DC AG Sues Zuck-Cambridge Analytica; iPhone Front Cam Upgrade Will Cost Apple 3X More; UK Fines Clearview AI; Hyundai Building EV & Batt Plants in Georgia

The District of Columbia’s Attorney General has sued Mark Zuckerberg. Engadget.com says the AG claims in the action that Zuck had a direct hand in making the decisions that led to the huge data breach involving Cambridge Analytica. AG Ken Racine claims that Zuckerberg “contributed to Facebook’s lax oversight of user data and implementation of misleading privacy agreements.” That, according to the suit, allowed consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to acquire personal data on more than 70 million Americans, including more than 340,000 DC residents. The company allegedly used the data to help sway voters in the 2016 presidential election through political ad targeting. He had already sued Facebook (now Meta) over the issue in 2018…that case is still proceeding. 

We had previously reported that the iPhone 14 models will feature a more expensive, ‘high end’ front facing (selfie) cam. Now, we have an idea how much more expensive. According to macrumors.com, the autofocus cam will from LG Innotek of South Korea, in addition to those acquired from Sharp. Apparently the new selfie cam will run Apple 3 times the cost of the ones in prior iPhone models. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the better selfie cams will be in all iPhone 14 models. It will mean a better depth of field effect of Portrait mode for selfies (why didn’t they do that before?) The Autofocus will enhance FaceTime and Zoom calls. For the camera nerds, it will feature a wider f /1.9 aperture. The present cams have fixed focus and a smaller f /2.2 aperture. 

The United Kingdom’s data protection watchdog has taken a $10 million bite out of Clearview AI for privacy breaches. Techcrunchl.com reports that the watchdog has also issued an enforcement notice, demanding that the controversial facial recognition firm stop obtaining and using personal data of UK residents that is publicly available on the internet. Clearview has a database of over 20 billion facial images they obtained by scraping data from the internet…a lot of it from social media platforms. They have AI based software that they sell to governments and law enforcement that uses the data to fight crime…but in a number of instances, it has been mis-used against political rivals and the media in some countries. Taking the data is a breach of privacy laws in a number of countries. 

Hyundai is building plants in Savannah, Georgia…both for EV production and batteries. The car factory will be their first EV only plant in the US. According to theverge.com, the Korean car maker will drop $5.5 billion of the facilities, but will also get another billion in investment from its suppliers. The car plant is expected to be cranking out EVs by 2025, and they expect to build 300,000 units per year there. The factory will employ 8100. 

Twitter Will Enforce Musk Merger; Disney+ Pay Tier Coming; Apple Considers External ePaper Display; Ecobee Bows New Smart Thermostats

In a report by CNN on the ongoing Twitter-Elon Musk deal, analyst Dan Ives said there is a “60%+ chance from our view Musk ultimately walks from the deal and pays the breakup fee.” The Twitter board seems pretty intent on holding Musk to the deal. On Tuesday morning, hours after Musk tweeted that “this deal cannot move forward” until his purported spam bot concerns are cleared up, the company filed its proxy statement for Musk’s takeover and said it wants to close the deal “as promptly as practicable.A statement from the board said “The Board and Mr. Musk agreed to a transaction at $54.20 per share. We believe this agreement is in the best interest of all shareholders. We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement.” With the word enforce, it sounds like Twitter may be going to court to make the deal happen, or make Musk pay the billion dollar break up fee. With the damage to Twitter’s stock price, and top execs bailing through this soap opera, how will Twitter continue? It may be needing a ‘white knight,’ to swoop in and take over. Techdirt’s Mike Masonick guesses such a white knight might be Microsoft. Many analysts think Musk is just angling for a lower price, or will walk after coughing up the billion dollar fee.

Everybody’s doing it in streaming it seems, and the House of Mouse is about to join the party. According to theverge.com, when Disney Plus’ ad-supported plan goes live later this year, it will reportedly run ads for four minutes on movies or shows that last an hour or less. Not only that, but Disney will be cutting out ads that may have adult themes, such as anything related to alcohol or politics — AND they won’t accept any ads if they’re from an entertainment competitor either! In line with their family-friendly reputation, Disney plans on removing ads from all shows if it’s used by a kids’ profile as well. So far, there aren’t any details on how much the cheaper option will cost — Disney Plus currently costs $7.99 / month without ads. A best guess is $3.99 or $4.99 a month. Disney says it added 7.9 million new subscribers last quarter, growing its subscriber base to about 44 million people in the US and Canada.

This seems like such an un-Apple -like feature, but it’s being reported by Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most accurate Apple analysts. Apparently, on the folding device Apple is testing (probably not an iPhone, but more like a folding iPad),  “Apple is testing E Ink’s Electronic Paper Display (EPD) for future foldable device’s cover screen & tablet-like applications,” Kuo reported on Twitter earlier today. “The color EPD has the potential to become a mainstream solution for foldable devices’ must-have cover/second screen thanks to its excellent power-saving.” Techcrunch.com notes that one of E Ink’s most well-know and biggest selling points is power saving. It has really only worked for e-readers up to now, but recent generations of E Ink’s electronic paper have added color and sped up the notoriously slow refresh rate and responsiveness. As with all these sort of rumors involving Apple, we note that they test out plenty of things that never make it into a final device.

Ecobee is launching two new smart thermostats, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced and Smart Thermostat Premium. According to androidcentral.com,  both have built-in radar for more accurate motion and occupancy detection. Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium also comes with a built-in air quality monitor and a SmartSensor in the box. The radar allows the thermostats to detect people through walls and behind objects, unlike the ones with infrared tech. They also both feature a virtual assistant built right in — either Alexa or Siri — with a speaker and mic. That new sensor can detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs), estimated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and relative humidity of the room. It also comes with a SmartSensor in the box so you can place it somewhere else in the house to help the thermostat better balance out heat and air conditioning levels for the whole home. The $199 and $250.

Musk Twitter Deal Shaky; Hacker Can Unlock & Start Teslas; Microsoft-Significant Salary Increases; John Deere Snags Algorithm Startup for AI Tractors

Elon Musk’s feet must be about as cold as the North Pole at this point regarding his agreement to buy Twitter. Most investors do their due diligence about a company before making an offer, let alone the board accepting it and hammering out a deal. Reuters reports that Musk is raging about Twitter estimating in a filing earlier this month that fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily users, or mDAUs, were fake or spam accounts. Musk says it is more like 20%, and he is demanding that Twitter prove otherwise before moving forward. The problem is, that legally, it is up to Musk to prove or disprove that….NOT Twitter’s. His vaunted net worth…based mainly on Tesla stock, has dropped by about $44 billion since he announced the Twitter buy. It is looking more and more like he is heading for the exit…and will have to cough up the $1 billion break up fee to Twitter. 

Keyless entry is great, but a lot of us know that your key fob can be cloned if a hacker is nearby and can pick up the signal, and run it through his computer and equipment. Now, Tesla’s cool keyless entry system has reportedly been hacked. According to bloomberg.com, a hacker has demonstrated that he can unlock a Model 3 or Model Y, jump in the car and drive away. The technique is pretty much the same as with other cars which do use key fobs. By redirecting communications between a car owner’s mobile phone, or key fob, and the car, outsiders can fool the entry system into thinking the owner is located physically near the vehicle.

As is the case with other tech companies, Microsoft is starting to take proactive measures against competitors stealing top employees. Geekwire.com says Redmond plans to nearly double their global budget for merit-based salary increases for employees at the senior director level and below. The bumps in pay will be stock based, and will amount to at least 25% for those employees, which Microsoft refers to as ‘level 67’ and below. This means people who are not at the general manager, vp, or other higher ranking corporate levels, but folks under those lofty pay grades. Last year, Microsoft showed a $6.1 billion stock comp expense, which was about 10% of its annual profit. 

John Deere, which has already been plowing automated driving tech since before any car maker, and has showed off its automated tractors, has taken another step towards better AI for their equipment with the pickup of AI startup Light. Thenextweb.com reports that the state of the art software package from Light will not only accelerate development and deployment of Deere’s AI tech, but will literally help the machinery to move faster safely without human intervention. The tech uses a computer vision approach to self-driving that allows the AI to ‘see’ the area around the way people do. It even allows for depth perception like the human eye. This should give farm operators who get the latest Deere equipment to work the fields and harvest much more efficiently without needing to actually be out there driving the tractor.

Netflix-LIVE Streaming; Apple AirPods & Batteries Getting USB-C; Uber Eats Trialing Autonomous Robotic Deliveries; McLaren Will Race Formula E

Last week, we reported that Netflix is probably going to get their cheaper, ad-supported tier by 4th quarter of this year, and plans to crack down on password sharing. Now, according to bgr.com, the streaming giant is looking at another major change. Netflix may be diving into LIVE streaming! They would probably start with unscripted reality shows and comedy specials. No word on whether they are willing to pay the huge fees to live stream to the biggest potential live audience of all…live sports…but don’t be surprised if that happens. 

It appears that Apple will be going all the way into USB-C, with the word that they will probably switch to that in the 2023 iPhones. Macrumors.com reports that an investor note from famed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also has Apple going with USB-C for their MagSafe battery packs, AirPods, and other accessories. No more paying through the nose for the pricey and fragile Apple cords when your Lightening connector cord frays near the end. As we reported earlier concerning the iPhones, this is all being driven by the EU, which is requiring it…and thereby dragging Apple into the ecosystem already occupied by everyone else. MacBooks, MacBook Pros, Mac desktops, and iPads have already switched over to USB-C.

We have heard rumblings for the last few years, and even seen some little robots tooling down sidewalks in videos, delivering groceries or food. Now, Uber Eats has announced that they are trialing a couple of autonomous delivery pilots in L.A. According to techcrunch.com, they will partner with Serve Robotics, a sidewalk delivery startup, and Motional, an autonomous vehicle tech firm. You may either feel its exciting or creepy that your Uber Eats order might be arriving in a self-driving car, and then tool over to your front door in a little delivery robot! For the Uber Eats trial, Serve will be handling shorter trips in West Hollywood. Motional will do longer distance deliveries in Santa Monica. 

Mercedes-Benz is bowing out of Formula E…the electric vehicle formula competition, but never fear…McLaren Racing is jumping in to that rarified racing circuit. Arstechnica.com reports that McLaren, which already races EVs in Extreme E and the IndyCar series, will be a formidable competitor. The Mercedes connection? McLaren is taking over the  Mercedes-EQ operation. It will be based in England, along with the Mercedes-AMG F1 team. As with other manufacturers, Mercedes has noted that their exit is due to the inability to convert the racing tech to tech useable in their car lines. McLaren hasn’t said what they will be powering their entries with, but one rumor has it that they may turn to Magneti Marelli. 

iPhone 15 Getting USB-C; Tesla Recalls 130,000; Sony Xperia 1 IV Telephoto; Galaxy Z Fold 4 Ultra Rumor

Only because the European Union is pretty well making them, but at last Apple will switch from Lightning to USB-C on iPhones in 2023. Macrumors.com reports that the word is coming from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who says the launch will come in mid 2023. Apple already uses USB-C on MacBook Pros, iPads, and basically the rest of their line. The switch will improve transfer speeds and also charging speeds (for those who don’t charge wirelessly. Previously, it had been thought that Apple would hold out until they could drop the port entirely, and just use their wireless MagSafe system to charge and transfer files. 

On another Apple note, it’s time to say bye to the venerable iPod. Apple will sell off the remaining Touches at $199, and that’s it. Hardly anyone buys the things now, as your Phone can do everything an iPod Touch can and more. Some 22 years ago, it was an amazing device, though..which at one time threw off 35% of Apple’s revenue. Bye, old friend (you probably have one in a drawer somewhere.) If you have an original with the click wheel…those are bringing several hundred online right now. 

It’s a drag when your touchscreen blacks out…I know, it happened to me on my present ride a few years ago. It was irritating to have the music drop and guidance gone until the thing rebooted, but the manufacturer replaced it under warranty, so all was well. Now, according to theverge.com, Tesla is recalling 130,000 cars due to the CPU in the infotainment systems overheating during fast charging, and the screens going blank. Tesla is pushing out an over the air update. Cars include 2022 Model 3 and Model Y, and 2021 and 2022 Model X and Model S. In some cases, the screens have just lagged, and not faded to black entirely. As noted by NHTSA, this issue could prevent drivers from using their backup cam, shifting using the touchscreen, as well as from adjusting the speed of their windshield wipers (some Tesla models adjust windshield wiper speeds automatically and only house manual speed controls in the central touchscreen). 

Sony is going big(ger) on cameras for its upcoming flagship smartphone, the Xperia 1 IV. Engadget.com says they will rock what they term the “world’s first true optical 85-125mm zoom lens,” along with true 4K at 120fps, livestreaming and external monitor capabilities and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 mobile platform chip. It will be a periscope type zoom lens, as Huawei has had for several years, and the lenses will use Zeiss optics. Not many people in the US have Sony phones, but note that Apple gets a lot of their camera hardware from Sony, and Apple is rumored to be getting a periscope physical telephoto zoom NEXT year…so Sony will have the feature in their phones exclusively for a year before Apple gets the tech. The Xperia has a 6.5 inch screen, and numerous other features. It’s out September 1st, with the eye-watering price of $1600. Preorders are open today for a limited time. 

Meanwhile, over at Samsung, a leak shows off the design of the Galaxy Z Fold 4. 9to5google.com reports that there is no radical change, but the camera module is different….instead of a big square or rectangular protrusion, only the actual lenses will stick out of the casing on the back of the phone….like the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It will be bit thicker than the Fold 3, but Samsung has managed to reduce the weight of this foldable phone to less than an iPhone 13 Pro. That will make a notable difference for when you are holding it for a while…like if you are shooting a video. Expect the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in August, barring any surprise issues.

Netflix Ads By Year’s End; TikTok New ‘Friends’ Tab; Trading Halted Then Started for Crypto Tokens; Testing Car With No Brake Pads

Netflix is apparently wasting no time. That ad-supported, cheaper subscription is apparently going to drop by 4th quarter of this year. The New York Times reports that word of it came out in a note to employees. Also in the note_ Netflix intends to start cracking down on password sharing. That had also been rumored, and it’s apparently true. The platform is making the changes due to losing some 200,000 subscribers the first quarter of this year. Right now, the most popular subscription plan is $15.49 a month. 

TikTok is replacing the ‘Discover’ tab with a ‘Friends’ tab in the menu at the bottom of the app. According to TechCrunch.com, the platform hasn’t said how soon the rolling change will be pushed out to everyone. The change was announced in a Tweet: “As we continue to celebrate community and creativity, we’re bringing a Friends Tab to more people over the coming weeks, which will allow you to easily find and enjoy content from people you’re connected with, so you can choose even more ways to be entertained on TikTok.” 

As cryptocurrencies continue to take a dive or ‘correct,’ in the trading euphemism, Binance had to suspend withdrawals of LUNA and UST after both crashed Tuesday morning. CoinDesk says trading was resumed after a brief stoppage, which Binance claimed was necessary doe to ‘network slowness and congestion.’ UST was at 70 cents at that time…it recovered later to 90 cents. LUNA’s reserves dipped down by 85% from the prior day, while UST was down 41%. These investments aren’t US Treasury Bonds, folks….just put in what money you could literally burn. 

With all the attention on EVs and batteries, a French carmaker is testing out brakes without pads. It doesn’t get the headlines, but dust from brake pads produces over 20% of freeway pollution. According to thenextweb.com, the concept car is made by DS Automobiles, the luxury arm of Citroen. The braking system utilizes only electric regenerative brakes. The car uses two electric motors to stop the car with up to 600kW of power. If everything tests out, we could see cars move to this, and eliminate that 20% of pollution on freeways from brake pad dust.

Tesla Investor Concern re Musk Buying Twitter; Instagram Testing NFTs; BMW’s Shipping Without CarPlay or Android Auto; EU May Start New Big Tech Regulation Spring 2023 

As Elon Musk plows ahead in his deal to buy Twitter, Tesla shareholders continue to fret and worry about his distraction from his primary business…and the one which actually makes money. The New York Times notes that Tesla stock is down 24% since the announcement of the Twitter buy. The Times goes on to report “Even if he’s able to finance it, it just is not a sensible deal from a financial perspective,” said Aswath Damodaran, professor of finance at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Mr. Musk has demonstrated that he can build two large, successful companies at once: After some stumbles, Tesla sells far more electric vehicles than any competitor, and SpaceX is a leading rocket company. And he may be able to make Twitter more popular and profitable. The Twitter deal does directly involve the EV company, as Musk is borrowing $6.25 billion against his Tesla stock. 

Investors have pointed out that it is hard to find another deal where someone has gotten such a big margin loan to help buy another company. The margin loan to buy Twitter could become a destabilizing force if Tesla’s stock value were to plunge. A steep decline might prompt the banks to sell their stock collateral to recoup the money they lent Mr. Musk, which could in turn set off even more selling across the market. The terms of Mr. Musk’s margin loan stated that he must pay off the entire debt if Tesla stock falls more than 40 percent from its price on the day of the loan. With much more competition now in the EV market, Tesla has to face not being nearly the only game in town selling electric vehicles.

NFTs seem to be like a zombie…something that just won’t die. Even with sales of the digital ‘collectables’ down 92% since last September, more companies and platforms seem determined to keep rolling them out. According to TechCrunch.com, this time its Instagram. The Meta-owned platform is testing NFTs from select creators, starting this week. At launch, the supported blockchains for showcasing NFTs on Instagram are Ethereum and Polygon, with support for Flow and Solana coming soon. The third-party wallets compatible for use will include Rainbow, Trust Wallet and MetaMask.Buyers will be able to share their NFTs in their main Feed, Stories, or in messages. I can barely contain my excitement! 

The issue…and story…that just won’t die. That would be the chip shortage. Now, engadget.com says BMW is temporarily shipping cars without the support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Due to the shortage, they have moved the cars out with a chip that doesn’t fully support those platforms. BMW says they hope to be able to give the cars the ability to use CarPlay and Android Auto via an over the air update by ‘the end of June at the latest.’ BMW is not remotely the only maker to grapple with shortages. Tesla delivered some cars without USB ports, and Ford had to send some out without rear Climate Control. BMW’s solution is at least better than what Mercedes did with a similar shortage…they sent cars out without chips at all…so owners had to come into the dealerships to have them installed later. 

The EU looks to start enforcing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in the Spring of 2023. Theverge.com reports that this antitrust legislation brings a new set of rules to check the power of Big Tech. The European Union warns that they will be prepared to act against any violations made by “gatekeepers” — a classification that includes Meta, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — as soon as the laws come into force. The DMA actually needs final approval from the Council and Parliament. The Act will affect any company that owns a social platform or app and has a market cap of $82 million or more. What will it mean for big tech companies? When passed, the DMA will likely disrupt the business models used by the world’s tech behemoths. For one, it could require Apple to start allowing users to download apps from outside the App Store. It could also require WhatsApp and iMessage to become interoperable with smaller platforms, a policy that may make it harder for WhatsApp to maintain end-to-end encryption.

Apple, Google, & Microsoft Going Passwordless; Musk Picks Up Twitter Investors and $$; Google Buys MicroLED Firm; Microsoft & VW Working on HoloLens for Cars

You’d think Cinco de Mayo was a big enough deal, May 5th is apparently also World Password Day. According to theverge.com, the ubiquitous and annoying little fake words we all make up (and I HOPE you are, and aren’t using Password1), may become a thing of the past at long last. In a joint effort, Apple, Google, and Microsoft announced that they have committed to building support for passwordless sign-in across all of the mobile, desktop, and browser platforms that they control in the coming year, based on the FIDO standard. Look for passwordless authentication to come to all major device platforms in the not too distant future: Android and iOS mobile operating systems; Chrome, Edge, and Safari browsers; and the Windows and macOS desktop environments. 

The system relies on use of one device…the default is your phone. You will still need to use the biometric like your fingerprint or FaceID or the code to access your phone, but then all apps and websites will authenticate from it. The big tech firms believe this will help eliminate phishing, and other hacks. Should you lose your phone, you will be able to download your info to the new phone and set up authentication on that device…or whatever device you choose. If you have a Microsoft Outlook work account, you may already be using Microsoft Authenticator on your phone…this will all work very similar to that. I won’t be sorry to see World Password Day become a relic of the past!

Elon Musk has raised $7.14 billion of funding for his $44 billion buyout of Twitter, from investors including Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, crypto exchange Binance and asset management firms Fidelity, Brookfield and Sequoia Capital. Arstechnica.com reports that with the new financing commitments, Musk will cut the margin loan he has taken with a group of lenders by half to $6.25 billion and increase the equity portion to $27.25 billion. The remainder of the purchase price will be paid with debt raised from global banks. Ellison is kicking in the biggest chunk at a cool billion. He currently sits on Elon’s Tesla board. Musk will also become the temporary CEO of Twitter when the deal closes. 

Google has acquired Raxium, an innovator in single panel MicroLED display technologies, according to a blog post from the company. The post says “The team at Raxium has spent five years creating miniaturized, cost-effective and energy efficient high-resolution displays that have laid the foundation for future display technologies.” A deal with Raxium was rumored last March in a report from The Information. Unlike Meta and other rivals, Google hasn’t said much about its augmented reality plans, but that doesn’t mean the company isn’t working on it. Last year, news of Google’s Augmented Reality OS leaked out late last year through job listings and the company reportedly plans to release an AR headset by 2024. 

Microsoft and Volkswagen are working together to advance the existing Moving Platform mode for Windows Holographic, the OS inside Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset. Zdnet.com says the goal is to enable the use of mixed-reality headsets inside vehicles for tasks like training drivers to handle challenging road conditions or creating new experiences for autonomous vehicles. Microsoft officials believe this capability could be applied to other industries in the future. Volkswagen has been experimenting for several years on how augmented reality could be used in cars. The company added an augmented reality head-up display to its ID. family of electric cars in 2020 that project navigation arrows, lane markings, and other relevant information onto the area in front of cars. Before that, it had done experiments on how augmented reality could help teach driving on a race course.

NFT Sales Plummeting; Musk Will Do Twitter IPO Next 3 Years, Charge Co’s & Gvts; Group 14’s NextGen Battery Tech Gets Cash Infusion; Apple iPad Keyboard Triggers macOS UI

Sales of NFTs, those infamous non-fungible tokens, dropped to a daily average of around 19,000 this week, a sharp dive of 92%. The Wall Street Journal notes that the peak was about 225,000 back in September. In terms of money, Forbes says sales are down from $160 million in January to $26 million last Thursday. The average selling price is now down to $2000. You might as well hold ‘em, ‘cause if you sell now, you are not just getting a haircut, but a full body defoliation!

He doesn’t own it yet…and still may not, but Elon Musk is planning things for Twitter. According to PCMag.com, Musk wants to charge companies and governments to use the platform, although he claims it will always be free for ‘casual users.’ Musk also wants to charge users who embed or quote Tweets from verified individuals or groups on the platform. On top of that, he has said he would probably do an IPO and take Twitter back public again within 3 years. Twitter itself is warning investors the company could face tumultuous changes once Musk takes over. On Monday, the company published an SEC filing that said Twitter could experience an exodus of employees and lose advertisers due to the merger. 

We have reported on Group 14 Technologies before. TheWashington state based company has plans to mass produce their batteries, which use a silicon-carbon composite material that can replace the graphite anodes in lithium-ion batteries….improving performance by 50% and giving users faster recharging. Now, geekwire.com says Group 14 has picked up $400 million in new capital that will help them ‘supercharge’ commercialization of their battery tech. One of the investors is Porsche AG, which plans to use them to power some of their EVs. Group 14 says they have some 40 different customers, so it appears they will have huge demand once they are ramped up. 

It is always best to not that Apple patents lots of stuff that never sees the light of day, but here’s one that is pretty interesting. 9to5mac.com says there is a patent that describes an iPad accessory keyboard that triggers an macOS-like UI when it is connected. The male heir, who works in IT, has been predicting a blurring of Apple OS devices ever since the iPad came out, and if this keyboard actually is produced, it will take things to the next level. You can already use some iOS apps on Macs, and now a Mac-like interface on iPads? Yep, things are really merging if that happens. In the patent drawings, Apple shows the familiar bar at the top, and tiled windows. Again, it may not happen, but if it does, the higher line iPads may flat replace the entry level MacBooks.

Facebook Dumping Podcasts, Amazon Adding Thousands More SoCal Employees; Rivian Gets Incentives for New EV Plant in GA; Android Firefox Now Auto Switches Sites to HTTPS

After just about a year, Facebook is killing off their podcast business. They will pull the plug after June 3rd, according to bloomberg.com. The social net will also end their short-form audio feature, SoundBites. Facebook has been really pushing its reels feature, feeling the heat from TikTok, which is exploding and remains the top downloaded social app in the world. In addition to the short videos, Facebook plans to push online shopping and metaverse events. Note that while the company’s killing off podcasts and Soundbites, it’ll integrate Live Audio Rooms (for hosting Clubhouse-like chats) into Facebook Live, allowing users to decide whether to go live with just audio or streaming video, too. 

Amazon has announced that they are adding 2,500 corporate and tech jobs in several of its Southern California locations. Geekwire.com reports that 1,000 of the jobs will be at their new office space in Santa Monica. Those hires will be brought on next year. There are going to be 800 more positions in Irvine, and another 700 in San Diego. Roles include software development, engineering, game design, user experience and more across such Amazon teams as retail, games, operations and Amazon Web Services.

EV maker Rivian, which is building EVs in their Illinois factory, has secured about a billion and a half worth of incentives for its planned second EV plant in Georgia. Electrek.co says the new plant is expected to cost about $5 billion. It will be a massive plant, running some 20 million square feet in the buildings, and they will also build a test track and adventure trail. Since Rivian had planned to start construction in summer of 2022 and to be building cars by 2024, things are right on track to meet that goal. 

For the 100th version of Firefox, Mozilla has added HTTPS-only connections for all websites you hit, provided they have HTTPS. According to androidcentral.com, the new release will also add an option to organize your browsing history on Android and iOS. The new Android mobile browser also has also picked up new wallpapers. BTW, the wallpapers will also be available on iOS late this week. On desktops, Firefox is adding subtitles and captions to picture-in-picture mode. This comes in handy, particularly for users with hearing impairments. The feature will initially work with Youtube, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and other websites that support WebVTT format.