4K Android TV Dongle May Be Coming; Spotify & Hulu Discount Bundle; Amazon Post Office Use; Passwordless Authentication Via WebAuthn

There is a patent application at the FCC that seems to indicate that Google is getting ready to bring Android TV to a set near you. Thenextweb.com reports that the 4K dongle, which is from Shenzhen SEI Robotics, has an HDMI cable, micro USB port for charging, and Google branding. There’s also a remote with a built in mic and dedicated button so you can use voice commands via Assistant. Google already has 3 Chromecast gadgets that can stream fun HD video, 4K and audio to speakers from your mobile device, so a jump to the TV set is plausible.

Spotify and Hulu teamed up last fall, and now, they’re back. A bundle of services from the pair is being offered for $12.99 a month, according to techcrunch.com. Last fall, it was a students-only deal…this one is open to all Spotify Premium users. The $12.99 gets you Spotify’s on-demand Premium music service plus Hulu’s Limited Commercials plan. Sometime this summer, the deal will be opened up to all Spotify users, and new customers as well.

After the president came out a couple weeks ago and ranted that Amazon was fleecing the post office, numerous sources noted that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. So how much business does the online giant do with the post office? ZDNet.com says a report commissioned by Jefferies estimates that 62% of Amazon shipments flow through the US Postal Service.

It seems to always be on the horizon, but always ends up being a mirage. Now, arstechnica.com reports that we may actually be closer to passwordless authentication with a new spec from the World Wide Web Consortium and FIDO Alliance called WebAuthn. The spec allows browsers to expose hardware authentication devices, be then USB, Bluetooth, or NFC, to sites on the web. The hardware allows users to prove their identity without requiring usernames or passwords. With the WebAuthn standard, your credentials, whether biometric like fingerprints and face recognitions or a USB YubiKey, never leave the browser. This gives stronger protection against phishing, man in the middle attacks, and replay attacks than we have presently. WebAuthn has commitments for support from Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla. Chrome 67 and Firefox 60, both due out in May, will have WebAuthn baked in by default.It may not kill the dreaded password overnight, but now, that merciful death may be coming.

Advertisements

Facebook is going to provide some of its data to elections researchers selected by a new panel of experts. Ahead of Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress this week, axios.com says the outside experts will “develop a research agenda about the impact of social media on society — starting with elections.” A group of private, blue chip foundations will pay for the effort. (Frankly, Facebook should reimburse them, with all the money they make!)

As rumored over the weekend, Apple has rolled out Product (RED) iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models today. According to theverge.com, preorders open tomorrow, the 10th, and the phones should start shipping on Friday the 13th…ooh, scary. The price is the same as other colors, starting at $699 for the 8 and $799 for the Plus.

Earlier in the year, Tesla registered new VINs that correspond to dual motor Model 3s. As reported here last week, the company is now producing more than 2000 of the smaller model per week now. Yesterday, Elon Musk Tweeted that they need to hit 5000 per week before adding the complexity of a 2nd motor. He then sent out a follow up Tweet saying ‘So probably July.’ the added motor will increase both the acceleration and extend the range of the Model 3. That is also when they will add white interiors…at the present, only black upholstery is available.

Word is, Spotify has been working on hardware for cars…either an in-car controller or standalone player. Now, engadget.com reports that some people have received offers for such a device, with plan pricing from $12.99 to $14.99 a month…when they clicked on the offer in the Spotify app, an error page popped up. A few sharp eyed users said their offer noted the gadget had built in 4G cellular. Spotify does have an event April 24th…maybe we’ll get more info at that time.


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.


Spotify Grabs Mighty TV; Wells Getting Cardless Apple Pay ATMs; Ikea Dives Into Smart Home Automation; Uber Grounds Self-Drivers in Az After Crash

Spotify has picked up MightyTV, which will shut down. Techcrunch.com reports that CEO Brian Adams will become Spotify’s VP of Technology. MIghtyTV had specialized in content recommendations, but used a Tinder style swipe left and right system. Spotify was also interested in adding MightyTV’s tech to improve its recommendations and beef up its programmatic advertising.

Wells Fargo customers will be able to withdraw from ATMs by later this year using Apple Pay without needing an ATM card. According to 9to5mac.com, it may be convoluted enough that most people will stick with the card for a while. You have to log into the Wells mobile app, select card-free, ask for a single use 8 digit code AND ATM card PIN, then withdraw. Towards year end, though, Wells Fargo says, you will be able to just use Apple’s Tap and Pay. They also will add Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and their own Wells Fargo Wallet to the Tap and Pay setup.

The smart home hub gets a boost from a big player known for low prices. Ikea is diving into the smart home with a system based on the ZigBee Light Link standard…same as Philips Hue uses. Theverge.com says the system has been in a few European countries since fall, but will be widely available the end of this month. Ikea will sell a base set of an internet gateway, remote, and two light bulbs for $85.40. An Ikea extra is a motion-controlled dimmer switch, which is an extra $20.41, but can be used independently of the connected system.

Uber has sidelined its self-driving cars in Arizona after a crash involving one left it on its side. Recode.net reports that there were no injuries, and only the back up driver was aboard. Some reports say that the other driver failed to yield, but Uber is pulling all of them until the investigation is complete. So far, Uber safety drivers have had to intervene every .8 miles, so their tech is far from solid at this point.


Intel Buys Mobileye; Google’s Smart Commuter Jacket; Pandora Finally Starts On-Demand Streaming

Mobileye, which makes the chips that help guide vision-based self-driving cars, has been snapped up by Intel for $15 billion. According to theverge.com, the chip making giant had already announced dropping $250 million the next couple years on self-driving car tech, so this is an enormous jump in investment in that sector. Previously, Intel, Mobileye, and BMW had partnered on 40 autonomous vehicles that will be tested on public roads later this year.

Google’s Jacquard showed off their Levi’s commuter jacket at SXSW South by SouthWest over the weekend. 9to5google.com reports the wearable looks like a classic Levi’s trucker jacket, but with a touch sensitive strip on the sleeve for controlling music, checking time, or taking phone calls. The plastic tag on the cuff with the electronics is removable from its USB port on the sleeve, so it does’t walk away when you’re not wearing the jacket. It all works through a smartphone app. It’s cool, but an eye-watering $350 when it drops this fall…compared to a normal Trucker jacket that runs less than $100…but hey, you can talk into your sleeve, like a Secret Service agent or Dick Tracy!

In what may be a ‘better late than never’ move, Pandora has rolled out Pandora Premium for 10 bucks a month, hoping to compete with Spotify and Apple Music in the on-demand streaming space. Geekwire.com says they feel their recommendation engine, continuously updated since 2000, should give them a leg up. The service initially will be invitation only…it will also be available free for 6 months for subscribers to the ad free radio service Pandora Plus.


Google & Chrysler Pairing for Android Powered Infotainment System; Theatre Mode for iOS; Tesla Autopilot Update

Google and Chrysler are partnering on more than just self-driving tech. 9to5google.com says they are also working on an Android powered infotainment system. This is not Android Auto…it’s built on the Android Open Source Platform, and should provide full access to Google Assistant, Maps, and other resources like Pandora, Spotify, NPR One, and Pocket Casts. It will probably live within the Uconnect system on rollout.

Bgr.com reports that Apple’s iOS 10.3 is getting something called ‘Theatre mode.’ It’s not clear what it is….a popcorn icon denotes it on the screen….but it’s thought to be a Dark Mode something like ‘Do Not Disturb’ where all sounds are muted, and many apps display white text on a black screen. Twitter already has a dark mode for its iOS app, and it works well…easy on the eyes and discreet.

Tesla has started rolling out what they call HW2 Autopilot updates to cars made since October. By next week, according to techcrunch.com, the rest of the Tesla fleet will start seeing the updates. The rewrite of the Autopilot software will eventually enable full self driving mode in Tesla cars. Tesla wants to test complete autonomy by the end of 2017!


Apple Going for Glasshole Market; Twitter Adds Mute to Convos and Hashtags; Nintendo’s ‘Super Mario Run a Month Away; Spotify Has Been Wearing SSDs-Patch Is Out

Yes, they were clunky, but that wasn’t the main reason people who had Google Glass were called ‘glassholes.’ Apple has revolutionized portable music players with the iPod and phones with the iPhone, can they do the same with digital glasses? Bloomberg.com says they’re working on some. A great AR headset would go a long way in bringing in the future, which at lot of people think will involve AR. The real trick will be having small enough components to produce a good AR experience, and batteries that power it which won’t weigh you down. It’s a huge challenge, but think about the iPod and iPhone…maybe by 2018 we’ll see the iAR or will it be Apple AR?

A lot of criticism has been thrown at Facebook and Twitter over fake news and trolls since the election. Now, bgr.com reports that Twitter has added a mute feature to conversations and hashtags to try to contain harassment. Previously, you could only mute individuals, and their friends could still gang up on a person. You will also now be able to mute keywords and hashtags.

Super Mario Run for iPhone and iPad will launch December 15th. Geekwire.com says it will sell for $10, and is specifically designed for mobile devices. Gamers can try before they by for free with elements of the games 3 modes. The game is designed to accomodate one-handed play….Mario runs forward on his own. Just tap to make him jump.

After sucking up life out of SSDs for months, Spotify has released a fix. According to bgr.com, a bug has allowed the app to continually rewrite data to your drive, even while in idle mode…up to 5 to 10 gigs an hour. Over a day, it would write up to 700 gigs. SSDs have a limited number of writes available, although most should last 10 years with normal use. Look for V. 1.0.42, it’s out and you should have it or upgrade to it on your desktop or laptop.