Tesla Model 3 Orders; Facebook-Not Listening; Google Gaming; CIMON Robot to ISS

If you have a reservation and deposit on a Tesla Model 3, you’re in luck….you can start spec’ing out your future car. On the occasion of Elon Musk’s 47th birthday, techcrunch.com says you can now log on to the Tesla website and start configuring your car with the online design studio. For now, only the two higher cost Model 3s are available to be configured, and they aren’t giving an estimated delivery time for some models, but if you pick the dual motor performance version…the most expensive one…Tesla says you should have it in two to four months. For advance order holders that plunked down $1000 to get in line, it will be nice to at least spec out their car.

There was a flurry of reports yesterday that a patent showed that Facebook might be getting ready to switch on your phone’s mic when your TV was on and secretly record you and what you are watching…to better serve you ads. Theverge.com has pointed out that a number of sources saw the title and what’s called the ‘abstract’ of a patent, and got this idea…without actually reading the claims…which are the actual subject matter of the patent.  It’s really a system that receives a user ID and an audio fingerprint, matches that audio fingerprint to some content, sees if that content was played for a certain duration, and then checks a counter to see if that content has been played a specific number of times. No microphone use at all. With all they already know about all of us, they could practically write a conversation in our living room, IMHO!

Earlier this year, there was a rumor that Google might be getting into gaming. Now, further reporting from 9to5google.com indicates that it’s happening. The project apparently involves a streaming platform to offer games from the cloud without presumably having to download large files in the tens of gigabytes, as well as hardware. In other words, you could open a tab on your browser and play a game. Google has been in talks with some major game studios about content. They have also hired some top game developers and marketers lately. Here’s a Google-esque wrinkle they are considering…if you hit a tough level or boss, you could hit a key to activate an overlay on your screen that cues up a YouTube walkthrough of the game you’re playing.

The International Space Station is getting a new crew member. On the SpaceX supply ship that blasted off this morning is a round robot with a flat side for a face dubbed CIMON…for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion. Engadget.com says it can speak, respond to spoken commands using AI, and fly…well, obviously fly…there’s no gravity on the ISS! The helpful robot can display repair instructions on a screen with just a voice command, so astronauts can keep both hands free for doing the repair. It will also be able to display procedures for experiments, and be something of a floating database. The ‘brains’ of the little robot are made by IBM, and the body and flight mechanism are built by Airbus.

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SpaceX Will Build BFR in L.A.; Netflix Adds Yet More Subscribers; Big Walmart Web Makeover; If Facebook Went Subscription

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti let the cat out of the bag during a speech yesterday…and it’s a BIG cat! SpaceX will build their BFR- Big Falcon Rocket at the Port of L.A. According to arstechnica.com, SpaceX has leased an 18 acre site at Berth 240 at the port. SpaceX is apparently already moving hardware to temporary facilities, but will build a state of the art facility. The waterside site allows for easy shipping to test sites and launch pads. Preliminary tests could start in 2019. SpaceX has said the BFR might be used for colonizing Mars.

Netflix added over 7 million subscribers in the 1st quarter, and projects picking up another 6.35 million this quarter. Recode.net reports that Netflix is now up to 1245 million subscribers globally. This puts Netflix at the fastest growth rate since they went into streaming.

Walmart has done a major makeover to its website, in hopes that a cleaner, more modern walmart.com will better compete with Amazon. Reuters.com says the company has been investing heavily in its e-commerce business, including trying to leverage its 4700 brick and mortar stores to help fuel the web growth. Walmart has been letting pick up and return online orders in stores, and last month, announced that it was adding grocery delivery that would reach more than 40% of American households. Look for the big website update to be fully in place in a couple weeks. The company announced that its online sales had increased 23% last quarter, doing a bit over 11 billion. That’s just a trickle of sales compared to the nearly 319 billion the company does overall, though.

Although Mark Zuckerberg again insisted during recent Congressional hearings that Facebook would always remain free to everyone, so those who can’t afford a fee could use it, they have been considering an ad-free subscription. Techcrunch.com reports that based on ad earnings in the US and Canada, they would have to charge $7 per month. Of course, ads aren’t the only way they make money. Some users are more well heeled, and might buy nicer products and services, so they are worth more to advertisers. They also might spend more time on the platform….but would they pony up as much as $11 to $14 a month, like a higher end subscription to Netflix or Hulu? If so, would they be able to opt out of not only ads, but having their data sold off to third parties? Nothing is rumored as happening yet, but we could be seeing both a free tier and paid tier Facebook, and even multiple subscription prices at some point. Will that help ‘save’ Facebook from the Cambridge Analytica fallout? Stay tuned.


WWDC; SpaceX Broadband Sat Launch Delay; More Galaxy S9 Leaks; Starbucks Digital Guru to J. Crew

It looks like some folks have figured out the dates for Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Apparently, there are events all through June at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center…….EXCEPT for Monday June 4th through Friday, June 8th. Macrumors.com says a reliable source has told them WWDC will again be in San Jose like last year. Previously, it was at Moscone Center in San Francisco from 2003 to 2016. With the exception of last year, Apple has released the date officially in April, so we won’t know until then. Usually, there around 5,000 developers and a thousand engineers for the event. Tickets go via a random lottery, and have been $1599 a pop.

There’s a lot of interest in SpaceX’s internet satellite launch. Now, the launch has been delayed for a few days. According to engadget.com, they want to run further final checkouts on the farings used to protect the Falcon 9’s payload. the Launch had been scheduled for February 17th…… now it will be on the 19th. The rocket will be taking up a Spanish radar imaging satellite, but most of us are interested in the Microsat-2a and 2b internet satellites. They would be the first of a number which would provide gigabit internet speeds around the globe.

Samsung will roll out its latest…the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus… next week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Of course, there was a huge leak yesterday, so much of what we had heard about the handset was confirmed, plus more. German site WinFuture says both phones will have variable aperture cameras…which should make them better than ever for low light pictures. The Plus gets a dual lens cam, the S9 a single, but both are 12 megapixel. The selfie cam is 8 megapixel with autofocus. That all-important battery capacity….it will be 3000 mAh on the S9 and 3500 on the Plus. Both phones have iris and face recognition, as well as a fingerprint sensor for biometric unlocking, and the Samsung version of Apple’s Animoji. The screens are the same as on the S8,  all changes are ‘under the hood.’ They will be available in  Midnight Black, Titanium Gray, Lilac Purple, and Coral Blue.

The man who headed up Starbucks digital business,  including its Mobile Order and Pay features and in-store Wi-Fi efforts, is leaving the coffee retailer to work his magic in apparel business. Adam Brotman, has jumped to J. Crew to help lead the struggling retailer as president and chief experience officer.  Geekwire.com notes that Starbucks is perceived as one of the most forward-looking companies when it comes to the use of technology in its operations.  J. Crew needs the help… same store sales dropped nine percent during the third quarter of 2017, and its net loss jumped to $17.6 million for that period.  Before Brotman joined them, J. Crew had pitched selling themselves to Amazon.