Offline Gmail Support Rolls Out; Warrantless Cellphone Tracking; Apple v Samsung, Round 3; Amazon Go to San Francisco

The offline Gmail support for search, archive, and compose is rolling out on the web. the feature was promised at Google I/O. Up to now, Gmail over the web had offline capability via the Gmail Offline Chrome app. Google recommends you uninstall the app, as the functionality is not built right into the web app. When you reconnect with the web, your changes will synch up automatically. You’ll need chrome 61 or better to use the feature. Just go to settings and hit the Offline tab, then ‘enable offline mail.’ The default stores 30 days of messages, but you can select 7 or 90 days.

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about over lack of privacy…now, it turns out that a company which mainly works with prison phone systems has leveraged a data-sharing service offered by phone carriers that allows police to track any cellphone number, with no legal checks…like a warrant…to keep the practice from being abused. The New York Times says the company is called Serurus, and they an another company are making available data the phone carriers already offer to marketers to police agencies…basically uncontrolled access to nationwide location tracking. Senator Ron Wyden has already written to the FCC and the carriers, asking them to tighten these disclosures up.

Facebook is apparently working behind the scenes, to try to make up for the Cambridge Analytica debacle. They have now suspended over 200 suspicious apps, and have reviewed ‘thousands so far,’ in the audit promised by Mark Zuckerberg, according to techcrunch.com. The social network has not released the names or info on those apps so far, and says in some cases, apps will be reinstated after reviews, interviews, and even some on-site inspections of the makers. Apparently, apps that don’t agree to the through audit are banned outright. Apps that have grabbed data will be listed on https://www.facebook.com/help/yourinfo, if you want to check whether or not one has gotten your data.

It’s the third trial in 8 years in Silicon Valley for Apple and Samsung over smartphone intellectual property. This one is centered around the $500 million judgment Apple got in the last one.
The judge is the same one who heard both the previous trials. The jury will have to interpret a completely new (and extremely vague) test that came out of the US Supreme Court appeal of this case. The outcome could well re-write US patent law, in a way that could greatly affect makers of complex products such as electronics or electric cars.

Amazon Go appears to be coming to San Francisco. The Chronicle reports that they have their eyes on a site around Post and Kearny near Union Square. Amazon Go is the ‘frictionless’ shopping experience, where you simply log in with an app, pick what you want from the shelves, then just walk out and your account is automatically billed…no waiting in lines at the checkout. Amazon hasn’t commented, but there may be an announcement in a few weeks.

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New iPhones May All Have Wireless Charging; Chevy Self-Driving Car…It’s Among Us

A lot has been made about the iPhone 8…OLED screen, possible all-glass form, and wireless charging. Now, businessinsider.com says wireless charging is not only a ‘go,’ but that the 7S and 7S Plus will also get it AND will all be all-glass. KGI Securities also predicts that the wireless charging is one reason the 8 will break the $1000 barrier. Extra layers have to be added to prevent overheating of the 3D Touch sensor from the wireless system. The two phones with the LED screens won’t have this issue. The new 3D touch sensor is expected to provide a better user experience.

General Motors has been testing out its self-driving car, code named Albatross, on the streets of San Francisco. SFGate.com reports that the Cruise Automation division of GM released a video of the vehicle rolling through the Potrero and then Mission neighborhoods. The dash cam video shows that the driver has hands near the wheel, but the car appears to be fully automatic. From the looks of the dash, it’s a Chevy Bolt electric vehicle. Last year, according to theverge.com, General Motors self-driving cars drove nearly 10,000 miles around California. During those test-drives, the cars had to be taken out of autonomous mode 181 times at a rate of 18.5 times per 1,000 miles.


Google May Make Samsung Ditch Hot Galaxy S8 Feature; Uber Launches Self-Driving Cars in San Francisco; Amazon Tests Drone Deliveries in the UK

One cool feature Samsung has been planning to give Galaxy S8 buyers may be out. Bgr.com reports that the Viv virtual assistant may be blocked by Google. Samsung’s deal with Google requires them to use the upcoming Google Assistant…or whatever they end up calling it…on Android. Viv runs rings around Google when it comes to complicated queries. It’s still possible that Viv will debut on the S8 in February, if Google thinks it will look too bad blocking the hot feature.

Uber self-driving cars roll out in San Francisco today. They will be the same as is used in Pittsburgh, PA…Volvo XC90’s with a driver behind the wheel, and a co-pilot of sorts, collecting and analyzing data. According to recode.net, Uber hasn’t applied for permits for the cars, which is required by California DMV, but since there’s a driver sitting behind the wheel, they may not technically need to. A self driving Uber will cost the same as Uber X. One caveat…the cars can’t leave San Francisco.

Amazon Prime Air has kicked off test deliveries in the United Kingdom. It’s a very small trial…only two beta users near the fulfillment center in Cambridge so far. Techcrunch.com says the first delivery was an Amazon Fire TV and bag of popcorn, and it arrived in 13 minutes. The drones can carry up to 5 pounds. The first customers can order 7 days a week, but only during daylight and in weather decent enough to fly the drones. The customer has to roll out a small mat in a back yard or the like for the drone to spot and land on.


Electric Car Builder Faraday to Build Factory in SF Area; Apple Joining the Voice Command Speaker Club

It would be the biggest employer to hit Vallejo, Northeast of San Francisco, since the Navy closed the Mare Island submarine base. Los Angeles based Faraday Future, the electric car startup rumored to be backed out of China, is apparently about to lock in a deal to buy a 157 acre site on Mare Island to build a car production facility and showroom. According to San Francisco Business Times, if the deal is done, Faraday has a 6 month window to firm up a proposal to build a million square foot facility on Mare Island. Faraday is already building a billion dollar, 3 million square foot facility in North Las Vegas.

Now that Google has showed it’s answer to the Amazon Echo, there are reports that Apple will have a new speaker and mic, and tools for Siri developers by their upcoming World Wide Developers Conference next month. Thenextweb.com says Apple probably intends to stitch in their Home system for the internet of things in addition to polling for restaurants and checking Maps and the rest. The lone holdout in the AI assistant sweepstakes now is Microsoft with Cortana.


Lobbying for Self-driving Cars Takes Quantum Leap; Amazon Prime Now SF Launch With New Guarantee

A gigantic lobbying group has just been formed to press regulators to allow for self-driving cars. Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo are all involved. It’s called the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, according to theverge.com, and is headed by David Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator. They will press the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with a clear set of federal standards by this summer.

Amazon has added San Francisco as the 8th city for its Prime Now one hour restaurant delivery service. With over 4000 restaurants packed into 49 square miles, San Francisco may be the restaurant capital of the world, and Amazon has thrown in a new feature…for all markets with Prime Now…a price guarantee. Geekwire.com says if you find a lower price on the restaurant’s in-person menu within 24 hours, you’ll get a refund. 33 zip codes in the City by the Bay will get the service, and there are 117 restaurants to choose from. If you want to try it out, it’s FREE during launch. Regular price for One Hour Prime Now is usually $7.99.


Find in iOS 9 Beta Points to Larger iPad

A developer running the beta of iOS 9 has found a hidden, larger keyboard layout in the system, according to theverge.com. The scaled up keyboard isn’t a dramatic departure from the present one, but does add a narrow top row of symbols keys, adds a redo key, a tab key, and a caps lock key. A widely rumored 12 inch plus iPad dubbed the ‘Pro’ is expected out later this year.

Engadget.com reports that Google has killed off the widely disliked bookmark manager, and reverted to the previous version. The cluttered, slower version can still be downloaded as an extension from the Chrome Web Store for those who really want it.

A security researcher was able to hack a page on Uber’s website, with a humorous result. Businessinsider.com says Uber’s micro-site on their website with a petition to get San Francisco to allow them to operate on Market Street had the flaw. The hacker was able to just key in ‘zipcode,’ instead of numbers. Being a security researcher, he didn’t dump malware code or steal information…he uploaded an ad for arch rival Lyft to Uber’s site!