UK to Facebook (Meta)-Sell Giphy; Facebook Whistleblower to Testify Again Tomorrow; iRoomba Updates for Xmas Trees; Amazon Gears Up for ‘Multi-Robot’ WorldPosted: November 30, 2021
The competition watchdog in the UK has ordered Meta (Facebook) to back out its acquisition of animated GIF platform Giphy. According to Stuart McIntosh, who chairs the independent inquiry heading the Competition and Markets Authority, “The tie-up between Facebook and Giphy has already removed a potential challenger in the display advertising market. Without action, it will also allow Facebook to increase its significant market power in social media even further, through controlling competitors’ access to Giphy GIFs.”
Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, will be back in front of a House Committee on Wednesday, December 1st. Cnet.com reports that this time, the committee will focus on Section 230, that critical internet law that protects social media companies from lawsuits over content posted by their users. In her previous testimony, Haugen pushed Congress to provide more active oversight of the social network, contending that Facebook’s platforms “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”
Roomba software has been updated. It will now avoid shoes and socks, and more to the point of the Christmas season, steer around Christmas trees, while vacuuming up the pine needles. This is for the j7 and j7 Plus, according to theverge.com. They also got an update to avoid pet poop. (It should be noted that other robot vacuums have already been able to do this since the first of the year, but it’s still a welcome upgrade.)
Amazon is launching a new cloud service, RoboRunner, that will oversee the operation of robots from multiple vendors. Geekwire.com says the tech was originally developed for tis own warehouses. AWS IoT RoboRunner, unveiled by Amazon Web Services at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, lets companies connect robot fleets to the cloud, operate different types of robots as part of the same system, and develop apps that optimize the operations of an automated fleet using real-time data from the warehouse or factory floor. I, for one, welcome our Amazon controlled, robot overlords. 😦
FLASH!-Dorsey Out at Twitter; EU Firms File Complaint Vs Microsoft; Amazon Says it Will Get Holiday Stuff Delivered on time; Chinese Tesla Model Y Gets AMD ChipPosted: November 29, 2021
FLASH! Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has resigned, effective immediately. CTO Parag Agrawal will take over the big chair, according to CNBC. (OK, I’ve just always wanted to say ‘FLASH.’ Maybe I’ve got an Edward R. Murrow complex, LOL!) Dorsey will remain on the board until his term is up in his term is up next year. Salesforce President and COO Bret Taylor will become Chairman of the Board, replacing Patrick Pitchette. Dorsey will remain CEO for Square.
A coalition of European Union software and cloud companies, who have gotten together as the ‘Coalition for a Level Playing Field’ has formally complained to the European Commission about Microsoft’s anti-competitive behavior as Redmond has aggressively bundled OneDrive, Teams, and other services with Windows 10 and 11. Zdnet.com reports that the companies point to the late 90’s and earlier ’00’s, when Microsoft pushed Internet Explorer. This seems a bit off-point to me, since Microsoft’s OS (some version or another of Windows) runs on about 73% of all PC’s! You’d think they would go after that! In Europe, Microsoft’s market share is a bit less, but still at 66%! Slack has also filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft in the EU over their integration of Teams with Office. Will this action and Slack’s actually get anywhere? Good question. Stay tuned.
Amazon has been ramping up for the holidays, reportedly spending some $4 billion to combat shipping delays, to ensure that your packages arrive in time for the holidays. They have gone so far as chartering their own ships and running half-empty trucks. Businessinsider.com says they have also hired 150,000 additional seasonal workers. Letting trucks leave the warehouses half full has allowed drivers to make deliveries in a more timely manner. Fully loading has become more of a challenge with supply chain issues that have plagued the world of late. Chartering their own ships and docking at smaller ports has shaved a couple months off shipping time. Perhaps I am overly skeptical, but I just sent gift cards…they’re already delivered!
Tesla is now rocking AMD Rizen processors in the entertainment systems of Model Y vehicles built in China. Partly due to the fact that Elon Musk disbanded the PR department, we don’t know if they are the same Rizen APU as used in the Model X and Model S. Up to now, the Model Y has run Intel silicon. Engadget.com reports that normally, Tesla uses the same chip in all vehicles of the same model, but no word on that, either. It may just be a temporary move to combat the chip shortage and deliver cars. OTOH, it could be a transition to Rizen chips across the Tesla model lineup.
DoorDash, which calls San Francisco home, agreed to pay the city of San Francisco Dashers $5.3 million, for alleged violations of past benefits required by the city. According to the Chronicle, the delivery service did not admit to wrongdoing. Most of the DoorDash settlement money will go directly to workers. The majority will receive $500 to $1,500, although awards range up to $17,000, depending on how often the Dashers worked from 2016 to 2020.
Tile, which has taken a beating since Apple rolled out Air Tags, has been picked up by another tracking company called Life360. 9to5mac.com reports that its a $205 million deal, and will close first quarter of 2022. Life360 is a ‘focused family’ tracking platform, that sports features like location history, favorite routes, personalized alerts, and SOS messages. Tile, which says its business is still doing fine, has an advantage over Air Tags in that they have different sizes and shapes, like a ‘sticker’ for remotes and a card-shaped tracker for wallets. (One hacker almost immediately created a similar wallet one with an Air Tag, so expect Apple to pick up on that!)
The late pandemic Zoom doom hasn’t exactly materialized. CNBC says the video conferencing company did better than expected in earnings announced yesterday. They are warning of a slowdown as the pandemic continues to unwind, though. Zoom had a 35% increase in revenue for the last quarter, year over year, and net income was up 71%. Even with things softening, they are still predicting 19% growth.Of course that is down from the peak of the pandemic…for the quarter that ended in January 2021, their year over year revenue was up 300%! Zoom Rooms continues to grow, but the company has canceled plans to acquire cloud contact center software provider Five9.
The big problem for electric aircraft is battery weight, which seems at this point to keep them out of the large, commercial airliner market. There are a number of companies working on electric planes for general aviation and smaller regional commuter planes, though. Now, Rolls-Royce…famous for building jet engines for decades….has set records with their all-electric plane. According to engadget.com, the Roller plane has broken the speed record for EPs, hitting 387.4 MPH. They also set a climb record to 9843 ft (yes, a strange number…but it’s 3,000 meters!). The Rolls did that in 202 seconds. The records are not yet certified, but the old speed record was 213 MPH, so they comfortably beat the hell out of that number. Rolls says the plane uses the most power-dense propulsion battery pack ever assembled in aerospace.
Google Bot-in-a-Box; Adele -Spotify Removes Shuffle; Facebook Messenger & IG-No Default End-to-End Encryption Until 2023; Just 21% of Remote Workers Aware of Cyber Threats; Crate ‘V-8’ -EV Conversion of Gas Cars; Ford Chip Shortage WorkaroundPosted: November 22, 2021
Google has launched what they are dubbing conversational AI to chatbot interaction. Zdnet.com reports that the ‘bot-in-a-box system is designed to help businesses to get started more easily in setting up chatbots as part of their Business Messages service. The service allows organizations to connect waitpeople via Google Search, Maps, or their own business channels. For most small to medium businesses, it will have a great feature in that it uses Google’s Dialogflow tech to create the chatbots without the business having to write any code (or apparently employ coders, to say nothing of actual customer service PEOPLE!)
In almost every case, the poor artist is at the mercy of big music companies and streaming services…but not all. If you’re big enough, you can get changes made. According to engadget.com, Adele is one of those big shots. She has gotten Spotify to remove the shuffle button from album pages! Adele said in a Tweet that albums ought to be listened to ‘as [artists] intended’ as they tell ‘a story’. The shuffle controls for individual songs remain. Apple Music still has a shuffle button on its album pages. It remains to be seen if Adele can push mighty Apple into making the change, too.
Facebook now says Messenger and Instagram may not get default end-to-end encryption until 2023! Theverge.com reports that it is part of the unified messaging system FB is trying to build across all its platforms. Facebook (or Meta) already has end-to-end encryption by default on its WhatsApp platform. One reason given for the delay is that they apparently don’t want the encryption to interfere with their ability to help stop criminal activity.
A scary report indicates that only 21% of remote workers say they are aware of cyber threats. The report from Unisys, picked up by venturebeat.com, says that 61% of hybrid and remote workers fell primarily responsible for maintaining their own digital security…but the headline 21% are actually aware of sophisticated online threats. This will need to be addressed moving forward, since some 83% of employers now say that the shift to hybrid or remote work has been successful and will be made permanent. Most workers prefer to be remote between 1-3 days a week.
A Chatsworth, CA company is building what they are calling a ‘Crate V-8’ EV motor to drop into older cars to convert to electric. Electric GT will sell single and double electric motor versions, made in the shape of a gas V-8. Motorbiscuit.com notes that you would still need a battery pack, but the cool thing about the crate V-8 EV is that it is designed to bolt right on to existing transmissions. Under what would be the valve covers on a regular V-8 are the DC-DC converter, and onboard charger, coolant lines, and pump. They hope to make models that will fit most common Chevy, Ford, & Chrysler products, and also some Toyota models.
While the world scrambles with a shortage of computer chips…which has massively affected the automobile industry, Ford…to quote an old ad, ‘had a better idea.’ The Detroit auto maker quietly partnered with US-based chipmaker Global Foundries. According to reviewgeek.com, this should help Ford deliver more vehicles in 2022. In addition, Ford is working to bring chip design in-house…like Apple has done. This will be a boon to their regular chip use, as well as infotainment system use, EV platform, and their self-driving system that’s in the works.
Twitter Rolls out ‘Disappearing Tweets’ Patch; Lucid Bags 17,000 More Orders in Quarter; Substack Hits a Million Paid Subscribers; Adaptive Headlights Finally Legal in USPosted: November 16, 2021
Twitter is apparently in the middle of fixing the notorious ‘disappearing’ Tweets that have plagued the service for some time now. Tweets would disappear just as you were reading one. Engadget.com reports that a fix is being rolled out. Along with it, there is a Tweet counter bar at the top of the timeline. The fix is just being rolled out on the web client right now, so don’t look for it yet on mobile devices…although Twitter says that is coming. the full suite of patches will be out in a variety of updates over the next couple months.
Lucid…that ‘other’ electric car maker just starting to get wheels on the road, has picked up an additional 17,000 orders since the end of the third quarter. According to techcrunch.com, they have now delivered about two dozen of the pricey Air Dream Edition ($169,000 a pop) since the end of October. The Lucid Grand Touring is rated at a range of a whopping 516 miles! The company’s reservation bank now adds up to about $1.3 billion worth of EVs. They expect to produce around 20,000 cars next year, and are shooting for 500,00 per year by the end of the decade. BTW, the base model is $77,000…still a bit eye-watering, but a far cry from the top end model at $169,000!
Substack has amassed over a million paid subscriptions as of this week. Nieman Lab says that’s double what they had just 10 months ago, and for times the number of a year ago. Nieman notes that the number of subscribers is more like 500,000, as many people pay for more than one Substack. Also…paid subscribers are a small fraction at this point of the total readership….between 5 and 10%. That would give the platform over 10 million readers at best. Even so, the top 10 writers on Substack generate about $20 million in annual revenue. Substack declined to name the top 10 writers, claiming it changes constantly.
Full adaptive headlights are finally legal in the US, after President Biden signed the infrastructure bill yesterday. These aren’t just the ones that can ‘see’ around corners. Best known are Audi’s Digital Matrix LEDs, that automatically shut off clusters of LEDs when you are driving. Cnet.com notes that this will prevent blinding oncoming cars. Present LED headlights really only go from blazingly bright to just merely bright…they are never really dim. The cool thing is, the next get adaptive headlights can switch off clusters that would blind the oncoming cars, while keeping plenty of light on the roadway and signs. In the Bay Area, think about the focused LED street lights on the new section of the Bay Bridge. They don’t get in your face, but brilliantly light up the lanes and signage. You will probably see lots of new cars with the adaptive headlights in the next couple years.
Feds Nixed Intel China Facility; Apple Paying $30 Million to Store Employees for Bag Check Time; Tesla Deploying Starling Satellite Dishes at Superchargers; Google Plays Nice With Free TrialPosted: November 15, 2021
The White House gave thumbs down to Intel’s plan to build a chip plant in China, citing security concerns. According to Bloomberg, it could have been online by the end of 2022. Intel is already building 2 new plants in Arizona, where TSMC out of Taiwan is also building a semiconductor plant. Intel has been seeking federal assistance to ramp up production and research in the US.
There has been an ongoing battle between Apple and its retail employees over off the clock bag searches of employee bags before they leave work. Now, apple insider.com reports that Apple has agreed to pay $29.9 million in a settlement. This litigation has been going on for a stunning 8 years! After a stop at the Ninth Circuit, and then the California Supreme Court, the writing was on the wall…as the California Supremes ruled last year that Apple was on the hook for payment for the mandatory searches. The Court pointed out a legal requirement in the state’s wage law that indicates employees should be entitled to compensation during the time they are subject to a company’s control.
Tesla has begun deploying Starlink satellite dishes at some of its Supercharger locations. Engadget.com says that so far, Tesla hasn’t commented on the dishes, and its unknown if they will be available to customers. It’s possible that they are there to replace or supplement the existing connections to handle payments and charger status. Such a setup would allow Tesla to put in stations in remote areas that don’t have broadband. It’s also possible that the might make them available to customers while charging to stream content to their cars…for those who don’t have Premium Connectivity. The chargers themselves don’t need gobs of bandwidth, so it makes sense that some of the connectivity would be available for customers.
Google has committed what has been called ‘a shocking act of decency.’ In a departure from virtually every other firm…tech or otherwise, Google doesn’t automatically turn the 30 day free trial for the Nest Aware into a subscription unless you automatically stop it. Zdnet.com notes that you have to actually have to give them permission, and click a ‘subscribe’ button to continue on after your free trial. While this may not negate all the data mining of everything about you that Google does, it is at least a small baby step towards their old ‘Don’t Be Evil’ slogan.
Meta to Restrict Ad Targeting; Apple Must Allow External App Store Payment Options; $250 Surface Laptop Goes After Chromebooks; YouTube Will Remove Public Dislike CountsPosted: November 10, 2021
Meta is apparently going to crack down more on potentially harmful ads…removing detailed ad targeting options for ‘thousands’ of sensitive topics on Facebook and Instagram. The changes should start happening by January 19th. Engadget.com reports that The move will bar ads based on interactions with content related to ethnicity, health, political beliefs, religion and sexual orientation, among other hot-button issues. Meta says they will also give users more control over the ads they say…providing options to see fewer ads about gambling, weight loss, and other delicate topics. They already offer limiting by users for ads for alcohol, parenting, pets, and politics.
Apple has been ordered by the Judge in Epic v Apple, Yvonne Gonzalez, Rogers, to comply with an order to let developers add links and buttons to external payment options, denying Apple’s motion for a stay. According to theverge.com, Apple’s attorneys claim ‘It’s going to take months to figure out the engineering, economic, business, and other issues. It is exceedingly complicated. There have to be guardrails and guidelines to protect children, to protect developers, to protect consumers, to protect Apple. And they have to be written into guidelines that can be explained and enforced and applied.” Apple is expected to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay, but without such, the injunction will take effect on December 9th.
Microsoft is aiming directly at Chromebooks and their hold on school classrooms. Arstechnica.com notes that the new Surface Laptop SE will run $250. It is a low-end, 11.6 inch laptop designed for basic browsing, document editing, and remote learning. the SE runs Windows 11 SE, a cloud-focused version of the OS that keeps the look and feel of Windows 11, but lets school IT admins control what apps are installed and keeps most files and user settings in the cloud as opposed to on the laptop. Another feature aimed at schools (but one everyone really prefers): “vital components like the display, battery, keyboard—even the motherboard—can be easily repaired onsite, saving time and money for IT admins and schools.” Low end laptops running Win 11 SE are expected from HP, Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and more makers. Some will start at $219. They should be showing up late this year and through 2022.
In a move aimed at taking the sting out of ‘harassment mobs,’ YouTube will remove all public dislike counts. Cnet.com reports that the platform is doing this to protect smaller channels and newer creators that are disproportionately affected by the attacks. The change started rolling out today. Note that the dislike button itself is staying, and that will affect viewers’ guiding their recommendations, and creators will still be able to track the number of dislikes on their own posts. Facebook and Twitter rolled out an option for users to hide public counts earlier this year, but that is an option…this YouTube count hide will be in effect automatically.
Amazon Will Take Venmo Payments; Niantic Launches Platform to Build Metaverse Apps; Wind & Solar Could Produce 85% of US Electricity; Lithium-Metal Hybrid Battery-The Future?Posted: November 9, 2021
Amazon is going to allow people to pay on amazon.com starting next year, using their mobile shopping app via Venmo, PayPal’s mobile payment service. According to geekwire.com, it’s another move to make buying stuff from the online giant even more ‘frictionless,’ no matter where you are or what device you are using. PayPal said Venmo processed $60 billion in total payment volume in the just past quarter….up 36%. Even though Venmo payments will now be accepted, Amazon still doesn’t let customers pay via PayPal.
Niantic is launching a platform for what it terms ‘real-world metaverse’ apps. theverge.com reports that the platform is called Lightship, and it is “built around the parts necessary to stitch together the digital and the real world.” Lightship will let mobile apps identify whether a user’s camera is pointed at the sky or water, map the surfaces or depth of an environment in real time, or place a virtual object behind a physical one. A good bit of the tech is based on what Niantic built and from info gleaned via their wildly popular app, Pokemon Go. The CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, previously ran Google Maps.
A paper has been published in Nature Communications that finds wind and solar power could meet about 85% of US electricity needs. Engadget.com says batteries, capacity overbuilding, and other storage options could even increase that figure. The study was done by researchers from UC Irvine, China’s Tsinghua University, Carnegie Institution for Science, and Caltech. The researchers studied 39 years of hourly energy demand from 42 countries. With storage, renewables could provide between 83 and 94% of hourly energy needs.
There has been an ongoing quest for the ‘holy grail’ of car batteries…one that lasts, charges quickly and easily, doesn’t deteriorate much, and has little fire hazard. Now, a firm called SES has announced a new battery that they say will almost double the energy density of today’s lithium-ion cells. According to arstechnica.com, the solid state lithium metal batteries should give us lighter, longer range EVs by 2025. SES is partnering with GM, Hyundai, Geely, SAIC, and Foxconn, and is building a factory in Shanghai that should be done by 2023.
Galaxy Note Replacement Date Leaks; Netflix May Make iOS Games Available on App Store; Musk Twitter Poll on Selling Stock; Group Buys McAfeePosted: November 8, 2021
The Galaxy Note was dropped this year, as Samsung focused on folding phones. Note users are pretty rabid fans, though, and Samsung has a replacement for them. It’s the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Bgr.com reports that YouTube leaker Jon Prosser is touting an unveiling of the Galaxy S21 FE on January 4th, with it available on the 11th. This handset is late, as it was expected last summer. The more interesting leak is for the Galaxy S22 Ultra…that date is February 18th, according to Prosser. The Ultra will have an S Pen that lives on the left side of the Ultra. There are apparently 5 camera openings on the back of the phone. So the net is, Samsung has dropped the Note name, but the device lives on, so Note fans…you only have to wait until just after Valentine’s Day to score the latest version.
Netflix has mobile games available on Android, and there has been a good deal of questioning about when they will follow on Apple’s App Store. It’s a sticky situation since Apple policies ban all-in-one gaming services. According to engadget.com, Netflix is going to release games ‘individually’ on the App Store. The main Netflix app will have access to the game catalog, but you will be launching a separate app with you tap the game. Unless a government or successful lawsuit forces Apple to open things up more, this will remain how Netflix will need to operate when it comes to games on iOS.
Over the weekend, Elon Musk queried his Twitter followers as to whether he should sell off 10% of his stock. “Much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock,” he tweeted. The followers said ‘sell’ to the tune of 58%. CNBC.com says Musk was going to sell anyway, regardless of the outcome…he will over over $15 billion in taxes in the coming months, so has to sell to pay off his tax bill. Tesla was down 9% earlier today, but now is just off about 3% as this is being written. A question I have is whether the SEC will consider the Twitter poll stunt as stock manipulation. It won’t be the first time Musk has gotten into hot water with the Feds over his off the cuff Tweets. The poll is to say nothing of his snarky Tweet about Senator Ron Wyden’s anatomy!
An investor group has picked up McAfee, the web security company for more than $14 billion. According to zdnet.com, the investors will be able to take the company private. McAfee had been turning to cloud services, but now it appears that they will direct energies and cash towards the consumer side of their business. The deal should close the first half of 2022.
Facebook Deleting Facial Recognition; Zillow Closing Home Buying Biz; Waymo Comes to NYC; Walmart Snapping up No-Code Voice App StartupPosted: November 3, 2021
Facebook has been messing around with facial recognition for 11 years now, first dabbling in it in 2010, when they first allowed users to automatically tag people in pictures. Now, according to arstechnica.com, they will be shutting down the facial recognition system, and deleting the facial recognition templates for over a billion people. Besides regulatory scrutiny from various countries, there have been lawsuits that cost Facebook (with their newly branded parent company Meta) hundreds of millions. Don’t think they are giving up entirely of facial recognition, though. They will continue to use it to notify a user if someone uploads a photo of them, and say they will employ it to help with privacy and transparency.
After deciding they had overbought real estate, Zillow has started shutting down its home buying business. Geekwire.com reports that Zillow Offers, the company’s iBuying program will not only be shuttered, but about 2,000 people will get pink slips. The company will apparently take a $500 million write down in the process. A statement released from the office of Zillow CEO Rich Barton said, “We’ve determined the unpredictability in forecasting home prices far exceeds what we anticipated and continuing to scale Zillow Offers would result in too much earnings and balance-sheet volatility.” Even with algorithms, Zillow couldn’t do what hasn’t been done by anyone else either lately…they couldn’t predict real estate prices closely 3-6 months into the future.
After mapping the San Francisco area to a cat’s whisker, Waymo is sending vehicles to New York City to learn the streets of Manhattan. 9to5google.com says the plan is to have the cars drive from Wall Street and the Financial District all the way up to Carnegie Hall and Central Park. Included will be Chelsea and Union Square. Some of the autonomous vehicles will even take the Lincoln Tunnel over to New Jersey. (Note that the cars will have drivers during this learning stage around NYC.) At first, you will just see the hybrid Chrysler Pacifica vans, but Waymo does plan to add in its Jaguar I-PACE EVs shortly after the Chryslers hit the streets.
Walmart is picking up Botmock, a startup that makes software which makes it easy to build and deploy conversational apps using a NO-CODE development platform. Venturebeat.com reports that Walmart expects its business divisions to be able to build and launch their own voice and bot apps to give customers a seamless mobile or online grocery shopping experience. While Walmart’s existing conversational platform enables voice shopping via Google and Siri, this will allow them to keep customers in house with their own apps.