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!

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HomePod Sounds Great, Siri Sucks; Pixel 2 Visual Core Works With Apps; France Bans Handheld Smartphone Use in Cars; Military-Self Driving Vehicles & Auto Weapons

A number of reviews are out for Apple’s HomePod. According to 9to5mac.com (as I am way too small potatoes to have actually gotten a review unit), reviewers are pretty universally impressed with the HomePod’s great sound. On the other hand, they hate the stupidity of Siri compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. The semi-smart speaker also gets knocks for being a closed system (like Apple would ever make it otherwise!) It won’t work with Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc. If you have all your music on Apple’s system, and love great sound with tight, loud, punchy bass and crisp highs, that sounds good anywhere in the room, by all means…go for it.

Google’s Pixel 2 had gotten accolades from it’s great camera app. The pix are just great on its proprietary processor Now, techcrunch.com says Google is opening up that tech to third party apps. As of today, it will work on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Snapchat if you update the software. That software is showing up as part of the monthly software update today…although it may take a day or two to get to you…your mileage may vary.

Love ‘em…hate ‘em, it’s often fun to pick on the French. Now, they’ve done something that may have their own citizens up in arms. 9to5google.com reports that France has banned hand held smartphone use in cars…EVEN if the car is sitting still with the engine off! Apparently, France changed their legal definition of driving to include everything except being parked off-road or in a designated parking spot! The fine is 135 Euros, and points on your license, same as if you were motoring down the road doing it. I suspect the French may invent a new hand sign to display in protest of this!

Welcome to the future and our new, robotic overlords! The military is now testing autonomous vehicles equipped with robotic weapons systems! According to zdnet.com, the Army has announced ‘Wingman,’ and they have successfully destroyed targets from a self-driving Hummer with an autonomous 7.62mm weapon system. The Army claims that, for the foreseeable future, there will always be a human soldier in the loop, making the decisions.


Skype Getting Real Time Language Translation on PCs

Microsoft has announced that Skype Translator, which has been freestanding and Spanish to English only, will be coming to Windows PCs in the next few weeks. Geekwire.com reports that it will be a baked in feature to PC based Skype, and will also add French, German, Italian, and Mandarin for voice, plus 50 written languages. They won’t have it out for smartphones, at least for a while. Microsoft admits it’s not perfect, but early tests indicated people can carry on a conversation with it.

Battery life just sucks, and virtually every gadget we use runs by battery power. Something better may be on the way, at least for the smaller devices. According to engadget.com, scientists in Canada and France have come up with a micro-supercapacitor with the same energy density of most lithium ion batteries. Even Elon Musk has lusted for capacitors as a replacement for batteries, since you can recharge them infinitely without loss of capacity. The rub with the micro-supercapacitor is it’s built from exotic materials like gold and ruthenium oxide, so crazy expensive when you scale up in size. The scientists say for replacing micro batteries, though, the capacitors can store 1000 times the energy of those tiny batteries. They may be showing up in wearables before long, but we’ll have to wait a while for instant charging cell phones and electric cars.