Daily Tech Headlines – June 30, 2016

Android gets a name, Spotify threatens Apple and a new cable connects the Pacific.

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500DEK DEK DEK

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DTNS 2797 – Secretly Listening to Dr. Demento

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comHow transistor radios paved the way for smartphones. Tech historian Tamar Sandel talks with Scott Johnson and Tom Merritt about what we owe the cheap radios of the 1950s and 1960s.

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Daily Tech Headlines – June 29, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Sony starts using robots, Windows 10 gets a release date and Facebook explains the news feed.

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DTNS 2796 – 50 Shady Grey Markets

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comCan you have a resale market for digital game codes? Can you have it without fraud and accusations of theft? Patrick Beja and Tom Merritt discuss.

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Daily Tech Headlines – June 28, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Airbnb sues San Francisco, the French bring us gold speakers, and Amazon finally brings page flipping to ebooks.

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DTNS 2795 – Feel the Learn

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comShould tech companies be sticking their nose into education? If so, what role should they play? Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt talk about Google and Amazon’s business of helping youngsters.

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Your Private Driver: Safety First

(This is the first of a new weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.)

 

Passenger safety is definitely a hot topic in the world of ride-sharing. Hardly a week goes by without some local paper printing another incident of an Uber driver robbing or assaulting an unsuspecting victim who just wanted to get home from a party, and more and more local governments are hotly debating whether or not the company’s background checks are doing enough. In actuality your driver is probably more afraid of you–crimes committed by Uber drivers may be slightly over-reported, but assaults of those drivers by intoxicated or irate passengers are far more common and almost completely ignored by the media. Still, that knowledge may not make you feel any safer if you do end up with one of the bad apples, so here’s some advice to greatly increase your odds of not having one of those horrible experiences.

 

The key thing to know is that ride-share drivers are far more likely to do something immoral or illegal when they’re “off the clock” and the Uber/Lyft apps aren’t tracking their every move. Your job is to make sure you’re on a sanctioned trip at all times.

 

First of all, make sure you’re in the right car. This will help you avoid fake Uber vehicles that will just take you for a ride… and not the kind you were expecting. The app will give you the name and photo of your driver, the color and model of their vehicle, and the license plate number of their car. Check all of these things before climbing in. You may also want to confirm the driver’s name. A simple “Hi, are you Sekani?” will not only make sure you’re in the right car, but has the added bonus of making the driver feel safer since he or she now knows that they have the right passenger as well. (Oh, unless it’s actually me picking you up, substitute your driver’s name for mine.) In case you’re calling a ride for a friend, make sure your friend has all of this information so they don’t accidentally jump into the wrong vehicle either.

 

Secondly, don’t accept any rides off the app for cash. Not only is this technically illegal in most markets, but it removes the Big Brother layer of security that keeps track of everything. Every trip you take should be arranged through the app, there should never be a reason to exchange cash unless you’re leaving a tip. Also be wary of offers to end the trip early to save a few dollars. You can dispute fares later if you think you’ve been overcharged, but you do not want to be in a stranger’s car while the app is not running.

 

Finally, use the buddy system. Don’t let your intoxicated friends ride home alone, go with them and split the cost of the ride later. It’s much harder to be taken advantage of when there’s more than one of you.

 

Rideshare services are still a convenient, inexpensive, and generally safe way to get around a city from one place to another. Just a little bit of due diligence can help ensure that your next trip is all of the above.

 

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!

Daily Tech Headlines – June 27, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Twitter ads stickers, YouTube and Facebook fight extremist video and Anki brings a Wall-E/Eve mashup to your home.

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Analysis of the Proposed Tesla/Solar City Merger

This was sent to us by Brian Henry, Assistant Professor of Finance at Benedictine College and listener to the show. Thanks Brian!

Elon Musk’s company is going to buy Elon Musk’s other company, which seems to be a strange sort of event. There is a lot going on with this sort of deal, and it will be a very high profile one, so let us look at some of the most important parts and what they might mean for the possibly resulting company.

In a deal with a clear conflict of interest, Elon has recused himself, meaning he will not be in on any board discussions for either company or vote with his shares if it comes to that. As the largest shareholder of both companies this is the only way a deal like this can be done without the other shareholders taking you to court. This may or may not solve the conflict of interest however. Depending on how loyal the boards are to Musk, this could play out in a few different ways. If they are loyal and do his bidding, then the deal will be done and the only safeguard will be other shareholders voting it down (if it is a bad deal for them). What I think is most interesting though is if the deal does not get done by the boards. This could end up looking like a referendum on Musk. If either of the company boards do things to fight the deal it may signal that Musk is not in as much control of the company as he thought, and he has a history of being forced out as leader of his own company.

So far the markets have reacted by punishing Tesla’s stock (acquiring company) which dropped over 13% initially and has come back a little bit, and SolarCity jumped up over 25% initially and has since lost about half of the initial gain. This is very typical of acquisitions. The acquirer tends to have to pay more than the current market value of the stock, otherwise the stockholders of the company being acquired would have no interest in the deal. There are hedge funds who live off of this even, called risk arbitrage or merger arbitrage funds, though arbitrage is used rather loosely here as there is no guarantee that the deals will get done.

There are two big questions for me, the first is if these two companies would be better together than apart. Elon is selling this as vertical integration and of course the word that goes with all business deals “synergies”. The vertical integration is that they can sell people an electric vehicle and the solar panels to power said vehicle. Whether or not people want to buy both things at the same time or from the same place is yet to be seen, and I am skeptical that people are going to head to the Tesla dealership to buy solar panels for their house. Whether or not these two companies will synergize well is questionable as well. I cannot see how making solar panels and making cars are similar enough to benefit from being under the same roof, but I have never made a car or a solar panel so maybe I am wrong. There are products that overlap, the Powerwall batteries and Supercharging stations for the cars, so maybe being combined will help streamline some operations. The two companies’ finance arms are probably the most similar parts, so maybe in making loans to customers bundling car and solar loans or something could be helpful.

Weekly Tech Views (The Tech – No Logic Blog) – June 25, 2016

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Sure, wine- and gold-colored confetti is still floating in the air here in Cleveland like falling autumn leaves after the Cavaliers’ victory parade, but that doesn’t stop us from realizing what’s truly important… and why would it? CLEVELAND WON A CHAMPIONSHIP!

And tech stuff happened…

 For the week of June 20 – 24, 2016…

Everything I Know About Physics I Learned From Looney Toons
Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed that the Tesla Model S electric car will float well enough to serve as a boat “for a short period of time.” Pressed for details on just how long it would stay afloat, Musk tried to present a complicated physics explanation, but finally admitted that the company wasn’t sure why, but like a coyote running off a cliff in pursuit of a roadrunner, it works as long as you don’t look down.

And The Neighbor Didn’t Know!
Tumblr, though it does not provide a live video service of its own, has enabled users of services like YouTube to link their accounts to Tumblr to publish live videos. This is a classic use of the ol’ make-visitors-to-your-apartment-think-you-have-beer-by-cutting-out-the-back-of-your-refrigerator-and-the-back-of-your-neighbor’s-refrigerator-and-the-section-of-wall-between-the-refrigerators-so-you-can-reach-into-your-refrigerator-and-grab-a-beer-from-their-refrigerator ploy that worked so well in that sitcom that time.

Caches of Cash
Tencent is buying a majority stake in video game developer Supercell, maker of the wildly successful Clash of Clans. Supercell will join Riot Games, maker of wildly successful League of Legends in Tencent’s portfolio. I am now going to be a very rich man now that I have broken the code on Tencent’s strategy. It shouldn’t take long to crank out Teams of Titans, Guilds of Gods, and Worlds of Warcrafts (what? fine, Worlds of Wizards).(1)

Making America G-G-G-G-Great Again
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler released a proposal to identify high-band spectrum to be classified as 5G. While the chairman wouldn’t initially define what, exactly, 5G means, he did state that “if you thought 4G was good, 5G is just gonna knock your socks off. These are gonna be the best Gs you’ve ever seen. And you’ll absolutely love all five of them. I’m not ready to unveil my full 5G plan, but I’ve been around Gs all my life, and trust me, I can tell you that these are one hundred percent the greatest Gs ever, and they will be made right here in America!” Then putting on an ill-fitting baseball cap tearing off his Tom Wheeler mask, Donald Trump laughed maniacally and ran from the stage.

Sure, If You’re Going To Take The Word Of A Hundred Million People
Instagram has reached 500 million users, 300 million of which are active daily users. Which doesn’t surprise me given the number of negative comments I get each day on my selfies. I would think, however, that those numbers would translate in a wider variety of ways to say “your photo looks like crap.” At least among those I can understand. Because Facebook also announced that 80% of their users are outside the United States. Which makes it pretty exciting news that…

Apparently, Foreigners Love Me
Instagram is going to start translating captions and comments. It’ll be exciting to finally read the praise I’m getting for my photos from international users instead of relying on my wife to explain, in an unusually soothing tone, that, in their various languages, “mierda,” “merde,” and “skit” all mean “beautiful.”

Though If It Did Make A Mess, I Guess It Could Clean It Up
Boston Dynamics unveiled their newest robot dog–SpotMini. It’s a smaller version of their AlphaDog, weighing in 185 pounds lighter at 55 pounds. It is two feet tall, can run for 90 minutes between charges, and–the biggest selling point–is all electric, meaning no hydraulics. My experience with pets tells me that with a hydraulics-dependent dog we’d be finding puddles of fluid on every rug in the house.(2) And smacking it on the nose with a newspaper–a questionable disciplinary tactic to begin with–is just going to get me zapped by the laser beams that everyone knows all robots can shoot from their eyes.

And, with its ability to put glasses in a dishwasher and garbage in a bin, SpotMini is being touted as the first robot dog capable of cleaning your house, as if all of a sudden nobody remembers my putting a Snoopy mask on my Roomba.

If Only I Didn’t Have To Stand Up To Get To Burger King
During a sit-in at the House of Representatives, C-Span was prohibited from turning on their cameras, so Periscope and Facebook Live were used instead. You knew we were going to find a way to see this, because if there’s anything we Mac & Cheetos-eating(3) Americans like more than sitting it’s sitting while watching other people sit.

But I Know What It Looks Like
Amazon announced a new Kindle that is available in white. “Finally!” said thousands of ebook aficionados as they slipped the new device into its protective purple cover.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Lies. Really.
A photo of Mark Zuckerberg showed his laptop had a piece of tape covering the webcam, indicating he agrees with security company Symantec’s advice to “not do anything in front of a webcam that you wouldn’t want the world to see.” Of course not. That only makes sense. Also, I don’t always write the Weekly Tech Views in a torn pair of plaid boxers and a stadium mustard-stained ELO t-shirt. You know, if my camera turned on somehow and you saw someone you thought was me. Ha-ha! Of course it wasn’t! That was my assistant, Mitch, typing up my notes the last 49 weeks. What a slob, right? Does he ever eat anything besides nachos and energy drinks? Well, something with stadium mustard, apparently; that shirt didn’t stain itself. Stupid Mitch.

Intro To Stereotyping 101
A European Union proposal would have robots classified as “electronic persons” because 1) “Growing automation will require new frameworks for taxation and legal liability,” and 2) “C’mon, they have at least as much personality as an English butler.”(4)

To Each His Brony
Twitter bought London-based machine learning startup Magic Pony Technology, whose algorithms can upgrade low-resolution video using ordinary graphics cards. More importantly, this will definitely increase attendance at Magic Brony Con, where adult males can, unashamedly, dress up as their favorite compression algorithm or Magic Pony employee and discuss computational neuroscience or how cool it would be if there really were magic ponies, and where it is absolutely okay to be called Bronies, because, last time I checked, “Magic” is different than “My Little” SO YOU CAN KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE CEASE AND DESIST LETTERS, “SCOOTALOOHOO,” ESQ.!

Or I Could Learn Self-Contro-HaHaHaHaHa
Navigation app Waze is instituting a new feature that automatically bypasses complicated intersections–those with no traffic lights, a constant flow of cars, or limited visibility. The next update will hopefully incorporate avoidance of the much more dangerous areas where Burger King is selling Mac & Cheetos.

Don’t Care–Drones Are Cool
The Federal Aviation Administration made public a set of rules for drone use–operators must pass a knowledge test, maintain line of site with the drone, keep the flight below 400 feet, etc–known as “Part 107.” “Parts 1 – 106” are a bunch of stories from Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine predicting the destruction of the human race by sentient machines.

 

(1) Also, dibs on Mobs of Mages. And Realms of Runes. And Purges of Platoons and Fortress of Fairies and Juntas of Jesters… never mind, you can have Juntas of Jesters.

(2) Where “finding” (again, based on experience), means “stepping barefoot in.”

(3) A real thing. Deep-fried, Cheeto-dust-covered macaroni and cheese from Burger King.

(4) Probably didn’t help with the Brexit vote.

 

A mere $9 million out of second place when this issue of the CRUMDUM was written, Jennie and Tom edge ever-upward (Spoiler alert–the news is even better now. If you want to know immediately when the movie draft update is published–Wednesdayish–follow me on Twitter @MovieLeagueMike).

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