TikTok-Longer Videos; Samsung Freshens Galaxy Book Pros; Apple 20” Foldable Might Be MacBook Pro; Super Creepy Hotel & Apt Sound Tech

TikTok has YouTube users in its sights as they are rolling out the ability to upload longer videos, running up to 10 minutes. This will be available worldwide. Androidcentral.com reports that it isn’t the first time TikTok has allowed longer limits. This past July, they allowed videos of up to 3 minutes. What isn’t known is if or how this will affect the platform’s recommendation algorithm. Will the longer vids become more wildly popular than the minute videos or 3 minutes? We will know if just a few months. 

Samsung has freshened its Galaxy Book line with updates to the Galaxy Book 2 Pro and Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360. According to theverge.com, they will run you $1049.99 and $1249.99 respectively when they hit stores April 1st. Preorders will open March 18th. Both Pro models will be available as either 13.3 or 15.6 inch laptops. The banner update is that both will have 1080 pixel webcams. There are also some new background and face-effect features, and one of those kinda creepy Auto Framing tools that keeps you centered as you move around (hey, I might want to be off cam for a minute!) The displays are brighter, and the Pro convertible will come in a new burgundy color, in addition to graphite and silver. 

We reported last week on a possible 20 inch foldable that Apple might be working on. It’s been rumored as a mix between a MacBook and an iPad. Now, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says (as picked up by 9to5mac.com) that it is probably really a big MacBook Pro with a touchscreen keyboard and keypad. He does note that it could still be used with an external keyboard, and act as an additional 20” screen to another computer, or as a couple screens itself. At any rate, you have time to save up…if it drops at all, it won’t be until 2026.

A hotel in San Francisco’s Castro District has embraced tech used by management company Kasa. Zdnet.com reports that the tech monitors ‘quiet hours’ from 9 PM to 8 AM. If you make noise greater than 72 decibels (db), you get a warning. For a 2nd offense, it’s a $500 fine and you are booted from the hotel. For comparison, office noise is about 70 db, and the average vacuum cleaner or radio is 75 db. It goes without saying that some folks making whoopee might exceed that db level! Hell of a price to pay for a few minutes of ecstasy! You think cams in an AirBnB are intrusive? Wait ‘till they have this tech, too! Better cover your face with a pillow when the magic moment ‘comes.’


Google Chat Will Replace Hangouts Next Month; Twitch Bows Guaranteed Streamer Income; 3G Shutdown-More Than Just Phones; LinkedIn Unveils Own Podcast Network

The long delayed (since 2019) switch from Google Hangouts to Chat for Workspace will now see its final phase instituted by March 22nd. 9to5google.com reports that ‘Chat preferred’ setting will be turned on for those customers who haven’t already done so, making Google Chat the default application. Should you visit classic hangouts in Gmail on the web or on the mobile app, you will get a redirect to Chat. This upcoming classic Hangouts to Chat transition only impacts paid Workspace users and does not affect free personal Google Accounts. The company previously indicated that the migration would occur after all Workspace users are switched over.

Twitch is introducing a plan called the Ad Incentive Program, which will pay select streamers a guaranteed monthly minimum amount of ad revenue. According to theverge.com, they have started notifying those streamers of the new deal. The income is based on the amount of ads run per hour and total hours streamed. An example Twitch gave is for a creator who streamed at least 40 yours in a month. That streamer could pick up $100 for running two minutes of ads an hour, $300 for 3 minutes, and $500 for 4 minutes. Twitch is also including an ad management feature that controls when the ads roll during a stream, lifting the burden of timing ad breaks for the streamers. Streamers will still be able to take in revenue from donations and subscriptions. 

You have probably heard plenty already about the cellular carriers shutting down their 3G networks…and hopefully, don’t have such an old phone that it will be affected. If so…tough, ya cheapskate! You may also want to look at your connected car. Many makers have sent out info to upgrade your car system to 5G. Others offer (for a chunk of change) hardware to let you upgrade. You may also have an older smart watch which is not LTE or 5G, and that connectivity will be lost…although most of those also have WiFi and Bluetooth to connect to your phone. At any rate, here’s the shutdown schedule…AT&T already threw the switch, and started shutting down their 3G network on February 22nd. T-Mobile (and the old Sprint net) will be shut down on March 31st. Verizon is giving users the longest grace period. They will kill their 3G CDMA network on December 31st of this year. If you have another carrier, it will lose service based on the carrier they ride on. Cricket is on AT&T, so that’s being shut down now. Boost Mobile depends on T-Mobile, so March 31st is your date.

LinkedIn is unveiling its own podcast network, that will feature in-house shows from the company’s news team, and also programs from industry features. Techcrunch.com reports that the network will be geared toward a professional audience. LinkedIn says it will be focused on understanding tech, managing mental health and explaining the hiring process. Listeners can check out the podcasts on LinkedIn directly, and the shows will also be available on Apple’s Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcasts platforms. 

HP & Lenovo Chromebook to Support Steam; Sony Unveils Playstation VR2’s Design; GM Asks US Approval for Self-Driving Car Sans Steering Wheel; Amazon Grocery Biz-Like Expensive Hobby?

HP, Lenovo, Acer, & Asus will apparently be the first makers to release gaming Chromebooks. Arstechnica.com reports that a code change suggests vendors are working on a Chrome OS that will support the vast Steam gaming system. Google had previously said (back in 2020) that it would bring Steam to Chromebooks. These won’t be the dirt cheap, entry level Chromebooks that many schools purchase. The base prices for the units expected to get Steam usability already start at $489 to $650. They will likely be in the $1300-$1400 range tricked out for gaming on Steam.

Sony has bowed the PlayStation VR2’s design. It sticks with the black and white color scheme of the PS5, and keeps the family resemblance with the original VR headset. According to theverge.com, one really welcome feature will be a lens adjustment dial. The new generation also has a new vent design, and a slight weight reduction. It supports haptic feedback, eye tracking, 4K HDR, at up to 120Hz frame rate. the VR2 has a 110 degree field of view, and connects to a PS5 with a single USB-C cable. So far, no pricing or release date, but since the design has been locked down and showed, expect those soon. 

The Cruise division of GM has formally asked the NHTSA for permission to put the driverless Cruise Origin into commercial service. Arstechnica.com says the filing notes that the car is “a zero-emission, shared, electric vehicle that has been purposefully designed from the ground up to operate without a human driver. This means it does not rely on certain human-centered features, like a steering wheel or a sun visor, to operate safely.” Yep…you read that right…NO steering wheel! The vehicle has coach seating, with passengers facing each other, and is intended for use as a driverless taxi…primarily on city streets. Only 3 weeks ago, Cruise started taking sign ups for people who want to ride in a driverless car in San Francisco. This as their manned vehicles continue to comb the City by the Bay with their mapping and data vehicles, which are all Chevy Bolts. As I was crossing the street in SF last week, both a Cruise Bolt and one of the Zoosk matte black Lexus SUVs crossed the street in front of me.  They’re everywhere!

You would think with their delivery business Prime Now, Fresh, Go, plus Whole Foods, that Amazon would be raking it in by now from their sizable grocery business. Well, CNBC reports that it just isn’t so at this point. Amazon’s combined grocery businesses, including Whole Foods, only come to 2.4% of the grocery market over the past year. For comparison, Walmart has 18%. Analysts, including Jake Dollarhide, CEO of Longbow Asset Management, quipped that “It’s almost like the grocery business is an expensive hobby.” It remains toe one business that isn’t primarily cloud based or logistics as Amazon’s other businesses are. That’s true of Amazon Web Services, e-commerce (the original business), and entertainment. That said, it appears that Amazon is in for the long haul…a strategy that looked stupid years ago with AWS…until AWS became their monster cash flow business.

Folding MacBook in Long Term Apple Plans?; Twitter Testing Way to Untag Yourself; Trump’s Twitter Clone Makes Shaky Debut; Anti-Vaxxers Have Killed Off Facebook Profile Frames

Lots of new Apple computers are coming this year, as the company moves away from Intel silicon and to Apple’s own chips. Now, a new rumor about a possible device being considered in the next few years. According to macrumors.com, Apple is putting off a folding iPhone until 2025, BUT they are also playing with the idea of a foldable 20 inch MacBook that is all screen! This would allow use as a laptop with a full sized keyboard, or fully unfolded, the device could be used as a 20 inch monitor when paired up with an external keyboard. Whether this device is actually released is no more than a guess right now. The same issues with folding screens on phones would apply to a MacBook (or even iPad) sized device, so in the end, Apple may decide it just isn’t robust enough to release. Hint to Apple- since you backtracked on the MacBook Pro, and added ports back…which I love…how about bringing back replaceable batteries, so our expensive laptops don’t become a no-deposit, no-return item? We understand you want to sell lots of computers, but heavy users now aren’t even going to get 4-5 years of decent battery life. We ought to be able to keep a laptop as long as a lot of people keep cars before trading!

Twitter appears to be trialing a function that will allow user to untag themselves from threads. Theverge.com reports that some users are seeing a new ‘leave this conversation.’ This is in addition to the ‘mute this conversation’ option that already exists. As is common for Twitter, they have had no comment about the feature test. Your Twitter handle still appears in the thread, but is no longer a hyperlink. Also, you can still see the thread if you want to…but this feature, if rolled out widely, will prevent others from dragging you into conversations you don’t wish to be involved in.

Donald Trump’s ‘Truth’ social app hit the Apple App Store last night, but apparently the launch is a bit shaky. Cnet.com says a number of people have reported that the haven’t been able to create an account. In spite of that, it hit number 1 in the App Store’s Top Charts this morning. Some people trying to create accounts were put on a waiting list. Will the app do any better than Parler, Gettr, or Rumble have with conservatives? Time will tell. 

You have probably used at least one…I know I have…whether urging people to vote, or to get vaccinated, or for some other cause…those profile picture frames on Faeebook have been a fixture for some time now. No more. According to Mashable.com, Facebook is effectively killing off the feature, and anti-vaxxers are to blame. While profile frames will still exist, only frames from “certain government services or organizations and those providing authoritative information on COVID-19” will be available to users. The reason? The frames repeatedly violated Facebook’s existing vaccine misinformation policies. Any existing custom profile frames will be deleted on March 21st. Facebook did say that profile pictures with a previously created frame will still be allowed. Frames created by official partners will also still be available. 

Meta Employees Are Now ‘Metamates’; Senate Bill Would Make Social Nets Protect Kids More; Google Bows Privacy Sandbox on Android; Twitter ‘Bot Accounts Get Label Indicating They Are ‘Bots

They were formerly Facebookers, but with the move to the name and over-arching company Meta, Facebook employees aren now ‘Metamates.’ Marketwatch.com reports that this is by decree of CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Could be worse…could have been Metamucilmates…) In addition, Zuck has detailed new company values, with ‘Be Open’ now changed to ‘Be Direct and Respect Your Colleagues.’ It’s a long way from the old days of ‘Move Fast and Break Things.’

A conservative Republican Senator and liberal Democratic one have introduced a bill called the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), that will give kids more control over their privacy and safety on social media. The Act, introduced by Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal, will also set out stricter guidelines for the companies in question. According to the Washington Post, the Act will require social media companies to give kids under 16 tools to protect their data, turn off ‘addictive’ features, and opt out of algorithm based recommendations. The strongest settings, affording the most protection to the children, would have to be on by default. 

Google is following Apple in bringing a Privacy Sandbox to Android. 9to5google.com says it starts out with new privacy preserving APIs that limit which user data gets shared with third parties and don’t use cross-party identifiers…like Android’s AdID. To prevent covert user tracking, an SDK Runtime will isolate advertising SDKs (and their processes) included by apps. This is a double whammy to Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, which have relied on hoovering up user data to serve up targeted ads. Facebook took a hit after revealing a drop off in ad revenue due to Apple’s tightening things up. They have a little time to adjust, though…Google says it won’t have things fully implemented until 2023. 

Twitter bot accounts can now be labeled as such, effective today. Engadget.com reports the company has begun rolling out the feature world wide. Twitter says the notice will help users to get more detail about an account and its purpose, and then can decide whether or not to follow or engage with that account. 

Samsung Moves to Google Messages; TSMC US Chip Plant Delay; Meta Settles Decade Old Cookie Use Suit; Microsoft Unveils Amazon Appstore Preview

Finally throwing in the towel on their own Samsung Messages, Samsung is making Google Messages the default messaging app on Samsung Galaxy phones in the US…starting with the new Galaxy S22 series. According to 9to5google.com, this will bring enhanced RCS messaging to users. Note that you could always download and install Google Messages, but many people tend to go with the default app on the phones they get. This will put Samsung in a much better position to compete with Apple’s default messaging app. This should also energize other Android handset makers to move the same direction, to get closer to parity with Apple’s widely used and liked Messages app. 

Construction of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company’s 1st advanced chip plant in the US…being built in Arizona…is now 3 to 6 months behind schedule due primarily to a labor shortage and the on-and-off surge in COVID-19 variants. When finally built, the plant will be TSMC’s most advanced plant outside its home territory. After the plant is built, and equipment moved in, the expectation situate it will take another year to get production lines qualified and ramped up. The company had initially built in some time for delays, so they still say they should be able to begin production by the first quarter of 2024. 

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook (with props to the late artist formerly known as Prince, has settled a 10 year plus old lawsuit over its use of cookies…to the tune of $90 million. According to Variety, the complaint was that Facebook was tracking users’ internet use even after they had logged off the platform. The settlement still must be approved by the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The settlement will be distributed to plaintiffs who submit verified claims. Expect lawyers to hoover up a third of it plus expenses…so you will probably get a $5 coupon to use on Facebook Marketplace. (OK, I made that up…but no matter…no plaintiff will get much out of this…they never do.)

Last fall, Microsoft started testing Android Apps on PCs running Win 11. Now, techcrunch.com reports that the company is opening up access, with the Amazon Appstore Preview in the Microsoft Store, which will offer over 1,000 more apps and games. Redmond has also rolled out some Windows Taskbar improvements, a redesigned Media Player, and Notepad. For the Taskbar, which had been criticized by users, you will now be able to add your own shortcuts (again), and it will display the clock and date on the Taskbar of a secondary monitor, and live weather content in the left corner of the bar. 

IBM’s ‘Dinobabies’; Zoom Bug on Macs; Snap Creators Get Ad Revenue Sharing; Western Digital Loses Huge Flash Storage

In documents filed in support of a lawsuit filed against IBM, execs allegedly called older workers ‘dinobabies,’ who should be extinct. Business Insider reports that the suit also claims to show IBM plans ‘to oust older employees from its workforce.’ The legal battle actually dates back to 2018, when Big Blue fired tens of thousands of workers over 40 years old. The language from emails detailing plans to replace older workers with millennials also complained about the company’s ‘dated maternal workforce.’ An IBM spokesperson says the company has ‘never engaged in systemic age discrimination.’ 

If you have a Mac computer, and do Zoom meetings, you need to update your Zoom software right away. Theverge.com says there is a bug that leaves your mic on after you leave meetings in MacOS Monterey operating systems. Zoom had earlier gotten into hot water in 2020 when they claimed end to end encryption when that wasn’t the case. Make sure you are updated to version 5.9.3…you don’t want to say something snide about your boss or the meeting leader or co-workers after a meeting, and find that you just ended your career!

Good news, bad news from Snapchat. They will start dropping mid-roll ads into Stories of creators. The good news part? According to theverge.com, they will share revenue with the creators. The deal is only available to Snap Stars…those who are creators, have large followings that Snap has verified, or public figures. (Look for the gold star.) There were already ads in between friends’ Stories and in the Discover section, but this is the first time creators will get a cut of the ad revenue on Stories. 

Everything has seemingly been going up. Now, flash memory will take another, unexpected hike. Mashable.com reports that Western Digital has lost 6.5 BILLION gigs of flash storage due to contamination during production. The issue was discovered late last month at tow plants in Japan that producer NAND chips. The plants are run by WD’s partner Kioxia. What caused the contamination is unknown at this point. Western Digital has about 30% of the total flash storage market, so this is a big deal. This is expected to push the prices of SSDs up by around 10%.

Samsung Unpacked Highlights; Apple Tap To Pay; Car Radio Glitch Locks on Single Station; Twitter Rolls Out Playback Speed for Videos

As is not uncommon, most of what Samsung rolled out at the latest Unpacked today had already been leaked. Theverge.com reports that the star of the show was the flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra. It is basically a Note, without the name…something Samsung has been running away from since some had fire issues a few years ago. That said, the Note has had a fiercely loyal following, so here’s the Ultra with an S Pen silo. Besides that, it is pretty much an evolutionary update. The handset has a 6.8 inch screen, the same cams as before, in a somewhat more boxy shape like the old note. The Galaxy S22 will go for $1199, and can be preordered today in phantom black, phantom white, green, or new burgundy. It goes on sale February 25th. 

Apple has announced its Tap to Pay for iPhone. We reported about this last week, but there’s a new wrinkle that was revealed today. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will be partnering with third-parties, and making the platform available to app developers and other payment platforms besides Apple Pay. The NFC driven feature will be live late this year, and will support contactless payments over an iOS app on iPhone XS or later. It will work with either another phone or credit card that has a chip. The surprise vendor already on board is Stripe. They already have a landing page up to let businesses express interest in Tap to Pay on iPhone for Stripe Terminal. Apple announced that Tap to Pay will appear in an upcoming iOS software beta, and will be available to payment partners and app developers via new SDKs.

A software glitch in Mazda cars that is every radio programmer’s dream (if it is your station locked in, anyway) has confounded drivers of Mazda cars from model years 2014-17. Suddenly, the cars will only pick up public radio station KUOW. Geekwire.com notes that in a few cases, the infotainment systems have quit all together. Dealers report they are hearing from plenty of owners. The problem is apparently related to the switch to 5G. In my own case, I had update the software in my 2018 Honda by a certain date or lose connectivity, as that maker dropped 3G support. The cars still can use 4G (LTE) and 5G. If the Mazda issue is similar, some of these people who didn’t download the software update may have to get a new part at dealers installed. Not cool. At least Mazda says the dealers can submit a ‘goodwill request’ to the warranty department, but of course….the part is backordered everywhere!

Twitter has dropped another test feature. This time, it’s a speed adjustment for videos, ranging from quarter speed to double speed. According to Mashable.com, such a feature has been available on both Netflix and YouTube. The rub is, the video length is still 140 seconds for us regular humans, and up to 10 minutes for important content providers. In light of that, it appears that Twitter is going after TikTok more than trying to compete with the likes of YouTube. Twitter is also trying out a downvote button…but you can’t use it to give a thumbs down to Tweets….only to replies to Tweets. 

Nvidia Arm Buy is Off; Peter Thiel Leaves Facebook Board; Under Pressure, IRS Drops Facial Recognition; Critical Year for EVs

The huge $66 billion dollar deal for Nvidia to buy Arm has blown up. According to arstechnica.com, this was primarily due to regulators in the US, UK, and EU raising serious concerns about the effect of the deal on competition in the world wide semiconductor industry. The deal would have given California based Nvidia virtual control over the tech at the heart of the majority of mobile devices. Arm is based in the UK. Among others, Qualcomm and Microsoft had objected to the purchase. The sale’s failure is a big hit for SoftBank, which would have raked in a huge windfall had the deal gone through. SoftBank will now likely do an IPO sometime this year for Arm.

Peter Thiel isn’t seeking reelection to be a member of the Facebook (Meta) board, so will leave the company. Techcrunch.com reports that Thiel has become increasingly political, and has strongly supported Donald Trump and those running for office closely associated with him. This makes him a bit of a hot potato on the Meta board at this point…with the investigations both in the US and the EU into the company, and their platforms Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

The backlash was quick, strong, and surprisingly bipartisan. After public outcry and a strong negative reaction for members of Congress, the IRS will drop their plan to make people use facial recognition via a third party company to verify their identity. Engadget.com notes that the shift away form the ID.me system will happen over weeks to try to minimize disruptions during tax filing season. The IRS is now working on a less intrusive, and less flakey system…as even the folks in Congress know that the face ID system has issues, and is prone to error…particularly in the case of minority faces. The susceptibility to cyber attacks, and lack of audits or accountability also raised the ire of Congress members from both sides of the aisle. 

This is shaping up to be a pivotal year for electric cars. The EVs are still only 9% of the market, but that’s up from 2.5% in 2019, so a big jump. The New York Times reports that the industry over all will drop a trillion dollars the next 5 years to transition EVs. Tesla is still leading at a million sold a year, but looking at orders over at Ford (which we’ve covered here), FoMoCo had thought they might sell 75,000 of the new F-150 Lightening pickups, but have stopped orders for now at 200,000. They will sell a like number of Mustang EVs this year, too. Mercedes delivered almost 100,000 EVs in 2021…up 90% from the previous year. VW delivered 17,000 ID.4 SUVs in the US, but say they could have sold 4 times that number if it hadn’t been for production bottlenecks like the chip shortage. The biggest impediment to EV sales (besides the chip shortage) is the lack of enough charging stations. Right now, there are only 50,000 public charging stations in the US. The infrastructure bill passed last fall has funds for an additional 500,000, but even that won’t be enough to keep up with EV sales at the rate people are ordering them. 

Amazon Doubles Big Cheese Max Base Pay; Meta Threatens to Shutter Facebook & Instagram in Europe, Next Apple Event & Entry MacBook Pro; Cost of Replacing Chinese Cell Equipment Explodes

Amazon has just more than doubled maximum base pay for corporate and tech workers, citing competition in the labor market. Geekwire.com reports the new figure is $350,000, up from the previous $160,000. This will bring them in line with other major tech firms like Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. Up to now, Amazon had been trying to keep its base pay low by offering RSUs for its stock, but that is no longer holding people the often 3-4 years before the employee can cash out. 

Due to a new data transfer agreement being considered, which prevents transferring data from the EU to the US, Meta is threatening to shut down both its Facebook and Instagram platforms in Europe. According to CNET.com, the sticking point is the EU’s very strict privacy protection. The latest data transfer agreement was found invalid in 2020 by a top European court. Data transfer allows the company…and others…to transfer, store, and process data at their data centers in the US. Meta is not the only tech company dealing with this, but is the largest affected by far. The company hopes to light a fire under the US and EU negotiators to get a new agreement in place so they can continue operations. 

The next Mac event appears to be slated for March 8th. 9to5mac.com says the expected rollout will include an updated iPhone SE3 with 5G, a new iPad Air…and possibly a new Mac. Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg has written that we should look for a new entry-level MacBook Pro with a proprietary Apple system on a chip…probably called the M2, later this year. In order to continue charging more for the M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros, Gurman says the new laptop won’t have the Touch Bar, and will have a lower quality display, processor, and less storage. It won’t get the MiniLED screen or ProMotion, in other words. He and others see Apple as finishing the switch to their own silicon across the entire line this year, ending a long run with Intel processors. 

The cost of removing and replacing Chinese made cell equipment from Huawei and ZTE has exploded. CNBC.com reports that the government had called for replacing the equipment…deemed insecure…and Congress allocated $1.9 billion for that in December 2020. Now, carriers have applied for a whopping $5.6 billion to cover the job! The whole issue came up when it was found that the Chinese equipment were national security risks. The FCC says is will work with carriers and Congress to make sure the carriers aren’t hit with the costs, since the government has mandated the switch out of gear.