Twitter Blue Plans $20 a Month Verification Charge; Europe to Ban Gas & Diesel Cars from 2035; No More Mac Product Releases This Year; Samsung & AT&T Launch Kids TabletPosted: October 31, 2022
In a move that would definitely verify that you have $20 a month to burn, Twitter is planning to charge that fee for Twitter Blue, the optional service that has been $4.99 which unlocks some Twitter features. More importantly, the Blue checkmark comes with it, which is Twitter’s way of verifying users. Under the new regime, verified users you have 90 days to subscribe, or lose the blue checkmark. This really is a sure fire way to verify that you are willing to pay the $19.99, but could open things up to numerous accounts spreading false information who appear more legit because they sport the blue checkmark.
**Update Tuesday morning. Now, Elon Musk is saying he will raise Twitter Blue to $8 a month, not the almost $20. He also called the present checkmark system bullish*t, but hasn’t fleshed out how it might be changed. He said fixing it is essential to control spam and ‘bots. Musk also again asserted that the platform can’t rely just on advertising revenue to pay the bills.
Following California’s decision to ban the sale of new gas or diesel cars by 2035, now the European Union has joined the party…banning combustion engine cars and vehicles from 2035 on. According to mashable.com, this agreement…which still has to be formally adopted….would have the intended effect of a 55% reduction in CO2 emissions for new cars and 50% for new vans by 2030…then achieving a 100% reduction in those emissions from both new cars and vans by 2035. Very low volume vehicle makers, like sports car companies, would get to skip the 2030 reductions, but still would have to comply by 2035.
Despite lots of earlier rumors that there would be new MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and other devices released in November, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says it’s not happening. Apple has decided to with until next year to drop those upgrades…according to Gurman’s Power On newsletter, we can expect them in the first quarter of 2023. The Mac Pro had already been reportedly delayed until summer…now it appears the other M-2 powered Macs will join it as 2023 models.
It’s a bit pricey for a kid gift, but not bad for a tablet. Samsung and AT&T have partnered on the Galaxy Tab A7 Lite Kids Edition tablet. Androidcentral.com reports that the tab has an 8.7 inch screen, and importantly…a wrap around ruggedized case that really protects said screen. The tablet is $250, but you can get it for junior for just $7 a month on a payment plan. It has a kickstand to make watching videos easier, and has LTE connectivity so can work during those car trips. The Galaxy tablet is available starting November 4th.
Musk Says on Track to Buy Twitter; PlayStation 5 Could Get Discord Voice Chat; Google Revenue Grows-Profit Not So Much; EV Sales Continue to Heat UpPosted: October 26, 2022
Elon Musk confirmed in a video call with advisers that he intends to close the $44 billion deal to buy Twitter on Friday. Arstechnica.com also reports that Musk’s lawyers at Skadden, Arps sent paperwork to equity investors in the deal, according to two investors and a person close to the Tesla boss. One person familiar with Twitter’s thinking said the company also expected the deal to close on Friday. If all goes as expected, it will be interesting to see if there is the kind of exodus of users from Twitter that some believe will happen.
Xbox owners just got voice chat features via Discord, now it’s the PlayStation 5’s turn. According to mashable.com, the voice chat features should hit the PS5 before long…probably by March2023. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the latest and greatest, no Discord chat for you. PS4 users will have to continue to use the console’s built-in party chat system. For a lot of gamers, it’s about time…Sony had announced a partnership with Discord back in 2021!
Google parent Alphabet released earnings this week. Revenue grew, but profits have slipped. In this immediately past quarter, they had $69 billion in revenue and $13.9 billion in profit. The previous year was exceptional, but that quarter brought in $65.1 billion in revenue and almost $19 billion in profit. Theverge.com says both the ad business and the cloud business saw increases. CEO Pichai said that they recently logged the ‘highest selling week ever for Pixel’, after introducing the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro and the Pixel Watch.
As EV sales heat up, Tesla’s market share is dropping. Marketwatch.com notes that a year ago, Tesla had 70% share, but is now down to 64%. This is not surprising, even as Teslas sales are growing…more competitors selling more cars cuts your share. Tesla Model 3 and Model Y are still the 2 top selling EV models. In third is The Chevy Bolt, with the Ford Mustang Mach-E 4th. Tesla’s Model S was 5th in sales. Toyota continues to lead in hybrid sales, with 47% market share. The RAV4 Hybrid is the top selling US hybrid.
Amazon Starts Taking Venmo; Comcast-Higher Upload Speeds Require $ xFi Add-On; Rent-Setting Software Co Sued for Collusion; Toyota Switching EV Tech-Delays EV ChangeoverPosted: October 25, 2022
Amazon will now let customers use Venmo to make payments on its platform. This is rolling out now, and should be available to all US customers by Black Friday. TechCrunch.com reports that you just choose ‘Select a payment method,’ then ‘add a Venmo account’. Users will be able to use their Venmo balance, linked bank account, or eligible debit card. It appears that Amazon is adding Venmo after a recent study showed that Venmo users shop twice as frequently as the average shopper.
Comcast is offering upload speeds of up to 100Mbps from 10…sounds great, right? Well, it is if you need that kind of upload speed. The catch? Yeah, there’s always a catch. According to slashdot, you have to buy a $25 a month xFi Complete add-on. Comcast does say that faster upload speeds will come to customer-owned modems ‘later next year.’ Hey, you want a break? Comcast will let you have the service for $20 a month for the 1st year if you sign up before December 31st!
Renters sued a company this week that makes price-setting software for apartments used by nine of the nation’s biggest property managers. Arstechinca.com says the suit against RealPage has enabled a cartel to artificially inflate rents in violation of federal law. The company strongly denies the allegations, and the nine property managers named in the suit didn’t respond to requests for comment. RealPage’s software uses an algorithm to churn through a trove of data each night to suggest daily prices for available rental units. The software uses not only information about the apartment being priced and the property where it is located, but also private data on what nearby competitors are charging in rents. RealPage brags that clients—who agree to provide RealPage real-time access to sensitive and nonpublic data—experience “rental rate improvements, year over year, between 5% and 12% in every market,” according to the lawsuit.
Although Toyota announced an EV strategy last year, it now looks like they may be hitting the brakes to switch to a different EV architecture. Theverge.com reports that they had planned to use their e-TNGA flex EV platform…which is the setup in the bZ4X crossover and had been planned for the ’23 Lexus RZ 450e. Apparently, Toyota isn’t feeling secure about 30 new EVs by 2030, and is looking to switch to a manufacturing process that is quicker and less expensive to build. The Prius hybrids continue to be a hit, but Toyota has fallen behind the curve when it comes to EV production.
YouTube Freshen Eases Use; Upcoming from Apple-Gurman; Facebook & TikTok Approve Ads With ‘Blatant’ Election Mis-Info; Free Netflix Password Sharing DoomedPosted: October 24, 2022
YouTube is rolling out an update that makes use easier. All users will get pinch-to-zoom, and they are adding precise seeking…which should help you to rewind or fast forward videos to an exact location (this feature has been available on Premium already). Theverge.com reports that while you are scrolling through a video, YouTube will open a frame-by-frame view, so you can lock in to the exact spot you want to watch. Another feature is ambient mode, which adapts colors in the video you are watching, which should look better if you use dark mode. Oh…and dark mode is now even darker, which YouTube says should make “colors truly pop on your screen,” whether you’re watching videos on your phone, computer, or smart TV.
Faster silicon is on the way from Apple, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The next few months, look for a freshened MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, and a new beast of a Mac Pro. The latter will have a model available with 24 CPU cores, a whopping 76 graphics cores, and 192 Gigs of memory. The 14 and 16 inch MacBook Pro models will come with M2 Pro and M2 Max internals. The Max is not shabby in its performance, rocking 12 CPU cores, 38 GPU cores, and 64 Gigs of memory. The Mini will run an M2 chip like the MacBook Air and 13 inch MacBook Pro. All should be out in the coming months…with the Mac Pro hitting the market more like mid-2023.
Facebook and TikTok have failed to block ads with ‘blatant’ misinformation about when and how to vote in the US midterms, and also about the integrity of the voting process. CNN says this is the finding of a new report from human rights watchdog Global Witness and The Cybersecurity Democracy Team at New Yom University. Researchers sent in 20 ads with inaccurate info to Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube. YouTube spotted and rejected every single test submission and suspended the channel used to post them. TikTok approved 90% of them, while researchers said Facebook approved a ‘significant number.’
Yes, its been rumored for a while now, but it looks like your Netflix Password sharing is gonna cost you soon. Cnet.com reports that they have started testing in a few countries. What would it mean? Each extra member ‘sub-account’ in the US would tack on an extra $3.50 or $4 a month! It looks like they will only be allowing the account sharing on the $15.50 a month Standard and $20 a month Premium accounts, too (as both those allow simultaneous streams.) Another day, another shakedown for more money.
Apple Moving Production from China; TikTok Eyes Amazon; Microsoft Shows New Surface Laptops; Drivers Wildly Overestimate Hands Free AssistancePosted: October 12, 2022
Apple continues to reduce its reliance on China. 9to5mac.com reports that noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released new predictions regarding their moves include shifting more iPhone production to India, and more MacBook production and assembly to Thailand. Kuo thinks the US market might be 100% supplied by non-China locations in the next 3 to 5 years. For years, Apple’s outsized reliance on China has been seen as a major weak spot in its supply chain, especially through all the Chinese shutdowns due to COVID.
As they move into e-commerce, TikTok is now hiring in not only LA, but also in Amazon’s back yard of Seattle. According to geekwire.com, the social video phenom currently has e-commerce capabilities in the UK and Southeast Asia. Job postings point to the Chinese ByteDance owned platform working to become a major player in online shopping and e-commerce logistics here in the US, too. TikTok has already tried to push back on privacy concerns over their connection to China…this move will certainly add to that. They do seem determined to become a real competitor to Amazon..which owns 37.8% of the US e-commerce market.
Microsoft is freshening up their Surface 5 laptops after a year and a half on the market. It is a modest update. The 13.5 inch model starts at $1000 and the 15 inch one at $1200. Engadget.com says they get a bump in processing power with 12 generation Intel Evo processors, and add support for Thunderbolt 4 and WiFi 6. A better display has Dolby Vision IQ support, and you can load up with up to 32 Gigs of RAM and a terabyte of storage. Both models are available for preorder now, and they go on sale October 25th.
From Cadillac’s Super Cruise to Tesla’s Autopilot, and all the rest, drivers overestimate the abilities of driver assist systems. Arstechnica.com reports that a study just done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that ‘large percentages of users’ of both Super Cruise and Autopilot ‘were comfortable treating their systems as self-driving.’ Most ADAS, or advanced driver assistance systems, are really just safety oriented helpers that provide blind spot monitoring or automatic emergency braking. The SAE calls these systems ‘Level 2,’ and they are a long way from from self driving. Users of such systems are likely to eat while driving (65% of Super Cruise users, 46% of Autopilot). They are also likely to take hands off the wheel while driving ( 40% Autopilot, 44% Super Cruise.)
Meta- Quest Pro; Twitter Fights Screenshotting Tweets; Lufthansa is NOT Banning Air Tags; YouTube-Better Support for Username ‘Handles’Posted: October 11, 2022
Mark Zuckerberg has announced the latest VR headset at Meta Connect. It’s called the Quest Pro, and will be a princely $1499. TechCrunch.com reports that Meta will keep selling the more mass-market geared Quest. The Pro unit is being pitched as a productivity device. It features full color passthrough, and uses 4 cams outside to capture and display the space. New ‘pancake’ lenses reduce size with a 40% thinner display stack than the Quest 2. A down side? Battery life will only be 1-2 hours (really, 1 probably.) That’s a tough sell. The Quest Pro is available for preorder now, and ships October 25th.
We got editing Tweets, but as Twitter gives, they try to take away. When you try to take a screen shot, you may get a popup saying ‘Share Tweet instead?’ There are buttons for copy link and share Tweet below. According to Mashable.com, the prompt stays up for several seconds, delaying your screen shot of the Tweet. They really want you to share Tweets, and especially don’t want them posted on another social media platform…since they don’t get any money from that. Do what you like, but I’m going to keep screenshooting whenever I need to.
In spite of Tweets saying it was banning Apple AirTags from checked luggage, Lufthansa now says that’s not so. 9to5mac.com notes that the Twitter account had called the trackers ‘dangerous goods!’ They are apparently thinking of lithium ion batteries that are in phones, tablets, & laptops. the AirTag just uses those CR2032 batteries…about the size of a quarter. The REAL reason they probably wanted to ban AirTags is that you can use them to track your checked bag…like when the airline loses it! I have flown internationally on other airlines, and no one has ever asked me to turn off or remove the AirTag.
YouTube is making it easier to direct users to their channels to watch videos. According to techcrunch.com, they have announced ‘handles,’ which let you identify your channel with an @username format. The feature will be available to everyone on YouTube….you don’t have to be a creator of a certain size, or subscriber count to claim your own unique @handle. Handles have been in common use on numerous social media platforms…sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Telegram and others. YouTube says the handles will show up on both channel pages and Shorts. It’s a gradual rollout, so be patient!
Amazon Can Make $ on Non-Amazon Purchases; Boston Dynamics-Don’t Weaponize Robots; Apple Sticks with Qualcomm Modems for Now; ICYMI-Kanye Bounced from Twitter AgainPosted: October 10, 2022
Amazon offers pretty much anything you can think of online to lure your dollars into their coffers. But what about the bucks you spend elsewhere? Apparently in some cases, they are getting a taste of that cash, too! Cnet.com reports that while Amazon claimed more than 37% of US e-commerce last year, it has started dipping into some of your other buying. In April, the online giant rolled out ‘Buy with Prime,’ a program that lets sellers add a button on their websites that lets users buy from them, but with Amazon handling the payment and shipping. Amazon also has Local Shopping, which lets a third party seller offer curbside pickup from their storefronts on Amazon’s online marketplace. Their Amazon Pay and Multi-Channel Fulfillment programs are a couple other ways Amazon leverages their massive logistics operation to pickup extra cash from the sales of others. Although they claim not to sell user data, Amazon also has a treasure trove of that on you and everyone else who’s ever gotten a box with the smiley arrow on it!
Boston Dynamics, which makes Spot the robot dog, and some humanoid robots, has put out a pledge vowing to counter attempts by buyers to weaponize its products. According to zdnet.com, the formerly Google owned firm has been concerned about recent ‘makeshift efforts’ to weaponize its robots. Several other robotics firms, including Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Clearpath Robotics, Open Robotics, and Unitree Robotics, have also signed the commitment. “Robots should be used to help, not harm. We prohibit weaponization, while supporting the safe, ethical, and effective use of robots in public safety,” Boston Dynamics said in a blog post.
Although Apple is alleged to be developing its own 5G chip for future iPhones, word is they will stick with Qualcomm modems for all iPhones though the iPhone 16 model. Macrumors.com notes that Apple probably won’t roll out its own chip until at least 2025. All of the iPhone 15 models will use the Snapdragon X70, which was announced this past February. They will have a theoretical download speed of 10 gigs per second, with artificial intelligence allowing for even faster average speeds.
Kanye West was back on Twitter for the first time since 2020 on Friday night, but apparently got his account locked later in the weekend for posting anti-Jewish stereotypes often spouted by white supremacists. Techcrunch.com says the lockdown was “due to a violation of Twitter’s policies.” He also had content removed from Instagram, and that account also is under restriction for repeated policy violations.
WhatsApp Blocks Screenshots for ‘View Once’; FCC-Game Over on Robocalls; Ford Triples EV Sales YoY; Amazon Freezes Corp. HiringPosted: October 5, 2022
Last year, WhatsApp introduced a new feature called ‘View Once’, which let users send photos and videos that disappear after they are opened…much like you can do in Snapchat and Instagram. Now, according to 9to5mac.com, WhatsApp is taking things further, by adding blocking of screenshots and screen recordings for ‘View Once’ pics and videos. If a user tries to screenshot one, a pop up message indicates ‘blocked for added privacy.’ Right now, the feature is just in a beta version, and no word on when it will become available to everyone. Another feature being tested— users can create links to invite others to join a call…like Zoom, Teams, and FaceTime.
Will it REALLY stop all those robocalls? Well, no one knows, but the Federal Communications Commission has announced it will block services from 7 voice service providers, or VoIPs, if they don’t comply with efforts to mitigate the rampant scam calls that hit us all by the hundreds. Mashable.com reports that the FCC is giving the VoIP companies 14 days to show that they are taking steps to mitigate robocalls, or their service will be blocked from their customers. Will this threat work, or will the FCC prove to be a toothless tiger in this instance? We may know soon.
We’ve seen big numbers in Tesla sales, and now Ford posts strong EV gains. Electrek.co says Ford’s EV sales tripled year over year, up to a 3.1% market share. Ford is on track to hit its goal of 600,000 EVs by year’s end. For comparison, overall sales were down 9% year over year, so that makes the increase all the more important. The electric F-150 pickup did ok, but the Mustang was really hot…and the Ford E-Transit van was the top seller in that segment.
Amazon is freezing corporate hiring for its retail business for the rest of the year. According to geekwire.com, the online everything firm is concerned about high inflation and worried about an economic downturn. They won’t freeze hiring for cloud computer roles, however. The majority of revenue for Amazon comes through its retail business…although Amazon Web Services is more profitable. When asked for a statement, Amazon put out a vague, word salad statement about hiring and roles.
Twitter-Elon Buy & Edit Button Rollout; Pixel 7 Leak; Android Dynamic Island; Walmart & CVS-Trial Over Homeopathic PlacementPosted: October 4, 2022
Twitter trading was halted halted over report that Elon Musk will go ahead with bid to buy company at $54.20 a share. Meanwhile, Twitter is rolling out the coveted edit button to edit Tweets. According to TechCrunch.com, right now it is only being released to Twitter Blue subscribers in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but Twitter says US Twitter Blue users will get it ‘soon.’ With the edit button, you will be able to edit a Tweet any time within 30 minutes of sending it…and can edit it up to 5 times in that 30 minute period. Edited Tweets will show a time stamp indicating when the Tweet was edited. Also, as you scroll through your feed, edited Tweets will display a little pencil icon next to them to indicate that the Tweet has been modified.
The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, as well as the Pixel Watch will be rolled out officially on the 6th…just a couple days from now. Of course, there is a nice, big leak! Mashable.com reports that the Pixel 7 has a 6.3 inch display and a 90 Hertz refresh rate…the latter not even an upgrade from the 6. The rear cams are also unchanged. The Pixel 7 pro has a humongous 6.7 inch screen with adaptive 120 Hertz refresh rate…that’s the same as last Year’s Pixel 6 Pro, but also the same as the new iPhone 14 Plus and Pro Max. One leak has face unlock and another doesn’t…so on that point, we’ll have to wait a couple days to see which is right.
If you have an Android phone and you’re having the sads because your phone doesn’t have a ‘dynamic island’ like the new iPhone 14s, cheer up! ‘There’s an app for that!’ Androidpolice.com says you can get DynamicSpot…which has already gotten a million downloads at the Google Play store! You will need a relatively recent Android that has a hole-punch cutout. If so, you’re good to go. No more Apple envy…at least for this feature.
A three judge panel on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that CVS and Walmart will have to go to trial over placing homeopathic products right next to legitimate over the counter medicines approved by the FDA. Arstechnica.com says the cases were filed against the firms by the nonprofit Center for Inquiry in 2018 and 2019. CFI may need more evidence to prove their case at trial, but they claimed that deceptive placement of the water-based products violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).
How about another fee to pay? Now, YouTube is asking users to subscribe to Premium to watch 4K videos. Engadget.com reports that Premium does eliminate ads, and gets you background playback and new features, but some users on Reddit and Twitter have posted that they are being dinged to watch in 4K now. It’s not clear if this is a test, or a full rollout, but it will set you back $12 a month for YouTube Premium if you want to watch in 4K.
Dish and Sling TV have dropped channels after failing to get a deal made before a contract expired. According to theverge.com, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX, Freeform, National Geographic, and some local ABC networks are no longer available. Dish is claiming that Disney had demanded a $1 billion fee increase and ‘walked away from the negotiation table.’ For its part, Disney says Dish “declined to reach a fair, market-based agreement.”
**Update- At least some service has been restored today. Channels were off last night. The sides have apparently resumed trying to make a deal.
Google has struggled to get any kind of real traction for its Stadia gaming system. Now, it looks like they are finally throwing in the towel. 9to5google.com says they have released a final 6 games for the Stadia Pro subscribers before closing the Stadia Store to the public. The plug-pulling caught not only subscribers by surprise…some game publishers said they had no idea, and even some of Google’s own Stadia employees didn’t know about the closure until about 30 minutes before the public announcement.
TikTok is launching live shopping in the US, in partnership with TalkShopLive. Financial Times reports that TalkShop will provide the tech and support for live streams hosted by influencers, brands, and retailers that want to sell their products on the app. TikTok Shop launched in Britain last year, and has been available in more than a half dozen Asian countries.