Google Maps-Aerial 3D View; Microsoft Ignite In-Person Again; Meta Boosts Prices on Quest 2; Google Cam Video to Cops-Same as Ring’sPosted: July 27, 2022
It’s not ready for prime time yet, but Google is giving us a peek at their 3D ‘immersive view’ now. Engadget.com reports that the preview is coming in an update to Maps for Android and iOS that is rolling out now. You will be able to view around 100 famous landmarks like Alcatraz here in San Francisco Bay, as well as Big Ben in London and the Empire State Building in New York City. It marries AI with billions of images (including satellite and street view pics) to make realistic 3D views. To use it, just look for a landmark in Google Maps and visit the Photos section.
After over 2 years off due to the coronavirus, Microsoft will resume live, in person events this October with Microsoft Ignite. According to theverge.com, the annual conference for developers and IT pros will be in Seattle on October 12th through the 14th. Registration will open late next month. The event will fall just a few days before the 10th anniversary or Surface, so expect some new product announcements.
If you have been considering buying a Quest 2 virtual reality headset, better act fast…Meta is jacking up the price on August 1st. TechCrunch.com says the base model will go up $100 from $299 to $399. The 256 Gig version is bumped from $399 to $499. Meta says it is having to raise the tariff due to increased production costs.
It’s been known, and complained about with regard to Amazon’s Ring cams, and now were are finding out that…perhaps unsurprisingly…Google has given cam footage to police without a warrant or express permission of the owners, too. This year so far, they have only done so 11 times, according to a vice president of Amazon. The disclosure came due to questioning from Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Privacy advocates like the EFF have warned that this sort of warrantless release of cam footage endangers civil liberties.
A lot of laptops have the feature, and now it appears that Google is getting ready to add support to Chromebooks for Wi-Fi hotspot use. According to Android Central, a number of Chromebook already ship with native SIM capability. Once the feature starts rolling out, it should work like Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity on your Android phone…you’ll be able to set a network name and password up. Google will probably be testing this for a little while yet before it is released in an update.
Shopify is laying off around 10% of its staff worldwide, about 1,000 people. Reuters.com reports that the stock dipped 16% on the news. The company said in a memo that they misjudged how long the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom would last. The cuts will mainly apply to recruiting, support, and sales roles. Like with other e-commerce companies, Shopify has found that consumers have moved at least partially back to pre-pandemic shopping habits.
Volkswagen has fired up production on its ID.4 electric crossover SUV in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It’s their first EV to be built in the US. More importantly, theverge.com notes that VW is claiming it will start to usher in an era of cheaper EVs. Presently, the ID.4 starts at $41,230. VW had planned to sell the UU made models for around $35,000…which will drop to $27,500 with the federal tax credit. As pricing hasn’t yet been announced, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see if they can meet that sweet spot pricing figure.
T-Mobile has agreed in a preliminary settlement to pay $350 million to customers affected by its big data breach in August of last year. According to android Police, they will also commit to $150 million to strengthen their security measures. Class members will get $100 if in California…$25 elsewhere. A few who were ‘materially impacted’ and took out-of-pocket losses may get up to $25,000. The proposed settlement covers some 44 proposed class-action suits.
Apple plans to roll out 3 models in September, including the rumored Apple Watch Pro. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says the Pro will have a 7% larger display and longer battery life, as previously reported, as well as a new body-temperature sensor. Two long anticipated health sensor features won’t make it into this year’s Watch models, though. The blood pressure monitor apparently won’t be ready until 2025, and the glucose monitoring feature may not be ready until the end of the decade.
More has come out behind the US government’s move to ‘rip and replace’ Huawei cell tech around the country. Theverge.com says the effort starts after the government noticed Huawei equipment on cell towers near military bases in rural America where it wasn’t profitable for them. The feds found that the equipment had the potential to intercept military communications, including form the US Strategic Command! The gear also apparently had the ability to technically disrupt military communications. Starting in 2019, the US started weeding out Huawei equipment, and also that of China based ZTE over national security…and now, we know a bit more about why.
Apple has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by customers who claimed it knew and concealed that the “butterfly” keyboards on its MacBook laptop computers were prone to failure. The proposed preliminary settlement was filed late Monday night in the federal court in San Jose. Reuters notes that it still requires a judge’s approval.
Customers claimed that MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboards suffered from sticky and unresponsive keys. The settlement covers customers who bought MacBook, MacBook Air and most MacBook Pro models between 2015 and 2019 in seven U.S. states including California.
Instagram is getting a new ‘payments in chat feature’. According to techcrunch.com, users can now buy products from small businesses and then track orders via direct messages. For now, the feature is only available in the US. You initiate it by sending a DM to a qualified small business you want to buy something from. In that same chat thread, you can then pay for the item, and track your order. In addition, you can pose any follow up questions to the business using the same thread. This is Meta’s latest effort to get people to use what they are now calling Meta Pay, which was originally Facebook Pay. Meta badly wants to get in on the digital wallet system for their ‘metaverse,’ but as yet haven’t even dented Apple Pay or Google Pay. I’m
Amazon is rolling out a redesigned interface for its Prime Video streaming service. Android Central reports that it includes a simplified navigation menu, a new Live TV page, and redesigned carousels for content discovery. Right now, it will run on Android phones and Fire TVs. iOS devices and the web will follow ‘soon.’ The main menu has been decluttered, with less options to select from. Nothing’s been deleted, they just dropped some choices down to sub menus. Also…in addition to discovery carousels, there is a new ‘Super Carousel,’ which showcases featured content. The Top 10 list will show you what’s trending, too.
Netflix is angling to win over a new bloc of value-conscious consumers — and help turn around its declining subscriber numbers — with a new ad-supported streaming package set to debut in early 2023.
Variety reports that Netflix has not revealed pricing for the ad-supported plan, but it’s promised to be less than the streamer’s most popular plan without any commercials: the Standard package ($15.49/month in the U.S.), which includes two HD streams.
|Snapchat’s messaging and video chat features are no longer limited to just the mobile app. Engadget.com reports that the company is introducing Snapchat for Web, a new browser-based version of its service. Snapchat+ subscribers will gain access to the new web app first, but will eventually it will be available to all of the users. It will support messaging and video calling for now, though the company plans to add support for its augmented reality lenses and the ability to send photo and video Snaps “soon.” |
Several U.S. semiconductor firms are considering whether to oppose a package of chip industry subsidies if the final language of the legislation awaiting a vote in the Senate disproportionately benefits manufacturers like Intel Corp, according to Reuters. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has told lawmakers that a vote could come as early as today (Tuesday) on a slimmed-down set of bills to bolster the U.S. computer chip industry. The bills are aimed at making the U.S. more competitive against a rising China, whose chip industry has grown rapidly over the last five years to account for almost 10% of global sales.
Samsung will unveil its latest iteration of its foldable phones at an Unpacked event August 10th. Theverge.com says we should see the Galaxy Fold 4 and Flip 4 at that time. They also may reveal new Samsung smartwatches…including the Galsax Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro. If the date holds true, it would probably mean the gear would go on sale August 26th.
Netflix is still working on cracking down on account sharing ‘between households.’ Now, according to macrumors.com, they are expanding trialing a $3 fee for password sharing in Latin America. Netflix had previously tested this in Costa Rica, Chile, and Peru, but are adding 5 more countries. The fee bump is just $1.70 in Argentina (actually 219 pesos there), but it’s $2.99 elsewhere.
Did you know that if you have a small electronic gadget like an old smartphone, Amazon will pay for a shipping label that you can use to send it in to get recycled. According to the verge.com, the program isn’t new, but isn’t well known. Amazon’s recycling program lets you ship your small electronics for free from any UPS dropoff point (you just have to provide the packaging). Amazon then transfers the devices it receives to a licensed recycling facility, and notes that it will remove or destroy any “identifying marks or personal information” during the process. Check Amazon for the list of stuff you can recycle this way.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is aiming to increase the agency’s broadband speed standard from 25Mbps to 100Mbps on the download side and from 3Mbps to 20Mbps for uploads. Arstechnica.com reports that the Chairwoman circulated the proposed Notice of Inquiry to fellow commissioners. The proposal requires a vote, and the commission is still deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans as the Senate continues its inaction on Biden nominee Gigi Sohn. If she gets on the Commission, the increase in speed would be a boon. The US lags way behind the upload and download speed of other developed nations.
Apple’s second and third chip releases in the M2 generation could land within months, with a report claiming M2 Pro and M2 Max-equipped MacBook Pro models could arrive as soon as this fall. According to Mark Gurman’s “Power On” newsletter for Bloomberg, Apple has an aggressive internal schedule for the M2 Pro and M2 Max. Packed into an updated 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro, the launches could occur in the fall, or at the very least, early 2023. Don’t expect any physical changes, though, since the models were just completely refreshed last fall.
Back in November 2019, the FCC snuffed out ties with Chinese (government-backed) enterprise, deciding that Huawei and ZTE posed a threat to US national security. Congress later allocated funds and required operators using 5G equipment from either or both vendors to “rip and replace” it all. Androidpolice.com notes that the FCC estimated that the procedure would cost nearly $1.84 billion at the outset of the project but, as it’s now turned out, that figure may have been grossly underestimated. Commission chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is now telling Congress that an additional $3.08 billion will be needed to wipe Huawei and ZTE off the wireless grid. The UK is also in the midst of replacing all 5G equipment from those two Chinese firms.
Google Slows Hiring; Apple & Jony Ive Split; Ransomware Attack on Bill Collector; Amazon & Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Partner on Vaccine TrialPosted: July 13, 2022
In a memo from CEO Sundar Pichai, Google has told employees it is slowing down hiring for the rest of the year. According to theverge.com, the CEO says they need to ‘be more entrepreneurial’ and work with “greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger than we’ve shown on sunnier days.” Google notes they will still hire for engineering, technical, and other critical roles.
After 28 years as a key employee, then 2 more as a consultant, Jony Ive and Apple have split the sheets. Ive had moved back to London and set up his LoveFrom design business there. Macrumors.com reports that when he left in 2019, Apple signed him to a multiyear contract worth over $100 million. Ive was the design alter ego of Steve Jobs, and virtually everything Apple passed through his studio the last 30 years. A device couldn’t be thin enough, light enough, or pretty enough for Ive. It will be interesting to see if Apple products become more utilitarian looking now, or if there are enough of Ive’s former employees still there to push the elegance and beauty of Apple devices into smaller and smaller packages. Since Ive’s departure, Jeff Williams has been overseeing the Apple design teams, and will continue to do so. Industrial design continues to be led by Evans Hankey, and software design is led by Alan Dye. Apple marketing chief Greg Joswiak is also said to have a central role in product design choices.
A ransomware attack has hit an under the radar debt collector that serves hundreds of hospitals and medical facilities. Techcrunch.com says it is one of the biggest breaches of personal and health info this year. The firm is Professional Finance Co out of Colorado. In a data breach notice, PFC says it affects over 650 healthcare providers, and the ransomware attackers got patient names, addresses, outstanding balance info, and other information about their account. In ‘some cases,’ they also grabbed birth dates, Social Security numbers, health insurance, and treatment info. A total of around 1.91 million patients are affected.
In some possibly rosier health news, Amazon is teaming up with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to do a clinical trial on anti-cancer vaccine. Amazon will pitch in their machine learning expertise and computing horsepower from Amazon Web Services. The trial is for patients with certain types of breast cancer or melanoma. It is expected to be a multi-year process, but if the results are promising, will be quite a step forward in the fight against cancer.
Twitter Letting You ‘Unmention’ Yourself; Walmart Orders Canoo Delivery EVs; YouTube Rolls Out P-I-P on iOS; Rivian Trimming Staff by 5%Posted: July 12, 2022
With all the drama about the Musk deal, here’s something Twitter users can actually use…a feature that lets you ‘unmention’ yourself. BGR.com reports that it gives you the ability to lave a conversation. That way, if you are mentioned, and start getting notifications and responses, you can cut it off without seeing the things for days. Under Mentions, tap the 3 dots on a Tweet that mentions your username. Then, just tap ‘leave this conversation.’ That’s it. The court will decide if Elon Musk gets to leave his Twitter purchase convo, and how much it will cost him. I’m betting it will be more than the $1 billion break up fee, with Twitter pointing to the lasting damage he has done to their brand…and stock price.
Walmart has announced a deal to buy 4500 EV delivery vehicles from Canoo. According to TechCrunch.com, they will even use some preproduction models to deliver online orders in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The deal gives Walmart and option to buy 10,000 units. Canoo had been cautioning it might not have enough cash on hand to stay in business, so this likely gives them a nice injection of funds. I say likely, since no financial terms were revealed. Canoo uses a multi-purpose architecture as do several other makers building EVs, to the platform can carry a delivery van or be built out as a family fan. Walmart is also working with automated vehicle startup Gatik as well as drone makers and continues to use employees to deliver after shifts, too. The company says this gives them the ability to reach 80% of the US population with same day delivery on many items.
Youtube has starting rolling out picture-in-picture support for all US iOS users. Macrumors.com says this will let iPhone and iPad users close the YouTube app when watching a video, and continue watching the video in a small pop-up window while using the main screen for other tasks. The feature had previously only been available to YouTube premium subscribers in the US. Elsewhere, users will still have to pay for a premium subscription to access the PIP feature. All US users should have the feature by the end of this week, as long as you have iOS or iPad Os 15 or higher.
Rivian, the electric truck maker, is going to lay off as many as 700 employees…about 5% of their 14,000 strong workforce. According to engadget.com, these will mainly be non-manufacturing positions in ‘areas where Rivian has expanded too quickly.’ Apparently, there are teams with duplicate functions, so some redundant positions will get the chop. Rivian is still shooting for around 25,000 EVs produced this year. they are shooting for an eventual production of 600,000 per year. In addition to the plant in Normal, Ill, Rivian plans a second factory in Georgia…to be up and running by 2024.
Samsung Looking at Single Chip for Galaxy S23; Twitter Lawyers Up Re Musk Bailing; Amazon & Our Future Robot Overlords; Apple Pro Watch-$900 to $1000Posted: July 11, 2022
For several years, Samsung has been shipping Galaxy phones with a couple different chip sets. Some get the Exynos chips (made by Samsung), and others have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips. Basically, North America and China have gotten the Snapdragon phones, and Europe the Exynos chips…considered by most to be not as good. Now, androidpolice.com reports that Samsung may go 100% Snapdragon for the S23 phones. This has been rumored by famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. While the Exynos chips may be going away, Samsung is reportedly working on their own system on a chip (like what Apple phones and computers have)…but it isn’t expected until 2025…in the Galaxy S25.
Twitter didn’t mess around when Elon Musk filed with the SEC that he was backing out on his deal to buy the social firehose. According to theverge.com, Twitter has retained Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz…a firm known for creating the so-called ‘poison pill’, or shareholder rights plan. Two of the attorneys who will be representing Twitter are serious heavyweights in breakup and investor relations suits. Meanwhile, Musk is said to have hired Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. They are the firm that defended Samsung against Apple’s patent lawsuit over their claim that the Galaxy was a ripoff of the iPhone. Musk has used them in the past. The battle lines are drawn!
Although Amazon’s pricey Astro home robot hasn’t set the world on fire since being rolled out in September, Amazon says they will push forward with robotics, and that they are in the field for the long haul. Geekwire.com says that so far, it’s not just the price ($1000) or limited availability of Astro that has blunted the project. Not everyone is convinced that they need a little rolling security officer…which is the main thing it does. (Some even feel it’s pretty creepy.) A real limitation so far is that Astro can’t climb stairs…much like the evil Daleks in the Doctor Who sci-fi series…although recently, those murderous pepper pots have developed the tech to fly up a staircase! When Astro goes into general release, the price is reportedly going to jump to $1500! Amazon says that Astro is far from the last home robot they will make, and has just scratched the surface. In other words, the housekeeper to Astro and the rest of the Jetsons, Rosie the robot, is a ways off in the future!
The next gen iPhones and Apple Watches are only a couple months away. A new rumor has Apple dumping the top line ‘Edition’ Watch, and branding the top model Pro. According to appleinsider.com, the Pro model will have premium materials like Edition…but will also have a ruggedized case, bigger battery, and a bigger screen. It will also have a bigger price of course….$900 to $1000! (Gee, a whole iPhone can be had for less than that!) The only wow feature (sort of) we know about so far is a reported temperature sensor to let you know if you are overheated. It doesn’t sound like it will have the accuracy of a thermometer. The Watch series should drop mid-September along with the next crop of iPhones.
Meta Suing Cloner for Scraping; TikTok Punts Live Shopping in US & EU; Apple-Lockdown Mode; Ads on Android Lock ScreensPosted: July 6, 2022
Meta is suing two prolific data scrapers. Engadget.com reports that they have filed separate federal lawsuits against a company called Octopus and an individual named Ekrem Ateş. According to Meta, the former is the US subsidiary of a Chinese multinational tech firm that offers data scraping-for-hire services to individuals and companies. Octopus also sells software people can use to carry out their own data collection campaigns. The software can obtain phone numbers, dates of birth and other personal information about every Facebook and Instagram friend connected to a particular Octopus customer. ” As for Ekrem Ateş, the individual Meta sued, the company says he used automated Instagram accounts to collect information on more than 350,000 Instagram users and later published that data on a series of clone sites where one could view the data of those individuals without their consent.
TikTok has been a juggernaut in social media, but may have hit a pretty big speed bump for at least one of their plans. According to theverge.com, TikTok is scaling back its live commerce plans in Europe and the US, the Financial Times reported, after early launches simply haven’t been successful. TikTok has been testing live shopping in the UK since late last year. The live online shopping has been successful in India and other parts of Asia. It is possible that they will reimagine and retool the effort and try again, of course.
Apple has announced a new Lockdown Mode coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac with iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura. Apple says the optional security feature is designed to protect the “very small number” of users who may be at risk of “highly targeted cyberattacks” from private companies developing state-sponsored spyware, such as journalists, activists, and government employees. Macrumors.com says that Lockdown Mode will be available to all users when the software updates are released later this year. While the feature is aimed at users who are targets of cyberattacks, it appears that it can be enabled by any user. When enabled, Apple says Lockdown Mode provides an “extreme” level of security by strictly limiting or disabling the functionality of features, apps, and websites.
A Google-backed ad company called Glance is looking to launch in the US, and it brings media content, news, and casual games to Android lock screens. According to androidpolice.com, the lock screen platform is part of the pre-installed software on many, if not most, Android phones sold in India and other Asian markets, and it has also made its way to the EU on a few select brands. They are presently negotiating with US carriers, and are looking to launch in the US within the next two months. What does it do? The lock screen feed tries hard to become part of your routine. Occasional notifications and swipe suggestions on the lock screen nudge you to interact with it. Once you give in and open the feed, it will override your lock screen wallpaper with its content, making you change back to your preferred wallpaper manually! Yes, more crapware to try to sell you stuff and to gather more data on you. Good times!