DTNS 2846 – Vintage Computing Never Gets Old

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.com Evan Koblentz from the Vintage Computer Federation joins Scott Johnson to discuss the allure of vintage computer technology and its role in shaping modern trends.

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Your Private Driver: Billions of Dollars

This is a 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 (well except for this past Monday cause of vacations and other stuff happening), right here on dailytechnewsshow.com.

Uber’s financials are apparently not as rosy as everyone thought. Despite the company claiming to make a small profit on every ride given in the United States, the company has still posted a massive loss of over a billion dollars so far this year. Even by tech company standards, that’s astonishing. The reason for the huge losses? Driver subsidies, which are incentives and bonuses paid above what the company earns from fares to get enough drivers out there on the road to increase demand. No wonder the company can’t wait for the self-driving car era. Still, with losses this huge, can Uber keep operating the way it has been until that day comes?

Before I get to that, lemme back up and talk about how Uber got into this mess to begin with. Uber is first and foremost a tech company, and it measures success with the same metrics. First, you grow by getting more people using your product or service and more people talking about it. Then, you figure out how to monetize all of those people. With Uber’s beginnings as something of a premium-but-slightly-cheaper alternative to a taxicab, they hit a wall early on in growth. By lowering fares, they were able to attract people who would never use a taxicab; in some markets, fares are now so low that a door-to-door UberPool trip can be cheaper than taking public transit. The growth strategy has worked.

Drivers, however, haven’t benefited from that growth. Fares in most markets have been sliced almost in half between 2014 and 2016, and driver earnings with them. After the Great Rate Cut of 2015, many veteran drivers decided to call it quits (including myself). Faced with a driver shortage leading to monumentally high surge prices (and a very negative rider experience), Uber decided to roll out a variety of incentive programs to keep enough drivers on the road to satisfy demand. These incentives can take the form of either hourly guarantees, such as $30 per hour if a driver takes at least one trip per hour, or per-trip incentives that increase payouts by 50-100%. This means that on a trip where a passenger pays $6, a driver’s payout with incentives can equal $8 after Uber’s commission. Someone’s definitely losing money with that math.

Another side effect of the fare cuts is that as the rides get cheaper, so does the experience. The quality of the vehicles and drivers is rapidly declining as veterans find less and less reason to spend their time with Uber, and they’re being replaced with drivers who are unsafe and have limited English-speaking ability (one of the biggest complaints apparently). The quality of passengers has gone down as well; whereas people used to understandably gripe about excessive surge pricing, today’s riders are up in arms if their Pool fare is $4 instead of $3. In this exact circumstance one passenger accused me of intentionally trying to rip her off because the fare estimate in the app was slightly off (and you wonder why so many drivers hate Pool). Drivers are now in the game of competing on price, the one aspect of the ride we have no control over.

On the bright side for the company, Uber is still showing increases in revenue. This will probably keep investors happy and supply Uber with enough cash to keep operating, even with losses, until JohnnyCab shows up in ten years. Hopefully Uber can afford to keep its fleet of driver-owned vehicles on the road until then.

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 – August 31, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Alphabet carpools with Waze, Twitter opens up ad revenue, and Amazon Dashes to Europe.

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DTNS 2845 – All Fun And Games

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.com Jeff Cannata and Patrick Beja discuss the great gaming trends of the past 30 years and what to expect in the coming years.

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Daily Tech Headlines – August 30, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Apple gets fined by the EC, voter records got hacked, and the FAA lays down the drone laws.

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DTNS 2844 – Snowden Approved

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comAfter laying off its Trending Team editorial staff Justin and Veronica ask themselves; what do we want Facebook’s role to be in news?

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Daily Tech Headlines – August 29, 2016

DTH_CoverArt_1500x1500Facebook automates trending topics, Amtrak gets new trains, and Snapchat gets all behavioral.

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DTNS 2843a – Does This Make You Happy? (Fixed)

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.com Facebook goes back to bots, Everybody Hates Drake, And Revisiting Reviews

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Weekly Tech Views: The Tech – No Logic Blog – Aug 27, 2016

Untitled drawing (1)

Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

 

Turns out tech stuff happened this week. Some of it may have even had a slight resemblance to what you’ll read here.

For the week of August 22 – 26, 2016…

They’re Just Mad I Cancelled When The Free Trial Was Over
There are reports that Spotify punishes songs that first appear on platforms like Apple Music by “burying” them when they do come to Spotify. Frankly, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. My latest album was never on any other platform, but no matter how hard you search Spotify, it’s still nearly impossible to find Let Me Tech You Home Tonight (featuring the single If Our Love Ain’t Real, It’s At Least A Virtual Reality).

Alexa, Make It Stop
Amazon is reportedly putting together a new music service with multiple tiers–a ten-dollar unlimited streaming plan, a $4-5 tier that would only be accessible on Amazon Echo devices, and an unprecedented-in-the-industry third tier in which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will pay you a quarter each time you listen to him sing classic covers like Prime Is On My Side and I’ve Had the Prime Of My Life. The payout is a buck if you subject yourself to the video version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show-inspired The Prime Warp.

Six Of One, Seven Of Another
Samsung is apparently planning on selling refurbished smartphones next year, the devices coming from returns by customers who signed up for one-year upgrade programs. Not only will this be a boon to those looking for a more affordable phone, but to the economy in general, as thousands of customer service reps will be needed to handle calls like these:

“Hi, I was trying to order a used phone online?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Yeah, I don’t want the new Galaxy Note 7, I want the one just before it, but I can’t find a Note 6 anywhere.”

“I’m sorry, sir, there are no Note 6’s.”

“What do you mean there aren’t any? You just started this refurb program; you can’t be out of them already.”

“No, sir, the Note 5 is our most recent model.”

“Well that’s ridiculous! I don’t want one that’s two years old. You really need to have last year’s model in stock.”

“The Note 5 is last year’s model, sir.”

“What? No it’s not. I’m seeing ads all over the place for the new Note 7.”

“Yes, sir. We went from 5 to 7.”

“You w–get out of here! You expect me to believe that a multi-billion-dollar company decides, just for fun, to skip a number and confuse their customers?”

“Well, sir, it’s–”

“Look, I’ll call back later and speak to someone that knows what they’re talking about.”

“Sir–”

“Forget it, I don’t have time for this right now; I’m getting ready to upgrade my PC to Windows 9.”

Snapplechat
Apple is developing a video sharing and editing app. Said Apple, “You’re right, Instagram! Snapchat has all kinds of cool stuff!”

It’s Pronounced “Your Highness”
Barbra Streisand, annoyed with the way Siri was pronouncing her name, complained to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who agreed to have it changed in an future update. Still in the works are a FaceTime update that forces callers to avoid eye contact with the singer and a Safari restriction that prevents search results from including The Guilt Trip.

PlayStation Paparazzi
A photo of a new version of the PlayStation 4 has been leaked to the public. We all owe an immense debt of gratitude to the brave insider who risked his job to reveal this vital photo, finally supplying us with the knowledge that this version would be slimmer and available in black. Sure, you could say the same about the updates to the PS2 and PS3, but you never know when Sony is going to say this is the year for chunky and purple bedazzling. Certainly many of us have been anxiously postponing redecorating our living rooms until we knew for sure our plans wouldn’t clash with the PS4. To the swatches!

Pitch Him First–He Never Says “I’ll Pass”
Fresh off retiring from the NBA, Kobe Bryant is getting into the venture capitalist game, becoming a partner in a $100 million tech and media fund. One has to assume that on any visual media projects acquired, Kobe will be very hands-on and insist on getting behind the camera, seeing as he likes to shoot every chance he gets.

Death, Taxes, And…
YouTube is designing a feature called Backstage to let creators share photos, videos, text, polls, and links with subscribers. The posts will appear in reverse chronological order until, naturally, the feature is really popular, at which point–as required by the bylaws of the Organization Handling Social Network Alienation Program (OHSNAP)–the plan is to mess with users by switching to an angst-inducing algorithm.

Are You Sure They Said Art-ificial Intelligence?
Facebook’s AI Research team (FAIR) is making available to anyone their proprietary software tools that can identify the variety and shape of objects in a photo, allowing a program to distinguish, for example, a cat from a dog.

I’m sure FAIR is doing very impressive work, and making these tools freely available is a noble gesture, but the question all of you must have, as I do, is… does anyone believe their coworkers refer to them as FAIR? That they don’t consider AI one word and come up with another acronym for the Facebook AI Research Team? That, when a member of the team enters a room, everyone doesn’t look up and start sniffing? I don’t believe there is a group of humans anywhere with that kind of restraint.

“Check Out My Jigglypuff” Didn’t Go Over Well Either
Pokemon Go use has declined from 45 million daily users in July to 30 million in August. A survey of those who stopped playing found the number one reason to be “lack of time” followed closely by “my wife deleted my account the last time I asked our friends if they wanted to see my Squirtle.”

They’re Not Kidding About 908,000 Results, Are They?
Google will start lowering search rankings for sites that use “intrusive interstitial” ads, like those that cover content or have to be dismissed before the content will even load or are so large you have to scroll to reach the content.

Great. But if there is a higher power watching over us, there will soon be penalties for the worst offenders–pages that seem to have loaded, but juuuust as you start to click on the content, the page shifts and the innocent little sidebar ad is suddenly under your thumb and now you’re looking at jars of the newest scented wax blobs added to some candle company’s Autumn Collection.

I think an appropriate penalty would be that the site–even if it is called Candy’s Candle Company and deals exclusively in seasonally-scented candles and someone searches for “seasonally-scented candles by someone named Candy”–should show up on page 148 of the search results, just behind the Wikipedia entries for the movie Candyman and the lyrics to Seasons in the Sun.

That Was, Um, Research
Email accounts of reporters at the New York Times and other news organizations have apparently been compromised by Russian hackers. Opening a laptop on her podium, Hillary Clinton said, “What a shame. Let’s hope they haven’t leaked any of those emails. So, anybody still have a question about my emails? How about you, sir, it looked like you were about to raise your hand… I’m sorry, I don’t recall your name… shall I just call you… let’s see… Mr. Spank-Me-While-I-Suck-My-Thumb?”

 

Thanks for stopping by the Weekly Tech Views. C’mon, don’t give me that look. I said slight resemblance.

Movie Draaaaaaaaft!
Jennie and Tom have come almost all the way back from a $260 million deficit just three weeks ago to trail by only $14 million. But there are only six days left to the season. Is it enough time? Follow the exciting conclusion in the CRUMDUM!

And if you still haven’t had enough reading, check out the ridiculous analysis of 2015’s tech news HERE.

The Internet is Like a Snowblower: (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year) by [Range, Mike]

 

Mike Range
@MovieLeagueMike

 

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Weekly Tech Views: The Tech – No Logic Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

DTNS 2842 – VR Gets A Game Plan

Logo by Mustafa Anabtawi thepolarcat.comJenn Cutter joins Tom to discuss the impact of eSports on the adoption of VR technology in video gaming.

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