Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ Day

Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.

The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.

It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.

The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.

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Alibaba Singles’ Day-Biggest Online Shopping Day; French Will Look at Facebook Moderation Processes, Samsung Folder Could Cost…Gulp… $1790; CLEAR Tech Moves From Airports to Stadiums

This year on Singles’ Day, a huge day in China, Alibaba absolutely blew up online shopping. They took in $30.8 billion in sales in 24 hours Sunday, according to businessinsider.com. As a point of reference, total online sales last year on Black Friday were $5 billion, and Cyber Monday hit $6.6 billion! Alibaba sold as much in 5 minutes Sunday as Amazon does on an entire Prime Day (which was 36 hours long last year, and it’s estimated to have taken in $4.2 billion.) Singles’ Day sales for Alibaba were across its main Alibaba site as well as Taobao.com and Tmall.com, two other sites it owns and operates.

Facebook continues to get heat for doing too little with regards to protecting user rights and policing fake news and other political manipulation. Now, techcrunch.com reports that the company will cooperate with the French government as they look into FB’s moderation…including Facebook giving ‘unprecedented access’ to their internal processes. France is looking for a third way to regulate tech…not the hands off of the US nor the locked down, repressed system China has in place.

We’ve now seen a glimpse of the Samsung folding phone at their developers’ conference, and now hear it should be hitting the streets by next March. 9to5google also notes that the phone/phablet with the Infinity Flex display will retail for $1790!! It will be known as the Samsung Galaxy F, as predicted. Folded, you have a 4.6 inch outside display, but unfolded, you get a nice, phablet-sized 7.4 inches. A cool tech that has taken a long time to come into being, but at nearly $1800, it may remain a boutique gadget, and not a top seller.

CLEAR…the folks that charge $179 a year to get you more quickly through airport lines using biometrics…is now up and running in stadiums. Geekwire.com says the service is free for sports events…besides handing over your fingerprints and taking about 5 minutes to make an account. Both CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field have implemented the service, which gets you in via a shorter line AND it enables you to both age verify and pay with your prints when buying a beer at concession stands! There are currently 4 stands at Seahawks games with the CLEAR scanners, so you can grab that brewski a little faster and get back to the game!


Google Announces Native Android ‘Foldables’ Support; Coming-Facebook 10 Minute Grace Period to Unsend Messages; Mercedes’ AI Package Delivery Tech

With a maker in China already having released a folding smartphone, Samsung releasing more about their Galaxy F, and LG on the verge of unveiling one, Google today announced Android support for a ‘foldables’ category. 9to5google.com reports that the new category of phone that unfolds into a tablet will have native Android support, allowing for makers to give you a phone with a screen like we all have, but unfolding to reveal a larger, phablet screen on the inside that is double the size of the ‘outside’ screen. Google’s ‘screen continuity’ will allow you to start with an app on the outside screen, then unfold and seamlessly continue on the bigger inner screen without a hitch. Samsung has been working closely with Google on this Android category, and is expected to release the Actual Galaxy F model early next year. The internal screen is said to be 7.3 inches.

If you have sent a Facebook private message, and instantly regretted it, you will like this. For some time, Facebook has had an ‘unsend’ feature for their top brass. Now, according to engaeget.com, the social media giant may be getting set to release the feature to everyone. It’s not an hour to change your mind like What’sApp, but a 10 minute grace period ought to be enough for people who hit send, and have nearly instant remorse. Of course, even with this feature, if the recipient has already seen the message within the 10 minute period, the deletion won’t undo whatever damage has been done to your relationship with them!

The engineers and programmers at Mercedes have been experimenting with a number of different ways to help automate delivery vehicles, so the driver/delivery person can get packages to you more quickly and efficiently. Some have ended hilariously…like one with a Ferris wheel and baskets…that one ended when a gallon of milk basically exploded all over a van. Now, the German conglomerate is trialing its latest idea. Cams and sensors light up shelves, and show the driver which shelf and spot is best for a package…lighting up green. On arrival at a drop off, it lights up green again…and everything flashes red if the person grabs the wrong item. The built in sensors also allow for less hand scanning, which should shave additional time off deliveries. AI not only helps figure out the best spot in the truck for the packages, but plots out the delivery route based on what packages are loaded and their destination addresses. Mercedes thinks this system will help the likes of FedEx and UPS, but will be even more beneficial to smaller delivery company, like those indie operators contracted by Amazon.


Facebook Chat Cam For TV; Netflix Roars With Q3; Tesla Buys Factory Site in China; Helm Shows Personal Private Email Server

On the heels of introducing their Portal video devices, with the cams that follow you around the room, Facebook is working on one that will live on top of your TV and make it into a giant sized Portal. Engadget.com says it’s code named ‘Ripley,’ and is expected to bow next spring.

In not-so-cool news about Facebook, they had previously announced that the Portal devices wouldn’t be collecting your data as the devices live in your house and serve you ads. Well, that may be true, BUT they will be hoovering up your data on who you call, and what apps you use, etc, and THAT data WILL be used to serve you ads on Facebook and its other platforms. Recode.net notes that this shouldn’t be a shock, since Facebook’s entire business model is based on using tons of data about you to serve you ads. Oh…and all the video views they get and how we’ve heard that video is much more important than printed content…well that was basically a big lie. Hire back writers, media…the written word still grabs lots and lots of eyeballs!

Netflix blew away Wall Street expectations, picking up 6.96 million new subscribers in the third quarter, while the Street expected 5.3 million. According to businessinsider.com, Netflix made 89 cents a share, which was 21 cents more than analysts had expected. Netflix did warn that per share earnings would be down in the final quarter…as they will have to recognize money invested in licensing and developing movies and shows, especially its ‘Originals.’

Not wanting to miss out on the big Chinese market or have sales impeded by the Trump tariffs, Tesla has bought a 210 acre site in Shanghai to build a new factory…one that will make the batteries as well as the cars. Arstechnica.com reports that it is in the so-called ‘free trade zone.’ Tesla expects that in 2 to 3 years, they can be pumping out 500,000 cars a year from the factory, and will avoid having prices increase by 60% if the tariffs continue or increase.

Now, you don’t have to be a public figure or a security wizard to rock your own private email server. Now, there’s Helm, a gadget that looks like a peaked roof on a tiny doll house or a hardcover book sitting on its edges with the spine at the top…that makes it as easy to set up a personal email server as setting up an Amazon Echo. Mashable.com notes that with your own server, your email will be physically in your home, not in the ether on some cloud server somewhere…but it’s still accessible from anywhere. The gadget has 128Gigs of built in storage and has a tray that can add up to 5 TB more. It’s $499, but you’ll need their update service (for security updates) for $99 a year, too. The Helm has a security key…actually a physical, metal key that plugs into a port on the top. Even if someone got physical access to the server, without the key, all is encrypted. There’s a back up electronic key that can live on your phone. It’s comparable with any email client that works with IMAP mail, including Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, and a number of others. The service will walk you through migrating cloud service mail like Gmail to the little box.


Facebook Launches Portal Video Chat Screens; Google’s Pixel 3 Event; Microsoft Game Streaming Service; Oct Windows 10 Update Pulled

Facebook has dropped its first hardware product in the Portal line. TechCrunch.com says they are auto-zooming video chat screens ranging in price from $199 to $349. The Portal units will run Alexa and eventually Google Assistant in a countertop video chat screen that zooms to always keep you in frame. The big question will be whether people will want a Facebook cam and microphone in their house, even with a physical clip-on privacy shield. At any rate, the presale starts now. For $199, you get the 10 inch screen Portal, and for $349 you will be the proud owner of a 15.6 inch swiveling screen with a hi-fi audio Portal+. Save $100 if you buy any two Portal devices. The screens come with ‘Hey Portal’ voice navigation, bluetooth and voice activated music, Facebook Messenger for video calls, Spotify and Pandora. More video provers to come. Facebook claims there is built in privacy…no facial recognition but something called 2D pose that runs locally on the device to keep you in picture. They claim the unit only turns on with the wake word, and that it doesn’t save recordings…also they have data encryption. With a tap you can automatically disable the cam and mic, and it does have a plastic privacy shield you can slide over the cam if you still want to chat…without video. They ship in November. You can preorder at Portal.Facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy.

Tomorrow, October 9th, Google will be showing their latest at an event scheduled for 11am Eastern, 8 Pacific. Theverge.com reports that the flood of leaks has given us a good idea of what to expect. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL phones top the list…in fact, someone got hold of a working Pixel 3 in Asia a couple days ago from a source…talk about a leak! The phones sport target screens, wireless charging, and a second selfie cam. Also expected is a wireless charging stand for the handsets. There MAY be a Google Home speaker with a smart display to compete with the Amazon Echo Show. An expected item is the Pixel Slate, A Google branded Chrome OS tablet. Rumors have it with a detachable keyboard, and expect it to be fairly high end like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro.There will probably be a Pixelbook update, but probably not a major overhaul there. We’ll have details after the actual event tomorrow.

Look for a beta in 2019 of Microsoft’s game streaming service, Project xCloud. According to engadget.com, the idea behind the cloud system is to allow users to play any video game where they feel the most comfortable or where it’s convenient….on a console, a computer, or mobile device. Of course, Microsoft is most interested in making it as frictionless as possible for users to play their own Xbox One games. Even with the beta out next year, Redmond cautions that this is a complicated project, and may take a while longer to perfect.

Microsoft has pulled the October update to Windows 10 (version 1809) after complaints that it deleted user’s files. ZDnet.com says some users said they couldn’t even recover all files using a recovery product like Recuva. There was a similar issue with the April, 2018 update. In that case, Microsoft delayed the update until the end of the month to squash the bugs.


Oculus Connect 5 Tomorrow; Apple Watch Gets 2nd Manufacturer; Google Chrome Addressing Log in Privacy; ARM Chip Just for Autonomous Cars; Airport Face Scanning #FAIL

Facebook is holding their Oculus Connect 5 event in San Jose. According to techcrunch.com, they will be showing off their stand alone headset, which has been code named ’Santa Cruz.’ What’s unknown now is the pricing. With the Oculus Go selling for $199, some analysts expect the free standing headset to run $349-$399. It will be powered by a Snapdragon 845, while the Go has the older 821 chip set. Also expected tomorrow will be a sneak peak at the next-gen Oculus Rift. The present Rift is 2 years old, and it’s thought the update will utilize the ‘half dome’ manner of lenses focusing on objects…dynamically like your eyeballs instead of fixed focal distance. [UPDATE: The Oculus Quest, a standalone VR headset that uses touch controllers, will go on sale next spring for $399. Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the product today at the company’s Oculus Connect developer conference.]

It’s been noted that the Apple Watch 4 is selling much better than Apple had expected. Now, macrumors.com says Apple is adding another manufacturer in Taiwan to help keep up with demand. Compal Electronics will begin mass producing Watch 4 in November, joining Quanta Computer, which is apparently maxed out trying to keep up with Apple Watch 4 sales. Apple Watch is now not only the most popular smartwatch by an number of metrics, but has apparently passed Rolex as the world’s most popular watch of any kind.

We just reported that there was a dubious feature that when you logged into a Google account, you got logged into Chrome too, and your browsing data got sent to Google. Now, thenextweb.com reports Google will address this privacy concern in the next release of Chrome….which will be version 70. With the update, you will be able to toggle an option called Allow Chrome sign-in, so can choose not to if you prefer. Also to be addressed is a nasty little issue…Chrome 69 apparently keeps Google cookies EVEN if you delete them! They have promised that 70 will fix this issue, too.

ARM has added what they call a Split-Lock feature to their 64 bit Cortex A76…which will now be the A76AE….for automotive enhanced. According to the Register, the improved chip is aimed at running code controlling self-driving vehicles. By allowing the split of cores, if there’s a malfunction, the other core should be able to keep running code, which is pretty important when it’s driving your vehicle. ARM hopes the improvement will keep them in the self-driving auto game along with Intel and Nvidia.

The US has been testing face scanning at airports, but with less than stellar results so far. Engadget.com says they are only catching about 85%, and have trouble matching people from specific age groups and countries. The Inspector General’s Office says they may not be ready for deployment in the top 20 airports by 2021 as originally planned.


iPhone XR Could Be Half New iPhone Sales; Zuck Says FB Needs Help On Election Prep; Mapillary Partners With Amazon- Parking Spot Tech

DigiTimes is prediction that Apple’s new lineup of iPhones should end up with sales of over 85 million units the second half of this year. Macrumors.com reports that DigiTimes also predicts that the new, less expensive iPhone XR could account for over half of new iPhone sales. The estimates are based on supply chain information and Apple’s previous year sales. The XR goes on preorder next month, while the two more expensive models, Xs and Xs Max can be preordered tomorrow.

With less than 60 days to the US midterm elections, Mark Zuckerberg is warning that Facebook can’t fight election interference alone. According to businessinsider.com, Zuck dropped a 3,000 word essay titled “Preparing for Elections.” He says Facebook has started proactively cooperating with state officials to solve the problem of election interference. Although not apologizing for Facebook’s role in the last elections re fake news, Zuckerberg has admitted he should have taken the problem more seriously, and the essay crystalizes his (and Facebook’s) thinking on how they can do better moving forward…but that they need the help of governments, other tech companies, and journalists.

Mapillary has partnered with Amazon Rekognition for visual data analysis to try to make it easier for people to find parking in congested urban areas. Venturebeat.com says the Swedish startup is developing a street level imagery platform that used computer vision tech to enhance digital maps. They will use Amazon’s text-in-image feature to scan parking sign data on a massive scale. The startup already has 350 million images, but will need the Amazon system to read the text on signs that tell how many spaces are available, etc. In initial tests of 40,000 signs, they are correct 95% of the time. Any app that makes it less of a hassle to find parking will be welcomed everywhere.