3 New Macs Coming; Google Home Catching Up With Amazon Echo; Nationalized 5G Network; Nissan Self-Parking Slippers

Apple is reportedly working on 3 new Models (maybe more). They will be integrated with custom co-processors, and Cupertino has both new laptops and desktops in the works, according to macrumors.com. Some could be out yet this year. Apple had already confirmed it was working on an new, modular Mac Pro, but what other models could be refreshed are only an educated guess at this point. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros could use it for sure, as well as the Air, and Mac Mini.

Amazon has held the lion’s share of home speakers with it’s Echo line, powered by Alexa, sitting at 69%. 9to5google.com points out that Google Home has grown from almost nowhere to 31% already, though, and now with the Apple HomePod just out, expect more erosion in that number. Google Home barely registered in June of 2017, but during the holidays grabbed 40% of sales…mainly due to success of the Home Mini! Microsoft’s Cortana speakers haven’t really moved the needle, but Apple could…recall how they jumped into the already going portable music market years ago with the iPod, and virtually took that segment over.

You have to go a ways to freak out and infuriate both the far left and the far right, but it looks like an idea from the Trump Administration has done just that. According to businessinsider.com, they are exploring a form of nationalized 5G wireless network. The government apparently fears a huge cybersecurity threat…mainly from China…if they don’t. Folks on the left and the right are more freaked out by the prospect of the government controlling the wireless network. The administration is looking at a totally government one, or a national network in partnership with the wireless companies. Both AT&T and Verizon have responded, noting that they are ‘already well down the road’ to 5G wireless networks nationwide. In other words…’bug off!’

Self-driving cars? Pfft! Get me some of these self-driving, self-parking slippers. Bgr.com says Nissan has made some for a Japanese hotel, the ProPILOT Ryokan. Little wheels drop out of the bottom, and a small electric motor run by a processor magically returns the slippers to their proper place! Apparently the TV remote will do the same in rooms, and the bedding is wired with tricks of their own. Personally, I bow down to our robot overlords…and request that my slippers head over here to my feet!

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More Next-Gen iPhone Rumors; Amazon & Google vs HomePod; Intel Security Issue

A number of sources point to 3 new iPhones this fall…a refreshed iPhone X, a bigger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5 inch screen…also with an OLED screen, and an in-between model with a 6.1 inch LCD screen. LG will make the 6.5 inch screens, with Samsung continuing to supply the 5.8 inch OLED screen Improvements to Face ID are also touted. Now, according to macrumors.com, there may be a 2nd generation iPhone SE out this spring. It will likely keep the same form factor with a 4 inch screen as the present SE.

Amazon and Google both had sizable discounts on their smart speakers heading into the holidays. 9to5mac.com reports that analysts think they both probably lost money on the units or just broke even, in order to grab market share before Apple releases its HomePod speaker. Not only that…and you probably figured this was coming…Alexa may be soon making suggestions when you are getting ready to shop or are shopping. Yep, product placement. You may suddenly find that Alexa is suggesting specific brands…Proctor & Gamble is one such ‘advertising partner’ being discussed. The thought is, people may just order the suggested brand instead of letting Alexa blather on.

There is apparently a serious security problem with all recent Intel chips…so big a problem, that they won’t really discuss how it works, or what it is, but patches are coming. This will affect virtually all late model Windows and Mac machines. Bgr.com says it will be a crucial patch…but there’s a hitch. The patch may slow down the computers by some 30%, but at least by 5%! Pretty much every computer made in the last 10 years is affected. (90% of servers and laptops.) The fix involves moving the chip’s kernel to a completely separate address space, so every system call will require switching between 2 address spaces to keep the kernel secure…that’s where the speed bump occurs. A later update may restore the speed, but for now…patch those things when the security update comes…otherwise, your machines can be hacked and give the hackers god like power over them…including ability to read all personal info and passwords.


Galaxy S8’s Bixby Button Can Be Changed to Google Assistant; Apple Says No to All-ARM Macs; Spotify Testing Lossless Audio; Unexpected Changes From Driverless Cars

Samsung touts its Bixby personal assistant and even provides a dedicated soft button for it. Now, 9to5google.com says an app lets you remap the button for Google Assistant (or other functions.) Just get the app All in One Gestures and you can remap buttons. Do expect a cat and mouse though, as Samsung try to disable the app from getting around their assistant!

Previously, Apple has said they think touchscreens on computers are less efficient than mice and touchpads. Macrumors.com reports that they have repeated this, and also said they have no plans for ARM chips in Macs, except as ‘companion processors,’ like the one that runs the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. For the foreseeable future, Cupertino’s laptops and desktops will continue to run on Intel silicon.

Last month, Spotify tested a new lossless version of its audio stream. According to theverge.com Spotify Hi-Fi will cost an extra $10 a month, on top of the $10 price of the premium ad-free service. Tidal already has hi-fi streaming for $19.99 a month. If you have a great audio system you route your streaming audio into, and have golden ears, it may be worth it, but several tech writers say it’s hard to tell the difference.

Driverless cars…a lot of folks are looking forward to surfing the web, watching videos, and otherwise kicking back during a commute in vehicles that handle the piloting chore for us. Washingtonpost.com notes some ways things might change you may not have thought of. It’s possible traffic could become worse, as people opt for the privacy of self-driving cars and ditch public transport. Also, with the array of cams and sensors, cars may become witnesses to crimes. This is random, but as electric self driving cars come on line, cigarette sales may drop, since a lot of gas stations make considerable extra cash selling those cancer sticks while we fill up. Air bags and crumple zones may become a thing of the past, as crashes practically disappear and they aren’t needed. You won’t need to circle like a vulture for parking, since the computer in the car will be able to find the closest spot…which will open frequently as shared vehicles come and go. Car expenses will drop…most cash goes into crashes and engine repairs. Electric cars require far less upkeep, and with nearly no crashes, cars could last far longer, too. Self driving trucks may not displace as many drivers as originally thought…there’s already a shortage, and as drivers retire, they just won’t be replaced. Plus, some firms will always carry a human to make sure cargo that’s loaded and unloaded isn’t ‘shorted’…they will want their person at the site to supervise.


Chromebook Has Outsold Macs; Facebook Testing Customizable Categories for Newsfeeds

Google’s cheaply priced Chromebooks outsold Macs in the US. first quarter. The verge.com reports that it’s mainly due to purchases of primary and secondary schools. According to IDC, Mac shipments 1st quarter of the year were around 1.76 million, and Dell, HP, and Lenovo combined to pump out almost 2 Million Chromebooks. While Apple can’t be happy about this, the real angst hast to be at Microsoft. Android apps running under Chrome will only further serve to erode Redmond’s grip on the PC market when that happens this Fall.

Brace yourselves….Facebook is once again monkeying with news feeds. According to thenextweb.com, they are testing out customizable news feed categories. Some people are seeing their mobile app news feeds separated by categories, like travel, music, TV and movies, food, and science. You can apparently also customize the specific news you want to see under those categories, such as animated films or reality TV under the entertainment category. Facebook tests out a lot of features, and if this one is adapted, it may be different than it appears right now.


Firefox May Come to Internet of Things; First Ransomware on Macs

Mozilla bowed out with its Firefox OS for mobile the end of the year, but now, may be positioning the platform for the Internet of Things. Techcrunch.com says we could soon have a ‘personal user agent’ that understands your preferences for all the connected devices in your home. One TechCrunch staffer remarked that it was reminiscent of the personal assistant Samantha from the movie ‘Her,’ or even a light version of IBM’s Watson. Mozilla thinks that its Project Smart Home will fill the gap between do it yourselfers and tightly controlled IOT setups using Apple HomeKit. It would be cool to tell your IOT assistant ‘please turn the lights off upstairs,’ or turn the heat up a couple degrees!

Over the weekend, the first ransomeware showed up on Macs. It’s been around for a while on PCs, but Reuters.com says researchers at Palo Alto Networks first spotted the malware late Friday. Ransomware, one of the fastest-growing types of cyber threats, encrypts data on infected machines, then typically asks users to pay ransoms in hard-to-trace digital currencies to get an electronic key so they can get their data back. This ransomware has been dubbed KeRanger, and it first showed up on the Transmission website. Transmission offers open source software that some Mac users use to download videos, music, etc via BitTorrent peer-to-peer. Transmission has since released version 2.91 of their software, and advises to stay away from 2.90, which was infected.


Amazon Prime Adds Free Photo Storage

You can never have too many backups, and now if you have Amazon Prime, you get unlimited photo storage in the cloud, according to theverge.com. Note that this will work on PCs, Android, and iOS, but not yet on Macs. Amazon says that’s coming. Keep in mind that cloud storage is great for convieninece, but do keep a local backup or 3 of your pictures.

Apple Pay has grabbed a big chunk of the pay with your phone market, even though Google Wallet was already available. Now, gigaom.com reports that Windows phone users can make payments at NFC retail terminals with the Softcard app.

HP is taking orders for a new gaming laptop to compete with Alienware models. Engadget.com says the big plus for the $1500, 15.6 inch touch screen rig is that it’s noticeably thinner than Alienware machines. It will ship this month.