3 Months Free Disney + With New Chromebooks; iPhone-5G Surge from China Orders; Seattle Raises Uber & Lyft Fees; Toshiba- 13 Cancer Tests from Drop of Blood

Google has announced it is bundling 3 months of free Disney+ with new Chromebooks. 9to5google.com reports that the deal will be good for activations made between yesterday (November 25th) and January 31, 2020. It should be a good deal not only for Chromebook buyers, but also for Google (and Disney.) Google doesn’t have a true streaming service competitor right now, since YouTube Originals is mainly focused on creator content and not big ticket TV shows and movies like Apple TV+ and Amazon.

Speaking of Disney+, they have added a ‘Continue Watching’ section. This is a feature they probably should have had on rollout, as Netflix, Hulu, and pretty well all competing streaming services already offer it. It is apparently a server side update…no app update is needed, and they made no big, formal announcement. Cord Cutters News claims that the feature was already built in, but that Disney disabled the feature for rollout while they tried (and failed) to handle the crush of new users.

Apple is expecting a surge in iPhone orders next year when they introduce 5G to the handsets. According to businessinsider.com, Cupertino has told suppliers to be ready for over 100 million orders. Just a month ago, they were projecting 80 million. The bump in orders is expected to come from increased China sales. China is about 20% of iPhone sales right now, and was up 6% in September and October. The increase is partly due to the $50 cut in price for the entry level iPhone 11. Apple is expecting to ‘make it up in volume.’

Seattle’s City Council passed a unanimous ordinance yesterday that would establish a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers and raise per-ride tax to pay for city programs. Geekwire.com says it’s part of the ‘Fare Share’ program introduced in September as a way to extend Seattle’s worker protections to gig economy drivers. A new tax of 51 cents per ride on Uber or Lyft will go to funding affordable housing and also towards the streetcar project. Seattle has already been extracting 24 cents per ride for wheelchair accessible taxis and to cover costs of regulating the industry. The total Seattle tank on Uber and Lyft rides will be 75 cents a ride. It’s estimated to raise $133 million in new revenue by 2025. The minimum wage details are still being wrangled over, but a minimum is expected to take effect by July 1, 2020.

Toshiba says it has developed a tech in conjunction with the National Cancer Research Institute and Tokyo Medical University that may, in ‘several years,’ be able to detect 13 types of cancer from a drop of blood…with 99% accuracy. According to japantimes.co.jp, cancers included are: gastric, esophageal, lung, liver, biliary tract, pancreatic, bowel, ovarian, prostate, bladder and breast cancers as well as sarcoma and glioma. Trials on the tech start next year. They are using microRNA molecules from the blood sample, and claim the tech not only has and edge in accuracy, but also the time required and cost. The device with the chip they have developed can diagnose in under two hours, and a test is expected to cost $184 US dollars!


T-Mobile Breach Exposes Million+; Why Tesla Cyber Truck Looks Like Mad Max; StubHub Sells to viagogo; Uber Loses London License Again

A T-Mobile breach has exposed about 1-1/4 million customers’ data. Geekwire.com reports that the breach happened earlier this month, and includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and more. It allegedly does NOT include financial info like credit card numbers, or social security numbers or passwords. It would still be a good plan to change your password and check your credit report.

Tesla now says they have 200,000 advance orders for the Cybertruck revealed last week. According to techcrunch.com, the unique look (putting it nicely…people seem to either love or hate it) comes from the fact that it is unibody construction, not a body on frame like most trucks. The original Honda Ridgeline pickup was also unibody, and had ‘flying D pillars,’ which give it the swoopy look at the rear…although it wasn’t so pronounced in the Ridgeline. The Chevy Avalanche also used a sail pillar. The D pillars have to be that way in a unibody truck to avoid twisting when the vehicle is towing a trailer. With a frame on body truck, the frame takes up that twisting energy. Of course, being Tesla and Elon Musk, it’s possible that the design will be modified before the Cybertruck hits the streets in 2021.

EBay has rolled its ticket subsidiary StubHub to viagogo for $4.05 billion. They had bought the ticket company for $310 million back in 2007. viagogo is headed up by former StubHub co-founder Eric Baker, who had left when eBay bought the ticket vendor. When the deal is done, StubHub will be in 70 companies, and have wider inventory for fans. The deal should close in the 1st quarter of 2020.

London’s transport regulator is refusing to grant Uber a new license to operate there. Theverge.com says they have been getting extensions since 2017 when Uber originally lost their license for serious criminal offenses, medical certificates, disclosure and barring checks, and continuing to use its Greyball software the regulator claimed blocked regulatory bodies from getting full access to Uber’s app for law enforcement duties. Uber will have 21 days to appeal the decision, but can operate pending the appeal.


Google Limiting Political Ad Targeting Worldwide; Facebook Looks at Limiting Pol Ad Microtargeting; PayPal Picking up Honey; Tesla Cybertruck Reveal Tonight

Google is going to begin limiting political ads worldwide. According to 9to5google.com, ‘the company’s advertising networks are limiting election ads audience targeting to age, gender, and general location (postal code level). This includes Search, YouTube, and display ads that appear on third-party sites.’ Before now, Google’s basic political targeting in the US allowed ads to be served based on public voter records and general political affiliations like left-leaning, right-leaning, or independent. The changes start next week in Britain ahead of elections there, and in the EU by the end of the year. They will be in place worldwide on January 6th. While it isn’t an outright ban like on Twitter, it will have a major effect on ‘deep fakes,’ misleading claims, and other ‘demonstrably false claims’ that have been made in some political ads.

Facebook is considering changing its rues around political ads. The Washington Post says the present microtargeting tech from Facebook allows advertisers to focus on specific groups of users and deliver messaging directly to them. One major user is already objecting to Facebook limiting microtargeting….the Trump campaign…which has used it extensively and is doing so right now. This may be a reason Trump hosted Zuckerberg at the White House for dinner last month. Up to now, Facebook has refused to limit political ads, or even police them for false information. Twitter has banned them outright, and Google (as noted above) is limiting political targeting. Facebook claims microtargeting will still be possible, but any changes could materially alter how a campaign like Trump’s uses the features.

PayPal is buying shopping and rewards platform Honey, which tracks prices, alerts, and manages rewards programs for some 30,000 plus retailers. Businessinsider.com reports that the deal is worth some $4 billion, making it PayPal’s biggest acquisition to date. PayPal expects the adding of Honey to help its network of some 24 million merchants to attract shoppers ‘earlier in the deal-hunting process.’

Tonight in LA, Elon Musk will reveal the Tesla Cybertruck at the company’s design center. According to theverge.com, Musk has described the vehicle as being inspired by the movie ‘Blade Runner.’ He has also claimed it will have Porsche-level performance and ‘utility that makes a Ford F-150 look like a Tonka truck.’ Pickups are the fastest growing segment in the US auto industry, and some sell for sky high prices. They are also profitable, which is why many makers have pushed SUVs for years (most of which are built on a truck chassis, partly to take advantage of easier truck emission standards.) Musk has said the truck will start at under $50,000. More will be revealed tonight.


Free Spotify Will Stream on Alexa Devices; Apple Austin Breaks Ground; Twitter List Reporting Function; Police Can Keep Ring Videos Forever

You have been able to get Spotify on an Amazon Echo for several years. Now, the free tier comes to Alexa devices, as well as Sonos and Bose smart speakers. Techcrunch.com reports that the Alexa support will be available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. Sonos and Bose users can pull in the free Spotify stream worldwide. This comes on the heels of Amazon announcing yesterday that its free (ad supported) music service is now available across devices, including Fire TV, iOS, and Android. It is also available on the web. The Amazon service ‘only’ has 2 million tracks. Spotify boasts a catalog of 50 million songs.

Apple has started construction of its Austin, TX campus. The campus will be considerably larger than the present Mac Pro facility there…the one Donald Trump is flying out to tour today. According to 9to5mac.com, the new facility will be 3 million square feet, and cost a billion dollars. It will house 5,000 employees, with room to grow to 15,000. The facility opens in 2022. The present Mac Pro plant is 244,000 square feet, and employs 500.

After 10 years, Twitter is adding a tool to its lists feature to combat people using the feature to harass others. Mashable.com says there will be a reporting feature specifically for lists. If you report a list, you will get a confirming email. List reporting is live right now on iOS, and will be soon on Android and the Web. Trolls who have used Lists to harass will go to Twitter jail until the list is removed. At least for now, there is no way to opt out of Lists completely, so people will have to be diligent in reporting the toxic ones.

A bombshell from Amazon as they acknowledge that their police agency partners can keep homeowners’ Ring doorbell videos forever, AND can share them with whomever they want. Engadget.com notes that the admission comes after a letter from Senator Ed Markey, asking for details about the footage and steps to protect civil liberties. In a chilling aside, Amazon did not rule out using facial recognition tech within the Ring system. Amazon claims that such a feature would only be released with ‘thoughtful design,’ which isn’t terribly reassuring.


Android Spying Flaw Fixed by Google & Samsung; Snap Fact Checking Political Ads; Breakthrough by Gates Backed Solar Co; Apple ‘Special Event’ December 2nd

A weakness in Android camera apps from Google and Samsung has made it possible for rogue apps to record video, audio, and take images and upload them to an attacker-controlled server, with no user permission or even knowledge. According to arstechnica.com, the flaw was discovered by Checkmarx. Google swatted the bug in an update to its Pixels with a cam update in July. Now, apparently Samsung has fixed the vulnerability as well. Other Android handset makers have not reported that they have fixed the problem, so if you are using an Android other than a Google Pixel or Samsung (or haven’t updated software), be warned!

In an interview on CNBC yesterday, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said that the company “all advertising to review, including political advertising.” That includes fact-checking. Spiegel also noted that it was trying to create a space for its younger leaning user base “engage with the political conversation, but we don’t allow things like misinformation to appear in that advertising.” This appears to position Snapchat squarely between Facebook…which for now is taking a hands off position to fake news and propaganda…and Twitter, which is banning political ads. Google has thus far not taken a position, but did ban political ads in Canada ahead of that country’s elections earlier this year. Facebook— are you listening?

An interesting breakthrough has been announced by a solar company backed by Bill Gates. Geekwire.com says Heliogen has been able to concentrate sunlight at a temperature high enough to replace fossil fuels in industrial processes. They are using cutting-edge computer vision tech to align a giant array of mirrors to reflect sunlight to a precise target. This gets the temperature at the spot up to 1832 degrees Fahrenheit, and therefore to a temperature that can replace coal, gas, and oil in the production of materials such as cement, steel, and petrochemicals. The company says the innovation is a “major step towards solving climate change” that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes. Such processes are thought to account for one-fifth of the world’s carbon emissions. Heliogen believes it can ultimately produce temperatures up to 1500 degrees Celsius…hot enough to split carbon dioxide and water to make hydrogen and other fossil-free fuels.

Apple will hold a special event December 2nd in NYC, hi lighting its favorite apps and games of 2019. It will revolve around app and game awards for developers, and thus far, no rumors about any hardware being shown off…although….being Apple, there could always be ‘one more thing.’ 9to5mac.com notes that the new Mac Pro will be out in December, so it is possible a firm drop date for that will be revealed.


Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Rise of Skywalker Bundle; Fresh 13 Inch MacBook Pro in 2020; Ford Mustang Mach-E, Amazon Grocery Store in 2020 (NOT Whole Foods)

Samsung is partnering with Disney and will release a special edition Galaxy Note 10+ bundle with a ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ theme. 9to5google.com reports that the handset is black with red accents all over including around the triple cam housing. The back of the phone gets the Star Wars logo along the bottom, and sports the First Order’s logo, too. The S Pen comes in bright red to match. There is also a special edition leather case that shows Kylo Sen and a metal badge Samsung is pitching as a collector’s item. Included are Galaxy Buds in and black and red case, and all comes in a unique box. Samsung says it will be on sale in limited quantities starting December 13th for $1299, and will be available from AmaZON, Best Buy, Microsoft, and direct from Samsung.

Since the new 16 inch MacBook Pro hit, lots of people have wondered about the smaller profile MacBook Pro…the 13 inter. When will it be updated. According to macrumors.com, it should be out the first half of next year, with the ‘scissor’ keyboard as revived on the 16 inch model. There is a question as to the size…will it be 13 inch, or grow an inch like the bigger model? In an interview, Phil Schiller wouldn’t say, but didn’t foreclose the idea that it might end up 14 inches. Noted Apple watcher Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will be transitioning all its notebooks to the scissor keyboards in 2020. The company has had complaints for several years about the butterfly keyboard in the Pros and Airs, and may just want to get away from them. Some people have no problems, but others have had sticky, repeating, or non-functioning keys since the keyboard hit in 2016. Apple continues to offer free repairs to affected customers with the butterfly keyboard.

As promised, Ford showed off its new EV yesterday, and it lives at the intersection of SUVs and muscle cars…only electric! Engadget.com says Ford claims a range of 300 miles for the Mustang Mach-E. Calling it a mustang is really just marketing, since it’s a small SUV, but should generate lots of interest. The Mach-E will start at $43,895 and have 4 more expensive versions…the top one cracking $60 grand! All wheel drive will be available, and will come with 2 electric power plants. The RWD one will have a single electric motor. The thriftier model has 255 horsepower while the performance one will rock 459 horses and do zero to 60 in under 4 seconds. Of course, the performance version has less range….235 miles. The first models drop next year, with a couple more models taking until 2021 Ford is taking preorders now with a $500 deposit.

Amazon will opening a full sized grocery store in the LA area next year, and it won’t be a Whole Foods. According to the verge.com, it won’t use the cashier free checkout like Amazon Go, either…but will carry Amazon branding. The store is said to have a different variety of products at ‘a lower price point’ than Whole Foods. Besides the Woodland Hills location in the LA area, they will be opening in Chicago and Philadelphia.


The Motorola Razr Reincarnated; Ford’s e-SUV, Mustang Mach-E; Google Assistant Smart Speaker Sales Way Down; Apple May bundle Music, TV+, and News+

Motorola has unveiled a modern version of the Razr, and this one is a smartphone that folds in half. Theverge.com reports that it has a 6.2 inch foldable plastic OLED screen, and runs Android. It will cost an eye-watering $1499 when it gets into users’ hands in January. The Razr uses hinges on both sides of the screen, so the screen has no crease…think of folding a sheet of paper over but not creasing it. It runs on a Snapdragon 710, has 6 gigs of ram, and in addition to the folding screen, has a 2.7 inch quick view screen for reminders and the like on the front…a call back to the original. Speaking of a tip of the hat to the original, you can even use the software to emulate the old school one…displaying what looks like a Razr keyboard on the bottom half of the screen, and the top half displays images reminiscent of the original! Time will tell if people will go for this pricey a folder that doesn’t offer cutting edge processing and the like (it also has 2 smallish batteries), but perhaps nostalgia will help carry it to some success when it drops.

We are just days from Ford unveiling its e-SUV, and now we have a name. It will be called the Mustang Mach-E when it is shown off on Sunday. Not only that, according to techcrunch.com, you will be able to sign up online and reserve one with a $500 deposit. Early actors will have access to a ‘First Edition.’ Ford will reveal more details about that at the launch event this weekend. Targeted EPA range of the Mustang Mach-E is 300 miles, according to Ford, and you should be able to get 47 miles of charge in only 10 minutes with a 150Kw fast charger.

Alexa is growing like a weed…meanwhile, Google Assistant smart speaker sales have tanked, falling off 40%. 9to5google.com says a report from Canalys indicates that the smart speaker market grew by 44% in the third quarter of 2019, seeing 28.6 million shipped. A ton of those units were from Xiaomi, Alibaba, and Baidu. Amazon still holds down 31.9% of the market, and Google has 29.9%, but the others are growing so explosively, that Google is now 4th in sales. On the other hand, Apple is lumped in with ‘others,’ so it could be worse!

Apple is apparently thinking of offering a bundle next year that would include Apple Music, TV+, and News+. According to bgr.com, Apple has cut deals with publishers that would allow such a deal. Right now, News+ is $10 a month, Apple TV+ is $4.99 a month, and Apple Music runs $9.99 a month for single, $14.99 for Family Sharing. If you add them all up with the family plan, it’s $30 a month…a pretty good hit. No word on how much Apple might shave, but it’s a good bet it will be priced at either $25 or $20 a month.