Spotify Blinks-Sort of; Amazon Banned China Sellers Move to Walmart; Cal Net Neutrality Law Upheld; Teen Replies to Musk on Tracking- Pay $50,000

After Neil Young started a mini-exodus over Spotify allowing Joe Rogan’s misinformation on COVID-19, the platform issued a mealy-mouthed statement on how they don’t censor (not mentioning the $100 million they paid Rogan to be exclusive to their platform.) Their valuation had dropped by $4 billon last week over the flap, but has recovered a chunk of that. Now, Rogan has responded, defending his podcast in an almost 10 minute video on Instagram. Theverge.com reports that he defends his decision to book contentious guests in the piece…but does apologize to Spotify for the backlash, and alludes to how things might change in the future. “I will do my best to try to balance out these more controversial viewpoints with other people’s perspectives so we can maybe find a better point of view,” he says. “I don’t want to just show the contrary opinion to what the narrative is. I want to show all kinds of opinions so we can all figure out what’s going on and not just about COVID, about everything, about health, about fitness, wellness, the state of the world itself.”

Last year, Amazon started kicking tens of thousands of Chinese sellers off its platform for fake customer reviews. According to bloomberg.com, a lot of them have simply moved over to Walmart’s e-commerce site. The iffy Chinese sellers now account for 1 in 7 of the sellers on Walmart’s site. As they just really geared up in 2021, it isn’t likely Walmart with give them the boot so quickly, so if you do business with Walmart online, caveat emptor….let the buyer beware.

In a nice victory for users over Big Telcom, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday upheld California’s net neutrality law, saying a 2017 decision by the Federal Communications Commission to reverse federal internet protections could not bar state action. Reuters.com notes that the US Justice Department withdrew its legal challenge to the law last February. The ruling was 3-0. California’s 2018 law barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes, but it only took effect last year. The appeals court said, “The stakes in this case are high for the industry and consumers,” and noted that without net neutrality rules, internet providers could “open the door for anticompetitive, discriminatory behavior that could disadvantage important segments of society.”

A teen named Jack Sweeney has been posting the coming and going of Elon Musk’s private jet on Twitter (ElonJet), much to the displeasure of Mr. Musk. Musk has previously offered the 19 year old $5,000 to knock it off. According to engadget.com, the Twitter account has her 180,000 followers breathlessly keeping tabs on Musk’s whereabouts (or at least those of his jet.) Sweeney also tracks the jets of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and others. Now, Sweeney has made a counter offer. He says $50,000 might do the trick…which would help with college expenses, or the programmer says he could even buy a Model 3. Musk replied he would think about it, but has been silent since. He has taken steps to make it harder to track his jet, though. 


Samsung Unpacked; Apple Self-Driving Tests Expand; Google Assistant-STOP Talking; Microsoft Teams Growth

Samsung will show off what their president calls “the most noteworthy S series device we’ve ever created” at the next Galaxy Unpacked event. Engadget.com reports it will be Wednesday, February 9th at 10 AM Eastern. As all lately, it will be a virtual event you can watch on Samsung’s website, and will be streamed elsewhere as well. Unless Samsung changes up their naming policy, the flagship should be some iteration of Galaxy S22. Rumored changes include a slot for the S Pen and a more squared off design. 

Even in the midst of several high profile execs exiting Apple’s car/self-driving division, Cupertino is expanding its autonomous vehicle testing in California. According to 9to5mac.com, the DMV now shows Apple with 89 drivers. The number of vehicles hasn’t increased, though…still at 69. There was a time when Apple fielded some 200 drivers, but they have been at 69 for quite a while. They list a total of 148 crew members with the state. This is a shadow of what Waymo has fielded. They have 1526 drivers, and a fleet of 690. It should be noted that Apple is running their self-driving systems on Lexus SUVs, not the fabled Apple Car. The SUVs are tricked out with an array of LiDAR, radar, and cameras. Their Project Titan is rumored to have the goal of shipping a self-driving EV with NO steering wheel by 2025! Personally, I could never own such a car. I hope Apple and others at least come up with a pop-out steering control, something along the lines of the self-driving cars in the movie ‘The Demolition Man.’

Apparently, it’s a hassle to try to shut up Google Assistant when it’s talking. You may have had to say “Hey, Google…stop” multiple times. Well, engadget.com says Google has made thinks easier with a software upgrade. Now, you can just say (or YELL) “STOP,” without the Hey Google part. This comes as the result of several features they are testing out to allow you do address the Assistant without wake words. One other feature being tested is allowing you to activate Assistant by proximity alone…no word on when or if that might materialize for users.

Microsoft Teams has edged above 270 million monthly active users in December. Although Teams is adding users at a slower pace, that is still up 20 million from last summer. Geekwire.com reports that Teams only had 75 million users in April 2020. Teams and competitors Zoom and SalesForce’s Slack have all seem big growth since the start of the pandemic and millions switching over to work from home. Microsoft launched a stand alone version of Teams for small businesses in December…which works separate from the Office suite of products…and is more of a direct threat to Zoom. 


Hackers Seizing Instagram Accounts for Ransom; Panasonic’s Higher Capacity Tesla Batteries Coming; Twitter ‘Close Friends’ Feature; Nvidia About to Throw in Towel on $40B Arm Acquisition

Hackers are grabbing the Instagram accounts of companies and also influencers with large followings. The hacking was in a new phishing campaign by Secureworks, according to zdnet.com. A friend of one of my friends in real life had this happen, and they demanded thousands to unlock the account…which the person uses in their business. the crooks send a message from ‘Instagram,’ saying there has been a copyright infringement. Yep…there’s a link…click on it, and you’re screwed. It goes to a site controlled by the hackers, where they ask for your IG login info. Bingo, you have been owned. Some ransoms are running $40,000! Don’t click on links, first of all…and if you are using sites like IG…especially for business or you are an influencer, use two part verification. The hackers appear to be in Russia and Turkey. 

Tesla cars could get Panasonic’s new higher-capacity batteries by next year. Engadget.com reports that the new batteries could boost EV range by over 15%! The batteries are twice as big as previous iterations, BUT they have five times the energy capacity! Panasonic is dropping $704 million into new equipment to produce the 4680 cell. Considering that the $30 million they had put into Tesla is now worth $3.6 billion, they can afford it! As a bonus…the new cells are cheaper to produce. That might mean less price increases on the cars…though with Elon Musk, you can’t ever tell about that.

Twitter is apparently working on a feature that lets you share tweets just with a certain group of people. Theverge.com says it seems to be their version of Instagram’s ‘Close Friends’ feature. Twitter may call this close group your ‘Flock.’ You will be able to put about 150 members into your Flock group. You can delete people from the Flock at any time, and they don’t get a notification, too. To alert members that it is a private Flock Tweet, they will see “You can see this Tweet because the author has added you to their Flock” underneath the Tweet. No indication yet on when the feature might go live to all Twitter users. Twitter did confirm that ‘Twitter Flock’ is just a placeholder name, so it may be called something entirely different. 

Nvidia may be about ready to throw in the towel on acquiring Arm. According to appleinsider.com, this is at least in part due to increased scrutiny. The FTC sued to block the deal in December of 2021, saying it would stifle innovation and hurt competition in the chip market. The deal would “give one of the largest chip companies control over the computing technology and designs that rival firms rely on to depend their own competing chips.” the UK government is also scrutinizing the deal. If the deal doesn’t go through, SoftBank will probably do an IPO for ARM. 


Crypto Drops $130 Billion in 24 Hours; Apple-Biggest New Product Release Ever; WhatsApp to Let Chats Xfer From Android to iOS; EU Backs Limits on Tracking Ads

With a big market drop today due to Russian saber rattling near Ukraine and the Fed to bump interest a bit, another financial nosedive has been overshadowed. CNBC.com reports that crypto markets had about $130 billion in valuation wiped out in 24 hours over the weekend. Stocks have been correcting downwards since the first of the year, Bitcoin dropped about 4% and Ether fell 7%…both are now at about half of their all-time high marks. Investors are now eyeing Bitcoin to see if it falls through the $30,000 level. Bitcoin was at 36,458 15 minutes before markets close on Monday. 

According to macrumors.com, citing Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg, Apple is gearing up to release the ‘widest array of new Hardware products in Its history’ this fall. That would include the 4 refreshed iPhone models, and updated low-end MacBook Pro, a freshened iMac with a bigger screen, a new Mac Pro (running Apple silicon), a MacBook Air update, three new Apple Watches, a low end iPad and new iPad Pro models…plus the 2nd gen AirPods Pro! These will likely come out in two separate events…with the usual iPhone and Watch release in September, and the rest to follow in October or maybe November. This spring, Apple will probably drop a refreshed iPhone SE, iPad Air, and maybe a new, higher end iMac. It appears that by Fall, Apple will have migrated 100% of its computers to its own silicon, finally dropping all Intel chips. 

WhatsApp is apparently working on a feature that will allow people to migrate their chat history from Android to iOS. Theverge.com says such a feature has been sighted in the latest beta version for iOS (22.2.74.) This matches up with a similar feature observed in a beta of Android (2.21.20.11.) WhatsApp had previously had the ability to move chat histories from iOS to Samsung phones (that happened last September), then added the ability to transfer to Google Pixel phones and other Android 12 devices. 

The European Parliament has moved to install big limits on behavioral advertising. TechCrunch.com reports that the action came during a vote on amendments to the EU Digital Services Act. This would really ratchet up pressure on big tech…especially on Facebook And Google, which make most of their money through mass surveillance and microtargeting of Internet users. The two ad titans dodged a much bigger bullet as the EU dropped an amendment that would have meant a total ban on behavioral advertising. The upshot of these votes is that the elected representatives of EU citizens have signaled strong backing for significant restrictions to microtargeting and related ad tech practices (like manipulative consent flows) which — if they make it through into the final law — will put a significant squeeze on surveillance-based business models, increasing pressure for adtech reform.


Instagram-Trialing Paid Subs for Creators; Google Killing Free G Suite Level; Sony Dropped 12% Post Microsoft Buy of Activision; Battery Breakthrough-5X EV Range

Every tech platform is grubbing for more of your money these days, it seems. Now Facebook-owned (or Meta…which is about like Alphabet for Google…no one really will call it Meta) is trialing a paid subscription feature for creators, using in-app purchases. According to 9to5mac.com, the feature launches today over the iOS and Android apps. It is essentially to compete with platforms like OnlyFans, which are enjoying good growth. Despite the continued haggling with Apple over their App Store fees, the subscription fee charged by Google will get the 30% haircut that Apple gives to most apps and app features before the creator gets any cash. Google is apparently working on a way for creators to see ‘how much they pay to Apple.’ Only a small group of creators will initially get the new subscribe button as this is a test right now to see how it works. It does include special exclusive live broadcasts (really webcasts), stories that can only be seen by subscribers, and messages that note that you are a subscriber. 

Google is killing off its legacy freebie G Suite tier as of July 1st. Engadget.com reports that this is in conjunction with the rebranding of G Suite as Workspace. Users with the free version will be migrated to a paid account as of May 1st…Google will automatically select a subscription plan for users who don’t pick their own by that date. Users who are migrated to paid plans won’t actually be billed for at least 2 months, but if they don’t furnish billion info to Google by July 1st, they will be suspended. Business and enterprise Workspace accounts start at $6 a month per user. Google says it will offer ‘deep’ discounts to those affected by the decision. NOTE: if you use Gmail, Docs, Sheets, and others via a free Google account, you will NOT be affected by this move. Google will also keep offering free Workspace plans to nonprofits and schools that qualify for its Fundamentals tier. 

With the announcement as covered here yesterday that Microsoft was buying Activision for a huge sum, Sony shares have tanked today. CNBC.com says they were down over 12% in Tokyo Wednesday morning. The hit is due to investor worry that Microsoft will be able to syphon off popular games from the PlayStation platform. Up to now, Sony has had a better stable of third party games for its boxes, but this will bring Microsoft into a much more competitive position (some are saying the deal is anti-competitive, as it seriously consolidates the industry.) Activision’s Call of Duty has been out on both Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation, but should MS pull future updates from Sony’s boxes, it could seriously impact them. There are some market watchers who follow the gaming industry who think the market badly overreacted to the deal, and they expect Sony’s continued efforts to line up third party games to keep them plenty competitive. 

Some geniuses at the University of Michigan have figured out how to build a biologically inspired membrane that could quintuple the range of EVs using batteries with the tech. Inceptivemind.com reports that they have patented their system of a network of aramid nano fibers, made from recycled Kevlar bulletproof vests. It dispenses with the issue of cycle life for lithium-sulfur batteries. (Lithium-sulphur batteries have big sustainability advantages over lithium-ion…no rare cobalt is needed for the electrodes.) The article gets way into the weeds on the tech, but the net is, you can get over 1,000 cycles of fast charging without losing capacity, PLUS the batteries work well over the whole temperature spectrum…from desert hot to frigid winter weather. The team is forming a company to bring the membrane to market right now. 


Microsoft Buys Activision Blizzard; iPhone Leads Sales, But By Less; YouTube Premium & Music-Annual Subs; Gamers vs. Crypto Fans

In huge purchase, Microsoft has picked up Activision Blizzard for a cool $68.7 billion. The Washington Post reports that this is more than 4 times what Take-Two Interactive just paid for Zynga a couple weeks ago. Activision Blizzard has had big, money-making hits like Call of Duty, Warcraft, Overwatch, and Candy Crush, but lately has been plagued with gender discrimination and sexual harassment charges. In fact, they were sued last summer by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. There is also an ongoing SEC investigation, and open labor complaints filed by employees and the Communication Workers of America union. the embattled CEO, Bobby Kotick, will stay on…despite previous calls for him to step down. He will report to Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer. The company is expected to throw off $8-9 billion a year in revenue for Microsoft. 

Apple was king of the smartphone hill again in the 4th quarter of 2021, bu lost ground. This can partially be blamed on supply issues for semiconductors, but all makers had that problem to one degree or another. According to 9to5mac.com’s recap of a Canalys report, Apple had 22% of the market, while Samsung was right on their tail at 20%. Both did better than in 2020, where Apple had 23%, and Samsung only 17%. Xiaomi was third last quarter with 12%, with Oppo at 9% and vivo at 8%. Samsung did have an advantage over Apple as they make their own chips, while Apple relies on suppliers to make their proprietary chips, such as Taiwan Semiconductor.

YouTube has done a soft rollout of an annual plan for YouTube Premium and Music Premium. 9to5google.com says if you sign up now, you can pick up a substantial discount on a plan. Instead of paying $11.99 a month for Premium, you can buy it for $107.99 for 12 months of ad-free, offline, and background playback. That will save you $36 a year. Similarly, for Music Premium, it’s $89.99 a year, which saves you $2.50 a month. The promotional prices end in a matter of days, January 23rd, so if you want in, do it now.  Note that it is a non-recurring subscription, and partial refunds are not offered. 

With more and more attention to…and investment in…cryptocurrency and NFTs (see Walmart from yesterday’s blog), there is one very vocal group that is pushing back hard. Gamers are especially energized about NFTs in games. The New York Times quotes one named Matt Kee as saying “I just hate that they keep finding ways to nickel-and-dime us in whatever way they can.”  The game enthusiasts have hit game companies hard on Twitter and Discord and other platforms, to rail against crypto based NFT assets. NFTs, or ‘non fungible tokens,’ are virtual items or goods. A few folks have dubbed NFTs ‘digital Ponzi schemes.’ Some people and companies have made serious cash selling these things, which amount to basically exclusive pictures of something real…like a pair of rare, expensive sneakers. For those types of items, you get the exclusive right to the original picture…although they are copied wholesale, and most other folks don’t care if yours is the original. To gamers, though, its a matter of the game companies jacking up prices on them…you might need to buy a weapon or item of clothing, or the like in order to better play…or win the game. The blowback is working to a degree…some makers have backed off the NFTs in their games, at least for now. 


Walmart & The Metaverse-Oh, Boy; Google’s Foldable; iPad Pro-Glass Apple Logo for Charging; Ukraine Says Russia Behind Cyberattack

When I first read a headline about Walmart getting serious about the Metaverse, the first thing that popped into my mind was a virtual reality world populated with ‘People of Walmart’ . Well, that may or may not be a thing, but according to CNBC, in a story picked up by theverge.com, some trademark applications by the retail giant indicate they are looking at doing their own NFTs and cryptocurrency. Think of it…you’ll be able to buy virtual goods and pay for it all in crypto, while shopping online in whatever state of dress or fashion is befitting a Walmart shopper! Walmart has had its eye on crypto for some time, having advertised last summer for a cryptocurrency product specialist. Now, they appear ready to cash in on NFTs, virtual kicks, and virtual attire. You can take your bare ass to Walmart in your new virtual duds, and pay with Bitcoin from your phone…is this yet another sign of the end times?

Whether we like it or not, everyone is joining Samsung and a couple others in working on foldables. Now, it looks like Google is in the mix. 9to5google.com has detected a possible future gadget dubbed the ‘Pixel Notepad,’ with what they say is a lower price than expected. The less catchy ‘Logbook’ was also a name tossed around for what looks like a folding device. The only hints of pricing so far are that a Pixel Notepad would sell for less than the princely $17899 Samsung Galaxy Fold 3. 

The next iPad Pro will probably allow wireless charging. Macrumors.com says Apple has looked at a glass back for that, but they feel it’s just too much glass on the device, and would lead to and explosion of people breaking their tablets, and needing service, being angry, etc. The latest rumor is that Cupertino is thinking about a glass Apple logo on the back. You would have to center the device over the charger so it would line up with the charger, but Apple makes that pretty simple with their MagSafe system, where the magnets, pull the device into the proper alignment. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts the new iPad Pro will hit this year, possibly as early as this spring. 

Over the weekend, Ukraine accused Russia of the cyberattack that hosed a number of government websites, and they are calling it a ‘hybrid war’ against their country. AP reports that a statement from the Ministry of Digital Development said “All evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyberattack. Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war and is actively building up its forces in the information and cyberspaces.”  Microsoft had posted in a blog on Saturday that the first picked up malware in Ukraine on Thursday, when some 70 government sites were temporarily taken off line. The US is working with Ukraine on beefing up its defenses.


FTC Suit vs Meta Moves Forward; PC Shipments Way Up in 2021; Sony to Keep Making PS4s; Maserati Will Race in Formula E

In case you missed, it, a federal judge yesterday ruled that the Federal Trade Commission can move forward with its antitrust suit against Meta (Facebook), after the suit was dismissed last year. According to theverge.com, the judge said the facts alleged by the FTC were ‘far more robust and detailed than before.’ He did note that the fed agency ‘may well face a tall task down the road in proving its allegations.’ The case revolves around Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. “In stark contrast with its predecessor, this complaint provides reinforcing, specific allegations that all point toward the same conclusion: Facebook has maintained a dominant market share during the relevant time period,” the opinion says. If you accept the market definition and the reliability of the FTC’s data, “Facebook’s market share comfortably exceeds the levels that courts ordinarily find sufficient to establish monopoly power.”

With all the chip shortages last year, it would seem that PC deliveries would have dropped like a rock. Nope. Actually, they were up nicely. Techcrunch.com reports that an analysis by Canalys has PC shipments up 15% year over year in 2021, and they were up 27% over 2019! 2021 is the best year for PCs since 2012, with 341 million sold. The 3 top dogs were Lenovo, HP, and Dell…with Apple coming in 4th. Apple actually had the best growth year over year at 28.3%. Fifth place Acer had the 2nd highest growth at 21.8%. 

Previously, it had been reported that Sony would be slowing or closing down PS4 production in 2021 with the success of the PS5. Now…despite chip shortages and supply chain hassles, Sony appears poised to keep pumping out PS4s through the rest of 2022…to the tune of a million per year Androidcentral.com says that the majority of the 1st player games out for the PS5 are also playable on the PS4. This includes Horizon Forbidden West, which previously had been slated just for the 5. 

Another legendary brand is jumping into the electric vehicle racing series Formula E next year. Maserati will race in the EV series. Arstechnica.com notes that this is as several German makers have left in recent seasons…including the 2021 championship winning Mercedes-EQ team. Ferrari still hasn’t committed to running in the E series, but Maserati is a pretty big feather in the cap of electric vehicle racing. The last time the marque fielded a single seater racer was in 1957…with the amazing Juan Manuel Fangio driving in that year’s Formula 1 season. The Argentine driver is widely considered to be one of the best….if not the best of that generation of drivers. He later was the distributor for Mercedes-Benz (who he had also raced for) in his home country of Argentina. 


Facebook Contractors Threaten Stoppage-No Pay; Android 13 Getting Faster QR Shortcuts; Samsung Galaxy Unpacked Date; 2021 Sets Record for Cyber Attacks

This is a pretty big stubbing of the corporate toe for Facebook (Meta.) Moderators at an Accenture site in Austin have been in payroll hell since the first of the year…an error showed up tracking PTO, and then on January 6th, paychecks didn’t arrive. Theverge.com notes that there was a recent change in payroll providers at that site. A number of paychecks that did show up were zeroed out…no money! Workers at the site handle moderation, customer service, and other chores for Facebook and WhatsApp. Understandably, they are threatening in a letter to the CEOs of those divisions of Meta to stop work entirely until they get their money!

There were apparently several lump sum payments issued after the threatened work stoppage on January 7th, but not to everyone. A managing director at the Accenture site said he didn’t know when the issue would be resolved, but that the company would cover late fees and overdraft fees. Of course, that won’t pay the rent, mortgage payments, or buy food…but nice gesture. As of last night (Jan. 10th), at least 50 employees still hadn’t been paid or gotten a lump sum. Facebook put out a bland non-statement about the issue. “Accenture has notified its employees of this issue,” said Meta representative Kadia Koroma, “and is working to resolve it as soon as possible.”

QR codes are everywhere now, and Google is going to add better shortcuts for using them in Android 13. 9to5google.com reports that there will be a couple new shortcuts coming. One is in the Quick Settings menu…it allows for users to quickly launch a QR scanner from that menu. The other feature should be quite useful…Google is adding scanner access for QR codes form the Lock Screen.

Right now, it’s unclear if that will just be a button on the Lock Screen to toggle to the scanner, or the ability to show the scanner itself from the Lock Screen. The latter would be very handy…and I would add, showing QR codes from the Lock Screen would be great, too. After traveling out of the country last summer, there were a number of times I had to show a QR code…not just for boarding planes, but also to confirm vaccination status. Having them displayed on the Lock Screens of phones would vastly speed up lines. 

Samsung’s next Galaxy Unpacked event will be held on February 8th. Engadget.com says the date was confirmed by Digital Daily out of South Korea. Pre-orders will go live on February 9th, and new models will begin shipping on February 24th. It is expected that Samsung will unveil 3 new phones…the Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, and S22 Ultra. The latter will reportedly feature a camera that Samsung claims will have a ‘Super Clear Lens.’ The new phones are also likely to be shown off at Mobile World Conference 2022 in Barcelona. 

According to a report form Check Point Research picked up by zdnet.com, 2021 was a record year for the number of cyber attacks on corporate networks. It wasn’t even close…according to their research, 2021 had 50% more cyberattacks per week than 2020…many due to the Log4j vulnerability…which resulted in a huge uptick near the end of the year. 

Education, government, and healthcare got into the top 5 most attacked industries worldwide. the highest volume of attacks occurred in Africa (1582 per week), followed by Latin America with 1118. Europe had 670 weekly attacks, and North America notched 503. Check Point expects a continued uptick in 2022. They note that “Simple measures such as patching, segmenting your networks and educating employees can go a long way in making the world safer.”


Apple-No Metaverse for Headsets; Take-Two Buys Zynga; Tesla ‘Full Self-Driving’ has Assertive Mode; Google Rants About iMessage ‘Blue Bubbles’

Sorry, Meta (Facebook), but it looks like Apple isn’t too interested in joining your vaporware party. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple has rejected the idea of an all-virtual world (metaverse) for their AR/VR goggles and glasses. Cupertino plans to focus on short bursts of communication, content viewing, and gaming instead. The Apple headset, as we have reported previously, should bow this year, and most estimate it will sell for a princely $3000! (Ming-Chi Kuo disagrees with this, saying instead of 2 8k screens and a less intense one for side views, the Apple goggles will use only 4k displays and 6 or 8 cameras…and will be less costly.) Apple does seem to be focusing more on the practical augmented reality use in the ‘real universe,’ as opposed to Meta’s emphasis on the virtual world they dub the metaverse. 

Take-Two Interactive has announced it is snapping up mobile gaming firm Zynga for $12.7 billion. According to appleinsider.com, the cash and stock deal will close Q1 of 2023, and it will make Take-Two Interactive one of the biggest publishers of mobile games. Take-Two is most famous for Grand Theft Auto, and also makes BioShock and Red Dead. Zynga is known for Words with Friends, Farm Heroes, and Zynga Poker, but first burst into gaming on Facebook with their signature game FarmVille. 

Here’s something we all (don’t) need: the latest beta of Tesla ‘Full Self-Driving’ mode has an ‘Assertive’ mode…which allows rolling stops (known everywhere in the country except California as ‘California stops!’ Engadget.com says the update originally hit in October as v. 10.3, but was pulled in 2 days due to a bug that affected traffic light left turns, unexpected stopping, and other issues. It had 3 modes…’Chill,’ ‘Average,’ and ‘Assertive.’ Well now it’s back. The notes indicate “in this profile, your Model X will have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops.” Apparently, the rolling stops also happens in ‘Average’ mode, too. What will it set you back to get this illegal feature? A couple grand more than last week. Elon Musk announced that Tesla is jacking up the price of ‘Full Self-Driving’ from $10,000 to $12,0000! As has been pointed out, neither this mode nor Tesla’s Autopilot is rally self-driving….Level 4. Both are still just Level 2 advanced driver assistance.

In a new rant about one of Apple’s ‘walled garden’ with regard to iMessage. 9to5google.com reports that Google Senior VP of Platforms and Ecosystems Hiroshi Lockheimer has blasted the lock in Apple builds into iMessage. As Apple users know, when you get a message from another Apple user, it appears in a blue bubble. Anything from Android or other systems gets a green bubble. Lockheimer complains that Apple’s non-support of Rich Communications Services locks teens and ‘tweens into the Apple system. It’s a status thing for them to have the ‘blue bubble’ in their texts. If Apple supported the RCS, it would modernize SMS/MMS with iMessage type features, too…like typing indicators with read receipts, higher-quality photos, ability to send over Wi-Fi/mobile data, and Business Messaging. Google accuses Apple of bullying in the messaging world. It seems unlikely that Apple will give up their advantage to ‘poor, little Google’ anytime soon!