Galaxy S11 Feature Leak; Apple AR Headset & Glasses; Applecard Accused of Discrimination; Honda Punts Hydrogen & Diesel for EVs; YouTube Deletes ‘No Longer Commercially Viable’ AccountsPosted: November 11, 2019
In a few months, Samsung will roll out its next iteration of their flagship, thought to be called the Galaxy S11. 9to5google.com reports that some credible leaks point to some cool details. First, the camera array is supposed to include a 108 MP sensor. This would give pics more detail, and allow users to zoom in on shots. It would be quite a jump from the 12MP sensor Samsung has used in the top line Galaxy phones for a while now. Expect the S11 to have 4 cameras. The S11 will come in 3 sizes, all bigger. The smallest will be either 6.2 or 6.4 inches in screen size, with a larger phone having 6.7, and the biggest 6.9. The mid-sized one will be available in both LTE and 5G versions. The top phone is expected to just have 5G. It is expected that the screens will have a hole punch in the middle of the screen for the cam, instead of off to the right as the present ones do. We should know by February when the phones will roll out.
Apple is reportedly shooting to drop an AR headset with 3D scanning by 2022, followed by sleeker glasses in 2023. According to macrumors.com, this timeline was shared with Apple execs and some employees at Apple Park in October. The meeting apparently filled the Steve Jobs Theatre, which holds 1,000, so Apple must have a pretty large team working on the AR project. The headset is said to have ‘advanced human detection’ in addition to 3D scanning. It may resemble Facebook’s Oculus Quest, but apparently Apple plans to ‘make heavy use of fabrics and lightweight materials’ to ensure that it is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. It is said to have a high res display and cameras that will let users ‘read small type’ and ‘see other people standing in front of and behind’ virtual objects. The AR glasses apparently resemble high priced sunglasses and have ‘thick frames that house the battery and chips.’ Since it’s Apple, expect them to make the finished product as sleek as technology will allow.
Late last week, a story went viral about a couple claiming Apple Card offered a significantly lower line of credit to a wife than the husband had received. Appleinsider.com says an investigation has been launched, but now Goldman Sachs…which issues the Apple Card…denies the allegations, and says all credit scores are individually determined. The initial claim came from a David Hansson, creator or Ruby on Rails. Later, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reported having a similar situation with his partner. Goldman notes, that credit decisions are based on previous debt, current income, and similar data. In a statement Tweeted by Goldman, the bank said “it is possible for two family members to receive significantly different credit decisions. In all cases, we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender”.
Honda has pulled working on its hydrogen vehicle program and has killed off diesel, and is going all-in on EVs. Electrek.co notes that Honda is a bit later than most to the electric vehicle party, but now plans to start ‘electrifying’ the entire line. This includes hybrids…right now they aren’t going to dump internal combustion entirely. Honda will roll out the small Honda E in Europe next year, and another EV in 2022. They will concentrate on battery only EVs in Europe before bringing them to the US. The Honda E will sell for $33,00 in US dollars, and only has about 125 miles of range. In addition to EVs, Honda is looking at powering solutions…like an experimental vending machine that provides swappable 1 Kw-hour batteries. The mobile batteries are about the size of a milk jug, and would allow EV drivers to drop one off, buy another, and roll on without stopping so long to charge.
YouTube’s new terms of service states “YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.” Mashable.com reports that it means if they aren’t making a buck off your account, they can (and will) delete it. I know someone in IT who knows several people who have been deleted under this. Fortunately, they were able to move to Twitch or other platforms.
Amazon’s Black ‘Friday’ Plans; Costco & Instacart Test 1 Hour Prescription Delivery; Facebook-100 Developers Scooped Up Data; Facebook Ad Policy-Possibly Illegal; Surprise! 90% of World Net Users Are MonitoredPosted: November 6, 2019
Amazon has officially revealed their Black ‘Friday’ sales event. Bgr.com reports it all starts at 12:01AM Pacific Friday, November 22nd, and it runs a full week…to the ACTUAL Black Friday…November 29th. Of course, after that, it’s what used to be Cyber Monday, and now Cyber WEEK, which will feature even more crazy deals and bargains. If you want a preview of of a lot of the deals, check out Amazon’s Holiday Sales Event Page.
Costco and Instacart are teaming up to test out one hour prescription delivery in Washington and California. According to engadget.com, the service is is free for orders over $35, although Instacart adds a 5% tip. If less than $35, the delivery price varies on how quickly the patient needs the meds, but usually comes in at under $10. Buyers do need to be over 18, and will have to show an ID to the courier, who must be HIPAA certified. Amazon and Walmart have also explored prescription delivery.
Facebook says that even after it locked down its Groups system last year, some app developers still kept improper access. Theverge.com says it is around 100 developers, some of whom still had access until a couple months ago. So far, no evidence that any really abused the data. A potentially bigger problem for Facebook comes from their political ad policy. An open letter addressed to Zuck from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law indicates that Facebook is exposing itself to liability under various federal and state level statutes…including those aimed at promoting voting rights, protecting consumers from unethical business practices, and preventing racial and religious discrimination. Facebook now says it appreciates the information, and ‘looks forward to continuing the discussion’ with the Lawyers’ Committee.
In one of the biggest non-surprises every, almost 90% of the world’s internet users are being monitored. Mashable.com reports that the study was from Freedom House, which found that 40 out of 65 countries it studied ‘have instituted advanced social media surveillance programs.’ Also not surprising…China is ranked least free, and Russia and Egypt are also ranked as ‘not free.’ In total, almost 3 billion people are being watched by a government. The US is listed as ‘free’ of internet censorship, but was by no means off the hook. Other countries are sending people here to learn all the tricks of the trade. “47 of the 65 countries assessed featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech.” Have fun online!
Laser Hacks Siri, Alexa, & Google Assistant; Google Program Rewards App Downloads; iPhone 12 Feature Rumors; Apple May Be Partnering With Valve on AR HeadsetPosted: November 5, 2019
It sounds like something out of James Bond, but researchers have figured out how to use lasers to inject commands into voice activated systems like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. Arstechnica.com reports that the system…called Light Commands, can also work on Facebook Portal and a variety of phones. They shoot a low powered laser into the systems from as far away as 360 feet, and can make the device perform tasks on gadgets it controls or over the web. Examples given were: unlocking doors, locating, unlocking, and starting vehicles, visiting websites, and more. Since the voice systems often don’t require that a user authenticate themselves, the laser exploits a vulnerability in microphones that use micro-electro-mechanical systems. (MEMS). The microscopic components in the system unintentionally responds to light as if it were sound. Before you freak out completely, keep in mind that the laser needs direct line of sight to the device, and has to be aimed precisely at a very specific part of the microphone. Also, when activated, all the voice systems respond first, so if someone is around, they will hear the device reply and know something is up.
If you have given up entirely on the concept of privacy, and figure there isn’t much Google doesn’t already know, here’s something that might be for you…that is, if you spend significant time and money on apps and media from Google’s Play store. According to bgr.com, Google has launched a new rewards program in the US. The program has been live in Japan and South Korea, where Google says there are now ‘millions’ of users. It’s called Google Play Points. The program is free to join, and you earn Play Points on everything you buy (in-app items, movies, books, subscriptions, etc.), in addition to featured free apps and games. There are also weekly points events to boost the rate at which you can earn Play Points. The plan has 4 levels, with the usual labels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. You can use points for weekly prizes, or even donate them to a non-profit of your choice. Hit the Google Play Store and tap Play Points for details or to sign up.
As usual, rumors started about the iPhone 12 before the 11 was even out, and continue…building to a climax by next summer. Here’s one from a less solid source than we usually get: there will be a new TrueDepth cam system that is much smaller…and will fit in a small bezel at the top of the screen, eliminating the dreaded (by some) ‘notch.’ Bgr.com notes this comes from a graphic designer with an iffy track record, so don’t plan your pre-order yet. Another rumor is probably on solid ground…Apple may be bringing ‘Pro Motion’ over from its iPad Pros to the phones. This incorporates a 120Hz screen refresh rate instead of the 60Hz one on all Apple phones up to now. Apple watchers say this will bring an eye-popping experience to using the iPhone screens that will amaze and delight users. Stay tuned for this one!
On the topic of Apple, we have previously reported that Cupertino plans to launch their AR glasses in 2020. Now, DigiTimes says they may be partnering with Valve to develop AR head mounted display devices. Valve is the company behind the popular Steam digital storefront and delivery platform, and they introduced their first VR headset, Valve Index, last April. According to highly reliable Apple Watcher Ming-Chi Kuo, the Apple AR headsets could be going into production this quarter, with a launch planned for early 2020!
Microsoft New Android & iOS Office App; MS Tries 4 Day Workweek in Japan-40% Productivity Boost, Hacked Facebook Account Bankrolls Scams; Dropbox Launches File Transfer For All; Garmin Autoland Lands Small Planes in Pilot EmergencyPosted: November 4, 2019
Microsoft has rolled out a new Office app for iOS and Android. The app merges Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Of course, all of those have been available on the mobile systems for years, but this makes them available as a single download. It’s not only convenient, it takes up significantly less space than the free standing apps. Theverge.com says if you want to test drive the combined app, a public preview is available today. Right now, it’s only available on phones, though….no tablet support yet.
A certain amount of common sense tells us that shorter workdays and a 4 day workweek can increase productivity. Now, Microsoft has proved this with regards to a 4 day work week with a test run in Japan. According to businessinsider.com, MS closed down every Friday in August, then compared to August of 2018. The result was a 40% boost in productivity and creativity! This all took place as part of Microsoft’s ‘Work Life Choice Challenge 2019 Summer.’ Its worth noting that full time employees were given paid leave during the Fridays off.
In a scary development, hackers have started hacking Facebook ad accounts and stealing credit card info to fund scam campaigns. Cnet.com reports that this happened to one man, and Facebook approved $10,000 a day to prove a 13 second video. Fortunately, since he hadn’t run any Facebook ads in a couple years, the credit card info wasn’t updated, and Facebook did shut down the campaign hours later. It wasn’t until THEN that he was notified! Now, if you are just a regular user with a page or account, don’t stress too much over this. The point is, Facebook didn’t stop the campaign for being pushed by hackers, but only when they found the credit card had expired, and they weren’t going to be paid! The ads encouraged you to click through to a site for a wagon that was ‘accidentally’ marked down to 13 cents. The scammers had a credit card skimmer embedded in the site, to steal users’ card info. DO be careful! Also…thanks for nothing, Facebook!
After a few months in beta, Dropbox has rolled out its file transfer service to all users. Venturebeat.com says Dropbox has positioned it as an easy way for users to share files with people when collaboration isn’t important. Uses mentioned include shooting a contract over to someone or delivering a video or audio piece. Although this has been available with expiration times and password protection through the shared-links feature, this one will be handy where the file may be changed and sent back and forth. There is a 100 MB limit, and they do expire after 7 days. The feature is available on all pricing tiers.
For years, commercial planes have been able to virtually land themselves using glidescope and other data. Now, Garmin swoops in out of Lenexa, Ks, and has launched Autoland, which brings actual automatic landing to small aircraft. According to techcrunch.com, they have partnered with Piper and Cirrus to make the feature an option on 202 Piper M600 turboprop planes and the Cirrus Vision Jet, pending FAA approval. If a pilot should pass out or become incapacitated, the push of a button will activate the system and land the plane…it also automatically alerts authorities. Right now the system is pricey, so don’t expect it to be retrofitted to any Cessna 150’s at your local airport…most of those don’t even have an autopilot. Like all tech, it will probably come down in price with time, and could one day be reasonable enough to be retrofitted into a lot of the general aviation fleet.
DJI Palm-Sized Drone—30 Minute Flying Time; Disney+ Will Launch With 6 Pixar Shorts; e-Hallpass Tracks Students’ Personal Data; xHelper Malware on Android Keeps Re-installing ItselfPosted: October 30, 2019
DJI has bowed its lightest and smallest model ever. Engadget.com is reporting that the foldable Mavic Mini weighs only 249 grams, and is so small you don’t even need to get an FAA registration for it. It only has a range of 2.5 miles, but has a better that average flight time…30 minutes. Many drones have 20 minutes or less in the air on a charge. It sports GPS receivers and downward visual sensors that allow for precise hovering and stable flying. It can shoot 2.7k video at 30 fps. Note that the Mini does NOT have obstacle avoidance features of DJI’s bigger drones, or as many pre—programmed Quickshots options. It folds to fit in the palm of your hand and is $399. Preorders are open now, and it ships November 11th.
With all the hoopla about Disney +’s banner ‘The Mandalorian,’ people have wondered what other original material would be coming out in the next couple weeks when the service launches. Disney obviously has a giant back catalogue, but what about new goodies? According to cnet.com, now we know. Disney + will launch November 12th with 6 new Pixar shorts. The shorts all have pretty simple titles: Purl, Smash and Grab, Kitbull, Float, Wind and Loop. They’re part of Disney Pixar SparkShorts, an experimental initiative designed to let Pixar employees tell personal stories.
Schools have started using an app called e-Hallpass, which operates on school Chromebooks, and is used when a student wants to go to the restroom. The Washington Post says this is cool in that the youngster doesn’t have to raise a hand and call as much attention to their tiny bladder or whatever. The teacher approves the break, then logs the student back in. If the student is gone too long, the program calls an administrator to check on them. Well, surprise, surprise! The app allows school administrators to check pass histories and look for patterns. e-Hallpass says it does not collect data, and it is up to the school whether to keep or delete it.
Here’s a little turnabout I found out about a couple weeks ago. Returning to my hometown for a reunion, I took a tour of the remodeled high school. It was led by a classmate who, among other things, had taught computer science until he retired. The school there was using software to track the administrator’s smartphones, to see where they were, so the closest one could be dispatched to take care of problems. An administrator came to my friend and asked him what kind of code he was teaching those kids. Apparently, the students wrote a hack, and could also track the administrators on THEIR phones, enabling them to dodge the school brass and hide out, smoke, or whatever. My friend just laughed. He said he had nothing to do with it…they just had some really smart kids!
Over the last 6 months, malware called xHelper has infected over 45,000 Android devices. Malware is nothing new, but this is…zdnet.com reports that the malware can be removed, but then manages to re-install itself. It gets into your device when you download software from outside the Play Store. The upside? At least so far, the trojan doesn’t carry out any destructive operations….it seems to be limited to intrusive popup ads and notification spam. Symantec says the malware ‘phones home’ to websites and downloads a morphed version of itself, making it extremely hard to permanently delete. Until Google or the antivirus companies come up with a fix, stick with the Play Store! This xHelper could be loaded with ransomware, banking trojans, DDoS bots, or password theft software at some point!
Alphabet Earnings Miss; Alphabet Looks to Buy Fitbit; Apple Bluetooth Tracker; iPhone SE 2 Release Rumor; Amazon Drops Fresh Fee- Free Prime Grocery DeliveryPosted: October 29, 2019
Google parent Alphabet missed on Wall Street’s earnings expectations, mainly due to some investments. Businessinsder.com reports that it was a $1.5 billion loss that blew a hole in what otherwise was a quarter of solid growth in their advertising and cloud businesses. Although Alphabet didn’t indicate which investments they took a haircut on, it is widely thought that Uber and Slack are among them. Google’s net revenue grew 21% during third quarter, hardware sales were up 39% year over year, to now account for 16% of the company’s total revenue.
Google’s parent Alphabet has made an offer to buy Fitbit. After halting trading on the news yesterday, Fitbit resumed, and was up 30% on the news. According to CNBC.com, there hasn’t been any reveal on the pricing. Google did acquire some type of smartwatch tech back in January for $40 million, but that was reportedly for a ‘new product innovation that’s not yet hit the market.’ Google had toyed with a Pixel branded smartwatch, but with Fitbit, the name and wide use might encourage them to stick with the existing branding.
Apple is apparently working on a Bluetooth tracker similar to the Tile, and it may be called AirTag. Macrumors.com says Bluetooth tags have appeared several times in previous iOS updates. A folder in the latest version says ‘AirTag.’ There is also a BatterySwap video asset in the latest update, suggesting that the AirTags will have batteries that can be swapped out. As opposed to Tile’s square configuration, it looks like Apple is going with little round tags that can be attached and Bluetooth connected to iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other devices. (I know a relative who could also use them for his glasses, keys, and wallet, but that’s another story!)
In other Apple news, the latest from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is that we can expect the iPhone SE 2 by around March. It’s not clear that Apple will actually call the handset that, but the diminutive and less pricey iPhone will have most of the innards of the new iPhone 11, so it won’t be a slug. It’s expected to sell for $399, by far the cheapest iPhone with the latest tech. Apple still sells the iPhone 8 at $329, but it has the tech of 2 generations ago, and Apple may kill the model when the new SE 2 bows.
Amazon has dropped the $14.99 Amazon Fresh fee, making grocery delivery free for Prime members. Techcrunch.com reports that the service is in operation in 2,000 cities. Amazon is also giving users one and two hour options, and making local Whole Foods store inventory available online and via the Amazon app. So far, no one has been able to determine if Amazon Fresh is turning a profit, or even how many users are availing themselves of the service. The free delivery, however, will increase pressure on Walmart and on the various grocery delivery services.
Air Pod Pro Launch; Spotify Returns to Profit; Electric Mini- Mini Price and Mini Range; Instagram Bans Self-Harm ImagesPosted: October 28, 2019
For those who have ears that they fit (I do not), Apple has dropped the new Air Pod Pros. The headlines: active noise cancellation, Transparency mode, in-ear design with multiple tips, wireless charging case, and water and sweat resistance. They run $250, which is a bump of $50 from the regular AirPods with wireless charging case. Apple has room to price them up with the extra features, and noting that they already sell pricey Beats models…not to mention there are other premium brands with ear buds that can run from $300-$500. Still to come, but maybe in 2020…the 16 inch MacBook Pro previously touted by Cupertino.
In a surprise, Spotify has returned to profit. This is only the 2nd quarterly profit that the streamer has had in 13 years! According to 9to5mac.com, the stock jumped 7% on the news. Spotify claims 113 million paid subscribers, a bump of 5 million in the 3rd quarter. When you add in free members on the ad-supported tier, Spotify has 248 million monthly users. Spotify points to podcasts as playing a big roll in the move into the black. The company claims to be doing better than either Apple Music or Amazon Music…saying they are adding twice the users per month as Apple. They say they have half the churn of Apple. As for Amazon, Spotify says they have about 3 times the engagement that Amazon has.
BMW has announced the Mini Cooper EV, the first totally electric Mini. Theverge.com says the diminutive electric vehicle will be out in March in the US, and BMW says the MSRP is $29,000. With the destination fee of $850 and taxes, it will still break the $30,000 barrier, but not by much. That seems to be the magic number that everyone is shooting for to get EVs to truly become a mass market car. On the down side, BMW says the car will go 146 miles on a full charge, and that number could well be lower when the EPA does a more realistic test. Most buyers get range anxiety with less than 200 miles, but Nissan has been selling the Leaf with 150 to 226 miles of range…and the original Leaf didn’t even make it 100 miles. The Mini EV will be nicely equipped with Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, keyless entry, auto rain-sensing wipers and headlights, and a driver assistance package all coming standard. It will have 181 horsepower, so should be fine tooling up freeway on ramps and the like. Keep in mind that even at a touch over $30 grand, BMW cars are still eligible for the full federal tax credit, so your price could drop to $20 grand or below, depending on your state’s tax credits.
In something of a baby step, Instagram has promised to remove images of self-harm. According to bbc.com, this will include drawings and even cartoons. This is largely in response to the public outrage over the death of a British teen named Molly Russell in 2017. Instagram says it will take time to fully implement the takedown, and they also said this won’t be the last thing they do with regards to the problem.