekwire.com says London-based Orbex will get $7 million towards design of the Prime rocket, which uses bio-propane and will deliver payloads of up to 330 lbs into low earth orbit. Orbex has also raised $40 million in public and private funds towards the rocket project.

Samsung has applied for a trademark ‘Samsung Speckle’ in Europe. Rumors are flying regarding what it is…and most point-to a device using lasers to measure heart rate or blood pressure. Businessinsider.com says the recent filing referring to the mark mentions a “laser speckle interferometric system” described in a previous patent application from 2016. Apple’s Watch uses LED lights to measure heart rates and to authenticate the wearer. A laser based system could be more accurate.

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Freshened MacBook Pro; Apple Watch Grows This Fall; Self-Driving Mercedes Test to Silicon Valley; Purple Galaxy Note 9

Apple has freshened it’s top drawer MacBook Pros today. Theverge.com reports that they come with updated processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and what Apple claims is a ‘quieter’ keyboard design. The 15 inch model gets a 70 percent performance boost and the 13 incher doubles in speed. The upgrade doesn’t apply to the base 13 inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), the MacBook, or MacBook Air. It is rumored the lower line MacBooks will be upgraded this fall. There is a beautiful new leather sleeve for the new MacBook Pros, in black, brown, and dark blue. The price is beautiful, to….a whopping $180 for a SLEEVE! OTOH, a fully tricked out 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back $6699! (Once your heart resumes beating….the base model remains the same at $2399.

Apple Watch gets updated this fall…probably at the iPhone event in September. One strong rumor from Ming-Chi Kuo is that both watches will get screen size increases without the watch getting larger. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will do this by cutting the bezel size. The screens will go from 1.31 inch and 1.54 inch to 1.57 and 1.78 inch sizes. the Watch will also get better heart rate detection.

Mercedes-Benz will start pilot testing self-driving taxis in Silicon Valley in 2019. Theverge.com reports that Daimler and Bosch have been partnering on the self-driving tech, which uses a custom version of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle tech. The cars will only follow preselected routes, and Mercedes hasn’t decided whether it will go with S-class cars (the biggest body Mercedes) or V-class vans, or both. As with all other self-driving cars right now, there will be a safety driver present in the vehicles.

A leaked poster shows the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in a purple color (which they’ve done before, calling it Lilac Purple) but with a twist this time…it comes with a gold S Pen. In addition, 9to5google.com says the phablet will continue to have a headphone jack. All will be revealed at Samsung’s Unpacked event, which is coming up on August 9th.


HTC’s Blockchain Phone; Magic Leap Signs With AT&T; Britain Fines Facebook over Cambridge Data

HTC may have a reduced presence, but they are still kicking, and plan to release the fabled first major blockchain phone in third quarter. Techcrunch.com says HTC has partnered with CryptoKitties, and the popular blockchain game will be available on a few of the company’s handsets, leading off with the U12+. HTC says that ‘the partnership with Cryptokitties is the beginning of a non fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.” Although a blockchain phone may not be mainstream, it may be enough of a hook for HTC to revive its flagging smartphone line.

Magic Leap, the company with the unusual and secretive AR glasses, has signed a deal for mobile data service with AT&T. Theverge.com reports that, in addition to selling the device, AT&T will let customers demo the glasses at stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Magic Leap is supposed to be putting out a ‘Creator Edition’ later this year. In this deal, AT&T will only start distributing the glasses once the consumer version becomes available. So far, Magic Leap hasn’t released a timeline for that. AT&T seems to feel that the Magic Leap AR glasses will be a game changer. They previously had cut an exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone…and we know how that turned out!

Britain’s data watchdog has fined Facebook $664,000 over the Cambridge Analytica mess. It will take the social media giant a screaming 18 minutes to pay the fine! According to businessinsider.com, if they had been fined under the new EU law that went into effect in May, the maximum penalty would have been $1.6 billion. Facebook made $4.8 billion in profit just in the first 3 months this year. The EU fine can be up to 4% of a company’s global turnover. Zuckerberg can eat a sandwich at his desk, and the British fine will be paid.


MS Surface Go Debuts at $399; Facebook Tests AR Ads; Auto Download for Netflix; Apple iOS 11.4.1 With GrayKey Killer

Microsoft is diving back in to the budget-priced tablet market with the Surface Go. The 10 inch screen tablet has a built-in kickstand, and is loaded with Windows 10, and starts at $399. Theverge.com reports that preorders are open now, and it will ship in August. It basically looks like a Surface Pro that shrunk in the wash, except with somewhat more rounded corners. The smaller Surface weighs 1.15 lbs, which is a little more than the similar iPad, but still half a pound lighter than the Surface Pro. As the Pro, it has the optional keyboard cover in 4 colors, and uses the optional Surface Pen.

In the continuing quest to get and keep more advertisers, Facebook is testing out ads with augmented reality in the newsfeed. According to techcrunch.com, the ads look like normal ads in the feed but there’s a ‘Tap to try it on’ option that activates the AR capabilities. If you like the way the product looks in AR, you can go ahead and buy it. The first test advertiser to test the feature is Michael Kors. Sephora, NYX Professional Makeup, Bobbi Brown, and Pottery Barn are planning to launch tests with AR ads yet this summer.

Your Netflix binge watching just got easier on Android phones. Buzzfeed.com says Netflix is automating downloads of a series with a feature called Smart Downloads. When you finish watching an episode, Netflix will automatically delete it and download the next one as long as you are on a WiFi network. The feature will be coming to iOS phones and tablets later this year. It really only works for series…they haven’t figured out how to program the feature for movies you might want to see next. BTW, if you don’t want the feature…what’s wrong with you? You can go to settings and turn it off.

Apple has dropped iOS 11.4.1, which is mainly just bug fixes and not a terribly big deal…except for what could be one of Steve Jobs’ famous ‘One more things.’ Cnet.com reports that the lates version of iOS brings USB Restricted Mode with it. That’s the feature that keeps the police, government, or thieves from plugging a GrayKey into the handset and using that box to unlock your phone and get your data. A charger will still work, but if you haven’t used the phone in an hour, the phone has to be unlocked with your Face ID and Passcode or Touch ID and Passcode. Apple claims they were more concerned with bad guys using the GrayKey device to hack peoples’ phones than police or governments, but neither of those latter two groups will be any too happy.


Ford-Bye Gas, Hello Batteries; Samsung Giant Indian Factory; Owning Apple i Devices = Wealth

Previously, Ford had announced that, outside of the Mustang, they were ditching cars for all SUVs and trucks. Now, engadget.com reports that Ford is going all-in on electrics. They plan to have a 300 mile range Mustang inspired small SUV (code name Mach 1) on the road by 2020. They plan to have 40 electrified vehicles…16 of then EVs…..by 2022.

Samsung has opened the world’s largest mobile phone factory in India. According to Bloomberg, it will make everything from $100 cheapies to the flagship S9. Locally, most sales in India are in the $250 or less range. Last year, India passed up the US to become the 2nd largest market for smartphones after China. Cisco did a study, and sees India going from 359 million smartphones in 2018 to 780 million in 2021.

In a study by the University of Chicago, in the US ’no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone’. Businessinsider.com says the study was based on 2016 data. According to the researchers, owning an iPhone gave them a 69% chance to correctly infer that the phone owner was ‘high-income,’ which they defined as in the top 25% of income for the household type (like single adult….or couple with dependents.) For reference, back in 1992, the strongest indicator of high income households was Grey Poupon mustard!


Samsung Bug; Amazon Anti-HAck Drone; HTC Cuts; Big Bank Blockchain Success

Here’s a creepy new development for some Samsung phone owners. Apparently, Samsung Messaging is randomly sending your camera roll photos to your contacts without permission. According to theverge.com, it is on the S9 and S9+ phones at the least…and appears to be when you use MMS messaging or send a message with a link. Samsung says they are aware of the issue and are looking into it. If you have the problem, Samsung says to call 1-800-SAMSUNG and let them know. The problem was first noticed on T-Mobile, but the carrier says it’s not their issue. Meanwhile, if you have a Samsung phone, better delete those racy selfies and private pictures until Samsung issues a fix!

Amazon just got a patent approved that they filed 2 years ago for “Hostile takeover avoidance of unmanned vehicles”. It’s aimed at making their future drones as hack-proof as possible. Amazon has been experimenting with having drones deliver people’s goods within an hour, so this is one step closer to that goal. The company’s other drone-related patents include self-destruction when a failure is detected and drones that can respond to gestures and voice commands. Mashable.com says Amazon is seeking to avoid hackers who might steal the drones and their payloads, crash them, or otherwise cause disruption to the operation of drones on their way to deliver your order.

The smartphone world is dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huewei. Now, maker HTC is cutting a quarter of its workforce worldwide…mainly at its manufacturing plant in Taiwan. Reuters.com reports that HTC once sold 10% of smartphones worldwide, but that’s been in decline for some time. Sales were down 48% from year to year in March. The company is also consolodating its smartphone and virtual reality divisions. Last year, HTC shifted 2,000 handset engineers to Google in an 1.1 billion dollar deal. Alphabet’s Google has been trying to get a foothold in the handset market with it’s Pixel line of phones.

It was confirmed today that the first cross-border, commercial transactions have been conducted on the we.trade blockchain platform – an initiative established by a group of financial giants, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Rabobank. These aren’t your average bank-funded, cross-border remittances transactions powered by the blockchain, though. This particular test was a sustained cross-country, multi-bank, interoperability remittance fest. Thenextweb.com reports that over a whole business week, 10 companies conducted trades on the we.trade platform, making use of four different banks, in 11 European countries. The successful tests are a major win for the IBM Blockchain Platform, which powers we.trade.


DircTV Price Hike; Dell Reverse Merger; Chinese Laser; Tesla Builds 5000 Model 3’s

Fresh on the heels of AT&T’s Time Warner buyout approval, the company has announced a $5 a month across the board increase starting August 1st on DirecTV. Saying it will help provide ‘the best streaming experience’ and that it will keep their rates ‘in line with the market,’ the price hike will hit everyone from the $40 basic package to the $75 ‘gotta have it’ one. Engadget.com says the increase does put the base price on par with what you’d get from the likes of YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV’s combined Orange and Blue package.

Dell Computer has announced a deal that would get them back to trading publicly again. Bloomberg.com reports that by combining with a stock that tracks its VMWare software unit, it brings them back to being a publicly traded stock. The DVMT share swap is valued at $17 billion. Founder and CEO Michael Dell had taken Dell Computer private back in 2013, but is wanting to streamline his multi-company tech empire and get a better handle on a massive debt load, which has been running around $50 billion. The reverse merger with VMWare fills that bill.

Elon Musk made a big splash with his ‘not a Flamethrower,’ but now something out of China is alleged to be a handheld laser. A report in the South China Morning Post says that they have developed a laser weapon dubbed the ZKZM-500, which is something of a laser AK-47. The laser gun can supposedly burn clothes and skin at 500 feet away, and is alleged to be capable of hundreds of shots. Skeptics point out that as described, it pretty badly bends the laws of physics. Also, no tests have been shown or written about. Western scientists say it would take at least a 200 lb backpack battery to power such a weapon. Still, Doctor Evil is salivating at the thought.

Tesla managed to crank out the promised 5,000 model 3’s in a week, but actually did it a few hours past the midnight deadline Sunday. According to Reuters.com, Elon Musk Tweeted about the success and also sent an all-hands email to staff that the company cleared the 5,000 Model 3’s goal and produced a total of 7,000 cars, counting the Model S and Model X production. Musk told employees that they were on track to make 6,000 Model 3’s by the end of July, and quipped ‘I think we just became a real car company!’