Amazon Putting on 100K for Seasonal Work; Microsoft Teams Milestone; Tesla Owns the Electric Top 10 for Mileage; Jon Stewart Heads to Apple TV+Posted: October 28, 2020
Heading into the holiday season, Amazon is looking to add another 100,000 seasonal workers, as they expect a healthy bump in online ordering with the pandemic continuing to rage. Geekwire.com reports that while this is a big number, its about half what they did in 2019. That said, Amazon has already put on an extra 175,000 workers since COVID! Amazon later converted 125,000 of those seasonal positions from spring into full time positions.
Microsoft released financials, but notable in addition was the growth in Microsoft Teams. According to venturebeat.com, Teams has passed 115 million daily active users. That’s a bump of 53% since April. Only 13 months ago, Teams just barely had 13 million daily active users. Comparing the big video conferencing platforms, Google Meet has seen a peak of 100 million meeting participants in a day, Teams has had over 200 million, and Zoom is still tops with 300 million.
Nearly every auto maker is getting into the EV game, but for now…when it comes to mileage…Tesla still rules. The EPA’s tests of 2021 models have the EV maker holding down 7 of the top 10 spots for electric vehicle mileage. The Mini Cooper SE is 5th, Polestar 2 is 8th, and Volvo XC40 EV is 10th. Engadget.com says the Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD was the topper, with 134 MPGe, or 25kWh perf 100 miles. Tesla’s build quality may be iffy at times, and GM bested them with Super Cruise over Tesla’s ‘Auto Pilot,’ but their battery tech is still ahead of the curve.
Jon Stewart will host a new Apple TV+ series. According to theverge.com, the shows “will feature focused looks at his advocacy work and “topics that are currently part of the national conversation.” The episodes will run an hour, and feature a single topic. There is also a companion podcast planned. Apple hasn’t given a start date nor a name to the show ass yet. If it is half as successful as the Daily Show, it should be a big boost to Apple TV+.
UK Will Ban Locked iPhones in 2021; SpaceX’s Starlink Net Service Price Revealed; Zoom Rolls Out End to End Encryption; Twitter to Preemptively Debunk Election MisinformationPosted: October 27, 2020
In a move that will be cheered by users, and cause gnashing of teeth by carriers, the UK Ofcom regulatory body has used that ALL phones will have to be sold unlocked from late 2021. Appleinsider.com reports that the agency had given intention to institute the ban about 11 months ago in a published report. The Brits want to eliminate the intense frustration of switching carriers. It should save people time, effort, and money. With any luck, and a possible new administration in the USA, perhaps this type of ban will come to the US. The carriers have argued that locked phones help prevent fraud. Right now, 4 of them already sell unlocked phones, though…as that is required by existing EU rules.
SpaceX is expanding it’s beta test of its Starlink satellite internet service. According to cnbc.com, they call it the ‘Better Than Nothing Beta.’ The initial service is priced at $99 a month, with a $499 up front cost to cover ordering the Starlink Kit. The kit includes a user terminal to connect to the satellites, a mounting tripod, and a wifi router. There is also now a Starlink app listed by SpaceX on the Google Play Store and iOS App Store. They are touting speeds varying from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s, with 20 ms to 40ms latency. They will be working to enhance these parameters over the next several months.
Zoom has started rolling out end-to-end encryption. That’s the good news. The bad? 9to5mac.com says some features get dropped. Those include: join before host, cloud recording, streaming, live transcription, Breakout Rooms, polling, 1:1 private chat, and meeting reactions. The E2EE encryption can be activated on Mac and Windows now, and is coming to iPhone and iPad as soon as Apple approves the pending update. No word on when, or if, the lost features might be restored in a future update.
Twitter has previewed a series of public service messages it will put atop US users’ timelines to preemptively debunk falsehoods about voting and election results. Engadget.com reports that they will be slated with things like “you might encounter misleading information about voting by mail,” and “election results may be delayed.” Both messages will link to a Twitter Moment with more details. The PSA messages are slated to appear starting next Monday. Twitter hopes they will slow the spread of misinformation ahead of the election. They will also be more aggressively be labeling Tweets that contain false or misleading election info.
DOJ Investigating Google Payments to Apple to be iOS Default; Facebook Streaming Android Games from Cloud; Fresh AirPods Early Next Year; Samsung Partners With Stanford on ‘Flawless VR’Posted: October 26, 2020
One of the aspects of the DOJ investigation into Google is the hefty payment to Apple to be the default iOS search engine. The price is apparently between $8-$12 billion a year! This is believed to be the biggest single payment Google makes to anyone, and it accounts for 14 to 21% of Apple’s annual profits. The legal intervention poses a threat to a significant chunk of Apple’s revenue, but it is a bigger danger for Google, which would seemingly have no way to replace the traffic it would lose.
Facebook Gaming has announced the ability to stream Android games to your phone or other device via Facebook.com or the Android app. According to 9to5google.com, the games will be free, but will be ad supported. Right now, only 5 are available: Asphalt 9: Legends, Mobile Legends: Adventure, PGA Tour Golf Shootout, Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale, and WWE Supercard. Facebook has said they will be getting the games to iOS, but are blaming Apple for ‘limitations to what we can offer on Safari for iOS.’
Apple is reportedly working on redesigned AirPods and AirPods Pro models that could be out early next year. Theverge.com says that they will have upgraded wireless chips, but also a new form factor…the iconic stems that hang down out of your ears may be gone from the Pro version. They will still feature noise cancellation, but will use a design more like Samsung and Google muse on their ear buds. The over ear headphones that were delayed due to too-tight headbands may be rolled out at the same time as the new model earbuds.
VR users complain about the ‘screen door’ effect…gaps between pixels when you are using an on-face display. Now, engadget.com reports that Samsung has partnered with Stanford to develop OLED tech that supports resolutions of up to 10,000 pixels per inch…far above any existing display’s count. They claim virtually ‘flawless’ images with their process…but it may be years away. It takes a massive amount of computing power to generate it. That said, the OLED tech is no longer an issue.
Home Working Burnout; iPhone May See Record Sales; Sony-Spatial Reality Display; Private Theater Rental From AMCPosted: October 19, 2020
So people have always gotten burned out at work. Now, we are seeing what burnout from working from home stacks up like. Geekwire.com reports that a survey of over 3,000 workers spread over 40 companies found that 68% of the respondents say they are more burned out now than from working at the office! Companies surveyed included Amazon, Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Expedia.
Amazon workers surveyed are 74% more burned out working from home and 76% of Microsoft workers feel that way. The number jumps to 83% at Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier T-Mobile. Blind also found 60% of those surveyed are working more hours than prior to the pandemic, with 67% at Amazon and 70% at Microsoft reporting longer work days. On the plus side, no commutes and quicker, better access to food, snacks, and the bathroom!
Based on initial orders in Taiwan, carriers there predict that iPhone sales will be the highest since the iPhone 6. According to macrumors.com, carriers in Taiwan sold out of iPhone 12 preorders in 45 minutes. The iPhone 12 Pro models sold quickly, too…with delivery times slipping to November in less than an hour after pre-orders were opened. Pre-orders for the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Mini open on November 6th.
Sony is jumping into the so-called Volumetric 3D display arena, with what it calls the Spatial Reality Display…technically known as ELF-SR1. Venturebeat.com says that Sony will initially target businesses with the glasses free 3D, but they plan to eventually expand to consumer-facing apps. The 4K display looks much like a traditional computer monitor ‘fixed on a 45 degree recline, with a triangular frame.’ It combines a 15.6 inch screen with a micro optical lens coating and an eye tracking cam.
The 4K resolution is actually effectively split into twin 2K arrays (one for each eye), and they use live pupil tracking data and precision alignment of the micro lenses that overlay the pixels to deliver what Sony terms sharp, realistic 3D imagery. Think of it as being like the Nintendo 3DS, only with much better resolution and eye tracking to avoid the headaches. The display will initially sell for $5,000, and ships in November..order directly from Sony’s website.
Want to feel like a baller? AMC may satiate your whim to live like the 1% with private theater rentals. As a lot of the entertainment industry (and many, many others), theaters have been getting clobbered due to the pandemic. Now, techcrunch.com reports that AMC may let you rent out a theater for only $99. You can have up to 20 friends for classic flicks like Jurassic Park or Nightmare Before Christmas. New titles will set you back up to $349 for a single screening. Hey, if you split the cost, the $99 split over 20 friend i only $4.95 each. Of course, you’ll get whacked on the concessions…as usual, LOL!
YouTube Bans COVID-19 Vaccine Lies; Chevy Bolt EV Fire Investigation; Messenger-Instagram Merge Update Rolling Out; Some Tesla Customers Getting ‘Full Self-Driving BetaPosted: October 14, 2020
YouTube has announced that it will remove videos from the platform containing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Reuters reports that this is an expansion of the current rules against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. YouTube will now ban content that makes claims about vaccines which contradicts consensus from local health authorities or the WHO. There have been wild false claims, including that the vaccine will kill people or cause infertility, or that microchips will be implanted in people who receive the vaccine.
An investigation has begun on the Chevy Bolt EV after 3 vehicles have had fires in the battery pack. According to arstechnica.com, the NHTSA was contacted by two owners who said the vehicles caught fire while parked and unattended. In each case, NHTSA says the burn pattern was similar: fire damage was concentrated in the lithium-ion battery compartment (which sits underneath the passenger compartment), with some penetration into the passenger area through the rear seat. The three affected cars span model years 2017-2019.
Facebook Messenger’s previously disclosed update has started rolling out. In fact, I saw it yesterday. Techcrunch.com notes that it merges cross-app communication with Instagram, and also adds new features. You can check your own by looking at the little bubble with the lightening bolt. If it’s still all blue, you don’t have it yet. If it is multi-color blue, purple, pink, and orange, you have it. New chat themes, including love and tie-dye are also being pushed out, as are more emoji. Eventually, Facebook plans to connect its What’s App platform with the merged messaging app.
Next week, some ‘expert and careful drivers’ will start getting Tesla’s ‘Full Self-Driving Beta’. Electrek.co reports that Elon Musk claims it’s a ‘significant foundational rewrite’ of the Tesla Autopilot. Musk has been using it in his commute, and claims it can ‘see’ the environment in 4D instead or 2D. He claims he has had to make nearly zero interventions as the software drives him to and from the office. If things go ok, it should be released to the broader fleet in December.
Apple showed its new iPhone 12 line in a tight, pre-recorded online presentation today. The phones bring the biggest upgrade since the X series, according to cnet.com. The form factor is a blast from the past, though, with the flat metal banding on the sides. The 4 models match leaks, and range from the 5.7 inch screen iPhone Mini, through the 6.1 inch iPhone 12, the 6.1 inch 12 Pro, and the 6.7 inch Pro Max. All the phones have new Corning glass with ceramic crystals which is claimed to be much stronger than ever. Both the screen and back have this material. Apple has improved cam software and sensors. The 12 has 12 rear cams, while both the Pro and Pro Max have 3 cams and LiDar. The 3rd cam is a telephoto, and the 12 Pro gets 4x optical zoom, while the Max gets 5x. The low light shooting and image stabilization is improved. All the iPhones have the A14 chip, which is faster and better than poor phones.
All feature the new Mag Safe magnetic connector for charging, which is comparable with the Xi system. All 4 phones have 5G, which should make for faster uploads and downloads (in some limited areas, WAY faster…but the carriers don’t have a lot of the faster 5G in many areas yet.)
The Mini starts at $699, while the iPhone 12 weighs in at $799. The 12 Pro and Pro Max pricing is unchanged from the 11 series, at $999 and $1099 respectively. The 12 and 12 Pro are available for preorder this Friday, and start delivering a week later. The Mini and 12 Pro Max will be available for preorder on November 6th, and deliver the 13th.
In addition to the phones Apple showed off the HomePod Mini. The new smart speaker looks rather like a white or grey Apple, actually. It has one driver, and a couple passive radiators in it, with software trying to make up for the lower number and size of speakers to give you top quality audio. The HomePod Mini runs Siri, of course, and talks to your iPhone when in close proximity. The key point is it is $99…a world cheaper than the larger, and more costly HomePod…which has been a sluggish seller for Apple. The Mini launches and starts shipping November 16th.
Facebook (Finally) Bans Holocaust Denial; Microsoft & Others Seize Ransomware Botnet With Court order; Spy Agencies Demand Back Door (Again); Twitter Flags Trump ‘Immune’ TweetPosted: October 12, 2020
Facebook has started banning posts that deny the Holocaust r distort facts about it. According to the Associated Press, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he had ‘struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” and continued with “My own thinking has evolved as I’ve seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech.” A number of groups have been calling for this policy change by the social network for at least 2 years. Zuckerberg defended his former position by stating that while he personally found “Holocaust denial deeply offensive” he believed that “the best way to fight offensive bad speech is with good speech.” Since that hasn’t worked, and Facebook has served to amplify lies about the existence of the Holocaust, the change in policy is a welcome one.
Microsoft today took control of computers that a had been installing ransomware and other malicious software on local government networks, and threatening to disrupt the November election. According to reuters.com, the action was done under a court order, and was done with the help of Broadcom’s Symantec, security firm ESET, and others. Together they track down a series of IP addresses that were directing activity on computers infected with Trickbot. The malicious software was installing ransomware and other malicious programs for both criminal rings and national governments. Trickbot has been used to inject Ryuk ransomware on a number of cities’ computers and also numerous hospitals. The unfortunate thing is that Trickbot has control points in 20 different companies, so they will be able to regroup and attack again.
They never give up! The ‘Five Eyes’ government spy agencies, along with India and Japan, have again called for an encryption backdoors. ZDnet.com notes that the ‘Five Eyes’ is made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. They have been demanding back doors for at least 2 years so they can break into end-to-end encrypted conversations. While they claim such encryption creates ‘a haven for criminal activity,’ the reality is that any back door can be hacked by bad guys. Something tech firms have repeatedly pointed out.
Twitter yesterday disabled some sharing options for a Tweet Donald Trump posted, and labeled it for violating their rules against spreading lies about the coronavirus. Theverge.com reports that in it, Trump claimed he had “A total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday. That means I can’t get it (immune) and can’t give it. Very nice to know!!” A Twitter spokesperson said it was not the first time the platform has disabled sharing on a tweet by the president containing incorrect information.
House Report-Break Up Big Tech Monopolies; Apple’s iPhone Event; DoorDash For Work; Sony PS5 TeardownPosted: October 7, 2020
House Democrats dropped a nearly 450 page report concluding that Congress should look at breaking up Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google in to smaller companies that will be banned from entering into adjacent lines of business. According to engadget.com, the main thrust in the case of Amazon, Apple, and Google is that the companies shouldn’t be able to compete with merchants who use their platforms, as that gives them hugely unfair, monopolistic advantages. Presumably, both Google and Apple could still make plenty of money from their 30% cut of apps sold on their app stores…but wouldn’t be able to put out competing apps that crush developers who build apps for their platforms. In the case of Facebook, the call has been out for some time to force the social net to spin off Instagram and WhatsApp. The report also recommends giving added muscle to antitrust laws, and modernizing them to better apply to the tech industry.
In the event you missed it, Apple sent out announcements of its digital iPhone event yesterday. The splashy graphic had ‘Hi, Speed’ in large letters, teasing the expected 5G capability of the new series of iPhone 12 models. Macrumors.com reports that the event will be Tuesday, October 13th at 10AM Pacific….emanating from the Apple Park facility in Cupertino. In addition to the expected iPhone 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max (as we believe they will be called), most Apple watchers also expect the high end over-ear headphones called AirPods Studio to be shown. Also expected….a smaller, cheaper HomePod, and AirTags, the Tile-like Bluetooth trackers for wallets, keys, and all the other crap we carry around and misplace constantly (or at least some do…notably my former father-in-law, the literal Absent-Minded Professor, LOL! Apple will also probably tease the ARM based Macs. There may be an ARM powered MacBook Air out before the end of the year.
DoorDash has released a suite of products called DoorDash for Work. Techcrunch.com says there are 4 main products. First, DashPass for Work, where employers can fund employee memberships to DashPass…a program that eliminates delivery fees on orders from thousands of restaurants. The suite also includes the ability for employers to provide credit for meal orders (with options for day/time restrictions…so employers can see that they are paying for food while employees are actually working). Gift cards are another tool in the suite. Employers can give gift cards for birthdays or the like.
Sony has posted a 7 minute video of a tear down of the PS5. According to theverge.com, the video shows removable ids, dust catchers, and storage expansion. The Sony Chief of Mechanical Design says the entire rear of the enclosure is designed to exhaust air out of the console. The main cooling an can draw air from either side. The dust catchers can be vacuumed out from a couple of holes. PS5 owners will be able to purchase their own PCIe 4.0 computable drives to upgrade their storage. The design is one that lends itself to be repaired and serviced easily…what a concept!
Google Rebrands G Suite; Apple Drops 3rd Party Headphones, Speakers; Amazon-Software Tracks Unions; Less Polluting Future TiresPosted: October 6, 2020
Yeah, I know…only someone in marketing can be excited about rebranding. That said, Google has rebranded G Suite. It’s now….drumroll….Google Workspace! I know…try not to hyperventilate over the exciting news! According to techcrunch.com, all the productivity apps get new logos. Google has recently introduced new tools and features for Google Meet. Many are already in use, but coming soon will be the ability to create and collaborate on docs with guests in Chat rooms, and preview linked files in Docs, Sheets and Slides without having to open them in a new tab. Pricing will remain about what it has been….Business Starter is $6 a month, Business Standard $12 a month (more hand holding), and new to Workspace is Business Plus…for $18 a month. The top tier service has additional security features and compliance tools like Vault and mobile device management capabilities.
In probably the most telling move indicating that Apple is about to roll out its own over ear headphones, Apple stores have stopped selling headphones and speakers from competitors. Engadget.com reports that Logitech, Sonos, and Bose gear is now gone from the retail stores and Apple’s website. The sole remaining 3rd party device is a conference room speaker from Philips. It’s worth noting that Apple did a similar move, banishing Fitbit products in 2014 right before rolling out the Apple Watch. Everything points to the premium headphones having Apple branding, not Beats, and it’s expected they will have AirPod-like features.
A leak has revealed that Amazon is making significant investments in tech to track and counter the ‘threat’ of unionization. Vox.com says that even though it’s been widely known that the company has opposed unions in its warehouses, according to an 11 page document dated February of this year, Amazon plans to drop hundreds of thousands to better analyze and visualize data on unions worldwide…in addition to other non-union’ threats’ to the company related to crime or the weather. Over half of the over 40 data points listed are union-related, or related to employee issues…like mandatory overtime and safety incidents. The system is dubbed SPOC…geoSPatial Operating Console. Items include “Whole Foods Market Activism/Unionization Efforts,” “union grant money flow patterns,” “and “Presence of Local Union Chapters and Alt Labor Groups.”
the Tyre Collective has come up with a way to end the pollution that comes from tires shedding out and particles as the age and roll across the pavement. According to cnet.com, the concept just got the James Dyson Award. It consists of a gadget that partly encloses the tire from outside wheel rim to the inside…they sit right under the fender just behind the tire. The device has a filter that sucks up the particles as the tire rolls, and it gets about 60% of tire pollution. The dust and particles can be emptied out and even be recycled for use in new tires. The pollution is a bigger deal on trucks and busses…apparently a standard bus can create a pile of tire dust the size of a grapefruit in one day! The collective is working with a couple major tire producers, and they hope to have it tested and running on some vehicles by 2030.
Facebook Might Battle Government Breakup; Apple use Recycler; Tesla Driver-Facing Cam-Watching YOU?; Nvidia Bows Cloud. AI Videoconferencing ServicePosted: October 5, 2020
Up to now, it hasn’t been clear how vigorously Facebook would oppose a government breakup. According to engadget.com, that would be pretty vigorously! The Wall Street Journal got hold of a document from a law firm indicating that Facebook would argue that the FTC blessed the acquisitions, and that it has poured massive amounts into Instagram and WhatsApp since acquiring them…and that a breakup would cost them billions more, and require running separate systems that they claim will mean reduced security and a poorer user experience. Facebook has yet to comment on the leak. Legal experts say the FTC approval defense is pretty shaky…but the difficulty and expense of the breakup might be a decent argument. The House antitrust investigation may come out yet this month, and word is, that the FTC may drop an antitrust suit on Facebook by the end of 2020 as well.
Apple has sued a recycler they had used called GEEP Canada, for not really recycling…but SELLING over 100,000 iPhones, iPads, and watches that were supposed to be torn down and recycled. Engadget.com reports that GEEP has now confirmed that it didn’t exactly recycle the devices. Apple had audited over a half million iPhones, iPads, and Watches between 2015 and 2017 and found out that almost 104,000 were still accessing the internet over cellular networks. Apple is demanding $22.7 million US dollars. GEEP doesn’t deny the theft, but says 3 employees did the deed, and the company didn’t benefit. Apparently, however, the 3 were the company’s senior execs! Apple does refurbish and resell a number of its devices.
As we get more and more cams and biometric sensors, the creepy factor continues to multiply. Now, zdnet.com says that Tesla Model 3’s driver-facing cam does more than just monitor passengers (for use in future robotaxis.) In June, Tesla pushed out a software update activating the cam. Previously, users could turn it on to activate with a short video clip prior to a crash or ‘safety event.’ Apparently, a hacker that goes by ‘green’ has found out that the cam’s software ‘is designed to detect, and these focus on the driver’s gaze, such as ‘eyes up’ and ‘eyes down’, ‘phone use’, and ‘eyes closed’. Are you creeped out yet? The so-called Full Self-Driving package (which doesn’t actually do that) is still a wallet-crushing $8,000!
Nvidia has dropped Maxine, it’s platform that gives developers a suite of GPU accelerated AI conferencing software that enhances video quality. According to venturebeat.com, Nvidia calls Maxine a ‘cloud native’ solution that can apply gaze correction, super resolution, noise cancellation, face relighting, and other enhancements for end users. Developers and partners can get early access to the platform this week.