Freshened MacBook Pro; Apple Watch Grows This Fall; Self-Driving Mercedes Test to Silicon Valley; Purple Galaxy Note 9

Apple has freshened it’s top drawer MacBook Pros today. Theverge.com reports that they come with updated processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and what Apple claims is a ‘quieter’ keyboard design. The 15 inch model gets a 70 percent performance boost and the 13 incher doubles in speed. The upgrade doesn’t apply to the base 13 inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), the MacBook, or MacBook Air. It is rumored the lower line MacBooks will be upgraded this fall. There is a beautiful new leather sleeve for the new MacBook Pros, in black, brown, and dark blue. The price is beautiful, to….a whopping $180 for a SLEEVE! OTOH, a fully tricked out 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back $6699! (Once your heart resumes beating….the base model remains the same at $2399.

Apple Watch gets updated this fall…probably at the iPhone event in September. One strong rumor from Ming-Chi Kuo is that both watches will get screen size increases without the watch getting larger. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will do this by cutting the bezel size. The screens will go from 1.31 inch and 1.54 inch to 1.57 and 1.78 inch sizes. the Watch will also get better heart rate detection.

Mercedes-Benz will start pilot testing self-driving taxis in Silicon Valley in 2019. Theverge.com reports that Daimler and Bosch have been partnering on the self-driving tech, which uses a custom version of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle tech. The cars will only follow preselected routes, and Mercedes hasn’t decided whether it will go with S-class cars (the biggest body Mercedes) or V-class vans, or both. As with all other self-driving cars right now, there will be a safety driver present in the vehicles.

A leaked poster shows the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in a purple color (which they’ve done before, calling it Lilac Purple) but with a twist this time…it comes with a gold S Pen. In addition, 9to5google.com says the phablet will continue to have a headphone jack. All will be revealed at Samsung’s Unpacked event, which is coming up on August 9th.

Advertisements

Twitter Tightening; WPA3 WiFi Security; Alexa Voice Hits iOS; Motion Sickness Fix for Self-Driving Car Riders

It’s widely known that Twitter has had ongoing issues with spam accounts and malicious automation. Twitter is saying that now, using AI, they are able to identify a lot more spam accounts and deactivate them more quickly…9.9 million a week, up from 3.2 million last September. Engadget.com reports that Twitter is not only using AI on present spammy accounts…going forward, new accounts will have to verify with an email address or phone number when they are being created. That feature will be out later this year. Meanwhile, the ‘firehose of social media’ will continue to audit and challenge what appear to be spammy accounts…like ones that do high volume Tweeting using the same hashtag or Tweeting at the same handle without getting a reply. 

After it got out that a huge number of routers had been infected with malware, here’s a little good news going forward: WPA3 has been finalized. New Wi-Fi routers will come with the stronger protections for your data using the new standard. Cnet.com says it will make it harder to run a common hacking attack on your router…frequently called an ‘offline dictionary-based attack,’ which allows hacker to make endless guesses of your Wi-Fi password. WPA3 is available on new routers certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It updates WPA2, which has been around since 2004 and has bee woefully out of date. Some manufacturers are looking for ways to update existing routers, but the best bet may be to upgrade your router in the coming months to one that comes with WPA3.

Alexa voice control for the Android app has been out nearly half a year, and Amazon says now it is finally coming to iOS. According to techcrunch.com, it isn’t baked in…you’ll need to tap a button in the app, but after that you can ask Alexa questions, listen to music, access skills, and control smart devices. The update is being rolled out to users over the next few days, so if you love controlling everything possible around your abode with Alexa voice commands, you’re going to have a way to do so on iOS. The touch of a button is unfortunate, but since Apple wants you to use their Siri, iOS devices are unlikely to get voice access without first touching the app. Since their last try at smartphones, Amazon has been at a disadvantage in the mobile market, having to rely on apps on Android and iOS without having and Alexa native device.

As with the space program years ago, Virtual Reality tech is throwing off some cool side benefits. Macrumors.com says Apple engineer and popular YouTuber Mark Rober is the primary inventor of some tech patents that can be used to help stop in-car motion sickness for passengers in self-driving cars. One replaces the view of the real world with virtual environments including visual cues to match the physical motion the passengers are experiencing. Another helps allow passengers to work or surf without getting sick. Drivers are usually not affected by motion sickness, as they are watching the road ahead and their surroundings. Besides his Apple engineer gig, Rober’s YouTube channel with science related videos has some 3.4 million subscribers!


Uber Wants Waymo Self-Drivers On Network; WWDC Apple Watch Leak; Reddit Passes Up Facebook; WeChat China-Divorce by Button

At the Code Conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosroshahi revealed that Uber has been in discussions to have Waymo self-driving cars added to its network. This is somewhat remarkable considering the two companies are just coming off a legal battle over alleged trade-secret theft. Theverge.com reports that the Uber CEO also forces self driving tech as ‘a horizontal technology that should be available to everybody.’ He believes that it will be open to all via third party licensing. What about the drivers? Khosrowshahi says they think ‘machines augment humans’ and that ultimately their network will be a machine network and a human network together.

A cool little nugget has been revealed ahead of time that Apple had planned for WWDC. June is Pride Month, and Apple will unveil a special Pride watch face at noon Pacific right at the end of the World Wide Developers Conference keynote. Mashable.com reports that the colors of the rainbow flag are strings on the watch face, and you can interact with them, like strumming a guitar. The special face has two complication spots.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics may be hurting the social media platform more than first thought. According to thenextweb.com, Amazon’s Alexa web traffic analyzing platform has determined that Reddit has passed up Facebook as third most visited site in the US. This is probably as scientific as a Survey Monkey poll, but it still gives pause. Google is the top site, with YouTube second, then Reddit, Facebook, and Amazon. Interestingly, average Reddit users spend over 15 minutes a day on the platform, compared to Google with about 7 and a quarter minutes, YouTube 8-1/2 minutes, Facebook at almost 11 minutes, and Amazon just over 7-1/2 minutes.

In what may be the ultimate for a no-deposit, no-return society, people in China can now file for divorce with a button on the WeChat app! Businessinsider.com says the trial divorce function is available right now in th eGuangdong Province, home to cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Just click, enter info, and make an appointment for the local divorce registrar. Payments can also be handled through WeChat, but so far they haven’t opened it up to spousal support payments! WeChat has a billion active users globally.


Google’s Waymo Pedestrian Detection Breakthrough; Facebook Reorganizes into 3 Divisions; iPhone Strikes Back at GreyKey

At Google I/O, Waymo took the stage with the claim that they have “unlocked truly autonomous vehicles.” Thenextweb.com reports that they have really made a breakthrough in making driverless cars safer for pedestrians…claiming to reduce the error-rate for detecting pedestrians by 100X (not 100%). The tech was even able to detect a man’s head sticking up out of a manhole and a person wearing a goofy costume like a sports mascot.

Facebook has reorganized into 3 new divisions, or product areas. The first consists of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. According to businessinsider.com, the 2nd category is for the more experimental parts of the company….AR, VR, and a new blockchain unit. The third area is for what they call ‘central product services. That consists of ads, analytics, integrity, growth, and product management. Facebook has moved around executive management to oversee the 3 new areas.

Apple is striking back at the GreyKey box, that allows law enforcement (or crooks that get hold of one) to get into iPhones. In iOS 11.4, which is in beta, there’s a USB restricted mode. Macrumors.com says that if the phone isn’t unlocked with a passcode or connected to the paired computer within a week, the Lightening port becomes useless for everything but charging.


Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)


Lyft To Test Self-Driving Cars Outside Concord, CA; Tesla’s Nav-Maps Engine Nears Completion; United Healthcare Looks to Apple Watch

A number of auto manufacturers are already testing self-driving equipment at the old Concord Naval Weapons Station on the Northeast part of Concord, CA. Now, Lyft has joined the party, according to theverge.com. Lyft will be testing out its self-driving tech at the 5000 square foot proving area. Uber already has a leg up on them, having started testing on public streets in several US cities. Besides Concord, there are 9 other official autonomous vehicle proving ground locations around the country, and of course, the auto makers all have had their own proving grounds for decades. Self-driving cars will be here sooner than you think…trucks, too…as Tesla is hauling a couple loads of batteries from the Gigafactory in Northern Nevada to their plant in Fremont, CA right now.

Speaking of Tesla, the Muskman has now said that their navigation and maps engine, which he claims is ‘light years ahead’ of all the others, is nearly done. Electrek.co reports that a hacker was able to get into a site Tesla is using, and posted screen shots. The hacker, who goes by ‘verygreen,’ says it looks like Google Maps, but is smoother and more detailed. Expect the software to be pushed out the Tesla owners sooner, not later.

Another company has joined the growing group offering people Apple Watches in an effort to monitor and keep them healthy…and this one is a biggie. 9to5mac.com says United Healthcare will make it so customers can earn an Apple Watch 3 basically for free, and on top of that will let users earn up to $1000 towards medical bills after the cost of the wearable.


Next iPhones-Smaller Then No Notches; Amazon Expands Discounted Prime; Cam Makers Partner for Easier Smartcams; Brits Refine Laws for Self-Driving Cars

The latest word, which comes from Korea’s ET News by way of macrumors.com, is that the next iPhones will have a notably smaller notch for the TrueDepth camera system. This will apparently be true for all 3 models expected in the fall. In addition to that, a sketchier rumor says Apple will be able to ditch the notch entirely in 2019!

Amazon already discounts Prime for people with an EBT card to $5.99 a month, instead of $12.99. Now, according to geekwire.com, they will expand this program to people on Medicaid, too. Users will still get free 2 day shipping, Prime Video, etc. Amazon says they plan to add other ways for people on assistance to qualify for the discount moving forward. The 2 day delivery for people on Medicaid is especially interesting since Amazon is looking to get into the prescription business.

Smartcams can bee cool to have for checking on kids, pets, or just for home security, but some can be a pain to set up, and even more so to get to work with other kinds, and with various systems. Now, Sony, Nikon, iPhone maker Foxconn, as well as others, are working together to make it possible for you to monitor video streams from different cams through a unified interface. Thenextweb.com reports that the makers are devising a specification called NICE so the footage from various cams can be split into scenes, indexed, made searchable and scannable in thumbnails, and more easily stashed in cloud storage. If all works out, there should be NICE cams and related products on the market by 2019.

Self-driving cars are gearing up to hit the roads, and like in the US, the Brits are trying to get things ready. Techcrunch.com says regulators in the United Kingdom are shooting for 2021 as the year driverless cars without a safety operator can be rolling on the roads there. A number of issues have to be worked out, including who is the responsible party if there’s no driver, and how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is shared control through some human-machine interface. If things go as planned, car makers may not have to worry one day about building right hand drive cars for the UK and a number of former British colonies that still drive on the left side of the road.