After Fact Check, Trump Threatens Twitter Regulations; Instagram Will Share Revenue With Creators; Facebook Buried Evidence of Algorithms Encouraging Polarization; Tesla Cuts EV Prices

After Twitter…at LONG last….mildly reined in Donald Trump, the Tweeter in Chief went crazy, as could have been predicted by a 3 year old. According to techcrunch.com, Trump started Tweeting threats to regulate the platform or even shut it down. “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” he tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016.” After railing against Twitter, Trump again went into his recent mantra about how bad mail-in ballots are, calling them “free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft.”

In a first for the platform, Instagram will begin sharing revenue with creators through ads in IGTV and badges that viewers can purchase on Instagram Live. Theverge.com reports that next week, ads will begin showing up in IGTV for about 200 approved English-speaking creator partners. Instagram will share a 55% cut with creators…the same percentage as what creators get on Facebook Watch. They plan to open up the cash payout to creators around the world as they expand the program. The ads will run about 13 seconds.

Some internal research showed that Facebook’s algorithms encouraged polarization, and apparently CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other brass killed the idea of fixing the problem. Businessinsider.com, quoting the Wall St. Journal, noted that the report concluded “Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” Zuckerberg and policy head Joel Kaplan repeatedly nixed fixing the problem either because they feared appearing biased against conservatives or simply lost interest in solving the problem. Multiple reports date back to 2016! Facebook teams pitched multiple fixes, including: limiting the spread of information from groups’ most hyperactive and hyperpartisan users; suggesting a wider variety of groups than users might normally encounter; and creating subgroups for heated debates to prevent them from derailing entire groups. However, these proposals were often nixed entirely or significantly diluted by Zuckerberg and policy chief Joel Kaplan.

Tesla has…without fanfare… whacked prices of its electric cars in the USD by thousands. Engadget.com says Model S and Model X have been given a $5000 haircut. The Model S Long Range Plus EV was $79990, and is now $74,990. The Model X SSUV is now $79,990, also 5 grand lighter than the prior price. The Model 3 has been trimmed by a lesser amount, $2000, while the new Model Y price is unchanged. Tesla will reportedly also cut prices in China by around 4%. Apparently making the money back on the back end, Tessa has eliminated free access to its Supercharger service for Model S and Model X SUVs.


T-Mobile Teams With Google on RCS Rollout; Amazon Kindle & Echo Team Working on COVID-19 Test; UK Dropping Huawei 5G Gear; Mercedes Launches EQV e-Van

SMS and MMS have had a long run, but now, T-Mobile and Google are partnering to roll out RCS messaging to every Android user on T-Mobile and Metro. 9to5google.com reports that T-Mobile has crowed about being first to bring RCS to the US, but it has been a very limited rollout up to now. RCS will work on Android across carriers and apps. T-Mobile says it will be baked into the system…Android users won’t have to download a new app. Right now, it’s not known if it will be a version of Google Messages, but we do know that it will feature end to end encryption.

Amazon has already been working on an internal COVID-19 testing lab since last month, using equipment from third-party manufacturers. Now, according to geekwire.com, they have enlisted their top-drawer Lab126 group to roll their own. This is the Amazon group that created the Kindles, Fire tablets, and Echo smart speakers. Lab126 is based in Silicon Valley, but Amazon is advertising for some positions in Hebron, KY, (near Cincinnati) where they have been hiring lab assistants, scientists and others for their COVID-19 testing program. This location is of note for being near a major Amazon Prime Air hub slated to open next year. Some analysts see this not as just Amazon gearing up to test its own massive workforce, but possibly moving into ‘a new business path’ over time.

The US has been haranguing the UK for months now to dump Huawei’s 5G equipment from their networks. Theverge.com says they finally caved. Members of the Conservative party there had already been pushing for the ban due to security concerns. Security agencies are concerned that firms closely linked to the Chinese government like Huawei and ZTE may have built back doors into the network infrastructure equipment that could ease spying efforts but the Chinese government. The UK will be purged of Huawei 5G gear by 2023.

Mercedes EQV electric van is now on sale in Europe. The high end e-van is around $78,352. Engadget.com reports that it can be set up to carry up to 8 passengers or configured to transport equipment or goods. The range? Glad you asked. It’s 260 miles on a charge. The base model…if you can call it that at nearly 80 grand tops out at 87 mph, but you can pay extra for 100 mph top speed. Besides quick charging, it uses regenerative braking to help keep the batteries up. Great for a well-heeled, larger family, but when it gets to the US, probably will be showing up as a shuttle or delivery ban. Pricey for those uses, but OTOH, a lot less to maintain, so over time, with savings on not buying fuel and upkeep, it could be competitive.


VW Will Only Sell ID e-Cars Online; Google & Apple Launch COVID-19 Tracing APIs; Apple Updating Schoolwork & Classroom Apps for Remote Learning; Students Flunking AP Tests- College Board Can’t Take iPhone Photo Format

In what has to send a shock wave through the franchised dealer system, Volkswagen has announced that its dealerships will no longer be the primary point of sale for the ID family of electric vehicles. According to engadget.com, they will be downgraded to an ‘agent’ that facilitates the sale. Right now, the EV line is only going to be sold in Europe, so this may not be the issue it will be over here. Even if VW changes its franchise agreement, many states have laws against this type of thing…Tesla has run into this…so expect delays and litigation.

The way it will work, in Europe, and if VW prevails here, is that you will place the order directly with VW, and choose your preferred dealer. When you go to the dealership, instead of a fast sales pitch, the dealership will be focused on organizing test drives, facilitating the transaction, and ensuring you get your keys and on the road in as frictionless a manner as possible. The price of the vehicle and dealership’s commission are fixed…which should be an incentive to the dealers in need of some financial relief after the precipitous fall in sales due to sheltering in place over the pandemic. The system…and EVs…will roll out in Europe next month.

Google and Apple have put out updates that are phase one of their COVID-19 contact-tracing tech. An Exposure Notification API has launched on both iOS and Android that public health agencies can use to build their own mobile apps. Thenextweb.com reports that the software uses Bluetooth to alert people if they have come into contact with someone who has the virus. When a user indicates that they have probably caught COVID-19, the system sends a notification to other Android phones and iPhones that have been in their vicinity.

The key issue: will enough people use the apps to accomplish effective contact tracing. Both Google and Apple insist that the tech used is privacy preserving. It is opt IN, first of all…you choose if you want to get Exposure Notifications and report your diagnosis. Also, the system does not use GPS location tracking like many of the contact tracing apps being issued by governments. The second phase will be revealed in just a few weeks…Google and Apple will be baking the software directly into iOS and Android. The companies say multiple states and 22 counties plan to use the software tobuildd their now apps.

Apple is rolling out updates to its education apps, including a new Schoolwork 2.0 for iPad and Mac. Cnet.com says the update will bring Files integration, speed improvements, and more. Also, there’s a communication integration that will allow teachers to FaceTime or message students. The Classroom app is also being updated. It is getting pinch-to-zoom functionality, automatic syncing of Apple School Manager classes to the teacher’s Apple ID, and new temp. sessions for shared iPads. The messaging feature is particularly aimed at helping teachers with remote learning as it appears there will be more of that again in the fall. Both apps should launch soon.

Some smart kids have gotten tripped up by their smartphones on AP exams, because the College Board software can’t read their photo format. According to theverge.com, the students have to upload a photo of their essay format answers, and apparently the College Board system can’t read HEIC image files. The HEIC format is used by default on iOS devices and a lot of newer Android phones. The format was introduced because it takes up less space than JPG, JPEG, or PNG formats, so you can keep more photos on your phones.

Apparently, the College Board is being typically stinky, and telling them tough, you ran out of time to upload. The only option for some is to retake the test in 3 weeks. Apparently, the College Board noted the issue in a Tweet, but not everyone is on Twitter, nor would they necessarily see it in the firehose of Tweets spewing by all the time. Some students have petitioned for the CB to do more….23,000 have signed on. So far, the CB has just said in the future they will allow pics to be emailed in….iPhones automatically convert HEIC shots to JPEGs in the Mail app.


Facebook Launches ‘Shops’; Hulu’s Big Makeover; Apple-Maybe No EarPods With iPhones; Huge Bump in e-Bike Sales

Facebook is jumping into e-commerce with both feet, with the announcement of Shops. Theverge.com reports that it’s a new way for businesses to set up free storefronts on both Facebook and Instagram. The shops will be powered by third party services like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo. They are designed to turn the social net into a ’top-tier shopping destination.’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a live stream of the announcement “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.” Shops are free to create, but expect ads…Facebook plans to rake in cash from advertising, fees when you make payments, and other services. Facebook touts that people can store their payment credentials in a single place for more frictionless sales. How much people will trust them with that info after the Cambridge Analytica mess remains to be seen.

Hulu is rolling out their biggest refresh in years. According to techcrunch.com, the goal is a more standardized (some say Netflix-like) user interface. Collections are laid out vertically on the Home screen, with tiles of shows within the collections horizontal, in scrollable rows. Hulu continues to differ from Netflix in its continuing of editorial imagery to highlight select titles, and now adds a variety of tile sizes to relay info about the content the platform recommends. Top level navigation is simplified, too…with categories like ‘Movies’ and ‘Sports’ at the top of the screen. The rollout is in progress this week, and will hit tvOS and Roku first. Other platforms won’t see the new look until July.

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says it looks like Apple will be dropping sending wired earbuds with the iPhone 12 models. Of course, this will bring howls from some sectors, but I, for one, am glad not to have another set of crappy earbuds to toss in a drawer. Apple’s included phones have always been terrible and ill-fitting anyway. 9to5mac.com says dropping the included earbuds should goose sales of 2nd gen AirPods and the AirPods Pro, and analysts expect Apple to heavily promote or discount those. They will be coming out with newer models in 2021 anyway, and it could help clear inventory. Since you have needed to buy an adapter for the wired ones if you wanted to use plug in charging and the ear buds at the same time…or else go Bluetooth, this seems like a natural progression. Since iPhones have wireless charging and Apple sells mostly Bluetooth earbuds and headphones (as most makers now), they may be looking at dropping the charging/headphone port entirely by 2021, as has been rumored in the past.

With the shift in traffic patterns…or in a lot of cases, virtual elimination of much traffic due to the coronavirus, e-bikes have picked up. According to geekwire.com, Rad Power Bikes has seen a 297% uptick in demand. According to a consulting firm that watches the bike industry, Human Powered Solutions, the trend is for strong gains for all bikes. Right now, the biggest issue facing e-bikes like Rad Power Bikes is getting parts due to virus-caused supply chain issues in China. The entry level RadRunner is $1199 and gets up to 45 miles per charge, with their priciest model RadRunner+ (same range, just more options) is priced right now at $1699….they are taking pre-orders for that one.


New Apple Glass Rumors; Samsung Smartphone Sensor-DSLR-Like; Microsoft & Sony Partner On Smart Camera Solutions; Tesla Will Raise ‘Full Self-Driving’ Price

Major leaks about the Apple smart glasses from Macrumors.com, picking up from Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech. We now reportedly have a name and price. They will be called Apple Glass, and will start at $499. Apparently, prescription lenses will be an option. There will be displays in both lenses, and they can be interacted with via gestures. The glasses will have to be paired with an iPhone, as the original Apple Watch was. Other rumors include wireless charging and LiDAR. The Apple Glass was to have been shown at their iPhone event in September, but has now been bumped to spring. The iPhone event will be delayed to October because of the pandemic, according to Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple is also reportedly working on a more traditional AR/VR headset that will resemble the Oculus Quest.

Samsung has revealed its latest smartphone camera sensor, which ‘only’ has 50 megapixels…finally tacitly admitting that more megapixels isn’t always better. According to engadget.com, the ISOCELL GN1 does come in at 1/1.3 inches, with relatively large 1.2 micron pixels to help low-light performance. It has dual pixel autofocus, similar to what Canon cameras have, and Samsung says it will have ‘DLSR-level autofocus speeds,’ even in dimly lit situation. Samsung may see it go into a Vivo phone first, and later make its way into the Galaxy line. Samsung has had problems with the 108 MP sensor in the Galaxy S20.

In other cam sensor news, Sony and Microsoft are partnering to build AI powered smart camera solutions, in order to make it easier for enterprise customers to perform video analytics. Zdnet.com says that they will be embedding Microsoft Azure AI into sony’s IMX500 AI-enabled image sensor. It’s the first chip to contain but a pixel chip and a logic chip. According to Sony, the app will allow independent software vendors and smart camera original equipment manufacturers to develop AI models, enabling them to create their own customer and industry-specific video analytics and computer vision solutions that use the IMX500 image sensor.

Tesla has announced that they will jack up the price of the ‘full self-driving’ option by $1000 on July 1st. Cnet.com reports the announcement came in a Tweet from Elon Musk (of course.)
Tesla Full Self-Driving option cost rises by ~$1000 worldwide on July 1st. Order a Tesla online in less than 2 minutes at https://t.co/qJm9uPBCX5
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 18, 2020

The package has been priced at $7000 for a while now. When contacted, Tesla wouldn’t comment on whether any new features would be included in the package. Musk claims the FSD mode is “the value of FSD is probably somewhere in excess of $100,000.”


Samsung Artificial Smart Window Apes Sun; Minecraft Exceeds 200 Million Sold; European Supercomputers Hacked to Mine Cryptocurrency; Next iPad Pro

Samsung’s in-house incubator C-Lab has unveiled and artificial window that imitates the appearance…and benefits…of natural light…something particularly relevant as a lot of people still shelter-in-place. According to engadget.com, the Sunnyside (earlier called SunnyFive) window can produce a full spectrum of natural light, and it changes the angle of projected light through the day to mimic the movement of the sun through the sky as it hits your window. Samsung claims it will “help users synthesize vitamin D while they are indoors or in low-lit places without having to worry about skin aging or sunburn.” They haven’t indicated when it will be available or what the cost range will be, but Samsung says it will be compatible with their Smart Things system.

It’s 11 years old, and seems to still be going strong. Microsoft’s Minecraft has now passed 200 million copies sold, and theverge.com reports that Redmond claims 126 million monthly players. As you might expect, they saw a bump in play with the pandemic. Minecraft scored a 25% increase in new players in April, and a 40% spike in multi-player sessions. Minecraft hit 100 million in sales back in 2016. It was acquired by Microsoft from Mojang 6 years ago for $2.5 billion…and at the time, had already sold 50 million copies.

Hack YOUR weak-a**ed computer to mine cryptocurrency? Ha! Several supercomputers across Europe have even shut down to investigate infections of malware used to mine cryptocurrency. Zdnet.com says the computers were located in UK, Germany, and Switzerland, and there may have been attacks on supercomputers in Spain as well. The first to pick up on the attack were the Scots, who shut down the ARCHER supercomputer at the University of Edinburgh. The organization is resetting SSH passwords and running an investigation prior to firing the mighty electric brain back up. Apparently, all the attacks used compromised SSH logins. It is a bad time for this, as several of the machines were prioritizing research on COVID-19. The Russians had one of their supercomputers hacked in 2018, and later arrested engineers from the Russian Nuclear Center…who were also mining cryptocurrency.

Yes, Apple just updated the iPad Pro in March, but now it looks like 2021’s model will get a much more extensive makeover. According to 9to5mac.com, the next gen model will have mini LED display tech…which will mean better display quality and longer battery life. The next iteration of iPad Pros will also feature 5G connectivity. It’s expected that it will support both versions…the so-called sub-6 GHz and the mmWave 5G systems. The mmWave tech has the blazing gigabit-like speed, while the sub-6 has a lot wider range, and is no slouch in the speed department at 100-150 Mbps. Early reports from the likes of Ming-Chi Kuo say that the next Pro will have nearly the power of the 15 inch MacBook Pro.


Apple Watch Detect Coronavirus? Top Google Pixel People Leave; Waymo AI-Vectors to Predict Pedestrians & Bikes; Senate Votes Against Ban on Snooping on Internet History

Stanford is gearing up for a wearables study to determine if the Apple Watch could detect the coronavirus. According to 9to5mac.com, they want to see if data like ECG and respiration rate can be used to track COVID-19 and other infectious diseases…even before any symptoms present themselves. If you have An Apple Watch Series 4 or other wearable like a Fitbit that can detect ECG, and are interested, hit this link: https://redcap.stanford.edu/surveys/?s=YJ3FRCWX8X. In order to participate, you’ll need to agree to three things:
1 Wear your device continuously
2 Download an app
3 Fill out a daily symptom survey (which takes 1-2 minutes)
The study will run for up to two years, but they hope to complete the first phase in a matter of weeks.

A couple of major members of the Pixel team, Marc Levoy and Mario Queiroz, have left. Techcrunch.com reports that both Levoy and Queiroz were key members of the imaging team, and were widely believed to be major players in developing the Pixel’s amazing camera capabilities. Some observers believe the two were pushed out after Google was disappointed with the penetration of the Pixel into the smartphone market. The budget Pixel 3A has gotten decent numbers, as opposed to the hero model. The upgrade to the Pixel 4A has been delayed due to the coronavirus.

As is obvious…even to cameras with a speck of programming behind them…cars and trucks are big. Pedestrians and bicyclists are harder for self-driving AI to pick up. Now, venturebeat.com says Google’s Waymo has taken the wraps off an AI model it claims will “significantly” improved its driverless systems’ ability to predict the behavior of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. Called VectorNet, it ostensibly provides more accurate projections while requiring less computing compared with previous approaches. VectorNet helps predict movements of road users using info from maps and sensor data to alert the ‘full-stack’ driverless system. The VectorNet system essentially adds info to maps like traffic signs, lanes, and round boundaries. The system has an added bonus of taking computing load from the primary driving stack. Waymo just resumed road testing its self driving cars a week ago, after a pause due to the shelter-in-place.

Yesterday, the Senate failed by a single vote to approve an amendment to parts of the Patriot Act that would explicitly bar law enforcement from using it to justify collecting individuals’ internet browser and search history without a warrant. According to Mashable.com, the amendment needed 60 votes to pass, and got 59. 24 Republicans voted for it, 10 Democrats…somewhat amazingly…voted against it, including normally progressive Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sheldon Whitehouse. Senator Bernie Sanders was not present for the vote, which could have made the difference. The amendment was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden. The Act itself doesn’t specifically allow warrantless searches, but not passing this amendment leaves a great area that is ripe for abuse by police and government authorities…including action against potential political rivals.


Facebook Head of AI-Musk Has No Clue; Facebook Paying $52 Million Settlement to Content Moderators; 13 State AGs Probing Amazon Over COVID-19; Apple May Offer Audio Versions of Some Apple News Stories

In a Tweet this (Wednesday) morning, Facebook head of AI Jerome Pesenti said with regards to comments by Elon Musk that AI is on the brink of outsmarting humans and that it could prove more dangerous to mankind than nuclear weapons, that Musk “has no idea what he is talking about when he talks about AI.” According to businessinsider.com, the Tweet was in reaction to an CNBC story that quoted anonymous AI researchers and CEO’s who were questioning Musk’s AI credentials. Musk WAS an early investor in several AI startups, including OpenAI lab and DeepMind (which was later picked up by Google.) Pesenti says there’s no AI system in the world that’s close to achieving “artificial general intelligence,” or intelligence on par with a human mind. He did note that he was speaking personally, and wasn’t speaking on behalf of Facebook. Edward Grefenstette, a former DeepMind engineer who now works for Facebook called Musk an “opportunistic moron” after the Tesla CEO tweeted “FREE AMERICA NOW” last month. There has been no response to a request for comment to a Tesla spokesperson so far.

In other Facebook news, the social media giant will pay out $52 million to current and former moderators to compensate for mental health issues they have developed on the job. Theverge.com reports that the amount appeared in a preliminary settlement filed last Friday in San Mateo Superior Court. Facebook also agreed to provide more counseling to the moderators while they work. Each moderator will get a minimum of $1000 and will be legible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with PTSD or other related conditions. 11,250 moderators are covered by the settlement.

Even as Amazon touted their changes to protect employees against COVID-19 to 60 Minutes Sunday, the Attorneys General of 13 states are calling on the company to release data on the number of their workforce COVID-19 cases and deaths. Geekwire.com says the AGs also want Amazon to extend its unlimited, unpaid time off policy wherever a state of emergency exists. They’re also seeking an explanation of how Amazon deals with reports of retaliation against employees who speak out about workplace safety, citing “disturbing media reports alleging such retaliation by Amazon.” Those acts could be in violation of the Occupation Safety and Health Act, according to the top state lawyers. Amazon did respond, noting what they showed off on 60 Minutes, including their UV robot that rolls along disinfecting items and told the program that at least 600 workers had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Other reports have indicated a notably higher number of cases. ‘But my stuff is still coming in 2 days, right?’

Apple News+ is considering providing an option to listen to audio versions of some stories at some point. According to macrumors.com, they have asked publishers that participate in Apple News + for permission to produce audio versions of stories produced on the platform. Apple has told producers it will handle production costs, and compensate publishers the same way it does for written content they put up…50% of subscriber revenue to publishers based on how much time the Apple subscribers spend with the publishers’ content in a 30 day period. So far, no word on when Apple might launch the audio version of News + stories.


April Smartphone Shipments Up 17% in China; Twitter Adding Labels to Misleading CCOVID-19 Claims; AirPods Studio Features; LG Looks to ‘Wing’ Smartphone Design

In a glimmer of good news regarding the pandemic and its effects, government data from China shows smartphone shipments in China up 17% in April compared to April 2019. Reuters.com reports that the numbers point to an early domestic rebound for makers like Huawei and Apple…at least in China. Phone makers shipped 40.8 million handsets in April 2020, up from 34.8 million in the same month of 2019. This is according to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology…a state-backed think tank. Private research firms like Canalys, IDC, and Counterpoint Research all reported first quarter shipments of Apple devices in China declined in the low single digits, while Huawei managed to stay flat for the first quarter. We’ll have to see how May numbers stack up to see if 2nd quarter shipments in China hold up and really indicate a recovery.

Twitter is…thankfully and at long last…going to label Tweets with misleading COVID-19 claims. Engadget.com reports that they will say ‘disputed or misleading information.’ This is an expansion of the warnings already in place since March applied to ‘fake and ineffective treatments’ and other coronavirus hoaxes. The new label will include a link to a Moment curated by Twitter or an external site that includes facts about COVID-19. In some cases, you will also find a blurred out Tweet with the warning “conflicts with guidance from public health experts regarding COVID-19.” You will have to click through to view those Tweets.

Info about Apple’s over ear headphones, which may be called ‘AirPods Studio,’ is trickling out. 9to5mac.com says that…unlike the AirPods ear detection, which auto-pauses when you take them off…the Studio will actually sense if the headphones are on your head or your neck. When you drop them around your neck, they will pause music, but stay on and at the ready for use again. Another unique sensor will detect left and right ears…so there will be no having to look at the ‘cans’ to see which side is right or left…the Studio will detect that, and route the left channel sound to your left ear and right sound to your right! They will have Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode, as do most higher line headphones. Pairing them with a Mac or iOS device will automatically unlock your custom equalizer settings, too! Apple will apparently offer at least two versions…one with leathers and another with lighter materials for fitness use. They are also testing modular interchangeable magnetic ear pads, like the Master & Dynamic headphones already have…a feature I highly approve of! There will be at least two color options, and it looks like they will be priced competitively with other higher line wireless headphones at around $349.

LG was big back in the feature phone days, and even did ok during the early years of smartphones….then pretty well fell off the charts. Now, 9to5google.com reports that they are looking to a radical ‘wing’ design to regain a foothold in the smartphone market. The phone pivots in the middle to make what is basically a T-shape. The upper part that you then hold horizontally is the main dlsplay, and the one that swivels to the bottom can be sued for editing tools, browsing info, and a keyboard. The wing reportedly would run on a Snapdragon 765 chip, and would have a 6.8 inch main screen with the 4 inch part of the ’T’ the aux display. Estimates put the pricing at around $800. No release date has been leaked yet, but it’s expected later this year.


iPhone 12Pro- 3X Zoom, 120 Hz Screen-More; Facebook Rolling Out Dark Mode & Cleaner Desktop; Zillow-Virtual Tours New Normal for Real Estate; Thunderbolt Flaw- Local Access & Data Gone in 5 Minutes; 46% of Companies-Still Hiring

As the new iPhones are probably finalized, here’s more that has leaked out about the top line models. 9to5mac.com says the latest from Max Weinbach (of EverythingApplePro) is that the iPhone 12 Pro models will feature 120 Hz displays, up from the 60 in the present phones. Apple has built in a feature to gear down automatically to 60 when you aren’t needing the high refresh rate (not watching video, etc) to save battery. Battery life on the 6.76 inch iPhone 12 Pro Max will be over 4400mAh. There’s an improved Face ID, which will support a wider angle of view to unlock, and as we previously reported, a LIDAR scanner to improve autofocus and Portrait Mode. Also, the telephoto zoom gets a bump up from 2X to 3X for physical zoom…which is always much cleaner than digital zoom.

You may not have seen it yet…I haven’t…but Facebook started rolling out its new cleaner desktop redesign late last week…including a dark mode. I have had a tease bar at the top of the page for almost a month about the new look coming, so it will be interesting to see how it runs. I have used Twitter in dark mode since it came out, and find it much easier on the eyes. Cnet.com reports that most people should be getting the new desktop Facebook over the next couple weeks…it was previewed last year at its F8 developers conference. It has a lot more white space…or dark space if in that mode, brighter icons, and streamlined navigation which more closely mirrors that on the mobile app. It also should load faster!

With the pandemic pretty well halting open houses, real estate sales has been hobbled. Zdnet.com reports that Zillow is working to “accelerate technology to deliver seamless and now more virtual real estate shopping and transaction experiences.’ They believe the future lies in virtual tours, not in-person ones…and not just for Zillow users. Zillow also sees in-person appraisals, filings, and closings as becoming something of the past after the pandemic becomes a bad memory…due to a vaccine and treatment advances. Zillow created 525% more 3D home tours in April than February. Like other entities, they see many more people continuing to work from home in jobs that can be done from a home or remote location. Of course, before the pandemic, you could find local Starbucks locations filled with people nursing a coffee and doing business from their coffee shop office, so this is something of an evolutionary change. Zillow sees what they call Zillow 2.0 ‘becoming a reality even sooner than we had planned.” Richard Barton, Zillow CEO remarked, “You’re seeing years of technology progress get accelerated down into months.”

If you are running a PC or Linux computer, a new flaw in Thunderbolt allows on-site hackers to hoover up your data in 5 minutes…even if the computer is locked and data encrypted! Engadget.com says it takes a screwdriver and about $400 worth of what’s called ‘easily portable hardware.’ The hack involves changing the firmware that controls the Thunderbolt port, allowing any device to access it. The hack leave NO trace! Right now, it’s recommended that you use hibernation or powering off the system when you are away…don’t use sleep mode (Suspend-to-RAM.) Apple computers running MacOS are not affected by the hack…unless you are running Boot Camp.

Crowdsourced data from Candor indicates that 46% of companies are still hiring, even during the pandemic. According to venturebeat.com, 21% are laying off, and 32% have frozen hiring. Candor surveyed 7,000 companies. Candor helps tech workers negotiate salaries. The info is reported by employees, and offers what the company calls ‘a real time look’ at the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. The situation varies by area…for example, only 36.1% of New York companies are hiring. The Bengaluru region of India still has strong job growth, and 48.1% of San Francisco Bay Area companies are still hiring, even as more employees have transitioned to remote work. According to the survey, larger companies are tending to use the pandemic to ‘rightsize,’ while 60% of the companies hiring have 10 or fewer employees, and over half of those hiring have 50 people or less on staff. The large private companies are hiring at a rate of 42.68%, while public ones are down to 31.85% still hiring.