Amazon Employees Deleting Bad Reviews; Microsoft May Field Black Surface 2; Fire at Tesla Gigafactory; US Leading in 5GPosted: September 17, 2018
Amazon is investigating claims that some employees are deleting bad reviews for cash…from $80 up to $2000. According to arstechnica.com, it’s happening in the US but is ‘rampant’ in China.
Employees are allegedly also selling out info involving keywords used in searches for products and buyer habits. Most of the activity is facilitated by middlemen via WeChat. No comment from Amazon beyond that they are investigating.
Microsoft may have decided that black is the new black. Theverge.com reports that there may be a Black Surface Laptop 2 unveiled at the Surface event October 2nd. The original Surface RT came in a black magnesium alloy, but Redmond rapidly switched to a silver color for the Surface 2. Besides the Surface Laptop 2, Microsoft is expected to show ra refresh of the Surface Pro at their upcoming event in New York City.
There was apparently a fire at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada late Saturday. Engadget.com sys it was in the cooling tube coating oven area. The factory was evacuated and shut down, but the fire was quickly dispatched. Production resumed early Sunday. It appears that the factory was only down a brief time, and that it shouldn’t seriously impact vehicle production at the plant in Fremont.
For years, the US has lagged in internet speeds while paying more. Now, the US may be leading Europe and Asia in one area of tech infrastructure…we may be getting 5G coverage faster. According to Ericsson’s VP of 5G Commercialization Thomas Noren, via ZDnet.com, the US has been able to iron out tech challenges and is ahead of the pack. South Korea is also further along than most other countries. You still shouldn’t expect 5G coverage to be very widespread much before 2020 in the US.
Tesla Getting Saudi Cash; Samsung Suspends in China; Apple ‘Inexpensive’ Notebook; Android 9 Pie Charging Issue for Pixel XLPosted: August 13, 2018
A little more has slipped out about Tesla going private, and one particular item may appear to be a head scratcher….Tesla could be getting funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. According to engadget.com, they already have a 5% stake in Tesla, and would like more. Some are saying the Saudis look at it as a hedge against the oil business, but it could also be that they might someday look to Tesla’s battery and solar panel expertise to power the kingdom and even export electricity. Besides oil and sand, they do have an abundance of sunlight and open space!
On the heels of a pretty positive rollout for the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung is thinking of suspending operations at one of its plants in China due to sagging sales and increasing labor costs. Reuters.com reports that Samsung may shutter its plant in Tianjin. The smartphone market overall has been experiencing slow growth as it matures and becomes relatively saturated. Local Chinese competition has also whacked Samsung’s China penetration. 5 years ago, they had 20% of that market, now it’s less than 1%…with Huawei and Xiaomi undercutting them on prices.
Macrumors.com says Quanta will be building Apple’s upcoming ‘inexpensive notebooks’ in the 4th quarter of 2018. Of course, ‘inexpensive’ is relative when it’s Apple! The cheaper notebooks should drop in September or October, but it’s not clear if they will be branded MacBook, MacBook Air, or some entirely new name. While inexpensive notebook might mean a few hundred bucks for the likes of a Chromebook, Don’t look for Apple to put out one for much less than $999!
An issue has come up with the latest release of Android, version 9…dubbed ‘Pie.’ 9to5google.com reports that fast charging over USB-C seems to have been killed in the original Pixel XL phones. Reports vary…some have said the original charger that came in the box still works, but 3rd party ones don’t. Others have said replacements from the Google Store also don’t work. In a few reports, even the charger that came in the box won’t fast charge. So far, no comment from Google on the issue, including whether a fix is comi
New Google Pixelbook Coming; HomePod Siri Features; Qualcomm Shows 5G Module; Tesla Supplier Cash AskPosted: July 23, 2018
The Pixel 2 was a big improvement on the original Google Pixel phone, and the 3 is eagerly anticipated this Fall. Now, 9to5google.com says leaker Evan Blass, who has a pretty decent track record, is touting the release of and updated Pixelbook alongside the Pixel 3 and 3XL handsets. Bless claims the updated Chrome OS Pixelbook will be shipping by the holidays. The fall event is expected to also show off A Pixel Watch and new generation of Pixel Buds.
Apple is testing a private beta version of OS12 for HomePod that includes multiple Siri timers and allows people to make and answer phone calls…in an effort to keep up with Alexa and Google Home. 9to5mac.com reports that corporate and some retail employees are test driving the beta. The multiple timers feature is one Alexa has that allows, for example, someone to put a couple timers on different things they are cooking at the same time. Right now, it’s unclear which, if any, of these features will make it to the final release of OS12 for HomePod this fall.
Qualcomm has showed off the first completely integrated 5G module for smartphones…including 5G mmWave antenna, wave radio, power amp, and antenna array. According to macrumors.com, the whole system has been crammed into a package small enough to sit on your fingertip. It is thin enough to fit the bezel of a phone, and Qualcomm sees up to 4 being put into a handset so if one antenna is covered by a hand or otherwise blocked, the unit will still transmit and receive. The tiny 5G modules are being shipped to phone makers this week.
Tesla has reportedly ask for cash back from suppliers, in order to cut their costs and become profitable in Q4. While it’s not unusual for a company to ask for or demand price cuts from suppliers….Walmart is a past master at this…it IS unusual to ask for money back from previously furnished and paid for items. That’s what electrek.co says Tesla has done. Some of the clawbacks would date back to 2016. It remains to be seen if any suppliers will cooperate, now that Tesla is producing the promised 5,000 Model 3s per week.
Fresh on the heels of AT&T’s Time Warner buyout approval, the company has announced a $5 a month across the board increase starting August 1st on DirecTV. Saying it will help provide ‘the best streaming experience’ and that it will keep their rates ‘in line with the market,’ the price hike will hit everyone from the $40 basic package to the $75 ‘gotta have it’ one. Engadget.com says the increase does put the base price on par with what you’d get from the likes of YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV’s combined Orange and Blue package.
Dell Computer has announced a deal that would get them back to trading publicly again. Bloomberg.com reports that by combining with a stock that tracks its VMWare software unit, it brings them back to being a publicly traded stock. The DVMT share swap is valued at $17 billion. Founder and CEO Michael Dell had taken Dell Computer private back in 2013, but is wanting to streamline his multi-company tech empire and get a better handle on a massive debt load, which has been running around $50 billion. The reverse merger with VMWare fills that bill.
Elon Musk made a big splash with his ‘not a Flamethrower,’ but now something out of China is alleged to be a handheld laser. A report in the South China Morning Post says that they have developed a laser weapon dubbed the ZKZM-500, which is something of a laser AK-47. The laser gun can supposedly burn clothes and skin at 500 feet away, and is alleged to be capable of hundreds of shots. Skeptics point out that as described, it pretty badly bends the laws of physics. Also, no tests have been shown or written about. Western scientists say it would take at least a 200 lb backpack battery to power such a weapon. Still, Doctor Evil is salivating at the thought.
Tesla managed to crank out the promised 5,000 model 3’s in a week, but actually did it a few hours past the midnight deadline Sunday. According to Reuters.com, Elon Musk Tweeted about the success and also sent an all-hands email to staff that the company cleared the 5,000 Model 3’s goal and produced a total of 7,000 cars, counting the Model S and Model X production. Musk told employees that they were on track to make 6,000 Model 3’s by the end of July, and quipped ‘I think we just became a real car company!’
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.
Tesla ‘Premium’ Connectivity; Apple Ups Audio Game; Whole Foods Prime; Volvo Level 4 Self-Driving By 2021.Posted: June 25, 2018
If it’s free, it’s probably not forever or there’s a catch. That’s the case with internet on Tesla cars. Starting July 1st, the free connection…which will be dubbed ‘Standard Connectivity’ cell access will just give you navigation (with traffic-based routing), live Supercharger usage info, and safety-related car updates. Engadget.com reports that most everything else will be part of the Premium Package. Satellite view, live traffic visuals, web browser, streaming audio, and non-safety updates will fall under it. At least Tesla has added WiFi access to the model 3. No official price as yet, but it’s expected to be about $100 a year…that’s not going to bend or break any Tesla owners! BTW, if you had a car ordered before July 1st, everything will stay free…at least for now.
Apple has the HomePod, with very good audio, but has never had top notch audio in their earbuds, including the AirPods. That may be about to change. Bloomberg is reporting that Cupertino is working on a higher end version, that are water resistant and have noise cancellation and biometric sensors. In addition, Apple is working on higher end over-ear headphones, that will be positioned above their Beats brand. Apple has built an in-house audio team headed by Gary Geaves, a former engineer from higher end speaker and headphone maker B&W. Accessories are a decent side line for Apple…while no iPhone, they generated slightly less than $13 billion for Apple last year.
Amazon is opening up their Prime discount programs to all Whole Foods locations in the US this week. Stores in Florida have had the perk for almost 2 months, included with the $119 per year Prime membership. According to geekwire.com, you get a 10% discount on sale items, and other special deals. To use the discount, you sign in to your Amazon account with the Whole Foods app, then scan the “Prime Code” inside the app when you check out. As with most grocery store sales, the deals will change weekly. You will also still be able to get a 5% discount when you buy with an Amazon credit card. Amazon is hoping the various discounts will help them to shed the ‘Whole Paycheck’ reputation for Whole Foods, which they bought last year.
While everyone in the auto biz is racing towards self-driving, with Google’s Waymo apparently well in the lead, Volvo has now issued a pretty amazing pledge…level 4 autonomous cars in showrooms you can buy and drive by 2021. According to bgr.com, Volvo is calling it ‘Highway Assist,’ and it sounds a great deal like Tesla’s Autopilot…only with Volvo’s legendary attention to safety detail. Volvo Senior VP Henrik Green says you will be able to ‘eat, sleep, work, watch a movie, relax, do whatever’ with the Volvo Highway Assist in operation. Note it will only work on appropriate roads that have been mapped out…basically highways and freeways.