Royal Caribbean Getting Starlink; Cable Firms Lose Net Subscribers; Facebook Gaming Platform Dies

Ahoy, internet! Royal Caribbean has announced that it will be adding Starlink Maritime service to its entire fleet, after a test sailing on one of its ships brought in rave reviews. According to techcrunch.com, people were delighted with the service…especially those cruisers who had sailed before with the expensive and slow net connections. Royal is apparently paying $5000 a month and dropped $10,000 for the upfront hardware…a drop in the ocean compared to the other costs on a cruise ship…for example, it costs about $500,000 for a cruise ship to go through the Panama Canal!

For years, the cable companies have had a legal monopoly or near monopoly on connecting your home…and jacked up prices regularly accordingly. With the advent of 5G and even satellite service like Starlink, their subscriber base is starting to erode. Fastcompany.com reports that Comcast’s internet subscriber base was basically flat last quarter, while Charter dropped by 21,000 Spectrum internet subscribers. In each case, its the first drop ever in their home internet business. With fast 5G cell service costing less money, its easy to see why. T-Mobile, for example, gets $50 a month for home internet…and the speeds run 33-182 Mbps. Verizon also gets $50 a month, and claims 85-300 Mbps. They also cut the price in half for customers who bundle smartphone service. Comcast’s non-promotional internet starts at $99 a month, and Spectrum’s starts at $75 a month. The only think holding back 5G providers is the fact that some hit homes with heavy use data caps, and some people that gobble data to prevent network congestion. Verizon so far has no caps. 

Facebook is killing off its Facebook Gaming Platform, which you probably didn’t even know existed, after two years. Techcrunch.com says as of October 28th, the app will no longer work. If you actually play their games, or use the related streams or groups, you will just have to use the Gaming section on the main Facebook app. Not to give up, Meta is testing a Twitch-like live streaming platform. The company seems to not be able to let go of trying to recreate its initial success with games, from the days when they ran crude Zynga games inside the Facebook app…but users have moved on.


Honda & LG Partner on US EV Batt Production; Data Broker Tracks Millions-FTC Sues; Tesla Workers Can Wear Union Swag; Facebook Supports NFTs

A big boost in US EV battery production from Honda and LG Energy Solution. The two companies are forming a joint venture and funding it with $4.4 billion to make lithium ion batteries in North America. Zdnet.com reports that they will initially just produce pouch type batteries for Hondas. The firms haven’t picked a site yet, but plan to begin construction in early 2023, and intend to be producing what they call ‘advanced’ lithium ion batteries by the end of 2025.

The Federal Trade Commission has sued a data broker for selling location data scooped up from some 125 million active cell phone users. According to arstechnica.com, Idaho-based Kochava has promoted itself as providing “rich geo data spanning billions of devices globally.” The FTC said Kochava amassed the data by tracking the Mobile Advertising ID, or MAID, from phones and selling the data through Amazon Web Services or other outlets without first anonymizing the data. The FTC expressed concern that the data could allow identification of women visiting a reproductive health clinic, and then track them to their residence. 

It’s no secret that Tesla and Elon Musk have opposed unions. Up to now, the company has enforced a dress code in its factories calling for employees to only wear Tesla or other pre-approved back tee shirts. Now, the National Labor Relations Board has stepped in with a decision to make Tesla allow union swag…including shirts with the United Auto Workers logo. Theverge.com says Tesla had claimed its dress code prevented damage to cars and that it needed to maintain ‘visual management’ of its employees. the NLRB rejected those arguments…finding that the policy of no union clothing or logos was ‘presumptively unlawful.’

In a move we’ve all been waiting for breathlessly, Facebook has finally started supporting NFTs…non-fungible tokens. The joy of Facebook users will be overflowing. Actually, your feed may be overflowing…as NFT collectors will be posting the collectibles they have bought! Engadget.com notes that Facebook parent Meta is working on a marketplace where people can buy and sell NFTs…although it remains to be seen if Facebookers will actually use it. 


Honda & LG Partner on US EV Batt Production; Data Broker Tracks Millions-FTC Sues; Tesla Workers Can Wear Union Swag; Facebook Supports NFTs

A big boost in US EV battery production from Honda and LG Energy Solution. The two companies are forming a joint venture and funding it with $4.4 billion to make lithium ion batteries in North America. Zdnet.com reports that they will initially just produce pouch type batteries for Hondas. The firms haven’t picked a site yet, but plan to begin construction in early 2023, and intend to be producing what they call ‘advanced’ lithium ion batteries by the end of 2025.

The Federal Trade Commission has sued a data broker for selling location data scooped up from some 125 million active cell phone users. According to arstechnica.com, Idaho-based Kochava has promoted itself as providing “rich geo data spanning billions of devices globally.” The FTC said Kochava amassed the data by tracking the Mobile Advertising ID, or MAID, from phones and selling the data through Amazon Web Services or other outlets without first anonymizing the data. The FTC expressed concern that the data could allow identification of women visiting a reproductive health clinic, and then track them to their residence. 

It’s no secret that Tesla and Elon Musk have opposed unions. Up to now, the company has enforced a dress code in its factories calling for employees to only wear Tesla or other pre-approved back tee shirts. Now, the National Labor Relations Board has stepped in with a decision to make Tesla allow union swag…including shirts with the United Auto Workers logo. Theverge.com says Tesla had claimed its dress code prevented damage to cars and that it needed to maintain ‘visual management’ of its employees. the NLRB rejected those arguments…finding that the policy of no union clothing or logos was ‘presumptively unlawful.’

In a move we’ve all been waiting for breathlessly, Facebook has finally started supporting NFTs…non-fungible tokens. The joy of Facebook users will be overflowing. Actually, your feed may be overflowing…as NFT collectors will be posting the collectibles they have bought! Engadget.com notes that Facebook parent Meta is working on a marketplace where people can buy and sell NFTs…although it remains to be seen if Facebookers will actually use it. 


Netflix Ads; Apple Sat Watch; 70% of Workers Want Some WFH; DoorDash Data Breach

More is coming out about Netflix’s upcoming tier with ads. Engadget.com reports that the latest guesstimate is that they will charge between $7-$9 a month for the service. Right now, the most basic plan is $10 a month, and it doesn’t include HD streaming. For those who want the top tier, that’s going to run you about $20 a month, which gets you 4K content from the streamer. The ad-supported tier will supposedly have 4 minutes of ads per hour, is expected to hit in a half dozen markets by the end of the year, with a wide rollout in 2023.

It has been rumored for months that Apple plans to bring emergency satellite communication to the upcoming iPhones. According to 9to5mac.com, the initial iPhones would only have quick emergency calling or texting ability, but Apple ultimately plans to add full satellite connectivity. Now, Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg is catching wind that the next generation Apple Watches…not the ones due out next week, but next year…may ALSO have emergency satellite communication capabilities. With Tesla’s Starlink partnering with T-Mobile, it looks like the race is on to make our mobile devices work anywhere via satellite link.

In a new study for Deloitte called ‘2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends,’ a whopping 70% of those surveyed want to keep at least some work from home. Venturebeat.com says it also found that more than 80% of remote workers said that their family and professional relationships, as well as physical and mental well-being have improved or stayed the same due to working from home. Out of the remote workers, 43% prefer work from home all the time or most of the time. 29% of all employed adults shared that preference. 

A clever phishing attack at DoorDash has exposed a number of customers’ info exposed. Mashable.com reports that Doordash says an “undisclosed number of customers had their names, email addresses, delivery addresses, phone numbers, and partial payment card numbers” stolen. For drivers with the company, hackers were able to access names, phone numbers, and email address information. The hack came via a third party vendor. Employees of the vendor had credentials that were stolen that were then used to access DoorDash’s internal tools. The company said it cut off the third-party vendor’s access to its systems after discovering “unusual and suspicious” activity. They haven’t given a timeline for when this happened nor the number of people affected by the hack. 


New Fitbits; Facebook Squashes Strange Bug; TikTok Trials ‘Nearby’ Feed; Amazon Delivery Partners Touted

Fitbit has freshened 3 of its fitness trackers: the Inspire 3, Versa 4, and Sense 2. Wired.com reports that all 3 are available for preorder today. All are slimmer than the present models, and more powerful as well. What they DON’T have is Google’s wearable OS…all 3 still run Fitbit’s OS. The entry level Inspire 3 runs $100, and sports an always on display and ’10 day battery life.’ The new version adds blood oxygen monitoring, skin temperature, and irregular heartbeat rhythm trackers. the Versa 4 Runs $230, and the Sense 2 is $300. Both work with either an iPhone or most Android phones. Fitbit claims a week of battery life for both after 12 minutes of charge time…compared to less than a day for an Apple Watch 7!

If your Facebook feed was a little bizarre very early Wednesday morning, you weren’t alone. According to theverge.com, many user feeds were spammed with endless posts from celebrity accounts! Some users were seeing post after post from artists like Lady Gaga, Nirvana, and The Beatles. The bug was found and squashed by around 5:15 Eastern Time Wednesday morning. A Meta spokesperson blamed a ‘configuration change.’ Another bug they haven’t eliminated that came with the latest update…the mobile version on iOS keeps switching itself from dark mode back to light mode every time you check the app. No word on when that issue will be fixed. 

TikTok is testing out a third feed for users. Up to now, you have either been able to select ‘For You,’ which features suggestions and content from accounts you follow, or the ‘Following’ feed that focuses on videos from your friends. Now, 9to5mac.com says the third feed being trialed is called ’Nearby,’ and as the name indicates, it focuses on local content. TikTok believes the videos will not only be more relevant for users, but can also help them to find events and places around them. Right now, the test is open to a small group of users in Southeast Asia, but if it seems to strike a chord, could be put into general release. 

Amazon has put out new numbers about their Delivery Partners Program. Geekwire.com reports that there are now 3,000 independent companies delivering over 10 million packages a day and racking up more than $26 billion in revenue the last 4 years. As Amazon celebrates the 4th anniversary of their ‘partners’ in the blue vans, they are hoping to cast a better light on this part of their business, after a parade of stories about the tight controls on those partner employees that brought out word of drivers having to relieve themselves in bottles in the vans to stay on time with deliveries. Your tax dollars have helped keep your boxes coming, according to public records. Two delivery partners, Milum Express and Regional Express, each got million dollar loans through the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020…and those loans and interest were later forgiven!


eBay Buys Trading Card Biz; Apple Engineer Pleads Guilty; Sony PlayStation VR2 Coming; Intel Ohio Chip Plant

eBay is placing a big bet on the booming trading card industry. Engadget.com reports The company is set to buy TCGplayer — an online marketplace for trading card games — in a deal valued up to $295 million.The site will operate independently after the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2023. eBay is already the world’s largest card resale site. eBay has also ventured into another area of collectibles — NFTs. Earlier this year, the company launched its own NFT collection and bought digital art marketplace KnownOrigin for an undisclosed sum. 

A former Apple engineer has pled guilty to stealing trade secrets from the company. In a San Jose federal court, Xiaolang Zhang admitted to the theft of Apple’s Project Titan trade secrets and could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 9to5mac.com says he had moved to China…allegedly for parental leave, but instead went to work with XMotors, a Chinese-based startup developing autonomous technology for cars.

Sony expects to release its virtual reality PlayStation VR2 next year. According to theverge.com, this model won’t have a camera connected to your console to track your movements…it will use so-called inside-out tracking like the Quest 2, where the cams on the headset itself track your motions. You will also be able to see your surroundings while you’re wearing it. The VR2 will apparently use orb-shaped controllers. No pricing as yet, and it will only work with the PS5. 

Intel is claiming to be building “largest silicon manufacturing location on the planet” in Ohio, and it’s going to need 7,000 workers to construct it, according to a report from the Associated Press. The chip maker is concerned about being able to get enough construction workers to build it out, though…due to a shortage of labor in the construction industry. Once built, the huge site will have two factories, and Intel says it will employ about 3,000 people. Long range, they plan to have 8 plants! The First chips won’t be coming out until 2025 if they stay on track. 


Apple Maps Ads; Apple Employees Protest Return to Buildings; DoorDash Ditches Walmart; Tesla Increases Self-Driving Price

Apple is apparently going to start serving up ads in its Maps application on iPhones starting next year. According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, they won’t be banner ads, but paid search results. In other words, if you search for burgers, a chain that has paid will get its burger joint up to the top of the list. This kind of ad is already common in Google Maps, Waze, and Yelp. Apple has said it is planning to significantly expand its ad business, and this is apparently a step towards that. 

An employee group calling itself Apple Together has gotten together a petition and is circulating it…calling for more flexibility about remote work. This is in response to Apple’s demand that workers return to work in offices 3 days a week starting next month. Engadget.com says Apple Together has previously called out Apple for retaliating against women who reported misconduct…including sexual assault. They have also accused Apple of union busting, as the company has fought tooth and nail to repel unionization efforts at its retail stores. For its part, Apple has emphasized the important nature of in-person collaboration as fundamental to Apple’s business and success. 

DoorDash is not going to renew its 4 year old deal with Walmart for grocery delivery, saying that the deal is ‘no longer mutually beneficial. Instead, theverge.com reports that the delivery company wants to focus on its long-term customer relationships. The deal will officially end September 1st. One big reason DoorDash is bailing on the deal is that Walmart has been building out its own delivery platform called Spark. Walmart says that Spark now accounts for 75 percent of its deliveries and can service 84% of households in the US. 

Over the weekend, Elon Musk Tweeted that Tesla would be increasing the price of its ‘Full Self-Driving’ software to $15,000, a hike of $3000! Electrek.co notes that the price goes into effect on September 1st, and that orders made and delivered before September 5th will still keep the old price. Also, the price hike is only for North America…but that’s not any big altruistic move on Tesla’s part…its because the rest of the world won’t get the 10.69 update in the software until later. It seems curious that the company would hike the price right now, despite their claim that its a major improvement in the code, since they are being investigated by the State of California for the misleading name ‘Full Self-Driving.’ 


Oracle Checking TikTok Algorithms; Facebook Will Ditch New Political Ads Week Prior to Election; Apple Watch & MacBook Production in Vietnam; Goodbye to Dodge Muscle Cars

Oracle has put TikTok’s algorithms and content moderation models under its microscope in an attempt to make sure Chinese officials aren’t meddling with them. TikTok is in the process of moving all of the data it has on US users to Oracle cloud storage based in the country. According to engadget.com, Oracle’s audit is said to have started last week, after TikTok started routing all new traffic from US users through the former’s systems. TikTok has committed to being more transparent and it’s trying to convince regulators and lawmakers that US user data is secure. 

Meta has loosely outlined how it plans to brace its platforms for the upcoming U.S. midterm elections, starting with political ads. Techcrunch.com reports that it will be disabling new “political, electoral and social issue ads” on all its platforms during the week prior to voting on November 8. Ads that ran before the blackout period will be allowed to continue running, but the company will disable most edits for them during that time, including any changes to who they target.

Macrumors.com says that Apple is in the process of relocating Apple Watch and Mac production to the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam as part of a broader push to diversify its supply chain. Apple supplier Luxshare has begun trial production of Apple Watch and MacBook models in Vietnam. Vietnam is already the home for production of several Apple productions, including certain iPad and AirPods models. Apple is also mulling potentially moving HomePod production to the country. The move is due to issues in China including pandemic related disruptions of production.

Dodge will be discontinuing its Charger and Challenger models — beloved and iconic muscle cars in the 1960s and 1970s — which were revived by Dodge in the early 2000s. Now, the Silver Age of Mopar muscle cars is coming to a close. According to thehill.com, the move by Dodge comes as major automakers are moving away from traditional gas-powered cars to electric vehicles. Production of the muscle cars will end at the Brampton Assembly Plant in Ontario, Canada, in December of 2023. To give the models a proper send off, Dodge is releasing seven special “heritage-influenced” models for next year. The seventh and “final” 2023 Dodge model will be revealed at the 2022 SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November.


Amazon Complains FTC “Harassing” Bezos, etc.; Spotify Trials Verbal Playlist Recommendations; Lyft Robotaxis in Vegas; Apple- Back to Office 3x Per Week

At the height of brassiness, Amazon has accused the FTC of ‘harassing’ executives, as that federal agency investigates Amazon’s Prime memberships. The FTC is (for one thing) looking into whether Amazon uses deceptive techniques to get customers to sign up for Prime, which now runs $139 a year. Arstechnica.com reports that Amazon is complaining that the FTC needs to “quash or limit” their demands, which it alleged served no other purpose other than to “harass Amazon’s highest-ranking executives and disrupt its business operations.” They further complain that briefing former CEO and now Exec. Chairman Jeff Bezos as well as chief exec Andy Jassy on ‘Granular details’ would be ‘a tremendous burden on them.’ Oh, boo hoo. Neither the FTC nor Amazon had any further comment at this time.

Spotify is trialing another new idea to increase engagement. They are prompting users in Vietnam to record playlist reactions in their voice. According to engadget.com, that clip is then shared as a podcast episode. The voice recordings can be edited by the users, and they can add background music…then link to the playlist. No idea how they will moderated these…the problem will be with people using too much licensed music under their clips, and running afoul of the rights holders. 

You can now take a robotaxi in Las Vegas. Theverge.com says the cars are Hyundai vehicles, which use the automation form Motional and Lyft’s raise hailing service. The firms are planning to roll out a fully driverless service all over the city in 2023. Motional is a joint venture between Hyundai and Aptiv. They actually started a week long pilot during CES 2018, but now will be the first time the general public can hail a ride in one of the Ioniq 5 vehicles. There WILL be a safety driver aboard at least until next year. 

Apple is taking another swing at demanding people come back to the physical office. This time, the return date is September. CNBC.com reports that employees at the spaceship headquarters will be expected to show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The individual teams will pick a third day for in-person work. This summer, Apple employees have been working in office two days a week. Apple has also laid off about 100 contractors who were engaged in recruiting. 


Chrome Can Be Default on Win Now; Jailbreaking a John Deere; Android Malware-Banking; Zoom Important Mac Update

Starting with something good today. In the latest Dev version of Chrome, you can make Chrome your default browser on Windows 11 with a single click, instead of having to dig through and picking default on every type of file it opens. 9to5google.com reports that you can make the selection right inside chrome. If all goes smoothly, this should be released into the world in a few weeks.

Ok, so you never thought about needing to jailbreak a tractor before…well, neither did I! We have reported here before on the high degree of automation that John Deere has been building into its tractors and implements….like how they can plow a field driverless (no other vehicles to hit, normally.) Now, according to arstechnica.com, if appears farmers have turned to hacking to get around the digital locks that Deer puts on their tractors. This allows the farmers and ranchers to modify and repair the expensive equipment they use (as most farmers have ALWAYS done with their equipment for decades.) At DefCon in Las Vegas over the weekend, a hacker that goes by Sick Codes released a new jailbreak for John Deere tractors. It allows controlling multiple models via their touch screens. No reply from Deer on this, but the battle over ‘right to repair’ is way beyond that smartphone in your hand!

Well, we’ve worked our way down to the bad news portion of this fine blog. Sova malware already had malware on the underground market that functioned as a banking trojan on Android devices. Now, zdnet.com says they have added ransomware to the mix. The banking trojan can harvest usernames and passwords via key logging, and can steal cookies and show false overlays over a whole range of apps. They say in the update it can mimic over 200 banking and payment apps, plus target crypto wallets. Now, with a ransomware feature, it’s even more terrible. Stick with official app stores, and read the reviews before downloading one!

Ok, there was the terrible Android news…now equal time for iOS. Zoom just pushed out a patch for a bug on macOS that allowed a hacker to take control of a user’s operating system. Theverge.com reports that you need to get version 5.11.5 of the app. A word to the wise…I opened the Zoom app, and it downloaded an update right away…BUT it was 5.11.1! Go to the check for updates and click on that if you don’t get 5.11.1 right away. When I hit ‘check for updates,’ the app downloaded the latest bug patching version!