Facebook ‘Shadow Profiles’; Snapchat Tries V. 2.0 Spectacles; Gmail Web Redesign

Of all the deliberately boring and evasive answers Mark Zuckerberg gave at the congressional hearings this week, one of the most interesting was to a question by New Mexico Representative Ben Lujan, who asked about ‘shadow profiles.’ The term refers to data Facebook collects about non users, and other info the company has but doesn’t admit to to users. TechCrunch.com reports that Zuckerberg said the company collects info on people who haven’t signed up for security purposes to try to prevent data scraping and the like, but balked at calling them shadow profiles. He also played dumb about how many data points FB has on each user. Zuck did admit that non users can’t really opt out of data collection the company does to prevent scraping info of others…and the Congressman pointed out that those are folks who have never signed any sort of consent or privacy agreement. Privacy? They’ve got your stinkin’ privacy!

Snapchat’s first swing at Spectacles was a 40 million dollar whiff. Now, the company is teeing up for another shot at the concept. According to 9to5mac.com, they have filed with the FCC for second generation ones. In the filing, they are identified as a
‘wearable video camera,’ and model ‘002.’ No drawings were included, but they will come with 802.11ac WiFi and will work over both the 2.4 and 5 gig bands. They do apparently have Made for iPhone branding and mention support for iPhone X as well as other earlier devices. There may be a higher end version running around $300 and built of nicer materials like aluminum. So far, nothing as far as when we might actually see version 2.0 of Spectacles.

It’s been a year since Google noted that a revamp was coming to Gmail. It looks like the redo is coming in the form of an early access program in the next few weeks. We received an email blast that came out to G Suite administrators yesterday, with the promise of a new design for the Gmail web interface, and some new features including Calendar within Gmail and Smart Reply. There will also be a snooze feature which will hide emails for a selected amount of time. Perhaps the coolest upcoming feature is offline support. Google says we can expect native offline support by July. (This will replace the Gmail Offline Chrome app.) Many popular Chrome extensions will continue to work on the new Gmail experience, however.

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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.


Apple’s Siri Speaker in Production; Skype Gets Major Makeover With ‘Me Too’ Features

Apple’s smart speaker, powered by Siri, is apparently in production and will be showed off at WWDC, according to bloomberg.com. In an effort to outshine Amazon and Google offerings, it will feature virtual surround sound, be louder and reproduce sound more ‘crisply’ than others, and (of course) have deep integration with other Apple products. It will also serve as a hub for Apple HomeKit connected devices. The device will be built by the Taiwanese company Inventec, which produces AirPods for Apple. It is expected to be out later this year.

Microsoft is giving Skype yet another makeover, but this one is much more than a fresh coat of paint. The latest iteration takes on the look of Snapchat. Theverge.com reports that although Skype has done well for video and audio calls, it hasn’t made much of a dent in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, or Snapchat….and messaging is where the growth in conversations live. The new interface includes 3 sections in a conversation: find, chat, and capture. Chat is what is sounds like, but the other two allow you to search a convo, or find images, restaurants, or content to drop into a message. Capture is where Microsoft has added the Snapchat like capabilities….the cam opens so you can shoot pics or video, then you can add stickers, text, or annotate the shot. There’s also a Highlights feature so friends can stream pics and videos of yours and react with emoji.


Apple Issues With Touch ID for iPhone 8; Snapchat Launches ‘World Lenses’; Pornhub Rolls Out Snapchat for Nudes

Some reports are indicating that Apple’s plan to put the fingerprint scanner under the edge to edge display is not going well. If so, this could be more than a fly in the ointment for the 10th anniversary iPhone….more like a buzzard! Bgr.com reports that even with 3D facial recognition cams that the phone will apparently have, Apple still needs Touch ID to work well for signing into apps and services, and using Apple Pay. Apparently, Cupertino hasn’t placed firm orders for production of the sensors. They have also looked at The Synaptic optical fingerprint solution Samsung wanted to use on the Galaxy S8…as we know, that one didn’t make it, and Samsung had to put the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. Apple could delay the launch of the iPhone 8 or may have to drop the fingerprint sensor, which would cause an uproar.

Snapchat has rolled out what they call 3D World Lenses in an app update. According to 9to5google.com, World Lenses will work like the selfie Lenses feature, only add 3D elements to shots taken with the back camera, like adding shadows and depth, in addition to the whimsical overlays everyone loves from Snapchat.

In somewhat related news, Pornhub has released their own ‘Snapchat for nudes,’ giving people the option of covering their private areas with stickers and graphic animations. Thenextweb.com says the app is available from the App Store and Google Play for those who want to sext, but are a little shy about exposing the whole enchilada.


Samsung Rolls Out Galaxy S8s; Congress Passes Bill Allowing ISPs to Sell Your Browsing History; Facebook Rolling Out Snapchat Clone in Main App

Samsung officially rolled out the Galaxy S8 and S8+ in New York today. Bgr.com says the beautiful new phones will be on preorder tomorrow, the 30th, and on sale Friday, April 21st. As predicted, it has the assistant Bixby with a dedicated virtual button that responds instantly, and DeX, a desktop interface…you plug the phone into it and can connect peripherals and a display via the USB and HDMI ports. The edge to edge screen is stunning. Your bank account may be stunned too, as the pricing has crept past the one grand barrier, as is also rumored to be the case for Apple’s iPhone 8 this Fall.

The House voted to eliminate ISP privacy rules yesterday, allowing them to sell your browsing and app usage history to advertisers and other companies. According to arstechinca.com, it was pretty much a party line vote, with the Republicans supporting sale and sharing of your info. It had already cleared the Senate 50-48, also on straight party lines. Look for the use of private VPNs and other measures to increase, as users move to protect their own privacy however they can.

Facebook is now putting a full-on Snapchat clone front and center inside the main Facebook app. Mashable.com says The update not only pushes you to use Facebook’s new camera feature but puts friends’ stories — yes, it’s called Facebook Stories — at the top of your News Feed. The update, which is rolling out now, consists of three features: Facebook Camera, Facebook Stories, and Direct, a dedicated space for messages exchanged via the new in-app camera that lets you can decorate your photos and videos with filters, “masks” (Facebook’s version of lenses), and other animated effects. If you use the Direct feature, the story is sent via direct message, and disappears after it’s seen.


Dueling Display Rumors for iPhone 8; Gmail Android App Adds Money Sending

Just yesterday, we had a rumor that the iPhone 8 would keep a flat screen as it goes to AMOLED. Now, macrumors.com says a new one points to a ‘slightly curved’ screen…not near as curved as a Samsung Galaxy Edge, but a gentle curve. Actually, the present iPhones curve at the edges very slightly, so it may be a matter of semantics or maybe it’s because Apple generally builds a number of different test models before settling on a final design. In this case, we may not really know for sure until fall.

Users of the Gmail app on Android can now send or request money with anyone, including those who don’t have a Gmail address, with just a tap. Mashable.com says
it’s designed to make exchanging money as easy as attaching a file. Just tap the attachment icon (the paperclip), then choose either send or request money. A pop-up window appears where you can input the amount and add a note, and send. The entire process takes place in the Gmail app — you don’t have to have Google Wallet installed. Recipients can configure it so the money they receive through Gmail goes directly into their bank account. There are no fees involved. A little late to the party, but Google joins PayPal, Venmo, Square Cash, Snapchat, and Facebook Messenger in adding a cash sending feature.


Across the Board iPad Refresh Coming; Snapchat Starts Selling Spectacles Online; BMW & VW Partner With Mobileye To Crowdsource Info For Self-Driving Cars

Apple will do a top to bottom refresh of iPads next month. Arstechnica.com reports that often reliable site Mac Otakara reaffirms that apple will add a new 10.5 inch iPad to the 7.9, 9.7, and 12.9 inch models. It will be something of a ‘mini’ version of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro, and will sport 4 speakers, Smart Connector, True Tone Display, and a 12 MP rear camera. The biggest iPad will also get True Tone and the better camera.

Snapchat maker Snap has been selling its Spectacles camera glasses in pop up vending machines for a while now, but has put that on hold as they have started selling them online. According to businessinsider.com, anyone in the US can order a pair of the $130 glasses which record 10 second video clips and send them to the Snapchat app.

BMW and Mobileye are partnering to crowdsource traffic data for self-driving cars, starting in 2018. Techcrunch.com says BMW will join Volkswagen in the crowdsourcing of road hazards, traffic delays, weather info, and parking availability. The more cars that provide data to the cloud and then back to other cars, the more accurate it will be.