Pixel Crash Detection to Other Androids; Amazon Limits Plan B-Supply Issues; Google Launches Public Sector; Mobile World Congress Stays in BarcelonaPosted: June 29, 2022
Google seems to be preparing for car crash detection and other Pixel-exclusive Personal Safety features available on other Android phones. According to 9to5google, com, one of the hallmark features of Personal Safety, the currently Pixel-exclusive app that aims to make your smartphone more helpful in emergency situations, is car crash detection. Using a combination of factors including your phone’s motion sensors (to detect an impact or sudden stop while at high speeds) and microphone (to listen for the sounds of a crash) Personal Safety is able to automatically connect you to emergency services, if need be. New code has showed up in the latest version that indicates ‘nonpixel.’ While this doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk that the crash protection will be released to other Android phones, it would be a great move to allow it, since it promotes user safety.
Amazon is limiting sales of Plan B and other emergency contraceptives to three units per customer in the wake of increased demand, the company confirmed to several media outlets. Engadget.com reports that last week’s US Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade prompted a spike in sales of Plan B and other generic brands of levonorgestrel morning-after pills. Rite-Aid is also capping both online and in-person sales of emergency contraception to three per customer. Walmart has a more generous limit of 10 units of Plan B per customer, and Target limits online sales of Plan B to six orders per customer. Following a temporary cap on sales, both Walgreens and CVS have removed purchase limits on Plan B.
Google has unveiled ‘Public Sector,’ which will focus on helping US public sector institutions. 9to5google.com says Google Public Sector “will operate as a subsidiary of Google LLC and will specialize in bringing Google Cloud technologies.” This includes Workspace productivity tools like Gmail and Docs, while Google Cloud Platform (GCP) covers data and analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning tools. Offering cybersecurity products is also touted, while Google will “continue to invest in training.” Google has also announced partnerships with a number of federal agencies, including the Air Force, Navy, and Department of Veteran Affairs.
Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile tech event, will keep taking place in Barcelona until at least 2030. According to Mashable.com, the event, which has been in Barcelona for the last few years, originally was in Rome, and moved to a new city every year. MWC has been in Barcelona now since 2006…but that deal was going to expire in 2024. It has been in Barcelona since 2006. MWC had 109,000 people attend in 2019, but was cancelled in 2020, and a cut back version was held in 2021. The 2022 conference this spring was back to normal live, but was attracted a smaller audience.
Waymo, UPS, Others Want Self-Drive Trucks in CA; Google Shuttering Hangouts in November, Climate Change Changing Wine Chemistry; Tesla Vets Start EV Factory Automation FirmPosted: June 28, 2022
Waymo, UPS, and over 30 autonomous vehicle developers have sent an open letter to Governor Newsom asking him to revisit the California Department of Motor Vehicles 2015 ban on operation of autonomous trucks in the state. Techcrunch.com notes that things have opened up for cars…Cruise just started charging for totally driverless rides, and Waymo recently opened up driverless testing for employees in San Francisco. Right now, the state bars autonomous testing or deploying of vehicles weighing over 10,001 lbs. Meanwhile, Texas is steaming ahead…with Waymo Via, Kodiak Robotics, TuSimple, and others already testing on their roads. Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado also have testing and deployment regulations for autonomous trucks.
It’s not as if we didn’t know this was coming…Google has been saying they would do it for quite a while now. Well, the time is nearly upon us…in November, Google will shut down Hangouts. According to theverge.com, they are beginning to migrate free, personal Hangouts users to Chat. People who still use the Hangouts mobile app will see a prompt to move to Chat. The web based Hangouts users will start to see the prompt in July. We have used Chat at work to communicate info to each other that doesn’t need to go over the air…for example, notifying a co-worker that a news story is ready to go. The migration was seamless. A note: Google Chat is not the same thing as GChat, which Google killed off earlier this month. Chat does offer some additional features, like the ability to make direct calls, and share and view multiple images.
As if the heat, water shortages, and fires weren’t bad enough, apparently climate change is affecting the chemistry of wine. Arstechnica.com says growers are concerned that wildfires and warmer temperatures can transform the flavor of wine, whose quality and very identity depends on the delicate chemistry of grapes and the conditions they’re grown in. Many growers and winemakers are increasingly concerned that climate change is robbing wines of their defining flavors, even spoiling vintages entirely. The chemistry? Wine quality, at its most granular, boils down to achieving balance between three broad aspects of berries: sugar, acid and secondary compounds. Sugar builds up in berries as vines photosynthesize, and acid breaks down as the grapes ripen. Secondary compounds—basically, chemicals beyond those essential to the plant’s core metabolism—accumulate over the season. When a region’s climate changes, it disrupts the balance of sugar, acid, and secondary compounds. It’s too early to say bye-bye to the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, or Bordeaux region of France yet, though. So far the public seems to embrace the ‘bolder and jammier wine.’ Winemakers and their chemists are trying to stay a step ahead of the climate alterations in their vineyard areas.
A new startup aimed at improving manufacturing tech in EV factories has been founded by two Tesla vets. Techcrunch.com reports that Industrial Next has raised $12 million from Lenovo Capital, the venture capital arm of Chinese computer firm Lenovo. Industrial Next founders are Allen Pan, who was Tesla’s autonomous factory lead at Fremont, and Lukas Pankau, who was a lead electrical architect behind Model X, Y and 3. They want to bring the latest production technologies to electric vehicle suppliers around the world, by selling a mix of modular equipment, customized software, and follow-on service, which means clients can procure for one production unit or the entire factory.
Apple Readies Slew of Hardware; Your Data Post Roe; Stardust-1st Period App End-to-End Encrypted; Ukrainian Women Only Fans Raises Money to Fight RussiansPosted: June 27, 2022
Apple is apparently planning a slew of hardware upgrades this fall. Macrumors.com reports that Mark Gurman, in his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, is preparing to drop new Mac Mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and “M2 Extreme” chips. Also, later in the year, look for possible new Apple TV boxes with an A14 chip and more RAM, a new HomePod (hopefully with a less eye-watering price) with essentially the same sound and footprint as the original…albeit with an updated top of speaker display. For the Apple Watch, look for an S8 chip…but Gurman says it will have the same specs as the S7 and S6 chips. Of course, the 4 new iPhone models will probably drop as usual in September….they are rumored to be in production now.
As some states move to criminalize abortion, advocates of digital rights note that such things as your internet history, text messages, and location data may be used as criminal evidence. According to businessinsider.com, “The concern about digital privacy security and data safety within the abortion access movement — people seeking an abortion — is all very real,” said Daly Barnett, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit data rights group based in San Francisco. Woman may want to go back to old fashioned paper calendars for period tracking, and use a vpn and browser like Duck Duck Go for web searches. Also, if planning an out of state abortion, it may be prudent to temporarily buy and use a burner phone.
Period tracking app Stardust is announcing that they are the first such app to offer end-to-end encryption. Mashable.com says the app, which combines traditional menstrual tracking with movements of the moon and planets had planned the update before the Supreme court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. Other ‘safer’ period trackers (not necessarily safe from government intrusion) include Clue, Drip, and Euki. Stardust’s encryption goes live June 28th.
A group of Ukrainian women has launched an Only Fans type project to raise money for Ukraine’s defense against Russia. Business Insider says it’s called TerOnlyFans, and it has raised over $700,000 since March. The women are selling nude pictures of themselves, with most of the money going to Ukraine’s Territorial Defense. A small amount has been donated to refugees and animal shelter organizations. So far, 35 women and 3 men are involved. They have gotten money from people in the Netherlands, France, and the UK. They note that they don’t take requests for pictures, since they aren’t sex workers. They have picked out the pix themselves. Founder Nastsassia Nasko says ‘We will end this project when Putin dies and Russia stops their aggression.
Twitter-Beyond 280 Characters; Amazon Fully Auto Warehouse Robot; Toyota & Redwood Partner-Battery Recycling; Alexa Reads in Grandma’s VoicePosted: June 22, 2022
After expanding from 140 characters to 280, now Twitter is apparently looking at vastly more characters…but not on the main app. Android Police reports that Twitter has announced Notes, a brand new feature currently in testing with a select group of writers. The idea behind Notes is simple: with newsletters now more popular than ever, pivoting into full-on blogging — while keeping the 280-character limit for the bulk of the site — should bring a new audience to Twitter without shedding what makes it unique in the first place. Each Note is tied to your Twitter account, with your handle and username filling in for the usual byline. It supports photos, embedded tweets, paragraphs, text formatting (like bold and italics), and more, bringing it in line with the likes of WordPress and other blogging platforms. This should let bloggers use the reach of their Twitter account to lure people to their longer form blogs.
Amazon has announced its ‘first fully autonomous mobile robot.’ According to theverge.com, it is intended to move large carts around its warehouses. The robot is named Proteus. Amazon claims it can safely navigate around humans in the warehouses…something that has been beyond present robots. The current crop of bots has to be kept in a separate, caged area. Amazon also announced several other robotic systems. One, called Cardinal, is a robotic arm that can lift and move packages weighing up to 50 pounds, which Amazon hopes to deploy in warehouses next year. The company says that its computer vision systems let it pick out and lift individual packages, even if they’re in a pile. The company has said “replacing people with machines is just a fallacy” that could lead to a company going out of business. This was pointed out by the head of Mercedes-Benz over 2 decades ago, when they brought automation to their car manufacturing plants. The CEO at the time said Mercedes would use robots ‘to save backs, not replace hands.’ They believed the human touch was a crucial factor in their success.
The battery packs in electric vehicles are one of the most, if not the most expensive components in an EV. Then there is the issue of what to do when they have run their course. According to theverge.com, Toyota is partnering with Redwood Materials, a company of Tesla co-founder JB Straubel to collect and recycle old batteries. They will take the worn out batteries, and refurbish them or break them down so the materials can be used in new batteries.
Because we haven’t had a creepy story in a while, it’s time for one again. Techcrunch.com reports that soon, Alexa will be able to read stories in the voice of your dead Grandma! They have allegedly worked out new tech that can take just one minute of speech from Granny, and synthesize her voice to read a Grandchild a bedtime story. The feature was explained at Amazon’s annual re:Mars conference in Las Vegas. There is no timeline for it, and no more details, but it is an interesting (and creepy) use of technology. ‘Alexa, read Junior ‘Charlotte’s Web’ in Dead Grandma’s voice.
Tesla Ex-employees Sue; Twitter Revives Chirp Dev Conference; EU Disinformation Rules; Latest Trusted BrandsPosted: June 21, 2022
Tesla is being sued by a couple of former employees from its Sparks (Reno), Nevada gigafactory or mass layoffs. Engadget.com reports that the former employees claim that more than 500 employees were terminated without the required 60 days of advance notice per the US Warn Act…a violation of that federal law. Tesla also only offered a week of severance pay to some employees (and demanded a release from them.) Musk told CNBC that the lawsuit wasn’t important. “That is a small lawsuit of minor consequence,” he said. “Anything that relates to Tesla gets big headlines, whether it is a bicycle accident or something much more serious.”
It’s been over 10 years since they held one, but Twitter is reviving its Chirp Developer Conference in November. According to techcrunch.com, Twitter has acknowledged its past screwups with developers, and admitted that it needs to rebuild its relationship with the developer community. The conference will be live in San Francisco, and will also stream live. In addition to announcing the Chirp event, Twitter rolled out new pricing tiers that aimed to make it easier for different types of developers, small and large, to get started with the platform — including researchers and academics in need of larger datasets. Not all of these are yet available — Twitter’s Elevated+ access which offers more than 2 million tweets per month, for example, is still waitlisted.
The European Union has toughened rules for deep fakes, bots, impersonation and fake accounts, with huge fines for tech companies that don’t help fight disinformation. Geekcentral.com says that now Google, Meta, Twitter, Twitch, TikTok, and Clubhouse have signed on to the rules…along with over 32 other companies.The 2022 Code of Practice toughens one the EU introduced in 2018. How big is the fine for non-cooperators? 6% of global revenue!
Morning Consult surveyed 5,000 Americans to find out what are the most trusted brands. The pandemic has brought an interesting mix. In previous years you might see the likes of Disney, Apple, or Coke. The latest top 10 are: Band-Aid at number 1, runner up is Lysol, in third place is Clorox, with venerable UPS clocking in at 4th. the 5th most trusted is CVS Pharmacy, followed by 6th place Visa. #7 is Cheerios, and the 8th place brand is The Weather Channel. Rounding out the top 10 are number 9 Colgate, and 10th place is Home Depot.
Roughly $2T of cryptocurrency value, or more than two-thirds of all the crypto that existed, has been erased since bitcoin hit an all-time high in November 2021. The Wall St Journal notes crypto has shared characteristics with other bubbles throughout history, marked by speculation bordering on delusion, disregard and disrespect for risk, and greed. With inflation at the highest in decades and markets dropping, cryptocurrency has been one of the first assets to be dumped. Bitcoin was under $18,000 Saturday, but was back up over $20,000 Sunday. Ethereum dropped under $1000.
Employers are continuing to struggle with getting and keeping people with good tech skills. ZDnet points out that in place of hiring in an environment where skilled people can easily resign and jump to another company. it is often better to be ‘upskilling’ and retraining existing staff to take on more technical roles. Pluralsight has just done a survey, and of 7,000 people surveyed, 87% want to improve their tech skills…BUT 61% of them feel too busy to dedicate the time to upskilling. To keep from bleeding skilled staff, firms may just have to loosen up, and provide time on the company nickel for employees to get trained up.
Ford Recalls EV Mustangs; Redfin Lays off 8% of Workforce; Twitch-More Money for Streamers; RIP Microsoft Internet ‘Exploder’Posted: June 15, 2022
Ford has announced a recall for 48,924 Mustang Mach-E EVs and asked dealers to pause deliveries of the vehicle. Engadget.com reports that Ford says there’s a possibility of the high-voltage battery connectors overheating, which could prevent the vehicle from starting or cause it to lose propulsion power while on the road. Ford claims it should be able to fix the issue with an over-the-air software update, which will be rolled out next month… or, owners can take their Mach-E to a Ford or Lincoln dealer and have the update installed there. Affected vehicles were built between May 27th, 2020, and May 24th, 2022 at Ford’s factory in Cuautitlán, Mexico.
Seattle real estate company Redfin announced Tuesday that it is cutting about 8% of its workforce, acknowledging that a housing downturn in the U.S. is hitting the company hard. According to geek wire.com, the company is blaming “market conditions” in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman said in a note to employees, which was posted on the company’s blog, that “a layoff is always an awful shock, especially when I’ve said that we’d go through heck to avoid one.” But May demand was 17% below expectations, he added, and fewer sales left the company with “less money for headquarters projects.” The cuts will impact approximately 470 employees and are expected to be completed by the end of June.
Twitch is expanding its ad incentive program to include more creators and pay them more money. Theverge.com notes that earlier this year, Twitch began offering select streamers a flat, guaranteed payment in exchange for running a fixed amount of ads during a fixed number of hours. Now, Twitch is opening up the program to include more partners and is changing the way it structures payouts to pay creators more. The payouts earned with the ad incentive program were calculated using a CPM (cost per thousand model.) The platform now says they will go to a more understandable model which increases the share for streamers. The new system will pay creators 55 percent of the revenue for each ad that runs on their stream. The program will roll out June 15th, but no one will see the bump until August. ‘Affiliates’ will qualify for the 55 percent of ad revenue starting in August so long as they run three minutes of ads per hour. Twitch will also disable the highly annoying pre-roll ads for users who run ads for that same amount of time.
A moment of silence….or if you are inclined, darken your screen for a few moments. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is dead. Redmond is killing off IE today after nearly 27 years. Most Windows systems already have the successor, Microsoft Edge. Not many users will miss ‘Internet Exploder.’ According to theverge.com, IE has less than half a percent of overall browser market share. Microsoft has been trying to stop people from using Internet Explorer for years now, and the company previously labeled it a “compatibility solution” rather than a browser that businesses should actively be using. While Microsoft has moved to its Chromium-powered Edge as the default browser on Windows 11, the MSHTML engine that powers Internet Explorer is still part of Windows 11. It exists purely for IE mode in Microsoft Edge, and Microsoft says it will support IE mode in Edge through at least 2029.
Firefox Adds Default Anti-Tracking; Musk will Address Twitter All-Hands; Prime Members Sue Amazon-Whole Foods Delivery; Export WhatsApp History Android to iOSPosted: June 14, 2022
Last year, Firefox launched their Total Cookie Protection feature, but it was only on by default when users activated privacy mode. Now, according to engadget.com, the feature will be default for all users without having to switch to privacy mode. Microsoft’s Edge also has tools to block tracking cookies, but users have to manually switch to “Strict” mode to be able to prevent most cookies from tracking them across websites. DuckDuckGo’s browser has a focus on privacy, but its search agreement with Microsoft prevents it from blocking certain trackers. As for Google, the tech giant pushed back its plan to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome as part of its Privacy Sandbox initiative to mid-2023. Apple’s Safari cross-site tracking protection is on by default.
Although his deal to buy Twitter is allegedly ‘paused,’ Elon Musk is going to address an all hands meeting Thursday. Cnet.com reports that Musk will not only address the staff, but will also take questions from employees. The meeting will be moderated by Twitter’s chief marketing officer Leslie Berland.
A group of Amazon Prime users who had been taking advantage of the free Whole Foods delivery perk have sued Amazon for dropping that free delivery from Whole Foods stores. Businessinsider.com says that in 2018, Amazon announced it would offer Prime members free two-hour delivery on Whole Foods groceries for orders totaling $35 or more. In October 2021, the company ended the perk, slapping a $9.95 fee on all Prime members’ Whole Foods orders. There are two different class actions now over this change. In addition to dropping this freebie, Amazon has raised the cost of a yearly Prime membership from $119 to $139.
WhatsApp is adding the ability for users to transfer their conversation chat history, photos, videos and voice messages from Android to iPhone via Apple’s Move to iOS app. Techcrunch.com notes that up to now, you could only move your data from an iPhone to and Android phone. CEO of WhatsApp parent Meta, Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement that this has been a top requested feature by users. You will have to be using Android 5 or greater, and the iOS phone will need to be on version 15.5. Your info doesn’t go to cloud storage due to or during the migration…but will when you create an iCloud backup.
Meta Sued -Exploiting Young People; Amazon Launching Drone Delivery; Google Will Let Ad Rivals on YouTube; Galaxy Z Flip 4-Less CreasePosted: June 13, 2022
Meta has been served with eight lawsuits in several states, making the claim that Facebook and Instagram are ‘detrimental to young people’s mental health.’ According to mashable.com, the law firm behind the suits is Beasley Allen. In a statement, the firm continues that Meta ‘purposefully made its platforms psychologically addictive and failed to protect its users.’ They cite the Congressional testimony by Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen. The lawsuits state that prolonged platform use has led to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, as well as self-harm and attempted suicide. There was no immediate response from Meta.
Amazon is prepping to launch a fleet of delivery drones in a test of Amazon Prime Air Delivery in Lockeford, California. Lockeford is south of Sacramento. Cnet.com reports that Amazon has worked with the FAA and local officials to get permissions to run the drone tests. the drones have a sense-and-avoid system they use to operate safely. The plan is for the drones to drop down into a customer’s back yard and drop the package from a safe height, before returning to their base.
Google is offering to let rivals and intermediaries run ads on YouTube in response to an EU antitrust investigation. Reuters.com says the European Commission opened a probe last year to look into whether the worlds’s largest provider of search and video was giving itself an unfair advantage by restricting rivals’ and advertisers’ access to user data. Google is angling to settle with the EU, but while a good step, it looks like they will have to do more to get some kind of settlement. A similar British agency is also investigating Google’s ad practices.
A good rumor about the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4…while it looks pretty identical outside, the display crease on the inner screen is much smaller and less noticeable. 9to5google.com reports that it is expected to have a newer Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, as well as a bigger 3700 mAh battery. The present 3300 mAh battery has been underwhelming. The handset should still come in at around $999 when it rolls out in August.
Reports-Netflix May Buy Roku; Samsung Folding Phones May Double Storage; Toyota Teases Energy Storage System; Remote Workers Want New BenefitsPosted: June 8, 2022
Rumors flying pushed Roku stock higher, as the word was that there may be a takeover bid from Netflix. According to thestreet.com, Roku stock jumped by 10.9% on the rumor. Netflix was up 4%. Even with Netflix down 65% this year due to losing 200,000 subscribers, the thought is that by picking up Roku, Netflix, it would allow Netflix to target advertising on Roku’s platform to try to get consumers to restart the streaming service. They might even run a 1st season of one of their shows on it to try to hook viewers into signing up to watch the rest.
Samsung may double storage options on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4 to 1TB. 9to5google.com reports that doing so would double the present top storage capacity. Samsung is also looking at goosing up the RAM to either 12 gigs or 15 gigs. If this holds true, it would be the 1st increase AND the 1st time Samsung has offered this much storage in a foldable. The Fold 4 still wouldn’t have an SD card slot, but with a terabyte, it wouldn’t really be needed. With the top amount of storage and RAM, it’s likely that the Fold would top $2000. The top option would also push the Flip to about $1500. You would still be able to buy the 128, 256, and 512 gig models for less, of course.
Toyota has fired a shot over the bow of Tesla, with their own version of the Powerwall battery storage system. Thenextweb.com says the battery system would be 8.7kWh with a 5.5 kWh output. It would be available for power outages, or for overnight operation in homes with solar panels that want to operate mainly or entirely off grid. The system can charge from solar panels, from the electric company grid, OR…unlike Tesla’s, from a vehicle’s battery (like the new ford F-150 Lightening EV pickup.) The system can be controlled and checked on from a smartphone app. No pricing yet, but it will first be available in Japan starting in August. If it comes to the US, it will have to be under $7460 in order to compete with Tesla’s Powerwall.
No matter how they try, businesses aren’t going to be able to get everyone to come back to the office. Now, work from home workers are asking for additional or different benefits. According to zdnet.com, Paychex did a survey of over 1,000 WFH professionals. Some of the benefits they are looking for: 31% want a home stipend to reimburse them for use of their space. 30% are asking for reimbursement for internet costs. Other benefits they are looking for are flexible hours, a 4 day work week, and bonuses for beating productivity goals. Employers (43%) and employees (58%) also noticed improvements in workplace diversity since adjusting to remote work: 24% of leaders said they had started hiring employees working in other states since going remote, meaning they are casting a wider net when it came to recruitment. That said, one-third of employers still reported limiting where their employees could live, Paychex found.