ARM Based MacBook; Uber Panic Button; Cali Digital License Plates; Pixel 3 XL May Get ‘Notch’

Reports were out earlier this year that Apple will be releasing a new 13 inch entry level MacBook to take the place of the Air in the latter half of 2018. Now, macrumors.com says that Pegatron will be making ARM chips for the laptop…ditching Intel silicon as has been rumored. Using the ARM chips not only reduces Apple’s dependence on Intel, but the chips require less power and fewer transistors and are smaller…which is why they power iPhones and iPads. If another rumor holds, Apple may be trying to get a MacBook out with an entry level price of $799.

Because being able to call 911 on your phone isn’t enough, and because Uber wants to buff up its tarnished image for safety, you can now call 911 directly from the Uber app in the US. Theverge.com reports that Uber has been testing this out in as part of its ‘safety center.’ You can press the 911 button, and it will ask you if you really want to call 911…then puts the call through. It does send the rider’s location and trip details to the dispatchers when the app is used. Uber plans to add a panic button to the driver app soon, too.

From the ‘what could possibly go wrong’ department, California is rolling out a pilot project for digital license plates. According to the Sacramento Bee, the connected plates will have to be installed at a dealership for a pricey $699 PLUS installation. After that, owners will have to pay $7 a month. The plates have their own chip and battery, and can notify authorities if the car is stolen and give the location (at least of the plates…smart thieves will probably pitch them immediately.) If DMV decides to allow it, the plates can display a message as well as the tag number. Also, when you renew, it just changes the year…no stickers need be attached. It goes without saying that hackers should have a field day with these!

Some leaked images of new screen protectors indicate that Google’s Pixel 3 phones may get the dreaded Appleesque ‘notch.’ 9to5google.com says that the Pixel 3 appears to have somewhat thicker bezels than the XL, but could match features of the bigger phone. The cut outs in the notch may be for an ambient light sensor and front cam, or could be for dual front cameras. The notch on the 3XL doesn’t take up as much screen real estate as Apple’s. We’ll have to wait a few months to see if this turns out to be the real deal (or at least for more leaks.)

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Triple Lens iPhone Cam-in ’19; Fitbit Adds Female Health Tracking, Quick Replies; Facebook’s Oculus Go Ingeniously Ditches Headphones; California Requires Solar on New Homes

‘You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.’ That’s what Frank Sinatra sang in “That’s Life,” and that’s the story as far as Apple’s iPhone getting a 3 lens camera system this fall! According to appleinsider.com, reports from analysts checking with a couple of Apple vendors indicate that the 3 lens system isn’t going to make it by this September. The system will allegedly include a 5x optical zoom instead of the 2x one on present iPhones. The third lens may also improve low light image quality or even play a part in range finding, or possibly add new camera effects. Personally, I hope the earlier rumors are right anyway…the zoom feature is one I have used the most on my iPhone 7 Plus.

Fitbit has rolled out two new features…’female health tracking’ (on iOS and Windows now, Android is on the way), and quick replies on Android with an Ionic or Versa. theverge.com says the female health tracking was announced a couple months ago when the Versa was unveiled. It allows for logging data about periods, including symptoms like cramps or acne. Over time, this should give women more accurate cycle predictions. The quick replies feature can be used to respond to texts or messages in apps like Facebook Messenger. they include yes and no, but also ‘sounds good,’ ‘can’t talk now, will reply later,’ and ‘what’s up?’ You can also customize them, but they have to stay 60 characters or less.

The big reveal on Facebook’s new Oculus Go headsets at F8 was that they operate entirely without an attached computer. It was immediately noted that there were no headphones or earbuds attached, though. Now, businessinsider.com reports why. Oculus has ingeniously built little speakers into the front of the side straps on the $200 VR headset. This means a bit less immersive experience, since your ears aren’t sealed in, but that might be a plus if you are viewing on a plane, train, or bus. BTW, there IS an audio jack right by the micro USB charging port if you insist on plugging in your own headphones or earbuds.

California has often been the trendsetter for many decades, and is ramping up to do it again. According to engadget.com, the states Energy Commission will begin requiring solar panels on roofs of almost all new homes, condos, and apartment buildings by 2020. There will be exceptions for homes that can’t fit panels, or would be blocked by taller buildings or trees. There will also be compliance credits for builders that install batteries like the Tesla Powerwall. It’s estimated that this will add $25,000 to $30,000 to the initial cost, but then will save owners $50,000 top $60,000 over the 25 year lifespan of the solar system. the final vote at the Energy Commission is May 9th, and it is widely expected that the rule making will pass.


More on the 6.5 Inch iPhone; California Allows Self-Driving Car Tests Sans Driver; Ford Tests Self-Drivers as a Business in Miami; Barclaycard Testing Legal Dine and Dash

Some new details have leaked out about the rumored 6.5 inch iPhone…which is phablet sized, really. 9to5mac.com says it may have dual sim card slots, which would make overseas travel or multiple numbers much easier to handle, especially for corporate travelers. There is a conflicting rumor that Apple may actually go with eSIM like they have on the iPad. Also out is the screen resolution…1242×2688, and word is, Apple may reintroduce gold as a color. Apple apparently dropped gold on the iPhone X due to production problems, but those may be solved.

California has green lighted testing self-driving cars without a driver riding along. TechCrunch.com reports that the DMV announced new rules yesterday that go into effect April 2nd. There will still need to be an always on 2-way communications channel with a live person at a remote location to take control, should the need arise. Right now, the rules only cover cars, not big rigs. Alphabet’s Waymo and GM look to be the first to put such driverless, remote supervised cars on the pavement.

In the meantime, Ford thinks they have a better idea….Florida. The automaker has started testing self-driving cars in Miami…but not just the cars, also the business model. Also according to tech crunch, Ford is testing out cars with its Argo AI software doing business tasks like delivering Domino’s Pizza and Postmates. Miami was selected because it is one of the most congested cities in the country. Ford says it will trial ride hailing in conjunction with Lyft later on in Miami.

If a trial run works out in London, Barclaycard may have a solution for legal dine and dash. According to engadget.com, they are testing out a tabletop device partnered with a smartphone app. If you’ve ever been frustrated by not being able to get the bill from a server and get out after you’ve eaten, you’ll love this. When you’re ready to leave, you just get up and leave. The app lets the in-restaurant equipment know, and the bill is charged to whatever card you have selected in advance…including the tip. No muss, no fuss, and no waiting around trying to flag down your server.


More iPhone 8 From HomePod Leak; Apple Watch May Gain LTE Capability; Faraday Future Dumps Nevada for California; Americans Using Less Juice Than A decade Ago

As geeks continue to sift through the HomePod software, we get more and more teases about the iPhone 8. Macrumors.com says it indicates that the FaceID facial recognition software is so good, you won’t have to raise the phone and hold it in front of your face to open the phone. The phone may also be capable of shooting 4K video at 60 FPS with either front or rear cameras.

The HomePod leak also seems to reveal that the Apple Watch this fall may get a new form factor and have LTE. According to bloomberg.com, you will be able to connect directly to cellular networks, with no need to be tethered to an iPhone. No indication on if you could make voice calls or it’s just for messages and data, or what apple is doing to preserve battery life, but Apple is apparently in talks with carriers in the US and Europe.

Faraday Future, which at one time planned to build a large electric car plant in Nevada and a smaller one in Vallejo, CA has bolted, and signed a lease on an abandoned Pirelli tire plant in Hanford, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Techcrunch.com reports that it hopes to be in the new plant by November, and be delivering cars by the end of 2018. Faraday still apparently has an option for a smaller facility on Mare Island in Vallejo. Faraday’s CFO Stephan Krause downplayed financial woes tied to LeEco in China, saying the company has no legal relationship, and if the Chinese company goes under, Faraday would still be solvent.

We all have numerous electronic gadgets and devices…far more than 10 years ago…but due to their becoming more efficient, we are using less electricity! According to recode.net, residential electricity sales per person is down 7% since 2010, too. Part of the reason is more efficient devices, but another part is that people are using phones and tablets more, which are smaller and more efficient. The US Energy Information Administration warns that we may see an increase again between 2030 and 2040, as more rechargeable devices come online…and the so-called ‘smart home’ becomes common. Commercial electricity use is not tapering off, since a lot of what we do online with the cloud, Google, Amazon, and Facebook requires giant server farms that Hoover up many kilowatt hours of electricity.


Apple Gets CA Permit for Self-Driving Car Tests; Gadget Pulls Water Out of Thin Air

In a rather stealthy web update Friday before the Easter weekend, California’s DMV revealed that Apple has joined 29 other companies in getting a permit to test self-driving vehicles. According to businessinsider.com, this is the first hint that Cupertino was still working on self-driving tech since a letter to the NHTSA in December. Apple will be running its tech in 3 Lexus SUVs and the permit covers 6 drivers…other than the cars themselves. It appears that Apple is working on autonomous software, and not a full car, but stay tuned.

Scientists at MIT and Cal Berkeley have developed a solar powered water harvester that can extract humidity out of thin air to produce drinking water. Thenextweb.com reports that it’s solar powered, and can produce 3 liters of water in 12 hours, in a place with only 20-30% humidity….so will even work in a desert. (The Mojave desert daytime humidity runs 10-30%.) The scientists say a person could survive in the desert on a soda can’s worth of water a day, and the gadget can produce that much water in an hour. It uses a new type of metal-organic framework, or MOF.


Amazon Destinations Expands to Bay Area and NorCal

The Amazon site Amazon Destinations, which launched in April, has now added several areas, to cover a total of 35 cities and 6 metro regions, including the Bay Area and Northern California. According to techcrunch.com, the site isn’t intended as a full boat travel service…but more for planning and booking weekend getaways near where people live. Hotels and the like don’t pay upfront to participate, instead amazon keeps a percentage of what users pay as a commission. It now covers the Northwest, all of California, Texas, as well as Southeast and Northeast areas.

Great news for full blown Apple fanboys and fangirls…Apple’s spaceship shaped Campus 2 headquarters will have a visitor center with and observation deck and store. Appleinsider.com reports that the visitor’s center will be a free standing glass walled structure keeping the theme of the main spaceship building. It will apparently have a cafe in addition to the store, and will be open 7-7 weekdays and 9-7 on weekends. Now, ultra fans can eat an apple at Apple, and go home with even less money after buying lots of Apple branded merchandise.