New Google Smart Display; Microsoft Meltdown Updates Brick Some AMD PCs, Samsung’s Foldable Galaxy X Phone; LimeBike eBikes to Select Cities; Robot Strippers Hit Vegas

Google has made a big splash at CES in Las Vegas. From wrapping the trams, to their giant ‘Hey Google’ booth, they are hard to miss. They are going for smart assistant market share in a big way, too. Theverge.com says the list of smart speakers that use Google Assistant has expanded rather dramatically. Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony will all feature speakers with Google Assistant. Of those, JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony will make smart speakers with screens. They should be out by summer. The smart-screen speakers will apparently run Android Things, a version of Android tailored for Internet of Things devices. One obvious leg up on Amazon’s Alexa devices….the Google smart speakers with screens will play YouTube videos! They will also let you access you Nest cam security cams.

Public service message: Apparently Microsoft’s updates to stop ‘Meltdown’ have been pulled, because they bricked some AMD computers. Engadget.com reports that Redmond blames AMD’s documentation, but at any rate, it primarily affects Athlon and Sempron equipped computers. Apple released patches for Meltdown and Spectre on both the Mac OS and iOS yesterday, and they work fine. If you have a Windows machine you know doesn’t have AMD processors, go ahead and install the patch.

Another tease about the folding Galaxy X phone. Samsung is now saying it might enter production by November, and be out by this coming December. Bgr.com notes that CEO of mobile DJ Koh has been teasing this handset for a while now, but we’ve never even gotten a tentative date up to now. The premium handset would be a smartphone while folded, then open up for use as a tablet. No price range, but Samsung calling it ‘premium’ gives you the idea that it will be over a grand like the iPhone X.

There are already bike rental set ups in a number of major cities…even Ford has entered the fray with those. Now, LimeBike is rolling out electric bicycles, or e-bikes in several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, and Miami. Geekwire.com says the e-bikes debuted at CES, and 3ill cost $1 to unlock and and additional buck for each 10 minutes of riding time. LimeBike already has a fleet of garish green bikes with no electric assistance that rent for a dollar per 30 minutes of riding time. The new e-bikes should be available in a couple weeks. They are restricted to 14.5 mph, due to many cities having 15mph bike speed limits. The thought is that with certain cities that have a fair amount of hills, the e-bikes will give riders a break in trying to negotiate those. OK, no Idea about Miami, though…

The most off the wall thing at CES…or maybe ‘off the pole’, isn’t at the show, but at a strip club. According to businessinsider.com, the Sapphire has flown in robot strippers with large security cameras for heads from London! If that isn’t crazy enough, the club claims…claims that the idea is to attract women to the club! So far, no ‘thumbs up’ from either Robocop or Lt Cmdr. Data.

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Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.


Amazon Prime Shipped 5 Billion; Apple’s iPhone Battery Replacement; Germany Enforcing Social Media Hate Speech Law; Yes-Robocalls Have Gotten Worse; Wireless Android Auto Coming

Order lots or stuff with free shipping using Amazon Prime? Yeah, you and everyone else. According to techcrunch.com Amazon shipped over 5 billion items with Prime in 2017. We don’t know how much growth this shows, as they’ve never released numbers before, but 5 billion is a staggering number! A third party estimate from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners has 63% of all Amazon customers as Prime members, though, and calculates that there are 90 million Prime members just in the US!

You probably heard the flap over the holidays about Apple using software to slow down older iPhones to conserve dying batteries…and not telling anyone, and hence, the uproar. Apple last week issued a rare apology, and dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29…available right now in limited quantities. The replacement applies to ‘anyone with an iPhone 6 or newer whose battery needs to be replaced.’ In the rush, Apple didn’t note what happened if the phone fails an official Genius Bar diagnostic test. Now, macrumors.com reports that Apple will replace the batteries at their stores even if the phone doesn’t flunk the Genius Bar test! How about phones older than iPhone 6? Basically…you’re screwed….you’ll have to pay the $79 bucks.

Germany has waded into the arena of hate speech, fake news, and illegal material on social media. BBC.com says they are now starting enforcement of a law banning such content. If the content isn’t removed within 24 hours after the social media company is notified, the fine is up to 50 million Euro…or about $60 million bucks! That MIGHT get their attention. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law’s main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in the dragnet.

If it seems like you’ve been getting more robocalls…you are. According to theverge.com, a recent FTC report shows they have quintupled since 2009! The agency has gotten 375,000 complaints a month in 2017, compared to 63,000 a month in 2009. One reason is cheap access to internet calling services and autodialing. Now, there is vastly more neighborhood or area number spoofing, with the calls really calling from almost anywhere in the world. The do not call registry and blocking tools from phone companies and phone makers MAY have helped, but aren’t remotely keeping up with the problem.

Lots of cool things will be rolled out at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. 9to5google.com says one will be wireless Android Auto. JVC/Kenwood will show off an Android Auto screen that doesn’t have to be plugged into your USB port, but runs over the Bluetooth. There was already such a device for Apple CarPlay rolled out by Alpine a few months ago. They use a 6.8 inch screen, and will sell under the JVC and Kenwood brands. It’s expected that they will also be bringing out an Apple CarPlay compatible version later on. Let’s hope they are easily detachable and can be hidden in trunks, for break-in prone cities like San Francisco!


New Samsung & LG Hero Phones Out in January; Amazon Jumps into VR & AR, Lyft Gets Self-Driving Permit

We were expecting Samsung to show off the new Galaxy S9 in January. Now, it looks like it will be launched at CES 2018, and according to bgr.com, LG will also show its latest and greatest, the G7. Last year, the LG G6 was overshadowed by Apple and Samsung, and with the runaway success of the iPhone X and a strong Samsung Galaxy S9, they will need the new G7 to have some ‘wow’ factor. The G7 is rumored to have and OLED display, like the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, but does add its own wrinkle…the fingerprint sensor will be under the screen, not on the back like the S9’s. For those leery of the iPhone X’s facial recognition scheme, this might be a real draw.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft are busily working on VR and AR products, so it was only a matter of time. Geekwire.com reports that Amazon is jumping in with its new ‘Sumerian’ service for Amazon Web Services. Sumerian will allow creation of VR, AR, and 3D scenes for Oculus, Vive, iOS, and Android. Sumerian has a web based editor for creating interactive 3D scenes, and a library of objects and templates. It launches in preview today on all but Android, which Amazon says is coming soon.

Another company has a permit to test self-driving cars in California, and this one is a biggie. Cnet.com says Lyft was granted a permit, and now brings to 45 the number of companies testing or getting ready to roll driverless cars on public roads. They join VW, General Motors, Tesla, Google’s Waymo, Uber, and Apple. You’ll be able to spot them by the apparatus on top, but don’t expect to see no one in the driver’s seat…all the permits require a driver on board, just in case.


Dual Vertical Cams for iPhone 8; Amazon’s Holiday Moves a Billion Items; Microsoft-First Tech to a Trillion in Valuation; LG’s ‘Floating’ Speaker

Another week, another new iPhone 8 rumor…and this one has nothing to do with curved screens, all glass, or the like. Bgr.com has picked up a report from Japanese site macotacara that the 5 inch iPhone 8 will move to a dual vertical cam setup instead of the horizontal orientation on the 7 Plus. The phone is supposed to be a bit taller than the iPhone 7 but not as wide as the Plus, so it could just be a matter of internal real estate…or maybe an even more killer camera. Time…and rumors…will tell!

Amazon Prime killed it again for the holidays. The online giant shipped over a billion items between November 1st and December 19th, according to cnet.com. The Echo Dot was the most desired item, selling out. It just got back in stock today, but the regular Echo is out of stock until January 26th. December 23rd was the most popular delivery day for Prime Now…nice going, last minute shoppers!

Microsoft under CEO Satya Nadella has had a rebirth, and is innovating and growing again. Geekwire.com says that following the acquisition of LinkedIn, analyst Michael Markowski of Equities.com claims Microsoft will be the first tech company to hit a market valuation of a trillion dollars, beating out Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook.

If you didn’t get an Amazon Echo with Alexa for Christmas, you might be coveting LG’s latest…which they just teased, and will show at CES next week It’s the PJ9 Bluetooth speaker, and it floats in midair above its base! 9to5mac.com reports that powerful magnets do the magic trick. It’s battery powered, and when it gets low, it lands on its base and wirelessly recharges itself! LG claims the 360 degree sphere has ‘deep bass, flush midrange tones, and crisp highs.’ We’ll find all that out plus the price and availability at CES next week.


Fords to Get Apple CarPlay & Android Auto; 18 Inch Roll Up LG Display!

Ford will integrate both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its in-dash infotainment system. Thenextweb.com reports that all existing and future models with the Sync 3 connectivity system will support both platforms. This means all 2017 Ford models will work with either for calling, music playback, and voice commands. Ford predicts that 43 million Sync 3 equipped cars will be on the road by 2020. If you have a present Ford with Sync 3, you’ll be able to upgrade and add CarPlay or Android Auto later this year.

lg-foldable-display

The folks at LG have been experimenting with roll up screens for a while now. They are now going to show a prototype 18 inch screen at CES this week! Sony, Samsung, & Sharp are all looking into rollup screens, but this is the largest one by far. Theverge.com says LG will also show off a 55 inch ‘paper thin’ TV that has all the electronics installed independently.


From HD to 4K to 8K-The Video Quality Arms Race Continues

Just as higher def 4K TVs are finding their ways into living rooms, Sony and LG are planning to show 8K TVs at CES next week. Bgr.com says a side benefit should be lower prices for 4K TVs this year.

After sprucing up Office Mobile on iOS and Android, gigaom reports that Microsoft will add more touch features for its Windows Mobile version in the next 6 weeks.

A hacker has released an exploit claimed to be able to break into any iCloud account. Businessinsider.com reports iDict has been tried by some Reddit users, and seems to work. No word yet from Apple on a fix.